Category Archives: Jewish parenting

Hebrew blocks rock

No, I don't get a commission.  I'm kvelling, not selling.

No, I don’t get a commission. I’m kvelling, not selling.

Consider the Omer counted.  Shavuot is over.  And now, stretching before us is a couple of calendar pages of sun, humidity, chiggers, and porch-sitting.

I’ve just cleaned my screened porch for summer, and we’ve transfered some rug toys out to the concrete: Thomas and Friends and their endless track, Duplos, and wooden blocks.  We are lucky to have Teenager’s old blocks: the thick, heavy kind we can really build with.

And, we are lucky to have some Alef Bet blocks, too.  We have two sorts: the small, cheap kind and the big, expensive kind.  I love both.  The small, cheap kind (around 5 bucks) are the same size as our aged alphabet blocks—about an inch and a quarter—good for teetery towers and for crafty projects like, say, a Hanukkah menorah using blocks that spell out your kid’s Hebrew name.

The big, expensive ones (around 30 bucks) are the type of toy I kvell about to every new Jewish parent at synagogue.  Why?  They are big and fat and heavy; a pleasure to hold.  They depict not just the Hebrew letters but pictures of animals as well, with the names in Hebrew.  All artwork is not merely printed on, but carved out.  Made by the Uncle Goose company, who make other fantastic specialty blocks like Braille, Russian, Chinese, and Hieroglyph.

We can’t get enough Hebrew stuff at our house.  It doesn’t matter that Toddler can’t read, yet.  He can sing the Aleph-Bet Song, which is a great start.  And he knows a shin when he sees one on a mezuzah.  I’m all for painless, natural learning, and it feels right to have blocks and posters and puzzles and books and placemats here and there: a sea of aleph-bet and alpha-bet ready for learning by osmosis.


The small ones are from JET (Jewish Educational Toys).  They have little pictures of holiday symbols and Jewish whatnots, too.

The big ones from Uncle Goose.  At Amazon, OyToys, and the manufacturer. Made in USA out of basswood and child-safe inks.

This third kind I don’t like, somehow, but they are 1.75 inches and come with vowels, too.  Something about the design bothers me.  I think because they are printed on flat wood: no variation in texture.

Jewish Mommy Meme

On May 23rd, blogger HomeShuling tagged me for her meme: a word I had to look up and still don’t know what it means.  Basically, HomeShuling sent six Shabbat-related questions out to several Jewish Mom Bloggers and the world at large, with a view to the construction of a virtual Shabbat.  To me, the method constitutes an online chain letter, which I normally shun (having been raised to think they are always suspect) but this time happily answered.  No secret agenda here, just community.
Continue reading

Shavuot links for families

Shavuot starts the evening of May 28. It’s a two-dayer here in the Diaspora, for those of us who do the extended versions of holidays. (Now is the time I start combing the web for gluten-free blintz recipes…..)

Today, I offer the start of the Shavuot link list on If you have any links to add, please leave a comment and I’ll wedge them in.

Again, I cannot help but notice that my own denomination, Conservative Judaism, is a bit under-represented. Why is it that other folks have better graphics and sites, generally speaking? I know the USCJ, the mother ship of us Conservos, is having its own tsouris at the moment, but I do wish they’d hire somebody web savvy to redesign everything and give us more PDFs of how-tos. Chabad, for example (with whom I have severe moshiach issues) leave us in the digital dust. I am hoping someone will prove me wrong by sharing some kicking conservative links.

Shavuot Resources:

My Jewish,


•  A Shavuot Primer (UJC)

•  URJ (Union for Reform Judaism) Shavuot Parent Pages

  1. •  “Best of the Web” Shavuot Links from the Jewish Agency for Israel

  2.   Women’s League for Conservative Judaism, Shavuot

  3.   Ima on and off the Bimah: last year’s blog entry about Shavuot

Sites for kids and parents together:

My Jewish Shavuot resources for kids

NSW Board of Jewish Education: BJE Academy

What is Shavuot, The 3 Pilgrim Festivals, Cool Things to Do for Shavuot, Shavuot Links Traditions, Commandments, Vocabulary, Crafts

Torah Tots: All About Shavuot, the Story of Rurth, Fun & Games, Coloring Pages, Greeting Cards, Holiday Recipes Shavuot resources for children

Teacher Planet: Shavuot Resources (activities, crafts, links)

Havel Havelim #217

HH used to mean Hilton Head.  Period.  But now that I’m making an effort to link myself to the virtual world, I learn it means Havel Havelim: the international jblog carnival to which bloggers may submit postings for inclusion.

This week’s HH host is Shiloh Musings.  

I submitted a post this time, and although Balabusta got spelled Baleboosteh, I did get a nice little paragraph of a conversation all to myself way, way down at the very bottom.   Thanks!

Honest Bat Mitzvah Mom: leftover presents


groovy silverplate menorah. A keeper.

The pitch: a zippy, secure website for re-gifting or selling all those presents your kid got for a bar or bat mitzvah. Profits can go directly to the charity of choice, or to the seller’s own account. Call it, say, e-Bar, or e-Bat. Detailed item description—of paramount importance—is made easy with pull-down categories and excruciatingly precise description templates. Just fill out the form, attach the pics, and go.

Will someone please invent this so I can go? Now? In our attic are boxes of perfectly good gifts my daughter has absolutely no interest in: jewelry, ritual objects, tchotckes, accessories. The volume is astonishing, even though half her family isn’t Jewish (which, in our case, means a total of 2 gifts from my branch of the tree), and even though the whole event wasn’t really huge at all. It was quite restrained, given all I’ve heard through the Manischewitz grapevine.

Some gifts are lovely, some are hideous, but even the hideous ones will be thought lovely by someone. Else. I feel a bit snarky even mentioning the fact that so many gifts suck, but I am working from the assumption that they were all heart-felt, sincere, loving gestures from good, thoughtful people. People who took the time, trouble and money to actually select something and to actually get it to the giftee in a timely fashion. (Unlike me, who has a small pile of wrapped gifts waiting to be delivered to children made adults over a year ago.)

Perhaps I do deserve the adjective snarky, but I mean well. I want these things to get good homes. I tried selling a few on eBay, super-cheap and right before Hanukkah, but except for one glittery hamsa necklace, they got not one single bid. I suppose I could take them to Goodwill or Salvation Army, but this is Nashville: what at the odds a Goodwill customer will do a happy dance when she sees a pewter menorah or a set of glass candle holders? Nashville’s 0.2 percent Jewish population does not make this a likely scene. More likely is for the Goodwill shopper to not guess my goodies are Jewish.

No, this stuff needs to go where supply and demand can co-mingle in a win/win web transaction. But someone has to invent the platform, first. Until that lovely day dawns, see below for some swap options should anyone have similar needs.

By the way, during my googling frenzy I couldn’t help but notice the domain is up for grabs.There you go.I gave you the idea and a name. Let me know when I can sign up.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

To sell:

To swap or barter:
Swap Thing
Craigslist (sell, giveaway, or barter)
SwapTree (books, videos, CDs, DVDs)

Gift Card exchanges:
Plastic Jungle

Jewish Charity:
Hadassah thrift shop
Jewish Foundation/Federation (for refugees)

Jewish bath toys, part 1

Dreaded foam yes, but I own three sets.

Dreaded foam yes, but I own three sets.

Toddler broke out the foam Hebrew puzzles this morning.  Actually, I broke out the foam Hebrew puzzles because the wooden ones were too noisy.  I woke with a migraine, which makes me super-sensitive to just about everything except staying in bed (not an option), and which makes the sound of a wooden puzzle turned upside down and emptied onto an oak floor unbearable.

I love Hebrew puzzles. I hate foam. But I love foam Hebrew puzzles. I know the manufacture of foam is bad for the environment, bad for the poor workers who mold it, and bad for the environment Continue reading

Jewish Parenting Blogosphere

Purim program at our shul last Sunday. The puppet show was gruesome. They loved it.

I want to mention some blogs I fancy.  A new one is by the author of PJ LIbrary title “A Mezuzah On the Door,” and it’s called “Home-shuling.”  Continue reading

Wrapping Up Hanukkah

Yes, during Hanukkah I made a Buche de Noel for the Teenager’s French class party. And really, it isn’t much different from the Jewish Jelly Roll tradition. Except, Jewish Jelly Rolls don’t pretend to be Christmas logs…
I am especially proud of the meringue mushrooms, oui?

After 8 days and nights, the Toddler never did figure out gelt was edible. He hoarded it, stacked it, skated on it, and shoved it behind books in every reachable bookcase, but he never realized what was beneath that shiny foil. (The dog did, however, and it is for times like this that I buy paper towels. Up came the foil, the chocolate, and other things one doesn’t like to see puddled on the kitchen floor.) Continue reading

a Baltimore Balabusta

Shabbat went out unheralded, as I was too distracted by the effort of remaining sane to bother with Havdalah. My husband is in Baltimore for a bar mitzvah. Given the recent Economic Downturn, only one of us could go. The report is that I missed a sweet, warm, musical service in a thriving shul (with lots of Professional Staff–what a concept), and that the mother of the bar mitzvah is most emphatically a Baltimore Balabusta. Get this: the lovely artwork for the invitations, reply cards, envelopes, place cards, chocolate wrappers, and laminated take-home gifts was all original. As in, by her. And get this, the laminated take-home gifts Continue reading