Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Has anyone else had it with three day yom tovs??

I feel like my life has been non stop insanity the past few weeks. Yom Tov/Chol/Yom Tov/Chol/yom Tov/Chol Hamoed/Yom Tov,  it's just crazy! As much as I love the Jewish Holidays I really wish they would be spaced out better. It's so hard on everyone, especially the kids. I don't know about everyone's kids, but most like routines and it's hard to maintain them during the chagim. No matter how hard we try the routines are just not the same. Especially if you go away for any part of Yom Tov, that just adds to the mess. I will be really glad when we can get back to normal!
But until then, I will blog about how our yom tov's are going. RH was a little nuts as my oldest daughter was sick for most of it, which made things that much more exciting :). YK was fairly standard, my husband went to shul and took older daughte with him. I stayed home with the baby, which was not too bad, considering the weather was ok and she was in a good mood. First days Sukkot we went to my parents which is always exciting. My husband, baby and I stayed at a friend's house, while my oldest stayed at my parents. (hmm there is an interesting post idea, going to parents for shabbat and yom tov). Now we are home preparing for the final hurrah of the season, AKA Simchat Torah, which i think will be a lot of fun as my daughter is old enough to appreciate it. I really love watching her grow up and enjoying doing all the Jewish things. It's just so nice to hang up her first Sukkah decoration or hear her sing the Mah Nishtana for the first time. Those are the times I realize that it is all worth it, the sacrifices we make it and what we do so that our kids can have a real Jewish education, so I guess I just answered my own question, yes Jewish education is worth the price, because raising a Jewish neshama is priceless! (But I still believe it should be more affordable!!)
I am looking forward to getting back to normal and back into our routine, but I am glad we have these chagim to nourish our spirituality and warm our souls, and I am glad we have friends and family to share them with!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Rosh hashana

So I just spent RH NOT in shul. This happened for a number of reasons:
1: it is more economical to buy just one seat
2: I have small children, even with the groups/babysitting (which did not necessarily cover babies), it did not provide enough time that it was worth it for me to run to shul with all my gear, go in for ten minute increments while i would certainly be called up to the groups for one thing or another.
3: I am not particularly good at sitting in shul.
4: My daughter decided to continue the family tradition of getting sick on Rosh Hashana.
I basically spent Rosh Hashana taking care of a sick child, preparing meals and cleaning up after said child and meals. While to some this may sound like drudgery (and i admit caring for a sick child is not fun), for me it was actually a blessing (again, not the sick child part). I spent most of my adolescence dreading the high holy days because my parents would force me to sit in shul for hours, and while I did appreciate the beauty of the service and the awesomeness of the day, I hated sitting in shul. Granted most kids do not want to sit in shul, but in my case it went beyond the standard I don't feel like sitting in shul, for me it was pure torture. Why am I telling you this? Aha, because I feel this is very important for parents to realize, that not every child will be capable of sitting in shul and forcing them to do so will only cause more issues down the line. So often parents feel that forcing a child (or teen) to sit in shul and daven will help them be a better Jew. The truth is, if they resent it, it will actually backfire and they will want to have less to do with Judaism. Of course this is not only true of davening, this is true of most things, the more you fight with your child about doing something, the less likely they are to do it.
The High Holy Days are a time of reflection and forgiveness, perhaps we should reflect on ourselves and our relationships with our parents and children. We should realize that our families are who they are and we can not change them, but we must accept them for who they are. I feel this is especially true of children, so often parents want their children to be a certain way that they forget that every child is different. Instead of cajoling/forcing/fighting with your child, let go, allow them to be who they are, if sitting in shul for hours on end is beyond them, don't force it, give your child the time he or she needs to figure out what way works for them. As long as they are not doing something dangerous or illegal give them the opportunity to understand their own spirituality and allow them to connect to God on their own personal level.  I know that for me baking challah, preparing the meals and the house for the Holiday was how I connect spiritually, I need the physical aspects of the Holiday rather than the metaphysical to connect to God.
On that note. I wish you all a Shana Tova and a Happy Healthy New year!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Hair Covering

I've been thinking a lot lately about hair covering. I personally do it and i cover all of it with a scarf or kerchief. some of my friends cover, some don't, some wear sheitels, some wear hats some wear scarves and some are all over the place. really this post is not about my own feelings, but rather your feelings. where do people stand with head covering? i sit a struggle? a joy? do you cover your hair? why or why not? I do it because my mother does, my MIL does and both my sisters in law do. My sisters are not married but will most likely cover their hair when they do. For some reason this topic seems to be one that come up a lot and has become a status symbol. "I wear a sheitel so I'm frummer than you" or "I cover all my hair so I'm frummer than you". So really i want to know what people (especially my women friends) think about head/hair covering. Why is it important (or not) to you? Why do you or don't you? For me hair covering was never a question or a struggle, I do it because it is something I feel I should do for myself, because it helps me to define who I am. As many people know, i rarely do things because OTHER people tell me to do them or because EVERYBODY does it. As long as I can remember i have defied the norm and done things my own way. I cover my hair and wear pants (ok, not so much since my second daughter was born because they don't fit and I'm too lazy to go shopping :) ) I keep a kosher home (which for me is much harder than head covering) because I want everyone to feel comfortable in my house and my kids to be able to have all their friends over. I keep Shabbos because I think it is a beautiful mitzvah and I love the concept of no technology for 25 hours. These are all things I have struggled with as a teen and young adult, but ultimately decided I want to live a certain way and in a certain type of community.
So if you would like to comment on the subject of head covering (or any religious struggles you have), I would totally love to hear about them. i find that talking to others about these struggles is a great way to get through them and be inspired. So please comment away!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bittersweet Beginings

My oldest starts school tomorrow. Not sure how I feel about this yet. She has been home with me for three years, although she did go to day camp this summer, this just feels different. Maybe it's because I had a hard time in school, but I feel bittersweet at her starting school. I definitely feel we chose the right school for her and that she will thrive and flourish at this school. She is smart and funny and very social, and yet something in me is saying "don't let her go, keep her home another year". I hope that she succeeds in school and does well both socially and academically, but I also want to be certain that we aren't pushing her and putting too much pressure on her. (I know, I know she's only 3! this is what keeps me up at night. indulge me.)
As I said this may be coming from my own experience in yeshiva day school, which unfortunately wasn't great (in elementary school, by high school it managed to level off, but I was so traumatized  by elementary school that even though high school was good it took me a long time to get over it and not sure I ever fully did). This is one of the reasons we chose to send her somewhere not quite as traditional, because the traditional schools still haven't quite figured out what to do with kids who are not exactly in the "mold". This is where i get on my old soap box :) Yeshiva day schools serve a specific purpose and therefore end up catering to a specific type of child. If a child happens to be a little "different" or more unique that child will have problems throughout their school experience. While the attitude is slowly changing, it is just that: slow. Also, many people do not think or want to think that there are any problems with Jewish day schools. To quote one rabbi "I am not aware of discipline problems in Yeshiva" (apparently the kids in that school are perfect). It is this exact attitude that causes problems. Jewish kids are just like any other kids. Some are well behaved, some are not, some are quiet, some are loud, some learn slower and some learn faster. And unfortunately some of them can be really mean to each other. Despite my negative early experience, my high school experience was far better, which is why I am still frum today (although a little more on my own terms), but the experience has definitely given me a different view on Yeshiva. In the meantime, I will be sending my child to a Montessori school, where she will learn how to be a mench as well as her ABC's and 123's etc.
I wish her lots of luck and Mazal, and I hope I myself will have the wisdom to see how she is doing and help guide her in the appropriate way for her.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Shidduch "problem"

So I may not be the most qualified to talk about this topic as I did get married while I was still in school, but I have talked to friends/family who have gone/are going through this situation and I ponder how we got to this place. What is really the root of the Shidduch problem? is it the unrealistic expectations people have for relationships? Is it the approach we as a community have taken to teaching about relationships? I have a few theories regarding what causes/caused this situation.
1: We have become as a society so superficial and self centered that we have a need to have the perfect mate. Even if such a person does not exist. People are not perfect. Everyone has annoying quirks and faults no matter how wonderful they are.
2: We as a community lack a standard and consistent method for teaching teens about relationships especially sexual relationships. As far as I know no Jewish day school even broaches the subject of sex ed until possibly senior year. The serious lack of sex ed and relationship ed is a major underlying problem, which ties into the expectation problem. if we don't teach kids what to expect they will make it up as they go along.
3; The pressure to  get married. There is so much pressure to get married, settle down and have a family that when you are thrust into the world of dating you have only one goal: Marriage. While I don't believe dating should be "only" fun, dating should not be this pressure filled race to be the first to get married. Young people who are dating should relax and enjoy the period of life that they are in.
If we as a community make some fundamental changes in our attitude and education, we might be able to, if not fix the current situation then at least make it better for our children.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

School is starting soon!!

We are very excited that our oldest will be starting school this fall. After much consideration she will be attending a Montessori Yeshiva (One of only two that I know of). The question of course is how did we come to this decision? Well thank God we have a number of options in our community so we actually had the ability to decide on which course was best for our daughter. In our community we have essentially three options.
1) A standard MO day school. co ed attendance but separate classes. Basically a community school
2) A more yeshivish school which is actually two separate schools one for boys and one for girls.
3) A Montessori Yeshiva.
There are a few schools in nearby communities but those require some travel which we felt was too much for a three year old.
So back to the question, why the Montessori school? There are in fact several reasons:
1) I personally grew up going to pretty much standard Jewish Day schools, and I found (for myself) that in order to succeed one had to fit into a specific mold (which I do not). I did not want to place this burden on my child who is already showing signs of chafing at the bit and wanting to do her own thing.
2) After learning about the Montessori Method and observing the classes at the school I have come to the realization that there are great benefits to a Montessori education. It encourages independence, learning and growth in children. It also focuses on the whole person rather than just academics and therefore imbues the students with good  middot (traits) without force.
3) While the yeshivish school has an excellent reputation, our religious views do not lie that far to the right and decided that since we have this third option we should take it.
At some point in the future as i get more comfortable with my blog I will perhaps share some of my opinions regarding standard Jewish Day schools, but for now we are simply looking forward to a great year of learning and growing!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Why I am a Stay At Home Mom.

I am a stay at home mom (SAHM). Unfortunately today I actually have to explain to people why I am a stay at home mom. First of all the cost of child care is ridiculous. Day care is approximately $250-$300 a week per child (full time), and a full time (live in or out) nanny is also $300-$400 a week. Second of all, I personally do not want someone else raising my child. I have worked in day car (good ones) and as a nanny/babysitter, and I know that no matter how much we loved the kids and time we spent with them it was not the same. I do not believe that being a SAHM is the right choice for every mom. However I do believe that being a SAHM is a perfectly viable and acceptable choice for a woman to make. Does it mean that we have to budget more carefully? yes. Does it mean that we have to make sacrifices in other aspects of our lives? Yes. We only have one car (bought second hand and financed), we don't go out to nice restaurants very often (once every few months or so). We don't go away on vacations to exotic locations, in fact we rarely go anywhere, (except Israel, thanks to my in laws who live there and want to see their granddaughters, and therefore allow us that opportunity which we otherwise wouldn't have had). I buy clothes for my kids at walmart and target and watch for sales. I take advantage of consignment shops and hand me downs. We rarely eat meat and chicken usually only on Shabbos.
Are these (and other) sacrifices worth it? for me the answer is YES! absolutely. I get to be the one who sees my children when they reach all their milestones. I am able to nurse full time without pumping ( I have had friends who pumped, and i completely admire their dedication, if i had to do that i would never have been able to do it.). I get every hug and kiss every boo boo. I don't have to scramble when one of them is sick because I am here with them.
For me, staying home was the best decision, especially because it was MY choice. I wanted to do it, and my husband and I made it happen. Staying home is not the right choice for everyone, and there are times it is not financially viable for a woman to stay home. However I don't criticize women who go to work because I am well aware that this choice is not for everyone. I just hope that women who work don't criticize my choices, because they feel that there is only one way.
Would we be better off financially if i worked? Honestly I'm not sure. I am not a doctor/lawyer/businesswoman etc. I have a degree in Jewish studies. I hope to complete my teaching certification so that when my children are all in school i can go back to work and help us out financially. But for right now staying home is actually more fiscally responsible than working. So again, for ME being a SAHM is 100%  the right choice and i stand by it. Being Orthodox will always mean that things will be even more financially tight for us then other SAHM families, but for me there is no other way.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What is Jewish Education? and is it worth the price?

Is Jewish Education actually worth the huge price tag? What do our children get from going to a Jewish school?? I went to Jewish day schools as a child, and I am still not sure I have fully recovered from the experience. By Junior high we are in school almost the same number of hours then the average American spends at their job. (traditional jobs of 9-5 are approximately 40 hours, Most day schools start at about 8:30 and go until 5:30 Monday-Thursday and end slightly earlier on Fridays putting kids in school approximately 42 hours), and they get less time for lunch (and no recess). So children ages 11-17 are expected to sit in school all day and learn how to be good Jews, and have no time for extracurricular activities or socializing. This is a powder keg for discipline problems, nervous breakdowns, drug abuse and a host of other problems (which by the way do not exist in the Jewish community at all. note the sarcasm.). What would happen if we pared down the day school curriculum to basic? if we had to hire less teachers and operate the school for a shorter day, therefore using utilities for 2-3 hours less PER DAY. how much would we save in operating costs?
In addition to saving operating costs we would also have happier healthier children. Children who have time to be children. Children who might be able to see the glory of G-d and the beauty of Judaism instead of children who are burnt out by age 15 and hate being Jewish and learning. What the schools should focus on is HOW to learn instead or cramming in all the material, and on teaching children how to be menches rather then twelve prakim of Gemara every week. We need to embody our children with a love for G-d, Judaism and the Jewish people. We need to bring down tuition prices.  Doing the two together at the same time? PRICELESS!

demoralized Judaism

As Rosh Hashana looms, as well as the start of a new school year I have become demoralized. I am committed to having a Jewish home and family, but the financial burden of doing so has simply become too much. We do not drive fancy cars, we do not own a huge house (we do not even own a house yet and given yeshiva tuition we may never be able to), we do not go on fancy vacations. I do allow myself a few luxuries, but they are few an far between. I see people blogging about not needing such fancy things and not needing the best of everything, i don't think these people really get it. I am not talking about getting an Ipad or even an Iphone, i am talking about being able to pay our electric bill versus buying RH seats. I've been told that preschool is a luxury, what am i supposed to do keep my child home until she is 5? Who will she play with? All the other children her age are in school. I am not begrudging the institutions the money they need to function, the shuls and schools do need to be financially viable. I am also not expecting a few wealthy people to carry the entire community. However something does need to happen. Whether we follow the Talmud Torah model where the children go to public school in the morning and have Talmud Torah in the afternoon, or follow the Kehilla model where each family gives 10% (maaser) to the Kehilla and the funds all the Jewish institutions or some other yet to be discussed model, something has to change.  People can not maintain this lifestyle any longer. Something very basic in our community has to change. I don't have all the answers, i don't even have some answers, but i know i am not alone in my feelings and hope that instead of rehashing the problem, we come up with some viable solutions.