Courtney Naliboff lives on North Haven, an island off of midcoast Maine. There she teaches music, theatre and English, takes her daughter to the beach, plays music and teaches Pilates. Her writing can also be seen in MaineBiz and Working Waterfront.
Not every small, rural Jewish congregation is lucky enough to have a rabbi. Temple Beth Israel, in Waterville, Maine—also home to Colby College—is lucky to have not just any rabbi, but Rav Rachel…Isaacs, a community organizer, academic, mother, and deliverer of the White House Hanukkah celebration benediction in 2016. She’s also the executive director of the Center for Small Town Jewish Life, which fosters collaboration between small synagogues and colleges to provide Jewish programming and strengthen the Jewish community. I talked with her about being gay and… >> Read More
Without my encouraging or approving it, my 2.5-year-old daughter, Penrose, has developed a sense of Christmas.
"We're going in our rocket ship to Christmas!" she'll shout from inside a cardboard…box. She loves to read “Angelina's Christmas,” with its mice dressed as Santa Claus and Sugar Plum Fairies. I have no idea where the book even came from. Christmas is easy to find. On top of all the usual places—Charlie Brown, The Grinch, Rudolph—there's a whole “Curious George” movie about it, which I put on,… >> Read More
Living on North Haven, an island off the coast of Maine, added a lot of wrinkles to my pregnancy. There were regular trips to the mainland (which meant bringing the car on the ferry, planning ahead…and buying a ticket and reservation, or putting it in line and hoping it got on, and then dealing with pregnancy-induced seasickness en route). There was the inconvenient fact of not being able to deal with cravings quickly (we have one store, and it is small and closes at 7 p.m. Sorry, pregnant and craving… >> Read More
My 2-year-old daughter, Penrose, pulled my shirt up and was yelling into my belly button.
"You in there, sisterbrother?"
Before anyone gets too excited, no, I'm not…pregnant. Nor do I plan to be any time soon (or maybe ever again). But you'd never know it to talk to Pen. She tells her daycare teacher about the "baby sister in Mommy's tummy," and asks me to "call her brother" by shouting into the bowl of her potty. I have drawn countless brother… >> Read More
My daughter's favorite movie is about two sisters in a land populated by magical creatures. It explores themes of familial love, elemental powers, and honoring tradition.
No, it's not…“Frozen.” My 2-year-old requests a viewing of Hayao Miyazaki's 1988 film “My Neighbor Totoro” almost every day, and I couldn't be happier. We watch the English language dub, with Elle and Dakota Fanning as sisters Satsuki and Mei Kusakabe, and read the picture book version at most bedtimes. After watching it dozens of times, not… >> Read More
My 2-year-old daughter Penrose divides the world by parenting role and gender. If she sees a picture of a big and a smaller caterpillar, the big one is the mommy and the smaller one is the baby. If…there are three of the same thing—her three toy spatulas, for example—(why does she have three toy spatulas?), the largest is the daddy, the medium one is the mommy and the little one is the baby. Our family has a daddy, who is the tallest at 5’5”, a 4’10” mommy in the middle, and a… >> Read More
When my grandmother-in-law died in March, it made perfect sense for my husband to travel to San Diego to be with his family. He spent nine days with them planning her joyful, food-filled memorial…service, while enjoying the warm spring weather and a desert flower super bloom. I stayed home, solo parenting my almost-2-year-old, Penrose. The day my husband left, we got hit with some late season snow and school was canceled for both of us (I’m a teacher). I was daunted by the yawning chasm of the day—with… >> 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. Read the rest in the series here.
It would be so…easy, on my Maine island, to stop being Jewish. I am the only one. Nobody holds me accountable for the holidays, and there is no temple within easy reach. My husband isn’t Jewish. My parents and sisters barely practice. At times, being Jewish has given unkind people a way to insult or demean me. So… >> Read More
Like most parents, I think my daughter Penrose is the cutest of all. I wasn’t surprised, therefore, when a friend who owns a t-shirt printing and design company on the island where we live asked if…she would be the onesie model for their summer line. She was just over a year old, with rolls stacked up on her arms and legs. At the shoot, I changed her into each outfit—one with buoys, one with “Young and Hungry” written on it, one with sailboats—and set her down at one end of… >> Read More
Flying makes me nervous. It never used to, but a few years ago on a bumpy trip back from England, I lost my faith in the Bernoulli principle. I used to pop a Xanax and snooze my way through the…anxiety, but now that I’m a parent, I need to stay awake and alert to tend to my daughter on flights. Without my sedative crutch, I turned to superstition to get me through a cross-country flight to California this winter. I bought a little silver hamsa necklace with an elegant branch and leaf design on… >> Read More
The kitchen table I grew up with, which is now my dining room table, is pocked with scorch marks from Hanukkah candles. My sisters and I each had a brass menorah and we lined them up on a…foil-covered cookie sheet to protect the table from dripping wax, but they sometimes tipped over anyway. The smell of smoke as the candles melted down and blinked out and the feeling of the wax we pried out of the candle holders with lobster pickers is my most indelible Hanukkah memory. We ate latkes with sour… >> Read More
When I wrote my last Kveller piece about gradually weaning my daughter, Penrose, I felt peaceful and optimistic. My body didn’t seem to be protesting the changes, and I knew I was making the right…decision. Just a few days later, however, everything changed. READ: Baby-Led Weaning is Pretty Much the Best Thing Ever At my Wednesday afternoon Pilates class, I suddenly realized I couldn’t comfortably lie on my front. What had been slight discomfort was evolving into painful engorgement. I wasn’t sure what to do—I didn’t want to run the… >> Read More
“Ah yes,” I thought to myself, “this is why we’re weaning.”
I nursed Penrose for the last time when she was 17 months old on October 7. It was early evening--between dinner and bedtime.…She asked for “nonny” after I took her out of her high chair and cleaned her up, so we snuggled on the couch. After a few peaceful moments, she started thrashing and wiggling, eventually sliding off the couch, still latched. While she took a bottle once a day after she was six weeks old so… >> Read More
While we were on vacation at the end of the summer, my 16-month-old daughter suddenly started saying no. She'd been shaking her head for a while, but now when we read her favorite book (“Are You a…Cow?” by Sandra Boynton) she actually answered the questions. "Hey Penrose! Are you a cow?" "Noooooo." "Are you a dog?" "Nooooo." READ: Diagnosis Toddleritis At first, it was adorable, and we asked her over and over, just to provoke the response. But when we got home, the reality of a toddler with the ability to verbalize… >> Read More
In one hour and 13 minutes, I need to go pick Penrose up from daycare. So far today I have attended a one-hour Kripalu yoga session, tidied up a bit, taken care of some loose ends with my…now-shuttered seasonal bakery, edited and submitted a column, left messages for sources for an article, eaten an unseemly number of banana chips, and started writing this piece. I'm not at work. I'm a teacher on summer vacation. So why isn't the baby home with me? Last summer, with an infant and a bakery to run,… >> Read More
For many Jewish parents, the challenges they face raising their children include choosing between Jewish and public schools, planning bar and bat mitzvahs, and staying sane while planning big Shabbat…dinners. But for parents raising Jewish children in rural areas like me, without a cohesive community around them, just having our identity recognized and honored by neighbors is often the first challenge. Maine thinks of itself as a homogenous state. Despite increasing populations of immigrants from around the world, particularly Somalia, and despite thriving Jewish… >> Read More
The writing was on the wall as I bolted awake at 2 in the morning. My left breast, always a little troublesome and prone to blockages, was hard as a rock and hot to the touch. I rolled over on my…front and went back to sleep, hoping the pressure would somehow help it to empty. I woke up again an hour later, shaking uncontrollably. “Are you OK?,” my husband asked. My tremors had woken him up. “I don’t think so,” I said. He got my pump from downstairs and wrapped me in pillows and blankets… >> Read More
I live on an island in Maine. We bring our trash to the town transfer station, where we pay by the bag. Periodically the trash gets driven off island and put in a landfill. It’s a great inducement…to compost and recycle and keep as much trash out of the system as possible. With that in mind, I wanted to use cloth diapers when we had a baby. But at first, we encountered some discouraging words. “We tried it…until we encountered the reality of baby poop,” said some friends. “Ugh, just wait until… >> Read More
As a new-ish mom, I appreciate my mom friends. They taught me about cloth diapering and baby-led weaning, commiserated about wacky sleep patterns, and talked endlessly about everything baby. But…after complete submersion in baby land, time with my non-mom friends is refreshing and necessary. Being a great non-mom friend to a new parent might seem daunting. Parenthood is like a parallel dimension. You, the non-mom friend, can see your friend inside their bubble, but the laws of physics have changed for them. They love… >> Read More
A small miracle happened here.
We went away for the last weekend of February break, visiting friends who live further down the coast. We had a great time, went to a restaurant where Penrose ate…lemon and ice and charmed the toddlers at the table next to us, and enjoyed seeing friends and leaving the island for a few days. We came back on Sunday and did the loads of laundry that accumulated while we were gone--clothes and diapers. >> Read More
For eight-and-a-half months postpartum, I was more or less a stay-at-home mom. Penrose went to a babysitter for an hour a few days a week so I could go in to the bakery I open in the summer, and once…a week since school started I’ve been breaking my sabbatical from teaching to be my own substitute band teacher. But for most of the time I was with my daughter from sun up to sun down, and quite a bit of time after dark, too. >> Read More
When Rebecca Melsky, a Jewish Day School teacher in Washington, D.C., found out she was having a girl five years ago, she and her husband were determined not to put her in pink. But when her daughter…became a pink-loving, dress-wearing toddler who also enjoyed space ships and dinosaurs, Rebecca was surprised that she couldn’t find a dress featuring a science theme. She teamed up with her friend Eva St. Clair to start Princess Awesome, a small clothing company offering hand-sewn dresses with patterns from pirates to pi, trucks to trains, and… >> Read More
After lighting the menorah at home, we went to California for Christmas with my husband's family. My in-laws and their extended family all live within a few miles of each other in San Diego County,…and we see them every other year or so for the holidays. Penrose was a champ on the plane, napping and playing and eating airplane snacks, and playing peek-a-boo with the family seated behind us. My in-laws picked us up at the airport--we arrived in the late morning--and brought us to their house. Once we… >> Read More
My hair never looked so good as when I was pregnant. It had grown out from the bad-breakup-short-haircut-I-gave-myself, and it hung to my waist. My halo of frizz was gone; each curl was shiny and…healthy. For almost a year, instead of losing a disgusting wad of hair with each shower, each follicle clung to its hair. I got a few new grey strands, but overall it was a good hair year. Having long hair again, like I had my whole childhood in Maine, felt like a return to my… >> Read More
I love to cook and I love to feed people. At the theatre commune where I interned during college, I was the one who baked the vegan cookies for the Tuesday night “Shapenote Sings.” The happy…stress of preparing the seder for 20 of my closest non-Jewish friends is the highlight of my spring. I love cooking so much that in the summer, when I could be relaxing and enjoying my time off, I run a small bakery and breakfast restaurant. I assume it comes with the territory of being Jewish,… >> Read More