Zev News 2010

The main themes for 2010 were square dancing, theater and parties.  Jonathan had learned to square dance in 2008, and seeing how much he enjoyed it, Benjamin and Marc started lessons in the fall of 2008.  Theater is one of our family’s favorite pastimes, and the months without at least one show are few and far between.  And Parties!  2010 was filled with parties.

January, of course, had all three.  In fact Jackie and Jonathan were square dancing when the clock struck midnight on December 31.  Theater was “Twelfth night” at Canyon Theater Guild, the community theater to which we have season tickets.  And the parties were a wedding for our piano teacher (a Greek wedding, no less!) Bar Mitzvahs for cousin Ben in Detroit and cousin Weston in San Diego, and a baby shower for friends from our Temple.  In addition to the standard fare, Jackie gave a presentation of the tools she has been developing at work – the first presentation in many, many years.  The presentation went very well and she got a lot of compliments on it.

In the fall, Jonathan had submitted an original music composition on the piano to the Reflections competition.  Reflections is a National arts recognition and achievement program for students run by the PTA.   Students submit original compositions in one of 6 arts areas (Literature , Musical composition, Photography, Visual arts, Dance Choreography, Film/Video Production) to their school, where they are judged and the winners compete at the District level.  Winners at the district level compete at the State level, and then Nationals.   Jonathan’s piece won in the Music composition category at his school.  We were very pleased with that, and didn’t think the complete lack of competition took away from his accomplishment in the slightest.

February had square dancing, a couple of Bar/Bat Mitzvahs of Benjamin’s friends and the annual Super Bowl party for Jackie’s office, but no theater.  Track started for Benjamin.  The significant event in February was that Jackie’s office moved from Van Nuys to Woodland Hills.  As it turned almost all the changes were either positive or neutral.  Her commute is essentially the same both in distance and time, but is now her back is to the sun, whereas before she drove into the sun, which is a big plus.  She is closer to her Mom’s house and they have started having lunch together a couple of times a month (definite plus.)  Usually, Jackie and a coworker or two walk at lunch, and they have half a dozen good routes they can take, where before there were two.  She is now walking distance to dozens of good restaurants (as opposed to half a dozen mediocre ones at the old site) and there is a cafeteria onsite (which gives out freebies on a regular basis.)  There is also a credit union onsite.  There are lots of stores close by including a Trader Joes, a Whole Foods, Frys, and Nordstrom’s Rack. all within walking distance.  She’s pretty happy with the change. 

March started with the biggest party of all – Benjamin’s Bar Mitzvah!  That was a *wonderful* weekend.  The service started on a 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.  After we gave Benjamin his tallis (woven by his grandmother,) Marc gave a wonderful speech, and like at Jonathan’s Bar Mitzvah 4 years earlier, Jackie was glad she had chosen not to follow him!  Benjamin did great – He did an excellent job reading from the Torah, and not only was the content of his speech very thoughtful, but his delivery was much better than most. We told Benjamin 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 was a lot of fun, and the music was not ear-shattering like at many Bar Mitzvah parties.  This was a year of significant birthdays/anniversaries - 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.

The week after the Bar Mitzvah was a sad one as Marc flew with his sister to New York to be with cousin Suzanne before she passed away from cancer.  It was particularly hard because Suzanne was a wonderful woman and was taken from us far too young – she had not even reached her 65th birthday. 

After Marc returned from New York, we had more parties – cousin Elliot’s Bar Mitzvah and Passover.  For Passover, our Temple did a “chocolate seder” for the kids.  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.

In addition to the ever present square dancing and theater (Princess Ida) March brought Robotics competitions.  The Granada team did 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.

April was even more filled with square dancing than most months, as we went to the State convention in Fresno.  We took Benjamin’s square Dancing partner, Carolyn, with us, and we had a great time.  They had more youth activities than we expected (since we expected none!) including a scavenger hunt, an ice cream social, free T-shirts and raffle prizes, and we were very pleased with that.  We all had a great time.

There was, of course, theater – we saw “Tom Sawyer” and “Be My Baby” and Benjamin’s middle school put on “Willy Wonka” in which Benjamin was an Oompa-loompa.  There was also a party – cousin Laura’s Wedding reception, but April’s significant event was that after two years, Jonathan got his braces off, and Benjamin got braces put on.  There was a week overlap between the two, but unfortunately, it didn’t occur to us to take a picture until later.

In May, we saw “The 39 steps” and enjoyed it very much, despite missing many of the references for lack of familiarity with Hitchcock movies.  We also saw the Bobs (our favorite singing group) in concert for the first time in ages.  We took cousin Abby to Square Dancing class (to watch) but watching did not inspire her to try it.  We celebrated Jonathan’s birthday multiple times on Mother Day.  Jackie thought that having two smaller celebrations is better than doing one larger one – of course she isn’t the one who has to cook two substantial meals in one day!

June started with a couple of excellent theater performances by kids.  The first was “Les Miserables” by Class Act Theatre’s High School group. Benjamin joined Class Act Theatre over the summer, and so they gave us two free tickets to check out the quality of the performances.  We bought two more tickets and the whole family went.  Class Act did a great job.  The other show was "Peter Pan" by Nobel Middle School’s drama class.  This show was orders of magnitude better than the show put on by Lawrence Middle School's drama class.  We were very impressed by the difference.   On a more professional level, we saw "The Producers" at College of the Canyons.   Another amazing performance. 

On the square dancing theme, we attended our square dance club’s annual Guide Dog fundraiser. This square dance always gets a great turnout, as all the proceeds go to the Guide Dog Association.   And Marc and Benjamin graduated from square dancing class, in a ceremony complete with caps (no gowns, though!)  We also drove down to Garden Grove to attend a dance put on by the Croakers, the only teen club in southern California.  Dancing with them is always a lot of fun.

Right after school let out, Benjamin went off to camp for almost 4 weeks at Wilshire Blvd Temple’s Grindling Hilltop Camp (GHC.)  For the last two years, he had attended their other camp, Camp Hess Kramer (CHK,) and this year, he decided to try GHC.  He had loved CHK, but he loved GHC even more, and next summer, he plans to skip several other events he wants to attend so that he can go back to GHC.

The only party in June was our Temple’s Sisterhood’s annual “donor luncheon” honoring Sisterhood members who have put in a lot of time and/or money for the Sisterhood.  Jackie had earned several seats at this luncheon and invited her mom and her mother-in-law to join her.  Jackie was amused to discover that the speaker was someone who had also been on her 9 week trip to Israel in 1976 when she was 16!

In June, Jonathan started a summer internship with FastSoft, a Caltech spin-off. FastSoft is a software engineering company that produces a TCP accelerator (which makes the internet connect faster). Jonathan’s job was to modify an open-source database tool, RRDtool, to retrieve and display data more efficiently. He learned a lot and very much enjoyed the experience.

In July, there was only one show and one party, but the quality of each made up for the lack of quantity.  The show was called "USS Pinafore." It was Gilbert and Sullivan’s "HMS Pinafore" recast to a Star Trek setting and it was hysterically funny.  The party was cousin Abby’s Bat Mitzvah.  She, of course, did a stellar job.  The party was a pool party at our house.  It was very relaxed and loads of fun.  We did continue to square dance almost every week, attending our club’s summer workshop, now that lessons were over.  Benjamin returned from camp and took a couple of weeks to relax, bum around the house and get together with friends.

Marc, Jackie and Jonathan took a trip to UC Santa Barbara to check it out.  That was a very useful trip because it saved us the cost of applying there.  Jonathan didn’t like how the Applied Math program was completely separate from Engineering.  He would like a program where the two are more integrated.

In August, Benjamin participated daily in a drama workshop called "Class Act."  They rehearsed the play "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."  Benjamin had the role of Leaf Conybear, a role which couldn't have been more perfect for Benjamin, if he had written it himself.  At the end of the month, the play was performed 4 times, and Benjamin was in two of the performances (most of the kids were only in one.)  He also started Cross Country practice again this year.

Jackie turned 50 and celebrated by jumping out of an airplane.  Her mom and brother came to watch.  Marc decided not to wait until next year (when he turns 50) and jumped too.  They enjoyed the experience, but didn’t really see what people who do it all the time see in it.  The price tag will deter them from doing it again.  The whole family went for Costa Rican food for dinner, in anticipation of their upcoming vacation at the end of the year.  The food was very interesting and yummy.

Jonathan started his senior year at Granada.  He is taking 5 AP classes (Statistics, Physics, English Literature, Macroeconomics and Music Theory,) Robotics and Keyboarding.  Whew!  But he has handled it with ease and has a good chance of getting straight A’s.  He also started working on college applications.  He is applying to 9 schools, Brown, CalTech, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia. Harvey Mudd, MIT, Princeton, Rensselaer, and Rice.  He applied early to CalTech and MIT, so we will hear from these schools in December.  We will then have to wait until March to hear from the rest.

We discovered that USS Pinafore was still playing, and since Benjamin, being at camp, had missed it when we saw it in July, we decided to see it again.  On the same day, we went to see “Much Ado About Nothing,” which was playing in the an outdoor theater near the LA Zoo.  We were very impressed by how well we were able to hear the un-amplified voices even though we were a long way from the stage and we enjoyed the show a lot.

The first Thursday in September, Benjamin’s cross country practice was only three blocks from the house.  Benjamin walked there by himself, and then surprised us by reappearing at the house 20 minutes later.  It turned out he had when he encountered a gravitational singularity and took a tumble, wiping out a significant amount of skin on his elbow.  We cleaned him up and had him soak his elbow.  He said his left hand hurt, which didn't surprise us.  The next morning, his hand still hurt.  Jackie drove him to school, but when she got to work, she called Marc and said she wanted Marc to take Benjamin to see the doctor after school.  Marc said he was just going to wait and see how it went.  The Jackie pointed out that 1) today was Friday of the three-day weekend and 2) we were planning on spending that night and the next two days square dancing, which involves your left hand a lot.  So after school, Marc took Benjamin and to see the doctor and our education in scaphoid fractures began.  It turns out, there is a bone in your wrist called a scaphoid bone that is instrumental in giving your wrist flexibility.  This bone only has blood supply on one side and if the bone gets cracked you can end up with a piece of bone with no blood supply.  Worse yet, cracks in this bone are easy to miss.  So if someone comes in with wrist pain after a fall, the doctors cast the wrist even if they don't see anything on the x-ray, because if they miss the break, the piece of bone without a blood supply can die, and that is very bad.  Indeed, they did not see a break in Benjamin's x-ray but they still put a cast on his wrist.

Benjamin had the option of colors on his cast and chose fluorescent green with an orange stripe.  So Benjamin got to experience life without an opposable thumb on his dominant hand.  Dressing became more complicated. Being summer, it was easier than if he was wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants.  Teeth brushing was hard.  The computer was easy - Benjamin normally uses the mouse right handed.  Fortunately, school didn't start until a week and a half later, because writing was almost impossible. 

That very night started a three-day Square Dancing Jamboree in Oxnard.  Fortunately, having a cast on one’s wrist is not an impediment to square dancing.  Carolyn came to the Jamboree too, and brought her parents (who also square dance).  There was no mainstream hall (the level below where we usually dance) for the Jamboree, so the weaker dancers were all dancing in the plus hall.  This meant that squares were far more likely to break down than usual, and it was somewhat frustrating, particularly because the callers were really good.  Jackie considered blowing off Sunday, but the boys wanted to go, so we went, and this proved to be an excellent decision, because many of the weaker dancers did not attend on Sunday, and we had a really good time.

The following weekend, we went down to Garden Grove for what will probably be our last teen square dance, because they are moving their dances from the 3rd Sunday in the afternoon to the 5th Friday in the evening.  Since Garden Grove is an hour’s drive on a Sunday afternoon, there’s no telling how long it would take on a Friday evening. 

Benjamin started school, and we settled into a regular routine, with Jackie dropping him off on her way to work and Marc picking him up in the afternoons.  The Wednesday after school started, Benjamin went back to the doctor, and they took the cast off and x-rayed his hand again.  When they took off the cast, Benjamin flexed his wrist for the first time in two weeks and was dismayed to find that it still hurt.  He'd really been looking forward to getting his cast off, and this was a big disappointment.  But the doctor reassured him that his wrist hurting after being immobilized for two weeks meant nothing and they went off to x-ray his wrist.  The x-ray showed nothing - no break, no scar tissue.  Plus, although it hurt to bend his wrist, it did not hurt to press on the bone (which had hurt before.)  So the doctor concluded that the bone wasn't broken and Benjamin didn't need a cast anymore.  The doctor said that it might take up to two weeks for the pain when he flexed his wrist to go away completely, but by the end of the week the pain was gone and Benjamin was ready for his next adventure.

Jonathan started driving himself to school, since he has to be there at 7am!  Benjamin also started Hebrew High classes on Thursdays and Sundays and Valley Youth Chorus on Sundays.  He was busy, busy, busy!  Jonathan started soccer, but that had only one practice a week, rather than cross country’s three.  Benjamin talked cousin Abby into trying square dancing (really we just shanghaied her for the first lesson, and after trying it, she was hooked!) so he continues to attend square dancing classes on Monday nights to be her partner.  Jonathan has been going too and miracle of miracles, until recently there were a couple of other young girls attending.

October continued the theme of theater with “Little Shop of Horrors,” Gilbert and Sullivan’s “The Sorcerer”, and “Sleeping Beauty”) and parties (a Bar Mitzvah.)  Benjamin performed with the Valley Youth Chorus at the Pierce College Harvest Festival.  As October came to a close, so did Cross Country, much to Marc and Jackie’s relief, who were feeling a little crunched by how much time it takes up.  But Benjamin had a great year at Cross Country, getting personal bests at almost every race.

November had a bunch of high points including watching niece Samantha take second place in her jumping competition and watching Jonathan’s robot take second in his Robotics competition.  But best of all was a four-day trip to Yosemite right before Thanksgiving.  LAUSD scheduled furlough days for the three days before Thanksgiving, so Marc, Jackie, Benjamin, Jackie’s mom, her brother Don, sister-in-law Sue, nephew Michael, and niece Samantha all went to Yosemite.  Jonathan, unfortunately, is at a charter school and did not have the days off, so he stayed home.  The trip was amazing.  It had rained and snowed in the days before we arrived, so there was snow on the ground and water in the waterfalls, rivers and lakes.  It snowed on us while we were there – light fluffy flakes that floated down and made the world beautiful.  We saw deer and a bear and a coyote.  We walked to Mirror Lake while it was snowing.  It was cold and white and wonderful.  It was hard to leave.  But on Wednesday, leave we did, because on Thursday we had to be in LA for Thanksgiving.  But Thanksgiving was wonderful too, full of warmth and family.  And then on Sunday there was a party – a birthday celebration for cousin Joy.

December will bring more parties and more theater, another square dancing competition, and hopefully some skiing.  But December’s big event is a trip to Costa Rica during winter break with Jackie’s mom.  We are very much looking forward to that!

We hope your year has been as full and as wonderful as ours has been, and if not, we hope that next year will be!



Jackie, Marc, Jonathan and Benjamin