Follow Kveller

You are browsing the archive for grandmothers.

Oct 31 2014

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Inner Balabusta

By at 11:33 am

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Find My Inner Balabusta

I come from a long line of very strong women. My dad used to tell me stories about his mom and the pants she wore as head of the household. There was a joke in the family that Great Grandma Yetta overthrew the captain on the way to Ellis Island because she knew the best way to get to New York.

I used to think this sense of drive or chutzpah was an East Coast or ethnic trait. Though as I grow older and wiser (cough cough), I have begun to realize that it’s just a people thing.

People who are in touch with their inner balabusta. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 13 2014

Becoming a Grandmother Turned Me into a Total Sap

By at 3:32 pm


Yesterday I picked up my eldest grandchild from her ballet class. She is 7 and she is about to be in her first concert with her class of eight little girls. She wasn’t quite finished when I got there, so she invited me in to watch her rehearsal.

She is tall and lean and leggy, and she has been learning ballet for only a few months, but she really looked the part with the white leotard and pink slippers and little crossover cardy. I don’t think that I will spoil anything by telling you that her dance is to “I Want to be Where the People Are” from “The Little Mermaid,” and she isn’t Ariel.

She was tip-toeing and wafting her arms around in the chorus and doing little jumps and knee-bends (we used to call them petits jetesand plies and porte-de-bras, but I guess they don’t anymore) and I did what I usually do every time I see little kids trying so hard to do things that the teacher wants: I cried. Read the rest of this entry →

May 5 2014

Taking My Grandson to Meet a Real-Life Superhero

By at 10:08 am


When I was a kid, we were told to look up to police officers, respect them, consider them our friends and protectors and, if we were ever lost, to find one. Still, I think many of us were actually afraid of them.

When I got to college, police officers were “pigs,” emblems of a corrupt establishment.

These days, the whole thing seems more complicated. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 10 2013

I’ve Been Talking to My Son About Death Since the Day He Was Born

By at 10:13 am


I kneeled by my mom’s side as she lay at home in her bed under the care of hospice. “Bittersweet,” she said as she smiled through tears and put one hand on my small belly. That moment together would be one of our last. She died just two days later. I was eight weeks pregnant.

Prior to the very end of the year in which my mother battled cancer and then battled the side effects of the chemotherapy intended to attack that cancer, she was an active and involved nana to my niece and nephew–the kind of nana who got down on the floor to play, who sang and danced the hokey pokey, who listened on the phone with endless delight to impromptu cello rehearsals, and who worried, like any good Jewish grandmother, whether or not they brought a sweater.

My son has no other grandmothers. My husband’s mother has been quite ill for many years. Even if she was told she has grandchildren, we are not sure she would understand or remember. My husband’s stepmother, a lovely woman, has seen our son only twice.

As a child psychologist, I’ve spent time thinking about how to talk to children about death. I’ve read the literature. I’ve talked to my young clients about death and dying. I’ve advised parents. When and how do you tell them? How much do you share? What age is too young? Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 3 2013

Two Grandmothers, Two Guggle Muggles

By at 2:01 pm


Recently, my 3-year-old son came tiptoeing downstairs long after we had put him down for the night. “I can’t sleep,” he said, hugging his stuffed dog.

“Do you want a guggla-muggla?” I asked, opening the fridge and reaching for a carton of milk.

My husband snorted. “First of all, it’s ‘guggle muggle,’” he said. “Second, you make it for colds, not insomnia.”

“Says who?” I asked.

“My grandma,” he replied, definitively.

Like most discussions about Jewish food in our household, this one had its origins in our respective families, and specifically, with our grandmas.

For the uninitiated, guggla muggla (or guggle muggle, if you must) is a Jewish cold-fighting concoction of mysterious origins and disputed pronunciations and ingredients. Depending on your Bubbe, it might have been made with milk, sugar, and egg; milk and honey; or, for the unlucky, milk, tea, and schmaltz (chicken fat). My grandma made her “guggla muggla” with warm milk, honey, and vanilla. My husband’s grandma made her “guggle muggle” with egg, sugar, and milk. Hence the disagreement. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 4 2013

Major Anxiety Meets Preschool Carpool

By at 10:13 am

carpool lane

What’s the worst that could happen?

It’s my mother’s favorite hypothetical, though she means it literally. And while the answers remain unspoken, the preemptive nervous energy abounds.

I’d remained oblivious to her anxiety in my coddled childhood, and dodged it after college when I lived alone in midtown Manhattan, accepting drinks from strangers and letting potential serial killers escort me home. But as soon as I got married to a nice Jewish boy, priming my womb for babies, Mom began finding solutions to “the worst” before I even perceived a problem. Sketchy first apartment? Better move to a nicer block. Leftover Chinese food? Better not eat it. It’s a boy? Better hire a baby nurse to care for the circumcision wound. Can’t be too careful…it could get infected. Our family had moved within 10 minutes of my parents before my baby was 6 months old. With my mother’s vigilance and diligence, my own reflexive panic began to show.

So it was no surprise that I didn’t know how to deal with a standard carpool request: another work-at-home parent offered to alternate days at preschool pick-up. Everyone did it, I assured my mother. (All the cool parents did it–just like the cool kids in junior high smoked cigarettes at the Exxon station before the first bell.) Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 25 2013

When Your Biggest Mommy Rival is Your Own Mother

By at 3:59 pm

grandmother and motherMommy Wars are usually about mom vs. mom: tiger vs. helicopter, attachment vs. baby-wise, French vs. Israeli. But what do you do if the biggest challenge to your mom identity–and your biggest potential mommy rival–is your own mother?

For the past almost 10 months, we’ve been living with my parents. Our necessary experiment in multi-generational living has shown me how great it is to live with extra adults to take on raising a child. The benefits far outweigh the cramped living space. Having a toddler is a lot of work, much more so than I ever imagined. It’s mentally, emotionally, and physically draining (and of course also rewarding). Having grandparents in the same house for support is beyond helpful, especially from my mom who is a wondermother. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 25 2012

Thinking of My Grandmothers

By at 11:13 am

My daughter and one of my amazing grandmothers.

Thanks to the complexities of blended families, I was lucky enough to have grown up with three grandmothers.One of them had a birthday earlier this month, and another one turns 90 today! (Happy Birthday, Grandma. I love you!)

The flowers in my neighborhood are just blooming, which always reminds me of my third grandmother, who passed away just before my older daughter was born. In addition, my local Jewish Federation, CJP, is holding a Bubbe contest. All of this has gotten me thinking about my grandmothers, and just how amazing they are, and were.

Read the rest of this entry →

May 19 2011

Eating Placenta Ain’t Kosher

By at 9:51 am

Matthue wrote a (gulp!) interesting (gag!) piece about eating placenta.

I think he missed a teachable moment for Kveller readers–namely: Is placenta kosher?

I am not in any way a rabbinical or Talmudic scholar but posit that it is most definitely NOT kosher for the following reasons:

1. The placenta is full of blood and blood is most definitely treif. All kosher meat must be soaked and salted to remove all blood. It’s a long shot to think that this can adequately be done for a placenta. (But, maybe it can. I’m not a butcher.)

2. It is a human organ and since humans do not chew their cud nor have cleft hooves, humans are not kosher mammals.

3. Additionally, one of the Noahide laws (see here for a full discussion of this topic) which Judaism applies to all people, not just Jews, is “aver min hachai,” the prohibition of eating a part of a still-living being. (This evokes the cartoon image of the caveman who rips the leg off a living animal and eats it.) In my opinion, this rule can reasonably be applied to the placenta from a living woman (and/or baby.)

So, in case any of you are tempted, and keep kosher, take a pass on the placenta.

Check here for Matthue’s original post on placenta being the new gourmet treat. And our resident grandmother doesn’t just have opinions on this, she also tells you what she thinks about pumping, cell phones, and crying it out.

May 4 2011

Happy (you suck at being a) Mother’s Day

By at 3:30 pm

Every time I see a blog post by Renee Septimus I take a deep breath and read with a nervous flutter in the pit of my stomach.  The same portion of my anatomy that has been newly ulcerated by the searing judgment of someone who thinks I’m doing it wrong or they did it better. Grandma Renee has told us to put down our breast pumps, stop talking on our cell phones, and not to let our child cry for more than 45 seconds for fear of permanent brain damage.  If that isn’t condescending, I’m not sure what is.

Much of the same started rolling my way less than a week after my son was born.  People were examining us as if we were auditioning to be parents. Watching us struggle with nursing, with sleeping, with balance.  Some did it quietly with odd glances and “helpful” comments to sing to him more, shhhsh him less, rock him more, swaddle him less, feed him more, bathe him more, while others laid it out there without a shred of finesse or tact. Three days before my first Mother’s Day I got an email from a family member outlining all of the ways in which I had failed my son in his first three months of life. The letter urged me to put down the books and “…start relying on common sense and advice from the people you love. You are supposed to be such an educated woman, start being a mother to this baby and take care of him properly” with a few jabs at the end about how my grandmother, of blessed memory, would be appalled at the mother I had become.  You would have thought I was putting cigarettes out on his arms while feeding him rat poison from my bloody nipples. That criticism burned like salt in my open wounds. I didn’t need to be told that I was being a terrible mother when I was already telling myself that very thing every minute of every day.

I’ve struggled a lot with this over the past year and all the therapy in the world can’t take away those comments. Most of my new-mama friends share similar stores, and while my family seems to have been more forward than most, I can tell you that Ms. Septimus isn’t the first grandma to classify cry-it-out as a form of child abuse.

I’ve narrowed it down to two things, grandparents forget and the vast majority of parenting literature was developed over the last 30 years.  For them, “parenting strategies”, “sleep solutions” and “attachment parenting” were things you learned through trial and error, not something you read about in a book. You didn’t use an electric gadget to suck milk out of your breasts or talk on your cell phone because they weren’t invented yet.  You couldn’t have read about Harvey Karp’s “Five S’s” because his findings weren’t published until after the new millennium.  You can’t remember what you had for lunch last week so don’t tell me your baby didn’t scream at night during his first week of life. I don’t want to sound disrespectful because advice and supportive words from family can be worth their weight in gold to a new mother, but organizations like La Leche League were founded because over the past 50 years, family systems have changed and new parents are looking to books and experts for support because they don’t have an elder lactating woman in the house to offer a breast while they figure it out.

Perhaps our new-fangled parenting methodologies are a slap in the face to the ways in which we were raised or maybe it seems disloyal to accept scientific theories over the advice of our own flesh and blood.  But in the end, that’s the license that comes with having a child of your own. You get to figure it out for yourself and slowly and dynamically turn into the parents you hope to be. My son is and has always been well fed, rested, healthy, and happy and at the end of the day we do what works best for our little family.

This mother’s day just tell your daughter, daughter-in-law, granddaughter that she is an amazing mom, because even if she doesn’t do it exactly the way you think she should, take a nice long look at your beautiful grandchild and know that she wakes up in the morning with a desire to do her best and goes to bed each night with a promise to do better tomorrow. Just like every Mama I know.


Recently on Mayim