I am not built to be a free-range mother. I am anxious and over-protective by nature, and my years of experience as a social worker have only increased my awareness of everything that could happen to…my daughters, from sexual abuse to traumatic brain injuries. If I had my way, my girls wouldn’t leave the house without a GPS tracking device, a helmet, a cellphone, and a Taser Jr. And so I was as surprised as anyone when I realized I had started free-range parenting my daughters, ages 7 and 8.5.… >> Read More
Some of my favorite life memories are with my Grandma Dede, who passed away just over a month ago. I particularly remember playing cards with her, including many games of Russian Bank.
For those…of you who didn’t have the pleasure of playing Russian Bank with Delia, here’s how it goes: it’s a two person solitaire-style card game, played with two decks. The goal is to get rid of all of your cards before your opponent does, and you do this by building up the center game board, solitaire… >> Read More
“I don’t like Passover.”
I said those words to my husband yesterday morning as I was zipping up my daughters’ lunch boxes. I’m sure my kvetching barely registered with him at first; I’m…a chronic complainer when it comes to packing food for my kids. But this time was different. I kept talking. “I don’t like keeping Passover. I find zero spiritual, emotional, or psychological meaning in not eating an english muffin with my eggs and not being able to feed the girls sandwiches for lunch or mac… >> Read More
“Remind me again when you have work calls today?”
My husband has already answered that question at least twice this morning, but I am too distracted by my own mental Tetris to hear his…response. I have clients at 10 and 11, and a meeting at 1. I can call into the meeting, but not to the clients. Josh can work from home, and although some of his calls overlap with my meetings, the girls are old enough to reliably zombie-out in front of the TV without needing help… >> Read More
The first night of Passover is in less than three weeks.
I am dreading it.
It’s not the cleaning or the clearing or the shopping or the schlepping that has me burying my head in the sand.…It’s not the planning for, cooking for, or hosting the Seder. And it’s not even about giving up my beloved morning english muffin or lunchtime turkey sandwich. I’m dreading Passover because of how hard it is to feed my daughter when bread, pasta, tortillas, and pizza are not on the menu. You see, the child generally… >> Read More
Like so many of you, I woke up to deeply distressing election results, and a Facebook feed full of parents asking how to share the news with their children. Here’s how I had this difficult…conversation with my daughters, who are currently 8 and 6 years old. First, I calmed myself down. This required me to take lots of deep breaths and remind myself that I just needed to hold it together until I could get the girls to school. (Please bear in mind that I have cried in front… >> Read More
Election day is tomorrow, but seeing as how you’re online, you already know that.
You probably also already know that this election is, well, freaking people out. Americans on both sides of the…ever-growing political divide are anxious, scared, and more stressed out about politics than they have been in years, if ever. As a wise internet meme once said, “If you don’t have a problem, then don’t worry. If you have a problem, and you can’t do anything about it, then don’t worry. If you have a… >> Read More
It should come as no surprise to any of you that I’m always on the lookout for a good parenting book. Bonus points if it has a Jewish twist, and double bonus if it’s written by Marjorie Ingall.…I’ve been following Marjorie’s smart, funny writing on Tablet for years; her piece on the Jews and scatological humor is one of my all-time favorites. But you’ll get much more than a good poop joke in her new book, “Mamaleh Knows Best: What Jewish Mothers Do to Raise Successful, Creative, Empathetic, Independent Children” (Harmony, 2016).… >> Read More
I’m not a terribly spiritual person. Even so, I wasn’t surprised by how much I enjoyed Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg’s latest book, “Nurture the Wow: Finding Spirituality in the Frustration,…Boredom, Tears, Poop, Desperation, Wonder, and Radical Amazement of Parenting.” I had loved Danya’s post on Kveller about radical amazement, and I knew from her Facebook posts that she was neither preachy nor pretentious. Part memoir, part parenting guide, and part meditation on a life well-lived, “Nurture the Wow” draws on Danya’s experience as a… >> Read More
My daughter’s siddur ceremony was a few weeks ago. She’s in first grade at a Jewish Day School, and after spending the year studying tefillah, or prayer, the entire class got their own prayer…books. In our school, as in many other day schools, the parents’ job is to decorate the cover of the prayer book. I was thrilled about this task, because it gave me another opportunity to participate in my daughter’s Jewish education, and because crafting is something I can do. My projects never come out quite… >> Read More
This article is part of our essay series, “Why Be Jewish?,” based off of “Why Be Jewish?”—a new book by the late Edgar M. Bronfman.
I spent the first three decades of my life looking…for the answer to this sentence: “I am ________________.” Yes, I know. I am a woman. But I have never played the stereotypical “female” very well; I was a tomboy as a child, and even now, I don’t cook, I’m not particularly good at dressing up, and I had no idea I was supposed to… >> Read More
My husband and I hosted the second night seder this year. Even though I don’t cook and can’t read the Hebrew in the Haggadah well enough to lead, I do know this: Seders should be fun and engaging…for the kiddos, and we each need to see ourselves as though we were slaves in Egypt, journeying across a desert to freedom. I found an idea online that would fulfill both of those mitzvot, and I set to work. It took multiple trips to my local crafting store (I know, I know, the sacrifices… >> Read More
I started the Jewish Mother Project last fall with the declaration that, “My goal is not to become a perfect Jewish mother, but the ‘Best Carla’ I can be for my daughters.”
And then I…confidently marched off in the opposite direction, following a path that had very little to do with who I am, and had everything to do with who I thought I should be. Let me give you some examples: I set a goal to roast a chicken, even though I don’t enjoy cooking and have only… >> Read More
My family and I celebrated Havdalah together at home for the first time this week.
It had been a fairly uneventful Saturday; the girls played at home and then at the neighbors’ house. Josh and I…read the instruction manual for our new snow blower. (I can honestly say I have rarely been more excited about a Hanukkah present.) We were waiting for my older daughter’s friend to come over for a sleepover when the girls asked to do Havdalah. I looked at my husband and he looked at me. Sure.… >> Read More
So, I missed Tu Bishvat.
I saw references to it on Facebook; various friends who are clearly more observant/aware/motivated/creative/energetic/(insert desirable adjective of your choice here)…posted pictures of their children hugging trees and displaying carefully arranged trays of dried fruits and nuts. “Huh,” I thought to myself. “Tu Bishvat is coming up. I should probably do something about that.” And then I “liked” the picture and as I kept scrolling through my feed I promptly forgot all about it. But… >> Read More
Last week for the Jewish Mother Project, I wrote about the importance of translating kindness into action, so this week I need to put my money where my mouth is and step up to the tzedakah plate…box. Tzedakah is one of the biggies in Judaism. Every year during the big YK (as I like to call Yom Kippur), we learn about the power of teshuvah (repentance), tefillah (prayer), and tzedakah to save our sinful souls. And just to be clear here, tzedakah isn’t charity. Tzedakah is justice. It’s fairness. It’s our… >> Read More
In my last post for the Jewish Mother Project, I wrote about compassion and kindness, and how I want that to be at the core of my identity and practice as a Jewish mother.
The thing is, as much as…I like to spout off about big ideas, we Jews are all about action. It’s really not enough to think about being kind; I want to find ways to make it a part of my daily life. And I’m not talking about the “random acts of kindness” of bumper sticker fame, although that’s always nice… >> Read More
One of my favorite parenting quotes comes from Brene Brown, my social work/writing/Mama hero: “We can’t give our children what we don’t have.”
I find her words to be liberating, inspiring,…and, at times, totally obnoxious—not unlike so many of life’s great truths. Liberating because they remind me that it is just not possible for me to teach my children everything, and it’s OK and even necessary for me to reach out to others for help. Inspiring because they motivate me to make the changes in… >> Read More
I love nothing quite so much as a good resolution. Don’t get me wrong; like so many other Americans, I rarely keep my resolutions for longer than a week or two. Nonetheless, I am grateful for the…injection of renewal, liberation, and hope that I get on January 1. As I began contemplating my resolutions for this year, my mind immediately settled on the Jewish Mother Project. What will I tackle in 2016? Will I finally start saying the blessings before meals? Will this be the year that I actually learn how… >> Read More
“Mommy, can we put up Christmas decorations in the house?”
And thus began yet another December conversation. Christmas decorations are out of the question for us, as we don’t celebrate…Christmas in our home. That particular line in the sand is quite clear in my mind, but that’s pretty much where the clarity ends. My family background is a mix of secular Jews, Oklahoma Christians, and skeptical Italians. I was raised hanging pickle ornaments on Christmas trees with my mother and siblings and singing holiday… >> Read More
Now that the chaos of Hanukkah is over (one would think that lighting a few candles each night wouldn’t be that disruptive, but one apparently didn’t take into account late nights, gelt, and…presents), I’ve had some time to reflect on the Jewish Mother Project thus far. Some of it has gone quite well; I’ve enjoyed the holidays more than usual this year, and I’ve found great meaning in the Jewish traditions around death and mourning. I’ve been quite happy wearing my Star of David necklace each day,… >> Read More
My husband always sings the blessings.
Whether it’s Shabbat dinner, the Shema at bedtime, or the blessings over the Hanukkah candles, he always leads the blessings when he’s home. He knows…them better than I do, and he has a much better singing voice. I‘ve done bedtime often enough on my own that I can sing the Shema without any trouble, although there are nights when I can tell my singing is off key and I have no idea how to fix it. READ: Star Wars and… >> Read More
“Mommy, sometimes I wish we were Christian.”
My 7-year-old daughter said those words to me the other day as we were standing in the aisle of our local big box craft store. We were looking for…Hanukkah decorations and activities, and not surprisingly, we found ourselves surrounded by ornaments, wreaths, and a mind-boggling array of Christmas crafts. We eventually found a small, picked-through display with blue and silver streamers, Hanukkah-themed cookie cutters, and a few plastic menorahs and cheap dreidels. It was easy to guess what my daughter was talking about,… >> Read More
Thus far in the Jewish Mother Project, I have chosen to write about practices and activities that I wanted to do, such as cooking with my children and learning Hebrew.
This week was different. I…didn’t want to do this one, but I did it nonetheless, because part of being a Jewish mother is teaching our children about death and grief. My daughter’s beloved Hebrew and Torah teacher, Yaffah (Gail) Korinow z”l, died early last Friday morning. She had been battling cancer, so we knew it was coming, but there… >> Read More
Hanukkah starts in less than a month, people.
Those of you who have followed my writing over the years know that I have struggled mightily with this holiday and how to make it meaningful and fun…for everyone in the family. Three years ago, I wrote a post about not giving gifts, and then I did a 180 and over the next two years I wrote this piece and this one about showering my girls with plastic princesses, among other things. I won’t lie. I love giving my daughters the gifts… >> Read More