Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Alex says...

...the main things that I listen to on Apple music are Eminem, Van Halen and the Hamilton soundtrack.

Monday, October 31, 2016

I knit, I write I quiet my brain

Dear kids,

It's Halloween night and I am listening to you in the other room trading candy. This end of the day is idyllic and happy, but there have been times today where my heart hurt for you, where I just wanted to protect you from the pain of growing up. This specific kind of heart pain always comes from relationships and learning to be social and feeling left out and finding your place. It stinks, but in a way I am also glad for these tiny hurts. In the long run, it will make you decent human beings.

I hope that we are done with the bad and that we can settle into a busy, easy, happy time.

I am glad that you are exactly who you are.

I love you,
Mom

Friday, October 21, 2016

Hints of Judaism

Dear Avery,

Today I was listening to you talk to one of your friends.  You were talking about a Thanksgiving project on which your class is working.  You said to your Jewish friend (referring to a cornucopia), "You know that Thanksgiving thing that looks like a shofar?"

I don't know why, but that one little sentence made me so happy.  It is hard having a Jewish identity when you live in a country where although there is separation of church and state, the majority of people do indeed go to the aforementioned "church".  Somehow by knowing the word "shofar" before you know the word "cornucopia" I have hope that you will be an American (adjective) Jew (noun), rather than a Jewish American.

Shanah Tovah to my sweet Aviva Gila.

Love,
Mama




Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Let's Talk About Sex, Babeee...

Dear Avery,

Yesterday you and I had this conversation:

Avery: (out of no where) "So what does sex feel like, anyway?"

Me: (thinking to myself, why the heck are you thinking about this and how can I deflect and do I really want to have this conversation) "When you are in love, it can feel good."

Avery: "But like, what is it!?!  I know you get under the covers....I mean, have you ever done sex?"

Me: (thinking, phew! she gave me an out!) "Yes, of course.  You have sex to make babies and I had you and Alex." (also do I need to do a better job of explaining where babies come from?  maybe, but not right now.)

Avery:  "Ok.  Makes sense."

You are almost eight and a half years old.  Don't grow up too fast.

Love,
Mama

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Looking into the (not so distant) future

Dear Alex,

Last week we spent the week on a family cruise to celebrate Grammy and Grandpa Howie's fiftieth wedding anniversary.  For the most part you hung out with Avery and your cousins and had a wonderful time.  But you also wanted to push outward a bit and be a (pre)teen, if only for a little while.  This attitude manifested itself a few times during the cruise, most notably:


  • They have this teen program.  Most kids who attend go with their friends or family who are on the boat with them.  It is VERY brave in my opinion to go on your own to something like this.  Not only did you go, not only did you make a friend (at first you thought his name was Brett, but then you discovered that his name was Fred), but you stayed out until midnight!  We were already in bed when you came back to the room.  It just felt so "teenager" of you.  By the way, it's not like you and Fred became life long buddies.  You agreed to hang out with him the next day, but then you were kind of done.  You wanted to prove to yourself that you could do it and you did.
  • And then you were back with your family.  But you were still acting like a teenager at times.  In fact, Uncle Josh helped you with this pursuit by being your wingman (and teaching you how to talk to girls).  This is you guys waiting in line for the FlowRider on ship surfing.  Josh is helping you in your conversation with Emma.  An older woman of thirteen.


I hope you have a great seventh grade year.  That you continue to grow up.  But please don't grow up too fast.

Love you,
Mom

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Insomnia

2.

More.

Weeks.

Five weeks is long enough.  I'm ready for them to come home.  And I can't sleep thinking about it.  And about other things.  Because once they come home:

1. Will I arrange the perfect homecoming?  Will they get the right amount of time with their parents? With their friends?  Alone, because they haven't been alone in seven weeks.

2. Do I need to get them checked for lice and have their laundry done by a professional like the other moms?

3. How will I have enough time to get all their laundry done and everything organized before we leave for Florida?

4. How will I have time to pack for Florida and the cruise for myself and for them while also working and spending time with them?

5. Is it weird if they come home and don't want to hug me and kiss me endlessly?

6. Will they be okay in school this year?

7. Will I do a good job of planning their activities while balancing a need for busy-ness with time for homework and time for laziness?

8. What will I forget?

And then there is work:

A. Ms. 98% HAS to finish packing up her office this week.

B. And has to do her online digital training.  All six hours of it.

C.  For our temporary work space, where will I drive and park?  What is the best place to park?

D.  Will there be a place for me to sit?

E. What if my new job stinks? 

F. Will I still feel like a part of a community?  And if I don't, how will I lead?

And personal:

1. What the heck is wrong with my left leg?  Will I ever feel like I am important enough to get it checked out?  And if I go, will they validate that something is wrong?

2. With my graying hair and expanding waistline, am I still attractive?

3. Do I indulge too much and become a selfish human being while the kids are away at camp?

4. Am I not adventurous enough (at all) while the kids are away at camp?

5. Is there some sort of summer philanthropy that I can add to my routine to feel good about myself?  Where and how should i get involved?

6. Will typing all this down make it easier to go to sleep or make the thoughts swirl through my head even faster and more furiously.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Refresh

Dear Kids,

It is almost the end of day four at camp.  I haven't received a letter yet or had a chance to talk to you and I am dying to hear all about your experiences: the good and the bad, the scary and the exciting.

In the meantime, I am a stereotype.  I am desperate to know that you are more than okay, that you are happy so I do what all mothers who send their kids to sleep away camp do, I refresh.  I am on the camp website numerous times a day to see are there new photos of you.  Can I catch a glimpse of an arm or a leg - "those are definitely her shoes!" - among a group of kids?  The crown jewel, a photo of you smiling with your arm slung around a buddy's shoulder?  Camp is a gift, but it is not a gift that is for everyone and as it is Avery's first summer going away this year, I refresh.

I try to give it time to be patient.  But it is hard, especially since no one needs to know just how often I am checking, how often I refresh.

I refresh on my phone when I wake up in the morning.  I refresh when I get to work and I turn on my computer.  I refresh when I need a break from writing an email or a presentation.  I refresh.

I love you both so much.  I miss you.  My heart hurts with missing you.  I'm not allowed to write that in a letter that I mail to you at camp, because I want you to be happy.  But years from now if you read this, please know that not a minute goes by when you are away that I am not missing you.

Love,
Mama

Thursday, June 23, 2016

I can barely breathe

Dearest Alex and Avery,

Today is the last day of sixth and second grade.  In two days, for the first time BOTH of you will get on a bus to Pennsylvania for summer camp and leave me with an empty house for the summer.  Alex, while camp is your easy, happy place, at home you continue to work on finding your place among your school friends.  I'm not sure that you have plans for after school on the last day of school, but I am hoping that you find someone (or even better some group) to spend time with and do not come home to sit around by yourself on the last day of school.  Avery, camp is brand new for you and I wonder how you will fall asleep each night without a chapter from a book, a hug and snuggle from your mama. All of it, all of it has me sitting at home feeling sad and saddened (are those different?) and like I can barely breathe.  I just want happiness and lightness and perfection for you both even as I want to keep you young and tiny and keep you all to myself.

Love,
Your mom in conflict and sadness and happiness



Sunday, June 12, 2016

Hypocrisy

Hi Kids,

There have been some horrific mass shootings recently.  None of them are okay.  Hatred is never a good thing and killing for hatred is the worst.

The latest, an attack against the LGBTQ community in Orlando had the founder of Facebook rushing to activate "Safety Check" so that people could let their friends and loved ones know that they were safe.  This attack came only days after a group of Israelis were killed and wounded in a market in Tel Aviv.

Facebook ALWAYS activates this Safety Check feature, EXCEPT when something happens in Israel to Israelis.  I am sickened by this hypocrisy. 

You are so lucky to live in an area of the world where you are safe, however it truly feels like a world in which people will turn on you at any moment. Because you are Jewish.  A world where a Jewish-by-birth founder of Facebook does not offer the same level of safety to all people.

Please embrace the wonderful heritage and culture into which you were born.  And ALWAYS remember to speak up to protect ALL people.

#alllivesmatter #jewishlivesmatter

Love,
Mom

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Shining, then sharing

Dear Avery,

Tomorrow is your eighth birthday.  You were very excited this morning to be able to say "tomorrow is" instead of five days, four days, etc., until my birthday.

And as usual, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about your past year to best encapsulate in one letter to you all that has happened, all that defines you.

Forever Building Fantastical and Magical Worlds
So some of what I write is easy because there are elements of your personality that I have been writing about for eight years that will always hold true: your joie de vivre and your intense desire to play.  If I close my eyes it is very easy to picture you as a cartoonish Tasmanian Devil creating a maelstrom of Polly Pockets, Calico Critters and American Girl dolls in her path.  This explosion of colorful plastic brings you great happiness whether it is shared with a friend or when you are quietly creating a magical world on your own.

If it's not with toys, then you create these worlds through your drawing and coloring.  I find it interesting that while you do not outright reject coloring books, you have always preferred (and continue to prefer) creating and coloring in your own drawings.  In the past year, you have taken great pride in looking at a picture and recreating it in great detail.  It takes focus and it is impressive.  And even more impressive is when it is not perfect, that you do not get frustrated, but you work harder to learn how to do it better.

And regardless of whether it's with toys or with drawing it is ALWAYS accompanied by a giant and clutter-filled mess!  I try to take a deep breath and let you express your creativity, but sometimes what you see as fun and I see as a complete lack of order can create extreme moments of strife.  I still love you, even if you are messy, I promise. :)

Focusing....Outside of the Public Eye
Last year I wrote about your determination to get things right, to keep trying and practicing until you were just about perfect.  I still see this determination in you, but it has evolved.  Last year you would try and try and try right alongside your friends (who may have already perfected a task).  This year I have found that you want some skills all to yourself, that you are not as willing to share and learn alongside your friends.  It's not that you mind them seeing you imperfect, it's more like you want to love new & different things without having to share them, to have something that's yours and yours alone.  I really understand that desire.  I relate it to being the second child, to learning something new only to hear from your older sibling (I'm talking to you Alex and Dawn!) "well everybody already knows that!"

Believe in True Friendship
By having something for yourself you never feel left out or left behind.  I think it is a great way for you to build confidence, so I will help you protect these moments.  But I do hope you remember that when your friends hear about what you are doing and want to join you, it is because they are your friends and they love you and spending time with you, not because they are trying to rise above you.

So take your time to shine, but then also remember to share with friends.  Recognize the good in people; they don't always have ulterior motives.  You will spend a lifetime navigating friendships; I still do!  Please don't be cynical.  Remember that not every friend has to be a "best friend"; you can enjoy playing with someone just once in a while and that is enough. And please try to let the hurt roll off of you - your family and your true friends will always be there to give you a hug.


Happy birthday to my sweet, kind, feeling, exuberant, loud, crazy, expressive, smiley, toothless (finally!) eight year old girl!
I love you with the tightest hug and squeeze that I could possibly muster.
Love,
Mama






Tuesday, April 19, 2016

When things are bad

Dear kids,

I don't know if it's general downward spiral mentality, but it seems likes when something makes me unhappy be it related to parenting and my children, marriage and my relationship or job and myself, that many other negative events seem to follow in a clump.  I'm in one of those spirals right now and every little thing that can go wrong has gone wrong.  

I know that I should be thankful for my health, my family and the fact that I live in relative opulence and comfort, but boy are all these little (but seemingly large) things getting under my skin.  I also know that there will be an upward trend out of this negative place, but that doesn't make me feel any better or give me any direction on how to let all this yucky stuff not bother me.

So no advice for you on this one.  Just wanted to let you know that you are not alone when you are feeling this way, that it happens to everyone.

Love you (even if I'm annoyed and yelling lately),
Mom

Friday, April 15, 2016

Bits of happiness

Dear Avery,

It's a Friday morning and it's spring break so you and your brother are not in school.  I have the privilege of working from home on Fridays and it is particularly enjoyable today because you have a friend over this morning to play.

I am in my office space working, but I can hear the two of you playing and building enormous worlds filled with American Girl dolls and Barbies and your imaginations.  It is delightful to be able to listen.  My heart is light and happy.

Thank you for being my little girl.

Love,
Mama

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Toothy Fairy

Dear Avery,
Last night you lost (read: ripped out) your second tooth ever. You were understandably excited-the novelty has not yet worn off.
You went to sleep excited for a visit from the tooth fairy. As uber prepared as I was, when Alex was going upstairs to sleep, I asked him if I could borrow some cash. He gave me a  $10 (in exchange for two $20s - that kid is definitely going to be successful when he grows up) and went to sleep himself.
Now it's time for me to go upstairs. I quickly cut a note into a cute heart shape, write some sweet words and slip the note and money under your pillow in place of the envelope containing your tooth.  Back in the light of the hallway, I see this:

It's 10:45 on Monday night and you want a toy, not money. Kill me. So I scrounge around and find a leftover gift from Five Below that never quite made it to you on Hanukkah. It's a Heli-ball, kind of like a mini drone and I know you won't be very excited to receive it. But it's a toy nonetheless, so I wrap it up and make the exchange with the cash previously left in your room.
Before I wake you up the next morning,  I quickly plan a contingency. I take that $10 and put it under my pillow. I'm glad I did it when you were not too excited to receive the heli-ball, I asked you to help me make my bed. You find the $10 and we discuss how the tooth fairy took one of the extra gifts I have and left me the money. I asked if you would trade with me and buy your own toy. You agreed and you were happy. 
You're lucky, you're cute!
Love,
Mama 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

One foot in each world

Dear Alex,

Today you turn twelve.  I know it seems cliche to write that I remember being twelve myself, but I really do.  I remember how sixth grade and middle school is a really big deal.  Something about getting yourself between classes and packing your backpack and even walking out of school and deciding if you are going to go home or somewhere else.  It is a step change in the amount of independence you have.

I think, no, I know that you love this independence.  This perhaps most defines your twelve year old personality.  And I'm trying, I really am, to let you be this mini-adult.  Give my kid his freedom.  This is the "foot" you have in the soon to be a teenager, growing up too fast world.  I let you choose and spend time with your friends, go where you want to go.  The good news is that for the most part, you just go to each other's homes, spending time playing computer and video games.  

But there is also this intense need to be liked (in the form of social media likes - times have and have not changed). The new and ever growing forums (Instagram, Snapchat, random and weird texting apps that have come and gone) make me nervous.  I want you to always be nice and receive nice.  Meanness will stay with you for a lifetime as it all is recorded for posterity.

And there is also responsibility.  In the form of packing your backpack, remembering when you have homework or needing to study for a test and without your mommy and daddy really getting a chance to know your teachers.

So there is the other "foot" that must remain in the world of a child.  Where I still make your lunch every morning, where I have to yell at you to do your homework, where I check your texts and your posts and make sure that you are both behaving and being treated well.

It is exhausting guiding you through this transition into adulthood.  I do it of course because you are my child and this exactly what parenting is.  But I also do it because you are so worth it.  You are intelligent and kind and perseverant. You have a love of learning when someone teaches in an engaging way.  You don't complain much.  You are ever grateful for all that you have.  You never ask for anything.  You are a good friend.

In this last of your preteen years, I hope you continue to let me into your world, and not try to have both feet in the world of adulthood quite yet.  It is a privilege to be your mom.



Happy birthday, Alex!

Love,
mom

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Cleansed

Dear kids,

It rained today.  It POURED.  I went out to run some errands and got completely soaked - just to let you know HOW hard it was raining today.  You may have heard metaphors of rain as an agent of cleanse.  If you haven't, trust me, it's a thing.

In any case, I just wanted to let you know that I worked from home today because you two have a winter break day off from school.  And I felt a sense of calm, a sense that we are cleansed as a family.  We may get angry with each other, feel tired or sad or even overwhelmed at times. As individuals, as a family, we always get past these tough times.  We return to golden times.  We are cleansed.

Love you with all my heart,
Mom

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Little and Big

Dear Avery,

Each night when we send you upstairs to take a shower, you do so grudgingly and then immediately after when you are wrapped in a towel you call out in your happy sing-song, clarion voice, "I'm done with my shower!" (I can hear the melodic nature of that sentence as I type it).

You then put on cozy pajamas and come back downstairs for me to brush your hair, for you to beg for another chapter in a book, a few minutes of TV, a chat and any other procrastination tactics you dream up.

Last night, I was on the phone with a friend when you called out and I imitated your sweet voice to  my friend so that she would know a bit about our evening ritual.  To this imitation you called out, "I hear you mocking me!"  Wow!  Somehow that just seemed so direct, so grown up and all without any anger or spite or hurt.

You are one cool little (and big!) girl.

I love you,
Mama

Monday, February 8, 2016

Learning Styles and Teaching Styles

Dear Alex,

We had an interesting conversation this morning about learning and teaching.  You told me that one of your least preferred teachers teaches like "cogs in a machine" (you asked if that had anything to do with the word cognitive).  In any case, what you meant when we discussed was that her teaching is so routinized (not cognitive!), that what you should be doing or learning is not top of mind, it becomes invisible.

She probably teaches this way with the same type of assignments due on the same days of the week so that she can free up young learners to focus on the content.  But of course as I realize more and more each day, people have different learning styles.  And this type of teaching style feels so much like process that you use all your brain power on making sure all the cogs are in place rather than stretching your thinking.

I'm sorry that your learning style does not mesh with her teaching style.  It makes for a difficult year.

Love you,
Mom

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Seven Years Two Hundred Eighty One Days

Dear Avery,

Yay!  That's all I can type.  Yesterday we had an exciting and momentous day.  A long awaited day.  A day that we all rejoiced and waited for even more magic

You told me that you pretended to be asleep and that you saw the tooth fairy leave you a little gift.
Love,
Mama

Semantics

Dear Alex,

This week you came home from school and had this conversation with me:

"I broke up with Adele today."

Of course I questioned you about whether you hurt her feelings, was it a mutual break up, were you both okay.  The good news is that you promised me that you broke up with each other and that the main reason was because kids were teasing you at school so you guys just decided to remove the topic of teasing.

Then I asked you, "Are you still going to be friends?"

"Yes.

"Are you still going to talk and text with each other?"

"Yes."

"Will you still hang out sometimes outside of school?"

"Yes."

"So basically, nothing has changed."

"No.  We broke up.  We're no longer dating.  It's totally different."

It's funny how much terminology matters to an eleven year old.  Don't grow up too quickly Alex.  Be friends with anyone and everyone.  Swing from the monkey bars.  Build a snow fort.  Ride your bikes into town to get pizza and ice cream.  And for goodness sake, do NOT worry about semantics.

Love,
Mom

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Tikkun Olam

Dear Alex,

This morning as I was driving to work, I was listening to a news segment about the changing requirements for the college application process.  The admissions director from MIT was speaking about how a significant number of universities were adopting and enforcing less focus on SAT & ACT scores and quality over quantity, both for AP classes and for extracurricular activities.  It should not be about the long list, but rather how you might be able to discuss at length why you love all you get to learn about in AP History or how singing in a rock band brings you great happiness.

The reason behind the change has to do with a recent study published by the Harvard graduate school of Education.  Two key findings came out of this study:  socioeconomically challenged students are at a disadvantage because they have to work after school thus are less likely to participate in extracurriculars, and more affluent high school students who have the time are doing so much that their stress is reaching unacceptable levels.

So that's all great and interesting and maybe takes some of the pressure off of you at your young age of eleven, but that is not why I am writing you this letter.  The MIT admissions director said something else that struck me so profoundly, particularly after a conversation that you and I had yesterday, that I burst into tears on Route 4.  He said that college admissions were going to shift their requirements to start looking for individuals who do more to make the world a better place (a.k.a. tikkun olam in Hebrew).

Yesterday you got in trouble, yet again, for not turning in a couple of homework assignments.  This has been a terrible pattern for you throughout your sixth-grade year and one that we hope we can fix before you start seventh grade.  The reasons range from you forgetting that you have the homework to do (write it down!), losing the homework sheet (put everything in your binders and/or ask your teacher for another!), or the ever infuriating "it's done and in my locker, but I forgot to hand it in" (argh! I have NO advice for that one!).

Yesterday's excuse was a new one and we yelled at you, but now I'm not so sure that was right.  You had planned on doing a math worksheet that was due later in the day during study hall.  You also had a science test later in the day, but you had studied for it and anyway seem to have a real facility with the material (biology! cell structure! a future doctor?!!?) without studying for long.  A friend asked you for help with science; he was having trouble, feeling nervous, didn't understand the material.  All of the sudden, it was like that math worksheet didn't exist.  You put his needs ahead of your own.  And after the science test, he thanked you and said he thought he did really well because of your help (you got a 100% - imagine what your semester grades would be if you actually handed in your homework on time.).

So why did you help this boy?  Because you are at a stage where you crave external gratification from your peers (a.k.a. popularity)?  Because you are really smart when it comes to science? Because helping him meant that you got to be chatty during study hall?  Maybe all of those reasons are partially true.  However, there is one other reason greater than all of those that I believe to be true.  Your emotional intelligence is enormous.  Your empathy is tremendous.  You really do think about others, their place in the world and how you can make the world better for them.  Tikkun Olam.  I'm not sure exactly how it will manifest for you later in life, but I guarantee that whatever you do, you will be successful in making the world a better place. 

I love you.  
Mom

P.S.  Please get into a routine of handing in your homework so that you can actually "graduate" sixth grade, otherwise how will you ever make this great impact I've written about. :P

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Bright moments

This weekend we were in the car for a longish drive so there was more talking and less listening to music than usual.  During the course of our conversation as a family, this gem occurred between myself and Alex.

"Mom, would you consider yourself a hipster?"
"No.  Not really."
"What about a hipster mom?"
"Again, not really, but why are you asking?"
"Because compared to all the other moms I know, you are way more of a hipster than any of them are."


When he wants to, this boy whom I love, hate and feel intensely connected, can be utterly and completely charming.