Pia Babendure Kutten is the sleep-deprived mother of three young boys. Pia has a BA in Anthropology and Judaic Studies, as well as an MA in Jewish Civilization from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Pia is a Jewish educator because she is passionate about Judaism and wants to ensure that the next generation is too.
When my mom returned to her Houston home after Hurricane Harvey, she found her needlepoint and needlepoint pillows damaged beyond repair.
This is significant, because my mom is the queen of…needlepointing. She tried to teach me when I was young, but I was way too cool to stitch. Besides, it was a bore. Nevertheless, I have treasured each piece she has made for me like this hamsa that has warded off evil in every place I have lived since I left home. She has honored… >> Read More
Last night the boys and I had dinner with another divorced mom and her two children at a pizzeria. It’s not exactly newsworthy, but for me the evening was monumental.
I just never thought the…day would come when we could finally do what "normal" families do. See, it has taken a long time for me, post-divorce, to be able to justify spending money out on dinner, albeit even for slices of pizza and juice boxes. And even if money were not an issue, I was always focused on making… >> Read More
The other night, I gave our children our framed ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) and told them to “make it more beautiful.” Without hesitation, they took the paints and brushes from my hands…and eagerly went to work transforming the legal document into a Jackson Pollock-ish masterpiece. I was amused to see the three of them working together so well, but the finished product left me speechless and overcome by a sense of peace. I had finally solved the problem of what to do with the voided contract.… >> Read More
Every time I face a setback as a divorced mom, I cycle through a familiar whirlwind of emotions. I start by going through a succession of ugly, disjointed thoughts. Then I proceed to sift through…those thoughts one at a time until I find peace, as I have learned to do over the past few years. For instance, last month I was told my son might have a learning disability. And while this is something many parents face, for me it felt particularly painful and overwhelming. My ex-husband and I… >> Read More
The synagogue where I teach on Saturday mornings has developed a relationship with a nearby mosque over the past few years. The two houses of worship, through the leadership of the clergy, have…studied together, visited with each other, and have united in their mission to serve meals to those in need once a month. Last Friday, with other members of my congregation and the clergy, I visited the mosque to show my solidarity with the Muslim community at this dire time with anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hate crimes… >> Read More
Finding a place to rent post-divorce and post-bankruptcy with three children and a cat was nearly impossible. With my credit in shambles, no one was interested in leasing to me. My indispensable…realtor finally found a guy who would consider us, though the apartment size was less than ideal. I had no other option. Not only did I offer a much larger than usual deposit to offset my credit history, I also submitted a personal letter to the prospective landlord explaining my challenging situation and providing key… >> Read More
Last night the boys and I grabbed an ice cream treat on our way home from their day camp. As we pulled into the driveway we found a woman inspecting the outside of our house. I knew immediately why…she was there. After three years in foreclosure, the bank had finally sold our home at auction. She began approaching me as I got out of our car. Then she saw the boys, stopped, and suggested I send them inside before she continued. I am grateful she waited until they were at a safe distance… >> Read More
I don’t want my kids to miss out on anything, and that is why I volunteered to help with the Israel table at multicultural night. I was sure I could handle this school program despite working seven…days a week and caring for three kids, while in the middle of declaring bankruptcy, looking for a new home, and little league season. No problem! I learned two things from multicultural night. First, many cultures consume pork. To my dismay, the boys managed to find every table distributing samples of this delicacy that they… >> Read More
What enters and exits my body is just about all I can control in my life these days. I juggle three jobs, three kids, and a challenging ex-husband. I often feel powerless. I refuse to give up more of…my freedom by undergoing a drug test for work, especially when the job is as a part-time Hebrew school teacher in a synagogue. I was eating my bagel and sipping coffee with the other teachers in a classroom before my class one Sunday morning when I overheard several teachers discussing the matter. My initial reaction… >> Read More
The automatic door on the passenger side of my minivan stopped working a while back. Luckily, with the help of a kind stranger in the drug store parking lot, I was able to slide the door closed…permanently. Until today, I haven’t been able to open it. Since the door debacle, the children have been forced to climb up to the front row of the vehicle in order to exit the van at school drop-off every morning. I had hoped that we would continue this routine for some time, but their growing… >> Read More
Batshit crazy is a colorful term I recently gleaned from an English teacher with whom I work. According to what I found online at Urban Dictionary, the phrase is likely derived from “bats in the…belfry” and suggests that bats begin to roost when there is a vacancy in one’s head. I have my own interpretation of this descriptive phrase, however. When work, kids, the house, and the ex-husband overwhelm me...When my pleas to go to bed turn into high-pitched shrieks and I am forced to seek shelter in my… >> Read More
Recently my 3-year-old has been sharing his potty mouth with his friends at daycare. (I formally apologize to all the teachers and parents of children in his class.) While I accept most blame, he…does have two older brothers who have contributed generously to his vocabulary. I do need to be more careful with my words though. He absorbs everything. The other day I heard him say, “God give me strength,” an expression I clearly picked up as a kid in Texas. I guess I say it often. Well,… >> Read More
I left work early the other day to see my doctor about a persistent cough. I anticipated that she would give me a prescription for an antibiotic. Instead she prescribed a mammogram and ultrasound. In…the process of examining me, my doctor found a lump in my breast. A couple of days later I dragged a miserable toddler with me to a radiology clinic for the two tests I needed. He had been sent home sick from daycare just hours before my scheduled appointment. Unable to find anyone to help… >> Read More
The phone rang the second I arrived at my desk this morning. I recognized the number and braced myself for bad news, as I always do. It was the daycare.
The emergency was this: I forgot our…youngest child’s water shoes. Today was sprinkler day. I thought about the shoes in the plastic bag hanging on the front door since last night, in anticipation of sprinkler day. I put them there… you know… so I wouldn’t forget them. To my credit, I did remember to dress him in his Superman shirt since… >> Read More
Many well-meaning friends tried to give me advice during the process of my divorce: Take care of yourself, exercise, take up a hobby, get plenty of sleep… Yes, all smart in theory, but unrealistic…in my opinion. Divorce is a full-time job with constant documentation, preparation, and endless emails and calls to the attorney. Factor in kids, a house, and work, as well as a dramatic decline in income, and all the stress resulting. How exactly is one supposed to sleep, find time and money for the gym, or… >> Read More
Since our twins started playing baseball this season, I have made an effort to learn more about the sport. I have also made many errors at their games, like screaming, “Good hit, baby!” which is…apparently quite embarrassing. I‘ve also learned to not contradict the coach’s directives, like yelling, “Run!” when the batter hits a fly ball. And when members of the other team tease our children, again, I have learned that it is better to let the grown ups on the field handle the issues. I want so badly to… >> Read More
Every spring, I lead my second grade Hebrew school class on a short walk from our synagogue to a neighboring church that hosts a soup kitchen. We deliver the nonperishable foods we have been…collecting all year as our class mitzvah project. We then tour the facility and learn about the many services offered like healthcare, counseling, classes, and Internet. Each year, the director of the charity explains that the individuals who seek assistance at this warm house of worship are referred to and treated as guests, since we… >> Read More
Seven years ago I sat uncomfortably at the Passover seder table. I had just undergone another round of IVF, I was experiencing side affects from the drugs, and I was terrified that it would fail…again. Since my husband was the only person present who knew of my recent ordeal, I was doing my best to focus on the meal and to keep my emotions hidden. Slightly less than two weeks later I would learn not only was I pregnant, but that I was carrying multiples. It had finally worked.… >> Read More
After the twins lost interest in the project, I spent over an hour today inserting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle tattoos into pre-made Valentine’s Day cards. This will be our children’s…introduction to the holiday since they previously attended daycare and preschool in a synagogue where Valentine’s Day was not observed. >> Read More
I destroyed my kids’ toy in a moment of frustration. I am not proud. It was a typical morning. I was just trying to get everyone to daycare and school quickly so that I would not be late to work…again. The children had their own agendas, however, and inevitably I lost my patience. Shredder hit the floor and sadly met his doom. >> Read More
Grocery shopping with kids is always an adventure--sometimes amusing and other times downright traumatic, like the time I sat the children in front of a television in the food court, grabbed three…slices of pizza, and returned to find my kids openmouthed and watching a man commit suicide in a Tarantino film. (Apparently someone had changed the channel despite store policy. We received balloons and free cookies that day which made everything better. Well, not really.) As a divorced, working mom I simply do not have the… >> Read More
For the closing event at camp this past summer, our children paraded around a field in costumes for “Halloween in July,” collecting candy as Michael Jackson’s Thriller blasted from the…speakers. While I watched the children scramble to fill their bags with treats, I noticed a man dressed in business casual slowly approaching, and for an instant his familiar appearance gave me joy. I almost smiled, but then I remembered how much I hate him. Our divorce was finalized last Passover, and though we were… >> Read More
When I received a call that my 5-year-old son was being a bully at camp, I felt as if I had failed as a mother. Outrage quickly followed the humiliation, as I imagined a scenario in which my…child would intentionally bother another child. By the time I arrived at camp at the end of the day to collect him, I had worked through an entire spectrum of emotions, but I vowed I would listen to his explanation and try to contain myself. There is always another side to the story after all,… >> Read More
I love those afternoons when I arrive at camp pick-up after a long day of work and my children come running, faces smiling, eager to jump into my arms and share their accomplishments of the…day. Yesterday was not one of those days. Instead, when I arrived at camp for pick-up I found both 5-year-old twins crying. The older twin is hardly a mystery. He struggles on some days, particularly after a late night, because he no longer gets a mid-day nap. He is also a very picky eater and… >> Read More
The clock says 8:16 again. While I am sure it is largely coincidence or my imagination, that number is always illuminated regardless of where I am… at home, work, or in my car. 8:16 taunts me,…causes my stomach to lurch and my heart to pound because this number represents my birthday: August 16th. I am struggling with this particular birthday more than any previous year because it has arrived too quickly. I expected to be in a much different place at 40 years of age. >> Read More