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After such a big absence, it probably isn’t a surprise that I was considering taking a bloggy hiatus. I’ve just been feeling overwhelmed with work and life and getting ready for Israel and all. But I kind of missed my ramblings here and am back. For now. We’ll see.

I’ve been trying to write more about my experiences in the hospital which, I have to confess, remain very much with me. It is hard to believe, in a way, that it was really only 2 months of my life, over a year ago. The loss of control and, well, everything else in my life, sticks with me and flashes into my head at the oddest times. Memories of helplessness are still strong. The writing part isn’t going so well, though. I have lots else to do and I’m a huge procrastinator.

I read a review of Wayson Choy’s Still Here, which is a memoir of his time in the ICU after a near fatal asthma attack, after which he was heavily sedated – but not quite at a coma – for a couple of weeks, and promptly bought it. It is a bizarre, bizarre experience to read about someone else’s experience with recovery and rehab. I discovered something new – the delusions I had in the ICU are actually called “ICU psychosis” and they are very common. I really wish a nurse or doctor had mentioned that to me. It would have made the whole experience less confusing.

In other news, we had a visitor for the weekend. When I was sick, friends took Jasper while I was in the hospital so he wouldn’t be alone all day, and they all developed a mutual admiration society. Jasper adores them and they still take him if we go away. They decided to get a dog and wanted one just like Jasper, only smaller. Remarkably, they got their wish:

puppies1

When he first arrived, the little guy looked much redder than Jasper, but as he got older, he lightened to exactly the same colour. They love each other. This is the first time we got to host the doggy sleep-over and were very reluctant to hand him back. He is such a great dog, and watching them play, with mad wrestling matches, is vastly entertaining. It’s often hard to tell which dog is which.

Let’s see, what else? I’m working outrageous hours, far more than I am paid for, but I actually don’t mind, most of the time. Stuff needs to get done, so I do it. And I really do like the job and the people, and how many people can say that? There’s a little guy in Boo’s class who is missing his four top teeth and has been for about 2 years now. He comes from Russia, so let’s call him Ivan. He is squishably cute. My office is just before the boy’s bathroom, and every single time Ivan goes to the bathroom, he pops into my office and says, “Boo’s mom?! Boo’s mom?! Boo’s mom!!!?” He sounds so urgent – Yes, Ivan? “Do you want me to say hi to Boo for you?” It drives Boo nuts, I know. She doesn’t find him nearly as cute as I do, but I always say yes anyway. He alone, makes the job worth it.

I also love being more in tune with what is going on in the school, particularly Asher’s class, which is just on the other side of the bathroom from my office. I see his teachers frequently, which allows me to keep up to date assignments, etc, because he sure isn’t going to tell me. Speaking of which, he went upstairs to have a bath this evening and when I came upstairs a bit later, I discovered this, only the faucet was still on. I have entitled this: ADD

bathtub

Old Stuff

Children home all week. Busy, busy, busy. I’ve been cleaning up some files as I search for tax stuff. I found this old column I wrote (4 years ago), but could never quite find the right venue for. You’ll see why when you read it.

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My 2-year-old daughter, Boo, is a daddy’s girl. When he is at work, if she becomes even the slightest bit upset, she starts to repeat mournfully, “I need my Daddy to pick me up. I need my Daddy to pick me up.” The moment he walks in the door in the evening, she plasters herself to his body, utterly content. This might hurt my feelings if she were my first child, but she is my third, and her older brother and sister clung to me the way she clings to him, so I figure he is due. And it isn’t as though she has completely rejected me, because I still possess something he never will: breasts.

Boo loves my breasts. My breasts are probably the only things she loves more than Daddy. I nursed my older two children at this age as well, weaning the first when she around two years old and the second when he was almost three. They were both very fond of breastfeeding, but neither of them had this sort of attachment to my boobs. Boo has no interest in bottles, pacifiers, blankies or teddy bears. She does not need any of them, because she has my breasts.

Not long ago, Boo developed a bad cold and became completely congested, and found out that if you can’t breath through your nose, you can’t breastfeed. She would try valiantly, sucking for a moment or two before giving up and laying her head down on my naked boob. She would instead use it as a pillow as she went to sleep. It had to be naked.

She has also now taken to kissing the offered breast affectionately before she starts to nurse. When she is finished, she waves at my chest and says, “Bye-bye my bweast.” Yes, I think that is weird. If I dare to suggest that they are, in fact, my breasts, she glares at me. “No! MY boobies.”

It gets weirder. Boo has discovered that my breasts make amusing playmates. Like her older siblings before her, and probably countless other breastfeeding toddlers, Boo one day handed me one of her baby dolls and ordered, “Nurse baby!” I obligingly held the doll up to my shirt. “No!” she yelled. “Nurse baby!” I sighed, lifted up my shirt, and stuffed the doll under. Boo smiled happily at me. “Num, num, num,” she said. Apparently, the baby doll approved.

Having mom nurse a doll might be pretty standard behaviour, but Boo has now gone way beyond that. Several days later, as I was cleaning up the kids’ toys in their room, she handed me a purple crayon, “Nurse dis,” she ordered me. “Boo, that is a crayon,” I informed her. “Nurse dis!” she yelled. Then she started to shriek in outrage when I did not immediately comply. I grabbed the crayon from her hand and stuffed it under my shirt. I discovered that crayons can be neatly tucked into a bra. Boo smiled. Num, num, num.

Then she picked up a yellow crayon. “Dis!” she ordered. I played dumb. “This what?” I asked. “Nurse dis!” I took the crayon and tucked it into the other side of my bra. By the time I finished cleaning up the room, I had four crayons and a coloured pencil stuffed down there. Since Boo has figured out that she can convince me to breastfeed practically anything as long as she screams loudly enough, I have nursed hot wheels cars, a duck from the bathtub (dry), cups from a tea set, a small plastic dog, foam alphabet letters, marbles and countless crayons.

She seems happiest when she can combine the various functions of my boobs – security plus amusement – and likes to nurse on one side while holding some object up to the other. She will suck for a few moments, pop off to provide the sound effects for the crayon, “Num, num, num,” then happily go back to nursing herself. I cannot explain why Boo wants me to breast-feed inanimate objects. Baby dolls are at least logical, but marbles? Maybe it is a power thing: just how far can I push Mommy? Will she stuff a Popsicle down her bra if I scream loudly enough? No doubt my parents would argue that this is the case. After all, if I am crazy enough to be nursing a kid this age, why not her foam alphabet too?

But I suspect it is something else. I think Boo just likes to share her favorite toys – my breasts – with some of her other toys. I am assuming that when Boo eventually weans, her toys will wean also. I just worry that one day I will forget that I have something stuffed down there and go outside that way. How will I explain to some sales clerk why I have a duck-shaped lump on one breast?

Okay, let’s see. Bat mitzvah preparation, blah, blah, blah. Stress, stress, little bit panic. Bat mitzvah, kid marvelous, me and MIL don’t embarrass ourselves, big successful party, blah, blah. Toronto for passover. Relatives everywhere. Boo aced the 4 questions.

I think that sums it up. We went this morning to the Ontario Art Gallery, which is a gorgeous building filled with all kinds of interesting stuff. This is one:

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Is made of silicone, is about 7 feet tall and is all stretched out of proportion like this, which is very bizarre to see in person. It’s like an optical illusion. It’s not a picture. It’s a sculpture. Too cool. I took the photo and within nanoseconds, a security guard came up to me and politely told me I wasn’t allowed to take any photos, but he didn’t ask me to delete the one I had (maybe he didn’t realize I had taken one already), so here it is.

Later, I encountered one of my favourite painters, Lawren S. Harris and particularly a picture I love, so I kinneared it so as not to get caught:

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Here’s Boo and the CN Tower, about which she is obsessed;

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That Maya was the cutest baby ever:

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(I’ve been scanning more photos.)

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Two weeks.

It’s all about the bat mitzvah around here these days.

Boo has approximately 3726 dresses, but we were running some errands in the mall today and happened to go past Children’s Place, where they have a plethora of adorable dresses. Last fall their winter dresses were ugly, but they redeemed themselves for spring. Cute, cute and more cute. So now she has a new dress for the party.

Last night, Maya and I went to a bead store that happens to be right beside a synagogue, and the owner, while not Jewish herself, has gotten into making women’s kippahs (technically, the plural of kippah is kippot, but when you’ve imported the word into a different language, do you follow your grammar laws or those of the the word’s origin?). We made an appointment to learn how.

The nice lady made the centers of each one and then taught us how to do the rest. The center, she explained, was complicated and if I wanted to make more, I was free to come back in and just ask her to make them for me. We then each made a kippah and wired a comb to it to keep it in our hair. This part is brilliant. When I wear a kippah, I have to use about 5 clips to keep the stupid thing in place. My hair is oddly slippery or something. This solves that problem.

The colour is weird, but here’s my kippah. I took a picture of Maya’s too, but for some reason it didn’t download and the camera battery died, so it’ll have to wait.

my-kippah2

This is a picture of Boo’s kippah. She did not come with us, but the moment she saw ours, she was desperate for one of her own. It took about 15 minutes of fiddling for me to figure out the center bit. I have tons of beads.

boo-kippah

It ain’t rocket science, but it is tons of fun. I need to get a comb for it.

So, we have drinks, snacks, decorations, bling for the DJ to throw at the crowd, the right outfits and Maya and I practice every day. I have my Torah portion over half memorized. My goal is to have it entirely memorized, so when my brain freezes in fear when I go up to the bima in front of hundreds of people, the words will still spill out of my mouth in the correct order.

Two weeks left.

I Don’t Suck!

Maya’s bat mitzvah, as I may have mentioned, is coming up. I may have also mentioned that I have a Torah portion myself.

Here’s a little primer for the uninitiated:

The Torah reading is split into 7 parts. The kid learns the last part first, then goes to the beginning and starts learning each portion. S/he first learns another reading, called the Haftarah, doing that whole thing. Other people will take portions too, sometimes. I watched my BIL and FIL do a portion each for my nephew’s bar mitzvah and thought ‘that’s cool; we should do that.’ Then I thought, wait a minute! It’s a bat mitzvah, it should be the women folk!

My mother isn’t Jewish, so she’s off the hook. I went instead to my MIL and suggested she take one portion and I take another. I was very impressed when she agreed. At the time, a year ago, she didn’t even read Hebrew. She hired a tutor and learned.

But chanting Torah is way more complicated than that. Written Hebrew doesn’t really have vowels. The vowel sounds are indicated with small marks above or below the letters and those proficient in Hebrew don’t bother with them at all. What we have to learn from has the vowels. It also has other marks, to indicated how the word is to be sung. Learning that – the trope – is a big part of learning for the kid, but since we only had one portion each, my MIL and I went for straight memorization. However, when you sing something about one zillion times, you start to recognize the marks as meaning certain sounds. Doesn’t really matter, though, because the actual Torah scroll you read from up in front of everyone has none of that – no vowels, no trope. And the letters are stylized. It’s a bit like reading a medieval scroll.

The rabbi gave us photocopies of our portions and the Cantor (the singy guy at the synagogue) chanted them for us onto a CD. I downloaded it onto my iPod. Pretty much every day since the beginning of December, recently several times a day, I have been trying to stuff this thing into my head.

Today, I went met with the Cantor and sang it for him, hoping desperately that I hadn’t made any huge errors. As the header suggests quite strongly, I didn’t suck! I actually did pretty darn well. He says he’s not remotely worried that I’ll get it all done in time and that I’m 95% ready. He gave me some pointers for getting the last little bit.

This is a huge, huge relief. And now, off to study!

Boo likes math. She likes me to keep her amused in the car by asking her math questions, and I usually ask questions like, “What’s 10 plus 10 plus 10 plus 10 minus 5 plus 10 minus 5?” I’m always impressed when she throws out the answer practically the moment I’ve finished speaking. She keeps up. I’m guessing that means she’s pretty good at mental math. This is backed up by her teacher, who says complementary things about her when I see her in the hall.

So this weekend, the cousins are in town. J’s brother was playing Monopoly with Boo and mentioned that Boo seems pretty good at math. He says he’s heard being good at – hell, I don’t remember the term, because I’m not good at math – but it means doubling numbers repeatedly. So he asks Boo, who is in first grade, “What’s one doubled?” Boo says, “Two.” He says, “What’s two doubled?” and so on. I expected that 8 doubled would give her pause, but it did not. 16 doubled gave her pause. About two seconds of a pause. I don’t know how she knows that. 32 doubled took her about 3 seconds to figure out, maybe 4. At this point, jaws were dropping.

She got to 256, then blew doubling that and they moved back to the Monopoly game they were playing. That last one took her a few moments, while she walked back and forth and muttered to herself, but did not attempt to use her fingers at any point.

It seems to me that this is pretty cool, and I’d just love to know a way to help her keep this strength. I remember Maya spontaneously doing simple math in her head when she was 3 and 4 years old and being so delighted that it seemed to come easily to her. Then she had a hell of a time with her times tables and by grade 6 she was blowing every test and announcing she hated math and would quit as soon as possible. She now has a tutor and regularly pulls in marks of over 90% on her tests. But the moment you throw her a new concept, she’s back at ground zero, pronouncing math impossible and she still says she’s bad at it and hates it. Thank goodness she has a great tutor who makes everything easy for her and I’m hoping that after enough time, her confidence will be built back to the point where she will be able to tackle new concepts and problem-solve.

Asher’s pretty good at it and, remarkably, has full confidence that he’s good at it. In fact, he just utterly tanked a test and was completely unconcerned, explaining that the problem was that he just didn’t understand the questions (well, duh!). He still likes math. (Doesn’t like reading, though. My kids are walking stereotypes.)

Why why why is it that girls lose it and boys don’t? And how can we stop it from happening again? I’m thinking our best hope is that math just comes so easily to Boo that she never questions her ability to do it.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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