God.

We decided, before The Who was born, to raise him Jewish. To me, that meant that he would receive a Jewish education and that he would have a Bar Mitzvah. I guess this also meant that we would join a synagogue and enroll him in Hebrew school, but that felt so far off at the time. (More far off than a Bar Mitzvah? Somehow not. Don’t question it. I was a little crazed during those months.)

Tiny Yarmulke. (Getting his Hebrew name at about 6 months old.)

I have never been totally solid on my belief in God. For a really long time, I couldn’t believe in something I couldn’t see and know. I wasn’t willing to believe that anything had more power or control than I. Letting go of the reins has not been easy for me. I have, however, always believed in the power of the universe, insomuch that it could make paths easier or more complicated — open doors to what was meant to be. (Like, for example, getting pregnant with The Who. All of it fell so easily into place that I have always known it was meant to be. The timing was right, the health issues all aligned, it only took two tries, etc.) But the universe is not God. God is heavy duty. God is religion and religion is divisive. I have long seen organized religion as a problem in our society — a fortress behind which people stand as they hurl out icy snowballs. (I think, perhaps, I am beginning to re-form my opinions on this, but that’s another post.)

So, Rosh Hashanah is coming up and The Who goes to a Jewish preschool. Much to my delight, they had a “shofar factory” program the other day where a rabbi came in and showed the kids how to make and blow the shofar. He also talked to them about the holiday and what it means and, after school on the ride home, for the first time, The Who talked to me about God.

Who: The shofar sounds like a seagull! Aarr! Aaaar! Aaaaaar!
Me: You’re right! It does sort of sound like that! Why do you blow the shofar?
You blow it up, up, up right to God.
Oh, cool. Who is God?
God is almost like a giant that’s up in the sky.
Do you know God?
No, I don’t really know him, but I know about him. He lives in the sky.
Is God a man or a woman?
God is a man AND a woman!
So, how do you talk to God?
You cry to him.
You cry to God?
Yeah, we cry like babies to God and he helps us have a good year and we help him have a good year and next week we’re gonna blow the shofar up to God for a good year.

We have never talked to The Who about God. In part because he’s three and he hasn’t asked about it and in part, I’m sure, because we haven’t gotten on the same page about it. I loved hearing his take on it, though, and I think I know what m* and I will be talking about over dinner on our date night this weekend!

 

 

 

Holiday.

By the end of yesterday, m* had really reached the end of her rope and needed a stretch of several hours of quiet, which I totally understood. So, I put myself to bed early last night (to make sure I’d have enough energy and patience) and planned a solo day with The Who. Nothing hugely special because it is Labor Day, after all — and a rainy one at that — so our choices were really limited. But we made it work and had one of the chillest days we have had together in a long time.

Some looking around online last night alerted me to an antique car show that was happening rain or shine at a diner over the bridge, so I figured — breakfast PLUS cool cars? Ok. That’s where we started our day.

I always have a Take-n-Play Thomas set (among other things) in my “backpack o’ fun” that comes to restaurant outings with us. We are very rarely caught without at least a few things with which to pass the time between sitting and eating. Today was no exception.

Once the train novelty wore out, I pulled a few other vehicles from the backpack and we made our very own car show like the one setting up outside our window. The Who drew the parking spots and I labeled them. He named the show: “The C’mon In Car Show.”

He chose grape juice as his drink and ordered challah French toast. Halfway through the meal, he said, “Hey! This is like shabbat! Challah and wine juice!”

Despite the rain having all but stopped while we were inside eating, by the time we were done and ready to look at some cars, it was practically pouring horizontally. The Who, bedecked in his totally weatherproof windbreaker wanted to soldier on, but I just couldn’t.

By the time we got back to the car, this is what my pants looked like. That light spot is the only part that wasn’t soaked through on both my pants and shoes.

In the car, The Who took off his shorts, underwear, socks, and shoes and hung around nudie booty, listening to his namesake book on CD while I blasted the heat, trying to dry my clothes. Once that was over, he slipped into the dry clothes I had brought for him (and neglected to pack for myself) and we headed across the street to the mall for a while. The Who has pretty much never been to a mall, so this was pretty novel.

Although I did bring dry clothes, I did not think about dry shoes. ShoelessWho threw some pennies into the fountain, probably wishing he had some shoes to wear. (But, on second thought, probably not. He kind of loved walking down the mall without shoes. I drew the line at escalators, though, and made him sit in the stroller.)

(We did find shoes, which was my plan. JC Penney totally came through with $5 sale Keens knock-offs, so he wore those for most of the day.)

We hit the Halloween Store and tried on many masks. Perhaps the reason it took him so long to fall asleep tonight is because he was scared by the Romney mask he made me try on after he sported Obama.

As we were leaving, I saw him standing quietly by the Obama masks. When I got closer, I heard him whispering, “Bye, Obama.” I hope it wasn’t a foreshadowing…

We stuck as close to the side as possible so as not to piss off the hoards of back-to-school shoppers, slipping into Abercrombie. One lady was audibly frustrated behind us, so I convinced The Who to let me share the wheel.

Our final mall stop before venturing back out into the deluge was the kid’s shoe section in Nordstrom’s. It was right by the door and had an aquarium in it, so The Who asked to take a peek. Then he noticed the polka dotted seat. Then the collection of cute books. We read “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” a couple of times and I might have bought it if I wasn’t so skeeved by pigeons in general.

And that was mostly our day. We drove home, The Who took a quick snooze, and then we met up with m* for a late afternoon movie. (The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure, which was kind of weak when compared to Pixar-type kid movies, but he was engaged for the whole hour and a half and was singing along by the end, which is definitely better than when I took him to see Ice Age, which was over his head.)

Tomorrow, The Who starts Pre-K, which is the oldest classroom in his school/day care. He started there at 13 months old and now he’s like a senior in high school. Crazy big. Just crazy.

Pesach.

Having a kid has made me a better Jew.

For example: Passover (which I now feel compelled to only call “Pesach” because apparently “Passover” is really just an English substitution for the actual name for the holiday.) We always “kept” Passover as a kid. My recollection is that we had lots of matzoh, missed bread intensely, and had a big family meal on the first night. I also recall the looooong seder at my grandparents’, trying to contain explosive giggles shared with my brother and cousins while my grandfather rambled in Hebrew, telling the story, which I never learned (or at least never fully committed to memory.)

I ate bread during Passover once I was an adult on my own. I think maybe for a few years, I tried to keep it, but with no one looking over my shoulder, no belief in God, and no one else to feed, I always lapsed. (Also, my birthday often falls during Passover and having suffered through many horrible excuses for a birthday cake as a kid, I have always felt justified in my enjoyment of a totally trayf birthday cake, regardless of whether it fell during Passover or not. This is true this year. My birthday is tomorrow and the plan has been to have my favorite cake from my favorite bakery tomorrow night.)

The Who, as I might have mentioned before, goes to a Jewish daycare/preschool and has since he was 13 months old. He has “Jewish Instruction” and knows more about some of the Jewish holidays than I do. Last week, a rabbi came to his class with his  “Matzoh Bakery” and they made their own matzoh. He came home telling me that “we don’t eat bread during Passover.”

Well, shit.

How am I supposed to have birthday cake in the middle of Passover when my 3-year-old knows better because of his fine Jewish education? (To my credit, I had already switched our weekly menu so that we weren’t making pizza on the first night of Passover. But, I had only moved it ahead a day, so, well…)

At some point during the day yesterday, m* and I looked at each other and both realized at almost the same time that we needed to rethink it all. We couldn’t have pizza on Saturday. And we couldn’t have birthday cake on Sunday. In fact, we really couldn’t eat bread all week. And, well, damn. We had better get some matzoh in the house. I came home and started googling kid-appropriate Passover stories and, finding nothing I really liked that was available immediately, I just opted to write my own. I bought a Seder plate, made a shopping list, and we picked up my favorite birthday cake yesterday. (Since we eat dinner well before sundown, we decided it would be ok to eat it last night, which we did, freezing the rest of it to be thawed after the holiday.)

All of a sudden, I’m a pretty good Jew. I know the whole story of Passover and I have already eaten two sheets of matzoh** (with the requisite shmear of whipped cream cheese.) It’ll be fun to hide the afikomen tonight and who knows; maybe next fall we’ll even build our own sukkah! (Or, y’know, maybe not.)

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**I am only a “pretty good Jew” because I bought the “not for Passover” matzoh. It’s totally made with flour.*** The real stuff tastes like packing material. Baby steps.

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***ETA: Based on the first comment to this post, I did a little search and saw that it’s not the flour that makes it chametz. It’s the egg. And the possibility that there are both egg and water in the dough. I still feel ok with eating it. But I’ll get the “right” kind for out Seder tonight.

2012, Part 2.

There’s this meme I’ve been doing for a lot of years.* I swear I did it on Facebook last year, but now I can’t find it — even with the new fancy Timeline. Whatev, Facebook. Thanks for nothing. Anyway, this is 40 questions long. I’m going to answer 8 each day and then it will be 2012. Yes. Bring it.

*I’d love for you to do this, too. Either in comments or on your own blog.

(See Part 1 here.)
9. What was your biggest failure?
All the times I lost my temper with my kid. I understand that it happens to the best of us and I’m not crucifying myself for it, but I do believe those times were my failures. Learn from them and move forward.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing aside from the typical migraines. I would gladly trade my twice monthly migraines for three colds a year. Does it work like that? I downloaded a migraine diary app, which lets me track when they occur, what the symptoms are, treatments, and triggers. Someday, when I convince myself that it is a significant enough issue to see a specialist about, I’ll have this data to share. In the meantime, I’ll continue to get them, complain about them, and then forget about them until the next one.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Most definitely my iPhone. Not that I needed more to divert me from the things I should be doing, but the productivity alone is worth it. I am specifically digging the foodonthetable.com app. Three things I need to do, but hate to do (and am not very skilled at doing) are finding grocery sales, buying the things on sale, and creating meals from those things — or really creating meals at all. This app does that all for me and automatically creates a shopping list with the items I need to make the meals.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
The Who’s behavior, overall, always merits celebration. Considering how much he has had to learn and integrate since he was born, it’s amazing. He handles himself with more grace than some adults I know, who have had ten times longer to practice living. Stunning, really.

Also, m*’s and my own. We are committed to and work very hard at our relationship and the fact that we still sit together most every night and laugh so hard we cry is a testament to that commitment and work.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Over the course of the year, I saw some Facebook comments that really got under my skin and, frankly, surprised me. Sometimes it’s worth commenting back and sometimes it’s not. But I guess that’s what it’s about in the Great Big World. We all have different opinions and beliefs, right? (Of course, all the ones that are different from mine are wrong.)

I have also been appalled and depressed about my own behavior, specifically as it relates to control and self-control.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Cumulatively, the mortgage and groceries. But, all in one shot? The iPhones m* and I reciprocally gifted one another with for Hanukkah.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The one weekend day that m* gave me “off” a couple of weeks ago. It’s not that I don’t have whole days to myself when The Who is at school (especially now during winter break when I have no classes to teach and no papers to grade) but something about a totally unexpected day was just glorious. And knowing that it was gifted to me genuinely and generously made it even better.

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
Any of the songs from the Dora the Explorer CD that we’ve pretty much been listening to on endless loop. I am especially fond of “Feliz Cumpleanos.”

Truth.

In a brief discussion this afternoon in the kitchen, M and I decided not to lie to our kid.

Nana’s body doesn’t work anymore and she is under the ground. The cats went to live with other families. Santa Claus is not real.

Wait. What?

Yeah, we’re not doing it. And it’s not because we’re Jewish* (although that might make it easier, ultimately.) It’s because it’s a lie. Made up for kids to infuse some excitement into their lives. Listen — Christmas is exciting with Santa or not. Houses are covered in rainbow lights! Trees come right into the living room! There is an abundance of sweets everywhere you look! Parties! Presents! Music! TV Shows! Do we really need to add a story about a big bearded fellow slipping into our house when we sleep? It’s not like we’re not giving him presents from us already. Between his late fall birthday, Hanukkah, and Christmas, there is no shortage of presents for this kid. Plus, Santa is a scary dude. The Who has already woken up in a cold sweat once this week, worried that Santa was coming and it’s only December 3rd. The two “kids-with-Santa” photos I have seen online today were both of toddlers screaming their fool heads off when faced with the Big Guy. I don’t see the good that perpetuating this myth is going to do, frankly.

I’m sort of digressing here, though. I know that lots of families have great memories of Santa and that lots of kids all over the world are delighted by him. I know that parents get a lot of good behavior out of the whole “naughty or nice” thing and that the Elf on the Shelf is the only thing that keeps their kids in line this time of year. I don’t begrudge them that. And I don’t look down on them for creating this fantasy world for their kids; everyone has his or her reasons and I suspect a lot of them have to do with magic and tradition. I’m all for tradition.

But for us? Well, maybe it’s because The Who’s so stressed about Santa already and maybe it’s because Santa  was never a big part of my childhood, but I just don’t feel compelled to encourage belief. We’re not exactly sure yet how we’ll go about letting The Who know that Santa is not real. I’m actually not convinced that he knows the difference yet between a “character” and a real person. (He understands “pretend” because he will often pretend to be a firefighter or pretend to be an animal, but those things he is pretending to be are actually real. I’m not sure if he understands that when he is pretending to be Bob the Builder, for example, that Bob is not actually a real person.) So the way we go about explaining this calls for a little research.

But, yeah. No Santa. And, following with the same logic, I guess there’s no Tooth Fairy either**. Bummer.

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* I have always been Jewish. M was raised Catholic and now considers herself Unitarian. We made a decision to raise The Who Jewish and fully plan to join a synagogue and send him to Hebrew School in preparation for a Bar Mitzvah. Of course, this has nothing to do with the fact that we have twinkle lights strung across the living room, stockings hung from the banister, and plans in the works for procuring a Christmas tree.

** Please don’t worry; The Who will be handsomely rewarded for losing his teeth. We’ll just make no bones about who is doing the rewarding.

Scattergories: a Post in Three Parts.

I.

One year, while snooping through my mother’s closet searching for hidden Hanukkah gifts, I came across a big, heavy rectangular box. Wrapped. Fortunately (for me) the wrapping was either thin or light-colored (both?) and if I stretched it and peered really closely, I could make out what was inside. I knelt on the floor next to my best friend and we squinted and pressed our fingers along the paper, reading the words underneath. “Right…Off…The…Top…Of…Your…Head! Right off the top of your head!” I was getting a new game, I declared triumphantly and for the rest of the month, whenever anyone asked me what I was getting for Hanukkah, I smugly replied that I was getting that new game called “Right Off the Top of Your Head.”

Have you ever heard of that game? Yeah. Me neither.

Turns out I had been snooping at the *back* of the Scattergories box. Classy.

II.

Scattergories turned out to be one of my favorites and was a game I frequently played with my wild and crazy friends in our wild and crazy youth. The beauty of it, see, is the battling. It’s not so much about who could come up with the most ingenious entries for each category, but rather who could bargain and reason her way into points for a *clearly inappropriate* submission. Case in point: nosegay. A “nosegay” is not a flower. It’s a collection of flowers. Come on. Every Scattergories player worth her salt knows that “flower” is the category and “types of flowers” is what belongs on the line next to it. So dedicated to this line of reason was I that a full-out argument ensued, right there in the living room over the giant, polyhedral die. Such an epic battle it was that it eventually made its way into a haiku that this friend wrote for me and read aloud at my 30th birthday party. For years, my friend has maintained her correctness and for years, I have stood firm. Until today. I just sent her this email:

"I am writing a bog post about Scattergories and I went searching for a photo of the card that had the "flowers" category on it so I could tell the nosegay story. What I found was this. Clearly, I have been wrong all these years. If "bridal bouquet" is acceptable to these random scattergories-players, then "nosegay" should have been acceptable. I'll give it to you retroactive to 17 years ago. I disagree fundamentally, though. Let me at least go on record with that. I think the bridal bouquet people are bullshit here and I don't think nosegay should be acceptable, but I will go with general consensus. You win. Nosegay."

III.

Blog Scattergories. Here is where my love of the game comes full circle. I had no idea this was a thing, but I found it in Dresden’s blog and far be it from me to turn down an opportunity to play “Right Off the Top of Your Head!” Play here or let me know if you play on your blog. Use the first letter of the answer to the first question to come up with answers for the rest.

1 )What is the name of your favorite Holiday themed song?
Santa Baby

2) Something on your wish list
Speaker dock for my new iPhone

3) Something you plan on baking
Snickerdoodles (although until this post, I had no plans of baking anything.)

4) Something you plan on giving
Smooches

5) Something you plan on avoiding eating
Spaghettios (This goes for all year, every day. No one needs to eat tin-flavored faux-Italian food.)

6) Something you plan on adding to the chorus of ’12 Days of Christmas’
Seven hours painting

7) Something you plan on returning/ re-gifting
Sad substitutes for actually useful things

8 ) Something you wish was stuffed into your stocking
Shellac nail polish and the UV light to go with it

9) Some place you wish you could travel to this month
Sandy shores of Florida’s west coast

10) Something you will decorate with
Sparkles!

Feast.

I’m not sure I understand the concept of school Thanksgiving feasts. The Who has one this afternoon and everyone’s all excited. Turkey! Cornbread! Stuffing! Hi, isn’t this the meal we wait all year for and are so looking forward to…on Thursday? Why do we not eat this stuff all year (mostly) and then saturate our pre-Thanksgiving week with the very meal we’re anticipating? When else does this happen? I mean, I know that when I am going to have dinner at, say, a Chinese restaurant on Friday, I don’t wake up Monday morning and think: Chinese! All week! All Chinese, all the time! No. Rather, I make a specific effort to eat other stuff. Because that makes the upcoming Chinese meal all that much more appreciated.

Anyway. So, The Who has his Thanksgiving feast at school today and I paid the money for his participation and I’ve been talking it up to him for a couple of days, but I’ve seen the menu and so I threw in a bag of string cheese pieces as back-up. Because my boy is not a Thanksgiving-feast-lover. At least not as near as I can tell, based on quotes like, “There are vegetables in my lemmalade (pulp); I don’t like vegetables;” and “I don’t like this potatoes. I don’t like how it feels in my mouth.” Maybe he’ll eat some cornbread. Maybe turkey. It’s a crap shoot.

I, on the other hand, am saving myself for The Big Show on Thursday. Mama loves herself some Thanksgiving.