I alerted my friends on Facebook that there was a new post up on this blog written by me, making sure to tell them several times that it was very short, not long at all, and did I mention short? hoping that some folks would give it a click.

I ignore many of the “requests” and “invitations” that I get on Facebook, because I don’t really understand the point of them, but for some reason I expect that people will read my blog material just because I ask them to. It sort of worked this last time though, and when I mentioned that I had a bonus story for the first person who asked, my old college friend M stepped up and asked for it. Thanks for paying attention and giving a shit, M! Here’s your bonus story.

Pumpkin likes for me to hang out in the bathroom with him when he’s going number two. (He kind of likes me to hang out with him every minute, actually.) The other day, he was sitting on the can, and he reached over and pulled a magazine out of the holder. Then he asked:

“Is this a dirty magazine, Mama?”

Of course, you know what I thought he meant for a shocking moment. My 3-year-old son knows what’s hidden in the closet behind those barriers in the bookstore racks!! But then I figured it out. The magazine holder is actually a plastic wastebasket. So, he thought he was taking a magazine out of the trash, and that maybe he shouldn’t be.

(The magazine was Allure, and often Allure has tasteful pictures of women not wearing anything. But he didn’t know about those. I swear!)

Missed World’s Worst Mother By *That* Much

I was making dinner. Sweet & Spicy Turkey Cutlets with a side of Roasted Asparagus; fairly easy and yum. I’m more than happy to share recipes! Wait, what was I talking about? Oh, yeah….

The kids were left to their own devices, because the hubs must have forgotten that when I was awarded World’s Worst Mother in the past, the WWM Authority removed my ability to see around corners. As many of you know, when you are cooking, you are usually already multitasking, with two timers going as you chop the next ingredient, or as you frantically search for the spice you were sure you had and actually do have but keep missing it somehow as you repeatedly pick up the Turkish Oregano thinking that you’re looking for a green top when you are really looking for a red top, and … oh, sorry, right, the kids.

I was trying, without much success, to referee the boys’ disagreements in the living room from the kitchen, generally by yelling “Okay, WHAT’S GOING ON?!!” every time 3-year-old Pumpkin started crying again.

But then big brother Einstein appeared in the kitchen doorway, looking a bit concerned, and said, “I think Pumpkin needs an ice pack!” Oh, lord, I thought, I am never cooking while the kids are still awake ever again! My neglect has resulted in a terrible injury!

Before I had time for full panic survival mode to kick in, however, I heard a voice pipe up from the living room, calmly declaring:

“Ice packs are vewwy cold!”

Not even slightly hurt. Also, prepped and ready for Chem 101.

Six Things (Updated)

I was tagged by Shtuey to provide info on myself. Six random things, tag other bloggers to do the same, I’m sure you know the drill. So, as in The Alan Parson’s Project song, “let’s talk about me for a minute.” (Those of you familiar with that song are now humming it and cursing me. You’re welcome!)

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It’s Christmas: What’s A Jew to Do?

Preliminary note on names: everyone quoted in this article is identified by celebrity pseudonym. If the person’s fake name is bolded on first reference, it means that the celebrity and the person represented are Jewish. Thanks Adam Sandler, Jew or Not Jew and Famous Jews.

Thanks also to our esteemed host Linda, for her technical assistance, and to the hubs, for coming up with words when I had the aphasia.

This post is dedicated to my father, Saul Z. Finn, zichrono l’vracha [of blessed memory], on his yahrzeit (the anniversary of his passing). I wish he were here to weigh in. I would have called him Steven Spielberg. Hi, Dad!

(Mom, stop crying.)

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To Tide You Over

I’m still working on the Big Holiday Post of Doom–not to hype it up too much, I’m just attempting to make a bunch of pieces fit together coherently and am on Draft #2. In the meantime, it’s The Week Between Christmas And New Year’s, when traffic is light! and no one does any work! and life is good! So I thought I’d just go on ahead and depress everyone.

For something to do on Christmas Eve Day, I took the kids to our neighborhood kiddie gym where they were having one of their free-for-all “open gym” sessions. Parents were sitting on benches watching their kids run around. About 25 feet away from me, a woman sat reading a newspaper. And then, all of a sudden, she was crying. She was probably making some effort to hide this, or to stop it, but there was no doubt about it. I felt terrible for her, because I have been there.

I envisioned all sorts of possibilities. She could just be having a bad day. She could be having a surge of hormones (just regular cycle stuff, or she’s pregnant, or she’s postpartum, or she’s menopausal). Maybe she just suffered a terrible loss (the loss of a parent perhaps, or, again, a pregnancy) and is barely holding it together for her son (who looked to be about four). The more important thing to determine was whether I should pretend I did not see her tears, or go over to her and ask her if she’s okay. I have had situations in which I could not stop tears even in public, but was all the while hoping no one would notice (in fact, just this morning I was reading this on the train; it is enough to move anyone to tears). I have also had situations in which a person did show me some sympathy, and it helped–at least to pull me temporarily out of the func so I could funktion. Which way to go for this complete stranger?

During my hesitation, the woman’s son came over. There is really nothing better when you are sad than interacting with your child, I thought; not only are children generally great cheerer-uppers, they create a necessary distraction because you can’t help but parent them and push your personal worries to the side. She talked to him and he left again. I was still unsure. She found the tissue box they always keep on the counter–that’s progress, I thought. The son came back, and asked her to come help him with something, which she did. The immediate crisis was placed on hold.

Not long after that, we had to depart for a date with Daddy. But I continued to send out my sympathy vibe to the nameless woman who doubtless has her own story to tell. Perhaps I could have given her a bit of needed strength, had I not frozen. What would you have done?

World’s Worst Mother

I know we compete–nay, fight tooth and nail–for this title, but this past Sunday afternoon in my town, I held it for a brief but shining moment.

We had just arrived at the ginormous craft fair that descends upon our fairgrounds three times a year to entice us with unusual gift-giving ideas and things we didn’t know we needed. I have fun just looking around but the hubs gets a bit grumpy if he doesn’t buy anything (which is why we stayed away from the gourmet food area, where we have developed holes in our wallets before).

We parked on the gravel ‘n’ grass and proceeded to walk toward the path that ultimately leads to the event. We had taken no more than 15 steps in that direction when I realized that my youngest son Pumpkin was sprawled on the ground. At this point, a good mother would have tsked sympathetically,  gently lifted up the fallen toddler, and checked for boo-boos.

But you must understand that my Pumpkin has a close relationship with the ground. The falling is expected with all the growing. So, upon seeing that my baby boy had gone horizontal, I immediately exclaimed, “Crap! Already??” as I went to shift him back onto his little feet.

I’m all about the nurturing, folks.

Shall I Tell You My Dream?

If anyone recognizes the film reference in the title of this post, let me know and you might get a prize. At the very least, you will have earned my utmost respect.

I mentioned this upsetting dream I had while I was on a brief vacation. It has been a while and the issue is at least partly resolved, but it was definitely one of those things where feelings that have been bubbling under the surface explode while I’m sleeping and send me a message that it is time to act on them before…well, let me tell you what happened in the dream.

I don’t remember all of it, but I know that I ended up in a hospital. Friends surrounded me, and I was talking to them, but crying all the while. It was as if I was unloading every issue, large or small, that was weighing on my mind. At some point, a psychiatrist arrived, and he told me “you’re not going anywhere,” meaning that I was to be admitted to the hospital’s psych ward based on my inability to stop crying. I felt some measure of relief that I was going to get help. The crucial aspect of this, though, is the one problem I cried over that I actually remembered when I woke up.

I saw that a guy who I will call JK had joined our little group in the waiting room. I told everyone else that I knew why he was there. I’d gone to school with him, but more importantly, his mother is the executive director of the synagogue I’d grown up in. I had been struggling over whether or not to enroll Einstein in the religious school for Kindergarten. And now some background is needed.

Before I was born, my parents moved to the town I grew up, to the house where my mother still lives. The area did not have a conservative congregation at that time, but my father quickly fixed that. He put an ad in the paper, and it was answered, and things got started and grew. Dad was a cantor, and although he kept his “day job” working for the D.C. government, he served as the new congregation’s cantor for the first 16 or so years of my life. So, as you might imagine, my Jewish identity was wrapped around the fact that it was my father chanting services, which also made me and my mother and sisters semi-famous at the shul (that’s a Yiddishism meaning synagogue). What I am getting at is that I really felt as if I belonged there.

But stuff changed. My father retired from the cantor position in 1986 or ’87. I wasn’t quite old enough to be told everything that was going on, but if I understand correctly, he left because his disabilities wouldn’t allow him to do as much, and they would not let him do less. He used to have to take breaks during certain parts of the service where he wasn’t needed, in order to put his feet up in his office (he had circulation problems). So as not to be too disruptive, he would leave the sanctuary through the kitchen that opened out into a corridor leading to the front office. Apparently, since Dad was a pretty large man, some people thought he was going into the kitchen to eat! It made me very angry at the time; it seemed as if some committee was forcing him out, and I thought that they shouldn’t be allowed to do that, since the whole establishment wouldn’t exist if not for him.

I went to college after that, but I was still local and came home a lot. It was odd going to shul without Dad being up on the bima (that’s Hebrew for stage, or for the podium used in the synagogue for those who are leading things). Nevertheless, I got married there in 1997, by a handpicked rabbi, and with Dad chanting the Sheva Brachas (literally “seven blessings,” a typical Jewish wedding thing). In December 2003, Dad, who had been suffering from various medical problems, became very ill and passed away. My connection to the shul was already frayed and it got worse.

My husband and I continued to go to High Holiday services at the old place, but we did not join. Besides the whole Dad thing, there was the issue of the husband having been brought up in a Reform congregation, so that for him, our services have too much Hebrew (and are probably longer too). Then we had children, and we knew that at some point we’d have to figure out where we wanted to be. My mother doesn’t like going to services there because of the lack of Dad (not to mention she can’t stand the current cantor’s voice), but she doesn’t feel she can go anywhere else. Although I still find myself pulled to the old place, I don’t feel as if I have to be there, and if the husband is happy somewhere else, that’s where we ought to be.

When the time neared for Einstein to start school, I decided we’d have to try out the area shuls (or “temples,” as the Reform refer to them). But, I simply didn’t get off my butt to do it. I inquired about the tuition for religious school at the old place in the spring, and found out that it is around $300-400 more for nonmembers (you don’t have to become a member until your child is in the 3rd grade). Not wanted to shell out that much more (and not realizing at the time that the membership cost is an astronomical $2000/year), I said, forget it, I’m going to figure out where to join and get the member’s price on tuition. But I didn’t and the enrollment time drew nearer. I thought it would be okay to wait a year; after all, Einstein just started regular school, maybe starting Sunday School at the same time is too much.

And then I had this dream. And realized that I have Jewish Mother guilt! Or maybe that Dad is somehow communicating with me. Or both! In any event, I knew I had to enroll Einstein at the original shul and put off worrying about where we will actually end up. A few good things have come out of this. One is that I discovered that many people do not join a shul until they “have to,” i.e. their children are at the age where they can’t attend religious school unless their parent(s) is/are member(s) of that shul. It turns out that enrolling your child makes you a quasi-member; you get the e-mails, you get the newsletter, you know what is going on. More importantly, my decision has helped me on my quest to combat Christmas Envy. Einstein seems excited to learn about Judaism; it is making him proud, and he is starting to get that we have a bunch of neat holidays that others don’t have. (Just to clarify–I have no problem with Einstein participating in others’ Christmas celebrations. I just don’t celebrate it my home, and last year Einstein expressed, several times, a wish that we could celebrate it. This makes perfect sense, but I’m trying to get him past it. I don’t remember being envious of my non-Jewish friends growing up, so whatever my parents did worked for me. Not my baby sister, though. But that’s another post.)

By the way, the executive director, whose son was in the dream, did offer to have me pay the tuition in monthly installments instead of all at once. The director of education kept my e-mail from my tuition inquiry back in the spring and e-mailed me not long before school asking if I was planning to enroll, and at that time I told her I was worried about paying the tuition. She told me that I should just pay the deposit and make arrangements with the executive director. I get the impression that they don’t want to turn anyone away. But we know the ED, because she has been in that position for a long time, and I was a little embarrassed and was dreading talking to her, so that was another part of the problem.

The next step? Visiting a bunch of places. With all of our free time. And I should be taking Einstein to “Junior Congregation,” which is a youth service that takes place twice a month, on Saturdays, of course. Saturday being our only totally free day now that Einstein has to go to school every Sunday morning! I foresee another dream…in which my head explodes. Meanwhile, I think I killed the last one, and my friends will not have to have me committed. Yay!!

Happiness Is: The Informal, Unscientific, Quick, Fun Survey

Hello, everyone. I know I said I’d post about the scary dream I had while on vacation, and actually I’m glad I waited on that because the issue that sparked that dream has a partial resolution, now. But more on that later.

First, I was hoping you could help me out. I am doing a very simple quick survey that will eventually turn into a speech for Toastmasters (did I mention I was in Toastmasters? 10 years now).

All I need is for you to finish this sentence: “Happiness is ____________________.” The response can be of any length, and can be anything that comes to your mind. Here are some examples:

Happiness is waking up, looking at the clock, and realizing that you have two hours left to sleep.

Happiness is a frozen margarita with salt.

Happiness is finding money in an old coat pocket.

If you are wondering whether I stole this concept from Charles Schultz, well, yes I did. Happiness is a warm puppy, Mondays are the sand traps in the golf course of life, a hot dog just doesn’t taste right without a baseball game around it; the man was a genius.

And so am I. Um, I mean, if you wouldn’t mind responding with a comment below telling me YOUR personal version of what Happiness Is, I would be most humbly grateful.

A True Vacation

How funny that Linda popped on looking for updates just as I was about to write/post this.

I just wanted to tell everyone that I am looking forward to our annual Labor Day weekend trip to Chapel Hill, NC, and one of the reasons might surprise you.

I love to go away; it really doesn’t matter if there’s anything special about the destination. We are going to ProgDay, which is a two-day outdoor progressive music festival.  We enjoy the bands and the atmosphere. The kids are excited about going. While we are there, we will probably head to the Morehead Planetarium at UNC, like we did the past two years. We have a planetarium here, of course (none other than the National Air & Space Museum), but we never make it there, somehow.

One of the big reasons I am looking forward to this trip is that I get to sleep more. They say that a vacation with your kids is not a true vacation. I disagree. When we started taking the kids to this event two years ago (we skipped a couple years after Einstein was born), I realized that after we got the kids to sleep, we could actually go to sleep ourselves (or watch TV without guilt) because WE’RE IN CHAPEL HILL AND THERE ARE NO CHORES HERE. I was so rested.

Oh, and in answer to Linda’s question, today is Einstein’s first day of Kindergarten. That’s what’s up!