Melissa Langsam Braunstein, a former U.S. Department of State speechwriter, is now a freelance writer. She writes primarily about parenting and pop culture for a variety of publications, including Acculturated, where she is a Staff Writer. She shares her writing at www.melissabraunstein.com and tweets as @slowhoneybee. Melissa lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and delightful daughters.
Blue is the worst color. It’s the hue of fear cloaked in calmness, while chaos truly reigns. It’s the color that no mother wants to see illuminating her child, but which dared discolor both of my…daughters during 2014. In short, blue is terrifying. I first encountered blue while delivering my second daughter last summer. After a reasonably swift delivery, the doctor placed Annabelle on my chest for skin-to-skin contact. I was elated. Here was the daughter, whose middle name, Ileana, means God answered my prayer; and she was indeed an… >> Read More
With this pregnancy, as with my first, I’ve found that there is no need to wonder what strangers are thinking. They regularly share their thoughts unprompted, those thoughts are often rather…strange, and they are typically about three things: size, gender, and timing. 1. My Size. When I was about 6 months pregnant, I attended a dinner. A stranger approached and announced, “You’re pregnant!” “Yes,” I responded. She asked how far along I was and then informed me, “You look too big for six-months.” “Well,” I… >> Read More
Pregnancy is a great divide. My mothering life bears little resemblance to my pre-pregnancy life. But my second go-round is reshaping my thoughts about pregnancy. Being pregnant while parenting…a toddler is so much harder. Now wiser, I offer 10 of my own second pregnancy lessons: 1. Hello, Exhaustion. When I was pregnant with Lila three years ago, I slept nine hours nightly. For the first time since kindergarten, I was also eager to nap. And nap I did. If I was tired and… >> Read More
To gear up for the High Holidays this year, we’re asking our writers and readers for their Rosh Hashanah Resolution. Here’s one from our writer Melissa Braunstein.
For 5774, I resolve to be…better about going to bed early and always getting enough sleep. When I’m well rested, everything seems to fall into place. But when I’m underslept, I’m less patient and less likely to be the person--and parent--I aspire to be. I’d also like to offer a Rosh Hashannah wish for the Kveller community: In the year… >> Read More
Certain memories stick with you. Three decades later, my mother recalls the first time she spent a night away from me; she was hospitalized while pregnant with my sister. I fear that when Lila is my…age, I too will remember the first time we spent a night apart, especially now that we’ve spent several consecutive nights apart twice, in a two-week span. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. For Lila’s first two years, we never spent a night apart. Sure, we spent time apart--she’d spend a few hours with… >> Read More
Joining PJ Library is one of the best things we’ve done as parents. Every month a new Jewish book arrives at our home and Lila learns about a Jewish holiday or concept through a story that’s…meaningful to her. Several PJ Library books--like the Hanukkah counting book and the “Dayenu”-centric Passover book--have become diaper bag must-haves, genuine favorites that we have read countless times. Perhaps because our experience has been so superlative, I was surprised by a disappointing recent selection. Tikkun Olam Ted tells the story of a boy who is small… >> Read More
I was totally feeling Jordana's piece on Toddleritis. New York Times columnist Frank Bruni's recent parenting critique? Not so much.
The childless Bruni considers modern parenting too indulgent and…democratic. His self-described parenting credential is being Uncle Frank, but the gap between aunt/uncle and parent is like that between dessert and spinach. Kids enjoy aunt/uncle's doting; they don't test limits. It's different with parents. Last Tuesday was a prime example. It was so scarring, I tried to forget it. Lila and I had mammoth… >> Read More
It's a bit embarrassing. I didn't even tell my friends. But now that it's over, I confess: my new year's resolution for 2013 was to take driving lessons.
Yes, I already had a driver's license. I've…had a license since I was 17 and living in the New York suburbs. But I left for college in Boston shortly before my 18th birthday, and ever since, I've lived within walking distance of Boston's T or Washington's Metro system. I never owned a car and never really needed one. I took the train… >> Read More
I understood Joey Tribbiani. When I was single, I wouldn't have liked a date who took my french fries either.
I've always been particular about my food. But my understanding of food--its meaning and…purpose--has also evolved somewhat over time. At every stage in my life, there's been a loved one who loved my food and wanted to share. In my earlier years, it was little sister, Nina. Regardless of what we were eating--say, homemade vegetarian pasta--Nina always thought it looked tastier on my plate. So, she'd ask for… >> Read More
Every duo fights. It's inevitable, especially when you're always together.
Until recently, Lila and I have had a pacific relationship. But increasingly, I'm interacting with a rapidly evolving and…independent little person. This is wonderful overall, but Lila is less predictable and more difficult to manage than she was only a month ago, stretching me as a parent (sometimes uncomfortably). One recent evening, I picked up Lila downtown. She insisted on walking to the Metro. I pushed her stroller with one hand, using the… >> Read More
It didn't sting this time. Watching Meet the Parents, that is. I watched part of it with my husband and father-in-law after Thanksgiving dinner, and it's actually a pretty funny movie.
I first saw…it in a Texas theater 12 years ago. A new college graduate, I had recently moved to Austin to intern for a campaign. Some interns went to the movies one night, and I spent the whole time squirming. The story of a New York girl who brings home a boyfriend with a different religion and… >> Read More
As part of our month-long series dedicated to Women, Work & Money, Melissa Langsam Braunstein tells us about her struggles to splurge.
Not too long ago, I had lunch with a college friend. When…we hung out in our 20s, we'd talk about politics, office politics, and the romantic entanglements of our friends. Now that we're new parents, we kvelled about parenthood. He loves being a father, and I love being a mother. We love it all–-except the cost. At some point, we found ourselves agreeing how surprisingly expensive… >> Read More
If college was my Renaissance, high school was my Dark Ages. While there were some bright spots, I mostly loathed my four years of high school. It's not that I was picked on, but I danced to a…different drummer than most of my classmates. As a 30-something, I'm blissfully disconnected from high school in my daily life. The only younger demographic I typically interact with is toddlers, and that's fine by me. Over Rosh Hashanah, though, I found myself face-to-face with some teens at the synagogue where I grew up, attending nursery… >> Read More
Ever since elementary school, I've hated collective punishment. I remember my teacher explained that she was punishing our whole class to incentivize us to police one another's behavior in the…future. I thought that was nuts. I was mad at my badly behaved classmate, although I didn't tell him or do anything specific about it, but I felt like I was suffering for no reason; it was about something totally unrelated to me. I thought of myself as an individual. I knew I had control… >> Read More
My first boss in Washington was like an honorary big brother. In between directing our little staff about housing policy matters, he offered life lessons. "When you have a kid," he assured me,…"you'll be ready to hurl yourself in front of a moving car just to make sure it doesn't hit them." I guffawed. Throw myself in front of a moving car? That sounded dangerous (and crazy). And yet, he was right. He had the benefit of already being a parent and knowing about danger and fear… >> Read More
When F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that the very rich "are different from you and me," I doubt he had pregnant women on the brain. But Bravo's producers took his sentiment to its logically rotund…conclusion with the reality TV show "Pregnant in Heels." Each week, maternity concierge Rosie Pope caters to New York's super rich and their sometimes absurd pregnancy needs. Client-facing Rosie is always polished, professional, and the best friend you don't yet have, though Rosie's client commentary can be less rosy. Overall, it's a televised spectacle, alternating… >> Read More
To sleep. Ever since I became a mother last May, that's all I've wanted.
Lila started life as a good sleeper. But our beginners' sleep luck ran out during her third month, in the run-up to our…Boston-D.C. move. We clung to the notion that Lila was osmosing our pre-move stress and hoped that everything would resolve itself post-relocation. Instead, things deteriorated. We introduced sleep modifications slowly, but changes snowballed. Lila still shared our bedroom and slept in her carriage. Yet, she was now facing an unfamiliar ceiling. She began flipping while… >> Read More
Over the past year, I've flown a lot--way more than I would have anticipated with a new baby. Lila and I have flown up and down the East Coast and all the way to Europe. It hasn't always been…easy--especially when it's been just us girls--but I've gained some useful travel tips along the way: 1. Book your baby's ticket. Even lap infants need their own tickets. Call customer service after booking your own, because there's typically no obvious way to do this online. If your child is under 2, she flies for free… >> Read More
Traveling overseas is intimidating. And I say this as someone whose last several international destinations have included Ghana, India, and South Africa.
I hadn't ventured abroad since early 2010,…for a fairly obvious and adorable reason. But my husband recently learned that he needed to spend nine days in Geneva for work. I didn't like the idea of our being separated (with a toddler, four hands beat two), and Lila and I had no pressing engagements, so I suggested a family adventure. I knew… >> Read More
I'm going to miss nursing. People keep asking me when I plan to wean, and I tell them what I've said since Lila was born. My plan was to nurse for a year. The American Academy of Pediatrics…recommends one year of breastfeeding, so that seemed like a good guideline, and I adopted it as my personal goal. But the thing is, we're racing toward the year mark. I had no idea how quickly it would pass. We have certainly had some hiccups along the way, with my milk supply initially being low,… >> Read More
In my speechwriting days, whenever I was on deadline and stuck for inspiration, I’d turn on the radio and look through famous quotations. Given their way with words, the three men I always turned…to first were Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Martin Luther King, Jr. I never had a favorite quotation, but in recent months, I’ve found myself frequently mulling this King comment: “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote… >> Read More
Do you remember your first birthday? I don’t. My parents do have photographic evidence that I attended, and they’ve repeatedly reminisced about the great cake I had. It was chocolate and…featured a marzipan mousse, in honor of my baby nickname, Melissa Mouse. In the intervening years, I have dedicated myself to becoming a dessert connoisseur. I don’t believe in eating just any dessert. I like to eat the best possible dessert. This proclivity even impacted the way we planned our wedding. Our brunch buffet was… >> Read More
I wasn't one of those people who wanted to wait until the day my baby was born to find out the gender. So the day Lila was born was exhilarating--and exhausting--but the birth drama never included…the doctor’s calling out, “It’s a Girl!” The delivering doctor didn’t need to, since we already knew. And since that time, I’ve made an effort to ensure everyone else knows, too. Last spring, I invited pink and purple into our home in a big way. I know another mother who is glad she had a… >> Read More
If I were a conspiracy theorist, I might think that our daughter's grandmothers were up to something. After all, how many random Washingtonians can ask me when Baby #2 is due?
To be clear, I’m…not pregnant. And that’s precisely the point. I am the non-pregnant-looking mother of a 9-month old-bundle of wonderful. At this point, I have lost count of how many strangers--all women--have asked me about my next, theoretical baby. When we landed in Washington last fall, Lila was 4-months-old. Strangers cooed and asked if she was my… >> Read More
As new parents, we assume all the responsibility for teaching lies with us; in many ways it does. After all, we’ve lived longer than our babies. We know how water faucets and doors work. The…flip-side of familiarity, of course, is blindness and the chance to be distracted and bogged down by the petty and unimportant. The beauty of a new baby is the opportunity to be excited by swooshing vertical blinds and crinkling paper all over again. Everything thrills and deserves study, and if you’re lucky to have a… >> Read More