Monday, December 6, 2021

Weekend Report

We went to see Dune!!!

I really wanted to see it on the big screen. I was hoping to wait until our younger 2 kids were fully vaccinated (mid-December) but when I checked the movie theater schedules, there was nothing nearby playing Dune after this coming Thursday.

So, I called my mom, grabbed my son, and the 3 of us went to see Dune. I loved it. It wasn't perfect - sometimes characters got lost among all the aesthetic splendor, and the movie could have easily been 20 minutes shorter. Other than that - it was great. My son loved it. My mom enjoyed it. The movie theater was nearly empty (and we wore masked, and the 3 of us are fully vaccinated, etc, etc).

On Saturday, we had 2 Hanukkah parties. First my parents came and we ate latkes, sufganiyot, herring salad, and a few other things. Then later that evening, our friends came (and we ate latkes, sufganiyot, herring salad, and a few other things). I was thinking we would play games, but we all just ended up talking while the kids played. There was a brief game of ping-pong among the grown-ups, but for the most part we were sitting around the hot wood stove outside and chatting.

I love latkes. They were a fair amount of work, but kids really want to make them again (and they promised to help), so I think we'll do a latkes supper one of this evenings. After all, I am pretty sure there is no law forbidding latkes on non-Hanukkah days. In fact, my grandfather used to make them pretty frequently - the whole family loved them (and he grated the potatoes by hand!!!).

My husband and I did a bit of clean-up around the garden. We are considering extending it a bit.

There was lots of laundry and cooking. I baked bread.

What didn't get done: hmmm....  I haven't been reading to the kids... But they all have their own books at this point, and there hasn't been any specific book I feel super excited about and want to share with them... 

And how was your weekend?

Friday, December 3, 2021

Naming Names

After they got married and moved into their apartment, my parents named their new furniture. They had a kitchen set (table, stools, kitchen cabinets – that sort of thing) that was pretty fancy – I believe it was either from Germany or Czechoslovakia, I am not sure at this point. They called it “Kasya”.

They named the “big room” furniture “Teddy.” Teddy was a stenka (wall) – a set of 3 upright cabinets and shelves with glass doors and a bar in the middle. I guess the modern term would be modular shelves? We used it for storing fine china and crystal (behind glass doors), books (most of the other shelves), a record player, drinks (inside the bar), as well as knick-knacks, souveniers, and vases with candy.

Kasya didn’t really stick. But Teddy (we said Fedya in Russian) – that one got used a lot! I spent my childhood convinced that Teddy was just another word for shelves. My parents would say “I left my watch on Teddy – can you grab it?” “Please put your books back on Teddy!” I would ask “Mom, can I get a candy out of Teddy?”


A few years ago, our coffee machine broke. It was not even 3 years old and we were super annoyed – because when we buy things, we expect them to last forever. Or, at least 25 years. It was one of those hyper-modern things with buttons and sealed bottom that you couldn’t open up and attempt to fix. It was not expensive or fancy in any way, and it would have been cheaper to buy a new one than to pay for repairs. Still, we were very, very annoyed.

So, my husband unearthed this beastly thing from the 80’s (or maybe 70’s) that his dad used to have in his work office back in the day. A coffee machine, with an analogue clock that could be used to set the timer and get the coffee going first thing in the morning. [My husband never throws anything out unless it is totally broken up and not usable. And even then, chances are, I’ll find it in the garage sitting on a shelf and taking up space. His family is the same. My family is the same, too. That’s why we have a last-century coffee machine.]

He proudly put the new/old coffee machine on the kitchen counter and plugged it in (he did wash it very thoroughly… after all, it’s been sitting and gathering dust for a few decades). Guess what? It worked!!! The analogue timer worked, too. It also made this loud whale-song noise every time it was brewing us some coffee. This happened around the same time my kids were listening to a children’s CD with a collection of silly and cute songs. One of the songs (our son’s favorite, he would play it over, and over, and over) was about Wendy the Whale. So, naturally, we started calling the coffee machine Wendy the Whale (on the account of the noises it was making), which then got truncated to simply Wendy.

Is Wendy done making coffee? Did you start Wendy yet? Wait, I need to get Wendy going…

Do you ever name your furniture or appliances?

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

December? No!!!!

I can’t believe it’s December. In my world, Halloween just happened the other day (I still haven’t managed to get a photo of all 3 kids in their costumes…)

I missed my cousin’s birthday (because I didn’t realize November was over).

My brains are completely scrambled.

For about a week, I was hyper-focused on a paper I was writing for work. It was all I could think about. When I turned it in, all the kids commented: “Mom, all of a sudden you are so happy! You are no longer snapping at everyone!”

Then, we hosted Thanksgiving. It was fun, it was awesome, our family is amazing. Everyone brought food, so we only made turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce, herring salad, and sweet potatoes. Still, it was a lot of work. I cleaned, and cleaned, and cleaned (I even washed some of the windows!) – kids helped. My husband did a ton of yardwork to get stuff cleaned up (the kids and I helped). Having people over is a very good incentive to clean up stuff that is not normally a top priority.

And then I sort of collapsed and did not want to do anything for the rest of the weekend.

Then I got confused with days and dates and nearly missed the 1st night of Hanukkah. Thank goodness my mother called to wish us Happy Hanukkah and I was all discombobulated because “but wait, but it’s not until tomorrow night! Right???” 


So there was a bit of a scramble to get the candles and the menorahs (luckily, our daughter cleaned and polished those the day before! All on her own!) and to wrap a couple of presents (seemed kind of silly to wrap things so that the kids could tear the paper off 5 seconds later, but they really really really wanted all their presents wrapped).

Am I sort of last-minute about wrapping presents and getting things ready for holidays? YES I AM.

And now it is December. And 2021 is almost over. I am not ready...

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Weekend Report


What got done:

  • Re-recorded our son (violin) and my mom (piano) playing Severn's "Polish Dance" together for the 3rd and 4th time. I think they are both sick of it. This is for a virtual recital... The beauty of live recitals is that you get up on the stage, perform, and then boom you are done. With a virtual recital where you record ahead of time - there is an option of doing it over, and over, and over again...
  • Kids had Hebrew School.
  • Last 2 soccer games of the season (one win, one loss).
  • Yardwork: leaves, leaves, and more leaves.
  • My husband fixed the garage door.
  • Kids and I folded laundry and watched a bit of figure skating. The Russian women skaters are amazing.
  • I cleaned the laundry room.
  • I baked bread, husband made meatballs. Other random cooking included blueberry pancakes, roasted vegetables, and salads.
  • Reading (I finished The Last Watchman of Old Cairo).
  • Kids played with friends.

What didn't get done:
  • Apple sauce. I have a bunch of old less-than-stellar apples.
  • Hiking in the park.
  • Shopping (I really need to get a concert outfit for our son).
  • Movie night.

Friday, November 12, 2021

[smart]Phone and Directions

I finally gave in and got a smartphone about a year ago. I don't love it, but it is useful when I want to check my email without trotting all the way up to the attic and waking up my computer. I use it to check my favorite blogs, news, and covid updates. It is also pretty good for sending and receiving texts. It's nice to be able to send and receive photos!

At the moment, I don't have a data plan, just connection to wi-fi. Because I work from home and I rarely go anywhere, this is totally sufficient. 

I use whatsapp - kids like it for video-calls with their cousins and I love getting photos and updates from family in other countries. 

I started using google maps for directions (I download maps I need ahead of time). Generally, I prefer to look up directions using my computer and then write them all down. It's easier to make adjustments (because sometimes, google-preferred route is not optimal). I am not a huge fan of google telling me where to go and which way to turn... twice now it took me on these weird drives through residential neighborhoods for no particular reason... Something is weird with the algorithms there - perhaps I need to look into my settings.

I feel weird being bossed around by my phone and trusting that it'll take me where I need to go... What if google doesn't like me and takes me on the most round-about, traffic-congested roads? What if it decides to sabotage my trip? It is super annoying when I go a different way than google wants me to go (because it may be more scenic, or is more direct, or whatever), and the thing keeps trying to get me to turn around!!! There should be a hand-less "shut up" function - where you say "shut up and re-route" and the app re-calculates the directions based on current location.

This could be totally turned into a creepy sci-fi short story. 

Phone apps being selective and playing favorites, allowing some people to get to their destination on time while forcing others to be late. And people being too stupid to understand what's happening, because we are too busy listening to google map's "turn right NOW".

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Speech Therapy

When I was a kid, my mother was concerned about my “speech problem”. I stuttered, occasionally, and I tended to speak so fast other people had a hard time understanding me.  I remember my mom dragging me to see speech therapists back in Russia, who either said I would grow out of it or would put me into a horrible speech therapy group and made me do idiotic (from the perspective of a kid) exercises. Honestly, I thought she was greatly exaggerating. I didn’t think I had any problems at all. My friends seemed to understand me just fine. I did well in school.

When I was a teenager, the stuttering got worse, especially after coming to the US (I was 16). Someone recommended that I go see a speech therapist – again. 

I did go, and to my surprise, it wasn’t too bad. That speech therapist lady was amazing – she saw me as a whole person, not just “the speech problem” to be fixed. It was a joy to work with her. She was the first person – ever – who managed to explain to me what it meant that I talked too fast.

Everyone was always saying – you are talking too fast, slow down, speak slowly, can you say that again – slowly? It annoyed the hell out of me. I did not feel that I was speaking too fast at all, so it seemed like it was someone else’s problem. 

The speech therapist (unfortunately, I don’t remember her name) asked me to sing. After I sang a short song, she asked me to sing it again – but now, in the tempo I would use in a conversation. And that was the big moment –I felt the difference. Forever before, when people said “you talk too fast”, it was just so disconnected. Even when I heard myself recorded (like on an answering machine), there was a disconnect – I could tell the person was talking too fast, but I felt like that person didn’t have anything to do with me.* The speech therapist really helped me find a point of reference, she helped me understand what it felt like when words coming out of my mouth too fast.

When I turned 18, I had to transfer to an adult speech therapist. And that was… not good. The new speech therapist kept mouthing words as I was talking (as if she was trying to help me talk, I guess?). It was driving me bonkers. I believe she was more used to working with people who had speech issues after stroke – so it just wasn’t a good fit. I quit after a couple of sessions with her.

I am not sure how much of a genetic component there is to stuttering. I know that I have a few relatives on my grandfather’s side who stutter. One of my kids tends to talk too fast when super-excited about something. I’ll have to do the singing game – maybe that’ll help. 

Did you ever have to be in speech therapy? Did it help?

*True story. My parents were planning to come and visit me soon after I started college. I left a message on their answering machine, telling them exactly where and what time to meet me. I was furious when they didn’t show up. It turned out, they couldn’t understand my message. They even played the recording back for me. I couldn’t understand what I was saying, either.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Weekend Report: November

 How can it possibly be November? I am not ready.

What got done:

1:1 hike with my youngest child. The weather was fantastic, the leaves look beautiful. She ran into a couple of her friends who were planting trees and got to help out and plant a pin oak.

Soccer games! One win, one loss.

Re-recorded violin+piano performance for a virtual recital for our oldest child.

Baked bread (honey wheat loaf and beet bread)

Farmers market (our favorite farmer has amazing carrots)

Reading in front of the fireplace (Harry Potter book 6 with older kids)

Family movie time: Stargate

Family walk around the neighbourhood

Kids playing with neighbors and jumping into leaf piles


What did not get done:

Cleaning out the laundry room

Finding and renting a place for winter vacation

Finding zen (I’ve been grumpy and prone to fits of yelling – not sure what’s going on with me).