Wednesday, December 15, 2010

3 R's vs 3 I's

In consideration of recent crap happening at B and O's school, I've been thinking about what the drawbacks of public school in general - and our schools here in Bethlehem in particular - would be. Their over-emphasis on standardization of learning is a bummer. This inherently reduces the importance of art, language, imagination, and inquiry. Which got me thinking that there really are three subjects that are of utmost importance for us to help our kids learn, but they are NOT reading, writing (not an R) or 'rithmatic (also not an R). They are imagination, inquiry, and inventiveness. These are skills that take creativity and initiative and are the most likely to lead to actual contribution - not high level of spatial relations or even high vocabulary. It isn't about 'getting it' (algebra, grammar, literature), it's about putting something out there that makes new connections (mirror neurons), measures things in a way that is completely new and useful, or bringing understanding to the dark places of human inquiry. Time to go - more later.

Monday, December 06, 2010

What make me bad?

I have, in my brief sojourn, been bad. I have been bad ass, a bad kid, a bad mom, a bad Jew, a bad person, and a bad ballplayer. I have also had bad breath occasionally, played badly at Mah Jongg, been a bad driver, and - on very rare occasions, had bad taste. But mostly, I think I'm a pretty good person. I haven't killed anyone - yet - or broken an oath in court, though that opportunity has not yet arisen. I have broken laws, commandments, rules, and expectations with some measure of abandon, and yet I STILL feel like I'm a pretty good person. I try to be respectful of people, though I fail from time to time. I try not to burn down anyone's house, to feel for the injustice and injury done to people around the world through neglect, intentional injustice, and historical accident. I guess I understand why we have rules, legal and social, but what I don't understand is how some people can call rules ideas, and the next person calls them commandments. Which is it, because those are fundamentally two different things to me. Time for me to go make dinner, which is a law around here, and one that I have found when broken, makes me a bad mother, wife, and person - my own peckishness can be an issue. So hopefully, as I grow up (taller, more beautiful, driving a bmw and zonkered into my iPad), I will come to more fully appreciate what things are out there that make me bad. Cause sometimes being bad is what differentiates me from the Abercrombie wearing, Prius driving norm, out there. And I'm tired of them saying that I'm bad for not being one of them.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Season 3

Soccer season 3 - 3 cool new coaches, new friends like Alex S., rediscovering his talents (goofing around during practice) and improving his skills (like striking). Orin has really enjoyed all the running around, scoring, flying like an eagle after a hard won score, playing a bit of defense (really, this boy is not a big D kind of kid). Jerry and I enjoyed sitting on the sidelines (yelling PASS, PASS THE BALL!), and had fun with the other parents on the team (Robin, Nancy, Maryanne, all great gals). But one kid who didn't befriend Orin especially, and who's parent's didn't especially become part of a core of moms and dads doling out snacks, sharing waters, or picking up the kids (often out of the mud) was Molly, for sure the one kid on this team who really impressed me. She's little, smaller than anyone else on the K team (except Charlie, who is REALLY tiny), wears her coke bottle 4" thick glasses strapped to her head, and runs sort of helter skelter, like even with these binocular telescopes on her head, she can barely see a thing. Born at 1lb 6oz, she has struggled since before her own birth to live, to be strong, and to be a part of this world. She is tenacious on the field, sweeter than syrup on the sidelines, cheers for her team on her breaks, sucks down oranges during half time, and thrills at the touch of the ball on her pink cleats. She is amazing, truly spirited, and brings to bear the whole point of this game - to bring each other up, along for the ride, and into the ecstasy of hard won success. Thank you Molly, for your amazing spirit and thanks to the coaches and the team for all their wonderful cheer and hard work.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Where I'm From by Beckey

I am from Canada,
I am from Vancouver,
Where Olympics are held,
That is where I'm from.

I am from the farms all over the world,
That grow and sell the food I buy,
That pick and sell my snacks.

I am from my mom,
Who gave birth to me,
who raised me so well.

I am from

Rebecca Carlson-Lee
October 2010.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ten pictures in ten steps.

These are sitting in the hall closet - I pulled the bottom one (which has fish lips glued to it) for hat day last year - Orin's preschool. Fun hats we bought in Ohio, on an island. Yup - there's an island in Ohio!

My grandma made this - my dad's mom. She was good, huh?

The Joy of cooking. Sits, alone, on top of the wave. It's marked for pancakes/johnny cakes, plain or with fruit.

This is one panel of a 12 panel tapestry made by a women's cooperative in rural Zimbabwe. This panel is telling about how the woman carried a heavy load on her head for a long way, before getting home. Other panels tell about how her husband was drunk and beat her, then how sorry he was, and how she let him come back home in the end. Sigh.

Max. Short for Maxine. She's huge. We aren't REALLY sure she's a she, but she felt like a she, to me. In a box, with a fox.

Plants. I like them, but I also kill them indoors. These are Jerry's responsibility. Beckey get that spider plant 7 years ago from Verstanding's halloween celebration. Still going strong!

Yeah. So? We have a giant snowflake in the corner. So? What's it to ya?

These are on the wall right by my desk. I love being a mom!

Fresh picked apples from ILF. Galas. Best applesauce, pies, and eating around!

Candy in the candy bowl. This is crap the kids won at the Scottish Games in Altamont. Yeah, thanks guys. Still got this hanging around.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Is death the enemy?

I was checking out causes of death today, kind of random I know, because there's this article on CNN or somewhere talking about how prostate cancer is a huge threat to men today, and how cancer is a huge death factor for men over fifty, but - it says - heart disease is still (and always?) our number one enemy.

Now I'm sure this is true for a lot of people, people who think death is bad, scary, evil. I am not so sure. I think having a crappy quality of life, of being a burden on everyone around you, of not having the life you want to have because you are feeble of mind and/or body, is WAY worse than death.

I don't believe in heaven or hell. I don't think Hitler ever did get punished for what he did. I don't think his victims were rewarded for their selflessness or for the years they lost, the lives unborn, cut down in, or before, their prime. Or Attila the hun and his victims, or Lenin and his. It's not like that for me, there's a HUGE - bigger than the hugest huge - amount of energy in the multiverse, and when we die, we go into it, become part of it. This, what the Hindus call incarnation, this lifetime is our time to shine (which is why so many people, especially children, love love love to be the center of attention), alone in the universe. This is our time to love and be loved for who we are - separate from the rest of that amazing energy out there. And when we die and go back into that tremendous energy - the energy of a billion billion suns - we ARE that energy.

So what's so bad about that? Nothing! There's nothing wrong w/dying. Nothing at all. You don't get to see your sister-in-law very often, or eat marshmallows around the fire, but to me, it's a new amazing experience that is worthy of being looked FORWARD to, not escaped from (which doesn't give me a death wish, just a different perspective). You will never get to see the very end of the play, all except a small handful of the total number of people in the world who ever have or will live. But we will all become part of something amazing once again - for we do not create or destroy the energy that is god, we become it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Baby steps

Gratuitous pickie of my boykie.

I spoke with a gal tonight, at back to school night at the kids' school, who has been looking for a job (part time) for 7 years. Yup - since her 7th grader went to school full time, since she moved to the area, since she knew what she was ready for. She got one, started yesterday - CONGRATS Susan! Meanwhile, it reminds me that needing a job NOW is so ME, but not very realistic. Baby steps. Ineed to start somewhere, anywhere, but I don't need to start with anyTHING. Adding "would you like fries with that" to the end of every other sentance is probably not the kind of job I need to be taking on right now. But doing something that makes me feel useful would be good! So I think the first thing to do is figure out WHAT I want to do, and then what I need to do to do it. And maybe figure out, in the meantime, what the hell it is I can do in the meantime!

I saw this blog today, and I think I will try to do this tomorrow - 10 steps. I think that's an excellent idea! Before my eyeglass appointment at 10:30, I will take my camera into town and do a walk, give myself 45 min or so to get 10 interesting things, 10 steps (or less) apart each. And finish laundry. Cause w/or w/out a job, the job of running this home is still mine. :D

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Shhh - it's too quiet!

My kids are back in school. Actually, Beckey is at a leadership/team building experience at a Y-camp, but she's back this afternoon, and then, back to school. We managed to afford all the binders and calculators, new shoes, trip fees, and new bags, though the stew pot is thin this week. But now, well, it feels just a little TOO quiet! I know, I was complaining, it was too LOUD here just last week - my kids, their kids, neighbor kids, dogs, puppies (not ours!), parties, and the start of everything - it felt overwhelming. And now it's so darned quiet I have no excuses for not hearing the dang buzzer on the dryer in the basement. Well, some things may never change - like the piles of laundry all sorted out and ready for washing on the basement floor - but some things do. Beckey is in middle school, with lots of expectations and a whole new sense of belonging. Orin is on the bus and in kindergarten. He started writing a book yesterday, and drew two calender pictures - one of camels and the other he couldn't remember because then he drew a lot of other pictures, but they weren't calendar pictures, but he couldn't remember which were which. He's a rather happy boy! Soccer started last weekend, and he got stung twice by a wasp and fell once, on his tailbone, and it hurt. Not a great start to the season, but at practice on Monday he took some real tumbles w/out shedding a tear, ran his little heart out, and really enjoyed it! He was very charged up (making bedtime in time for book club impossible, but he was kind and sweet, and very cute in his matching purple footie pajamas - matching Beckey's of course!).

It's so quiet I can hear the lawn mower down the block. I can hear the wind in the oak tree outside, it's leaves still holding fast. I can hear the creaks of my own fingers on the keyboard, and in the house where it settles and sighs in the sun.

I will someday grow up and get a job and leave all this quiet behind, but for now, I am loving these moments, until the children return and in a flourish of kisses and lunch boxes, dirty socks and backpacks filled with the fruit of their day's labor, the quiet is gone, and my life is back. Sudden as it appeared, the quiet that became oppressive is once more elusive, and sacred.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Sweltering stovepipes, batgirl!

It hasn't been lower than 90 anytime between 10am and 8pm for over a week. It sure makes me wonder whether there is reason to believe that global warming a) exists b) would affect us here in the NE c) would affect us like this.

a) Do I believe in global warming? I believe in change, and I believe that Earth's weather will cycle and cycle and cycle, never staying in one cycle for over-long. Like a baby, once we get used to their vicissitudes, they go and change on us. So - after 150 years of getting to know this NE landscape, more in some places, less in others, after spending millions and so very long understanding the soils and seasons, it is changing. Is it changing faster, because of emissions and industrial pollution? Is it less able to recover from a normal heat wave? Is ther eless resiliency because there is less fresh water, fewer trees and forests, more cement, and overall less green space? I say it's a definite maybe.

b) Predictability is probably not the strong suit of this science, but there are some facts we can look at: 1. there is more forest here than there was 300 years ago. 2. there is cleaner water, more parks, and lower emissions than there were 100 years ago. 3. there are better laws, more follow up, and more media coverage of problem areas (dump sites, rivers, spill sites) than there were 50 years ago. 4. The problems are bigger, but fewer. Bigger problems are problematic, of course, because they take longer for recovery, seriously tax the ability of reclamation science, and possibly cause irreparable damage. Certainly there is loss of life (animal, plant) and this in itself is disgusting. But there is no reason to believe that the two are absolutely related - global warming and environmental disasters. Could be - but no guarantees.

c) So if it IS related, if there IS some connection between these two kinds of events, it should be more evident in areas where disasters have occurred, or areas surrounding them. Around here, there are the nuclear disasters of Love Canal and Three Mile Island, and loss of speciesation and vast quantities of fish from the oceans, plus garbage, pollution, and medicated waterways. Pretty gross, come to think of it. I am not sure what the number of military, industrial pollution and mistakes have been over the centuries here, but it's only been in the past 75 yrs. or so that the kinds o fmistakes we've made have made the kind of impact we are talking about here

There are also far more people in this corridor, there is more pollution, garbage, energy consumed, and a lot more in the way of ongoing need than in many (most) areas, certainly here in the US. So I suppose, if there was some place IN the US where it is felt, it doesn't surprise me that it is felt here. If this is what we are feeling at all. So - convinced or no, it is making sense to me that we are feeling the heat.

Friday, June 18, 2010

making movies

Holy hollywood! I have been trying to make a couple of movies recently - notably one from the Shakespeare production the kids did in school, and one from Orin's soccer season. WOAH. I guess there are tons of production software options out there for the PC's that are simple and option filled, but NOT so for the MACs. Geesh! I settled on iMovie, though I looked at some online options as well as using the stuff in iPhoto, but alas, they sucked for this purpose. Sigh.

Here's the result of the soccer production - it is FAR from perfect, but it came out close to what I was looking for.

Never mind. The darned thing never uploaded. Tried twice. Thrice. Bupkiss. Disappointment abounds, at the moment, though I was able to put it onto CD's and distribute at the last game of the season. Grrr to the Mac for my frustration - but YAY for the kids, who had a GREAT season!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Moving up

I can clearly remember watching the Jeffersons, the striped carpet beneath my then firm and trim butt, as my brothers shared the couch and my dad did work in his big chair. It was a concession, he found the mildly bigoted humor somewhat entertaining, and it kept us, usually, from bickering in quite as shrill a voice as we sometimes used. The theme song, "Moving on Up" echoes in my imagination - not sure I'd call what's left up there a mind, but that's a different story - along with my younger brother belting it out over the top of the tele. My older brother hitting him. My younger brother singing louder. You get the visual.

Yesterday was a bitter sweet moment for us, as a family. Orin, who came to us a bit late in life (Beckey was 6.5, I was 37, and Jerry was 52) has finished the part time education portion of his childhood. He put in one year of 3 short days a week as a 3-4 year old, and one year of 5 short days a week (actually 2 of those days weren't so short - 9-2:30) as a 4-5 year old, including 11 hrs. per week of Hebrew Immersion with Elinur, whose energy and investment is phenomenal. Orin can speak and listen in Hebrew. He can sing in Hebrew. He knows Hebrew prayers, and can recite them w/out even thinking about it. The program, all full of flouncy tutus and oil pastels, has been awesome for him. He loved the English class, with Micki and Vicki, and the Hebrew class, with Elinur and Vicki, but mostly he just loved Vicki. He came home with me one Friday, after their nifty little Shabbat ceremony in class, and he sat very quietly in the backseat. We carpooled on T-W-Th, so our Monday and Friday drives together were usually special. We'd talk, sing, be silly. Today he was morose, which for a four year old with a pretty charmed life seemed odd. So I asked, and he quite willing told me what the matter was. He proposed to Vicki, and she turned him down. His eyes filled with tears. "She said she's already married!" he whispered. The tears spilled down his soft cheeks. "Oh honey!" I gasped. I knew he loved her, I knew he liked her, I didn't realize he knew that loving someone meant you marry them, I was thinking more along the lines of making them a lovely picture with washable markers. He fell hard for poor Vicki, who wiped his snotty nose for picture day and resolved disputes over legos and trucks with all the charm and love a nursery school teacher SHOULD have. When everybody grows up, they should want to be Vicki. In my world, everybody would be moving up, along with my little graduate, who continues to say that he is making this volcano spewing lava blood for his Vicki (even if he just stuffs them into his drawer for 'that time when we see Vicki' and doesn't ever actually pass them on).

In other news, he made $1.50 selling fresh squeezed lemonade, which he split even-steven with Maia who helped squeeze, stir, and entertain the neighborhood with their incredible antics. I think people were much more willing to pay up for the entertainment than the lemonade, though it was good.

Beckey has been at Nature's Classroom, which has been a lonely thing for me, I do miss my girl!

(gratuitous pic of Beckey)

But I'm sure she's had a brilliant time, she loves just about everything they do there! Two disposable cameras later, I'm sure we'll see the pillow fight and the tail end of someone's tuchas climbing a tree-ladder to walk the high ropes, and possibly an eft found along the nature trail. It's all good there, and she comes home so charged up and full of spirit (and attitude) that it's hard to find fault in her missing an entire week of Aikido. Or two, since last week there were 4 softball games and a concert that filled every SINGLE night of the week. Exhausting.

Life is good, we're movin' on up!

Saturday, June 05, 2010

I can't hear you!

These guys moved into a house right behind us - noisy but cute, we have put up with their flighty behavior for over a month now. We watch them from the kitchen window, while sipping afternoon tea on the deck, and they have given us a great show. They provide for each other and their new come chicks with all kinds of debris from the universe around us. Happily enough, I have actually learned their call. In spite of the fact that I came VERY close to accepting a place at UCT in Ornithology, I really can't tell the difference between very many birds. LBJ's (little blue, little brown, or little black jobbers) and then crows, pigeons, robins, woodpeckers I can distinguish visually and auditorially from other birds, but rarely from each other, red winged blackbirds, and now these fellas - black capped chickadees. There are times I wonder whether it is this pair singing to each other, or perhaps some of the jays, or robins. I really can't tell. I have sat outside listening intently for hours. I have listened online to recordings over and over. I have played with that cool book - the one you get to actually hear the birds sing and see the picture so you can put the two together - if anyone is thinking of a late birthday gift for me - or an early christmas/chanukah one! - this would be IT! I have no ability to distinguish birds by sound. At all. Chick-a-chick-a-dee-dee-dee! Ok, that one I think I've got. But if they didn't live eight inches from me, I wouldn't. Birds are WAY more complex and cool than people give them credit for - most people, anyway. Listen for the birds. They sing of the air, peace in the leaves of the trees, alarm in the grass. Listen, for the birds sing of the air.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Precious limits

There is a very fine line between being precious and believing life is precious. Very fine. A parent who never gets angry at a kid for anything probably isn't doing that kid any favors - they will certainly get the feedback that their behavior (actions, words, or otherwise) isn't copacetic, but from a less loving and forgiving audience. Like classmates. But always getting on your kids' backs about little stuff isn't good for them, or us, either. I find myself short tempered occasionally (ahem.) and finding I have to remind myself (literally, the voice speaks in my head and says: reminder! you have overdue library books and quit yelling at your kids!) to appreciate that they are kids, they are imperfect, they are learning how to do stuff (like not yell at people just 'cause you don't like what they are doing), and frequent yelling really just lowers the bar for everyone. Otoh, if you wait too long, if you don't remind them that you love who they are enough, if you forget to remind them to walk out of the pill popping party, if you forget to yell at them for leaving towels to molder or food under the bed for weeeeeeks, you do risk sending them out into the world unprepared. In the past month, 2 stories of young (young! like 18/19 years old) boys who were smart, athletic, popular, funny, good in and at school, liked by parents and coaches and teachers and kids alike - are dead. Dead from overdosing on pills that they probably didn't even know how to identify. Dead as doornails in their pookashells and board shorts. This one is Henry Louis. One of two, one of I don't know HOW many beautiful boys with futures and potential, families who truly loved them, who did consider them precious in the weave of their family and the fabric of the future. With mothers who nursed them endless hours and woke with them to fever and vomit, who stayed awake for them through proms and dates, who felt their pain of rejection, and their ecstasy in the win. There is so much sadness in these losses, it is so incredibly deep - like the fissures in Greenland that go through the ice and down into the ground, where heat escapes into the air from the bowels of the earth. Something like this brings it's heat and stink into the world irreparably. There is no recovery, the scars never ever go away. Did these parents fail their kids? Did they do enough?

Parents have the job of fledging children, not protecting them indefinitely. There is some place, some time, when a child does separate from their core family, and move into the world on their own. There isn't a prescriptive or correct method to this madness, a new nest gets built, and they have to sleep in it. If they build it out of friable combustible degraded material, it will not support, and a parent should give warning, should offer to assist. But the kid has to, HAS to figure out how to build this nest themselves and build it out of strong friendships, good decisions, and sound direction. It won't be perfect, it won't work every time, because this precious child is also imperfect and will fail sometimes. Their hearts will break, they'll get sick, and they'll make some bad decisions. Kids rebound, but there are limits. The precious limits of toxic overload (usually from mixing (possibly unidentified) pills with or without liquor), of fights that get out of control, of despair. The limits of precious that help us see our children for their imperfect selves, and the possibility that they need help from us, even after they have fledged, though hopefully before you are sitting with them in ICU.

Note to self: return library books, love on my kids a lot.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Dirty Jobs challenge!

There are some really dirty jobs in life. The ones on TV are ok, but honestly, some of them, not so bad! Today I scrubbed toilets, cleaned puke off the carpets and seats in the van, picked up dog crap from the yard, did 4 loads of laundry (so far) and sludged out the utility sink (that the washing machine dumps into). Is it just my family, or is doing laundry GROSS!? I am definitely of the opinion that Mike Rowe should be a Mommy for a month. I bet he TOTALLY makes us laugh cleaning up blow-out diapers, scrubbing vomit off the wall by the bed, cleaning out the fridge (after how many years?), or cleaning up the bathroom after a gang of kids. Disgusting!

Cleaning bathrooms is a mom-job that is not, perhaps, my forte. Loving my kids is just not enough. Neither is cooking for them, washing them, nursing them back to health, or reading to them. Not to mention keeping them clothed, teaching them to speak, walk, jump, skip, hop, paint, write, love, share, rock in a rocking chair w/out tipping over backwards, ride a plastic dinosaur, empty their pockets before putting pants in the laundry, and about 3 trillion other skills that everyone expects everyone else to know. Speaking of which: in the laundry crap bucket this morning:

1 dinosaur
1 astronaut
36 cents
1 acorn top
several very clean dollars
1 sticker of an apple
1 bus pas (probably no good any more anyway, but ya never know!)
1 movie ticket stub
1 small yellow eraser
1 black pen
1 lip gloss
1 bouncy ball (small)
a pr of blue sunglasses
and a koala bear.And some clothes - I swear!

I know that there is satisfaction to be taken from having a clean house, clean, well behaved kids, and at least something to eat round about sunset (or before, in these parts). I know this in my head and heart. But it doesn't feel very satisfying to me. I'm not sure what would work better, since going to a job wouldn't mean that JAC would stay home and do all this work. It would mean me yelling at him and them to HELP OUT, and still doing most of it myself, and going to work. Not really positive change, imo. But honestly, the level of grossity that we have reached (you do NOT want to know what blueberry pancakes look like after about 2.5 hrs. of digestion) is beyond anything I may have ever imagined being a parent would be, when we started on this journey almost 12 yrs ago. It's amazing, the crap I bag and tag. I'd be much better off in the ME's office, except I couldn't STAND cutting into a body, even a dead one. I love being a mom, but there are some SERIOUS drawbacks - one's even Mike Rowe is too scared to take on. :D

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Mother's Day Revisited

I was 35 weeks pregnant, had just survived my first round of sciatica (and was bound to have 2 more gruesome events before the pregnancy was over) and was, as I recall, feeling pretty great! I woke early as usual, about 6am, and went for my walk - a neighborhood walk up to Blundell, past the Safeway Plaza and down into the residential section South of Blundell and West of No. 2 Rd. Walk walk walk heading mostly South, out onto Francis, and up Minler. When I got back home, that Sunday, Jerry was up, and I didn't even realize the sanctity of that moment, he and I (with my big ass and bigger belly) alone, together. He cooked breakfast with his sure strong hands, trying not to speak with me too much, to just enjoy the morning. He brought me a card, signed from the Greeble, and some flowers he'd picked up the night before and cut and laid into a simple vase. He poured me juice and whipped the eggs. He was overwhelmed, I knew, as was I, with the enormity of our endeavour - this baby, the greeble, was going to be here by Father's Day, but not (hopefully) Mother's Day. So instead of waiting 11 months for my own celebration of parenthood, Jerry made this day special for me. I have lost to the memory vault many of the specifics, I remember going to Van Dusen Gardens, a place we celebrated quite a few birthdays and events, and I remember his efforts over the stove that warm Mother's Day morning before I was even the mother of the girl we know today. I remember feeling loved, and that being a mama might be scary and stepping into a great unknown, but it was also filled with potent love, deep and steadying.

Today, as I walked around the neighborhood, a different neighborhood in a different country, 12 years later, my children (and husband) sleeping soundly and warm in their beds, I have not a whit of regret for what got left behind in my life, in order to make this work. I know there are real moments of frustration and feeling fed up with all that it takes to make everything run smoothly - or at least sort of smoothly! - but I would not trade this job for all the accolades, awards, or gold in the world. When I came in, Jerry was in the kitchen, cleaning up a sinkful of plates from Chinese food last night. He asked me if I would like breakfast before taking the older one to her religion class, before teaching there myself, and I said I would LOVE breakfast - his breakfast. Because he may not be mushy or say I love you enough to me or make love to me often enough or remember to say thank you for dinner or the 8 trillion loads of laundry or for wiping the piss off the toilet, but he sure makes a mean breakfast!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Recent pics with the new HS10

Theresa took the one of Zami, and Beckey took the squirrel. I took the boring ones - except Brooke, kicking ass in a game the girls won 23-9. Woah.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

365 x 2

In 2007 I joined with a small group of gals to document our year - 365 photos that showed everything from our luxuries to our loves, our despair to the beauty of nature. Lots of pictures of our kids, food, books, husbands, yards, windows. It was a ton of fun, we all really enjoyed it. Now that I have a great new tool, I plan to do this again! I am very excited. I started it the day I got the camera, and am keen to continue to click pics.

Meanwhile, tomorrow I repeat a different 365 - a year ago Tuesday, I cooked a ton of food for the teachers and staff at Beckey's school - an appreciation luncheon. Lots of people purchased, baked, boiled, broiled, washed, cut, and schlepped food to thank and celebrate all the hard work that they do for our kids. We may pay out for it, but I, among others, are keen to appreciate and be grateful for their hard work and caring. This year it will be dairy-free pumpkin-cupcakes with (tofu) cream cheese topping and shaved dark chocolate, cut fruit, and maybe something else, cookies? Lemon bars? I'm on dessert duty, which is fun.

And in other repeat performances, the ASO is offering their annual kiddie concert at Ohav Shalom on Wednesday. Somehow I have beein reigned in to do driving, again - I will have now seen it more than 5 times! Ilyse has Ben's Bar Mitzvah next weekend, and Amy is working, so happy me will drive, get Starbucks, return and drop the kids at school, then go off and do something ... productive. I don't resent it, really, I sort of wistfully wish I had something better going on, but I don't. Writing is slow right now - happening, but slow. So high ho, high ho. I'm off to the ASO. duh dum da dum duh dum da dum high ho, high ho high ho high ho ...

Sunday, April 11, 2010


I felt OCD, like perhaps medication would have helped, wondered whether other people experience this, contemplated why is this so hard, and considered whether I was getting trapped in a candid camera commercial. Pulling the trigger on the purchase of a durable household good simply should NOT be this hard. I miss living in places where the level of information, choice, and variety of goods is much more limited, making purchasing goods EASY. There may not always be the perfect fit of product to need, but generally people manage with what is available; move on, and make do. Having to choose between 300+ cameras was painful in the extreme! Even narrowing it down to 5 or 6 was hard, because this store doesn't carry Canons, that one doesn't carry Sony, this other one over there doesn't carry Olympus or Fuji or Canon, but has lots of Sony and Panasonic... so no one stop shopping except for the big box stores, which don't carry the type of camera I really was looking for. Midway between here and there is where I wanted to land, unfortunately there was broken glass and much rock at the bottom, and not a lot of water to cushion the leap - treacherous territory. Having taken the plunge, I feel I can get back to washing floors, watching trampoline flips, and driving carpool. Phew! I never thought I'd appreciate the drudgery, honestly, but I do. Clicking my heals and meaning it!

Tomorrow I go try to improve the status of midwives in NY which is looking to be an all day event - for sure I can do the AM part, the PM part is still a maybe, as it's O's first day back to school in 2 weeks. I'd like to - I haven't visited Senator Breslin since I lobbied for no-mo-GMO a few yrs ago (Orin was in the Ergo), but if he's very ornery I am ok giving it a pass. Orin, not the Senator lol!

I am also really looking forward to getting some big work done on my writing this next 2 weeks. I am afraid I am getting stuck in a place that is a little slow, and I am not wanting to plateau yet. I want more done, I want it to sear and bubble before it plateaus. Loving the work!

Vacation has come and gone, Easter baskets filled, dumped, consumed, eggs dyed, eggs found,
feast feted and Passover matzo smeared and salted. I enjoyed the passover feast better than the Easter spread, more sides, more veggies, but I know JAC likes his Easter ham, so I celebrate that it was all good, and all us. Family celebrations ROCK! It is helping me to let go of needing Beckey to Bat Mitzvah, though why she wouldn't want to still kind of escapes me.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Take your best shot!

It is hard for me to believe, concieve, that I am the only person out there with the following qualifications:

*soccer/softball mom (football, rugby, lacross and track would absolutely count, my kids just don't do those)
*interested in both macro and telephoto options
*camera and computer literate, but not fluent, and not really interested in learning the whole language
*limited in budget mostly because spending more doesn't get ME more, though it does buy more whistles and bells
*the time has come to get a better, bigger zoom, camera. 3x zoom on the little pocket camera isn't cutting it too many times.

Do I need all of the fancy attributes like panoromic 260 shooting and burst photography? Not really. I want a good steady camera that can take pics from behind the outfield or up into the roller coaster, that has a fast aperture and ISO setting, and a low F-stop. I want something big enough to hold comfortably, small enough and light enough to accompany on a short-ish hike. I'm not taking it backpacking, just wanting it to be able to move w/out a backpack of it's own. I don't want multiple lenses, I can't afford them and am likely to damage them moving them back and forth. I'd rather not have to use a tripod most of the time, so HUGE doesn't seem fitting. I do like a view finder, because sometimes outside, the LCD is hard to read. I do want an SD card because despite all the Mac equipment I've clung to all my life, I actually like being able to communicate easily between computers and printers at home and in shops where I am likely to print my photos.

So what are the options???

#1 on my list right now is the Fuji Finepix HS10. which no one has in stock right now. It's at Amazon, so I could buy it ($500 no card, no reader), and return it if I don't like it, but I pay shipping return, which isn't free, and I shouldn't have to pay to just try out a nice new camera. I could drive down to NYC and pick one up, hold it, at B&H photo. But again, that's 5hrs+ of driving just to get to touch one of these little ladies? Hmmm. Or I can wait. It could be MONTHS before it is in local stores, so forget this being a b'day gift.

#2 on my list is the Canon XS1is which has a lot of what the Fuji has, but the Fuji has a longer lens (would I use it, or need it?), and the Canon has a fully articulated LDC. The Fuji also has a really cool little sensor at the viewfinder (in addition to the manual button) that knows when you are looking through the viewfinder, so it automatically switches between the two for you. Kinda cool. :D Fuji also has a fully manual (no electronic) zoom, so I never have to wait for the zoom engine to catch up with me. I really like the physical feel of zooming, something very kinesthetic about doing it myself that I like. Canon has a great reputation for quality build (and the little Elph I have has been great that way - 3 years and counting!), where as the Fuji's I've had haven't made it past the 3 yr mark yet. On one the lens went, on the other the power toggle collapsed. The Canon is slightly more expensive, about 10% more.

#3 is a big jump down - a savings of $150 is nothing to sneeze at! But the trade offs are big too. To keep to the basics (SD card, 18x+ Optical zoom, 8MP+, 2 or 3 stabilizers, viewfinder, and a quick turnover (shot to shot time), I eliminate about 1/2 of the options out there (that use XD or other memory cards, that are too slow, that don't have viewfinders, or that don't stabilize well enough for the big lens) leaving a small number that all sort of tie for 3rd place.

There's the Panasonic Lumix, which is slower than either the Canon or the HS10, the smaller lighter, less wonderful Canon SX20is, and the Nikon Coolpix P100. They are fine cameras, but none of them have all of the things I'm looking for. The Nikon comes closest, using a CMOS sensor that allows the camera to take somewhat better photos of moving objects (like my soccer star) or in low light (like at parties and amusement parks at evening or at night). It is an improved technology, not new, but better than it used to be and better than the more traditional CCD sensor that has been used in small cameras for more than a decade of digital photography. The SX20is uses a CCD still, but the SX1is uses the CMOS, as does the HS10.

So - can anyone help me figure this out? It's just slightly more money than I am comfortable spending w/out repercussion.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Religious Crisis

Being Jewish, a religious crisis could easily be tanks and loss of lives in the East Bank, or Gaza, strained international relations, and global tag with armed support. Thankfully, this particular crisis is NOT about loss of life, though it might be loss of income. Not ours, the Synagogues. I'm not sure that this is about the Synagogue we belong to at all, but I am having a serious crisis of faith in why I persist in being a Jew, practicing Judiasm, wanting Jewery. I think, on my most visceral level, that I like the depth of belonging to something old. No one knows when whomever in my family did first commit to a single, omnipotent God, did that. Turn of the 1st Century? Turn of the 10th Century? 1840? There is no record, written or otherwise. Perhaps someday I will write about that.
Second, I like that there is this tribe of people out there that I can relate to on a level in addition to: sports, politics, weather patterns, entertainment. Jews are just about everywhere, and in general do a good job taking care of each other, especially in times of need. Being part of this little club means, well, I'm part of the club! Being Bat Mitzvah and a member is ... what? What does one 'gain' from going through the process?

I am having this crisis, I think, because Rebecca is in Religious school in order to become Bat Mitzvah. She can't, however, become Bat Mitzvah when she 'should', because there is a rule in this Synagogue (which I doubt is very unique) that each child must go through 4 years of religious education before they are eligible for Bar or Bat Mitzvah. So I am thinking through why we want to do this, more and more, as she is increasingly coming under scrutiny to participate at a specific (minimal) level, OR ELSE! (says the rabbi)

On some level there is Jewish education, in addition to education. For her Bat Mitzvah, like I did, she will lead the congregation in the Friday night and Saturday morning services (though not a Rabbi, so not technically in charge), and she offers her words in the sermon. She's done presentations, she gets exposed to that in both school and scouts (she's already presented to both adults and kids, and will continue to do so in both groups). Coming 'of age' means becoming indebted to Judiasm, to the Jewish community. The child is now able to do as much in the Jewish world as an adult - get married, participate in a minyan, say the Kaddish. However, according to Jewish law, she can do these without Bat Mitzvah. In fact there is no law anywhere in the torah about the ceremony we now call Bar or Bat Mitzvah; it's a convention. So this is me, buying into the social convention of Bat Mitzvah I have a good reason? Do I need a good reason? Does it give my child a goal, a specifically Jewish goal, after which ... what? She is required by no law to participate in Jewery, believe in Judiasm, or do anything Jewish if she doesn't want to. If she wants this, the education and the party surrounding her coming of age, I can support it. If she doesn't, I refuse to buy into the litany of ridiculous rules, mostly random, that guide the education of a Jewish child into their bar or bat mitzvah. It sure seems to be that doing the ceremony by itself, without the education and understanding, is useless to both the child and the community. But doing the education, and letting the ceremony go? That feels right. It feels less like a fake Christmas (or Halloween in February), than wanting to know more and understand her own history. She can decide for herself, even as a child, whether this is something that she WANTS to do, as I can find no earthly reason to do it (other than the gifts).

It isn't that I don't want to pay, or that she shouldn't feel supported to go through this process. I'm simply not convinced that, being a non-believer, it is not entirely hypocritical for me to pursue this line of faith, with or without Rebecca. She will, someday, regret having had to go through it - or having not gone through it - either way. So I will leave the door open for now, understanding that there are 3 weekends we will lose her to overnight camp, many Sundays that she will be cooped up and under-appreciated, and her understanding of the history and culture of the Jews will expand - for better and for neutral.

Monday, March 22, 2010

School, school, and more school.

Although he's five already, Orin didn't make the cut off for Kindergarten this year. He's been attending the Temple Israel Nursery School, which I can't say enough good things about. He went there last year too, and loved it. Because he's on the older side, and because I was worried about him getting bored, we signed him up for the Hebrew Immersion class, which meets twice a week after the English class for about 2 hrs, and twice a week from 9-1. Once a week he has just the English class 9-1. So he goes 5 days a week, and half the week he has half days, half the week he goes 9-2:30. I thought in addition to the language development aspect, he would be getting ready for full day 5 days a week Kindergarten, which can otherwise be a big surprise for kids who are going to nursery school 3 days a week, half day. I liked the transition, and I liked the extra time it gave me.

He's been happy with the school, but he surely does complain about having to speak in Hebrew during the Hebrew class! It is actually making him work a little bit, for the first time, and he is feeling it. He is also very good at it. At this point in the year, he can listen and respond in Hebrew to most comments from his teacher (Teacher in Hebrew: You got a haircut, Joshua got a haircut - what's with all this haircuts! Orin in Hebrew: I don't know! Me (in English): Springtime! Teacher in Hebrew: Yes! Pesach!). He can count to thirty easily, knows the names of common classroom/household items, colors, seasons, weather, and songs and dances. He prides himself on being able to help Beckey with her Hebrew homework! Complain comshplaine. He's proud and working hard and this is all good. Even at 5.

So what's to happen for Kindergarten? I considered three private and the public option (no, not THAT public option!). Public is very crowded (24/class), and there is a real emphasis on 1) table skills (worksheets, being quiet, coloring within the lines kind of stuff) 2) hitting goals of public curriculum for Kindergartners (reading readiness, writing skills, adding and subtraction concepts, numerology). There is no science, history, music, art, or language (as in: foreign) requirements, and little is achieved there. Art on a cart, weekly gym and music (until that gets cut with new budget cuts), and a cotton candy party for Thanksgiving. Not what I can call quality, and not going to keep this one engaged. My guess is that unengaged, he will become trouble for the teacher, himself, and the other students. Eek!

Private option 1: too small. Otherwise wonderful, but the classes are teeny.
Private option 2: excellent choice, great class size and nice curriculum, but little in the way of student led learning.
Private option 3: Montessori. The plusses were enormous, the minuses small. And he LOVED his classroom visit. LOVED it. We have made our choice, and are loving that he loves this option. All I can hope for is that he continues to love it long after the agony of the choosing is forgotten.

This is not WHMS, it is the Rockford Montessori Preschool in Michigan. Orin's classroom looks interchangeable, except it has huge feathered headdresses hanging on the wall, and drawn images of the circulatory system on life size cutouts of their little preschool bodies. Pictures of their prenatal sonograms are taped to the door. And there are fish and guinea pigs and a turtle, or maybe it's a frog? There is music playing, and there is wooden furniture, not plastic. Things are labeled in Spanish as well as English, and there are about 1/3 of all the books in the classroom library in Spanish.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Back at it

Oh and the ideas just keep flowing! Things I've considered lately:

Thinking of how one might build their own steamer for making hot steamed soy chai, and then realizing that the Starbucks chai mix is really SO much better than the Tazo mix...there's no comparison. leaving me still paying 4.80 per, and delaying the wondrous kick start that they give my day, often for hours.

Why adults do things to stop kids from thinking so wonderfully, differently. School, social niceties, loss of freedoms as a result of poor behavior in other places (grounding/punishment) all stop kids from thinking things that, though they may not always be original, are often quite aside from the norm (meaning, where parents expect their children to be, what teachers expect of children). Orin has come up with some very original thoughts lately, things like which part of God is in him, and what color an egg is before it is ripe. My first thought was: why would he think these things? My second, I am SO glad he is thinking these things! And it was then that I decided against public school. It isn't even so much that teachers/schools expect children to think inside specific boxes, but that there is a tremendous amount of pressure on children by other children to think in specific ways. He chose to wear long johns to school today, though it is due to be 60F again, because they are orange. He thinks orange is cheerful, and he says he likes to bring cheerful pants to school, where some of the kids (younger, typically) are sad. Who wears clothes to bring cheer? Amazing! Why would an adult ever want to restrict a child from wearing inappropriate clothing that bring cheer or think about the color of eggs? I love it!

Also considered: never, ever vote for me for any political position. Ever. I can't resist even a twinkie, nor a single girl scout cookie! There is no WAY I'd be a good politician, no matter how good my intentions.

How grateful I am not to have been living this lifetime in some previous era. More sickness, less intellect in the general population, severe governments, prolific wars, unspeakable violence everywhere. I'll pass and be grateful for NOW. And hope that improvements continue to make living a positive, joyous experience.

Wondering about living abroad with children. How different, difficult, delicious it would be.

Thinking of the paperwork still to do. Not happily: school paperwork for Orin, registration w/the school district for Orin, and taxes. I did manage to finish my census paperwork. :D

Trying to squeeze in a weekend away...maybe w/Beckey, Theresa and Catherine. But when??

There was more, ideas that fleet so fleetingly that I hardly have time to trace their outline, let alone giving them time to take root. Summer camps, dinner, getting a new container garden planted. Loving being alive!
Hmmm- has it really been since October? And I have exactly 22 minutes to write, before having to feed the boy, make his lunch, brush his teeth, and scoot out the door for carpool? Well, that sucks. Because right now I feel inspired like I haven't for eons to write something here, something to share.

First off, I want to thank you if you read this. I appreciate your visit.

Secondly, it is SPRING here! There are daffys pushing up through the cold, wet dirt. We are raking the last of the fall debris off the lawn with regularity now - it should be gone by summer. And we are whiling away time outdoors in shirtsleeves! How wonderful it feels! Rejuvenation is the word of the day! I hope some of the excitement we feel about this is coming over to you, because it is a fabulous, season-only feeling that I know I missed in places where I didn't live in 4 season weather. It's special, the life and death of the floral world. The grass is still brownish, and most of the trees are still bare, but the birds are back in force, loud and cheerful as ever, and the last of the snow is in piles under the trees, in the shade. A couple more days of near 60F weather, and it'll be gone! Woot woot!

Thirdly, I am feeling productive in ways I haven't for eons. Like scrubbing the corners of the kitchen floor, making food that is both healthy and tasty, and using up stuff from the freezer. The downstairs freezer, the one tucked into a corner of the boiler room where food goes in, and in and in. Food is now coming back out - something about the melting snow makes me want to empty these large refrigerating devices and defrost them, clean them out completely.

Fourthly, I can do my walks outside, 3+ miles on a regular basis, and not give myself pneumonia. The cold here is merciless. I see joggers out on those freezing wintry mornings, or worse - at night - and wonder how their physical bodies cope with that kind of stress! I'd kill myself trying to do that. So being able to power walk outside with the birds and the bees is a really refreshing activity. If I want to, I can drive down to the Pine Bush or some other nice trail and spend 45 minutes out there, which so far I'm ok skipping. Even just the paved roads hold, for me right now, the powerful life of Spring, that awesome sight of color and mud and life that has been missing for so many months.

Lastly, it seems like it's been forever since I wrote anything about us, our little family. Beckey has had an amazing year - starting with being in Seussical, making choices that are important to her, having good friends, enjoying the year in Sherrie's class, working assiduously on her school materials, and having a great ski season with Dad. Orin has grown a lot, he's not such a peanut now! And he's doing a great job of sharing with his friends and enjoying the entertainment possibilities of the Mario Brothers on his DS. He's starting to get sight words and feels so proud when he reads, though he is not exactly bursting to do it. Soccer season is heading our way, and I hope he has a great time again this Spring! Jerry has had a mostly healthy year, since he was sick sick sick in the Fall. Actually, I don't think he missed even a day being sick since he had that lung crud in October/November. I have had a couple illnesses, but recovered well. I've been writing pretty steadily, dropped 20lbs, and have my A1C back under the limit. I've committed to teaching another class next year on Jewish Culture, which should be interesting, and have enjoyed teaching the Ethical Dilemmas class this year. I've had a couple interesting speakers in, watched movies, and given the kids a lot to think about - peer pressure, family ethics, legal and medical ethics, etc. It's been fun and interesting!

Ok, my time is up. Happy St. Patty's yesterday to everyone, happy Pesach and Easter coming. Enjoy the love around you, the colors electric and all the lovely bones.