Day 17 of 30 Days of Gratitude: I am grateful for my Sunday School class

I have taught Sunday school a few times for the synagogue over the years. My first class was amazing. I had twin boys, a young man with an incredible sense of humor, and overall some amazing kids. My second class was another great group who met every challenge I threw at them- whether it was reading passages in the Torah or writing an essay on what was happening in the world to be read at services that Friday night. These kids chose to write about the Iraqi war, and compared it to one of our own stories. I can’t remember what story it was but they did an incredible job of writing a mature response that was very thought provoking. We also had great times in class, talking about everything with some judiasm peppered in there. 

The class I have now is very different from the other two. The maturity level is definitely not the same. I can’t get them to settle down most of the time and when I do, it isn’t for very long. They come from a different place than the other two classes. They come from more mixed families and seem less connected than the previous classes. I can’t treat them like I did the others because frankly, I am not sure if they have the same potential. I hope I am wrong, but yesterday was a complete mess.

The units of curriculum I am given are either too juvenile or above their heads. I need to find a compromise that engages them so they can retain the material we are using. The last unit we had- Hanukkah- was great. We were able to do activities together, word scrambles, and cross-word puzzles. We also colored in Thankgiving-hanukkah themed coloring pages thanks to Sheila Finer, which also was a good source of connecting gratitude with the holiday. It was a crazy two hours which ended with a not-so-great performance by my kids doing the Hanukkah Goblin play we did a few weeks earlier.

I tried starting the class off with talking about gratitude. None of the kids took it seriously. No one stopped joking long enough to hear me and I was getting frustrated within the first 5 minutes. I read a synopsis of the story of Hanukkah and some of the meaning behind the metaphors in the story. Crickets. I could hear crickets. We then moved on to the hanukkah themed word scramble.  This is where it got interesting. Half of these kids had no idea who the Maccabees were. Note: The Maccabees were a band of brothers who came up with a cool plan to overthrow the Powers of Oppression so the Jews could have their Temple back and pray in peace. They were like the Jewish A-Team without the van, thousands of years ago.

I couldn’t believe it. Have we become so assimilated that our children have no idea who our kick-ass Jews were? Or how our traditions came to be? I can’t imagine bringing my girls up without knowing the basics of our holidays- especially one like Hanukkah! I don’t know what to say about this. Why bother sending your child to me if you aren’t going to reinforce this at home? Do you realize your child isn’t as knowledgable about these things as you were at that age? Have you no shame???

Ok that was just a rant because it is frustrating for me as both a Jew and a teacher, to teach things that these kids should have known in first grade. I am praying that they were just being difficult and that this improves over the year. I do love what they come out with when they apply themselves. That is a blessing and brings me back every sunday. 

There are a few students who I know will do well in the class and get that connection I am trying to provide to them. Grades 5 and 6 are tricky because this is the time when the “Am I done With Sunday School Yet?” attitude starts. I see my biggest priority- my main job- is to provide these kids with a connection to Judiasm that they can relate to. Otherwise, they won’t obtain a single fact I am giving them. They won’t care about how much our people struggled to be where we are today. They won’t understand how important it is to have faith and believe in something that can carry you during tough times. Yes- in spite of how angry I was at God for giving me a child that has such a severe condition, I have learned that I was blessed in spite of that anger. I want to pass that on to these children. 

One of my former students went from hating Sunday school to becoming involved with Temple Youth. She even spent a high school semester in Israel. ISRAEL! Seriously? I am not taking credit for that by any means, but I will say that I am glad I was part of her education that helped her gravitate towards that path. She is an amazing young woman and I was thrilled that she loved her experience so much. 

I get a lot out of teaching these kids. As frustrated as I am at the moment, I am still grateful for the opportunities I know lie ahead. They did great with the Hanukkah play  we performed at a Friday night service. They showed me that they can rise to the occasion when provided the right outlet. I think I got more out of that experience than they did. 

Today I am glad we have a few weeks off so I can regroup from the last Class of Mayhem. It’s not fair to the kids when I get frazzled because one of them feels like being a jerk. Yes, I am being that politically incorrect, because frankly, he did feel like it. I won’t let that get to me. I want to come back and raise the bar a little, and see what happens. I’ll let you know if it works, or if I am standing on a cliff somewhere. Either way, I know this experience is good for me.



Day 16 of 30 Days of Gratitude: I am grateful for my girls

February 14, 1996 is the day I found out I was going to be a mother. I was 24, unmarried, and just started my career at the Rutland Herald. I became sick almost immediately and had no idea what to expect. I bought books, went to classes and my boss at the time who was pregnant herself, was very helpful. It was pretty overwhelming at times since we didn’t have very much at all and I was far away from my family. 

On October 17, Elizabeth was born after 7 1/2 hours of labor. She was beautiful. My family was coming up to visit the next day so I made the mistake of leaving the hospital a day early. I was beyond exhausted by the time they left! I couldn’t wait to share her with them and I’ll never forget those first moment when my mom and grandparents held her. After the first few days she became pretty colicky and cried for hours at a time at night. The night before I went back to work she slept through the night for the first time. I praised God all day.

We moved back to Plymouth after her first birthday. I knew I could get a better job in graphics after seeing the Boston Sunday Globe’s  help wanted section. I ended up getting a job at Community Newspaper Company on the Cape, and we started our life back in Plymouth. Her father and I didn’t work out and eventually he made the difficult decision to move back to Vermont. 

I was a single mom for a long time. I went to as many school activities as I could, baked cupcakes for her birthday every year, and volunteered as often as I could. I loved it when I got my job in Boston because they allowed me more freedom to attend parent/teacher conferences and do what I needed to do for her. 

I loved it when she learned new skills such as  jumping in our backyard as a horse, drawing, and piano. Her laugh would make my day, and my favorite time of the day was when I would read her a bedtime story snuggled on her bed. When I found out I was expecting Adeline with Chris, I was over the moon. Another chance to enjoy those little moments. 

Adeline’s labor and delivery were the complete opposite of her sister. She took her time. She had to be evicted. She had a hard time nursing. She cried even more than her sister. I suffered post-partum and began wondering why did I do this to myself? Thank goodness when I went back to work and got back into a routine I was able to enjoy myself again. Addie proved to be a funny baby. She had a boisterous personality that she still has today. She adores her older sister, and followed her around the house. 

Adeline is very bright and is already recognizing words. She is the most like me out of the three. She is emotional, very distractible, but has an imagination like I have never seen. One of these days I am going to write down her sayings because half of the time I can hardly believe what I am hearing! She loves to run around and spend time with her cousins chasing each other around. Addie is an awesome helper in the kitchen, and I look forward to making more goodies with her for the holidays. I can’t imagine my life without her and when I think back to those first few weeks, it seems like such a small time period in comparison with how long it felt at the time. 

Isabelle’s impending arrival was also very different. We had been told she would need surgical intervention to live. It was hard to enjoy pregnancy after that. I was working at a conference at the Intercontinental Hotel when she decided to make her appearance. My manager at the time got me a cab and everyone wished me well as I went over to the Brigham while my husband made his way into town from Braintree. We tried to go the natural route but my body didn’t get that memo and we ended up having a c-section. The OB was so kind and apologetic, I didn’t mind that we ended up with a c-section because he made such an effort to help us have what we wanted. 

Isabelle has the most easy-going personality out of all my girls. She loves being around everyone, and enjoys just about everything. It’s almost like she knows how lucky we are and loves being here. I love watching her walk around the house and follow Addie around. Adeline is okay with it most of the time, but she certainly has her moments. My favorite is when Liz has BOTH girls following her around. Teenagers love that. 

Liz is a huge help with the girls and is a great big sister. I am so proud of her and am thrilled when I can get them all together for a picture. It’s very rare when that happens! 

All of my girls are named after some very special people in our lives. Elizabeth Marie is for my great-grandmother Elizabeth, and for Gordy’s grandmother Marion. Adeline Sara is for my beloved Nana Adeline, and Sara is for Chris’s grandmother. Isabelle Faith is for my dear grandfather Harry. His name was Israel but hardly anyone (if any) called him that. The ‘Faith’ is to remind me to have faith in spite of adversity. 

I am so blessed to have these amazing girls as my own. The only regret I have is I wish I had them a little closer in age, but it works out just the same. I used to tell Liz that I was the luckiest mommy in the world and I still feel that way today.ImageFami

Family, HLHS

Day 15 of 30 Days of Gratitude: I am grateful for Icing Smiles

Birthdays are special. Special, and ordinary at the same time. Everyone has a birthday, everyone gets cake. Or an ice cream cake if you are my husband. Certain birthdays are considered more special than others, like the first one. I never understood that more than with my Izzie.
During Isabelle’s first year there were many losses in the heart community. Babies who barely made their sixth month birthday or knew their parents arms. It was heart wrenching to read posts of these devastated parents trying to figure out what happened. I will never forget bringing Izzie to the ER after she didn’t take enough milk in over a few days and being told that if she got dehydrated, it would have been disastrous. I believe the phrase said to us was “a dehydrated hypoplast, is a dead hypoplast.” I never felt silly about bringing her in after that.
For some reason, I didn’t freak out like I thought I would during her open heart surgeries. Maybe it was because her surgeon made me feel secure. Or, I could have been in shock that once again she was going through a brutal repair. The moment when I wondered if we were ever leaving the hospital happened when her incision became infected. That upset me more than anything. What if we never get out of here? What if this sets things in motion to go the other way?
At that moment, celebrating a first birthday seemed distant, someone else’s dream.
As she recovered and we went home for the last time (until the next one), I could breathe a little easier. She began to act like a baby instead of a perpetual newborn. A first birthday would be more of a reality.
And here is where Icing smiles comes in. Here is an organization that donates cakes to medically fragile children and their siblings. And not just any cake, your child could get a dream cake, like you would see in Cake Boss! Dream cakes are only handed out once for each child but they could still receive a cake for their birthday if they qualify. I applied and we were accepted for a cake for Isabelle’s first birthday. Amazing. An ordinary object like a birthday cake made extraordinary.
We also got a baker out of the deal- Melissa, from Sweet Melissa’s Cookies and Cakes was so happy to have been part of our special milestone, and her cake was exquisite! I order her a cake for every birthday we have had because she does such an incredible job. It also gives me an excuse to thank her over and over again for giving us such an incredible cake to match our incredible moment of our daughter’s milestone.
I am so grateful to Icing Smiles for providing us with such a blessing I volunteered to spread the word. If there is a critically ill child that you know of who could use a pick me up, let me know!