Monday, November 23, 2009

Dancing & Scooting with the Sussman Boys


Here are two very different videos from our activities of the week. Matan had the culmination of his month of initiation into Bnei Akiva on Saturday night. The entire yishuv comes out for a show put on by all of the kids in their various units. Matan's group was surprisingly good! Josh took this video of them doing their routinue...and even if you aren't related to Matan, you might actually enjoy it. Two amazing things from the activities that night.

1. The Rav of the yishuv spoke before the performances and he said that 20 years ago there were 4 (yes FOUR) Bnei Akiva kids in the yishuv. They had to figure out how to get to Alon Shvut (a neighboring community) for Shabbat for their Bnei Akiva activities because they certainly didn't have enough kids to do them here. This year - Saturday night - hundreds upon hundreds of kids were participating in the same place - right here in Neve Daniel. Amazing what the vision and determination of a few can create.

2. After Matan's performance, we came home, but Matan went on to watch the rest of the shows. We told him to come home when it finished and to wake up if we weren't up. Low and behold, he woke midnight! How amazing is that to be able to sleep while knowing that your 9 year old son isn't home and that he'll be walking home by himself at midnight. It's truly an amazing thing to live in a yishuv.

The other video is just because I'm Zeli's mom and I think his crawling system is the funniest, and cutest thing in the entire world. Sue me for gloating over my kid : ) .


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Household Chores & Such

I try my best to keep up with all of the housework and other household maintenance. I've got a laundry system, a grocery shopping system, a dirty dishes system, etc. etc. etc. The kids always have something to wear - and our soldier always manages to get back to his base with clean clothes. Yet, there is one item that I absolutely, unequivocally, and passionately WILL NOT do. See if you can figure out what it is from this dialogue:

Josh was in the laundry room last night pulling something out of a box. Here is the conversation he had:

Yehuda: What's that?
Josh: What?
Yehuda: What's that thing you have in your hand?
Josh: It's an iron.
Yehuda: A what?
Josh: (laughing) An iron, Yehuda.
Yehuda: What do you do with it?
Josh: Well, in some houses, you iron clothes with it. In our house, you do art projects and let it get dusty.
Yehuda: Oh - ok... (as if that was a normal answer)...and off he ran.

Gotta love when your kids innocently point out your shortcomings.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Amichai's 5th birthday is this week. I think, for the rest of my life, that his birthday will be a benchmark for our Aliyah. I arrived in Israel with Nefesh B'Nefesh five months pregnant with Amichai. I look back on that experience and marvel at how daring we were (at least in my opinion) when we arrived. I needed, quite quickly, to find a doctor, a hospital, and a doula. I also needed to become familiar with the different ways that delivery and recovery are done here and the Israeli mentality in the recovery ward. It was all quite an experience - but, I must say, it ended up being a fantastic one at Hadassah, Ein Kerem in Jerusalem. And, I might add, it was my fastest and calmest delivery.

So, today I am reflecting on Amichai's cute little life and on our Aliyah. When we named Amichai, we wanted a real Israeli name - and an "Aliyah" name, as we referred to it. An Aliyah name is one that reflects how you feel about picking up and moving around the world, and one that indicates a bit about why you've moved.

So, we decided on Amichai (My Nation Lives). But...we didn't just stop with Amichai. We went for the gusto by naming him Amichai Oz (My Nation Lives IN STRENGTH). I remember, at his bris, thinking "Wow - that is a lot of name to give to one little guy." And it is.

At the same time, his name reflects so much about why we all make Aliyah and about what our children mean to us in this process. While we certainly love our children to the end of the Earth - they aren't entirely "our" children when we come here. They belong to us, certainly, but they also belong to Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) and to Am Yisrael (the nation of Israel). We will, after all, be sending each of these beautiful boys into the Israeli army. While Amichai is our little guy, he's also a representation of our Aliyah, of a nation that is alive and well and growing in strength everyday, and of a hope for the future here.

May Amichai continue to grow and develop in strength, and may our Am (our nation) continue to do so as well.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Growing Up, Bnei Akiva Style

I remember the first day that I sent Matan to daycare. He was three months old, and I couldn't believe that I had to ask someone else how much he had had to drink, when he had napped, and if he had smiled. How could I not be monitoring those things myself all day long? Such, as many of you know, is the life of a working mom.

And of course, from that time on, I've let go little by little of my control and monitoring over him. When he left the Yishuv to go to kindergarten in Efrat, I really didn't know what to do with myself. With Matan commuting on a bus each day to and from school, I couldn't pop my head in each morning to say hi to the teacher, or check in the afternoon to see how he was doing.

Every parent knows this feeling...there are so many baby steps along the way as we watch our children grow up and as we have a little bit less to do with the intricate details of their lives.

So, after five years of waiting since we made aliyah, Matan has finally joined Bnei Akiva. Bnei Akiva is one of the national youth movements here in Israel. It's been around since the 1920s. The youth movements are so strong in Israel that the entire country lets the kids out of school early on Tuesday afternoons for afternoon youth movement activities. I kid you not. Every Tuesday afternoon, the kids go to their clubhouse of sorts for Bnei Akiva (or for another youth movement in other areas of the country). Every Shabbat, they also get together with their group. And, a few times during the year they go on campouts and have special activities around Israel. They have a group leader who plans their meetings and they do....well...I don't really know what they do yet since we've just started!

Bnei Akiva starts only in fourth grade, so we've been waiting all this time for Matan to be old enough. Now that he is, we feel strange as we've reached another milestone. During the first month of the Bnei Akiva year (that's now) they are very busy getting their room ready in the clubhouse and practicing for a big ceremony. So, Matan is going almost every other night at about 5 pm until bedtime to hang out up the street.

A few days ago, when Matan was out, yet again, Josh turned to me and said, "You know, I really miss Matan! We waited all this time for him to be old enough for Bnei Akiva, and now it's really weird that he's not home." And it is! Yesterday, Matan went home from school with a friend, then went to the weekly class the Rabbi gives, then went to Bnei Akiva, and finally came home after I was already out at dinner with friends. This morning, when we saw him, I couldn't believe that it had been 24 hours since I'd last seen him! And it reminded me of those first few hours when I dropped him at the babysitter 9 plus years ago.

And so begins another stage in Matan's maturation - and in our acceptance of him as a kid who's getting older and becoming more independent each day.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Give that Lady a Raise!

Today, Josh and I had a lot of errands to run, and then I dropped him at work. Since I was in the neighborhood....I couldn't pass up the chance to drop into my favorite clothing store.

While I was on maternity leave over a year ago, Zeli and I discovered Mekimi and went there a number of times. I think I may even have blogged about it. One time when we were there, Zeli was cranky, and the ladies who worked at the store took him out of the stroller to rock him and walk around with him. The next time that I went in, they asked me how Azriel was doing.

So, now, it's been about a year since they last saw him, and at least six months since I was last in the store. Today, when I walked in, the same woman was working. I smiled at her and walked to the clothing to start browsing. She came right over, smiled and said, "How's Azriel?"

"You've got to be kidding," I said. "How could you possibly remember my child, and how in the world do you remember his name?!" I might think that he's the cutest guy in the world - but I do happen to be his mom!

"You don't forget a child like Azriel," was her answer. Now, she may very well be a very good saleswoman, and perhaps she's also good with names, but I, for one, am impressed! I'm tempted to call her supervisor to recommend a raise! I don't know if these types of things happen elsewhere in the world, but they certainly happen with some frequency here, in Eretz Yisrael!

And...while I have other observation today.

While driving back from my collection of errands, I was stopped at a red light. Who comes bopping down the middle of the road selling books, but a Chasid selling the book, The Garden of Emunah. This is a very spiritual book about how to get closer to Gd and about our relationship with Gd, etc.

Now, where I come from in L.A., the middle of the street is reserved for Mexicans selling things to hang in your rearview mirror; in South Carolina it's reserved for guys selling boiled (pronounced Bowled) peanuts. And in Israel? Well, of course, it's the location for that religious guy selling a popular book about spirituality. Hysterical.