Tag Archives: children

Merry and Bright

Dear Readers,

Belated Chanukah wishes…

Window dreidls
Window dreidls
First Night
First Night of Chanukah
made in school, kindergarten
made by Max in  kindergarten

Got this lovely card from my mother with a donation that she made to the American Bird Conservancy for Chanukah.

Tiwi, Photo by Jack Jeffrey, www.jackjeffreyphoto.com for more on ABC visit www.abcbirds.org
Tiwi, Photo by Jack Jeffrey, http://www.jackjeffreyphoto.com for more on ABC visit http://www.abcbirds.org
We call this time of year--- the Festival of Boxes.
We call this time of year— the Festival of Boxes.
window lights
window lights


a holiday gift to us made by Max, age 6, in Kindergarten
a holiday gift to us made by Max, age 6, in Kindergarten
More school handiwork for the holiday season, by Max
More school handiwork for the holiday season, by Max

Another bit of cuteness from school. Max says Snowman Soup is  delicious.

Snowman Soup recipe and snowman --another bit of cuteness form school. Max says these are delicious.
Snowman Soup recipe and snowman

I received this holiday card from an old friend.

Saw-whet owls, Photo by Art Wolfe. From a Sierra Club card. www.sierraclub.org
Saw-whet owls, Photo by Art Wolfe. From a Sierra Club card. http://www.sierraclub.org

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you health, love, peace, laughs, joy and all things merry and bright!

Thank you for reading and being there. 



"After the Storm"
“After the Storm” copyright Elana Halberstadt 2012

For mothers there is no comfort: On the Newtown, CT Shooting Today

Dear Readers,

Again, in the unfolding of yet another epic tragedy this day, Friday, December 14, 2012. Reading in tiny bits, because I can’t tolerate and function as a good mother if I allow myself to read or watch or see too much and my job is to protect and take care of my son first, before everything or anything else.  Max is home sick today. Were he at school, I might have driven over there to take him home upon hearing the news. Or I’d have resisted, telling myself, but he’s safe there. But, he’s here, so I’ve got the good fortune to know he’s OK. I’m considering homeschooling at this moment. The information isn’t palatable, it isn’t acceptable, it is too awful, too heartbreaking, too senseless, beyond understanding—-the horrifying news about Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, today. My heart goes out to everyone affected by this monumental tragedy today.

My current Facebook status:

“Our country must find a way to stop the gun insanity now. I feel like a broken record along with many other voices screaming into the wind about this for ages now. How many more of these insane, senseless, heartbreaking tragedies will occur before we stop this? This country is on a killing spree. Apparently, there is a green light and OK to gun down wolves and other helpless animals. It is apparently also acceptable in our country to gun down children in schools. The mentality and warped thinking behind both the reckless treatment of wildlife and abuse of the environment here and our citizens — is one and the same. Approximately 32 people die daily from gun violence. They die in places that never make the national news. We have to make it NOT BE OK ANYMORE FOR THIS TO HAPPEN ANYWHERE. It has to stop. The violent gun culture and bullying from the NRA and all those who are beholden to the money and greed and who have twisted the “Right to bear arms” into something completely insane, must be taken down and stopped. Our children deserve better than this. We all deserve better. And we can do better and we simply have to. But it will take large numbers of MORE people speaking up and protesting and writing letters and holding our leaders accountable. Please help be the change on this.”

Mothers and fathers holding their breath and waiting and finding out something that one doesn’t wish on an enemy; the loss of a child. The murder of children. Children. At school. The words, multiple victims. 100 rounds. Maybe more. The complete and utter insanity of our country’s gun laws; weapons of war with ridiculously easy access to anyone; the criminal, the insane, the hopeless, the angry, the mentally unstable, the killer, the one who fell through the cracks of the system. Anyone. The screaming into the wind of advocates and activists and mayors and teachers and doctors and nurses and citizens, parents and children –—screaming into the cold wind today, falling on knees, lost in grief today. Today, yesterday, and what will tomorrow bring? Monday? How does one go about breathing after this? My heart breaks and aches for the families, the community, the school, the friends and children. It is enough. It is more than enough. Can the lessons please be learned now? I demand answers from our government. I demand change. We must rise up and scream loudly together, please, it must change. It is the seventh night of Chanukah tonight. I want GUN CONTROL. Speaking of light, can our leaders please WAKE UP and see the LIGHT? It is 10 days before Christmas Eve. How about GUN CONTROL for Christmas?

Make no mistake. There is no safe place for our children in America today. There is no school or movie theater or mall or space anywhere that is safe as long as there are weapons and ammunition flowing like milk, every day, everywhere. There is a war in America. There is a war on our children in America. There is a failing mental health system. There is a glorified culture of violence, greed, power, and abuse. There are also wolves being hunted down, innocent, beautiful creatures, gunned down for no reason. It is the same mentality behind the gun control issue and the destruction of our environment and the killing of innocents—wildlife, children. It is the same forces behind both that are evil and power hungry and thoughtless and harmful to all living beings. This is the source of our downfall. It must change. We are all connected. We will all fall down together.

Mothers know that if a child is lost the mother will never recover even if she appears to. Even if “time passes.” Even if “she heals.” Mothers know that losing one’s child is likely the single worst thing that can possibly befall a human being and every mother lives with the fear that something could happen to her child for her entire life and every mother prays that she be the one to go first, as is the natural order of things. And every day, mothers send their children to school, even knowing this. But no one knows the pain of it until it happens to you, the specific mother, for whom life is over in ways that no one understands; each individual loss being unique and irreplaceable and impossible to know. A grief which makes one wish the sun could stop shining, and the moon not rise, or stars evaporate, because your world has become something that cannot be lived in anymore. To live in the pain of that loss is something every mother hopes she never has to face. How does one go on breathing after losing a child? And in this way? I don’t know. This was an elementary school. I don’t know anything anymore.

Every mother is feeling the pain and loss from afar, but the mothers who lost, we can’t even hold or comfort because they’ve just all entered into a different dimension and are on another planet now, even though here on earth, wishing perhaps to be swallowed up, wishing for death, because the pain of the loss is too great to bear.

Would there be a grace to come upon the families, the mothers of the children who have been murdered today. Oh, but we cannot take away what has been done. There is no comfort. There is no grace.

Mothers know that one child lost is too many. Mothers know that if a mother somewhere else is grieving, a mother across the planet will feel her pain and cry real tears of loss with her, a complete stranger, across the world, or next door. But we cannot stand in her place, imagining, heaven forbid, saying that, oh, there but for the grace of God go I, that it could be, heaven forbid, in my child’s school. Whether you believe in God or heaven or not, only imagining for a few minutes at a time, or we’d be collapsed on the floor and we have children we must care for. I don’t believe God has a hand in this. I believe guns and ammunition and gun laws that make no sense and a lack of mental health services are the hand in this. A shooter has a hand in this. The ones he got the guns from have a hand in this. The NRA has a hand in this. The government that won’t change the laws has a hand in this.

So we will reserve our cries for later, in bed, to cry into our pillows over the lives lost and the parents mourning their children. And, if only. If only. Maybe in the future, but that is too late for the people suffering today. All the lives shattered. When can it be enough? The pain is too great, today. It is too great the pain that has taken children away from their mothers and fathers today. And every single one of us must think of the lost children today and their parents’ suffering and imagine standing in their shoes. Then take action. Because we are all potential targets of madmen with guns and it is on all of us to demand change. If ever there was a national crisis, and a moment of reckoning, this is it.

There is no time to wait; this is not political for the sake of politics or party,

This is human survival time. This is the time to demand justice for our children and our wildlife because it is one and the same –behind the killing of children and helpless animals and the ruination of our planet —- allowing that to happen and not stopping it—it is all different shades of murder. Children and our wildlife are innocents. They are to be protected. Not gunned down. Not gunned down in fields or at school. Elementary school. Where is the mercy and the clarity and the wisdom we mothers (and so many fathers) know already? Why are our voices not heard? Who are the men who hate children so much that they must clutch their automatic weapons designed as killing machines for war and tell us they have the right to bear arms in this way? Who does this? Why the guns? When we will our nation say it must stop now? Now. Not next year. Not in six months. Now. Today. Can this be the last time? I’ve asked that before. Countless others have asked it. I doubt it will be the way things are going, even as flags are lowered, as candles are lit, as vigils held, prayers offered in the dark, circles of grief expanding. But I have this deeply held wish that it will change if we all just make enough noise about it. Or is time to leave? Is that the answer? I don’t know anymore. Other countries seem to have this worked out a lot better than we do.

This is the exact time (we are long overdue, but, oh, please, let it be NOW) for a radical change in our gun control laws. It can be done. It can be done. Let’s make it done.

Because a six year old says things like this:

“Drawing is like making your dreams come true. It’s like you’re making a story without words.”

And creates work like this:


And believes that there are safe places.

And believes home and school and the street are safe places.

And sees the world in color.

And dreams.

And believes dreams come true.

And brings joy.

Mothers and Fathers know this.

We’re just breathing now.







Helping children after the storm

Dear Readers,

I hope you’re all safe and sound after the storm. We’re OK.

I  just started writing a post about the storm and after the storm. Then I saw a post and pic (see below) on Sesame Street’s Facebook page today. Since this show airs tomorrow –in the NY area, on WNET-13, it’s on at 7:00am—I’m sending this out now.

I highly recommend it for  anyone with young children; anyone who may have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy or who knows someone who’s been affected; or for anyone who’s human with access to power and a TV.

As with everything Sesame Street produces, this special episode is helpful for children and grown ups alike. It touches on a range of emotions experienced by so many, but that are often difficult to express, understand, or cope with.

Info and activities for parents and children:


And more resources:


More soon-ish.

Stay well and warm,


From Sesame Street’s Facebook Page: 

From Sesame Street’s Facebook Page

“On Friday, we’ll be airing a very special episode of Sesame Street.

A hurricane has swept through Sesame Street and everyone is working together to clean up the neighborhood. When Big Bird checks on his home, he is heartbroken to find that the storm has destroyed his nest. Big Bird’s friends and neighbors gather to show their support and let him know they can fix his home, but it will take time. While everyone on Sesame Street spends the next few days cleaning up and making repairs, Big Bird still has moments where he is sad, angry, and confused. His friends help him cope with his emotions by talking about what happened, drawing pictures together, and giving him lots of hugs. They also comfort Big Bird by offering him temporary places he can eat, sleep, and play. Big Bird remembers all the good times he had at his nest and realizes that once it is rebuilt, there are more good times and memories to come. Finally the day has come where most of the repairs to Big Bird’s home are done and his nest is complete. As he is about to try it out, though, the city nest inspector says it not safe, yet, because the mud isn’t dry. Big Bird is sad that he has to wait another day, but Snuffy comes to the rescue and blows the nest dry and he passes the test! Big Bird thanks everyone for being his friend and helping to rebuild his nest and his home.”

Please check your local listings to see what time the episode “Sesame Street Gets Through a Storm” will air on PBS, at


I Will Not Buy My Son a Toy Gun

On Veteran’s Day, November 11, 2011

For those left behind

Hawkeye, Photo credit: Lisa Pembleton

I am a veteran of the Israeli army. I feel strange using the word veteran, because to me, a veteran is someone who fought in combat and either was killed,  injured, or survived. But the dictionary gives the definition as “a former member of the armed services.” So, I suppose it’s OK to say that in this context. But this post is not about me. I use the word only because as someone who did serve her country in Israel, I know a little bit about what it is like to be a soldier. Even though I never fought in combat. And all political things aside, I can tell you that your life is not yours when you are a soldier. You are in service to your country. You wear a uniform. There are rules. You take orders. You learn to use a gun. It can be dangerous.

I mention this also because from an early age, I have seen up close what the effects of losing a family member, friend, or even an aquaintance to war, terror or the military, can be. Grief that comes from the loss of a beloved person in your life is a human, universal experience. But each loss is specific and personal. No two stories are the same, but they are all heartbreaking.

If you are a mother of a soldier, you might end up burying your child, your soldier. If you are a child, you might bury your parent soldier, a father or mother. If you are a husband, wife or fiance, brother or sister, or in any way related to a soldier, you are part of a world that is slightly less known here. Because here in the US, we have a volunteer army, and in Israel, there is a draft. It is required.

So, here we have a much bigger country, and the military families are their own sub set in our culture. In America it is not common practice for all 18 year olds to go to the army following high school. Here, if one is lucky, there is college. Then there are those who volunteer to be soldiers in the US armed services. People who do this, should be afforded rights and services when (and if) they return from their missions here or abroad. If they are injured, they should be given the best medical attention that exists. They should be supported in every possible way: emotionally, financially, and physically. Because they have given of their lives in service and they have put themselves in harm’s way. Whether the war (or wars) are justified or not, I think soldiers returning from war, or combat missions, or service of any kind should be treated with the utmost respect. Their families should be well cared for (in perpetuity) if they are killed in action or cannot work due to injuries (physical or mental). There shouldn’t be even one homeless veteran. It is shameful and outrageous there are so many.

I have not held a gun in my hands since I returned mine when I completed my two-year service in 1987.  I don’t want my son Max to play with toy guns. I will not buy them. I will not allow them as gifts. Yes, he is only (almost) five. I have no idea what he may ask for or want in the future. Saying never is tricky, but thankfully, lately he’s all about cars and Hot Wheels and cats and such. I teach him to use his words when he’s angry. I hope he grows up to be just about anything but a soldier.

When a family has their son or daughter volunteer to go into the army, as is the case these days here in the US, I think that is worthy of something. At minimum, respect. And respect should mean that veterans are treated well. Period. And there should not have to be a discussion about whether the war is right or wrong so as to justify whether they deserve to be treated with respect, compassion, understanding and real tangible help when they return home. They do deserve it. Yes. They do. Every bit of it and more.

And I don’t understand the concept of Veteran’s Day sales. It makes no sense to me. People have died, or are injured; is let’s go buy stuff really the answer?!  I don’t understand it. More people need to be aware of what the veterans experiences are, what the history is here, not what the best deal on furniture, electronics, or toys is (today, hurry, get great deals, 30% off!).

The toy guns. I hate them. I hate them and I won’t buy them for Max. Instead, I buy him colors, paints, pens and notebooks he can fill with words, drawings, and stories. I give him things he can build (or knock down) without hurting anyone. I teach gentle hands (with people, animals, and places). I want to believe my intentions and actions will give Max a place where peace has a chance to happen.

I dedicate this post to all the brave men and women, past, present and future who have served or will serve this country at war or at peace. Thank you. 

Here is a collection of websites and articles:

John Moore and a photo of grief from Arlington National Cemetary


A dog keeps watch


The first woman from the Oklahoma National Guard killed in combat will be laid to rest: http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/article.aspx?subjectid=511&articleid=20111110_11_A4_CUTLIN331370

At War: Notes from the Front Lines (about homeless veterans): http://atwar.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/08/study-finds-homeless-veterans-stay-homeless-longer-than-others/

100K Homes: http://100khomes.org/

From Sesame Workshop and Sesame Street:Talk, Listen, Connect –Toolkit for Military Families: http://www.sesamestreet.org/parents/topicsandactivities/toolkits/tlc

Families Near and Far: http://www.familiesnearandfar.org/resources/grief/coviewing/

Fantastic info about grief and the grieving process on their resources page –Good Grief: http://www.good-grief.org/

Talking with Kids About News: http://www.pbs.org/parents/talkingwithkids/news/

Courage to Talk (regarding war injuries): http://www.couragetotalk.org/talking.children.php

Coming Home: Veterans Readjusting to Civilian Life: http://www.pbs.org/pov/regardingwar/conversations/coming-home/

The Bob Woodruff Foundation: helping to heal the physical and psychological wounds of war. http://www.reMIND.org

National Veterans Art Museum: http://www.nvvam.org/

International Art Therapy Organization: http://www.internationalarttherapy.org/militarytrauma.html

Women, War & Peace: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/women-war-and-peace/category/full-episodes/


I’m sorry I couldn’t post per usual on Friday. It’s a long story. Here’s a short post for today:

My dear friends at Sesame Street are tackling the topic of hunger.

A new special, “Growing Hope Against Hunger,” is airing tonight on PBS. Written and produced by two great friends: Christine Ferraro (super talented, multiple Emmy and WGA award winning writer) and Melissa Dino (amazing, super talented, and multiple Emmy award winning producer).

I think we can all agree that no one should have to go hungry. Especially children. It’s high time to shine a light and raise awareness. I suppose that those who know, do and help. But a lot of people are unaware. So, please pass it on, share the info, and let’s all keep doing whatever we can to help those in need. No child should go hungry. Here, overseas, or anywhere. Period.

I’ll be watching. I hope you will, too.

Love and peace,


Bullying: Sticks and Stones and Words Can Kill


Back to School is in full swing. This should be an exciting time for students. But for those who are bullied, going to school can be a terrifying or life-threatening experience.  Tonight, Friday September 16, at 8:00pm ET, CBS is airing a special 48 Hours,“Bullying….If Words Could Kill.”

Last year, we experienced what I perceived to be “beginner bullying behavior” in Max’s preschool class.  I was shocked this could even exist in children as young as 4 years old. Max was upset and angry and so was I. Like most parents would, I did everything I could to help him. I spoke with the school’s administration and teachers and asked for their intervention and help. Luckily, our situation at preschool was addressed quickly and thoughtfully. Parents got involved, teachers listened, responded, and did more to help ALL the kids who were hurting. The ones who were doing the aggressive and mean behavior (hitting, name-calling, etc), AND the ones who were on the receiving end—turns out both were hurting, and both needed more help. Everyone involved was invested in making things  better. Cooperation, listening, and working together was crucial. Things were resolved peacefully.

I think it’s never too early to begin teaching children acceptable behaviors and how we should treat each other. How to resolve conflicts with words. How to make choices to be kind, helpful, loving, and inclusive, instead of rejecting, mean and destructive. I also wrote a piece detailing our experience, Bullying Behavior for Sesame Family Newsletter. 

My friend, Courtney Knowles, Executive Director of The JED Foundation, co-founded the “Love is Louder”movement.  On September 30, they are celebrating their one year anniversary. Here’s a few pictures we had uploaded to their campaign last year. A reminder that love is louder. Love is the answer. Empathy is the answer. It really is.  Good laws and enforcing them will also help. If we don’t do what we can to combat bullying, we are diminishing ourselves. All children deserve better.

I was bullied as a child. Several times, both here in the US when I was around six or seven years-old, and then in Israel, soon after we moved there when I was ten. In one case, I was pushed into a bee’s nest. In another, my long hair was chopped off. I remember those incidents (and there were others) as if they happened yesterday. Since then, I learned how to get help and stand up for myself. All kinds of bullies have come and gone over the years. Each time I encountered one, I learned something. How to stand up, walk away, and let go. But I was an adult who had learned to cope. I had language, comprehension, and experiences to draw on to remind me, “it gets better.” I finally learned how to spot bullying behavior a mile away, and can better avoid it now.

I want Max to stay true to himself, be healthy, live a happy life, and continue to be a kind person who cares for others. I don’t want him to be bullied. I’m trying to teach him that while sometimes people might say and do terrible things, he has a choice of how to respond. I don’t want him to become a bully, either. We don’t tolerate name-calling, and even as he’s still learning, and I have to repeat myself over and over, Max is not allowed to call other people hurtful names. Period. When he does, I remind him how he felt when he was called something mean or hurtful. I don’t let it slide. I say something about what is acceptable to me, and what isn’t. I show him another way to express his feelings. Max gets mad at me, and that’s OK. I show him how to tolerate and express anger constructively. He’s learning. I’m learning.

These days, cyber-bullying can be non-stop, 24/7. And children are killing themselves. There are sufficient horror stories of young kids, teens and college students who were (or are) terrorized in their schools, on buses, or online. Each story of bullying is heartbreaking; each one is one too many. I want to  help make it better. I believe that each one of us can make a difference in our own homes, schools, communities. All those little moments will add up. And then we’ll see bigger changes. But we have to start where we are, and at home. We need to standup for each other and for those who cannot speak up for themselves. We need to do this for the children who are gone and their parents who suffer from their loss. We need to make this problem obsolete. It should become a thing of the past, not something we accept as an inevitable part of life.

There are many excellent resources out there about bullying, but here’s a few I recommend today:  Author, Trudy  Ludwig has written great books addressing the topic of bullying and her insights and resources are excellent. Empathy is key! Susan Raisch, the creator of Tangled Ball is a friend and former colleague of mine from Sesame Workshop. She works on bullying prevention and has also joined forces with Kathryn Otoshi, author of the book ONE (which is wonderful).  The Human Rights Campaign has a long list of resources and this useful information about Cyber Bullying in the LGBT community.

Until every child can go to school without fear of bullying, we have a lot of work to do. I hope there is not one more child, or teenager or college student who takes his or her own life because suicide seemed like their only way to escape their horrible pain and suffering caused by bullying. As a parent it’s unthinkable. But it is happening, and we all have a role to play to make it better. We have to teach ourselves and our kids how to be kinder to each other. Yes, it starts at home, in the sandbox, on the playground, and then at school. The good news is, we can change this, but we all have to be willing to see what is happening now.

As Kathryn Otoshi writes:

Sometimes it just takes One.

When We Say The Missing

An excerpt from a poem, “A Lament for the Missing” written at 441 West 49th Street, Apartment 13, New York, NY 10019
on 9/18/2001 ©Elana A. Halberstadt

When we say the missing, we mean everything we have lost.
Everything that was supposed to be.
Everything we’ll never have.
Weddings and anniversary celebrations. Birthdays. Descendants.
Beyond the monumental life events, it is the mundane, everyday moments we
will miss the most.
The moments of the missing.
A dinner table with an empty seat.
A car parked without an owner to claim it.
When we say the missing, we mean the ones left behind have been deprived a
lifetime of
One more kiss.
A phone call to remind them to buy milk on the way home.
We mean children whose parents will never tuck them into bed, or tell them a
story, or
hold them to reassure them that the world can be a beautiful place.
We mean the photos and mementos covered in dust.
When we say dust and ashes,
We mean the concrete, the documents, and the souls devoured in flames.

When we say the missing, we mean what a miracle to survive.
We mean the near-misses.
The missing of being there that morning.
I was late that morning. I went to vote. I took my kid to school. I was on vacation.
I took a different flight.
That morning,
I wasn’t there, but I could have been.
The lucky ones who escaped down countless floors that we cannot stop
ask themselves, How did I get out? Why me?
We all ask ourselves,
Why am I saved and not the others?