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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