Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cookies for Charity Day

Today we held our annual Cookies for Charity Day. Each year, Alex, Izzy and I bake cookies and sell them at the end of our driveway to help pay for the six Thanksgiving dinners we prepare and donate to the most needy in our town. We give the boxes of turkeys and all the fixin's to our town human services department and the minute we drop them off, they get delivered to families who are struggling.

The value of the week this week was charity. We talked about the value, then went as a family to purchase all the goodies for the dinners, then baked our cookies, packaged them and set up at the end of the driveway. We covered almost half of our costs this year. We are amazed every year at the generosity of our neighbors and random people coming through our neighborhood, when they hear that we are donating turkey dinners and that our children are involved. Kids from all over the neighborhood come over and help us market and sell the cookies, which makes it truly a community event. Who could turn down cookies for a few bucks when there are a dozen smiling faces on children waving the goodies in the air?

Charity is one of our most important values. We stress charity and generosity every chance we get, and both children understand what they mean. Basically, it all comes down to giving a very small part of yourself to make a very large difference in the life of someone else. This is how we approach The Baby Alex Foundation, and in our role as parents, although both take more than a small part of ourselves. But both give back immeasurable rewards.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Although we should always be thankful for what we have, we often get caught up in the many irritants of daily life. The past few weeks were tough on us, between illness, power outages and Alex's frustrations with school, we have all been a bit short-tempered. I forget at times to be thankful. I also forget to be generous, kind and loving at times because I am tired and cranky.

So, last night, when I viewed a video my sister-in-law sent me, I was again reminded to be thankful for a long list of blessings, to be generous, kind and loving, no matter how tired I may feel. The older brother in this video has shown a depth of generosity, kindness and love toward his younger brother that is hard to imagine, especially given his young age. He has taken his brother's disability and turned it into a vehicle for sharing time, love and responsibility. What an amazing, inspiring story.

I highly recommend taking the time to view this video-it will add meaning to your life.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Teaching Values: The Key to Ending Bullying

We recently had an incident at Alex's school where according to Alex, a number of boys pulled him into a location he was unable to escape from and hit him on all sides. When I arrived to pick up Alex from school, the boys had just been put into time out and Alex was receiving a cold pack on his scrapes and red eye. I won't go into any more details about this incident, partly because we respect the school and generally support their method for dealing with misbehavior, partly because the details are blurry and no one seems to have seen the incident and partly because this blog is never about venting our anger, but all about finding solutions and supporting the overall health of our children and our society.

After much discussion with respected mentors, Erik and I decided we would try to approach the incident from the perspective of how everyone might learn from this, how such an incident might be prevented in the future and how we might become proactive in case we face bullying later in Alex and Izzy's lives. So, we have suggested to the director to work out a plan to introduce a system of values, which many schools have adopted over the last few years. One important issue in introducing values to the school system, is the constant reinforcement of those values in every class, by every teacher, and by parents at home. The director has already incorporated values into the curriculum. The biggest problem with doing so, however, is the that if the parents don't reinforce the values at home, their lessons become diluted. Not lost, I don't think, but diluted.

I am deep into my next book, which happens to be about teaching values to children. We started a year ago and have come a long way in teaching values at home. Our children are not perfect, and they do spend time in Time Out at school. Alex is dealing with issues of self-control. He has been in Time Out for pushing, hugging too hard, hitting, pinching. There is plenty we have been working on, some of which may be caused by sensory issues and others by frustration. Whatever the cause, the problems must be addressed, at school and at home. So, we take Alex swimming after school, which helps with the sensory overload of school. We also reinforce values like a broken record. The kids understand what it means to be respectful, to show generosity, to display good sportsmanship, to be charitable, entrepreneurial, and kind. Our family motto is "work hard, be nice." Not an easy motto to follow, even for the adults in the family, but the point is that we try. We try to be kind and honest, and we try to teach our children through discussions, scenarios, etc. on how to be good people too. I will be including small parts of the book in future blogs.

Four year olds seem not yet capable of fully synthesizing the lessons, unless you walk them through the process. For example, we talk about charity, then we bake cookies to sell, then we use the proceeds to buy turkeys, then we deliver the turkeys to the needy=charity. They get it when done to this degree. Still, they test the waters and when in bad moods, act out against the most important values they can think of. They are toddlers. These are extremely difficult years!

After reading an excellent work by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, titled Ten conversations You Need to Have with Your Children, we have started asking our children, "What kind of person do you want to become?" (As in, "The nice person who makes people happy, or the mean person who makes people sad?"). This kind of approach has started to have some meaning to our toddlers. I wonder if any of the parents of the children involved in the incident this week bother to approach their children's actions with this kind of understanding. Perhaps they do. Parenting is hard and never perfect.

With this recent incident, our sensitivity to bullying has certainly been raised, not only about how other kids treat ours, but about our own children's behaviors. Is Alex's pushing in school really bullying? Does he try to intimidate other kids? We have asked the teachers to keep us closely involved in any behavior issues so that we may address them at home immediately.

We posted on our Facebook page and I will mention here again, to invite readers to an Anti-Bullyig event at the Kenneth Cole store in NYC, through Divalysscious Moms. For more information, visit