Dear family, friends, and families of our friends,
We hope this winter update finds you happy, healthy, and enjoying a restful and restorative holiday season with loved ones. This year continues to surprise everyone with the ongoing public health situation, so as we share family news we’ll also keep you posted on any late-breaking health and safety developments. We’ll focus on what might be the most imminent threat as you read this, namely the hazards of LED screen radiation. This doesn’t appear to be highly contagious, but we encourage you to follow best practices by maintaining a safe distance from your device and wearing appropriate protective coverings for your eyes or other vulnerable body parts (e.g. glasses, loincloth).
Last spring marked the close of 7 years at Max’s Montessori elementary school. Staying through the 6th grade meant Max got to be the “big kid” and teach lessons to younger kids. Despite COVID, the 6th graders were able to take part in special events such as a trip to Six Flags/Great Adventure. At the end of the year, they had a wonderful graduation ceremony in which each kid gave a speech. Diplomas and refreshments were enjoyed by all.
This fall, Max started middle school as a 7th grader. The middle school is much bigger than Max’s elementary school, so it took some time to adjust to the new building, moving between classrooms, and managing a locker. Max was pleasantly surprised that he recognized more kids than he expected, including several friends from his old school plus kids from our neighborhood, karate, and summer camp. The transition has gone quite smoothly. Max is taking advanced math and English classes and is getting used to a higher volume of homework and more frequent tests in all subjects. Math is Max’s favorite class and he’s considering a career as a math teacher. He’s taken responsibility for staying on top of his schoolwork and is doing very well. In November, the 7th grade teachers voted Max a “student of the month”!
Max experienced a lot of growth this year in height, strength, and maturity. He’s currently preparing for his bar mitzvah ceremony in January, when he’ll turn 13. This will include a half-hour oral presentation of a project based on guided research with his mentor. The topic has not been disclosed publicly, but we can assure you that it will knock the socks off the Jewish secular humanists and other guests in attendance! Aside from schoolwork and secretive presentation preparations, Max enjoys creating games, playing sports (especially basketball, football, and gaga), reading, computer games, and playing just about anything with Zach. Which brings us to…
Before we get to the little guy, here’s an update on how to minimize your chances of incurring harm from LED screen radiation. Though this remains controversial, many experts suggest it can be helpful to stick something in your arm, twice actually, and if possible sit on a booster afterward. And now back to Zach…
Zach will be 10 in April and, like his older brother, he advanced by one grade in school this year. He’s now in 4th grade, which places him in an “upper elementary” classroom (for grades 4, 5, and 6). Zach really likes his teacher and new classmates. He loves learning and continues to study math and reading a grade level ahead.
In addition to working on his brain at school, Zach has other head-parts that have been “a work in progress” this year. First, he got glasses. He’s been very good-natured about this, especially since he was able to get frames in his favorite color (red). Second, he got an orthodontic expander. This took more getting used to, but it helped when Zach named the bottom expander Ed and the top expander Emma. Apparently, once you’ve named something it’s no big deal to awkwardly wedge it into your mouth for hours each day.
Zach is really into creative pursuits. He has weekly guitar lessons and, through much of the year, weekly art lessons. He especially likes drawing. Zach’s favorite things to do are creating stories/slide presentations and playing on the computer. He also enjoys reading, building with Legos and K’nex, doing puzzles, playing games Max has created, watching the Eagles beat your local football team, and caring for his fish with Dad.
Over the summer, we resumed many of our usual activities, including camps, swimming pool, outdoor play dates, and fireworks (4th of July only). The boys each spent a few days visiting John’s parents in their beautiful new home in northeastern Maryland. We met in person, for the first time in a year and a half, with Ayelet’s parents and her brother and his family in the Poconos. It was also wonderful to have Ayelet’s parents join us for Thanksgiving this fall.
The boys are continuing to attend their Jewish secular school each Sunday. Janet remains a mainstay in our lives. Though we continue to feel the effects of that other public health scourge, COVID, fortunately all of our regular activities have been in person and there’s some sense of normalcy. Normal, that is, except for all the mask-wearing and the bus driver shortage that puts John on the road before 8:00 AM each morning to ferry the kids to school. The pandemic has made family outings challenging, so we instituted a weekly “family night,” with each of us taking turns choosing the family activity. This has been a great way to build sportsmanship and enjoy time together.
Please excuse what we hope will be our final public health interruption as we pass along the recommendation that you avoid large gatherings of people in front of your screen. Guidelines issued and periodically revised by your governor will establish the maximum crowd size deemed safe for personal LED screens in your state.
This year brought a return to in-person teaching and data collection at Penn. Things don’t feel exactly normal, but being together with students and colleagues on campus has been wonderful! As we head into the spring semester, Ayelet is gearing up to teach an auditorium full of 120 students while wearing a mask, and crossing her fingers that the campus will remain open. Ayelet’s three graduate students all plan to complete and defend their dissertations this year, so in addition to busily reading dissertation drafts, she’s reviewing applications with the hope of accepting a new graduate student.
This year also brought a return to in-person teaching and research at TCNJ. Everything felt entirely normal–as long as you stayed outdoors. Inside, you’d only encounter small numbers of faculty and students enduring the mask-wearing requirements until each class ended and they could flee the building. At home, John upgraded his aquariums this fall and spends plenty of time with his guitars. Near home, he completed a marathon on his 50th birthday and is within a week of having done his exercise-walking every single day for 10 full years. We hope that someday he finds what he’s looking for out there.
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Before we say goodbye for this year, we’d like to thank you for your patience as we’ve monitored and updated you on the latest LED screen radiation information. We’d like to emphasize at this point that we are not public health authorities, so before following any of the advice on this page you should consult someone who believes they are.
We’d love to hear from you, perhaps even see you, in the coming year! In the meantime…
WONDERFUL HOLIDAY SEASON
HAPPY NEW YEAR!