End of Summer, Mad Rush to Get Things Done, Including Four Teeth Cleanings
It’s the end of summer, and there is a mad rush to get every single thing done prior to the first day of school. Go through last year’s school supplies. Replenish school supplies. Schedule as many doctor appointments as possible, insurance approval pending. Haircuts. Purge closets. Start new and unnecessary household projects. Get new shoes that fit. Find pants that aren’t high waters. Update all family calendars. Pay all extracurricular school fees. Arrange carpools. Rearrange family photos. Try to use your pool membership before Labor Day. Create healthy menus. It’s a real shit-show.
Making a Dentist Appointment, for Four Please
Next to quality of healthcare, I am all about scheduling Brody Bunch appointments in one swoop, and most offices frown upon that – they don’t want to give one family four slots at once. I don’t want to take off work multiple times or have the kids miss school because of scheduling. Low and behold, like it was the ACTUAL Tooth Fairy, the dentist’s office called, “Mrs. Brody, if you can come tomorrow, two of the Brody Bunch kids can come in the morning, and we will see one at 5:45PM and then figure out the 4th. … oh, we can see three in the morning and keep everyone on the same schedule, can you come?” My first world problems escalated. I felt like I won the scheduling lottery. So, I called my Dad, known as Bop. The kids call him Bop for BeBop Jazz. He was thrilled to help, and I can’t stand asking for any help. I texted him the dentist’s address. I sent him a Google calendar invitation. I thanked him a gazillion times. I went over the details and we were set…
I Can’t Believe that I Asked for HELP! And, it was a Comedy of (confused) Errors
… we were set until my Dad got the pick up information mixed up. He was supposed to pick up the kids from Mark’s office, which is down the street from the dentist. Though neither Mark nor I could take off work, today. Bop even lives near Mark’s office and the dentist. But, my Dad went out of his way, to my house. Bop called me and noted that our front door was unlocked. He went in and was loudly announcing that he was there to take them to the dentist, but there were no answers. Then Bop said to me, “so your front door was unlocked and your house looked ransacked.” Unsure if to call the police or Mark, my Dad remembered that the pickup location was not at our house. Inconvenienced, but not annoyed, and probably listening to jazz music, Bop finally connected with Mark and the kids at the dentist’s office.
I want to “thank” the Governor for the extra two weeks of summer break; this time gave me more luxury for scheduling appointments while the kids are home from school, camping programs are finished, and I work. Wink, wink in my gratitude. Or as the kids see it, two more weeks to live like we are a PG-13 version of “Animal House” … even the bed sheets are all pulled from the linen closet, so maybe there was a toga party.
The Brody Bunch Made Our Mark in the Dentist’s Reception Area and at Home
Through the power of a great dental receptionist and a flexible grandparent, the Brody Bunch have pearly white teeth and I know that Bop took them out for lunch with dessert. I think the dental practice just likes the Brody Bunch. When we were new to the practice, we had to fill out the same forms four times. So, I gave each kid a clipboard and said to fill out the general information and I would update all of the necessary medical questions. They were compliant and I ended the process when read his questions aloud: Max, “Gon-orr-hea? YES!” Blanche added: “Sex? What kind of place is this?” My kids are now limited to just filling out our home address. And speaking of our home address, bwahhhh, my house looks like it was ransacked, we just live there and are making memories.
In June, I started to notice Back To School school displays. And, like Will Ferrell’s Elf character who gets so excited about Santa, Christmas cookies and such, I am that level excited about school supplies … until I get the sanctioned school lists and process how much money this will cost me for the Brody Bunch four. While I recognize that college supplies are much higher, I am merely commenting on school supplies for grades 5, 6, 7 & 8. Yup, I see the same teachers and classwork four consecutive years.
Rebelling Against the Approved School Lists
With all due respect to our understaffed custodial staff, I can’t manage the requests for paper towels, wipes, etc. I am a rebel, if each parent was compliant, where would the school possibly store 4 rolls of paper towels times however many kids are in the overcrowded school? So, in essence, I am doing the custodial staff a favor by not sending in what would amount to pallets of tissues and paper towels. Though I am empathetic that there is a need.
Move the Line Item: No Paper Towels, Yes Extra Pencils
In lieu of cleaning products (and a huge thank you to those who supply such necessary needs) I prefer giving teachers extra pencils and paper and other basic supplies that are a stretch for some families to donate let alone replenish. It’s ridiculous that teachers dig into their own pockets to pay for supplies. Chip in if you can!
Chaotic Shopping, We NEED Pencils, We WANT Pencils
Because I love clearance priced school supplies so much, I have enough items in our inventory from last year to allocate to the Brody Bunch for this academic year, but that’s not how this works. I still like the process of gathering the supplies. Without scientifically compiling four grade lists, we need at least 22 notebooks and 18 pocket folders alone according to my calculations. Last night I spent $64 on four 3 inch binders. And, in the days to come, I will join hoards of other frustrated parents and tired children in the big box stores as we all try to adhere to the back to school lists. Then after we conquer the lists, inevitably, an amended list comes home from the specialty teachers and we get to do this all again!
Paper Work, Use Your Free Address Labels!
During the first week of school, and it happens during back to school nights, we have to sign the same form over and over for each kid with new school year papers. My best trick and recommendation is to use address labels: I am not writing the Brody Bunch’s common information four times. But at least I have lots of new writing utensils to get the job done if I should run out of address labels. One very important form to fill out as soon as possible is your current PTA form with dues. Your kid and the teachers benefit from PTA dues.
Beyond the Classroom, Extracurricular Activities, Schedule That Too
In addition to school supplies comes extracurricular activities and all the gear and equipment needed for those commitments. The Fall sports season is torturous to the matriarch of the Brody Bunch. We allowed our four kids to play baseball, soccer and participate in theater. Our breakdown for the Fall ONLY includes: 2 travel baseball teams, 1 travel soccer team, 1 club level soccer team, 2 theater students and a vocal student and possibly two school soccer teams. Plus Hebrew school and regular school. And, one parent coaching while both parents work full time. Calendars and grids are updated constantly to manage the day to day shuttling necessary to keep everyone accountable, happy and active. And, we have two rolling coolers which transport cold water, iced coffee, crudités and an assortment of hummus and dips.
Wishing for a Liquor License
So, here’s to wishing that Target, Walmart, Staples and Amazon had all of the items we are requested to have, and since they don’t carry everything in a one stop shop, let every screaming parent in the aisles know that you would support such establishments having a liquor license during these trying times.
Dry Run, We Are in Training For the School Year Routine
I started getting up at the normal school year time. We will only be 2.5 hours late on the first day of school, and without our paper towels, if we don’t have to eat breakfast, pack lunches, wear matching clothes and drive to school in rush hour. Further, we need new lunchboxes. 180 days of school times 4 kids equals 720 lunches. Go Team Brody!
It is with great pride that Blanche, our first daughter, became a Bat Mitzvah. It’s a tradition that we are so proud to celebrate. We were blessed with all of our parents and siblings and their spouses present. Nieces and nephews and lots of cousins, many aunts and uncles and friends who are like family shared in our special time.
Celebrations started at breakfast on Thursday and ended with Sunday brunch. Family from Pittsburgh, New York, New Jersey, Florida, Scranton, Washington and Chicago were all on hand to be witness to this day. With recent images of Nazi flags in the news, it is not lost on me that our daughter read from the Torah. She read confidently and proudly. Our parents and siblings opened the Torah ark. Family read from the Torah, chanted prayers from the bema and offered a prayer for our nation.
Brody Chaos – Management & Cake Frosting
Leading up to the Bat Mitzvah, we weren’t too concerned about menus, food or flowers. We weren’t even in crisis mode when our Friday night restaurant went out of business three days before the dinner. We didn’t have time for that. Instead, we dealt with two cars having issues, sick parents and a home flood. With life in full swing, we decided to keep our plans and go to the beach for 10 days. My Dad was command central, for me, he would decide what information I needed to know in a great effort for me to enjoy a family vacation. More often than not, he would have great advice, and funnier jokes to mitigate situations that were never in my own control. The week leading up to the events pretty much went like this: I forgot to order a cake. I ordered a very expensive cake. I felt guilty. I ordered a replacement cake. When leaving the second bakery, I felt that I should have ordered a cake in blue and white to represent Israel as a reflection of the Bat Mitzvah, but I ordered a teal and black colored cake. While I make intellectually sound and logically important decisions, I can’t decide irrelevant issues like cake frosting colors. I called my dad and explained my process and asked for advice. Immediately he responded, “What difference does the cake color matter? It will all shit out brown.” Ta-da, I understood.
Hot Glue and Sensitivity to What’s Important
I went to the art store and bought clearance items to hot glue gun a cake topper. I found a letter B for either Blanche or Brody and hot glued it to fake flowers that reminded me of our Preakness Stakes hats. Blanche was concerned that the B was too egocentric, even though the day was about her. I felt so validated that our daughter had nailed it regarding her place in the world – she wanted the day to be about everything, not to be flashy about her. I made a mental note that this is something to celebrate, too.
It All Comes Together
We filled our vacation bucket list and made new memories while managing the home front from afar. And, a miracle happened (or rather insurance intervened) and my mom was released from the hospital the day before the Bat Mitzvah, and my in-laws were able to travel to Baltimore. The important stuff was all coming together.
I cried when my brother held my mother’s hand and they stood in front of the Torahs. My mother in law looked beautiful as if life is full of roses. Mark would have his eye on both our daughter and his father and it was emotional. My father and uncle, Mark, Leo and I were all on the bema with Blanche as she chanted her Torah portion. My father in law, sisters in laws and aunts and uncles, and the Brody Bunch kids were all seated nearby. I have a loving ex-step mother, who is so integrated in our family, she and the kids had special moments that I could hear giggles and shushing during the service. Each time someone stood or said something, there were lots of hugs and kisses.
Time stood still and each and every note was heard; yet, time had past as cousins we haven’t seen in many years all came together, just to be with us. Blanche’s day to experience something from generation to generation actually brought generations of our family together. Blanche, who is named after my Grandmother Blanche, caused older relatives to note how much I look like my beloved Grandmother Blanche. Wonderful stories about our blended families were told throughout the many meals we shared together. We laughed hard, we ate too much, we drank a lot, and we had the gift of a few perfect days. We missed some family who could not travel, and we often thought of our friends who were not with us as we purposefully made an event centered around our large family.
Bursting with Love and Pride
It is overwhelming to express my feeling about the last few days. I learned that as a strong person, I am even stronger than I think. I reaffirmed my faith in our religion that it is a good foundation for making decisions, reaffirming personal values and to be proud, especially in times of direct and overt anti-Semitism. I celebrated my family’s simcha (milestone) with our caring community and these are wonderful people who make it easy to understand why I love Baltimore and Jewish Baltimore so very much.
I am a Rich Woman
Like the lyrics in Fiddler on The Roof’s If I Were a Rich Man,
I realize, of course, that it’s no shame to be poor. But it’s no great honor either! So, what would have been so terrible if I had a small fortune?” …
Well, I am the Fiddler on the Roof, I am a Rich Woman because I have love. Processing all of the gifts: our children’s hospitality to our guests and their love for each other as heard in their speeches; my husband showing emotion throughout our journey; my parents and in-laws having such pride and happiness; our siblings, aunts, uncles, and many cousins being present. There were many moments of both sides of our families hugging each other, kissing, laughing. This is what it is all about. This is what life is really about. There is just a lot of love that surrounds me and my family … and a lot of leftover Chinese food.
Just returned from a long trip to the beach. It is usually a time of reflection, laughs, tears and traditions. Sure we hit the usual family benchmarks of eating in all of our favorite beach restaurants on the Bay, people watching on the boardwalk, playing manic rounds of skeeball, and riding lots of amusement rides. We practiced baseball in the park. We watched all of the Orioles’ games. We watched bad movies on demand. We swam in the rain and saw dolphins enjoy their ocean like we never saw before. We flew a kite and fed the pigeons and ducks. We did a lot of the pastimes that I experienced myself, and at the same locations, as when I was a kid with my own brother.
New Agendas Mixing in with the Old
We passed on mini golf. The kids finally had a generous amount of their own beach money thanks to grandparents, and while we still pay for everything, they finally had freedom in the souvenir stores which unfortunately became a new favorite way to pass time. We played Monopoly once, and I still don’t like board games.
The kids explored their own ideas including taking longs walks without a parent, buying YouTube sensation branded T Shirts reflecting people/groups I have never heard of. Then there was connecting with other tweens and young teens also wearing such branding, I noticed this while waiting in lines while buying ice creams, or popcorn or fries or whatever other poor nutritious beach treat was requested and my daughters along with stranger boys would give each other a mutual hand greeting and giggle. I hate those new expensive shirts especially because I wasn’t ready for boys.
One of our daughters beamed from ear to ear when a “free” hermit crab made her way home because she bought the (large) cage, thanks to her grandparents! The guy selling us the hermit crab told me that he never had someone ask him so many questions. I needed knowledge about life expectancy, feeding instructions, cleaning suggestions, socialization recommendations, etc. And, I scared away the other potential customers. For the 5th year in a row, the Tooth Fairy, should have paid us a beach visit, but she didn’t come because I am the only one who still believes…. And yes, I was the Brody Bunch’s Tooth Fairy, and it was one of the best jobs I have ever had. We used to buy the kids donuts for one junk breakfast, but now, a sibling used her Grandparent money and crossed the main street to bring back donuts for the family, they don’t need our money or our help crossing the street.
Seriously, Not Funny
This trip, things were just different. I had personal reflections in 10 days that I never gleaned therapy. I would learn of several adults in my family with significant illnesses. I would be pushed by my kids and would watch my husband change up our strategy on handling how we respond to challenges. His brilliant ideas came out of nowhere, and I hoped that they would transfer back to the home-front. I would be spoken to in such a firm and loving manner by someone who cares deeply about me in way that hit my core personality and I cried so hard that my daughter hugged me until I calmed down. Apparently my edge that served me well for so long wasn’t serving me so well after all. I look for humor each day, and we did have some funny moments, but our family’s pendulum was way off. Ironically when I was packing up the beach house, I found a joke book that someone brought with us, and it didn’t even help. The best we got were these two situations: my husband took me to Seacrets on Saturday night for dinner. It was a cross between the Baltimore Preakness infield crowd, MTV’s Spring Break coverage (not even sure if MTV still goes on Spring Break) and us. And, a “sweet” man (selling caramel popcorn, no pun intended) told my kids riddles and he asked for a riddle in return. One of my kids shared an unkind riddle. I was mad and made that kid leave. After the joke offender and I spoke about what’s funny and what’s not, he wanted to go back and give a good riddle. The man loved the made up joke and asked if his GRANDMA said it was okay to tell jokes. Then that “sweet” man, gave me snake eyes and my jokester knew that his new joke was not funny and the man got the last word. Karma is a bitch.
The Hamster Wheel versus Nature
While I am usually surrounded by laundry, carpool charts and game brackets for little league and soccer games, I embrace the chaos. During beach week, all of my issues that keep me on the hamster wheel were non-existent, except for the laundry. Instead, I was surrounded by nature. I would find much peace and happiness being on the beach in the rain. Dolphins were eager to perform in the waves, seagulls were beautiful, one even flew across a full moon and paused. The sunrises would shine in beautiful shades of pinks, purples or oranges depending on the morning. And one night, an orange moon filled the horizon. I even saw a baby toad. One kid would quietly wake me up at all hours with a whispering “let’s watch the sunrise” or “you have to see the moon!” During my time outside, I would come to terms with the “stuff” that is really life. And, I would learn to be much more aware.
Timing – We stink at the calendar
We decided two weeks before our daughter’s Bat Mitzvah to go to the beach for 10 days, that’s how we roll. Most of the Bat Mitzvah details, even 5 days out, aren’t nailed down. We didn’t care – well, I did, a little, especially when we learned that one of our venues went out of business days ago. We were in beach mode and that’s what was at the center of our purpose for 10 days. Beach, boardwalk, arcades, rides, waves, dining, baseball, that’s what we signed up for. The beach is a time for reconnecting and growing. My Dad, who phoned it in a lot, had the best jokes, reminded me to update this blog, which I did not, and it was his priority to keep me focused on time with my family at the beach … maybe because my Dad remembers how important time at the beach really is.
There were glimpses of siblings holding hands. Siblings bonding over inside jokes (probably at my expense). We had beach clean up one night where we annually walk and pick up trash left behind by others. Arcade games and rides were the same from when I was a kid, but at today’s prices. We were showered with much gratitude for our money leaving in exchange for pure happiness. As, siblings pushed new limits, some about the struggles of being in a big family and others about just growing up, they would control the balance of being independent or spending time with us. it was a balance that the adults did not control and one that I struggled with. During our first night of eating dinner at the beach house, I lost my mind when everyone didn’t want to sit at the same table, though we were all on the same deck. That’s how I am. The lesson gleaned from that experience appeared to be that everyone checks the seating arrangements with me now, first. So, when I am asked “where should I sit” I answer “on your ass” we have all moved along.
Times Past/Times Present
Nothing really changes at the beach. I kept hearing music from when I was a kid. Music easily brings me back to specific memories or times from my life. Though now, I am with my own family and thinking of times when I was their ages or time before they were born. My favorite night was a date night where 60+ aged rockers performed live and I danced and sang up front for a whole set. I was one of the youngest in the crowd, but the songs just bring me back to a simpler time. A time where white supremacy wasn’t what it is today here in 2017 (let that sink in).
Beach Week Ended, and I Am Ready to Keep Growing
There were hugs, tears and lots of growing. There was personal reflection and lots of sass. Plenty of kid free dates on the bay during lunch. And, daily trips to the supermarket because four growing kids eat like piranhas. I kept looking for the humor, but there wasn’t much on this trip, and that is unusual for us. This was a time of growing, seeing faults in ourselves and in each other, and trying to do better.
Most people go to the beach to relax, drink, get a tan. I seem to have my most reflective experiences at the beach. It was a draining trip, in a good way. Perhaps one of the most symbolic moments was recognizing that the ocean covers a lot of Earth, and our four kids, whenever they were in the ocean, they were all as physically close as could be. We are each other’s home base. The Brody Bunch, we are all growing.
It’s not normal, but it is my normal. For 9 days at the beach, we probably just need the essentials of a swimsuit, underwear and a toothbrush, times six people. Somehow, packing for the beach from the summers when my brother and I were young and squeezed into the back of the family car along with our 3 yapping and medicated dogs has evolved into a whole new beast with my own children and no dogs.
The Brody Bunch has transformed the packing experience into the need for driving two big cars filled with our first world essentials including:
bedding – we don’t have to wash the house sheets when we depart. Genius concept!
non-perishable goods from our pantry inventory
toilet paper to be gracious by restocking the paper goods
enough hair products to cover a beauty pageant
cheap beach toys that we lug back and forth each summer
journals & books
saved arcade prize tickets from trips past
and so much more
All of the “important” items such as sunscreen, hats, underwear and coffee beans have been crossed referenced with my packing charts which I update each year. Some of the kids request packing guidelines, and still bring everything except the kitchen sink. “Surprisingly”, several times throughout the trip, we have to run out and purchase items we left at home. After this tremendous effort of organized chaos, our favorite possessions are lovingly shoved into our “fancy” IKEA bags and other reusable bags which is really the Brody Bunch family luggage.
Truth be told that when we look back on our vacation pictures, everyone wears the same two shirts for the trip duration, despite that we bring laundry detergent and a plethora of options for all situations. I recognize that with the “help” of our 10 year doing our laundry, by choice, that I really packed mildew scented clothing at best.
Packing for the journey is Phase 1 of every Brody Bunch adventure.
It is customary in the Jewish faith to name your child after the deceased. Our first daughter Blanche, is named in blessed memory after my maternal Grandma Blanche. As the younger Blanche grows, we recognize that she shares similar connections with the deceased Blanche in their candid humor, a sweet tooth for cheap candy and a love of music. Grandma Blanche’s namesake helps keep my memories alive, from generation to generation..
Passing it Down – Tradition!
In celebration of Blanche’s upcoming Bat Mitzvah, my aunt and uncle gave Blanche a little box. When Blanche opened it, she saw something shiny. I saw it too. And, tears filled my eyes. I recognized the shiny bauble as my beloved Grandma Blanche’s initial B charm that she always wore around her neck. Over the years, I forgot about this necklace. But seeing the charm in the gift box reminded me of when I was a young girl, my Blanche’s age, and Grandma Blanche always wore the B hanging out of her shirt neckline. She draped the necklace over her cowl neck sweaters, she wore it with her bathing suit, she kept it on when adding costume jewelry to her accessories. Though, I don’t know the history behind the necklace itself, it brings back memories from my youth of time spent with her. And, despite such an unusual name, it is easy to lovingly recall why my daughter is named after my grandmother because it was her love, caring, generosity and time from my Grandma that helped shaped me today which helps shape my role as Blanche’s mom..
While we were standing around the bar waiting for our dinner table, I believe that Grandma Blanche was smiling down on all of us. Four of her great grandchildren, were inspecting this shiny treasure. One of the kids told me that I can wear Blanche’s B necklace too because B is also for Brody, though Grandma Blanche was not a Brody.
My aunt and uncle have their own granddaughters. For them to give my daughter the necklace means so much to me. I will wear my Grandma’s rubies to the Bat Mitzvah service and I am hopeful that Blanche will wear the necklace. The gems are materialistic but when we talk about L’dor va’dor, which literally means from generation to generation, the trinkets bring strong memories which link one generation to the next. Unfortunately, Grandma Blanche never met any of her 12 great grandchildren, but the kids feel like they know her from the stories, jokes and memories we share. Naming someone after the deceased, retelling stories, wearing inherited jewelry, etc helps keeps the soul alive from generation to generation, L’dor va’dor. Tradition! … cue the music from Fiddler on the Roof.