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Nov 1 2012

Surviving Shabbat At the (Ultra-Orthodox) In-Laws

By at 10:27 am

“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 →

Oct 22 2012

Surviving “Out of Town” Family With a Newborn

By at 11:03 am

airplane taking off“If it’s a boy, I think we’ll come for the bris,” my brother-in-law in Miami told me a few weeks ago over Skype, just before the arrival of our second baby.

As an East Coast transplant living in St. Louis, I spent the last few weeks of my pregnancy this summer acting as a part-time travel agent, navigating tricky waters to coordinate which family members would come to visit–and when. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 18 2012

Explaining My Jewish Family to My Christian Parents

By at 2:30 pm

bride and groom figurines in front of ketubahWhen I was in middle school, I was lying on the couch one day reading a book when my dad walked through the living room. He asked if I’d done my study guide for a test I had the next day. I told him, “No,” as I continued reading and he asked if that was a smart idea. I said, half paying attention, that I would be fine. I failed the test.

When he asked about it later and I begrudgingly told him that the teacher surely had it out for me, he said, almost to himself, “I wonder if you’d have failed if you studied.” Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 12 2012

Camping with My Kids & A Whole Bunch of Jam Bands

By at 4:23 pm

mountain jam festivalEarlier this year, I cooked up a plan for my family to camp out at Mountain Jam, a weekend-long music festival. My husband and I love live jam band music–it is one of the experiences which bonded us in our early days together. But family life is busy, and we don’t go to many shows. Our children knew about our passion for music and for outdoorsy fun. So, in June, with all three kids finally potty trained, we headed for Hunter Mountain Ski Resort with the whole family.

I was not sure how we would manage to keep the crew happy while roughing it on the mountain with thousands of hipped-out music lovers. Even the expense was hard to justify; a quick calculation revealed that suspending our housecleaning help could cover the cost. I was prepared to mop and scrub for a few months if my family was willing to join the jam! Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 5 2012

Bringing the Seder to the Hospital

By at 3:03 pm
grandpa with baby girl

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 →

Sep 28 2011

How Do I Do It?

By at 3:51 pm

We all need a safety net.

An article in the New York Times this weekend gave a glimpse into the world of one building in Chinatown, where three generations–12 family members– live together under one roof.  The grandfather and the two siblings and their respective families each have separate apartments, and there’s a common playspace up at the top of the building. Meals are communal, as is shopping. They act as a unit.

I was telling my husband about the article, and he said, “That just sounds like an urban version of what we have.” And in many ways, it pretty much does.

My husband, three kids, and I live in the New Jersey town where I grew up (and continue to grow up, if we’re being honest). My parents live a mile away (“1.1 miles,” as my husband has already calculated). One of my sisters lives with her husband and three kids in the same town. The other sister lives one town away with her husband and two kids. My brother was the rebellious one: he’s in Westchester.

My parents taught us well by their own actions. They have always been there for us, whether it is babysitting for our honeymoons (yeah, that would be for me) or letting us move in after a terrible divorce (that would be me again). Despite the fact that they are in their 60s, my parents have two cribs, three Gyminis and at least three sizes of diapers in their house. We have learned from their example. We restock each other’s refrigerators when the other person is about to come back from vacation. Read the rest of this entry →

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