Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Shopping Expedition-Part One-Learning Flexibility

Those of you who are avid (?) regular readers of this blog, probably are aware, by now, that shopping with Ricki can be an exasperating experience. Lately she has definitely been better. It seems that limits and prizes DO work.
So yesterday noon before I rushed out with Ricki after school, to re-order a pair of eyeglasses, I promised her a bottle of drink from a store if she behaved herself at the optometrist’s. (No, the spectacles misplaced on Friday were not found yet, despite thorough searching.) Ricki was moderately good in the eyeglasses store, although she did act up a tiny bit. But basically she was OK, and her prize of a bottle of drink was coming to her.
Therefore on our exit from the store, she pointed to the cooler in the falafel store next door, and with my agreement, entered. On a spur-of –the-moment, knowing that no one else would be home at lunch, I asked her if maybe she wanted to have falafel here for lunch, saving me from cooking. She agreed, and I placed an order.
However, as he was placing the falafel balls in the already-smeared-with- humus pita, Ricki said: “No Pita”. I ignored this wondering how she thought she was going to have pita-falafel without pita.
Well, Ricki really didn’t want the pita. She started telling me that she wanted a plate full of falafel balls. I tried to explain that it just isn’t sold like that. At that point the proprietor asked what she wanted. I explained, and he said, “For 2 shekels I can give her a few falafel balls on a plate. So what if it is a bit different?”
I suddenly realized that he was right. There is no crime in wanting to eat something different. I need to listen more, and be more flexible. And Ricki needs to learn to speak up more quickly.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Special Exposure Wednesday: A Flower of Hope

Some people are good with plants. My mother is. My husband is. I am not. But I love plants,so I keep trying. And trying.

So right after the Sabbatical year finishing, as soon as feasible, I planted some blooms. My husband took them all up to the roof (probably for their own good), but I insisted that one be returned. His bloomed magnificently, and mine didn't. I got lots of leaves, but no blooms.Now, several month later, one morning, between the old leaves, a flower arose. Its a different color, but I feel that this flower is a REAL survivor! And for me a symbol of hope: try... try..... and try again.......

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fear-and Psalms

[Note to anyone coming from “Try This Tuesday”: I know it looks like the link took you to the wrong place. It didn’t. Read and be patient....]

Those of you who are not familiar with Israel will find our Independence Day celebrations a bit strange, perhaps. The day before Independence Day is set aside for mourning and acknowledging those soldiers whose lives were sacrificed for the freedom the rest of us enjoy. And our memorial day is marked by serious stuff; it can not be ignored. Places of entertainment are closed; the radio stations deal almost entirely with the topic of the fallen. The day is a solemn one by any yardstick. Then, at the day’s end, the country turns around and celebrates our existence.
And, actually, it really is not all that strange. Because we are a small country, and one with serious security problems, the percentage of citizens in the army, and the army reserves, is very high. And for those families, the families with loved ones in active duty, or currently in reserve duty, the fear of the knock on the door from three “friends of Job” is never entirely gone.
Yes, I admit. I am proud of my son. And yes, as the mother of a soldier, Remembrance Day gives me the “Heebie-Jeebies”. The fear is a bit more palpable. Remembrance Day reminds us that soldiers do sometimes die. And while it would be much more sensible, statistically, to have worried about my son before he was in the army, when he drove to work on a motorcycle, [actually, I fretted then too....], I suspect that this fear is something I will just have to learn to live with.
And actuality, as parents we all live with fear. Have we no trepidation when our children go on school trips? And if they are late in their return, do we not nearly panic somewhere within? Yet, somehow, we let them go on that trip. Why? Because we realize that life with fear is only the shadow of an existence. So, we maintain our sanity, as parents, by pushing the apprehension aside. And when our offspring grow up, and are in circumstances (such as the army), where they are in a potentially dangerous situation, we simply have to avoid dwelling on the things that we dread. We may not be able to conquer it completely, but wisdom dictates that we channel that worry into tehillim (psalms), and prayers... and go on with our lives.

And a final note to special-needs moms:
As parents of children who are susceptible to abuse, to mockery, to misread can be a giant leap of faith to let that child, as teen, attempt things on their own. Our jobs as parents is to give them the tools that they need to succeed, and then to give them the gift of opportunity. For just as my soldier son David feels a need to be part of his society, to join the ranks of manhood, to test himself, stretch himself... and be acknowledged for his does Ricki need these same types of things. Yes, it causes anxiety to let her go to the grocery store down the street. And if on the way back she stops and visits our neighbors, I may well be phoning the grocery, checking when she left, and envisioning the worst. But our job is to teach... and to enable. So push that fear (a bit) aside.....
You’ll worry? We all do. We worry about our children from the moment we know of their conception to the moment that we die.

[My “honest Abe” personality makes me add the following. The Israeli practice on Memorial Day is to stand at attention during a two-minute long siren. I did not stand at the siren last night. I feel that sirens and standing is a non-Jewish custom adopted by Israel erroneously. Instead I sat and read psalms... and not just for the minute or two of the siren. Somehow may the families of the fallen be consoled by G-d, and may He guard our sons.]

Monday, April 27, 2009

Chicken Bones, Behavior Plans, and the Lilliputian Mommy

Ricki has (and I wish I could write “HAD”) a penchant – no, a compulsion – to throw things on the floor. For a long time we hadn’t really noticed, except to admonish her when picking something up. Then, about 2months (6 weeks ?) ago, I decided that enough is enough. The whole family united behind the cause, and for 6-8 weeks now, Ricki has been summoned whenever we saw any extraneous objects or trash lying around. I was sure that eventually she would realize that” going to the trash can” is easier than “being pulled away from whatever you are doing” followed by “ going to the trash can”. Well, either “eventually” hasn’t arrived, or, for whatever reason there may be, the message is not progressing through the circuits of her brain. I had arrived at this conclusion yesterday morning, and the development of some possible behavior program seemed to be in order. I just wasn’t looking forward top taking the time needed to analyze the situation thoroughly and develop a plan.
I was pleased, however, that in the area of schoolwork, she has been improving, both at school, and with homework at home. I had been able to give her several reinforcing prizes as a result, and had hopes for continued success in this area.
Then yesterday afternoon Ricki asked me to do something on the computer for her. Concurrently she was supposed to have lunch. As I finished the computer work, and headed towards the dining area, a sight I hadn’t seen for a while met my eyes: Ricki had strewn the bones from her chicken all over the floor around the chair. Ricki was already on her way to the computer, and I followed her. I shut the machine off despite my daughter’s vehement protests. I decided that even though a Positive Behavior Plan was not yet in place, it was time to go with Ricki to a higher level of interaction over thrown objects: Utter disregard for household rules would need more than a verbal “wrist-slap” and a trip to the trash can. It was time for her to realize that not only could her privileges be postponed (as she took things to the trash), they could also become forfeit.

Ricki actually took the closure of the computer, her favorite pastime, reasonably well. That alone shows that she realized that there was a definite measure of justice in the sentencing. Quickly enough, she went to one of her other favorite activities: playing teacher. I soon noticed that not only was she playing “teacher”, she was actually doing some of her homework as she did so! True, it was homework due on Friday, and she had much more pressing things to do... but homework IS homework.

Two hours passed, and I finally told Ricki that while her “teaching” was fine, it was time to sit down with me and look at the homework due on the morrow. Her response that she was teaching “Gilli” (her imaginary friend), is a rather typical response on her part, and I told her that the homework I had for her was more important. Yet at the same time, I was busy preparing certain visual aids for her use in class, and I sort of let things slip. And again this happened about a half-hour later.
Finally, after about an hour and a half (YIKES!!! HOW did I let het get away with that for so long??? ), I lay down the law: come do homework NOW, OR ELSE. So she turned to “Gili” and begged Gili to let her go, that she Gili would manage...

Ricki needed Gili’s permission to listen to me.
I feel about two inches high.

(Wicked Grin)I warned Ricki that Gili can cook her lunch and wash her laundry tomorrow.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Eyeglasses Race

Usually Ricki’s problem in the morning is agreeing to wear her hearing aid. She needs it, but not enough to be dependant on it. And if things get noisy at school (as they often do), rather than covering her ears, she just pulls the aid out!
So I have embarked lately on a campaign to get her to wear her aid more, using various bribes STRIKE prizes as incentive. Ricki understands the logistics of prizes very well, and the method is effective, as long as the prize is something she wants. This last Friday morning she even came to me with the aid, asking for me to help her put it in place.
So imagine my consternation as I see Ricki exiting the door without her eyeglasses! I called, her, but she continued down the stairs. I quickly searched for the glasses, and found them by the bathroom sink. They were filthy. Now Ricki knows how to clean her glasses, and often does so, but I guess this morning she was in a rush, and /or couldn’t be bothered.
So I cleaned them up, and went downstairs to give her the spectacles. SURPRISE! She didn’t want them. I quickly realized that she assumed that they were still dirty. Just then, her driver arrived, and she popped into the car, ready to make a James Bond getaway. So I held the door open, and growled “You are GOING to WEAR your GLASSES!” She did, I closed the door, and the car drove away.
Was I worried that she would toss them? Not really. She needs her glasses more than she needs her hearing aid, and in the split-second that she put them on, she realized that they were CLEAN.

P.S. But somehow, Friday afternoon, her glasses got misplaced. She may not actively wanted to toss them, but she certainly was not being careful about them.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Flying Beasties (and my daughter with Down syndrome)

Ricki looked like a character in a horror film who, finally coming face-to-face with a loathsome fearful enemy, gazes at it in shock. She pointed a quivering finger in the direction of the window. I glanced up from the studies we had been working on together, and saw that there was indeed a strange, though harmless sight: a “swarm” of about five miniscule baby flies were swirling around in the airspace by the living room window, looking for the entire world like they were in “holding pattern” at the airport. I gave a few ineffective sweeps at them with my notebook, and attempted to draw Ricki back to the math exercises we were doing.
Ricki was not about to be distracted from the menace located a few paces away. She demanded that I get rid of them. I gave a few more sweeps at them with my notebook, but I guess that they really were flying on instruments or something, as they would not budge from the terrain they had already occupied. (What do you want? They were ISRAELI flies.....) Ricki insisted that I “kill” them.
Reluctantly, I got out a bug spray, hoping that one little spritz (squirt) would make them flee to safer territory, without causing too many casualties. I gave a squirt, the flies dispersed, and we returned to our studies.
Suddenly, about five minutes later, a fly struggling though his final moments on earth dropped squarely on to Ricki’s homework sheet. She yelped in near hysteria, but I swept the fly off the table, hoping that it could somehow survive. But Ricki was not concerned with any UN resolutions, and the poor fly (who had not harmed a soul), had to be dispatched of, for the cause of Ricki’s (and collaterally, my) sanity. So much for peace in the Middle East.

Friday, April 24, 2009

OKETZ (Sting")

If you go to HERE you can see a video about the dogs from “Oketz” (“sting”), the section of the Israeli army which my son is connected with. He has recently been upgraded to a more interesting, yet more dangerous job there. I would not tell him to avoid the job; someone has to do it, and if his commander thinks that he is the person qualified for the job, so than it’s his duty. I, however, as a mother, am scared. But I try not to show it. I want him to see my pride in him, and my confidence that he will do his best to protect both his country- - and himself.

WEEKEND REFLECTIONS # 3: a writing exercise

The purpose of “weekend reflections” is to develop writing skills, increase vocabulary, and---yes—have some fun! So I hope every weekend to list ten words to be used for posts (which will be linked to from here) for the following week.(By the way, these words are randomly chosen, not with any story in mind. I write my piece several days after I choose the words.) Please follow any links from Mr. Linkey, below, and leave comments! So you have the opportunity to be challenged and write today a piece with this week’s words, or at your leisure to compose a piece to post the next weekend, with next week’s vocabulary list.
By the way, I have discovered that the fiction that emerges is often a very good medium to express feelings, experiences, and even opinions that are impossible in regular writing, as in real life our thoughts and experiences often touch and effect real people who can be hurt. Fiction also gives us the chance to project ourselves or another personality into a situation that they may never had had in real life. But if we do it in an honest way, the story should ring true.
1. Use all 10 words in a short vignette (or if you’re in a hurry, 5 words in two or three sentences). You can use derivatives (incline/inclined/inclination) of words, at least occasionally.
2. Since many of the readers of this blog are religious, please keep your subject matter pretty “pareve” (clean), but no missionizing as we have all sorts of people here…..
3. If you want, you can add in a bit of explanation, reflection, at the end.
4. Link to here through the Mr. Linkey widget at the bottom of my page. Post the URL of the specific post.
This week’s words:
Spill – chuckle – window – nuisance – insert – flamboyant – discussion – solitary – burnish – fester

Marge glanced at the puddle of milk rather dispassionately. She would have even chuckled if not for fear that Susan would hear and get the wrong idea. It wasn’t like she WANTED Susan to spill the milk, but the mother of 5 had experienced enough growing toddlers to realize that to get flustered over the nuisance of spilled milk would be counter productive.
Her daughter Susan, a cheeky kid with a rather flamboyant personality had been a bit of a nuisance for the last hour. She certainly did not look ripe for a discussion about overturned drinking cups. Susan now stood at the solitary window in the living room, and within moments had picked up a small unburnished metal spoon. She was already attempting to insert it through the window’s guard rails to the great expanse that existed beyond. Unbidden, the recurring festering hunch that Marge had been trying to ignore arose as would a phantom in the night. Susan was not cut from the same fabric as the remainder of her children. Something was different, and perhaps something was wrong.

The realization that your child is not the standard “cut of the cloth”, that there is something beyond what you have acknowledged, is a difficult one for parents. I experienced it in regards to Ricki’s second diagnosis (ADHD), which we arrived at after a long process. However, I suspect that the acceptance of the idea is much more difficult for a mother whose child has been, up to the present, “normal”.
I also want to point out that I do not consider the ADHD “wrong”, (per the last sentence of the story). The ADHD is a “different” state that needs to be dealt with in whichever way is best for the child and those surrounding him. However, Marge, at this stage certainly still does see it as a “bad” thing.
Next week’s words
Slighted – accessibility – cream puff – masculine – button – intrinsic – alight – flaxen – caveat - obtuse

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Even the Taxi Driver Laughed

It happens every Monday that I am late to leave the house with Ricki for her drama club class. Ricki becomes a golem with one goal in mind:
She will reach the wedding dress before “Aliza” does.
At the place were the drama class is held, there is a small room with various costumes, one being the dress of a bride. Ricki even borrowed it a few years ago to wear on Purim.

(Picture: Ricki two years ago on Purim day, dressed as a bride.)

Since then, Ricki has outgrown the dress physically (she can not zip it up at all), but not emotionally. Each and every week she hurries on Mondays to finish her homework, so that she can get to the class in time to don the dress beforehand, and imagine herself as a bride. One week we arrived a bit late, and a “tragedy” occurred: “Aliza” got to the dress before Ricki, and claimed it for herself that day.
Since then, Ricki has been in a mild state of panic every time we depart for the class: Will we get there before “Aliza”?
Now this class is a moderate bus ride away, but our one-way trip, due to the infrequency of that particular route’s service, takes about an hour. If I am pressed for time, I will occasionally opt to take a taxi for the 15 minute ride that it takes by car. But that ride has become a real experience, due to Ricki’s fears of losing her precious wedding dress dreams.
From the minute we enter the car, Ricki will start pushing me, and preparing herself to exit the door on my side. (We always exit on the right side, and I sit there to prevent Ricki from exiting too fast and crossing the busy street next to the club unchecked and unhindered by caution.) All my explanations that we will not leave the vehicle for another 15 minutes, and that there is no possibility of her alighting before I do is like oil on doesn’t even reach her consciousness.
This week shortly after entering the cab, Ricki tried the handle on the left side, and my sharp admonition that this was dangerous, and that she would NOT exit the vehicle on the street side sparked a recognition in the eyes of the driver. “It’s locked automatically.” he whispered to me.
As we reached our destination, and Ricki’s desire to fly from the car reached a crescendo of definite shoves, the driver just laughed. And so did I. It isn’t that I don’t want or expect her to change this behavior. It was the recognition that we all have desires and dreams that we shove and push for, even when the efforts are ill-considered and even counter-productive. How many of us become locked on a dream to the detriment of all the other precious things around us?
So here’s toasting to good dreams for all of us, and the wisdom to know how to achieve them.

(PS. The driver laughed in a tone that I was sure he did not mean to be laughing AT her.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Guest-Flat Stanley

Well, we had a house quest for a whole month. But he wasn’t any bother, as he agreed to do exactly whatever we were doing. His name: “Flat Stanley”.
For those of you who have yet to been visited by this character, he is a paper doll third graders use to learn letter-writing and geography skills, as he is mailed to friends for a visit.
I received Flat Stanly from my American nephew about two weeks before Passover (he was rather bored the first week....), and I finally sent him off yesterday after having “traveled” with his cousins (my children) to various places in Israel. He took with him several souvenirs, including several photos, and a plastic milk bag. (In Israel, we buy milk in bags.)
One of the photos he took was actually a photo from Ricki’s visit to the Kinneret last year (see HERE and HERE).
Flat Stanley is a good example of how education has changed in America since I was a child. It seems to me that the studies are more fun, and with a bigger emphasis on skills rather than memorization of facts. Such an educational environment is surely better for integration than the typical “lecture” format, so prevalent here.

The Repairman

I have yet to figure out why people always think that their time is more valuable than mine. I doesn’t matter who it is: the doctor, the dentist, the repairman, the therapist. If I am late, or don’t show, I get penalized. If THEY don’t come, or do not receive me on time, it is assumed that I will put up with it.
A case in point. Yesterday a technician was supposed to come to ascertain why the filter in my washing machine is stuck therein almost as firmly as Ricki’s extra 21st chromosome is set into her cells.
I had noticed that the water was draining slowly, and took the filter out to clean it. On replacing it, it wouldn’t go in all the way, but it also got stuck so that I could not remove it either. The company said a technician would come between noon to 4:00, on Tuesday, with a warning call a half hour in advance. Failure to be here at that hour would result in a fine.
In order to be at home, I cut a dash to do several much-needed errands short.
I was home; they didn’t show. If I was a “working woman”, I could have lost money as a result.
If one shows up for therapy late, you miss time and that is not returned to you. I have no problem with that. But if I pay for a taxi to get there on time, because I am running late, as often happens, it is VERY frustrating to see that the therapist had come in late that morning, and is running 15 minutes late. I could have walked and arrived on time. And with doctors, this “wait” for him could be easily up to an hour.
Of course, if you are wise, you take a book/Discman/embroidery/knitting or WHATEVER along with you WHENEVER you leave the house. But a repairman not showing up at all is a real Chutzpah, to say the least....

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

“Different Journey, Same Destination” A story on Down syndrome

This phrase was originally used by a disability advocate to express his view about people with special needs and/or disabilities having the same aspirations as the rest of us. But I have heard nearly the same quote in a much less positive way. I hear this phrase from a mother who had done the blood-sweat-and-tears to have her daughter included in the early years of inclusion in Israel. (In those days, as when I myself started including Ricki, the government gave no support, all costs where footed by the family, and parents requesting inclusion where assumed to be non-accepting of their child’s condition.) Eventually, when her child reached the age of first grade, she reluctantly gave up and put her daughter into special ed. As she bemoaned: “I spent all that time, money, and energy, and the end she ended up in the same special-ed class she would have been in normally.”
Her child had experienced a different journey, yet the destination was the same.

Next year, Ricki will also enter special ed. I have serious doubts that I will find a high school (and not to forget, a truly capable aide) willing to work with me in a way as to make Ricki’s inclusion both workable and worthwhile. So I wonder, is this also a case of “Different Journey, Same Destination”?
The answer is a resounding “NO!”
Ricki is not going into special education for first grade. Next year will be the start of high school for her. Those years of inclusion were not wasted. Her vocabulary, both passive and active, is huge. Also her expectation to be treated normally is well-ingrained. Those things alone, no to mention her high level of studies, are something that will not go lost. She owns them, and will carry them to wherever she goes.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Camera Photos

I have mentioned earlier about Ricki having a camera, and her trip to the camera store. So a camera is not new to Ricki. However, her pictures tend to be poorly planned (if at all), and she really doesn’t know yet the terms “digital camera”, “negatives”, and the like. So since they are studying (along with “lenses”) the topic of “cameras” this week in her eighth grade science class, I decided to center her classroom adaptations to these REAL topics, rather than trying to help her understand exactly HOW a camera works.
A quite internet search gave me several pictures of cameras, a few of film, and a rather poor one (poor for Ricki) on negatives. I saw no pictures of people buying film, loading film, or doing other camera-related tasks. So I turned to my professional (read “expensive”) discs of pictures to use in preparing special education materials. These discs tend to have a picture of every major step in doing various activities, often 2 or 3 versions with different ages of models.
Well, I found no pictures of negatives, none of buying film, none of looking at photo albums......... only a few views of cameras, and a child taking a picture.
Maybe I am reading too much into this. But if they can have several pictures of bowling, of other pastimes.... why none to help a person with developmental difficulties learn the “script” for taking pictures and taking them to be developed? It is a very teachable skill considering the automatic cameras that do just about everything themselves.
OK. I am probably reading into it. Not everything can be covered on a disc (3 disks....). Even expensive ones. But I have a nagging feeling that tells me that they expected someone “responsible” to be calling the shots in more ways than one.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Stubborn Player

On Saturday, Ricki asked me to play the game “Trans America” with her. This is basically a strategy game, which sometimes I play with her older brothers. But I agreed, and sat down to play. But as we played, I noticed that often she was putting her train tracks in very odd places. Her moves were guaranteeing her a loss. So I begged her to let me help her a few times, to explain, etc. She sort of agreed. I could latterly see the battle crossing her face, between her desire for independence and her desire to win. At first th quest for independence won out. Then, suddenly, I noted that she was looking at the map cards carefully… she was trying to lay the tracks as the rivers she saw drawn on the map!
Eventually, she let me give her a few hints (I was carefully saying “notice this and this...”, “What is better if you want to do so and so?”), and she won the last round to her (and my) great pleasure.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Weird Blog

Courtesy of “Google alert” on “down syndrome”, I noticed a blog tonight, written by a mother of a 14 year olf girl with Down syndrome. “Gee, this should be interesting”, I thought. It was. But not as I had expected.
This blog was negative. So much so, that I only came across a positive statement after one and a half pages of reading. At first, I even suspected that maybe the blog wasn’t even written in truth by a mother, but by someone trying to show the world how “awful” Down syndrome is. A bit more reading made me feel that maybe it wasn’t a fake, but… it was still VERY VERY sad.
I am assuming that this lady’s child is not as intellectually advanced as Ricki (who is in the lower end of the “easy” level of “retardation”). (Sorry, technical term only….) I will assume for argument’s sake, that she is somewhere in the “moderate” range. (I would say “low moderate”, but sometimes kids when taught right, surprise us all.) And what I am going to write now is not only gauged by what I have experienced in raising Ricki, but in talking with hundreds of mothers (Israel has a lot of kids with Down syndrome, and I am one of our national coordinators), as well as extensive reading.

My regular readers will all know that I do not whitewash nor “Pollyanna” my relationship with Ricki. But my love and respect show through everything I write. I feel very strongly that if you want to raise your child to with special needs to be a person you can bear to live with, LOVE IS NOT ENOUGH.

1. You have to believe that your child can learn. And believe me, they can.

2. You have to respect them as individuals. You need to approach them from a direction that takes into account what they want for themselves. If your child is not learning, ask yourself “How can I do this in a way that will work?”
[This reminds me of a story that I heard from a special educator who works for Feuerstein institute. She told how she had a class of teens who had never learned to read (Hebrew). So she started the new year of studies by asking if they liked computers. She received an affirmative answer. So she explained how they need to know the English alphabet in order to do certain things on the computer. So they were very excited and they learned the ABC’s. Once they had done that, she pointed out to them that if they could learn English, they were smart enough to learn Hebrew. And they did. But first they had to believe in themselves.]

3. If you are having behavior problems, and don’t know how (or are not able) to apply behavior modification techniques, GET HELP. Ask the experts. It is hard work, and I know that I am not always 100% here, but it sure beats living with obnoxious behavior.

4. Your older child, teen, or adult with Down syndrome is NOT a BABY. They are a person with Down syndrome. You have to expect them to act their age, as much as possible, by giving them the education, and possibilities to succeed. The more you can treat them as (future) adults, the more interested they will be in meeting your expectations.

Friday, April 17, 2009

“I’m SO Excited”

Yesterday morning was the first day after Passover. I was getting out the non-passover dishes, and I gave Ricki some fun worksheets to do. Suddenly, she came over and stated emphatically: “I am SO excited!” At first I wasn’t sure about what. About school restarting today (the next day)?
No, it turns out, that like most of us, she was looking forward to her first slice of bread in over a week. I just didn’t realize HOW much!
* * * *
And in a similar yet different vain, one day last week Ricki came over and hugged me and started crying. She said that she missed he grandfather, who died a few months ago, who she had met two years ago. After a few moments hug, she went on to other activities.
It seems that Ricki is wearing her emotions “on her sleeve” lately.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Potato Chip Bribe

Pesach loomed ahead of Ricki like a glittery treat: not only was she out of school, but her nieces and nephews were coming! Over a period of three days, all would put in an appearance, and for her this was definitely something to look forward to.
The only problem was when her don’t-tell-me-what-to-do personality got in her way.
The first day of the holiday, her older brother Y.L. was here with his wife and two daughters. Ricki decided in the early afternoon that she was going to read the older daughter, Gitti (age 3 and a half), a book. It should have been an excellent idea; Gitti not knowing to read yet, was ripe for entertainment. But Ricki had been a bit bossy that morning, and Gitti was reluctant to take the risk of sitting by her aunt.
Now a “normal” teen would have waited patiently a bit, coaxing and gently persuading her niece to join her. Not Ricki……
Ricki told Gitti in no-uncertain terms to come, and scowled at her when she didn’t. Gitti’s Mom and I took turns sitting next to Ricki, to provide “protection” and reassurance, but Gitti insisted on sitting one person removed from Ricki. I finally managed to convince Gitti to sit on a separate kiddy chair next to the sofa that Ricki was on, but Ricki refused to read to her like that.
Delicately I drew Gitti aside and offered her a bribe: one small bag of potato chips. She gleefully acquiesced, and plopped herself onto the sofa next to a thrilled Ricki.

The nice ending is that once she got through a few moments on the sofa, she forgot her fears and had a lovely time with Ricki for the rest of the afternoon!
I just wish that Ricki would sand off her rough edges a bit. She won’t be able to bribe all the people she meets in the future with potato chips…..

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Five things I Love About Being a Mother

"A Mother in Israel" has asked me to post about :
Five things I Love About Being a Mother
1. I love, above all, seeing the face of my child as he holds his own child. At this point the full circle has closed, and I see the love I gave them being passed on.
2. I love the occaisional glimpse into the wonder and awe that a child sees in the world around him. It is something we SHOULD have, but have lost.
3. A nursing infant, still depedant on you for food. I (used to)gaze and think: All of this child is from what I ate. In went potatos and meat. At pregancy's end (and continued with nursing)somehow G-d transformed that all into bones, sinews, and skin!
4. I thrill with my ability to influence my children, to help shape them. The best way to fix the world is to raise your children to be happy, responsible adults.
5. I love seeing the quiet angelic face of a child asleep. Even if he was a pest the entire day, as he sleeps his true essence surfaces.....

I TAG "Mothering by the Seat of my Pants" and "Barriers, Bridges and Books" to try this, IF they want....

PS. This was written a few days ago. Now I am hopefully busy putting my Passover dishes away.....

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Special exposure Wednesday: Back to Down syndrome Soon....

OK, I realize that those of you who read me primarily as a Down syndrome related blog have had a trying time keeping up with me the last week or two. Again, tomarrow I can not post (until evening), so I am posting this today, instead. Hopefully things will go back to normal soon....
Just to give you an IDEA of what Passover involves (and how nice it was for me to put up posts anyways most days) take a look at my kitchen a few days before Passover, when I finally reached the stage where I could get out my Passover dishes. Passover is a TON of work, but I enjoy it, actually. (Didn't know I was a masocist, did you?) The counter are covered with tin, the closets lined with paper, and our temporary water supply pipe (didn't finish our kitchen renewal yet) is covered with new white cloth held in place with twine twisted and tied around it. On the right is my foil-lined stove-top.
The top photo shows Ricki playing with a toy lamb I had bought last year for the holiday, that had gotten packed away with the dishes. (The cardboard box is empty, having held dishes until an hour before then.)
[PS. to Jewish Bloggers, HOW did you have time to POST pics of your kitchens before Passover? I barely had time to take the snap!]

The Amish and the Orthodox: 2 Worlds

Today I am going completely off on a tangent very far from my normal posts. But I found something interesting, and since my perspective and knowledge on the subject is a bit unique, I decided to pursue it. Hope I don’t lose all my normal readers….(More on losing readers next post…)
If you look here you will find a very dull article (but with some out-of-the-ordinary photos) about what must have been an interesting event: the visit of some Amish people to a Lubavitch (ultra-Orthodox Jewish group) enclave. I immediately sent a copy to my mom. Because my mom’s father came originally from an Amish-Mennonite background. And I am an Orthodox Jew.
The worlds of the OJ (Orthodox Jew) and the A (Amish) are in some ways similar, yet in many ways as different as can be.
My Grandfather used to do business with Jews, speaking Pennsylvania Dutch, as they answered him in Yiddish. (Both languages are dialects of German.) Both groups tend to wear old-fashioned clothing (although this is true only of the chassidic Jews, other OJ wear up-to-date-styles as long as they conform to standards of modesty). Both groups are very family centered, tend to have large families, and have numerous ways of giving self-help and support within the community. Both groups tend to be insular, although the OJ are considerably less so than the Amish. And of course, both groups have a rich spiritual heritage.
But there are a lot of differences as well. The Amish do not use modern appliances, and sometimes not even electrical equipment. (The Mennonite do use electricity.) They tend to end education of their children at an early age, and are a farming society. OJ, on the other hand, are city dwellers in general, and are much more modern. Technology per se is not considered evil, but the modern day secular world’s emphasis on hedonism casts its shadow over the use of some appliances. But many OJ are at the forefront of computer technology, and the OJ family has a kitchen, and a car, as modern as any other.
And while the OJ community in Israel tends to limit secular education to grade school level, the Orthodox community does not put their children to work at an early age. The study our laws and traditions, and the achievement of highly intellectual Talmudic study, continues to the end of high school, and often for several years beyond. With secular studies, care is taken due to the negative influences of society, but here the use of modern technology is helpful, and more opportunities to study secular subjects (when the adult decides to enter the work force) exist today than ever before.
What is most common for these two groups is the fascination and misinterpretation that both groups receive from the outside world. Both groups tend to be either looked down upon, or treated as a joke, without the outside viewer taking the time to look beyond their preconceived assumptions.
And, as a final note, I add that this last statement is also true as regards the world of the intellectually challenged, and the disabled.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Blog Awards

Trish, over at Another Piece of the Puzzle, has given me the "honest scrap award", whose rules are:
A) List 10 honest things about yourself—and make them interesting, even if you have to dig deep!
B) Pass the award on to 7 bloggers who you feel embody the spirit of the Honest Scrap and whose blogs you find brilliant in design or content.
"A" is easier. "B" I will do partly. I feel that seven is a large number of blogs. If you give a n award to everyone you read, it loses value. Not that I read only seven, mind you. But I have less than seven blogs that I feel I can't miss.

Our Sages say "answer question "A" first, so here goes:
1. I am in my late fifties. I was not a young twenty-thirty year old when I gave birth to Ricki. But please don't think that I have forgotten what those early years of marriage and family are about!
2. I have two very distinct aspects to my life that I have managed to fuse. I grew up in small-town America, the daughter of two wonderful intellectual parents, and have somehow fused that with living in Israel today, mother (and grandmother) to a rather large brood of offspring, in a society that is very traditional.
3. I like all types of music, except “rap” (if you can call that music….) Music should be pouring out of my kids, by all rights. I used to play guitar, and my husband still does. My brother plays violin and piano VERY well. Maybe that’s where Ricki gets her excellent sense of rhythm from….
4. I am what you would call an ultra-orthodox, chareidi Jew. Yep, with scarf-covered hair, long sleeves, skirts below the knees.
5. I like purple food: beets, purple cabbage. Maybe this is a holdover from my childhood, when my older brother made blue tapioca…..
6. I spent a year in college, between high school and nursing school. I hung out with a rather freaky type of crowd, all who used marihuana other than me. Once someone asked the group’s leader, a girl called “Buryn” what I was “high” on, as I looked so content. “Oh,” Buryn replied, “she gets high on LIFE!”. I think know I inherited this positive and upbeat attitude to life from my mother. (Thanks Mom!)
7. I used to take ballet lessons.
I once (as an adult) read a child’s book (in Hebrew) about a baby elephant that was sent to study dance. I laughed all the way through the short piece, because that was what I was…..
8. I used to pretend to like Rosé wine as a child. It LOOKED so good. My Dad approved. THAT was important to me. Secretly, it was too dry for me. I wonder if my father ever guessed……
9. I do not know how to type. (I use what my older brother called the “Columbus method”: find a key and land on it…) Typing was taught senior year of high school, and I finished high school in three years.
10. I am very persuadable. It is easy to convince me that you are right. I can envision my opponent’s view. Yet I am confident in my own views. It sounds like an contradiction, but it isn’t. So in high school I avoided “debate” club, but excelled in public speaking.

B. I pass the award on to:
a soldier's Mother (non Israelis will find this very different, but quite interesting)[Israeli]
Mothering by the Seat of my Pants [special needs]
Barriers, Bridges, and Books [special needs]
Welcome to Illinois [Special needs]
Ruti at Ki YacholNuchal [Israeli]

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Holidays and Blues…..

Holidays are happy times, and you are not supposed to feel blue on them, are you? But after three hectic days of Pesach (Passover), all the guests went home, and I was faced with all the normal “problems” of my everyday life, the house was a mess, and I was tired. In addition, I realized that, it being Pesach, either I would cook, or the family would go hungry. So I cleaned up and made lunch, and feeling good about that, settled down with a new book…. ( my big pleasure every holiday)!
Now I had not bought a novel this time, but a book of essays. And the author, was painting, in vibrant colors her life and her trials: trying to put a bit of holiness into her day-to-day existence, to grab a bit of the spirituality surrounding her, and pull it along with her to the regular weekday world. Now I can empathize with all these goals, they fit me as well!
What threw me was her descriptions. I won’t go into details, but her lovely verbal drawing of the lovely warm typical family life, her portrayal of her inter-personal relations was such a far cry from parts of my reality that it stung. So I started feeling a bit sorry for myself. I even wondered if the goals this author had could REALLY apply to me as well. Maybe I am too busy 'managing' to be even trying to improve in the spiritual, personal realm? I brooded for several moments, but luckily I was able to switch suddenly in my outlook.
“Rickismom”, I self- remonstrated, “what about all the things that you DO have? Did you ever pause to be grateful for that? And are there not women with much less than you, who struggle, nevertheless, to put some spiritual content into their lives? OK, so you have ‘X’ problem, as well as ‘Y’, but there are so many things that could be worse!”
I decided that challenges, whatever they are, do not exclude me from the battles with the evil inclination, from the battle to better myself as a person, and to improve myself as a “maamin” (believer in, and servant of G-d).

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Siblings : The policeman and fire engine

About two years after Ricki was born, I realized one day, a strange phenomenon: Ricki's two brothers, aged 4 and 6, where playing “police” and “fireman” every day with their toy cars. Now THAT was not strange. What WAS strange is that the older would comment each time, “I am taking my son with me, and he does not have Down syndrome.” After he would say that statement, the four year old would make a similar comment.
Of course, the really terrible thing is that I realized that this had been going on daily for about a month, without my paying rapt attention to it. So later that day, I sat each of them down for a talk (separately), explaining, in easy terms, that they were not at added risk, as adults, of having children with Down syndrome. Hopefully their children will be “normal”.
The next day they were back to playing “police” and “firefighter”, without any extra comments.

So if you have a special child, and you think that his siblings are not concerned, or even aware, think again. You just may be surprised.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Magnet

It was there on the fridge, a few days ago, as I was full gear for the last push to Pesach (Passover). The magnet read: “I try and take things one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once”.
I praised my husband for his thoughtfulness at buying me a magnet that so fit my mood. But he confessed that it was not him.
To make a long story short, I had bought it a year ago, and it had been packed away with the Passover dishes. On getting the dishes out, my son dutifully put the magnet on the fridge…..
It truly fit my mood.

So what can you do when “several days hit you at once”?
Remember that it is short-term.
Treat yourself (NO, not chocolate. A warm relaxing bath is healthier….)
Cut corners on everyday things:
-paper plates
-simple cooking
-pick up rather than deep cleaning
-use that food from the freezer that you made in advance just for days like this
Put on some nice music
If you haven’t finished cooking, and your husband is due home, SET the table, so he that he can at least see that something is being done about his state of hunger.

What are your techniques for dealing with hectic times?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

SIBLINGS –The Oldest Brother
Ricki’s oldest brother (YA) was about 15 when she was born. I remember him coming to visit me in the hospital, entering the room with a stricken face. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something along the lines of “We can handle this as a family, but if you feel angry about it at times, that’s OK.”
Not too many years later he got married, and Ricki was welcomed fully by my oldest son’s wife. A year later he had his first son, and called me up to report the news that I was a grandmother.

An hour later he phoned again.
“Mom, there’s something I have to share with you. You know I just realized that no doctor has coming hunting me down with ‘bad news’. My baby is ‘normal’. I want to whoop with joy. That’s something my classmates don’t get to share: the joy of realizing what a precious thing a ‘normal’ baby is.”

Having a sibling with special needs, I am sure, can be a real “bummer” at times. But there are a lot of positive things going on as well:
-learning that my parents can tackle adversity, faith is not just lip-talk
-learning that people are valuable for what they are, whatever they are
-learning that you don’t always get things as you expected, and being grateful when things are OK

Now I am stuck-I don’t know how to end this post. Hope you enjoyed the story.
* * * * * *

PS Happy Passover (Pesach!)
I can't post tonight; this post is instead of one this evening.

In Praise of…..

Today is a very special day in the Jewish calendar. First, it is the day before Pesach, one of the busiest days of the year. (And if you are wondering how I had time to blog today, I wrote this—or most of it—a week ago.) In addition, today is the day of “Birkas HaChamah” (see HERE),the “Blessing on the Sun”. Our tradition is that the sun was created on the fourth day of creation (ie., Wednesday). Our sages, many who were quite expert at astronomy, determined that the sun returns to the same exact place where it was at creation once in 28 years. When that date arrives, we bless G-D for the wonderful gift of the sun. So let’s take a bit of a look at this luminary. The sun accounts for 98-99% of the total mass in our solar system. It is about 400 times further away from us than the moon, light from the sun taking 8 minutes and 19 seconds to reach us. And this powerhouse of energy is what fuels life, movement, and warmth on the earth. The sun promotes the sugars for the growth of plants, as well as plankton. Plants and plankton form the basis for the entire food chain, and are, in addition, the original source for oils, coal, and the like. The amount of energy contained therein is staggering and probably beyond our ability to truly comprehend. Of course, the biggest miracle of the sun is the distance we are from this bomb of energy. Any further we would freeze; closer we would be fried to a crisp. So this orb of light, energy, and warmth is well worth thanking the Creator for. * * * *
I remember vividly last time we had “Birkas haChamah”. I was a young married lady; I had one son (who was too young to remember the event), and was due any day with my second son. The big fear was if the day would be so cloudy as to prevent saying the blessing, but as the sun peaked over the horizon, the sight was greeted by hundreds of people gathered next to the Ponevezh yeshiva, who had gathered specially to pray at the earliest time (sunrise), and afterwards make the blessing on the sun from the hilltop of the Talmudic institution. (In Jerusalem, people gathered at the Western Wall to pray and say the blessing.) I remember wondering then , 28 years ago, where would I be 28 years in the future. I envisioned myself as an “old lady” nearing 60. Well, I don’t FEEL old (though I admit to being slower…), and rather than dwelling on the fact that I am past the years of “babies”, I revel in the wonderful family that surrounds me. Now I am just hoping that I even make the next one, but I suspect that unless I get my weight down, it’s pretty unlikely. [And maybe with that sobering thought, I should get to work on my diet….] But I don’t mean this in a sad tone, but in the air that today I have a chance to grab a rare portion of what we call “life”. So I better say with conviction; it may well be my last chance for this mitzvah.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Teaching Safety: an On-Going Process

Teaching safety is not a one-time thing. It is something that you have to work on in varied ways. Here are a few ideas I have used:
1.Using pictures of various dangers (laminate them!), make a card game: Cards face down. Each person lifts a card and talks about what is dangerous, what can happen, how to remedy.

2. Bought or home-made books on safety, whether it be safety in stores, fire, etc. To make books yourself:
“I constructed booklets of four to eight pages. Eight paged books were made easily of four sheets of paper glued back-to-back, to form two individual two-sided sheets.. I laminated them and then sewed them together down the middle. After tediously sewing several books together with needle and yarn, I discovered that I could sew two laminated sheets together using sewing machine with no problem.
Page a left - text and pics page 8
Page a right- text and pics page one
Page b left- text and pics page two
Page b right- text and pics page 7
Page c left -text and pics page 6
Page c right -text and pics page 3
Page d left text and pics page 4
Page d right- text and pics page 5

Be sure to leave a bit of margin between the text (and pictures) and the edges of the sheets. Also leave a healthy margin in the middle of pages a,b,c,and d (ie, some space between page one and eight, page 7 and 2, etc.
Then paste page a and b back-to-back, being careful that the tops are both in one direction. Thus, page two is in back of page one, and seven is in back of page eight. Glue together pages c and d back-to-back in the same manner. Then trim a very little bit of the edges of combined pages c and d. I advice also taping the corners which were glued together. Fold each combined page a-b and c-d and crease. Then reopen. If possible, laminate each of the two sheets. Then place sheet c-d within a-b (so that page 3 faces page 2, and page 6 faces page 7.) The last step is to join the sheets by sewing down the center crease (between pages 4 and 5, together with the underlying crease between pages 2 and 7). This can be done with a sewing machine (easiest).

3. Hands-on teaching is the best. Talk about where the handles of the pot on the stove go, how to pass scissors (you hold the points), etc.

4. One final point: Teach him to handle dangerous situations pro-actively. For example, take the initiative to teach your older child how to light the stove safely. DON'T wait for them to try it first, without your teaching.....

1 Colorcards: These are expensive, made for speech therapists. The single-objects cards are not worth it for parents; they can make their own easily. (And a group of mothers surely could….) HOWEVER, for sequences and stories, their cards are VERY good. Some relating to safety:
For younger children, “cause and effect” is good. Several of the pictures dwell on safety, though not all. (The rest are good, though,…..)
I highly recommend for grade school children the “Color cards” set of “Personal Safety”. It is very usable, and good for speech work as well.

2. Web resources: (Police and safety coloring pages)

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Arab(?) Bus Driver

“X” returned from some errands rather flustered: a bag containing some bills to be paid, my checkbook, and 200 shekels (about $50) had gotten lost. We quickly called the places he had been, but no sign of the bag had been seen. “X” suspected that he had left the bag on the bus, so I urged him to go to the last station of the bus, in hopes of retrieving the items before they would be sent to the bus company’s lost and found. A few moments after he left, the driver of the bus called me. [Since drivers have to check their vehicles for suspicious objects (bombs?) at the end of each run, the rate of finding lost objects is probably better than in most places.] He explained that he had found the bag, and gotten my phone number from the checks; we arranged to meet at the bus stop next to my house on his next run, ie., in about half and hour. He gave me his phone number and name. It was “Ali”.
“Gee”, said “X”, “He must be an Arab driver.” He was surprised, and so was I. With all the anger and wars here, it is sometimes easy to forget that not every Arab is a terrorist.
So I met the driver, and as he returned the bag I offered him money to at least pay for his phone calls to me. (I offered more than what the calls cost; the mention of the calls was to make it easier for him to accept a “reward”.
“Shucks, no, one doesn’t take money for something like that!” he replied to my offer. Then he wished me a happy Passover, and said he was glad to do a “mitzvah” (“Mitzvah” is Hebrew for a good religious deed”.) So we decided that he might be Jewish after all.
Later, I sent an SMS to his cell phone thanking him again, not only because of the money, but especially due to the worry and aggravation I was spared. (And of course I sent an email to the bus company.)
The point here being, besides the fact that I am grateful to get my money and checks back, is this: It is a misfortune that our life here has created such a chasm between the Arab and Jewish people. It is a shame that I had trouble believing that an Arab would return my property. Not every Arab is a terrorist, but our fears have erected walls that are probably unbreachable. It is a pity that in trying to protect ourselves, we tend to forget that Arabs are people. [But that doesn’t mean that I am offering them my back yard for missile practice…..or that I will forget so quickly the boys murdered and wounded by an axe-wielding terrorist so soon.] (For a similar post, see HERE.)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Parenting a Child with Down syndrome or Other Special Needs – a Declaration of Rights

1. You have the right NOT to jump up and down with joy that you received a “special” child.
2. You have the right to tell G-d that in your humble opinion, Mrs. XYZ down the street is really much more saintly than you, and so you are interested in asking how this problem bundle of joy ended up on YOUR doorstep and not hers…….
3. You have the right to OCCAISIONALLY miss a therapy session for your child. (ie, If you have a temperature of 40 C, or if you have the mumps/chicken pox/poison ivy, you are excused.)
4. You have the right to join the debate team. Topic: If G-d gives you another additional child with special needs, will that mean that He REALLY HATES or REALLY LOVES you?
5. You have the right to punch the doctor who asks in a sticky-sweet voice “My Dear, Why didn’t you make an amnio?!?”in the eye.
5. You have the right to the illusion belief that your child is the smartest/cutest/ funniest/ yummiest child around, as long as that doesn’t prevent you from going to therapy.
6. You have the right to think (but not say) that anyone who aborts a baby with Down syndrome is absolutely stark raving mad. (This has nothing to do with points numbered 1 and 2. There is a big difference in wanting this journey and recognizing it as being worthwhile….)
7. You have the right to that occasional grumpy old “I can’t take this anymore” day. (Tread water. It passes.)
8. You have the right to be an un-perfect parent. Even if your special child is adopted. Your job classification is “Mom”, not “angel” (withstanding all rumors to the contrary).
9. You have the right, when it comes to choosing an educational solution, to disagree with
Your child’s doctor
Your mother-in-law
Your neighbor
Your child’s therapist
Anyone else you might tell you what to do.
(He/she is YOUR child.)

10. You have the right to at least one good laugh a day. (Free of charge and without having to fill out any forms for it.)

Friday, April 3, 2009

WEEKEND REFLECTIONS # 2: a writing exercise

The purpose of “weekend reflections” is to develop writing skills, increase vocabulary, and---yes—have some fun! So I hope every weekend to list ten words to be used for posts (which will be linked to from here) for the following week.[Except this time, the next one will be in THREE WEEKS]
1. Use all 10 words in a short vignette (or if you’re in a hurry, 5 words in two or 3three sentences). You can use derivatives (incline/inclined/inclination) of words, at least occaisionally.
2. Since many of the readers of this blog are religious, please keep your subject matter pretty “pareve” (clean), but no missionizing as we have all sorts of people here…..
3. If you want, you can add in a bit of explanation, reflection, at the end.
4. Link to here through the Mr. Linkey widget at the bottom of my page. Post the URL of the specific post.

THIS WEEK”S 10 words are:
Sparkle – spice – consider(ed) – feisty – tune – howl – fell – “hip-hop” - peculiar - incline (or inclination)

The kitchen sparkled, but that’s not the way Lisa felt about it. Passover was coming in two days, and she had considered the ridding of all signs of chometz (leaven) from her kitchen as both a privledge, and a sacred duty. Today she was busy arranging her Passover dishes in the closet, putting spices and other foodstuffs on the shelves. But what about the chometz within? What about all those evil things within her soul? Last night’s events gave her no peace. She was inclined to brush it off, to blame Charlie, but she could not; the hurt was too great.
It had been eleven PM, and she had been tired. The cleaning had exhausted her, and the hour was late. She had heard his “hip-hop” music blaring from his radio even before the seventeen year-old entered. The feisty, raucous “tune”, however, couldn’t block the inner voice that howled at her brain: “You are a failure. How could you have a son like this?” She looked at his peculiar hairdo, and her spirits plummeted. She felt that she was stuck in her own terrible “Egypt”, and her son was definitely a “slave” to his non-religious friends. Leaving “Eygpt”, experiencing the exhilaration of freedom from her personal nightmare was apparently not to be. He was falling and cascading downwards, away from his family, his traditions, from all that mattered, as far as she could tell.

COMMENTS: I am glad I don’t have to finish the scenario I started here.
1. I could play it out easily with her losing her temper, and him running out. The next day she would regret it, but the damage would be done. Needless to say, I don’t like that ending.
2. A fairy tale ending of her handling things right would be nice, but doesn’t fit her early morning self-recriminations. And it would not be too realistic.
3. Instead I suggest that she somehow got engaged in a discussion with him, and although she handled it pretty well, she is still full of self-doubts in the morning, for not handling it even better. (And she will need to learn to quiet that voice, to learn to “let go” and not try and control….. but that is a journey of self-discovery that takes time….)

Next “weekend reflections” will be (hopefully) in THREE weeks, and the TEN WORDS are: Spill – chuckle – window – nuisance – insert – flamboyant – discussion – solitary – burnish - fester

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Ricki, Language, and “Machtesh(im)”

(Photo of the Machtesh hakatan, by Ester Inbar, available from

When Rick’s science class started studying the topic of mirrors, I looked over the material to try and determine what was the most useful part of the information for her to study. I decided that the learning of the words and concept of “concave” and “convex” would probably be the most practical area of the facts to emphasize. So I made a worksheet of various shaped objects, with a place for her to fill in the appropriate term. And even though the Hebrew word for concave is similar to that for “bowl”, it wasn’t easy. After a while, she sort of learned it, but with a rather high rate of errors. I doubted that she would even retain more than a hazy knowledge of the words beyond a few months, but I hoped for the best.
Now the class has reached the topic of “lenses”. “Great! Another chance to reinforce these words.”
But I discovered that somehow, someway, the terms had sunk in. She knew the words, and used them appropriately time and again. I was pleased that the previous efforts had worked, but there was an even better surprise awaiting me. Last week, as I sat down with Ricki to do some geography homework on the “Negev” (Israel’s desert area), and the “machteshim” (see HERE),Ricki took one look at the picture of the machtesh haKatan (small Machtesh), and said: “Hey, it’s concave!” Not only did she know the word, and use it appropriately, she had transferred her knowledge from science and used it in an entirely new context!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Terrible NO I DIDN’T moment

I have a “stash” of about seven posts (some really good, some so-so that I have been saving for the “right” mood and/or time to post them. This backlog has given me a bit of security as I Pesach clean, knowing that if I don’t have time to write, I DO have something to fall back on.
So last night as I was on the computer, I wanted to move them over from “Beneath The Wings March 09” to “Beneath the Wings April 09” So I carefully copied everything, erased (THAT was the mistake-why erase before finishing????),and dozed off sitting up. (I worked the whole day Pesach cleaning my kitchen, and was TIRED…). After a few seconds I woke up, and copied something else, thereby erasing all seven posts from my clipboard.
Oh, the sinking feeling as the realization of what you have done hits:
The Terrible NO I DIDN’T moment…..

Aye, and the computer is like the Golem of Prague, doing exactly what you say, not more and not less! (The story goes that the Rabbi’s wife used him to bring water from the well when Pesach cleaning, and her house was flooded, as she had not remembered to tell him when to stop…..)
Luckily I managed to find the temporary file and recopy the posts, but only after 30 nerve-wracking minutes that should have been spent sleeping! But I am REALLY glad I found them, as 3 or 4 of the posts are really irreplaceable.