Saturday, November 29, 2008

Flush with happiness

Automatic toilets are the bane of my public existence.

I have three little boys in various stages of independence. One thing that they do not vary on, however, is their fear of automatic toilets. What a tragedy! Here is the epitome of cleanliness-- someone to flush for you-- and they avoid it like the plague. If you were in the stall next to mine, you'd think I was torturing them:

"Please, please, just go potty."

"No, mom, NOOOOOO! It's too loud! It's TOO LOUD!"

"Here, I'll cover your ears for you. Now go."

"The light is flashing... there it goes! It's gonna flush! IT'S GONNA FLUSH! AAAAHHH!!"

Next comes the shrieking and the stomping. That would be my eight-year-old. Now, my five-year-old doesn't bother to shriek. He simply throws all his weight against mine and drives me backward, out of the stall, and pins me against the opposite wall. Who knew that a little guy with pants around his ankles could move an amazon woman.

My five-year-old-- we'll call him S-- is autistic, and tends to anthropomorphize items, especially appliances. Toilets apparently fall into this category. I've always wondered how he classifies automatic toilets in that brain of his, besides the "avoid at all costs" category. Once he is informed that I expect him to use a public toilet, his first question is, "Is it audomadic?" This, of course, means that I have to investigate and report. He will immediately reject any automatic toilet and his bladder will turn to steel. It's disturbing but admirable at the same time.

Several days ago we took the D.C. Metro into the city for the Christmas tree lighting at Union Station. Riding the Metro is the penultimate of existence for my boys, so this was heaven. We missed the lighting ceremony, but it didn't matter! We got to ride the Metro! We had a lovely visit and ate some delicious pizza.

On our way out of the station, we made a potty stop. I cringed at the idea that we might be doing the toilet dance. But lo and behold, the people at Union Station are traditionalists. No automatic toilets to be found. I was thrilled, the boys were thrilled, and we had a successful stop.

S was so glad to have been spared the agony of automation. As we walked away from the restroom, he turned and ran back to the doorway. He threw his arms wide, exclaiming, "I love you, bathroom!" and hugged the doorframe tightly.

I think we'll be going back to visit that restroom-- er, I mean, Union Station.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

No Thanks for the Giving

I'd like to bring to light a conspiracy that no one has uncovered. It is that of the disappearing Thanksgiving holiday. Interestingly enough, the Jewish people have two types of holidays: major and minor. The major ones, as you can imagine, involve buying gifts and preparing food and lots of hoopla. The minor ones merely get a passing notice. Thanksgiving is rapidly devolving into a minor holiday in this country, which I consider a great loss.

If Thanksgiving disappears over the course of time, who will celebrate it? The Native Americans? Right. 'Cause it marks such a happy time in the history of their people. Ah--maybe that's it? Why Thanksgiving is a non-holiday? Because it's no longer politically correct?

Why do retailers skip so egregiously over the holiday? Maybe it's the lack of choices in decorations. What would retailers hang up in their windows to attract customers? Turkey feathers? And the cornucopias-- oh, the carnage! Imagine a full cornucopia hung decorously over the front door of a store. The cord breaks... the cornucopia teeters and out pours the contents... customers are beaned in the head with corn and squash and millions of acorns. Now that would make headlines.

Not to mention the limited musical selection. Shoppers would be inundated with songs about food, no matter what store they were at. And all those songs would have one word in the oft-repeated chorus: "Gobble, gobble!" Customers would lose their marbles en masse.

On second thought, maybe we'll leave the holiday as it is. A time to hang with the family or friends, spend a lot of time baking pies, and eat way too much food. Now THAT is a truly American pastime.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Rocky Horror Twilight Show

I would like to propose a new movie rating system. This new system will address the decibel level of the audience. It can be in addition to the current rating system-- I don't care. Just slap a warning on any upcoming doozies. Because thanks to the new Twilight movie, I am now deaf in both ears and my brain.

Yes, I read the books. Yes, I enjoyed them like a twinkie (thanks to the hilarious cleolinda for that fabulous analogy.) And yes, I told a few of my friends about the books. I even got to meet the author (briefly!) at a book signing and find out that she is an everyday mom like me. Except she's a bazillionaire with millions of books in print. That's okay, I won't hold it against her.

I read in one of my screenwriting magazines that the female scribe for this movie was handed the job right before the Hollywood money-hungry writer's strike. That meant that she had FIVE weeks to write the stupid thing. Oh, man. I almost returned my ticket right then. But I didn't.

I saw the trailer online and got a little excited. Then I saw one on t.v. and noticed that all the quoted praise across the bottom of the screen only mentioned the Twilight phenomenon in general. NOTHING about the quality of the movie. Oh, man. I should have paid attention. But I didn't.

I waited in line on opening night and tried to shrink my 6'2" self down to a prepubescent size so I would blend in, but I couldn't.

Instead I sat with my friends, half of whom had not read the book, and waited for the movie to start. We could taste the anticipation in the air. Pheromones and Junior Mints. It was like sitting in a room full of cats with ADD.

Then came the screaming. Not out of fear, or horror, or disgust. It was simply because the actors were first appearing onscreen. No, wait! That was just the title sequence! This audience was wound so tight I was sure the theater was going to disintegrate before they could rest their greedy little eyes on the male lead.

And so it went. The audience members knew the book by heart. And since the movie was faithful to the book, the viewers knew what was coming next (so much for suspense.) First twittering, then giggling, then a near-silent scream opening up to a full-throated screech in unison. Oh, my brain. My brain! I wanted the actors to die -- or anything-- so I didn't have to put up with this assault on my eardrums! The squealing was sending me into reverse puberty!

All complaints about permanent hearing damage aside, it was entertaining to be there. The audience participation was nearly on par with Rocky Horror viewers, minus the fishnets and flying toast. I laughed quite often, albeit at the wrong places. The dialogue and special effects were so bad that I think the director was going for camp rather than anything else. Though it may have been lost on the audience's youth-- I don't think they know what camp is.

Time to find myself a pair of hearing aids. I'm getting too old for this.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Forget Diplomacy

I inherited a tendency to avoid conflict at all costs from my mother. So when I chose to study diplomacy via International Relations in college, it was a tad ironic. Diplomacy involves lots of back-and-forth. Diplomats also try not to use threats because it stalls the process.

I suppose that I can mark the start of my journey away from conflict avoidance with my entry into high school basketball. Someone would clock me in the head or knock me to the floor and I would fight back by playing harder. Yeah, I know what you're thinking. "Ooooh, she's so tough! She played harder!" But you must realize that it was a big step for me.

Flash forward to last week. Our water heater's life ended with an epic failure. It was way past its prime; still, what did we do to deserve the flood? We shut off the water to the unit. More water. We shut off the water to the house. More water. It was frightening to see how fast it poured out and we could do NOTHING to stop it.

I called our home warranty company and explained to them just how major our situation was. Their question, "Is there property damage?" Yes!!! Our carpet is swimming! Please help! It was eight o'clock at night. They promised to get a contractor out to the house. Two hours later I called back. "Oh, no one has contacted you yet?" No!!! We are still bailing out our basement WITH BUCKETS! Please help! Two hours later I called again. "We will try to get a third contractor on your claim." Gee, thanks. I wondered just what I would have to say to convince them that our situation was an EMERGENCY!!! I was tempted to take a drink of water and gurgle into the phone, "We're drowning!" We waited, all night, for them to call us back.

In the meantime, we had to set our alarm clock for every forty five minutes. The husband and I took turns getting up, emptying the bucket, and sucking the water off the hard floor and out of the carpet. It was like having a newborn again. Frequent nighttime wakings, out-of-control liquid emissions. We were exhausted.

The next morning I took my urchins to the bus. When I arrived home, I plunked down with the phone and was determined not to get up again until I had results. Here is my conversation, once the agent on the line knew of my situation:

"I really don't know how I can emphasize to you how desperate our situation is. This is BAD. We are WET. I am EXHAUSTED. And nothing is happening on your end."

"Let me see if I can find an available contractor for you.... (long pause) Ma'am? I apologize, but the only contractor we can find is not available until tomorrow."

Twenty-four more hours of this? You've got to be kidding. Alright. The gloves are off. You've knocked me on my on butt and thumped my head in the process.

"This is not acceptable. I cannot wait that long, and more of my property will be damaged while I wait! I am going to call my OWN contractor and bill it to YOU!" Wow, what a threat. So much for diplomacy.

Apparently, that was all I needed to say. They had a plumber on the way ten minutes later.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Dear T,

My last letter to you was lighthearted and fun. I don't want you to take this one less seriously because of it. Today you are eight. I have traveled to foreign countries and had great adventures and taken on various names in foreign languages. But nothing compares to what you symbolize.

Celebrating my oldest child's birthday is a funny thing. It marks the advent of motherhood. It makes me feel older. It reminds me of how far I've come. And it makes me stand back and realize that yes, indeed, you are no longer my baby. Somehow my brain continues to superimpose that baby face of yours onto your current features. When I step back and your eight year old face comes into focus, it is startling.

I don't think anyone is truly prepared to become a parent. And if your friends who are already parents are worth their salt, they won't really tell you what it's like. The emotional highs go higher, and the lows go lower. You realize that humans can actually survive on little-to-no sleep for long periods of time, though mental stability might go out the window. You wonder just how the human race perpetuates itself when so much work goes into a singular, tiny creature.

I distinctly remember one night. It was late and I was up feeding you. I was struggling with post-partum depression but I still had moments of true joy. As I cradled your tiny body against my shoulder, I worked on getting that elusive burp that always brought about your great contentment. I mulled over how physically close you were to my heart and how much I truly loved you. And at that moment, I just wanted to wrap my body around yours and keep you there, always, in this tiny form, forever. I knew it wasn't possible, so I cried.

But I am okay with it now. You are no longer an appendage of mine. You leave my side every day to go to school, and someone else watches over you. You come home safely and back into my arms, however briefly, before you head off into one of your adventures with toys or friends. You still have that cute little nose and deep, black eyes that fascinate me. But I no longer cuddle your tiny head against the curve of my neck and feel your downy newborn hair. I miss it, yet I welcome the future.

You are my daily reminder of the start of my greatest adventure of all.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Just kidding

For the purpose of keeping my children off the radar, I shall call my seven-year-old "T".

Dear T,

We have been telling you for seven years that your birthday is on November 14th. What silly jokers we are! Yes, I realize that we were there for that eventful birth. And no, we are not old enough to be losing our marbles. But we have to admit that we've just been pulling your leg.

This has nothing to do with the fact that the economy has gone down the drain. Or that mommy's job is slow at the moment. Or the fact that the dryer choked and we had to have it fixed. Or that the dishwasher leaked into the basement and had to be replaced. Or that our water heater has exploded and is now draining onto the utility room floor.

No, we are just forgetful, loving parents who would like to correct their mistakes and tell you that you were in fact born... on... April 10. Yes, that's it! In five months we will celebrate your birthday with a huge party and lots of presents and plenty of sugar. I know, I know. We shouldn't have been joking all this time. But we love you all the same. Happy Birthday! Here's your lollipop.

Now, can you help me bail some of this water out from under the water heater?

(For those of you who worry, don't. Should the rain let up, "T" and several friends will be on a miniature golf course this Saturday to celebrate his eighth year on this planet. If the rain continues, we'll invade the local movie theater for "Madagascar 2", which I'm sure will provide plenty of blog fodder.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Amazon Utopia

I am a very tall person. And my dimensions are not typical-- very long arms and legs, broad shoulders, big feet, not much meat to me. I've got the dimensions of a model but not the megawatt face or abysmal dietary habits. Before I continue, let me just remind you, the grass is always greener.

Clothing is hard to come by. Maternity clothing was even harder to come by, but that ship has sailed. I celebrate when I find a single item of clothing that fits me, truly fits me. Add on top of that the fact that due to my faith I choose to keep my shoulders, stomach, and thighs covered. This leaves me with a very small sample of clothing to choose from. I can't just walk into the mall and shop for clothes. It doesn't work that way.

Instead I have one mail-order catalog that I can look through once a quarter from a company called Long Elegant Legs. They have cute stuff sometimes but the quality is hit-and-miss. Frankly, I'm just glad to find a t-shirt that I can wear, so I bite the bullet and accept that the clothes probably won't last as long as I'd like.

Enter my next-door-neighbor. She introduces me to a store called Tall Girl. This is a real store. In a mall. That I can go visit. And try on the clothes. Wa-hoo! I had to go see this marvel for myself, so I made the pilgrimage to the closest store in Tysons Corner, VA. I was beside myself with anticipation.

When I walked in, angels sang the Hallelujah Chorus. No one checked my I.D. at the door to see if I was a certifiable Tall Girl, but it was obvious that I fit in. Every woman there was an Amazon like me. I nodded regally to a few of them, acknowledging the sisterhood we shared. Then I got to work.

The racks were taller to accommodate longer pants. There were dresses, coats, skirts, jeans-- all the normal stuff but in my size! I could barely contain my glee as I explored the store's offerings. A few times I even got a little misty-eyed at the prospect of coming back each season. A winter coat that will go down to my wrists! Pajamas that keep my ankles warm! This was my Valhalla, my Utopia. The streets of heaven will be lined with 36" inseam pants!

Thank you, Tall Girl, for acknowledging my existence and my need to wear clothes.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

L'chaim, L'chaim, to Bingo!

Read my 60-second Esther story and the celebration of Purim if you want to get my silly references in this post.

Several weeks ago I attended my first elementary school bingo night with my seven-year-old, who desperately wanted to go. I did not feel the same way, but I obliged. The gym was packed to the gills with be-costumed children and parents who wore the same tolerant expression that I did.

One costume that I saw repeatedly was this pink and orange swirly, sequiny two-piece dress with a matching headscarf and white go-go boots. I saw this costume run past me repeatedly on girls of various shapes and sizes. What I also noticed was that it didn't quite cover all their strategic areas, so most girls had to wear both shorts and a t-shirt underneath this dress. Now, I am not a mother of daughters, so I could be wrong, but when you have to dress your child in an entirely additional outfit under their dress, MAYBE YOU SHOULD TRY A DIFFERENT COSTUME. Just sayin'.

It was a bizarre look. I heard someone ask what they were supposed to be, and a set of three identically dressed girls announced, "A hippie!" Huh. I don't remember this double-outfit trend (or sequins, for that matter) in any drug-addled war protest pictures I've seen. But I digress.

So the gym was packed with costumed kids hopped-up on sugar and ready to rumble in the bingo scene. We started into our first of ten games and it was eerily quiet. The letters and numbers would appear on the power point screen as the announcer called them out. My son was eating it up, sure he would win one of these games, the $100 grand prize, and the capacity to buy himself a huge Lego castle set.

Eventually someone announced a winning card, and as they ran to the front to confirm, the most bizarre thing happened. The gym erupted in the chant, "False alarm! False alarm!" They were stomping and clapping and rockin' the house. Now, it's been a while since I've attended a typical bingo night. But I don't think it's a stretch to say that the typical senior citizen attendees of said bingo nights would not be screaming fit to shake the gym down. The cacophony continued until the winner was announced or the player was sent back to his/her seat in disgrace for accidentally marking the wrong square.

As my ears rang at the end of every game, I was reminded of the Purim celebration-- a packed room, costumes, sugared-up kids, and people screaming to drown out the dreaded word. It was a flashback to my visit to the synagogue in Jerusalem. But this time, the only thing at stake was a Lego castle.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Walking for autism

You may have read some of my accounts of parenting an autistic child (such as the Waterford fair story.) Most of them detail struggles and worries. Yesterday, however, was a day of celebration and hope.

Our family participated in the Walk Now for Autism, a fundraising event that occurs all over the country at different times and in different cities. We live near Washington, D.C. Our local team was one of the largest to participate. We were blessed with beautiful weather, a huge crowd of participants, and lots of metropolitan police to block off strategic streets.

An event like this is certainly one to remember. Most parents of autistic children cringe at the idea of carting their children to a place with masses of people. Multiple unknown factors combined with unpredictable behaviors equals stressed out parents. But when everyone has a child like yours, it makes life a lot easier. My son is prone to sensory-seeking behaviors like bumping into random people, turning them into irritated random people. At the walk, all he got was smiles.

Looking around at the crowd truly sobered me. It was amazing to see so many people touched by autism. There were t-shirts of all colors, some detailing autism statistics (1 in 150 children,) some with pictures of a beloved child or adult, some with positive slogans or team names. I was so touched by the hopeful nature of this event that I spent most of the walk fighting back tears.

The most remarkable memory I will keep with me is that of the families. It was usually quite obvious who the autistic member of each family was. They were the ones who were in the middle, circled around by the rest of their family like satellites. They might be adults, teens, or toddlers, but their handicaps or challenges were quite apparent.

I looked at my family, and I realized that we are not the same as many others. Our autistic son is not immediately obvious to a casual observer. He looks "typical" (the academic word for what people would call "normal") and can hold a conversation most of the time. He can walk at a regular pace without assistance. His brain can process what people say and he can act on it.

The lesson: there is always someone with a tougher road than mine. I need to be grateful for what I have rather than what I don't.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

(Insert hop here)

When I was little, I had pet rabbits. Notice the plural. It started with one, then one more, and then... a deluge of baby rabbits. They were coming out of my ears. They pillaged the backyard of anything green up to 24" high. My parents were very patient, and that poor backyard has never quite recovered.

One of the things I loved about the rabbits was their random movements. They had bizarre little twitches that would hit out of the blue. Sometimes it was while they were stationary-- a random popcorn jump that would make me giggle. Sometimes it was while they were in motion. In midair, they would change direction 180 degrees and head back the other way. Those moments would send me, laughing, to the floor. I loved those fuzzy little puffballs all the more for it.

One of the conditions that some autistic children have is difficulty with sensory processing. It's like their brain struggles with properly digesting all the input that they receive from the world around them. One example is tickling.

You and I know that tickling is a form of socialization and friendly physical contact. But the nerve pathway that transmits tickling input also transmits pain input. In people who have sensory processing difficulties, their brains might tell them that the person who is playing with them is actually trying to hurt them. You can imagine the social and relational problems that would follow a pain- rather than a tickle-reaction.

My five-year-old struggles with sensory under-stimulation. He doesn't get the same input from everyday actions like you and I do. Walking, for example. To get the same amount of stimulation as a typical person, he would need to stomp, stomp, STOMP along. This sensory need leads to uncomfortable and sometimes embarrassing situations when we leave the house. He has created some coping mechanisms, some of which are socially unacceptable, and some of which are downright cute.

A recent addition to his repertoire is random hopping. Nothing elaborate, just a tiny hop. Sometimes he'll be standing nearby and I'll see him elevate for a moment. And sometimes it will be in the middle of a conversation.

"Mom, at school today, I used paints ^hop^
and made a pumpkin ^hop^
and it GOT ALL OVER MY ELBOW ^hop^ ^hop^."

This new habit of his is quite endearing. I hope he keeps it up for a while. It makes me want to hold him close and squeeze him tightly, a sensory experience that we both enjoy.


Friday, November 7, 2008

Sticks and snails and puppy dog tails

Just yesterday, I was discussing with fellow blogger Akaemi about how I prefer boys to girls. Now, I could be a little biased. But I declared to her, "I prefer dirt and ER visits to the emotional games that girls play." Boy, have I got to be more careful about what I say.

Before-school preparations consume my peak multi-tasking skills. I'm waking children, changing diapers, dressing children, checking homework folders, preparing breakfast, packing lunches, and trying to keep the house from burning down simultaneously. I've gotten pretty good at it. But I am not a superhero.

This morning I was helping my kindergartner put on his shoes while talking on the phone with my husband about paperwork. My two-year-old had just whomped me in the glasses with a large plastic stick and I think he was feeling guilty. So I didn't notice when he disappeared around the corner.

Suddenly I heard a cry. Not the "I hurt my foot" cry or the "my brother bonked me" cry. It was the "I'm really hurting so come to me right now" cry. And then he yelled out, "Dere's blood!" I hung up on my husband as I dashed into the kitchen. And he was right. There was blood. All over his hands. He held a knife in one hand while the other reached out to me pleadingly. The blood was already pooling on the floor. The poor penitent child had tried to help me slice an apple for the lunches.

I grabbed a paper towel and tried to staunch the flow. I checked his hand and saw just a slice across his index finger, but there was an alarming amount of blood. We soaked through one, two, three paper towels. I looked up at my other boys who were watching fearfully. I had to make a decision: take them with me to the doctor/hospital or send them off to the bus alone? My seven-year old helped put pressure on the wound while I finished packing their lunches and sent them out the door. He is my little hero, taking his autistic five-year-old brother to the bus for me so I could concentrate on the little one.

I finally stopped the bleeding and checked the wound. It was borderline stitch country. So I packed him off to the pediatrician. A nurse and a doctor both said he needed stitches, so I headed to the local pediatric ER. The nurse there wasn't sure and she brought in a doctor. He wasn't sure either so he brought in another doctor. All in all, it took one pediatric co-pay, one ER copay, and five medical professionals to decide that stitches were not an option. Apparently the skin on fingers heals differently than the rest of the body, especially on children. Plus, kids regenerate faster than a lizard's tail. They sent me home with a package of Steri-strips and a pat on the back.

After I strapped the little one into his car seat, I plunked down into my seat and heaved a great sigh. I was already exhausted at 9:00 in the morning. I turned to my freshly bandaged two-year-old and he smiled at me. Then he said,

"Thank you, mommy. Thank you."

Yep, I still prefer boys.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wisdom in a Rolling Stone

While excavating the top of our computer desk today, I came across a petrified cocoon. I suppose that if I could carbon-date the thing, I could tell you exactly how long it's been there. But I'm pretty sure it's from this past spring.

The neighborhood was lousy with brown and yellow-striped caterpillars. They were everywhere, in every form-- alive and unmolested, or captured by the local children, or squashed to oblivion by a passing bicycle tire. My gaggle of boys decided to bring one home-- "Can we keep it, mom?" I figured it wouldn't poop on the carpet so hey, why not. The caterpillar got a leaf, an orange slice, and a little plastic bug box on a corner of the kitchen counter. Then we did what little boys do oh, so well: we waited.

Several days into our vigil I noticed that the caterpillar was spinning threads in its box. We gathered round and watched the caterpillar systematically spin from one part of the box to another. But the boys' attention span was gone in a flash so I tucked him back into his corner. The finished cocoon was a lovely pale green. Again, we waited, for about two weeks. It was torture for the little ones. I kept reminding them of the beautiful butterfly that we would soon meet.

Finally I saw movement in the box and once again gathered them around. We leaned in closely, hoping to catch the first glimpse of new color and life. And then, AHHHHH! Repulsion! We all recoiled. Instead of a bright, slender butterfly there was a fat, hairy, monochromatic moth. The number of antennae was WAY past the legal limit. Worst of all, from my vantage point through the magnifying lens on top, the monstrosity looked like something one would find battling Godzilla in the streets of Tokyo. I nearly dropped the box.

I muttered some lame "nature is beautiful" excuse for the poor thing as my boys made their escape back to legos and playdough. Then I took our new houseguest and ushered him out to the front yard. He found a place amongst the sprouting mums by the window.

As I walked back inside, these lyrics ran through my head, "You can't always get what you want..."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Labor of love part deux

I started this train of thought here but didn't finish it due to the length of the post... or maybe it was because I fell asleep on the keyboard. I can't quite recall...

I'd been up to my elbows in fuzzy fleece and stringy thread and flimsy tissue paper patterns for the week leading up to Hallowe'en. My clothes have a fine film of fleecy lint. My contacts don't let me focus close-up so I looked like an old lady squinting at the sewing machine needle as it threaded. My fingers are cracked and raw. It was only out of love that I didn't chuck the whole project out the window.

It's safe to say that I put every effort into this last-minute project, and I learned many things:

1) Don't do this again.
2) If you do do this again, give yourself more time. And find a stress-management technique that doesn't require your hands or your pedal foot.
3) Making Hallowe'en costumes does not give you permission to yell at your two-year-old when he plays with the needles or spool YET AGAIN. Your baby is more important than your project.

I also learned to step back and look at the costumes through the eyes of my children. They had a vision. So did I. Mine involved perfect seams and adorable little details. Theirs involved becoming characters from t.v. that do wonderful, impossible things. My vision did not matter. Theirs did.

I won't remember every mistake I made on these costumes, but I'll tell you what I will remember: the way my seven-year-old's body language changed when I put on the last bit of his outfit. The way he darted around the house like a little platypus spy. And what is seared into my memory is the smile that shone on my five-year-old's face as I pulled the costume over his head. His pleasure at becoming Ferb in that moment. I rarely see such a smile.

All my insignificant perfectionist worries fell away and made me realize that it was, actually, all worth it. I hope some day my children will have the same attitude about me as they do their costumes. I have plenty of imperfections and missing details that they may overlook. But I do my best, and at the end of the day, I do it for love.

Monday, November 3, 2008

From the mouths of babes

My seven-year-old tumbled off the bus with an "I voted" sticker on his chest. His school had held a presidential election and he was jazzed about it. I asked him who he voted for and he proudly announced, "Obamu! Or however you say it."

As we walked home, I mused over the landmark nature of this election. Our country will finally have diversity in the Oval office, whether it be a woman or an African-American man. The issues are incredibly divisive. I'm not old enough to remember the world before Reagan. And I take much greater interest in international politics than domestic issues. But let's face it, you have to be living in a hole to not understand how the world is changing and how this election will break ground.

I also marveled at how my children's generation may finally be growing up blind to the color of skin. My parents tried to raise me that way, but I still learned racial slurs from others throughout my childhood. I do my best to teach my kids not just tolerance but love for the diversity of human beings on our sorry little planet. So I was thrilled to know that the color of Obama's skin gave my child nary a pause-- it wasn't even a factor.

Later, when we were alone, I asked him why he voted for Obama. I imagined something simple and profound that I could share with all of you. His response?

"Well, this girl Elaine in my class, she said that he will be really nice to the kids who get off the bus."

Ah, proof as to why you have to be eighteen to vote.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


You can read my summary of the Purim story here.

Purim is celebrated in the Jewish synagogue. Since one of the underlying themes of the story is "people are not always what they seem," many Jews wear costumes for the holiday (quite a few also get extraordinarily drunk, but I digress.) Some dress up as characters from the story, others simply dress up. And then there are the Americans.

There are a lot of American Jews living in Jerusalem. I attended a local synagogue for Purim that was largely attended by Americans. It looked... just like Hallowe'en (minus the glut of candy.) There were clowns and cowboys and railroad engineers. I heard people speaking American English everywhere. It was strange.

Jews commemorate the story of Purim by listening to the story as it's read aloud, in a sing-song chant called cantillation that I find haunting and exotic. Everyone sits and enjoys the story until the reader says the name "Haman." And then...


The entire synagogue erupts in a startling cacophony of sound. I was caught off-guard, though not surprised. It's just that I don't speak a whole lot of Hebrew and I wasn't keeping up very well with the reading. I glanced around, wide-eyed and smiling as I understood that the pandemonium was just part of the ritual.

The idea is to obliterate the name of evil, namely Haman. So you stomp and clap and scream your heart out at each and every mention of his name. It makes for a long night.

As a side note, there is a neat little cookie they serve just on this holiday. They are called Hamantashen, or Haman's ears. It's a circle folded in on itself so it has three points, and it's filled with fruit preserves or seeds and nuts. Apparently the cannibalistic overtones of this tasty little snack don't seem to bother many (or they're too drunk to care.)

Labor of love

My recent escapade to create a costume for my seven-year-old has really started me thinking. Thanks to two fellow bloggers, Shelli and Akaemi (both of whom live on my street... I really need to get out more,) I was able to finish nearly everyone's costume in time for the Hallowe'en frivolities.

I completed the Perry the Platypus costume just in time for our church Hallowe'en party. And since I'm a glutton for punishment, and a sucker for my five-year-old's long dark eyelashes, I agreed to make a Ferb costume (another character from Phineas and Ferb.) One more trip to the fabric store. And more head-banging on the steering wheel, "What am I THINKING??? I don't have time or brain power for this!!!" I've been using Akaemi's sewing machine, which is missing its regular sewing foot (imagine that it holds the fabric against the machine) so I've used the zipper foot (yeah, meant for zippers!) instead. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Then I discover that the white thread I was planning to use was not the right kind. Shelli lends me this MASSIVE spool of white thread for people who know what they are doing. Sadly, I do not, and the little machine did not have a place for the spool. So I MacGyvered a contraption on top of the machine using parts from a broken-down Jelly Belly dispenser. My baby brother would be proud-- he's going to be a mechanical engineer when he grows up.

I finished the Ferb costume a few hours before dark. Then, of course, to complete the entourage, I HAD to make sure that Ferb's brother, Phineas, was well-represented. AAARGH! This time it was fanatical desperation. I cut out strips of orange fabric and basted (wanna-be stitched) the strips onto a white shirt. Combine it with a pair of jeans and Ta-DAA! Hey, the kid is two years old. He doesn't care.

My only regret is that I did not finish my husband's costume in time. He was going to wear a lab coat and be Perry's nemesis Dr. Doofenshmirtz. But I AM NOT A SUPERHERO and I did not get it done in time. Some day I will learn.