I used to fumble my words when someone asked me what I do for a living. Having a baby and being laid off while on maternity leave will do that to you.
My self worth bailed right along with my sanity. I was set to return to work 12 weeks postpartum as a counselor working with patients and families dealing with a terminal illness. I loved my job. As depressing as the population I worked with sounds, it was one of the most humbling and gratifying jobs I have ever held. Then, about four weeks into my maternity leave, I received notice that the company I worked for was restructuring and I was out.
The true story is that they tried to get me to quit so that I would not be eligible for unemployment. I held my own and finally got a statement from the new COO (who I never met as she started while I was out), conceding to the fact that they were indeed laying me off. I could have been over the moon to be laid off while on maternity leave, approved for unemployment, but instead I found myself deflated and defeated. Read the rest of this entry →
Attention all organized parents (and those who desperately wish to be organized): if you’re sending your kids away to camp this summer or to school in the fall, labels are your best friend. Repeat: labels are your best friend.
Label Land is a leading provider of customizable labels, offering labels that are clear, can iron or stick on in a snap, stay permanently affixed, and are easy to read in any situation. From clothing to bags to shoes, they’re here to make sure your kids’ stuff winds up back at home and not in the lost and found.
The good news? We’ve got three of Label Land’s School/Camp Packs to give away to three lucky winners. The School/Camp Pack includes:
Despite the apocalyptic weather conditions, New York City schools were OPEN today (because we’re crazy), but just about everywhere else in the country, flights were canceled, highways were gridlocked, and kids enjoyed a national snow day–even in North Carolina, which has been pummeled by an ice storm named Pax.
Well, two school administrators, headmaster Michael Ulku-Steiner and director Lee Hark at Durham Academy in North Carolina, broke the the news to students with a hilarious cover of Vanilla Ice’s ’90s hit–yup, you guessed it–”Ice, Ice, Baby.”
Enjoy the video and for god’s sake, don’t go outside!
My daughter’s birth was complicated. The morning after I had my baby, a post-partum nurse asked how I was feeling. I made the mistake of answering honestly: The birth left a bright pink scar skidding across my pelvis, and other people’s blood pumping through my veins. After a long labor, my daughter’s heart rate decelerated. It was not rebounding. I had to be rushed in for a Cesarean section under general anesthesia. The last thing I remember was staring up into the ceiling light in the operating room, crying quietly. My husband had not been admitted into the OR; he was left alone in a room somewhere to wait. My daughter was pulled out of me, and born into the hands of strangers. The doctors called my husband in while they were sewing me back together. My husband saw and held our baby first; I didn’t meet her for endless hours. It took a while longer before I was functional enough to attempt breastfeeding. The transfusion I needed caused other issues.
My first experience with Valentine’s Day was a perplexing one.
At the age of 7, I arrived in the United States (from the Soviet Union) with my parents on January 19. I started school. Less than a month later, everyone in my class gave me a flurry of pink and red cards, some of them heart-shaped. I didn’t have anything for my classmates, and I didn’t exactly know what was going on, in any case. So I came home and taped the cards up on my bedroom walls, like decorations. For the rest of the school year, people would periodically give me other cards, this time not necessarily in pink or red or heart-shaped, but looking enough like the first set that I dutifully went home and taped them to my walls, too. It wasn’t until I learned to speak (then read) English, that I realized the latter were birthday party invitations I had never responded to, and that the former were for something called St. Valentine’s Day.
It was a Jewish Day School, by the way, but, in subsequent years, I got with the program, never giving a lot of thought to what the whole experience is like from a parental point of view.
I’m a parent now. And here is something else I’ve learned about Valentine’s Day. It is even more complicated than I could have possibly imagined. Read the rest of this entry →
I recently interviewed author, journalist, and academic director of the Yiddish Book Center, Josh Lambert. Lambert is a pioneer of The Great Jewish Books Summer Program, a week-long exploration of literature & culture for high school students. Lambert is a father of one son and currently resides in Connecticut with his wife.
I spoke with Lambert about the exciting student literary program, what Jewish books he prefers to read with his students, and the five Jewish books that all parents should read.
1. What three books do you always make sure to teach at the Yiddish Book Center?
Well, despite the name, we don’t teach many whole books in Great Jewish Books–because students are only with us for a week, and there’s only so much they can read every day. But I always tend to start the course with Kafka’s Before the Law–to get us talking about what is and what isn’t Jewish literature, and the history of interpretation in Jewish culture, from the haggadah and midrash to literary modernism. I can’t imagine not teaching Philip Roth’s story “Defender of the Faith” or Avrom Sutzkever’s geto lider (ghetto poems)–these are startling, perfect literary pieces that get at some of the biggest themes treated by Jewish literature: community, continuity, and response to adversity.
2. How have kids reacted to Portnoy’s Complaint and other Roth books that are wrought with awkward sexual confessions?
I’ve never given Portnoy to the Great Jewish Books participants. Not because I don’t think they can handle it, but because (again) there’s not enough time. But in general I’ve found that 16-year-olds are able to handle challenging material with aplomb. I’ve noticed that when the Great Jewish Books students pick examples of literature to read at the reading/talent show we have at the end of the program, they often choose very intense and fascinating work–I recall one very memorable reading of Eve Ensler’s poetry, for example, that wasn’t exactly G-rated. These are people growing up in a world of almost limitless access to so-called adult materials. The ones I meet are thoughtful about what’s appropriate or not for various situations and what they can learn from the difficult stuff. Read the rest of this entry →
This thought first occurred to me when my son was maybe 4 or 5 months old. He bumped his head during some tummy time and began to cry. I immediately picked him up and repeated the phrase, “You’re OK,” over and over again.
Was he OK? Of course. Perhaps he was scared. Either way, what I was really doing was ignoring his emotions. And trying to make them go away. Think about it: When an adult hurts herself, do you immediately respond with, “You’re OK”? No, you ask her what’s wrong and if there’s anything you can do to help.
This post is part of our Torah commentary series through the perspective of a mother. This Shabbat we read Parashat Tetzaveh. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.
I’d like to say that I’m the kind of woman who’s never given much thought to clothing and what I wear. I’d like to say that I’ve always just sort of thrown something on, and effortlessly, look pulled together all the time, or don’t, but either way, no matter. I’d like to remember my child-self as one who didn’t think tights were scratchy, who didn’t notice if her undershirt was tucked in, who didn’t have an obsessive penchant for the colors purple and orange, who didn’t mind wearing headbands, two-piece bathing suits, or ankle socks.
I’d like to say that I was and still am highly unselfconscious.
Except I am totally self-conscious, and have always been a bit of a nut when it comes to clothes. I’m not talking in a clotheshorse kind of way, where I’m off spending money on labels and status pieces. No, I’m talking about the much more existential and far less useful ways in which I obsess about how I look. I’ve never worn a bikini, I don’t really enjoy being photographed, and often notice myself fidgeting–with my clothing, my hair, whatever. While my neuroses are (mostly) in check, a healthy dose of anxiety runs through my bloodstream at all times, just to keep me on my toes. And often, this delightful kind of crazy rears its ugly head as I try and dress myself on any given day. Read the rest of this entry →
Charlie White with ice dancing partner Meryl Davis
First, I was a figure skating fan, then I was a figure skating TV researcher/producer, then I was a figure skating mystery novelist, and currently I’m a hodge-podge of all the above.
I am referencing my C.V. in order to explain why, while I don’t know the total number of Jews on Team USA for the Sochi Olympics, I do know that there are three of them in the figure skating delegation: two-time World Ice Dancing Champion and defending Olympic silver medalist Charlie White, singles skater Jason Brown, and pairs skater Simon Shnapir. (Ladies’ singles skater Gracie Gold is, alas, not Jewish, despite the name.)
That’s right, the US is being represented at the Olympics by three nice, Jewish boys. The latter actually emigrated from Moscow as a toddler.
It stands to reason. Figure skating is a huge sport in Russia. It’s a huge sport in America, too. But, primarily for girls. Read the rest of this entry →
As part of our month-long series dedicated to Jewish Disability Awareness Month, Benay shares her success at mainstreaming her son on the autism spectrum into a Jewish day school classroom.
Our son got his first siddur (prayer book) last week, and it was–in a word–amazing. A year ago, I never would have predicted he would be up on that stage. In fact, I was convinced of just the opposite–that my son would not be attending Jewish day school at all, let alone participating in the first grade siddur ceremony. I was so convinced, I blogged about how unlikely it would be for he and our new local community Jewish day school to be a match.
I’ve never been so happy to say I was wrong.
Our son was diagnosed as being on the Autistic spectrum when he was 2 years old. Thanks to an incredible team of therapists providing, among other things, speech and occupational therapy, he made amazing gains. But still, when it came time for kindergarten, he still lacked age-appropriate social and play skills, he avoided trying new things, and he struggled to appropriately express and temper his emotions. So no one said we should consider Jewish day school. Nor did anyone recommend we consider a mainstream classroom. Instead, we enrolled him in a public school program where he received intensive speech and occupational therapy in a self-contained classroom, while spending increasing periods of time in a mainstream classroom. It was a wonderful program, and three-quarters of the way through the year, he was socializing with his peers, not tantruming, and as a result, spending nearly all day in the mainstream classroom. Read the rest of this entry →