Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Why I send them to camp

Dear Alex,

I’m feeling a bit emotional writing you a “welcome to camp” note for this summer.  I think it’s because I am 100% sure that you don’t need one from me to reassure you that you will have an epic summer.  And also, because a tiny part of me worries that beyond not needing reassurance, you may not WANT to read any mushy declarations of love and encouragement from your mom (the horror!).  This is of course exactly what should be happening as you fully enter teenager phase.

But here it is anyway.  Welcome to camp – you are going to have another epic summer!  I’m sure of it.  Enjoy the friendships you already have.  Be open to new ones.  You never know with whom you might actually have lots in common.  Befriend a cute & smart girl.  Ask her to Bash/Bistro.

Take the time to work on the stuff you want to master (like basketball and lacrosse and guitar) when nobody is watching.  Also take the time to do absolutely nothing.  Let your brain rest from having to remember things like bringing home and doing your homework and generally keeping track of your stuff.

Enjoy the new things and the comforting things and make sure to eat copious amounts of Ben & Jerrys when you are in Vermont.

I love you!


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Alex becomes bar mitzvah

Shabbat Shalom.  Thank you all for sharing with us today as we watched Alex become a bar mitzvah.  The thing that I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of parents talk about is how proud they are of their bar mitzvah child.  I wrote this speech before today and in advance I could already write, yes, I am so proud of this kid.  That is because I had all the behind the scenes understanding of what it takes to become a bar mitzvah in 2017.  It’s a lot.  It is way more than what he made look effortless today.  A little more than 75 years ago all you did was pop by the shul with a spongecake that your mom made, said a blessing and then went on to school.  That’s exactly how my grandfather - Alex’s great-grandfather - became a bar mitzvah.  As an aside, while my grandpa wasn’t feeling well enough to make the trip out from L.A. today, he got to see Alex read his Torah readings and haftarah on Skype and shared these feelings of pride.  

Okay, so let me explain this pride a little more.  As an observer, it may look like Alex practiced to memorize some songs albeit in a different language and got ready for the big performance.  This would not be unlike what he does when he’s performing in a School of Rock band. But what Alex really did was learn how to read, speak and understand a different language as well as learn how to read different types of musical notes.  He can now walk into any synagogue anywhere in the world be it reform, conservative or orthodox and participate fully.  He has the tools to congratulate someone with a mazel tov or comfort someone by helping he or she recite mourners kaddish.  He knows not only that the response to Sheket B’Vahkahshah is “Hey!”, but also that those words mean, “Please be quiet”.  His Jewish education has not been all about reaching this one day, about becoming a bar mitzvah and the service that you saw today, but has been and will continue to be about being a humanistic and tolerant Jewish adult.  This kid right here, is a really good kid on his way to becoming a really good adult. No pressure, Alex!  That, everyone, is pride.  I’ll even use a Yiddish word, although that’s not really my thing - K’vell.  It’s a word that means feeling so proud that your heart is almost bursting with it. So if a quick prayer on the way to school warranted a sponge cake, then what Alex has accomplished deserves a huge celebration. I've learned that there is a three-pronged formula to a great party, being surrounded by friends and family who love you, great food and great music. We have all three here this afternoon. 

One last thing that I’d like to say before I introduce this afternoon’s entertainment and this is a message directly for Alex.  You heard Eric and I recite to Alex the blessing over children up on the bimah earlier.  We try to say this prayer to our kids almost every Friday night.  My favorite part is the last few words - V’yesam l’cha shalom - this means more or less may you be at peace.  Alex may you live a peaceful and happy life.  We love you very much.

And now I’d like to introduce Cabaret Sauvignon.  Please eat, be merry and enjoy the wonderful acapella musical performance that you are about to experience.  Thank you.

Silver lining

Dear Alex and Avery,

It's hard to find the silver lining in our household tonight because your dad is REALLY angry with Alex for both not doing/handing in a bunch of homework assignments and for lying to us about it. But even with all the tears this evening, I managed to find a tiny bright spot that I will hold with me forever. Following is a conversation that I overheard between Eric and Avery. 

Eric was yelling so loudly at Alex that Avery became scared and began to cry. I had escaped to my bedroom because while I support Eric in parenting to help Alex succeed in life, I too find Eric's loud screaming ways to be disconcerting. 

Heightened with emotion, Eric happened upon Avery crying and said (still loudly and still passionately), "You should save your tears for something important!"

Avery through her tears, but not afraid to stand up to her father, said "Alex IS important and you may not think so, but I do and I love him!"

May you two always share a bond this strong and stand up to your parents (and anyone else who gives you trouble)

I love you two with all my heart!

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The girl who will change the world - Avery turns nine!

Dear Avery,

It's 9:30 a.m. on your birthday.  You went to sleep late last night after hosting 16 (!) girls for your birthday party.  And still at 9:30, you have already opened 16 gifts, run a 5K and are happily playing away at a friend's house before you head out to your 1 p.m. lacrosse game.  Phew!  You are a force of nature!

It's funny how when I take the time to reflect about how you have evolved over the past year how much I realize that you are who you are and some parts of you will forever remain unchanged parts of your personality.  Things like your joie de vivre, your perseverance and your general "more the merrier" inclusiveness.

My goodness, do I love that inclusiveness part of your personality.  It manifests itself as pure kindness.  (It also means that you have extremely large birthday parties!)  Your kindness means that you are aware when someone is feeling a little bit left out or on the fringes.  I have watched quietly from the sidelines as you pull that girl in so that she feels right in the center of it all.  I am so proud that this behavior comes naturally to you.

You have this air of confidence about you and perhaps only I know that it is fragile.  I am not sure why it is so fragile given your friendliness, your intelligence, your athletic prowess, your beauty.  More on those in a minute, but first this fragility.  I see it behind closed doors in our home when you wonder aloud if I will give you the same special attention and care that I give to your brother (of course I will!).  Will I plan a celebration of you becoming a bat mitzvah with a same focus on the details that I did for your brother.  Will I be class mom, run the fifth grade pool party, show up to your games and concerts, hold your hand and snuggle you for as long as you want me to?  Will I write you a birthday blog post and decorate your bedroom door so you wake up to birthday balloons?  Mom, have you started my birthday blog post yet like you wrote for Alex? The answer to all of these questions is yes, yes, yes of course!  I try not to get annoyed with this uncertainty and I fail sometimes, but will continue to try to do better to build that confidence in you.

You should be confident that you can do ANYTHING!  That was the message of your Girls on the Run club and it's so true.  You ran a 5K today!  You are strong, friendly, smart, athletic and beautiful inside and out!

This year I have watched you take on all academics with ease.  Something clicked in your brain with math and you went from it being a real chore in second grade to easy-breezy this year.  You have been my reader kid for some time now, really enjoying books.  You have a voracious appetite for books reading two or three in any given week.  I am so happy that we share the joy of getting lost in a good book.

And yes, the sports.  This year, you continued with soccer (and when you apply yourself, you actually make a difference on the field), started lacrosse (I'm so excited to watch you play this afternoon) and started rec basketball with the inimitable Coach Eric.  I think that your dad is most excited about this love of basketball that you have developed.  Due to an HBO mini series that you and Daddy watched together, you have amazing role models in the form of the UCONN women's basketball team.  Almost every evening since the spring has arrived, when dad gets home, you ask if he will go out on the driveway and practice basketball with you.  I think his heart is bursting and his pride is beaming.  I hope you continue to love being active and being part of a team as you grow.

So my girl who still likes to snuggle with her mama (even though you mostly call me Mom these days), I can't wait to see what lies in store in the year to come given all you have achieved in the past year.

As always, I love you with all my heart,

Monday, March 27, 2017

Avery says....

Dear Avery,
I just said to you, I like your hair when it's parted on the side. Your response to me in a rather sultry voice for an almost nine year old and with a toss of your hair over your shoulder, "I woke up like this."

I hope you always keep that confidence.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A teenager? That's so lit!

Dear Alex,

Today you turn thirteen.  Thirteen!!!!  How and when did you become an official teenager!?!?!?  I know it's cliche, but it really does go by quickly...the days are long, the years are short, and all that.

As has become tradition when you have completed another year of life, I like to take some time to reflect on your personality, your accomplishments and yes, even your struggles over the past year.

In the truest notion of becoming a bar mitzvah, you seem more like a man than ever
At some point you stop changing so quickly.  When you were a baby we would see changes weekly, but now a whole year has gone by and your personality, your quirks are still Alex with all that is wonderful and all your imperfections (and I wouldn't have it any other way).  I think what has changed this year is how I react to you.  I will always be your mother and I will always "parent" you and raise you to be a decent human being.  However in the past year, it has become increasingly easier at times to be your friend.  Like when we discuss what's going on in the world, when we laugh at stupid puzzles games on NPR shows like Ask Me Another, or when we sit together in complete and companionable silence (shamefully) staring at our individual electronic devices.

Because you are acting more like an adult, I worry about parenting you as an adult.  I talk to you a lot about drinking and drugs.  Not because I think you are anywhere near trying, but because I want to have an open line of communication before anything happens.  I try to talk to you about relationships and girls too.  While you are receptive to discussions about the former (booze and drugs), you refuse to listen or respond to anything I have to say about the latter.   You are not ready to even talk about it; it's okay - I certainly do not want to rush your childhood.

Yes, you are still a child in many ways, including your sponge-like ability to learn new skills
This year you continued to work on the things that you love as well as tackle some completely new skills. In no particular order, this year you have:

  • studied to become a bar mitzvah
  • continued to master playing guitar
  • learned how to play lacrosse
  • grown as a basketball player
  • learned how to speak Spanish
  • sought progress (if not yet perfection) in your organizational skills
I am in awe as always, it is not easy to take on as much as you do.  

As Dr Seuss wrote "Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you!"
That personality of yours.  The emotional intelligence and kindness and empathy that you continue to exhibit.  That mildly introverted, want to be extroverted, old soul who gets on great with loads of individuals, but still hasn't figured out how to exist in a crowd for cocktail party kind of chat.  The kid who will laugh hysterically at base humor (Don't Mess With The Zohan being a recent favorite) and also laugh in an erudite way at idiosyncrasies in language.  Whose voice and ear for music are a tremendous gift.

Who cannot remember to hand in his homework.  Who is also wheeling & dealing with his teachers for an exception, instead of just doing his work in the first place.  Who loves staring at his phone just a little bit too much for my liking.

This kid who is the best friend and the best brother and the best son.  Who is thankful for all he has.  Who is privileged, but recognizes his privilege and asks for nothing more.  

Happy thirteenth birthday!  I do love you with all my heart, I hope you always carry that love with you to boost you up.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Epic Embarassment

Dear Avery,

Last night you went to dinner at the Glen Rock Inn and were joined by me, Daddy, Alex and Auntie Dawn.  You are nearly nine years old (just to give some context to the story if you ever read this years from now).  It was Saturday, which meant that the bar was pretty crowded, but we ALWAYS sit at the bar because there is good energy and it is social and it is always an easy time waiting for a table since we tend to know a bunch of people there whenever we go.

So we waited and chatted with people and each other. And then we sat and ordered dinner and drinks and more people came in who we knew and we caught up with them as well.  The positive energy enveloped our table like a warm and cozy blanket.

At some point, you started to get tired (because you had been out since 8:30 a.m. when basketball started and hadn't had any time to just rest) and a wee bit cranky (because it's a bar and it's really loud and you were squished away in the corner of the table, oh yes, and you also have a bad cough and are losing your voice).  Nonetheless, the rest of us were having a great time and weren't ready to leave.

And then the music started.

Glen Rock Inn has bands come play on Saturday night, some better than others.  This was one of the "others", but at least the songs they were choosing were fun - Journey and Tom Petty and Heart.  We discovered that if we all sang loud enough at our table, we could pretty much drown out the sub-par singing across the bar.  We were singing our hearts out, even Alex, the almost teenager said, "I can really belt it!"

Well Avery, you were mortified!  You closed your ears and covered your head with your hood.  And our response to that was to laugh and to sing louder.  It really was a magical family evening and we have your embarrassment in part to thank for it.

I love you with all my heart.  And I look forward with great anticipation for you to join in on our hokey family sing-a-longs.

(before the singing, while we were waiting for a table and you insisted on making crazy faces)


Thursday, February 9, 2017

Gen Z

Dear Alex,

Sometimes I don't even realize how the world has changed until you point it out to me in the most direct way.

It's snowing today and we are all in the house for a snow day.  Of course, your dad and I are working because in the modern world there are no snow days for adults who can easily VPN and conference call in from home - business as usual.  
In any case, you had signed up earlier this year to volunteer for the Shovel For Seniors program that our town has.  This is the first (and hopefully the last) time that it has snowed.  Since it is still coming down pretty heavily, I asked you to call the older couple to let them know that you would be over later today after it had slowed down.  So you call and then come into the kitchen with your phone on speaker and say, "There's this sound coming when I call them, mom".  It was a busy signal, a phone sound that you had never heard and had no idea what it was.  I had to tell you that means someone is on the phone and they do not have voicemail or call waiting.

Modern times hitting up against luddites.  It can be confusing for a twelve almost thirteen year old.

Love ya,

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

And now for this brief interruption from living with pre-teenage angst...

Dear Alex,

I am alternately angry with and proud of you at any given point during your seventh grade, 12, almost 13 years old year.

It is a tumultuous year filled with growth and change and there is an enormous amount of demands being put on you as you study to become a bar mitzvah in addition to all of the regular demands of school and sports and music and friends.

So yes, unavoidably, there is strife.  Particularly for you, my organizationally challenged first born.  Through it all, I love you fiercely.

And then there are spots as bright as the August sun, spots where you take what is amazing about you and share it with the world.  Like the project that you have chosen to achieve status as a bar mitzvah. More on that in a few sentences, but first a description of mitzvot chaveri. The rabbi taught us about two different types of mitzvot, those between you and G-d (praying, keeping kosher, keeping Shabbat) and those between you and man, also known as mitzvot chaveri (commandments between friends).  It is this latter type of mitzvah that has led the Conservative Jewish movement to require some kind of mitzvah project for every person who will become a bar mitzvah.

We are living in times that very scarily mirror the social unrest that occurred in Europe before the Holocaust.  People who are legally seeking asylum in the US in order to save their lives are being turned away by a new administration that has implemented stricter immigration laws.  For your project, you are not being political, you are being humanistic.  You are raising awareness among a generation of people, teaching them about mindless intolerance and hate.  And you are doing it all in your own voice, making it relevant to kids your age.  Even as I type this, I feel an emotional swell of pride.  I love you fiercely.


Monday, January 30, 2017

And the compliment as a compliment

Saturday we went to Bernie Wedeen's party to celebrate him becoming a bar mitzvah.  Katie and Andy are wonderful hosts and we had a fantastic time.  It started out well when I came downstairs from getting ready.  A dress, heels and makeup on my face.  

About me.  I never wear makeup.  Not even some natural looking makeup that looks like I'm not wearing makeup.  I just don't wear it.  So when I wear it for fancy events it is very noticeable.

So I walk downstairs and the lovely and sweet Avery says, "Wow! You look just like a Snapchat filter!"

#hashtaggeneration #GenZsaysfiltersGenXsaysrosecoloredglasses

Avery says...

Mommy, you aren't so good to snuggle with sometimes because your hips are too bony!

a.k.a. the exact opposite of a backhanded compliment (a fronthanded criticism?)