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Why We’re Happy to Be a Christmas Tree-Free Home

I am Jewish. My husband was raised Presbyterian, considers himself atheist, and until he met me, had never known a Jewish person. So it was with some trepidation and a few drinks that I told him, if he was serious about me, he would have to let me raise our possible children Jewish.


Never mind that I wasn’t positive I wanted kids in the first place, or that we’d known each other all of two weeks. Yet I was sure of two things: Dan was awesome, and I had no time to date a guy I’d never marry.

He asked me what having Jewish children would look like. I wasn’t sure. Seven years and two children later, I’m still winging it. But I had to answer the question, so I started with the one thing I was sure of.

We would not have a Christmas tree.

It’s hard for me to articulate what it means to be a Jew. It’s much easier to say what being a Jew is not. For me, being Jewish is not celebrating Christmas. As a kid, being Jewish at Christmastime meant feeling the pain of being different.

In the second grade, my well-meaning teacher handed my homework back with a sticker, a symbol of a job well done. I don’t remember what the sticker was, only that it was different than the red and green Christmas stickers that adorned my friends’ papers. I wanted a candy cane, an elf, or a Santa hat, too. My sticker was no doubt cute, but to me, it was an ugly stamp of my otherness.

I used to dread holiday season small talk. I remember being 10 years old, lying on my dentist’s mustard yellow chair for a cleaning, sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Inevitably, my friendly dentist asked the dreaded question, “What are you asking Santa for this year?” When he removed his instruments from my mouth, I replied, “Nothing.”

I did not care to elaborate, and my tone conveyed that. Above his mask, his eyes betrayed shock. After an awkward pause, my mom looked up from her magazine and explained with an apologetic smile, “We’re Jewish.”

In high school I attended an all-girls Quaker prep school. Although none of the students were Quaker, practically none were Jewish, either. Aside from being the only one in my class to miss school on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, my Jewishness was a non-issue. Until the school replaced the time-honored Christmas Vespers pageant with the politically correct Lumina celebration.

I was thrilled. I wouldn’t have to sing about the birth of our lord Jesus Christ anymore. No longer would I feign excitement over a tradition I secretly loathed. I never told my classmates I was invited to be one of the few student representatives on the Lumina advisory committee. When talk at the lunch table turned to the tragic loss of the beloved ritual, I kept my mouth shut. I don’t blame 17-year-old me for prioritizing fitting in over defending my identity.

As a kid, I wanted a Christmas tree, badly. I was thrilled when a friend’s family invited me to help decorate theirs. I would daydream about what kind of tree I’d get if I were Christian (real, not fake), and how I’d decorate it (with rainbow lights, no tinsel). Even now, when we go to my in-laws for Christmas, I selfishly wish their tree were more festive.

Now that I’m an adult, I can have a tree. I can have any kind of tree I want. I can dress it up as fancy as a prom queen if I feel like it. But like I tell myself before taking a bite of my daughter’s leftover chicken nuggets, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Because for me, the presence – or absence – of a Christmas tree in my living room is about much more than home décor. It’s a public declaration of who I am and what matters to me.

I am a Jew. I am the great-granddaughter of Jews who fled Pogroms in Eastern Europe and came to this country with nothing, hoping for something better.

I have fond childhood memories of sneaking out of services with my brother and my friends for epic games of hide-and-seek spanning our entire synagogue and its grounds.

I remember breaking the Yom Kippur fast at my grandmother’s house, the dining room table covered with food: a heaping bowl of warm, fresh bagels alongside platters of lox and cream cheese, my great-aunt’s noodle kugel with Cornflake cereal topping, and my mother’s chopped liver.

I remember three generations of grandparents, great aunts, great uncles, and cousins taking turns reading the Haggadah at the Passover Seder, while my brother and I joked in whispers at the kids’ table.

I remember getting together with Jewish family friends, who were as much family as blood relatives, every Christmas Eve for Chinese food and ice cream sundaes. I remember going on a teen tour to Israel and feeling totally at home with 40 teenagers I’d never met before, an ocean away from my parents.

I also remember the deep longing I felt for a Christmas tree and a stocking full of Lip Smackers and scrunchies every December.

But if I had the chance, I wouldn’t trade that longing for the fulfillment of my childhood wishes, because the sum of all these experiences have shaped my values. I believe it’s more important to be who I am than to be like everyone else, even when it’s uncomfortable.

If I can pass that belief on to my daughters, I will have given them a greater gift than anything I could put under a Christmas tree.

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Jessica Simpson celebrated her baby shower this weekend (after getting a cupping treatment for her very swollen pregnancy feet) and her theme and IG captions have fans thinking this was not just a shower, but a baby name announcement as well.

Simpson (who is expecting her third child with former NFL player Eric Johnson) captioned two photos of her shower as "💚 Birdie's Nest 💚". The photographs show Simpson and her family standing under a neon sign spelling out the same thing.

While Simpson didn't explicitly state that she was naming her child Birdie, the numerous references to the name in her shower photos and IG stories have the internet convinced that she's picking the same name Busy Philips chose for her now 10-year-old daughter.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to name nerds and trend watchers.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

Simpson's older kids are called Maxwell and Ace, which both have a vintage feel, so if Birdie really is her choice, the three old-school names make a nice sibling set.

Whether Birdie is the official name or just a cute nickname Simpson is playing around with, we get the appeal and bet she can't wait for her little one to arrive (and her feet to go back to normal!)

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Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.

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As if we needed another reason to shop at Target, our favorite store is offering some great deals for mamas who need products for baby. Mom life can be expensive and we love any chance at saving a few bucks. If you need to stock up on baby care items, like diapers and wipes, now is the time.

Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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