From preschool to college, graduates deserve celebration

Editor’s note: This post was written in collaboration with PurpleTrail.com. All views expressed are my own. Images for this story were provided by PurpleTrail.com.

As I sit here writing this on a chilly, New York, winter morning, it’s hard to imagine the warmer weather, and what those sunnier days bring: the end of the school year, and, for many students, graduation.

When I was a high school senior, many, many years ago, I eagerly awaited my graduation day, excited to see what adventures lay ahead of me in college and beyond. Four years later, that same feeling, albeit with a bit more nerves about heading into the “real world,” was with me as I journeyed toward the end of my higher education.

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I had the self-centered focus of youth, and wasn’t able to fully understand how important my education was to my parents. Even as a young adult, without kids, I didn’t understand the big fuss families made over graduation. Now, that I have children of my own, I get the joy families feel when seeing their children walk across the stage, collecting their diplomas, signifying many years of diligent work and determination.

Graduation is a huge accomplishment, and whether they are headed off to college or Kindergarten, PurpleTrail.com has a wide variety of gifts and invitations to mark the occasion. Continue reading

Feminism must put mothers first

Growing up, I often heard my mother repeat the phrase: “you can do everything, just not all at once.” I am sure she said the same thing to our brother, but I knew she was really speaking to my sister and I, children born in the 1980s, just a decade or so shy of the rise of modern feminism and the birth of the idea that women can do whatever men can do.

My own mother gave up her career as a nurse to raise her three children. Looking back, I realize how fortunate we were to have her home with us. We had someone to care for us when we were sick, to pick us up from the bus stop after school, and to serve as a constant reminder that we were cared for and loved. And we were fortunate to have a mother, who after caring for us for many years, was able to resume her career and even take on new ventures as her motherhood responsibilities shifted.

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My mom, along with several other members of my family, were all strong, powerful women, and not one of them ever downplayed their roles in what society has long deemed “woman’s work.”

These women did not try to compete “in a man’s world,” because they knew a woman’s world was just as worthy of validation.

Modern feminism, as many women have come to interpret, has told us we are not enough. You can’t “just” be a mother, you also have to be an entrepreneur or a part-time customer service rep, or a scholar. And, if you are a woman who juggles raising a family and a holding a job, it better not be in anything having to do with kids, lest you want to forgo any real respect from society. Continue reading

D.C. foundation brings joy of play to homeless youth

When you think about the basic needs of children, your mind probably goes to food, clothing and shelter. The things all humans need for survival. If you were to help the millions of homeless children in the United States, you might, rightfully, give some canned goods to a local food bank, or donate some blankets to an area shelter. These basic needs are something many of us can easily provide for our own children, and ones we easily take for granted.

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There is another childhood need we take for granted: play. Play is a fundamental part of childhood development. Play helps shape our children’s characters, develop critical life skills and forge their sense of self worth. A recent study by the American Association of Pediatrics highlights the importance of play and of every child, regardless of circumstance deserving the right to play.

Play is a vital part of childhood, and something all children deserve to experience. Unfortunately, however, kids who find themselves with unstable housing — often moving from shelter to shelter — rarely get the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of play. Continue reading

Curiosity ignites at Liberty Science Center

Exploring their surroundings through touch, is one of the main ways children learn about the world. They love to get their hands on everything — often things which are dangerous, expensive or both. This love for grabbing all the things, can make visiting museums tough for families with small children.

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Their acceptance and even insistence that kids manipulate and interact with their exhibits is why I love science museums. Children are curious beings, and offering them opportunities to see how things work is crucial for their development. Nothing beats seeing a child’s eyes widen in wonder at the sight of something remarkable.

During the winter break, my family visited Liberty Science Center. Located in Jersey City, N.J., just across from lower Manhattan, this museum has plenty to offer kids of all ages. Even grown-ups can tap into their inner child and have fun. Continue reading

If you need a prayer of gratitude, this is it

I’m a minimally observant Jew, and also a mother to two young children, which means my time to sit and focus on prayer is sparse and sporadic. When I do “pray,” I’m mostly thinking of stuff I’d like to happen for myself or my family. Even though these things may be selfless in nature, I realize this isn’t exactly praying, but more like wishful thinking.

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I was doing a whole lot of asking and not a lot of thanking. And, considering how many wonderful blessings have filled my life, I definitely had a good deal of gratitude to express. Like most of us, however, I got caught up in what I didn’t have instead of being grateful for what I already got. I wasn’t praying fully.

Yes, prayer can serve to ask for what we want. There’s nothing wrong with setting intentions and verbalizing your desires. I know this does wonders for people, and can be a powerful way to set you on your to achieving your dreams. However, this is not the true purpose of prayer.

The purpose of prayer is gratitude. Gratitude toward a power greater than ourselves. Gratitude toward G-d. Gratitude in even our darkest times. Continue reading

Exploring The Rubin Museum of Art with mindful intention

Editor’s note: This post is about my experience attending Mindfulness for Families at The Rubin Museum of Art. My family’s visit was compensated by the museum. All views expressed are my own.

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My two boys and I are exploring The Rubin Museum of Art, absorbing the various paintings, sculptures and architecture. We are tasked by mindfulness expert, Archimedes Bibiano, to move through the space, sans electronics, and take mental snapshots of whatever inspires us in the moment. There are no rules — only a time limit — and everything from the chairs in the cafe to the color of the walls is worthy of consideration.

My six-year-old wants to discover the sixth floor, so we ride the elevator up, anticipating what exciting treasures me might find.  We walk out on the floor, and we catch a glimpse of the floor below, which is visible from the top of the spiral staircase, which climbs up the center of the museum. From this perspective, my son notices a pool of water with wooden cut outs floating inside. He sees some visitors stepping from piece to piece and is eager to try this himself. Continue reading

Reading to NICU babies inspires foundation full of heart

My baby doesn’t belong in the NICU.

At least, that’s what I thought while I held my seven-pound, full-term newborn in a room surrounded by tiny preemies tucked away in incubators, fighting to survive.

My baby doesn’t belong.

Or, maybe, I don’t belong.

My NICU experience was fraction of the time other parents endure. I came to the hospital with a baby born under emergency conditions and left two days later with a healthy child. This is not a typical NICU story, and I often feel wrong putting myself in that club.

I have friends whose children spent weeks, even months in the hospital, their contact with their precious babies reduced to supervised hours and minimal privacy. I have friends who spent days watching their tiny miracles give their all to survive, only to succumb to the will of G-d. I witnessed other parents during my visits to the NICU, whose bravery never wavered in the face of uncertainty.

Even though, my child wasn’t in the NICU for long. The time I spent with him there taught me just how valuable a caring and supportive environment can be for both newborns and parents. As I sat there in that uncomfortable hospital chair, awkwardly trying to nurse my child without detaching the numerous wires affixed to his body, I listened to the sounds of nurses tirelessly rushing from incubator to incubator, checking vitals and comforting bewildered parents. Because I was able to spend time with my child alone, I had the unique opportunity to observe other families and empathize with their hopes, fears and dreams.

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Because I (article author) was able to spend time with my child alone, I had the unique opportunity to observe other families and empathize with their hopes, fears and dreams.

One common connection between all NICU families, as this immense feeling of gratitude. Even those who’ve experienced the greatest of loss, still find meaning and purpose in the midst of tragedy. These parents are an inspiration and a reminder how hope can shine through the darkest of moments.

One such mother is Stacey Skrysak, a journalist and writer who, along with her husband Ryan founded Triple Heart Foundation in honor of their premature triplets, Peyton, Parker and Abby. Born in 2013 at just a little more than 22 weeks gestation, only Peyton survived, with Abby passing shortly after birth and Parker passing in the NICU at nearly two months old. Continue reading

Top 8 things to know about Channukah

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Jewish families like mine are scrambling to get ready for Channukah, the festival of lights. There are presents to buy, latkes to fry and menorahs to polish. Although Channukah is a favorite holiday of my people, and gets a good deal of mainstream attention, there is still some confusion about this eight-day celebration.

Why is it eight days?

Is this the “Jewish Christmas?”

Who’s this “Maccabee” guy?

To shine a light on this Jewish festival, here are the top eight things to know about Channukah Continue reading

For those days when you don’t feel thankful

With Thanksgiving this week, we tend to focus on gratitude, taking the time to appreciate our good fortune and express our thanks to family, friends, colleagues and, sometimes, a higher power.

This is the time of year for commercials that make us cry and Hallmark movies that make us swoon. We will read inspirational quotes plastered on our Facebook feeds, and share heartfelt videos reminding us of our many blessings. These lovely reminders will resonate with many of us. They will be enough to put a smile on our faces and joy in our hearts.

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For some of you, they may not.

Some of you may not be feeling all that “grateful.”

You may have lost a job.

Your relationship may have ended.

Your child may be suffering at school.

Your spouse might be ill.

Your pet may have died.

You may just be having a bad year.

Maybe there is no reason.

Whatever the reason — or lack thereof — it is OK to not feel thankful. When you sit around the dinner table Thursday, and people share what they are grateful for, it is OK to not answer, or to just excuse yourself during that part. You aren’t a bad person if you can’t find something. You are a human who is entitled to feel angry, sad, lonely or confused.

You don’t owe anyone a smile or pleasantries. You don’t need to “fake it.” You can just be.

Continue reading

One More

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This poem originally appeared on the Maybe I’ll Shower Today Facebook page

One More

One more kiss
Before you go down to sleep
My sweet little baby
My heart you keep

One more push
On the swing my love
My spirited child
Soar, soar above

One more wave
As you board the bus
I promise to not
Make much of fuss
One more lecture
Before I hand you the keys
Tell me once more
You’ll be careful, please?

One more hug
At your college room
How did this moment
Come so soon?

There will never be enough “one mores”
So, I will savor the few
And be thankful for the blessing
Of raising you.