My new BFF

Y’all, I have a new best friend. We’ve never officially met, but Robin and I spend time together every day. I think we may spend more time together than my husband and I. And that has to mean something, right? I have NEVER liked to exercise. In fact, I looked down on people who claimed they work out for their mental health. Because why would you torture yourself for any other reason than for your unattainable weight goals? But Robin tells me to ask what’s right with me! And somehow I have forgiven her for looking 100x better than me in spandex, even when she’s 9 mos pregnant. Usually I dismiss cute pregnant people – clearly not my people. But with Robin it’s different. Our relationship transcends the bodily. I have joined her wolf pack, and I trust her when she looks me in the eyes and tells me she only rides with royalty. My bike may tell me 52K people have taken this ride, but I know who she is really talking to. She sees me. She tells me I deserve this time. I am worthy of self love. THAT LOVING MYSELF IS A POWERFUL ACT OF RESISTANCE! And really, loving myself seems a lot more fun than protesting down at the National Mall – it involves, after all, online shopping, bagels, and naps. Yesterday after my ride I was so flooded with endorphins I decided to send a DM to my BF. I spent much too long composing the perfect TY note. It was quite the slap in the face when I eagerly checked my inbox 20 min later only to find and automatic reply: “Robin can’t receive your msg. They don’t allow new msg requests from everyone.” If only Instagram understood the depth of our relationship. Until then, Robin, I will keep my head high, and I won’t let my crown slip.

“…and I get my ya-ya’s at IKEA” -Chandler Bing

Have you ever driven to an IKEA simply to dine in the wonderfully-decorated cafeteria? Yeah…me neither…BUT if I HAD, it was only because this food utopia was just 15 min out of the way of where we were going anyway. And the meatballs are really THAT good. And, I don’t get the appeal of Chick-fil-A. So hey – I won’t judge your conservative (any-day-but-Sunday) chicken sandwich smothered in that weird orange sauce, and you don’t judge me my IKEA meals!…

IKEA is a magical land where you can want everything and afford almost all of it. And the best news is – it may not fit into the trunk of your car, but it will certainly all fit into your blue, magic bag. AND you’ll get your workout in trying to navigate your kickass cargo cart around corners to properly follow the arrows on the floor in the warehouse. Where you will also realize that yes, your home does need faux AND real house plants and that the Swedish meatballs you enjoyed several hours ago will no longer suffice, but that’s ok because the cheapest, most delicious soft serve is just on the other side of this confusingly long checkout line…

Does anything feel more hopeful and exciting than pulling off the highway to be greeted by the majesty of the billowing red, yellow and blue flags? Who doesn’t quietly pledge allegiance to the IKEA flag as you search for parking in the epically sprawling lot?…

Once I read an article about a man who was arrested for putting down fake arrow decals on the floor of IKEA. Which is one of my favorite crimes I’ve ever heard of…

If you’ve never gotten lost in the labyrinth of IKEA and realized you were late to pick up your kid, then you have never really suffered…

Mary Poppins-esque bag: $.99 and you have luggage to last a lifetime.

NYC

I love NYC. I consider myself a Native Upper West Side Jew, even though I was born in Chicago and have only ever lived there for a summer. But my grandparents have an apartment there (it is a tiny 1st floor, beautifully decorated cave where light goes to die) so I’ve spent enough time in the city to know I prefer the bagels at Zabars over H&H (though this fine establishment is sadly a thing of the past) and that the doors on the red line at the 72nd stop open on the other side of the car. BUT – and this is a big but – I realized this past weekend while visiting the city that I could never truly live in Manhattan, for one pretty important reason: I receive way too many packages. I’m pretty sure that 1.) the other tenants in my building would ban together to kick me out after about a month’s worth of Amazon deliveries, and 2.) it’s not as if it’s affordable to live in an apartment with its own private elevator – so how would I lug all my packages up my walk-up multiple times a day? And once in my apartment, where would all the things Amazon tells me I need to purchase go? And then there’s the whole issue of all the recycling rules – there is no way I could sustain all the fines I’m sure I would accrue as a result of sheer recycling volume and my disability following directions and reading the fine print. It is for this reason, though a “native” NY-er, I will never live there…

I know this isn’t the most P.C. thing to say, but I must admit that (for me) the pandemic has done wonders for the subway system. I know, I know, the riders must return to support the infrastructure. But right now the empty cars are the subway I’ve always fantasized about. One where you always get a seat, where it is not unlikely to see staff wiping down surfaces with Clorox, and where you NEVER witness someone sneeze into their hand and then grab the rail in front of you. And, let’s be honest, don’t we all hope masks continue to be required on public transport? Think about all that sickly hot breath that will not stifle you in the summer – only your own…

If you asked me last week if there is anything more stressful than waiting for your Amtrak train track to be announced at Penn Station (it has always been like the watering hole and a perfect microcosm of survival of the fittest), I would have said no. But, you live, you learn. I now know that waiting in a mask, during a pandemic to flood into the proper gate as quickly as possible to ensure the most socially distanced seat on the train is, indeed, worse than any train situation I could heretofore
have imagined.

Seasonal Anxieties

Spring is the most confusing and conflicted season. It is all about rebirth, hope, resurrection. The flowers bloom, the birds chirp – the trees have those bright-green-almost-yellow baby leaves, which are so much better than the overgrown, humid foliage of July and August. And yet, because spring is so wonderful, I can’t help but angst about its passing. I have this unrelenting anxiety that I am not appreciating the season enough. Jean jacket weather – the perfect weather – should result in capitalizing on outdoor time. I should take my time to appreciate bulbs popping and squirrels frolicking. And yet my responsibilities don’t change seasonally. I’m still my family’s chauffeur, stuck in a car or in my kitchen, listening to Daniel Tiger in the background, which is not the same as the wind swishing in the trees. And when we are outside taking advantage of this fleeting season, I am more often than not my kids’ personal playground food truck, covered in peanut butter and goldfish, worrying about it getting too hot and missing the chance to finally teach the 6-year-old to ride his bike…

I was not prepared for seasonal allergies this year. Pollen and Covid are not happy bedfellows. I assumed spring would ease the tension in the air, but instead the cherry blossoms have turned the streets of DC into my own personal battlefield. Every sneeze and sniffle signals danger, justifying a reason to cross the street or leave the playground…

Have you heard of Brood X? The name speaks for itself. Every 17 years these giant cicadas dig their way up and emerge from the surface of the earth where they then proceed to shed their shells before they fly away and mate. The grounds of the city will be littered with their skins, creating an inescapable crunch beneath our feet wherever we go. And aren’t we lucky? 2021 is the year.

Spring Cleaning

I just spent an entire week organizing my house. Literally it is all I did for an entire week. And you would never know it. The whole process is really 1 step forward 2 steps back, so it really is possible we are in worse shape now than when we started. Because unless my kids are watching Frozen or eating cookies, they cannot help rediscovering all the items I put in donations bins (because they have gone unplayed-with for months or years), crying hysterically that their heartless mother would ever dream of throwing away the broken wing from their Super Wings plane, and then proceeding to scatter said items throughout the house, yard, and car. And, when I finally feel some progress has been made (if I can muster enough OCD-drive to not pass out after bedtime and instead finish whichever corner of the room is the closest to not giving Marie Kondo a heart attack), when I come downstairs in the morning the area once again looks like a toy store threw up. And so I think I have no choice but to institute some new house rules: toys and games are to be looked at, never touched and definitely never played with. Organized stacks of board games that I worked so hard to ensure have all their pieces are, from now on, purely decorative. And the same goes for our wardrobes – the dressers containing only clothes in the correct sizes are off limits. And if anyone messies the perfect ROYGBIV of the closets, they’ll have me to deal with…

Now that my closet is emptied of all items that no longer fit, what will possibly motivate me not to eat all the cookies all the time? It was recommended that I get rid of my “goal” pants – that a size 4 is so far off from any achievable reality I was only punishing myself by seeing them hanging there, mocking me. But without this reminder won’t my wardrobe be ever increasing in size…and, well…size?…

I would like to file an official complaint to Hasbro and other game-makers. Your products have too many pieces. They are ruining my life. Sincerely, Jessie (mother of 3)

Ice Cream

I cannot believe there are still so many places where marijuana is illegal but ice cream trucks are given free reign to stalk, torment and endanger so many lives. Children and adults alike. I don’t know about you, but weed has only ever given me happy experiences. Sure, the occasional paranoia and hangover, but they have nothing on the daily headache caused by our neighborhood ice cream truck. My children have a sixth sense for that foreboding jingle – truly its akin to the pitch of sound that only dogs can hear. No matter what fun they are having my kids always have one ear listening for that truck full of treats (and tears and tantrums). Our ice cream truck – like many the world over – makes sure to park outside of school right at 3:15 the moment the weather turns even remotely warm enough to warrant frozen treats. This means that this particular thorn in my shoe is unavoidable. And even after making a family rule that we only get ice cream truck treats on Fridays, we are plagued by other friends and families with different rules and “better moms,” as my 5-year-old told me yesterday. Now that it’s warming up, I face an ice-cream-related tantrum by at least one of my children every day. Which is why I propose we band together to form MAICT (Mothers Against Ice Cream Trucks), a group of exhausted moms who believe collective action is the only true avenue to change…

Like so many Jews before me, I seem to struggle with an undiagnosed – but no less very real and difficult – case of lactose intolerance. But it is a very specific whipped-cream-and-ice-cream GI disorder. Unfortunately, I happen to love both treats, even more so because of their dangerous aura. There have been very few times in my life where I’ve turned down this delicacy because of the preordained trauma I would suffer. I am utterly baffled by those strong-willed souls who deprive themselves of some food or another because of how it makes them feel. This is some deferred gratification that I have yet to experience.

New Babies!

Today I became an aunt. I still don’t know the little guy’s name, but I love him so much. And I must say, this was a much more pleasant birth experience than my own 3. Instead of pushing and sweating – and yes, tearing – I got to experience the joy and burst of new love from the comfort of my own home, and shower, and bed (my warrior SIL was in labor for about 24 hours). But I must say, my brother’s wife’s stoic beauty and grace through the ordeal of childbirth make me a little worried that this baby and I will not share his paternal family’s line of dramatic neuroses. But that’s okay, I love plenty of non-neurotics…like…umm…well anyway, I’m sure baby and I will get along just fine. And I have confidence that even if he’s not genetically pre-ordained for therapy, my brother will work his magic to make sure he fits in with the rest of us anxious, crazy souls…

Can I tell you something triggering? When your brother’s wife spends 24 hours in labor but the pictures of her immediately postpartum make it seem like she went for a 10 min light jog. If that. And when your whole family keeps commenting on this miraculous beauty and you know – since your nephew’s birth is of course all about you – that these are passive aggressive remarks about how impressively large and unattractive you were in her shoes…

I don’t think we talk about postpartum pooping enough. All the Colace in the world can’t take away that fear, am I right? After my 1st baby I was so scared, so torn up, and so stopped up that it took 8 days before the trauma of what I consider to be my second labor. Honestly, this bowel movement was so terrifying and painful that when I was pregnant with my subsequent babies I spent little time worrying about having the baby and instead dedicated this time to fretting about the 1st poops. Luckily, the 2nd and 3rd time around I took my Colace game very seriously…

While I do not envy all the brave mamas who have endured what is already a traumatic experience of childbirth, but during a pandemic, and while the idea of my poor SIL contracting with a mask restricting her O2 makes me have sympathy nausea, I must admit, I’m just the tiniest bit jealous that postpartum she can blame any anti-social desires on the rules of Covid. Because nothing was more awful for me than having to share my baby – and my soft postpartum body – with our entire world for the bris/naming of each child. And how lucky for them that anyone who DOES meet my nephew is automatically required to wear a mask. When I ran that idea past my husband, he wanted me to schedule extra sessions with my therapist. And my SIL can just expect everyone will use hand sanitizer before coming near her baby. I mean. How lucky is that?!

Ways my Mother Wronged Me

If I would have been taken seriously, I would have answered the question “Why do you want to be a historian?” on the application to graduate school: “because of the American Girl dolls.” Instead, I BSed my way through the application (and my PhD program, for that matter) with some nonsense or other about changing the future by knowing the past. But in all honesty, my love of history is a direct result of my time with Felicity, Kirsten, Samantha, Molly (and later Addie). You see, when I was about that age when you start noticing the injustice of your friends’ toy collections, I told my mother that what I wanted more than anything else was a ridiculously-priced doll named Samantha. Of all the AGD’s on the market at that time, Sam was by far the most glamorous. She was rich, fancy, and had the beautiful soft curls that I was certain I, too, would have when I was all grown-up. My mom agreed that I could have an AGD for my b-day, but before I chose Samantha for her looks and accessories, she said I had to read Book 1 for each of the characters. I had to get to know the personalities of the dolls before making this choice. Can you believe the nerve? Begrudgingly I slogged my way through the books, and to my horror, upon completion, had fallen in love with Felicity, a brave Patriot during the American Revolution. And I have never regretted this choice (painting her nails a bright red that could never be removed, yes). While I still wish my mom had been more like Amanda’s mom and gotten me ALL the $100+ dolls, I ended up getting my masters in early American History. So maybe my mom had been in to something. Go figure…

When I was a kid the 2 more important rules in our house were: NO SAND! And NO GLITTER! In fact, it wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned that there are people who sit directly in the sand at the beach, and believe-it-or-not, enjoy it! But my mom wasn’t a complete monster: she wasn’t going to deprive us entirely of a sandbox experience because of her own phobia. No. Instead, we had a bean box. A giant tub full of dried beans and lentils and beach toys…

When I was little and my brother and I embarked on that right of passage of childhood, running a lemonade stand, unlike other children who do so, we came out the other side in debt. You see, from some reason my mom thought it was important to teach her 4 and 7-year-olds some good business sense. So while she graciously helped us acquire the supplies we needed, she explained that after all was said and done, we would need to pay her back for the lemonade. For the use of her folding table. And, I imagine, for her sweat and tears. So, in the end, I was actually further away from buying the Barbie dream house which have been the whole impetus for the endeavor to begin with. But what I did gain was a certainty that business was not for me. And so, when I passed all the Wharton students schmoozing and day-drinking everyday in grad school, as I lugged my 50 lb backpack to the history building, dark circles under my eyes from the 600 pages I had stayed up all night to read, I would laugh at them. Because if my mom had taught me anything, it was that while life might be a slog, at the end of the day, which of us would owe UPenn hundreds of thousands of dollars?

Picking

CONFESSION: I could spend all day everyday looking at my magnified face, finding something or other to pick. My husband has many interesting hobbies – basketball, biking, hiking – and he spends much of his down time bettering himself by reading nonfiction and keeping up with current events. I, on the other hand, prefer to spend the few hours I have sans kids literally and figuratively magnifying my flaws and obsessing over my imperfections. I have sadly been blessed with good skin, which means I usually have to work hard to find things to pick and pop. Luckily, hair grows dark and thick almost everywhere on my body, so there is no shortage of things to pluck. There’s something so peaceful, so thoroughly satisfying about emptying that perfect blackhead. It is, indeed, a rare treat when my husband agrees to let me pick HIS blackheads. Now that’s true love. But when he doesn’t, and when my perfect skin isn’t cooperating with my picking needs, I have in the past resorted to pimple-popping videos on YouTube which are simultaneously the fuel for my nightmares and the realization of my fantasies…I’m just going to say it: Facials sort of suck. Basically there’s nothing a facialist (is that the right term?) can do that I couldn’t do myself. Really it’s just a glorified face wash. With lots of steam and heat and other stifling bells and whistles. The spa music is nice though. And when they tell you to strip down to what you’re comfortable in – what exactly does that mean? They provide you with a robe, but should you keep your underwear on? Probably. It’d be a red flag if a facialist wanted to massage anything in that general area. And please explain why anyone enjoys having their face wrapped in hot, wet towels? Are you telling me others DON’T worry that if the aesthetician so desired she could easily kill you? Suffocation. The perfect crime. Hard to find inner peace in this Sweeney-Todd-like scenario. And obviously that’s what those heated mitts are for: less struggle on your part when she goes in for the kill, armed with those scary tubes of hot steam…I’ve been Frida for Halloween 3-4 times. It’s the easiest costume for me to pull off. All I have to do it not “take care” of my facial hair for a week or so and, BOOM, Frida! I first realized this talent of mine while watching Salma Hayek embody this trailblazer one lonely night in high school. I’m not sure what possessed me, but I finished the movie, sat down in front of the mirror and drew in a unibrow (right where I had removed one just hours earlier). I threw on a fuchsia scarf and promptly woke my mother up to take a picture, which I’m still proud to display over my desk.

Rachel’s Favorite Art

For Rachel Yavinsky, the winner of my giveaway contest. May you enjoy a life of sexy kisses

Cassatt, 1978: Has any painting captured ennui as perfectly as Cassatt’s “Little Girl in a Blue Armchair”? This painting might as well be titled “Quarantine 2020” or “Virtual School.” While my children prefer Minecraft pajamas to frilly white dresses and fancy leather shoes for their daily scoffing, I assure you the facial expression defies time and history.

Hayez, “The Kiss,” 1859: I dare you to think of a sexier painting in all of art history. This is what a kiss should be. Dark, passionate, and just the slightest bit creepy, with mysterious shadows lurking in the background. It’s basically a painting of my morning farewells with my husband. But instead of feathers in his hair, he wears oatmeal, instead of being draped in satin, I’m covered in spit up, and that lurker in the background – those are my children, diverting my attention from what would otherwise, I’m convinced, be “il bacio” to rival this one. Though note to self: must get hubby a pair of those pointy medieval elf shoes.

Matisse, “Mother and Child,” 1950: I like to imagine that when I embrace my children they too are thinking to themselves, like the boy above must be, “where has mommy gone? She is just so darn skinny.”