Melissa Henriquez is red-headed Jew from Jersey who married a wonderful dark-haired Catholic guy from El Salvador. They met in college, endured several years of long-distance love, married in 2006 and now live in Michigan with their two wonderful children: Maya (6) and Ben (3). By day, she is a marketing manager at a global marketing agency and by night she blogs at Let There Be Light (est. 2008). Melissa's writing has been featured on Babble.com and The Huffington Post.
Every Sunday morning as I practically drag my 6-year old out of bed to go to Hebrew School, I’m reminded of the final scene in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" when Toula’s own daughter has turned six…and is begrudgingly headed off to … where else?! Greek school. Like Toula’s daughter and Toula before her, and Toula’s mother before her (and so on and so forth) my daughter knows she must to go to her own version of Greek School -- she just doesn’t “want” to. Personally, I began Hebrew School in… >> Read More
Much has been written about how the 2016 election cycle and subsequent ascendency of Donald Trump has further splintered an already divided public. It’s only getting worse, as evidenced by the…comments sections on pretty much every news site or blogging platform out there—including, occasionally, our own Jewish parenting community. After a mass shooting in Virginia last week--which The Washington Post reported was 154th mass shooting to date in 2017--the accusations have been flying back and forth, each side claiming its the other that's been turning up the rhetorical… >> Read More
When I was a kid growing up in northern New Jersey in the '80s, family photos were taken at Sears, maybe once every year or every other year—and my parents were never, ever in them.
We’ve come…a long way since those days. Today, lifestyle photography sessions are increasing in popularity, and America’s photo shoot game has been upped enormously thanks to the advent of Instagram and Pinterest—fulfilling all our creative, photographic fantasies. Modern “shoots: (engagement, maternity, seniors, family, etc.) often involve multiple outfit changes, props, and sometimes even include several locations.… >> Read More
I’d never heard of a febrile seizure until my daughter experienced one when she was ten months old. It was, without a doubt, the scariest two minutes of my life: her tiny body convulsing, her eyes…rolling in the back of her head, clear fluid flowing out of her mouth, and her head limp like a rag doll though her body was shaking violently. For a moment there—and I shudder to even type this—if felt like I was floating above myself, watching my baby’s life end. It was so frightening that… >> Read More
Few things this POTUS has done in his first four months of office have shocked me. Every day, a barrage of new headlines hit and, like many Americans who don’t support him or his rhetoric and…policies, I often feel paralyzed by the speed at which it’s all coming. It’s hard to look away as this administration seems to be self-imploding by the minute. But in many ways, we knew what we were getting into. President Trump is the epitome of “WYSIWYG” (what you see is what you get). He’s leading… >> Read More
Standing on line at Ulta during my lunch break, I noticed a very pregnant mom with three young kids in front of me. Her sons–appearing to be 3 and 4- were quietly playing with a toy they had…brought from home and her daughter, maybe 1, was strapped into a stroller. The line was pretty long for a random Monday and I was growing impatient between needing to get back to the office for a meeting and a growling stomach. When the next cashier opened up, the mom turned to the kids, “It’s… >> Read More
When I heard that President Trump would be giving the keynote this Tuesday at the Holocaust Memorial Museum’s National Day of Remembrance, I was both sickened and angered: sickened that he is…speaking, and angry that he was asked to do so. While every president since 1993 has delivered the National Day of Remembrance keynote, the idea of Donald Trump standing up there feels so disingenuous, it makes my stomach turn: as a Jewish woman—and as a mother of young kids growing up in this very divided… >> Read More
I’m at the library with my kids on a recent rainy Sunday, and like every time I’m in a library or book store, I’m completely overwhelmed–and thrilled–by the sea of books in front of me.…Strolling the aisles, I see books I’ve read, books I want to read, books I pick up and put down for later, books I want my kids to read, books I think my mom would love, and so on. Though I know it’d be impossible to read them all in a lifetime, I still have… >> Read More
I’ve been obsessed with "This Is Us" from the season premiere last fall, watching religiously every Tuesday with a box of Kleenex close at hand. A pleasant deviation from politics, "This is Us" has…become my favorite show. The characters are complex yet approachable. The storylines are always intriguing as they jump between past and present tenses, and the themes–marriage, love, loss, adoption, interracial families, weight and body image issues, fear of failure, fear of success are relatable themes. I was on a plane during the season finale, but… >> Read More
I used to live by the old adage “everything happens for a reason.” I felt that if I didn’t get the grade I expected or the job I wanted, it wasn’t meant to be. Likewise, if I ran into someone…I had been hoping to see unexpectedly at the grocery store, I believed it was fate. In my younger years, I found comfort clinging to the idea that there was a higher, divine purpose to our lives. But then my best male friend from college, Jason, died of brain cancer in 2006 at age 27,… >> Read More
I love pop singer Pink for a million and one reasons. In addition to being an amazing vocalist, songwriter and performer, I love how she keeps both marriage and motherhood real–the good, the bad,…and, yes, even the ugly. Of course, I don’t know her personally, but she’s one of those celebrities who genuinely lets her fans into her world. With respect to parenting, she doesn’t shy away from the tough parts, and she draws attention to the things she is passionate about: breastfeeding, teaching tolerance, having a healthy… >> Read More
This past Monday night, I was at my wit’s end with my entire household.
Like many working moms, I look forward to the two hours of family time we get between the time we get home and the time…the kids go to sleep. We try to keep our weeknights plan-free, with the exception of Monday evenings, when my daughter has gymnastics and our routine gets rushed in half. Normally it works out just fine; my husband cooks dinner with my son, and we all eat when we get home. This has been our… >> Read More
“When they go low, we go high!” I still get chills up and down my spine, recalling how poignant and electrically-charged Michelle Obama’s message sounded during the Democratic National…Convention last summer. Her passion, her conviction, and her genuine fervor are all impossible to ignore. I’ve watched her speech countless times for inspiration since then, and I’ve tried with all my might to keep those seven words she spoke close at heart as I’ve come to grapple with the reality that today, January 20,… >> Read More
This article is part of the Here. Now. essay series, which seeks to de-stigmatize mental health treatment, and improve accessibility to treatment and support for teens and parents in metropolitan…New York. Jewish mothers worry; it’s not just a stereotype, it’s the truth—truth in the same way the sun rises in the east and sets in the west and there are 50 states in our fine union. It’s just who we are, and there’s no shame in it. Which is why I am here today… >> Read More
Most moms stand in one of two camps about the American Girl franchise: Either they love the dolls and all they stand for (strong, brave girls; inclusion)… or they think it’s absolutely absurd to…pay $115 for a doll. After my experience with the brand—and especially after this week’s announcement of American Girl’s 2017 Girl of the Year—I’m definitely in the former camp. My first exposure to American Girl was, like most girls in the early 90s, through the catalogs. I was too old to play with dolls when… >> Read More
With my daughter’s 6th birthday party, Hanukkah, and Christmas all falling in a brief seven-day window, the holidays felt extra-stressful this year for my little interfaith family.
Of course,…some of the stress is self-imposed. Like most moms, I tend to put way more pressure than necessary on myself in an effort to make the holidays memorable, when in reality, my kids are thrilled to be home in their jammies with their mommy and daddy for a few days with nothing to do but… >> Read More
Salad fix-ins? Check.
Menorah, candles, and dreidels? Check, check, check.
My husband, kids, and I were headed to family dinner at our dear friends’ house. Though she and…her husband aren’t Jewish, my friend is a history teacher who loves learning about and sharing multicultural traditions. Since she’d never lit a menorah before, she asked me to bring ours—and I was more than happy to oblige. For good measure, I also brought some dreidels and—because our kids ate all our gelt the first… >> Read More
We were at the reception following my dear friend’s aufruf ceremony, a joyous and momentous pre-wedding ritual. We’d missed the service itself, but had made it in time for the luncheon. I’d…been looking forward to it as our first event as congregants of our synagogue—but my kids clearly had other plans. I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks as I swatted my 3-year-old son’s hand out of the giant, beautiful fruit display which served as the centerpiece of the synagogue’s luncheon for the second… >> Read More
Still numb from the news of Donald Trump’s unprecedented victory, I came across this headline on social media: 'Sieg Heil,' swastikas, racist Trump graffiti appear in South Philly. Already plagued…with a stomach virus earlier in the week, another nauseous wave came over me again as I stared at the screen, feeling personally victimized and on the verge of puking, tears streaming down my face. I don’t live under a rock; I know anti-Semitism is very real, and I know these heinous acts happen all… >> Read More
It was July 21, 1999, and my whole family plus three of my best friends were in the waiting lounge at JFK, hanging with me while I waited to board my flight to Buenos Aires, where I would spend the…fall semester of my junior year of college. I’d left the country once before—a 10-day vacation to Greece with my aunt, uncle, and cousins when I was 16. But although I went to college in DC and my parents lived in New Jersey, I’d never been away from them for four straight months. “We gave… >> Read More
My 5-year-old daughter is obsessed with all things Aly Raisman right now. Since the Olympics began, she has been begging to watch YouTube videos of performances, interviews with the much-decorated…gymnast, and even watched some re-runs from when Aly was on “Dancing with the Stars.” Aly is on par with Queen Elsa right now—which, in 5-year-old-world, is a tremendous honor. “If I keep practicing my gymnastics, can I be like Aly?” she asked. “If you put your mind to it, you sure can!” (Who am… >> Read More
Looking at my 2-year-old son sleeping soundly in the backseat this past weekend, sand stuck to his tiny barefoot toes and dribbles of chocolate ice cream still dotting his chin, I can’t help but…smile. Behind me sits his sister—5—wet blond hair matted to her headband, her little belly poking out of her rash guard. Her eyelids are fluttering and I know within minutes she’ll be asleep, too. Ah, beach days. That’s what summer’s all about, right? Well for us, actually, it’s not. Growing up, summer meant spending the… >> Read More
Growing up in a small, rural town in northern New Jersey in the '80s, I never had perfect attendance in school. Not because I was sick or because my family took vacations outside the school calendar,…but rather because every fall, I needed to take two days off in observance of the Jewish holidays. Unlike my friends who grew up in one of the predominantly Jewish parts of our state—where schools are closed for the High Holidays—I was one of about six Jewish families in our entire school district. So for… >> Read More
My usually easy-going, smiley 2-year-old is standing in front of me, red-faced, clenching his chubby fists, and shrieking, “SHE STOLE MY LOVEY!” at the top his lungs. “She is a MEANIE! I’m…not playing with her EVER AGAIN!” To prove his point, he stamps his little Croc-encased feet on the floor, and it takes everything in me to suppress my laughter. He’s run into my bedroom to tattle on his big sister—his best friend most days, and his arch enemy other days. Apparently today was one of… >> Read More
No matter if you're the friend, husband, partner, colleague, sister, second cousin twice removed, or niece of a pregnant woman, here are five things you should never, ever, ever say within a 500-foot…radius of a pregnant woman. At least, not if you value your life. 1. I'm hungry. Hungry? You have no idea what hunger is until you've been pregnant. And it's the weirdest, most annoying kind of hunger—one minute you're sick to your stomach puking (or about to puke or feeling like you could puke) and… >> Read More