Tuesday, August 25, 2015

25 Things You MUST Do Before the Start of School This Year

Did we get your attention with this title!?  Did you drop everything you were doing to read it? Did you did you!!!??  We sure hope so, since apparently sensational lists with numbers are the latest thing in pseudo-journalism.  After all, if your article or post doesn't have a title like this it won't be read.  Just ask the peeps at Buzzfeed or Upworthy.  Hopefully, we've followed their formula correctly as what follows will now have absolutely nothing to do with the lazy attention-grabbing headline.

Some of you may have noticed the absence of posts in the past few weeks  months year.  And by "noticed" we mean thinking "what's that? you try and write now? (insert semi-maniacal laughter)"   Yes peeps, we do, but we've been on a bit of a hiatus.  There are several reasons for this:

1. Blogging is dead.  Apparently it takes much more effort to write a "post" than it does to write a couple hundred characters into a tweet or status update.

2. We are no longer anonymous.  It was kinda cool to rant and vent and say whatever we wanted when it was just "cyberspace" but then people we knew started reading this shit and then some of those "cyberspace" people became real people and then facebook friends and then worlds started colliding and then the filter had to come on, and we all know what happens to writing when the filter comes on.  You don't?  Keep reading this garbage, you'll see.

3. Mini learned to read.

Of course, all the above really just boils down to one real reason: shit got too dramatic and funny to have people we know read.  Perhaps one day we will finish that novel of hilarious single parent dating stories, or the not-quite-as-hilarious novel "vents from a divorce" or the even less-hilarious novel of "blended family fun" but until then, the most interesting and juicy stuff is just too personal to write about, at least not until we find someone willing to pay for it.  Wanna buy it?? Please???

Thus, we sit here with rare leisure time, sitting alone in sunny cloudy San Diego, working on our next screenplay....which, of course, means procrastinating opening Final Draft and fake-writing a blog post about nothing instead.  This certainly beats finally finishing either of those books we brought.

So for now, we'll warm up our writing chops with a short rant on gender-neutral toys.  Now, if you're up on your old news, you probably know that Target announced they are finally doing away with gender labels on toys.  Yes, we know, it's not quite so simplistic, but that's the essence of the idea and we're not reporters so we don't need to have all our facts straight.  So there.  Anyway, many people we've seen have been up in arms about this.  Really? You don't have other battles to fight?  From our perspective, we are super pleased with this decision.  Mostly because our daughter has an actual working brain and sometimes wants to engage in play that doesn't involve dolls, bracelet making, or doing your own hair.  It's crazy but she likes puzzles and science and building things.  And as crazy as it sounds, she likes building with blocks EVEN WHEN THEY'RE NOT PINK!!!  Actually, she likes it especially if they're not pink as she's quite the anti-establishment 10 year old.  Crazy, huh?  What kind of girl doesn't like pink or doing her friends' hair?  We, too, were disappointed at this, but once we realized the kid had a mind of her own and that her mind couldn't be sufficiently fed without wandering into the "BOYS" section we were most pleased when companies like Target began acknowledging that fact that mini has a brain.

Similarly, while most boys we know have brains too, some of them like to use their brains more creatively by playing dress up, pretending to cook, and doing their friends' hair.  Equally shocking, these boys do not want to be referred to as "girly" because of any of these interests.  We think it's weird too but these kids insist even if they wear a tiara with their cape they still don't want to be referred to as girls.  Go figure.

Finally, from a practical standpoint alone, making kids' bedding gender-neutral simply makes sense.  After all, why should all the cute animal prints always fall under "boys"? Why do they get them, huh?  And what if your girl likes sports?  Does she need to keep that in the closet?  As a mother who has had to shop in the "boys" bedding section because our child liked blue more than pink, we applaud Target for taking a step toward acknowledging the fact that our children are multi-faceted human beings who deserve to be able to explore their own interests without fear of being labeled or mocked.

And for those of you who will need some help deciding what toys are best for boys or girls without those labels, we have included this handy dandy reference chart.

Credit to Mieke for this awesome chart

So we give props to the folks at Target and hope people will stop giving them a hard time for taking an important step forward.  Maybe next year at back-to-school season they'll finally take out all the toy guns.  Nah, that's probably too much to ask.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Because it's Festivus....

It's December 23rd!!!!!!!  One of our favorite days of the year.

That's right, peeps, it's Festivus for the rest of us.

You know what this means, right? All those annoyances we've experienced holiday shopping this week or attempting to smoosh into a subway car can now slide smoothly off our chest.

So without further ado, we present the top ten things that have disappointed us this holiday season.

Please to enjoy our first annual airing of the grievances:

1) Stuff.  It's expensive.

2) Words with friends.  We still can't beat K-girl.  And unlike the boyfriend, she doesn't have to let us win once in a while.

3) The subway during holiday season.  No matter how crowded the train is, our butt is not, we repeat NOT, an ok place to rest your hand, lady.  That goes for you too, mister.

4)  Selfie sticks.  Need we say more?  Have we really become such a society of social degenerates that we can't ask another human being to take a bad photo?

5) People who say things like "Need we say more?" and keep talking anyway.

6) Colbert.  9 years of devoted following only to find out that all the answers to life must be in the form of a question.  A tragedy if there ever was one.

7) Festivus.  It's just not as......festive as it used to be.

8) Talking stuffed hamsters.  Perhaps the most annoying toy in existence.  So what if the purchase was our idea after taking pity on a sick child?  Learn from our moment of weakness and save yourself!

9) Christmas tourists in New York.  There's a simple formula, people.  If someone is dawdling slow and leisurely, you may stop them to ask for directions.  If they are walking fast and purposefully, you may not. Also, if you're capable of asking for directions, we refer you to point #4.

10) Florida.  Where mini and 9 out of 10 of her schoolfriends have escaped to, completely screwing up the cool to crazy ratio in this town, and forcing us to drink tequila alone.  Actually, on second thought, that's not really different from any other time in the year.

But- are you not annoyed by the increasing amount of daily emails asking you for end of year money, you ask? No we're not.  We aired that grievance last year.

So there you go. Now you may air your own grievances about how blogs are dead and this post sucked. We look forward to hearing your grievances.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Just Give Me a Sign

Parenting is a long-range deal.  An all embracing endeavor.  A game-changer.  A slow and steady sport, if you will.  One where perpetual fatigue leads you to make way too many bad analogies.   Regardless, it's a journey where you fumble your way through the fog, facing humility like you've never known, wondering how the hell you're going to make it successfully through without falling off a cliff.  Being human and all, you enter survival mode, clinging to anything and everything that might help you get through this seemingly thankless mission.

So, you look for a sign.

A sign, any, sign that you're not completely fucking it up.

Every so often, your child gives you such a sign.  It's the big ones people usually talk about.  The time a child chose to donate money instead of keeping it, the time they gave up recess to help their friends find something they lost, the time they didn't quit even when they wanted to, the time they stood up and faced a bully to protect a classmate, the time they stood up for themselves, both with kids and teachers.

But let's face it, how often do these things really happen?  If we only looked for the big signs we'd be pretty darn miserable most of the time, because with the "goal" 18+ years away, there's no way to know whether we're guiding our kids towards an independent and happy adulthood, or towards lunacy.  And sadly, despite pathetic fantasies that run on a loop over and over in our head, parent teacher conferences do not begin with "your kid is ok! you're not fucking it up! hooray! let's have some tequila!"

Wouldn't a sign like this be amazeballs?

So, we look for the small signs, and we hold on to them like nobody's business.  Today we got such a sign.  Easy there.  We know this is shocking to you given the buildup. We'll pause to let you process.


See, yesterday our kid did one of those things they're not usually supposed to do: she went to a party and ate our favorite lunch and overindulged in oreos, marshmallows and chocolate for two hours.  This is of course awesome, but there's still that gnawing feeling of knowing you're giving in to treats waaaaaay too often.  This of course reminds you that crap, you're giving in to a lot of things waaay too often.  And then your mind starts racing through all the little things you screwed up that morning alone.

So when we stopped at a supermarket on the way home from said party, we swooned when mini  declared "I can't look at one more chocolate!" and proceeded to walk to one of those healthy aisles, you know, the ones on the "perimeter" of the grocery store that you're supposed to do all your shopping from but never actually do.

She stopped when she reached the cucumbers, stared intently, and began to speak.  And then, in what we're sure was sparked by her intellectual brilliance and excellent parenting, she spoke, in her best possible Homer Simpson voice: "mmmmm........vegetables......" and requested soup for dinner.


A child asking for vegetables on her own is clearly a sign.  It must be.  It has to be.

This means that whatever awaits us on this cold Monday, we will have a fantastic day, because yesterday, we got a sign that we're not completely fucking it up.  And that's enough to keep going for one more thankless week.

Vegetables, yo.  Who knew?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Rockets and Roaches and Beaches

It occurred to me (aka several people said I had to) that perhaps I should write about the experience I just had as an American resident traveling in Israel this past week.  As background, note that this 10 day trip outside of the US would be the longest solo trip this single mom has taken since...well....momhood, and with visits to three countries planned in 10 days the idea was to get away and have a little adventure.

I sure got it.

The trip started inauspiciously enough.  After a lovely day spent in Amsterdam (shout out to the fabulous Mieke, who gave an entire free day to show a total stranger around her city) but two nights of flying and no sleep, I was hoping for a relaxing first couple of days enjoying Shabbat meals with family and close family friends.  Instead I got my iphone stolen in shuk hacarmel, no new phone since everything was closing for Shabbat, spotty wi-fi that worked maybe 15% of the time at best, no air conditioning, single-ply toilet paper, and I had to kill a giant tropical flying cockroach all by myself in the "shower".  Yep, I was back in Israel!   

A few days later after overcoming the dreaded "stomach day" I experience once each visit, I was rewarded for the literal buckets of sweat with an upgrade at a lovely hotel where I had finagled three free nights.  I enjoyed the sea view immensely while eating my free chocolates.  The chocolates are the most important part of the story, people.   

A gorgeous view of my favorite beach
I had one tough but exciting day ahead, and the reward for this day was a relaxing day at the beach.  So I set my alarm for 4:45am and proceeded to get to the local airport by 5:30 to catch a short flight to Eilat.  Two hours later, I was crossing the border into Jordan, right about the same time that Israel and Hamas  went to war.  Of course, I didn't know this at the time.  What I did know was that the old Israeli man driving me to the border yelled at me in Hebrew ("...now, listen to me young lady very carefully.  You don't speak a word of Hebrew, understand! Not a word!")  I nodded in stunned submission.  

Right after that, I was attempting to take a selfie at the border (I mean really, people, would you expect any less?) only to get yelled at by one of the men working on the Jordanian side of the border.  "Put that away! Do you want us to think it's a weapon!".  I complied, feeling a little nervous now.  Why was everyone so on edge?  Once we crossed the border and I realized our little group of five had an entourage of a driver, "tour guide" and an armed guard from the Jordanian police to accompany us on our three hour drive each way through the empty Arab desert, I started to get more than a little nervous.  I sucked it up, knowing that a great day was ahead.

And a great day it was.  I went to Petra, one of the wonders of the world, and thanks to my stupidity brilliant planning I practically had the place to myself.  You'd think after I'd heard the sentence "Normally we have 2-3 thousand visitors a day here, but today only about 100!" that would have finally tipped me off to what was going on, but nope, nothing but blissful ignorance here. 

Me and my ignorant Jew-girl ass, stupidly traipsing 'round
an Arab country as war breaks out in Israel.  Ah, good times. 
12 hours later, having had no access to wi-fi the whole time, I crossed the border back into Israel only to receive more than a few frantic emails, WhatsApp texts, and Facebook messages.   Whoopsie.

At that point, all I could think about was the nice long warm shower I was going to take back at the hotel to wash all the dirt, dust, and sweat off from my long hike in the desert heat. This was to be followed by a lovely night's sleep in air conditioning and clean, bug-free sheets.  Silly me.

Reality had me taking about a two minute shower because I was alone and terrified I wouldn't hear the air raid siren going off in there (sorry to disappoint you single peeps but apparently the threat of air raid sirens leads to unshaved legs...you heard it here first).  The lovely sleep I had imagined was ruined for the same reason (what if I don't wake up the first 90 seconds?!).  So I stayed up, cursing the irony of not enjoying the luxury hotel I had so brilliantly procured for myself.  Here I must pause to give a shoutout to a good friend back in New York who patiently played words with friends with me to distract me all night, and to another friend who stayed on WhatsApp, enduring the battery drain and my nerves and reassuring me I'd hear the siren.  Eventually, my all-too-human body gave out after days of no sleep, constant adrenaline, and a rather strenuous hike, and I passed out around 6am.

Two hours later I awoke to the unmistakable sound of an air raid siren. Fortunately, like many people in Tel Aviv that night, I was sleeping fully clothed and at the ready to walk to the door, grab my bag, and head to the shelter in the 90 seconds I supposedly had.  I was shocked by how calmly I was able to do this so must give a shoutout to the hotel staff who spent hours the day before making sure every guest knew where the shelters were and what to do.  After a while, they sounded the all clear at which point clearly the only option was to go to the rather empty beach, where I engaged in my usual ritual of choosing a chair/umbrella closest based on proximity to the sea a shelter.  Wait a minute, that doesn't sound usual at all.....

I particularly enjoyed the directions I received on how to crouch down on the floor and cover my head if I can't make it in time and found myself wondering how I made it twenty-nine years (stop snickering) without knowing this very useful tidbit.   At this point, I decided to pretend I hadn't spent the night before up like a pathetic little scaredy-cat, and assumed an air of bravada.  FUCK THE ROCKETS!  I was going to enjoy my day, dammit!  Beach it was, so what if it was empty?  I was even going to go swimming!! Take that, terrorists! 

After chatting with other Americans on the beach of all ages (Toronto! DC! Boston!) and engaging in the requisite "so where were you when you heard the sirens" traveler convo, I began to relax and worry about the greater and more real threat of jellyfish stinging others near me in the water and the Middle Eastern noon sun turning my back a shade of pink I've not yet seen.  Then after a swim I went out to a lovely breakfast, all the while making sure I knew where the shelter was, just in case.

I missed a visit to my first cousin, who was stuck home with her kids for days because their camp/day care was closed due to insufficient shelter in those places. Sadly it was also decided the train I'd need to take to get there wasn't the best idea.  At that point, I had to figure out what to do that afternoon.

After much debate with family, fellow travelers, and hotel staff about which city is safer ("Jerusalem! Tel Aviv! Jerusalem! Tel Aviv!"), I decided to check out of my lovely free hotel in lieu of not having to worry about not hearing the siren if showering or sleeping alone. The calculation process was very interesting as people weighed the risk of rocket attack (lower in Jerusalem) vs the risk of riots or suicide bombs (lower in Tel Aviv).  While this seems a dangerously inexact science to me, somehow Jerusalem came out on top.  So I checked out of the hotel and headed to my friends' place where, I was told, I should relax and enjoy Jerusalem.  

You know...as long as I didn't go anywhere crowded like the old city where I wanted to go.  And as long as I didn't go to any holy sites where riots might break out.  And as long as I stayed off buses.  And as long as I stayed away from buses while walking.  And as long as I didn't walk around by myself too much.  And as long as I didn't take transportation except to Jerusalem and to the airport so that I could get to shelter in 90 seconds if I need to.   And as long as I made sure that I asked for a Jewish cab driver.  And as long as I cancelled the sunrise hike I had planned at Masada along with requisite visit to the Dead Sea.  

Now all this kind of threw a kink into things, but I decided to focus on the silver lining.  My Hebrew was getting much better!  I now knew the Hebrew words for "rocket", "siren", "iron dome", "bomb shelter" and "safe room"!

That night, after hearing the post-evening meal fireworks that accompany staying in Jerusalem during Ramadan, the streets were eerily quiet.  This allowed all three of us to jump at every motorcycle rev, every ambulance siren, and every icemaker gearing up, thinking it was a siren.  Fortunately the real siren didn't come until the next afternoon, but in the quiet dark, everything sounded like one.  Stop laughing.  I already told you I was a scaredy-cat in the dark.

Israelis running inside during the air raid siren, calling loved ones
Of course, in daytime, everything was much less scary, even as we ran for cover inside the Aroma, looking through the window to see Iron Dome intercept the rockets right over our heads and hearing the loud BOOM! right above us.  

Iron Dome intercepting a rocket.  Thank you, Iron Dome!
Photo taken by....someone across the street. 
That night I ate, drank, and made merry with new friends, and the next morning two of us went right back to that cafe to have a lovely breakfast as a giant fuck-you to the terrorists.  Also, we were hungry.

Reality later hit home as I enjoyed a Shabbat picnic dinner in a local playground with a few families but had to look for the bomb shelter first.  The kids were then all told "if you hear the siren, here's where you go quickly and quietly" and had to confirm understanding before they could play.  But then they played, seemingly without a care.

Of course, the terrorists had the last laugh as they chose the morning before my flight to threaten to hit the airport, and strongly advise foreign airlines to stop flying.  The 31 bomb shelter signs I counted in the very empty airport (many visitors had already left) between check in and gate suggested that people kinda took that seriously.  The fighter jets accompanying our plane out of the airspace as we took off kinda supported that theory too.

All of this brings me to one very important question.  Was I better off with the heat and cockroaches but without rockets? You tell me.  All I can say is that I only screamed out loud at one of those things, and it wasn't the rockets.  DON'T JUDGE ME!!!!

Meanwhile, I'd be remiss not to point out the real tragedy that occurred during this time.  That's right, my beloved Crumbs was going out of business, shutting down all stores effective immediately.  You didn't think I'd let that one just slip by, did you?  And if you don't understand the gravity of that situation, well....clearly you've never had a s'mores cupcake. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Mommy Nostalgia

We've talked before about how motherhood turns you into a sentimental sap, and never is that more true than at the end of a school year.

One night, a week or two ago, we were talking to a friend wondering why we were such a mess and for the first time it hit us just how emotional we get every June.  While we've often talked about the annual nightmare that is September, we didn't realize that June came a close second until this year.  The end of year concerts, parties, notes to write, camps to plan for, and in the midst of it all.....the undeniable fact staring at you in the face that your child is getting older no matter what you do.

Yes, we suppose this is a good thing, but there's something about finishing yet another grade in school that reminds us that it's a year we'll never get back. And we realize that other things we've loved for years, like holding their little hand when we cross the street, getting a running hug from an excited child when we come home from work...well, these things will soon be replaced with headphones and eyerolls and requests not to sing in public (sadly, the latter has already begun).

3rd grade.  THIRD grade is over today.  Mini is now way past the initial stage of superhero status that parents enjoy in their tiny children's eyes, and has now entered a more speedy descent that ends with the dreaded "drop me off at the corner so no one sees you" stage (more on these stages here).

And (gasp! we can't even say it) fourth grade means....well, only two years to middle school.  Middle school, peeps!! And then before you know it there'll be sleep away camp and college and no kid in the home anymore.

It ain't fair, we tell ya.  We wipe their butts and their noses and feed them and dress them and think about their every waking moment and then finally - finally when we get it right, if we've done our jobs well enough, they move on.  How is this fair, we ask?

Now, lest you think we are on an isolated soapbox an informal but super scientific poll of mothers at drop off over the past few weeks shows unanimous results: mommy nostalgia is real and it's rampant.  So rampant, in fact, that even though we've spent the past two weeks patting ourselves on the back for making up such an accurate phrase to capture it, turns out someone else beat us to it.  Yep, mommy nostalgia has already been documented.  While kids and teachers are eager to yell "school's out!," moms everywhere are watching yet another little piece of childhood passing them by.

So if you see a mother this week and she seems just a wee bit more crazy sensitive than usual, have some compassion.  It ain't easy, peeps.  Even the good parts.