Posted by Mihal Levy
Trying to explain Passover to my son seems almost worse than explaining the birds and the bees (and I already got that out of the way; seed+egg=baby. Much simpler than discussing the parting of the red sea and ten plagues.)
“So, now I have to eat matzah just because the Jews of a long time ago had no other choice. I have a choice.” This is what I was up against – five year old philosophical thinking. Of course I did the whole “we have to fight our choices sometimes” speech “and do what’s right.” Which was intercepted by my son who asked, “But, who decides what’s right? Can’t I decide?” I now felt I had no other choice than to use the “I know what’s right because I am your mother” lecture, but that is not how I roll, so I stopped stumped. What was the alternative? Break into song and dance –“Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof? But that would not suffice.
I didn’t think it would be as difficult as it was. I also didn’t think I would feel as though I was telling a fable or fairytale, instead of a truth. Me? I wanted to be a Rabbi when I was a little girl. (Not marry one, but be one.) I wanted to lead the congregation in prayer, stand at the pulpit and relate the wisdom of the Torah to our daily lives today. I taught religious school, Hebrew school and even Jewish day school in the past and it all came naturally. But telling my own son about the cruelties of the world, death of a firstborn, plagues and miraculous partings of seas suddenly felt Harry Potter-esque.
For some reason I had lost my story-telling ability and the belief behind it. I lost the little voice that told me it was all true. I even pictured Moses as a fictional character – Charleton Heston in the Ten Commandments and the parting of the Red Sea a tram ride at Universal Studios that preceded Jaws. What changed?
Even though I was feeling this way, I continued with preparations for the holiday and educating my son. We did art projects, crafts and read from the Jewish Holidays book, but he was not convinced. Maybe I was just not convincing?
I took my son to visit the Matzah Factory in the Chabad House in Los Angeles and we even baked are own Matzah. Still, nothing.
What did he need? What did I need? Had I simply lost my faith? The story of Passover played out in my mind like a three act screenplay or even a musical. (I guess it also did not help that I worked on Max Azria’s Ten Commandments Musical at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles before my son was born.)
I wasn’t sure what would be or how our seder would go, but we still had a lot of prepping to do. Would I simply go through the motions as I had until now (although I was really trying).
Would the moment of clarity come? (And of course like any three act play, it did.)
The moment or series of moments arrived as I was driving around looking for parking at our local Kosher market. The lot that was usually empty or almost full on Friday mornings (for last minute shoppers, like me), was not full. Not only was the lot full, but the metered street parking surrounding it as well. It was a Monday afternoon, not Friday morning and Passover was still a week away. Women hurriedly emerged from the market with shopping carts filled with Passover goods in preparation for the holiday. (They were really up on the house-cleaning duties. Sheesh, I was there to purchase some bread for sandwiches for the next few days, before I even began my cleaning.)
I watched in amazement as everyone was preparing. It appeared as if the celebrating had already begun. It felt good to be there, sans parking spot and all. Seeing everyone rush into shop with an almost excitement, renewed my belief in the holiday. A holiday celebrating freedom, as it was apparent at the market; people free to shop in preparation for a celebratory dinner.
I watched through my windshield as kids munched on chametz snacks, knowing they would have to do without them soon. I watched the busy moms schlep their purchases to their cars. However, I still did not get a parking spot and would’ve only had a few minutes to shop anyway between all my errands, and those minutes were now gone.
I headed home. Although grocery-less, I did come home with something - a renewed sense of the holiday. I guess it must’ve shown because my son exclaimed, “I can’t wait for Pesach,” which also renewed my faith in Judaism, as well as my story-telling abilities after all.
Chag Sameach! Happy Passover!
4.17.11 at 8:49 pm | Trying to explain Passover to my son seems almost. . .
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March 21, 2011 | 3:37 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
I don’t usually quit anything, but when it comes to mommy groups I guess you can say I may be a quitter after all. Read my full story here: Kveller.com Kveller; A Jewish Twist On Parenting
January 19, 2011 | 8:12 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
A shooting in Woodland Hills? Couldn’t be? Shootings don’t happen there. Don’t they only happen in bad neighborhoods like Brentwood, last time I checked? I was shocked to find out that there was a shooting in Woodland Hills, and of all places, my high school. Well, even though it has been a while, I can still call it MY highschool, can’t I?
In all the years I lived in Woodland Hills growing up, O.K., West Hills, on the outskirts of Woodland Hills, or as others called it, the other side of Victory (as in the street, not triumph), the most traumatic thing that ever happened in that neighborhood was that the McDonald’s playground was stolen by some hoodlums, also known as my senior class, and other than that, maybe the closing down of our favorite yogurt place Penguins in Platt Village, back when frozen yogurt was cool. (Oh, wait, it is cool again. Only now you get to fill up the containers and top them yourself. I missed out.) So, you can imagine how shocked I was to hear about a shooting there. ( I have since graduated and moved far away – another part of Los Angeles county.)
A few years after I graduated, they installed metal detectors. Even that was cause for concern. “Was my old high school becoming a satellite site for LAX passengers now?” I thought. In fact, it was to prevent children from bringing guns to school. Guns? The only things the students in my class ever brought to school were the brand new cars their father’s bought them or their frequent flyer cards to the local tanning salon. Apparently the suspect of this afternoon’s shooting was not after the students’ frequent flyer cards, but the cars in the lot. At least it wasn’t a fellow ECRian. (El Camino Real –ian). After fifteen years of winning academic decathlons, you know they had better things in mind than carrying guns to school, more like sharpened #2 pencils, instead.
All jokes aside, school police no longer wander the halls in hopes of catching teens with cigarettes. It’s now drugs and weapons, what a shame. I still have to blame it on lack of after school programs, uninvolved parents and early curfews (because caging in children after a certain hour should tame them, instead of making them want to purposely ransack neighborhoods or invest in weapons, right? Wrong!), but that is a whole other Oprah.
Perhaps LAUSD needs to think about what exactly is making teens tick, why are parents uninvolved and why would a suspect decide to steal a car from a high school parking lot in broad daylight when there are plenty of other choices. (Didn’t he know that chances are most of the cars probably belonged to the teachers. And last time I checked, teachers weren’t paid well enough to afford sassy wheels.)
So to my fellow Conquistadores (ECR’s mascot – a Conquistador, of course), I’m glad all of you are safe and were able to tweet information from inside the lockdown on your smart phones safely. (Times have really changed.) Stay safe, keep winning the academic decathlon, keep arriving early to school so that you can park your new cars on the upper lot where everyone can see them, and respect the authorities that keep you safe. Remember it is not so bad that there is an early curfew in Platt Village, there is not that much to do there anyway. Before you know it, you will be giving yourself an early curfew and in bed with your own children wishing you actually wanted to stay out late. I’m just sayin’…
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January 17, 2011 | 4:20 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
I was back at Chuck E. Cheese’s again this past weekend. I guess I can not get enough of that place. (See recent story: Chuck E. Cheeses: Table For One) However, this time I was not alone. I was with my son, the paparazzi, and a famous family.
We were invited to a birthday party for one of my son’s friends. I had never been to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese’s before (even as a child). And since my son and I don’t eat there we were really there for the fun and games. So, while everyone was eating pizza and cake (at the party we were invited to and the five other parties happening simultaneiously), my son and I hit the games. Before I could cash in another $5 worth of tokens, my son would run off and spend it.
Just as we were running out of tokens and cash, I noticed a series of flashes going off everywhere. The birthday partying was overwhelming. Why were people running every which way with cameras? Wasn’t the place busy enough with the kids running around? Did we need the overzealous parents and grandparents adding to the chaos? As it turns out, I was wrong. Although the parents were indeed the ones taking the pictures, it was not of there kids, but a famous family, apparently. My son and I were too involved in Dance Dance Revolution to notice at the time.
Then just as my son inserted his umpteenth token into the next game - a flying popcorn adventure of sorts, another kid jumped in front of him and grabbed the controller out of his hands. Where was his mother? My son kindly (well, almost) grabbed the controller back and said to the boy, who appeared to be the same age. “I was here first, so you can play when I am done.” The boy was unhappy, but waited. Again, the mother was nowhere in sight. The boys began playing together instead of taking turns, and on our token nonetheless. The boy was clad in skinny rocker jeans, a mohawk and bright blue nail polish. “I like your nail polish,” my son commented, “my mommy doesn’t let me wear nailpolish.” (Although I was not opposed to blue nailpolish, as I had been wearing it myself, or guyliner for that matter. I just thought at four years old, it may not be a good idea. But that was just my opinion.) The boys played nicely together. They looked like they could form a mini rock band together. He, with a mohawk and skinny jeans. My son, with long (as my hubby and I call it - “Rob Thomas Hair”), a white tee, jeans and skateboarding shoes.
Finally the mom approached. We smiled at each other and said our hellos. Of course it took a moment for my brain to register who she actually was. (This always happens to me. For some reason I have a delayed response to knowing just who someone is right in front of me. I guess you could say I am kind of slow with these things.) But after my brain caught up, I realized that, in fact, it was not a Gwen Stefani look alike, but Gwen herself, duh! Of course now I did not know exactly what to say, but kept my cool somehow. She was pretty, nice and extremely down to earth. What do you say to someone who just makes moms everywhere look so cool? I wanted to say, “I have all of your CDs at home and kicked myself when my friend had an extra ticket to your Harajuku Lovers Tour in 2005, that I wasn’t able to attend.” There would have been uncomfortable silence, had it been silent at Chuck E’s. “Whatcha waiting for?”, I thought. And then it just came out, “I love your work.” I love your work? That was all I had? She smiled. We stood alongside our boys and chatted as they played. We commented on how nicely they were playing together and chatted a bit before my son was off to another game. The boys said goodbye to each other. They truly had a good time. As did I.
As we were leaving, I spotted Gwen again, (apparently her husband, Gavin Rossdale, younger son Zuma and nanny were there as well) Do I give her my number for a future play date at Chuck E.‘s? Before I could wrap my brain around it all or even hear myself think through all the noise. They were gone, dodging the real paparazzi outside. I felt bad for them since dodging the children indoors was chaotic enough.
Chuck E. Cheese’s now seemed just a bit better than the ho-hum generic brithday party factory that it actually was. Cool moms do go to Chuck E. Cheese’s. That just made me feel a little bit cooler.
December 30, 2010 | 1:40 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
It is funny how I usually don’t have enough time to myself, but when I do, I don’t know what to do. (Catch up on sleep, emails, cleaning, chores or something fun for myself?) But of all things, Chuck E. Cheese’s ended up not being a bad idea for a mommy’s day off.
I am starting to think that I have forgotten what it is that adults do for fun. A fun day in for me has became a day of Lego building and homeschool projects with my son. A fun day out is trips to the Lego store or homeschool outings, errands and chores. You can see why I have forgotten what I am “supposed” to do.
Yesterday I got a few hours to myself. And what I mean by “got” is that my husband was home for a few hours before he headed out to a session (music, not therapy). I had the choice of “me” time or family time. The choice was a difificult one, but I was on my way out in no time, showerless and in sweats and pseudo-Uggs. (I slept in the sweats, sans Uggs, but don’t tell anyone.) I didn’t want to waste any time.
Once I got in the car, the decision of where to go was not as easy as the actual decision to abandon my family. I put the key in the ignition and let the car lead the way. Unfortunately, my car must have gotten used to errands and chores, because my first stop was the library. I decided to pick up some books and educational DVDs for my son . I might as well do something for my son too, I thought. It can’t be just about me.
After the library, I started thinking of all the things I should probably pick up for home. Napkins, toilet paper, dishwashing liquid. I might as well get that out of the way before I start my “me” day, I thought. I ended up driving around just to listen to my music in the car and not some band that ended in “bops” or songs sung by children for a change. It was nice to listen to a song that had a long guitar solo and a double bass drum sound for a change. I drove around and ended up in a shopping center with a Kmart, a Chuck E. Cheese’s and a Henry’s right across the street. Perfect, I thought. I will just quickly grab some things at Kmart. (I never go to Kmart - I felt like I was cheating on Target, but it worked.) I realized I had no patience in Kmart with all the after X-mas sale mess, and decided to just grab the necesseties in the “cleaning products” section. (What fun!) But not forgetting a small Hot Wheels car and some new washable recycled plastic crayola markers for my son.
At the register, I thought, now I can start my “me” day. But where will I go? Well, since I was already across the street from Henry’s, maybe I could just get grocery shopping out of the way. But then I would have to hurry home with the perishables? After all , this was “my” day. While my thoughts were racing (as they usually do), I remembered Chuck E. Cheese’s next door to Kmart. I’ll just run in there quickly to stop in and use the restroom (since Kmart’s was out of order) and maybe even pick up a drink. (It’s the only place I know that sells caffeine-free Diet Coke - I know this from the endless birthday parties we have been to there; too bad the pizza wasn’t vegan, because I may actually have eaten there as well.)
I entered through the gates of Chuck E. Cheese’s. The woman at the door was preparing to stamp my hand. (For those that have never been, Chuck E. Cheese’s stamps your hand and your child(ren)‘s hand(s) when you enter with the same number, so that when you are exiting, they make sure you are leaving with your own children and not someone else’s. I guess that theory may have been tempting to some mothers. A trade in?) So first the woman looked at me, looked down and then behind me, for a sign of any little people with me. “Alone?” she asked.
I said, “Yes,” and felt I needed an excuse for entering Chuck E. Cheese’s. “I am just grabbing a Diet Coke,” I said in my defense.
She let me in, childless and stampless.
Chuck E. Cheese’s was crowded and noisy. I started to miss my son. It had been at least a couple of hours at this point since I saw him. I felt bad now that I had not brought him with me. They had new games, even Guitar Hero. (Not that I was looking, but I spotted them on my way to the restroom.) The mother guilt kicked in.
After the restroom, I checked the self-serve soda machine. Yes, they had caffeine-free Diet Coke. I must have cheered loudly, because the mother next to me refilling her child’s fruit punch looked at me and giggled - or maybe it was just my paranoia kicking in.
I lined up behind the children holding dollar bills waiting for their buckets o’ tokens. It was my turn. I purchsed one soft drink excitedly. After I paid, the cashier handed me my empty cup and explained that just so I know, the Diet Coke is out of order. “The what?” I asked, clearly upset. “Do you mean the regular Diet Coke (I was hoping he would say yes) or the caffeine-free Diet Coke?” And of course, it was the caffeine-free Diet Coke, a.k.a. the only “me” thing I had done today besides using the restroom. Oh, and buying dishwashing liquid for my home.
As it turns out, it would be fixed in fifteen minutes or so. I figured at this point, where would I go? I still wanted to get to Henry’s across the street and I hadn’t even eaten breakfast; it was now lunch time. So, I ordered a salad bar and figured it would not be so bad to actually sit down for a bit (in a crowded, noisy kid-filled small-space play room that smelled like pizza and lit matches from the simultaneous birthday parties happening there).
I loaded my salad plate with veggies and fruit and waited for the caffeine-free-Diet-Coke-fixer-uppper to arrive. I took a seat next to the soda machine so that I could keep an eye on it. I only drink water, tea, and on rare occasions, chocolate almond milk. Clearly, I HAD TO wait for my caffeine-free fix.
And halfway through my salad (or plate of fruits and veggies), he appeared. In his red and black striped suit and matching baseball cap, there was my knight in shining armor (with his tool belt and artificially flavored syrup in tow). I waited anxiously, staring over at him. He was done. I headed over to the machine and filled up my cup. It wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be, but it was cold and did the job.
I finished my salad and decided that I was Chuck E. Cheesed out. (And I wasn’t even running after my son and his bag of tokens this time.) I looked down at my watch. It was almost time to return home. I had just enough time for a quick trip across the street to Henry’s. Perfect!
I waited in line again behind two families as their numbers were being checked under a black light to ensure there were no child trade-ins. All clear! I was up. The woman looked at me. I smiled. “No children today” I said, embarassed.
“No stamp!” I said proudly. (Something about numbers being stamped on my arm that I don’t relate to well, go figure.)
She gave me a weird look (or maybe my paranoia kicked in again); I was released!
I made it home with a car full of groceries, library books and cleaning supplies with barely enough time before my husband had to leave. My son was thrilled with the library books, markers and toy car. I realized that “me” days are overrated and it is the little things that I do for my family with just a few
caffeine-free Diet Cokes in between that make me happy. The definition of “me” has definitely changed since the birth of my son and it’s the little reminders along the way that let me know that it is ok and I am really not “missing out,” but missing him when I am not with him.
December 27, 2010 | 6:12 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
After a time of pirouettes and pointe shoes, Black Swan’s leading lady and her onset dance coach Benjamin Millepied have something else keeping them on their toes; a bun in the oven.
People magazine announced that Portman and Millepied are engaged and expecting their first child together. (And to think, some of us only got a ring.)
I have always had great respect for Portman in keeping her private life, well…private, as well as staying out of weekly gossip magazines. But a pregnancy would have to be known sooner or later. Portman explained to EW.com, “I have always kept my private life private but I will say that I am indescribably happy and feel very grateful to have this experience.”
A few months ago, Portman was still not ready to let her secret out. In a mid-November interview with the Los Angeles Times, after the premiere of Black Swan, Portman explained that she probably had a case of “food poisoning.” She stated, “Yesterday, I was on the red carpet like, ‘Please don’t throw up.’ I went home after the red carpet last night and had a saltine and applesauce and was, like, asleep by 10.” (And that did not make it into the tabloids? Was no one curious?)
With all due respect, Natalie Portman is a brilliant actress and has a great year ahead of her. Mazal Tov to both you and Benjamin! “Be Shaa Tova!” And from one mother to another mother (to-be), I hope you take home an Oscar, but know that there is no greater accomplishment than the award you are already carrying. (But I am sure you already knew that.)
December 25, 2010 | 12:24 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
With all the hype over Xmas, what is a Jew to do today? How about joining the celebration? Why not? After all JC was Jewish.
Here are five ways to celebrate:
1) Red Box your day. (For the cost of a soft drink at a vending machine, you can get a movie. How can you go wrong? At $1, even if the movie is a flop, you didn’t lose much but the fact that maybe you should have gotten a Coke Zero instead.)
2) Have a faux party. No tree, no ham, but plenty of food and gifts. Why not?
3) Plan for date night with your significant other. A movie? Like everyone else.
4) Write your after Xmas list for Santa (or a list of discounted items you will pick up on Sunday).
5) Order in. Chinese food? Nah. Indian food. And bring out the dreidels. The game of dreidel is fun any time. (Use stale gelt as prizes or gumdrops from the gingerbread house you didn’t build.) After all “a miracle happened there” didn’t it?
Merry December 25th to all…however you choose to celebrate it.
December 23, 2010 | 12:50 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
While everyone was at the mall shopping for Christmas gifts, I was there with my son shopping for a gift for a bris we were going to the next day. You might have seen me with my son. He was the one yelling at Santa to stop wishing us a Merry Christmas every time we passed by the gigantor Christmas tree, but Santa would not quit.
We must have passed Santa at least four times going back and forth between children’s clothing stores to find the perfect bris gift. Each time we passed Santa, he would get up out of his seat, walk toward my son, and cheer a jolly “Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas, little boy.” I just smiled and wished Santa a Merry Christmas back. My son nodded and waved as well.
Then the question came. My son asked, “Is Santa yucky, Mommy?” In this case, Santa was yucky - and a little perverted, I might add. He seemed to have his beard on lopsided and was a little overjoyed every time a woman in a short skirt or jeggings (a combination of leggings and jeans) would walk by. He would stare at them from head to toe and wish them a Merry Christmas in a “How YOU doin’?” tone. The mall wasn’t very crowded and Santa was single, I assume. Or maybe things weren’t so good at home with Mrs. Claus - what was poor Santa to do?
I told my son that Santa was not yucky, but that he was just saying hello to us. I told my son we should also wish Santa a Merry Christmas. My son agreed and shouted out to Santa as we passed, “Merry Christmas because you celebrate it, we don’t.” Not my intention, but it worked.
I decided to finally settle for a couple of outfits and a gift card at Baby Gap to avoid passing Santa any more, as well as the crowds that were now forming in the mall.
My son picked out a cute striped onesie, while I chose a red and grey fleece onesie. “Perfect,” I thought.
We got the gifts and headed back toward our car. I was hoping this time as we passed Santa that he would be so busy checking out the ladies or in the midst of a photo-op that he wouldn’t notice us. No such luck. Santa waved to us as we passed.
We waved and were almost home free, until Santa yelled out. “Looks like you got a gift in that bag, kiddo. What did you get for Christmas?” Santa was clearly bored and we were there to entertain him, apparently.
My son yelled out, “We don’t celebrate Christmas!”
But Santa continued, “Yeah, then what’s the gift for?” Now Santa was just plain nosey.
I couldn’t help it. I replied, “For Brismas!”
He appeared confused. My son laughed, although I am not entirely sure whether he got it or just thought it was funny that Mommy answered Santa.
We got home and I went to wrap the two outfits we had purchased for Brismas. The first was cute. The one my son chose. But then I noticed the second one had devil’s horns attached to the hood, which I hadn’t noticed in the store. I could not possibly give this as a present. Now I would have to go back and exchange the little devil onesie and deal with the crowds and Santa again. That’s what I get for talking back to Santa. I am not even sure the horns were attached when I picked it up at the store. Hmmm. One has to wonder. Thanks, Santa.