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 – Chanukah, Lights, Memories and the Fire Department

Tis the season for the Festival of Lights, Chanukah, Hanukkah, the Miracle of Lights … 2018/5778 (Jewish Year) is down in the books.  Here are the Brody Bunch Chanukah Chai-Lights in no random order.  For those who celebrated, may the new wax you accumulated from your candles add to the good memories from years past.  For all, may there always be light.

  1. Pulling out Rubbermaid boxes filled with preschool made Chanukah art from when the Brody Bunch was little, signifies that Chanukah is upon us. Seeing their little projects displayed brings much happiness.
  2. Hearing Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song” kicks off the festivities for 8 crazy nights.
  3. Four kids x eight nights = 32 gifts.  The Brody Bunch tells me that we don’t have to exchange gifts, just light candles, but they have much gratitude, expect nothing, appreciate everything and indulge me in a nightly sibling photo.  We give them things they need or little things we know they want.  Though, it was an epic fail when I let our 13 year old daughter order a book off Amazon on Black Friday featuring her favorite teeny bopper heartthrob like entertainer to discover that I paid for a book about Jeffrey Dahmer’s youth. Thankful for free return shipping.
  4. For the first time, the Brody Bunch created a candle lighting schedule regarding who strikes the match which lights the Shamash candle (the tallest candle in the menorah, the candle helper) and kept to the schedule allowing each sibling to use matches twice. Four siblings x two nights each =  8 nights.  I didn’t mediate once.  That is considered a miracle, too.
  5. Playing dreidel.  Dreidel is a Hanukkah game using something like a spinning top, is similar to gambling, and we use Poker chips instead of Hanukkah gelt (chocolate candy coins) as money. There were no high stake tournaments, but lingering problems such as if the dreidel falls off the table and lands on a good jackpot side, how is that counted? After all these years, we are still in need of clear rules or players become like the Maccabees (the victorious Jews who won the battle) back in a modern battle.
  6. I had so much fun buying boxes of frozen store made latkes, I ran into old friends and we had a great time. But homemade latkes taste better even though they are a lot of work and stink up the house from the oil.  We were gifted with a family friend frying latkes at our house.  And now will be eating the frozen latkes throughout the winter.
  7. We finally used all of my mother’s circa 1970s Manischewitz brand candles. It was a miracle that the jumbo roll of Chanukah wrap, purchased three years ago, the extra long tube that is really hard to store, finally depleted.  I marked my calendar with a reminder to go to the supermarket and restock clearance candles and Hanukkah wrapping paper for next year. Toilet paper and Chanukah supplies, you never stop using either.
  8. Amazon Prime IS Hanukkah Harry.  I will miss my daily visit with our mailman as the last delivery was today. Our mailman is funny like Newman, the Mailman, from Seinfeld.
  9. We festively go through the motions of the holidays for Tradition and to perpetuate our heritage with our children.  The kids waited each night for their Dad to come home from work, late, before lighting the menorahs.  It was a family ritual each night.
  10. My favorite night was night 6.  With more family, we had good laughs, lit lots of menorahs, ate too many homemade latkes, sang Christmas songs, told jokes, used my parent’s very old China serving platters, and the Brody Bunch was full of personality. My kids keep asking what gift I would like to receive and I tell them “just behave”.  They tell me it’s easier to buy a new purse, but on night 6 everyone behaved, that was my gift. Not all gifts are materialistic. I have a new memory to always treasure.
  11. On the 7th night of Chanukah, my daughter lit her Great Grandmother’s menorah. The menorah has been my daughter’s since she had the fine motor skills to place the candles in the holes.  And, this night was special because it would have been my Grandmother’s 98th birthday.  So, I saw the the passing down of traditions from generation to generation literally unfold both in our dining room and in my heart.
  12. On the 8th night, and final night, of Chanukah, I finally located our large dreidel collection and found all of our Jewish themed paper products, it’s like finding your Christmas decorations on December 26th.
  13. Irony ended with the Baltimore City Fire Department.  While celebrating the miracle of lights our circuit breaker kept tripping off.  The electrician didn’t fix the problem, but instead tripped our smoke detectors and left with the smoke detectors chirping.  So, without my family at home, I celebrated the 8th night of lights early when the Baltimore City Fire Department came over with the big truck and lights blaring to help this damsel in distress. What a way to close out the miracle of lights – with fire truck lights.
  14. This Chanukah, I received great memories and new smoke detectors.  Like the Israeli dreidel symbolizes, “A GREAT MIRACLE HAPPENED HERE, it was a great miracle that I survived 8 crazy nights.

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.

The Brody Bunch – A(nother) Teenager. Love & Lessons

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Blanche made this in Kindergarten.
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I bought this for Blanche’s 13th birthday.

A Wild and Free Spirit

Blanche, my first daughter, is going to be a teenager within days. She is wild and free. She has been practicing the part for a long time. The tween years are slowly killing me, and it’s not her fault. There are four siblings each one year apart and the whole Bunch is in the puberty years. Brody Bunch birthdays are in progress and by Thanksgiving, the Bunch will be 11, 12, 13 and 14 years old. This is not for the weak. I have a sense of humor, selective hearing, and a short term memory.

Blanche’s birthday falls during Jewish day of Atonement, ironic. Yet, I look at this beautiful child, beautiful on the outside, and more beautiful on the inside, I am distracted by her gorgeous hair which she defied me with and dyed it blue using Kool Aid. Thankfully, she already had her Bat Mitzvah last month and our family photos do not show evidence of her rebellion. I should send her a thank you note. Nonetheless, I am learning a lot through Blanche.

Life Lessons I Have Learned from My Daughter

So far, I have learned some important life lessons, in random order, by being Blanche’s Mom:

  1. Find Your Group of Weirdos, These are Your People. Blanche took this mantra and lives by it. She is right, she surrounds herself with creative, artsy, thoughtful people. IF I was her age, I would want to be one of her weirdos.
  2. Mix Up Your Art Supplies. I was floored when Blanche, at a young age, mixed up all of the separate beads into one bucket. Markers, pens, paint brushes, colored pencils, dice, who cares, let the shoe boxes overflow. Something great will be created. Especially with hot glue.
  3. Write, photograph, sing. Spend your time being creative, it is an outlet worth spending a lot of time. And, it is a gift to experience the journey and the outcomes.
  4. Say bad words if it enhances your story, but not when you are angry.
  5. Stand up for those who need your voice. Be at rallies, write letters, go to marches.
  6. Feed the hungry (she learned this genetically as her parents met doing this exact effort).
  7. Be engaged in the City: there is so much to see, learn and do!
  8. Love being in the ensemble. Not everyone can be the lead character, and the lead always needs an ensemble.
  9. You look good. Don’t worry what others think. It’s not too short, not too tight, etc. as long as your ass is covered and your boobs don’t show.
  10. Gratitude is easy. Don’t ask for things and be appreciative when you receive things.
  11. Even with an out of tune piano and broken guitar strings, you can still teach yourself, for hours, how to play instruments.
  12. It’s okay to wear your old Converse kicks with a dress, but giving in and wearing your gold sweater that matches your new dress, makes your Mom happy.
  13. Inviting your Mom to hang out with your friends especially at school dances and parties is awesome, as long as I know when it’s time to leave.

Regarding the photos above: Blanche at 5 made me one of the hearts.  And, I am giving her the companion heart when she turns 13.

Blanche made me the “I Love You” heart when she was in Kindergarten. I remember her hammering the nails when I volunteered in her classroom. This heart hangs in our foyer. Last night, about 7 years after receiving the heart from Blanche, I found this little heart, “You Are Loved” and knew right away that this was meant for me to give to Blanche on her birthday. These are companion pieces of art – just like Blanche and me. There is a lot of love that is woven in many directions.

The Brody Bunch – A New Year, Sweet and Chaotic and Full of Traditions

The Prayer Book

It is 5778, the Jewish New Year.  I read several times On Rosh Hashanah that it is written and on Yom Kippur it is sealed… how the year will be for us individually. We want to be sealed in the Book of Life.   It’s a time for reflection, prayer and giving to those in need.  Part of my nontraditional traditions for the Jewish New Year and every other holiday and event include: grocery shopping at several locations, realizing last minute that we don’t have appropriate synagogue clothing and shoes for all of the Brody Bunch, arguing about cleaning, and serving the same brisket dinner each and every year – even the kids at their young ages recognize that if there’s a holiday, there’s a brisket.  I had hoped that this year I would be more organized, but I was not.  Life got in the way.  My level of self created procrastination and things out of my control escalated my level of chaos, and I came out on top like a champ, I usually do. I like the chaos, I thrive on it, but it’s not for everyone, and it takes a toll on those around me, they are still neophytes.

First Night of the Holiday, Reminiscing of Past Gatherings and Siri Maps

We started the holiday Wednesday evening with an outdoor service and picnic dinner.  My family has been to this outdoor service each year since its inception about 12 years ago.  Usually, Mark (my husband for those of you new to the Brody Bunch Blog), the kids and my parents attend.  We are surrounded by a few thousand of our friends and their families. It is a very meaningful event, especially for our family.  We reminisce about family jokes such as the year my Dad (Freddie) brought an incredible deli spread with everything one could want (think Carnegie or Katz’s Deli in New York), and Mark complained about the mustard.  Freddie said, “Mark, we have about 6 mustards, mayo, horseradish, find something or pass.”  Mark said, “Well, I was hoping that we could have mustard that didn’t expire in back 1996.” That’s fair.  The mustard was about 4 years older than my youngest child who was about 8 years old at the time.  Then there was the time that Freddie grilled a London broil and we had a major gourmet meal.  And, my mom forgot to pack the cutlery.  Freddie didn’t slice the slab of meat and we had no utensils.  So, my Dad and went from family to family, wished them a happy and healthy New Year, and gathered one knife here and two more forks there.  This year, I was belted over laughing when this happened: “Rube (that’s what my dad calls me), I am fine.  I was lost but I am set.”  WTF, I am thinking in my head, we have been here for 12 years in addition to several concerts.  Freddie continued, “Well, Siri told me to go this way.  And, I did.  And, she said to look for parking and walk.  So I did. I parked. And I walked.  And then I realized I still had a long way to go.  So, I got back in the car and drove the rest of the way here.”  This story was told as Freddie is walking into the park grounds with three folding chairs and a large mescalin greens salad, which, he announced needed to be tossed.  Again, WTF?  I brought the main dinner, drinks, four folding chairs, a blanket, a soccer ball and the Brody Bunch was on my last nerves … toss the salad?  

Same Prayer with My Parents at Different Times – Tears

As services were underway, I sat on my folding chair in between my Dad and Mark. We sang a prayer called Avinu Malkeinu (Hebrew: אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ‎‎; “Our Father, Our King”) a Jewish prayer recited during Jewish services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as well on the Ten Days of Repentance from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur.  Freddie, an established musician, and somewhat of a local celebrity, and I were singing the prayer in unison as part of the participating congregation.  I was holding back tears because I have memories of this annual service with my Mom and she always cries during this prayer.   This time, I held back tears because my Mom was not with us due to health issues.  And, I could see the Brody Bunch in the corner of my eyes – some participating and some giggling.

Making A Memory with My Youngest Son, Depending on Rocky to Keep Me on Schedule –  and I Knew How Many Hours Remained as We Moved Through Different Stages of our Holiday Plans

After services, it was time for bed.  But, I loved spending time with my youngest, Max, 10, still in the kitchen as he cut carrots for the brisket. Yup, we were still prepping a brisket at this point for dinner which was in 19 hours. I set my alarm clock to 1AM, which rings to the “Rocky” theme, so that I could pull the brisket out of the oven for Thursday Night’s Rosh Hashanah dinner.  After slicing the brisket until 1:45AM, I discovered that I forgot to order high holiday tickets for the service seating, which was 7 hours later.  Sigh, I had so much time to do that.  

Showtime – Getting Dressed Like It is a Fire Drill, A New Makeup User Wearing Sneakers and A Photo Shoot

I went back to bed and before I knew it, it was time to get up and ready for services.  It was at this point that I realized that we never put away dress clothes from Blanche’s Bat Mitzvah in August which would double up as this year’s high holiday outfits. Giving myself a break, her Bat Mitzvah was four weeks ago, but it seemed like a lifetime ago.  Anyway, we were smelling items, shaking out wrinkles, and hoping that we could share items from my magic closet.  It was a struggle, but this is also part of the tradition, and somewhat parallel to getting dressed during a fire drill.  Unprepared with what 6 people, four of whom are still growing, have to wear that is appropriate, comfortable and not a battle is the worst part of the day, and this is a happy day.  We had one defiant child absolutely refuse to get dressed for synagogue. I had to ignore my almost 13 year old who decided that today, of all days, would be a great day to start wearing makeup.  So, she was wearing the darkest lipstick and Adidas kicks with her high holiday dress.  Another part of the chaos is that I do a photo shoot before we leave for services.  There is bickering, but I have a photographic treasure of the annual holidays and traditions, and this is my expectation.

Traffic, Community and The Meaning of the Holiday Clicked For Me

High Holiday traffic in Baltimore trumps Thanksgiving traffic on the New Jersey turnpike, somewhat, use your imagination.  When we finally arrived at services, we saw lots of community friends and greeted each other for a happy and healthy New Year.  I recognized someone handling seating questions and apologized for my lack of planning. We were fortunate to secure three seats in a standing only Sanctuary, it felt like we needed a scalper for more seat options, but then again, I was seated when we weren’t getting up and sitting down repeatedly throughout the service.  I was grateful.   My daughters, wandered off and had their own “services” with lots of other kids in the hallways.  For the first time, the text that we read each year, FINALLY clicked for me. I sat in the service and reflected upon Teshuvah (repentance), Tefilla (prayer) and Tzedakah (righteousness or justice – giving to those in need) and annoyed that I could not locate the Brody Sisters, and was in self conflict because I was proud that they were together, despite not being where I wanted them to be in services with me.

Dr. Brown’s Diet Black Cherry Soda and Matzo

After our long morning of deprived sleep, getting dressed up, etc, I needed to get out alone. So, I made an emergency Dr. Brown’s diet black cherry replenish run for the Rosh Hashanah dinner. When I saw Passover matzo on sale, I helped the grocery store manager with placement and sales recommendations that Passover matzo, especially on sale, is irrelevant to the Jewish New Year. Look at me, I started the new year doing a Mitzvah, or being a maven, however you want to look at my effort.  

Napping and the Hermit Crab (see a previous blog) Disturbed my Rest & As Always I Think We Need More Food

Now, I needed a nap.  I was out like a light, and Rachel’s new hermit crab, SHELdon Brody started making noises in his Hermit Crab Hotel.  His scratching woke me up.  So, with about an hour left before this dinner, I called Mark with a menu report:  “We have matzo ball soup, potatoes, carrots, brisket, Caesar salad, challah, acorn squashes, fresh fruit and a large assortment of hors d’Oeuvres from Susan (my former step mother whom I love dearly) and I think I should make a few more vegetables.”  The homemade applesauce that Rachel, 11, made, had a hint of garlic to it because apparently I didn’t get all of the garlic out of the food processor from the brisket rub. Oh my goodness.  

The Second Night of Rosh Hashanah Falls on Shabbat (another Dinner) and the Chaos is Coming With Me!

We have enough leftovers that I don’t have to cook for the second night of Rosh Hashanah dinner, which also falls on Shabbat.  May we find love, laughter, good health, happiness and light on the first Shabbat of the New Year.

This year, I had a lot of personal reflections and recognized that aging parents changes the meaning of the holidays and the way the old chaos worked.  I also know that with a lot of love, the new chaos, some self created, and some life changes, works well, because I have a strong support system when it’s time to rise to the occasion.  At the first night of Rosh Hashanah dinner, Mark, my parents, Susan and I did lots of planning while the kids called their grandparents in Pittsburgh and Aunts and Uncles have been called over the past few days, family is what this is all about.  

Intellectually, I recognize that I shouldn’t be rushing and unorganized during holidays but I do enjoy the mishigas (the craziness) and I already brought that into the New Year, with the help of the Brody Bunch.  From my family to your family, may it be a sweet New Year for all!

The Brody Bunch – Grounded!

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The Offense – Sass & ‘tude

After a lot of sass and attitude, our Blanche was grounded for the weekend.  Her girl crew extended social invitations which came directly to me, because her electronic devices were confiscated.  The invitations were swiftly declined.  Blanche and I would quickly learn that grounding Brody Bunch way, is not meant like the classical textbook way.

Night 1 of Grounding – a reward from earlier in the week

Friday Night – I moved our planned Sunday night Brody Bunch “thank you” dinner to Friday because we were invited to our friends’ house for a post Bat Mitzvah celebration in Blanche’s honor scheduled for Sunday night. This “thank you” dinner that I organized was in recognition of the Brody Bunch having a strong start to the new school year, about 32 hours, of back to school success: easy bedtime routines, easy morning routines, good family logistics, help around the house, etc.  And, I love eating out.  So, after shuttling her brothers to Little League scrimmages, we were treated like VIPs in our favorite Indian restaurant.

Day 2 of Grounding – cookies and shopping

Saturday – after lounging around the house in the morning, Blanche joined me for her sister’s soccer game. She was hungry.  While I prefer supporting local cafes, diners and dives, Blanche and Leo really wanted a specific franchise for subs.  This travel soccer game took us to a new neighborhood, but since I wasn’t eating, I agreed to their preferred (and cheap) choice.  Though, we would discover that I did not understand the ordering process and I tried for about six minutes to add a drink and chips to qualify for the $6 lunch special.  Apparently, we didn’t order correctly for the deal, as their sandwiches on club bread, were NOT club sandwiches.  The sweet club sandwich maker wanted me to know that I may not understand her English.  I felt like a jerk.  I insisted that it was ME and not her as she did speak English beautifully, that I just didn’t understand the pricing structure. She rang us up and ironically, the cost WAS the same as the deal I was trying to secure.  The cashier gave my kids free cookies for the confusion that I created.  

Late Saturday Afternoon – Blanche, her sister and I went shopping, all day.  We had such fun.  From bras to beef jerky to a new soccer water cooler, lots of gum, a new hermit crab, warm fuzzy pajamas, a throw rug and new school shorts, the girls were full of gratitude with lots of stamina.  It was a perfect girls’ day of togetherness.

Night 2 of Grounding – dinner and giggles

Saturday Night – Siri maps led us on a wild ride home.  So, I finally meandered back into the old neighborhood and at 10PM we were giggling and laughing over Chinese Food. Followed by heartburn.

Night 3 of Grounding – dinner with family friends

Sunday – After sleeping in late, and perhaps studying the 50 states for a geography quiz while listening to her teeny bopper music uninterrupted, Blanche was showered with gifts and a dinner in her honor.

The weekend of grounding came to a close.  Blanche had such a pretty smile, “I should get grounded more often!  This was the best weekend ever!” I am no disciplinarian.  I warned you in my first blog that this is NOT an advice column blog, but I know that I did something right: the sassiness and attitude melded into gratitude, laughs and good times. 

We called it “grounding” – and in the end, we were grounded with love, laughs and we were back to where we needed to be

So, maybe my way works, it did for 72 hours, we were able to get back to a place where we needed to be…we were re-grounded.  It’s hard being a tween, a badass and a good person all at one time … but she is my mini-me.  I have an edge, am a badass and a good person.  Sometimes I just want to be surrounded by the people who can help ground me, too… it gives me strength to carry on.  I hope that Blanche is grounded again, and soon, which is very likely since attitude and sass is part of what makes her the person she is and I love her very much.  Clearly, grounded is all about perspective – it doesn’t have to be a bad thing because, even though “grounded” became the family joke and new code for good times, we are grounded once again. 

Brody Bunch – Beach Extravaganza, Reflections & Growth

 

 

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Our Beach Agenda

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.

Siblings

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.

The Brody Bunch – We Had Our Cake, and We Ate it, too. (July 28, 2017)

Cake, it’s a gift

Our 11 year old daughter, Rachel, gives the gift of cakes.  For all of our birthdays, anniversaries and celebrations, Rachel makes us a cake.  Due to an unfriendly sibling request, Rachel did not create her brother Leo’s 14th birthday cake.  Instead, late at night, the night before Leo’s birthday, Rachel and I went to the supermarket and bought (a very expensive) Carvel ice cream cake as requested by the birthday boy.  And, Rachel was so happy to pick the specific cake.  I asked her how she felt about not making the cake, she was just so thrilled to pick it out, and her handwritten birthday card to him noted that she was in charge of picking out the cake.  I was simply the driver and ice cream cake financier. 

Baker: “What should I write on your birthday cake?”

Before Rachel became our resident cake director, we did buy grocery store cakes. Several years ago, Leo was at the bakery and the baker asked him what should be written on the cake.  A humorous then 8 year old Leo answered, with a nod to his favorite show Seinfeld, “Happy Birthday, Jerry.”  That line was delivered like it was straight out of a Seinfeld episode.  Leo and I fell over laughing, the baker didn’t get it, and instead, we came home with a “Happy Birthday, Leo” cake.  This joke still lives on whenever we need to write a message on a cake.

Too Much Cake

Unbeknownst to us, with our Carvel cake in the freezer, someone brought a beautiful homemade birthday cake to the birthday dinner party.  We served that delicious cake. We had self control and kept the ice cream cake frozen.  We would later recognize that it was a gift to have the frozen cake tucked away, because three nights later, it would be an excuse to sweetly hang out.  “Let’s eat cake!”

We had our cake and ate it, too

Leo has been 14 for three days.  It was very late, I was ready for bed.  Leo asked me if I wanted to pull out the cake and hang out.  I took the opportunity because he is 14 and I am fearful for the day when I don’t receive these invitations. He told me about books he is reading, we talked about baseball.  It was a really special moment.  I asked if he wanted light Shabbat candles, it was way past sundown, but I don’t believe that it’s ever too late to have a spiritual moment saying a prayer for peace and having gratitude.  As we were lighting candles, we heard people running down the steps.  Everyone was suppose to be sleeping.  Leo hid his plate under the table as in “nothing’s going on around here.” His siblings sat down and there was suspicion in the air. Someone noticed a plate of ice cream under the table.  It wasn’t right to light Shabbat candles and be sneaky about the cake. We were all laughing.  And, everyone got a plate and spoon.  We hung out a bit later.  More dirty dishes, some laughs and good times.

Cake for everyone

Leo and I were busted. We shared the cake and the visit, laughing and talking.  Then, I was asked to tuck them into bed and sing the Shema (the oldest daily prayer in Judaism – my husband and I sing the prayer to each of the kids each night before bed).  We are lucky that they still ask me to tuck them in.  I didn’t actually eat a piece of the ice cream cake, but kissing everyone in before they went to sleep, was like having my cake, and eating it too.