Monday, July 27, 2009

Birds, Groceries & More

I've been watching the birds and enjoying their progression. While a few days ago the little birdies were just sleeping fuzz balls, they've come to life now. The mama keeps leaving them to get more food, and then she comes back to their excited little beaks. She feeds them by regurgitating her food and they clamor and peck to get to her beak first. Then, after a brief cuddle, she's off again to get more grub.

The first few times that she left, the boys were really anxious. Where did she go? Was she abandoning the birdies? How would we raise them? With a huge sigh of relief, the boys would then give me the play-by-play as she returned. "She's back!" Amichai would yell, and everyone would come running. Now, her errands are routine and we are getting used to watching her feed the babies and then fly away.
Here is a good shot of one of the birdies.

One of the kids asked this morning what would come next. How and when would the birdies leave? Of course, Josh and I don't know when, but Josh explained that at some point, she would push them out and watch them fly. Push them out? I thought to myself. Holy cow - will she really?

As usual, these birds became a great metaphor for parenting. We provide the warm home for the birdies, bring them into the world, feed and nurture them, and then, at some point, we push them out and on their way.
The trick, of course, is to know when to push - and how big of a push to give.

On an entirely different I went to the grocery store here in the yishuv, and I was amazed, as usual, at how great certain things are here in Israel. I don't have much extra time in my day for things like grocery shopping, going to the cleaners, etc. (Who has time for such things?) So, when I need to do a grocery shopping, we have a great store in the yishuv. It's a bit more expensive than going somewhere else - but it's right here and I can only fit so much into a packed day.

And what's better - they deliver! But the best part is that they will deliver without me having to even stand in line or pack my groceries. Today, I challenged myself to see how fast my turn-around time could be. I entered the store at 12:25 and ran around gathering up everything that I needed and throwing it into the cart. Then, I drove the cart up to the front of the store, waved to Shulamit who is in charge of the cash register, and declared, "Delivery Shulamit!" At 12:31 I was out the door and off to my exercise! The groceries were packed and delivered right to my home in a matter of an hour or two. (Yes, I should have sent my "green" bags, but I forgot to do so.)

Now, if only I could find someone to unpack everything and cook hearty meals all week long for us, free of charge!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Welcome Baby Birdies!

Yesterday, I went to say hello to mama bird (I guess I should have named her by now, huh?) and I thought I saw something poking around under her wings. I spent a few minutes watching her and realized that....her babies had arrived! I was so excited and I tried (tried...I really did) to call the kids over quietly. Ok - anyone who knows my house knows that the word "quietly" is a bit of a joke. So, you guessed it. We scared her off for a few minutes. But, the end result of that was that we got to see the adorable little birds. As Yehuda said, they look more like little ducks right now. They are squishy and little and have soft yellow feathers. They are curled up in little balls and look so adorable.

She seems to be sitting on them all day. Amichai wanted to know if she was squishing them. The kid has a good point. But, I explained that they enjoyed being squished, as they had been in tight quarters for a long time and now wanted to have warmth and comfort. Don't we all?

This morning, daddy arrived with some yummy worms and they seemed to be having a good time eating. And then, they went back under mommy for some quiet sleep time. Our pictures aren't the best (we really are trying not to scare her away!) but you get the idea.

Welcome to the world little birdies - we'll keep you posted on their progress!

Here, in front of the mama, you can see one of the little birds cuddling.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My New Friend

I've recently made a new friend, and I'm enjoying getting to know her. She's actually teaching me a great deal about myself, and about how to be a good mom.

Here is a picture of my friend:

She arrived on our windowsill about two weeks ago and began building her nest with the male partner. Apparently, they had scouted out the area together and deemed our sill to be a good place to begin a family. Who can blame them? She has been sitting there, without fail, for two weeks straight and I only found out that the eggs were actually there when I accidentally scared her.

I opened the window to get some air and she suddenly flew away. We knew she had been making the nest and preparing for the eggs, but we didn't have any proof at that time that the eggs actually were there. When she flew away, I saw the eggs and started to call her back. "Oh no!" I thought. "Come back to your eggs mommy! They need you." From that time, I've tried not to scare her and not to let the kids too close.

Each morning, I greet her as I start my day at the computer, and we sit about five feet from each other throughout my morning. How she continues to sit, patiently, through the noise that ensues in my home all afternoon, I really can't say. But, sit she does. As we wait for those eggs to hatch, here are the lessons that I'm finding myself learning from my new friend:

1. Location, location, location. Much of parenting is about location. We need to protect our children, find good neighborhoods for them, and shield them from danger. After we do our part, however, it's time to hope and to pray that everything will turn out well. We can only control so much.

2. Patience - Good things, she is showing me, come to those who wait. While I might want it NOW (whatever IT is), it's often worthwhile to be patient and to wait for good things to arrive.

3. Faith - Why she trusts that things will turn out alright for her babies, I don't know. But, she certainly seems to. She is teaching me to trust in nature's process and to have faith that things will turn out as they are supposed to, eventually and naturally.

4. Responsibility - She is showing me that not everything in life comes easily. Those little eggs of hers wouldn't hatch if she weren't committed to sitting on them week after week. And so, she's taken the responsibility of doing so and I can learn a great deal from her about this trait.

5. Cooperation - It's been very interesting to watch the male bird, and the part that he's taken in this process. He's been mostly responsible for building the nest, and he brings food to her as she sits. Parenting is certainly a team effort; both parents need to take roles and each of their roles is important, if different. They must cooperate to get the job done without blame, frustration or anger.

I certainly expect to continue to learn from my little friend in the coming weeks, and to celebrate when all of her work pays off! I'll keep you posted.

Monday, July 13, 2009

21 Amazing Things About My Life in Israel

This morning, five years ago, we awoke in a friend's house in Potomac, surrounded by 12 duffel bags. We packed the car, and drove up the hill to our recently sold house, where we would pick up our friend who was taking us to the airport in New York. Everything in the world that we owned was either on a boat, drifting towards another country, or in our car. As we drove up to our old house, rubbing the sleep from our eyes, we saw a crowd of friends waving frantically and holding Israeli flags. They had come out (very) early in the morning to say goodbye - and to escort us back home, to Israel.

I burst into tears as I saw Jordan and Stella, Seth and Julie, Brian and Elana, and Paul and Sara frantically waving the Israeli flags and singing to us. What a send off.

And what a five years it's been!

I don't think you can get too sentimental as another year of Aliyah approaches, or that you can reflect too much on what an amazing accomplishment this process has been. I look back at the person that I was five years ago, and I marvel that I got on that plane.

I remember the night that our lift came and that we packed everything that we owned into it. Yehuda and I went back to our friends' house to sleep before the packers had finished. I stood there, in another person's empty living room, surrounded by my duffel bags thinking, Dear Gd, what in the world have we done? As I've told many other prospective olim - the time leading up to aliyah is much, much more difficult than the challenges that await you here. Saying goodbye, leaving family, leaving friends, selling houses, packing belongings, and wondering what you are going to are all infinitely harder than the facts on the ground once you arrive. It's the unknown that kept me up at night there - not the bureaucracy or the language barriers here.

And while there are still many frustrating moments, and many things that are difficult here, I can't help but reflect on the choice that we've made. This is not to say that we wouldn't have had a wonderful life had we remained in the States. Most people, barring unforeseen tragedies and terrible situations, make lovely lives for themselves and find great beauty in their children and their communities. I know that we would have been happy had we remained in Potomac, and I certainly loved our lives in the States. I miss family terribly, and that feeling isn't going to go away - no matter how many years we live here. That's just the choice that we've made.

But, with that said, here's a list of the things that I believe I would have missed had we not taken this opportunity:




Had we stayed in the States, these little guys wouldn't exist. The cost of day schools and of good educations in America make it prohibitively expensive to put children through the system. Here, while it still costs us money to raise these children, of course, we don't think of the cost in the same way and it doesn't cost nearly as much. Similarly, the daycare, camp and school systems are set up to allow people to more easily juggle their children - and it's more acceptable to have more kids. It's amazing to think that these beautiful, amazing boys wouldn't exist if we had remained in the States.

3. Matan wouldn't have just finished the entire FIVE books of the Torah, reading and learning every single word with his teacher by the end of 3rd grade.


Yehuda wouldn't have just completed the first book of the Torah, Bresheit, and we wouldn't have gone to Ma'arat Hamachpela for his celebration.

5. I wouldn't look out my window to see the Judean Hills and the land that my ancestors lived on and fought for.

6. I wouldn't be able to take a stroll or bike ride on Derech Ha'avot (the Path of the Fathers) which is right down the street. This is the road where Avraham brought Yitzhak to sacrifice him and where the Jews would walk from Beer Sheva to Jerusalem three times a year to make their offerings at the Temple.

7. I wouldn't have an adoptive soldier sleeping on my couch right now, preparing to go back into the army tomorrow to serve his country.

8. I wouldn't recently have attended Jeff's initiation ceremony at the Kotel, bringing Matan and Yehuda with us to see the commitment exhibited by Jeff and his fellow soldiers as they prepare to join the Israeli army.

9. My 9 and 7 year olds wouldn't be at the daycare center right now picking up my 2 year old and walking home with him.

10. Josh wouldn't be standing at the airport, greeting hundreds of new olim who have just arrived and are using their bodies to declare their commitment to the Jewish State and the Jewish People.

11. I wouldn't be watching as the pomegranates bloom, getting ready to ripen exactly in time for Rosh Hashanah. How do they know?

12. I wouldn't have spent Friday in the Golan, a beautiful, serene part of Israel that we get to cherish any day that we want to do so.

13. I wouldn't be a half an hour drive from two of the most holy locations in the world - the Kotel (Western Wall) and the Maara (the Cave of the Patriachs).

14. I wouldn't live amongst people like the Mandells and the Goodmans, olim who have buried sons in grief and agony, and who have made incredible choices to honor their sons since then.

15. My kids wouldn't be fluent in two languages from the time that they are three, understanding instinctively when to speak which one, and to whom.

16. My 7 year old wouldn't ask me on a regular basis when Gilad (Shalit) is coming home already.

17. I wouldn't walk down the street, listening to Russian, Amharit, Hebrew, French, English and Spanish on a daily basis in Jerusalem.

18. Purim, the one day holiday, wouldn't last for over two weeks, and my children wouldn't come home every single day looking like this:

19. I wouldn't cry while watching fireworks on Independence Day each year.

20. I wouldn't have had the privilege of welcoming three other families to Neve Daniel from our old lives - the Frankls, Levins and Levys - and of having had a small influence on their decision to join us here!

21. I wouldn't have given birth at Hadassah - a hospital that is written about all the time in my Hadassah magazine and that is known throughout the world. (Instead, I would have given birth at Holy Cross Hospital - what a difference!) And my kids wouldn't have been born in Jerusalem, ir haKodesh.

For these reasons, and so many more, I celebrate our lives in Israel today.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Our Golan

Josh and I have tried to commit to doing something fun and different with the kids each Friday during the summer. This week, our friends invited us to spend Shabbat with them at Kibbutz Tirat Zvi. Our kids LOVE going there - what could be bad about kibbutz life for kids? They have free reign of the grounds, get to eat in the cafeteria, go to the little farm, and run around with their friends. It's quite fun. So, we decided to make a weekend of it and we left on Thursday at 5pm.

After a good night sleep, we were ready to go on Friday. We spent the day exploring the Golan and had the most amazing time. I'm embarrassed to say that I haven't been to the Golan since we moved five years ago. Each summer since we've been here, we've either been traveling to the States to see family, or I've been pregnant and near the end of my term! was wonderful to finally get there.

It may be a good thing that we haven't been there as a family until now - because I might have forced us to move. I'm simply in love with the Golan. It has an incredibly refreshing feel to it - with wide open spaces, beautiful landscapes and a feeling of isolation and serenity. Everywhere that you look, there is a water hike to enjoy, a ruin or historic area to learn about, and a winery to visit. It's a magical area.

We started at Mt. Bental where there is an old Syrian bunker and fortification that they used against us in 67 and that we subsequently captured. You can explore the trenches, walking through them and seeing the underground bunkers where the soldiers slept and planned their attacks. Perfect for a group of little boys to run through and explore.

Next, we went to Bustan HaGolan, a beautiful, picturesque place to pick fruit. They've set up a wonderful collection of activities there. We went on a tractor ride, where they pointed out how incredibly close the Syrian border was from our tractor and told us some of the history of the area and the struggles.

We picked blackberries to the point that we all looked like we were born with black hands and mouths!

Then, the kids made blackberry pies with their own finds, relaxing in hammocks while the pies baked. It was a lovely location and we all had an amazing time there.

Next, it was off to Aniam, a community that has built a small artist colony. They have a pedestrian street filled with eclectic buildings. Each building has different artistic wares - from silver jewelry and wooden toys to ceramic vases and dresses. There are two delicious restaurants and a fantastic array of items to browse through and to buy. We had a great lunch there and then enjoyed looking at all of the art (while we yelled "Don't touch! Don't break that" at the kids).

Next, it was off to climb on tanks in a small memorial. The kids enjoyed jumping and climbing on the tanks (one last chance to tire them out before the drive back to kibbutz!) We took a peek at a few communities on our drive back, including Hispin and Nov, amongst others.

From the Golan, we returned to the Speters on Kibbutz Tirat Zvi and had a great Shabbat with them. The kibbutz just celebrated 72 years! From the kibbutz, you can look out at the Jordanian mountains. While it is picturesque now, I can't imagine what it must have felt like before the founding of the State, and in all of the early wars, looking out at your enemy right across the way and knowing that you were defending the State on that side.

Similarly, spending time in the Golan emphasizes for me, yet again, how incredibly special all of our land is, and how constant the need to defend it and to ensure its survival is. When you travel through most other countries, you aren't constantly reminded that someone else wants this land - and that they mean to take it in a serious way. Here, traveling through the Golan I kept marveling at the beauty of the land, at the strategic location, and at the great lengths that we have taken to beautify and maximize our space.

May we continue to enjoy these incredible locations - and to make the most of them - for centuries to come. They are our home and I feel privileged to have had the chance to enjoy so many great activities in the Golan this past weekend. And to show the kids one more piece of the puzzle that makes up their country - a piece that is theirs to enjoy and to admire.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Sentimental at 5

I can't help but sit here feeling sentimental today. This morning, while Josh was at the arrival ceremony as part of the Nefesh B'Nefesh staff, the boys and I sat in front of the computer watching the live pod cast of the landing of the first plane of the summer. I imagine I will be 120, having seen 100 planes land, before I stop crying at these ceremonies. The beauty and power of them is truly overwhelming. The boys are so funny; they try to ask me questions while we watch the video and, between big gulps of air and tears, I try to mumble my way through the answers. They turn to me to see what's wrong and are about to ask, and then they say, "Oh mommy - there you go again."

And, indeed, there I go again.

Our five year aliyah anniversary is next week - and I simply can't believe that it's been that long. When I watch the arrival ceremonies, all of those memories come flooding back. The fear and anxiety before making aliyah, the exhaustion of the plane, the anticipation as you approach Israel and are about to see land, the moment that the plane touches down and the amazing cheering, the soldiers lining the way off the plane and welcoming you, the heat, the cheers, and the new life.

Today, when I was watching, I was struck in a way that I haven't been struck before. The plane landed and everyone was preparing to open the doors. The stairs were in front of the plane, and you could imagine all of the people inside gathering their belongings and waiting for those doors to burst open. While watching the anticipation and the build-up to that moment, I couldn't help but think of the Holocaust.

The Holocaust, you say? Well, that's a bit odd. Perhaps. But let me explain. I certainly don't tie the entire significance of the State of Israel to the Holocaust, as some of our American political leaders have tried to do recently. Israel's history goes way, way beyond the Holocaust, and is grounded in thousands of years of history, oppression, fighting, persistence, resilience, and more. With that said, I was thinking today of the millions of Jews who were rounded up and pushed into cattle cars. They, too, stood packed together in anticipation as the doors were about to open. These doors, however, brought dread, doom, death and destruction. Can you imagine if someone could have shown them the pod cast of another set of doors? A set of doors attached to a plane that was bringing Jews from around the world back to their homeland? Doors that were about to burst open into freedom, into a Jewish life, into a future, and into the fulfillment of the Zionist dream.

Compare those two sets of doors - one the oppressive doors of the cattle car of destruction, and the other the liberating doors of an El Al plane bringing the same Jewish people home. It's a mind-boggling juxtaposition.

As we approach five years in Israel, I sometimes wonder how the heck we ever got here. At other times I wonder how we were ever anywhere else. Some days are ordinary and I forget the significance of the life we are leading; other days are certainly frustrating and draining. Overall, most days offer some form of magic and a deep appreciation of the land that we have been granted - and that we have come back to.

Here's to another plane load of Jews making their way home to build their lives here - in our land and with our people. Welcome Home!