Spirit of Chanukah 2023

Chanukah with Avdi and the kids is my best one yet.  You can guess from their faces, they were getting into it, too!  It’s a real teaching moment, because they have so many questions about their Jewishness.  The gifts may just be a minor concession to xmas, but the delight in lighting candles together, opening their little gifts and gelt, playing dreidel all evening (trying to find the “loaded” gimel ones), and enjoying Chanukah latkes for Shabbat, were priceless.  It also brought the kids together without outright warfare, for the moment.  I think they and I got closer, too.

I think I misspoke about them getting calmer, though.  The more consistent quantity time I spend there, the more I witness more of those extreme meltdowns over seemingly negligible incidents.  I see how Avdi gets so chronically exhausted.  At the same time, I get to observe and learn appropriate methods of dealing with them.  Working with ND kids, helping them learn to handle and manage their overwhelming reactions to sensory, emotional, and social difficulties, is a longterm process.  You’re building trust, and modeling how to function and cope in the real world.  There are no shortcuts.

Gotta wrap this up and head back into the fray–bearing more small tchotchkes, of course.




Bread Mitzvah Rite-of-Passage

Does one’s first yeast bread count as a coming-of-age milestone?  If so, E (13) just achieved it very successfully.  It’s a simple but perfect Italian style loaf, crusty on the outside, soft on the inside.  Mazel tov!  You could call it a…Bread Mitzvah!

The kids are still experiencing emotional distress and transitions, but I do see progress.  In general, they seem a little calmer, more secure, and affectionate, at least when I’m there!  I think they save the worst of it for when I’m not!

The other night, after Avdi and Jess went out (together, for a change), S went right to sleep, the others did, too, and I actually got some sleep, which is rarer these days.  NyQuil (for my hellcold) sometimes helps!

Yesterday, (after catching up on more sleep), I made myself walk to the antique store and dollar store, to finish buying Chanukah gifts for everyone.  It’s amazing what you can find in an antique store.  Between online and local shopping, I’m done, and stayed within my tiny budget.

I think I’ve gotten two things right in my forgettable life: I had Avdi, and I moved here to be with him and my grandkids.  I hope it makes up in some small way for all the bad decisions I’ve made.  I guess they’ll be the judge of that.


The Big C Club

Welcome to my new world of cancer benefits!  It seems once you’re pronounced dying of the Big C, everyone starts being friendly and concerned.  Just being old and poverty-stricken isn’t enough; once you enter the exclusive C-club, you can actually get a few minor perks to help you afford to stay alive.  A nun even helpfully called me–that was a first!  She actually told me I need to get more friends so they can drive me to doctors?!  Plus when the news eventually leaks, your Gkids suddenly love you!  But I exaggerate; it’s all good.  I think they were already warming up to me.

Since the last time I wrote, we had S’s official birthday party, and Shabbat.  I even got to go to a middle school play.  I baked a peanut butter and jelly cake for S, some new and familiar friends came over to party i.e. get a sugar rush, I slept over, and cleaned and baked challah and made Shabbat dinner.  I’m going over there again tonight, so A can get to go out.  Why do I even bother to come “home”!  Oh yeah, to catch up on sleep!  Throughout all this I’ve had the cold from hell lingering for a week, which is not fun, but y’know I’m a Jewish martyr, oy.  Plus Avdi has one of my favorite bourbons, er, medicinals.

Here are some festive shots.



Today I learned I have the same leukemia (CLL) as my mother.  I guess it does run in the family.  Mine is at a low level, not like I’m going to drop dead of it tomorrow.  Most of the cysts and -cytes were benign or not too enlarged, and my white count is only slightly high.  My giblets are OK!  There’s not a lot they can do, other than monitor it.  So that was anticlimactic.  Now back to bed to nurse this cold from hell.

(Arnold Lobel, F&T Are Friends)


First Dead Birthday

Today would have been my mother’s 96th birthday, the first one she didn’t live to see.  I’m not sure how to feel about that.  Even if we had been close, she was to all intents and purposes already dead for years.  She wouldn’t have recognized me, let alone her birthday.  This is why merely existing and being kept technically alive is the tragedy, and the part of dying that scares me the most.

Still, I thought I should at least pause to pay some respect.  I was a very difficult kid, coming of age in the 60s and 70s.  I watch my grandkids’ meltdowns and frequent emotional crises, and imagine how unsettling and shocking my behavior and attitudes must have been to parents from the school of children must be utterly subservient and unquestioning and disciplined.  It must have been traumatic and bewildering.

Witnessing my son going through that times 400%, with almost no help or recourse, even all the neural/behavioral information we have available now is not enough to cope with the overwhelming pressure and stress on a single parent trying to work and manage ND kids.  Neither are the schools equipped to handle it all.  Were times simpler back in my parents’ day?  I suspect not, but kids were just pressured to fit into the expected role, or be shuffled into “special” ed or shop, or just be lost in a crack of the system.

So I must give credit where it’s due—to all parents struggling to keep from drowning in a system that isn’t designed to support them or their kids.  I can start to see my mother’s side of things, dealing with a miserable kid like me, with no recourse but to condemn me to fatherly abuse when he got home.  They didn’t know about neurodivergence or developmental issues; they just blamed the bratty kids and used threats and fear to control us.  It was them against us.

My son has the advantage of knowledge and education, which his kids benefit from, yet it’s still too much for one overworked person to deal with.  He feels like he’s always losing ground and failing; how else would you feel when the system is stacked against you?  He’s doing all the right things: he’s a brilliant, hard worker, a responsible, loving parent, a gracious, generous human, and a son to be proud of.  It’s too much, and yet never enough.

So, my mother.  I haven’t been the greatest of mothers, so I can’t turn around and fault her for trying.  She was from a different time and universe.  She did all the things you were supposed to do.  She provided us with a home and opportunities, whether we appreciated it or not.  Though I drove her to distraction, she continued to love me and especially my son.  Though she’d be baffled by the complexities of his life now, she’d be extremely proud of him, that much I know.



Big Doggie Fix and Other Incidents

The festivities continued…we had an early birthday celebration for S while Stacey was still in town, with an oreo cake by Evelyn.  I baked Challah, but the meal was ready-made TG leftovers, so easy.  Then we all had a rousing game of Apples to Apples.  Stacey was leaving town early in the morning, so we had a group hug with S in the middle, one of his birthday requests.  I couldn’t take a picture because I was in it.  The doggie definitely monopolized my photos, though.


A Real Family TG

Granted, there’s a very dark side to Thanksgiving, but our warm family (three gens) gathering was the opposite.  It was happy, cozy, and delicious.  There was a mountain of delectable foods, and another one of fabulous desserts, made by all of us.  We sat around the table enjoying each other’s company, and then on the sofa trying to recover!  Plus Stacey’s large collie Tadhg (sp?) [“tige”] joined us, which was the cherry on top for me.  There was a lot of cleanup, but lots of people to help.  It was the best TG yet.  I forgot to take pictures of all the foods, because I was so busy eating them–and slipping some to the dog.  He of course loves me now.  Guess what we’re having for Shabbat?



Making Sides

Here are some TG side dishes from the kitchen of L42: candied maple sweet potatoes, sautéed Brussels sprouts with fresh cranberries, vegetarian mushroom stuffing, and cranberry lemon bars (uncut).  I also made turkey gravy from scratch to go with the herbed turkey I’ll roast tomorrow.  Most of the herbs I used are fresh from the garden.  There’s also a Dutch apple pie (store-bought).  And that’s just my contribution.  I had fun in my kitchen all day.

Homey TG Preps

Just a quick check-in before TG preps get into high gear.

The other day I stayed with S and Y while Avdi took K and E shopping.  Y was to sit and do their dreaded procrastinated HW, while S played quietly.  It actually happened!  On my watch!  Y spent the whole time slogging away on the HW, while S did animation on his tablet.  I actually got to read a book (on ND science).  Avdi was so proud, he then took Y out shopping!  This is hopefully a trend.

S went back to school this week–so far so good, I think.  I had medical stuff, as usual, and lots of business to take care of.   Right now I’m baking cranberry lemon bars, then going to A’s to watch kids.  Tomorrow I’ll be preparing my list of recipes to bring to TG on Thursday.  I can’t remember the last time I got to join a big homey TG family gathering.  Or got so domesticated.

Update: Change of plans, didn’t go to A’s tonight; he was already tired of being a shuttle service all evening.  It’s all good, because I’m trying not to get sick, and instead got more preps done.  Less preps to do tomorrow.

Riding the Family VelociCoaster

I spend time almost every day now at Avdi’s, especially with S having been suspended for a week.  That’s a whole issue with the school in itself.  I’ll just say, MO educators need to do their HW and graduate to the 21st century.  The added burden due to incompetence or underfunding shouldn’t be loaded onto already overwhelmed single parents working overtime.  ND kids shouldn’t be rewarded for acting out at school by being continually sent home to do nothing and not be educated.  ’nuff said.

On a happier note, I amazingly made it down to 123.7 lbs!!  My goal is finally in sight.  Walking to Avdi’s, doing housework, and chasing S around each day make all the difference.  The kids seem to respond well to my always being around and have been opening up more.  Now we play and joke around, or just hang out together.  I get to observe what Avdi goes through daily by being there consistently, not just sporadically.

For example, Y often has screaming meltdowns when some little thing frustrates them, like HW or simple tasks, and A has to stop everything and calm them down.  One minute they’re all hyper and manic, the next minute they’re withdrawn and sullen, like a volatile roller coaster.  There’s little in-between.  Ironically, they often behave like S, whom they despise for acting that way.  Maybe it reminds them of themself.  The anger and despondency are strangely reminiscent for me.  Few parents could handle it as well as Avdi does, all things considered.

Shabbat preps went well.  I got to borrow J’s car, so I could pick up some last minute supplies, saving A the trouble.  The meal was enjoyable, and S actually ate some of it!  In fact, yesterday he even finished some of the leftovers!  This rarely happens.  I try to gear my menu to simple recipes he’ll try.

Having the car really helped us all, because I was able to run errands and pick up all the Thanksgiving supplies I’ll need to prepare my portion of it, which I keep expanding to take some of the load off the others.  I can easily roast the turkey and other menu items at my apartment, freeing up their kitchen for all the baking which the kids and their Mom, whose turn it is to visit, will be doing.  We actually get to spend a holiday together as a family (three gens) at home.

Here are some random shots of typical antics and amusements, even serious moments, at The Avdi’s.