When the Maccabee’s Mother Went to Sephora.

There are not many opportunities for Jewish smugness, or at least not that I know of. As I child in England, I walked past shelves of milky chocolate Easter eggs stuffed with more milky chocolates inside knowing that when Passover came, instead of eating milky chocolate, my family would be eating like inmates in a Soviet prison camp. And I’m not exaggerating. Nobody in the 1980’s was pouring caramel onto matzoh and drizzling it with chocolate and sea salt.

Any smugness at all came around Hanukkah. Even though we too had been consumed by gift-giving, our giving is generally confined to our children. I watched my non-Jewish friends run themselves into the ground buying gifts for their brothers and sisters in-law, and all their nieces and nephews, not to mention their parents. We are known for making ourselves crazy with holiday prep (Passover, anyone?), but this was a mishigas we did not share.

(I will say that as parents, we have abandoned the eight nights of presents shitshow because that turned into a nightmare of ungratefulness, wherein certain children would cry about the bad presents (always the same children, it should be said) and we’d live in fear of the next night’s unboxing. Also, eight nights times five children = forty presents and I just cannot think of that many things to buy for someone who is not me. A word of advice to anyone with small children: IT IS NOT TO LATE TO ABANDON THE EIGHT NIGHT BULLSHIT.)

For a very old people, we do get consumed by newness. I quite like the Elf on a Shelf, because frankly, I like an elf. But please, keep that Mensch on the Bench far away from me. First of all, a mensch is Yiddish for a good person, specifically a good man. This mensch looks like a stereotypical rabbi, maybe even a chassid, and while I am married to a man for whom chassidic music is the soundtrack of his life, I don’t particularly need to put a chassidic rabbi on a shelf. No thank you.

And then came the Mystery Maccabee, the chosen people’s answer to Secret Santa. We started doing it as a family for one of the night’s of Hanukkah because, frankly, Mystery Maccabee turns everyone into a giver. The same children still cry, but often M and I are not the culprits.

It was when the Mystery Maccabee went to school that everything went to shit. Several children are in several Mystery Maccabee exchanges which means that I get a string of texts of things we need to buy. Often the children tell each other exactly what they went, which sort of begs the question: WHERE IS THE MYSTERY IN THAT? Because all of this is made easier by group chats, one child may actually be in five separate gift swaps, one of which sent us to Sephora for a certain sweet and sticky lip mask. Now, I don’t begrudge a child a good lip mask. If I had known about a lip mask at twelve, I would have asked for one, but for some reason, this lip mask pushed me over the edge. (I will be pulling a reverse O’Henry and having this child sell her hair to pay for all the gifts.)

So to this, I say, like the mensch on the bench and the Hanukkah bush, let this be a tradition we do not adopt. After all, at some point in my adult life, we added donuts to the Hanukkah celebration. Let’s not pretend any of us were eating Hanukkah donuts as children. This seems like more than enough newness for me.

Happy Hanukkah everyone!


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Blessed art thou, Gd of our universe… THANK YOU JAPAN.

In the interest of full disclosure, we got a bidet toilet seat for our wedding anniversary. My youngest could not get the name straight and initially referred to the bidet as the “Dubai,” which made sense because one of the seat’s marvelous functions (and there are many) is that the toilet seat is heated. Heated! That may not sound like much but there were many winter mornings here in NYC when the kids were looking for me – they look for me by standing rooted in one spot and shouting my name over and over again, with increasing, panicked volume – only for me to shout back, “I’m just in Dubai warming up!” (Speaking of NY winters, what is the point of a sixty degree day if it’s going to be followed by a 25 degree day? The chickens woke up to frozen water and would like to know.)

I could wax rhapsodically about this Toto toilet seat (thank you Japan!), but there are times when you just don’t use the seat and its many life affirming functions and you want to go the old fashioned toilet paper route. (Sometimes you just forget it’s there, even with a warm bum.) All that is fine until you reach for said toilet paper and your hand falls onto a roll of gritty, pulpy SINGLE PLY. I do not, for the life of me, why you would install the Cadillac of toilet seats and then adorn it with prison toilet paper. Nobody owns up to putting in the toilet paper, but it keeps coming back, even after I threw several rolls of it out into the hallway. M has now hidden the single ply in the bowels of the basement, so if it returns, there really are elves in the house.

And yes, the reason we have such toilet paper is because we are apparently celebrating our one year COVID-versary by using up all the things we bought in a panic. Every few weeks we get a small package from China with a single, squashed roll of toilet paper I bought ten months ago in a complete frenzy not fully understanding what it was that I was buying. I cannot imagine doing anything with these lonely little rolls other than taking them camping and using them to make a fire.

(Also, on the subject of things we bought in a panic, I don’t think I can eat all the dried beans. There are just too many.)

I want to know. What did YOU buy in a panic that you know find yourself staring at, full of consumerish guilt and misgiving?

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One Year In. (Or, How I Stopped Worrying (not really) and Learned to Love Leggings.

Oh, targeted advertising. What to do with you? I can manage the near-constant barrage of ads for bras for flat-chested women, industrial fiber supplements and foolproof at-home hair dye. Really, I can.

But I was not prepared for this:

It seems that between my online activity and not-so-secret conversations, someone thought that my life would would finally be complete if I had a giant magnet for my oven which made it looked like MY CHICKENS WERE TRAPPED INSIDE. I’m scared of my own shadow, but I can think of few things more terrifying than the thought of nine angry hens being trapped in a kitchen appliance, let alone baked alive in my oven. (It does, however, give whole new meaning to “throw a chicken or two in the oven.”) I’ll buy that bra, those supplements and all the hair dye, but I think I’m gonna have to pass on that magnet.

Earlier this week, our kids’ school celebrated the one year anniversary of the day we became the first school to close because of COVID. I don’t think that’s a moniker anyone would chase, but there you have it. One year later, and here we are. I’ve tried to be introspective, or even retrospective and think about what I’ve learned this year, if anything.

  1. I will probably never again wear jeans.
  2. I know I made fun of Seattleites for distinguishing between daytime fleece and evening fleece, but I now own shiny evening leggings like the ones Olivia Newton John wore in the last scene of Grease (which I just read has been cancelled, so goodbye to all that).
  3. I still don’t like to bake and apparently even in the height of the shutdown when I was using paper towel as a coffee filter and contemplating using my old, useless jeans as makeshift toilet paper, baking powder and baking soda are NOT interchangeable.
  4. I tried drinking during the week and it is most definitely not for me. Kudos if you can make that work for you.
  5. I would rather have ten Pap smears in a row than another Covid test.
  6. If you order blue-egg-laying baby chicks online in the middle of the night, you need to remember to cancel them in the morning when you wake up and come to your senses.
  7. Also, there is no shame is reordering said chickens after you have cancelled them.
  8. Pedicures exist for a reason.
  9. When people say that it is hot in hell, I think it’s the kind of heat you experience when wearing a down winter coat, hat, and gloves and are sitting directly on top of an outdoor propane heater.
  10. Shutdowns only work for introverts when they get to be alone.

I am about to launch a book a full year after COVID hit us all, and will have to hold off on all in-person events until it’s warm enough to do them outside and we are all feeling a little more secure. In the meantime, if you are looking for me, I’ll be giving myself an at-home facelift to prepare for ZOOMING my way through this launch.

Stay tuned for details.


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New Dreams, Old Nazis

As I’ve written here before, when the going gets tough, I dream about Nazis. This week, on the heels of what amounted to a full scale meltdown of political and societal norms here in the US, I dreamed that the Village-People-inspired mob had left the US capitol and was now coming for me and my kids. We just so happened to be in a Seattle bookstore (do with that what you will) and while I found a spot to lie down and hide, my kids hand to stand, their feet showing.

“Don’t worry,” my youngest said, as she hovered over me. “We won’t tell the angry mob that you’re a Nazi.”

“She’s not a Nazi, one of my older kids said to her. “She’s just foreign-born.”

And there you have it. In this dream, there are not only Nazis, but apparently I am one of them. In this dream, the Nazi is me.

I know that the shit hit the fan in Washington earlier in the week, but other than that, I have lost all track of time. All I know is that I haven’t gone anywhere in a really long time, and every time I look, I have acquired another houseplant. I felt like a superhero this week when I discovered a dinner I had never before made (it involved a crock pot and a can of chick peas, and for that, I’d like to thank the Academy). The other high point was of the week (or month) when I realized that with the right amount of bedding, I could nap right on the floor of my home office. **Note: M is in my old home office. I am in what used to be the guest room, but we are not having any guests ever again – or at least it feels that way. We got rid of the bed in there (again, no guests = no bed) and put in a desk (there are desks everywhere I look in this house, but still not as many desks as houseplants). Then I realized that with no bed, I would have have to improvise my midday catnap. I can’t very well, throw on an eye-mask and go to bed in the middle of the day with people around. What would they think? Besides, my bedroom is now Grand Central (pre-Covid. I’d love it to be the current Grand Central, but we can’t have everything, can we?) and M likes to talk work calls full volume from the attached room.

Hence, blankets, pillows, and a hardwood floor. Needs must, people.

Speaking of Seattle, I’m currently at the Birkenstocks and socks stage of house-fashion and I think I may have ordered a housecoat this week because I cannot stand the sight of myself in my many-zippered mom coat for another moment. I like to wear it about the house, and at any given moment I can find an egg in the pocket. My friend H has the same coat and just last week she pulled out a stick of deodorant. I’m sure a housecoat made of faux sheep will be much more flattering.

In good news, the chickens are laying eggs and even though they are crapping their brains out at an alarming rate, they are pretty low-maintenance. I am waiting for them to enter my dreams, which is how I’ll know they’re here to stay. I guess they have to wait until the Nazis leave. Good luck to them.

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The Winter of Broken Eggs and Other Things

Last week I found a cracked egg on my doorstep. Turns out the chickens had escaped early one morning (probably because we forgot to close the door to the run) and felt the urge drop an egg on my stone steps. (Of course my first thought was that I’d waited so long for these bloody eggs to arrive and they had gone and wasted one.) I thought that was the end of it, but we had a snowstorm this week and I was forced to shuffle back and forth between the house and the coop checking on my precious hens.

When the snow fell, I could not convince them to come out of their coop, so I shoveled out all the snow, and a hefty amount of frozen chicken crap (#winning) and eventually they came down. The clever girls managed to pop out a couple of eggs for us which I put in my coat pocket. When I moved on to shoveling the rest of the yard (#stillwinning), I shoved my phone in pocket to keep it safe… on top of the eggs.

Enter cracked eggs and yolky phone.

The next day I gathered some eggs, put them in my coat pocket and in the short amount of time it took me to get from the coop the the house, I’d forgotten all about them. I leaned up against something, or carried something, or who the hell knows what I did, but … enter cracked eggs and yolky phone.

And then, like manna from heaven, we got a gift basket from some cousins in New Orleans (I am apparently cooler than I look) packed in a delightful wire basket and presto!

I am now in possession of an actual egg basket and my mom-coat is saved from daily washings. Now I’m really #winning!!!

I realize all this egg talk makes me a dull girl, but I can’t say I have much else going on. I dreamed this week that we went to Australia and was actually happy out it, which says a lot because I really don’t love flying. We’re feeling so cooped up (get it?) that I’m officially good and ready to spend a few days on a plane to visit a country that people tell me looks a lot like …California.

In the meantime, I’m going nowhere. Just back and forth to the chicken coop. In other news, someone asked me if Lois – our cat – is expecting. I’m pretty sure when they spayed her they took out her uterus so I think the only thing Lois is expecting is more food. I’m nervous the two of us are gonna get fat shamed at her vet appointment next month so it’s time to trim back on the poor girl’s treats. Here she is when she doesn’t think anyone is watching, just sitting herself on a counter (naughty cat) and willing the fridge to open.

I could see how from this angle one might think Lois is expecting a brood of kittens but she’s just a girl trying to make it through the winter of our discontent without eating everything in the house. Twice.

Take a number, Lois.


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The Waiting Game

Apparently all I am getting from nine of the world’s hungriest and laziest chickens is 1-2 eggs a day. That’s it. I waited forever for an egg, and now I’m waiting for 6-7 more, and while the eggs are pretty damn delicious — or they could taste just like the eggs I buy en masse from Costco (I may never really know) — there just are not enough of them.

I’m pretty sure the chickens are ready. You know how I know this? When I approach them, they crouch in submission, because according to Google they suspect I may be rooster about to impregnate them. I AM NOT KIDDING ABOUT THIS. I want to pick up and shake the damn birds and say, “Ladies, decorum! This is all very untoward!” But I do not. Instead, I try not to think about how much each of my daily eggs has cost me and I beg them to lay some more.

After I spent an hour and a half planting tulips bulbs in the rain, even using a special tool that was supposed to shove the bulbs down deep and out of reach of predators, the chicken dug up each and every bulb and about half of my winter radishes.

I found the ladies eating the outdoor cat food today, food which is… wait for it… made of chicken. On the subject of all things untoward, I tried explaining to them how awful this was but they paid me no heed.

The only time I have gotten them to listen to me was when they ran across the street to my neighbors’ house, something they have now taken to doing almost daily. I ran after them and yelled, GET BACK TO THE HOUSE and then, one at a time, they did just that.

In full disclosure, this picture is actually from the time they escaped and my neighbors had to call them back to my house. Turns out there may or may not be coyotes on the loose in my neighborhood and if these chickens know what’s good for them they’ll stay pretty close to home…


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