Category: FAMILY



lighted in a room, lanky room

lighted lighting laughing in tune

today, we hit the comedy place in ballston where there was to be a special improv show for kids.  BS got some half-price ticket special, which made it even better. (top that off with a buy-one, get-one-free coupon from cold stone creamery and it was even better.) maybe because it was thanksgiving day weekend, but there were literally two other families there (and they were related to each other), so it wasn’t exactly a packed house. this is a shame, really, as the two people running the show did a great job rassling people and humor and keeping it at a disney-level of appropriateness…

which wasn’t easy considering our family. when they asked for something you talk about at the dinner table, the other family yelled out: turkey! we yelled out: politics! when they asked what’s something in your garage, i yelled out: jimmy hoffa! jools, not to be outdone, yelled out: a crime scene!

it’s moments like these where i am super-glad that no one from the division of youth and family services attends these things.

the other family was overly-hammy, which did get annoying to me after awhile. they apparently have been to these things many, MANY times before, sort of comedy groupies. (we’d been to grown-up comedy nights here before we had kids.) but again, if they hadn’t been there, it would have been all us, all the time. and their spirit was fun, so i shouldn’t gripe much.

as an aside, the boy neglected to eat lunch. and now, as it was 3pm and he was separated from video games, he realized he was hungry. he wanted to hit the concessions stand, but sadly, no one was staffing it. he wanted to check back, and he asked us whether he could go to confessions. that teachable moment alone was worth the price of admission.

anyway, we all ended up on stage at different times. i was an utter failure, playing some sort of charades-type game with julian and two other little boys. we were trying to convince the actor who was not in-the-know that we were running a debate, impersonating people from the big bang theory, with podiums that were actually guillotines. all without uttering a single word. (no, i am not making this up. and i am not on any meds that you might think i would be off at this particular juncture.) jools knew BBT, but the other two? not sure.

speaking of jools, i think he has a future in stand-up. both he and the girl were able to make up jokes on the fly during one exercise, and they both did a great job. but the boy’s delivery?

had me laughing. i’m laughing still.



it’s not just something you use to get yourself stuff… it’s hours of fun, too!

today’s theme is money and how it can provide hours of activities for the whole family! (it is, after all, black friday.) BC started me down this thrilling path by deciding that it would be fun to experience black friday! don’t you want to hit tyson’s corner center at ungodly o’clock? sure. i know i did.

i told her that despite the mall opening at midnight, i would not be triapsing there at that time. we settled on waking up at 5:30am and hitting the mall then. and hit it hard we did. girlfriend, you see, needs new clothes. and there were some specials that would be too hard to pass up. two pairs of jeans, one skirt, two camis, three shirts, and one pair of sweats later, we did quite well. (i also did well on two cashmere sweaters at macy’s which i had been stalking for two months. a crazy sale price plus a coupon made it something i could finally do. (yeah, i use coupons. so what?)) also two pairs of dockers for BS, and the only person who got bupkes on this trip was jools. (not for lack of trying: we hit the gamestop, but it didn’t have a lot of there there for him. at least, notthat was on sale, anyway.)

the ladies at vera bradley were a little cuckoo, i would say. they were pretty clueless and the sale items we wanted weren’t there. ladies, step away from the paisley.

so what’s even more fun with money? looking into a piggy bank that i’ve had since i was in high school and seeing which quarters are now collectibles in jools’ book. and that’s what we did. wow, the boy exclaimed, a quarter from 1968! that’s really old, isn’t it??


anyway, we found a bicentennial quarter, a coin from greece (also 1968!), a shekel, and all sorts of stuff… including some pretty gnarly-looking pennies. which leads us to fun with money part three: let’s learn about oxidation! i found a little piece called chemistry fun with pennies and mixed up a little vinegar-salt mixture. the boy threw in a bunch of pennies, a quarter, and a dime for good measure. we’re still waiting to see what happens, though the pennies seem to be improving…marginally.

in other news, my fingers have this awful vinegar/old metal smell. i guess i officially smell like money.

get up offa that thing

get up offa that thing

you heard the man.

tomorrow is thanksgiving, a day in which millions of families across the US experience something pretty similar: women cooking and cleaning while men eat and then leave to watch TV (usually football.) when i was young, it didn’t occur to me that my mom spent hours cooking ahead of time and then cleaning afterwards, with little help from any of us save for my aunt barbara. i just thought it was a wonderful day where i was able to eat one of my favorite meals and then go off and do what i wanted.  (in fact, one of my favorite memories is a post-thanksgiving bike ride i once took with my aunt.)

now that i’m older, it all falls into perspective. i am the grown woman around here. a week or so before the blessed date, supermarkets start getting insane. in fact, i hit trader joe’s yesterday to get milk and such because i know better than to go into a supermarket today. a day or two in advance, i usually start getting some of the sides ready. some sides lend themselves to earlier prep, like cranberry sauce. others, however, are better left for game day.

and then, my bête noire — the turkey.

i hate cooking meat in general. and turkey? i can tell you about the year it was crispy on the outside and raw on the inside. or the year i was pregnant and making turkey was a struggle between cooking and barfing. i hit the point where it was a far, far better thing to buy the turkey pre-cooked than force my family to wonder whether they were going to experience salmonella up close and personal.

but then, after all this work, and after a beautiful meal, everyone leaves me to it.

women — it is time to tell the men that they need to do dishes. it’s about freaking time someone stood up for all that is fair. if people expect you to go through planning and cooking hell, the least they can do is help wash things and put them away. post-dinner football watching is not a Dog-given right. sheesh, even some of the most feministically-minded women i know still let the men off scot-free. not fair, i say. hand them a sponge and tell them to get cracking.

and for you guys who actually help out on thanksgiving day, bless you, one and all. the rest of you lazy shits — it’s time to get over yourselves. your spouses and significant female others do not work for you, this day or any other. give them something to really be thankful for — a guy with manners who actually appreciates all that has been done for him.

this year, i wasn’t feeling the love for cooking. and  BS agreed that this year, we could spend thanksgiving at a restaurant. i am looking forward to no cooking, no dishes. yeah, i won’t have any leftovers, either.

i think i can live with that.

the museum

the museum

and it’s all right, we never met a person we didn’t like in the museum.  we never see ’em…

today, we had a delightful visit from my BIL, our two nieces, and my MIL. we went downtown for lunch and then hit the spy museum which, for those of you out-of-towners, is a lot of fun. i loved the aston-martin that was kitted out like a bond car, with guns in the front, a wheel cutter thingy, and the works. (wish i had one some days when i am driving the beltway.) there were all kinds of exhibits. i liked the 1960s camera that copied documents when you rolled it over them.  and i was fascinated reading about  the east german woman who bravely spoke against the repressive government, only to get jailed, with a husband who stood by her until the wall came down. then, she ran for parliament, passed a law so that all former east germans could read the files gathered on them by the stasi, read her own file only to discover that the informant who squealed on her was… her husband. (they ended up divorced. i’m sure you’re surprised.)

somehow, though, in this world of buildings dedicated to the knowledge of particular subject areas, we have gone down a road where it’s not simply enough to look at the items and possibly read a bit about them on the walls. now, museums have to be entertaining. they have exhibits where you do things on a computers, or you make things, or you are actively participating in a show. i find it a little disheartening that kids now seem to have little attention span for actually looking at the actual items in the museum but rather race toward the stuff they can do. it’s like they start out with these please touch museums in young childhood and expect all museums from here on out to be places where it’s about their fun and activity.


i think i’ll keep trying with my kids anyway. i’ll just have to make sure to go alone to the things i really want to see in the meantime.

science fiction/double feature

science fiction/double feature

sometimes the truth is more wonderful than fiction.

every year, our elementary school has a movie night. the kids all huddle on the cafeteria floor on blankets and in sleeping bags to watch what is usually a pixar movie. this year, we gathered to watch rio. the boy has had a tough week at school; it’s hard being different and the kids seem to get less empathetic and increasingly nasty. and yet, the boy wanted to go. i hope i see M there, he said to me as we hopped into the mommobile.

sure enough, we did see M. M, you should know, is a wonderful little girl who has been in jools’ class since kindergarten, though this year, they are sadly separated. since kindergarten, when they vowed they would marry when they were grownups, the two have been tight friends. somehow, waching them together is like watching an old married couple; he is always doing goofy things and telling jokes to make her smile, and she pinches him when he is misbehaving.  M has a wonderful, warm heart. i genuinely adore her.

last year, the boys started teasing jools. julian and M, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g. first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes jools in the baby carriage. and so on. mom, he told me, how do i tell M that i like her but she’s not my girlfriend?

i don’t know, i replied. do you still like her?

of course i do, he had replied.

well then, be friends. don’t worry about what everyone says. be nice to her and she should be nice back.

so tonight, jools sat on M’s sleeping bag with M and her sister. M’s dad bought a big box of Nerds and they all shared them. M’s sister kept taking the weird lollipop jools had, which was part lolly and part flashlight, and lighting it up throughout the movie. M got up a bunch of times to find her friends, jools told me, but she always comes back. (that’s okay, mom, julian reassured me.)

so tonight at bedtime, i asked the boy how his evening was.

you know mom, he replied, M is probably my best friend. she is the one person who is always nice to me and comes back to me.

i smiled. we all need that person who comes back. no matter what.

don’t call me baby

don’t call me baby

what’s in a name?

today, i was having a lovely time on the phone with someone from my credit card company, a company that shall remain nameless, but a company with which i have been doing business certainly for over a decade. the customer service agent had all my information in front of her, and in her pleasant, not-quite-robotic voice, she chatted me up to personally upsell me some service or another. and then, she did it.

she called me shirley.

i kept the name i was born with; but if you think calling me by my husband’s last name irks me, you should just imagine how irritated i am to have my first name mangled.

and it isn’t like i’m really particular about my nicknames, either. Middlebro still calls me boo, which my friend jen-jen is almost too happy to tell people is short for sherry-berry-boo (and yes, she did that once in the middle of the most crowded corridor in high school, much to my total embarrassment.) my family calls me sher; some friends call me by my last name; and of course, my husband has a variety of nicknames for me, all of which i will spare you.  (you’re welcome.)

does your name ever get mangled? i’d love to hear variations on the theme in the comments section. i need a giggle.

into the mystic

into the mystic

And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home

And when the fog horn blows I want to hear it

I don’t have to fear it

yesterday morning, i had two aunts. today, i have only one. my father’s sister, my aunt sandy, passed away yesterday. she had not been well, but i guess none of us had expected she would pass so suddenly. my dad had just spoken to her around lunch time, and while she didn’t sound like she felt so well, it was still a shock. my uncle billy, they said, had gone out on his boat fishing, a probably much-needed break from looking after a sick spouse.  if he had gone fishing, then of course he must have thought she was in a safe place.

but aunt sandy was always full of surprises, all the way to the end.

my aunt sandy was a tough, tough lady. standing maybe 5 feet tall and weighing probably 90 pounds soaking wet, she was a real straight-shooter of a lady. you asked her a question; she’d tell you what she thought in her gravelly, smoke-laced voice.  i suspect she may have had some issues with food, but i never dared ask her.  my memory of her usually brings me to her long island home, where we would spend time with my uncle and their two kids, who happen to be the only first cousins i actually have.

people sometimes look askance at me when i talk about cousins i have who are really 2nd or third cousins.  but when you have only two first cousins, you tend to look at any blood relatives all in the same breath — they are blood, so they are mine and i am theirs.  and in my opinion, you can never have enough people to love and who might love you back in this life. but my memories of these two cousins include how hilariously funny my elder cousin was (and is) and how blonde my younger cousin was (and i suspect, still is.) i remember wondering why my younger cousin got the blonde genes until my mother explained that my cousins were adopted. then, i thought my aunt and uncle were pretty damn cool for picking us some really wonderful people to be cousins with. i haven’t seen my cousins in a long, long while, which is a shame.

but i carry some memories of them, and my uncle, and my aunt. if i was unlucky, i spent time with my younger cousin kicking my legs (or my mom’s legs until the day my mom kicked back) under the table. if i was lucky, my uncle billy would take us out on his boat and we’d explore the places where he went fishing. sometimes, the only cousins from my father’s side that i ever really knew — temmi, rozzie, and rozzie’s husband dave — would visit and bring their warmth and humor with them.  those three are gone now, too.

this whole business of becoming the adult generation in my family is not fun.

anyway, i’m blessed that my parents are still here; and i’m further blessed because i prefer to think mostly of the happy, goofy side of our visits to my aunt. and so, to keep from being maudlin, i’ll share my favorite — and probably Middlebro’s favorite — aunt sandy story.

i preface this by saying that Middlebro, while good humored, doesn’t like being told what to do and what to eat. this was especially pronounced in his days as a young man. this, you need to know, is important information.

anyway, we journeyed out one summer afternoon to my aunt’s house. my aunt, bless her heart, had some of those aforementioned issues with food, so you never could tell what was in her pantry and whether it was still at a point of deliciousness. in visits past, we always tried to eat before we came in order to sidestep this particular challenge; but for reasons i don’t remember, we went to her house bringing some food. my elder cousin, knowing her mother all too well, took great pains to give us the lowdown: rozzie brought dish A, temmi brought dish B, and so on. this way, we knew how to politely avoid the foods which my aunt had prepared, despite our pleas that we would gladly bring food in so that she would not need to trouble herself.

but trouble herself she did; she baked a chocolate cake. now, my cousin, who is almost the exact same age as Middlebro, clued us in on the cake. so we surreptitiously passed around the information, like a game of telephone, that my dear aunt had prepared the chocolate cake. ::wink wink::  no one wanted to hurt her feelings, so we all just ate our fill of other things and then were too full for dessert.

except for Middlebro. Middlebro, seeing the delicious-looking cake, sliced himself a hunk. my mother, trying to spare him from impending, yucky doom, walked up to him quietly and said: don’t eat the cake.

my brother, feeling full of early-20-something male brass and bravado, thought my mother trying to tell him what to do, and in short, he was not amused. don’t tell me what i can and what i can’t eat, he hissed back at her.  my brother, a single, successful guy, was not going to have his mother dictate his food choices.

so Middlebro took his fork, sliced off a piece from his hard-fought baked good,  and put it indignantly in his mouth. the taste, he later said, was something cardboard-like and definitely not fresh. he chewed the bit slowly and forced himself to swallow it as my mother watched. then, he leaned in close to my mother so that she would definitely hear his sage words of victory.

and Middlebro said: don’t eat the chocolate cake.

i tell this story not to be rude and disrespectful of my aunt but, in fact, to somehow let her know that she was definitely loved by all of us. i didn’t know her as well as i would have liked; but i did know her. she was definitely one of a kind — a person who stands out in our family lore — and i know i will miss her.

Hark, now hear the sailors cry

Smell the sea and feel the sky

Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic

guilty pleasure monday: henry the VIII, i am (herman’s hermits)

guilty pleasure monday: henry the VIII, i am (herman’s hermits)

second verse, same as the first.

henry the VIII is one of those random songs that gets stuck in your head once and then pops up at the darndest times. for me, it pops up during those blank and dreary moments where you need something to make people smile and get re-energized.  there have been countless times when i’ll start singing it and the kids join in.  (yes, we’re that family.)

the song was one of the hits for the band herman’s hermits (including, as BS would imitate from the TV, peter noone from my generation!), a british band that became huge in the heydey of the beatles. in fact, they apparently were the top selling pop act in the US in 1965, toppling the beatles from that post.  all this, in part, thanks to famed producer mickie most, who would select their songs and often wouldn’t let them play, using session musicians like john paul jones and jimmy page instead. they had hit after hit for several years, but of course one day, they broke up and tried their own stuff which was never quite successful. (peter noone had one minor hit covering what ultimately became a bowie classic oh! you pretty things.)

but i’ll keep it simple so that no one chops my head off. henry the VIII is bouncier and a lot more fun than it’s subject matter would imply. and it’s actually kid-safe, unlike plenty of my musical fodder.  but yeah, i would get laughed out of a lot of places for this one.



ripples never come back.

last night, we tried a new chi chi pizza place.  BC, approaching 13, is pretty open to trying any new place, although this being a pizza place, there’s not any problem with her discovering and trying something new, in this case, a pannini sandwich. jools, firmly planted as an 8 year old dude who doesn’t eat fruit so don’t even try, okay?, was content to share a white pizza with me so long as they took off anything remotely green (basil, which he usually likes, spinach, which he also likes, so why are we removing green things again?) my half was supposed to included additional broccoli and mushrooms, but his side was to remain pristine.  and of course, BS ordered a calzone with something porcine that the rest of us, red sea pedestrians, could not and would not eat.

this restaurant cleverly had some board and card games for families to play while they await their food (which, i would add, is sufficient time to finish two games of uno. at least.) as we sat around, playing cards and arguing over the rules, i managed to glance over at a family a table over from us. their oldest, a girl, looked no more than about four. their younger child, in a high chair, could not have been much over two. their kids stil in pre-game-playing mode, they looked over at us, slightly wistfully, as if they wished they were playing a card game as we were.

i smiled back at them. it will happen soon enough.

we were that family once.



it’s official: i have become a suburban cliché.

yesterday, the kids were off from school because it’s election day and apparently, the schools haven’t figured out how to run polls and a school day simultaneously.  (okay, so i kid. a little.) but considering that they will be off again friday for veterans day, i wish they had decided instead to take thursday off and make it a big old weekend where we could actually go somewhere. but no, instead, we have tuesday and friday off, and our half-day wednesday is now a full-day of school for one day only, thus insuring chaos with the boy’s ability to complete his homework, which comes before everything else (including hebrew school, which happens about 45 minutes after he will get home from school.)

but i’m not bitter.

so anyway, back to yesterday. my relaxing day home with the kids, the day after my intensely delightful IVIg session where i was poked 13 times. the one where i returned to a house on the verge of chaos and a body full of type two reaction to the Ig. the girl had wanted to sleep over a friend’s house, but with all her plans for tuesday brewing, i could not add yet another thing to the plate. and even though i may sound like a spoilsport, i really didn’t think a sleepover with several other girls on a monday night could end well. so she stayed home, not complaining about her mean-ass mom. (the girl is very smart.)

i woke up with my IVIg headache, the one that lasts until it decides it’s time to take up residence in someone else’s head. it’s a dull sort of headache, not like a migraine. but it’s there, and it’s heavy, and it feels like someone placed some very large bees in your head. you can function, but the pain in your head makes you a bit grumpy. the three of us got it together and dropped the girl at play practice at 9:30. the boy and i then were off to target, where i hoped to do some minimal food shopping while getting the boy to write down his holiday gift list while walking through the toy aisle. throw in a return plus a few other things needed that would be unavailable in a grocery and voila! tar-jzhee is the place.

two hours later, after meeting one of jools’ friends there and arranging a playdate for 2:30, we put away groceries; i fed the boy; and then i told him he should go play outside. mommy still had a deadline for work. so i worked, met my deadline, and then took the boy over to his playdate. then, at 3, i had to pick the girl up. the girl had gone from play practice to a friend’s house, where she and her friend were completing their science experiment for the school science fair.  after dropping the boy off, i sneaked off to… vote. and then, off to BC’s friend’s house. woe is me; while i was out driving the boy, i missed the call that said that BC’s friend’s mom could drop her home.

so i found myself on the friend’s porch at 2: 50something, and no one is answering the friend’s door. of course, the minivan is in the driveway and is open, so someone must be home. but the sound of droning leafblowers (far less pleasant than the hissing of summer lawns, i assure you) is making those bees in my head angrier and angrier, push harder and harder.  i pound on the door, figuring that the doorbell must be broken and hoping that someone can hear me over the lawn men. eventually, BC’s friend comes to the door, smiling. and i hear BC’s voice trailing from their kitchen mooo-ooom, didn’t you get my message? J’s mom is going to take me hoooome.

uh, nope.

so after they clean up their experiment, i drive her home to get a quick change, as she’s off to girl scouts at 3:30. i run her over there and run home, thinking a glass of water or a coffee or SOMETHING might pacify those damn bees. and after realizing it’s just a little after 4, i remember that my eye medicine has been languishing at Walgreen’s since Friday. i decide to run to the giant to get cornbread mix (to go with the chili i snuck into the slow cooker at about 2), do the drive-thru pharmacy thang, and then rush over to jools’ playdate’s home, where he should be picked up between 4:30 and 5. good, i think, i will get there about 4:45 and life will be awesome.

only too bad for me. my doctor has changed the prescription, which doesn’t make my life happier in insurance land. i am sitting in the drive-thru line for literally 20 minutes. tick tock tick tock. a car that is behind me in line gives up and drives away. (i can’t move aside or else i would. i have been that car.) finally, it is 4:56, and i pray that BS will pick up the phone. he does. and he races over to pick up the boy.

my prescription straightened out, i race over to the boy’s playdate’s house to apologize for my lateness. when someone tells me pickup is between 4:30 and 5, i aim for the middle time. i am not a mom who leaves her kid til the last second. and now, i have that rep.

but, no time to stop. i must pick the girl up from girl scouts at 5:30. i stop at home for another drink of water, another chance that the bees might be appeased. but they keep buzzing. and i go.

i bake cornbread, i make dinner, we eat. i do dishes, i finish the laundry i had started, and i am done. i take a few motrin, and the bees go away.

until this morning. the girl has called from school. she has forgotten her lunch.

i’m back in the driver’s seat.

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Cape Town, South Africa