This afternoon, while I was preparing dinner, my kids were watching an episode of Sesame Street and Will Arnett was in a long sketch at the beginning … as a magician.
My kids couldn’t understand why I was laughing so hard I was almost crying.
Well played, Sesame Street.
There should be a Tumblr for this. And they should all be reading “Where The Wild Things Are.”
I took my kids to one of those indoor play places last week and they had a blast. My oldest, who is almost four, took off as soon as we got inside; he was climbing and jumping and running all over everything. He immediately made some new friends and they chased one another up ramps and down slides for an hour. My daughter, who’s 18 months old, had a more difficult time with the big-kid equipment but played on some of the smaller stuff with my wife or just generally wandered around the place.
There were also signs posted that said parents were encouraged to play on the equipment with their kids. So, after watching my son play with his new friends and encouraging them to climb higher or run around faster, I helped my daughter climb up onto the big-kid equipment, helped her go down the big slides, and sat with her in a “tree house” at the very top while she waved to my wife down at the bottom.
When my son saw that I could play on the equipment, he wanted me to play with him too. So, my daughter and I chased him across some bridges and up some ramps, and raced him down the various slides. His new friends came along too.
All of this seemed pretty normal to me. I’m usually running around with my kids and a bunch of other people’s kids usually join in because it looks to them like my kids and I are having fun.
But here’s the part that was weird:
After 20 minutes, or however long, I took a break, climbed down, and went to get a drink of water. As I passed the snack area where most of the parents were sitting, many on their cell phones and one on a laptop, a mother said to me, “Thanks for playing with my son too!”
"You’re welcome" or "Of course!" or something like that is what I said to her. But I also wondered why these other people weren’t playing with their kids. There were two or three others jumping and running around up there; it wasn’t just me. But the vast majority were typing, texting, and talking rather than playing.
I can’t figure out why so many people react to their children like they’re some sort of miserable job they’re being forced to do in the hours when they’re stuck with them. I like my kids; I think they’re nice people; and I like playing with them. And, when they’re playing nicely with me and my kids, I like your kids too.
In my last post, I wrote about explaining the laws of kashrut to our nanny and I ended with this paragraph:
Keeping kosher is something we do; it’s part of our tradition and part of who we are. But it’s not the easiest thing to explain. I mean, it’s easy enough to say, “There are a bunch of passages in the Torah that are all about dietary restrictions and Jews have stuck with those for an awfully long time.” But it takes a good deal more than that to explain why those dietary restrictions are ones that we — in this house in this time and place — still find meaningful and worth following, especially since we don’t read the Torah literally and we don’t take to heart all of the rules-and-regulations passages from right alongside the passages about keeping kosher. But it’s a worthwhile endeavor to try to explain oneself to others … despite, or perhaps because of, the difficulty that often attends making sense of one’s beliefs and actions.
And so a number of people wanted to know why I keep kosher.
In the first place, it’s a return for me to the way I did things when I was growing up. My grandparents kept a kosher home and so did my parents; I went to a private Hebrew day school from kindergarten through eighth grade. So keeping kosher was the standard for me until high school. I didn’t keep kosher in high school, college, or graduate school. Returning to it now that I have a family of my own is a sort of homecoming for me.
But it wasn’t necessarily a choice I would have made for myself. It was my wife’s idea and it was important to her; when we drove out to Nebraska from Virginia back in 2008, she suggested it and, over many hours in the car, we debated and decided to give it a try. It was actually pretty difficult to do when we lived in Lincoln; there was no kosher meat available in the city until Trader Joe’s opened shortly before we moved, so we had to drive to Omaha and stock up on frozen meat. Most of the time, we were de facto vegetarians. Despite the challenges, I have to say that it was a great feeling to know that my grandparents could eat anything in our house, using the proper dishes and silverware, when they came to visit. My grandfather never would have said anything, but I’m sure it was a concern when he visited me during my grad school stint in North Carolina.
Having moved to Omaha, it’s much easier. The Jewish community is larger here and there are many more kosher items available in the grocery stores. Buying kosher meat, separating dairy from meat, choosing to have a whole bunch of sets of dishes, or asking questions about ingredients when you’re at a restaurant are all things that could be a hassle but, at this point in my life, they bring a sense of intentionality to a meal. Rather than just choosing anything from the fridge and putting it on a plate, each meal represents an opportunity to pause and consider what’s important to me.
Finally, and very much related to the last point, keeping kosher has become something that’s a part of our identity because we’ve joined a vibrant Jewish community here in Omaha and we’re raising our kids in that community. Keeping kosher is something we do to explain Judaism to our kids; it’s a connection with the history and tradition of the Jewish people. And it’s part of consciously creating a particular identity as Jews in a place where Jews are a very, very small minority. My sense is that this will pay dividends as the kids get older, as their Judaism always will have been a clearly defined part of who they are just as it was for me.
We hired a nanny a little over a month ago, both because we wanted our daughter to have some one-on-one care before she becomes a middle child and because we don’t see a lot of benefit in putting an infant in full-time daycare.
The whole thing is working out really, really well. The woman we hired is fantastic; she takes our daughter to the park or to the library and, when she’s taking care of both kids (our son goes to daycare three mornings a week to hang out with his friends), she takes them to a museum or to the zoo. The kids took to her immediately and all the behavior issues that crop up whenever there’s a big change were quick to dissipate. They’re napping much better at home than they ever did at daycare and, as a result, we get to spend more time (and more quality time) with them after work.
Interestingly, the biggest challenge to having an entirely new person spending a great many hours in our house is trying to explain the notion of keeping kosher. The simplest part is showing her the different sets of dishes and silverware, and explaining which is used for which type of food. Then there’s a basic list of commonly-eaten kosher and non-kosher animals. From there, it gets trickier: “Also, don’t mix milk and meat. And, for some reason, chicken counts as meat but fish does not.” And then, “We have to read all the packaging of everything before we buy it because, for example, a lot of the cheese you might find in a grocery store is made with animal products and is, thus, not kosher.”
But all of that is ultimately just a memorization game. The hard part, as expected, is explaining why. Keeping kosher is something we do; it’s part of our tradition and part of who we are. But it’s not the easiest thing to explain. I mean, it’s easy enough to say, “There are a bunch of passages in the Torah that are all about dietary restrictions and Jews have stuck with those for an awfully long time.” But it takes a good deal more than that to explain why those dietary restrictions are ones that we — in this house in this time and place — still find meaningful and worth following, especially since we don’t read the Torah literally and we don’t take to heart all of the rules-and-regulations passages from right alongside the passages about keeping kosher. But it’s a worthwhile endeavor to try to explain oneself to others … despite, or perhaps because of, the difficulty that often attends making sense of one’s beliefs and actions.
This whole morning has been spent trying to learn about insurance. What kind of insurance do I need to protect people in my home? No one seems entirely sure.
If I accidentally shoot a visitor to my house while I’m cleaning my guns, it’s covered by my homeowner’s insurance (up to $300,000). If my nanny slips on the tile floor, ???
Toward the end of the Kansas loss to Stanford this afternoon, CBS showed a young fan — maybe 10-12 years old — crying in the stands. Then Kansas made a little run and closed the gap with a few seconds to go. CBS showed him again, no longer crying and even hopeful. Then, after Kansas eventually lost the game and the studio show went to commercial, they reran the footage of the young fan crying again.
And then, as if this wasn’t enough, someone working for CBS posted a gif of the crying fan on their “Eye on College Basketball” website [to which I refuse to link]. To accompany the gif, the CBS staff member wrote:
I’m sure this kid wasn’t the only one crying toward the end of Kansas’ Round of 32 loss to Stanford, but he represents Jayhawk fans everywhere.
And he’s going to go viral.
It’s good to see a kid that passionate about a college basketball program, though.
CBS has a long history of showing college athletes weeping as their careers come to an end and it’s never really bothered me a whole lot. Sure, they’re exploiting the emotions of others … but those others are adults (who, truth be told, are being exploited in a far more serious way by the NCAA).
But this exploitation of the sadness of a child is just gross and my sense is that the people at CBS — who apparently couldn’t see the difference — will be hearing about it from a lot of people over the next few hours.
Via the Explore blog:
Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books? – an excellent and important New York Times op-ed by Christopher Myers, in response to a recent study, which found that “of 3,200 children’s books published in 2013, just 93 were about black people.”
This is a really disturbing statistic, not simply because black children would clearly benefit from more books about black children but also because white children would clearly benefit from more books about black children.
We’re very fortunate to own a fair number of children’s books that feature Jewish characters and Jewish stories (thanks in large part to the truly wonderful PJ Library). But we’re also lucky to own books with Native American characters, books in which characters speak Spanish, books with characters and stories from other countries. We’ve sought out these books so our kids will see their own culture represented in the stories we read to them but also so they’ll begin to learn about and appreciate all the different peoples and cultures in the U.S. and around the world.
I talked with an 11 year old about Star Wars for about an hour.
Darth Bane, Darth Plagueis, Knights of the Old Republic, the many flaws of Episodes I-III, the many virtues of the Clone Wars cartoon series, and so on.
Evenings like this signal pretty clearly why I was put on this Earth. In other news, I can’t wait til my son is old enough to watch Star Wars.
I participated in my first Pidyon Ha’Ben ceremony today.
For those who aren’t familiar with the whole concept of Pidyon Ha’Ben, here’s some info straight from Wikipedia:
According to the traditional rabbinic interpretation, in the early part of the Bible, as recorded in the Book of Genesis, the duties of a priest fell upon the eldest son of each family. The first-born was to be dedicated to God in order to perform this task.
Following the Israelite Exodus from Egypt, after the nation had sinned with the Golden Calf, the priesthood was taken away from the first-borns, and given to the tribe of Levites, specifically to the Kohanim, High PriestAaron, his children, and their descendants. At the same time it was instituted that the first born of each family should be redeemed; i.e. they would be ‘bought back’ from the dedication to God that would previously have been required of them.
The ceremony is relatively rare, so I was both honored and very pleased to be asked by good friends of ours here in Omaha who wished to redeem their first-born son by offering me some sheqalim in exchange for him. I was happy to oblige in making the trade and the cantor from our synagogue helped out to make the ceremony a really beautiful one:
The Shulkhan Arukh states that when a Jewish woman gives birth to a firstborn male by natural means, then the child must be “redeemed”. The father of the child must “redeem” the child from a known Kohen representing the original Temple priesthood, for the sum of five silver Shekels, or equivalent in country’s currency (if it has silver currency of the correct weight). The procedure does not apply when the father is a Kohen or Levite, and does not normally apply when the mother is the daughter of one.
As “a known Kohen,” my grandfather participated in these ceremonies with some frequency for many years; I felt a particular connection with him today in taking part in my first.
Every time I read anything about Bitcoin and the collapse of the Mt. Gox exchange, this is what I’m thinking.
Took my son to the gym this morning to
play a little basketball run around for an hour and — let me tell you — my ½ inch vertical has not exactly improved with age.
I don’t know how this could have happened.
But, on the plus side, here are two pictures of my progeny during and after his workout. His assessment of our morning: “My hair got really sweaty.”
Almost 70 years ago, South Carolina electrocuted 14-year-old George Stinney, the youngest person to be executed by an American state since the 1800s. Family members today say he’s innocent, and while they can’t bring him back, they want his name cleared.
A black teen in the Jim Crow South, Stinney was accused of murdering two white girls, ages 7 and 11, as they hunted for wildflowers in Alcolu, about 50 miles southeast of Columbia.
Stinney, according to police, confessed to the crime. No witness or evidence that might vindicate him was presented during a trial that was over in fewer than three hours. An all-white jury convicted him in a flash, 10 minutes, and he was sentenced to “be electrocuted, until your body be dead in accordance with law. And may God have mercy on your soul,” court documents say.
Fewer than three months after the girls’ deaths, Stinney was escorted to an electric chair at a Columbia penitentiary, built for much larger defendants. The chair’s straps were loose on Stinney’s 5-foot-1-inch, 95-pound frame, and books were placed on the seat so he would fit in the chair.
On its website, CNN is asking: “Was execution of boy, 14, justice?”
This seemed to me like such an unbelievably ridiculous question for so many reasons that I was planning to do nothing but lampoon CNN in this blog post …
But then I read the comments.
And — guess what? — plenty of people think that the confession of a 14 year old is all the evidence you need for justice to be done; that the word of a white police officer who says a black boy confessed to killing two white girls is clearly unimpeachable in the Jim Crow South; that due process clearly doesn’t matter all that much when it comes to justice; and that, even if he was guilty, executing a 14 year old somehow equates with justice.