Rants & Reflections

What To Do With School Photos

School photos: those annual visual mementos that kids groan about sitting for and parents groan about buying. They’re goofy, they’re posed, they’re stiff and mostly unflattering. Every year I spring for the cheapest package for each kid, and then stash away the envelope full of pictures because a) I have so many better pics to display in frames, b) how many people really want creepy pictures of my kids, and c) who actually carries photos in their wallet anymore anyway?

I still look back at my own school pics in horror — sportin’ a Dorothy Hamill haircut, a mouth full of metal, oversized specs — and remember the small black plastic combs the TD Brown photographer would…

I was standing at the checkout at the grocery store yesterday when a pretty, nicely-dressed lady around my age got in line behind me. I turned and smiled politely, and she smiled back. Her face then grew pinched and troubled as she confided, “I am so upset! A woman just yelled at me.”

Apparently she had been pushing her shopping carriage around the quiet, narrow-aisled store when a miserable woman with a daughter in tow started screaming that this lady had hit her. The lady was stunned, as she hadn’t felt her carriage hit anything.

“Well you ran over my foot!” the nasty woman claimed.

“Uhhh, I think I would’ve felt my carriage run over something…but I’m very sorry if I’ve bumped…

Writing a Torah

Wednesday is typically recipe day here on the blog. But I thought it was perhaps a bit sacrilege to share something food-related and yummy on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, when I and fellow Jews are spending the day worshipping and fasting for repentance.

So while we’ll be back to our regularly-scheduled recipe post next Wednesday, today I thought I’d share a more appropriate post from about three years ago, when our family was honored and blessed to participate in writing a new Torah. The experience was profound, spiritual and even a little mystical, and remains a memorable occasion for our family.

Read about it in “Doing A Mitzvah.” And if you’re observing the holiday today, I…

Try as I might, I can not create a more heartfelt tribute to the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance than I did last year in my Love Letter to NYC. Read it (or reread it) if you have a chance. It’s simple and evocative, and it’s still one of my favorite pieces of writing.

Poignant and personal as that post may be, however, it doesn’t come close to the book my oldest son wrote and illustrated on September 14, 2001. Ben was just six years old, and had begun first grade the week before. I remember him sitting down so earnestly to write at the computer, with his little Harry Potter glasses and his American flag lapel pin….

Brotherly Love

For the very first time, all four of my kids went off to different programs this summer: one went for a month to the same summer camp the gang has been going to for years; one attended a Spanish language immersion program at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania where he communicated only in the target language for a month; one went to a rigorous program at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania where he learned in-depth about the business of sports; and one spent five weeks in Washington, DC, where he took an undergraduate course at Georgetown in the mornings and did a Congressional internship on Capitol Hill in the afternoons,…

The Unlikely Bully

Picture these three scenarios:

• Your kid goes to school and someone belittles him about his disability in the cafeteria.

• Your kid is trying to make an alternative argument in a high school social studies class discussion about a hotly controversial national issue, but someone keeps suppressing him and talking over him loudly to further their own position.

• Your kid talks to someone at school about something important, and then he overhears what he said being repeated, laughed about and mocked to others.

Each one smacks of bullying, no?

Okay, now picture the “someone” in each of those scenarios is…a teacher? WHAT?!?!

Bullying. A hot topic in schools today, as well it should be. And I’m 100% on board that preventing it starts…

On the eve of Passover 5772, you can file this one under “Be Careful What You Wish For.” You see, throughout my childhood, I wasn’t particularly fond of Passover seders. My grandmother (and later, my mom) hosted enormous seders with aunts, uncles, cousins galore, and always a few “strays” as we called them—friends whose kids were with the in-laws that year, folks who were new to the community, acquaintances who weren’t able to travel to wherever home was.

The Haggadah reading was inevitably an interminable snorefest and the meal was culinary torture. Aside from my grandmother’s chicken soup with matzoh balls and the haroset (chopped apples mixed with nuts, sweet wine, cinnamon and a bit of honey), there was nothing…

Happy 5th Mammoversary to Me

It was five years ago today that I bade farewell to my dazzling double-Ds and awoke 11 hours later not only with a couple of cuter Cs, but with a whole new view of life. I chose to have a prophylactic mastectomy after losing my mom at age 63 to breast cancer and discovering I carried the BRCA-1 gene mutation, and like I always say: what my friends saw as a courageous decision, I just saw as good plain sense. Still do. Surgery day started out the most frightening day of my life and thankfully ended as one of the most meaningful-I have since carried with me an immutable sense of gratitude and blessing that I…

Me in Ten Questions

In honor of Leap Day, I’m joining up with some fellow bloggers for a Leap Around the Blogosphere, inspired by blogger Jessica from Look Who Found the Marbles. It’s a fun idea for readers to get to know us better by answering a list of questions about ourselves. Feel free to add your answers in the comments section, or create a post and add the URL in a comment. Here’s what I’ve got:

1. My childhood nickname was Annie. My family and some of my childhood friends still call me by that name. And no, it’s not because I was a moppet with curly red hair who belted “The sun’ll come out…tomorrow!”

2. If you want to spoil me…

Visiting prospective colleges with your high schooler is a lot like a wacky version of speed dating. Your kid gives them a bunch of basic information (who they are, where they’re from, what they’re interested in studying) and the colleges try to dazzle your kid with how cool, attractive and smart they are (their long and resplendent history, their incomparable academic programs, their celebrated faculty, their distinguished alumni and state-of-the-art facilities). And after giving them the once-over, you’re off to the next admissions office, filling out the next registration form, gathering the next information packet and listening to the next rep give a spiel designed in hopes of enticing and tantalizing the best of the best.

As a mom and…