Category Archives: Parenting

Feeling the need – the need to READ!!

Both my girls love to read.  But it wasn’t always so.

Zanna took to reading like a duck to water, and whenever her school has a reading incentive program, she’s like a little literary Terminator, just plowing through all available books and diligently recording each book in her reading log.  If there are prizes to be had – she WILL get one, or know the reason why!

Halle, however, has inherited my very low boredom threshold for repetitive tasks.  Unfortunately, most of the things taught in school, such as reading, writing and math, involve tons of repetition to get the foundational skills down.

Trying to teach her to read was like pulling teeth at times.  All the engaging workbooks I bought last summer to catch her up were viewed as though I’d asked her to eat moldy worms.

And then she got into some of the cool things that I like – superheroes, Star Trek and the like. I started showing her some of the cartoons that I’d liked at her age (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth), and we’d be geeking out together while Zanna had a ball playing My Little Pony with her father >:D

So I did some amazoning and found a set of phonics books with Scooby Doo.  Halle loved them!  And then I found some local comic book shops that had decently sized “Family Friendly” sections.  While Zanna enjoyed Strawberry Shortcake, My Little Pony, and Peanuts, Halle was thrilled with Scrooge McDuck, Scooby Doo and some Spiderman titles that were on the tamer side.  We fought over who got dibs on the new Star Trek reboot ‘verse comics.  Sometimes I even hear the girls in the backseat of the car squabbling over who gets the next turn with the Smurfs comic.

At first Halle would ask to have everything read to her, but as that depended on a reader having free time, she grew frustrated at having to wait and soon she was making the effort to read her comics all by herself!

She still likes being read to, but mostly it’s for bonding purposes, as she has become a pretty good reader herself!

A few weeks ago, I took Halle to Free Comic Book day at a couple of our local comic shops and she got to meet Spiderman himself!  She was thrilled about it, and about getting a pile of comics for free!  We shared our new stash with Zanna, and now there are several new titles both the girls are interested in:

Monster on the Hill and Maddy Kettle, as well as Pirate Penguin vs. Ninja Chicken.

Halle and Zanna both love reading regular books, but this geeky mama is pretty pleased that eventually I’ll have company when I attend comic book or sci-fi conventions in the future 😀

Mazel Tov! (Congratulations, I’m happy for you!)



One of the last lingering effects of a former relative’s playing favorites with my twins, is that Halle can’t stand to see Zanna win or excel in anything or receive any kind of praise.

It doesn’t matter that Halle herself is equally praised, complimented and congratulated on her accomplishments, she just can’t stand it.  If Zanna is praised, Halle wants to be praised more, if Zanna looks as though she’s going to win a game, Halle’ll give up and throw a tantrum at the “unfairness” of it.

And for Zanna , she’d become afraid to compete against her sister, afraid to do anything well in the presence of her sister, and though she had great talent and love for art, she’d all but given that up, because getting complimented for it meant gaining the ire of her sister.

We’ve been wracking our brains on what to do here.  Both of the girls are victims in a way.

So after the last bout of tantrums because Zanna got praised for cleaning up her messy toys (while Halle had refused to pick up anything), I announced:

“You know what we need around here?  We need a special holiday!  We need a Mazel Tov Day!”

Both the girls were very curious about this.  “What is Mazel Tov?” they asked.

Well, Mazel Tov is Hebrew for “Congratulations, I’m happy for you!”

I told them that it’s important to be happy for other people and not begrudge them or get sore if they do well.  We can either choose to be a sore sport and get mad when anyone else does well, or we can congratulate them and feel happy that someone we know has done well!

In fact, instead of just a day of Mazel Tov, I think we need a week or a month, maybe!

I told the girls that I wanted them both to be Mazel Tov girls that I could be proud of!

I could see the wheels turning in Halle’s brain.  So I left things alone for awhile to percolate.

Later that day, I presented Halle with some art supplies she’d been begging for, and for Zanna, I pulled out a new sketchbook.  I could see Halle looking at us, so I did my best Mommy-Telepathy and projected: “Don’t you dare!”  She turned away and proceeded to start using her new art stuff and left her sister alone.

Zanna was overjoyed with her new sketchbook.  I asked her if she wanted anything special to use with it – liner markers, pencils, etc., but she said that she wanted to use the colored pencils we already had.  She happily scooted off to her room to get to work.

Soon Zanna came back showing the pictures she drew. (It was pretty obvious she’d become out of practice from the long hiatus.)  I complimented her art and suggested that she find a place on the wall to tape it up.

Then Halle asked, “What about me?”  So I asked her if she’d drawn anything yet.  “No,” she replied, so I told her to get busy and then we’ll see.  About half an hour later, Halle came up to me with a lovely picture of a monster that she’d drawn from an advertisement for something and I told her it was very well done!  I suggested that she also find a nice spot on the wall to tape it up.

So we’ll see.  I’m not kidding myself that we’ve managed to stamp out the problem completely, but at least we’ve found the language to effectively communicate what we expect from the girls, rather than a vague and general “Don’t do that!”

Dealing With Death



I’ve been struggling to help the twins get comfortable with the concept of Death (as much as anyone could get comfortable with that), ever since a few years ago when a  well-intentioned relative told them that everyone else in her family was dead.

“What is ‘dead’?” Halle & Zanna wondered.

When they became more informed on the subject, they were aghast and terrified.

They thought that they were in immediate danger of suddenly dropping dead, or that mommy & daddy would.

There have been many tears shed over this.

Holidays like Passover (Hello Angel of Death and dead babies!), Easter (Hello tortured and crucified Jesus!), school fundraisers for juvenile congenital heart defects (Hello nice video shown in school about dying children!) and one elderly pet goldfish (Thank you for your hunger strike!) have done nothing to help me keep my kids’ minds off of this morbid subject.

Yes, I’m aware of the Circle Of Life, the food chain and all that jazz, thank you very much!  But that doesn’t do much to comfort my kids.

I’m Jewish but teetering between agnostic and atheist, so it basically amounts to me telling them fairy tales about how there is a benevolent God out there who loves them, Jesus their distant cousin (a very nice Jewish boy from Galilee, don’t ya know!) and angels and Heaven.

Apparently I did too good of a job describing (potentially mythical) Heaven, because Halle was all for joining our dearly departed goldfish post haste.  So I told her that she has to wait her turn for when God decides she needs to go, and line-cutters need not apply.  Those go to the other place.  The Hot Place (where homophobes, terrorists and cult leaders go).  So she’s ok to wait her turn now.

But every so often the girls still ask about dying.  Am I SURE there’s really a Heaven and that there’s eternal life?  “Sure!” I reply, lying through my teeth.  I’ve explained that their body is a meatsuit (Thank you Supernatural!) that their soul wears until it’s learned all that God wants it to before going to Heaven.  And as long as we keep our meatsuits healthy and stay safe (by listening to mommy & daddy) we’ll live a long, long time.

But then, last week, we had a Passover celebration at Shabbat school.  A presentation was made by the teachers about the Angel of Death killing all the Egyptian babies (Gee, thank you SO much!) and my kids came home traumatized.

Angel of Death.  Killing babies.  What’s not to like?


So I explained that the Egyptians in those days (and I apologize profusely to anyone who may be offended by this) didn’t feed their babies healthy food because they were rich and spoiled, so the babies got sick, whereas the Hebrews were slaves and couldn’t afford junk food and they fed their kids healthy stuff, so those babies didn’t get sick.

And the Angel of Death certainly did NOT kill any babies at all, whatsoever!  He just collected the souls of the ones who died so he could take them straight to the nursery in Heaven where the babies could play and be happy and meet their ancestors.

Otherwise, there would be babies crawling all over the place, crying, pooping, getting stepped on by everyone else, Oy! What chaos that would be!  So the Angel of Death is merely being helpful!

My girls thought that was a very good idea indeed!  Babies, after all, belong in nurseries being cared for, and not crawling around loose all over the place.

And then came the video at school about children dying of congenital heart defects.  I have a cousin who died as a child from a heart defect.

Zanna couldn’t sleep at night because she was afraid she’d die of a heart defect.  She was in tears about it.  I had to explain that A) she did not have a heart defect, and B) even if she or mommy & daddy did drop their meatsuits and go to Heaven, Heaven was a nice place full of nice people who love us, and we could still visit whomever we love, even if they can’t see us.

Halle is utterly convinced about how nice a place Heaven is, and keeps telling me how eager she is to go there. (Oy vey!)  So I have to keep reminding her about line-cutters and the Very Hot Place.

And while I’m spinning these lovely tales of the afterlife, I’ve got no idea if any of it’s true or not.  Maybe someday the girls will come to the conclusion that it’s all on the same level as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and part of the magic of childhood to believe in such things, or they might decide that religion makes sense for them.  Either way, I’m ok.  As long as it’s a good experience for them and hurts no one, then I see no harm in anyone’s belief about anything.


Crepes pour deux

It’s been awhile since the last time we did parent/child dates, and for some reason both the girls had their hearts set on crepes, so it was off to IHOP we went!



On Saturday, Halle and I went – she ordered the strawberry crepes (shown above) and since I didn’t think she’d manage to eat everything (which means mommy has to eat the leftovers) so I ordered a kiddie breakfast for myself.  It was a good thing I’d planned ahead, because I ended up eating about 25% of her breakfast!

We had originally wanted to play ‘Chutes & Ladders’ while we ate, but they only gave us a teensy table.  Since it was pretty busy at that time, we just ate and left.

Then I brought her, since she’s a geek like me, to a comic book shop and steered her toward the family-friendly rack.  Nope.  She wasn’t having any of that.  She wanted a ‘big girl’ comic and insisted I check over the less gory ones she wanted.  After finding nothing but gratuitous sex and gore, I convinced her that family-friendly was the way to go, and luckily we found a relatively tame Ultimate Spiderman and a nice Scooby-Doo Team-up with Batman & Robin!

Then it was a Star Trek comic for me (which Halle will probably commandeer at some point) and we picked up a Strawberry Shortcake and a Mickey Mouse for Zanna.

At the register we had a Teachable Moment.  There were plastic busts of Spiderman, Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman.  Halle asked which was my favorite.


I said Wonder Woman (of course) and she asked me why.  I told her that I didn’t think it was fair that the male figures got to wear nice warm clothes, but that Wonder Woman was forced to wear such skimpy clothes and it looked like she was so cold! “That’s what we call gender-based discrimination, honey.  Can you say that?”  “Gender-based disbriminator!”  “Good job, honey!”

And we walked out, heads held high past the bemused (female – they should KNOW better!) counter clerks.

Then it was off to home.

On Sunday, It was Zanna’s turn for crepes with mommy, so we went EXTRA early this time – sure enough, IHOP was half empty so I requested a larger table so we could spread out the ‘Chutes & Ladders’ game board.  Zanna ordered the blueberry crepes plate (just as big as Halle’s) and again I resigned myself to the kiddie plate, just in case.


We managed a good two games – she won once and I won once, but the real fun was in watching her eat her crepes.  (Halle’s style had been what I call “The Waterfall”.  She held the long dangling crepe high above her mouth and chomped from the bottom.)



Zanna’s technique is what I’d call “Python Eating Mouse”.  She’d meticulously cut a long strip of crepe, stick one end in her mouth and slowly, bite by bite, draw the crepe into her mouth, like a python eating a mouse bit by bit with the tail hanging out and slowly disappearing.  She even did cute little snake wiggles in her seat as she ate.

I was pretty glad I’d finished my food earlier, because it was quite off-putting to watch.  She looked SO happy doing it though!  She insisted on taking her time because “If it tastes really good, you should take your time so you can enjoy it longer!”

When she’d finally finished devouring her meal, we went to Trader Joe’s for the grocery shopping and HUZZAH!!! We clocked in at just under $85! (our goal is under $100, so ‘Yay us!’)

Then it was home again.

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