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.
Passover was a night like no other when I was a kid. My mom would spend days preparing spicy Middle Eastern dishes that we'd stack in the station wagon along with heaps of suitcases and enough books…and toys to keep my siblings and I entertained on the long road from Pennsylvania to Brooklyn. My parents argued the whole drive while my country boy dad tried to navigate city traffic. After another hour spent trying to find a parking place, we'd tumble into our relative's Crown Heights apartment—tired, hungry, irritable, and three… >> Read More
Being a kindergarten teacher while pregnant gave me an extra eye into the window of new parenthood. I’d see the mothers of my students come in at the end of their pregnancies with swollen bellies…and tired smiles until, one day, they’d be replaced by proud dads. It would often be weeks after the new babies were born that I’d finally see the mothers again. They’d come into the classroom with sleeping infants dangling from car seats in one arm and restless kindergartners tugging at the other. I’d overhear their… >> Read More
When I took my children to see the new Disney movie, "Zootopia" this week, I was expecting another fluffy tale of good versus. evil. Instead, what I saw was a thoughtful, nuanced reflection on…race relations and the complexities of government manipulation, delivered in a child-accessible manner. The story centers around Judy Hopps, a determined bunny who, through hard work and dedication, breaks the glass ceiling of “cuteness” and becomes the first bunny cop. She is assigned to work in Zootopia, an idealistic city where predator and prey coexist… >> Read More
The first time I read “Green Eggs and Ham” to my oldest son, he was 3 years old. I was trying to convince him to eat a cheese stick and getting nowhere. Finally, at my wits end over his…impossible eating habits, I remembered the book that he'd recently received as a gift. For the next 10 minutes he smiled and giggled at Sam I Am and his persistent sales pitch. When the book was over, I handed him the cheese stick one last time and smiled hopefully. He didn't eat it… Not in… >> Read More
Dear 35-year-old self,
I'm writing to you from a party in Hollywood. I'm dressed in a low-cut black dress, drinking an unpronounceable cocktail, and sharing pleasantries with former super model…Julie Anderson. My kids are almost 3,000 miles away, being watched by their dad, or maybe a babysitter...I'm not entirely sure. I know, I know. You're having trouble believing this. And if you do believe it, you're outraged! YOU would never flit off across the country, leave your little ones behind, drink one too many Caipreehoonas...… >> Read More
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