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Feb 25 2014

I Won’t Let My Fear of Travel Hamper My Son’s Curiosity About the World

By at 12:26 pm

road-trip

Growing up, my parents liked to take Sunday drives around the scenic parts of Connecticut: to watch changing leaves, visit aging relatives, drive over covered bridges. During one of these outings, I fell asleep in the car and when I woke up, I asked my parents if we were in Texas.

Their shock and horror likely prompted them to make the generous offer, some years later, to send me abroad my junior year of college: a last-ditch effort to provide me with some geographical context. I declined, citing a commitment to my position in student government. Obviously the Brandeis Student Senate would suffer mightily in my absence. I stuck with that story, even in my own mind, for a long time.

All that year, I received postcards from friends in Israel, London, Spain, Australia. They told tales of impromptu weekend trips to Florence, milking cows on a kibbutz in southern Israel, and late-night rendezvouses with strangers encountered in youth hostels. What could possibly make me choose “Robert’s Rules of Order” over these exotic adventures? Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 20 2013

Taking Your Kids to the Beach When You’re Terrified of Water

By at 5:04 pm

little girl on beachI walk up and down the aisles of a local discount store, filling my cart to the brim. My kids are chattering happily about swimming suits, beach towels, matching flip-flops, and sand pails. I have an unsettling feeling in the pit of my stomach.

“Mommy, what does the beach look like?” my 4-year-old son asks. We live less than a three hour drive away from the ocean, and even closer still is the bay, and yet he’s never been to either. “I know how to swim,” exclaims my daughter excitedly. “I’ve been practicing in the bath!” I smile uneasily. I know it’s time I really teach them to swim, to teach them all about water safety. I can’t keep avoiding it. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 15 2013

Confronting My Fear of Driving for My Daughter

By at 9:47 am

student driver carIt’s a bit embarrassing. I didn’t even tell my friends. But now that it’s over, I confess: my new year’s resolution for 2013 was to take driving lessons.

Yes, I already had a driver’s license. I’ve had a license since I was 17 and living in the New York suburbs. But I left for college in Boston shortly before my 18th birthday, and ever since, I’ve lived within walking distance of Boston’s T or Washington’s Metro system. I never owned a car and never really needed one. I took the train or a bus nearly everywhere. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 19 2012

On Raising Resilient Kids

By at 10:55 am

The fear can sometimes be so intense that it feels nearly unbearable.

True, being a parent brings with it unparalleled joy, fulfillment and, of course, exhaustion, but the knowledge that our primary responsibility in this world is to keep our children safe is almost too much to handle; it is both an incomparable responsibility and incomparably fear-inducing.

We need to keep our kids safe from choking while nibbling their first soggy Cheerio. We need to keep them safe in the bath, even when the water is no higher than their chubby thighs. In the car we strap them in. On the playground we call out “slow down!” We try to protect them from the wind on their chapped cheeks, from the rash on their tush, from the concrete as they learn to walk, and run, and bike. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 20 2012

My Family’s Secret Jewish History

By at 3:36 pm

I remember a conversation I had with my grandmother not long before she died. She was in a hospital bed that had been set up in the dining room; she hadn’t been able to climb the stairs to the second floor of her house for years. I pulled a chair close, and asked her if she used to light candles on Friday night back when she was a little girl in Northern Italy.

The question had been chosen carefully, and with great intention. I knew that if I asked her if she was Jewish, if we were Jewish, she would vehemently deny it. But when I asked her about the candles, my grandmother smiled and told me about cleaning the house every Friday, about cooking all afternoon, and yes, she told me, of course they lit candles.  Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 12 2012

My 1-Month-Old’s Emergency Surgery

By at 9:56 am

Three weeks after Jared was born, he started spitting up. At first it was normal baby barf, but it became heavier and more frequent.

By his 4-week birthday, Scott and I were living out of the washing machine. We left it full of soap and water, dumping soiled onesies, footies, burp cloths, bibs, and our own vomit-soaked clothes into it throughout the day. We ran the washer at night and as we needed new clothes for ourselves or our son, we pulled them out of the dryer. At the height of the worst, Scott changed Jared’s clothes five times in one hour. The footies were soaked from head to toe and front to back. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 21 2012

What Will Happen When Mommy & Daddy Die?

By at 3:31 pm

question mark in sky“Mommy, who’s going to take care of me when you and Daddy die?”

This from the mouth of a child who is not yet 4 years old. My child. My first born, my daughter who has a tender, anxious soul and wisdom beyond her years. She made me a mother and challenges me every day to question my beliefs and face my fears.

She’s been curious about death lately. I’m not sure where she heard the word, but she seems to have grasped the concept. She understands that death means someone is gone and that they’re not coming back. She’s still struggling with the details; she recently asked “where we fall” when we die, or if we “pop.” I can handle those questions–even if I don’t have the right answers, I’m ok muddling through until I find something good enough that seems to work for her little brain. (We finally settled on “you just stop” as the answer to what happens, and that seemed to work for her.) Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 13 2012

Edgy and Raunchy Sounds Good to Me

By at 1:09 pm
Two cute blonde kids

Will Sarah's kids stop to smell the Jasmine?

About a year ago, I started highlighting my hair, wearing skinny jeans, and painting my nails black.

“What, you think you’re Ke$ha all of a sudden?” B. asked while he watched me zip up my high heel hooker boots–the ones with the gun metal grey studs on the sides.

I feigned indignation. But as visions of brushing my teeth with a bottle of jack flitted through my mind, I was secretly thrilled. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 9 2011

Remembering 9/11

By at 12:03 pm

The 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks is this Sunday. Although Jews don’t usually acknowledge tenth anniversaries any differently from others, this one will be different, if for no other reason than the media is giving it a lot of press. Needless to say, it’s on my mind.

If I didn’t have children, I would probably spend some time this year remembering the attacks, mourning the many, many losses our country sustained on that terrible day, and feeling angry—mostly at those who would perpetrate such terror, but also at those who use this tragedy as an excuse for further acts of hatred and discrimination.

But I do have kids now, so my focus has shifted away from my own reactions. The girls are still young, so I’m not yet worried about how I will talk to them about what happened that day, and how our country has changed since then. But this anniversary has made me think about how terrorism (both the events of 9/11 and the resulting war on terror) has impacted me, both as a person and as a parent.  It’s difficult to put words to it, though. In fact, it’s hard for me to remember the tone of our national discourse before the fall of 2001. I was living in Albuquerque, starting my graduate degree in social work. I had just begun dating the man who is now my husband. I was just figuring out who I was, and who I would become, and the aftermath of 9/11 is so deeply intertwined with my growth in adulthood that I can’t disentangle the two.

As I remember September 11, the first thing that comes to mind, of course, is the fear—the fear that flooded our country that day and the days that followed, the fear for our physical safety, for the future of our country, and for the Jewish people. Of course, we Jews are no strangers to fear, even from an early age. I remember a childhood conversation with my grandmother (who lived through World War II in Italy) about our Jewish heritage, and her response was a worried plea to “Never tell anyone.” Perhaps the most notable part of the conversation was that her words didn’t surprise me, and I didn’t wonder why she felt that way. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 7 2011

Quitting My Job, Leaving New York & Taking Our Kid Across Europe… Before We Die

By at 11:14 am

I think that when you become a parent you discover an entire new set of fears.  It can include, but is not limited to: germs, food additives, antibiotics, vaccines…<insert fear-of-the-month here>.  My husband and I, well, we are afraid of dying.  Not the fear of slowly wasting away in a nursing home, but of dying young, soon, perhaps tomorrow.  Alex’s mother died without warning when he was seven years old and my father died when I was four.  This shared experience bonded us together from the night we met.

I often wonder how this will affect the way we raise our son.  I suppose it will take time to see how our neuroses manifest themselves.  I can recognize two ways so far.

The first way is none too detrimental, I think.  It’s just that I take pictures.  Hundreds of them.  I update my Picasa albums and YouTube channel obsessively, and I pounce on every online deal for canvas prints, photography sessions, and photo albums.  I have spent countless hours working on these photo albums.  At first my husband couldn’t understand why they were so important to me.  I asked him if he wouldn’t pay any amount of money to have something like this of his mother.  If something should happen to either of us, Aiven could put a story together from the pictures, videos, albums, and blog postings.  Alex and I would do anything to have the story of our deceased parents, so now I find myself documenting everything about our own lives.

The second way our fear of death manifests itself is that Alex and I try to live for today more than worrying about the future.  Thus, we take more risks than our peers and more than our families are comfortable with.  We strive to keep our eyes open to the extraordinary moments, opportunities, and memories unfolding before us.

Alex and I decided a few months ago to leave New York City.  We love it here but it is too expensive; we did not want to both work crazy hours just to pay the rent and childcare.  At the moment, we are both unemployed, lacking health insurance (COBRA wanted $2500 a month–hiss!), and packing up our things to go into storage.  Most people would be scrambling to find jobs.  Instead, we are about to embark on a journey for 82 days to Ireland, Scotland, England, France, and Spain.  We figured that before we reboot the daily grind, we should take an extended vacation.  Unplug.  See the stars.  Most importantly, bond with Aiven, as a couple, and as a family.

After this adventure we are relocating to Austin, Texas.  My husband may have a job when he arrives there, or he may not.  We don’t even have a place to live.  To top it all off, I cashed in my 401K.  It wasn’t a significant sum, but it will pay for the summer.  I could have waited until I was 65 to use it, but who says I am going to be around then?  I would rather spend the money now.  The most important consideration for us was that we may not have this opportunity again for many, many years…if ever.

Some might accuse us of being irresponsible, unstable, or gambling with our child’s future.  We call it not living with regrets.  I just hope that we do not live to regret it.

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