Saturday, November 24, 2012

TurkeyDays

Wednesday was a busy day. The boys only had 3 hours of school. Sofia had a Publishing Party in her public school class. That was interesting. There are something like 24 kids in her class, so it's really busy. But the other kids (mostly the girls) really treat Sofia like a baby. It's interesting. I had a long chat with one of the aides (the one we LOVED last year; but she's not in that class as often this year). We did a little brainstorming, trying to figure out how to get the kids to treat her like a peer.

We decided on a combination of things. The new principal is a very large man with a booming yet gentle voice. He talks to the kids like real people (as opposed to the assistant principal, who uses one of those sweet sicky voices some people think they need to use when talking to children). So we will have him talk to the kids, but I will also bring in some books on-topic. (Suggestions?!)

After I picked up the kids, we came home most of the rest of the afternoon. David stopped by for lunch, and I had to run out for an orthopedist checkup and then later for more acupuncture.  But for most of the time I was home, I wrote a little book.

video


Yeah, I know, some of it is a little over the heads of first graders. But I felt better.

Anyway. (that took me another 2 hours to make the slide show. I kind'a get distracted by stuff like that...)

Thursday, we tried to sleep a little later, but Sofia was not so cooperative. She keeps climbing into bed with us at around 2am, and she's getting bug. And Heavy. And she doesn't BUDGE except to take up more space. The past few nights, I have ended up moving into her room around 5am just to get some space.

Anyway, I made my sliver dollar pancakes with my new cast iron silver dollar pan. Love it! The kids watched the parade on TV. And we made it out of the house by noon-ish.

Since the Pike was bumper-to-bumper, David took a back road route. Pretty, but still took 2 hours.

Got to my sister's house. Brother-in-law and nieces were cooking and watching football. We settled in. My sister was on call, so we had not expected to see her, but she managed to get out ("The hospital was totally dead" is not really the phrase you want to hear from a cardiologist!). My uncle and aunt and one cousin showed up around an hour later, then mom's cousin and his wife, and eventually (4pm) my parents.

Sofia likes to take pictures of the television:
 Sam looking cool:
 The "triplets" (the twins are 6 weeks older than Sam):
 My Dad (on the right) and my uncle Phil:
 My cousin (he's so handsome!):
 The Kiddie Table:
 Unc:
 Sofia shows off her ballet moves:

 Post turkey couch potatoes:

We were supposed to sleep over, but my sister and one of my nieces were not feeling well. I thought it would be better if we went home. So Friday we tried again to sleep late (yeah, no such luck!)

David and Micah took a ride for a few hours. I eventually got Sam and Sofia out and we braved Best Buy. Sam bought himself an Xbox with the last of his Bar Mitzvah spending money.

Then we headed up to my friend R's house for a wonderful day-after-Thanksfiving celebration. We had three kosher turkeys! One smoked, one grilled, and one deep fried. (I liked the grilled).


 Sam and his friends (they've been together since kindergarten, although they have grown considerably):

Shul this morning, and then I had another acupuncture appointment. Then we just hung out all afternoon. Relaxing. Sort of.




Monday, November 19, 2012

Keeping Busy

I guess ranting paid off. Saturday evening, my blog was listed as one of technorati.com's Top 10 "Movers" in the Living-->Family list! So Cool!

That certainly puts the pressure on, though. Now I have to come up with something interesting and worthwhile, to keep my status.

Uuuuuhhhhhhh.....

Ok, news report here at home: David and Micah both have a bit of a tummy bug today. Micah stayed home, but of course David went to work. I think Micah will be fine tomorrow. I'm guessing David...not so much...

We had our extra Sam this weekend, who is always a pleasure. He used to be great friends with our Sam, but now he and Micah do more together as my 13 year old sinks into sullenness. So Saturday evening, the two younger boys went down to the basement, and brought up an old Mac Quadra "pizza-box" computer. And proceeded to take it apart...and put it back together. They were incredibly excited about doing this. And very efficient. I did not find any spare parts on the kitchen floor.

David came home from San Diego late Saturday evening, so on Sunday we took the three boys and Sofia to the rock climbing gym in Worcester. Our Sam had a fabulous time, and wanted to stay much longer. The younger two boys did not have as much fun, because they were too young to belay (be the person holding the rope on the ground while the climber goes up). Since only Sam and David could belay, they had to wait their turns a long time.

I spent the two hours chasing Sofia around. She wanted so badly to "climb" using the ropes, but in reality, she is just about as afraid of heights as I am. When I took her over to the Boulder wall (the kind of climbing wall where you don't need ropes), she could only climb about 1 foot up before she got too scared. So it was a long afternoon for me!

Had choir rehearsal last night. I'm in the Temple Israel choir, and we have performances coming up. First we are singing at the New Members Dinner on Friday November 30. Of course I forgot to sugn up for the dinner, and now it's sold out. Which means I have to find a Shabbat dinner where I can leave the kids in the middle of dinner and go over to shul to sing. Which is probably what I wanted to do subconsciously, since going to a communal dinner with my three children when David is traveling is NOT my idea of fun.

The second concert is the following Friday night, during services. Mostly we are doing the same pieces, with one or two being held in reserve for the second concert. Some of the pieces are really nifty. I especially like the Applebaum "Funky Dreidel". But this is the first time I've ever been in a non-auditioned choir, and it makes for an interesting sound. I'm trying hard to keep the sopranos on pitch (yes, I'm a freakin' soprano! Yikes!), but it doesn't always happen. I think the audience will like it; I just don't feel it's the best thing I've ever been involved in. The standards set by The Zamir Chorale are difficult to overcome, and I was there for 10 years. We do have several other former Zamirniks, and I think most of us are having the same attitude.

Anyway...

Gearing up for this weekend. I ONCE drove home on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I will NEVER do that again. So Wednesday we are here, and all the kids have a half-day of school. I have a foot doctor appointment in the afternoon, but otherwise I don't know what we'll be doing.

Thursday we head to CT for the day. Dinner is at my sister's house, although she will be on call at the hospital the whole time. So her husband and one of the twins are doing the cooking, and Sam has decided he wants to go down early and help. Which would be lovely except that my brother-in-law doesn't want all of us coming early.

So maybe we'll go see my sister-in-law (David's sister), or maybe my in-laws. Or maybe we'll just go down later, and Sam can help me cook here in the morning instead.

Friday we are back here for a party at my friend R's house. Haven't seen her in too long, so I'm looking forward to it. And I'm TRYING to plan to see my in-laws on Saturday, but they are not capable of making a decision this far in advance. So we might be free for the weekend. Not sure. I am skipping my 30th high school reunion, though. I don't want to be a yo-yo, going back and forth to CT every day. Too much driving.

At school, I'm still wearing multiple hats. Mommy. WebMaster. Tefillah Coordinator. Preschool Program Teacher. Tefillah Teacher. It's getting a little frustrating. Tomorrow David and I are meeting with the Head of School, and perhaps we can get some better answers as to how much value I am adding.

But meanwhile, I do the work, because face it, I DO love it! Today I got to show the first grade teacher how to make an email list, and I made a video slide show for tonight's event at the Boston Jewish Film Festival, and I updated some web pages, and I continued archiving photos, and I planned a Tallit Workshop for the Eighth graders to do while the 6th graders are at Teva next week.

We decided to do another Tallit workshop because right now the 8th graders are not using the tallitot (prayer shawls) they made in 6th grade. They each made their own very unique piece, and all was good until the Rabbinic Intern who was running the workshop then made them put the atarah (neck piece) that they made together on each tallit. The materials for the tallitot were all very soft and flimsy. The material for the atarah was a very stiff canvas. Totally busted the project.

So now I make Sam bring his big tallit (the one he got in Israel for his Bar Mitzvah) in for All School Tefillah, but otherwise he doesn't use one. And none of the others use one at all, although I know they have them.

So this time, we are aiming for a little more conformity (I know, the irony, right!).

Plain cream-colored material, all with the MWJDS logo, but then all made individual by each child. And they can be left in school. And they should be used in school for daily tefillah. We'll see how it goes.

I'm excited by it, and I think the workshop at least will be fun. Whether the outcome is what we want remains to be seen.

In other news...

My Facebook feed has been chock-full of wonderful support for Israel. Lots of positive messages, along with a few pointing out some blatant lies the Palestinians and several major news organizations are selling to the general public. The most interesting has been the recycled photos. Apparently, the Palestinian news organizations are taking photos from the conflict in Syria, photos published several weeks ago, and recycling them as photos from Gaza. There are several shots of a man holding a small injured child. Touching, I'm sure, but the same couple is shown in the exact same picture on news reports from Syria weeks ago!

So while all my Jewish friends are posting about supporting Israel and about how the Palestinians are lying, staging "news" reports (another shows the injured guy in the first frames then getting up and walking away in later frames), once in a while one of my non-Jewish friends posts something. And that has been...interesting.

Not chilling, at least. But certainly not as clearly supportive of Israel.

Which is making me want to "share" more of these links that my other, more activist friends, are already posting.

Which is not my regular style.

Sigh.

Ok. If I don't get back on here before Thursday, I wish everyone (in and out of the country) a sweet and happy Thanksgiving. And I pray for PEACE to come to Israel speedily and in our day. And please, keep all my friends and Temple Israel "family" members who live in Israel safe. I'm especially thinking about two young men who made aliyah last year and are now serving in the Israeli Army. Please, keep them safe!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Ranting about Conformity

David is away this week, coming home (hopefully later tonight, possibly tomorrow morning) from San Diego and Mexico. Which means I had to take Sofia to her Reading School today.

Sofia takes part in the monthly Learning Program, a special program originally designed by the Down Syndrome Foundation of Orange County. The program and the materials that come with it are terrific. But it meets once a month on Saturday mornings, half an hour drive from home, so my deal with David was that if he wanted Sofia to go to it, he had to mostly be the one to take her. Of course, I end up doing most of the work with her at home, but at least this gets him involved.

While the kids are in their class, the parents get together for a learning session of their own. And almost every month, when David returns from the Learning Program, he spends a good 24 hours ranting and raving about Sofia's education. Are we doing the right things? Are we doing enough? Is the school cooperating? Are they just treating her like a baby? Why aren't we fighting for more?

It's exhausting for me to keep up with all his questions, mainly because he does not have the day-to-day interaction with the school(s). He is also hearing from the parents who attend the program, none of whom are from our own town. Massachusetts schools as a whole are really good, but of course every town (and every school) is different. So experiences vary widely. And there's also the differences each individual child brings to the discussion. What works for Sofia may not work for another child, and vice versa.

So today it was my turn to go (since he is away). And I discovered another big problem.

Conformity.

Here's the specific issue that really fired me up, but there were many other pieces:

Within our learning packet today, which was about teaching our kids how to Add, there was a page with pictures of hand-signs for numbers:

(note, this was not the actual page, but these were the signs being used). These are the American Sign Language (ASL) signs for the numbers 1 through 10.

This took us to a side conversation that really irked me. One of the moms had run into a problem, because of the number 3.

Look at the Three sign above. Now look at this hand sign:
Notice the difference? In ASL, that sign means "W", but for non-ASL users, that is usually the hand sign for "3".

The discussion went along the lines of "we should not have spent so much time forcing our kid to learn the ASL number signs, because now he has to UN-LEARN them in school".

When I asked why not just educate the teacher as to the difference, they pushed back. "This is how they do it in public school."

BULLSHIT!

ASL is a Language. Which means that child is bi-lingual (at least; there are several families that also speak another language at home). Which means the school has to accommodate that!

Which very basically means the kid should not have to unlearn his ASL hand-signs!

Of course, my mind does not stop there.

I started listening to the questions various parents were asking. And I got SO frustrated! There was so much angst about making their kids meet the homework expectations, and only a little about making the homework meet the expectations for the child (to be fair, the conversation did start off with making the distinction between making a fair accommodation and making the work too simple).

But no one was thinking Outside The Box.

What is the point of homework?

To practice skills already learned in class, to help cement those skills into the brain.

Which means homework should not be for first learning. It should be practice.

Which means that is the child has not learned something yet, there should not be homework on that topic.

I hate homework. And I've told every one of my kids' teachers that if my child can't do the homework at least mostly independently, then my kids will not do the homework.

And, because the boys are at the day school, which is small and creative and prides itself on child-centered learning, I've never had a problem with this theory.

And because Sofia is in an Inclusion class but gets lots of her own individualized work, I have gotten only agreement from the public school.

So what I don't understand is, WHY do parents strive for their kids to be JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE? Why not strive for their kids to be THE BEST INDIVIDUAL LEARNER that child can be?

In "modern" society, we have identified key skills that are important: basic reading, simple math, etc. These fall into "Life Skills". We then go on to identify "higher learning" skills like Algebra.

Ok, I have no problem with that. Buy why does every child have to learn the same way? And why does every child have to DO things the same way every other child does them?

I know I live in a creative community. In our town, there are many families from other countries. There are many cultures and languages. We as a family are immersed in the Jewish community. Two of my kids have learning differences that require accommodation.

Why can't we just appreciate and integrate each difference, rather than try to iron everything out into one flat picture?

If a child speaks another language at home, yes, let them primarily speak English in school, but let the teachers be cognisant that there might be some words that cause "translation" issues.

(Great story to that point: our former Head of School has a grown son with DS. When he was little they lived in Israel, and then when they moved back to the states, he went to public school. One day, the parents were called in because he kept yelling "Die! Die!" at some kids who were teasing him. Turns out, he wasn't yelling "Die." He was yelling "Di" - די, which means "Enough"!

Ok, I've been sidetracked by too many questions from my children since I sat down to write this. But in summary, I do not want my kids to be like everyone else. I want them to be comfortable being who THEY are. Individuals. With individual skills, talents, failings, likes and dislikes.




Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November dribs and drabs

Ok, I do think it's been two full weeks since my last post again. Ugh. So much to catch up on.

The hurricane was not a huge trauma here, although we continued to monitor all our NY and NJ and CT friends without power for so many days. We lost power in the late afternoon for about 5 hours. As soon as the power went out, we shut down most of the battery-powered electronics, figuring we should save the battery in case power was out a long time. Only exception was that Sofia insisted on watching a movie on the portable DVD player, but that battery only lasts 1 hour anyway.

The three kids and I ended up playing Monopoly by flashlight, which was interesting. Sofia was very enthusiastic about paying money, even when she did not owe anything.

But power was restored by bed time. I was a bit bothered to see how much they relied on it; Micah got completely hyper when the power went on, which made me lose my temper.

Tuesday, they had no school (a lot of folks were without power that day), so we had another lazy day. I did go out to run an errand in the morning, and took Sam shopping, and later took Sofia to her make-up swim lesson (since she would miss that Thursday).

Wednesday was back to normal. Evening was of course Oct. 31, Halloween. Ugh. First time David has ever missed it. But it turns out the boys are really getting too old! Sam ended up going out with his buddy across the street and another local kid, and they went without a grown-up this time! Very exciting (as long as they have cell phones...). Micah opted not to go with them, and he doesn't have local friends. So he stayed home and handed out the candy. I gave Sofia an option to go to a few houses, but she did not want to. So it turned out relatively relaxed. The three of us stayed home and handed out candy. They watched some movies while I packed. And Micah had Sofia sleep with him that night, to give me a break!

Thursday morning, bright and early. Got me and Sofia ready, woke the boys up, dropped Sofia at school, and I was off to the airport. Headed to Fort Lauderdale, for the SuLaM Shabbaton. SuLaM is a a project of Ravsak, which is the consortium of independent Jewish day schools. The Shabbaton (Thursday through Sunday) was a chance for a school leader, educator and lay leader to get together with folks from other schools and discuss.

It was energizing. I went with our Head of School (B) and our Director of Teaching and Learning (G). G and I started brainstorming when we met up at the airport, and pretty much did not stop until Friday afternoon. Everything we discussed led to another idea. I ended up with 12 different project plans!

It was a lot of work, but a lot of fun and interesting learning. I hope we do manage to implement at least some of what we learned.

Saturday evening after Shabbat we had free time, so my friend B who lives down the street from the hotel were we were staying joined us for Havdalah and then drove me up to see Grandma. My parents were still there, too (they were supposed to be there Monday until Friday, but they moved their flights to Wednesday/Sunday because of the hurricane). So B did a great job of keeping my folks busy while I got to talk to Grandma. Who looks FABULOUS and not nearly the 101 years old that she really is!

I had planned in great detail for the care and feeding of my children and husband while I was gone. David didn't get back from his trip (he'd left Monday morning before the storm) until early Friday morning, so the three kids slept over my friend D's house on Thursday. And since I was traveling, OF COURSE one of my kids was sick! Micah had 101.8 degree fever on Thursday evening. Sigh. So Friday morning, after D dropped her kids and Sam at the day school and then Sofia at her school, she dropped Micah back with a still-asleep David.

Fortunately whatever he had did not last long, and he was better by the time I got home on Sunday. Sofia developed a bit of a tummy bug all week, but nothing to keep her out of school.

Last week is mostly a blur. Tuesday was a Professional Development Day, with a really interesting speaker, Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano. I left the kids home for the morning. Brought my co-worker's daughter home with me after lunch, and took the four kids off for errands and appointments and voting. Had a REALLY interesting conversation after voting, about the MA ballot questions (one was about assisted suicide, and another about medical marijuana).

Lots of meetings and work and appointments all week. Micah's piano teacher is keeping a very fluid schedule this year, so I never know if we have piano on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Sofia is doing swim class on both Tuesday and Thursday, plus gymnastics on Monday. This week, we also had a make-up gym class today (Wednesday) to make up from the day of the hurricane. (Sofia was clearly paying attention when we planned the make-up class. She was totally expecting there to be MAKEUP involved. We had just enough time after picking up the boys to run home, put some lip gloss and cheek sparkle and eye shadow on her and grab a pair of pink plastic high heels. She looked FABULOUS.)

Had the 8th grade Parlor Meeting with the Head of School tonight. I hosted. Which meant we went through three bottles of wine, and the parents stayed until 10:20. I love my friends.

David is in San Diego this week. He's actually going to a client site over the boarder in Mexico each day, but they are sleeping at the hotel in San Diego.

Sam is stepping up his responsibilities this week, for some reason. He made dinner tonight and last night. Very cool. And this afternoon he and Micah did a lot of cleaning up while I took Sofia to gymnastics, so the house looked presentable.

I got a migraine on Sunday, and by Monday it was a full-body event. UGH. Monday night, I had the boys put some Tiger Balm on my neck and shoulders, and then I used a heating pad to try to calm some of the muscles. Which then threw me into complete joint swelling, so by 2am I had to take a frozen shower to get the swelling down. It got better yesterday, and more-so today. This afternoon I also got a massage. She couldn't even figure out where to start, my whole body is such a mess.

Monday was also Veteran's Day. Micah had a play date, so I took Sam and Sofia to teacher conferences at the day school and then we went down to the Wrentham Outlet Mall. Sam wanted Timberland boots (he was wearing David's which were a half size too large). I needed sunglasses. And Sofia decided to check out the makeup store! She is such a fashionista.

I also went back to the outlet mall yesterday, because I did not like the sunglasses I bought. Switched them for a different pair. Happier. Also, much easier to shop without the kids and the holiday shoppers. I got some bakeware that I just hadn't known I needed... a silver dollar pancake pan, etc.

Oh, and my mom called with sad news today. Her dear friend, Judy Schulz, passed away today. She'd been very sick for a while. But so sad. I'm friends with both her daughters, and my parents are close with the whole family.  So I will go down to CT for the funeral on Friday after I drop the kids at school. Already got the boys a ride home. Just need a ride for the girl.