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!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Our family vacation

The Consortium
Last weekend we met up with my sister's family and my parents for a wine tasting weekend in Paso.  We stayed in a 'cabin' at 'Lake' San Antonio.  Doesn't it look like it should be lovely?  While we had a wonderful time overall, there were definitely some issues.

When we were planning this trip it had two purposes.  The first was wine tasting.  My parents are members of the J.Lohr wine club, and they had a wine tasting harvest weekend set of events.  This included a nice lobster dinner on Friday night, a free wine and cheese event on Saturday, and a Sunday meal as well.  So, that sounded great.

The second purpose was a camping trip.  Typically my family tries to spend a few days over the summer camping together.  But with everyone's schedules, new jobs, etc we didn't make that happen this year. But camp fires are a priority.

With these things in mind we made our plans.  We reserved a cabin at the lake, made plans for a nice wine dinner, and packed up the car.

We arrived on Friday to find, not what's above, but a dry smelly mud pit.  No water, no lake.  And our 'cabin?'  Not a cabin, a trailer.  Now, don't get me wrong, there is nothing generally wrong with a trailer.  It certainly served the purpose of shelter, etc.  But when you are advertising a cabin, you sort of have different expectations. 

We'd arranged with the scheduler to babysit EG while we went to our expensive wine dinner.  She forgot.  We spend $85 per person on this nice dinner, that we never even got to go to!  So much for that.

Did I also forget to mention that the water wasn't potable?  There was something wrong and the county had stated that the water wasn't fit for human consumption while we were there.  So, that's wonderful too!

We made the best of it, and honestly, it was still a nice birthday weekend.  The littles got to play together, EG and my sister's son, and that was SO CUTE!  Running, jumping, tumbling.  Just a fine and dandy time together.

Would I do it again, yes.  Would I change things, yes.  Look for my wine tasting tips to come out early next week!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Today I received an e-mail from about a survey they are running.  I highly recommend that if you use their website at all, or if you are an interfaith family of any kind that you fill out the survey online.  I'm especially trying to encourage those in LA to participate, because I think having their team help collate interfaith activities and local resources would be wonderful!

I've been working on a post about the Jewish community online, and how/where to find more people who might be living Jewishly, and talking about it. is one of those resources.

Many people hear about it for the first time when they are trying to get married.  As most of you know, getting married interfaith can be a difficult proposition.  Finding a rabbi willing to marry two people who aren't both Jewish, or committed to Judaism, can be a challenge.  And what a difficult way to start building a Jewish family.

We were lucky when we got married.  We had a wonderful Rabbi who married us, though the road was paved by my sister before me.  We were also lucky in that we knew we were raising a Jewish family (the survey asked me what that meant to me, look for a post on that soon!).  Working Dad has every intention (this is him talking, not me!) of converting.  I've never pressed the issue, but taking an Intro to Judaism class as a first step was an easy commitment for him to make.

I think it's important to acknowledge that even though we are committed to raising a Jewish family, and that we consider ourselves nothing but Jewish, there is still an element of interfaith to our family.  Every year we deal with the Easter/Passover and Christmas/Chanukkah debate.  As we go through important Jewish rituals (baby naming/bris, bat mitzvah, mikvah, etc.) we have to be sensitive to explain these items to my husband's family, and incorporate them into our commitment.

In the next month or so I'll be chatting more about being interfaith- what it means to us to be raising our children Jewish, and how we can all make choices about religion in different ways to raise a Jewish family.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pick a Parasha: Lech Lecha Discussion

Back on October 1st I challenged everyone to join in our effort to read more of the Torah with Pick a Parasha.  Here we are to discuss the Parasha from October:  Lech Lecha.

Most of the commentaries about Lech Lecha focus on a few things.   That Abram left when G-d told him to, leaving behind his world, and how we should take the leap of faith.  That we have a 'go forth' moment, to move beyond and above.  Others focus on the story of Sarai and Hagar- choices Sarai makes when struggling with fertility.  Lots call attention to the name changing of Abram to Abraham, and the words of the covenant.  But as a new mom, I read something different.

When G-d tells Abram to leave his home things are looking pretty good.  He's married, 75 years old, and G-d tells him that everything is going to be alright.  Actually, more than alright- things are going to be absolutely fantastic:
"I will make your name great,
And you shall be a blessing.
3 I will bless those who bless you
And curse him that curses you;"
If only we had such assurances that our children would be so well looked after when they leave our homes. He left his father's home married at age 75, which is a great many years.  Unfortunately it's not so easy for us.  We have no idea what will happen to our children when they leave our homes, where they will travel, who they will meet, and what choices they will make.  Rarely here in America do they leave married, though sometimes they do.  He left after more years then you or I can even reasonably expect to know our children, forget about how long they live at home!

When we follow along in Abram's story we see that he traveled here and there, and then goes to Egypt.  Where he lies.  A bold-faced lie.  He turns his wife into his sister. The father of our nation, and the first thing he really does on his G-d directed journey is tell a lie to the Pharoah. 

And he profits from this lie.  He profits big!  With cows, sheep, etc.  He lets Pharoah take Sarai as a wife in order to gain favor and $.  He's the first pimp in the Torah!  Thankfully G-d intervenes, and Sarai is returned to Abram and they depart.

I haven't been able to find much commentary on this particular point, but it sticks with me as an interesting message for us parents.  (I tried! Nothing here, or here, or hereHere they say he just doesn't lie!?  I did find other woman (a mother!) and one commentator trying to piece together thoughts.)

No, I'm not being factious. The message I see is two fold.  First, that you have to let go, regardless of your own fears.  The fact that everyone has to "go to yourself" at some point. Abram had the best of all possible situations.  G-d told him directly that he would bless him, and curse those who curse him.  We couldn't have asked for more to send our children off with.  But Abram still makes bad choices.  Choices that we probably don't support, or understand.

The second message is one about our response. What does G-d do?  Does he punish Abram or turn his back on him? 

He intervenes.  He sends plagues and strife on Pharaoh's house and Pharaoh learns that Sarai is Abram's wife.  Not only does G-d not turn his back, but Abram is embraced, and the end of the portion is the covenant of Abraham with G-d. 

Our children will leave our homes.  They will go forth, and we have to wait and watch and be like G-d is with Abram.  Sometimes we will need to step in, but we must also allow our children to make their own choices, even when there are great risks.  We must understand that they get to make mistakes as much as we get to, and that we are the net they can fall back on when they need to.

We can't always intervene to the way G-d does for Abram, but we can always be there for our children to turn to.  Though they must 'go forth' we can still be their champions.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

EG: Moments in Parenthood

I grow Mom- I'm taller, and stronger and smarter
I learn Mom- Thank you, and Please and Fun
I know EG- Thank G-d for every moment...

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fostering Creativity

Benjamin D. Esham / Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes I think we worry about things for nothing.  Then there are the other times when we think about things that should be important, that we might actually be able to change.

The latest thing I didn't think we had to worry about, Creativity.  Being creative used to be an inherent thing for our children.  Give them a box, a ball and a stick and you've got any game you can imagine.  When we were little (are you feeling the 'up hill both ways' coming on?!) we spent hours and hours wandering our front and backyard.  We could turn anything into a game.

One of our favorites when we were under 5 was to collect moss and skip stones, build forts out of tree leaves.  In CA our best games were rolling down the cul-de-sac on our wagon, often trying to throw or catch a ball while rolling.

We had LOTS of free time.  Time in which the only things we had to entertain ourselves was ourselves.  No soccer practice, no ballet, no extra classes or violin lessons.  Just ourselves and our brains to figure things out.

Now, it seems like we need a whole college to figure things out.  Don't get me wrong, I love Lego's.  I believe that Lego's can play an important role in fostering creativity, and giving kids an opportunity to do whatever it is they want to.  But a whole foundation dedicated to it?

I thought that kids already had Legos in the classroom?  What happened to fun time?  Free time?  Etc. Do you think we have a creativity crisis?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pier to Pier Friendship Walk

The Pier to Pier Friendship walk is coming up this weekend on October 27!

A wonderful occasion to get out to the beach, walk around and show your support for children with special needs.  It's a wonderful, awe-inspiring event which brings together people from all over the South Bay out in support.

It's a nice, lovely walk from Manhattan Beach pier to Hermosa Beach pier.  Strollers, baby carriers, all family is welcome.  It's $25 per-registration, and $30 on the day of.  It starts at 8:30am, and ends at the Hermosa Beach pier with the Pumpkin races.

A lovely weekend option, and we hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Book Club- JCC South Bay

Want to join in the fun of the book club?  I'm not associated formally with the Jewish Women of the South Bay, but this book seemed to good to resist.  I just got it from the public library.  Anyone interested in joining me for Book club?

The Last Jew
 By: Noah Gordon 
 Our Book Club meets throughout the year to discuss various books  covering a wide range of Jewish topics by different prominent Jewish authors.  Join us as we have a great time analyzing the books and hanging out with friends.  
DATE: Tuesday, November 5th
 TIME: 8:00p.m.
  RSVP:  Please call 310-214-4999
Looking forward to seeing you.
 Click Here To Order The Book
Jewish Women of the South Bay
2108 Vail Ave. Redondo Beach, California 90278

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Crafty Days

A few nights ago I got together with a fellow working Mom to make a sensory table.

Do you have a sensory table?  I'm sure you've heard of them.  And if, like EG, your little one goes to daycare chances are good that they are playing with one often.

A sensory table is a table that usually includes a bucket or two.  It's designed to hold water, sand, flour, and other messy substances for your child to get a 'sensory' experience.  Here are a few Sensory tables around the webs:

These are over $100!  So, we made our own.  I got together with another South Bay mom, we went to Home Depot and bought what we needed late on a Saturday night.  (yup!  A Saturday night date!)  I'm so glad we did!

Photo taken after fun had commenced...
The lid makes it totally weather proof!

 The first thing we did with it was play with flour.  A few cups, a sifter, and a big fun mess!

The chair is from Ikea, and is a bit short, but so is the bean...
 I found this online, 30 different sensory activities.  I can't wait to try them all.  I think we might have Sensory Sunday's.  I'll be happy to share as we go along....

Monday, October 21, 2013

Nighttime Fight

We had a first in the house last night: a fight over who went to the baby in the middle of the night. 

EG has been teething, getting up several times in the middle of the night.  At first we thought it was just that she hadn't eaten well, since she often rolled right over and went back to sleep.  Over the course of the week, however, we finally realized that she was in some amount of pain, and decided to give her tylenol.

When she woke up last night, both Working Dad and I wanted to run in and help her.  Both of us craved that time, that moment to help her and comfort her, and make her feel better.

Some Tylenol put her back to bed through the whole night.  I remember the first times she would wake up in the night, 11pm, 1am, 3am, etc.  No one was jumping out of bed to help.  I didn't know then what I know now.

How important it is to be there.  How very small she is, and how these moments are so, so, so fleeting.  That yesterday she was sucking at the breast, and today she's eating steak with a fork!  No one tells you these moments will pass in the blink of an eye.

When you are in it, it's all-encompassing.  It's everything to you- the lack of sleep, the fear, etc.  Now, it's these stolen moments.  When she snuggles against me in the rocking chair, and I provide what she needs.  But the truth is, she's providing what I need just the same.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pick a Parasha Reminder

Remember, if you haven't read it yet, we are focusing on Lech Lecha (Genesis 12:1 - 17:27)

So, if you can, maybe find some time for some light reading...

Join me on Monday October 28th for my first D'var torah.  Together, we'll read the entire book, eventually :-)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Growing up Girl

I have a girl.  She's still young, but I can't help be already be obsessing about how she's going to grow up.  And I know I'm not alone in worrying about what it means to grow-up today.  Being a girl in today's world is extremely trying.  And I already think I'm failing her...

My daughter has some chub.  She has the cutest little belly, which protrudes from the center of her body- it almost makes her inny and outie.  If she was 20 and looked like this, I might ask if she was pregnant!

Sometimes, as we sit in the bathtub, I wonder if I'm a horrible mom because I say something about her adorable tummy.  Am I setting her up for years of therapy, body image issues and problems down the road?

I am comfortable with my body.  No, I'm not perfect, and no, I'm not 100% confident all the time.  But 95% of the time, I am confident, comfortable, and happy with my body.  And my weight. 

Yes, I do believe that what you wear, and having clothes that fit, makes a huge impact on your self-esteem.  However, I also know that being naked is a glorious thing.  It's my preferred outfit at my home on any given Sunday morning.

How do I ensure that my daughter grows up knowing how beautiful, wonderful and special she is?  That the number on the scale, and the size of her jeans aren't as important as how her clothes fit, and how much activity she can do.  I believe that you are beautiful the way you are.  I believe that riding your bike is a more important indicator of your health than the number on the scale.  I believe that eating a freshly cooked marshmallow out of our fireplace is a good dessert any night of the week.

I know she's to young, but I'm glad that there are programs out there to help her through this.  And I'm glad that some of them are Jewish.  I just don't want to be too late. 

Do you worry?  Am I crazy? 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Potty Training

When did you potty train your child?  I have thoughts about starting, even though EG is just getting to 16months.  I realize that most people think it's to early, but I just don't know.

I suppose it really comes down to who your child is, but I also can't help but think that we've made it so common to wait so long.  I know it's hard to try to facilitate potty training without language, and I'd be lying if I thought that EG communicated effectively/knows the words peepee or poop.  Let's not even try to discuss the fact that EG is in daycare, and that means that they would have to take her to the potty.

I guess what I'm saying isn't that I'm ready to take on potty training, but more that I'm ready to take on the introduction of the potty.

I know I'm not the only mom who's baby girl follows her into the bathroom.  Before now she's just stood next to me, but I haven't tried to teach her what the toilet is, or what I'm doing.

Since EG is in cloth most of the time, I hope that will facilitate her knowing she's wet, feeling unhappy being wet, and wanting to go to the toilet.

So, I'm going to start taking the steps.  On the weekends I'm going to try to take her to the potty when she wakes up, 20 minutes after she eats, and every 2 hours whenever we think of it.  Not militantly- not really training- just opportunity to start to learn.

How did you potty train? When did you potty train? Any advice?  Or do you already have this at home:

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Book Review: French Twist


Have you been following the French parenting revolution?  While it's true that it really hit it's stride back in 2010 I think all new moms have found there way to it one way or another.

The 'famous book' is Bringing up Bebe, by Pamela Zuckerman.  I've read it.  It's okay.  The other good one is "French Kids Eat Everything."  I've read that one too.  But honestly, this one is my favorite.  However, if you want to try to follow some french parenting philosophies, "French Twist" is really the book for you.
This is an American mom living in America trying to take a few French philosophies and put them to good use in her own family.

Things I loved:
  1.  I am the Chief of the Family.  If not me, then at least my husband.  Or the adult I leave in control.  This seems like such common sense, but so often it is easier to let your kid have their way, especially when it comes to meltdowns in public places.  We want our kids to be good debaters.  We want our kids to share their opinions, but then we forget that kids don't know enough to be in control.  They don't know what's best for them.  If we take control, we'll get better results and less meltdowns.  This includes sticking to your guns and following through.

  2. Be your own person.  I think this is an incredibly important idea.  In this age of helicopter parenting it's even more important.  It's hard to remember that you can have your own time, your own hobbies and your own accomplishments.  It's like a never ending spiral.  I raise my children, therefore my children are a reflection on me.  Therefore their successes are my successes.  Sure... but then you cross the line and become a Dance Mom.  We have to remember that it's my child who didn't get invited to the party, not me.  She talks a lot about taking time as parents, and expecting the kids to respect that time. 

  3. Don't praise for expected behavior.  Her two children are used to getting praised.  As well as being given toys for behaving well.  The French don't do that, so she stopped doing it too.  In Nurtureshock we learned all about the negatives of praise, but she talks about how we need to keep our expectations normal, and not praise our kids for doing what's expected.

  4. If there's no blood, don't get up.  This one is my favorite!  We are all concerned for our kids safety, and most of us know that our children wait until we respond to try to decide what they should do, but she takes it even further. Allow our children to fight themselves, fall themselves, and generally manage life as much as possible. This ties into the French idea that we should have limits (really strong, do not cross limits!) for a few things.  Everything else we should relax about.

*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.*

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

So, we finally picked our car seat


Remember when we were shopping for a new carseat?  Why did we choose the Diono Radian?
  1. My sister-in-Law has it, and loves it.  There's nothing better than being able to see the carseat in action, and she's had this one for a while.  She loves it, the baby likes it, and she has 5 kids, so she's owned a lot of carseats.

  2. It's slim profile.  It's one of the slimest out there with high safety ratings.  That means that when we have kiddo number two, we should still be able to put one of the carseats in the middle seat, the safest place for babies.

  3. It's got a very high weight limit.  The rear-facing weight limit is 45 lbs, one of the highest on the market.  Additionally it allows kids to be in the carseat until they are 100lbs as a booster.  In CA where we live they have to be in a booster until 8 years old, so that was important.

  4. It's got a long life.  The Diono is rated for 8 years using the harness, and for 10 years as a booster.  That means that it will definitely last as long as EG needs to be in a carseat.  Add to that the fact that it can be used when a baby is 5lbs, that means it's an all for one carseat! 

  5. Safety Ratings.  It's got great safety ratings.  It's made of steel and reinforced foam.  It's strong, and will definitely protect EG in all circumstances.  G-d willing we don't have to find that out, but never-the-less, it's important.

Why not the other Diono's?  It basically came down to the fact that the RXT and the GTX seem to be the exact same carseat, though one is slightly more money.  We considered the R120, since EG will most likely be a tall kid, but the side impact seemed much more safe.

Considering a new carseat?  Check out this great comparison.  There prices aren't the best, but the information/chat is really helpful.

We ended up purchasing ours at Buy Buy Baby, using a 20% off coupon...

Monday, October 14, 2013

Obligations of Grandparents

I've touched on this before, how lucky we are to have my parents living nearby.  it's nice to have Grandparents, and its definitely something we wanted for our children.  My own grandparents died when I was 7, and I didn't even know my father's parents at all since they died before I was born.  My husband's Grandma just passed and I'm still devastated about it.  So, don't get me wrong, I absolutely love that my daughter gets these experiences.

However, with closeness comes complications.

1.  The obligation to visit.  We live 45 minutes away and anytime we want to visit friends in the area we feel an enormous obligation to visit our family.  Even if we wanted to go see a play, go to the fair or have a wedding, we still feel obligated to visit the family

2.  The obligation of equal time.  Not only do my parents live there, but Working Dad's parents do to.  In fact the total distance in time is about a 5 minute car ride.  Which means that it's neigh impossible to visit one without feeling guilty about not seeing the other.

3.   The obligation of respecting their home.  We have certain rules in our home.  Behaviours we are trying to teach, things we want EG to learn.  My parents have a pool in the backyard.  Or as my sister puts it 'a quick and silent death trap.'  My in-laws have a lot of stuff.  Like, we may be bordering on hoarding lot of stuff.  They have great toys for EG, but don't you dare try to wander in another area.  Or try to pull a book off the table for fear of starting an avalanche.

4.  The obligation of respecting their parenting.  This one is the HARDEST!  They raised me.  I know, they raised me and my sister.  Which means that of course they know how to raise a child.  Forget about raising her, they certainly know how to watch her.  But it's SO HARD!  She's my kid.  I want things done my way.  No, you can't put her on her tummy to go to sleep.  No, she's no longer drinking from a bottle.  No, I don't want your old crappy umbrella stroller that you've held onto since I was 3.  But then they say "but we raised you."  What do you say to that...

I try to remember that they love me.  They love her.  They love us.  What do you do?  Any advice?  Seems like I'm not alone in wishing to make it a touch easier...

Sunday, October 13, 2013

EG: Moments in Fatherhood

Fatherly love.  Everyday he takes her to school, every morning they have time together.  He's a bear, and she's the same.  They have so much in common.  Eye color, hair color, and general habits.  I love my crazy haired twins.

Friday, October 11, 2013

'Covering' at work

Have you been to your husbands office?  Has your child?  Has he come to yours?

It took my husband 5 jobs, and me getting pregnant for him to finally invite me into his office.  He is so behind work and life seperation that I once went to meet him for lunch and he wouldn't even let me into his office to go pee.  He told me I had to wait until we got to the restaurant.

I told that story over the radio once, and they definitely thought that he was cheating on me with a very hot secretary.  He doesn't even have a secretary.  But he is 'covering'

He's working at a company now that posts pictures of new babies in the company newsletter, who's CEO is public about his son's autism, but he still refuses to bring our daughter to work...

It's different for me.  I was pregnant at work- sort of hard to hide the growing bump.  Still, despite the obvious, I definitely felt like my office didn't want to support me after I had EG.  They threw me a lovely baby shower, but try asking for a 30 minute lunch and then see what happens.  Right before I had EG another woman quit when her child was 1 year old.    Since I've had EG another mother didn't even bother coming back to work, just quit while out on maternity

Not sure how many of you know about the Family Leave policies, but for the first year after your child is born you are entitled to take FMLA leave.  Where I work that means I can take a reduced schedule until she turns one.  She turned one on a Saturday. When I came in on Monday they told me that I had to stop taking a 30minute lunch. 

I don't know about you, but I'd take some flexibility over a baby shower.  There are two other moms in my whole office.  Today when we went to lunch the other mother had come in late due to dropping off her child.  She said she couldn't stay to eat with us because she was feeling pressured from her boss to work more due to her being late with her son.

Yes, I agree that we all need to be more open about our life situations.  But even if you are, sometimes that just makes it that much more heartbreaking when they don't do anything to help you out.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Emergency Contact

No, this isn't a post about ET, or other extra-terrestrials.  It's a post about the person you've put on the school form.  The one who can take your child home, or they call in case you don't answer.

Today, I became the Emergency contact for my neighbors children. I don't even have a key to their house.  I couldn't tell you if they have allergies, or what their middle names are, but as of today, I can legally remove them from school.

We are very lucky.  Not everyone is as lucky as we are.

And that's why my nextdoor neighbor contacted me today.  She asked us to be the emergency contact for her children at our local elementary school.  Of course I said yes.  I didn't even hesitate.  Everyone needs someone, and I'm glad that I can help.  And that she trusts me enough to put me down in that all-important spot.

However, there's also a lot to think about.  You know I work full-time, so thinking of leaving work for another person's kid can be a lot of time off.  I don't work right around the corner, so it's a bit of a drive before I would even get there.  And that's just one part of the consideration.

What do I need to know to be the emergency contact?  I don't even know what type of insurance her kids have.  Do they have allergies?  Should I have a key to her house?

Are you someone's emergency contact?  Who is your emergency contact?  Have you updated it recently?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Shul Shopping: Review JCC Beach Cities

Last Friday I invited everyone to join us at the JCC of the Beach Cities for their Tot Shabbat.  Here's our review of the event:

We arrived slightly after 6pm, which was the advertised time.  When we arrived there were kids playing the in playground, and some adults mulling around.  Though I didn't check my watch I think it's safe to say that the programming didn't start until after 6:10pm.

When the programming started there were two women (Rebbetzins) who sat at the front and led the services.  The service consisted of traditional Jewish songs, including Bim Bom, and David Melach Yisrael.  Then they had a certain group of children from the preschool stand up on the bimah and sing a rehearsed song. 

Following that they invited any child with a birthday in the month of October onto the bimah.  They received birthday crowns and were given a book as a present.  Following that there was a puppet show led by the rabbi.

Tonight's puppet show talked about a King going out on a journey.  He got a little lost and ended up taking up dinner and the night at a Jewish cottage.  He exclaimed about the delicious meal, how wonderful everything was, especially the bread.  The Jewish host let him take some home so his royal chef could make some.  Despite the royal chef's best attempts, the bread never came out as delicious. 

The King decided to send his driver back to the Jewish house to ask why the bread wasn't as good.  He was then informed that he was eating it on the wrong day, and that it takes so special when you are celebrating the Shabbat.

After the puppet show everyone was invited downstairs for a little nosh.  There was potato kugel, egg salad, pasta salad, tuna fish, gefilte fish and rugelah.  There was also a birthday cake for the birthday kids.

We did the blessings over wine and bread and dug in.  Tons of kids running around, with ages ranging from just under 12 months to about 5 years old. 

Overall it was an enjoyable evening, and definitely worth going to.  As far as religious services go, it definitely wasn't that.  But it was an enjoyable opportunity for the family to get together and enjoy ushering in the Shabbat in a way that was fun and exciting for the youngest of our families.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


As EG gets to be an amusing and engaging Toddler, I can't help but think that it's time to get her started with chores.

I know what you are thinking.  She's not even 18 months old!...Sometimes I think it's best to start as you intend to go on.  And this is definitely one of those moments.

I've been trying to think about what she can do, and I've found a bunch of good lists and articles.  One of my favorites is from The Happy Housewife.  I hadn't seen her blog before I did a search for chore information, but she seems to be fairly interesting.  If nothing else, the story of their relationship is certainly worth reading...

While I think her list is good, I still see some problems.
  1. EG doesn't have a bed she can make yet, she's still in the crib
  2. I'd love for her to bring her laundry to the laundry machine, but then I have to have something she can carry it in that fits in her room... I'm afraid the baskets we already have don't work well
  3. Unloading silverware seems good, but she's not tall enough to get to the silverware drawer.  What about the knives? 
Will I just be sort of doing her chores to enable her to do chores?  Am I thinking to far in advance on this one?

Lots of people say that she can help set the table, which I think she can totally do.  Except for the fact that she can't reach the table...

What types of chores are your kids doing?  

Monday, October 7, 2013

Holiday shopping before Thanksgiving

We've already chatted about the fact that Chanukkah and Thanksgiving are at the same time this year, but what does this mean for our holiday shopping?  How can we go about filling our houses with new items when none of the sales are happening.  What do we do about the lack of foreplanning, and extended return policies that we love about the holidays.

Well, I have a few ideas.

The first is that we started our holiday shopping in July.  We went to Comic-Con international (yes, we go every year!) and picked up a bunch of items there.  It's a one-time-only event, and has a lot of unique things that you can't even find at a Macy's Black Friday sale.  In addition to that event we attended the local Fiesta Hermosa with an eye to shopping for friends and family presents.

Our family, both sides, does a name draw event.  This means that we get presents for the immediate family (mom/dad, sisters/brothers) and then get one name from the extended family.  So, that means the mountain of presents decreases somewhat.  Of course, I have 5 nieces and one nephew, so there are still lots of gifts to buy.

We limit ourselves on both quantity and amount.  We try to buy the same number of items for each child, and for a few years I've been doing handmade presents for everyone.

I did homemade bees wax candles one year:

Then the next year I made coasters for everyone with photos:
The coasters were quite a challenge because I was also pregnant!  Which meant I couldn't spray things, and couldn't do a lot that I wanted to.  Working Dad Husband did a lot for me, but it wasn't exactly what I wanted.  Everyone seemed to love them, but they never did really well with actually holding beverages.  Looking at them at my moms house just this past weekend they looked a little worse for the wear.

Then I did something I found on Pinterest:
 These were a HUGE hit.  I made one for just about everyone.  I did each person's name on the bottom, so the multiple Millers were each different.  I did them for a few friends too!  They were very easy, and I was pleased with the results.

After a few years of doing hand-made presents, I've decided that this year was another one to invest in the DIY, rather than trying to find good deals/presents to buy for everyone.  So, I'll be making celebration calendars. I've bought all the supplies on Amazon, so I'm psyched to begin! I'll post more specifically on what those look like/how I did them in a bit when they are finished.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Family Togetherness

 Together.  Just us
We sit, we enjoy, we relax
We sip, we eat, we reclaim
our togetherness

Shavu' a tov!  May you have a good week.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Shul Shopping: Join us tonight!

Tonight is the JCC Tot Shabbat.  It starts at 6pm and is a family friendly event featuring music and prayers for the toddlers among us.

2108 Vail Avenue
Redondo Beach, CA 90278

Maybe we will see you there?  I will be back with a review of the whole experience.  We plan to visit some of the other Beach Cities/South Bay synagogues, and hopefully review all the Tot programs in the area.

Jewish Identity Now

From Pew Research Institute
There is a new poll done on Jews in America.  I think it's sort of scary.  I'm in an interfaith marriage, but I don't know that we really consider it that.  We are definitely raising EG Jewish, we had a Jewish wedding with a ketubah, and we are committed to Judaism as a religion and a culture.  I was raised conservative, but I have no idea what label to put on myself now.  EG is at a Chabad daycare, we light candles every Friday, but I don't cover my hair and we don't keep Shabbat.  I have philosophical/religious problems with Reform Judaism related to the Messiah, but we don't attend a conservative temple... so, what are we?

My sister... not quite the same story.  She's actually a member of a temple, had a Jewish wedding, does lots with her Chavura.  Despite temple membership I'm not sure she considers herself a religious Jew.  I know that she would associate herself with reform Judaism, but I'm not sure her husband would call their son a religious Jew...?

We know a great couple- both Jews.  She was raised Conservative, him culturally Jewish.  Now they are somewhere in the Reform camp.  Kosher at home, not outside the house. 

We held a Yom Kippur baby break-the-fast this year.  It was lovely, and well attended.  We had two Israelis who speak Hebrew, but don't think of themselves as Jewish religiously.  Two intermarried couples in addition to ourselves- one who is non-religious, one who just came because it was a get-together.  We are happy to have everyone, but it goes to show that everyone's relationship to Judaism is different.

Seems like my little world hits all of the different options in the survey.

Judaism has always had a dual existence in my mind.  Yes, it's a religion.  But in many ways its a culture and an ethnicity.  To be culturally Jewish, and want challah and matza ball soup when you are sick.  To be ethnically Jewish and have the shared history to Moses, Joseph, and the Holocaust.  These are things that go beyond a religious identity.

Only 15% said they viewed Jewishness as mainly a religion.  On the one hand this makes sense.  I don't practice all the aspects of the religion, and when I was in college I didn't practice any of them, but I'm still a Jew.  The 2/3 that said you didn't have to believe in G-d to be Jewish were probably jsut coming back from Israel.  Where everyone is a 'Jew' belief in G-d being completely beside the point.

We learn from early on that 'being' Jewish is really about your heritage.  That's what matters to the Rabbi, and that's what mattered to Hitler- attendance at church or temple was besides the point.

The thing that scares me the most though is what they said about how 40% of Jews believe you can still be Jewish if you believe that Jesus is the Messiah.  Really!?  Now this I don't understand.  Isn't that the principle difference between Christians and Jews?  The whole messiah thing....

Since EG goes to the JCC in the South Bay (which is actually a Chabad), they talk a lot about the coming of the moshiach.  It sort of puts us in an odd place, because I'm not exactly sure what to say or feel about it.  I don't know that I really believe that my actions can directly bring the messiah to us, in our time.  However, I do believe that the messiah will come.  Which sort of precludes us from being Reform Jews (who generally believe that the arrival of the Messiah is a state of mind, rather than a literal person or coming).

Where do you stand?  Are you a non-religious Jew in America?  Do you/are you teaching your children Judaism as a religion?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A new carseat for EG

Our little girl is 15 months old.  She turned 15 months old just a few days ago, and with her newest age comes her taller height.  She's finally growing out of her Chicco Keyfit 30.

We LOVE the Chicco Keyfit carseat.  It's absolutely everything we wanted in an infant car seat.  Yes, there are a lot of people out there who never had the infant seat.  Who don't see the point.  Well, it worked for us.  Having two bases meant that we didn't have to worry about who's picking her up from school.  Our stroller (the City Select), has a frame that the car seat clips into, which has been great for taking her out when she was even littler.

Alas, she's growing up so quickly.

I believe very strongly in car seat safety.  Though I'm no Car Seat Lady I have a firm appreciation for what car seats mean in our lives, and the safety they give to all of us.  My sister-in-law has been in two bad accidents with her 5 kids (only three at the time!), and knows first hand how these steel/foam frames can save lives.

When we began looking at a new carseat for EG, we had a few things we wanted.

1. Fabulous safety ratings.  It is a carseat after all.  We wanted it to be rated, and ranked well in the different rankings.

2. Long life. Not only in how long after you buy it is it good for, but also how long can EG sit in it.  Yes, we want more kids, and in all likelihood we will pass this one along to her baby brother or sister (no, not pregnant yet as far as I know), but we wanted to get one that would have the best chance of seeing her through the years.

3. No crazy colors.  We wanted one that wasn't to girly, or two boy looking.  No army or butterfly patterns over here.  Though we love our babies pink clothes, we are just as thrilled with our gender neutral car seat and stroller.  Like I said, more babies please!

4. Getting it at a good price.  Mind you, I didn't say cheap.  We know that safety and steel cost money, so we aren't out there looking for the cheapest seat.  But we are looking for one that makes sense financially speaking.  And with Babies R Us, Buy Buy Baby, and I think we should be able to find one of them that makes some sense financially.

Which car seat do you have?  Do you like it?  What would you do differently?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Halloween...or not?

I've been thinking a lot about Halloween this year.  Last year we had an enjoyable experience.  We came home from work, dressed up EG and walked through the neighborhood.  She was the Monster under my bed, and it was a good chance to see the neighbors and say hello.

This year, I'm not sure how I'm feeling.  I have nothing against Halloween, but now that EG is sort of old enough to participate (AKA walk through the neighborhood and hold a bucket), I'm not sure how I feel.  It's definitely going to be a challenge stopping her from sticking all the candy in her mouth, and who knows how many chocking hazards there will be in that little bucket.

Add to that the fact that I we will be coming home from work at 5pm, trying to fit in walking through the neighborhood and having dinner?

Then lets examine the idea of having my daughter beg for candy she isn't going to eat.  I know I don't want her to eat that sugar yet.  Yes, there will come a time, but it's not when she's under 2 years old.  Is it fair to have her take candy when she isn't going to eat it?  I certainly don't need the calories...

What do you think?  Will you be taking the little ones out?  Don't forget to be SAFE!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Pick a Parasha: Lech Lecha

I like to keep abreast of the Parasha, but that doesn't mean that I have the time to study each week.  It seems like it's a great idea, but to start, I thought I would pick one of the Parashas from this month  read it, chat about it, and learn a little more.  Join me!  Think of it as a really, really easy book club.

Of course, this seems particularly poignant, since we are at the beginning of the year this month, starting over.

So let's study together.  Our Parasha for October will be:

Parashat Lech-Lecha / פרשת לך־לך

I'll post a review and some interesting comments the last Monday of the month, in this case on Monday October 28th.  Then, we'll pick the Parasha for next month.
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