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Sep 17 2014

I Won’t Force My Kids to Attend High Holiday Services

By at 10:31 am

high-holidays-kids

That’s right. You heard me. I’m not doing it. I, a member of a Modern Orthodox shul, mother of four Jewish kids who keep kosher and observe Shabbat weekly, executive director of an Atlanta Jewish day camp, will not be forcing my kids to attend services on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur.

It’s something I’ve been thinking about since this summer at camp, and something I decided firmly last weekend while attending a Jewish family retreat.

Here’s the thing. My kids love being Jewish. It’s the essence of their being. It’s the foundation of their friendships. It’s the laughter and joy that fills their Saturdays. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 15 2014

I Felt Uncomfortable Around Kids With Special Needs Until I Had My Own

By at 10:54 am

Moishy-And-Daddy

I’ll be honest: I used to generally try to avoid kids with special needs if I could. Aside from the awkwardness of not knowing how to react or interact, I also failed to understand how families of kids with severe disabilities stayed sane. Feeding, dressing, washing, and changing older kids’ diapers was not my idea of a good time, and I didn’t know how they did it.

Then I had a kid of my own. We didn’t realize it when Moishy was born, but during routine testing when he was 3 months old, they told us that his head was not growing, among other issues, and further testing was necessary. This news sent us on a crazy whirlwind of doctors, hospitals, cat scans, x-rays, and more. Eventually the diagnosis was clear: Our beautiful boy had cerebral palsy and microcephaly.

I looked myself in the mirror and realized that I had to change. Now I had my very own child with special needs. Avoidance was no longer an option. 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 10 2014

I Fed My Kid Only Candy For a Day & This is What Happened

By at 11:13 am

Junk-food-lunch

My 4.5-year-old has been jumping the baby gate at the top of our stairs before we are awake to sneak into the kitchen and eat treats. He has his fill and creeps back upstairs. Last week he used a stool to get in the freezer and eat ice cream sandwiches; we later found a half-eaten 16 oz. bag of marshmallows in his bed and some baking chocolate under his pillow.

But one thing agile, sneaky 4-year-olds don’t do well is cover their tracks. One morning I came downstairs to find that my son had used a GRILLING SPATULA to serve himself a piece of his little brother’s birthday cake onto a plate. There was a dirty plate and fork on the counter (because if you are going to sneak cake you MUST serve it to yourself on a plate and use a fork like a sophisticated criminal), an open Tupperware with sugar cookie crumb-trails and a half-eaten nectarine. He looked at me innocently and asked, “What’s for breakfast?”

My blood was boiling. Lying and sneakiness makes me bananapants crazy. But lectures, warnings, and punishment have gotten me nowhere (don’t even get me started about the positive parenting sticker chart and the bazillion “good behavior prizes” rotting in our closet). All I could think to myself was, “I give up.” And then I thought, GIVE UP. Just GIVE UP. And I replied, “You’re in luck! I know how much you like to eat treats so today you are having cake for breakfast!” Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 9 2014

After My Son’s Traumatic Bris, I Was Relieved to Celebrate a Little Girl

By at 4:13 pm

Pink-Rugelach

My youngest baby, Hope, is fast approaching 7 months old. Though we are not currently members of any synagogue, our lack of shul membership doesn’t necessarily translate into a lack of faith. My husband and I are Jewish and we want to raise our children Jewish. And while one of their first introductions to this faith will be the ceremony where we give our child a Hebrew name, we haven’t done it yet. But it’s time to start planning.

In Judaism, the naming ceremony for boys is part of the brit milah or bris, the ritual circumcision that most Jewish boys receive in the first week after their birth. It’s a straightforward, if not uncomfortable process that looked something like this with my son: I was eight days post-partum and was largely a walking ball of emotions. Our house was filled with some close friends and family but mostly extended family that I did not know or recall or even like. A mohel (one who performs ritual Jewish circumcisions) showed up and claimed he had circumcised nearly every little boy in the tri-state area. He said a couple of blessings that I did not understand over my tiny helpless son who lay sobbing on top of our card table, and he carefully removed my son’s foreskin. Everyone celebrated as my baby screamed. Someone removed the baby and the iodine and replaced it with a platter of rice that my husband’s grandmother had made for the occasion. A group of old women sat down at the exact same table where this whole ridiculous scene had just taken place and started noshing and kibitzing. I grabbed my son and the rugelach tray and hid in my bedroom where I sobbed and binged on pastries.

In every way, this ceremony felt like it was more about religious to-dos and tasks and less about faith. I recognize this was my personal experience with my son’s bris, but nonetheless it cut me sharply (no pun intended) that his first introduction to Judaism was seemingly so full of ritual, yet so lacking in spirituality. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 8 2014

How Queen Elsa Helps My Anxious Daughter Let It Go

By at 2:01 pm

Princess-wand

Just like millions of little girls and boys across this country, my daughter is pretty enthused about the movie “Frozen.” Obsessed, really. She runs through the hallways with her long blue cape (or, more specifically, my formerly-favorite scarf that I got on our honeymoon to Italy) flowing in waves from her shoulders, leaping and singing “for the first time in forever….” She has refused to be called anything but Queen Elsa at dinner on more than one occasion. Every Lego tower built is now “The Frozen Ice Castle.”

But, I think for her, singing, “Let it Go” is more than just about being a girly 4-year-old who is embracing her high-heeled-fancy-shmancy-princess-loving stage. For Noa, “Let It Go” has become an anthem.

At 3 years old, Noa was diagnosed with anxiety. She’d always had a rough time: Breastfeeding was a struggle, complete with emergency weaning at nine months, Noa refusing to let anyone but me hold her for the first full year of her life, nutritional therapy because she wouldn’t eat, and the list goes on. Now it’s clear to us that she has some sensory issues, too. Noa had been a fussy baby, but at 3, her meltdowns seemed completely unmanageable and out of control. We couldn’t predict what would set her off. Once triggered, these meltdowns would last up to and sometimes over an hour. We could be anywhere and she would explode. Like a wild animal fighting for her life, Noa would scream, hit, kick, and slam her knees to the floor. We couldn’t connect with her, couldn’t reach her. She didn’t want to be held. Her eyes wouldn’t focus. She couldn’t speak. We just had to let her rage. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 5 2014

Free Stuff Alert: Dairy-Free Kosher Cookies from Nomoo Cookie Company

By at 10:24 am

Chocolate-nomoo

Foodies, this one is for you.

We are giving away this lovely assortment of cookies from gourmet, dairy-free, kosher cookie maker Nomoo Cookie Company.

Made from high-quality, natural ingredients, the flavors included are ALMOND OY!, CHOCO-LIFT,  OAT RAGEOUS ONE, and SUGAH SUGAH. We sampled all four flavors here at Kveller and the consensus was that they’re all delicious and you definitely don’t miss the dairy. Each cookie is individually wrapped for freshness and they even arrive in a pretty box. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 4 2014

The Only Jewish Boy at Jewish Day School

By at 12:39 pm

King-david-school-multicultural

On Tuesday, when he started school, my oldest son was the only Jewish boy in his class of 30 kids. There are many schools in which that statistic would not be unexpected; an Orthodox Jewish day school is not one of them. But that’s the way it goes here in Birmingham, UK–a place where, we learned upon moving here from the US, the Jewish population has been dwindling for years, but where the Jewish school continues as a thriving, competitive primary school, serving kosher lunch and celebrating Jewish holidays and Israel’s birthday.

As in a typical American Orthodox Jewish day school, my son will daily recite Jewish prayers and learn “limudei kodesh”–a Judaic studies curriculum. He and the other boys will keep their heads covered, per the Jewish tradition. On Friday afternoons, before school ends (early, to give students time to prepare for Shabbat), all the grades will convene for a Kabbalat Shabbat program. A Jewish boy will play “Shabbat Abba” and a Jewish girl will play “Shabbat Eema,” and the Abba and Eema will host a Shabbat table with grape juice, challah, and guests. Most of their guests will be Muslim.

In a climate of growing antipathy between Muslims and Jews everywhere, I could not be happier to be sending my son to a school that will allow him to declare, as he did after a week of camp in the UK, “I made a best friend here. His name is Abdul!” Maybe Abdul-from-camp came from a family and/or community that liked Jews. Maybe not. My son didn’t get to know Abdul long enough or well enough to find out. But at his Jewish day school, which has a growing Muslim population (this year it is estimated between 60 and 70%), there’s no doubt that the Muslims are learning with and about Jews by choice. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 3 2014

Free Stuff Alert: Rosh Hashanah Kids T-Shirts from Jewnion Label

By at 10:42 am

jewnion label apple dippers and honey drippers shirt giveaway

Here’s a sweet way to get your little ones excited about Rosh Hashanah: pint-sized t-shirts from Jewnion Label from their United Apple Dippers & Honey Drippers line! We love the taglines: “Sticking Together” and “L’Dor v’Dor/Jar to Jar.”

Jewnion Label makes smart, funny gear for all of the holidays, plus every day in between. Also themed around Rosh Hashanah: t-shirts, messenger bags, notecards, and more from the International Federation of Shofar Blowers (motto: “Shofar, So Good”), with a cheeky ram in the center.

We’ve got three free children’s “United Apple Dippers & Honey Drippers” t-shirts to give away to three lucky readers. To enter, just fill out the form below and we’ll choose a winner on Wednesday, September 10th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sep 2 2014

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 →

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