Monday, August 27, 2012

New Beginnings

I just love the first day of school; it’s filled with promise and excitement – new starts and eager beginnings. Every time we arrive at the first day of school, I have the same memory that comes flooding back.

Eight years ago today, as we prepared to get our two little guys ready for their first day of school in Israel, I heard my landlord, Yoram, upstairs singing to his children. “First day of school! First day of school! Everyone up, it’s the first day of school!” I was struck then, as I am so often now, about how Israel feels like such a collective village at times. The entire country – every single Israeli school – starts on the same day. This creates an energy that is pervasive and exciting.

I had a flat tire this morning (great luck for the first day of school), but as I pulled into the body shop and saw a few people from the yishuv, they all commented on it.

“No big deal! Just a little thing to deal with on the first day.”

“Oy! What a thing to worry about. Never mind though...How was drop off?”

Every Facebook post is about the drop off, about how Yair or Yaakov or Yehuda did at school and about how Avi or Mayan or Chana didn’t cry. Even the Google Doodle for Israel today is all about the first day of school! And since every child starts on the same day, it gives a feeling of camaraderie – of closeness and collectiveness that you don’t get in too many other places.

So, as we took our “First Day of School” picture on the steps as we do every year, I heard Yoram in my head, smiled at where we’ve come since 8 years ago today, and sent each kid off with a kiss and a bracha (prayer) for a wonderful year.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Welcoming Them Home

I love that we were given the opportunity to do a mitzvah (good deed) within five minutes of landing back on Israeli soil.

As we dragged ourselves off of the plane, I stood around waiting for my stroller to unload while Josh went ahead a few feet with the other kids. As I was standing there, a young guy approached me.

Looking confused and nervous, he said, "Did you make Aliyah?"

Hmmmm....I was stumped by the question. Kind of random, don't you think.

"Um," I started to reply.

"I mean, you know, did you make Aliyah in recent years?"

"Yes..." I said, having no idea where this was going, and trying to make sense of his need through my sleep-deprived fog.

"Well, um, I just made Aliyah and I don't know what I'm supposed to do now."

"What?" I think I replied, a bit too loudly. "You just what? All by yourself? Where's the group? Where are the crowds? This isn't how we make Aliyah these days."

"Yeah," he started again. "I mean, someone was supposed to meet me here. But our plane is early and I just don't know..............."

Laughing, and enjoying the surprise he was about to receive I replied. "You've definitely come to the right place."

"What?"

"See that guy over there?" I said, pointing to Josh and the surrounding chaos of little, previously-cooped up boys.

"Yeah."

"Ok - go right over to him. That's Josh, my husband and he works for Nefesh B'Nefesh. "Today is definitely your lucky day for more reasons than one."

Looking relieved beyond any description, he said, "Oh my gosh. You're kidding me..."

Soon, we were escorting Gabe to the appropriate office where he was taken care of and wished a hearty Mazal Tov!

Thanks Hashem, for putting us in the right place at the right time; and thanks for welcoming us home by allowing us to welcome another Oleh home, to Israel!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Day in the Life...

It is hysterical watching the kids enjoying their time in the States. There have been so many funny moments – but I’ve been too busy running after the baby to write about them.

Here’s just a quick glimpse. As we drove to the store the other day, Yehuda remarked about something that I had been noticing. He said, “Mommy, why aren’t there any kids out?” Asking him to clarify, he continued by saying, “There just aren’t any kids on the street at all. We’ve been here at all hours, driving around, and we don’t see anyone – there are all of these big yards but no one is out playing.”

Now it’s possible that this is an older neighborhood with kids who have already grown, but it’s also possible that kids just don’t play outside as much here as they do in Yehuda’s neighborhood – and it was a very interesting and astute observation from a 10 year old.

So, yesterday, when we had a bit of time to burn before Shabbat and we wanted to get the kids out of the house we went...to the sporting goods store.

Nope, we weren’t buying anything. We just figured we’d take them to one of the most astoundingly sports-filled locations around and allow them to relish in the fun of it all.

Last week, we went to the sporting goods store for the first time. I was as star-struck by the visit as were the kids. Josh and I were cracking up as we walked through the aisles. Our conversation with Zeli was as follows:

Zeli: Ohhhhhh…daddy, can I chave that Spiderman skateboard?

Josh: No buddy.

Zeli: Oh – I want that bike. Can I chave that?

Romi: No sweetie.

Zeli: Oh – I vant that baseball bat. Can I chave that?

Josh: Um (trying not to laugh) no sweetie.

Zeli: OH – I need dat. Can I have that boat?

Josh: That boat?

Zeli: Yea, dat huge boat over there.

And on and on it went. The kids had NO idea what to do with themselves in a store like this. We just don’t have large, buy-your-boat-your-gun-your-football-materials-and-the-kitchen-sink stores in Israel. So they were going crazy.

So, with that in mind, we brought them back to the store yesterday afternoon. Here’s how they entertained themselves:

They dressed as football players:







Then, on the Nerf gun aisle, the boys all collected Nerf swords and started a battle. Yes, I tried to bury my head somewhere so that I wouldn't be dragged away by the sports-store police.



They had a blast, running from aisle to aisle. They discussed the merits of this boogie-board over that one...of this Nerf gun versus that one...and on and on.

Then, they each jumped on one of the treadmills and bikes to "test" them out. Meanwhile, they had huge signs in the store that said, "Please don't test out the equipment. Find a sales associate for assistance." I kept pointing out the sign and explaining what it said to the kids, but the equipment was too noisy, as were their giggles, for them to listen.

Sigh.

We finally dragged them away and convinced them to go to Baskin Robbins for a quick snack before Shabbat.



And yes, as usual, we were stopped by two families who were counting kids. One of them cracked me up.

"Are these all your kids?" They asked.

"Yep," said Josh. "All ours."

"All biological?"

"Um, yes, all biological."

"Amen. What a blessing!" they said, shaking their heads in amazement as they walked back to their car.

Just another day on our whirlwind tour of America!

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Mezuzah Musings

Today was one of those days where Hashem decides to pop a head in and say hello.

We went to visit my 91 year old grandmother (SH! her age is a secret, but I think she's 91). I haven't seen her in three years and it's been a very difficult time for her, full of transitions.

About ten minutes into our visit at the home where she's recently moved, there was a knock at the door. Josh went to answer it and seemed to be talking to someone for quite awhile. I couldn't fathom who it could be.

So, when I went over to check out what was going on, I saw that a maintenance person had arrived...to affix a mezuzah to her door.

My uncle has apparently been trying for five months now to get the mezuzah affixed - and the maintenance person just happened to arrive to do so in the 45 minutes that we were in her room.

I got chills.

And so, we all watched as Josh took the mezuzah from the maintenance guy and asked for the honors of putting up the mezuzah himself. We gathered together, Nana's, daughter, her only granddaughter and six of her great-grandchildren, as her grandson-in-law put the mezuzah up on her door.

Thanks for that moment, Hashem.

I have missed out on many, many moments in the last three years (and the years before that too) and those moments are painfully clear to me.

Today, I didn't miss out.

And I was there for a very significant moment, able to help my Nana to make her new apartment a home. Wow.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

All Is Relative

Life is so relative. Yes, there are times at home when I feel like I have a lot of kids, but I don't usually think too much about it.

Until I leave my bubble. Today, as we traveled from Charlotte, North Carolina to Los Angeles, the mantra of the day was "One, Two, Three, Four, Fi...."

That's what I kept hearing over and over again. We stepped out of the airport van and before I even had both feet out of the van I heard, "One, Two, Three, Four, Fi..."

Interrupting them with a giggle in my voice, I said, "Five, Six. Yep, there are six of them." And I exited the van to see the incredulous curb check-in guys with fingers in the air, counting my kids.

And that was just the beginning.

Yes, it's a bit of a challenge to travel with so many, and there are many moments that make us laugh.

Just one to share today.

Josh and his mom took a few of the kids shopping for school clothes the other day. We realized, after the fact, that it was the first time in his life that Eliav was in a clothing store.

Literally.

He's six next month. Never stepped foot in a store.

How is that possible? Well, Josh's parents buy the kids all of their clothes and I rarely go to a store for the kids. And when I do go, I definitely don't drag them along.

So, when they walked into the department store, Josh said that Eliav grew very quiet. He had the look of "And what the heck is this?" and "How did they find such a huge amount of clothes" on his face."

When they picked out clothes and told Eliav that he should go try them on, he looked at them like they were crazy.

"In a room?" he asked. "But won't other people see my underwear?"

Josh tried to explain that he would have the dressing room to himself, and Eliav went off, very tentatively.

While they were out shopping, Josh also caught Matan trying on coats and ties. Laughing, as if he were dressing up like a clown, Matan soon attracted the attention of his brothers, all of whom started getting into these "silly" clothes and prancing around. Most people in Israel don't wear coats and ties...ever...so this was another hysterical experience to watch.

In our daily lives, the way that we live seems normal. The experiences that our children have are typical; the number of them is, in itself, run-of-the-mill. It is, therefore, a fascinating and eye-opening experience when we step out of our regular lives and see the world from the outside. Some of the experiences crack us up; others make us feel awkward and like a zoo exhibit; while still others make us appreciate many of the unique qualities that we have raising this pack of boys where and as we are.