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Jul 24 2014

No Hatred in the World Can Take Away My Son’s Jewish Pride

By at 10:04 am

anti-israel protest

“Mom!” my son calls. He sees me coming over the hill. It’s clear he has been standing there since the last day of camp began, waiting to see me. It’s been a month: he’s taller. He hugs me, tightly, and I feel his love in my ribcage. I feel my own love for him beating in my chest.

We drive home in our comfortable, air-conditioned car. My son is exhausted, but talking a mile a minute in a voice made hoarse by weeks of nonstop chatter. He sprinkles Hebrew in his conversation. He sings songs, leans forward to share new details he hasn’t told us about yet. His face and his happiness glow.

My son has come home from Jewish camp with new pride and joy in being Jewish. Some would say it’s an epic case of bad timing. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 23 2014

Are My Kids’ Tantrums All My Fault?

By at 10:09 am

Ice-pops

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 admittedly not fond of camp food, though I serve a variation of the menu (chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, or hot dogs) every night at dinner and he rarely complains. These factors, combined with the summer heat and too little water throughout the day, make for a cranky little boy. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 16 2014

My Daughter Came Home From Camp a Vegetarian

By at 11:20 am

Vegetarian

Every time my daughter goes away to overnight camp, there is something different about her when she returns home.

The first year she went away, she came back practically self-sufficient. I was so impressed at how well she took care of herself. I didn’t have to remind her to brush her teeth. She didn’t need any help in picking out her clothes. She even made her bed without my asking for a short period of time—and then she went back to forgetting how to do it altogether.

Last summer, she got into the car and had something important to say. I could tell that there was a big announcement on the horizon. She had a look like she knew something that we didn’t know. I could tell she was taking a moment to enjoy that with a satisfied smile on her face. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 8 2014

Five Reasons I’m Sending My Son With Autism to Sleepaway Camp

By at 11:11 am

jana-special-needs-camp

Typical parents are rarely surprised when I tell them Benjamin goes to sleepaway camp–at least not after I clarify that it’s a camp catering specifically to children with special needs.

“It’s really structured,” I’ll explain. “Lots of staff members have special ed degrees and work in the field during the year, and there’s a really high counselor-to-camper ratio.”

While the special ed speak convinces most people (or bores them into believing) that I know exactly what I’m talking about, there is one population I’m not fooling: fellow autism parents.  Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 3 2014

I Wasn’t Cool at Camp, But I’m Sending My Son There Anyway

By at 11:19 am

I wasn't cool at camp, but I'm sending my son there anyway

I’m holding my breath for 11 more days.

My 9-year-old, Noah, left yesterday for 12 days of sleepaway camp.

This morning the cat didn’t get fed until 7. Noah’s 6-year-old brother, Sam, was the first one up and put on music to stave off the quiet. I found myself, after the breakfast dishes were done, listening to the washing machine on spin.

It’s going to be a long two weeks. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 2 2014

What Happened When My Middle Child Went to Sleepaway Camp

By at 11:11 am

schoolbus

My 9-year-old just went off to sleepaway camp for the very first time. On the flight down, she was all nervous smiles and excited chatter. But after an hour of standing around with a growing number of kids she didn’t know, waiting to get on the bus to camp, her excitement dwindled. Tears began to well in her chocolate brown eyes, her lower lip trembling, and her whispering pleas of “please don’t leave me mommy” tugged at my heart.

Yes, saying goodbye is hard, but there was a part of me that couldn’t wait for that bus to hit the road. Of my three daughters, Ruby is the one I need a time out from the most. She crosses my boundaries more than the others, sauntering into the bathroom while I’m peeing, unwilling to break a hug or conversation until asked–no, begged–a hundred times. She is emotionally demanding, excitable, and thrilled one minute, anxious and frowning the next. Her amazing brain leaps from one subject to another, stringing it all together by a thread so quickly it’s easy to lose track.

Finally, the bus driver gunned the engine. Ruby waved goodbye through the tinted window and I waved back, praying she wouldn’t cry all the way to camp. The bus pulled away and…yes! My older daughter left for camp a few days ago and with Ruby gone, that left just the 3-year-old at home. When you have three kids, dealing with just two of them is totally manageable; having just one around is like a mini-vacation. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 19 2014

Drag Your Kids To Summer Camp

By at 11:20 am

archery

I recently read a New York Times article about one woman’s unfavorable experiences in summer camp and laughed out loud.

Like the author, I was not much of a joiner and hated sports. I also disliked getting dressed and undressed in a roomful of strangers. My first summer, I was the only girl still wearing undershirts so I’d change clothes in the bathroom. (Not that I fooled anyone. And most of those gals didn’t really need bras, either.)

I sucked at anything involving a softball, volleyball, golf ball, basketball, fencing foil, or bow and arrow. And unlike some other kids who might have also been less than stellar athletes, but who discovered at camp that they enjoyed drama, music, dance or even carpentry, I didn’t. My favorite “activity” was shiur during which we learned Jewish subjects. Unlike most kids (but also like the writer of the New York Times piece), I actually liked school. Read the rest of this entry →

May 29 2014

Notes From a Mom Who Used To Be Bullied

By at 1:48 pm

mean-girls

From 7th grade through 8th grade, I was bullied.

In 7th grade, I started at a new school and made friends quickly with a popular group of girls. With wonderful friends and good grades, I thought I had made it. But just as suddenly as we all became friends, it quickly shifted to “Mean Girls.” It was weeks before my Bat Mitzvah and each girl in our group stopped talking to me, wrote nasty notes to me and would hang up on me when I called. I was left feeling helpless and wondered what I did wrong to provoke such a response. This is where irrational thinking set in.

My grades began to go down and I started to dread going to school as I would hear their whispers and laughter, all directed at me. I felt betrayed. I also started to feel scared as I was left with only a few friends, which can feel deadly when you are in middle school. I never spoke of this at home as I was embarrassed and did not want my parents to know. This was the beginning of years of self-doubt. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 30 2014

How My Son Finally Opened Up About His Little Brother With Special Needs

By at 11:25 am

big-bro-of-special-needs

The first time I remember talking to Oscar about his younger brother Saul’s special needs, he couldn’t have been more than 5 years old. Definitely still in preschool. There was something–though I can’t remember exactly what–that Oscar thought Saul would like and he said, “Saul is going to do this!” and started flapping his hands and bouncing up and down. I lost it. I couldn’t believe my sweet little boy was making fun of his younger brother who has Fragile X, which is a genetic syndrome and the cause of intellectual disabilities that can include learning problems, autism, anxiety, sensory, and behavioral issues.

As a parent, my biggest fear was that Saul was going to be subject to a lifetime of cruelty from others who didn’t understand his condition, but I didn’t think this cruelty would begin in our own home. I yelled at Oscar–I can’t recall exactly I said–and his face fell. He said, “But Saul will be happy and that’s what he does when he’s happy.” I realized then that he wasn’t mocking his little brother. He was simply acting out the happiness he anticipated from Saul. And I had yelled at him for it. When I agonize over all of the mistakes I’ve made as a mother to three children, this incident always cracks my top 10.

Saul was diagnosed on the first night of Hanukkah in 2007. He was just 1 1/2 at the time. And in the six years since, our family’s life has, often out of necessity, revolved around Saul’s treatment and care–from countless early intervention classes to a variety of therapies to special schools. There are places and things we can’t do together as a family. And at home, Saul’s needs sometimes seem to take priority ahead of those of his “typical” siblings–his twin sister Beatrice and Oscar. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 24 2014

When I Finally Developed My Daughter’s Camera, Her Photos Took My Breath Away

By at 1:53 pm

ORLI7

It began, as so many things do these days, with a nudge that turned into a whine. Ima. Eeeeeemmmmaaaaa. When are you going to charge my camera for me?

Orli, my older daughter, has her own camera, a small Fisher Price deal that takes relatively fuzzy pictures–especially given how crisp digital images are these days–unless the light is absolutely perfect. I thought buying it was a mistake.“Why are we giving her a camera that doesn’t even work well?” I wondered, at the time.

It was late last spring, and Orli was in that strange space pre-school age children get into when they are anticipating a sibling they desperately want, and yet, on some level, understand will upend their lives. She wanted a camera. Very, very much. And so we got her this guy, with its sturdy, drop-me-I’ll-be-fine thick plastic walls. It is pink and white. I hated it. Read the rest of this entry →

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