Sunday, 22 December 2019

Rockin’ Around the Menorah by Naomi Elana Zener

Rockin' around the Menorah,
At the Chanukah party jam.
Latkes cooking for you to eat,
Chocolate gelt but there’s no ham.

Rockin' around the Menorah,
Let the Chanukah candles shine.
Later we’ll spin the dreidel fast,
And drink Manischevitz wine.

You will start to kvell and feel pride when you hear:
Nun! Gimel! Hey! Shin! I win!
Break out Chanukah tonic and gin!

Rockin' around the Menorah,
Eight days of party fun.
Lots of gifts but there’s no tree,
Or baby Jesus for anyone.

You will start to kvell and feel pride when you hear:
Nun! Gimel! Hey! Shin! I win!
Break out Chanukah tonic and gin!
Rockin' around the Menorah,
Let the Chanukah candles shine.
Later we’ll spin the dreidel fast,
And drink Manischevitz wine!

© 2019. Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.

[Author's note: Did you know that some of Christmas’ greatest hit songs were written by Jews, including Johnny Mark’s Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. In honour of Chanukah, here’s a little parody for you to enjoy! Happy Chanukah!]

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Parenting Doesn’t Spell Truth by Naomi Elana Zener

My phone vibrated angrily.


My fucking mother and her fucking morning texts! I though. I ground my teeth. 

“Stop yelling at me!” I texted back.


My mother always claimed she wasn’t yelling. She liked to claim she simply didn’t understand how to unlock the caps lock feature on her keyboard. She loved to say it was her Luddite brain causing the confusion. The truth was that being tech unsavvy was simply a front. She was always yelling at everyone. For my mother, yelling was her way of emphasizing her point.

My mother had two volumes: silent and screaming. The louder she was, regardless of whether she was right or wrong, the less likely anyone would disagree. My dear, sweet, five foot tall mother, Boston daughter Judy Steinwitz, was capable of raising the decibel level to such a degree that Putin’s dog would hear her from his house in Russia.

I clenched my inner lady parts as instructed—heaven forbid my mother let me forget that I had a baby six months ago and that my vagina was wide enough to drive a Mack truck through it—as I drove to my mother’s house for our thrice weekly personal training sessions at her in-home gym, Judy’s version of a push present for having had a child. Every week, I left my sweet six-month old baby boy at home with a sitter—he who gifted me with an extra fifty pounds of cellulite from housing him in my body for forty weeks—so I could sweat it out with my oldie, Judy.

When I arrived, I saw our trainer, Boomer’s, signature neon orange and lime green advertisement on wheels sitting in her driveway. Boomer was a former NFL farm team five hundredth draft pick who, when his professional football dreams failed to materialize, decided to take his steroid-assisted physique and reinvent himself as a personal trainer. I entered the basement, which had been renovated into a state of the art gym, and gave Judy and Boomer a nod hello.  Judy continued to run on her treadmill, careful not to screw up her pacing. She was preoccupied with looking at her reflection in the mirrored walls to ensure the incline setting was sufficiently helping her ass to defy gravity.

“Hi Boomer. I’m on the elliptical today?”

“Yes ma’am. You’re running late, so you’re going to owe me an extra ten minutes of running.”

I nodded sheepishly. Boomer was a stickler for punctuality. Show up late, and your date with whichever form of cardio punishment that awaited you was extended so that you couldn’t sit down the next day. Asshole!

“SO, WHY ARE YOU SO LATE?” Judy shouted overtop the blaring AC/DC. Boomer liked to make us work out to classic seventies rock. He’d head bang along with the booming bass while spotting us during our workouts. Perfect music to accompany his ‘roid rage, I thought to myself.

“Delia.” Delia was my newly minted toddler, a two-year-old hellion in baby Uggs. “She flushed my sports bra down the toilet. It took me twenty minutes to unclog the toilet and find another one to wear.”

“I’m glad you did…” my mother offered breathlessly.

“I know, plumbers cost a fortune,” I interrupted.

“No, I meant the bra. After two kids, your breasts hang down so low you don’t need to be working out in the wrong brassiere. I’ve spent enough on these personal training lessons to fix your belly and ass. I’m not buying you a boob job,” she heaved, turning purple.  The casual observer may be frightened by Judy’s complexion, fearing she was mere moments away from falling victim to a massive coronary episode. But, to those in the know, her eggplant hue simply meant she was hitting her target heart rate. She was still capable of berating me.

“I explained to Delia that toilets are for poop and pee only. I did my best not to raise my voice, but she laughed at me. Then, she defied me. After I fished out the fucking bra, she stuck her My Little Pony into the toilet. She said he wanted to go swimming. I deal with crap like this fifteen times a day. I don’t have a two year old. I have a tyrant. Maybe I’m not cut out for parenting.”

My mother stopped running.

“No one is cut out for parenting. We just do it and fuck up our kids along the way.”

“You seemed to get me to do what you wanted. For instance, you got me to brush my teeth. How’d you do it?”

“What do you say to Delia to get her to brush her teeth?”

“Judy, did I give you permission to stop? Push that tush!” Boomer shouted. He was her vocal match made in heaven. My mother complied. He was the only person she listened to.

“I tell her that she will get cavities if she doesn’t brush them. I explained that meant that…”

“You tell her this: Delia, honey, if you don’t brush your teeth, they’ll turn brown. And, do you know what is brown? Shit. And, if your teeth look like shit, your mouth will smell like shit, too. And, no one will want to play with you. You do that and she’ll brush her teeth. Kids want playmates. Mark my words, she’ll listen.”

“That’s horrifying. I’m not speaking to her like that. It’s bordering on abuse. And, it’s a lie!”

“Honey, parenting doesn’t spell truth. You want your kids to do what you want, sometimes you’ve got to lie so well that you’d pass a lie detector test. You need to believe the lies you tell them so that they will. Kids are built to be both bullshit artists and detectors.”

“What if Delia doesn’t care if her mouth smells like shit?”

“You tell her she’ll never get another cupcake again. Only her brother will.”

“You’re telling me to add another level of complexity to the already burdened sibling rivalry that exists between them?”

“What do you think I did with you and your sister? I’m telling you, you can’t spell parenting without lies,” my mother laughed.

“Ladies, time for crunches.”  We moved to the floor and lay down. Boomer put on some techno beats to help us keep pace with the two thousand crunches he expected us to complete in a continuous five-minute stretch sans respite.

“If all else fails, and she still refuses to brush her teeth, then you tell her she’ll end up going to the dentist every day to get a needle to put her to sleep so she can have her teeth brushed.”

“Holy shit, ma, you’re evil. I can’t do that.”

“Do you brush your teeth? Every day twice a day?”


“Do you think you do that because you believed in the importance of oral hygiene from a nubile age? Or, do you think you do it because I told you that if you didn’t, I’d have your dentist remove your teeth, which meant you’d never eat another cookie again, until you learned to brush your teeth yourself?”

My mouth fell agape. I had no memory of this. I probably blocked it out in order to survive. No wonder I hate going to the dentist.

“And, it doesn’t stop with teeth. Your kid refuses to sleep? You tell her that if she doesn’t nap or go to bed at night, she won’t grow and will always be wearing baby clothes. Fails to listen when you tell her to clean up? You say the toy fairies will come when she’s asleep and make them pinch her in her sleep for failing to put them away. Get my point?”

I mulled over her words. “You’re advocating bullying my own child like you bullied me.”

My mother’s self-satisfied, smug grin spoke volumes. “I got you to brush your teeth, though, didn’t I?”

“Is that the point? Get your kid to do what you want no matter how much damage it causes?”

“Oh, screw you and your sanctimonious high horse. Fear is a great motivator for kids.”

The music suddenly stopped. Judy continued to furiously crunch away without a lapse in her momentum.

“Excuse me, ladies. Normally, I don’t say much of anything during our sessions in regards to your mother-daughter chats. But, if you follow Judy’s advice, I’ll tell you what parenting does spell: guilt, with a capital G,” Boomer advised. “I don’t think you’re giving your daughter good advice.”

Judy sat up and looked at us blankly.

“Parenting has a letter ‘g’ at the end, but it’s not for ‘guilt.’ It’s for ‘get it done.’ That’s how you spell parenting,” my mother retorted. “And, that’s how you get abs like mine. So, put the music back on and start crunching. Fifty pounds don’t lose themselves, do they honey?”

“Well, there’s also a ‘t’ in ‘parenting.’ And, do you know what it stands for? Therapy.”

© 2019. Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, 14 June 2019

If Only Teething Was An Excuse by Naomi Elana Zener

In the era of articles and videos turning the tables on groups of individuals whose behaviour would otherwise not be accepted if their acts or statements were made by others—if adults behaved like toddlers, as a parent, I’ve often wondered about what would happen if adults blamed our behaviour on teething. Yes, that’s right, teething: the time-limited, excruciating, sleep-depriving, demonic personality shift inducing, paranormal experience every baby and toddler goes through, when they treat the world and everyone in it like their own personal punching bag and gets away with it. These babies and toddlers don’t hold down jobs, pay bills, interact with society in a meaningful way, maintain interpersonal social relationships with friends, family, or neighbours, yet they get this amazing get-out-jail free card that enables their awful behaviour during a time in their life when they don’t need it. I think the time has come to look at what would happen if adults pulled the teething card out when things just don’t go their way.


The phone ringg three times before anyone answers.

“Hello?” says a man’s voice.

“Hi, Mr. Smith. It’s Shirley,” she advises her voice muffled. “I’m not coming into to work today.”

“Are you ill? Mr. Smith asks.

“I have a runny nose, watery eyes, the runs, and possibly a mild fever. I’m teething. It’s those damn eye teeth breaking through and they’re throwing off my entire system. I just don’t know when I’ll get any relief, but until they’ve broken through, I’m not coming into work.”

“I completely understand,” Mr. Smith advises. “My son just got an F on his Algebra exam. Those fucking two-year old molars just screwed his chances of getting into Harvard. Have you tried Camelia or wearing an amber necklace? We’re hoping it helps our boy. I know how bad teething can be, so take as much time off with pay as you need. Your job will be waiting for you when you get back.”


Sally waits impatiently in the kitchen. The stove isn’t on. Coffee isn’t brewing. Lunch isn’t packed.

“Mom, where are you?” Sally screeches. “The bus is gonna be here any minute, and I need to eat.”

Sally gets no reply. She glances at the clock on the stove. 7:52a.m. Her father was already en route to work and her brother was at his early morning volleyball practice. At seven years old, she is too young to scramble her own eggs. Sally storms up the stairs to confront her mother, whom she expects to find in the shower, but is shocked when she spies her lying in bed. Snoring. Drooling.

“Mom, wake up!” Sally shoves her mother, hard. Her mother doesn’t stir. She climbs on the bed, and copies a pile-driving move her brother taught her the night before when they were watching a WWF wrestling program together. This catches her mother’s attention.

“Waahh zaa faa?” her mother wails.

“Mom, you have to wake up and make me breakfast and lunch. I’m gonna be late for school.”

“Make it yourshelf. Leave mommy alone. I’m teeving.”

“You’re what?”

“I’m teeving. I haven’t slept in sheven days. I’m cranky and tired. Go away!”

“Do you mean you broke a tooth?”

“No. I’m getting one. Now, go and make your own damn breakfasht.”

“But, you told me I’m too young to use the stove.”

“Not today you aren’t.”

Sally pauses and thinks about all her mother has done for her over the years. She harkens back to her teething days, recalling the agony she felt when her infant gums swelled with pain.

“I’m sorry mom. I’ll be a good girl and make my own food. Can I get you anything? How about a martini?”

Sex with Spouse

Husband, dressed only in boxers that give his belly a muffin top, turns over to seductively caress Wife’s shoulder, signaling that he’s in the mood for love. He rolls Wife over to see her holding two ice packs to her cheeks.

“Not tonight dear, I’m teething,” Wife advises.

“You’re teething again?” Husband whines. “That’s like the fourth week in a row.”

“Stop whining like a little baby. I’m the one in pain.”

“Well, my dick is in pain from not gettin’ any. So, we’re even.”

“Really? We’re even? Do you have a sharp, bone like object breaking through your bone and piercing your skin?”

Husband flops onto his back.

“You’re right dear, we should wait until your teething period is over. I think you should ice your face. Can I rub your back to help you feel better?”

Blowing Off Plans

Cathy calls her friend, Daniel, wondering why he’s not already at the restaurant for their date. She’s let the phone ring fifteen times. Finally, on the sixteenth ring, he picks up.


“Daniel, where are you? Please tell me you’re on your way to the here.”

“Sorry. I just can’t make it out tonight. I’m off solids until this tooth comes in. I hope you understand.”

“You’re what?”

“I lost my appetite. I just can’t eat a thing. And, I really don’t want to sit and watch you eat.”

“You could’ve told me that this morning when we spoke.”

“I didn’t feel that badly then. Teething is unpredictable. You should know that. You have a kid.”

“You’re right. I should  know better. I am a single mom after all. Could I come by and bring you a bottle of wine with a straw to help ease your pain?”

“Aw, that’s sweet of you, but I think I’m going to take some liquid Tylenol and go to bed.”

“Ok, well feel better. And, call me when your teeth breaks.”

Stealing a Parking Spot

“Hey asshole! Didn’t you see me sitting there with my right turn signal on?” a man yells out to the driver of the car who just stole his parking spot. “It’s fucking Christmas time and I’ve been circling this mall for an hour looking for a spot.”

“Sorry man, but you snooze you lose,” the other driver advised, as he tips his hat to him walking past the man’s car.

“You better watch yourself or I’m gonna unleash a whole lotta road rage on you.”

The thieving driver charges on foot towards the driver side of the man’s car.

“You don’t want to try me man. I’m teething and there’s no knowing what I’m capable of. You wanna test me, punk?”

The driver retreats from the window.

“Hey, sorry man. I didn’t realize you were cutting a tooth. We’ve all been there. Feel better. I’m sure I’ll find another spot in an hour or two.”

Do you see the magic in being able to castigate a whole host of adult bad behaviour on teething? I think it’s high time that we reclaim this justification from our babes-in-arms for teething problems are not just for toddlers anymore. Who’s with me?

© 2019. Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, 10 May 2019

RAT RACE by Naomi Elana Zener

"Where will you send your kid to school?" I'm asked at point blank range.
Confused silence the response, being pregnant this question was strange.
The man continued to press, advising I've disadvantaged my unborn child,
Educational choices must be made when eggs in ovaries are running wild.
"I'll take my chances," I replied suppressing the laughter of my fetus.
"Public school is free," I said,"it turns out doctors, even some named Cletus!"
Subliminal humour flew over the man's half-bald cuckoo’s nest,
In which his private school-educated brain was clearly at rest.
The parent, first of many, I've met who turn parenting into competitive sport,
Cross-examined me, scrutinized my choices as if I was a witness in court.
Leaving no stone unturned, each inquiry made in a judgmental fashion,
With each answer criticized, self-esteem like the DOW, diminished daily by a fraction.
Once baby arrived 'Gladiators: The Parenting Edition' throttled into full force,
Should baby and parent lag behind, then you've bet on the wrong horse.
Developmental milestones is where tiger parents would first pounce,
Heaven forbid your child is delayed, your faith in him you'd have to renounce.
Of course your paediatrician tells you each baby is different, don't worry, don't fret,
But, of your child only your doctor is genuinely accepting than the parents you've met.
And should your child not crawl, walk, talk and teethe preternaturally,
Then ensure clothes bought transform junior into one in vogue baby.
The park is not a playground, rather it is a fashion battle field.
Chances of success depend heavily on the brand of weapon you wield.
"Cute outfit," a mother remarked smugly looking at your kid up and down,
A no-name generic dress she is saddled in, your smile fades to a frown.
Reminding yourself baby's not on a red carpet or step and repeat,
Nonetheless, you hang your head in shame, returning home in defeat.
Compensating for another loss in the Darwinian competition,
You buy a second stroller, an overpriced celebrity-endorsed edition.
Customary greeting of neighbours replaced with an envy-laced question,
Instead of hello, "how many strollers do you have?" is the demanded confession.
No matter the number of music or sign language classes in which your baby is enrolled,
If not the most expensive or popular, your hand at this poker game you should fold.
Good luck if baby potty training has not commenced before turning one,
The embarrassment you'll face is worse than a red face from the sun.
"But you're forcing your child to sit in feces and urine!" the holier-than-thou exclaim,
A 'poo-pants pigpen' moniker will be your baby's newfound fame.
First birthday party, the parenting pageant's dreaded next round,
Each grander than the next, bar mitzvah scaled monstrosities abound.
Replete with live entertainment, french service, table centerpiece decor,
The days of cake, balloons, 'happy birthday' song are no more.
Upon safely reaching base camp, baby healthy and year one now behind you,
Mount Everest awaits, seventeen more years of this nonsense, you turn blue.
How to get through it all without tears, humiliation or falling to last place?
Finding a community of non-type A parents is now the chase.
Avoiding helicopters is easy, your kid is the trick,
Get out of plans easily, the card played is baby is sick.
Children are not accessories, for that we have BMW, Louis, Prada and Rochas,
Neither are they extensions of vanity or ego, to think otherwise lacks gravitas.
Raising kids does not have to be a sanctimonious rat race,
March to the beat of your own drummer, set a new pace.
But, if in the jet set urban developed jungle you wish to reside.
Find a good shrink and accept this reality, for from it you cannot hide.

(c) 2019. Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.