Zev News – Year end recap of 2009


We began 2009 with what is fast becoming an annual ski trip.  This year we took niece and nephew Samantha and Michael with us.  They had never skied before, but they enjoyed it a lot (as did we all) and Samantha even tried an intermediate slope at the end of the day. 


Build season started for Jonathan’s Robotics class, which means that for 6 weeks, he stays at school late on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and goes to school all day Saturdays working on building a robot for competitions in March.  It’s a frantic, but fun, period of time.  It did make attending the Monday Square Dancing classes that he started the previous September much harder. 


Benjamin started going to Mathcounts class and in February he participated in the competition on the Lawrence Middle School team.   This was the first year for the Lawrence team and they received an award for being the highest scoring new team.


As soon as Mathcounts finished, Track started up, keeping Benjamin busy.  He likes the long races – the 1500K,  the 800K.  Unfortunately for us, they tend to be spaced out during the day, so doing both can make for a long Saturday.


Jonathan’s robotics class attended two competitions in March – one in Long Beach, to which Marc went as chaperone and one in Sacramento to which Jackie went as a chaperone.  Both events were lots of fun, and in Sacramento, the robot made it to the semi-finals.  In both competitions the team won awards for sportsmanship.  In between robotics competitions, Jonathan and Jackie went to the Bakersfield Square Dancing Fiesta and danced for three days. 


We hosted Passover this year, and we were surprised at how many people we could squeeze into our Music room.  Cousin Suzanne was in town and joined us in the celebration.  Afterwards, It occurred to Jackie that the three matriarchs in our Passover circle had been doing Passover for over 50 years, and the odds are very much against Jackie and Marc hosting it for that long!


The first weekend in May was all about robotics again, as Jonathan’s class traveled to Dallas to participate in the World Vex Robotic championship.  This is a different competition than the March competitions, involving smaller robots, but just as much fun.  Jackie traveled with the team and helped run the event.  Being in Dallas was a treat for Jackie, as her friends Patty and David both live in there, and they each came to the event to see her.  Jonathan’s class’s three robots did not do as well as hoped, but one of the robots from El Camino Real, the high school from which Jackie and Patty graduated, came in first overall so Jackie and Patty were happy.


The unveiling of Jackie’s Dad’s tombstone happened in May.  It seems incredible that an entire year has passed without him.  In that year, Jackie went to services nearly every Friday night, setting aside that time to remember him and miss him, and she didn’t want to give that up.  So she still goes to services, but not as religiously as that first year after he died.


June was all about Square Dancing, with Jonathan and Jackie attending their club’s annual Guide Dog Dance (a fundraiser for Guide Dogs of America) at the beginning of the month and attending the National Square Dance Convention (which just happened to be in Long Beach this year) at the end of the month.  Jonathan especially loved that there was a teen hall at Nationals, and that they were giving away a ton of prizes to the kids who danced there.  The dance organizers talked him into participating in a teen square dancing competition, where his square took second place (and came within seconds of taking first!)


While Jonathan and Jackie were square dancing, Benjamin was having a blast at Camp Hess Kramer.  He returned from camp, and less than a week later we went on vacation.  First we flew to Denver, rented a car and drove 3 hours to Jackie’s friend Phyllis’ house on her alpaca ranch.  We spent a couple of days with her and then drove 5 hours to Marc’s father’s house near Durango.  We spent three days with Al and Irene, and then drove back to Phyllis’, arriving just hours after the birth of a baby alpaca.  We spent the night, drove back to Denver and flew to Washington D.C.  We spent 2 weeks in Washington D.C. being tourists and giving the kids a taste of their nation’s history.  We loved it all, but Jackie liked the Library of Congress best, Marc liked the Washington Monument best, Jonathan liked the FDR Memorial best and Benjamin liked the museum shops best.  Overall, Jonathan and Benjamin liked seeing and holding an hours-old baby alpaca best.  Marc and Jackie liked learning that both Jonathan and Benjamin, who NEVER like the same food (what NEVER?  No NEVER! What NEVER? Well… Hardly ever!) both like Indian food!


No sooner did we return from vacation, than things got busy.  Cross Country practice had started for Benjamin while we were on vacation, as did Bar Mitzvah tutoring.  He attended two Bar Mitzvahs and we all saw two plays.  And school started for Jonathan a week and a half after we got back from vacation.  Labor Day came and then school started for Benjamin.  Things ramped up a level in intensity because this year the Jewish High Holidays were all crammed into September. 


This year, Benjamin and Marc started the square dancing class that Jonathan had taken last year.  We have a friend who square dances, and her 11 year old daughter Carolyn started attending the class too.  The class is 7:30 – 9:30pm, which, since it is on a school night, is too late an ending for the younger kids, so after the first hour, Jackie takes the them home and Marc and Jonathan stay for the second hour.  Both Benjamin and Carolyn love it as much as Jonathan did last year. 


Jonathan got his driver’s license in October, and we acquired Jackie’s father’s car, although we are not letting him drive himself to school, yet.  Before he got his license he did have the very memorable experience of running out of gas in the Prius while driving on the freeway.  He handled this perfectly and got the car off the freeway before he was forced to stop. 


We did let him drive to a Math competition at Pepperdine, which involved driving the canyons, but we had him drive there with a parent before we let him drive there without a parent.  Jonathan did well at the Math competition, earning the highest score of any of the Granada kids that participated.  Jonathan also won first place for his submission to the Granada PTSA Reflections contest.  The Reflections contest is a nation-wide art, writing and music context where students submit original works on a theme.  This year’s theme was “Beauty is…” and Jonathan submitted a piano piece that he had composed to the musical composition category.  Having won at the school level, Jonathan’s piece will now compete at the district level.    Benjamin also composed and submitted a piano piece to his school’s Reflections contest.  Despite not winning, we were still very proud of him for his composition. 


In October, we all drove up to San Francisco for cousin Miriam’s Bat Mitzvah.  That was so much fun!  Jackie particularly enjoyed that she was given the opportunity to read Torah again.  Miriam did really well and we were all very proud of her.  While we were there, we drove over to Stanford, walked around the campus, went into the library and up to top of the bell tower.  Jonathan had to miss a robotics competition (of the smaller robots) to attend the Bat Mitzvah, and while we were at Stanford, we got a call from Jonathan’s robotics class mates telling him that the robot he had been involved in building had finished first in the matches for ranking!  That was a thrill, but frustrating that he couldn’t be there to see it all. 


In September we heard a speaker from MIT, in October we heard one from Carnegie Mellon, and in November, we arranged a tour of CalTech for Jonathan.  Benjamin’s cross country meets got extended a week, and Jackie was faced with having to choose between attending Benjamin’s cross country meet and going on the tour.  She mentioned to Benjamin that the CalTech tour was at the same time as his track meet, and he said, “Darn!  I wanted to go on that tour!”  We thought about changing the date of the tour, but Jonathan was busy the next two weekends, and then there weren’t any tours until next year.  So Jonathan went on his tour as scheduled, and we signed Benjamin up for a tour the following weekend, which he enjoyed very much.


Jonathan and Benjamin both participated in their annual piano recital, with Jonathan playing “Comptine d’un autre ete” and “Sonata I” on the piano, and Benjamin playing “No one mourns the Wicked” on the clarinet and “When I fall in love” on the piano.  Afterwards we all went over to Jackie’s Mom’s house for dinner. 


The week surrounding Thankgiving was filled with family.  The Sunday before Thanksgiving was the unveiling for cousin Norm’s tombstone, and both his children and their families came into town.  Even though we had just seen them at Miriam’s Bat Mitvah, it was wonderful to see them again, and the service for the unveiling was very poignant.  Dan and Kaylee had to return home, but Lisa and Sharon were able to stay the whole week, so we got to see them again for Thanksgiving.  We also arranged for all the third cousins – Jonathan, Benjamin, Samantha, Valerie, Weston, Matthew, Miriam, and Rose (Michael couldn’t go) – to get together on Friday and go geocaching.  Most of the kids had never gone geocaching before, so it was a new experience.  The weather was great, and everyone had a good time.  The next day Joy had arranged for us all to go on a special behind-the-scenes tour of the Page museum.  We got to go inside the “bubble” (we had only seen it from the outside before this) and learn all about the Page’s newest project – “Project 23” a.k.a. “Zed”.  This is the excavation of an enormous mammoth that was found in 2006 during the construction of a new underground parking garage.  The tour was wonderful and we were sad to see the weekend end.


December was, of course, filled with holidays and parties.  We also saw several plays – “M*A*S*H” at the Rep, “Miracle on 34th Street” at CTG, “Scrooge” at the Big Oak Theater and “The Curious Savage” which was put on by a friend’s daughter’s high school.  This play was probably the best of the four, and featured some amazing teenagers in key roles. 


We hope you are enjoying your lives and your kids as much as we are enjoying ours.  Life is fast paced and hectic – sometimes a little too hectic, but when I try to figure out what I should give up to make life easier, I’m not willing to give anything up.  So until they figure out how to cram a few more hours into the day, I’m willing to live with hectic.


Wishing you a super-fantastic 2010,

Jackie, Marc, Jonathan and Benjamin