“The Old Cocoon” offers needed comfort in times of uncertainty

“The Old Cocoon,” by April O’Leary arrived in my mailbox just when I needed the encouragement.

After weeks agonizing over our children’s education, reviewing statistics, reading through our district’s plans, and consulting with our friends and family, my husband and I submitted the forms to enroll them in their respective, modified, in-person learning options.

Though the deed was done, I still felt anxious about my choice. I was scared about the future, frightened by the uncertainty. Did we do the right thing? How will our children handle this “new normal?”

I am comforted by knowledge and being able to control situations. Yet, as we all know, these days, that’s a difficult task.

Reading “The Old Cocoon” reminded me of the beauty of change and how we can embrace the future with hope, knowing we are held by those who love and support us.

Through a beautiful, 34-page tale of a caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly, O’Leary addresses the hardship and fear of change, while offering a path toward acceptance and positivity.

I believe people of all ages will appreciate this beautiful story. The words are uplifting, genuine and heartfelt. They are truly written with love and a passion for helping others.

I especially feel this is a wonderful story for parents and children to read together as the school year begins (whether virtual or in-person) across the country.

“The Old Cocoon” can serve as a tool for discussing your child’s concerns about school, wearing masks, canceled trips or any other “disruptions” caused by the current pandemic.

Even beyond the uncertainty of the current global environment, “The Old Cocoon” will guide you and your loved ones through such moments as the death of a loved one, moving to a new city, or the ending of a long friendship.

Now available with the limited time offer to “Buy One Get One” via the O’Leary Publishing website, “The Old Cocoon,” which is designed to fit easily inside most standard greeting cards, is a wonderful gift of hope and comfort to deliver to the loved ones in our lives.

And as a special gift to you, I will be giving away four copies of “The Old Cocoon” to the first four people who comment on this post with how they think this book can help them or someone they love.

“The Old Cocoon” is available for purchase through O’Leary Publishing and on Amazon in both soft cover and Kindle format.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All views expressed are my own.

How parents can support our educators in these unprecedented times

Schools across the United States have begun the process of “opening” back up for students. In some areas this means full-time, in-person learning. In others, it means 100% remote learning. In others, it means some combination of the two. Some districts are already well into whatever learning method they chose, while others are still waiting to see what works best for them.

No matter where you live or what you plan on doing with your children this academic year, we can all agree our teachers, principals, special education staff and more are going to need a lot of help make the school experience as safe, effective and emotionally supportive as possible.

Reaching out to educators via my blog page as well as in my local parents group, I learned teachers are dedicated to helping students adapt to this “new normal.” They are working through their own worries to provide parents and students with the comfort they need heading back to school.

For parents sending their kids back into the school building, teachers advise getting those students familiar with new protocols BEFORE school begins. This means practicing mask wearing for extended periods of time, making sure younger children can perform tasks like zippering and opening containers by themselves, and keeping a positive attitude about the changes to the typical classroom experience.

Teachers also hope parents will be mindful of the risks of sending sick kids to school and keep them home if need be. They also asked that families limit travel outside their community/state to minimize exposure to COVID-19.

Families choosing remote options are reminded to give their kids plent of screen breaks and to keep mindfulness in the routine. Taking a few moments to breathe and reset can do wonders.

To help students adapt to virtual learning, Jill Herzberg Morgenstern, an educator with 13 years of classroom experience and current religious school teacher, offers this advice:

“Zoom with friends/family. Have them read stories to your children virtually to practice sitting and listening, taking turns talking, muting/unmuting. Hopefully the novelty of making faces in the camera and touching all the controls will wear off! Also talk to kids about internet safety and best practices. “

Morgenstern, who will be teaching virtually for at least part of the year, also encourages parents to do what she always encourages them to do: read books, have conversations and share meals together.

Parental attitude goes a long way, as several educators noted. Explaining the need for social distancing in a factual and supportive manner can go a long way in helping students, especially younger ones, adapt to new normals in the classroom.

With new health restrictions, teachers have to work even harder this year to create a supportive learning environment for their students. As we all know, many purchase their own classroom supplies and are greatly underfunded. Though it’s not a substitute for necessary reform, you can help ease some of the burden by purchasing teacher-requested items off of Amazon. This website has curated lists from around the country. Just click on the state and class you wish to help and you will be directed to an Amazon Wish List from which to purchase items. 

Whatever any of us decide, let’s keep our educators in our minds and hearts as we navigate these unchartered waters. With a little grace, patience, and understanding, we can get through this.

Antisemitism has no place in the fight for justice

If you are not yet aware, I am Jewish, and like many in my community, I am hurt by the antisemitism that permeates social media.

Antisemitism always hurts, but for me, I am especially disheartened when those sentiments are shared by other minorities. Lately, anti-Jewish rhetoric has been shared by a few prominent Black people, as means to explain the cause of Black oppression.

Namely, a few Black celebrities and leaders, have stated that “White” Jews are trying to destroy America, and take over the world.

Before going deeper, I want to state that this type of language suggesting a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world is absolutely a White Supremacist ideology. They absolutely love when non-Jewish Blacks and White (Or White-Passing) Jews go after one another, because they are the ones who win when we destroy one another. 

I also want to stress that while language or imagery depicting White people in general as oppressive to Blacks is understandable, and yes, many Jews identify as and benefit from Whiteness, singling Jews, another historically oppressed minority, out as the lone cause of Black mistreatment in America is not O.K.

Not too long ago, Jews were excluded from much of “White” society in America. Though not to the horrific extent of Black Americans, Jews were often banned from many places in America. College quotas, for example, were established to limit the number of Jews in attendance, giving rise to “Jewish” colleges, such as Brandeis University. Jews often had to hide their identities to gain access to certain areas, but also for their own safety. The ability to blend in with White Christians remains both a survival technique and a benefit for light-skinned Jews.

My own parents gave me and my siblings more “Anglican” legal names, even though we also have Hebrew names. I was told several times having a more “American” name on a resume would help me fare better on my job search.

Of course things have changed, and light-skinned Jews have in many ways reaped the benefits of White Supremacy. At the same time, White Supremacists actively promote the idea that Jewish people are doing evil things, and subvert the purity of Whiteness.

This idea of a Jewish plan for world domination is so old, it’s tired. Google the “Elders of Zion” to see how this all got started. While you are at it, Google the history of Jewish occupations and how they were banned from many jobs, except for ones related to banking, and see how antisemitic ideas related to Jews and money developed over time.

And, then there’s the issue of Israel and how antisemitism seems to be OK because the Israeli government often does some questionable things.

But, I am not here to get into a debate about Israel.

Because making Jews (Ashkenazi Jews especially), worried about the fragility of Israel is another tool in the White Supremacist arsenal that plays right into fears stemming from the trauma of the Holocaust, which was also perpetrated by White Supremacists. 

They love to point out how “leftist” causes, particularly Black Lives Matter, are anti-Israel and antisemitic, seeding fear and doubt in the minds of White Jews. 

And, yes, there may be some antisemitic people who are also fighting against racism. Just like there are people who are fighting antisemitism, but are still practicing anti-Black racism. 

The sad truth is that social justice often doesn’t work as harmoniously as we would hope. Racism, antisemitism and other prejudice can infiltrate those circles as much as anywhere else.

As Tisha B’Av, a Jewish day of mourning and reflection approaches, I ask all of us, but especially those of us who identify as an “outsider” in some way, to come together to denounce hatred and bigotry. 

United we can achieve great things.

Socially-distant summer activities with PJ Library printable

Summer is in full swing, and Americans have accepted that this season will unlike any other in recent history. Many of our favorite summer spots are closed, or running with limited capacity, and health concerns have left many families wary of venturing too far beyond their homes.

With limited and restricted options for entertainment, you may wonder what to do with kids all day. Afterall, bored kids can be the worst.

A little resourcefulness and creativity can turn those bored days into memorable ones. Read on for some ideas to try with your family.

Continue reading

Homeschooling is a privilege many families can’t afford

It is a privilege to be able to homeschool your kids.

Yes, it is also a lot of hard work and sacrifice.But, in the end, if you or another trusted adult is able to devote a significant amount of time on your child’s education, that is a privilege.

A privilege which was thrust into a big bright spot light because of a pandemic that forced our schools to close.

For the first time homeschooling wasn’t a choice, it was a mandate. And as the weeks and months went on, we heard story after story of parents struggling to manage the new normal of working, raising a family and educating their children.

Many parents just asked the bare minimum of work from their kids, others just threw in the towel, believing (hoping) they would get through this until the school year ended.

Well, now summer is here in the United States, and families have to face the reality that “school” will be much different if and when they reopen.

Is there still a place for culturally insensitive classics?

Disney Plus has been a welcomed gift during this time of social distancing, and my family has taken advantage of its extensive library. My kids have discovered some of the older, or “classic” Disney films such as “Pinnochio,” Alice In Wonderland,” and “Peter Pan,” to name a few.

While I adore “Alice In Wonderland,” I never felt the same love for “Pinnochio” or “Peter Pan.” “Pinnochio was always just to creepy for me (yes, creepier than Alice, because Alice is awesome weird, not like weird weird), and Disney’s version of “Peter Pan,” for me never held up to the televised live stage version featuring Mary Martin.

Yet, there I was the other day, sitting with my two boys viewing the animated tale of the boy who never grows up.

For the few of you who aren’t familiar, like all versions of the classic story, Peter Pan creeps up on the home of the Darling family, and persuades children Wendy, Michael and John to fly away with him across the Londo sky to a place called, “Neverland.”

Neverland is a fantastical world filled with all sorts of characters from mischievous mermaids to nasty pirates, and of course the Lost Boys. Among the characters the Darling children encounter in Neverland are the “Indians.” 

Caricatured as indigenous people of the Americas often were at the time (and often still are), the Indians in the Peter Pan story are depicted as unintelligent, cruel and savage. 

My oldest son noticed the “Indians” in the film had red skin, and exaggerated facial features.

He was also quick to point out how the Indian princess Tiger Lily, who is seen as one of the “good” Indians and an object of affection of Peter and the Lost Boys, had lighter skin.

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In that moment, I had some choices to make:

  1. Ignore my son’s comments and keep watching the movie.

  2. Fast forward past those “uncomfortable” parts.

  3. Use this time as an opportunity to teach about the inhumane treatment and depiction of indigenous peoples.

I chose to teach. 
Continue reading

How To Talk To Your White, Jewish Kids About Racism

Social media has seen an uptick in thoughtful and passionate pleas from white Americans to their white friends and family to reflect on their own racial biases, confront racial injustice and stand by black Americans who continue to fight for equitable treatment in the United States.

And, while the authors don’t always explicitly invoke Jesus and his teachings — though many do — from the language and tone, you can understand they are coming at this from the perspective of white Christians, a group which enjoys a high level of privilege in America.

As a Jewish person, I have often felt conflicting emotions while reading some of these writings, especially those claiming “we” (meaning white people) could never understand what it feels like to be oppressed and targeted for who you are. Continue reading

Spark the kids’ creativity with The Story Pirates Creator Club

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to limit much of the activities many Americans can do as a family. And with many summer camps cancelled, schools closed or closing, parents are left wondering what to do with their kids all summer.

In between hiking and playing with the sprinkler, why not let your kids exercise their creative muscle with the Story Pirates.

The Story Pirates are a hilarious troupe of comedians, musicians, authors and teachers who produce content that honors the creativity and ingenuity of children. The widely popular Story Pirates podcast, takes stories written by kids and turns them into songs and sketches with the help of special guests including Billy Eichner, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Dax Shepard, Bowen Yang, Claire Danes, John Oliver, and Lake Bell.

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My own kids just submitted their own story to The Story Pirates, and are eagerly awaiting to hear back. I mean, who wanted to hear a story about a dog, cat and sloth driving themselves to the vet, but I digress. Even if their story doesn’t get accepted, the process allowed them to excercise their creative muscle. Continue reading

Five black-led causes to support right now

The horrific death of  George Floyd at the hands (or rather, the knee) of a police officer disgracing his badge by exerting his power over another human being has lead to increased outrage and anger within black and P.O.C. communities in general, as well among white folks who are continuing to speak out, or speak out for the first time, against racial injustice.

As a white woman, I am learning how to balance using my own voice while being sure to amplify the voices of black/brown folks and other marginalized groups. I am constantly making mistakes, learning, and growing. 

In my journey toward being a better ally, I have grown to appreciate the importance of putting actual dollars (or whatever your country’s currency may be) into causes that directly or indirectly serve people of color in their communities and beyond. 

These organizations are working with often limited resources to fight and correct years of racial injustice and inequity, and are especially in need of funding at this time.

With the help of family, friends and colleagues, I have compiled a short list of organizations for those looking for places to give. These organizations not only focus on the needs and specific issues impacting black members of their communities and beyond, but they are all (to the best of my knowledge) founded or led by black folks.

In keeping with this blog’s Blogging for Better initiative these are mainly smaller, grassroots groups who are doing incredible work in their cities and towns.

If you have any other causes to suggest, please list them in the comment below. Continue reading

10 mom rules for tweens on social media

By Meredith Bleakley

My 9-year-old just got into a relationship.  I knew it was inevitable but I secretly hoped she would wait a little bit longer to step into this new phase of life.  However, she came to me and pleaded her case that she was grown up enough to get into this relationship so I’m going to allow it.  My gut tells me this relationship is going to be pretty serious and chances are despite how I feel about it – it’s probably going to last her lifetime.  She is officially in a relationship with social media.  *sigh*

It’s very basic and elementary for the moment.  She’s on Instagram and despite not being 13, I have allowed her to have a Pinterest account.  (Why does Pinterest want you to be 13 to have an account? At least Pinterest has value, she made me Christmas projects & she has found plenty of good useful information on that site.  I digress.) Continue reading