I have had some interest from Kveller to possibly blog there. Which is a big honor. Since I currently don’t have time to blog here, I assume taking that on just now would be a supremely bad idea. It’s nice to be asked… maybe one day. Kveller asked me to submit a sample piece, perhaps on how the 8th child is different.
The answer is, of course, that they are all different. Bringing a baby home to no children is just as unique a circumstance as bringing home a baby to four children (under the age of 5) or bringing home a baby to a house full of pre-teens that talk back and lecture you. I didn’t say they were all the same, I said they are all consistently unique.
… But when it is baby #8, one stark difference is that Ima is only sitting down now that he is 4 months old (!!!) (coincidentally when I should be Pesach cleaning and not procrastinating) to finally explain the baby’s name, Yehuda Chaim.
Rav Chaim Lifshitz, z”l, was a tzaddik, and an important Rav and teacher in my husband’s life. He passed away last year. He was a brilliant man, studied directly with Piaget, and was a renowned handwriting analyst who had questions sent to him from around the world. He was also the father of our Rav, about whom I have written here. I never met him personally, which is quite sad. But he read our handwriting while we were dating and was astonishingly accurate in terms of how and why we would be a good match and what our primary challenge would be if we got married.
I am blessed that the majority of our small family’s members that would have a baby named for them have been memorialized by family already, or are alive and well. Remembering Rav Lifshitz in this way was important to my husband, so this is what we did. We were honored to have his son, our Rav, present at the brit milah to talk about his father and his amazing qualities.
I knew I was having a Chanukah baby, and a boy. I still didn’t think Matityahu was a good idea. Looooots of name for a very tiny person.
Yehuda was also a Maccabee, and that was one reason I thought of naming this little boy Yehuda. And that was before I knew he would be a headstrong and fierce fighter even during pregnancy and delivery.
The real reason I was set on Yehuda comes from Leah’s words in the Torah when her 4th son is born. She says “HaPaam Odeh Li Et Hashem” (Parashat Vayetze). It says directly in the Torah that this is the reason she named him Yehuda. Rashi explains to us that Leah knew that Yaacov was to have 12 sons who would become the 12 tribes, and therefore the future of Israel. She also knew Yaacov had 4 wives. Doing the math (apparently Leah was taught math ) she reasoned that her fourth son meant she got more than her “fair share” of Yaacov’s legacy.
I don’t think Leah felt like she got much of any fair share in the marriage/love department. But when it came to having kids, she recognized blessing – the special blessing that feels like it goes beyond destiny, or logic, or even-handedness by the creator. Just a blessing. So his name expressed her gratitude.
In some irrational recesses of my brain and heart, I used to feel at many times that I was blessed with easy fertility and a stepson and such a house-full of children as some time of “consolation” for the twelve hard years I had to be exiled from Israel and living in New Jersey.
No, I am not comparing Leah’s “My husband meant to marry my sister not me and now I have to live with him adoring her as his new wife” hard to my “Stuck in suburbia with a Target 10 minutes away” hard. Everyone’s hard is different, and for me, twelve years forced to live outside of Israel because of a decision my husband’s ex wife made was hard.
We finally came home, returned to Israel, and chose to settle in our favorite place outside of Jerusalem’s Old City Walls, which is the hills of Judea, “Harei Yehuda“. This place means so much to me. The hills of “Yehuda” are an ever present gift outside my window, one I appreciate ten-fold precisely because of the time I couldn’t be here.
After being blessed with our return, I feel “dayenu moments”, as we refer to them, every single week, if not every day. Singular moments that in and of themselves would each be enough to say “dayenu” – to make all of the struggles of aliyah – twice – totally worth it, just for that one moment.
So when we finally made it home, and the kids are finally settling into life here, and I can finally feel like we are really here, really home…. Hashem blessed us with another healthy, happy baby. And he feels like that “extra portion” that was just a gift from Hashem. Of course they are all gifts. Yet, at 41, with a full house, my youngest already 5 1/2 and a busy, heaping full plate of noise and hugs and love and mess and holy holy chaos… “Hapam Odeh li at Hashem”.
This time is just “Thank you”… hence, the name “Yehuda“.
The Judean Hills, or “Harei Yehuda”
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Living in Israel and not owning a television means that on a good day I can shield my kids from most of what passes for “news” today.
My kids didn’t want to go to school because for them every day at school is like going back into battle. Four months in a new country, they are dealing with bullies, lack of understanding the language and the material, being too far ahead in certain subjects and too far behind in others. All of the toilet paper in the bathrooms being used up by the end of 4th period. Teachers who care, they do, but have 25 other kids to worry about, instead of ten. Even the kids who are nice to them most often are still not “friends”. And the noise; Israeli buildings, including schools, echo more than American ones, and when the student population of their grade outnumbers the entire student body of their school (preschool-8th), it is just so noisy.
So they go off to battle every day, and some days are better than others, but it is still wearying, and still requires bravery. Now I understand why our young soldiers get such short periods of time to go home! Ten days of sleeping in, hugs and food from Ima, choosing the company you keep and quiet when you want it? Well, of course it is hard to give that up.
They didn’t want to be brave this morning. So they carried on, crying and yelling and threatening and being altogether unpleasant. After all, I moved them here, so ultimately it is my fault.
A part of me really wanted to give them some perspective. “Look at what just happened. Don’t you know what you have? What you are? Alive, that’s what! You are here, breathing and safe, and be grateful and go to school! But give me another hug first. “
I didn’t do that. The last thing in the world they needed was for me to add to their long list of fears. It wouldn’t have given them perspective, or taught gratitude. It would have reminded them that they are right that school requires bravery – of all unimaginable types, bravery that it just shouldn’t require.
But it gives me perspective. I can’t imagine how many parents didn’t want to send their kids to school today, or how many little children across America didn’t want to go to. Children who also cried and carried on… and unfortunately not simply because they have had a week and a half of sleep, warm food, vacation and quiet.
My condolences to the families and community of Newtown, CT. I hope that there is some source of comfort and healing there for all of you.
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I have to blog such a big thank you to Culture Mom & Mama Doni for their giveaway of tickets to a Chanukah performance this past Sunday. It was a blast to win, and a much bigger blast to attend.
Alia was right. Mama Doni was warm and engaging and did a great job on Sunday. I knew that Mama Doni’s performance wasn’t geared towards a frum audience. To be honest, I was a little apprehensive, about religious / propriety issues, and about feeling like I would stand out in this crowd. I was hopeful it would be okay with my little ones. When Mama Doni came right over and welcomed us before the show like old friends, and all of my apprehensions went out the window. And that was long before my three year old spun around like a dreidel, or jumped with glee to a song about gelt.
Even though I did completely stand out in this crowd. I seem to have had quite a run lately of meeting performers and of standing out in the crowd. But I digress.
Mama Doni choosing volunteers to boogie with her on stage.
Mama Doni knows her job, and she does it well. Preschoolers are a tough group to play for. For the record, moms, so are the parents of preschoolers! As a Music Together teacher and occasional Library Story & Song Hour performer, I can tell you that parents often think their kids will stay engaged without their parents, who would prefer to catch a break and let someone else do the entertaining rather than having to be goofy and participate. So they talk and schmooze on the sides. That can be really challenging for those on stage trying to keep the focus of the crowd. Far more challenging than most parents realize. The next time you go to a kid’s concert and you see a grown woman acting all silly and involved down in the front it very well could be me. And now you will know why. (Ask anyone who attended Shira Kline’s performance with me last year, or Yosi’s last week; they will agree with me here.)
I give Mama Doni so much credit for not only handling this tough scenario so well but managing to engage the parents despite themselves.
Towards the end of the concert Mama Doni asked if anyone knew Maoz Tzur, and my aspiring-singer-young daughter raised her brave little hand. She went up on stage to sing it with Mama Doni, and after she got going Mama Doni handed her the mic and let her just do her thing…It takes a tremendous Diva to command the stage and keep two year olds and chatty dads interested and involved – and then in another moment be able to hand over the spotlight like that. Not only did she make my daughter’s day (week, year…), but she signed a poster for her with a personal message at the end, which was such a huge affirmation for such a young woman with such a love of singing.
I would have blogged that it was a great concert and a great day even if she hadn’t picked my daughter and given her a moment of a lifetime. I promise. The band was great, the performance was great, and all of the kids and families there left with “Chanukah Fever”.
As expected, Mama Doni and I didn’t have much time to talk about my big plans and ideas, but now that we have met (and hugged), I am certain we will. Although I think I will be cemented in her memory forever as the “mother of” the young lady singing Maoz Tzur….
Mama Doni cheering on my daughter.
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I have had a very frustrating month unable to upload photos. This is only one of many excuses reasons I have not been blogging for so long.
I know, I know: Chanukah is over. For most of you, I would imagine that it is already out of your mind. As my big return, shouldn’t I post something timely and relevant? Probably.
But I really wanted to put up this post, and I can finally do so with photos, so please bear with me, dear readers (all two of you that haven’t given up on me.)
My almost 11-year old daughter came to me about a month before Chanukah declaring that she wanted to make a completely unique menorah this year, as a project – and as a surprise for the family – with just me.
I haven’t had time to blog because I am adjusting to worki
ng full-time, and not adjusting well so far. I don’t have time to breathe, and I certainly don’t have time for special projects! But I have to have time for my daughter…. so we came up with a project together.
Homeshuling’s Amy Meltzer let me know it isn’t all th
at unique… but it is creative, and pretty, and was not a lot of cutti
ng and gluing or creatively molding or shaping, all of which I don’t do very well.
Daughter decided we weren’t going to buy anything; the challenge was to use what was in the house. SO, this is what we did:
We washed and saved jars from food with relatively similar heights and wide nec
ks. Then, we glued the together, like this:
Next, we filled them with water. In order to make them the same height, I had to eyeball the water to get the levels the same, since the jars are different. (In order for the menorah to be kosher, the candles have to be the same height.)
Then dear daughter had a great time adding food coloring to each jar to create a variety of colors… we had agreed earlier that the shamash would get to be purple.
Then we added the tealights. Despite my husband’s worries to the contrary, they floated beautifully, and didn’t sink once throughout the holiday.
It isn’t a very compact solution, but we had a lot of fun, and the colors looked beautiful. We did reuse materials in our house, and we had our mother-daughter time.
I know it is late, but perhaps this can be filed away for next year…I hope you had a Chanukah holiday full of lights, latkes, love, freedom and family, music and matanot (gifts.)
…I also hope to get to starting blogging again more frequently than once a month.
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