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!