Monday, September 30, 2013

Deciding to be a working Mamma

How did I get here.  It's a question Working Dad and I discussed just yesterday.  How did we get to where we are?  Where I work, full time with an hour commute each way?

This isn't where I thought I would be.  A long time ago when my now husband asked me about what my plans were, I told him that I wanted to be a stay at home mom, (SAHM), the same way my mom was.  He thought I didn't have enough ambition. That I had to make something of myself, that I needed drive.  So, I got some drive.  I got my college degree and I started working full-time.

I loved my career choice.  Theatre Arts, event management- it's fantastic for me.  Specific, measureable successes, but shortlived programming.  Moving on to something else.  That's what I love- give it your all, then keep on.

Then, we got married.  Then I got pregnant.  I had my beautiful, amazing Exuberant Girl. My little piece of heaven on earth.  Who looks exactly like her father.  Who is sweet, and loving, and high energy.  Who isn't afraid of virtually anything. 

And then I went back to work.  I knew I had to go back to work for at least 30 days to keep my health insurance benefits that they paid while I was on maternity.  So, I went back.  To 'try it out'.  To give myself options.  Everyone said not to quit when I took maternity leave.  You never know, so I went back.

And then I left her at Daycare.  I found one I trusted, that seemed wonderful to me.  I did my due diligence to ensure that she was properly looked after.  And she was.  She is.  She enjoys her teachers, her environment, and all the social activities that come with it.

Initially I worked only 9am-3pm.  I dropped her off, I picked her up.  I pumped milk while I was gone from her.  I enjoyed going to work.  I enjoyed coming home and having enough time to pick her up, make dinner, and generally get things done around the house.  Then it changed.

I started working more full-time.  From 8am-4:30pm.  Still, it worked out.  I found a carpool partner. I tried to make it work.  Working Dad dropped her off, but I got to pick her up 80% of the time.  Seeing her smiling face, learning about her day.  Having some Mommy time before Dad came home.  And it worked.  I still have time to make dinner.  We enjoyed a leisurely evening all together.  It was nice.

Then she turned 1.  And when I went back to work, they told me I couldn't take a 1/2 hour lunch anymore.  That I had to work from 8am-5pm.  And that's where we are today.

I get up, I don't see her when I leave, unless something goes wrong.  Working Dad drops her off.  I get home just around 6pm, so I don't pick her up anymore.  I rush through making dinner.  I try to have time with her.  Then I fight the laundry, the dishes.  Sometimes I fight the husband.

But I'm terrified.  I'm terrified of making the wrong decision.  I've had 3 job offers for part-time work.  None of them made sense.  I'm still sitting here, going into work each day.  I haven't made a decision, but the reality is I'm a working mom.  Each day that I don't choose to quit, is a day I am choosing to work.

It's definitely not about her care.  It's not about her being in daycare, she loves it.  But there is definitely something not quite right.  I'm not a mother and a wife, though I am.  I feel like a busy ant, trying to keep the hole open while someone else is poking it with a stick.  Pretending like I'm making progress, but I'm not. 

I'm just terrified.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

EG: Moments in Motherhood

Usually EG sleeps until late in the morning.  Our normal routine is that Working Dad takes her to school, so he wakes her up in the morning, gets her dressed, etc.

But every once in a while, she's awake between 6-7am.  Then it's Mommy's job to go and get her.  Sometimes I take her to our bed where we cuddle a bit.  She may go back to sleep, but more often than not it's just that lovely morning fog... It's delightful.  Until it's time for me to go to work.

Hysteria ensues.  That girl certainly knows how to tug on the heartstrings... So I leave her, with her blankie and tears.  I know she'll be fine, but...oh....

Flickr cplbasilisk

Friday, September 27, 2013

Book Review: NurtureShock

NurtureShock covers groundbreaking scientific research in the field of parenting. It has a lot of hype, it's sort of the new thing out there.  But how to decide if it's worth the time.  Well, from my perspective, it definitely is.

Chapters include the inverse power of praise, race relations, sleep (or lack there of), self-control and lying.  They are all well-researched, with specific scientific information to back them up.  Which is fabulous.  The chapters have nothing to do with each other, which makes for a disjointed book, but it's perfect for reading a chapter at a time in between other household/children tasks. 

There's been a lot going on about praise, how we have a society where we praise everything from mediocre performance to a toddler eating an apple.  I see this all the time, with parents saying 'good job' practically every moment.  This book really talks about what happens in the long term.  It shows how different types of praise are really affecting our kids in different ways. The statistical data, the specifics are quite something.  Of course, this is a bit 'what comes around goes around,' but good information none-the-less.

Then they talk about race relations, which has also been a hot topic right now.  I've found this one particularly intriguing, especially since we are in an interesting situation as Ashkenazic Jews.  We are generally white people, and if you choose (as we do) to send your child to a religious daycare or school program, do they have any diversity in their classes at all?  (turns out, we have one adorable Jewish black child in our daycare program in EG's age group, but that's totally an anomaly!)  How we talk (or in most cases don't) talk about race is affecting our children.  We all know we are waiting on bated breath for that awkward moment in the supermarket (why does she look like that Mom?!).  This chapter teaches us that we need to embrace the question and discuss a real answer.

I thought the sibling chapter was interesting, if  bit confusing.  It talked a lot about sibling fights and why a child treats their friends much better than siblings.  Conventional wisdom says we learn how to treat people because of our siblings, but NurtureShock asserts that how we treat our friends is how we are going to treat our siblings. However, the chapter didn't really give anything to constructive, especially with those of us who are planning to have our next child. EG doesn't really have any 'best friends' and is really to young to have interactive play.  So, I'm not sure that theory helps us.  The only advice was to try not to step in the way of them working it out, because if they are going to learn to engage together, then they have to learn how to on their own.

My favorite, and possibly the most important for those of us with babies or toddlers, discussed language acquisition.  We don't have any Baby Einstein DVD's, and EG doesn't watch television (excepting that one time, on a crowded southwest airplane ride across the country).  NurtureShock specifically discusses these tapes, what they do, and what they don't do.  Which, according to the research, is absolutely nothing for your baby.

These are just a few of the chapters in the book.  Each chapter has statistical data backing it up, and presents a clear and logical wake-up call about some subject.  It's longitudinal studies, ongoing research and results that are scientifically driven.  

My only gripe with the book is that though it does give some specific suggestions and interventions about how to avoid these negatives, it does so throughout a chapter, without an easy to follow or implement guide.  When you are reading snippets during naps, or late at night after putting the baby to bed, it's so hard to remember the key ingredients to make changes.  Since the book jumps around age groups from teens to babies, it's also hard to put things into practice now.  Having a 'cheat sheet' of sorts for down the road would be a helpful addition.

Additionally all of this research is very subjective.  Take the chapter on the 'Tools' program.  The program isn't available everywhere, so if you don't have access to it, learning about it isn't particularly helpful. Given these caveats, I definitely recommend NurtureShock.  Read it, digest it, and choose what's worthy for you and yours.

*The link for the book is through my Amazon Affiliate account.  Purchasing the book or other items by following the link will provide me with revenue.*

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Only one more post on Breastmilk (right now!)

I realized I never touched on the Jewish perspective on Breastmilk.

Just as an FYI, Judaism kashrut holds that human breastmilk is Pareve, so no need to worry about serving the baby a meat meal and then breastfeeding.  Of course, there are TONS of halachic rules related to child-rearing, but I didn't want to let breastfeeding go without at least mentioning that it's Pareve.  And yes, this applies whether it's your milk, or anyone else's milk. 

Donating Breastmilk

Alicia supports sharing breastmilk
 I've donated my breastmilk.  Not that EG couldn't eat it, or didn't need it, but because someone else did.  That someone else was my Sister-in-Law's daughter, born in April just before EG in June.

Daughter #5 for my sister-in-law (SIL) is an adorable, high energy little pumpkin, so sweet.  However, since birth she's had a hard time nursing.  Something just wasn't working quite properly for momma and baby.  And let me tell you, this woman knows how to do it right.  She's nursed 4 other little ones until they were 18months old.  She's been dedicated through surgery for herself, hospitalized procedures for one of her little ones, and other challenges.

Did I mention that she's allergic to milk?  Not just intolerant, but allergic.  Two of her little ones are two. 

When I heard from her that she was having issues with nursing her little one, I knew that I could help.  I had been building up a freezer stash of milk for quite a time. (which came in handy while working, and is still feeding EG today).  So, I took some and sent it down to her.

And her daughter refused to drink it.  Imagine that, she didn't want my breastmilk, she wanted her mothers.  She could taste the differences in my diet from my sister-in-laws, and only wanted what her mother produced.  Luckily I have one smart SIL, she started mixing the milk she pumped with my milk.  Together, we ensured that things worked out for Daughter #5.

Lots of people think this is weird.  My own sister, who started supplementing with formula for my only nephew, thought that it was inappropriate and potentially dangerous.  Yes, breastmilk is a bodily fluid.  Yes, it's possible for it to transmit diseases, just like blood.

You know what, I would take blood for myself, EG, or Working Dad from my SIL without hesitating.  Without testing, or confirming, anything.  Think World War Z, or the Walking Dead.  Forget that, I would do it tomorrow.

It's up to each person.  With my history of donating, I was contacted by a friend of a friend about producing milk for her son, who can't eat anything (he chokes on regular milk, and all purees).  Milk banks charge a lot, and her son has medical need.  I have to be honest though, now that I'm not pumping as much, I feel like it's so much harder.  This time instead of it being 'stealing candy from a baby' it's trying to 'get milk from a stone.'

Either way, I still support sharing milk.  Do it safely, to your own comfort level.  Like all other things, to each his own.

Please don't think this means I think formula is evil.  It's not.  I was raised on formula.  To each his own!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Working Mamma Breastfeeds

14 months of breastfeeding.

I work full time, and have been breastfeeding and pumping at work since EG was 4 months old.  We struggled a lot initially.  I've never told my birth story here online, but lets say it ended in emergency surgery over 24 hours after she was born, and 4 units of blood transfused.  So, in other words, traumatic.  I ended up not responded to the blood well, and was transferred to a different unit and was trying to pump colostrum.  EG ended up in the NICU for a night, and we were all totally frazzled.

3 days later we got home on the 4th of July.  They sent me home with a breast pump (yeah Kaiser for being supportive!), and we used a syringe to supplement for at least a week.  We went back to the hospital every day to monitor her jaundice and her weight gain.

So, we started off difficult.  Once we got it though, we were golden.  She ate A LOT.  When I went to some breastfeeding support/weighing events EG could get over 7oz at a time from me.  So then I started pumping.  I pumped three times at work, and once when she went to bed.  On the weekends I pumped every night, just to ensure that I would have enough supply for her weeks as school.

Here was my routine:
Monday- Friday: bring pump, bottles, pumping parts (flange, etc. Monday only) and pumping bra.  Bring a cooler bag with ice pack.  Pump 9am, 1pm, 4pm.  Go Home with milk in bottles, and pump once more at home around 10pm after baby goes to bed.

I leave my pumpy parts in the fridge throughout the day, and only wash them at the end of the week.  I used to wash everyday, but my doctor pointed out that the milk in the bottle/parts was good at least as long as I was keeping the bottle of expressed milk.  Since we live by the rule of 5's (5 hours @ room temp, 5 days in fridge, 5 months in freezer), it seemed totally logical to only wash on Monday mornings.

The things that helped make it possible:
Hygeia Pump
I started with a Ameda pump, but after it broke two times, I moved to the Hygeia.  I chose this one because you can transfer it between people.  It's FDA approved to be resold.  I also thought this would be nice, since I would probably want to store it before having child #2.  It takes Medela parts, which means when I forgot all my pumpy parts one day, I was able to go to the local Target to buy more.

Hands Free Nursing Bra
I don't work while I pump.  I find it stresses me out to much.  But that doesn't mean I want to try to hold flanges to my breasts every time I pump.  This bra is easy to use, works with any pump (i've used 4 kinds!) and cleans up nice (though you do have to hand wash).  It's totally worth the investment.

Additionally I have my husband to thank.  He's the one who washes all of our bottles and sterilizes them at least once a week.  The way we work it is that his bottle washing is his contribution to EG's eating and development.  Since he can't do the feeding, he can at least do the cleaning.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Is it sukkot without a shake?

EG making a sukkah at school

Ah, the over scheduled weekend.  With nary a moment to rest, relax and recharge.  Throw in a scheduling mishap, and the weekend is entirely misfired.

I thought we had it all figured out.  Soccer game for me, Sukkot party for the family, friends over for dinner.  Lunch with my parents, then a relaxing evening at home.

Sounds wonderful, right?

Or not so much.  When you call to confirm the party details, only to find out that the party you thought was today at 1pm, is tomorrow at 2pm.  So, there goes the weekend.

Throw in one unplanned surgical procedure scheduled for a monday afternoon, and the whole weekend takes on a different light.  Yes, my family is fine, thank you for asking.

My Mom was scheduled for what is actually a routine angioplasty today.  She went through the procedure with flying colors, but she was terrified about the whole thing.  It's definitely possible that something could have happened, but thank G-d, it didn't.

All this being said, we didn't make it to a sukkot party.  If we don't shake the lulav and the etrog, is it really Sukkot?  I never used to celebrate Sukkot, but when I got into college the Chabad on Campus used to have a pop-up Sukkot on our campus.  We had a really great Chabad on Campus.  YOu used to be able to hear the shofar outside of the grocery store if you missed it during the days of Awe.

So I started, and I was able to keep up the tradition so far.  Until this year.  Hmm... I know it's not over yet, maybe I can find a lulav and an etrog to shake.  I have a sukkah in my back yard, you would think I could get it done, but not quite yet...

One step at a time, right?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Reading- yes I think it's possible

I love to read.  I love to read so much that I remember getting in trouble for reading and walking for the first time at summer camp when I was eleven years old.  I love reading so much that I am routinely walking around with my nose in a book.  Even now, crossing the street to my office.  I look upon all times as available for reading.  I'm ashamed to say that I even read while I was driving once (don't even ask me to go into what the police officer said when he pulled me over!)

But what happens to reading when we have children?

Not only do I think we can continue to read for pleasure, but once we have children I think it's our duty to read for pleasure.  Think about how often your child wants to emulate you.  What you do, how you act, what you say.  We've all seen it- for good and bad.

We all know how important it is to read to our children.  It's probably the only thing that all the parenting books agree on.  It has a significant impact on many aspects of our children's future.  But what about reading ourselves?

My personal feelings are that spending time reading ourselves shows our children that we value that activity.  That when we choose how to spend our time, we choose to read.  So when our kids are older and need to read those books from school we've already created a healthy culture of reading in our homes.

I think it's also critically important to have Jewish themed books in our home.  For both us, and our children.  A great way to get Jewish themed books (delivered for free, right to your door!) is PJ Library.  If you aren't a part of it yet, join now!

What I'm reading now:
French Twist: An American Mom's Experiment in Parisian Parenting
The Language of Flowers: A Novel
Executive Orders (Jack Ryan)
It Looked Different on the Model: Epic Tales of Impending Shame and Infamy

Yes, I'm reading all of them. I promise a book review on "French Twist." I'll also have a few more Jewishly themed parenting books coming up in the next few days.
 I have the following on hold from the library:
The Blessing Of A Skinned Knee: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Self-Reliant Children
Teaching Your Children About God: A Modern Jewish Approach

Think I'm the only crazy reading girl, not so much.  Check out Anne

Sunday, September 22, 2013

EG- Moments in Motherhood

She is consistently amazing.  I can't believe how much of a child she is turning it to.  How big she's growing, how tall she's getting, but most of all, I can't believe how much she has learned.  How much she observes and listens, how much she knows.

Here's a little moment- after you've given her a shower in the morning, how do you clean up the yogurt mess...

Friday, September 20, 2013

Decorate your Sukkah

Not sure if I convinced you to build your own Sukkah (of any size or shape!), but I thought I would share some very fun and wonderful fall/winter decorations.  These would be great inside the home, as well as on your sukkah.

Photographer for The Sweetest Occasion

Shabbat Lights

*No, this isn't a picture of me and my daughter.  I'm a picture thief!*

Have you heard of FridayLight?  It's this great organization focused on helping women and girls 'light up' on Friday nights.  They send you a weekly reminder about the timing for lighting the Shabbat candles, and a nice little weekly thoughts.

I love their weekly thoughts.  They share such a depth that I don't always think about.  When our family got started, when Working Dad and I were just DINKs we decided to start lighting the candles on friday night.  It gave us a sense of stillness, a moment to reflect, renew and really connect with one another and with something beyond ourselves.

Since having EG we've expanded upon the tradition, trying to invite people over, putting out linens (EG can put out the napkins!) and really set things apart. We even let EG use her silver toddler fork and spoon for the event.  We don't always dress it up, but we always take time to be a family, and give our thanks.

One of the traditions we've instituted has been to comment between the candles and the wine on one thing that we're grateful for this week.  Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's hard, but I think it's always important.  Since we both work lighting the candles gives us a chance to separate from weekly to-do lists, to weekend family time.  I also think it's nice to turn off other lights (even if you turn them right back on again!).  It adds a little mystery, a little focus.  It helps EG to see the light and the wonder that much more.

One step at a time for all of us.

I will also share that though FridayLight is a Jewish endeavor, it's also something nice for women around the world, regardless of your denomination.  To think about how much a little light can envelop so much darkness, push away the fear and the angry and the hurt with a moments peace and light. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Date Night!

Flckr Image by pointnshoot

Tuesday night Working Dad and I went out on a date night.  We went to the Kings/Ducks hockey game down in Anaheim.  While it's not the most romantic date, it was a chance to get out, have some time together, and watch the Ducks play terribly...

It can be so hard to try to maintain date nights.  The couple we went to the game with hadn't been out on a date night in almost 6 years!  6 years!  That's too long folks, just way to long.

Sometimes it seems that taking a date night isn't worth the effort.  Finding a babysitter you trust is a lot of work, even with or UrbanSitter.  Then there's making arrangements for food, for little ones and possibly the sitter too!  Not to mention the exhorbitant costs that can go along with hiring a sitter.  What seems like a cheap movie goes from a $25 date, to a $70 or higher with babysitting costs.

Seems like I'm making a great case for staying home, huh?

I'm not, I promise.  At the foundation of your family is the relationship that existed before you had children.  That of husband and wife (in our case, maybe in yours it's husband and husband, or husband and 5 wives).  If the foundation of your relationship isn't strong, how can you expect the rest of the house to be strong.

In Judaism we make our lifetime commitment to each other under a chuppah.  The Chuppah is meant to portray an image of our home, and the home that we will create together.  We create a home when the two of us made a commitment.  We make our own family-of-choice.  And every time that we choose to honor that family, and honor that commitment by putting our partners or spouses first, we choose to add value to our children's lives.

We know how hurt children are from divorce.  We know how run down we can be when we don't have time to recharge.  So take charge, make the choice.

Go on a date night :-)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Field Trip: Skirball Center

EG loved the food area
I took Exuberant Girl to the Skirball Center just before she turned one years old. I know, you are definitely thinking that it's to go somewhere like that, but actually we found it fantastic.  Besides which, I'd already taken her to the Norton Simon, so at least the Skirball had child friendly moments.

For those of you who don't about the Skirball center it's a Jewish cultural center that centers on Judaism and American Democracy.  Most people know about it because of their awesome permanent exhibit, Noah's Ark.

And what an exhibit it is!  They take found objects, from cans and wood and tires, etc and create a whole world for kids to play in.  While definitely on the young side EG had a great time.
EG and the Gorillas
 You start the exhibit talking about how to interact, and learning a few 'ground rules.'  Then you go in and make the storm.  Amazing rain machines, building the ark, and getting all the animals inside.  From there you are 'on the ark.'  EG loved the kitchen area, playing with the fake food.  There is an awesome climbing section for the older kids, and these amazing monkeys (forgive the terrible pictures).  The last space is where the rain has stopped and the rainbow comes out.  They have story time and puzzles, great for a wind down.

Why hello little fox puppet, nice to meet you!
While EG definitely enjoyed it, she was also totally crawling and in the beginning stages of starting to walk.  There were lots of people there with sibling groups, but those babies to young to be put down definitely didn't have an experience.

You get two hours in the space, and it ends up being enough time.  It's busy in the morning, then lots of people leave to accommodate afternoon naps.  So if you can get in around 1pm or so, totally worth it.

We finished off our visit with lunch on the back patio.  You can bring in food with you, so no need to buy anything to expensive.

We will definitely be going back.  I can't wait to take EG with her nieces and nephews. Part of the great experience would be doing it together with older/younger kids.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Now that the trials and tribulations of Yom Kippur are gone its time to jump straight into the fun and frivolity of Sukkot.  The first harvest festival of the year, it's so much fun to build a sukkot and really enjoy the outdoors.  Just as the weather starts to change, its an ideal time to enjoy the great outdoors.

It may seem difficult to make a sukkah according to the halacha, but take a look at all the amazing options and possibilities.   Allow your creativity to really take control, see what's possible.  Don't limit yourself to the traditional box.  Maybe now is the time to build that outdoor fort your kid has been clamoring for.

Some ideas for making sukkot a family celebration:

1. Build.  Most people build a sukkah outside.  What if you don't have the space.  How about a lego sukkah?  An edible sukkah?  I think you could use popsicle sticks, maybe tegus? Anything goes!  Have fun building decorating your mini-sukkahs. See what type of architecture or engineering skills you may have.

2. Eat outside.  Regardless of whether you have a sukkot or not, now is a great time to pick that picnic basket back up again and enjoy a meal somewhere new.  Perhaps you didn't quite make it to the summer picnic you aspired to- now is the time. 

3. Sleep outside.  Obviously most people make a sukkah outside to sleep under.  However, that may not be practical for you.  How about an easier teepee?  Just sleeping outside, on a patio or a deck can count too, can bring you closer to the feelings of the holidays.  Take the opportunity to do that camping trial run in the backyard.  Embrace nature, and think how nice it is to have the bathroom so close.

4. Eat lots of Fruits and Vegetables.  This is the harvest holiday.  Break out the recipes for pumpkin, squash and other fall vegetables. Really enjoy that in season pear.  Let your kids try their hands at a pumpkin pie or apple tart.  Maybe it's time to dig into that garden and get your own harvest going for the fall. 

5. Shake.  You are supposed to shake an etrog and a lulav.  But what if you don't have one.  I say have a dance party.  Shake your butts, really get in the joy and the thanks of the moment.  No, this one may not be traditional, but I say you take what you have (or what you don't have) and get into the moment.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Rosh Hashana Resolutions

Photo by Jeff

I know what you are thinking, isn't this post a little old.  Shouldn't this have come a few weeks ago, when so many others posted theirs...

Here's the problem with New Year's Resolutions before Yom Kippur.  When you went to services for Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur you atoned for all of your sins.  You specifically atoned for all of the promises you didn't keep.  The ones between you and G-d.  What is a resolution?  It's a promise between you and G-d.  So, by making New Year's resolutions then going into services to release your promises seems like a cop-out to me.

So, that being said, I still believe in making resolutions.  Our family made a few.  Each year we like to break down our resolutions into categories.  Mine, EG's, Working Dad's and then some for the family.  We do one family resolution, and one spiritual resolution.  We try to make them work together.

Without further ado- here are our resolutions:

Mine: To commit to making myself a priority.  Now, this doesn't seem like a SMART goal. However, I thought that breaking it into SMART pieces would be to much to chat through with the husband.  So, here is what this means to me.  Go to yoga at least once a week.  Play soccer at least once a week. Do things that make me happy, and healthy.

Yes, this may seem selfish, but the reality is that without taking care of myself, it's infinitely harder to take care of Working Dad and EG.  Not to mention that if we want to have another child (which we do, soon I hope!) that taking care of me will be taking care of another life.

Working Dads: To move to a new job that makes him happy.  We subscribe to a more traditional family role scenario, where Working Dad makes the bulk of the money that buys the turkey bacon.  Which means that he needs to go to work.  However, going to a place that you aren't happy at every day takes an enormous toll on you.  In order for all of us to be happier, he needs to be happy to.

EG: Okay, okay, you caught me.  This is really our resolution for her, not her own promise to G-d.  But I think it still counts.  We're trying to help her cultivate an attitude of gratitude.  Yes, I know, gratitude cultivation is a controversial item.  If you read NutureShock  then you know just how scientifically controversial it is.  However, I still think it's a good thing.  And I think that it bridges with a Jewish idea of G-d.

Family Goal:  Make new friends.  Again, not so SMART.  But we've quantified this by saying that we're going to be inviting someone new to do something (dinner, playdate, etc.) at least once a week.  Also, we've agree to put ourselves out there.  To say yes to parties, events, etc.  I'm also hoping that this blog will help us connect a little more.

Spiritual Goal: To invite someone for Shabbat once a month.  That's SMART.  Of course, we didn't say that this was only friday night- it could be Saturday too.  We are open to in the house, out at brunch, etc.  Just connecting with someone else (which ties into our family goal) while still being spiritual.

What types of goals or resolutions did you make?  Any other categories we should consider?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

High Holy Day Services review

We ended up joining some friends at the Adventure in the Park, courtesy of Temple Israel.  We had preregistered, and I'm glad we did.  Though I may drive on Rosh Hashana, and we went out for lunch afterwards at a restaurant, the idea of a temple asking me for money on the High Holy Days gives me the heebejeebes.

First off, the park location was really difficult to find.  We ended up being very late to the event.  They had some signage, which ended up being helpful, but we could definitely have used a bit more directional assistance.  We had to park very far away,  but the park was pretty, and there were TONS of people.

They had a female rabbi, female cantor, and they the services were centered around a stage.  They had tons of pup-up tents, since it was so, so so hot.  They also had water on offer.  They had an adorable little service booklet to follow, and there were families everywhere.  Lots of people on picnic blankets, with folding chairs.

It was absolutely the perfect place to bring a toddler.  Bubbles, and toys all around.  And a torah making it's rounds.  Perfectly simple for a young family.

They blew the shofar, handed out apples and honey sticks.  Broke challah and had wine.  It was a complete service, with the amidah, singing, all the traditional elements.  Lots of families had brought picnic lunches and were eating them after the event.  EG really enjoyed wandering around, and feeding her challah to the ducks, turtles and geese in the lake.

When it was over, we went to a restaurant around the corner for lunch.

Would I do it again?  Absolutely.  Though we arrived late, there was still a spirit of the holiday.  No pressure to act a certain way, no problems with letting our littlest Jew be just the toddler that she is. Next time, however, I would remember to bring our lunch, bring a blanket, and I would definitely register in advance.  $12 per person for a bite of challah and some apple was a bit much, but it was absolutely worth it to be together, as a family, with meaningful tesuvah.

That was it for our Rosh Hashana services.  Friday passed in a fog of family.  Wonderful, happy fog of family.

We atteded Kol Nidre at the Shul by the Shore in Long Beach.  We had decided to attend this location because they stated they had Children's Programming.  To me, this meant that there were activities related to the holidays for our littlest ones.  To them, it meant babysitting in another part of the building.

They were very, very nice and welcoming. Initially we tried to bring the babies in with us (EG with the ladies, her boyfriend with the boys).  But that lasted only about 5 minutes. So we took the babies to babysitting, and tried to focus and switch out.  I don't think I would do it again, though they were very kind to us, and the babies had a good time.

We went to Saturday Services at the JCC of the Beach Cities.
This was a communal family event. We attended the Tot/preschool event.  It was totally participatory, and lively, just very engaging and exciting.  They read stories, built a beit hamikdash, told the story of Jonah and the whale, and got to see the Torah.  They also had a puppet show which the kids really liked.  The puppet show was nice, but I didn't think the story was very appropriate for a holy day.  It involved wizards, witches and dragons.  It also involved breaking the rules and trying to lie.  Oh well, you can't have it all.

They served a snack at the synagogue, allowing all us parents to relax just a bit more and not have to stress about preparing yet another meal.  This JCC also had a more traditional family service for the older kids in another space.  Family seating, but still a traditional call to worship.  A great compromise when the kids get a bit older, but you still want to be a bit more relaxed.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Yom Kippur & Shabbat Shalom

Shabbat Shalom, Gmar Chatimah Tovah.  May you be inscribed for a good year.  May your fast be easy, and feeding the little ones without sneaking a snack yourself be manageable.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

On Kol Nidre

Kol Nidre. The holiest of holy days.  Possibly, in my opinion, the most difficult of holidays to celebrate as a family.  How to feel strongly about connecting to the moment.  About really feeling atonement, fasting and thinking and dedicating yourself.  All the while still feeding a child, changing diapers, and trying not to loose your head.

When you think about the words of Kol Nidre, the sins we are all atoning for it's so easy to say them, and then do just the opposite.  Give an exasperated sigh, bribe with a toy or cookie, and generally do all the things we said that we were sorry for.  But when we pass judgement on the clothes our children picked out themselves, we are aren't sorry, we're just going through the motions.

Each year for me the days of Awe and Kol Nidre are the culmination of a time of serious thought.  A dedication to myself.  I really try to apologize.  I really try to delve into myself and think about the promises I made to G-d and didn't keep.  Like some others, I really struggle with this thought of forgiveness.  I try to really forgive not only myself, but only make promises I think I can keep.

Of course, we are all human.  We all make mistakes, and we all need to atone for them however we can.

This year, it's so much harder.  There is another soul, another life that hangs, seemingly in my Kol Nidre prayers.  There is another person to consider, and somehow it seems so much scarier to consider her, and our relationship.  Thinking in the next year that she will test me.  She will test my patience, my stamina, my relationship with G-d, my husband and myself.  What about her promises.  What about the vows that she made to G-d.  I stand not just for myself, but also for her.

In the next year I know that EG will rely on me.  To teach her, to guide her, to go down new paths together.  And I hope that as I sit in Kol Nidre, beat my chest as each sin passes, I can think about using every day to be better.  For her, with her.

This year we are heading to Shul by the Shore, a Chabad shul in Long Beach.  They advertise a children's programming option, which for a Kol Nidre is very hard to find.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

South Bay High Holiday Options 2013

We aren't highly observant Jews, and though we do Shabbat on Fridays, at least 50% of the time we end up going out for dinner or with friends after lighting the candles. 

While EG goes to a religious daycare at the JCC (a chabad actually) we aren't really affiliated with the synagogue there. You would think that being at the Jewish Daycare we wouldn't worry about where to go for services, but like many other families we young children, we struggle with where to spend our High Holidays.  

While I understand the idea behind paying for tickets, it's hard for us to feel like the exorbitant price is worth it.  As a young family, both parents working, we struggle to make dinner let alone have money to pay 1000's for a temple membership. 

When you just attend high holiday services, you have no idea what type of community you are getting yourself into.  And after a busy summer with travel, and trips, it's hard to think that before the holidays we would have found our Jewish Home.  So, like many others, we try to cobble together some sort of Jewish Experience.  Below are some places that seem like they might want us to join them.  No idea what would really happen, but at least it's a start. 

Rosh Hashana Main Service

Temple Menorah (Redondo Beach)

 9am Thursday: They request that you RSVP, but my understanding is that the family service is free.

JCC (Redondo Beach, Vail Ave)

 10:30am Thursday: Completely free. Two family services, one for 2-5 years, one for 5-12

Temple Akiba (Culver City off Sepulveda)

 3pm Thursday: My understanding is that the children’s service at the temple does not require tickets

Adventure in the Park (Temple Israel Long Beach, El Dorado Park)

10am Thursday: Tickets required for adults.  $12, includes some food. Free for kids up to 12

Community Tashlich

Manhattan Beach Pier- 5pm with Temple Menorah & Congregation Tikvat Jacob

*Bring some bread to throw*

Kol Nidre

I have been unable to find any family friendly Kol Nidre services in the Los Angeles area.  There is one in Orange County, and one in Long Beach, but none in LA.

Yom Kippur Morning/Day

JCC (Redondo Beach, Vail Ave) 10:30am

Menorah (Redondo Beach) 10:30 am

Most of these services fall into Option 3, where you and your family worship together.  As a family.  That's where we find the most grace for ourselves.  Where we all join together, and can contribute to EG's learning about Judaism.  

Want to chat more about paying for services?  Here are a few interesting articles: About's take on it,  Frum Satire (funny video!), My Jewish Learning's thoughts.

High Holiday Options with Toddlers

This year was our second high holidays with our Exuberant Girl.  She's just over one year of age, totally a toddler. Running around, trying everything, though still baby enough to stick everything in her mouth.

Since she attends a Jewish daycare at the local JCC (which is actually a Chabad, but more on that later), her entire school was closed for Rosh Hashana, and Yom Kippur.  Since we always take off for at least the first day of Rosh Hashana, and all day for Yom Kippur, this wasn't to much of a difficulty.  The problem comes in when we try to decide how to celebrate together as a family.

Back when EG was a tiny baby, Working Dad and I split time, and he went for some of it, and I went for some of it.  I was breastfeeding, so in some ways, that made it easy.  In other, there weren't too many opportunities for tesuvah.

This year, EG is old enough to be alert, active and possibly participating.  The way I see it there are three options:

Option 1:  Hire a babysitter, leave the child at home and go to Shul by yourself.  This could be as easy as leaving the baby with a grandparent, or hiring someone else.  There are some out there who go this route.  Pros: You have more time to center yourself, find clarity, participate with more kavanah than you might if you had your child in tow.  Cons:  You aren't contributing to your child's religious education, nor are you exposing them to the congregation.  You may also be spending money on a holiday, which is certainly not following halacah

Option 2: Kids services at a shul.  You and the kids are in the same place, with adult services in one space, and a children's appropriate service in another.  Pros: You are all in it together, not leaving anyone at home.  Cons: Usually someone has to stay with the child, or in programs where you don't, you usually have to pay for someone else to watch the child.  Additionally, the children's programming runs the gambit from babysitting, to having a torah service, so you don't know what you are getting.

Option 3: A joint multi-generational service.  Keep the kids with you, and all pray together.  Pros: You are all together, you get to participate as a family, joining together and being a part of the religious education.  Cons: You may not get the connection you want, doing diaper changes, and trying to stay engaged with your toddler.

 So, what did we do, where do we stand?  And what are our options in the South Bay?
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