The Post in Which I Am Grumpy

October 31st, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

Call me Scrooge. Or should it be Ghoulge? I hate Halloween.

We belong to a Conservative synagogue, and some members don’t celebrate Halloween. Oh, sure, they’ll pass out candy to those who ring their door bell. But no dressing up, no going out, no decorations, no frights.

Sometimes I wish we were a more religious family. Like at Halloween. Okay, only at Halloween.

I’ve discussed this before. Costumes traumatize me. Figuring them out. All those parts. Getting them to stay on. Having them be weather appropriate. (“But I don’t want to wear a jacket over it!”) For one stupid night. Too much candy. Kids coming to the door. Little kids are okay, but they get to a certain age where they just get pushy. All those grabby hands. Yes, I said. It may not be the popular opinion but I don’t like trick or treaters. I don’t like costumes. I don’t like Halloween. I do not like it in a box; I do not like it with a fox. I do not like Halloween!

Trick or treating wasn’t even that enjoyable for me as a kid. Oh, don’t get me wrong; I loved the candy. But I hated having to go door to door to ask for it. This, perhaps, is why I hate doing solicitations today. Whenever there’s a fundraiser–at the school, the synagogue, wherever–I say, “I will do manual labor. I will write for you. I will make out a check. But I will do no cold calling, no asking for items for auctions, no looking for donations.” This is what trick or treating is. Soliciting for donations.

Having candy in the house is dangerous for me. I’ve taken to buying our Halloween candy on the day of Halloween. But apparently even that is too late for me, given the trail of Heath Bar wrappers leading from the bag to my computer. I’ve tried buying candy I don’t like, but that doesn’t work, as clearly there is no candy I don’t like.

In past years we’ve had the Switch Witch come to our house. The kids get to fill their candy jars with candy to eat as Shabbat Treats throughout the year, and then they leave the rest for the Switch Witch who exchanges the rest for a small toy. You have to arrange for the Switch Witch to come. Not everyone wants her, so she doesn’t go to everyone’s house. She began coming here in 2006, when Doodles was 3 and Pie was 1. This year, I wanted to try something else.

Me: I want to talk to you about something important. I was thinking, maybe this year we could do something different with the Halloween candy. I know of a mitzvah we can do. [A mitzvah is literally “a commandment” but colloquially “a good deed.”]
Pie: What?
Doodles: Huh!
Me: Well, the Switch Witch generally leaves you a cheap toy, and who knows what she does with her candy. But I was thinking, there are people who actually want this candy. What if instead, I let you each go to Toys R Us and pick out a toy that you actually want, and then we could give your candy to someone who might really appreciate it. Did you know that a 5th grader is collecting some candy to send to Guatemala?
Pie: Why is she sending it to Guatemala?
Me: Uh… Huh. I don’t know. Is there no candy in Guatemala? Yeah, why Guatemala?
Doodles: Duh. Because it’s in Africa and there’s no candy in parts of Africa.
Me: Not quite. Guatemala is in Central America.
Doodles: Oh.
Me: Anyway, I was thinking we could give a few pieces to her for Guatemala and then take the rest and send it to a place that sends it to soldiers who are in Afghanistan. The soldiers don’t have access to things like candy and it would be a real mitzvah.
Pie: That’s a great idea!
Doodles: No, it’s not. I want the Switch Witch.
Pie: I want to do a mitzvah!
Doodles: You know, I don’t think Halloween is really the time to be doing mitzvot.
Me: It’s always time to do mitzvot. But if you’d still like the Switch Witch to come, she can come.
Pie: No, I want to do the mitzvah!
Me: Well, she can come just for the boy.
Doodles: How do you do that?
Me: She’s got a hotline parents call. You just tell her where to go and with whom to exchange treats. I can have her just come to you.
Doodles: Oh. All right. I can skip the Switch Witch.
I really didn’t mean to upset him. I feel like the Grinch Who Stole Halloween.

Meanwhile, my daughter is putting on her Cleopatra outfit, which is a white sleeveless dress. We live outside of Boston. Did you know that we had a Nor’Easter on Saturday night?
Me: Don’t you want to put a shirt under that, so you won’t be cold?
Pie: No.
Me: You’ll be cold.
Pie: I’ll wear a jacket.
Me: How will you get a jacket over that?
Pie: Oh! Well, I guess I’ll just have to be cold!
Me: If that’s what you want.
Pie: Yeah, I’ll just be cold.
Me: Okay, you’re a big girl. If that’s what you decide, then I’m okay with that.
Pie: Yep. And if you have to hear me complain, then you’ll just have to hear me complain!
I feel like she’s missing the point.

The freakin’ candy corn is calling my name and I can’t stop eating it although I’m not hungry, having already consumed the night’s Mummy Dogs and drinks with wormy ice cubs.

Halloween. Someday I’ll get to be that crotchety old woman, who just yells at the kids to get the freak off her front porch. For now, I’ll just be the crotchety middle aged woman handing out treats. Happy freakin’ Halloween.

History Lesson

April 18th, 2011 § Comments Off on History Lesson § permalink

I’m in the midst of Passover prep, so here’s just a quick tidbit from this morning.

Me: I wonder if there’s mail today?
Pie: Why wouldn’t there be mail?
Me: Today is Patriots’ Day! Remember, that’s why you marched with the Daisies in the parade yesterday.
Pie: Patriots’ Day?
Me: Yep.
Pie: So, in Florida is it Dolphns’ Day?
Me: What?
Pie: Are they celebrating Dolphins’ Day in Florida?
I think for a moment.
Me: No, it’s not about football. It’s about the Battle of the Green and the Minutemen and the Red Coats.
Pie: Ooooo! That’s why they were talking about the American Revolution on NPR.

I decided it was time for Pie to learn American history they way I did. So I set her in front of Schoolhouse Rock and went back to making my gefilte fish.

One Lump or Two?

January 20th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Every year, we mail home a box from Miami, filled with all the stuff we don’t have room to pack. The presents for the kids, the after-holiday stuff we buy. But this year, the box had something special for me. And I plan on using it the first quiet moment I get on this snow day.

It was a Yankee swap prize. Not my prize. Adam’s prize. But I stole it (post swap) because it was too much of a treasure to let him have it, with his uncouth ways.

I love this Yankee swap. We have so much fun. It’s always a challenge whether to go fun or serious. This year I went serious. A nice spice sampler from Penzey’s that was on sale for $7.95 (our limit is $10). But it just didn’t… feel right. I kept second guessing myself. And then I realized I had a whopping $2.05 leftover. In a Yankee swap, that’s like an entire new gift! So my spice sampler transformed itself into a Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner, complete with potato, peas, and 75 cents for .63 pounds of chicken. Done!

The swap was good. I ended up with a musical magic wand that has been hotly contested between Doodles and Pie. I’ve had to declare it “shared” and it lives in the playroom.

But Adam. Oh Adam got a gift of which he was unworthy. It was a timely gift, as my friend, Simon, had just posted on Facebook a link to the proper way to make tea. But the instructions lacked something. A certain je ne sais quois. Until. Until. Until we got this for the Yankee swap:

How beautiful is this? It takes the tea bag, it let’s it sit in the tea, and then it removes the tea bag at the designated time! No more weak tea because I took the bag out too soon! No more overly strong tea because I started making my tea only to be distracted by a screaming child. This is the ultimate tea-making tool! I don’t understand why I’ve never heard of it before!

Forgot Calgon. Tea-Boy, take me away!

Words for the New Year

January 1st, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

My first post of the year. Will it be uplifting? Bring you hope and joy in 2011? Give you inspiring words to live by or at least a great quote that you can repeat from time to time?

Nah. I’m here to talk about my daughter’s potty mouth. It never fails. Whenever that girl gets truly tired, she gets all Tourettes on us. Tonight at our New Year’s Eve party, she–eventually–fell asleep. But when it was time to leave, we woke her on the way to the car. At which time her mouth started going, almost of its own volition: “Hey! You’re stupid! Stupid! Stop talking! Shut up, shut up, shut up!” We wrangled her into her booster seat amongst the swears, put on her seat belt, and shut the door. To which she promptly unplugged her seat belt, wrenched the door open, all they while kicking and yelling, “You’re stupid! It’s boring! It’s too boring! You’re stupid! It’s so boring!” Finally my friend came to the rescue and showed me how the child safety lock could be triggered so she couldn’t open the door. I whispered to her, “It is against the law to drive without your seat belt on so if the police see us, we’re in big trouble!” At that she sat stoically in her seat, crossed her arms, and shouted, “Shut up! You’re stupid!”

It’s hard to keep a straight face when she’s railing on us, but I try. “You’re laughing! Shut up! I hear you whispering! Shut up! Shut up, shut up, shut up!”

Within a few minutes she was back asleep. But I’m glad our new year got off to such a quiet start. I’m sure it bodes well for us.

The Cards Don’t Write Themselves

December 23rd, 2010 § Comments Off on The Cards Don’t Write Themselves § permalink

Ah, the holiday season is well upon us. Also known as card season.

This year, as with most years, I came up with the idea for our holiday card (always a new year’s card to avoid the whole “we don’t celebrate Christmas” thing). I cajoled my son into contributing a picture. I picked the photos. I came up with captions. I designed the layout. I ordered the cards. I bought the stamps. I printed out the return address label. I sent out–in a timely manner–about 98% of my cards. The few that remain need me to hunt up an address or a husband’s name or the like. I reminded Adam to do his. “I’m going to do it tonight,” he’s said every night for the past two weeks. And within about fifteen minutes, he’s asleep on the couch. In the morning, the card pile hasn’t shrunk at all.

A week ago, I gave up. “Print out your list,” I said. “Let me at least take care of the folks I know.”

“No, no. I’ll do it myself!”

Three days ago: “Print out your list.”

“No, no, I got it.”

Yesterday he printed out a list for me. Today I wrote a good third of his cards (apologies if you’re one of his friends who gets a card from me; in all fairness it just means that I like you, which can’t be said for everyone on his list, so be flattered).

Today he called at 2:30. “I’ll be leaving in a half hour.”

“So you’ll be home normal time?”

“No, I’ll be home early today!”

Sure enough, he walked in the door early. 5:40. A whole 20 minutes early. We ordered in dinner for the family. And then Adam looked at the stack of cards. “Okay,” he said. “I’m ready to help with this.”

Um, excuse me? “Help”? With what? Everything’s been done. He can’t mean he’ll help with his own card list, can he? He saw my face. “I mean, I’m ready to write my cards!”

We’ll see if he’s able. It’s hard to write when someone’s shoved the pen up your a*ss.

Conversations on a Holiday Movie Night

December 18th, 2010 § Comments Off on Conversations on a Holiday Movie Night § permalink

Yes, yes, our holiday is over. Ended a bit ago, actually. Must remind myself, as I enter stores, that for other folks, the holiday rush is still on and I shouldn’t be surprised by the mobs of people, and yet, I always am.

But I do love this time of year and while we forgo Christmas trees, Santa, and gingerbread houses, I still relish a good holiday movie. Last night, White Christmas was on TV. I decided my kids should see it.

“What is this?” demands the boy. “Is this a musical? I hate musicals.”

“What are they doing?” asks the girl. “That’s a war? Why are they at war? When is this? Were you alive when this was made? Was Grandma and Grandpa alive? Was Nana and Peter alive? Were they alive during the war? Where is the war?”

“Just hush!” I say. “Do you want to watch this or not?”

They agree they want to watch it but a few minutes in, when the two main characters meet the Haynes sisters, the boy asks, “Are they going to get married at the end? I don’t like this. Can we turn it off?”

“Sure, we can turn it off if you don’t like it.”

“Can we then watch something else?”


Huff huff. “Fine. I’ll watch it.”

The girl starts in again, “Why is she mad at him? Who is that guy? Why is he a general? They aren’t at war anymore? Is the war real? Is the movie real? What is that noise? Why are there bombs? Why aren’t they in America?”

I explain, using a kidified CliffsNotes version, World War II. Then we move on.

“Why is there no snow in Vermont? Why don’t they go if there’s no snow? Can’t they just go? I don’t understand. Why was the sheriff there, again?”

And the boy: “They’re getting married at the end, aren’t they. Hurumph.”

“I’m letting you two stay up an hour past your bedtime to watch this. So either watch this or go to sleep!” I yell.

“Fine! I’m watching!”

“Do you know,” I ask the kids, “who wrote the song ‘White Christmas’?”


“A Jewish man!” I tell them.

“Really?” starts the girl and I realize the error of my ways. “Why would a Jewish man write a song about Christmas? Why does the Christmas have to be white? Are you sure he was Jewish? The song is about Christmas.”

“Just watch the freakin’ movie.”

“But you said–”

“Never mind and watch.”

For those familiar with the movie, you’ll recall that Bing Crosby’s character goes on TV to ask the folks of his army unit to come up to Vermont. This set the girl off. “Why is that suddenly turning black and white?”

“Because they’re showing him on TV. In the old days, all TV was black and white.”

“No way!”

“Did you know that when I was a kid, I had to actually get up and turn a knob to change the channel on my television? And then I had to move these wires around to get the picture to be clear. Otherwise, it was all fuzzy.”


“Really! Do you know what Peter had when he was your age?”

“A black and white TV?” the girl guessed.

“Nope. Not when he was your age.”

“A radio!” the boy piped up.

“Yep, that’s right!”

The girl looks a little confused. “So, did the radio have like a little screen on it for him to watch?”

“No, no screen. He could only listen.”

“So he’d have to imagine the pictures in his head?”


“Wow. Look!” the girl shouts, radios forgotten. “The dancers are girls! That’s why you thought I’d like this. Because those dancers are girls and I can dance like that! See?” She starts to dance ballet. The boy starts to do some breakdancing. “How old are those girls?”

“During the movie? They look to be about twelve or so. But now they’re about the same age as Peter.”

“Really?!?! But they’re kids!”

“In 1954 they’re kids. In 2010 they’re Peter’s age.”

The boy suddenly vaults over the sofa. “Arg! They’re kissing! Blech! I knew this would happen!”

“Is Miley Cyrus,” I ask the kids, “the most famous person you know of?”

“Um, no,” the boy says. “Selena Gomez is.”

“Yeah, Selena Gomez is the most famous person,” the girl agrees.

“Did you know that in his day, Bing Crosby was more famous than Selena Gomez? And Miley Cyrus?”

“No way,” the boy says.

“Nope,” says the girl.

“You don’t believe me?” I ask.

“No,” the boy says. “It’s not actually possible.”

At which point Adam comes in from the next room. “Bing Crosby really was more famous,” he says. “But Miley Cyrus has more Twitter followers.”

I recorded Miracle on 34th Street for them to watch. I think I might leave they house when they do.

Thanksgiving the Right Way

November 25th, 2010 § Comments Off on Thanksgiving the Right Way § permalink

I think of holidays in terms of the food most abundantly used. Fourth of July is totally a hot dog holiday. Hanukkah, as you can guess, is oil. Don’t let anyone tell you that Passover is the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It’s not. It’s the Holiday of the Clogged Arteries because more than anything, Passover is about eggs. And Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is the holiday of the dairy farmer. Yes, that’s right. Butter. Butter. More Butter. I don’t even want to think about how much butter was used in tonight’s cooking. Half a stick of butter on the turkey. One stick in the pumpkin layer cake. Two sticks in the frosting. Two sticks in the crescent rolls. A dollop in the spiced nuts. A heap in the stuffing. Butter, butter, butter. My hands are nice and soft.

The dinner was lovely and I can definitively say I can taste no difference between a brined and an un-brined turkey. The bourbon in the cranberry sauce is a keeper. And there’s no such thing as “just a tiny taste.” My pants are unbuttoned, and I’m ready for bed, as I plan in hitting Target at about 5 a.m. Hanukkah is T minus six (or perhaps five at this point), and I need to be prepared! Adam will be present-less this year, as he just recently bought his iPad. I suppose I will be too, as Adam went out to buy us Hot Tub Time Machine, thus starting a new Thanksgiving tradition.

Off to bed. Great white buffalo.

Fish Heads, Fish Heads, Rolly Polly Fish Heads

March 28th, 2010 § Comments Off on Fish Heads, Fish Heads, Rolly Polly Fish Heads § permalink

It’s the saga of the fish. Who knew fish would give me such headaches. Tomorrow night is the first night of Passover, and I’m hosting, as I like to do. Out of all the Jewish holidays, Passover is my favorite. I love the story, I love the Seder, I love the food. Doodles, even, is incredibly into it. He came home from Hebrew school today, saying it he loved class today because he learned the fourth question and he got to take home his own Haggadah. He’s been practicing the four questions and can’t get enough of listening to our Passover c.d.

I’ve been cooking up a storm. So far I’ve made: horseradish, Moroccan carrots, Sephardic salad, orange cake, Passover brownies, meringues, candied walnuts (for the haroset), chicken soup, and salmon pate. Tomorrow I make the potato latke “muffins,” scarlet chicken, balsamic roasted veggies, and matzah crunch.

But the fish. The fish has plagued me (the famous eleventh plague). I need whitefish, carp, and pike. Basic gefilte fish ingredients. I heard on one of my e-mail lists that the Newton Whole Foods would grind fish for you. So I called it last week. “I hear you grind fish!”

“Yeah,” the guys said. “We can grind fish. But we’re out of fish.”


“Out of fish. Completely out of fish.”

“How are you out of fish?”

“Out of fish. Try next year.”

I called all around. Tried everywhere. A different Whole Foods assured me that they could order me whitefish. Yea, whitefish! Except he called back the next day. “I called everywhere! No gefilte fish fish!”

Frantic web searches came up with a single recipe that called for tilapia. So I decided to make my fish (a fish loaf from the New York Times Passover cookbook) with tilapia. And I bought the jarred stuff. As a back up.

For some, it’s next year in Jerusalem. For me, it’s next year in whitefish. Chag Pesach Sameach.

You Do the Math

January 1st, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

To get your brain jump started on today, the first day of 2010, I have a math problem for you:

On December 31, 2009, Pie woke up at 5:43 a.m. She immediately began whining. On this same day, Doodles woke up at 6:03 a.m. Both children spent the day swimming, running laps through the apartment, and asking, “Is it time to go to the party yet?” At 6:32 p.m., the two children departed with their parents for a New Year’s Eve party. At 7:23 p.m., Pie announced she was too tired. She ate six out of eight pieces of an avocado roll, clung to the leg of her father as if it were a life raft, and fell asleep on a couch in the middle of the room at 8:07 p.m.

Doodles eats no dinner, but consumes one cup of caramel popcorn at 8:27 while watching Spongebob Squarepants with T. Rex, Pad, and Elf Girl. At 9:02 he eats three coins of Hanukkah gelt. Doodles opens five presents, including “Draggy,” which he totes around for the rest of the night. At 11:48 p.m. Pie rejoins the awake world, opens presents, and walks around dazed.

Meanwhile, Adam consumes two beers, I drink three beers, two glasses of white wine, and a glass of champagne. Adam is a semi-loser in the Yankee swap (a Reflexology set), while I came out pretty darn sweetly (a set of Restoration Hardware shot glasses).

At midnight, the entire Brown-Medros clan, including senior Brown members–the Nana and the Peter–toast in the New Year. At 12:29 a.m., we drag an unhappy Doodles out of the party and a willing to go home Pie. Both children fall asleep in the car at 12:46 a.m.

At 6:03 a.m.–mere hours later–Pie awakes. At 6:34 a.m., Doodles awaken.

Here are your questions:
1) How long till Pie loses the shoes and tiara from her new Arielle doll?
2) How many Honey-Nut Cheerios can Draggy eat?
3) At what time will Doodles find himself seasick on Ollie’s boat?
4) How many cafe con leches will it take for my eyes to a) pry open and b) remain open
5) At what time will I abandon cafe con leches for beer?

Bonus points if you can tell me what time the melt-down will happen when Doodles and Pie realize that T. Rex and Pad leave early, early, early tomorrow to go back to their home.

The Land That Christmas Forgot

December 25th, 2009 § Comments Off on The Land That Christmas Forgot § permalink

We survived the trip down. Somehow. It started with Adam insisting we needed to leave at 8 for our 11:10 flight, which seemed ridiculously early to me, but I figured he knew what he was talking about. So I woke up before 6 a.m. to finish packing and get the house cleaned, and sure enough at 8, he said, “Oh, wait. We leave at 11:10! I was off on my math. We don’t need to leave for another hour.” And then we left, all packed up and ready to go… except for all of Adam’s New Year’s cards, which he left sitting on a shelf. We had to call Beetle to let herself into our house to get the cards to mail. Then the friends we were traveling with had a very sick (read: pukey) daughter who decided to brave the trip anyway. And when we got down here, I realized I forgot something that was crucial to a promised activity for Doodles. And then tonight at bedtime, Pie decided to completely rebel. I mean totally. Wouldn’t go to bed. Not at all. I was ready to throttle her. She was whining and crying and pouting and nowhere near her bed, so I did the only reasonable thing possible.

I left. And got ice cream. Because that’s the main benefit of being in Miami Beach, having the Nana to take care of the Pie when she’s out of control. While Pie screamed and fussed, Adam and I took a leisurely stroll down to Lincoln Road where we stopped into the Frieze for ice cream. Looking around Lincoln Road, you would have no idea it was Christmas. Folks were out en masse. Stores were open. The movies were sold out. Now, you’re probably thinking, “Well it’s because Miami Beach is full of Jews who don’t celebrate Christmas,” but you’d be completely wrong. The Jewish population of Miami Beach has completely dwindled, and besides, it is Shabbat, which means anyone who is actually an observant Jew is home with family. Miami Beach is now predominantly Latin American, and most of those folks like them some Baby Jesus. So I have no idea what so many folks were doing out tonight, drinking martinis, letting their way-too-young kids wreak havoc, and eating dinners at an absurdly late hour. “Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?”

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with holiday at the pieces of my life.

  • Who I Am

    I read, I write, I occasionally look to make sure my kids aren't playing with matches.

    My novel, MODERN GIRLS will be coming out from NAL in the spring of 2016.

    I mostly update the writing blog these days, so find me over there.

    More about me and my writing.

  • Where to Find Me

    jenny at


    Follow Me on Pinterest


    Writing Blog: Jennifer S. Brown

    Photo Blog: jPhone Jenny

  • Archives

  • Meta