Yoga Wisdom for Summer Vacation: Balance and Breathe


“Identify your right arm from your left and don’t mix them up!” The instruction is clear. I’m relieved someone is telling me what to do, especially so early in the morning. “Swing your right arm underneath your left, cross at the wrists.” With varying degrees of effort and success, we do as she says.

It was the chaos of the beginning of the school year that motivated me to seek strength and mindfulness in the very hot yoga studio, where the only sounds are the instructor’s voice and my own breathing as I struggle to stand on one foot with the other wrapped around my calf and my arms twisted like ropes in front of my face. Somehow this is easier than figuring out afternoon carpool or getting my kids to school on time every morning. These things still need to happen, but once you’ve made even small progress in eagle pose, even the impossible seems possible!

A full school year later, I’m still here on my yoga mat, trying to balance and breathe and focus on nothing except those two things. If only for the duration of the class.

We move from eagle to standing bow. I try to stretch my leg above my head and lower my upper body toward the floor, at the same time. My breath comes in short gasps, and my heart races. The cardiovascular part of class they call this, like it’s a good thing. I feel that I need to lie down immediately. The posture is over before I know it, and I take a deep breath and listen for the next instruction.

“Be in it,” I hear the wise instructor say, above the deep inhales and exhales around me. “Really be in the posture when you’re in it. Don’t hang out, waiting for it to be over.” I think she’s talking directly to me.

Summer is here, and I think about the truths I’ve discovered while breathing and balancing in that hot room. Gentle prompts that remind me how to get the most out of every day, every experience, every moment. Small reminders perfect for a bunch of kids on summer vacation. What’s true in the yoga studio is usually true outside of it too.

“If you can, you must,” is my favorite yoga teacher’s mantra. If you are physically able to touch your forehead to your knees, do it! If your spine is able to bend backwards, bend! If there are new friends to make and new foods to try, go for it! Wonderful and exciting opportunities may present themselves to you this summer. If your body and heart are able, seize them. Your life will be fuller, richer, brighter. If you can, you must.

All yoga instructors teach: “Where your eyes go, your body will follow.” This is for you, my often cautious daughter, as you stand at the edge of the pool wondering if you’ll clear a good distance when you dive. It’s for you, my fearless son, as you descend the half pipe on your skateboard: don’t forget to look up! And it’s for you, my youngest and oldest, as you embark on new adventures – your first time at sleep away camp, your first time as a CIT (counselor in training): look ahead, look beyond, look for something new. Where your eyes go, your body will follow.

As we stand on our mats in the yoga studio we are always reminded to be considerate to our fellow yogis. To make sure the people behind us can see themselves in the mirror. To not enter or exit the class during a pose, as it is distracting. To take care of others. As we head into summer, look out for each other. Look out for your friends. Offer help, a hug or a high five! Share your food, your water, your bug spray and sunscreen. Share your love and yourself. Be kind. Take care.

The summer promises to be as busy as the school year. There will be fun adventures and new experiences for all of us. And I will continue to practice yoga. Because if I can balance and breathe inside the yoga studio, I can probably do the same outside of it too.


This piece originally appeared on J. The Jewish News of Northern California.

“Is It Hard To Be A Mom?”


The oatmeal threatens to bubble over the edge of the saucepan, the lid clanging loudly as the steamy mixture pushes against it. I stop mid-shmear and turn the flame down to low. I hate cleaning goopy, half-cooked oatmeal mixture off the burner.

I catch the faintest whiff of smoke and turn toward the pancakes just in time to see the edges char to a crisp. All those chocolate chips gone to waste. I scrape the remains into the trash and start again even though we’re already running out of time.

The goal is to get everyone out the door by 8 a.m. I resume shmearing the cream cheese. Four brown lunch bags stand smartly on the counter in front of me, eagerly awaiting their contents. They remind me of Hanukkah candles just before they’re lit — neat and upright, promising magic and surprise. In go four bright orange tangerines. I wonder if anyone will eat them today.

The middle two are already arguing — it’s barely 7:30 a.m. — and I sigh loudly, trying to drown out their not-so-benign insults and petty complaints about who did what to whom and who started it. Their bickering competes with the day’s list of appointments, meetings, errands and carpools I’m going over in my mind. Is the orthodontist today or tomorrow? Must check.

“Mom,” he taps me on the hip. I spin around so quickly that a tiny glob of cream cheese lands in his hair.

“Yes, what? Do you want more cereal? Will you eat this hard-boiled egg? Do you want some milk?”

“Oh no, no thanks. I’m done,” he says as he drops his plate next to the sink. “In the sink. Can you put it in the sink?” I interrupt him again.

There’s a loud clank as he all but throws it into the sink. “Okay. Mom?” I reach down to pick the cream cheese out of his hair. “Is it hard to be a mom?”

His brown eyes are wide and serious. Such a big question for a 7-year-old to wonder about.

Is it hard to be a mom?

It’s not easy to coordinate everyone’s schedules and carpools and favorite foods. It seems like the fridge needs to be filled every other day, and I worry that my 13-year-old doesn’t eat enough. That’s hard.

I can’t seem to get a handle on who needs to be where when, even though I’ve been doing this for over 15 years, and it’s never been more glaringly obvious than it is now that there’s only one of me and four of them, and all of us have different needs in any given day. And I am the one mostly responsible for meeting those needs. That’s hard.

I recently watched my little guy collide headfirst with a teammate at rugby practice, and heard a bone crack when his brother stopped a soccer ball with his arm. That’s hard. Bee stings, ear infections, broken teeth, headaches … whenever my kids are in pain and discomfort, it’s always hard.

My daughter auditioned for a play and didn’t get the part. My oldest son wasn’t selected to play in the football final. A “C” on the science test even though he studied all afternoon. And it’s always hard to explain that sometimes not everyone is invited to the birthday party and this time it was him.

I think of the Hanukkah candles we will light soon. The desperate search so many thousands of years ago for oil to keep the flame burning in the temple. How that oil, that tiny amount of oil they hoped would maybe keep the candles burning for one night, miraculously lasted eight, and so now we light the candles for eight beautiful nights and remember the struggle and the miracle that came from that struggle. Because anything worth doing is hard, and worth struggling for. Like being a mom.

The oatmeal is cooked, the pancakes are delicious, and I manage to remove all the cream cheese from his hair. I cup his small face with my hands and look straight into his eyes. He’s still waiting for an answer.

“Yes, sometimes it’s hard to be a mom,” I say with a smile. I bend down and kiss him on his forehead. “But it’s not hard to be your mom.”

Happy Hanukkah.

This post first appeared on j. the Jewish news weekly of Northern California.

On Mamalode: I Will Never Forget That I Dropped My Infant Son

DBaby One of my earliest memories as a new mom is when I dropped my newborn son on the bathroom floor. I don’t talk about it much, but I will never forget it. It was a horrifying, heartbreaking moment.

As he has grown into an independent, self-assured teen, I think about that awful morning often. I am so grateful to share this difficult memory on Mamalode today, in my essay I Will Never Forget That I Dropped My Infant Son. I hope you’ll give it a read, and let me know if you’ve had a similar experience.

When Stay At Home Mom Guilt Strikes Hard

FullSizeRenderYesterday I did nothing. And by nothing, I mean nothing. I was unmotivated, uninspired, and–unless seasoning the salmon we had for dinner counts for something–woefully unaccomplished. Smoked sea salt, lemon zest, plenty of dill. 

Days like that are few, if ever, for me. Not the unmotivated and uninspired part, I’m sure that happens to the most of us but we keep on keeping on. What was different about yesterday was that I was also remarkably unscheduled. No appointments. No meetings. I pretended we were not out of dog food or dangerously low on laundry detergent, so no errands. The day shone up at me from my iPhone, strangely and uncomfortably blank.

Read more here.

This post first appeared on

They Know That I Am There

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Last week began and ended with hours of kiddie concerts. My tiny ballet dancer skipped around the stage first as a Ginger Snap and then as a Chinese Tea leaf in the ballet school’s production of “The Nutcracker.” It’s a beautiful show, with music and costumes and dances that carry the audience on a snowflake cloud of sugar plum dreams.

For 120 minutes. My Ginger Snap was up there for maybe three of those minutes. And another three for the Tea the following day.

I drifted. Shifted in my uncomfortable seat. Told my sons to “ssshh” when they asked if it was over. When would it be over? I wondered the same. It was beautiful and graceful and fun to watch, but of course we were there to see her, and we were wriggly and fidgety and wished we were elsewhere.

And then we glimpsed her smiling face under the floppy gingerbread hat, and she saw us waving wildly from the audience. And she beamed. Missed a step. And beamed some more.

The end of the week found me back in an audience, again for hours. This time at the school’s annual winter concert. I jostled for a seat as near to the front as I could find, amongst bright, puffy jackets and dripping umbrellas, and parents who had the foresight to reserve the best seats much earlier than I did.

Squeezed somewhere in the middle of the middle, I waved like a wild woman when my Kindergartner took his place on the stage. He whispered in his friend’s ear, pulled funny faces and did not stand still for a minute. Despite my frantic hands in the air, he had no idea I was there. What’s the point? I wondered crossly. Resentfully, I settled into my immovable chair for the next three hours.

All the kids sang sweetly. Pounded on xylophones. Played the violin and the trumpet and even the cello with their small 10-year-old fingers. But the morning dragged in a stuffy cacophony of restless coughs and whispers.

We had all carved time away from work and errands, meetings and appointments to watch the children showcase their musical talents, but of course we were there to watch our own children. Many parents left as soon as their child had performed. They had places to be, so many things to do on that busy, wet Friday morning, the last before the holidays and no-school-till-2015. I watched them creep out, one after the other, with something like envy and disappointment. That they didn’t stay to watch my child. That I couldn’t leave.

I couldn’t leave because my son is in fifth grade, and the fifth graders performed the newly-composed school song, at the very, very, very end. I was tired, hungry and irritable. I moved seats. I chatted incessantly to the friend sitting next to me. Her son is also in fifth grade. I thought about everything else that needed my attention. I wished I were elsewhere, doing those things.

It had been almost three hours since my little one sang the snowflake song, seemingly oblivious to my presence in the audience. Now I watched my big boy take his place in the left corner of the stage. Somehow I had unknowingly found a seat on the same side as he was.

Finally, I thought, as I distractedly gazed at the sea of faces on the stage. Just a few more minutes, and I can get on with my day.

A tiny movement on the left caught my eye. I focused my attention, turned my head so slightly. My son looked straight at me. And smiled. That small, almost self-conscious smile that means he’s happy. He ducked his head for a second, and looked back up at me. I heard his thought: My mom is here. For me.

The music teacher raised his arms. The opening chords filled the almost-empty theater.

“We work hard, take care, so we all can learn and play.

We work hard, take care, with kind hearts we share,

at our school on the hill by the Bay.”

Beaming Ginger Snaps and fidgety five-year-olds and school pride in the fifth grade.

“Were you there, Mom?” the little one asked me later that day. “I didn’t see you! Were you there? Did you see me?”

I have years of performances and ceremonies, Nutcrackers and school concerts ahead of me. At times I will be restless in the uncomfortable chair. I will resent that I didn’t get there early enough and all the good seats are taken. I will wish I were somewhere else.

And then my kids will stand in front of the audience. They will scan the crowd, and catch my eye and smile a tiny smile. And they will know that I am there. For them. And for me.

This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, inspired by the prompt, “When I’m really old, I hope to look back at my life and know that I…” Hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, and guest hosts Vidya from Vidya Sury and Kerri from Undiagnosed but Okay.