Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Yom Kippur, Glee, and always parenting

G'mar Chatima Tovah. May you be inscribed in the book of Life and Peace for a good new year. If I have in any way offended or injured you, I apologize.

I am addicted to Glee. Really. I had only watched it on airplanes, but on the way home from NZ I watched the first 8 episodes. Hooked. I actually got a free month of Netflix, and I'm working my way through the entire series. Finished Season One, on to Season Two. Plus I've started on the "live" broadcasts of Season Four.

Which means I now realize something about myself. I am Rachel. I'm singing in the Chamber Choir at shul, and I'm fairly certain I have same personality as Rachel. Not the voice. I have a "good" voice, but not "great". She's got the great voice, for sure. But I've got all the personality traits, annoying or not. Yup. I'm Rachel. I admit it.

So my boys think I'm nuts (but as I type this, Sam and his friend A are watching Glee with me). But I will watch these episodes until I am all the way through the series, and if Glee is my way of avoiding reality, so be it.

Parenting continues. Sucks a lot, but worth it. Yesterday, I took Sofia to Children's Hospital in Waltham, and she had two great check-ups. Endocrin was a breeze, since we'd done her blood work a few weeks ago. Her numbers all look terrific - levels have gone down, BMI great, growth perfect.

We went out for lunch, which was fun. Then back to Children's for cardiology. It was a wicked long wait, which was annoying. Sofia did NOT like the EKG, and she refused to take the stickers off her chest until bath time (and even then, it was a struggle). Her blood pressure was very high, which makes sense because she hates the cuff, so we'll monitor that. But we managed to get a fairly decent echo-cardiogram, too, and the news was great. Blood flow terrific, no leaking. They don't want her back for 2 - 3 years!

Micah stayed home "sick" yesterday. His sinuses have gotten the better of him, and he was totally wiped out. Went through three boxes of kleenex in one day. Poor boy. But he went back to school today. He's better out of the house.

Sam is...Sam. Freaks out when things go wrong. Happy when things go his way. Sigh.

So I settle in to watch Glee, with my kids and my extra kids. So nice.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Shanah Tovah - Happy New Year

I wish all of you a sweet, joyous and healthy New Year. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life and Peace.

Rosh Hashanah was lovely. I'm in the Chamber Choir for shul, and we did two pieces - Zacharti Lach and Halleluyah, both by Lewandowski. So I had a couple of rehearsals during the week. I thought there would be another soprano, but she got sick and never showed up at services. And I'm not really a soprano, so it was HIGH. But fun, and we sounded good.

Sunday evening we had Erev Rosh Hashanah dinner at N's house with a few other families. Nice time. Laura and Lilie came up, too. The two little girls made a bee-line for G's closet when we arrived, and both left wearing "new" clothing. At one point, however, Sofia came out and REEKED of perfume! Turned out the boys had sprayed the boys with Axe! Sofia had to take a bath before we could leave for home. (She loved it!)

Monday, services in the tent were lovely, but the choir was singing in the Sancutary/Social Hall (our shul has two services for the holidays; the Rabbi and Cantor are Team One, and the Rabbi Emeritus (Harold Kushner) and Chazan Sheni (Joel Sussman from Safam) are Team Two. They alternate services. So first day we were inside with the Cantor, and he was nervous about us so had us come in waaaay too early. So I ended up bouncing between the two services for a while, which was disconcerting. But the singing went well, and I managed to hear at least most of Rabbi Kushner's sermon.

We had a lovely dinner at our friends' home like we do every year, and went home early. Laura and Lilie couldn't stay the extra night this time :(

Second day was easier in terms of logistics, since everything I was doing was in the tent. But with Laura gone, David and I had to watch Sofia. She did manage to stay with us for nearly all the service, rather than going to Youth Services. We arrived fairly early, and for some reason the tent service was going VERY fast - after 30 minutes, they were already on the Torah Service. People actually missed some assigned honors because we got to those parts too early.

But Sam read the Prayer for Israel (mostly in English, with a couple of lines of Hebrew) really well. He looks so handsome in his suit and his (very large) tallit. Such a young man!

I also blew Shofar later in the service, right before we sang the two choir pieces. Whew.

Our house for Tuesday, with N and the kids, r and her girls, V and our "old lady friend". Very nice time.

The rest of the week has been busy. Sam's really having trouble adjusting to 8th grade, so he's keeping me hopping. Sofia had her new ballet class this morning and it went GREAT. She even enjoyed the tap portion of the class (I guess most of the schools here do both in the intro classes). She stayed engaged the whole time, and the teacher and assistant were both terrific. WHEW!

So I took her this morning, but then David switched with me, and I took the boys to shul so we could be on time, since I was reading Torah. He and Sofia arrived long before it was my turn, so we need not have worried.

Going to celebrate our friend E's birthday (belatedly) tonight. Yeah! Getting ready for the next few holidays, and for the Buddy Walk on October 7. My parents are actually coming for it this time!

Monday, September 10, 2012

My kids' brains...

I am constantly amazed at how my children think!

A Leap of Cognition

A few days before school started, we were cleaning out Sam's dresser drawers. (Who really needs 35 pairs of formerly white sneaker socks?) Sofia, ever so helpful, reached into a drawer, and pulled out something.

"Oh! Tallit!" she exclaimed.

And sure enough, it was a Tallit Katan, the small under-garment that Sam used to wear (in his "more" religious days back in first and second grade).

Now, I was thrilled enough that Sofia knew what a Tallit was. But later, I realized how much more of a cognitive leap that had been.

Your standard Tallit:

 A Tallit Katan:
They don't really look very similar, do they? And consider that David's Tallit is cream colored with burgundy stripes, and mine is pink and fits like a cloak.

How did she recognize the basic similarity?!

I am amazed.

Also amazing is seeing how my sons do the same thing so differently from each other. The fifth grade Torah project at our school is a really big deal. Every week, the students - working with their parents - have to write a Summary and Commentary for two portions of the Torah, until eventually they have written for then entire Torah.

With Sam, it was challenging to get him to read the materials, since at that time he was still struggling with reading comprehension. His Summaries were short and tended to focus on just one part of the portion.

Well, I've started working with Micah. And what a difference! Micah's first summary was two full pages, typed! (Of course, that's way too long, and this evening we worked it down to three paragraphs).

It is fascinating to work through the material with each of them. They have such different ways of seeing things. Very specific, very unique.


In other news, we tried Ballet Class this afternoon. Sofia was VERY excited, and actually got herself strapped into her car seat (which for some reason she had moved to the front; I made her move back again):

We went to the ballet studio around the corner from our house. At first, I thought things went great. She has been talking about ballet for a full year now, and was really excited. She watches the Bella Dancerella DVD constantly, and was showing off what she knows of the ballet positions.

I watched from the observation window, and after a while, I took a walk around the block.

And when I came back, it had all fallen apart.

The class had switched from ballet to tap, and Sofia totally lost interest. And the teacher did not try to keep her involved. When I returned, Sofia was off in a corner, playing with the mirror.

I stayed in the class for a while, trying to get Sofia to cooperate, but it was no use. The teacher, by that point, was just ignoring her even when she did get in line.

I ended up walking out with Sofia in the middle of the class.

I was so upset. It was one of those "Special Needs" moments that really feel like a punch in the gut.

But I turned it around, quickly. Instead of driving home, we drove straight to the other dance studio in town! I had tried going over earlier in the day but it wasn't open yet. This studio is larger, and I had been afraid of it; I was always the chunky, clutzy girl in ballet class, and all those lovely ballerinas really throw me off guard. But several of my friends' daughters (mostly girls Sam's age) have been taking lessons there for years, and love it.

So I took my daughter (still wearing her tutu) into the school. And had the most wonderful talk with the director.

Sofia will be taking a ballet (and tap, unless she does not respond to the tap) class with a very specific teacher and very specific assistant. The class is for 5 year olds, but developmentally that will make sense for Sofia.

And it meets on Saturday mornings at 9am. Sigh.

Which means 1. she will miss class once a month so she can go to her reading program, and 2. we'll be late for shul. But it's worth it.

The director said she has a very different philosophy than the other school. "Every child deserves to dance." I immediately fell in love.


Ok, I can't tear up, because my eye hurts. It started hurting Friday, was worse Saturday (when I had to drive Sam out to Worcester for a bar mitzvah; it was nice to see so many friends at that shul!).

Sunday morning, I woke up looking like Quasimodo. My eye was completely swollen shut, and hurt like the dickens.

So off to the ER we went. Now I'm on antibiotics and hot compresses, and today I saw the ophthalmologist, who also prescribed steroid/antibiotic drops. Whew.

Bar Mitzvah!

You know, I totally forgot to post anything about the Bar Mitzvah! So here it is...

FABULOUS. The kid totally ROCKED it, wearing "The Tallit of Power"




One thing I did learn is that the formal photos should NOT include grandparents and great grandparents or great-grand-uncles. Took a bit longer than expected, and lots of "what about this" whispers...

But we got lots of beautiful shots from our wonderful photographer. We did formals on Friday before services, since sundown was so late. Then we changed outfits, had a lovely service, and then a really nice dinner at the shul. Only had about 24 of us, but it was nice to be able to sit and relax and visit. My cousin and David's best buddy both came in from California.

Shabbat morning was awesome. Packed crowd. Standing room only, really! And that's with adding three extra rows of seats in the back. It was just so warm and wonderful. The celebration of the ufruf (pre-wedding blessings) was lovely - the couple and both sets of parents danced on the bimah together for a moment. Everyone was so happy. The weather was gorgeous. The bride's father had put a tent in the back parking lot, so between that and my brilliant idea of renting long tables (instead of using rounds), there was plenty of seating for everyone. Yummy lunch.

All afternoon, people came back to the house. Lovely weather, and much fun being with friends and family. Every bit of food was eaten!

Sunday morning, adorable. Perfect. 35 kids, 20 adults. Relaxed, fun, and exactly what a Bar mitzvah party should be. "About the kid". Whew!

More photos:

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Back to Reality?

Well, that was a busy week or so...

It's Sunday night of Labor Day Weekend. I can see now why I blog better when we travel: I have more time!

Ok, the first few days home were just a blur. Sofia and Sam kept me awake until after 5am the first night, so it really took a while to get back on schedule. Lots of sleeping at odd hours. Fortunately, we had a lovely Shabbat dinner at D's house.

Last Sunday, I think I was finally back in the right time zone. The kids and I drove up to Biddeford Pool, Maine, to spend the day at my friend H's beach house. Fun fun fun!

Sofia loves the sand and the water:


Sofia and G:

Meanwhile, Micah and B dig a hole:

But the highlight of the day, for the kids, was The Boat. My friend's husband had spent the summer working with their son B and nephew to build a boat from scratch, out of materials found in their garage. The task that afternoon was to transport the boat down to the launch area, several hundred yards down the road.


It took C and the 6 kids about 45 minutes to figure it out, but eventually they got the boat on the roof of the van and down to the water. Then everyone got a ride!

It was such a nice day. We got home late, around 11 pm, and I had too much coffee in order to drive that far, so I was awake much later.

But we still got up early again the next morning, and this time headed south, to Sakonnet RI, where another friend has a beach house (I love these family homes...)

S's son, who is Sam's age, wasn't there, but her daughter, a year younger than Micah, was there, as was of course S's mom, whom I adore. I've been visiting there since right after college, and it's really special.

The kids had a blast jumping waves:

Terrified me. The undertow is very strong there, because of the way the cove is shaped, so it took a lot of energy to keep Sofia from floating away, especially since she has NO FEAR.


Tuesday was a somewhat relaxing last day home before school. Micah had a couple of friends over, and Sam had an orthodontist appointment. We also stopped by the public school so Sofia could meet her teacher and see her new classroom - which is STILL in the same hallway she's been since she turned 3!

In the evening, Micah's friend's mom took the boys to laser tag and bowling, and they did not get home until 9pm. It was nice for Sofia and I to have the quiet evening to get ready for school.

Sofia was so excited! She even packed her own lunch (although I had to fight with her to leave it in the refrigerator over night).

So, Wednesday, bright and early, First Day of School!

My First Grader:

My Fifth Grader:

And my Eight Grader:


Sofia went to Breakfast Bunch at the public school no problem. The boys were excited to see their friends, but nervous about being in a new building (MWJDS finished leasing Framingham' Juniper Hill public school building, and this year we are renting space from Temple Beth Am).

First day is still a blur - I know I had coffee with friends, then a meeting with the Head of School. This year I will be doing some teaching/tefillah coordination, but also more Web work. So I worked for a few hours. Then went to the gym.

Picked up Sofia at 3pm - she had a great day, but was very tired, and grumpy. Growled alot, which I really can't stand.

When we got to MWJDS, one of Sam's teachers was already outside getting ready dismissal, and she gave me an earful about my son. Apparently he did NOT like the homework contract, and slammed it down and refused to sign it, and it was downhill from there. UGH.

When the other teacher came out, she also told me how he'd behaved.

On the whole ride home, he RANTED. All sorts of complaints. Most based on fantasy.

- "They promised us we'd be in the new building [on property the school purchased years ago] by 4th grade!" [well, kid, there IS no building yet!]
 - "We have to use a bathroom pass! Public School doesn't need a bathroom pass!" [Uh, yes they do]

Lots of complaints about being mixed with the sixth grade class (the two teachers will split between 6th and 8th grade, and the two classes will do non-academics together; there is no 7th grade).

And the homework thing was way over the top.

I was shaking by the time we got home. Got the boys settled, took Sofia off to her gymnastics class. Had a long phone conversation with Sam's teacher. Came up with a plan. Got home and gave him a very serious talking-to.

Thursday morning, Micah got a ride to school with another family, and after I dropped off Sofia, Sam and I went to the public school. I met with the sociologist while he had his reading group and then he had his other group. [trying to keep my son's issues slightly more private as he gets older, but basically, he gets support from the public school.] It was good. Very useful conversations.

His teachers said he had a MUCH better day. And they appreciated the apology letters I'd had him write.


Ok, so Thursday 12:35, I pick up Sofia to bring her to MWJDS. When we got to the school, first stop is always bathroom. Her new aide was going to then take her down to the learning specialists' office to review schedule, but Sofia spotted her classmates, and went right in to the classroom. Took her place on the rug, and participated like she'd never left. It was a fabulous day.

And I'm pleased to say her new public school teacher is also all in favor of this split-shift. It's really good for Sofia.

(A side story to illustrate how good: this morning, Sofia was helping as Sam and I cleaned out his dresser drawers. She reached in, and said very clearly "Tallit" as she pulled out a tallit katan!)

Friday, Sofia did not have school (public had an extra long weekend), so coffee, gym, and then I took her to Children's Hospital satellite in Waltham for her very tardy blood draw (I think we were supposed to be there in April). She was so funny: most kids take a stuffed animal with them. Sofia brought her water shoes.

She does NOT like blood draws (as expected), and yelled at the techs and me when we were done. Held her arm behind her back for several hours, and is still showing off her boo-boo.

We picked up the boys, and went off to meet my friend N and her kids for a swim at another friend's pool. Then back to N's house for a while, and out to dinner. Poor Sam: they put a kiddie menu in front of him. Not cool.

Saturday morning, Bar Mitzvah for Sam's classmate. Great service, and Sofia sat on my friend J's lap, playing with J's scarf, for an incredibly long time. (Up until now, Sofia has been afraid of J, because once I put her in J's car when I had to run into school, and she's been scared ever since).

Rested and relaxed at home after lunch at shul (not our shul, the one with no babysitting, which is why Sofia was in services the whole time). Then babysitter came for Sofia, and I took the boys (and my "extra" child, Sam's other male classmate) to the party.

Great time: my rule is that Sofia can come to afternoon parties, but I'll leave her home for evening parties if I can. Much easier on me. D's husband wasn't there either, so we were each other's dates. Nice to be with my friends, all dressed up. Great DJ, fun party. Didn't get home until 11:30.

My "extra" child is actually now spending the rest of the weekend with us. He went home last night (J drove him), but I picked him up this morning. I took the 4 kids up to Rockport for the afternoon. Nice day. Getting food into them helped the moods lighten. Sofia got grumpy again when I made her stop throwing rocks into the water (after 20 minutes of throwing). She also insisted on climbing the rocks.

Got home around 8pm, fed them, got Sofia to bed, watched the newest Dr. Who with the boys, and now going to sleep. WHEW. I think canoeing tomorrow...

And DAVID is on his way home!!!!!