Never miss a post! Subscribe to Busy Since Birth by entering your email address below.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Crash

So, the car accident. I've been trying to find a way to write about it for the past two weeks since it happened, and it just wasn't coming to me. I don't want to write about the specifics, though I am incredibly grateful that we all came out of it mostly unharmed. I don't want to talk about how getting in an accident was one of my biggest fears in life, and how I was an emotional mess for a good week afterward. I don't want to talk about the stress of dealing with the car repairs and insurance.

And it finally dawned on me that what I do want to write about is the supportive community that my family and I have built around us. Of course there are the family members, particularly our parents, who care so much, but it's truly amazing how many people in our lives care about what happens to us. Many of our neighbors reached out to help in the immediate moments after the crash. Friends I haven't seen since high school and Twitter pals I haven't met in person sent messages along, and many others sent offers to help.

The last couple of months have been tough for me. There have been good moments, but coping with the new issues related to my diabetes, and then Hannah having a rough few weeks with various issues, Marc being extra busy at work, and Max just being Max - it's been a lot. The car accident, in a strange way, felt like the one final thing that needed to happen and cap off this difficult period. Since then, things seem to have calmed down. Life has been going along as planned. We've gone to work and school. We've attended wonderful holiday parties with friends and neighbors, and a particularly amazing Hanukkah party at Temple Emanuel. I'm looking ahead to the next couple of long weekends with unplanned days in store, and can't wait to celebrate Max and Hannah's upcoming birthdays.

So thanks to all of you who have checked in on me. I really appreciate it, and wish you a very special holiday season and all the best in 2012.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The December Non-Dilemma



Originally posted here.

Well, folks, it's that time of year again.

No, silly, not *that* time of year. You know, it's the time for "we celebrate Hanukkah and I'm worried my kid might be traumatized that it's not as good as Christmas!" articles to start popping up all over the landscape. And believe me, there was a time when I worried over exactly the same thing.

There's a compulsive need to make certain your child isn't missing out on anything, and let's face it, it doesn't get any bigger than Christmas. From lights on houses, to friendly customer service people, and of course TV galore, Christmas is everywhere, and your child could easily feel left out.

Hanukkah commemorates a military victory, and by definition, is a more minor holiday in the Jewish calendar. There are lots of amazing traditions to enjoy as a family, from menorah lighting to dreidel spinning and latke eating. And yes, in our family, there is a lot of gift receiving too. It's eight days I look forward to celebrating all year, but we don't celebrate it trying to out-do or even match the spirit of Christmas.

We enjoy celebrating Hanukkah because we enjoy all of what being Jewish means. As a family, Marc and I have tried to imbue observing Judaism with a sense of joy and purpose. We celebrate Shabbat every week, but more than that we talk about Jewish things all the time. We read books and sing songs and keep a Kosher(ish) home. We look forward to holidays year-round, planning costumes for Purim, meals for Passover and sending cards for Rosh Hashanah with that the same enthusiasm we have for lighting the chanukiah. We seek out Jewish experiences to give our children, from preschool and summer camp to films and museums. We talk about the Holocaust, and we talk about Israel. Importantly, we talk about how fun it is to celebrate alongside our friends and family, especially those with beliefs and traditions different from our own.

If you feel your kids are missing out on Christmas, maybe they're really missing out on religion. Religion isn't just about being anti-commercial and not having any fun. Maybe that worked for our Puritan forebears here in New England, but it's not especially Jewish, and it's definitely not the way to get your kids turned on. A big part of Judaism is finding joy and celebration in life. Jews invented dreidels, after all--we're not against giving kids toys! As parents, we don't want to spoil our kids all year, but we want to buy them things sometimes. So, they get Hanukkah presents. Better that they should hear "you're so lucky you get eight nights of presents" than think they're unlucky not to get one visit from Santa.

Hannah is nearly eight years old, and last night, completely on her own, she sat down to write and color the above picture. The text reads (with my corrections), "I love Hanukkah! It gives me hope and joy. Lighting the chanukiah and saying the blessings. Eating latkes with apple sauce and sour cream. Playing dreidel, "shin" put some in. Eating jelly donuts with strawberry jelly. It's all fun."

Hanukkah is one small part of Judaism and hoping it can eclipse Christmas is setting one's self up for failure. But if you allow Judaism to have a bigger role in your life all the time, the Christmas season can seem to pale in comparison.

(And yes, that's a plate of vegetables in that Hanukkah picture. Clearly, we're doing a lot of things right!)

Marc Stober contributed to this post.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Transportation Benefits: Not So Much



It's time for a rare political rant here on The Life of LilMisBusy. I'm not an expert on the issue, but something about this struck me as odd.

When I received my firm's Open Enrollment package a week ago, I noticed that the benefit on transit passes was being reduced while the benefit for parking was increasing. I've done a bit of digging to discover that these are called "Qualified Transportation Fringe Benefits" and the limits were set at $230/month for both transit passes and parking during the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, signed by President Obama in 2009. However, the benefit on transit passes was apparently temporary, and is being cut back to $125/month in January. Meanwhile, the benefit for parking is getting a cost of living adjustment (COLA) and increasing to $240/month.

Now, as annoying as my Green Line train can be, I'm VERY lucky that my transit pass is only $59/month, and I won't be affected by the limit decrease. At least, it seems that way from the outset. But maybe some of my neighbors in Needham, wanting to avoid that extra bit of taxation, will switch and start taking the Green Line too, since their monthly commuter rail pass is $151/month. Or maybe some friends in Framingham will start driving to Riverside to escape their $210/month pass. Hey, let's throw in some extra passengers from Fitchburg or Worcester too, with their $250/month fee. Suddenly my already over-capacity train is feeling even more crowded. (Oh, and the MBTA is planning to, and should, increase its rates this summer, right?)

But parking, which typically serves just one person, which is more harmful to the environment, which if you're able to spend that much cash on means you're probably doing pretty well, that gets the COLA?

I'm not against raising taxes in general, but this plan? This is completely backwards. And I haven't heard anyone talking about it.

Sources:
https://www.payflex.com/mypayflex/
http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=205664,00.html
http://adminproadvantage.com/index.php/news/73-irs-releases-2012-transportation-fringe-benefits-limits.html
http://mbta.com/ (including image of the commuter rail map)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

From Montreal to Cleveland and Back Again

The last three weeks have flown by. Here's what we've been up to:

- Marc and I took a much anticipated long weekend away from the kids and went to Montreal. I was really looking forward to going there for the first time, and Marc hadn't been in a very long time. Marc and I really enjoy road trips, so driving there was part of the fun for us. We stayed at the Intercontinental Hotel, which was lovely, and enjoyed just walking around the city and eating a lot. I think our favorite stop was for dessert at a place called Rockaberry, which had fabulous pie. I used my Rachael Ray-patented trick from her old show "$40 a Day" where she'd ask the locals where to go, and a friendly waiter at Schwartz's gave us that yummy suggestion. Thanks to Fillis and John for baby-sitting!



- While still wearing her cast, Hannah visited the eye doctor for the first time, and is now the proud wearer of glasses. She mostly needs to wear them at school, since her prescription is relatively minor, but she immediately noticed a difference. Everyone remarks about what they can see for the first time once they'd gotten their glasses, and for Hannah it was individual pebbles on the ground, and small lines making up the printing on a sign. She picked out a very stylish pair, too. Hannah has one more big update: she'll be spending two weeks at Camp Yavneh (overnight camp) this summer! She is very excited about that.



- Max's latest major obsession is letters. Writing them, reading them, playing games with them, it doesn't matter, he's all about it. He's a big fan of making us guess something by saying "It's starts with a..." and then making the sound. At school, he enjoys playing a game where they say two-word combinations and then take one off ("Say firetruck. Now don't say fire. Truck!"). He can identify many letters and is starting to accurately write them too. It's such a fun process to watch.



- Of course, no update would be complete without the latest Temple Emanuel news. Marc spent a Sunday morning as greeter at the Java Gate Cafe while I attended Hannah's religious school conference and we both tried to keep Max entertained. Later that afternoon, I met with Julie to learn the Share a Shabbat process (we'll miss you, Chivo family!), as I'll be in charge of that endeavor this year. And finally, we are contemplating joining our synagogue for a Family Mission to Israel this summer. All fun and exciting!

- Finally, we spent a really wonderful Thanksgiving weekend in Cleveland with my Mom, Dad, Ryan and Allison. We ate lots of great food, enjoyed wandering through Legacy Village without wearing our coats, and saw the new Muppets movie together. Plus there was lots of time in my parents new house, which accommodated all eight of us very well. The kids had a ball playing with the racetrack Grandma bought for them, and we spent a lot of time looking at Ryan and Allison's gorgeous wedding photos up on the big screen TV. Plus, Marc and I had fun catching up with Betsy and Bill over coffee. Thanks Mom and Dad for having us - please come to Boston soon!



So now we're back home and a crazy December is about to begin. Hannah should be getting her cast off in the morning. We're looking ahead to many parties in the coming month, plus the kids birthdays in January. Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that you've got a fun month planned too!

Continuous Glucose Monitoring: One Month In

So for those of you keeping track at home, it's been just over a month since I started using my CGM. And no, I haven't been sailing yet.



I just wish that box has contained the keys to my yacht and not an insulin pump, but alas.

You might remember that I was fairly nervous about all this, but it has gone remarkably well. I spent an hour and a half getting trained on how to use everything, and how to change my sensor location every three days. It was a lot to take in, and I was very grateful for my more visual and technical husband when it came time to insert the sensor on my own for the first time. I've got the details of that (thankfully, pain-free) process down now, but it doesn't always go smoothly. Since I'm not using the insulin pump, I'm not physically tethered to anything, but if I'm apart from the pump for about 30 minutes, an alarm will go off. So the pump is always on my person, usually in my pants pocket. (Side note: am now on a quest for more pants with pockets.)

There's also a lot of STUFF required with all this. I am constantly restocking my needles and testing supplies, since I'm still required to test at least three times a day, plus five insulin shots a day. I'm fortunate to have access to three month prescriptions, but that means boxes and boxes of needles, lancets, test strips, sensors, surgical tape, alcohol wipes, and of course, insulin. I haven't figured out where to store it all yet.

BUT. The information. It is so, so much information. At times, it's completely overwhelming to know what my glucose level is 24/7. It's infuriating to see high numbers when I think I've been eating well or exercising. And yet, it's totally amazing that this little thing is figuring me out all the time too. I finally can see the times my blood sugar is rising all on it's own, and figure out how to cut off those highs. My AMAZING doctor is totally convinced we will solve the puzzle of my body and how best to treat it. We've been tweaking my insulin a lot over the last few weeks, adding shots at different times and reducing other ones. It's ever-changing and variable, but I know CGM will be an excellent tool in decoding just what's going on. It's also a great safety net, sounding alarms when I get too low, which is a frequent issue for me at night.

Finally, thinking so much about diabetes has made me look for other resources to compare experiences, and of course I found those on Twitter. I've found some great people to follow and it's been really helpful for feeling a bit less frustrated with this journey. When I see other people posting crazy results or combating lows, I know I'm not the only one dealing with it.

So that's why I'm posting all this - in the hopes that some newbie out there will find it some day and get a more detailed account from a real person of what CGM is all about, at least so far for me. If you have a question on any of it, feel free to ask me in the comments.

And yea, no sailing, but maybe this guy is more my speed anyway.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Triage

During my freshman year of college, I took a 110 hour training course to become the most basic level of a licensed Emergency Medical Technician (hi, old BEMCO friends!). When I signed up, I'd been pre-med, but so was 2/3 of the Brandeis Class of 2000, and by the time the class started, I'd moved on to economics. But I followed through with the class and licensing anyway, and used my training in a very limited way while on campus.

I knew, however, that I wasn't going to hack it as a "real" EMT when I discovered the concept of triage. Our book said the concept originated with the French, and the translation of the word was "to sort." I was horrified by the idea that I'd be responding to some major disaster and have to determine who would get help and who would have to wait, and really, who was beyond help and would have to be passed over. The idea has stuck with me, and while I'm not responding as an EMT, my life often feels like a constant triage.

Yesterday afternoon I got a call at work that Hannah had fallen and hurt her wrist badly. I quickly called Marc and the pediatrician, told my boss I was leaving and made it home on the T in record time. Marc and I took Hannah to one hospital for x-rays, then went to the pediatrician, and eventually ended up at Children's Hospital to get 3/4 of her arm casted in a bright green hue. Hannah was such a trooper - she didn't cry much after I arrived, and complied with all that was asked of her. It was a very late night, but she still got up and went to school on time today and in a good mood. She's even given Marc and me her blessing to continue on to our planned trip to Montreal this weekend.

The triage yesterday was totally obvious - Hannah gets highest priority (while still taking care of Max, of course). Work emails could wait until I got home at 10 pm. I stayed home from work today, and scheduled the follow up appointment, as well as a first visit to the eye doctor after the pediatrician confirmed yesterday that was needed yesterday (yes, I do think this is all related). And now I'm going through all of the rest of what needs to be done today, making all of the millions of little decisions that add up to a life lived.

If you ask me (and it's my blog anyway), I think I stayed remarkably calm through all of this. I think I'm pretty reliable in a crisis, even if it means my adrenaline shoots through the roof and keeps me awake for hours afterward, replaying the entire episode. I never imagined I'd think back on the triage concept as often as I do, but maybe I would have made a good EMT after all. Or maybe it was the best training I could have gotten for the life I'm living anyway.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On a Lighter Note

Here are some of the fun things making me happy recently:

- Hannah went to a play date with four other kids from her class where they filmed a "movie." The mom in charge is still editing it, but I'm told one of the kids was a dog for most of the filming, and that there was a "dance club scene." I'm really looking forward to seeing that.
- Sunday night we went to the Hanover Theater in Worcester to see Cathy Rigby is "Peter Pan." The kids have watched this version of the show many, many times on Netflix On Demand, and I couldn't resist getting tickets to see it in person. Cathy Rigby was amazing, and it's just such a fun performance. It was Max's first big show, and he behaved really well. Which means I'll want to get him tickets to see Mary Poppins the next time that's in town.
- Halloween went really well this year, especially compared to last year's double fever edition, when neither kid got to go out for trick-or-treating. Hannah was a "rock n' roll witch" and Max was the lead character from the PBS Kid's show "Super Why." Both of them really liked their costumes, which always helps. We went to the Bowen Elementary School Halloween party on Friday night, and then last night I left work early to take them to the village and around our street. The kids also painted their pumpkins this year.
- On a totally silly note, my Mom bought me a pair of Uggs for my birthday, and I'm just breaking them in today. I have wanted a pair for a really long time, thinking they must be worth all the fuss or they would have stopped selling them years ago. They really are super warm and comfortable.
- I'm really enjoying the new Coldplay album. Jennifer Weiner has a new short story out that I'm planning to read soon. And Mindy Kaling's new book is high on my list to start too. And there's a new episode of Glee tonight featuring my favorite guy from The Glee Project.

What's been making you happy?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

34 (A New Diagnosis)

I turned 34 last week. Thirty-four isn't worth a lot of fanfare, but it was a pretty nice birthday. I got some wonderful gifts this year, all things I wanted, nothing I truly needed. I recognize how very fortunate I am to be in that position, to be able to get things off of the "it would be nice to have..." list. Despite us being very well off, I'm not very good at doing or buying the things I need just for me, especially the extras. But this year, I felt I really need to treat myself well.

It's not something I talk about much, but I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes at 24. Over the years I've tried a few different medications, and was on insulin throughout both of my pregnancies. I am by no means a good patient. I always take my meds, but I haven't always been very careful about what I eat, and I don't test my glucose levels as often as I could. Many days, other than when I was pregnant, I didn't give it a lot of thought. When I did try to be "good," I'd often have a middle of the night awful episode of low blood sugar. Plus it's not like I haven't had other medical issues that took up more of my time - not being able to walk trumps glucose levels (which were actually very good during that time, since I wasn't able to get myself food very easily).

A couple of weeks ago, I had a new blood test done, and it revealed that instead of Type II I have what's referred to as Type 1.5, or latent autoimmune diabetes of adults (LADA). I'm not an expert, but basically it means that my pancreas doesn't work. As the link above says, "simply stated, autoimmune disorders, including LADA, are an "allergy to self.”" For years, I have blamed myself for not trying hard enough, not having enough will power, to just eat better, exercise more, and make the diabetes go away. I always thought that when Max turned three, I'd make my efforts to get better (and I have, with this whole gym thing). Now my doctor has said I can stop beating myself up, that's it's not going to happen.

It's been pretty devastating news to receive. I know there are many, many worse things that can happen in life, that this is just a tweak to what I already knew, but it's still hard to hear "this is forever" rather than hold that hope alive that it wasn't for the rest of my life. I just always assumed that some day I'd be done with this.

So I've had the last few weeks to process this information and get ready for the next phase of tackling it. Later this week I'll be getting a continuous glucose monitor to use in tracking my blood sugar levels at all times. It requires inserting something under the skin of my stomach, and I'll be wearing a device that resembles a pager to track it all. It's actually a really cool technology, and should help give me better information to modulate my medications as needed. And it comes in a purple case, so you can't beat that. I'm doing insulin shots with meals in addition to my long-acting nighttime insulin, and depending on how things go with the monitor, I will consider the possibility of adding an insulin pump. But one thing at a time - this one change is overwhelming enough. But as my friend Stephanie said, today it seems like a mountain. Soon, it will just seem like a blip on the radar.

Did I need some treats to make me feel better as I faced this? Absolutely. Was it better to buy a new watch than eat an extra slice of birthday cake? Definitely.

It's funny, but you (or at least I) look back at your life and see the blessings and challenges that each year held: first full time job at 22, married at 24, baby #1 at 26, finished graduate degree at 28, baby #2 at 30, back surgery at 32. Thirty-four is starting off this way. Hopefully, I'll be able to look back and see that this wasn't the defining moment, even if it feels that way now.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Catching Up and Slowing Down

Well, my faithful handful of readers, I only managed to blog twice last month, so this is one of my catch up posts. September was a difficult, ass-kicking month for me. It seemed everything needed doing and usually at the same time.

The kids went back to school and all is going well so far. Hannah likes her teachers and is keeping up with all of the new homework demands this year. Most of her homework is done on the computer, which can be a bit complicated because she doesn't have much computer knowledge yet (lots of "Help, I clicked the wrong thing!"), but she's doing a good job with it. She started piano lessons, and is taking swim lessons instead of karate for now. Hebrew school is also two days a week now, often with its own homework component too. Max is happy in Room K Koalas, and we're hearing more and more about how he's spending his days. He got to be Shabbat Helper last week, which is always a highlight for him, and seems intrigued by their new class pets: a bunch of worms that they'll follow through the year.

Work has been incredibly busy, but we were excited to see our new fund launch at the end of September. We have had an institutional product for a long time, but this is our team's first foray into the retail market, and it's very exciting. It's been very interesting to see all that goes into a fund launch, since I've never been on that side before, and a challenge to add all of that on to my normal responsibilities.

We're also in the middle of the month of Jewish holidays that come every fall. We spent Rosh Hashanah in Newton, with Marc cooking two really nice meals, and we had a great time on the second day with the Weitzman family. After a chaotic day we made it to Hartford to spend Yom Kippur with Marc's family, and while it wasn't the smoothest trip, we had a great time being together. We put up our sukkah last weekend and are looking forward to having lots of people over to join us in it this Saturday afternoon.

After going weekly for the past couple of months, I am no longer going to physical therapy and have resumed going to the gym and working out on my own. My therapist was able to quantify my improvement, and I'm no longer as scared of hurting myself when moving my body. I even made it to the gym three times in a week once, which was my goal when I started working out in March (though I haven't done it again, 2x a week seems like the most I can do right now). It's getting easier, and I'm hoping to stick with it.

And in the midst of all this, there's been lots more. A couple of birthday parties, plus celebrating Marc's birthday one Shabbat evening. The annual Temple Emanuel BBQ. Back to school nights. Apple picking at Tougas Farm. Touch-a-Truck. The Lion King in 3D. Yo Gabba Gabba Live in Concert. Dinner out with Room K parents. Taking both kids to the dentist. Thankfully, this all didn't happen on the same day, though sometimes, it felt like it did.

But I did manage to carve out some downtime in the last few weeks, if you can believe it, and I realized that I'm really no good with downtime. With too much of it, I get depressed and anxious, or all wound up trying to figure out plans for next summer. It's just easier to always be doing something.

Which is probably why I have three parties on the calendar for this Sunday.

So what have you been up to?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Yea, I Kinda "Know How She Does It"

SPOILER ALERT: This contains some details from the movie, including the ending. If you don't want to know, don't read on!

This weekend the movie version of the book "I Don't Know How She Does It," by Allison Pearson, was released, starring Sarah Jessica Parker. The film depicted SJP as a married financial analyst living in Boston with a young daughter and son, and her struggles to keep up with all of the demands (sometimes self-imposed) that those roles entail.

Gee, I just don't have any clue at all *how* she does it.

Or as my friend Jenny said, perhaps I was the inspiration for it all.

But no, the book came out in 2002 - two years before Hannah was born. It appears that I read the book then too, since I own the hardcover copy, and had started my MBA in January of 2003 (and got pregnant in May of 2003), so chances are I wasn't reading anything for pleasure at that time.

I remember reading it, and being a bit scared about how I would some day balance it all myself. The book takes place in London, and harried doesn't begin to describe lead character Kate Reddy's existence. There is never enough time for her marriage, she frets about not knowing the extensive details of her children's lives, has a complicated relationship with her nanny, and fights to be taken seriously in the office. Each chapter ends with her list of things to remember, which keep her up late at night.

But without yet having children myself, well, I couldn't possibly know just how much I would come to identify with Kate. Keeping track of the treasured comfort item, planning birthday parties, Power Point slides on daily average liquidity, kids obsessed with Mary Poppins - none of that had happened to me yet. But boy, has it happened. In an episode of the book I'd forgotten, Kate's daughter pushes her to read the book "Little Miss Busy" to her one evening at bedtime, and that book influenced my chat screen name being LilMisBusy when Marc and I met back in 1999, it's a theme I've kept up with for a long time now, and must have laughed at reading it at the time.

Having the movie set in Boston took all of the coincidences to another level. Of course there were many landmarks I recognized (and I think the entire audience snickered at the very fake "Boston Children's Hospital" edifice), though we never once saw SJP descend into the T on those stiletto heels. Near the start of the movie, her toddler son crawls in bed with her in the morning, and she sings "I Love You, a Bushel and a Peck" to him, and that was sung to me, and I have often sung it to Hannah and Max. Before the movie began, I had discussed a recent work issue with Stephanie, and an incredibly similar one was mentioned in the film. So yea, it was a lot like my own life, but with fewer high heels, and bosses who look nothing like Pierce Brosnan (sorry, guys).

So being a book and a movie, neat and tidy endings are required. In the book, Kate eventually quits her job, sells her house in the city, and spends a lot more time with her husband and kids, but shows an inkling towards going back to work in some capacity. In the movie (and perhaps owing to today's economic realities), Kate keeps her job but seems to get a bit more flexibility after having a major office success. She basically admits that life will always be crazy, but says she'll try harder to slow down.

With so many similarities, I can't help but compare where I'm at with the book and film. I may be kidding myself, but I don't think my life is as chaotic as Kate's, particularly because I don't have to travel for my job. I did get the flexibility I needed this year with my one day a week working at home, and it has had a profound impact on my stress level. As the kids are getting a little older, some things are easier. And I recognize how fortunate we are that we're not dealing with some of the major issues that affect so many and can completely derail what you had expected out of life. But at times I am truly overwhelmed and feel like I'm drowning.

And yet there are entire spheres of life that I just don't handle. Marc is completely responsible for all things car and landscaping-related. Anything needing fixing or building is also his domain. I am house-blind to a certain degree as well. If you calculate the number of drop-offs and pick-ups as 10 per week per kid, Marc generally does 13 out of 20. He is largely responsible for all food-related activities too, and the list goes on. So in my mind, that's not me "doing it all." That's having a very committed partner who makes it possible to do the rest of it. Hopefully he'd say the same about me.

But I do feel like I successfully juggle an awful lot of things, and manage to keep my husband, children, extended family and bosses reasonably happy with the job I do. Often, I'm happy with multiple pieces of the juggle at the same time! Every day is different, and there are some days where "doing it all" works out a lot better than others, but I'm not sure I could do it any other way. I know that giving up any of the pieces wouldn't make me a better person. So the challenge in life continues to be adding more pieces to the puzzle - time to exercise, more time with friends, even more time writing here - while still keeping the other pieces together.

Does anyone have a book on that?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thoughts on the Tenth Anniversary of 9/11/01

I wasn't there, and I have no delusions that my perspective on today is worth anything to anyone but myself. So please feel free to skip this post if you're avoiding this topic today. I get it, and part of me is avoiding it too.

But I felt compelled to write something today, and I'm ignoring the challah crumbs all over the floor of my house to find a few minutes and write this. I can't believe it's been 10 years. In the days after I can actually remember thinking about what the tenth anniversary of this tragedy would be like. Would that compulsion to help others, and the pride everyone exhibited toward our country, still be such a prominent part of life? I doubted it, and unfortunately, I think I was right about that.

I've written before about my experiences that day, and reading many others stories in the last few weeks has crystallized a few things for me. The fact that strikes me first is that I'm still very much in love with Marc. I remember how angry at him I was that day when we were all walking home from work and I couldn't find him. Clearly, I wouldn't have been that angry if I didn't love him that much, and I know that ten years later, I would still feel just as angry.

I've been thinking about the day in the context of my children too. Max is still too young, but we've had some preliminary conversations with Hannah on the topic. But then I'm reminded how young she is too - almost eight, yet still innocent about so many things. You try to bring the threads together. She knows soldiers fight in Afghanistan, but she doesn't really know why. She knows people died, but she doesn't know why I put our flag up on the house today. I read somewhere that you should tell children that "some people did a bad thing," instead of saying they were "bad guys." I'm struggling about how to explain it all to her, so instead we left it open - if you hear something, or have a question, feel free to ask us. I'm trying to limit the discussion to only what she wants to know.

Today we're spending a lot of time at our synagogue. Before the start of religious school this morning, a ceremony was held outdoors, the shofar sounded, the Kaddish recited. This afternoon we'll be having our annual community BBQ, an event I've helped organize for the last few years. The Shabbat after 9/11 Marc and I visited a new synagogue for the first time, where a friend had gotten us tickets to spend the upcoming High Holidays. It wasn't the right place for us, but it was still comforting to be within a community at that time. Ten years later, it is an entirely different emotion to be among friends and feel at home within our synagogue, and I am grateful for that.

My anxieties about 9/11 have also evolved and caught up to the present day. Last night I barely slept, filled with nightmares about similar events happening now, in my office tower, with my family and friends affected. They are paralyzing thoughts, even when I consider how remote the odds are. And so I read the stories, and think about all those affected, and pray for all those who are suffering today and every day because of this senseless tragedy.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Summer's End

I can't believe it's August 31st. This summer has gone by all too quickly. Here are some updates from the last few weeks.

- Hannah and Max finished up the last few weeks of camp, and both of them had a great time this summer. Hannah portrayed a royal window washer in "The Queen Who Always Wanted to Dance" for her Arts Nite. She got to dramatically scream and fall down on stage, which I think she really enjoyed. Her group also danced to ABBA's "Dancing Queen" and both kids had their own dance party to the same song at home the following night. Thankfully, Max was very well behaved for Arts Nite too. I was very worried about the summer for him, as last summer at school didn't go very well. Despite being away from many of his friends in a new class, he seemed to really fall right into the new group and enjoyed all of the special activities at camp, such as a magician and petting zoos.
- Swimming has also been a big deal for the kids this summer. Hannah passed both the 4' and 9' swim tests, and proudly wore her bracelets all summer, even when she was nowhere near the pool. Max can now do "pizza arms" ("cut it, spread it, eat it!") and has complete confidence in the pool, even though he still doesn't really know how to keep himself afloat. I had a great time taking them to the outdoor pool last week, and Hannah had a fun play date there with her camp friend Olivia.
- We also had a fun play date with Hannah's oldest friend, Anais, and her little brother Max and mom Rana. Every time we get together it's like a triple play date, since we all get to enjoy being with someone. The girls have been friends since they were two and started at Gan Yeladim, and while we don't see them often enough, it's always great when we do get together.
- Somehow, I've had the opportunity to take care of myself more than usual in these last few weeks. First I got a much needed haircut, and it's a lot shorter than I usually go. I've been getting lots of compliments on it, but I'm pretty anxious for it to grow out a bit. I used a LivingSocial coupon for a mani/pedi, and tried out a Jelly Pedi. I'm not sure if it made a big difference on my feet, but it was definitely interesting. I also went for a massage, but while I was there I canceled my membership. I have been finding less and less time to go there, and I'm not sure it's worth the money right now.
- We were incredibly fortunate to be spared any major damage during Hurricane Irene, which had been downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it got to us. We never lost power, and only suffered from being stir crazy. I, for one, am perfectly fine with the level of hype the media allowed before the storm, and when I see the devastation it wrought on others (like the mama bird diaries, who I've been reading for years), it shows just what a difference it can make to have taken those precautions.
- Despite a hurricane-delayed start, the kids have been at "Camp Grandma" in Connecticut since Monday, and are coming home tonight. Marc and I have gone out to dinner twice (the Met Bar and Grill and Fiorella's) and saw a movie, and even accompanied each other on walks to the village. The break has been good for all of us, but I am very ready to hug and kiss the kids tonight.

There's just a few days left until school starts up again on Tuesday. Max will be in the same classroom, so hopefully there won't be much change for him, though he'll miss having Hannah at the JCC with him. Hannah starts second grade in a new co-taught classroom, with many of her good friends in the class with her. She's also particularly excited because this classroom is the only one in the building with air conditioning! We will go visit the class tomorrow. We have plans to go to a couple museums this weekend, and Marc is taking me to a Matisyahu concert on Saturday night. I think I'll also be seeing two other movies out with friends, so three movies in one week will probably fill my quota for the year!

I hope you've all been enjoying these final not-so-lazy days of summer!

Friday, August 26, 2011

An Update From The Back

Faithful readers might remember that last spring I decided it was finally time to get myself together and start exercising. I wrote that post on May 8, a couple of months after I began seeing a personal trainer and in the middle of a few hectic weekends. By May 14, The Back was out again.

So after getting The Back as close to normal again and going out to California, in the last few weeks I've begun seeing a physical therapist to help prevent another painful episode. So far, it's been challenging. The exercises themselves don't seem that bad, and yet they end up bothering me. I am trying to strengthen my back so that I can get back to regular exercise without harming myself, but it's also a mental challenge. Twisting is not my friend - it was a bad twist that set off my left side and resulted in two months of not being able to walk. I have a hard time not flashing back to that moment, as it is seared in my memory, and the nerves in my legs and feet remember it well too. So when my therapist added some twists to my routine in the last week, I've really been feeling it. These thirty minutes of exercise are completely exhausting too. I'm not getting that energized feeling from exercising; I'm getting the "oh my goodness I need to go to bed early" feeling.

I have no idea if it's helping yet, but I will stick with it and hopefully see some results. I don't want to spend the rest of my life accommodating The Back in every way - looking for chairs with arms, keeping one hand on the counter as I load the dishwasher, trying to avoid carrying anything at all. It's so draining to be constantly aware of how I could hurt myself, and so I hope at some point I can re-train my brain not to expect pain, but instead to swiftly do the activity as I would have before all this started.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Debbie Gibson and Tiffany: Journey Through the '80's!



Last weekend I got to live out a childhood dream - I saw Tiffany and Debbie Gibson in concert.

Now, lest you think I was a deprived child, I was anything but. I saw Madonna in third grade. The Jets, Paula Abdul, Kenny Loggins, Richard Marx, Dan Fogelberg, Styx, the Beach Boys, Chicago, America, and probably a few others I can't remember at the moment, plus lots of Broadway shows once I got into those. But somehow, I never made it to the mall when Tiffany was in town. I've watched both of their careers from the sidelines over the years, and now they're capitalizing on a wave of '80's nostalgia and touring together.

Helping me to keep up with my zest for all things pop culture is New York Magazine's Vulture feature. They posted this video of the duo appearing on The View, and I went on to post it on facebook (I have to resist the impulse to post a great deal of material I find on Vulture - you really should check it out.) I couldn't find any tour dates at first, but within six minutes my college friend Michael said that they were performing at the North Shore Music Theater in just a few days! His friend had won tickets at drag queen bingo (of course) and he was going to the show.

I'm not an impulse person. Yet the tables turned quickly, and within 24 hours I'd convinced Marc to come with me and found a sitter for the kids. It was all meant to be.

The show was fantastic. I'd never been to the venue before, and was surprised to find out that it was theater-in-the-round, and we had seats in the fifth row. People were dressed in '80's garb, neon and puffy paint, some wearing shirts from the original concert tours. Tiffany and Debbie Gibson first got on stage together, and sang a couple of hits from the '80's, including Toni Basil's "Mickey." Then Tiffany got the stage to herself for a while, and this is when their true personalities began to emerge. Tiffany attempted a Stevie Nicks song, and well, it sounded really bad. But she seemed to know it, and after the first few lines, called out for something to be adjusted and she started again. And she sounded great. She sang "I Think We're Alone Now" and "Could've Been," which had the man in the audience next to me in tears. When a wardrobe change took longer than expected, she explained that she couldn't get her boot on back stage. Everything about her performance felt very authentic, and even enjoyed some of her new country material. I longed to be up there with her as a back-up singer. :)

After intermission it was Debbie Gibson's turn, and the woman is a performer. She had two back-up dancers, several costume changes, and kept up a witty repartee the entire time she was on stage. She sang "Shake Your Love" and "Only In My Dreams" (now an Old Navy commercial) and talked about being a star at such a young age. She did several Broadway numbers from her days in various shows, but my favorite portion of the night was when she pulled out several pages of sheet music and off the cuff played piano and sang along to several classic songs from the '80's, including Belinda Carlisle's "I Get Weak." She talked about texting Richard Marx for his approval to sing one of his songs, and how he promised to feature "Electric Youth" at a future performance. Tiffany joined Debbie back on stage for a few more songs, and they walked the perimeter of the stage, shaking hands with about half of the audience. There were more flubbed lyrics and banter between them, and I loved all of it. They ended with "Don't Stop Believin'" which has to be included in every '80's-themed performance from now until the end of time.

I left with the biggest smile on my face. As we drove home, Marc and I debated who was a better performer and discussed the entire show. Never in the almost 12 years that we've been together did I expect to be discussing Tiffany and Debbie Gibson with him, and I appreciate him being such a good sport and coming with me (but he had a great time, too).

Here are a few pictures from the show - it was HARD to get decent shots. I'm so glad I got to see them! Thanks to Vulture and drag queen bingo for helping to make this happen for me!







Friday, August 5, 2011

Always Wear Sneakers to the Esplanade (Or, "Lessons I Learned From JKL")



Today I rocked the ultra-stylish "white sneakers while commuting" look into the office. But more on that in a moment.

My best friend of fifteen years, Julie, is moving to Florida next week. For those of you who don't know her personally, I am one of many who claim her as their best friend. This leads to bridal parties consisting of eight bridesmaids, with a few groomsmen standing up on her behalf as well, and countless others needing special honors on her wedding day. Julie is a connector. At her goodbye party last week, I lamented the fact that without her around, I won't have an excuse to see the many others in her life that I have grown attached to over the years.

We met on moving in day as freshman at Brandeis University, with dorm rooms across the hall from each other. Both of our roommates got there on the later side of the day, and I think we would consider each other the first official person we met in college. Over the course of the year, Julie spent a lot more time in my and Carol's dorm room than her own, and we were roommates throughout the rest of college. When she left for a semester abroad (remember how L-O-N-G those few months apart seemed then?), she spent hours making me a collage of magazine cut-outs filled with inspirational words and inside jokes. I still have it, and returned the favor years later, making her a 10 minute photo slideshow for her bridal shower.

We've had lots of adventures together over the years, but tonight one of my favorites will be revisited. In the summer of 1999, between our junior and senior years of college, I was already living in our rented apartment for the following school year. Julie had just gotten back from Israel, and we made plans to spend the Fourth of July together. Well, we at least agreed we were getting together, but the "plans" portion was undefined - very unusual for us. Somehow, we started the day at a Christmas Tree Shop (not really for purchasing Christmas trees, for those of you not familiar). We bought fancy plastic cups and a hammock, which we promptly installed in our living room. Because what college living room is complete without a hammock in it?

(I so wish I could track down pictures of that hammock right now. Although I was growing out my bangs then, so maybe not.)

Anyway, on a whim we decided that we would join the masses and head to Boston's Esplanade for the fireworks display. We figured out how to take the T there and when we arrived, the place was already packed. Somehow, we found a spot on a bridge, and sat there for hours with our feet dangling over the Charles River. A very annoying vendor was perched close by our spot, and we endlessly listened to him hawk, "Glow sticks! Get your glow sticks he-ah!" We commiserated with our neighbors about it, but didn't give up our prime location. Suddenly, and I'm still not sure how it happened, one of Julie's new Naot sandals, fresh from Israel itself, dropped into the river! There was a bit of pandemonium, and a small crowd assembled as Julie was forced to wade into the river and retrieve her shoe. We all looked around for the glow stick guy, who had mysteriously disappeared, just when we could have used one of those damn glow sticks to help reach the lost shoe. Julie got fairly wet, and despite hours of sitting in the sun, still had a damp shoe as we shuffled back on the T to go home. We kept looking for signs of radiation sickness from her time in the river, but Julie managed to survive.

Tonight we'll be heading to the Esplanade again, this time with our husbands and Hannah and Max, to watch a movie together. There is more advanced planning involved (we've had it on our Google calendars for months), and I don't think we'll be sitting that close to the river, but I've worn my sneakers, just in case.

Julie, I am so happy for you and Michael, and so excited about the new life you will be beginning together in Florida. I am holding tight to that thought, rather than acknowledging the lump that has lodged in my throat when I think about you being so far away. I think we're going to have to break our rule of not talking on the phone unless it's major news (engagements, babies, a few tragic moments), and I am counting on you getting a job that will allow our need for several email interactions each day. I am so lucky to have had you be such an important part of my life for almost half of my life, and definitely for the many important moments we've gone through together. Marc, Hannah, Max and I will miss you very, very much, and we can't wait to visit you in Florida. Preferably in the winter, when we're sick of shoveling snow.

Love you, Jewel.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

California 2011



After endless discussions about going to California, we were so excited to finally get there earlier this month! The trip was a complicated one, but we managed to do everything we had planned for in advance.

We arrived to Oakland late Tuesday night, and met up with Uncle Ryan at our hotel. The kids were so excited to see him, and Max immediately spilled the beans about the contents of our wedding gift for him and Aunt Allison. After renting our minivan the following morning, we drove to San Francisco and met my parents. The seven of us spent a fun afternoon walking through Pier 39 to Ghiradelli Square and then going on a cable car ride. That night we drove to Sebastopol, where we'd be spending the next few days before the wedding. Fillis and John met us there as well, and we spent the next few days preparing for the wedding with tuxedo rentals, a BBQ, a bridal shower for the women, a golf outing for the men, rehearsing and rehearsal-dining, using the hotel pool and exploring a bit at Goat Rock beach. We also caught up with my uncle and two aunts, whom I had not seen in a very long time.

The wedding day was a glorious one. The weather was just perfect for an outdoor venue. We spent the morning getting our hair done, and then joined the bride in her room to witness the last minute preparations. Allison looked absolutely beautiful. Her dress was just gorgeous, but it was the smile on her face that truly made her glow. The groom and bride were trying not to see each other, so they were sequestered on different floors of the hotel. At one point, Ryan yelled down to me from a balcony and said, "I'll drive," which both my mom and I interpreted to mean he was taking his own car to the vineyard. My mom said she and my dad would ride with him. So after seeing the bride had departed, the four of us drove off to follow her there. A few minutes later, we got a panicked call from Ryan! He'd meant that he would drive OUR car there, not his! So we circled back and picked up the groom and my parents, and only got us slightly off the day's packed schedule. I think that was the only thing that went wrong all day though, as everything was just beautiful. Ryan's breath was taken away when he saw Allison. We posed for some photos, and then got ready for the ceremony. Hannah and Max did a very well as flower girl and ring bearer. Max in particular was so proud of his role in the wedding, and he loved watching the whole thing. He was very taken with the breaking of the glass, so much so that he broke a plastic glass of his own during the reception. Hannah was a flower girl veteran, and did her job with grace, wearing a beautiful floral wreath on her head. The ceremony was lovely, and I couldn't help tearing up a bit, but managed my reading well enough. Allison and Ryan are a wonderful couple, and we were so happy to be part of such an important day in their lives. We had a great time dancing, eating and toasting at the reception, and watching them drive off in their convertible when the day was done.

On Sunday we were up early, ready to move on to the next part of our adventure. We had a nice breakfast with Aunt Mary and Haillie before we headed back to San Francisco. We said goodbye to my parents there, and then headed back to Oakland to exchange the minivan for a sedan for the rest of our trip. We spent the rest of the day driving down the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping at a state park to see seals and having dinner in Big Sur before stopping to watch the sun set. The drive was beautiful; I had worried I'd be scared, but it was really fine. We stayed overnight in San Simeon, and toured Hearst Castle the following morning. I think the bus ride up the hill to the Castle may have been Max's favorite part of the trip. It was a beautiful place, and we even got to see some behind-the-scenes areas when the kids needed a bathroom break. Very cool.

We spent the afternoon driving the rest of the way to Los Angeles, which took longer than anticipated, but we finally made it to my Uncle Marc and Lexie's beautiful home. Their daughters Cheyenne and Dakota took an instant liking to Hannah and Max, and they had a great time swimming while I caught up with my Aunt Allison and cousin Samantha too. The following day we went to Disneyland, and the kids were very excited, but it was Hannah's favorite part of the trip. We managed to see Mickey Mouse without too much of a wait, and enjoyed a bunch of rides before taking the monorail to Downtown Disney for lunch. Then we did some driving around downtown LA according to Marc's carefully crafted agenda while the kids took a much needed nap. We saw the Hollywood sign and drove down Rodeo Drive before having dinner at Jeff's Gourmet Kosher Sausage Factory. We drove back to Disneyland for the last couple hours, and kept the kids up until midnight seeing the Fantasmic show. While I prefer Disney World to Disneyland, we still had a really great day.

On our final day of vacation we saw the amazing Noah's Ark exhibit at the Skirball Cultural Center, which the kids really enjoyed. We drove from there to Long Beach, and had dinner in the Shoreline Marina before catching our 9 pm flight home to Boston. It was a great trip, but I was definitely ready to head home.

Thank you to Ryan and Allison for getting married, and giving us the excuse to have such a nice getaway! And now, a few pictures. Enjoy!















Saturday, July 16, 2011

Toast for Ryan and Allison’s Wedding

For those of you who don’t know me, I am Cheryl Pollock Stober, Ryan’s older sister. I appreciate having the opportunity to share a bit with you about my brother on this special day.

Now Allison, I’m sure you thought you knew my brother well, but I’m not sure you knew that he is in fact a doctor. You see, when he was about three or four, he invented a character he called Dr. Missumio. It involved a piece of string tied just so around his head, with a blue connecting piece from his beloved Fisher-Price Construx hitting somewhere between his eyes. He would speak in the most proper way a four year old could muster, and do whatever it took to make his big sister laugh.

Growing up, Ryan and I were always very close. He’d patiently play along while I arranged my large collection of Cabbage Patch Kids, and I tolerated playing a few rounds of Sonic the Hedgehog on his SEGA. We attended the same overnight camp, and during his last summer there, when I was too old to attend, he brought me home a bag of dirt because he knew how much I loved it there. When I went off to college, I emailed him and my mother every day, beginning a tradition that has gone on for almost 15 years now, taking us through email addresses at AOL, Brandeis and Cornell universities, Yahoo and ultimately Gmail. Ryan always kept us on the cutting edge.

My parents have succeeded at one of my top goals in raising my own children - that they should be best friends. Ryan, while we may live on opposite sides of the country, you have been and will always be one of the most important people in my life. Allison, I couldn’t ask for a better woman for his wife. I knew Ryan had found his soulmate when I first saw them order in a restaurant together, agreeing to each split their meals, with Ryan willing to eat something more exotic than I’d ever heard him order on his own. Allison, you are not only sweet and loving, patient and kind, but willing to put up with Ryan’s gadget addiction and great love for the San Francisco 49ers. I look forward to celebrating many happy times together, and being there to support you as you have always supported me.

So please raise your glass, to Ryan and Allison, mazel tov, l'chaim!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Boston's Ballerinas

If you follow me on Twitter, you know about my daily hassles with my commute. It's often crowded and uncomfortable, and the lack of control over the situation drives me crazy. But there are a few bright spots for me: listening to my favorite Glee tracks, playing endless games of Revomem, and of course, the people watching.

I've been taking the Green Line for many years now, and by far my favorite phenomenon is the return of the ballerinas. Each summer, a group of teenage ballerinas starts getting on the train at Kenmore Square, and riding the few stops to Copley Square. With their yoga mats and hair done up in perfect buns, I'm just fascinated by them. I don't know anything about their program, but seeing them as I'm trudging off to my office tower just makes me happy. I imagine that they're putting a little more grace out into the universe (whereas I don't a graceful twitch in my body). I've noticed that other commuters seem to cheer up in their presence too. They're on the T for such a short time, and only for a few weeks, so it's like this elusive, hidden part of Boston, and I feel lucky to get to see them.

What are the insider parts of your neighborhood that make it feel special?

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Kids Grow Up

The last few weeks have been beyond hectic, with a big event happening almost daily. We had birthday parties, class parties, a block party, a goodbye party, a school party and a family party. We hosted my sister-in-law Rachel and two year old niece and nephew, Evie and Nate, with my in-laws staying locally as well for a few days. There's been so much to celebrate, but it's also been a time of transition with the ending of first grade for Hannah, and moving on to a new classroom for Max.

Hannah has been looking forward to the start of camp for months, and is beyond thrilled to be in a group with her oldest friend from Gan Yeladim and her best camp friend for three years running. But when I picked her up from the last day of first grade, well, some tears were shed at the thought of moving on and being in second grade. It's been such a big year for her, and she has been so proud of all the progress she's made at school, that it was difficult to say goodbye to it all, but she seemed happy at camp drop off this morning.

Tuesday was Max's last day in the Room E Elephants, and he proudly sang along to all of the songs with his friends. He's moving on to Room K Koalas (the animal aspect is a big part of the identity to him), and unfortunately, away from the group of kids he has been with for the last two years. We didn't point that out to him, and have been talking about all of the positive aspects of the new class, but my heart breaks for him a bit. Hopefully, he will enjoy the new class too much to notice. After five days at home, going to school today made for a rough morning in the house, but he seemed resigned to it by the time we dropped him off.

Marc said I seemed more excited about all this change than the kids do, and I guess I'm trying to show them that they have so much to be excited about (and they really, truly do). But it's another year done too - and I'm not going to burden them with the lump in my throat that forms while hearing Green Day's "Time of Your Life" during the first grade slide show or leaving them to navigate their way through a sea of new faces.

Last night I watched the documentary "The Kids Grow Up" (dumb idea to watch it on a Sunday night, leaving me too amp'ed up to fall asleep afterward), but it's the story of filmmaker Doug Block's only child, Lucy, and her last year at home before going off to college. But seeing as she doesn't actually want him filming much of her life anymore, it's generously supplemented by many scenes from throughout Lucy's childhood and adolescence. Lucy is ready to go, but dad Doug isn't ready to let her. Some would say it's narcissistic, that he's filming her but it's really all about him, but isn't that what so much of the parenting experience is? Aren't we spending all of this time and effort on them with our own hidden agendas (or sometimes even in plain view)? How can we not focus on our own feelings about what our children are going through, when they are ostensibly the most important thing in the world to us?

My friend Candace snapped a picture of the kids at the JCC picnic last week, and I put it on my desk at work today, updating the picture I had there from three years ago. We're not ready for college yet, but time is flying.

June 2008, 4.5 and 0.5 years old



June 2011, 7.5 and 3.5 years old

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fast Few Weeks

It's been a fast few weeks around here. Frustratingly, my latest blog posts on Allison's bachelorette and the Temple Emanuel Retreat didn't pull into facebook, so I'm sharing the links to those here. Here's what we've been up to since then.

After the retreat we dove right back in to Temple Emanuel, and I attended quite a few meetings in the last three weeks. They mostly centered around the Yom Hashoah committee and the direction that group is going to go during the next year. It's been a really interesting process, and I'm really proud of the work our committee is doing. It's great to be part of a group that has such a high level of dedication. We also had Hannah's last day of religious school for the year, with its closing assembly. While she really enjoys religious school, I have to admit that I'm happy for one less morning of rushing around now that it's ended for the summer! And we had our 12th Ruach Shabbat Family Service - so exciting!

Marc and I accomplished a big goal of refinancing our house, and we had the closing for that recently. The transaction was a bit complicated, but we had an excellent experience with Sovereign Bank and everything went very smoothly. It's been something we've been waiting to do for quite some time, and I'm happy that we were able to get that completed.

Work has been really busy for me. Really good, lots of exciting things going on, but really busy. And so with all of this going on, it would be a really convenient time for my back to start acting up again, right? Sigh. Yea, The Back (it gets capitals now because it's really become a separate entity from the rest of me and deserving of proper noun status) got pretty bad for a while there. I had to go to a couple of doctor's appointments trying to get it functioning properly again. Last Friday I began a round of prednisone, aka The Wonder Drug, because Gd knows what it does but it has helped. I'm pretty close to normal again, for which I am very grateful. Prednisone is loads of fun for me, as I get very jittery and PRODUCTIVE with a major caps lock. If only this level of energy was sustainable! But it felt good to get so much done after coping with pain for a few weeks. Yes, I promise I'm being really careful not to aggravate The Back again, and I think I will be starting physical therapy for it soon. (This has also meant the exercise project has been put on hold - hopefully temporarily.)

Which brings us right up to today. It's a beautiful day here in Newton. Hannah's wearing green for Color Day at Bowen, and Max is wearing pajamas at the JCC to simulate staying up all night studying Torah for the holiday of Shavuot. Tonight I won't be attending any study sessions per se, but I will be going to the Glee Live concert in Boston. As Marc said, it's Torah in its own way, or at least it is for me. Tomorrow night Marc is planning to bring the kids downtown to meet me after work to check out the Jimmy Fund's Scooper Bowl, a Boston event I've always wanted to attend (and in keeping with Shavuot's dairy theme). Thursday night is Hannah's after care group's annual picnic. Then the weekend has some birthday parties and Village Day to look forward to. Time is just flying by, and even with The Back issues, I've been really happy lately. Hoping you're all having a great start to summer as well.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Retreat



For the first time, Temple Emanuel opened its annual 6th grade family retreat to the entire synagogue, and as soon as I'd heard about it, I wanted to go. I LOVED camp (hi, GUCI facebook friends) and have often said I'd go back today if they'd let me.

We spent the weekend of May 13-15 at Camp Yavneh in New Hampshire. It was a lot to pack up four people and the traffic to get there was hairy, but once we pulled in to camp, it was perfect. We stayed in a brand new bunk, and I was SHOCKED at how nice everything was. While it was secluded in the woods, everything was close together. We sang and prayed, ate and played, and mostly spent lots of time talking with one another. That's always the most difficult part for Marc and me - as much as we want to create a community at our synagogue and are often busy attending events there, we're still constrained by the presence of small children who interrupt conversations or need to go home to nap. The retreat gave us a prolonged opportunity to let those conversations develop and deepen. And of course the best part of the weekend was the unscheduled time spent with friends, laughing under a porch roof while the rain fell down around us.

I had a great time, and it sounds like we'll get to make this an annual thing. Temple friends, mark down May 11-13, 2012, and I'll see you there!

Friday, May 27, 2011

22 Hours Away



Gah, I can't believe May is almost over. It's been such a busy month, so forgive me for the gap between posting.

On Saturday, May 7, I got to spend a glorious day in NYC to celebrate my future sister-in-law Allison's bachelorette party. It was a surreal experience, mostly because it all went by so quickly, but also because I was without Marc or the kids for the day.

I took the Amtrak from the Rte. 128 station in to Penn Station, catching the train at 6:55 am. Which meant I was up from about 5 am on, heading in to a very full day. Maid of Honor Charlotte planned everything expertly and we all had a great time. After a really good brunch, some of the group took a bike ride through Riverside Park, and then we all gathered together for presents, cupcakes and bride-themed Pictionary ("to have and to hold" is very hard to illustrate!) while wearing our matching t-shirts. Allison and I got our make-up done at Sephora and then we all went to drinks and then dinner at Bread Nolita (the only place I'm listing by name here because it really was fantastic). We ended the night at a bar with the future bride and groom texting each other for most of the time spent there, which I thought was very cute. I caught a 2:40 am (no, that is not a typo) train back home. I managed to stay awake for 22 straight hours, but I had so much fun meeting Allison's friends and spending time with her that it went by in a flash.

Marc and the kids picked me up at 8 am and we went out for a Mother's Day breakfast. As wonderful as it was to be on my own for a day, I really missed them, and can't wait until we can all go to NYC together some time.

Thanks to Charlotte for such a wonderful day, and to Allison (and Ryan) for giving us all something to celebrate. Now on to California - July can't get here fast enough!

Monday, May 9, 2011

So long, sippies.

It's happened so suddenly.

Passover came, and Marc didn't buy any sippy cups to use during the holiday, when we swap out all of our usual dishes for the eight days. Max had been using "big boy cups" at school forever, but at home, he still loved his sippy cups. There were some tearful mornings, but by the end of the holiday, he'd gotten used to the new cups. And so I didn't bring back the sippy cups.

I should be thrilled. It's a milestone. Less plastic in the dishwasher. Less time spent making sure lids are closed properly. He's growing up.

But that's just it. My baby is gone. Other than his attachment to his beloved blanket, all the trappings of babyhood are behind us - diapers, pacifiers, formula, teethers, onesies. I haven't pushed to get rid of the sippies because they were the last signs of the baby and toddler that he was.

I recognize that it's really more about me than him. Max is probably my last baby. Carrying another child, both inside me and out in the real world, would likely destroy what's left of my back. That's the prevailing reason not to have another child, but I'm having a hard time coming to grips with the fact that the decision isn't really my own. I love Hannah and Max so much, and I know I have more love to give (the financial resources are another matter, but one that I'm sure we'd find a way to overcome). I'm only 33, and I just don't feel done. But I can't avoid the fact that not having another child is what is best for the children I already have, as well as for my marriage, since I'm not sure Marc wants to handle another episode of me being incapacitated with back pain to such a degree.

So I've got to put this chapter of my life behind me. No more reading up on baby gear; from now on I'll read about $1500 strollers as part of social commentary, not for just how awesome and life-changing the features might be. And I'll take every opportunity I have to hold someone else's baby, just to be close to that kind of sweetness again.

And I'll do my best to remember the sweet babies that Hannah and Max were for me.



Sunday, May 8, 2011

I Hate Exercising.

Well, if that isn't the most obvious blog post title ever written, I don't know what is.

As I've said before, I've never really exercised in my life. There has never been a sport or physical activity I've found interesting. I get tired just thinking about moving. No matter how many times I've thought my weight might be holding me back from something, I never could get it together enough to do something about it, at least not for very long.

So I'm not sure what made me start now, except for the feeling that I've got everything else going so well, that I needed to finally improve this aspect of my life. In April I saw a personal trainer at the JCC for the first time, and have gone to the gym at least twice a week for the last six weeks (ideally, I'd like to get there 3x/week, but that hasn't happened yet). I've got a strength-building routine and then get myself onto the treadmill. I like my trainer, and I love being able to read on my phone while on the treadmill (especially since I can tweet about working out while I'm doing it - thanks to all those who send me encouraging tweets back!).

It's not fun. I can think of a million things I'd rather do than be there. I don't get a rush of endorphins from it. In fact, I don't think I get anything from it other than a lighter bank account. But I'm trying to stick with it and see if I can find some benefit. My back continues to be an issue - not that bad, but not totally perfect - so I'm being careful, but hoping this will help. I'm trying to model good behavior for the kids by doing it. I don't want to spend the rest of my life in pain, and I hope it will make some improvement to my weight. 

But goodness, I hate exercising.

Any tips to make this work?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sew...Disappointing

Hannah wants to be a fashion designer.

Well, that's what she's said she wants to grow up to be since she was four years old. There have been some other careers that have crossed her mind, but she always comes back to fashion design. She's had a tiny bit of experience with sewing and knitting, and is usually a very enthusiastic student for anything art-related. When the pottery class she'd taken recently was oversubscribed for their next sessions, we decided to sign her up for a sewing class.

Hannah had a great trial class at HipStitch, a new sewing school in Newton. She eagerly participated in more lessons, with a goal of making a dress for herself and a matching dress for her American Girl doll, per the school owner's suggestion. But as the lessons went on, it was clear she wasn't accomplishing much, and Hannah's enthusiasm waned. At the end of six two-hour classes, she had very little to show for her participation.

I corresponded back and forth with the owner, who in the end seemed to place blame on Hannah for not being experienced enough and needing simpler projects. She is refunding some of our money, and said she hopes Hannah can come back for more classes when she's older. Hannah unhappily agreed that the class was not a good fit for her in the end. I feel like she was set up to fail - the task was just to big for an inexperienced child - and the school wasn't capable to teaching the number of students enrolled.

Hannah's been very fortunate to take a number of enrichment classes: karate, pottery, Spanish, swimming, soccer, tennis, ballet, tap and art. It's the first time that she's come away with such disappointment. While disappointment is a part of life, it's just a shame that her first sewing experience was such a letdown. Hopefully when she's a bit older we can try sewing classes again.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

April Vacation



This year's April vacation flew by. Yes, April, for you Midwesterners out there. I think it's a ridiculous time to have a vacation; I prefer the model I grew up with, one week off in March. Vacations in February AND April wreak havoc on working parent schedules, and then school lasts an eternity, into the end of June. But, I have to work with what I'm given, and that's just what we did.

The first night of Pesach was the first day of Hannah's week off, and Max was off from school through Wednesday. We headed to Hartford for the seders, getting a small glimpse of the Boston Marathon as we sat in traffic on 128. I spent some time helping Hannah with her bike riding before the seder, and found that singing Katy Perry's "Firework" is very effective for distracting nervous riders. Our seders were lovely, though we missed Rachel, Jon, Nate and Evie. After our traditional Wright-style seder on the first night, Marc led our smaller group for the second night with a new Haggadah and lots of interesting discussion. Marc and I drove home that night while the kids spent an extra day in Hartford.



On Thursday morning, Marc dropped off Hannah and I at my office, where we spent the day before catching a flight to visit my parents and see their new house! Hannah and I had a really great time there, getting to relax a bit, do some shopping, and spending a day in Amish country. Hannah was fascinated by the horse and buggies we passed on the road, as well as all of the cheese and candy she sampled along the way. As my mom has told me numerous times, there are some great bargains to be found in Amish country, and I scored a fabulous deal on some new Adirondack chairs for our backyard. I just have no idea when they'll arrive - the Amish will use credit card machines, but they don't send emails with tracking numbers!



It was wonderful for Hannah to get to see both sets of grandparents in one week. I can't believe we managed to cover another vacation gap so smoothly. Now we begin the march to the end of the school year!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Word Jumble

The past few weeks have gone by in a blur, so here's what we've been up to, in Wordle.net form. I like how the font is half-cursive, like my own hand writing. More on Pesach and the rest of spring break after a trip home to visit my parents and see their new house!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Protesting Play-Doh

Recently, my son Max's preschool sent out an email alerting us that an antisemitic group would be staging a demonstration at their facility. His preschool is part of a Jewish Community Center (JCC), an institution that is a fitness facility and hosts arts, cultural, youth and senior programming, and is open for membership to anyone. While I don't know much about the protesting organization, I know they don't particularly like Jewish people, homosexuals, or young men and women who died while serving in the military.

The JCC's email explained that the protesters are not permitted on the property, and that police presence would be involved to ensure an orderly protest. They encouraged us not to interact with the protesters, to not give them the attention they think they deserve. The email reminded us of their first amendment rights, which I support and understand. I was impressed that the JCC seemed to handling everything so well.

So why did my heart start pounding at the thought of these people holding up a few signs? A million thoughts began racing through my mind. Max can't read yet, and isn't likely to notice them, and any questions could easily be dismissed and forgotten in his three year old mind. The campus entrance is a good distance from his classroom, so it's highly unlikely they'd be anywhere near him. I know security is tight and his teachers are well-trained.

But I felt guilty - maybe I should keep him home for the day. Or bring him with me, downtown. He loves taking the train, but his whole routine gets disrupted and he probably won't have a great day. And I start thinking that if I wasn't a working mom, I wouldn't have to think about this, not have to fret about the one crazy person who takes things too far, today or any other day, just because it's a Jewish institution, just because I have to go to work. And my conversations with other descendants of the Holocaust start ringing in my ears, that we can never forget, because it can still happen now.

It's paralyzing, and agonizing that these people, who aren't worth my time, have gotten so far under my skin.

So with a lump in my throat, I let Marc take Max to school that morning. There were police there, but no protesters, and just a few protesters came and went later in the day.

But I really, really hate the effect this has had on me, who didn't even see or interact with them. And I think that's exactly what they wanted.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ode to a Couch

Our couch after it was first delivered to Park Drive, tags still on:



This past weekend, we took a big plunge and finally replaced our couch. We've been wanting to do it for quite some time, as sitting on it was difficult for me and my back issues since it wasn't very firm. With the matching armchair (really a "chair and a half") and ottoman, their presence in our living room dwarfed everything else. We were ready for sleeker and smaller, and found the new sofa of our dreams.

And yet.

We loved our big purple couch. Hannah actually cried to see it gone, and I got a little verklempt myself. In a way, this furniture told the story of a significant portion of our life as a young family.

When Marc and I met, he lived in a studio apartment and had a really nice futon (seriously!) that served as his bed and couch. The futon joined us in our first apartment together on Park Drive in the Fenway section of Boston, and served us well. But change was underway and the futon moved on to other family members. Buying the couch together was our first major purchase as a couple. We stood in the giant Jordan's Furniture showroom, analyzing the color ("do we really want a purple couch?"), and taking fabric swatches outside to see them in natural light. What we didn't realize at the time was just how LARGE the couch was - it seemed right at home in the vastness of Jordan's. When it was delivered to the apartment, it strongly contrasted with the building's bright green carpet, but we didn't care. The carpet was temporary - the couch would be moving on with us.

And move on it did, to our condo in Coolidge Corner in Brookline. Well, it tried to move on, but we couldn't actually get it in the place. So we had to have the sofa disassembled, brought in the condo in pieces, and then reassembled in its new home. The day after this reassembly, we sat on the couch and called our parents to tell them we were pregnant with their first grandchild, and both sets of grandparents were almost more interested in whether or not the couch was okay! Hannah cruised along the edges of the furniture, teaching herself to walk. After three years in the condo, we disassembled the couch once again, this time for our move to Newton.

Thankfully, we had a nice, wide and straight entry in our new house, and it was the last time we'd be calling the upholstery company. (Thank you, Melo & Sons!) For the next five years, the couch would move around the living room quite a bit, whether to serve as a baby gate for a constantly curious Max or pushed out of the way for a birthday party. It supported us through many sick days and too many Disney Channel shows, and was swept clean of snack crumbs more times than I care to remember. It was as close to a family member as any inanimate object could be.

Last night we Freecycled all three pieces, to a guy furnishing a new apartment for a family member. He's actually an acquaintance that we'll see now and again, and I'll have to fight the urge to ask how the furniture is doing, but I'm happy to know it's going to a new home. Marc and I told Hannah stories of couches past, Marc of a couch with his bite marks as a teething toddler, me of couches passed on to my grandfather that made visiting him feel like a visit to my childhood.

So that's the story of our big purple couch. It's time to start taking pictures on the new brown leather loveseat with an attached chaise lounge, which accommodates all four of us in a much smaller footprint. I know in time we'll love it as much as our old one, but I can't deny the lump in my throat as I say goodbye to a piece of our past.

In our condo (clearly before children - remember having bookcases like that?!?):



Hannah before her naming ceremony, March 2004:



Toddler modeling, September 2005:



Trying on her ballet gear, December 2007:



First sibling photo session on the couch, January 2008:



Cruising along, September 2008:



How dare you pen me in here!, January 2009:



Goofing around, November 2010:



Making new memories, March 2011: