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Archive for March, 2009

The Absolute Proof

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.

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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.

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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!

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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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I am proud to announce that after 6.5 years –¬† a full year after her sister first reached that milestone – Boo has finally lost her first tooth. Well, lost might not be the appropriate word for it. Ripped from her head might be more accurate.

Boo, as I previously mentioned, has had 4 wiggly teeth for ages. Recently, her bottom adult teeth chose to reveal that they were skipping that whole stage where they push the baby teeh out ahead of them and just decided to grow up behind the originals. Last week marked her milestone of getting her first adult tooth, as one has already broken through the skin.

At that point, while all her teeth could be called ‘wiggly,’ none could really be called ‘loose.’ But she came home yesterday and excitedly announced that one had suddenly, while she wiggled it, become significantly wigglier. I checked and, sure enough, that sucker was pretty darn loose. I figured we had about a week to go, a month if she behaved like her older sister did at that point, who allowed her first (and second, and third …) loose teeth to hang by a thread rather than allow anyone to just end the misery, refusing to eat solid food.

I thought that scenario unlikely, but wasn’t prepared for her dogged determination. As in, she lay in bed last night after lights out for 40 minutes and wiggled that sucker vigorously, showing up in our room long after she should have been asleep, with bloody hands and a bloody mouth and a great big smile with a hole in it.

It’s an upper tooth, of course, because why should she do anything normally?boo-tooth

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Boo and I went to a pet store this afternoon to buy food for Jasper. We buy him that fancy-ass stuff from an independent place that also does all kinds of good things for animals. They have this cool cat cage that winds around the pet store, and they usually have one or two young cats in there, all of whom Boo falls madly in love with. Sometimes, the employees let her hold a cat, and gets to hear all about how we used to have two cats, but one died and now the other one is lonely, but Daddy doesn’t actually like cats so he says if we get another one, he’ll move out and mommy says since cats can’t do dishes we’re keeping Daddy.

This time, they only had one cat and she wasn’t too friendly, just chilling in the back of the cage. So Boo went wandering and discovered the rats. Turns out she loves them as much as I do. What she fell in love with, specifically, were two baby hairless rats. They really were cute. Boo stuck her finger in the cage and one of them delicately took ahold of it and began to lick her finger, which no doubt had traces of all the sugar they fed her at school today for Purim.

Let the begging begin. If it were up to me, I’d have given in, but there’s dear old dad to consider. Boo was not amused. “If our whole family voted, then we’d get to get a rat!”

I said, in a voice of mock outrage, “Yeah! That Dad! That bad Dad. What good is he anyway?”

Boo was silent for a moment, then said thoughtfully, “Well, he does give a pretty good back scratch, but that’s about it.”

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More weirdness

I mentioned a while ago that I developed a freaky ball of fluid in my belly that I called my fluid fetus, or Duncan. Duncan stuck way out on the right side of my abdomen. It has finally shrunk down most of the way. But it still hangs around, so the doctor ordered an ultrasound.

The ultrasound technician looked all over the place in there and finally admitted that she couldn’t quite figure out what she was seeing. She called the radiologist, who looked around for a while, then told me that besides Duncan, who is fading, there is a huge cyst in there, a result of the surgery. He said it doesn’t seem to be pressing on any organs, so they’d probably just let it reabsorb, which could take a really long time. He didn’t define ‘really long time.’

I saw my doctor today, and asked her how big the thing is, since she had the radiology report. My doctor read it, mumbling to herself and holding her hands pretty darn far apart. Then she said, “Um, about the size of a football.”

Football!

I am kinda fat, I should admit. If you are going to get fat, I recommend having fairly big boobs, so balance off the belly. I have small boobs and the belly sticks out. Lately, it sticks out more than normal, which is really annoying. I look pregnant. Sometimes, when I’m talking to people, I see them glancing down at my belly, just a quick look down, and I swear I can see the gears turning – is she pregnant? Because I look pregnant. (Scarves and jackets help hid the bump somewhat.)

I’ve been walking more and trying to watch the eating, and usually when I do that, the belly is the first to start to go, but not this time, and now I know why – I have a freaking football in there!

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Bat Mitzvah countdown

I’m not quite sure how this happened, but my kid’s bat mitzvah is in one month. One month! Erk. I still haven’t gotten my Torah portion memorized, but progress is being made. For a while, progress was not, in fact, being made and I began to worry that my brain was no long capable of such feats. But it finally began to sink in again and I am holding on to the belief that I will get it stuffed into my brain in time. My MIL announced that she had hers done, but when she gave Maya a preview, Maya announced she was “too singy” and not fast enough, and has sent her back to the drawing board.

Maya doesn’t seem to have similar problems with her parts, thankfully. She is not remotely concerned about how that is all going. In fact, a couple of days ago, she updated her facebook page to say that she was ready for her bat mitzvah. I asked her what happened that now made her feel that she was ready – thinking, of course, that perhaps she’d gone through her Torah reading without a mistake or something like that – and she told me, in a tone of voice that suggest I’m a bit slow, that she’d gotten shoes that day to match the dress. Shoes! Of course! Now she is all set.

We have different priorities. I’m not sure what they were thinking, putting teenagers through this. They all seem much more concerned with the party than the actual bat or bar mitzvah and resist being required to consider the deeper meaning behind any of it. We force them to go through that in order to get to the celebration.

Maya’s day will go like this: shul in the morning, which will be the serious part. I have been to some synagogues where the bar or bat mitzvah kind of takes over, and parents make little speeches up there, and they decorate the sanctuary, and go kind of nuts. But at our place, the bar or bat mitzvah just fits right into the service, which mirrors their philosophy that the kid is joining a community. It’s not all about them. It is about them, but not all about them. I confess, I quite like that.

Then we have a kiddush lunch with tout la gang. It is in a room at the synagogue – a big room – and will be where J and I give the little speeches about how happy we are to have survived the process and made it to that point.

Many people then have a big evening event, much like a wedding, with dinner and then dancing and everyone is invited. We went the cheapie route and are just having a party for the kids. We’ll have a DJ – J didn’t want one, so Maya saved her money from her paper route for over a year to pay for it herself and earned the right to have one. Kid food, horrible throw-away crap flung out into the crowd by the DJ, and lots of dancing.

We bought the throw-away crap – glow sticks, fuzzy hats, flashing things – at the dollar store. Then we were in a store after Valentine’s Day and they had some HUGE stuffed animals on sale in the clearance that had no visible connection to Valentine’s, so Maya begged for one as the big final give-away (I’ve never lasted long enough at one of these events to even know there was such a thing). The thing is several feet high, reaching past my waist, and we needed a separate cart for it. Originally $30, now half¬† price, so I agreed. When we reached the cash, it rang in at $7.44. And that is the highlight of the bat mitzvah process for me, so far.

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Yesterday was my second birthday! As in, July 23rd is my first birthday, upon which my mother gave birth to me and February 29th (or March 1st the other 3 years) is my second birthday, the one upon which I woke up from the Big Nap. Yay me!

A year ago today, I was coming to terms with the fact that I’d been gone for 18 days, shit in a bag taped to my belly, had a tube draining yuck from my abdomen and another draing more yuck from my left lung, couldn’t take a deep breath, couldn’t eat, couldn’t move, felt like I was suffocating without a fan blowing in my face all the time, and was in the room reserved for the sickest person in the hospital.

Today, I am embroiled in my school’s decision to require uniforms next year, am really, really sick of the snow, and have just finalized plans to go to Israel in June. That’s a heck of a lot better, isn’t it? Really puts thing in perspective.

This trip I’m going on is just me. Well, me and a bunch of other women. No J. The other two times I’ve gone, it has been with J and he’s been in charge of the whole trip, which made for a pretty big safety net. This time, it is a trip for just women and run by an organization not run by the hubby. But it was a great price and it sounds like we’ll do some really cool stuff and did I mention it’s in Israel? I love Israel. It goes beyond the Jew thing, which is a pretty big thing. It’s the history. You are surrounded by living, breathing history every minute.

Here’s a photo from our last trip. This boy is hanging out on a beach in Tiberius. I know, boy on beach: big deal. But this beach is on Lake Kinneret, otherwise known as the Sea of Galilee (it’s very Middle East of them, to name this small (by Canadian standards) body of water a “sea.” Half the rocks on this beach are bits of pottery, thousands of years old, washed down from the ruins across the road. See, everything is history.

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