Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A normal fall weekend featuring Ariana Grande

On Friday afternoon The Three Pinks and I fled the suburbs as soon as school was out and headed to Palo Alto. On the way down we stopped at Coffee Bean and Pizza My Heart, two of the kids' favorite eateries. Our next stop was a Halloween party at one of the large Silicon Valley tech companies. The entertainment was Ariana Grande, a 21-year-old singer / songwriter / actress who is moving her way up the charts right now after feature roles on two Nickelodeon TV shows.

She played a 40-minute set and was super sweet with the fans. The Pinks managed to get pretty close to the stage while I hung back, seated on the lawn. I downloaded her most recent music the week prior and while I liked her vibe to begin with, seeing her on stage made me really like her. The Pinks had a blast. The party was well done with a carnival theme. We also oohed and aahed over the little kids dressed up for Halloween.

This was The Pinks first time on a large Silly Valley tech campus and Eldest Daughter noted that with all of its open space, modern buildings, bike parking, walkways, gym and restaurants, it looked like a college campus. Valid point.

After the performance Ariana and her entourage high tailed it to the airport as they also played the Hollywood Bowl that night. We headed for Sprinkles at the Stanford Shopping Center and then to a late dinner at Max's.

On Saturday morning the big bags under my eyes and I went to Marin to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah of a childhood friend's son. What struck me most, aside from all the generations of love in the room, was how comfortable he was up on the bimah. I wish I could have stayed for the evening celebration but with Thing 1's first dance performance of the year in the afternoon, it wasn't to be. The cantor at their temple is spectacular, too, and I caught up with a few people I hadn't seen in many years. My parents and I went together and it was a treat to hear about their recent trip through the Southwest during the car ride, just the three of us.

Thing 1's dance performance went well, in spite of a last minute venue change caused by not-expected-but-much-welcomed rain. This is my favorite performance of the year because the team routines are unveiled. Being the data nerd that I am, I love watching them and then guessing which ones will place high during the year's competitions, which kick off in January.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The scenic route

Over the summer I drove to Tahoe via the Eastern Sierras. I hadn't planned to drive this route but having children means you sometimes take a detour. I spent the first part of the drive, the ugly freeway part, on a conference call. And then it was four lane roads narrowing to two lane roads into the mountains. As the trees got bigger I started to relax. I rolled down my windows and took deep breaths of the pine and earth smell.

After an hour-long stop at a lake where I spent part of my childhood and where I retrieved a child who was in the midst of hers, the two of us continued the adventure. There were no gas stations for the next 100 miles. She was chatty. We drove up and up and up until we hit the pass, and then drove down and down and down into the increasingly arid Nevada desert and where the landscape looks like paintings. We stopped for a late lunch at a dive pancake house. Finally we made a sharp left and after ten more miles of narrow, windy roads, saw Lake Tahoe. It was a relief to see water after so many landlocked miles.

It's not often I travel off the -- off my -- beaten path. This single-day journey was fun because it was unanticipated and because I got to experience it with one of my children. It made me want to take a road trip.

The Safeway in King's Beach had parking spots but inside there was barely any room to maneuver. This was expected at 6pm the night before a holiday. My daughter spotted a classmate's father, one who lives less than a mile from us in our suburb, We shopped and then drove on to Squaw Valley, where I stopped trying to keep my eyes open at 10pm and awoke 11 hours later.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

And more luau.

There were three hours between the end of the Kiddush and the party set up. The most significant thing that happened during that time was that Thing 2 chopped 12 inches off of her hair. She went back to her signature bob and harmony was restored to our home! Long hair is beautiful if you have the patience to take care of it. She did not. She looks like herself again and she is so happy to not have all that maintenance! As are we.

Now on to the luau. Although the fabulous Jenna was running the show, it still took a small army to pull it all together. Thank you Singers, Dave Harap, Bentleys, Willmarths, Wycoffs and The G/dfather. It takes time to pin grass skirts on table cloths, string lights and lanterns in trees and on poles, arrange rental lounge furniture, instruct the caterer, DJ, photo booth people, balloon lady, and set up tables for gifts and sign in boards plus two bars. (About that adult bar: I conveniently forgot that our little town only lets you serve beer and wine in its venues. We may have forfeited our security deposit over my interpretation of this rule when we served mai tai's but I won't know for another few weeks.)

The big takeaway from this luau was that the kids had a blast. Their smiling faces and moving bodies dancing will stay with me. Most of the kids had never been to a celebration such as this and the DJ and crew did their job of keeping the kids busy and happy. A few of Thing 1's dance friends are Jewish and they showed the new-to-this-scene-kids how it was done.

One of the dance team friends, a few years younger than Thing 1, came up to both me and Dave individually as she left and told us that it was the best party she'd ever been to. It was the sweetest thing.

Dave and I have a fairly diverse group of friends and the kids and adults just mixed and mingled. Melissa, the super-sweet new wife of one of Dave's childhood friends, came in from Dallas and explained her daughter's easy entry by saying, "This one has never met a stranger." How fabulous is that?!

In addition to dancing, the DJ did:
  • Some sort of game involving stuffing children in large t-shirts with balloons
  • Limbo
  • Hula hoop contest
  • Volleyball
  • Macarena
  • Dances involving hats, sunglasses, glo-sticks, flashing rings, floral leis and blow up microphones, guitars and saxophones
  • YMCA and
  • Who knows what else. I didn't see it all.
Denon and Doyle provided the entertainment, which is four people: the DJ, the emcee and two party motivators. The party motivators make sure everyone is up and participating, and they also hand out those sunglasses, glo-sticks and air guitars. These people deliver a high-quality product. As Dave likes to say, as soon as you pick your Mitzvah date you call Denon and Doyle to see if they're available. If they're not, you change your date.

We did a candle lighting where The Pinks thanked special groups of friends and family by reading a poem. Pictured here are Thing 2's lacrosse friends after they lit their candles.

There was the slide show, previously mentioned. At the end of the slide show I said a few words about The Pinks and told them how proud we were of their accomplishments. I reminded them of their continued responsibility to Judaism and to tikkun olam, making the world a better place.

We are a family of strong women. My mother and mother-in-law have long devoted themselves to volunteer causes. One of my grandmothers was a journalist, the other a force to be reckoned with in Memphis' Jewish community. Dave's grandmother owned and ran a women's dress shop in Napa for 52 years, back during the years that women just didn't do that. After Dave's grandmother passed away my mother-in-law had a few of her mink coats turned into teddy bears by a New York furrier. Each of her great grand-daughters received one at their Bat Mitzvah.

Dave spoke to the legacy of women in our family and The Pinks received theirs that night. (Sidebar: Thirteen years ago, when Dave and I found out we were having twins, he called his mother and said, "Mom, we are one teddy bear short." She didn't miss a beat and said, "You're having twins?! That's wonderful, David." And so another fur coat was shipped to New York and a fifth teddy bear was born.)

It was hard not to think about Dave's grandma Ruth that night because The Pinks spent a lot of time with her prior to her passing. She lived in an assisted care community near our first house in Danville and we visited her 3-4 times a week. We'd go over there and The Pinks would ride their scooters around the unit, play their toy musical instruments, and sing and dance. Not only did Ruth love it, the other residents did, too. The more chaos the better. It was a great diversion for everyone. (Confession: Visiting Ruth kept ME sane. It is HARD parenting twin toddlers and I loved every moment we spent with Ruth because I could relax.) I still think that Dave's father moving his mother near us was the greatest gift ever.

The picture above at right is Thing 2 with my sister-in-law and brother-in-law. I love how Sara Singer, who always is wearing the exact right thing, was captured in it, too. Sara -- you must take me shopping.

The caterer was a risk. I let go, though, and truly trusted Jenna. She'd heard they were good although she'd never seen them in action. (Like the Jewish community, the Mormon community is tight. They might be in the same ward.) I put it out of my mind and figured I'd just double the alcohol if the food turned out to be bad. It wasn't. It got raves. We also had Hawaiian Shave Ice for dessert and the kids sang its praises although I didn't see it apart from the set up. Thanks Bentley cousins for the idea! They did it 18 months earlier in Santa Clarita. Heck, the little people share everything in our family. Jen -- have you figured out what we lifted from your suitcase yet?! Better install some locks on your closet door before we visit in March.

The last picture here is of my brother, his wife and my niecelets, and his in-laws. We spend a lot of time with Cathy and Steve at Tahoe, where they live full-time, and were glad they joined in the full weekend of festivities with us. They truly are family.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Today's wish.

Today I wish that our children didn't ask questions like, "What stage is it?" except in conversations about the Tour de France.

I am sad that an extended family member is fighting the fight. I'm sad that a close friend is fighting the fight for a second time.

I am sad that I cannot protect our children from knowing about this and being sad. And afraid too.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Luau

Much to my surprise, the gemelli agreed on a theme for their post-B'Not Mitzvah celebratory party: luau. One has the tendency to dress up while the other prefers to dress down. This worked for both and it also gave the guests a choice, too.

How hard could it be to outfit the four females in our family for this party? It was more challenging than you'd think. By contrast, Eldest Daughter and I had it easy. She found her dress in London, in the most beautiful Anthropologie I have ever seen. I bought mine at a boutique in Paris. Eldest Daughter's dress is so stunning that I'm going to lose 20 lbs and wear it to something. Dead serious.

Thing 1 is just picky and we easily bought and returned a half dozen dresses before she found "the one." I finally talked Thing 2 into wearing an Athleta dress of bathing suit material, very comfortable and casual. Then, at the last minute as we were dashing out to the party she decided to throw on a little dress she picked out on Catalina Island and I was so worn down by that point I just gave in even though it was strapless and I feared it would fall down. It didn't. (She apparently takes after Dave's side of the family.) It looked adorable and no one would ever know that it wasn't the original plan.

The party was held at the Danville Community Center adjacent to the library. This gave us both indoor and outdoor space. I wanted the adults to have some space away from the kids and also for the adult bar and kid bar to be at separate ends of the venue. 

We strung globe lights across the patio and added large Chinese lanterns. In the trees surrounding the patio we added twinkle Christmas lights and hung teeny tiny Chinese lantern on those, too. The tables had coverings in bright pink, orange, purple and red, and each was skirted with grass. Double orchids (we have twins) were in bamboo vases on each table.

Guests entered through an aisle bordered by 10' tall balloon palm trees and tiki torches. Passed h'ors d'oeuvres were Hawaiian meatballs and stuffed mushrooms for the adults, yellow M&Ms and gummy fish for the kids.

Adults had the option of mai tai's, Hawaiian beer, sodas, water or wine. Under 21s were offered Baja Blast, lemonade or water served from plastic pineapple and coconut cups.

The kids had their own luau lounge with couches and chairs. Over the summer Eldest Daughter made Hawaiian print throw pillows for them. There was also a photo booth, which you've already seen some fun pictures from.

Thing 1 made her grand entrance on a beach-towel-draped Cleopatra carrier. Thing 2 arrived standing on a surfboard. The DJ later told me that he'd never actually seen anyone stand on the surfboard before for an entrance. What a surprise -- my fearless kid was the first.

From there we launched into the Hora and the family going up on chairs individually. Something I love about the picture of Thing 1 at left is that one of our late additions is right in there helping. Our neighbors mentioned that they could only stay at the party a bit because their adult children and grandchildren were visiting for the weekend. As it turns out, we're friendly with their adult kids so I suggested they just bring them along. And they did!

The picture above of my mother-in-law and the gemelli dancing is spectacular, not just because of the look on Linda's face but because the photographer also captured my sister-in-law and Aunt Janice, my mother-in-law's sister, in it too.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

September 6, 2014

This was Thing 1 and Thing 2's big day, the day they celebrated their entry into Jewish adulthood. We did the service at our house, in our backyard looking out at the golden foothills of Mt. Diablo.

On Friday came the deliveries: the 225 chairs, the risers, the chafing dishes, the sweets. It was surprisingly easy to fit all of those chairs in our yard. We'd planned to seat overflow in the family room, looking out to the yard, and also in our upstairs bedroom, overlooking the yard. The upstairs seating didn't end up being necessary but a few people did sit inside, presumably to get of of the direct sun. Fifty people were easily seated under the shade of the pavilion.

A few weeks earlier we'd had 200 people in the yard for a BBQ for local incoming San Diego State freshmen so we knew the space would work out fine. The weather, I wasn't so sure of until a few days prior when we saw that the forecast was for sunny skies and warm temps but not super hot temps. We were prepared for the sun with bottled water and sunscreen available to people as they entered and throughout the service. If it were a few degrees warmer, out would have come the soccer canopies!

I loved having this simcha at home and would recommend it. I created custom siddurs (prayer books) online then printed them out. This gave us the flexibility to include the songs and readings that were meaningful to us. The service was on the shorter side, perhaps 75 or 90 minutes, which was comfortable. We were able to video tape the service because it wasn't in a synagogue. Two guitars played by one rabbi and one rabbi's son provided beautiful music. Rabbi Rick encouraged people to get up and move around if they needed to get out of the sun or get water. That's another thing you can't easily do if you're in a synagogue.

The women in our family all wore white, which is traditional on shabbat. Shabbat is referred to as the Sabbath Bride.

My parents got Things 1 and 2 each a tallis, which they picked out on a shopping trip with my mom. You can see these prayer shawls in the pictures. Only Jewish adults can wear them.

Thing 1's d'var Torah (speech) was very funny because her section of the Torah portion included the laws around prostitution, which she didn't want to talk about. Nor did she want to talk about the conditions under which a man whose twig or berries are injured can enter a house of worship.  In case you're wondering, the answer is never. In the end and after some awkward moments and terse discussion, she decided to talk about the necessity of rules and how her portion was about things that, if made into a movie, she would not even be old enough to see it.

Thing 2's d'var Torah was about rules, too, and she let everyone know how ironic it was that her portion was about rules since she isn't very good at following them. The picture below at right is of Thing 2 reading from the Torah itself.

At the end of the service Eldest Daughter surprised her sisters with a pelting of wrapped candies thrown by the handful from the fists of guests with pent up energy from sitting still through the service. Thing 1 screamed and crawled under the bimah to get out of the line of fire. Then the little kids hopped up and gathered up all the candy to eat, pinata-style. The candy represents the sweetness of the occasion.

Rabbi Rick does the hamotzi in a way that everyone connects to each other -- physically. A few people hold the 4 foot long challah and then everyone touches a part of another person until everyone is attached. Then he leads the blessing and the challah gets ripped apart from every angle. Some families cut the challah into nice neat slices. We are a family of rippers and tearers. (In my opinion, the only reason to slice challah is if you are making French Challah for breakfast.) This particular challah had sprinkles on it, something that Dave feels strongly about. The blessing over the wine used wine we saved from Eldest Daughter's Bat Mitzvah four years earlier. Those of you who attended her Bat Mitzvah might remember that we used wine from our wedding for that.

A few of Thing 1's dance teammates are Jewish and it was neat to see them explaining the traditions to those not in the know. One of Thing 2's secular friends sat right up front so she could catch every last word. One Jewish adult friend, who should have known better, chatted with the person next to him throughout the service. Another napped. People brought young children who were not invited. The young children squirmed, as was age-appropriate. All but one of the great aunts and uncles came. My mom's siblings were in town for a full week so we were fortunate enough to spend additional time with them.

Immediately following the service we had a kiddush, which is light snacks. We served some of our favorite foods, including bagels, lox and cream cheese, strawberries, watermelon, chicken salad sandwiches, Claire's lemon cupcakes, my mother's three-layer brownies and my mother-in-law's fudge, almost none of which we got to eat because we were socializing and just being proud. People hung out for about an hour, the tween set popping picture after picture of themselves all dolled up.

At one point the little kids hopped in the neighbor's golf cart and attempted to drive down the street. Fortunately the rabbi's son, who is 16 and licensed, clued into this joy-ride-to-be and gave the littles a short ride to placate them.

Here's one especially good picture of the tweens.  Look how gorgeous this group is! That morning I'd asked Thing 2 to put on shoes. Apparently she went into my closet and took a pair of mine that matched her dress. I'm loving that we wear the same size shoes these days. One clever mom popped a similar picture and then turned it into a card prior to the party. Best card ever!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Wellness Gala

Dave and I, and my parents, attended the Cancer Support Community's annual wellness gala with my brother last night. My brother is both a board member and a survivor. The event was at our local country club, which was the icing on the cake. We missed my sister-in-law, who stayed home with my sick niecelet.

It's hard not to be touched and inspired by the people we met, the stories we heard, the content of the program itself. It's an easy cause to contribute to because so many people each of us know are affected by it. At the Friday night dinner prior our twins B'Not Mitzvah I was seated at a table of ten where three people had first-hand cancer experiences.

And as a bonus, we ran into some friends we hadn't seen in several years. I out-shopped them all. For the cause of course.