Saturday, December 26, 2015


"You're only as strong as your weakest link."

Every age brings new adventures and challenges. While I am enjoying ages seven and four, the sass and attitude and crying for stupid reasons are on my last nerves. I get frustrated, especially at the end of the day and lose my patience. My patience is especially thin once a month. (The truth hurts, ladies.)

In an effort to help the girls change their behavior and in an effort to remind myself to take things in stride, I created yet another behavior plan. E1 and I are visual learners and it is important for both of us to have a reminder that we can see.

We sat the girls down and explained that as a family we all impact each other's daily lives. If someone is having a bad day, it can cause a ripple effect. As a family, we all need to work together to be helpful and positive and try our best. I explained the saying of you are only as strong as your weakest link. We talked about an actual chain and how if one piece is broken, the chain itself is now broken or not as strong. E1 understood the saying and we chatted about our family being a unit, a chain, and how the saying related to our daily lives. And then we started our family chain.

The girls can earn a link for having an overall good day - listening, not losing their tempers, sharing, not crying over stupid reasons, etc. They do not lose the link on the first cry, sass, attitude, poor decision. I remind them we are earning links and so far, after one reminder (occasionally two reminders) I can see them trying to correct their behavior or thinking before they act. I earn a link if I do not yell or lose my patience too quickly. E1 gets the vote at the end of the day whether or not I earned my link. She LOVED this aspect of the family chain. The hubs has the same goals as I do.

When our chain hits the floor we all are rewarded with a family activity. It can be a board game, a movie, a meal together, playing outside, anything we all agree to but only the four of us may participate in the activity.

There is nothing more important to me than family and I want the girls to have the same passion for family. I want them to rely on our family and know that together, we can accomplish anything. In full honesty, the chain is the most necessary for E1 and then myself, but since we all have room to grow and improve we kept this realization to ourselves and created the family chain. After all, you are only as strong as your weakest link.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

It's Just A Name

At some point in their lives, I have told both girls I will never lie to them. I will answer their questions and expect the same in return. The 'I will not lie to you' has opened a line of communication that I can only pray continues well into their adulthood. The 'I will not lie' has also forced some serious conversations in this home. (puberty, death, homelessness, divorce, religion, poverty, etc.)

A few years ago, E1 has asked why we named her what we did and why do she and E2 have "E names." E1 learned I was pregnant, got very sick, the baby died, and she and E2 are named for their brother. Of course, I did not explain Leukemia, umbilical cord accident, chemo passing the placenta therefore we need to adopt, etc BUT I gave her enough information for her to know the truth. She was 5 at the time and what I gave her was honest and age appropriate.

Out of nowhere E1 asked me tonight, "Mom, what disease did you have when the baby died? Does it kill people?"
Well, shit.
I explained the words Leukemia and cancer. I explained aggressive versus slow growing. I explained "catching it early." I explained that yes, people die from cancer. E1 listened and asked a few follow up questions and then she said I was lucky and she was lucky to have me as her mom.

At this point I am crying and explained how my being pregnant and the baby dying had a happy ending. E1 responded, "Yes. Since my brother died you could be alive."  I then told E1 how her middle name was the last name of my oncologist. With a HUGE smile she said, "So I am named for the two people that made you healthy."

Yes baby, you are.

And then with true seven year old big sister attitude, she turned to E2 and said, "My name is more important than yours because I am the first born. You only have our brother. I got the doctor too!"

When she is older I will have to explain when it is a appropriate to be a bitch.
For now, I will let her have this moment because honestly, it is beautiful.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Merry Christmas

December....tis the month of the holiday season and that holiday is Christmas. Sure there are other holidays, but the two shelves at Target or Bed, Bath & Beyond for Hanukkah or Kwanzaa does not compare to the store wide celebration of Christmas.

We are Jewish. We do not celebrate Christmas. We do not celebrate "secular" Christmas either. I am not sure when the second was created, but I do know we do not celebrate with a tree, lights, Santa, Elf on the Shelf or anything else that is a symbol of Christmas and that's a-o-k because we are Jewish. Jewish people are a minority in a predominantly Christian world. That's it. There is really no further explanation needed.

I would say we, but that would be inaccurate so I will say, I was nervous to send E1 to public school because of Christmas. Would she feel left out? Would she want a Christmas tree in our home? Would all the children discussing Santa upset her? Would she feel odd in music class that she does not know the lyrics to All I want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth? The answer to all these questions is No. E1 does not feel any of this. The anxiety was all in MY head and I am embarrassed to admit that I did not trust enough in my parenting or my child's ability to just roll with it. It has been an honor to watch E1's Jewish pride soar during this holiday season.

I had a meeting with her teacher before December began to discuss what Christmas in the school looked like - music, trees, lights, stockings, the elf, reindeer, gingerbread men, etc. I explained that it was all fine. We are not wanting to be the Jews that stole Christmas.

Each day E1 has come home and told me what her classroom Elf has done, how she has earned some candy in her stocking, and what her friends want from Santa. Today, E1 went to school and was able to share about her cousin's Bar-Mitzvah and about Hanukkah. E1 lit the menorah last night, chanted the prayers, and sang some songs. She begged for latkes. The children in her class will hear of this and learn. E1 is learning about other holiday traditions and teaching about her own. Isn't that the way it is supposed to be? Shouldn't we all educate each other?

E2, who presently attends a Jewish preschool, is the child crying at night asking for lights on our house and a tree inside. You know who is explaining the ins and outs to her? E1. Last night she said, "We are Jewish. We don't celebrate Christmas. It is pretty to look at it, but we don't do it. We have the menorah, latkes, our decorations, and presents. Stop crying. You're annoying." While the ending was not so sweet, it is typical of a big sister and I am more touched by her ability to understand and be proud of our religion.

This Friday for the Sabbath and Hanukkah we will celebrate "Shabbanukkah." I love this term my friend coined a few years ago. We will have 21 people in our home and we will light the Shabbat candles and the candles on the menorah.  We will sing songs, open presents, and eat latkes. We will all smile, take 100 pictures, and enjoy the evening because we are Jewish.

My girls are not less Jewish because of public school. They are not less Jewish because the majority of people celebrate Christmas. We enjoy the lights on the homes and annually drive around looking at them while drinking hot chocolate. We love Christmas. We love the holiday season.

We love the spirit of giving. Giving tzedakah (charity) is a mitzvah (good deed), so the spirit of Christmas lives in all of us...even the Jews.

Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah. May this season of joy & giving bring health and happiness to all of us.