And you think you’ve got sleep problems?

Before the Industrial Revolution and the creation of better forms of artificial light, people had to make the most of the natural light. Which meant in bed by sunset. When I try to explain to my husband that my body simply is not strong enough to resist nature and therefore I cannot possibly help with bath and bedtime since I must be asleep by 7, he simply scoffs. History-denier!…

Sometimes as I lie awake at night, eating handfuls of melatonin gummies and resisting the urge to smother my husband for breathing too loudly, it helps me to remember one of the most important things I learned in my history PhD program: that back in the day, people slept in 2 distinct windows – 1st and 2nd sleep – which were divided by an hour or so of awake, active time in the middle of the night. So, though delicious, all those gummies are just fighting my natural circadian rhythms….

Some French medical manuals recommended that couples wishing to conceive children have sex during this between time. After they were well-rested from their 1st sleep. Oh the French! If my husband ever dared attempt this deed at 3AM, he would never get in my granny moo-moo again!…

You’ve probably heard of the “witching hour.” But did you know it was born out of this period between 1st and 2nd sleep? Since liturgical prayers stopped at night it was believed that demons had an easier time roaming free. Plus, since it was darker – and let’s face it, spookier – witches would have more freedom to do whatever it was that they did. And despite the Catholic Church banning activities between 3-4 AM in 1535, how could those naughty demons and witches be trusted?

FOOTNOTE: Roger Elkirch, At Night’s Close: Night in Times Past (2001)

The Trouble with Sushi…

Friday nights are date nights. For us, with 3 kids under 6, during a pandemic, this means we order a giant platter of sushi and eat it in front of whatever show Netflix has been telling us to watch all week. Sometimes I eat a magic gummy when the kids are in the bath and it hits me at the perfect time, usually as I start sorting out our sushi platter. Yet, I can’t figure out if this helps with my sushi OCD or amplifies it. You see, sushi, though one of my favorite foods, is riddled with complications. First and foremost, of course, is the fact that I start feeling sad about its impending disappearance as soon as I pop that 1st salty, smushy morsel in my mouth. This is a problem I seem to have with food in general – the idea that this most wonderous experience of eating must come to an end often overshadows the simple joy of the eating itself. I think this is a very Jewish phenomenon – sort of like the breaking-of-the-glass at a wedding: lest we not forget the suffering! But with sushi the mourning is heightened since there is such a finite number of pieces. With each delicious bite, you are one step closer to losing it all. So, I find myself counting down as I eat, periodically glancing over at my husband’s plate to make sure he’ll still have pieces left to donate to my sushi fund when I am done…

And then there’s the matter of sushi-piece-preparation. Not only must I go in a certain order – never would I have 2 of the same kind in a row – but each piece deserves the perfect ratio of ginger and soy sauce, which means there is a rather stressful estimation that ensues to ensure each piece receives the right amount of flavor. In the end, I am so utterly exhausted by all the sushi-induced anxiety that I have no energy left for the bedroom portion of date night.

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?