by emily on April 9, 2015

Sometimes, my husband jokes that he married me for my matzoh ball soup. At least, I think he’s joking. He might be a little bit serious.

When we married, I made very good matzoh ball soup. Now, I make freaking fantastic matzoh ball soup. I’d tell you how I make it, but it takes several days, and you don’t have the time to read all of that any more than I have the time to write it. Suffice it to say the process involves two different chickens.

Because I need a showcase for the aforementioned soup, we host the Seder every year. I also serve brisket, which every year has been dry and flat tasting. Most likely because I cooked it in a slow cooker and just dumped some stuff on it. This year, my friend sent me her husband’s brisket recipe. The recipe was two-and-a-half, single-spaced pages. It was a two-day process.

Naturally, I had to try said recipe. It was like the Ron Dermer to the Netanyahu of my matzoh ball soup. No? Too soon?

Anyway, we invited family, who didn’t come, and a number of friends. Benjamin complained none of his friends were invited, whereupon I pointed out that all his friends have big families living nearby. Zachary complained none of his friends were invited, whereupon I pointed out that none of his friends are Jewish.

Both of the families who accepted the invitation had one Jewish and one non-Jewish parent. When I invited the family of Lilah’s friend, David, the dad asked if his mother’s best friend, Nancy—a retired history teacher—could join us. Nancy would be in visiting from Cleveland. It’s rude to leave your houseguest from Cleveland behind. For reasons that have nothing to do with Cleveland.

So, what with getting up at five on Thursday morning to start the brisket and the two-day matzoh ball soup and scouring the internet for the perfect charoset recipe, it didn’t so much cross my mind till on or about Friday morning that we only have service for twelve. And twelve Haggadot. And twelve matching napkins. We resolved this by cleverly mixing one different thing into each place setting. One person got a different appetizer plate, another got a different fork, another got a mismatched napkin. Two people shared a Haggadah. It was sort of a Martha-Stewart Jedi mind trick.

It was a lovely Seder with delightful company. Hebrew School seems to be paying off and all. I missed Miriam’s cup because I was in the kitchen pulling something out of the oven, and I spent good chunk of time serving up soup, and then there was the big reveal of the tszimmis, the quinoa, and the two-day brisket. So, perhaps I can be forgiven for not getting much time to talk to Nancy, the stranger at my table.

And that’s why is wasn’t until after Elijah had come and gone, after the first load of dishes were in the dishwasher, after we’d shared the afikomen, that I discovered I accidentally had a nun at my Seder.

I mean, how many of you have ever gotten to say that? It’s not a sentence frequently uttered. Nuns aren’t particularly common at Seders.

It turns out Nancy was having such a lovely time, she didn’t even realize she’d had beef instead of fish on Good Friday. Or maybe the brisket was just that good.


You may have read the title to this post and thought I had some deep philosophical reason not to teach my son to put down the toilet seat. Or you may have thought, “At least I’m a better parent than that lady.” Or perhaps you read it and shouted, “You know, a pilot intentionally slammed his plane into the French Alps and we’re bombing Tikrit and the White House flower lady lost her job. Who the hell cares why you’re not teaching your son to put down the toilet seat?”

If, however, you are looking for a brief respite from the hook-in-the-gut experience that is opening a news app these days, read on.

When Zachary, now ten, was first learning to use the lavatory, we taught him to put the seat up, relieve himself, put the seat and the lid down, and wash his hands. It may be a stretch to say we taught him that. He’s a first child; we showed him it once and he’s done it ever since.

Benjamin is a middle child. Which means… well, if you have a middle child, you understand.

We tried to replicate the way we had taught his brother. Lift seat, pee, lower seat and lid, wash hands. This was not the first and certainly not the last time we would try to teach Benjamin something the same way we taught Zachary. We’re eight years in now, and we still sometimes make that mistake.

The way it has turned out, we’ve taught him to go in, pee, and come out, whereupon—without looking up from whatever I’m doing—I say, “Go back in and wash your hands,” he insists he has washed his hands, I repeat, “Go back and wash your hands,” and he sighs dramatically before stomping back into the bathroom to wash his hands. Then, half an hour later, I go in to use the toilet and sit down on drops of pee.

I have tried telling him, on his way in, “Lift the seat and wash your hands,” which works for one visit only. I have tried yelling, “Benjamin! I just sat on pee,” which works exactly never. Then, a few weeks ago, I left a sticky note on the lid of the seat: “If you love your mother, lift the seat.”

And it worked. Not just for that day, but for the past several weeks, long after the note was removed. I now live with two boys, both of whom lift the damned toilet seat. Their sister is delighted by the change of conditions.

Perhaps it’s now time to teach him to put the seat down. But I prefer to stop here, rest in this accomplishment. There’s been an improvement, the desired goal was reached. I see no reason to immediately go looking for another goal. He doesn’t need something new to be criticized for.

Build your own metaphor as you wish.


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The Angry Inch

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“Five feet, three inches,” the medical assistant person noted. “No, I’m five feet, four inches.” “No, you’re five feet, three inches,” she insisted. “No, no. I’m five feet, four inches.” “You’re almost five feet, three-and-a-half inches.” Writing it down. She was writing it down on my chart. It was going on my permanent record. “Well, […]

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In which the novice surpasses the master

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Some days I don’t feel all that necessary around here. Today was not one of those days. Today was, rather, one of those days in which I felt with great, leaden spears the importance of what I’m doing. I felt more than I have in a long time—perhaps ever—just how unbearably significant and deliberate parenting […]

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A Very Harry Potter Birthday

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There have been a number of requests for pictures of the party. Please forgive the text here, folks. I can barely stand up at this point. The greeting sign, which a random passer-by asked to photograph.   The kids came into the house through here, with the Harry Potter music blaring.   The Great Hall, […]

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