Becoming a new parent comes with a whole list of new challenges and
experiences. Leading up to the birth of our son, John, my wife, Rose, and I tried
to prepare as much as we could. We read books, downloaded apps and watched
videos to make sure we had all the right skills and had purchased all the right
supplies. We were so exhaustive in our search for knowledge that at one point we
feel asleep while watching a video on how to put the baby to sleep.
Despite all this careful preparation, I found there were so many things
that still caught us off guard and threw us for a loop. Below are five of those
peculiarities of parenthood that I managed to jot down between diaper changes.
1. Everyone you see has advice for
Oh yes, everyone is some kind of parenting expert. Most of the advice
will start with the phrase, “You are going to get a lot of advice … oh and what
worked for me is …” All advice from one
person conflicts with the next person’s advice. The challenge here is you
really don’t want or need any advice. You really just want to take a nap. This,
of course, leads to the next unexpected reality:
2. The only question anyone will ask
is “Are you sleeping?”
The only true answer to this question is no. Anyone who has a newborn baby
and answers yes to that question either has already secured 24-hour childcare
or is lying. New babies need to eat every 2-3 hours, and at least one or both
parents need to get up to make this happen. Asking this question is like asking
someone that just went swimming if they got wet.
3. Your day slows way down
Most days, the biggest choice that you get to make is to sleep or
shower. One morning, we noticed how nice the weather was outside and decided it
would be a great day to take the baby out for a walk. By 8:30 that night we
finally had made it out of the house for our walk. I have no idea what happened
during those 12 hours because it literally felt like we spent the entire day
getting ready to go for this walk. I understand that I have to lower my
expectations for what it means to have a “productive” day.
4. You will get peed on
I had heard about this and always assumed it was because people were
careless. This was the one that I was sure I could avoid. But John found a way
to pee on us anyway. The first time involved watching one of those special
covers, called “pee-pee teepees,” go airborne. At that point I wasn’t even mad,
I was just impressed. After that, I considered moving the changing table away
from the curtains, but have yet to find the energy to deal with it.
5. Poop is now a central part of
your life and it doesn’t even gross you out any more
When your child is born, the hospital will give you a chart and ask you
to start keeping track of how many times your kid poops. From that moment, you
will become consumed with the need to know anything and everything about your
child’s poop. You will scour the Internet for information about what colors are
normal. You will ask the doctor over and over again to confirm that there is
not a poop problem. You will ask the following questions several times each
“Did the baby poop?” “When was
the last time the baby pooped?” “Is that poop on your shirt?”
Eight weeks in, all I can say is that a big part of parenthood is about
facing these surprises and so much more. It’s a window into the world of a
psychotic person. Having a baby was the biggest disruption to my life that I
have ever experienced, but I am not even mad about it.
That’s the crazy part. I am not one bit mad at the little person who
caused all of this. How could anyone be mad at this kid, just look at that
You’re now looking at
the newest member of the Global Entry program, offered by U.S. Customs and
Border Protection. After a thorough investigation of my background and
determining that I’m a relatively nice person, I now have access to quickly cut
through security lines and customs lines when coming into the U.S. from abroad.
So, here I come, world! Or, more accurately, after exploring other countries,
I’ll get to enter back into “Sweet Home Chicago” a little faster.
But this isn’t the funny
The funny part is that
when I received my letter in the mail with my new Global Entry card, here was
the return address:
Was it absolutely
necessary for the return address to indicate that the Global Entry office is
next to McDonald’s?
First, are letter carriers
not as smart as they used to be? Suppose the Global Entry office sent me a
letter, the address turned out to be incorrect, and the postman had to return
the letter to its sender. Would he really get so lost that he’d need a
physical landmark to direct him?
Second, when I think of
the people who protect our country from the bad guys from abroad, I like to
think of neat, clean offices with people wearing badges sitting at organized
desks with white walls. I don’t like to think of greasy cheeseburgers and
M&M McFlurries. Though, then again, McDonald’s might be the most American
thing in our country, so maybe it is appropriate to pay homage to the symbol of
our country’s obesity on my Global Entry letter.
Third, if you’re going
to mention McDonald’s, please note the proper spelling of your beloved
Maybe I should start
addressing my own letters with landmarks.
You can write to me at:
One of the highrises on Lake Shore Drive, across from the dog beach
Slightly south of the Clock Tower
Near the intersection that becomes a swimming pool in rainstorms
Two apartments to the right of the apartment that always smells like Indian
You’d have no trouble
finding me, right?
It’s been said that within
each pomegranate there are 613 seeds, just like there are 613 commandments.
This is why the pomegranate is one of the seven species of Israel. I haven’t
actually counted the seeds (it’s on my bucket list!), so I don’t know if it’s
true. However, I do believe that the pomegranate is a perfect symbol for
Israel. A pomegranate isn’t large, but it’s filled with powerful seeds, which
is fitting for Israel – small but strong.
A pomegranate has an
outside peel to protect the inside of the fruit, plump seeds to eat, delicious
juice to drink, and oil to help us glow. Each part works in unison to give
people substantial amounts of vitamins and nutrients. We need the whole
pomegranate to keep our bodies healthy in the same way that we need every part
of Israel to keep the country strong.
In addition to protecting
the seeds of the fruit, the peel of the pomegranate, which is edible if cleaned
properly, has antioxidant properties. Antioxidants prevent free radical damage,
which is harmful to our health. The peel represents the land of Israel. Jewish
people feel safe in Israel in the same way that the seeds are safe inside a
Pomegranate seeds are small, but packed with nutrients such
as B vitamins, potassium, fiber, and iron. Pomegranate seeds also have Vitamin
C and antioxidants that keep us from getting sick. The seeds are thought to
protect against breast and prostate cancers, help lower cholesterol and reduce one’s
risk for heart disease. I find the seeds symbolically comparable to the people
of Israel. The population may be small, but
each citizen fights to protect the heart of the Jewish people, Israel.
From the seeds, pomegranate
juice can be extracted. The most nutrient dense and potent properties of the
seed make the juice, which is similar to the Israeli army. In Israel, men and
women are required to join the army at the age of 18, the time at which most
people are at their physical best.
Pomegranate juice has been
compared to other antioxidant juices such as blueberry and grape, as well as
red wine, and outperformed all of them in heart health. Pomegranate juice helps
fight atherosclerosis and inflammation, and lowers LDL cholesterol. It also
supports the synthesis of nitric oxide, which is needed to prevent fatty
deposits from sticking to the walls of our blood vessels, and promotes the
vasodilation, or expansion, of our blood vessels to allow blood to flow freely
throughout our bodies. This is similar to the Israeli army that assists the
people and the government of Israel to run a free and democratic society.
The oils of pomegranates
are used in beauty products. They help keep our hair, nails, and cuticles
strong and beautiful and give them a certain glow. The oils represent the
children of Israel. Each unique child is part of Israel, but these children
have not made an impact yet. They will grow and one day be recognized, but when
they are young they are the bright shiny lights that represent Israel’s future.
The pomegranate could represent
the 613 commandments, or the fruit, juice, seeds, and oil might signify Israel
and the Jewish people. Throughout history, the pomegranate has also signified
fertility, with each seed representing a life that has the potential to
blossom. We can only hope that the pomegranate continues to symbolize fertility
of the people of Israel, and within the nation itself.
have secret delusions of grandeur. I fantasize about a lot of things. If I look
up from my computer screen I can see my daydreams strewn about my apartment. There’s my treadmill, my enormous and endless
mountain of a reading list on my desk and my dining room table whose top I
can’t seem to get clean. I have others; most of them are far too embarrassing
to share. My latest? I want to be your grandmother.
be alarmed; I know that sounds completely ridiculous. I don’t want to actually
be a Bubbe. What I want is to be the sort of person who can whip up treats without
breaking a sweat.
granny-daydream mostly involves baking pies that pop magically from the oven
3.4 minutes after you arrive at my apartment. The buzzer on the oven will go
off and you’ll give me a questioning look. I’ll laugh to myself and then say,
“Oh, this old thing? I threw it together from some stuff I had in the fridge.”
You know, like grandmas often do.
had a couple of friends over this weekend and I decided to put my inner granny
to the test. I bought cherries from the grocery store and a few other
ingredients including a pre-made piecrust. Yes, pre-made crust because Bubbes
don’t waste time. I was beyond excited. I was planning to make a day of it. I’d
take my time and create the most magical and tasty cherry pie my friends had
ever seen. I imagined my friends arriving to the thick and delicious aroma of
cherry pie. It would smell like, well, your grandmother’s house.
cannot lie. It was a disaster at the start. Daydreams are dreams, after all.
The pre-made crust was frozen. There was no time for it to thaw. I held it to
try to warm it up. I put it in a
zip-lock bag and ran hot water over it. I glared at the crust hoping the death
rays from my eyes would help bring it to room temperature. Finally, I gave up
and removed the dough from the packaging. I warmed it by kneading it with my
hands and forming it into a ball. So
much for saving time!
wait! There’s more!
flash! Cherries have pits. I suppose I knew this somewhere in the very deep,
dark corners of my mind. The pits have to be removed. How do you remove cherry
pits when you don’t have a cherry pitter? At first, I sliced the cherries in
half and pulled at the pits. I guess that’s a fine way to get the job done, but
it’s very tedious. Thanks to Google, I learned that all you need is a set of chopsticks.
You push the stick through each cherry and the pit pops right out. Crisis number two averted!
all of my stress, worry and panic, my pie came out perfectly. I’m not sure I’ve
ever been more proud of a dessert and the house did smell incredible. So
everything worked out. Maybe this is how it starts for all grannies? Maybe the
measured calm that your Bubbe seems to ooze is something that she’s had time to
practice. Or … maybe we just don’t get the see the part where she’s standing in
the kitchen Googling how to pit cherries and shaking her fists at the sky. I
guess we’ll never know.
Sweet Cherry Streusel Pie
from The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book by Emily and Melissa Elsen)
small baking apple
cups sweet cherries, pitted
tablespoons fresh lemon juice
cup packed light brown sugar
tablespoons potato (or corn) starch
teaspoon ground cinnamon
teaspoon ground cardamom
dashes Angostura bitters
the oven to 425.
the apple, and then shred it on the large holes of a box grater. Combine the
shredded apple with the cherries, lemon juice, brown sugar, potato (or corn)
starch, cinnamon, cardamom, and bitters in a large bowl and toss until well
mixed. Pour the filling into the refrigerated pie shell and evenly distribute
the streusel on top.
for 20 to 25 minutes. Lower the
temperature to 375 and continue to bake for 30 to 35 minutes longer.
cup all-purpose flour
tablespoons packed light brown sugar
teaspoons granulated sugar
teaspoon kosher salt
tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes, at room temperature
together the flour, brown and granulated sugars, and salt in a large bowl.
Sprinkle in the butter pieces and toss to coat. Rub the butter into the dry
ingredients with your fingertips until the butter is incorporated and the
mixture is chunky but not homogenous.
Seriously. Unless you’re an actual granny who has a pie
crust recipe memorized and can make a pie crust in your sleep…buy a pre-made
crust! Get a pie crust from your
favorite grocery store and follow the directions on the box. Make sure to give yourself enough time to
manage this piece of the project! The
dough needs to thaw before you bake it!
Ask anyone why a Jewish camp is important and
you’ll get a bunch of answers involving words such as identity, continuity,
community, friends, and informal education. For many, the word “camp” is a trigger
that magically transports people back to their glorious days attending summer
camp. I am not one of those people.
Growing up in Wichita, Kansas, there were a
few kids that went to Jewish sleep-away camps. I was never into going away because
of two things: air-conditioning and cable TV.
I did spend two or three years during my
elementary school life attending a local Jewish day camp run by the Mid-Kansas
Jewish Federation called CAMP SHALOM. I don’t remember much, except the camp
brought the kids from my Traditional congregation together with the kids from
the Reform Congregation. Oh, and we had rocking sailor hats we were allowed to
decorate and had to wear on trips. That stunk.
Now, like I wrote, I wasn’t so into camp.
However, I totally loved being a camp counselor. I think, in the summers before
9th grade and before 11th grade, I was a counselor at CAMP SHALOM. I don’t
remember much about working at the camp, except that my “bunk” listened to the
Beastie Boys’ first album, “License to Ill,” and The Clash’s “London Calling”
(a double album) most that summer. The rest of my summer days and night during
high school were spent doing camp-esque things like hanging with friends,
staying up late, drinking bottomless cups of coffee, diving out of the windows
of various homes and apartments when law enforcement types would break up
parties due to crazy loud music blasting. You know, normal stuff.
During my summers in college I also was a
counselor at a camp in Baltimore. It was a sports camp marketed to Jewish boys between
the ages of 13-18. In the morning there were laid back clusters of campers
studying Jewish texts with counselors and in the afternoon there were sports
leagues, with trips at night. From a counselor’s view, most of those kids had a
I was also a camp counselor last summer. I
ran a camp for my 13-year-old son and two of his friends. They were already out
of school, but their real camps hadn’t started yet. I was in between jobs so it
made sense to keep the boys occupied as much as possible for as little money
was possible. Now that was a great camp. We spent the days checking out cool
places around Chicago that were off the beaten path (maybe our destinations
will be my blog topic next month).
Now, as a parent whose kids attend Jewish
camps I see why it’s so important, even if your kids attend a Jewish day
school. All the buzzwords above are true. My kids get to reinforce the Judaism
they have at home and that they learn in school. It gives them opportunities to
be involved in art, drama, gymnastics, and ga-ga. They get to do cool things
like take trips to water parks, make shelters in trees and learn to work as a
Just this past Monday, 600 children from the
Chicago Jewish community did something that I doubt any of them had done
before. Kids from local day camps in the West Rogers Park area gathered
together at a congregation and said a few chapters from the book of Psalms (in
Hebrew, Tehillim). They did so to
show unity and support for the safety of those living in Israel. Not exactly an
activity that any of us thought our kids would be doing this summer, but a
powerful experience. I wish I had been one of those counselors.
Fresh off the Spurs’ NBA Championship, I wrote about how their win over the Big 3 of Miami signified that teams can still win with teamwork over grouping stars.
We were on the cusp of the off-season and the Bulls were tight on the trail of Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love. And I’ll be honest, while my expectations were low, I was obsessed with this free agency period. Checking Twitter every few minutes, keeping SportsCenter on while I worked at all times, checking every NBA rumor site. I was hooked. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. The thought of having our current roster along with Carmelo Anthony was making my basketball brain explode.
But alas, this free agent period ended like all free agent periods in Chicago. We came up short.
Carmelo stayed in New York, Love stayed in Minnesota (for now), LeBron went to Cleveland, Bosh and Wade stayed in Miami and Stephenson went to Charlotte. The Bulls made some moves, which I’ll focus on a bit later, but I think the best moves for the Bulls were those made by other teams. Carmelo stayed in New York on a team that is rebuilding instead of teaming up with LeBron somewhere, and LeBron James went back to a young but talented Cleveland team, officially ending the Big 3 era. The East has become spread out for the first time since 2009 and as a result, is wide open.
The moves the Bulls made focused on depth, something they haven’t truly had since the 2010 season where they went to the Eastern Conference Finals. They added, Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic, Aaron Brooks, Doug McDermott, and re-signed Kirk Hinrich. The Bulls are 11 deep if you count Tony Snell, who is having a very good Summer League, into the equation.
Obviously the biggest factor in their success this season is Derrick Rose—will he play for an entire season and will he return to form. But assuming he does, because for our own mental health we have to, the Bulls have given Thibs reliable options off the bench so he doesn’t run the same six players into the ground the way he did the last two years. Hopefully he’ll be able to follow the Spurs’ model and take advantage of his depth to allow his top players to be fresh come playoff time. Here is my take on the new Bulls.
Pau Gasol: Veteran, great passer, scorer and rebounder. Takes Boozer’s spot, should have numbers about as good as Boozer at his best, with fewer bonehead plays and screams for Jo to “get that.” I’m interested to see how much he has left in the tank, but Pau strikes me as the kind of guy with a skill set that can last him well into his later years if his minutes are managed (which is no guarantee with this coach). He creates a really exciting 3 man big rotation with Jo and Taj, and should be lethal running the pick-and-roll with DRose. He has championship experience and is obviously highly respected by the Bulls.
Nikola Mirotic: Honestly, a big fat question mark, and the best bet is probably not to set expectations too high for him for a while. However, a stretch 4 as your 8th or 9th man with the potential to be a solid shooter and a matchup nightmare is great to have. As long as he isn’t depended on to heavily early on, and my guess knowing Thibs is he won’t be, he could be a really interesting piece. And after waiting on him for three years, I’m just excited to see him out there.
Doug McDermott: I watched a little of him in Summer League, and while I agree with the qualifier “its summer league,” this guy could be really, really good. He is an incredible shooter – the comparisons to Kyle Korver are dead on. Moves well without the ball and has a very quick release. But he is big and can get to the hoop as well, which is something Korver never did. Thibs tends to “red shirt” his rookies, but I can see this guy very quickly eating up Dunleavy’s minutes.
Aaron Brooks: I think this is a great signing. Not only as the Nate Robinson, DJ Augustin, etc. DRose insurance plan, but as a legit 1 who can come off the bench and score. He can give Rose some rest and also allow Hinrich to move over to the 2 in some lineups. Also gives the Bulls a very interesting option to go small and fast with he and Rose together. A trusted veteran who Thibs can trust now allows this team to go a legit 11 deep.
What exactly makes a movie Jewish? Does it have to revolve
around Jewish characters doing Jewish things? Does it champion Jewish values?
Does it need Jewish actors or writers/directors? And what does it even mean to
be a “Jewish movie?” Should we even try to label movies as Jewish in the first
Whoa. Overload. And it just gets more complicated with
comedies. Do a few Jewish jokes count? Where’s the line between reinforcing our
stereotypes and spoofing them?
Mess with the Zohan, for example, features a Jewish actor (Adam Sandler)
playing an Israeli character, yet is it any more Jewish than the family movie Holes, which on the outside appears to have nothing Jewish
about it, but has a cast full of Jews, was directed by a Jew (Andrew Davis) and
was written by a Jewish author (Louis Sachar)? You have to do a little digging
(no pun intended) to find out Holes
is a Jewish movie, but does that make it any less Jewish?
I think the true litmus test for whether a movie can be
considered “Jewish” has less to do with meeting the aforementioned criteria and
more to do with the audience consuming it. And for this reason, Wet Hot American Summer might be the
most Jewish movie ever.
I’m sure people who aren’t Jewish have seen Wet Hot American Summer, but I’m willing
to bet a Jewish friend was the first person to recommend it to them. I first
saw it in high school at the urging of Jewish friends and I’ve only ever talked
about it with other Jewish friends. To me, it stands out as Jewish, but not in
the same way that similarly labeled Jewish comedies do.
Director David Wain’s debut film (he’d later go on to make Role Models and Wanderlust) never reached public consciousness, getting a tiny
release and grossing below $300,000 at the box office in the summer of 2001. It
has emerged as a cult classic since, because anyone who has ever been to
overnight camp that watches it loves it, especially if they went to Jewish
summer camp. I can’t stand quotes that begin with “there are two kinds of
people in this world,” but the truest version I ever heard was, “people who
went to overnight camp, and people who didn’t.”
“Wet Hot” recounts the last 24 hours of the summer of ‘81 at
Camp Firewood, a fictional Jewish overnight camp (sleep-away camp, if you
prefer) in Maine. Everyone is looking for that last hookup or shot at romance,
campers and counselors alike, and the story focuses particularly on Gerald
“Coop” Cooperberg (Michael Showalter), who has a crush on Katie (Marguerite
Moreau), but she has been hooking up with the obnoxious hot guy, Andy (Paul
Rudd), all summer.
The cast list of “before they were famous” actors in and of
itself should tip you off that “Wet Hot” is a hidden gem. Rudd, Elizabeth
Banks, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Michael Ian Black, Joe Lo Truglio,
Christopher Meloni and Ken Marino are just a handful. So it’s no surprise that
Netflix has a deal with Wain to make a new series based on the characters. But
Very little about Wet
Hot American Summer is explicitly Jewish. You can count the obviously
Jewish references on one hand. Yet everything about this movie feels Jewish to
me, from the oft-irresponsible counselors down to the singing of “Day by Day”
from the Christian-themed musical Godspell
at the all-camp talent show toward the end of the movie (ask your Jewish mother
who came of age in the ‘70s if you’re confused).
Jewish overnight camp is an experience that many of us
share, and the way we, as Jews, connect to others Jewish people, is through an
understanding of our shared experience, such as Jewish holidays, Jewish foods,
etc. This is true of all religions and cultures. So when a movie can tap into
that shared experience, that’s what really makes it – in this case – Jewish.
American Summer is without question a gross exaggeration of overnight
camps, but all great comedy comes from truth, and David Wain clearly had an
authentic Jewish summer camp experience, or else the movie would’ve fallen flat
on its face.
But we don’t tend to claim movies like “Wet Hot” as Jewish,
at least in the comedy world. We seem more inclined to claim films that are
indiscreetly Jewish, that play off stereotypes (we’re a people who enjoy
laughing at ourselves) and wear them proudly. There’s a place for that humor
and those comedies, but we too often overlook the more implicitly Jewish ones.
It’s not that Jews don’t see or like these movies, it’s just that we don’t
celebrate them; maybe because it’s not obvious, maybe because we want them to
be “our little secret” or maybe because we feel more comfortable hiding behind
stereotypes of who we are in the public sphere because it’s comfortable.
Find the movies out there that speak to your Jewish identity
and experiences and claim them as Jewish. What makes a comedy Jewish should not
always be how much it pokes fun at what makes us unique and different from others,
but what makes us similar to each other.
Sites We Like
Studio Paris, 59 W. Hubbard Street
Thursday, August 7 | 7 - 10 p.m.
Spend an evening at YLD’s hottest summer party: WYLD on Thursday, August 7! Enjoy a night out at Studio Paris (59 W. Hubbard St). Help us celebrate the honorees of the 2014 Double Chai in the Chi (Jewish 36 under 36 list).
Advanced registration is recommended, this event will sell out. The cost to attend is $20 in advance and $30 at the door (space permitting) and includes an open bar from 7-8pm. You must bring a valid 21+ ID to enter. $5 of each ticket will be donated to the 2014 JUF Annual Campaign to provide services to those in need. Register online here.
New Webinar Format
Sunday, August 10, 12:00 p.m.
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Learn more and register at www.jewishgenetics.org/register