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Archive for March, 2009

The Absolute Proof

That Maya was the cutest baby ever:

e1

(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.

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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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