Friday, January 29, 2010

The Down Sides of Literacy

Dear First grade team, if my kids puke in your class they are not sick they are simply high on organic sugar cereal. Do not under any circumstances send them home. On Wednesday morning Rebecca woke up in an even crankier space than usual. She would not look at me and clearly displayed all the signs of teenage rage. I should say that Monday and Wednesday mornings are not my best times either—despite teaching music 101 for ten years now I have just enough performance anxiety to be a bit on edge on lecture mornings. So after about 15 minutes Rebecca rage I convinced myself that we were headed down the road of decades of mother daughter misery, that she was made because my focus on lecture and on getting some edits out the door turned me into a distracted mother in the morning etc….. Manuel meanwhile very sensibly told her she could write me a note or tell him if she didn’t want to tell me. I finally received a missive from my daughter informing me that mornings are bad because “you do not respect my right to choose my own breakfast cereal” I started a lecture about benevolent dictatorships in the home but stopped before i got too far in to it as if fell on deaf ears. Thus ensued the family trip to Integral Yoga where one can purchase for ten bucks a box organic cereal of all kinds. I fortunately was safely installed in a yoga class for this venture. Each child picked out their own box of Enviro Kids organic cereal. We have in our possession now expensive politically correct versions of frosted flakes, coco crisps and some panda peanut butter flavor. Thursday morning did indeed get off to a smoother start with Rebecca and Jonathan running to the cabinet to get out their individual boxes of cereal. They poured their own bowls and set about reading the boxes where I learned things like “did you know that 50% of the money that Daddy spent on this cereal goes to help the environment.” “Best of all this is organic” “Even Bester is that it doesn’t have any corn syrup in it” Did you know that if we go to the save he koala web site we can foster a baby koala bear maybe it can come live in Eli’s room” ‘

Meanwhile Eli, freshly tuned up from his two month late three year old tune up slept through the whole thing. Eli for the most part refused treatment including having his height measured which he considered a grave violation of personal space. However if we’re correct about the height he’s in the 75% which among our kids qualifies him for the NBA and explains why lately he’s spent a not insignificant amount of time in time out for beating up his older brother. His language skills checked out fine. When the doctor asked him his sister’s name the response was “my sista is called Wabecca Lewdauu but I wusually call her stupid butt” this was followed by a full rendition of the plot of Clone wars after which he invited the doctor to come watch with us. Eli has developed an incredibly elaborate star wars lexicon which he deploys at key moments like when I'm running late to meet the yellow bus and he wants to walk "Clone war soldiers don't ride in strollers" My mature response was "Clone war soldiers don't wear diaper"!"

In other news the kids got their report cards and it turns out first grade grading is as subjective and ridiculous as any other kind. Both did fine of course. Our favorite comment ”Jonathan is reading above grade level with fluency, accuracy, and comprehension. He has excellent background knowledge which he shares during discussion. However, some of the information he accepts as facts are incorrect. We are encouraging him to participate more in projects and activities and to accept challenges.” A male academic in the making…..

Sunday, January 24, 2010

First Grade Art

The graduate students in the Music Department organized in one week an amazing arts benefit for Haiti — a completely impressive grass roots creative effort, Love-4-Haiti. I sent a little email suggesting that maybe the public school first graders contribute an art project. Jonathan’s teacher jumped on it. So fast forward to Thursday when I arrived at my office ready to bang out a syllabus for my graduate seminar. Jonathan’s teacher called me at noon to explain that the local TV News was coming to the class at about 2 to film the kids making projects for the Haiti benefit. As it turned out she didn’t know much about the event and they actually hadn’t done an art project yet. This led to frantic texting.

A couple of asides to this narrative; the visually impaired doing business by text turns out to be risky business since at some point I sent my friend Kirsten who lives in Miami a text with crucial details that was meant for the teacher Kristin) And my sister had just asked me Thursday morning if I’d talked with my kids about Haiti or what they were thinking. In fact I’d done nothing of the sort since I was in Boston discussing death with my niece and when I tried to watch the news on Tuesday with thing one two and three they insisted on switching back to Extreme Home Makeover.

But back to the first graders; luckily Peter, one of the event organizers, was available and enthusiastic about talking with the first grade. So we arrived at the school, where it turned out that much of what was needed was actual help with art. The kids were, of course, totally a-buzz with the excitement of the news. At some point during the set up I realized that, for the sake of Rebecca’s future therapy bills, I’d have to yank her out of class because I couldn’t be in one twin’s class and potentially on the news while the other was practicing math skills.

Before the news came Peter, Ms. Meyers, and I had a discussion about Haiti with the kids which was pretty impressive. The kids had all kinds of questions “didn’t a baby die, didn’t some people get you, what about the schools…..” I especially loved hearing Ms. Meyers teach them the concluding article from C’ville’s free paper which explained the ways in which the United States is complicit in the destruction there. During the discussion of poverty, my kid who makes a habit of filling up shopping carts on Amazon and has fits when he doesn’t get new leggo toys, explained that you could be poor in money but rich in love. The art project was impressively elaborate and involved chalk, crayon and watercolors. The kids made pictures of things they’d learned about Haiti and actually the effect was really beautiful. Given that we had about four adults in the room helping and another 3 or so taking pictures it was a remarkably smooth affair, all due to the teacher. It is no mean feat in the public schools these days to pull this off in a mere two hours. The amusing part for me was that both the teacher and I upended our days and our segment lasted about 11 seconds and included her hand and a ¼ inch of my back. On Friday when Staley our babysitter went to pick up the art she found herself engaged as primary framer.

The event last night was super moving and impressive. I’m stunned at the ability of the graduate students to pull this off and, as always, by the quality of local music in Charlottesville. I personally loved seeing the UVa music department community and the public school first grade community in one garage style performance place for funky arts. The first graders were, of course, fairly certain that this was all about them. There was much excitement setting up their table which displayed as many pictures as possible. They sold the pictures for $5 bucks and explained to anyone who would listen that you could take the picture home or send it to Haiti. Issac was the most aggressive salesperson and looked at people big eyed and said “don’t you want to buy our art to help Haiti” We had to do a little math work but by the end of the night they’d figured out how to give change and were still obsessively counting money. They also got to talk about their art into the microphone which they loved. Rebecca, who can be quite shy and reserved, talked first and explained in painstaking detail every little bit of her picture. Jonathan was bounding around and finally did some sort of politician thing into the microphone involving phrases like “I’ll make it short” and a preacher style “Love-4-Haiti” I may be biased, but the kids were precious! The boys petered out by around 7 and Manuel, who was managing to both be incredibly helpful and enjoy the music had to leave. He was on primary keep the boys quiet and then take them home duty. But my partying princess was ready to rock and did a lot of dancing and selling of art. She was especially proud to explain that hers had sold within the first five minutes. She told me that she liked “the dancers where the two women danced close together with a little space where you can see their belly button.” She wants to do that some day.

Interestingly, I’ve made quite a few impassioned speeches at PTO meetings about trying to have the public school partner with UVa, especially for arts events and gotten no where. But thanks to a few emails and texts with fabulous young artists and teachers it actually worked. Maybe I’ll just show pictures of the event in my classes tomorrow.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

My niece and nephews......

I’m just back from my second trip to Boston in three weeks. My brother-in-law’s father, Jim Dangel, died unexpectedly and tragically of a massive stroke that he had Christmas Eve. He was 70 and healthy up until the last moment. I’ve been helping my sister and Colin with their three kids. Colin with his brothers has been taking care of him Mom. I have truly enjoyed spending time with my sister and her kids without my own. Between us we had six kids in five years, so while we see each other frequently, it’s not often that I can focus on her brood. My kids may have had enough; their comment before I left last week was “come on mommy….” But they were troopers, and so were the tremendous staff (including my husband) back in C’ville that took care of them. Rebecca, incidentally, lost a tooth and, while our tooth fairy gives one quarter, the one who came while we were gone gave 3 quarters. And, coincidentally, the friend with whom she had a slumber party lost a tooth and wrote her tooth fairy a note asking her to leave Rebecca another quarter since the going rate should really be a dollar—inflation. We did get a few calls mostly from Jonathan with things like “Ann refuses to remove the vegetables from my plate. She doesn’t understand that I’m behind in eating and don’t eat them” Now that he can read we need to hide all those books about feeding therapy and oral motor skills...)

Jacob is the bossiest silent being I’ve ever met. He says little but somehow directs traffic unequivocally He says Cookie very clearly and calls his brother BOY. He luckily also knows how to say boots because part of our job involved finding the perfect black boots for my sister. This is out of character for her, but I’m convinced that there a skirt and boots can help most situation. All three kids love the fabulous new piano, and we got quite the family band going. Ethan especially has a knack for percussive sounds. I could tell my lease with the Dangle/Gordon kids was up when Ethan punched me in the face, and yesterday, when I picked the kids up from their friends’ house where they’d spent the day, he threw a fit after being angelic all day. I apparently deserved the punch because after he peed in his pants I said he had to change them—the kid by the way is a natural athlete and can really pack a punch. Luckily I have my own tantrumer so the thought of wrestling a kicking screaming four year old into a dreaded pair of corduroys doesn’t really bother me. And this one (as with my own) becomes quite cuddly and cute after he’s done with his explosion. Ethan’s pretty fascinated with the fact that I teach music, though my ability to play Twinkle Twinkle and If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands seemed more moving than my ability to say “can’t you just play by yourself a few more minutes so I can finish this letter of recommendation and read at least two of the over 50,0000 hits I got when I typed Thomas Jefferson into JSTOR”

Hannah, meanwhile, announced that I'm not her favorite Aunt. Aunt Peggy has that title. This declaration came at the end of two visits during which I’d cleaned up poop, woken up with the baby who thinks 5:15 is a good time to start the day, taken a shower with one kid, gotten a full description of some princess or other while I was going to the bathroom, and shared my MAC lipstick. Nope not me; it's Aunt Peggy--Colin's aunt who babysat Hannah just after she turned two and made her floating party hats out of newspaper. Hannah shares with Rebecca a certain fashion je ne sai qua. The theme this week was stripes—as in striped shirt, striped tights, striped dress, and striped head band. Luckily she had on her best duds because apparently she got married on Friday to Issac. She chose him because he doesn’t fight with dragons. When we asked why he picked her she said about the other two girls “They were dogs.” After the adults finished choking on their pizza, we realized that the future knockout of Harvard MA was not making an aesthetic judgments but referred to an actual ruff ruff situation.

I also during these last few days talked a bit, mostly with Hannah, about Papa. She reminded me just how literal kids can be and that when a child asks a profound questions wait ten seconds before responding. My sister and brother in law were with Colin’s mother in the morning, and my parents, Manuel, and I were with the kids. Hannah has taken to accompanying me while I get dressed. This prompted her to say she wants my red bra and green ring when I die. As we were putting on our makeup and doing our hair, she asked something about mommy, and I explained that we were all going to Papa’s funeral. She asked if he’d be there. This spun me into a metaphysical problem, and I wondered what to say about Death and afterlife to the child of a Jew and a lapsed Congregationalist who goes to a Waldorf school where they worship nature. She cleared up the matter when she said “oh yea he’s in a box like the ancient Egyptians and like Teddy Kennedy.” But she does understand some basics. What she understands most is that Papa took care of Nini, and now her Daddy and his brothers do that. She’s pretty sure she can help too and is quite proud of having cooked food. She thinks maybe she can help also with decorating—watch out Nini this will be kaleidoscopic. Hannah, by the way who can be a challenge, has completely risen to the occasion, helping her brothers and whoever is taking care of the kids. I trust this will blow at some point and since I’ve seen her tantrums which are rare but require nothing short of an exorcist to control, I’m glad I’m out of there.

The funeral was lovely. I haven’t actually been to any non-jewish funerals, and I did note that people arrive five minutes early instead of fifteen and that they serve ham salad instead of bagels and lox. And What struck me most was how incredibly eloquently and passionately each of the three sons spoke. I didn’t know Jim Dangle at all really; I’m sure there’s a yiddisher word for our relationship, but it consisted of seeing him at Dangel life cycle events of which there have been many. But I loved Colin’s analogy for his dad—a tootsie pop and even from my brief knowledge of him it seemed more than apt.

I’ve never been able to see my little sister in pain without feeling my own pang, and as it turns out it extends to her husband. (this is not to say that I did not when we were children sit on her and spit in her face and that we don’t even now have some pretty good fights). It struck me through all of this that I don’t know many people who are as close to their siblings as I am to my sister, but Colin and his brothers are that close. Now granted they handle this with words like Dude and Hockey, and we go running, buy boots and bake cookies, but still.... I’ve been a parent long enough not to worry about either crediting the parents with the good or blaming them for the bad, but I hope that, whatever Jim and Karen and my parents did for their kids to help push along a sibling bond, we can do it for ours. And I hope that Rebecca and Hannah continue to be close—neither of them has a sister and both of them have mothers whose kitchens are closed.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


My Daughter is not a morning person. She gets this from her grandmother. She emerges from her bedroom as a cross between cousin It, a 50 year old smoker, and a sulky teenager. Hopefully when she can drink coffee things will perk up; and now that our kids consume organic milk, kindly raised chickens, and local vegetables thus minimizing toxins we ought to be able to start the caffeine thing earlier. Tuesday night, while the boys were doing their best to drive their mother completely insane and she was performing perfect twin for her father and piano teacher she and Manuel devised an experiment. The hypothesis was that if the lights went out earlier and the children went to sleep earlier the morning would be easier and no on would miss the bus. This does cramp Rebecca and Jonathan’s twin style—their nighttime ritual involves reading and then as they put it “having chat time to process our day” But by 8:30 I had installed myself in a wine bar to work on an abstract which was eventually whittled down to the required 343 words, Manuel was doing a spectacular job cleaning up a giant mess made by the monstrous boys, and the kids were sleeping. At 7 this morning Jonathan bounced out of bed fully dressed and announced that “the experiment didn’t exactly work. She’s not in a good mood and she ordered me to turn the lights back off and close the door.” My vote, if it matters, is that the morning ran smoother but that the princess will require coffee for things to really get better.

Jonathan also as he does every few days reminded me that his sister is a great artist. Art She’s always making things, shoes for herself out of cardboard, a bed for Joanthan’s stuffed bear, or an elaborate pipe cleaner costume. The strange thing for me about this as a mother is that I am utterly un-visual and have no sense of her talent etc… As a musician I can tell pretty quickly if a kid has a decent sense of pitch and rhythm and was quite pleased when Rebecca and Jonathan matched pitch as toddlers—ok the pitch was often wining or screaming but still…... But art resides in a foreign and largely inaccessible zone. My little artist feels especially proud this week as she and her two friends made their own little art installation at Mguffy Art Center. If you’re wandering around the second floor and you see a tiny clay bug and two tiny clay bloody eyes installed on a two foot trap door you will see this public masterpiece. At this point all three of my children have surpassed me in fine motor skills—apparently at Eli’s parent night which I skipped the parents were required to play the things the kids do in school. Activity number 1 was strining beads. My three year old preschool tried to flunk me because I couldn't string beads and sadly I still can't.....

Meanwhile in preparation for a seminar on Soundscapes in Jefferson’s America I’ve been immersing myself in the world of Thomas Jefferson. What a pleasure to click on the papers of TJ and type the words music and sound into a little bar and come up with 35 useful quotations. Or even better yet if for example one wants to find out what Fredrick Douglas had to say about the music of enslaved people a quick goggle search takes you directly to the last chapter of his book. The hard part is that the literature is vast. There are more relevant primary sources for this tiny little snippet than there are primary secondary and utterly unrelated for everything else I’ve ever written. I’m hoping that bibliographic control means something different in this context. I’m hoping also to get back to Castrati next week. Between school vacation, various family ordeals, and the impending semester the book has taken a back seat. But I have been carrying around in my back book a cultural history the penis and a printout of a silly little drama involving a castrato that I found a couple of years ago in the Vatican. I’m going for the osmosis method of book writing this week but next week will return to the half an hour a day no matter what program ASAP.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Not a Banner Day

I love the trailer and exiled myself there willingly. It lacks the history and charm of old Cabell hall but has a lot going for it; big space, air conditioning, no rock bands on the Lawn serenading and students have to really work to find you. But yesterday the thing really pushed me over the edge—walking into it involved one of those sinking tell me this is not how it is feelings. While for the most part the trailer can represent a kind of Jeffersonian democratization of space, yesterday it morphed into condemned Fema structure a la George W. Bush. Our trailer buddies from Politics got promoted to the new South Lawn building and moved out. Somehow this resulted in a no heat, empty wine bottles strewn about and constituted a fire death trap. Imagine every piece of paper my adorable colleague, bless his heart, has ever touched in the hallway plus another bin filled up by other Politics dudes. This might be quaint if the outside door opened--and one did not have to scale said piles of trash to arrive at the fire exit. And I got a new computer but no new password so it was pretty useless…. Adding insult to injury when my fingers turned blue I hiked over to mother ship which was apparently being cleaned with some chemicals designed to kill humans. Then and it took me fifteen minutes to log onto a computer.

The whole Fema experience whittled the two hours I’d left to prepare for a meeting down to a whopping 15 minutes. The meeting involved many hard working and intelligent people and Thomas Jefferson, a subject about which I was probably the most ignorant in the room. But I was in charge. The only approach seemed to me to be a heavy dose of lipstick feminism which involved applying Mac lipstick wearing striped tights, dragging a colleague for coffee on the way and hoping for the best. As it turns out fun was had by all thanks mostly to the chocolate provided by our wonderful special collections library. Cville folks tune in for a very exciting event involving Jefferson’s Soundscapes April 30 and May 1. Think Corelli, drinking songs, field hollers and ballade operas mixed with archival gems and a little critical theory. Don’t forget that Maria Cosway, one of TJ’s love interests ran back to Italy with a Castrato.

The home-front turned out not to go much better. When the kids got off the bus the bus driver said "I need to see the mothers of Jonathan and Briton" Yup the little 40 lb 6 year old got himself in a punching brawl. The driver said Jonathan had punched Briton in the nose and she wanted to know if she should send the tape to central office and press charges. The tape—they tape the bus? Luckily Gillian the together mom of Britton was able to say no as my hoodlum had run behind the church. I'd left Rebecca and Eli on the sidewalk with other mothers while I chased him around very ungracefully—he clearly can run faster than a 6 minute 30 second mile. All Jonathan would say was that Briton had told him to punch him. Gillian later figured out that her kid did not in his assigned seat which irritated my kid for unknown reasons--why did mine care? Mine told hers to move. Hers told mine “If you want to get in trouble punch me in the nose.” My genius punched hers in the nose and hers was surprised it hurt. Hers was behaving prenatally offering choices and consequences. Then I decided Jonathan had to apologize and found myself saying ok don’t apologize for hitting just for hurting. Meanwhile Manuel came home and by the time we were done with dinner we’d gotten to if you don’t apologize you will never get any Lego toys. Lest my man be the only one picked on here other Patriarchs in the neighborhood who shall remain nameless came out with “if you don’t__ you will never have another play date” “If you ____ you will never watch TV again” This seems to be a man thing. (My Man did bathe said hoodlum and his siblings while I wrote this)

Meanwhile down on the farm Rebecca who had been performing good twin went ballistic when I said I'd read a chapter of The Phantom toll booth AFTER she did homework and practiced. She actually called my mom from my cell phone to "tell on me" During this conversation Jonathan had taken her princess party book and was reading it while I was quizzing him on math and Eli had taken out his violin and was using the bow as a weapon. He also spent a lot of time getting his glow in the dark boots to glow. Whose bright idea was it to give 3 year old boots that encouraged stomping? The evening culminated in little birthday for Eli’s friend which I abandoned in order to go to the most necessary yoga class of the winter. And according to Manuel the primary job of the Lerdau children involved making all the other parents feel smug about their kids. Dinner tonight went better although Rebecca continued her sort of teenagerish attitude and when Manuel said he was preparing a talk about Ecology and Judaism at Hillel her response was “But Daddy you don’t know any Ecology” And I failed to know if the Coliseum was built in ten or twenty years. Clearly the kids are ready for boarding school.

This blog started as emails to my friends—they still get unedited versions with more obscenities and admittedly more cattiness. Liz came through with a list of reasons to be happy.

You won't actually have to pay our kids to be nice to jonathan.
He.and lily will be feared by all.

If you've forgotten to videotape your children's childhood, you can rest assured that the bus driver has done that for you.

Make those phone calls work for you. Let Rebecca tell on you more often. You'll get more done.

Jonathan found that a good princess book can substitute for reading about intellectuals from ancient Rome and it's another twist on those bathhouses. Was he wearing his awesome boots while reading?

If I remember correctly from the early violin days, mollie used her violin bow as a weapon (only she was actually playing the instrument and it wasn't intentional). Eli's method was probably more pleasing to the ears of a musicologist.

Your sisters kids behave better for you and by the time you return to see your own, they will have transitioned back to school days and will be nice and settled and calm.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Back to Reality.....

There might be no sight more welcome than the yellow school bus after a two week family love in—that is by the parents. The kids seemed less enthusiastic. Jonathan collapsed into pathetic sobs because he hadn’t done homework. The homework was to read 15 minutes a day and he has blasted through Famous Men of the Middle Ages, Great Men of Greece, Arabian Knights, some book about myths and folk tales and a very gory Roman Mystery. Rebecca was far too stuck in cousin It mode to worry. She has not been up much before 8:30 in two weeks and she could barely get out two words without grunting. Her hair was something of federal cases since she has not let an adult near it in days. Even after the two rubber bands and four clips were removed it remained in a sort of beehive meets cheerleader contraption. By the time the yellow bus deposited them at the end of the day everyone was in better spirits and Rebecca was especially happy because she had earned 76 stars which in turn got her a purple beanie baby. It’s a bit unclear what prompted the stars. I’m hoping some of it had to do not just with her obsessively good behavior at school but with her uncanny mathematical ability—the kid can do crazy arithmetic in her head. Eli meanwhile goes back tomorrow and is worried about his homework too. He handled the anxiety by stomping around the house in cowboy boots and nothing else—it’s quite a look. The end of the day was especially sweet because their dog friend batman came over to borrow one of Eli’s sweaters. The explained to the other kids that batman belonged to “one of their grown up friends Melanie. They are ready to start dog-sitting just after they harvest the remainder of our Rosemary and Sage and sell it on the street—yes they really suggested that on this frigid day.

Meanwhile I spent about two and a half hours plowing through my email. If I owe you a professional email I apologize between various family traumas and snow storms I realized I’d answered hardly anything but immediate social needs in about three weeks. This was only slightly more exciting than the two hours of snail mail sorting that occurred yesterday. We had the first 2010 meeting of book boot camp but no one did their book. (this club involves female associate professors stuck on the second book going to a coffee shop and policing each others activities no chatting, no email, no teaching prep, no emailing students and colleagues, no zappos just the book…….) today it turned out support was needed just to open the laptops. Special dispensations on the book can be made during certain seasons of panic. We’re also going to need a new location. Cville coffee seems to have stopped turning on the heat. Also the selection of books I’d stacked on the table “A brief History of Castration” and “A Mind of It’s Own: A Cultural History of the Penis” did some damage to the retired gentlemen sitting beside us who were attempting to discuss their conversion experiences. Eli seems to have read the books.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

My sister's kids

It would be great if my sister and I could switch kids under nice happy circumstances. But that’s not how it works. I spent the last three days of 2009 helping my sister and her husband. This involved a lot of quality time with my two nephews and niece which I never get without my own offspring running around. They told me that I’m the best cinnamon toast maker, the best piano player and the best story teller but they prefer their babysitter because she lets them watch more youtube. I assume that’s where five year old Hannah acquired her love for Lady Gaga. I share that too, but I’m not sure how I feel about her shaking her booty to it. And the kid can really shake it. She also does a mean “Girls just wanna have fun” I’m thinking she did not get any of this at the Waldorf School. Oh and they don’t teach her letters at school but she does know how to write her name in the google bar —for this her parents earned themselves a budding Hannah Montana Fan. They are thinking about some sort of cloistered situation but it’s probably too late already. Ethan the four year old who has the roundest head and the biggest blue eyes you’ve ever seen joins a long line of potty training mishaps and is currently exploring the poop accident which his mother was kind enough to allow me to help with. I’ve trained our third child to insist that only Daddy can handle such situations so this shows real love. Ethan seemed a bit confused by the whole Santa thing and each morning checked under the Christmas tree to see if Christmas had come again. Ethan is one of those kids were you can’t decide if he’s a secret genius or just not all there—Manuel’s theory is genius. He can also hit a soft ball and has a hell of a pitching arm. When he got mad at me and threw a duck at me it hurt. The little one Jacob says very little but understands everything and watches carefully. He’ll be trouble.

The kids performed like perfect angles for me. (At points they were wretched for their Mother so I’m glad to know it’s not just my kids whom other people think are lovely when I’m ready to kill them) Hannah and Ethan helped our friend Kathleen and I cook all kinds of food for Nini (their grandmother) and I. They especially liked the meatloaf prep which involved smashing it around a lot with their hands and the spotted porcupine cookies which involved sampling m and m’s. Bizarrely they remembered making a gingerbread house with Kathleen last x-mass and wanted to do that again. There was also a lot of incredibly sweet singing with the new and fabulous piano. This involves an almost operatic vibrato and dainty posture not to mention the newly invented rubber band on pretzel bag percussion instrument. I did have the slightly guilty feeling that in taking care of my sister’s kids I was more present for them than I often am for my own. But that I hope, counts as the privilege of the drop in. I also bribed them with dark chocolate enough that by the end of my stay the baby carried over my back pack when he wanted a snack. We had elaborate meetings in which all three sat demurely in a circle and promised to be especially helpful to Mommy and Daddy. Each day it lasted for about 90 minutes.

My sister does live in one of the most amazing houses I’ve ever seen and the silver lining to getting up at 5 with my nephew was watching the sun rise up over the snow—it looked like a post card. The down side is they appear not to believe in insulation or heat. And I’m still cold three days later. I also almost sent the dog Gretsky to a bad fate. He wined to go out and I let him without realizing that what he wanted was to make friends with a fox—oops.

Rebecca, Jonathan and Eli meanwhile stayed with my parents and seemed none the worse for the wear. Jonathan was heavily immersed in the Arabian Knights by the time I got back. Rebecca had made a mask, felted mittens, and various other items. She gets the crafty thing from her Aunt Pami and Joyce both of whom have been known on rainy days to turn furniture into art. We made it back at about 9 on New Years eve just in time to see the cville fireworks go off from the middle of our street. Eli slept until 10 on New Years day. Rebecca has taken to doing her own hair and it’s the quaff to end all quff’ and the various art projects embedded in it make an especially nice touch.