The 40 Year Old Bat Mitzvah

Soulfish Parenting With Heart & Soul: Camp Days

Posted in soulfish by Juliet on July 23, 2010

Well, it took us 48 hours, but we finally managed to drop Eva off at Beth Am in San Diego to ride a bus up to Camp Ramah. Over 550 kids arrived at camp that day!

Check out this 32″ expandable rolling duffel:

Vacuum storage bags are nothing short of a miracle

Thanks to vacuum storage bags, here is what is in her single piece of luggage:

  • two sets of sheets, pillow, pillowcases, and a blanket (for daily sleeping)
  • sleeping bag (for overnight camping out overnight)
  • backpack & laundry bag
  • two sets of towels (bath, hand, and washcloth size) and pool towel
  • hiking shoes, refillable water bottle, flashlight
  • clothes for 14 days (they don’t do laundry for kids in the 2-week session!), AND it is blazing hot during the day but cools down at night
  • warm heavy jacket for night, light Polarfleece jacket, and two sweatshirts
  • bathing suits, pool cover-up, and flip-flops (double as shower shoes)
  • dressy outfits including shoes for two Friday nights/Saturday days shabbat
  • toiletries, sunscreen, stationery & stamps
  • extra full-size boxes of toothpaste to donate to campwide tzedakah project for Jewish Family Service
  • and more!

Packing was complicated by the fact that the girls had been out of town traveling for the two weeks immediately prior to camp, so I couldn’t even pack very far in advance.  Also since Eva is our oldest and it’s her first time at sleep-away camp, we’re just making it up as we go along.

Friends offered terrific advice:

Carlos, a road warrior who flies several times a month, said:  Throw everything on the bed and eliminate half.

Andrea, an organizational expert who knows pretty much everything there is to know about…everything, said:  Too bad you can’t use vacuum bags because Eva won’t have a vacuum cleaner at camp to re-pack when it’s time to come home.  Me:  Lightbulb!!!!  We’re picking her up from camp and I can just throw everything in Hefty bags.  The luggage restrictions are really strict just for the bus ride up to camp.

And Mariah told me her daughter Jeri, who went to Girl Scout camp near their home in Iowa, is really religious about sticking to the suggested packing list.

With those pieces of advice, I did it!  And it all fits.

One thing we learned for next year is that most of the kids carry pillows (either their regular bed pillow or a smaller one, or, in some cases, a Pillow Pet, which my incredibly pampered children both happen to have; “it’s a pillow, AND a pet!”**)  They use the pillows to make the four-plus hour bus ride to  camp more comfortable.  Live and learn.

I’m really glad we dropped Eva in San Diego.  The crowd was very casual and friendly.  There were several dogs saying goodbye to their little masters.  (I finally saw a labradoodle in real life, and I want one.  I also saw a poodle/bichon mix.  The owner, a salt-and-pepper haired South African-born doctor married to a gorgeous blonde glamazon, laughed when I said he could call it a “bichi-poo.”  I think there is a big South African Jewish community in the San Diego area.  We heard many distinctive accents during drop-off though thankfully there wasn’t a vuvuzela in sight.)

Camp is expensive and I want Eva to get her money’s worth, so I left her with this advice:

  • swim a lot
  • do “something Jewish”
  • choose something that looks scary on the first day, and do it before camp ends

If she does those three things, I for one will consider camp a success!

** The girls and I walked around the mall on several occasions for at least an hour each time, a good portion of which was taken up with begging for Pillow Pets.  I managed to fend them off since I figured they’re too expensive for something the kids would use once or twice then shove in a pile with their eleventy-seven other Build-a-Bears and Webkinzes and Fur Real Pets.  By contrast, the girls managed to get Scott to buy them Pillow Pets in the first five minutes of the first time he took them to the mall.  Dads!  Luckily I was proven wrong and the girls sleep with their Pillow Pets almost every night.

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Islamic Center of Temecula Valley Expansion Protests

Posted in Uncategorized by Juliet on July 13, 2010

Why yes, I do happen to have an opinion on this issue. Here’s a link to my letter to the editor of The Californian. It’s the second letter on the page. The full text is below. The editor chose the header, “Freedom of Worship for All,” though I probably would have chosen, “Don’t Be a Hypocrite” instead:

As a Jew living in Temecula since 2003, I have had occasions when my views have been in opposition to those of local Muslims, many of whom worship at the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley. Last summer at the Duck Pond, we were literally on opposite sides of the street as demonstrators and counter-demonstrators.

I firmly believe, however, in their right to worship openly and freely. I am aghast at protests against the Islamic Center’s desire to expand to a site better suited to their needs.

The population of the entire valley has grown, and people of every faith now call Temecula home. The Muslims who worship at the Islamic Center already live here. They are our neighbors. They are our co-workers. Their children are our children’s classmates.

Imagine fighting relocation of a Catholic church because of the global sexual abuse scandal. Buddhists and Hindus don’t hold Christian tenets, but it’s hard to imagine community uproar if either of those groups chose to build a house of worship here.

This outcry is poorly disguised religious intolerance. Our American way of life demands freedom of worship for all, not just a hand-selected few who look just like us.

Juliet Grossman


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I Am Not My Zip Code

Posted in philosophizing by Juliet on July 11, 2010

It was no surprise to see moneyed folks at Camp Ramah. There was all kinds of money: entitlement money, nouveau riche money, mega McMansion money, yuppie Escalade money, Santa Monica Farmer’s Market money.

But we also saw the flip side. I learned, for instance, about the Wexner Foundation program, in which participants devote YEARS (literally) to classes, seminars, and global conferences, all with the goal of learning about Judaism and how to give back to the Jewish community in a meaningful way. At least two attendees of the Ramah Family Camp weekend were currently enrolled in Wexner programs (one in Los Angeles and one in Arizona.)

We met a self-made man whose eyes lit up with excitement when he described his (ultra-luxury) work and (even more ultra-luxury) hobbies. He lives and works alongside very A-list celebrities but he doesn’t flaunt it.

As we met this parade of wealthy people over the weekend, we had a chance to talk seriously about what values and attitudes toward money we want our own kids to have.

The natural corollary to the conversation is the why: Why Ramah? Why Jewish camp? Why a Jewish camp in Southern California?

There is a certain type of savvy, snappy, sassy Jewish girl. Here on the west coast, she may be from West LA or the San Fernando Valley or a Bay Area suburb like Atherton.

Do I want my daughters to be her? No. But I want them to be able to comfortably, self-assuredly navigate her world with discernment and judgment.

In short, I want them to navigate that world, but not to be of it.

It’s a lot to ask, but my kids are smart and have been raised with solid core values.

For instance, all weekend long, we saw: bored kids; complaining kids; rude kids.

Eva whispered to me: “That boy was rude,” when a child blew past us on a motorized scooter without ceding the narrow strip of pavement to us (older) pedestrians.

Kudos to my daughter, at age eight, for recognizing attitude when she saw it, and specifically choosing, in a way I can only describe as super cool, to be above and beyond it. She’s not snooty or snobby; she’s just herself: poised, self-confident, never afraid to be who she is.

I want to arm my girls with the social tools they need to thrive in all situations and with all types of people, and the discernment to align themselves with the best of that affluent world: Opportunities! Experiences!

The question we heard all weekend long was:


(Or, for variety, a left-handed compliment: “How brave of you!”)

So, why?

If we can live anywhere we want, why do we choose to live where we do?

Let me start by saying: I love Temecula! (I have an entire blog pretty much devoted to my love of this beautiful place, after all.) It really took me by surprise how much I enjoy living here and how great it has been for our entire family to have settled in this community.

And now, some history. This post explains a little bit about how we came to live in Temecula in the first place. (And this one tells you why in a weird way I actually like Riverside, too.)

Basically, since Scott has his own business in a largely referral- and relationship-driven industry, we searched for a place to settle by drawing a big driving-distance circle around his Riverside office. Other places we considered besides Temecula included Redlands and some San Gabriel Valley cities, but after we decided to eliminate anywhere with smog, we decided on the Temecula Valley cities of Temecula and Murrieta. Clean air, clean water, good public schools…we were sold.

We actually ended up buying the first house we saw! (Yes, we looked at others, but the Jungle House won us over with its huge mature fruit trees.)

So why here? Why “California’s Bible Belt”?

We immediately discovered that this area is incredibly family friendly. (You know it’s kid-friendly when the wineries have kiddie menus.) I’ve never experienced a place so culturally supportive, in word and in deed, of stay-at-home-moms. It’s ingrained in the culture here to walk your talk. These are people living their values, every day.

There’s a little bit of “keeping up with the Joneses” here but it’s easy to ignore it if you choose. Which we do. What little we have of Peyton Place or Real Housewives of Orange County is fairly self-contained. And there is zero “keeping up with the Greenblatts.” There just aren’t enough Greenblatts to go around.

We noticed a tendency of people we met at Family Camp to identify themselves micro-specifically: not just The Valley, but “south of the boulevard”; not just LA or even West LA, but “Brentwood” or “Pacific Palisades.”

Is it snobbery? Insecurity? The opening salvo in a game of Jewish geography?

It might be a teeny bit, but I think mostly it’s over-identification with one’s zip code.

We’ve chosen to opt completely out of that game. We could have completely rearranged our lives to live someplace with a bragworthy zip code, but then we wouldn’t have money to be at Camp Ramah in the first place.

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