Apr 9 2014
My family has always made an effort to make the Passover seder fun. Yes, we are retelling a very serious tale of fleeing bondage, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have four question finger puppets or 10 plague interactive toys, right? It wouldn’t be our seder if we didn’t have a water gun to symbolize the slaying of the first born. As an only child, I was always the target.
Is it just the toys that make the holiday special? No. For me it’s about being with the extended family in New York, lovingly talking over each other, laughing harder than we laugh all year, retelling a story that Jews have been telling for centuries, and eating yummy food.
But, what does all of that mean in a year when my cousin’s due date is right in the heart of Passover time and I’ve started a diet which I’ve publicized online? Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 7 2014
This Passover, I’m in charge of the brisket.
In our family, briskets are served steaming with a large measure of pride and a pinch of vanity.
In my house growing up, holidays meant eating in the dining room on the large chairs with rose velvet cushions, and using our fancy china with tiny pink flowers. And despite the fact that my father always bought my mother a gigantic bouquet of flowers on the eve of a holiday, the brisket was the real centerpiece of our dining room table. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 1 2014
Every spring I remember; every Passover I celebrate.
I have mostly forgotten the Passover that fell right before my wedding. I don’t remember who led those seders. I don’t recall what was served for dinner. I was too busy thinking of the last minute wedding details (Did we need programs? When would the yarmulkes be ready? How did I go about changing my name?) And then I realized that I’d miss the whole holiday. I ceased thinking about my impending departure from the single world. I sipped my wine and tried to relax, and focused on what was important.
Two years later, I sat at my husband’s aunt’s table. We had been trying for a baby for a few months, without results. I wanted to take my mind off my disappointment, and enjoy the evening with my family. I poured a glass of wine in anticipation of the start of the seder. My husband’s little cousins were wrestling under the table. The older one hit his head, and the whole table shook like a California earthquake. My wine glass wobbled, tipped, and splashed all over me. The stain would stubbornly cling to my blouse after several washings. By the time I threw it out a week later, I didn’t mind. It wouldn’t have fit for long, anyway. I was pregnant. Read the rest of this entry →
Nov 1 2012
“I’d rather shove a fork in my eye.”
That was my response when my husband said his parents called and asked if we’d like to come spend the last Shabbat of Sukkot with them in the ultra-Orthodox community my husband, children and I recently moved out of. It wasn’t any one thing in particular that gave me the knee-jerk, panic-stricken reaction to shout, “NO!”
In part, it was the fact that my relationship with my in-laws has been cordial but not particularly warm. It was the idea of spending 24 hours in a place where I’d never felt like myself. And much more basic than that, I hate packing my boys and all their belongings up and taking them somewhere unfamiliar to spend the night. They don’t ever sleep well, which means I don’t sleep well and that translates into one miserable weekend for everyone. My husband said, “Think about it and we’ll let them know tomorrow.” Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 5 2012
My dad with one of my daughters, Maya.
One year ago, I blogged in this space about how I’d be skipping the seders. I was pregnant with twins, and my scheduled c-section fell on the morning of the second seder. My husband and I were sure that God (and our parents) would forgive us if we sat the seders out, just that once. So instead of a Hillel sandwich and my mom’s farfel-apple-kugel, we had veggie burgers (no buns) and went to sleep early.
Fast-forward eleven months. It’s Passover again, and preparations for a seder at my parents’ house have been underway for weeks. My dad bought the new Safran Foer/Englander haggadah and he has the plastic frogs ready to keep the kids occupied. My mom’s placed her gigantic order of meat at the neighborhood kosher butcher and she’s already changed over all the dishes in her kitchen. I’ve bought all the ingredients for my kosher-for-Passover mandel bread, just about the only thing I know how to bake and my (sorta pathetic) contribution to the meal. Jon isn’t on call this weekend, and the family—ours, my two sisters with their husbands and children, my aunt and uncle, great aunt and cousins—will all be together for the seders once again.
Except we won’t, because we just found out there won’t be a seder, after all.
On Tuesday, my dad was admitted into the hospital and today we were informed that he won’t be discharged until Sunday. So he’ll miss the seders. And we’ll miss the seders. And Passover will pass us by, again. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 11 2012
I love it when other parents pull back the curtain and expose their parenting style, and not just so I can indulge in a little schadenfreude. It provides me with an opportunity to gaze inward, question, and perhaps modify my own parenting choices.
Cara recently wrote a post about her life as a Laid Back Mama, and it got me thinking about meal time at our house. I’ve written before about feeding toddlers, but that was about the food, not the manners. I’d like to think of myself as pretty mellow, but as my husband, my daughters, or anyone who has spent at least seven minutes with me will tell you, I’m just not. Especially not at dinnertime.
Now, before I share with you my own brand of Mama Crazy, you should know I come by it honestly. My father’s heritage is German, and even though our family has been in the States for over a century, we’ve still got the obnoxious last name and the anal-retentive obsession with manners and punctuality to prove it. My great-grandfather used to bark out numbered rules at the dinner table; my father remembers that 1 meant “sit down,” 2 was “shut up,” and 7 was “elbows off the table”. I think my Dad has blocked the rest from his memory, and understandably so.
I haven’t numbered our mealtime rules (yet), but like a good yekke, I do have expectations for how my daughters (ages 3 and 18 months) should behave at the table. Yes, it’s probably genetic and cultural (my husband is also half-German, and he and his parents also appreciate good manners), but I do believe that teaching your children how to act at the table is important. Most social gatherings and Jewish holidays include meals–prime opportunities for family and friends to judge you and your parenting abilities get to know your kids (and vice versa), which tends to go a lot better for everyone if the kids behave. Even when you’re home alone, you’ve still got three meals a day to get through, and there’s no reason why they can’t be enjoyable for everyone. Read the rest of this entry →
Nov 28 2011
I hope your Thanksgiving was as good as mine! Thank you so much for all of your help with menu ideas and general support. Below is the recipe and actual recipes for a fail-safe, easygoing Thanksgiving – print it out and feel free to use it yourself next year to come one step closer to becoming an official balaboosta. Also, it’s never too early to start planning your Passover seder. Think about using a similar menu, just substitute brisket for turkey.
TWO WEEKS AHEAD:
- Assign duties. It’s called Thanksgiving, not Martyrdom Day. As we all know, if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy – and you doing all the work may give everyone else something to be thankful for, but what fun is that for you? People are usually so grateful not to be hosting the event themselves that they will happily offer you assistance in the tangible forms of stuffing, sweet potatoes, salad, wine, etc. Let them! Assign parts according to your perception of the guests’ abilities (no need to say that part out loud, of course). If you or your guests have allergies/eating restrictions/kashrut concerns, spell them out so as to have no misunderstandings. And if someone is flaky, make sure they’re assigned a minor part, i.e., one that, if they didn’t show up, it wouldn’t be the end of the world.
- Start planning out menu items. This goes in tandem with item 1. Plan out what you want to serve and how much of it. Planning menu items can also be synced with writing out a shopping list. It’s easiest to get canned/pantry-esque stuff ahead of time.
- Buy copy of Leah Koenig’s Hadassah Everyday Cookbook. Great recipes that take kosher considerations in mind for kosher cooks.
- Arrange for a babysitter and reserve a table to go out to dinner Saturday after Thanksgiving. Yes, you will have eaten your weight in stuffing already and you will have a refrigerator full of leftovers. But you deserve to be rewarded for everything you’re about to do. Trust me.
- Order turkey. Fresh is ideal if possible.
ONE WEEK AHEAD: Read the rest of this entry →