Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Goals: Update #3

This was not one of my goals. Nor was it executed by my nimble fingers.

What is it? It's the mascot of the Stuyvesant Computer Science teachers. It does not have a name but there is a school-wide contest in full swing to name it.

And this handsome fellow is a red green velvet whoopie pie.

Mike and Squidette have been on a whoopie pie tear for about 2 weeks now. Yum!

Finally, I give you Little Squid who is mostly back to his fairly sunny and strange self.
I love my family!

(And as to my own goals -- more weaving has been done and the end of the road is in sight on the spinning front. I've even made some progress on Little Squid's sweater.)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Goals: Interrupted

On Friday the kids went skating and Mike and I settled in for a quiet morning along.

Then we smelled something plastic-y burning.

It took a good hour or more of sniffing about before we finally figured out that Little Squid's humidifier was melting down. Before we went to open up the window I grabbed a box and then went to grab Lynx from his habitat so that he would not get a chill.

I'm the one that got the chill.

Lynx was dead.

We have no idea why but suspect that the fumes may have dealt the final blow. He had been bruminating (kind of like hibernation but not quite) and was very thin from not eating. He had also just shed prior to starting brumination, a stressful activity for a lizard so we suspect that he was particularly vulnerable to any oddity like plastic fumes.

Lynx was a good pet. He was a "forever" pet and we expected to have him around for a very long time.

He is sorely missed by all of us but most of all, by Little Squid.

Rest in Peace, Lynx.

8/15/09 -- 12/25/09

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Goals: Update #2

Another project in progress ...
thick socks for me out of hand spun wool. I do not expect to finish them this break but did finish the first one yesterday while visiting friends.

Then there is Little Squid's sweater, back in the queue now that his mittens are finished. My first goal is simply to finish the front before the end of the week. And maybe a sleeve ...

And in the finished column ...
Ta Da! We all put some serious time in on it and finally finished it!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Goals: Update #1

Yes, I know that break is only 24 hours (or so) old. But hey! I've had no obligations and my initial goals were modest.

We started on Tuesday with this partial mitten.
By last night we had this complete mitten (ends hidden and all) and this partial mitten.

As of 30 minutes ago we now have ...
one happy kid with warm hands!

The puzzle, meanwhile, has also seen some progress. Here we are Tuesday night ...
and last night ...
and tonight ...
Squidette has been rather obsessed with it today. I think I added about a dozen pieces in between weight lifting sets this morning.

There was also some weaving done. I took before and after pictures but they look the same! I think there is another 18 inches or so of warp on the loom so give me another day or three to finish it off.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Here are the first* of my winter break "want to finish" projects:

Mittens for Little Squid, who joined his mother in denial last year and wore mittens that were were very neat (double knit-neat) but a tad too small. We have both come to our senses and his new sweater is in time-out while I whip up a pair of too large double-stranded mittens using the same yarn. (I told you, I have a lot of it -- it came from a sweater that was too big on Mike even when he was 60 pounds heavier.)

Speaking of my husband ...
I intend to finish the spinning and plying for his new sweater. Six skeins of the main color are done and I think I have another 3-5 skeins yet to spin and ply. The contrast colors are done.

And then there is this puzzle ...
A 1000 piece, black and white opus of an Escher print. It's been in progress since before Halloween.

*By the first of, I do indeed mean that there are several more ...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Performing in Public

It's performance season here at chez squid. At least for Squidette.

On Wednesday she performed with the New York City All-City High School Concert Band (All-City to those in the know) at the MetLife atrium.

As real New Yorkers know, the MetLife building is really the PanAm building but that is rather irrelevant to our tale.

The important thing, is that the atrium of the MetLife/PanAm building is a major entry way to Grand Central Station and hence a venue from which one can be seen by hundreds of people over the span of the concert.

While the families, and some lucky bystanders, got to sit, most of the commuters experienced the concert as they strolled by or above the venue. Many took video or pictures on their phones and most gave huge smiles to see and hear the teens performing classic concert band standards with a few classic holiday tunes tossed in for good measure.

I just thought it was awesome that so many people got a taste of what can happen when kids are taught to play and enjoy music.

And then I got sad as Mike told me that All-City was just so much bigger in his day.

We debated the reasons for this but my side is that fewer kids are being exposed to music in school. We spend so much time on reading and math that art and music, subjects that truly expand ones world view and exercise the brain in so very different ways, have gone by the wayside. And then I got sad when I thought of how badly these programs have been gutted financially.

Boro-wide (the junior high version of All-City) started at the very end of October this year instead of two weeks earlier so that the city could save the money on the instructors' salaries. And, there may not be a Carnegie performance for whichever boroughs were scheduled to play there this year because they couldn't get the down payment in on time. Again, due to budget cuts.

Makes me want to run a fundraiser for them. I already gave them money from my own wallet so it is time to get others to do the same. But after the holidays.
Meanwhile ... I give you Squidette and friends. No, she is not dating her stand partner (though he's a nice boy and I wouldn't object). And yes, he does kind of look (and act) like Little Squid (hence the reason she will probably never hook up with him). Doesn't really matter since she's not allowed to date until she's 30 ...

The performance, by the way, was awesome! And she has her first ever singing solo this Friday followed by a reprise of the MetLife performance at the All-City rehearsal school on Saturday.

And Little Squid? He auditioned for his school play last week and had a call back on Friday so you can expect some kvelling about him in the future.

Happy Hanuckah, folks!

Sunday, December 06, 2009


Because Cookie asked nicely ...One knitting sheep magnet.

Holding a reminder to make french toast for breakfast.

Because we had a staling loaf of homemade wheat bread.

Which the kids forgot about at breakfast time (the french toast, not the bread).

So we had it for lunch instead.

And froze the extras.

Intending them for breakfast over the next week or so.

Until the microwave oven died.

Oh wait, we toast french toast.

All in all, a quiet weekend.

(And we ordered a new microwave.)

Which I needed after this.

Yes, it means what you think it means.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


In my last post I did mention building a mini hydroponic garden, but I failed to put up a photo due to the misplacement of my camera.

Today I'm back in action so here you go!

I have absolutely no idea what the top two plants are -- they're something interesting that we bought to fill out the garden until the seeds I ordered came in.

The bottom bottle has two tiny sprouts. So small, in fact, that I could not get a clear picture of them so you will just have to wait a few more days.

The plants do seem to be growing if the level of water in the reservoir is any indication. For the first few days it stayed pretty level but it's been steadily dropping since yesterday. This tells me that the grown plants have now recovered from the shock of transplanting and are taking up water and actually using it.

The system cycles water from the reservoir at the base to the top pop bottle where it drips first into a pill bottle (to muffle the sound of the air and water burbling in the tubing) and then into the top plant. As long as the media in the bottle is saturated, the excess water then drips into the next bottle and then the bottom one and finally back into the reservoir to be recycled.

I love it! I love it so much that tomorrow I'm building one in my office and planting some flowers and herbs to give a nice, natural, fragrance to my space.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Long, Productive, Weekend

I'd love to show you what I've done this weekend but I keep losing my camera! It reappears, briefly, but disappears when I most want to photograph something. Like, say, the sweater that my mother-in-law made for Mike which I have now mostly ripped out in order to reknit the wool for a sweater for Little Squid.

(The sweater was huge on Mike, made when he was ... um ... huge. He is 60 pounds lighter then when the sweater was knit and mom never got around to reknitting it for him. And, since I am in the process of spinning and then knitting a new, custom sweater for Mike, Little Squid will reap the rewards of the recycled yarn.)

And you also don't get to see the weaving that I finally finished. And the rewarped loom, now set for scarves for holiday gifts. Or the gallon of yogurt that I made.

In addition, you do not get to see the wonderful cleaning and waxing job that I did on my Minstrel. She's so nice and shiny -- and no longer dusty and dingy. And spinning a bit better, too.

Nor do you get to see the lesson plan I wrote. Tho I suppose you could if you asked nicely. But it's really not that exciting -- thought it does include some neat pictures of nerve cells. (I love google docs! So easy to share things!)

And you really can't see the grades that I worked so hard on.

Oh wait ... I didn't actually work on those ... well, you won't get to see them after I finish them on Wednesday night ... right before they are due. Or maybe Thursday, well after they are due. Rank has it's privileges ...

And you also can't see the cute knitting sheep that the kids gave me for my birthday.

But I got a lot done. Really!

Monday, November 23, 2009


*** Tongue in Cheek Alert: Take the following VERY lightly!

My school finally has a working Public Address system. It's circa 1930 ... but it's working. We do not, however, have working bells.

That means, that our teachers are dependent on their watches and the occasional classroom clock to determine when to dismiss their classes.

This also means that when a teacher gets fed up with a class ... they sometimes dismiss them a little early.

We used to have a jury rigged bell system but someone cut the speaker wire, somewhere, and we have never been able to figure out how to rework it. Besides, it was the most annoying claxon I've ever had the displeasure to hear.

While researching the bell problem, I called my dear, darling husband for advice. After all, he does tinker in electronics.

He did not, however, have an electronic answer to my problem. He did, though, suggest an old time solution. One ala' Notre Dame.

Not the school, the cathedral.

He suggested a hunchback*.

The theory was, that we could hire a hunchback to roam the halls, ringing a bell at the start and end of each period. Hunchbacks are probably a title that is very much in excess** and so we should be easily able to get one.

And, in addition to being great bell ringers, hunchbacks can also, often, double as lab assistants, something else that we desperately need but cannot afford.

Sadly, the last hunchback retired from the New York City school system back when they retired bell towers, sometime in the early 2000s (which is also when they got rid of the last coal burning furnace).

It's so sad when something so classic is gone for good.

The topic re-arose this evening as I bragged about how well the public address system worked today (I literally jumped for joy when the other schools did not call to complain -- which means we really did isolate just our rooms).

Mike is still convinced that a hunchback is our best solution. He could even make the daily announcements!

* No offense meant to those with spinal problems, this is being written with my tongue firmly in my cheek!

** Title In Excess: a staffing line (a specific job like: teacher or aide or hunchback) that has more people than the school can afford. Those with least seniority in the line are placed into "excess" and hopefully picked up by another school.

Lesson Plans

As I've stated before, I put a lot of time into my lesson plans. The New York Times recently ran an article about how some teachers are now selling their lessons.

Gasp! You mean I could have been making money off these things? These lessons that are usually so very specific to the way that I teach?

Oh well.

For the curious, here's a sample of my lessons ... just a taste of my "what are enzymes and how do they function" plan.

Example: Joe was mad at Janet for something stupid. He was planning on having an argument with her after school. Doris heard about this and decided to have some fun so he told Karen that Janet was talking trash about him. Karen texted Joe who got even more angry and stormed off to Janet's classroom to start the argument NOW instead of waiting until after school.

So, the argument would have happened anyway but Doris made it happen faster. Doris was the catalyst, the enzyme.

Now imagine that only Doris could have caused this argument to happen faster -- if Albert had said the same thing, it would not have worked because Joe and Doris are best buds but Joe and Albert are not. Joe will only believe what Doris tells him.

Joe and Janet are the substrates, Doris is the enzyme and the fight is the product. Doris made the fight happen.

The lesson went on from there and included a co-enzyme (someone who egged them on and helped the catalyst do it's work) and an inhibitor (the friend who stepped in and prevented it all from going down).

Will it work for someone else? Maybe, maybe not. It all depends on the teacher and on the class. Would I have paid for sample lessons to help me plan years and years ago? Probably not. I didn't make enough money to spare the buck for plans that friends were willing to share for free.

Did I ever use anyone's plan as if it were my own? Once. It was a disaster.

I have, however, taken elements from other people's lessons and adapted them to fit my class and my style. So, had I had the money back then, yes, I probably would have purchased plans, at least once I realized that they were resources, not plans that could be used "out of the box."

And ... in case that wasn't enough for you ... I used this video in class the other day.

*Names have been changed to protect my student's identities. I used the names of actual kids in the class (and in my actual plan) when I taught the lesson. It made it a bit more immediate and real to them.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Minty Fresh!

Remember that lab I was prepping for on Wednesday?

Well, I'm sitting here grading them and ... they all smell like tooth paste!

Yes, I had them test the pH of toothpaste.

Best smelling lab reports I've ever graded!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Acid Test

I spent much of yesterday working. Partly on my own class lessons and partly on the administrative stuff that makes up the rest of my work day.

Yes, yesterday was a school holiday. Yes, I was home. Remember that the next time someone criticizes teachers for having a short workday / year.

With my trip back to the classroom this year has come some seriously teachable moments at home. Yesterday, I was preparing red cabbage pH indicator and decided to run through the lab exercise with Squidette and Little Squid.

The deep purple in the lower left is the unadulterated cabbage extract. The bright red was extract plus lemon juice, the fuscia was vinegar, the green -- baking soda. The pale pink was some lemon-lime soda and the pale purple was milk. The sudsy one? Dish soap.

The rest of the extract was absorbed into melita filters, dried and sliced and readied for today's lab.

Yes, I did spend more time prepping the lab then my students will spend doing it.

We didn't, however, just spend the day in the house prepping my lab. A walk was taken uptown to see the U.S.S. New York.
The New York is an amphibious transport dock, the first I have ever seen in New York Harbor. Usually we see battle ships and aircraft carriers for the annual Fleet Week.

The New York has, incorporatated into it's structure, 7.5 tons of steel from the World Trade Center.

Mike and Squidette were lucky enough to see her sailing upriver when she came to town. (She sailed right past their school after making a brief stop opposite the WTC to give a 21 gun salute.)

Monday, November 02, 2009

Random Thoughts ...

If Squidette is going on a school trip that Mike is chaperoning, can he sign the permission slip or do I have to sign it?


The Department of Education has apparently renamed my school. It was The Academy of Environmental Science Secondary School (AESSS). It is now The Academy of Environmental Science Secondary High School (AESSHS). Huh?

(This is the last year that AES will have a middle school grade.)


If a millionaire billionaire buys an election in a forest and nobody hears the cash register ring, does he still win?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween 2009

Help! My son's been eaten by a snake!

And my daughter is just so sweet ...They did some decorating this year ...
and then some sorting and trading of the haul.

Me? I'm a little dizzy and my calves will be sore in the morning.

The dizzy part comes from our Urban Trick-or-Treating where you start on the top floor of a building and work your way down, floor by floor. Since our complex provides "trick-or-treat" posters to put on your door if you want to play, we quickly make our way down the stairs, pausing briefly to see if any doors have the signs up. This leads to us going in an almost constant, tight, spiral as we work our way downstairs.

The aching calves? Hey, we just walked down 42 flights of stairs!

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Long Days and Never Ending Nights

So last night I hustled home to cook and sew for my children. (Don't laugh! I really did cook. Sort of. If Macaroni and Tuna counts as cooking ...)

And tonight? After working from 7:30 AM until 8:15 PM I come home to what? Dying my husband's hair? Wrapping my daughter in cellophane? Painting my nails orange?

Or ... All of the Above!

Now to kick the last family member still standing into bed and do a bit of unwinding of my own.

Happy (almost) Halloween!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Ssssss ....

Ssssss .... I'm Sssssewing ...

Sssssee you after Halloween!

(And after Parent Teacher Conferencessssss ...)

Have a Ssssspectacular ... Ssssspooky ... and Sssssilly Sssssaturday!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Product ...

To prevent Cookie from turning blue, I am providing some pictures ...

Keep in mind that the finished product pictured here was not produced recently. Just recently skeined and washed after sitting on the bobbins since my last plying sessions. The socks, by the way, are the property of Little Squid. The green ones are new (finished during the car ride to a recent biking excursion) and the striped ones are last year's issue.

Sweater roving in a partially predrafted form, awaiting my next spinning session.

The current product on the Kromski (singles) ...
and on the Journey Wheel (3-ply).

Today I did knit a fingerless mitt while table sitting at the Manhattan High School Fair. I'll work on the second one for a bit tomorrow but for now ... I have Halloween sewing to do.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Still Spinning ...

Yup, I've managed to spin almost every night this week. Still haven't finished the yarn for Mike's sweater and I really don't expect to until at least Christmas break. I've already plyed two Journey Wheel bobbins worth of three-ply and have a third started with at least a fourth coming off of my totally full Kromski-Woolie Winder bobbins. Dang that winder can pack a lot onto a bobbin!

In the past, 3 Kromski bobbins worth of singles translated into three Journey Wheel bobbins worth of 3-ply. I'll let you know the final count when I'm done with the first batch of plying.

Don't hold your breath waiting for it, though. I'm working the Manhattan High School fair tomorrow and part of Sunday and doing "Mitzvah Sunday" for the rest of Sunday. And somehow writing a weeks worth of lesson plans in my spare time. And shopping for, and possibly sewing Little Squid's Halloween costume ...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mike!

I have now known Mike for more than half of my life (and his).

That's a pretty long time to know someone.

To care for someone.

To Love someone.


To a wonderful father ...

... husband ...
and friend ...


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Still Alive and Spinning ...

Earlier today I bumped into Penny who was happy to see that I was still alive and interested in fibery pursuits. I appoligize to her much as I am now about to appologize to you, gentle reader.

When I started this blog, it was a nice outlet for my literary creativeness. These days, however, that outlet is being found, nightly, as I attempt to craft lesson plans that will capture the imagination (and attention) of my students. By the time I'm done, my urge to write any more is gone for the night. So, too, is my urge to knit or do much more than play Zuma's Revenge.

I did, however, find the urge, still within me, to drive 2+ hours to Rhinebeck, NY to play in the wooly goodness that is the New York Sheep and Wool Festival.

Want to see my goodies? (Get your mind out of the gutter! This is a family friendly blog!)

The pink log is 70% Suri Alpaca, 30% Silk from Flaggy Meadow Fiber Works. The big bump is 100% Coopsworth from Maple Row Stock Farm (no website). The Alpaca was my first purchase of the day and I was so attracted to it that when I went through the barn again at the end of the day, I almost bought it again! Fortunately I came to my senses just as I started to approach the inside of the booth and realized that I had already impulse purchased it. The blue just kind of jumped out at me and clearly stated that it needed to be a nice warm shawl.

Here are an early and a late purchase. The dark blue attacked Little Squid and insisted that he needed his mother to spin socks for him. The lighter blue was missed in the initial attack and was spied jumping into my hands a few hours later just because I really love Grafton Fibers batts.
The brown top on the left is Chocolate Alpaca and Tussah and the lighter brown/grey top is Finn Wool and Yak, both from Shadeyside Fibers. Both were a "I'll remember where they are and come back for them later" purchase which had me miss-remembering what barn they were in and recombing almost all of the numbered barns in search of them . I really wanted some yak and, some more alpaca -- having conveniently forgotten that I'd already purchased some earlier in the day.

The big red bump is 9 ounces of Coopworth dyed with madder and iron from Handspun By Stefania. It was mainly purchased because my Rhinebeck experience would not be complete without buying something from Stefania. I love her naturally died wools and they spin up so quickly!

The kids got some stuff, too.

Squidette got this kit:She is going to dive into Little Squid's domain and attempt some needle felting. Little Squid got some puff balls to do some felting on his own. No pictures of his haul -- he already put it away.

All in all, a lovely day. The crowds were ... well, not crowds. The weather was damp and mildly rainy but we stayed relatively dry. Lunch consisted of lamb ravioli for the kids and lamb and barley soup for me, followed by apple cider donuts, hot chocolate and finally soft pretzels as a snack for the trip home.

The drive was ... well I really don't like highway driving. I just do not know what to do with my foot when it isn't hitting the brake every two seconds. Give me Manhattan traffic any day!

Now, off to do some spinning on Mike's sweater. Have to finish that spinning before I can start in on the new stuff!

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Healthy or Unhealthy?

I've been dwelling on this one for a while.

Am I doing myself more harm than good by riding my bike to work.

The ride is relaxing. (good)

Until I slam on the brakes to avoid being doored. (bad)

I get a decent aerobic work our climbing Ceder Hill in Central Park (good),

And then suck bus exhaust on Fifth Avenue. (bad)

I build muscle schlepping 20 or more pounds of stuff every day, (good)

But stress out over inconsiderate folks who park in the bike lane (including those "wonderful" police drills that seem to take up two blocks worth of bike lane across from Madison Square Garden every other week).

So ... what do you think?

Oh, and I almost got blown down by some serious gusts of wind as I made my way home tonight. But the temperature was ideal for riding ...


I've been overwhelmed, and underwhelmed ... but never whelmed. Until I read Beowulf. And maybe not even then.

I have now seen, for the first time in my life, the use of the word "whelm."

According to the Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary, Whelm means:

1: to turn (as a dish or vessel) upside down usually to cover something: cover or engulf completely with usually disastrous effect

2: to overcome in thought or feeling, to pass or go over something so as to bury or submerge it


Probably should have looked it up while I was still reading Beowulf.

I'm done now. Don't really understand the fuss about it ...

Beowulf goes to help out the Danes.

Wounds Grendel. Big Celebration is held.

Grendel's mom comes and seeks revenge for the wounding and kills some Danes.

Beowulf goes and finds Grendal's lair under the sea and finishes off Grendel.

Big Celebration.

Beowulf goes home and mostly lives out his life.

Some foolish person plunders the local dragon's lair.

Dragon gets angry and goes on a rampage.

Beowulf kills dragon and is mortally wounded in the process.

Beowulf dies.

Beowulf is cremated.

End of story.

Did I miss anything?

I think that from now on I'll leave the works written in Middle English to scholars of Middle English.

I was, shall I say, underwhelmed. But I finished it.

Next on the classics list: The Time Machine.

(I've been alternating reading modern junk fiction with classics on my BeBook. Now I'm reading some Barbara Michaels to clear my head of Beowulf. Then back to H.G. Wells who I've really enjoyed so far.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Tiny (???) Tallis Bag

Remember when I said that I needed to make a tallis bag for Squidette?

Well I did as promised.

The colors are not what I initially envisioned but rather the ones that jumped out at me in the quilt shop.

And the bag is not quite the size I thought it had to be.

Rather, it is the size that I thought it should be, but not the size it really needed to be.

It's actually about twice the size.
My answer? I'll make a second for Squidette and then make myself an extra large tallis.

Sound like a plan?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bad Days, Good Days, Skink Nights

No matter how the day goes, there is always a cute, cuddly lizard to come home to a night.

The kid's not bad either!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Tallis and the Tickets

After my last post, Cookie responded with a good suggestion as to where I could keep the tickets in the future to avoid losing them again.
Her idea is a good one but I suspect I will go back to our old storage spot -- updated for our current family situation.

And here goes another "Mom and the High Holy Days" story ...

Back in the days when Mom and Mike and I would go to services together, we'd walk over to the synagogue with our tickets in our hands. When we got inside and were seated, we all handed our tickets to Mike, who tucked them in his tallis (tallit) bag. The reasoning was simple -- Mom and I usually did not have pockets in which to tuck the tickets. When we could, we let Mike carry the apartment keys in his suit pockets and the keys and tickets were all that we carried. It harkens back to the rules restricting what one can carry on the Sabbath or High Holy days. It also harkens back to the fact that even back then they briefly searched bags and purses and not having one just made entry faster.

Back to the tickets ...

One year we forgot to remove the tickets after Yom Kippor and the following year we discovered them in the tallis bag. And quickly realized that they were exactly the same color as the previous year. Woo Hoo! Extra tickets! This started the tradition of storing the tickets from year to year in Mike's tallis bag. We never used the "extras" but it was always nice to know that we could bring in an extra family member if they wanted to come.

The color of the tickets held steady for several years and then we switched our service preference and started going to the early service instead of the late one. [Our synagogue has so many families that two seatings are required for the High Holy days. The clergy are very careful to make sure that the services are as identical as possible.] The early service tickets were a different color which made the old, hoarded tickets useless to us. We continued, however, hoarding the new tickets until two things happened. One, Mike stopped going to services and two, they started changing up the color of the tickets from year to year. I guess we weren't the only ones who realized what was going on.

This brings us to 2009 ...

As we were toting around Squidette's tallis today, I mentioned that she really needed a bag for it. Carrying around an unprotected tallis is just asking for trouble. Particularly when one does not have a purse to tuck it into and one is going to lunch right after services.

You see, I am still, when possible, carrying on the tradition of traveling lightly on the Holy days. Now, however, I make sure to wear a suit with pockets deep enough to handle my apartment or car keys (one or the other, never both), my drivers license, some cash / credit and a small handful of tissues. Yes, my pockets bulge and look a bit unattractive but I do not have a purse that has to be tucked somewhere out of sight while ushering. I made Little Squid (as the male with pockets) take his (turned off) cell phone so I wouldn't have to carry mine and so we could easily hook up with our friends for lunch after services. Yes, I am already using my son the way Mom used Mike. Squidette did not have any pockets and my shallow suit jacket pockets were already bulging.


Tomorrow I intend to take a walk over to the quilting store and see about getting a set of fat quarters in blues and whites. I'm thinking a simple Jewish Star on top of a nice background fabric with a button closure. It has to be a fairly large bag since the tallis is a big one.

Mike offered his tallis bag to the cause but there are two problems with his. One: it's actually a t'fillin bag and hence 1/2 the size of a normal tallis bag and two: we can't find it. We didn't even try to find his tallis for Squidette's bat mitzvah (though we probably knew where it was back then) since his tallis is too small for him. It was bought to fit a thirteen-year-old boy and not a grown man. Instead, Mike wore my dad's tallis and my dad wore my Zedda's tallis. We have a vague idea of where Mike's tallis is but when I looked for it before, to take a photo for this post, I could not easily find it.

So there you have it. The Tallis and the Tickets. Not an especially gripping tale, but one of fond memories and lots of side-references.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Shana Tova -- Happy New Year

I lost my tickets.

Every year our high holy day tickets arrive a month or so in advance of the holiday. I am always very careful to put them somewhere safe.

Well, not always. At least not this year.

Long story short -- I sent an email to the appropriate person and there will be replacements waiting at the door tomorrow night.


Now for the long story that is going through my head and keeping me awake. Let's call it ...

Remembrances of High Holy Days before and after ... or ... Missing Mom

Mom (my mother-in-law in this story) has been gone for four full years now. This will be the fifth set of High Holy days since her demise.

I still miss her.

When Mike and I started living together, we also started worshiping together. (Or at least going to services together.)

While I was not a member of our synagogue until after our marriage, I always managed to get in to High Holy day services with Mike and Mom on their extra tickets. Since my brother-in-law was still in school and Mike was in graduate school, Mom qualified for "student" tickets for them. I went on my brother-in-law's ticket. (They don't check names and he was out of town.)

We'd always get there early because Mom liked to be able to "see." She had to be able to view the action on the bemah to be happy. We'd joke about it and tease her about having to stand on line for 45 minutes in order to get the good seats in the sanctuary. After a period of years, we wore her down and convinced her that the balcony was just fine and, that if she got an aisle seat, she could see just fine.

It was a compromise that worked well for several years -- except for the year that we discovered the second row of the balcony. This row, for some strange reason, has at least 2 inches less leg room then the other rows. I have long legs. Very long legs. In the other aisles my knees rubbed up against the back of the seats in front of me. In the second aisle ... let's just say that I made Mom switch seats with me during one of the standing bits so that I could put my feet into the aisle. I had bruises on my knees for a few days after.


Once the kids were born, Mike and I worshiped in shifts. He'd go with Mom on Rosh Hashanah evening and I'd go in the morning. The other person stayed at Mom's apartment with the kid(s). For Yom Kippor, we reversed it because he "should say Yiskor* for his father." (In quotes because that was how Mom felt and not what Mike felt.)

Then the kids got older and could come with us and go to the children's programs that ran in the classrooms upstairs in the synagogue.

That's when Mike stopped going to High Holy day services. He's an adult and can make up his own mind. He'd kept going for all of those years to keep his Mom company. Now that the child care issues were over, he allowed me to take that role. Since I wanted to go anyway, it worked. By then, Mom had mostly come to terms with Mike's feelinga about the whole organized religion thing and. as long as she had me, she was essentially o.k. with it.


So Mom and I went and after one or two times together, we discovered that if we arrived just as the line was letting into the synagogue, then we could usually find seats in one of the tiny pews at the back of the sanctuary -- the two seaters.

And we were happy.

We'll forget the year that I bit off the head of the temple administrator after I could not find the kids in the rooms that I left them in ...

Then Mom left us.

My vague recollections of that first set of holidays, coming after a summer of packing up her apartment, include Mike joining me, at least for Yom Kippor morning. Because he should say Yiskor for his mother.

That was the only year I asked him to join me though he still asks, every year, if I want him to go wth me.

The next year, I went, essentially, alone. The kids were in their parallel program having a good time. And I had no one to shmooze with before services or to nod with in agreement (or disagreement) during the sermon. Or to compare notes with afterwards.

I joined friends in the auditorium that year for Yom Kippor and discovered great sightlines. When I wondered to Mike, why Mom had never tried it, he said that she hated the chatty atmosphere that went with those wonderful sightlines.

After another set of services there, I understood why. It didn't help that my friends are of the late arriving sort, so I still had no one to shmooze with before services began.

Then, two years ago I was invited to usher ... and the rest is history. I LOVE ushering. The hustle and bustle and movement. While I do not get the quiet, contemplative time that I associate with worship -- hey, I wasn't really getting it anyway. And that's what late nights are for -- like tonight when everyone is asleep and I can think deep thoughts. And share them with you.


I had no intentions of going to evening services tomorrow. I figured we'd have a nice family dinner together and the kids and I would go in the morning -- we are ushering. But then I lost the tickets and now I feel that I have to go, just to justify the late email asking for help (I probably could have talked my way in on Saturday since we are on the ushering list).

In a strange way I am glad my hand was forced. I'm kind of looking forward to this now ... Squidette may or may not join me. Little Squid is taking a pass. I'm going to volunteer my services as an expert usher (they thought about upgrading my carnation color last year!) but, if I am not needed, I will ...

Shmooze before the services with my daughter.

Nod sagely with her during the sermon (or laugh discretely).

And truly understand why Mom wanted someone with her. And why Mike went for all those years -- and then always offered to go with me afterwards.

It's about more than the religion. It's about a shared experience and being with those you love during something that is important to you.


Shana Tova -- May this year be a good and sweet one and may you be inscribed in the book of life for another year.

*Yiskor: memorial service for the departed

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New Addition!

No, not what you think. I'm finished bringing humans into this world. Lizards, on the other hand ...
Meet Lynx (to possibly be renamed later).
Lynx is a blue tongued skink and belongs to Not-So-Little Squid. He arrived at my school this morning courtesy of the wonderful Zach and UPS (and my parent coordinator who bravely brought the box to my classroom).
See how happy they are together?

(After I released little Lynx from his packaging, I kept going over to his temporary "cage" and saying "hi." Periodically I petted him (yup, I stroked his head and back) and cuddled him. I also spoke in a really soft and calm voice the entire time he was in my office. Makes me think that maybe I should get one to keep at work ...)

Oh, and we think he is already plotting with the turtles. They are planning their escape and subsequent world domination.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

One More Year

As I sit here and try to compose an appropriate birthday post, I find myself at a loss for words. Instead, tears of happiness and joy cloud my eyes as I try to write down just what about my son makes him so very special to me.

Is it how he always knows when I need a hug?

Or how much he infuriates his dad -- for making the same mistakes that Mike did at that age?

Is it how he constantly takes me by surprise with his talents and his interests?

Or how he is so very like my dad.

Maybe it is because he is so much like his sister, and yet so very, very different.

Or that he is just himself. Our Monster. Our Little Squid.

Happy Birthday, Little Squid.

May you have many, many more!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Just a few more days ...

Summer is over and in a few more days I will have just one more year of being a mother of a pre-teen. Pretty scary. I mean, where did the time go? I swear it was just yesterday that I was holding him and thinking about the true meaning of window-guards. [It was 3 a.m. As an infant, Little Squid was NOT a good sleeper.]

Fortunately, little ones are made cute for a reason -- so that their parents don't kill them in infancy -- and he survived. And in a few short days, he'll be 12.

On Wednesday he goes back to school. For the first time he will be totally responsible for getting himself to and from school. No more big sister to lean on. And no more mom to come running at a moments notice when he gets a mid-morning migraine. He'll have to wait until 11:00 (by which time the migraine may have gone away). I'll be teaching.

Yup. I'm returning to the classroom on Wednesday morning. It's not a new job, just a part time return to my roots. The rest of the day I will still be an Assistant Principal. Actually, I'll be one all day, just one who teaches. I'm nervous and excited. It's been far too long since I had my own class and I miss it. I just hope I have not lost my touch. I'm starting with the egg-in-a-bottle "trick." Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Summer Knits

During our travels there has been lots of small knitting going on.

First, and foremost is the Whisper Cardigan. I spied this in Interweave Knits a while ago and decided that I had the perfect, handspun, yarn for it. And so, I spent months knitting it. That's what happens when one knits a cardigan in laceweight yarn.It came out nice but I'm not crazy about it. It's one of those things that looks better in the magazine then on my body. Oh well, live and learn. I probably still wear it occassionally.

Then there were socks.

And socks.

And socks.
The first pair (right-most sock) was started just before the New Year and finished up just as July began. They are mine. The yarn was purchased in Lancaster, PA last summer so I really had to finish them before this year's trip.

The second pair (center sock) was knit in fairly short order as my "camp pick-up waiting" pair and is for the lovely Squidette. The yarn is a Regia something that we picked up at Webs in February.

The third pair (left-most sock) was my "don't need to look" pair that was started during a viewing of the latest Star Trek movie, continued during Harry Potter, had more inches added while my eyes dilated at the opthomologist, saw some action on the trip to Pittsburgh and was the ONLY project taken on the bike trip. The second sock gained major inches in the corn maze and while sitting around a campfire and was finally finished on our way back from a short trip to the Catskill mountains earlier this week. The yarn is a Regia or a Socking or something like that -- I lost the ball band a long time ago. Squidette picked it out at Webs and it was always designated as socks for Mike. "Blind" knitting often takes the shape of socks for Mike since he has such large feet that I don't have to worry about measuring for very long stretches of time.

And finally, we have Squidette's new gloves. Sport weight alpaca dyed and purchased in Lancaster, PA on our most recent trip. There is more than enough left over for a pair of matching mittens which I will probably start in the next day or two.

Currently on the needles:

the biking socks started last year for the Tour de France Knit-Along,

a cob-web weight shawl which I work on every 6 months or so,

a lace weight shawl which was started a few weeks ago after I finished Swallowtail,

and, a pair of socks for Little Squid which were started today and are about 2 inches in.

I think that's it.

On the spinning front I am working on the main color for Mike's sweater and am making steady if intermittent progress on it. All of the ancillary colors are spun and plyed though only one is skeined so far. I'll skein the other two right before I start plying the main color. That's when I'll finally need the bobbins for my Journey Wheel.

One more day of summer vacation....