Thursday, January 14, 2010

Grandma's Angel Bars

This has been the first holiday season that I've done a substantial amount of baking, at least by my standards. My mom has been making some family favorites for as long as I can remember, Grandma's Angel Bars and Melting Moments being right at the top of my list.

Incidentally, while I finally put the ingredients for the Angel Bars together in my own kitchen, Terry had created art with the same ingredient list. The series of graphite drawings were recently on exhibit at the Long Beach Museum of Art. Unfortunately, the pieces will be split up and given to Terry's fellow artists in an elaborate exchange of each other's work. I'm sure her colleagues appreciate the art; I hope they also treasure the beauty of the back story and the bit of family history they have been entrusted with.

Anyway, back to the goings on in my humble abode. Nathan and I recently sat at his little table in the kitchen with a treat of Angel Bars and a couple of glasses of milk. I told him how my grandma used to make these very same Angel Bars for me, and then my mommy made them, and now I was making them for him. We yummmmmmmmed at the deliciousness of every morsel of our square inch goody.

"Where is your grandma, is she still here?" He asked.

"No, she's in heaven."

"Mommy, do they have computer's in heaven?"

"No, I don't think so, why, do you want to send my grandma an email?"


Often, I find it challenging as a mother to really listen without assuming I know where he is going with something. This time, I happened to get it right. I didn't allow my assumption that he wanted to extol the tastiness of her recipe be the last word. I remembered to ask. "What is it you'd like to say to her?"

"I just want to tell her how much Grandpa loves her," he said licking the last bits of frosting off of his fingertips.

Perhaps it would have been better left right there, but I felt the need to quell his (or my own) tender heart at his lovely thought.

"The great thing about love is that it never ever goes away, not even after someone dies and goes to heaven. Great Grandma carries all kinds of love with her always, she knows how much we all love her and we know how much she loves us too. Pretty cool how that works dontcha think?"

"Yeah, can I have another Angel Bar?"

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Daddy's Garage

"We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry."

Maria Montessori

Nathan is a very literal little boy. He's been a little slower than many of his peers to engage in imaginative play, particularly the girls. In the past, I often attributed this to his logical, very pragmatic view of the world. I'm learning, with hindsight as my guide, that yeah, I guess it is one of those developmental stages that will be gone through. It may be to varying degrees. It may come sooner or later. It may even look much different than you expected; but probably, it's gonna happen.

A month or so ago, we had several rainy days. We were en route home from school on one such rainy day after several, and we all had had enough.

"I am ready for it to stop raining," Nathan said. "Let's tell Daddy to make it stop." (Now this is an entirely different post for a different day, and it may not even be my story to tell. Suffice it to say, Nathan thinks Shaun can influence the weather patterns...)

"Yes I am ready for it to stop too, but we really need the rain." So annoying, this response from me, even if it's true.


"For the plants and flowers and to replenish our water supply."

"But Mommy, when it rains it just goes on the ground, how can we save it for a supply?" will I answer this child's questions when he's, uh, six?!?!

"In our reservoirs, ponds, lakes and rivers."

"Well," he tells me, without missing a beat, "I am going to go in Daddy's garage and make a thing out of wood that will shoot me up in the sky to a cloud, then I am going to squeeze all the water out of the cloud and then it will be sunshiny, and we will get to have the water too. What do you think of that idea?"

"I'd say it was a pretty good one."

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Oy Vey

So I took a writing class a couple of months ago and haven't felt like writing since. I don't think it was the class, I enjoyed it and got a lot of useful feedback. I'm thrilled to be starting a photography class later this week and hope I don't lose my love of photography as a result.

Really, I've just been overwhelmed with the holiday season, the volume of cute memories I'd like to tuck away here, and the unending frustration that is the mortgage industry. On with the tucking of memories...

We started the holidays getting a Christmas tree and decorating the house with all the usual gear. We have a new tradition these last four years of placing a Hanukkiah by the window in honor of Hanukkah and the three years Nathan spent going to a Jewish Montessori preschool. This year as Nathan carefully put the candles in the Hanukkiah, he made an announcement, "Mommy, I am Jewish".

"Is that so?"

"Yes" he said, "there is a lot of love left for me at my old school, so I am Jewish."

"I see, and you're right, there is a lot of love for you."

Lighting the Hanukkiah is one of Nathan's favored traditions during the holidays. I will need to invest in a more practical Menorah, as the Hanukkiah(I'm not entirely sure of the difference, though I think of the Hanukkiah as smaller, less formal, in our case--child made), we have been using does not seem safe to allow burning on its own unattended. Each night after lighting the candles we asked Nathan if there were some special prayers that he wanted to say or sing, naturally he did. He would then sing and dance about the area till he felt done, and that has been our Hanukkah celebration thus far.

Running a close second to the candles in terms of favorite holiday traditions (Nathan's not mine), was the daily 4:30am intrusion on my sleep that went something like, "Mommy is it time to wake up? Is it time to open the advent calendar?" Ours is a wooden structure about eighteen inches high and twelve inches wide with little cubby holes for tiny toys or sweet treats behind a door for each day of December leading to Christmas. I found it very cute that what he most wanted was to find a dreidel in his advent calendar.

So far, I've not ever threatened him with the loss of Santa's big visit (give me time), but I did, on one foul day, threaten and follow through with the loss of a goody in the advent calendar over some misdeed. Oh boy did that make an impression. The level of disappointment and disbelief when he opened that little red door to find nothing behind it was greater than I've ever seen on him before. It was all sadness, no anger. I admit, his were not the only tears shining in the light of the moonlight that very early morning. I'm hoping we both remember that one for next see it's so much worse because he believed that Santa was filling that advent calendar each night.

Nathan's current school is secular, but they do believe as we do, in exposing the children to different traditions. His teacher personally celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah, so once again, his new environment has been a great match. Mrs L had all sorts of Hanukkah songs, they had latke parties, and a couple of afternoons of dreidel play. I'm told that while playing dreidel, Nathan questioned the Nun on the game piece...afterall, it is pronounced none, and if the dreidel lands on Nun you get nothing, yet he pointed out the "none" is not a Jewish word. Pretty sure Mrs L is better at this whole questioning 4 year old thing because she simply agreed with him. That was it, no further explanation required; hell I would have been giving him a long and involved explanation that might involve Google, checking out books from the library and a great big headache for me.

Incidentally, this past Veteran's Day, Nathan nearly demanded that we go get some Hallah bread because it was a "hallah-day". Occasionally I get it right and responded simply with what a good idea that was.

I'm not sure if my boy is learning to be open and accepting about the traditions of the world, his community and neighbors or if he will be utterly confused by the time he is six. We were getting ready to go to our friends' home for a latke party the last day of Hanukkah and Nathan asked could he bring a Hanukkah gift for Jarrah and put it under her Christmas tree. "Honey, Sam and Jarrah are Jewish, they don't have a Christmas tree."

"But I'm Jewish and I have a Christmas tree."

"That may be true, but each family has their own traditions and most often Jewish families don't have a Christmas tree. We will be lighting the Menorah for the last day of Hanukkah though and you will get to do the singing prayers with Sam if you like." With the mention of fire and singing, he was satisfied.

As long as I am on this holiday theme; Shaun and Nathan recently took Jake for a walk around the neighborhood where they encountered a Christmas themed front yard display. This family goes all out with life size figures cut from plywood that they handpaint, complete with a personal message inscribed on the Christmas tree. It is actually well done, far better than those blow up monstrosities people plug into their front yards. Anyway the scene is complete with the Christmas tree, a few lambs, and a great big Santa Claus overlooking the baby Jesus in a manger. Nathan and Shaun came upon the display and Nathan said, "look, it's baby Jesus", you can't pull a fast one on my kid, he very quickly informed Shaun that Santa Claus did not belong--"that's not right Daddy".

The questions about Santa Claus were not in short supply this year, "How does Santa know if there is a fire in the fireplace? How does he not get burned? How does he and his bag of toys fit in the chimney?" My responses were short and all referenced the magical nature of Santa. At the end of the day, he preferred his own explanation, that in real true life Santa comes through the front door.

He was also quite concerned with the exact accounting method Santa uses to track who is naughty and who is nice. Again, I fell back on the omniscient, magic that is Santa Claus. Once again it didn't fly, he lamented that if Santa had a computer at the North Pole to track such things, what would happen if it broke or he lost his Internet connection? He has a lot on his mind, the last of which was not his concerns about the structural integrity of our roof and whether it could withstand eight reindeer landing on it. In my silence, he concluded Santa would have the reindeer land in our front yard and then he would come through the front door...Luckily with all of his questions, he also has plenty of answers.