Samantha Taylor is a wife and mother of three from the Orlando area. Before the birth of her third child, she was the associate editor for three lifestyle publications in central Florida. Samantha was recently named Volunteer of the Year for the JCC of Greater Orlando and is a graduate of the Bornstein Leadership Program through the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando. In her spare time she enjoys visiting with family and friends, rooting for the Gators, and watching her longtime pal Mayim Bialik on The Big Bang Theory.
My JCC in Maitland, Florida (near Orlando) has been around for more than 40 years. Just like most JCCs, we have a preschool, a summer camp, activities for seniors, a theater department, after school…care, and a vibrant community of loving, caring people. For some reason, in January, we were the target of repeated threatening phone calls. Three times in a period of 13 days, people filled with hatred called in empty threats to scare us. It worked. While other JCCs across the country who experienced one or two… >> Read More
This is the story of my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day—the humor I managed to find in it, and the lessons I learned along the way.
It was the first day back to school (for two of my…three kids) after a long winter break. Waking up early wasn’t easy, but we managed. My husband and 12-year-old son went outside to get into his car to go to work and school. Problem was, my husband’s car wasn’t in the driveway. He walked back into the house, where I had just stepped out of… >> Read More
Two out of my three kids are picky eaters. The middle kiddo, who is 9, will take at least a bite of most things that we ask him to try. He prides himself on being our adventurous eater. My 3-year-old…is a typical picky toddler. She eats PB&J, chicken nuggets, bananas, goldfish crackers--the usual. I’m not worried about her. She’ll come around. But my oldest, my 12-year-old...that’s another story. He’s always been a picky eater. He always preferred to have the same lunch made for him to take to school every day. I always assumed… >> Read More
When I was a little girl, and my dad would tuck me into bed, I always begged for the same story. “Daddy, tell me again about the time you snuck into the back door at Carnegie Hall and watched Frank…Sinatra from the side of the stage, pleeeeease.” Not your typical bedtime story, but my dad isn’t the typical dad. He’s always been passionate about music, specifically jazz and Frank Sinatra. Whenever Frank Sinatra was in concert anywhere in the state of Florida, my parents brought my brother and me to see him. It didn’t… >> Read More
If there is a picture that can tell a thousand words, it is this one.
The average observer would think that the above photo is just a beautiful picture of three siblings that captures a funny…moment. While that may be true, the actual story is much more profound and spans several years. My 12-year-old, Joey, never seemed to like family photo shoots. In fact, some of his very worst behavior (and meltdowns) happened during our sessions with photographers. I never understood it, and it frustrated my husband and me to… >> Read More
If you have ever purchased a present for my children or me, I have two words for you: thank you. You haven’t just heard me say those words, you’ve read them in a handwritten thank you note. My…mother taught me the importance of writing thank you notes when I was young. She walked me through the process every time I received a gift, until eventually I was able to complete them on my own. All three of my kids just had birthdays, so it’s been a thank you note factory over here.… >> Read More
Parenting is by far the most challenging thing I will ever do. Parenting a child with special needs takes that challenge to a whole new level. I will basically talk to anyone who will listen about my…kids. I want to learn from other parents. I want to help them in any way I can. I’m a talker. I’m a sharer. It’s benefited me (and therefore my children) in many ways. Often times I get a phone call from a friend who has a friend with a kid “just like yours” who… >> Read More
School is back in session, which means all of the activities that go along with it are back in full swing—sports, cheerleading, dance, scouts. You name it, kids are doing it. I’m all for it. What…I have a problem with, though, is when I’m asked to pay for someone else’s kid to participate. Now look, I’m not a jerk. There are charities for kids whose parents cannot afford to pay for them to participate in organized activities. That’s fantastic. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about fundraisers. There… >> Read More
About a year and a half ago, I wrote about the difficult decision to take our son out of public school and send him to a small, private school that could help him with some of his struggles (social…skills and reading comprehension). Once we toured the school, I knew it would be so fantastic for him. He was nervous, but he agreed to shadow there for a day, and in the end, the mid-year transition was unbelievably smooth. He finished out fourth grade and started his fifth grade year. He was doing very… >> Read More
Every year my kids go to summer camp at the JCC in Orlando. For the past few years, the camp has had Israeli counselors that come to teach the kids Israeli culture. They stay with host families for…the summer. I’ve met the girls before. They have always been lovely. But having one of them stay with us has never been on my radar. About a month before camp started I got a call from a friend and super JCC volunteer named Tara. She asked if we had ever considered hosting a shlicha.… >> Read More
I am extraordinarily lucky. My parents own a small business and I’ve been able to work for their magazine publishing company in between having children. A job is always available to me. With both…of my boys (ages 11 and 8) I went back to work when they were about 18 months old. I hired a part-time nanny in my home, and enjoyed the freedom of working five hours per day while they played and napped comfortably in our house. When they were 3 years old, they went to… >> Read More
For the past two years, my daughter and I have been taking Mommy and Me classes at the local JCC. We took art, music, and gardening. We loved all of it. We had fun and we made friends. It was…fantastic. Every week, I heard other moms talking about taking their kids to Shabbat service on Friday mornings. Not growing up with any religious practice, just the word Shabbat has always felt a little uncomfortable to me, so for the longest time I didn’t go. We made other plans on Friday mornings. But one day,… >> Read More
I met my friend Amanda at a birthday party. It was summertime and all of the moms (who happened to be Cross Fitters) were taking their babies in the pool. Amanda and I gravitated towards the playroom…because we weren’t quite the Cross Fit type and we didn’t want to be seen in our bathing suits in public. We laughed about it (while stuffing our faces with cake pops) and started to play and talk. We both had baby girls that were 1.5 years old. They played and we shared stories about… >> Read More
I was at the park recently with my 2-year-old. A mom, who I had never met before, strolled up with her baby. My daughter ran up and said, “Hi baby!” To make conversation, I asked how old he was.…“He’s 1,” the mom said, “but he still isn’t walking.” I told her not to worry, my oldest didn’t walk until he was 16 months old. She seemed unhappy with that response and shortly after, she strolled away. I didn’t take it personally. I know what it’s like to be hung up on a milestone,… >> Read More
I’ve written a lot about my 11-year-old, Joey. I’ve talked about his profound speech delay, his incredible memory, his social issues, taking him out of public school, and putting him in a private…school for kids with special needs. He sees a play therapist and attends a social skills groups. He is thriving in his new school. We are very proud of the decisions we have made for him. There’s one issue, however, that we’ve always swept under the rug—his extreme picky eating. He eats about a dozen… >> Read More
When I was a few days old, my dad got a tip that Frank Sinatra was going to be eating at Patsy’s restaurant in New York City. Since my mom couldn’t go with him, he brought his sister. Frank was…there, and he signed a postcard for me. It’s been a treasure of mine ever since. Frank Sinatra has always been a major presence in my life. My dad is a huge fan (to put it mildly) and he shared his love for Ol’ Blue Eyes with my brother and me. From the time I… >> Read More
I grew up with liberal, Jewish parents in New York and New Jersey. We were surrounded by like-minded families. I doubt my parents even considered asking other parents about the gun situation in their…homes before a playdate. It surely wasn’t on their radar. When I was 8 we moved to Florida. Guns are a big deal here. When I made a new friend at school, my parents helped facilitate a playdate. They were shocked, to say the least, when we entered the home and saw guns mounted all… >> Read More
Today is a very important day in cinema history. Today (October 21st, 2015) is the day that Marty McFly visits the future in Back to the Future II. Today is also a very important day in my family. My…oldest son Joey turns 11. This date is so pivotal in my house that we might as well declare it a holiday. Let me tell you why. Joey, who has a propensity for becoming passionate about certain subjects and learning everything he possibly can about them, has been through many such phases. He became passionate… >> Read More
Last year, when we moved my 10-year-old out of public school and into a private school that would help him with his learning issues, social skills, and anxiety, we knew it was the right move for…him. This year, he started school with no hesitation. He was happy to return to his routine and start fifth grade. The second week of school he got into my car clutching a “Code of Conduct” book they had given the students that day. As we pulled out of the parking lot, his voice started… >> Read More
My boys (ages 10 and 7) have been attending our JCC summer camp for years. The camp includes games, sports, Jewish education, swimming, and weekly field trips. Once you are entering second grade you…get to participate in the highly anticipated, extremely fun sleepovers, of which they do two to three each summer. My older son, Joey, who struggles in certain social situations, has declined to attend every single sleepover for the past four years. He happily goes on the field trips, but asks me to pick him up… >> Read More
When we built the pool in our backyard a few years ago, our boys already knew how to swim. They had taken lessons when they were 3-years-old at the local JCC. Obviously we put up a baby gate to…protect them and visiting children from falling in. But when we had our third baby, she was the first one of my kids to live in a house with a pool and not know how to swim. I live in Florida, where unfortunately I read about drownings on a pretty regular basis. It’s terrifying to… >> Read More
Making new friends is hard, so I was really excited when I started to form a friendship with another mom of a child in my daughter’s My Gym class. We had a lot in common. We each had two boys in…elementary school and baby girls the same age. So we planned a few playdates and found that we really got along. And while I’m Jewish, and she isn’t, this didn’t matter. In fact, as someone who lives in central Florida, I can tell you that most of my mommy friends aren’t Jewish. Totally a non-issue.… >> Read More
As I write this, my husband and my two sons (ages 7 and 10) are live streaming the World Nintendo Championships. They are yelling at the TV. I’m pretty sure I just heard my 7-year-old say, “He…beat that like a boss!” Last night they watched “The Wizard.” My husband is a software engineer for a large video game company. Let’s just say video games are very, very important in my house. Too important. A few years ago when my kids discovered video games, we had limits. They were enforced, and all… >> Read More
Sometimes you have to make a really hard decision for your kids. You gather all of the information you can, talk to your spouse, your parents, and your best friends (in my case ad nauseam) until you…are certain you are making the best decision possible. You make the choice with love, cross your fingers, and make it so. You may never know if it was the “right” decision. All you can do is wait and hope. Approximately three months and three days after we made the very difficult decision to pull… >> Read More
I spent Mother’s Day weekend without my kids, and it was amazing.
I’m not sure when my adoration for Bette Midler began. I used to go to the video rental store and check out “Beaches” on a…regular basis. My mom and I watched it together dozens of times. I loved, LOVED, the movie “Big Business” with Lily Tomlin. They played two sets of identical twins switched at birth. It might have been corny, but I was 9. I loved it. Then she starred in “Gypsy” on television. I watched that musical… >> Read More