December. While we need toilet paper, dish soap and mustard, store shelves are overflowing with holiday cheer. My retail experience has been a teary eyed holiday season regarding memories from material gifts from years ago. The retail world is on high octane with sparkly pajama sets, gift boxed Hot Wheels, non scary looking baby dolls, Barbie and her dream world, Lego kits, books and more. I used to buy it all. Now, I get a lump in my throat when I see the the holiday packaged merchandise as my kids are too old for this, they outgrew the this world, but my heart and memory did not.
My kids are sweet, they don’t ask for expensive items, but their interests are expensive (sports gear and arts classes). Toy catalogs and trips to box stores are now non issues in my house regarding the kids. But these are issues for me. The kids don’t long for their childhood toys, but I do. The toys used to shed light into their thoughts and imaginations before screen time. We used to play together.
My biggest holiday gift was always the joy I received in picking out the perfect doll or race car and watching my then little kids open the presents with such happiness and gratitude. Those days are now just memories.
Lightning McQueen, then and now
My oldest son, 15, invited me to watch a movie with him. Cars 3. At age three, the first movie he ever saw was Cars. We watched this movie at least one hundred times. Ka-Chow! [Ka-Chow is Lightning McQueen’s catchphrase in case you missed the Cars experience]. Cars 3 represented a lot to me: present time with my son and a chance to go back in time. I had a lot going on in my head. I tried to explain this phenomena to him, but his 15 year old self responded. I knew to pipe down and enjoy being in the moment. I also knew that I would come back here and reflect this with all of you later.
We were watching Cars 3 just like we watched movies when my 15 year old was three, well that was my perspective. And, when he told me “I love you” it was the same infection in his voice as it was at age three, but now much lower in pitch at age 15.
At one point during the movie, we switched roles. When he was little and something sad happened in a movie, I would remind him that it’s a movie, and I think things will work out. Now, when I gasped at a Car character spinning out of control and hitting a wall (yes this is all animated), I was reminded by my son, “It’s a Disney-Pixar movie, it will be okay.” And, it was followed up with, “I love you.” This growing up stuff is hard on the heart, but all will be okay.
Merchandising to the Kids, and to THIS parent
Recently, we gave away hundreds of Hot Wheels cars, and I pulled out Lightning McQueen from the giveaway, to keep for myself as a memento from my younger years of parenting.
The next morning after watching the movie, I was in Target. I knew it would be hard, but I went down the toys aisle to find a Lightning McQueen car from Cars 3, as a gag gift/or a pull at your heartstrings gift to my son, but probably more as a souvenir for myself. I couldn’t find any movie merchandise, which was probably best. And, I found myself eyeing the Hot Wheels race tracks that we used to set up through the living room. I saw the section of toys that we always ignored, no offense to the action figures and board games.
I like to talk to strangers in the aisles and there was no one. No one for me to share with the great life messages that we watched in Cars 3. The movie was filled with themes of friendship, doing the correct thing, knowing that you can always go home and to be yourself. I left the toys aisle quickly and got our toilet paper, dish soap and mustard.
Life is a Highway
Whenever I hear the song, Life is a Highway the theme song from Cars I think of the journey my family is traveling. This song is one of my songs with my oldest son, we hear it and we give each other a nod and a smile. It’s a special song in our family.
Gifts don’t always come with glitter or with a big bow. My gift came via Netflix and a trip down memory lane. This holiday season shaped up to be a reminder via sparkles, movies, Barbies, Hot Wheels, glitter lip gloss and fancy plastic high heels that time moves on.
To borrow from the lyrics Life is a Highway “Life’s like a road that you travel on/When there’s one day here and the next day gone… I love you now like I loved you then, this is the road….” It’s a blessing to be on this highway, glad I was asked to watch a movie.
Winter break 2017 is about to come to an end. I am pretty ready to resume the Brody Bunch’s hamster wheel of school and extracurricular activities, family pressures, and it all restarts tomorrow. I don’t feel too revived from the break. I live and survive in chaos, and on the first day of the New Year, I have enjoyed being at home in PJs, writing, binge watching bad TV with my daughter, doing a puzzle and not being anywhere, until a New Year’s Day birthday dinner later tonight, before the first day back to school – timing is not our specialty.
Traditions, Disappointments and Surviving on Coffee, Dry Shampoo and Thermal Underwear
Over the holiday season, I navigated our family calendar with traditional things that the Brody Bunch, rather I, like to do over winter break. Our festivities begin the week prior to Thanksgiving with two birthdays and conclude on January 2nd with another birthday. I try to do it all, Monument lighting, parades, a trip to Pittsburgh, 8 crazy nights of Chanukah, Christmas in New York, train gardens, “The Nutcracker,” art museums, high tea, lights at the Miracle on 34th Street in Baltimore and more. I felt disappointment when the weather didn’t cooperate, it has been so cold. We canceled our day trip to DC. Bagged an NFL game. We saw three movies in the movie theater, which is not my favorite activity, I like being out and about and not sitting still. Surprisingly, all of the movies were great. Our kids felt disappointment when we didn’t host their friends for big dinners. We navigated our kids’ heightened social desires whereas I was a professional chauffeur but without their sports gear. We didn’t watch my favorite Christmas classic movies. I promised ice skating, but not all of the kids went. I said we would go bowling and we couldn’t get lanes. I said we would go to a jump zone place, and I got my days of the weeks messed up, I never knew what day it was, that is winter break. I survived on coffee, dry shampoo and thermal underwear as pants.
This winter has been tiring, cold and hard. I struggled with my kids pushing limits and my own desire to keep traditions on the calendar – not all of their plans included me. That was my own growing pain for the winter combined with four kids going through puberty at once.
Resolutions Turned into Bucket Lists
As the New Year approached, one of my kids scrapped resolutions for bucket list items. WOW, bucket list items, this is brilliant. My own simple goal is just to put the Chanukah decorations away before going back to work, I still have about 48 hours. Everything from standard to extravagant made their bucket lists: exercise goals to catching a foul ball at Camden Yards. We reflected on being better people.
Ready for the Hamster Wheel in the New Year with Memories, a Bucket List and LOVE
My mommy bucket overflowed last night at 11:49, PM, on December 31, 2017. One of my kids texted a sibling, and I received the notification on my phone, “I love you! Goodnight.” All of my planning is so that the Brody Bunch has good memories. Their growing up is tough, for me. But, this simple text, highlights that the important things are going well. Tomorrow is the first day back to school and theater practice. I am sure we will be rushed, unorganized and grabbing salad bar for dinner. Fortunately, everyone has clean underwear for the school week, which is a huge accomplishment here. For me, it’s time to resume wearing a bra and get back on the hamster wheel with overflowing buckets and love. Happy New Year!
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!