I’m not OK and you shouldn’t be either

It’s officially been over a year since starting my Mommellah project.   It’s been a great time of new beginnings and reflections of how motherhood can connect me to Jewishness.  I recently read a post about mother who is living in Israel, and after telling everyone for so many weeks that she was OK with the current conflict, decided that she is not.  It really hit me.  As a mother, I can’t even imagine being in the scene that she paints.  It makes me want to cry.  It makes me want to scream.  It makes me realize that even though I may be halfway around the world, I’m not OK either.

The other morning my husband looked at me during breakfast and asked me what was wrong.  I just can not stop thinking about what families in Israel are going through right now.  The fear, the injustice, the horror of it all.  The reality that even though Israel is defending themselves in a reasonable way, they are fighting an unreasonable enemy.  Pictures of dead children vilifying Israel, when Hamas orchestrates their deaths so the world sees Israel as a monster.   It all shakes me to my core.

I have to ask myself, why is this conflict so much more important to me than conflicts in the past?  Is it really more severe?  More publicized?  Am I more aware of what’s going on because of my new blog and dedication to my Jewish identity?  It could be it’s become more real knowing I have friends in Israel, parents that have children who I can sympathize with because of my family here.  They’re not OK.  They shouldn’t be.  I’m not either and frankly, there’s not a Jew on the planet who shouldn’t be afraid right now.

The media coverage is disgusting.  I want to believe that the people who are supportive of the Palestinian action are ignorant of the true facts and are falling in the PR trap Hamas set for us.  Unfortunately, it’s just not the case.  The events in Paris make me wonder, can there be another Holocaust?  Will there be?  My heart is heavy.  Every single day.

My Jewishness means I am connected to Israel, no matter how far away.  I must stand for Israel, or I stand for nothing.  As a Mommellah, I’m starting to realize, my duty is in teaching my kids about our history, Israel, the Holocaust and what is happening today in the Middle East and in Europe where antisemitic feelings and actions still exist.  I’m learning that being a Jewish mother goes far beyond Berit Milah, lighting Shabbos candles and changing diapers.  It’s about explaining what you can about what’s important to the future of our people.  The proud descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Am Yisrael Chai.

May the Schwartz be with you

7 reasons baby #2 is easier than #1

All my life I’ve wanted more than one child.  I have been blessed with 2 in 2 years.  As much as there are a lot of things that are more difficult to do with 2, this second baby has been so much easier to handle than the first.  Don’t get me wrong, my 2nd isn’t any better or more well behaved than my first was (I am blessed with generally easy kids all around), but he seems easier to take care of and here’s why:

  1. I know what to expect.  Round 2: Confidence to the max!
  2. I have a  toddler to chase after.  This means I have less time to dedicate to my youngest.
  3. Diaper stations are already everywhere.  We have 3 in our house and I just knock out the changings all at once.
  4. I’m not reading a million baby books.  Who knows what developmental milestones a 5 month old is “supposed” to be hitting?  NOT me.
  5. I REALLY cherish the quiet moments with #2.  They are few and far between, so when I can make him laugh or take an extra minute with bath time to look in his eyes, it seems even more precious than it did the first time around (and kicks in the guilt, but hey, I’m a Mommellah, guilt is part of the package).
  6. I’m not sitting in my nursing chair waiting for the next milestone.  #1 took (what felt like) FOREVER to turn over, start teething, etc… and #2? Oh yeah, I guess he just did all of those things while we weren’t looking.
  7. He’s been crying it out since he came home from the hospital.  Sorry kid, can’t get to you right away.  You know what?  He’s usually sleeping by the time I DO get to him.

So mommellahs, take it easy.  You blink and they are up and running!


May the Schwartz be with you


10 Questions all Mommellahs ask

Whether you’re Jewish or not, most moms can relate to these 10 questions…

10.  Who’s your little friend? Are they Jewish?

9.  What’s with these shpilkes? Didn’t you get messhugah at the park?

8.  Is my bubbellah too hot?

7.  Is my bubbellah too cold?

6.  Is my bubbellah eating too much?

5.  Is my bubbellah not eating enough?

4.  You call that a nap?!

3.  Can you please sit still while I wipe this schmutz off your face?

2.  Do you love your mother?  Then (place direction here)

1.  What am I going to do with you?!

May the Schwartz be with you!


Rediscovering Purim

Our family is an interfaith one.  I also happened to grow up in an interfaith family.  I am probably one of those “Secular Jew” statistics, as far as my level of temple involvement, etc…  The thing is, I want to be Jewish.  I want to feel connected to my religion and I want to find more fun ways to celebrate the holidays and traditions.  Purim is a fabulous way to do just that.

Now from what I remember, as a child, Purim was a holiday where you eat hamantaschen and make a lot of noise in the synagogue.  You could dress up as a character from the story of Esther, but it wasn’t required.  As I’ve found out, in reconnecting with my Jewish roots, there is a lot more fun to be had with this holiday.  In the last few years, I’ve seen The Beatles and Star Wars themed Purim festivals and services, a step (or a few steps) above the old, dress up as a princess or old man options I had as a child.  There is still a rowdy atmosphere with groggers (noise makers) aplenty, but with a welcomed, more adult enhancement.  Alcohol.  Lots of it.

It’s traditional during Purim that you boo and make lots of noise every time you hear “Haman”, the name of the evil character in the Purim story.  What I never knew as a child is that it is a mitzvah to get SO drunk, you can’t tell the difference between, “God bless Mordechai” and “Down with Haman”.  Now, you don’t have to drink to have a great time, but let me tell you, getting rowdy and making a ton of crazy noise in the pews is way more fun, and a lot more awesome when people are passing jello shots down the aisles.  Even my Catholic reared husband thinks Purim is the bomb.

The essence of Purim is one of shedding your secular image and being proud to identify yourself as a Jew, as Esther did.  So, let me encourage you, if it’s been awhile since you’ve been to temple, if you have been on the fence about when to go poke your head in, go celebrate Purim this year.  It even falls on a Saturday night! (March 15)  It’s never too late to reconnect with your roots and party like your ancestors did: hard.  On Purim.

May the Schwartz be with you.


Is a doula right for you?

Congratulations!  You’re expecting.  Now what?  It’s your first child, or it’s been awhile and you’re not exactly feeling confident that your partner or your family members (if you have any) are up to the challenge of fully supporting you through a labor and delivery.  Don’t worry.  You’re not the only one.

A doula (or birth assistant) is someone who is there for you before, during and potentially after your birth to be your guide, advocate and support.  If you don’t know what to expect, or are sure everything you learned in your birthing class is going to fly out of your brain the moment you have your first contraction, or just want an experienced person to support you through the process, a doula may be right for you.

If you don’t have family nearby, or have family you’d rather not deal with during a challenging moment in your life, a doula can help provide support a mother figure would traditionally give or help to redirect any family members who decide they simply can’t stay away on your big day.  Either way, it’s been scientifically proven that just having another woman sit in a room with a female in labor eases the process even if that woman is doing nothing.  Bottom line, it’s better to have a partner than to go it alone.  Oh, and doulas are also handy when it comes to keeping the hospital staff (not just family) focused on your needs and wants.

You may also be worried about the first week of having a baby at home, after the hospital stay.  When all of the Doctors and nurses are gone, WTF do you do with a newborn?!?!?!  There’s so much to know about, breast feeding, sleep training, “Is that sound normal?”, etc…  It can be scary and overwhelming.  Especially with all of the hormones still coursing through your body.

All very good reasons why a doula may be right for you.  Of course, you don’t want to choose just anyone to be with you during your special time.  This is a beautiful, private experience you will remember for the rest of your life and having the wrong person at the hospital or in your home can potentially be worse than having no support.  So keep the following in mind when choosing a doula.

Do you trust this person?  Do they make you feel completely comfortable?  Do they seem to judge you for any of the birthing or child rearing choices you want to make (i.e. pain medication or formula feeding)?  A doula should be there for YOU.  Whether you want to put a breast or a bottle in your baby’s mouth, they support you in what you want and are your advocate in your choices, not in theirs.  Doulas can be your best ally.  You invite them into the most intense, intimate moments of your life and they will always understand.  Even if you unintentionally flip out on them in a hormonal rage (don’t worry, they’ve seen it all before).

The price for a doula can vary based on multiple factors.  Usually a doula you really connect with will work with your budget to make their services affordable.  It’s not an easy job and it’s not something one can easily do while holding down a 9-5.  They will usually work 24 hours or more at at shot when they are working.  A doula has to he ready for their clients at a moments notice and can’t take on too many clients in any given month, or they run the risk of 2 mommies going into labor at the same time.

Here are good questions to ask a doula during an interview:

  • Tell me about your training and experience.
  • What is your philosophy about supporting the mother and father during labor?
  • Where do you live and how long does it take you to travel to the hospital?
  • How many meetings do you provide before the birth? After?
  • Are you available for phone calls before and after the birth? Unlimited?
  • Do you have other clients within 2 weeks of my due date? How many?
  • Do you have a backup? Describe her.
  • What are your fees?
  • Will you help us develop a birth plan?
  • What are some of your most utilized comfort and pain relief measures?
  • Do you teach breast feeding techniques? What is your training?

A postpartum doula will come to your house and usually stay (or visit) up to a week (or few) and help you and the new baby get situated.  They will often do nights, so you can get some rest during the darkest hours of the night.  They are there to teach you techniques for feeding, swaddling, sleeping and coping.  They may even do the dishes or laundry if you’re really nice (or if you’re a hormonal mess but they like you anyway).


“We have a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.” -Laura Stavoe Harm

I hope this article helps you to decide if a doula is right for you and how to choose a good one.

May the Schwartz be with you

Halloween: Kosher or Treif?


Halloween, the crisp fall air, the fun and freight of dressing up, haunted houses and trick or treating.  My memories of being a young child and the thrill of the scare make me nostalgic for the simpler days in my life.  Growing up as a Reform Jew in Southern California, there was never a question of whether I would celebrate this holiday in all of its traditional, American glory.  Costumes, parties, tricks, treats, and candy.  What is there not to like?

Now that I have kids of my own, and have more of a focus to find meaning and connection to my Jewish heritage, I find that Halloween is pretty much considered treif by most conservative Jews.  Disappointing, but not surprising.  Halloween has never been associated with Judaism and is traditionally a time for witches, spirits and divination.  Of course, I am not a witch, I am a Jew.  So what does Halloween mean to me and why do I choose to celebrate it?

It’s essentially a silly, secular holiday.  Do I really need to appease the “spirits wandering around” with candy?  Do I need to dress up to represent those wandering spirits?!  Lord no.  I dress up to celebrate my American roots and traditions.  Heck, it’s only been celebrated here in America for the last 100 years.  It may seem old to me, but relatively speaking, a new practice.

Most traditional rabbis argue that trick-or-treating is best avoided. Some children are easily scared.  Some Jews choose not to go trick-or-treating. Instead, they will celebrate in other ways like roasting pumpkin seeds, eating fun food, bobbing for apples and listening to Halloween themed songs.  Although these celebrations may be viewed as alternatives to participating in a foolish custom, it’s still celebrating the holiday. So I ask these Jews, why stop just short of trick-or-treating?

I view Halloween as a secular holiday, no different than Thanksgiving or July 4th.  It’s an evening filled with harmless fun and free candy.  I think many American Jews see nothing wrong with that.  In the end, it’s up to you to decide for yourself how you view the holiday, and how you would like your family to celebrate, if at all.

I can still remember the rubber mask my dad bought when I was about 7.  He sat on the porch all night and scared the kids that thought he was a dummy in a chair.  It is a memory I will never forget and will appreciate forever.  So, for all the reasons you may decide not to celebrate, I’m celebrating for one reason only; To give my sons the opportunity to create and cherish their own Halloween memories.

Discouraging The “No” Monster

Written September 24th, 2013

Discouraging the "No" Monster

We all have a lot of reasons to say “no” in our lives. Parents and children. In love, we set rules and boundaries for our kids and teach them over time to make the best decisions possible. Of course, we have plenty of valid reasons to say “no” to things, keeping our children out of harm’s way or keeping them from doing harm to others. As good as our intentions are, eventually a “no” monster can be created. Sometimes, the parents become the “no” monster, and sometimes our children become the “no” monster. If a child hears the word enough times, eventually everything is “no, no, no” no matter how good your intentions are. Frankly, it’s rather annoying on both accounts.

In my attempts to educate my son and discourage the “no” monster, I have come up with a list of five words that can be used instead of “no” to teach him right from wrong or good from bad. Of course, all of these words are used in the same sharp tone as I would use when I say the word “no.” Here is the list:

  • Yucky
  • Dirty
  • Hot
  • Danger
  • Fragile

With a toddler at home, I have found that these words keep me from using the word “no” repeatedly. Not that I never use the word–sometimes it just slips out. I believe this is going to help discourage my son from becoming a little “no” monster and also increase his vocabulary. I like teaching him the many different reasons I might say “no.” As a Jewish mother, nothing pleases me more than knowing I am doing something to make my child a little bit smarter and a little bit more understanding of his universe.

So the next time you find yourself saying “no” to this, and “no” to that, think about which of the words above you might be able to substitute for the word “no.” If your child becomes a “no” monster because they picked it up at daycare or school, there’s not a ton you can do about it, except do your best to dampen it at home.

Nobody wants to live with a “no” monster. Parents and children alike.