Old School. New School.

After a busy summer that started with preschool graduation, followed by three different summer camps, Madelyn began kindergarten at long last!

But let’s back up.

Preschool graduation was the sweetest. It was such an emotional day and a true icing on the cake to a fabulous preschool experience. I was so lucky to make some of my most favorite friends ever, and I was honored to have a part in helping create the graduation ceremony with some awesome moms. It was inspired by the movie, “Up” with the theme “Adventure awaits” and we decorated the day to feature colorful balloons.

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Madelyn had been practicing all the graduation songs and the order of the ceremony for months and every night at dinner, we’d get a whole show. I knew the whole shebang from start to finish thanks to her sneak peeks, and if anyone was absent, I could’ve easily filled in because I was so well prepared by my little maestro. The irony, is that Little Miss Super Star totally and completely lost her mind when the actual ceremony started. I think the build-up of graduation and the realness of the emotions that preschool was ending hit our very … delicate… girl, and as soon as the processional began and alllllll the happy kids walked into the ceremony, cheerfully marching and singing, Madelyn covered her eyes and the waterworks almost caused a flood in the temple (#SaveTheTorahs). She stood up with her class with her head in her hands and that’s how she finished the song. Newsflash, girlfriend: That’s not how you’re going to get into “Hamilton.”

This is called: Four-Year-Old Freak Out.

This is called: Four-Year-Old Freak Out.

Eventually, with some water and a pep talk from her teacher, she got it together and was able to perform with the rest of her class, hand motions and all. Regular Madelyn was BACK! She finished strong and even collected her diploma.

Therrrrrre's my girl That's how you make it on Broadway. Confident, long arms.

Therrrrrre’s my girl That’s how you make it on Broadway. Confident, long arms.

They still let her graduate, even though she totally flunked the first song in the performance. Softies.

They still let her graduate, even though she totally flunked the first song in the performance. Softies.

And then when graduation was over, she ran toward us and celebrated with her bestie, Keith, as if she had just won a Tony for her performance. Did she forget Processsionalgeddon only 30 minutes before? Either way, we were super proud of her. Our graduate was sparkling the way she normally does, and she said it was the best day ever. She’s a good actress after all.

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Madelyn and her bestie, Keith. If there had been a Preschool Prom, they would've totally gone together.

Madelyn and her bestie, Keith. If there had been a Preschool Prom, they would’ve totally gone together.

My Graduation Committee friends and I had so much fun decorating the room, that we also thought there needed to be a photo op! All the kids loved taking pictures and holding the graduation signs and the parents got in on the action too.

I’m so glad we captured some really fun pictures of Madelyn with her big smile on preschool graduation day!

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One of the songs that Madelyn actually performed at graduation was a song called “Kindergarten Here We Come” and it did. Those lyrics don’t lie. Her first day of elementary school arrived and she yo-yoed between being super excited and super nervous. I was totally expecting a Processionalgeddon to make another appearance in the form of Drop Off-pocolypse based on her tenuous feelings about starting kindergarten.

It started to sink in hard core at the kindergarten orientation the week before school. It took place in the MPR/Cafeteria and I explained that this would be the room where she would come see shows, or assemblies, or receive an award. And without missing a beat, she asked, “And is this where we will come do Shabbat?” Crickets. So, yeah, I had to explain that there’s no Shabbat or any other Jewish holidays at elementary school and she wasn’t really OK with that.

Moving right along…

She continued to ebb and flow between nervous and excited. I did what any mom of a girl with fragile feelings would do: I took her shopping. We picked out a bunch of new outfits for school and one of them became her first-day ensemble. And then I showed her pictures of my first day of kindergarten. Her observations: “Mommy, your bow is very big.” “The teacher has white legs.” and “My hair looks better than yours.” All of these are mostly correct.

LITTLE TWIN STARS BACKPACK! Madelyn and her Pottery Barn Kids backpack are SO jealous of my 1988 accessories.

LITTLE TWIN STARS BACKPACK! Madelyn and her Pottery Barn Kids backpack are SO jealous of my 1988 accessories.

Am I going to school on a prairie? A dude ranch? And why is my waist so high under my non-boobs?

Am I going to school on a prairie? A dude ranch? And why is my waist so high under my non-boobs?

Teacher's dress confirms it: prairie it is.

Teacher’s dress confirms it: prairie it is.

Last night, we made sure to start off on the right foot by implementing our bedtime routine that we failed at all summer. She’s just a night owl. But she’s also not a morning person (I have NO idea where she gets that from. Hum dee hum dee doo dee doo), and we knew she’d have such a hard time waking up if she didn’t have an early bedtime. We tried to implement it all summer, but things got in the way and we couldn’t be consistent. Last night, we meant business. We read a story about kindergarten and we went to sleep talking about kindergarten. She had to have nothing but pleasant kindergarten dreams to really get into her subconscious, right? Both kids were in bed by 7:45 and Bryan and I felt like we won parenting.

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This morning, the first day of school, Madelyn woke up all on her own. That’s good because I had a really hard time getting up (see above re: non-morning people and how it’s a genetic disorder) but I blame that on the tossing and turning I did all night because apparently, it’s not just kids and teachers who are nervous for the first day of school!

Chipper and cheery, Madelyn completed her morning checklist that we started a few weeks back. She loves checking off her must-do items each morning that help her get focused and ready for the day. I recommend this method to parents everywhere, especially if you have a kid who dilly-dallies in the morning like mine.

She ate a sensible breakfast (TJ’s frozen waffle and yogurt. I ain’t no morning Martha) and we took our First Day Of School photos like all the other parents took while breaking the internet today. I made her a sign because I’m too cheap to buy one and I got a little emotional as I saw my baby all ready to go to kindergarten. Elementary school is no joke. This is like the start of it all and I had Danny Tanner moments of seeing my girl grow up before my eyes at this front door: smiling in braces; dangling car keys to her first wheels; with a date and corsage before prom; move out day for college. YOU GUYS! This is like the runaway train to all that stuff. We can’t get off! She just grows up and we have to be OK with that! This is insanity! Also, PS, I have no idea where Madelyn gets her dramatics.

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She was excited to go, but then as we parked and started our walk to the gate, she got a little apprehensive. I know that it’s a sign of doom to come; Her voice begins to sound wiggly and she starts to question things.

We walked to her classroom and we had about ten minutes until the bell would ring. Kids were starting to gather. All of them were bouncing off the halls. Madelyn began to cling harder. It’s funny: most people see videos of Madelyn or observe her with her friends and think she’s a total ham. And 99% of the time, that’s the case. But when she’s uncomfortable or unsure, she shrinks. This was no different and Bryan and I exchanged looks of dread and embarrassment and pity for the likely fact that she was going to lose it when it was time to walk in.

The teacher opened the door and all the kids lined up to meet her and walk inside. Madelyn mentioned she was missing her preschool friends and we reassured her that they were missing her, too, and they were all starting new adventures also. She was glad to know that they weren’t all back at familiar preschool without her. Girlfriend has some serious FOMO like her mama. However, before we could really get a grip on the situation, her head went into her hands and her shoulder slumped over and it was like we were looking at that scared little girl at graduation who just couldn’t get it together. We were losing her! She was a goner! Houston! We have a problem! Bryan crouched down and shared some words of inspiration; then I took my turn. And in the knick of time, she swallowed her tears and fears, and as the second-to-last kiddo to get to the front of the line, the teacher welcomed her and ushered her to the carpet where all the other kids happily gathered and we shrugged. Parents aren’t allowed into the classroom at kindergarten drop-off, so our job was done. It was out of our control now.

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The day went slow for us back at home. I was dying to know what was going on back at school. It’s not that I’m a helicopter mom; I’m just a very curious mom!

When it was finally time to pick her up a measly 5 hours later, she offered up a pretty good report. She mentioned she only cried twice during the day (only) and it was because she didn’t know where her teacher went during lunch (answer: to talk about all the students with all the other teachers) and she didn’t get a chance to go down the slide because the “Orange Vest People” (campus supervisors) said that recess was over.

I asked a million questions about the day, but it was like pulling teeth to get answers and even the best dentist in the world wouldn’t be able to get her to offer up some juicy details. From what I gathered, there was something about a scavenger hunt and she made two friends. She also said the bathrooms are clean but there are no toilet seat covers so she lined the seat with toilet paper. I’m glad to know that the life lessons I’ve taught her have traveled to school. But as far as a play-by-play of what kindergarten was like: nothin’. I think tomorrow I’m going to strap a GoPro to her head so I can see what goes on in kindergarten!

Despite the roller coaster of everyone’s emotions in the Friedman house, I am actually really excited and looking forward to these school years. Our school feels like a really nice and tight-knit community of families which isn’t dissimilar from our preschool experience. I can’t wait to watch her learn and explore both academically and socially, and I know this is just the beginning of truly amazing Madelyntastic things!

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  1. Mimi
    8/25/2016 8:29 PM

    Dear Madelyn! You will enjoy kindergarten so much because you like to learn and try new things. You will make lots new friends and many of them will be your good friends for many years to come. I can’t wait to hear about all the fun you’re having. Pretty soon YOU will be reading a book to ME!
    Go Madelyn! Go Roadrunners!
    I LOVE you! <3
    Mimi

Madelyn is Five!

Our sweet, funny, smart, friendly, old-soul, musical, sarcastic, compassionate, and general mensch-ette of a first born daughter is five! That’s half a decade! That’s all the fingers on a hand. That’s, like, all of undergrad for an ASU alum. (sorry. Had to. Love all my Sun Devil friends.).

It’s crazy to think Madelyn Shana has been around for five years. On one hand, it seems like it’s been a blink and she went from birth to kindergartner. On the other hand, it seems like she’s always been here; that life before her was so distant and unimportant. I can barely remember being me before I was a mom. A few days ago, Madelyn asked me about the happiest day of my life. I didn’t hesitate to tell her that it was the day she was born.

On the last night as a 4-year-old, Madelyn looked ahead to 5. And it looked like ice cream.

On the last night as a 4-year-old, Madelyn looked ahead to 5. And it looked like ice cream.

I always get emotional on my kids’ birthdays, and I’m a stickler for keeping our traditions (like going out to dinner on the birthday even like we did in 2013 and in 2014 and other years that didn’t get documented — for shame!) This fifth birthday was no different because all remnants of baby and toddler are now completely absent, and Madelyn is all… kid!

Since before she was born, it was determined that Madelyn would have to be a fan of the Dodgers in order to become a welcome family member. Thankfully, she obliged — whew! — and we could keep her as our own. She’s grown up seeing many games at Dodger Stadium thanks to the generosity of her Auntie Pattie and Uncle Barry and will never be able to sit anywhere else in the ballpark, since when you start in the Dugout Club, you’re ruined in the best way possible! Madelyn also loves to watch games on TV, and surrenders to the poetry of Mr. Vin Scully’s on-air talents. So it’s not exactly a shocker that she asked for a Dodgers-themed birthday to ring in the big 5.

Just a few days before her big party, the famous Auntie Pattie invited the family to come together to celebrate Madelyn’s birthday in the suite on the day she turned five!

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The best part about suite nights at Dodger Stadium is watching all the cousins play together. Madelyn absolutely adores all her cousins because they are a fun and wild bunch and their mutual amounts of energy always makes us boring grown-ups double over in laughter.

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The big kids tried to teach the little ones how to do the LA sign. SOCLOSE.

The big kids tried to teach the little ones how to do the LA sign. SOCLOSE.

It's no mystery who the little cousins get the sillies from... The BIG cousin!

It’s no mystery who the little cousins get the sillies from… The BIG cousin!

It’s possible we didn’t do a lot of game watching since there was a lot of birthday celebrating going on, but the food and family ruled the night and that’s what mattered most. Also, the Dodgers did win, so that was a plus.

Still, we are oh-so grateful to these special people right here! Madelyn appreciates her time at Dodger Stadium and it’s all thanks to them!

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Normally, the evening of August 9th is dinner out at Cheesecake Factory with both sets of grandparents, but we were more than happy to break the birthday tradition and spend the evening at the Dodger game. Madelyn loves being with her Grandma & Grandpa and Mimi & Poppa on her birthday.

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Madelyn conked out in the car before we even reached the freeway. The fifth birthday was a homerun.

That's what a happy five-year-old looks like.

That’s what a happy five-year-old looks like.

But, there were more innings to go. Her big party (you know, the one that I always say I’m not going to make) was a few days later and I spent the whole week on finishing touches because suicide by arts and crafts is the best way to go.

Sticking with the Dodgers theme of the week, we had lots of fun making this party Dodgerfied. From the walk up to the front door to the food names to the activities, it was Dodgertastic and Madelyn loved it!

A homemade LA stencil, white spray paint, and a cheap, ugly roll of fake grass took our guests from the driveway to THE FIELD!

A homemade LA stencil, white spray paint, and a cheap, ugly roll of fake grass took our guests from the driveway to THE FIELD!

When in doubt, Vinny.

When in doubt, Vinny.

I had to have peanuts, but I did not want to have peanut SHELLS. I made peanut shell bags and affixed them to the tables. Peanut on, friends!

I had to have peanuts, but I did not want to have peanut SHELLS. I made peanut shell bags and affixed them to the tables. Peanut on, friends!

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The drink station sign says "Tommy LaSodas" because... I ALMOST considered serving cans of SlimFast.

The drink station sign says “Tommy LaSodas” because… I ALMOST considered serving cans of SlimFast.

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Using food as food AND decor is too fun.  We served Hebrew National (League) Hot Dogs... because Farmer John hot dogs are ... suspect. Sorry, FJ.

Using food as food AND decor is too fun. We served Hebrew National (League) Hot Dogs… because Farmer John hot dogs are … suspect. Sorry, FJ.

Darryl Strawberries... but the 1993 kind because if you go too much earlier, he's a Met and that doesn't make sense.

Darryl Strawberries… but the 1993 kind because if you go too much earlier, he’s a Met and that doesn’t make sense.

Clayton Kerslaw. Cole slaw from Brent's Deli is never on the DL.  We served Mike Pi(a)zza Bites, Eric Carrots and Jocolate Pederson candy baseballs, too, in addition to old fashioned Cracker Jacks that didn't get a punny name because they're just called Cracker Jacks.

Clayton Kerslaw. Cole slaw from Brent’s Deli is never on the DL.
We served Eric Carrots and Jocolate Pederson candy baseballs, too, in addition to old fashioned Cracker Jacks that didn’t get a punny name because they’re just called Cracker Jacks.

A Nacho Bar was a grand slam with our guests. Go Doyers!

A Nacho Bar was a grand slam with our guests. Go Doyers!

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It was the first party in a few years that I didn’t hire a company or activity for entertainment, but now that the kids are older and not such social misfits, I knew they’d still have fun hanging with friends, playing tee ball, and doing a craft. I set up a Make Your Own Pennant station where the kids could decorate a paper pennant with lots of doodads and markers. They turned out great and I think the kids really enjoyed it.

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Thank goodness for the moms who helped man the station as the kids came and went to make their pennants. I am so lucky to have such great friends who enjoy these things as much as I do!

Thank goodness for the moms who helped man the station as the kids came and went to make their pennants. I am so lucky to have such great friends who enjoy these things as much as I do!

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Madelyn was having a blast being all decked out in Dodger Blue from head to toe!

Madelyn was having a blast being all decked out in Dodger Blue from head to toe!

Arielle had a great time, too, wandering around and picking up whatever she could get her hands on.

Arielle had a great time, too, wandering around and picking up whatever she could get her hands on.

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As always, birthday parties are a great time to be with our friends and family and we are always so glad they are there to celebrate good times (come on!).

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When it was time to sing “Happy Birthday,” I brought out the cupcakes, candled up a special birthday cupcake for Madelyn, and we all enjoyed a big group number to wish her the best. When it was time to make a wish, the always-thoughtful Madelyn clammed up for a moment, unable to come up with a wish on the spot. She stresses under pressure and we were nanoseconds from tears due to those BIG feelings that come with turning five, but I was able to avoid drama by promising her that wishes count later on and she can sleep on it. Whew! So she blew out her candles — probably wishing for more time to make a wish — and we all celebrated with group sugar consumption. Birthdays are the best like that.

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The party dwindled down, but Madelyn’s appetite for cupcakes did not. She had about four more before the night was over. I justified this parenting decision because I ordered 72 cupcakes. I couldn’t let the 40 uneaten cupcakes go to waste, so I decided they were health food for my growing daughter. Muffins, really. With sweet cream on top. Basically, breakfast, right?

And because I like to fatten everyone up (#jewishmother), I sent everyone home with iced baseball heart cookies that I made (#newhobby). You’re welcome, parents, for the sugar at 7 p.m.

I realize this makes me a 3 strikes parent-hostess, but c'mon! It wasn't like it was a school night!

I realize this makes me a 3 strikes parent-hostess, but c’mon! It wasn’t like it was a school night!

The party was a World Series winner, and my lil slugger was more than happy. We did our job. Madelyn had a very, very happy fifth birthday.

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Bryan created an amazing video for Madelyn’s 5th birthday that documents her life as a Dodger fan! He’s too talented. He whipped this up in a week, and I am in awe. This looped at the party and I can’t stop watching it still!

The Mother Loving Brunch Bunch

by Alison Friedman in All In The Family, Mommy's Musings

Since April, Bryan had been asking me what I’d like to do for Mother’s Day. It’s always tricky for me. I didn’t want “the day off” because to me, the whole purpose of Mother’s Day is celebrating motherhood so it feels wrong to do so by not being with my children. I wanted to do something special, but also didn’t want to fight crowds or overpay for mediocrity or deal with stress of traffic or tickets to something or being somewhere on time. Then again, a lazy day at home doing nothing seemed boring to me. I so appreciate how much he wanted to make sure that my wishes come first on this Hallmark holiday, but I couldn’t even really make sense of my wishes, let alone turn them into reality.

For the past four years since I’ve been a mom, he’s always put me first on Mother’s Day, and for that he’s a true partner in parenting and marriage. That, alone, is a gift more thoughtful than any big hullabaloo we’d end up doing. And my mom has never been one to make a big fuss over holidays and has said that I should put the focus on myself and my own kids, but I couldn’t possibly imagine celebrating Mother’s Day without my own mother! So I decided that what I really wanted was just to have the whole family together at our home, even it if meant cooking for them and cleaning up after them — I’d rather do something genuine on Mother’s Day than something generic just for the sake of doing something. Plus, I’d be lying a little bit if I said I hate hosting parties.

While in Trader Joe’s, I flirted with frozen quiches and had a quick love affair as I fondled the box in my hands, and while my head said yes, my heart said no. So instead, I purchased ingredients to make them from scratch, in addition to a few other brunch favorites. And right then and there, my idea to have “a simple Mother’s Day breakfast” became “Ah! The Four Seasons will rue the day that I take Mother’s Day into my own hands and kitchen!” I might have even whooshed my cape over the frozen food section of convenience.

Some pre-baking (scones and coffee cake!) and cooking (those damn quiches) the day before allowed for a fairly easy morning on Sunday when I awoke to Madelyn at my side of the bed, in full voice: “I KNOW YOU’RE STILL SLEEPING, BUT HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY, MOMMYYYYYYY.” Yawn.

The wake-up call, though abrupt, was probably a good thing as it got my tush in action to put the finishing touches on our table and brunch set-up, like getting the fixings to the scones (Devon cream, jam, lemon curd) and yogurt bar ready in their serve-ware straight out of a Crate & Barrel wedding registry collection. You know you’ve only been married for 8 years when you still get a kick out of playing house with your wedding loot.

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Everyone arrived at 11 for brunch and we chowed down like the hungry and deserving mamas — and dads! — that we are. Madelyn made pictures for each of the moms in the room and we all praised her for her work. Brunching at home in the aroma of fresh coffee and baked goods was such a nice and relaxing way to spend the day together. Mimosas flowed and seconds and thirds of food were served. I loved having our family gathered in our dining room. It’s why we bought this house.

My Mom and my Grandma aka Future Alison.

My Mom and my Grandma aka Future Alison.

The original mothers at the brunch get first dibs at the buffet. Ironically, on Mother's Day, the mothers are out of focus and the focus is on the food. There is deeper meaning to this photo after all.

The original mothers at the brunch get first dibs at the buffet. Ironically, on Mother’s Day, the mothers are out of focus and the focus is on the food. There is deeper meaning to this photo after all.

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Thankfully, the living room is a few steps away, so when we were stuffed, we reclined and relaxed on the couch with baseball in the background as the kids played together. My nephew, Jordan, finally has a playmate in Arielle who is almost keeping up with him, and Madelyn loves doting on both babies. I know both Mimi and Grandma were thrilled to be with the kids, and my own Grandma came along with my parents since she’s nearby and nothing makes her heart happier than being with family and seeing the little ones bounce around and discover everything around them.

I’m pretty sure we’ve all reached the stage in life where we can sit back and let the kids do the entertaining. In no time, I’m sure Madelyn will be directing and starring alongside Jordan and Arielle in shows they all make up as we sit with full bellies and manage to find room to laugh. That’s what these family holidays are made for.

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All I really wanted for Mother’s Day was to get a few family shots with my girls. I’m so glad that my Grandma is able to join us at these little gatherings so it was important to have her in all her 92-year-old glory pose for a quick photo, too. I totally burned off all the calories from brunch while trying to get Arielle to cooperate for a picture. Babies, man. I really worked for that (digital) Kodak moment.

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Mother’s Day was such a nice day this year. The novelty of my first Mother’s Day remains a favorite memory, and I’ve loved celebrating preschool Mother’s Day once Madelyn became a preschooler, but there’s something to inviting the whole gang to our house to remind ourselves why we are all so special with good food and good company. There’s certainly something warm-fuzzy about cooking with my wonderful husband while our girls played together, as we prepared to welcome the people who brought us together and put us in the middle of generations.

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Also, the quiches from scratch were delicious.

  1. Grandma
    5/10/2016 7:18 PM

    Yes, yes they were! Thank you for a wonderful day!

  2. sharon siegel
    5/10/2016 5:43 PM

    What a wonderful day!
    From kids to quiches, from babies to bagels—it was all very delish and fun being together.
    Thanks for hosting and honoring us Moms.
    Love you!

Why is This Year Different From All Other Years?

by Bryan Friedman in All In The Family, Daddy's Corner, The House

With apologies to T.S. Eliot, April is the sweetest month for me. Spring is my time – it’s my favorite season because it means better weather, good strawberries, the return of baseball, and…Passover.

For those who have a love affair with all things bread (like my wife for example), it is sometimes hard to understand why I love Passover so much. Even as a kid it was my favorite Jewish holiday. Of course the obvious choice here would have been Chanukah – presents, latkes, dreidels, chocolate, all the bread you can eat. But somehow I’ve always preferred the other eight-day Jewish festival. Maybe it’s the sweet, sweet charoset. Or the buttered matzah. Or the reclining at the table?

I guess for me it always kind of felt like Jewish Thanksgiving except you replace turkey with brisket, cornbread with matzah, football with baseball, and pumpkins with strawberries. Those are pretty much all upgrades in my world. (Except for the cornbread I guess. I mean I do love matzah, but let’s get serious.) Sure, it may seem like a slog through the Haggadah before the meal – but I love the story of Exodus and all the seder plate symbolism. Plus that’s the whole point right? Remembering that “once we were slaves, but now we are free.” Then we eat. (It’s a familiar Jewish holiday pattern.)

When I was little, we did seder at my mom’s house for a lot of years, then eventually just did it with our old congregation (before Alison and I joined the one we involved with now). But after Alison got pregnant with Madelyn, I decided it was time for us to start a new tradition. It was time for us to own Passover. Thanksgiving at Mimi’s house. Chanukah at Grandma’s. Passover at our house. That’s how it would work.

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Luckily, Alison loves me so much, she jumped on board. Plus she makes the best charoset around, a totally mean (and easy thanks to the crock pot) brisket, and amazing matzah ball soup. (Hat tip to my own Grandma’s recipe – the trick is to use seltzer water in case you didn’t know.) So we started the tradition and we’ve kept it alive. Sort of.

In 2011 we had our first annual Friedman Family seder in our old condo.

Then in 2012, Madelyn’s first Passover.

In 2013 we were in the process of moving so we had no dining room table and even though we made everything, we had the seder at my mom’s house instead.

2014 marked the birth of our current dining room for our first seder in our new house.

And then in 2015 Arielle was born like 3 weeks before Passover started, and I had to travel for work, so we had to forgo having our traditional seder last year. (But Alison threw me an awesome impromptu surprise mini-seder complete with a seder plate of Madelyn’s toy food.)

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This year though, I was determined to get our tradition back on track. Plus, we now have a total Passover pro in our household this year. Madelyn came home from school one day and recited all four questions flawlessly then explained what all the seder plate foods represent. Jewish preschool for the win.

The festivities for us started on Friday night, the first night of Passover, when Madelyn and I watched “The Prince of Egypt” together. I love the music in this movie and also its version of the telling of Exodus. Two years ago we also watched it together, but I don’t know if Madelyn really got what was happening. This time, since she already knew about everything – Pharoah, Miriam, the burning bush, the plagues – she totally followed along. It was really fun to analyze it with her and answer the tough questions like “Did God really talk to Moses?” and “Is it all just magic?” I definitely want to make a yearly tradition out of watching this together, and I can’t wait for Arielle to join the fun.

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The next day was our seder. While Mimi and Poppa were in New York this year having pizza instead of matzah, we invited Gigi to join us as well as Grandma and Grandpa, Auntie Alison, Uncle Michael and Cousin Jordan. A perfect amount at our dining room table!

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We had all of Madelyn’s Preschool Passover pictures and assorted artwork on display for everyone to admire. I led the Haggadah reading, handing off sections to everyone at the table to get them all involved. Madelyn even asked the four questions herself in English before we all joined her and sang the Hebrew. Arielle and Jordan did their part too, eating charoset, soup, matzah balls, brisket, and everything else in sight. The seder is the peak of my Passover happiness. Food and family. Hungry but humble. A Jewish holiday at its finest.

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We ended the night with strawberries and Cool Whip and a lovely flourless chocolate cake courtesy of Auntie Alison. (Delicious enough in fact that no one thought to take a picture of it first.) And of course, Maddie found the afikomen since she doesn’t have very worthy competition yet and this garnered her a whole $2.50 – paper money from Gigi and Grandpa and a half-dollar coin from Daddy. Now she’s really rolling in [matzah] dough. She was very happy to get “money” to put in her “purse.”

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I kept things going for one more day as Maddie and I made matzah brei the following morning. She was so confused about soaking the matzah first, but she liked breaking it up. Girl loves her matzah. Like father like daughter I guess.

matzah-brei

While we’re sitting at the table eating this Passover breakfast, she turns to me unsolicited and says, “You know what my favorite part of Passover is?”

“Matzah?” I said.

“Nooo. (Well yes I love matzah too.)” she answered.

“What’s your favorite part then?” I asked. I was really curious now.

“Family and prayers,” she says.

Family and prayers! Are you kidding me? Who is this kid?

She’s my daughter of course. I couldn’t agree more, Madelyn.

  1. 6/5/2016 1:05 AM

    above on the contact page we do not do farm tours. Besides, we are not doing slaughter on farm yet either as we’re still working on building our butcher shop. I would suggest you contact as she is an authority on the topic. Good luck with your school project.

  2. 5/24/2016 10:52 PM

    This piece was cogent, weillwr-tten, and pithy.

  3. 5/5/2016 5:44 AM

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The Name Game… Again

Just a little over four years ago, Madelyn had her baby naming at Temple Adat Elohim and it was perfectly planned and timed for an age when we were comfortable with keeping her out and up late. We made the date months in advance, I bought a new dress, and we carefully orchestrated the day around what was to come later that evening.

For the second time around in this first of of Jewish lifecycle events, Arielle’s baby naming took place in December. A month before, we realized she was nearing her first birthday and the holidays were about to explode all over the calendar, and we scrambled to get a date that worked for our families. It was so last minute, and while I did get to buy a new dress, it was out of necessity because nothing in my closet was fitting and I was suffering lots of breastfeeding problems that were causing engorgement (enjoy the photos below. Holy boobs).

From the minute we arrived, Arielle and Madelyn acted like they owned the place.

From the minute we arrived, Arielle and Madelyn acted like they owned the place.

Is it just me do the photos you deem most important usually come out most awkward? I so wish I could change a million things about this photo, but this was life in that very minute -- a teething baby, a distracted Madelyn, an exploding and painful chest...  Memories, folks.

Is it just me do the photos you deem most important usually come out most awkward? I so wish I could change a million things about this photo, but this was life in that very minute — a teething baby, a distracted Madelyn, an exploding and painful chest… Memories, folks.

To say that we threw Arielle’s baby naming together in a huff is an understatement, though our wonderful cantor and dear friend, David Shukiar, walked us through the brief ceremony and picking out her name. And repicking out her name. And picking it out again.

You see, selecting a name for Arielle was definitely not a fly-by-night part of the process, which, I suppose, is the actual most important part. We knew for certain we’d be honoring my mom’s dad, Jules, but weren’t sure how to go about doing so. Would we use his actual Hebrew name and call it a day? (We didn’t love it). Would we just use the first initial “J”? (Hard to do, since there’s no “J” in Hebrew). Would we go by the literal meaning and use the name that matches the definition? (Not as easy to match). Just when we’d found a combination with a meaning that worked, we didn’t necessarily like the way it sounded. Well, maybe that was me. Bryan was a lot less picky (shocker), but I was getting hung up on all kinds of little details because pronunciation is important. But with Hebrew, pronunciation can be hard.

And I know her Hebrew name is mostly only used for ceremonial purposes; we won’t be calling her down to dinner using her Hebrew name and she won’t be answering to it when she raises her hand in school. Still, though, I wanted it to sound pretty while also maintaining the integrity and memory of her great-grandfather.

At the baby naming in December, Bryan and I brought up our darling 9-month-old to the bimah and took turns sharing these words:

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babynaming10

Generous and with the best smile. That’s how people described my Grandpa, Jules Kaplan, and Arielle Jane’s namesake. He was generous with his heart. His 3 daughters and their families always received such thoughtful gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, Hanukkahs, and other simchas. He was also generous with his wallet, often giving to charities that he felt were important. (When cleaning out his office desk, we had found piles and piles of return address labels and wall calendars and other chazerai from all the philanthropies he gave to). He was always most proud to donate to Jewish organizations and projects that supported Israel.

The other remarkable trait that everyone commented on — from his dashing young army days to the end with his family by his side — was his smile. He was a very handsome man, and he always smiled at everyone from strangers to his 3 daughters that made him proud. He always had smiles for Madelyn, who he knew for 20 months. I can even remember my own school friends growing up and hanging out with my family, remarking on my Grandpa’s smile. If you were lucky, you even got a wink. Happy and joy oozed from that smile.

Two of many things that made my Grandpa smile: Cheering on his family members as he did when he came to see me in action at a UofA football game; and going to Dodger games with my dad -- he loved baseball.

Two of many things that made my Grandpa smile: Cheering on his family members as he did when he came to see me in action at a UofA football game; and going to Dodger games with my dad — he loved baseball.

While Arielle’s middle name, Jane, is in honor of her great grandfather Jules, we knew that we’d also want to incorporate these two traits of his in giving her her Hebrew name.

Semecha is the Hebrew word for Happy or Joyous. It just so happens that Arielle is one happy baby. She hands out smiles like candy and flashes her gums for anyone who catches her eye. She is full of joy, and in return, brings so much joy to us as well.

Netanya is the Hebrew word for Gift. The gifts that Alison’s Grandpa gave to everyone through his generosity is also parallel to the gift we have in Arielle. Every day with her feels like a present, and we know she’s special and unique like the best gifts are.

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Arielle, we wish more than anything that you could have met my Grandpa. I know he would’ve been dazzled by your gorgeous smile with your scrunched up nose and sparkly eyes. I also know he would be proud of the person you will become, gifting people not only with your wonderful presence – the best present – but with your generosity and commitment to do your part to heal the world. We wanted you and waited for you, and in March you arrived, our perfect, little, joyous gift who completes our family. Your two great grandmothers, your four kvelling grandparents, your overjoyed mom and dad, and your partner in crime for life, Madelyn, could not be happier about the gift that you are to us and your community. We love you.

After the ceremony, we shared the rest of the Shabbat service and a Hanukkah candle lighting with our family and friends, surrounded by the community we’ve surrounded ourself with at temple. It was so nice to see so many of our friends from preschool, members from various committees we work with, and fellow chairs who are on Board of Directors with me.

So thankful for the friends I've made through Madelyn's preschool.

So thankful for the friends I’ve made through Madelyn’s preschool.

Also so thankful for lifelong friends whose special events we share together.

Also so thankful for lifelong friends whose special events we share together.

And especially thankful for this guy who is a devoted friend and shares his sweet family with us too, while also being a leader without whom we'd be lost. His beautiful voice, his poetic words, and his fountain of knowledge keep us coming back for more. We love our cantor and friend, David!

And especially thankful for this guy who is a devoted friend and shares his sweet family with us too, while also being a leader without whom we’d be lost. His beautiful voice, his poetic words, and his fountain of knowledge keep us coming back for more. We love our cantor and friend, David!

My Grandma and Grandpa created a big, beautiful family, and I’m so glad that my mom and her sisters were there to hear us speak about their dad. It was nice to have most of us together as another feather of remembrance in my Grandpa’s cap.

Four generations represented in this photo. My grandpa would've liked it a lot. It's just missing a few cousins and my uncle.

Four generations represented in this photo. My grandpa would’ve liked it a lot. It’s just missing a few cousins and my uncle.

Madelyn has asked a lot of questions about her baby naming and is already so interested in and proud about all the holidays and symbols she’s learned by being part of her Jewish community. I’m excited to watch Arielle connect with her version of this community over the years, and she hit the jackpot having her big sister to show her the way.

  1. Mimi
    4/17/2016 8:15 PM

    Dear adorable Arielle,
    I am so happy & grateful that you carry a part of Grandy with your Hebrew & given name. We will share lots of stories about him with you & you’ll know what a generous person he was. I know if he was still here he’d always flash his handsome smile at the sight of you & your big sister.
    You are so loved! <3
    Mimi