Friday morning (3/5), Benjamin got dressed in his old suit (which is a little too short) and went off to school. This was Model UN Day at UCLA and Benjamin was the ambassador to Papua New Guinea. Jackie dropped Jonathan and Sean off at school and went to get the blood tests she's been putting off for a month. After over an hour wait, she got taken in to do the five-minute blood draw. Afterwards, she walked over to her doctor's office and asked if they could take her early. “Sure!” She was told. An hour later, she finally saw the doctor. She discussed her recent osteopenia diagnosis (take calcium!) and her current allergy issues (take antihistamines!) She finally got home around 11 and scarfed down some food (the lab tests needed to be fasting, so she hadn’t eaten anything yet!) She set up the house for Saturday's dinner for out-of-towners and ran off to her 2 p.m. hair appointment. Her hairdresser cut, colored, highlighted and styled her hair. She got back around 4pm and finished organizing the house. At 6, she went to Lawrence to pick a Benjamin from his day at Model UN. At 6:15, Marc received a call from Benjamin that they had just left El Camino (about a 25 Minute Drive from Lawrence.) So at 6:45, Jackie and Benjamin finally arrived home, still needing to change, eat, and leave at 7:30 for services. Debbie Schuratyz and Susan Steinberg had arrived while Jackie was out, and were eating dinner. We all ate, Benjamin changed into his bar Mitzvah suit, and we scrambled off to the Temple. Friday night services were services in the round in the social hall. It was very musical and the melodies were very spiritual. Benjamin did an excellent job reading the V’ahavta. He also raised some somewhat heretical ideas during the Rabbi’s D’var Torah. Services were VERY well attended with about 130 people present. Afterwards we brought in the centerpieces and hid them on the stage behind the curtain. We got home around 11 p.m. The boys went straight to bed, but Marc was having trouble with the format of a couple of the songs that we wanted to play at the party the next day. He was staying up trying to fix that, so Jackie cleaned up the kitchen. Around one, we both went to bed.
On Saturday (3/6), Marc went to the Temple at 7am to set up for the reception. Jackie took the boys over at 8:30 for pictures. She realize she had not told our inner family to be at the Temple at 9:30 for pictures, which stressed her out, but they showed up in time to get in pictures before services started, so it wasn't an issue. Services would have started at 10:30 sharp except the Rabbi’s mike wasn’t working, so there is a small delay to fix that. There were two small hiccups. Benjamin’s buddy didn't show, but we just drafted Jeff Shulman as a stand-in. Rhonda, who was supposed to do the first reading, was late, and so we almost replaced her with Rhona, but Rhonda showed up just before we started.
The first prayer Benjamin read, he seemed a little nervous, but then he settled down and did the rest flawlessly. He was particularly impressive reading from the Torah. One humorous note: there is a bank of four chairs on the bema and Benjamin sat down in the first one, which is, of course, the Rabbi's chair. The Rabbi teased him about that and he sheepishly moved over a chair.
Marc gave a wonderful talk about Benjamin and Jackie was glad she chose not to speak during services – Marc is a hard act to follow! Benjamin had been told that when he read his speech he should read each word, not whole sentences, and that he should pause and look at his audience between paragraphs. Unlike most 13-year olds, he did exactly as he was told, which meant that many people afterwards praised his delivery as well as the content of his speech.
The party started with a hora and putting Benjamin on a chair. Jonathan got put on a chair to, but Jackie and Marc declined. We hora’ed and did bridges, and then salad was served. There was more dancing and games for kids and then lunch. After lunch, we showed the montage, and then Jackie spoke. After Jackie spoke, Marc mentioned that there was or will be a number of significant events this year, including: Blanche’s 75th birthday, Walter's 70th birthday, Jackie's 50th birthday and our 20th anniversary. In honor of our anniversary, the boys had learned to play "Storybook Love" (the theme song from the Princess bride) which is the song we played for our first dance at our wedding. The boys had recorded themselves playing this song the previous week. So Marc and Jackie got to dance to Jonathan and Benjamin playing “Storybook Love.” It was very special. We then took a family picture of Jackie's enormous extended family and served dessert. There was a little more dancing and games, and then the Temple kicked us out. (There was an evening Bar Mitzvah at 5pm.)
Jackie had thought that Marc did the entire party without her help, but she realized that although Marc made it happen, many of the ideas were hers. Her ideas included: the bookmark, the puzzles that we gave way as party favors, the balloon decorations, the SOVA basket centerpieces, and doing the scrapbook rather than a poster. The choice of food, the place cards, and the table names/numbers were all Marc, as was using multiple colors of tablecloths.
After the Bar Mitzvah, we had a minor glitch. After Marc left to go back to the house, Jackie realized that her key to the Prius was in a bag that had been put in his car. But we drafted Jeff to bring it back to the Temple. We arrived home and finished preparations for people to come over for dinner. After over an hour had passed, Jackie became worried that Deb (who had walked back from the Temple) had not arrived. So she grabbed her bike and went off to find her. She was less than a half-mile from the house, so Jackie walked back with her.
Dinner was nice – very relaxed. We ordered in Persian food. Jackie got a chance to talk to Laura and Avra, which she hadn't done much up until that point. Benjamin opened the gifts that were not just cards. He received several books, an iPod and three pens (one fountain pen, one pen inscribed with his name, and one pen with a laser pointer.) The last visitor finally left shortly before midnight. We finally bundled Benjamin into bed, tired and happy, a little after midnight. We didn't send him to religious school the next day, letting him sleep in as long as he wanted.
There was brunch at Jackie's mom's house on Sunday (3/7), but Jonathan had tickets to Rent at 2 and decided to spend the morning with Daniel. Marc was done with visiting and preferred to vegetate. Since the only other kids there would be Mitchell and Samantha, Benjamin opted out too. Jackie and Jeff went over and took Don's table and chairs back. There was a Mathcounts session that day, so Marc took Benjamin to Mathcounts. Jackie meant to arrive in time to take them home, but she didn’t make it. But she did take him to Valley Youth Chorus. She then went back to her Mom's and together they fleshed out a five-minute speech for Jackie to give at the Northrop Grumman Women Engineers Luncheon the next day. She went back to Valley Youth Chorus to get Benjamin about a half an hour early and found Deb and Sue and had a nice time talking to them. Jackie and Benjamin went home to a nice meal of leftovers.
At the Northrop Grumman Women Engineers luncheon, Jackie spoke about two programs AAUW has to get girls interested in math, science and engineering – Tech Trek and Brighter Horizons. Her talk was well received and stood out because it was fairly different than talks given by the other four women who spoke.
Marc learned that cousin Suzanne's cancer had gotten to the point where she didn't have much time left, so on Tuesday (3/9), Marc and Rhoda flew out to New York to see her. It was a good thing they didn't wait, because she was still coherent when they arrived, but by Friday she was gone. They stayed through the funeral on Monday, and then flew home Monday night. Losing her was hard, because she was wonderful, and was taken from us far too young – she had not even reached her 65th birthday. It was especially hard on Blanche, because Suzanne was more like a sister to her than a cousin.
While Marc was gone, Jackie juggled work and carpool and was thankful for each of her friends that pitched in and helped with kid transportation. Even Jonathan helped out by picking a Benjamin on the days he went home with a friend. On Friday (3/12), we had tickets to see Princess Ida. Since Marc and Rhona were in New York, we invited Rhona's husband Reid to take Marc’s ticket. We had a tough time finding the theater, but we got to our seats before it started. It was community theater, but it was way better than what you typically see for community theater. The voices were fabulous, even the teenagers. None of us had ever seen Princess Ida before, and we were delighted by this performance. This was opening night, and so after the performance there was a champagne gala, which we went to and ate desert and talked to some of the actors. Jackie ran into the California State AAUW president that she had met several weeks before at Jackie's mom's house at an AAUW branch luncheon.
Saturday (3/13) was TLC Sharim, Jackie’s singing group and on Sunday (3/14) Deb was playing her harp at the JCC for an art exhibition. Benjamin and Jackie went to hear her play. The art exhibition was mostly not to Jackie's taste, with the exception of the artist that had arranged for Deb to play. Deb's playing was marvelous, and there was a lot of opportunity to stand around and talk to her. Afterwards, Jackie took Benjamin to Valley Youth chorus and went over to her Mom's to hang out. After Valley Youth Chorus, Jackie and Benjamin went to Jackie's Mom's for dinner and Jonathan, who had gone to Sean's house that afternoon, joined them. Marc was still in New York.
Monday (3/15) was square dancing class, and there was also a 7 p.m. sisterhood meeting for everyone who works Friday Oneg or Extended Kiddush. Jonathan took Benjamin to square dancing and Jackie went to the meeting, leaving the meeting at 8:15 so that she could get to square dancing and take Benjamin and Carolyn home. Jonathan could have taken Benjamin home but not Carolyn. Marc returned from New York that night and the logistics returned to normal, much to Jackie's relief.
Two days later (3/17) was Benjamin's birthday. He wanted Mongolian barbecue for his birthday, so the four of us went out to celebrate and went for ice cream afterwards. The next night was “college night” at Granada. Jackie went and was dismayed to hear some of the essays that were of a caliber she didn’t think Jonathan couldn't achieve. She resolved to get him some tutoring over the summer.
The following weekend was the confirmation retreat so Jonathan was gone all weekend. The rest of us attended Elliott’s Bar Mitzvah, but first, Benjamin went to track because it was picture day. He went in uniform to track, had his picture taken, and off we went to Elliott’s Bar Mitzvah. Benjamin did a quick change into his suit in the car. Elliott did a great job and we had fun at the party. There were cousins from New York that we hadn't seen in years and it was fun to catch up.
On Sunday (3/21) Benjamin attended the Jr TASTY “chocolate seder.” It was very cute. For shankbones, they had Hohos. For bitter herbs, they had unsweetened chocolate. For charosets, they had mini marshmallows swimming in melted chocolate. For parsley, they had strawberries. For roasted eggs, they had Cadbury eggs. For Matza, they had graham crackers. For wine, they had chocolate milk. So when they put “charosets” on “Matza” – it was a S’more! The kids loved it, although they were a bit unruly during the seder, being far more interested in the food than in the service.
The next Wednesday (3/24) was our anniversary and we went to Roy's to celebrate. We typically order an appetizer and a main course and split them. Jackie ordered a drink, but we didn't get desert, since they always give us a small chocolate soufflé in honor of our anniversary. We had a $20 discount coupon and the whole meal came to $32 – not bad for a place they can easily run over $100 for two people!
The next day, Marc and Jonathan went to Long Beach for the FIRST Los Angeles regional competition (robotics). Jackie had been asked to speak that day for women's history month at Frost middle school. She spoke on how she had started out in one field and switched when she realized that her first field wasn't the best match for her. She left Frost and went to the Temple to set up for the sisterhood seder which was that night. All went smoothly except that she didn't have enough Haggadas. Fortunately, Lorraine was there and she knew how to work the Risograph machine that the Temple has. Jackie had never even heard of a Risograph machine. It makes copies, using a different technology than a Xerox. So Lorraine ran off 70 copies and then she and Jackie collated and stapled them all. Then Jackie went off to pick up the supplies she was short, completely forgetting that she was supposed to pick up Sean, since Marc was in Long Beach! To compound the problem, Sean’s phone was dead. Fortunately, it's only a 3 mile walk (and flat!) and he survived. Jackie went back to the Temple at 5 to finish setup and the Seder started six. Everything went smoothly and Jackie got lots of compliments.
On Saturday (3/27), Jackie and Benjamin went down to Long Beach to watch the robotic competition. The Granada team was doing pretty well. This year's game was essentially soccer with the addition that you could get extra points if you were hanging from a structure in the middle of the field at the end of the game. The Granada team was one of a handful of teams that could hang consistently. Only 4 teams (of 58) had more hanging points than they did. They finished in 19th place in the runs for the ranking and were chosen by the 5th place alliance for the elimination round. Then in the elimination round, the Granada robot started having trouble hanging and the alliance lost in the semifinals. But overall everyone was pleased at how well they did.
Sunday (3/28) was Benjamin's first track meet. We got there early and hope they he would be done in time to get to the Rick Recht concert at the Temple, but that was not in the cards. Benjamin ran the 1500m and the 800m and Jackie couldn't help but notice that if we could switch him to the 3000m and the 1500m, we would be done by noon.
Monday (3/29) was the first night of Passover and the start of spring break. It was hosted by the Picuses and it was at Don and Sue's house. It was a smaller seder than last year – only about 26 people. The boys enjoyed spring break and Jackie enjoyed getting to work earlier because she didn't have carpool duties.