5 Important Life Lessons I Learned While My Dad Taught Me to Drive

2004-MAR-CAR
My oldest in 2004. She’ll be driving for real in a year.

“Ready?” he asks.

“Um, yeah. I think so,” I say. I shift the car into drive and gingerly lift my foot from the brake.

“Give it a little gas,” he says. I do and the car lurches forward like an overly ambitious toddler taking his first steps. I quickly slam on the brakes and we both whip back in our seats, our seat belts yanking tight.

“Rule number one,” says my dad. “Always wear a seat belt. Okay, let’s try again.”

Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, in the mid-’80s meant I was eligible for a full driver’s license at 16. A few months before my birthday, my dad and I embarked on a series of weekend driving lessons, commandeering empty lots and deserted side streets. As an overly eager teen, I figured a few quick tutorials were all I needed to hit the road. Turns out I had a lot to learn. Here’s what my dad taught me about driving—and life: Continue reading “5 Important Life Lessons I Learned While My Dad Taught Me to Drive”

To My Youngest Daughter On Her 4th Birthday

imageThis morning you come prancing into our bedroom like you always do at 7 a.m. We are on the east coast instead of our usual west, yet your little body has quickly adjusted to its typical circadian rhythm: no matter what time you go to bed – and there have been some late nights because we are with cousins, because we are on vacation and the steady light of summer doesn’t fade away at bedtime – you still wake at the same hour.

“It’s my birthday! I’m four!” you announce and I smile in my half sleep even though I’m tired tired tired because I went to bed late hoping against hope that maybe just maybe you’ll sleep in. Don’t four-year-olds sometimes sleep in? Nope, of course not, what was I thinking? You are only four – wow, I can’t believe you’re four! – and there is no stopping you in the morning. Continue reading “To My Youngest Daughter On Her 4th Birthday”

On The Mid: How To Make Family Time Happen

IMG_5036When I was a kid, we journeyed on weeks long family vacations around the world. From home, we took long car drives up to New Hampshire to see the leaves turn in the fall and longer rides out to beach on the Cape in the summer. The four of us went into the city (New York) to see shows and traipse around and when we moved to St. Louis and my sister and I were in middle school and high school, we went out for dinners and to the movies, to recitals and sporting events — all together.  Continue reading “On The Mid: How To Make Family Time Happen”

The Holiday Card You Won’t See

Family2I remember our very first family holiday card: my sister Abby, a wonderful photographer, snapped a photo of me, Josh and a six-month-old baby Ella in my parents’ St. Louis backyard over Thanksgiving. We posed and rearranged ourselves around our precious babe. We wore subtly matching hats and scarves. We smiled and smiled and smiled some more. My sister showed me the contact sheet, we picked the best one and printed out 150 photos. I glued the photos to gold cardstock, hand wrote a holiday message on each one and mailed them out in early December. Continue reading “The Holiday Card You Won’t See”

The Year’s Favorite Selfies

I am not a huge “selfie” taker but I did manage to either snap or be snapped in a few this year. They’re not artsy, just real life. Here are my favorites:

Getting ready to hit the ice rink.
IMG_4556 Continue reading “The Year’s Favorite Selfies”

Is Going to Israel with My Kids During Conflict a Good Thing?

Parenting in IsraelIsrael. It’s where I feel most connected to my Jewishness. It’s where a cherished piece of my heart comes to life. Right now, it’s also where missiles are landing hour after hour, deep in to the country, sending people running for cover in shelters and staircases, at the base of palm trees along the open beaches, on the shoulder of the highway.

It’s where I am planning to go with my husband and three kids in less than two weeks to celebrate the bar mitzvah of a close friend’s son.

Or am I?

Every inch of my maternal self recoils at the thought of deliberately bringing my three children into what amounts to a war zone. Yet, that piece of my heart that belongs to Israel yearns to be there, to show her my love and unwavering support, to defiantly go about daily life in between running for cover as sirens wail.

For days now I’ve been playing out “if-then” scenarios in my head: if there is a ground war, then we won’t go. If Hamas accepts a cease-fire, then we will go. If I were planning to go on my own, then I would definitely still go. Finally, we told the older girls about the situation and the possibility that we might not go. The 12-year-old sat silently, head bowed, her dirty blonde hair falling like a curtain around her. She understands more than I give her credit for. The 9-year-old’s eyes filled with tears.

“Why would anyone want to bomb Israel?” she asked.

How do you answer that incredibly complicated question? That’s when I realized how much I haven’t taught my children about what it means to be Jewish. They live in a beautiful Jewish bubble where they go to Day School and Jewish summer camp, where we celebrate Shabbat every week. They wander through the house humming tunes from the morning tefillah followed by Iggy Azalea and Ariana Grande. For them, being Jewish means being part of a loving community with the freedoms, rights and protections of being American. How can I explain to my children that not everyone in the world likes Jews and, in fact, a good number of them would like to see us, and Israel, wiped from the face of the earth? The conflict is very real. Is taking my children to the center of it an acceptable learning lesson?

People act in unacceptable ways all the time. I’ve seen the photos on the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) blog of a mother gathering her infant and toddler to her, hunkered down on the highway between her car and the concrete dividers, cowering in fear and resignation as the sirens blare and missiles fly. I’ve seen footage of the rubble in Gaza and think of the Palestinian children left homeless or worse because their political leaders are gambling with their lives and are losing.

Deciding whether or not to travel to Israel right now is a wrenching decision for us to make. Part of me wishes we had left before the current conflict escalated so we wouldn’t have to decide: we’d be in it and we would’ve stayed. The piece of my heart that belongs to Israel is tugging at me with all its might. My mama heart is telling me to keep my girls out of the line of fire. I don’t want them to flinch, like my Israeli friend’s child does, every time a motorcycle whizzes by or a car guns its engine or a truck door slams. My three-year-old already claps her hands over her ears when she hears a dog bark close by or a dish clatters in to the sink. I don’t want my kids to look at me and say, “Mama, is that a rocket coming?”

I don’t want them to be scared. Maybe that’s naive of me. In some ways loving Israel is about being there when it is scary and standing fast. I want my kids to love Israel deeply with determination and ferocity, but without the fear. I don’t know if or when that will be possible, but I do know that I want Israel to own a piece of my children’s hearts forever. That’s something I’m not willing to compromise.