Monday, February 28, 2011


Ora loves to walk around. No more hip swivels. Real steps, albeit still the stiff Frankenstein type. Not only was she ready for shoes, but she wanted them. A few times she took my shoes, sat on the floor and inserted her feet. So on Sunday we bought her first pair of shoes. No crying or screaming or falling flat on her face as with David. While Kinneret looked around Ora actually went and chose two shoes and brought them to Kinneret.
Ora still likes to play with our shoes. Yesteday morning she carried a pair of shoes over to me to put on her, except they were David's. Today she put my crocs on her feet.

* * *

She also says "out" (as in take me "out" of the crib) and "baby."

* * *

Yesterday we enjoyed the nice weather by taking her to the zoo for the first time. She enjoyed it (and called all the animals "baby") but freaked out when the llamas came too close. For her "woof woof" is the universal animal language and not just for dogs.

* * *

A few weeks ago I started taking Ora to shul shabbat morning. She is pretty well behaved, which is a good thing because my present shul is a lot more decorous than the one that I attended when I first started taking David to shul. (Not that he was really a problem and he was generally much better behaved than the adults.)

One acquaintance was amazed when he realized that I brought the kids myself. He comes with his older boys but he said he would never even attempt to bring his baby. It came out in the conversation that he doesn't really ever change diapers. I can't say that I don't do my share of diaper duty evasion, but I'm amazed--ok, in awe?--that in this generation dads can still get away without doing diaper duty.

* * *

Ora points to her nose and belly when prompted (so far in English only). She also puts her hands on her head if you say "uh oh." She waves a lot.

* * *

Last night she climbed into David's bed while he was sleeping and lay down next to him. Thank God he's a really heavy sleeper.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Thoughts on Homework

David gets a lot of homework and sometimes it becomes a chore--for him and for us. I'm much stricter than Kinneret and I generally insist that he complete it. Aside from the educational utility of homework--yes, I know this is a matter of debate--I feel that the more times we let it slide then he will become even less likely to do his homework and will in general develop poor homework habits (as well as become increasingly emboldened in his defiance of our authority).
On the other hand, there has to be a limit to how far we push. I don't believe in doing homework just for the sake of doing homework and there has to be some type of pedagogical gain. If at some point it becomes obvious that he is too tired and there's no way for him to absorb anything, then what is the point of pressing on? Why torture him and ourselves?
So where is that line between fostering good homework habits and educational progress on the one hand, and torture on the other hand?

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Worst Part of Returning from Vacation . . .

. . . is dealing with kids who've been spoiled by the grandparents for a week.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Time to Call it Quits?

We really wanted the talmud torah to work. For all sorts of reasons. But it's just not working out for David. His behavior has become so bad that Kinneret and I fight it out to decide who will pick him up because we are afraid to face the teacher and get the bad report. It's too embarassing.

The truth is that he's ususally well behaved in school. We apologize profusely to the talmud torah teacher and profess our bewilderment why a kid who has never had problems in day care, school or camp is suddenly misbehaving and worse yet acting disrespectfully toward the teachers. Everytime I utter these words to the teacher I imagine him about to roll his eyes and thinking to himself, "another out-of-touch parent who thinks his kid is a perfect angel." (Actually the teacher is very apologetic about our many apologies and he says there is no reason for us to apologize.) But really, David is generally otherwise very quiet and behaved in educational settings. (Sometimes I even wish he would act out a bit or be naughty in class.)

If I had to take some guesses I'd say that the root of the problem could be:
  • He has a very long day; or,

  • He is bored because he is more advanced than the other children (because of his backround and home reinforcement ); or,

  • The environment is too informal; or,

  • A combination of the above.
Or maybe the problem is us and this is simply another instance of us not disciplining him properly?
* * *
A recent comment thread on Orthonomics went off on a tangent in response to a parent who reported that his son's school is unable to deal with the boy's suspected learning and behavioral issues. It was clear to most commenters--myself included--that there was no good reason for the boy to remain in this school and that in fact his interests were being harmed by his continued presence there.

Of course it's easy to dish out armchair advice to someone else, however when I step back for a moment should it be obvious that the time has come for us to take David out of talmud torah as well? At some level I am reluctant to do so because this means that he wins. It becomes yet another notch in his belt in his power struggle with us. Part of me wants to keep him there out of a feeling that we need to make a concerted stand and tame him. Yes, I'm well aware that this is the wrong reason to keep in the talmud torah--parenting isn't about "winning." There are some other (perhaps not entirely compelling) reasons to keep him in the talmud torah. But where exactly is that fine line that guides us how far we should go to try and work out the behavior issue (and for how long) before we pull him?

Friday, February 11, 2011

Wanted: Famous Black Jews

David has to learn about a famous black person for school. Anyone have any suggestions for a famous black Jew? (I can only think of modern entertainment personalities.) He or she should really be American, but let me know about about famous foreign black Jews as well. Bonus points for pointing out a book about the person appropriate for a first grader. Thanks, Abba.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Wise-A@@ Frumkeit Part 1

Earlier this evening I was adjusting the temperature of the bath water while David waited naked in the hallway. I turned around for a second and saw that he had grabbed a pair of my tzitzit and draped it over his body. We already had some tense moments this evening because he misbehaved again in talmud torah, and it was getting late now and I just wanted to finish up and get him to bed. So I ignored him and continued with the water.
I turned around again as he darted into and the living room and watched him return with Kinneret's Tehillim in hand. He opened it up and pretended to daven. At this point I told him to stop and explained that it isn't respectful to daven while naked.
"But Abba," he protested, "I'm saying Baruch ata . . . malbish arumim!"*
Was I supposed to reprimand him or shep nachas?
* "Blessed art thou, Lord our God, Master of the Universe, who clothest the naked people."

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Juvenile Lie Detector (Or Instilling the Fear of God Part I)

Lie Detector (Or, Instilling the Fear of God Part I)
When David was younger and I suspected him of lying I used a little trick I learned from a wise friend of mine. I would warn David that I was going to use the Pinocchio test. If he's lying and I touch the tip of his nose then his nose will grow.
At first it worked like a charm, but eventually the Pinocchio test became compromised and I was left hanging.
One day I asked David a question and I knew for sure he was lying and so I called him on it. He was flabbergasted that I saw through him and I told him that I have cameras all over the place and he can't hide anything from me. "Really?" he asked in awe. "Yes," I affirmed, "you can't get anything by me."
A few months ago David approached me in the kitchen and I called him on something. I thought for sure he was lying despite all his emotional and emphatic protestations to the contrary. I refused to budge even as he was on the verge of tears. Exasperated I finally threw my hands up in the air and muttered, "how am supposed to know if you're telling the truth?"
With tears rolling down his eyes, he answered, "please Abba, you can check the cameras."
Instilling the Fear of God Part II (Or, Instilling the Fear of Abba, Part I)
Last year David learned the middle finger in school. (Just for the record, this would be when he was still in yeshivah.) We let him know in no uncertain terms that we never want to see him do this.
One day were were in the lobby and he beckoned to me with his middle finger. Boy did I let him have it (verbally). The truth is I realized afterward that it wasn't intentional, but my mistake was worth the payoff.
The next night Kinneret was cutting his fingernails, but when she got to the middle finger he refused to extend it so she could cut it. He just kept shaking his head and finally explained, "I don't want to get in trouble with Abba."
Instilling the Fear of God Part III (Or, Instilling the Fear of Abba, Part II)
Last year I scared the crap out of David and he learned his lesson not to touch my iPhone without explicit permission. I don't recall now what happened, but I do remember that it felt really good to see him cower in fear.
Instilling the Fear of God Part IV (Or, Lack of Yiras Shamayim?)
I was recently talking with a friend of mine about parenting, punishments, bribing, positive reinforcement, etc. She has a daughter the same age as David and she said when her daughter doesn't listen she says something to the effect of "but Hashem is watching." She claims it works like a charm. I don't feel so comfortable invoking God for behavior modification, but last week I broke down and gave it a try. It didn't work.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Yesteday David corrected my Spanish for the second time. My Spanish isn't that bad and it's interesting that he's catching my mistakes.
(The following won't mean anything to readers, but hopefully will jog my memory in 20 years when I read this post: Mushrooms, bedroom, "I'm a tree.")

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My Advice to Keep the Car from Icing

1) Pretreat the windows with Ice Blocker or something similar.
2) Cover the side mirrors with plastic bags.
3) Cover the windshield wiper blades with garbage bags.
4) Leave the wipers extended out (not up, but out, as if you were changing or cleaning the blades).
5) Keep de-icer spray and a good ice scraper handy in case the windows do ice over. Don't pour hot water on the windows to melt the ice. (If you do, you won't have to worry about the windows icing over again.)
Good luck!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

It's Official

This morning I saw Ora take about seven or eight steps down the hallway. More like seven or eight semi-pivots or hip swivels, but it got her from point A to point B nonetheless. Its funny how awkward the movements are and how self-conscious she is that is trying to walk. We just walk, but she has to think about it. And she is so proud of herself.
Anyway, now that I've seen it it's official: Ora can walk.