I Hate Toys That Make Noise

My name is Jack. I am the Jewish daddy blogger who is working hard to write a book and somehow is posting regularly on three blogs. Yes, that is right- three blogs. I update more than often than Lady Gaga changes clothes, what of it and what the hell has any of this got to do with Chanukah.

Well you can blame my somewhat edgy attitude on having been forced to join the hordes today in holiday shopping.  Holiday shopping makes me misanthropic. That’s right, I said misanthropic which is a far cry from being lycanthropic.

I have to be honest and say that my initial plan was to write something far more significant and meaningful than this but Friday afternoon and amidst the holiday shoppers made me want to make like a prophet and not the kind that would stand up and praise the people. No sir, I wanted to climb up on the roof of the lady driving the Red RAV-4 with the Texas plates and tell her that this isn’t cleveland, we have order, decorum and rules here.

I wanted to climb up on the roof of Costco and tell the people that if they don’t stop their stampede for free food fire and brimstone would rain down from the sky like manna from heaven. I wanted to scream at the people in the Trader Joes parking lot to slow down because there simply aren’t enough parking spaces and running me over won’t get you inside any faster.

Instead you will face the wrath of the angry Jewish daddy blogger who will post your picture online and mock you for trying to look cool with a big black thing in your teeth. Yes, I am talking about you lady with the Indiana University sweatshirt. Maybe black things in your teeth are cool in Bloomington but they aren’t here.

Have I mentioned yet that it is Chanukah or that my friend Benji wrote the Idiots guide to Chanukah. Go read it and leave a comment telling him I sent you over there. But don’t forget to come back here.

Here where I will tell you that I hate toys that make noise, but not as much as the people that give said toys to my children. You who provide them with things that beep, whistle and wail are on my list. One day very soon you will wake up in the middle of the night wondering why there is a marching band playing outside your window and then you will remember it is because I sent them there.

I sent them because you gave my child a toy that beeps, wails and whistles. I sent them because you are responsible for the headache that I am currently experiencing and misery loves company.

Or maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll remember the magic and joy of watching the faces of my children light our menorah. Maybe I’ll remember listening to my daughter tell me that she has toys to give away to kids who don’t have some. Or maybe I’ll remember listening to my son tell me the story about why we celebrate and the questions he asked afterwards.

Because those questions showed me that he isn’t just looking for gifts. He is thinking about his life, his family and the world around him. You see 2011 was filled with all sorts of chaos in our life. We sold our home and moved into temporary housing and he knows that we will be moving again real soon.

He knows that life is filled with challenges and changes and wonders whether turning 11 next week will mark the beginning of magical and mysterious year or something less than that.

Chanukah reminds him that some things don’t change. Family celebrations can take place in different places and these moments in time that he recalls can be special in places that are less familiar. Chanukah reminds him even though life feels a bit upside down and inside out it is not as crazy as he thought.

The dark haired beauty is certain of this too. She wasn’t so sure at first but now she is beginning to sing a different song. And me, well I rant about the hordes because it irritates me to be hit by shopping carts pushed at breakneck speed by people who don’t care what is going on around them. And because I am just grumpy.

But amidst the chaos and craziness I am grateful too. We are healthy, happy and hopeful. Good things are happening now and more are just around the corner. Chanukah sameach to my friends, family and fellow MOTs. I wish you all lots of love and laughter and hope you enjoy your own miracle of lights.

It is Almost Time To Celebrate Chanukah

Dear Jews of the blogosphere,

This time of year it is impossible to surf the net without being caught up in and covered in tinsel and mistletoe. Every other post is a tale about Christmas past, present and future. There is nothing wrong with that and I don’t begrudge a post or ten for those who celebrate the day.

But I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t make an effort to reach out to my fellow MOTs to let you know that this year the blogosphere is going to be rocked by a special blogging event we’ll call #HanukkahHoopla. It is going to be a festival of blog posts about Chanukah. It was organized by my friend Renee and I am very happy to be a part of it.

Here is what you need to know:

Writers Line Up:

Candle 1:

12/20 Leah’s Thoughts @leahs_thoughts21

12/20 Ima On (and Off)The Bima @imabima31

Candle 2:

12/21 Nina Badzin’s Blog @ninabadzin25

12/21 Diary of a Paper Princess @RishonaMyers11

Candle 3:

12/22 The Monster in Your Closet @deb_bryan12

12/22 Kvetchmom @jlweinberg

Candle 4:

12/23 Lessons From Teachers and Twits @rasjacobson11

12/23 My Life in The Married Lane @rivkisilver11

Candle 5:

12/24 TheJackB @thejackb57

12/24 Erin Margolin @erinmargolin62

Candle 6:

12/25 These Little Waves @galitbreen38

12/25 CiaoMom @ciaomom46

Candle 7:

12/26 The Culture Mom @theculturemom49

12/26 I wish my mom @sharistein11

Candle 8:

12/27 Frume Sarah’s World @frumesarah38

12/27 Aprons & Blazers @OpenRoadMama28

But wait, there is more. As part of the festivities we are going to have a little giveaway for you to partake of:

We are fortunate to have sponsorship for our series! Streit’s and Mama Doni, the lead singer/songwriter of The Mama Doni Band, have provided each of us with a little #HanukkahHoopla gift pack including:

Mama Doni’s 2011 Parents’ Choice Award-winning CD, Shabbat Shaboom
a Mama Doni poster
a Download card for free Mama Doni songs (1 Chanukah song and 1 Passover song)
a Bag of Streit’s chocolate Hanukkah gelt.


And now if you will excuse me I have to run buy more potatoes and a brisket. Ooh, my mouth is watering at the thought of it all.


The Chanukah Father

I am….The Chanukah Father. If life worked the way I want it to you would have read that and heard my themesong in the background. Of course if you know me you know that my theme song changes from day to day, moment to moment- so who knows what would have played.

The children are starting to get a little crazy with anticipation. Chanukah starts this coming Friday night. For weeks now they have taken advantage of every opportunity to let us know what gifts they want. We don’t have anything resembling Santa Claus so there is no talk about a naughty and nice list.

No threat that misbehavior leads to being left off of Rudolph’s route, but that is ok with me. There are lots of other ways to help the kids maintain their path on the good old straight and narrow. Although I should point out that when your kids know that Santa isn’t real you have to work hard on making sure that they don’t run around telling the other kids.

A while back some kid tried to tell my son about what Santa was going to bring him. And with his infinite wisdom he replied by telling him that Santa was a fictional character made up by his parents. The blog rules dictate that I admit to smiling when I heard him say fictional character. The kid is in third grade, that sounded so damn grown up to me.

I did my best to intervene and we had a discussion about why it is not appropriate to tell the other kids that Santa is fake. It was a repeat of a conversation that we have had in the past. It is a hard discussion. He has been taught that lying is wrong and wants to know why it is ok to lie about this.

There aren’t any good answers to that question. This year he spent relatively little time talking about that and more asking if it is ok to burn christmas trees. Initially I was confused by where this question was coming from, but relaxed as he explained himself.

He told me that he knew that some people would go into the woods to get their own tree and that they also used the woods to get firewood for their fireplace. So he wanted to know if you could save time by burning your tree after the holiday. I gave him the honest answer and said that there is a huge bonfire in the woods and that there is much dancing and drinking around the fire.

Relax, I didn’t really say that. I told him that I didn’t know if people did that, but agreed that they might. I almost used it as a segue into a discussion about whether he has trained for the feats of strength for Festivus but I did not.

I don’t know about you, but I have a problem with Black Friday. It sounds like it should be the name of a punk rock band or a pirate ship. I’d love to say that I sailed upon the Black Friday and that the crew and I engaged in some pillaging.

It would be cool to say that I saw Black Friday play at the Greek or at the Hollywood Bowl. That would be fun, although come to think of it Black Friday would have to play one of the smaller clubs off of the strip.

But the idea of hitting stores on Black Friday is repugnant to me. Too many people, too much chaos and confusion. So I stayed away.

The Chanukah Father doesn’t deign to walk with the mortals, not in that fashion. No sir, the Chanukah Father goes to places like Target to grab a few items and pick up Lego sets on sale for $19.99. And let me tell you, that Lego is expensive. Those little bricks aren’t cheap, and they hurt when you step on them.

The Chanukah Father picked up a cool pink camera for the dark haired beauty so that she will not steal his anymore. At least that is the plan. Something tells me that the girl will use her own camera and still try to appropriate mine. Five-years-old and she is already going through my drawer to find a shirt.

What is up with that. The girl walks out of my room with an old t-shirt, smiles at me and tells me that she needs it to sleep in. Why do I get the feeling that this scene is going to repeat itself in ten thousand ways. Later on that day she talked to me about school and told me all about the boys..and the girls.

That little dame knows me too well. I try to keep a poker face, but she must see through it. So I told her again that when she is old enough to date the boys will have a special name for me. She asked me what it was and I told her, “Death.”

Sigh, the Chanukah Father sometimes has to put up with a little nonsense in his life. I wanted to tell her to tell the boys I carry anthrax and Ebola in my pocket, but her mother stopped me. Damn women getting in the way, grumble.

But I have an ace, her big brother. I can see that he will follow in my footsteps. Just as I stood guard over my sisters so shall he. The things we do.

It is hard to believe that Chanukah is almost upon us. It is one of my favorite holidays. So many good memories are tied up in it. Can’t wait to walk into a house that smells like Latkes. Can’t wait to eat a few. The fried food doesn’t like me much, but it does taste good.

The kids have a few more days to identify old toys that they don’t play with anymore. Got to get rid of some stuff so the new things have room. More importantly I like the lessons that lay in this. Good opportunity to teach the kids about being happy with what they have, thankful for it and to give a reminder about giving back.

And now your Chanukah Father is heading off to bed. Night.

The Bicycle

To me the most challenging part of blogging is the aggravation I feel when the words don’t flow from my fingertips. That is because writing is something that is easy for me. It usually doesn’t require much effort for me to construct these posts. I just sit down and start typing.

And while I have often wished that I was a better writer I rarely find myself comparing my ability to another. I do what I do and most of the time that suffices. Parenting is a different story altogether.

I think that I am a good father. My children are happy and well adjusted, but it is hard not to second guess decisions. It is hard not to wonder about some things. It is hard not to look at my own childhood and feel badly that my children don’t have everything that I had.

Let me clarify what I mean by that. From a number of perspectives they have far more than my siblings and I ever did. They have plenty of toys and have had many experiences that I didn’t get to participate in. But there are some significant things that they don’t have.

I grew up in a world in which we played outside without supervision. I grew up in a world in which we rode our bikes anywhere and everywhere. I have memories of our mothers coming outside to call us in for dinner. If I close my eyes I can hear their voices and hear us yelling back that we’d come home soon.

My kids don’t have that. We live in a safe neighborhood but it is a time when parents don’t parent the way ours did. It is a time of fear and uncertainty. You just don’t see elementary school age children walking to school, not the way that we did. And that makes me sad.

When they get a bit older they’ll be able to do it. When they get a bit older it will be easier to let them go do some of these things on their own. So it is not as if it won’t ever happen, it is just going to take a bit longer for them to do this than it did for us.

So while the world may have progressed well beyond where it was when I was a child this is one area that it has not and that really is too bad. It is a big loss. And that is part of why I sometimes find myself thinking hard about moving to a place where they can have that, but where that is I am not really sure.

Chanukah Begins Woohoo- Night One

I think that I am in a bit of a blogging rut again. I am just not happy with the quality of my posts so I keep nuking them and starting over. Every time I say something like that the Shmata Queen accuses me of trying to generate more comments to feed my ego.

I usually respond to those accusations by making fun of the burning river and reminding her that she has lived more than half of her middle aged life outside of that place. 1…2…3…DUCK!

In case you are wondering that was strictly for myself. The queen has this big black purse that your grandmother would be jealous of. I can’t believe how much junk she has in there. I think that she thinks it is sort of like Felix the Cat’s Bag of tricks.

Let me tell you, the last time she managed to hit me in the head I saw stars, they were in her eyes. Those bright eyes positively glowed. All hail the lovely queen. Ok, enough of the fake fawning and homage and back to the point of the post, it is Chanukah.

It is one of my favorite holidays. I can give you a million reasons why. I can talk about how even though it is a minor holiday in importance, it is quite significant. But it is really late and I am not in the mood to be very serious. So instead I’ll opt to say that the serious post comes later.

Right now let’s say that I like the holiday because of the memories of the past and those that we are creating now. The look on my kid’s faces is classic. Let me tell you if you really want to have fun tell your children that you are getting them socks and underwear for gifts and then really give it to them. Watch as they try to maintain their composure and be grateful.

It is a great tool to use to teach, the holiday that is. We always spend time talking about why we celebrate it and why we should be thankful for what we have. And they also get my lecture about why I hate the holiday season and the message that there is one time of year to be good.

We usually give the kids something every night, but not every one of those gifts is a major one. The formula is to try and give them each one big gift and a bunch of little ones.

More on this later.