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teenagers

Welcome Back To Old School

first-day-of-school-2016-2017

When it comes to parenting, there is no manual. Back in the day, my mom kept Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care paperback in her nightstand, next to the S&H Green Stamps and the TV remote. I never noticed any dog-eared corners on the faded brown pages so doubt if she ever referred to this “timeless bestseller.” Turns out she probably could have used some expert advice on how to redirect her high-spirited daughter because her idea of discipline was chasing me down the hallway with a flyswatter.

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Last 1st Day of School

Empty-Nest

It’s almost Labor Day, and I’ve procrastinated to write this back-to-school blog. Maybe because my youngest is a high school senior and in 300-something days I will be an empty nester. (Yes, I obsess about it). For the last 12 years, I have taken my daughter’s first day of school photo in the front yard, with her holding our toy poodle Luci, next to the Chinese maple tree, which has grown from her shoulders to as tall as the two-story gutter.

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Learn How To Survive/Thrive Teen Years at Mom-Daughter Workshop

K&P Event Lockup 2016-1

What if teenage daughters could see their mothers as a great ally as they grew up and became independent? What if mothers could create safety for a teen daughter’s experience of herself, consciously guiding her to be who she was born to be?

What?! Sign me up!

Being a mom of a teen daughter is challenging, especially in today’s culture with a barrage of social media, peer pressure, and everyday stress that forces girls to grow up too fast. Moms ride a rollercoaster of emotions with our mini me’s. We are each other’s worst enemy and then best ally in the time it takes to get a spa pedicure.

If only there was a parenting manual on how to navigate our way through middle school, high school, and beyond. A resource that is as relevant and timely for moms as it is to our impressionable daughters so that we are both thinking on the same page. Wait a minute…there is such a book that speaks to us. It’s called Mothering and Daughtering. Keeping Your Bond Strong Through The Teen Years. Better yet, the co-authors are mom-daughter duo Sil and Eliza Reynolds, who live in The Big Apple and will be here in St. Louis next weekend as part of the Girls In The Know (GITK) mom-daughter empowerment celebration. Girls, it’s about to get real!

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For sure, the mother-daughter relationship is the most complex one of all, and perhaps no one understands the dynamics of this erratic dance better than Sil and Eliza who collaborated on this bestseller. When it comes to surviving and thriving the rocky adolescent years and into adulthood, this mom-daughter duo has been there, done that. For the last 10 years, they have travelled the country, from the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies in New York to the Esalen retreat center in California, inspiring moms and their preteen daughters to “meet in the middle” and create a deeper, more meaningful relationship. And they also know girls just wanna have fun—so they have planned an engaging weekend of ritual, storytelling, art, and exercises in communication that will no doubt create special memories. Through creative strategies and games, moms and their daughters will learn new ways of being together in mutual respect and love—and have a blast!

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Motherhood Stories Make The Perfect Gift!

NYMB cover

Looking for the perfect Mother’s Day gift? Look no further.  “Not Your Mother’s Book (NYMB)…On Being A Mom”  is chock full of sweet, nutty stories, kind of like a box of chocolate, only less fattening.

This irresistible anthology is a collection of 64 funny, edgy stories about raising children, from birth to the empty nest stage, so there’s something for every mom. The authors span the country and share how they face the challenges of motherhood head-on with humor, ingenuity, and, more often than not, a good wine.  NYMB is sure to bring a smile to your mom, mother-in-law, or even yourself.

I’m proud to be one of the NYMB contributors, and my piece titled, “The ABCs of ACTs,” is something every mom of a high schooler can relate to. In fact, I promise to share some helpful hints on how to reduce the stress of standardized tests, or at least laugh your way through it.
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A Letter To Justin Bieber

justin bieber, young boy

Dear J.B.,

Is it ok if I call you J.B.? I’ve watched you go through puberty in front of my very eyes. That must be why I feel comfortable referring to you by your initials, J.B., even though your real name is Justin Drew Bieber.

As the voyeuristic world watches your tragic downward spiral that led to your recent DUI arrest, I’m sticking by your side, as any good mom would do with her own child. Some reporters speculate your bizarre behavior and verbal rampage with the cops might be a marketing scheme to change your pop star image to be the quintessential bad boy. Everyone has their opinion. But I think you’re crying out for help. Then again, I’m a mom. You’re following the same footsteps of so many other troubled young celebs—Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes to name a few in your generation.

I wonder what your mom is going through right now as her son’s smiling mug shot dominates the national news and gains more media coverage than the terrorist threats in the Sochi winter Olympics.

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Counting Down to College

bradley

Next weekend, my son Jack will move into his college dorm as a freshman, and mark the beginning of a new stage in his life and mine, too. As a parent, this is the day I have tried to prepare him to spread his wings and fly out of the nest. Never mind the fact that mama bird is feeling a bit emotional, like the first day I dropped him off at preschool (multiplied by one thousand).

Of course I’m excited for him. He has worked really hard to get good grades, score decent on his ACT, and write an impressive resume and college essay. He deserves this time to explore his freedom, take on new challenges, and meet new people. My biggest concern is that he sleeps into the afternoon or falls out of his loft bed.

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Passover: “Let My Son Go!”

seder plate

As the eight-day festival of Passover comes to an end, I’m feeling kind of melancholy. Maybe its the matzo. Actually, it’s the last Passover before my son embarks on his Exodus from home to college.

As I reflect over the years of his childhood, I can’t help but wonder if I made the most of building his Jewish identity. Did I do a good job planting seeds of his heritage so that he’ll want to continue to nourish his spiritual self as a young adult, maybe even attend a few functions at the Hillel on campus with his peers? Did I make enough of an impact that he wants to continue the lessons from his ancestors of thousands of years with his own children? After all, that’s what keeps Judaism alive.

To be honest, I would be fooling myself (it’s April Fools Day) if I thought that I indeed succeeded in my job to teach him as best I can about his religion by celebrating every holiday—from Sukkot to Yom Kippur—in its full splendor.

I could have done more.

Sure, we acted out the 10 plagues during the seder, including ping pong balls for hail, red food coloring for blood, sunglasses for blindness, and we asked the four questions in English and Hebrew. But now it seems like everyone at the table wants to rush through the story, and the Haggadah is read halfway through.

I could have done more.

Sure, we lit the candles on Hanukkah, fried potato pancakes, and played dreidel, but it was the overabundance of presents that he probably remembers the most. We also celebrated with a stocking on Christmas morning—gasp!

I could have done more.

One year he helped us build a sukkah in the backyard, hammering the  lattice wall into the wood beams. We hung fruit and waved the lulav, but not every year. Baseball and soccer tournaments got in the way.

I could have done more.

On Shabbat, especially when he was younger, I made dinner, we said the blessings, and ate challah, but most Friday nights we didn’t because we had other plans or I was too tired to cook at the end of the week.

I could have done more.

And even though I would have liked him to experience Jewish summer camp and youth group, it wasn’t his thing, although he enjoyed playing baseball in Maccabi with other Jewish athletes from around the country.

I could have done more.

On the high holidays, he stayed home from school and got dressed in his button down shirt, pants, and uncomfortable loafers, so that we could attend services together as a family. Then high school came around, and it got harder to miss important assignments and tests.

I could have done more.

I missed the times we used to go to a neighborhood lake and throw breadcrumbs in the water on Rosh Hashanah to practice the ritual of tashlich. We set goals for the New Year, but didn’t get to cross them all off our list.

I could have done more.

He went to Jewish preschool, met Jewish friends, attended Sunday school, learned Hebrew, mastered his Torah portion, became a bar mitzvah, and even got confirmed. He loved chanting the Hebrew prayers and was so proud of himself. But like any language, if you don’t use it, eventually you lose it.

I could have done more.

At least he wants to go to Israel one day and experience what his homeland is all about. Maybe he will connect with his culture and make new Jewish friends. Maybe he will learn to like falafel. Maybe not.

Even though I could have done more, I couldn’t be more proud of my son and the young man he is today. As he wraps up his senior year, he is so ready to leave home and tackle his new life in college.

Of course, I could have done more when it comes to his Jewish upbringing. But maybe I did enough.

He knows he always has a place to call home. He knows his family loves him.

And I promised him that next year if he comes home for Spring break, I will make him his favorite dishes. Charoset and chocolate matzo. Talk about Jewish guilt…


choco matzo

 

charoset

“Me In A Tree” Brings Families Together Through Technology

 

Me-in-a-Tree homepage

The secret to a happy family is strong communication, and if you wait until  your kids are teenagers to make that connection, then, I’m sorry to say you have your work cut out for you. Maybe you’ll have better luck with your grandchildren. Kidding! Actually, luck has nothing to do with making lifelong bonds with your children. It takes a lot of work to create a happy family, just like a marriage, and the sooner you start the better.

One of the newest ways to build a strong family foundation is through technology.  (Even toddlers are potty-trained while using their IPads these days). The fact is, we spend so much time on  our computers, we might as well make it worthwhile, quality time together.

That’s the idea behind  “Me In A Tree,” an interactive, family friendly, online program designed to help busy families connect. The tree, for me, is symbolic because a tree has roots like a family. In the Jewish teachings, parents are responsible for planting the seed and growing the tree for the next generation.

So this computer program is easy to use and features lots of colorful, animated characters, apps, tools, and plenty of resources to make parenting easier, even though it’s the hardest job in the world. Families are encouraged to have regular “family huddles” or meeting times, even 30 minutes a week can make a difference.

 

me in a tree characters

 

A family that plays together, stays together, and “Me In A Tree” includes a variety of ways to get started, such as organize a calendar, plan fun activities, find places to volunteer in your community, create a motto, assign individual chores, keep a grateful journal, and even write your own blog. All of these strategies encourage important character traits, such as communication, organization, support, responsibility, gratitude, and family union.

So check out the website and take a family assessment to find out what your strengths and weaknesses are, and start climbing the tree together! A video tutorial is provided, so it’s a no brainer. In fact, your kids will navigate their way through the maze much quicker than you!

 

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And as your family grows, you can change your goals and ideas.  Stay up to date on the latest developments and meet other fans on Twitter and Facebook.

Subscribe today for a 2 week free trial, and let me know how your family likes Me In A Tree!

Hanukkah Gift Guide–It’s A Miracle!

The gift giving season is upon us, and with Hanukkah less than a week away, the pressure to buy presents, bake cookies, fry latkes, plan parties, and decorate the house with twinkling blue lights and dreidels started before I polished off the last slice of Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.

Of course, the real miracle of Hanukkah is about the rededication of the temple in ancient Jerusalem following the Maccabean victory over the Syrian army. But the other miracle is to not give into the overindulgence of the holiday season, including spend too much money on material things.

I’m always looking for ways to make the holidays less stressful and more meaningful, and this year I want to try a new tradition that I actually learned from other families who celebrate Christmas.

It’s called “Simple Gift Giving.” I know, sounds like an oxymoron, especially when I’m used to giving a present for each night we light the menorah.

The idea is to have our children narrow down their wish lists to include items from four categories:

  • WANT
  • NEED
  • WEAR
  • READ

Obviously, it’s best to start this routine when our kids are in preschool and still get excited about footsie pajamas and a wooden puzzle. It gets a little trickier when they’re already teenagers and their idea of a toy includes WiFi and practical underwear comes from Victoria Secret instead of a Hanes six-pack.

Each year, families can customize the list to meet their needs, and I’ve already added four more categories to round out the eight days of Hanukkah:

  • CREATE 
  • EAT
  • PLAY
  • GIVE

For example, CREATE our own menorah; EAT sufganiyot  (jelly donuts); PLAY a favorite game or poker dreidel; and finally, GIVE back to the community, such as collecting canned goods for the food pantry, serving a meal at Ronald McDonald House, or hosting game night at HavenHouse.

How do you keep Hanukkah fun and festive without overindulging your kids?

 

 

I’m a Belieber.

 

Justin Bieber Concert Tickets: $100

Believe Tour T-shirt: $35

Parking: $15

Purple Nail Polish: $2

Car window paint markers: $6

My 13-year-old daughter grabbing my finger so that we don’t lose each other in a crowd of thousands of screaming fans: PRICELESS.

 

There are some things money can’t buy.