Lela Casey is a mother of three children living in Bucks County, PA. Being raised by a fiery Israeli mother and a gentle farmer in the middle of nowhere lent her a unique perspective on Judaism. She holds degrees from both Penn State University and Rhode Island College. Besides contributing to Kveller, she has written several children's books and young adult novels.
Yesterday morning was one of those mornings. The kind of morning where there are missing papers, no clean socks, and not a single acceptable t-shirt to be found. The kind of morning that is just…par for the course when you are a free-spirited, somewhat careless person like myself. The kind of morning that, I know now, makes my oldest son feel un-loved. After searching for 20 minutes for the doctor's form that he needed to go on a school trip next month, he came to me with angry eyes.… >> Read More
My oldest son will be 12 in a few months. People are always talking about how kids grow up so fast, but I have to tell you, I have felt every passing moment of every one of those 12 years--and some…of them--especially during the early years--seemed to last a lifetime. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the first few years of parenting. I did. Enormously. In fact, I don't know that I've ever felt so complete in my life. But, dammit, they were hard. So hard that I often wished that time could… >> Read More
My 6-year-old daughter came home from school with tears in her eyes the other day. She told me that she got in trouble for holding hands with her friend.
This isn't the first time this has…happened. Last week when she wanted to give her friend a hug, she was reminded by a teacher to keep her hands to herself. It's confusing to her, this restriction on touch. For the first six years of her life, touching had been something that’s a warm and loving part of her world. Suddenly, for… >> Read More
Since marrying my non-Jewish husband, I have struggled with how to handle Christmas. It was easy when it was just the two of us. We'd spend the day with my husband's family, exchanging presents and…belting out Christmas carols. I even attended Midnight Mass with his family once or twice, just to know what the experience was like. But, when we had kids, my perspective changed. Judaism became something that I wanted to protect for my kids. I worried that celebrating Christmas would be one more step towards assimilating, towards losing the… >> Read More
It was clear from an early age that my oldest son was different. He walked early, talked early, and read his first novel (Harry Potter) when he was 4. When the time came, the gifted program was a…natural fit for him. Since he was our first child, he set the benchmark for what a baby should be. When my second son wasn't walking by 1, my husband and I were puzzled; when he wasn't talking in full sentences by 2, we were concerned; and, when he wasn't reading in kindergarten, we asked… >> Read More
Last Monday was rough. My husband was traveling, the kids were all out of sorts, and I was feeling vulnerable and lonely. I tried reaching out to a few friends, but no one was available. So, I put on…my new red sweater, found a spot with just the right sunlight, and took a selfie. After one hour, I had 15 likes, four sweet comments, and two smart ass comments about selfie taking. The smart asses are right. Taking selfies can be self indulgent, narcissistic, and immature. But, you know what else it can… >> Read More
My daughter started first grade this year. She is one of the only kids in her class who is not reading fluently. I must admit that there are times when this causes me a lot of anxiety. When I…volunteer in the classroom and see the other kid's zipping through chapter books, or when I hear my daughter ask her older brothers to help her read signs or cereal boxes, I feel a sting of doubt. I wonder if perhaps I'm doing her a disservice by not pushing her more, buying her flashcards, getting… >> Read More
When my son was about 5, he lost his first tooth. He placed it under his pillow and went to sleep. The next morning (if you can call his regular 4 a.m. wake-up time morning), he opened his eyes,…found the dollar under his pillow, and fell completely and totally head over heels in love. With money. He started looking for money everywhere we went: on sidewalks, in the car, between the cushions of his grandparents' couches. One time he found five dollars worth of coins at my mom's house. All of his cousins… >> Read More
Here's a scenario:
We're on the way to karate when the red light on the gas meter flickers on. My oldest son notices and shouts out to his brother and sister, “We're out of gas!” Their…responses are as follows: Oldest Son: Frantically Googling nearby gas stations while demanding that I turn off the AC and keep my foot off the gas pedal as much as possible. Middle Son: Crying hysterically, saying, “We're going to diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiie!!” Youngest Daughter: Humming to herself while intermittently declaring, “I like this! It feels like an… >> Read More
While the days still burn with summer heat, there is a briskness in the evening air which smells of falling leaves and back to school and the promise of new beginnings. This time of year brings back…so many childhood memories. As a girl, the excitement of a new school year was at the forefront of my thoughts. But, there was something else that loomed over the horizon during those first few weeks of September. The High Holidays were coming, and with them came the weight of all the choices I'd made… >> Read More
Life is filled with so many divergent pathways and adventures that I've always found it difficult to choose just one. This made finding a career practically impossible.
I started with archeology…(think a female version of Indiana Jones) and ended with International Politics (think Golda Meir) with a short stint in acting (think the Broadway version of Natalie Portman) and then got an extra degree in Education (think Robin Williams’ character in “Good Will Hunting”) just to make sure I covered all my bases. And then… >> Read More
I first started thinking about my 40th birthday when I was 35. My youngest daughter was just over 1 and nursing like a fiend. My 4-year-old had such severe separation anxiety that I didn't dare send…him to more than a few hours of preschool a week. And my super independent, enthusiastic 6-year-old was struggling to adjust to a new school in a new state. The time I spent by myself was limited to showers (if I remembered to lock the door) and illicit trips to the grocery store for chocolate.… >> Read More
Until he was about 9.5 months old, my oldest son clung to me desperately, his tiny fingers digging into my side 24 hours a day. He needed me then, to feed him, to keep him safe, to carry him from one…fascinating place to another. Then he learned to walk, and instantly I became less than essential. Sure, he still clung to me at night, nursing for hours on end. Sure, he still depended on me to bring him food and change his diapers. But, once he discovered mobility, my importance in his world decreased immensely.… >> Read More
My oldest son came home from school beaming. “I got picked first in gym today and my team won!”
The look on his face reflected the wince I was trying to hide.
I should have been happy,…right? The fact that he was picked first means that he is athletic and popular. It means that he is good at making friends and fitting in--all the things that I never could figure out how to be when I was a kid. And I am happy about those things. Because I know that he… >> Read More
My 40th birthday is fast approaching and I've been devouring those “What I've Learned in My 40 Years” lists like candy.
I find them to be insightful, inspiring, and slightly depressing.…Because while everyone has been going through life accumulating wisdom and rules to live by, I've been going the opposite way. Unlearning. Here's a list of the top seven things I have unlearned in my (almost) 40 years. 1. There are right and wrong choices in life. Choosing the right ones will lead to happiness… >> Read More
My first introduction to Hebrew school came during my junior year of college. It was my first day of Hebrew 101 and I was feeling pretty sure of myself. While I'd never had any formal schooling in…Hebrew, I was certain that having an Israeli mother was going to give me a big advantage. I'd been to Israel several times as a child. I knew songs and words, prayers and curses. Rolled r's and hard c's had been the music of my youth. What I didn't know was that while I'd been… >> Read More
Passover has always been a lonely time for me.
Not that first night, of course. The seder was a burst of colors, sounds, and tastes. Purple Manishewitz seeping into white table cloths, my Israeli…mom and our visiting family pounding their fists and howling “Achad Mi Yodaya” long into the night, the bitter taste of the horseradish that we dared each other to eat in enormous prickly mouthfuls. The hard part was the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, and on and on… >> Read More
My kids have no delusions about me being a perfect mother. Dishes slip from my fingers just as easily as parent-teacher conference dates slip from my mind. I make mistakes just as readily as I…forgive theirs. >> Read More
There's a picture of my saba (grandfather) and savta (grandmother) hanging in my living room. The same one that hung in my own house growing up. Their faces are wrinkled and neither of them is…smiling. My saba's leg rests against my savta's knee, while my savta's hand is clenched tightly in her lap. Filled with seeds for the hungry birds, my mother explained. >> Read More
I grew up in a clothes-on-the-floor, dinner-in-the-grass, bellowing-show-tunes-at-the-store kind of house. The only real rules were no hitting (unless you're hitting back), no cursing (in English),…and if you said honest, it HAD to be true. My parents would surprise us (and our teachers) by picking us up at school for a month long road trip with no notice at all. >> Read More
When I was a kid, adolescence always seemed to be looming in front of me like a dark threat. I'm not sure why. Maybe it was because my parents spoke so negatively of teenagers, maybe it was because…my sweet playful cousins transformed into sulky eye-rollers overnight, or maybe it was just the fear of separation from my parents. Whatever the reasons, adolescence felt like a condition, something shameful to avoid at all costs. >> Read More
When my husband and I first decided to get married, we had the typical interfaith negotiations. No to church, yes to a bris if we ever had a baby boy, no to a Christmas tree.
The last decision had…an asterisk. We agreed that we would celebrate a secular Christmas at his family’s house unless there was some major reason we could not attend. Then, and only then, would we have a Christmas tree in our home. So began our lives together. We did remarkably well those first years. >> Read More
My 10-year-old son came into the room while I was watching the news yesterday. On screen, they were talking about Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed by police in…Cleveland. “Why would the police kill a kid, Mom?” I stumbled around for answers I didn't have. “Well, I guess he was carrying a BB gun and the police thought it was a real gun.” “My cousins have BB guns. Are they going to get shot?” >> Read More
My daughter's imaginary friend is named “N.O.K.” Since she was very small, she's been talking about her, as in: “N.O.K. loves cherry ice cream,” “N.O.K. is the only one who will play…games that aren't ‘princess-y,’” “N.O.K's mom is in Israel this week so she's staying with us.” When my daughter had to make a list of her best friends for school, N.O.K. was at the top of the list. N.O.K has a big heart, a quick wit, and a terrific sense of humor. But until last… >> Read More