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 – PLEASE be my Valentine!

Valentine’s Day Pre-Planning, Cards

I LOVE Valentine’s Day.  Ahead of festivities, annually, I purchase the Christmas clearance red wrapping paper and save it for Valentine’s Day. I am a planner. I give the Brody Bunch presents which are usually little leftover gifts from Chanukah.  

Valentine’s Day, Classroom Cards

When our kids were much younger, I made sure that each of them had a Valentine for EACH kid in their class. With four kids, it was like a Hallmark factory in my dining room. We would buy pretty paper and make cards.  We never had the popular character card kits. I was disappointed when the kids’ teachers instructed the students (and parents) not to personally address the cards, but rather just sign their names and pass out generic cards to classmates.  With Valentine’s Day a cousin to Halloween in terms of candy, we would go out of our way and find little items to tape to the card, a pink pencil, a heart shaped eraser, heart stamps, something to hype up our generic handmade cards. Think Dollar Store finds!  The kids’ classes were large and we had lots of Valentines to generate.  So, I would buy pretty paper, new stickers, and ribbons, and on lazy cold mornings, we would start making Valentines, like a machine.  

Valentine’s Day, Write from the Heart

At a very young age, one Valentine night, our son declared, while being tucked in, that he did not like store bought cards with our signed names. That year, he was sad. Despite his present bag filled with baseball cards and candy, no one made him a special card, and he was sad. I told him to get out of bed. He walked with me to where I kept my art supplies, and I watched his frown become a huge smile as I made him a very special homemade card.  That was one of my best Valentine moments ever. He taught me that a special card is one with a meaningful message not printed in the card, but handwritten, from the heart. Since that night, I never bought another store produced card. 

Valentine’s Day, Now, My Heart Skipped A Beat

Between my own child’s Valentine card standards, the teachers’ Valentine rules, I found my place in the Valentine empire – art supplies!  We have a closet filled with ribbons, paper, heart stickers, markers, buttons and baubles and more. It’s a very chaotic and disorganized space and happiness is produced out of that mess. Recently, I was hopeful to replenish our supplies.  However, my heart skipped a beat when I photographed pretty art supplies and texted my daughter with excitement about our upcoming Valentines, “Do you want to make valentines?” and she answered, “Yes. Don’t buy, I can make cards.”  I was relegated to feeling like Charlie Brown regarding the Little Redhead Girl.  My kids are getting older. They don’t want to make cards in mass production together.  They will probably used lined notebook paper. Perhaps it should have been a clue that if my kid can text that maybe she has outgrown pretty papers and puffy heart stickers.

Valentine’s Day, Need My Expectations in Check

This Valentine’s Day, I am giving each of my kids a red bag filled with something that they don’t need, with a heart shaped box of candy and a handwritten note.  We will take our annual Valentine’s Day photo with their Valentine heart shaped candy boxes. There won’t be any fancy dinner for me with their Dad on Valentine’s Day as we will be carpooling kids from soccer practice, theater class and Hebrew School. As our kids get older, I know to get my expectations in order.  Incredible memories were created while we made Valentines.  Perhaps those Valentines were more for me than they were for the classmates. Most of those cards should have ended up in recycling, but my memories are still with me.

Before this blog published, I shared with my daughter, the texting one, that I wrote a blog inspired by how much I miss making Valentine cards with her. And it’s that time of the year. She responded, “Well, let’s make some Valentines!” Oh my heartstrings are pulled towards happiness. Though intellectually, I am most confused by the Puberty laced Roller Coaster. I just want to make Valentines!

Valentine’s Day – February 15th!

Perhaps a tradition I recall most from my own childhood is celebrating Valentine’s Day on February 15th. Yes, February 15th. As a child, I always thought that Valentine’s Day was on February 15th because all of the candy and cards were half priced and that is when my family celebrated.

Signing off with much love at full price and clearance price. There’s plenty of love to go around.

The Brody Bunch – Tradition, Trees & Happiness

Celebrating Tu B’shevat – A New Year for the Trees

My family celebrates Tu B’shevat, the new year for the trees, the trees’ birthday. This is a Jewish holiday not widely celebrated in America, but it is in Israel. The Brody Bunch has our own family traditions around this festive holiday.  When the kids were in preschool through last year, each received a Graham cracker with green frosting and M&Ms to depict a tree. This dessert tree was introduced to us through a preschool teacher.  We sing “Happy Birthday” in Hebrew and English.  And, we read Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Treeand ate a tasty tree. We were happy.

Often we go through the motions as we manage our busy school and work schedules compounded with theater and sports schedules and life.  I thought that our celebration of the trees would be nothing short of checking off another obligation from the calendar. The Brody Bunch has been more than colorful with their 11, 12, 13 and 14 year old selves. Holidays are important in my family, but we often spin out of control on our self created hamster wheel.  Yet, this Tu B’shevat, my family rose to the occasion and made me the happiest mom during our little celebration. 

Tweaking Tradition, A Pinterest “Nailed It”

With healthier eating choices, I did not buy Graham crackers, frosting and M&Ms. It was strongly noted how disappointed people were without their frosting trees because it is our tradition. Instead, I went to a high end grocery store, bought fresh veggies and successfully mimicked a vegetable design in the shape of a tree as seen on Pinterest, really a Christmas tree, and served the vegetable tree with a holiday tray of traditional dry fruits and nuts.  The vegetables, dried fruit and nuts were all eaten as the Brody Bunch reminisced about the days of their frosting trees.

We gleefully sang Happy Birthday in both Hebrew and English. And, our youngest son read to us, The Giving Tree.  Our copy of this book, which was mine and my younger brother’s, from our childhood, has been on my bookshelf for more than 40 years.  The story has had different meanings to me at different stages in my own life.  However, this year’s dramatic reading of The Giving Tree was different with the character voices given to both the Boy and the Tree by our theatrical reader.  And, like the Boy and the Tree, from the book, I was happy.

I went up to bed ahead of everyone else, and I was happy. My head it the pillow and I heard my oldest son declare, “This is the first year that Mom didn’t make us line up on the couch and take a picture.  Probably because she didn’t make us frosting trees.”  I jumped out of bed, grabbed a camera and rallied (bribed) the troops for our annual Tu B’shevat picture.  I was met with resistance.  And like any mom with a low moral compass trying to preserve pictorial tradition, I offered my son a few extra dollars for the weekend if he went along with photo.  I had to shake on it.  Thankfully he negotiated poorly and requested a specific amount of money after the handshake.  

The Photo Shoot is part of our Traditions

We went downstairs, to regroup on the couch for the photo. And, also like tradition, there was arguing during the photo shoot, people sitting too closely, face making, inappropriate fingers in the air. I promised only to use one camera and not a camera and a phone combo.  We captured some sort of photographic memento.  I have heard the kids say that they are so happy that we have pictures from throughout the years, though their gratitude is forgotten when going through the effort.

It Was a Joyous Night and the Frosting Was Missed, But Like the Tree, We Were Happy

Again, I climbed the stairs and put my head back on the pillow.  My husband then inquired, “Did you look online to create that vegetable tray?”  Indeed I did! It was my first Pinterest ‘Nailed It’! My family ‘nailed it’ it, too.  Their participation and appreciation makes the effort worth it.

I fell asleep hearing, “I have known you for a long time and knew that you found that online, it was great, but not really you … I missed the Graham crackers with frosting.” Like the Tree and the Boy, from the book, I was happy. We were all happy. Perhaps part of celebrating holidays is to create traditions that are special to each family.  Kumbaya to celebrating the trees as a tradition.

The Brody Bunch – One Goes Camping

 

See Ya!  Have Good Travels

Today I said goodbye to my younger daughter as she and her 6th grade class embarks on a four day camping trip.  She asked me to go with her. I am a lucky one, receiving such a request.  Though I would hate being in the great outdoors, I value that she asked her Mommy to be with her.  I struggled like most working moms compounded by her three siblings’ overly active extra curricular activities and didn’t know how to accommodate her request, time is not my friend.  I offered to attend for a day, maybe overnight, though that would not pan out, it’s a real struggle.  The response was something along the lines of “I want you to come because you take great pictures and I will be very busy with the ropes course, being on the Bay, and doing other amazing things.”  She didn’t want her mommy, she wanted a photographer.  She has grown up with me documenting her experiences, almost daily.  But, my ego was slightly bruised as a mother, even though flattered as a photographer.

The I-Generation, disposable cameras – what is film?

We packed her up for the her journey, and it was nothing short of packing her for a backpacking trip across Europe. Packing and missing her just caused me to be a hot mess.  In my camera’s absence, she received a disposable camera. I am not sure why these camera are still produced, but it was like time traveling back into the 1980s with modern questions from an I-Generation kid including: “what do you mean I have to advance film?  What are exposures?  I only have 27 pictures over four days?  We have to wait to see the pictures?”  That all sounds correct for a child born after the invention of digital cameras, hence the I-Generation.

Packed A Love Note, with a Goodnight Prayer

I packed a love note in her suitcase.  While I already miss her terribly, I told her in the letter how excited I am for her adventures.  And, I wrote the Shema prayer.  This is a prayer in Hebrew that is often sang to children before they go to sleep.  We have sang her this prayer every night since she was in preschool.  It’s been years. Like mother, like daughter. Rachel said to me, “You have a lot of friends chaperoning this trip.  Do not text them the Shema prayer so that they can read it to me or try singing it to me.”  And she laughed.  Little did she know that I tucked it into her suitcase!  Prayers should probably be offered to the parents who signed up to do this camping trip.  Hats off to them!

I am Responsible for SHELdon the Hermit Crab

As we were rushing out the door to catch the bus, I was given clear instructions regarding how to care for her Hermit Crab, SHELdon.  I feel a lot of pressure, but I marked it on my calendar as a high level appointment.  SHELdon has to continue living through this week under my watch.

She is Prepared.  I Miss Her.

While missing Rachel, sending her off with a disposable camera and a love note, and carrying the responsibilities of caring for her hermit crab, I am ready for her to come back!  As of this writing, they haven’t even had lunch, yet.

The Brody Bunch – Our 15th Anniversary


The Morning of Our Anniversary 

Apparently I didn’t lock the bedroom door. We were surprised when our youngest child barged into our room, jumped on us, and gave anniversary kisses. I was repeatedly asked, “Mommy, why are you smiling so much? Because you are so happy?”  Um, rather highly embarrassed!

Thanks to YouTube, we danced to our first wedding dance, Edwin Starr’s “Oh How Happy”. Most people know this artist’s more popular song, “War!”  How ironic for us.  And, we are oh so happy!

The Night of Our Wedding

We delivered all of the catered dinner leftovers to a homeless shelter. A little girl saw me in my wedding dress and tiara and announced that a real princess was dropping off food.   Not a bad foundation to begin married life. After all, we met by making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the hungry. 

15th Celebration, Not Celebration, Life is Happening

I had grand plans of being in New York, where we had our honeymoon to commemorate this milestone. But, as my friend reminded me, John Lennon said something along the lines of “Life happens when we are busy making plans.” And it was confirmed that I did not win steeply discounted tickets for the  #springsteen musical on Broadway. 

Instead, I ate a dry Caesar salad while visiting a loved one in the hospital. We literally wished each other happy anniversary greetings before I sent Mark off into the night to pick up our kids from the Middle School dance. I even missed the dance. I love chaperoning this event, but our kids were thrilled that I missed the dance. Instead, after 5 minutes of an anniversary dinner with Mark, I had time to pull this blog together as a tribute to my best friend. 

This is What It’s All About

I write this blog from a hospital room as a visitor. We have had more than our share of blessings and happiness. The journey is part of the deal. Mark Brody, it has been much longer than 15 years, and this sitcom has been renewed including four wonderful spinoffs, The Brody Bunch. Love, laughter, tears, carpools, hospital food, it’s just what we know as Friday.  Happy Anniversary, with love. 

Update Since Blog Published:

I was reminded by my other half that eating our anniversary dinner in the hospital is apropos as four of the five best days of our lives happened in this same hospital where all four of our children were born. The 4 kids and our wedding, #ThisIsUs  We are The Brody Bunch. 

The Brody Bunch – The Apple Did Not Fall Far from the Tree

A light blog inspired by my Dad

I am so excited to write this blog, and dedicate it to my dad, Freddie. I really should wait until Father’s Day to publish this, but I can’t. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

Freddie is a gourmet cook. Part of his regiment is that he shops and doubles or triples everything so that we have leftovers for next day lunches and a few dinners, it makes him happy. We have a large family, so this is a big financial undertaking.  And, Freddie honors special requests for everyone – steaks, fish, Caesar salads, whatever we want.  We try helping in the kitchen afterwards by putting a few things away.  But after loud and late dinners often on school nights, Freddie is just happy for us to pack up and go. Freddie never criticizes us for anything, except if we use the wrong size storage bags, seriously.  Freddie’s gadget filled kitchen has dedicated shelving and storage areas specifically for his variety of bags.  And, the bags are purchased in bulk.  Oh, Freddie likes to eat out daily.  So, he has a lifetime supply of storage bags in various sizes. So, if a cleanup helper uses a gallon sized bag to only put in a few leftover crudités, it will be stated that a sandwich size bag was more appropriate, “but no problem”.  We never ask where a specific size bag is stored, it somehow cues my dad that he should buy additional replacement bags within the next day or so.

The Perforated Box Filled with Storage Bags was Opened Incorrectly, & it made me think of my Dad

In my kitchen, we  have one drawer for storage bags.  We don’t use them too often. Though, I thought of my dad and was floored when I noticed that a Brody Bunch kid opened the box in a unique way, FROM THE SIDE rather than pushing along the perforated indentations.  I have never opened storage bag boxes from the side, there’s a perforated cut out in the center, but the bags still come out, so I let it go, I saved my snarky complaint for a higher level moment. Last Father’s Day I gave Freddie a box of snack sized storage bags and he was pretty happy with the gift, though I don’t think he has had need for this size, yet.

Plasticware – Wash and Reuse or Recycle?

We just wrapped up two nights of family dinners at my house and I pulled out some plasticware and paper plates.  It was brought to my attention that either you wash and reuse plasticware, or you recycle it.  I have always been in the wash and reuse group. And, I noticed that when my daughter Rachel serves dessert, that she is generous with the paper plates.  I walk around and pull off the extra bottom plates while someone is eating and put the clean plates back into circulation. Like the storage bags, I am pretty particular with the paper and cutlery, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Gift Bags!

In addition to this weekend’s family dinners, our daughter Blanche celebrated her birthday. After Blanche opened her birthday presents.  Without thought, like an old habit, she handed me all of gift bags, “Here you go!  I have to remember not to give presents in these bags back to the people who gave me gifts in these bags.”  We regift, reuse gift bags.

The Apples Don’t Fall Far from the Tree

And there you have it, from plastic storage bags to paper plates and cutlery to gift bags, there’s lots of loves and laughs as the apples don’t fall far from the tree.  

 

The Brody Bunch – I Need A Time Out

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“Man Cave”. Hiding Space.  MY Space. My Time Out.

It was a long time before I was discovered “hiding” in the bathroom.  I have a great set up: a seat (other than the toilet), nutrition bars for sustenance, and a cup for water. The air conditioning is strong, the heat is comfortable, and the WiFi is reliable. There is even a soothing fan humming in the light fixture which is zen like in keeping out the occasional “MOM, I NEED….” problems simply because I cannot hear them.  If I plan ahead, I bring in fresh coffee.  On occasion I have searched Amazon, while in the bathroom, so that I could purchase a Keurig machine for my bathroom. I drink my coffee black so this is a real possibility since milk refrigeration is a non issue.  A coffee machine in the bathroom, brilliant!  I am so easy to please.  I created what society recognizes as a “Man’s Cave” for myself and it’s MY space. The Brody Bunch is an intense and loud group and sometimes I need a time out.  And, sometimes, during my time out, I look at old digital pictures, listen to my favorite music, watch This is Us or read trash websites. Most of the time, I reflect and find the humor in the moment and blog, post, document and share it.

The Brody Bunch is Banished from the Master Bathroom

I banished my entire family, the whole Brody Bunch, from the master bedroom bathroom. I can’t remember if empty toilet paper rolls, pee pee on the floor, the toilet not flushed, or my empty shampoo bottles pushed me over the edge.  But I banished everyone, including my husband, from using this bathroom.  My dirty clothes are no longer commingled with sweaty workout clothes or grass stained baseball pants. Though, now I do own that the hairs on the floor are my own. Once in a while I clean up their bathroom but complain minimally as to not encourage any of them to creep back into my bathroom.  

I Accidentally Announced My Brilliant Idea on Facebook

A lot of quiet time went by with me in the bathroom.  I would announce that I had to go to the bathroom and that was it!  After many successful breaks in the bathroom, I erred with a Facebook posting when I announced during a blizzard, that all was going well because my family thought I was in the bathroom, constipated.  However, I had snacks and was really watching a movie online.  Also, I might have had a mini, or two, and my husband was checking Facebook.  Thanks to Jose Cuervo and Facebook, I outed myself.

Rule Breakers, Evidence Left Behind

I try not complaining when evidence appears in my “Cave” such as the toilet seat is left up, someone cut their nails over the sink, or toilet paper is depleted. While clues are obvious that a Brody Bunch member crossed into the land of my sanity, I can’t give into their bad coverups of using my bathroom, because I am afraid they will freely use the amenities rather than sneak an occasional visit. Yes, they are rule breakers, I am okay with rule breakers, but it gets on my nerves. This unspoken bathroom battle lives on because I have nowhere else to hide and rejuvenate from 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 – Back to School Night, Again

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The quiet before the storm…
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… back to school night is off the books for this year.

Here we go again

It’s back to school night.  Specifically, it’s middle school night back to school night.  And, I have a student in EACH middle school grade. The teachers give up an evening to meet the parents. We hear about the exciting new programs being offered.  There’s a fundraising pitch in response to the budget cuts. We fill out our yearly PTA dues form. The older grades are seeking grade class parents, the younger grades have a strong pull of parent volunteers. Yawn. But what makes this event a production for me, is the aerobic activity up and down four flights of steps and around every corner of the school since I am covering three grades on the SAME night: 6th, 7th and 8th.  And I don’t really hear anything, because all of the presentations occur at the same time and I am looping the building.  But, I am not a very good listener anyway, I talk to my neighbor in each presentation. Three kids in middle school and one in the wings.  Puberty x 4, sigh.  On the home front, the kids have ignored our nutritiously prepared dinner that just needs to be reheated and have opted to heat up all of our “emergency” frozen delicacies saved for really poor planning scheduling.

Seeking New Friends/Expanding my Network is My Back to School Goal

Thankfully, we are engaged parents, and because the kids are so close in age, there is a natural fascination about this phenomena (sex ed was not my strongest subject) so the teachers and administrators lean towards joining our village as do parents who have heard about the quantity of Brody Bunch siblings.  One parent once told me that my kids are like a “gang” in the school yard.  I wasn’t sure whether to be proud or horrified.  Back to school night is a great time for me to socialize and make notes as to who has a kid in a similar extra curricular activity as a Brody Bunch member and has room for one more in the carpool without strong hopes of me reciprocating – we just don’t have any open seats in our car.   I am good at photography so I send my candid pics of their kid as gratitude for the schelpping that everyone else does for my kids.  It’s all about relationships and friendships, hence an outcome of back to school night.

I missed my LAST ever Elementary School Back to School Night.  I Will Send in Pencils, I Need Tissues

My youngest, bless his teachers, get a blanket email from me each year: “Dear Teachers, we are so excited for this school year.  Please note that because Mark and I will be absent during back to school night, this does not indicate a lack of interest, but we can’t swing it. Do outreach to us when your classroom is in need of pencils.  Warmly, Robyn”.  I have been through the dog and pony show before.  With the Brody Bunch in consecutive grades, this is my fourth consecutive year in 5th grade.  What makes this year a little more special than the last two years (the first time is always exciting) is that it is MY last year in elementary school.  Tissues please.  Let that sync in:  we are in each grade four consecutive years in a row!  And, I missed my last ever back to school night for elementary school.

High School is on the Horizon, I REALLY NEED Tissues

On the other end of the spectrum is our oldest son.  It is his last year in middle school, and we are off to high school.  OH SHIT!  No time for tears of reflection wondering where the years went, but tears of OMG, how will we navigate high school placement and high school ITSELF?  TISSUES PLEASE!!!!  These are real tears, fearful tears, hormonal tears and tears – the tears are all mine.

Cash Bar Recommended, Cheers!

I wonder if the fire marshal is requested to ignore the school on big community nights like this?  Everyone can settle down, I am sure this is not the case!  However, it is a crowded night as it should be, relationships between parents, teachers, administrators and such are important.  I can’t help but notice that with all of the jitters, the busy bodies, the stress, the excitement and more, why don’t we ever set up a cash bar?  A cash bar would go very far especially for a mom like me with three different grades to cover all at the same time and it might help with the budget crisis.  Raise a virtual glass, Cheers!