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TEN by Susie Lubell

Dearest Sugar Bee,

Ten years ago at this moment I was lying in bed next to your Aba, breathing and meditating my way through contractions. He was snoring. For hours I lay there on my side moaning quietly while the contractions grew stronger and closer together. Aba had a bad cold, I recall. When you're older I'll tell you about Man Flu. At around 5 am I woke him up because it was show time. Grandma stayed with your brother and we drove to the hospital. And three hours later you were out. All yellow and furry.

And now look at you. Ten years old. No longer yellow and no longer furry. Confident and beautiful and generous and loving. And funny! The other day when your brother wouldn't give you something you asked for you said, without missing a beat, that your heart was a dark and stormy night. We all fell over laughing.

Indeed the days of dark and stormy have relented for the time being. No more tantrums over ponytails. Or outfits. Or homework. Maybe a little drama still surrounding homework. And piano. No one is perfect. 

This year judo is out and dance has pas de bourreed itself centerstage. Every night the musical stylings of Taylor Swift inspire a frenzied display of cartwheel split combos to make any dance mom proud. In fact I am not a dance mom but you get your fill just watching Dance Moms and cheering for Maddie or Mackenzie or Ashleigh or Chloe or whoever it is. I don't even mind it really since it seems to be helping to improve your English vocabulary. Although you sometimes sound like you're narrating your own sitcom. Bam! What?! Cue: arm fold and million dollar smile.

If only you could get your brother to start filming you, and your mother wasn't such a disaster at baking, I think you might have a future in YouTubing. So far we have tried and failed at macaroons, lollipops, chocolate covered popcorn, frosting, fondant and meringue. I have other redeeming qualities.

In other big news, this year we were finally able to give you the sister you never had. Far furrier than you were, even at your furriest, Muna has your big brown eyes and shares your love of dancing. She's also a natural runner, like you, and loves to have her hair brushed. And eat salami. I'm afraid Muna the Mutt is the best we can do at this late stage my dear. The good news is that she will never borrow your favorite sweater and wreck it or steal your boyfriend. 

Tomorrow Grandma and I are taking you to get your ears pierced. Finally! You've been waiting for this day for as long as you could talk. Begging me to pierce your ears. Well the day has finally arrived. I'm considering getting a nose ring myself or maybe a second hole in one ear. I actually have two extra holes in one ear, that I did myself when I was fifteen, but have since closed up. A story for another time. When Grandma goes home. Grandma says she's getting her tongue pierced. She's pretty hilarious. After piercing we'll have brunch and go to your favorite stationery store, because you are my daughter after all. School supplies are in our DNA. Gotta stay organized too. Ten minutes after Grandma arrived you were already organizing her purse. Everything has its place girl, amirite? (cue: mother daughter handshake).

I wish you another outstanding year. I wish you continued intuition to skillfully navigate your relationships with friends and family. I wish you utter confidence to express yourself in dance and music. I wish you a year without lice. A lifetime even. And I wish your feet would grow so we could share shoes finally.

Love you mieces to pieces, my Sugar Bee.
Mommy

The Girl is Nine... by Susie Lubell

Dear Sugar Bee,

For as long as I live I will never forget a moment that happened this year. We were on the plane flying from the United States back to Israel. About an hour into the flight you suddenly started sobbing. I was already trying to remember where I'd stowed the children's tylenol, sure you'd burst another ear drum, when, between sobs, you told me you were worried that your kids wouldn't know your Grandma. All I could do was stare at you and cry myself. 

We had just had another great visit with her and goodbyes are always hard for you. They're hard for me too. And I thought my God, you are a spectacular child. Thoughtful and considerate. So expressive. So full of love. We cried together for a little while until the flight attendant ended our moment. "Something to drink?" Make mine a double.

And today you are nine which hardly seems possible. I watch with utter astonishment how you courageously navigate your relationships, especially with your friends at school. With this one not talking to that one and that one telling everyone else not to talk to this one. And you in the middle of all of it telling everyone to be friends. Standing up for the bullied. Sitting next to the outcast. Negotiating peace between battling girl tribes. 

Unfortunately you often leave your peacemaker hat at school to come home and wage war. Brothers are not always easy. I know that. And you have them coming at you from all sides. But those two boys love you very much. Especially your little brother whose greatest joy is playing dolls with you, setting up playmobile, building forts, making tea parties, dressing up with you and basically spending every moment he can with you. And while sometimes you lose your last shred of patience for him and then I want to hurl both of you off the roof, you are largely two for the road. You even willingly offered to sleep with him in his room on a semi-permanent basis so that he wouldn't feel lonely in a room by himself. You are the kind of big sister that I had always dreamed of having for myself. 

What else? It looks like your days as a pixie ninja may be numbered. You've already announced this is your last year in judo, which I respect. It was a good run. Hopefully you'll find something equally awesome to do next year. Maybe you'll join your brother on the roller hockey team. And then we can accessorize with some striped tube socks, a terrycloth headband and a unicorn tee shirt and casually segue into roller DERBY. Then you can really get out some of that signature Sugar Bee aggression. How can someone so sweet and cuddly one minute be so terrifying the next? Wait, I think one of your rolled eyes got stuck. Nope, it's back. Glad these episodes are short-lived.

My birthday wisdom is more of the same stuff I always tell you. Always try your best. We were just talking about this a few weeks ago when you had some tests coming up at school and you were complaining about how everything is so hard for you. I know that can be frustrating, especially when it seems like things come so easily for others. All I can tell you is that training yourself to do the hard work will serve you best in the long run. The ones who seem to breeze through reading and times tables will eventually come across a subject or skill that does not come naturally. And they won't know what to do next.  But you, who have always had to work hard, will rise gracefully to meet every challenge. 

All my love and mieces to pieces,

Mommy

He Didn't Say Sorry by Susie Lubell

Dear Babu,

I know it's not your birthday. I'm writing because something bad happened. Your friend in preschool lost her Saba. She came to preschool yesterday, the day after it happened, and told your teacher that her Saba died. That he was killed and the man didn't say he was sorry. Your Aba came home and told me what your brave little friend told your teacher and we both just sobbed because we thought about your Saba and how close you are to him. And how he picks you up all the way to the sky. And how you laugh and sing together. Saba is your best friend. And it seems right now like he'll always be with us. But I guess we never know. Your friend's saba just got on a bus in his neighborhood in Jerusalem, like a regular saba, and a bad guy killed him just like that. And now he's gone. And her savta is in the hospital because she got hurt too. It's all so hard to understand. Even for grown-ups. 

Your Aba and I do what we can to keep you safe but bad things happen all the time, all over the world. Now seems extra scary because it's harder to know when we are safe and when we are not. So for now, you can feel safe knowing that you are loved. We love you. Saba and Savta love you. Grandma loves you. Our whole family loves you and all of our friends. And they all love their own families too. And so it goes like that on and on. In spite of everything, there's still so much love in this world.

Mieces to pieces,
Mommy

Eleven by Susie Lubell

Taken right after getting off Montazooma's Revenge at Knott's Berry Farm this summer. I am never going on that thing again.

Taken right after getting off Montazooma's Revenge at Knott's Berry Farm this summer. I am never going on that thing again.

Hello kiddo.

Happy birthday. It's that time of year again. When we look back at what a year we've had. The ups. The downs. The completely inexplicable. The truth is I can't remember much past last week but I'll try to review some highlights. 

You won. We bought you a phone. We said we wouldn't and we did. We explained that you didn't need it. That it wasn't necessary. That it would only cause problems. You listened. You agreed. But you kept asking anyway and we just couldn't take it anymore. You broke us. High persistence. Low distractibility. Well done my boy. You will go far in this life. I gave you the choice of having my old iPhone 4 for free or a $100 toward the phone of your choice. After days of searching eBay and Amazon you took the $100 and upgraded to a shiny refurbished iPhone 5c, paying the rest off from your own savings. And that was that. Aba and I worried that it would be a disaster. That you would lose it or break it or spend all your time on it, but I'm happy to report that it's been fine and now I don't have to get a zillion Whatsapp messages from your classmates. And that rechargeable case you insisted on buying has come in handy when my phone has died on occasion. It's nice to have one early adapter in the family. Now you just need to get a job to support your habit.

But we didn't just get you a phone. This was the year that we went balls out. We said, sure, all the research points to handheld devices as the singular factor causing the deterioration of verbal culture, handwritten expression and empathy. True, the radiation these things emit is enough to pop corn, cause a blood moon and melt the ice caps. But why stop at one device? Why not throw caution to the wind and TURN. THIS. MOTHER. OUT. You know what I mean? So we bought you a Kindle and a Raspberry Pi too. And a drone. 

The Kindle is just plain genius parenting. English age appropriate books are expensive as hell in Israel and generally hard to come by. You can't just pick up Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing at the library. The only English books at our library are the Fifty Shades trilogy that I donated last year. But on the Kindle you can get whatever you want and sometimes it's even free. Plus I can use it too. Win. Win. Win. 

The Raspberry Pi is sadly also a device and not an actual pie. It's like a bitty motherboard with ports whose operating system you load on an SD card depending on what you want to do. I don't even know what I just said. All I know is that the whole thing cost me like $30 and whatever you did to it made it turn our television into the Internet. 

But electronics aside, it's been a great year for a lot of other reasons. You kicked it up a notch in piano. You joined the local roller hockey team. Your first friend in Israel who moved to Canada two years ago moved back and now he's basically Canadian. We should send all Israeli kids to Canada for a makeover. He was a great kid to begin with but now he's a Canadian level great kid. And speaking of great kids, you and your sister have found some common ground in your plight to grow up in the same house. Turns out the only thing you can't stand more than each other is listening to your little bother yammer away all day long. That child does not shut up even for a second. Like if he's awake, then he's talking and it drives you and the rest of us mad hatter. Wait, I think I hear him now. He's saying stop widing on da compuda because I'm tawking. Only God can save us my dear. And earplugs. 

Beautiful boy, I wish you another kickass year. I wish you patience and empathy. Such difficult skills but you are getting there slowly. I wish you endless curiousity and wonder. I wish you would clean up your room. You are a shining light. A shining, rechargeable, solar powered LED light.

I love you,
Mommy

 

This Many by Susie Lubell

Hello gorgeous.

You've told me not to call you Babu anymore or even Idan because your name is now Aba of the Animals and, alternatively, Aba of Spiderman. Sounds like someone just turned four.

Happy birthday! It has been a stellar year. One for the books. We started off by starting preschool! You and your best friend Omer bid farewell to the idyllic toddler oasis of your dear Yulia and entered the whirling, chaotic, vertigo-inducing cacophony that is municipal preschool. After six weeks I had a meeting with your teacher to discuss your progress and she said, well he's not especially social. Or verbal. Or coordinated. So I added that he is also likely color-blind! She didn't think that was as funny as I did. But, as expected, in time you have opened up to your teachers and classmates. You speak a seamless mix of Hebrew English so consistent it might qualify as an official creole. And you are coordinated enough to get yourself dressed in the morning so I don't really give a crap if you can hold a pencil. Yet.

This year has been an interesting one in your development. On the one hand you are so much more independent and everything that was once so exhausting, like getting you ready in the morning or getting you in and out of the car, or putting you to bed, is totally manageable now. I'll never forget when you decided after one Shabbat dinner that you were going home with Saba and Savta to spend the night. They actually had plans the next day but you weren't having any of that. You declared that you were sleeping over, went upstairs and packed your bag, put on your pajamas, came downstairs and waited for them by the door. How could they say no?

On the other hand, you regularly point out that you are still a baby. And when you're not Aba of the Animals, you are a baby animal. It can be confusing to the untrained eye. There's a lot of back and forth. A lot of I can do it myself! Followed by you do it! I'm a baby! You could see how that would be sort of hard to follow or predict or understand or decipher.  This stage made me want to strangle your brother. But not now. Not with you. Because you are still my baby. Even as I see that you've become quite long and skinny and the eyes that once took up half your head are now fairly proportionate to the rest of you, I like that you are still little. 

You know what else I like? I like that the whole week you wait for Friday night dinner so you can play your ukulele with Aba and sing Shabbat songs. I like when you and your sister set up the whole downstairs with pillows and stuffed animals. I like when you get out your tools and do work on the house. I like that you still don't notice when your shoes are on backwards. I like when you put on your favorite songs and do capoeira-esque cartwheels on the carpet in the entryway. I like when you ask your brother to read you stories.

I hope next year brings you much joy and maybe a dog. I hope your nose stops running. I hope you agree to eat something besides yogurt. I hope all the animals and Spidermans realize how much they lucked out with you as their aba. I hope we can put your afternoon nap behind us. I hope I manage to make some family albums this year like I did before you were born so that you don't have to keep looking at baby pictures of your brother and ask if they are of you. They're not. Sorry. 

Mieces to pieces,
Mommy

Eight by Susie Lubell

photo credit: Naomi Davis

photo credit: Naomi Davis

Dear Sugar Bee,

Happy birthday to you my dear. Another year goes by. A great year I'd say. The days of tantrums over bumps in your ponytail? Gone. Crying because your favorite tights are in the laundry? Over. Psychotic episodes and hyperventilation over homework? Thing of the past. You are kind of a badass, my little girl. A thoughtful, self-aware, clothes folding, towel hanging, little brother dressing, mommy snuggling, vegetable eating badass. And it hasn't all happened over night. You have worked hard! Harder than many. 

Let's take reading for example. Uch! Screw reading. Who needs it? Well it turns out that reading is important even though it is difficult. And yes, reading the time is also important, namely so you can stop asking your mother. And I know everything is backwards here. You read right to left but then tell digital time left to right! What?!?! That makes no sense! Tell me about it. You learned how to read music this year too and English, both of which are also left to right! It's enough to drive anyone completely mad hatter. I get dysgraphia just thinking about it. But you never give up. You are diligent and persistent and it is quite spectacular to watch. 

And you know what else was spectacular to watch? Your first judo match. You were so nervous and didn't' even want to compete. And then you got out on the mat and DOMINATED. You were like a fairy ninja. You pranced over to your opponent with your raven pony tail bouncing and then threw him to the ground like a sack of potatoes! Huzzah! You surprised everyone and I think you even surprised yourself.

As for our power struggles, which once took a daily toll, they are now so sporadic that when they occur I think we are both startled. I have gotten better at recognizing one in the making and diffusing it and you have gotten better at letting whatever it is go in the first place. It's harder to let things go with your brothers though. I know. I wonder sometimes how you much being a little sister to your older brother has shaped you. For better or worse. We'll never know I guess but I think your relationship is becoming incrementally easier for you to handle. Increments sometimes so small they can only be detected by a scanning electron microscope, but still. It's forward motion. You have yet to finish a game of Taki with him that didn't end in huffing up the stairs, but at least it's not huffing and screaming.

Thankfully you have many friends to distract you from sibling strife. And to watch you all play together is to watch magic unfold. You still make tea parties for your dolls and animals. You still sing and dance around the house. You rollerblade through the living room, arms flailing. And while you've given up on a little sister, your brothers are willing participants when you want to play hair and nail salon. Plus you have adopted several older girlfriends and relatives to be your proxy sisters. I think those are the best kind of sisters anyway. 

I hope it's another wonderful year for you Sugar Bee. Full of rainbows and hearts and smileys. Your spirit, intuition and courage are a shining light to me and Aba and all who know you. Except for maybe that little boy you trounced in judo. He's afraid of you. Very afraid. 

love you mieces to pieces,
Mommy

Unconscious Coupling. It's also a thing. by Susie Lubell

Hi Gwyn,

It's been so long since I last wrote and now I see that we have kind of drifted from our shared destiny. We were so parallel for so long, what with both of us losing our dads to cancer and marrying foreigners and having our kids at the same time while maintaining our astonishingly successful careers. Well I have a pretty good reason for not being in touch since I decided to have another baby and then we moved to Israel. So it's been hectic.

But I see you've been busy too. Snapping your body back to its prepubescent state and starring in a few movies. And then all the singing and dancing around in Glee. I bet that's fun. I'm doing a lot of that too, but in my living room. Not on television. And no one's paying me. But it's still fun.

Listen, I was really sorry to hear about your divorce, er rather your Conscious Uncoupling or decoupling or unraveling or whatever you're calling it. I totally get it. Kids are older. You and Chris want different things. Mid-life crisis and all that. It's not easy. My husband and I have had our ups and downs too but we are sticking it out for now. We're calling this stage of our marriage Unconscious Coupling actually. You might have heard of it. I mean there aren't any studies written about it or anything but it's a very real phenomenon. It's when you're so exhausted because of all the kids and meals and grocery shopping and the cleaning and the working and making ends meet and schlepping and hosting and laundry that you fall asleep having sex. Am I right? Or when you are both so tired after you put the kids to bed, that you just sit on the couch and finger through Facebook updates together and let your eyes glaze over. Like. Like. Share. Like. Oh Like! Like! Like! Right there! Yes! Liiiiiike....It's not the most romantic, but it requires very little bandwidth. Uncoupling isn't really an option for us anyway since I'm a ketubah designer. Bad for business. Branding issue.You know what I'm talking about.

Anyway, famous people can really count anniversaries like dog years. By Hollywood standards you guys have been married for like 70 years so don't let it get you down. You done good.

And now that you're available, you should know I have a really adorable brother who is a non-famous surfer and lives in Mexico. Maybe you need to hunker down with a regular nobody like Julia Roberts did. I'll send you his email if you're interested. Then we can finally get our kids together for that long overdue double playdate...

All the best,

Susie

Lucky Seven by Susie Lubell

Seven.jpg

Dearest Sugar Bee,

It was your birthday yesterday and I fell in love with you again. We were out in the desert with friends and you were your beautiful, lively self. Enjoying your family and friends and the sunshine and the wacky antelope ranch where we stayed. You said you wanted to stay there for a whole week. We spent a lot of time holding hands and swinging in a hammock and talking about life. I gave you your number seven charm to wear around your neck this year. The charm that I wore when I was seven and Grandma wore and Aunt Lenore too. The charm that Grammy brought into our lives. Lucky seven. And how lucky we are.

Flashback a week and we are fighting about homework. Again. You are giving me that look. Slack jawed, tongue forward, rolled eyes, wobbling your head like you work in the Main Bazaar.

How do you even know how to do that? There are like three Indians who live in Israel.

And I want to kill you. I feel my chest tighten and I want to shriek that I can't stand you. That I don't understand why you treat me the way you do.

Why only me?

I try to diffuse your frustration and anger. I'm pretty good at that. I've had a lot of practice. Plus I know reading is hard but you've come so far! You can't hear me because you are too far gone. I excuse myself from homework and give myself a time out in my bedroom and hold my head in my hands until the anger dissipates. When you calm down you knock on my door and we hug. You give me the picture you drew of us together. I smile and thank you and add it to the pile. We continue to work, you finish your homework and peace is restored to our home.

And so it goes Sugar Bee. Two steps forward, one step back. Which of course mostly refers to my own progress in navigating our relationship. You are forging ahead as best you can and you are magnificent. You are strong and loving and confident and curious and wild and silly and expressive. You are finding your stride and it is beautiful to watch.

But we clash, as do mothers and daughters. And it reminds me of clashes I used to have with Grandma. And that's hard too. A friend of mine with a four year old asked me what was the deal with her "teenager" and I gave her a knowing smile. I told her it eases up with time. And it does. I can see that. Our clashes are fewer and further between. We no longer fight about the "bumps" in your high ponytail. Getting dressed in the morning is a non-issue (school uniforms help). We do that funny thing now when we feel a fight starting we put up our fists and make our meanest faces. And then we laugh. But sometimes the fury comes on so fast that we miss our window and it gets ugly.

It's all okay though, you know why Sugar Bee? Because you are still just seven. You are not a teenager. You just play at it sometimes and play is good.

You are still just seven,

I remind myself. It's been a year of big changes, like every year, but you still play with dolls and you still like unicorns and rainbows and Strawberry Shortcake and Rainbow Loom and drawing and dancing in front of the mirror and snuggling and pretty hairbands and climbing trees and hiking and Ivy and Bean and Hello Kitty and Legos and riding bikes and baking. And you love Judo.

What would we do without Judo?

You have great friends who still like to play house and build forts and hold hands with you at school. You have one brother who thinks even your farts are magical and another brother, who, despite his constant teasing and antagonism, admits he can't live without you. And you have two parents who often find themselves staring at you and wondering how such an astonishing creature came from them. In fact you are surrounded by love and admiration going back generations and you know it. You feel it. So something is going right.

And as we swing in the hammock together and watch the clouds move through the blue sky on your seventh birthday at the Antelope Ranch, my chest tightens with love this time and I know it is all passing so quickly.  And you know that I love you.

Mommy

Revolution Number Nine by Susie Lubell


Hey Kiddo,

How did you get to be NINE? That's bigger than any other kid I've ever had actually. I look at you now and there are no remnants of the chubby tomato faced baby who came into the world nine years ago today. You are tall and frog legged and I marvel at your metamorphosis. I like this age actually. I know you don't want me to hug and kiss on you all the time, or at least during the day, but at night you still need your mommy to tuck you in and sing you songs and smooth your hair and kiss you goodnight. So even though I would sooner never sing another one of those effing songs I have sung every night for the last nine years, I keep singing them for you because soon you won't want them anymore and I'll be sad.

A lot has changed about you this year. Like you're willingness to wear something besides yoga pants. I know they're comfortable, but...a little variety right? Also very excited about your willingness to wear your cousin's hand-me-downs and your new interest in chess. And I love how you let your little brother tackle you and sit on your head. Very generous, especially now that he's potty training and often naked. Also delighted by the way you've taken charge of your social calendar by calling your friends yourself to set up your own playdates and then riding there on your bike! And, my favorite, your ability to wipe yourself without using an entire roll of toilet paper. You've become quite the conservationist.

But some things have not changed and may never.  Like your love of the Beatles. And how much fun you have with your cousins, even though you barely get to see them. Your mad biking skills. Your disdain for ball sports. All the silliness you share with your grandparents. Or how my sharpies and micron pens always end up in your desk drawer. How you continue to obsess over smart phones. How a quick jaunt to Office Depot followed by frozen yogurt at the mall is your best afternoon activity ever. How you love camping despite a tendency toward fanatic hygiene. And let's not forget your relentless teasing of your sister. That actually needs to stop. You're grounded. Just kidding.

Above all, you are still the bright, sensitive, stubborn, curious, persistent, focused kid you always were. I hope all of your birthday wishes come true, but no, you can't have an iPod Touch 5 or a Samsung Galaxy Pocket.

I love you.
Mommy


A year in the life by Susie Lubell



Dear Smiley McPoint and Whimper,

Where did the time go sweet cheeks? I turned around to get you a new diaper and you turned one! How'd you do that? I'm petty sure this has been your BEST. YEAR. EVER. I mean, what with the canon shot delivery, the road trip we took for your entire third month of life, the moving to a new house, the moving to a NEW COUNTRY, the moving to another new house, the seven day rash that looked like measles, the sleep training and retraining and retraining and giving up, the babysitter that I loved but you hated, the freezing winter when we never bathed you because that would mean exposing you to the elements, all of the handling by well-intentioned siblings, the baby album I never made you because you're the third and anyway I haven't even finished your sister's and she's five? I'd say it was a pretty awesome year. And you were a champ.

It's hard to believe that a year ago we were signing the papers on our house sale and bringing you home from the hospital. You were supposed to be the charm. The third one and last and easiest. You were supposed to take a pacifier and a bottle. You were supposed to sleep through the night at three weeks. Or three months, MAX. You were supposed to be the one who happily went to anyone's arms. You were the one who would sense my mood swings and behave accordingly.

Turns out you were not easy. You neither took a pacifier nor a bottle nor do you suck your thumb. You've been "sleep trained" so many times it is unclear who is the trainer and who is the trainee. We're hoping you sleep through the night by three YEARS at this rate. You prefer the arms of Mommy and Aba with very few exceptions. You cry all the time no matter if I'm tired and having a bad day or deliriously energetic and mother-of-the-year. You're kind of a piece of work.

But you make up for it in countless ways. Like how when you hear music, you conduct! And you nestle your head into my lap while we're sitting on the carpet and stay there while I'm on the phone. So considerate! And how you speed crawl over to Aba when he comes home from work screaming ADA ADA! Ada likes that a lot. You also eat olives. And just about everything else. And you do tricks for Grandma on skype. That makes her feel great. And how you play peek a boo from behind my back. And behind the door. And behind anything. And how you like to climb on the dishwasher and pull out the knives. Why just the knives?

Yours is a different kind of charm, Chicken Legs. You were the one that finally convinced me to start letting it all go. All of my notions of what a mother should and should not do. All of my expectations. All of my judgements. All of my guilt. All of my type A-ness. You were the one who finally got me to accept that cereal can be fine for dinner, it's just as easy to find what you want to wear from a clean laundry pile on the floor as it is from the inside of your closet and a back-to-back Disney movie marathon can be a great way to restore quiet to crazy house.

Anyway, this year has been unforgettable for so many reasons but none of them hold a candle to you sunshine. You completed our family.

love,
Mommy

Five by Susie Lubell

Love

Dear Sugar Bee,

You're five today and I can hardly believe I just typed that. What a year it has been for you, for all of us. We started off on the wrong foot with pneumonia and you are still talking about the shot of antibiotics you got in your butt. You might never forget that one. And then you got a baby brother. And then you went on a month long road trip. And then you moved to a new house. And then to a new country! Talk about resilience and an almost heroic flexibility. It hasn't always been easy. And you've had some rough spells. But you have an understanding of yourself that frankly startles me sometimes. You get upset; we all do. And then you remove yourself, set up your dolls and clear your head. That's your process. And soon you are back to your shining spunky self. And then you like to talk about what all just happened. How you were mad and crazy, how you calmed down and got back in control. How we can talk about it after and still love each other. I appreciate processing these outbursts together. I hope we can always communicate like that.

Probably the biggest event for you this year, even bigger than moving to Israel, was becoming a big sister. Even though I know you'd prefer to still be the baby, as you have made clear in words and actions, you are a fantastic big sister. And that little boy is bonzo about you. Everything you do makes him giggle and you know it. He gets flooded with joy when he sees you. I admit, I feel that way too sometimes. What a lucky boy he is to have a sister as animated and intuitive as you. And as much as you and your older brother make each other nuts, I know there is a closeness between you too. Not every brother would take the time to pick out his sister's birthday outfit for preschool. Thankfully he can put together an outfit.

Your Aba continues to think the sun shines from your tush. He's right. You are a lovely, lovely girl and we are so lucky to have you as our daughter. Watching you grow has been one of the universe's greatest gifts to me.

many many kisses,
Mommy

Dear California by Susie Lubell

Santa Cruz

Hi there. How are you? 72 degrees and sunny as always? Just checking in before we fly out tonight. I've been thinking about you a lot and how much we've been through together. I know I haven't always been your most loyal resident. Remember how I used to wear long sleeves and turtlenecks year round in elementary school and tell people I was originally from New Hampshire? Sorry about that. But in my defense I was never exactly your type, at least as far as appearances go. I never tanned. I was a freckle puss from day one practically. I hated the beach and no one was watching out for my skin. It was the seventies and eighties after all. So I figured we might as well go our separate ways.

But I was so wrong! There is so much more to you than your constant sunshine. I love your fruits and vegetables. I love your ocean cliffs. I love your elephant seals. I love your national parks. I love Disneyland. I love your beach boardwalks, your Hollywood hoopla and your spring skiing. I love your taquerias, your dim sum, your In-N-Out, your pho, your pad thai, your chicken tikka masala, your sushi, your grass fed beef and your tofu. I even love your neon strip malls. How's that for devotion?

So for the record I'm sorry I once wished I was from the east coast. It was immature. Now I realize just how much you have given me and how much you have to offer yet. I'll be back one day.

love always,
Susie

Dear Dad by Susie Lubell

Stanley circa 1944 NY
Stanley Lee Lubell 1939-1992

I had another baby boy. His name is Idan and he's almost seven weeks old. He looks like me! Well, me and mom. That's what everyone says anyway. Sometimes I pull out the pictures I have of you as a little boy and I'm astounded by how much Shalev looks like you. It's your face on my son! We're trying to convince him to take ukulele lessons in the fall with your old ukulele. If there's You Tube where you are, you most certainly will not want to miss out on that.

But more about Idan. He is your typical infant. His intestines are bunched up too tight or something so he's crampy and grumpy for many of his waking hours. Which are few, thank god. He's starting to flirt with the idea of smiling but so far he mostly just stares at the world in complete panic. You can hardly blame him. The world is kind of a scary place, and scarier since you left. He does have the softest angora hair on his head though, so I've decided to keep him. Because he's soft. He's my new wubby. wink wink.

The other big news is that we're moving to Israel. I wonder if you'd be supportive if you were still alive. The truth is it's probably a moot point since my life would have likely taken an entirely different trajectory if you hadn't died. I hate to say this, but I'm probably better for it.  More resilient. More pragmatic. More resourceful. Which is not to say that a day doesn't goes by - really, not a single friggin day - that I don't wish you could know your grand kids (you have five now, not sure if you're keeping tabs) and your son-in-law and me for that matter and that we could all know you.  I'm sure you'd be nuts for these kids. Especially Aviv. She is a pisser. Hard headed. Spunky. Charming. Sweet. Kind. Generous. Devilish. With a head of thick, dark brown curls. She's phenomenal. And she could probably use some extra attention now that we have the baby. She's kind of a pain in the ass lately. Poor girl. Last year when we were in New York visiting your family, she started calling Uncle Peter Grandpa. It was sweet. But made me sad.

Yes, Israel. Packing it up and moving there in the winter. Who knows for how long but we're trying it out. Your mom is a little worried about it but she's not as dramatic as she used to be. She is ninety after all. And mom seems to be okay about it too, although I know she'd rather we stayed put. She lives for these kids as you can imagine.

What else...I had a career switch and I've been selling my artwork the last two years while I wing it as a reluctant stay at home mom. That's also not easy and sometimes I wish I'd become a doctor like you. Because at the end of the day it's pretty high paying shift work for a mom. But I lacked guidance in my twenties and sort of flitted about. Good years, to be sure. But somewhat aimless. Anyway, the art and the business surrounding the art keeps my mind from atrophying too much and allows me to run around dropping off and picking up my kids from a million different places. My big dream these days is to write a book - a collection of essays about navigating mid-life with spirit, creativity and a sense of humor. And a GPS.

That's about it Dad. Nineteen years goes by pretty fast, huh. You can rest knowing your baby girl is doing fine. The kids and I talk about you a lot and what it means to die and how everyone dies and how we miss people. All healthy discussions, thanks to you. Give my love to Pop too.

I love you.
Susie

Namesakes by Susie Lubell

Namesakes
Grammy Edythe Kutlow and Grandma Helen Sachs

As read at his bris...

Dear Idan,
You’ve only been in our family a little over a week and already I can’t imagine my life without you in it. You are so tiny and yet your arrival on the 49th day of the Omer, the period of great anticipation before God gave us the Torah on Mt. Sinai, has profound meaning for our family. Like your brother Shalev, you showed up a day early for the big party. He was born a day before Simchat Torah and you, the day before Shavuot. I guess that’s how you get the best seats. Nonetheless your birthdate appears to be very auspicious. You were born on 6.6.11 at 10 to 10 at night. And I’m no gematria expert but when you multiply six and six you get 36 or double chai. It’s no wonder that you are a Gemini, the sun sign of the twins.

Your arrival is really the beginning of the next chapter in our lives, the one that’s set in Israel, and your name, Idan – meaning “era” in Hebrew – is meant to signify this new adventure. You are also named to honor two important women in our family. Idan is for my Grammy Edythe Kutlow. Your second name, Hillel is to honor your Aba’s Grandma Helen Sachs. Both were incredibly strong women who faced significant challenges in their younger lives but both lived to be well into their nineties. Edythe Kutlow, born in New York City, would have been 101 years old this year. She lived for several years in an orphanage when her own mother was unable to provide for her financially. A resourceful and beautiful girl she lived to find a life partner in Benjamin Kutlow, have three terrific children, nine fantastic grandchildren (I'm the ninth) and now her eighteenth great grandchild. She was incredibly gifted with her hands and made beautiful heirloom baby blankets, kippot, needlepoints and afghans. She even crocheted the kippah that your Aba is wearing today for our wedding nine years ago. She was 92. Aba’s Grandma Helen Sachs was born in Leipzig, Germany and managed to escape the Nazis with the help of her brother in 1939 to resettle in America. Many of her family members could not fathom the evil of the Shoah and stayed behind, including her mother who died in Auschwitz. Helen resettled in Worcester, Massachusetts and along with her husband Julius, had two wonderful daughters and three incredible grandchildren – one of whom was your Aba. You would be her sixth great grandchild Idan. Her lineage was meant to perish in the holocaust and yet here we are, celebrating your new branch on a family tree that only continues to flourish.

The name Hillel also honors the great rabbinic sage who is known for having said,
Im ein ani li mi li. If I am not for myself, who will be for me.
Uch sh’ani l’atmzi ma ani. If I am only for myself who am I.
V’im lo achshav, ematai. And if not now, when.

He is also known for his ethic of reciprocity, or "Golden Rule":
That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.

You’ve come into a world with many challenges and you belong to a people, both Jewish and Israeli, that has faced and continues to face some of the greatest manifestations of hatred the world has known. And yet we are hopeful that you and your generation will be the ones to usher in peace, acceptance, compromise and love. That yours will be the “Idan Hillel” – the era of mutual respect. That is our greatest wish for you, for our family and friends and for the whole world. So you have a lot of work ahead little guy.

One last bit. Idan, you are our third and, it’s safe to say, our last child. Like you, I am also a third child. It’s not always easy Idan. The older two will be in cahoots a lot of the time and you’ll have to make up your own games and use your imagination a lot. You’ll make up for it with very close friends though and when you’re older the age gap between you and your siblings will fade and you’ll forget about how your big brother and sister teased you. Well you won’t forget, but you’ll forgive. Mostly.

And so today we welcome you into a family and a community that already loves you very very much. And we wish you a long and wonderful life shared with the ones you love.

Four by Susie Lubell

Up in the chair

Dear Sugar Bee,

Today you're four years old and pretty much a real person. It all kind of came together this year. You finally could hear and speak and now you don't stop talking and you have many opinions about your clothes and your hair and your friends and your brother and us. Many many opinions. Here are some of my favorites:
  1. Your baby brother should be named either Toilet Head or Boy Beauty.
  2. Mommy has a stinky mouth in the mornings and so does Aba.
  3. Your big brother is nice.
  4. You never want to talk to your brother ever again in the whole wide world.
  5. Mommy doesn't know how to brush hair. Only Aba does.
  6. Mommy is the only one who can brush hair because Aba doesn't know how.
  7. Only your teacher makes good ponytails.
  8. You hate baths except most of the time when you don't.
  9. You don't like socks except with hearts or stripes. Or plain. Or dots.
  10. We can always love each other, even when we're mad.
The truth is, for all of your opinions, you are a happy-go-lucky, funny, funny girl. You're a classic middle child - willing to share, easy-going, considerate, self-assured. That's why we had to have another baby, so you could fulfill your destiny.  As I write this you are rushing to clean up the Play Mobile castle set you just got for your birthday so that none of our baby friends will choke on any of the zillion bitty pieces. You're already such a good big sister.

Enjoy your special day, special girl.

I love you,
Mommy

Princess Crowns

Pin the kiss on the frog

Rainbow pinata

Ladybug Cake

Dear REI by Susie Lubell

jacket

This is a little note to say thank you for being so awesome and for standing by your lifetime warranty. I went into your new Tustin store wearing my ten year old REI shell and carrying the down jacket that zips into it. Both were dripping wet since it's been pouring rain here for the last 152 hours. I took off the shell to reveal what looks like a horrible case of dandruff dusting on my shoulders. It is in fact from the jacket which, after traveling with me through countless countries and snowy peaks, has begun to disintegrate from the inside. That is why I brought this old friend in to your store, to see if I might exchange it for a newer model. A lovely cashier looked up my membership, which I have have had for going on 15 years, and discovered that the jacket transaction was on record, purchased in Manhattan Beach in 2000 for $200 cash. I remembered the price too because it was a lot of money when I was 22. I mean 27. The cashier asked if I'd like store credit or cash.

I walked to my car in the pouring rain in my t-shirt with $220 cash in my wallet. Now THAT is a lifetime warranty. Because that jacket and I had been through a lifetime of adventure together, packed into ten fun years. A part of me is sad to see her go. But an even bigger part of me is RICH and eying a sassy red Patagonia number, size medium.

You just earned my lifetime guarantee too.

warmly (once I get my new jacket),
Susie L.

Dear friends and family by Susie Lubell


It's been an incredible year and I feel so grateful to be alive and writing this letter to you. We have many things to be thankful for, most notably our incredibly gifted and talented children. Kevin turned six in October and continues to wear the same shirt every day to school. His consistency and commitment to (his) fashion is inspiring to many other kindergartners. Janna will turn four this coming February and continues to excel in ear surgery. She had her third set of tubes put in this December and her adenoids, those mysterious non-essentials, removed. Janna is only the latest in a long line of luminaries with exceptionally distinctive cranial plumbing in our family. We couldn't be more proud of the way she is carrying on this tradition.

Robert continues to work on the next generation of hearing aids. When asked if his design will revolutionize the industry his response was, "What?" Janice's business Mishmish Studio is taking over the watercolor folk modern Judaica category enjoying double digit awareness. The two hours a day she has to work on the business is generally just enough time to turn on her computer, log into her social networking platforms and let everyone know she's off to pick up the kids. Again. In other exciting news Janice and Robert are expecting their third child mid 2011. This development has led to a major career opportunity for Janice who has now been featured in several "before category" advertising spots namely Proactive, Bay Area Body Wraps and Lunesta.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a fantastic new year.

Warmly,
The Jeffersons
Robert, Janice, Kevin and Janna

ps. This was indeed our family pic from 2009 and was used by my former employer to showcase the "Pop Art Ornament Christmas Card". Note the interesting name choices. I guess we movin' on up.

Eight by Susie Lubell

anniversary 
circa 1998
Dear Mr. Rosen,

Remember that time when when we were getting ready for bed and while you were brushing your teeth I said, oh - you still use that brush? And you spit out your toothpaste all over the mirror and we laughed so hard that at first there was no sound at all because we weren't breathing and then we were so loud we almost woke the kids? And then we kept laughing until we fell asleep? And even the next day? That's one of many reasons why I love you.

Happy anniversary.

xo
mishmish

Dear Gwyneth by Susie Lubell

Apple
My daughter modeling "Apple". Other designs available here.

Dear Gwyneth,

I was recently in line at the check out at Safeway when I saw you on the cover of Vogue so I skimmed the article. It wasn't a long line. But I was happy to see we have so much in common girl!  Besides being smokin' hot in our mid-thirties and Jewish, we're both from southern California. We both write blogs. We both have two kids who are basically the same ages. Except my oldest is a boy and the little one is a girl. Your daughter is named Apple and one of my most popular card/iron-transfer designs is called Apple! We both married foreigners. Your husband probably never watched Cheers or Family Ties either. So weird, I know. Both of our dads are from New York and went to Tulane. My dad became a doctor and your dad produced a show about a hospital! Uncanny! And unfortunately they both died of cancer before they knew their grand kids. I think about that one a lot. I'm guessing you do too.

And then there's the fact that we're both world renowned, award-winning artists. I mean, you won that Oscar. Remember? You cried like a crazy person in a poofy pink dress? And I recently won Best Jewish Artisan in the East Bay (of California) for the J Weekly Reader's Choice issue. So we both know how hard it is to deal with the pressure to always be awesome. Just the other day I had a big order but I forgot to save something on my computer and I closed the file by mistake and then I ran out of photo magenta ink and the neighbor's washing machine flooded and leaked into our garage, since it's attached to theirs, and got my museum etching paper wet, and I thought I can't let down my fans! All 288 of them on Facebook. 

Not to mention the paparazzi. It's no wonder you moved to London honey. I mean the constant phone calls, the random strangers who come to my door (selling vacuum cleaners). Can't a famous artist get some privacy?

Anyway, we are obviously kindred spirits Gwyn. In fact, when they make a movie of my life it only makes sense that you should play me. And vice versa. (here's where we do a pinky swear). Even though Winona Ryder would probably be a better choice since we have that brown pixie hair thing in common. You can just wear a wig.

In sisterhood,
Susie

Special Offer by Susie Lubell

Phones

Dear Jim,
Thanks for your call this morning about having a special on carpet cleaning in my area. Here's the thing. FUCK OFF Jim. Stop calling me. You and your friendly person voice letting me know that people in "my area", whatever the hell that means, qualify for an exceptionally awesome opportunity to get:

Three rooms for the price of two.
A free hallway.
Four rooms for $69.
Free couch cleaning.
Free enema.

I'm on to you Jim. I know you're not a person. I know you're a recorded guy. Because no one who makes phone calls for a living is that happy. So why don't you just stop pretending to be on a MISSION FROM GOD to clean all of the damn carpets in "my area" and be yourself for the love of ginger. Talk in your regular Domo Origato Mr. Robato voice. I'm not fooled. Yes, sometimes I do need my carpet cleaned. Like ONCE a year. So I suppose that if you call me every effing day you will likely land on a day when I would be happy to hold for one of your operators standing by. But the last time we did this, you and me, I ended up paying three times the quoted price with a couple of hooligans who made me feel like an ass for hanging my mezuzah on the wrong side of the door for the last five years.

And the same goes for you too, Frank. And Christine. And Scott. For the record:
I don't want the San Jose Mercury News.
I don't need new rain gutters.
I do not want to donate to the Police Officers Fund.
I do not need a house alarm.
I already refinanced my home.

Furthermore, if by some twist of fate we ever run into each other, you better run before I punch you in "your area".

Sincerely,
Susie

ps. are you impressed with our collection of phones? press one for yes.