Archive | November 2010

Kiss Me On the Bus: A Second Grader’s Tale

A few posts ago, some readers may have mistakenly thought I was down on myself for not being gainfully employed in my originally intended career path. But, if I had been working full-time the other day, I would not have been home to see my youngest off the bus and would have missed this exchange with him:

Toby bounded off the bus about a week or so before Thanksgiving, a look of shock combined with shades of amusement on his face. His red backpack, nearly as big as he, was quickly thrust into my arms as he stomped into the house.

“Mom! You will not believe this. Sarah — this girl on my bus — said she has a crush on ME!”

“Really,” I responded, as I got out the Ovaltine and milk and searched in the cabinet for some cookies. “Well, Toby, I have to say, she has good taste, whoever this Sarah is.” Of COURSE some little girl would have a crush on my Toby. I mean, what grade school girl, or any woman in the future for that matter, could resist those grey-blue eyes, the lashes, the dimples.  This is the only reason he gets away with half the trouble he gets into at home.

He continued. “Mom, how can she have a crush on me? I mean, there are far better looking boys on my bus.”

Again, I think, who does this boy think he is talking to? I’m his mom!  In my unbiased opinions about my son, could he even think that I could imagine a boy in the second grade cuter than him? On the 10 bus? Or any schoolbus toting small children home that afternoon? Impossible!

He stirs his chocolate milk, still looking confused and pensive. He concludes with, “I just can’t believe she has a crush on me. I mean, she’s only FIVE, and I’m SEVEN. SEVEN! Hello? I’m two whole years older than her! Mom, isn’t that a little — strange?”

To this, I have nothing to say. I sip my afternoon coffee and just take this all in. You just can’t make this up. You just have to be there when that school bus opens its doors at the end of the day to hear what your kids will come up with next.

Over the River and Through the Woods: Tips from Thankful Road Warriors

How do you get from here to there?

Thank goodness for Thanksgiving.  The long weekend affords most of us a breather from modern life’s breakneck pace. We pause to focus on coming together with family and friends, preparing a meal, tossing a football and sleeping late in your own bed.

But,  if you are like my family – transplants – Thanksgiving means hitting the road. Or, heaven forbid, the airports. That is the only way the family-coming-together aspect of the holiday happens for us. 

In our case, traveling is not as idyllic as over the river and through the woods.  It’s more like Down the Thruway and over the Outerbridge Crossing to Staten Island We Go.  Where there are hardly any woods left to go through.

For eleven years now, we have traveled to see our family every Thanksgiving but one. This is another consequence of being Transplantednorth. If you leave the area where one’s family roots are still entrenched, the roads are rarely traversed the other way. It’s just expected. We are the only part of the family “upstate.”  We left. Everyone else still lives Home — the New York Metro Area. Or, in a term I only learned when transplantednorth – “downstate.” 

And on Thanksgiving, just as the larger planet pulls on its smaller orbiting moons,  down the Thruway we go.

One especially hectic year, we stayed in Rochester for Thanksgiving. The weather was beautiful – warm even —  and we spent a relaxing weekend feasting and playing into the evening at the Brighton Town Hall playground. I prepared perhaps the only Thanksgiving feast I will ever make. I made the turkey on the barbecue. I made a chestnut stuffing ala Martha Stewart. Everything tasted delicious. But the lonely looks on my childrens’ faces taught me a lesson: Thanksgiving tables are too empty without grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.

So, after traveling for 11 years with two and then three kids in tow, I have become thankful for a thing or two on what I have learned and would like to share them with you, especially if you are a novice at parenting on the go:

  • I am thankful that cries for Sippy cup refills and diaper changes have been replaced by three contented souls in the back who can pass snacks to each other, operate the remote to the car DVD player, and participate in family sing downs and games of 20 Questions. 
  • I am thankful for every rest stop we have discovered between here and there, especially to kind workers who have supplied us with buckets, hoses and slop sinks for carsickness cleanups.  Really, if you do have a kid that gets sick in the car, find a truck stop like the Flying J Travel Plazas that have showers and washing machines. The folks there are all too kind to help you in your distress.
  • I am thankful that we finally come “home,” we have relatives who bound down steps and out into driveways to greet us, no matter the lateness of the hour.

In our 11 years of travelling down to New York City, here are my family’s dos and don’ts when traveling the Western New York-to-New York City Route:

  • DO strap everything down very carefully. On our first trip back to Rochester, on a windy, windy passage of Route 78 in New Jersey, our Peg Perego Stroller came loose and flew off our roof rack. One minute, there it was, and then it was on the side of the road, thankfully killing or injuring no one in its catapulted flight.
  • If you are traveling with very young children that might become carsick, but may not alert you at the most opportune time that they will become carsick,  DO pack a puke kit. This kit includes a roll of paper towels, a bottle of Lysol all-purpose liquid cleaner, and a change of clothes that is easily accessible.
  • If traveling with those same small children, DO invest in one of those Art Cart on the Go Tables that can be placed over a child’s lap. The Art Cart has legs that double as side pockets that keep paper, crayons and markers handy. Or, in the worst case scenario, those pockets also can come to the aid of the carsick child. I speak from experience.
  • For a meal break, DO stop in Scranton or Dickson City, Pa. It is exit 191 A or B on Route 81.  Home of The Office, it is a great little town to stop for meals. If we hit Scranton for lunch or dinner, we eat at Tonalteca. The place is clean, the decor features hand crafted carved booths from Mexican artisans, and there are plenty of choices for vegetarians. The guacamole is outstanding.  And, for those of you who get stir crazy in the car, they play great salsa music in the bathroom. If they have the security camera going by the sinks in the ladies room, they might have footage of me doing some salsa steps I learned in Zumba for all I know. Anything to work off that guacamole.
  • DON’T stop in the Poconos for any reason. There really is no place to stop. The gas stations for bathrooms have nothing more than outhouses or bathrooms around back that you have to carry in those huge keys for admittance. And, if you see a billboard for The Cheesecake Factory, don’t believe it. No, it isn’t The Cheesecake Factory, the upscale eatery. It’s just – a cheesecake factory. So, unless you want to sit in your car with your family consuming a cheesecake for a meal, ignore the sign and keep driving.
  • DO find the small village of Whitney Point along Route 81 and stop at Aiellos Italian Restaurant for the best pizza you can find in Western NY.  And I am not saying this is good pizza for Western New York. I mean, this is thin-crust Brooklyn Pizza that somehow found its way to Western New York. And, the quaint restaurant in the back will be decked in its Christmas decorations this time of year. You won’t want to miss out on this.

And as for traffic…..

  • DON’T be anywhere near Binghamton or Syracuse on Sunday afternoon if you can at all avoid it: college kids coming back from Thanksgiving break.
  •  DON’T go near the Delaware Water Gap if you don’t want to get stuck in traffic during peak hours
  • DON’T go over the George Washington Bridge or traverse the Cross Bronx Expressway.  Ever.

Safe travels to you and a very happy Thanksgiving.

Feeling out of my League in the Company of Great Jewish Women

I’m going to start by saying this, bluntly:  If I was making money — real money — it would be good for the Jews. 

What I do now – educate the next generation of the Jewish community – is still good for the Jews. But, to be honest, it is still not as appreciated as a donation of the green stuff. I couldn’t help feel it this week when I attended a community fundraiser.

Now, I don’t play the lottery, I don’t gamble and I don’t believe in any get-rich-quick schemes. But, oh, if I were a rich girl, I would be so good at it. I would give a good part of it away.

But I’m not, and I can safely bet that with my liberal arts degree and my inability to get a career in public relations back on track after a decade raising our three children, I never will be. 

I am happily, yet vastly, underemployed. I work three jobs: two in Jewish education, one in my originally intended field of journalism. And, waking up to the news this morning on National Public Radio, that companies are no longer hiring the long-term unemployed or underemployed, it looks like this will be my status for some time to come, if maybe for good. 

I guess that, being a graduate of Rutgers University’s Douglas College, I was supposed to be a liberated, financially independent woman by now. I still feel I must make my own money. 

My dear husband constantly reminds me that what I do – teaching the Aleph Bet and all the holidays and traditions to Jewish children – is an invaluable service to my community. He also reminds me that without me to raise our children full-time, his career could never have ascended to what it is now.

Even so, I can’t help but look at my own net worth. If not for my husband’s income, my three jobs wouldn’t even put me at the poverty line.

This post may seem controversial to some and may get me in a bit of trouble. And I do so appreciate the power of women’s philanthropy and the generosity of the many women in my community who are of means, who are generous and who can wear the pins to show it.

But, I am sure I can speak for my fellow Jewish educators, and especially Jewish early childhood educators, our contributions, if you had to value them in the form of a monetary gift to the Jewish community,  are vastly overlooked.

According to the Jewish Early Childhood Early Education Initiative, today’s Jewish preschools are more than places that care for young children during the day – they are becoming centers to engage and re-engage children and their families in Jewish communal life.  Attracting and retaining educators to the field is critical. But, it is highly unlikely to attract and retain the best and the brightest with the current compensation packages. Early care and education has not been acknowledged as a part of the larger educational system in the United States. As such, early childhood teachers and caregivers are among the lowest-paying of all occupations (Barnett 2003).

But, meanwhile, back at the fundraiser… there I was, in the company of almost 300 women at my community’s major fundraiser for Jewish Women’s Philanthropy.   I have greatly benefitted from being actively involved in my Jewish community.  I have co-chaired committees. learned about event planning and the power of women’s philanthropy. 

In 2006 I received my community’s young leadership award from the Jewish Federation. I have attended the General Assembly of United Jewish Communities, thanks to my federation.  And for my work teaching older children in afternoon religious school, I was sent on a Jewish educator’s trip to Israel thanks to the Jewish Federation. The Jewish community, on a macro level, does its best to make Jewish educators feel valued.

And yet, I felt I could barely keep up in the chit-chat at the table. I had not been to Amalfi Coast, had not sent my kids on a leadership program to Austrailia. I couldn’t seem to make myself say, “wow, that must be expensive,” or “that is out of our budget, I’m afraid.”

Okay, I get it. It was a fundraiser and the point was to raise funds.  But, as I looked around the room, at the diamonds and all the bling-bling, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “What am I doing here?”

Many women attending the event, by way of their husband’s occupation or their own professions, were significant donors. If the message of the evening was being powerful through donating one’s own money or a woman making a gift in their own name, presumably with their own money, the message of the evening left me feeling, well, powerless.

I enjoy going to these events because you get to hear from powerful Jewish women – news commentators, columnists, brilliant comedians, prominent Rebbetzins, (rabbi’s wives.) In past years they taught me how we need to teach Israeli culture to our children to make them feel connected to Israel. That if you shed a tear while you are praying you are doing it the right way. That, although children may show resistance to Hebrew school, parents must stand firm and make sure their child receives a Jewish education.

Each year, I left inspired, given tools to further my Jewish involvement.

And this year? There was no mention of parenting Jewish kids.  Israel — not even the singing of the Hatikva — was hardly mentioned – except a five day trip to the Jewish State this spring at a cost that is most likely out of my league as well.

The take away I got, and which I think other women felt of the speaker’s underlying message – is that if one marries a rich investment banker — you too can give millions away to the causes you care about.

As a Jewish educator who is not married to an investment banker, I’m sorry, ma’am, there was not much I could take away from your lesson. So, I will keep doing what I have been doing, for now, which is to make big gifts through every Hebrew word I teach, and every Jewish song I sing in the classroom.

For whatever it’s worth.

Fall Leaves: Rake Many, Turn a Few into a Turkey

By now, in Western New York, the fall foliage has long reached its peak of yellows and reds.


Now, when I look up at the massive sugar maples in my neighborhood (the ones that are covered with snow in my homepage picture),  sadly the branches are mostly bare. The only color they will be covered with over the next four months or so, is white.

Wherever you are living now, I bet you are thinking: how to get rid of all the leaves? Rake them? Mulch them? Sick the leaf blower on them?

But before you rake, blow, or mow every last leaf away and before the snows fall, admire the carpets of red and yellow that lie at your feet.

Then, save a few of nature’s castoffs for craft supplies that can last the whole winter through. Here’s how:

  • First, find a preschooler to help you with this task. They are low to the ground and can teach you how to appreciate the simple, beautiful perfection that is found in one leaf that is the color of fire.
  • Then, show that preschooler a telephone book. Theirs will probably the last generation that will actually come in contact with one of these volumes of bound, thin yellow paper volumes. None of them I bet ever had a parent use them as a makeshift booster seat or a stepstool. Show them that these yellow or white clunky books were once used by people to look up numbers for plumbers or dog groomers but now come in handy for pressing leaves.
  • Next take a few of your leafy treasures and pat them dry with a paper towel, and place them between the pages of the book.
  • While the leaves are drying and pressing, read to them a wonderful book like Leaf Man, by Lois Ehlert to get inspiration as to what to do with all those pressed leaves. 

Our preschool class used leaves to represent the feathers of turkeys in our thanksgiving cards, like this:

Fall leaves are abundant - and free - and make for great crafts like this turkey

Send me your comments and pictures about what you made with your leaves.

No, I didn’t Finish Reading Harry Potter. Now, I Must Hide in a Cave.

Am I the last on Earth to know the fate of Harry Potter?

As I write this, I realize that with the release of the first film from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows coming out on Nov. 19, I am in danger now of finding out the final fate of Harry Potter.  Until now, I have sheltered the ending from myself, the final fate of Harry and He Who Must Not Be Named.  Even if I had to enter my childen’s bedrooms as they listened to the book of the same title on CD and had  to sing “Lalalalalala” to myself while I put their clean, folded laundry into their drawers.

No, I am in danger still. Because I know this blog post will be read by millions who will be clicking away at their keyboards to comment and tell me the end.

Okay, it might be read by three-dozen people who might bother to read it and then still take more of their precious time to comment and tell me. But really, please don’t. Give a mom a break!

I remember when we first started reading and/or listening to the Harry Potter Series as a family on paper and audio book format.  My patient husband read our daughter Harry Potter and the Sourcerer’s Stone and then Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets , one chapter a night, when she was only in the first  and second grades.  I don’t know how we had all this time, because now I barely have time to read my third child a Dr. Seuss book.

By the time she was eight or nine, she was reading the third and fourth books on her own. She would shlep the hard-covered editions of The Prisoner of Azkaban  to whatever errand we were running. I think the novel weighed more than she did.  At the supermarket, I would shop and she would sit in the bottom of the cart, immersed in reading about Harry’s third year of wizarding school through the produce and cereal aisles.

I did my own reading and listening of the series. But, halfway through the Order of the Phoenix,  and halfway through my third pregnancy, I just stopped. My interest went elsewhere while the rest of my family, excluding the baby of the family, gobbled up the rest of the series like it was a box of Chocolate Frogs and washed it down with Butter Beer.

My kids can’t believe I haven’t finished yet. And I tell them I will finish the series before I leave this earth.

 There are a few things that I can do so I can finish the series and not have Hollywood ruin the ending for me:

  • I can hire a House Elf to prepare the meals, wash the clothes and scrub the bathrooms
  • I can purchase a wand from Olivander’s Wand Shop and wave it over the dinner table instead of shopping, chopping and cooking to get ready for meals.
  • I can quit all three of my jobs that I work at to help pay for their Hogwarts-like overnight summer camp to free up my time.  
  • I can stop reading the other amazing pieces of literature I have tackled in my post, unfinished Harry Potter era. Books that took me to places and times the Hogwarts Express does not reach. Books like The Little Stranger, The Help, The Man in the White Shark Skin Suit, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and other wonderful adult novels I have finished.  Not to mention The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

So Harry, Hermione, the Weasleys, and Headless Nick, I will not cave to popular culture. You’ll just have to wait for me to finish. And when I’m good and ready.

Sorry Yemen, your mail bombs didn’t stop the Global Day of Jewish Learning

Chef Tal Renan cooks up vegetarian food - just like he made for Oprah

The foiled Yemen plot to bomb synagogues in Chicago occurred so closely to two occasions on the Jewish  calendar – one historic and one contemporary –  you have to wonder if the timing was planned or if it was an eerie coincidence. Had some terrorist in Yemen checked a calendar to see if something important was coming up on the calendar within the global Jewish community?What if the terrorists from Yemen did intentionally plan the bombing of Jewish institutions one week before the Global Day of Jewish Learning, which was planned in 350 communities around the world? What if it had succeeded, as  terror plots did against Jewish institutions in MumbaiBuenos Aires, and Casablanca?In the spirit of this learning event that celebrated asking Big Questions, I’ll add mine: If the Yemen bombing had succeeded, would Jewish learning and teaching  on November 7th still had happened?Thankfully, this time, we will never know.  This past weekend,  synagogues and Jewish community centers all over the world were brimming with people listening, speaking, dancing, drumming, and of course eating, in a Jewish way. The Global Day of Jewish learning was held in honor of an esteemed Jerusalem Rabbi, who on this day will finish five decades of work interpreting the Talmud, a sacred book of Jewish commentary, making it accessible and more understandable to today’s Jews.  So no, in honor of this milestone that took a half-century to reach, we weren’t staying home on account of a package. We were ready to learn and tackle questions, in my community and others,  like

  • What is Jewish Mysticism?
  • Why do Jewish holidays happen late or early, but never on time?
  • How can God be both loving and mysterious?

And, in my household….

  • When will the newest version of Shalom Sesame Come out?

In my community, we came out to listen to keynote speaker Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, author many books, including I’m God and You’re Not, wich was released this Fall We learned about Jewish vegetarian cooking from Chef Tal Ronen, who has cooked for Oprah Winfrey and the Dali Lama. Our kids learned Krav Maga, the Israeli martial arts, and explored Psalm 150 through drumming with percussionist Mike Mason.A separate track was offered for area Jewish educators, where we learned to fascinate our students with the art of storytelling, how to weave the narrative of Israel into any lesson, and how to excite and engage Jewish kids who, let’s be honest, may not be thrilled about coming to Hebrew School in the first place.The second occurrence on the Jewish calendar so close to these planned bombs from Yemen will be commemorated tomorrow.  On November 9, 1938, the Nazis unfurled Kristalnacht, their own terror campaign, on the Jews of Germany. On the Night of Broken Glass, 1,350 Jewish synagogues were burnt to the ground or destroyed; over 91 Jews were killed; 30,000 Jews were thrown into concentration camps; 7,000 Jewish businesses were destroyed; and thousands of Jewish homes were ransacked.  It was the beginning of the end of European Jewry in the 20th Century.It may seem like a date that is far in the past, but in light of the foiled attacks from Yemen, it brings it all too close to home.One thing that did keep the 600,000 Jews of Los Angeles away from their day of Jewish Learning was poor planning. Unfortunately, the LA Day of Jewish Learning was cancelled because of low enrollment. Why? A long-held community day of good deeds (mitzvot) was planned for the same day and the community just couldn’t compete with itself.Someone  wasn’t checking their calendars.

I melted my kid’s Halloween Candy

Even when it is melted and refrozen, chocolate still tastes good!

Anyone who thinks that they are up for the Most Evil Mom of the Year Award, they can just go home now.

I melted one of my children’s Halloween candy, the candy they trick-or-treated for in one of the coldest, wettest, and snowiest Halloweens in recent Rochester memory.

Yes, an adjustment one must make when you are Transplantednorth is to allow for the possibility that it may snow for Halloween.

My brave son made not one, not two, but three trick-or-treating runs this Halloween to collect the mother lode of chocolate, lollipops and other chewy, sticky treats. The numb toes and frozen fingers were completely worth it.

And then, I had to go melt it all.

It is partially his fault. If I didn’t hear him sneak candy at 6:15 a.m., if I didn’t hear the thudthud of the cabinets in the kitchen, if he would have had the discipline of self-control and not found every hiding place I ever imagined over the last 10 years of post-Halloween parenting, the candy would have gone unliquified.

And how do I know my kids sneak candy from their Halloween stash early in the morning? The incriminating Kit-Kat wrappers left between the sofa cushions and NOT buried deep in the garbage can give them away every time. If you are going to sneak candy, do it right.

Perhaps it is in my upbringing that I feel compelled to hide the Halloween candy.  After all, I am the daughter of a dental hygeienist. Before the day when all Halloween treats must be pre-wrapped and store-bought, my family made bag after bag of buttered popcorn to give for Halloween, because mom thought this would be a more nutritious, less sugary treat for All Hallow’s Eve.

My brother and I eagerly headed out the door for the real stuff.

And after trick-or-treating, my brother and I, like any kids, dumped all the candy all over the first available indoor floor surface to assess the booty.  After we gleefully eyed our treasure, mom would swoop in, eliminating anything that might stick to our teeth and cause tooth decay.

Sugar Daddies? We could keep a few. Taffy and caramels? Out of the question, they were removed from our collection and immediately discarded.

The rest of the candy was hidden at an undisclosed time after we went to bed. As hard as my brother and I tried to find the stash, my mom devised a hiding place system that was more complex than that of Sadaam Hussein’s during the invasion of Iraq.

At my mom’s office, children visiting the dentist during month of October would be lectured in my mom’s dental chair about the evils of sticky sweets that cause plaque, cavities and tooth decay.

But upstairs, in the staff lounge, far away from the X-ray machines and the drill and the spit sink, it was like Sodom and Gomorrah meets Candyland.  All rules preached downstairs were broken, and there were bowls of candy everywhere!

So, in a desperate attempt to hide the candy and protect my son’s mouth, soon to be fitted with braces, from all that sugar, I found a new hiding place: The warming drawer of my Kenmore oven.

No one knows about the warming drawer. I barely even realize I have a warming drawer until I cook a big holiday meal.

And, as I placed the bag into this hiding place, I told myself “Just PLEASE remember to take out the candy from here before you use the oven!”

I guess should have told myself this after I had my first cup of coffee that morning. Last night, I roasted chicken for dinner, at 400 for one hour.

It’s a good thing chocolate refreezes.

Bye-bye Tar Beach, Hello Green Roof

Growing up in Brooklyn, if you couldn’t make it to the real beach on a hot summer day, all you had to do was go up to Tar Beach. Did you go to Tar Beach?

“It was really hot up there,” my mom told me on a recent visit, as she told me about how she and her friends would spend hours up on the roof using sun-reflectors even to maximize their tans. Ahh, the good old days!

Tar roofs, though hot and contributors to global warming, made great song material, though, you must admit.

The Drifters sang about the sun burning the tar up on the roof in “Under the Boardwalk” and how to forget all your cares “Up on the Roof.” Elton John sat up on his roof and kicked off some moss in “Your Song.”

Perhaps Elton should have cooled his boots for a moment and left the moss alone. Growing plants on roofs — from vegetable gardening to sophisticated sod membranes that soak up urban water runoff and cool the air — are becoming a required building material in cities like Toronto and Chicago. 

I know that tar roofs are not exclusive to Brooklyn, no matter how Brooklyn-centric my point of reference may be. In fact, cities  like Chicago, where new laws are in place requiring new buildings to have green roofing materials, the temperature on a tar roof can be 78 degrees hotter than that on a green roof.

Walk across any asphalt parking lot on a summer day and then walk across a green lawn. You don’t have to be a scientist writing a big fat feasibility study to understand how black top paved surfaces and roofs heat the earth and green areas have the potential to cool it.

In Rochester, NY, The Harley School is employing this technology as one long-term science project and can boast that they are the area’s first school to have a green roof. This sustainable technology will not only act as a natural insulator, keeping the school warmer in winter and cooler in summer, but it will teach its high school students about how buildings affect the environment.

The tar roofs of the past, according to environmentalists, are the bane of city living because they create urban heat islands and contribute vastly to water runoff.  Rather than being just a green trend, cities such as Chicago and Toronto require roofs of new buildings to include cooling, greenhouse-gas absorbing plants.

The Harley School on Oct. 18 installed two 10 x 10 ft. plots of hearty winter grass on the roof of their building on 1981 Clover St. The school spent $2,000 for materials and also received an in-kind installation and materials donation from Zaretsky & Associates landscapers in Western New York.  In order to grow a section of green roofing, school engineers had to assess if the school’s roof could withstand the additional weight of a weatherproof membrane barrier, two inches of topsoil, the weight of the growing plants, and the water they will retain.  The grassy roof serves as a natural insulator and will keep the building cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.  School officials expect to reap the benefits of these initial costs within 3-10 years.  

Peter Hentschke, a science teacher who will be working with Harley’s upper classmen on researching the impact of the green roof, said the project provides students with hands-on learning. The students will develop mathematical methods and equations to determine how much energy their school saves by comparing temperatures of the school’s different roofing materials. They will also calculate how water runoff is affected by the green roof.

 “Rooftop plants catch rainwater and runoff that would have ultimately run into the sewer and overburden water treatment centers. The students are tracking current rainwater runoff with water gauges and will track this throughout the school year,” he said.  

Chris Hartman, Harley’s social and environmental sustainability coordinator said the students are “all fired up” about learning about the green roof because it has real-world implications.  

“The Harley students are really in the driver’s seat of this project. They know that it is cool to have a green roof, but the challenge will be to come up with the methodology to show how green roofs have an impact in the world around them,” said Hartman. He added that students hope to share the data from the green roof with their classmates, and perhaps local colleges such as the University of Rochester and Rochester Institute of Technology.

If we all started growing green things on our roofs, perhaps by the time these kids graduate college, our cities would from above look less like Tar Beach and more like the ancient hanging gardens of Babylonia. I wonder what songs they will inspire by then.

Bats in the Belfry: The educational conclusion

After you are told by the Batman in the middle of the night that you may have a bat colony in your attic, sleep does not come easy. 

In my last blog post, I wrote about the night we were visited by a bat. There was a bat in our house. We saw it one minute and it flitted to an unknown location the next.  

If you live up in the cold North like I do, and have not had the sufficient funds to replace every charming leaky window in your 77-year-old home, then you are familiar with the practice of wrapping your windows in shrink plastic for insulation.  On The Night of the Bat, the wind outside howled, causing the plastic wrap on our bedroom wrinkle and crinkle.   Of course, I mistook every wrinkle and crinkle for the wings of a bat and shot straight up in bed every 10 minutes throughout the night. I’d never wanted morning to come so badly.  

Have you ever had a bat loose in your house in the middle of the night? I later learned that we were not alone in this experience.  Bats seem to be a common occurance in older, charming homes. Bats are the one uncharming feature that the realtor leaves off the charming English Tudor house listing.

We shared this story the next day with many of our friends. One couple we know,  who are avid campers, said when a bat swooshed over their heads in bed one night, they didn’t hesitate to pitch a tent over their bed to get a good night’s sleep.

I’ll have to remember that for the next time.

Morning finally came. I probably slept for two hours at best and my nerves were fried when my husband woke me to tell me about his discovery.

“You have to see this, I found the bat!”

He led me to our living room and I think I hid my head in his shoulder all the way down the stairs. Behind the honeycomb shades, up by the ceiling, there was a small shadow. Suddenly, this terrifying creature of the night seemed harmless. Even vulnerable. I quickly put on my boots and ran outside to get a better look.

Between the living room window and the shade, our winged intruder hung upside down and was fast asleep. I have to admit, swaddled in its pale grey wings, this small bat, the same creature that terrorized me, looked pretty cute.

A few hours later the Batman came for a visit. No, it wasn’t the Dark Knight or Caped Crusader of comic book fame. Just a guy with a five o’clock shadow at 10 a.m. wearing a red and black lumberjack flanel and jeans ripped through the knee.

He asked if our kids were around because they might like to see the bat up close and personal.

My fearless children ran down the stairs in their slippers to watch what became their own private wildlife demonstration. The Batman put on heavy gloves, produced a coffee can with holes cut in its lid, and gently removed the bat from our window shade. It was tiny, it was frightened, and now, in the capable hands of the Batman, it would be released into the wild.

As much as we love nature and wildlife, we resolved to keep these creatures out of our house for good. And no, upon further inpsection, we did not have a colony of bats in our attic.

What we did have was a lot of holes and cracks. Bats have a very flexible skeleton and can slip into a crevice the size of a matchbox. The Batman’s price for bat removal: $50. The Batman’s asking price for bat proofing my home: $1300.

After recovering from the sticker shock, we then called in another local hero: Leroy. Leroy is one of those guys that everyone knows by first name only and his name gets passed around by all the neighbors. For half the Batman’s asking price, he batproofed our home and gave me a full education on how you know if a bat is in your home.

1. Evidence of guano, or bat poop in your attic. Enough said here.

2.  Look at places like attic louvers, where the chimney joins the house, and gable ends of your house structure itself.  To my shock, I could put my eye between chimmney in our attic and the house frame and SEE outside. So this is where the critters were getting in. Leroy then used foam insulation and sealed up the gap like this:

  Keep in mind that sealing the opening must be done while also leaving for a way for bats to exit without re-entering the space. In an ingenious use of pantyhose, Leroy created a contraption that allowed a one-way exit for any bats that may have remained in our attic. If the openings are blocked during the daylight hours, the bats would have been sealed inside with the rest of the family.

I am happy to report that this story happened seven years ago and this house is clean of its bats. All the children are healthy rabies-free and none foam at the mouth. I wish you a bat-free winter and remember — bats really are harmless for the most part and want nothing to do with you, or your hair.

The only thing our society needs to fear – bedbugs!

Good night.

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