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Zogwarg

Bathtime

I don’t ever want to be one of these “KIDS, TODAY!” people, because we were all KIDS, TODAY! once, yes?

But I realized that one thing my kids are really cheated out of are newspapers. We consume our news in all kinds of ways – radio snippets, podcasts, online articles, television. However, I recall sitting down with sections of the Sunday paper from when I was in elementary school. I lived in the DC suburbs, so we got the Washington Post. Possibly also the New York Times because my parents are  East Coast liberal elites, despite moving away from it in 1991. I definitely remember reading Parade Magazine, and the Washington Post magazine — Dave Barry’s column! — a gateway for The New Yorker.

And there were the comics. I felt so sorry for people who only got The New York Times. Because no comics.

I feel like the “funny papers” helped me develop my sense of humor. Before Buzzfeed or Cute Emergency were available 24 hours a day, there were daily strips, which parlayed to full-color and fabulous on Sunday. The late 1980s seemed to have really glorious comics for a kid like me, smart and sardonic and constantly feeling like a fish out of water.

It wasn’t just me. My 7th grade English teacher showed up one day with now-famous Far Side “Midvale School for the Gifted” panel, posted it on the board, and laughed about it for the rest of the year. (It was an accelerated English class. Of course it was.)

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As much as this applied to me, Miss M would probably win the prize for this.

Nothing could hold a candle, though, to Calvin & Hobbes. Calvin seemed to contain an entire universe within him. So wise, but all id. Hobbes the long-suffering companion, smarter than his best friend but trapped by his own physical restrictions. It was a siren song for all the junior high school lovelorn kids who confessed their secrets to their dog or cat, or covertly continued to sleep with a stuffed animal. (Who, me? Yeah, me.)

Over time, several Calvin & Hobbes collections accumulated in my library. They moved with me to college, to New York, to Israel. My kids came to love them as much as I did.

I hadn’t opened one in years; my reading time is really reserved for novels. But the other night I picked up The Revenge of the Baby-Sat from my floor (one of my kids had been reading it in my bed and dropped it next to the bed, instead of putting it back on the shelf or on my bedside table, which really tells you a lot about both me and them).

And goodness me, guess who I am? I am Calvin’s mom.

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What parent among us has not tried to civilize a child?

Yes, and no. My kids have never had the streak of maliciousness that Calvin does; I haven’t had to worry for their personal safety in the same way. But wow, the rest is quite identifiable. Tempting to eat a new food, begging to do chores, coaxing to look normal for a photo FOR ONCE, OH MY GOD. Calvin’s mom looks pissed in the middle of the night when summoned to answer philosophical questions or wash clothes (!). She looks resigned when paying the babysitter. She looks startled when she realizes it’s been quiet and she’s been sitting down for too long. She looks determined when she’s prodding Calvin into the bath.

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How evergreen is this?

All of these things are universal parent experiences, but of course, you may have missed it upon your first read at 9 or 12 or 20.

It is a rare gem of pop culture that can be delivered on more than one level. I have always cited Sesame Street as one example, but now I officially appoint Calvin & Hobbes to this firmament.

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Purim, 2 years ago

And, as I was composing this post in my head too late at night, I realized that, yes, dumbbell, I have been Calvin’s mom…for a long time.

 

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The last year has felt like the world has been tilting wildly and weirdly, and often not in good ways.

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The first six months were emotionally tortuous, as we applied to high schools for Miss M. Her brightness and quirkiness have not diminished over time, and her official Aspergers diagnosis from a couple of years ago was refreshed by a new round of professionals. There didn’t seem to be a school that suited her within commuting distance. Not having an answer to “where is she going for seventh grade?” as May 1, then June 1, rolled past was…stressful. As usual, I dealt with my stress by not sleeping much.

The school question was finally settled, then RESETTLED at a different place OMG LIFE ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME? just in time to deal with the final birth pangs of her bat mitzvah. (Which was, admittedly, super great .)

Then the whole election debacle-slash-world-upside down. I still have a lot of anger about this, which spills over into things like discussing with Taxman in front of the kids why I shouldn’t call him a rapist in front of the kids but sexual assaulter is ok because he’s admitted it. Incoming president of the United States. I just. (For my utter bewilderment, see my Twitter feed.)

Also not a lot of sleeping happening in October and November. Because time zones, and who is driving this plane; are we crashing?

So when an acquaintance announced on Facebook that she was going to run an eight-week knitting for beginners class, I said please, please pick me!

Knitting was something my mom did, and my aunt. I have no idea where they learned – maybe their grandmother? (I certainly never saw MY grandmother with knitting needles in her hands, unless by knitting needles you mean cigarette or gin and tonic.) When I was old enough to have enough patience to learn (an early attempt had been quickly shelved), my brother was a baby and then a toddler. I think my mom, who worked full time, put away her own knitting for years.

As an adult, I’ve realized I have a ton of friends who knit, enough so that I felt I was really missing out on a generational experience.

So I’m learning now.

I’m not as terrible as I thought I’d be, although I’ve managed to break two sets of not-great circular needles.

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But I’m being propped up, sometimes literally, by Miss M, the ringer I drive to knitting class. (The kids’ class didn’t fit with her schedule.) She’s a natural at this stuff, if a little overly ambitious, so has saved my ass many times with her nimble fingers and multiple crochet hooks. She can’t really keep up with the “bitch” element of the class (a lot about parent teacher meetings and planning bar mitzvahs), but she’s spot on with the “stitch” part.

So that’s a skill I’m hoping to take with me into 2017 and beyond. I’m seeing the beginning of how it becomes A Thing – beautiful yarns, complex patterns, different equipment, but at the same time a way to really turn off the world and concentrate on what’s literally directly in front of you.

I’ll be here with my in-house knitting coach, hoping to finish my hat before winter ends. (In the meantime, I had to buy myself fingerless gloves because we keep the house at like 60 degrees.)

PS This blog turned 11 today! Crazy.

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Hi! I’m still here!

My sanity is…debatable.

Miss M turned 12, and we had 120 people for dinner to celebrate.

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Actually, it started last summer, when I said something incredibly stupid, like, “For the bat mitzvah, Miss M should make 12 pieces of art, then we should auction them off for charity at a gala dinner. We will make it nice enough to justify the grandparents schlepping over from America.”

And nobody with some sense thought to stop me and my gigantic mouth.

(System failure!)

So that’s pretty much what happened. Miss M learned her Torah portion and commentaries in-depth, created art pieces, wrote explanations of them in Hebrew and English, picked charities, and there you have it. EASY PEASY. (Hahaha, plus dozens of sleepless nights. And speeches!)

We of course hired an event planner because I still don’t know how to say “easel” in Hebrew, never mind having a clue where or how to rent ELEVEN of them for one night. She also herded us through a catering crisis and a billion other things.

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My takeaway is that three detail-oriented people on one project makes for a beautifully micromanaged event, but if I never have to answer my phone or return a related email again I would be ok with that.

Anyway, it was a big enough thing that I had hair and makeup and wore heels. It was nice.

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Then we squired our American visitors around for a few more days for some sightseeing in Jerusalem and Tzipori. Then we had a big Shabbat do (more food! more speeches!) at our synagogue and had 13 relatives over for meals.

Then I legit had jet lag, trying to recover. Did not matter that I hadn’t been on a plane – I needed midday naps and freezer meals to get through dinner.

I’m better now.

Whew.

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So here is another unexpected tidbit of parenting. Something I did not think about back when I was in the haze of poopy diapers and 90-minute naps.

From the time your kids are maybe four or five you have a lot to answer for. To them. They are natural inquisitors. Which seems so incredibly adorable (in someone else’s kid, natch) when you have a toddler who strings together two or three words at a time and then passes out in the back seat of the car.

And then.

Everything is why. Everything is how. Everything is but. Every change to routine has to be justified or the Earth will wobble on its axis. (Hint: It already is wobbling! Alert the media!)

Related digression:

I, stupidly, bought a different brand of milk than usual last week. I think it was because the expiration date was further away. Or because it was a special promotion — 1.1 liters for the price of 1. Or they didn’t have 1% milk in bags and that was what I wanted, so I bought a carton. If you are over the age of, say, 15 or 18 or 20, you probably wouldn’t give a damn about the WILDLY DIFFERENT-LOOKING MILK but would just pour it over your cereal or add it to your coffee or whatever because you have other things going on in your life besides giving this poor carton of milk the side-eye.

The parent in charge of this tableau is miles ahead of the game by putting the milk in a neutral container and distracting the hordes with cupcakes.

The parent in charge of this tableau is miles ahead of the game by putting the milk in a neutral container and distracting the hordes with cupcakes. 

So over the past three days I have had to have multiple conversations about this milk. Leading to questions about economics, shelf-stable milks, and what it means to be homogenized. And boy, well, I will really try not to make this mistake again. (Apologies to the Tara dairy. Don’t worry, I am still your number one cottage cheese fan.)

But yes, parents: You get drawn in at first because they are young, still. They’re learning! You are your child’s first teacher! But chances are you have only one or two degrees, if that, and probably not in something relevant to what they want to know. Even if you know the answer to the first round of questions, there is going to be a zigzag you don’t expect. You will start by talking about a rainbow and instead of discussing optics or physics, you’re going to have to know how they made paint colors in the 16th century. You will have to have more breadth than the encyclopedia and be faster than Google.

But here’s the rub: You will never have to expound on something you know. You will never have match movies of the 1980s to their iconic songs. You will never have to explain why a tomato is actually a fruit. You will never have to opine on whether giving a cat the name Picky-Picky was a self-fulfilling prophecy. So you may as well abandon what you know and think. You won’t be needing it where you’re going.

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Murphy and his law are alive and well here in Israel.

Yesterday (literally!) I said to Gila, “The good news about blogging for so long is that you’ve already covered all the feelings.”

And I thought I had a good grasp on Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) and Yom Haatzmaut (Independence Day). My post from 2011 is still applicable. I am desperately grateful to be here. I am more aware of the sacrifices with each passing year.

But this year Miss M’s class, the 5th grade girls (the kids’ school divides by gender for 5th and 6th), presented the tekes (ceremony) for Yom Hazikaron. 10952862_10153137452351708_161916310873038842_n (2)

Because there is no school tomorrow, Yom Haatzmaut, the tekes touched on both the grief and joy that encompasses this time of year.

There were slow songs and solemn readings; the flag lowered to half-staff; the lighting of memorial candles for fallen soldiers from our city.

And then the music turned upbeat. The girls lined up in rows and took flags. Big, proud Israeli flags. A young woman, who is doing her National Service in the school, led 33 girls through complex formations. My girl, who breezes through academics but struggles with many other things, couldn’t stop tapping her feet and had a gigantic smile on her face.

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She was so happy that I cried.

Finally the formation broke apart into rows. Each girl, gripping her flag, stood and sang “HaTikva” with the entire school and guests. Gets you right in the gut, 400 kids in white shirts pledging their allegiance to their land.

Highly recommended. Not to missed.

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One of the nicest things about Israel is its size. It’s pretty tiny. Which means that Taxman and I were able to slip away for two days last week while leaving the kids in Savta’s charge. (She came to us so the kids could go to school; we are mean like that).

It was a bit of a working holiday, as we did answer our phones and spent a little time on the computer, but being untethered from the regular grind was really lovely.

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We had temperate winter weather with light breezes and high clouds, perfect for being outdoors. Our first day, we took a self-guided tour of Neve Tzedek, a neighborhood in Tel Aviv. Although we did it non-competitively, we approximated the route of Israel ScaVentures‘ Neve Tzedek tour. (I had previously done the Jerusalem – Old City Scavenger Hunt, with many other bloggers, and the Gush Etzion ScaVenture with my kids and Lisa – and kids – from Handmade in Israel.) It was, predictably, fun and informative – they do experiential education right!

History footnote: Neve Tzedek was the first neighborhood of Tel Aviv. Previously it was some sand and a few orange trees that bordered both the Mediterranean and the overcrowded, dank, and expensive port city of Jaffa (Yafo). Some pioneers were tempted out of Jaffa with the promise of privies and better infrastructure. They came. Years later, the neighborhood fell into disrepair. Now it’s heavily gentrified and pricey as hell. A story repeated the world over.

What I got the biggest kick out of in Neve Tzedek was the graffiti. Hebrew, English, deep, nonsensical, funny. It was all covered.

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We also hit up the Rokach Museum, which is a ton of Tel Aviv history packed into a few rooms and very charming.

Our second day we hit the highway and headed south, where we got to catch the western Negev in full bloom. The kalanit (crown anemone) was in peak season. It was awesome. Lots of gawkers, even though it was midday on a weekday. Maybe other lucky vacationers like us?

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We also meandered over a hilltop in G’vaot Gad (the Gad hills), east of the city of Kiryat Gat, where we were treated to more flowers, a herd of cattle (who didn’t seem to like being disturbed), and a sighting of three mountain gazelles.

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So, a mini-tour of Israel in just 30 hours – big city, pastoral, history, nature. Topped off by a rainbow.

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When can we go again?

 

 

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This is a post about growing into marriage.

Don’t let the title put you off. The regrets are not about my marriage or my choice of a husband (I really got the brass ring, people), but that it took me so long to figure things out.

What things?

That with the RIGHT person in support of you, you are stronger. It’s more than simply your self-confidence is “doubled.” It’s a calculus that goes beyond plain math, where 1 + 1 adds up to more than 2. It’s a strong 2, a solid 2, an emboldened 2.

It’s TWO.

This took too long to occur to me, and I missed opportunities.

For example:

I didn’t apply to a graduate program in a different city because I couldn’t imagine my fresh marriage surviving with weekend visits for two years. (To be fair, Taxman’s refusal to consider a temporary relocation out of the tri-state area now looks to me like the kind of tantrum 8-year-old AM throws when you tell him he has to fold and put away a load of his laundry before he gets to use the computer. But at the time it was scary to me.)

So we were both adorable idiots.

It’s fine – life has twists and turns that I couldn’t have anticipated – nobody can. But it took a long time for us to have confidence in us. It sounds terrible to say, right? Of course you support your person from the very beginning! But support is more than words or actions. It has to go to the bedrock, it changes you. Marrying or formally committing to someone who you’ve known for only “x” amount of time is not enough – because the commitment sort of restarts the clock. Major changes can reshock the system – moving, kids, all of that.

It took me way too long to figure out that what I spoke about at our wedding was true – two dreams, two paths, are in fact a single one.

Emboldened together

So my regrets, really, are that I haven’t taken enough risks. I haven’t used my emboldened self to do enough. I need to figure out how I am going to apply my wings to something worthwhile and take it places. Because I have the strength to do it. I have my person.

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