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Bubbles and Chips

Everyone lives in a bubble. And almost everyone has a chip on their shoulder.

The question is what bubble they live in, and what their chip is made of.

Some people live in a happy bubble. In their world, everything has a bright side – even the worst stuff.

Some people live in a work-bubble. Everything in their world revolves around their workplace.

Some people live in a kid-bubble, where everything in their life revolves around their kids. They stay home with their kids, and pretend the rest of the world doesn’t exist.

Some people live in an attacked bubble. Anyone who tries to help them, anyone who breathes the wrong way, is attacking them.

Some people live in a blame bubble, where everything is blamed on someone else. And some people live in an innocent bubble, where nothing anyone ever did was meant to hurt someone else.

But no one, really, lives in a reality bubble.

All those people who live in England, America, France, and who knows where, who think that we are attacking Muslims for no good reason? They live in a terrorist bubble. So do the people who insist on seeing Israel as an apartheid state, instead of opening their eyes to see that Hamas and the PA are hurting their own citizens.

And sometimes I feel like I’m living in an imaginary bubble. This craziness can’t *really* be the reality, can it?

Then there are the chips.

Everyone has their own chips on their shoulders, according to the bubbles in which they live.

And those chips make life more difficult, emotionally and often practically, too. They prevent people from being happy, from achieving their goals, and sometimes – they cause people to ruin, with their own actions, their lives and those of their loved ones.

Bubbles can be good or bad.

Chips can be good, only if they prompt you to productive action, without harming anything else.

Problem is, most people don’t recognize the chips on their shoulders, and even when they do – they deny or ignore it.

What bubble do you live in? Do you know anyone with a serious chip on their shoulder? What flavor is it?

 

 

Valentine’s Day is Stupid

I wrote this post on Februart 15, 2016.

It really is.

Hearts, cookies, wine, cards to the entire class . . . and for what purpose?

If you love someone, you put effort into your relationship every day.

If you don’t love someone, Valentine’s day won’t help that.

If you are in a relationship, you should be putting in more effort than cookies and wine on February 14th.

If you’re not in a relationship, a day to make you feel single is just dumb.

 

Same goes for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and every other Hallmark holiday that was created for poochy-moochy.

In Israel, we have the 15th of Av, a historical holiday commemorating the massive matchmaking dances of ancient Israel (we’ve been here thousands of years, remember?). And today, it has become a kind of Israeli valentine’s day, except less drippingly-sweet (no hearts handed out to the entire class, no candies) and with a few traces more meaning.

The issue is that in recent years, Israel has started to adopt February 14 as Valentine’s day, too. So now we have 15 of Av, a historical holiday which is celebrated as a day of relationships and love. AND we have February 14, because, well, it’s another day to sell stuff.

It’s not just stupid. It’s consumer-ism at its best (or rather, worst).

We don’t need Valentine’s day. And really, neither does anyone else.

Do You Love Nursing?

See peeps, here’s the thing:

I don’t love nursing. Never have, really.

Yes, there are times I enjoy nursing, and there are definitely times it’s convenient. I am always grateful that I have milk for my babies, and especially when they’re not feeling well. I am also extremely grateful that I have never had to feed my babies  powdered cows’ milk from a factory.

But . . . that doesn’t mean I love nursing.

I nurse for three simple reasons:

  1. It’s healthy. For mother and baby. Physically, emotionally, psychologically.
  2. It means my babies *don’t* get formula – which has its own set of risks, unrelated to how much a mother breastfeeds.
  3. I believe that parenting may not always be fun, but that does not mean that we don’t have to act responsibly. I believe that choosing not to breastfeed, even though you *can* (physically – meaning, you have milk available) and are healthy enough to do so (no bodily-fluid-transmitted diseases, no medicines that preclude breastfeeding) is choosing to take the easy way out. I believe that supplementing with processed cows’ milk powder is harmful unless it is medically necessary. I believe that choosing either of those options, because it’s easier, more convenient, or whatever other non-health reason, is irresponsible, after all the research that has been done.

So I breastfeed. My minimum is 1 year. Yitzchak thinks 2 is better. Shlomo hated breastfeeding. We stuck it out 14 months, 7 of them only because I gave him no other options. I said, “I don’t care if it makes him mad. When he grows up he will thank me.”

Tova happens to like nursing. She is now older than Shlomo was when he quit nursing. And she shows no sign of wanting to wean.

And me? I’m done. I’m sick of nursing. I am *so* over it. It was fun, kid. But come on, let’s move on with life.

But I won’t stop if she doesn’t want to, because the fact is that the WHO recommends breastfeeding until the age of two. So if she’s happy, we’ll stick it out.

She will have to learn not to stick her hands down my shirt, or pull my shirt up and stick her hands in my belly button. And she will have to learn that no, I will not nurse her if the last time she nursed was an hour (or two, or three, or five) ago. She dropped down to two nursings a day – morning and evening – and I am sticking with it.

And as much as I want to nurse tandem, I’m beginning to think that I should wean her before the next one comes along. Why should the next baby suffer because Mom has been nursed-out by an older sibling? Doesn’t seem fair to me.

In the meantime, however, we will stick it out. And we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next.

But no, people. I nurse because breastmilk is healthy and formula is a medicine that is meant to be given only under certain circumstances – no matter how much society and formula companies may brainwash you otherwise.

I nurse because as a parent. sometimes we all have to do things that are difficult, annoying, hurt, or just that we’d rather not do. Because that’s what being a parent is. Choosing your kid over your comfort.

Even if nursing is sometimes *very* uncomfortable. (I should know . . . 2.5 months of tongue tie, 6+ months with a cracked nipple, two months of tender nipples that don’t want to be touched, much less sucked on . . . yeah, I know. So?)

 

Weddings and Dresses

I wrote this post a few weeks ago, but didn’t publish it right away, because . . . because, because I was mad at myself. In the end I wore an awful nylon skirt, with an awful nylon shirt that I got from Mom (it used to be hers), and looked pretty decent. The kids looked way cuter. But at least I wasn’t over- or under-dressed.

I don’t have fancy clothes anymore.

I mean, I do. But they’re not really fancy. I used to have suits (jacket and skirt, not pants), but I don’t wear suits anymore. I used to have jackets, but now they either a) don’t fit me, or b) just aren’t nice anymore. Plus, I don’t like wearing a lot of black.

Actually, most of my nice clothes fit me only for a few months after our wedding. And then little by little the selection got smaller. The only nice skirt I have today is this awful nylon skirt. And it isn’t even that nice, either.

Most of the time, I couldn’t care less. But when I have to dress fancy, like for a wedding, I really feel the lack.

And here’s the problem: I don’t have the time, patience, or money to go shopping.

I hate clothes shopping. Most of what I see, I won’t wear. What I might wear is either horrifically expensive, needs alterations, or both. And why would I want t spend a lot of money on something that I don’t like AND have to fix?

So, I don’t.

Well, we have a wedding on Monday night and I am the only one without anything semi-nice to wear. And worse, it’s a family we’re very close to. You could say it’s our “adopted” family.

Hopefully, it will be chilly and rainy on Monday and I will be able to wear a sweater. I *have* nice sweaters, and if I pair one with that awful nylon skirt, I’ll look fine.

But honestly, I was really stupid.

I knew this wedding was coming up. I should’ve looked online and ordered something for 50 shekels. Now, it’s too late.

But for the next wedding, I will find a nice dress online, with free shipping, and try it out. I’ll order early, so that I have time to return or exchange it if necessary. And I’ll order something that size isn’t an issue for. (Let’s just say I’m still carrying around baby weight from Tova. And I never lost all the weight from Shlomo, either – although I am still *much* skinnier than my mother, sister, and most other family members who have had kids.)

Maximum, I’ll need two: one for when I’m nursing, and one for when I’m not. (Wait, so that means I should have ordered one for nursing in. Because I’m still nursing Tova, and don’t see her weaning anytime soon.)

And I’ll just save the dress, or two, for when I need something fancy.

And that will be that.

Next time.

Do You Like to Gossip?

Growing up, I was always the “big-mouth.” If I had a penny for every time I was told that I have “diarrhea of the mouth,” “don’t know when to stop talking,” “don’t care about other people’s feelings,” “never think before I open my mouth,” “my word is mud,” or other such things – I would have been a millionaire before my twenty-second birthday. Maybe even a billionaire.

At some point, I stopped sharing personal information because I couldn’t trust those around me to keep things confidential, and promises were never kept.

And at some point, I stopped being mad at the people who blabbed. Because I just stopped caring.

It just ain’t worth the effort. So, I moved on.

A few days ago, I received an invitation to answer a survey. I’ve been answering surveys online for a few months, because it’s good pocket money and they’re interesting.

The one I answered last week asked about political views and morals.

One of the sections asked how often I gossip. What I think about gossip – is it okay? Is it not okay? Do I like hearing gossip?

And suddenly I realized something:

I don’t gossip. As in, not at all. Maybe once in a while, a sentence or two slips out when I’m frustrated and someone asked in a way that doesn’t leave too many options to be nice. And then I get a bit carried away. Once in about six months, maybe six sentences.

That’s it.

And otherwise, I don’t talk about people. I don’t gossip. I don’t blab.

The only exception is to Yitzchak. And even then, I don’t gossip, I just vent.

But come on, guys. Yitzchak is my husband. I tell him *everything*. He tells me *everything*. And the rest of the world – well, why waste time talking to them, since most people couldn’t care less, anyways?

So, we don’t.

We tell each other. And that’s it.

I see no point in gossiping. It’s stupid. It’s the mark of someone who has nothing better to think about. It’s the mark of someone whose nose is *so* stuck in other people’s business, that they have no idea who they are inside, at all. If, that is, they even have something inside. And all it does is hurt the subject and the listener – and most of all, the person doing the gossiping . . . because people who like to gossip are, honestly, pitiful people.

But, walla. I never realized that I’m *not* a big mouth, that I’m *not* a gossip, that I *don’t* actually have “diarrhea of the mouth,” and that I *do* actually know how to keep my mouth shut and stop talking.

(Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions. And it doesn’t mean that I don’t say politically incorrect things, at bad times, on purpose. But gossip and being politically incorrect are two separate, very different things.

I mean, there is *never* a “proper time” to ask a smoker to stop smoking around you.

There’s *never* a proper way to say, “The Iran deal that Obama pushed is what’s allowing Iran to give $30,000 to the families of terrorists,” or “‘Palestinian’ workers in Israel commit terror attacks – maybe they shouldn’t be allowed into Israel anymore.”

I mean, come on. Some things are *never* politically correct. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be said. It just means people will get mad. Because people are stupid (and that’s not PC, either).

But so what? PC is stupid. That doesn’t mean that not being PC is the same as being a gossip, or someone who doesn’t know how to keep their mouth shut.)

I never realized that I am actually a very prudent person, someone who it is *worth* confiding in, not just for the advice, but because I don’t gossip.

Walla. I never realized that.

That’s cool. That feels really good, to know that I never gossip. That must be why people ask me for advice. Huh. I can’t believe I didn’t know this earlier.

And what’s cooler is that I learned this from an internet survey.

 

The Tooth Fairy, And Other “White” Lies

This post was written on September 20, 2015. Gee, whiz. Why am I publishing it here instead of charging money for it? Because I love you guys, that’s why.

Let’s put it this way: I don’t believe in lying to kids. Except in very rare instances, I think it does incredible harm.

Harm to your relationship with the kid.

Harm to your authority.

Harm to every stupid moral lesson you’ll ever try to teach your kid.

So I never quite understood why it’s okay to lie to your kids – about the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, or any other character.

Sure, I understand that there are “white lies,” but I never quite understood why they’re different from black lies, red lies, green lies, or purple lies.

When I was about six or seven, a friend told me that the Tooth Fairy is really our parents. My mother insisted – insisted, promised, whatever – that that wasn’t true. She denied that the Tooth Fairy was really her. And I just kind of looked at her, thinking to myself, “Do you think I’m stupid enough to believe you?”

But hey, I got money. So why not continue pretending?

Well, at some point, I felt like it was just too dumb. So when my last few teeth fell out (or rather, I pulled them out) at around the age of thirteen, I refused to play Tooth Fairy.

I mean, give me a break. This is garbage, and we both know it. My tooth can go in the trash, and you can stop insisting that fairies exist. Give. Me. A. Break.

But no. My mother really wanted those last baby teeth, and I get why. I’m her eldest, and they were my last baby teeth. It’s okay to be sentimental sometimes. As long as you admit to it, that is.

And she did. She came out and said, “I know you don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy, and I know you think I’m being stupid. But i really want to save those baby teeth.”

I told her I’d give them to her in her hand, if she wanted. Nothing doing. She wanted to take them from under my pillow. “Please?” she asked. “Just do me a favor. I’ll give you $5.”

Well, $5 is a pretty good sum for doing absolutely nothing except putting a tooth under your pillow, instead of throwing it out.

I did it. Of course I did. Wouldn’t you?

And that’s how it happened that I got $5 for each of my last few baby teeth.

Yitzchak’s parents took a different approach. Or rather, his Dad did. My dad kind of left Tooth Fairy to my mom.

Yitzchak’s dad, in many ways, was more involved than mine (and that’s saying something).

Yitzchak and his brothers gave their teeth straight to their father, who was “the Tooth Fairy’s agent.” He took the tooth and gave them the money. It wasn’t a lot – maybe $1.

There wasn’t any promise of communication with the Tooth Fairy – just a statement that the “agent’s” job was to exchange teeth for money. Apparently, the tooth fairy was very busy, and didn’t have time to take teeth from under every kid’s pillow.

The Tooth Fairy’s agent explained to them that teeth that are put under a pillow don’t always get found. Sometimes, they may even get swallowed. Yitzchak says that he tried putting his tooth under his pillow once – and found, in the morning, that his tooth was still there (or maybe, had fallen on the floor. It was a long time ago).

When the kids started to ask if the Tooth Fairy existed, Dad said something like, “No, she doesn’t really exist. But I’ll give you $1 for your tooth, anyways.”

And us?

Well, Tooth Fairy doesn’t live in Israel, as far as I know. Maybe she’s like Google, the EU, and the PA – and doesn’t want to acknowledge that Israel even exists.

Either way, I think we’ll skip this part. Maybe we’ll do what Yitzchak’s Dad did. But probably, if I want to save the teeth, I will just save them. And if they want to know why, I’ll tell them: It’s important to me to save your baby teeth. It may sound dumb, but sometimes parents like to do dumb things. And when you’re a parent, you will probably do dumb things, too.

Yitzchak thinks that maybe the local witch takes teeth and uses them for spellcasting. Does that mean that the Tooth Fairy is really a witch? Or that the Witch and the Fairy fight over every tooth?

I’ll leave you with that question, and you’ll let me know what you think.

I Think My Kid is “Color-Blind”

Today I took Shlomo to gan . . . late.

We waited a while for the bus, and while we were waiting, we spoke about:

  • the guy smoking at the bus stop (ewww);
  • calling the municipality to come give him a 1000 shekel fine;
  • the garbage on the sidewalk, near the trees, and by the bus stop; 80% was cigarette butts and we came to the conclusion that the entire area would be cleaner if people didn’t smoke;
  • the olive trees, the olives that fell on the floor, and the evergreen trees (and that they have different “leaves”);
  • the almost-empty intercity bus that we took to its last stop and had almost to ourselves;
  • the building that they’re painting grey-blue and red – we decided that it looked nice and fresh, but the colors weren’t nice and we would’ve rather them painted it yellow or peach;

and one more thing . . . the color of the people around us.

It started with Shlomo pointing out the the car was white with black wheels, and the lady passing us had “black legs”. Shlomo had “grey legs” and I had (still have, at the moment) “brown legs”. Then we passed someone with “blue legs”.

I asked Shlomo if these were the *real* colors of their (and our) skin, or just the colors of their clothes. Of course, Shlomo knew the right answer . . . it’s the color of their clothes.

He didn’t know what color our skin is, and honestly, I don’t know what to call our skin color, either. So when he gave me a silly grin (to show off his true skin color) instead of stating the “real” color, I simply said, “You’re right, your skin isn’t grey or brown or blue. It’s a different color, lighter, because that’s what your Abba (Dad) and I have.”

Then I asked him if there were people with brown skin. At first, Shlomo shook his head no. I reminded him of the little boy and girl that we’d met at the bus stop (all of them really hit it off).

I asked if the boy had brown skin. Shlomo said yes. I asked if his sister had brown skin; Shlomo said yes. I asked what color their Abba’s skin was; Shlomo said it was brown. Then I asked a thinking question: What color do you think their Ima’s (Mom’s) skin is? And he said . . . brown. I told him he’s a very smart boy.

And then I said, “Do you know why they have brown skin?”

“No . . .” [while he dance-walks].

“It’s because Hashem (G-d) made people look different from each other, so He made different people’s skin different colors. Their Abba and Ima have brown skin, so they do, too. Your Abba and Ima have lighter skin, so you do, too. What color hair do I have?”

He looked at me for a second. “Brown.”

“What color hair does Abba have?”

He thinks . . . “Brown.” (Wrong answer. But I get where he’s coming from.)

“Abba has yellowy hair, right?”

By this time we were at gan. He danced in, and happily waved me off.

I don’t know what the conversation actually gave him, or me. I don’t know why I brought it up, even. But at that moment, it felt like an important point to make . . . nobody’s legs are *really* the color of their clothes. And people have differently colored skin.

Yitzchak was surprised that I’d “taught” him about race.

Because, honestly, Shlomo doesn’t care about, or even notice, race (as I found out today). He just sees a kid his own age (and often his own gender), and thinks, “Yay! Playmate! Someone to run around with, chase, and make silly noises with! Someone to sit beside on the bus and share snacks with!”

He really doesn’t notice color. (Kristen Howerton, didn’t you say that *all* kids notice color, even preschoolers?)

But the thing is, he will. One day, the subject will come up. I don’t know how it will come up or with who, what the attitude will be, or what information he’ll receive.

So I figure, I may as well bring it up myself, and tell him what *I* think he needs to know.

And that way, when the subject *does* come up, it won’t be the first time he’s put thought into it and the first time he’s given it a name.

He’ll already *have* an opinion, and hopefully, that will protect him from the various stupid opinions (and information) that the world tends to give kids.

Yitzchak commented, “Wow, Chana, you’re so much less racist than you were when I married you.”

I said, “What’s there to be racist against black people? They’re nice. I’m only racist against Arab terrorists (which, for me, includes all Arabs until proven otherwise).”

He said, “I know, but you weren’t like that when we married.”

I said, “I guess it was the influence of living so many years in Toronto. All the blacks I’ve met here are nice.” [And in Toronto, they’re often painted as scary, uneducated, etc.]

So the bottom line is, I know kids are going to find (or figure) these things out. They’ll have questions, and if you don’t know something, you worry about it. And I want my kids, first of all, to already have an opinion on a given topic, and to know that it’s okay to talk with me, because I’ve brought that same topic up before.

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P.S. – One of these days, I’m going to sit down with one of these “brown” mommies and ask her to detail her “tough love” strategy to me. Because I see those kids, and they *listen* to their parents, respect their parents, and mostly turn out to be honest, hardworking, teens with a good work ethic. And hey, *I want that too.*

 

 

 

 

 

Email Filters

I wrote this post almost a week ago, and it was scheduled to go up two days ago. At some point in between, I changed its status from “scheduled” to “draft”, because . . . it is SO not related to what’s going on now. Who cares about emails and annoying people? But yesterday I took a look at my home page and realized that there were two half-posts about normal life, and *everything* else was terror related. That’s fine – it’s a big part of life at the moment. But it’s not fine, because the purpose of this blog isn’t just to talk about terror. And so I present to you “regular” post.

For a long time, I’ve felt a need to answer every phone call, text, and email – right away.

I’ve gotten better about the phone calls. Shlomo sometimes tells me, when I’m in the bathroom, changing a diaper, or otherwise busy, that the phone is ringing. I tell him, “I know it, but I can’t answer the phone right now. If it’s Abba [Yitzchak], I’ll talk to him when I’m done. If it’s someone important, they’ll call back. And if it’s not important, there’s no reason to run to answer it, anyways.”

Usually, it’s Yitzchak – for the simple reason that he’s the one who calls most often. However, Yitzchak also knows that I miss a lot of phone calls. So he’ll either call the other phone (the house phone, if I missed a call on my cell phone, or vice versa), or text – or just wait until I call back.

All I can hope is that Shlomo learns this valuable lesson. Technology is there to serve us. We are not here to serve it.

Texts are harder, but I’m pretty good at those, too. Often, I read a text and think to myself that I need to text back – except that I forget about it until a day or two later. Oops. This means that when I’m not 100% into my tech-serves-me mode, I’ll text back, as inconvenient as that may be.

Email is harder. It sits in your inbox and stares you in the face. This is good, if it’s a business email that you need to respond to. But there are some emails that aren’t business, aren’t urgent, and are just . . . there. You know what I’m talking about.

Grandma who wants to chat. Dad who sent back a lengthy email, and I’m too tired to respond properly. The annoying relative who likes to stick her nose in your business. The person who, no matter, what knows how to drive you berserk with every benign email you try to send her – or don’t send her. Those ones.

Granted, you really should get back to 80-year-old Grandma, and Dad is definitely not at fault that you’re tired. But the annoying people . . . seriously? They can wait. But those are the hardest – because they push your buttons, you want to push back. It’s incredibly difficult to tell yourself, “Be the mature person. There’s no one to talk to. Just let her think she’s had the last word, and ignore the email.”

And maybe you should just delete those emails? No, of course you can’t . . . what if someone needs your help? What if there’s news in there that you want, or need, to hear? And if you delete the emails . . . you’ll never know what that person said . . . it’s much better to at least know, isn’t it?

So in walk the email filters. As an aside, we have several email accounts, and most of them are linked to two main Gmail accounts. From those Gmail accounts, we can receive (through forwarding) and reply (through alias) email that went to other, less-used accounts. This means less accounts to check per day, and less headaches, without giving up any of the accounts.

The two exceptions are my husband’s InsightBB account, and my Hotmail account . . . and they are exceptions because we haven’t figured out how to set up the forwarding/alias with them yet. But maybe it’s as easy as doing it with Gmail accounts. Maybe I should try.

Do I want to try? Maybe not.

Tonight, after an email argument with a person I shouldn’t have started an email conversation with in the first place, shouldn’t have answered promptly (instead of giving myself a few days to calm down), and shouldn’t have paid attention to her attempts to twist my arm – I set up my first Hotmail filter.

This is what I did. Hotmail filters are called “rules”. I made a “rule,” that all emails from XPerson@xmail.com will first of all go straight to the “X” folder, and second of all be marked as “read.” At first, I was thinking to simply send the emails to the X folder. But I knew that seeing an unread email in that folder would tempt me, so at the last minute, I added an “action” to the “rule” and told Hotmail to mark the emails as read.

I’ll still get the emails. I’ll still be able to see what they’ve emailed me.

But the pressure is gone. I won’t have new, unread, stressful emails in my inbox, staring me in the face.

When I have time, and I have energy, I’ll check my X folder and see if and what XPerson has sent. Maybe I’ll reply; maybe I won’t; maybe I’ll reply at a later date. But there’s no pressure, no worries about the fact that I’m being rude . . . because, after all, if it’s sat there for a week or two, it can sit there for another few.

I’ve made filters for other people, too. They’ve included labels, forwarding, and marking the original as read. But I’ve never made a label marking something as unread and removing it from the inbox to a folder.

It feels incredibly freeing.

Now the real test, is if I can forget to check the X folder for a few weeks . . . and forget about maybe being found out when someone who knows someone who tells someone reads this blog.

(As an aside, I remember clearly having a friend come up to me at a gathering and say, “You have a blog, right? You’re C and your blog is B.” And I had no idea what to reply, except for, “Um, yeah. Um, how did you know?” It wasn’t this blog, though. It was my teen blog.)

Toss the Characters Aside

Maybe we are weird.  We don’t like writing on clothes or accessories.  We don’t like characters of any kind.  Except Thomas the Tank, and even that took us a while to make peace with.

When Mom first started buying stuff for Shlomo, she bought almost exactly to our taste.  98% of the things she bought for him, I would have bought myself.  The other 2% of things were tolerable, even if they weren’t great.  When Shlomo was about 18 months, or maybe 2 years, old, that started changing.  Slowly, of course.  At first, I was still using most of the stuff she sent.  But little by little, that changed.

There started being more words (those I still usually tolerate), more characters (I’ve tolerated most of these, too), and more black-and-red stuff and synthetic stuff (these I usually can’t stomach).

When Mom came to visit last summer, she brought a Dusty stuffed plane, and three or four Dusty books.  And a Thomas book, too, but Diesel was naughty and Shlomo thought that it was funny – so even though Diesel changes his ways at the end, the book went to China.

Last week, I spoke to Mom, and her newest thing is Mario.  She redecorated her basement, not because she had to,  but because she wants to have an apartment for us for when we visit (??  Um, when we were there in your little apartment when Shlomo was a baby, it was great).  And she made Shlomo a Mario room.  Mario?!  Seriously?!?  She said, “He doesn’t have to know who that is, if you don’t want him to.”  I said, “That depends; it’s limited, and it doesn’t always work.”

I tried to think of a way to politely tell Mom that we don’t like this American pop-star, movie-character culture.  Honestly, I think she should understand; when raising their kids, she and Dad had a lot of the same opinions.  Somehow, grandkids are different.  So I said, as nicely as I could, “Ummm, Mom?  Yitzchak and I are kind of anti-all-characters.  Like, except for Thomas, because he’s pretty old and he has morals.”  To which Mom replied, “Mario is as old as Thomas and he teaches some things, too.”  I said, “Yes, well, Mario wasn’t written by a reverend who put tons of morals into every story.”  On that point, she had to agree.

There are a few problems with these characters, Disney and otherwise:

  1. Children identify with them very strongly.  This means that children learn from everything these characters do, and every little thing becomes increasingly poignant in their minds.
  2. If that weren’t enough, an entire industry has been created that revolves around persuading children that they need things with these characters on them.  Clothes, backpacks, toys, books, blankets, dolls, building blocks, Lego sets – anything and everything is a valid target for “characterization.”  This creates an unncessary, unhealthy, and undesirable obsession.
  3. And in addition, this obsession severely limits imagination, free thinking, and creative play.
  4. Instead of learning to buy simple, quality items, and make them last, children become obsessive and insistent on having everything include their favorite character.  In other words, it feeds the “me” culture, which is a culture that, personally, I see as not only egoistic, but destructive as well.
  5. Since chances are that each child will obsess about a different character, passing things down can become a problem.  If you want more than two or three children, not being able to pass things down the line becomes an even bigger problem.
  6. Most of these characters come with language issues: lines that they always say, ways (not necessarily respectful) that they say things, and sometimes swear words as well.
  7. Even if a child does not have television or video games in his house, his friends probably do, and so television, movies, and video games featuring the chosen character start to fill the child’s time, and head, replacing more valuable, genuine aspects of childhood.

And therefore, we heavily censor.  We were given blankets and sheets with Thomas, but in practice, only the very-benign bottom sheet shows; the pillowcase and top sheet are stuffed away, and two blankets are covered by the bottom sheet, making a mattress on the floor of our room.  We do not have TV, movies, or video games, nor do we have friends who have them.  In fact, our son is the odd one out, the only one who has a Thomas character anything (Dusty, unfortunately, is more common).  We do have books, and Thomas toys, but the moral is good and we are fine with it.  Diesel, as we said, got put up high.

Dusty, characters, planes, blankets,

Anyone want a Dusty toddler bed comforter?

But the Dusty – oh, the Dusty.  The small plane stays; the stuffed plane is advertised to be given away.  Two puzzles will either be swapped, if I can find someone to swap with, or simply hidden or donated.  The books – I will choose one, the one with the best lesson and the least stupidity (Dusty books are dripping with stupidity and bad lessons), and the rest will be donated to the library.  The comforter and pillowcase he has never seen; the sheets are pretty benign, and they are in use, but soon I would like to get rid of them, because despite their benign-ness, Shlomo has recently identified the planes on them.

We may be weird, we may be obsessive, but please, do not send us anything with characters.  Because from now on, please G-d, I will simply give it away.  The world is full of bad teachers; I don’t want any in my house.

Is it Okay to Decide Others’ Fates?

nuclear weapons, nukes, nuclear warheads, nuclear missiles, nuclear bombs, hiroshima, nagasaki, iran, iran nuclear deal, nuclear proliferation treaty, israel, iran, p5+1, america, obama, kerryRegarding Iran, suddenly I realized something. Most non-Shiite countries in the Middle East, most prominently Saudi Arabia and Israel, are mad about the deal that P5+1 have signed with Iran.  It’s not just us. And what I realized today was this question:

What right do Obama, and the leaders of Europe have, to decide what happens in our neighborhood?  We are the ones most directly affected; why shouldn’t we be the ones making the decisions?

It’s like this: Imagine if Israel suddenly decided that anyone living in New York who wanted to own a weapon had to pass Israeli security standards.  No one else would be allowed to own weapons, not even police officers.  Only people that Israel chose would have weapons, and only they would be allowed to make decisions on the subject.  How would New Yorkers feel?  How would America feel?  What right does Israel have to decide who is allowed to bear arms in a country that isn’t theirs, and is so far away from them?

Yes, it’s true that guns in New York could possibly hurt Israel, or Israelis abroad.  It’s also true that Iranian nuclear missiles can (and will, if Iran gets the chance) hurt Americans and Europeans.  However, they are not the ones facing the greatest, and most immediate danger: a radical Muslim country, in their neighborhood, with nuclear weapons and no common sense or humanity to match.

Tell me, world: What right do you have to decide what goes on in our neighborhood, without consulting us, and against our wishes?  Note that not one of the P5+1 is actually a Middle Eastern country.  Not one.

What right do America and Europe have, to make our decisions for us?