Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I had Barak's first parent-teacher conference this week. Last week, when I was in New York, my friend Naomi tried to warn me. "Every time I walk in there, the teacher sits there and tells me about a kid I've never met or heard of."

Yeah. Well.

Apparently Barak's morohs are not so pleased with him. There are two. One was only moderately negative. The other one told me, "He doesn't finish his projects," in the same doom-laden tone of voice in which she told me he was hitting the other children and they were afraid of him.


First off, this is Barak. It's really, really hard for me to picture that. But I know that some kids are polar opposites behavior-wise at home and at school, so it's always possible. But... what? If he's been hitting kids, why has no one called me over the last three months?

The meeting was strange. It was supposed to be ten minutes, which is not enough to begin with, and I got less because the people who came before me were late and ran over but the people after me walked right in at their scheduled time. It was also strange because I had the vague impression that they weren't sure who Barak was--an impression strengthened when one of the teachers, when I asked a specific question, turned to the other, saying, "I don't know him that well." Um... hello, you should.

It wasn't malicious, she said, or at least she didn't think it was malicious. He's very deep, she said, and very bright and creative, and he likes pirates, and he's been pretending to be a pirate, and some of the other children have been scared. And one of them said that he hit her.

At the end of the meeting, I managed to overcome my shock and paralysis enough to ask some rational questions, among them, "How serious of an issue is this? I am not getting a clear picture of how concerned I need to be and what I should be doing. "

The response: "Well, we're observing him. "

Which means... what, exactly?

I walked out of the classroom and directly into the office of the early childhood director, where I said, nicely, that this would not do: either there was a real problem, in which case telling me about it for the first time three months into the year in a 10-minute meeting with no warning was inadequate, or the problem was not that big of a deal, in which case that was not a meeting well handled. She was more reassuring, saying that it was only November, they did not expect or want perfection from small children, and that if I felt there was not enough communication I could call any time.

It's hard to know what to do with all of this. His actual progress report did not look that devastating; it was more their tone of voice, facial expressions, body language etc. I know that Barak is a little bit funky and a little bit different. I know that he has a vocabulary that is not normal for his age (his teachers both agreed that he was very bright...) and interests that are probably a little unusual in your typical chareidi school. (Gilbert & Sullivan, chaveiros?) But to me he seems like your normal four-year-old kid who likes trucks, Lego, cookies and Sesame Street. He is downright solicitous of Avtalyon, and plays nicely with Iyyar about 85% of the time. The problems that I see at home--his tendency to scream when frustrated, his constant need for attention--were not even whispered of. And in the end, he loves school, he says that he has lots of friends, and he loves his teachers. When I see him play with other kids, he seems to do just fine.

Like I said. Hard to know. MHH called the early childhood director yesterday and left a message saying he wanted to go over Barak's progress with her; he's going to ask the specific questions that I was too shocked to ask, as in, "Has he been seen hitting anyone, or was it reported by other kids?" and "How are his interactions with the other kids generally--does he have friends?"and "Where do we go from here?" One of my concerns especially is that I have heard stories about all kinds of things getting sprung on parents in nursery--from the kid who got kicked out for hitting (whose mother knew nothing about any problem until, you guessed it, parent-teacher conferences) to the kid who was kept back a year for not knowing aleph-beis, whose mother had no idea there was an issue until March. Communication: not their strong suit.

If I'd had a happy experience in school, maybe I could handle this in stride and see it as normal behavior for a 4-yo boy. But I didn't. I got eaten alive, socially and emotionally, and my dread of seeing that happen to Barak is, well, intense. And up until now all I saw was a happy well-adjusted kid, the same happy well-adjusted kid who was reported to me all last year. So maybe... maybe what? Maybe he's changed? Maybe the environment has changed? Or maybe his teachers are just a little bit freaked out by scary scary pirates?

Saturday, November 22, 2008


It's been a while, and there's been a lot to post about--nothing big, just a lot of little stuff. Sorry it's not fabulously written, but it's motzai Shabbos and I got me some spinning to do.

1. The pirates obsession continues. A few weeks ago--I didn't blog about this but should have--I took Barak to see a local production of Pirates of Penzance. It was fabulous. The production itself, considering the unpromising venue (local middle school!) was surprisingly good; the cast were better singers than actors, but much better that than the other way around. The orchestra, with the exception of the guy on drums during the first act (who got replaced somewhere around the time Frederick meets Mabel--wonder what the story was there), was really good too.

Barak really had no idea what to expect, having, obviously, never been to the theater before. When we got there, a few minutes early, and settled in our seats, the orchestra was busy tuning up, and Barak noticed snatches of a few of his pirate songs. We talked about how the orchestra was going to play more pirate songs, and I pointed out some of the instruments, and Barak and I confirmed that yes, we were here to see pirates and also to hear the pirate songs. The lights went down, the overture started, and Barak was totally rapt watching the orchestra--and oblivious to the closed curtain behind it, which meant nothing to him.

The overture over, the orchestra stopped playing for a moment, and Barak looked back at me, clearly wondering if we were leaving--and then the curtain rose, the pirates leapt onto the stage, and he just about jumped out of his skin. It was fabulous. We were in the front row of the balcony, and he could stand up if he wanted to without bothering anyone, so he did, some of the time; he was rapt for the entire first act, and when intermission came around he was unwilling to leave, because what if he missed the rest of it? (We didn't.) He was so wrapped up in the show that he did not even comment on the concession stand, which, for my sugar-obsessed son, is saying something. In short, he behaved beautifully, and the row of retired ladies behind us said so. "I've never seen any child behave as well as your son did! Not even much bigger children." And then he got his own round of applause of behaving so nicely. :)

Further to the pirates: he and Iyyar have lately been going to bed every night listening to the Pirates CD, which means, naturally, that Barak now knows a lot of the words, or at least thinks he does. ("And pay a manky monious part, with a pirated and a pirate heart!") Naturally, he asks me what they mean. Have you ever tried to explain something like, "When I can write a washing-list in Babylonic cuneiform" to a four-year-old? Or even, "We observe too great a stress/on the risks that on us press/and of reference a lack/to our chance of coming back"? Or how about, "For when threatened with emeutes/and your heart is in your boots/there is nothing brings it round/like the trumpet's martial sound"? We tried that one this week.

"What does it mean, Imma?"

"Well, are the policemen really brave, or are they really scared?"

"They're really scared."

"Do they want to fight the pirates, or do they want to go home and take a nap and eat some cookies?"

"Probably go home and eat some cookies." [He omitted the reference to the nap, funnily enough.]

"They're singing about how they don't really want to fight the pirates, but how singing about it makes them feel not so scared."


2. Avtalyon had his first non-Cheerio cereal today: Rice Chex. He approved.

3. He also cut tooth #2. Ouch, for both of us--he keeps wanting to chew my finger. He's been standing unassisted for longer and longer stretches, and cruising around expertly on the furniture--he's also coopted the garbage can into service as a walker, and uses it to hobble along up and down the hall. He looks like a tiny old man, only much cuter.

4. Avtalyon and I had a little adventure last week; we, just the two of us, flew to Newark on Thursday morning for a chasuna in Spring Valley on Thursday night. By happy coincidence, my good friend Harmless had the afternoon off and came to pick us up at the airport, accompany us on a Century 21 run for a tights-drawer resupply (DKNY opaque black, all the way), and drive with us all the way to Paterson because it did not occur to me to find out what number on Main Avenue in Passaic we were going to, and so we drove all the way the wrong way down it, as in, all the way to Paterson. Oh dear.

Fortunately, Harmless is also Patient, and also fortunately, the price of gas has gone down considerably in recent weeks. One google maps text message and one quick meal of kosher Chinese takeout later, and Avtalyon was released from the cruel baby jail (carseat! wicked, evil carseat!) to which he had been confined for much of the day; I stayed with a friend whose many kids kept Avtalyon entertained while I got dressed in my de rigeur New York wedding black suit, and then abandoned Avtalyon to the care of said kids as we (friend and I) went off to the wedding. I will admit to second (and even thirty-seventh) thoughts as I walked out of a house containing my precious baby, a bunch of little kids without medical degrees, and a responsible party aged 14, but I came home to a happy, sleeping baby in clean pajamas, so it was all good. The wedding was lovely. We made it back in time for Shabbos. And now I have new wool to spin, courtesy of Harmless. :) Because, you know, I totally don't have enough wool.

5. Iyyar has, inexplicably, been having a really rough time sleeping for the last few weeks. He's been waking up screaming and inconsolable multiple times in the night, either wanting to be held or not wanting anything identifiable but rolling around on the floor hysterical and writhing. Every night, I'd think, "he's sick, I'll need to take him to the doctor" and then the next morning he would be totally fine, except for being so tired that by early afternoon he turned into a miserable wreck. I thought it was nightmares, but couldn't think of what could have set them off; I called his morah (my friend Yehudis) to ask if there was anything going on at school that I didn't know about, but no.

"Maybe he has pinworms?"

Pinworms? WHAT?! I haven't seen any pinworms.

"They come out at night. Take off his diaper and shine a flashlight on his bottom. They look like little white hairs." This was last Wednesday night. Considerately, Iyyar started wailing just a few minutes after that conversation, so I went in there with a mag-lite to change his diaper. I took off the diaper, shined the light on his tush and OH MY G_D ARE THOSE LITTLE WHITE HAIRS ACTUALLY WORMS?! I wiped at them with a wipe--and the hairs were gone. It was all I could do to not start jumping around and screaming then and there because it was SO GROSS. If you don't know about pinworms, count yourself lucky. Or click here. Go on. I dare you.

I was leaving for New Jersey the next morning and couldn't take him to the doctor, so I asked Yehudis what she'd done when her son had had pinworms. And she'd covered a clove of garlic with vaseline and stuck it up his rectum to kill them. "It works!" she told me, as I tried not to gag. After some consultation with Dr. Google, I decided for the middle ground of a) feeding child lots of garlic, b) smearing tush with vaseline and c) putting a couple of crushed garlic cloves in his diaper. The next day, we had a few huge and disgusting diapers; last night, Iyyar slept through the night for the first time in weeks. It seems to have worked.

But boy, does the house reek.

6. I went to the dentist on Tuesday. All hail fluoride rinse; no cavities, no bleeding, and the whole thing was practically painless. Seriously. Brush and floss, people, and get yourselves a bottle of ACT if you don't have one already. It's disgusting, but you get used to it.

7. This post is now long enough, but I will leave you with this:

Avtalyon in his elf suit, courtesy of Tanta Cecilia. If elves hung out in baby swings, that's totally what they'd wear to do it in.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Click this link right now

I can't believe I didn't know about this already.

Edited two hours later:

How, how, HOW is it possible that I have not a single ball of black worsted-weight superwash in my entire stash? My entire stash which one might, if one were to be absolutely honest, fairly describe as, ah, extensive? The ONLY black superwash in the entire house is half a 50g ball of Dale Baby Ullgarn--enough yarn for a hat for a newborn. A premature newborn.


I can pick up a ball tomorrow at the LYS by my office for Hat #1--for the rest (and there will be more) I'll have to wait for a delivery from cheap wool yarn central.


The current sock yarn stash.

If it's missing from the old sock yarn stash, it's probably been knitted. Because, even though I feel like I've been whining nonstop about not having any time to knit, I cannot deny the mysterious appearance of a finished object or six.

Like these. The largest gloves ever, knit for a friend with very, very, very big hands. I started them last August. Look at the tracing for scale. Now try putting YOUR hand on a sheet of 8 x 11 paper and see how much of the paper your hand doesn't cover.

And this: a Cobblestone modified to require as few purls as possible. See that line up the yoke? That's where I wrapped and turned at the beginning and end of each row/round, because the idea of having to purl to achieve garter stitch--garter stitch!--was just too much to bear. Begun before we went to Israel; finished a couple of weeks ago. Back in the day, I could have done it in less than a week, but, well, I have other things going on now. No idea why Blogger insists on turning the picture sideways; that's not the way it is on my computer and I have no idea how to make Blogger rotate it.

What's next? Mmm, well, maybe some of this...