When my son came home from school today, he proclaimed it was “the hottest day ever” and “it should be ILLEGAL for the weather to be so hot.”
For those of you who live in more southern climates, it’s only 80 degrees here. But to a Rochester kid, this is hot.
Then he shared this interesting bit of news with me:
He was sort of “discovered” by the Marshall Tucker Band.
The scene was last week’s Rochester Lilac Festival. The Twelve Corners Middle School Jazz band, led by the wonderful Mr. Baldwin, performed for the lunch crowd. In this crowd must have been …. the Marshall Tucker Band, who was putting on a free performance that evening.
After this performance, in the video above, shot by a friend and another proud pappa of the baritone saxophonist, a member of the Marshall Tucker Band wanted to know who the guitar soloist was.
That would happen to be MY BOY!
Now, I still don’t want my baby to grow up to be a rock star, but at the very least, to see that ear-to-ear grin on his face, it’s worth bragging about in a blog post!
Rock on, young man, rock on.
This gallery contains 2 photos.
Frolic in the lilacs. Check out some free music from the TCMS Jazz Band this Wednesday at lunchtime!
Jewish mothers brag about their son the doctor.
Jewish mothers praise the accomplishments of their son, the big-shot lawyer.
I don’t know if I will ever have those bragging rights, but thanks to Craig Taubman and his band of gracious musicians, my son rocked the bimah at Temple Beth El in Rochester!!!
Thank you, thank you thank you, to Craig and his band and ALL at Temple Beth El who made this weekend happen!
For myself and most of the audience, we expected to be moved by Craig Taubman and his seasoned ensemble comprised of a pianist, drummer, guitarist and a phenomenal woman violinist.
We had no clue that my 14-year-old son would be bestowed the opportunity to show off his latest slide guitar improvs to an audience of about 200.
Jewish rock musicians were not exactly my son’s “thing” – up until last night. He poo-pooed them in fact. If they play Jewish music, how can they be cool???
Kid, you’ve got a thing to learn.
Last night, after a Friday Night Live service, he had the honor of having Shabbat dinner sitting with the band.
They got to talking, and then they got into some serious talking about music. Two realizations were discovered. My son discovered that, yes, these were real, bona fide musicians even if they played in a Jewish rock band. And Craig’s band, after listening to my son go on about designing a pick up for his guitar for a science project, concluded that my son in spite of his young age is also a real musician.
I didn’t think they would let him jam with them tonight. I mean, they are grammy-winning road-touring musicians. Professionals. And my son is good, but he has to earn his musical chops before he gets to share a stage.
But share they did. And this is how it sounded. Excuse the screams from his biggest fan:
My latest student sat before me sullen. Sad even. Completely disengaged. The chid complained of a headache, even a stomachache and could NOT find the strength to sing.
The child had not a chance to review the sentences given to it to study months ago. The child’s iPod had also mysteriously stopped working, so he/she could not listen to the melodies of the chanting either.
I get it.
To many emerging young Jewish adults, studying for one’s B’nei Mitzvah may not be your thing. You’ve got a life, for gosh’s sake! That life is full with homework and friends and sports and has nothing to do with chanting a strange language in a building you hardly go to!
And what does all this Hebrew mean that I can barely read and hardly understand?
And how am I going to find the time to study?
When it comes to hunkering down and preparing for one’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah, many obstacles can get in the way. In a recent post on the Jewish culture blog Kveller, a rabbinical student even honestly put it out there: why put your kid through the motions of having this Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony if it is devoid of meaning, when a small percentage of Jewish adults even volunteer to read from the Torah after they reach that milestone day.
Here is why.
Like it or not, kid, you are the next link in this 5,000 year chain that cannot be broken.
Last night, after my student left and after dinner and dishes, I watched a PBS special: Space Shuttle Columbia: A mission of Hope, about the 10th anniversary of the Columbia Space Shuttle disaster. What made it all the more tragic was it was the first time an Israeli, Ilan Ramon, son of Holocaust survivors, took a trip to space.
And on this unique mission to space that bonded this unique multicultural team of astronauts was
a tiny Torah.
A Torah that survived the Holocaust.
A Torah that had been used to prepare a boy for his Bar Mitzvah in the hell of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. A boy that survived and grew to be an old man living in Israel still in possession of this tiny scroll.
A Torah that, when Ilan Ramon heard of its story, he knew it had to accompany him in space.
For all of the Jewish people.
I’m not going to retell the story here. I won’t do it justice. But if you can, watch with your family Mission of Hope, and you will understand the Big Picture of why joining the Jewish community as a fully participating adult is an incredibly precious honor.
If that’s not inspiration enough, then look at this photo below:
this is a recent picture of men, Holocaust survivors, who never got to be Bar Mitzvah boys. Until today.
Now, stop kvetching, stop whining, and go study.
These were the words of my son petitioning me this morning from his bed. These words came from his mouth, which was attached to a head, a head as hot as coal. A head which could not be lifted from his pillow.
“Just give me some Advil, and I can go!”
His concern: An overdue tech project that needed to be completed in school. A CO2 car he has designed and engineered that still needed to still be sawed, glued, and painted.
This project counts as 60 percent of his grade. How do I know it is 60 percent of his grade? He has told this to me at least 10 times since coming down with the flu.
He is also worried, of course, about falling behind in math. And Science. And how will he ever catch up and HOW he will get ready for midterms.
He puts this pressure on himself to not to stay home and recover from the flu but to GET TO SCHOOL no matter how he feels. No matter the consequences to his own health or those around him.
My son is not yet in
Harvard college or even in high school.
He’s only a 14-year-old kid.
He’s only in the 8th Grade.
If you can’t even stay home and rest up from the flu in the 8th grade with a clear conscience, then what does that say about our culture? Is there any wonder we are in the midst of an influenza epidemic?
Now, we all think we have THE most important jobs in the world.
Unless we are at death’s door, don’t even think about skipping work or school.
Even I have come under this delusion of mind over virus.
Last week, in I went to teach afternoon instruction because I felt I HAD to be at work to show my commitment. I was not hacking and coughing. I HAD a prescription for an antibiotic in hand (seems like, if you have flu symptoms and don’t rest them, the darned germs morph into something else, wouldn’t ya know?).
I was just a little stuffy.
And my eyes were sunken in because I had barely slept for two …. no three nights because my sinuses were killing me but
Life goes on and we muddle through.
At the copy machine my boss asked.
“What are you doing here?”
“I’m just making copies for this afternoon. Then, I’m going to take my antibiotics. Then I’m going to teach. “
Fortunately, I have a boss who does have the voice of reason.
“You will do no such thing. You look like hell. I appreciate you want to work but you shouldn’t be here. Now go home and get some rest.”
So rest I did and I am better now, a week later. Even so, my energy is not fully back.
So, when it was my son’s turn to fall ill, I did not let him succumb to our hyper-achievement culture.
He’s home. He has a fever that spikes back as soon as the latest ibuprofen dose wears off. But he is resting and doing his work and playing his guitar when he feels up to it.
Will he go back to school tomorrow? Don’t know. We’ll just have to see.
Fess up: have you ever went to work/school when you know you were too sick?
When people ask me where I send my kids to camp, I tell them I send them to Camp Ramah.
Now, when you live in a town where traveling even 30 minutes to get somewhere seems like traveling to another planet (and I'm guilty of this as well), they then reply, Oh, the Camp Ramah in Toronto.
And then I say, "Nooo, it's actually two and a half hours further.
It's been a while since I've had the time to write a blog post, perhaps because I've been a little pre-occupied. Hosting a Bar Mitzvah that includes many out of town guests becomes a four-day affair. My column, teaching and profile pieces also kept me spinning these last few weeks. So instead of my rantings, I'll offer my son's Bar Mitzvah speech (otherwise known as a d'var Torah - words of Torah) for this post.
For six years, I have walked the life of a middle schooler at my children’s curriculum nights.
Some years, my husband and I conquered and divided, splitting up the night walking the walk when we had a sixth and an eighth grader. Last night we walked through my son’s eighth grade day by visiting each class in periods boiled down into 10 minute snippets.
In years past, teachers with a twinkle in their eye would discuss the actual curriculum they covered in addition to how to get in touch with them and where to find the latest assignments online. In past years, teachers used their precious 10 minutes to explain why they are passionate about teaching their subject to our children, something to which they have dedicated their life’s work. They went on about how they would rev up our child to learn about the Industrial Revolution, or get them juiced up about geometry.
They talked about TEACHING. Plain and simple.
Last night, something was different. Last night, it seemed that the teachers in my beloved school district had been bitten by the dreaded TEACH TO THE TEST zombie.
With each class I visited with my husband, the evening was not about the curriculum, but making the grade. How much homework and classroom work counted toward the grade and most of all, how much those tests counted towards the grade. Suddenly, the school district that I have loved for its emphasis on academic excellence was more about how teachers were qualified to help our kids get the best grades possible.
Are academic excellence and excellent grades the same thing? Am I out of line for feeling this way? After all, I live in one of the toughest and highly rated school districts in the country, right? The going should be tough, it SHOULD be about performance and grades, right?
Now, I know. This is school. This is hard work that’s being asked of my child and I am glad my child is being challenged, but I want teachers to challenge my kids to learn, not to feel pressure and anxiety about taking tests.
Maybe our teachers are not to blame for this shift in emphasis.
What scared me about last night is I had a feeling that suddenly in my district, the teachers seem like they are under the testing gun more than in years past. The teachers seem now to want our children to succeed not for their own sake of LEARNING, but to show their own accountability for how well our children perform on tests and labs so they can keep their jobs. Teaching jobs are hard to come by these days, that I understand and appreciate.
Perhaps the class with the most soul sucking sound was my child’s math class. A cold fish of a woman with mousey brown hair prattled on about maintaining not a PASSING grade in this almost double-accelerated class, but a 85-90 percent grade to stay in the class. The word assessment came from her mouth almost two dozen times. Not once did she talk about how she was going to teach to me this most difficult subject to GET my kid and the kids of others EXCITED enough to learn and get this grade. I suddenly felt like a middle school student all over again in math, anxiously waiting for the bell to ring so could BOLT!
After math was technology, the final class of the evening. I had had it. All I wanted to do was blow this class off, not caring if I would get a detention for cutting. All I wanted to do was to go home and crawl under the covers, thanking the Lord I was no longer a middle school student.
So glad I stuck around.
Waiting for us outside his classroom was my son’s tech teacher.
“You coming in? Excellent!” He beamed.
I won’t say his name, but this man talked about his life. He talked about growing up in his dad’s auto mechanic shop and how he fiddled with car engines. In this class, they were going to MAKE and DESIGN stuff! Grow hydroponic plants! Use design and mechanic techniques that required precision and discipline to make a product! Yes, there would be homework and tests, but these benchmarks took a back seat to the teacher’s EXCITEMENT about what he was going to teach to our children.
So glad I didn’t cut your class, Mr. Tech teacher.
After we got home, I guess you can say I was in a crummy mood. I argued with my husband as we lay in bed about my seemingly bad-ass negative attitude about middle school. On a whole, weren’t the teachers lovely and didn’t they convey to us what our son would learn that year? My husband. I love him because he is the glass half full kind of guy. Yes, maybe.
I finally fell asleep. Only to be woken by my eighth grade son at 2 a.m. His throat was killing him and he had a cough that sounded like a sick seal. Felt his head. No fever.
“Honey, you sound sick, and if you feel this way this morning, we are going to the doctor.”
“NO MOM! I CANNOT MISS SCHOOL. EVER!! I’LL MISS TOO MUCH.”
“Okay, how about coming home after school and missing track practice. You need your rest.”
“NO MOM! I CANNOT MISS PRACTICE. EVER!! I WON’T QUALIFY FOR A MEET.”
Those last two sentences, fear-filled sentences about missing even a day of school, even an HOUR of school to go to the doctor, confirmed my feelings about curriculum night.
I gave him a cough drop and a kiss on his head and sent him to bed. But I can’t say that I slept well.
When people ask me where I send my kids to camp, I tell them I send them to Camp Ramah.
Now, when you live in a town where traveling even 30 minutes to get somewhere seems like traveling to another planet (and I’m guilty of this as well), they then reply, Oh, the Camp Ramah in Toronto.
And then I say, “Nooo, it’s actually two and a half hours further. North of Toronto. In a region called Muskoka.”
The response I hear is: Isn’t that far?
And truthfully, Yes.
Yes. It’s very far.
Yes, I send my kids for a month, and now for my oldest two months, six hours away. Many see this as a sign of bad parenting. Many cannot fathom why we’d want to get rid of our kids for a month or even two. But, I have a friend who has five boys. Once, when we ran into each other grocery shopping, she spoke to me about the beauty of summer camp.
“Everyone for one time a year gets to live in their own space. It’s really very healthy.”
I’ll remember this produce aisle advice forever.
To get to camp, they travel across an international border and this requires they all need passports. But that means they are truly away from home, broadening their horizons and meeting kids from many countries and cities who are all bound together by a common heritage and a way of observing this heritage.
This is what I keep reminding myself in the hours my husband and I find ourselves in bumper-to-bumper traffic on our way to visitors day.
The first time I drove up to Muskoka, what surprised me most of all was the traffic. I mean, I can accept traffic in the New York Metro area, but traffic in Canada?
Yes, this is my American arrogance shining right through, because I never imagined such a huge population can exist North of the United States.
In reality, the Toronto-Muskoka corridor is packed. If you want to put it in terms of an SAT verbal analogy question, then Muskoka is to Toronto as the Jersey Shore is to the New York Tri State area.
So, picture yourself on the Garden State Parkway on a Friday or a Saturday and you now completely have an understanding of the traffic scene of “cottage country.”
Except, instead of terms like the GSP, you have roads that start with “the”.
And at last, The 11.
On the 11, suddenly the traffic opens up, and you find yourself on a road that ambles along sparkling lakes and pine forests. A road that’s dotted with honky tonk motels and camper parks, kayak rental places, and fruit stands. And you know you’re almost there.
So, getting back to the “why.” Why do we schlep all the way to Muskoka to send our kids to camp? Why do we send our kids so far away when there are closer camps from which to choose?
For many reasons.
Friendship and Kehilah Kedosha (holy community) It’s the smile on the kids faces that I see on nearly every photo that is posted on the camp website. The photos where nearly 600 children, freshly showered and dressed and arms linked, make their way down to the waterfront for another Shabbat service, that gets me every time. I know that we are doing right by our children for parting with them for a summer of this:
My children are developing deep friendships and in turn, we are also making friendships with the families of these children, all within the framework of an immersive Jewish education program that is nearly impossible to duplicate outside of camp (but I keep trying).
Inclusion: When we arrived at camp for visitor’s day, the very first child my 15-year-old daughter talked about and wanted us to meet was her new friend Julie:
Julie, who has Down’s Syndrome, is participating in Camp Ramah’s Tikvah program. Each day, Jolie meets with Julie to tutor her in Hebrew and through these lessons a friendship has blossomed. I am sure the girls will keep in touch long after camp is over.
Family – In truth, campers, and in turn their families, become one extended family. But I have actually reconnected with extended family members on my grandmother’s side that before our Camp Ramah years, I have not seen in decades. Now, the great-grandchildren of my grandmother and her eldest sister attend the same camp. We stay in touch during the year over Facebook and we’ve got plans to visit them in Pittsburgh at the end of the summer.
New Hobbies: Because of his summers canoeing and kayaking in Skeleton Lake, I got into a canoe with my son with confidence. I sat in the front of the wobbly canoe, knowing he would be the one to give me direction on how to stroke and where to steer the boat:
My daughter also took up a hobby, making her own boat in woodshop:
She also painted the sets for and was one of the angels in “Beauty School Dropout” in the Camp Ramah production of Grease.
And all plays at camp Ramah – the lines and the songs – are performed in Hebrew.
I don’t know how to sing “Beauty School Dropout” in Hebrew just now, but I bet my daughter will teach me when she gets home.
Finally, off camp, there is the town of Huntsville with the world’s most amazing candy store and ice creamery, great restaurants, art galleries inside and out,
and nearby Arrowhead Provincial Park where you can swim in a pristine lake, hike to a waterfall and climb in and see fish swimming around you in the current:
And, at night there is darkness. A rarity in our increasingly lit up world, the skies are dark enough to see THOUSANDS of stars, and even spot a fast-moving satellite:
Really, there are stars in this photo. If you don’t believe me, you’ll just have to go up there for yourself. I’ll even tell you which field to stargaze.
So, we’re back. I try not to think about how far away my kids are, kind of how an extreme rock climber just keeps looking up and doesn’t think how high off the ground they are. But we are happy in our space, and they are happy in theirs.
And the schlep is completely worth it.