Emily Caruso Parnell lives in Northern Ontario, Canada, where she is a full-time arts educator, a part-time ballet teacher, and a volunteer synagogue president. She also writes about early learning and the place of the arts in education for BAMRadioNetwork and on her personal blog teachingontheverge.com. Emily and her husband have two small children.
Our son loves camp. Given the opportunity, he’d probably stay there all summer. While this breaks my mommy heart a little, it also makes me very proud of the independent, risk-taking, fun-loving,…human he’s become. He tried waterskiing for the first time this year, he loves tearing around the mountain bike trails, likely doing things that would cause me cardiac distress, and he adores the singing and Israeli dancing. He came home this week with a whole new set of moves—and, given that I’m a dance teacher,… >> Read More
This summer, for the first time, our son is spending two weeks at summer camp. It’s something he begged for last year and that he seems to be thoroughly enjoying, based on the photos that show his…face close to breaking from the width of his smile. I’m still working for a few more weeks; my husband is working too, so our daughter is in day camp. Her days are much like they were during the school year, minus the big yellow bus. She rises early, get dressed, hair and teeth brushed,… >> Read More
Since I was a little girl, there’s pretty much always been a dog in my life. To me, dogs make houses feel like homes. With their slobbering, barking, messy-pawed disorder, they make it impossible…for anyone around them to take themselves too seriously, including (perhaps especially) me. All of our dogs and cats have been rescues; the idea of paying hundreds of dollars for a dog is just bizarre to me. I also grew up in the “bush,” as we call it around here: forest on three sides and… >> Read More
I work full-time. Well, more than full-time really. I’m the primary wage earner in our house and, often, my weeks end in a blazing fury of activity so that I can make it out of my office in time to…meet the school bus on Friday afternoons. The kids rollick in the door and, depending on the weather and their mood, I prepare Shabbat dinner to a soundtrack of slamming doors as they come in and out, giggling and playing or, on a bad week, waging sibling battles that descend into a vortex of screaming… >> Read More
I sat in on a video-conference last night, cuddled in an armchair in my living room, the wind blowing snow into thick drifts, marking the return of winter after a few weeks of seductive thaw. The raw…weather suited my mood as I watched the disembodied heads of other community leaders appear on the screen. We were physicians, teachers, small business people—your average collection of middle-class Canadians—each logging in to hear about the topic that is keeping us up at night these days how to keep our communities safe in a time… >> Read More
Another weekend, another bag of clothes and toys gone. Like many moms, I’m constantly in inventory mode, looking for the next thing I can get rid of without causing a kid to have a meltdown. Often…I sneak the bags out of the house, either to the donation bin, the garbage, or a younger friend’s house. If they don’t see it leave, they don’t notice it’s gone. My kids, like many kids—and many grown-ups, too—are very attached to stuff. That pair of flip flops that doesn’t fit and needs duct tape… >> Read More
A couple of weeks ago, I was making photocopies in a school staff room when I overheard some women chatting at the other end of the table. Both at least a decade older than me, they were discussing…their mothers, always excellent fodder for women’s conversation. As I pressed buttons on the copier, I listened to the kvetching: “She won’t eat. I cook all sorts of different stuff and she won’t eat any of it. So then my brother came over and I said to him, 'Bring this to mom and tell her… >> Read More
It all started with a text.
A photo flashed across my screen with the message: “Do you want this?”
Pictured in the photo, surrounded by Elves destined for Shelves, was one lonely looking…Hasidic-looking stuffie, complete with black hat, tallis, and little suit. “What is it?” I texted back. “Not sure,” my non-Jewish friend replied, “but it’s Jewish and it’s the only one. Do you want it?” I have a problem with orphan Judaica. At least once a year, I walk into a store and there’s some random… >> Read More
In sickness and in health. Those words aren’t actually part of any Jewish wedding ceremony. They’re implied, sure, but they’re never said out loud.
When we got married 12 years ago, it never…occurred to me that we’d be faced with so much sickness so soon. I had a strong, strapping husband who could bench press me. His shoulders are easily twice as wide as mine and he towers over me, even now when he leans on a cane. What could go wrong? Well, quite a lot apparently.… >> Read More
When I first starting learning about Judaism, one of the biggest attractions for me was that so much of it was about doing and so little about believing. Sure, there was that piece about believing in…one God, but beyond that, there wasn’t a Nicene Creed-style list of beliefs you had to subscribe to. It was such a relief for me, after years of feeling like a bad Christian because I couldn’t wrap my head around virgin birth and resurrection, to have this direct line to God, a relationship I could… >> Read More
Death becomes us.
Summer, especially when you live in a place with brutally long winters, is an explosion of new life. We soak it all in around here because we know that we could, after watching…the last flake fall in May, be shoveling snow again by mid-October. No moment of warmth goes to waste. But this summer was unusual; amidst the riotous beach trips and bike rides, our children had their first brush with death. My husband’s grandmother passed away, and while her passing wasn’t entirely unexpected, her rapid decline… >> Read More
Every time I pick up a Torah at my synagogue, the eyes of several of the other women in the congregation start to twinkle. I’ll often get winks and conspiratorial grins sent my way. This isn’t…just because women’s aliyot—the honor of reciting the blessings over the Torah—are still fairly new to our synagogue, although that’s part of it. It’s also because these ladies remember well the High Holidays that followed the birth of our son. That year, as I hoisted the Torah scroll onto my shoulder, I involuntarily started to… >> Read More
I love the United States of America. I’ve spent lots of time in your great country, as a student and a tourist, sometimes a little of both. You have some of the greatest public institutions in the…world and a diversity of learning environments that is simply incomparable. Your geography is breathtaking and your history is full of the kind of sweeping narratives that sometimes (true story) we’re a little jealous of here in the Great White North where our history tends to be more incremental. I’m a fan. But here’s the… >> Read More
I’m from one of those rare families where breastfeeding hasn’t skipped a generation; whether or not to breastfeed was never in question. This was how babies eat, full stop. But I went into…nursing about the same way as I went into home birth, my guiding thought was, “We’ll do this for as long as we can.” As in: We’ll stay home as long as we can (and if that includes the birth, great) and we’ll nurse as long as we can (and if that includes nursing into… >> Read More
In our small Northern neck of the woods in Canada, there isn’t a tradition of sending Jewish kids to Jewish camps. Most of the families who are long-term members of our synagogue community sent…their kids, now grown, to the local summer camps because that’s where their school friends were going. From here, if you want to send your kid to a Jewish camp, you actually have to take them south, to a more developed part of the province. It isn’t exactly the idealized isolation that I grew up… >> Read More
I started going gray in my early 20s, noticing individual, disobedient hairs poking out between my otherwise dark brown coif. I plucked them back then. There were so few of them that every time I…noticed one, I could just pull it out and move on with my day. But, as they got more frequent, I realized that I’d have to start doing something about them. So, my hairdresser started giving me blonde highlights, strategically placed to cover the gray. I then got blonder and blonder, although never entirely taking… >> Read More
June is back with a vengeance. My kids’ lunch boxes are frighteningly crusty and every morning I say a little prayer over their zippers, asking whatever higher power that watches over children’s…lunches to grant them just one more day of zippy life. We’ve gotten through the last first year of school that my children will ever have. There will be no more first bus rides, first school concerts, first class photos, and first parent-teacher interviews. From this point on it will all be familiar territory, to… >> Read More
Wine and motherhood seem to go together like, well, wine and motherhood. Every time I turn around, there seems to be another wine meme floating around with snappy taglines such as, “The most…expensive part of having kids is all the wine you have to drink,” and, “A mother’s sacrifice isn’t giving birth. It’s 9 months without wine.” Now, I get it, it’s supposed to be funny; our kids our driving us crazy and we need wine to cope. I can hear the comments before they’re written: lighten… >> 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.
Like many adult children of alcoholism, I have what…might be considered a challenging relationship to authority. For me, this manifests in both a fear of and a strong urge to appease authority, coupled with a powerful skepticism and mistrust of anything that seems absolute. I tend to problematize everything. I’m a contrarian; it’s my thing. It was also my thing growing up, as… >> Read More
Once upon a time there was a girl, and when that girl shopped for Passover food, she bought Passover ketchup, Passover mayonnaise, and Passover salad dressing. And then, one day, that girl snapped.…While wandering the aisles she looked at the $7 bottle of ketchup in her hand and thought to herself… This. Is. Insane. Every year I found it so easy to be seduced by the specialty Passover products, the ones that promised me crunchy cereal, soft cookies, and ketchup with that special corn syrupy tang. And… >> Read More
The first time it happened, I was on maternity leave. I was approached twice, by two different family friends, offering me the “amazing opportunity” to start my own business, control my own…destiny, make my own hours, and—the kicker—spend more time with my children instead of going back to work. I spent both of my maternity leaves working part-time and clawing my way through my master’s degree, typing furtively while praying for another few minutes of baby monitor silence or reading while bouncing a baby slung to… >> Read More
There’s one part of the Passover seder that I wait for every year. As we dip our fingers into our wine 10 times for each of the 10 plagues, I gear up for my explanation of this ritual. It’s…become a bit of a joke amongst our friends and family. “And now, I direct your attention to the top left corner of the table where Emily will commence her explanation of why we remove wine from our glasses…” Here goes. As with everything in Judaism, there is more than one explanation for why we… >> Read More
Our son, our oldest child, is now 7 (7 and a half, he would want me to clarify). On the day he was born, the midwives placed him on my chest (at least that’s what I assume, I was too exhausted to…notice who was doing the placing) and I got my first glimpse of his tiny red face. “Oh, he has a cleft,” our midwife observed. She was surprised since, like many clefts, it hadn’t shown up on our ultrasounds. My husband nearly fainted (reason #3 midwives bring oxygen to a birth: husband resuscitation) but not… >> Read More
About five years ago, I received a call from a man I had never met, asking if he and his wife could come and celebrate “The Feast of Trumpets” with us at our little synagogue, where I am the…volunteer president. Bewildered, I asked what the Feast of Trumpets was and finally clued in, after a few minutes of conversation, that he was talking about Rosh Hashanah. I told them they were welcome to attend (we often have non-Jewish guests at our services) and they came, quietly sitting and standing with the congregation. They… >> Read More
My job sometimes involves a lot of driving down long Northern highways on cold mornings; when your school board is roughly the size of Albania, you get to see a lot of beautiful sunrises. Those early…morning drives—leaving in the dark while everyone else is in bed, driving over frozen bridges with steam rising off the water, periodically getting blinded by lights coming at me from the other side of the road—are really good for thinking. I have my own version of carpool karaoke, except it’s just me and the cold.… >> Read More