Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar

I love sharing experiences like the one that I had today. Bedrooms in Israel don't have built in closets the way that most do in the States. Instead, we purchase standing closets. We've purchased all of our children's beds and closets from one store in Talpiot and have been very happy with the quality and service overall.

About six months ago, however, while Matan was getting something from his closet, the door literally ripped off! I was standing there so I can attest to the fact that Matan didn't try to imitate the Incredible Hulk...he simply opened it in a normal fashion. I was quite annoyed with the workmanship from the company, and I called them to see if they could send a worker to fix the closet (or to see if there was a larger issue). "Sure, sure" they said....

And then, of course...nothing happened.

I called again,

and again,

and again.

Finally, I gave up. I figured that we would, eventually, be purchasing more kids' furniture, and I would call and give them one last chance to fix the closet before we took our business elsewhere.

Just this morning, coincidentally, I thought about them again and thought that I should call. And then I sighed, and decided I just didn't have the strength for it today.

So, while driving through the Yishuv to get my haircut, I was stopped in my tracks by the big truck sitting at my friend's house. Shoshi had a baby three weeks after I did, and she had clearly just purchased something from Modeel (the store).

I was so excited, I almost drove off the road! Grabbing my phone, I called the store and asked to speak with the owner (as I have every time).

"Your truck is in the Yishuv!" I declared. "And it's not leaving until those workers come to my house!"

As he has before, the owner grilled me about how long we've had the furniture and insinuated that we must have pulled too hard or done something else wrong. As I have before, I explained that we did nothing wrong and that those workers better make a house call today! He took down my information and said he'd be in touch.

Yeah, right.

So, I sat with my phone in my lap during my haircut, in anticipation of their call. When I finished my haircut, and still hadn't heard from them, I made a decision. I drove right over to Shoshi's house and explained the situation to her. Together, she and I marched down to the workers and she (with her much better Hebrew) started to explain my situation. Before finishing her sentence, the worker said, "Sussman? Right? Yeah, she's on my list to go to next."

Yahooo! I couldn't believe I had actually managed to get them to come over. I left Shoshi's house patting myself on the back, but still skeptical that they would actually come. But, low and behold, an hour later he was at my door.

Of course, the work that needed to be done only took 5 minutes.

5 minutes of work that was accomplished only after 6 months of badgering....

but a story of success through perseverance and creativity in the end!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hashem's Little Reminders

There are times when I hear Hashem talking to me very clearly, and I have to admire his handy work. It's been a very difficult two weeks - to say the least - while Josh has been traveling. The baby is...well, a baby...with all of the needs that entails. Sleep is a thing of the past, and a shower is a lucky reward when I'm smart enough to catch the chance. What I didn't expect, however, while Josh was away, was the difficulties that I'd have with our two year old and our four year old. Anyway, suffice it to say that it definitely, as Hilary Clinton tells us, "takes a village" and I have an amazing village at my side.

While taking a walk this morning, and thinking about these issues, the first person that I saw was a reminder about perspective. This family lost their 15 year old son in the Mercaz HaRav terrorist attack a few years ago. Whenever I see the mom, I am overcome with sadness. Today, as she walked slowly up the street, I wondered to myself what it could possibly be like to awaken each morning with the burden that she carries - and I thanked Gd not to know. My sleeping issues certainly became trivial in that moment.

Flash forward to the afternoon. There is a new piece of park equipment at Gan Chanan and the kids are very excited about it.

While we were there this afternoon, a lovely and amazing acquaintance in the yishuv came up to wish me a Mazal Tov. While talking about the baby, I mentioned that Josh is away and that it's been difficult, etc. She gushed with sympathy, asking me what I needed, why I hadn't contacted her, how she could help and more. I was quickly embarrassed that I had brought up the subject at all. This is a 40 year old woman who became widowed in her early twenties with two tiny girls at home when her husband was killed in a military accident. She then battled breast cancer last year and had a double mastectomy, among other procedures. And here she was asking me how I was handling things and what I needed? Again...a bit of perspective from Hashem.

And, of course, as I watched the dozens of kids clamoring on the new, absolutely fantastic, piece of park equipment, I couldn't help but reflect on Chanan's entirely too short life. My children were jumping and playing and yelling on the equipment that Chanan would not get to enjoy...and that his parents had brought to the yishuv in his memory so that so many others would.

I get it Hashem.

Another sleepless night?


More insanity from my two year old?


But things will go on; I will get through these tiny stumbling blocks, and I will kiss my children goodnight tonight with a bit of extra patience and tenderness thanks to the signs I've been given today.

Thanks, Hashem. I certainly needed that reminder today.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

The Spark of Their Lives

There are two main things that I absolutely love about the first Shabbat after my sons have been born.

First is the bracha that fathers (and sometimes mothers) give to their children on Friday night. This blessing allows us to follow in Yaakov Avinu's footsteps. In the Torah, before he died, Yaakov (Jacob) blessed his two grandsons, Ephraim and Menashe. He said that they should become role models for the Jewish people in the future. So, too, there is a lovely tradition for us to bless our children on Friday night. My kids line up after kiddush, waiting in order of age for their blessing.

The first Friday night after we've brought home a new baby is always very special. The baby gets to the back of the line, so to speak, and receives his first of thousands of blessings from his father. This tradition always makes both me and Josh cry, as Josh puts his hands over the baby's head and recites the bracha that has been used for thousands of years for our children.

The other incredibly touching ritual happens during candle lighting. I light a candle for each of my children, and I love the moment when I add a new candle to the collection. That first Shabbat, standing in front of the candles and adding an extra spark, holds a great deal of power for me. I'm welcoming the baby into our family and both literally and figuratively adding his spark to the world.

And - even more special is the particular candlesticks that we use. When Josh and I got engaged, my Auntie Janie and Uncle Dennis bought us some very unique candlesticks. They are made of ceramic and have all sorts of symbols painting on them in a playful way. Mine has a picture of a woman with a daughter (hmmmm...missed on that one) and Josh's has a drawing of a man with a son. They also have hearts, shooting stars, and many other decorative features - and the date of our wedding. When Matan was born, Janie had another candlestick made by the same artist, adding to our beautiful collection. It has Matan's name in English and the date of his birth on it. The same was done when Yehuda was born.

And then...we made aliyah. Amichai's birth approached, and I wondered if we would be able to get another candlestick. Would Janie ask the artist for another one and then have it shipped all the way here? Would I have to figure out what to do? As it turns out, the artist stopped making these - and we were stuck! What would we do? Find other candlesticks?

At the time, I was taking a ceramics class in the yishuv with a professional ceramics maker. One of my friends in America suggested that maybe I could make Amichai's candle myself. When I finished laughing at the idea of me accomplishing such a task, it suddenly dawned on me that maybe the teacher could make it!

And so, the lovely tradition continued. She had never made a candlestick before, and she had certainly never seen one like ours. But, we gave her an example to work from, and she created a beautiful candlestick for Amichai with his name in Hebrew and the Hebrew date of his birth.

And so, it has continued for each kid. Now, it's become a bit of a joke. I've called her after each birth saying, "Yehudit! It's time again! I need another candlestick." And with great joy, she makes the next candlestick for us.

The moment when I bring the candlestick home and place it with the others is a very powerful one for me. I love to see the collection of candles growing, and to light the new flame for our new little addition. I certainly never in my wildest dreams envisioned a case that would be quite so full of candles - so full of the spark of life!

Every time that I look at these unique, quirky, slightly imperfect candles, I feel in awe. I love that my candlesticks aren't expensive silver pieces of art. They are as unique as is each child and they so perfectly reflect the creativity and ingenuity that I hope each of our children embodies and will continue to embody.

May I continue to help to light the spark that is each child's energy for decades of health, joy and happiness ahead.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Witness to a Birth

While taking my first real walk this morning since the birth, I realized that there are a few interesting observations from Yakir's birth that I haven't shared yet. While I was in labor, an Arab woman walked into the delivery room. I was pretty far along already, and was using all of my energy to focus and concentrate.

Time for a side note here already: When I was in labor with Yehuda 8 years ago, a clown walked into the delivery room to entertain me. Yes folks - you read this correctly. I guess women who have epidurals like to be entertained. But, those who don't have epidurals definitely do NOT want to be entertained and I almost killed the clown. It was all Josh could do to get him to leave the room before I found something to throw at him.

So, with that experience under my belt, I was wondering what this Arab woman wanted. My doula had warned me that there might be students coming through the delivery rooms at Hadassah and that I should think about whether or not I wanted to accept them in. This woman explained that she was a medical student and that she was hoping to watch a birth for the first time. I'm not sure why I immediately said yes, but I told her that it was fine if she stayed, as long as she didn't talk to me.

She stayed completely out of the way, and I really didn't notice her again, until after the birth. Right after giving birth, when the midwife put Yakir on my stomach, I looked up to find the woman crying. It was an amazingly powerful moment and one that I won't soon forget.

For a brief moment, in a delivery room at Hadassah Ein Kerem, we became simply people witnessing an amazing miracle of birth, rather than an Arab woman and a Jewish woman standing on opposite sides of thousands of years of fighting and differences.

She stood there crying at the birth of my Jewish baby - at the birth of a baby - and I marveled at how nice it was to be crying tears of joy together, rather than tears of hatred, strife and death.

If only it were always this easy.

But for one brief moment, at 5:11 pm on November 8th, it was.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Welcome Yakir Yaakov: In Memory of Papa Jerry

The Brit of Yakir Yaakov ben Yehoshua Raion v'Reuma Michal Sussman

As many of you know, and have been reminding me for four years now, at Eliav’s brit in 2006 Josh closed by inviting you to the britot that we would be having in 2008 and 2010. While I hate to admit that the man seems to have navua – the facts are certainly on the ground…And so today I welcome you with incredible gratitude to Hashem to the Sussman brit of 2010.

As you probably know, we struggled a bit to decide on a name for this little guy. I had heard the name Yakir a while ago and put it in the back of my mind as a possibility. No matter what else we considered (suggestions from friends, the Facebook challenge or ideas from our kids) I kept coming back to dear or beloved one. While many will see him as 'the sixth son' or 'one of six' or 'WOW...SIX BOYS?!?!?', I view him as one of a kind original and a miracle from Hashem, just like every one of his five big brothers. In giving him this name, Yakir, it is our hope that he will always know how special and unique he is to us.

When we went to the sonogram where we found out the sex of the baby, I have to admit that I was a bit shocked. Could it really be possible that I was producing yet another boy? (One of Josh's former interns has since pointed out that the likelihood of having a family composition like ours is 1.5%!!) As we walked out of the appointment, with me in shock, Josh said, “Well, of course it’s a boy Romi. It has to be – this baby is, after all, Papa Jerry’s neshama.”

And indeed it is. My grandfather, Jerry Weinhouse, whose Hebrew name was Yaakov Yosef ben Birtie, died about 2 weeks before we found out that we were pregnant. I was raised around the block from my nana and papa and grew up in their home, and in their warm embrace, as much as I did in my own.

In so many ways, I feel an incredible sense of coming full circle with this brit and with the naming of our son, Yakir Yaakov and I’d like to share these thoughts with you.

10 years ago, Papa Jerry flew to Washington, D.C. to be able to hold his first great-grandchild during his brit. We were all a bit worried at Matan’s brit that Papa would drop the baby, as he stood there crying and rocking Matan in his arms, but Papa couldn’t have had a prouder moment in his life. Today, I feel like we are holding Papa in our arms as we name our sixth son in his memory.

My papa earned two purple hearts during World War II as part of the American army. He was shot in the leg and bombed out of a tank…and certainly could never in his wildest dreams have imagined the creation of the State of Israel – let alone have imagined that one of his grandchildren would someday call this place our home. Today, as we come full circle, I feel a sense of astonishment and pride, considering that Papa’s 11th great grandchild, being named in his honor – will someday serve our country, but as part of a Jewish army, and in OUR Jewish nation.

As the birth grew closer, and I started to look ahead to see which Parsha the baby would probably be born during, I was, once again, stunned. The baby was scheduled to be born, according to his due date, during Parsha Toldot – when we first meet Yaakov in the Torah. And, of course, he was born right after this Parsha, and during Parsha Vayeitzei, when we first meet Yosef. Could Hashem be speaking more clearly to me? At the beginning of parsha Vayeitzei, Yaakov sees Hashem in a dream. Hashem explains to Yaakov that the ground upon which Yaakov lies will be given to Yaakov and to his descendents and that his offspring will spread out in all directions. He promises to guard Yaakov wherever he goes and that he won't forsake him. Here we are, thousands of years later, on the very ground that Hashem promised to the Jewish people - creating the descendents that he promised to give to Yaakov- and the descendents of my own Yaakov, my grandfather.

Finally, a last example of coming full circle. When Papa died, Josh took it upon himself to commit to saying Kaddish for him for the entire year. It has not been an easy commitment. While traveling for work, juggling family life each night, and dealing with a complaining wife who was often heard saying, “It’s time for minyan again? Already?” he has said Kaddish with compassion and grace all year for my grandfather. I want to publicly thank Josh for taking on this commitment for me and for Papa. As Josh finishes saying Kaddish in the next 10 days, I have, yet again, a profound sense of coming full circle. While moving away from the ritual of saying Kaddish, we will continue remembering my grandfather now, through the very existence of our son Yakir. Thank you Josh for the incredible commitment that you’ve shown to me and for keeping Papa’s memory alive all year.

And so, today, we welcome Yakir Yaakov ben Yehoshua Raion into our family, our incredible community here in Neve Daniel, and our greater community as part of Am Israel. My Papa was fiercely loyal to family and madly in love with his grandchildren and great grandchildren. He was a man of dreams, picking up his family from Chicago for a better life in Los Angeles and a man who adapted remarkably well to change, remarrying in his 70s when my grandmother suddenly died, and then finding love in his late 80s again in his senior home. Our bracha for our son is that he follow in his namesake’s footsteps, as a courageous, loving, devoted and adaptable part of Am Israel and Eretz Israel.

Thank you all for being with us today. We feel overwhelmingly blessed in our professional lives, in our family life, in our community life and in our life here in Israel and we appreciate the part that each and every one of you plays in our lives today. Mazal Tov!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Learning Through the Fear

It’s over. Thank Gd.

And at the same time, I know it’s just begun.

It’s hard, with the fear of the birth looming over your head, to think about too much else. And so, I was hoping that when I got to the other side of that fear and that reality, that I’d have a few minutes to look back and reflect.

Last week was, to say the least, quite stressful. By the time I delivered “6” (his temporary name) yesterday, I was 10 days overdue and felt like a 100 days over. During the last two weeks, while I was definitely miserable and nervous, I was also able to appreciate some wonderful moments and some great experiences. Here are a few of these observations.

1. I felt, particularly once my due date arrived and passed, like the Sussman family was being held in a warm embrace by just about everyone we knew. Yes, by the time we actually delivered, we were tired of hearing people say, “NU???” (which means, “So? News?”) but I definitely felt that the entire community of Neve Daniel, our work environments, and our families were all holding their breaths and waiting for that exciting moment to arrive. I felt like they were in it with us, if you will, and that so many people were encouraging, hoping and counting the minutes to hear the good news. It felt very supportive and also reminded me just how much our children are not just part of our small families – but part of our larger families, our Neve Daniel family, and Am Israel. We were delivering a baby for ourselves and our family – but it was being welcomed into so many other communities that were beyond our immediate family.

2. Reflexology – Getting desperate for the baby’s arrival, I went to a friend in the yishuv on Friday for reflexology. Now, I’m not a big proponent of alternative medicine. I’m certainly not saying it doesn’t work – I’m just saying that I have no experience with it and don’t usually turn to alternative sources for help. I am, however, quite open to the possibilities of these methods working, and I was willing to give it a try to see if it would work. While the reflexologist was working on my feet, I was suddenly overcome by so much pressure in my uterus, that I thought my water would break on the spot. She had not been telling me what area of the foot she was working on, or what this area connected to – I was just feeling intense pain and pressure. After a few minutes of this incredible pressure, she said, “Do you feel that? I’m working on your uterus right now.” I could not believe it! She worked on many areas of my body during the 45 minute session – but the only thing that felt a dramatic change was my uterus. It was really an incredibly powerful experience and one that has given me more reason to explore alternative medicine of this sort.

3. Kever Rachel – Rachel Imanu is buried only about 15 minutes from our home, and I’ve never been to her kever. Rachel was unable to have children for many years and she prayed a great deal to Hashem to allow her to have children. For this reason, her kever is known as a place where people go to in order to pray to conceive, to have a healthy baby, etc. Josh suggested last week that, after going out to brunch on Friday, we take a trip to Kever Rachel. In my usual fashion, I really didn’t feel like going and I wasn’t feeling well….but Josh convinced me that it would be a great experience and a good opportunity. When we got there, I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t been before. It’s literally 15 minutes from our home. It was a very moving experience. As I was in Kever Rachel, praying for an easy birth and a healthy baby, I realized all of the connections that I had at that moment to this place. We are planning to name the baby for my Papa Jerry, who died 10 months ago. Papa’s Hebrew name was Yaakov Yosef. Here we were at Rachel’s Tomb, praying for a healthy baby. Rachel was praying to give birth to a healthy baby with her husband – Yaakov. And, of course, when she finally did have a baby it was….of course, Yosef. The irony of the moment and the significance of my prayers were not lost on me as I prayed there, tying together thousands of years of history.

As I prepared mentally for the birth and tried to deal with my fear (yes, even a sixth birth can illicit massive fear), I kept thinking about how often we have to move through something difficult to get to something wonderful. I understood (at least conceptually) that the pain of the birth would lead to a beautiful, amazing birth and to a baby. How true is that in life in general. We are often forced to deal with things that are uncomfortable, scary, and even debilitating, only to find joy and fulfillment once we move through that difficult stage.

And now that the difficulty of the birth is behind me, I look forward to the many, many years ahead with our beautiful new baby – who will, Gd willing, be brought into the covenant of his people, under the protection of his community and within his very own homeland.


Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Coming Full Circle

Many things about this pregnancy and eventual (Gd willing!) birth have made me feel like I've come full circle. Most of these thoughts will be shared after the baby is born. There is one, however, that struck me recently and that I wanted to share.

When we first arrived in Israel 6 years ago, I was pregnant with our third boy, Amichai. We obviously knew nothing about the birthing procedures in Israel, about the hospitals, about finding a doula - or even about the vocabulary of birth. How do you say "Push!" or "epidural" or "contractions" in Hebrew? Hmmmmm.....

So, one day we were sitting at Pizzaria Efrat when the owner, Ann Goodman, sat down with us. We had never met her before, and she suddenly started telling me about giving birth in Israel. With nine children, Ann was certainly an experienced mother and the perfect person from whom to gleam advice. She was so cute. She took out one of those boards that you use to put your pizza on, and she created a glossary of necessary birthing terms for my use. We carried that pizza board to the hospital with us and actually checked the terms at times through the birthing process. I certainly won't forget her enthusiasm, kindness or help!

So, last Friday, Josh and I were at the mall in Talpiot when we stumbled into the Body Shop to buy some creams. Rather than allowing me to look at the creams, the young, clearly pregnant sales girl started firing questions my way. She was 8 months pregnant with her first, and when she found out from Josh that this was going to be our 6th, she simply couldn't stop asking questions. Was I happy at Hadassah, Ein Kerem? Would she be ok at Sharei Tzedek Hospital instead? Had I hired a doula? What was natural childbirth like? How long was the recovery after birth? and on and on and on....

I enjoyed the conversation, and really felt like I had come full circle. Four births in Israel later, I was standing there as the "expert" rather than the "novice" and offering my advice while using the extensive birthing vocabulary that Ann had started for me six long years ago.

So often, we simply go through our day without the time or energy to evaluate where we've been and how far we've come. It is moments like these that remind me of the incredible journey of aliyah that we've been on - and of the progress and changes that we've undergone in our six plus years here. Soon to be four births in Israel later, I can't wait to welcome another sabra into our family, our community, and our country and to sit back, for even a brief moment, and marvel at the length of the journey we are traveling and the process of growth and change we have experienced.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Raising Little Individuals

Someone said to me recently, "I can't believe you are having your sixth kid!" And it made me stop to think for a minute as well. Wow - that's a lot of children. It's a lot of seats at the dinner table (or at a restaurant). It's a lot of laundry to do each day, a lot of menu planning and a lot of beds to make. However, I rarely think of it as such.

First of all, I'm surrounded, in my community by people with very large families. Most of our friends have between 4 and 7 children, with a few who have 8 or 9.

Even more importantly, however, I see myself as Matan's mom. I'm Yehuda's mom. I'm Amichai's mom. I'm Eliav's mom. And I'm Azriel's mom. I don't see the collective count here - but I see each boy as the individual that he is and each relationship as standing on its own.

I am absolutely loving, lately, watching each of the boy's personalities develop. Matan, 10, has a fantastic sense of timing and a great sense of humor. Last week, he lost a tooth right as he was leaving for school. He put it under his pillow, but I managed to completely forget the incident all-together.

Two or three nights later, after he had already gone to bed, he came back up the stairs. With a sheepish grin he declared, "You know, the tooth fairy hasn't exactly done her job yet." Josh and I both burst out laughing. He had definitely called us on that one - and done it in such a cute way.

I gently apologized for the tooth fairy and reminded him that the tooth fairy might very well be a tired mommy who was 9 months pregnant.

Giggling, he returned to bed...and was happy the next morning to find that the guilt-ridden tooth fairy had left money - with interest.

Zeli, our two year old, is the kissiest kid I've ever seen in my life. I will sometimes hear something near my ear and, not realizing what it is, turn to find him kissing the air and trying to get to my head. He loves offering kisses and hugs to me, to Josh and to his brothers and he has the most gentle, tender little disposition (well, when he's not throwing himself at someone or tackling them to the ground) that we've seen.

I could go on and on. But, the point is that I see my job, as the mother hen of this collective, and often quite raucous, brood, to be that of an artist. My job is to watch each of these boys grow into his own spirit and to help him to develop into his own personality.

While the boys are very competitive, we try all the time to explain to them that each one of them is special and unique and that he doesn't have to be like his brothers.

Quite a monumental task we have before us. And one that I'm thrilled to be given the privilege of undertaking with baby steps each day. I can only wonder who this sixth personality is, waiting to arrive and to make our family complete sometime very soon!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Parsha in Action

Each year, the third grade kids at Matan and Yehuda's school are tasked with creating their own Tevat Noach, or Noah's Arks. They bring them to school and have a competition to see who has made the most authentic, creative version of the Ark.

When I first saw the notice for this event, I took a DEEP breath. Matan is very artistic, but also insanely driven when it comes to tasks of this sort. Two years ago he spent multiple tens of hours putting together his ark made of popsicle sticks. Two glue guns, many burns, and hours later, the ark was complete. It was quite a process.

So, when Yehuda came home a few weeks ago with his excitement, it was hard for Josh and me to show ours. Oh dear, I we go again. And - on top of the pressure to come up with a creative idea, he had to top Matan's idea. What ever were we to do?

And then, Yehuda had a brilliant idea. Could we, he wanted to know, buy a huge loaf of bread and make an ark out of it? It was was simple...and it was doable overnight!

We have a professional baker in the Yishuv, and I commissioned a huge loaf of bread from him. It was far more beautiful than what I needed, and I almost felt badly that we were going to use it for an art project and not for a festive event.

Oh well...Noah was calling.

After less than one hour of work, Josh and Yehuda had finished the ark. It arrived safely at school the next day - and...Yehuda ended up winning second place in the competition!

Josh and I are now dreaming about future projects, and trying to figure out how to make sure that all of them can be made from bread. Just think of chanukiahs made of bread....dreidles from bread....Pesach seder plates from bread....hmmm...I get carried away here, but you get the point : ).

Sometimes the best things in life come from quite simple ideas thought up by an 8 year old boy. Amen to that.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

May He Continue to Grow

We had a great time at Eliav's birthday party yesterday in his Gan (nursery school). At the same time, neither Josh nor I seems to be able to get away from the memories that this particular class brings to us. Eliav is in the same classroom this year that Yehuda was in when he was four. And Yehuda shared his fourth birthday party, in the same exact space, with Chanan. It was Chanan's last birthday, and the last picture that we have of him is of the two of them at their birthday party.

The memories are very powerful when we enter the same room, with the same birthday costumes, the same birthday songs and the same birthday atmosphere. It's a bit overwhelming.

We've already had Amichai's fourth birthday in the space, and I would have thought that we'd have moved beyond the memories by now. But, seeing Eliav sitting at the table where Yehuda and Chanan took their birthday picture certainly brought it all back.

What really struck me was the bracha (blessing) that one little girl gave to Eliav. During the birthday party, the teacher has the kids give the birthday boys brachot. It's a lovely idea and one that I find very powerful. So, this little girl's bracha to Eliav was that "he should continue to grow." What a strange bracha, I thought to myself. She didn't wish for him to continue to grow big and strong, or to continue to grow in ways of Torah learning, or to continue to grow into a great person. She simply wished for him to continue to grow. Period. End of bracha.


With Yom Kippur, the day of judgment, approaching in two days, and thoughts of Chanan in my head, her bracha gave me chills. Sometimes, it's the most simple brachot - the most straightforward of wishes - that truly have the most power.

He should continue to grow.

May Hashem grant this wish for Eliav and for all of us this coming year so that we may continue to grow, to live, to thrive and to do our best with what we've been given.

He should continue to grow.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

It's the Small Victories that Really Matter

We all get set in our ways at times, and my kids' nursery school teachers are no exception. At the beginning of the year, they won't hear of having a birthday party before the class has settled in. Eliav was born two days after Rosh Hashanah, which means that his birthday is right at the beginning of the school year. Last year, the teacher refused - and I mean refused - to even consider having a party for him until after Sukkot. The kids don't know each other...they don't know all of the dances...they don't know how to sit nicely...they don't know the songs....and on and on and on. She just wouldn't hear of it. And so, by the time that Sukkot had ended, I simply gave up. It wasn't Eliav's birthday anymore and he would have been confused about why he was suddenly having a party. End of story.

Come this fall and we are at it again. Since Rosh Hashanah fell so early this year, Eliav's birthday was this past Sunday, at the beginning of the second week of school. So, the kids have only been in school for a week, or even a bit less, and I knew I was in for a battle. It was, however, a battle that I was willing to undertake.

I find myself being willing to get more and more pushy the longer that I live here - and even to argue in Hebrew (yes, I impress myself!) Over Rosh Hashanah, I spoke with two other moms, both of whom said, "Oh, Romi, there is just no way that they will agree to have a party this week. Just wait until after Sukkot. It's no big deal."

So, armed with this knowledge, I took Eliav to school on Sunday and prepared for the fight. Of course, his teacher's day off is on Sundays, so I wasn't able to do anything. Grumbling in my car, annoyed that I was late to work without even accomplishing my goal, I noticed someone zipping into the parking lot. Behold - it was his teacher! I zoomed over and cornered her before she could leave. I explained the situation to her and the conversation went something like this:

Yael: Oh, no, we couldn't have the party yet. It's much too early. We can do it after Sukkot.
Me: Yeah, about that. Let's see. No. Eliav's birthday is today, he knows his birthday is today and he wants a party for his birthday - not a party for a month from now.
Yael: But the kids don't know each other yet and they don't know the routine.
Me: Right, so which day are we doing it?
Yael: And they are still confused about the songs we sing and they don't know the birthday routine and...
Me: Right, so which day is it again?
Yael: And.....what?
Me: I said which day this week is good for you. Don't care if they know the routine. Don't care if they sit well. Throw on some music, have Eliav dance and we'll blow out the candles.
Yael: But, but...really?
Me: Yep, really. He's having his party this week, so which day was that?
Yael: Well, um...I guess I can use some of the routines we did last year.
Me: Sounds great. Which day?
Yael: And, um, well, I guess, if they don't know everything it might still be ok...
Me: Yep, sounds great. Wednesday?
Yael: (Looking side swiped) What? Wednesday? Um, ok. But you'll have to find someone else to pair up with.
Me: Ok - already done. That will be Suriel, whose mother told me I'd never get this party before Sukkot. Sounds great.
Yael: Um, ok, how about 11:00.
Me: Nope - too late. Gotta get to work. How about 9.

And that was that! I left there feeling like the queen of the world! I had conquered the nursery school teacher and lived to tell about it! So, tomorrow we look forward to Eliav's birthday party in Gan. A celebration of four wonderful years for him - and a celebration of becoming a pushy advocate for my kids for me (even if the topic is only about birthday parties!).

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Giggling Washing Machine and the Car from Heaven

We really want for very little in our lives in Israel. We have virtually all of the same luxuries that we had in America, and we don't pine away for anything in particular. Or so I thought....

Two new items have come into our lives that have really made an enormous difference. Fortunately, one is here to stay...while the other is being returned as we speak.

When we made aliyah, we arrived with a European washing machine. There were many sound reasons that we made this purchase, but I had no idea what a transition it would be for me! I honestly don't know how the rest of the world does it. The European washing machine gets clothes much cleaner than does the American model - but each washing cycle takes exactly two hours to complete. The machine itself also holds less than half of what an American washer can hold.

This means that my laundry process has been.......a continual and never-ending process. With five children, and an adoptive soldier in the house for the past year and a half, there was rarely a moment when the machine hasn't been on. Changing the sheets on the beds could bring me near tears, as I knew that the machine would be tied up for a day and a half with the linens.

With that said - a ray of light came into our lives recently, as Josh's parents asked, "Can we buy you an American washing machine to ease Romi's burden?"

The machine arrived last week, and I have literally been giggling my way through my laundry. I throw in a load (an enormous load!), go to eat breakfast, and actually put the load in the dryer before work! The laundry baskets are empty each night, and I find myself staring at them in amazement. It's incredible how one small item can change the efficiency of one of your chores - and add a spring in your step at the same time!

The other item that we enjoyed for the month of August was a second car. Cars are astronomically expensive in Israel - in real dollar terms and in comparison to salaries. Having one car is a great luxury, which we are certainly thrilled to have. While some of our friends do have two cars - many do not, and it is one of the few items that I miss having from the States. This month, we were able to rent a car with my dad's generosity. Rather than just keeping it for the time that my dad was on vacation with us, Josh had the brilliant idea to see how much it would cost to keep it for the whole month. We have both felt like new people as we enjoy our efficiency and mobility. The kids seemed to "get" how great it was, as well, and Eliav dubbed it the "awesome" car. He spent the whole month saying, "Are we going in the awesome car today?"

What a difference the car has made in my ability to go to work when I need to, in Josh's ability to get back from work quickly, and more. The day when we thought that Yehuda had broken his elbow - and I needed to be in ten places at once - it felt like a miracle that Josh was able to go in one direction with one car while I went in the other.

Oh well...most good things do have to come to an end, and we become a one-car family again this evening as we bid the car goodbye. It was good while it lasted!

Nostalgically....Running Like Hell Out of August

As so often happens, it's time for school to start, and I find myself looking back with nostalgia over the summer. Don't get me wrong - I'm also breathing about the biggest sigh of relief you've ever heard; but I am doing so with some fond memories.

I've been dreading August for about six months, and driving Josh crazy talking about it for just as long. Since I'm no longer a teacher, August means figuring out what in the world to do with my five children while I show up at the office each day. NOT an easy task. Israel works very much like the European system in terms of the summer, and there are very few organized activities for kids in August. I don't know if the assumption is that everyone has the time and money to vacation, or if the assumption is that the grandparents are supposed to take over while the parents work, or if it's just assumed that we should all collectively pull out our hair and scream for a month. Whatever it is - the facts are that there are few ways to entertain the kids, while keeping them safe. Sigh.

We managed to survive the month with a combination of my mom's visit, my father's visit and amazing vacation up North, many babysitters and a bunch of trading off on Josh and my parts. My policy with the babysitters each day was to take a DEEP breath before I entered the house and to say to myself, "If they're all alive and breathing, then the babysitter did his/her job. Don't look at the mess....don't look at the mess....don't look at the mess."

It has not been the easiest month!

But, as I was driving to work at 6:50 this morning, I realized that I was feeling a bit nostalgic. It's nice for the kids to get out of bed when they want to do so, to play all day and to be creative, and to enjoy some free time. The kids go to school six days a week here, and there is always something going on. Whether they are dealing with homework, drums practice, karate classes and more, there is very little down time.

I'm certainly glad they enjoyed some down time this summer and I'm looking ahead to a smooth transition to school for all!

And the chance, perhaps, to enjoy some of my own down time?

Now that would truly be a miracle!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Dance of Their Lives

As I've probably written here before, I love Israeli weddings. There is a completely different atmosphere at an Israeli wedding than there is at most other weddings. They are much more laid-back and incredibly festive. Last night was no exception.

We went to a beautiful wedding set in the hills of Gush Etzion. The bride and groom have both been raised in Neve Daniel and the families have known each other for many years.

It's pretty much a guarantee that I'll have a good cry at the wedding,usually during the chuppah. During Israeli weddings, the bride and groom's friends escort them to the chuppah with a never-ending supply of dancing and singing. Once the ceremony is over, they burst onto the scene once again, escorting the new couple away from the chuppah. I always get choked up when I see these tall, distinguished looking young men dancing around their brothers and friends. It makes me think of my own boys, so little now, escorting each other to the wedding canopy and reaching such a monumental moment in all of our lives.

What made last night's affair particularly memorable for me was one small incident. When the wedding ceremony ended and everyone had begun to descend from the chuppah platform, the mother and father of the groom (great friends and neighbors of ours) suddenly and spontaneously broke into a dance together. There were hundreds of people singing and clapping for the bride and groom as they walked away from the chuppah - but it was as if the parents were in their own world, all by themselves.

The music played and they danced a love ballad of hope, joy, renewal and promise in a universe all their own. They were the only people left under the chuppah, and the inky night sky, combined with the vivid white of the chuppah, combined with the exuberance of their dance was an incredible sight to see.

It was one of the most beautiful, surreal moments I've ever witnessed, conveying the undying love of an older couple, the joy at seeing their son join in the bond of marital happiness, and the new-found freedom that they may now enjoy, as their last child leaves the home.

It was the dance of their lives set in front of all of their guests at their son's wedding.

Standing there under the night sky of Gush Etzion, I cried like I've never cried at a wedding before.

"What's wrong?" Josh asked me.

"Nothing," I sobbed, pointing at Nava and Yonatan. "Absolutely nothing."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bumps in the Road

I wouldn't say that any of my days are particularly calm, while watching five rambunctious boys, but some of them are definitely more calm than others.

Monday was not one of those calmer days.

It was my mom's last day in town and we wanted to go out and do something fun. So, I gathered the kids into the car and we headed to the Nature Museum in Jerusalem. We've never been there before, but Yehuda recently saw a sign for it and was intrigued. He begged us to take him - and who's going to deny an 8-year old's request to go to a museum?! It was a sweet little museum that the kids enjoyed for about 45 minutes. Never mind the lack of air conditioning or the fact that strollers aren't allowed and yours truly had to carry all 30 plus pounds of dear Zeli around the museum. But, nevertheless, we had a good time.

We then walked through a large covered courtyard to get popsicles on Emek Refaim. I told the kids that we should take the popsicles back to the covered courtyard and that we could relax and eat there. The courtyard had some play equipment and the kids were having a ball playing on it. There was, in addition to other attractions, a see-saw that was built for four, and they looked adorable playing on it.

Well, for about five minutes, that is.

Amichai was sitting on the same side of the see-saw as Yehuda and he jumped off at one point. It upset the balance of the entire see-saw and we explained to him that he couldn't do that again. As my mom and I finished our sentences, Amichai jumped off again - sending Yehuda catapulting from the see-saw, directly onto his elbow. It was not a pretty scene.

So, there I was with five children, my mom, and a potentially broken elbow. One of my co-workers asked me if I cried. I remarked that I actually tend to be surprisingly level-headed in these situations. I may not always make the right decisions, but I don't tend to fall apart. In addition to the issues at hand, the time, at this point, was about 5 pm. At 8pm, I was going to need to drive my mom back into Jerusalem to meet her shuttle to the airport - and yet it looked like we were about to have a lengthy emergency room visit. Deep sigh......

So, Yehuda was definitely in pain, but not in agony, and I wasn't positive about his needs. I decided to pack everyone back into the car and go home. Once we arrived at home, I called the health clinic in a hurry to see if a doctor was still available. Bingo. There was one on staff until 6:30. Thank Gd, we've rented an extra car for the month of August (a fantastic luxury that we are really enjoying!) so Josh was able to get home at 6, scoop Yehuda and take off. Meanwhile, I ran to two places to pick up dinner for the rest of the kids, and then arranged for a babysitter to watch the kids while I took my mom to the shuttle. Not the most relaxing send-off dinner...but what are you going to do?!

Josh and Yehuda went to the doctor, who sent them to Terem, the emergency center in Jerusalem, for x-rays. The elbow is very badly bruised, but not broken. When I returned from taking my mom and taking the babysitter home, I called Josh to see how things were going. I had to laugh as he explained that they were out for sushi. Come again? They were hungry after such an ordeal, Josh explained, so he had taken the kid to a sushi dinner at 10pm! Gotta love it!

While the entire day was thoroughly exhausting, it has also brought up some interesting feelings and thoughts. I've replayed the moment when Yehuda got hurt a number of times, trying to see if I should have seen it coming, if I should have watched Amichai more closely, if I should have recognized how dangerous see-saws are, etc. I've thought to myself, "But we were having such a nice time. If only we hadn't walked through that courtyard and if only we had gone to the pool instead of the museum. If only...if only...if only."

As parents, we are amazing at beating ourselves up. And yet, this was a little incident from which we will all recover.

I can't help but think about much more serious accidents where children are hurt, and the torment that the parents must experience afterwards. We are entering the end of summer, and the time, four years ago, when Yehuda's friend, Chanan, died in a terrible home accident. I can't help but think about the Sivans during this time of year,and the grief that they must have experienced and the endless rounds of blame and "what-ifs" that they must have subjected themselves to.

I am incredibly grateful for Yehuda's little sling and for the Tylenol that seems to take away the pain. If only it were always that simple.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

The Jerusalem Arts and Crafts Fair


I'm not sure what rock we've been living under, but Josh and I finally came out from under it this week. Each summer, there is an amazing two week arts and crafts festival in Jerusalem. I absolutely LOVE crafts festivals and I'm not sure how we've managed to miss this one for so long.

We had a wonderful time buying wedding gifts from a friend of ours who was sells her beautiful pottery , watching dance performances from all sorts of countries, eating delicious food, and watching the mix of people. We even got to enjoy a concert for a bit. Of course, we were the only people in the audience who didn't seem to know who was performing - and who couldn't sing along with everyone else. But that seems to be our typical experience as Olim. We're always one stepped removed from understanding much of what is going on around us with Israeli culture - but we still enjoy it as outsiders, of sorts.

While at the fair, I kept thinking how important it would be for all of those Israel detractors out there to see this fair. Life is alive - vibrant - and exciting here in Israel and we just keep moving forward through the muck, the P.R. nightmares, and the constant issues around us.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

The Small Victories of Motherhood

In the last few days I’ve been caught in a few situations that required great creativity. Often, I find, that motherhood, in general, requires quick thinking and creative energy. Sometimes, the creativity is required because of my own stupidity (I’m the first to admit that!), but other times it’s just the situation at hand. Here are two examples.

We left home Friday morning intending to spend a number of hours on the Kinneret before heading to our friends at Kibbutz Tirat Zvi for Shabbat. After 2.5 hours of driving to get there, and then another hour in the car looking for a place to run in for a quick bite to eat to no avail, we finally arrived at the water. We dragged all of the kids into the changing rooms, changed into bathing suits and were roaring to go. It was now 12:00 or so, when I realized that we had no sunscreen. I know – I just absolutely know – that I packed it….but the evidence seemed to indicate otherwise. I wanted to cry! There we sat – all seven swimming-clad bodies, ready for a great time in the 100 degree heat – with no sunscreen. There certainly isn’t a 7-11 or CVS to run into, nor is there really any other option for finding a quick way to buy sunscreen. We were stuck.

I wanted to cry - to kick myself - to scream. But none of those things were going to help. So, I did what I actually find I do quite well in these situations.

I got creative. And I begged.

I approached a woman who was camping nearby and explained to her that we needed some sunscreen and that we had driven 2.5 hours to be there and had five kids who desperately wanted to swim...blah blah blah. I figured I would approach 50 people at the water before trying another option - but this woman managed to keep that number to only 1. She gave us a bottle that was 95% finished and we milked it for every drop. I was quite worried that we were going to end up looking like tomatoes with my stingy sunscreen usage, but we all did alright.

We had a fantastic time at the Lake despite our lack of food, our lack of sunscreen and the 100 degree weather!

Then, on Sunday, I decided to take the kids to the pool that we've joined for the summer. The pool choices around us are quite complicated, as some have mixed swimming, some have only separate swimming and some have a combination, etc. I settled, this year, on a pool in Jerusalem and jumped in with a membership. Not a cheap proposition - so I have felt the pressure to take the kids as much as possible to make it worthwhile! Of course, one day this one is sick and one day that one has an appointment, so we haven't exactly taken advantage of this membership yet.

So, Sunday we committed to getting to the pool. Come hell or high water - we would be there!

We were all in our bathing suits and on the road, when we came across a major intersection that was cordoned off. Here, in Israel, that could mean that someone important is driving through - but it could also mean a bomb scare, a traffic accident, or some other unforeseen event. I don't know the neighborhood well at all where the pool is located and have absolutely no idea how to work around traffic patterns and closures. I tried twice, unsuccessfully, to weave through side streets - but it looked like we were stuck and were going to have to head home. I could feel the disappointment in the car (which probably wasn't hard with the screaming and yelling) and I really - really - wanted to follow through on offering the kids a place to swim.

What is a mother to do?

I knew that there was another pool location somewhat nearby, but I had no idea where...and I realized that I had only brought my ID and 200 shekel without a credit card or any other way of getting money. After all, we were going to use our membership, so we didn't need much of anything, or so I thought.

So, after two wrong turns, I found the location where I thought there was another pool. I had Matan run out to check and the guy at the desk said that they did, indeed, have a pool. Then he said what it would cost and I nearly plotzed! It was a fortune and I didn't have enough. Nevertheless, we parked the car, walked to the desk, poured out every cent that we had to the workers and told them our sob story. I explained our membership, our desperate desire to swim, our crying kids, and our lack of extra funds. Could they please (please?) allow us to swim.

And so they did! Yes, I felt like a fool spending the money to swim that one time at a different pool, when I already had a membership elsewhere - but I also felt like a victorious mom who had used her ingenuity and creativity to save the day!

Sometimes I'm amazed by my ability to move through situations and to find clever answers. This is, of course, not always the case...but when it works out, it certainly feels like a motherhood victory for the day!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Happy Birthday Zeli!

It is amazing how fast time moves. Two years ago today, Josh and I left the four boys at home for Shabbat with our dear friends and dashed off to the hospital to have our fifth child. We had been worried, for the weeks leading up to his birth, about when he would be born. The 9th of Av is one of the most significant fast days of the year, and we wondered if we'd end up having a brit on that day - or delivering a baby in the middle of the fast. Obviously, neither of those events occurred, and Zeli was born on the 8th of Av, in delivery room 8, on 08/08/08. Clearly the kid is destined for great things that surround the number 8.

During this time period, we are in a three week period of reflection and mourning, leading up to the 9th of Av and the commemoration of the destruction of both the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem. Zeli's birth, and his birthday so close to Tisha b'Av, has turned this time period into one that is both reflective, pensive and sad for the Jewish people...and one that is full of incredible joy for us.

And certainly, Zeli, or Azriel as he's actually been named...although rarely referred to, is a bundle of joy. Azriel's name is incredibly significant to us. He came to us when Josh and I were both unemployed during a very difficult summer. Azriel means "with Gd's help" and we definitely felt that we got through the summer only with Gd's help at that time. His middle name, Dor, means "generation" and we feel that he is connected to his people and to the generations before him in so many ways. The most obvious of these is that he was named Dor for his great-grandmother, Dorothy, carrying on the generational connection to his family and his people.

When we are younger, most of us assume that we will be able to get pregnant and have children quite easily. Everyone around us has them so why shouldn't we? As I've aged, and watched some of my friends struggle to get pregnant, to keep a pregnancy, or to deliver a healthy child, I've become acutely aware of how full the path to childbirth can be of pain, heartache, sorrow and despair. I'm continually amazed every time that I look at Zeli, and at his brothers, that I've been so blessed to have these incredible children. Having children is certainly an act of faith and hope. Raising them is a continual process of hoping that all will go well and that each child will continue developing in healthy, beautiful ways.

Happy Birthday to my beautiful little boy - may we be privileged to share another 118 with you!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


It’s 8:00 in the morning and I’m already exhausted. Yes, this is actually the norm for me, but today I’m exhausted for an usual reason. The kids and I have spent the last hour or so dancing around the house, watching our Nefesh B’Nefesh Aliyah video called “My Soul” and then watching every other Nefesh B’Nefesh video available. This is, after all, our tradition on our Aliyahversary. And today we celebrate 6 years in Israel.

As the date has been approaching, I’ve been thinking about what our Aliyah has meant for us. What has struck me lately is how ordinary Aliyah feels most days. I work in an office that is filled with olim (immigrants). Every single person in the office has either made Aliyah himself as an adult, or been brought on Aliyah by parents. I live in a community where a large percentage of my friends have, as well, made Aliyah. And, of course, Josh’s everyday task is to help more people to come to Israel. It’s simply the collective norm.

Big deal, I think to myself at times, I’ve come just as all of these other people have…and it’s simply a given that we’ve all picked up our lives and carried on here. Not only that, but as we often hear from olim, or with Aliyah videos that we watch, is how easy it is to make Aliyah. The Jewish people thirsted to return to our homeland for over two thousand years. Now that we can so easily just jump on a plane and move here – how can we NOT take that opportunity?

But, whenever I step back for a minute, I’m truly amazed by what we’ve done. I marvel at the fact that we left everything in America. What exactly did we leave? Families who love and miss us; jobs that were challenging, rewarding, stable and interesting; friends who were part of a lovely Jewish community; two cars; a nice house and more. In addition, we left so many small items that people who live in America take for granted every day – we left a language we understood and news that we could watch, we left newspapers we could read and mail that we could open and readily comprehend! And the list goes on and on.

When we stepped off that plane six years ago, Josh and I had come to a country where we had no jobs, no family, no cars, very little knowledge of the language, and only about 4 friends. And yet, every moment since has felt exciting, invigorating and entirely right.

Some days, when I’m paying the car renewal bill at the post office and getting the car inspected, or when I’m enrolling my kids at school, or when I’m renewing a passport or other document, I am amazed by everything that I know how to do.

Moving, whether it’s to another city or across the world, involves a great deal of relearning. There is so much that you suddenly don’t know and so many bureaucratic processes that you don’t know how to approach. Multiply that by a thousand when you’re doing it in another language and with people from a completely different cultural mindset – and you have my life. And yet, everything gets done eventually.

Anyone who has made Aliyah knows that it is a process full of tears, expectations, fears, anticipation and trial and error. The hardest part of it all, as far as I’m concerned, was on the other end of the ocean. Saying goodbyes, packing for the unknown and relocating was extremely difficult and trying. Since then, it’s just been one long blog post of exploration and rediscovery. What a gift we’ve been given to reinvent ourselves professionally, to explore who we really are, to test our characters, and to raise children in the Jewish homeland.

And so today, I marvel at the life and community that we’ve built and the people that we’ve become on this amazing journey. If I do say so myself, today is a day to pat ourselves on the back, while thanking Hashem for giving us the incredible opportunity to be part of the Jewish present and future in our homeland.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Mikauma Means Hello in Chinese....Well...Maybe

Amichai and Eliav are in the same camp this summer, and the theme of the camp this year is international places. So, each day, they learn about a place, learn how to say "Hello" in that language, and make a few things.

Today, I came home to find that they had made these cute Chinese hats. Amichai even had make-up on the sides of his eyes! Amichai told me that "Mikauma" means "Hello" in Chinese. Another successful day at camp.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Another School Year Finished

It's hard to believe that our kids have just completed their six school year in Israel. The end of the year is always an exciting time and we wanted to make sure that the kids enjoyed a feeling of accomplishment. Since our kids all go to camp inside our yishuv - and two of them actually go to camp in the same classroom where they are all year - it's not always easy to feel the transition. It's great that we have such an easy transition from school to camp, but at the same time, it's a bit funny since they don't even fully notice the change!

As a result, we planned a few end-of-the-year activities for them to enjoy. Thursday, we went to the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem which is an amazing resource with oodles of hands-on activities.

Josh met us there from work and the kids had a great time at the water exhibit, the electricity exhibit, and more. We topped off the day at their favorite dinner location - Pinati. The kids love the food there and we always joke that it's brought to the table before we order it. And really, it almost is! We only put 30 minutes on the meter and figured we'd get more coins inside the restaurant - and there we were sitting inside the car again after only 30 minutes, having already eaten a delicious meal for 7. Amazing.

On Friday, we headed to the movie theater to see Toy Story 3. I was thinking about this on the way and laughing at the differences between raising kids here and in the States. The movies really aren't that big a deal - seeing a movie is a normal occurrence in the lives of most people, I would venture to guess. Here, however, it's just not something we do more than about once a year with the kids (or by ourselves, for that matter!) Movies cost about 40 shekel (about $12) a piece and there aren't matinee or kids' prices. To take the four age-appropriate kids costs quite a lot of money, relative to our salaries. So, this was a large adventure for our children. They loved wearing the 3D glasses and had a lot of fun watching the movie. And....except for Eliav...they even managed to refrain from talking the whole time and to stay in their seats and enjoy. A miracle!

Today, camp started and they all headed out the door with their hats, their sunscreen, their snacks and their energy. No one has a major camp transition this year. Matan and Yehuda are going to a great camp organized by a few parents in the Yishuv. They can walk to it or ride their bikes each day and they should enjoy themselves and have many friends there. Amichai and Eliav actually have camp run through their schools. These camps are in the same rooms that they spent the entire year in - and they have some of the same teachers! So, they didn't even blink as I brought them. The only transition is to get them to understand that they are actually in camp and that it's not just a continuation of their school year! And, the baby has the same daycare he's had all year until August 8th. The one adventure this month will be that the big kids are tasked with the job of picking up the little kids each day and walking home with them. I have to work later than their camp day runs - so we'll see how that adventure goes!

So, that's the story for this month. August is another story entirely - there are very few camp and daycare options for August and it can drive a working mother mad. But, we'll get to that when we get to it.

Here's wishing the kids a beautiful, peaceful and fun summer. They certainly deserve it after the work they did all year!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Techno-Savvy Two Year Old

I had the funniest, strangest thing happen yesterday. I was sitting at my desk at work, when my boss came in with the office phone. Now, Josh is in America, and I don't believe that even HE knows the office number. There isn't a person in the world who would be calling me on that number.

I tentatively took the phone from Sam and said, "Hello?" It was my soldier, Jeff, calling from his base.

"Umm, are you ok?" I asked.
"Yeah, of course." He answered, confused.
"How the heck did you get this number?"
Puzzled, he replied, "What number? I called your cell."
"No you didn't," I said, chuckling and completely confused. "You somehow called my office number."
"What?" He answered. "I was wondering why some guy answered your cell phone."

And then we had a long pause. What in the world was going on?

I suddenly remembered two things. Yesterday, I caught Zeli (who's not quite two) playing with my phone; and, this morning I noticed, and chose to ignore, a strange green arrow on the cell that I'd never seen before.

Suddenly, it dawned on me. While playing with my phone yesterday, Zeli managed to put call forwarding on my cell, and to have all calls forwarded to my office number! Now, I probably have 200 numbers stored in my cell phone, and for him to accidentally select the office number was quite bizarre.

Cracking up, I went to find our technology expert to find out how to redirect my cell phone calls to my cell. Considering that, even with hours of fiddling around, I wouldn't be able to intentionally replicate what Zeli had done, I was very impressed with his two year old techno-savvy feat!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Uncovering a Mom's Secret

In 2001, while watching a beautiful movie called Billy Elliot with Josh, I had an idea. I don’t fully remember how it unfolded, but in the movie there is some discussion about a journal that the mother kept for her son.

The next day, I bought a journal and started writing to Matan. I decided that I would write a few times a year, capturing his development and antics – and recording our hopes and aspirations for him as he grew. I’ve kept the commitment and now, 9 plus years later, I’m still writing entries to him on his birthday, and once or twice during other times of the year.

Little did I know exactly the type of commitment that I was undertaking by starting this project! I certainly wouldn’t have predicted, in 2001,that I would be keeping up with five journals someday – but that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.

And I absolutely love this project.

While I don’t prepare much before the birth of a baby, I have made a point, for the last few boys, of hand picking their journals before their birth. I treat myself to an excursion, and take time looking through all of my options and picking the journal that calls to me.

And then, even before the baby is born, I write to him a few times. I write about how excited we all are that he’s entering our family, how we reacted when we found out we were pregnant, and what his brothers are predicting he’ll be. And then, after he’s born, writing an entry to him has been one of the first things that I do in the hospital.

Over the last year, I’ve grown tired of writing to them by hand (who writes by hand anymore?) and I’ve come to realize that they won’t be able to read my sloppy English when I finally give them these journals some day! So, I’ve started typing my entries and taping them into the books.

Last night, when Matan came to say goodnight, he discovered my little secret. He sat with me, asking me what I was doing. When I explained the project to him, he giggled and said, “Wow – you’ve managed to keep this secret from me for 9 years?! Good job Mommy!”

I didn’t let him read any of the entries, but we had fun browsing through the five books and looking at the dates. He asked me when he’s going to receive his book. I haven’t given this too much thought, but I figure I’ll either give them to the boys when they enter the army or, more likely, when they get married.

While I’ve diligently created a baby book for each boy, these books only chronicle their lives until they are five. It’s been a very strange feeling to put three baby books up on a higher shelf, retiring them from use.

My journals, however, will continue to fill slowly and surely through the years, as my love for my boys grows, changes and expands in so many ways. I hope that I’m capturing a small iota of the love that I feel for each of them, and of the hopes and aspirations that are so wrapped up for us in each of these little men.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Caterpillar is Finished!

I'm so proud of the older boys today. Last year, I was complaining to my friend Devorah about my children and their reading habits. They weren't reading for pleasure as much as I wanted them to, and she suggested a chart. I am very much NOT a chart person, a sticker person, etc. But, I thought this was an interesting idea.

So, Matan meticulously sat down and created a caterpillar with 100 little compartments. The goal was for the four of us (Josh, me, Matan and Yehuda) to read 100 books over the course of the school year. We set our sights to June 30 as our goal. We created a color coding for ourselves so that I would color in a purple circle when I finished a book, Josh would color in an orange circle, etc.

Matan, in particular, has really stepped up his reading this year. He's been blazing through a series called "Minheret HaZman" where these two kids travel through time to all sorts of significant events in the history of the State of Israel. It's an amazing series. While Yehuda has not been as prolific a reader this year, he's certainly also felt the pressure to read and the enthusiasm about finishing the 100 book goal. Matan ended up reading over half of the 100 books! Yehuda read somewhere around 20 and Josh and I picked up the slack.

Now, of course, comes the expensive part. We promised the boys a night out to an expensive all-you-can-eat meat restaurant if they got to the goal....AND a day at an amusement park. Oy vey! Serves us right!

But we are very proud of them. And, last night, before he went to bed, Matan already created the next chart.

The Summer Goal? 40 books by the end of August. We're working to save the money for their next reward now!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Yep, I'm an Immigrant

(Yehuda this week at his ceremony for finishing second grade.)

I am such an olah (immigrant) that it makes me laugh (yes, and want to cry) at times. Yesterday, Yehuda came bouncing into the house declaring that I had homework to do. The first thing that always happens to me in these situations is that I get a pit in the middle of my stomach. Oh dear Gd, I think, what do I have to do in Hebrew this time?

So, Yehuda showed me the page of "homework" that I had been assigned. Yehuda has a project right now where he is writing things about his birth, his development, and his family. We, the parents, were given a detailed page where we were supposed to answer questions about our child. Normally, I would think that this was a great project - what fun to explain what I love about Yehuda! But, in Hebrew? Well, that just makes me want to tear it up into little pieces.

I sat down next to Yehuda and tried reading the first question. My Hebrew really is somewhat passable - but, of course, I had no idea what the question asked. I asked Yehuda to explain it and then, with a deep sigh, I explained to him that he was going to have to help me to write the answers. He quickly grew annoyed, and I knew that I wasn't going to get anywhere.

I understood his frustration and didn't want to push him. After all, what 8 year old wants a parent who can't complete a second grade project without the help of her child?

Oh was I going to get these questions answered by the next morning? Sure, I could go to a neighbor's house, but I just don't have the energy for that type of activity right now. I always have Google Translate, and that would allow me to muddle through the questions and to write grammatically incorrect, and quite laughable, answers, but I didn't want Yehuda to feel embarrassed by me. What is the immigrant parent to do?

After stewing about this through the early evening, I got an idea. When Yehuda went to bed, I grabbed Matan and explained to him that he had something he had to do. Together, we sat at the table and he explained what each question meant. Josh and I discussed our answers, and then Matan, our ten year old, wrote all of the answers down for us.

Haha! Success....we had beat the impossible system, well, at least for one more night. Victorious, I returned Yehuda's work to his backpack and breathed a sigh of relief.

Ah, the life of the olah mommy. Never a dull moment.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Go Nefesh B'Nefesh!

Another great video from Nefesh B'Nefesh! Summer arrival season is coming and Nefesh B'Nefesh is getting everyone in the spirit. And, oh, by the way, check out the famous family at 1 minute, 15 seconds! Enjoy!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Ben-Yehuda Would be Proud

Last night, I took Matan and Yehuda on an adventure. Every year in Israel, they have “The Week of the Book” all over the country. It’s a fantastic series of events which includes lectures by Israeli and international authors, a number of huge book fairs and other activities. I arranged for a babysitter for the three little boys so that we could head out before Josh got home from work, and we took off for Jerusalem.

The entire time at the fair I was thinking about Ben-Yehuda. No – not the street that has a ton of foot traffic and great shops – but the man. Eliezer Ben-Yehuda.

The Jerusalem part of the book fair was held in a huge park in downtown Jerusalem and featured thousands – and I mean thousands upon thousands – of books. All in Hebrew. There was Harry Potter next to “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie;” the complete works of Shakespeare coupled with “Moishe Goes to Town” and so on. Every type of Israeli that you could possibly imagine was at the fair, snapping up books left and right, and even sitting in the aisles pouring over their various finds. The atmosphere was as festive as a circus, a circus of literacy and a love of books.

So, while enjoying the atmosphere and ambiance, I reveled in thinking about Eliezer Ben-Yehuda. Ben-Yehuda is considered to be the father of the modern Hebrew language. In 1881, Ben-Yehuda made his way to Palestine and settled in Jerusalem. He made it his life’s work to develop a new language that could replace Yiddish as the means for everyday communication in the Holy Land. Much, I’m sure, to his family’s chagrin, he demanded that they speak nothing but Hebrew in the home. He was an ardent Zionist – and an ardent defender of the need for a universal language to unite all Jews.

And somehow, miraculously, it worked. Just ask my kids.

100 plus years later, here we are, in our own homeland, speaking a language that lay dormant for thousands of years and that was never used as a practical, everyday form of communication until recently. Ben-Yehuda’s frustration and dogmatic insistence has paid off. I’m always amazed when I listen to my children talk in Hebrew, or when I watch them reading this crazy collection of symbols (how do they read it without the vowels?). They are living, breathing examples of the revival of a dream – and of the fulfillment of a mission. They are speaking the language of all of our most Holy Texts – speaking it every single day as if it’s the most casual and normal thing in the world.

And there we were at the book fair, surrounded by… drenched in… and basking in books in Hebrew.

Hebrew - and Israel – are alive and well, thank you very much Helen Thomas and so many others like you. We are here to stay and we prove this each day in this vibrant, amazing land that we are continually building and cultivating for ourselves, for our children and for the future of the Jewish people.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A Baby Miracle

I'm feeling blue and frustrated about the Flotilla disaster, so I've decided to write about something lovely and beautiful.

Last Friday, we went to an amazing brit. The parents have four beautiful children, all of whom were conceived after years of IVF treatments. For anyone who has dealt with infertility issues and who has been through treatments, you can imagine what a commitment of energy, time, money, anxiety and hope these treatments must have been. While they hoped to have more children, they had come to the conclusion that they weren't going to do more treatments. Financially, physically and emotionally taxing, the treatments had taken their toll and it was enough.

And then Hashem intervened.

Jump back about a year. The mother and I joined a diet group in our community a little over a year ago. This is a diet program that has become wildly popular in our area and that has shown drastic and fantastic results. My friend lost quite a lot of weight and felt great.

At some point, at a routine doctor's visit, the doctor surprised her with some amazing news. They were pregnant. After years of trying, of tears, of shots and of medical intervention, they were now, miraculously, expecting with no intervention whatsoever. It turns out that her fertility issues were tied, in some way, with sugar intake and issues and that her diet had changed that for her body.

She delivered a bouquet of flowers to our diet group leader that very day, explaining that she had made this miracle baby possible.

And so, on Friday, we celebrated their beautiful brit, welcoming Adiel into our Neve Daniel family and into the world.