Friday, September 28, 2012

From the Boy's School's Weekly E-Newsletter

I think I maaaaaay recognize one of the 6th graders quoted below:

From Sixth Grade
Things in Sixth Grade are going great.  We asked the students what they thought about the year so far and here’s a sample of what they had to say:
“I have loved this year so much. We have learned so many things this year such as Mayan civilizations and seismic waves in science.”
 “I think some of the big highlights from this year have been learning that we're going to Pali Institute in February and that we are building a civilization… I am enjoying sixth grade a lot and I can't wait to learn more.”
 “It's like someone snuck into the innermost awesomeness vault deep inside my mind, recorded everything, and then reported back to [our school].”

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It's That Time of Year

(huh: ander and zaza had Count Chocula. whose bowl could this be???)

(so much for fasting on Yom Kippur, ahem)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Small Gifts

Caliente Cinnamon Chocolate
(at Neveux on Melrose, which -- shhhh -- may be better than Scoops)

(a 'Clouded Sulphur' perhaps?)
Hers: Honey Lavender and Salted Caramel
Mine: Strawberry Balsamic and Pepper Peach
We popped in to buy a replacement pair of green suspenders for the boy.
The owner made a special trip to the back room to fetch these for A&A

after they were deemed worthy.
(We think it all turned on the fact that when asked what the suspenders were for, 

I answered, "Uh, for him.  To, ummm, wear.  To school.  And stuff."  
Which was apparently a less lame answer than "For a Halloween Costume," 
which he maybe hears too often.)

An Embarrassment (of Riches)

At Ander's Back-to-School Night yesterday evening, I may very well have blushed after uttering the words "Trapper Keeper" in front of a room full of parents.  Later -- oh the shame -- I raised my hand amongst the seated adults and asked Alexander's Literature teacher if he should be composing or only typing final drafts on the "word processor."

I'm a grown-up (mostly).  

(I am apparently also a time-traveler from the 80s.)

I can sheepishly laugh off that sort of public embarrassment (mostly).  

But it was the secret embarassment I felt last night that haunts me today.  

There was a rather protracted chunk of the Q&A with Ander's (sainted) home-room teacher that revolved (and revolved and revolved) around homework, reasonable deadlines, whether parents preferred having their children work on projects over weekends, whether or not assignments handed out Monday could realistically be completed by Thursday night (on top of the nightly math homework and soccer and football and commuting and Hebrew school), and the slippery slope of need-based 'extensions' and whether the kids should be penalized (and how much) for turning in assignments late.  This went on and on, but the consensus seemed to be that -- while it would be nice to receive assignments a little earlier so that materials could be purchased over weekends -- four days was a reasonable amount of time to finish most of their projects.  

I agree.  I do.  And I sat there nodding.  

But I swear -- and maybe it was just a guilt-induced hallucination -- that Ander's teacher was cocking an eyebrow at me while he refereed the debate.

Because the mortifying fact is: I had strongly suggested to Alexander that he ask for a one day extension on last week's assignment.  

Because it was my fault he was behind on his project.

Ander is ridiculously good about managing his time.  (Thank the flying spaghetti monster that he takes after his father-who-typed-my-term-papers-in-college.)  Ander's is the voice of reason piping up from the back seat, saying, "Can't you pick up the dry-cleaning while I'm at school tomorrow?  Because I need to get home to do my homework."

But my mandated soul-cleansing death-march journey to the sea on Monday and my inability to get to the candy store before Thursday had hampered Ander's progress on his "Layers of the Earth" assignment.  

Arguably, he did have something kind of complicated in mind: he wanted to make a stop motion film using candy to illustrate the layers of the earth.  (We had been brainstorming, and I had mentioned that the Earth is like a layered jawbreaker or an Everlasting Gobstopper. He ran with this idea, but didn't think actual Gobstoppers had enough layers.)  

His plan: make a stop-motion film from photographic stills, using a series of increasingly smaller spherical candies to illustrate the deeper and deeper layers of the earth.  He would shoot the stills of himself and his props with a camera attached to the underside of his loft bed, using a remote control, lying on the floor under the camera, so that the floor would be the 'wall' behind his head.  

He wrote the script, rigged the camera, and chose his wardrobe.  

But then I failed to make it to the fancy-pants new candy shoppe in a timely manner, and then oh then his camera wouldn't cooperate.

I knew he could and would find a work-around, and I knew he could and would push through and make his Friday deadline.  But I also knew that his beautiful Vision would then devolve into something less, requiring a panicky, crabby, all-nighter with family-wide unpleasant repercussions.

I strongly suggested he ask for an extra day.  He asked for it.  He got it.

And I couldn't admit this in front of all those parents because they would just not believe me that Alexander's respect for deadlines and his ability to pace himself and manage his time would not be undermined and forever derailed by this bit of leeway.  

And I sat there feeling like a big hypocrite.  Embarrassed to be the (secret) bad example.

But then the wonderful and relentlessly patient John (yes, the students and parents call the teachers by their first names, I know, I know, it weirds me out too) reined in the debate and said (more or less), "Look, if your son or daughter just doesn't get around to starting his or her project until Thursday night, and then asks me for an extension, well, they can have one...but they're going to lose a half grade for every day past their deadline they turn in their work.  That said, if your family has stuff one week, big stuff, family stuff...or if your son or daughter has an amazing idea that they are really, really excited about, and they need one extra day to see it come together, well, they can have an extension and not be penalized.  Because I'm not going to grade down for something they couldn't plan for.  And I'm not going to threaten a kid with a lower grade when all they want to do is work HARDER."

Not everyone agreed. (John's ability to not roll his eyes at all our inane questions and lame parenting is super-heroic.) But I felt a bit less embarrassed about my parenting fail.  

Especially in light of this:

Turned in a day late, via the class website -- because they are all tech like that, yo.

(yes, he likes that particular piece of music for stop-motion)
(yes, i ended up having to be the shutter-button pusher, 
but he did his own editing in iMovie)
(and yes -- duh -- real candy was consumed in the making of this film)

Friday, September 21, 2012

After Greek Take-Out, at the Mishpukhe Bs'

Dancing to Madness' 'Night Boat to Cairo' (Ander's choice, natch...)

The mamas may have had a dance-off to Miriam Makeba's Pata Pata,
and there may be video evidence on Shanaynay's iPhone
-- more proof that children don't need their own fancy-pants phones...

I can neither confirm nor deny that such a dance-off occurred,
nor can I corroborate that such an occurrence was recorded.

If Ander ends up with a fancy-pants phone of his own, 
please assume I was blackmailed with the alleged video evidence.

Monday, September 17, 2012


Tashlikh is the sort of annual ceremony I can manage. 

Its alignment with lunar calendars and the turn of the seasons appeals to the crunchier corners of my soul, and its promise of a fresh start speaks to my itinerant 'Navy-brat' nature.

Plus, there's no fancy cooking involved.

Crunchy, slate-cleaning, and stress-free!  

And yet -- precipitated by disagreements about which 'natural body of water' we should trek to, and exacerbated by nerve-jangling traffic, post-school-day lethargy, and a general lack of enthusiasm by those along for said trek -- my jaw and chest were tight, and those twin vertical lines between my eyebrows were very very visible as we pulled into the $$$ parking lot where Sunset spits you out at the Pacific.

But we were going to do this thing, dangit!

This was as much as I could get out of him.  

He had not given this much thought, despite Poppy's explanation of Rosh Hashanah and the Days of Awe before dinner last night, despite having plenty of time for self-reflection on the drive across town  

He said, "I thought this was going to be more of a 'think' than a 'do' sort of thing." 

(I was grinding my teeth and snapping at them both at this point.) 

(mine, still oblivious to the irony)
Totally and completely forgetting the whole point of the Days of Awe, I sat there fuming over the fact that Ander and Zaza were more interested in building sand castles and running through the turning tide than in this Very Important Ceremony.  

But as the sea air did its primal magic -- and I actually started to see the joyful, sunset-tinged scene in front of me -- my breathing slowed, my shoulders lowered, the knot in my chest loosened, and I (oh so sheepishly) realized I was exhibiting almost all of the bad habits and rotten tendencies I was hoping to throw away in the New Year.

Because really, they are all 'Days of Awe,' these days I share with them.  

There is painful introspection, and heaps of red-faced repentance. And there is also the endless promise of second (and third) chances.  

But mostly there is constant, gob-smacked awe.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Spa Zaza: Courtesy of the Magical Masseuse and Her Assistant

Spa package included:

  • cucumber 'spa water'
  • foot and hand massage
  • quick-dry nail polish
  • back massage (while feet soaked in tub lined with marbles)
  • cucumber mask

They know this is the only 'let's pretend' game in which Dubbadad and I will ALWAYS be enthusiastic participants.

(Full disclosure: Aliza PAID Alexander $1 to be her assistant -- which is a real bargain considering he made the sign, cut the cucumbers, and handled all oogy foot-related services)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

It Seems She May Have Sprained Her Shoulder a Bit

(waiting at Urgent Care)
I gave her this necklace today when I picked her up from school.

We had had a long talk this morning about how I can't make everything fair, how her brother is just going to get to have stuff and do stuff and see stuff before she does because he's older.  I drew ladders and rungs in the air with my hands, showing her where she is and where he is, and that the ladder is really the same length. I told her that it will end up being fair, even if it doesn't feel fair right now.  

And I told her that he needs his space, and that he will enjoy her company more when she isn't always at his elbow.  

I told her that it's lucky for her that her brain is growing so much right now, and that she is finding whole new rooms in there to explore and fill with things.

I told her I know (I know, I really, really KNOW) that this is all hard, but when things were hard for me when I was her age, when I was lonely or sad or just if everything around me was too much, I would go and live inside a book for a while. I told her that Ramona and Pippi and the Melendy Family were all there waiting for me. And that when I came out of the book, everything felt more manageable, and less hurt-y.  

I told her that I believe with all my heart that Books Save Lives. 

This was a hard talk, a proper Talk, and she cried a bit, but she also told me she "liked the metaphors."

And that she loves books.

treatment: Motrin and a heating pad...

...and Ramona the Pest (in her lap)

Sunday, September 09, 2012

On His Desk: Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Inspired by Mythbusters to make his own toy car: 
cork wheels and a wire frame.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Archaeology and Time Travel Amongst the Rubbermaid Bins

I am finally finishing up that closet excavation I started when A&A were in San Diego this summer.

Frankly, it has been heart-breaking.  

If I had a time machine I would not zip off to right big historical wrongs.  Rather I would travel ten years back and pop 'round to our house. I would send myself out for a massage, and I would sit down on the button rug in what we still would have been calling the Nursery and I would play the Bead Game and build block towers and make tea parties for the plush toys with Ander.  I would travel seven years back, and send myself out for a massage, and I would play the Bead Game and build block towers and make tea parties for the dollies with Zaza.  I would teach Ander and Zaza how to make mudpies (because I think we maybe never ever did that).  I would memorize their faces while they napped. 

But I do not have a time machine.  And it feels like having a wonderful idea that you want to share with a favorite auntie, and then remembering that she passed away years and years ago.  

It hurts me so, not being able to see those days ever ever again.  

Once should be enough, I know it should.  

But I am greedy, and the once-beloved toys only take me so far back, and leave me feeling all hollow and want-y.