Like the MamaLand Empire!

Have you joined the MamaLand Empire?
      ... and join my mailing list for biweekly Jewish parenting ideas - no spam, no ads, just me!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

It’s Kislev – is your pocket full of heart?

image

Want to see something cool?

Both of my kids’ schools are making a huge deal out of something I’ve literally never noticed.  The name of the current Hebrew month, Kislev (כסלו), can be divided - with only a little wizardry - into two separate words:  kis (כיס/pocket) and lev (לב/heart).  (That’s the wizardry – the “vav” is swapped out for a “vais”/”vet”.)

So GZ brought home this “mitzvah note” project from Kitah Alef (Grade One), where we have to use this month fill up his “pocket” with love and nachas.

Which I think is just an absolutely terrific excuse to praise a kid who’s three months into his first real year of school and hovering halfway between feeling confident because he knows the routines and feeling like he’s drowning in the despair that comes from realizing there are so many months (and years) still to go.

Very cool.  Why didn’t they do this at either of my kids’ Jewish schools back in Canada?  No idea.

A good friend of mine growing up, who moved from Russia to Israel and then to Canada, told me he acquired his overwhelming love of puns because they didn’t exist in Hebrew.  But from what I’ve seen, Israelis love puns and use them often; the cheesier, the better.  And in this case, a little pun can do a lot of good for your kids’ self-esteem.

Sort of like a little “kiss”… straight to their “lev.”

image

I write books for kids!  They’re cool!  I promise!  Sign up here to keep updated with all that’s happening in the world of me-as-fledgling author.

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


[kiss photo credit:  Yogi via Wikimedia]

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My mother’s favourite* joke

 image

My mother has a joke.  Maybe you’ve heard it before?

So a guy goes to the doctor.  Says, “Doctor, it hurts when I go like this.”
And the doctor says, “So don’t go like that.”

This was almost literally my conversation today, with my second orthopedist this month, about the unbearable pain in my right foot.

My problem is that it only hurts when I’m barefoot.  Put on a pair of shoes and I’m Wonder Woman.  I leave everybody in my dust.  Take them off… and I’m Little Red Riding Hood’s grandma, barely able to get out of bed.

This pain has a name:  PTTI.  That’s its name in Hebrew, too.  Posterior Tibial Tendon Insufficiency.  Don’t Google it; the pictures are horrific and mine really isn’t that bad (see below).  Basically, it means that the flat feet I’ve had my whole life have bottomed out completely. 

So today I met with Ortho #2, Specialist Foot Ortho Guy.  Ortho #1 was a regular ortho, non-specialist.  Both very nice and personable despite the long lines outside their doors.  This guy was slightly older, grey hair, distinguished looking small beard and glasses.  Faint, faint, faint trace of a Russian accent.

Conversation with the Doctor.

Me:  Should I sit down?

Him:  Of course.  You think I should sit while a woman is standing?  Anyway, I see people with foot problems.  What do you think the chair is there for?  (This was a torrent of Hebrew; these are the only four things I picked out of the deluge.)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

9 things you’ve got to stop saying about mental illness… and 4 questions to ask yourself instead.

image

Some of these phrases are so deeply ingrained that you might not even realize you’re talking about mental illness when you say them.

  1. “You’re driving me crazy.”
  2. “I’m feeling schizophrenic about the situation.”
  3. “Quit being so paranoid!”
  4. “Are you totally nuts?”
  5. “He broke up with that psycho girlfriend.”
  6. “Maybe you’re hearing things.”
  7. “She’s a little disturbed.”
  8. “Welcome to the loony bin.”
  9. “He has issues.”

Oh, yeah… and then there’s the Big #10:  “mental illness.”  What does it mean, anyway?  Is it like a virus, rotting away at somebody’s brain? 

Most of us have no clue. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The family tree of grief – a quote

image

Have you lost somebody you loved?

Of course you have.  I know from all the people who spoke to me and shared stories after my brother Eli died in the spring.  Maybe you told me yours.  I loved hearing those stories.  I don’t know what I will do with them yet, but they are all still alive, here in my mind, waiting to come out in some way.

This quote jumped out at me over Shabbos, and I wanted to share it.

An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination, by Elizabeth McCracken"It's a sort of kinship, as though there is a family tree of grief. On this branch the lost children, on this the suicided parents, here the beloved mentally ill siblings. When something terrible happens, you discover all of a sudden that you have a new set of relatives, people with whom you can speak in the shorthand of cousins."

- Elizabeth McCracken, from the book An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination

Will you believe me if I tell you that a book about grief can be funny?  Happy?  Optimistic? 

"This is the happiest story in the world, with the saddest ending," McCracken begins her memoir, about the loss of a baby, and the birth of two more.  About becoming a mother and a bereaved mother in the same instant. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

MamaLand Review: Elisha Davidson, the kosher Harry Potter –?

image

Are you ready for a wild ride? 

I hope so, because writer M. R. (Rhonda) Attar has just released the first in what promises to be a trilogy of adventure books about young Elisha Davidson, Elisha Davidson and the Letters of Fire (Menorah Books:  2014).

Elisha Davidson and the Letters of Fire I’d call the book weird and wonderful.  But I’d also caution that it’s not for the youngest readers, or maybe for any reader younger than 12 or 13.  There are scenes that are frightening and/or violent, like in the first chapter, where a renowned professor passes out era pool of blood.  (He remains comatose for the entire book.)

This is an ambitious book, weaving hundreds of years of mystical Jewish teachings into an exciting modern-day story.  It reads quickly as long as you don’t let yourself get too hung up on the details.  But that might be just me.

Like I said:  weird… and wonderful.

There are enough parallels to the Harry Potter books to either delight or annoy fans, depending on how they feel about such things. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Enter to win: “Chanukah Monsters” Chanukah Disaster giveaway!

image

Chanukah’s coming… What could go wrong???

Well, Murphy’s Law of Holidays says anything that CAN go wrong WILL go wrong when it comes to holiday seasons.  But there’s no reason we can’t laugh about it now.

Tell me all about your biggest, baddest, funniest, craziest or most MONSTROUS Chanukah disaster and you could win my book Chanukah Monsters (softcover, 8.5” x 8.5”, full-colour paperback, retail value $8.99 on Amazon.com), including mailing anywhere in the United States or Canada (sorry, other people; I love you, but you’re too expensive!).

  1. One winner will receive one copy of Chanukah Monsters, by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod (hey, that’s me!).
  2. Second and third runners-up will receive a free e-copy of any of my books available in digital form (winner’s choice).

Come on… think up your worst disaster.  Get it off your chest and help the rest of us smile when we’re thinking about what could go wrong (or right) this year.  It doesn’t have to involve fire, or latke poisoning, but it could…

To win: 

  1. Share your story in the Comments section below.  Nothing fancy; just a couple of sentences.
  2. But wait!  You ALSO have to enter via the Giveaway Tools contest box below (entering a comment alone isn’t enough).  The Giveaway Tools gadget offers you a few other cool ways to win.  These are all optional.
  3. Winners will be drawn on Nov 22/23 via Giveaway Tools, and results will be posted on this page.

I can’t wait to see your stories!

Sunday, November 09, 2014

FREE Chanukah Monsters colouring book

image from Chanukah Monsters, by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod

Like it, Share it, pass it along!  Here’s the link:  http://bit.ly/coloringchanukah

(You may have to join CurrClick if you haven't already, but membership is free, and this was easier than hosting the PDF myself).

The colouring book is based on the artist’s original sketches for my new book, Chanukah Monsters, with brief all-new text added by moi.

FREE Chanukah Monsters Colouring Book, by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod

While you’re at it, if you like the colouring book, check out the original Chanukah Monsters, available now for print and Kindle from Amazon.com:

Chanukah Monsters, by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod Chanukah Monsters, by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod

Enjoy, and if you do, pass it along to a friend!

 


Tzivia / צִיבְיָה


Friday, November 07, 2014

Why I wrote a Jewish book about Christmas.

image

I’ve spent years creating picture books, stories and curriculum materials on every possible Jewish theme.  But when I sat down to write my first chapter book for slightly older readers, I surprised myself:

It turns out it’s all about Christmas.

It’s called No Santa!, and there’s a picture of the jolly guy himself right there on the cover – chased by a menorah.

No Santa! by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod

Why did I write this book?  Why davka (specifically) about Christmas?

Because Christmas just is.  Even for Jewish kids, if they’re growing up in North America (or any country other than Israel), it’s not possible to avoid it or sidestep it.  And many kids, even if they are Jewish, grow up celebrating it in some way.

Oh, we never SAID we were “celebrating Christmas” when we were growing up.  My parents would never have allowed that.  We never had a tree – that was waaaay over the line.  But we had stockings.  Beautiful felt stockings, hand-decorated in red and green and sequins.  And every year, on Christmas morning, we’d wake up and race downstairs eagerly to find them stuffed full of little gifts.  (Anything too big for the stockings went on the end tables instead.)

Of course, stockings don’t fill themselves.  On December 24th, before bed, we’d put out cookies of some sort for Santa.  I don’t remember if we left him milk with it.  Probably.

It was cute.  We were totally adorable.  We have pictures of ourselves on Christmas morning, in jammies and bathrobes, surrounded by wrapping paper.  Some years, there was a menorah in the background, too. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

No, we’re not all the same (even though I wish we were)

image

“What might save us, me and you… is if the Russians love their children, too.”  Singer / songwriter Sting wrote that near the end of the Cold War, when we still thought Russians were going to be the death of us (listen here or watch it below).

I came of age with these optimistic words ringing in my ears – and the assumption that, since our enemies are just like us, we’ll ultimately find peace.

I hate to say it, but Sting lied to a whole generation of us.  We’re really not all the same.

A friend said in a dvar Torah last week that while Migdal Bavel (the Towel of Babel) was being built, the builders had tremendous unity of purpose.  They were all working together in harmony. It was the first and last time all the people of the world worked together with such clarity. 

So why did Hashem object, to the point of smashing the tower and scattering the people?

My friend explained that if one of the builders fell down from the tower to his death, the others wouldn’t cry.  No big deal; they had lots of people.  If a brick fell down, however… it was the end of the world. 

At the time, bricks were the hottest new technology.  They’d just been invented, and they were hard to make.  There were also no sophisticated modern ovens, so bricks tended to be fragile and crumble easily.

Bricks were valuable.  People were throwaways.

You wouldn’t believe anyone was like that today, would you?  Like Sting says, we’re all basically the same, with the same values, right?

Reluctantly, I don’t think so anymore.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hashem's Amazing World: three terrific science / nature books for Jewish kids

The Hashem's Amazing World series, by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod

Looking for a way to share the wonders of science and nature with Jewish kids?
These books may be the answer.
I don't post a lot of brags on here, but I wanted to quickly pop in and let you know how excited I am about this series - the Hashem's Amazing World series.  
The first book, Zoom: A Trip to the Moon, has been out for a while.  But the other two have been sitting in various stages of Technical Difficulty-land for a few months while life caught up with us and I had to deal with other things (excuse me, did I mention I just moved to another continent last year?).

I love looking at all the covers lined up like this (and at home, lining up the real thing is even more thrilling)...

What are they all about???

Zoom! A trip to the moon - explores the moon, earth and space, and gets our little explorer home in time for Shabbat.

Buzz! A teeny tiny world - gets down and dirty with some actual bugs (and a spider), and explores why Hashem put bugs here in the first place.

Baby! Life before birth - discreetly explores what happens before a baby is born from a spiritual and physical perspective.  In case you're worried, when I say discreet, I mean it - I've tried to strike a balance between sharing information and letting parents decide how much their kids are ready to know.  Here are two sample images.  Click through to see more.



What's next???

I'm definitely interested in suggestions for future books.  Someone suggested dinosaurs.  Now THERE is a topic that would be terrific with a lot of kids, but needs to be handled very carefully from a perspective of hashkafa.

Any other thoughts?

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה