Thursday, April 30, 2015

Tablet Magazine- squashing interactions

I like to read Tablet Magazine, and online Jewish magazine that often has interesting stories.  I feel like its part of my job as hostess of this blog to keep my readers informed of larger Jewish issues as they come up and relate to children, parenting, etc.

But when I recently went to Tablet I was shocked to find this:

As if it wasn't bad enough that I need to pay to comment, I need to pay to see the commenting!  Wow- what a load of BS.

They 'take pride' in our community of readers, but can't seem to allow a few anonymous commentators to enter the frey...

That's fine, there are LOTS of people who don't allow anonymous commentators (Kveller and Interfaith Family to name a few).  I don't like to sign-up with various websites just to comment, but that dosen't restrict me (usually) from seeing what other people have to say.  I love that I can look at other comments, and sometimes comment on their items myself.  A cursory internet search didn't show up with any other pay-to-comment websites.

It seems to me that if you want to be free, then be free.  Charging me $2 to comment each day seems like a crazy thing to do.  Do you think that with two children to feed on one salary that I can afford to frivolously spend $2 each time I want to say something?  I don't think so...

So long Tablet. It was nice knowing you.  I think I'll have to take my name off of your e-mail newsletter.. or, I could start charging you to send me something...

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Review: South Bay Adult School

Since Ocho was about 3 months old inside my tummy I've had her registered for the South Bay Adult School Parent Education program.  I had planned to just take her for the first three months of my maternity leave, not planning to be off for so long.  I had wispy daydreams about my boss letting me take that day as a work from home day, and taking Ocho to the classes as a benefit of my new job.

Alas, things were very different than I had planned them to be.  But, in this case, it worked out nicely.  My first class with the SBAS was the week after my mother passed in September.  And I was sort of a wreck.  I remember that one of the moms shared that she was from Belgium, and the hardest part of motherhood so far was that her mom left to go home.  I remember crying so hard...

But enough about me- let's talk about class.

The 411:
-Offered on various days of the week, morning or afternoon.  We take Wednesday morning 9:30-11:30am
-Parent Education.  They really mean this.  It has some elements of a mommy and me, but it's really about educating parents.  We have guest speakers on everything from sleep to saving for college.
-Format: 20-24 caregivers with their kiddos.  Twins and triplets welcome, as well as dad's and grandmas.
-Morning chat time, singing, snack, then discussion about the topic of the day.

In the beginning the time was spent really chatting as parents, since the kiddos slept basically all the time.  Ocho didn't really have much say, we just went to class, hung out, and I met a lot of great moms.

As time went on, the kiddos started to have a bit more fun...

Now it's a ton of fun for each of us.  I really enjoy the new toys that Ocho gets to play with, and watching her interact with other babies.  It's great for her socialization.  I have to admit, the discussions don't usually much interest me.  While the class is made up of all types of parents ( and grandparents!) the structured discussions don't usually seem to mean a lot to me as a second time mom.  However, the random chatting is absolute gold.

If you live in the South Bay (Westchester to PDV) it's a great place to think about meeting some new moms, and really getting to know a community.  Best part- the classes continue beyond this age range into drop-them-off preschool.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Moving- harder than I think it is

I've always said that I love moving.  And I still do... sort of.  I just didn't realize how much harder it becomes when you have two children and an entire house to move with you.

When I tell most people that I love to move they look at me like I'm crazy.  Ask anyone about moving and the first thing they say is that they hate it.  I've always been a moving fan.

1.  I love going somewhere new.  This is why I'm so into traveling.  I love exploring new places, and really getting to know a new place.  Moving is the best kind, because you are invested in your new location, and get to leave all the annoyances of the last place for new ones.  Yes, there will be new annoyances, but hey, new is good, right?

2. You trash a LOT of crap.  I'm one of those people who believes that the less stuff you have the less stuff you have to take care of and maintain.  However, that's really hard to do, especially with two kids and a husband who has emotional attachments to objects.  So moving can really put it into focus- do we really need to move this item that we forgot existed for 5 years?  Do we need it enough to move it into my Dad's house?  And if not, then do we need it at all?

3. Re-inventing yourself.  I'm experiencing a 'category shift' during this move.  When I arrive in our new place I will no longer be a working mom- I will be a stay at home mom (at least for right now). So that means that I get to present myself in a new way.  No one will know me, there will be no preconceived notions.  I and my children start fresh....

4. Organization.  I can't wait to re-organize my kitchen.  I can't wait to organize the toys.  When we just had EG I had toy rotation going strong.  But then with Ocho we totally lost it.  So I can't wait to get that back into play.  A place for everything, and everything in it's place.

Of course, I'm also experiencing the downsides of moving.  Leaving our friends is hard, for the kiddos and me.

And, like I said, it's a lot harder when you are dealing with four people rather than one or two.  Additionally the stress of selling a home is rather unique.  Getting it ready to show, keeping it clean with so many kiddos, especially when we are down in the OC with Working Dad.

Have you sold a home?  Have you moved with Kiddos?  Thoughts and tips?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

This Mamma thing ain't no picnic

I'm a solo parent right now.  Since we've announced that we are moving to the OC area, the part I didn't say was that Working Dad has already started his new job.  He's been there for a week or so, and I've been up here, trying to get the house sold, and ready to move down there. 

We can move down there anytime, but getting everything sorted and moved and packed and the house ready to put on the market isn't a picnic.

Neither is being a 100% on parent all the time.  I can't believe how an actual single parent would do it. 

I'm calling myself a solo parent for the time being.  I'm not a single mom, but being solo with the kids isn't easy.  There's no one else to take one of them away for a moment.  Forget about feeding Ocho without EG begging for attention. 

But it's also fun too.  I make all the decisions, I hold all the cards.  I never have to worry that there is someone else I need to pay attention to beyond the children, nor do I worry that someone else will have a different idea about whether she can eat more candy or not.  If I say no, it's a NO.  That's all there is to it. 

It's been complicated for the kiddos to bee without their dad for the weeknights, so I've tried hard to keep them in the loop. Here are some tips for how to help the kids understand when one parent is away.

1.  Make sure you explain what's happening.  For us that started a few weeks ago when we knew that he had accepted the new job and had a started date.  Explaining that Daddy has a new job, and that he'll need to go and start working it before we get to be in the same place was confusing, but starting early gave EG plenty of time to understand, process , and ask lots of questions.

2. Give a specific timeline.  It's important for the kids to understand when Daddy will be home.  We explained in detail leading up to the week, then the day he was going to go kept repeating that he would be home for Shabbat on Friday.  This is also a tricky one because you never want to say they will be home before they are.  It's better that they arrive early than late.  Late ruins your credibility and makes it hard for them to trust what you are saying next time.  Relate it to something they now about, like a holiday, or a class they take.  It can be hard for a child to understand that daddy will be back in 5 days. 

3.  Lots of phone calls.  We send Daddy a picture via text message, and call him every night to say goodnight.  Usually this is two calls, one for Ocho and one for EG, since getting them to bed, bath etc at the exact same time is quite a challenge by myself.  Especially given that Ocho can range in her bed times by 45minutes for so.  If you can't call, then leave a voice mail or write a note each day.  Its important for the child to understand that Daddy still wants to know about them and their day even though they aren't' here.

4.  Agree to let some things go.  The hard part when the parent returns, especially when they are going to go away again is that the reactions range from the child being over the moon and never wanting them to go, to wanting Mommy only because daddy leaves them.  You have to be willing to let it go, not take it personally and accept whatever your child brings to the table at the moment.

5. Remember that it is temporary.  It's important for your child to understand that this situation is temporary.  That you have a goal to be together as a family, and that once this part of daddy's job is over, you will be.  This a is good thing to remember for yourself too!

Monday, April 20, 2015

The BIG Announcement

Well, I think it's time that I shared the big announcement.  Immediate family already knows, so do jobs and schools, etc.

We are moving to Orange County.

Yup, out of the LA/South Bay area, and into the OC.

And while I'm excited, I am, I'm also a little sad.  I've loved having my kids and starting our family here in the South Bay.  It's been a wonderful community for us- both our neighborhood, our friends, and the jewish community that we are a part of.

But here comes the next chapter.

Working Dad got a great brand new job in Aliso Viejo.  And it's great because we both grew up in the OC, and have so much family down there.  Cousins, grandparents, Uncles, Aunts.  They all live down in the OC.  We travel down there almost every weekend, and this puts us even closer to by beloved Sister in Law and her 6 adorable kiddos.

Leaving this area is going to be hard.  One of the things that I've loved about writing this blog has been that it's been a hub of information for the South Bay Jewish community.  We are sort of a bit of a step-child when it comes to the greater Los Angeles community.  It's rare to find any of the JCC's or the Jewish Federation, never mind the PJ Library hosting anything in the South Bay. 

Which is what made it fun for me to connect all the South Bay jews together.  TO get us out there to all the different events.

Well, we're not leaving today, but soon.  I'll keep you posted as we start to explore the Orange County area.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Ocho my Ocho- growing up is hard on Mommy

It's official- she's crawling and pulling up to stand.  And I feel like it's the beginning of the end...

If you have more than one child you might realize this point in time.  When you have your first one everything is so new- each accomplishment is just so exciting.  Then you have baby #2.   You have an idea of the map of things.  Of course, they do things differently, but you have some sort of theory about what might happen.  And that's when you realize that you really don't have that much time.

Ocho is officially 8 months old, crawling on her belly and pulling up to stand.  These are great things.  she's right on the mark in terms of timing, and development. That's great.  But I've been overcome with the fact that this is the beginning of the end.

We went to the Huntington Library this past week- sans kiddos thanks to the in-laws.  And they have this beautiful image there:

It's called Breakfast in Bed by Mary Cassatt.  And it's got everything that I feel inside of me.  Most people comment on the watchful eye that mom has on her baby.  The way she's watching baby while baby is watching the world.  But I see so much more...

Yes, Ocho has started to engage in the outside world more than she engages with me.  She's so excited by everything around here that dear old mom is just sort of an exercise in food and comfort.  It's only truly about mom when she's nursing in her rocking chair, and she's let down her guard.  When she has me hold up her little non-nursing side foot and we're cuddled up together....

Otherwise, it's distraction.  It's everything else.  It's crawling to see what else I can get my hands on.  It's exploring the world, and taking everything I'm not supposed to have.

This is the beginning of the end.  This is the time when my baby starts to really become a child.  When she becomes a little girl, and every thing is about what is beyond her- the room, the space, the world. 

Of course, I'm raising an adult.  I'm grooming her to be a productive member of the greater world.  With care and concern, grace and poise, attitude and energy.  So I'll try not to be so sad as she begins to make her own footprints on the world...who knows where she will go...

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Is Motherhood work? Judaism says YES!

This is one of the most controversial topics today-whether being a stay at home mother can be constituted as work. There are so many different theories on this.  The one where mothers say you shouldn't look at motherhood as work at all- that calling it work devalues it, or makes you treat it like work.  The moms who believe that motherhood should be considered work- that they contribute to the household in so many immeasurable ways that it would be impossible to consider it not work.  Then you have the mothers who work out of the home who think that stay-at-home moms shouldn't call what they do work, because they do that and so much more...  And guilt abounds on each side.
The list goes on and on and on....

I'm a unique subject because I worked outside of the home with children for the first two years of my daughters' life, and I've been a stay at home mom of two since the birth of my second child.  I've had so many different phases of my journey- part-time, work from home, work outside the home, work long hours, work short hours.  You name it, I've probably tried it.  But this isn't about me...

While I never thought that I would really get into the debate personally, I have thought to explore what Judaism thinks about work, and what it might say about motherhood.

I think it's clear to say that Judaism looks at motherhood as work.  So all mothers (outside the home, or not) are Working Moms.  Did I just end the Mommy Wars?

Where did I gather my information- the Jewish Shabbat restrictions.  These are clear-cut understood and dictated restrictions.  They are specific things that we are not allowed to do on Shabbat- the day of rest.  These laws are written in the Torah: Exodus 31: 12-17.

Now here is where things get complicated.  The phrase we are referring to is this one:
And the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 'Verily ye shall keep My sabbaths, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that ye may know that I am the LORD who sanctify you. Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore, for it is holy unto you; every one that profaneth it shall surely be put to death; for whosoever doeth any work (melakha—מְלָאכָה) therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Six days shall work be done; but on the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD; whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel for ever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day He ceased from work and rested.
However, this just says the word "Work."  But what defines work?  Obviously in our day and age we have a relative definition.  Merriam-Webster says work is one of two things:
1. activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.  2. mental or physical activity as a means of earning income; employment. 
But Judaism's definition of work is different.  Our Rabbis (friendly reminder, I'm not a Rabbi) didn't have this definition to work off of.  Not to mention, it's not particularly helpful to the debate... any activity involving physical effort to achieve a wiping my nose is work?  What were the Rabbi's to do?  How could they define work more specifically as it relates to Shabbat.  Exodus promises death, so let's try to be clear here....

The answer lies in Genesis 2.  The first time we see in the bible this same word for work- melakha:
Heaven and earth, and all their components, were completed. With the seventh day, G-d finished all the work (melakha—מְלָאכָה) that He had done. He ceased on the seventh day from all the work that he had been doing. G-d blessed the seventh day, and he declared it to be holy, for it was on this day that G-d ceased from all the work that he had been creating to function.
So that gives us some clarity.  We form our definition of work as related to those things G-d was doing during the first six days- creating.  From there the Talmud (Mishna Shabbat 7:2) gives us these specific 39 activities that are work.
Sowing, Plowing, Reaping, Binding Sheaves, Threshing, Winnowing, Selecting, Grinding, Sifting, Kneading, Baking, Shearing Wool, Cleaning, Combing, Dyeing, Spinning, Stretching Threads, Making Loops, weaving threads, separating threads, tying a knot, untying a knot, sewing, tearing, trapping, slaughtering, skinning, salting, scraping, tanning, cutting, writing, erasing, building, breaking down, extinguishing a fire, kindling a fire, striking a final blow, carrying/transference.
So now that we know what Jews think of as work, let's think about the common activities of a Mother.  Here we'll have all sorts of arguments, since some of these things aren't only done by mothers.  Father's and grandparents and caregivers and nannys can do all of these things.  But for just a moment, let's make a list of what a 'mom' might do.The first thing a mother does is give birth.  Do you have to give birth to be a mom, no, but it's the first act to become a mother.

At it's very base level with an infant you might hold and carry your child. Feed your child, clean your child, diaper your child.  As they get a bit older you do their hair, make them food, do the laundry and the dishes.  Help them learn to spell and read, fix their broken teddies bears and toys.  You might help them finish a puzzle, build a block tower, the list goes on.

If you look at Judaism's definition of work, all mothers are clearly doing it.

Birth involves creating at it's most basic form, plus tearing, cleaning, cutting.  Infants require you to carry them (and stuff!) almost all the time.  I can't imagine a mom not at least trying to teach her child to build a block tower, or tying her child's shoes.  Cleaning messy hands, faces, noses- even if you don't include the general cleaning of a home (floors, dishes, etc.)  Baking birthday cakes, cleaning up toys, coloring and writing...The mothers of the world have been debating whether motherhood measures up to this description for decades.   

In the shomer Shabbat world (observant of Shabbat restrictions) a mom can't push a stroller to temple or carry her infant baby their either.  I can't imagine a mother anywhere telling me that's not a basic obligation of motherhood.

So, what do you think?  Is Motherhood work?  Do your views line up with the Jewish definition?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Taking over Easter Decor

Now that it's finally Easter, and the Easter bunny has come and gone this morning, it's time to go out there and snap up some after Easter steals for the season.

Here are my Target finds that work all year long:

Spring has sprung whether there's Easter or not and if I had a baby with a Springtime birthday you could bet that these would be at her party.  The cute floral design is good for a tea party, or a birthday party at any time.  Just adorable, and the price is great at full price, and should be wonderful once they cut it down a touch.

Having a baby girl anytime soon?  Getting married?  These adorable little birdies are great for table tops and totally unique for decor in a little girls room.  Imagine them as part of a wonderful baby mobile, or dressing up the ends of a bookcase.

They would make adorable little items to put along the aisle at a wedding.

Don't think we've forgotten about the boys.  These are 'easter' baskets that would be great for anytime of year.  You have a friend who's into sports- fill this with some balls and a glove, and you've got a spot on birthday present.  Same goes for a pirate party- fill these with pirates booty and a few shovels and the kids party snack food is done.  The dinosaur is especially sweet- I could see that being in a boys bedroom with books inside, or even filled with plastic dinos as a great storage item.

They have a great selection of tiny hands gardening supplies right now.  Though not for easter (so probably not on sale) they would be great gifts for those kiddos or parents with interest in gardening, butterflying, etc.  Sorry the photos aren't the best...

Last but not least these are adorable springtime plates.  In this case both of these are actually microwaveable- something I'm always looking for in dinner plates for my kiddos.  You have the smaller one for the youngins and the larger one for when you get to have toddlers, etc.

These are wonderful items to re-fresh your kids perspective on eating.  Sometimes a toddler dinnertime disaster can be changed around by a new plate.

Here's to springtime!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Using Passover to talk about G-d

A few weeks ago I had an interesting conversation with my Sister-in-Law.  Let me start by saying that I love her dearly.  We are very close, and I'm fortunate to have her and her family in my life.  Buy my SIL is a devout Christian.  Her children quote bible passages, and all of her children have been baptized.  These are wonderful things for their family.  And sometimes it can lead the two of us, religiously devout individuals of different faiths, to have interesting conversations.

Most recently it was about how Jews view G-d.  The reason it was so interesting, there isn't much talk of G-d in most Jewish homes.

When I was a young child I remember thinking that G-d only loved Christians.  So much of the general christian message is that G-d loves you.  They have bumper stickers and entire rock bands dedicated to making sure they you know that if you accept Jesus- G-d loves you.  Obviously I'm simplifying the message and the meaning, but for a young girl and teenager, just thinking that G-d loves you is a powerful message, and one that's often missing from Judaism.

When we think about how we teach Judaism to our children there are many pieces.  There are the holidays, there are the prayers and there is the language.  But no where in there is a specific discussion about G-d.  

Judaism is generally an action oriented religion.  We spend little to no time talking about what happens after we die, and are devoted entirely to living our life the best we can, with purpose, dignity and mitzvot on this earth and in this way.  Contrast this to the Christian notion of working towards and eternity with G-d, and you can see that there might be a problem with G-dly talk among Jews.

I challenge parents of all children to use Passover as a chance to talk about G-d. 

Use this holiday to teach your children to talk to G-d.  To know that G-d is there, in your everyday.  That, as Rodney Atkins sings, they can talk to G-d like they were talking to a friend.

Passover is the time of year when we talk about miracles.  When we must, with liberal use, talk about amazing things that happened that we can't explain.  There are no Esthers' or Kingly decrees.  There's no Maccabees to blame for our salvation.  There are seas splitting miraculously, and blood, frogs and locusts.  Even if you are a bit squeamish about discussing the deaths for the animals or the deaths of the firstborns, don't shy away from embracing G-d.

Use the phrase G-d did this for me.  Yup.  It's a classic Passover text, but did you really stop to think about what it means?  Yes, it has a sea of meaning in terms of how we have come from slavery in this generation.  But think beyond that.  When you embrace that G-d has an action and an existence in your life- there he will be for your children as well.

I and not an angel, I and not a Seraph.  Again, classic language.  'I' meaning G-d speaking in the first person.  Emphasis again and again that G-d did this.  It's typical for us to talk about how Moses talked to Pharoah and told him to let my people go.  And you could watch the entire movie about Passover and think of the hero Moses.  Don't let the fact that G-d did miracles escape the moment.

Dayeinu.  This song tells the story of how it would have been enough to escape slavery, go through the dessert, get to the promised land, etc.  All of these things are miracles.  This song is an amazing way to discuss how G-d impacts our everyday.  How he's given us Shabbat to relax and reconnect, how everything around us is holy.

At the end of the day, it has to be a conversation between your child and you.  The best way for our children to understand that G-d loves them, and that G-d is present in their lives is for them to hear it from you- their parents.  To point out to our children the wonder of G-d's universe.  The glory of his creations.

The next time your child asks why it's raining- tell them because G-d made it so.  Each time you bring him into your life it makes it easier for your child to turn to him in times of need.

Because he is there for you.  Because he loves you.
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