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Nov 5 2014

Everybody Else’s Perfect Kids

By at 11:54 am

everybody else's perfect kids

After nearly two and a half years of living in the San Francisco Bay area (a temporary break from our lives in Israel), I am trying to keep my head above water. It seems that in today’s middle class America, everybody else’s kids are no less than perfect.

Until 2012, my kids grew up in an Israeli suburb. I had an enormous social network comprised of mothers and children. Our house and yard were always filled with running, jumping, screeching, laughing, and the crying of not-perfect kids. With the exception of a couple of “hysterics,” my mommy friends had no illusions about their little angels. We freely exchanged accounts of parenting challenges including school struggles as well as developmental and behavioral setbacks. By and large, we were honest and supported one another.

Today, I also have a large social network of mothers. However, with the exception of a few “eccentrics,” my mommy friends are incredibly busy convincing each other and themselves about how wonderful their offspring are. It seems that everyone is a sports star, a rock star, and a genius. Read the rest of this entry →

Chicagoland Parents: Participate in Our Focus Group & Get Some Swag

By at 10:56 am

chicago focus group

Attention, Chicagoland Kvellers! We are looking for a few good moms and dads to participate in focus groups in Buffalo Grove, Skokie, and Oak Park/River Forest.

If you:

– Have at least one child under the age of 5, and

– Either you and/or your spouse/partner is Jewish, and

– You are raising your child in a Jewish or interfaith home, but are not particularly active or involved in the Jewish community

Then we are looking for YOU! Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 4 2014

How I Taught My Son to Fail

By at 9:53 am

Teaching My Son to Fail

This past summer, I taught my child to fail.

This must defy some canon of parenthood, which compels us to equip our children with all the things they need to succeed.

But by summer’s end, my husband and I had exhausted our bag of tricks (and our patience) trying to teach almost-6-year old Emmet to ride his two-wheel bike: the same bike from which he had begged us to remove the training wheels, after watching a younger neighbor zipping around on two wheels.

At first, we tried balancing him on the bike without pedaling, so that he could feel the sensation of instability. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 3 2014

When Naming Your Child After a Loved One is Just Too Painful

By at 9:53 am

I Named My Daughter After My Sister

“And would you like to know the gender of the baby?” the cheerful technician asked. We both laughed and acquiesced. I really wanted to know my baby’s gender, and my husband did not want to be left out in the cold. “You look like the type of couple who will be happy whatever it is,” she said. We smiled and shared that newly-married grin. Then, after a few minutes of gliding the glop around my stomach, and hearing the heartbeat, she said, “Ready? I am pretty sure it is a girl.”

“A girl, a girl, a girl… ” The words echoed in my head, swirling and sliding. Somehow, we thought it would be a boy. We wavered daily, vacillating between boy and girl, but most days it was the blue dreams. Later that day, we began discussing name choices. The name was sort of a given, yet it was still a complex matter.

Hindy is a name that means everything to me. Hindy—my sister, a princess, a fighter, a teenager—is no more. We were three sisters, five years apart each in age, with two brothers between us. (That fact, we always joked, showed my grandfather’s CPA gene coming through.) Hindy was the youngest in my family. I vividly remember sitting in the kitchen, 5 years old, strawberry yogurt sliding in my mouth on the Friday morning she was born.

We grew up together—matching dresses, sharing school buses, books, and eventually jewelry, clothes, and more. We also shared our secrets and our feelings. But when Hindy was 14 years old, she began getting sick extremely often. The mumps, a cold, Swine Flu—you name it, she caught it. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 30 2014

The Jewish Case of Halloween Envy

By at 9:47 am

halloween envy

Christmas envy has been well documented. There are many Jews who are less than subtle about their yuletide longings: the lights are shimmery and sparkly, that tree smells fantastic, the music is just so very merry, and who doesn’t want an eggnog latte? Many of us have made our peace with the little bits of the all-encompassing Christmas barrage that we have come to love–I myself feel like I can have my Bing Crosby and eat it, too. But this time of year there’s another sort of envy happening in Jewish necks of the woods: Halloween envy, or as I like to call it, Halloweenvy.

Unlike Christmas, Halloween isn’t technically a Christian holiday, and therefore, it’s harder to avoid. Of course, many Jews, or probably most Jews, celebrate Halloween. There are, however, Jews who believe that Halloween is an idolatrous, pagan holiday, and that as such, celebrating it is not only not our custom, but it’s actually against Jewish law. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 29 2014

Attention, Parents! RSVPs Are Not Optional

By at 2:00 pm

attention parents: rsvps are not optional

For my son’s 10th birthday we decided to go all out. We arranged a private showing at the planetarium. We rented a nearby community building for cake and festivities afterwards. The theater holds 60 people, so we decided to invite his entire class along with our family and friends.

The graphic designer in my office went to town designing a beautiful invitation based on the show “Cosmos,” since that’s what our son Joey enjoys watching. I had them printed and wrote each of the 24 kids’ names in his class on envelopes for Joey to pass out.

I expected that we wouldn’t get a full response. I’ve been a mom for 10 years and I’m used to the lack of RSVPing…but I wasn’t prepared for how bad it would actually be. I got four RSVPs. FOUR! Three of them were from the moms who I know personally in the class. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 28 2014

How My Family Will Celebrate This Year’s “Shabbatoween”

By at 9:42 am

How My Family Will Celebrate This Year's "Shabbatoween"

Growing up, Halloween was never something I celebrated. My Orthodox parents didn’t think it was appropriate for their children to go around trick-or-treating, and since most of my friends’ parents felt the same way, it was never something I felt I was missing out on. (Besides, we had Purim, which to me was just like Halloween, minus the spooky stuff.)

My husband, on the other hand, grew up trick-or-treating and loved it as a kid. So last year, when my son was almost 2, we decided to take him trick-or-treating, and he had a blast (even though we confiscated the vast majority of his candy once we got home, as we weren’t about to give him free reign over his stash). I know Halloween is one of those gray areas for a lot of folks who are Jewish—after all, celebrating Halloween is not the same thing as celebrating Christmas or Easter, but it doesn’t seem to be as accepted a holiday as Thanksgiving, which many observant Jews celebrate without hesitation. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 24 2014

We Don’t Know What to Make of These Little Princesses Dropping F-Bombs

By at 12:55 pm

f-bombs for feminism

Listen very carefully: Tell your kids to go into the other room. Turn down the volume, or put on your headphones. And watch this video of some very adorable little girls dropping some very graphic language in the name of feminism (NSFW!!!): Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 23 2014

Why This Jewish Dad Didn’t Want a Bris for His Son

By at 1:54 pm

tray of corned beef for a bris

As soon as the ultrasound revealed that my wife, Abi, was pregnant with a boy, I started worrying about the bris. Not worrying about who would perform it, or where we would order the cold cuts from, but about the conversation I would inevitably have to have with Abi about the fact that I didn’t want our son to have one.

Being an accomplished catastrophist, I have a knack (and a formalized strategy) for making things seem worse than they actually are, and when it finally came time to have the dreaded summit with Abi about the dissection of my future son’s penis, it didn’t go anything like I had anticipated. It wasn’t stilted or awkward or painful, it wasn’t violent or even dramatic. I said, “Look—I don’t want Elijah to have a bris. It’s a medical procedure and it should be done in a hospital by a physician.”

She patted me on the shoulder and replied, “Gabe, I know you hate being Jewish; it’s OK. We’re having a bris and that’s it.” Read the rest of this entry →

Five Great Kids’ Books That Will Actually Help You Parent Your Preschooler

By at 12:36 pm

The 5 Children’s Books I Couldn’t Parent Without

Parenting a preschooler can sometimes feel immense and impossible. The sheer fact that my kid might have lifelong memories of something I did or said haunts me at night. I’ve already trudged through the muddy waters of newborn and toddler stuff and came out (barely) on the other side with some sense of confidence and strategy. But with my firstborn, I wake up each day to unknowns and I’m often up at night Googling how to best connect with him.

I have found that if I’ve talked with my son about something, it helps tremendously if the concept is reinforced by some sort of media. For example, we’ve been talking a lot about wasting water. Money and worth, in general, are very hard concepts for small children to wrap their brains around. I initially tried with “water costs money” and that approach was a giant intangible fail. So now, when the water is running while he is watching his tongue dance in the mirror, I tell him that we don’t want to waste water because it is a precious resource and it might go away someday. Just like the trees in “The Lorax.” He seemed to get that. Read the rest of this entry →

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