Daddy’s Corner Archive

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.

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Introducing Arielle Jane Friedman

by Bryan Friedman in Amazing Arielle, Daddy's Corner

Now that she’s one week old, it’s time to share the vital stats from the second Baby Friedman’s birth:

Name: Arielle Jane Friedman
Place: Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, California
Date: 3/4/2015
Time: 1:00pm
Weight: 7 lbs, 11 oz
Length: 20.5″

If you were placing bets on weight or length, you would have done well to stick with the same exact stats from Madelyn’s birth. What are the odds?

Everything went great during the scheduled C-section, and we had a very nice time living in the bubble of the hospital for four days. Just like last time, we appreciated all the love from our friends and family as our phones lit up with endless Facebook notifications. We could not be more grateful for all the amazing support from everyone.

The Name Game

You may remember that Madelyn’s name was kept secret until the day she was born. We did the same thing with Arielle this time around.

Naming a person is hard. It’s a lot of pressure! When we were naming Madelyn, Alison and I started by each making a list of five names we liked to see if any matched. Alison’s list included both “Arielle” and “Madelynn”. My list included neither. But I liked both of those names more than most of the ones on my own list. I just hadn’t considered them before. So we ended up zeroing in on those two options.

We actually agreed on “Arielle” at first. We loved the name, but we had some reservations. First of all, we were worried it would be frequently mispronounced as AIR-ee-elle (like the mermaid) or AH-ree-uhl (like the former Israeli prime minister) instead of ar-ee-ELLE (the right way, like simply saying the letters R E L). We also figured we’d get the frequent cries of “Oh yeah. Like the Little Mermaid!” which no doubt would get old quickly, especially since Arielle’s pronunciation isn’t even like the fishy princess.

So for these reasons, we ultimately settled in on “Madelyn” instead. The spelling changed from Alison’s list because it didn’t look right to me for some reason. We didn’t want to do “Madeline” because, although we both liked it, we knew she’d go her whole life correcting people’s pronunciation of it. (Not mad-uh-LINE, it’s mad-uh-LYN.) So we figured ending in the -YN would help solve that problem. We also opted for the single N at the end to avoid having her run into spelling mistakes her whole life too. (Alison-with-one-L and Bryan-with-a-Y are well-versed in this arena.) You can see, we thought a lot about it. So unlike us, right?

Anyway, for this second kid, if we’d had a boy, the name decision would have been pretty easy for us. Our boy lists matched pretty closely. However, when we found out we were having another girl, we thought we’d start fresh with a clean slate of names and pick which one we liked best. But it turns out, we didn’t like any of them more than we liked “Arielle.” We just kept coming back to it. Except we still had all the same reservations this time. Even more so actually because of Madelyn’s obsession with The Little Mermaid. Would it now seem like the name was because of this? Would it be confusing for Madelyn?

We flirted with other names, but eventually just decided to go with what we liked the best. Madelyn won’t be obsessed with a mermaid forever, and let our reservations be damned! We just love the name, so forget all that stuff. We even told the name to Madelyn (risky!) so we could hear her say it and her cute little way, lovingly and sweetly saying the name in a sing-songy voice, sealed the deal. Arielle it is.

We weren’t wrong; most of our concerns have been validated over the past week as we find ourselves constantly correcting mispronunciations and dodging Little Mermaid references left and right. But we knew what were getting into. So little girl – you’ll just have to get used to it. Take it from Bryan-with-a-Y and Alison-with-one-L – we feel your pain. You may grow tired of repeating the phrase “it’s just like saying the letters R E L” – but we know you’ll grow to love your name as much as we love it. It’s beautiful and unique, Arielle. Just like you are.

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We’ll write more soon about Arielle’s birth day and the following days at the hospital. We are settling in at home and Arielle is a sleeping and eating champ. The best part is watching Madelyn adore her baby sister. It’s a whole new era in the Friedman household and even though change can be hard, ultimately, things are good. They’re great.

  1. Sarah
    3/12/2015 9:14 AM

    I have a friend with the same name (but spelled like the mermaid) she also tells people “like saying the letters R E L” or ” like the way Sebastian pronounces the mermaid’s name”

    I think the spelling you went with will be much less confusing for people

Reunited With Some Old Friends

by Bryan Friedman in Daddy's Corner, Pregnancy

A few months ago, I climbed a ladder in the garage to grab bins and bags full of clothes marked “onesies 3-6 months” or “pajamas 9-12 months” or “dresses and leggings 18 months.” God bless my wife – she’s so organized. As we readied the nursery, we furiously unpacked the clothes and meticulously hung them in the closet, running out of hangers in no time. This girl is going to have some wardrobe! Alison was close to crying multiple times – either just from getting emotional about seeing Madelyn’s old clothing, or being sad that some of them were ruined by milk stains gone nuclear after three years to really seep in.

Then, a few weeks ago, it was time for round two of digging into the storage areas of our garage – this time to find and haul out all of Madelyn’s original baby gear. Mr. Jungle Gym Mat. Mrs. Swing. Dr. Bouncer. Professor Pack-and-Play. All of our old friends, tucked away in boxes, now entering the world again. Out of retirement. Back in service. I feel like it’s Toy Story or The Brave Little Toaster and these items are all secretly gleeful to be getting ready for use again.

All I had to do was remember how to put them all back together. Not from scratch, but from some variable level of disarray – just enough to have packed them nicely away in boxes. From upstairs I’m sure Alison could hear gasps of “Oh yeah! I forgot about this piece!” and “Argh! I remember this being a pain last time too,” and “What was I thinking packing it away like this?” But before too long, everything was back together, ready and waiting for the new resident to join our party.

But of course, before the new baby can use them, they must be tested by their previous inhabitant and current preschooler.

Wheel of Fortune: Before and After Category

Wheel of Fortune: Before and After Category

Hey Bouncer! Nice to see you again. Meet Mr. Rock-n-Play. I swear, you're not obsolete. We have a bunch of rooms now!

Hey Bouncer! Nice to see you again. Meet Mr. Rock-n-Play. I swear, you’re not obsolete. We have a bunch of rooms now!

It took me three years to finally get The Animal Fair out of my head, and only three seconds to get it back! The sight of Madelyn pushing the buttons and flipping the switches on this stuff was really something. The last time we saw any of it in person she could barely hold her bottle, let alone push buttons or flip switches. I think with Madelyn in the house, I will have to replace these batteries a little bit more frequently.

There’s only one week to go before the pack-and-play, swing, bouncer, and jungle gym mat are officially reenlisted into active duty. And of course, I look forward to meeting up with Miss High Chair and Colonel Jump-a-roo again real soon too. Needless to say, I’m excited for all the brand new experiences to come, but it sure is nice to have some familiar old friends around.

  1. sharon
    2/24/2015 7:59 PM

    I LOVED reading this blog entry and seeing Madelyn in the then & now pictures with all the baby gear. Great idea. It looks like you’re ready. Let the countdown to next Wednesday begin!!

11 Years Later

by Bryan Friedman in Daddy's Corner

When I was hunting for my first career job as I was winding down my college years, I remember suiting up (though this was a couple of years before How I Met Your Mother aired, so that term may not have been around yet) and going on some interviews offered at the Cal Poly career center. I got through to the second round for two of them. One was for St. Jude Medical in Sylmar (where a few of my Cal Poly Engineering brethren ended up working for a time), and the other was for Amgen in my hometown of Newbury Park.

The entirety of my experience with Amgen at the time had been the lectures that I attended at the conference center there to earn extra credit for my 9th grade biology class. It seemed strange to even consider working there. I figured with my computer science degree, I’d end up in the Bay Area working for some major software development company, or maybe I would join a small startup and get to work with some really innovative, cutting-edge technology or something. I never imagined I’d take a job working in information technology at a large biotech company. Let alone basically going back home to do it.

And yet, as hard as I tried to stay away, there was something appealing about being close to my family, having the kind of benefits that Amgen offered, and still getting to work with technology in some respect. Sure, I wouldn’t be flexing my programming muscles as much as I would at a Microsoft or a Google, but it would still be a great opportunity to learn and grow. It’s not like I was going to be there forever.

Well, I wasn’t…but it sure felt like it. Today will be my last day at Amgen after nearly eleven years, six positions, eight bosses, and only three previously used laptops. On Monday, I start a new job at CenturyLink Cloud as Product Manager. Though based in Seattle, I will be working remotely from a home office and traveling up there occasionally to check in and be with the team.

This is a pretty big change for me, both from a career and also a lifestyle perspective. It honestly wasn’t even something that I was actively looking for at first. But when presented with the opportunity, it became increasingly clear that it was going to be virtually impossible to pass it up. Though I’ve been very happy at Amgen, particularly in my latest role there, I have watched the company over the past few years and seen it progressively enter a place where technical skills aren’t as valued as they used to be and the thirst for innovation is hard to come by. I’ve successfully navigated a number of job changes there that all helped me grow and learn so much, and I’m extremely grateful for that. But I like to be able to see the next job that I’m going to take, and I just started having trouble finding it at Amgen.

Thus, when the possibility of joining a high-performance team in a more tech-focused space was pitched to me, hard as my risk-averse self tried to ignore it and stay in the comfort zone that is Amgen, my desire and thirst for something new and different ultimately won out…and I could not be more excited to get started. The real challenge is going to be trying to explain to Madelyn that Daddy is still “at work” even though he’s physically “at home” also. That, and getting work done while hearing Frozen playing in the other room. But I’m looking forward to it.

  1. Ryan Pfeifle
    5/16/2014 9:26 AM

    I’ve been working from home (almost) full time for 15 years, the last 6 with kids. Working from a home office with kids around is not that difficult. They pick up pretty quickly that when daddy is in his office, don’t bother him (especially when he’s on the [speaker] phone!). But it does happen occassionally anyway. Be nice when they do, acknowlege what they want to tell you, then ask them to go to play elsewhere or whatever. And close the door when you need quiet time. Bosses are pretty understanding of the occassional home office interruption (it is a home, afterall).

  2. Jessica Yas
    5/16/2014 7:04 AM

    That’s super exciting Bryan! Good choice, and good luck 😉

Jewish Identity

by Bryan Friedman in Daddy's Corner, Judaism

Some of my earliest memories of childhood are from my days on the playground at preschool with my then best friend, Jordan. I can still see Jordan and myself trudging through the sandbox and going down the slide, followed by an uncomfortable jaunt on the awkward metal tricycles that we rode in circles on what I remember as a blacktop. I have vague memories of other aspects of preschool too – I think at some point we actually had naptime on cots and I’m pretty sure we sang songs outside under a big tree with a woman playing the guitar. (I distinctly remember the Jewish classics “Bim Bom” and “My Bagel Lies Over The Ocean”.)

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It is this exact same preschool that Madelyn will be starting at next week (with a brand new state of the art jungle gym on that neat rubbery surface and minus a few safety-questionable tricycles). Understandably, it has me reflecting on my early days there because even though this is the start to Madelyn’s 20+ year career in the education system, it is also the beginning of something else that I hope will become as important to her as it has for Alison and me – her Jewish identity. Sure, there’s an argument to be made that her baby naming was really the start of that, and certainly in some ways it was, but while I’m fairly confident she won’t remember that occassion too well (she was less than a year old), I’m hoping she’ll remember her preschool days as fondly as I do.

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Of course, despite learning the Hamotzi and how to say “Shabbat Shalom,” my time at Temple preschool was a short-lived Jewish experience that ended when it was time for Kindergarten. My parents, though raised Jewish, weren’t overly religious, and while we celebrated Chanukah and Passover, we also celebrated Christmas and Easter (for a few years). So even though my Jewish identity started with the temple preschool, it wasn’t until I was in third grade when I explicitly asked my parents if I could go to Hebrew school and have a Bar Mitzvah. I had attended a conservative temple’s Friday night services with a friend, and I don’t know if it was the sprinkled sugar cookies during the Oneg or what, but there was just something about it that intrigued me and had me wanting more. When I went to my parents about this, their reaction was positive, despite my dad’s self-described bad experience with his own Bar Mitzvah. I think they realized much better than me at the time that the conservative temple was probably not the place for us, so they did some legwork for me, researching two reform congregations in the area – one of them where I had attended preschool years earlier.

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We ended up, however, joining the other one and leaving my preschool temple behind. My parents really connected with the Director of this congregation, and in all honesty, I think part of the decision was also driven by cost, given that this alternative was less expensive (something I understand all too well in my current reality). I started in the middle of third grade, needing private tutoring in Hebrew until I caught up with the rest of the class. It was only one day a week, but it wasn’t long before I was caught up and then some. By fifth grade, kids and teachers alike started poking fun at me, calling me Rabbi Friedman because I took to things so well and actually really liked and embraced Hebrew school. Before long, my whole family got very involved – my sister started classes, my mom became a 2nd grade teacher there, and my dad played guitar at services. I had my Bar Mitzvah, went on to Confirmation class, and then continued as a teacher’s assistant for that same teacher who I started with in 3rd grade. Even when I went off to college, I would come home for High Holy Days services and watch my dad blow the Shofar. When I met Alison, I found out she had gone there too and my dad had even played guitar at her Bat Mitzvah. We had the same rabbi for our Mitzvahs and he officiated at our wedding too. This congregation and everything I had built with it completely defined my Jewish identity.

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And then it went away. Suddenly. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I think the Director/Owner had just decided that she was burned out after all those years of running the show, and the whole thing just disbanded. It was very quietly devastating for me. I felt lost for a short time. It was like everything we had built together had meant nothing. I selfishly felt abandoned.

When Alison got pregnant, we knew we wanted to join a congregation so we would have a Jewish home for our family. We were not planning to force feed the Torah down our kids’ throats, but we did want to build a foundation of Judaism that we grew up with and allow them to grow and choose how they wanted to celebrate – to define their own Jewish identity. We checked out the Friday night services and did some research on a reform temple in the area – the one I went to preschool at. We loved the musical atmosphere of the services and the warm feeling of community that the temple congregation, staff, and clergy brought. So we decided to join, and Alison and Madelyn began attending Mommy-and-Me classes and Tot Shabbats there. Madelyn got her Hebrew name, and we attended services whenever we could. I felt my Jewish identity shifting and changing from what it was in the past to something new and different, and I liked it. Whereas before I looked at Judaism with much more youthful eyes, now I viewed it from the eyes of a father and a husband – a family man. It’s been three years and Alison and I are really starting to get involved, joining some committees and starting to carve out our own place in the temple.

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All of this is to say that Madelyn’s latest milestone has made me realize that I’ve been on an endless journey of discovery of my own Jewish identity since I started preschool, just as she’s about to do. In fact, she’s a part of helping me define it even still, and she’s just beginning her journey as I did (and as her mom did too with help from Jewish summer camp in her case). I’m very excited to watch Madelyn make her own discoveries about religion and her heritage, even if it’s only “Bim Bom” and the Hamotzi for now. I know she’s starting off right because when I ask what she did at the temple, she always right away mentions one of her favorite things – “chaaaallaaaah”. Plus, she’s already made a name for herself at services by dancing to some of the more upbeat prayers. Next week, she will continue the Friedman preschool legacy that started thirty years ago, and my Jewish identity couldn’t be prouder.