Happy Thanksgivukkah!

Posted by on Nov 27, 2013 in Holidays | 0 comments


I was trying to think what I could write that would be worthy of a “holiday” that only occurred once every 78,000(ish) years. But that was way too much pressure, so I’ll keep it simple.

The holidays officially begin…now! Tonight, we eat foods fried in oil. Tomorrow, we feast on turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green bean casseroles, corn puddings, pumpkin pies, apple pies, anything pies. Friday, for those who manage to roll out of bed at all, it’s pretty much going to be lettuce leaves and Alka Seltzer. (Yes, we’re all about the food here. Well, I am, anyway.)

Here’s wishing you a wonderful Hanukkah, a Happy Thanksgiving and a Thanksgivukkah you’ll remember for the next eighty millennia!

Read More

New Balance for a New Year

Posted by on Jan 14, 2013 in Holidays, Parents are People, Too, The World We Parent In, Writing | 4 comments

too much twitter

(Image credit: Pete Simon via Flickr.com)

The presents have been opened and put away, the decorations tucked into bins and boxes, far too many sweets have been consumed. Valentine’s Day candy already fills the shelves everywhere, and a certain big-box store yesterday featured shamrocks in an endcap display. (In mid-January? Really?)

I got back to work almost two weeks ago, when my kids went back to school. I found myself facing a long list of tasks, and I knew that the only way to get everything done was to work steadily and remain focused. Nothing innovative there, right?

But in an unplanned experiment, I tried something new. I’d stayed away from social media during the holidays, trading Twitter, Facebook and other perpetual virtual connections for real-life interaction. I used the internet to shop occasionally, and certainly to look up information or to answer questions. But I took a break from virtual life. And after the holidays, I simply didn’t go back for another week.

The results of my experiment? I had more time to spend with family and IRL friends. I took care of tasks that I’d long neglected. My dull-of-late focus on my longest-term writing project suddenly sharpened and I finally made progress in an area where I’d been stalled for what seems like forever.

There were more hours in the day and my thoughts were clearer. Seriously.

The downside is that I did miss quite a few of the people I’ve come to know in the virtual world, many of whom I respect, some of whom I consider friends.

Read More

Wishing You Holidays Full of Love and Peace

Posted by on Dec 24, 2012 in Holidays, The World We Parent In | 0 comments

Happy Holidays

(Image credit: hlkljgk via Flickr.com)

Hanukkah is over.  Christmas is almost here.  All the kids in the house were so excited to be together that I found myself standing over empty sleeping bags at 5:00 a.m. this morning, insisting that the kids return to them and postpone their playing until a time when the sun might be close to rising.  (I think at least a few of them listened.)

It’s always fun to watch the kids open their presents on Christmas morning.  Nothing surpasses a child’s joy, and watching their faces is the best present for a parent.  But this Christmas will be tinged with the silent heaviness of the children and adults lost just a few weeks ago in Newtown, and of the December 25ths those families will experience that they never could have anticipated. The Christmases no one should ever have to know.

This year, I’m already taking greater notice of how much my kids love playing with their cousins, how nothing feels better than my children’s hugs, how considerate my eleven-year-old son was when he finally confessed that he’s known for a while that Santa isn’t real but that he wouldn’t think of spoiling the secret for his little sister, and how often both of my kids make me laugh.  Everything about them seems just a little sharper, sweeter and more present than it did before.

Give your kids stronger hugs this year, before you release them to let them play with family or go out with friends and be the amazing individuals they’re meant to be.  Let them know what you love and respect about them.  Shed a tear for how fast they’re growing, tickle them if they’ll still let you, give them a gift you’ve been on the fence about or a compliment you’ve been holding inside.

Take a moment to remember the families whose children can’t come home.

Uncharted Parent will be taking a break until the new year.  Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and I’ll see you in 2013!


Read More

A Constructive Response to the Hanukkah Stare

Posted by on Dec 13, 2012 in Holidays, Our Cultures, Races & Religions, The World We Parent In | 0 comments


(At least they’ve heard of Hanukkah. So that’s something, right? (Photo credit: The J Train via Flickr.com))

If you are Jewish and you don’t live in, say, New York City or Brookline, Massachusetts or a similarly constituted community, you may be familiar with the Hanukkah Stare.  I live in an area where Judaism is inevitably a source of bewilderment to someone, so I encounter the Hanukkah Stare at least once each year.  For the sake of the uninitiated, I’ll describe it before proceeding any further.

The Hanukkah Stare is received when a Jew walks into a store and asks an employee about the availability of either general or specific Hanukkah merchandise, and the employee has never heard of Hanukkah.  The Stare commences immediately following the question, when the employee appears to suffer from a sudden state of immobility–facial muscles included.

The Jewish shopper repeats her question.  This is when the Hanukkah Stare generally sets in for its longest stretch, as the employee, convinced the shopper is either speaking a foreign language (I suppose we are) or is just making stuff up, tries to figure out what the heck to do.  Generally, there is no blinking.

A number of years ago, I wrote an essay for JewishFamily.com called “Finding Jewish Meaning in the Holiday Season.”  My experience last week with a local flummoxed and slightly rude store clerk reminded me of why I wrote this essay back when my now ten-year-old son, “Jack,” was small.  I reprint it here in the hopes that it can offer some inspiration to all those of us who still find ourselves dealing with the Hanukkah Stare and the other, less desirable reactions that sometimes accompany it.


Finding Jewish Meaning in the Holiday Season*

Being an American Jew in December means two things.  First, it means celebrating Hanukkah, a minor holiday in our religion, but one that is eagerly anticipated by children who can’t wait to rip open their gifts as well as by adults who look forward to the holiday’s sanctioned consumption of latkes, sufganiyot and other foods fried in oil.  Second, being Jewish in America at this time of year means facing the reality that in many places, observing Hanukkah instead of Christmas still marks us as different.

Two years ago, just after my son turned four, he and I patiently waited at the deli counter in our local grocery store.  Christmas was only days away—as was Hanukkah—and the store was packed with happy celebrants stocking their carts.  A merry, middle-aged shopper next to us in line thought she would pass the time by engaging the blond-haired, blue-eyed boy in my cart in some childish banter about his presumed holiday excitement.

“Is your tree all ready for Santa?” she asked, her sugary voice emphasizing the key Christmas terms.

I held my breath.  I’d never minded responding to people’s assumptions about my holidays with a concise, “I’m Jewish; I celebrate Hanukkah.”  But now my son, just four years old, faced the glare of public interrogation as he was challenged to explain his identity.  How would he respond?

Read More

Happy Thanksgiving

Posted by on Nov 22, 2012 in Holidays | 0 comments


(Artwork by 7-year-old “Emmie”)

Uncharted Parent wishes everyone a very happy Thanksgiving.  Eat well, separate the kids when necessary, and try to plan things so that you get a little sleep in between the late-night Thursday and 5:00 a.m. Black Friday shopping sprees.

Have a fantastic holiday!

Read More

Sports & Books: A Must-Read Article for Your Kid (And a Book, Too)

Posted by on Apr 12, 2012 in Education & Learning, Holidays, Parenting on a Daily Basis, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments

Ray Allen

Got a kid who loves basketball?  Sports in general?  Maybe even looks up to Celtics guard Ray Allen?  Have I got a story for you.

We all know that sports figures don’t play 24/7.  What do they do with the rest of their time?  Frequently, the answers to that question make parents cringe.  But look for Allen off the court, and apparently you’ll often find him with his nose in a book.  Read this Boston Globe article, then print it out and give it to your kid.  (Or just direct them to the article on your smartphone or iPad, which you know is more often in your kid’s hands than yours, anyway.)

In another kid-book recommendation, I have to point you in the direction of The Ultimate Top Secret Guide to Taking Over the World, by Kenn Nesbitt.  It’s not great literature, but I can tell you this: ten-year-old “Jack” is reading the book now, and I can literally hear him laughing from the other side of the house.  Any book that brings this much joy to my child gets a thumbs-up from me.

Side note: This is an unusually short post for me.  My brain is functioning at reduced capacity as a result of a steady diet over the past few days consisting of nothing but matzoh, inadequate condiments spread on the matzoh and Easter candy.  Really, I’m amazed I’m able to sit upright and form sentences at all.  Counting the minutes, I am, until Pizza and Pancakes Saturday night.

Read More