Category Archives: Kids & Family

Learning To Swim Offers Benefits Beyond Safety

by on March 3, 2016

swim lessons special needs pjcc

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, swimming is the fourth most popular sports activity in the United States. However, this is countered with the sobering statistic provided by the National Autism Association which  states that drowning is the leading cause of death among children in the autism spectrum. No question, learning how
to swim can indeed be a lifesaving skill set. However, for children with special needs, swimming offers the additional benefit of providing what can be an especially empowering and exhilarating experience in a positive setting. From developing gross motor and cognitive skills to
building strength and endurance, swimming fosters courage, confidence and trust. It’s also a social skill that helps cultivate friendships. Then, of course, there’s the physical benefit that all
swimmers enjoy: a low-impact, cardiovascular workout that tones muscles, increases endurance, and helps reduce risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
This makes swimming not just a safety skill, but a life skill to enjoy through the ages.

Thriving, In The Water  And Out 

A Student Discovers Swimming Skills That Extend  Beyond The Pool

The young man glides seamlessly through the water with PJCC swim instructor Laurie Gardner at his side, telling him to, “kick, stroke, kick, and breathe!” Now 16, Connor Kitayama has been taking private swim lessons with Laurie since 2007. His mother, La Donna Ford, initially enrolled her son, who has autism, for swim lessons, but she soon discovered that the lessons also served a valuable role as occupational therapy.

“Connor is an excellent athlete in general, but swimming exposed several unsuspected weaknesses,” says La Donna. “Since using certain body movements is so challenging, he must focus intently to master strokes. I see swimming as a lifelong leisure skill with the bonus benefits of built-in therapy.”

When Connor first started taking lessons as an eight-year old, he wouldn’t get his face wet and could only manage a weak dog paddle despite previous swim lessons at other venues. But over
the years, his proud mother has observed her son blossoming both in the pool and out. Today the young man sports exceptional balance and hand-eye coordination and adores water sports like swimming, jet skiing, kayaking, and wake surfing.

“I’ve watched Connor gain confidence as his swimming progresses,” she says. “His frustration tolerance is much better. For Connor, a lot of life is hard to understand, but he’s learned that through a lot of work, he can improve, and this attitude has extended beyond the pool. Going to a place he likes makes the rest of the week easier,” she adds. “He has something fun to look forward to. He’s also learned to take instruction from different teachers with different vocabulary, which has been an invaluable lesson.”

La Donna credits Laurie Gardner’s teaching skills for her son’s transformation. Laurie, who has been with the PJCC since 2004, has Bachelor of Science degrees in pre-med biology and pychology. She started out as a general swim instructor but began teaching private lessons when she encountered people with special needs who wanted to learn how to swim. Today, her students range from children with Down syndrome and autism to adults who are quadriplegic or have cerebral palsy.

“We feel blessed to have found Laurie, whose patience and belief in Connor has taken him from a poor dog paddler who didn’t pay attention, to a focused teen whose swimming skills continue to impress,” La Donna says. “Swimming at the PJCC has been great for Connor to learn how to act more appropriately socially. It’s also been good for others to understand that there are pople who are wired differently, but we all inhabit the same world.”

To learn about group and private swim lessons for children and adults, please call 650.378.2782, email aquatics@pjcc.org, or visit pjcc.org/aquatics.

 

 

 

Dog Heals Family… And Vice Versa

by on February 23, 2016

pets rescue spca
By Debbie Goren

2013 was a tough year for the Goren family. We had lost my beloved father to brain cancer after six grueling months of slowly watching this wonderful father and grandfather slip away. His passing left a hole in our hearts and our healing would be slow.

2013 was also a tough year for a stray dog who was dumped in Half Moon Bay without a collar, microchip, or any signs of his owner. The unkempt black-and white mutt was taken to the Peninsula Humane Society in Burlingame, where it was found that his right eye was so severely infected and swollen it no longer served any purpose but pain, and had to be removed. In addition, the little guy was sick with a stomach bug he had picked up from drinking gutter water.

Our lives aligned the day my family decided that in order to continue our healing, we needed love and needed to give love. We went to the SPCA where we sighted the one-eyed dog and were intrigued. Could we get to know him better? In the greeting room, he was scampering round, giving kisses, and rolling over for belly scratches, ecstatic over the affection and attention our boys were heaping on him. As I watched and fell in love, I realized it was no accident that we had found each other. We both needed healing.

We kept his shelter name, Thomas, and made it official by engraving it on a shiny, new bone-shaped doggie tag. To say this former stray helped our family emerge from a dark time would be an understatement. Our boys, 12-year old Jonathan and 9-year-old Zach, love Thomas so much that we have a written schedule for who gets to sleep with him each night. After a long day at work, he welcomes my husband at the door, and I see the stress melt away as David bends down to return the enthusiastic canine greeting. When my mother visits, she cuddles her furry grandpuppy in her arms and serenades him with Yiddish lullabies, while the other doggie grandparents are always volunteering as “Thomas-sitters.” Our boy has also become the unofficial class mascot for Jonathan’s 7th grade class.

When I can steal Thomas from other family members, I take him with me everywhere. At night, Thomas nestles next to one of us in bed and we listen to him snore. We feel comforted by the sound, even if others might be bothered by the wheezing, snorts, and snuffles. Instead, we hear something else: contentment, love, and healing.

 

Why Is It so Hard To Ask For Help?

by on February 9, 2016

asking for help

By Koko Kaasaki, PJCC Adult Program Coordinator

Being independent and self-sufficient are positive attributes, however, we all need help from time to time. But, do you ever struggle to ask for help? M. Nora Klaver, a life coach and author of Mayday! Asking for Help in Times of Need, states that 70 percent of people confessed to having needed help in the previous week but did not ask for it. There are many reasons why we do not ask for help including not knowing how to ask; not thinking to ask; wanting to be self-reliant; and believing it’s easier to do it ourselves. Often underlying the myriad reasons are the fear of being vulnerable and the shame of being burdensome.

Motivational speaker Mike Robins assures us that it’s not uncommon to feel discomfort in asking for help. We may think that we should be able to do everything on our own, or that asking for help can set us up for rejection and disappointment. When we can get beyond the initial discomfort, however, Robbins states that asking others for assistance may strengthen the networks of friendship and community. Furthermore, asking for and receiving help validates that we are worthy of others’ support. Asking for help, therefore, is an act of self-compassion.

Some people have no difficulties in asking for help. Others can develop this skill through taking small steps every week. M. Nora Klaver suggests that regularly making small requests, such as borrowing a cup of sugar from a neighbor, develops our “muscles” so we don’t feel desperate and overwhelmed when bigger situation arise where needing help is unavoidable.

Additionally, psychologist Dr. Deborah Serani provides the useful acronym HELP when seeking others’ assistance:

  • Have realistic expectations for the kind of help you are seeking
  • Express your needs simply and clearly
  • Let others know you are there to help them as well
  • Praise your pals for their assistance and pat yourself for asking for help

And, here is some food for thought: Klaver suggests that the independent, self-sufficient American is a cultural myth. She asserts that all great endeavors are founded upon the spirit of team work and helping each other in times of need. Our endeavors may be great or not so great (or somewhere in-between). Nonetheless, this practical viewpoint provides a positive argument for why we needn’t shy away from asking for help.

 

Koko Kaasaki is the PJCC Adult Program Coordinator and has a Masters in Gerontology.

See upcoming programs at the PJCC.

 

 

Eight Wise Hanukkah Insights

by on December 6, 2015

Hanukkah insights

The clock is ticking and it’s time again for those eight crazy nights of Hanukkah. So this would be an apt time for eight wise Hanukkah insights. Well, maybe not so wise but maybe interesting. Perhaps…

  1. I never really understood the fascination with latkes. Sure, because of the miracle of the oil we are supposed to eat foods fried in oil – who thought that was a good idea? – but why latkes? They always seemed like glorified hash browns to me. Well, as with everything Jewish, there’s a story behind this: Seems that the Babylonian king Nevuchadnezzer sent his general Holofernes to destroy Jerusalem, and Holofernes decided he wanted to have Judith, daughter of the High Priest, as his bed mate. She agreed and as a gift, brought him latkes for dinner. He got very thirsty and she gave him strong wine. He got good and drunk, fell asleep, and Judith cut his head off, saving her people. Take note this story has nothing to do with Hanukkah, but oh well, it’s a good story so pass the latkes! As for me, I’d prefer fried chicken. (By the way, the latkes Judith made were made of cheese, so I guess we could think of Cheez Doodles as a new Hanukkah food.)
  2. How come, Jewish composers and songwriters wrote those beautiful Christmas songs that are impossible to escape, yet we, their people, have to sing “I Have a Little Dreidel?” Couldn’t someone write a classy Hanukkah song? Adam Sandler doesn’t count, though his song, now in version 4, has done more for kids’ Jewish identity than Hebrew School.
  3. Most people know that gift-giving is not an old-time Hanukkah tradition. From the Middle Ages on parents gave their children “gelt” (not to be confused with “guilt”) – money – with which to gamble with the dreidel. But what can we do? Capitalism reigns and God forbid our kids be left out of the gift -receiving frenzy. Just remember, we have more to give than toys and as we give let’s remember the most needy among us.
  4. The story of Hanukkah centers of the Syrian Greeks who defiled the Temple sanctuary in Jerusalem by putting idols in it and sacrificing pigs on the altar. When Judah and his small militia drove the enemy out of Jerusalem the first thing they did was to purify the Temple sanctuary. In that time, the Temple was thought of as the home of the Divine, so it was comparable to cleaning out the House so that God could return to dwell among the People of Israel. It’s very hard to survive as a spiritual person without having a sanctuary. What are we to do in our era? Perhaps we should take a page from our deepest mystical teaching that says that God’s sanctuary is within us; It’s in our hearts. As the gospel song goes, “O Lord prepare me, to be a sanctuary, pure and holy, tried and true…” So we need to work on purifying our hearts, polishing our souls, and lighting up the world.
  5. Here a conundrum for you: When Judah came to the Temple all he could find was a little cruse of oil with which to light the menorah, just enough oil for one day. So in an act of faith he lit the menorah and the oil lasted for eight days. That means that the miracle of the oil was only for seven days (you do the math)! So why is Hanukkah eight days? (There’s a fried latke for you if you know the answer.)
  6. Here’s one thing we can learn from the Maccabees: A small group of people can accomplish great miracles. So when we are overwhelmed with doubt and despondency, we can adopt the attitude that we can make miracles.
  7. Don’t forget to include family, friends and community in your Hanukkah celebration. The more people we include the more love and light we create. And isn’t that the idea? To make as much light as we can at the time when the days are shortest and the world is darkest?
  8. Each night when you light the Hanukkah candles, why not dedicate that evening’s candle to a hope you have for yourself, your family, for Israel or for the world? It will make the candle lighting more meaningful and will help us remember that we can make a difference in our world, even if it’s a small difference.

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Is Gluten Making You Ill?

by on December 3, 2015

gluten

During the German occupation of the Netherlands in WWII, massive starvation took place in 1944 and 1945, resulting in an estimated 22,000 deaths. One group of patients with intestinal problems paradoxically improved because of the shortage of bread. The Dutch physician, Dr. Willem Dicke, theorized that the culprit was the gluten in the wheat. Since there was a bread shortage, these patients got better. As a result of of this dreadful famine, celiac disease became understood.

What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac disease is primarily a digestive disorder caused by an immune reaction to gluten which in turn results in damage to the lining of the small intestine. This leads to malabsorption or difficulty absorbing nutrients. Gluten can be found in wheat, barley and rye, and also can be Continue reading

Tumeric Latkes with Cinnamon Applesauce

by on November 22, 2015

latke tumeric applesauce pjcc

TUMERIC LATKES WITH CINNAMON APPLESAUCE

Turmeric and cumin are wonderful Indian spices that aid digestion, rev up the metabolism and help break down body fat. Couple that with the addition of cinnamon to the applesauce which helps regulate blood sugar and reduce cholesterol, and you have an delicious potato latke brimming with super nutrition.

Preparation time: 25 minutes | Cook time: 35 minutes | Serves: 15 latkes Continue reading

Pumpkin Pie Greek Yogurt Parfait

by on November 5, 2015

pumpkin parfait recipe pjcc

Pumpkin, the quintessential fall holiday symbol is also a wonderful food full of fiber, protein, and vitamins K and A. By alternating layers of pumpkin puree with protein-packed Greek yogurt, these beautiful parfaits are easy to prepare, slimming for your waistline, and full of nutrition.

Prep time:  20 minutes | Serves: 4 Continue reading

High Protein Sweet Potato Muffins

by on October 30, 2015

sweet potato muffins recipe

HIGH PROTEIN SWEET POTATO MUFFINS 

Sweet potatoes are inexpensive, delicious, and packed with calcium, potassium, and vitamins A and C. Members of the Morning Glory family, sweet potatoes are really just edible roots. The red-orange sweet potatoes are slightly moister and sweeter than the tan variety, making them the best choice for this recipe.

Prep: 1 hour, 10 min. | Cook: 30 min. | Serves: 24 mini muffins Continue reading

Apple Pie Spiced Pumpkin Seed Recipe

by on October 17, 2015

pumpkin seed recipe fall

Nothing says fall like pumpkins and apples and all of the great foods you can make with them! Here is a simple recipe to make and enjoy.

Apple Pie Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (optional) Continue reading

My First Day

by on September 30, 2015

paul geduldig pjcc ceo

September 29, 2015

Today marks my first day serving as the new Chief Executive Officer of the PJCC and it was a day filled with inspiring moments and experiences. As I walked through our beautiful Center I was thrilled by the vibrancy and diversity of the programs offered and of the people participating. In a single day, I encountered Preschool children buzzing about classrooms, adults attending fitness classes, kids learning to swim, youth engaged in dynamic afterschool programs, a lively Continue reading

Member Profile: Gene Hetzer

by on September 29, 2015

gene hetzer pjcc

It’s a common refrain that people will often embrace any excuse to avoid exercise, ranging from a “painful paper cut” to a “can’t miss” episode of television’s Shark Tank. However, Gene Hetzer, Jr., doesn’t let anything stop him from his workouts at the PJCC, including the fact that he’s vision impaired.

The 63-year-old is on the treadmill at least twice a week with his guide dog, a Golden Retriever named Lynmar, waiting patiently at his side. Blind since birth, Gene lost his vision due to oxygen Continue reading

Edible Schoolyard: Inspiration For A Lifetime

by on August 25, 2015

Bring something beautiful to the classroom. Bring a bouquet, set things up differently with a beautiful table cloth and a lovely basket of fruit. Prepare the classroom, the kitchen and the garden, so kids fall in love. –  Alice Waters /Founder, Edible Schoolyard Academy

I was filled with excitement as I made my way across the Bay Bridge to Berkeley, about to fulfill lifetime dream: attending the Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard Academy (ESY). As a wellness/
nutrition coach for the PJCC, I was one of three given the incredible honor of representing the PJCC to help develop a nutrition and food awareness curriculum for local elementary schools. Our motivation came from California State Senator Jerry Hill D-San Mateo when he visited the PJCC’s Justice Garden. Impressed with our endeavor to promote food justice and education, the Senator expressed his support in helping the PJCC share our curriculum with local elementary schools. Garnering the tools for creating this curriculum was our goal at ESY.

Helping Healthy Habits Take Root
The Edible Schoolyard (ESY) program teaches youngsters how their choices about food affect their health, the environment, and their communities. Now in its 17th year, ESY is the brainchild of Alice Waters, the chef/proprietor of the Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley. Waters is a passionate voice and pioneer in the culinary movement that supports cooking with only the finest and freshest seasonal ingredients that are produced sustainably and locally. Housed at Berkeley’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School, the abandoned teachers’ parking lot was once a neighborhood eyesore, but today is home to a lush and meandering one-acre garden and kitchen/classroom. Students are actively involved in every aspect of food’s life cycle, from planting a seed in the garden and preparing simple meals in the kitchen to using the food waste to produce rich compost to nourish the plants. These essential life skills are priceless and have made the ESY the model program for farm-to-table education. “Farm to school” is a term that defines school efforts to incorporate local and regionally produced foods into school cafeterias. In 2011-2012, a USCA survey of 13,000 public school districts showed that 44 percent across the country have such a program in place. This is exciting news, but in a country where child obesity is on the rise, we still have a long way to go.

Go Slow and Go Deep
ESY educates the educators: the more ambassadors on the front lines, the better to reach the children. At the academy alone, there were over 90 enthusiastic attendees from around the world. However, we were cautioned to “Go slow and go deep.” Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor was the ESY. We should start small, in a corner of the playground or in a few gardening
pots outside a classroom. Let the kids get their hands dirty. Appeal to all their senses, with the taste, smell, sound and sight of fresh produce grown with care and prepared simply.

From ESY to the PJCC
I’m excited to bring my ESY education to the PJCC. When I spoke with Alice Waters, I asked if she had any additional advice as we begin introducing ESY concepts to our students. “I always say we need to work with kids in kindergarten through grade 12,” she replied. “But what I really mean is, get to them at age two. Start at this age and you have them for life.”

The PJCC is always on the lookout for ways to incorporate healthy habits into everyday life. We adopted the Discover CATCH program into our childrens’ programming. CATCH, an acronym for Coordinated Approach to Childhood Health, is an educational program created by University of Texas School of Public Health in response to the rising obesity epidemic in our country. CATCH uses a combination of kid’s nutrition and fitness activities as tools to teach children how to lead healthy and active lives. Recently, the Jewish Community Center Association adopted Discover CATCH, an expansion of CATCH that allows children to explore physical activity and nutrition through Jewish values, instilling healthy habits in children and their families for wellness their way.

Special Needs Tips – Come As You Are!

by on August 20, 2015

epstein-pirates-625

Every month features an awareness day for different special needs. World Down Syndrome Day in March, National Spina Bifida Awareness in October, and Autism Awareness in April. These are just a few of the many special needs that families are dealing with each day. It’s hard to know what a special needs family goes through unless you are one. So, we’ve asked one family to tell us how it really is and what can make families with special needs feel supported and included in the general community.

By Diana Blank Epstein and David Epstein

It is on ongoing struggle for families with special needs children to find acceptance, understanding and inclusion in the wider community and, as a result, families can experience isolation and alienation, which only adds to their sense of despair and grief about having a child with challenges.

Yet, there is much that people can do to support and include special needs families. We believe that many do want to reach out and include individuals with disabilities but just don’t know what to say or how to interact.

Based on our own personal experience, our “special” friends, and what we hear in the local autism community, here are some helpful guidelines to enrich all of our interactions.

 ACKNOWLEDGE

Just making an effort to acknowledge the special needs child (rather than avoiding the child/family) and some interactive attempts at engaging the child, go a long way in making the family feel like a part of the community. It can be as simple as smiling at the child, greeting the child, giving a high five and making a positive comment about the child.Special needs families are particularly sensitive about negative comments which can easily put a parent in defense mode. Best to keep in mind that these are children and parents who are under very different stressors than the typical family and are generally working double time to help their child overcome multiple challenges.

  • Try asking neutral questions which show genuine interest in the child and are seen as supportive (ie: Where is your child going to school?, What activities does he like? What do you need to feel comfortable and accommodated here?).

NORMALIZE

Normalizing a special needs child’s behaviors is comforting for parents and really facilitates the inclusion process. For example, last summer at Camp Keff it was reassuring for me to hear camp counselors say “all the kids get loud at camp….Joshua fits right in.” Sometimes community members will remark on what they do to meet their own sensory needs, validating that we all have habits we engage in to calm ourselves (ie: Joshua uses an attachable chewy for oral sensory needs, while others chew gum to meet their oral needs or to calm themselves).

  • Just normalizing that we all have good days and bad days and that we all struggle, at some level, in expressing our needs and wants. The simple act of not reacting when a child with special needs acts differently or may be having a meltdown is very helpful (ie: our son Joshua has a sensory need involving tapping on objects. We feel supported when people understand this need and let it be “no big deal”, while we make efforts to redirect him, take him somewhere else if it gets too loud, or just let him engage in this behavior if it not disruptive in that particular setting).

DON’T EVALUATE

Although perhaps well meaning, we appreciate when people steer clear of questions that make the families feel that they are being evaluated. We already are evaluated so much by school districts and insurance companies. We just want to “be” when we are in the community. For example, asking “how bad is your child’s condition” or “where is your child on the spectrum?”, puts us in a position where the focus is on the child’s impairments and disability, rather than the child as a human being first.

  • Instead, try asking about the child’s likes and dislikes and what we enjoy doing as a family unit. If anything, comment on the special needs child’s positive qualities and acheivements.

AVOID PITY

And, while we know people are trying to be compassionate, most of us find pity comments unsupportive. Comments such as “I can’t imagine what your life is like,” “We thought we had issues with our kids” and “I’m so sorry that this happened to your family” are taken as derogatory towards the child, hurtful to the family, and create a situation where a family experiences a greater sense of exclusion.

  • What can be helpful is to ask if a family needs personal space or needs extra assistance, when their child with special needs is having a tough time behaviorally in the community. Everyone has different needs and communicating with the family about what particular needs and accommodations are supportive for that specific family, can really help a family feel supported by their community.

As a rule, use the “person first philosophy” for people with any disability. Put the person first, before the disability. Try to see our children as representing neurodiversity (human variance). Like anyone, all we hope for is our children and families feeling accepted and respected for who they are and who they are becoming. Come as you are! Our strength is in our diversity afterall.

 

Diana Blank Epstein is an LCSW who works as a clinical supervisor and is on staff at JFCS, where one of her roles is developing and teaching special-need workshops for parents. David Epstein is a Software Quality Assurance Engineer who has worked for a variety of companies in Silicon Valley. Diana and David have two adorable children, Rachel and Joshua. Rachel has entered the 5th grade in a Montessori program. Joshua has entered the 3rd grade in a special day class. They are both well-adjusted and happy children, who are loved and accepted for who they are.

 

 

 

 

Summer Parfait

by on July 17, 2015

recipe pjcc parfait

This ultimate summer dessert is light, delicious, and bursting with fruit.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of sliced strawberries or other fruit of choice
  • 1 pint or 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar (more or less to taste)
  • ½ cup blueberries, raspberries or fruit of choice for topping

Directions

To make whipped cream:

  1. Pour the heavy cream into the cooled bowl. Using a hand mixer, whip the cream over medium/high speed until it begins to thickened.
  2. Increase the speed to high and continue to whip until medium peaks form.
  3. Turn off the mixer and add the confectioners’ sugar.
  4. Whip again on low speed until the confectioners’ sugar is mostly combined. Increase the speed to high and whip until completely thickened and the mixture forms stiff peaks. Refrigerator until ready to use.

To assemble parfaits:

  1. Place a small spoonful of whipped cream on the bottom of each ice cream cone then add a small spoonful of chopped strawberries, pushing the berries down into the whipped cream. Continue to layer strawberries and cream until you reach the top of the cone with a cream layer – (two or three layers).
  2. Garnish with a raspberry and blueberries or fruit of choice.
  3. Makes 16 ice cream cones.

Enjoy!

Warning: Nature Hikes Can Lead to Radical Amazement

by on May 14, 2015

By Deborah Newbrun

Nature Hikes Jewish twist
I have been leading a series of Jewish-themed nature hikes for the PJCC as part of their Jewish Wellness programming for several years. Often the first question on the hike is: What makes a hike Jewish?

Jews have a blessing for what Abraham Joshua Heschel calls radical amazement, when you stop to notice something in nature that is not created by humans and you want to mark the moment with a blessing of thanks.

Baruch Atah Adonai, Elohienu Melech Ha Olam, oseh ma’asay bereshit
Bountiful are you, the one we call ruler, creator of the universe who makes the wonders of creation.

A Harvard Medical School health publication confirms what we already know. Those people who cultivate a practice of gratitude, like writing thank you notes or saying prayers of thanks, are the happiest. “With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power. In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

On the PJCC Jewish-themed nature hikes, we enter the woods or fields or ocean-side trails prepared to give gratitude for the world’s bounty. Gently, I create opportunities to stop, take notice and give thanks for the beauty we see around us. These hikes, which are on the shorter side (1.5-3 miles), are a wonderful way to connect to the outdoors, to Jewish teachings, to new and old friends, and to yourself! Sometimes we learn about trees in Jewish texts, and other times we learn about the blessings of the senses. But with each hike, if we are lucky, we connect to what Abraham Joshua Heschel calls radical amazement.

“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement . . . get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”

Join us on one or all three free nature hikes led by Deborah Newbrun in 2015. Earn 100 JCC Rewards points per hike for pre-registering and attending. Pre-registration required.

Deborah Newbrun is a Jewish environmental educator and author of Spirit In Nature: Teaching Judaism and Ecology on the Trail.

S’mores 2.0

by on May 4, 2015

S’mores are traditionally a part of the Jewish holiday Lag B’Omer. When you have a holiday that includes having a bonfire, you know s’mores have to be a part of it!  But, personally, I could eat these all year long.  Chocolate. Marshmallows. Graham crackers. Why not?

If you are looking for a more modern twist on an old favorite, here are some upgrades to your go-to campfire dessert , the s’more!

Baked S’more Cups
By Mindi Cherry

Continue reading

Joshua’s Summer of Growth

by on April 25, 2015

Joshua and his counselor

Joshua and his Camp Keff counselor at PJCC

by Diana Blank Epstein

Approaching the entrance of the PJCC, visitors are greeted with our guiding principles etched upon the pillars. One of these is Hachnasat Or’chim, which means “welcoming all” in Hebrew. I experienced this inclusivity up close when my husband and I registered our young son, who has special needs, for his very first “TYPICAL” camp experience—an experience that ended up exceeding all expectations. Continue reading

The Butterfly Project: Remembering Children of the Holocaust

by on April 19, 2015

butterfly project Inspired by the book I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from the Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944, the Butterfly Project was initiated by two teachers in the San Diego Jewish Academy in 2006 to remember the 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust. The butterflies in our PJCC atrium were created by hands of all ages. Our youngest artists learned that every butterfly is unique, fragile and beautiful for its individuality. Continue reading

A Day in the Life of Matzah: Recipes for Passover

by on March 31, 2015

Having cleansed your pantry of all hametz, you are left with few options to fill your carb quota during Pesach (Passover). The challenge is to find new and exciting ways to use matzo in your meals. So, here are some ideas to add variety to your Passover meals.

Breakfast


Matzo Granola

If it is from Martha Stewart, it must be good! A delicious way to start the day.
(via Martha Stewart)

Continue reading

The Case for Camp — Why Kids Need It Now More Than Ever

by on February 19, 2015

pjcc summer camp

By Peg L. Smith

Change is a part of life. It is often directly related to survival and can enrich one’s life in ways unexpected. Childhood is in essence a time of profound change and development. It is exciting and disquieting at the same time. When it comes to our children, we need to be sure that change is made for the better.

We’ve been so concentrated on the brain, we forget about the rest of our bodies. This change in focus has lead to an obesity rate that is unacceptable. Our kids are not as healthy as the Continue reading

Norovirus – The Winter Bug

by on January 16, 2015

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Thanksgiving weekend 2014 was a time to forget for our family. My wife and I planned for the arrival of our children, their spouses, and four grandchildren for months. One of my granddaughters would Facetime daily to see what toys she would play with when she would eventually visit. The night before Thanksgiving, one son-in-law became acutely ill with a GI bug, and he wasn’t able to go to Thanksgiving dinner. The day after Thanksgiving, two of my daughters became acutely ill. By Thanksgiving weekend, the illness had ravaged through our entire family except for my wife and one granddaughter who was protected through the magic Continue reading

Strategies For Reinventing Your Resolutions

by on December 31, 2014

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Making, and then breaking, the same promises every year can be exhausting. Jeannie   Solomon, PJCC Wellness Coach, uses helpful strategies to help clients stay on track. Here, she shares her “tools of the trade” to help you reinvent your resolutions and—ultimately—yourself.

Define Your Wellness
Relationships, sleep, exercise, work, and spirituality (to name a few) are all forces that can cause great joy as well as great stress, feeding our energy and vitality. To achieve long-term wellness, Continue reading

Baby Talk Before Baby Talks

by on December 16, 2014

How Baby Sign Language Can Help Ease Frustration

Every parent’s been there, those fraught moments when their cuddly, cooing, oh-so-cute baby suddenly turns into a cranky, frustrated infant or toddler, spitting food, constantly crying, or even throwing tantrums. When it’s a toss-up over who’s more frantic and confused, baby or mommy, and it’s definitely not colic, a bump or a burp, there’s an ingenious way to ask baby “What’s up?” The little tyke may not yet have any words but definitely demands to be heard.

To bridge this super charged communication gap, Touch Blue Sky’s Baby Sign Language dedicated instructors teach new parents how “to talk” with their young offspring via American Continue reading

Homemade Honey & Oats Granola Bars

by on September 12, 2014

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Healthy, Tasty, Portable.  What’s not to like?

Finding a snack that will provide you with energy and is easy to pack and carry isn’t always easy.  Granola Bars fit the bill but can be pricey. This recipe for homemade granola bars will be satisfying and easy on the pocket book!

And, an added bonus, oats are known to lower cholesterol levels, provide fiber in your diet, Continue reading

Dear New Kindergarten Mom

by on September 3, 2014

Dear New Kindergarten Mom,

This morning, I bundled my boys into the stroller and went out for one last impromptu morning walk. Max will be starting kindergarten next week, and the days spent hanging out in our jammies and meandering to the nearest park or Starbucks are almost over. My best friend texted me a picture of her own 5-year-old a few minutes later, standing in front of his new elementary school. “How did we get here?!” I texted back. It was yesterday that we were pregnant together. Visiting the fire station with toddlers together. Welcoming second babies together. “How did we get here?!”

Well, Mama, I want you to take a break from packing lunches and tucking pencils into binders. Continue reading

A Healthy Lunch Is In The Bag

by on June 10, 2014

A nutritious brown bag lunch is not only easy to prepare, but economical and healthier than the usual cafeteria fare or fast-food options. Not to mention, a good midday meal can help bolster those notorious mid-day slumps and keep you on your game. Here are a few tips for bagging a healthy lunch.

Think Outside the Box
The healthiest lunches should contain foods from three different food groups: a protein, whole grain, and a fruit and/or vegetable. However, this doesn’t mean you’re stuck with the Continue reading

For Children, Learning Is Just A Day At The Beach

by on May 20, 2014

child-beach-625by Lisa Elliott, ECE Program Coordinator

A Foundation of Preschool Learning: Water, Sand, Clay, Paint, and Blocks

In a society of over-scheduled kids, the expectation of building your scholastic resume early, and so on, childrens’ play time can seem like a waste of time. What are they accomplishing? How will this add to their academic success? What are they learning? Turns out, they are learning a lot! Continue reading

Happy Trails: Hiking in the Bay Area

by on April 9, 2014

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by Rhonda Press
Guest Author, Rhonda Press, is an Adult Program Coordinator at the PJCC and an avid Hiker.

I happen to love hiking.  Being out in nature restores my soul.  Living in San Mateo County, we are lucky to have many miles of hiking trails.  There are hikes that are more like city hikes and others that will take you deep into the redwood forests.  I’ll share 3 of my favorite hikes plus one that is brand new.

Edgewood County Park and Natural Preserve is located in Redwood City and is right off Edgewood Road between Alameda and Highway 280.  There is a formal park entrance with a parking lot but you can also park just immediately west of the 280 overpass at Edgewood

Continue reading

Purim Costumes In A Jif!

by on March 11, 2014

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From Hamentaschen to Lego Men, We’ve Have Your Kids Purim Costume Ideas Covered!

Let’s be honest.  We’re all busy.  From working to getting your kids to all of their extracurriculars to finding the time to exercise, life sure can get hectic.  With all of this running around, it can be easy to forget that Purim and its costuming are quickly approaching!  So don’t let this year’s dress-up have you winding up with even more stress.  Here are some costume ideas we found that are simple and cheap, but will have your kid getting tons of compliments:

1. Wings of Whimsy – Who doesn’t want to attache a set of wings and fantasize about being a beautiful butterfly or fairy? It’s fun!.

Continue reading

Top 5 Reasons To Keep Your Kids Active

by on February 13, 2014

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The habits we form as children are sure to either haunt us or help us into adulthood. So, it is very important to provide kids with the decision making tools they need to lead a healthy and active life.

Below are just a few of the reasons to help our children eat wisely and stay active.

1. Active kids develop locomotor, non-locomotor, and manipulative skills when they engage in age-appropriate exercise.
Continue reading

5 Tips To Organizing Your Home

by on February 11, 2014

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The key to being productive is being organized.  Less frustration, less time wasted, more time for fun! Here are a few tips to get you started.

  • There is a place for everything and everything in its place.
    You’ve heard this expression before.  But it is easier said than done!  By creating a place for things like keys, wallets, tissues, and mail you will know when you need to purchase additional items.  I have enjoyed watching many clients happily find books that were ‘lost’, lots of money, and even gift cards!
  • Pick a room or a corner of a room or even just a drawer to start! 
    If you look at your entire home or office as one project you will get discouraged before you start.  Organizing one area will make you feel so successful that you will want to keep going.  I like to start with one drawer.  Remove everything (I mean, every thing!) in that drawer.
    Continue reading