For those new to this website:
Tamara Rubin is a multiple-Federal-award-winning independent advocate for childhood Lead poisoning prevention and consumer goods safety, and a documentary filmmaker. She is also a mother of Lead-poisoned children (two of her sons were acutely Lead-poisoned in 2005). Since 2009, Tamara has been using XRF technology (a scientific method used by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission) to test consumer goods for toxicants (specifically heavy metals — including Lead, Cadmium, Mercury, Antimony, and Arsenic). All test results reported on this website are science-based, accurate, and replicable. Items are tested multiple times to confirm the test results for each component tested. Tamara’s work was featured in Consumer Reports Magazine in February of 2023 (March 2023 print edition).
Saturday, November 27, 2021
Chanukah starts tomorrow! (What!?)
None of these first four are from Amazon (they are not affiliate links!)
There are six people in our family — 4 “kids” and 2 parents (2 of the kids are adults now — so that could also be parsed as 4 “adults” and 2 kids)! Charlie just reminded me that “there are really 8 or 12 people in our family” since my close friends Katie and Carissa, and their kids, spend a lot of time over here with us. So “they count, too!”
Since my boys are all giant adult-man-sized children now (yes even the 16- and 13-year olds!), the nice thing is that I can buy them four of the same things in most cases – as they all will (almost always!) appreciate the things equally (and, with clothing – likely fit in them just as well, too!) We normally only open one or two presents each for each night of the holiday, so I don’t have to get them each eight presents – since they get each other presents, too. I normally shoot for getting them 4 “regular presents” and then (pretty consistently) at least 4 pairs of socks — “socks for the holiday” has been our family Chanukah tradition going back at least five decades in my family – lol!
Actually, gifting socks for Chanukah is a pretty common – and very practical – tradition among families of “modest means”, as alluded to on SNL by Jon Lovitz in the now classic original “Hannukah Harry” skit — in which Hanukah Harry, who offers to “fill-in” for his friend, Santa Claus – “who has a stomach bug” – is delivering Christmas presents to the Christian children, and – as he delivers presents – is surprised by a couple of entitled suburban American kids, and invites one to open a present…the child excitedly does — and in stunned disappointment and confusion exclaims,”SOCKS???“, to which Harry triumphantly replies, (in his “old Jewish guy” accent), “Yeah — EIGHT PAIR!… can you BELIEVE IT?!”
Obviously, this doesn’t mean that’s the tradition in ALL Jewish families – just that it’s not an anomaly or a parody at all; socks for Chanukah is a real thing!
On the other hand, I did date a boy in high school who came from (what seemed to me at the time to be) an extremely wealthy family — his Dad was a very successful dentist; their Chanukah experience was completely different from ours… I remember that on the first night of Chanukah one year he got a new racing bike; the second night a new indoor race training system for his bike; the third night a new pair of skis; the fourth night a freakin’ snowmobile [or maybe it was a jet ski? We are Facebook friends now — I’ll have to ask him… Lol!].
That boy’s experience has never been my experience of Chanukah, but to me seems more the experience of perhaps some upper-class Jewish families attempting to keep up culturally (in the United States, at least) with commercialized Christmas expectations? Like nearly every Jewish holiday, Chanukah for our family was always more about the food. and spending time with family, and laughing and telling stories around a table together — and playing lots of games like Risk; Scrabble; Boggle; Monopoly; card games; chess; charades; and doing puzzles together — in front of a cozy fire…more than having any focus at all on presents (other than small, personalized (and often hand-made) gifts that might be useful, or make people smile).
I hope none of the above sentiments come across the wrong way – it’s just my personal experiences and memories of the holiday, and I wanted to share that as it provides some framework and context for the relatively simple presents I buy my children during the winter holidays, since we don’t celebrate Christmas [other than celebrating it as, coincidentally, my mother’s birthday!]
I will update this article with the socks I choose for my boys as soon as I buy them, but I haven’t figured this out yet!
(See also this funny piece for additional behind-the-scenes reminiscences of some [humble middle-class] Hanukah gifting traditions: https://www.autostraddle.com/on-the-eighth-day-of-hanukkah-your-bubbe-gave-you-socks-269725/ .)
So — back to talking about something other than socks — below are the FOUR gifts I bought for my children this year, both the practical, and the silly! (Continue scrolling past each of the images to see all four – and click through to the website that I bought them from if you want to check it out too!) I will publish test results for each of these things as soon as I have a moment.
Gift #1 – bought this for all of my boys:
Ages: 13, 16, 19 & 25
These first two gifts I wanted to buy for the kids so they have “souvenirs” from the pandemic and of the politics of the time [a time that – hopefully – will someday seem unbelievable and historically quaint when they share about the past 18 months with their kids or grandkids!]. I thought each of these items below said so much, even though they are really just a small object. UPDATE: I gave the kids the first item below (the “Dr. Fauci Real Life Action Figure”) on the second night of Chanukah — and they each LOVED it (and had a good debate about whether or not they should keep them in the package – as a “collectable” – or play with them!) 🙂
Gift #3 – bought this for all of my boys
Ages: 13, 16, 19 & 25
It’s been almost two years since I bought the kids jammies — and Charlie (for one) has grown out of his in spades (they stretched and stretched — but in the end he stretched more! lol) Last time I bought them jammies we did the Hannah Andersson after-Christmas sale, and got them organic cotton separates for $10 each! This time, they all really wanted “onesies” — and I found these at Old Navy (plus, they had them in TALL sizes – which was essential for 50% of my kiddos!) … plus.. sales! [I will update this article with a picture of my actual boys in their new jammies as soon as I tear them away from their heart-warming board games marathon, and can manage to coral them all into a photo!] The kids especially liked these this year because they are always thinking about what they might be able to wear on stage (in terms of matching costumes for performance bits they do), so these served the dual purpose: Jammies + potential “gig costumes”!
UPDATE: As promised above, updated image of my boys in their jammies – below. The number I put on their tummies is their age! And the arrow is to emphasize that I arranged them by height! My second son (A.J.) won’t be home until January so I will re-do this picture then too! [I had my husband be a stand-in for A.J. in the picture below.]
Gift #4 – just bought this for my youngest son, Charlie – age: 13
I tested this at a client’s house recently, and it was Lead-free — and a really fun object: a night light that is a little squishy, and can be held by a kiddo! [It changes colors too!] Charlie is having lots of sleep issues these days (since the pandemic started, it has gotten really bad) so my focus for Charlie is to do anything and everything to make his sleep environment more cosy, and his sleep experience more comforting and positive and fun. Because of his disabilities [partly – and because of his personality, too], he loves cute, squishy dolls. [Socially/emotionally, he is at least a few years behind other children his age… for example he gets along really well with 7-8-9 year old kiddos even though he is a giant 13-year-old!] So I think he is absolutely going to LOVE this night light!
Gift #5 – Socks Update – 12/2/2021
We decided to go with Columbia socks for the terribly convenient reason that the Columbia outlet is a few blocks from our house and they were having a sale yesterday! We bought large socks in various styles [including the ones linked below] at really deep discounts (which worked out to about $3.00 – $3.50 a pair) – but they (unfortunately) did not have any extra large socks that would work for Charlie… so we are still “in search of” the perfect extra large socks for a very large (and still growing) 13 year old boy with giant feet and sensory issues! Any and all recommendations are welcome. Thank you!
And if you REALLY want to know some other things I got them this week (from Amazon) here are those, too! Amazon links are affiliate links and if you purchase something after clicking one of these links I may receive a small percentage of what you spend, at no extra cost to you!
Continue scrolling below each of the images!
For A.J. & Colescott
(19 and 25 years old)
These were on sale this week for Black Friday [although the price went back up again, yesterday]. This is my absolute favorite personal toy – for ME! I bring mine with me on nearly every trip I go on… because you never know when you might have time for a good game of Scrabble. With the Black Friday sale (just $25!) I decided it was time to buy each of my older boys their very own travel Scrabble!
19 years old (in Boston)
My son, A.J. is a huge history buff, and also has come to just feel so at home in Boston, Mass — a city soaked in and brimming with American history! — where he is living now. It seemed appropriate to buy him a pocket copy of The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution – because every kid should have one of these handy – right? They also have the full Bill of Rights and all of the Amendments in this handy pocket size (3 x 5 inches) booklet. I decided to buy him a 3-pack, so he could have one for himself — and two extra, to give to friends who might be interested as well! With nearly a couple of decades on the planet as the child of a mother who is constantly fighting for justice, he was really excited to get these as a gift (in a lot of ways we think alike, now that he is “a grownup“!)
13 years old
Again – the focus for Charlie is sleep (I need to get this boy sleeping on his own without interruption!). I bought him one of these blackout curtain panels to go across his doorway (like a few of our old house’s rooms, his room has been missing its original actual door for awhile now, but that’s a long story – and the subject of another article!*) — and I was blown away at how good it works at keeping out the light! I wish I had bought something like this 10 or 12 years ago … and I will probably buy some more soon. I have not yet tested them for toxicants but when I do I will publish the results on the website and link it here. All I can say is that it really works better than advertised! Charlie is so happy to have a “door” now in his room (even if it is just a curtain!) *[We had removed the door to his room because it tested positive for Lead and Arsenic, so he has had an open doorway for a couple of years now… but it has more recently become an issue for him as he gets older and wants to be able to shut the door to his room!]
I got a nice press-fit curtain rod to go with the curtain above – so we can easily fit it in his doorway without worrying about drilling holes or otherwise disturbing the Lead/Arsenic finish of the doorway in his room. Here’s the article about his doorway if you are curious (with the test results in the wood stain of our home).
… and just in case you are worried that Avi got left out… this week he also scored a new pair of running shoes and two new pair of jeans (yes we are THAT family – that uses holidays mostly as an “excuse” to buy our kids things they need – lol!)