Posted by Mihal Levy
To trick or treat, that is the question…and one of the biggest Jewish dilemmas. Do we celebrate Halloween? Do we let our children celebrate it?
I remember this dilemma when my brother and I were little. One year we would be allowed to celebrate it, the next year our parents would get Jewy on us and we weren’t allowed. When we got older, I think my brother and I celebrated it in spite of our parents (well, at least I did, anyway).
When I became too old for trick or treating, I made sure to find a party to go to. I just hope my son doesn’t have the same reaction in his adolescent years towards me, as I question this holiday. It is a little spooky, I must admit. We have even avoided Universal Studios (with our annual pass) for the past month due to all the cadavers hanging around, sawed off body parts and whatever else is lurking there, just not to give my son nightmares (or myself). What’s so fun about witches, ghosts, and skeletons? I know - the candy.
So, when we were actually allowed to celebrate Halloween at my folks’, when they were in their paganism-is-O.K.-for-our-children mood (or when they were less Jewy), they would take my brother and I to Toys ‘R’ Us (for some reason we always bought our costumes there) and let us choose our “unscary” costumes. I remember I chose Holly Hobbie (this was long before the era of Hannah Montana). We didn’t have many choices; it was Holly Hobbie or some superhero, and I didn’t want to wear my Underoos (superhero underwear) out in public. I can’t remember what my brother was that year…probably a superhero. So, we got our costumes and huge Costco-like sacs o’ candy, enough to feed a small country.
On Halloween night, we would dress up in our costumes and wear them in the comfort of our own home, as we greeted the other children at the door trick or treating. Even though we were just kids ourselves, we actually had to “work” that night. We did get to eat our own candy as well, so that was a major perk, without the door-hopping. My mom’s excuse for not allowing the door-hopping was always, “Why do you have to go begging for candy, I’ll buy you all the candy you want, it’s safer.”
And the guilt still lingers…thanks, Mom. Do I let my son “beg” for candy this year? But, just for the record, my brother and I did trick-or-treat one year. We lived in a condominium complex and were only allowed to trick or treat at our friends’ homes. I think that made a total of three.
The following year, the trend of slipping razor blades in childrens’ candy was quite popular, so we were never allowed to trick or treat again. “But Mom, why would our neighbors put razor blades in our candy?” I don’t remember her answer, but I am sure she had one.
In spite of all of Mom’s warnings, I took my son trick or treating in the mall last year; he was a little guy and I could dress him anyway I wanted to (this year he chose what he wanted), and it was cute. It was probably more for me then it was for him. The whole time there, I couldn’t help but think that Macy’s or the Gap may have put razor blades in my son’s candy. Phew, we were safe. There weren’t any…last year, anyway.
This year, we are going to a party and I am still pondering the trick or treating at the mall part. Regardless, I can’t say that I’m really into this holiday. It is a little too creepy for my taste…or maybe that is just the way I was programmed.
And just today, my mom asked if I am going to take my son trick or treating. I told her I was still unsure. She responded, “Why does he have to run around for candy? I’ll just bring him some.” The quote may have changed, but the sentiment stayed the same.
And I responded, “That’s ok, I already bought him a bag.”
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October 27, 2009 | 3:29 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
If you are like me, clutter can become a staple in your home if you are not on top of it, and it makes cleaning that much harder when there is so much stuff around. So instead of throwing it all away (which I often feel like doing), organize it. Sounds simple enough right? But we all know it is not.
I am always on the lookout for great pointers and quick tips on organizing. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’m a Virgo and we have the need to organize, (or as others call it, control things). I like to call it organizing. I have found these fifteen tips for organizing, cleaning and just something to do with those household items you have laying around. (Taken from the latest issue of Good Housekeeping and Real Simple and some ideas just passed on from friends.)
1) Use an empty tissue box to store plastic shopping bags in. (I love this one, even though I try not to get plastic bags from the market too often. They seem to collect. This has been a great way to organize them and reuse. Now I just store it in a top drawer in my kitchen.)
2) Taking necklaces on a trip? Lay them out on bubble wrap, roll up and tape closed. When you get to your destination, they will be tangle free.
3) Use a binder clip to display some of those unframed pictures you have laying around. Just place the picture in the clip and place on a table.
4) Use an ice cube tray to store your earrings, rings or small items in a drawer (not the freezer).
5) Rub an unused dryer sheet on bath tiles and glass shower doors to remove soap scum and rinse.
6) Having friends over for drinks and don’t want to lose track of who was drinking from which glass? Place removable window decals on each glass, so guests can remember which one was theirs.
7) To deodorize a lunchbox or thermos, ball up a piece of newspaper and place it inside the item overnight.
8) Line a fruit/vegetable drawer in the refrigerator with newspaper to keep it dry and free of smells.
9) Organize DVDs in a CD storage notebook (like Case Logic), recycle the actual DVD cases and save the insert, so that you can file it with the DVD and have an organized way of finding each DVD. (I did this with my son’s DVD collections and he can easily find what he wants to watch and puts them back after he is done. All the DVDs are in one place and organized.)
10) When you are painting doors, use aluminum foil to cover door handles. Remove after painting.
11) Use a drop of Olive Oil on a cotton swab to remove eye make up and rinse with a warm cloth.
12) Use baby wipes with Aloe and Vitamin E to remove make up. (Works great and less expensive than make up wipes. I have been using them since I have had baby wipes around.)
13) If a screw falls off your glasses, use an earring as a temporary fix with the backing as well.
14) Use shower curtain hooks to hand over your closet rod for belts and purses.
15) Have left over wine? Freeze it in an ice cube tray for later use in recipes or in juice or club soda for a quick “mixed” drink.
I haven’t tried all of these, so let me know what you think if you have put any of these to use. Any other ideas? Leave me a comment.
October 26, 2009 | 8:17 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
What do you get when you combine star-studded style, the media and green carpet? No, not America’s Next Top Model on Astroturf, but the Environmental Media Awards. There were no styrofoam containers, plastic bags or even hairspray aerosol cans at this event; just Hollywood elite, environmentalists and members of the media who pulled up in their hybrids and dawned eco-friendly attire for a cause: to save Mother Earth.
And there I was, wishing I had a hybrid to pull up in as well, but who was watching me, anyway? I was safe. This was my second time attending the EMAs (my first time was last year), and I have to say that this year, the turnout and earnestness of the event was impressive.
Stars were there to spread the message to the youth. Finola Hughes (General Hospital) explained that she felt it was important to educate other moms on ways to do our part and the importance of passing it down to our children. There were also young actors like Kevin McHale (Glee), who was there to “spread the word” to teens and the new Glee followers, or “Gleeks” (Glee Geeks) as they have come to be known.
I couldn’t agree more that we must set an example for our little ones and big ones alike. I make an effort to point out little things to my son whenever I can. For instance, I try to teach my son to make it a habit of turning off the water while he brushes his teeth. Even the infamous purple dinosaur Barney advocates this in his song “Brushing My Teeth.” Thanks, Barney. (Great, now the lyrics are stuck in my head: “We never let the water run…never let the water run.”
As much as it has been said over and over and over again, it is important to start with the little things, like conserving water, recycling and just taking an extra few seconds to stop and think about what we are doing to help. And of course our children learn by example, so setting a good one is important. I have realized it is not enough that I buy reusable shopping bags and keep them in the trunk of my car; I actually need to use them more often.
And since Hollywood has gone green, maybe the rest of the world will follow.
October 23, 2009 | 2:00 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
While rummaging through mommy magazines at the check out aisles, I began to notice there were a lot of articles about ways moms relax. Most of these articles suggested spa retreats, weekend getaways and guided meditation classes.
These all sounded great on paper, but what moms were they talking about, and how were they getting all this time away in the first place?
I decided to find out for myself what other moms were really doing to unwind (perhaps I was missing something) and decided to ask the experts: my friends and colleagues.
I surveyed over fifty moms asking how they relaxed at the end of the day and came up with a list comprised of their answers.
It was more difficult than I thought, since at first their responses included statements such as “Is this a joke?” or “Relax, what does that mean?” or even “I think I relaxed one day last week when my shower lasted over ten minutes.”
Then, finally, the list:
1) Cleaning, dusting and dishes. No joke. Many moms found this to be relaxing. I even read a recent interview with Jennie Garth who said she enjoyed cleaning things. I wish this worked for me. I can’t imagine just how relaxed I would be most of the time, in fact.
2) Cooking. Some even enjoyed drinking a glass of wine while cooking. These moms found cooking to be an escape and creative outlet. They looked forward to cooking up dinner every night.
3) T.V./Tivo. Moms explained that they “caught up” on their shows.
4) Manicure-Pedicure. Many moms said they looked forward to relaxing on the weekend and “getting away” for a manicure/pedicure. My take on the mani-pedi is a do-it-yourself version with 30-second quick dry nail polish. That way I can do it anywhere and anytime.
5) Shower/bath. This was a popular one, since some days a shower can be overlooked until the end of the day. The verdict is in: moms looked forward to showers with the door closed that lasted over ten minutes.
6) For married moms: Time with hubby after the kids are asleep. Time to catch up, clean up, eat, discuss bills, to do lists, T.V. or a movie and zzzzzzzzz. (Perhaps something before the latter, as well)
7) Internet, Facebook and video games. Bejeweled and Sudoku were popular ones.
8) Mediation and Yoga.
9) Listening to music on an iPod.
10) A good book.
I did discover something new after surveying other moms. I discovered that we are all very much alike and that I am not the only one who doesn’t shower often. (Wait, did I just write that?)
October 21, 2009 | 3:15 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
A couple of days ago, my son found out that strawberries and raspberries do not come from Trader Joe’s, but a farm, in fact. Well, he knew that, but never really saw it in person until our visit to farmland.
I grabbed my family and we headed out west to the country…that’s right, Moorpark - to Underwood Family Farms (and no, they don’t grow families there). With a less than one-hour drive outside of Los Angeles (six or seven hours in traffic), we got there.
For a $3 entrance fee per person (during the week), you are welcome to grab a wagon, throw your belongings and your child in it and haul it through the fields. So we did.
The farm was beautiful and immaculate – and much cheaper and cleaner than the Tree House Social Club indoor playground I went to (see my earlier post).
We were overwhelmed with the amount of things to see and do (we don’t get out much). Since we were there during their Harvest Festival, which continues until November 1st, there were a variety of pumpkins you could pick and every type of squash you could imagine.
There was also an animal area where you could feed chickens and a play area for kids with tunnels to run through and haystacks to climb.
After my son loaded the wagon with just about every squash and baby pumpkin around and I unloaded it (even though $1 each was a great price, what would I do with $50 worth of squash?), we headed to the strawberry fields. Did the Beatles have this particular one in mind when they came up their lyrics? Just wondering.
We had a great time picking the strawberries and loading our empty cartons. According to Underwood Family Farm rules, we were allowed to sample the fruit as long as we “don’t make a lunch out of it,” but we decided to fill our cartons and pay on our way out. Apparently the Joneses picking alongside us had a very different definition of what “lunch” actually meant, as they kept sampling and sampling and sampling and sampling, but oddly their carton was empty.
We moved on from strawberry picking to raspberries and filled our cartons.
We pulled our wagon to the exit and had our pickings weighed. Fifteen dollars for cartons full of strawberries and raspberries, three pumpkins, dried Indian corn, a funky shaped squash that my son really wanted, and loads of fun. We are definitely going back there soon. It was a great time had by all and it got my son to eat more fruit…for a little while anyway.
October 20, 2009 | 1:45 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
I’m living the single life again…vicariously through my friends. Just for the record, I’m still married…happily married.
As of recent, I have become the go-to person for advice on love and dating. Although I am flattered, I can hardly say I’m an expert. It seems as though single friends look at their married friends as heroes. If she did it, so can I, right? And married women look at their single friends as a reminder of the days that they are glad are far behind them, but have to admit it was fun, now looking back in retrospect of course.
Recently, I’ve been on bad dates, good dates, mediocre will-he-call-again dates, and downright what was I thinking dates (figuratively speaking, of course). I remember those days, so I give my advice with the following disclaimer: the advice herein given by moi, a married woman, is given as an opinion influenced by my memory (which often fades me) of dating and biased by my own past experiences and those experiences of others close to me.
I love talking to my single friends, because there is always so much to worry about. “Will he call?” “Should I be myself?” “Should I just wait.” Yes, yes and yes. He WILL call, if it is meant to be. You should always be yourself. And, of course you should wait, how can you fast forward anything but a gadget connected to your television. Wait and see if this is it, if not…next. (Of course, this is not all so clear or so easy to deal with when you are single.)
Then there is always the friend dealing with, what I now call “Summer Syndrome”. If you have seen Five Hundred Days of Summer, you will know what I am talking about. It is the guy or girl (like Summer in the movie) that sticks around and can not give a secure yes or no, only maybes. “It’s not you…” Which to anyone other than the person dating this person with Summer Syndrome, it is quite obvious that this relationship will never be, but do you blame the one smitten by this guy or gal? They keep giving them reasons to hang on…until someone better comes along? When you meet someone with this syndrome, ask for the check, even if you haven’t finished eating.
But, it is not all that bad. I tell my single friends to enjoy their “single life,” instead of worrying so much about when it will end. You get to go out and meet different people, go to different places, go dancing, happy hour-ing, Starbucks-ing and casual conversation-ing. Before you know it, you will be searching for available babysitters, finding yourself actually enjoying places like Chuck E. Cheese and playgrounds, and loving the time spent with your hubby ordering in and Netflix-ing close to midnight when the kids are asleep and… living vicariously through your single friends.
October 19, 2009 | 2:00 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
Have you ever used your child as an excuse to get out of something? Come on, we have all been guilty of it. “Sorry we have to leave so soon (from your boring party), but Junior has to take a nap and he went to bed late last night.” “We’d love to come to your Pictionary tournament, but we don’t have a sitter.” Or how about an excuse to do something? “He’s watching The Backyardigans for the fifth time today, while I work, because he loves it, he doesn’t want to do anything else.” “We had to get an annual pass to Disneyland because HE loves it there so much.”
I have to admit that I try not to use my son as an excuse, but find that it often comes in handy, and I’m not really lying…maybe just stretching the truth a little.
For instance, I took him to the park the other day and there were friends of mine that I hadn’t seen in a long time, picnicking with their children and another group of friends. They called us over and I really was not in the mood for mingling much, so I decided to leave the decision to my three year old son. What is wrong with that? I asked him, “Do you want to go over and say hi to Mommy’s friends, or should we go to the sandbox?” Lo and behold, he chose the sandbox…who knew? So, I waved to my friends from the other side of the park, shrugged my shoulders and said. “Oh, sorry, looks like he’s headed to the sandbox.” And that was that. It was the truth, after all; that is what he chose. I did go over and say hello afterwards because the guilt was killing me, but that’s not the point.
Then there was another recent incident. The other day I was out on a play date with two mommy friends that I had met at a class at the park. (And good thing they don’t know about my blog. Please don’t Google me, please don’t Google me!) We met at the park and the play date seemed to be going fine. Then I realized that one of their sons kept taking toys away from my son, so I would keep jumping in and making sure that everyone was sharing…blah blah blah. But then I noticed the mommies retreated to the park bench and began chatting while I started running around the sandbox making sure the kids were okay. This must have been great for them, Mihal’s Babysitting Service. I ran after their two boys, while mine was just riding a bike around and they were headed every which way, since I felt they had entrusted the supervising to me. I stopped and approached the moms, not wanting to interrupt their conversation. But they finally noticed me standing there, as I was blocking their sunlight.
There I stood sweaty and out of breath and could barely see under my sweat-filled baseball cap as sweat was dripping into my eyes. They spoke as I stood there like a deer in headlights,“Thanks for watching our boys. We haven’t had time to relax all week.”
I wanted to say, “It’s a good thing that all I do is relax all week.” But instead I muttered a “You’re welcome.” Then pulled an excuse out of my hat, a very sweaty drippy one at that, “We’re going to head out because my son is getting tired…” You know how when you lie, you keep on going and going because essentially in the end you are trying to convince yourself that you are, in fact, not lying.
Good thing they interrupted. “Oh, no problem.” And I’m glad that they couldn’t see my son running around on the other side of the gigantic slide blocking their view. He was having a great time and didn’t seem tired at all.
Was I wrong? I probably should’ve come out and told them the truth. But, sometimes honesty is not the best policy…excuses are. Thanks, son…and sorry.
October 15, 2009 | 1:13 pm
Posted by Mihal Levy
I figured my son and I could use a little socializing, so where better than a place I heard of called the Treehouse Social Club. Besides the pseudo treehouse, nothing else was true about the name “Treehouse Social Club.” There was nothing social about it and it was not a club.
The Treehouse Social Club, located on Robertson and Burton Way, is well, basically, an indoor playground for kids. After circling around the block a few hundred times, we found parking. My son was a trooper and was ready to take on the Treehouse.
From the outside, the place looked cute and resembled a café with small tables on a patio covered by a huge awning with a woodsy feel. But can you judge a book by its cover? Sometimes, I must admit. Not in this case.
We headed inside. We were caged (literally) between two gates surrounded by a few scattered toys for sale and a register. There was no one around. After a two- minute wait and a few bouts of “hello, anyone here?” we were finally helped.
“Hi, can I help you?”
I smiled and asked if they were open. I could hear my own echo as I spoke, as the place was deserted and apparently not acoustically appealing either. They were open, but my son and I were the only ones there. The woman behind the counter made an excuse for the deserted playground. Evidently, I came at a bad time - nap time. She told me that it was usually empty at this hour, but should be packed within an hour. Nap time for every child in Beverly Hills? There aren’t at least five children awake at 1:00pm? Is my child off the “normal” nap track (great, now I’m failing as a mother, too)?
I figured we should go in - why not?
Nine dollars later, we were in. The place was dark. Were the lights out on purpose? Calming effect? Broken? There was a huge slide in the center of the play area with a only a few broken/dirty toys. Oh no. My son headed straight to the train table. No trains. The sign above the table read: “Trains must be checked out at the front desk, with ID.” Well, my son didn’t bring his ID, so guess it was all me. I headed to the front desk. No one was there. It was starting to feel a little creepy. My son did not seem to mind that he was the only one with dibs on the slide and toys. He was having fun sliding down the huge slide (hope he got nine dollars worth of sliding fun).
We gave up on the trains and walked around trying to find something for him to do. There was a room with art supplies and a table covered in broken crayons, dirty paint brushes, spilled paint, and artwork left from earlier in the day, perhaps. Cleaning up was not in the agenda? We did not know if we should or were allowed to go into this room, so we didn’t. And there was no one around to ask. It was getting freaky, frankly.
We headed into the bathroom to wash our hands. It smelled like a dirty diaper-filled diaper champ clear out into the playground before entering the bathroom. I went to wash my son’s hands and noticed the sign above the sink: “Only hot water is working.” Which is so convenient for a three-year-old hand washing. That’s okay, I noticed hand sanitizers on the wall in the play area. I checked the first one…empty. The second…I pressed and some strange bubbling sound came out and seeped brown foam. This didn’t look right and not very sanitizing, only I couldn’t wash it off, unless I could tolerate scalding hot water. I took my chances and washed my hands with the hot water for a mere couple of seconds before the water went from unbearably hot to boiling. Fun.
An hour had passed and we were still the only ones not napping in Los Angeles at this hour. And the only reason I hung around was because my son was enjoying the slide after all and I waited to see when the crowd would storm in. I followed my son around the playground and made sure he skipped the dirty toys. He discovered an area with a Wii and a sign that read, “see attendant.” So we saw the attendant. She apologized, “sorry all the games are broken except for ‘cheering,’” and walked away. So, I assumed cheering was out of the question for my son?
Then the crowd swarmed in within minutes. Her name was Chloe, she was two and came in with her mom. It stayed this way for another half hour, when I decided it was time to leave.
In Treehouse’s defense, I read reviews before taking my son there and they were mixed. Reviews ranged from people who absolutely loved the place and from those that rated it one or two stars and would not return. How could reviews vary so much? Did it really matter what day you chose to go there and the mood of the person behind the counter? Was it cleaner on other days as well. They served food too, by the way, but who could eat in the diaper champ filled air and who would I order from anyway? No one was around.
The concept of the place was a good one, but implementation…not so much. And maybe the reason it was empty had nothing to do with naptime for every toddler in LA after all.