Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Happy Mom Tip #4

Happy Mom Tips
By Rivka Caroline 

Happy Mom Tip #4
Streamlined Baby Gift Giving

You know the scenario already: Your friend/cousin/ neighbor gives birth. You want to get her something special, practical and personal. Not sure where to get the perfect item, you wait a little. And a little longer. And then you cringe when you realize it's the baby's first birthday and you still owe that newborn gift!

We've all been there and, in retrospect, it's way too many decisions to make!

It makes sense, then, to streamline the process and bypass the decision-making center in our brains and reduce GBGGA (Global Baby Gift Giving Anxiety). 

Here's how:

Simply decide on the one item that you love that also fits your budget. Then either stock up on them or always have the website handy and - voila! - you'll be delivering the gift before the mom has time to deliver the baby.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Becky's Bottom Line: My Balagan

Becky's Bottom Line
By Becky Brownstein

 "My stomach was so ginormous with my fourth that people would 
stop on the street and ask me if my stomach was real."


I have developed a theory. The first child is a change. Having a second child is an adjustment. Having a third child is an addition to the adjustment. Four is a crowd and five is a balagan (modern Hebrew, meaning "chaos" or "fiasco.") Past the balagan part are uncharted waters for me. For those superhero mothers who have passed five, I look up to you very highly.

Having my first child was a most wonderful occasion. I never wanted to let anyone else hold my baby. I wanted her all to myself. She was so perfect with her little nails and chubby arms and legs. Little did I know that I stunk, had blood shot eyes from no sleep, and an exorbitant amount of breast milk that refused to give me any relief. Let me explain a little more. My first daughter was born via an emergency C-section and was then rushed to an out of area hospital with a neonatal ICU. She had to stay there for five days. I was stuck in a hospital 20 miles away from her recovering from my Cesarean. It was pure agony. So I pumped my milk. I pumped every three hours. That's what they told me to do. When I was finally reunited with my baby I was so eager to get her to breastfeed! I was dying from pain. No one thought to tell me that newborns nurse for maybe TWO SECONDS!  I had so much milk! I couldn't leave the house from fear of springing a leak. But you have to stop and notice something here. That was my main concern. I didn't have any other children to take care of. I couldn't even think of leaving her in another room unattended while I bathed.

A little while later we were blessed with our second daughter. I was able to have a natural, peaceful birth with her. It was very magical. Then I went home. The magic disappeared. Laundering became my hobby as did wiping spit up with my socks and corralling a very  mischievous toddler. I had to figure out how to keep my toddler's already set schedule in place, while trying to figure out how to fit in my new baby's schedule. I also had to figure out how to keep everyone happy and rested. It was quite the adjustment and quite the tiring process. When I think back to those years, I don't remember sleeping a lot.

While I was in my ninth month with my third daughter, we bought a home. I realized the best time to move into a home is when the nesting hormone is in full swing. We were unpacked in about three weeks. I had also made a list of all the aesthetic adjustments our new residence would need, and listed them in order of importance. She was born beautiful and healthy. Another natural, peaceful birth. When I got home I wasn't overwhelmed. She was just an addition to the adjustment.  The schedule was set.  I fell right into the schedule and so did the baby. Well, kinda. She did have the cranky hour in the evenings.  But our new home came with an atrocious powder blue carpet all through the front rooms (this was priority one on the aesthetic list) that I would vacuum every night - she would hear the roar of the vacuum from her crib and fall asleep. If that didn't work, I'd rock her in the laundry room where she'd fall asleep from the hum of the hand-held vacuum still hanging on the wall. The older babies were already sleeping by then. I was okay to spend that vacuum time with her.

My fourth daughter was my biggest baby and the longest and hardest pregnancy and birth. She was due right before the summer, so my kids would be home for the majority of the hard newborn part. My stomach was so ginormous with her that people would stop on the street and ask me if my stomach was real. In my seventh month people would be like, “Any day now huh?” My reply would be, “Sorry buddy, three more months.” Nobody believed I would make it till my due date. When I would waddle through the corridor at my doctors office, everyone would rub my back and tell me I was doing great and was almost there. My birth with her started off peaceful and relaxed, until she got stuck coming out. I always envision her entrance into the world like a kid trying to pull on a shirt that's too small. The kid manages to get part of his face through the hole but gets majorly stuck because he prematurely stuck his shoulder in. His face is squished, looking out, his huge shoulder stuck right in there with it.  Needless to say my daughter's face was black and blue and GINORMOUS! The nurse called her a big blueberry. She weighed in at a whopping 10 lbs. 1 oz. Coming home with her has been blacked out from my mind. I assume for my own safety. Our minds are our own safety nets, so I assume it is for good reason. Carrying on.

My fifth child. G-d really made this time worth my while: I had a boy! The excitement of having variety made things so much better. Because my fourth daughter was so ginormous, and no one had a clue that her enormousness was going to happen, they were very strict on how far I could go with this pregnancy. I have a great relationship with my doctor and I was able to keep pushing deadline date. But, I could only push her off so long. I asked her “Why do you want to torture me with an induction?” Her response was, “I am torturing you?” She's great. Needless to say, it wasn't the most natural birth when it comes to how labor came about, but it was not a C-section either. Hey, I did have to keep my relationship with my doctor. Shes my ally when it comes to the whole giving birth thing.

Dealing with all five children is very very hard, especially when I had a newborn. I remember standing in my kitchen when I had only four children and I was on the phone with my sister. I think everyone kept coming over to me to report something. Like they spilled yogurt all over themselves, one sister is coloring on the wall with permanent marker, another sister is flushing too much toilet paper and so on. The point is, it was loud. And my sister said, “How do you handle it?” And I replied “I just laugh.” Some of the complaints are pretty funny. I wouldn't laugh in their face, but I would let out a chuckle here or there. Fast forward to having five children all being loud at the same time. I would call my sister and ask her “How am I going to handle this?” And she would reply, “Just laugh!” And she was right.

Bottom line is: Everything has to do with perception. Yes, I have a bunch of kids close in age. Yes, it is sometimes hard to deal with. Yes, it does feel like a balagan. But, this is the life I chose. These are the children I brought into the world to take care of. Sometimes putting on the rose colored glasses in the morning changes my day. It doesn't necessarily make it easier, but it changes the way I see things. And in changing the way I see things, it changes the way those things are handled. With the rose colored glasses, I envision myself as a construction worker buckling my tool belt before starting a job. I would never go to a job without a tool belt. I have to be prepared for the day ahead of me. That means anything can happen that day. I can't be afraid. And if that means my rose colored glasses make me see things in a comical way, I'll take it.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Viva Le Vou Chic: Tznius Has It's First Day At School

 A chic look into our levush
By Mor Binder

Come to LadyMama every week for Mor's take on all things modish and modest!
Read more about Mor on the author page!

----- ----- ----- ----- ----- 

Tznius Has Its First Day At School

I’ll never forget the first time I attempted to go to school dressed “modestly.” The record states it was my shortest day of school ever. It took a lot of determination and emotional strength to finally take the hem of a skirt that just about covered my tuchus down to one that easily covered my knees. My arms clung to the insides of my sweater, glued by the perspiration of the Australian mid-summer sun. If I was going to do tznius, I was going to do it all the way.

Legs shaking and heart racing, I walked into the school grounds internally palpitating in preparation of the social suicide I was about to commit. Suddenly, all my notions of standing up for what I believe in, being proud of my Jewish heritage (as the Chabad house had so deeply ingrained), flew out the window - more like, ran out the door. Beyond the glaze of my shell- shocked friends, I was left standing in the middle of the courtyard resembling those year-7 girls on their first day of high school, dwarfed by their oversized uniforms that end up being miraculously transformed into hip hugging leg baring promiscuous school dresses within 24 hours of the school years commencement.

My short lived episode with the world of tznius lashed a red mark across the mitzvah, and a whole two years passed before even the thought of approaching it resurfaced. Fear not however, for my introduction to the inside world of Lubavitch was just around the corner and with it a realization that to be tznius did not necessarily mean having to look and feel like a cupcake. Kudos to the immaculate dress sense that can be found in our local Chabad Houses, in the hubs of our centralised Lubavitch communities and - *gasp* - even in the dark confines of our seminaries. Among those long denim skirts and daggy sweatshirts came some savvy outfits that made leaving behind the Levi jeans, bonds singlets and havaina flip flops, less of a daunting concept.

As most cliché love stories go, this one too ends with a happy ending. For the hate felt towards such a dreaded deed turned into a deep love for the beauty of fabrics, fittings and all things fashion. Metallicas undershirts, boots worn all year round, Kookai skirts, the wonders of layering, the need for endless formal wear, vintage dresses, an eye to alter, the femininity of stockings, fitted blazers, sequenced cardigans, a-line denim skirts, patterned rain boots (Burberry or Target)...heck, Abercrombie sweatshirts - they were all aspects of the tznius wardrobe that were both necessities and accessories that opened up a world of creativity, femininity and individuality that achieved way more than any pair jeans could have.

I came to learn that the fashion we create for our community can be one that reflects our beliefs, taking only the crème de la crème of the wider fashion world and altering it to our standards. Chabad teacher Rabbi Paltiel recently said at a gathering, “Lubavitchers don’t go to college, but if they go, they have to be the best.” I guess you can say the same about fashion; while it's not our life’s focus, the amount of attention we do give to it must be enjoyed and pulled off with style. Viva Le Vou Chic!

On the theme of school, below are my preppy style inspirations, as well as some finds more within the average maidel's budget!

~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~

If only the reality of chic preppy school styles had been revealed to me earlier in life. Featured is a collection of such looks unaltered off the runway – modest and all. The timelessness of this style is undebatable and its ability to be paired with up to date accessories of each season maintains its credibility. Pearls, headbands, ribbons and scarves all add to the sophisticated ensemble. Winter wearers, feel free to team up with stockings and socks (stick to knee-highs if you’re opting for a slimmer look) of all types; patterened, lace, argyle, opaque, sheer. Stockings/ sock combos are bold and lift the notch on the preppy barometer. Boots serve to reduce the playfulness in such a piece but if summer is your season don’t shy away from experimenting with ballet flats, mary-janes and kitten heels.

Dolce and Gabbana 

Dolce and Gabbana 

Charles Nolan 

 Charles Nolan

 Jill Stuart 

~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
No wonder schools choose these as their staple food. Adding a blazer to any outfit lifts the sophistication bar at least 10 points. Crested or not, fitted or loose these toppers are bound to come in handy  weekdays, shabbos and everything in between.

Crepe boyfriend-fit blazer


~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
Plaid skirts work both formal and casual, depending on whether combined with a plain t-shirt or blouse. If finding knee length styles proves challenging, almost any second hand or vintage store you walk into should have a set. They can be bought very cheap and then altered for a slight fee to create a more modern cut.

Brown Plaid Skirt
Antipodium - www.liberty.co.uk

Covington Plaid Skirt 

~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ 

Coupled with a cute blouse, or sleeveless dress, cardigans prove their usefulness in a tznius wardrobe time and time again. Deeper cuts rather than more open neck styles are better suited if being used on a hot day as sleeves.

 Oscar De La Renta 
$1, 290
Urban Outfitters

Friday, June 25, 2010

Insincerely Sorry

 Insincerely Sorry
By Mimi Hecht

A pile of dirt sits aside a broom, spilled cheerios are glued all over the floor and drying laundry is succumbing to wrinkles on the dining room table when the doorbell rings.

You have just scanned the war-zone that is your home and made the smart decision that you'll take a much-needed rest before you turn into a cleaning cyclone. The morning was hectic and it's as if every one of your tasks exploded in mess. But for now, the disaster will have to wait. Oh, but so will the nap. Remember? The doorbell is ringing. You sigh an end-of-life "you got to be kidding me" kind of sigh - jaw dropped and shoulder slouched. You're not expecting any packages, but you're praying it’s just the UPS guy. He's the only person you wouldn't mind seeing your house like this.

"Who is it?" you ask, immediately regretting you didn't just ignore the door and make a tip-toed beeline to your room.

"It's Dina, open up!"

In the middle of the week, in the middle of the day, your neighbor has come to say hi. In the age of text messaging, you secretly wonder why on earth your beloved friend didn't send notice of her impending visit. But you open the door without revealing a hint of hesitation. And, actually, you show glee.

"Dina, hi! What a nice surprise!" (In your head your thinking "Surprise? Yes. Nice? No!")

She steps inside (the cheerios go crunch) and, in the moment of just-arrived silence, you start to feel embarrassed for subjecting Dina to the catastrophe that is your home. Before you can relax with Dina's presence, you must make the caveat sung across messy homes worldwide. You must clear the air (metaphorically, of course) before Dina makes conclusions about your ability to run a household, control your kids and your prowess as a do-everything-and-do-it-well certified woman. Before her eyes can properly assess the disaster-stuck region that is your humble - yes, extremely humble - abode, you have something to say. Unpreventable, out it comes.

"Sorry for the mess."

It is with these four words that women all over the world accept friends, foes and, yes, sometimes even the UPS guy, into their homes. It’s an explanation that must premise anyone's arrival into our world of clutter, grime, piles and spills. Like a red carpet of sorts, the apology is our respectful welcome. It seems that the most cleanly woman, and even the house worked on by maids all week, will have a mess to apologize for.
No matter the home, lifestyle, or personality; if you're a woman, chances are you've extended your “sorry”s for exposing an innocent arrival to what you believe to be an inexcusable mess.But deep down, are we really sorry? Does any woman, with all her roles and chores, genuinely get down on herself for not maintaining a consistently sparkling home? Whether we work in our out of the house, we are all working women. Our home is our office, our studio, our not-always-so-safe haven of family, food and frenzy. While it may be reasonable to expect of ourselves to clean at the end of the day, it’s preposterous to assume that our living quarters will always be presentable (especially for a surprise guest). When it comes to ourselves, we take the mess lightly, knowing that we can have everything back in order in no time. It's only when someone else is privy to the whirlwind that we suddenly act embarrassed. Another person's presence somehow makes us insecure. We feel judged, as if perhaps we're the only woman in the universe that has a home that looks like this.

Every woman, then, is a little two-faced. You see, we've all been on the receiving end of the apologizing host. We’ve all showed up to someone else's house only to hear the same insincere and obligatory “sorry” for the mess. One hundred percent of the time, how do we respond? “Oh, please! Stop apologizing.” We do this because, for one, the house doesn’t actually look that bad. Secondly, we immediately identify and can’t tolerate someone else feeling sorry – or feeling that they need to act like they’re sorry – for something that is completely normal. Full lives leave a mark. My house gets messy. Your house gets messy. Why even mention it? You might as well say, "I'm sorry for my life."

When will we stop faking apologies for the messes in our hectic homes? Probably never. It's sort of like the way we dismiss people when they tell us we look good (even when we might secretly agree). It's like we feel the burden of this silent expectation that has become etiquette. But at the very least, we should recognize the nonsense in apologizing for the disarray. The women who genuinely thinks she must excuse a mess when someone arrives at the door - if she thinks they actually deserve an apology - she is pardoning her life and should be embarrassed only for that. Always remember before you apologize: you are a superwoman regardless of the chaotic presentation of our home. And actually, you and I both know...our messy homes are only further proof of all our prowess. Come nightfall, things usually return to their original state. If someone happens to see things in the middle of the day's drama that is your beautifully busy life - yes, you'll probably say you're sorry. And when you do, just make sure to honor yourself and women everywhere by making sure your apology is completely, utterly and one hundred percent insincere.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Neshama & Nourishment: Pan-Cooked Garlic Herb Chicken

Neshama & Nourishment
By Liorah Abrams

Pan-Cooked Garlic Herb Chicken

Taste of Torah: Just like there are different methods for cooking foods, there are different paths to the service of Hashem. Each person must follow his or her own process, and let the warmth of Torah prepare them for accomplishing their greater purpose.


Large ovenproof pan with lid (no plastic handles!)

Small mixing bowl


4 boneless chicken breasts

Pam spray

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

2 tsp. paprika

1 Tbsp. dried rosemary

1 Tbsp. dried thyme

4 garlic cloves

2 Tbsp. chicken soup stock (powder)

2 cups of water


1. Preheat oven to 450°.

Mix salt, pepper, rosemary and thyme together in a bowl. Rub into chicken cutlets.

Generously spray pan with Pam, place over medium heat, add chicken.

2. Pan sear chicken on stovetop for 4 – 5 min on each side (until slightly golden-brown).

Mix soup stock into water and add mixture to the pan. Turn heat up to high, and cook until liquid begins to simmer.

3. Coarsely dice garlic and add to pan. Cover and place in oven for 15 – 20 min. Be careful when removing from oven – handle will be VERY hot!

Drizzle liquid over chicken and place garlic pieces on top to serve.

Note: The leftover liquid and garlic make EXCELLENT flavoring for mashed potatoes, or sauce to pour onto green beans.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Knesset Bill Could Ban Too-Skinny Models

By Allison Kaplan Sommer
Israel can point to one indisputably successful international export, which so far, no one has shown any interest in boycotting: drop-dead gorgeous models.

Continue here: http://blogs.forward.com/sisterhood-blog/128863/

Happy Mom Tip #3: Don't Drop the Friendship Ball

Happy Mom Tip #3
Don't Drop the Friendship Ball
By Rivka Caroline
Would you love to have lunch with friends but don't have the time? Don't deny yourself. These are essential elements for a balanced life. Be creative how to work it into your schedule. Consider combining work and fun by working out together. Or take the children out. Consider hiring a babysitter to visit with single friends. Don't think that you'll save time by minimizing fun with old friends - you're only human and human beings need old friends who knew us before our shoulders had spit up on them.


Come back to LadyMama.org for Rivka's weekly 
tips on exporting stress and importing fun! 
Read more about Rivka on the author page

Monday, June 21, 2010

Becky's Bottom Line: Genetics

Becky's Bottom Line
By Becky Brownstein

Genetics is a funny thing. Genes are almost a way for G-d to show us his sense of humor. Let me explain. I received my humor gene from my father. Don't get me wrong, my mother has a sense of humor too; just not the telling jokes kind. She knows how to laugh and when to laugh. But my father was a funny guy. I also got his hands and feet. That totally sucks since, y'know, he was a guy. Most of my life I never thought I got anything from my mother (except for her skin which I am grateful for) until I was going through child birth.

I went through the centuries old form of torture called back labor. Anyone who has had back labor knows what I mean when I say that I would rather run into a wall over and over and over again, than to have to endure back labor. I had it with all my kids. EVERY-SINGLE-ONE! Want to know why? Genetics. Hah!

When I was pregnant for the first time I experienced everything the books say you “might” experience. Morning sickness, bloating, sciatica, bursitis of the hips, stretch marks, insane weight gain, constant nose bleeds, the sprouting of varicose veins, and the inability to get comfortable for the ENTIRE ninth month. My mother? Never experienced any of those. After I gave birth and experienced the worst pain EVER, called back labor, I told my mother all about it. I told her that this jack hammer kept ramming into my lower back causing me to want to jump out a window, but knock myself out first so I won't feel the intolerable pain the entire way down. She smiled, let out a little laugh and said “Oh Becky, you got what I have. A posterior cervix.” (Sorry if saying “cervix” is making you uncomfortable, but we do have 'em). “Okay mom, so what you're telling me is that I am going to go through that every single time I have a baby?” “Yep. And so did I.” Talk about payback. “What if I just apologize right now for all my craziness? Doesn't that help? Will my stretch marks disappear?”

I'm not even going to mention the fact – OK, I'll mention the fact – that my blood type is Rh negative, thanks to my loving mom. Since my husband's blood is Rh positive I have to get injections every time I am pregnant. I have to have them just in case the baby I am carrying has positive blood. If the baby I am carrying does in fact have positive blood, my body could attack the baby as a foreign substance. After giving birth, my babies have their Rh factor checked, and if they are positive I have to have yet another injection. But just as a precaution. Guess what? Every single one of my children have been positive. Yipee. Did I mention I hate shots?

Of all the things I could have had, G-d had to pass on the torture gene and the absence of the Rh factor. Of course, since y'know, G-d is way smarter than I am, I won't challenge Him. He does have a plan and I am sure there is a reason. I am hoping there is a reason. But because of my rational thinking, I started to realize the genetics that come into play with my own children. They are all Rh positive and the majority of them are girls. They don't have to worry about that when they have their own babies. But the posterior cervix....

Along the genetic line their personality traits come into play. My kids are all jokesters. They laugh hysterically at anything. I love it. I love that they can be goofy and funny and laugh at their own mistakes. I love how my second daughter has my husbands feet. It's one of the distinct features that connects them. I love how my son has my hands and feet, but looks just like his father. They each have a feature that is a distinct trait that connects them to us, but makes them into their own person. It is these features that we share with them that makes them into the special individuals that we love so much. All their personalities are intertwined because they came from the same parents, but it's their individuality that makes them each special to us and those around them.

Bottom line is: We get what we get and we don't get upset. We are who we are. My children have some of the same traits that I have judged myself so harshly over, like being short or not having elegant hands. These traits are what link us together. My traits don't seam so bad when I see my own children, who I love dearly, with those same traits I despised so much. And I know for myself, it molds them into who they are and makes me appreciate what it is we both share.

Come back to LadyMama every week for Becky's hilarious and candid take on being a mother of five! Read more about Becky on the author page.

Friday, June 18, 2010

In Support of Silly Bandz

By Mimi Hecht

If you’re over the age of eighteen, chances are you’re a bit out of the loop. You’ve seen the flashy colors, but are clueless about the craze. You have no idea that, right now, kids all over the country are saving their allowance and going hysterical for the latest fashion trend - a rubber band. But as a closer look will tell, it’s not just any rubber band…

The new trend hooking our kids is called “Silly Bandz,” a silicone band that is die-molded into a variety of different friendly shapes like musical instruments, dinosaurs and sports items. The bands are stretched and worn as bracelets, but return to their original shape when taken off. If they ever take them off, that is. Since this past April, when BCP Imports (creator of the Livestrong Band) distributed them to over 8,000 stores, kids have been stacking them up to their elbows and trading them like collectibles. Parents are racing to get a hold of more for their kids’ collections and stores are running out of stock in the blink of an eye. The popularity of the trendy rubber bands won’t stop, well, stretching.

But just as popular as the actual trend is the predictable response of parents and schools, who are reacting to the craze with a roll of the eyes...or even scorn. Some parents are refusing to let their kids succumb to “just another ridiculous fad” and teachers all over the country are banning the bands from their classroom, complaining they’re too distracting. Apparently the bracelet creator had some foresight with the name; everyone but the wearers themselves thinks Silly Bandz are exactly that - silly.

But perhaps, as ever-so-mature adults, we are a little too quick to disregard our kids’ youthful obsessions. When given some thought, the Silly Bandz are actually a very reasonable trend worthy of our children’s liking (okay, mania). Here’s my case for Silly Bandz. (And no, I am not being paid for my endorsement - the now millionaire creator Robert Croak doesn’t exactly need my support!)

The great thing about Silly Bandz is they they’re a “gotta-have” that’s more than about simply showing you have it. It’s about how you have it. For an age group that is all about self-expression, the Bandz support individuality like few other current fads. Kids actually partake in choosing the bracelets they most identify with. The musician will stack his arm with instruments; the sea-creature lover will collect dolphins and penguins; the western-inspired kid (okay, weird, but still) will don the cowboy hat and horse. In many ways, kids can look at their friend’s collection and know just a little bit more about them. They’re a great way for kids to converse about hobbies, memories and the things they care about. Moreover, kids are applying their imagination to the way they choose to sport the craze – on key chains, hung from a necklace or displayed in lockers. What could be better? In a culture where self-expression isn’t always individualistic and certainly not always healthy, this is just one good reason parents should support the bracelet craze.

Another - though certainly less altruistic - motivation to like your child’s new fashion interest is that it’s light on the wallet. A pack of 24 Silly Bandz is under five bucks. If you’re disciplined about buying things for your kids, you can practically tell your kids to go purchase it themselves. Just be thankful it’s not the iPad or a Nintendo Wii that they can’t do without. You won’t have to give a whole speech about losing it, and you certainly can let them share it with friends (what a concept!).

It’s certainly true that obsession - no matter how neutral the subject- can be unhealthy. But, as the Silly Bandz creator knows best, kids are simply hardwired to get obsessed. Just remember when you were ten years old. Nothing was going to get between you and your slap-bracelet, Gak or Beanie Baby (choose your generation) - and you just had to have a ton. All the more so with today’s trend-conscious kids; there’s nothing you can do to curb their enthusiasm. While teachers should be regulating the trading and distraction of Silly Bandz in the classroom, they shouldn’t be banning them altogether. Kids get enough slack to be further bombarded with criticism over a cheap rubber band that is the current mark of fun and individuality.

Parents - and especially Jewish parents - are always cautious about the trends that find their way to our vulnerable kids. But adults need to learn not to scare from every kid-craze. Each trend that captures their devotion deserves a closer look to determine the real dangers or - as in the case of Silly Bandz - possible virtues. And given the totally harmless and even good-natured trend dazzling our kids right now (until next month’s new thing) you have nothing to be up-in-arms about. Unless, of course, up your arms are Silly Bandz.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Neshama & Nourishment: Fast and Fab "Mini" Chocolate Chip Cookies

Neshama & Nourishment
By Liorah Abrams 
[This is not an actual photo of this recipe! Try it yourself to see what they look like exactly! :)]

Fast and Fab “Mini” Chocolate Chip Cookies
"As children, we are rewarded with treats for saying words of Torah. As adults, we must continue to find the sweetness in Torah, and then as Torah fills our lives, so will sweetness." ~ Liorah

You’ll Need:

* medium mixing bowl
* baking sheet/tray
* cooling rack


* 1 cup Brown Sugar
* 2 tsp. Oil (vegetable or canola)
* 1/4 cup Margarine (I like Smart Balance Light)
* 2 Egg Whites
* 1 tsp Vanilla
* 1/2 tsp Salt
* 1/4 tsp Baking Soda
* 1 1/2 cups Flour (I like using 1 cup white “bread” flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat, but it

works well with all white or all wheat as well)

- 1 cup Chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 375˚
2. Combine brown sugar, oil and ‘softened’ margarine. Mix these ingredients together until nicely creamed.

2. Add egg whites, vanilla, salt and baking soda, and mix well.

3. Add Flour and mix. As soon as the ingredients look well blended, add the chocolate chips and mix in well.

4. Line baking tray with parchment paper and spray with Pam. Use a teaspoon to scoop small piles of dough on to tray.

5. Bake at 375˚ for 7-9 minutes. Place on cooling rack to cool. Cookies will appear a little soft when taken from the oven, but will continue to ‘firm up’ as they cool.

----- ----- ----- ----- ----- 

Visit LadyMama every Thursday for "Neshama & Nourishment" recipes from the kitchen of Liorah Abrams! 
Read more about Liorah on the author page!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Happy Mom Tip #2

Happy Mom Tip #2
Steps To A Happy Car
By Rivka Caroline

1) Keep a pack of babywipes within arms reach.

2) Keep old plastic bags in the passenger side door and use as garbage bags

3) Discipline yourself to do a clean out as you fill gas.

4) Teach yourself and your passengers of all ages to never leave the car empty handed (unless they are still in diapers).

5) Do a thorough cleaning every Sunday.

6) Keep a staple of almonds or granola bars in the glove compartment for emergency munchies.

7) If you're a parent, keep a few diapers and a change of outfit in a hidden spot.

8) Keep a pen and paper handy in the glove compartment in the unlikely case of a fender bender when your fingers will be shaking too hard to fiddle with your blackberry.

9) Most importantly, realize that you have the potential to be a hero in your child's/ grandchild's/ niece's/nephew's eyes if you take them for a whiz through a drive-through car wash. A small price to pay for instantly becoming someone's favorite person of the week!

----- ----- ----- ----- ----- 
Come back to LadyMama.org for Rivka's weekly tips on 
exporting stress and importing fun! 
Read more about Rivka on the author page

TWO MINUTES (Gimmel Tammuz)

This year marks the 16th anniversary of The Rebbe's passing.

Reflections on the anniversary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe's passing, when people 
from all over the world and of all walks of life flock to pray by his grave-site...
...even for only the allotted two minutes. 
Written Tuesday, June 19, 2007

On the way.

Niggunim are playing.

The vintage tape is unclear, but the Rebbe's voice is strong. Relevant. Urgent.

Out my window, the Jewish faces zoom by.

We have begun the march.

We're on our way.

There's a lot of traffic for 10 pm.

"Are they going to the Ohel?"

"Don't think so. They're black."

"Ya, you'd be surprised."

The Rebbe was everyone's Rebbe.

We are quite the flock.


I'm trying to prepare.

I'm thinking, "Who is the Rebbe? What is this all about?"

I'm thinking, "Who am I? What am I all about?"

In line.

So it's not just me.

We all want to be Chassidim.

The men. The women. The young. The old. The bearded. The shaven. The skirt. The pants. No one's claiming rights here. G-d wants us all, and the Rebbe proved it.

I watch the policemen.

While they see a graveyard, we see life.

Crazy crazy Jews.

I write my letter.

My heart spills in black ink.

From, Miriam bas Leah Simcha.

Your proud soldier.

I open my Tehillim. Always the right words.

All of a sudden, someone wants to use my phone. There's no such thing as strangers in a line like this, a line with this purpose. Sure, here's my phone. And here's my pen. And I have paper, too. Hi Doris from Iran. Nice to meet you. My name is Mimi, or Miriam.

A baby is crying. We all feel the mother's needs. Afterall, Chassidim are one family. Come here, nurse your baby. We'll block you. The crying stops. The family of hundreds feels calm again.

Inching closer. No rush. A calm focus.

A young boy rests his head on Tatty's shoulder. Tatty is telling a story to an older man. It seems to be this man's first time. His eyes are glistening.

The Rebbe is on the video. He is talking. He is singing.

I want to pluck him from the video.

Rebbe, why are you on a screen?

A pain in my heart longs for closeness.

And suddenly I am being rushed in.

I hold the line to drop some coins.

And here I go.


In the womb.

I look around.

Two headstones surrounded by life.


Prayers. Tears. Gratefulness.

Hashem, look at your children.

Just look at us.

We always show up.

Even for two minutes.

And two minutes is enough.

We're on Rebbe-time. Each second is packed.

Besides, when you're face to face like this, the truth comes out.

Time forces honesty. No words are extra.

The depths come rushing to my lips.

Hashem, I just want to do good.

I want to be good.

Throat tightening.

Eyes wetting.

G-d, I want to do good.

Lips tighten.

A tear.

Hashem, I want to be good.

Cheeks flushed.

Eyes moist.

Hashem, be with me.

I want good.

And here's what I'm going to do.

A holy conversation. Tehillim.

I read my letter. I scatter the pieces.


And I'm being rushed to my left.


I feel humbled.

I feel light.

I feel strong.

I feel heard.

I feel close.

Going home.

Niggunim are playing.

The vintage tape is unclear, but the Rebbe's voice is strong. Relevant. Urgent.

Out my window, the Jewish faces zoom by.

We have begun the march.

We're on our way.


General info/stories/etc:
The Rebbe

My piece from Gimmel Tammuz 2006:
The Rebbe Unplugged

One groups visit to the Ohel:
Return of the Souls

Monday, June 14, 2010

Becky's Bottom Line: Superheroes, Soldiers and Mothers

Becky's Bottom Line
By Becky Brownstein

Superheroes, Soldiers and Mothers

Someone asked me recently to tell them of an experience that made me believe in my prowess as a mom. My first thought was, “Huh? Prowess? What's a prowess?” Being that I watched the movie “Seven” with a dictionary when I was 15, I decided to rely once again on Webster.

Main Entry: prow·ess
Pronunciation: \ˈprau̇-əs also ˈprō-\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English prouesse, from Anglo-French pruesse, prowesse, from prou
Date: 13th century
1 : distinguished bravery; especially : military valor and skill
2 : extraordinary ability

After I read this definition, I realized how prowess describes not only soldiers and super heroes, but mothers as well. Let me break it down.

Distinguished Bravery:
·        I wipe butts. Not just my own bottom, my kids' butts. Not only do I wipe my own kids' butts, but if one of my children has a play date, I wipe someone else's kid's butt as well.

·        I use public germ infested bathrooms. Not for myself of course, but when my kid has to go, they have to go. Of course, I don't just let them park it; I have to somehow sanitize the place so my kid won't come home with some rare disease that I made up in my head.

·        I take car trips. Sometimes these car trips are excruciating, but we will all have a good time, darn-it, even if I have to pull over  untill the fighting stops.

·        I clean up vomit. There is nothing braver than cleaning vomit. It's worse than cleaning up raw egg that slipped off the counter.

·        I cut toenails, wipe noses and everything that goes along with that.

·        I change HORRENDOUS diapers.

·        I wake up every hour to breast feed when I have a newborn. I give up sleep! I give up my own restful hours to take care of my children...and sometimes my husband.

Do you know why? Because I am a mother. It's not even like we take a vow before we have kids. We have a marriage contract of course, but there is no contract binding us to wipe butts, boogers and lose sleep. We do it because we have distinguished bravery. Our children need us. And by golly, we sure need them.

Extraordinary Ability:
I used to think I had extraordinary ability because I can do that weird double jointed finger thing. I also thought I was extraordinary because I could touch my toes without bending my knees. Fast forward to now.

·        Now I have extraordinary ability because I can function as a semi normal member of society with a mere 4 hours of sleep.

·        My house can look not so put together – okay let's be honest, a total disaster zone – all week, but miraculously be all clean and put together for Shabbos. Now that is ability.

·        I make dinner every night. Ability.

·        I pushed out a 10 pound 1 oz. baby (yes, every ounce counts). Extraordinary ability.

·        And on and on and on…

Bottom line is, I am not alone in this. There are so many mothers, who have so much bravery and ability. It’s not one specific experience that makes us acknowledge our prowess as a mom; just the fact that we are mothers and that we took that unsaid vow after carrying, nurturing and then pushing out our babies, gives us the defining term “prowess” as a freebee. It comes with the package. Like one of those toys in the cereal box that everyone sticks their dirty hands in, to fish out. Some mothers have PROWESS and some have prowess, but we all have it. It’s that simple. “Distinguished bravery” and “extraordinary ability” just come with the name “Mommy."
----- ----- ----- ----- ----- 
Come back to LadyMama every week for Becky's hilarious and candid take on being a mother of five! Read more about Becky on the author page.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Wrong Way On The Subway

By Mimi Hecht 

I boarded the subway with my husband, child and a deepening well of anger. It had been four long days since Israel’s raid on the flotilla of so-called “peace-activists” heading to break the Gaza blockade. Four days of international criticism. Four days of media falsehood. Four days of serious wake-up calls as to the nature of our enemies. Having just heard about a spontaneous pro-Israel rally in Times Square, my husband and I saw it as a responsibility hidden in the helplessness. We headed out, baby in tow.

I sat on the cold subway seats with my heart boiling. Headed towards a chance of uniting with my brethren and representing my Homeland, all I could think about was Israel. Past. Present. A bleak future. The Palestinians had won again, completely succeeding in humiliating Israel and turning the world against us. Everyone was showing their true colors. No one was our friend. My mind pondered every single hate-speech, every suicide attack, the voices of Muslims calling for Holocaust. Generations of anti-Semitism - from Hitler to mere university students - echoed in my mind like a hypnotizing slide-show.

And there was my son, happily cooing in his stroller, so comfortable in his simple and safe world. On his blank slate of babyhood, everything and everyone is good. He cries only to be fed, then eats and returns to euphoria. He loves the world and the world love him back. He knows not of his mothers worry for his future as a Jew. He cannot smell my fear.

We are twenty minutes from Times Square when a dark, muscular and heavy-haired young man enters our subway car and sits across from my loaded thoughts. He looks Jewish. But then the Arabic script tattooed on his sculpted arms tells me otherwise. He is Muslim. I look at my husband, pointing out the young man’s presence with my eyes. I look back at our new rider. Just his comfortable posture across from me makes me feel like a victim. Suddenly, I am filled with hate.

With my modest attire and headscarf and my husbands beard and Tzitizis, we are so obviously Jewish. With his Semitic looks and Arabic tattoo, he isn’t either incognito. The world knows us as enemies and yet, here we are, sharing subway space and averting each others eyes. Current headlines are practically scripted on our foreheads for everyone to see. We could both be on our way to Times Square, and I imagined how even more poignant the moment would be when we both exited the subway to find our ways on opposite sides of the rally. I sat with a feeling contrary to that which I would normally feel; afraid to share a personal moment with a passerby. For he wasn’t exactly a stranger, rather an enemy I felt I knew all too well. While I had never met him personally, I projected unto him the voices of Arafat, Ahmadinejad and every other extremist voice trying to wipe my People from the earth.

While he intensely reads his magazine - no doubt some pro-Palestinian propaganda - I enter a mental conversation with my unknowing fellow New Yorker. I mentally spit on him. I blame him. I quietly, but vehemently, despise him. His force. His ignorance. His nation.

My bitter thoughts are interrupted by my child’s playful noises. He is flirting with the Muslim. Of all the interesting people on the train, he had to choose him! I pretend to ignore it, afraid to interact. But then I see the young man returning my son’s playful initiations. His serious face has revealed a warm and sincere smile and his voice softly and happily repeats a baby-toned “hello” to my son. Admittedly, I melt. Just like I do when anyone shares a happy moment with my child. My fellow rider all of a sudden transformed from a vengeful Arab into a peaceful, child-loving, upright citizen. Through my child, we are unavoidably connected, even for just this moment. My disgust disappears. I am surprised and relieved.

With my son’s smile opening a channel of warmth and humanity, I was awakened to the ugliness of my naked instincts. As a Jewess fearful for my sons future in an anti-Semitic world, how can I myself be so ignorant as to project hatred onto every Muslim passerby? Much of the world is educated with anti-Israel propaganda. They are fed lies intended on creating anti-Semitic warriors. But if I too senselessly hate, how am I different? I can’t walk around – and certainly not in the melting pot that is New York – holding hatred in my heart ready to unleash at every seemingly guilty Muslim. While my emotions may sprout indiscriminate hatred, I must educate myself – go beyond the stereotypes. Who exactly is my enemy? Where is the enemy?
The world hates us. We won’t win by simply hating them back. And yet, had it not been for my lighthearted and innocent child, the rage that I was directing at this Muslim would have known no end. When he got off a few stops before us, I caught a glimpse of the “propaganda” reading material he had been so intently focused on – a New York Times crossword puzzle.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Long skirts making a comeback?

“They make me feel tall and elegant and I like their feeling of movement."

Check out this article from the Fashion & Style section of the New York Times!

Neshama & Nourishment: Half-and-Half Challah

Neshama & Nourishment
By Liorah Abrams 

Visit LadyMama every Thursday for "Easier Than It Looks" recipes from the kitchen of Liorah Abrams! 
Read more about Liorah on the author page

----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Half-and-Half Challah
"Just as the water (Torah) helps the yeast to rise, so may it help our families to grow into something greater, from which we all are nourished." ~ Liorah


one x-large mixing bowl
one wooden spoon
measuring cups and measuring spoons
baking pans or sheets
cooling rack


4 1/4 cups  warm water
1 three-pack  active dry yeast
a pinch  white sugar
5  eggs
1 cup  canola or vegetable Oil
1 cup   dark brown sugar, packed well
1 cup   wheat germ
3 Tbsp  salt
5 lbs  flour - appx. half bread flour, half whole wheat flour
1/4 cup  oats - instant or old fashioned

Prep (30 Min):

1. Pour two cups of warm water into the mixing bowl.
Sprinkle a pinch of white sugar and a pinch of flour into water.
Gently pour yeast on top, rotating packages to spread grains over surface of water.
Allow to sit for 10 - 20 min, or until yeast is well activated.

2. Add eggs, oil, dark brown sugar, wheat germ and salt.
Use spoon to break yolks and stir mixture until sugar has dissolved.
Add half of the flour (the bread flour half) and stir until it is wet.
Add most of the rest of the flour, stirring until it becomes too thick to do so.

3. As you add the last of the flour, mix the dough by kneading. Dough should be slightly sticky without being overly gooey - it may take some patience to reach this point.
Knead the dough for 2 - 5 minutes after it has become fully mixed. (This can be done inside the bowl or on a flat surface).Form into large ‘blob’ and place in the bottom of the mixing bowl. Cover and leave to rise in a warm place.*

4. Dough should rise to more than double its original size - when it does, push it down, flip it and re-cover it.**

5. Take Challah (remove a small piece and make the blessing.)
Shape dough into 4 to 6 loaves and sprinkle with oats.
Grease your pan(s) by spraying them with Pam and then sprinkling a thin layer of flour on top.

6. Bake the loaves at 350˚- 365˚ F (depending upon your oven) for 35-45 min, checking frequently after 35 min.

When finished, remove from pan(s) and cool on rack for as long as necessary.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Happy Mom Tip #1

Happy Mom Tips
It's about balancing our lives to find our shoulders soft and relaxed...
By Rivka Caroline

Come back to LadyMama.org for Rivka's weekly tips on 
exporting stress and importing fun! 
Read more about Rivka on the author page

----- ----- ----- ----- ----- 

Happy Mom Tip #1 

1) Any white shirt that is yellow under the arms

2) Any book that makes you feel badly about yourself when you look at it

4) Packages of flour, sugar, pasta or anything that's been open for longer than three months

5) Last year's spices

6) Clothing that makes you feel bad about your body or your life

7) Shoes that hurt

8) Old mismatched towels that you're keeping 'just in case'

9) Those 28 tiny bottles of body lotion you swiped from hotels and have never gotten around to using

10) The gifts you disliked as soon as you opened them but have felt too guilty to get rid of

13) The wrapping paper from said gifts

14) Any broken lamp or appliance that would cost more to fix than to replace

16) Anything you use occasionally - pliers, staple remover, apple corer - that you have more than one of

17) Any photograph you don't want your grandchildren to remember you by! 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Becky's Bottom Line: We Can Move Mountains

Becky's Bottom Line

By Becky Brownstein 

Come back to LadyMama every week for Becky's hilarious and candid take on being a mother of five! 
Read more about Becky on the author page.

----- ----- ----- ----- ----- 


After giving birth, I felt like I could do anything. The first time it happened was so thrilling! The adrenaline that pumped through me made me want to jump out of that hospital bed and run through the halls. Move mountains? Sure. It was an all time high. But then the doctor discharged me and the pediatrician discharged my baby. I was standing there holding my beautiful bundle and the free diapers and hemorrhoid cream they let me take. I was told to go home and do everything myself. “But, I never had a baby before. What if I put it somewhere and forget where I put it?” The nurse reassured me that babies are not like car keys or cell phones. They let you know when they need something.

When I got home with her, I had no idea what I was in for. Of course I read all the books. I was already a pregnancy expert after signing up with every single baby site there was. I got weekly updates. I sat in Barnes and Noble and read any book I was able to find. At my doctor appointments I would talk about anything that came to mind - one of those things being an epidural. I openly told my doctor that I did not want an epidural. She looked at me kinda shocked and said “Are you sure about that Rebecca?  Go into labor with an open mind so you don't get disappointed.” I scoffed at her. What did she know? I mean, she kinda was my doctor, but HAH! I knew much better. I read a book about it.  Needless to say, after many hours of laboring and no progression, I was induced and had an epidural. Come on, I'm not a martyr. But the whole thing ended in an emergency c-section. I never read the c-section chapters. They weren't supposed to be for me.

My mother-in-law came to help me, then my mother. Then my mother-in-law sent my sister-in-law to help. Those were good times – except for the c-section part. But then they all left. The way I see myself and my husband back then is like watching two people fumble in the dark. We had no idea what we were doing. I didn't know what the rules were on anything baby related. I didn't know that after you give birth you give half your brain cells to your kid. So here I was constantly forgetting things like dishes, laundry, and showering. Mistakes. There were lots of those.

I used to think the cause of  postpartum depression was trying to fit back into your pre-pregnancy clothes. Can you believe that I actually brought a pre-pregnancy skirt to the hospital to wear home?! I know, so stupid. I met a wise woman at a function I attended after giving birth. She saw me snacking on carrots and she asked how old my baby was. I told her she was just a few weeks old. She said, “I hope you're not making yourself crazy about dieting.” I looked at her and my eyes welled up. I told her that my clothes don't fit. Her response was, “So buy new clothes!” Genius! I bought new clothes.

Having a second daughter shortly after the first was quite the traumatic experience. Mostly because I had to learn all new mommy techniques. Don't get me wrong, I couldn't wait to have another baby because I wanted my dream birth to happen (which thankfully did).  But, how was I supposed to take two kids to the store? In an attempt to figure it out, I went to the store. I put my newborn into the Baby Bjorn and my toddler into the cart. They were both fine. I wasn't. It was winter. I had my coat on, my purse on my shoulder, a baby on the front and a tall kid in the cart.  The baby kept kvetching so I had to walk with a jump and somehow manage to hold her pacifier in while I tried to keep my purse on my shoulder and see over my toddlers head (I'm of the short variety). Stores are heated. The outside isn't. Where was I supposed to put my coat after I got in?

Now that my first born is seven, I have evolved. When I have young babies, I stay home during the day and save the food shopping for evening. Instead of food shopping being one of the many chores on my daytime To-Do list, it is now a time for me to peruse the aisles and zone out. Never in my life did I  think that perusing the aisles at Wal-Mart would be like walking in an oasis. That reminds me of the time I was in the vegetable section deep in thought when the vegetable guy (you know the one who refills the crates?) saw me and said “Smile, it can't be that bad!” I looked at him and said, “Sir, I am making mental menus right now and concentrating on the fact that I have no children with me. Do you know how much concentration that takes?” I don't think he has children because he had no idea what I was talking about.

Evolving from the first kid to subsequent kids, in my opinion, makes for better parenting. With each kid comes learning experiences. I learned to patch up holes in the wall, repaint colored-on surfaces, super glue anything, know which cleaning products remove which stains, know that how long the kids have been quiet is an indicator of how much damage I can expect to find, remove cracked tile from the floor, fix a toilet, change a diaper with one hand while the kid is running away, and somehow manage to serve dinner on time.

Bottom line is, the first kid is thrilling and each kid after is even more thrilling. Watching each personality form from the moment I brought them home to listening to them fight with each other as they grow up, is priceless. But whats more thrilling is watching my own personality change over time. I'm not the same parent  I was in the beginning (even though I refuse to believe that I have aged at all since I got married.) Mothers really can move mountains. We shift them a little more each day.