The Brody Bunch – The Thought Behind Teacher Holiday Gifts

The Season For Giving To Others

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”  My four generous children like to give their many teachers homemade gifts during the holidays. Their kindness and thoughtfulness makes my heart burst with pride. They have done this for as long as I can remember. While writing this blog, I received an email from my then Kindergarten aged daughter’s Principal.  The Principal shared a photo of a Christmas ornament that my daughter made for her eight years ago. That ornament still gets hung on the Principal’s Christmas tree!

Saturday, I went to Target because they sent me a coupon “spend $100 get $20 off.” It is not lost on me that we have very little time to make teacher holiday gifts before Winter Break. Especially for four kids with at least eight teachers each.

From Arts & Crafts to Holiday Treats From the Kids

Our days of pipe cleaner beaded snowflake ornament making are sadly behind us.  And, gluing sequins and ribbons onto pre-cut holiday themed cardboard shapes is also a memory from the past. We have evolved into giving Rolo pretzel treats. Rolo pretzels bring holiday cheer in an affordable manner while allowing my kids to be generous and show gratitude over the holiday season. Instead of glitter glue all over my house like from days long ago, my kitchen and dining room are set up like a factory because we assemble a boatload of pretzel Rolo treats for their teachers.

So, I went to Target to purchase Rolos and pretzels. Coincidentally, I ran into the woman who gave me this recipe – melting Rolo candy onto square pretzels and freezing them. Ta-da.  The hardest part of this effort, after unwrapping each individual Rolo, is to not eat the Rolos.

OY to the World

Back to shopping at Target. I was walking through the crowded aisles filled with many people wearing ugly sweaters and holiday graphic t-shirts.  I considered buying a holiday t-shirt with my coupon money, but the joke will wear off for me after the first wear and I know that I will never find the shirt during the holiday season.  I don’t need such a shirt in February. Also, I am Jewish so I give a nod to Hanukkah simply by wearing a necklace that says “OY to the World” – that is my holiday cheer.

Standing in the candy aisle, the sale tag on Rolos is confusing.  The sale was three bags for $10 or whatever was about 55 pieces per bag/165 total candies.  After I figured out the pieces of candies per servings, times the number of servings per gift bag, times four children, times eight teachers each, plus other adults in the building and Crossing Guards, and receptionists, and nurses, and lunch ladies, the Custodian and EVERYONE, I needed a lot of Rolos.

Alex The Target Employee & Talent Scout

Then I met Alex, a Target employee, working in aisle G30.  He overheard me calling my Dad, “Are you busy? Are you in front of your computer?  I need you to go onto Amazon. Target is smartly blocking the Amazon site (at least that is what I think).  I need you to give me the unit price on Rolos, please. WTF? My measurement in Target is by the pound. No, I can’t do the conversion in ounces for Amazon.  Grams? Hell no. Okay, so you agree? Buy Rolos here? It’s probably the same price? Yeah, that’s what I thought.” Alex asked me if I ever thought about getting my own TV show.  Thanks, Alex. Alex said that I had a lot of options for my TV show, but it would be a comedy, possibly a cooking show, but definitely a comedy.

Now that I had an audience, Alex confirmed that the price at Target was great. He didn’t even know the Amazon price. But, Alex thought I was funny and I think he wanted to be on my TV show.  So, I tossed 9 bags of Rolos into my shopping cart. Though if memory serves me correctly, that at Christmas, there are larger quantity bags of Rolos. I told Alex what I was doing and he proceeded to show me other candies that would also taste good melted over ice cream.  Please Alex, there is NO ice cream involved. Then I showed him a box of candy canes and suggested that he open each individually wrapped candy cane, place it in a Ziploc bag, and mash it with a hammer so that he would have Peppermint crunch toppings on HIS ice cream. He was impressed.  I bid Alex adieu and told him that I have to figure out the Rolo formula regarding pretzels, because we need enough bags of pretzels for two pretzels per Rolo. And, if you are really on the ball, you know that some pretzels will come broken in the bag, and someone may or may not eat some Rolos, unauthorized.  

Full Price for Christmas Wrap?

Moving along from the candy aisle, I ended up in the Winter Wonderland section. I met a mom pondering aloud with a toddler in tow if she should buy more Christmas wrapping paper, she’s not sure if she has enough paper from last year. I inquired, “Excuse me. Hi. How are you unsure about this?  Don’t you buy Christmas paper AFTER Christmas when it’s on clearance and stock up for next year?” The look on her face was priceless. She responded, “What does that mean? You actually buy Christmas paper AFTER the season when it’s on sale and use it the following year?” WTF? I am no financial planner, but they aren’t canceling Christmas.  She left impressed. I left overwhelmed knowing the knowledge I have to share with the world.

Next thing I see IN the Winter Wonderland is another sized bag of Rolos. So, now I am doing the formulas that I did previously but adding fractions into the formulas for price comparisons.  I was getting screwed by the candy company. Turns out that the second packaging option was saving me pennies. I reached for about 9 of those sized bags and separated my shopping cart between the first batch of Rolos and the second batch. I walked back to Aisle G30 to return the first round of Rolos. I am a model citizen in these situations.  I can’t believe it, on the end cap, there was a THIRD option. I have my calculator app going, I am scratching numbers on scrap paper and decided indeed that I am going with the third option. I pull back into Aisle G30 and find Alex. I tell Alex that I did not intend to spend my morning earning a degree in Mathematics. He was sorry. But, in my absence, he thought of more recipes.  I was putting the bags back on the shelf and his manager walked by. I told his manager that Alex went above and beyond good customer service. Though I worked really hard at all of the math and re-shelving the inventory. In hindsight, Alex just told me that I needed a TV show. I recommended that Alex get recognition and he received a customer shout out on the employee wide walkie-talkie radio.  I led the cheering in my section of Target.

Rolo Pretzels Are Coming! And So Is Discounted Christmas Wrapping Paper!  … It’s the Thought that Counts!

Anyone who has taught my kids over the past 7 years knows that the Rolo pretzels are coming.  When they say “it’s the thought that counts” indeed, I have given this a lot of thought. … and as a public service announcement, put a reminder in your calendars to buy Christmas wrapping paper on clearance after the New Year.  I’ve thought a lot about that, too.

The Brody Bunch Goes to the School Dance

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The School Dance – Rite of Passage, Hormones & a Mom

The school dance. It’s a rite of passage. It’s hormones about to explode. It’s a night of music that ages the chaperones. It’s outfits of self expression.  It was a surreal experience as a former tween myself.

2 Siblings: 1. Please Chaperone.  2. Please Stay Home.

My one child begged me to chaperone. While his sibling practically insisted that I leave the same zip code where the dance was being held, at their school.

Days leading up to the dance were draining on the home front, “What if there is drama?” or “I am not sure which friends to hang out with.” And, more.  My heartstrings were torn. All of the horrible voices in a tween’s head were being vocalized. While I was grateful for open lines of communication, I became more sad with each conversation prior to the dance.  I recalled how I didn’t like school dances when I was in Middle School.

The day of the dance, I received a communication from my pro-chaperone child, “Best day ever, please don’t come to the dance!”  WHAT BUDDY?  I bailed on an older sibling’s track meet, first place in the mile race, wearing indoor soccer shoes.  And, I said no to a dinner date. I SIGNED ONTO THE DANCE TO PROVIDE COMFORT & SUPPORT!  While my pro-chaperone child threw me a plot twist and requested that I stay away, his anti-chaperone sibling was thrilled. Fortunately, for the kid who rescinded his request for my presence, I developed Vertigo this week, and I couldn’t put up a strong fight.  

For the past two years, I have attended this dance with the pro-chaperone and anti-chaperone’s older siblings. This was our pro-chaperone kid’s first time at this rodeo. My friends appreciate when I attend dances because I text reports and photos of their kids who have banished them from the dance. It’s an unofficial community service I provide for the Village. Though, perhaps my friends are smarter and let their kids win the chaperoning battle, and maybe those parents are all at happy hour, without me. 

Time for the Dance & Karma Was My Date

It was officially time to open the dance floor (the decorated multi-purpose room).  When I pulled up to the schoolyard, the tide of tween concerns washed away. I felt the vibe change.  My pro-chaperone dancer had the most relaxed smile. Kids were running up and squealing his name. It was like a celebrity got out of my car. My gut knew, that we were at a different place than we were when I signed the permission slip for the event. Anxiety and fear turned into comfort and joy. We entered a place of being relaxed and content.  I wasn’t sure what to do, should I linger around or leave? Most people in my shoes would have driven away to the local bar.

Nonetheless, I had a prime parking space in front of the school, so I walked in to say hello to the PTA parents who made the dance possible, and snagged a photo with my kids.  And, out of the blue, I was handed a cash box and asked to collect money for candy and soda sales. I LOATHE candy and soda access for kids. Yup, I am THAT Mom who brings in sliced oranges when signed up for team snack. My kids hate when I am the snack parent. Yet, I understand candy and soda concessions are big money makers for the school. Karma got me, I wasn’t a signed up to volunteer and I shimmied my way into the dance for a photo.  So, there I was with a bunch of sweaty hormonal tweens armed with twenty dollar bills from their generous parents eager to purchase dollar candy bars and cans of soda. The 8 foot banquet table filled with candy was sold in lightning bolt speeds, and I had to keep counting out $19 in change for many transactions.  Then the party goers would come back with their dollar bills and more sugary inventory moved out.  While I was being a good steward of the cash box and candy, I was trying to find my kids from my assigned station, especially the one who initially invited me to attend the dance. As a mom, I sensed that I was initially needed, and now I was not needed at all. Many would call that a victory. I call that Mom growing pains.

My kids and their friends checked in with me several times throughout out the dance, even though they stopped being candy and soda consumers early into the dance. At least I wasn’t being used for my own cash and inventory on hand. From afar, I saw my kid who was anxious about this social evening find joy, acceptance and kind kids.  From our experience, this was the perfect first Middle School Dance.

Sweaty Hormonal Tweens Are Our Future

I looked around the room and realized that one day, these students will be our lawyers, our doctors, our teachers, our researchers, our politicians and more.  I pondered when  the switch flips between tween insecurities into a more established person participating as a contributing member of society.  These experiences are all about the rite of passage throughout life and time. These kids will be okay and we will be okay, too.

While Karma had me selling concessions, and my head was spinning to both bad music and Vertigo, I witnessed happiness.  There is nothing more gratifying in the parenting world as seeing your kids find their way. Communication, being present, quietly worrying, and a little faith is all part of the journey, it’s the parental rite of passage.  

The Brody Bunch – The Day After Halloween

Pre Brody Bunch Halloween

It’s odd that I love Halloween.  I grew up in the cyanide poisoning and razor blade scare era, in a neighborhood without many kids, and with a little brother who seemed to get Croup on many Halloweens.  And, whatever costumes I had, always with a plastic mask, which made seeing and breathing difficult, I had to wear my big winter coat over my costume because it was cold.

Early Brody Bunch, Post Halloween = Clearance Finds!

The day after Halloween was another “holiday” chasing 50-75% off candy and costume clearance sales. I no longer eat candy, and sadly, the older Brody Bunch kids no longer play dress up.  As my friend told me, October is all about kids planning the very perfect Halloween costume and then completely changing the said costume choice on October 30th. True.

Halloween Traditions Didn’t Go According to Plan

This Halloween season, things were pretty hectic. The Brody Bunch missed screening the entire It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.  We didn’t honor anyone’s specific costume wishes. Our car broke down outside of the pumpkin patch. We finally purchased pumpkins at the grocery store, five days ago, and these uncarved pumpkins are taking up real estate on my kitchen floor.

Pjs Doubled Up as Costumes, That was my Intended Plan

Smartly, I welcomed each kid to pick out new warm onesie pajamas with the understanding that these pjs would double up as Halloween costumes. Brilliant!  All went well until one daughter requested a $5 racoon mask and wore dark lipstick with the mask and was happy.  Another daughter wore a $400 leather jacket, and decided that with her friends, she would be in a biker gang.  My older son, for the first time, wasn’t a Baltimore Oriole. Instead, he was a rooster, thanks to his pajamas. I love that he had a costume rather than his beloved baseball jersey because the shirt reminded me of what older kids wear in the spirit of still wanting to trick or treat, but not dress up, and I wasn’t ready for that.  My younger son, he didn’t want to be a Minion, but we ran out of time, so he was a Minion. I never dress up, but was sick of being cold, even while wearing my winter coat like I did when I was a child. So, I wore my daughter’s monkey suit onesies and I was warm.  Moving forward, I will now be a monkey on Halloween, or a Minion.

We gave up our cute Halloween totes and resorted using our pillowcases.  Between team jerseys, dark lipstick, and pillowcases, these are Halloween signs that the kids are getting older.

Present Day Brody Bunch Halloween – Our Plan

Fast forward to Halloween with the Brody Bunch.  For several years, we have been meeting at one family’s home, quickly eat pizza, tweak costumes, and split into predetermined groups, do a photoshoot and then leave. The older kids, for the first time, got a ride into a neighboring area.  And, we all agreed upon a time to stop where we were, and walk towards a specific house to end the night together.  The meet up house is very welcoming and hospitable whereas the grill was hot, the chili was simmering, drinks were flowing, and kids traded candy while parents mingled on the front lawn around the bonfire.  We hit perfection.  As crazy as life is, and the world has become, these few hours are perfect.

Reflections While Candy Hoarding, Thanks to the Firemen

As we walked the neighborhood streets with friends, I was sad to recognize, that the Brody Bunch is getting older.  We won’t be trick or treating forever.  So between that and our local fire department, I was quite reflective. The neighborhood fire department, hit with budget cuts, had the trucks out driving around with their lights on. Every few houses, the truck would stop and firefighters handed out candy.  It was the kindest gesture which now motivates me to help “fill the boot” at future firefighter fundraisers. Our firefighters went above and beyond being good neighbors.

Our Kid Found The Perfect Halloween Spot, Because Their Friends’ Families Are So Welcoming

The history of our great Halloween stems from my then 9-year-old daughter hearing of a spot where we should trick-or-treat, just a mile away from our home, and near their school friends.  We were quickly embraced and became part of the Halloween landscape. Pounds of candy for the kids and red Solo cups for the parents to have a cold one or a glass of wine.  Wow, my kid knows how to scope out the good spot!

Most of these friends, we met through Little League baseball.  Many of the dads coach. And, those who don’t play ball, are the neighbors. This is a great pastime in modern history – neighbors visiting, kids having their independence roaming the streets and friends being together. Kids have a night to explore neighborhoods independently. Something kids today really don’t do in this world. Neighbors were outside, people were visiting, eating and drinking. Being free, social, and euphoric seems like a pastime too. Again, it is a perfect few hours.

Candy Sorting and Trading, It’s a Ritual

When we got home, pretty late on a school night, our three younger kids organized their candy and started sorting and trading. They have always done this as a Halloween ritual. Our oldest child left his candy untouched, hopefully brushed his teeth, and went to bed. Without any requests, the kids handed over about 50 pounds of candy for me to donate excluding a mango and Chanukah gelt (chocolate candy coins).

Halloween, It’s a Wrap

I miss the days of matching sibling costumes.  I recognize that our trick or treating days are numbered.  I will always treasure the Halloween candy sorting and trading.  Being with my family and many of our friends at the end of the night, reminds me of the sweetness (pun intended) of being part of a wonderful village.  Candy, independance, family and friends, traditions and the sweetest of old and new memories with the Brody Bunch.