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Back to School Time: Moms Are Off to a Running Start

For many parents, shopping for school supplies is a test of endurance, requiring mental and physical stamina. On the heels of the summer Olympics, I can’t help but to compare this competitive back-to-school ritual to an athletic race.
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Room Mom Winterizes Holiday Party

Ever since my kids started elementary school—almost a decade ago—I’ve done my part as a room mom. I take my volunteerism seriously. After an hour in a rowdy, germ-infested, overheated classroom, I automatically pop two aspirin and drench my extremities in Purel instant hand sanitizer. One of my most challenging jobs as a room parent is to plan the school holiday celebrations throughout the year, including the fall (formerly Halloween) party, the winter (formerly Christmas) party, and the Valentine (still politically correct even though named after a saint) party.

This time of year, most parents are usually sensitive about respecting different religious beliefs and understand the need to keep the festivities wintry as opposed to Christmasy. Still, every December, I encounter one or two moms who try to sneak a little controversy into the agenda. Continue reading

“Generation Me” Boasts Too Much Self-Esteem

Every generation has an alias. The typical grandparents of the “Baby Boomers” are called the post-Civil War “Missionary Generation.” The parents of the “Baby Boomers” are labeled the “Lost Generation” and “G.I. Generation,” who fought in World War II and survived the Depression. They created the next population explosion of ambitious movers and shakers and anti-war protestors, who, in turn, introduced “Generation Jones.”

Stick with me here. The demographics get even more confusing. Continue reading

Tragic School Shooting Teaches About Strength, Suffering

Once again, our nation mourns. This time we grieve and struggle to understand last week’s bloody rampage at Virginia Tech, where 33 lives were abruptly ended. Continue reading

When In Doubt, Do As the Jews Do

When the Sunday school teacher asks the second-graders to draw a picture of what God means to them, most of the students grab their colored markers and eagerly get to work. They waste no time making bright rainbows, beautiful flowers, puffy clouds, beaming sunshine, twinkling stars, and an assortment of bearded stick figures. I join other parents in the classroom for this thought-provoking activity, and I witness first hand how the topic of God sparks creativity in grownups and children alike. Everyone seems to enjoy the opportunity to explore God out loud; everyone, that is, except my daughter. Continue reading

Children On Loan From God, and There’s No Exchange Policy

Some parents live vicariously through their children. When it comes to their kid’s success, some moms and dads take it personally. When it comes to their child’s failures, they take that personally, too. I guess some parents figure that if they didn’t get it right the first time, that is, in their own childhood, then surely they can get another shot at perfection when they raise their own son or daughter. Continue reading

Teacher Conferences Put Parents in the Hot Seat

As far as careers go, I never could be an elementary schoolteacher. I just don’t have the patience, nor do I have any desire to inspire on a daily basis an overheated classroom of nearly two dozen rambunctious children, many whom use their sleeves to wipe their runny noses. If I never do another mitzvah again, at least I can say that I have proudly dedicated many hours as a tireless Room Mom for the past decade and still counting.

Thank God for teachers, at least the good ones, because they stimulate thinking and motivate young people to learn. In Judaism, parents and teachers are one in the same, and education goes way beyond the classroom. Continue reading

Good Character, or Middot, Makes the Grade

Academic success is driven into the brains of our children before they tinkle in their first diaper. Although there’s no concrete scientific evidence that education begins in the womb, a hormonal pregnant woman will do just about anything to give her growing fetus the best start in life. It’s not unheard of for an expectant mom to play Mozart to her swollen belly. The hope is that exposure to classical music will increase the likelihood of giving birth to a musical protégé who can play Chopsticks and suck on a pacifier all at the same time.

When a parent brings the bundle of joy home from the hospital, the sleepy newborn is greeted with more black and white abstract images than a Rorschach inkblot test at a psychiatrist’s office. Continue reading

Israeli War Hits Close to Home; Parents Help Children Cope

The morning starts out innocent enough. Like every other school day, Sari brushes her sun-streaked curls before I twirl her soft hair in a ponytail. Now a second grader, Sari checks her homework inside her new pink camouflage backpack, while I whip up a strawberry yogurt smoothie in the blender for us to share at breakfast. I join Sari at the kitchen table and watch her use one finger to carefully spread thick cream cheese on a blueberry bagel. Then, out of nowhere, she asks me, “Has Osama Bin Laden been caught yet?” Continue reading

Celebrate Another High Holiday: Back to School

For many parents, the highest of high holidays occurs around the end of August when their kids go back to school. For me, this time of year truly kicks off my Days of Awe when I practice the three R’s: reflect, repent, and revise. Continue reading