Note: The names all link to our New Years photo.
In the beginning of 1999, we hired a housekeeper in preparation for Jackie's planned return to work at the end of March. At the end of March, Jackie went back to work 25 hours a week. Benjamin handled the transition well, and would not complain about being left with the housekeeper. Jackie enjoyed working and she was very glad not to have to fix lunch for the boys any more.
In June, the contract Jackie was working on was cancelled, then reinstated. Marc's work was also having contract problems, which ultimately resulted in Marc being laid off in July. With Marc off work, Jackie started working full-time, and was soon offered a project to manage. Marc received a job offer within a month, and started working for Viva.com, an Internet startup company, at the end of August.
The benefits provided by Viva.com are not as good as those provided by XonTech, so when Marc went back to work, Jackie only dropped down to 30 hours a week (the minimum required to obtain benefits), rather than 25 as before. The extra salary is nice, too.
Both Jackie's and Marc's jobs are going well. They both enjoy what they are doing and are pleased at the progress that is being made on their projects. Viva.com plans to release part of their website in January and the full site will launch in February - we'll keep you posted on how things go!
Jonathan started first grade in September and has taken to it like a fish to water. His class has only 16 kids and we love his teacher. First grade has been fun for us because of how visible Jonathan's progress in reading has been. In December he brought home a fabulous report card. The best part were the grades for effort, which were uniformly excellent. He has already won an award for good Citizenship, which we plan to hang on the wall next to the ones for Academic excellence and good Sportsmanship that he won last year.
Benjamin also started school two days a week at our Temple's preschool. He loves it. He cries on the days he can't go. His class has a fabulous teacher/pupil ratio of only 6 kids and 2 teachers. We are constantly being surprised by how well he sings songs he has learned at school.
Benjamin seemed to greet every major event with a fever, forcing us to cancel his own Birthday party, and then getting sick again in June for his cousin's Bat Mitzvah. However, when he got sick in December he surprised us by waiting until after Chanuka. Maybe he thought Chanuka was going to happen later in the month. Jackie also caught the flu in December, and was down for days. Jonathan and Marc have escaped so far.
In June, we thought Benjamin had broken his leg (something that Jonathan did at approximately the same age) but nothing showed on the x-rays.
Marc's mom had an angioplasty in February, and Jackie's Dad had back surgery in March. Both went well, and neither parent has needed a repeat since. Jackie's Dad also had cataract surgery (and hasn't needed a repeat of that, either!)
We count our blessings that we go into 2000 healthy, and hope to stay that way!
Computers have provided Jackie with a major source of stress this year. First, she lost her hard disk in June. Due to a little advanced warning, she was able to preserve all her data, but recreating a disk from scratch is never fun.
Next, we lost our email accounts and website when Marc lost his job. We got our own domain (www.jmzconsulting.com) for our website, and switched to using iname for our email accounts (firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com).
Then, in October, Jackie decided to upgrade her motherboard and CPU. This was very painful, and it was months before her computer was entirely working properly again. But it's working now, and she's very pleased with the increased speed. One casualty of her computer problems was her monthly newsletter. Now that her computer problems have been (mostly) resolved, she hopes to start sending it out again.
By far the most fun activity of 1999 was a week long vacation in Maine. You can read all about it in much detail at www.jmzconsulting.com/zev/news/vacation9907.html. We heartily recommend Maine for a relaxing vacation full of long walks and beautiful scenery. If you are a lobster fanatic like Jackie, you can eat lobster three meals a day very cheaply. The only drawback to the vacation is that whereas Benjamin did not protest being left with our housekeeper before the vacation, now he does. Just a little guilt for breakfast!
In September, Marc started a new hobby. He makes little wire sculptures. Most of the "wire guys" are climbing little mountains. You can see some of his work at http://wirewolf.homepage.com. The sculptures started as and remains a diversion to help Marc unwind - on the other hand he is willing to sell them and has sold a number of pieces, and even has had a special commission.
Over the summer, Jonathan went to summer camp three days a week at the North Valley JCC. Fortunately, the day the Furrow shot up the North Valley JCC happened to be a day that Jonathan did not attend camp. We kept him home for a week, because we were concerned that all the people brought in to help the kids who WERE there that day would give him the idea that there was something to be afraid of. As far as we can tell, Jonathan was not traumatized at all by the shooting. We were shaken by how close to home the violence came, and were very glad that things did not turn out a whole lot worse.
At six-going-on-seven, Jonathan is quite the little man. He is picking up some of our mannerisms, which can be disconcerting. He is constantly surprising us with what he can read, even words we spell to each other at an attempt to be circumspect. We wouldn't care because usually we are spelling to keep Benjamin from knowing and not Jonathan, except that Jonathan is so proud that he has figured out the word that he says it out loud - oh well! He still loves being a big brother and he's very tolerant of Benjamin and his two-year-old ways. Benjamin likes to repeat things, especially things Jonathan says. Jonathan doesn't seem to mind so we often hear Jonathan's stories with a little echo. It is very cute.
Jonathan is still playing soccer, and while he's not the best player, he does enjoy it and has scored a goal in each of the three seasons he has played (Fall 98, Spring 99, Fall 99). Next year wants to bowl again and he's going to start piano lessons.
Being only two, one would expect Benjamin to change a lot in a year, but it still amazes us to watch it happen. At the beginning of 1999, Benjamin had about a 50-word vocabulary. He called Jonathan "weh-weh" and Rossibel (our housekeeper) "fuffy." Before he settled on Jonathan and Rossibel, he went through an intermediate stage where he called Rossibel "Suzibel" - go figure!
In 1999, he learned all of his letters, all of his numbers, and all of his colors. His vocabulary exploded and the complexity of his sentence structure exploded. He's also showing an interest in music and singing.
In some ways, Benjamin is much easier than your average two-year old. He will go off by himself and pull books off the shelf and read and read and read. If you put on a (audio) tape, he will just sit and listen for hours. His ability to listen to us read far exceeds our ability to read to him. However, his ability to focus can be frustrating when he focuses on something he can't have. For example, when we're in the car at night, sometimes Benjamin will decide that he wants the light on. "Can I want the light on?" he says. To every response he will simply say "Can I want the light on?" Fortunately, he is willing to be patient, so we can get him to stop asking by promising that we will turn on the light when we stop the car.
For the most part, he wants Mommy to help him, treat his boo-boos, etc, with one curious exception. For diaper changes, he asks for Daddy. Jackie isn't complaining!
We are very thankful that life is treating us well. We hope that things are going well for you too, and if not, we hope things improve in the year 2000!
Jackie, Marc, Jonathan and Benjamin