Passover, Version T(w)een.0

Posted by on Mar 25, 2015 in Growing Up, Holidays, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments


The Venice Haggadah of 1609. The Haggadah is the book followed at the seder, or the Passover meal, to tell the story of the Jews’ liberation from slavery in Egypt.

Passover is less than two weeks away, and if you celebrate the holiday at your house, you know what that means: it’s time to clean out the pantry, remember where you put the good china and bug all your friends to see if you can assemble eight days’ worth of palatable recipes.

(Also, for those of us living in certain parts of northern New England, we engage in the annual hunting ritual for Passover food in grocery stores, best if approached as a drinking game. Each inquiry about Passover products met with a blank stare requires one shot of Manischewitz wine; every “Pass-what?” equals two shots. Sorry, but you have to drink the bottle if you’re directed to matzoh that states on the box, “Not kosher for Passover,” or to the deli case featuring “Ham for your Passover table.”)

So wrong

So wrong

In years past, I’ve offered “A Passover Seder Survival Kit” for families with young kids, as well as some of my personal culinary tactics for getting through the holiday. (Nutella still figures prominently in my Passover diet.) If you’ve got small children, then please do click on that link above for some ideas on making it through the seder with your sanity intact.

We’re in a different place in my family now. I’ve got a newly minted teen and a tween. (It scares me every time I write that.) They don’t need plague bags at the seder anymore, or a Sesame Street video to entertain them if the discussion goes on too long.

In fact, my son, “Jack,” is now officially an adult in the eyes of the Jewish community. To my husband and I, that means he can make his own decisions about whether or not to follow the dietary laws of Passover when outside of our house. So although I communicated to Jack that of course, my preference is for him to keep Passover, I figure it can’t hurt to provide him with some tangible encouragement. (Because, yes, it’s all supposed to be about religion and the history of the Jewish people, but let’s face it: it won’t hurt if the food is good, right? Of course right.)

Here are my plans for Passover T(w)een.0, ending with my newest strategy for Pesach culinary happiness:

Read More

Harry Potter and the Infinite Bag of Miracles

Posted by on Mar 18, 2015 in Education & Learning, Out of the Mouths of My Kids, Parenting on a Daily Basis | 0 comments

JH, reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Just when you think you’ve seen all there is to see from J.K. Rowling’s books of magic, it turns out there’s another spell in there, just as compelling and even more surprising than the ones you know.

Stories of kids who entered the world of Harry Potter as reluctant readers but emerged as bookworms are, by now, legend. It’s not possible to tally the number of kids who have obsessively consumed all 4,100 pages of the boy wizard’s story, or the number of parents who have witnessed their children’s transfigurations firsthand.

I can now be counted among these parents. In my house of bibliophiles, where books count as both décor and activity, only nine-year-old Emmie has resisted their pull. Plots could not hold her attention; characters might interest her for a chapter or two, but then she tired of them and lost the volumes that contained them under the clothes, drawings and general mess in her room.

Until now.

Emmie had been introduced to Harry Potter in second grade by her then-teacher, a self-professed Harry Potter fanatic. Emmie loved the books so much that we read the third book together the following summer. But after I told her that the fourth Harry Potter book included slightly stepped-up violence and “a little boy-girl stuff,” she decided she wasn’t quite ready for it. I agreed, and we thought no more about it.

But a year later, I told Emmie I thought she was ready for the fourth book. In fact, given how much she’d enjoyed the first three, I told her I thought she ought to read it. I even offered to read it with her. But every time I raised the topic, she refused.

Read More

Benign Rolandic Epilepsy, Thank Goodness

Posted by on Mar 11, 2015 in Health & Sleep | 2 comments

The central sulcus, or Rolandic fissure, of the brain

The central sulcus, or Rolandic fissure, of the brain

Back in November, I wrote in “Wanting Answers, Finding Questions” about the seizure my nine-year-old daughter, “Emmie,” suffered. It came seemingly out of nowhere; to our knowledge, she’d never had one before. (I referred to it then as a grand mal seizure, but I now know it was actually what’s called a tonic-clonic seizure.) The weeks that followed made us feel like we were traveling through a maze characterized by a set of unmarked doors at each turn. Each door we opened only led to rooms with more doors, and we feared as we moved forward that our ultimate destination would turn out to be a dark, ominous place.

But we were lucky.

The maze of diagnostic tests and consultations led to us to the room of benign rolandic epilepsy, something none of us had heard of before. Given all of the terrifying possibilities raised by a sudden, significant seizure with no prior history—I won’t list them here; I’ll let you imagine them, as we did—this was one of best answers we could have received to the question, “What happened?”

Benign rolandic epilepsy (also known as Benign Rolandic Epilepsy of Childhood, or BREC) refers to a type of epilepsy originating in the rolandic area of the brain, which controls facial movements. During seizures, kids may experience facial twitching, numbness or tingling, they may have difficulty speaking, and they may drool due to an inability to control the mouth muscles. In some kids, the seizures can spread from the rolandic area to the rest of the brain and induce tonic-clonic seizures with more generalized symptoms: unresponsiveness, muscle-clenching in the whole body, whole-body convulsions and disorientation when they regain consciousness. BREC seizures often occur in sleep, though they can occur during awake hours, too (as Emmie’s did).

The best thing about BREC? It is a childhood-only disease.

Read More

Uncharted Parent is Back!

Posted by on Mar 3, 2015 in Domesticity, Growing Up, Health & Sleep, Parenting on a Daily Basis | 0 comments


Hi! It’s been a while. Almost two months have passed since we last talked, and much has happened since then. Let me see if I can fill you in on the essentials:

  • I used to live in northern New England. Now, by the look and feel of things around me, I live in a frozen tundra somewhere north of the Arctic Circle. I haven’t seen any wildlife this winter, probably because all the animals are huddled up against the absurdly low temperatures, high winds and giant snow piles, trying to survive. But if when I finally do see an animal, it’s a polar bear, I won’t be all that surprised.
  • Since I last wrote about my daughter’s seizure, we received a diagnosis: benign rolandic epilepsy. Given the circumstances, it was the best possible answer to our questions. I’ll write more about it in a future post.
  • My thirteen-year-old son, “Jack,” officially became a man last month—at least in the religious sense. I did not freak out and everyone is still speaking to me—so far as I know. #Winning! Also, everyone in the house has survived the first few months of THE TEENAGE YEARS. (But my God, the mood swings…)
  • One of my cats has developed an eating disorder.
Read More


Posted by on Jan 9, 2015 in Miscellaneous | 0 comments

MBP closed

Uncharted Parent is on hiatus. (You may have deduced as much from the lack of posts lately.) The blog will return at the beginning of March, unless my new status as parent of a teenager has left me cringing in a corner, trying to hide from the mood swings.

Of course, if something comes up before March, I might pop in for a quick word or two. You never know. (If you want to make sure not to miss anything, click on the little envelope at the top right corner of the screen to subscribe to posts via email.)

In the meantime, enjoy winter. Go sledding. Read books. Keep warm. And if you happen to be at the grocery store and see someone buying milk and pasta by the ton, that’s me. (Do you think the cats would mind if I decided it would be easier to bring home a cow?)

Read More

Parenting and the Writing Life: Can They Co-exist?

Posted by on Dec 3, 2014 in Parents are People, Too, Writing | 0 comments

I write while SAm plays and leans against me


A lot of ink–and milk–has been spilled trying to answer this question. So many writers work best in large chunks of undisturbed, peaceful time. How can you get “in the zone” where you hear only your characters when there’s a baby crying, a Lego war underway, a carpool to be driven right now? In fact, how do you get anything done requiring concentration and creativity when you’re a caring, involved parent?

Being a parent impacts everything else in your life. But that’s not always a limitation. Sometimes parenting opens your world beyond your kids in ways you didn’t expect and never imagined. It’s worth trying to remember that when you’re shredding bits of paper in frustration.

My short essay, “Parenting and the Writing Life: Can They Co-exist?” can be found at the New Hampshire Writers’ Project website. Click on over, especially if you’re having one of those days…

Read More

Wanting Answers, Finding Questions

Posted by on Nov 25, 2014 in Adoption, Health & Sleep | 2 comments

question mark icon

Dreaded parenting moment: there is something wrong with your kid and you don’t know what it is.

Two weeks ago, I was at work when my phone erupted with a series of texts. My twelve-year-old son, “Jack,” was using a friend’s phone to text me from that friend’s house, where he and my nine-year-old daughter, “Emmie,” were spending part of the day. Emmie had had a seizure, and I needed to come to the house right away.


There followed a stay in the emergency room, a CT scan, an EKG, a blood draw, some meds and a very, very long string of questions. Since then, we have been to and set up consults with pediatric cardiology and pediatric neurology. More tests. A finding, but no answer. Answers to questions, but no definitive findings. No comprehensive theories, but lots of possibilities. It might be Nothing. There’s a good chance it’s Something.

For the first time, we faced the emptiness of not being able to answer any of the questions asked of us regarding our daughter’s family history in a situation where such information could provide real assistance to the physicians treating her. Is there a family history of epilepsy? What about heart defects or disease? Our daughter is adopted from South Korea, and, like so many adoptees, owns a history that is unknowable even to her.

Read More