September 27, 2010

Goodbye Gedaliah

From 2001 to 2004 we lived in Silver Spring Maryland. During that stint we lived in a neighborhood highly populated with Orthodox Jews.  I remember my confusion on the first Saturday there watching the exodus of walkers on their way to the Jewish Synagogue about a block away from my new home.  I made the mistake of asking a pre-teen girl if they were 7th day Adventists or something. (Hey, we'd just moved from Iowa)  She looked at me like I was crazy.  I soon learned what they were.  They were some of the nicest people you'll ever meet.  But, like us Mormons... very peculiar.

The first time I ran into the Rabbi who lived next door I went to shake his hand and felt his hesitation.  Even though he stood over six feet in his big black hat, his hand shake was hardly noteworthy.  Like a dead fish.  Later I would find out that it was taboo for him to shake the hand of a female other than his wife.  I had a lot to learn.  

Something I learned from a friend was that on their Sabbath they adhere to a strict set of rules.  One thing they cannot do is use electricity.  All the lights are set to go on and off with timers based on need.  Switching on the AC when it's hot isn't allowed on the Sabbath.  So during a hot Saturday in late October (that hadn't been forecast btw), I went over to ask if I could do anything (hint hint) with their thermostat for them.  See, it was okay for me to do it for them but I also knew through my savvy friend that they couldn't ask me for help.  I had to offer.  Strangely enough Rabbi A had just been discussing what to do and how they could persuade me without asking to come over and help them out.  It was one time I am glad I listened to a prompting, because it was the first move on the way to a most interesting relationship.

One day I made a bold decision way outside my comfort zone.  When the time had come for me to walk five minutes around the corner to the school and pick up my grade school children, my baby was still asleep.  I hoped to find Mrs A at home next door and planned ask her to take the baby monitor to listen for her for a brief time while I snuck over to get the kids.  Instead the Rabbi answered.  Trying not to act shaken, I shyly informed him of my request.  His question was classic.  He asked if the need should arise for him to enter my home and get Big Girl out of her crib (she was about 7 months old at the time) would the look of him scare her?  I had to suppress a grin and be honest with him.  "probably she would be afraid of you sir"  Here is what he looked like by the way...
I assured him that the chances of her wakening were slim to none and that even if she cried for a minute or two that I would be back very shortly.  So without shaking hands this time, we had an agreement.  They continued to help me in this way on occasions when I needed them.  It was Mrs A who nick named Big Girl 'Bubulah' (Hebrew for little doll).  

I also recall another deal that was of a much bigger nature.  During Passover one year, I volunteered to be a purchaser of chametz for not only his congregation but two others in the area.  For the duration of Passover that season I was the 'owner' of several people's summer house kitchens, left side desk drawers at the office, boxes in the garage, etc.  In some cases, it was easier for them to sell me an unused kitchen in Ocean City for 10 days than to go clean and set aside everything with leavening agent in it.  So they'd sell me the kitchen.  It was the least I could do for them.  We shook hands with a hanky between us to seal the deal.  "Enjoy all your new posessions" the youngest Rabbi said to me on the way out.  He was totally serious about it.  Even though I never saw my new purchases I had a thick stack of contracts written out in Hebrew to prove my ownership and responsibility for each member's chametz.  Or their kitchens with chametz inside... if you will.  "Your beer is safe with me" was my Mormon reply.  They laughed.  (You know there is barley in beer right?)  After my probationary ownership was up they came back and asked me if I wanted to make a payment on my property.  My twenty dollar down payment was a steal really.  I said the appropriate answer of "no" sold them back the items, got my $20.00 back, and it was a done deal.  A deal I will never forget and one that makes for a great story with friends at dinner.  

Tonight I found out that Rabbi Anemer passed away due to a stroke.  My thoughts are with his wife and their congregation.

September 24, 2010

I Should be Doing Pilates

Right now I am in my work out clothes with a choice to work out or not.  There's a good chance I will still get to it at some point... Maybe...  We just said a morning prayer before sending off my middle school son.  He called on his baby sister to say the prayer even though I was  acting antsy for him to call on me.  I know why he made this decision.  Little Girl's prayers are comical.  She looks around through half-slitted eyes and works whatever she sees into the prayer.  Today was a bit different, but still funny.  So I am blogging to share with you, instead of working out.  Priorities you know....  She said "Please bless Mommy, and Daddy, and Brother.  Please bless that our cereal won't get soggy" (we just got some LIFE cereal, so you can see what she's thinking here) "and that our new 'playground' will not get stolen" (a Little Tikes slide was recently donated to us.  It sits on the front lawn and there is frequent talk about moving it to the back so it won't walk away).  So I guess it has a protective shield for one more day thanks to Little Girl's plea this morning.

Another distraction from my work out this morning is a potential crime in the neighborhood.  And I am not referring to Little Tikes theft.  While my husband was out jogging this morning he called me from his cell phone and asked me to write down a license plate number.  When I asked why he said he'd tell me when he got home.  My imagination ran wild and I thought up all kinds of evil deeds.  Here's what he reported when coming in the door dripping with sweat.  A white truck pulled up to a house and quickly pulled a trash bag out of a can and put it in the back of his truck and pulled away.  I know, it reeks of identity theft! It's not kidnapping but it still seemed wrong.  So it was surprising when the police were not at all excited and told my husband that stealing trash was not a crime.  So let this be a lesson to all of you to shred your personal information!  And let it be a lesson to me that I have to get up even before 6:30 if I want to do Pilates because exciting stuff happens early in the morning.

Side note: my seven yr old just saw me and said 
"I see you're wearing your running costume this morning" ... very telling

September 23, 2010

A Favorite Quote

"When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, 
in that moment God will endow us with power."

                                                  -Ezra Taft Benson

September 21, 2010

Costume Discussion

In our household we LOVE Halloween.  I actually start talking about possible costumes over a month early.  I know, call me crazy, because kids change their minds so much about what they want to be so I should probably not open my big mouth yet.  But if you want great costumes (and you have 5 kids) you gotta give it more than a week to think about (in my humble opinion).  Ebay is one of our favorite places to costume shop and the good ones go first, so we like to get a jump on things.

So yesterday afternoon I was having a casual chat with Big Girl while she colored with sidewalk chalk.  Little Girl listened in.  Little Girl and I have already had conversations about her costume.  At one point she and I had decided it would be fun to go as Miss Nelson and Viola Swamp.  I would love to dress up like Viola Swamp.  I even have a great swampy voice I can do for her.  However, surprisingly Little Girl was vying for the role of Ms Swamp.  I guess I could go as Miss Nelson.  It's much less fun though.  I gotta say my hat is off to Little Girl for wanting to branch out into such a deep character at the tender age of three.  In the end we thought re-cycling an excellent Cinderella costume for her this year would be the final answer (for now).

So my conversation with Big Girl was also surprising.  I wonder sometimes if she isn't growing up a bit too fast.  That happens when you are surrounded by older siblings I suppose.  Or maybe I am just screwing up as a mother.  That could also be the case.  It turns out that my 7 year old teenager wants to be something "dead."  When I suggested a pretty harmless mummy perhaps she said "no like a dead cheerleader or a dead bride or something"  We started kidding around a bit and I suggested we take one of her old costumes like the gypsy from last year and just add our skeleton hands and call it a dead gypsy.  Or perhaps we could invent dead Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.  Of course I was kidding.  People would think we are nuts (we are).  Then the funniest of things happened.  Baby Girl who had been taking this all in got up and came over to me.  She put her cute little face right in mine and whispered "are you sinking what I'm sinking?"  I confessed I didn't know what she was 'sinking.'  Then she said with a serious tone "dead Cinderella!"

I could have died from laughter.

September 19, 2010

Virginia Beach

Just before summer ended we took our regular Virginia Beach trip.  We usually hit this spot over spring break and the water is just too cold and the weather unpredictable.  But this time, in late August it was so great.  We usually hit Williamsburg and Busche Gardens.  But not this year.  This year we just enjoyed the beach day after lovely day.  I love the beach because everyone in the family has a great time.  The boys play in the waves while the girls make sand castles and collect shells.  I read a book and T flies a kite.  We all enjoy the beach.  We decided to not feel overly gross about the last day when they were telling us to get out of the water due to the city issuing a high bacteria level in the water.  We just showered twice when returning home that night.  One of the pools at our hotel had a similar bacterial level but we won't go there either.  I just hope the brave lady in the pool trying to scoop it out with a plastic grocery bag took a shower or a bleach bath when she returned home that evening.

Anyways many good memories were made.  It was made even more clear to me this evening when I read the following essay by Middle Boy.  His english assignment was to write an essay that showed imagery and sensory.  I think he did justice to both.  And I glad that before we left we booked another week for the following August 2011.  T, who usually has to have his arm slightly twisted to go on vacations was all for it.  Yup... We love the beach.  Now here is Middle Boy's essay:

Virginia Beach

As I walked on the boardwalk to get to the beach, my sandals slapped against the old dry wood that was built by U.S. soldiers in 1997.  The wind hit me and I smelled the sea salt.  I knew I was close to the mighty ocean.  Finally after what felt like forever, I felt the crunch of sand under my sandals.  I looked down and saw the bright yellow sand.  I threw off my sandals and ran wild in the sand that was warm and heated my feet until I couldn't bear it anymore and had to move.  Finally I made my way over to the massive body of water.  I ran along the shoreline, every now and then the ocean would grab my feet with it's cold waters.   Overhead the seagulls would fight against the wind and let out chirps of encouragement to each other.  Then I would go out to my shoulders in the icy water and body board back to shore.  When I was finally done body boarding I would come back to the warm sand and let the strong winds dry me.  Then my parents dragged me reluctantly back to the boardwalk and with sand in my pants I walked home for the day.  I love Virginia Beach.
Before the sand throwing...
What the?!
Storms off disgusted...

She loves the beach!

September 17, 2010

Judging from Yesterday

Yesterday I got home and heard an answering machine message from the dentist's office confirming my appointment coming up on Monday.  Her tone was irritating.  I don't know, it was just the way she said "I want you to CALL ME at the following number to confirm your 9:00am appointment for Monday Sept 20th."  I usually call back.  I am usually responsible.  I have worked in dental offices on and off all my life and I realize the value of confirming your appointment.  But something about her bossy words put me off and there was no way I was calling that girl back to confirm.  Oh, I am coming to the appointment alright, but they were not going to know until they saw the whites of my eyes (and the whites of my teeth).  Don't tell me in BOLD-tone to call you back like that, nuh uh.

Then I got online and noticed an email about a reduced fare on ticket prices from Salt Lake to Baltimore.  I quickly got on the phone with my newly widowed father to tell him he should really get me to book him a flight at such a good price.  140.00 discounted!  He was as non-committal as I had expected.  The man has a lot of grandkids and a busy social life.  He has been dating up a storm lately and can't be bothered with much else.  He even took a week-long trip with a new lady friend recently (separate sleeping quarters- he's a good Mormon), only to find out they were not compatible.  He's 81 and in a super duper hurry to find another wife before he gets too old(?).  He doesn't want to be alone.  I get that, I do.  But to tell me that he just can't get on a plane right now and come for Thanksgiving or a granddaughter's baptism because "I just might be getting married that day" seemed ridiculous to me.  Is it just me?  Then he changed the subject and got all political on me telling me how we are overly regulated in our driver's education rules out here in the East.  Also when I mentioned that the kids had a day off from school for primary elections (my mistake.... I brought it up) he said something about how the educators must have needed to take a day off so that they could keep voting the Democrats into office out here.  Sigh...  I love him but the man is crazy!  Good thing he doesn't read my blog eh?

So later that evening I am in a parking lot waiting for an event to start and no one is there yet so I can't get into the building (okay it was a relief society meeting if you were curious).  And I decided to start texting my sister while I waited.  I told her of my exchange with our father earlier and she tells me he's a "mover and a shaker" and other such things.  "True"  I texted back.  Then she says "I don't judge him I just want him to do what makes him happy."  Suddenly I am a bit on the defense.  Who says I was judging him?  I just think he should own up to the real reasons he can't come see us and not blame it on a possible wedding date that could be happening any minute.  It's hard to communicate via texting so I am not ruffled (really) but in the moment I was thinking isn't it judgmental to tell someone you don't judge?

Maybe I am hormonal... Everyone was bugging me yesterday.  Good thing I can start fresh today!

September 15, 2010

Looking Back, Moving On.

Recently I came across a journal of mine from 1992.  I was a newly engaged 23 year old at the time, planning my wedding.  Little Girl was using it as a coloring book- awesome!  I used to be so good at journal writing.  Now looking back at the person I was I am not so sure all that journalling was a good idea.  Just kidding.  But it was eye opening to read what I had written.  I thought I was a bad speller in my forties, but in my twenties I really sucked.  It was all I could do to not break out a red marker and correct myself on the page.  I sometimes think I have a tendency towards self-centeredness.  But my younger self could really teach a class on narcissism.  I don't want to be too harsh because, after all I was young and in the mist of planning the biggest day of my life.  However, I've decided that I am glad that I grew up and that with age came wisdom.  Thank heavens!

I have decided to take it easier on the younger generation as well, who sometimes are a silly bunch who don't know the difference between two, to and too.  The reason is that hey, we've all been ignorant at some point.  I am pretty ignorant about many things still myself.  But tonight as Middle Boy and I sat on a green plastic bench at a local pizza place awaiting our pizza order, I witnessed a level of stupidity that had to be judged and blogged about.  The young teen who took our order was clearly in love with her co-worker who was teasing back playfully with her and it was getting pretty silly. She was trying to convince him that you pronounced parmesan "par-jamin."  Said like Ramen (the noodles) or jamin' (as in we be..).  I sat there just taking it in for some time and then I just couldn't take it any more.  She had him convinced and even checking with the real Italians in the back making pizza.  Still the debate went on.  I finally called out in frustration "It's parmesan!" totally embarrassing my 14 year old son.  Someone needed to rescue the poor guy from drowning in a pool of ignorance.  I mean what are we teaching this generation of upcoming youngsters if we don't educate them in the cheese department?!

Anyway back to me and my old journal.  : )

There is a day I am talking about how my fiance T was having a bad day after his wisdom tooth had just been removed.  How I had been out with some friends to a movie and then came by later to see him.  He was hinting to me that I shouldn't stay too late before on the phone and I got all bent out of shape about it.  I was all happy and bubbly when I went to visit and he was feeling miserable.  I just didn't get it and was totally insensitive to his pain.  At least that is what I read between the lines in my journal.  What a baby I was!  Had I known what parmesan cheese was I probably would have mispronounced it as well.  So tonight I just want to say how grateful I am for time and the lessons we learn along the way.  And I am also thankful for a little invention called the spell checker.

September 10, 2010

Rosh Hashanah

Inspecting their etrogs
Today is Rosh Hashanah (at least it is in these here parts).  For us it means a day of with no school and no homework.  In fact the teachers are not allowed to assign any on this holy day.  Which is a nice break from being hard at work in school for what, eight grueling days?  My hard working students celebrated by playing Zelda on the Wii all day.  They did take some breaks to eat and to look up cheats on the internet.  You can tell I raised them right.  Actually they are only supposed to play for a couple hours max but with 3 boys playing and the other 2 watching during their off time it ends up being a pretty long stretch sitting on your bum.  Yeah, I am aware that it needs to change.  I was a bigger stickler during the summer but hey, it's Rosh Hashanah! *breaking a dish in the fireplace*

(I am not aware of anything that says you break dinnerware during the Rosh Hashanah holiday btw)

When I told the boys at 4:00pm that the deadline for the day was up and they needed to turn off Zelda I wasn't at all surprised when my oldest son told me he never got a turn today.  I wonder how that happened?  Undeniable selfless sacrifice?  Or distracted zoning out while watching your brothers play themselves into a stupor?  At least middle boy had the sense to get on his bike and hook up with a buddy to play outside on this gorgeous Rosh Hashanah day.  Right now Big Boy is watching a classic on Netflix called UHF.  It's got Weird Al in it.  He's laughing hysterically.  I love that guy (Big Boy not Weird Al, although Weird Al is okay too).  What better way to celebrate the Jewish new year than with Weird Al Yankovic?  I am not sure if he's Jewish or not but his name sounds like he is.

Speaking of Jewish people, I used to live in a city south of here that was pretty densely populated with Orthodox Jews.  Not just your typical Woody Allen type, but the ones in big black hats with curls instead of sideburns.  In fact the neighbor next door was the local Rabbi.  They were a lovely couple and we became true friends.  We still keep in touch.  Over the years of T's residency I grew increasingly aware of all their holiday traditions.  Mostly because it seemed that each Jewish Holiday involved a lot of activity from the entire congregation over at Rabbi A's home.  My favorite holiday was the one based on the story of Ester. It was like Jewish Halloween around our cul-de-sac.  All these children and teens dressed in costume, some dancing circle-style in the street.  Some teenaged boys got a bit tipsy since the tradition also involved drinking.  But they were religious drunks not dangerous ones so I didn't worry too much.  Then there is another holiday where palm leaves and etrogs are given out, of course, from the Rabbi's home.  So lots of comings and goings.  What?  You don't know what an etrog is? Neither did I (and it's still foggy) but every year Mrs A would give one to each of my children during the week of Sukkot.  They smelled of lemons and looked a bit like yellow squash.  Each one had it's own box to keep them perfectly unblemished.  My kids thought they were the best gift ever bestowed upon them.  I have some pretty cool Jewish stories to tell but since this post is already long enough and it is getting late, I will save them like a watch salesman in a trench coat hanging out in a dark alley and pull them out for the telling one at a time.  Stay tuned for my next Jewish installment, wherein I will tell you about the time I bought enough chametz to make me as rich as Tevya dreamed of being for 8 days during passover.

September 04, 2010

The Fair

It's taken me weeks to post these photos but I am finally doing it. We have a great fair here every August. The donkey bites, the funnel cakes rock, the monster trucks are monstrous, the ferris wheel is high and the ticket takers aren't picky. Big Boy took a date and I just couldn't help but think of Fern Arable and Henry Fussy up in the ferris wheel together, holding hands. Then thoughts of Templeton the rat singing about the fair came to mind and I couldn't get that blasted tune out of my head.  You know the one about the fair being a regulary smordasbord, orgasbord, orgasbord, after the crowds have ceased.  And if you are familiar with that awful song then it's probably stuck in your head right now as well.. Sorry!

I like the inserted "Donkey" on this sign.  So classy.  We kept saying "donkeh!" just like Shrek.  Then he told us that "in the mornin' he was makin' waffles!"

Big Girl sugaring up her funnel cake.

Little Girl is doing the sign for 'cow'

September 02, 2010

Five is Enough

I have known for a while that I was finished having kids at number 5.  Many factors have contributed to this. But the overall biggest reason is that it just felt like we were finished.  Like our family was complete.  Finally right!?  Well for most of the world it would seem like the right thing to say.  However, I came from a combined Mormon family of 13 and so 5 would seem like a half hearted effort to bring spirit children to this earth.  I have a brother with 8 children and a sister with 7.  So, you know, 5 is merely a starter family to them.

I began on the LDS fast-birthing-track. I was planning to have my kids every two years.  However I lost one between the first two and so my plans were already off that track to begin with.  Then somewhere along the line I realized that spacing them apart can work out just fine.  Not to mention keep you out of the looney bin.  It all works out how it's supposed to I think.  You pray, you think about what you can do and what you can't, and then you move forward with faith.  Funnily enough I knew that Little Girl was supposed to come just a few hours after Big Girl joined us.  I mentioned out loud that this girl was going to need a sister.  And then I couldn't believe that actually came out of my mouth.  Especially so soon after giving birth.  But I just knew.

Today I had a conversation with my father that is one I have had with him before.  I mentioned how I am finished having children in some way, and then he reminded me of how he and my mother continued having kids later in life.  My mother was 45 when she had my last sister.  It's as if he expects me to follow in the same path.  I remind him that my hat is off to her for the sacrifice, but that I am not likely to do the same.  He pokes more fun of me saying if my love my kids so much then why don't I want to have more?  It's a stupid argument really.  I mean I love pudding but if I had a bathtub of pudding would I want more?  Maybe pudding wasn't the right thing to compare child rearing to, but my point is that I want to be able to savor my pudding and not have so much of it that I can't afford to send my pudding to college or attend all of it's chocolate vs vanilla soccer games, and jello-brand violin recitals, etc.  My parents were great but the techniques of parenting they used were necessary but not always ideal.  In fact I boldly reminded my father of the fact that my poor mother didn't live to the ripe old age she had planned on, and perhaps she should have considered that when having kids in her 40s.  Brash of me no?

So even though I will get all up in your face if you give me your opinions about keeping down the population, I don't like being pressured to have more either.  I once had a person give me a pamphlet while I was on pregnancy #2.  Yes, it was in California, and yes, I threw it in the trash.  I will tell that person my opinions on the importance of family and how too many of us selfishly put off having kids only to end up later in life wishing we hadn't done so.  How our best resource is our human resource, and as long as I am capable of taking good care of my kids they have no right to judge.  But I would advise against passing judgment in the other direction as well.  Five is enough for us.  And for most people I would guess.

September 01, 2010

Hands Up

(Big Girl at the fair)

I have not blogged in over a week.  It's been quite liberating actually.  I have been busy doing things like attending the agricultural fair with my family, taking a vacation to the beach for a few days, and trying to dig myself out of the piles of laundry that had stacked up in the meantime.  I've worked real hard and I'm almost there.  After this post I am folding the last 4-5 loads and calling it a day.  The sad part is that the basket in my room is full of dirty clothes again.  Oh well my friends.

When we got home with one day to spare before school started, I realized I hadn't read over any of the school packets that had been gathering dust in my kid's cubbies.  I had a conversation with my husband and told him that I felt just like Gus from My Big Fat Greek Wedding when he repeatedly says "I don't know" in regards to his soon to be son-in-law.  "S'he a good boy?  I don't know...  s'he go to choorch?  I don't know...  s'he come from a good family?  I don't know, I don't know, I don't know!"  So forlorn was Gus in his unknowing.  I too felt this way when I asked myself  "What time do Big and Middle Boy need to catch the bus? When does cross country practice end?  Who is Big Girl's teacher?  I don't know, I don't know, I don't know!  It was overwhelming to not know so many things about each of my kids for the following day.  We'd missed two orientations during our vacation.  But somehow we pulled it off and everyone got to where they were supposed to be.  I felt bombarded once again in the afternoon with contact information sheets (x 4), and school fee checks to make out, and class policy paperwork to sign.  Who's idea was it to have all these kids anyways?  And why do they have to shove everything in my face at the same time?  That's what the cubbies are for!  So you can ignore it for weeks while it's not getting lost at least.  Still I rose once again to the occasion and conquered the paperwork.  It has to be said that having T home from work on the first day was huge.  Even though he took the day off to be with me on his birthday he spent time that day helping around the house and even making kids their lunches for the next day.  We are on day three now and he has continued to make their lunches for them at night.  What a guy.  It's amazing what one less thing on my plate feels like.  A lighter plate!

A friend's update on facebook related a busy day with complaining kids and too much homework.  She commented later that motherhood was the craziest and best roller coaster she had ever been on.  I told her to throw up her hands and scream.  Because sometimes that's all you can do.