We’re Mavens and Proud of It

Through the magic of all-knowing, all-seeing Google, you can sign up for a “Google Alert” that lets you know when certain words appear in the news. We get an email every time our “brand” – The Word Mavens – gets a mention.

maven-group.jpg

Another bunch of folks calling themselves “mavens.”

But even Google isn’t perfect. It sometimes alerts us to a new word – like youthquake or muggle. Sometimes it just alerts us to other mavens – self-styled experts like the guy who calls himself the maven of cheesesteaks or the agency named “Maven Car Rental.”

This week’s Google Alert was not a link to a published clip like we hoped but to the Merriam-Webster Thesaurus’ list of 46 synonyms for the word “mavens.” Sadly, “Joyce and Ellen” weren’t listed as synonyms, but the email did give us some inspiration.

Their definition of mavens? “A person with a high level of knowledge or skill in a field.”  In our humble opinion, we qualify. We argue over the Oxford comma. We’re always on the lookout for bad typos on billboards. And we watch the national spelling bee, pulling for the crazy Yiddish words.

Synonyms for mavens include aces, fiends, geeks, hotshots, maestros, sharks, whizzes, wizards, cognoscenti, crackerjacks and connoisseurs. We’ve got some trouble with these.

We’re not geeks; they’re high schoolers who are exceptionally good on the computer. After years of sitting physically in front of the same computer to write together, we just discovered that we could collaborate remotely with Google Docs.

Fiends? We’re not a Marvel villain, a demon or maniac. But we do get obsessed when itsederplate comes to finishing up all of the leftover Halloween candy.

We’re not hotshots either. When we were invited to speak at a retirement village several states away, we took them up on their offer to stay overnight in the Golden Age wing. Would a hotshot do that?

Maestros? That’s classical music. Wizards? We think Harry Potter. We will own up to being connoisseurs. We know a good chocolate babka when we taste it. We know how to gather the correct components for the seder plate. (We even know what to put in the mysterious sixth spot.)

And we know which delis hand out a free nosh while we’re waiting.

There was also a list of words to describe maven-wannabes, including groupies, admirers, dilettantes, cultists, disciples, hangers-on, backers, boosters, rooters, champions and evangelists.

Groupies? Who are we? The Beatles? We don’t think anyone has a poster of us on their bedroom wall.

But we do have admirers, backers, boosters and rooters. We know this because when we IMG_1405tweet or post on Facebook, some people show how much they love us with a red heart emoji. We get comments from thousands . . . no hundreds. . . a few friends. . . okay, mostly Ellen’s mother-in-law. She really loves us. She’s a booster and a backer of The Word Mavens.

We don’t have hangers-on. Our last hangers-on were when our kids were toddlers and they would grab onto our legs so we couldn’t walk away.

Disciples and cultists? We don’t have any of these. Yes, we do worship a fresh toasted sesame bagel and cream cheese but we don’t encourage anyone to shave their head and bang a tambourine.

Evangelists? We don’t preach at a megachurch but we do spread the gospel of “do whatever you can to entice the flock to come home.” Commandments include stocking the refrigerator with the favorite foods and reimbursing the plane/train/bus ticket home.

NASA has made maven an all-caps acronym. It stands for Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN), part of their Mars Scout Program to study that planet’s  atmosphere.

We can make up an acronym, too. Just call us Mothers Are Verklempt Every Now and Then.

Merriam-Webster had antonyms, too, including amateurs, dilettantes and dabblers. The latter is someone who does something for a little bit and gives it up. We have dabbled in book club membership, yoga, and full-time employment.

But we have not dabbled in being Word Mavens. We’ve been doing the same-old, same-old for more than 20 years. We’ve been shlepping around the country to shmooze with sisterhoods, men’s clubs and senior groups about Jewish culture, beloved foods, holidays  and the Yiddish and Hebrew words that describe them. We’ve been writing books, articles and blog posts. And we haven’t kvetched about any of it.

Mavens? We’ve earned it!

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We really are The Word Mavens! It’s in print! We’re famous-ish.

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No Artisan, Farm-to-Table, Deconstructed Food Here

We just finished writing a piece that was right up our alley. VisitPhilly – the city’s tourism and travel promotion agency – asked us to write about Philadelphia as a Jewish food destination. That was enough to get Joyce to say, “We really should go and sample some of the sandwiches…” And we were off!

We had a fun day checking out some of the local restaurants and delis we wanted to include. After all, we had to do our due diligence to make sure the food we were writing about was still delicious, right?

From its beginnings, Philadelphia has been – and still is – a Jewish city. From William Penn through the waves of immigration from Eastern Europe at the turn of the 20th century – there have been Jews –and our beloved foods – in Philadelphia.

Today, Jewish food in our town runs the gamut — from modern Israeli food at Zahav (just named the James Beard outstanding restaurant in the whole U.S!) to chocolate halva babka at Essen Bakery in South Philadelphia. There’s brisket ramen soup from chef Ben Puchowitz at Cheu Fishtown (inspired by his Bubbie) and Israeli falafel for lunch from Mama’s in Center City.

But when we want a nosh, we like to go old school. An overstuffed corned beef special. Lox on a toasted sesame bagel. If the weather is nasty, matzah ball soup, without the trendy garnish of cilantro or sriracha. A slice of fresh soft marble rye. Happily, we live in a city with plenty of places to find our beloved Jewish foods.

For more than 100 years, the smell of fresh-baked rye bread has wafted from Kaplan’s New Model Bakery at 3rd and Poplar Streets in Northern Liberties. The city’s oldest bakery supplies loaves to local restaurants and ships to Philadelphians who miss the best rye in the city. If we’re anywhere nearby, we detour to Kaplan’s to pick up a loaf.

Lipkin’s Bakery, with locations in South Philly and the Northeast, has been around for decades, too. They also make rye (and challah and bagels and babkas and Danish) but it’s Mitch Lipkin’s delicious, flaky knishes that make the bakery famous. Their varieties include the classics (potato, spinach, kasha, fake-liver and more), but Mitch isn’t afraid to innovate (white pizza stuffed with cheese and garlic; cinnamon rice with raisins).

Once we have our rye bread, we’re halfway to a great corned beef sandwich. Although the number of Philadelphia delis has dwindled (we remember Jack’s on Bustleton Avenue of blessed memory) there still remains Hymie’s, Famous 4th Street Delicatessen, Hershel’s East Side, Steve Stein’s, Koch’s, Schlesinger’s and Ben & Irv’s to carry the torch. They are still passing out the pickles and assembling sandwiches piled high with the salty, delicious meats you remember.

When we shmeer our sesame seed bagel, it’s with old school cream cheese and chives, not with Tofutti non-dairy spread. But we’re very happy with the newfangled bagels that are popping up all over. At Philly Style Bagels in Fishtown, the bagels are boiled in Yard’s Beer. At Spread Bagelry, in University City and near Rittenhouse Square, the bagels are boiled in honey water and made “Montreal style.”

When Harry Lender wanted to introduce bagels to the world outside Jewish delis, he mass-produced, pre-sliced and froze his perfectly round, soft bagels. They were bland, inoffensive and could be found in almost every supermarket. Today, young artisan bagel bakers are doing the opposite: hand-rolling their bagels so each one is unique and delicious – with crunchier crusts and seedier toppings. Their bagel-baking ancestors would be proud.

We belong to a Facebook group called We Love Jewish Food. The name says it all – and proves that we’re not alone in loving the Ashkenazic ethnic food we grew up with. A lot of the members are from Philadelphia (and Florida) but there’s an occasional outlier – someone stuck living in upstate New York or Atlanta without access to Jewish sustenance. Almost every day, someone will post a photo of a bagel and lox – and half of the comments are people drooling, “That looks delicious. I wish I had breakfast with you.” The other half comment, “I’d kill for a good bagel.”

kasha

Nowadays, it’s possible to get many of these delights delivered to our door. Find the right restaurant, and Grubhub will deliver kasha and bowties. We can send chicken noodle soup to a sick friend, thanks to the Internet. And although we might appreciate the convenience, we prefer to stop in at the source when we can. It’s worth the trip to smell the tantalizing aromas, shmooze with the deli guys and the elderly cashier, and get a few cookies to nosh.

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More Fake News? Don’t Blame Us . . .

Real or fake? It’s so much harder to know what’s what these days.

You can’t even tell if a hamburger is real! Burger King just started selling the Impossible Burger, a vegan meatless patty that looks like a burger and tastes like a burger – but there’s no beef.

And what’s up with the “vegan leather handbags” for sale on Amazon? Why even say  “leather” when they are not? They’re not the skin of dead animals — vegan leather is plastic, polyurethane and PVC.

Facebook can fool us, too. After years of seeing everyone’s carefully curated photos of scenic vacations, happy family get-togethers and college graduations, it’s no wonder many of us are now calling Facebook — “Fakebook.” Your family can’t be that happy and well-adjusted all the time.

We try to tell the truth – most of the time. When we don’t, we tell ourselves that our occasional fake news doesn’t bring down Senators or involve Russian bribes. It simply smooths the way – like a white lie. And like chicken soup, it can’t hurt.

 

When our children were in preschool, we hired a professional photographer to take a family portrait.  When he showed us the proofs and offered to touch up a double chin and slim down our thighs, we were insulted  – but we didn’t say no. Our ideal family photo still hangs in our dining room. But we do have morals: We would never display a fake issue of Time magazine with ourselves on the cover.

Joyce making some fake news

When we serve beef and broccoli, dumplings and cashew chicken in china bowls, in our kitchen, we might post photos of the family Chinese dinner on Facebook. You’ll never guess that it’s takeout from China Garden and the plastic containers are stuffed in the trash.

We haven’t taken the plunge to go all gray, so we both spend an hour or two with Patty the hair colorist every six weeks to maintain our “early mahogany” color. When a friend says, “Your hair looks sun-kissed and shiny,” or “You’re so lucky not to have any gray,” we just smile and accept the compliment.

We will always regret the year we caused a panic when we dressed our dog in a wolf costume for Halloween. A rumor about a rabid wolf running loose on the playground spread like wildfire – and we had to just play dumb. We hadn’t seen a wolf!

We don’t have the chutzpah to insist that the designer pocketbook we bought on the street in New York City is authentic. After all, we saw the vendor hammer the little metal Prada logo on it, right after we forked over the money. A fake is a fake, and we carried that $45 “Prada” with pride for years.

We had high hopes for the few real items our parents passed along to us, like the silver serving plate that they only pulled out on special occasions. We assumed it must be valuable. It turned out to be silver plate; it was a modest wedding gift 50 years ago.

That’s why we empathize with the people on “Antiques Roadshow” who wait in line for hours to show the expert their “authentic, hand-woven Navajo blanket that was passed down for four generations.” When it turns out to be a 1950s souvenir from Santa Fe worth $19, we feel their pain.  “Oh well, it was fun coming here today.”

We started out writing together before there were blogs and 24-hour news cycles. We wrote for magazines and newspapers that employed editors and fact-checkers. If it was in print, you could believe it —  because it had been vetted. You could look up facts in the Encyclopedia Britannica. When Walter Cronkite told you the evening news, you knew he had checked it out first. Fake news had not been invented – unless you believed the National Enquirer headline of aliens landing in Brooklyn.

When our kids were growing up, they looked up information online. We warned them to check their sources and urged them not to rely on Wikipedia. When Dr. Google told them the red spot on their chin could be the bite of a tsetse fly, they caught on, not to rely on the Internet for medical advice

For 10 years, we’ve been blogging – expounding on everything from macaroons and New Year’s resolutions to leftovers and lost socks. We don’t claim to be the ultimate authority. But we do carefully vet our information – even if that sometimes means we asked three friends and they agreed with what we wrote.

If you think we’re not telling the whole truth, please don’t call it fake news. “Fake” means shady, fraudulent or criminal – like the painting labeled “Renoir” that’s displayed in Trump Tower, even though the real one hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago.

We prefer you’d call it “faux.” An innocent slip-up. A miscalculation. And so very chic. Just like the photo of us from Jake’s bar mitzvah party. We’re walking the red carpet with our Oscars.

 

 

 

 

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Running for President? Thank You, Next

When we go to the newest restaurant, we feel young and trendy – until we have to turn on our iPhone flashlight to read the menu in the dark.

We feel adventurous – until the waiter offers us a fermented kombucha cocktail. No thank you. We’ll have a gin and tonic. When we look around the restaurant, we see that almost everyone else is young enough to be our kids.

We don’t feel old, but we’re not as young as we think we are. But there are people even older than us who don’t realize they’re old. They think they’re still spring chickens. In fact, just saying you’re a spring chicken is a sign that you are not. You’re old.

When we see that Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren are contemplating an exhausting run for president, we think they’re too old. And not just because they don’t drink kombucha.

Like us, these politicians grew up with a globe that doesn’t exist anymore. Yugoslavia was one communist entity, not seven scenic countries you might want to visit. Like us, they grew up asking questions that young people don’t even ask anymore. We’ve asked our niece what guy she’s dating. Younger people wouldn’t assume that a girl is dating a guy. We recall the fuss back in elementary school, some forty years ago, when an unmarried teacher asked to be called “Ms.” Watson instead of “Miss.” Today, you can pick your pronoun – not just your honorific. We remember when girls were finally allowed to wear pants to school instead of skirts. We bet Elizabeth Warren remembers it, too.

Back in the day, there were countries you wouldn’t travel too, country clubs you weren’t allowed to join, and people you couldn’t marry. Today, the rules are looser; it makes the news when someone is denied service because of their race or religion.

We still give a second glance when a TV commercial features an interracial couple. It feels like a bold advertising decision to us; but our adult children don’t give it a second glance. We wondered, if interracial is even the right word to use? They clued us in. Why do we need a modifier at all? Can’t we just call them a couple?

We admire our children and their peers. They know – and remember – so much! They are financially savvy, socially conscious and politically aware. They know why the stock market spikes and dips. They grasp which hole to put their used cup in when confronted with three-stream recycling. And they know that it’s unwise to tweet their feelings at 3 a.m.

When we read headlines like, “Move Along Baby Boomers; You’ve Done Enough,”  we feel a little indignant, but in truth, we agree. When we hear about all the septuagenarians running for president we have to agree with Ariana Grande, who knows what to say when she’s tired of someone: “Thank you – Next!”

It’s hard to claim we’re young when we search through our college alumni magazines and have to find our graduation year way in the back with the old guard, not at the beginning  with everyone who graduated in this century. Yes, it’s proof that we have decades of experience and resumes filled with accomplishments. We’ve learned important life lessons and seen it all. But wouldn’t it be better to view the world through eyes that are unclouded and minds that are wide open?

Our brains are not as pliable as they used to be. They’re cluttered up with old phone numbers, algebra formulas, and conjugations of French verbs. We do our best to keep up with what’s new, but it’s challenging. Sometimes we feel like we’re just treading water.

Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden have also spent their considerable lifetimes, growing and contributing. But if we’re just treading water, how do they have the chutzpah to think they can swim the distance? It’s time to pass the torch.

We can’t help but imagine that when Joe Biden is at home in Delaware, playing on the  computer, he might call into the bedroom to ask, “Jill, want to plan that trip to Czechoslovakia? 

 

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Grandmoms: Do You Know Your Stuff?

Last spring, we got a call from an editor at Quirk Books in Philadelphia: Would we like to write a book for them? Stuff Every Grandmother Should Know would be a new addition to their series of “irreverent reference gift books” that are crammed full of useful tips and fun facts.

Screen Shot 2018-08-29 at 8.37.59 PMWe had met the editor, Blair, three years prior when we pitched the idea of a book on dating, love and relationship advice from the real experts – grandmothers. The grandmother part must have stuck in her brain, because that’s why she called us. Only neither one of us is a grandmother. Between us, we have five adult children in their prime baby-making years, but we’re both still waiting for admission to the Beloved Bubbes club.

But not being actual grandmothers didn’t stop us from saying yes to the project. When we co-authored our first book, the best-selling Dictionary of Jewish Words, we had to define more than 1,500 words in Yiddish and Hebrew – and we don’t speak either language. Research R Us! We made lists of words, we read other books, we interviewed experts, and we looked “stuff” up. Gathering intel on grandmothers would be way more fun.

We know babies. Back in the day, we cuddled and nurtured our own. Now we just make googly eyes at cute ones going by in strollers. We’re really happy when we get a baby to hold, shower with gifts, and pass back to their parents. Come to think of it, that’s a lot like being a grandmother!

We know young mothers. We have neighbors with infants and nieces with toddlers and we have a lot of opinions (which we mostly keep to ourselves) about their approach to parenting.

We know grandmothers. Although our own have passed, we are frequently surrounded by a gaggle of grandmoms when we present our book talks about Jewish traditions, holidays, beloved foods and the Yiddish words that describe them. We love to shmooze with these Bubbes. With three generations of knowledge to mine, we’d be the perfect team to write this book!

We didn’t have to go undercover to get the lowdown on grandmotherhood. When Screen Shot 2018-08-29 at 8.38.23 PMwomen heard we were writing this book, they cornered us. They were anxious to share their insights and advice – the words of wisdom that the parents of their dear grandchild didn’t want to hear. And when they asked us to keep their comments about their daughters-in-law off the record, we stuck to our journalistic code of ethics and obliged.

We covered the whole grandmother gamut in 38 chapters – from the day your daughter and son-in-law announce that “they’re pregnant” to the day you announce that you’re taking the whole tribe on vacation.

We started with Grandmother Basics (what to expect on delivery day, how to set house rules, and more). We moved on to Baby and Toddler Stuff (how to play safe at your place; how to master nap time), Little Kid Stuff (how to have fun without toys, how to survive the playground) and Big Kid Stuff and Beyond (how to make old-school cool and be someone they can talk to).

We learned a lot in the process of researching and writing the book. Here are our top five takeaways:

1. The times have been a’changing. Your grandchild may have a single parent, two mommies or two daddies. And while many couples have gender reveal parties to let you in on their secret, many others choose gender neutral names, like Riley, Blake and Skyler, to keep you guessing.

2. Many rules have changed, too, since we last changed a diaper. Babies are put to sleep on their backs; tummy time is only for daytime. A car seat should face backward until the child weighs 40 pounds or more. Breast milk shouldn’t be heated in the microwave. Still, we successfully raised five children to adulthood – and they drank water from the garden hose and rode bikes without helmets. We just try not to brag about it.

3. If you’re planning to choose your grandmother name, say it aloud to see how it sounds, but don’t get attached. Many grandmothers have been named by a baby who pointed at them and babbled Mimi or Baba or BeeBee.

4. Keep your urge to indulge the grandchildren in check so your children don’t give you a timeout. Let the parents set the tone and follow their rules. Hope that the parents are the type who are just grateful that you brought the kid back alive and not the type who restrict sugar intake and your delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies.

5. Before long, your grandchildren will be more tech-savvy than you, so now is the time to step up your game so you can keep in touch in this modern world. Brush up on your emojis and learn how to Skype so you can wave at your toddler who lives 200 miles away.

In summary, what stuff should you know? Trust your instincts; you raised your own kids. But remember that it’s not your child, so don’t contradict the parents. Ask first. And have fun because when babysitting duty is done, you can hand them back to your kids!

Stuff Every Grandmother Should Know is available in hardcover ($9.95) and e-Book ($5.99) formats. Available in gift shops, Barnes & Noble Books and online at Amazon.com. Release date Feb. 12, 2019.

 

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The Meh Mrs. Maisel

Like much of the Jewish world, we were excited by last year’s hit show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. We enjoy a good period piece, especially one set in the 1950s. All those pink wool dresses with matching hats! The old luxury cars! B. Altman’s cosmetics! We loved seeing Jewish family life portrayed on screen and getting the inside jokes and cultural references. Much of Season 1 rang true.

Season 2? Not so much. When we tried to pin down exactly what was bugging us, we realized it was the Jewish aspect of the show that had gone off the rails.

We love to see Jewish culture, holidays and family life depicted authentically in books, movies and on TV. When writers poke fun at members of the tribe we usually laugh right along. We’re not easily offended; we love a good fight over babka as much as the next guy (see Seinfeld, The Dinner Party).

we’d fight for a babka from Essen Bakery

But when Jewish culture is exaggerated to the point of caricature and stereotypes, it makes us mad. Here are 10 ways Mrs. Maisel is doing just that. (Spoiler Alert if you’re still plowing through Season 2.)

 

10. That’s not funny.

When Abe Weissman inadvertently sees Midge’s stand-up act at the Concord in August, he orders her not to tell her mother that she’s a comedian. He’ll decide when the time is right, and it won’t be after Labor Day. “You don’t want to ruin to your mother’s Chanukah,” he says.

No Jewish adult would ever say such a thing. We know that Chanukah is a holiday for the kids. It’s the outside world that equates the emotional importance of Christmas with Chanukah.

If Abe had said, “Don’t upset your mom right before Passover,” we would have agreed, because Passover demands more than buying presents and frying latkes. Passover is the holiday that makes housewives crazy; it means cleaning the chometz out of the kitchen, finding a bottle of Manischewitz Concord Grape before the shelves are bare, and deciding whether to invite Uncle Lou’s lady friend to the seder.

  1. Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?

Moishe Maisel (Midge’s ex-father-in-law) owns a ladies dress factory. He’s in the rag trade like many of his landsmen. He’s participated in some less-than-honest business practices. But is the scene where he is holding a phone to each ear and screaming “You shmuck” and “You putz” into each receiver really necessary? His mother would have washed his mouth out with soap.

  1. Minks gave their lives for this?

Shirley Maisel (Midge’s ex-mother-in-law) wears her mink coat 24/7 in August in the Catskills. Sure, fur coats were a status symbol for Jewish women in the ‘50s; they’d wear a mink stole out to dinner on Saturday night – even if the restaurant wasn’t fancy. We have aunts who would wear their fur coat to High Holiday services in September – even in the midst of an Indian summer heat wave. But these women would never wear a fur coat poolside. Nor would they exclaim, “Oy, I’m shvitzing in this mink coat” while refusing to take it off. Their fur coats spent the summer season in cold storage, not in the Catskills.

  1. Step away from the buffet.

Most Jews we know fast one day a year – on Yom Kippur. So when Midge’s sister-in-law Astrid, a convert to Judaism, announced that she wasn’t eating because it’s Tisha b’Av, we were surprised. How did she even know about this seldom observed holiday? Astrid sat at breakfast with an empty plate, watching everyone else eat from the enormous buffet. She complained that she was going to faint from hunger. If someone were truly observant and fasting, wouldn’t they attend services, take a walk by the lake, or at least get away from the buffet?

  1. Going back for thirds?

And that breakfast buffet! Bubbes beg their kids to take another helping of brisket and kugel because a child with chubby pulkes is cute and healthy. But Moishe, a grown-up, should know better. His overflowing plate was just cartoonish: Eggs piled on waffles piled on bacon piled on pancakes balanced on bread. If he actually tried to eat from his leaning tower of food, it would collapse. Serves him right for being such a chazer (glutton) at the buffet.

  1. How do you say that?

Mispronouncing and misusing Yiddish words is one of our pet peeves. The one that stuck out most this season is when Abe asked, “Are you going to KEH-vetch about it?” Oy! Kvetch (to complain) is one syllable, pronounced almost like “fetch.” The initial K just slides in. There are other instances of this in the show, but if you made us search through the episodes again, we’d kvetch.

  1. Do you have a cough drop?

In Season 1, we discovered that Shirley carries matzah meal in her purse; she pulled it out when she went to Midge and Joel’s for Yom Kippur dinner. In Season 2, Rose Weissman reveals that she carries matzah ball soup in her purse. Whaaat? We’ve known a lot of Jewish mothers who cram their purse with essentials, but matzah products are not on the list. A real Jewish grandmother would carry an embroidered hanky, hard candies, cough drops, a clear plastic rain bonnet, a mirrored lipstick case, and a pill bottle stuffed with and assortment of Bufferin, Dristan and antacids.

 

  1. The Rabbi RSVPed.

Inviting the rabbi to Yom Kippur break-fast? Again, oy! There is a grain of truth in that many families would be honored if their rabbi came to dinner, but not at the end of Yom Kippur. On this day, everyone is grumpy and stressed from going without coffee and lunch. Inviting the rabbi to join your family is just asking for something to go wrong. And Rose Weismann bragging about her coup of snagging the rabbi? It’s not very kosher. In real life, the rabbis we know break the fast with a quick bite in their office with their family, because it’s 8 p.m. by the time they’re done. They’re exhausted and want to go home.

  1. Where’s the bagels and lox?

And while we’re on the break-fast meal – who chose leg of lamb? When we fast for the holiday, the evening meal is our “first” meal of the day, and breakfast foods like bagels and lox, eggs, blintzes and juice are what we look forward to. It’s traditional to eat these milchig foods, which are easier on the tummy. And these days, with vegans, clean-eating and free-range everything, the only lamb we’ve seen people eat is the broiled, bite-sized chops that make the rounds during fancy-shmancy cocktail hours.

  1. Midge, who’s minding the kids?

And our #1 problem with Midge Maisel? Her invisible children! How does a Jewish mother forget that she has children? A real Jewish mother – and we should know – would be handing out snacks and fastening seat belts right and left. Our kids are the center of our lives. Yes, we know Midge is immature – she’s a married woman who lives at home rent free with her family’s maid cooking her dinner every night. Yes, we realize the invisible children are a plot device, but it still bothers us. Midge Maisel never walks her kids to school. She never plays a game, watches TV or eats a meal with her kids. She never kvells about their accomplishments. Why were they written into the script in the first place?

This article also appears in the Baltimore Jewish Times January 17, 2019

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The (Adult) Kids Were Home!

Indulge us for a minute  – we haven’t written about our kids in a long time. And now they’re all grown up.  This past weekend we celebrated Thanksgiving with four of the five of them. (One came home the week before for a nice long solo visit.) We were thankful we got to spend quality time with them. But now they’ve gone back to their “real” lives that don’t include us and we’re feeling depressed.

All but one of them live out of town – as far away as Denver and San Francisco, so when they come home,  they stay with us, eat with us, and pop back into our daily lives. We love it when they’re home for a visit.

But it’s different from their college days, when coming home meant they were back in their house – with their bedroom, their friends and their closets filled with their clothes. Now they’re working adults with their own lives, relationships and apartments. They have a bed and TV that’s not under our roof. We do get some points though, because our beds are more comfortable and our TVs bigger. (Thank goodness they still use our Netflix password).

Thankfully, not everything has changed. We still stock up on their favorite foods. It’s a pleasure to buy a pound of lox and expensive Italian prosciutto – just for them. We have an excuse to buy a key lime pie or a pound of chocolate chip cookies. Our husbands aren’t big on sweets, so if we buy these goodies when the kids aren’t home, it’s like admitting to the world “Yes, we’re going to eat all those cookies.”

 

we love it when they fill their plate

Before the kids came home, we dusted the bedrooms that no one goes into when they’re not here and made sure there were clean sheets and two nice pillows. We stocked the spare bathroom with a new bottle of shampoo. Sometimes, they come home with their significant others, which means we’re making up the double bed, explaining how the shower works and where the towels are.

We love it when they want to make time to see aunts and family friends – and we get to tag along with them. Time in the car to chat! Going somewhere together!

Our adult kids know so much stuff!  While they’re home, we Google less — because we can ask them! “Isn’t cold brew really just iced coffee? Why didn’t Amazon pick Philadelphia for its second headquarters? Is it too late to buy shares of Facebook?”  They sit down at our computer with us, to help upload the Thanksgiving photos and move them to the folder where they should go. They proudly give us swag from their new job – a travel mug and a phone stand that we will use just because it reminds us of them. They look around the house with a new set of eyes: “You might want to get the mulberry tree trimmed; it’s hanging over the house and the wires.”

Although our kids having been driving for more than 10 years, we still usually slide into the driver’s seat when we’re going somewhere together. But now instead of us telling them to watch out for the mailbox – or yelling “Curb! Curb! Curb!” as they drove around – they tell us that we don’t need to put on our turn signal eight blocks ahead and that when the speed limit is 60, we can go 65 but not 45.

When they were little, going out to dinner meant the kids’ menu, crayons on the table and a place where you could you make some noise. Nowadays, it means that we try to get a reservation at the hottest restaurant in town so we can show them how cool Philadelphia is.  It’s our pleasure to treat them to dinner – these chicken-nugget and Tater Tot lovers who grew up to be good cooks and adventurous eaters.

look at all the hands reaching for those desserts!

And when we take them out, these young adults who are used to paying their own way, are happy and appreciative that we’re paying the bill. But they don’t hesitate to order up. After all, why not try the Pomme Electrique cocktail with calvados and white vermouth?  Let’s order a few extra small plates – maybe even two of the smoked trout salad with poached pear and crispy egg. We’ll share! Most of all, we love sharing time with them around a table like in the old days.

We love to have them home. It’s a happy disruption to our daily lives. They take the car and go visit friends, and we wonder when they’ll be home. When they sit on the sofa watching TV, we plop down next to them, and say, “What are you watching?” We’re thrilled when there’s nothing to do and they ask, “Want to play Sorry or Scrabble?”

Before we know it, we’re driving them to airport, back to their “real” lives away from us. Hours later when they text us that they landed safely, we catch ourselves texting back, “Glad you made it home.” But it’s their home – not ours.  But they’ll always have a home at our house.

So Thanksgiving weekend is over and none of our kids have a month-long Christmas break to look forward to either. So for now, we’ll have to be content with going back to our usual texting/calling routine to keep in touch. And if we can get it together, we’ll be putting a Hanukkah surprise package in the mail this week.

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