Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Still Waters Run Deep... getting personal with Mayim Bialik


Mayim Bialik
I am sure most of you remember reading my fabulous interview on fellow Jewish homeschooling mama, Mayim Bialik. I just want to mention that aside for the fact that her children are homeschooled,  she has a B.S. in Neuroscience and Hebrew and Jewish Studies and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience. Mayim is also the author of the fantastic book, Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way. Oh, and in her 'spare' time, she writes a weekly blog for for the Jewish parenting site Kveller.com and I may have forgotten to mention that she was nominated for an Emmy for her work on the hilarious TV show The Big Bang Theory.

Another thing you should know about Mayim is that she is also extremely human. She is smart, she is down to earth and she deals with her life's challenges with such integrity that I thought it would be a real treat to have her share some of her wisdom and experiences with us.

Mayim graciously agreed to do an interview on the current events of her personal life. She was vulnerable, she was open and she was so honest. I was moved by many of the things she said and I am sure you will all walk away from this interview with at least one thing that hits home.

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An Interview with Mayim Bialik

Q: We all go through our own set of challenges in life. Right now, you are going through a divorce from your husband of 9 years. You also homeschool your 2 children, ages 4 and 7. Surely they have questions. What is your approach when your kids ask? Are you open with them and share with them exactly what is going on? Are you vague? And do you have any specific reason for the approach you have with your kids when filling them in?

At the ages of 4 and 7, the questions are very limited. Our younger son is only recently fluent verbally so as we were told to expect, questions from the 7-year-old mainly revolve around how, if at all, his daily life will change with the changes going on. It was suggested to us by the child specialist we spoke to, and using the book "The Truth About Children and Divorce" by Robert Emery, that it is age appropriate and normal for children to be "egocentric" and that you don't need to speak to them at a level they're not ready to operate at simply because you understand things at a more sophisticated level. In general, in all arenas of parenting, I never lie but I may choose to keep certain things private and age appropriate since children can be easily overwhelmed by too much information and too much sophisticated information, especially emotionally speaking. Since I am not an expert in child development or family therapy, we have relied heavily on support from professionals who deal with this, as well as friends who have gone through it and the aforementioned book.


Q: You clearly seem very level headed and things seem very civil between you and your soon to be ex- but surely there are times when things might seem overwhelming and all you want to do is be by yourself. But being a working actor as well as a homeschooling attachment parent, alone time is hard to come by. How do you deal with those difficult moments when your little guys need your attention but your mind is simply not there?

Being alone is always something that's been important to me and becoming a parent can be a real scary challenge to those of us who value alone time. Part of our decision to not use outside help for child care has gotten me accustomed to learning to simply be there for my kids. It's hard not being able to run away and sometimes I want to, but at those times, I do what one of my mentors who has older kids has told me to do: be gentle on myself, eliminate superfluous commitments, order in dinner or serve leftovers (I've been known to feed my sons canned vegetarian beans and corn for dinner, which they love!), and go to sleep when the kids do so that sleep deprivation doesn't add to my desire to run away!


Q: As women, we are very emotional and hormonal creatures and personal challenges can often bring us to tears (guilty as charged). Kids don't quite know what to do when they see their mommy cry or feel sad/down. Have you been sad or cried in front of your kids, and is there anything you say or do to help them deal with it?

I have "lost it" in front of my kids and they have certainly seen me cry. What I've been told is that it's important to not pretend you're fine when it's clear that you're not because even very young children know when your words don't match your affect. It's also important to communicate that, although you are upset/sad/frustrated, you will be okay and that you can handle what's going on. Sometimes I'll tell my boys that I need a mommy time-out so that I can compose myself, rather than make them feel in any way responsible for making me feel better. My older son in particular is very empathetic and sensitive and both of my boys like to give me a kiss when they see I'm upset. I make sure to use this as my wake-up call to thank them for the kiss and try and move on so that they don't continue to feel responsible for making me feel better.


Q: You and Mike obviously are working things out very civilly  but whether you are married, divorced, getting divorced or a single parent, we all have arguments with our significant other. Are there any methods of communication that you use with Mike to get through difficult conversations/arguments when the kids are present?

It's very important to know when to stop communicating almost more than it's important to know to continue communicating. I think it's important to not have extended emotionally difficult conversations in front of children and I also think it's important to model civility in arguments, never name call, and let children hear you use phrases such as, "I'm really upset right now and it's hard for me to think straight. I'd like to discuss this later. I appreciate you respecting that." 

Q: Finally, do you have any specific words of encouragement and/or advice for other homeschooling moms/attachment style parents who are going through their own set of challenges- be it a divorce, an illness, financial issues etc. who are with their kids for extended amounts of time during the day and need to "be on and be present" with their kids without the 'luxury' of being able to fall apart?

My suggestions would be the ones I've been given, which I mentioned above: go easy on yourself, know that no parent is perfect, there is no parent who never gets upset, yells when they don't intend to, or acts selfishly when they ought to act selflessly. Children are resilient but they're also incredibly fragile. The tension and balance of their existence depends on our ability to manage it for them and for ourselves as well. I'm told that if we are okay, our children will be okay too. It's not fun going through a divorce, but I try to be guided by honesty, compassion, and always looking towards the big picture and wanting the best for my children as the children of a divorced couple.


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Thank you Mayim.
Wishing you all a wonderful week~
Always,


Friday, February 22, 2013

The Kabbalah of Laughter with Guest Blogger Chana Rachel Schusterman


The Power of Using Our G-d Given Talents (and Helping Our Children Recognize Theirs
There are twelve months in the Jewish calendar. The talent of LAUGHTER is the twelfth month, the month of ADAR (Feb-March).

Right from the beginning of the month of Adar, joy increases and continues to increase all the way through through the month.  The holiday of Purim is the month in which everything turns around for the good, and what is hidden (that G-d runs the world in every detail) becomes revealed. This affects the entire month.  Adar brings us to a kind of joy that is beyond anything we could imagine.

A person with this talent “gets it” and laughs.  This person is never mean and never laughs with black humor.  True laughter comes from relating to the goodness and profundity of life. When he sees goodness and profundity come together, he laughs even more.  A person with this talent is childlike and good natured, enjoying life, people, and situations with humor.  Knowing that G-d is behind it all, someone with this talent has peace of mind.  Then it is clear that life is a joy.

We can be role models of good humor by showing our joy.  When we recognize this talent in our children, we can encourage them by laughing with them. Let them be silly and playful. A person with this talent is original.  Don’t expect him to imitate. Enjoy his uniqueness and laugh at the realization that you are blessed to have such a child.

Tools for Developing Your Talent of Laughter:
  1. Don’t get into low or black humor.
  2. Lighten up.
  3. Look for and find the good and the joy in any situation.
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The Kabalah of Adar:
The tribe of Adar is Naftali. 

Adar is the last of the months beginning with Nissan.  It is the completion of the cycle of all the months which begins with Nissan (getting ready for Pesach). We receive the Torah and continue to move toward the promised land, Israel.

The Purim story, takes place in Persia seventy years after the destruction of the First Temple. During this dangerous time, the Jews’ faith grew and they committed to G-d and  the Torah on an even deeper level.

The laughter of the month of Adar is really a taste of the joy of the future. Purim is a foretaste of the coming of the Moshiach when all evil will be swallowed up. When that time comes, we will realize the meaning of all that we experienced and we will laugh with a joy that is beyond what we could imagine.

Chana Rachel Schusterman is a Jewish spiritual counselor and coach. If you would like to contact her, please email me at Jewishmontessori18@gmail.com.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Clean Your Room!!!

"Clean Your Room!!!"- how often do we find ourselves saying these 3 little words to our little tykes?

And so they go to their rooms, completely overwhelmed not even knowing where to start and end up sitting on the floor playing with whatever it is that's there. Sound familiar to anyone?

Well, I came up a with such a fabulous solution that works like a charm with my kiddos.

The "6 Minute Room Clean-Up"
We get a timer and each kiddo gets a little list on a mini clip board with a marker. I especially made the check list small so they realize there really is not alot to do. I tell them that they each have exactly SIX MINUTES to pick every single thing up off the floor and put it where it belongs. I put the garbage can, laundry basket, a small box for any toys that made their way into their rooms and  a cup for any stray pencils or crayons all next to each other and as they do each task, they check it off on their little list. Toys go in box, books on bookshelf, dirty clothes in hamper, clean clothes in closet, pencils in cup and garbage into the garbage can.

Miscellaneous stuff remains in a small pile in the center of the room and we quickly figure out where it goes before time is up.

Giving them 6 minutes gives them a time frame and the realization that it is not a long time to be tidying up, making it no real biggy.

Their bedrooms are really not that bad on a daily basis, they are pretty good keeping them tidy, but things happen and some days I look at their rooms and wonder how in the world it got so messy- and that's when I get out the mini clip boards and put those little people to work!

Feel free to Click Here to print out the little checklists or make your own. The key is mini lists and small time frames. 

Have a wonderful Shabbos!
Always,
 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

When Mom needs Energy

We homeschool our kids. Hence, we are with them ALL day, EVERY day.

We are busy, and honestly, who has time to focus on what WE are eating when we are so busy worrying about getting vegetables down the throat of the kid who refuses to eat anything GREEN, or the kid who will only eat foods that are WHITE or the kid who's idea of a vegetable is KETCHUP?

But I am sure most of you have noticed that most of the time, even if our kids refuse to eat their broccoli, they ALWAYS have this insane amount of energy, from the second they wake up, til the second they crash at the end of the day. And no, I do not give my kids anything with sugar, so apparently their lack of Kale Smoothies is not making much of a dent in their energy department. Healthy kids have this natural abundance of energy, with or without the goodies we wish they would eat, at least at this stage of their lives.

But what about us?

Where can we get more energy from so we can truly make the MOST out of every day?

There are 3 major components to feeling energized throughout the day:
1- Sleep
2- Exercise
3- Eating the right foods that give you Energy


SLEEP
First and foremost, for those of us without infants, a good nights sleep is a MUST. You cannot burn a candle at both ends and by going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day, giving yourself at least 7-8 hours will instantly help your energy and mood throughout the day.



EXERCISE
I am always reading that working out will give you lots of energy, but my idea of working out (at least at this stage in my life) is playing outside with the kids, gardening here and there and cleaning my house every day. Thats about as far is it goes. For those of you who make the time and have the discipline to exercise  I take my hat off to you. 



FOOD
Aside for the usual cup of coffee, there are so many delicious foods that give us amazing doses of energy, and I am not talking about Kale Spinach smoothies (which I am sure are quite tasty but just not for everyone.)

So based on my personal experience and research, I have compiled a list of super yummy, very common foods that experts across the board agree give you the most energy. 

Now this is not a 'diet'- it is simply a list of foods that if you constantly snack on throughout the day will give you a constant flow of energy. (Just make sure to cut out any junk food and sugar- an instant recipe for instant uppers and downers, and of course weight gain)

Check these foods out, its quite amazing to see the results!




Lets start with my favorite (and yours too I am sure)- dark chocolate. Who can argue with that? Research, shmeesearch, I don't need ANY reason to eat chocolate. But apparently, its a super upper and antioxidant. Woohooo, bring it on!


Next we have these power fruits: pineapple, watermelon, banana's, strawberries, blueberries and apples. They all have their own unique health benefits but what they all have in common is that they give you ENERGY. So keep a bowl of any of the above fruits on the kitchen table to grab throughout the day. Maybe cut up some watermelon, pineapples and strawberries and keep them in the fridge to munch on. Not too hard to do either, right?


Red peppers, carrots and celery are major energy contributors. Dip them in some Chumus and WHAM, major energy boost right there. Cut them up, keep them in some glass Tupperware and you always have it ready to snack on.  


Every Sunday I make six Salads and put them in Mason Jars to keep in the fridge. Put the harder veggies on the bottom, lettuce and greens on the top. Dressing on the bottom if you wish or just keep it on the side. Like this, you have a fresh salad to eat every day. Easy peezy. And greens give you TONS of energy. Get creative, there are lots of yummy salad mixes out there.




While Salmon and Eggs aren't exactly snacking foods, they give you lots of energy. So maybe add eggs to your morning menu. Or make some egg salad to eat with your veggies. Salmon is super easy to make and lasts a day or two in the fridge. Canned salmon also works. Make a salmon salad for lunch. These are so easy and really give you so much energy.


Pureed vegetable soup. You can literally take every vegetable you have in your house, saute them together (the more greens you can throw in there the better) add some salt, pepper, garlic, any other yummy spices and puree it until it is smooth. So yum, so filling and so easy to scarf down for lunch. Instant energy booster.


Many of us cut down on carbs in our diets. But whole grain breads and pastas are amazing sources of energy. A piece of whole grain toast with avocado? Delicious and gives you an amazing amount of energy. Wholegrain pasta with Marinara sauce, wholegrain crackers. There are lots of really good carbs out there filled with energy for us.


First thing in the morning, most of us reach for our dearly beloved cup of Joe.  But wait- have you every tried Green tea? Or Earl Grey tea with a squirt of honey? So yummy and gives you a MAJOR boost of energy. I find it lasts even longer then my coffee does. I will never give up my morning Joe, but my afternoons are now dedicated to my yummy cup of green tea and honey. There are lots of Caffeinated Herbal teas, find a flavor that works for you.
 
And last but not least, hydration. SO important for energy and mood. Water with a squirt of lemon and coconut water are pretty much your best bet when it comes to being hydrated and energized. Take your pick and drink all day. The second you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Don't let yourself get there, just keep sipping all day.

I will repeat, the above is NOT a diet and many of you I am sure have your own habits of eating. The above is merely a list of foods that give you ENERGY thoughout the day. It works wonders for me, try it out for yourself. 

May you all have a healthy and energetic week!
Always, 
...coming soon, a bunch of fun hands on activities for learning the Hebrew Letters!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The "S" Word

Socialization so·cial·i·za·tion  [soh-shuh-luh-zey-shuhn]  noun-
a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.

This is always the homeschool biggie and I would like to give you my personal take on it.

Granted, most kids enjoy playing with other kids. My kids love having play dates with other kids and they love going to the park and playing with other kids.

Do their social skills and personal identity depend on these little play dates and interaction with these other kids? Absolutely not. Do I need my kids to learn the "norms, values and behaviors" that are "appropriate" to their "social position" from other kids? Once again, no.

Do I want my kids to learn how to treat others with respect? Yes. Do I want my kids to develop healthy boundaries and skills to deal with conflicts. Yup. Do I need to rely on a classroom filled with kids their own age, everyday for 8 hours or weekly play dates with other kids to develop these skills. No way.

So having your kids hang out with other kids is fun, they enjoy it and its a nice break for us. But it is absolutely not a daily necessity.  In fact, its not a necessity at all.

What is a necessity, in my opinion, for children to develop healthy social skills, is to have healthy social skills within the family dynamics. Starting with you and your spouse.

Every close relationship needs 2 very important things: Love and Respect.

Love is giving. Giving compliments, speaking to each other nicely. Giving gifts. Love brings you close to each other.

Respect is holding back. Holding back from saying words that could hurt the other person. Holding back from doing something that can cause the other person pain.

Love is going out of your way to do things for the other person.
Respect is not doing certain things that could upset or hurt the other person.

We can apply this to our marriages, to our friendships and to our relationships with our kids. If our kids see parents who treat each other with love and respect, this will have a huge impact on the way they treat others as well as the way they will expect others to treat them.

So this is just my little take on the "Socialization" issue. "Teach" your kids these skills by emulating them. Playing with other kids other then their siblings is fun for them and for you, but don't feel bad if you only have play dates once a week or even once a month.

If you have a strong emotional foundation at home filled with love and respect, chances are your kids will turn out just fine. In fact, more then fine. Probably pretty awesome.

Have a great week!
Always,


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