{Review}: Mamaleh Knows Best by Marjorie Ingalls

Quick Review: a funny book on jewish parenting that encapsulates the values of jewish culture for anyone.

I’ll admit, I mostly wanted to read this book because I’m a Sassy fangirl and Marjorie Ingalls was a Sassy writer.  Jane Pratt was ‘aight but Marjorie was my girl. Then, she grew up and I grew up and I started seeing her name in Tablet, an online Jewish magazine. And I was like, oh my girl is in the TRIBE. Cool.

I read that Tiger mom book, and I read ABOUT that French parenting book but neither resonated with me. I barely read parenting books anyway, and I’m not interested in anything that tells me I’m doing it wrong and I could be doing it better. Nobody has time for that. Mamaleh Knows Best: What Jewish Mothers Do to Raise Successful, Creative, Empathetic, Independent Children seemed more my speed than those other books, and I was curious whether it would jibe with my own upper middle class, conservative Jewish upbringing.

Let’s just get one thing out of the way first: Ingall’s insistence on the phrase “us Jews,” “we Jews,” “Jews are this,” and her willingness to confirm some stereotypes about Jews made me squirm. I guess she is using it as shorthand for Jewish culture and values, but that’s sloppy and dangerous, especially in this age of heightened anti-semitism. A “positive” stereotype is still a stereotype.

I’m  here to tell you that not all Jews are rich, educated, nerdy, nebbishy, neurotic or whatever else you think Jews are. 

Okay, let’s move on.

jewish parenting I will say this: Jewish culture does place a high premium on education, on lovingkindness, on philanthropy,  on humor and on getting up and over on adversity. How can we not? Through history, Jews as a group have been persecuted, exiled, killed en masse and scapegoated. How else would Jews and Jewish culture have survived?

These defining characteristics of our culture form the basis for Jewish parenting, and Ingalls proposes that this style of parenting works well for everyone.  My father is fond of saying that our job is to raise not children, but future adults. Yes, we want our children to grow up to be productive, happy, functional members of society. That starts with instilling a sense  of independence and responsibility from a young age, treating children with respect and assuming their intelligence.

True to type, Ingalls coaches us on Jewish parenting in a tone full of humor and self-deprecation, with stories about her own children that will have readers alternately chuckling and groaning.  And if you were raised Jewish, you might nod your head in recognition and agreement.   Ingalls’ parenting advice is supported by words of wisdom from the Torah and the oral history of the Jews.

All in all, this was a parenting book that made sense to me, and I would recommend it to anyone trying to figure out how to raise kids to be adults they can be proud of.

{I received a copy of this book for review purposes from Blogging for Books. This post contains affiliate links.}

A Blessing and a Curse, No. 3: Mothering with an Invisible Disability

A Blessing and A Curse | Parenting with a Disability | The Real Nani

 

Welcome Back to A Blessing and A curse. I took a not-so-brief hiatus but I’m excited to bring you more stories of mothering with a Disability.  In this 3rd installment of A Blessing and a Curse, I welcome Olivia DeMoray.  Olivia shares the particular challenge of having an invisible disability, the result of being injured in the line of duty.

 

Who Am I?

My name is Olivia DeMoray. I’m a rarity in San Diego – a native, but I’ve lived all over thanks to my time in the US Army. I have one daughter who just turned 3 and a pretty dynamic situation at home. My daughter’s father and I have been separated since the end of 2015, him living on his own (but in our neighborhood) and me living with my parents. We split our time 50/50 as much as possible with the kiddo and at this point have essentially got it down to a science. In my “free time” (and I say that lightly) I enjoy photography, working with my hands and watching too much Netflix.
In January 2012, I was injured while training with the United States Army at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Because of the fast pace of training, I did not receive proper medical care and was pushed along the line – like so many others. Upon return to San Diego, I received a second opinion, where an MRI revealed a torn labrum in my right hip. The doctor recommended surgery immediately to repair the injury. The outpatient surgery was performed October 2012. After surgery, I attended physical therapy regularly, but continued to experience pain over the course of the next 2 years. Further MRI and X-ray imaging evaluated by doctors and specialists did not show any significant changes to my body’s structure and I was dismissed as having phantom pain. Physical therapists insisted that the pain and symptoms would improve with time and therapy, but they did not. After years of pain in my hip, I began to experience numbness in my right leg and back spasms at the end of 2015. After months of referrals I was finally able to meet with an orthopedic specialist who told me she assumed I had at least one herniation on my spinal cord. I received an MRI and one week later her suspicions were confirmed: herniations of L3-4, L4-5 and L5-S1 as well as 2 synovial cysts. An MRI of my hip also revealed that the labrum had torn again.

But How Does This Impact Me As A Mother?

Going through all of this has been frustrating, to say the least. When I was pregnant with my daughter, the weight of the pregnancy on my hip and nerves and back was unbearable. There was no such thing as exercise because there were days that I could not feel either of my legs. The pain was excruciating, and the only thing that I could do to withstand it was get in the swimming pool and become weightless. In addition to the pain, there was the complication of birth: I was forced to have a c-section. My daughter was transverse-breach, meaning that she was laying sideways in my womb, with her bottom down and hands and feet up by her face. She never did turn, and my doctors didn’t want to risk natural birth in case the pressure on my hip were to cause further injury. A lot of people say I’m lucky to have had no choice, but I feel like it was taken from me because of my disability. So to begin with, before I even became a mother I was affected.
Recovering from a c-section is not an easy feat, but it’s usually one that is done with support and for the most part, success. When you mix major abdominal surgery with someone who already has a disability, the outcome is bleak. I laid in bed for what felt like months. The furthest I could go most days was into the car for a short trip or halfway around the block. I never had the ability to recharge and feel like myself after the surgery. I always felt like I was 3 steps behind and I hid it, because I was fearful of what people would think. Fearful they would see my inability to care for her and for myself and shame me. Couple this with extreme postpartum depression (which I have since overcome, thankfully) and you have a recipe for an incredibly difficult task as a mother: loving yourself and loving your child, despite everything. Some days it hurts to admit that I didn’t truly know what loving my daughter was until she was almost 8 or 9 months old because I was in such a fog, but it is the truth.
Imagine this: you’re dreaming of a nice hot shower. You can almost feel the water on your skin. Your child is napping peacefully in their crib or pack and play – somewhere safe and you know that you have the time to sneak away. But you don’t, and it’s not out of guilt. It’s not out of fear that something could happen to them. It’s because the last time you showered without someone else home, you fell and hit your head. You’re not sure how it happened. One second you were standing there and the next you were on the floor of the tub, sobbing. You couldn’t feel your right leg and there were spasms of pain rolling across your back. Now imagine the fear of this, with a child. I worried that if I were ever alone with her, there may be a day where I would fall and wouldn’t get up and she would be left to fend for herself.

And That’s Not Even The Hardest Part

There are 2 main aspects about any disability that are very difficult. The first is physical – Being present, but not being active. Now I have a 3 year old that moves lightning fast. She wants to run and jump and roll and pounce and roughhouse, just like any other child. She wants to be pushed on the swings. She wants to be lifted onto the counter while I brush her hair, to see in the mirror. She wants me to pull her into bed with me to snuggle when she can’t sleep. These are all things that any other parent would have no trouble doing, but I cannot. And it’s not for lack of trying – trust me, I’ve huffed and I’ve puffed and I’ve thrown out my back on multiple occasions. But it isn’t worth it for those 45 seconds of whatever we are doing to be laid up in bed for 3 days. It was almost easier when she didn’t understand and was blissfully unaware. She would just continue on playing with something else or distract herself. Now, she acknowledges the issue: “Mommy, your back hurts,” “Mommy, it’s okay, I can do it,” “Mommy, I’m sad you’re hurt.” Just like that, I’m not the only one this impacts anymore.
So the biggest difficulty mentioned above has been physical, being that I have major limitations. And the more minor but still just as prevalent difficulty is the emotional side of it – not being able to show my daughter all of the wonderful things that we can do with our bodies because mine is broken. She is old enough now to comprehend what it means when I tell her that I can’t right now, or maybe in a little bit. For most parents this might mean they were busy and for me, it’s because I know that if I get down on the ground with her there are days I probably won’t get back up. She studies the pain in my face and it translates to hers as sadness. I used to hide it from her, but now I wonder if that’s even worth it. I don’t want her to think that she causes me any discomfort but I also don’t want her to grow up thinking that I don’t love her and don’t have time for her. As much as I need to keep it from her, I need her to understand that I do my best. And all that I ask is that she does the same. I don’t want her to see me struggle and fail and not continue trying, because that’s no lesson to teach your children. But they should watch you struggle because that is how you teach them perseverance and strength. That it is okay to fail so long as you continue approaching it from different angles.
The final aspect that isn’t necessarily from a mother’s standpoint (well, sort of) is social. There are so many people who will never understand what it is like to feel the way that I do. Not to say I would wish this on anyone, rather that I wish there were more grace and understanding in accepting those who have disabilities, even if they are not completely visible. We have to do all of the same things that everyone else does and often times, they’re not modified to assist us in any way. I’ve been uninvited from playgroups and pushed out of friend circles because I’ve been deemed so many different things including hurtful words such as unreliable and cynical. And that’s unfair to me but it’s especially unfair to my daughter, who didn’t ask to have a parent with a disability. I don’t want to be your hero or your inspiration, I just want you to know that people are out there with invisible illnesses and disabilities. It’s real and often times you don’t know even half the story.

Is There Anything Good That Comes From This?

Yes. There absolutely is good. As much negativity as there is in living with life-altering disabilities, there is just as much (if not more) positivity. Because any other person who has a normal day might not think twice about it but me? It’s like a day at Disneyland. If I can go through my day with no spasms, no numbness, no tingling, no loss of feeling, no migraines or pain or discomfort – sometimes I think I’m dreaming. And it doesn’t happen very often but when it does, it’s amazing. We have to cherish the little moments of happiness and remember to hold onto them when there are clouds overhead. I have my immediate family who supports me. I have the disability support assistance program at the community college I attend. I have the understanding and support of (most of) my doctors and everyone who has been a part of it for the last 5 years for the most part is working together to try and make it easier. Including my kiddo, who is helpful as often as she can be. She loves to load the washing machine, put away her toys and tell me “I can do it by myself”. And it isn’t just because she is a toddler, but because when she does these things I verbally acknowledge how appreciative I am of her and what she does.
Instilling pride and responsibility in children from a young age is not always an easy thing to do. I can imagine that any parent may have trouble slowing down to explain something to their child, but most of the time mine is the one waiting on me instead of the other way around. This means that she has learned wonderful patience and for being 3, that’s a challenge in and of itself. She knows to take a deep breath when she is over-excited, or will remove herself from the situation and say “I’m not ready”. I’ve taught her from day one that this is okay because she has the RIGHT to know when she is and isn’t ready for something, be it emotional or physical. I don’t think we give our kids enough credit sometimes in their ability to understand the world around them but I am blessed with a little girl who is kind and loving and sees past my disability and straight into my heart. And she does this with all children and adults, no matter their struggle. She just wants to help everyone around her and make them feel included. And there’s nothing better than seeing her bring that light to this world.
I’ve learned so much over the years from having a disability but the biggest thing is something a previous employer once said to me: know your worth. Despite all of the hurdles, despite the physical and emotional ups and downs, despite the uncertainty I know this much is true – my daughter will grow up knowing the value of her life and know that no matter what, there are no limitations to what she can do. No matter what anyone tells her.
~~~~~~~~
Thank you for sharing, Olivia!
Follow Olivia on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mamademoray/

{Review}: Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel

Quick Review: Chick lit that hits the nail on the head with a likeable heroine, A fast-paced plot and an ending with a twist.

What is it about chick lit that lends itself so well to themes of redemption? Like Faithful by Alice Hoffman, here’s a story set against the backdrop of my favorite city, featuring a girl down on her luck after a traumatic experience that upends her very existence and forces her to question everything she took for granted.

As always, there’s a Small Admissions | Good Chick Litguy but it’s not about the guy…is it ever, ladies? (No, it’s about us!) Oh, and the OTHER guy, the one that surprises us all and proves to be the gem.
There’s the overbearing but well-meaning  family member, wearing a martyr crown and feeling misunderstood.
The best friends are there, at odds with each other and themselves, helping us readers out with backstory.
 Oh, and let’s not forget the patient sage that can see something in our heroine that we dear readers can’t.  And even he needed to be convinced.
Sounds good, right? It’s a perfect vacation read. You can start it on the plane, read it by the pool or in the ski lodge by the fire, and finish it on the plane ride home.
I love me some good chick lit, and Amy Poeppel hits all the right notes in this one.
Check out the book trailer for Small Admissions and enter to win a copy of this book! The  link to the Rafflecopter is below the trailer!

Enter the Giveaway Here!

 

More about Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel:

Small Admissions | Amy Poeppel

Amy Poeppel is a graduate of Wellesley College. She lives with her husband and three sons in New York City, where she worked in the admissions department of a prestigious independent school. She workshopped a theatrical version of SMALL ADMISSIONS at the Actors Studio Playwrights/Directors Unit. She later expanded it into this novel.

Website: http://www.amypoeppel.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amypoeppelauthor/
Twitter: @AmyPoeppel
Instagram: @AmyPoeppel

 

{I received an e-book version of this novel for review purposes and to participate in this blog tour. The giveaway is administered and managed  solely by the publisher Atria Books. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. }

Where I’ve Been

Oh, heyyyyyy. Long time, no see. (Stop me if you’ve heard that before!)

But I have a good excuse. I’ve been working! Way back in the fall, when there was still light to be had and leaves on the trees, I started working as a VA for my friend NJ, who kept referring me to other clients, and before I knew it, I had a full-fledged BUSINESS going. Funny how that happens.

Just popping in here to say that I have some book reviews in the works, and I have a guest post up on NJ’s blog, about celebrating both Chanukah and Christmas. Check it out here: http://www.acookiebeforedinner.com/2016/12/christmas-light-menorah-interfaith/

I’ll see you back here soon-ish with some book reviews. In the meantime, wishing you and yours a very merry holiday!

{Review}: Home Cooked by Anya Fernald

Quick Review: A thoughtful, approachable, visually appealing cookbook that makes even The Most exotic recipe seem  within reach.

(This post contains affiliate links. That means when you click on a link, I get a small commission.)

Isn’t this book pretty? I’m definitely guilty of judging a book by it’s cover. The photographs and layout inside Home Cooked by Anya Fernald are gorgeous, too. A cookbook is more than just  recipes– good ones also tell a story (unless it’s the Joy of Cooking or How To Make Everything, my favorite go-to for regular old recipes).

Anya Fernald is the founder of Belcampo Meat Co., founded in 2011 with the mission of creating sustainable pathways to meat processing through its slaughterhouse, farm and restaurants. In writing this cookbook, Fernald showcases the simplest of ingredients and elevates home cooking without putting it out of reach for the everyday home cook.

I admit, though, not every recipe in this book is for me. There are a fair amount of recipes that involve ingredients that have never found their way into my kitchen, like pig feet (for trotter broth) or chicken hearts (to be sautéed in brown butter), but to Fernald’s credit, she makes even offal seem appealing. (Still not going to be made in my kitchen, though.)

There are plenty more recipes that I do plan to make!  So far, I’ve been able to try two of the recipes. One was the farinata, a chickpea flour pancake, which proved to be an excellent vehicle for almost anything. With only five ingredients, plus one optional ingredient (mortadella!), and a fast cooking time (ten minutes), it’s a simple, affordable, highly adaptable addition to my repertoire of dinner accompaniments.

The other recipe was for pickled beets, but instead of beets, I pickled beautiful radishes from my weekly produce box.

A quick flip through the book reveals that nearly all the recipes consistent of ten ingredients or less, which makes even the most intimidating-sounding recipe feel do-able. No fancy, hard-to-find ingredients (offal notwithstanding…) or specialty cooking tools needed here!

More about Home Cooked by Anya Fernald, from Penguin Random House:

A recipe collection and how-to guide for preparing base ingredients that can be used to make simple, weeknight meals, while also teaching skills like building and cooking over a fire, and preserving meat and produce, written by a sustainable food expert and founder of Belcampo Meat Co.

 

{I received a review copy of this book from Blogging for Books for review purposes. All opinions are my own.}

{Review}: Faithful by Alice Hoffman


Quick Review: A book about regret, transformation and redemption that will have you rooting for the main character.  

I’ve read quite a few Alice Hoffman novels in my day. (Will I ever read them all? I don’t know! She’s so prolific, I can’t keep up.)  This month, I read two of Alice’s novels back to back: 2011’s The Dovekeepers, and the upcoming Faithful, out from Simon & Schuster in November 2016. The Dovekeepers, if you haven’t read it, is an epic saga that tells the story of four women who sought refuge on Masada, escaping from Roman persecution after the destruction of the Second Temple.  Faithful, on the other hand, is short and sweet, with one endearing character.  Two books on opposite ends of the novel spectrum but here’s what I’ve come to learn about Alice’s novels: they are all about regret, transformation and redemption.

Faithful is the story of Shelby, who is left reeling from a tragedy and because she cannot forgive herself, she starts to self-destruct. In her journey back to herself, she is supported by a cast of characters that see something in her that she cannot see in herself. And once again, Alice is the queen of the plot twist. Shelby receives a series of anonymous postcards, and the reveal of the sender will surprise you, reader!

While Faithful is not the deep, profound prose of Alice’s longer, meticulously researched historical novels, it was easy to become attached to Shelby and become emotionally invested in the outcome of her path– I cried several times during the novel because I felt her pain acutely, thanks to Alice’s ability to give Shelby a voice that we can hear. We can all root for a  heroine that makes regretful life choices, flounders a bit in the aftermath, then struggles to overcome and ultimately redeem herself.

 

More About Faithful by Alice Hoffman:

Faithful by Alice Hoffman is available for pre-order on Amazon, and will be released on November 1, 2016, by Simon & Schuster. 

“From the New York Times bestselling author of The Marriage of Opposites and The Dovekeepers comes a soul-searching story about a young woman struggling to redefine herself and the power of love, family, and fate.

Growing up on Long Island, Shelby Richmond is an ordinary girl until one night an extraordinary tragedy changes her fate. Her best friend’s future is destroyed in an accident, while Shelby walks away with the burden of guilt.

What happens when a life is turned inside out? When love is something so distant it may as well be a star in the sky? Faithful is the story of a survivor, filled with emotion—from dark suffering to true happiness—a moving portrait of a young woman finding her way in the modern world. A fan of Chinese food, dogs, bookstores, and men she should stay away from, Shelby has to fight her way back to her own future. In New York City she finds a circle of lost and found souls—including an angel who’s been watching over her ever since that fateful icy night.

Here is a character you will fall in love with, so believable and real and endearing, that she captures both the ache of loneliness and the joy of finding yourself at last. For anyone who’s ever been a hurt teenager, for every mother of a daughter who has lost her way, Faithful is a roadmap.

Alice Hoffman’s “trademark alchemy” (USA TODAY) and her ability to write about the “delicate balance between the everyday world and the extraordinary” (WBUR) make this an unforgettable story. With beautifully crafted prose, Alice Hoffman spins hope from heartbreak in this profoundly moving novel.”  (via Amazon)

 

{I requested an ARC from the publisher, and was not obligated, nor compensated,  to write this review. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. }

My Cochlear Implant Story: Part Two

Why a Cochlear Implant? Well, why not?

But let me back up. I had a list of reasons that kept me from getting a cochlear implant sooner.
1. Too old.
2. Too invasive.
3. Doing alright with my existing set-up.
It’s a pretty short list, yeah but I guess the whole list was also shrouded in fear, even if I didn’t want to admit it.
My mother, an AuD, had been urging me for a few years to think about getting a cochlear implant. I usually mumbled something along the lines of “sure, sure, maybe, someday,” which meant…well, never, really.
Finally, I agreed to go for a consultation at NYU. I knew the technology had come a long way, and my hearing was rapidly deteriorating. I let my mother make the appointment for me because why not? Just because I’m in my late 30s, doesn’t mean I can’t let my mother do stuff for me, right?! Mom came down to the city and together, we went to talk to Dr. Shapiro. After that consultation, I was more on board with the idea, especially after I found out I didn’t have to shave my head to get the implant. (Don’t give me side-eye. I know what you’re thinking but I have enough problems without having to walk around with a half-shaved head.)

To determine candidacy for an implant, I was evaluated by another audiologist at NYU (hi, Laurel!). It was your standard hearing testing, just longer and more thorough. One of the tests determined speech discrimination.

What’s the opposite of passing with flying colors? Failing with drooping, sagging colors? I listened to an audio recording of a nice fellow saying “Ready?,” followed by a sentence I needed to process and repeat. Of the ten sentences, I understood one: “The train is leaving the station.” And something about a banana.
Yup, right ear: useless. With an aid, I did not do much better, as far as speech discrimination goes.

May 9th:

A month after the surgery, my implant was activated. In those YouTube videos with people getting their implants turned on, it always seems amazing! And it is!  But you know…it wasn’t like that for me. I’ve been wearing hearing aids for 34 years, so sound is not new for me, the way it is for people who have never heard anything. The activation appointment was exciting but not overwhelming. Laurel, my audiologist at NYU, tested my speech discrimination on activation day and I couldn’t really make out anything. What was REALLY exciting was the appointment where Laurel tested my speech discrimination again and I actually understood what she was saying–sounds, words, phrases, sentences. It wasn’t 100% but it was pretty good and a vast improvement over that first day.

There were also moments like this:

Screenshot of Facebook post about hearing crickets for the first time with cochlear implants
Yesterday, I heard a cicada for the first time, which my sister identified for me. It seems like such a small thing, hearing these sounds of nature but for someone who has never heard them, it’s a whole new world. These moments make me feel vindicated in my decision to get the cochlear implant.  A speech therapist I met with at Rusk Institute kept calling it a “baby brain,” and it really is, because so much is new for my brain.  The brain, you guys, is amazing and I never knew just HOW amazing the brain was until I got this implant. Just incredible.

Want to know more about how the cochlear implant work its’ magic? Check out this video from Cochlear America: