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May 12 2014

Up Close: Rachel & Scott Stein

By at 9:02 am

Up Close: Rachel & Scott Stein

1. How did you and your husband meet?

Scott and I met as undergraduates at Stony Brook University. We were both dating other people at the time but socialized in the same circle of friends. After graduation we reconnected and he asked me out on a date.

About two months into dating we took a road trip to North Carolina. After being in the car for such a long time I just blurted out, “So is it important to you to raise your children Jewish?” I said it so casually, like if it was important to him to put pickles on his burger. It turned out to be a great conversation starter for such a long drive and it really helped us make sure we were on the same page in regards to the future. Read the rest of this entry →

Mar 5 2014

Since Becoming A Single Mom By Choice, My Idea of True Love Has Evolved

By at 4:27 pm

huppah

Imagine the scene yesterday: I needed to find one piece of paper, a particular form that will accelerate the process of renewing my daughter’s passport before we travel to the United States this July, for my younger brother’s wedding.

List-maker and Type A that I am, I thought I had the perfect system in place, and that finding this form would be easy-peasy. One hour later, I had opened every file cabinet and folder and drawer in the house, with a forest worth of paperwork covering every available space in the living room. My entire bureaucratic history in Israel exposed, the last 17 years of job applications, funny newspaper articles, and editorial cartoons from the New York Times, and all the fantasies I had constructed: the new car I cannot afford, the Canyon Ranch spa that represents the vacation I so desperately need, the novel I started one night after a particularly inspiring dream.

After another hour of digging through the chaos, I found the passport file, right next to THE WEDDING BOOK. Several envelopes containing a full set of plans for my Israel wedding, from the caterer to the diamond ring to the chocolatier, to the list of potential and acceptable music which would accompany me down the aisle (Either orchestral “Field of Dreams” soundtrack or “One Heart” from “West Side Story”). All the contact information was there, ready to be activated should I get engaged, if I were getting married ten years ago; I am fairly certain that most of these people in the “field of happy occasions” have changed their numbers by now. Apparently we–my potential husband and I–were planning on traveling to the Far East for our honeymoon. Read the rest of this entry →

Feb 10 2014

News Roundup: Does More Equal Marriage Mean Less Sex?

By at 2:52 pm

All the parenting news you probably didn’t have time to read this week.no-sex-roundup

-Do more equal marriages mean couples are having less sex? In short, yes. Or at least those were the findings of a study which appeared in The American Sociological Review last year. Check out the New York Times’ fascinating reporting on the subject, which is bound to be the topic of dinner table discussions for a while. (The New York Times)

-Losing a nipple can be a traumatic side effect of breast cancer surgery. After losing her nipple in a double mastectomy, one Israeli survivor spent a year studying with a silicon designer who specializes in prosthetics and invented the first ever a prosthetic nipple–filling an important niche for women all over the world. (JTA)

-Are Jewish day schools gender-typing our kids as young as preschool age? What is long-term impact of an elementary education that encourages Talmud study for boys and Challah baking for girls? These are the questions raised in a new book by Elana Sztokman and Chaya Rosenfeld Gorsetman titled, Educating in the Divine Image: Gender Issues in Orthodox Jewish Day Schools. Check out Tablet’s fantastic podcast interview with the book’s author. (Tablet Magazine)

-Here’s a novel idea: using beans to talk to kids about money and charity. Since kids often can’t compute number in the five or six digit range, this author suggests breaking down the family pie visually in order to foster a healthy discussion about giving and where the family finances get distributed. (The New York Times)

-Check out this poignant essay by Kveller contributing editor Adina Kay Gross about losing her father when her twins were just 18 months old and how she keeps his memory present in their day-to-day lives. (Modern Loss)

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Jan 22 2014

Mitzvah Notes For Mommy

By at 9:32 am

notez

My daughter’s preschool teacher has created a daily task in which we, the parents, write “mitzvah notes” for our children each day. These notes are meant to describe the ways in which our children are helpful, cooperative, or did good deeds. The notes are read in class with the children, who, I am told, are excited to hear and discuss the good things they have done.

I must admit that when I first learned about this task, I considered it a burden. How, I wondered, could we be expected to come up with a good deed that our 3-year-old did each day? Have you ever met a 3-year-old? I knew it would be far easier to rattle off “not so mitzvah notes,” like so:

She refused to brush her teeth.

She refused to get out of the bath.

She refused to get dressed.

She hit Mommy.

She pushed her sister.

She screamed in my face when I tried to comfort her because I was not Mommy. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 13 2014

14 Things You Should Know Before Getting Married

By at 1:56 pm

marry

My husband and I just celebrated a milestone anniversary–our 40th.

We married when we were 21 and 22, respectively, after meeting five years before in summer camp. In my senior year of high school, even while dating other people, I knew I wanted to marry him. I didn’t have a “list” or set of criteria like so many women seem to have now. I didn’t analyze, intellectualize, or speculate on his earning potential or what kind of father he would be. I just jumped, taking a leap of faith that remarkably, astonishingly, and awesomely paid off.

Over the decades I have learned a lot about marriage, from my own experience and from observing other people. These are some of my conclusions; some things I think people should know before they get married:

1. Know that you will not always be happy.

2. Don’t expect your spouse to fulfill all your needs. Women, especially, should make sure to keep their friends. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 6 2013

On Our 10th Anniversary, Discovering a New Meaning of Faith

By at 12:23 pm

DanaSiles_SCAN036wtmkwtmk

We got married on Sunday, December 7, 2003. (Yeah, yeah, I know, the Day That Will Live in Infamy. In our case, it was more like the Day That the Rabbi Was Available.) It was a sunny, beautiful day, with nearly three feet of snow on the ground. One of the largest Nor’easters in recorded history had passed through New England in the days before our wedding, but our wedding morning was perfect.

I recently got a copy of the words our Rabbi said as we stood with her under the chuppah:

Now I want to talk about this snowstorm. I think there’s something auspicious in it, perhaps a teaching here. Planning a wedding is a vast exercise in the delusion of control. There are so many details, so many things we want to get just right. And then, something like the snowstorm occurs and suddenly we realize that we’re not really always so in control. Sometimes that realization brings disappointments, frustrations. But it also uncovers something important: that to a certain extent, we just need to have faith.

We can make our plans for future happiness, but we can’t be sure things will unfold exactly as we hope. And that’s really the beauty of the commitment you’re making here today–the statement of faith that each of you is making about the other. That even without knowing exactly how things are going to turn out, even with not being able to control for every eventuality, you have faith that this is the person you want to be on this journey with.

And now we have been on this journey for 10 years. A decade. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how we got here, to this place of love and stability and occasional squabbles and frustrations. And I keep coming back to faith. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 14 2013

Parenthood? I Think You Mean Marriagehood: Recap for Episodes 6 & 7

By at 3:37 pm

courduroy

It’s possible that we’re wired to notice those aspects of art that apply to our own lives–one person staring at a Degas painting might see light, truth, and love, while another might simply see smashed up crumbly cheerios because they are the bane of her existence.

What? My point: the story lines on Parenthood that I am most interested in talking about are the ones that I can relate to, or the ones that somehow reflect my life. As such…

I have been less interested in the Amber/Ryan kerfuffle, or the Drew-goes-to-college-and-tries-to-figure-out-girls saga (though I do love Drew, such a sweet boy) and way more interested in the Julia-and-Joel-chaos and, to some degree, the Bonnie Bedelia-Coach-autumn-of-our-years plot.

First, though, let me take a moment to pay homage to Crosby, my favorite Braverman who, in episode six, rages against the minivan. Now, this was indeed a hackneyed storyline. Surely we all know someone in life (or on Facebook) who has struggled with a similar reality. (I don’t think anyone does it as cutely as Crosby does, though.) To get the details out of the way: Jasmine wants to get a minivan and get rid of Crosby’s “cool” vintage car. This comes to pass, and they make out in the backseat and all is well. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 31 2013

Parenthood Recap: The Beginning of the End for Julia & Joel

By at 12:04 pm
Erika Christensen and Sam Jaeger, who play Julia and Joel.

Erika Christensen and Sam Jaeger, who play Julia and Joel.

 

To my twelve readers:

Here’s the short of it: the last two episodes of Parenthood bored me a little (though I am still 100% a supporter of this show). So in this recap, I’m going to ignore the filler (Crosby and Adam signing some ridiculous band to their new label, Adam seeking out a big campaign donation for Kristina from a fake rapper named Mistah R.A.Y, etc etc) and focus on the storylines I found interesting/believable. (The interesting/believable criteria gives me license to ignore the Amber-getting-married-to-clearly-not-a-good-choice-Ryan. I will also willfully ignore the Grandpa Zeek-working-on-his-car-with-grandson-Victor-while-also-simultaneously-teaching-him-to-read storyline, because while I love Coach as much as the next gal, I think this material was worth one scene, tops, and not a lot of space in this blog post.

If you were watching closely, you know there were really just one or two incredible scenes in the last two episodes that felt true to life (at least life as a partnered-up parent), and truth is what I’m always hunting when I watch this show. (That, and an excuse to cry.) So here goes: Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 29 2013

The 10 Dos and Don’ts for When Your Spouse is Freaking Out

By at 3:45 pm

man looking at computer scared

Sometimes, your partner–being a human being (presumably; unless you’re like this guy which I sincerely hope you’re not)–will take some very trivial tiny hiccup that your baby does and freak out, worrying that he’s about to lose a leg. This risk is particularly high if it’s a newborn, or a first child–and if it’s both, watch out!

“Oh no, he sneezed… could he have a genetic lung disease?” Or maybe, just maybe, he just… sneezes sometimes?

Keeping with our sacred Jewish tradition ever since Exodus 20 of having lists of 10s broken into half positives and half negatives–here are five dos and five don’ts for this situation:

1.) Don’t try to reason logically with her/him. When she’s in freak-out mode, it’s her motherly instinct (or fatherly instinct, as the case may be) wanting to make sure the baby is perfect. You can’t process logical chains of reasoning when you’re in freak-out mode. Of course, logical analysis is essential, but that comes later, when you’re both calm. The militant say, “Shoot first, then ask questions”; I’d say, “Hug first, then ask questions.” Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 17 2013

I’m a Chinese American Married to a Jew, But Our Marriage Isn’t Trendy

By at 5:02 pm

wedding photo

I am often met by a “knowing look” when I (a Chinese American female) share that my husband is Jewish.

“Oh yeah, that’s a thing,” says [insert well-meaning person’s name here]. And you know, according to all sorts of sources–including the New York Timesit does seem to be a thing. It appears I’m one half of a “marriage trend” that’s sweeping the nation, or at least High Holiday Services. (A professor once mentioned to me that her synagogue had Asian women “sprouting up” all over the congregation.) People usually cite the most popular examples, e.g., Mark Zuckerberg and “his Asian wife,” Maury Povich and Connie Chung, Woody Allen and “his very young Asian wife.” (Hmmm, Connie excluded, I’d say we Asian women are getting the shaft in terms of name recognition. But this is all beside my point.)

Our marriage isn’t trendy. At first glance, we might fit the bill. But ours is not a Jewish boy meets Asian girl, and due to a number of conveniently shared values–“tight-knit families, money saving, hard work, and educational advancement” included–they fall in love kind of story. Read the rest of this entry →

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