Friday, December 27, 2013

Is Israel really a Jewish Saudi Arabia?

I've been reading a bit more about the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, and I can't help but wonder if at the end of the day Israel is a Jewish Saudi Arabia?  No, they don't make all women cover themselves from head to toe, and yes, women can travel alone, talk to anyone they want and drive their own cars.

But who's to say that a halahic state is much different than a sharia state?

It's true that in Israel there is a large secular community, and a strong social existence that flies in the face of some of the halacha... however, should you wan to get married, be buried, or have your adopted child be recognized as a Jew then see what counts.

Why all the fuss?  The Orthodox is the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, who is in charge of the spiritual and religious life of Jews in Israel, is also in charge of marriages, divorces, conversions, and determining 'who is a Jew.'

'Who is a Jew' is a particularly tricky question.  Laws for the right of return are significantly different than laws for marriage.  You can immigrate to Israel as a Jew under the right of return, and then be denied the right to marry as a Jew all in the same breath.

It's a difficult thing to discuss, because Israel has an interesting blend of secular laws, and a religious governing body.  Want to walk through some sections of old Jerusalem as a women in a tank-top?  Perhaps you should be prepared to be harrassed.

Want to drive in a car on a Saturday?  Prepare to be faced with blocked roads and streets.  Turn down the wrong block, possibly have your car stoned.

So, is it really a free state?  Can you really be non-religious?  How do we, as American Jews, understand the complex differences in status that we would face should we make aliyah?

I don't know what would happen if I were to move to Israel.  Would I be considered 'Jewish?'  I've lived my whole life Jewish.  I'm raising a Jewish family, and I've never thought about being anything other than what I am.  But do I have the documents to prove it?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Awkward Questions other people's kids ask

A few nights ago our neighbors asked us to watch their kids so they could go Christmas shopping.  Our neighbors are wonderful people.  They embrace EG like she's their little sister, and all the kids over there tolerate her running into their games, or bringing them their shoes for the 15th time (one of her favorite tricks!).

However, when we were watching them last night, there were a number of those awkward moments.

The first was when EG wanted a 'baba.'  Though she'd already had 18oz of milk at school (I know, wowza!) she didn't have a great dinner (served a great one, didn't eat anything but tomatoes!), and has been having some really terrible diaper rash.  So, of course, I started to heat one up for her.  One of the kids asked why EG has her milk warmed.

The answer, in my mind, to why this was, is that EG was breastfed as a baby, and since the milk comes from my body, it comes out warm.  When we switched EG to cow's milk, she wanted it to be warm, just like my milk was.  But that's not what I said.  I said that she likes her milk warm, it's easier for babies to digest, and that most babies drink warm milk.  I clarified that though EG is 18months old, she still has this habit from being a baby.  But I didn't really answer the question.

I don't know how my neighbors feel about breastfeeding.  I'm also not quite sure how they would feel about me talking about my breasts with their children... no, I don't think talking about breastfeeding is gross or sexual, but I can't speak for everyone.

Moving on through the night, we were putting EG into her bath.  I've already mentioned the bad diaper rash, which made her not want to sit in the bathtub. So, out we came, and decided to go have a shower.  She's an independent little chick, so she didn't want to get carried or wrapped up in a towel.  So out she walks, naked as the day she was born.  Another awkward moment.  No, I don't think it's inappropriate for people to see an under 18month old child naked.  But at the same time, they aren't my kids... whoops!

Then we finally get EG down for bed, and the kids are all fed.  Delightful children, they even took in their own plates and offered to help clean up.  We sit down by the couch for some Mary Poppins and one of the kids asks me when we are getting the Christmas tree.

Umm... hmmm.  They know we're a Jewish family, but I also know that there parents don't know anything about Judaism.  They may have learned something in school about it, but its definitely not something they've been exposed to.  We showed them our Menorah earlier this month, gave them some driedels, and fed them some latkes.  But that's not the same thing as entering the extremely complicated discussion around Christmas trees.

These kids believe in Santa.  They know there parents get them presents, but Santa is magical.  How come EG doesn't need a tree?  What will happen with Santa. 

So I dodge the question. I don't admit that we won't have a Christmas tree.  That even if we did have a tree, it would be a 'tree of david' not a christmas tree... le sigh...  I just say that I don't think it's going to happen this year.  That we've been busy and are traveling, etc. 

Is that a cop-out?  How do you explain to an 8 and 5 year old that you are different.  Especially when you don't know where their parents stand.

Have you had awkward moments with other people's kids recently? 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas morning

Happy Christmas morning to you!  I hope you had a restful night of sleep, or perhaps you were at midnight mass, or opening presents late in to the night enjoying the songs and festive atmosphere (I think that's part of midnight mass, I may not be 100% correct on that!) Either way, Merry Christmas!

When I was growing up we didn't have any Christian family where were lived here in sunny Southern California.  And since it was CA, there wasn't any snow on the ground, or any place to go buy hot apple cider, so we had a relatively non-eventful Christmas morning.  What was eventful, though, was the fact that my Dad was home for the day.

We started off Christmas morning with my Dad's wonderful eggs with mushrooms and onions.  This is an amazing dish that I still haven't managed to get exactly right.  Somehow, his will always, always be better than mine...  Yummy.

Typically my sister had someone's house she was invited over to, but I always preferred to spend the day with my Dad.  We would go out onto the streets, which were amazingly empty. An amazing quality of clean, and fresh and free.  Yet odd and totally out of place.  Just like the picture below...

We'd drive straight down El Toro road and head for the golf course.  Of course, it was 'technically' closed, but it's impossible to really close a golf course, especially one that is connected to a public park like this one is.  It's a small, 9-hole course.  Nothing to challenging, but when you are 9, it's amazing. 

I loved to golf with my Dad.  He'd take me about every two months or so, but Christmas morning was the best.  No one waiting behind us.  No tee time we just had to make.  Just me and him and a lot of green empty space.  I didn't have to take a mulligans to keep things moving.  I could try and try again if I really wanted to.  Sometimes we'd keep score, but really it was just such as sweet, lovely time.
When we went back the next time the course was open my Dad would tell the owner that we'd come to play over Christmas morning.  He would tell us that was wonderful, and waive the fee for playing. 

Such wonderful Christmas mornings.

What does your Christmas morning look like?  Is it different than when you were a child?  

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Crafts with Kids Drawings

EG has recently fallen in love with crayons and markers.  She's finally discovered a love of coloring and drawing.  I'm honestly thrilled for her. It's such a good activity and one I know will bring her lots of joy through the years, not to mention quiet play time for mom.

Of course, at this stage her drawings are really more like scribbles, but I want to be prepared for when she becomes a more prolific drawer.  Here are a few ideas of what to do with those drawings:

1.  Send them to Operation Gratitude.  Some soldiers don't get a lot of mail, and Operation Gratitude goes above and beyond by sending a nice care package.  They include a letter in each package, and as you can see from the link, the soldier's love kids notes and drawings too.  Your little one may not be able to write a nice note, but a cute drawing or scribbles with a few words from mom works just as nicely!

2. Thank you Cards.  I love using EG's hand print on my thank you cards, and now that she's scribbling too, it's nice to have her fill in a bit on a regular card, or take one of her scribbles and mail it out.  Of course, you still have to do the writing, but I find the drawings and hand prints are really appreciated.  Plus you're teaching your little one to be thankful for what she's been given.  A good lesson that goes a LONG way!

3. Make 'adult art'This tutorial by SquashBlossom is great.  Using your kids scribbles to create an art piece of their bedroom or bathroom is a great idea.  Kudo's if yours comes out as nicely as hers did!

4. Give them another material.  It may be a touch messier, but the scribbles your child creates with pastels or charcoals will be very interesting.  It can really change the way you look at your child's art by giving them something slightly more artistic to work with than just crayons.

5. Make paper garlands. Scribble drawings can be great this time of year.  They are easily turned into snowflakes, paper garlands, or confetti for wrapping items.  It can be really cute to cut out a scribble in the shape of stars, etc, and use them to string around their room.

6. Make a changing gallery.  There are lots of ways to do this.  A string with clothespins, pants hangers, matching frames that are easy to take down, or these specially made frames that open from the front.  I've been thinking of adding something like this above EG's playspace.  It's something I don't have to worry about her destroying, and it's also something that will add a bit of color to the space.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Art of Reading

I recently stumbled across this article in The Tablet online magainze, whose headline made me think scary thoughts, but whose actual content was less than exciting.

However, right down at the end of the article is a very scary proposition:

"a woman who took it upon herself to “childproof” Harry Potter as she read it aloud to her son, making it less scary and more respectful of authority, even changing the text so that Voldemort didn’t kill Harry’s parents."

HOLY WHAT!  Now, don't get me wrong, I believe that as a parent you have an obligation to ensure that your child is reading appropriate material.  To different people that means different things, and to some families that means no Harry Potter at all (all that magical nonense, etc.).  However, taking a book and drastically changing the story line to edit out the scary parts or the parts you don't agree with... TRAVESTY.

Can you imagine what happens to this poor child when he innocently joins a conversation about Harry Potter?  How his entire reading of the book is in fact a falsehood of lies and misunderstandings?

What does he do when he finds out that the person who lied to him, who told him the story wrong, was his own mother...?

Ouch, just incredible.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Book Review: Blessings of a Skinned Knee

The Blessings of a Skinned Knee

Probably one of the best books I read.  I borrowed it from the library, but immediately went onto and signed up to receive a copy. It's parenting wisdom from a Jewish perspective, and includes lots of Torah commentary, and specific portions to relate to.  It's broken down into chapters of 'blessings,' each of which covers something unique and different for the art of parenting.
  1. The blessing of acceptance: discovering your unique and ordinary child.  This is a wonderful chapter.  It's honestly empowering to connect with the concept that my child is both special and ordinary at the same time.  To know that in everyway possible my child is absolutely different than anyone else, and in ways that no one else ever will be... but at the same time, that it's beneath me to believe that he or she will be good at everything, all the time.  That each child has strengths and weaknesses, and the first step to helping your child succeed is to accept those.

  2. The blessing of having someone to look up to: honoring father and mother.  I didn't think I would like this chapter, but I really do.  It sort of harkens back to the commentary about being a 'Yes' mom.  You know, that Mom who says, 'yes,' you can play with the playdough on the kitchen table 30 minutes before dinner because I know when I tell you to clean it up you will.  Rather than the 'no' mom, because you'll have to ask 6 times and don't want the hassle.  Learning to respect your parents goes a lot farther than just listening to them.  She gives lots of good examples in this chapter.

  3. The blessing of a skinned knee: why G-d doesn't want you to overprotect your child.  LOVE IT!  I want to be a free spirit, and EG is already showing that she's an independent little miss.  This shares good boundaries, and the concept of 'knowing the norms.'  She says that in her neighborhood 8 year olds can walk to school together.  Whats the 'norm' of your location?

  4. The blessing of work: finding the Holy sparks in ordinary chores. We watched Mary Poppins last night, and this is 'in every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.'  However, it is also a throughly Jewish perspective.  That each day we can make choice to elevate our choices, find the Holy, or not.  That's why we pray before we eat, to elevate the holiness, and remind ourselves that we are more than just animals that need food.

  5. The blessing of longing: teaching your child an attitude of gratitude,
  6. The blessing of food: bringing moderation, celebration, and sacrifice to your table
  7. The blessing of self-control: channeling your child's Yetzer Hara.
  8. The blessing of time: teaching your child the value of the present moment 
  9. The blessings of faith and tradition: losing your fear of the G word and introducing your child to spirituality.  I loved this chapter, and it's such a great endingOne of the greatest differences I find in Christianity and Judaism is this concept that 'Jesus loves you.'  I don't really remember growing up hearing that G-d loved me, but I know that he does.  This chapter really explores the idea that we are loved, and that it's okay to show your child how much G-d does in the world.  Exploring the little things.
I didn't go into each chapter, need to leave something for you to read about, however I think this is a fantastic book.  Like I said, after getting it from the library, it's one of the ones that I went out and bought immediately.


Thursday, December 19, 2013


I've been thinking a lot about sacrifices this week.  For Working Dad and I we are back in a time period where sacrifices are necessary for and from each of us.

There are some things that I've been sacrificing for years.  To name a few, sunlight in the morning waking me up.  Creamy peanut butter.  Yes, I know what you are thinking. I should call these 'compromises' not sacrifices.  But honestly, they definitely feel like sacrifices somedays.

Then there are the things that you've started to do without noticing.  The TV shows your watching now, the way you use Olive oil instead of butter, or you've grown accustomed to a different brand of milk (1% vs non-fat).

Everyday we have to make choices.  Choices that we make to improve our lives, or change our lives, or just to get from one part of the day to the other.  And with these choices comes a sort of statement.  About the parent you are.  The friend you are.  The husband or wife you are.

I feel like this is typically the moment when people talk about all the sacrifices that go into parenting. And yes, there are a lot.  For me, right now, not being able to have both of us leave the house after 7 without arranging other care arrangements, and a night at the movie costing almost $100 (yeah babysitting!) are among the biggest complaints.  But I'm not really here to talk about that.

What I want to say is that sometimes the biggest sacrifice we make is letting our little ones or our spouses do for themselves.  My job in life is not to wait on EG.  Nor is it to wait on Working Dad.  We are in a partnership.  With EG my role right now is very, very hands-on.  I mean, she doesn't know how to blow out her nose yet... but my end goal as a parent is to create a self sufficient adult human being.

We can get into the stages of development, and how it's possibly inappropriate to call my 18 month-old a young 3 year old.  But the reality is that no matter how you look at it, she still grows up.  G-d willing to be here long after I'm gone...

So how do I do that?  Sometimes, by not making the sacrifices.  By showing her how two adults respond to each other in a loving committed relationship.  By occasionally making myself a priority- because I am responsible for myself.  Not Working Dad, not my parents, but me.

It's a challenge, but it's something I'm committed to.  Teaching EG what are the behaviors of a self-sufficient adult.  Sometimes that means waking up each morning in the dark.  And sometimes it means saying that I need a break, and I'm using butter for my eggs.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Exuberant Girl Strikes again

This past weekend we met up with the classmates of EG for a little outside of school social time.  We walked to the local park at the appointed time, and happily were swinging when the first other kids showed up.

Shortly after child #1 came EG's favorite friend from school.  So in love is she with this other toddler, she's even named her doll after her.  Yup, call that love.  Let's call this adorable little girl M, just so we can watch the story develop.

Before Working Dad and I were married we went on a cruise to Alaska with his family.  Since we were unwed at that time, I stayed in my own cabin with one of the three soon-to-be nieces sharing every night (or so.).   I remember when we were in Skagway and running into my Mother-in-law and a soaked 5 year old R.  She had fallen into the ocean after hugging a friend so fiercely on the shoreline.  I couldn't imagine how that could happen.  Now, I see it every time we run into a friend.

Back to the playgound:

It's great to see little toddler's hug each other.  Their fierce devotion, and the smiles, and giggles.  Unless, you feel the need to call it tackling.  As in, I hug you so fiercely we both fall over.  As in, I love you so much I don't want to let go, even when you are kicking your feet go get away...

Hence ensues the chase M game.  I try hard to allow poor M, who just wants to climb the stairs, to escape from EG's clutches.  Long enough for EG to roam the playground yelling enthusiastically for M.   It works out okay for a little bit as M is usually on the top of the slide when EG finds her, so not to many crazy hugging tackles.

Then comes baby T.  At least M is a touch older than EG.  A full on toddler with mite and willpower.  Little T, not so much.  EG goes running up to her, screaming her name, and collides straight into her.

T, poor dear, bursts into tears.  It breaks my heart.  When love turns wrong. 

Of course, I don't know quite what to do about this- little EG is just trying to show her love.  I talked with Working Dad about it and he thinks I'm overreacting, but I worry that no one will want to play with EG... how will she learn to control her little emotions.

It's funny, because now that I'm writing about it, I realize that this has been a long time coming.  Her favorite thing to do when she was littler was what I called the 'butt hug' where she would hug you as you crawled away.  She loves to run into my arms, just throwing herself at me with love.  And how can you not love that?

What's so bad about hugging.  And the reality is that very shortly EG's playful pals will be able to say "No touching" or "Get off me."  So, I suppose it will all work out in the end.

Do you have an 'exuberant' child?  One who is a little rough around the social edges.  G-d love her all the same.  And of course, while we're at the park another parent comments that they wish their child was as outgoing as little EG.  The grass is always greener...

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Household Budget

Do you have a household budget? 

We've been trying to figure out what to do with our finances.  We recently met with a Financial advisor who does some work for Working Dad's grandfather.  He pointed out a lot of areas that we aren't necessarily taking advantage of.  Now that we are entering 2014, I'm thinking even more about what our finances look like, and what our family is planning to do.

Before Working Dad and I got married I kept a reasonable budget for myself.  Nothing to strict, but I always managed to have money in my account.  Get what I needed,go out when I wanted, and generally take care of everything myself.

Now that we are married, with joint finances and joint accounts, things are going relatively smoothly.  Before we were parents, we were DINKS... so we were able to 'sock' away a good chunk of change.  However, since having EG and the idea of having another one coming to mind, we've taken a good look at where we stand, and what our priorities are.

Working Dad and I are not cheap living people.  That's not to say that we spend exorbitantly, but it is to say that occasionally we go to the movies, leave EG with a babysitter and spend $65 on a single movie.  And that's not chump change.  Additionally we like to eat good food- that means both out and about, as well as in our own home. 

Since we both work, it's been easy enough to keep adding to the savings, while still managing to live nicely.  When we have baby #2, it's possible that we'll need some tweeking.

Right now our idea of a 'budget' is to just spend money how we both see fit, and check the accounts to make sure things are moving forward.  We don't spend to much on extravagant purchases without the other one's okay, but it's still a bit of a loose/free-flowing system.  We don't count our dollars, and we don't notice exactly where each penny is going.

I'm thinking it's time to change that.  How do you budget?  Who does what?  Any thoughts on how to move forward?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Doing dishes, or my least favorite chore

We try to split chores in our household.  It only makes sense, since Working Dad and I both work full time.  Tpyically this is how it breaks down:

Trash, dishes, vacuuming (robot turn on!), fireplace, EG to school, helping out

Dinner, EG lunch, EG pick-up, sweeping, laundry, diapers.

We've always had a 'he who cooks shall not clean' rule in our house, but ever since we got a dishwasher I have refused to do the dishes.  I just couldn't stand it.  I grew up in a house where you scraped off the food, and put the dish in the washer.  That's what it did- it washed the dishes.  No need to scrub, no need to rinse, just open the machine and put them inside.

Since we moved into our new house, it hasn't been so easy.  First off I'll be perfectly honest.  Compared to Working Dad I suck at loading the dishwasher.  You know how all women are chastised that they shouldn't 're-do' the work their husbands do?  Well, he used to completely refill the dishwasher, since I loaded it so poorly.  This, however, wasn't the reason I stopped doing dishes.

After we would run a cycle, nothing would come out clean.  It would make me want to cry... tears would sometimes literally come down after all the hard work we did that meant nothing...cups with film, coffee cups with rings from tea left on them.  Don't even get me started on wine glasses.

So, Working Dad took over completely.  He pre-washed all the dishes, then put them in the dishwasher.  Then he had to unload it, because that was the worst part.

I begged for a new dishwasher.  From everyone I heard that I was expecting to much... that you had to rinse and scrub your dishes before you put them in.  I ask you, what is the point of a dishwasher then?  I waste of water and time?

Finally, we figured it out... Phosphate.

Our dishwasher's hadn't changed, but the detergent we put in them had.  This week we finally ran through our costco sized packages of soap and bought this:

And WOW did it make a difference.  It smelled horrible, but the moment I opened the dishwasher it was a miracle.  Clean... it was actually clean!  The glasses didn't look grimy or frosty, just clean clear glass.

No, bubble bandit didn't pay me.  Yes, it's a touch more expensive than what we used to buy at Costco.  But yes, it's totally worth it!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Chanukah Decor

Is your house decorated for Chanukah? 

I'm having a really hard time this year, since the Christmas season is just upon us, and Chanukah is long since gone.  I didn't really get around to decorating much for Chanukah this year.   With everything going on and Thanksgiving to prep for, I didn't even get the box out of the garage until the first night of Chanukah.

Then, instead of decorating on my one 1/2 day off, I spent it cleaning said garage as a Christmas present to my husband.  I think I made the right choice, but now I'm not so sure.

Our house looks kind of sad and lonely.  I've always been into decorating for the holiday season.  Last year I covered the mantle with hanging ornaments of purple, blue and silver.  Accented with Silver mirror type candles, it just danced with festive and light.

This year, the mantle is covered with photos to be hung.  The candles are still wrapped in tissue paper from being put away last year.  The Chanukah decor is sitting haphazardly on the table.  And no, there aren't any lights decorating the outside of the house.

Are you still decked out in Chanukah glory?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

South Bay Alert: Stomach Bug

Have you caught this thing?  It's quite arrgessive, it seems to be everywhere, and is ruining the early holiday season for hunderds.

The stomach bug.  It starts with vomiting, then moves onto the other end of the digestive tract.  And it's mean... so so so mean.  When you think it's finally left you, it bite back.

It all started with Darling little EG.  So innocently.  She can't talk, so when she started throwing up the natural assumption was that it was food poisoning.  We try to be good, but who knows what that tiny human is putting in her mouth.  So, out goes all the food she touched or ate...

Turns out that the school was rampant with the bug.  5 other kids in her class alone had symptoms. Casualties included two chickens, one pot roast, and a whole lasagna into the trash for the supposed food poisoning. 

Then, it hit Working Dad.  And when it hit him, it came on full force.  At least little EG managed to have it and still smile, run to the swings and move on with her life.  Poor Working Dad was crawling from the couch to the bathroom at regular intervals.... all weekend long. The guy can't catch a break.

Then it moved to Mommy.  She thought she had avoided it- and though I didn't get the brunt of it, I got enough to spend 1.5 days out of work, and a frantic car ride stopping at every mall along the 405 freeway.

Have you gotten it? 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Rosh Chodesh Class

Hello Ladies of the South Bay

Tonight is class two of the Rosh Chodesh Society Class taking place at the Manhattan Torah Center at 8pm.  I'll be there tonight, and would love it if you joined me.

Classes are $18 per session, and I've so far found them to be very rewarding.

Would love to see you there!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sick Sick, oh so sick

Goodness me, just getting our heads out of the sand!  What a difficult weekend we had, with nothing going on but family sickness.

We had plans, and some really good ones at that.  Unfortunately, that was not to be.  Not only was Working Dad sick (and I mean really sick!) but it rained all day on Saturday.

What do you get when you have one sick parent, one tired parent, and an energy filled toddler stuck indoors?  I wish I could tell you that we did wonderful Pinterest activities, but we didn't.  The house was a disaster and I only increased the craziness by baking cookies with EG.  But what a fun activity that was.

We got all the ingredients out, measured them into different bowls.  Yes, she did end up tasting a touch of raw egg, but what are you going to do sometimes :-)

Overall, the weekend wasn't a total disaster.  On Sunday we felt good enough to go to the park for an hour, then out to the Mall.  I got a free mini-facial at Origins...what fun!

Hope your weekend was better than ours!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Flying with a Toddler

The last time we flew with EG she was only 9 months old.  And I have to admit, there were moments that were hellish.  And no, I'm not exaggerating.

We flew out with the grandparents, EG and I on a totally sold Southwest flight.  I had booked EG as a lap child, both because I didn't want to pay the money, and because I thought it would be easier.  Needless to say, it was not.

G-d love both of my parents, and trust me, I certainly do, but on this plane they were not helpful.  Both of my parents are older, larger people.  Both are tall, and due to this both wanted to sit in the asile seat, which I totally understand. On the other hand, I wanted to be on the window seat, thinking that EG could look out, I could use it for support, and I would only have to worry about annoying one person, not two.

So there we are, EG and me at the window.  A perfect stranger in the middle and my mom at the aisle.  Needless to say it was not possible to let EG sit with my mother.  There was no 'passing her back and forth.'  She initially refused to nap.  We've worked very hard to teach her to sleep on her own.  (no, we don't do cry it out, but we do help her stay in her own bed...) All this meant was that sleeping in my arms on the plane was completely out of the question.

Thank G-d for my friends D&C- they had given us an amazing new toy for her birthday- a little elephant full of surprises.  This kept her gleefully entertained.  I also admit that I let her watch her first television on my kindle.  It wasn't possible to get her to sleep any other way- and this totally did the trick.

The flight home was much better with Working Dad will us, but I'm aiming high this flight.  Here's what we've done differently:

  1. Buy a Seat on the Plane. This is the single most important difference between the flight out and the flight there.  On the way home, EG could sit all comfy in her carseat.  She sleeps there regularly, so it wasn't a big deal.  I could also just strap her in, and ensure that she wasn't going to get into trouble or hurt anything.  This time around, we are doing the same.  WE're still debating about a new carseat vs her carseat, but either way, we're psyched.

  2. Flying with my husband.  Is this essential, no.  But if you aren't going with Dad, I would say to go with someone who reads your child very well.  I definitely expected my parents to be better with her, but the reality is that they don't know her like we do.  We respond before she's even figured out that we need to... They just don't have that.  Working Dad does- and I'm so glad we'll all be together. 

  3. Have a designated parent.  This is still key.  There's carry-on's and luggage, and tickets to take care of.  Having one of you designated at all times to be the EG person, in addition to monitoring who has the diaper materials can make all the difference.  For us, it's easiest to have me carry the diaper stuff, but whatever works for you.

  4. Strategic New Toys. Lots of people talk about this, and though we haven't tried it yet, I think it's going to help just like it did last time.  We've gotten her a number of new books (flip flap, or touch and feel ones) as well as a 'reusable sticker book' which has rave reviews.  She's very into drawing and writing, so we've gotten her some new triangle crayons (they can't roll away!). 

  5. Moderate use of the TV. We don't let EG watch TV yet, but I am pre-loading the kindle with some materials for her to take a look at.  I know it's not good for her, but I also know that there wasn't anything else that would have worked on the last trip.  We have Amazon prime so you can download a few things, then have them for 48hours once you start watching.  We've also gotten her a pair of headphones so she can have some lullaby music if that will help.

  6. Snack Food, plus meal food.  I hate that planes don't feed you anything anymore.  It's critical to think in advance about what type of meal you will need to have and whether you need to bring it into the airport yourself.  I advocate for both snacks and a meal, since you never know what the baby will be okay with.  Don't forget about items for you and Dad too!

  7. Consider how you are getting through the airport.  It seems strange, but deciding how to travel through the airport is huge.  Soft carriers are very popular, but we don't own one for EG's size.  There's the stroller- always a good option, but only want to bring that if you can use it on the other side.  We are probably going to opt for our large framed Kelty kids carrier.  Typically these can be gate checked just like a stroller, and they seem to make a big impact- leaving you hands free, but still allow the kid space.  No matter what, think about the luggage, the carry on's, the car seat and the restrictions of the airline. 

I'll report back when we return home. I'll also let you know how the cruise went, so here's hoping all the pre-planning does us some good!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Do you have the December Dilemma?

I've mentioned before that we are an interfaith family.   And I've mentioned here on the blog how upset and irrational I get over there being Christmas celebrations before Thanksgiving.

It seems that each year it gets a little more difficult.  Last year it was fairly simple.  EG was very young, to young to really know what was going on.  And this year's it's pretty much the same, though she wants to help light the menorah, and dances around in circles clapping her little hands when we sing songs.  Still, I know she doesn't 'get it.'

Celebrating the holidays would be so much easier if we lived somewhere were it snowed.  At least I tell myself that.  So much of the festivities- egg nog, apple cider, snowmen and snow angels.  Even holiday lights to light up the cold winter nights, would make much more sense somewhere other than here.  It's hard to figure out how to embrace the 'holiday' season when the sun is out, and frigid means it's in the high 60's.

What does a christmas tree mean?  I used to believe that having a Christmas tree sent a message to the world.  That message was that you celebrated Christmas and were a Christian.  Now, I'm not quite sure that's correct.

There are so many ways to express yourself today.  And one of the things that I want to teach EG is that it's okay to express yourself how you want to.  Even more importantly, you shouldn't make your choices based upon what other people think of them.

So, is it possible to embrace Christmas while still being Jewish?  Will EG be confused by her Jewish identity by being exposed to Christmas in our house?  She'll be exposed to it no matter what we do.  She'll always have cousins and family who celebrate, she'll most likely live in a country that is innundated with it during this time of the year.

Can we embrace the joy, peace and love of the season, without embracing the religiousness?


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Our December Vacation

Have you ever taken a December vacation?  This will be our first time taking one with the extended family.  I'm quite excited, but also a little thrown.  We will be taking little EG on a Holland America Cruise.

We're cruising to the Carribbean, and it's actually the exact same trip (same route, same line, different boat) that we took on our babymoon when I was pregnant with her.  So, we know the lay of the land, and are excited to get to it.

My concerns relate to how to deal with the under-2 crowd on the ship.  I know she will need to nap, and that's all fine and dandy.  The best piece of advice I've gotten for that is to bring quiet activities for in the room- someone pointed out to me that my 'usual' activities for naptime (aka cleaning and cooking) won't need to get done.  Woot!  So, I'm going to work on my needlepoint for her.

Otherwise, I'm trying to figure out the logistics.  Anyone have any tips for traveling with toddlers?  Or any ideas about what to do while we are away?

We are going to San Jose, St. Thomas, Turks & Caicos, and a private island. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Just keep on moving...

Did you get a break this Thanksgiving?  Did you take some time to relax, be with family, and maybe put your feet up?

I, for one, am happy that Thanksgiving and Chanukah will NEVER AGAIN BE TOGETHER in my lifetime.

What a crazy and wild ride.  Not to mention the fact that it's already December.

Will you be participating in our Dressember?  I'm not going to lie- we don't have any pictures yet, because I completely forgot that it was December already.  In my mind I was going back to work in November.  So I promise, starting tomorrow, it's dresses and skirts for me and my girl :-)

But let's rewind- back to the crazy that was Thankgiving and Chanukah together.

Wednesday was lovely.  9 potatoes, 5 cousins and 2 bottles of martinelli's made the first night of Chanukah a success.  An enjoyable, impromptu get-together.  Just the right mix of fun and frivolity.

Thursday was crazy.  up fairly early, then down for Thanksgiving.  Supposed to eat at 3pm, which turned into 3:45pm- by which time EG was totally done sitting in a high chair.  Then we had thankgiving dessert, lit candles, opened presents and ate homemade desserts.  7 hours later, we finally left.

Friday was busy.  Working Dad had to work (well, he is working dad!) and then we had tickets to the Ducks Hockey game.  Follow that up with dinner with my immediate family (2 babies, 2 grandparents and 4 parents makes an interesting meal).  Presents and some confusion ensued. But EG loves her new babydoll.

Saturday was spent at home.  Except when we went to a chanukah brunch where they were 'frying' latke's like they were omelletes.  With 12 kids under 4 in attendance, a bit of a madhouse.  Then friends over for dinner, but Julia Child's chicken was FANTASTIC!

Sunday was cleaning and In-Laws.  Tidy up, leave the house, go to Grandpa's.  11 kids under 10, 15 adults, and chicken that made my stomach turn.  Crazy fun, but crazy exhausting.  Then little EG had just had enough, which made sleeping a disaster.

But here we are- December.  Only three more weeks of work, and then it's holiday time again!  We can do it!

Only a few more nights of Chanukah.  Tonight is the daycare party, not sure we are going.  Tomorrow is friends for dinner... then it's the eighth night... can't believe how quickly it comes and goes.

Friday, November 29, 2013


Have you heard of Dressember?

If you have, you may already be planning to participate.  But if you haven't, now is the time.
EG and I will be doing Dressember this year.  However, unlike in America, we are going to take a bit of an Australian approach, and treat it more like Mo'Vember and do some good for charity.

The charity we have chosen this year is the National Council of Jewish Women, Los Angeles.  The NCJW is a grassroots organization, is primarily volunteer coordinated.  It's a wonderful organization, and really harkens back to Jewish roots.  A nice side effect of Dressember, a month of Modern Orthodox living.  Just to test it out...

So, join in with us.  Wear a dress (or a skirt) every day in December.  Share your images if you want to.  We'll be sharing ours here on the blog.  Yes, you heard that right, ours.  Dresses and skirts for EG too!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving- or just linner on any other day.

On this day of Thanksgiving, when we are all eating ourselves into a stupor of exhaustion, I can't help but think about what we send to school everyday for lunch.  What our children are eating on an average day, not on the day when we all stay in the kitchen slaving away over a particularly delicious, yet high in calories treat called Thanksgiving.

Our Thanksgiving is like many across the country.  A cross between lunch and dinner. Which of course makes it incredibly challenging to feed your little ones.  Our little EG usually eats at around 8am (breakfast), 10am (milk/bottle), then again at noon (lunch).  She has a small snack around 3pm, then eats dinner between 5:30-6pm.  That's it for that.  So what to do when the family Thanksgiving is at 3pm?  I'll let you know how it went.

Have you seen this story?  It's making it's way around the Facebook, but I find it particularly interesting.  As you know, EG goes to a Jewish daycare at the JCC in the Beach Cities.  Since they are an orthodox establishment, they don't allow you to send any meat in with your child's lunch or snack.  They are a dairy only establishment (makes sense with infants and formula/whole milk.)

According to the Canadian authorities, EG has never had a complete and adequate lunch since she started eating at 6 months old.  What's a mother to do?

I already have a hard time figuring out what to send EG for lunch.  Here's a snapshot of one morning's mealplan.

Of course, this covers breakfast, lunch and a snack before she comes home for dinner.  You'll also notice that EG would have been fed Ritz Crackers too.  We don't send in any complex carbs, because they routinely give her cherrios and graham crackers at school.  You know how babies are, they see one kid with something, they want it too.

Of course, that happens at home as well... EG loves to come up to you and ask for your food whenever you are eating... no matter what it is.

Glad we don't have those requirements here in the states.  I don't need that extra morning stress!

What about this?  The article makes me think exclusively about McDonalds, and I scoff to myself thinking that our dear EG hasn't eaten MickyD's more than 4 times in her entire life.  Then I think about the reality.  We went to 'The Hat' for dinner on Sunday night.  The meal consisted of a large Pastrami sandwich (with pickles and mustard) and onion rings.  Mommy and EG had water- Daddy had a soda.  I think, however, that this isn't a terrible dinner.  The pastrami isn't fried, and she didn't even eat the onion rings...

Oh, what's a mom to do...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Challenges of a new Jewish Family

I would like to join a synagogue.  If you've been following my blog, you probably think I already belong to one.  The JCC of the beach cities.  And I suppose, in a way, you'd be right.  While I love the JCC and the daily support it gives to my daughter, I don't always believe the same things that they do.

We have differences of opinions about a large number of things.  Such as women reading from the torah.  Covering my hair and wearing skirts/dresses all the time.  Do these things drastically impact my everyday right now?   Not so much, but they will when EG gets a bit older.

So, why haven't we joined another synagogue.  We've been to Temple Menorah.  With the renovation Congregation Beth Jacob is looking stunning.

I can tell you.  Dues.  So much money put out in dues/membership fees.  We are a growing family, one with lots of expenses.  When we can barely seem to make services one day a week (and only when EG gets to run around like a crazy girl), why would I want to spend over $2000 a year for access to something I won't take advantage of.

It's a rock and a hard place.  I want a Jewish community.  I want to be committed to a temple where EG will eventually go to Hebrew School and get Bat Mitzvahed.  Can she do that at the JCC- maybe.  They have Hebrew School, but their Bat Mitzvah is not what I imagined for our daughter.  But, they don't charge me a thing to attend their services.  Some things cost extra (like some classes, and the preschool program), but on any given Friday we are welcomed.

What can we do to change it?  I'm not sure.  It seems a bit presumptious for me to think that I can go to the Temple and say that I just don't want to pay.  Surely they will look at our finances and say, you have the extra money- you just don't want to spend it.

And in some way's that's true.  In others, it's an awful lot of money for a possible connection...

Do you belong to a temple or congregation?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Pick a Parasha: Tol'Dot

What an interesting portion we've chosen this month. The story of Rebecca giving birth to her sons Esau and Jacob, their split birthright and the ensuing favoritism.  It's a popular story, but once again, I feel like in the reading I learned so many things.

Just like the last portion we looked at, Rebecca has a shared moment with G-d:

She went to inquire of the Lord, 23 and the Lord answered her,
"Two nations are in your womb,
Two separate peoples shall issue from your body;
One people shall be mightier than the other,
And the older shall serve the younger."
What a specific proclamation.  To show from the beginning of life, before either had breathed the air that one shall be mightier than the other, and the older shall serve the younger.  I can't help but wonder what I would do, given such specifics from the lord.  Is it any wonder that later down the road we find that Rebecca favors Jacob?

Isaac favored Esau because he had a taste for game; but Rebekah favored Jacob. 

There are many different interpretations of this passage.  She loved Jacob, she favored him, etc.  But how could she not when the Lord so clearly tells her that her youngest shall rule the older.

Beyond that we are once again in a story where a husband passes his wife off as a sister.  What is with these men and not taking responsibility for their families, their lives.  Not standing up and being who they are.

It seems to me that this might be a pre-curser for the big moment of the portion.  When Jacob pretends to be Esau to claim the blessing of the father.  Like father, like son?  Everyone blames Rebecca, but when your father doesn't claim his own wife, why wouldn't you think you can deceive him too?

Obviously Issac knows something isn't right.  He says point blank- you have the voice of Jacob.  He smells the clothes and feels the skin and decides to trust his other two senses over his hearing.  Rather than trust these instincts, he gives the blessing anyways.  

Poor Esau.  He comes with his stew and his father has to tell him that his blessing is already gone.  That he can't give another one, and that he's sorry.   Rebecca sends Jacob away to keep him safe, and that's the end of the story for now.  

When we say our blessing over EG on friday nights, we say may you be like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.  Do I really want her to be like Rebecca.  Surely there is something a miss here.  That this entire family feels so at ease and comfortable lying about who they are.  Deceiving themselves and others as if it was a drop of a hat.

Many people claim that Rebecca shows herself to be a good mother- in the end she sends away her loving son Jacob to protect 'both' her sons.  I'm not exactly sure that I buy that idea.  If she was a 'good' mother would she have directed her son to lie so brashly.  Would she have deceived her husband on his deathbed?  Or is she just following G-d's direction.  That the older will serve the younger..?

I take from this story the fact that sometimes errors aren't mistakes.  There are moments in all of our lives when we think we've made a terrible mistake.  When we make a choice that seems morally wrong.  But then, things can work out in the end.  Rebecca's morally ambigious choice leds Jacob to become the father of the Jewish people.  Leads him to great things. 

Sometimes we have to step away from our choices (ours, and our children's) and embrace the bigger picture.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Dinner.... or whatever you eat tonight

Dinner.  I think it's one of the most challenging things ever.

Coming home after a long day of work and trying to figure out what to put on the table.  Especially when everyone tells you that family meals will make or break your child's entire future!

I'm proud to say that this week, I've finally turned a corner.  I actually managed to make a dinner everynight.  Something new, something different, and mostly, something from scratch.

I figured out a few tricks to making meals happen at our house.

1. Involve the toddler with the cooking.  I've started putting her in her high chair so she can see, wheeling it into the kitchen and giving her tastes of things as I cook them.  This is especially great because it often means she gets extra vegetables.

2. Avoid snacking by eating early.  Each night this week we've been eating before 6pm.  We used to sit down for dinner just after 6pm, now we are sitting around 5:35-5:45.  Much easier to eat without being full on meaningless snacks.

3. Take a few shortcuts.  While each of these means was made at home, mostly from scratch, none of them involved much 'cooking.'  Crockpot one night, a simple stew the next, and a few made with store bought proteins (the wontons/chicken)

4.  Basic meal planning.  I don't think I'll get to the point where I'm truly specific about each individual thing, but starting out on Sunday with a few proteins in mind meant that I could swap out meals as I saw fit.

5.  I leave work at 4pm.  Leaving at 4pm means that I get home between 4:30 and 5pm, I get to pick up EG, and come home with enough time to play with her and get dinner ready.  Not a trick everyone can use, but it's definitely helped us improve our lives dramatically!

The only thing I wish I could do is figure out how to make more meals that EG can take to daycare.  Since she's in a dairy only school, none of these meals were schools worthy.  Oh well...

On Monday I wasn't feeling to hot, so I made some jazzed up ramen soup with wontons. Easy peasy!

 Nicole Lee

Tuesday I went to the store and bought a whole done chicken.  I made that with long grain rice with almonds and raisins, with fresh cooked asparagus.

On Wednesday I made this recipe:  I made it over mashed potatoes that came out of a box.

Thursday I made White bean chicken Chili.  I follow my own recipe:

2 cans northern beans or cannelli beans
4 cups chicken broth (I use better than bullion)
Cumin (around 3 tablespoons)
Green Chilis (4oz can)
Oregano (1tsp)
Cayenne pepper (1tsp)
2 onions diced
2 cloves garlic diced
Chicken (2 large breasts cut into pieces)

Saute the onions in olive oil until golden.  Add the chopped garlic at any time, making sure to keep it moving to avoid burning it. 

Add in the chicken (I cut mine with kitchen shears)

Once the chicken has started to brown, toss in the green chilis.  Add in the spices once that's all mixed together.

Let sit for a few minutes, then add in the chicken broth and the beans.  Bring to a boil, then let simmer for as long as you have before dinner.

Serve with plain yogurt or sour cream, and a touch of whatever cheese you have on hand (we used Gruyere!)  YUMMY!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I'm already annoyed

Thanksgiving hasn't even passed, and already I am inundated by the Christmas in the Los Angeles area.

If you ask Working Dad, I will never be friends with Christmas.  I'm not anti-Christmas, but growing up in Los Angeles (where the wheather might not even be more than a touch chilly around the holidays) has made me completely against most holiday music.  Baby it's cold outside?  White Christmas?  I could go on.

I thought I had made progress when I moved to Pittsburgh.  There was snow on the ground.  It was cold.  The holiday lights meant it wasn't completely pitch black when I walked home at 5pm. 

Now that I'm back in LA, I just can't get it.  It's not cold, there's no snow, there's no need for the extra lights, and IT"S NOT EVEN THANKSGIVING YET!

So, this year I'm making change.  Any time someone on TV or the radio mentions Christmas, or plays a Christmas song before Thanksgiving, I'm changing the channel.

I can get through 25 days of the holiday.  I can't get through a month and a half.

How do you cope with the holidays?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Mikvah choices

I find myself in an awkward position.  When I moved to the South Bay area, I moved because I was getting married.  In order to be married I wanted to go to the mikvah.  The JCC has a mikvah.  I called up, asked some questions, and was promptly informed that the mikvah wasn't for me.  That because I was an intermarried woman, they wouldn't allow me to use their mikvah.

That's my dark secret.  The place my daughter goes to school each day denied me a fundamental right of a Jewish woman.

I found a place to go to the mikvah (there is a lovely, inclusive one at the AJU) but I still can't get over the fact that the JCC refused me access to theirs.

I would like to go to the mikvah regularly.  Not necessarily because I won't hand Working Dad a plate until I go, but more because I feel strongly that it's a ritual that can bring some clarity and peace to your life.  Sometimes it's hard to be a woman.  The changes your body goes through every month (or thereabouts) can make life challenging.  Sometimes it does mean an opportunity for family expansion lost.  Other times it just means one more cycle of life is passing by.

But I believe it's nice to mark it in some way.  To take a private moment to be thankful to G-d that everything is working, that the moment has passed.  But the JCC in the South Bay said this isn't something they could offer me.

It's interesting, because I'm not exactly sure why my being intermarried has anything to do with my need to observe the ritual purity laws of the mikvah.  Turns out that going to the mikvah as a single woman can cause quite the controversy...

Only yesterday in Israel were they debating the requirements about women professing the reason for attending the mikvah, etc.  It seems to me that each time a woman chooses to take a step towards keeping a religious tradition that we should encourage that.  The issue speaks to me the same way that some parents refuse to give their children the gardasil shot, for fear that it will encourage them to have sex earlier than they would other wise like.

So, I haven't been back to the mikvah since having EG.  While the mikvah at the AJU is quite nice, it's also an expensive undertaking, and a bit out of the way for someone with a young baby.

Maybe the JCC will open their mikvah.  Until then, the ocean works :-)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Chanukah in the South Bay

Josh Bousel
This year it seems increasingly more difficult to find the public gatherings of Chanukah.  Here's what I've found, feel free to add to the listings:

Friday, November 22:
     Chanukah festival at Temple Menorah (5:30pm) $

Sunday, November 24:
       Skirball Chanukah Festival (11am-4pm) $

Sunday, December 1:
       Manhattan Village Mall Menorah Lighting (4-6pm)

Monday, December 2:
      South Bay Galleria Menorah Lighting (5pm)
      El Segundo City Hall (5pm)

Tuesday, December 3:
      Redondo Beach Civic Center (5pm)

Wednesday, December 4:
       Plaza El Segundo (5pm)

Have a safe and happy Chanukah!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Bat Mitzvah: Bringing Baby

by angus mcdiarmid
This weekend we had the opportunity to attend our cousin's Bat Mitzvah.  This was slightly untraditional for us, since it was a havdalah service, rather than reading from the Torah.  However, it was still a meaningful and joyous occasion, one which we were thrilled to celebrate together as a family.

Bringing EG, however, had it's complications.  It was nice because it was just around the corner, but difficult because she is still very little, and unable to sit still.  Because the event was at our normal temple, EG felt extremely comfortable and confident.  Including walking up on the bimah whenever she felt like it.  While cute before the ceremony began, a bit of a problem once the Bat Mitzvah girl got started.

So, we went to the lobby.  There was an adorable 20month old boy inattendance, so EG got to make a new friend, and enjoy running around with him.

Here are some tips for enjoying the festivities with a little one:

  1. Bring the baby to the ceremony.  Most temples are equipped to handle kids.  At Saturday morning services there is often a children's component, and even if there isn't, the real purpose of the event is the ceremony.  Don't skip it.  It's important to expose your child to different environments.  If you start when they are young, they will learn more quickly about behaving during these types of events. 

  2. If you don't have family, hire a babysitter.  This was my cousin's Bat Mitzvah, so lot sof hands to help hold EG.  If it hadn't have been, I would have hired someone (a mother's helper type) to come with us, and help keep an eye on EG.  That way we could have enjoyed more of the event, and interacted with everyone.

  3. Have a designated parent.  This is similar to my wine-tasting tips, but still important. Again, it could be a different parent throughout the event.  But it's really key to have one person both designated as the 'more sober one' and the 'officially watching' one. Many of these events have an open bar, and the parties can get pretty wild, so it's important to keep an eye on the littlest.

  4. Think carefully about the party, and when to leave. There are definitely some 'ceremony' type moments at the party.  The traditional thing seems to be the candle lighting moment, and you probably don't want to miss this.  At the same time the party will eventually turn into a dance moment for the 12/13 year old crowd.  Depending on where you are/how the little is doing, it might be the right time to bow out.
Hope you enjoy your next Bat Mitzvah.  And happiness and joy to our favorite Shoshana!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Crazy days

This has been one of the craziest weeks.  We've been hit with things from all sides.  Let's start at the beginning:

I was out from work last week, and trying unsuccessfully to manage all the work chaos from home.  We had two events happening this month, and none of them were going smoothly. 

Working Dad has started the budgeting process.  If any of you are in finance at all, you know how stressful and crazy this is.  He was working hard to implement a new system (read software program) into the company before budgeting.  However, he was unsuccessful.  So, back to the old excel model we go... crazy town.

EG contracted Hand Foot and Mouth disease.  Anyone with an infant knows that this is a fairly common illness, and honestly, it's not to bad for what it could be.  She's in good spirits during the day, and napping well.  Nighttime, however, is a different screaming story.  She's been awake every few hours, and I've only managed about 3 solid hours each night.

To add to the crazy we've had a bunch of changes in events I'm working on at UCLA.   We were supposed to have an event next week, but it's totally gone crazy.  Between venue/date changes, speaker changes, etc. Then, they decide to just cancel the whole thing... grrr!

This weekend we also had a Bat Mitzvah Havdalah ceremony.  While it was lovely, sick kid plus things to do aren't exactly making things easy...

So, whats up with you?

Presents this holiday season

Have you already gotten all of your presents?  With Thanksgivukkah only a week or so away, it's a mad rush here to finish shopping, crafting, etc.

The honest truth is that I have presents for almost everyone in the family, except for little EG.  The Working Dad and I don't usually exchange presents- though this year he will be getting a very new, very expensive new DSLR camera on Black Friday. 

For EG, we've come to a sort of stall place.  I'm not exactly sure what to get my little 18month old.  We've determined that we don't like toys with electronics, or lots of sound and noise.  Not even so much because of the sound/noise- it's just that they seem very limiting to our little girl.  So what then will make a good present.

Here's the list so far:

New Shoes
New Socks
Bath toy game
Bath toy foam letters
magnetic letters for fridge
Color window blocks (if I can find them!)

So often though, for her, I feel like she gets lots of little things all the time.  And there isn't really anything that strikes me as a large gift.  She got a tricycle for her last large gift, and she ADORES it.  What can compare/be as loved as that.

Any suggestions?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Book Review: Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom


This is sort of an odd book to review.  Technically it's not actually a parenting book. It sort of masquerades as one, but the reality is it's a memoir about a mother raising her daughters.  Either way, on with the review...

The book starts out with a few premises.  That tiger moms are focused on their kids educations, that sleepovers are absolutely not allowed, and that you are not your child's friend, you are a parent.

The controversial part of the story is the many times she pushes her children beyond what many of us think is good.  The story about her youngest learning a piano song, and denying her dinner, bathroom breaks, etc.

However, when I started reading, it wasn't these things that stuck in my mind.  It was the fact that she was extremely dedicated, and recognized that her two daughters were different people.  If there was a theme to the story, it was that you have to choose your battles wisely, and understand your children for who they are.

Yes, she does enforce strict rules.  She knows what she wants, and she's not afraid of the words "i hate you mom".  Which I think is a good thing.  She points out that children have a hard time getting through conflict and not doing well.  And that once we start to do well at something our natural desire to be good can often compel us to keep going, and get better.  Remember NurtureShock?  There was a whole chapter about empty praise, which included a study about tests and compared Asian parents to white parents.  White parents avoided talking about the test, or telling their kids they could do better.  This Tiger Mom isn't afraid to say "you are better than that."

My favorite story along this line is when her daughters give her cards.  She hands them right back and says no, these are not good.  You put no thought into them, and you are capable of something much better than these pieces of paper.  I love you, and I want to enjoy your work, but I won't just take what is your minor effort.  I deserve more.

She also dedicates an extreme amount of attention and work into her children's activities.  She discusses a few pages of her daughters piano music, pointing out errors and working diligently with her on each measure of music.  Not many of us commit to our children's learning in this way.  I haven't decided where I stand on that one, but it's interesting to think about this level of commitment.
What's hard for me is the concept of allowing your children their own successes and failures.  She is a working mom, so she has her own independent accomplishments.  I fear that taking this level of commitment without a personal outlet would be unhelpful for many of us.

Overall, definitely worth a read- however- don't expect tips, tricks or real parenting advice.  Just take the stories, understand the threads, and get a good laugh.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Buzzfeed Image
 We've talked about shopping for it, but are you embracing it at your dining room table?

Initially I was hesitant.  Honestly, I was livid.  Combine them!?!  No WAY...

But then I found out how rare this event truly is.  And how my sister will be in town for it, and it's nice to have everyone together.

Since then, we've been struggling.  It's easy to think about decor- pumpkin light, star light, pumpkin light, star light.  Cut out Jewish Starts on some gourds.  Fill your baskets with gilt... but what about the food.

Thanks BuzzFeed!  You are awesome!  Here is the menu.

Here are a few additional ideas:
Sweet Potato Latkes.  I know they say it's to hard to change the traditional, but honestly. these are good.  I am also a fan of
Zucchini Latkes.  These are delicious as well.  If you do them as appetizers, then you don't have to worry about the age-old problem of how to keep them tasting delicious when you fry them to far in advance.  Fry them up as people walk in the door.  You know how good they taste right out of the fryer... it's almost torture to have to wait for them to hit the table!

Main Course:
I'm in love with their Challah Stuffing recipe.  It would be very easy to do with olive oil or margarine... that way you could still be kosher.
I think they left out the totally necessary crescent rolls.  These don't have butter or dairy!

For Dessert try these:
Pumpkin Donuts- get a little more fried food into your Chanukah, and a bit of tradition into your Thanksgiving.

For our table (which is being hosted by my parents), we've decided to go traditional with the main dinner, then open presents and enjoy a Chanukah dessert of donuts.  Yummy....

What's your plan?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Rosh Chodesh Classes

Hi Everyone, sorry I'm a bit late in posting this morning.  My darling little EG has been very fussy and a bit sick, so I was up from 3-5am with her.  Then off to work and now finally a moment to write down my thoughts.

I wanted to share with everyone a class series being held at the JCC of the Beach Cities, it's called Rosh Chodesh: A Reason to Celebrate.

The first class is tonight, and though it does have a cost, it's something I'm definitely interested in doing.

Anyone else up for some Jewish learning?

To RSVP, click here.  You can attend one class, or all of them.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, November 11, 2013


Wikipedia image

I've recently seen a rash of posts on the good old facebook about tardiness.  (yes, about a giraffe too, but let's move on...)

Do you think that world is becoming more and more tardy?  Is lateness an epidemic that we're try to stem the flow on?

Greg Savage thinks so.  That it's not only become an epidemic, and it's also rude, inconsiderate and a time waster for everyone. All of these things are true.  However, it seems like Mr. Savage doesn't really think about the world we live in, and why we may all be late in the first place:

"And it is not that we lead 'busy lives'. That's a given, we all do, and it's a cop out to use that as an excuse. It's simply that some people no longer even pretend that they think your time is as important as theirs. And technology makes it worse. It seems texting or emailing that you are late somehow means you are no longer late"

 Yes, I agree that texting and e-mailing that you are late is not an excuse, you are still late, still rude and just as annoying.  And yes, technology somehow makes us think that we've been excused because we 'told you.'  However, I think we need to get back to the heart of the matter.  Why are we all running late in the first place.

I know that I put to much into each day.  That I never take into account traffic, or tantrums, or any of the other little things that can throw an otherwise normal day off kilter.  Once you've had children, your time is not your own.  Then we get into the discussion about leaving enough time to allow your child to try to do things themselves.  Which you know you want to allow them to do, but rarely have the time.

I think it's critically important to teach your children about respect, which includes other people's time.  However, I also think it's important as a mom to remember to take time, slow down, and let your life unfold a bit.  Nothing can be more sad than rushing a child to the car, only to have them try to smell the roses and get yelled at for 'dawdling'.

We want to encourage our kids to explore their world, and to do so we need to allow them the time they need.  So, here's my commitment. I'm writing it down, and I encourage all of you to do the same.

I commit to planning a bit less.  To allowing EG the freedom to explore her world.  One day at a time.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Differing Parental Philosophies

I've been reading a lot of parenting books (see, here's the proof!).  As I read each of them, I'm again struck by two things:
  1. That each culture does have a similar expectation for their children, and that it can be seen, studied and reviewed.
  2. That each parent/child relationship is unique, and what works for one person/group may not work for the others.

No where is this more apparent than in the chore/expectation sector of the world.  Who does what?  How do we breakdown the items that no one gets paid for, the laundry, the dishes, the chores.  The drudgery that keeps a house running forward.

While we've already discussed chores some on this blog, I thought that this article was worth reading.  It's interesting to see just how much chores and helping out are predicated on a national level.  That the expectations of one culture is very different than another.

I'm finishing up 'Blessing of a Skinned Knee,' which focuses it's ideas on a Jewish perspective.  Hopefully it will have something nice to add to the conversation.

As EG is nearing in on 2 years old, I'm amazed at the things she's learned.  She knows where the trash can is, and she is capable of doing so much more than I think we ask of her.  It's hard though, to facilitate her being able to do things herself.

One step at a time, right?

Thursday, November 7, 2013

When is temperament established

Here on the blog I lovingly call my daughter Exuberant Girl.  I feel like she's been this way since she was very little, with her eyes wide open even in the first moments after birth.

But now I wonder if I've given her a temperament without letting her 'grow into her own'?

Our little girl has always been open to new things.  At her one month appointment she was arms up in cobra pose already, craning her neck to see what was going on in the world.  Recently, as in yesterday, she tried to climb the chainlink fence at the park- yup all  before 16 months old.

She's not afraid of virtually anything.  We went camping and she chased after the deer.  When she falls down she might cry, but then less than 60seconds later she's charging up and ready to go out and do it again.

The teachers at school tell me how social she is.  She like to run to the other kids, and whenever we go to the park she's constantly playing with the other children (even if she's 12momths and they are 8 years!)

Are these traits set in stone?  Is it true that she's really exuberant?  How was your child when they were born? 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

7 Tips for Wine Tasting with a Toddler

The weekend of my birthday (I'm still in in 20's I swear!) we went wine tasting as a family.  Yup, my family, my sister's family and our parents all together on one crazy weekend adventure.

While we all had ups and downs (let me tell you!) I wanted to share our experience with Wine tasting with a toddler...
  1. Don't go in for the fancy nighttime meal.  There's nothing worse than spending almost $100 on the really fancy meal then not going to the really fancy meal.  Regardless of the best of intentions I can almost guarantee that after travel, the excitment of a new place, and despite the best laid plans that all hell will break loose and the night you are supposed to go to the fancy dinner you will not.  It's not inclusive, it's probably not a great meal anyways, and even if you did make it out of the house you might be worried rather than happy. 

  2. Leave to go wine tasting at nap-time.  Especially if you still have a morning nap.  Wineries are often far from each other, so this way you can drive the longest distance, let the little one sleep in the car, then have the rest of the afternoon before nap #2 to head back to base camp.  If you only have one nap, I suggest starting close by, heading out far right as naptime starts, then working your way back to base camp.  

  3. Have a designated parent.  This could be the designated driver.  Or it could be a different parent throughout the day.  But it's really key to have one person both designated as the 'more sober one' and the 'officially watching' one.  Wineries are busy places, and they serve a lot more wine to you than you might realize.  Even if neither of you are the DD, one of you needs to stay in control in case there is a toddler emergency.  Additionally, between the patio, the grass and the place where you get the tasting, it's helpful to know constantly who's officially on watch.   

  4. Visit wineries with grassy areas or patios. We went to J.Lohr, and a few other larger wineries.  As long as they had an outdoor patio- we were golden.  The problem comes in when you try to bring the kids indoors.  Where there are people waiting in line for the wine, and chochskies for them to break.  So, keep it outdoors and you are golden.

  5. Do bring LOTS of food, and stop for lunch. I'm sure you know about this advice for yourself, when drinking eat a lot.  However, it's even more important with the kiddos.  Lots of wineries have cheese to try with the wine, and on a nice weekend with a designated driver this might seem fine.  For your kids, it's a different story.  They need a meal, something related to what they normally eat, and the stability of sitting down to do it.

  6. Give them a sip if you want to.  I have absolutely no judgement here.  When we do Shabbat EG gets a sip of wine, so when we were out I gave her one or two moments.  Just be careful, since there are judgy people, and no one wants to be going to the hospital because of a broken glass (winery glassware is notoriously cheap).

  7. Rent a house/cabin if you can.  If there are cabin or house options where you are, go for it!  Rather than a hotel, which is only one room, having the extra space a cabin or house provides can be wonderful for the kids.  While you are napping off the morning drinking the kids can be running through the house, working through some of that energy

Moral of the story, just do it!  It's fun, and awesome, and a chance to enjoy being an adult while still being a parent.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Leaving the baby behind

Have you left your child while you went out of town?  We are contemplating leaving EG for about 5 days while we go to a wedding in Miami.

I can't decide what's the right thing to do.  We've traveled with EG before and I didn't really find it to stressful.  To be honest, the most stressful part was being with my own parents...

However, this is for a wedding.  And before we get to the wedding we have some appointments that she can't attend.  She is, however, invited to the wedding.

Have you left your child for a few days?  I'm so worried that she might not know me, or love me as much when I return.  I'm sure that's silly, but there it is.  That somehow while I'm gone she will be forgetting me.  Such a silly thought.

The plan would be to take her to school like normal, then have her picked up by Grandpa.  She would spend two nights with my in-laws, then two nights with my parents before being brought back home to sleep in her own bed.

I realize it's a lot of people for her to deal with/get used to.  But at the same time, I don't know that either set of grandparents is really ready to take that much responsibility and take care of her 24-hours for 5 days.  That's a lot of time and effort.

I do think it might be easier on her, overall, if we leave her behind.  It's not just about the travel, etc, but it's the time change, the driving, all the additional details that would go into this trip.  Not to mention the enjoyment that Working Dad and I might not have if she's with us.  Though I love her dearly, I know that we will enjoy the wedding more if we are there without her.

Thoughts? Comments? 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

EG: Happy Halloween!

I got a sweet Mom!

A fun lady lion
out on the prowl
I got lots of candy
And put it in my mouth
lollipops and chocolate, turned out really nice!

Happy Halloween EG!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Pick a Parasha: Toldot

For our next installment of Pick a Parasha we will be doing: Toldot

Parashat Toldot / פרשת תולדות

I look forward to sharing more D'var Torah with you all.  With luck we will get through the whole Torah together, someday.

As a reminder, we'll explore the D'var Torah on November 25, the last Monday of the month.  Can't wait to see you all then :-)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween- we say YES!

I think that Halloween is a controversial Jewish holiday.  Okay, that's incorrect. It's not a Jewish holiday, which is what makes it controversial for Jewish families.

And when I say controversial, I mean it.  A quick check of the Internets shows that there are two widely separate theories:
  1. Absolutely not.  It's a 'gentile' holiday, and Leviticus specifically states that you shouldn't celebrate it.  Not to mention, if you want to dress in costume, celebrate Purim.  It's Jewish, it's fun, and it involves giving treats to your neighbors.

  2. Go for it!  It's American, not religious.  It's good solid fun, community building and not in any way counter to our current Jewish ideals.
Since EG goes to an Orthodox daycare, they do not celebrate the holiday.  No trunk or treat, no Halloween parade, and no candy passed around.  They do have farm day in October, so there is some sort of celebration, and it's typical for the kids to dress up to participate in that event (yes, riding donkeys in costume!)

We celebrate Halloween.  We have a costume for EG, and we look at it as a community building exercise. However, now that I've acknowledged that we do something for it, that doesn't mean that the case for Halloween is over.

Do you go trick-or-treating? I've already commented on some of the questions for this year, with EG being so, so young. 

This year, we've decided we're meeting up with another little girl (also under 2) and we're all going out together.  That way EG has a friend to play with, and we'll all have fun together.  We're using it as an opportunity to connect with family.

Then, I think we'll try to donate the candy.   We certainly don't need it.

If nothing else, everyone seems to agree that giving out candy is a good thing for the holiday.  So we'll spend the evening welcoming neighbors, passing out treats, and trying to avoid to many tricks.

Happy Halloween!

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