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Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Did I ask? Is that why my parents enrolled me in Girl Scouts?
Or was that part of the plan all along?
After all, MomGiraffe was one.
I no longer remember the impetus.

I do know that I loved being a Girl Scout.

It was an outrageously Jewish experience.
Not because we did anything Jewish. In fact, there was nothing Jewish about the entire endeavour. My Brownie troop leader, whose surname was nearly impossible to say without dissolving into a fit of giggles, was most definitely not Jewish. I was one of two Jewish girls in the troop and the only one who was observant. What made the experience Jewish was that it was necessary for me to assert my Jewish identity. Whether making certain that outings weren’t planned on a Jewish holiday or helping plan the meals for a camping trip so that there were kosher options.

Speaking of camping, my family doesn’t do camping. Call it rebellion after those forty l-o-n-g years in the Wilderness or perhaps an aversion to communing with nature or whatever. But camping was not part of our family culture. Enter Girl Scouts. Girl Scouting introduced me to the basics of camping. I can’t say that I liked it enough to want to do it with any regularity. What I can say is that it was an experience that I very well may have never had. And that would be a shame.

Were there compromises to be made? Absolutely. The annual Father-Daughter dance always presented a problem as DadGiraffe was never available…because it was held on a Friday night. So after Shabbat dinner, one of my uncles accompanied me as my substitute father. Strangely, though, I didn’t feel as though the experience was diminished in any way. I thought it was so cool that my uncles took time to take me. And I have fond memories of those dances.

[Note: My Junior troop was completely different. Half the troop was Jewish. (So you shouldn’t get excited, there were a total of six girls in the troop.) And our troop leader was Jewish.]

I learned a lot of things during my time in Girl Scouts. How to manage friendships in a small group. How to cook over a camp fire. How to be Jewish when no one else is (or is Jewish in the same way). And much, much more.

Not every activity in which our children engage needs to be inherently Jewish. When we infuse our kids lives with Judaism, we are fashioning them to bring their own Judaism to all that they do.

Which makes the experience…Jewish.

For those wishing to incorporate Judaism into the Girl Scout experience in a more formal way, see what the National Jewish Committee on Girl Scouting has to offer.

Say What You Mean

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

This stopped me dead in my tracks.
Because I doubt that my local Target is actually selling a product that cures the affliction of causing others to vomit.

Yes, you heard me.
Nauseous doesn’t actually mean what you might think it means.

Read here for more: You Might Be Sick, But You’re Not Nauseous

There are those who will argue that precise definitions do not actually matter. What matters is how a word is used by the majority of the population.

Frume Sarah cannot support such a ridiculous notion. Language ought not be left in the mouths…er, hands of ordinary people. We have seen what has happened to the misuse of “myself” and errant apostrophes.

And we are not amused.

Danger Will Robinson

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Fortunately, I has been forewarned. And, as “they” say, forewarned is forearmed.

Because had PC not cautioned me of the presence of “some sort of creature” that he’d seen scurrying about the garage, I’m not at all certain that I would have handled things very well…

Mom! MOM!!!! screamed Beernut, banging on the back door.

MOM!!! Didn’t you hear me banging?? It’s an emergency!

Now, Beernut is often screaming and banging. And most everything is urgent and an emergency. So I didn’t actually give his carrying on much thought.

MOMMOMMOMMOM!!! There’s a rabbit-squirrel in the garage!! It’s in a piece of trash. MOMOMOM!! Are you even listening to me??

What a ridiculous question. At his decibel and volume, it would take Herculean fortitude not to listen to the racket. And hey…what is a rabbit-squirrel anyway??


I was still stuck on the “rabbit-squirrel” thing.

Not a “rabbit-squirrel.” A rabid squirrel. Don’t you know anything???

Beernut is a pretty anxious kid. Usually it’s spiders or bees that really set him off, but lately he’s been on this rabies kick. So I sent him to see if Cue’s dad was home. Mostly to get him and those loud screeching sounds out of the house so that I could form a plan. It turns out that no one was home at Cue’s house. Or the other three houses that Beernut checked. But by then, I had already called our pest control guy to come and get rid of whatever it was that was in my garage.

The story should end here.

Not the actual creature.

But it doesn’t. Because Beernut, who was convinced that the entire ordeal was being mishandled, had called upon the kindness of the eighteen-year-old neighbour boy who is idolized by all three frummettes. And what eighteen year old boy would pass up the opportunity to maintain his hero status. Which is how I came to find him in our yard, valiantly trying to release the “rabid-squirrel” from the glue strip that the pest control guy had laid to capture…well…pests. There was something rather endearing about how gently he murmured to the creature as he gingerly unstuck it from the adhesive.

Oh…and it wasn’t a “rabid-squirrel” after all. It was a chipmunk.

Dear, Dear Judy Blume

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

It’s finally happened: Beernut has a favourite book.

Sure, he had certain books he was partial to as a really little guy. A particularly ravenous insect comes to mind… But those days are long gone. And Beernut is very forthcoming regarding his dislike of the written word. Asperger’s makes reading increasingly difficult for Beernut. Grasping inferences, predicting character behaviours, and anticipating outcomes are outside of his realm. And he has grown to despise reading.

Which is why I about fell out of my chair when, after declaring that he hates to read during his recent camp interview, he then admitted that there was one exception.

I can certainly attest to the fantastic nature of the book given that I have now read it to Beernut dozens of times. [And this is on top of the several rereadings when I was a kid.] I have read most, though not all, of Judy Blume’s books. She is a wonderful writer and though times have changed, rendering some of the narrative a little dated, the overall themes and situations are timeless.

Judy Blume is known for her ongoing communication with her thousands of fans and has adeptly transitioned to the world of social media. Still, I was just totally a little breathless and weak-kneed happy to read her reply to my Tweet:

A shout-out from Judy Blume?? As if Beernut could adore Judy Blume even more.

Me too.

Thank you, Judy Blume, for writing a book for my son to love. He’s not a reader and, due to his Asperger’s, might never be a reader. But he has found a story that delights him. Entertains him. Moves him. And provides a platform for many wonderful shared moments. That is not a small triumph.

It is everything.

Free Agent

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

It was the moment for which he had been waiting: his first day of soccer.

Truthfully, he hadn’t been waiting very long for this moment. In fact, Peach had never shown any interest in playing any sport. Until…

Until his new best friend, who lives two doors down from us, mentioned that he was signing up for soccer. And then Peach developed a sudden interest in the sport.

Our kids had never participated in any type of organized sports until we moved here to the corn field. Poppyseed was the first to introduce the torture excitement of being a sport parent to us with her newly-found love [note: I did not say talent] for field hockey. At age eight. Which is rather late to join the athletic party.

My ambivalence is multi-faceted.

  • Never wanted sports to interfere with Shabbat
  • Never willing for sports to interfere with Religious School attendance
  • Not willing to relegate my time/life to a practice/game schedule
  • With the exception of some genetic abnormality (aka JockBro), athletic propensity is lacking in the gene pool. On both sides.

Peach is five. Meaning, the time commitment is minimal. And it’s on Sundays. And it’s after Religious School. So, why not?

Except the first “game” came and went. With a very unhappy player. Because he and Cue were not on the same team. And Cue was his entire reason for existing playing.

{{Parenting dilemma}}

Do we force teach him to accept that we don’t always get what we want?
Do we ruin his very first athletic experience?

I don’t want to be “that parent.” You know the one. Who steps in anytime Junior is unhappy, bored, thwarted, etc. I am NOT that parent.

And we intervened anyway.

We are still new here. Peach has become much shyer since we plucked him out of his SoCal milieu. And we were thrilled that he was interested in trying something completely new.

So he got traded. The green team, Green Candy, snapped him right up.

And all is right in the world once again.

However, this is where parenting gets really tricky. It’s just so easy to obsess over question every decision. There are thousands of books, blogs, experts and while much can be gleaned from the experience of others, parenting is a spontaneous activity. As BubbeGiraffe cautioned early in my motherhood, and I am paraphrasing, you can’t ask your kid to hang on while you go and consult “the book.” Life just doesn’t work that way. At some point, it’s a leap of faith. Faith in your child. Faith in self. And faith in…faith.

There is little time to waste second-guessing the myriad of choices, decisions, etc. that we make as parents. I want to enjoy the fleeting moments of their childhoods. And it’s pretty hard to do that if I’m always looking back and, with the clarity of hindsight, wishing I could choose differently.

So I chalk each one up to experience and pray that I am able to attain some modicum of wisdom from all of that experience.

And then I leap…

Just Because

Monday, 30 April 2012

As always, he was there.
The usual spot.
Waiting, hoping…

And there we were.
As always.

I cannot help but give.
It was a lesson I learned by watching.
Money she put into the pushke before lighting candles.
Money he took from the pushke whenever he went “into town.”
I never heard them complain.
It never seemed like a burden.
It just was.
It just was something we do because …
כי קדוש אני יי אלהיכם
because the Eternal our God demands it of us.

So when Peach saw him, waiting,
he looked at me from his carseat.
Nodding his head in the man’s direction.
I rolled down my window, handed the man some money, and chatted with him until the traffic light turned.

Later, as he was drifting to sleep
Peach told me that his favourite part of the day was giving tzedakah.
He was afraid that it might rain on the man.
And he hoped that we had helped.

If only it was that easy.

But God’s command to be holy is not only applicable to those cases when we can bring about a perfect solution.
Being holy means grasping every opportunity and elevating it…and ourselves.
Making those favourite moments.
And trying to do what is right.

Painful Truths

Thursday, 26 April 2012

It is hard to believe that my children and I came into a world with an independent Jewish State, knowing that my parents and their parents did not. Though her safety has been threatened numerous times during my lifetime, there has always been the reality of her existence. As a travel destination, a spiritual inspiration, and, God-forbid, a potential landing place should we ever find ourselves on the run like generations before us.

We turn towards Israel in prayer. Our daily liturgy speaks of Israel’s continued well-being. And our poets, both Biblical and contemporary, speak to the yearning we have felt for thousands of generations.

No where are these yearnings and our national assertion of a sovereign Homeland in Israel better articulated than in our anthem, Hatikvah “The Hope.” I am moved beyond words each time I hear it.

And yet…

I cannot be honest about my desire for a lasting peace in Israel with equal rights given to all citizens without acknowledging that this anthem is problematic. How can an Arab Israeli speak of a “Jewish soul” and “Zion”?

Neshama Carlebach, who is a gifted musician, an advocate for peace, and my friend, has embarked on a path that is both righteous and, for me, painful. She has recorded an alternate version of our people’s anthem with inclusive language. Intellectually, I know that this is a necessary dialogue if there is ever to be true peace. In my soul, the words feel as though they are being forced into spaces that are a different shape and size. I have listened to it over and over again. As shimmering as Neshama’s voice is, I become no more accustomed to the new words, or their implicit and explicit meanings, no matter how many times I hear it. And yet I know that such change must be an inevitability. As counter-intuitive and uncomfortable it is.

And maybe that is ultimately what our Hope is; it’s not enough to be free in our sovereign Homeland. We have to create a place that models our values and the teachings of all that is good and right. Which is what genuine freedom is.

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