Zev News – Oct & Nov 2008


The first Sunday in October was a busy day.  It started with a cross-country meet for Benjamin at Mt. Sac.  Mt. Sac is it an hour from our house so we left the house at 7 a.m..  Mt. Sac is a very challenging cross-country course, and they don't stage each race until the previous race is done, so we knew it would be a long day, and indeed it was.  Normally, Benjamin is done by 10:30 or 11, but, this day, his race didn't end until after 12.  We raced out of there, because Benjamin had a MathCounts training session back in the Valley at 1 p.m., and it was an hour drive back.  We grabbed some fast food for lunch for Benjamin and got him to MathCounts only about half an hour late.  Benjamin is enjoying MathCounts very much.  Jonathan participated in MathCounts when he was in middle school and now it's Benjamin’s turn.  Marc and Jackie dropped Benjamin off at MathCounts and went over to Jackie's Mom’s to scrounge lunch.  When we returned at four to pick up Benjamin, we were pleased at the number of kids in the training, and that this year that they had expanded training to include elementary school.  As soon as Benjamin was done with MathCounts training, we skedaddled back to the house, scooped up Jonathan and dashed off to dinner with our theater group friends.   The show we were seeing that night was called "The Bard is Back".  This show was extra fun because our friends’ 15-year-old son was performing in the show.  The show was very silly and a lot of fun.


A few days after seeing that show, Benjamin started rehearsals to be in a show of his own.  He will be acting in "Scrooge: the Musical."  This show is the first show being put on by a brand-new community theater group recently formed in Chatsworth.  They talked Marc into performing in the show as well.  Marc will be a townsperson and the Ghost of Christmas Future (a role he volunteered for, due to the number of speaking lines – none!)  Benjamin is going to be a street urchin.


Next on the calendar was Yom Kippur.  Marc was honored at erev Yom Kippur services for his work on the Temple board and Jackie got to sit with him on the bema.  This year, everyone fasted, to various degrees.  Jonathan commented that, if you have homework to get done on Yom Kippur and you fast, it's important to do your homework early, because in the afternoon it's too hard to concentrate.  Break-the-fast at Marc’s Mom’s house was excellent, as always.


After Yom Kippur, we settled into our normal busy (make that frantic) routine for this fall which includes square dancing lessons, cross country practice, Hebrew school, religious school, theater rehearsal and piano lessons. 


The hills near our house burned during the third week of October, but the only impact on us was that Jonathan had to miss square dancing class one night because the freeway to get there was closed due to the fire and that Benjamin's cross-country practice was canceled one day. 


The following week was Simchat Torah, and Marc was honored again at services.  Jackie and Jonathan missed services because it was square dancing night and having missed class the previous week due to the fire, Jonathan was unwilling to miss it again this week.


On a sad note, cousin Norm lost his battle with leukemia.  Although we knew that his time was limited, it was still tough to lose him, particularly so soon after losing Jackie's Dad.  He was a sweet, intelligent man who deserved more years with his wife, children and grandchildren that he got.


The following weekend was a religious school retreat for Benjamin and a theater weekend for the rest of us.  While Benjamin was at Brandeis-Bardin Institute for the weekend, Marc and Jackie went to see "South Pacific" on Friday, and Marc, Jackie and Jonathan went to see "The Bad Seed" on Saturday.  We thoroughly enjoyed both shows.


Jackie has been attending a conversational Hebrew class at the temple for a couple of years now, and this year, the class has been interesting.  Only one other person, Mike, is taking the class this year and his Hebrew background is not as good as Jackie’s.  This provides a considerable challenge for the teacher.  We have had a couple of other people join the class and then drop, but each of those people were at a lower level than Mike.  The small class size has the disadvantage that it puts the class at risk of being discontinued, but it has the advantage that when Mike can't make it to class, Jackie gets private lessons.  Jackie also started writing a few paragraphs in Hebrew and e-mailing it to her teacher.  Then in class they go over the text and correct the mistakes.


The last week in October, things went from busy to crazy.  Marc went to San Jose for a science conference where (he thought) they would be selling his just-published book, 101 Things Everyone Should Know About Math.  When he got there, he discovered that they were not selling it because it is not yet published.  It's close, but not quite there yet.  That was disappointing.


Not having Marc around to pick up kids required careful scheduling.  Thankfully, cross country practice had ended just the week before, so that was one less thing to deal with.  We switched Benjamin from Thursday religious school into Wednesday, so that he could get a ride with his cousin from middle school to religious school.  Blanche covered most of the pickups of Jonathan and Benjamin that Marc usually does, and Marc's dad and Jackie's mom also pitched in.  Their help was much appreciated.  The first Saturday after Marc left really made Jackie feel like a single mom.  She dropped Jonathan off at CSUN for a workshop and then dropped Benjamin off at rehearsal.  She then went to the store and picked up stuff for the cross-country year-end party later that day.  She went back to CSUN to pick up Jonathan, back to rehersal to get Benjamin, and then off to the cross-country party.  When we got there we found that they had heated their pool so we went home to pick up swimsuits.  We had dinner there and left a little early because Jonathan had a square dance he wanted to attend.  Jackie dropped Benjamin off at Marc's Mom’s house and then she and Jonathan went to Simi Valley for the square dance.  Whew!  Life is easier when there are two parents to ferry kids (although stay tuned on that!)


The next day, Jonathan and Benjamin had a recital which Marc missed, being in San Jose.  Both boys did great and Jonathan in particular got a nice complement from another member of the audience.  After he finished “Solfeggio in C Minor”, she looked at Jackie, who was clearly the mom of the kid playing, and said, "aren't you lucky, you get to hear that all the time."  Jonathan also played “Master of the House” from “Les Miserables” and Benjamin played "I couldn’t be Happier" from "Wicked" on the clarinet (a duet with his P&O teacher on the piano) and "Sonatina" on the piano.


The next week included election day.  Marc's mom worked the polls that day, so Jackie asked Irene and Al to pick up the boys.  They dropped Jonathan off at religious school and then stayed with Benjamin until Jackie got home.  We all decided to go out to dinner (at SoupPlantation,) but first, Jackie needed to vote!  She had heard stories from friends who waited between half an hour to an hour to vote in the morning but she sent Al an Irene off to SoupPlantation and she and Benjamin went off to vote.  Luckily, they got in and out without delay and even had to stop in the parking lot for Al and Irene to cross in front of them.


The following Saturday was the Cal USC game, and Jackie's friend Jeff came down from San Jose to go to the game with her.  It was an evening game, so Jackie dropped Benjamin off at rehearsal at one and arranged for her mom to pick it Benjamin up at five.  Jackie and Jeff left for the Coliseum before Marc arrived home, so after being apart for 10 days they had to wait a little longer to see one another.  The Cal USC game was great, despite the fact that Cal lost.  Cal played well-they beat the spread, and even had hopes of winning until late in the fourth quarter.


Sunday, Jackie and Jeff mostly hung around, but on Monday, Jackie played hooky from work and she and Jeff went geo-caching.  They looked for four different caches, but, as it turned out, all 4 caches were in areas that burned in the fires three weeks before.  All 4 caches burned and only the small amount of metal that was in each cache remained.  They found the remnants of the container and a geo-coin from the first cache.  A geo-coin is a painted metal coin that is intended to travel from cache to cache.  This geo-coin was in the shape of a parrot.  The coin’s paint burned, so the coin was pretty scorched, but it was not melted at all.  At the second cache, they found part of the container and the couple of euros that had been in it.  At the third cache, all that remained was a spring from a toy. In the fourth -- there was nothing at all.  Jackie contacted the person who had started the goecoin, who expressed interest in seeing what happened to it, so Jackie mailed it back to her.


The next week was only moderately frantic because Veteran’s Day made Tuesday a slow day (although Jackie still had work!)  However, the weekend before Thanksgiving made up for it.  It started at 2 p.m. with a ceremony to honor Jackie's dad.  To honor his commitment to the Platt Library’s bookstore and all the time he put in, the library renamed the bookstore to be the "Shel Schuster bookstore."  Several people spoke to a completely packed room about his dedication to the bookstore and what his loss meant.  Either by happy coincedence or possibly by design, the ceremony was the day before our niece Samantha's Bat Mitzvah.  So several out-of-town relatives were in town for the ceremony, including Jackie's Aunt Marjorie and Uncle Milt and  Aunt Sandy and Marty.  After the ceremony, we went over to Jackie's mom's house for dinner and after dinner we walked over to Temple Aliyah for services.  The services were the monthly music service, which happened to be the African music service.  It was wonderful!


We went home late, tired and happy, went to bed and then got up the next day and went right back to Temple for Samantha's Bat Mitzvah.  Samantha did great – she read a second Torah portion in addition to her own.  Jackie also read one of the Torah portions and received lots of compliments.  After the service, there was a Kiddish lunch for the adults and hamburgers and hotdogs for the kids.  After an hour or so, the adults went into the kids room and they showed a photo montage of Samantha, her friends and family, including a video of her jumping in competition.  Then there was dancing and a scrumptious dessert bar.  We have never seen Samantha smile so much in a all her life.  Marc and Benjamin missed the photo montage because they had a Scrooge rehearsal.  Jonathan had a great time playing Pepsi/7-up with cousin Emily at the party. 


After the bat mitzvah, the family went back to Jackie's mom's house, and then went out to dinner.  Jonathan skipped dinner.  There had been a robotics competition that that day that he had missed because he was at the Bat Mitzvah and party, so he skipped dinner with the family and went to the Robotics after-party instead.