New Years Eve In NYC With A Four Year Old

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New Years Eve In New York With A Four Year Old

“Everyone should have kids. They are the greatest joy in the world. But they are also terrorists. You’ll realize this as soon as they are born and they start using sleep deprivation to break you.-” Ray Romano

 I have always hated New Year’s Eve. Even when I was really young, I hated the exhaustive energy and resources spent on Dec 31. The overwhelming social pressure to go out and have the best night of your life in a skin tight, can’t breathe dress and painful heels in the freezing cold  (yes even in LA) was never my thing. 

Children are the best excuse to stay home on Dec 31. Throughout their childhood, I used my children as human shields to avoid what I considered the worst, most overpriced night of the year to go out. Therefore I jumped at the chance to babysit for my god daughter in NYC on New Years Eve. 

We were staying at the fabulous Nomad Hotel. They had a library room for guests only which served drinks and food. There was a beautiful Christmas tree in the middle. We thought that would be perfect for dinner with a four year old.  It meant getting a bit more dressed up. The four year old  was not as intimidated as I was and said her sweats would be perfect. The hotel definitely felt festive with people decked out in a lot of glitter and glam. 

The evening started in our room with caviar and champagne and a giant lollipop from our recent trip to Dylan’s Candy Store.  Dinner with kids requires a different mindset. They get bored easily and ask a lot of questions. As a god mother and no longer a real parent I downloaded some new kid apps on my Ipad and let her wear sweatpants. Dinner was easy. We shared the famous Nomad fried chicken and had ham and cheese pretzel sandwiches.

We went back to the room and watched Andy and Anderson on CNN who clearly loved the fact that they were famous enough to host the celebration.They threw back way too many shots while we waited for our favorite part – the after show with drunk Don Lemon. He did not disappoint. We love to see this annual classic.

Every year, CNN force-feeds all of their normally serious, news-reporting anchors gallons of alcohol for their live New Year’s broadcast, and Don Lemon never disappoints. This year, we watched his drunken descent into insanity, which included him singing along with a live band and maybe getting a tattoo, and just getting absolutely, undeniably wasted.

 I got her into the bath and then began the long process of getting her out. She negotiates like a polished divorce lawyer. I eventually give in to some of the demands. Her tiny naked body streaks through the hotel room with glee. Wasn’t the bath supposed to calm her down?  

She has seriously good oral hygiene and brushing her teeth can take fifteen minutes.  A  rollaway bed was at the foot of our bed. I crawl into bed with her to tell her some stories. It is one AM. The four year is a child who has always had difficulty falling asleep. I assumed that everyone who has been a parent knows that quiet down time can lead to success.  I answer every random question she can think of to ask.

 The boyfriend climbs into bed with us and starts making us laugh and suddenly he jumps up and says “You know what I like to do before bedtime? I like to twist.” The four year old can not believe her luck. She jumps up and says “You know what I like to do, I like to jump on the bed.”They are twisting and jumping and I am in shock.  His child raising theory is that she will wear herself out and fall asleep. He says that is what happened to his kids. I still don’t know where in the Raising Children Manual it says that. 

Somehow i get her down and we are reading…and reading…and reading. I now hate the Berenstein Bears. It is 2:!5. She says, “I think I need to run around to get rid of some more energy.” I am not falling for that. The BF pops his head up and says ”Go to sleep, This is my mess. I will deal with it.”

He continues with the Berenstein Bears horrified by the meals they are preparing.- with a running commentary on the recipes. Then he changes tactics.

.”The Pilgrims came to America on a big boat. Many of them died on the way.”

 “Is this a bedtime story?”  I ask.

 “The Pilgrims came to America in search of a religious utopia.” 

“ What do the Pilgrim’s look like?,’ asks the four year old in a sleepy voice. 

Then there is silence. I’m afraid to move but I know that when she is out-she is out. I wait a few minutes. She is fast asleep in our bed with both arms around his neck. I laugh to myself about how naive people are before they have children. It is her first time sleeping out. We did it. Happy New Year.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Things That I Learned From A Four Year Old In NYC

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  Things That I Learned From A Four Year Old in NYC.

“If you are ever in doubt, just remember that unlike adults, children want to be happy.  They still have the ability to take the greatest pleasure in the simplest thing.” Amor Towles

 She is not four. She is four and eight  months. Clarification is always  important.

When your pee is yellow, you are not drinking enough water.

 Slime falling all over your body can be considered a good thing. (Sloomoo Institute)

A newspaper is something Grandpa has.

Bows can be as much fun the presents. Objects like bows and wrapping paper can stimulate your imagination. What can I do with this? How else can I use it? Meaningless items become valuable tools for thought processes. 

Sometimes, it can be dark and interesting and not always dark and scary.

When you feel shy, you just need a friend to come with you and then it is fine.(FAO Schwartz)

A round building is even more fun than what is inside. (Guggenheim Museum)

 If you walk up to a monster who is moving his arms, he might just be saying hello.

Being able to buy all the candy you want in a candy store is more fun than eating it. Retail therapy can be soothing to the soul. (Dylan’s Candy Store)

A square wheel can work on a tricycle if you change the ground it rides on. A new idea can change the way you think. (Museum of Mathematics)

A  lollipop to one person is just as good as caviar to another on New Years Eve. (Nomad Hotel)

Fly safe,

JAZ

How I Learned To Play The Piano #metoo

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“There are about forty cats and dogs on my property.  One cat can open doors. All those animals see us going in and out of doors every day but only one animal learned how to do it. He jumps up on the door handle and it pushes down. The door opens. He walks through.  If I didn’t see one cat open doors, I would never know that a cat could do that.”    Al Wei Wei“

When I was ten years old I was molested by my piano teacher. I did not know how to handle it or how to stop it. I knew that I did not want to talk about it to anyone. In my ten-year old wisdom, I decided that I could handle it for five months until the end of year concert at Carnegie Hall. Everyone knew that I wanted to play there. I would “choose” in the summer to stop taking piano lessons. If I quit before, there would be too many questions. Eighty per cent of childhood sexual abuse happens from family members or someone you know. It is usually not done in a scary way.

I remember this day. After the concert I thought – I did it.  This is finally over and no one knows anything. My mother walked into the bedroom and said, “Everyone was so good at the recital. Next year I will start your brother and sister with piano lessons.” I blurted out, ”But you will go with them. You shouldn’t let them go alone.” My mother thought that was a weird response. I wouldn’t explain and she wouldn’t stop asking. Several hours later, I put my face under the covers and told her.

Everything happened really fast after that. My father went to his house to kill him and my mother took me to the police station. That was so much worse than being molested. I remember lying on a cold metal table having my first physical exam with a lot of people and police in the room. I was staring at the ceiling with the exposed light bulb and ugly green paint, pretending to crawl out of my skin and be anywhere else.

My father had walked into a large family dinner with his accusation and the piano teacher sued us for slander. My parents counter sued. Now the story that I did not want to tell even once, got repeated many, many times to lawyers. This was not going away so quickly.  If you were wondering why women don’t talk, telling was definitely much worse than not telling.

The lawsuit kept getting postponed. The story was repeated and practiced every time we got a new court date. I kept thinking that if I had not told, it would have been buried in the dark somewhere and not following me around for years. A kid can only carry so much before it starts to unravel. I was lucky in the way that my family stood behind me and never doubted me for a second  – even though the neighborhood turned against me for a while.  He was the best piano teacher the area. I wasn’t the only one it happened to. I could see it in the eyes of kids who had heard the story. I have found that victims can recognize each other. But no one else was talking-especially after they saw the reactions. Predators pick their victims carefully. I had taken piano lessons for two and a half years before it happened. They know who lacks confidence and who won’t tell. The people who it didn’t happen to never understand that.

I was fourteen years old when I finally went to court. He was found guilty and his punishment was that he had to stop giving piano lessons. Sexual abuse was not even a category for children until 1984. He was eighty years old and died a year later.

I was not the same person I was before. I had learned at ten years old that anything can happen when you are in a room alone with a man.The dark side had taught me the signs to watch out for.

Men seem to be much more shocked than women about all these current sexual accusations. It is called living in the world while female. Every woman I know has sexual harassment stories.  I have these stories but I have learned not to be the victim ever again.

As a child, you feel that the best way to survive something is to do nothing. As a woman up until now, it has been the same. Telling your stories, makes you a survivor and not a victim. It makes others feels that they aren’t alone. But the scars never go away.

When I had kids I wanted to be a stay at home mom because I had a working one at a time when mother’s didn’t work. It was also because I knew the world could be unsafe for children and I wanted to protect them. I sat in every private dance lesson with my daughter. I had them take self-defense classes and put them in programs like kid power. I forced myself to give my children piano lessons. i interviewed many teachers.  I rented a piano and stuck it in my open dining room (where it did not fit). I could see it from any angle in the house. Once a week, I relived the story with every wrong note. Luckily they gave it up after ten months.

I never listened to classical music. I never played it for my children. I thought  that I did not like it but I had forgotten until now that he used to listen to it. The music made me feel invisible. Your mind sometimes puts memories that are too hard into your unconscious to protect you.  I listen to it now. Eleven years ago I got a dog who loved classical music. I downloaded music for him to stay alone and realized how beautiful it was. I have recently added some piano concertos. I am ready to let it go. It wasn’t my fault. I was ten years old.

Fly safe,
JAZ

So Jewy

So Jewy

“I am a Jewish mother. My dying words will be, “Put a sweater on” Amanda Craig,

My kids think that I have become so Jewy.  What does Jewy mean anyway? Does it mean too Jewish? Jewish seem to describe birth or upbringing. Jewy sounds like more of a choice.

I wasn’t observant but I did not want to raise my children without religion. It was important to me that they knew where they came from. I wanted them to have an understanding of the beliefs and identity of their great grandparents who escaped pogroms to come here and of all the Jews who died in the concentration camps. I believe in traditions and rituals—whether it was lighting the Hanukkah candles, going to temple on the High Holy days, the rite of passage of asking the four questions at a Seder, enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, birthday parties, the Tooth Fairy or sleeping in Mom and Dad’s bed after a nightmare. These things make up much of the fabric of our childhood memories and sense of family.

I did not go to Temple every week or celebrate the Sabbath.  Secretly I wish we had done that now, more for the family to get together than real Jewish study. I learned when my children were studying for their Bar Mitzvahs that our tradition comes with all sorts of advice about how best to behave in the world. What is a person’s obligation in this chaotic world? I could have used these life lessons.

And then there is the God thing. The Ten Commandments sound pretty easy yet it seems very hard for human beings to follow them. If you do not want to follow them, then it is easier not to believe in them. Are you a person of reason or a person of faith seems to be the dialogue. Why can’t you be both?

I thought that I had done everything right in terms of creating a religious background. But one of the most cherished myths of parenting is that parents create the child. There is no guarantee that your children will absorb everything you think they will. I believe that children are born more hard-wired than one would think. The nature/nurture debate goes on.

My job is done. I did my best to raise them that a little faith is important. It is understandable that young adults feel that celebrating the Jewish holidays is hypocritical (and boring) because it no longer goes along with their beliefs. Going along with family occasions as a respect to your parents without feeling defensive is a sign of maturity. A reality of modern life is that people get to decide for themselves what to believe, and emerging adults today feel they have not just a right but an obligation to make that decision on their own.

This year the events in Charlottesville make me feel the need to be more Jewy. My obligation in this chaotic world is to increase my good deeds, study,  go to temple on the Jewish Holidays and pray for a world that has gone insane.

Fly Safe,

JAZ

Sometimes A Kid Is Just A Kid

Sometimes A Kid Is Just A Kid

“By endurance we conquer.” Edward Shackleton

In life you will meet a lot of people and most of them you will end up forgetting. I will never forget an eight year old boy who rolled into the first day of 826LA summer writing program  where I volunteer.

It wasn’t just a wheel chair. He was strapped in with a plastic plate across his chest and a large clear plastic tube attached to a hole in his throat. I have lung problems and hate to see breathing tubes.  Since I was a child, I have always had a strange fear of deformities and people who look sick. The pediatrician told my mother that it was because I had watched my grandmother who lived with us, shrivel away and die when I was three years old.  I don’t know if that is true.

“Please don’t sit at my table” I thought when he entered. I’ve often heard that when you phrase something negatively and put it out into the universe, the universe doesn’t hear the negative word.  It hears “Please sit at my table” and that is what happened. I won’t be able to help him. But I smiled and introduced myself. After all, I am grown up now. He says his name is Tony.  His eyes lit up and gave me the most beautiful smile. He participated shyly as all the kids did on the first day. I wasn’t sitting next to him and he couldn’t reach a paper in his binder. I froze for a second because I did not know if I was supposed to get up and help him or let him struggle and do it himself. Alejandra, the girl sitting next him quietly gets it for him. Neither of them say a word to each other. He is sitting next to a boy named Omar and he says that there is someone in his class named Omar. Omar smiles in delight at him and says ‘You know someone with my name?” It will be all right at this table.

I am late the next day and a volunteer is already sitting there when I arrive. The program leader tells me that  the kids at my table  were asking for me. I seem to be doing ok. Do we talk about the wheel chair and all the stuff he has with it? No one that I have asked seems to know. I watch nine-year old Alejandra who is sitting next to him this week. She does not interact much with any of the kids at the table – only adults. She is on it. If Tony can’t reach something or drops something, she gets it and hands it to him in total silence. I learn from her that helping someone is just something you do. You don’t need a big discussion about it.

At the end of the week, we do a group project and everyone has added something important to save the sea turtles. We have become a team.. Tony tells me that he hates doctors but likes the dentist. I have to go to the dentist for a filling and a crown and I tell him that I HATE dentists. He laughs hysterically as if I have just said the funniest thing. He is a warrior and clearly I am not. He looks like he has gone through so much at such a young age. Most of us cannot even imagine doing that but the smile never faded from his face. He told me he didn’t smile a lot when he was in the hospital  but he smiles all the time now.  Sick definitely does not mean weak.

The following week the kids have changed tables.  I arrive early. “Tony is sitting at the second table”, says the program leader.  He is very happy to see me there when he arrives. I am happy to see him as well.

The summer program is ending and I do not know if I will ever see Tony again. I have dealt with worsening health problems that seemed big to me but are small in relationship to his. I learned from him to be grateful  for the health I have and always make the most of my situation. While I was busy wallowing in self-pity, Tony was smiling through adversity and putting a smile on my face as well. But more importantly, he taught me that at any moment, even when you least expect it, someone or something can change your life.

Fly safe,
JAZ

Amelia’s Divorce

Amelia’s  Divorce

“But in the real world, you couldn’t really just split a family down the middle, mom on one side, dad the other, with the child equally divided between. It was like when you ripped a piece of paper into two: no matter how you tried, the seams never fit exactly right again. It was what you couldn’t see, those tiniest of pieces, that were lost in the severing, and their absence kept everything from being complete.”  Sarah Dessen

 I  have noticed that kids around the world are all the same. They might eat different foods or attend a village school in the rainforest but they share universal commonalities. They all need to have their basic needs met and feel safe, secure and loved.

A little girl came over to my dog Banksy  at the hairdresser.  She wanted to pet him. I said that  he was kind of nervous because we had just moved to a new place and dogs don’t understand moving, She asked where we had moved to. I said to Venice/ Marina Del Rey.

“My dad used to live in Marina Del Rey but now he lives in the valley.  My dad doesn’t live with me anymore. I am from a divorce now. I live with my mom near here in a new house,“she replied.

“Since you are in a new house,  maybe you could help Banksy. Do you have any ideas how to make him more comfortable in his new home?“

She asked if Banksy was from a divorce? I said “No, it was just me and Banksy.”

”It is just me and my mom now,”she answered. Amelia told Banksy not to be sad because everyone will still love him the same even if he has a new stepmom who is going to have a baby.  “My new stepmother is Filipino so we don’t know what the baby will look like because my dad is Jewish. But the baby won’t look like  me and no one will know that she is my sister.”

“You will know and she will know and that is all that counts.” I said.

“She isn’t really going to be my sister. She will be my half-sister because we don’t have the same mother.”

”To her, you will be her big sister and a very important person in her life when she gets a bit older.“ I said.

She smiled and said “Yes, but the valley is very far away. Banksy, even though you are scared now, your new home will be great. You won’t have to miss things when it is your weekend with your mom or your weekend with your dad.” Amelia is seven.

Fly safe,

JAZ

What Kids Said When Donald Trump Won

What Kids Said When Donald Trump Won

“Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves, and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

“I don’t think he will make a good president. He doesn’t know how to use his Twitter account and so I presume he will be hopeless at nuclear codes.”

“If Donald Trump deports my mom can I come live with your family?”

“He seems very bossy.”

“This is a hijab. It’s really hot. I don’t sleep in it. If you have questions, ask me. Don’t say terrible, scary things.”

“I don’t think he will be on the list of good presidents in the history of good presidents in the US.”

“If the president says bad things about Mexicans, then other people will too.”

“If he is a bully, how did he get to be president?”

“I woke up to find out that Trump was President and my sister was using my expensive shampoo.”

“I really like it here. I don’t want to leave.”

“Will I have to be a slave?”

“He might be a good president if he controls his anger.”

“Will I have to wear numbers on my shirt?”

“I’m not speaking to white people today. It is their fault,”

“He gets angry and interrupts people. He goes bankrupt a lot. I don’t thing that is good for a President.”’

“Im worried my brother who has leukemia will lose his health care.”

“I am hopeful that Donald Trump will not end the world or the country.”

“He got the most votes. He won fair and square.”

“I hope he is a great president and he doesn’t build a wall and send my friends home. I hope he is the best, kind, amazing president.“

“I’m scared people will hurt me because I am a girl.”

“Im ok with the outcome as long as he makes America better again.”

“Black people don’t vote for white people unless they’re like cool. He said what people wanted to hear, and they voted for him. Also, don’t tell anybody this, but I cried in the bathroom this morning when I found out.”

Children are listening, Speak to them. Let your intelligence and not your fear guide your words.  Hear them. Listen to what they have to say. Make them feel safe.  Read to them.  Encourage them to read books by authors and about people who are different then you are. Teach them about the world.

Fly safe.

JAZ