Category Archives: Children

Pick an after school activity and stick with it

[I wrote this post at the end of June, but I didn’t get around to posting it at the time. I suppose it’s fortuitous because as the year starts and parents start looking for activities for their kids, I would like to think that this will resonate more right now.]

The dance recital

My daughter (middle, green dress) in her dance recital

June 22, 2014: Last night I watched my 10-year-old daughter perform in her fifth annual dance recital and she was sensational, as were all the other dancers. Last week I watched my son playing in the championship game of his baseball league and he’s getting ready to travel to Italy to play on the Israel National baseball team.

As I sat last night and watched the girls from 12th grade bidding farewell to the dance studio where some of them had danced for 14 years, and had performed magnificently last night, one thing became clear to me: Kids must carefully choose an after-school activity when they are young and stick to it for as long as they can because it’s a precious gift that will shape and change their lives in a way that no school subject can.

As someone who is deeply involved in Israel baseball, and having been through many years of dance with my daughter, I have identified two types of participants: There are what I call the “testers”, kids who float from activity to activity each year, trying each one out like they are small dishes on a tasting menu in a restaurant. They never develop any real skill or ability. Instead of sticking with it, they give up and move onto the next activity without a thought. Sadly, often their parents encourage this flitting, and don’t see the disservice they are doing in not encouraging their children to keep going until they reach a level of expertise that the kids (and their parents) will be proud of.

baseball pitching

My son pitching on the Israel National baseball team

Then there are the “perseverers”. These are the kids who find something they enjoy and instead of just getting a taste, they joyfully gorge themselves on the entire meal and are the more fulfilled for it. These kids are opening up new worlds for themselves. Whether it’s baseball or dancing or karate or chess, these kids learn so much and blossom into human beings who exist on a level above the mundane.

I see the dancers who, even at a young age, realize that the hours and hours of extra rehearsal pay off in professional-looking shows that wow audiences. When the older dancers help the younger girls with their make-up and costumes, even though they also have to make sure they are ready for their own dances, they understand the value of leadership and become role models for the young girls to look up to. And the younger girls in turn strive to become those older, more responsible dancers.

I watch the baseball players, who have committed themselves to what started as an after school activity, coming out virtually on a daily basis to practice, to hone their skills, to become better players and to help each other succeed. They’ve developed their own community of players who understand the value of hard work, discipline, and commitment. Their coaches develop not only their sports skills but also instil in them the values of team work, responsibility and sportsmanship. This dedication not only turns them into outstanding sports-people, but it sets them up for life as conscientious young people who understand the value of hard work, commitment and being a good person.

While after school activities (unfortunately) aren’t mandatory, I feel militant about the need for every child to make this commitment because I’ve seen from up close how much value this seemingly innocuous choice can have. So pick an activity, stick with it, be the best you can be. These will be some of the best days of your lives, these memories will last forever, and you will be a better person for it.

 

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14 Reasons Your Parents Are Lucky That You Are A DANCER!!

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Bye bye, kitchen

Tomorrow I say goodbye to my kitchen. After nearly 12 years of devoted service to me and my family, it is being ripped out and replaced with a shiny new, white kitchen.

I’ve been dying for a new kitchen for so long, that I didn’t think that I would feel so sentimental about saying goodbye to the old one. But I am. As I work to remove dishes, plates, cups and trays from the slowly buckling shelves, I can’t help reminisce and deeply feel the truth of the old adage that the kitchen is the heart of the home.

I’ve had disasters and triumphs, produced delicious food and some inedible muck, all within the comforting embrace of my cherry wood colored Formica cabinets and chrome appliances. Disasters included one over-spiced Thai curry that made my chilli-loving friends sweat and cry; a pan of brownies that did an Icarus on me as the baking paper drew too close to the element and burst into flames; a pot of pasta to which I forgot to add salt and discovered the hard way why salt is so vital to the success of all things noodle; the odd cake that looked great on the outside but was liquid on the inside, and a few other forgotten kitchen train wrecks.

Fortunately the triumphs have won out over the disasters, and I can only think back with joy on the hundreds of meals that have resulted in hugs from my kids and quietly loosened belts from my friends; perfectly baked cakes that have prompted shy young children of friends to whisper requests for reprises at later meals; old family favorites hauled out for the festivals, like kneidlach, tzimmes, brisket; the excitement of getting new dishes right when I thought only the experts could – sushi, caramel filled lava cakes, and even that elusive Thai curry that finally worked, didn’t kill my guests and was delicious.

I am already missing my single oven that bakes cakes so perfectly; my stovetop that has produced hundreds of “Orange Noodles”, which is my son Amit’s absolute favourite food, especially considering that he eats very little else; and my see-through glass kettle (to be replaced by a Tami 4), which has boiled water for so many thousands of cups of tea, drunk with love and kinship by visiting family members from around the world and great friends from around the corner.

My children grew up around my feet in this kitchen, sneaking around to find hidden snacks, slowly discovering their hiding places as they got older. My son Hadar taught himself to bake chocolate chip cookies and brownies here at the age of 11. I have watched them growing in this kitchen. At first they couldn’t reach the sink to pour water for themselves. Then they learned to drag chairs over and help themselves. And then the finishing line, when they could pour their own water from the little filter water tap on the far side of the sink. It was the equivalent of the notches on a door post, measuring their changing heights. My seven-year-old daughter has just got there, is just now able to reach the tap without a chair – an achievement that will be short-lived.

My husband and I have had most of our arguments in the kitchen. They are mostly about the over-generous quantities of food (yes, way too much) I like to prepare. In that kitchen I learned how lucky I am to have a husband who is as happy to be there as I am.

This kitchen has also felt the loving hands of my late mother, who would visit from South Africa, roll up her sleeves and wash dishes, even though I begged her not to. Her voice still echoes in that kitchen, telling me to “have a rest already.” It welcomed my late mother-in-law, who although would never herself have cooked with the decadent ingredients I used, loved to enjoy the results of my efforts and complimented me on my food with great admiration and love.

The kitchen has been a nook in which secrets have been passed, gossip exchanged and laughter shared. So long, dear room.

Now the time has come to look forward to the new memories in my sparkling white kitchen with its new appliances, fancy drawers and modern under-lighting. If these moments are half as wonderful as the ones to which my old faithful kitchen has served as a backdrop, I will be very blessed.

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Discovering the Hidden Side of my Son

Burf12345. Turns out that’s my eldest son’s user name on the gaming site where he’s a regular blogger! While he’s occasionally mumbled about blogging about gaming, he wouldn’t say where. Yesterday was the big reveal. He told me the name of the website.

Like any mother would, I went to check out what he’s been doing for the past three months, a little nervous that I would discover all sorts of subversive or violent content generated by my little 14-year-old angel. But I was relieved to discover that his “dark” side was far more beige than black.

(A little background: Raising English speaking children in a non-English speaking country is challenging. I spend lots of money on private English lessons and do lots of nagging about reading books. Burf/Amit’s English teacher constantly voices her concern about the fact that he hates writing, so I’ve that’s been a worry as eventually he’ll have to pass high school exams in English here too.)

To my amazement, I unearthed treasure in his blog posts. While most of the subject matter is as foreign to me as putting away laundry is to my children, I was overjoyed by the fluency of his writing. I did find several grammar mistakes, which I pointed out to him. And to my shock, he hurried off to his laptop and corrected his texts without argument (although he did call me The Grammar Nazi at one point, but I take that as a compliment.)

What really got me was his confidence: As a writer by profession, I agonize before pressing the “publish” button on my WordPress dashboard. Amit writes with enviable abandon, disregarding convention and embracing the openness of the internet as he makes his young voice heard. His reward: A respectable placing on the blogger rankings on his site, hundreds of comments and high scores on each of his blogs.

When I saw the flood of comments, I was quite frankly, very proud – someone’s reading my boy’s writing. Then the mommy in me kicked in when I saw a critical comment. I was ready to post a fuming rebuttal comment on this gaming site I can’t comprehend just to be able to tell off some 18-year old user for bad-mouthing my baby. Just as well you have to register before you can post comments or I would have mortified my son. Apparently the registration process is not just an admin tool for the website owners but also an effective cooling off device for irate mommies of bloggers.

So I calmed down and left the website, happy to know that Amit is practicing his English creative writing in a way that may be less than conventional to my generation, but that works just fine for him. And what’s more, it’s encouraged me to take a page from his book and be less uptight about my own writing. It’s good to learn from your kids – thanks Burf12345.

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