Raising Houdini


Duct TapeMy son is going on a class trip to Washington, D.C., and I am worried.

My own eighth grade trip to Washington was unforgettable.  Nightly, boys snuck into girls’ rooms, and kids, giddy with freedom, stole into the streets of D.C. in search of excitement and Doritos.

I want my son to have fun, but not that much fun.

Trying to reassure me, my son’s teacher said they tape the outside of the kids’ hotel Continue reading

Teacher’s Pet

My in-laws have found a gem of a letter from my husband’s 2nd grade teacher:

Dear Mrs. M:

Your son’s behavior has been poor the past several weeks.  He seems to do exactly as he wishes (with the “he” underlined TWICE).  Daily he needs to be reminded not to sit with his back to the board.  Today he left the area and went to the restroom without permission.  Please speak with him.

Thank you,
Mrs. L

P.S.  Sign and return.

I wrote her back:

Dear Mrs. L:

It’s been approximately 40 years since you wrote my mother-in-law a letter about my husband’s poor behavior in 2nd grade, and I thought you’d like to know how he turned out.

First, and most glaring of all, he still goes to the restroom without permission!  I keep telling him that he needs to tell me if he wants to go to the restroom, but it’s like you said: He does exactly as he wishes, and when he has to go to the restroom, he goes!   Also, he doesn’t always face in the direction that I want him to.  For example, I would like him to turn around and look at me, but he keeps his back to me, toward his computer approximately 100% of the time. I know you feel my pain.

Even though your letter home seems to have been completely ineffective at changing his behavior, I am glad you wrote.  I will keep the letter as a reminder that a kid can be a complete pain in the ass, and still grow up to be a doctor and, eventually, hopefully, someone else’s pain in the ass.

Thank you.

P.S.  Sign and return.

Mitzvah Planning Advice

I want to be helpful to my friends who are nervous about planning their kids’ Bar or Bat Mitzvah, so here’s some advice:

  • First, make a to do list. For item #1, put a check box and write, “Procrastinate”. This way you can feel good that you are able to check one thing off your list.
  • Also, when you copy one of those planning templates into your own to do list, wherever it says, “1 year before event”, “6 months before”, or “3 months before”, just go ahead and change all those to, “Now would be as good a time as any”. That way if it’s a month and a half before the event and you haven’t done the things you were supposed to have done months before, it won’t increase your anxiety.
  • Most importantly, remember that the people who write these to do lists are masochists. So don’t buy into the idea that you’re a loser because you don’t think it’s great family fun to shop for shoes for a kid with narrow heels who doesn’t want a strap on her shoe. Because it’s not.
  • Don’t remodel when you’re planning a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. It’s not like having your deviated septum straightened while you’re under anesthesia anyway getting your tonsils out, which might be a good idea. It’s more like giving birth without an epidural while being attacked by a swarm of wasps.  There’s no escape.

I’m going to be sharing more of my good ideas, so stay tuned.

The Pizza Fits in the Oven!

For at least a decade and a half, my husband and I have had “the pizza fits in the oven” argument.

Years ago, I would buy a particular pizza and make it in the toaster oven.  When my husband went to make it one day, he wasn’t sure it would fit in the toaster oven. I said, “The pizza fits in the oven,” and assured him I’d made it that way many times. Well, before preheating the toaster oven, my faithless husband took the plastic-wrapped pizza and put it in just to check that the pizza, in fact, fit in the oven.

Do you see the problem with this????  Women, I know you’re right here with me.  To Continue reading


Parents are people with no education, training, or experience, who are not certified or licensed, practicing outside their area of competency.  At best, if we are lucky, after a few years we will get a trophy of participation.

When I was young and naïve, I used to think I knew a thing or two about parenting, which seemed to be a couple things more than the parents I judged via their kids’ Continue reading

Letters to my son while we are apart in Israel

4/21/17 – Day 1

I miss you 😘 Grandpa keeps asking me where you are. I showed him the photo posted of you on the donkey and he said, “which one’s the ass?!” Then 3 minutes later he asked me where you were again, so I said, “Where is he??” and he said, “On an ass!” He remembered!  So I’m doing an experiment to see if bad words help his memory. Stay tuned. Continue reading

Laundry skills

I have a kid who has difficulty mastering laundry skills. Teaching him has been an exercise in futility and a window into the absurd.  I’ve learned a lot along the way to nowhere.

For example, I learned that if I tell him, “Take the clothes out of the washing machine and put them in the dryer,” I better clarify, “after the washing machine has stopped running.” Apparently, the locking mechanism that keeps someone from opening a front-loading washer and flooding the laundry room during the washing cycle is no match for the product of a one-night stand between Amelia Bedelia and Houdini.

We hang a lot of damp clothes because ironing is against our religion.  It boggles my mind how many ways my son has found to botch this up.  Clothes that were supposed to be hung damp have been dried beyond completion, Continue reading

Health insurance advice

As a public service, I’d like to explain a few commonly used health insurance terms. The term “allowed amount” is a euphemism for “whatever we want”. The “allowed amount” is a value you will never know in advance, understand in hindsight, or be able to use to predict future bills.  This holds true even if you a masochist who thoroughly scrutinizes your “EOB,” which stands for “Explanation My A$$,” because it explains nothing and makes sense to no one, ever.  If you don’t believe me, try calling the billing department, who also doesn’t understand it and will not be able to tell you what amount you will have to pay next time, other than X% of the whatever-we-feel-like-it allowed amount.  Do not fall prey to reason and think that a physical therapy appointment will cost approximately the same amount each visit, or that it surely would never be billed for 3 times the amount an MRI of your brain, because you will be wrong.  In no other realm would a fiscally responsible person ever agree to pay a percentage of an unknown amount.  But I suggest you just go with it if you don’t want to spend 50% of your allowed amount of time on earth on the phone to nowhere.


As I’ve already passed my half-century birthday, I’ve decided to adopt some new policies about how I live the rest of my life, including:

  • I am not going to follow all the rules. To quote a song, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”
  • I’m denouncing the American way of putting commas and periods inside
    quotation marks no matter what. The British way of putting them inside only if Continue reading

Ready or not

I’m doing this all wrong and I know it.  This blog is not ready to be a non-secret blog that people actually know exists.  Here are some reasons I should delay publicizing it:

  • I should have amassed a bunch of posts, ready to go, so there’s not a delay between posts.  I have amassed nothing.
  • I never got to the point of really understanding WordPress (i.e., understanding it at all), and there were such long periods of time between posts that I would forget everything I had learned. If my common core math calculations are correct, I actually may know less than nothing about WordPress now.
  • I shouldn’t have dead fish as my header image.  As my husband pointed out here, having a dead fish header is just plain weird.  I should have learned how to replace my header with a different image, but now I can’t even remember how I got that image there in the first place.
  • (Insert a bunch more valid reasons to delay here…)

Here’s why I’m doing this anyway:

  • Tomorrow is my birthday and, after half a century, I can’t think of a better time to take this step toward the edge of my comfort zone.