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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Open Letter to the Perfect Woman at Zumba

Dear Perfect Zumba Lady,

Somehow, I got myself out of bed at 5:15 this morning to make it to the 6 am Zumba class, for my third ever Zumba excursion. I'd been told that this was a smaller group, so it would be easier for an uncoordinated newbie like myself to follow along.

I got to the room a few minutes early, and you had already assumed the dominant position in the class: front and center, just a step behind where the instructor would stand. As I found my place in the back corner and put away my things, an older woman joined the room and you started chatting together. In less than five minutes time, spoken without including me but in a voice loud enough that I would definitely hear, you managed to completely alienate me. The older woman brought up the topic of an evening class; you said you never take evening classes because you need to be home to cook healthy meals for your family. The older woman mentioned a different type of class; you talked about how versatile you are that you can take any type of class offered. You lamented losing contact with a former instructor, but said you refuse to reconnect with her on Facebook, and also refused to allow your husband to post any pictures there. Because cheating spouses on Facebook are responsible for the dissolution of five marriages that you know of.

Just in time to put me out of my misery, the class began. You had every move perfected, sometimes even outdoing the instructor who tried to break things down a bit more for me. Your skin tight, expensive clothes were perfect too - nothing like my Target wind pants and freebie T-shirt. Five minutes in, and I was feeling deflated already.

But here's the thing, lady. You and your perfection are not going to keep me from that exercise class. I have worked damn hard to get my body and my confidence to the point where I am capable of handling that class. Years of back pain, surgery, relapse, physical therapy and months of weekly sessions with my trainer have shown me that I have the strength to move. I am going to suck at it, and get more steps wrong than I will get right, but I am going to do my best to move for a solid hour. I may be the only overweight person in the room, I may be wearing the wrong clothes, and I may be bested by women and men twice my age, but I will be trying. And you can't keep me away.

Oh, and one more thing? You might want to consider making some new friends if so many marriages around you are crumbling because of Facebook interactions. I seem to hang with a much more stable crowd.

Hugs and kisses!
Ch.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

NYC 2012

I'm too tired from the past few days away to post much more than the pictures from our trip to New York City. I'll let them tell the story instead.

Cirque du Soleil's "Zarkana" at Radio City Music Hall
 Building minis at the Lego Store
(Insert major rain storm here, followed by dinner and a visit to) Toys R Us in Times Square
Top of the Rock (70 stories up)
Outside the Today Show (that's Natalie Morales)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
 Central Park
Views from the Circle Line Harbor Cruise
Dylan's Candy Bar
American Museum of Natural History
 (insert sighting of Glee's Lea Michele here - cursing myself for not calling her name and getting a picture!)

Museum of Modern Art
And we finished off the 2.5 day trip with a huge sandwich at the Carnegie Deli. Now do you see why I'm tired? We had a great time!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Five Reasons I'm a Fan of Jennifer Weiner

Back when we were in college and young college graduates, my old roommate Carol (bet my newer readers and friends didn't know my roommate was a UU minister! Yes, I swear this was at Brandeis!) worked at a local Booksmith, where she had the opportunity to peruse all of the advance reader copies of novels as they came through the door. As soon as she began reading new writer Jennifer Weiner's "Good In Bed," she knew she had to set it aside for me. This was in 2002, and I have been a  fan of Weiner's work ever since, from her early blog posts to her prolific tweeting about "The Bachelor." She just released her tenth book, and tonight I went to the Boston Public Library to see her deliver an author talk.

As embarrassing as it is to admit, Weiner is one of those celebrities that I know a little too much about. But - it's her own fault. And that's because so much of her is in her writing. There are fleeting references in her characters and stories that just ring so true that you know they have to be real. And for me, those moments end up mirroring back my own life, whether it's the baby sleeping with its tush poked high up in the air, or the need to be so efficient in life that even the silverware is sorted by type when it's in the dishwasher (well, okay, I'm not *that* bad - but I kinda wish I was).

So while I'd encourage you to pick up any of her books and start reading along, here are five reasons why I've grown to love Weiner so much over the years.

1) Her lead female characters are often overweight. And since that has been me, forever and always, it's a really wonderful thing to read about. But these characters are also strong, confident, intelligent, and beautiful (which I hope, forever and always, has been me too). There's never this sense of weight not being an issue either - there is a lot of straight discussion about how that feels, and how it would really impact a character's choices. Oh, and they all still exercise.
2) Her lead characters are often Jewish. Hello, fellow Members of the Tribe! Her characters are Jewish enough to never forget it, but not so Jewish that I don't know what they're talking about. Bar mitzvahs and seders and shiva calls are all central events in their lives, and I can mark the passage of time in my life by those events too.
3) Weiner is a working mother. While she was single when her first book came out, over the years she's gotten married and had two daughters just a bit older than my kids. Not only has this not stopped her from having a very prolific writing career, but she also produced a TV show for ABC Family last summer. In all of her books, she acknowledges her babysitters, and I like to think that if I was ever honored in some way professionally, I would do the same.
4) She'll take on the New York Times, and anyone else not putting women on the same playing field. Weiner has always railed against the fluffy pinkness of "chick lit" and anyone who doesn't think her books deserve the same accolades, articles and reviews that other fiction enjoys. I really admire that she's willing to call people out on their entrenched biases.
5) She'll let you in on the bits of celebrity she encounters along the way. While I'm sure her everyday writing life isn't all that glamorous, when she has the opportunity to do something out of the ordinary, she shares it. She'll dish about wearing hair extensions and what it's like in the green room at The Today Show, but does so with this feeling that she can't really believe it's all happening to her.

So yea, I wish she was my friend in real life. And that we could go out for drinks together with my favorite Salon.com writer or that she'd text my husband to get me out of some household chore.

Anyway...who do you know a little too much about, and wish was your BFF?

Edited to add on August 22, 2012:

Unfortunately, I need to add a final note on this piece. To say I'm heartbroken doesn't overstate my feelings on the matter, as it's been a week since I found out some news, and I can't stop thinking about it. While Jennifer has been transparent on so many parts of her life, there is a portion that she has left out, and to me, it's an important part of the story. While a lot of what I wrote above is still true, what I know now colors her, in a way I can't condone. 

I've never written something like the above before, where I sound like such a gushy fan girl, and I have learned my lesson. No one is perfect, and I'm ashamed that I made it seem like she is.

Peanut Butter and Ziplines: Perspectives from Jewish Overnight Camp

A week ago, Hannah returned from her first two-week stint at Camp Yavneh in Northwood, New Hampshire. And did she like it? Her standard response is that it was "awesome." Dig a little deeper and you'll hear stories about ziplines and waterslides, having a different best friend every day, new dances learned, leading services, swimming in the lake and eating good food (including peanut butter, which we don't typically eat at home). The stories are sprinkled with bits of Hebrew, names of buildings and activities. She managed feelings of homesickness and learned to roll with it when she had to wear clothes more than once. Her counselors said she was rarely without a smile on her face. She didn't really want to come home and can't wait to go back next summer. Mission accomplished.

I went to six summers of Jewish overnight camp, five of them at The Goldman Union Camp Institute (GUCI) in Zionsville, Indiana. Some of the best parts of my childhood were spent there, and I still regret not being able to apply for Avodah (a summer spent working in various capacities around the camp) and then going on to be a counselor there (I was a counselor for two summers at my local JCC instead). Those summers, and the people I spent them with, had a profound impact on the person I became, particularly with regards to my Jewish identity. At camp, I wasn't the singled-out Jew of my middle school class, forced to explain a holiday or the one Hanukkah song we'd sing in choir. Instead, being Jewish was the baseline, and imbued in everything we did. When we played sports, we had to "cover our heads with a kohvah (hat)!" We sang songs in Hebrew for hours on end. We discussed ethics and placed ourselves along a continuum of points of view. We contemplated the nightmare scenario of the last living Jew being an exhibit in a museum. For the other 11 months of the year, I loved my public school, my friends and my regular life. But the months spent at camp were truly magical, and I'm grateful that through the wonders of social media, so many of those camp friends are still a part of my life. They have all become amazing people, and I have to believe that camp had something to do with it.

So years ago, when Marc and I contemplated some of the many decisions we would make as parents, Jewish overnight camp was nonnegotiable. We decided that we wanted our children to go to public schools, but to try to find a Jewish overnight camp that would give them the same amazing summers I had. I am so grateful that we are in a position to provide that, and that Hannah loved it as much as I expected she would. Max is already anxious to get there too. And while I missed Hannah desperately, I am so happy that she got her first taste of the Jewish camp experience, and that there will be much more to come.

And for those of you that followed my anxieties over packing her up for the two weeks: she used all 10 towels, but never needed a bathrobe. To make unpacking at the start of camp easier, next year I'll send her with a set of plastic drawers filled with all of her clothes. And when she's ready to come home, hopefully next summer she will empty her water bottle before packing it in the middle of her duffel bag. :)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Screaming Contest with G-d


We've been regular attendees to Temple Emanuel's Tot Shabbat for years now, but as Max has gotten older, he often wants to go to services with Hannah. But yesterday he really wanted to see Julia, and off to Tot Shabbat Max and I went.

Julia has an established routine that she follows each week, and it's amazing to see the kids learn the particulars of this service as they grow. The video above shows two year old Max reciting the questions Julia asks as a lead-in to the prayer "Mi Chamocha," which asks "Who is like G-d?" Julia asks, "Is anyone stronger than G-d? Is anyone sweeter than G-d? Is anyone deeper than G-d? Is anyone louder than G-d?" The children and parents chorus back "Nooooo!" to each question.

Until yesterday, when Max firmly repeated back, that yes indeed, he was louder than G-d. He's repeated the story back to me three times now. According to Max, he met G-d once, and they had a screaming contest. After G-d screamed, Max screamed, and G-d assured him that Max was definitely a louder screamer. Now, I know firsthand that Max could give anyone a run for their money on the screaming front...but who am I to argue that he's had this conversation with G-d?

Max is a stubborn little guy - he always has to be right about everything. Surely he believes this screaming contest was real. And maybe it was.


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cape Cod Pirate Adventures

A few months ago I was detailing Max's pirate obsession to my friend Lori, and she told me we had to make a trip to the Cape to go on the Cape Cod Pirate Adventures. A pirate tour geared towards kids? I couldn't imagine a better way for Max to live out all of his pirate fantasies. And it was everything Lori had promised and more.

After making the reservations a couple of months ago, on Max's half birthday we left the house early and headed out to Hyannis. Max brought his pirate shirt, hat, sword and hook, and he was ready to go. Upon check-in he was given a pirate name tag, where he was nicknamed "May Day Max." They drew on a mustache and goatee and then escorted him and the rest of the crew on to the ship.

Over the next hour at sea the pirate activities unfolded: hoisting the custom-made flag, learning to look out and then putting all hands on deck (literally - sit down and put your hands on the deck!), piecing together a treasure map, fighting the evil pirate for the keys to the treasure chest, dividing up the booty and then sharing some grog. Max surprised me by intensely following all of Pirate Shark Bite's commands - I may need to start dressing like a pirate in order to get a little more respect around here!

Max loved every minute aboard the Sea Gypsy and he wants to go again. So if any of you have room for a stow away on your next trip to the Cape, feel free to let him know.

A mighty vessel!
Ready to board!
The daring crew
 All hands on deck!
 Looking for the treasure:
Blast that evil pirate!
Ask Dad to hold your pirate booty:
Pose for a final picture with your crew:
Thanks Cape Cod Pirate Adventures for making Max's pirate dreams come true!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Story Land 2012

This was our third trip to Story Land in New Hampshire, and like the first time in 2007 and the second time in 2009, it did not disappoint. As we drove up, the weather was pretty lousy, but we were still able to take advantage of their late arrival policy, which allows you to come back for another full day on the same ticket. It was still raining when we got there at 3 pm, but not very hard, and the kids decided to take full advantage of the weather and go on all of the water rides. Hannah rode the bamboo shoots three times in a row without getting off, since there were no lines at all. Marc and the kids had a blast on the new Egyptian-themed water cannon ride. We were at the park when it opened the following day, which was forecast to be just as rainy as the day before. Fortunately, the forecast was wrong, and we got a lovely day with minimal crowds. The kids tore through all of the rides and activities and were done by 3 pm, as we had barely waited in a line all day, if at all. We saw the circus, including a funny dog act, and a fairy tale show too. Throw in a swim in the hotel pool, and a seriously good dinner at Margarita Grill, and the trip was complete. The next morning we left North Conway to head to Northwood to drop Hannah off at Camp Yavneh!

Some pictures from the trip, but first, since I didn't post pictures on the blog in the past, here are our older pictures with Humpty Dumpty.

2007 (3yo Hannah was trying to escape):
2009 (1yo Max was a bit frightened):
And 2012 (Come on Mommy, enough with your silly pictures!):

Some other great shots:




Sadly, the kids are starting to age out of Story Land, but we've always enjoyed our trips there. If you've got little ones, I can't recommend it enough!