Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Whirlwind Weekend as the Mileage Piles Up

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Saul gave his finals the first few days of last week and then spent a whole day Wednesday rushing to complete his paperwork and get his grades in so that we would be free to spend Thursday in Phoenixville at the Kimberton Waldorf School with Sami. A number of Waldorf schools get together each year for an Olympics-style competition. Jess and Alex could not attend because of work schedules, Jess had late evening duty at Pearlstone for a conference on Saturday, and they had a black-tie, late night wedding to attend for Alex’s cousin, Lisa, on Sunday night. Because of all that, Jess asked me if we would take all of the girls for the whole weekend and Saul and I agreed.

Thursday dawned absolutely beautiful and with ideal temperatures for an outdoor Olympics competition. The Baltimore Waldorf fifth grade was bussed down and arrived at Kimberton about 9:45 a.m.  Saul and I arrived about 10:30 after an absolutely gorgeous 1-hour drive over country roads and through an old covered bridge to the picturesque school setting on the other side. Climbing a hill with our shaded folding chairs, and crossing the field past a burning Olympic torch, we found that we had just missed Sami’s javelin toss, one of her better events. According to her teacher, her form was beautiful. The next few events that we witnessed were not so good, as Sami is one of the worst runners we have ever seen. Because of this, she was terrible at the long jump, not getting any momentum at the end. She was the only left-handed discus thrower on her red-tunic-clad team (Sparta), but sent the discus a respectable distance. Despite her inability to run quickly, her team won the final relay race of the day. She was also quite good at wrestling, a sumo-type event where the weight and size-matched opponents locked hands and tried to push the other out of a chalk ring drawn on the grass. Gold and silver medals were only awarded to the two top-scoring competitors of the day. Everyone else received a beautiful bronze medal, congratulations, and a hand-shake. Delicious powdered sugar-covered butter cookies were distributed from baskets at the closing ceremonies. A spirit award was given to a boy and girl on each of the four teams—a laurel wreath with which they were crowned. A Greek-themed lunch was available for purchase in the school’s lunchroom and was quite good— spanakopita and Greek salad with feta and olives. We sat at a table with Sami’s friend, Acadia, and her parents, and the father of another Baltimore Waldorf classmate, Jacob. The navigator took us on a slightly different route home which was even nicer than the drive there. When we arrived home, Beth called, and Sami invited herself next door to visit. She came back with a beautiful acrylic painting she had done there of Hobbs, Beth’s new Cairn terrier, painted to look like a lion.

Jessica arrived with the other two girls already asleep late that evening. Yona awoke and gave her a hard time going to bed, but finally, after about a half hour, all of us were asleep. Yona woke first in the morning, followed by Izzy and then Sami. I toasted bagels and made Sami hot oatmeal and eventually we all breakfasted, watching children’s television. Jess left early to pick up her mother-in-law and sister, Shirley, to look at some more houses in Cherry Hill. She is so overwhelmed right now with the upcoming move that she forgot to take Yona’s car seat out for us to use. Leaving Saul to babysit, I went to Costco in the afternoon, buying us a new one, purchasing a few items for dinner, and picking up a hot pizza for lunch. Our guests for dinner on Friday night included Faith and her son, Jon, and granddaughter, Hilary, and Larry. Beth stopped in just for a few minutes to say hi as Paul is still recovering from his surgery. We had homemade challah, homemade chicken soup with mini bow-tie noodles, hummus with chips, tossed salad, and sesame-flavored brown basmati rice. My right arm has been very achy for a week now that I overdid the gardening, vacuuming, and sweeping, so while I went to lay down for a while while Yona was napping, Sami and Izzy made oatmeal-peanut butter-raisin cookies for dessert. They cooperated beautifully according to Saul, and the cookies were great. They also made tiny individual challahs while I was braiding the dough. Faith brought perky salmon-colored gerbera daisies in a bouquet, and Larry brought each of the girls a stuffed animal.

Saul tried on his full ceremonial regalia for the girls to see before he left for commencement at the college, which took the entire day. He left about 11 a.m. and did not return until 5:30 p.m. The girls and I just hung out, watching videos, playing games, and doing crafts. I gave Sami and Izzy two pairs of old panty hose, an old pillow, a button box, and my sewing kit. They each made a stuffed bunny rabbit. We ate leftovers for lunch and dinner on Saturday.

On Sunday, we cleaned up the house, made beds, did laundry and ate lunch. Erica decided to join us with Brenna for an afternoon at The Franklin Institute. She followed us downtown with Sami and Brenna in her car so that we could continue on to put the girls to bed in Baltimore afterward. We all had a marvelous time at the Institute. The girls made paper, went through “The Heart,” played with static electricity, water, sand, sports apparatus, did puzzles, climbed through and over tubes, and generally were running around and active all afternoon. When the museum closed at five, we headed for Baltimore. Not having had any snacks all afternoon, the girls were ravenous as we searched for a place to have dinner that would be quick and child-friendly with vegetarian choices. We reached Christiana Mall in Delaware a little before six, but The Cheesecake Factory there had a half-hour wait. We settled on Ruby Tuesday, around the back of the mall, because it has a salad buffet. It was practically empty and the hostess was as slow and clueless as they come. Our waiter saved the day, though, by making excellent suggestions and bringing out a constant stream of dishes as they were ready. In addition to the salad buffet, we ordered what turned out to be a big bowl of creamy artichoke and spinach dip with warm chips that kept everyone satisfied. Izzy took the leftovers to school the next day for lunch, and Yona thought it was a delicious soup. Our waiter brought us warm chip refills, lemonade refills, cheesy hot biscuits, and perfectly cooked pasta with chunky marinara for the kids. Saul and I ordered two different fish dishes, trout and mahi, and both were quite adequate. By the time we had finished, however, more than two hours had passed and we still had a long drive ahead of us before we could put them to bed. The ride was a real nightmare for a good portion of the time as we encountered a thunderstorm, torrential rain that was blinding as we crossed the Susquehanna River with tractor trailers on all sides. Of course, this was the time that the girls decided to get difficult until I lost my cool and read them the riot act. It worked! Within a few minutes of singing “calming songs” after that, they were all asleep. The rain ceased on the last half hour of the drive, and they all settled into their beds as soon as we arrived. Jess and Alex returned from the wedding in DC a few hours later, and we decided to take the shorter drive to DC instead of going home rather than chance encountering more rain in the dark while we were tired. We spent the night at Ari’s house and in the morning, cleaned up, watered plants, hung up some of the artwork that he had framed, and put a dimmer switch on his dining room lighting.

That evening, Ari was expecting Menachem and Liz, Alex and Jess’s friends from Berkeley, California, who had been invited to the White House for a luncheon with President Obama. They were unable to find a hotel room anywhere near DC, so Ari was delighted to put them up for two nights and pick them up from the airport. Menachem, who was Alex’s best man at his wedding, is a rabbi in Berkeley. Alex, Jess, Menachem and Liz had all been in the joint program at JTS undergraduate school together.

We left Ari’s house on Monday and decided to stop in Baltimore on the way home for a few reasons. We knew that Jess is now working from home on Mondays and thought she might be able to lunch with us, and Sami had left her Kindle in the car under our umbrella stroller that we had used for Yona in the museum. When we arrived, Jess and Alex, who had just stopped home to have some lunch with Jess, were just sitting down to lunch. Our attempts to reach Jess by phone that morning had failed because Alex had set their phones to mute during the wedding the previous evening. Alex ate his lunch and went back to work, and Jess decided to join us for lunch. We had a relaxing and satisfying vegetarian Thai lunch nearby, and were glad to have the opportunity to just have a long, quiet conversation with Jess without distractions from the kids. Our ride back home over the scenic route was untroubled and relaxing. We were glad we had spent the night in DC.

Tuesday and Wednesday have been full staff development days at CHC for Saul. Tomorrow, his summer school classes begin. Tomorrow is also the last class of the year for Faith’s class and, according to tradition, will be followed by a festive luncheon, which this year is at Ellen’s home. I’ve been trying to take it easy the last few days because my right arm is still achy and getting pins and needles occasionally. Despite overdoing things by picking up Yona, it seems to be a little better each day. Tomorrow evening, we are invited to have dinner with our friends, Ruth and Giora in New Jersey. We are really racking up the miles on our new Prius, but enjoying our new toy very much.

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