Tag Archives: Hannukah

Bright lights, Barbie and Bella Abzug Splashed Across My Chest (or Hannukah as Failed Feminist Mother)

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to be the kind of parent who does not buy presents for Hannukah. I would absolutely, positively LOVE to be the kind of parent who has succesfully convinced her children that experiences, or possibly even charitable contributions suffice. (Hell, I would also like to be the kind of parent whose children have never heard of Family Guy but I won’t be greedy.)  

Instead, I am the kind of parent who brought this shit into my house on Night Two of the Festival of Lights:  

 I blame my sister and brother in law for this. They didn’t buy it, but my five year old saw a picture of her beloved cousin with a life-sized Elsa Doll and demanded that THIS monstrosity be hers for Hannukah. She specifically requested that the doll be large enough so that she herself would be able to climb into the box it came in. This thing is over three feet tall and graces just about every room in the house. She is wherever I look. The other children are scared of her. 

I wanted to be like a friend who gave her daugher Jewish Feminist t-shirts for Hannukah. They are fantastic and we do have quite a panoply of women from which to choose.   (True, with my luck all the Gloria Steinems would be sold out and I’d be stuck with a Bella Abzug shirt. I love you Bella, but I’m not sure I would wear you across my chest.) Instead, I welcomed a life sized-Barbie into my home. I’m not even going to discuss the lip gloss palettes I bought. I feel sick just thinking about them.  

My seven year old always asks for something odd and then regrets it immediately. (One year: A “baby clothes waching machine” that was basically a wooden box with a door which we now use to store other crap in.) This year she wanted a remote-controlled car. I went one step further and got her a kit she has to build and then can control. Whoopeee! Was I finally getting a girl who wants to build? Could I humble brag with reckless abandon?? (Aw shucks, I just wish she’d ask for the damn lip gloss.) True, I myself cannot navigate the Goldiblocks/lego world (it all looks the same to me, sorry) and I used to cut up jigsaw puzzles as a kid just to make the pieces fit… but if I have an offspring who wants to do this, then why not encourage it? 

Of course, said child took one look at her remote control lego car and another look at Godzilla Barbie and almost lost her mind with envy. I pulled her aside and whispered something about lip gloss on night six. That did the trick and I officially suck as a feminist mother. 

I like to think that it’s because Hannukah came so early this year; I didn’t have time to be the kind of gifting parent I want to be. But I know better. Even if Hannukah came on December 25th, I’d leave this all to December 22nd (if I am luckly) and buy up all this crap in a panicked frenzy, giving no thought to the substance of it all. 

Oh well,  maybe next year. 

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On the fifth night of Chanukah…

M and I got engaged on the fifth night of Chanukah.

We celebrated by watching a certain child almost set himself aflame by standing too close to the candles.

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Eight things I love about Channukah.

1. Channukah gelt: Who doesn’t love waxy, chocolate-esque confection wrapped in foil? True, Channukah gelt bares little resemblance to actual chocolate, and true, I spend the eight days AFTER channukah finding the sad, empty foil husks just about everywhere — under pillows, shoved between couch cushions, and scatttered all over the floor of the minivan like sawdust at a rodeo. But the gelt is ours, and it’s pretty and shiny even if it is tasteless. Yum.

2. Fire: Matches are not something we generally leave lying around, but on Channukah we get sloppy. Every day we find our boys huddled around some poor object they are trying to set on fire. I have already found them trying to ignite their sneakers, a balloon, and their sisters’ American Girl dolls.

3. No homework: My children go to a Jewish school, and the school does a good job of bringing on the merry: Color war, field trips, singing, donuts, and then some more donuts. Best of all is a a no-homework policy for the eight days of the holiday. Even though some teachers flout this policy (you know who you are), there could not possibly be a bigger gift to children and parents alike than a break from homework. It has me wishing Channukah was eight months long.

4. Baked latkes: That’s right. I am unable to fry anything other than an egg without turning the kitchen ceiling black and setting off multiple fire alarms. Baking my latkes avoids this and lets me make more than one latke at a time, freeing me up for other things,like stopping the boys from setting fire to their shoes.

5. Gifting like a Jewish Mother: That’s right, kids. I’m once again using the holiday to give you snow boots, hats, undershirts, mountains of books, and enough underwear to make it through a nuclear winter. Enjoy.

6. Sales: Let’s be honest, nobody would mark down prices for Channukah alone. The happy timing of Channukah right near Christmas means that I didn’t pay full price for all that underwear.

7. Days Nine and Ten: Because I am a last-minute sort of gal, and because even UPS is not perfect, each year there are some gifts that show up after Channukah has been and gone. Nothing says I love you like giving your children neck warmers and fresh school supplies (a little known Channukah tradition) on days nine and ten of Channukah.

8. Time: It’s flying past me faster than I can handle. Channukah slows things down. For eight nights, work ends earlier, school slows down, we spend time with friends and family, and all in all, we get to take a really deep, much-needed breath.

Happy Channukah!

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Thanksgiving. All Eight Nights.

Fiona came home from preschool and explained to all of us that Hanukkah was just like Thanksgiving, because both were holidays about freedom of religion, or more specifically, about freedom from religious persecution. Efram has been teaching me all about colonial history, something I know virtually nothing about (It seems I had been confusing Jamestown with Jonestown because I couldn’t figure out why Efram was learning about a suicidal cult.) Those eight nights of oil may have been something to behold, but from what I learned this week, it’s a bloody miracle those pilgrims survived at all.

But this year’s overlap has really given me pause to try and be a little more thankful. It’s not always easy, what with the full cross-country-move-meltdown the kids are subjecting me to. (I don’t know how else to explain the fact the at any given moment, at least one of them is extremely pissed off at me. I know when Sidney is mad at me, because she calls me “Mrs. Lady.”)

I’m thankful for many things, but mostly that M doesn’t mind that sometimes I wake him up in the middle of the night to yell at him about the remote.

I’m also thankful that I no longer smell like a latke, thanks to a three hour shower that was something out of Silkwood.

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Even though I spent quite a few years wishing we could trade lives, I am now thankful that I am not Nigella Lawson. I’ve got to come clean here. My little gratitude project has been somewhat hampered by the amount of time I’ve spent worrying about her. Poor dear.

Her life still seems incredibly glamorous. Her eldest son is probably not (as I write this) making homemade hockey goalie gear, which seems to have required the use of two full boxes of Cheerios and all the paper and packing tape in the house. Her younger son did not slice his hand open on a friend’s cracked iPad, requiring a trip to urgent care where it was glued up – something I could have clearly done at home. Her children most likely did not refuse to eat the tortellini soup she made for dinner.

Still, for now I’m glad to be me. I’d actually take my lot at the moment and not Nigella’s. (Ok, maybe just her boobs and kitchens.)

Happy Hanukkah everyone.

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The Hanukkah Tampon

I feel guilty about many things. I hate reggae. I find Zadie Smith largely unreadable (too much dialect). I find Homeland largely unwatchable (that Carrie is a complete and utter moron. You don’t make a pass at Mandy Patinkin, darling. You throw yourself at his feet and beg him to break into song). But none of it compares with how guilty I feel each time I realize that despite my best efforts, my children have turned into craven materialists. If you pulled each of them aside and asked them how to define “love,” I am quite certain that each – from the snarky ten year old to the chubby little two year old – would say, “Love is presents, lots and lots of presents.”

When you live away from grandparents, often a visit does mean presents. My mother in law used to come with a bag covered in small pockets, in which she’d tuck little presents for the children. Upon her arrival she’d plop down the bag and let the kids have at it, pushing each other aside and tearing the bag to pieces in their search for loot.

I knew it had gotten especially bad when a friend of mine (let’s call her Vanessa) came to visit. My two boys snuck into her bedroom, dug through her luggage, and came running out with several large, wrapped tampons. “Look! Vanessa even wrapped our gifts!” I snatched the bulky white torpedoes from their little hands and promised them chocolate if they’d busy themselves in another room.

Eight nights of Hanukkah present an especially big challenge. We certainly don’t do presents every night, but we like to do something – go skating or to a Hanukkah party, and last year we felt especially smug because we added a charity component. Still, the kids have gotten it into their warped little minds that eight nights means eight opportunities for their parents to show them just how much they are loved.

We’ve never done a wish list – the whole idea seemed horrible – but this year I wanted to get a sense of what the kids, especially the two older boys, expected. What did they ask for? Bennett wants something called a “mechanical snapping machine,” an iPhone5, a laptop, a camera, a camcorder, a magnetic dartboard, and a football dummy. Oh and a pair of football gloves that when placed side by side form the logo of the Denver Broncos and that also happen to cost $100. That’s $50 bucks a glove for those of you less math savvy than myself. What in God’s name is a football dummy, and why do you need one when you have a brother?

Speaking of, Efram wants a robot, a laptop, an autographed San Francisco 49ers football helmet, which he informs me costs $1,274, something called a “Galaxy S3,” a tae kwon do sparring set, and… a football dummy.

I give these kids allowances to teach them to the value of money, I often have them do extra chores to make money for things they want which I am not prepared to buy, and they still expect me to shell out $100 for a pair of gloves, one of which is all but guaranteed to be lost within 24 hours?

I asked Frances what she wanted and she muttered something about overpriced American Girl paraphernalia. She does not enjoy making decisions so she left the entire enterprise in my hands.

I also asked Fiona what she wants, to which she replied, a washing machine and thong bikini. Frankly, I don’t know which is worse. Clearly these are not my genes at work – on both counts. And while I would imagine that to some the thought of doing laundry in a thong has its appeal, neither has any appeal to me, and they most certainly should have no allure to a four year old. I ran out of steam and will not be asking Sidney what she would like for Hannukah.

If my four year old wanted a household appliance and slutty beachwear (thank you, France), what would my two year old want – an iron and some pasties?

I won’t be finding out.

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And now, for my present…

Last night, on the eighth and final night of Hannukah, I sat the kids down and had a little discussion. We were actually eating dinner, after having lit the candles and opened some presents from the grandparents. Rows of candles burned on the fireplace, and we all basked in the glow of a rather successful holiday. Oh, and we’d just returned from a fun-filled four nights away: two in Portland, and two at the beloved Great Wolf Lodge.

These kids were fed, feted, and primed.

“Now that you’ve had a marvelous holiday, and received all sorts of treats and presents, I was wondering if you got me anything.”

“Huh?” said Efram, displaying his pitch perfect confused face.

A couple of them panicked and pretended they had something for me: “Oh, we just haven’t wrapped it yet.”

“No worries,” I continued, reveling in what little guilt I could muster. I know what I want from all of you. In fact, it’s a present for me AND Daddy.” Suddenly, with the mention of M, I had everyone’s attention. I swear even the baby looked right at me, like she understood exactly what I was saying, maybe even knew what was coming. “For our present Daddy and I would like to go downtown for a night away. Well, our present from you really isn’t the night away — our present is knowing that while we’re gone you’re going to behave beautifully for the babysitter. That would be the very best present of all. That means no phone calls, no pranks, no rope, no duct tape, no hot glue gun, and no padlocks.” I looked right at our Prime Suspect. He looked back. Neither of us blinked.

“Sure,” he said. “We can do that.”

“Hold on,” chimed Francie. “How about you don’t go, and instead for your present you stay here and we come in your bed in the morning and give you massages.” I think one of them mentioned breakfast in bed. I thought about it for a very short minute. Thought about cold little feet climbing in my bed. Thought about cold, clammy morning hands pinching my tired skin. Thought about the inevitable fight for the middle spot in between us. Thought about weak coffee and burnt toast. You see where I’m going here.

“Sorry sister,” I said. “But I have a hot date with your dad and a couple of Tylenol PM’s.” I’m really not asking for much. We’ll be gone from before dinner to after breakfast. Ok, so that’s enough time for a trip to the ER, 15 stitches, and an assortment of other horrors, but really, I’m not asking for much. Especially considering I braved that Chipmunk movie today. M, who was sitting next to me, looked over and gave me a disapproving tut when he saw me fiddling with my iPhone.

“Checking email?” he said. “Even in here?”

“Hardly,” I replied. “This movie is doing my head in and I’ve gone to my happy place.” And I pointed the phone at him so he could see how I was getting through six hours of Chipmunk hell. That’s right, while he sat and laughed along with the kids like the great dad that he is, I was looking for our next house….. in France. Whatever it takes to get through the day. Right?

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Gelt Complex

Before we got all fancy and started eating gourmet donuts on Hannukah, the Festival of Lights was a time for latkes and these:

Crumbly, tasteless chocolate bites that come wrapped in foil and look like coins, or as they’re affectionately known: Hannukah gelt. We still eat them in our house, and even though my little ones have now been exposed to far finer chocolate than the wartime substitute that comes inside of these, they still squeal with excitement at the sight of them. So much so that I just sprinkled some of these on the table last night and didn’t have to serve dessert, and I got huge brownie points for putting some in their lunchboxes today.

But Francie can’t get the name right. For weeks she’s been asking for them, and for weeks she’s been calling them Hannukah guilt. One of us usually corrects her politely and moves on, but last night, when I was up to my elbows in grated potatoes [hey, that food processor attachments has to get its once-a-year-use], she started asking for them again, “Do we get them tonight? Do we get Hannukah guilt?” She’d already asked about fifteen times since she got off the bus, so I just turned to her and barked:

“It’s GELT Francie, not guilt. Gelt — you know German for money [because, of course, she’s fluent]. Gelt. Gelt. Gelt. Enjoy it. As for the guilt, you’re genetically predisposed to have buckets of that, so I wouldn’t worry too much about it.”

All I got in return was a blank stare, and then she said, “So, do we get it or not?”

Yes, Francie, you do get it. There’s plenty of gelt, and guilt to go around.

Tonight we’re partaking in the finest of Hannukah traditions and going to watch a little girl dance around a Christmas tree with some giant mice. Like all good Jews, we shall bring our own snacks. While the rest of the audience suffers in hunger, we shall secretly celebrate the Maccabean miracle by munching on some tasteless little chocolate bites wrapped in foil. Happy Hannukah.

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