Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Post Baby-Bump Beauty

I have never, ever written about a topic of this sort, but I felt compelled today. I’m not an obsessive fan of Kate Middleton’s, but I do enjoy watching what she wears and how she carries herself with dignity. And I was thrilled to see her outside of the hospital yesterday showing off the baby. But I was even more thrilled to see her showing off her bump.

I’m embarrassed to even show my knowledge in this area of pop culture..but here goes. Since she had her baby four or five weeks ago, Kim Kardashian, in contrast, has been in hiding. What’s she hiding from? First, she’s hiding her baby so that she can make a bundle by allowing one news organization to get the first pictures. But she is also hiding so that she can quickly attempt to lose that baby weight before she presents herself to the world again. The thought of showing herself in her natural, post-baby state is, undoubtedly, horrifying to her.

Now, I know the media world is absolutely brutal and that they will be waiting, with bated breath, to see if Kate loses her baby weight and how quickly she does so. All the same, I was so pleased to see her out in front of the hospital, beaming with joy and showing off her post-baby bump. She wasn’t hiding behind William or behind the baby’s blanket. She didn’t slink into the back of the car quickly after a cursory wave to the public. No – she smiled for the cameras and showed herself in all her glory – and beauty.

There is so much emphasis in our society today on weight, body image and looks. Our bodies are all different, and it is so vitally important to allow our girls (and our women) to understand that each and every one of these bodies is beautiful.  

And many women, as they grow larger in a pregnancy, give birth, and struggle to get back to a healthy weight afterwards, do so with frustration and embarrassment. And yet, there is nothing to be embarrassed about. The blossoming pregnant woman’s body is beautiful – as is her post-baby body. As she nurses her baby (hopefully), she should be able to see her body as amazing and miraculous – it has brought life into the world and is working to help that life to grow and flourish.

Show off that post-baby bump Kate. Enjoy every minute of your new motherhood, and help to remind the rest of us out there that we are beautiful, even at times when we don’t think we look our absolute most glamorous best.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Customer Service is Alive and Well in Israel

I recently posted this story on the Times of Israel website, but I felt sad not to share it here as well. So, here is my most recent blog post:

Talk about an only in Israel experience. I work in a building in Alon Shvut that houses a butcher, a music store, a furniture restoration store and a few other odds and ends. I’ve been meaning, for ages, to go to the furniture restoration store to see if he can salvage our leather sofa. But I never get around to walking those ten feet down the stairs from my office to his.

Here is the entrance to Restorno.

Then, after 9 years of loving use, one of our beloved bean bags got a hole. We bought this bean bag before we made Aliyah from our friends’ store and now it's enjoyed being tormented by our kids for years. And with this recent hole, the filler inside started going everywhere in the house. So, inspired by necessity, I threw the huge bean bag into the car on the way to work and plopped it down at their store. The Restorno store owner, Nati, looked at the bean bag and at the hole and declared that it wasn’t worth my money to have him fix it. It was easy, he said, and he would show me how.

Um, come again?

Now, anyone who knows me well knows that I don’t iron (EVER), that I don’t bake well and that I don’t – and I mean never in my entire life – sew. I tried to take a sewing class in Potomac once, and I came back with a purse that was sewn in the wrong direction and couldn't open. Josh tried really hard not to laugh, but my lack of ability was so painfully obvious. So, I knew this was going to be quite an experience.

“Come on!” this young store owner with the jovial eyes declared. "Come downstairs one day when you have ten minutes and I’ll show you how to sew it."

Here's Nati in his workshop.

So today, I put on my “can do” armor and walked down the stairs. He greeted me with a big smile and a “you can do it” attitude, pulled out some kind of cool curved needle (never seen those in my life) and got me ready. He showed me a few stitches and then told me it was my turn. Trying not to laugh, I explained that I understood, in theory, what he was saying, but that I had no idea how to replicate it.

Now – keep in mind that not only was a receiving a sewing lesson (gasp!) but I was receiving one entirely in Hebrew (double gasp). There is a limit to miracles, people.

So he pulled out a sticky note and folded it and started trying to demonstrate to me what the issue was and how I should be sewing it. I started laughing and explained that I really, truly had no idea what he was saying but that he was so sweet.

He wouldn’t give up. He showed me again (I kept hoping that if he just showed me the stitch enough times he would finish off the bean bag before my turn came!). But that didn’t quite happen. I ended up doing a few of the stitches among his “Mazal Tov!” and “Kol Hakavod!” cheers. We finished off the job and he said, “See! You did it. Now you can use that stitch on anything. It’s an amazing stitch.”

I said, “Uhuh…absolutely.” And was about to leave, when I noticed another hole. Oh darn! “No problem,” he said, putting the needle and thread into my hand. “Now you can do it on your own.”

Oh, come on.

“Um,” I said, clearing my throat, “Great. Yeah. I’ll take this home with me and get it done and bring you back the needle.”

No problem!

And thus ended my sewing lesson, in the middle of Alon Shvut, at the furniture restoration store.
Here is the bean bag, resting comfortably post-surgery.

Seriously, where else in the world would the store owner take 10 minutes out of his day to teach a customer how to sew their bean bag back together? If you need a restoration project done, this is definitely your guy. You can find Nati at 02-650-8777 or Who says customer service isn't an expression that Israelis know?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sleep? Sleep Is For Wimps!

Yakir is not a sleeper. And I mean he is REALLY not a sleeper. He just doesn’t seem to need that much sleep no matter how much pushing, prodding and pleading we do. To be fair, they still nap him every day in day care, but even when he is home on Friday and Saturday and doesn’t nap, we are lucky to get him to bed by 9 or 9:30.

This poses a nightly problem for his poor parents, who are definitely sleepers.

Yakir is on the right..hanging with his brothers

We juggle many things, need to work most nights for an hour or two, want to take a walk for exercise and still hope to relax a tiny bit..without our 2 year old jumping around.

Most nights it’s a struggle. The other kids are tucked away in their beds and Yakir is bouncing on the sofa cushions, making himself creative snacks and looking for his next act. And each night we try a different tactic to get him to bed, hoping that this one will finally work.

The kid loves life. And hopefully his disinterest in sleep will serve him well someday...even if it's not serving his parents well now.

What we don’t often do, however, is simply stop.

Last night, rather than continuing to try to work while placing him in bed over and over again, or ignoring the mess he was making in the kitchen, or begging him to just get into bed, I tried something else.

I stopped what I was doing, put aside the piles of laundry, the work that awaited me as the hour grew late, the walk we wanted to take, and the messy house. I turned off most of the lights in our family room, lay down on the couch and called Yakir over. He looked at me suspiciously, then got a huge grin on his face, and lay down to cuddle.

And that was it. We cuddled and I rubbed his back. I didn’t think about how long this would take, or when he would finally get to sleep, or if this would work at all.

Rather, I thought about the fact that this is my last little guy...and that my cuddle moments are numbered. Sure, I may still be able to convince them to cuddle while watching a movie, or to sit near me; but my real cuddle moments with a little guy who wants nothing more in the world than to be next to his mommy? Those moments are like a narrowing tunnel that is starting to close.

And it’s so hard to remember to relish in these moments – to put aside the piles of things that we have to do just to be with the kids…to remember that the passage of time goes so very fast and the moments that we have with them are so very precious.

13 years of using a crib and it's over in a flash.

And within 10 minutes of cuddling, I asked him if he was ready to go to bed. And he, miraculously, said “yes.” That was it. He just wanted me to stop for a bit, to see him, to love him and to nurture him. And then he was ready to go to sleep.

If only it were always that simple. But last night, at least, it was.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Scooting His Way to 5

Zeli’s 5th birthday is tonight. I always get reflective around each of the kid’s birthdays. I reminisce about my labor, their first days, their development and their growth. I tend to look through photo albums and to marvel at how they’ve changed. And I glance at old blogs that I've written about them, like this one that I love.

And inevitably this time makes me reflect on what I’ve learned from the child so far. And with Zeli, this is an easy one.

See, Zeli is the kid who has taught us – really, truly, intensely – taught us that they simply aren’t cookie cutters of each other and that each one really needs his own nurturing.

Obviously, as the kids have grown, they’ve all started to express their own personalities, interests and needs. When they were babies, however, they all acted in a relatively uniform way. Matan was standing by five months and climbing into the kitchen sink by 6 months. Yehuda, Amichai and Eliav followed suit, give or take a few months and a few antics.

And then Zeli arrived. Zeli was simply cut from a different gene pool. He must have been the happiest, smiliest child you’ve ever met, but he simply didn’t move. He smiled, he giggled, he charmed…but moved? Not his strong suit.

He first rolled over at 13 months. The doctors made us take him to physical therapy as a result of his slooooow progress, and yet he still progressed with his own good time. He actually never learned to crawl. What he did instead, that entertained absolutely anyone who ever saw him, was to scoot. He would scoot on his behind across the room, giggling and bouncing as he went. Enjoy his scooting here, at the bottom of this post. It's hysterical.

He was also the heaviest child we’ve ever had, and continued to be no matter how many diets the doctors tried to put him on (when you’re nursing exclusively, there aren’t too many ways to give the kid a diet…)

Anyway, with time, Zeli has continued to make his mark in his own original way. He’s quite uncoordinated and we’ve been sending him to Tae Kwon Do as a type of therapy. We recently went to his end of the year performance where he showed us that he certainly giggles and enjoys himself a lot. Tae Kwon Do skills? Not so much.

The stars around Zeli have aligned with 8s. He was born on the 8th of Av, which was also August 8, 2008. I couldn’t believe it when they brought me to delivery room 8. And as much as I tried to have him in the 8pm range, he held out until after 9. Can’t have everything. If 8s have something to do with giggly, giddy happiness and pure joy, then it’s understandable that Zeli was born under so many of these symbols.

Obviously, as parents, we all understand conceptually that our children are individuals. In practice, however, it’s so much easier to make comparisons and to see similarities. Many of us (myself definitely included) are creatures of habit. When a child sleeps through the night one time we desperately want to believe that they’ve set a pattern – that they will continue to act this way. Changes, transitions and differences are so much more complicated than is predictability and routine.

But parenting is all about throwing away predictability and routine and seeing what each day brings. And Zeli has reminded us over and over again just how unique each of our boys is and how much individualized attention and catering they need.

Happy Birthday little dude. May it be a year filled with much joy, many giggles and more forging of your own way in your unique Zeli fashion.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

The Rhodes to a Long Awaited Vacation

14 years. They’ve been awesome years, but it’s still been 14 years since Josh and I have gone away by ourselves for more than one night. We’ve jumped through hoops here and there to escape the chaos for a few hours when a child was done nursing and the next one hadn’t yet arrived.

But a real vacation? That we haven’t taken in a very long time. And so we cooked up an idea to get away for a real vacation – one that would involve a plane ride, luggage and a good book. Josh secured a daring young Sherut Leumi (National Service) girl from his office who actually suggested that we go away so that she could watch the kids. 

Miracles do exist.

And off we went. We set our sights on Rhodes. To tell the truth, it really didn’t matter where we went – as long as there was water, relaxation and no children named Sussman. Rhodes was just the place that the travel agent suggested, and we were ready.

It was a beautiful, fantastic, and much-needed get-away. Of course, whenever we are away, we seek out the Jewish heritage in the location where we’ve arrived, and Rhodes has an interesting history all its own.

Jews have had a presence in Rhodes for 2300 years. The synagogue that we visited, the Kahal Shalom Synagogue, has been there since 1577. It is the oldest surviving synagogue building in Greece. While there were four synagogues on the island in 1940, this was the only one that survived the intense bombing of the island during the war.

In 1943, the Germans took control of Rhodes and by 1944, all of the 1676 Jews were deported to camps, mostly Auschwitz. Only about 151 survived the war and virtually everyone went elsewhere to rebuild their lives.

The synagogue and the museum within it were made possible through the efforts of the Rhodes Jewish Historical Foundation, a nonprofit created by Los Angeles lawyer Aron Hasson whose grandparents were all from Rhodes. The work that Hasson has been doing is amazing, and is well worth applause and further reading.

Flash wasn't cooperating but this is the inside of the synagogue. 

While we were admiring the beautifully restored building of the Kahal Shalom Synagogue, we started talking to an older man who worked there. Within minutes he had shown us his number, tattooed on his arm. He apologized for not having better English skills (meanwhile, he explained that he was fluent in Ladino, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Greek, French and German). He said that he was the one and only Jew who returned from Auschwitz to remake his life in Rhodes. He had been there ever since, and was now working in the museum to tell his history to those who were interested.

The Holocaust survivor is seated in the picture.

“Where are your children?” I asked.

He looked to the sky. Oh dear, was he really answering my question?

And he explained that after the war, the camp had left him with problems and that the children that he had all died.

And there we stood.

We thanked him for his time and shuffled off, feeling richer for knowing a bit of his story, but certainly sadder for learning another  piece of our terrible history.

As we moved through the museum, we learned some amazing things. As the Germans took over Rhodes, the Jews in this synagogue secretly turned over their sifrei torah to the Turkish religious leader at the time, the Grand Mufti of Rhodes. This man, Seyh Suleyman Kaslioglu, hid the torah scrolls in the pulpit of his mosque that was located in the new city of Rhodes.

After the war, the scrolls were safely returned to the survivors and are in the synagogue to this day. In 1971, while talking to a Jewish friend, the Grand Mufti said, “One of the greatest moments of my life was when I was able to embrace the Torah and carry it and put it in the pulpit of the mosque because we knew that no German would ever think that the Torahs were preserved in the pulpit of the mosque.”

Certainly, we had a lovely time in Rhodes. We saw many stunning castles, swam in gorgeously dazzling blue waters, took long walks along the beach and rested.

But the moments in the shul and with the survivor will stand out as we return to life in Israel and to the job of raising our six proud, Jewish children.

And yes, the kids did just fine without us. We came home to see the well documented fun they had while we were away.  Hmmm.....