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Archive for October, 2007

I confess that for years, I’ve been dreading Maya’s bat mitzvah. They are such huge deals and it all seems so overwhelming to handle. Maybe it is because I converted and therefore never went through one of my own (or, more likely for my generation, watched my brothers go through bar mitzvahs), but I’m not sure that is all, because J is pretty much terrified too.

Her bat mitzvah date is April of 2009 – a year and a half away. I thought that was enough time to keep my fingers in my ears and loudly and tunelessly sing, “Lalalala, I can’t hear you” for a while longer, but apparently not. A few days ago, a friend whose kid is having her bat mitzvah about the same time asked me if I’d signed Maya up for her class at shul yet, and was I going to the meeting? Huh? I knew nothing. J knew nothing.

So I called the synagogue, where the nice secretary peppered me with questions – how much is she going to read? Are we having our evening even at the synagogue? Are we having the lunch kiddish there? Will we be doing a Friday night thing, or Saturday morning thing? I dunno I dunno I dunno.

So I went to the meeting, where I was happy to see I wasn’t the only perplexed parent there. I realized that it was in fact high time Maya start the classes, as apparently they are supposed to take them for 1.5 to 2 years. I can’t figure out what it is going to take so long to learn, since she can already read Hebrew fluently and knows many of the prayers. As far as I can tell (but as I said, I’ve never done this before), she needs to learn the cantillation.

The Torah is a complicated thing to read. Hebrew for grown-ups doesn’t have vowels. You can put the vowels in, as they are marks that go under and over certain letters to let you know, for example, that the ‘t’ sound will be ‘ta’ or ‘to’ or ‘ti’ but after you learn how to read fluently, you drop the vowels. So no vowels in the Torah. There are lots of other little marks on the words, though. They tell the reader how that word is to be chanted. All the different marks, called trope, have their own specific tune and the kids need to learn them so they can properly chant their Torah portion.

This does strike me as nightmarishly difficult and so I do see requiring a far amount of prep time, but now I’m not so sure, since Maya came home from her first class at ‘shul school’ last week with a page of the names of all the different markings, and began singing them to me. Next!

Okay, it isn’t that simple, but she certainly is sucking up the information. At least one of us has a brain. I panicked at the meeting when I discovered that classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays only. I asked the Rabbi about tutoring as, I explained, Maya has piano on Tuesday and delivers her papers on Thursday. I know one has to make priorities, but piano is unmovable and I think having a job is very good for her. To bad. The tutors are booked solid.

Thursday seemed more flexible, but then I saw that the class was currently populated with 4 boys from her grade at school. Nuh-uh. One boy’s mom came over and told me if I put her in that class, they’d carpool her there and back. That’s very sweet, I told her, but Maya will freak if I put her in that class. But, said the mom, they are very nice boys. Nice? Nice has nothing to do with it. They have penises and nothing else matters.

I then realized that piano is only half an hour and I could race from it to the synagogue, and at least she’d be in a class full of girls, with her best friend. I signed her up. Leaving the meeting, I phoned Maya to tell her the news, as I knew she was keen on being with her friend. After I told her, she said, “Mom, my piano lesson is on Wednesdays.”

So, so not ready.

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Allergies

While I am an unhealthy mess, with so many annoying conditions and syndromes that I dare not list them all, my kids are healthy. Really healthy, particularly Maya who, when Asher is bedridden and feverish for two days over a stomach virus, experiences the same virus by being slightly put off dinner one night. So it seemed odd this spring when she had an annoying cold that just would not go away. Finally, it occurred to me to try an antihistamine and, sure enough, things improved somewhat.

I took her to our GP, who referred her to an allergist. The appointment was yesterday. He did a scratch test, where drops of different common allergens were placed on her arms, then the nurse used a pin to make a small scratch in each one. We then sat in the waiting room waiting to see if anything happened. In short order, several spots along one arm began to turn red and swell.

May I just say it is a good thing Maya isn’t sick a lot, because that kid is a huge whiner. First, she was so freaked about the scratch test in the first place that I had to order her to sit down and then hold her arms down for the nurse. Then, as the spots began to react, she flopped around and moaned about not being able to scratch, and complained that it didn’t just itch, it hurt horribly. We were sharing the waiting room with a mom and little girl of about 5 or 6, who watched her with huge eyes. When Maya started to say it hurt, I said very, very pointedly at her, “You mean it itches, right? Nothing here actually hurts. It is just annoying that it itches.” She got the message, but didn’t stop whining about how unbearable the itching was.

So, she’s allergic to several trees (including cedar, as in the cedar hedges we have in the backyard), grass, ragweed. Basically, she’s managed to cover the entire summer. The doctor says that it is likely to just get worse and worse each year and we should do allergy shots.

Off my game, I just agreed without questioning and paid about $200 for them to order the allery serum to be sent to my GP, who will administer them. As we were driving home, I wondered why so many people put up with seasonal allergies when you can just get the shots to cure everything once and for all. I found out when I got home and actually read the information he gave me.

I have to take my kid to the doctor for the shot once a week, staying half an hour to watch for a bad reaction, for twenty-eight weeks! Then it goes down to every 2-3 weeks for a while. That’s seven bloody months of weekly doctor visits!

I know it is still better than sneezing your way through summer for the rest of your life, but I still don’t know if I made the right move here. Maybe she will buck the trend and not get worse. Maybe all these stupid shots won’t work. Maya, of course, is horrified, and I didn’t even tell her how long this has to go on.

I think I need a nap.

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As I’ve mentioned previously, I can see the search terms allowing people to reach my site. I now know why there are so many slutty Halloween costumes out there. I’ve gotten searches for ‘homemade slut costume’ (if you can’t figure that out on your own, don’t bother). And ‘slutty clown costume’ (just, why?). Also, ‘gay leather’ (they must have been so disappointed to end up here) and ‘leaf’ (?). Next to the slutty clown question, my current favourite is: ‘is Dalton McGuinty Jewish?’ I hope that person didn’t vote.

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It was hot and sunny for the past two days. I was in absolute heaven. I thought after it got cold after our return from New York that we were done with the really good weather, but I was really wrong.

Yesterday, the kids and I took the dog on a long walk along the river at a spot we don’t normally frequent, because we popped in to visit friends with their new baby (She came home from China a couple of months ago and is doing amazingly, as well as being freaking cute. My three kids surrounded her on the floor and all tried to engage and play with her at the same time. Her mom and I were concerned that they would overwhelm her, but when she started throwing her arms in the air and cheering, “Ay!” we figured she was okay.)

Anyway, we came upon a great wooden play structure and while the kids played and the dog ran around, I gathered leaves into an ever-growing pile. There were a lot of leaves. It was several feet high when Asher spotted it and took a flying leap into it. Whenever I see people jump into leaves in the cartoons, I always think it’d still hurt, as leaves aren’t a great cushion. But when you pile them 3 feet high they are!

They spent a long time repiling and leaping in the leaves. Even the dog got into the act at one point. I let them bury me with leaves, and it was strangely peaceful under there (until I burst out growing and grabbing and children). Serious, serious fun.

Today, I took Jasper for a long walk in a huge, gorgeous protected park area, admiring the leaves and just reveling in the weather. I wasn’t the only one, and I’m toying with making up a card to hand out. It would say:

“He’s a Doodle, a Standard Poodle-Golden Retriever mix. No, he doesn’t shed at all, but some do. I have to brush him daily or he mats. Yes, I have to trim him, but I do it myself. It’s actually an unusual colour, most are blonder. No, they aren’t cheaper than getting a pure bred, since they are very popular. No, they don’t all get this big, but they are still generally pretty big dogs. 55 lbs. Yes, I know he seems like more as he is very tall and skinny. He’ll likely fill out in the next year. One year old. Yes, he is very calm for a one-year-old. No that isn’t typical. Thank you – we think he is great too.”

Because I have that conversation over and over and over. I’m glad people love him, but it does get a bit tired at times.

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And they make great family dogs, too!

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I swam. I yogaed. I walked the dog at a furious pace for at least an hour. Every day was something. Friday, I crashed. It rained, so I even got out of walking the dog.

Shauna asked if it would be better. Yeah, it’ll get better. Only it’ll take 6 months or so of having it feel worse. The entire time I was doing yoga, I had a running commentary in my brain (that I tried to squash it, since it seemed very un-yoga-like) that went like this: fuckthishurts, fuckthishurts, fuckthishurts.

The nice yoga lady, who knows I have Fibromyalgia Syndrome, told me to take it at my own pace and if it hurts, my body is telling me I’ve gone to far. Unfortunately, when you have FMS, your body frequently tells you that getting up in the morning is going too far, or braiding your hair, or walking up the stairs. You can’t listen to it. It lies. I didn’t tell her that. I just smiled and assured her I would listen to my lying body.

When you have FMS, you have to view exercise like physiotherapy. After J tore his calf muscle in the spring, his physiotherapist would massage the scar tissue, digging her way into it to break it up and telling him that the way he knew she was doing it right was by how much it hurt. That’s how it is. Exercise hurts. All of it. It hurts to do it and it hurts worse after you are done. People tell me about how invigorated they feel after they finish a workout. I just feel a sense of accomplishment from ignoring the pain for long enough to get the job done.

That sounds a bit dramatic, but it’s an accurate description. (If you can’t whine on your own blog, where can you whine?) As shitty as I’ve been feeling for a long time, I feel shittier now. The only saving grace is that I knew what I was getting into, and I know it can work.

When I was 21, unemployed and living with mommy and daddy, I began to exercise. I biked, which I loved for the speed and freedom, making it easier to ignore the pain (this time, I’m too far gone to get on a bike, but it’s almost winter anyway, so who cares). I biked for longer and longer, until I was gone for an hour or two every day. I also used their rowing machine in front of the TV, and did weight training with some small hand weights of my father’s.

What it added up to, at it’s peak, was about 2 hours of exercise a day. And, at some point, I realized that the pain wasn’t much there, and I slept through the night and I had energy. I’d kicked the FMS into remission. But it took being an unemployed bum at my parents’ house to give me the time and freedom to do it.

I went back to school for my Masters in Journalism and even though I did try to get to the gym, the school schedule was grueling and I was reveling in the revival of my social life. The exercise fell away and the beast returned. Now I’m 20 years older, fatter and in worse shape, so I think it’ll take longer to get there this time, but every study ever done on FMS had demonstrated that the only thing that reliably leads to improvement is exercise, and I have the personal precedent to back that up.

But, fuck, this hurts.

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I’ve always been quite pleased with my kids’ Halloween choices, with the exception of my fairy princess. This year, Asher is going to be a knight and Maya decided to be a clown. I found a cool knight costume at the Children’s Place. All we needed was a sword, which the Children’s Place politically correctly did not include. How long is a knight going to last without a sword, I ask you?

Maya went with something new this year, deciding to be a clown. I was delighted. That’s an easy one. Wig, make-up, goofy clown costume. Since my kids are past the days of being impressed with my no-sew homemade halloween costumes, off we went to find a clown costume at the store.

The first one we went to had no clown costumes at all. How odd that they would have run out. They had good face paint, though. The second one had a clown wig and clown nose. It also had ailses of costumes, but nary a clown in sight.

The third one had ailses and ailses of costumes. The had an entire wall of swords, so now Asher is the most dangerous knight around (when we got home, I allowed him to attack and kill all the dead plants I had yet to clear from the garden – boy heaven). They had Bratz, pumpkins, regular vampires, slut vampires, angels, bunnies, slut bunnies, knights, ninjas, Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Spongebob, an entire ailse of princess dresses of all sorts, cowboys, dogs, kittens, slut kittens, turtles, Ninja turtles …

Not one damn clown.

It seems to me that a clown costume would be very easy for them to make – two pieces of cheap colourful polyester sewn together with pompoms down the front. Maybe a ruffle. Certainly, that is easier than the slut bunny costume I saw. Why no clowns?

We did find a pair of stretchy polyester pants that I strongly suspect came from another constume, but it was alone when we found it, and they sold it to us for $3. And a hat with a flower on it. Clearly, clowns are not off the radar, what with the hat, clown nose and wig. but since when do marketers then assume people will just make the actual costume themselves, providing us with only the accessories? They make ghosts, for god’s sake, and even I can hand-make that costume.

Fortunately, with help from some internet back-up (“See, these people made it themselves and it looks cool. These people too.”), I have convinced Maya that a colourful over-sized shirt with big patches and pompoms or buttons sewn on by us will make a perfectly good clown top. But still, it means I have to go buy some cheap colourful shirt at Walmart, find or make pompoms and sew on the colourful patches. I am so past personal effort for Halloween costumes.

But, even though she’s 11.5 years old, Maya is still my baby and she doesn’t have too many Halloweens left. And she does have the good sense not to want to be a fairy princess, so I’ll do it.

I want all her Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, though.

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When I was pregnant with my children, I used to wonder if they’d have my eyes, or hair colour. It didn’t really occur to me that more than that would get passed on, which is short-sighted of me, as it all got passed on to me.

I have (among many other things) Restless Leg Syndrome. It basically means my legs twitch uncontrollably at times. Sometimes my left arm too. Annoying – sometimes very – but not life-threatening. Turns out, according to Consumer Reports, only 3% of the population have it. My mother has it too, as has one brother, so I never felt that weird.

A little while ago, I happened to be sitting with Asher as he fell asleep. He kicked his feet as he faded off, and continued to kick in his sleep for a while. He did it the next night too. I then asked him about it, why he moves his legs as he goes to sleep. He said, “I just need to move them or it feels weird.” And on it goes. I feel kind of bad about that one.

I bought a pill organizer that is comprised of 7 small containers that screw together, one on top of the next. They are all different colours and come with the days of the week on labels to place on them. As I labeled them, I commented on my irritation that they didn’t have the right colours for me to use. “I need a brown for Monday,” I said, mostly to myself.

Another quirk – I have a form of synesthesia called grapheme, wherein you experience the days of the week and, for some people, the months of the year, as having an inherent colour. In my case, Monday is brown. Tuesday is blue. Wednesday is yellow. And so on.

I had no idea everyone didn’t have this until I read an article on it somewhere. I asked my family about it and they all made it clear they thought I was insane, then tried to trip me up by asking me at different times what colour various days of the week were, to see if the colours changed.

So I was kind of delighted when, after I commented on Monday being brown, Maya said, “Monday isn’t brown. It’s green. Use this container.” We compared our days and agree that Tuesday is light blue and Wednesday is yellow, but our days and months are different colours. We had fun arguing over them.
I told her how weird she is, which she did not appreciate. The days and months are so inherently colourful to her that she cannot imagine that other people do not experience them this way.  I said, “Go to school tomorrow and ask your friends what colour Monday is, and see how many know what the heck you are talking about.” She said, “I will! And they’ll say it’s green!” “Brown!” “Green!” “Go to bed now.”

She not only has my eyes, she has my grapheme. And on it goes.

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