Distance

Distance, that’s what separates many families from one another. Family is Forever

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is nothing new to me, but right now it seems very different. For my entire life, part of my extended family has lived in California while we are here in New York. Over the years, we have missed many things being across the United States from my aunt, uncle, and cousins. We would see each other most summers when they would come and visit my Nana and Papa. I also recall our trek to California for Cousin M’s Bat Mitzvah.

As we got older, got married, and started our own families, we have connected more online than in person. I have missed several weddings and births because of distance. We have not met my cousin’s children yet, but the boys know who they are. We all gather around the computer to see photos of J, I, E, and A as they grow up. It’s bitter sweet watching everyone grow up from a distance.

Distance also gets in the way during times when you want to be there to hug, support, and help family in a time when they need it. That time is happening right now and it sucks. There are no words. I simply wish I was with my family in California because I feel helpless sitting here in New York.

Since I am unable to be there, I am trying to recall memories from over the years. Moments captured in my head and in photos. Times where we celebrated, laughed, and enjoyed our time together. My hope is that these things helping me now will help my California family in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead.

I will simply say that cancer sucks and so does distance.

It's Me

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Passover 2016 Wishes

Passover Wishes

Passover begins this evening at sundown. As we welcome in Shabbat, our family will be gathering together for the first Seder. It’s a special time to be with extended family from all around to retell the story of our ancestors of long ago.

TechyDad and I have shopped over the last few weeks and have most of the things that we will need. We have matzah and other staples for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We stocked up on quinoa and have plenty of fruits and veggies. We also purchased some things to try baking our own Pesach goodies in addition to the delicious banana sponge cake that TechyDad makes. The boys are off for all of Passover since our Spring Break is very late this year. If the weather cooperates, we can pack up Passover picnics and head to the park to enjoy.

I leave you with two new Passover videos that are new this year. This seems to be a tradition of many groups this time of year and we enjoy their creativity. The first one is by Y-Studs A Cappella called Passover to a familiar tune.

The second video is from Six13 called G-d Split the Ocean.

To all those celebrating with their families, Chag Pesach Sameach.

It's Me

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Ticktock the Bar Mitzvah Clock

Thirteen years ago, I was planning for the birth of my first baby. Now, as my son is about to officially become a teen, TechyDad and I are planning something very different. In about five months, we will have NHL’s Bar Mitzvah. Apparently, I should not only be counting down the days, but I need to make lists, get concrete plans, and lots more before the special day. Oy to the vey!

 Ticktock the Bar Mitzvah Clock

While I am a Type A personality that loves to plan and make lists, I just can  not focus on this. For some reason, living in the moment and keeping up with every day life is enough right now.

Bar Mitzvah List

NHL started his official Bar Mitzvah lessons with our cantor months ago. Almost every day, we hear him reciting different parts of the Shabbat service. Thanks to technology, we have digital copies of prayers/portions for him to practice while at home and on the go.

As we get closer and closer, everyone asks me for details about our plans. The honest truth is that we are still not entirely sure about a lot. We need to chat with NHL about what he wants. As an almost teen, he does get to have some say.

I have met with members of our synagogue to talk about some options that are available. As NHL and TechyDad frequent Shabbat services, they seem to have a few more preferences on things.

There are a lot of questions on my mind and I know we will figure them out. Some include:

  • When do we need to order invitations for family and friends?  Related to this – Where should we order invitations from?
  • Does NHL still prefer a low key extended Kiddush luncheon?
  • Where does NHL want to celebrate instead of having a party? For quite a while now, NHL has said that he wants to go away and only cerebrate a little with friends the weekend of his Bar Mitzvah.
  • What do we do beyond the actual Bar Mitzvah to celebrate with out of town family and friends?
  • Where do we order kippahs from and how many should we get?

We now have a meeting to sit down with our rabbi to chat again. There really is a lot to do, yet there really isn’t. While I could/should be stressed about everything, reality still has not hit about how close NHL is to becoming a Bar Mitzvah. Perhaps as we talk to family about honors during the Shabbat service things will become a bit more real.

If you have planned a Bar Mitzvah, what else should be on my list? Any pointers would be greatly appreciated.

It's Me

Hard to believe that the last time I wrote about this process was in December 2014 when we were asked to pick a date – Planning a Bar Mitzvah

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Opt-Out and Refuse Tests in 2016

Three years ago, there were rumblings about the New York State Grade 3-8 ELA and Math exams. As the parent of a fourth grader at the time, I listened to my son come home from school with hyper focus and worry about the tests. TechyDad and I did a lot of research and at almost the last minute, we made a BIG decision. Yes, we refused the NYS tests for our oldest son.

Public School Parent Advocacy

I have written about this topic numerous times over the last few years. As a teacher, I knew that these posts and my advocacy within the community could mean never teaching again. While it hurts to think of never being in a classroom again, my boys and their peers across NYS and the United States need people to speak out. We need to get the word out about the drastic changes in our schools. A generation of kids are being used to test educational practices thought up by people who do not have a background in teaching or child development. I can see drastic changes in the scope of learning between my seventh grader and third grader.

Being naïve, I thought that I would never be here refusing the 2016 tests for both of my kids. My heart was hopeful that by the time my youngest hit these tests that something would change. Much to my horror, little if anything has really changed. This is a fact that those with kids in schools know. Do not be fooled by the new Commissioner of Education in NYS, MaryEllen Elia, or the puppet master general, Governor Cuomo. The Common Core Task Force in NYS is a farce put together to pretend to listen and pacify angry parents.

Why to Refuse Tests in 2016

Pearson was fired by NYSED over the summer of 2015, but their test will be given this spring to those that do not refuse. In an attempt to quiet parents, Commissioner Elia has put no time limit on these developmentally inappropriate tests. Now kids can sit and feel like failures for an unlimited amount of time while they work on tests that many with advanced graduate degrees can not complete or make sense of.

Last year, approximately 250,000 kids across New York refused to take the grade 3-8 tests. Those in the advocacy networks are hopeful that half a million will refuse in 2016. The stakes are higher for many schools under the trapped Receivership System. If all refused these faulty tests the data could not be used against teachers and schools that are struggling with the reality of poverty and so much more.

So when will we opt back into the tests? Thanks to NYSAPE, this sums up most of my views pretty nicely.

When we will Opt In

I urge you to take the time and ask questions. Do not simply sit back and accept tests just because they are given. This is not about tests that or too hard and kids not being up to a challenge. This is about so much more and our children are the ones that will have to pay the ultimate price.

It's Me

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Tuesday Tales: Normal Norman

Could you demonstrate the word normal? When Sterling Children’s Books reached out about a book tackling what normal is, I knew that we had to review this book. That is the premise of Normal Norman by Tara Lazar. A young scientist narrates the book as she shares her presentation on what normal really means.

Normal Norman by Tara Lazar

Normal Norman – Written by Tara Lazar – Illustrated by S.britt

Published by Sterling Children’s Books ISBN 9781454913214 – $14.95 – Ages 4 and up

The narrator introduces us to Norman. Norman is an average animal. We see that he is an ape. As we continue along in the story, the narrator gets frustrated because Norman is not doing normal things. Norman has feelings and does not want to hurt a banana by peeling it. Of course, Norman tells the narrator this by talking. Apes do not normally speak English so that gets the readers attention.

The story continues as Norman shows ways that he is not normal. The beautiful illustrations by S.britt bring us into the different settings with Norman. We see his bed, family, friends, and more as they come alive in the perfectly drawn images.

Reading Normal Norman

In the end, we learn that normal is different for each of us. The lesson within the book is wonderful for kids of all ages and even a great reminder for adults. Within a classroom, this book could be used for chats about differences in all peers, accepting everyone for being unique, and embracing who you are compared to your classmates. Too many times, kids and adults think about societal norms. This way of thinking limits us and holds everyone back from being who we truly are.

This would make a perfect book for an elementary school teacher, library, or family of a child with special needs. I know as a parent of a child on the autism spectrum we often struggle with what people expect normal to look like. Way back, I tackled the word strange and wish a book like this was around. It’s taken us so many years and this book would have been wonderful to read when we first had the autism diagnosis. Normal Norman reminds us that everyone is their own normal and that’s all we want for our children.

Have you ever talked to your children about what normal is? I would love to know how you could use Normal Norman in your life. read any of The Night Before series? As always, Tuesday Tales is all about sharing our love of books. Please let me know what you have read recently. Link up to your book posts in the comments below. Include something you read on your own, with a child, or someone else. Also take some time to follow along on the Normal Norman blog tour. Below are the stops that will be celebrating the release of this new book.

It's Me

Disclosure: As noted above, I received this book from Sterling Publishing to review. No other compensation was received and all opinions are my own.

Normal Norman Blog Tour

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