Saturday, November 20, 2010

"I Love You Too Much To Argue"

Shabbat #41

Guests: Grant and Chloe.

Menu: Italian Mini Meatloafs, Three Cheese Pasta, Chocolate and Vanilla Meringues

What I Learned:

Ben (with Dad's help) had the honor of drawing up this week's guest list and menu. He chose his partner in crime Grant and his girlfriend Chloe. (Steve chose meatloaf.) Add Sarah to the mix and Steve and I had plenty of opportunity to practice all of our best "Love and Logic"one- liners.

What? Haven't heard of "Love and Logic?" Don't worry, we hadn't either. It's a program that teaches parents to replace anger and lectures with empathy and consequences. How you ask? In part, through some famous (at least now in our house) one-liners delivered with "compassion and understanding." Things like "Bummer. How sad," "I love you too much to argue," and my favorite ... a long pause followed by "hhhhmmmm" and then silence.

Steve and I more or less parent from the hip, but we decided to give the class a try. Mostly because it was from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. and included free child care. Need I say more? After our first L&L class complete with AV and role playing, Steve and I were chomping at the bit to try out our new skills. Of course it didn't take long. As soon as we hit the front door, Ben headed straight for the fridge. "Sorry Bud, kitchen's closed. Upstairs for jammies." (Yes, my children actually think the kitchen closes after dinner ... a helpful one-liner from my Parent's as Teacher Educator to promote mealtime eating.) And then the meltdown began. So I went for it.

Me: "Ben, I love you to much to argue."

Ben stops dead. Turns and looks directly at me with a suspicious eye as his sister's mouth drops open.

Ben: "Did you you just learn that in class tonight?"

Cheese sticks and apples followed.

Fortunately, I didn't have to put any of the one-liners to use on Friday night. The kids were a dream and once again proved my belief that parenting four little people is actually easier than parenting two as long as half of them aren't yours.

But it was not the happy camaraderie that was the highlight of the evening, it was seeing the four of them together at the table. Both Grant and Chloe had been to Shabbat dinner at our house before and even though neither of them are Jewish, they remembered how we roll. Patiently they sat waiting for their candles to be lit (our custom is to give each child their own set), the blessings to be repeated and the bread to be shared. And that made me happy.

I'm proud that Sarah wants to light the candles and that Ben has nearly learned the blessing over the wine. But I'm even more proud that they are excited about sharing our traditions with their friends. But maybe, just maybe this is even a little bigger than our family.

I hope that Grant and Chloe remember their Friday nights at our house years from now. Not just the couch jumping and popsickle eating, but the candle lighting, friendship and gratitude that we shared. And I hope they remember that even though we did not all share the same religion, they were very much a part of our Jewish celebration. But mostly I hope when they think of their nights here, they'll remember this one-liner:

"Differences are good."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Out of Range

Shabbat #40

The Grand Canyon, Bright Angel Campground

Menu: Grilled Garlic Bread, Cheese Tortellini with Red Sauce (cooked on camp stove), Dark Chocolate Covered Caramels, Wine compliments of J.P. and the Phantom Ranch Canteen

What I Learned:

Every year more than five million people visit the Grand Canyon. Only one percent make it to the bottom. Last week Steve and I became members of this elusive club.

The view from the edge of the Grand Canyon is breathtaking. To climb down (and out) on your own two feet is life changing ... or at least a memory for a lifetime. For Steve and me, dressed in our tell-tale brand new REI gear, it was all of the above.

A trip down the South Kaibab trail is measured in milestones, not miles. Drop a few switchbacks off the edge and the brisk rim breeze subsides. A few more and the temperature begins to rise. The 360 view from the famous Kaibab Limestone -- dubbed the bathtub ring of the canyon -- can only be explained as otherworldly. And it nearly is with geologic exposures in the inner gorge nearly two billion years old. Skeleton Point provides the first view of the Colorado River and the utter disbelief that such a humble stream of water could have created such a majestic sight. The Tip Off Point literally tips you into the gorge and towards the Kaibab Suspension Bridge constructed from cables carried down on the backs of men when the mules could not manage. A pitch black tunnel leads to the bridge that is the gateway to the famous Phantom Ranch and our home for 3 days: Bright Angel Campground.

To say that less is more when it comes to camping in the Grand Canyon is an immense understatement. Whatever you carry in, you're carrying out and up 5000 feet. (Thankfully our travel companions from Montreal considered the two bottles of white wine a "necessity.") The best thing about camping at Bright Angel is the camaraderie. An instant connection that everyone has traveled under their own power and for their own very personal reasons into one of the seven natural wonders of the world. It's a place where respecting one's neighbors means not hanging dirty socks in trees to dry or banging the lid to the ammo box that holds your food in the early morning. Dimming one's headlamp on a dark trail is an expected courtesy. Campground "Quiet Hours" are from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. And it's actually quiet but for the sound of the river and the million twinkling stars in the sky.

Regardless of the hour there are noises that you will never hear in the canyon. No cars or sirens. No mindless television. No beeping and blaring video games. And, most notably, no cell phones. Or their companion one-sided cell phone conversations.

You see, there's no cell phone coverage in the canyon. Not because it's impossible. It is. But because some wise person has thankfully preserved a spot where it's still impossible to divide your attention between your phone and life.

And such was life for us ... at least for three days. Undivided attention for Steve. For me. And for the beautiful place we were blessed with the good health to climb down into and, eventually, out of. That alone was worth the miles of hiking and the 5000 vertical feet.

Our guide warned that real life returns quickly once you've hiked to Skeleton Point where spotty coverage resumes. Listen closely and you may even hear the tell tale "You've Got Mail." Steve and I did not succumb to temptation quite so soon. We held off to the top. Seated in the El Tovar Lounge, wine in hand, we hit "Power" and one by one the sea of emails rushed in along with the overwhelming feeling that we'd missed something. A deadline at work. Snack for preschool. The school nurse. A panicked (babysitting) grandparent. We were, after all, integral to the spinning of the world. Right? Well, apparently not. It kept right on spinning. Our colleagues worked on. The kids survived. And the grandparents managed. Perhaps the only thing missed was an extra cheap massage on Groupon ... which I could have used right about then.

So what did I learn? That the world does keeps spinning even if I'm not connected every moment. That if it's okay to sign off for three days in the wilderness, then it is certainly okay to sign off to give all of the things important to me in my life my undivided attention. Like my husband. And my children. And the joke that Ben has to tell me, again, on the way home. All of those precious moments in life that are far more important than whether I've immediately returned a message, mindlessly read Facebook status or otherwise used my phone for some purpose that Alexander Graham Bell surely never intended.

Last year we vowed to slow down on Shabbat. To take it in. And to turn the rest off. We've done a pretty good job in that respect, but there's room for improvement the other six days of the week. I'm ready.

So if you email me and I take a few days to answer, now you know why.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bringing Back The Block Party

Shabbat #39

Guests: The Schoemehls

Menu: Manicotti, Roasted Butternut Squash Salad, Meringues, Chocolate Truffles

What I Learned: