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Archive for the ‘Jewish Moms’ Category

I have been begging begging begging my Nachlaot buddy Chaya Houpt for several months now to start a blog. Chaya is a very thoughtful, very smart, and very funny mom of 3 kids ages 3 and under. She’s also a really great writer. Well, my nudging finally paid off and Chaya finally agreed to start a new blog called AllVictories. I read it and was truly blown away. This totally surpassed my expectations. Definitely check it out.

Here’s a recent post from Chaya’s new blog. This brought tears to my eyes…Chaya, please keep writing!!!!

Elevating the Pink by Chaya Houpt

The discussion around Peggy Orenstein’s new book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter caught my attention. See, I have young girls, and there’s a lot of princess talk in my house, too. And most of it is coming from me.

I tell my young daughters to sit like princesses, no feet on the table. Meals are served in “princess portions,” and if they finish that, they can ask for seconds. When they behave in a way that is beneath their station, I tell them, “You are princesses; I expect more of you.”

I encourage my girls to see themselves as princesses, but I’m not talking Disney. Orenstein describes the effect of the princess culture as creating a reality where “how a girl feels about her appearance – particularly whether she is thin enough, pretty enough, and hot enough – has become the single most important determinant of her self-esteem.” That is not my aim. With all the princess chatter, I’m pushing for something a little deeper and more ancient than Grimm.

I am an Orthodox Jew. My concept of a princess comes from Psalms: “Kol kevuda bat melech penima—all the glory of a princess is within.” This is the opposite of the image of a pretty princess all in pink. The true value of a princess, according to the Psalms, is her internal reality, her essential self. Her image, her physical appearance does not define her. It is not here that her value lies. She is not rescued by the prince; she builds her relationships and her family through her greatness and nobility.

According to the mystical tradition, royalty (malchut) is a feminine trait. The Jewish concept of regality implies both grandeur and dignified humility. This is the royalty I desire for my daughters, this is what I am trying to teach them. The glittering tiara, the pink everything—this is not what it means to be a princess. A princess is someone so confident in herself that she can make space for other people. A princess radiates majesty and self-possession that come from within.

My twin girls are three-and-a-half. They love trucks, construction work and dinosaurs. But soon they will enter preschool, and all of that is likely to change. They will be assaulted by the “girlie-girl” ridiculousness that Orenstein critiques. My hope is that I can inoculate them by painting an alternate picture of what a princess is, so that when they hear, “You are such a pretty little princess,” they will recall that they are capable of true greatness. I hope they won’t be blinded by the sparkle. I can’t push back against the pink entirely, but I can try to rechannel it and elevate it.

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An Israeli research team from the prestigious Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center discovered that among menopausal women the most important factor contributing to quality of life is number of children. In other words, researchers were surprised to find that bigger families mean happier and more satisfied moms.

The research team interviewed 151 women between the ages of 45-55 and at various stages of menopause. Researchers asked the women about the severity of their menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes. They also asked the women to rate their quality of life in terms of employment, health, intimacy, and emotional well-being. The researchers had thought they would find a correlation between the severity of menopausal symptoms and lower quality of life. To their surprise, they found that there is actually very little connection between menopausal symptoms and quality of life.

It turned out, instead, that the biggest factor contributing to quality of life among menopausal women is the number of children they have. Menopausal women with two or less children rated their quality of life as 91. In contrast, women with three or more children ranked their quality of life at 99.

Dr. Chaimov-Kuchman attempted to explain the research team’s unexpected findings, “One of our hypotheses is that women in Israel view menopause as the beginning of infertility…It could be that women who gave birth to 2 or less children feel that maybe that is not sufficient, and that they did not actualize their potential, and it’s possible that that has an impact on their quality of life.”

Read the original Hebrew article on this groundbreaking research

Special thanks to Rachel Reinfeld-Wachtfogel for sending this article my way!

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“Are you buying those potatoes for tomorrow’s lunch or for tomorrow’s dinner?” my friend Leah innocently inquired last night at the vegetable stand in the market.

I hesitated for a nanosecond, and then chose to swallow my pride and confess: “I’m actually buying these for the soup that we will be eating for the whole week…”

Leah’s eyes narrowed, her head turned ever-so-slightly, and her jaw dropped exactly as though she had just sighted a rare species that she had read about, but never actually encountered before. An albino turtle. A 3-humped camel. A sub-standard balabusta.

Her kids, Leah went on to tell me, expect home-made meals for lunch and then something entirely different for dinner every single day. If she ever serves leftovers, she explained, she has to whip up a whole new dish based on the leftovers so that her kids don’t throw a fit that she is serving the same meal twice. She was in shock to hear that my children gobble down leftovers the whole week. In fact, my kids are so used to this reality that they don’t even REALIZE that what they are eating would be considered leftovers by their better-fed classmates.

I decided not to tell Leah what my family USED to eat before I started making our gigantic weekly pot of something accompanied by a weekly monster-quantity of a grain of some sort. Until about a year ago, the Weisberg weekly menu consisted of Monday: french fries, Tuesday:scrambled eggs, Wednesday: oatmeal, Thursday: spaghetti.* Which explains why our current two huge pot solution is a major step up for the Weisbergs and their domestically-challenged Eema.

Of course, during this conversation with Leah I felt badly about myself, as I usually do on those rare occasions when I actually open up about my domestic dyslexia with other moms, especially baalabusta moms. You know the type. The kind of moms who not only bake challah for Shabbat, but who actually look forward to baking challah for Shabbat. The kind of moms who actually fold laundry a la The Gap instead of just balling it up and stuffing it into a child’s drawer. The kind of moms, like Leah, who are frying onions and garlic with thyme and taking fresh-baked spelt rolls out of the oven when you stop by their house at 1 PM.

What was funny about our conversation was that when I told Leah how much I admire Balabusta moms, like her, she didn’t really get why. And, in fact, what surprised me was that she actually seemed to admire me, and how I was handling the whole hyper-simplified cooking-for-the-family aspect of my JewishMOM life…

And then Leah said something really obvious and wise that I have been thinking about ever since. She said, “I am a very goal-focused person. My goal is children who will grow up to be good, curious, passionate, amazing, Torah-loving Jews. The rest of the stuff, the food, the spotless house, the externals, it truly does not matter so much. Every mom needs to find an arrangement that works for her and that works for her kids. That’s all. There are SO many different ways to be a good mom.”

After she stated her JewishMOM manifesto, it seemed as clear as a crisp, cloudless, starry Jerusalem night. A mother’s ultimate, central goal needs to be raising her children as best she can. The elaborate menu plans, the blinding bathtub faucet, and the homemade cookies vs. Entenmanns are the rainbow sprinkles on top of the icecream cone.

These external niceties are a great added touch, but not the point—-AT ALL.

Some mothers are more domestically inclined than others, and some are less domestically inclined. And that’s perfectly OK and not something for me to get all worked up and feeling inferior about every time the subject comes up. In fact, after this conversation with Leah, this point seems so incredibly obvious that I’m surprised that a short 18 hours ago I was foolish enough as to have feared otherwise.

*In self defense, I want to explain that this seemingly unhealthy menu plan was prompted by an appointment with a dietician who told me that in order to ensure that my kids have a balanced diet, they should eat three food groups at every meal. So even at my lowest culinary points, I would always make sure to do that. For example, I would serve oatmeal with a fruit, so that that meal contained three food groups: grain, dairy, and fruit. Lame, but not unhealthy.

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“I am ahead of some people in life, and behind some others, but I’m not superior or inferior.” –Dina Friedman

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Sheva Chaya Shaiman is the artist who created the exquisite, spiritual JewishMOM.com logo in the banner above as well as the covers of both my books. I thought it would be interesting to ask Sheva Chaya a few questions about her life as an artist and as a JewishMOM of 5 kids.

Where are you from originally? Denver, Colorado

At what age did you become an artist? I started really getting into painting and drawing in college, at the age of 18.

Where did you study art? I studied painting at Princeton University, and also in Paris, on a semester abroad, which I spent mainly going to various museums. I studied glassblowing, more specifically lampworking, at Red Deer College in Alberta, Canada and privately in my studio in Tsfat.

When and how did you become religious?
I started to get interested in Judaism in college, in the mid 90’s. I loved Israel the first time I came (when I was 17) because I saw a great energy and joy for life in the people here. I also loved the landscape of Israel, so colorful and varied. I saw Judaism is “alive” in people, that they “live” Judaism, and their lives were obviously on another level. I started to learn Hebrew, loved the language, and heard about Rebbe Nachman, Rav Kook, Shlomo Carlebach, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, and found myself blown away over and over again how by beautiful the teachings of the Torah are. After living in the Old City of Jerusalem while spending a semester abroad at Hebrew University I was committed to Shabbos, and learning as much Torah as I could. I loved the chevra (people) so much in Israel, I always wanted to come back until I realized I wanted to live here.

How do you balance motherhood and your art?
My children inspire me so much! They have inspired paintings—of them, of mothers with children, of Noah’s Ark. They are like a gateway into a different way of looking at the world, seeing its wonder and simplicity. I am also inspired to make beautiful meaningful artwork which conveys a world of redemption, of joy, and of the Jewish people and the land of Israel shining and thriving.

Of course, I also do art projects with my children, and I’m constantly impressed with their expressions. I find that I need to spend some time alone as well, painting, blowing glass, making videos, and that gives me the clarity and patience to be more present with my children.

As a mom with 5 kids, is it hard to find time to work on your art? Yes! It can be nearly impossible, but I have found that somehow HaShem opens the gates and there are new waves of creative expression through the phases of motherhood and child-raising. I have found that pregnancy can be an ultra-creative time (it is!), and that with every kid, new windows into creativity are opening.

What is your favorite kind of art? I love art that is alive, fresh, fun, full of joy, and helps uplift people. If you mean what media, it is often a toss-up between glassblowing, painting, and videography. At the moment, I love the glasswork because I am able to share it with people. I do glassblowing presentations in my gallery in Tsfat, and simultaneously explain the “deeper” side of glass. By touching on Kabbalistic ideas connected to glass and glassblowing, we can see that the simple act of creating something new can open our hearts and minds to connecting deeper—to HaShem’s world, to each other.

What do you love best about being a Jewish mother?
The whole experience is such a gift! Ashreinu! We are so blessed! To pick one thing, I would say Shabbos! It is such an honor to get the opportunity to share and be together, to celebrate HaShem’s creation, to learn beautiful Torah teachings, to sing together.
What do you love best about being an artist? I love that I can give something to people. To gladden hearts, to brighten homes, and to share what I have deep inside—-and, on a simple level, I love to be involved with colors!

What are some of the newest projects you are working on?
I started to make chandeliers with glass pomegranates on the lights (see: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=258645&id=641153548&l=1997f0d427) I love seeing the light shine through the glass.

I also recently created a music video
(for women only) for the hit song “Miriam’s Drum” by Tziona Achishena, which shows an array of new paintings and video footage of our recent NY tour.
I particularly love the message of the video, which is the circle of women dancing, and I hope to publish a children’s book about Miriam the Prophetess, and paintings in this video will be the starting point.

Learn more about Sheva Chaya in this video:

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Me In Timephoto © 2009 Vincent van der Pas | more info (via: Wylio)
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Over the past few days I have been feeling breathless. I think this borderline hyperventilation might be due to my perpetual motion machine life, and the fact that it’s finally starting to get to me.

And then I read the results of a recent survey of 3000 working British moms, which breaks down the average day of a working mom as follows:

(reprinted from the Motherlode Blog):
Get up 6:42am
Get ready (shower, dress, coffee) 55 minutes
Get children ready 47 minutes
Commute to work 52 minutes
Working day 7 hours
Pick children up 33 minutes
Makes / eat dinner 46 minutes
Children’s play and bedtime 1 hour 9 minutes
Household chores 1 hour 13 minutes
Work from home 1 hour 12 minutes
Go to bed 10:45pm
Spare time = 1 hour 30 minutes a day

What is it that parents miss most? Here’s what they told pollsters:

1. Spend more time with the children – 48 per cent
2. Read books – 37 per cent
3. Do more exercise – 34 per cent
4. Put feet up in front of the TV – 32 per cent
5. A lie in – 31 per cent
6. Go to the pub – 30 per cent
7. Meet friends – 25 per cent
8. Take a walk in the park with their partner – 22 per cent
9. Go to the cinema – 19 per cent

My first thought after reading this was that I really don’t get how these moms do it. I work only three hours a day, not seven, and I am the one borderline hyperventilating as I type these words.

What do you think of the results of this survey? Do you think the 90 minutes spare time a day sounds realistic? What does your daily schedule look like and what do you miss most from you BC (Before Children) days? I’ll be interested to hear your comments on this…

Don’t forget to read author Liza Mundy’s wonderful response to this poll entitled “The Strands of Time”…
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