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Dec 11 2013

Do Children Belong at Adult Parties?

By at 11:12 am

do children belong at adult parties?

Tis the season… for parties. Hanukkah parties, Christmas parties, New Year’s parties, non-denominational “holiday” parties with vaguely thematic decorations and a mish-mash of foods to cover all the cultural bases.

Now, some bacchanalias–namely ones that begin at 9 p.m. and promise to go until “whenever”–are obviously for adults only. But, others–for instance, those held in the daytime or even late afternoon–are a bit more vague regarding the exclusivity of the guest list.

When in doubt, I always ask the host, “Is it okay to bring the kids?” If the hosts say no, I never, ever bring them. (As we determined earlier, I have no problem leaving my kids home alone.)

If the host says yes, of course, I say thank you, and bring them. And if the host says, “Yes, buuuut… we won’t have anything fun for them to do and I don’t know if they’ll like the food I’m serving,” I bring them anyway. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 14 2013

Valentine’s Day, Like Any Holiday, is Great for the Kids

By at 2:56 pm

valentine's day decorationsGrowing up, I never really thought much about Valentine’s Day. I’d sign a valentine for every kid in my class, put them in the little boxes we made, and then really enjoy eating the candy I somehow always got.

As I grew older, I pushed back on that whole St. Valentine thing. I don’t know much about the man except that he was a saint–and if he was a saint, well, that doesn’t feel so Jewish to me. I didn’t mind getting flowers or candy if someone decided to give them to me, but I wasn’t going to go searching for Valentine’s Day celebrations. It just didn’t quite feel right to me. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 28 2012

Why Sukkot is Awesome

By at 10:24 am
little girl playing in fall leaves

via Flickr/sugarfrizz

Sukkot, one of the three great pilgrimage festivals of the Jewish year, begins this Sunday evening. But poor Sukkot… she often gets lost in the great High Holiday shuffle.

For many of us, the whirlwind of Jewish holidays has wound down. We’ve stuffed ourselves silly with bagels and kugel at the break-fast. We’ve eaten our share of apples and honey, we’ve heeded the call of the shofar and tried to think about ways in which we’ll make 5773 better than 5772, and, if you’re anything like me, we’ve lost sleep shuffling our young children between grandparents’ homes, sleeping in different beds, coming back to our apartments in the city smelling like chicken, only to turn around and realize another holiday is upon us. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 27 2012

Tisha B’Av With Kids: Why I Won’t Be Mourning

By at 2:38 pm

tisha b'avTisha B’av, the saddest day of the Jewish year, starts on Saturday night.

In addition to the fall of our beloved Temples, we have much to grieve this year. The murders in Colorado. The war in Syria. The memory of 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team who were kidnapped and murdered in Munich, Germany in 1972–a tragedy that will go unacknowledged during the London Olympics this year.

We have much to grieve.

Yet many of us won’t, myself included. We may post an image or brief statement on a Facebook page or Twitter feed, and then get on with our day, running errands, planning playdates, fixing meals, managing tantrums. We may take a moment to remember, but we probably won’t grieve. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 16 2011

The Great Hanukkah-Christmas Debate Roundup

By at 2:24 pm
menorah and christmas tree

Can't we all just get along?

Let’s be honest: this was a week of emotional whammies. And it’s no surprise, since the holidays are just around the corner and what is more stressful than celebratory holidays? The talk of the town seemed to be about the dos and don’ts of Christmas and Hanukkah, and here’s what we came up with:

First, Jordana Horn told us that you can’t celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. Or you can, but it isn’t logically consistent. With Hanukkah, we celebrate the Jews triumphant fight to practice Judaism–only Judaism–so throwing a Christmas tree into the mix seems to go against everything that the holiday is about. To read her full take, click here.

In the other corner is Jennifer Arrow, a self-declared athiest from a family of “Santa Claus Christians,” who wants to bring her husband’s Jewish heritage into her children’s lives. Focusing more on the culture and less on the religious background of each holiday, she finds a happy medium in serving latkes with ham. Read her full story here.

Lastly, daughter-of-a-rabbi Adina Kay-Gross recounts her fondest memories of spending Christmas with her Roman Catholic grandmother, and how it made her a better Jew. For her, compassion for everyone reigns supreme. Get the full story here.

In conclusion, you’ll never get everybody to agree on everything, but as long as people are willing to stand up for their opinions, we’ll be willing to hear them out. And that’s kind of beautiful, right?

Nov 28 2011

How to Host Large Holiday Meals (i.e. Lessons from Thanksgiving)

By at 12:50 pm

family mealI hope your Thanksgiving was as good as mine! Thank you so much for all of your help with menu ideas and general support. Below is the recipe and actual recipes for a fail-safe, easygoing Thanksgiving – print it out and feel free to use it yourself next year to come one step closer to becoming an official balaboosta. Also, it’s never too early to start planning your Passover seder. Think about using a similar menu, just substitute brisket for turkey.


  1. Assign duties. It’s called Thanksgiving, not Martyrdom Day. As we all know, if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy – and you doing all the work may give everyone else something to be thankful for, but what fun is that for you? People are usually so grateful not to be hosting the event themselves that they will happily offer you assistance in the tangible forms of stuffing, sweet potatoes, salad, wine, etc. Let them! Assign parts according to your perception of the guests’ abilities (no need to say that part out loud, of course). If you or your guests have allergies/eating restrictions/kashrut concerns, spell them out so as to have no misunderstandings. And if someone is flaky, make sure they’re assigned a minor part, i.e., one that, if they didn’t show up, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
  2. Start planning out menu items.  This goes in tandem with item 1. Plan out what you want to serve and how much of it. Planning menu items can also be synced with writing out a shopping list. It’s easiest to get canned/pantry-esque stuff ahead of time.
  3. Buy copy of Leah Koenig’s Hadassah Everyday Cookbook. Great recipes that take kosher considerations in mind for kosher cooks.
  4. Arrange for a babysitter and reserve a table to go out to dinner Saturday after Thanksgiving. Yes, you will have eaten your weight in stuffing already and you will have a refrigerator full of leftovers. But you deserve to be rewarded for everything you’re about to do. Trust me.
  5. Order turkey. Fresh is ideal if possible.

ONE WEEK AHEAD: Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 27 2011

Why We Celebrate Halloween

By at 1:36 pm

halloween candyHalloween is on Monday. I can’t stand Halloween.

I’ve never really enjoyed dressing up, and I find the constant ringing of the doorbell annoying. Besides, most of the candy isn’t even chocolate, so what’s the point? Before our daughters got old enough to notice the proliferation of pumpkins and skeletons and witches in our neighborhood, my husband and I had a long-standing tradition of turning off all the lights and hiding upstairs. We were Halloween curmudgeons, and we loved it.

Our dislike of the holiday hasn’t changed much since we became parents, but we have started acknowledging it. I took the girls to a pumpkin patch, and we’ll be painting our pumpkins tonight. Our younger daughter will be a monkey this year because it was the cheapest costume available at Costco, and our older daughter will be a ladybug, because that was the only costume we could find that met both of our requirements: she was desperate for a tank-top dress (tank-tops are her latest obsession; a decidedly unhelpful one as winter approaches), and I insisted that the ensemble be reasonably modest—a surprisingly challenging task given that we were looking for size 3T. Who dresses their preschooler up like a slutty doctor? (That’s not a rhetorical question, people. I’d like names, please. There needs to be a conversation here.)

We’re going to a small Halloween party at a neighbor’s house. We’ll go trick or treating in our town center, gathering candy from the local merchants and admiring the murals that neighborhood children have painted on their windows. I hope that in a few years my girls will be painting them, too. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 22 2011

The Saturday Dilemma

By at 12:58 pm

I suppose I should start by apologizing to my friends. Well, just a few of them. The Jewish ones. Who have kids. That are old enough to be in Hebrew school.

You see, we scheduled my daughter’s 3rd birthday party for a Saturday morning.
I know. It’s a shanda.

It wasn’t a mistake. We weren’t thoughtless about it. We weighed all of our options, and decided to go with Saturday morning. (I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse.) Of course, I feel compelled to explain our decision. Or maybe defend it. Or both.

We thought about Sunday morning, but we’ve just signed the baby up for music class and the big girl up for swimming. The classes are both on Sundays precisely so we can go to services on Saturdays. But our preschooler isn’t old enough to start the preschool program at our synagogue, and we only have Tot Shabbat once a month. So, we have three weeks each month when we may go to services, or go for a hike or hang out with friends, or do something else that doesn’t involve errands or electronics. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 15 2011

It’s the Jewish Day of Love

By at 1:09 pm

It can be a rude shock to come home after a dreamy vacation, but it helps when that first Monday is Tu B’Av, the Jewish holiday of Love.

And yay! whoopee! goody! That’s today!

“Tu B’Av” literally means the 15th day of the month of Av, which corresponds to the full moon that usually wanders through the sky in all its shining corpulent glory sometime during August every year. If you had a glimpse of Her Silvery Majesty glowing amongst the stars this weekend, you might agree with the notion that our closest heavenly body is looking particularly stunning lately. Perhaps all that global warming is doing wonders for her complexion?

Peoples around the globe have always related the moon to fertility, sexuality, femininity and emotional fluidity, and Tu B’Av is a simple celebration of all that. It’s a pretty minor holiday by Jewish standards, with no real religious obligations or special foods or complex rituals—for 19 centuries the only acknowledgment of it was the omission of prayer of penitence during the morning prayer services. attributes it to a matchmaking festival for the unattached ladies of the Second Temple era, who would dress in white and check out suitors while dancing in the vineyards (how very Bacchanalian of our ancestors!)

These days it’s basically Israel’s version of Valentine’s Day, with a similar industry of gift-giving and partying down. Its popularity could have much to do with it taking place hot on the heels of last week’s very, very depressing “holiday” of Tisha B’Av, a fast day that’s the culmination of three weeks of mourning for the many hideous and awful things that have happened to the Jewish people on the Ninth day of Av throughout the millennia. Tisha B’Av is the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day of Judaism, and Tu B’Av is a fine way to remember that life can be effortless and lovely once in a full moon.

Even if you didn’t fast on Tisha B’Av or even remember to light a yahrzeit candle because you were up in the mountains without a cell phone or internet let alone a Jewish calendar and were called out later on your Facebook page by a religious friend for being a bad Jew, don’t let that stop you from swilling a little hooch and boogie-ing down under the full moon. After all, I—ahem—we can always repent on Yom Kippur. (Technically, Tu B’Av began last night at sundown and ends tonight, but heck, as mountain wisdom dictates: If the bottle’s already open, you might as well finish it.)

Of course, love and the moon are hardly bound by traditions or religion or even our own minds, so here’s a soundtrack that captures the simple joy of Tu B’Av by the Plain White T’s (none of whom are Jewish, despite attempts to find a few agreeable degrees of separation). Remember to sway to the rhythm of love today and all days!

The post first appeared on Jessica’s blog Check it out, you won’t regret it.

Aug 10 2011

How I Observed Tisha B’Av

By at 11:06 am

Yesterday, Jews all over the world observed Tisha B’Av, the commemoration of the destruction of the First and Second Temples. Observance consists of refraining from luxuries such as wearing leather shoes (not an issue for this vegan), showering (not an issue for this overwhelmed mama), and not eating (a very big issue for this lover-of-food who is still nursing and can on most days use that as my excuse for constantly eating).

Not all Jews observe Tisha B’Av, and we don’t all observe it in the same way, but I find observing this day as a reminder that we are literally and figuratively living in exile. I was not raised religious, but I have come to find this day life-affirming and beautiful in its tragedy and complexity.

However, as the mother of an almost 3 and almost 6 year old, I struggle to find ways to explain the day to them. My older son knows the Temples were destroyed and he finds it sad–in an age-appropriate way–that Jews weren’t allowed to practice our religion and that the Babylonians and the Romans desecrated our Temple and all the things that we believed in. However, that’s about as far as it goes for him.

His day doesn’t stop simply because I am not eating. He still needs breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and snacks in between. He still rejoices in small pleasures: a new set of marbles (with a “shooter”), buying party favors for his brother’s upcoming birthday party, the way our cat rolls on the carpet in the sun to warm up. These things bring joy to my son every day, including on Tisha B’Av, when laughter, rejoicing, and celebration are significantly tempered among adults.

The beauty of this day is that in all of its sadness and profundity, we see as parents that life goes on. I may sit on the floor in mourning in disheveled clothing and feel heavy and sad, but you cannot ignore the innocence of a child even through a lens of focusing on death and sadness. I wondered today what children were like in the time of the Temple’s destruction. They must have been devastated and it must have been a tremendously tragic existence to live amidst all of that sadness. But I also know that children then, as now, rejoiced at a set of new marbles. They rejoiced when they were generous simply because they felt generosity well up inside of them. They rejoiced when they observed the wonders of the world. Just like my son did today.

Being a Jewish parent means living with tension no matter what you practice or how or why. How do we embrace our past while allowing our children to move into their own future? We can’t stop their rejoicing any more than we would want to quash their innocence and we also can’t stop them from hurting any more than we would want to shelter them from reality.

To every thing, there certainly is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.

Read about why Mayim doesn’t have a nanny, how she studies on the set of The Big Bang Theory, and why she breastfeeds a toddler.


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