Our Passover Story

close up of hands holding baby feet

We kicked off Passover 2021 COVID-style once again, with one Seder for just the four of us (night 1) and the other on Zoom last night with my family. Typically, we run a full Seder with my family, reading from the Haggadah, and we keep it simple with a few prayers and songs when it’s only the four of us. However, this year, Dan really wanted our small Seder to be more than that.

“Last year at this time, I was unemployed, and job prospects were dim,” he said earlier in the week. “We had no idea what was to come with COVID and we felt pretty isolated. This year, I have a job and am grateful and there’s hope with the vaccines. I want to do something meaningful.”

We started a list of what we wanted to include: lighting the candles; discussing the meaning of what’s on the Seder plate; the blessings – over the karpas, matzah, maror; an abridged version of the story of Passover, welcoming Elijah (speaking of Elijah, I wonder if he masked up this weekend given all of the homes he visited!). And, of course..

Me: We need to include the 4 glasses of wine.

Dan: I love how you think.

Jordan: Mom, it’s 4 cups of wine! Like kid-size cups.

Dan: I like Mom’s version.

There is a significance behind the four cups of wine. The Four Cups represent the four expressions of deliverance promised by God, describing our Exodus from Egypt and slavery and our birth as a nation: “I will take you out,” “I will save you,” “I will redeem you,” and “I will take you as a nation.” The cups are a toast to each of these expressions.

Beyond the Seder and all it includes, one of our favorite Singer family Passover traditions is telling the story of the boys’ birth – which coincided with Passover 2004. I retold the story Saturday night when we started eating our meal.

“Dad and I went to the first Seder on Monday, April 5.”

“Where was it?” Ryan asked.

“Ryan, you know where it was. Mom tells this story every year,” Jordan groaned.

“I want to hear her say it.”

“Mom-mom B and Pop-pop B’s apartment,” I answered.

“With the very long table that took up the whole room,” Ryan added.

“Yes,” I laughed.

“Wait – it just hit me that your last meal before giving birth was all matzah-based,” Jordan said. “That’s a shame. I’m so sorry.”

I laughed again. “No one could believe I was even still pregnant by Passover,” I said.

17 years ago…

By April 5, I was exactly 38 weeks pregnant, but the doctors had predicted labor between 34 and 36 weeks because of the position of Jordan’s head. They even suggested someone stay with me at all times, because when I went into labor, it would likely be a fast delivery.

I’d started maternity leave at 32 weeks and had basically spent the last six either 1) lying on the couch – moving around with my monster belly was difficult and uncomfortable. I think I was the biggest pregnant person ever, carrying 13lbs of baby; or 2) going with my mom to Abington hospital every few days to take non-stress tests for the babies and then out to Bonnet Lane for lunch. The exciting life of a mom-to-be.

When, to the surprise of everyone, we got to the 37-week point, my OB practice scheduled an induction for April 6. They didn’t recommend delivering twins much past 38 weeks. We were told to call the hospital that morning before coming over, to make sure there were beds. If someone had been admitted who was unexpectedly in labor, I’d have to wait a day.

By April 5, I had exactly two outfits that fit the monster belly – both giant sweaters and maternity stretch pants. They are in pictures from every occasion we attended the entire winter. However, Spring came with a vengeance that day, and I found myself with nothing to wear in the 80-degree temps for the first Seder. My mom ran out and managed to find a pretty purplish blouse that fit decently well over the basketball I was carrying. I mention this as significant because the picture of me in that shirt is the last photo I have before life completely changed!

The Seder itself was uneventful (other than all of the good wishes on our delivery the next day), and the next morning, Dan and I woke up at 6:00 am to go the hospital. When I got out of bed, my water broke. I called the hospital to tell them we were coming. A nurse said there were no beds and to call back tomorrow.

“But my water broke!” I interrupted her, not wanting to risk Baby A’s quick arrival at our house. She said to just come over and they’d figure it out.

They found us a room, and we settled in. I was only a few centimeters dilated and not really in pain at that point, and several hours later, my family had gathered to hang out with us while we waited. My parents, sister and brother-in-law, Marni and Dan, Aunt Sue, and Mom-mom and Pop-pop were all there.

Only my family could turn labor into a party. Nurses kept commenting on how much fun we were having. Marni had made a labor mix tape and we sang along and laughed at her selections (eg Push it). After some time, I was 4cm dilated and had started to feel it intensely, but the pain evaporated after the doctor administered an epidural.

Once the amazing epidural kicked in, we played a version of the memory game, I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to bring… you know that game where you have to remember what everyone before you said and then add a new thing with the next letter? Our version was I’m going to the delivery room and I’m going to bring… (Anesthesia, Babies, Car seat… is it weird I still remember some of what we brought?) The family was impressed with my memory, given the circumstances, but always competitive, I wasn’t going to let a little labor get in the way of a game!

“Hang on,” Jordan interrupted when I got to this part. “The family was in the labor room with you and Dad the whole time? Playing games and singing? he asked incredulously. “Actually, never mind. I wouldn’t expect anything less. Go on,” he said. (I did, after a quick explanation that no one but Dad was there for the delivery part!)

The day continued. By 4:30, I was 6cm dilated. My ‘fast’ delivery had reached the 10 hour mark. We were finished with games; I was cranky and tired and wanted these babies out. The doctor had given me drugs to speed up labor, and pain was setting in again. There would be no more pain meds to help.

Marni and Dan decided to go to Dan’s mom’s house for the second Seder, since it seemed we still had awhile to go. But – in a dramatic turn of events – I was suddenly 10cm dilated at 6:00pm, and it was time to start the delivery. My mom called Marni and Dan, who had just arrived at his mom’s Seder. They turned around and drove back to the hospital at record speed so they could be there when the babies were born. Because – you know – it would be a ‘fast’ delivery.

Four hours later, I was begging for a C-section, and the doctor and nurses started the prep. Mom-mom, Pop-pop and Sue had gone home and were waiting by the phone for news. Marni’s Dan also went home to get some sleep, so he could go to work the next day. My poor family had hung in there for such a long time!

Finally, a quick 18 hours after my water broke, Jordan and Ryan made their debut into the world on the second day of Passover, at 12:18 and 12:20 am on April 7.

Marni and my parents cooed over the babies when they were wheeled out of the delivery room. They, and Dan, finally went home and fell into a deep sleep.

“How long were you in the hospital?” Ryan asked.

“I think it was five nights.”

“Where was Dad?”

“He was there most of the time,” I said. “One night he went to Aunt Marni and Uncle Dan’s apartment for dinner – they had leftovers from the Seder they never attended. Dad didn’t realize the leftovers were supposed to last them the whole week, and he kept taking more. He ended up eating all of their food!”

Ryan laughed – he loves this part.

“I was really hungry! And tired. And overwhelmed with these new babies!” Dan protested, as he always does.

“And then you brought us home, and that’s the end of the story,” Ryan said.

“Well, it’s actually the very beginning,” I replied, thinking about our 17 years of stories since then – some told through this blog, some kept between us, some still to be told. What an amazing, emotional, exhausting, miraculous journey.

Passover, while primarily about freedom and triumph over adversity, is also about strength, resilience, faith and miracles. I can’t think of a holiday more fitting to have become a mom to these two incredible boys.

January reflections (in COVID times)

Hello, readers – we made it to February! With January, my least favorite month, behind us, I thought I’d share some ramblings about my family’s start to the year. This is a little different than two years ago, when my January reflections post covered school, surgery, and an Eagles team that made it to the playoffs!

A dry-ish January

Dan and I officially finished dry – well, dry-ish – January. Two years ago, when we first decided to give dry January a try, we made it to MLK weekend. Because it would have been rude to not drink the delicious bottle of wine our friends brought to dinner, that was the end of our efforts.

“You did a dry Janu,” Jordan said, when I told him. “You made it through half the month, so you can’t actually claim dry January.”

We decided on January 1 this year to try it again. Jordan just listened and shook his head. “Good luck with that,” he said. He had a point. It’s hard to do dry anything when you’re just sitting around your house most of the time. And, when your wine collection is literally three feet from your desk, and you see it all. day. long.

I read an article earlier this month about how to keep yourself on track if you’re doing a dry January. The suggestions were things like – After work, go straight to an activity, so you don’t think about having an evening drink. Go to the gym. Take a class. Walk with friends. Go bowling. See a movie. So, the author was essentially saying, get out in the world with groups of people? Hmmm. After I confirmed this was not written pre-COVID but actually in November 2020, the author’s credibility diminished, and I stopped reading.

Two weeks into January, we discussed whether one drink on a Saturday – like a short happy hour – would be okay. We could do a very light January, instead of the full-on dry month. Then last week, I made the point that it’s a long week here at home. We’re both going nonstop all day, so how can we deny ourselves a Friday night glass or two of wine as a reward? After that, it morphed into a ‘light weekend’ January.

When Jordan saw me opening a bottle that Friday night, he raised his eyebrow.

“For the record, I called this on January 1st,” he said.

Interestingly, the light January had a positive effect – we’ve both found our tolerance has decreased, and we can’t really drink more than a couple of glasses at a time. Fewer calories are definitely a plus (score 1 point for January), so we decided to keep going with a light February.

Wasting time

One of the things I’ve noticed about our lackluster COVID social life is how much time we spend doing and thinking about things we never would have before March 2020. 

Take the Bernie Sanders memes. They’re hilarious, but would they have garnered the same amount of enthusiasm pre-COVID? I looked back on two nights of family texts a week ago – 45 minutes on a Thursday and an hour that Friday – spent sending our own Bernie memes back and forth. My sister, Marni, and I were the most obsessed. She figured out how to cut out Bernie using the picsart app and sent me some tips. Mine looked awkward at first, but I kept practicing and got better each time.  I figured out on Friday if you click cutout and then select person, Bernie’s chair goes away, and he can fit in so many more places.

We texted our pics to the family – Bernie outside Beth Am (our synagogue), in our family photo at my niece’s Bat Mitzvah, outside Marni’s house before the Bat Mitzvah, outside the boys’ high school, at Cape May sitting on the chairs with Ryan by Congress Hall, on the American University sign next to my college friends and me, playing in the snow with Marni’s kids, sitting next to the Hollywood sign when we were in LA, and with me on various travels around the world.

“You’re still doing this?” Dan asked later Friday night, several hours after I’d started playing around with the app.

“I want to do it,” Ryan said. “Can you show me?” I did, and he picked it up quickly.

“This is really dumb,” Jordan said. “I don’t get it.”

“But look,” I said, pulling up the latest one I found on Instagram. “Here’s one the theater department posted of you and your friend holding Bernie up during your song in the last show.  It’s a riot.”

 “It’s not that funny.”

“It’s the best thing ever,” I argued and pulled up another picture. “Here he is with Bunny (my stuffed animal from childhood)!”

He just shook his head. We usually have a similar sense of humor, but Jordan is not into these types of things (nor does he appreciate political satire song parodies, which I love).

There’s no way I would have spent mindless hours on Bernie memes before COVID. We were always somewhere at night, and free time was precious. But because I had time, I was able to learn a new skill – Bernie cropping! (Score another point for January 😊 )

I’m not the only one losing hours of my evenings and weekends to random things. Jordan has been listening to lengthy Survivor podcasts – one morning he was up at 4:00 am and couldn’t go back to sleep, so he found a podcast that kept him busy until 7:15. Ryan likes to look on realtor pages and virtually visit houses on the market. He’s very into whether the houses are old and cluttered, or are redecorated, and will show me photos, asking when we can redo his bedroom, bathroom, and many other things in our house.

“We just did the kitchen a little over a year ago,” I remind him. “And the shower in my bathroom right before that.”

“So when can we do the other rooms and get new furniture?” (because, you know, we’re made of money and can just renovate the whole house on a whim)

“We can’t.”

“Well, how ‘bout we just move then?” he’ll often suggest. “I can find us a house.”

Speaking of obsessions, Dan has become very interested in his genealogy and recently discovered records dating back to Eastern Europe from great, great, great grandparents  – birth, death, immigration records… it’s interesting stuff, and he tends to research this for hours and talk about it – a lot. When he’s buried in his iPad searching, I can’t get him to concentrate on anything else.

His focus on this is just as intense as when he did 23andMe a couple of years ago and continuously shared his results with us as they were updated. He was most intrigued with his .2% Sardinian roots (which have since expanded to .6% when 23andMe changed its algorithms). Keep in mind, Dan has an interesting DNA background as it is, but it was the Sardinian piece he constantly talked about.

“I’m .2% Sardinian,” he told us proudly several times a week and shared this with anyone who unknowingly brought up the topic of genealogy.

Jordan and I regularly made fun of this. “Did you know Dad was Sardinian?” Jordan would ask when Dan found ways to bring it into meal-time conversations.  

“No way! That’s wild!” I’d reply.

A couple of years ago, we were out to dinner with friends, and one of our friends mentioned genetics. I was sitting next to Jordan and we made eye contact right away. I whispered, “I give it 3 minutes.”

“Bet you it’s less than 30 seconds,” he whispered back. “And 5, 4, 3…”

“Speaking of genetics, I found out I have Sardinian roots!” Dan exclaimed to our friends.

“Nicely played,” I said to Jordan.

Ryan’s questions

I’m sure I’ve mentioned in other blogs Ryan likes to ask lots and lots of questions. About 90% of them start with Mom. I think he says the word, Mom, 600 times a day. “Mom,… why are…?“Mom, what’s going to happen when…” “Mom, when is…?” “Mom, remember when…?”

He mostly sits on the couch with what I call his ‘equipment’ surrounding him. His iPad, phone, charging block with multiple USB ports, and plugs, which I’m constantly tripping over. I’m always telling him to move his equipment before he causes an accident.

Ryan’s questions generally fall into three categories:

  1. Questions about things that happened in the past (e.g. bad behavior stories), which he knows the answer to but wants to hear me say it again.
  2. Questions about an upcoming event where he has concerns (e.g. his recent IEP meeting). These questions have also likely been answered many times, but he finds comfort in talking about them over and over.
  3. Questions about something in the future where I don’t have an answer and can’t control whatever the topic is (e.g. the weather), but he wants to hear what I think, take it as gospel and then ask me about it again. (and again…)

The third category was the source of most questions last month, with the majority being about the COVID-19 vaccine. Questions focused on when our family members in the 65+ category will get the vaccine, when the four of us will get it, what we can safely do this summer if we all get the vaccine by then, etc. It originally seemed promising. I was guessing, based on the news, our 65+ family, and maybe Marni as a teacher, would be vaccinated in February/March, and the rest of us by Summer. Given that timeframe, of course we’d go on vacation. I might even send him back to school in the Spring, knowing our older family members wouldn’t catch anything he might bring home.

“What do you mean by summer, Mom? May? June?”

“Hopefully one of those” I said.

But PA, like many states, is very behind in rollouts, and if my 95-year-old grandmother can’t get an appointment, some days it seems unlikely the vaccine will get to those of us who are younger and don’t have preexisting conditions in time for the summer.

“It could be July/August,” I said on another day.

“I thought it was May or June,” he argued.

“Well, I was just guessing. I’m not in charge of the vaccine.”

Why not?”

“Ry!”

“But, Mom, it’s May or June, right?”

“Ryan, I don’t know!”

“If we get the vaccine, can we go to Hawaii?” (We were supposed to go in August, and of course we cancelled that trip.)

This went on for weeks.

One day, it seemed so dismal hearing about how hard it is for people to get appointments here, so when Ryan asked, I snapped. “It’s going to be 2025!”

“Huh?” he asked, staring at me like I had lost it. “You’re kidding, right?”

“No, it’s never happening. We’re going to spend the next four years together in this house. Four more years of you on the couch with your equipment. Four more years of negotiating space when Jordan needs quiet so he can record something for school – because he’ll be taking online college music classes from his room. Four more years of Dad sitting hunched over at that bay window in the bedroom. Four more years sitting in my basement office with no sunlight. When someone compliments your elementary school artwork on the wall behind me while I’m on a video call (which happens frequently – my walls are full of the boys’ artwork), I’ll say, ‘Thank you. My boys, who are almost 21, made them. I meant to replace the school art with big canvas prints Ryan took in Hawaii, but we never made it to Hawaii because we’re still waiting for the vaccine!!!’”

“Mom? Are you having a temper tantrum? Do you need a time out?”

Yes.

After about 30 seconds… “Mom? When will we really get the vaccine?”

Most days I’m generally positive, but every so often, it’s easy to hit a wall.

As we kick off February, I’m raising my glass of sparkling water on this cold and snowy Monday in hopes of an early spring — and to an emergency authorization of the new J&J vaccine helping speed up the rollout — so everyone who wants to can be vaccinated by the Summer!