Archive for December, 2006

I’ve now spent Friday and Monday mornings attending assemblies, of a sort, for my kids’ schools, in celebration of the holidays. On Friday, it was at the big kids’ school, where Maya did an Israeli dance. At least, that is how it was billed. It mostly just looked like a kid of hip-hop sort of thing, but it was cool and I loved seeing her up there. She was – and still sometimes is – a very shy child, so the fact that she joined dance and then went up on stage pleases me no end.

But the rest was just a disorganized mess of different groups coming up to sing and I was bored silly. At one point, I even got out my journal (which I carry everywhere) and began to write, but that was when the neighbour’s kid came up and demanded to sit on my lap. She’s cute, so that was a good amusement too. She’s 18 months old and calls me ‘Mommy’.

Monday was some Hanukkah party thing at Boo’s school. The parents were all ordered into a big room with chairs all around the perimeter, so we all sat. But then the kids arrived and just started milling around. Turns out the teachers were manning these lame little game stations and we, the parents, were expected to hang out and play the stupid games with them. The first-time parents lept right into this and dutifully followed their kids around. The old-timers among the crowd stared at each other in horror. If we wanted to play with our kids, we wouldn’t have stuck them in school now, would we? Guilt demands we show up and watch them perform, but play with them? Please. We stood around chatting with each other while our kids hung off us, and counted the minutes until we were freed. Thank god that is over.


Today, my spam-checker popped from 15 up to 27, but only deigned to show me three of those comments. They were all spam, so at least it managed that successfully, but whether the other 10 were too, I’ll never know. I love getting comments, so every time this happens, I fear a lost comment somewhere. I wish I could figure that spam thingie out. I had no idea spam was such a big problem for bloggers too, but it turns out it is HUGE, and I would hate to have to delete comment after comment as spam, so I suppose I should appreciate the spam-catcher. But I always wonder.


Because the FM alone is never enough for my body to throw at me, the pain du jour is a screwed-up teeth. My teeth are weird and never do what they are supposed to. Even freezing them is a crap-shoot for the dentist. So this was a simple filling, the last in a long line I needed to have done (still need 2 more crowns, though). I have very soft, close-together teeth and that, combined with a dentist who was going blind and refused to admit it to anyone, meant years and years of reconstructive dental work for me (and two lost teeth). But I had the tooth filled a week and a half ago and the pain just gets worse. I’ve been living on advil. This always happens right before holidays. I see more root canal in my future. It is the last molar on the left top and doesn’t have a matching bottom (thanks to the last dentist), so I’d just have them pull the damn thing if I weren’t so severely afraid of the pain. The last tooth I had pulled was done when my son was a month and half old. I had him without any pain meds at all and I am not exaggerating one bit when I say that the bloody tooth hurt far worse than the labour ever did.


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For my boy

As I mentioned earlier, Asher’s big gift this year was a purple lightsabre, to go along with his red/blue one, green one and double-sided one. He likes lightsabres. He likes Star Wars.


When he got his first one, I wrote about it in my column. In an odd way, I consider it a love letter to my son. Here it is:

My six-year-old son felt a little sick a few days ago. Just a wee bit. He said he felt ‘yucky everywhere’ and ‘too tall’. I don’t know what that means, but I figured it wouldn’t kill me to keep him home. Actually, I dragged him around on errands with me.

We needed groceries. When I go grocery shopping, I try to detour the toy section, but scattered out into the front aisle was one last lonely cheap light saber. You press a button and the plastic thingie pops out, then press it again to get it all back in again. My boy was beside himself with joy.

We just recently introduced our kids to the original Star Wars movies, inspired, of course, by the new one coming out. It is a bit ironic, because there is no way I am letting them see the new one, but we had the original trilogy on video and we figured our son and nine-year-old daughter would enjoy them.

My daughter found them mildly interesting. My son plunged into them whole-heartedly. He has already seen them so many times I have lost track.

He has enough money saved to buy a fancier one, so I told him that he could hold off a day or two and we would go to the toy store and get one that makes sounds or lights up. He said, “No! I don’t want to wait one second longer! I want this one. Look, I can make the sounds.” Then he flipped the thing open and started making very good swooshy noises with his mouth. Right, the cheap one it is then.When we got home, he insisted on watching Return of the Jedi again, because he has a green light saber, and Luke’s is green in that movie. Then he mimicked Luke’s moves. Then he followed me around all day saying things like, “Jacob says that when Obi-wan says, ‘Kill me now and you will only make me stronger’ to Darth Vader, it isn’t really true, but I think it is, because then he can go anywhere, right?” and “Sometimes Eric draws yellow light sabers, but that’s stupid because no one has yellow light sabers.” I thought to myself: a geek is born.

And he hasn’t even seen episodes one and two.

My very favourite comment was: “You are the only girl I know who has seen all the Star Wars movies. None of the girls in my class have and my teachers haven’t, but you have. You are so cool.”

I am so cool.

Those are words I have very rarely heard. Well, never heard. I am a geek. The fact that I own the videos of the first trilogy should be proof enough of that. But I admit I’ve grown out of most of that sort of geekiness. I have yet to see the latest movie. But all that useless information is still stored in there, instantly accessible, to allow me to have conversations with my boy about what is a better weapon in a fight, a blaster or a light saber, and whether light sabers have on/off buttons. My husband was a little cruel, watching our son prattle endlessly one about some detail or another, then turning to me and saying, “You must be so proud.” Geek breeds true.

But you know what? I am proud. Not because I managed to produce a child destined to be a nerd like me (he practically cried with joy when we gave him a dress shirt and real silk tie like Daddy wears for his sixth birthday, so we’ve known for a while what we are in for), but because I have something I can really talk to my boy about.

He is not what people often call a typical boy, with a room full of action figures and turning every toy into a gun. But he does like hockey, Bionicles and Spiderman. And, very sensitive to noise, I think my most frequent comment to him is, “Could you please use a quieter voice?” as he treats the house like a jungle gym and sings loudly at the same time.

As he grows older and more boy, I see him choosing to hang with Dad more than Mom, and I understand that. But now I have an in. My husband only has the most vague interest in all things Star Wars. So I am nurturing my son’s little obsession and watching it grow with unmitigated glee.

When I was 16 years old, I despaired of ever finding a boy interested in me. Those who shared my interests in science fiction and the like were barely able to even speak to a girl. If only my adolescent self had realized that all that training would pay off one day. That more than 20 years later, I’d use my knowledge of Wookies, droids and alien planets to attract the boy I love most of all: my son.

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For those of you who don’t write blogs, I should explain something. I have a page that tells me how many people look at each post (not who, just how many) and if I have new comments. It also tells me how people reach my site – what link they click on or search string they use. So I know a number of people have found my post complaining how early Christmas stuff comes out by searching “Sleigh bells song” and “December dilemma” brought quite a few people to that post. Some of the searches are stranger, but the weirdest so far is “Why are Jews messing up the holidays”.

I didn’t actually write about that, merely Jews, holidays and – unconnected – how my children mess stuff up sometimes, but that is all it took. Curious, I plugged the same sentence into google and noticed an article about how Debra Messing, the actress, celebrates the holidays came up before my blog did. That guy was looking hard for his answer, it seems.

I find it disturbing, obviously. For one, he (I’m assuming it is a ‘he’) isn’t concerned about Jews messing up Christmas, but all the holidays. What, we aren’t allowed to celebrate anything? And two, I’d have to argue that most Jews don’t care how anyone else celebrates their holidays and that most of the initiative, like the “holiday” tree from Boston comes from well-meaning but misguided attempts by Christians to include Jews and other minorities.

Maybe he’s miffed by the Lubavitch rabbi who wanted the Seattle airport to put a menorah beside their Christmas trees so badly he threatened to sue them. When the airport responded by removing the trees, he backed down, since what he wanted was the menorah up, not the trees down, so the trees when back up. He did create quite a little fuss, but I’d still argue that he is an exception, not the rule.

I also find it bizarre that the guy actually though he could find an answer, searching that way, like he’d find a guide on some Jewish web site “How to wreck the holidays.”

I have an answer, though, in case he comes back. This is why: because we exist. Clearly someone who thinks Jews are messing up the holidays wishes that ‘the holidays’ just meant Christmas and he didn’t have to worry about anyone else wanting to do things any different way.

Man, it sucks having to accommodate differences. Why can’t everyone be just like me? Me, me, me.

This blogging thing is turning out to be a lot more interesting than I expected.


Speaking of holidays and Jews, I made latkes last night without even using a recipe, and they were amazing. Since J can’t eat wheat (he’s celiac), we have always used a recipe without matzah meal. Every year, we lose the recipe and have to track it down again. It isn’t easy, since most have matzah in them and some throw in other stuff, like baking powder. Some people even toss in zucchini or carrots, which is totally missing the point.

Anyway, this year, I couldn’t find it, but I figured really, how hard can it be? Potatoes, onions, eggs, salt and pepper. I winged it. They were, as I think I mentioned, amazing. I had to beat the children back with a hot spatula to stop them from eating them all before their Bubby and Zaidy showed up for dinner. The secret, by the way, is lots and lots of oil. Just accept that it is bad for you and only comes around once a year and go nuts. Yum!

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Sunshine and Hanukaka!

Okay, I’m starting to get into the unseasonable weather now that the sun has come out. It feels like September. Even the lawns are green. But really, if this is going to stick I am moving to Vancouver, because there is no point in enduring weather like this if you don’t also get the sea and gorgeous towering trees.


I spent last night organizing and wrapping presents (while J watched, having participated in the process not at all). It is an uninspired year – Asher is getting a purple lightsabre, Maya another damn Bratz doll and Boo a Dora toy, sheets and plate set. They are also getting books, but I’m saving those until the last night.

Uninspired as it is, Asher in particular will be delighted. He’s been begging for a purple lightsabre since got the one that lights up in either red or blue. He also has green, so purple is the only one left to get. We resisted for a long time, since how many lightsabres does one kid need? And because they are expensive. We were out once and he spotted one, but it was fifty bucks, which I told him is ridiculous. Then I happened upon a one-day sale on lightsabres at the toy store and, digging to the bottom of the pile, found a purple one. Since he’s been moaning about how he knows they are too expensive for a month now, he’ll be very happy.

As for the Bratz, well the complaints I have about those could easily take up their own, long, post. They make me wonder what bothered me about nice, tame Barbie. I refused to let Maya buy one for a long time, even telling her exactly what a streetwalker is. She outsmarted me, of course, and got her friends to give her a couple for her birthday. Slippery slope – I realized that I could forbid her to buy them until the cows come in, but it wouldn’t stop her from wanting them. Don’t worry – I won’t take the same attitude towards, say, street drugs – but pick your battles. At least it’s just a doll.

The one book I am giving tonight is for both Maya and Asher – The Sea of Monsters, by Rick Riordan. It is the sequel to The Lightening Thief, which I cannot recommend highly enough to anyone with kids 8-12. Mine loved this and, also important, I loved it. I read it to them at bedtime, but it was one of the few books we’ve read that they loved so much they would bed for it at other times. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was another.

I’ve also got a bead kit and Scrabble Jr., which are sort of ‘family’ gifts for everyone. Even Asher is into the beading, with hopes of making stuff nice enough to eventually sell, which is 10-year-old cousin does. (He has a way to go – Asher, that is.)

I also had to organize a bunch of little gifts, since my mother sewed them a cool menorah wall hanging last year. Each day, they lift up a cloth flap in the shape of a flame and button it to the top, thereby ‘lighting’ a cloth candle, and the candle has a pocket for some little goodie. So each day they’ll get gelt, dreidels, silly putty. Thanks the shamash, there are nine pockets to fill, which isn’t that easy. I cheated, by doing things like putting the counters from the Scrabble game in one pocket, but I’ve got them all filled. That is as close as we get to the one-gift-for-eight-days, the poor, deprived children.

Last year, Boo’s daycare had them make decorations with cinamon-scented clay. She made a dreidel and something she called a banana, but was really just a brown log. Her teachers proudly handed it to me and said, “Happy Hanukaka!”


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At the end of summer, my routine after I pick the kids up from school and they are unloading all their stuff, is to go into my perennial garden in the front yard and poke around, pulling up random weeds that are breaking through.

I just did that. I just weeded the garden, pulling out some clover that has started to pop up. It is the middle of December, I live in Ontario and I just weeded my garden!! The global warming thing is really freaking me out.

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I want winter already!

Not something anyone who knows me would expect to hear. But really, enough of this rain! We had a brief respite, with snow and sun and all, and I felt like I could breath again, but it only lasted about a week. Now the snow has pretty much melted and we are back to rain, rain, rain. I think the flax in my garden is actually growing.

I like winter. I usually want it to be shorter than it is, but I do like it. I like skating and snowshoeing and tobogganing. I like the sun shining on big piles of snow and Christmas lights reflecting on it. Months worth of puddles are really, really starting to piss me off. I can’t remember when my FM has been this bad. I am a big, useless blob.

I think it is making my kids crazy too. They are being horrible and whiney and constantly pick at each other. I’m going to blame it on the weather because the alternative is that I just have horrible children.

Even when they aren’t horrible, they are driving me nuts. As I write, Boo is talking. And talking and talking and talking. It is just endless prattle. At one point in the car, I actually lost my mind and said, “Oh Boo, enough already!” I got one marvellous moment of silence, because of course she was completely shocked, and in that moment realized that as much as she is driving me bananas, it is still better to have her talking to me than not, and said, “Enough with this rain! I can’t stand it one moment longer!” And the prattle continued, this time on the subject of rain.

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How does this blogging thing work when you want to respond to comments made on your blog? Add more comments, or write stuff here? I’m going with writing it here, but I may be breaking some rule of netiquette.

Pamela – I’m glad the 13 year thing helped you too. It does make a big difference, doesn’t it? I don’t think it matters, as Zed points out, whether it is exactly 13 years or not – you can start counting from wherever you please, from whenever you first felt Jewish. But it is nice to give yourself that break and not think that you must be instanta-Jew the moment you convert. Taking on a culture and religion you weren’t born into is a daunting task, and one no conversion course is ever going to be up to on its own.

I do actually remember the exact moment I realized I felt Jewish. It was during the winter holidays, but I can’t remember if it 12 or 13 years ago. We were up at my to-be-in-laws cottage and two things happened within the space of a day to clue me in. One morning, a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses knocked on the door and as J went to answer it, I yelled down, “Tell them we’re Jewish so not to come back.” And then realized that I was not, in fact, Jewish. That night, we were having dinner at a neighbour’s house and they had couple of guests. Talk came around to the holidays and one guest commented on how she had no interest in Christmas, then she turned to me and said, “No offense.” No offense? What the hell did that mean? Why would I care what she thought about Christmas? Then the deeper meaning hit, that she had singled me out, that she considered me different than the rest of them. I felt the same, but other people didn’t percieve me as the way I felt, and I realized it was time to formalize for the outside world what I felt on the inside. Hey, Pam and Zed, if you are still reading – when did you first know?

I never liked the commercialize messages either, and one of the biggest things I’m happy about skipping by not celebrating Christmas is the list kids write to Santa. It now strikes me as incredibly greedy – writing down a list of demands. (I never really saw it that way as a kid, of course, and never expected to get everything on it, either.) I can totally understand its usefulness as a tool in getting gifts your kids will like – I always find that quite the crap-shoot – but I really like that my kids don’t get to ask for gifts. They just get what they get.

That is the part I’m happiest to get rid off. But I also have to admit, and I won’t tell my kids this until they grow up, that while I think both Hanukkah and Christmas are both great holidays for kids and both have their good aspects and drawbacks, I sometimes feel a little badly for my kids that they won’t ever feel that outrageous, hysterical sense of excitment I felt when I was a kid on Christmas eve. My kids get very excited about Hanukkah, but I don’t see in them the level of excitment I had when I was their age. I’d stay awake half the night, too excited to sleep and sometimes I’d hear Santa downstairs! Oh My God, Santa is downstairs!!!! (Of course, it was the parents putting the gifts out, but I never went down to find out.) I heard the reindeer on the roof too. (My own imagination.) And the next morning, coming down and seeing all those presents – there really is nothing like it for sheer material happiness for a kid.

I’m inspired. Things I miss about Christmas:

Chosing the tree, the smell of the tree, the lights on the tree in the evening, the hysterical excitment of a pile of gifts under the tree, Christmas crackers, believing in a guy who comes down the chimney with gifts, some Christmas carols.

Things I don’t:

A list to Santa, sitting your kid in Santa’s lap, madly wandering the mall in search of the right gift for everyone on my list, trying to figure out who should be on the list and who shouldn’t, the sinking feeling when someone gives me a gift who I haven’t gotten a gift for, sending out Chrismas cards.

Things I love about Hanukkah: the look on my kids’ faces when they first light the candles, all the menorahs lined up and lit, latkes, gelt, that it lasts eight days, that we only give gifts to kids.

Despite not having that mad sense of excitment, I don’t think my kids are in any way deprived by not having Christmas (especially because they do have it to some degree, because they celebrate with their cousins and grandparents). In fact, I think that when you weigh out the whole year, they are luckier than I was as a kid, because they get more holidays and more excuses to spend time with family and they get to be Jewish – and I think being Jewish is a Good Thing.

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