Category Archives: News and Posts

News and Posts by Beily Paluch

Of Guns and Pluffers

Here’s the thing with boys and Purim. They will get dressed up as ANYTHING, so long as they get to have a gun or a sword, preferably both!

A few weeks ago, my son was playing with a little girl his age.  The toy he chose was a medium-sized box of Gears. To be clear, this is not a building toy, but rather a sort of puzzle where you connect flat boards and then build a chain of gears upon them that you can control with a small handle.

I heard my son say, “Let’s make a gun.”

The girl groaned. “No.”

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Preparing Your Son for his Bar Mitzvah

As appeared in Hamodia Simcha Supplement

Preparing Your Son for His Bar Mitzvah

By Beily Paluch

 

In our family, we joke that we should prepare all our boys for their bar mitzvahs at once. We should book the hall, print the invitations, and order the tefillin and tefillin bags. Unlike a wedding, where both the identity of the other side as well as the date are unknown until the engagement, a bar mitzvah falls predictably on a boy’s thirteenth birthday. So whatever age your son is, you can start getting ready!

For example, starting at birth, keep track of his age. Libby’s son Dovy’s bar mitzvah was approaching, and she sent out beautiful invitations. Then she met an acquaintance in the supermarket, and she shared the news of the upcoming simchah. “Your son is not turning thirteen, Libby, he’s turning twelve,” said the woman. “Don’t you remember we were together in Eim Vayeled? My Yossy’s birthday is also coming up, and he’s going to be twelve!”

Libby did the math, and realized the woman was right.

How did it happen? Libby’s precocious son was skipped a grade at a young age and, at some point, they forgot that he was younger than the rest of the class. When everyone signed up for bar mitzvah lessons, Dovy signed up as well. Libby also booked a hall at the same time as everyone else in the class, and from there it was a short route to “oops.”

But of course your son is really turning thirteen soon, so let’s get started!

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You Can Fool Some of the Boys Some of the Time

My friend Shana had a baby, one more in a long line of boys.  What could I do to help? I’m usually game to send a supper, or just cake or kugel, but Shana is a WAY bigger balabuste than I am, and I knew her freezer was stacked with everything she needed for Yom  Tov, prepared way in advance.  My nearly-perfect-if-you-only-look-from-this-side bundt would just become a logistical problem for her as she would need to find a place to put it.

So instead, I called to offer to take some of her boys out a bit, as they’re the same ages as my own boys, and we’re the nutty family who goes on trips the day before Yom Tov.  To my surprise, she didn’t jump at the offer.

“They’re way too busy.  All my boys are busy helping.  I promised them that whoever does their jobs will be allowed to wash the floor!”

Really now! You see what I mean…In a house where the kids do chores for the privilege of doing other chores, they don’t need my potato kugel.

So you can fool some of the boys some of the time.

Actually, I’ve been playing the same game in my sukkah for years.  You know how it is in a sukkah, not enough chairs, fitting a crowd miraculously into a small space.  Once, many years ago, to accommodate an overflow crowd, we brought in a small bar stool as an extra seat.  Anticipating frowns from the kids, we ceremoniously plunked the stool near my husband and dubbed it The Ushpizen Chair, reserving it exclusively for the child whose Ushpizen falls on that day.  (With a little creativity, every boy is assigned an Ushpizen…Yisroel works for Yaakov, Pinchas (the Kohein) gets Aharon’s Ushpizen, and Shlomo gets Shemini Atzeres).  Even in our much larger sukkah, it remains the most coveted chair until this very day.

Believe it or not, another friend gets her kids to eat their vegetables by declaring them ‘Mommy’s special diet food’, and no one can have any until they’ve finished their own meal!

I’ve been wondering if I can apply the ‘Ushpizen Chair Effect’ anywhere else in my life…and of course, if you’ve been fooling some of the boys some of the time, I’d love to hear about it!

Did You Ever Send a Boy to Israel?

Something tells me that in order to appreciate this post, you first need to send a GIRL to Israel.  Or at the very least, rewind your mind to the last time YOU went off on an international stint for two weeks.  Do you envision suitcases piled around for ten days before, outfits for every weather going from closet to suitcase and back, jacket, shoes, purses and backpacks and caps? Make-up, perfume, and gifts for everyone you’ll meet? And that’s all without your all-important hand-luggage…

Well, back to the boys. It was Friday noon, and three of my teenage boys were scheduled to leave Sunday morning.  Considering that Motzai Shabbos would be selichos and they had learning seder beforehand, that didn’t leave much time.

I made a mild call-out.  “Aren’t you guys leaving to Israel Sunday morning?  Don’t you have anything to prepare?  Pack?”

My husband pointed at a few fabric suitcases he’d borrowed. (We make a point of never owning suitcases, a result of too many guests who come with one suitcase and go back home with two.) “I brought some suitcases.”

Nice. Not that my boys had been too concerned.

“Actually,” said one.  “I was planning to buy a CD player. I’ll need music on the flight.”

Saying which, he launched a house-wide search for every electronic device we own that plays music, and all three boys gathered round to make their choices.  Naturally that led to a lot of switching of batteries, anti-shock experimenting and heated discussions on the pros and cons of the one with the broken cover vs. the one missing the battery-compartment thingamajig that I’m sure I keep ‘not throwing out because one day I’ll figure out what it belongs to’.  But clearly this was the most important aspect of the trip preparation, so all this was apparently very necessary.

And in fact, it was certainly the hardest part, because after that they each took a suitcase and filled it up with piles of their clothing, a set of linen and a towel, and they were ready to go.  Um, except for one last round of post-selichos shnitzel-frying to prepare food for the flight.  What the airline serves does not qualify even for raised eyebrows.

Sending boys to Israel? Just take care of the music and the shnitzel. The rest is easy.

 

When You Visit the Park with Boys

Aiming for a low-key trip that was also local, we followed a lead from my Binah summer article, and made our way to Morningside Park.  After debating the merits of rowboats versus paddleboats, we chose the glittery purple paddleboat.  Since one adult is required per boat, and I had to stay on land with the baby, my husband took half the kids for first shift (I always knew our adult to child ratio wasn’t high enough!), and the rest of the gang got to hang out with me.

Picnic lunch in tow, we started off around the lake to the picnic tables and playground.

And that was where I learned that when you take boys  to a lakeside park, you should bring along…

1.  Bread, challah or rolls

The youngest boys were a sight to see, tossing bread to the ducks, then backing off, only to find the entire web-footed chevrah stepping single-mindedly after them.

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Interview with M. C. Millman

As I began posting my boys’ favorite books, I realized that quite a few had something in common – the author, M. C. Millman.  Thankfully, she wasn’t hard to track down, and even better, she graciously agreed to answer my questions!

What inspired you to write for boys, and when?  Which was the first book that resulted from that inspiration?

I wasn’t really “inspired” to write for boys, nor do I write for boys exclusively (take my Classified Information series for instance), but since I started out writing for boys, it seems I have that reputation. In fact, one of my daughters had a hard time convincing her bunkmates in camp that M. C. Millman was indeed her mother since the girls were so certain M. C. was a man.

My publisher did accomplish what he wanted by using my initials. He felt that boys would be less likely to read a book that a woman had written, so he asked me to pick a pen name. I was in a panic about what name to use until my husband offered the most logical solution: use my initials – problem solved.

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Braid the Challah on PJ Library

We’re proud to share that Braid the Challah, by Beily Paluch, was the June 2014 featured book for age 2-3 with PJ Library, a program that ships free books to Jewish families across North America. The book was reprinted in a special 8 x 8″ format, making it even more fun to read and act out.c9ae3f82-879c-4d37-9172-d9d539fed8aa

PJ Library is a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, made possible through partnerships with philanthropists and local Jewish organizations. Today, families in hundreds of communities across the United States and Canada are able to explore the timeless core values of Judaism through books and music.

All families raising Jewish children from age six months of age through five, six, seven or eight years (depending on the community) are welcome to sign up.

http://www.pjlibrary.org/books/braid-the-challah/327

 

Want to buy this book? It’s available at Judaism.com

 

Why Mothers of Boys Should Buy Stock in…Batteries!

“Good bye”, I wish my son.  “Enjoy.  We’ll miss you.  You’re going away for eight weeks!”

“Nah,” he says.  “Don’t worry, there will be a blackout, and I’ll come home for a Shabbos.”

Blackout? There might be a blackout, but I know that your camp does not run on electricity.  Between the two of us, it runs on batteries.  How do I know?  Because  I bought a case each of AA and AAA batteries, and half are already gone.

So let me remind you where all those batteries are, and why it shouldn’t affect you at all if there is a blackout.

1. Flashlights

You have a big flashlight for going to campfire and other nighttime escapades, a small flashlight for finding your yarmulka under your bed, and a ‘book light’ that you got as a prize and can use for saying Shema after curfew.  Actually, you even have a little kriyas shema that lights up when you open it, a gift from your cousin who stayed by us last week.  Three AAA batteries in that one!

2. Fans

it’s true that the mandatory six-inch fan, part of your basic camp survival kit, has a plug.  However, you also have an invisible fan you can stick your hand through (from your rebbe), a fan that also sprays water (from your English teacher), a double fan that spins (the one that didn’t work until you dissected it, connected the wires, and put it back together), and a fan that is also a flashlight.

3. Cameras

Believe it or not, you also won a camera…it uses regular (non-rechargeable) batteries.

4. Alarm clocks

Don’t get me started on alarm clocks!  I’m going to save this topic for a separate post of its own.  Suffice it to say that a guest sleeping in your room when we forgot to turn off the whole line-up of alarm clocks (starting at 5:30 am), chose to sleep elsewhere the next night…so obviously, more batteries in those!

5. CD Player

Your camp doesn’t allow iPods or MP3 players, so you used your reward money from collecting tzedakah on Purim to buy a CD Player.  Of course, you didn’t leave any change over for batteries.

So tell me, please, why you should come home if there’s a blackout!