The Brody Bunch – Happy New Year

Tradition, Community & Rain

With heavy rain, it is understandable that the annual Rosh Hashanah services Under the Stars, an outdoor event ringing in the Jewish New Year, with a service alongside a picnic dinner, was moved inside. Since the inception of this spiritual, casual, community event, I do not believe that my family has ever missed one year.  Mother Nature broke our streak.

For many, this gathering, is a time to reconnect with former neighbors, old school friends, their parents, and their kids.  Old camp bunk mates attend. My kids’ teammates, preschool teachers and current teachers attend. We ring in the New Year as a community, about 5000 people from the Baltimore Jewish community. We gather to hear the first sound of the shofar.

Dinner is a big part of the Holiday

I am always amazed that for a three hour event, the outdoor Congregants drag lawn chairs, Bridge card tables, tarps, coolers, enough food for a banquet, and wine to celebrate the Jewish new year.  Even if the rained stopped, I can’t see our people dragging the gear and food through the mud.  Our cars wouldn’t survive getting out of the fields – we struggle with the parking lot on dry land.

Dinner is a big component of this evening.  Some people get carryout.  Some people partake in the food trucks.  Some families cook. For my family, my father often makes the main dish which varies from year to year: filet mignon, salmon, flank steak, deli, masculine green salad and more. I bring the traditional Jewish favorites including Dr. Brown’s diet black cherry and cream soda cans, rainbow cake, chocolate tops, and the balance of dinner.

Many families have three big dinners and luncheons over this holiday. My daughter and I cook for the second dinner. Because of the rain, this year, my family is swapping out the second dinner menu in lieu of the canceled picnic dinner. We will figure out tomorrow’s dinner later. I have heard that some of our friends will be eating their Royal Farms’ fried chicken intended picnic dinner in their dry and warm homes. I am racing against the clock and hoping that the traditional brisket, matzoh ball soup, kugel, and apple cake are cooked before for sundown. We already polished off the chopped liver.

Memories From Past Rosh Hashanahs

While I am disappointed that our family’s traditional evening will be different this year, and as I continue to procrastinate getting dinner ready, here are a few good stories from the past:

  • The year that the selfie emerged, my mother and I discovered we could not get our heads into one photo. We have photos filled with laughter and our heads are cut off.  We bought a selfie stick that week.
  • One time my father made an 8 pound flank steak and brought it into the park whole. He brought an industrial grade butcher’s knife and I had to slice it on the picnic blanket sitting on my knees.
  • My Mom couldn’t open her folding chair and kindly asked surrounding neighbors if they had KY Jelly while wishing them a good New Year.  We intervened after the third inquiry.
  • The year my dad prepared filet mignon. We were already to eat and it was discovered that my mom forgot to pack utensils. My dad and I walked around the park wishing everyone a Happy New Year and begged for a spare plastic fork here and an extra plastic knife there.  We may have had to share a spoon or two during dessert.
  • We went light one year with an extravagant deli spread. There must have been 8 different mustards. Mark asked my Dad if he brought any other condiments. My Dad who is generous and flexible responded with a tone, “Mark, I picked up all of the deli. We have a lot of options.  Can you figure out something else?”  Mark, “Sure, Freddie, but the mustard is expired. One expired about 12 years ago.”  Our first born son wasn’t born the year that mustard was manufactured.  We have never looked at mustard the same since.
  • Yes, my mother’s beautiful Jewish Apple Cake fell out of the container and rolled down a hill.  We pulled the grass off it, and ate it anyway.
  • My kids remember when they were little, that they used to receive apples and honey sticks on our way out for a sweet new year.  When our son was about 9, a relative didn’t come with us. My son asked the volunteer for an extra apple and honey stick to bring home.  I am still proud of my son years later for his empathy.

Music, Rain & Wishes for a Sweet Year

Music is always my favorite part of this service. I tear up each year when we all sing Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” in unison. This one event of the year is when I feel the most spiritual and community strong. It is incredible to hear your community, religious or not, sing the prayers of the high holidays together.  And Bob Marley just adds a little extra.
As the rain keeps us inside this year, and the menus abruptly change, it feels like Passover when the Jews were forced to flee and the bread didn’t rise, we got matzoh. I will look at the Rosh Hashanah matzoh balls with irony this year.
From our table to your table we wish you another sweet year filled with good health, peace, happiness and humor no matter what you are eating, and however you are celebrating. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life.

The Brody Bunch Survives Mother’s Day!

It’s Established that Everyone has the Best Mom, We Miss Moms & F U Hallmark

Each Mother’s Day I acknowledge that we all have the best moms ever. We miss the moms who are no longer with us. I have empathy for those who have lost their moms or children. I don’t like Mother’s Day.  Never have. Unreasonable expectations as the kid. My kids misbehave. There’s disappointment. This is all unnecessary. Everyday is important. My expectations are low and despite having pretty awesome kids, this one Hallmark day is an annual giant shitshow. So, I give an annual big F U to Hallmark.

Parenting Days are so Long yet the Time Goes By Quickly

The night before Mother’s Day, my husband, older daughter and I were cuddling and watching videos of our family from when the four kids were really little. My husband filmed moments of our younger life. The little stuff that became the big stuff. I appreciate those clips now so much. My heart was full of emotions as the days of parenting are so very long, but the time goes by too quickly.

Breakfast Was Not Served in Bed, It Wasn’t Even Served in the House, My Husband Made An Escape

No Coffee, No Underwear, Questionable Art & No Little League Games

The next morning, Mother’s Day, my husband burst into the bedroom, “WAKE UP!  Do you want to go out to breakfast with me? The kids are really misbehaving!” No. All I wanted was for the kids to cleanthe house. In the past, I asked them to just behave for the day and my then little daughter would reply, “Behave? Can’t we just buy you a new purse? That would be easier!” So, cleaning joined behaving, and I would receive neither. No, I do not have a new purse.

Next, another daughter came into my room, “Where’s my underwear? What happened to the laundry? I have to wear athletic shorts with built-ins.” Yup, I had Mother’s Day laundry to do.

I asked my purse offering daughter if I gave her instructions, would she please brew coffee.  She reminded me that I had a cup of coffee in my bathroom (a space in the house where the rest of the family is banished – much like a Man Cave) from the day before and she would be happy to microwave that. 

Instead of delivering on the coffee, she took the time to mimic a Mother’s Day art project that she made for me 7 years ago when in Kindergarten, under the supervision of her teacherThe project was little nails hammered into the shape of a heart on a wood block with ribbons outlining the heart. It still hangs in our foyer. Her modern version of this project, sans supervision, was created using my painting canvas and several two inch screws, which dangled out the back of the canvas. No coffee, but now I am the recipient of a weapon-like piece of art, in the shape of a heart.

As the day went on, our boys’ four travel baseball games were rained out.  At least I didn’t have to pack the lunch coolers.

My younger daughter was talking to my youngest son on speaker phone, “I need you to clean the house or else I am not allowed to use the kitchen and I want to make a Mother’s Day dessert.” Her desserts are her gifts. My son looked at me as she did not know that I was in the room and she was on speaker phone. He giggled and hung up on her. I don’t eat desserts, I just wanted the house cleaned.

They Took Me to The Ballgame

Last minute, we went to Camden Yards to cheer on the Orioles, my hometown team in last place. It was drizzling, the bats were hot and the game was so much fun. One of our favorite Orioles, Right Fielder, Joey Rickard, received a call on Mother’s Day morning. He was recalled from the Minors to play again in the Major League.  The game ended with 17 runs including Joey Rickard‘s two home runs. And, my husband, for the first time ever, and while I was buying snacks from the concession stand, got a Joey Rickard foul ball. I was so happy for him! REMEMBER THE BALL.

After a great day at the game, we headed home and the kids played catch while I took an unsanctioned nap.  Yay, naps and more baseball!

Though Banned from the Kitchen a Child made Mother’s Day Ice Cream Sandwiches

While I was at the ballgame, without the house being tidy, my daughter, the one banned from the kitchen, used my brand new and never used baking tray to make ice cream sandwiches, whereas the ice cream melted and then froze all over the tray. The ice cream sandwiches served as the kids’ Mother’s Day dinner. They were happy.

Notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg Screening

I was again awoken with the door bursting open, by my husband, again. “Let’s go!  I know you want to see Notorious RBG!”  Yes! I want to see the documentary about an iconic and Jewish woman making HER-story!  We were late to the theater and the cashier didn’t know how to sell tickets to late comers. So, the employees let us into RBG for free! I thanked each of the employees and promised to do something really nice for someone else, soon, but not today.

As a Little League Mom, A Signed MLB Ball (from my family) Was Better than a Hallmark Greeting

My husband handed me the foul ball from the game.  Each person in my family signed my husband’s prized ball.  It was a gift from their hearts. As a Little League baseball Mom, this gesture was filled with love.

After the movie, my husband and I had a dinner date.  We decided, that on this successful Brody Bunch Mother’s Day, if Joey Rickard, who was called back up to the major leagues on Mother’s Day, wanted his foul ball, though signed by family, it would be an honor to give it to him.  I hope one day if my kid is a major league ball player, that the ball recipient would feel the same.

When we got home, my oldest son, in bed for the night, the one who first made me a mom, called me into his room.  I gave him lots of kisses and he asked me to look in my bathroom (everyone goes in there).  He left me a sweet note for Mother’s Day and he signed his first name and our last name initial.  All of my kids came through. While the house is not tidy, it’s filled with love. I had a home run kind of a day.

The Brody Bunch – The Sandwich Years

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The Sandwich Years – Caring for the Generation Below Me and Above Me, our Kids and our Parents

It’s not the typical Thanksgiving blog. In fact, it should probably be notes for my future therapist.  On the cusp of Thanksgiving, we have already hosted two family birthday dinners this week as we are in birthday-palooza with Brody Bunch Thing 3 and Thing 4 birthdays just four days apart.  And, my sweet Mom has needed extra support.  All hands are on deck.  My Mom, once two inches taller than me is now four inches shorter than me. Living in Baltimore, I kid her that we may enter her as a jockey in the upcoming Preakness Stakes Horse Race.  I am so fortunate, we have decent insurance policies and my family is on board with all support needs.  

Reflections on Being in My Generation within My Family

Here is what I wish the Brody Bunch knew:

  1. It is important not to buy many things, experiences are better.  Cleaning up is harder when there is so much stuff, it breaks and the landfills are already past capacity.  I am a professional schlepper (mover). I pack things up and take them to donation centers.
  2. Calendaring is an art.  Sports leagues, theater classes, family dinners, meetings, high school open houses, next summer camp opportunities, it is all a fulltime job involving flexibility, calendars, charts, maps and a checkbook.
  3. As adults, having your social security benefits, medicare plan, housing needs, car sales, will and estate planning, retirement, and pre funeral arrangements in place are all big items that are probably better off being methodically planned rather than doing it all in a four week window.  Though these tasks give a recovering helicopter mom, such as myself, a new focus, now that the kids are more independent and a grandparent needs more help.
  4. Taking family photos are important – documenting hard times and celebrations is part of the tapestry and should be remembered.
  5. People are kind.  Hugging and blowing kisses with older people makes them happy.
  6. Humor is the best tool for surviving the roller coaster.

Planning For Death, it is Surreal With Many Expensive Options

Last night, my mother and I shared perhaps one of our most bat shit crazy experiences to date.  In an effort to make things as smooth as possible, it was recommended that we pre plan her funeral. Thankfully this is not an imminent situation, though we were advised to tackle this need now.  The funeral director presented us with many options.  My mother consistently picked the more expensive option and I consistently nodded my head no and supporting the cheaper options.  I tried to beat the financial funeral system hard last night, it can’t possibly cost this much to die.  My mom found comfort in knowing that she could request a playlist of songs for the service.  We laughed so hard with quick self recommendations such as “Only the Good Die Young” and “Ding Dong the Wicked Witch is Dead”.  We had a great time in our funeral meeting.  Did I mention how sweet my Mom is?  We laughed so hard, that the funeral director took notes of our one liners.  She liked the part where we were given a document about “How to Talk To Your Family about Funeral Arrangements” I compared this to “How to Talk To Your Kids about Sex.”

Tradition, Money, and Preserving the Soul

We grappled with tradition. We discussed options that are not in line with how our community defines tradition. Like many, we are faced to make decisions based upon money.  I heard myself say aloud that we want to spend all of the money now to give my mom the best healthcare, living accommodations and life experiences now, and not after.

My mom wanted to know about her soul. All of the decisions we are making are irrelevant to her soul, as she has one of the best souls out there.  And, I would announce that the funeral industry is in bed with the legislature as many expenses are mandated by our state laws.  The rebuke was that it is for the safety of the funeral parlor employees, I didn’t argue with that.

We talked about burial versus cremation.  I heard that cremation would require that I charter a boat should we chose to sprinkle ashes in the Ocean.  My mother belted over, “with your luck, you will be on the boat, and my ashes will blow in your face when you open the box.”  True. So, I am not chartering a boat.

Candy, Singing, Holiday Stress, and Thankful

After our surreal meeting, my mom and I went to a vending machine and cracked open a bag of peanut M&Ms. We sang choruses to the most inappropriate funeral services possible.  But she was very serious about Sinatra’s “New York, New York.”  You can take the girl out of New York, but you can’t take the New York out of the girl.

While many are stressed out about cooking the turkey, cleaning the house, potential political dinner conversations, if relatives took enough of their medications, this pre funeral arrangements experience shines a new light on being thankful.  I am about to embark on hopefully just a 7 hour Thanksgiving car ride, in a vehicle that the Brody Bunch has outgrown, and I will be relegated to the second or third row, with bags on our laps, and with the wafting smell of four pounds of corned beef in transit. I look forward to being with family from far away even though I will miss my side of the family with whom we see several times per week.  There is much to be thankful about.

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 – The Season Changes and So Do We

Fall Season With Younger Kids

When the Brody Bunch was younger, Fall signified pumpkin patches, jumping in leaves and slow walks picking up acorns. Traditions are now memories that I try to keep going each Autumn, albeit watered down. As Autumn seems to arrive faster and faster each year, I try to schedule all of my favorite Fall pastimes, which now all happens the Saturday or Sunday just before Halloween.  As the leaves change, my heart yearns for pumpkin patches, acorn finds, but not so much raking.

Fall Season With Older Kids, Life is Moving Fast

The weather is getting chilly.  The Brody Bunch is super busy.  Weekends are not our own. We are on this incredible hamster wheel: homework projects, multiple sport tournaments, baseline goals of having clean underwear for the week, grocery shopping, paying bills and aging grandparents.  The aging grandparents part is new because the “sandwich generation” is kicking into full speed for me.  There have been highs and lows, but mostly highs. I love the time I am spending with my Mom and the harder and life lessons conversations with my Dad.  The kids spend even more time with grandparents visiting and being shuttled to extra curricular activities.  We all need more help and everyone is pitching in.  And, everything seems to be pumpkin spiced.  I never liked pumpkin spiced anything, I know that is considered blasphemy to some.

I loved the times at the pumpkin patches and being in awe by the changing colors seen in nature.  As the kids get older, I am getting older, too.  The seasons seem to change more rapidly and the memories seem so long ago. We are at the point where the Brody Bunch can use knives to carve their own pumpkins and a landscaping company blows the leaves. When the Brody Bunch was little, I thought those were really hard days. Imagine being in pumpkin patch with 2, 3, 4 and 5 year olds and being hopeful that we could round up all of the kids and their pumpkins before the last tractor hay ride headed back to the parking lot, also known as civilization.  

“Puff the Magic Dragon” Syndrome

The changing of the seasons and how we mark time reminds me of Mary, Peter and Paul’s classic song, “Puff the Magic Dragon”. This song is about a little boy, Jackie Paper, who had a great imagination and believed in the pretend Magic Dragon named Puff. One day, Jackie made way for other things, and Jackie moved beyond Puff. This lyric sums it up:
“A dragon lives forever but not so little boys/Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys/One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more/And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar!”

Believing in the Magic of Fall, Make it Happen, Again

The memorable magic of Autumn has shifted because we have made way for other things. The Brody Bunch is Jackie Paper. And, I still want the Brody Bunch to hold onto the magical moments before growing up.  I am hopeful that as the seasons change, that the Brody Bunch still finds time as a whole Bunch to explore a pumpkin patch, look for changing colored leaves and collect acorns throughout the season.  We may even stop on the way home for a pumpkin spiced latte and sing “Puff the Magic Dragon”.  

Nature, love, memories, tradition, aging, and pumpkin spice and everything nice.

The Brody Bunch – My Mother’s Makeup Table

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Seeing my mother, myself and my daughter in the same mirror and triggered memories 

 

Scents Brought Memories Back From My Childhood

I sat at my Mother’s makeup table.  I was alone in her room.  I flicked on the light switch and the circa 1960s hard white light round, bulbs were illuminated. Well, most of the bulbs were bright, some of the bulbs need to be replaced. Suddenly, I was engulfed in familiar smells from my childhood.  Scent is a big trigger for memories. I sobbed. The smells of my Mom’s lipsticks and eye and lip pencils were all bringing back vivid memories from when I was little.  I remember my Mom sitting at her makeup table every morning and doing things to her face that Vogue models do before a photoshoot. Back then, my mom was younger than half of my current age today.  I didn’t see us get older.

Like a Child, but as an Adult, I Went Through My Mom’s Things

Like I did when I was as a little girl, I opened the makeup table’s main drawer.  I marveled at the treasures inside. There were organized containers overflowing with products.  The best of the best name brands were tucked in this drawer: Yves Saint Laurent, Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, and some other moderately priced names. I remember being with her at high end cosmetic counters and department stores buying these products when I was younger.  And, sometimes, we would go out to lunch after a she bought her makeup and nailpolishes.  I even remember one place she shopped, there was a line of pay telephones each enclosed with a glass door for privacy and a seat for comfort. Sometimes, when I was finishing lunch, she would make a business call from one of the telephone booths.  When I was older, maybe 17 or 18, I occasionally shopped at the same makeup counters. The makeup artists knew me because I was there as a kid with my mom, but it was too expensive of a luxury for me during high school and college.

True Colors

Truth be told, while I was in her makeup table last night, I did put on a lipstick, just like when I was younger.  I was surprised to see a gold tone shade, which is in the family of color tones that I wear. By opening this drawer, memories emerged and I time traveled back by four decades. So long ago, my mom wore bright reds and fuchsia pinks.  But, there was a modern color from today.  A color quickly gave me a reflection of time.  I measured time with a color.

Empathy and Hugs

I didn’t realize that I was crying.  My daughter, Rachel, 11, came into the room.  Rachel has been known to open products, smell them, and not return items as found.  But not last night. Unlike me, Rachel did not partake in opening items.  Instead, Rachel stood above me while I sat at the makeup table and she just hugged me. And, she hugged me for a long time. Just the night before, I hugged my own mom, and I hugged her for a long time.  Rachel championed empathy.  My mom is an empathetic person.

The Bright Light Went Dark

In my moment of hysteria, because I was unexpectedly flooded with memories, Rachel brought over pictures of me with my Mom from when we were much younger, way before the Brody Bunch phenomena. Rachel’s intentions were good. The pictures from old family occasions combined with the scents from the makeup took me way down memory lane.  I could even remember the master bedroom where this table also stood in my childhood home.  For a short moment to me, and a long moment for Rachel, I was a mess.  Rachel’s comfort helped calm me down, and then, one of the 1960 hard white light round bulbs popped and went dark.  I could no longer see my perfectly painted lips painted with my Mom’s lipstick.

Love, Memories and 3 Generations of My Family Sat at this Makeup Table

From this experience,  I have a new love for this piece of furniture as there a connection from my mom to me and from me to my daughter. Now three generations of women in my family have seen their faces through the same mirror on this makeup table, both sad and happy.  And, we are all beautiful.

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 – 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 – 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. 

The Brody Bunch – (over) Packing for an adventure

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Brody Bunch – Packing for Six

It’s not normal, but it is my normal.  For 9 days at the beach, we probably just need the essentials of a swimsuit, underwear and a toothbrush, times six people.  Somehow, packing for the beach from the summers when my brother and I were young and squeezed into the back of the family car along with our 3 yapping and medicated dogs has evolved into a whole new beast with my own children and no dogs.

The Brody Bunch has transformed the packing experience into the need for driving two big cars filled with our first world essentials including:

  • bedding –  we don’t have to wash the house sheets when we depart. Genius concept!
  • sports equipment
  • camera gear
  • non-perishable goods from our pantry inventory
  • toilet paper to be gracious by restocking the paper goods
  • enough hair products to cover a beauty pageant
  • cheap beach toys that we lug back and forth each summer
  • journals & books
  • saved arcade prize tickets from trips past
  • and so much more

All of the “important” items such as sunscreen, hats, underwear and coffee beans have been crossed referenced with my packing charts which I update each year. Some of the kids request packing guidelines, and still bring everything except the kitchen sink. “Surprisingly”, several times throughout the trip, we have to run out and purchase items we left at home.  After this tremendous effort of organized chaos, our favorite possessions are lovingly shoved into our “fancy” IKEA bags and other reusable bags which is really the Brody Bunch family luggage.

Truth be told that when we look back on our vacation pictures, everyone wears the same two shirts for the trip duration, despite that we bring laundry detergent and a plethora of options for all situations. I recognize that with the “help” of our 10 year doing our laundry, by choice, that I really packed mildew scented clothing at best.

Packing for the journey is Phase 1 of every Brody Bunch adventure.