My brother-in-law came down to Florida to visit us this past weekend and while it is always very exciting and fun when we have company, for me, the most exciting part was this: (sorry, Yossi!)
I filled up the van with gas. All. By. Myself.
I know that this sounds completely ridiculous. I've been a driver for a good 17 years, but in New York you only pump your own gas by choice, and in New Jersey, drivers are never allowed to pump their own gas, by law.
It never occurred to me that it might be any different in Florida. So a couple of weeks after we moved, I pulled the van into a gas station with the kids in the back. And we waited. One minute, two minutes, five minutes we're sitting there and so weird - no one is coming out of the little gas-station-house-thing to pump my gas. I contemplated honking the horn but the one thing I did notice about Florida is that no one honks their horn. Almost like cars don't have horns here. I don't know. But I gave the horn a little tap and nothing, no one came. Annoyed, I drove home and figured Josh would go out later on and get gas.
Fast forward a few months, and I am much more at home here in Florida and also, very aware that it's every (wo)man for himself at the gas station. Josh took me a couple of times, and each time he talked me through it. And once, on the way to the airport to pick up my parents, I stopped at a gas station alone but panicked and wound up texting Josh a picture of the gas pump and he texted back instructions.
But this week, I did it and it was all by myself. It's such a small thing, something people do everyday but it terrified me. I still don't love going to get gas - it's all dirty, I don't even want to imagine how many germs are on the handheld part of the hose and will be eternally grateful to anyone who fills my van up for me - but at least I did it.
And you know what else I did this week?
I, by accident, let a rather large Pyrex dish fall off the countertop and smash into a million pieces. If you ever wanted to know what that might look like, well, here you go. And you're welcome. As it was falling onto my ceramic tile floor, I remember thinking - it won't break, that glass is so thick. I was wrong, very wrong.
It hit the floor and I went for my shoes and the broom. And also for a cardboard box to hold all the pieces of glass. I went into the garage to get a box and even though we have many many boxes in there, I could not find one that did not have a hole cut out of the bottom. Wanna know why?
You know I'm going to tell you anyway, so I'm going to make pretend you said yes.
My boys made a pretend yard sale yesterday. And the boxes were used as tables and to store yard sale items and also, as something to cut up because they like to use scissors. So no box for me, but here's a pretty funny (and long) sign one of them taped to his bedroom door, inviting everyone to the his yard sale in his room.
And thanks to Uncle Yossi being here, the kid actually made a sale (!).
It's a week later and I can almost say that the smell of fried foods has left the house. Slowly.
It was a long, wonderful and hot Chanukah here in Florida. We had sleepover company, dinner company, Shabbos company, a bbq with new and old friends and more than our fair share of visits from the FedEx guy, carrying huge boxes. And now a stomach virus.
I can't say for sure, but I don't think I've ever gone almost a month without sharing here since I first started blogging. It felt weird - on many levels. I have so much to say and yet no time to say it. I kind of feel that way with my kids too - so many lessons to impart, so many ideas I want to share but between their hours in school, my hours in the classroom or planning for the classroom and then the few hours between school and bedtime, crammed with homework and baths and stories and playing outside, there's not too much time left to talk.
Which is why I really liked Chanukah this year. The kids are a little older and for the most part, were not passing out by the time we lit candles. And then there was all this time while the candles were burning to sit around and read with them or play board games; it was kind of like Friday night, but for eight straight days. We even sat around one night eating latkes, debating the merits of applesauce vs sour cream - even though not one of my children, and most likely Josh, have ever, in their lives, even tasted sour cream.
I know it's a little late, but here's a glimpse at Chanukah 2013, in no particular order:
1. Some of my classes made these menorah dripmats in art, right before Chanukah. I was not at all sure how they would come out - or rather how'd long they would last under a drippy menorah with lots of melty wax, but they survived. After eight nights, they were beyond covered in wax so I just chucked the ones my kids made (I know, I'm horrible) but it was throw them out or scrape the wax off with a knife. I hope you would choose the same.
We made them with 18" square floor tiles I found sitting in our garage when we moved in, some paper, scissors and Modge Podge glue. That's it. We let them dry for a couple of hours and then hand-delivered them to the waiting cars on the pick-up line. You want to drop your very-breakable-floor-tile project? Do it on your own time. I'm sending home intact projects.
2. Chanukah in Florida? It's weird. Lovely, but weird - it kind of feels like I should have been decorating the sukkah in 80 degree weather, not putting out menorahs. On the flip side, our tangelo tree is doing wonderfully. As is our palm tree. I'm just saying.
3. Remember the Chanukah raffle I was working on for the school? All I can say is - thank goodness it's over! It was super successful and I am super-relieved because can you imagine the whole thing falling apart on my watch? I can. I imagined it over and over and over. I stayed up at night thinking about it and my general anxiety level was definitely at code orange if not at code red. But as I've learned - mostly from having newborns - every day ends and another dawns and the "day after" always comes. The day after the raffle came and I breathed again. Breathing is really great.
These are the cupcakes I made with a friend for the dessert portion of the raffle:
A special thank you to whoever posted these cupcake toppers on Pinterest. They saved me.
4. I only have one thing to say about the jelly donuts this year:
They ain't from Brooklyn. And they ain't Dunkin Donuts either. But they'll do.
5. If you've been following along for a while, you might remember these Judah Maccabee cookies we made last year. If not, we made them again this year - and if I would have looked at last year's post before baking them, I would have remembered just how much of a pain they were to make. Oh well.
Packed them up and gifted them to a few individuals who've been beyond helpful to Josh since we moved here.
6. And finally, I just have to say again, even though it's not Chanukah weather, you really can't beat sitting in a hammock in December, even if you might need a little sweatshirt late in the day.
Winter break is coming quickly, here and in NY. The bed and breakfast is open, the guest room has clean sheets and slots are filling quickly. We'd love to see you if you're making like a bird and heading south at any point this winter. I'll even clean the bathroom before you come.
We made a quick stop at Home Depot yesterday to pick up some lawn bags. Not familiar with the concept of lawn bags? Then you must not own your own home. Or perhaps you're one of those fancy-pants with a gardener. (I'm joking, of course. I would LOVE to be a fancy-pants with a gardener.)
Anyway, lawn bags are enormous brown bags (so big that my seven year old can still play hide & seek and hide inside a bag) which are meant to be filled with all the recycling (leaves, branches, and not much else really) from one's back (and front) yard.
In my neighborhood, you then lug these 50 lb bags to the curb and a garbage-type truck drives around on random days and picks them up - which means that the bags might be gone before I finish dropping the kids at school or they might be sitting at the curb a week later. Either way, once they're full, I no longer have to worry about them. They are someone else's problem, namely the leaf-guy.
The other day, it occurred to me that growing up, I had never seen one of these leaf bags, which led me to several conclusions, one of which is that I must have grown up in a very wealthy in a neighborhood where everyone had gardeners. Am I right? Daddy? Is that it?
Anyway, why I am sharing this? Only because we stopped at Home Depot and the little one fell in love with a little purple petunia plant. And because I'm a big spender (I grew up in a wealthy neighborhood, y'know), I shelled out the 88 cents for the plant. Mother of the Year award, here I come!
She carried that plant around the store and I was just so relieved when we made it to the car with the plant intact. Imagine having to pay for two of those!
She carried the plant into the house and then to the backyard where she gazed lovingly at it while I bagged the leaves.
Notice, if you will, the leaves on the right hand side of the picture. Now multiply that by a million and you'll get a clearer picture of how many leaves are currently in my backyard. I guess that's what happens when you don't clean them up in the fall. They stay there, waiting for you, all winter long.
The plant sat next to her while she dug in the yard, it swung on the swing with her and made a few trips down the slide on her lap.
And now it sits on the front steps and she sits next to it, asking it if it's okay, if it's having a nice day and if it's thirsty. (At least someone will remember to water it).
I even found her at the porch window this morning, looking at her plant. And then she started hollering out the window, not at the plant but at the leaf guy who had just pulled up with his truck, No! No! Not your leaf bags! Mommy's! Give those back!
So we had a talk about things that are garbage and things that we don't need anymore, and then I redirected her attention to her plant - ooh, maybe it's thirsty!
Had I known what a great activity one little plant could be for one little girl, I would have started one from seeds weeks ago.
What is a home? And what is a house? The two words are often used interchangeably, but in my mind, one is where your heart lives and the other is where your possessions live.
Houses can be bought and sold, built from scratch or remodelled, or even knocked down in a hurricane. But your home, your home is wherever you are, wherever the people that you love are at that moment.
It's been a week since Hurricane Sandy hit the NY/NJ area and I feel like it's only now that we are starting to realize how lucky we have been.
The lights went out this past Monday night and stayed out until Saturday night.
The trees on our block are all still standing, our windows are all intact, our basement did not flood and our car still has some gas in it.
We are super-lucky.
But we were also prepared.
A couple of days before the hurricane, newscasters were already imploring residents to pack a go-bag, stock up on water, flashlights, batteries, medicines and, most of all, to make a plan. And because I am married to Mr. Safety, we did.
And I'm so sad for the people who didn't.
Even if this hurricane has turned out to be nothing, even if we were stocked with tons
of batteries and flashlights, so what? The worst that would have happened is that we would have been extra ready extra early next time.
Batteries don't go to waste. Canned tuna fish lasts a really long time. Bottled water lasts even longer. And besides, you'll eat the tuna and drink the water at some point. Just make pretend that there was a really good sale on those items (even if there wasn't) and buy what you need.
I'm not advocating becoming a survivalist - although, I do have to say, there is nothing quite like sitting in the pitch black with your family sleeping around you, just waiting for looters to show up and knowing that there is really nothing in the world you can do about it. Again, we got lucky, nothing like that happened around here, but it definitely did in other towns around here.
Being a parent is a huge responsibility, and part of that responsibility is to make sure your kids feel safe, even if in reality, they are not 100% safe at that moment. They don'y need to know that.
So instead of panicking*, we made a game out of the hurricane.
Josh handed each kid their own flashlight.
He brought all their mattresses down to the dining room - the room with the fewest windows - and pretended we were going camping. They all got into their cozy pajamas and we kept the tv on as long as the power stayed on. But once it went out, at about 7pm, they each got into their makeshift beds, with tons of pillows and blankets and flashlights and books to read or look at.
Meanwhile, I stayed upstairs, packing a big bag, should we need to leave.
At that point, we had no idea if the basement would flood, how much rain there would be or if "all" we would get would be 90 mph winds.
So I packed three days worth of clothes, pajamas, sweatshirts for the kids and for us. Tons of extra socks. Tons of diapers for the little one. I dug out their winter boots from the attic and got together gloves and hats for everyone. Any conceivable medicine any kid might have potentially needed. And more flashlights. I'm not sure how it all fit, but all those items were stuffed into one carry-on bag. Or rather, a carry-on bag from the 1980's. Now, I'm
pretty sure all you can get onto an airplane is a backpack. Either way, it was not a huge bag, but it worked.
I'll say it again, I'm married to Mr. Safety, so perhaps this is all overkill, but I have definitely come around to Josh's way of thinking: better safe than sorry.
Having said that, I also packed another small bag with the following:
1. All our important documents. I never realized before how many we had,
including mortgage papers and passports.
2. Cash. We had gone to the bank before the storm.
3. Extra house and car keys.
4. More diapers and wipes.
5. A cell phone charger.
6. A bunch of plastic shopping bags.
We also put a case of bottled water in the car, as well as four fleece blankets. Okay, I'll admit, those blankets live there all the time, just in case (thanks Alissa - my sister-in-law in safety!) And of course, snacks. Lots of crackers and granola bars and pretzels.
Oh, and Josh backed up the computer and the laptop and took the back-up and the laptop with us.
My point here is this: we were ready. We had a plan. And we could have left at a moment's notice, should the need have come. It didn't. But we were prepared.
And so many people in evacuation zones were not prepared. Or they refused to leave.
I'm not judging at all, everyone makes their own personal calculations of which no one else is ever privy, and my heart is so sad for everyone and anyone affected in any way by the hurricane, but I do have to say that I cannot for one second imagine not leaving my house if my neighborhood had been evacuated. We would have left even if there may have been a thought that our neighborhood maybe perhaps should be evacuated.
A house is just a house. Only people can make it a home. My home is wherever Josh is. Wherever my kids are. Wherever we are, all together, is home.
*I do have to admit that there were moments of panic, for me at least. Josh laughed at me when the power went out and, well, this is how it went:
Me: oh no, how are we going to make hot cocoa in the morning? The hot water urn will be cold!
Josh: You do know we have a tea kettle, right?
Me: Oh. Yeah, okay, I'm okay now.
Anyone wanna mow our lawn for us? Josh hasn't been coming home before dark
lately and mowing in the dark sounds like something a drunk fraternity guy might
try, not a responsible husband. (Ed. note: If you are a drunk fraternity guy
looking for something to do, please come mow my lawn. You'll be fine, don't
The yard is in bad shape. And I don't just know that because the neighbors
are pointing and laughing. I know we need a good mow because when Little
T walks around in the yard, she doesn't have to bend down at all to pull a
dandelion. They're kind of at eye level. Okay, fine, she almost has to reach up to
The upside here: Using those dandelions, I've finally been able to teach her how to
blow from her mouth properly. A huge skill for a two year old.
We're hoping that the rain stops by the weekend so Josh can mow. And also
because for every five minutes it rains, I'm pretty sure the grass grows another
inch. Can you say jungle?
So just so we're all clear, this is what happens when we are derelict in our backyard duties and do not empty or cover the (very full) sandbox at the end of the summer.
Mix together some rain, a little snow, some random toys, below freezing weather and of course, the 20 pounds of sand that live in the sanbox and there you go, a frozen sandbox.
Gross. And tons of fun to clean come spring :)
Are you a Mom?
Of course you are,
your shirt is dirty :)