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Sep 22 2014

Celebrating the Holidays While Dad is at Work 

By at 3:37 pm

Celebrating holidays with dad at work

My husband and I grew up very differently–I in an Orthodox household that celebrated every single Jewish holiday, and he in a Reform one that acknowledged Passover, saw Rosh Hashanah as a good excuse to make brisket, and suffered through Yom Kippur.

When I began dragging my husband to family gatherings for holidays he’d previously never even heard of, he was a good sport about it–and he still is, when those holidays fall on the weekends. But for the past number of years, the holiday calendar has been particularly cruel to those of us bound by limited time off and jobs that don’t close for Jewish observances. And this year is no exception.

Now I’m not particularly upset about spending my vacation days on the holidays this year, especially since we don’t have any major travel plans. But try convincing someone who grew up the way my husband did that it’s worthwhile using up all your vacation time to celebrate every single holiday our religion boasts.  Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 25 2014

The Astonishing Ways that a Community Comes Together–For Both Good Times & Bad

By at 9:51 am
Dafna-and-Jesse

Jesse Bacon with new baby Dafna.

 

I was 35-weeks pregnant with my son when I became violently ill and started having contractions at 2:00 a.m. on a Saturday night that happened to be erev Purim. My husband and I decided that, rather than risk our not-yet-2-year-old daughter waking up and not having us there, I would go to the hospital with a friend, and he would stay home. I realized how fortunate I was to have more than one person I could call in such a situation, but we figured that our friend Ilana was the most likely to still be awake from Purim festivities, so she was the lucky recipient of that phone call.

Without a moment’s hesitation, she was at our house, she took me to the hospital, and she stayed with me there for hours. After a terrible night, but one that would have been infinitely worse had I been alone (or had the baby ended up being in any distress), I thanked Ilana as much as words could possibly thank someone for that kind of generosity. She said, simply, “This is what we do.”

Those words have echoed over and over in my head this week, reminding me of the unbelievable value of community. No matter how capable we are of handling our own joy or sorrow, handling it in the company of other people is just better. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 15 2014

Why We Tell Our Children Stories

By at 11:08 am

Stories

This post is part of our Torah commentary series. This Shabbat we read Parashat Ekev. To read a summary of the portion and learn more, click here.

Driving home from my sister’s house last night, I did what so many parents do when it looks like their kids might fall asleep in the car and it would be highly inconvenient if they did so. I flapped my lips for 25 minutes about whatever I could think of. We reviewed all the major Jewish holidays and what they represent (read: what we eat on the holidays). We sang the unabridged version of “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” (someone’s always in the kitchen with mom-my, someone’s in the kitchen they know-o-o-o) and we talked about who’s a cousin and who’s a friend and how the brake pedal and the gas pedal work and why some people choose to get tattoos and how much we like meatballs. Then, Maya decided it was her turn to tell a story.

Five exits later, and Maya’s story was still going. In her tale, she and Daddy went for a walk, saw a ghost with big eyes, met a giraffe who wanted a bath, ate some apples, swam in a lake, took a nap, got scared, saw a fire-breathing dragon, got saved by Avi (Maya’s twin), tripped on a rock, said “it’s OK, you’re alright, it’s no big deal,” to each other, and got mosquito bites. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 28 2014

Why Are There No Children’s Books About the Saddest Day of the Jewish Year?

By at 12:04 pm

book-store

It seemed like an easy enough question. What books could I use to teach my preschooler about Tisha B’Av? Since my son was born, children’s books had heralded every event of his life, big or small. We had Boynton for waking up and bedtime; “How Are You Peeling?” to discuss emotions, Berenstain Bears to assist with our move to a new city, and ­I had bought ­picture books for every Jewish holiday. But the first time I tried to explain why I wasn’t eating or drinking on a hot summer day, I didn’t have a book to help me.

The concept of fasting was relatively easy.

“Not eating is a way of remembering sad things that have happened,” I told my 3-year-­old. “When we don’t eat, our bodies feel bad, and that reminds us of feeling bad in our hearts. It’s also a way of talking to Go­d. It’s like we’re saying, ‘Go­d, help me. I feel so sad about what happened, I can’t even eat anything!’” I stopped and responded to simple questions about when I could eat again and whether I was allowed to drink water. But my son didn’t stop there. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 22 2014

My Son’s First Jewish Friend

By at 10:04 am

baseball-bat

My son made his first Jewish friend. His name is Dan, and he’s got dark curly hair and wears glasses.

Charlie was so excited when he told me about him. “He celebrates Hanukkah, Mom, just like us! And he has a shirt with Hebrew writing on it.”

He continued to talk about Dan for weeks afterward. “Dan hit a home run at recess, Dan is better than me at math, Dan brings peanut butter fudge for dessert.” Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 13 2014

Up Close: Elizabeth & Matthew

By at 1:48 pm

elizabeth-up-close-2

1. How did you and your spouse meet?

We met in high school and stayed connected while attending different colleges.

2. Are you raising your kid(s) with one religion, both religions, or somewhere in between? Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 12 2014

Up Close: Carin & Mike Mrotz

By at 9:55 am
mrotz-family-2

(Photo credit: Steven Cohen)

 

1. How did you and your spouse meet?

Some mutual friends were road-tripping and made a stop in the Twin Cities, visiting both of us separately and introducing us in the process. But when we met, Mike was a week or two away from leaving on a months-long trip out of the country, so it wasn’t until a year later, when we ran into each other at a coffee shop, that we really started hanging out. That was in the summer of 2000; we’ll be married 11 years in August.

2. Are you raising your kid(s) with one religion, both religions, or somewhere in between?

We’re raising them Jewish, and we’re pretty intentional about having both parents, not just the Jewish parent, involved, so that the kids see Jewish life as a family thing, not just a “mom” thing. Mike might take Henry to a religious school program while I stay home with Miriam. He’s usually the one that reads them their PJ Library books before bed. We’re pretty clear that Mike’s not letting me raise Jewish kids, we’re doing it together.

Read the rest of this entry →

May 29 2014

When it Comes to Jewish Holidays, Is It Wrong to Focus on the Food?

By at 3:55 pm

cheesecake

It’s no secret that Jewish holidays tend to be very food-focused. So while my toddler is only just starting to learn about the rules, back stories, and traditions of the various holidays we celebrate, he already knows that on Purim we eat hamentashen, on Passover we eat matzah, and on Rosh Hashanah we eat apples and honey.

As I started teaching him about Shavuot this week, I realized I spent more time explaining that we’re all going to get together at Savta’s house for cheesecake than I did explaining that during this holiday, the Jewish people received the Torah.

It got me thinking: When you’re teaching a child about Jewish holidays, is it necessarily a bad thing to focus on the food? Read the rest of this entry →

May 16 2014

How Traumatized Are Kids By Gruesome Bible Stories and Fairy Tales?

By at 10:02 am

gruesome-stories

On a Shabbos morning some months ago, my husband, fatigued by minor surgery he had the day before, left the service in the main sanctuary of the synagogue and went into the small, empty chapel downstairs. He lay down on his back on a pew and closed his eyes. Soon, he told me, he heard the voices of young children.

“Do you think he’s dead?”

“He might be sleeping.” Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 1 2014

Each Passover, I Celebrate The Miracle of My Growing Family

By at 12:02 pm

matza-balls

Every spring I remember; every Passover I celebrate.

I have mostly forgotten the Passover that fell right before my wedding. I don’t remember who led those seders. I don’t recall what was served for dinner. I was too busy thinking of the last minute wedding details (Did we need programs? When would the yarmulkes be ready? How did I go about changing my name?) And then I realized that I’d miss the whole holiday. I ceased thinking about my impending departure from the single world. I sipped my wine and tried to relax, and focused on what was important.

Two years later, I sat at my husband’s aunt’s table. We had been trying for a baby for a few months, without results. I wanted to take my mind off my disappointment, and enjoy the evening with my family. I poured a glass of wine in anticipation of the start of the seder. My husband’s little cousins were wrestling under the table. The older one hit his head, and the whole table shook like a California earthquake. My wine glass wobbled, tipped, and splashed all over me. The stain would stubbornly cling to my blouse after several washings. By the time I threw it out a week later, I didn’t mind. It wouldn’t have fit for long, anyway. I was pregnant. Read the rest of this entry →

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