Category: marriage

Labor-Inducing Spinach Artichoke Dip

Just kidding. Sort of.

While there’s no scientific evidence that a particular food can jump-start labor, my water broke within one hour of eating this dip.

Adapted from Slate’s “You’re Doing it Wrong,” I threw this together for Thanksgiving. At 33 weeks pregnant, my husband and I made the short drive to Houston for the holiday. My 94-year-old grandmother lives there, and some other family drove in from Arkansas.

We left Austin with the uncooked dip in tow, compression stockings squeezed onto my swollen legs. I napped most of the way (Aside: I have a superhuman ability to fall asleep anywhere, anytime, within moments. It’s great for me; not so great for whomever I’m roadtripping with).

We exchanged hugs and a few jokes about whether my grandmother’s or my ankles were more swollen, and then the seven of us sat down with paper plates of dip, veggies, pita chips and Panettone bread. We’re not the kind of people to postpone eating for decorum’s sake.

I sat on a scratchy old, yellow chair with my legs stretched out in the living room, talking with my big sister. Something must have registered on my face, as she suddenly asked if I was okay. I nodded, and excused myself. I can only describe the feeling as unexpected dampness.

Surprise! I’ll leave out the details, but suffice it to say my water broke on that ragged yellow chair while my husband was jogging and my dad was sleeping. A few phone calls and we headed to a Houston ER.

742
Happy Thanksgiving from the Houston hospital! This is about four hours after eating dip. If I’d known it would be the last I could eat for 20 hours, I’d have consumed the entire pan.

My big sister graciously blotted up the poor chair, and grandmother is still none the wiser. Our son was born at 6:30 a.m. the Friday after Thanksgiving. No word yet on whether he likes spinach.

So if you’re pregnant and feeling ready to pop, why not give this recipe a whirl? Or just make it to enjoy; it’s easy and delicious.

Ingredients
8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 3 lemons
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper – to taste
Salt and black pepper
2, 15-oz cans marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
10 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

Directions
Heat the oven to 450°F. Put the cream cheese, Parmesan, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and crushed red pepper in a large bowl. Season with salt and black pepper, and stir to combine. Stir in the artichoke hearts, spinach and mozzarella. Transfer to an 9×13 pan or a gratin dish and bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve warm with crisp crackers and crunchy veggies.

 

Eating as a New Mom

933I’m a mom! My son arrived 7 weeks early and spent a month in the NICU. We brought him home a few days before Christmas and are riding the rollercoaster of parenthood.

The little man loves to eat and isn’t a fan of sleeping – or at least, sleeping without being held. This particular trait is endearing – snuggle bug! But it also makes it challenging to accomplish anything, say, like, prepping or eating food.

My husband is awesome about making ‘real’ meals for dinner, but during the day and after late night feedings, I’m purely snack ‘n grab. This means my eats have included:

  • spoons of peanut butter and hummus
  • bananas
  • cans of green beans and baked beans
  • string cheese
  • Triscuits
  • Cheerios

My mother visited and showed her concern about my lack of balanced diet by adding slices of of butter and extra mayonnaise to everything she prepared for me. It was sweet in that mom way, and also served as a reminder that I need to do a better job of managing healthful eating – for myself, for baby and for successful breastfeeding.

Since her visit, I’ve made a more conscious effort to store leftovers in containers easy to pop in the microwave, stock lunch meats for meat-and-cheese roll-ups, and keep quick proteins like cottage cheese and yogurt on hand. Less butter and mayo necessary.

What other quick, easy and one-handed foods should a new mom consider?

10 Lessons for Your 30’s

I liked this piece from Mark Manson, “10 Life Lessons to Excel In Your 30’s” — even if the title doesn’t roll off the tongue. I’ve captured the 10 points below, and encourage you to read the full piece.

1. Start Saving for Retirement Now, Not Later

2. Start Taking Care of Your Health Now, Not Later

3. Don’t Spend Time with People Who Don’t Treat You Well

4. Be Good to the People You Care About

5. You Can’t Have Everything; Focus On Doing a Few Things Really Well

6. Don’t Be Afraid of Taking Risks, You Can Still Change

7. You Must Continue to Grow and Develop Yourself

8. Nobody (Still) Knows What They’re Doing, Get Used to It

9. Invest in Your Family; It’s Worth It

10. Be Kind to Yourself, Respect Yourself

 

Facebook in a Time of Divorce

I found out I was getting divorced through Facebook. Well, kinda. This is what I learned about online etiquette for really big life events.

Monday started like any other: snag coffee, check work email, putz around online. I signed into Facebook and stopped breathing. There, in the center of my news feed, broadcast to absolutely everyone: “He has changed his status. He is no longer married.” My heart thudded, my stomach dropped, my eyebrows shot up. I mean, yes, we’d had the conversation but this felt like a kick in the gut; it was so public, so final, so soon.

I swallowed a small hysterical snort of realization that I was now married to someone not married to me. Is that even possible? I clearly needed to fix it, pronto. Frantically I sought out our barely 21 year-old colleague and explained in a rush of words, “Hi I need your help I’m getting divorced and he just unmarried me now I need to change my status but not broadcast it and I don’t really want any status posted at all but do you know how and can you show me?” A nervous laugh, the briefest of apologies and in 15 seconds we were done. I feebly thanked him and promised to buy the next round of coffees.

Like the wave of an unwelcome fairy wand, I went from married to unmarried with a deft stroke. I mean, we knew each other for over 10 years, were married for 5-plus years, our families lived 45 minutes apart for crying out loud! Isn’t there some decorum, some etiquette, a precedent on how to publicly dissolve your joint lives? Apparently not. Somehow surprise un-marrying your spouse with a global announcement hardly seems the ticket.

Advice in five online spaces:

1. Emails to Socialize – as a Couple. Our former friends and housemates sent us an email announcing their engagement and asking us to come out for a drink to celebrate. I stared at the email and in a very toddler tantrum way, internally declared that I would NOT be the one to reply because I didn’t create this situation, why should I have to craft some benign excuse? He put his degree in English literature to use and wrote a brief, poised email explaining that we were no longer together, but wished them the very best. I laughed at the kindness in his words which for so long had been absent from our conversations. But really, it was fine. I just wish we’d made a game plan, but then again, I didn’t know that I needed one….

Read the other tips on The Huffington Post Divorce Blog

What’s In A Name: Boyfriend/ Partner/ Fiancé?

My Mom is getting married.

Again.

For the fourth time.

Without going into reams of details, suffice it to say her relationship philosophies are skewed. Which means I have the pleasure of sorting my own thoughts, ideas and expectations of love and commitment while dissecting out the ‘truths’ she espouses.  Also, I’m a sociologist at heart, intrigued by dissonance in social structure and systems — you know, like marriage in America.

Here’s a great piece from Slate that touches on the complexities of language and tradition in defining relationships, and the gray areas that I — and many of my peers — inhabit. My mom would not understand.

What Do You Call the Person You Are Probably Never Going to Marry?

By

In certain parts of America, the word fiancé does not mean what it used to. I first became aware of this when I was reporting a story in a small town in Wisconsin a couple of years ago and “Bug” Smith, a 50-year-old man who worked as a machinist introduced me to his “fiancée.” I was about to say “Congratulations!” but something stopped me. Their union did not have the air of expectant change about it. From their domestic surroundings, it looked like they lived basically as a married couple already, his boots next to hers by the front door, pictures of kids above the mantel. I later found out they’d been living together for 15 years and had two children.

Since then I have come across this phenomenon dozens of times. Someone will introduce me to his or her fiancé. But what they mean is more like my “steady lady” or my “steady man.” It could mean the person they are living with, or the father or mother of their child. It could also just mean the person they’ve been dating for a long time. It could be that they only use that title in the presence of outsiders (i.e., me) because it gives an official, respectable status to a relationship that’s otherwise amorphous. It could mean that someone has actually proposed, or bought a ring, but usually not. But what it definitively does not mean is that they are choosing a wedding date or checking out venues or pricing caterers or otherwise making any kind of concrete plans for marriage. In many parts of America, fiancé has become a permanent relationship status (permanent, that is, until it’s not).

The aspiration for marriage won’t die in America, even though fewer people are getting married or think they can afford to get married. People no longer think of a wedding as a milestone that happens somewhere between high school and having children. They think of marriage as what sociologists call a “capstone”—that is, something they earn after many other things are in place in their lives, like a good job or a nice house. But they might never get the good job or the nice house. “We intended to get hitched,” Bug Smith told me. “But we just kept finding other things to do with the money. Fixed the porch, got a new engine.”  Smith and many others get lost in a free-floating longing for marriage that never gets fulfilled but finds temporary home in the liberal use of the term fiancé.

In the meantime, while fiancés are waiting for marriage, life goes on. People live together for longer periods. They have kids: Among Americans without a college degree, 58 percent of first time births happen outside marriage. People share huge life events with each other even though they’re not married, and yet the culture hasn’t adjusted by producing any new terms to describe these novel attachments or arrangements. Describing someone as “the guy I’m living with” or “the mother of my child” might be accurate but it’s not all that efficient, and a little clinical. Girlfriend or boyfriend belittles the relationship, and partner feels like something people in New York and San Francisco say, so fiancé fills in the gap. It conveys at least the correct level of emotional attachment, which is: something like spouse but not quite.

Mostly this is a class phenomenon. College-educated women flirt with not getting married, provide fodder for lots of movies about the glories of single life, but eventually they get married (even in the movies); among college graduates, only 12 percent of first time births happen outside marriage. But there’s a trickle-down effect. Everyone watches the same movies, so everyone has inherited the idea that marriage should be really special, maybe lavish, definitely worth waiting for, as Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas argue in Promises I Can Keep: Why Poor Women Put Motherhood Before Marriage. But since many can’t afford that fancy wedding and don’t want to go “downtown”—a term women in the book use to describe a marriage on the cheap—they just stay engaged.

“I’ve seen it among poorer couples,” says Edin. “They’re willing to get engaged but not sure they are ‘ready’ for marriage. Engagement is not a promise to marry, but rather an indication that they are thinking about it. Perhaps an indication of the high bar for marriage across classes, plus a way of gaining some ‘official’ status without the confines and expectations of marriage.” In her new book, Doing the Best I Can, co-written with Timothy Nelson, Edin tells a story about Lavelle and Big Toya (the mother of Lavelle’s child). Big Toya asks Lavelle to marry him, but she turns him down flat, because she doesn’t want to lose “her freedom, her food stamps or her subsidized apartment.” But he persuades her to let him call her his fiancée anyway. She knows she will never marry him, but that title cements the relationship enough that she will now travel to Camden so he can visit with his daughter.

Sociologists Wendy Manning and Pamela Smock, who study changing family demographics, told me that they, too, made the mistake of assuming couples who said they were engaged were making plans to get married. But when they asked follow-up questions for a large qualitative study they recently conducted with young adults on “Cohabitation and Marriage in America,” they realized that wasn’t true. Instead the term engaged, for couples of all races, seemed to be a kind of placeholder, “a way to keep the relationship going without actually making the move to marry,” says Manning. Smock says she noticed that couples use the term fiancé or engaged in a “flexible” way, that is, when dealing with authorities on the phone, or in a social setting where they might want to “own” the person more or seem like more of an “official couple.”

If anything, the liberal use of fiancé is devaluing the old term girlfriend. In the ’60s, being a girlfriend was an official status, like getting promoted to two-star general. You would get pinned, or get the letter jacket, or some other visible mark of distinction when a guy “decided” you were his girlfriend. But now being a girlfriend or boyfriend can mean anything or nothing. So if you’re really truly the girlfriend or boyfriend, you’re the fiancé.

In The Marriage Go-Round, sociologist Andrew Cherlin describes our dysfunctional relationship with marriage. Americans have unusually high marriage and divorce rates, because we are culturally attached to both old-fashioned commitment and to individual freedom. Other countries have solved this dilemma by letting go of the marriage ideal, allowing people, for example, to live together and still be considered a family, by the state and by their neighbors. Even by the guy at the car dealership, who doesn’t trust them any less for not having a signed marriage license. With 10 more years of fake fiancés, maybe we’ll get there, too.

Against Wedding Registries

It’s the year of weddings in my world: five (six?) different celebrations over the next four months. I’m fortunate that all of them are within driving distance, and two are actually local. I am lucky to have such dear friends who are honoring me with an invitation to a milestone event in their lives.

But I have more than a twinge of cynicism about all the money and gift-giving and hoopla of the wedding industry. In 2012, when the average wedding cost was $27,427, the median was $18,086. In 2011, when the average was $27,021, the median was $16,886. I mean, even a below average’ wedding of $15,000 is a TON of money. As one writer aptly noted, “The couple spent the equivalent of a down payment on a Lexus for one day’s worth of partying.” (In contrast, this awesome piece from A Practical Wedding summarizes my feelings).

And what’s a celebratory union without presents?! There’s an engagement party, a bachelorette party, a bridal shower, a lingerie shower, and of course the wedding itself. Despite lengthy registries, none of the couples who will be tying the knot NEED anything. They all cohabitate, several jointly own homes/pets and/or cars. They successfully cook using existing knives and grills, take trips out of town, own matching sheets and towels, have health insurance, and generally purchase their own goodies and services.They’re successful, educated, independent adults.

So what do I buy them? Do I really need to purchase a $350 Caphlone pan to send them my love and best wishes? A new grill — even though I know the current one works because I’ve eaten burgers made on it? A bag of tea votives they could pick up at IKEA for $25? It feels like I’m just buying them stuff they already own. Or, I’m buying them something that they just don’t want to buy themselves.

The phrase, ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ isn’t just an outdated 1960’s adage. We own a lot of STUFF, and even when we donate it to charity, it leaves a mark. I’m not an eco-green maniac but it’s hard to ignore pieces like Waste Couture: Environmental Impact of the Clothing Industry. Here’s how a Slate author phrased it:

We could have registered and asked our friends to buy upgraded pots and pans for ourselves. But we didn’t. After all, if we really wanted fancier stuff, we could have just spent less on the wedding and more on housewares. Wedding presents for modern cohabitating adults with established households are in the pure realm of deadweight loss—you’re buying things for people that they haven’t bought for themselves because they think they’re overpriced.”

Ranting and idealism and heavy sighing aside, gift giving isn’t going away — not for birthdays, holidays or weddings. Tradition demands it and social norms uphold it. And let’s be honest – getting presents is fun! But there are a few creative alternatives to registering for a set of bamboo sheets:

1. Local Registry. It’s only available in New Hampshire at the moment, but I see this catching on and spreading like wildfire: NearbyRegistry.com. “Find gifts from your favorite local shops, service providers, and nonprofits.” Sometimes the best painting is from a local artist and not a box store. (Full disclosure: I own a giant framed photo from Crate & Barrel and love it.)

2. Experiences RegistryWed & Wish. Register for an experience. As one couple who used it noted, “We were already living together and we didn’t need more stuff …The honeymoon experiences [our friends and family] gifted us were incredible! We got a bicycle ride in Kyoto, a picnic in a cherry blossom spot, a bottle of champagne in a Ryokan, and Shiatsu foot massage.” Ding ding! And it’s got a cute site: here’s a sample registry.

3. Gift Rocket. It’s a website to buy online gift cards to anywhere. The recipient chooses how to receive the money — a prepaid debit card, direct into a bank account, via Paypal or check. Yes, it’s a glorified way to send cash but at least you’re giving something useful.

Can I get some paid maternity leave with those roses?

Kudos! Well thought and appropriately feisty exasperation on unrealistic parenting expectations in America.

what begins with m

Today is not mother’s day, but it’s my mother’s day because tomorrow I will be working a long call. I will not see E awake at all unless I accidentally on purpose wake her up when I get home which, *blush*, I have done more than once. Before I had a baby, Mother’s Day seemed like a forced over-sentimental construct. Now it is more important to me than Christmas (ok, I’m Jewish), Hannukah (ok, that’s not really an important holiday for Jews), or my own birthday (as an adult, birthdays are kind of eh). It’s the holiday we mamas EARN! Cause being a mom is amazing but it is a shit-ton of work, and the most arduous work is done in the years that the child won’t even remember, so bring on the chocolates! Excuse the profanity, but this Mother’s Day I’m feeling a little feisty. Why am I am…

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