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Dec 2 2014

Does Picture Day Have to Be This Stressful?

By at 1:15 pm

school picture day is the worst

A couple weeks ago my kids had picture day at their school. We prepared well, I think. One kid got a haircut, both kids had showers the night before, and my husband was successful in scrubbing the week-old tattoo off my 5-year-old’s arm so it didn’t spend eternity front and center in her class picture. Instructions were given (eat breakfast and brush your teeth before getting dressed) and clothes were laid out. My daughter even willingly put on the dress she had picked out without flaking on me and changing her mind at the last minute.

And yet, all day long at work I fretted over how the pictures would turn out. Please, I thought to myself, somebody make sure there’s no dried-up snot or food crumbs stuck to their clothes or faces. Please, let them not smash their faces into anything, lest they have a busted lip in their school picture like my son did when he was 3. Let them show some semblance of happiness so that when they look back on their school pictures years from now, they (and their parents) are satisfied with what they see. Let the grossly insane amount of money we shell out for school pictures these days be worth it! Amen. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 30 2014

I Pulled My Kids Out of School to Go Camping & I’d Do it Again

By at 2:54 pm

Shells

I recently decided to take my kids out of school and go on a camping trip–one week after school started. I grabbed my kids, packed up the camper, and explained to their teachers that this was necessary, and truth be told, it was.

Five years ago–one month before my daughter’s 1st birthday–I was diagnosed with Leukemia and later Lymphoma. My life became a roller coaster of doctor visits and horrific cancer treatments that I do not wish on my worst enemy.

Miraculously, three years ago, my body healed, and I went into the remission that we were all praying for. Little did I know what remission really means. For some reason, I thought the concept of surviving cancer would be similar to a Lifetime after-school special. Once the cancer left the building, everything would go back to rainbows and sunshine.  Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 29 2014

For The First Time in Nine Years, I’m Not Going “Back to School”

By at 11:05 am

Newborn-playing

As soon as I discovered I was pregnant at the end of last summer, I set the wheels in motion to take a half-year sabbatical from my job teaching music, theatre and English at Maine’s smallest K-12 public school. We’re allowed a full year at half pay every seven years, but my family wouldn’t quite be able to swing that financially. Besides, between my six-week maternity leave, summer vacation and a four-month sabbatical, I piled up eight months of time at home with my daughter Penrose. The second half of the school year might be a nice break from around-the-clock parenting.

The word “sabbatical” is derived from the word “Sabbath,” and it’s supposed to be just that–a rest. In an academic or ecclesiastic context, you’re supposed to do something wholly unrelated to your job. But a public school teacher’s sabbatical is a little bit different. I needed to come up with a plan for somehow enriching the school. Writing a book and caring for a member of the class of 2032 wasn’t quite enough, so I’m going to be working on curriculum mapping and taking clarinet lessons.

School started the Tuesday after Labor Day. Ordinarily I’d have already been in workshops for two days, agonized over a bulletin board (cutting out letters has never been my forte), and picked out a back-to-school outfit. Instead, I woke up on a pee-soaked trundle bed next to a happily kicking 4-month-old. We weren’t on a schedule and we didn’t have an agenda, so I cleaned up and moved us into my bed to get a few more hours of sleep.  Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 15 2014

A Stay-at-Home Mom’s Favorite Day of the Week

By at 10:01 am

Mondays

I know we’re not supposed to admit it, but stay-at-home moms of school-aged children do have a favorite day of the week, and it’s probably not what you think it is.

It’s Monday.

Like all mothers, I love weekends, the time when the family is together, when my husband is home from work, when we catch up on projects, catch a movie, go out to dinner, and get to spend a little more time together as a family.

But what I really like are Mondays. Yes, Mondays. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 11 2014

The Hardest Part About Sending My Daughter to First Grade in Israel

By at 12:02 pm

First-grade

I’m holding a number 2 pencil and there’s a university issue blue book in front of me. A bland-faced test proctor places a sheet of paper, face down, on my desk.

“Don’t turn it over until the bell,” he says.

It’s my final exam, and the questions on it, and how I answer them, will determine my future.  Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 9 2014

I’m Freaked Out by the School Bus Horror Stories on Social Media

By at 11:12 am

School-Bus-Horror-Stories

I have watched the stream of first-day-of-school photos flood social media these last couple of weeks, and all these beautiful, shiny children, smiling with carefully chosen too-large-to-fail backpacks have made me look forward to my son starting school next year.

To me, the defining moment of my son’s first day of school will be when I watch him get on the bus and wave goodbye until the bus turns the corner. Until a few days ago, my biggest qualm about him getting on the bus was that I didn’t know how I could put on a brave face when all I will probably want to do is cry.

But when the bus horror stories started popping up in my newsfeed, I started to have a lot more second thoughts about putting him on the bus. The anecdotes I heard from mothers I personally know include: Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 4 2014

Three Kids, Three Reasons to Dread the School Year

By at 9:30 am

Alina-back-to-school

Every September, from the time I was 8 until I was 17 (I skipped 1st grade and half of 2nd immigrating from the USSR), my mother would ask me, “This year, how about you don’t try teaching the teachers how to teach?”

Unluckily for her, every September, I declined her advice. As a result, I spent a good chunk of my education either sitting in the hallway outside class, charged with thinking about my behavior, or next to my parents, as they were called in by teacher after teacher to discuss my behavior.

Because my behavior was… not good. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 2 2014

Back to (Not Very Jewish) School

By at 1:21 pm

back to (not very jewish) school

School just started here. With my boys starting first and fourth grade, I’m reminded of when I moved to this small town in 1986, when I was 7 years old. We moved from East Brunswick, New Jersey to Lake Mary, Florida.

Lake Mary is a charming, beautiful suburb of Orlando. It was recently named one of the top 10 places to live for families in Family Circle Magazine. I have no complaints about my parents’ decision to move here. But we might have been among the first Jews to move in. My Jewish family up North was so certain that we were being moved to the actual “Bible Belt” that they mistakenly referred to it as “Saint Mary.”

Although my parents aren’t very observant, they were acutely aware that it would be a bit of a culture shock to move from a state where Jews were everywhere to a place where we had to travel 30 minutes to find a theater that played the latest Woody Allen movie. Looking back, I think they handled it really well. Read the rest of this entry →

When “Meet the Teacher” Night is Scheduled on Rosh Hashanah

By at 10:12 am

when "meet the teacher" night is scheduled on rosh hashanah

Sitting at my rising 6th grader’s middle school orientation, I was reminded, once again, that rearing our kids in a secular society can be a tricky proposition.

There it was, up on the PowerPoint slide: “Meet the Teacher Night: Wednesday, September 24th, 2014, at 7:00pm.”

September 24th…September 24th. Sounded familiar. A frantic check on my iPhone confirmed it; September 24th is the first night of Rosh Hashanah this year. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 19 2014

My Kids Are Pretty Much Average

By at 12:01 pm

c-plus

A few weeks ago, I was at a 3-year-old’s birthday party, and I put my 6-month-old son down next to another baby. The other child effortlessly rolled across the blanket, while my son, a few weeks younger, mortified his mama by crying, in place, on his tummy. Oh no, I wondered, is my child not going to be a gifted athlete? Maybe he won’t be as flexible as his brother? Are these early signs of some kind of processing delay? I panicked. Will he be popular, or an outcast among fast-moving little boys? And the terror took hold.

Have you had that fear about your child? The fear that bubbles up when you notice they are not particularly good at singing, drawing or academics? You retaliate by frantically signing them up for soccer, karate, and music classes. You become certain that if you keep trying to find it, the prodigy in your child will emerge. You talk to other parents, trying to gain reassurance that all children are special at something. The other parents may even soothe your anxiety by pointing out how smart your child is because he knows 50 more words than the average kid his age. You placate your own worries by repeating that old idea that everybody has a special talent they excel at. Surely your child will find theirs at some point.

At the birthday party, my friends pointed out the benefits of a kid who doesn’t move: fewer worries about baby-proofing the house and those lurking dangers at the park. They referenced other children we knew who didn’t move until after a year (oh gosh!) but who were doing just fine on the playground now. Many also pointed out that while he may not be able to move, my son was so gorgeous and smart.

Read the rest of this entry →

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