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New vlog post about vacation and sex

Hi people, my vlog is moving along. In fact I have been neglecting my blog in favor of my vlog. So if you haven’t yet done so, SUBSCRIBE to my vlog. I post helpful tips from my workshops – how to write a song with your baby, how to be present with your baby, overcoming insecurities when singing. This last one is about connecting with our partners. I take you into my personal life in this one, which made me shake as I pressed the publish button. But I am on vacation so I didn’t have my professional life to hide behind.
I also talk about sex, and how hard it can be to come by with little kids running around the house.
I hope you like it and I hope you subscribe. And if you feel like it, please comment and let me know what other topics you would like me to cover.

Episode 8 – Vaca and Sex

For the NON-CHEF (/working+distracted+couldn’t be bothered/parent)

I am not a chef. I admire and envy those people who feel so utterly comfortable in the kitchen. Usually it is because they have been watching their mother (father?) cooking in the kitchen since they were kids. There was no scene like that in my house. My parents both worked a lot and I was a typical 80s key kid. Once we moved to Israel when I was 11 I remember making my own chocolate spread sandwiches for school and throwing together dinners that were usually omelet, toast, cream cheese.
My mother did have two or three meals that she made. As did her mother, as do I. For years I have been trying to expand on those and maybe this year will be the year. But for now I thought I would post a sample week’s menu as we start the school season. The thing is, if it were just my husband and I we would probably eat odds and ends from the fridge every night. But we have to feed these children balanced, healthy meals goddamit.

Spaghetti. Yum.
Spaghetti. Yum.

This menu is for my fellow NON-CHEFS. Those of you who regularly use things like salad spinners, graters, mincers, and food processors need not read on. Unless you want to feel good about your cooking abilities and chuckle about mine.

My hope is that you will post your weekly menus in the comments too. I need more suggestions and I imagine others do too. Meals that are quick and easy with very few ingredients are the ones I go for. Also, I don’t do meals that need any earlier prep time. That is reserved solely for dinner parties in which I want to impress friends.

You might read these and think – my kid would never eat that. Well sometimes mine don’t either. But I insist on saying to them – this is what is for dinner. if you don’t like it then don’t eat. I do allow for a banana or apple at any meal even if it is not on the table.

7 Meals that Can be Done FAST

1. Meat Sauce Spaghetti

  • In a skillet fry the meat (I use organic farm raised shredded beef. no need to add oil)
  • Drain fat
  • In a pot fry onions, add red peppers,
  • Add tomato sauce from a can (I use the ones that are only tomato sauce without added seasoning) and maybe a small can of tomato paste to add thickness, and meat.
  • Boil spaghetti

2. Taco/Burritos

  • Soft tacos (my kids like whole wheat tortillas. they aren’t really tacos at all but are bien enough)
  • Refried beans – sometimes not even heated
  • Rice – depends how much time you have. White for fast, I like brown, farro if I am feeling daring enough to trick the kids into thinking it’s rice
  • Avocado slices
  • Maybe cheese maybe salsa
  • Sauteed onions and peppers if I am feeling fancy

After making two meals I usually need a rest.

"Tacos" rolled in a soft tortilla and roasted veggies.
“Tacos” rolled in a soft tortilla and roasted veggies.

3. Frozen Pizza

  • We like Amy’s gluten free with spinach. It is very crunchy and tasty and although the kids are not gluten free I am.

4. Fish or chicken cutlets

This is really the most time intensive. It might be easier and faster to bake the fish or chicken but my kids like this.

  • Two plates – one with beaten eggs, one with almond meal (or other bread crumb). Put fish first in egg, then in crumbs (till covered).
  • Fry in skillet till golden. I use coconut oil because it comes out yummy.

(You can tell I am not a chef by how I am writing all these out. But I DO know they like to say the word “golden” a whole lot.)

  • Roast veggies – this is an easy staple for many meals. I often cut up whatever veggies we have (sweet potato, kale, brocolli, cauliflower, beets, onions, zuchini), put them in a baking pan, mush them around with olive and salt and throw the in the oven. Sometimes the kids nibble on it sometimes they don’t touch it. I love it.

5. Sushi Order-In (I realize this should not go on a recipe list but I want to put it out there that I allow myself a night of ordering in. Sometimes it is even cheaper than the other option.)

We all agree that this is the best meal of all - ordering in
We all agree that this is the best meal of all – ordering in

6. Stir Fry Chicken

  • Cut chicken breast into small pieces.
  • Cut carrots and celery and whatever else into small pieces
  • Fry onions, then chicken for a while. Throw in veggies.
  • Make rice

Kids usually eat the chicken pieces without the veggies. I eat the veggies.

7. Weekend meals usually consist of lots of smoothies and sandwiches, and french toast for dinner

Please post your easy meals! Help out a fellow non-chef.

Helping Them Connect the Dots

My 4 year old did something terrible and unthinkable. He choked his 1.5 year old sister, enough to make her cough. He has pushed her before, grabbed from her, or given her a too-hard hug. But this felt alot different.

I was terrified, mortified, and so angry. After making sure she was ok I sent him to his room. I needed to collect myself as much as I felt he did. My thoughts raced – how could he do this? what made him do it? my mind fast-forwarded: am I raising a murderer? a psychopath? I felt fear and shame. Have I failed as a mother? Sometimes all it takes is one moment like this for me to doubt all of the intentional parenting I pour my energy into.

So I took a breath and went into his room. I impressed upon him the gravity of what he had done. By my initial reaction he already knew it was serious. He was shaken and scared because he did not truly mean to put her in danger. In fact I don’t even think he meant to hurt her a lot. I think he wanted to throw her off her course. Not that his behavior was excusable. But he did not understand the full affect that strangling can have.

Next I asked – what made you do that?
As a therapist I know that is not a great question to ask. Usually, if someone can articulate why they did something terrible they probably wouldn’t have done it in the first place. But in my state it was all I could bring myself to ask.

“You!” he said. “What do you mean me?” I said, “I did not tell you to do that!” I was still so angry that I couldn’t hear what he was trying to tell me. He changed the subject a few times while I kept asking my non-therapeutic question “but please tell me – why did you do that?” And finally he said “you got dressed!”

I stopped and took a moment to follow the sequence of events as he had experienced them and it dawned on me. Once I had connected the dots for myself I did it for him (slowly and with emphasis):

“You were angry when I told you we were going out tonight. You and I played ball but then you got upset because I stopped the game and went to get dressed. I came back to play and you got even more upset when I had to change my outfit. You were angry at me for leaving you tonight and for leaving the game. And then you hurt your sister who is smaller and can’t hurt you back. But maybe you really wanted to hurt me. You were feeling so angry at me.”

When I finished he took a big breath. I always know I’ve reached them when they sigh big.

Last year I attended a conference at Zero to Three, where practitioners from all over the country who work in early childhood come to learn about the latest research and methods. I was particularly struck by the presentations of Dr. Alicia Lieberman and Dr. Chandra Ghosh Ippen, both of whom research the affect of psychotherapy on children who have undergone trauma. My biggest takeaway from it was the idea of helping children create a narrative of their experience. Ghosh Ippen calls it creating a “conjoint trauma narrative” and Lieberman calls it “giving expression to the traumatic experience.” It is the idea that even young babies need to eventually reconstruct the experience in order to understand it. This along with very loving, consistent, and attuned therapy can help a child overcome post traumatic symptoms.

Thankfully my children have not experienced severe trauma. However, when I returned from the conference and tried a similar technique on my kids for small injuries I found that it had a pretty magical effect. Especially when I paired it with the idea I learned from Dr. Serena Wieder, who talked about understanding and helping children through emotional dysregulation. For instance, when my baby was in the bath and hit her head on the spout she immediately started crying and splashing the water, holding her hands out to come out. She was dysregulated and her body reacted by putting her in a heightened state of “I want out!”

I don’t always catch the moment before something like this happens, and often my attention is only called when the crying starts. But this time I had caught the lead-up. I pointed to the spout and said to my one year old “you hit your head on the spout and got an ‘owey’ (I demonstrated by hitting my head. “and it hurts and you want to come out.” She absorbed the narrative and even recreated it in her own words with pantomime, hitting her head and pointing to the spout. She sighed, and kept playing happily in the bath.

I started helping my kids “connect the dots” in other situations when they got emotionally dysregulated. I recounted what had happened prior, marking events or triggers that I thought had led up to it. Sometimes it was in the span of 3 minutes, sometimes a few hours. This is basically what psychotherapy aims to do as well, often with a much larger span of time (childhood, adolescence, etc.)

Back to my son and the strangling. The most appalling part of the story is him as the perpetrator, not the victim. However it was his feeling of powerlessness and frustration that led him to act on his anger. They were not traumatic events per se but events that slowly led him to emotional dysregulation.

I am not saying that my son’s actions were forgivable because I can understand where his anger came from. But my hope is that if I can help him connect the dots when he gets upset and escalates enough times, he will eventually be able to do it on his own in real time and will be able to control his aggressive impulses.

I ended the conversation with giving him an alternate route: “next time you can say ‘mama! I am feeling angry that you are leaving and are not playing with me. I feel like I want to do something mean to someone. Please help me!”

If nothing else, our conversation was therapeutic for us both. Mama needed to connect the dots too, so that I wouldn’t dump all of my parenting mistakes into one moment and in my mind have them lead to a future psychopath who wreaks havoc.

On a side note, this year I will be presenting my own methods at the Zero to Three conference.I can only hope that at least one practitioner/parent will walk away with a new tool, or a deeper understanding of how to help make our lives with our kids more loving and peaceful.

How I Survived an 11 Hour Flight On My Own With 3 Kids and Other Musings

Not sure how I got myself into it. A day flight, with three kids, on my own, including a 1.5 year old lap-baby. Is this what hell looks like?

Let’s back up. I spent a great month in Israel. Grandparents galore! And we did it right this time – the boys went to camp and the baby went to daycare. So they got their Israeliness (Alona says oy oy oy alot now) and I got a break during the morning. It was hot. But surprisingly, New York feels even hotter than Israel was. We did spend alot of time at the pool and the beach.

This time around I was struck by how alive Israeli’s are. Maybe it has something to do with living under the threat of war as a normal state of being. Here, we are just getting used to the idea that terror attacks can infiltrate the western world. Israelis were born into that reality.

It can make a person close down emotionally, deaden inside in order not to feel constantly overwhelmed. And for some people in Israel it does. But I also sensed the opposite. I felt a carpe diem quality that propels them to live strong, hard, fun, and edgy. The parties are intense. The protests are everywhere. And what struck me most of all, was the flirty nature of Israelis. Flirting happens at the deli, at a restaurant, at the playground. “You mean you don’t flirt with the dads at the playground?” My friend asked. I was appalled. Hell no! I completely close off that part of me when I am in ‘mom mode’. Flirt with another woman’s husband? Lord have mercy! “But,” she said “It is part of being alive. We are sexual beings. It is possible to be playful without acting on it.” I have to mull that one over.
I have been feeling hopeless and helpless about the state of America and the world and this attitude was a refreshing way to cope with it all.

Back to the flight. Here are the things I feel were crucial to getting through hell on wings. None of these are going to surprise you but it is good to have a list.

1. Duh. Screens. I had the kindle, the ipad, another ipad, the laptop, and the screens on the chairs to save my ass. The boys watched for 11 hours straight. Every program or movie I ever said no to. Time limits null and void. I even downloaded some Elmo for Alona who has not had any official screen time yet. She LOVES the videos of Elmos singing with celebs. (25 minutes down. 10.35 to go.)

2. Snacks. You can’t bring enough. Puffs, crackers, lollipops (for the ears), fruit, sandwiches (if they don’t like the plane meal), water bottles, nuts, bars, all of it.

3. Sticker books. Each of the boys had one (mindcraft for the older and this one which I love for the younger.) Alona had a book of Sesame Street stickers which gave me a good half hour. Yes, I was counting my time in half hour segments. I could happily watch my movie while absent mindedly helping her extract stickers.

4. Painters tape. This is a simple trick I pass on to anyone who is having trouble with wiggly-baby diaper changes. It is endless fun. Tear off a piece, it gets stuck on their fingers, on their body, keep tearing and sticking. Long pieces, short pieces.

5. Markers and notebook. We colored alot. Baby on a swing, baby waving hello, baby with an elephant. She especially enjoyed opening markers, using them for a second, closing them back and putting them in the box. I enjoyed it a little less when I had to bend over in our close quarters constantly searching for the lost cap.

6. A rolling suitcase as a carry on. To put all those screens and snacks in. This is in addition to the smaller backpack of absolutely essentials that go under the chair.

7. Now we are heading into emotional stuff. Resignation. That there will be segments of rest but basically it will be non-stop work. We walked up and down the aisles ALOT. We made friends with every baby and every grown up who didn’t give us a dirty look. And it was important that I was resigned to doing it. I expected it.

8. This is also obvious, but don’t forget the carrier. That is where they will finally fall asleep when there is 45 minutes to go. Right before the stewardess comes and says babies can’t be in a carrier for landing. Noooooo!!

9. Mental preparation for the older kids. I prepared them for the fact that I will not be going with them to the bathroom every time, that there might be a line so they should go BEFORE they can no longer hold it, and that they will probably have to climb over me. They whined but they went to those tiny closets without me.

All in all the day flight was refreshing in a way. I am used to night flights in which I do similar stuff but am also exhausted and dying to sleep. This time at least I was up for the fight.

Any tricks you use for flights? let me know. I have many more in my future.

photo (15)

Creativity

For the last few months I have been thinking a lot about creativity. Mostly because I’ve had a hard time connecting to my own. Not to say that it has ever been that easy for me. It’s always been a struggle on some level. But this last year has felt especially dry.
I know I am not alone in this. Most people who have ever had a creative endeavor, which is to say everyone, have had periods of resistance. Creativity needs space and time and that is something that I, along with all of my fellow parents of little ones, do not have. Diving into that necessary place of experiment and playfulness seems almost impossible when I need to be goal driven so much of the time to get through that ever lasting list; pick up a kid, make a meal, clean the house, run a bath.
In addition, artistic creativity entails going inward to a non-social place where I am alone with my feelings. That doesn’t happen often in this house. But more than that, for me making art involves facing a pretty dark place, an existential one, in which I connect to the extreme sadness but also joy of being human.
Kim Brooks’ article “A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Mom,” in New York Magazine, lays out the struggles of being an artist and parent so eloquently and tragically. She writes: “the point of art is to unsettle, to question, to disturb what is comfortable and safe. And that shouldn’t be anyone’s goal as a parent.” Yes. “People make art,” she says, “for exactly the opposite reason they make families.”

Keeping up with this blog is a perfect illustration of where my creativity has been in the last year. I have an idea for a blog almost daily. I start writing them in my head and get excited about sharing them with you all (all 4 of you?). But I don’t follow through. I get home and am tired, or need to make dinner, or answer emails, or most often – have already poo poo’ed the idea in my head.
Because the universal enemy to artistic creation, whether an artist or not, is self doubt. Will anyone care? How will this make me look to others? Is it too self indulgent? Is it worth my time or anyone else’s time? On that topic I recommend Brene’ Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability in which she talks about vulnerability being the birthplace of creativity. It is a touching and inspiring account of her own avoidance of vulnerability and the growth that followed her facing it.

So – I found myself with a hundred beginnings of songs that were never followed through, and twenty blog post beginnings that I never finished. Coming up with the ideas is not my problem. It is working through that vulnerability, allowing myself to retreat into a lonely place, giving myself time away from my list, and most of all making myself sweat through it.

I did some work – I meditated a bit (I recommend the app Headspace for anyone interested in meditating but feeling resistance). I attended a meeting with strangers to talk about what it means to be creative. I attended other social gatherings relating to art that I dragged myself to but ended up feeling very inspired by. And then I did the best thing of all – I asked a few of my colleague friends if they wanted to join me in a creative lab in which we MUST write and present a song a week.

When it comes down to it, it isn’t about producing the perfect song or blog post, it is about producing. My friends hold me accountable and I finish a song even if I think it is crap (which have been most of them so far.) But I feel good. I am reminded of why I do art and put myself out there this way – it feels like I unload a little weight every time a song is realized to its completion. Not only that, it gives me the strength to finally go ahead and write a blog post in its entirety.

The screen we call Grandma

I know this looks familiar. Our kids have a pretty strong relationship with this screen that is both touching and heartbreaking.
Every day I ask myself why I live so far away from my parents. I know so many of us do. In my case my parents live in Israel, and a life there at the moment feels complicated and intense in a way that we are not prepared to endure. Our careers are going well here and the kids have a good life with endless events and activities.
But I don’t have to watch every single drama out there to know what truly matters most: Love. Family.
And yet the years seem to move on and my oldest son is already 6 years old. He sees his grandparents twice a year (luckily they come to visit us) but it is not enough. I fantasize about weekly get togethers, Friday night dinners, a babysitting night, a brunch.
I crave seeing the way my parents gaze at my kids on a regular basis. Their love for the grandkids seems so pure and wise, without any difficult emotions that sometimes can accompany the feeling of love. My own vision of my kids can sometimes be clouded by exhaustion, anger, disappointment, ego. Seeing my kids through my mothers eyes reminds me of the beauty of it all right when I forget.

I have lived far away from my parents for the past 20 years but it was only when I had kids that I suddenly missed them desperately. It was precisely at the moment in which I became a mom that I relaxed into the role of being my parents’ baby. Until then I fought it.

So for Mothers Day I am offering you a free download of my song ‘Grandparents’ HERE. This song does not come close to conveying everything I feel about this topic. But the last line hints at the crux of it all – “And me, well I sure could use that hug too.”

Mom (and dad), we miss you. Happy grandmothers day. You are a grand mother.photo 2