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Jul 16 2014

From Birthday Parties to Bomb Shelters

By at 10:14 am

children lighting birthday cake candles

Thursday morning. Hundreds of rockets have hit Israel in the last few days, but for the moment, my city seems to be in a sirenless bubble, even though Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, which lie to either side of it, have been targeted. We in Modi’in are an island of warlessness in a sea of war, reading on Facebook as friends report their siren stories. The mother of a classmate of my almost-5-year-old daughter calls. Is the birthday party still on? It’s going to be in the park across the street, the same shady spot we’ve had it for the past two years. The party is also for my other July baby, who’s turning 3. I say it’s still on unless the situation changes. She says her son will come.

I should be asleep, but I’m not. I think I hear the beginnings of a siren wafting in through the kitchen window. Well, that’s it, I’ve gotta cancel the party. Can’t have it in the house, there are still boxes lying around from our move, no time to clean up. A second later, the wailing morphs into the late-night laughter of teenagers in the summer. Oh, just a joke, ha ha, well, okay then.

Friday dawns beautiful. We set up the crackers and pretzels, the pita and hummus, the cucumbers and peppers. I had initially thought hiding out under one of the cement benches next to the sandbox would make more sense than running across the street with more than 20 kids. Just in case the sky explodes. But we settle on a plan to herd the kids into the parking garage under the apartment building on the other side of the street, and from there into the stairwell. We have 90 seconds, plenty of time, not like the people who live across from Gaza and only have 15. The kids start coming and I show them where the bubbles are. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 25 2014

I Never Expected Age 40 To Look Like This

By at 2:14 pm

40th

The clock says 8:16 again. While I am sure it is largely coincidence or my imagination, that number is always illuminated regardless of where I am… at home, work, or in my car. 8:16 taunts me, causes my stomach to lurch and my heart to pound because this number represents my birthday: August 16th.

I am struggling with this particular birthday more than any previous year because it has arrived too quickly. I expected to be in a much different place at 40 years of age. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 15 2014

Happy Birthday to My Daughter Who’s Nothing Like Me

By at 12:48 pm

alina

My daughter will turn 7 on Thursday (not to be confused with The Sound of Music’s Marta, who will turn 7 on Tuesday; though my daughter would probably like a pink parasol, too).

She was born on Martin Luther King Day weekend, the offspring of a Soviet Jewish mother and an African-American father, the younger sister to two brothers, and named after both a man of peace and a God of war. You could say that, from the beginning, we embraced the contradictions.

This year, her birthday also falls on Tu Bishvat.

“Is that like a Thanksgivukkah thing that won’t happen again for another 70,000 years?” my husband wanted to know.

“Uh…sure,” I said. Because, frankly, I have no idea. (Anyone out there capable of doing the math for me?) Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 3 2013

My Son’s New Retro Obsession

By at 9:57 am

record player

“What is that?” our 6-year-old son asked, as he made a beeline towards the curious box propped against the wall. The kids were wandering around a cool freshly renovated motel room we had just checked into, doing their usual assessment and getting the lay of the land within the couple square 100 feet that would be home for one night. To them, the dusty mechanism propped above a portable speaker and topped with a rotating wheel and a moveable arm had an intense appeal, as did the collection of thin square cardboard folios, each emblazoned with different images, standing next to it.

What was an essential part of my upbringing has become a readily mocked symbol of anachronistic-obsessed hipster culture– and an unknown artifact to my kids. I was embarrassed and stunned that they’d never seen a record player before. But best of all, they loved this thing.

Prince’s 1999 stood at the front of the selection, which contained other significant records and artists of my late 1970s-through-1980s childhood and adolescence: Prince, Elvis Costello, Stevie Wonder. This motel knows its demographic, i.e. what the 30/40-somethings and the younger set who didn’t grow up with this music first hand might dig. I pulled disc one of 1999 (this was the double LP edition) out from the sleeve and put on side one. It contains three cuts that are both some of Prince’s best and PG rated–ok, more like PG-13 when factoring in the innuendo. We gave the title song, “Little Red Corvette,” and “Delirious” a few listens, and headed out to the pool. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 16 2013

What Nesting Looks Like… For the Fifth Child

By at 9:54 am

photo (3) copy

Anyone who’s had a baby knows what “nesting” is. It’s the urge that kicks in shortly before the baby will be born–the one that inspires you to actually organize and prepare your home for the impending new arrival. Nesting evokes a doting mother bird, preparing the hunk of twigs and detritus that will become a cozy home for a family. It’s a lovely idea.

It becomes somewhat less poetic with the imminent arrival of your fifth child.

With the fifth kid, nesting now incorporates:

*Ample profanity: “Where the f*ck did we put that big Tupperware bin full of the newborn onesies?”

*Grunting: If you are not supposed to do any heavy lifting at the end of your pregnancy, how are you supposed to get the bassinet out of the basement while making sure the current baby doesn’t tumble down the stairs? Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 26 2013

Happy Birthday! (And Sorry About That Whole Second Child Thing)

By at 3:52 pm

carla naumburg and rosie third birthday Dear Rosie,

You are 3 years old today. You should know this because we’ve been talking about it for weeks and your older sister threw an unbelievable tantrum yesterday morning that was allegedly about socks, but we both know it’s about you getting birthday attention when she’s not. Also, your Bubbe and Zayde bought you a fancy cupcake with sprinkles for your birthday dinner last night.

Now, I know that when your sister turned 3, she got a big birthday party at the park with all of her friends and a lot of fancy cupcakes, and all you got was dinner with your parents and grandparents. Don’t worry. We’ll get to the party just as soon as I can find the save the date email that I cleverly sent out to our friends and then promptly lost. (Let’s be honest, you’re a second child. You don’t really have your own friends. Fortunately, you seem to like most of the younger siblings of your sister’s friends.)  Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 25 2013

One Year Later & I’m Still Marveling

By at 1:55 pm

ravi's first birthdayWaking up at 5 a.m. has never been my forte. I’m used to going to bed around then. I never even changed a diaper before my daughter was born. And yet, here I am, 12 months later, still marveling. How is it that such a little person can inspire so much commitment and love?

“We’re still in the grace period,” my wife used to joke when we were dating, meaning bickering and disagreements were rare as we were first getting to know each other.

I’m starting to wonder, though, how long does a grace period last with your kid?

Ravi was born six weeks prematurely and right on time. She shook our worlds like an earthquake as we were thrust into parenthood. What did we know? Cleansing breaths, guide books, yoga, our young nephews and niece, baby cousins, and siblings could never prepare us for that first night home alone with our daughter. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 22 2013

Happy Purim Birthday to My Son

By at 9:54 am

hamantaschen for third birthdayFebruary used to be just a short month in the middle of winter. It was pretty uneventful, cold and usually over in a flash. When I converted to Judaism I remember thinking how nice it was that February held one of the most fun holidays Judaism has to offer. Purim has all of the best elements–candy, noisemakers, carnivals, spiels, and costumes. The first time I attended Purim services I was nailed in the head with a Sunkist Fruit Gem and spent the remainder of the time searching the floor for more. That year, February became a little sweeter and a little more redeeming.

And then I laid pregnant and fearful on a recliner for eight long weeks and all I could think about was February. Because come February I would have successfully carried my first baby to 35 weeks and the chances of him being born healthy were excellent. With every passing day that February fear melted and joy increased. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 6 2012

On My Birthday, This One’s for My Folks

By at 10:09 am

39th birthdayIt’s my birthday today. Apparently, once you’re past a certain age, it’s somewhat unseemly to be jubilant about one’s own birthday. Well, too bad–I am anyway. Today is the beginning of the last year of my 30s. Rather than feel old (come on!) or anything stupid like that, I feel blessed. What better time to look back on the most tumultuous decade of my life–and to thank the two people who got me through it with flying colors: my parents.

Of course, my parents were great during the other decades of my life, too. I grew up in one of those mythical entities known as a non-dysfunctional family, where everyone genuinely liked as well as loved each other (really!).  I was the oldest of four siblings. I was on the editorial board of the school newspaper and literary magazine, star of the school musical, and about as straight-edge as a person can get while still being liked by more than three people. I had a charmed life with my charmed family. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 20 2012

In Search of the Perfect Kosher Birthday Cake

By at 2:09 pm
birthday cake

Though the kids don't remember it, the parents definitely do.

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 followed by a dessert buffet, showcasing treats we had the caterer create in addition to the wedding cake. Yes, we rewrote the caterers’ entire dessert menu. Dessert is serious business. Read the rest of this entry →

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