What Nobody Tells You About Hannukah

For nine out of 10 Americans, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Whether you’re Christian or not, Christmas is a big freakin’ deal. Even the buggiest of bah-humbuggers can’t escape the incessant ringing of the Salvation Army bells and the red Starbucks cup fiasco in their social media feeds.


But here’s what almost 10 out of 10 Americans don’t know: Hannukah is NOT a big deal.

Because it runs in tandem with Santa’s reindeer, many think that this Jewish holiday must hold a great deal of importance. But truth be told, it’s not even in the Hebrew bible. Historically, Jews gave and received gifts on a spring holiday called Purim. The story of Hannukah, which comes from the book of Maccabees, is a minor Jewish holiday at best. And don’t get me started on the Maccabees. How bummed was I to find out only recently that the heroes of our Hannukah story were equivalent to modern day religious terrorists?

And then there’s the oil that was supposed to burn for one day but miraculously burns for eight days, hence the eight nights of presents (the part most folks are familiar with). As a child, I felt smug to have a holiday that lasted longer than Christmas and milked more gifts out of my family. As a parent, I’m glad my children have a reason to get gifts at a time of year when they would otherwise feel left out. But truth be told, Hannukah is not the Jewish Christmas. If you’re not a kid or don’t have kids, then Hannukah is hardly a holiday at all. It amazes me how businesses try to capitalize on such a trivial holiday, even making Hannukah toys for dogs (which of course, I can’t help but buy every year, they’re too funny!).



Our big holidays are known as the High Holy Days: Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). They are nowhere near as fun as Christmas and Easter. No candy or presents. No bunnies or fat, jolly white guys (unless you count the sweaty dude in the third row at temple). Kids can miss school — they are excused absences, but absences nonetheless. And for what? To sit in services all day wearing itchy tights and neckties, followed by more sitting around the family dinner table (in Yom Kippur’s case, after a day of fasting). It’s arguable that being in school is more fun than sitting through a two-hour guilt-ridden sermon about why you should come to temple for more than just two days a year for the holidays.

So if you accidentally wish me a Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays, don’t feel bad. Or if you wonder why I might not travel to spend Hannukah with my family, you can stop wondering. Have a very Merry Christmas, and don’t worry about us. We have our Chinese food on Christmas Eve, and our movies on Christmas Day, and we love it.

Our ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Paci Policy and Slacking on Child No. 2

For the first six months of my first child’s life, if he dropped a pacifier, I wouldn’t put it back in his mouth without washing it in hot water with soap or sterilizing it in the microwave in one of those plastic doohickies that came with the paci pack.

giraffe pacifier mam

My friend Ashley saw me do this once and had to stifle her laughter. Her daughter was almost a year older than my son and had been there, done that. She had crossed the germ threshold, and little did I know, I was about a month away from doing the same.

With the first child, and especially in the first few months, you do everything They tell you to do — They being doctors, family, friends, the people who write package directions, and of course, The Internet. It’s like the first few weeks of your first semester at college. You don’t know your professors well enough to know what you can and can’t get away with, so you actually do all of the assigned work until you have the ins and outs of each class figured out. But once you gain confidence and find your rhythm as a new student — or in this case a new mom — you can figure out which shortcuts, tips and tricks you’re comfortable using. They become a second-hand source and you begin to go with your gut.

It’s amazing how slippery a slope can become once it’s covered with your guts. One minute you’re washing  a pacifier 14 times a day, and the next you’re cheering inwardly when the same pacifier lands “right side up” on the sidewalk before popping it back into baby’s mouth, hoping no one is watching but not really caring either way.

At home, pacifiers pop in and out of our lives like bubbles. One minute, there’s four or five floating around and then — poof! — they’re gone. And right when I give up and go out and buy more, the old ones resurface. But sometimes they reappear in a most unsettling place: baby’s mouth. I will put Abbie in the gated play area while I’m making breakfast, and when I come back to pick her up and put her in her high chair, she’s sporting a yellow pacifier with a graphic of a hipster giraffe wearing nerdy glasses that I haven’t seen in weeks. Was it under the couch covered in lint? Hidden in the bottom of the toy bin amid stray dog hairs and lovey fuzz? I don’t want to know and thankfully Abbie can’t tell me. We have an understanding that way. The fact is, it’s been in her mouth for at least three minutes and the damage has been done.

With child number two, I haven’t relaxed into a total state of apathy. I do bathe, feed, and clothe her, and even wash her pacifiers on a regular basis. When I’m not sure if something is chocolate or poop, I still smell it rather than lick it. Although I do feel that Abbie has missed out on a few things being the youngest. With Jed, my first, I documented everything. I kept a private blog for close friends and family updating them on his milestones and favorite things. I thought everyone slacked on their second child until I was looking through a box my parents gave me after a recent move that included my baby book. I am a second child and my mom recorded everything. This “word about me from Mom” part was the sweetest. I don’t think anyone has said such nice things about me since:


Here’s a few words about Abbie from her mom at 14 months:

She adores her big brother and loves blowing kisses, even to the baby on the Huggies box. Her favorite toys are her dolls (her “babies”), cars, books, and anything that plays music. The girl LOVES to dance. If there’s a melody in an insurance commercial, she’s dancing to it. She doesn’t like fruit, but loves meat, veggies, and enjoyed her first mac-n-cheese so much that she sang and clapped between bites. She babbles like nobody’s business and has “Abbie speak” for Jed, doggies, and pointing and asking what things are. And every now and then (but never when I want to show her off) she says “hi” and “bye.” Jed says he doesn’t need any of his own toys in the playroom because she is his favorite toy:) He lives to make her laugh.

So when Abbie gets older and she gets her box of things from me, I can print out a copy of this post to go with all of her straight A report cards, awards, chastity belt, and such.

The ‘Charlie and Lola’ Dinner for Picky Eaters

My son and I both love the Charlie and Lola books by Lauren Child. He giggles at the silly things that Lola does, while I love the mixed media illustrations (and the excuse to use my bad British accent when reading aloud).


The one that gets reread the most in our house — because it’s the only one we own — is I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato. As you could guess, it’s about being a picky eater, something most every parent faces. (If you’re a parent and you don’t have this problem, keep it to yourself or everyone else will secretly loathe you. No one wants to hear about how your kid prefers edamame to ice cream.)


In the book, Lola’s older brother Charlie cleverly tricks her into eating the foods she hates most: “Oh this isn’t mashed potato. People often think that but no, this is cloud fluff from the pointiest peak of Mount Fuji.”

When we first started reading this book, Jed wasn’t eating half of the foods on Lola’s No Fly List. That’s when I suggested that we have a “Charlie and Lola dinner” one night.

Clockwise from top left: Orange twiglets from Jupiter, moonsquirters,  ocean nibbles from the supermarket under the sea, cloud fluff, and green drops from Greenland (middle).
Clockwise from top left: Orange twiglets from Jupiter, moonsquirters, ocean nibbles from the supermarket under the sea, cloud fluff, and green drops from Greenland (middle).

It was a total hit. For the first time ever, Jed ate all of his moonsquirters, orange twiglets, green drops, and cloud fluff (ocean nibbles are an easy sell in our house, but for the record he ate all of those, too).

There’s no recipe to share for this one — it’s just that easy.

Have you tricked your picky eater into trying (and even liking) new foods? Please share!

Father’s Day Craft — It’s Not Too Late!

It’s so great having a dad in your life who’s a cliche. There are so many more Father’s Day craft ideas out there when Dad loves fishing or golfing as opposed to say, handcuff collecting.


Love might even be an understatement when it comes to my husband‘s relationship with fly fishing. So when it came to Father’s Day, I knew the only thing that would make him happy would be a day on the water. That, and an adorable handmade, heart-made gift from the two greatest little people in our lives:

photo 1

Thank you, Pinterest!


This Is the Most F-ed Up Toy I’ve Ever Seen


So I’m perusing Zulily for some clothes for my daughter, and see a sale called “All About the Human Body — for budding biologists.” My son loves science, so I had to take a look. Amidst the expected puzzles, models, and books — for children — there was this:


That’s a plush fetus. Which is f-ed up enough, but then when you squeeze it, it makes a heartbeat sound. It’s marketed as a “fun gift idea for expectant parents.” I’d kill to be a fly on the wall at the baby shower where a mom-to-be unwraps this.

It turns out the company behind this, Giantmicrobes, makes a whole series of larger than life microbial designs. What started out as educational toys have also apparently become gag gifts for med students among other things.

Let’s play a game called “Can you spot the herpes?”


Some of their best sellers include Swine Flu, Salmonella, and Herpes. So now you can give Herpes to your children. Okay, that’s kind of funny. My birthday’s coming up next month, and in case you’re wondering, I do NOT want a fat cell (got enough of those already):


Or cancer.


Screw Prozac, I have my tulips.

photo 4

One of my most favorite things about springtime: tulips. Purple tulips in particular (Dave if you are reading this, take note).

I had an empty milk bottle and Lucky Buddha beer bottle just waiting to reinvent themselves as vases.

photo 2

photo 1

I love the way tulips are always reaching for the sun, at once twisty and optimistic — I can relate to that.

photo 3

photo 4

I swear with all of this rainy, snowy gray weather and never-ending onslaught of germs, I thought I might break off the top of one of these bottles and use it for a whole other not-so-Pinterest-worthy purpose. So glad spring is here … just in time:)

Is ‘Mompreneur’ a Bad Word?


image-2-1Earlier today, I fell into a stream-of-consciousness-like click hole on Facebook, during which I discovered Bump Water. The vitamin-fortified, flavored water designed for moms-to-be was created by two women entrepreneurs in Brooklyn (one of whom is married to a guy who lived in my neighborhood growing up, hence the six degrees of Facebook).

My first thought after checking out the Bump Water website was, “Shit, I wish I had known about this when I was pregnant,” followed by an involuntary twinge of jealousy for not having thought of this myself. My second thought, after perusing their press coverage and seeing outlets like the New York Post call them “mompreneurs,” was, “Blurg,” followed by a self-righteous, guttural harumph. 

I don’t know why, but the term “mompreneur” just irks me. Wait, I do know why. It just sounds condescending. Why isn’t Bill Gates called a dadpreneur? Or why isn’t a mom who is a cancer doctor called a momoncologist? I can only imagine that a female doctor would find that term insulting just as I’m insulted for women who are launching their own businesses (not an easy feat), and because they happen to be moms, are puffy painted as bored housewives who needed a hobby to keep them busy.

Then I started to wonder, am I the only one who feels this way? So I did what any person would do: I Googled it. In searching for “mompreneur condescending,” I found that I wasn’t alone. But what surprised me most was discovering that there’s an anti-anti-mompreneur movement.

Marika Jeziorek of Mom’s 2-Hour Work Day says, “By arguing ‘mompreneur’ is a negative word, you are reinforcing the negative connotation of ‘mom,’ and are thus not improving the status of women, but are rather pushing women to be ashamed and embarrassed of being mothers.”

I don’t believe by being anti-mompreneur that I’m bolstering a negative image for the word “mom,” but I do believe that whether or not you are a mother should have no bearing on your professional accomplishments. Should a mom who launches a product be seen in a different light than a business woman who doesn’t have children? Yes, moms are busy and have a lot to balance in their lives, but so do all women, and in fact, all people.

I remember when I was in my 20s and first started a blog. It was mommy blogger madness (another term that drives me crazy). All of these mommy bloggers were able to join with other mommy bloggers in special groups with spiffy blog badges … and I felt left out. Did being a mom mean that their opinions on a certain dishwashing liquid or beauty balm was more valid than mine? Why did companies pay moms to go all over the country (and the world) to try out their products and services? What if I didn’t want to — or couldn’t — become a mom? Would I feel permanently ostracized from these blogospheric and societal privileges? So, on the other side of the mompreneur coin, there’s that.

What do you think of the term mompreneur? Are you for it or against it?

Wordspotting #4

I’m sure someone (if not several) people have told you in your life that the more you read, the better your vocabulary gets. My problem is that I have a horrible memory. If I’m reading a book or blog post and come across a word I love, if I don’t write it down immediately, it’s gone. So in an effort to remember and use new-to-me words that strike my fancy, I’ve been jotting them down as I discover (and in some cases rediscover) them and then sharing them in an ongoing series I call Wordspotting. If you missed the first three installments, you can check them out here.
Most of the words in this post I found while doing my job, which is editing for a website called The Cheat Sheet. I read dozens of stories every day, which expose me to lots of interesting news, facts, trivia, and when I’m lucky, intoxicating words such as these.
Definitions via Google Dictionary.

1. Quotidian

  1. of or occurring every day; daily.
    “the car sped noisily off through the quotidian traffic”
    • ordinary or everyday, especially when mundane.
      “his story is an achingly human one, mired in quotidian details”

2. Eponymous


  1. (of a person) giving their name to something.
    “the eponymous hero of the novel”
    • (of a thing) named after a particular person.
      “Roseanne’s eponymous hit TV series”

3. Swashbuckle

[By no means a complex or new-to-me word, I just love that it exists and hate that it’s so typecast. It’s not used enough outside of the pirate realm and I think it should be.]

past tense: swashbuckled; past participle: swashbuckled
  1. engage in daring and romantic adventures with ostentatious bravado or flamboyance.
    “a crew of swashbuckling buccaneers”

4. Corporeal

  1. of or relating to a person’s body, especially as opposed to their spirit.
    “he was frank about his corporeal appetites”
    • having a body.
      “a corporeal God”

5. Kerfuffle



BRITISH informal
  1. a commotion or fuss, especially one caused by conflicting views.
    “there was a kerfuffle over the chairmanship”

6. Castigated



past tense: castigated; past participle: castigated
  1. reprimand (someone) severely.
    “Some lawmakers, military analysts and former soldiers have castigated both the White House and NATO for failing to understand tribal conflicts.” ~ The Cheat Sheet

    What are some of your favorite words? 

A Mom’s Truthful Snow Day Experience in Two Texts

Across the country, moms and dads have been cooped up with their kids this week in what seems like an endless string of snow days. Fellow parents can attest that these frosty furloughs from our daily routines aren’t all rosy cheeks and hot chocolate. Sure, I “like” Facebook posts of friends’ kids out in the snow with their frozen snot mustaches atop chattering blue lips, but I relate more to the on-the-verge cries for help. When you have no physical contact with anyone over the age of nine for days on end, it’s a slippery slope from Norman Rockwell to Norman Bates.

One of my dearest friends summed it up best in a text she sent me yesterday. I give you her three stages of snow days:

Going on day 5 of snow day.

Day 1 = play in snow, hot cocoa

Day 2 = baking and crafts

Day 4 = Son on his Kindle all day while I get drunk and binge watch Veep

I haven’t left the house since Monday morning (it is now Friday). We live on a private mountain road that my husband can barely get up and down in his truck right now so my Leaf can just forget it. This means that while I’ve been housebound, he’s been able to escape. Yesterday at 3pm, I texted the following list of requested items from the outside world:

  1. milk
  2. a good bottle of red wine
  3. a deck of cards*
  4. Rock’em Sock’em Robots


* I was teaching Jed to play black jack and we quite literally weren’t playing with a full deck.

If I were a rock star, I think I would make one hell of a rider list.

5 Shower Thoughts That Will Blow Your Mind Or Make You Think I’m Crazy. Or Both.

I get my best ideas in the shower and while driving — two times that are less than ideal to be jotting something down. And I’m not the only one. There’s an entire reddit thread devoted to shower thoughts. It’s a lot of crazy and crappy to weed through, but thankfully First To Know compiled 10 of the best reddit shower thoughts ever.

Occasionally these gems stay with me until I am in a place where I can safely put them on paper (or hard drive). Here are five of my most recent shower thoughts, for better or worse.

1. If I only spoke in a bad, fake English accent around my kids, would they develop the accent? And since theirs would be real, would we call it a real fake English accent? (And would Child Protective Services come for me?)

2. Babies are hypnotized by ceiling fans, so why not create a Smartphone app with videos of different ceiling fans that they can stare at no matter where you are? You heard it here first.

3. If my name were Rhett, I’d call my blog Rhettoric. If I were a dude named Rick, I would call it RhetoRick.

4. When you think about it, it’s amazing what a popcorn kernel turns into when heated up in oil. I wonder if there’s another undiscovered snack out there that could be created by microwaving a nut kernel or the like?

5. I’m waiting for Kate Middleton to do something scandalous so we can call it KateGate. Or Bill Gates: GatesGate. Or if Bill’s daughter, Jennifer Katharine Gates, did something smear-worthy, we could dub it JKateGatesGate.

C’mon, don’t be shy. I want to hear yours, too. They can’t be weirder than mine… or can they? Gauntlet thrown down.