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Nov 21 2014

Interviews with Interesting Jews: Sarah Wildman, Author of “Paper Love”

By at 9:51 am

sarah wildman author of "paper love"

Journalist and Kveller contributor Sarah Wildman is the author of the recently released “Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind” (Riverhead Books, 2014). Over the six years it took Wildman to research and then write the book, she also became the mother of two girls, aged 5 ¾ and 17 months. She chatted with me about the motivations and challenges of chasing down this extraordinary love story on both sides of the Atlantic.

How would you characterize your relationship with your grandfather as a child?

My grandfather was larger than life, the patriarch in every way we think of that word. He was incredibly warm, incredibly charismatic, and he made everyone feel that he or she was the only person in the room. He used to kiss my hand, like a Viennese gentleman. I was in awe of him, a bit.

How did you happen to find out about his paramour, Valy, and what drew you to learn more about her? Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 9 2014

Pumping in the Amtrak Station Never Felt So Good

By at 3:22 pm


Three kids in, I will nurse (and have done) in front of anyone. Father-in-law? Check. Rabbi? Check. Boss? Check. Graduate students? Check. Everyone who goes to my local park, grocery store, coffee shop, and (obviously) doctor’s office? Check, check, check, and (obviously) check. To me, nursing is natural, life-giving and life-affirming, and simply a part of my baby’s nutritional needs, much like any other kind of food.

Pumping is a different story.

I barely let my spouse see me pump, let alone anyone else. Where nursing is a normal part of the routine, pumping feels utterly abnormal, both mechanic and animalistic, dehumanizing from every perspective.

I really don’t enjoy pumping.

And I have the easiest possible pumping scenario: I get a very generous maternity leave (by US standards) and will return to work in a private office with a door that locks and a small bar fridge. I don’t have to crouch in the corner of a public bathroom, or monopolize a private one, or face the wall and pretend that others can’t see or hear what I’m doing.

I really don’t enjoy pumping in public. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 30 2013

How to Prepare for a Family Slumber Party

By at 2:47 pm


Over the summer, we had a disastrous experience staying in a hotel room with our 2-year-old and 5-year-old.

Our 2-year-old had been in a bed for a month and we had managed to find a budget hotel with a pull-out couch so everyone had a bed. We left after dinner with the idea that we would just put the kids back to sleep when we arrived at the hotel. That worked well enough.

But, at 4 in the morning, when my son needed a glass of water, my daughter (the 2-year-old) woke up and started singing and chatting. She had her own room at home and wasn’t used to being with the rest of us. No matter how much we told our son not to respond to her, he couldn’t resist. And that was the end of sleep.

This was a frustrating experience in itself. However, it made us very nervous about our holiday travel when we would all be staying in a room together again for five nights. I injected the hope that she would be more pliable at that point, as she would be a few months shy of being 3 years old. However, we decided to prepare. Historically, the kids have had some “sleepovers” in her room with him on the floor in a sleeping bag. So, for Hanukkah, we gave her a sleeping bag of her own. We started having sleepovers in his room, too, to get her used to the idea both of being in a sleeping bag and the practices of being quiet during the night. (Thank you, Hanukkah, for giving us the extra month of training this year.) Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 8 2013

Traveling Alone Has Never Been So Sweet

By at 4:02 pm


I recently returned from a trip to Boston for a good friend’s baby shower. I got to reminisce with friends I hadn’t seen in years as we cheered on our beloved Michigan Wolverines football team over beers and takeout, just as we did in grad school. And although all the togetherness and nostalgia was wonderful, can I tell you what I enjoyed most about my trip? The flight.

I have no particular love for flying. But since I became a parent few years ago, I’ve discovered the sheer bliss of being on a plane without my children. I’ve even half-joked to my husband that someday, when I really need a break, I’m going to buy the cheapest airline ticket I can find, just to indulge in the experience of flying alone. “I can come right home as soon as I get there,” I tell him, “all I need is the flight.”

Both my children are in daycare, so it’s not as if I lack time away from them. But that time is usually spent working, doing chores around the house, running errands–or, on the occasions when I allow myself some leisure time, feeling guilty that I’m not doing one of the above. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 30 2013

Should I Force My Son to Take Swimming Lessons?

By at 12:28 pm

san Francisco swimmingEvery summer, in an attempt to escape the New York City heat, I pack up the kids and take them to visit my parents in San Francisco for a few weeks (where as Mark Twain probably didn’t say, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”).

This year, I wasn’t able to go due to work. But, because I think it’s important for my kids to spend time with their grandparents and assorted West Coast cousins, my husband and I decided to send the three of them out alone for a month.

They’re ages just-turned-14, almost-10, and 6 ½. They’ve spent weeks alone with their grandparents before, so we figured it wouldn’t be a problem.

And, initially, it wasn’t a problem. All three were excited about the upcoming trip. (Though I suspect what they were most excited about was the fantastic meals, new toys, and undivided attention they were about to receive; Mama didn’t raise no foolish children, they know where they’ve got it good).

But, the night before they were scheduled to leave, as we were packing their bags, my almost-10-year-old burst into tears. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 18 2013

How Should a Grandparent Spend Her Money?

By at 9:47 am

flightWe married young, had children young, and by the time I was 31, we had two children in yeshiva day school. My husband worked long, hard hours and I was a stay-at-home mom for 18 years, the right decision for our family.

We paid for private schools, including Ivy League colleges, for four children as well as a master’s and a doctoral degree. We managed to pay off the loans about two years ago and left our kids with no debt. I don’t know how we did it and I often consider that God was making regular deposits into our bank account.

We have started small 529Ks for each grandchild and I am the best customer of the day at Gap Kids when I do a big shopping trip twice a year for clothes for them. We try to be generous with our gifts.

So why am I feeling guilty spending money on just us, my husband and me? Why am I troubled spending money to travel with my husband when we never had the time or money to do it earlier in our lives? Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 25 2013

How to Vacation Without Your Kids Without Missing Them the Whole Time

By at 10:07 am

bed and breakfast“I want to hug that couple’s baby. Is that weird?”

I asked my husband this as we are sat poolside at our condo last year in the Turks & Caicos. Little Man and Bun Bun were 9 months old at the time and were staying with Grandma and Grandpa and Auntie while we took some much needed R&R. I was thrilled to be away, but suddenly, here was this little blonde Austrian baby-man, a doppelganger for my Little Man, and all I wanted to do was scoop him up in my arms, give him belly kisses, and maybe even wipe his cute little nose boogies.

Yeah, that wouldn’t be weird. Read the rest of this entry →

May 22 2013

The Israeli Stranger Who Left Me Her Baby on the Plane

By at 11:57 am

benji on flight with babyI’ve been an uncle officially for 17 years, since my sister had her first son. Since then, three more nieces and nephews have popped out, giving me at least four reasons to bring gifts from Israel.

As more and more of my friends have had kids over the years (and there have been at least a few of those years, with my somewhat impending arrival to the age which rhymes with “sporty”), an increasing number of children have called me “Uncle Benji” despite a lack of blood relation. I have perfected animal impressions (which includes my personal and undisputed favorite, “the chicken”), I have become quite good at “online babysitting” (entertaining little kids with an Ernie puppet), and I am not ashamed to admit that I have developed such entertaining material that I have been caught recycling it across families in both English and (albeit, broken) Hebrew.

But I have never actually been a father. Until last week. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 29 2013

How Jewish Teachings Helped Me Be a Patient Parent

By at 9:36 am

Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to parenting.

My most recent journey into impatience came last night as my 2-year-old daughter twirled and sang her way into the wee hours of the night.

I had been trying to put her to sleep for three hours, and it just wasn’t working. Given the fact that she had experienced a transatlantic flight, and we arrived in Israel a few hours before (and that she was excited about being in a new place, and sharing a room with her older brother and being out of a crib, and and…) I had to cut her a little slack. But my ability to empathize and (what seemed like) the Herculean task of mustering the patience I needed had grown thin. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 15 2013

In Praise of the Mommy Retreat

By at 9:42 am

I was so excited for my trip that I am surprised I was even able to sleep the night before my departure.

Far more excited that I had expected, given it wasn’t a vacation to some tropical destination for some well-deserved R&R. Nor was it a trip to visit beloved family or dear friends.

No–it was a 48-hour (52 hours, counting the round-trip bus ride) journey back to me. A recalibration of sorts. Read the rest of this entry →


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