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Showing posts from December, 2009

There Was This Priest and This Rabbi

The fact that Sharon was Catholic and I was Jewish was never really an issue  ... until Nikki attended a Jewish preschool.

Don't get me wrong ... The school was great. We were both excited to find a preschool that had such a stellar reputation ... and Nikki was very happy there.  She didn't even mind the fact that there was a limited lunch selection. The preschool  had a Kosher kitchen so we could only give her peanut butter sandwiches every day. That was the only food that was allowed from the "outside".

Note: For those not familiar with Kosher kitchens, the simplified explanation is that meat and milk can never touch each other (apparently they had a nasty divorce a long time ago ... meat must have wandered outside the marriage). No other food from outside can come close to either one. Why peanut butter is allowed is a mystery. I guess it's not interested in a relationship with either meat or milk.
Anyway ... where was I? Oh yes ... The real dilemma was really n…

What Do YOU feed Your Babies?

When he was born, my father-in-law took one look and said to me,"Put a visor on this kid and give him a cigar and you've got a helluva blackjack dealer."

That was Josh.

His voice turned raspy at a young age ... so he always told stories just like he was an old man. Speaking of stories ... his would go on forever because he competed for "stage time" with his sisters. Alissa would tell her favorite story "The Wide Mouth Frog" (about a frog who met other animals and asked "What do you feed your babies?")

When his turn came around, he would combine details from every story he'd ever heard ... "Once upon a time there were three bears ... who asked Mrs Alligator, What do you feed your baby ... and then Goldilocks told the wolf that .... um ... there were  ... um ..."
Alissa ... "Josh ... that is not a real story ...."
Josh ... " DAD .... LISSA IS DISTURRRVING ME!"

Josh's room was a typical boy's room ... …

Dress Up

Lissy loved to dress up in costumes.

It didn't have to be a special holiday for her to break out the Genie outfit or ballerina get-up or some funky combination of moccassins, socks, sweaters and wild looking pants. The Genie pants were the family favorite because Lissy wore the cartoon character underwear underneath. We eventually had to pry those pink plastic shoes off her feet.

I think Halloween started this tradition. Not so much for her sister Nikki. Nikki was glad when Halloween was over since her mother insisted on creating the costumes herself. They always consisted of three rolls of aluminum foil, black leotards, black and gold face paint, black socks and eye makeup.



We used to name Nikki's outfits.

The "Medusa" look was interesting ... leotard, makeup, scarves and the ever present aluminum foil crimped strategically around clumps of hair sticking straight out in different angles. I remember getting nasty phone calls from the neighbors that night as Alissa a…

The Perfect Child

Alissa arrived on September 19th and was immediately dubbed "the perfect child" by the relatives. This ... of course ... was NOT music to her sister's ears. Alissa had a calm disposition, slept through the night from the first day and had the kind of face that everyone had to kiss whenever they met her.

Nikki was really a great sister to her. She was her protector ... and she always spoke up for her. She spoke up for her SO MUCH that Alissa didn't speak for herself until she was about 4 (except for some cute sounds that might have been words).

A typical conversation between an adult and Alissa via Nikki (her translator) would be:

Adult: "So your name is Alissa?"
Alissa starts to nod her head ... Nikki pipes in: "Yes ... actually it's Alissa Michelle Momberg."
Adult: "What a pretty name ... I love your dress."
Nikki: "Our mom got matching dresses for us. I have one just like it."
Adult: "That's nice. How old are yo…

Sibling Training

There's a six year age difference between Nikki and her sister Alissa.

When Alissa's birth was imminent, we thought it was a good idea to get "professional sibling training".
We figured Nikki would instinctively know what to do with her sister .. like pull her hair, "borrow" her clothes, throw her under the bus (she was very literal) ... but it probably wouldn't hurt for her to hear the happier side of sibling rivalry as well.

So we enrolled her in the Bayfront Medical sibling program.

The classroom setup was a family affair. The future brothers and sisters were assembled on the floor of a small circular auditorium and the parents were seated above. It was kind of like watching a mini version of Spartacus ... there were even a few tiny gladiator fights that broke out spontaneously. Nikki ... to her credit ... sat attentively and even counselled some of the smaller children on the proper etiquette of sibling classroom behavior. She was about 3 years ol…

What Is Love?

I must have taken thousands of pictures of Nikki. First borns are always the ones with the fat photo albums ... and the ones who are talked about ad nauseum when they take their first poops or finish their first sentences.

Everything they do is unique ... no child in history has ever done it that way before and you expect your friends to share in your excitement.

Nikki had an incredible memory. She repeated jokes she heard verbatim. Unfortunately, some of those jokes my dad told her  ... and probably didn't understand himself. There was one about Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy that I'm still embarrassed to repeat today. Nikki retold it for weeks.


She was a natural performer. Usually it was a complex dance routine with costumes and ballet slippers ... in the middle of a party. Years later she "trained" her sister to perform with her ... well ... I should say she tried to train her. Alissa was content to do her "bobbing head" routine. No other part of her bod…

Everybody's Fine

Saw a great movie yesterday ... Everybody's Fine with Robert DeNiro. It's very well written and very well acted. For those of you who have adult children, bring big boxes of kleenex. For those who have little children, bring big boxes of kleenex. Actually ... even if you have no kids or HATE the ones you have, bring big boxes of kleenex.

In the movie, DeNiro still dreams of his kids as youngsters ... even in adult situations.

I do the same thing. My oldest is in medical school and, at 31, is still only 4 years old in my dreams ... frozen forever. It's exactly the same with my middle daughter who is 26 and who lives and works in DC and my son, 23, who lives and works here in St. Pete.

Nikki, the oldest, was born while I was still teaching at Canterbury.


She started talking right away. I think she might have even told the doctor how she wanted to be delivered. First borns seem to be the most independent (until they need money later in life).

As a baby, Nikki was restless an…

Esther Returns ... Once More

Esther stories apparently have reader appeal. Thank you for all the requests ... and thanks for the wonderful messages many of you have sent me over the last couple of weeks. Here's my personal favorite:

I mentioned that Esther and Sam had adjoining rooms at Menorah Manor ... separated by only a curtain. You also might remember that Sam is very hard of hearing ( deaf, by human standards) ... and over the last few months, Esther's voice was barely a whisper. It was a match made in heaven ... she couldn't speak and he couldn't hear.

About 6 months ago, I got a call from Sam.

"Your mother wants to talk to you about something, Joel."
"What is it?"
"I don't know ... she won't talk to me."
"Okay ... I'll come ...."
"Hold on ... here she is."
"Wait ... Dad ... "
Too late. He gave the phone to Esther.
"Mom?"
There was barely a whisper on the phone.
"Mom. I can't hear you. Is Dad right th…

The Salad Story

Okay ... one more Esther story. It's my wife's favorite.

When Debbie visited my parents in New Orleans early in our relationship, we met them at a great little place in Metairie called Foodies. Foodies carried all the best New Orleans restaurant dishes "to go" and had a wide selection of salads and meats and breads that you could eat right there. Food selection will be important later in the story.

We ordered our meals and took them out to the patio to eat. As we started our lunch, I noticed that Sam had a pretty big piece of lettuce sitting on the bridge of his nose UNDER his glasses. Of course, the logical question going through my mind was ... how the hell did he get a piece of lettuce under his glasses and on his nose ... AND how did he not see or feel it. But then I remembered that this was Sam ... and not an ordinary human. 

So I decided to mention the obvious ... "Dad, you've got a piece of lettuce on your nose."
Sam looked at me blankly and aske…

A Couple of Esther Tales

Indulge me. I've been thinking this week about my two favorite Esther stories:

1. THE CLOSET. (Note: Those of you who have heard this ... about 357 of you ... feel free to skip to number two) Esther's closet was literally half the size of Esther's house on Melody Drive and was legendary in New Orleans.What made this even more interesting was that Esther was not wealthy (not even close) ... just a little crazy. The house was small ... but the closet .... was MASSIVE.  One year, I made a sizable income selling tickets to view THE CLOSET. It was every little girl's ... and big girl's dream. For starters, there were eight 30 foot racks of clothing all individually wrapped and hung by color, season and type. Many were duplicates and triplicates of the same item. (Remember Esther was "obsessive" and didn't want to ever run the risk of something going out of style). I think we once also counted more than 300 pairs of panty hose ... some never out of the pack…