The Central/MTA Blind Dates

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Memories are a funny thing. Sometimes, they just come out of nowhere and can be sparked by the most random of moments. This afternoon, after I brought DD2 home from gan and settled her into her crib for her afternoon nap, I decided to iron my hair. Its been a while since I’ve ironed my hair, but since I decided to treat myself to a new dye job, I’ve been making more of an effort. Granted, I cover my hair and so most people don’t even see the effort, but having straight hair makes me feel better about myself. And so, as I stood over the sink full of black and purple tresses, a memory popped into my head. A memory that I haven’t thought about in almost 18 years.

The Central/MTA blind dates is a rite of passage for Yeshiva University High School students. And it’s exactly what it sounds like, a date between a Central girl and an MTA boy. I heard about it when at Freshman orientation, and had been counting down the days until my Junior year. I vaguely remember my sister going out on her blind date and having a lot of fun, and I just couldn’t wait for my turn.

When it was finally time for the set ups, I was beyond excited. My parents didn’t let me date, but they were willing to make the exception for this one night. We were lucky, because of the Lichters. Jacob Lichter was an MTA Senior, and Rina Lichter was a Junior. I’ve known both of them since elementary school, and was confident that they would match me with someone good. When the sign up sheet went around, I wrote my name, along with almost all of my friends. There were a handful of girls who didn’t sign up, but for the most part, everyone wanted to go on the date. I knew a couple of MTA Seniors and, obviously, had a few guys I really would have liked to be set up with. But, I didn’t say anything to Rina, and just hoped that they would set me up with someone fun and nice.

I remember feeling excited when the list went out with the matches. Of course, I checked to see which girls were going out with the “cool” MTA boys. I wasn’t surprised that the “best boys” were going out with the popular girls in our grade. And, for the most part, no one was unhappy with their match.

I didn’t know the guy I was matched with, but he was from Brooklyn and some of the Brooklyn girls knew him. They all said nice things about him, save for his physical stature. I waved away his supposed shortness, it didn’t both me in the slightest. I remembered to thank Rina for the set up and I began the countdown to his phone call.

The week went by and nothing. No phone call. Those were the days before email and SMS, so guys had no choice but to actually speak to the girl on the phone before a date. Every day, more and more of my friends were coming into school with their exciting stories. Some were pairing up for their dates and had already made plans. Bowling on Saturday night, meeting in the City at J2 on a Sunday, movie night and Sabra pizza in Lawrence.

I kept waiting.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. No call.

I started to feel a little nervous when, Friday morning before the weekend dates were supposed to happen, I hadn’t heard from him. My friends at school kept asking me if he called, and I told them that he hadn’t but that I was sure he would.

I mean, why wouldn’t he call and set up a date? It was like, official. No one doesn’t go out on their Central/MTA blind date, especially if they signed up for it.

I was so naive. It wasn’t like a mandatory school trip to the Museum of Natural History.

But, I’m a romantic, and I kept waiting for his call.

After school on Friday, I came home and went through my wardrobe. I wasn’t sure where he was taking me, so I took out a couple of outfits that would fit any type of scenario. Pizza, movies, bowling. I set them up on the chair in my bedroom and then took my hot iron and went down to the first floor bathroom. My Mother was in the kitchen getting ready for Shabbos and my siblings were busy around the house. I locked myself into the bathroom and prepared for the 45 minutes of hair ironing. I really wanted my hair to look nice on our date.

I was humming to myself when he called. My Mom knocked on the bathroom door and mouthed my dates name. I could tell by her expression that she was hoping for a positive outcome. I followed her into the kitchen and picked up the phone, twisting the cord around my fingers with nerves.

The conversation was very short. I said hello. He said hello and identified himself. Then he told me that he wasn’t going to go out with me.

My heart sank. I fought the urge to beg, to beg him not to deny me of this experience. I didn’t get it. I wasn’t an ogre. I wasn’t a mean girl. I wasn’t ugly or obese. I wasn’t expecting us to get engaged or expecting us to be in a relationship.

I fought the urge to beg him to take me out. In my mind, I scream, “oh come on, don’t be like that! It won’t kill you to take me out. Just take me to TCBY for 15 minutes, it’s no big deal. Please, don’t deny me this moment!”

Then he said goodbye and hung up.

I fought back the tears. I could practically hear my Mom breathing behind me, wondering what was going to be. I hung up the phone and glanced at her. She didn’t need me to say much, the look on my face said it all.

“He doesn’t want to go out with me. I don’t want to talk about it,” I said, and returned to the bathroom.

I finished ironing my hair and then went up to my room, laid down on my bed, and cried. My Mom and older sister came up to make me feel better, but it really didn’t help. They said all the right things, that he was a loser, that it wasn’t a big deal, that it doesn’t mean anything bad about me. It didn’t really do much good. I was crushed.

I made it through the weekend but on Monday, back at school, it was utter torture. Everyone was talking about their date. There was a girl who slammed the car door on her date’s hand,  ones that hit it off so well that they were now “dating,” girls who beat their dates at bowling and discovered they were sore losers, etc. People asked me how my date was and, facing my locker with shame, I mumbled that he cancelled. My real friends called him an asshole and a loser, and gave me a consoling hug. It didn’t make me feel much better. I just knew I had to get through the week, when all the talk would die down, and everyone would be over it.

Looking back, I now realize that that moment shaped the way I dated. I rarely declined a date when set up. I adopted a “why not” attitude and figured everyone deserved a chance, everyone had something to offer. I realized that I accepted dates because rejection is awful, and an hour at a coffee shop wouldn’t kill anyone. I tried to be a mensch on my dates, and tried hard to find something likeable in every guy. Even the one who left me at the sushi bar for over an hour, whom I thought had snuck out the back and left me alone (he just had stomach issues and was in the bathroom). I even managed to find something likeable about him.

If my future self could have spoken with my 15 year old self, I would have told me not to worry. That I would have a story to tell my husband, kids, and friends about my Central/MTA blind date.

And while it wasn’t the story I was hoping for, in the end, that seminal moment in my life, the pain of rejection that I had to live through, truly shaped the person I have become.

Did you go on the Central/MTA blind dates? Share your story in the comment section!

(Side note: I do not blame Jacob and Rina for my blind date not going out with me. They did the best they could, set me up with the person they thought would be best for me, and it just didn’t work out. It was obviously not their fault.)

 

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What to Expect Guest Blog post!

I’m so excited about my latest guest blogging endeavor! Check out What to Expect for my article about Toddlers Fears.

 

 

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They Don’t Want My Daughter

DD ready for her first day of school!

All across Israel today, and in some parts of the the United States, the 2012/2013 school year began. In our home, we reached a new milestone, as our baby was also starting gan. At 17 months old, we decided it was time for her to interact with other children. Since the day she was born, she has been home with me and primarily interacting with my eldest daughter, our family, and DD1’s play dates.

To say we were all excited about today is an understatement. We have been counting down for the past month! Beforehand, DD2 would waved at her Daddy and sister as they left each morning for work and gan. But today, she has finally joined the ranks! Instead of letting her lounge about in her pajamas, as I used to do until I was ready to get us dressed and out the door, we got her dressed with her older sister. I could tell she was excited, she ran around the house babbling and singing. If she could skip, I swear there was a skip in her step.

Because there are 22 kids in her day care, she was slotted to come between 10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. It was good since it gave me plenty of time to review with her what to expect, to finished labeling her sippy cup, extra clothing, package of wipes. I packed her little Skip Hop lunchie with her pretzels and animal crackers, got her dressed in a yellow sundress to match her bright, yellow bee knapsac, and together we left the house. I sang to her the entire walk to gan, which is about 5 minutes away. As I walked into the building, I was stopped by the “principal,” who asked to have a word with me.

Now, I was fully prepared to discuss DD’s food allergies. I know it is going to be a big issue, but  I’ve been hoping to work with my daughter’s gannent and team to have a smooth transition. I know it will take some time, in the beginning, for them to get acclimated to what she can and cannot eat. And, I’m fully prepared to provide support, information, and some meal replacements, if necessary.

What I wasn’t prepared for, was for her to tell me that they want to move my daughter to a different class. Now, I am well aware that she is the youngest in the class. As a second child with a stubborn personality, I think she will thrive in an environment with primarily older children. We are new parents, but I am learning a lot from my eldest daughter. Last year, we took a risk and put her in a day care where she was the youngest. By a lot. She was 2 1/2 in a room full of kids 3 1/2 and 4 1/2 year olds. She was a baby compared to the rest of the class. And, in a single year, she absolutely blossomed. She developed quickly and nicely. She became eloquent, communicative, polite, imaginative, introspective and witty. We were so pleased with the outcome, that we were hoping to perpetuate the environment with our youngest daughter.

But, it looks like the school she is in isn’t interested in our desires or aspirations. Now, this is not the first time they have asked us to consider moving our daughter to the younger class. They asked us months ago, and we even met with the gannenet of the other class. She was lovely and her team was nice, but we decided not to switch. We wanted to see how our daughter would do in a class with older kids. We wanted to see if she, too, would thrive, blossom, and develop quicker when surrounded by kids 6 months to a year older than herself.

But, this morning, when the “principal” told me that the ganenet doesn’t want our daughter in the gan, that was unexpected. I mentioned the other child, exactly my daughter’s age, who will be in the gan. The principal said that they also asked her to move but since she was with this ganenet last year, they decided to let her stay. So, it’s okay for that 1 1/2 year old to be in the gan, but not my child? I listened with a heavy heart, and explained that my position hadn’t changed and that I wanted her to stay and try it out with this gan. The principal was not pleased but she didn’t push me any further. I gathered my daughter and entered the gan, and was greeted by a very surprised ganenet.

I pulled her aside and asked her, in all seriousness, to tell me if she doesn’t want my daughter in the gan. In a roundabout way, she said that she didn’t mind it but didn’t think it would necessarily be such a good place for her. We settled on a one-month trial. And then, for the next hour, I absolutely stewed in my disappointment and frustration. I listened to another staff member tell me that they are concerned about her food allergies and do not want to take any chances with food, and that I need to bring all of her food from home. I explained that I take my child to restaurants and that she eats there, with no problems. As long as I order carefully, she is fine. The staffer told me that it’s okay when it’s one on one, but since there are 22 kids in the class, they do not have the availability to sit with my daughter to ensure that she isn’t eating something she is allergic to.

Um, okay.

So, now they don’t want my daughter because she is the youngest in the class and they don’t want her because her food allergies are too much for them? And, just when I thought my heart couldn’t break any more, a new Mother sits down at the lunch table with her son and starts asking one of the staffers why the baby is at the table. The staffer quickly switched to French and they had an animated conversation. Now, I’ve been in enough NYC manicure places to know when someone is talking about me in another language. And it didn’t feel good, not at all.

It doesn’t help that my 1 1/2 year old looks like she is barely a year. She is in the 5% for weight and is absolutely tiny! Her feet just grew out of the size 6-12 month shoes and she can easily be bowled over by about half of the kids in her gan. But still, I think she can take it.

When it was time to leave, she didn’t want to go home. She wanted to go outside and play in the playground. I had to pick her up and carry her home, and she protested all the way. And then, I fought back the tears of frustration and disappointment, and spent a depressing afternoon trying to figure out what I’m going to do.

I do not want to leave her in a gan where the team does not want her. It’s not a good feeling for me and I’m afraid, if they don’t want her, they will not take care of her. I do not want a situation where they police her at meal times and then ignore her during the rest of the day.

Another sleepless night is ahead of me as I try to decide what’s best for my child. But, I can honestly say, this has been the most depressing start to the new year.

Parents and friends, what would you do?

 

 

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Momma’s Gone Conferencing

This week, Momma went conferencing. I attended The Israeli Presidential Conference at the Jerusalem International Conference Center, as a blogger. That meant I got a nice little press pass and access to all of the sessions and panels. They had a number of blogger only sessions, which included one with President Shimon Peres, venture capitalist Yossi Vardi, Tablet Magazine’s Alana Newhouse, and author Peter Beinart. I’m an avid Tablet reader so I was really excited about the session with Alana, and was completely lost when it came to the Peter Beinart session.

But for me, the thrill was getting back into the business world. It was opening up the closet that holds all of my business suits, the ones I haven’t worn since I lived in New York City, and getting dressed up again for work. It was putting on makeup for the first time in, I don’t even remember, and wearing nice shoes. It meant wearing my “good wig” instead of my very comfortable but completely beat up bandana. It was leaving my 14 month old to spend two days with her Daddy, who took off from work so I could attend the conference, and that was the longest I’ve been away from her since her birth. It was the allure of 48 hours of consistent intellectual stimulation, which has significantly dwindled since my girls were born. It was an opportunity for me to talk to people about things other than my children, their developmental milestones, potty training and nursing.

I’ve had months to prepare for this conference, and that meant dieting enough to fit into my black Ann Taylor suit pants. And when they closed and fit, nicely, I was so proud of myself. I set a weight loss goal and I accomplished my goal.

But practically, I was a fish out of water. I am very hard on myself, but six years of working from home and being with two children under the age of four, has really taken a toll on my social skills. And let me tell you, I used to be able to work a room like a pro.

Back in my 20’s, when I was working at a PR firm in Manhattan, I would attend an event practically every single night. Whether it was a conference, networking function, party, press event or press conference, I knew how to work the room. I was smooth, it was effortless, and I knew how to make small talk with even the most closed, shy person in the room. But, unlike riding a bike, that is a skill that needs to be practiced constantly. And, I’m afraid to admit, that I’ve completely lost my touch.

That isn’t to say that I didn’t meet and mingle with people. I definitely did, but I no longer felt as comfortable doing it as I once had. It was a lot more awkward than it used to be, and I’m not exactly sure why. I think part of it is that, I was single in my 20’s, and flirting was fun and a good way to break the ice. I never worried that I was being inappropriate or flirting too much because I was single, and it was okay. Now that I’m married, I’m much more reserved, making sure that I’m not flirting so as not to give off the wrong idea. Flirting is definitely a lot more natural to me than not flirting, so constantly being cognizant of that was really draining.

Add to that that most of the people at my past events weren’t Orthodox Jews, and you can understand my comfort level (or lack thereof). I never had to worry, when extending my hand, if that person would actually shake it or just leave it hanging. At this conference, I held back, worried that the guy was frum and didn’t want to shake a woman’s hand. On guy completely surprised me by extending his hand that I accidentally scratched him when trying to shake his hand. Fortunately, I didn’t draw blood. That would have been horrifying.

Back on the home front, Daddy worked super hard for two days. When I got home tonight, he was ready to collapse. Now he completely understands why, at 5:30 p.m. every night, I call him to find out when he will be home. It is a lot easier to sit in one place and do work, then it is to chase after two children under the age of four, tend to the house, run errands and do many other odds and ends that pop up unexpectedly throughout the day. I thanked him for working so hard so that I could go to the conference and it was nice to hear how much he needs and missed me during the past two days.

Now my kids, well, Mommy getting dressed up and not being there to put them down for a nap, feed them lunch, change their diapers, play with them, give them snack and pick them up from daycare, definitely took a toll. My baby was really, really attached to me after the first day. She had an absolute meltdown when I got home; putting her to bed and detaching her from me was really hard. My eldest daughter was just in awe about everything. She wanted to understand why I was dressed nicely, wearing “shiny black shoes,” wearing makeup, what my badge was all about, and what I was doing at work. I think she was excited about this new Mommy, even though she kept repeating that I didn’t pick her up from daycare. I explained the conference as best I could, and I felt like she was finally able to understand that I too go to work. Since I work US hours, she is always asleep while I’m writing press releases, having conference calls with my clients, pitching the press and tending to my social media responsibilities. But after these past couple of days, she can at least say to her friends that Mommy wears makeup and shiny shoes and goes to work. It’s a start.

The conference was a wonderful experience for me, and I would definitely do it again next year. But I wonder, how do other SAHM or WAHM handle re-entry into the work force?

I contemplate whether or not I should give up my current career and forge a new career path that includes going into an office every single day, and I wonder if that would take longer to get used to. It’s no longer a question of am I ready, but would it be better for me?

Or, let’s face it, does this experience just mean that I need to get out more. And, if so, who’s around for some tequila shots at Casino de Paris?

 

 

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Lazy Days of Summer

This morning, I read an excellent article in the parenting blog section of The New York Times about summer camp counselor vs. intern. It sparked some really interesting discussion on my Facebook feed and I definitely had a strong opinion about this topic. Nothing important enough to share here though, but I’ve got to say, I’ve got summer camp on the brain.

My 13 year old niece will be attending a US based summer camp this summer and I’m so excited for her! This will be her first summer at camp and, as an Israeli, she has no idea what’s in store for her when she arrives. Fortunately, she is extremely excited, optimistic and hopeful.

I pray her summers are nothing like mine were.

Until I became a CIT at Camp Mesorah, I hated sleep away camp. I would have been better off going to day camps in the Tri-State area. But, since ALL of my friends from school went to sleep away camp in the summer, there was no way my parents were going to keep me home.

Fortunately for my younger siblings, they changed their tune after experiencing my horrible summers. My younger siblings went to sleep away camp for only a month, then either enjoyed day camp the second month or went on a family vacation with my folks.

I was stuck at sleep away camp while they enjoyed this little arrangement.

Let’s see how it all began.

Summer camp #1: Camp Morasha, age 10. My parents made the big mistake of sending me  for the second month, not the first. And, the one friend that was supposed to be my bunk mate was switched out of my bunk last minute into my buddy bunk. My parents had a fit when they found out that it happened and my friends father drove all the way up to camp to make sure I was okay. (Guilt perhaps that his daughter was moved into the other bunk while I was left along? Who knows, the whole experience was effed up) I wasn’t okay, being that I knew no one in my bunk. But, I put on a brave face and said all was fine. That summer I gained about 20 pounds from all the amazing canteen foods, and the cookies and juice for 4:00 p.m. snack. I came home not being able to fit into any of my clothing but still, to this day, remember the song we sang during color war.

Camp #2: Camp Hillel, age 11 and 12. Well, if you read my previous entry, you know that I got kicked out of this camp. If you missed it, check it out here. But that first summer, I went on my first Shabbos walk ever, had my first relationship triangle with Brian W. and Elie H. and was the leopard in the camp play. Brian picked Elie over me, so that was devastating. I remember a lot of dogs on campus, having Hicks and Hobos night and walking around in a plaid shirt, jeans, mascara drawn freckles and my hair in braids. I went bobbing for apples with a thousand of kids and still gag on that memory today (how gross and unsanitary was that??!). Inter-camps with Camp Chipiwah (sp) down the road and getting my arm exrayed because they all thought I broke it playing kick ball. The girls were pretty mean and the boys were pretty.

Camp #3 – Camp Moshava, IO, age 13 and 14 – First summer, I made a mistake on day one that left an impression on me forever. Met a new bunkmate while unpacking, she asked me if I knew a girl from Camp Hillel. I honestly answered that I did but that I didn’t particularly like her. New girl told me that Camp Hillel girl was her BEST FRIEND from back home. New girl hated me from that second on and made my life a living hell. Lesson learned, never tell anyone you don’t like someone. Except for her, the girls were much better. I made some friends and actually liked my counselor. Learned how to shoot a rifle by some ex-IDF sharpshooter. Went on two shmutzes, hiked for hours, bought pickles and other crap during our hikes into town, and went on a couple “Shabbos” walks. Still remembers how to sing Mifkad and knows how to Amod Dom.

Second summer, much better bunk mates. Don’t remember counselor but our division head was a complete tool. He put me on probation after someone told him that I was kicked out of Camp Hillel. Was placed on probation because started having issues with some of the boys in camp. That was the summer of the mooning. Saw way too much girl and boy asses that I can’t even count them. Yotam K. drew a picture of a giant cow with an arrow pointing to the ass and my name: “Shira Cow-Ass”.  Yoel M. walked the picture over to where I was sitting on the lawn with some friends, on Shabbos, and handed it to me. It was pretty upsetting. They docked the bunk from evening activity and made all the boys apologize to me. That made things worse for me that summer. I learned how to literally sling mud in a mud fight. I had a great time rafting down the Delaware River. I learned how to use a lighter and my deoderant to burn flies. I got trampled by my bunk mates when they discovered a bat in our bunk. I have a giant bump on my foot, to this day, to prove it. I was lucky it was just a bump on the foot. I learned how to make a tent out of twigs, rocks and sticks. I peed in the woods, a lot. Did some more hiking, made friends that lasted through High School. Vowed never to return to Camp Moshava again.

Camp #4 – Camp Mesorah. ages 15 and 16 –  At this point, I was no longer a typical camper. I decided to skip the summer experience in Israel, although I was signed up to go on Achva, and my parents lost our deposit money. But, at that point, I wised up to what was best for me. It was the best decision I made as a young adult. I was a CIT and then became a junior counselor at Mesorah. Best summers I had at a sleep away camp. CIT summer was great, went to Old Montreal and made some amazing friends. Wore a lot of jeans and button downs. Flirted with some cute boys and started to become more confident. Discovered that I loved being in charge of other kids and loved the people I worked with. Realized how different camp was when you’re a counselor instead of a camper. Grew up and matured a lot. Began my eating disorder, which you can read about here.

Second summer, had an amazing co-counselor. Aliza B. was the best, we had a great time eating Snackwells, watching soap operas and reading soap opera digest. Our kids were terrific too, most of them are probably married by now. Many got married before I did. Had very curly hair, still wore glasses, and fell in love with the man I thought I was going to marry. It was nice having a “boyfriend” for a summer. Independence felt great, enjoyed going to the Binghampton mall with friends during our days off, or getting kosher pizza near all the Jewish bungalow colonies. Starved myself during the day and, after lights out, joined 4 friends to share 1 can of corn and 1 can of green beans. Lost a TON of weight that summer, Mom was thrilled when I came home.

My niece won’t read this blog post before she goes off to camp. I’m keeping this close to the vest and being the best cheerleader I can be. I already plan on sending care packages, told her to make sure to pack food to share with her bunk mates, and have been buying her Seventeen magazine so she can be caught up on American pop culture. I also can’t wait to help her write her name on all her clothing and pack up for the big day! Not that it will help, she’ll lose half of her socks in the laundry. But hey, it’s all part of the experience.

Do you remember your summers at sleep away camp? What were your best – and worse – memories?

 

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Contest Winner

It was so much fun hosting a Mother’s Day giveaway with What to Expect! Thanks for all the great comments, both on my blog and on twitter. The winner is Sarah!!

Congratulations!

 

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Not Just A Four Letter Word

This afternoon, my toddler did the unexpected. She called a new worker in our home “ugly.” And, after I told her that we never use that word, and that it’s very hurtful, and I don’t ever want to hear her say it again, she turned to our new worker and told her that, “my Mommy says that you’re very, very, ugly.”

That was absolutely shocking. One, because it was an outright lie, since I never ever said that. And two, because it was just so cruel and mean to hear. I immediately put her into time out and, when DH came home, he had a long talk with her.

But, I have absolutely no idea where on earth that even came from! We certainly don’t talk that way in our house, and I am hoping that the girls don’t talk that way in gan. I sent an email to DD’s ganenet, asking her advice on how we should handle this situation. We are definitely in unchartered territory here. I mean, I can handle a lot of other things that comes our way: disobedience, acting out, being upset with her baby sister, fighting over meal times and makeup. But this, being mean just to be mean, is something I never expected to hear from my toddler.

I tried to reason that she has no idea what she is saying, but then I realized that she does know what she is saying. The other day, when we were walking on the street, she pointed out that a man was fat. He was a very, very large man, and when I tried to explain that we don’t say those things, she got very confused. She doesn’t yet associate “fat” with the way I associate “fat.” She is starting to grasp concepts like “opposites” and “similar” and therefore, she understands that “fat” vs. “skinny” is an opposite. But, how do we educate a toddler about social niceties? How do we explain that, even though technically one person might be fat, we certainly don’t scream it to that person from across the road.

But I also think that when she used the word “ugly” it was very, very, different from the way she used “fat.” In her mind, the worker in our house wasn’t what she has decided is pretty. And that got me thinking about what she sees around our home. She sees Disney princess characters and she spent a year and a day looking at Nicki Minaj in a Mac cosmetic ad on the back of my Oprah magazine. She watches celebrities on Sesame Street and she also watches all of the pretty people on Yaldut Yisraelit.  She has very limited exposure, however, to different races and ethnicities. Aside from Dora the Explorer, she doesn’t interact on a daily basis with children of different races. Also, when she reads her Dora books, she doesn’t see the physical differences between her and Dora. All she thinks is different is that Dora speaks Spanish, and she speaks Hebrew and English.

So, what do we do? How do we handle this situation? Do we punish her? How do we educate her? How can we teach her that her words are hurtful? That we don’t call someone “fat” or “ugly”? We’re new parents that definitely do not want our daughter growing up as a mean girl, or worse, a bully.

Anyone who comments with advice is automatically entered into my What to Expect giveaway! If you don’t have the books, or if you haven’t been to the What to Expect website, you are definitely missing out! These books are, to me, what Dr. Spock was to my parents thirty years ago. The website is really, really helpful and I especially loved getting daily emails about fetal development during my entire 42 week pregnancy! They approached me to host this fabulous giveaway and, on Thursday, one lucky commenter will win all of the What to Expect books!! So, spread the word and let your friends know about this fabulous giveaway. And, more importantly, weigh in on what you think we should do to teach our daughter that “ugly” is a really nasty four letter word!

 

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Third Generation

(Photo: Jewish children, bearing the yellow star of David, during the Holocaust)

I’m what they call 3G, or third generation Holocaust survivor. I realized this evening that, my daughters, are 4G. The fourth generation. In my mind, the fourth generation will not bear the same burdens as the third. And that is a tremendous blessing.

Being a 3G, I often times feel like a complete freak. I exhibit “Holocaust like” behavior that therapists would have a field day with, and I very often struggle to keep the paranoia and fears at bay. I’m also very unique in that my Holocaust survivor Grandmother helped raise me from the age of five. At the time, my Mother had to return to work to help support our family, and so my Grandmother quit her job as a seamstress in the garment district of Manhattan, to care for us. Until I moved out of the house at the age of 20, I saw and interacted with my Grandmother every single day.

As a child, she roused me in the morning from sleep and got me dressed for school, tried to force feed me oatmeal or cereal, and either walked me up the block or waved from the door as I got on to the bus that took me to High School. She usually greeted us when we got home from school, put supper that she cooked on the table, and said good night and went home once my Mother arrived from work. She imparted wisdom in her thick, Polish accent, marveled over any of our achievements, taught us how to make the beds or fold the laundry, and hung onto our every words whenever we gave a Dvar Torah at the table. My siblings and I, her only Grandchildren, are the very reason she survived the hell she went through during the Holocaust. And through sheer will power and strength that I do not possess, but admire in awe, she survived so that my family could live.

The Holocaust was this huge presence in our home, almost like a permanent grey cloud that hung heavily over our heads. I remember the jealousy I felt over Jewish holidays, as my friends would talk about all of their cousins and Aunt’s and Uncle’s and how many people could fit around their dinner tables. And, at our holiday tables, it was just my Grandparents, my parents, and my siblings.  We were a small, nuclear family. My Grandmother, orphaned at the age of 15. My Grandfather, escaped the Holocaust by joining and fighting with the Jewish Brigade in World War II. Both of their families, almost completely annihilated by Hitler.

Sometimes, I would fantasize that my Grandmother’s older brother or her baby sister had survived and were living in South America or Canada, or Australia. And that, one day, through the magic of the Internet, they would find each other and have this great reunion. And that, my 88 year old orphan Grandmother, would realize that she is not alone in this World. But, that is merely a fantasy. The SS and Hitler were methodical, and they were methodical with their record keeping. We know, without a shadow of a doubt, that my Grandmother’s parents and siblings were sent to the gas chambers at Treblinka.

Growing up, I used to pray that I would, one day, have a large family. When I started dating, I would ask the guy I was seeing if he came from a large family. One of my dating criteria was that the guy either come from a large family, or really wanted one of his own.

Secretly, I had another dating criteria. I wanted to date someone who was a 3G, like me. So that he would understand how obsessed I am about making sure we all have passports, that they are always up to date, that we can literally leave the Country (any Country), at any time, because we have the right papers. When we bought a car on my Olah rights, and they requested to hold my US and Israeli passports overnight, I literally had heart palpitations. I almost didn’t go through with it, because the very thought of being separated from my passports, made me sick to my stomach.

And yet, wonderfully, I fell in love with DH. A man who is blessed to have a massive family on BOTH sides. He has oodles of cousins, and more second and third cousins than I could ever imagine. And, while his Grandmother lost a lot of her immediate family during the Holocaust, he was not exposed to it the same way I was. He doesn’t remember ever discussing it with his Grandmother, or having it be this big presence in his life.

I was so excited about marrying into this great, big, boisterous family. I couldn’t wait to experience their holidays, to see and experience how a family not exposed to the Holocaust functioned. To be a part of something different, to experience what many of my friends growing up experienced.

And, to this day, I cannot fit in. I am a fish out of water in this great big pool that is my husband’s family. I yearn to have Passover Seder with just DH and the girls, as opposed to 25+ people family Seders that consist of both sides of DH’s family. Fortunately, this year we had a very intimate family Seder with DH’s Aunt, Uncle and his two cousins. And, I finally felt at home, comfortable, and myself. I have earned a bad reputation for keeping us at home for Shabbat meals, for isolating us during large family functions. But, truth be told, I just cannot function in that environment. I just don’t belong, being a part of a large, extended family is just too difficult for me to adjust to.

And the worst thing is that, aside from DH’s Uncle, no one else gets it. They don’t understand where I’m coming from, how it’s not just that culturally we are different, we are different because I am a 3G and they – blessedly – are not. I hope, one day, they can forgive me for any friction I have caused because of my anxiety about being around the larger family, at big family functions.

Truth be told, I yearn for the day when my siblings can join us for holidays and Shabbatot. Because they are the only ones who understand how I feel, how I grew up, how much the Holocaust is a part of my life.

And, on the flip side, I try so hard not to pass on my issues to the next generation. That my 4G daughters grow up having joyful holiday experiences like DH had, that they only hear about their great-Grandmother’s life experience when they are older and ready to hear about what she went through. That the stories are only told when they are old enough and ready to hear them, and that they are not spoken about at every single Jewish holiday, family function or other social gathering. That they don’t equate Succot with when the family was herded into the ghetto, that they don’t equate Yom Kippur with when the ghetto was liquidated, that they don’t equate Pesach with when the family was sent to the gas chambers. That they don’t have to watch their Grandmother wipe away the tears during the Haggadah or throughout the Rosh Hashanah liturgy. That they never hear the story of how my Grandmother helped her first cousin kill her baby by throwing him into the toilets at their concentration camp. If the baby had been discovered, they would have all been killed.

Instead, my wish for my girls is that they can be a part of a large, beautiful, amazing Jewish family and be happy. That they can lose their passport and, without breaking a sweat, simply apply for a new one. That they live life without all of this debilitating fears that threaten to paralyze me, from letting them leave the house, live their lives, experience the World. That they don’t eat food in secret, in the dark, and with fear that there won’t be another plate tomorrow. That they leave food on their plates if they are full, and not feel guilty.

They have no idea how hard it is for me to let them go off to gan, get into the car with their Father and leave me home, alone, or to go to friends for a play date. I rely on DH to make sure that they have a normal upbringing, that my fears do not trickle down to them. So far, I think he is doing a great job. I can’t imagine them going over to other people’s houses for a sleep over. Aside from my 5 day hospital stay with DD#2, I just can’t imagine being away from both girls.

I don’t know if that’s a Holocaust thing, or simply because I’m a Mother.

We say that we should never forget. Intellectually, I believe that statement to be true. Emotionally, sometimes I wish that I could forget.

Just a little bit.

 

 

 

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Sibling Rivalry

 

(Photo credits: Hipstermom. DD#1 walking the streets of Jerusalem with her Uncle)

Passover is finally behind us, which means so is DH’s Monsoon Wedding of a birthday, my brother’s brief trip from the States to meet his niece and hang out, and 8 days of eating Matzah. Blech.

What that also means is that the diet started today, after a “final supper” with DH at Gabriel’s in town. That place is amazing, and I’m still tasting on my tongue the delicious glass of Carmel Winery’s Merlot.

With routines getting back to normal, I’ve had some time to reflect on the holiday and especially having both of my girls home for more than a week. And, I’ve realized, that there is some serious sibling rivalry going on and I’m not really sure the right way to handle it.

In a nutshell: Whatever DD#1 has in her hand, DD#2 wants. To the point where she will just pull it out of her older sisters hands. That causes an unbelievable amount of frustration on the part of DD#1 and she ends up screaming at her sister, screaming at us, and yelling a lot. We tried to distract the little one with similar toys, and to help her play together and not necessarily play by taking away all of her older sisters’ toys, but it didn’t help. We know DD#2 understands the word “no,” but that just doesn’t stop her. And, while we eventually encourage the older one to either play in her room with the door closed, or to move to a higher table like the kitchen or dining room, it’s really not fair to her that she has to be the one to move away when all she wants to do is play.

And it’s with everything! If DD#2 is sitting in my lap, DD#1 wants to come in for a cuddle. Now, I’m a big Mama and got plenty of lap space for the two of them, but they both don’t really like to share the lap. When I’m on the floor playing with DD#2, to distract her from taking the toys of DD#1, my eldest abandons her toys and comes to play with me too. I laugh and tell her that it defeats the purpose of me distracting the baby if she no longer wants to play with the toys, but that just doesn’t resonate with her. She just sees Mommy playing with one child, and she wants to play too.

And I have no IDEA why the baby likes to frustrate her older sister by pulling out her pacifier. We are slowly weening our eldest off of her pacifier. We have her day weened in that she cannot leave the house in public with the pacifier, although on long car trips we give in. She pretty much only gets the pacifier when she is watching TV or when she is going to bed. Our goal is to get her completely night trained and then we’ll work on giving up her pacifier. But, since the girls were home on vacation, I let her use it more that usual and she likes to sit on her little couch with the pacifier and watch TV. And sure enough, the little one crawled right up to her and would just pull the pacifier out of her mouth! She didn’t want to put it into her own mouth since she had hers in there, she just liked yanking it out and getting a rise out of her sister. It got to the point where I literally had to keep a hand over DD#1’s pacifier/mouth and tell the baby “no” each time she tried to pry my hand loose.

Aside from the sibling rivalry though, we had a really enjoyable vacation together. I was so relaxed and enjoyed our practically non-existent schedule. If DD#1 wanted to stay in PJ’s until 11:00 a.m., and color on her little table or play in the living room, I gladly let her. We went on walks to the Supermarket and the park, and I let the eldest blow bubbles during our trek. We went to the museum and to parks in other neighborhoods where the girls could go on swings, and we actually took BOTH girls out to dinner at Moshava 54. It was a great experience, they were both behaved and ate nicely. It was the first time since DD#2’s birth, where we were able to go out to eat as a family. That was just so exciting, to know that they are both at an age where we can dine out and I don’t have to whip out the cape to breastfeed while trying to eat my appetizer with one hand, and cut up DD#1’s chicken with the other.

And the best part of all? When my eldest child pulled her little sister in for a cuddle, and they hugged.

How do you handle sibling rivalry at such a young age? All advice and anecdotes welcome in the comment section!!

 

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The Single Life

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in concert

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about my single life. Specifically, the things that I miss and the things that I don’t. I literally spent majority of my single 20’s yearning for the life I live now, and with good reason. Had I known then what I would have now, I would have been just beyond depressed.

But, I took advantage of my single status and decided to spend my days, not pining away for a husband and children, but enjoying the life I was living at that moment. Because, I knew that one day, it would be gone and there would be aspects of that life that I would miss.

I was definitely right about that.

Most of the time, I think about my single bed. The glorious full bed with my eight pillows, Calvin Klein and Donna Karan sheets, and pillow top mattress. I used to sleep right in the middle of the bed, with plenty of room on either side of me. Usually, I think about my old bed when I’m practically hanging over the side of my side of the bed, with our daughter’s feet crisscrossed across my chest and one hand slapped against my face. Of course, I barely breathe, afraid any sudden movement will wake her up. Forget going to the bathroom, I’d rather hold it in than wake her up. So, I close my eyes, and think about the copious hours of sleep I used to get while living alone. And, just when I yearn to transport myself back in time to my old apartment on the Upper West Side, into my delicious bed, my daughter strokes my cheek and whispers in my ear that I’m her best friend. And, suddenly, I’m thrilled to be awake and at the edge of my mattress.

I also don’t miss the loneliness of single life.  I wanted to be with someone who got my jokes, cared enough about me to take care of me when I was sick, was my partner in crime in this life. I’m thrilled to be coupled, and I definitely found the perfect partner for me.

I don’t miss cooking for one. Especially since, back then, cooking for one meant heating up a Weight Watchers meal and finishing it off with a bag of 98% fat free popcorn. I love cooking for my family, and don’t even mind all of our dietary restrictions. I’m gluten free, my husband is carbs free except for breakfast, my baby is allergic to oats, peanuts, sesame, egg and rice, and our eldest is just a real picky eater. Most of the time, I’m preparing four different meals at least twice or three times a day. It’s a good thing I really enjoy cooking.

I don’t miss laundry for one. Oh sure, there are times when I look at all the laundry bags in the house and  I’m overwhelmed. That usually comes after I change the sheets and towels, but then during the quiet of nap time, I sit down to fold little onesies and footie pajamas, and I just fall in love.

Now, I am a supermarket junkie. Take me to a new location, anywhere in the World, and I will hightail it straight to the nearest supermarket. So, you can imagine how much I enjoy shopping for my family. I just love walking up and down the aisles and picking out a special treat for our eldest, or remembering that we’re low on my husband’s favorite yogurts and buying some before we run out. I love looking at an overflowing cart filled with food for four, as opposed to the tiny basket I used to tote around Fairway on Broadway that I could barely fill up with food for myself for the week.

But the two things I miss the most about single life are money and music. I miss having money to spend on myself, lavishly. I used to make a decent living, enough to cover my expenses and have a healthy entertainment fund. Now, we have to really count our pennies, and I can no longer just shop when I feel like it. I can no longer just go to the mall and come home with bags and bags of goodies for myself, just because I could. That takes a lot of getting used to, especially since I spent more than thirteen years just spending money on myself.

And then, there’s music. I used to be so on top of the music scene. Today, I’m lucky if the local radio station is on while I feed the baby. Usually, we’re listening to Hebrew music about the upcoming holidays, Raffi or some Disney soundtrack. Our local music station plays the weirdest mix of music, ever, and most of the times I just get so aggravated with the selection. I miss discovering a new band before it’s hot, like I did with The Black Keys. I was into them well before their music was selected as the background to those car commercials and some WB shows. I miss going out to concerts with my friends in the City. There is nothing like going to a concert in Manhattan. The venues I’ve been to have been amazing and exciting. I’ve seen Scissor Sisters at the Hammerstein Ballroom and Coldplay at Radio City Music Hall. I saw an intimate showing with Gruff Rhys, lead singer of The Super Furry Animals, and was so close to him I could have wiped the sweat off his brow. I can’t count how many times I saw both Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Kings of Leon, who I was also into well before they were popular. My friend Julie took me on a fabulous full day concert featuring Oasis and Kasabian for my birthday, and we met the most interesting group of people from Ireland. I miss the atmosphere at a concert, holding that giant plastic cup of beer that sweats in your hand as the warm up band plays. Even though I don’t regret, for one minute, quitting smoking, I do miss smoking at a concert. And I’ll never forget seeing Radiohead in concert at Liberty Island, mere weeks before September 11th. I won’t forget sitting at the Cosi at the base of the World Trade Center, eating a sandwich before the show, then walking around to the pier to pick up the ferry that took us across to the show. I remember looking at the people coming in and out of the Trade Center, and the people walking around the area as we headed to the concert. And then, after 9/11, I wondered how many of them survived the terrorist attack.

I wish I could take my husband to a concert in Manhattan. I would love to see the Arctic Monkey’s or Adele, live. But, at least right now, that’s just not in the cards. Instead, I think we’re just going to try to play some more of our kind of music during the day. There is no reason why the girls can’t be introduced to the music we love. Sure, we’ll still play the soundtrack to Beauty and the Beast, but there’s no reason why the girls can’t also rock out to Tapes n’ Tapes.

 

 

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