Sunday, April 29, 2007

On Science Projects and Plants

So Tali has a project for Science class which is to use a simple machine to improve upon another machine. The children had to submit their ideas to the teacher and her first invention was rejected because it was similar to another invention already submitted. Greeeaaat.

So any suggestions would be welcome in the comment box. Actually, she came up with another for which we are working up a model. In the meantime, we went to the nursery for some plants for the planters in the front of the house because nothing says project avoidance like a little spruce up of the outdoors.

Going anywhere with Tali and Julian together is a trip. Do I love these kids? Do they make me laugh - every time. But by the end of the outing, I'm moving them swiftly and steadily towards the car. Now why does the nursery do something like put a candy machine before the checkout? Julian kept getting drawn back to it. "I don't have change Julian, just my debit card." I said.

"Just a quarter" he pleads. "No, no change".

I herd them back to the register where invariably they take one more walk. I am preoccupied with checking out when the Momdar zones in on a foreign sound in the nursery (insert Psycho shower scene music here). My card has gone through and the workers are packing up my cart when I skip over an aisle and see my darling children rocking the candy machine. I call out their names and give them the incredulous stare which goes something like one eye closes and one eye bugs out. I get them and the plants out of the nursery as Tali explains "We just shook the machine a little and a chocolate covered raisin came out". That's the point that I had looked down the aisle to see Julian popping it in his mouth.

"I see" I say "so you risk knocking over a $250 machine for a penny candy? Let's have a little talk about consequences."

"I wanted an M&M" Julian chimes in. So much for consequences.

We stop to pet a basset hound outside the nursery. As we walk to the car, I tell the kids that we once had a basset hound growing up and her name was Banjo. We also had another dog named Groucho. What happened to her, the kids want to know.

So I tell the truth - "She got very sick".
"What was the matter with her?" Tali asks.

"She had cancer" I say.
"Dogs can get cancer?" Tali asks.

"Why did she get cancelled?" Julian chimes in.

"Not cancelled Julian - CANCER" Tali corrects.

With that, we headed on to our next stop with the music playing and the kids already onto the next conversation. Me? I'm just smiling at these little people that make my life so very rich.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Scenes from a Childhood

Thanks everyone for your kind support of Shannon's Relay for Life efforts. My family is indeed touched by all your kindnesses.

The following is a little vignette from my childhood - as simple and as complicated as it was.

I found a kitten on the "side road" and brought it home (the side road was thus named as only the sides of houses bordered it - no fronts...and it was the side road). At least I think that's how it got there. I was a little girl and I put it in a box in the garage with a blanket. It looked a little sick to me - runny eyes, that I remember. The garage was not a place you could really play in. You would ride your bike in from playing and quick, put the kickstand down and run out. Sometimes you would just do a hop off as it was moving and run out without bothering with the kickstand. Anyway, I went and got the kitten a little bowl of milk. A day later (or whatever the time elapse was) when I went back out to check on the poor thing, it had died. I think I recall one of my brothers out there checking on it, something about distemper.

So when I think of such stories from my childhood and juxtapose it to my children's - imagine Tali bringing home a sick kitten, roaming the neighborhood alone. The freedom with which I traveled my landscape - don't get me wrong, there were plenty of dangers out there but somehow they never befell us. The truth is we were already hardened to dangers from living with an alcoholic. Yes sure, my father stopped drinking when I was around nine or ten, can't be sure. The dye was cast. I had lost the ability to be carefree.

Instead I developed a sense of humor that was more the armour required for survival in a large loud Irish family. Why do I share this with you? I'm not sure. Something made me think of summer days, dirt floors in garages, short haircuts with bangs, the haves...the have-nots, running in the house and drinking tap water on a hot summer day, the woebegone, the disenfranchised. Although to look at us, you would never know it. My mother worked so hard to keep our house in order and neat and clean. Our clothes never bore a wrinkle.

Sometimes the externals aren't so important, as it turns out.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Dear Family and Friends,
It's that time of year again- this will be my third year with Relay for Life, my fourth anniversary of being cancer free! If you would like to support my efforts in raising money for the American Cancer Society, please follow the link below. I would also love to see you at the event- it will be at the Amherst College Football field on April 20th and 21st... Drop by and do a lap with me if you can!

Hope everyone is healthy and happy. Enjoy the coming spring and drop me a line to say hello.



I will let the above letter from my niece Shannon speak for itself. I received this along with a lovely email from my brother (her Dad) today. I would love to print it here, but it would take too much space (sorry Pat) and I want to get to the main part - helping Shannon raise money for a very worthy cause. I will, however, excerpt a bit from his email here:

"The great news is that we will be celebrating 4 years of Shannon being in remission this June. So many positive things have happened in her life that I am grateful for. She will be graduating with honors from Amherst College in about 6 weeks. She has been involved in a few internships that have sent her to India, and NYC for summer studies. She just had her first job interview yesterday, for a research assistant with a firm in CT. All of those accomplishments pale in comparison to the gratitude I have for her recovery."

The photo above is of Shannon which my brother sent with his email. He said that he liked this particular one as it looked like Shannon was looking to the heavens thanking G-d for another day of life. With your generous support, other children will too be able to smile.

Thank you all for sharing this with my family. If you can lend your support in a monetary fashion, we appreciate it beyond words - and thanks to anybody who has already given, your generosity is quite touching.

I realize that not everyone is in a position to show their support financially. You could also just leave a comment in support of Shannon's efforts - I'll be sure she sees them which will also be inspiring to her.

And to Shannon, a young woman special beyond words - L'chaim baby - to life!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Baby baby baby you're out of time...

"I say, baby baby baby you're out of time..."

Sometimes I feel as though I'm in a step aerobics class - only I'm not. Well I'm not because a) I'm not in the gym and b) it's just how life feels sometimes - as if I'm facing the front of the class when everyone else is facing the back. No wonder I ended up with a stress fracture that time, all that keeping up - in the step class that is.

It's hard keeping up with everyone's lives, it's hard keeping up with mine. Truth is I don't do such a bang up job at it. When we went to Tali's violin lesson tonight, she handed over an outline of a Recital that we are getting together to perform at Grandpa's nursing home to her teacher, Margaret. I say "we" as I just came up with the idea and presented it to Margaret who thought it would be a wonderful thing to do. Actually, she said in her lovely Icelandic accent "Tali this would be great, it would be a real mitzvah" (love when Margaret sprinkles in a little Jewishness with her Icelandic accent). From there, Tali has created an outline of proposed pieces to play, who will get a solo and so on and so forth. Margaret sort of beamed at me. I smiled back and said "in a year or so, I'll turn the household over to her".

Anyway, that's all I've got for now, come dance - I'm the one in need of a support bra, sporting bad pigtails. Can you find me?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

And then what happened?

It is the last day of Julian's Spring vacation and tomorrow we can finally answer in the affirmative when he runs to our bedside and asks "Is it over?". He is, of course, referring to Passover. He's been a real trooper, foregoing waffles and other breakfast delectables that seem to be the most troublesome aspect of the holiday for him. In fact, on one particularly bad day (about Day 6) I found him sobbing in the kitchen with Daddy comforting him. I hope this won't be fodder for the shrink in his young adults years.

In any event, if it's the last day of vacation, that must mean there is unfinished homework to tackle. Now doing homework with Julian can require quite a bit of creativity and patience and the amounts vary on any given day but the requirement for both always exists. I imagine Julian feels the same.

Today we find ourselves looking out the window at the next door neighbor's dogs. We start the homework.

Julian (scratching at a mark on my thumb) "What's that - a booboo?"
Me: "Yeah"
Julian: "How did you get that?"

Me seizing this as the diversion opportunity it is start telling an outlandish tale and engage him in the homework at the same time.

Me: "Well, funny you should ask. I was walking down the street..."
Julian: "Go on"
Me: "And there was a broken sidewalk and I slipped and fell down and down and down into a big hole"
Julian: "and then what happened?"
Me: "Well you were operating a digger and you picked me up and flew out and saved me"
Julian: "I'm a superhero"
Me: "That's right, you're a superhero"

We have finished two pages of the homework and then,

Julian: "What happened next"
Me: "Well I got out and continued walking, but a bird swooped down...
Julian: "And what did he do?"
Me: "He pecked at my finger."

During this time we have also managed a few discussions on 2 being more or less than 3, which included his going to get a second opinion on the topic; refusal to count certain items; observations on the dogs next door and a growing sense that this homework is poppycock and suppressing the temptation to write a note to the teacher saying so.

It is at this point that the reinforcement steps in. Scissors sits down and finishes the homework with Julian. His tack is to give hugs in between finished tasks. Oh does this boy play us like a fiddle.

Tali get out your rosin.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Battle of the Biscuits

There are certain things my mother-in-law does not take lightly, food being one - more specifically home baked goods.

I picked her up from the nursing home the other day where she was visiting her husband who has split "the friendship" with his girlfriend. I saw the girlfriend all neatly coiffed fresh from the home's beauty parlor napping right across from his room. They'll be back together, I mean how far can you go to get away from each other when you're a resident on the same floor? I recently shared with Tali why Grandpa was in the home to begin with which included in no small part his nocturnal wandering of the streets of the city, leaving the door wide open at home all because he insisted he needed to get to his job as manager of the nearby 7-11. Never mind that he was not in their employ, he spent hours there anyway. Once I shared this with her, I said "why did I tell you that?" to which Tali replied with a bemused smile on her face "I don't know. I mean it's sad and funny all at the same time". "I think that's why I shared it" I said. Please understand we are very sad that Grandpa is in a nursing home, but I recognize that Tali has inherited her ability to look at the humorous side of life, in all its absurdity from her Mama.

Back to the baked goods. My mother-in-law had asked me to stop at KeyFood on the way home for her to buy flour which is on sale. More reverse price gouging as technically Jews cannot buy flour during Passover as our homes should be free of such items or a ritual sale of said should have occurred. Sales trump all religious law and my MIL marches in to claim her savings.

You see this is all brought about because Tali has mentioned to my MIL that she likes her sister's biscuits better. "Maybe because she makes them with that special cookie shooter and they come out thinner" I offer. "No, no - the last time I made them, I ran out of vanilla and used vanilla pudding instead. And instead of butter, I had to add a little oil. Miss America notices everything. Julian will eat them anyway, not Tali. " She is right about that.

Miss America is the name she teasingly but lovingly calls Tali, sometimes to Tali's chagrin but that's lost on Grandma as she calls her it anyway. I laugh inside because I know the reason she favors her great-Aunt's biscuits is as I've stated but I figure let Grandma give it her best shot with the finest ingredients lined up. Not like they won't get eaten.

Passover ends Tuesday night - expect the call by Wednesday noon that the biscuits are ready.

End Note: I realize by the comments, biscuits are construed as the normal association of a biscuit. In our world of things not really being what they're called, i.e., chocolate cake which is neither chocolate nor cake; biscuits are actually a little hard lady finger sort of cookie - quite delicious, substitute ingredients notwithstanding.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A Day in the Park

Just when you think your kids are growing up so fast, you see their innocence shining through and it makes you smile.

I took Julian and Tali to the park yesterday, the local playground adjacent to Tali's old school. It's got a great layout and we usually have a grand old time there. Plus I get a goodly amount of exercise chasing Julian, so everybody's happy.

There was a group of kids who were being slightly obnoxious, though nothing terrible. I looked at one and recognized her to be a child from Tali's old school. I said, "aren't you M, from Tali's class?" She just nodded her head "ahumm". "Oh" I smiled and that was that. She seemed older than Tali in some way, more street savvy. When she was in Tali's class which was one or two of her grades in the public school, my recollection of her was not of a nice child, in fact, she was a bit forward and rude.

I mentioned to Tali when she came back over from her bike ride, that I had just seen M and she just shrugged. She went up the slide where the group was playing at the bottom, observed them, and moved on. She ended up making friends with a little girl and led the little girl and Julian on a dig in the dirt, complete with gathering sticks to make a campfire, all the while looking for just the right type of shiney rocks on an archaeological dig.

In many ways, Tali's behavior is more naive than M, the old classmate. But mostly, she is wise beyond their years. Later she remarked, none of her circle of friends had liked M in the old school because she was mean. M was joined by Victoria in the park who, Tali recalled, cared more for her looks than her IQ.

Mostly I felt grateful that I have two children who are still happy to come with Mommy to the park; who don't try to be "cool" and who know how to just let the unbridled joy of childhood lead the path for a day well played...I have the dirty laundry to prove it.

We are busy preparing the house to celebrate Passover and will be doing so over the next few days. To all my Jewish friends and family, a Zissin Pesach.