All In The Family Archive

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.

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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. 3/7/2017 2:18 AM

    das nenne ich mal eine innovatives Konzept und ist nicht nur für Hotels und andere Komerzielle Bauten geeignet sondern auch interesant für Bauherren, denn die Energiekosten werden wohl in der Zukunft weitersteigen.

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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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

Arielle Is One!

What the heck happened to the first year of my baby’s life? It went faster than my legs on their way to lunch at In N Out (that toasted bun, man). I legit could not keep up with all events and milestones and monthiversaries. And the minute I wanted to really slow down and soak it all in, my household was sick with a bug during the days leading up to Arielle’s birthday.

It didn’t help, too, that I was stressed out from planning a party while nursing Bryan back to health and crossing every bone in my body that I didn’t get sick, too. I am proud to say that I never did, but Madelyn did get fevers that were more fickle than ping pong balls at a tournament, and finally ended up with an ear infection. So, enjoying those final days with my baby as a baby was pretty difficult. I wallowed, yes, and even though I knew Arielle would never know that her actual first birthday on March 4th pretty much sucked, I was sad that memories of her first days with us were upstaged by thermometers and popsicles being juggled through the house.

We did enjoy a “happy birthday” song at preschool after I dropped off Madelyn. Arielle and I sat on the bimah and Madelyn was her spokesperson (business as usual), sharing her name and age with the crowd. Arielle didn’t have a total meltdown during her 15 seconds of fame, so I call that a win. That was the highlight of the day.

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Shortly after, Madelyn came home from school with a very sudden fever and I yelled a lot of swear words about that. There was no special outing or birthday dinner for Arielle. I don’t think I even had time to get emotional like I normally would because I was so busy Florence Nightingale-ing it up. Maybe that’s a good thing. Thanks, germs, for the distraction.

I will share that on her first birthday, Arielle woke up with 2.5 teeth and those teeth are really helping get that food to her belly, because the chunk was finally starting to roll out. Her weigh-in was 19.5 pounds and while she’d once been a petite lil thing, she jumped from 9-month clothes to 12-month clothes almost over night.

By 12 months, her crawling was non-stop with no desire to choose to walk instead. Shrug. Whatevs. When Arielle climbs up the stairs on all fours, she swears she’s reached the top of Mt. Everest.

Blowing kisses and clapping and waving and giving high-5s were all of her mastered party tricks. She also suddenly became aware of bows and headbands on her head (boooo) and started to show her dissatisfaction with these accessories (Madelyn went through the same thing at the same age and now look at her! Accessory whore! She doesn’t want to take off a tiara to wash her hair).

At 12 months, Arielle’s favorite foods are fruits, veggies, grains, dairy, and fats. Yes. The entire pyramid. The girl is a bottomless pit. She just does not stop eating. One day she may become a picky eater because I’ve seen this movie before, but right now, she just loves food. I do too. But the rolls on my thighs are not nearly as cute.

I managed to get a few snaps of Arielle on her first birthday.

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Two days after her birthday, it was party time. Bryan was finally recovered and Madelyn’s fever couldn’t make up its mind about staying or going. She had no other symptoms other than a fever that I would later find out was due to an ear infection. I quarantined her to her room for most of the party just to be on the safe side, and we were all so sad about it. I wanted to celebrate my littlest baby, while wanting to ditch the party to cuddle with my biggest baby who was devastated to be missing out. Thankfully Princeton was like, “I’m fine. You’re welcome.”

Arielle loves to jam to music. Since the beginning, her little body has always grooved to any beat she hears, so I thought it was fitting to have a music gal come and do a big toddler music session. Amy Tibert of Rise & Sing put on a great little show and had all the kiddos dancing and playing. And since Arielle is such a bright and cheery presence, I threw together a loose rainbow hearts theme with the decor. It was a fun and crafty party for me to design. Lots of paper decorations and lots of sprinkles!

Party recaps are best done through photos, but these parties are always a labor of love and I secretly love-hate these big ones. I love having our family and friends together to celebrate my kiddo, but the work that goes into it makes me a crazy lady. I so appreciate my mom swooping in to lend me a hand when my usual party-planning partner was down for the count the week of the bash.

Who needs sleep when you can be making this sign into the wee hours of the night three days before the party?

Who needs sleep when you can be making this sign into the wee hours of the night three days before the party?

So, I have this thing for banners.

So, I have this thing for banners.

Salty and sweet  (just like the birthday girl) pretzel treats left my house sprinkles-y for days, but we/Princeton handled it just fine.

Salty and sweet (just like the birthday girl) pretzel treats left my house sprinkles-y for days, but we/Princeton handled it just fine.

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And P.S. — note to ovaries: thanks for deciding to get us pregnant in June and giving us a March baby which makes party planning a total nightmare because the battle of Indoor vs. Outdoor is uglier than anything you’d see on Game of Thrones. I was a wreck watching the weather, which, by the way, was gorgeous and perfect and sunny and in the 80s for two weeks before the party and then did the whole “Oh! It’s March! I forgot it’s supposed to be El Niño! Here’s the rain I must deliver!” So, indoor party with children and sugar … I’m such a glutton for punishment. I will say, though, that everything was fabulous, and everyone had a great time especially the little birthday girl herself.

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The music was so fun for the kiddos as they played with different instruments and puppets and a parachute. Even the big kids were dancing and showing the little ones what to do.

Arielle got to sit in the middle of the parachute and she loved the breeze whooshing through her incoming wispy hair as we all sang “Happy Birthday” to her.

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Madelyn observed from the balcony seating aka the stairs outside her room while Poppa and Grandpa took turns keeping her company.

Madelyn observed from the balcony seating aka the stairs outside her room while Poppa and Grandpa took turns keeping her company.

Madelyn was fever-free and seemed to brighten up a bit, so she came down to check out the party just as Amy, the music leader gave all the kids a chance to sing “Happy Birthday” solos on the microphone. It was so sweet how a lot of Madelyn’s adorable preschool friends performed for the birthday girl who they all know and adore. I wasn’t sure if Madelyn was feeling the vibe, but she not only asked to sing, she did a rockstar job!

Hey, Seacrest. Get back on TV. We have a new American Idol!

Hey, Seacrest. Get back on TV. Dim the lights. We have a new American Idol!

Once the music portion of the party was over, it was chow time for most of the guests and I finally got a chance to schmooze with all of our fabulous friends. I love having all my favorite people in our home to celebrate good times. There’s really nothing that makes me happier than fluttering around and visiting with all the wonderful families we’ve met in recent years from preschool and baby groups, or people we’ve known for what seems like forever from college or theater or our expanded family. It was during this portion of the party that I realized all the hard work was worth it.

Cousins Arielle and Jordan enjoy lunch with the original Friedman ladies.

Cousins Arielle and Jordan enjoy lunch with the original Friedman ladies.

Meeting new moms with Arielle has been so enjoyable. We have a good little group with cute kids and fun mamas.

Meeting new moms with Arielle has been so enjoyable. We have a good little group with cute kids and fun mamas.

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And then it was cake time. Or, as Arielle might have described it: BORINGZZZZZZZZZ. She was quite underwhelmed.

That’s right. Who participated in the most disappointing cake smash ever? Arielle Jane Friedman. Yup. She looked at her cake like, “Oh how nice,” and then couldn’t be bothered to dig in. The girl who shoots up milk like she’s a Breaking Bad character and the girl who can’t. stop. eating. bagels was negative 72 enthused about eating sugary bread with sugar goo and colorful sugared crunchies. So for anyone who considers first birthday cake smashes a spectator sport, this was a disappointing display. Instead, my generous babe dipped her finger into the frosting and tried to feed it to ME. I mean, I didn’t mind, but I was fresh off a Whole30 and didn’t want to steal her spotlight with my own personal adult cake smash. So instead, we looked like a couple on their wedding day, delicately feeding each other cake. Oh and since she hardly touched it, I spent the next three days finishing it myself. (Whole30, what?)

She didn't understand why we light our food on fire.

She didn’t understand why we light our food on fire.

Perhaps it was because I was  emotionally unstable and losing my mind while singing my girl "Happy Birthday" with 70 of our closest friends and family that Arielle was silently judging me.

Perhaps it was because I was emotionally unstable and losing my mind while singing my girl “Happy Birthday” with 70 of our closest friends and family that Arielle was silently judging me.

Sentimental she was not. Arielle was all business.  Fun fact: this is the only photo of the 4 of us from the entire party.

Sentimental she was not. Arielle was all business.
Fun fact: this is the only photo of the 4 of us from the entire party.

"VAT EES THEES DEES-GUSTING SHTUFF EEN MY FEENGERS? SAVAGES! GET ME A VIPE."

“VAT EES THEES DEES-GUSTING SHTUFF EEN MY FEENGERS? SAVAGES! GET ME A VIPE.”

After this, we went to Hawaii on our honeymoon.

After this, we went to Hawaii on our honeymoon.

Eventually she got a little more into it once she realized that cake is really delicious. Thank goodness. I was about to start doing DNA tests to make sure she was actually my daughter.

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Then the bride baby cheated on me and did romantic cake exchanges with Bryan.

Then the bride baby cheated on me and did romantic cake exchanges with Bryan.

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And that’s that. The infancy stage of motherhood is over. No more babies in this house. To say I was super emotional about that for weeks before her birthday is an understatement. But now that we’ve crossed the other side, it’s fine. She didn’t turn into a toddler overnight. In fact, Arielle is still very much a baby since she isn’t walking and doesn’t have any words for communication yet. She seems to be on her older sister’s heels of developmental milestones, and I’m OK with that. She’s on Arielle time, and for now, it’s still baby o’clock. And as long as she’ll let me, I’ll kiss her and nuzzle her and enjoy her soft skin and clean perfume.

A year with Arielle has been a delight and even though she keeps us on our toes with a feisty attitude and a decisive sense of determination, she’s still our silly little cuddle bug who’s brought so much joy to our completed family. Happy first birthday, Arielle. We are all crazy about you.

  1. Mimi
    4/12/2016 9:47 PM

    Happy 1st Birthday, adorable Arielle! Not only do I LOVE you, I’m crazy about you too! ? Keep dancing & singing like its 2016!

Disneyland Party of 4: New & Improved and Now With Pro Tips!

I never thought we’d be those crazy people to bring a new baby to Disneyland, but we joined that club. It was a perfect storm that made it almost impossible not to. It was my birthday. We hadn’t been in months due to that whole pregnancy thing. And our annual passes are set to expire in August and it’s unknown if/when we will renew (the answer, I’m sure, is yes). So we just kinda … had to go.

Disneyland with Madelyn was a routine that we finessed in the past two years. I’d even done a few trips with Madelyn just by myself with no help. So when it comes to taking a toddler to see The Mouse, it’s a no brainer. But with an almost three-month-old in the mix? We were nervous. We had considered leaving Arielle at home, but with the boob thing and imposing on others to watch her, that was almost impossible. So, we went into it with low to no expectations and figured it would just be a difficult day.

Well. I’m glad to say we were wrong! The beautiful thing about taking a new baby to Disneyland is that the baby just sleeps the day away. She had no idea — nor any care! — about where she was, and frankly, that was OK with us. Madelyn still got to enjoy all her usual favorites and we had the bonus of extra storage in the double stroller! Score! (I will mourn the day my kids are out of strollers and we will have to utilize Disney lockers again!)

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Having Arielle with us just meant that if she was sleeping or couldn’t go on a ride due to size requirements, Bryan and I would split up and one would stay with the baby and one would go with the big kid. We took turns doing just that, and I didn’t even mind the breaks with the baby because sitting and people-watching at Disneyland is almost as fun and entertaining as the attractions.

Our favorite ride is Soarin’ Over California at Disney California Adventure and we were so excited that Madelyn was finally tall enough to go! Thank goodness for a couple wisps of hair because she just baaaaaarely made the 40-inch minimum. She went on with Bryan first while I waited with a snoozing Arielle and all I could think about was that Madelyn would lose her mind over going up in the glider — and not in a good way. She doesn’t even love the swings at the park, so motion and a big movie with a total sensory experience seemed like a bad idea, but hey, I was outside relaxing with a baby while watching a family in all matching t-shirts figure out how a Fast Pass works. A Madelyn Meltdown was Bryan’s problem. So, color me wrong when 20 minutes later, a proud Bryan walked behind a galloping Madelyn with the greatest smile on her face. “MOMMY!! WE WENT OVER THE OCEAN AND I SMELLED TREES AND IT WAS LIKE A PLANE WITH NO WINDOWS!!!!!!!!” She loved it.

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So then I got to take a turn with my girl! It was so much fun to see her reaction a second time around. And I loved it more than I ever had before.

DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #1:
Rider switch is so great!! When you get to the cast member at the front, tell him or her that you have a baby that is staying with one parent. That way, when the other parent wants a turn to go on the ride, the other parent doesn’t have to re-wait in line again and they move on to the “on deck” portion of the line (basically, the second parent avoids the zig-zags). This is called Rider Switch or Child Switch — they’ll know what you mean. Since we had Fast Passes for Soarin’ Over California, we really waited no time at all, maybe ten minutes each time.

We decided to take advantage of a baby who continued to sleep and eat lunch. As all parents know, the moment you get hot food in front of you, that’s when babies decide to wake up and be needy. Thankfully, Arielle cooperated while we enjoyed lunch right next door to Soarin’. Having an extra adult IS helpful since while Bryan ordered for us, Madelyn and I snagged a table that also accommodated the bus. I mean, double stroller. While we waited, Maddie and I talked about all the things we wanted to do the rest of the day. She’s such a little Disney expert. ‘

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Our first ride that included Arielle was The Little Mermaid ride, Madelyn’s all-time favorite. While Arielle stared out into the acid trip that is music, colors, and movement by cartoony mannequins, Madelyn danced and sang along with each part of the ride, narrating to her rookie little sister what was happening. Arielle could not care less. Another day in babyland.

DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #2:

When it comes to rides that babies can go on, have one parent handle the big kid and the diaper bag and another parent handle just the baby. On some rides, babies can be worn in a carrier, but I didn’t even whip out my carrier because it was just too hot to wear the baby and she was totally fine laying down in the stroller. It was less stressful to assign this combination between us parents because getting on and off rides can sometimes resemble a gymnastics event, and only having to think about the baby (instead of the baby and the bag and the big kid) was less stressful.

We meandered through California Adventure for a few more hours with no agenda whatsoever. It was easy to avoid the area that caters toward older kids and instead, we just found ourself moseying around and enjoying whatever we stumbled upon.

Like Vintage Minnie! Madelyn is still a big time Minnie fan, so she was super excited to meet her in this great outfit. Minnie signed Madelyn’s autograph book and then spent some time with Arielle. She played with her toes and gave her lots of kisses. Arielle stared blankly at her, not even fazed by this gigantic mouse with eyelashes in her face. Oh, babies.

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Then Minnie used her amazing Mouse Sign Language to ask what her name was and when Maddie told her “Arielle,” Minnie, ever so original, proceeded to hold her nose and dive down, as if she were a mermaid swimming in the water. “Oh Minnie,” I told her. “It’s Arielle, not Ariel!” and then she silently giggled and wrote in the air with her gloved hands “R,” “E,” “L” and then I high fived her. Madelyn loved all the attention both she and her sister received from Mrs. Mouse.

Maybe it was having her little sis with her for the first time, or maybe she is just growing up, but Madelyn was suddenly eager to go on rides that she used to be afraid of. The sounds and darkness of the Monsters, Inc. ride always frightened Madelyn so I’ve been conditioned to walking right by it. But this time, she saw the big pink door that belongs to Boo and asked to go on. I was shocked. But happy! I love that little ride and it’s one that we can all go on together, so that was a nice bonus.

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Instead of being scared, Madelyn protected her sister with, “Don’t worry, Arielle! They’re monsters, but they’re not really mean!” Arielle breathed a deep sigh of relief. Or passed gas. Who knows.

Around the corner from Monsters, Inc. was the new-ish “Frozen” pavilion that we hadn’t seen. It opened up just around the time I stopped going to Disneyland a few months before Arielle’s arrival. We walked over to see a super short line to meet Olaf. Madelyn is not a typical Frozen Fanatic like a lot of other girls her age. She likes it and all, but doesn’t aspire to be Elsa or Anna, so I even though she didn’t go totally gaga over the friendly snowman, we all figured we would enjoy some warm hugs on a hot day because it was new.

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And conveniently, the “Frozen” sing along show was next door so we decided to give that a whirl in the name of trying new things. It replaced the Muppet 3D show which I adored because Muppets. I was looking forward to seeing this new “Frozen” show because I assumed it would be stellar and entertaining. Oh, and there was air conditioning. As we waited to go in the actual theater, Arielle fell asleep but then as soon as it was time to go in and get seats, she got hungry.

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DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #3:

Shows make great places to feed babies since you can multitask; family fun isn’t interrupted and the baby gets to eat. Everyone wins. Bonus points for breastfeeders: dark theaters give you a little privacy and everyone is so focused on the entertainment that nobody is looking at your boobs. Usually, shows are dark and there’s lots of ambient noise, so the baby can go to town without too many distractions and you can also look at something while you’re feeding.

The “Frozen” show started and I was quickly underwhelmed. Five minutes in and I couldn’t wait for it to be over. It was a really super loose script that narrated the chunks of the movie during which the screen played the song parts of the film with words to sing along with. The live narrators were fine even though their material was horrible, but the live “Frozen” characters that sporadically came out totally phoned it in. I expected a lot more from Disney on this attraction. It was tossed together and quality was sacrificed, but oh well because “Frozen” lovers will love it anyway. Even Madelyn seemed bored and I thought the best part of the whole show was the indoor air conditioning and the rest that my feet got.

We crossed over to Disneyland for some old fashioned Disney fun, and went straight to It’s A Small World. I was curious to see if Arielle would react because the famous Sherman Brothers song is one that always works to get her calm when she’s crying, but as usual, she just looked around and had no idea what all the fuss was about.

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Our only “Oops” of the day happened as we were exiting the boat. Bryan’s long, lean legs got a little excited and too close to Madelyn’s face, so as he stepped out, his foot made contact with her cheekbone. I saw a bruise already forming so through her screams — oy! the guilt! — we rushed over to the first aid center to get some ice. The deed was done, though, and she endured some swelling and black-and-blue there. The nurses could clearly see the anguish in the poor dad’s face, so they wrote up a coupon for a free ice cream to redeem anywhere in the park by the end of the day. Madelyn cheered up — which was a relief to Bryan — and we were on our way, beat up but not beat down.

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You know what makes little girls feel better after getting kicked in the head? Princesses. We caught up with the girls at Madelyn’s favorite stop in all of Disneyland. As usual, the line was about 45 minutes, so Bryan stood in line while Madelyn and I walked around with Arielle in the stroller.

DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #4:

Want your baby to sleep in the stroller? Both my kids have successfully napped at Disneyland without having to go back to a hotel all thanks to the magical Disney cobblestone. There’s sleep dust in that groundwork. As long as the stroller is moving and going over cobblestone or wooden paths or anything with a bumpety-bump, my kids sleep. I imagine kids who cry in the car won’t have success with this, but kids who go to sleep with motion (mine! yay!) will also conk out in the stroller as long as they’re moving over ground with texture. This is how we got Arielle to sleep the day away and make things easy for us!

We stood in front of the castle and I snapped pics of Madelyn with the diamond anniversary decor. We also killed time by walking over to Snow White’s wishing well and we listened to her sing. Finally, we browsed some shops and Madelyn made friends with mannequins as she does when we shop anywhere. Time passed quickly, and then we were ready to see the princesses.

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When we went in, we knew we’d see Snow White and Cinderella, but there was also a surprise princess. For the first time, Madelyn met Jasmine and she was a little timid as she took her in. By the end of their meet up, though, they were good friends. That must’ve been some magic carpet they were standing on. Ba-dum ch!

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As dinner time drew close, we were getting hungry. We were unsuccessful landing reservations at our favorite restaurants the day before when I looked online for slots, but we tried to get in on standby at the Thunder Ranch BBQ and we were seated shortly after. This is the best meal and deal at Disneyland! The food is delicious and plentiful! It’s all-you-can-eat BBQ and it’s REALLY yummy! The service is great and there’s usually a little show that the kids enjoy during dinner.

For what you get and the quality of food, it’s reasonably priced too (for Disneyland at least) so I highly recommend it, especially to big groups. They also accommodate diet limitations, and since I’m ditching dairy and soy in exchange for a happy breastfed baby (OMG Arielle was a nightmare until I did this), the chef came out to talk to me and shared how I would be accommodated and still enjoy my meal. I was and I did!

DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #5:
Since the restaurant is right next door to the Big Thunder Ranch petting farm, while we waited for our table, I took Madelyn to see her goat friends. They’re so cute and well behaved. So many people don’t know about this little petting area. Sometimes Clarabelle the cow and a horse are there, but the goats are almost always out. It’s a great way to let little ones run around in a contained area, especially if another parent and the baby are waiting in line somewhere else and the older kid doesn’t have patience to wait. Keep in touch with the cell phones and voila! Happy children and happy parents! Also, hand washing stations there for the win! Sometimes I go there just to wash hands when I want to avoid crowded, stuffy bathrooms, assuming I don’t have to actually use the potty.

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It was almost parade time and I heard that the new parade was not to be missed; that it was like the Electrical Parade on crack. So while Bryan and Madelyn set up camp and got a spot on Main Street to wait for the parade, I fed Arielle in the Baby Care Center just off of Main Street.

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I’d always heard what a haven this place was, and it really was. While I am OK with nursing in public, it was kind of nice to also have a mostly private area and legit chair to sit in and feed the baby.


DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #6:

There are outlets in the Baby Care Center. That may mean pumping area to some, or phone charging stations to others. So yes, I fed my baby and fed my phone. It was truly a win-win. Also, a serving of air conditioning.

I met some nice moms in there and it became a breastfeeding support group. Disneyland is magical that way. It was kind of funny that we all agreed we were comfortable nursing our babies throughout Disneyland, but that we came solely for the cooling off. Really, though, this place is great and I recommend it since they also have a large baby changing area, tiny potties for older tots, and a kitchenette with a microwave and high chairs.

The new parade was awesome, despite being very loud. I would recommend bringing ear plugs or covering a baby’s ears. You can’t really avoid the speakers — they’re everywhere! It’s a super cool parade to watch, but I have major concerns about the damage that the sound is doing to kids’ ears. Other Disney pros told us to stay on Main Street for the new fireworks show that would happen shortly after the parade. But, it was not to be. About 3.75 raindrops fell from the sky and a leaf fluttered once or twice on a nearby tree and it was Storm Watch 2015. The fireworks show was canceled and we were so sad! Madelyn cried. Actually, lots of kids cried. And then we were stuck in a waterfall of angry people who wanted to get out of the park.

Once we got out of the crowd, we continued walking around the different lands. Bryan and Madelyn went on Pirates of the Caribbean while a sleeping Arielle and I watched nighttime happen around the park — romantic couples, kids with light up toys, teenagers on the prowl.

We explored a few more areas and then at 11 p.m., we redeemed that ice cream voucher at Gibson Girl that we received from the nurses at first aid.


DISNEYLAND WITH KIDS PRO TIP #7:

If you want a treat before you leave the park — we always do! Holding onto Disney magic in our hearts… and on our thighs — go to the Gibson Girl for fancy ice cream desserts DURING “Fantasmic!” because once it’s over, the rest of the park makes a mad dash to leave and they have the same idea about one last taste of Disney deliciousness. This is good when you have sleepy kids and you just want to get home after your final treat.

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Madelyn was so, so tired, but she soldiered on to enjoy her strawberry sundae with her Daddy. I scowled at them in my no-dairy bubble and Arielle slept through the whole thing.

So, the outcome of taking an almost four-year-old and a three-month-old to Disneyland? Piece of cake. Really. It might be harder later on when Arielle wants to move around more or has opinions to express, but as a blob of a baby — let’s face it, that’s what they are for the first few months — it ended up being a very successful and rewarding day.

And yet, I’m excited for this sleepy little baby to wake up a little bit, too, because she will absolutely love Disneyland once she’s old enough to truly enjoy it. Some of Madelyn’s happiest memories in her short little life have been made there. Mine too.

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