Dec 4 2014
Recently, the woman behind the blog XO, Isabel got in touch with us with the above image and following message:
Proud of my nephew, Sammy. His teacher gave his class a writing assignment to do a “Dear Santa” letter and tell him what they wanted for Christmas. Given that he’s Jewish, he had the choice to either not do the assignment, citing his beliefs, or to have a little fun. I’m glad he chose to have a little fun.
We’re proud of you too, Sammy. And we really hope you get the Infinity Version 2.0 Marvel Superheroes Edition. And that Santa joins in on the fun.
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Dec 2 2014
A couple weeks ago my kids had picture day at their school. We prepared well, I think. One kid got a haircut, both kids had showers the night before, and my husband was successful in scrubbing the week-old tattoo off my 5-year-old’s arm so it didn’t spend eternity front and center in her class picture. Instructions were given (eat breakfast and brush your teeth before getting dressed) and clothes were laid out. My daughter even willingly put on the dress she had picked out without flaking on me and changing her mind at the last minute.
And yet, all day long at work I fretted over how the pictures would turn out. Please, I thought to myself, somebody make sure there’s no dried-up snot or food crumbs stuck to their clothes or faces. Please, let them not smash their faces into anything, lest they have a busted lip in their school picture like my son did when he was 3. Let them show some semblance of happiness so that when they look back on their school pictures years from now, they (and their parents) are satisfied with what they see. Let the grossly insane amount of money we shell out for school pictures these days be worth it! Amen. Read the rest of this entry →
Nov 20 2014
Nearly two weeks ago, I received a phone call from my son’s kindergarten teacher that has stayed with me. My first thought upon seeing the school’s number on caller ID was “Uh-oh, who did what now?” Though I am generally a positive person and I have been blessed with children who, for the most part, seem to thrive in school, for some reason, a call from that number always makes me think the worst.
Even after the teacher reassured me that, “Everything is OK,” I still found myself holding my breath, anxious to hear what was coming next. I was pleasantly surprised when she said that she was calling because my son had done something in class that brought her, the other teachers, and the rabbi great nachas—the Hebrew word for pride. Read the rest of this entry →
Nov 13 2014
School lunches are my enemy.
Well, not the actual lunches, just the process of making them. You see, my kids go to a Jewish Day School, which means that their lunches must either be parve or dairy. I have no problem with that, as we keep kosher and therefore won’t make the mistake of accidentally sending in shellfish or a ham sandwich. Rather, the issue I have with lunches is that my kids constantly tell me how they no longer eat this or no longer like that. They change their minds as often as a new parent changes a diaper.
My kids eat perfectly well at dinner time, despite sometimes saying that they don’t like something my husband or I are serving. But lunch is a different story. Things that they would normally eat at home or even order in a restaurant are somehow off-limits when they come out of a lunchbox. I don’t get it. Read the rest of this entry →
Nov 11 2014
“My daughter, the Hebrew School dropout.” Those weren’t exactly the words I had in mind when I enrolled Hannah in Hebrew school when she was in kindergarten. And all went well for a few years…until there were some rumblings in 5th grade. But I gamely ignored them, and we soldiered on.
And then middle school hit like a tsunami. Hannah was normally a fairly calm, methodical kid. Not anymore. Her anxiety levels spiked as her secular school workload increased. She placed high expectations on herself, expecting straight A’s every marking period. I remember begging her, “Get a B. Just get a B in something and you will see that the world won’t end.”
Add in a long drive to Hebrew school and an extra two hours of class once a week, and Hannah was on the verge of cracking. When she came home from Hebrew school she would sob in my arms. She didn’t connect socially with her peers and she wasn’t learning anything new. She would stay up late at night to finish her homework and then do cartwheels and handsprings in her bedroom to calm her nerves. It was wearing both of us out. Read the rest of this entry →
Nov 5 2014
It’s the season again—my children, ages 9 and 11—are in a hundred thousand different activities between them. That’s my own fault—I accept full responsibility for the daily scheduling insanity that is my Google calendar. But what I don’t get—maybe someone out there can shed some light for me—is why, why when I ask my children’s teachers, coaches, and activity leaders to kindly (I always use the word “kindly” in my request) email both my husband and me with their frequent updates, these seemingly competent people seem unable (I won’t go so far as to call it unwilling) to add a father’s email to their distribution list?
I’m the kind of parent who wants to play with you—we’re trying to do the right thing in our home. I will sign up for snack and remember to bring it, and with god as my witness, it will be nut-free. I will make sure my daughter brings in a recyclable container to make a new home for an insect without ever questioning whether it is better for the insect to remain outdoors. I will bring my son to his special needs soccer practice an hour early for group photos, to run around the field with the Philly fanatic, to partake of a special snack from our local food co-op—whatever damn thing you want the kid to do, he shall arrive on time for it and do that thing!
But I can’t manage to make the magic happen on my own—I need that guy, my husband Fred, who is my partner in co-parenting our kids, to get the reminder, too. We work best when our aging brains can act as wonder-twins and remember that this is the night that the piano teacher’s benefit is happening and all of the students are strongly encouraged to attend. Read the rest of this entry →
Sep 2 2014
In the middle of an exhausting, first year of teaching in a public high school in southern Massachusetts, I, like most teachers who come in contact with hundreds of students every day, contracted a virus, and took my first sick day. In the middle of that sick day, I got a call from the gym teacher, who I hardly knew.
“Are you OK?” He sounded reluctant to ask. Something had happened in my classroom while I was out, but he wouldn’t say what. He was shocked that no other staff had called me. He wished me well and got off the phone quickly.
When I returned to school, I demanded to know what had happened. My department chair said it was “an unfortunate incident,” and that I should talk to the principal. I finally wrangled it out: a student had spray-painted a swastika on my classroom floor and etched another swastika on my chalkboard. Something about Jews had been scrawled but only partially erased, probably so that no one would be able to identify the handwriting.
Both the chalkboard and floor were scrubbed clean before I returned. Read the rest of this entry →
School just started here. With my boys starting first and fourth grade, I’m reminded of when I moved to this small town in 1986, when I was 7 years old. We moved from East Brunswick, New Jersey to Lake Mary, Florida.
Lake Mary is a charming, beautiful suburb of Orlando. It was recently named one of the top 10 places to live for families in Family Circle Magazine. I have no complaints about my parents’ decision to move here. But we might have been among the first Jews to move in. My Jewish family up North was so certain that we were being moved to the actual “Bible Belt” that they mistakenly referred to it as “Saint Mary.”
Although my parents aren’t very observant, they were acutely aware that it would be a bit of a culture shock to move from a state where Jews were everywhere to a place where we had to travel 30 minutes to find a theater that played the latest Woody Allen movie. Looking back, I think they handled it really well. Read the rest of this entry →
Sitting at my rising 6th grader’s middle school orientation, I was reminded, once again, that rearing our kids in a secular society can be a tricky proposition.
There it was, up on the PowerPoint slide: “Meet the Teacher Night: Wednesday, September 24th, 2014, at 7:00pm.”
September 24th…September 24th. Sounded familiar. A frantic check on my iPhone confirmed it; September 24th is the first night of Rosh Hashanah this year. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 7 2014
When I received a call that my 5-year-old son was being a bully at camp, I felt as if I had failed as a mother. Outrage quickly followed the humiliation, as I imagined a scenario in which my child would intentionally bother another child. By the time I arrived at camp at the end of the day to collect him, I had worked through an entire spectrum of emotions, but I vowed I would listen to his explanation and try to contain myself. There is always another side to the story after all, and at the risk of sounding defensive, I know my child. And he is not a bully.
From the conversation I had with my son, I gleaned that there was an altercation during a soccer game and both boys had been aggressive. When the other child tried to take the ball my son lashed out and was sidelined. He was remorseful and assured me he would try harder to get along with this particular boy in the future. Together we reflected on alternative ways that he could have reacted to the situation and how he might control his anger going forward. I then informed him of what the repercussions would be if I ever heard another discouraging report like this again.
Now that I have had several days to ruminate on the situation, I realize that the main source of my angst is the word bully itself, and I think it is time we reevaluate the usefulness of this term. Below are five reasons I think we should stop using this word so haphazardly. Read the rest of this entry →