Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. My shanah maidehlahs (little sweet girls) made Valentine’s for their classmates, their teachers and for me and my Mrs., and Gatsby too! When I came home from work, I was stunned by the artwork left for me to see, the prizes of love. Notes, cards, pictures, 2 boxes of Egyptian Licorice Tea (OMG!!!) and a bag of black licorice. They know me well.
I read Luka’s poem and I couldn’t help but tear up. I cried I bawled Her perspective is so different from my own growing up. My only wish is that Little and Big, my beautiful kinder (children), may we do our very best to do right by you, always and forever.
My poem at 8 years of tender age would be very different:
When I Think of Home
When I think of ‘home’ I think of cleanliness and order
When I think of ‘home’ I am not allowed on my bed until 8pm
When I think of ‘home’ my sister is wisely absent
When I think of ‘home’ I smell the stench of pine-sol
When I think of ‘home’ I think of disappearing
When I think of ‘home,’ I am unhappy
When I think of ‘home’ I think of entering through the garage
When I think of ‘home’ I hear the voices that tried to shatter me
When I think of ‘home’ I think of the dis-ease that was enabled
When I think of ‘home’ I see rooms not to be entered
When I think of ‘home’ I think antiseptic and sterile
When I think of ‘home’ of think no life lives here
When I think of ‘home’ I am dirty and wrong
When I think of ‘home’ I don’t matter as much
As the things we acquired or the rooms we can’t touch
To all the kinder (children) everywhere, live out loud, make a mess, make beautiful and loving memories. That little ones, you so deserve.
You know what? After a good cry, your heart is lighter. (Az mi veint rich ois, vert gringer afn hartz)
Thank you my friends, for letting me share. To dare to be open and vulnerable among you.
One of the posts I have been avoiding writing is the one called ‘We want a dog, dammit!’ The Mrs. and I, along with the kinder (kids), have been trapped in a long stage of grief. I refer to 2014-15 as our Titanic years. Such tsuris, you should never know from (so many bad things happened). And the worst of them all, were the loss of our two boychik (little boy) pugs, Atticus (from To Kill a Mocking Bird) and Elijah (because we were waiting for him).
If you are not dog people, or animal lovers, you may not understand such heartbreak. You may think these feeling absurd. My wish for you is that someday, you experience such great emotion that comes with the unconditional love of a dog. For us humans, who stand erect and have opposable thumbs, we come with countless conditions and circumstances.
Little and Big would talk about the boys, their brothers, constantly. They knew, when Mommy’s heart was better, we would get another dog. They watched as the Mrs. and me shed pools full of tears. They hugged us tightly and said it would get better. In every rainbow, we saw our boys (and I gotta say, we’ve never seen so many rainbows!). And remember, this Yiddisher momma just speaks a lot of this fun, robust language and soaks in the culture – beliefs, that’s another story. Not so much.
They say, di tsayt iz der bester dokter (time is the best doctor). Maybe. Sometimes when you go slowly, you get there faster.
This past Sunday, we rescued this little guy. His dog-mom was a Pekinese-Pug mix, and his dog-dad a miniature Dachshund. I guess that makes him a mutt with some pugger in him. We named him Gatsby (as in the Great Gatsby). He is sweet and handsome and every bit a dawg! Now our family has grown, and this boychik (little boy) has two shvesters (sisters) and two moms. Lucky dog! Lucky us.
On Sunday night, when we got home from our long drive, puppy in tow, Big walked over to me and whispered in my ear, “Mommy, is your heart feeling better?” Such wisdom! Priceless.
Now, our family has such naches (joy, pride and gratitude) from Gatsby. For me, I know my heart has two holes that won’t mend, but it also just grew a few sizes bigger.
Also known as Botulism toxin or BTX. And for this Botox we are not talking about leveling out the creases, crinkles and wrinkles that now beautify my pain strained face. Nope. This Botox will be injected into the back of my neck and all over my scalp to plainly paralyze the pain. In return, I will also sport the back head and cranium of an 18 year-old. The goal of injecting botulism is to aid and abet my bionics in controlling the incredulous chronic discomfort caused by occipital neuralgia, cervical dystonia, bruxism and the other dreck (crap) that can basically be defined as a PAIN IN MY NECK.
Bionicsbegins with B
Bionics as in the little machine installed just above my right tuchas (butt) cheek. Its wires wend their way up to the occipital borough of my neck where the magical leads are proficiently positioned. Bionics, from Boston Scientific, alters my brain waves to say, “Hey, that doesn’t hurt so much, ya know?” Bionics are a game changer.
Big Pharmabegins with B
Big Pharma is akin to the prescription drug biz that makes medications like Botox. These meds cost big bucks, despite having Blue Cross Blue Shield. What’s an exorbitant bill? When your co-pay is similar to your take home pay.
Boychiks (two young lads) begins with B
Boychiks, as in my two neurological besties, who continue to offer benefits like both Botox and Bionics. These medical miracle makers, yes, they’re doctors, give me hope for better days ahead.
Bubelah’s (the affectionate way of referring to my girls) begins with B
My bubelah’s, der kinder (the kids), my shana madelahs (pretty little girls) and of course, the Mrs., theybring me such joy each day—well, basically each and every day! They are hope and my daily simcha (joyous occasion).
Budsbegin with B
Buds are the hope that comes with spring, and quite frankly things like Botox and Bionics. Buds make me beam and believe in warmer clime and sunnier times.
Blogging begins with B
Blogging makes me happy. Blogging makes me blissful. It gives me a healthy outlet to vent, share and kvell (boast), and allows me entrée to you, my therapists. Blogging is cathartic and liberating. Hopefully, it somehow touches you in a beneficial way, or at least makes you beam or chortle a bissel (little).
A bei gezunt (As long as you are healthy.). Well, it almost begins with B. Nu?
Today, Big, my shana madelah (sweet little girl) turns eight. About ten minutes ago, she was born. I remember the night before when the Mrs. felt a little funny. I said there is no way I’m going to work tomorrow, and she laughed it off. After all, it was a full week early, and anyone who knows my Mrs. knows that she does early (honey I say this lovingly, mwah!), well, not so much.
We went to bed that night and were both restless. By 4 am, contractions were coming. By six am, we were on our way to the hospital. I notified the essential mishpocheh (family), and we were on our way. The city was tranquil. I tried my best to dodge every pothole to make the ride as painless as possible, no easy task in Philly in early March.
We checked in and the Mrs. was checked out. One cm. Hmmm. They called our midwife, who was in no rush to make it in. She had the chutzpah (nerve, more like gall) to think this would be normal, like other births. Feh! Our nurse came in and helped us through a major contraction. I held the hand of my love, and wished I could make her pain go away. My kishkas (intestines) were in knots. I could only imagine what she felt. The nurse and I watched what looked like a seismograph for earth quakes—we waited for the line to max out, and then come back down. When it didn’t, the nurse looked at me and mouthed, “WTF?” I mouthed, “WTF” right back, and said, “do something!” We were definitely not in birthing class anymore. This was definitely mishegas (craziness).
We both cried aloud for meds! Bring ‘em on. Epidural! Set me up too! Stat! The anesthesiologist arrived too late to begin. The Mrs. was in full on labor, and they raced us over to delivery. No meds for this ride. Oy vey. To make a long story short, Big came into this world like greased lightning. Less than 3 hours start to finish.
They placed her little perfect body right on top of the Mrs., skin to skin. A more beautiful scene, I have never witnessed. She was wriggling, cooing, almost dancing. They were the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. I witnessed the miracle that is Big, and the Mrs.; she left me awestruck (as she often does).
And today, in just a few hours, she will wake up and be 8. Wow. I am still awestruck by them all, My Mrs.,my Big, and my Little. Der kinder (the children). My family.
Big, she may just have the biggest heart on the planet. She is thoughtful, kind, compassionate, creative, sweet, loving, sensitive, smart, strong and beautiful, both inside and out. She is a gutte nushema, a mensch among mensches (a truly good and kind person). Like a little Mrs., she is.
Today, like a tree she is growing tall, her front tooth is all wiggly, and she dances and glides through the air as she walks.
Cheppy Boyzay (Happy Birthday) Big! Mommy loves you so, my shana madelah.
This Yiddisher Mama is so lucky. Tonight, bobka (cake) for everyone! I’m kvelling (gushing with pride and joy)!
The Mrs. mentioned that our flat here at the Manor has become somewhat of a convalescence home. I added that we don’t seem to be restorative or showing any signs of improvement since last November when the first ‘–itis’ hit our mishpocheh (family). Our little petri dishes, Little and Big, share their cooties a bit too freely.
Keep the tune of a Hard Day’s Night in your head as you read this little ditty…
It’s been a hard long night, and we’ve been feelin’ just like dreck (crap, ca-ca)
Our skin has turned a dulling white we really are a pain in the neck
And when we get out of bed we feel the pain in our heads
Won’t let us see daylight
You know we work every day to eat real healthy and exercise
But no matter what we do or say
The microbes make us just wanna cry
Despite the Lysol clean wipes we can’t unclog our nose pipes
The bugs just won’t go away
When we sneeze, germs discharge all around us
When we cough, its like we were hit by a bus, bus yeah
It’s been a hard long day, how long can we endure this lack of zest
And the feeling of proverbial brech (to vomit) can leave us emotionally so depressed
The tsuris (heartache) is too much to take, what’s the point of awake
When we feel so feh (physically and emotionally disgusted)!
It’s been a long four months hosting germs ‘n feelin’ so unkempt
And it’s worth it just to hear you say
You must be overwhelmed and so farhklempt (emotionally choked-up)
So let’s get out of that bed and get our clothes on instead
It’s gonna be okay
When we sneeze, germs discharge all around us
When we cough, its like we were hit by a bus, bus yeah
May our homes soon be rid of these invisible nogudniks (bad guys, in this instance, germs) that lurk in our air. May our kinder (children) really use soap and sing the A,B,C’s twice as they wash their hands. Let the schmutz (dirt and grime, in this case, mucus) stop dripping from our many orifices. Gutinue (at last, with exasperation), enough already!
Growing up, my mother told us (Shvesters) we were gorgeous. It was disingenuous. Even back then, at a very young age, I knew her words were for her. She would often fish for compliments with total strangers, coyly at the grocery store baggers, at restaurants with wait staff. To her credit, she was, and still remains a very nice-looking person. She took great pains to stay attractive, now approaching eighty years of life. Motivation for her was to look good on the arm of my father. Not a whole lot more going on, unfortunately.
My sister—her beauty comes au natural and is throughout. She favors my mom and has maintained a statuesque 3+ inches over her since the early teen years. Both were, and still are, very attractive. My shvester, she is truly beautiful, inside and out.
As a kid, I looked, and still highly resemble my father, who looks like his father did. Funny, resemblance was never a thing I could see until I became a mom. Likeness via DNA is powerful. I can stand at the airport or a movie theatre, a bookstore, and spot the packs of gene-poolers as they pass by. (Let the record show, that as a mom, I can also now detect fever and/or illness with my bare hand, nose picking clear from another room, and I have become completely desensitized to vomit and other bodily secretions that spout from the kinder. Prior to the arrival of Little and Big, none of these things were possible. I thought motherhood would also empower me the knowledge of how to fold a fitted sheet, but epic momma-fail there.)
Back to the premise here: The Mrs., she is a pure beauty. She even looks good with a paper hat atop her head during holiday dinners (just ask her mom! It’s no joke–and sorry, she won’t let me post one for proof). The kinder, my shana madelahs—together, I have three stunners from their inside core to the outer shell that is our body.
Me? No eye candy here. No meeskait; no train wreck, mind you, just normal. Well, less than average height and weight; run-of-the-mill graying of hair. My face is ‘a bit too well lined with character’ for my baby boomer ‘end of an era’ birthday. And, I will not for one moment, lose sleep over any of this. Why? Because I know I am a good person with a good core. Not just the ‘six-pack’ kind.
I do not fuss with my hair or even use a comb or brush. I had a fleeting encounter with makeup in my sophomore year in college (Bernice, remember?). I saw cotton balls in my home for the first time when the Mrs. first moved (in 1998!). I still have no clue what their main purpose holds. I want to thank Nature’s Knowledge for letting me know I can add some apple cider vinegar to a cotton ball and use it as toner for my face. (I do this now!) My outfit of choice is jeans, Dansko’s and several layers of shirts, and a hoody to keep warm (Blizzard of 2016 Jonas or not). Yes, I’m happiest in a hoody and sneaks, just like big-Daddy Zuckerberg himself. I despise dressing up and find shopping to dress up even worse. I come to you purely, sans schmaltz. What you see is what you get, always. And when you know me, you can see me inside and out. That’s the emmes truth.
My kinder are the ‘girliest’ of girls. I have learned to spy, with my little eye, a dress that has good twirl (this matters)…shoes and leggings that will enhance with sparkle, dazzle and élan, and what will ultimately make my daughters smile like Cheshire Cats. The fashionista-gene has been passed, along with the wherewithal to shop. I have made the case for pink chucks to no avail. Recently, Big announced she wanted a pair of pants! To my ears, such music! Kvelling!
So, not too long ago, that nice chap with the white beard and jolly red suit, he brought us tickets to see Beauty and the Beast (Feb.)! After studying the picture Mr. Claus left with the tickets, Little said, “Ema is Beauty, and Mommy is the Beast!” Okay!
Not long after, I was told that the same kinder, spry little fox that she is, was discussing Harry Potter and said, “Mommy can be Dumbledore.”
Thankfully I have thick skin, a good sense of humor, and the joy in knowing that my kids find me worthy of a Disney extravaganza! How can that be bad? I remain unscathed and well hooded. I embrace my inner and or outer beast and welcome another delightful day in momma’s house. After all, how many kids think their momma is Broadway Bound? Out of the mouths of these babes, right? Nu?
Aa is for Alte Kocker: an old fart, old and complaining; kvetching. This is a picture of my Nannala and me–I was a young pisher and she was my favorite Alte Kocker. Oh how I miss her unconditional love and sense of humor. My Little, she gets a lot from this one…
Bb is for Ball: 1. kneidlach; matzoh balls, 2. chutzpah; has a set
Cc is for Coffee: You think without my coffee, I can have such a conversation? I’m verklempt; emotionally overwhelmed…Cc is also for ChemEx, the only way to brew. What, you don’t believe, kish’m tuchas! You suffer.
I have a good mind to trust in the fact that things do not happen for a reason. This, despite everything my father has ever taught me. Good stuff would happen. Bad stuff would happen. His response was always, “Everything happens for a reason.” He literally put the kibosh on my investigative, pre-Google era, inquisitive mind.
I tried to grasp this mantra of his around in my mind as a child often, completely unknowing that this was his, and was pure hooey. This was just another way for the sweeper to keep sweeping. I would watch my mother in astonishment from the corner of my eye as she would methodically turn the electric oven in our kitchen on and off for some 45 minutes to an hour daily, ritualistically. “Warm. Off. Off. Off. Warm. Off. Off. Off.” Was there a purpose here that I was missing? Did other oven users do this? Was this behavior described in the manual for best use? Interrupt the ceremony, and it would begin again. Okay, let’s have turning off the oven; TAKE 2—and, ACTION! “Hey Dad, why does she…”“Let her be, everything happens for a reason.”
The front door lock brought a similar practice for her, following the oven. “Click, opened. Click, locked. Click, opened. Click, locked.” I can vividly hear the clicking noise now if I close my eyes. I can see the blank look on her face as she tested that lock without limit. I couldn’t bear to put a time on this this behavior. It felt endless. One evening, after a few too many clicks, the lock stopped working. The emergency locksmith came out that night to fix the overworked doorknob. Once newly installed, “Click, opened. Click, locked. Click, opened. Click, locked.” So the game began again. “Hey Dad, why does she…” “Let her be, everything happens for a reason.”
Trimming the lawn with scissors, after the landscapers mowed. Raking the carpet after the vacuum left its pattern. Straightening the creases in the sofa pillows after someone sat down. Getting the dust ruffle just right under the bed so that the pleats read evenly. Rearranging the jellybeans in the bowl because someone ate one or three. Hiding the wires from the television behind the leaves of the plants. Straightening our personal desk drawers. Having a trash can in the bathroom that was not to be used for any trash–verboten. These were the things that filled her days. Every day. “Hey Dad, why does she…” “Let her be, everything happens for a reason.”
This response was not saved for just my mother’s mishegas (later known as extreme, undiagnosed OCD). My grandmother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer the exact same week I learned in high school about how cancer begins with improper cell division. “See, everything happens for a reason.” Suddenly, I was terrified to further my learnings about science, health, and biology. Who of my dear relatives would fall next? Was my Nanny victimized to further drive home the point of my father’s absurd refrain? This just could not be so.
The AIDS crisis began in 1981. I had just graduated from high school and this new, terrorizing disease was killing the gay community by the masses. “See, everything happens for a reason.”“But dad, what reason could make this happen? And out came hatred and fear and bigotry. And a greater understanding of the dreck from which he spoke.
I think now on so many things throughout history, life. Slavery. War. The Holocaust. Terrorism. 911. Racism. Mental Illness. Columbine. Sandy Hook. Aurora. San Bernardino. Oregon. Black lives matter. All lives matter. Ebola. AIDS/HIV. Cancer. Heart disease. Stroke. Hypertension. Driving while texting. Drinking and Driving. Addiction. Chronic pain. Malnutrition. Hunger. Homelessness.
What I have learned was Dad was wrong. He still is wrong. Bad stuff happens. Good stuff happens. Someone, somewhere cannot possibly make these horrid things occur with intention. I have reason to believe that we, as people, are better than that. Oh, and my mom could have been helped with tremendously by medication. Yet she continues, “Click, opened. Click, locked. Click, opened. Click, locked.”
Plato said, “You can tell more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” You know what, Plato (sounds a lot like play-doh?), I couldn’t agree more. One of the greatest things now going on in our apartment is P-L-A-Y! I know this is in part due to the amazing progressive school the girls attend, The Miquon School, where I often long to restart my education from the beginning, in nursery school, or even kindergarten. My kinder have it so very good at this magical place where childhood is literally hands-on fun. The kids enjoy learning by doing, exploring, experiencing and well, playing. Independence is vital; curiosity is encouraged; respect for all is absolute. This isn’t just a community; it’s a diverse shtetl for greater childhood development and collaboration!
So, I digress and kvelleda bissel about the magic that takes place daily at our school! Nu! This enchanted, natural, outdoorsy place has an effect that is phenomenal on kids (and their families too). Why? Let me tell you. We live in a crazy, fast paced, over-connected, yet very dis-connected culture. It’s scary how little we really relate to each other now, despite all our techno advances in communications. I remember a time when you met a friend for coffee to ‘tawk,’ or just went to the bathroom in your own home without having to bring your iPhone along. Maybe that ages me more than my now gray-mop of a hairdo. But it’s true. I also remember the delight of receiving a letter by snail mail. No acronyms—all real words, handwritten with intent. How about seeing a photo in print, holding it, watching the colors fade over time. Enough!
About my kinder and play. The things that they are doing together are absolutely thrilling to me. The hottest stuff from our holiday haul: Classic dominoes, an antique porcelain American Indian doll, who of course, we said was Kaya’s kid-sister (yes, American Girl Kaya), a weaving loom, Lego’s, the original Spirograph deluxe set, and Jacob’s Ladder (yes, the one rumored to be in the tomb with King Tut himself!). Color me silly, but this is the stuff I played with a few too many moons ago. No batteries, no noises, no electronics (not that there’s anything wrong with them), no drones, no bones about it!
The giggly-fun that Little and Big have when setting up the dominoes, deciding whose turn it is to tap an end, and starting it all over again. Allo of our right cerebral cortexes are humming the happy dance. Their play is about discovery and the experience. It’s incredible.
Try if you can to get Jacob’s ladder from the Mrs., who has been dominating that little wooden wonder since the first unwrapping. One night, Big got a hold of it, figured out how it works, and went along to teach the Mrs., Little and me how it works. The gears are spinning in these brains. Curiosity isn’t killing any cats around here. It’s contagious.
And Spirograph! How many pens have we been through! The pleasure is all ours! Now, in true Mighty-Girl spirit, we can whip out the snap circuits and Big and Little rush to the floor to get started. Playing with circuitry, light switches, transistors and diffusers, building fans and lights…bring it on and add some more! My little Rosie Revere, Engineers (love that book) can’t get enough. We look around us and easily apply these newly constructed pieces to the ceiling fan, the volume on the radio, the lights. Voila! Questions, inquiry and thoughts are flowing…
Most important to this whole equation, I see my bubelah’s growing up to be innovative and creative, critical thinkers who will always love learning. Doctor. Lawyer. Engineer. Who cares? This Jewish momma will not be kvetchin’ or hockin’. They can become whatever it is they want to become, and they will work hard because they know and feel intrinsically that learning is an ‘F’ word—F-U-N. That is pretty damned amazing!
As play is concerned, it’s a wonderful time to be a kid. As the world is concerned, well that’s another post altogether.
As you go about your business and relate with people, families, groups, please kindly think before you speak. Do I mean to say this so harshly? Maybe. It occurs to me, that as a culture, there has long been some traditional hardwiring when it comes to the rule of family. Husband, wife, and 2.3 kids have long been the accepted norm. Over time, many of you have even acknowledged the single mom who has one or more kids. Single Dad’s exist too, holding custody of children in a post-Kramer vs. Kramer world.
However my fellow creatures of the good ol’ U.S. of A., please be aware of the ‘rainbow-banner year’ 2015 has been for human rights. (Such naches this year has brought.) Yes, did you notice I didn’t say just LGBT rights? Small thinking must stop. The word ‘family’ is now fascinating and complex. Prejudice and discrimination must stop. It’s time to believe that all lives matter. #HumanityMatters.
You’ve recognized different religions marrying. You’ve accepted bi-racial couples. Let love win.
In June of 2015, Edie Windsor and Jim Obergefell braved SCOTUS and won, making same sex marriage a right nationwide, citing the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Talk about a Mensch on a Bench! Our mass shpilkes had ended! In a momentous 5-4 ruling, 5 mensch’s struck down the U.S. ban, stating that this ‘liberty will no longer be denied.’ Surely it is a mitzvah for all humanity when love wins.
Marriage licenses were issued all over the country to same sex fagele’s. Registries and calls to the caterers rang throughout the land. In this same year, more than 450 elected officials served as openly fagele. The transgendered community became visible as Laverne Cox posed nude for photographer, Norman Jean Roy and Vanity Fair magazine led with “Call me Caitlyn.” Kneidlach or not, #HumanityMatters.
With all of this positive change, hear my spiel. Families in your line of vision may appear different from what you are used to — and this difference is good and beautiful and long overdue.
Two dads and their children may eat in a restaurant, shop in a store, walk in a park, play at the playground or catch the new Star Wars flick. Do not have the chutzpah to think (with your outside voice) that one of the adults is the dad and one is the brother, the uncle, the friend, or the grandfather. Don’t assume alte kocker when one parent looks older than the other.
Two moms and their children may eat in a restaurant, shop in a store, walk in a park, play at the playground or catch the new Star Wars flick. Do not have the chutzpah to think (with your outside voice) that one of the adults is the mom and one is the sister, the aunt, the friend or the grandmother. Don’t assume alte kocker when one parent looks older than the other. (Please read this: I am not the Bubbeh, I am Mommy.) Vai is mir.
Because you know what happens when you assume…
And guess what, our families are just like yours. Except maybe, sometimes, we work harder than most to birth our kinder.
So please, I beg of you, open your minds to new things, new ideas, and new families, even a bissel. It’s mashuggeh not to. If you can’t, you can kish’m tuchas. Poo. Poo. Poo.
The holidays are headed our way, no bones about it. While I do not care to keep track of how many shopping days are left until Christmas, I do know all too well, how many days left until payday. And that is just an icky, new feeling that I must get used to. We managed through those eight crazy nights of Hanukkah; I suppose the big red-suited man will let us fly by too.
Please, do not for one moment feel bad about us! We are doing the very best we can right now, and I know we are not alone. Tough times, tough measures surround us all. We are very grateful for what we have, and more importantly, who we have surrounding us with love, joy and support both during the holidays, and year round.
Thankfully, Little and Big don’t really ask for a lot. They never have. We are just in ‘Living Lean’ mode, and with that, will come a special frugality to the season that should not be misconstrued as ‘Grinchism.’ We got through it last year, and I guess that means we should be even better at it by this year? This year, the Mrs. and me have not even argued about a budget. We both know its bubkes.
I love the holidays, as viewed through the eyes of Little and Big. I grew up on latkes and menorahs – a jelly donut was a big deal for my Big and me. Of course, a purple tree, blinking lights, ornaments…it’s a huge WOW!
On Christmas Eve, Toffey will spend the night. We will make egg-free cookies for Santa (sorry big guy, Little is allergic) together – a few for him, a few for us. A ‘nice nosh.’ We will sup together. And we will all wake up early in our jammies, and see the surprises that Santa has left for us after his magnificent voyage across the world.
Here at the Manor, luckily men have been outside working on all the chimneys in our building for the past several weeks. I expounded on all the ‘white lying’ of the season by telling the girls that they are readying them for Santa, his elves and the reindeer. Yes, this haimish’aYid buys in. I hear the bells ringing on the polar express and love the look on their little joyous faces on Christmas morning.
Here is what I don’t so much love:
The lack of sleep – in fact, my sleep bank may very well mirror my…well, you know
We have less charitable giving to offer this year
We cannot yet get the girls, us, an addition to the family in the form of a new pug. We are so very grief-stricken by the tremendous loss of Atticus and Eli.
Here’s what I do love:
My kids get to celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas, so the magic of the white haired man rocks in this house
When I asked them what they got last year from Santa, they had no idea – but they did remember the experiences we made together and the joy of the people we shared them with
Toffey is making a beautiful tradition with us on Christmas Eve, and he swears up and down, and sideways too, that he never, ever sees or hears Santa come in at night with our haul
So, frugal schmugal. We do the very best we can. We make memories, not bills. We enjoy the time-shared.
Wishing all of you, the very best of the holiday season!
Way back in September, when school first started and the chaos of a summer’s day turned just a tad bit more orderly, after school ballet began for Little and Big. What also started was The Nutcracker practice. It seemed crazy to be hearing the ‘Dum da-da-Dum-Dum-Dum-Dum-Dah,’ when just moments before we were splashing in the pool and schvitzing on a walk in the woods. The color of the summer still glowed, like the tans on the wee ones (despite massive amounts of sunscreen applied thick as spackle). And tonight, in the blink of just one eye, is the first performance.
As old Saint Nick is setting his Google maps ready for the minyan of reindeer led by sir Rudolph himself, we prep for several dress rehearsals, a school show, and two ticket-wielding performances.
This is serious stuff for Little and Big; and a gargantuan effort for Ema, who packs snacks, waters, books, crayons, toys and and schleps 4 days a week to pull this off. Despite the mishegas of after school extracurriculars, this show brings the discipline of every Sunday afternoon until now.
See the big deal is, that housed under the roof of the (dance school) Wissahicken Dance Academy, is a non-profit organization called the International Ballet Exchange (IBE). Professional dancers of the Donetsk Ballet of Ukraine come to the US to perform each year, with and beside my Little and Big! I’m kvelling as I type! My wee ones on stage with the big Ukrainianmachers…pinch me!
It’s a meshuggeneh time around here. Two moms and two girls clearly get our panties in a bit of a bunch as show time nears. Hairdryers blow. Curling irons curl. Outfits are laid out, and usually argued about. Friends, family, mishpocheh gather outside the theatre. Butterflies dance in our tummies (it’s just us Moms with the kishkas twirling – the girls know no fear or performance anxiety).
And tonight at 6:30 pm, as the lights dim, the curtains rise and the music begins; you will see the naches on my face as I grin from ear to ear for both acts. While my littles perform, with the littles of others and the bigs of the Ukraine, my world is just about perfect.
The days that follow a ‘do-over’ hold unnecessary stress for all of the family. The pain gonif strikes on its own schedule. Azoy. Time was carved out and stolen. It does not come back easily. We stay cautiously optimistic, not knowing when the thief returns…
“Mommy, are you better?” Four little words. Oh how to answer these sweet little faces. Super Mommy powers to the rescue. Grab your land legs, “Of course sweeties!”
Little, Big, Ema and me need some fun.
A nice day. Crisp, autumn air.
A babbling brook. Discoveries abound.
Crunching leaves underfoot. Running over bridges.
Peeping in windows. Making believe. Making it real.
Bumping into fellow Miquon tots.
Jumping across the creek rocks. Slipping into the cold water.
Oops! Giggling, then freezing. No fear here.
A time like no other.
Beautifully, fantastically brought to you by mother earth.
It’s a day set aside to honor and celebrate recycling of all kinds! It’s utterly fabulous!
Having worked a fair share of years in the recycling business, both curbside and textile, it’s just become a natural way of life for our family. Little and Big are growing up in the know. I used to (unintentionally) make my mishpucha (in-laws) so nervous with each trip to their house for fear that the wrong things would be in the wrong bin. “Nonna, I never meant any harm!”
Today is a great day to ask yourselves and your family to take the America Recycles Day Pledge. Click this linkand voila. Do it individually, one by one in your family. Read the pledge out loud to each other and realize it’s not that difficult to make real change. And this change comes at no cost to you! It’s not like adding solar panels or green rooftops…
I would love to see the top of the pledge next year say that, “the national recycling rate has increased every year for the past thirty years.” The current rate is 60%.” C’mon, join me! It can’t be that hard to do!
If we look at ‘contagion’ as a behavior we share with our fellow beings, I think we can spark a recycling revolution, and fairly swiftly at that.
Let’s look at a few things: Did you know that despite the fact that all vertebrates yawn, humans, chimps and some dogs are the only species that can catch the actual yawn? This act of yawning sends blaring alarms to our early ‘fight or flight’ selves and triggers our primal roots of social bonding and empathy. We literally connect to each other (hard to imagine in this disconnected world) over a yawn! LOL!
How many of you are yawning right now? I am yawning just typing about this marvel. (It’s also a tool I whip out when I cannot get Little or Big to fall asleep at night. Shameless, but it’s true. Try it for those of you who have problem sleepers like we do.)
Laughter is another infectious act. Numerous studies point to the facts that seeing or hearing someone laugh greatly increases the likelihood that you will laugh and/or smile. You don’t even need to know why the laughter occurred. Remember the laugh track? That was there for a reason!
Smiling is another catchy topic worth spreading. Walk down the street and offer a smile to every person you cross eyes with. The grin across your face will more often than not, cross barriers to a total stranger, and may even brighten their day! You will, unknowingly to the stranger, lower their blood pressure, boost their immune system, elevate their self-esteem, and ability to relax. This happens for you too! This is POWERFUL stuff!
Okay, time to loop back to the mission at hand–recycling. What if we simply release all of the positive contagions we know about into the air and continue to connect on this primitive and passionate level with persons that we inhabit the globe with? Our world as we know it, deserves to be happier, more relaxed and overall healthier in so many ways.
Spread the love of the three R’s (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) right in your home. Let that joy permeate the children, who will happily prance off into the schools, neighborhoods, and communities. Heck, smile, yawn and laugh while you take your bin curbside. Whoop it up as you extend the lifecycle of the clothes and shoes your family no longer uses, by dropping them happily at the local thrifts. Split your sides as you stockpile cell phones to send for rehabilitation and reuse. Realize the real possibilities of the recyclable items in every room of your home. They are there.
So be a mentsh (honorable, good person)! Smile, yawn, and laugh as you reduce, reuse and recycle. Send out positive contagions for beneficial results. Our children deserve such a world.
So, in my last posting, I let out a whole lot of tsuris about a whole lot of what’s been going on. For those of you who don’t know from tsuris, it’s a Yiddish word that describes troubles or woes. Somehow, the Yiddish language makes things sound so much better than they really are.
Well anyway, I spoke about the little vermin that walk in the night–mice. It’s amazing to me how one creature, so seemingly cute when read in Country mouse and City mouse, or anthropomorphized into Mickey and Minnie, can terrorize a household. At least this household of 2 moms and two girls, all screaming, well, like girls!
The cartoons are highly accurate. Seeking higher ground must be some innate, archetypal reaction that us ‘double x’ chromosome folk resort to in times of fight or flight. Last Friday evening, my loving, mouse-phobic, partner, spent twenty minutes screaming while standing atop our sofa. When no one responded (we three were all asleep in a heap on the bed), she finally mustered up courage, like a certain lion after a visit to a certain wizard, to ‘run like hell’ into our bedroom and poke at my ribs with the latest news.
The next morning, one was kind enough to greet me for coffee at 4:30 am. Just three minutes later, another, smaller grey monster poked out.
The last spotting, again, by loving, mouse-phobic partner (LMPP), occurred after a lovely bedtime reading ritual with the girls. After completing the Magic Tree House story, where Jack and Annie meet Abraham Lincoln, LMPP got up to turn off the lights. Don’t you know, a little bugger flies underfoot and heads into our bedroom closet? You may have actually heard the screams. I’m certain the neighbors did. LMPP could have taught Janet Leigh a lesson or two for that famous shower scene. (I bet right now you are wondering why none of us heard her while she was atop the sofa? We’ll get into that in another posting.) I was then ‘asked’ by LMPP to perform acts of heroism and bravery. “Go get that mouse in the closet!”
Well, suffice it to say, that did not happen. Loud, piercing cries were abundant. I quietly, but firmly held my ground atop the bed. Our two girls were now shrieking and screeching, tears flowing. They too were becoming mouse-phobic. Truth is, I readily admit to also ‘strongly disliking’ the little grey beasts. I just do it much more softly. In fact, once a sighting occurs, little dancing shadows become hallucinogenic. What was that? Was that? Oh, it a sock…a Lego friend…a Beanie Boo.
The next morning, two things happened. I took to my laptop and wrote a very lovely letter to the building management team, asking if this was what they meant by ‘pet-friendly building?’ To their defense, they came out quite quickly and solved for what was a robust hole behind the oven. Next, armed with the dust-buster, I took a very deep breath and made my way into that dreaded closet. I removed every item that was on the floor. Shook out blankets. Checked inside shoes and boxes. No mouse. No mice. No residue. Was it their day to be in the country?
To stick with my ‘glass half-full’ approach to life, some good does come after finding new friends in one’s home. LMPP cleans and organizes and re-cleans and re-organizes, aerobically cleans. As a person who tends to err on the side of OCD, this works for me. I almost didn’t recognize our home when I came home from work one day after the first spell. Rules tend to get re-enforced for the young-ins too. “Food only at the table. No eating on the sofa. Why are you walking around with that bowl of gluten-free chocolate puffs?”
Which brings to mind the thing that boggles me the most. Of all of the apartments to choose from, why did these little pests choose us? We are vegetarian, gluten-free, egg free, GMO free and organic food consumers. And due to the economics we talked about last week–we eat a lot of rice and beans, quinoa and beans, and variations from there. Our house, while happily messy (because we spend time making memories, not cleaning, like all good Moms do), is not filthy by any measure. There has to be a lot of other apartments where take-out containers, packaged goods, cookies, cakes, and candy that are riddled with artificial colors, flavors and by-products (tested in labs by mice relatives) line the shelves and counter-tops here at the Manor. I smell bacon on the weekends! I mean c’mon…really. Are we your best choice for cuisine? With our food, we don’t even see droppings. That’s right, we constipate mice here in our home.
Knock wood, we haven’t spotted the little monsters for at least four days now. They must have smelled the bacon too, don’t you think?
This has been a tumultuous year (or two) in our family. Loss. Pain. Change. Fear. Panic. Anxiety. Surgery, job loss, death, sweet soul-mate pet losses, friend loss, financial insecurity, personal insecurity, moving out of our home, living week to week, working two jobs, missing my family, start-up sorrows, sleep deprivation…and now, just for fun, lets add mice (of which my partner has the greatest of phobias) in our new humble abode…okay. Bring it on…this is life and we all have our proverbial hand of cards to play.
It’s been messy. It’s been tearful. Well ‘F’ that—we’ve sobbed enough tears this past year; but not enough that they don’t keep flowing. It’s been– the kind of year where you can truly recognize what family means and who your friends are.
Through all of this, there must be some lesson that can help me to redefine what success and failure actually mean. This requires lowering the volume on the often loud, and thunderous narrative that takes place in my head. You know that voice…I am trying with all of my might, wit and Mom-superpowers to fully grasp that feeling like a failure and failing might actually be two different things.
As a family, we’ve had to change a lot about how we live each day and exist in today’s ‘ca-chinging,’ credit card culture. Frugality does not come easy for all. So very hard to do when you have two adorable, loveable and well deserving girls (insert that failure feeling here). So hard to do when it hasn’t always been the way we’ve done our life. When prior salaries have had different places to insert a comma.
Enter the new world of our frugal-foursome, wear we live lean, lean on, and lean in.
Slash the budget and stop the hemorrhage. This requires tremendous discipline in thought and outcome (and the realization that we are still bleeding)
Cut the cord—goodbye Comcast, hello Netflix
Control has to win over convenience, which is really just a luxurious money suck—Eat home, brown bag lunches, snacks and beverages, avoid quaint coffee culture
Sell the house—downsize, move, rent
Kill the guilt that fuels spending and brings on a different kind of guilt—make memories, give experiences, learn to live well with less. Discover the joy, contentment and happiness in ourselves and with each other
Seek ways to continually course correct our new ‘lean awakening’, leaving senseless squabbles behind
Share the burden of stresses that I hold so deep and internal
Recognize that ‘thrift maven’ may come in stages for those of us that are more ‘spendy’ and ergo, less frugal
Control what I can control
Always lead by example
Keep my ‘cup half full attitude,’ even when I question the what exactly is in the cup
Work hard and make the time to play hard—it’s just as important
Set goals together for a purpose, because some may just find the simple act of saving for savings sake boring
Are we better? Are we fixed? No. Are we always on the same page? No. But we are wiser. And with that wisdom, there have been moments, sweet joyous moments of pure bliss.
There’s no going back. Yes, we would like some more financial stability. Yes, we would like less pain, and most certainly (and quickly!) an absence of vermin. But for now, we are where we are and we are constantly becoming who we will be. We are a beautiful work in progress.
We know together that one cannot buy good parenting or good partnering. Frugality and discretion won’t change our love for one another as we walk the path less purchased. We will definitely stop along the way to welcome the happiness in the small moments as they appear.
Do you or don’t you? Do you leave the next person high and dry? Er, well, you know without? Apparently I am the only one to change the darn thing in my home, and just about everywhere I, well, go!
That includes, work, restaurants, other people’s homes, malls, grocery stores, planes, parks and even hotels…the list goes on. Just who raised all of you who are leaving all of us without proper papers? And I’m not talking the over/under debate. Don’t get me started on that (everyone knows that over the top is the proper way-it’s in the original patent).
To my misfortune, I do have to go often. And I’m a mom with two kids who have a bad case of ‘potty envy,’ bringing me face to face with commode conundrum exponentially more than most.
I’ve now reached the point where it’s become the first thing I check when headed to the loo. Could it be that everyone else is so thoroughly thoughtless when it comes to others? Is it too farfetched to fathom that if you needed it since you were old enough to go it alone, that someone else may feel the same way?
Nope. You either do or you don’t, and there is no shade of gray in this area.
If as a human being, living and sharing on the planet, you are looking to grow, simply follow these easy steps.
You will need some basics.
1 new roll of (whatever ply suits your system) toilet paper
A free hand (so put down the smart phone)
Recycling bin (YES! It’s recyclable. It’s cardboard and it should not be sent to the landfill)
Remove empty roll.
Replace with new roll, paper coming over top.
Place empty roll in recycling bin, or use as beautiful junk in a craft project with your kids.
I think Helen Hunt did it best in this genius clip from, Mad about You. Take :25 and let me know if you agree.
I can fold laundry really, really well. If it were an olympic event, I would definitely medal. But the fitted sheet has baffled me since my first encounter. For the entire portion of my adult life, I have solved for this dilemma simply by owning only one fitted sheet at a time. That way, as soon as this one sheet was washed, dried and fluffed, it made it’s way back safely to the bed, still warm.
My perfect scenario quickly became the perfect storm a few months ago when my in-laws purchased a new bed. Suddenly, their luxuriously high cotton count sheets-sets no longer fit on their brand new, high-tech adjustable, sleep number, side-by-side king. Beautiful, nearly new, solid colors of satiny, silky splendor were waiting in the wings to replace our one, sad gray fitted sheet. They did feel so nice.
It was exciting and frightening all at once. I thought maybe, just maybe that I was going to be able to manage the necessary ‘sheet-Origami’ that must take place in order to arrange this giant king size beauty into the small rectangular shape that would fit in a drawer-because now, I’m a mom. I have a 6 ½ year old and a nearly 4-year-old.
I have realized other superhero like talents with this title. Like knowing when my girls have a fever with the touch of my hand on their forehead. I can bring tears and screams to halting silence with the kiss of a boo-boo (and a Barbie band-aid chaser). I can find the missing item in the refrigerator, every time. And yes, I can even change the roll of toilet paper when its empty, while seated on said toilet and on my cell (mute). Surely my mommy-hood brilliance will shine in the sheet department too.
Nope. And the other mommy, my loving partner, can’t do it either. Thanks Martha Stewart from 2011.