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Sep 8 2014

So You Want to Go On Vacation With Five Kids?

By at 10:05 am
Jordana-family-pic-par-excellence

Family picture par excellence.

 

About two weeks ago, I came back from a two-week family “vacation” in Europe. Our group was four adults (me, my husband, and my parents) and my five children–three of them aged 3 and under. Nine suitcases, two of them duffel bags full of diapers, wipes, bottles, and baby food. And three strollers.

It was wonderful. And I have only just now recovered from it.

Have you ever fantasized about taking a big trip with your little ones? If so, read on for some unsolicited advice. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 17 2014

How to “Do Jewish” in Huntsville, Alabama

By at 1:57 pm

Jewish-in-Alabama

It was two days before our visit to family in Alabama. Feeling hopeful, I Googled “Huntsville kosher.” Nothing useful came up. I tried “Jewish Huntsville.” Not much better. Finally, with “Huntsville synagogue,” a Conservative shul and a Chabad center surfaced,­ neither of which had weekday services or kosher food. I sighed and went to pack a few boxes of granola bars.

Figuring out how to “do Jewish” in different locations is always on my to­-do list before a trip, but some cities make that job easier than others. We hadn’t even left and I was already feeling disconnected from our usual community.

Even my children thought to do some advance scouting of the Jewish landscape. They asked me if the family member we were visiting was Jewish (yes) and if he kept kosher (no). I explained that the place where we were staying had a kitchen and that we’d be arranging for our own food, which would all be kosher. That seemed to satisfy them.  Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 9 2014

Should I Cancel My Family Vacation to Israel?

By at 4:03 pm

A camel beside a car in Israel

In two weeks, I am scheduled to visit Israel with my family, including my two young daughters. We have been talking about this trip with them for weeks, excitedly planning each detail. My 4-year-old has learned a great deal about Israel in her preschool this year. She knows about the shuk (market) and the beaches. She knows the signs we will see with Hebrew letters and the food we might taste. She knows the Passover story and about how the Jewish people fled slavery in Egypt and came to Israel. But most important, she has told us about the notes to God she plans to put into the Kotel (Western Wall).

While I have a strong desire to show my children Israeli culture and Jewish holy sites, a major impetus for this trip was also to visit my 93-year-old grandmother, who recently lost her younger brother. I also want to see my aunts, uncles, cousins, and my wife’s cousins along with all their young children–all people who I love and miss.

Of course, as I write this, rockets are raining down on Israel, traveling ever deeper into its heart. Tens of thousands of reservists are being called up and more than a million Israelis are in bomb shelters. Air raid sirens can be heard in major cities like Tel Aviv, and Twitter and YouTube allow us all to see this in real time. Read the rest of this entry →

What If I Don’t Want to Go to England With My Son?

By at 2:20 pm

Boy using computer at school

In those halcyon days when I knew everything about parenting (i.e. before I had children), I worked as a television researcher for figure skating. Because figure skating is a sport where potential Olympic contenders have to start intensive instruction at a relatively young age, a good percentage of the athletes I worked with were forced to move away from home in order to work with a championship coach at an elite training center. Some did it while of high school-age, while others were as young as 12 or even 10. Most ended up either living in dormitories or with local host families.

As a childless parenting expert, I knew exactly what I would have done in their mothers’ places. If I ever had a kid who I sincerely believed would benefit from living away from home, whether in the name of athletics or academics or what have you, then, without a doubt, I would relocate with them. (Which is exactly what 1994 Olympic Champion Tara Lipinski’s mother did, leaving her husband behind in their home in Texas, while she and Tara lived in Delaware and Detroit.)

As of this writing, I do not have a future Olympic champion on my hands. Nor do I have one of those kids who enrolls at Harvard or MIT at age 12.  Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 25 2014

I Won’t Let My Fear of Travel Hamper My Son’s Curiosity About the World

By at 12:26 pm

road-trip

Growing up, my parents liked to take Sunday drives around the scenic parts of Connecticut: to watch changing leaves, visit aging relatives, drive over covered bridges. During one of these outings, I fell asleep in the car and when I woke up, I asked my parents if we were in Texas.

Their shock and horror likely prompted them to make the generous offer, some years later, to send me abroad my junior year of college: a last-ditch effort to provide me with some geographical context. I declined, citing a commitment to my position in student government. Obviously the Brandeis Student Senate would suffer mightily in my absence. I stuck with that story, even in my own mind, for a long time.

All that year, I received postcards from friends in Israel, London, Spain, Australia. They told tales of impromptu weekend trips to Florence, milking cows on a kibbutz in southern Israel, and late-night rendezvouses with strangers encountered in youth hostels. What could possibly make me choose “Robert’s Rules of Order” over these exotic adventures? Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 10 2014

A Hawaiian Vacation is So Romantic… Unless You Bring Your Baby

By at 9:47 am

hawaii

When you think of Hawaii, you think beautiful beaches, hula dancers, volcanoes, and– perhaps most importantly–ROMANCE!

There’s a reason the tropical islands are among the top honeymoon destinations year after year, right? Lying on the sand, snuggling up with the love of your life, watching a beautiful sunset while drinking your fourth Mai Tai–it is paradise.

But that’s not how it panned out when I went to Hawaii with my husband, my 13-month-old daughter, and my parents recently. Actually, “romantic” was the last adjective that came to mind. Somehow the getaway felt more like a business trip. Just as a business trip can include a gorgeous location, phenomenal people, and delicious food where you leave learning a bit more about yourself, a trip like this was–for me–more than a bit of work. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 30 2013

How to Prepare for a Family Slumber Party

By at 2:47 pm

babe

Over the summer, we had a disastrous experience staying in a hotel room with our 2-year-old and 5-year-old.

Our 2-year-old had been in a bed for a month and we had managed to find a budget hotel with a pull-out couch so everyone had a bed. We left after dinner with the idea that we would just put the kids back to sleep when we arrived at the hotel. That worked well enough.

But, at 4 in the morning, when my son needed a glass of water, my daughter (the 2-year-old) woke up and started singing and chatting. She had her own room at home and wasn’t used to being with the rest of us. No matter how much we told our son not to respond to her, he couldn’t resist. And that was the end of sleep.

This was a frustrating experience in itself. However, it made us very nervous about our holiday travel when we would all be staying in a room together again for five nights. I injected the hope that she would be more pliable at that point, as she would be a few months shy of being 3 years old. However, we decided to prepare. Historically, the kids have had some “sleepovers” in her room with him on the floor in a sleeping bag. So, for Hanukkah, we gave her a sleeping bag of her own. We started having sleepovers in his room, too, to get her used to the idea both of being in a sleeping bag and the practices of being quiet during the night. (Thank you, Hanukkah, for giving us the extra month of training this year.) Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 18 2013

How in the World Do I Pack for Four Kids?

By at 2:51 pm

suitcase packed for vacationWhen I finish packing for this [expletive deleted] cruise, I will need a vacation.

That is what I found myself muttering as I brushed my hair back out of my eyes. In doing so, I wrote on my face with the permanent Sharpie marker that I’d been using to label Ziploc bags full of clothes in every size, for every possible sort of climate. Mike Tyson’s facial tattoo ain’t got nothin’ on me.

This Ziploc thing is me fighting my nature: I am a naturally disorganized person. I am definitely one of those people who sees my messiness as a sign of my creativity and latent genius. My lack of organization (or, as my mother has called it somewhat pejoratively, “slovenliness”), never bothered me back in my pre-child life. When I was looking for my black lace bra, I’d know it was probably on either the chair in my bedroom or under my dresser. Problem solved. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 1 2013

A Change in Travel Plans–and a Reminder to Let Go of Control

By at 12:59 pm

family waiting in the airportGetting to and from the airport is sometimes a challenge when we visit my in-laws in Maryland; we are six people and they don’t have a minivan. In an effort to make things easier on my in-laws, we’ve been flying in and out of the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in DC when visiting them, since there is a metro right at the airport, instead of flying into the Baltimore Washington International Airport.

So that’s what we did last Friday when we landed in D.C. Sure, it wasn’t a breeze taking the metro from the airport to their town in Silver Spring with four cranky kids, three suitcases, three backpacks, and a guitar after traveling for two and half hours on an airplane, but it was doable and we know helpful it was to Nana and Zaide. We decided, however, to make the trip to the airport more convenient for the way home, and so we came up with the perfect, not to mention, stress-free grand plan. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 24 2012

Flying Internationally With Kids is a Lot Like Giving Birth

By at 9:54 am

Flying internationally can be rough. It’s a lot of hours to be cooped up in an oversized bus with 300 strangers, stale air, and chicken or beef. But flying internationally with children is not unlike the process of childbirth itself. Hours of torture followed by sleepless nights and only a fleeting sense of accomplishment.

It begins many months before. You buy your tickets knowing there will be some amount of discomfort involved though you figure, how hard could it be? People have been flying with their kids for at least half a century. But seasoned parents are frank with you. Get your sleep now. Don’t get too excited about your personal video player since you’ll be nursing your baby the entire flight. You nod but secretly you think it will be different for you. Read the rest of this entry →

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