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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 →

Jan 26 2012

Contest Winner: Birthday Party Giveaway

By at 1:30 pm
Matty Roxx

Birthday party performer extraordinaire, Matty Roxx.

Well, the chance to win free birthday party entertainment for your child is officially over, folks. Congratulations to Jaclyn Novatt on winning this contest, and having world-class kiddie musician Matty Roxx at her next birthday party! We’d asked people to tell us about their best (or worst) birthdays ever, and here’s Jaclyn’s story:

My best birthday was my 30th. My husband threw me a party, and it was a total, complete surprise! They got me out of the house by having us babysit for our friends, and while we were out my brother, sister in law, and mother in law came over and cleaned up.   Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 10 2012

Birthday Party Giveaway: Matty Roxx!

By at 3:50 pm
Matty Roxx

Matty Roxx in action.

We’re big fans of birthdays for little kids. The chance to celebrate another year, with presents, balloons, birthday cake, and lots of love is just the greatest.

But wait–we’re about to up the ante and make it even better.

We’d like to introduce to you children’s musician extraordinaire, Matty Roxx. Matty is well-known in the tri-state area for being a kiddie rock star. His interactive, musical performances are guaranteed to get the little ones to dance, sing, play instruments, blow bubbles, and more. Matty got into the kiddie music business when he had kids of his own–and realized that he could do music classes and birthday parties way better than the other folks out there. So not only is he an expert, he’s a dad too.

And today, you can not only meet Matty, but have him perform at your kid’s next birthday party! Unfortunately this contest is limited to those in the tri-state area (New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut), and subject to availability (you’ll have to coordinate with Matty to be sure your dates work out).

How do you enter? Just comment below and tell us about your best or worst birthday ever (and we’re talking about your birthdays, not those of your children). The winner will get a Matty Roxx birthday party that we’re pretty sure might be your kid’s best birthday ever.

Enter by Wednesday, January 18. And for more fun, check out Matty’s Facebook page (and take a look at Kveller’s too, while you’re at it!) Good luck!

Dec 13 2011

Do Birthdays Matter When You’re a Mom?

By at 1:09 pm

birthday cakeIt was my birthday yesterday. I am 36 now. I don’t much like birthdays, to be honest. Haven’t since the age of 10 or so. I don’t mean to sound like a scrooge, but if you’ve read anything I have written before, you know I sort of am one. A loveable scrooge, but a scrooge just the same.

My lack of overt enthusiasm for birthdays, however, reached a feverish pitch the year I turned 30. Why? Well, the year I turned 30 I had a 2-month-old child; my first-born son, Miles, who is now 6. The first two months of his life were challenging beyond my pregnant hormonal imaginings: he was in the NICU for the first four days of his life, my body’s healing from the birth took a long time, breastfeeding was a huge challenge which I overcame after many months of La Leche League consultations, breast infections, and tears (we nursed for two years, so it all worked out just fine!), and the adjustment to life with a high-needs baby who either wanted to be held or breastfed (or usually both at the same time 24/7) was frustrating and humbling.

I simply didn’t have time to care about my birthday. Sure, we went out to celebrate the momentous occasion. Because we had stayed home the first 40 days of Miles’ life, going out in general was new to us. In addition, I looked like a small hippopotamus at that point. I had no clothing appropriate to even go out in (having spent two months basically in PJs and a robe/muumuu), and I honestly would have preferred to just hang around the house where I could sneak in a nap, catch up on email, eat a cupcake, and hibernate. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 10 2011

My Son’s First Birthday

By at 9:42 am

This morning when we went downstairs for breakfast, my husband announced to everyone, “It’s my son’s first birthday!” This seemed like a huge turnaround in his attitude from just a week ago. As Aiven’s first birthday approached, Alex begrudged much of my preparations. To him, it wasn’t worth it to make a big deal about his birthday since he wasn’t going to remember it anyway. Also, since money’s tight right now, he felt that it would be better spent on other things or kept in reserve. A few days ago, in a moment of frustration, I blurted out that Aiven’s birthday was as much about me as it was about him.  It was an epiphany for my husband and myself.

Aiven’s birthday is my birthday, too.  One year ago today, I was reborn.  I will never again be the same person I was before.  I have progressed emotionally and spiritually.  I have learned to be patient with my child (still learning patience with my husband), come to terms with my new body, and seen the world through the eyes of a newborn.  I have received smiles and kisses that are truly priceless, and I have continued to work towards becoming more selfless (I grew up an only child myself, so things like sharing don’t always come easy to me.)

It is a milestone for both of us.

For Aiven, it is about celebrating his first year of life.  He has progressed developmentally at a rate I still cannot fathom.  He took his first steps at 9 months (and can now toddle towards danger in the blink of an eye), self-weaned at 11 months, and every day seems to learn more stupid pet tricks (kisses, hands up, gimme five, tongue out).  Last but not least, he has survived one year living with crazy parents who schlepped him to five different countries and I don’t know how many different hotel rooms, and the smile that appeared on his face at 6 weeks is still there. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 23 2011

Happy Birthday To Us

By at 9:07 am

It’s hard to believe, but Kveller is celebrating a major milestone over here: it’s our 1st birthday! What started as just a twinkle in the internet’s eye has become a living, growing website that talks, laughs and walks (ok, not really) all on it’s own. We’ve found, in our humble opinion, some of the most amazing writers to share their stories with us, and the best audience to read them. That’s right, you can blush now.

It seems only too fitting that this occasion coincides with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It’s the perfect time to reflect on the past year, and get excited for the one to come. So let’s take a quick walk down memory lane, shall we?

We met Mayim Bialik, once known as Blossom, now known to thousands and thousands of fans as the attachment-parenting-extended-breastfeeding-Jewish-doctor-super-mom. Sarah Tuttle-Singer introduced herself as our over-sharing writer, and overshare she did. Jordana Horn has bared her soul about everything from her divorce to pumping with Ahmadinejad. We asked for your birth stories and found our soul sister Carla Naumburg.

We named Natalie Portman’s baby and grossed you all out on April Fool’s Day. We hired a resident bubbe and sleep coach to help you out whenever you need it. Our family kept growing as staff and writers had babies, twins, and goddaughters. We celebrated the holidays like PurimPassover, and Hanukkah. We talked to famous folks, interesting folks, and folks who get circumcised at 31. Speaking of circumcision, we talked a LOT about circumcision. And breastfeeding. And nannies. And food. We even got to meet some of our lovely readers at the new singalong in Brooklyn.

To sum it up, we’ve had a busy year. And a great one. It’s hard to say what will happen in the year to come, but we know that as long as we have writers like ours and readers like you (and pictures of Sarah Jessica Parker), we’ll always have something going on here at Kveller. We’d like to thank you for your love and support, and even for your occasional angry comments. They keep us young.

Feel free to let us know what your favorite Kveller pieces from the past year have been in the comments below. Also feel free to send us a birthday cake. Cheers to a good year, and L’ Shana Tova!

Sep 22 2011

The Saturday Dilemma

By at 12:58 pm

I suppose I should start by apologizing to my friends. Well, just a few of them. The Jewish ones. Who have kids. That are old enough to be in Hebrew school.

You see, we scheduled my daughter’s 3rd birthday party for a Saturday morning.
I know. It’s a shanda.

It wasn’t a mistake. We weren’t thoughtless about it. We weighed all of our options, and decided to go with Saturday morning. (I’m not sure if that makes it better or worse.) Of course, I feel compelled to explain our decision. Or maybe defend it. Or both.

We thought about Sunday morning, but we’ve just signed the baby up for music class and the big girl up for swimming. The classes are both on Sundays precisely so we can go to services on Saturdays. But our preschooler isn’t old enough to start the preschool program at our synagogue, and we only have Tot Shabbat once a month. So, we have three weeks each month when we may go to services, or go for a hike or hang out with friends, or do something else that doesn’t involve errands or electronics. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 12 2011

Friday Night: Sharing

By at 11:38 am

Why would you ever want to share your birthday?

My husband and I have birthdays that are only six days apart. Which, when we first got together, was annoying. Because who ever wants to share a birthday? (I mean, I guess some people don’t mind, but it wasn’t anything I ever wanted to do.) I might have been known for forcing our friends to celebrate twice within a one-week period so that I didn’t have to share my birthday.

And then I had a child. Suddenly, I got better at sharing. After all, I have a kid who takes food off my plate, who gets to choose what tv we watch, and whose sleeping schedule dictates when I’m allowed to leave the house. I just can’t be as selfish about birthdays anymore–or anything else, for that matter.

So this year we’re sharing our birthday celebration. We’re getting one fancy night out. Getting to go out (with free grandparent babysitting!) is such a treat that I’m willing to share it. We can let the waiters sing to both of us at the same time, even. And though we’re going on on Saturday night, I’m going to spend all of Shabbat anticipating. Because after all, it is my birthday (celebrated). I’m allowed to take one evening to have my life be (almost) all  about me again, right?

May 12 2011

Cake Walk

By at 9:34 am

My baby girl turns 3 today.


When she was born–looking like a cross between a plucked chicken and Lord Voldemort-I never imagined that she would suddenly, somehow, become the leaping and laughing KID she is today.

Three is big. Three remembers. (I remember my third birthday… the balloons, the presents, and the chocolate cake my mom baked.)

So, I want to bake my daughter’s birthday cake.

But the thing is, I am pathologically unable to follow recipes. When I cook, I end up experimenting, but not in a good way. I substitute honey for sugar and the cookie crumbles. Flour for breadcrumbs, and the schnitzel burns. And FYI if you want to watch your family turn various shades of green, use olive oil instead of butter when making scrambled eggs.

(Even when I heat up frozen food, I manage to screw up–soggy middle, scorched edges. And this is why we always stock up on Cheerios and milk. And maybe why Little Homie is anemic. )

“Would you rather I make the cake?” My mother-in-law asked when I shared my plans with everyone during Shabbat dinner. “Yes! Let her make the cake!” B. pleaded with his eyes. But I was resolute.

“Nope, I can handle it!” I said with a smile. (Although I may have lost a filling on one of my back molars from grinding my teeth.)

There’s a lot riding on this birthday cake. For the past few months, a cultural chasm has widened between my daughter and me, and as she hurdles through Hebrew, our connection in English has become frayed. There are times here when she’s laughing with her friends and the Imas of her friends that I feel like the odd woman out. Dimwitted, dowdy, and trying to hard to figure out the joke. (If I feel this way now, I shudder to imagine the teenage years…)

And as hard as I try to get by in Hebrew, I’m floundering. Swimming against the tide, barely able to catch my breath before the next sentence crashes over me.

And my daughter knows it.

So, I want this cake to be perfect. I want to see my daughter’s eyes shine with excitement when she sees the candles–three, plus one to grow on–blazing from the chocolate center. I want her to run her index finger along the top and lick the homemade frosting when no one’s looking. I want to watch her pick the sprinkles off and place them daintily by the side of her plate–saving the sugary rainbow pile for the very last.

And so, I scoured the internet for recipes, until I found one that wouldn’t be hard to foul up. Problem is, mother of the year over here doesn’t have a baking pan. Or flour. Or sugar. And after getting our last budget report from the kibbutz, we now realize that the convenience store here is eating away our savings.

So, off to Yohananoff–the Israeli equivalent of Safeway or Albertsons or Piggly Wiggly or whatever monster superstore y’all have up in your neighborhood–I went. But while I’ve gotten used to the intimate general store on the kibbutz, an Israeli supermarket is an entirely different beast.

Shopping at Yohananoff is a surreal experience, and walking up and down the aisles gave me insight into what the onset of dementia must feel like –everything looks poignantly familiar. From a distance, the colors make sense, the layout is almost what you would expect, but then, you turn a corner, and bam–another dimension. The canned goods are in the same place as the fresh fruit and vegetables, the dairy next to the shampoo. The Cheerios is on one end, the oatmeal on the other.

It almost feels like tugging the hand of a woman you are sure is your mom, and then realizing that you’re mauling a stranger.

Midway through the juice aisle, I started hyperventilating.

By the time I reached the baking goods aisle, I was almost in tears.

There were seven different kinds of flour–all labeled in Hebrew. I couldn’t find the baking powder, and it seemed they were out of vanilla extract. I started pawing through the dried goods looking for the vanilla. I knocked over a jar of colorful sprinkles–the plastic container split open, spilling  thousands of tiny rainbows to the floor while an old man who’s name tag read “Avner” (or “Avram”  or something with an Alef and a Vet in it… Hey, speaking Hebrew is hard enough…) came over with a broom and began to sweep.

“I just want to bake a cake for my daughter’s birthday,”  I said in a mishmash of Hebrew and English with a sob in my throat.

He rolled his eyes and gave me a look as if to say “lady, you think you’ve got problems?  I was in the Palmach when the road to Jerusalem was cut off and we almost starved to death!”

“Take!”  he said. And  he handed me a blue cake mix box. And there, smiling maniacally from the front was the Pillsbury Dough Boy.  It felt like meeting an old friend.

So, I took the mix. And a tub of chocolate frosting. And a jar of rainbow sprinkles.

(And off I skipped to the alcohol aisle. Because Smirnoff is Smirnoff in every language. )


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