Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tricky and Tiring Adventures with Teeth

Teeth are tricky business for this mom of six. Sure I have a lot of doctor’s appointments and places to take my boys, but I find the dentist to be one of the hardest of those obligations. 

This is true for a few reasons.

Where I live, teeth cleanings and teeth check-ups aren’t done in tandem, at the same visit. So this means that you have to schedule an appointment to get your teeth cleaned, AND schedule another appointment on another day and time to see the dentist for a check-up and x-rays.

Well, when you’ve got 6 kids and you want to keep your own teeth healthy as well, that’s 14 appointments to balance in the course of the year. And while I’m very grateful that dental care is subsidized and covered in our health basket, the closest dental clinic is a 20-25 minute drive away. Talk about scheduling nightmares.

So far, I’ve managed to swing it and to book all of those cleanings and check-ups (and the occasional cavity and root canal) without losing my mind.

But recently, I felt like throwing in the towel. I would make an appointment for my 16 year old three months in advance, only to be told when the day arrives that he has work/test/basketball practice/a major event on the day of his appointment. And we will start the process all over again.

I figured the summer would make things easier, since he’s back at home and has more time. But he’s working like crazy, and just asked me to cancel the 8am appointment I made this week.
Can’t say no to a kid hard at work.

And as I was saying to my husband that our son’s teeth were simply going to rot in his mouth for every-after, my husband said something that shouldn’t have been earth-shattering, but that was for me.

“Why don’t we just give up on this dental plan for just this child and go to the private dentist in our town?”

And the world stopped.

In retrospect I have to giggle, because I’m so rigid and planned in the things that I do that I just assume I have to keep doing them. We have subsidized dental care and it’s great so gosh-darn-it, I have to find a way to make it work in every situation and for every kid even if I’m ready to lose my mind.

But what if we just say: You know what? This isn’t working. So let’s find another way to do things.

Yes, it will cost more money for our 16 year old to see the dentist in the community where we live. But the task will actually get done. We’ll have a kid with healthy teeth and a mother who can keep her sanity (at least in this situation).

And all of a sudden when my husband suggested this solution, the tension vanished. Poof.

Just like that.

Obviously we all have goals in our lives as parents; we all have plans and objectives and things we need to accomplish. But it’s really important not to lose sight of our sanity in the process of checking off these goals. And sometimes, if the square peg just simply isn’t going to fit into the round hole no matter how much you push and prod and jam it with those twenty extra pounds of Umph! that you’re always trying to lose…it’s time to lose the round hole instead. It’s time to make a detour that will save your sanity.


Now why didn’t I think of that?

Sometimes parenting and time management are really hard and complicated and sticky.

And sometimes we just make them so.

Lessons learned for this harried mom on the path towards clean teeth.

This article was first published on Kveller.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Mazal Tov! It's the Sussmans' Only Bat Mitzvah!

Today is our Aliyaversary. We got onto the plane 12 years ago today with two little boys, a baby on the way and our whole lives ahead. 

I still can’t believe we did it or how rich and vibrant our lives would be as a result. But as I reflect on 12 years, there are many things that I could never have imagined…

I could never have imagined that:

I would have six boys, rather than the three that I expected and assumed I’d have in the States.

I would change careers and open myself up to an entirely new world of creativity and productivity.

I would laugh so profoundly and grieve so deeply.

I would have teenagers who assume that high school is supposed to come with weekly trips to explore their land and twice a year camping/backpacking trips.

I would have children who read Mark Twain and Harry Potter and John Grisham…in Hebrew.

My kids would think that they can get away with saying things behind my back as long as they speak Hebrew (and sometimes they do get away with it..but only sometimes).

My kids would have slightly Israeli accented English…and make my parents laugh when they sing “Happy Birfday to you!”

The kids would spend hours upon hours over the summer occupied by an incredibly well-run soccer tournament…organized by the 10th grade kids.

The 10th grade kids would bother to take the time to put together a soccer tournament for their little brothers and sisters.

My teenagers would show no sense of embarrassment at all when they are hanging out with their friends and see us. I am surprised each time that this happens.

The kindergarten performance would make me cry when the kids sing Hatikvah.

Hatikvah would make me cry every time I hear it – no matter where I am.

The fireworks on Yom Ha’Atzmaut would make me cry.

Watching the Nefesh B’Nefesh videos of the bright-eyed and hopeful immigrants coming off the plane would make me cry (and even more so when I’ve gone to greet those planes).

(This is the video from our Aliyah flight..we are in here a bunch so watch carefully!)

My kids would love going to the arrival ceremonies for the Nefesh flights and greeting the new immigrants.

My sixteen year old would run around all day (and many very late nights) in the summer making money and just assuming that this is what he’s supposed to be doing – because it’s what all his peers are doing. And never complain.

Our vacations would include exploring and hiking, meeting new and interesting people who open their homes to us and enjoying all on our Land.
Yep, nothing like a trip to Hebron to say hi to the moms and dads of our past.
Hiking in the Golan with the best of friends.

Weddings would be the most incredible, intense and joyful events you can possibly imagine. If you haven’t been to an Israeli wedding, you haven’t really been to Israel.

Funerals would be gut-wrenching beyond imagination. The lack of a coffin is something that simply can’t be described. It’s the real deal with no pretentions, no fluff, no barriers between us and our reality.

My kids would think it’s completely normal to have five siblings…at times they even call us a smaller family.

My boys’ idea of a good afternoon with their friends would include going to the nearest ma’ayan (natural spring) and their idea of a night out would include playing basketball late into the night at the yishuv court or having a poike (a stew type concoction cooked in a cast iron poike pot over an open flame).

I would go to bed earlier than my oldest two, who are out into the wee hours of the night catering or hanging out with their friends. And I don’t worry about them. (Much).

My kids would continually be teaching me…their Hebrew songs, their slang, their cultural references and everything else.

I couldn’t have imagined all this, and so much more, 12 years ago…but now I can’t imagine anything else!

Aliyaversary Dinner Tonight!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Things My 22 Year Old Self Could Never Have Imagined

Last week, I was telling one of my colleagues about how we all woke up in my house at 4am to watch game 7 between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors. He chuckled, shook his head and said, “I bet this is at the top of your list of things your 22 year old self never thought you’d do.”

And it got me thinking.

Yeah, if my 22 year old self could see me now, she would definitely be laughing...and probably be a bit confused. Growing up near Beverly Hills, I went to an all-girl’s prep school through 12th grade. I had very little interaction with boys (other than my brother and his friends) and I certainly had nothing to do with sports.

Today, well, today I’m a busy working mom in Israel, running after my six sons on a daily basis. So, having given some thought to my colleague’s words, here is my initial list of things my 22 year old self wouldn’t believe.

1. I wake up at 4 or 5am to watch NBA games with my boys.

2. I spent time this week reading a book about athletes who have overcome terrible life situations to get to where they are. It’s a great book, but still….really?

3. We’re redoing our guest bathroom soon, and putting in a (as we’ve coined it) boy toilet. That’s a toilet that connects to the back wall rather than the ground, allowing you to actually clean the floor and get to the bottom of that never-ending missed-the-toilet-again pee.

4. I am constantly hearing myself say “Guys! Stop fighting in the family room. At least go into a bedroom to do it.”

5. I spend far more time at my kid’s basketball games than I do fixing my make-up, my hair, my anything.

Recent basketball wins.
6. I encourage their sandal tans and giggle at their accomplishments in this area. (But yes, I’m constantly running after them with sunscreen.)

7. I have found myself actually saying these words at the doctor’s office, “This injury (fill in the blank with the given injury) isn’t going to bring his profile down and keep him from a combat unit, right?”

8. While on vacation in Venice, we spent hours admiring armor, swords and other weaponry, taking pictures of it all and whatsapping it back for our five year old to see.

Yep, we whatsapped a picture of this guy back for Yakir.
9. Last summer, while visiting family in the States, we spent more time at the Nike outlet and sporting goods stores than we did almost anywhere else. We even returned to the sports stores a few times as our designated afternoon activity - just to walk around and admire.

10. Last week I actually said both of these phrases: “I think we should hang up until you’ve finished repelling down the side of the mountain,” and “Make sure the donkey has enough to drink.”

My life is definitely not the one my 22 year old self would ever have envisioned, but when I reflect on these crazy mom-of-six activities, I see a pattern. These might not be the activities I favor most in the world, but they are the ones that my boys love.

And I try to stay connected to my kids where they are, not where I want them to be. Rather than molding my kids to my expectations and goals, I’m working on molding my expectations and goals to the kids.

Do I love sports, sword fighting and the idea of combat units? Um…not so much. But I do love these ever-rambunctious, always developing and thoughtful guys. And I’m working at being the mom they need for their interests, their activities and their development, rather than making them the kids that I might expect them to be.

Even in the midst of the pee-splashed bathroom, the blaring sports channel, the ball-filled house and the sword-fighting adventures.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Romi's Reading Roundup

As many of you know, I love to read. Love might be an understatement. And while my life is crazy busy and I’m almost always harried, I find the time for those books. For about six months now, I’ve been writing a periodic list on Facebook of my recent reads and have enjoyed the banter with other readers and the recommendations that I receive in return. Such fun.

I was thrilled on Thursday to see when someone wrote to me, “When is your next reading review, Romi?” and it got me thinking about all of the delicious, and not so delicious, books I’ve read recently. So, here is Romi’s Reading Roundup, presented on my blog this time so that I can go into more detail about each book and why I loved, or didn’t love, it.

Books I’ve Recently Loved:
When Breath Becomes Air: I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to handle reading this, but it was beautiful. It’s the autobiography of a brilliant neurosurgeon who is months away from finishing his residency when he finds he has terminal cancer.

A Hundred Flowers: A beautiful, surprising and quiet book.

Crooked River:  An unusual story about coming of age, family.

The Nest: What a great surprise this book was! It’s about four siblings who think they are coming into a lot of money soon…and how they react when things don’t go as planned.

The Last Runaway: This wasn’t as good as some of Chevalier’s other books, but it was still very enjoyable.

Be Frank with Me: An interesting look at life through the eyes of a young autistic child. Sort of like Dog in the Night

Finding Jake: Wow this was a surprise winner. This is about a massacre that takes place at a school and the parents who think their son was involved. Very well done.

Calling Me Home: Unexpectedly sweet and endearing.

Greyhound: Now this was quite a great find. It’s the story of a neglected young boy who is thrown on a Greyhound bus to drive across the country to his grandparents and what happens to him on the bus.

Books That Were Good, But Not Great:
The Orphans of Race Point
The Natural of Jade
That Part was True
Sing You Home
The Eagle Tree
Daughter of Fortune
The Coincidence of Coconut Cake
Whiskey and Charlie
The Japanese Lover

Books I Wouldn’t Want Anyone to Read:
2am at the Cat’s Pajamas
A Cupboard Full of Coats
A Mosaic of Grace

What I’m reading now? The Book of Fred and Some Luck. The Book of Fred has a very strange premise about a girl who is saved from a cult and what becomes of her…I’ll let you know what I think of it when I finish it! Some Luck is nice so far.

And I’d love to know what you’re ready and what you hope to read next!

Thursday, July 07, 2016

The Blessings of Being Low on Gas

This first appeared on Israellycool here.

You know that you’re living a strange existence, or perhaps a particularly special one, when you end up seeing your need for gas as a blessing. During the summer months I’m particularly pressed for time. The kids’ camps offer only a sliver of time to run to the office, get my work done and try to squeeze in an errand or two before they return. And then there is little time for errands or productivity as the house fills with boys and energy.

So, yesterday, when I noticed that my gas gauge was getting low, I actually had to wonder when I would take the extra fifteen minutes to get it filled. And I awoke this morning slightly annoyed, knowing that I could wait to fill the tank no longer, and that this extra time would encroach upon my work schedule, which would put off my get-home-and-quickly-throw-the-laundry-in-schedule, which would encroach upon my…you get the picture. So I grumbled all the way to the gas station, weaving my way through the morning traffic on highway 60 near my home in Gush Etzion.

And as entered the Rami Levi complex to get gas and waved at the soldiers standing there and trying to keep me safe, my grumbling stopped. It hasn’t been an easy few days around here. And most of us are just barely staying sane, what with Hallel getting butchered in her bed while sound asleep in Kiryat Arba, and Rav Micky Mark getting murdered and leaving behind three injured family members and ten children outside of Otniel. And so, as I saw those beautiful boys, boys who will someday, much too soon, be my own sons, my hurry vanished.

And as the gas was filling, I went over to the convenience store and bought some drinks for the boys. I walked over to them, reminded them to stay hydrated on hot days like this, and was filled with sunshine from the enormous, vibrant smiles I received in return.

And as I got in my car to race to work, I thanked Hashem for reminded me that there are many things more important than my busy schedule, and that there are many ways that we can step outside of ourselves and show our appreciation for those who enable us to continue with our regular lives.

I have no answers to the situation in Israel at the moment, no answers to my children who wonder how they could possibly feel safe in their own beds, no answers as a mom trying to shelter her ever-adventurous and fun-loving teenage boys, no answers for how to balance it all. But what I found today is that I do have one answer for my mood – for my reaction to the insanity unfolding on a daily basis around me.

And that’s chesed (acts of loving kindness). And I don’t mean that we need to all hold hands and sing Kumbaya. I just think that each of us, no matter where we live in the world, can try to make our little corner better and try to help those in Israel to keep reaching towards sanity, hope and stability. This might mean that, if you live in Israel, you visit one of the Shiva houses when a tragedy occurs. But maybe this is too much to ask, and rather you purchase a bottle of wine from the Ariel B'Yehuda winery (owned by Hallel Yaffa Ariel's parents). Or you join in this Go Fund Me campaign set up to help Rav Mark's family.

We don’t have to do earth-shattering things in order to feel like we are doing something. Send money to the Friends of the IDF, to the Koby Mandel Foundation or to any other location that touches your heart. If you live in Israel, bake cookies for the local soldiers, have your kids write notes to soldiers on bases, decide to spend one hour a week doing charity work, or just smile at those around you more. If you live outside of Israel, keep in touch with those you love here and remind them that you’re behind them. The Whatsapp messages that I get from my friends when tragedy strikes here are like gold. I can’t tell you how meaningful they are. Pay attention to the news. Come for visits. Put your money here.

We all have our own tools in our toolbox, and our own ways of coping with the stress that we feel around us, or that we see unfolding on the international stage.

I felt blessed today that I was low on gas, and that I had a reminder that it doesn’t have to be the large things in life that can pull us out of our slump. Sometimes it’s the littlest of things that can make all the difference.