Category Archives: Think

Finding magic outside the “Magic Kingdom”

Every few months or so, I mull over the idea of planning a family trip to Disney World. I go online, research the best hotels, compare vacation packages and express my interest in Disney to a chorus of responses from friends who are Disney vacation planners, or know people who are Disney vacation planners.

The process overwhelms me, as I am confronted with the reality of how difficult — and expensive — a Disney World trip can be for families, not to mention how hard visiting the Happiest Place On Earth is for anyone traveling outside a very narrow selection of dates.

So, I table my plans and think, maybe another time, all the while wondering if I am depriving my children of some magical experience they will only appreciate when they are young.

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It doesn’t help that my six-year-old has never been that into Disney or most other “fantasy.” I swear the kid was basically born an adult.

My younger son, however, loves princesses and make believe and all things magical.

He is four, which means soon, he too will have no interest in childhood fantasies.

I often worry I’m depriving him of the opportunity to have his dreams come true.

But, then I think about how magic can come from anywhere.

I am reminded simple joys can mean the world to a child.

On a family trip to Mystic, Conn., we decided to drive about 25 minutes away to watch the Connecticut Tigers, a minor-league affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. Continue reading

All a baby needs is your love (and maybe diapers)

My eyes widened as they caught sight of a beautiful crib, displayed with great care in the middle of the showroom floor.

I, pregnant mom-to-be, and my husband were deep in our shopping for the baby whose arrival was quickly approaching.

I spotted the crib and was enamored with its features:

A built in changing table!

Drawers!

It converts into a toddler bed!

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I was sold. The rational bargain shopper in me, would have insisted on a more simpler (i.e. less expensive option), but I thought, hey, this is an investment. This is something we will use in so many ways, and it will last many years. After all, a baby spends a lot of time sleeping, right?

Turns out, my firstborn spent little time in his crib, and I wound up purchasing a special bassinet which enabled me to safely co-sleep with my baby.

As for the changing table, well, I mostly found it to be a pain, and performed most of my diaper changing on our floor on top of a mat or spare towel.

The drawers did come in handy, and once in a while our child did use the toddler bed, so maybe the crib wasn’t a complete waste.

But could we have done without it?

Yes. Continue reading

What YouTube means for representation

When he was about three years old, my now six-year-old son, discovered YouTube. Like many toddlers and preschoolers, my child would stare in awe as other children un-boxed and played with toys — many of which we had in our very own home, sitting un-played with on a shelf near by.

Maybe it was the comfort of hearing another child’s voice in the home, or the thrill of watching a kid get a new toy, but for whatever reason, my kid just ate this stuff up.

Above all, one YouTube kid kept making his way onto our screen.

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Ryan.

Ryan, the now eight-year-old star of the behemoth YouTube channel, Ryan ToysReview, began making videos with his parents in 2015, and has grown into what may be the biggest child star of my kids’ generation.

What Macaulay Culkin was to the 90s, Ryan is to this decade.

My older son has mostly moved on to watching gamers, but my four-year-old has found his own joy in watching Ryan’s channel.

And, I know that grinds a lot of gears.

Parents, including myself, often disgruntling watched our children stare fascinated at Ryan, all the while calculating in our heads all the money he and his family earn from every single video.

I thought of how this poor child was being exploited, for some sort of bastardization of entertainment. This wasn’t acting, this wasn’t a skill.

Any parent with a cellphone camera could do this.

But, one moment changed my view on Ryan and his YouTube fame. Continue reading

It’s time to stop ‘boot-strapping’ parenthood

Scrolling through my Instagram feed the other day, I came across a video featuring a well-known motivational speaker, who this person is doesn’t matter, as the message shared is pretty much the same for the lot of them:

“I worked hard, came from nothing, did this all on my own, became successful, and you can too, if you just tried.”

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At face value, this is an encouraging sentiment, and provides us with that “can-do” attitude we need to achieve our dreams.

Yet. when we dig deeper, we find that success is never achieved in an isolated vacuum, and this message is dangerous no matter what you are pursuing, but it is especially true for parents — women and mothers in particular — who are taught we most work harder, better and smarter, with little or no help from society at large, because this is the American way.

Suck it up, pull up those proverbial “bootstraps,” and do what you gotta do.

This toxic message roots itself deep in our psyche and tells us that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Continue reading

Announcing the Blogging For Better Facebook page

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Last fall, I started a campaign known as Blogging for Better (#bloggingforbetter) as a way of raising awareness and money for various nonprofits. My dream was to bring together a network of bloggers, writers and influencers and use our collective platform to champion those smaller, grassroots organizations which don’t always have the time or money to engage on social media.

Since September, we have raised hundreds of dollars for foundations serving victims of sexual violence, homeless families, children in need of speech services, our veterans and much more.

Though, we still have a long way to go in terms of raising the amount of money I believe these organizations deserve, I am proud of how much this movement has grown over the past nine months.

To support our the efforts of Blogging For Better (#bloggingforbetter), I am excited to announce we are launching a public Facebook page. This page will serve as one-stop place to find all of the great content about our various nonprofits, as well as a home for inspirational stories and ways you can help your community.

In a time when social media can often leave us feeling sad, angry or defeated, Blogging For Better (#bloggingforbetter) will serve to bring some hope and good will to the digital world.

I invite you to like our page, comment on our posts, and share our content.  Also, please feel free to comment on this post with any suggestions or ideas on what type of stories you’d like to hear more about.

Here’s to blogging for better.

“The Sandlot” mom is spot on about free play

“The Sandlot” will always be a film dear to my heart. When the movie was released in 1993, I was 10 years old, around the same age as the rag-tag group of baseball-loving kids enjoying the freedom and joy of summer in the early 1960s.

Though I was never a boy, nor much of a baseball lover, and only knew about the 60s from my parents, every time I watched “The Sandlot,” I felt a deep sense of nostalgia for a simpler time when my biggest concern was the summer ending too fast.

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Even after I was long past those childhood days, my viewing of “The Sandlot” always centered on the action of the kids. They were the heart of the movie, and the kid in me loved to share in their triumphs and defeats. The adults were little more than supporting roles, serving as background for the real action.

Then, my husband and I decided to watch the movie with our two boys. Continue reading

No veteran should feel alone

On May 12, millions of Americans spent the day celebrating the mothers in their lives. Mother’s Day serves to remind us of all these women have done.

Later this month, Americans will celebrate another special group of people. A group, much like mothers, who put others before themselves. A group who paid the ultimate price for what they loved — their country.

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This Memorial Day, we will place flags on our windows; we will march in parades; we will cheer for those who serve, and bow our heads for those who died in the process. We will swell with patriotic pride.

But, what happens when the parades end, the flags come down, and everyone goes back to their lives?

Like mothers, veterans give their all for what they love. And, like mothers, veterans, all too often, get so little in return.

We praise those who serve, yet when the time comes to provide the services they need to cope with the toll of warfare, America falls short.

Our soldiers return from battle, suffering from the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and are often left to fend for themselves. The resources they find may be limited or too expensive.

One foundation is working to change that. Continue reading

Sacred spaces should be safe spaces

As a Jew, I know antisemitism is always lurking. This feeling makes me wait a bit before revealing my religion to others. This feeling makes me glad to have an Anglo name on my birth certificate, as opposed to the Yiddish one I use during religious occasions. This feeling makes me fear how my children will be treated. This feeling makes me wonder, deep in the back of my mind, if anything might happen when I’m gathered with other Jews.

I try not to think about what might happen when I attend a prayer service or drop my child off at Hebrew School. I know the odds are good at will just be another, uneventful day. I’m sure that’s how the congregants at the Poway synagogue near San Diego felt when they gathered for Sabbath prayers.

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They weren’t thinking about being attacked for their religion. Sure, many probably experienced their fair share of antisemitism, there may even have been some Holocaust survivors in attendance, but on that day, they were not in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, they were in America in a synagogue, many miles and many years from one of history’s darkest hours. They were there to worship, to praise G-d, to mourn the loss of loved ones and to share in the communal joy of being with other Jews. Continue reading

If your child struggles in school, cut yourself some slack and stop the self-blaming

Here we are, many of us in the middle of Spring Break, heading into one, or just getting ready to enjoy a long weekend with our families. Many of us are eagerly awaiting to get our kids back in school and back to the routine. I for one, have a child who needs the steady structure of school, and actually, for the most part, is happy to be there. For others however, school can be a source of dread and anxiety.

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You might struggle every day just to get your child out of bed. You beg and plead, hoping for a day when they happily get on the bus.

You might be dealing with a newly diagnosed learning challenge and an I.E.P. (individualized education plan). Your mind is a tangle of questions, worries, and wondering what this all means.

You might spend so much time with the principal, guidance counselor and other specialist that you feel you know them better than your own family. You might secretly envy other parents whose children are never cited for disciplinary problems, for being a distraction or for being unfit for the classroom. Continue reading

Five tips for surviving Passover with picky kids

Passover is almost here, and, for many Jewish families, that means stress. Before the holiday begins, lots of cleaning and cooking must be done to prepare for the eight-day-long festival. Here’s where I’ll admit, I don’t tidy up to the extent of other Jewish families, and I’m fortunate my mother is the one who cooks for and hosts the family seders, or ritual meals which mark the start of the holiday.

Whether you vacuum and scrub every inch of your home, or barely clean at all, if you are a family who observes the holiday, there is one thing which can cause lots of anxiety: figuring out how to get through eight whole days of no bread, no “real” pasta, no pizza and all the other yeasty foods most picky eaters love.

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If you already have healthy, adventurous eaters, Passover is probably not much of a challenge. Kids who love to eat their vegetables and fruit as well as most proteins are going to be fine this holiday as they are at any other. Count your blessings and enjoy.

For those of us whose children are a bit more selective about their food choices, Passover is the most difficult holiday to get through. Though the Passover-friendly food market has grown, and it is amazing how people have managed to produce everything from cereal to cookies, the holiday can still be hard for kids who only eat a limited amount of food.

We parents need to do what we have to to get ourselves and our kids through the holiday, and not like the stress of food ruin anyone’s experience. To help you make the best of the restrictions, here are my tips for surviving Passover with your picky eater. Continue reading