Saturday, June 21, 2008


I awoke Friday morning at 6:00 a.m. with an unexplainable feeling of dread. This happens to me sometimes, I think, because of all my accumulated bad thoughts, awful scenes on television, and premonitions that haunt the subconscious. I have trained myself to push away these feelings by concentrating on all the wonderful blessings in my life. Even if the day does turn out to be dreadful, starting off with these feelings is just totally counterproductive wearing me down and interfering with my ability to deal with problems. I wondered if I would be able to go back to sleep until the girls would awaken us at the targeted 7:30 a.m.

At 6:15 a.m. four-year-old Izzy knocked on the door and said said that she was knocking early because "It was an emergency." She said that Sami had been coughing and coughing. She didn't sound very freaked out--more like concerned about whether she would be in trouble for knocking before the appointed time. I wondered if I had let Sami stay in the pool too long and maybe now she was sick. Some other more ominous thoughts crossed my mind as I hurried to the other side of the house where they have their own bedroom. Sami coughed a few times for effect when I arrived and looked suitably doleful. Once I determined that nothing serious was wrong, I helped them shower and offered to make them both hot cocoa with whipped cream to soothe the throat. I cooked Sami a scrambled egg and turned on the television to the Upside Down Show which we all love. Contentment reigned.

I went back to shower myself and Saul got up to have breakfast and made breakfast for mom who is still struggling just to get herself back and forth from bedroom to kitchen. She has been spending most of her days dozing in her easy chair in front of the t.v. I think that she would be content just to do that at this point in her life. I had made arrangements to have someone come in to help her three days a week a few months ago, but she flatly refused to have any parts of it and I saw no point in forcing the issue if she was not going to cooperate. Now, since she had pneumonia, I don't know what to do, because every time I broach the subject, she just seems miserable and doesn't say too much. I hope she will get her strength back soon. Saul and I feel badly about her gradual loss of the ability to take care of herself. Right now, it is no big deal to provide the care she needs ourselves, but what happens when we are away?

The printer's broker came at 8:30 a.m. to pick up the final version of my publication to take to the printer. Saul went out to water the potted plants on the deck after breakfast and the girls and I joined him outside. They helped me pull out some weeds and grass that had grown in the mulch around the heather. Sami helped Saul to repair the railings in the gazebo with extra screws to keep them from turning under the weight of the herb boxes that hang on brackets from them. Then, we all moved to the garden to finish planting the rest of the herbs that had been languishing in pots these last few weeks. The girls took turns digging holes with a trowel and choosing herb plants to put in them. With each plant we crushed a leaf and inhaled the odor of pineapple sage, or lemon basil, or cinnamon basil, or parsley, or a host of others. Unlike my kids, they really seemed to enjoy the weeding, digging, and garden work. Sami proudly took a photo of her dirt manicure, an expression I appropriated from a recent commercial.

After we all had lunch, Saul took the girls to the swim club for two hours while I prepared Shabbat dinner. I made the dough for challah, took a tray of smoked turkey in gravy and three quarts of homemade chicken soup out of the freezer, and made a chocolate sheet cake substituting pareve coconut milk for the sour cream and milk in the original recipe. Sami made some new friends at the swim club. She exchanged phone numbers with one of the girls. When they returned, I sent them out to pick a few leaves from the different herbs they had planted to ready a mixture to add to avocado for guacamole. Then I helped them shower again and sent them off to bed for a nap, promising them they could each make their own individual little challah. Saul and I laid down in bed for an hour as it was one of those rare afternoons where dinner was under control and we began reading an article that Susan Shipper-Smith had sent about Chicago Chef Grant Achatz in the New Yorker. At 5:30 p.m., I had to awaken the girls to make their challot which they did contentedly. After each one tasted her own after the brachot, they each went around and distributed a tiny morsel to everyone at the table just as Saul did with the large ones.

Beth brought a new friend, Paul, to dinner, and Sami chattered away happily to him all evening, barely pausing to take a breath in her animated conversation and Izzy, who is usually the more gregaraious, could barely get a word in edgewise. Beth also came to dinner proudly bearing a golf trophy. Her group had won first place in the company tournament.

Faith Rubin also joined us for dinner bearing Barnes & Noble gift cards for the girls, as did Larry, who brought wonderful cinnamon buns which are dairy, so they will be saved for special treats during the week, or perhaps I will freeze them for later. Both Ari and Jessica called us during dinner and everyone was very contented with their day. Alex had already called the girls from Jerusalem in the morning. I had the girls call their other grandparents right before dinner to wish them a Shabbat Shalom. We had a long, mostly satisfying, phone conversation with Ari about work until 1 a.m. It really was a Shabbat Shalom!

This morning, we awoke to screams from Izzy about 6:30 a.m. On the intercom, we determined that the shrieks were due to an argument over which program to watch. They got a severe warning that the next infraction of the rules would result in the t.v. being removed from their room. After that, silence reigned. Saul got up to oversee breakfast at 7:30 a.m. while I stole an extra half hour of just languishing in bed. The girls helped him unload the dishwasher from last night.

Finally, I dressed for services, sent the girls to dress for services, and reloaded the dishwasher with the remainder of the dirty dishes. I grabbed some breakfast, tea and a bagel spread with cream cheese and olive spread I had made on Thursday (which Izzy loved), combed the girls hair, and we headed out for the 45-minute drive to the synagogue where I was able to say kaddish for my father whose yahrzeit is this week. Thankfully, the girls had made friends among the kids who are regulars there, and they couldn't wait to play hide and seek again with them in the large room downstairs.

The Torah portion this week was about Moses sending out 12 spies to scope out the promised land. Ten came back saying the task was impossible, describing the inhabitants as giants and themselves as grasshoppers by comparison. The other two said that with God's help, it could be accomplished. Rabbi's sermon today spoke of how people's insecurities can interfere with their ability to realistically assess what they are capable of accomplishing and also, how those insecurities can cause them to project unrealistic characteristics onto others as well as themselves. All this was very interesting considering that the conversation with Ari last night dealt with insecurity and how it affects the dynamics of the workplace. Another interesting tidbit was that I noticed that one of the ten spies was a descendent of Manasseh, son of Joseph. I remarked to Saul that Ephraim was not represented. He explained that Manasseh was the oldest, therefore representing the tribe. If Manasseh was the oldest, why do we bless our children as Ephraim and Manasseh instead of Manasseh and Ephraim, I wanted to know. Josh Gordon, the cantor, found an earlier reference to answer my question. When Israel blessed his grandchildren, Joseph presented them appropriately so that Manasseh was at his right hand and Ephraim at his left. When he blessed them, Israel crossed his hands. He explains to Joseph that both will be great. We therefore have an ongoing tradition that the merit of children may not be based solely on birthright. It was also interesting that we invoke the names of these two to bless our children, according to one tradition, because they were the first siblings in the Bible to actually get along with each other.

At the appropriate time, the kids all paraded around the synagogue holding the silver Torah ornaments and shaking the hands of the congregants, a practice Rabbi Addison has instituted to include the children in the service. They also went up on the bima to lead Ayn Kelohaynu and Adon Olam. They were presented with boxes of Mike and Ike candy and had cake and juice at the kiddush, so by the time we arrived home, they were both sated with sugar and asleep. We packed them into bed for nap, had a quick bite ourselves, and were able to nap until 5:00 p.m. I had begun doing my New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle before falling asleep. It was so easy this week that i was able to finish it it within a half hour after I woke up. The girls were really hungry and we gave them leftover smoked turkey and black and white rice for dinner. Mom had leftover chicken soup with Saul's homemade Chinese dumplings. We had promised the girls that if they napped, we would do something special this evening. Saul had a glitch in his prescription for his stroke medication. The doctor on call was able to arrange a 7-day supply at a 24-hour pharmacy nearby. So after dinner, we picked up his prescription, took the girls for water ice at Rita's and then went to Barnes & Noble where they used Faith's gift certificates to each pick out a new book.

When I tucked the girls into bed this evening, I couldn't imagine being more contented.

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