rivka: (boundin')
Three years ago, my life changed forever. Happy birthday to my darling boy!

the year in pictures )colin_bike
rivka: (Default)
In a fit of madness - it did make sense at the time, I swear - I told Alex a while back that she could throw a Halloween party in the new house. I thought I was being clever, because it would force us to unpack.

Now, tomorrow, we have sixteen (!!!) of Alex's closest friends showing up for some Halloween fun. Or possibly eighteen. Holy cow, guys.

I am freaking out about whether we'll have enough food. I'm serving cupcakes, pumpkin spice cookies (mostly intended for the parents; they're flavored for adult palates), white chocolate-covered frozen bananas made up to look like ghosts, "goblin fingers" (baby carrots with sliced almond "fingernails") and dip, green slime punch, and hot cider. I guess I can put out pretzels and a big bowl of apples, too? I didn't want to get the kids maxed out on sugary junk right before Halloween.



I have some party games, but I've never tried to run party games with SIXTEEN KIDS. And did I mention that thirteen of them are little boys? Not to be sexist.

I guess I don't need to worry anymore about homeschooling destroying all of Alex's opportunities for a social life, huh?
rivka: (Alex at five)
Six years ago today, my amazing daughter was born. As I cradled her tiny body that night, I remember how impossible it seemed, that such a perfect separate creature could have come from inside my body.

Yeah. I still find it kind of hard to believe.

a year of Alex, in pictures )
rivka: (Alex the queen)
I have my flaws, but sometimes I think I get the mom thing right.


Alex is having a Fairy Tale Princess birthday party this afternoon.

Five or six friends will be coming over dressed in their finest princess gear. Michael and I are also dressing up in costume as the King and Queen.

I got plastic wine glasses at the party store, which the children will decorate with stick-on jewels (I decided to go for "easy" rather than "permanent") to make themselves royal goblets. We're also planning to play three games: The Cinderella Relay, in which one shoe from each kid is piled in the center of the floor and in relay teams the kids run to the middle, find their shoe, put it on, and race back to their team; Musical Sleeping Beauty, which is just like musical chairs except that instead of chairs there are beds made from baby blankets, and when the music stops the kids need to find a spot to fall asleep for a hundred years; and The Queen Says, which is a royal version of Simon Says.

Alex has been watching out the front window for her friends since right after breakfast.
rivka: (chalice)
On Monday night we went to a Seder hosted by our friends [livejournal.com profile] unodelman and [livejournal.com profile] lynsaurus. I really enjoyed the evening, and I was surprised at how well the kids held up. (Alex did miss school the next day because of excessive sleepiness, but I consider that a small price to pay.)

We were thrilled to be invited. Two years ago our church held a Seder, and Michael and I have both been disappointed that there hasn't been one at the church since. At the same time, I had some ambivalent feelings about whether we, uh, deserved to be invited. I hasten to say that those feelings have absolutely nothing to do with [livejournal.com profile] lynsaurus and [livejournal.com profile] unodelman and their family members who were present; everyone was incredibly warm and welcoming.

Here's the thing:

I was raised in a mainline Protestant, liberal Christian tradition. I was baptized when I was a toddler. I went to church every week. But I also, when I was a kid, felt a strong sense of connection and affinity for Judaism. At that time in my life, I thought of myself as ethnically "half Jewish." My father was raised in a nonreligious household, but his father was Jewish, the son of immigrant garment workers who lived on the Lower East Side in New York. My father identified as ethnically Jewish. And in Boston in the 1940s and 1950s, other people also identified my father as Jewish.

So I grew up with an interest in Jewish things. I sometimes went to temple with [livejournal.com profile] kcobweb on Friday nights, if I was sleeping over. She tried to teach me a little Hebrew; I can still write my name, but that's about all I ever learned. I read extensively in the children's/YA genre of "heroic Jewish children hide from Nazis." At that time, in the late 70s and early 80s, mainline Protestant churches like mine took a very respectful and interested attitude toward Judaism - not in the skeevy "Jews for Jesus" sense, but in a belief that we had a strong shared heritage and that their history was our history. We sometimes held a Seder at church out of just that sense of shared heritage.

As I grew older, I started to see things in a more complicated light. I realized that by Jewish law, not only was I not "half Jewish," but I wasn't Jewish at all - and neither was my father. Judaism passes through the maternal line. I realized that even if my Jewish ethnic heritage came from my mother's side, my baptism and churchgoing would have made me really not-Jewish. And eventually I came to understand that the idea that Christians and Jews share a substantial common heritage and history, and have significant religious commonalities, is a belief that is much more common and more strongly held among Christians than among Jews. I started to consider my childhood, um, Jewphilia, in the light of cultural appropriation. And I felt awkward.

I'm not a Christian now, but (of course) a Unitarian-Universalist. And UUs have a long tradition of glomming happily onto other people's beliefs and practices and rituals. (Sometimes this is approached thoughtfully and respectfully. Other times, not.) When we found out that there wasn't going to be a Seder at church this year, Michael and I briefly discussed whether it would be okay to have a Seder in our home, for just our family.

We decided that it wouldn't. The thing is, I really like Passover. I love the story and the rituals. I think every religion should have a major holiday focused on oppression and liberation (and wine). But Judaism is not an evangelical, O-hai-let's-share-the-good-news-with-everyone-and-get-them-to-be-like-us religion. Passover is for Jews, not for everyone who thinks Passover is cool. So it was awesome that our friends invited us to share their Seder. It was deeply meaningful to us. But I think that makes us "lucky people who got to share in their tradition," not "people who also have a right to this tradition."


Feb. 9th, 2010 07:30 am
rivka: (colin in whoville)
A year ago today, Colin Randolph Nutt came into the world and our lives changed forever.

Happy birthday to my sweet son. I am looking forward to your toddlerhood.

a year of Colin )
rivka: (Christmas hat me)
So the church Christmas pageant has three Sunday morning rehearsals followed by an evening dress rehearsal the night before Christmas Eve. Only this year we got about 20 inches of snow the day before the last Sunday morning rehearsal, which meant that it didn't happen. Instead, on Wednesday night a bunch of excited hyper pre-Christmas kids showed up for the first rehearsal with costumes (which weren't done, incidentally), the first rehearsal in the sanctuary (which always leads to insane aisle-running), and the first rehearsal without scripts (which was supposed to have happened that missed Sunday).

They had done a surprisingly good job of learning their lines, but everything else about the rehearsal was pretty awful. It's hard to nail down a lot of the blocking before you have the sanctuary to work with. The kids were pretty crazy. I honestly left the rehearsal expecting the performance to be a disaster.

Christmas Eve I was so flustered that we were parking outside the church when I realized that I was still wearing a pair of jeans and a grungy brown wool hoodie over a faded red T-shirt. "I forgot to get dressed!" I wailed to Michael. He looked down at his own jeans and sweater. "...So did I." It was 5pm. I had told the kids to arrive no later than 5:10. I was planning to be onstage for much of the pageant.

We dashed in carrying the last few props and an eleven pound ham. Threw the ham in the oven in the church kitchen and asked someone who happened to be in the kitchen to put the brown sugar glaze on it at 6:30. I took both kids with me to the sanctuary while Michael ran home to change and bring my clothes. The majority of the kids didn't show up until sometime after 5:30. We had no chance to rehearse, but we did go over my list of Important Last-Minute Reminders: Everyone speak LOUDLY and SLOWLY. Face the audience when you speak. When the Herdmans are being bad kids, they shouldn't actually make any physical contact. When the Herdmans are in the pageant-within-a-pageant, they stop goofing off and take it seriously. Angels and shepherds need to be quiet when they're onstage.

Also in this time period, one of the mothers went to town on the Herdmans' faces with a mascara wand to make them appropriately grimy and smudgy. They were all thrilled to be at church in their oldest and most awful clothes. I did not tell them how adorable they were, because they would've taken it the wrong way.

Ten minutes before the service was supposed to start I herded all the kids out of the chancel to the robing room. No, they were too loud to be there. To the little entryway behind the robing room. Still too loud. To the upstairs hall. I tried to engage them in conversation about Christmas to stop them from shouting and chasing each other. Michael brought me Colin to nurse at the last minute before church. I kept on chatting with the kids on my end of the hall until I looked over and saw a few of them at the other end of the hall looking at me like this: O.O O.O O.O "It's just how babies eat, guys," I said and hoped that I wouldn't be hearing from their mothers later on.

6:05. I marched the kids down the stairs, through the entry, through the robing room, into the chancel, and down the steps to the front pew. There was a welcome and a chalice lighting and then we were on.

And the pageant went beautifully.

We had some luck with the play-within-a-play format, because I could stay on stage the whole time (as a parent helping out the pageant director, very realistic) and move people into place if necessary. But the kids needed very little help. They said their lines beautifully and with feeling. They were mostly in the right place at the right time. They did not burn down the church when I let some of them hold candles. They looked fantastic, even the ones who were in totally makeshift last-minute costumes. And they had the pageant spirit, just beautifully.

Afterward during their shaky and confused bows [livejournal.com profile] acceberskoorb swooped down on me with a bouquet of white roses and, um, something else pretty. I don't know flowers.

And then we went to the Christmas Eve potluck. Last year there wasn't enough food and Michael didn't get any dinner. (That's partly why we brought a ham this year.) This year there was plenty, and we feasted on turkey and ham and smoked gouda mac and cheese and horseradish scalloped potatoes and tzimmes and all kinds of miscellaneous side dishes and desserts. And Alex actually ate food instead of just running around being hysterically excited. (Colin had a jar of pureed turkey-apple-cranberry holiday dinner, because I fall for marketing tricks like that.)

And we went home and put the kids to bed and hauled presents out of hiding places and wrapped a few things and hung candy canes on the tree from Santa and I lost one of Colin's stocking presents. And poured ourselves glasses of red wine and curled up on the couch to watch the first-season West Wing Christmas episode, "In Excelsis Deo," except that Colin kept waking up and finally we went to bed without finishing it.

Christmas Eve was good. The pageant was wonderful. We have amazing, amazing kids at our church. Is it too early to start worrying about what story we'll do next year?
rivka: (Christmas hat me)
For those who celebrate, a Merry Christmas from our family to yours.



more pictures )
rivka: (christmas penguins)
Holy crap! They've been predicting a snowstorm for a few days now, but now the NWS prediction is for 10 to 20 inches of snow. In Maryland. Starting tonight.

The city is going to completely and utterly grind to a halt. Baltimore is not at all capable of dealing with a snowstorm like that.

I fear for my Christmas pageant! There's no way that the kids are going to make it to church Sunday morning.

Also, we have now slipped from "good luck trying to get anyone at work to get anything done early next week" to "there isn't a chance in hell that anyone at work is going to even be there to get anything done early next week."

At least I have finished my Christmas shopping and gotten packages into the mail, and we have food in the refrigerator. And Alex is going to be in seventh freaking heaven. The past two years have only ever seen a dusting of winter snow in Baltimore. Four years old and almost two feet of snow at Christmas!
rivka: (Baltimore)
I'm pretty pleased with how this year's pumpkins turned out. I mean, I'm not a squash artist or anything. But I do this with a steak knife - I don't have any special carving tools.


This year Alex consulted heavily on the design. We kept drawing sketches for each other on the edge of the newspaper, until we could come to agreement about each element. The eyelashes were her idea.

Every year the neighborhood Halloween presence just gets... more. This year a neighborhood church hosted a Halloween party for the kids, complete with games, pizza, treats, and a haunted house. At a given time, everyone was sent out for the "trick or treat parade," which routed us along a small circuit with marked stops. Last year, the wine store was expecting trick-or-treaters and the proprietor of the Afghan restaurant was so taken with Alex's robot costume that he went and got a little bowl of candy from his bar. This year, quite a few neighborhood restaurants, stores, and even a couple of bars listed themselves as a trick-or-treat destination.

The circuit also led us along two blocks of private homes. On those two blocks (one was ours) many people were just sitting out on their stoops with a bowl of candy, even if their house wasn't officially marked on the map. Our next door neighbors were on their stoop drinking champagne out of water glasses and eating tapas; after the kids were done we hung out with them and visited for a while, and I saw more of the same going on up and down the block.

I like the way Halloween feels in our neighborhood. It's a holiday that has been opened up graciously to welcome the kids, but it's not all about the kids. Groups of costumed adults heading off to parties at the local bars intersect with groups of families trick-or-treating, and everyone admires each other. There's a strong neighborhood, community feel that was absent from my childhood Halloweens, when you didn't really talk to other groups of trick-or-treaters and the goal was to see how many streets you could cover - we carried pillowcases for our treats.

Michael handed out candy to about fifty kids. I noticed that the crowd was more diverse this year. Initially, the neighborhood trick-or-treating was organized by some of the middle- to upper-income white homeowners, and they handed out invitations to all the neighborhood kids that they knew. I think that tended to leave out lower-income familes, renters, and a lot of the African-Americans. Each year it's gotten a little more open. This year, maybe because of the big public church party, the big parade of trick-or-treaters was much less homogeneous, although I think it was all still neighborhood kids. Cool.
rivka: (alex & colin)
Colin the dinosaur:


Alex the vampire (note that she is not sparkly, nor out in daylight):


Also, I am not normally one to take, or post, nursing pictures, but I simply could not resist capturing this evidence that some dinosaurs are in fact mammals:

rivka: (Alex the queen)
Alex did better yesterday, nibbling graham crackers and dry Cheerios and showing more of her customary energy. She had some rice again for dinner, and then we bathed her and put her to bed and held our breath.

She slept through the night and woke up cheerful. She asked me for "a big breakfast." Thinking of how tiny her appetite had been, I offered her a big piece of cinnamon toast, and she accepted. But while it was cooking, "Mom, I want a bagel and cream cheese." "You said you wanted cinnamon toast, so that's what I'm making you!" She thought for a moment. "How about both?"

And, yeah. She ate the cinnamon toast and then she ate a mini bagel with cream cheese. More like inhaled. So I dressed her up in her Halloween costume and took her to school, just in time for the Halloween parade. (I did check with her teacher to make sure that there wouldn't be a ton of sugary treats, because I didn't want to over-tax her stomach. Her teacher reported that each kid would get one lollipop, so yay.)

Michael reports that he has picked her up and that she is tired but well. I gave her nanny free reign to let Alex watch movies this afternoon, so she can conserve her energy and hopefully make a stop at the church Halloween party tonight.

Colin is better too. He hasn't needed to use the bulb syringe for a couple of days, and he has figured out how to nurse without scraping his brand-new teeth on me. I am extremely grateful. He wore his costume to drop Alex off at school and was much admired; pictures of both kids later.
rivka: (her majesty)
Rough day at work. But I came home and my whole family met me at the door, singing "happy birthday." They presented me with a Dance Dance Revolution game for the Wii, which is what I really wanted. Alex asked for paper and an envelope so that she could write out, laboriously, consulting us on every letter, "From Alex to Mama I hope you have a very happy birthday."

Michael took a brief nap because he's still recovering from the flu. We packed up the family, intending to head out for a festive sushi dinner. And then Alex climbed up into her carseat and abruptly, without a work of complaint or warning, threw up.

I helped her back out of the car and the next couple of rounds hit the sidewalk. We all trooped back inside. Alex is now ensconced on the couch with a basin and a video, but she seems to feel okay nowand she just threw up again. Argh.

When she goes to bed, we'll order sushi to be delivered. And sometime around my own bedtime I may actually get to have a piece of the birthday cake I made myself (because Michael = flu).

Oh, and Colin + congestion from a cold + his first erupted tooth = Bitey McBiterson. Ow.
rivka: (I love the world)
It poured rain all day here in Baltimore, and then the sun came out and made the streets sparkle just in time for the Pride Parade. As if it weren't already clear which side God is on. (After all, Jesus had two dads.)

Baltimore's parade is fairly small and low-key. We watched until our church came by, marched with them to the end, and found another spot to watch the rest. Alex had the bright idea of wearing her princess costume. (We firmly vetoed the shiny plastic high heels, much to her chagrin.) She got a lot of positive attention for it, including a shout-out from the reviewing platform.


Most surprising parade hand-out of all time: child-sized neon plastic handcuffs, actual locking ones that come with a matching little neon plastic key. The guy giving them out made a special delivery right into Alex's hands and into the hands of the little boy sitting next to us. Handcuffs. Huh.

Pride always makes me nostalgic. Riding on the back of my friend Emily's motorcycle with the Dykes on Bikes in Portland, the summer we graduated from college. The Dyke March organized by the Lesbian Avengers the night before the Pride Parade, tramping down the street chanting "We're DYKES! Don't TOUCH US! We'll HURT YOU!", eating fire at the rally afterward, having the Boys' Auxiliary bring us cookies they'd baked. Going to Seattle and seeing a Pride Parade there that took three hours to march by, including six-foot model vibrators from Toys in Babeland and the Queers With Corgis (accompanied by one non-matching dog wearing a sign that said "Spaniel But Not Narrow"). My first Pride in Iowa City, where the gay community was so small that everyone marched and no one was left over to sit on the curb and watch, and my stats professor was giving out cold drinks with PFLAG. Going to my first Baltimore Pride with friends, realizing that I should've thought out in advance how I would handle being greeted by clients at the parade.

I still think of Pride as my holiday, and it's kind of a jolt to go to Pride now and feel like such an outsider. I mean, you know, I'm there with my husband and kids. It's entirely reasonable for people's eyes to slide past me without that smile of fellowship. Still feels kind of weird, though.
rivka: (alex age 3.5)
Alex wanted a pirate party for her birthday.

I thought about planning a fancy birthday party with a two-month-old in the house. Then I thought about being a four-year-old who recently lost her only-child status, and I decided that Alex deserved to have a party in which we pulled out all the stops. My only sanity preserver: I told her she could invite eight friends, not the whole class.


the party story and lots more pictures )
rivka: (panda pile)
OMG I have the best friends, and husband, in the whole world.

Today is Michael's birthday. I got up with Alex, and he woke up an hour or so later and opened his presents. Then he surprised me by suggesting that I go shower. We usually lounge around a while on Saturday mornings, but today he seemed anxious for us to get about our day. I told him I wanted to rest and drink tea for a while first, because I had had a hard night.

A little bit later, the doorbell rang. I was flummoxed to see [livejournal.com profile] bosssio at the window... trailed by three of the other women from my Wild Women Weekend last September: Brenna, Daria, and Lo. (It didn't surprise me to not see Molly, because she lives in Blacksburg, but apparently she had been planning to be there too, until her work schedule changed. Holy cow.) they had nefarious plans... )
rivka: (Christmas hat me)
Merry Christmas! I'm sitting here waiting for Alex to wake up. Isn't it supposed to be the other way around? [Edited to add: and then she woke up, and I finished this later, after presents - about which, more later.]

Look, look, you can see our Christmas pageant!!

Christmas Pageant 2008 from Becky Brooks on Vimeo.

A million thanks to [livejournal.com profile] unodelman for taping and to [livejournal.com profile] acceberskoorb for getting it posted right away. It's quite hard to hear them, although basking in their cuteness is easy enough. Here's the script for reference in case you can't bear to miss a single nuance of my brilliant writing. ;-)

The pageant went beautifully last night. It's amazing how much more quickly everything goes when you're not able to stop the kids and give them directions. But they did great! As anticipated, the doves were pretty much incapable of remembering what to do, but they were so cute that it wasn't a problem. I just feel lucky that none of them cried and refused to go onstage. I'm so very proud of all the kids.

The closing words for the service were Jo's lovely poem about the diversity of animals attending the Nativity. What a perfect match for both our pageant and the principle of Universalism.

Afterward, we herded the kids into the RE rooms to get their costumes off, and [livejournal.com profile] acceberskoorb utterly floored me by presenting me with a gift: a gorgeous picture book with an expanded version of the Friendly Beasts carol. Signed by all the kids. I don't know how she did that without me noticing, but there inside the front cover are all these carefully printed or I-just-learned-cursive-inscripted messages and names. I cried.

Also, each family got a card with a beautiful little pageant ornament: a picture of their kid(s) from dress rehearsal night, cut to ornament size and laminated. Unbelievable. When did she find time to do that?!

It was really a perfect service. It was so lovely.
rivka: (christmas squirrel)
Dear Rivka,

"You know those people I should probably get token Christmas presents for? Why don't I bake them all something yummy?"

Great idea. Marvelous idea. FOR SOMEONE WHO ISN'T 33 WEEKS PREGNANT.

(And who isn't directing a Christmas pageant. And who will be able to start baking before Alex goes to bed. But the "33 weeks pregnant" item is the one you should've been paying attention to.)

who is going to go to bed as soon as the third and fourth pans of pumpkin-cranberry-pecan bars are out of the oven. Third and fourth of seven.
rivka: (Christmas hat me)
I think we're mostly done with our Christmas shopping. Whew. I confess that I wasn't really feeling it this year. I think we've done wonderfully well for Alex, but for most of the other people on my list I have felt much less inspired than usual.

Alex is getting cut in case you'd rather be surprised on Christmas morning )

We went to the mall today to get the last things on our list. I had casually mentioned to Alex that sometimes one of Santa's helpers is at the mall and that kids can sit on his lap and talk to him. She's shy enough that I didn't want to give it a lot of build-up or put pressure on her to sit on his lap, but she was enthusiastic about the idea. And despite my carefully-laid groundwork about "Santa's helpers," as soon as she caught a glimpse of him she absolutely, positively believed that he was the real Santa.

He was a nice guy. The whole setup was designed to sell expensive photo packages, and I wasn't sure what kind of reception we would get when we said Alex just wanted to meet Santa. But he held her on his lap and chatted with her for two or three minutes. He told her that the last time he saw her she was fast asleep, thanked her for the cookies we'd left out, asked if she wanted anything in particular for Christmas, and (when she was tongue-tied) promised to pick out a special surprise just for her. He was really sweet. And the beard was real, which is not a feature I remember from my own childhood visits to Santa. I was very pleased, and so was Alex.

While we were at the mall, we bought her a little Nativity set. With the Christmas pageant and all, she's been deeply interested in the story of Baby Jesus. She's had an endless appetite for Christmas carols, and she has frequently suggested, "Let's put on a play. Mom can be Mary, Dad can be Joseph, Niblet can be baby Jesus, and I can be an angel!" So when we saw this little ceramic Nativity set on sale for $2.99, we had to buy it.

She played and played with it. She started by acting out the Christmas story in a fairly traditional way, but a while later we heard a shout from the playroom: "Mary to the rescue!!" When Michael went in, he saw this:


That's Mary at the wheel of the fire truck. Perched high on the ladder, still in the manger, is Baby Jesus. What do you suppose the religious significance of this is?

Today was also our second Christmas pageant rehearsal. Read more... )
rivka: (Christmas hat me)
We put up our Christmas tree today, and made our first Christmas cookies. (Probably our only Christmas cookies, unless I become strangely inspired.) This made for a very busy day, but it was helpful to have something exciting and fun for Alex to do while waiting for the tree branches to descend enough to decorate.

I didn't realize until just before we started baking that she was hoping to make the kind of cookies that you roll out and cut with cookie cutters. They aren't a usual part of my holiday baking repertoire - in fact, I don't think I've made rolled sugar cookies since I was a kid. Fortunately, my mother was home when I called her and had a good recipe. Also fortunately, it turns out that things that seem like complicated baking techniques when you are twelve are not so complicated when you're thirty-five.

We were extremely pleased to have [livejournal.com profile] acceberskoorb and [livejournal.com profile] lynsaurus come over to help decorate the tree and - in an unplanned but fun side effort - the cookies as well. I am always surprised when I stop and consider just how short a time it's been that we've known them, and how rarely we see each other except in passing, because when we do spend time with them they feel like old friends. I don't know why - it's just very, very comfortable to be with them. So yay.

The tree is beautiful. It's a Douglas fir, about 6 feet tall, very full, and beautifully shaped. It was big enough to take all our ornaments, even though it's standing in a corner and no one will be able to see the back. And it smells amazing. Our whole downstairs has a lovely fresh winter smell to it.

Lots of pictures under the cut, including a rare picture in which I love how I look. Read more... )


rivka: (Default)

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