Filed under: Jewish mothers | Tags: children, growing up, holiday, memories, Mother's Day
We love being moms. We loved it when our kids were little. We loved feeding them – broiling a lamb chop just for them, putting a dollar under their pillow from the tooth fairy, documenting their first steps, school concerts and T-ball games with videos and photos and memory books.
But we can no longer pretend that our kids are little. Between us, we have three sons and two daughters. They range in age from 17 to 27 and in height from 5’8” to 6’5.” Three of them live on their own. The milestones have changed, and we don’t see them as often as we’d like to, but we still kvell and worry and cook. We love it when they come home. We stock the refrigerator with their favorite foods and cook up a whole rack of lamb. We like to pretend that they still need us as much as they used to. While many things have changed, we have noticed some similarities:
Then: They refused to eat strained peas.
Now: They refuse to eat supermarket sushi.
Then: We gave them $5 a week allowance.
Now: We slip them cash on the way to the train because we know they need it.
Then: They loved being pushed in the stroller.
Now: They borrow Mom’s car for “important business.”
Then: We picked out his clothes and dressed him in suspenders and a bow tie.
Now: We ask him to make sure has a clean shirt for a family wedding.
Then: We loved browsing the racks of frilly toddler girl clothes and dressing her in lilac leggings with a polka dot top.
Now: We still shop for her even though she isn’t with us. We see an outfit that we think would look great, text her a picture, and hope for the best.
Then: We hung every precious piece of artwork on the refrigerator.
Now: We “like” their projects on Facebook.
Then: We used to take family vacations – and that meant everyone went.
Now: Somebody gets left out because of school or work schedules. Sometimes that means us — the kids travel without us!
Then: We knew all their friends – they came to our kitchens for every birthday and we chatted with their moms in the carpool line. If we didn’t know them, we could look them up in the school directory.
Now: Our children mention friends/co-workers/neighbors that they think we should know – because they know them. (If we’ve only met them once, how should we know to add them to the friend list?).
When the kids were little, they were always there – unless we took them someplace else. They had no lives of their own. They needed us for everything. And while it’s great to be needed, we did need a break sometimes. Now we’ve got a break and we miss them. We love it when they are back home and needing us again. We thrilled to listen to their accomplishments and dilemmas, offer unasked-for advice, and cook them the kugel they always loved.
We’re not yet ready to be grandparents — we are not that old! But we can imagine how great it can be. We will get to revisit all those “thens” with our children’s children. How wonderful to be able to start all over again with little kids.
Yes, just going through the photo albums to find the photos for this essay made us cry….
Filed under: calendar, holidays, Jewish holidays, summer | Tags: barbecue, beach, camp, celebrations, family, holidays, Jewish holidays, summer
Sadly, between Shavuot (May 15) and Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 5) there is a lack of Jewish holidays. Jews like having a holiday to celebrate once a month or so. We need a reason to get together to shmooze and overeat.
So in the name of research, we dug into the vault and uncovered a few unknown Jewish holidays that we will be celebrating this summer. Please join us.
Pulke Day – The day when you pull on your bathing suit for the first time. It’s a hot day and you’ve been invited to a friend’s backyard pool, but your thighs are still large and white and dimpled. (Even when your thighs are nice and tan, they will continue to be large and dimpled.) This little-known day of mourning – it’s nothing compared with Tisha B’Av – is primarily celebrated by women ages 35-65. Some choose to fast on this day, but that won’t help.
Rosh to Barbecue – This festival of first fruits (and steaks and hot dogs) celebrates the first evening you light the barbecue and decide it’s warm enough to eat dinner on the deck. Preparations for this holiday include scraping last year’s shmutz off the grill, sending someone to get the propane tank filled, and stocking up on paper plates. Guests may come bringing offerings of pasta salad and fruit pie. Although a menorah is not necessary, it is customary to kindle the citronella lights. Celebrating this holiday requires you to remain outdoors even if everyone is freezing cold and shivering as the sun goes down.
Yom Lo Kinder – Similar to Passover, this freedom festival is celebrated mainly by parents of children ages 6-16 on the day they drop the kids off at summer camp. Prayers are often said: The most common include the “Don’t get sick so I have to come and fetch you” and the “Stop being homesick; you’re not missing anything” prayers. There is no special siddur for this holiday; prayers are spontaneous. Emotions run high as parents are relieved, guilty, happy and sad — entrusting the care of their precious offspring into the hands of inexperienced counselors.
When the parents return home to an empty house, the ritual four cups of wine (good stuff, not Manischewitz) are often part of their festive meal.
Shlepping Sand – An obscure pilgrimage festival celebrated by Jews on both coasts. This is the day when Jewish families load up the car with bikes, coolers and beach towels and journey to the sea.
Although no Temple sacrifice is necessary, parents do sacrifice sanity, money and personal space by sharing a rental house with the whole mishpachah (extended family). At the conclusion of the Shlepping Sand festival, children begin the solemn “counting of the school supplies,” marking time until the first day of school.
Summer is just around the corner, and we’re counting the days. Feel free to let us know how you celebrated these holidays. Send us your pictures, but don’t expect see photos of our Pulke Day celebration.
Filed under: calendar, Uncategorized | Tags: charoset, expiration dates, expired medicine, matzah, Passover, quirky
Cleaning out the cabinets after Passover got us thinking about expiration dates. Do they matter? Should we pay attention to them?
We didn’t bother to look for the expiration dates on those half-empty boxes of matzah meal and potato starch. They went right into the trash. We didn’t want them cluttering up our cabinets for a year. But the half-empty can of macaroons? It is welcome to hang around.
And then there are the three unopened boxes of matzah that we unleashed from the five-box shrink-wrapped packaging. We won’t judge the people we know who save these and other unopened Pesachdik “goodies” to use the following year. We give everything to the food bank – well, almost everything.
The Manischewitz Concord Grape wine is already fermented; what could a few more months at room temperature hurt? One daughter asked us to keep the half bottle around. She thought charoset would make a good snack year-round. It’s healthy – isn’t it? All those apples and nuts . . .
We do check expiration dates from time to time. When the milk says, “Sell by April 15,” and it’s a week later, we don’t even bother sniffing it. We believe them and pour it down the drain. We can’t say the same for the packets of hot chocolate mix that have been in Joyce’s cabinet since her children wore snowsuits and mittens. The expiration date must have worn off of that box. If it were still visible, it would say, “Best used by 1990.”
When the first spoonful of yogurt tastes funny, we do search for the date. Why is it so hard to find on a plastic container that’s only 3-inches big? When we do locate it, we have to take off our glasses – or find our glasses – to read it. Then we eat the yogurt anyway. It’s only a few days past.
Many food items don’t have an expiration date but need one – like the tuna salad at the deli counter, which you see clerk rotate before he scoops you out a lump. Old chopped liver has a reputation for being as deadly as anthrax; as much as we love it, we know to avoid it when the top is dry and crusty. We are suspicious of lingering coleslaw, too. When the first taste is tingly and tangy, why, husbands, would you ask us to taste it and see what we think?
The same high-level decision-making applies to the leftover tikka masala in the frig. In our households, we are the ones tasked with making those executive decisions of what to keep or toss. Our theory is that if you can’t remember when you brought it home from the restaurant, too much time has passed.
We were happy to recently discover a helping hand online. The experts at www.stilltasty.com answer loads of questions about shelf life and expiration dates on everything from champagne to cream cheese to cauliflower. We investigated brownies and discovered that they should be eaten within 3-4 days. No problem.
When it comes to medicine, we try to be a little more careful with expiration dates because we grew up with a worst-case scenario. We know a mother-in-law who, with the best of intentions, offers a teaspoon of expired cough syrup or a decade-old Tylenol at the first sign of a sniffle. To avoid this syndrome, we periodically clean out our medicine cabinets. We are surprised to see that the eye drops from that allergic reaction are now 12 years old. Time flies when you are fighting germs.
We know a doctor who draws the line at keeping an expired EpiPen. After all, who wants to be responsible for that bad decision? But that container of expired prescription muscle relaxants is priceless when you need it. Scheduling the first available doctor’s visit – a month from now — to get it refilled would be useless.
Full disclosure: Joyce didn’t give away all of her matzah. She plans to make matzah brie for breakfast until the box is empty. But when she checked its expiration date out of curiosity, she found that there was none. No surprise. What’s to go bad in a dry, tasteless cracker? But she did find a stamp on it reading Passover 2013.
That could make you feel guilty if you are thrifty enough to save Pesachdik food from one year to the next. But we don’t do that. Next year, we’ll make a pilgrimage to ShopRite to buy the same indestructible matzah, but it will be stamped Passover 2014.
Filed under: calendar, Passover | Tags: calendar, Hanukkah, haroset, matzah, Passover, pesachdik, ShopRite
Looking ahead to winter and Hanukkah 2013 made us crazy. That’s because this year, the second night of Hanukkah will fall on Thanksgiving. In the playoff bracket of holidays, this is a tie. We love both of these holidays – the family and the food that come along with each of them. But will they be great together? Can we serve sweet potato latkes with the turkey?
The jury is still out as to whether or not we’ll combine those two favorite holidays. In past years, we have postponed Hanukkah until winter break when our kids were back in town and there was a chance of snow. We’ve had no problem moving Hanukkah to a more convenient date, but is it kosher to move Passover, a more sacred holiday?
Hanukkah is a minor holiday that marks a military victory for religious freedom; it has benefitted from its proximity to Christmas. Passover is one of the biggies on the Jewish calendar. It marks the Exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to freedom. It is also one of the three week long pilgrimage festivals during which ancient Israelites traveled to the Temple in Jerusalem with gifts of the first fruits and offerings for God.
This year, Passover begins on Monday evening, March 25. We are loath to admit it, but we are considering changing the date. Monday is the worst night of the week for a big family dinner. The workweek is just getting started, and meetings and due dates are looming. While we almost always eat dinner at home on Monday nights after a weekend of dining out, we don’t usually set the table for 24 – and no one asks for a shank bone.
With about a week to go, Ellen still doesn’t know what to tell Elijah. The final decision on the seder date depends on spring break driving schedules. This indecision didn’t stop her from making her annual Passover shopping pilgrimage to the Cherry Hill ShopRite. The store sets up special rooms filled with Passover goodies: One is crammed with dried fruits, nuts, chocolate and jams from Israel; another room is wall-to-wall matzah.
She’s learned to restrain herself from purchasing all the pesachdik food that looks so good and tastes so bad. When the kids were little, she fell for the hype and purchased the cold cereal in the cute box with the dancing star. It tasted like circles of compressed dust. On this trip she did buy six bottles of Prigat grapefruit juice straight from the kibbutz.
Joyce is postponing Passover until the 9th night when she gets home from a surgical trip to Ecuador. Her husband will be doing the surgery; she’ll be doing the shlepping of supplies. She googled Ecuador’s Jewish population and learned that there are only 900 Jews out of a population of 13 million. But there is a synagogue and a Chabad House. According to the website, the Chabad rabbi officiates at Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations and performs circumcisions. Chabad hosted a seder last year, but Joyce doesn’t know if she’ll have the nerve to drop in.
Although Joyce won’t be doing the whole Haggadah on her return, she plans to make up a batch of haroset (her family’s must-have Passover treat) and buy some gefilte fish, which she will dress up with a curl of carrot. Will anyone notice that the bitter herbs are missing? She won’t be surprised if on Wednesday morning her husband, Ted, cooks up his one culinary masterpiece – matzah meal latkes. The family will miss them if they don’t have them – so they’ll be enjoying them a few days late.
Other groups have been rescheduling Passover for years. Every preschool has its celebration with the crayoned seder plates and plastic plague frogs before the actual date. Likewise, seders with a special focus –feminist, GLBT, interfaith and community gatherings – get a head start and often hold their gatherings before the actual calendar date of the holiday.
Although we have rescheduled Hanukkah to suit our schedules, this is first year we’re messing with an important holiday. Is nothing sacred? Where do we draw the line? We looked ahead to the fall and saw that in addition to the looming Hanukkah/Thanksgiving quandary – Rosh Hashanah begins on the Wednesday night following Labor Day. That gives us just two days to brush the sand off our feet, put away the white shoes, and get everyone into their new sweaters and wool suits. But in the bracket playoff of holidays, Rosh Hashanah trumps Labor Day. We know we’ll show up in synagogue. And we wouldn’t dream of moving Yom Kippur.
A Happy and Zissen (sweet) Pesach to all our family, friends and blog-readers (who are our friends!)
Filed under: culture | Tags: crowd sourcing, fads, family, old, texting, trends
This essay originally appeared last Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer
We’ve been around long enough so that when we hear about a new trend, we immediately think about the old-school version. That’s because everything old is eventually new again.
This is especially true in fashion. If we had kept those bell-bottom jeans from 1968, we could have worn them again in 1998. When we saw Jessica Simpson’s new beach cover up in People magazine, we immediately thought it looked a lot like Marcia Brady’s 1972 maxi dress.
Texting is so 21st century, but every time we see teens pounding away on those tiny little keys, we picture the telegraph operators in all those old movies, furiously tapping their keys to get out the breaking news:
BABY BOY MATTHEW PAUL <STOP>
BORN MARCH 3, 1936 <STOP>
8 LBS 2 OZ <STOP>
ALL ARE WELL <STOP>
Back in the day, you paid by the word for your telegraph message, so you kept it short. Hmm, that’s a lot like Twitter.
Today, with “unlimited talk and text” packages, there’s no need to edit yourself. As anyone with a teenager can attest, the breaking news goes on and on. When we text our kids, it’s hard for us to know when to end the conversation.
Okay, see you later.
Okay, love you. Bye.
Love you, too.
If they stopped after “love you,” shouldn’t we love them back? How do we end these texting conversations? We need to bring back <STOP>.
Another trend is crowdsourcing on the theory that many heads are better than one. When the Sam Adams Brewery wanted to come up with a new beer, they turned to crowdsourcing. They asked their Facebook fans to choose among various beer characteristics – body, hops and color. The winning beer will be brewed this spring.
In corporate speak, crowdsourcing is defined as “bringing external input to an innovation process.” Blah, blah, blah. We’ve been crowdsourcing for years, and we call it asking our friends.
Back in the day, we polled the girls at our school lunch table: Should we be a witch or a fairy for Halloween? We asked our dorm mates if we should call him back. We surveyed the moms at the playground to see how long is too long drink from a baby bottle.
Even though we now have 185 Facebook “friends,” we wouldn’t dream of asking these kinds of personal questions online; we like to source our answers from among a very small and select crowd.
Then there’s the Slow Food movement. It focuses on locally grown foods, sustainable farming, and concern for the planet. When we hear the phrase Slow Food, we can’t help but think about Sunday dinners at grandmom’s house. The brisket went in the oven at noon. We set the table at 3 p.m. The courses seemed endless and so did grandmom’s trek from the kitchen to the dining room as she tried not to spill gravy out of the large platter of meat and potatoes. Oy, that was a Slow Food movement.
We don’t have a crystal ball to know what old idea will come back in brand new packaging. But when cupcake stores reinvent themselves and start selling multi-layered jello molds as the next trendy indulgence, we want it known that we’ve been eating “rainbow desserts” for years.
February has three “official” holidays. Valentine’s Day is the biggie; it steals all the media attention and Hallmark card revenue for the month. It is the holiday the drug stores get all fapitzed for. As soon as the Christmas gift wrap is put on sale, out come the chocolate hearts, “World’s Best Teacher” mugs, and Scooby Doo Valentine’s.
February 2 is Groundhog Day, but unless you are anxiously awaiting Punxsutawney Phil’s prognostication, you might miss this bizarre mix of self-important men in top hats clutching the furry guest of honor and college students using any excuse for a party. (Good news: He predicted an early spring.)
Lincoln is also responsible for is National Freedom Day (Feb. 1), marking his signing of the Thirteenth Amendment that outlawed slavery in 1865. In 1948, President Harry Truman made it an official holiday. This sounds like such an important day – and it was – but why didn’t this holiday stick? All holidays were invented by someone, but why do some gain popularity while others fade away?
We found a bunch of lesser-known holidays that flourish on obscure Facebook pages with 7 “likes.” Feb. 5 is National Weatherman’s Day, commemorating the birth of John Jeffries, considered to be one of America’s first weathermen. He kept weather records from 1774 to 1816. Today’s meteorologists are predicting Feb. 5 to be clear and sunny. We won’t be surprised if it’s overcast and snowy.
Feb. 7 is Send a Card to a Friend Day. Obviously, this day was created by a card company that should hire a better advertising company. We’ll just send a text message. We’re saving our $4.95 to buy a card for our hubbies on Valentine’s Day.
Feb. 15, the day after Valentine’s Day, is Singles Awareness Day, founded by Dustin Barnes, who at the time was a girlfriend-less student at Mississippi State University. That’s cold, Dustin, reminding us that we spent yesterday all alone – no candy, no cards, nothing. We don’t need your stupid holiday.
On a nicer note, there are days when we are supposed to be nice: Do A Grouch a Favor Day (Feb. 16), Random Acts of Kindness Day (Feb. 17) and Walking the Dog Day (Feb. 22). We believe you should do all of these things more than once a month, especially the last one. The dog can’t hold it in till next February.
We have three weeks to save up all our thoughts for International World Thinking Day on Feb. 22. So we are busy pondering world peace and how to solve global warming. Thank goodness No Brainer Day is Feb. 27. We were starting to get a headache with all that heavy thinking. On Feb. 27, you are supposed to do anything that’s easy, obvious and logical. If a task requires thinking or studying, you should put it off. That’s a holiday we can get behind.
Then we read that International World Thinking Day wasn’t even about us. Girl Scouts created it in 1926 as a day to give thanks and appreciate each other. They should stick to what they do best: Samoas and Thin Mints. Happily, Feb. 8 is National Girl Scout Cookie Day. Pass the box this way.
February has holidays for more than cookies. You could eat your way through the month: Plum Pudding (12th), Gum Drops (15th), Chocolate Mints (19th), Cherry Pie (20th), Tortilla Chips (24th) and Pistachios (26th). Apparently, edamame and cauliflower cannot afford lobbyists to promote their interests.