Life in General

Dear head counselors and staff,

“YOU IN THE BLUE CAP, GET OUT OF THE SHUL RIGHT NOW!” bellows the head counselor; pointing at the boy in the blue cap who dared whisper to his friend 5 minutes into camp.

What goes through the mind of a head counselor as he publicly humiliates the child with the blue cap, I’ll never know. Is it to make an example out of him?  To assert his authority? 

What I do know is – this age-old method has got to stop.

Did he choose the right kid – is this indeed the camp troublemaker, or did the head counselor actually just give this boy a title that he will now live up to?

This is a typical scene that every boy who has gone to camp is familiar with; but that doesn’t make it acceptable.

Shaming. Humiliating.

Two ingredients that create a defiant and daring camper. 

Dear head counselors, counselors and all staff members,

As you get ready for an amazing summer, devoting every waking hour – and there are many since you don’t sleep much –  to kids of all ages and types, pause and realize this mission you are being entrusted with. 

We are dishing out thousands and thousands of dollars and entrusting you with our precious children. We are so grateful to each of you who agree to undertake this tremendous task of giving our children the best summer possible.

That kid in the blue cap that ends up being used as a korban;

He is someone’s precious child. There’s a mother and father out there trusting you to take care of their treasure. To build and not break. To influence and not destroy. To inspire and not shame. To empower and not put down.

Long after you leave camp and have caught up on sleep, this child will either be soothing their scars or flying on clouds of inspiration.

Camp is invaluable; there’s endless tales of campers recounting the life changing experiences that overnight camp has brought into their lives.

But let’s talk about another group of kids. Who came to camp for a fresh start and repeatedly get shamed and yelled at. Publicly humiliated. Sent out repeatedly.

And surprisingly enough, the more they are screamed at, the more they act out.

Wouldn’t you if you were trying to save face?

And instead of realizing that the staff themselves have created this monster, they blame the camper for his behavior. Of course responsibility and accountability are integral for each camper; but the staff need to be the adults in the room.

In a conversation with a counselor of a particular camper who was causing a lot of havoc, the father of the child spoke to the counselor about some different strategies to reach the child, and then suggested that the counselor call a particular respected mentor who has experience dealing with challenging campers.

The response from the counselor: ”I can’t be bothered.”

This is a true story.

And so to the dedicated staff, head counselors and counselors, I want to share with you; to be in your position is signing up to “be bothered.”

It’s part of the package.

Children are often delightful and enthusiastic, but can often be, well, bothersome.

And it’s up to you; how will you be treating each camper? No, not the easy campers who look in their Siddur all davening, who don’t talk after lights out and always show up on time, getting more and more points, prizes and Rebbe pictures.

What about the other 80%? 

Screaming, shaming, embarrassing and humiliating doesn’t fly anymore.

A good measuring stick to keep in mind is that if you can’t say it with love, don’t say it.

I’ll leave the particular discipline systems to the professionals; but when you look at that kid in the blue cap who dared to talk/smirk/make faces/whistle/put his feet up and you are ready to attack him, pause and remember that he is someone’s child. He is someone’s most valuable possession. And he wants to have a fantastic summer just like you do.

Proceed with caution; not everything can be easily undone.

Wishing every one a happy and successful summer!

Signed,

A mother of multiple kids who are heading to camp for a great summer!

Life in General

Good Advice…or is it?

“Wow, I’m the best mother ever! I’ve really got it all figured out!”

Said no mother, ever.

That’s just how it works; part of the gift of motherhood is the gift of doubt, guilt and second guessing.

And that’s where good advice comes in. The remedy for all this is good advice.

But not all advice is good, even if it has good intentions.

My personal two least favorite and least productive pieces of advice are these goodies;

“The days are long, but the years are short; before you blink they’ll be grown up, hold onto these times!”

“Little kids, little problems; big kids, big problems!”

I don’t know if they’re meant as cliches or advice, but I do know what they actually are; when delivered, it’s just another form of the big bad G – GUILT – albeit with fancy wrapping paper.

Continue reading “Good Advice…or is it?”
Life in General

Six Sanity Tips for Pesach

The countdown is on, Pesach is coming.

When you read that sentence, did it make your heart start palpitating and you started breaking out in a cold sweat?

Or did you feel a thrill of excitement and burst of adrenaline for this incredible, all encompassing Jewish holiday that wraps you up in a world of its own; where regular life ceases to exist and family and meals become front and center of your life.

Yeah, that really is possible – or you can at least get closer to the latter reaction.

Pesach is a lot. It really is. There’s so much to do and so much to buy and so much to prepare.

Now, as I’m preparing to make Pesach in my own home for the 14th year, I’d like to share my top Six Sanity Tips for Pesach, in the hope that they offer some help in some way to some Pesach-makers.

#1- It starts at the roots, it’s the foundation. It’s the most important and fundamental rule that will make all the difference in everything I do: I must love pesach. 

Yes, love it.

If the feeling isn’t natural, I repeat “I love Pesach” over and over again until it becomes a part of me. I repeat it again and again. And then again. Starting the day after Purim, I think it while I work, while I walk, while I drive and just about any other time of day or night.

And it really happens. Try it and see for yourself; you will convince yourself. You will love Pesach. 

Especially considering the fact that it comes back every year, rain or shine, it’s integral to have a healthy relationship with it. 

You must love it. 

And to make sure you really love it, buy something new for yourself every year or do something special for yourself; it doesn’t have to be expensive, it just has to be something that gives you a positive association with the workload. (Think a new book, chocolate stash, manicure, purse, shoes, costume jewelry or whatever makes you happy and fits your budget.)

#2: As much as it’s important for me to love Pesach, my kids need to love it too; and really, that’s all dependent on what they hear me saying – which goes back to #1. If I become a ranting and raving chometz guard, we will all hate Pesach together. 

Do things that give the kids positive associations with the preparing; be creative with suppers and meals for the days before Pesach – as in, forget the rules and do what works. Can you imagine, nothing says best mother better than allowing cereal and milk for supper!! For three days straight! Double points if it’s Shabbos cereal! It’s just a few nights; everyone will be ok. Their emotional and mental  health is top priority over here. Buy some new games or books that are special just for Pesach.

Whatever it is that works, it has to be in line with making the kids love Pesach and not leaving them wishing it went away and so they can get their normal mother back. 

#3  I believe that my cleaning help is just as certified and qualified to do the Pesach cleaning as I am.

If you don’t have regular help, hire a company, group, someone, anyone. Your sanity costs a lot more money than the cleaning help; and it is alot harder to fix or replace your sanity if you lose or damage any of it. . 

Remember that the mitzvah is to get rid of edible chometz you can see. Food doesn’t fly and crumbs don’t jump. Just clean. And save spring cleaning for a calm day in July. 

#4 Pesach is not the time for me to patchke and fuss with new recipes; I save that for during the year when there’s actual ingredients to use, instead of attempting to use (lousy)  makeshift replacements and substitutes. The first year I made Pesach I made 5 different types of sweet potato/potato combos. Rolled, layered, scooped – you name it. They all had fancy names and they all tasted the same. All the work for nothing.

Unless fussing with elegant and delicate foods is something that gives you joy and it’s really your thing, just make the food you like and the food your family will eat. No one needs to know what your menu is.

#5 Look for shortcuts. My best shortcut is that I don’t empty a single cabinet or drawer or pantry in my kitchen. I have two self-standing plastic storage cabinets from Costco that are in the garage all year long storing all the pesach stuff and then the cabinets get moved into the house and it continues to house all the pesach stuff. My chometz cabinets get spring cleaned on random days in the year when it’s not Yom Tov season and it’s not spring. True, it’s additional clutter to have two cabinets brought into the kitchen; but pick your poison. Go for the one that will give you less work.

#6 Lists. Paper, Google docs, excel or whatever works. But make those lists and plan ahead. 

You can shop around for people’s ideas – but most importantly;  make them your own. 

There are so many different ways to do it; cooking everything before Pesach, kashering after Purim, kashering the day before or kashering on Erev Yom tov. There’s no wrong way. Find the right way that’s right for YOU. Do things because they work for you, not because they work for your friend or sister or mother or grandmother. 

Make Pesach yours. Make it your own.

And I can gaurantee you, you will love Pesach. 

You may come to the Seder tired, but there’s a difference between tired and resembling something that the cat dragged in or tired but full of pride and joy and a sense of accomplishment; that you made it without destroying anyone or anything in the process.

And then you can actually be present at the Seder; you will enjoy the time with your family and your food, and actually feel the depth of this holiday celebrating our freedom. You deserve it.

Life in General

High School?!

My daughter is in high school.

My daughter left to high school.

My only daughter left home and is now in high school.

I am in high school 

I mean, my daughter is in high school.

Yes, I’m having a hard time!

What’s so hard about it?

She left.

She’s in high school.

And that sometimes makes me confused and I think I’m in high school, because I wasn’t in high school that long ago. Because the 90s was only 10 years ago, right?

And to me my daughter is little and she belongs home. If I still remember high school how can she be old enough to go to high school? There’s so much that just doesn’t add up!

Was she ready to leave and go to high school? Yes! Yes yes yes. She was as ready as ever. 

The question is, was I ready.

And as being a mother teaches you, life doesn’t wait until you’re ready.

I am not ready. 

My son left out of state to High School (mesivta) two years ago. So it’s not my first time doing this. Sure, I fell apart then too. 

So then why does it make my insides crumble as if I never did this before?!

Something is different when it’s a daughter. And something is even more different when it’s my only daughter. I love my boys to pieces, but boys are boys and girls are girls.

I know this is best for her. I know the school is a good fit for her. I know her great personality and easy going disposition will do her well while living in a dorm with twenty + girls and in dealing with the pressures of high school too.

But still my mind races.

Because I want my kids in my nest.

I want to know what’s going on every morning and every afternoon and every evening and every night. And what she ate for each meal and snack. And where her seat in each class is. And who the teachers are. And which notebook she uses for which class. And if her uniform is comfortable. And if her blanket is warm enough. And if her mattress is ok. And and and …

And I must accept it that she’s spreading her wings and jumping to the next stage… where I must watch from a distance, guide from afar and allow her to discover things for herself. 

I have so much advice! I remember so much from my years and want to share it. How to study, when to study, how to make a schedule, what subjects are good and on and on.

I had my chance. This one is all hers.

I’m not ready. I’ll never be.

My daughter left home to high school, but what I’m not sure she realized is that deep in her suitcase, there’s a piece of my heart that went along too.

And the hardest part of all is remembering that this is her high school experience, not mine.

Motherhood

Moms, have you ever heard of D-MER?

Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard of D-MER.

Raise your hand a little higher.

Hmm, there’s not that many of you.

Chances are everyone reading this has either experienced it or knows someone who did; the problem is, most people don’t know that it actually has a name.

It’s a common breastfeeding related condition that gets little attention and is not well known – and must be publicized. Because if you’ve experienced this, putting a name to the description will make you feel normal again.

I am grateful I’ve been able to nurse all my babies. When my eighth was born 4 years ago, I was relieved that once again nursing was no problem; except for one minor detail change.

Every time I’d start nursing, I’d suddenly be hit by the most overwhelming feeling of sadness. As if something terrible had just happened.

At first I was so confused.

What did I just see? What did I just hear that I feel this way?

And then was the strangest part. After no more than 30 seconds at most, the feeling was gone and I felt great again. Gone without a trace. To the extent that at first I thought I was imagining it.

But then I noticed the pattern. All was well, I was going about my day in a good mood. I’d sit down to nurse and suddenly be hit by this emotional wave. I’d count to 20 or 30 at most and it would be gone, leaving not a trace behind. It was fascinating and bizarre all at the same time. I started asking around, my sisters and my network of friends. No one could understand what I was describing.

I started doubting myself that this was actually true. Maybe I was making it up! But then I’d nurse again and experience it all over again.

My baby got older and slowly these incidents stopped and I forgot about it.

Until my 9th was born, 2 and a half years ago. I recognized it as soon as it happened. Everything was fine, I was feeling good and my baby nursed well. But I’d sit down to nurse and bam, there came that emotional overload. I’d focus on my counting, knowing it would dissipate before I got to 30, and it was gone.

But what was it?!? I googled any terms I could think of. Sadness while nursing. Overwhelming feeling while breastfeeding. No results.

I asked my doctor about it at my 6 week follow-up. This time I knew I wasn’t hallucinating. I knew I felt it. My OB stared at me blankly. She said some random platitudes like “Make sure you’re drinking and getting enough help in the house.” But I KNEW that wasn’t it. It was so hard to explain but I knew it was real!

I started polling my sisters and friends again and still, nothing doing. No one understood what I was referring too. Because really, it sounded crazy. An overwhelming emotional overload for 20 seconds?! Something that had no connection to the activity I was doing right before nor to where I was? It sounded crazy.

I was able to continue nursing with no problem, and the episodes faded and I forgot about it again.

And then, a few months later, I was reading an article in a magazine and I nearly yelped out loud.

This was it!! They were describing me!! This this this!! It was real! I wasn’t making it up! It even had a name!

The elation, the sheer joy and excitement at being validated!

True, this condition hadn’t interrupted my life thank G-d. But I knew something was going on to trigger it and I so badly wanted to know what it was. And here was my answer, in print.

D-MER. It had a name. It was real. Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex.

It was as strange and bizarre as I described it, but there was a reason for it. I went to dmer.org and read it top to bottom and bottom to top. There wasn’t a whole lot of information, but the name and description was enough.

I couldn’t get enough of it. It was a real condition.

There’s a broad range from extremely mild (in my case, lasting 20 seconds) to the extreme of debilitating anxiety that lasts long after the nursing, causing women to stop nursing because it is too difficult.

And I shared the info with every person I could think of. I don’t know why it does not get much publicity and why it’s hardly known. Any woman can experience it, it has nothing to do with any other part of your life.


It has nothing to do with one’s emotional or psychological well-being. Read that again. It has nothing to do with one’s emotional or psychological well-being. It is solely related to the milk release while breastfeeding. It is fascinating.

Fast forward to the birth of my 10th in May, just a few months ago. I start nursing and bam, there it goes. But I know what it is, it has a name! I am not crazy. This is real. I count through it and in 20 seconds it’s gone.

I go back to D-MER.org and see that there is even more information available on it than the last time I checked.

It has a name. I know the name. And I want to make sure that every single woman out there knows the name D-MER. D-MER.

It’s real and it’s a broad spectrum. For some it affects their decision to nurse or not. And for some, like me, it’s the knowledge alone that it has a name that helps me get through it and be able to nurse happily and successfully.


Even if you’ve never experienced this, you can help spread the word. My fellow moms, listen carefully the next time one of your newly postpartum friends start babbling about how she feels. You may be the one to give her the name to the experience, together with the validation that what she’s experiencing is real. Validation. The very best baby gift ever.