Oct 1 2013
Have you ever tried to fold up a stroller and get multiple small children onto a bus, find your Metrocard and put it in properly (without losing sight of the children or dropping the stroller), get those children settled into seats and the stroller stowed away without bumping into anyone, and then keep those children reasonably quiet for 15 or 20 blocks? In the rain? Without help? Everyone on the bus seems to be looking at you in annoyance: annoyed at how long it took you to get onto the bus and anticipatory annoyance for the noise the kids are about to make.
One rainy day, after doing all of that, my attention turned to someone else, sitting in a two-seater with two kids who were soaking wet and crying. She was trying everything to calm the kids and quiet them down. They were inconsolable. Two people got on the bus and sat behind her and immediately started loudly complaining about the kids. She became more desperate to quiet them. They got more hysterical.
What if, instead of complaining and criticizing her, those people had offered to help her (as we and others on the bus did)? What if we reacted with generosity instead of judgment? Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 12 2013
On Yom Kippur, we stand in our respective congregations and recite the Vidui, a confession of a litany of sins for which we claim collective responsibility. We do this as a group, I remember being told as a child, so that no one has to confess, “I murdered,” alone, and also so that we realize our collective responsibility as a community for one another’s actions.
At Kveller, we have created a congregation and family of parents, readers, writers, communicators, and Jews. We share our stories with one another. We kindle friendships virtually and actually between one another.
Our paths to parenting are very different, as are our outlooks on how to best parent our children. And yet this is a community of respect–all too rare a thing in the Internet era–in which we share our opinions openly and thoughtfully, and throw ideas rather than insults at one another. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 11 2013
The High Holy Days are difficult for everyone. The services are long. The liturgy relies heavily on theological notions that are often in conflict with our modern day beliefs. There is a lot of Hebrew. Unfamiliar melodies. For most of us, however, we are able to overcome our discomfort and even, for some of us, use it at a spiritual tool.
For kids like my son Ben, who is on the autism spectrum, these are just a few of the obstacles. Bright lights. Loud sound system. Uncomfortable seats. And throngs of people. These can make an already overwhelming experience seem just unbearable. And then we come to the clothes. It is expected that we dress appropriately for shul. Ben, who has some sensory sensitivities, comes unglued when forced to wear anything that “hurts.”
While it was the act of getting dressed that triggered Ben’s first meltdown, we knew that it was fueled by the anxiety of all of the above. Read the rest of this entry →
I am sitting here in front of a computer. It is late. There is a half eaten bag of chocolate chips in front of me. It is the period of time between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that is supposed to be about reflection and introspection. And instead it has already become a race against time, from one holiday to the next, half cleaned platters on the counter from last week’s holiday dinner, unfilled suitcases to prepare for next week’s trip out of town for Kol Nidre schedules, classes, activities, appointments, life keeps churning.
I am not feeling very introspective. It is as if within mere minutes of walking out of that synagogue where I literally stood before God and beat my chest and begged a pardon for all the crap I’ve pulled over the past year, I walked out and just reset myself as if nothing had changed. I hadn’t changed. I was completely flawed and frazzled as I was when I walked in. Read the rest of this entry →
I was so excited for high holidays services this year. Seriously. Like, I couldn’t wait.
Rosh Hashanah was going to be the first time since the birth of my 11-month-old when I could just sit and live exclusively in my mind for three hours straight. It was going to be all about me. My thoughts, my feelings, my regrets, my needs, my disappointments, my truths, my longings–my prayers. Three solid hours of me, me, me.
And it didn’t disappoint. Through the repetition of liturgy, music, the standing ups and the sitting downs, I felt my mind and body soften in a way they haven’t in some time now. I thought about the many changes I have undergone since I had a child, for good and for bad, and how I can do better towards my family, friends, and myself. I felt generous, adoring, open-minded, and accepting. I had returned. Teshuvah! It felt incredible. And then I got home, said goodbye to my babysitter, and that was the end of that. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 10 2013
As a writer, I love words, but I’m pretty indifferent to the letters in the alphabet. When I’m typing, I don’t even glance at the keyboard. And of course, my children and my writing rarely mix, except when I send an otherwise polished email that abruptly ends in a flourish of ghnjopiarp!, the result of rogue little hands.
So the feat of “writing with children” took on meaning last month, when my preschoolers and I visited a sofer, or Torah scribe, at our synagogue in Rochester. The Torah, dating from the 1800s and entrusted to our congregation, had been destroyed in the Holocaust and was now being restored, one letter at a time–by the sofer and our congregants, tracing in tandem over 300,000 letters. And the week before Rosh Hashanah was my family’s turn to scribe a letter. Read the rest of this entry →
It’s not every day you hear a good rap about the High Holy days, and especially one that has a sprinkling of swear words, but our friend Aly Viny–who runs the site Jap-Rap, makes that happen. Enjoy! And oh yeah–definitely NSFW.
Check out the rest of Aly’s hilarious raps here.
Sep 3 2013
Have you heard the one about the young Jewish couple who have a kid while living in a big city and find themselves searching for community around the high holidays?
You know, the couple who decide to pony up for synagogue membership at a large congregation in their city neighborhood, and then subsequently become involved through the synagogue preschool, the young sisterhood, and various holiday events? This couple basks in the warm glow of baking challah and attending Tot Shabbat services. They introduce their kids–first the one kid, then two–to more Judaism in five years than either of them had been exposed to in over 25. And they enjoy it! Never before had they yearned for Jewish connection and yet here they are, singing the prayers, making Jewish friends, teaching their kids Hebrew. Then, as the creep of Kindergarten approaches, said couple feels the need to find a new home in the suburbs. As a consequence, they leave their big warm city shul and head east (or in this case, north).
Do you know what happens next, in this all-too-familiar-tale? Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 26 2013
We live on the third floor, and have a little balcony. My 4-year-old has taken to throwing things–toys, couch pillows, books–off the balcony. It’s really not OK, and he knows it. He also knows that if he throws toys he won’t see them again for a while, and that there may be some other consequence, to boot. But he’s 4, his impulse control is not so hot, and he’s testing boundaries.
This morning, I asked him to share the toy he was holding with his little brother, so he ran halfway across the apartment in order to throw it off the balcony. It was a clear f-you: If I can’t have it, nobody can have it. It was the last straw of a frustrating morning, and I yelled at him, really shouted, as I put him in a time out.
There are a lot of reasons why I don’t want to raise my children in a home with yelling. I have a pretty firm commitment to raising them to feel loved, safe, and not afraid in their own home, and a screaming adult is terrifying to a small person. So to have slipped in a way that’s human and understandable but still, well, urgently not where I need to be–it’s a terrible feeling. This morning, I failed my son and I failed myself. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 20 2013
Traditionally, during month of Elul, we say Psalm 27–lots of rabbis and other clever Jews have insights as to what it teaches us as we head into the High Holidays. Suffering from mommy-brain is a new part of my fabulous identity as an emah (mother), and I can’t help but think of the psalm in terms of my son. His name, Kaveh (קוה) comes from this particular psalm and in biblical Hebrew, it is the command form of the word hope.
Every morning, Kaveh wakes up, showers us with kisses and hugs, and babbles excitedly about things like breakfast and the people he’s going to see that day. Even if he had a tantrum before bed, or a bad dream during the night. He faces every day as if he was obligated to believe that it was going to be the best day ever.
When my chubby, beautiful toddler is sitting in his stroller and we pass the park, he repeats “Park! Park! Park!” over and over again until it’s no longer in sight. Until it’s truly, truly gone he maintains that it is a very real possibility that he’ll soon be giggling on his way down the slide, even if we’ve already told him that we’re going to the grocery store and there’s no time for the park. He never folds, because he believes that everything is possible. Read the rest of this entry →