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.

Brody Bunch – The Bike, Teen Freedom & Adult Personal Growth

person riding a bicycle during rainy day

Reflections, Freedom, Personal Growth Because of a Bike

Labor Day is the universal date marking the end of summer. Our summer included great vacations abroad, the beach, New York, Philly, Pittsburgh, California and camps. Our memory buckets are overflowing.  And, I will look back on this particular summer as our oldest son’s “Summer of Freedom” combined with the byproduct of my “Summer of Personal Growth”.  

Our son turned 15 in July.  All he wanted was a bike. For his fifth birthday, I gift wrapped a tricycle for him.  His four-year-old sister saw the wrapped gift and excitedly announced: “You got a bike!” He was disappointed that she “ruined” the surprise. There was no doubt that under the Sesame Street wrapping paper a bike was in there.

Ten years later, he wanted a bike.  After bikes were stolen off our porch and there was a stretch of teens being knocked off their bikes by thieves in our neighborhood, we denied bike requests.  Our son’s friend shared an extra bike and the boys spent hours riding around the neighborhood. Yet, my son wanted his own bike. He offered to pay for it. So, I stood between the bike and my fears.  And, should the pendulum swing towards the bike, there would be a beautiful rite of passage for this teenager: independence and freedom.

A Birthday Wish, Agonized and Granted

A grandmother asked me what birthday wish she could fill.  I told her about the bike and asked if she wanted to contribute to that.  She called me back and offered a wonderful bike. My younger children went to see the bike and confirmed that this bike was the perfect size and he would love it. The siblings never mentioned the bike to their eager brother.  My concerns about past crimes and the issue that we live on the West side of a very busy street that needs to be crossed to get into the neighborhood of friends living East of the main road was well known. Now, I held the permission to the gift of freedom. After restless sleep and with tremendous trepidation, I graciously accepted the bike.

Days later after a family dinner, we stepped onto the patio.  The bike was revealed. Our reserved son beamed with happiness and his recessive dimple popped out. Grandparents, parents and siblings filled the porch to see this surprise. I imagine this moment was like someone receiving their first color television or their first car.  With much gratitude, my son held onto the bike handles and quickly shared the safest routes to bike around busy roads. He had a responsible plan already worked out for this magical moment.

The Gift of Freedom and Independence and Letting Go, Riding off into the World

My son, through the bike, was given the gift of freedom.  Throughout the rest of the summer “the guys” rode their bikes to various friends’ homes, the pool, the soccer field, the baseball diamond, the park, and on trails. I received photos of my happy son on his adventures. With a knot in my stomach, my heart was happy for him.  I recognize that I lived through this agonizing decision.

His friends’ parents maintained stocked fridges, a welcome place to sleep, and space to lock up all of the bikes.  It took an entire Village to lift my son, support his wishes to get a bike, and let him be a kid experiencing adventures and journeys.  Deep in my heart, I know this is about me letting go. The experience of getting a bike at age 15,  is very different than a 10-year-old getting a bike. From his parents’ point of view, the issues surrounding a bike at an older age feels much closer to getting a car – further travels in the City, navigating decisions, personal safety, unsupervised travels, and more. We still worry about him constantly, and I share in his happiness about his outings and experiences.  Now, he has the opportunity to ride off into the world, on his own bike.

School Shootings: No More “Thoughts & Prayers”. Demand Policy and Action.

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I am a Mom. I am sick and tired and shocked by yet another school shooting. I am also sick and tired of “thoughts and prayers”.  Yesterday, marked the 18th school shooting THIS year alone.  It is ONLY mid February, you have a calendar, you do the math. I am angry, frustrated and scared. What is the plan moving forward?  We don’t have a plan.  

To shield my children, I used to lower the radio and turn off the news pertaining to school shootings.  I wanted to protect my children.  But, they know, they knew.  This is so frequent. They respond in an empathetic way, but they are not shocked. This, is THEIR normal.  NORMAL. They are sometimes a little scared, but this is part of their childhood tapestry.  There is NOTHING normal about this.

We kiss our kids goodbye and send them to school.  Some kissed their kids goodbye and it was really goodbye.  After Sandy Hook, I looked longer at my kids when they hopped out of the car until they were no longer in my sight. Columbine was so long ago, and we have been here many times prior to the 18 cities impacted by school shootings since January of THIS year.  I can’t even name all 18 of these cities.

To the members of Congress still offering their “thoughts and prayers” we should OUT these legislators who accepted campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association. No other country has these school shootings and no other country has a lobby like the NRA.  The NRA is owns the United States of America’s Congress.

We need policy and action. Stand up to the gun lobby. Mental health advocacy needs to be a legislative priority NOW. Take the stigma out of mental health so that we can reach those in need.  How many more school shootings before we have a change in policy? Prayers alone are not working.

There are many levels of gun violence, and one policy won’t fix it all. A relative of mine was carjacked years ago, his offenders, with lengthy and violent rap sheets, were allowed back on the streets. My City has a high level of gang violence, these offenders get back on the streets. Before a play date, ask the host parents if they have a gun in their home and how they secure the gun(s).  We are sitting ducks in churches and concert spaces. We don’t know which school will be the next traumatized community. These examples will not all have the same solution. But, the time to take back our schools is long overdue. To the families in mourning from yesterday’s tragedy and the tragedies prior, we owe it to them to demand political action.

One political side spins the conversation, “Was the school shooter brainwashed by a terrorist group?  Is the shooter an immigrant?” These questions are not part of the school shooting epidemic.  These questions are a distracting tactic deflecting change. Dedicated teachers and our children are in harm’s way. Whatever your political affiliation, whether you are a card carrying member of the NRA or not, or whether you are a legal gun owner or not, this is a problem for ALL of us.  Sensible gun control does not mean taking away gun rights from lawful gun owners.

Since Congress isn’t offering new strategies, here’s a recommendation: Gun Awareness in School.  Much like Sex Ed and Drug Prevention, there will be push back. Teach Second Amendment history and rights. Teach students about mental health awareness and options. Teach children about reporting social media concerns.  Teach about sensible gun control. School safety cannot continue to be at the hands of the gun lobby. We need a change.  We need policy and action BEFORE another tragedy happens.

So, here we are AGAIN. “Thoughts and prayers” are expressed by politicians, social media bickering resumes, Congress does nothing, and then another school shooting occurs. I am not challenging the validity of the Second Amendment, the right to legally bare arms or the right to sport or hunt. I pray that we see action and enforced policies. We must demand change for safety in our schools. The need to act was before yesterday’s tragedy and the tragedies before that. I am a Mom sick and tired of being sick and tired about school shootings.

 

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 – 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!  

The Brody Bunch Gets Haircuts

My Relationship with our Hair Stylist

I have an amazing relationship with our family hair stylist, hairdresser, person that controls that we don’t look like we stuck our fingers in electrical sockets.  I don’t even know what her preferred title is, but she cuts the Brody Bunch’s hair.

She comes to our house at ridiculous hours to accommodate our sports, work and special occasions schedules.  She tolerates that I lack the ability to schedule 6 haircut appointments in a proactive manner and she hears from me when the boys’ bangs are hanging in their eyes.  She has a full book, and gets us in.

She is one of four kids, too, so I am hopeful that my unswept floors, loud children and dishes in the sink are ignored because she takes trips down her own memory lane of being a sibling of four.  I am hopeful.  She sees me in situations that I can control outside of my home, but not inside.  We have set off fire alarms while cooking dinner, have had sibling squabbles, and we have real life happening, she gets to see the behind the scenes and she keeps coming back!

Back To School Haircuts On the Front Patio with Psychological Moments

Last night, she moved mountains to see us before the kids head (no pun intended) back to school.  As I continue with my anxious flavored style of high priorities and first world problems that we need to resolve before school starts, haircuts made the priority list.

For the first time ever, we moved the makeshift hair salon out of my kitchen, it has rotated into my dining room, and setup shop outside on the patio.  Our Weber grill functioned as her counter top.  Much like a Barbie Dream Hair Salon, if there ever was one. I have never used our outside electrical sockets, but she did.  She plugged her clippers into that socket like a boss.

And, our time together started out the same.  Me: “THANK YOU for getting us in!”  Her:  “What do you think will happen this season on This is Us?”  Me: “Pardon the house, I am on strike and am not cleaning up after anyone.”  Her … she smiles and waves it off like we are the front cover of Better Homes and Gardens rather than looking like the police presumed incorrectly that we were looted.

Then we have our emotional dance.  I have had the same haircut since I have been 5 years old, give or take,  The kids all have incredibly thick, gorgeous hair.  The boys want something besides their shag cuts, I prefer nothing high maintenance or nothing that will photograph in a regrettable image.  She moderates between us.  She listens to the kids and then I whisper to her to go half way.  She does her magic and for their entertainment musses it up and winks at me. And, everyone looks beautiful. The kids express thank yous and we rotate everyone on and off our dining room now converted hair salon chair.

This round, unlike previous battles, I was beaten down with requests for change.  Max, 10, insisted that he choose his own hair.  I was frustrated.  He is right, it is his own hair. So, I resigned from the unnecessary good fight, only to learn that YouTube sensations and teeny bopper pop culture icons were our new benchmark for style.   O

Brody Bunch Goes Rouge

Out of the blue, my sweet Leo, wanted the haircut that his younger brother selected.  I told Leo it was a bit extreme.  Then, like a frat boy, Leo’s “let’s just do it!”  was the Nike slogan escalated at the highest level. What is going on here?  No problems, here, wink, wink!  I waved my white flag. And the clipper went to work. School starts in 5 days, let’s go rouge!

So, here we are on my front porch, which we never use, and Leo is concerned that the hair, which usually falls all over my kitchen floor, and is now on our patio, is littering. Leo: “Mom, how will YOU sweep this up?”  Me: “What?  I don’t know.  We have an outside broom, maybe we will sweep it from side to side?”  Hairdresser: “It will blow away. Maybe the birds will use it?”  Leo: “Is this bad for the environment?”  Blanche, 12: “Will the birds be okay?”  Rachel, 11: “STOP TALKING!  I HAVE TO GO TO SOCCER PRACTICE AND YOU ALL ARE TAKING TOO MUCH TIME.”  Max, as a reminder, still 10: “Am I going to look sexy?”  All of us: “NO!!!!”  And, I watched hair fall near my herb pots.  So much for making pesto anytime soon.

Cutting Hair and Providing Support

Hair was going everywhere.  I kept locking eyes with our incredibly talented hair artist, and she would smile and say over and over, “I promise the hair will grow back and be beautiful.”  Promises!!!!  I am holding onto that.

So, I am watching my taller more reserved Leo with smirks on his face, and his younger brother is crowding him looking for beard hairs.  Oh, puberty is around us at the highest level. I can’t deal with first time beard hairs, if there are any, NOT RIGHT NOW.

It was over, and I survived

Finally, our magnificent hair aficionado’s work was done.  Her sweet daughter who visits us every few haircuts gave me several snake eyes based upon behaviors she witnessed.  I don’t blame her.  And, I hope she keeps coming back.  She distracts me with healthier conversation while the chaos is escalated around us.  She is probably only 9.  Though, she did inquire if we ever schedule cleaning days.  … Honey, does it look like we do?!

Then it was time for my well oiled concluding love fest, with our kind, flexible and overly talented friend, expressing much gratitude for how we were squeezed in, thankful that she still comes to us, how this is one of the few parts of my world that is low maintenance and how much I love our new haircuts.  She hugged me and told me how proud she is of me that tonight, I did such a good job and behaved.  She was really proud!!!!  I knew I did a good job and it showed!

We could have ended our visit, but my confident, promise maker of hair said to me: “I told my daughter that she couldn’t chop off her hair.”  WHAT????  I lived through the Brody Bunch haircuts and then watched my fearless leader go 180 or 360 … however, your glass is filled half full or half empty.  And, then, I was given a calendar and told to schedule our next two rounds of haircuts. I surrendered.  And, we look MARVELOUS!