Monthly Archives: November 2009

Santa Clause is coming to town… but not my house.

I love this time of year. I love the smell of the pine needles from the tree sellers as we walk down NYC streets. I love when homes in our suburban neighborhood become lit with glistening Christmas trees and twinkling outdoor lights trim the edges of the roofs. Big blow-up snowmen stand in the large front yards and colorful wreaths don the front doors. Holiday music is played round the clock on the radio, in stores and at cocktail gathering at our friends’ homes. Christmas sweaters, red velvet dresses and candy cane socks are pulled from closets and worn to school. Kids talk about letters to Santa they are writing, cookies they are baking to leave beside the fire place where he will fall and stockings they are hanging for him to stuff. It’s exciting. It feels special.

I love this time of year but this is also a difficult time of year for me. It’s the time when Hannah begins her questions surrounding why she’s “different”. Why we don’t have a tree. Why our house is darker than our neighbor’s. Why Santa doesn’t visit us. Why we don’t celebrate Christmas. Of course I’ve explained that we’re Jewish and Jewish people celebrate different holidays. One isn’t better than the other, just different, I’ve told her.
But it brings me back. Back to when I was little and the only other Jewish person I really knew at school was my brother. And I wanted a Christmas tree and lights in each window and a wreath on our door. I wanted a family day where we sat around and pulled out old ornaments and placed them excitedly on the tree. I wanted to join the conversation with my friends about what Santa had left me under the tree. But I couldn’t. Because I WAS different. It was nice that I was invited by all my friends to help decorate THEIR trees (everyone needs a token Jewish person in their life to help with these projects!) but really, I wanted my own. I didn’t want people feeling sorry for me that I didn’t celebrate what they did. My dad had laid down the “law” that we could not have any decorations resembling a Christmas decoration in our house. No candles in the windows, no “Chanukah Bush”, no mistletoe or holly on the door. I didn’t get it. I just wanted our house to look pretty. I wanted to participate in the beauty of this holiday. But he just kept saying, “We are Jewish and all of that, is for Christmas.”
Now it’s MY family. MY house. I can make the rules as I see fit as far as how we participate in the holiday season. And I’m conflicted. Where should I draw the line so that we aren’t the “dark house” on the block but so that we uphold Jewish traditions? What symbols during the Christmas holiday are religious and which are just traditional for the “holidays”? I think I’ve decided that candles in each window are beautiful during the winter season, when there is snow on the ground and a fire in the fireplace, regardless of whether it’s Christmas or not. I enjoy Christmas music and I will play it as we sit in the living room in front of the fire reading and playing family games. Hannah and Luke can have their pictures taken with Santa at the mall because it’s cute and they can believe he “exists” but he won’t come to our house. But, I will not have a tree, a wreath, or mistletoe in our entryway. The kids will not have stockings hung by the fireplace and I will not wish them a Merry Christmas on December 25 because, well, we don’t celebrate it.
I have friends, even relatives, who are Jewish yet celebrate Christmas because it’s the “fun” holiday and they don’t want their kids to feel left out. It’s another excuse for a party. Something for their kids to fall in love with and look forward to each year. Santa comes to their house, they have a Christmas tree and stockings hung on the fireplace. I think all that separates them from their actual Christian friends is attending midnight mass at church on Christmas Eve. I try not to judge them but I feel like it’s a cop out and makes it difficult for the rest of us who try to keep Chanukah sacred and special for our kids. I’m proud of being Jewish, I want my kids to have the same pride and instead of feeling different, I want them to feel special. I work hard at making Chanukah special by lighting the menorah each night, singing the prayers, playing the traditional games and exchanging gifts for 8 nights.
I remember when I was little shopping in stores around Christmas and having EVERYONE wish me a Merry Christmas and saying straight back, “I don’t celebrate Christmas”. Because I didn’t and to me it was like someone wishing me a Happy Birthday when it wasn’t my birthday. I wasn’t being rude or bratty, I was just stating the truth. But it makes people uncomfortable. They feel the need to apologize and back peddle. As an adult, I just say “Thank You” because it’s easier. Simpler. Expected. I remember around last Christmas overhearing Hannah’s gymnastics coach asking everyone what they got from Santa and hearing Hannah pipe up that he doesn’t come to our house because she’s Jewish. The coach went on to say, “Awwww… that’s too bad, I’m sorry.” I wanted to jump through the glass window of the observation room and strangle her. Because it’s nothing to be sorry about. She’s Jewish. She doesn’t just have mean parents who refuse to let her in on the more popular holiday. Or does she? I do think that’s how some people feel. Hannah’s orthopedic surgeon who helped heal her broken leg last year told me, “Don’t worry, you’ll cave” when I told him we don’t celebrate Christmas. I’ll cave? It seems it’s expected to be just another negotiating point. Like when she’ll get her ears pierced or when I’ll buy her a cell phone.
Part of the problem is that the school Hannah is in has few Jewish kids. The elementary school she’ll be entering next year has a much higher ratio which should make things easier for her. And for me. I grew up in a very Catholic town. I grew used to being the minority. But I don’t want that for her. I don’t want her to always feel she needs to “explain”. I want her to feel her home is filled with holiday warmth no matter what decorations can be seen by passers-by on the street. I want all of the smells, sounds and sights that are true for this time of year to trigger a love for Chanukah and all that comes with it.
If any of my readers are Jewish and celebrate Christmas, I’d love to hear your views. I don’t mean to be judgmental, I just am confused by it. I’m also interested in hearing what other Jewish families do as far as decorations in their homes during the holidays.

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What is Happy?

Laughter. Full on, no holds barred, tears streaming down my face type laughter. To me, there’s really nothing better. When this happens to me, not a sound comes out of my mouth. My body shakes, my face turns bright red and it’s very contagious. Hannah loves when I laugh like this. She laughs right along with me but stares at me with probably as much confusion as happiness. I think she’s not exactly sure if I’m laughing or crying. If she should be wiping my tears away or wishing for more. This laughter occurred a few weeks ago when she watched this funny video of our family and again yesterday morning when she started tickling me (at 37 I still laugh like a 4 year old when I’m tickled – as long as you know the right spots).

But then, last night, after a long Thanksgiving meal, we got home in time for her bedtime and Hannah wanted round two of the tickle attack and mommy wasn’t in the mood. And I didn’t laugh. I got annoyed. And she said through her pouty lips, “Mommy, I just wanted you to laugh again. Why can’t you always laugh?”
“Why can’t you always laugh?”
It’s something that rang hard in my head. Through the entire bedtime routine, the words were repeating over and over.
Tim asks me too often, “Are you happy today? Are you going to be happy today?”
Hannah asks, “Why aren’t you happy? I just want you to be happy.”
And all of this, this questioning, this hassling, this PRESSURE of happiness, makes me UNHAPPY.
“Yes, I’m happy, Yes, I will be happy, I’m fine, Nothing is wrong…” are my common answers. If something is actually bothering me, I say it (usually).
But in this house, the pressure to be happy is sometimes too much. I understand that happy=easy. Happy is not complicated. Happy is everyone getting along. But being happy all the time, at least for me is not always easy. The pressures of running this household, making sure everyone ELSE is happy sadly wins out over my own happiness. Somehow I can’t let go of the mess I see around me, the tantrum that was thrown over the toy not bought in the checkout line, the low balance in my checking account, the comment made about how long it’s been since we last, you know.
And my quietness, my seriousness, my sleepiness is so often misinterpreted as unhappiness. Why am I not allowed to just be quiet. My day is filled with “noise”. The noise of my kids, other kids, the TV, the radio… the noise in my head. It’s not all “bad” noise, but it’s noise nonetheless. When I’m quiet, when “it’s” quiet, very often I Am Happy. I find myself forcing smiles. Just to avoid the interrogation of why I’m not smiling. Is it abnormal to not always have a smile on my face? To not want to dance on command? To not want to be picked up and swung around all the time?
I am not a downer. I LOVE to have fun. I’ll be the first to make up a dance to go along with the beep that Luke finds on the phone when he leaves it off the hook for too long. I make up songs to get through long drives, to enjoy baths more, to make everyone ELSE laugh. I can shake my butt during Yo Gabba Gabba like the best of them. But I cannot pretend to always be in the mood for silly fun. And one thing that does make me unhappy, is apologizing for that. And not being “allowed” to be sad, being criticized for a tired mood, being told to “snap out of it”… will also bring an eye roll and a frown.
I have often said that Tim is my perfect complement. He shoves aside the negative to let me see the positive. He sees the sun peaking through when I sometimes see clouds. And I LOVE him for that. But sometimes the clouds bring rain and the sun just isn’t warming me up. I need to feel that I have permission for that. I don’t want to feel like I can only be cranky in the closet but that I’m allowed to have moods in the open.
This is something relatively new to me. I am reminded often that I used to laugh more. I used to be more relaxed. I used to seem happier. Ironically, I’ve never been happier than this time of my life. My family brings me more joy than sleeping until 10, going out 4 nights a week, reading 2 books a month, having a very high checking account balance or wandering aimlessly with no plan every weekend. But somehow, finding my smile to show this happiness has become harder. I’m more tired. I worry more. I’m not just “me” anymore but rather an entity of three that sometimes sucks that smile from my face. But just because the smile isn’t plastered on my face, doesn’t mean it’s not overflowing in my heart.
I’m working through this. I am taking some tips that I’ve recently read to remind myself to take a break from seriousness and responsibility and “let go” and laugh more. But I’m also hoping to express better that the pressure to be happy every moment is not realistic to me. I’m trying to explain better why “quiet” is necessary for me and it does not mean I’m sad.
Happy= laughing so hard until my insides hurt. But happy is also being understood when the laughter is stuck inside.

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A new appreciation for Thanksgiving

Thirteen years ago I spent my favorite holiday of the year at a diner. With a friend who I only superficially knew. Thirteen years ago my parents had the stomach virus and CANCELLED Thanksgiving. They told me and my brother and new wife not to come home. To find other plans. Easy for my brother and new wife since, well, he had a new wife with a family to go to. Not so easy for single me with no where to go. I had JUST met Tim and he wasn’t quite ready to bring his just one date more than a one-night-stand, home to his family.
So I called my one friend who I knew was also homeless for the holiday and asked her if she wanted to find a restaurant to go to. We spent Thanksgiving of 1996 at Sarge’s Diner on the Upper East side of Manhattan. Yup, we went All Out. I ordered the “Turkey Dinner” off the enormous plastic menu with a picture of the Turkey Dinner that I’d be ordering.
Ever since that Thanksgiving, I have appreciated what I adore about Thanksgiving So. Much. More. Yeah, yeah it’s about giving thanks for family, friends, love and good food but until you’ve spent a Thanksgiving at Sarge’s Diner, you have no idea how much more there is to give thanks for.
– The food before the bird. How many of you go to wherever it is you go for Thanksgiving only to be immediately escorted to the table and served the bird? To me, it’s also about the sitting around in comfy chairs, sipping Bellinis (fancy I know) and nibbling on stuffed mushroom caps or at least some cheddar cheese on crackers. Rushed is not how I choose to feel as I eat my meal on Thanksgiving.
– Warmth. The warmth of a familiar hug. The warmth of a crackling fire place. Warm food. I barely knew my dinner companion. There was no fire (except possibly the one set by accident in the kitchen) and my food was at best luke warm. Five Star I tell you.
– Familiarity. I love the traditional foods that I am accustomed to eating on Thanksgiving. I don’t like to look down at my stuffing and wonder what it’s stuffed with. I don’t like seeing the “chef” scoop applesauce from a Mott’s container onto my plate. I recall a side of coleslaw on my plate with the turkey at the diner. Coleslaw + Thanksgiving = wrong. Familiar, smiling faces is also usually a given on Thanksgiving. I was surrounded at Sarges by strange, disappointed, lost faces. People who either didn’t celebrate the holiday and were eating omelets, gyros or lasagna (all wrong) or people who stared empathetically at me, knowing I too, had no where better to go.
– Comfort. No matter where you choose to spend your Thanksgiving holiday there most likely will be an element or two of comfort in your surroundings. Comfortable company, comfortable chairs, comfortable conversation, comfortable numbness from the wine maybe? I was cold from the draft that entered the diner with each new customer. The friend I was with was one of those people who fills awkward silence with rambling nonsense only making it more uncomfortable. I think the only thing numb from the dinner was my butt from the hard wooden chair I was uncomfortably sitting in. And I’m not sure if you’ve ever ordered wine from a diner but it’s not the kind that you would choose to drink an entire glass of, let alone enough to make you feel numb.
So tomorrow, when I am in the company of my husband’s family, I will be thankful. Thankful for this holiday that I don’t have to spend in temple or feel guilty for not going to temple. This holiday that there is no pressure of buying the perfect gifts. This holiday that I don’t have to explain to my kids why we celebrate it and others don’t, or why they do and we don’t. This holiday where we don’t have to fast or eliminate my favorite food group. This holiday where the only symbol is a turkey which I don’t have to be sad my kids will some day realize doesn’t even exist.
I will “be present” in the day. I will connect with family that I don’t see often enough and be disconnected from the eWorld. I will enjoy the laughter, the warmth, the comfort and the familiar (although miss my side of the family around the dinner table). I will give thanks for my immediate little family that I cherish. I will not rush the day like I so often do, but will instead relish each minute. (And now I may spend some time wondering why a word that means ‘chopped up spicy pickles’ and ‘appreciate’ are the same word)
And I will make a toast to Sarge’s Diner for helping me to truly appreciate this day.

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A day well spent

Today I am Wiped. Out. Sunday, after hosting 25 friends and family in our home, I was tired. But today, after what I experienced… I am wiped. Today I became a grandma. Yes, that’s right. Today I spent the afternoon at the American Girl store in Manhattan and became the proud grandmother to Hannah’s new daughter Holly. Mind you, Holly isn’t coming home as an infant. No, she’s a long haired, chicly dressed little girl. (Wouldn’t we all love to skip right over the colic, sleepless nights and feeding around the clock?). But she is Hannah’s new daughter. Most likely, her new obsession.

Let me back up a bit. My sister-in-law had planned a girls’ day out for me, Hannah, herself, her daughter and my mother-in-law. A little girl’s dream day. Tea at the American Girl store. I didn’t think much about it when it was planned. Hannah had NEVER mentioned American Girl. It wasn’t even on her radar. I had only known American Girl as the historical dolls with detailed stories to go along with them (and the catalogs that seem to arrive monthly in my mailbox and are thrown directly in the trash). I was pretty sure I’d be able to attend the tea and skip right over the buying-the $100-doll part. The more I spoke to people, however, the more I realized I was dreaming.
Our adventure started this afternoon as Hannah and I boarded Metronorth. Actually, it started on the train platform where Hannah insisted on telling fellow train-goers that they should step away from the edge of the platform for fear they would get run into by the train. We finally got onto the train and sat in a seat. Me on the seat, her in my lap. And then the commentary began. I never realized how much there is to observe on the train… until I was with my 4 year old. Here are a few out takes:
– “Everyone on this train mommy, must be looking forward to whatever it is they want to do in NYC. Doesn’t everyone look excited?”
– “Look, the cars are driving next to the train! But we’re going faster because we don’t have red lights, or traffic, or bikers, or animals to watch out for”
– “People sleep on the train mommy. Look that lady is asleep. She must still take naps.”
– “The conductor must be so busy since he has to collect all of the tickets AND drive the train.”
– “There aren’t seat belts. We could topple off the seats. Police must not ride the trains because they would want to wear a seat belt.”
She was most excited to hand our ticket to the conductor. Usually I’m hopeful that he’ll skip over me (a free ride!) but today, it was part of the event. And he skipped over us. And she started crying. And instead of putting my hand over her mouth to silence her, I fessed up and paid.
We finally arrived at Grand Central. I did all but staple her hand to mine as we meandered through the crowded station and out onto the even busier streets. And between not stepping on cracks, avoiding focused, fast paced oncoming pedestrian traffic, looking in awe at all of the amazingly tall buildings, and commenting and tsk tsking at each and every smoker she walked passed, we finally made it to our destination.
American. Girl. Place.
We walked through the enormous glass doors and all hope of NOT buying a doll flew right back out those doors. Holy Crap. The place is un-be-lieve-able. Hannah greeted her aunt, cousin and grandma and began her journey through what I’ll just refer to as Little Girl Heaven (later to become Mommy Hell I’m sure). Thank god we don’t live in NYC anymore because I think I’d have to enroll her in AGA (American Girl Anonymous) if we lived any closer than we do now.
After 20 minutes of oogling over the choices, we finally chose the doll that most resembled Hannah (because you know, all children look IDENTICAL to their parents). I wonder if other girls would stare quizzically at another girl with an “unmatched” AG doll the way people look at me when I say Luke is my son with his blonde hair and all. It was actually quite freaky to see all of the girls in the store with their clones in their arms. Same hair style, same skin, same outfit… weird. We then made our way to the clothing section to choose a matching pair of pajamas for Hannah and Holly. I’ve drawn the line at matching pajamas. Never will I allow her to match OUTSIDE the house. I don’t wear matching clothing with Hannah and she will not with the doll. Who says I don’t set limits?
We then headed up to the tea. We were escorted to our table where the American Girl hoop-la continued… dolls were given booster seats of their own, along with their own tea cup and saucer. (And wouldn’t you know, you can actually BUY the booster seats and tea cups!) We were also given “conversation cards” in case we had nothing to say to each other and our dolls at the table. Questions ranged from, “What do you do to keep busy on a rainy day?” to “Have you ever been told you couldn’t do something because you’re female?” (the latter got some blank stares from the 4 year old cousins and their dolls).
To see this large fancy party room filled with dozens of little girls ranging from 4-12ish was a spectacle to say the least. At one point Holly who was sitting quietly in her booster seat toppled over and onto the floor. The 4 (slightly older and apparently more experienced) girls at the next table snapped their heads around to see the new doll on the floor and (I swear they) shook their heads with disapproval at new mommy Hannah as they turned back to wipe the mouths of their dolls by their side. Nothing like judgey moms at 5 years old.
Talk about marketing genius. This place. This three story place with a doll hair salon, doll hospital, doll pet store, doll tea restaurant is what little girls LIVE for. Just as many women are proud and envied as they walk down the streets with a Tiffany blue bag or a Chanel black shopping bag, these girls leave the store toting their new Red American Girl shopping bag and every other girl on the street turns and looks. And tugs on their mom’s sleeve and points with “want”. And when you walk into that store, you are surrounded by “wanting more” and impossible choices. In the span of 3 minutes I heard at least 5 moms say, “choose ONE.” It brought me back to my Cabbage Patch doll days. I always wanted another doll. Another outfit. We brought them everywhere, compared clothes with other Cabbage Patch dolls we saw on the street. My doll brought me acceptance in my (little girl) circles.
Who knows how infatuated Hannah will become with this doll. I do know she just arrived home from a big dinner in the city (that I missed to get home for Luke) and as I carried her up the stairs half asleep in her new pajamas she was able to wake up enough to give me strict instructions to put Holly in her new pajamas and make sure she was tucked into her bed immediately. And as I tugged Holly’s clothes off (underwear and all) and pulled her new pajamas on… I realized I could get into this (at 37). I would have been sucked in (at 4). My mom would have been in trouble. I’m in trouble as a mom (and grandma).
P.S… we had an amazing time. Pure Joy was all I saw on Hannah’s face. And I made sure to live in the moment with her. And to cherish it. So thank you R for setting it up. And B for footing the (large) bill. And Hannah, for being a girl so that I had the excuse to see what all the fuss is about…. and indulging in some damn delicious banana bread. Pictures to come…

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Connected

I’m sitting here on the couch, warm laptop in my lap, fingers on the keys, pondering the topic for the post I’m committed to writing tonight. For the past hour I’ve been reading some of my favorite blogs, commenting on them, answering emails and giggling at some tweets I came across. Then Hannah (who has been sitting next to me watching her pre-bedtime-routine television) turned to me and said, “mommy, why can’t we remove our nose from our face?”. I looked at her with I’m sure an exasperated look and asked her if she was serious. “Yes, mommy.”

“Do you really think it should be possible to remove your nose Hannah?”
“Well, no, but I’m just wondering what makes it so that we can’t?”
I went on to answer her best I could (something about muscles and cartilage and skin connecting the nose to the rest of the face) but I know I had a snappy tone about me.
She looked satisfied with the answer, but not with me.
“What are you doing mommy?” she went on to ask as she crawled halfway on top of me, with her face directly in front of the computer screen.
“Writing my stories sweetie, the ones I write all the time.”
“But who was that girl that was on your computer before?” she asked. She was referring to the latest post from one of my new favorite blogs A Design so Vast which has a picture of her daughter at the start of it. I hadn’t realized Hannah was looking over my shoulder at it.
“Oh, I was reading a story that a friend had written.”
This lead to questions regarding this friend, her daughter, where they live, why she hasn’t met them if they’re my friend, etc. It’s hard enough explaining this “world” to my husband let alone my four year old daughter.
“Can you read it to me?”
“No, I don’t think you’d really enjoy it. It’s a big person story.”
“I like all stories mommy, PLEASE read it to me? Or one of the ones you’ve written? Can you read one of those to me?”
Funny how one of the only people in my real life who WANTS to be a part of this world is too young to understand it.
It made me think about how “connected” I am all the time through my blog, other blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Email, etc. But how disconnected it often makes me from what is right in front of me. I wondered how long Hannah had been looking at my computer, imagining who the people were on the screen, trying to sound out some words to make sense of it all. She didn’t ask me for my attention but I realized, she probably wanted it.
And it’s not just Hannah that this world disconnects me from. It’s Luke when he’s sprinting around in the basement with his cars and balls and every time my iPhone buzzes, I turn to look at it. It’s Tim when he gets home from work and I’m so desperate for some down time where I can turn to this world and get lost for a short time. I see how my parents look at me when I am scrolling and tapping on my phone throughout a visit to their house to see what’s “going on” on Facebook and Twitter. Someone emails me… I respond. I know they wonder what could possibly be so important. It’s not like I “work” or anything and have important business to tend to. It’s just how I feel “connected”.
I haven’t read a magazine in months. I don’t pick up the phone very often to chat with friends (except a key few who I’d be lost without hearing their voices). I don’t watch any TV. I’d rather connect here. So much effort goes into the “reconnection” after not having spoken to a friend in a long time. But here, it’s easy. It’s safe. It’s not confrontational. There’s no BS. There’s no one-upmanship. And if there is, I can skim over it.
I don’t want to become disconnected though. I don’t want the only warmth that Hannah feels as we lay next to each other on the couch, to be the warmth from my laptop. I’ve had the discussion often with friends that the way “kids” communicate these days is scary. There is so little face-to-face social interaction. Everything is through tweets and texts. Kids aren’t learning how to “be” with each other. They have short attention spans. They don’t know how to form complex thoughts because all that is required is 120 character tweets. They are behind closed doors and in front of dimly lit screens. What my friends and I have not discussed however, or maybe we’ve avoided it, is that it’s not just kids. With the ease of connection so many of us have become strangely disconnected. Especially when those closest to us are so removed from this world.
My best friend, my husband, is not my friend on FB (he’s no one’s friend since he doesn’t have an account), he does not follow me on Twitter (again, no account), he only reads my blog if I ask him to (and then only sometimes does he actually read it) and has absolutely no interest in the other blogs I read. It’s a big part of my world that he’s completely disconnected from. He understands it’s my “thing” and doesn’t feel the need to partake in it.
How often do we see parents out and about with their kids but totally not with their kids as they type away on their Blackberries? I watch kids searching for eye contact, attention and enthusiasm from their parents as they explore at the children’s museum near my house only to find their full attention on the PDA in front of them. It’s not what a day with the kids is supposed to be. And at the same time I see families out to dinner with their kids on their Gameboys. Disconnected. Quiet and well behaved, but not “there”. I choose not to bring my kids out to dinner, which one could debate is just as disconnected, or more, but if I’m with them… I hope that they’ll be “with” me. There’s no right or wrong here… and you may find me in the not so distant future sitting at dinner with my two kids both on iTouches. If you do, please don’t judge!
I keep telling myself I’m going to have “black” hours during the day where I do not pick up my iPhone. I do not check in on my computer. Where I’m just me. I need to do that. I need my kids to see that I can be 100% “there”. I hate that I feel the need to always be connected. And I wonder if Hannah only asked me about the removal of noses to get me to pay attention to her and “be” with her. Because really, she couldn’t have been serious about that question, could she?

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Superficial Saturday

It’s here again. Superficial Saturday (well now it’s Sunday but pretend I actually finished this last night). And I’m thrilled because I’m tired and cranky and need to let off a little steam. What better way than to talk about fluffy nonsense? This will be a short one (thank god after yesterday’s overdone, overwritten, run on, rambling post! But hey, I was lost in the moment!).


I don’t need to use many words to get across what would make me (superficially) happy today. I’ll just show you this.



I’m having 25 people over to my house this afternoon. Yes, you read that correctly. Twenty-five. That would be fourteen kids and eleven adults. Where they are all going to go is beyond me. But, you see, that, that house, and that YARD, would help.

And then of course, it brings me back to last week’s request which I’m still waiting anxiously for:

Because if you know me, you know I won’t be cleaning a house that size.


And for the party. I’d like this:


Because I’m not really in the mood to entertain. Because as you recall, I’ve been sick. For 3 weeks. And I’m not quite feeling my normal “entertainer” self.


I might actually go out and try to find a pair of these:


These would help me not hear the chaos that inevitably 13 kids will create in my too small for 13 kids house.

I’m also really hoping none of my guests come wearing one of these:

Christmas sweater. They’ll get a serious eye roll from me if they do. The bow tie is a little over the top too… it’s a barbeque for godsakes… t-shirts will do. And if someone does feel the need to wear a Christmas sweater before Thanksgiving, I really hope it won’t be this tight. Form fitted Christmas sweater with bow tie is a Really. Bad. Look. in my fashion book.


So wish me luck. Think of me this afternoon. And know that I’ll be trying out my list of the best ways to say “Goodbye!” when I’m ready for everyone to leave.

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Picture This

Bedtime routine at our house is not for the weak. Until recently the normal routine consisted of 6 books (and we’re talking substantial Dr. Seuss length books) and 2 stories. When this routine was conceived, the “stories” were the usual suspects: we rotated between Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks and the 3 bears, Hanzel and Gretel, and Little Red Riding Hood. But then, not surprisingly, after at least a year of hearing them repeated nightly, Hannah tired of them.

“Make up a new story, a really new story, from your head.”, she’d request.
It was a challenge. It is a challenge. For a while, Hannah wanted to be a super hero in all of the stories. We named her “Rescue Hannah” and each story was about her rescuing a different person. It held for months. But she remembered THEM ALL and any sort of repetition she blew the whistle on. And then she (and we) got bored of all Rescue Hannah stories. Done. No more. My brain started to hurt. I started DREADING bed time for fear that I wouldn’t think of an entertaining enough story, a long enough story, a new enough story.
We started giving Hannah a choice, books or stories, confident that she’d choose books, the bookworm that she is. Surprisingly, without hesitation, she chose stories. Every night. So books at night have gone by the wayside. And oh my god, the stories will be the death of me.
Last week I told her a story about a pair of sneakers who were sad because they wished they were high heels since it seems high heels get to have all the fun. High heels get to go to fun parties, dance, have clean, buffed feet inside them. Sneakers get stinky feet, get run through mud, get pounded on the cement, get dirty. So they raised riot in the closet until they convinced the high heels to step aside so the sneakers got a chance to go out for a fancy night on the town. But after the sneakers got their day in the spotlight, they realized that they missed the mud. Missed the beautiful days at the park and disliked the other high heel shoes they met at the parties. So, they decided to be happy with the life they had.
Impressed? Feel free to use it in your next story telling with your child. Could you do this EVERY NIGHT? You know you don’t envy me. I’ve also told stories about giraffes befriending worms and having a hard time since they can’t really see each other. Fish who want to see what it’s like on land, tigers who want to explore the beach, and on and on.
This week, I decided enough was enough. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I didn’t want to dread this wonderful, peaceful, special time of day with Hannah each night. So I told her that I’d make up a story 3 nights a week but the other nights, I’d tell her a story about my childhood. Luckily, after a few minutes of pondering the idea, she gave me the green light.
I’ve had three nights now of telling stories about my childhood (finally the point of this post is approaching…) and it’s been special for both of us. I’ve told her about my first swim meet when I was five, and how I loved to swim but I was incredibly slow and not only came in last place but by the time my fingertips touched the wall, everyone else was OUT of the pool and wrapped in a towel. I told her about the time when I was 6 and I was swimming at Sea World with my mom, and how we were talking to the strangely uncomfortable life guard who wouldn’t make eye contact with us and then we realized it was because my mom’s bathing suit was down around her waist and her “boobies” were showing. I told her about my 9 year old birthday party at Rollerland.
Unfortunately, what this new approach to story telling has NOT been is EASY. I am realizing that I sadly can’t remember very many specific stories to tell her, at least of my youngest years. I am realizing that my memories are like snippets of stories, images of my past. And I’m also realizing that many of these snippets and images are only there because I have photographs of these times. And so I’m not even sure if the memories are in my head, or the images from the photographs are making me THINK I remember them. Thankfully, my parents took hundreds of pictures throughout my childhood, so even if I don’t remember the specifics, the pictures bring back parts of the memories. It makes me wonder how much I’d recall without these prompts.
The strongest memories I have from my childhood are the things that happened routinely. Things that became tradition. Today certain smells and sounds evoke very strong emotions as I recall how they were a part of my childhood. When I hear opera, I am brought back to wonderfully relaxing, quiet Sundays in my home where my dad played his favorite operas on the record player while golf was on the TV in the background. I am unable to listen to opera without imagining my dad asleep on the couch, and my mom reading or knitting while I colored on the floor and my brother built a model airplane.
We used to cook Fondu growing up for special occasions. Birthdays, New Years, random Saturdays when I didn’t have a babysitter put me to bed. We’d sit around the table cooking our raw meat and dipping it in the delicious sauces my mom had prepared. My dad would make virgin Pina Colatas. I still think of these nights when I have a (not-virgin) Pina Colada on the beach.
I also have unbelievable crisp memories of our family summer camping trips. A week in Cape Cod, 4 of us in a pop-up camper that we pulled for six hours behind the family Volvo. We’d arrive at our camping site, crank up our “home” for the week, pull out the beds and settle in. We rode our bikes to the bathroom and showers. We cooked over a small grill amongst the pine needles and sap (that smell, I love that smell) most mornings and some nights. We washed the dishes from a small tank of water that we had to savor for fear it would run out and force my dad down to the showers on his bike to fill it up again. We biked to the beach. We played ping pong with other random campers at the “lodge”. We roasted marshmallows. We lay by a dim lantern at night and read until our eyes closed for the night. It was here that I learned to love the hammock. It was where I learned to take an efficient 2 minute shower because my quarter would only give me that much time. It was where I learned to love “roughing it”. We could have afforded more I’m sure, but it was the peacefulness, the quiet, the close (very very close) family time that my parent’s sought. And I remember it all. I don’t have pictures of it all. I just remember it… because it was special. Because it was tradition.
These memories are the ones that are imprinted hard and fast in my brain. And I find myself today, worried. Worried that I have this responsibility on my shoulders to create and cement memories for Hannah and Luke. Am I taking the right pictures of the right occasions so that even if the memory isn’t completely remembered at least the snippet will be there? What traditions do I want to start (should I already have started them?) so that i’ll be sure years from now, after we’ve repeated them year after year, they’ll fondly pull them forward as happy family memories? Should I take a picture of Hannah and Tim outside Dunkin Donuts so that in 20 years we can say, “see, you went there EVERY Saturday morning together!”. Or do I just rely on the fact that the special times, they’ll stick. That the ones that matter, they’ll always be ingrained in their heads.
I just don’t want her lying in her child’s bed, 30 or so years from now, struggling to come up with stories from her childhood that can accurately portray how happy those days were. Or maybe she’ll be lucky enough not to be forced to come up with these stories in the first place.

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