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Jan 9 2012

Exclusive Update: Mayim Bialik’s Actual Fruit Face

By at 10:26 am

Last Friday, we published Mayim Bialik’s adorable and touching post about making a “fruit face” for her sick 6-year-old son. This Monday, we are pleased to announce that Kveller has gained exclusive rights to a photo of the actual fruit face made for said son. Kindly erase from your memory that stock photography fruit face we used in the post and replace it with this, Mayim’s ultimate fruit face. Thank you.

mayim bialik fruit face

Dec 30 2011

Death in Sunrise, Florida

By at 11:26 am

It hits you as soon as you get off the airplane. The air smells different, it feels different. The word “humid” doesn’t capture the sensation that the walls and the carpets and the people are literally shvitzing: emitting moisture into the particles in the air like we emit breath. The air reeks of plastic and nylon and brick and flesh all mushed up together. All of the materials of the environment seem to make up the air you breathe. It’s nauseating and it’s comforting. It is Florida.

Florida is where my grandparents retired to when I was about 5 years old. They moved there with my grandmother’s three best friends (her two sisters, and her brother). They went as so many do, refugees first from Eastern Europe and then from New York. Florida was where you went and what you became. My grandfather died five years after retiring, leaving my grandmother to live without him but among her beloved siblings for the years until she moved to Los Angeles to be near us. She died before my second son was even conceived just four years ago.

The last of my grandmother’s siblings died last week at 100 incredible years old, just 12 hours after my husband and two boys arrived at my in-laws to spend a relaxing vacation in Northern California. My younger son and I bought the most expensive plane tickets we could find (that’s sarcasm) and we even found fights with the glorious promise of several hours of layover in lovely Phoenix both ways (still sarcasm mixed with anger). As Christmas Day came to an end, we were spilled onto the streets of Sunrise, Florida.

I told 3-year-old Fred that we were going to a party of sorts in Florida. But that it was a party where some people might be sad and others might be happy. In Fred-speak, he tried to make sense of it:

“Miles sad me Batman party. No presents.”

“Yes, Fred. Miles was sad at your Batman party because he didn’t get any presents.”

The trip went miraculously well, all things considered. Twenty of us stood at a grave and paid fitting tribute to the last of a generation in our family. Almost all of our small but mighty family was able to be there. No one fought (at least not in plain view). We ate together before and after the funeral. We laughed a lot. We cried. We looked at photo albums of our respective branch of our modest but lovely dynasty. Fred was a champ, breastfeeding as needed on airplanes and napping at the exact moment I thought I couldn’t stay awake myself one more minute. The trip was great. So why was it so sad?

It’s what hits you as you get off the plane. Florida may not be where I was born, but it is where people die. I sat in the backseat of my parents’ rental car (they don’t live in Florida and never will, they detest it so) and I instantly became a child, sitting in the back of my grandparents’ old Cadillac Seville. A collective sense of intensity, inanity, and intangibility well up in me now that I am an adult and it happens only in Florida.

Indeed, it was a party with sad people and happy ones. I spoke of my great Aunt’s friendship and how much it meant to my grandmother. Fred saw me weep pitifully and then he fell asleep at the end of the funeral, so I was able to shovel dirt into the last of my family’s Florida graves. He didn’t see the sweat of burying a loved one mix with my tears but I am sure it hung in the air, as all things do in Florida.

At night, I dreamed about my grandmother. I dreamed I was tying a bright scarf around her head in a bow. She kept redirecting my tying of it, though. I tied and retied it and I just couldn’t get it right. She was hard to please alive, must she be so in death as well?

What was I trying to make right? Was it death? Was it life? Was it the unavoidable fact that all of us will pass on and leave behind people to speak of us, to cry for us, to shovel dirt? Whatever it was, it hangs in the air. And it hits you as soon as you get off the airplane.

Dec 27 2011

Scarlett Johansson, Meet Rabbi Mayim

By at 3:51 pm

Celebrities talking about things they don’t know much about is always ripe for humor, and Scarlett Johansson and Matt Damon do not fail to deliver. In this clip from MTV After Hours with Josh Horowitz, to two stars are tested on their Hanukkah knowledge.

Our favorite part? When Horowitz asks Matt Damon who the star of Blossom was. Damon ecstatically replies that someone just told him this yesterday (who has he been talking to??), but he can’t remember the “fantastic” name. Scarlett, a member of the tribe herself, fails to remember also, but when told the correct name, she muses on the fact that she was told recently Mayim is… a rabbi? It doesn’t help that Horowitz tells her, “That’s true!”

Check out the video for more of this nonsense, and maybe even a Hitler joke:

Dec 22 2011

Mayim Bialik on Why It’s Important to Give

By at 3:10 pm

Mayim's recent PSA for Na'Amat.

As a public Jewish person, I am asked to speak for a lot of Jewish causes. I feel truly blessed to be able to put the word out there about organizations that do so much to change the world.

Even in my non-celebrity days, though, when I was “just” a graduate student who used to be TV’s Blossom, I was involved in a variety of charity organizations, and believe strongly in advocating for young people to put their money (even if it’s only the money they would spend on one night out drinking) and their passion behind a cause. I even co-founded a young person’s branch of the Jewish Free Loan of Los Angeles to show young people that they, too, can be philanthropists by helping add money to the pot of interest-free loans given out to people of all faiths.

Now that I am a mother, I feel even more strongly about organizations I am affiliated with, such as Na’Amat. You might associate the organization with our grandmothers’ generation. It’s 85 years old (so we’re not entirely wrong in our association) and it started as the Working Women’s Council in Palestine. Golda Meir was a founding supporter and Na’Amat is the Hebrew acronym for “Movement of Working Women and Volunteers.”

I just finished filming a PSA for Na’Amat and am happy to promote the great work they do along with its sister affiliate Na’Amat Israel. As an organization they work to help Jewish women work around halachic obstacles regarding marriage, divorce, and widowhood. They provide a 24 hour hotline for women experiencing domestic violence and provide women’s rights centers, free legal and health services, and do advocacy work to help end domestic violence. They provide affordable and safe childcare to tens of thousands of children. And they gives scholarships to women in need (180 were given out last year alone!) and stand by the principle that women deserve and merit equal opportunities to achieve and succeed free of discrimination in the educational and workplace arenas alike.

For me, becoming a parent made me feel connected to other parents in a new and powerful way. The thought of not having money or healthcare or the right to not be discriminated against feels much more significant now that I am a parent, and to imagine that this goes on all over the world every day can be overwhelming. Giving voice to organizations like Na’Amat helps contribute to making small changes for other parents and future generations.

And they need our support. It’s that simple.

Finally, as a person comfortably living in a wealthy country, I often marvel at how much we — I include myself in this — take for granted. A bad year financially for many of us looks like luxury to millions of people all over the world. Budgeting for a new water filter in our kitchens (and dechlorination filters for our bathtubs!) is profoundly disturbing when there are families with no clean water to give a sick child. We can give a little. We can give $5. We can also give $10. And we can give $1. The notion is that philanthropy is financial, yes, but it is also spiritual. It’s not about assuaging guilt; it’s a connection to others through time and space.

Kol Yisrael arevim zeh la-zeh” means that all Jews–and all people–are responsible for one another. No exceptions. No modifiers. Stand up for something with your money this Hanukkah, be it a big or small donation. Because there is no measure for how great that contribution is: for your soul, for the recipient of what your donation leads to, and for the truly priceless gift of being a part of this great nation of Jews. Let us be a light among the nations any way we can during this Festival of Lights. Chag Hanukkah Sameach.

Dec 16 2011

My Giant Adult-Sized Onesie

By at 11:22 am

The 100th episode party last night for The Big Bang Theory was big and full of bang, held at the Science Center in downtown Los Angeles. The Barenaked Ladies performed, and we cut into giant cakes in the shape of the number 100 (the cake was, alas, not vegan, so I did not eat cake for the cameras). In any event, we got to give thanks and appreciation to our amazing crew and staff and it was an intense but lovely evening.

For me, though, the personal thrill (besides seeing Chuck Lorre and Simon Helberg each play a song on stage with The Barenaked Ladies on stage – what!?) was my outfit. You see, I have taken on the awesome challenge of trying to conform to some standards of tznius (religious modesty), in this incarnation as an actor. Matter of fact, I did an entire set of posts about this entitled “Operation Hot and Holy” around Emmy time last year. The rules are simple enough: cover to the knee, cover the arms, no plunging necklines, no “unnatural cleavage” (meaning, if what God gave me is in evidence, more power to me, but no pushing up, no padding, no exaggerating allowed, as it were).

The stylist I used was recommended to me by the make-up/hair woman who I think it the most un-Hollywood make-up/hair person ever. This is a good thing, since I don’t like Hollywood people who tell me I look “aMAzing” when it’s clear that I don’t, etc. So the stylist, as it turns out, is a very un-Hollywood person as well. Yay!

Said stylist (thestyleden.com is her blog) is low-key, very hip, very not obnoxious, and very adorable. She also is straight-forward and funky, as well as reasonably priced. But the best part is the following (hang on to your kippahs and sheitels (wigs), Orthodox world): she is working with me on the tznius (modesty) thing. I can’t say she is overjoyed about it, but here’s how last night worked as a great example.

We chose a sweet Alice + Olivia dress that had teeny tiny adorable little cap sleeves. Not gonna work for mama, I told her. She suggested a blazer. That felt too “covered up.” I proposed a solution: frum shell.

What’s a frum shell, you ask? Picture a giant adult-size onesie (they also come without the snap crotch but who doesn’t want a snap crotch?!) in any color of the rainbow you want. They even come with different textures, sparkles, bling…They are sometimes 3/4 sleeve, I prefer the long sleeve.

When I explained the frum shell to the stylist over email, she wasn’t sure…She kept asking about the material. I told her it’s tight and shiny and black, her response was “OMG you just made me so happy when you said that!!” because she was worried that I would show up in black saggy, baggy, long john cotton thermals under my gorgeous dress. When I told her they come in every color, she laughed and said,  ”Then in every color of the rainbow you shall have them!” I know, you’re loving her, too, right!?

We did one more fitting for me to try on the dress with the frum shell. The stylist eyed me. She looked skeptical. She paced around me, hands to her chin. She eyed the place where the neckline of the dress met the neckline of the frum shell. A little was poking out. She said if I wear my hair down so it covers the neckline, I have her blessing. Amen!

I love that I got to wear a frum shell under this dress to the party. I love that the frum shell allows one to wear dresses that are hip and happening without showing one’s arms if you don’t want to. I love that the party was held in a hangar-size room that was impossible for heaters to warm up; people were literally shivering and having trouble keeping their lips from chattering while I was happy as a clam, arms covered, cozy, and allowing the glory of my inner soul to shine through. Okay, alright, that was a bit of religious hyperbole, but you get the idea.

Possibly the most exciting thing about my new BFF/stylist is that she already has a designer picked out who will design me tznius dresses for the awards shows I will attending this season. Those will include the SAG awards (our show was nominated for Best Ensemble which means if we win, I get to go up on stage!), maybe The People’s Choice, and – who knows? – maybe the Emmys.

I know you’re all wondering if she’s Jewish, this stylist I am crushing on. Truth be told, she and I haven’t discussed it and I don’t know that we need to. All I know is she’s from Houston and her last name is Kahn, a name associated with the high priests of Judaism since the Torah. I know better than to make more of this than I ought to, but suffice it to say, she had me at “OMG.”

Read up on Mayim’s fashion adventures, keeping it hot and holy.

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 →

Dec 9 2011

Mayim’s Miracle Maccabeats Debut

By at 11:37 am

mayim bialik maccabeats videoI have written and spoken frequently about my passionate disapproval for children being actors. I have also written and spoken freely about my passionate support and possibly inappropriate adoration-bordering-on-obsession for the Yeshiva University a cappella group, The Maccabeats, whose “Candlelight” video released last Hanukkah has close to 6 million hits on YouTube and garnered them an audience with President Obama, interviews on the national news, and singing engagements all over the world into the next decade when many of them may be graying and middle-aged (but will still be adorable and wonderful, mind you).

This Hanukkah, my friends, my passions will intersect, as my two sons (The Maccabeats’ #2 and #3 fans, me being #1) appear with me in a cameo in The Maccabeats’ new Hanukkah video set to Matisyahu’s song, “Miracle.”

How did I get involved?

Since I gushed about The Maccabeats all over Facebook, Twitter and Kveller last Hanukkah, I have sparked an off-camera friendship with the Maccabeats. This friendship and sort of “observant Jewish celebrity kinship” has been intimately gratifying and has led me even further into the world of traditional Jewish study, Modern Orthodoxy, and spiritual growth. In this sense, being asked to be a part of this video was a very intimate and personal thrill.

Even if I did not know them personally, though, being asked to be in this video the way they have asked me is conceptually very important as well. The Maccabeats’ first and second videos did not feature women, and they have come under some pretty aggressive and, in my opinion, bitter and vindictive attacks by many in the non-Orthodox world who have accused them of favoring men and keeping “their” women locked up and covered ankle to wrist. Their third video showed men and women praying and celebrating the Jewish New Year equally, separated in synagogue as is prescribed by Jewish law, and the Maccabeats have wisely avoided defending their love for women and the various appropriate and fulfilling interactions they can and do have with women.

I am shown in the video studying from the Tanakh (the book containing the Torah, Prophets, and Writings). Women do that, you know. We also have a lot of control over our bodies, our interactions with men, and our choices. Many traditional women find it empowering to have limits to what people see of us and although we may be “limited” in some public arenas that outsiders might see as severely problematic, we are free to study and grow and develop “just like men.” This intellectual and philosophical growth allows us the identical potential and beauty of any man and–some would agrue–the potential for even more beauty because of our uniqueness as women. Needless to say, I am thrilled to be shown studying Tanakh in this video. And although my little crocheted hat looks a bit like a kippah from some angles, IT’S NOT a kippah, ok?

How did my kids get involved?

The video features families and Maccabeats alike lighting the hanukiah and I was asked if my boys would participate. You see, women are valued greatly in traditional Jewish circles for many things, but being a mother and wife rank high on the list. With an emphasis on women as leaders of the home and the ones who dictate the tone and rhythms of the home and family, the Maccabeats felt strongly that I be seen not only as a celebrity, and not only as a woman who studies traditional text, but also as a woman who embraces the role of being a mother. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 1 2011

Is It Something Only Moms Can Understand?

By at 1:06 pm

football playersI have always loved football. Professional or college; it doesn’t really matter to me.

I love the rules of the game and the complexity. I love the pacing of it and the numerous skills involved by all of the players. I love the offense and I love the defense. I love the dancing, prancing, and outlandish celebrations by the players who score touchdowns; I am upset those celebrations have been tempered by the NFL, because I think they are a part of the immense joy that can only come from scoring an impossibly fantastic touchdown in front of tens of thousands of people. I don’t like the violence and its increasing prevalence, but overall, I really enjoy a good football game.

I was watching highlights of the Giants game the other night, though (yes, I even like watching ESPN football highlights), and a player got sacked. Hard. Normally, this would elicit a wince from me and maybe some utterance like, “Ow, that must’ve hurt.” But this time, I had a different reaction. When sacked and brought to the ground, this player’s body contorted in grotesque ways; joints splayed out in angles not predicted by anatomical geometry. I wondered if I had just witnessed his body and his soul parting ways.  It looked truly horrible and I felt really yucky inside.

Then I realized why I was having such a strong reaction. In that flash of observation, it occurred to me that this man is someone’s son. And that hit me like a ton of bricks. I wondered what his mother felt like watching this occur. I wondered if she was even watching at all, and if not, what would it be like for her to see her son’s body crushed like this on the evening news?

The player rolled over, unfurled his legs, and got up. Miraculously, he was fine. But I wasn’t. I couldn’t stop thinking about this man’s mother. And I realized in that moment that since I became a mom, I view the world differently because I am a mom.

Take the Olympics. Watching the Olympics is a vastly different experience now that I am a mom; I used to be fascinated by someone achieving something so huge and incredible and difficult. Now that I am a mom, I am fascinated by someone’s child achieving something so huge and incredible and difficult. And it seems that everyone I meet for the past 6 years receives this scrutiny and awe from me: doctors, lawyers, check-out clerks, the garbage man, the plumber… Everyone came from a mother and everyone is someone’s child.

I see homeless people on the street and I wonder, who are their mothers? Were their childhoods happy? Did their mother look at them on Day 1 and say, “Oh my God. I can’t believe I made you.” How did they end up homeless? Where did life shift for them so that they are on the off ramp of the freeway asking for change? Couldn’t their mother help them? Maybe not. And that’s sad, too.

Of all of the mixed blessings of parenthood – the joy, the exhaustion, the agony, and the ecstasy – this shift in perception perplexes me the most. Am I grateful to have this awareness? Or is it a hindrance that turns every sad happening into something far sadder and more complicated than it needs to be? For the misogynists who claim women should not hold high-ranking military positions or political office because of their “woman-ness,” is this why!? Have I become a mushy hypersensitive hormonal Mom!?

I may not be able to tease all of that apart, and I don’t know that I need to. Who knew that we would change so much at this stage of life? That we would reach our 20s, 30s and even our 40s and have revelation and humility and tenderness for a football star on a field thousands of miles away simply because we are moms! I wonder if women who never have children (by choice or by circumstance) feel this way about contorted football players. Is this something “only moms” can understand?

Perhaps. But it doesn’t much matter. What matters is that I am connected to every mother and, apparently, every child, more deeply and elaborately than I ever was before. And it’s all because I am someone’s mom.

Nov 22 2011

New Moms Don’t (Usually) Need Breast Pumps

By at 4:17 pm

By Alice Chaos/flickr

I had a significant set of difficulties breastfeeding both of my sons. If not for the patient and devoted La Leche League leaders and lactation consultants who gave me advice, support, and a shoulder to cry on, I could not have nursed both of my boys into toddlerhood (and still going…) the way I believe nature intended me to. I wanted to be able to provide that advice, support and shoulder to women who struggled to breastfeed. So, last year I became certified as a Lactation Educator Counselor as the start of my pursuit to eventually become an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.

Since becoming certified, I have been privileged to counsel a handful of women, mostly over the phone, and a few in person, with what I deem success: confidence in breastfeeding and mothering was bolstered, problems troubleshooted, babies breastfeeding happily, and mothers and fathers more rested.

In recent months, I have counseled two women with week old babies who both had the same question: they wanted to know how to start using a breastpump. Neither woman worked outside of the home or had any difficulty breastfeeding, establishing the milk supply, or adjusting to life with a baby. They were simply ready to start pumping to “sock away milk” and “get some time away.”

Before I go on, I want to say that I understand why breast pumps are helpful and useful. A breast pump helped me establish my milk supply and give my newborn the precious colostrum he needed when he was in the NICU for the first four days of his life. Breast pumps can help women continue to provide breastmilk for their children when they return to work or are away from their babies. I have used breast pumps and I understand why people use them.

So what’s my lactivist beef? (Could that sound any more un-kosher?!) Why do I not recommend (nor would any lactation consultant) using a breast pump with a newborn if there is no pressing need to?

The Science. Establishing and maintaining a milk supply is best achieved by breastfeeding. Period. A breast pump cannot take the place of a baby and can, in fact, interfere with your body learning the rhythms and breast milk desires of your baby. No pump can match the stimulation and sucking power of a human baby, and frequent on-demand baby-to-breast ’round the clock for the better part of the first 3 months is the “best” way to do that. This is good for the milk supply, good for the baby (no artificial breast milk has ever come close to matching human breast milk and that’s not propaganda, it’s just the truth), and it’s good for the mama’s mental and physical health as well. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 15 2011

Mayim on the Black Carpet for the Breaking Dawn Premiere

By at 2:06 pm

Mayim Bialik at Twilight Breaking Dawn PremiereI attended the “black carpet” premiere of Breaking Dawn, the latest in the Twilight saga. Having never read any of the books and having never seen any of the previous four movies, this was an interesting evening indeed.

Here are 10 more reasons why the evening was interesting.

1) Exhaustion: I was awake since 3:30 a.m. yesterday morning, taping 30 live satellite interviews with morning shows across America. With only a 15 minute nap under my belt, I was pretty exhausted by the time the premiere rolled around. The red carpet started at 4:30. The movie started at 8. I got home at 11 in time to breastfeed Fred and fall asleep. Big day for mama.

2) Preparation: About a year ago I found the make-up/hair person I can not live without and she is really what makes me happy to go out to these events. You may not understand how important a make-up/hair person is, but I found someone who is a) not pretentious, b) quick as lightning, and c) does not hand me any BS. Many actors like to be told they always look fantastic even if they don’t. I am not that actor.

3) The car key: In the middle of all of my preparation, my husband attempted to take the boys to the park and library but could not find our only key to the car with the carseats, which was locked… This kind of thing, in case you don’t know my husband, does NOT happen to him. My husband puts the car key in the same place every day every time no exceptions thank you very much. He tore the house apart and simultaneously tried to keep the boys from flipping out since all they wanted to do was go to the park and library and not watch Mama get made up, as my older son put it, “like a girl clown.” Read the rest of this entry →

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