I haven’t had a lot of time to blog lately. I haven’t had a lot of time to blog since I decided to move across the world with six kids. Then deciding that taking a job outside of the house, albeit half-time, sort of put the nail in the blog coffin.
I am making some changes in my life over the next few months and hope that with some much-needed balance will come some specks of time for writing. Stay tuned.
Someone I do not know, who has never commented here, made a kind comment about my blog. But he also said that he would love to hear my journey, not just stories. And he is right. I haven’t done that. Mostly because I have yet to ever feel like I have “arrived” anywhere on the journey. I feel like it is hard to tell the story when I am still in the middle of it. That is how a blog works, though, isn’t it? So I have to do that, and am making the commitment to it right now.
Today, however, is not the day I am going to tell you my journey. I have written much about my love affair with Israel, with the intense joy that I feel about being here. And I do feel it – every single day. I get emotional and grateful on a simple drive to work, looking out at the Judean Hills. I don’t see a checkpoint and rush hour traffic. I see the land of my forefathers; I really do. And I hope the naive rose glasses remain there for a long time to come.
But this week? I am sorry. It has just been…. well NOT FUN. Actually, it has been more like a month of health issues all up, down and around my family and I have honestly HAD ENOUGH. I am officially, here and now, crying uncle. Like, we really, really could use a break.
My daughter has some horrible stomach thing that won’t die with the many antibiotics she has taken. We have been to emergency rooms, I have fought with attendings, ordered tests, been completely let down by specialists, and am left with a daughter missing school, tired and frustrated while we keep poking around in the dark for a solution. *
My son has asthma, and Lag Bomer in Israel is not exactly the very best holiday for an asthmatic. For those of you that don’t know, the national tradition is to light bonfires and stay up late, breathing in the smoke and eating nasty hot dogs and marshmallows, while reports of fire damage come in from around the nation.
Even if I had made my son stay home from the “everyone-is-doing-it-I-get-to-stay-up-late-and-bond-with-my-peers-over-a-bonfire” experience his very first year here, the smoke from the entire country would have caused his flare-up anyway. He hacks, he cries, and I slowly go out of my mind.
My other son decided he had to go and break a toe.. we must have missed a day at the doctor’s office. He can get around, but was told no sports for three weeks. I am not sure which is worse for his overall mental and physical health; the broken toe or his being cooped up that long. I know which is worse for mine.
My dad has had a minor “thing”, and is now going for more tests. He is fine. He really is. Thank G-d. But the reality is that my parents are getting older and I now live 6,000 miles away. The worrying didn’t help him when I was a 6 hour drive away either, but it always felt like I could hop in a car and run over to see them. With this many kids and responsibilities that sounds funny even as I type it, but it felt like I could. He doesn’t need my care, energy and attention right now like my brood, but the additional worry and distraction just adds to the heap.
I am barely - just barely – making it with the work-aliyah-support the husband-raise-all-of-these-kids plates all spinning in the air.
These sick kids are like an angry bird that has swooped in to knock every single one of the plates out of the air.
I have friends, family, more family, and more dear friends coming to visit in May. I can’t wait. I want to show them how happy we are here. How settled we are in our new home. How well we are doing, and how I scaled the heights and have mastered starting over at 40…..
… I fear that they will arrive and instead all they will see is fallen and smashed plates that were once spinning…. in a heap all over the floor.
*Please don’t write in a comment suggesting something I ought to get my daughter tested for. I know you mean well. I have heard them all, and yes. We tested for that. I assure you.
Share on Facebook
My family had lots of good news this week!
My daughter found a turtle. There has been a three-year campaign (at least) for a pet, that resulted in my finally declaring that if they found a turtle and it lived in the yard, they could keep it. So this find means not just an adorable (???) turtle named Sheldon in our midst, but a triumph over the parents that said “no” to pets. Very exciting.
Not Sheldon the Turtle, but similar.
I have two boys that have been accepted into a high-quality private school in Jerusalem, who have decided to commit to the longer commute and increased hours of Torah study. I am proud of them for deciding to take on the challenge. More than that, I am relieved for them because their acceptance in their current school has not been great, has caused them a lot of tears and frustration and has not helped their aliyah one bit. It is very hard to move at 11 years old, and it is also hard to accept new and different boys into your circle when you are 11 years old. The school itself starts in seventh grade, so the rest of the boys will be “new” as well, and I hope this will help.
I also have three boys (two of them are the same boys) that were accepted into a boys’ choir based in Jerusalem. They all love to sing, we love to let them, it will give them fantastic opportunities and experiences, help them make new friends, and involve three boys in one chug (after-school activity) – always a logistical plus.
The most important part for now about both the school and the choir is that word accepted. After feeling rejected socially by their peers for so much of the past six months, the three of them feel wanted, and we all need that.
I also am feeling a more “wanted”. I have accepted a part-time job that is challenging, exciting and rewarding. I hope to have more of an official “announcement” soon, when we finish finalizing the details at work. In the interim, I often come home feeling like I have done a little bit of good out there in the world. As I drive to work I get this ‘high’; the feeling of freedom and escape from mundane housework, the astonishing views on my commute that just feel like a daily gift from Hashem, and the knowledge that I am working in the Holy City of Jerusalem with ideas and people that make a difference just come together in a moment of endless gratitude.
My children are daily beginning to experience their first Purim in Israel. It is one of the moments in the year that olim internalize deeply, because it is so radically different than in the rest of the world.
There is much for us to be celebrating this Adar,
our first as a family in Israel.
It is hard to ignore that Adar is also a month of azkarot, memorial services. Purim is the story of the return of Amalek, and our triumph as a people over it – with Hashem’s help. Israel has suffered an inordinate number of terror attacks in the month of Adar. When people pause to remember, they realize that it was Adar when a terrorist killed eight young boys in the Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva. Adar when the Fogel family was torn apart, leaving those young children orphaned in a way that so clearly screamed “bloodlust”. Unfortunately the list goes on.
Fogel family, z”l, killed two years ago today.Boys murdered at Mercaz Harav yeshiva March 6, 2008.
As the Jewish calendar is cyclical, we know that Adar beckons Amalek back every single year. In our age, we triumph by simply going on, building our state, celebrating life and not death. But it is the modern day “ad lo yada” challenge for us to be b’simcha (joyful) not only over Mordechai but also Haman, and to rejoice in Adar, our month-long Purim-fest, while also attending memorial services.
Ad Lo Yada, celebrating on Purim until we don’t know the difference between blessing Mordechai and cursing Haman.
I pray every day that in Adar this year Amalek doesn’t add any names to the list.
**If you would like to support Israel’s victims of terror financially you can do so by ordering mishloach manot for them or sending your matanot l’evyonim to them. If you want more information or ideas, please just leave a comment here, and I will respond.
Share on Facebook
We are doing great. Now you don’t have to read the rest of the post.
I haven’t been able to update this blog in so very long. Unable to be reflective on our aliyah process long enough to write about it, I have been caught up in the living of our new busy life. And it’s a great problem to have.
And I really didn’t want my return to blogging to be another “here is my perspective of war in Israel as an American living here” post. There are lots of people that can try to make real for you their personal experience of a bomb shelter, the disruption of daily life, and the reality that it isn’t just southern Israel anymore. You don’t need me for that.
The truth is that bloggers have been writing in English about the heart-wrenching reality that is life in Southern Israel at Hamas’ expense. And they haven’t been trying to tell the world for three days; they have been writing about it for the last decade, since we traded Gaza “for peace”, while the world has largely ignored the ongoing assaults.
But today I got a message from a dear friend that started with ” Worried sick over here about you guys.” And it makes me sad and a bit aghast that my friends and relatives in the US should be suffering over my reality so much more than I am. I am reading the status updates and posts of my friends who live only a block away, and they also seem far more distressed than I feel.
This is partly because they are indignant with the injustice of the situation we are currently facing, and many of them have had to living with that indignation for a decade already. It is partly because the siren or the situation is scarier for them, or because they have the good fortune to compare current reality to years of relative calm and quiet.
It is partly because I am still in the honeymoon phase of our aliyah, and I know it. I admit it.
Even so; I feel great, I really do.
First of all, when I left Israel for twelve years, I did so after a series of 18 bus bombings, horrible suicide bomber attacks and then the second intifada. I didn’t adjust to a decade of relative calm.
Second, I have watched with sickness from afar the horrible – deadly – decision for Israel to leave the Gaza Strip, and have wrung my hands at the inability to help as Israel has suffered showers of rockets in the south. I waited, and waited, and waited to be here part of the communal problem/solution/family/support system/whatever.
I feel triumphant that we are FINALLY doing something about it. We are going after the leadership of Hamas; the bad guys who are oppressing their own people at least as much as they are building a machine to destroy Israel. I feel exhilarated to be here and not far away; part of the Zionist response, part of the banding together, part of the offers of help, part of saying tehillim for our soldiers, part of the collective national cry of “enough is enough is enough; I can’t go on, I can’t go on….!”
I stood last night as my children participated in the induction ceremony for their Zionist youth group (Bnei Akiva). Children of all ages were standing outside singing “Ani Maamin” - I believe – and Hatikvah at the top of their lungs. This is our response to barbarians trying to annihilate our presence in the Middle East, to erase our place in history. It does not make me feel scared, it makes me feel brave and proud.
I understand the important need of the Public Relations Team that is the Jewish People to explain to the world that this is self defense on Israel’s part. That includes explaining just how many rockets Hamas is sending, and has sent. That they have killed three innocent people and injured scores more. It IS important; we didn’t bring this upon ourselves, and whatever we are doing is so, so much less than what is deserved. We are destroying an infrastructure of evil, and crippling a terrorist organization. Not retaliating in measure by any means, or taking revenge.
But the story many are perhaps reluctant to share is that we are kicking some very serious bad-guy butt. We have taken out some serious Hamas leadership, a win for Israel, and for “The Force” that is all that is Good in the world. We are not only shooting down LOTS of their precious arms that they are blessedly using up, but doing so in great numbers with no harm to anyone. We are taking out weapons caches and factories. They are more interested in a cease fire than we are after only three days – and with good reason. Hamas’ “destroy Israel forever machine” will hopefully never be the same.
I don’t feel afraid. I felt far, far more fear when Israel sat back, let the situation get worse and worse, and did nothing. I felt far worse when we waited for rhetoric in the West to express support, and tried “negotiations” – or even worse, cessations in building in my precious West Bank. All of which produced an increase in violent bravado that brought us to our current reality.
More than anything, I felt more fear when we lived in a place where I didn’t usually know who or what was evil. Who to trust and who had my back. I felt more fear with my children at the playground in NJ without an adult than I feel every waking minute in Israel today.
As for my daily reality? I went into our shelter room on Friday night when we had a siren. It is set up like a den, and we hung out in there for a very un-dramatic five minutes. I have since gone on with my routine, trying to be sensitive to neighbors who may have husbands called up for reserve duty. This routine includes an early morning run to the local grocery story here in the West Bank, where my excellent customer service was almost exclusively from the Arab employees there. A security stop on the road home with lots of “racial profiling” – good news for me. A trip to the health clinic to deal with a child’s allergic reaction, teaching a class, laughing with friends, seeing the very, very sad end to my mother in law’s visit, and enjoying a fabulous afternoon in the park.
As I helped my four year old out of an olive tree whose very existence celebrates the resettling of Jews in the ancient Jewish area of Efrat (in the West Bank), I looked up at the gorgeous blue sky and the sunny, breezy balmy day, and thought with sadness for a moment that Jews in southern Israel may not be able to be outside in the park enjoying the beautiful sunshine. And my children told me how sad it was their their “friends back home” (in NJ) have only now gotten back power, (“and isn’t it sad?”) Homes were destroyed, those poor people!
I live in a place where the people who live around my country hate me. I live in a place where our final borders and status is still an open question whose answer will not come quickly or easily. I live in a place where my enemies are not concealed, and where the source of my security is in the hands of brothers and sisters and our Creator, the Parent to us all together. Where the problems are OUR problems, and therefore I can be part of the solution.
Pray for Israel, help Israel… but do NOT worry about me, and do not feel sorry for me. Help me cheer on the only country of the Jews as we finally stand up to evil and say NO MORE.
How are we doing? This is how we are doing:
Share on Facebook
This is our sukkah decoration craft this year:
I was very pleased with myself for “inventing” this year’s sukkah craft.. only to find that Creative Jewish Mom had beat me to it. My only twist to the idea is that instead of using plastic drinking cups, I have been using Israeli cottage cheese containers, yogurt containers, and even “resek” (tomato paste) containers. I know this will work with American yogurt containers too. I don’t encourage the use of plastic cups in the house in general, so we don’t really have them lying around. And I used containers I would have otherwise been throwing away.
This project fits my criteria; inexepensive and kid-friendly. Although my 12 year old helped with the spray paint, my kids were able to do this basically without me.
For those with easy access to it, I suggest adding some glitter glue to the mix.
Here are my directions:
Save and wash out as many small plastic containers as you can.
Gather up a piece of cardboard for spray painting on.
If you have a single hole punch, it is great for stringing up your flowers. Gather up some string, too.
1. I started out by cutting off the hard rim on the yogurt cups. (For those of you outside of Israel you may understand from the pictures, but this step is probably irrelevant for you.)
The stiff rim is gone on this one.
2. I cut the cups from the rim to the center, leaving the round center intact. The sizes of the slats don’t seem to matter, but if they are a bit wider it is less work, and easier to round your “petal” edges if you choose.
3. I chose to spray paint my flowers before rounding the edges, mostly because I wanted to see what they would look like. The extra step (of rounding them) is entirely up to you.
I bought two cans of spray, pink and silver (which really looks gray).
My kids had a lot of fun being allowed to use the spray paint. It was my only expense for this project, and totaled 24 shekels, which is about $6.
4. I used a mini-single hole punch at the top center of one petal, and just put through a piece of string I had. I used a sharpie on one of them, and as I said, I think glitter glue would look great.
I will add a photo of our beautiful flowers hanging in the sukkah…but we need a sukkah first!
What brilliant and inexpensive, kid-friendly decorations can you suggest? We would love some more ideas!
** Don’t forget to check out my product review of the new Webee, below…..
Share on Facebook
When my friends asked me to test drive a new developing computer product designed for young children, I jumped at the chance. They know that I am a blogger, and they know I am VERY opinionated, especially about my kids. They also know I am brutally honest, so they must have a lot of confidence in the product!
What I am not sure that they know is that both my husband and I have worked in IT, we own four working laptops that are always in the house, and I have children who are not only relatively computer savvy, but specifically well-versed when it comes to educational programs.
They did give me a Webee (pronounced Web-ee) to try for free, but I made no promises to post a word other than my true feelings after a thorough test-drive by the family. And we love it. The makers are currently running a kickstarter campaign to get this product on the market, and I strongly endorse the effort. I don’t need to buy one, I have one. But I am putting my money into the campaign nonetheless, because this product is a good one, and it will sell.
The Webee is not a web site (or rather not just a website) but rather a custom keyboard that plugs into a USB port and sits on top of the keyboard of the computer. It is used in conjunction with the Webee website, which requires a login by the parent. The user (designed for young children) can then access educational games around the site, changing as they choose.
How is this different than just using a kid-friendly educational web site?
First of all, the buttons are much easier than a mouse for a very young child. My four and a half year old is very comfortable with a mouse, but not only are the buttons easier, he is “safer” using them, i.e., less accidental clicks, closing browsers and generally messing up Ima’s work.
Second, it is almost impossible for the user to accidentally switch out of the site and/or end up somewhere on the net where they shouldn’t be. This is a big deal. I am okay with my son using the computer, but it is a general problem that I either have to stay on top of him supervising, or I cannot and feel that I should. This product makes it much easier for me to let him work independently in a truly safe way.
Third, most of the web sites that I actually do let my little one use have a number of options that are simple “play video”. I hate this. I like limited amounts of brain-engaging computer activity, but if it is just going to be a mini television set, then it defeats the purpose. The Webee solves this problem too.
“Isn’t this just ‘digital babysitting’?” You ask:
Someone recently reacted to me that way when I described the device. Before going any further, I know virtually no one who isn’t guilty of digital babysitting at some point, for some amount of time.
Having said that, we don’t own a television, and I am not a big fan of passive entertainment. On the other hand, my children gain a great deal from relaxed, indoor time (when they happen to not be bothering me!) in front of the computer doing mind-engaging educational work. My older kids all use Khan Academy daily, for example.
Their younger brother wants to follow suit. When he is using the Webee he is learning reading comprehension, letter and color recognition, order, size, matching, etc. All positive school-preparedness skills.
And… this brings me to my favorite part….
THE WEBEE CAN BE SET UP FOR USE IN ENGLISH, RUSSIAN, or HEBREW.
If you allow your two year old to use a computer, limiting daily screen time, in Hebrew for a few minutes every day, he/she WILL learn Hebrew! I have seen this first hand. If your four year old is learning some basic Hebrew at preschool and you want to reinforce it, they can use this toy in Hebrew and learn. I love it as a language tool in addition to a basic learning one. I know this won’t be the selling point for everyone, but it has added a significant layer to the value for us as a family.
What is the review from the four year old? He is at the older end of the spectrum for the toy, but he loves it. It is definitely more challenging for him in Hebrew, but he does love using it in English as well. Do you know what the most precious commodity is to a seventh child? Anything that is actually solely theirs. A computer related device designed for him? He feels like a really big man.
I expected my older kids to scoff and make fun of the “baby toy”, and that their put-downs might turn him off to it. Didn’t happen. They love it too, and they look for excuses to “help” him. I know that one of the reasons it holds their interest too is that there are a very large number of games/choices.
The programming itself is high quality, although I do prefer some games over others. I am thrilled to learn that once the product takes off they have created a Software Development Kit, making it possible for others to expand the choices and create even more high quality options within the system.
I encourage you to visit the kickstarter campaign HERE, and to invest if you are able. Stay tuned here for updates and news about Webee and its development, and when you can finally get one! .
I had asked the company for one to giveaway to you, my readers, but you will have to wait for the actual product and not an advance prototype. Once Webee raises the funds they need and can get moving on the assembly line, I promise to bug them for a giveaway contest until they have to say yes. : )
Share on Facebook
The only feeling stranger than being a new immigrant here, is being a “new” immigrant the second time around.
The Israeli term for a citizen that has returned from living abroad is a toshav hozer. Because my husband and I both made aliyah, we are toshavim chozrim, or returning citizens now. However the term usually suggests those born and raised in Israel who choose to live elsewhere for some extended amount of time.
We were olim, we are olim, and in many ways I still feel like an immigrant. Other times this does not feel like aliyah at all, it feels like returning home. How strange to be chetzi chetzi - half and half, right in the middle.
Interestingly, our apartment here in our blissful corner of the Judean Hills is also chetzi chetzi; halfway between the top and the bottom of our apartment complex, and just about halfway between the top and bottom of the whole yishuv.
Yesterday I conquered many minor tasks on my aliyah to do list. I was able to (finally) secure kupat cholim, national health coverage, for my family. This has been my number one priority and has taken many office visits in Jerusalem, lots of paperwork, lots of money and many forms and conversations – all in Hebrew. I also was able to get a doctor’s exam taken care of as a prerequisite for renewing my Israeli license. Once at the licensing office, I pushed my way past two agressive Israeli Arabs in order to maintain my rightful place in line, and was able to negotiate renewing my my license without having to be retested! I made my way home from Jerusalem without a car and successful navigated a “tremp” along with the rest of the natives.
So while feeling quite triumphant and Israeli, I returned home to children who were distraught and dumbfounded by being left out and treated aggressively in school. I went to help my son with his homework, encountering expressions I have never heard, and then read my daughter’s note from school that explains that her class will be going on a field trip next week – from 7:30 pm to 2:30 in the morning! What???? After getting over the culture shock of this, I realized that we don’t even have a flashlight, or any of the other equipment listed on the school note.
Most of my children were out of the house at a special program just for new olim that is sponsored completely by the municipality here. They are getting help as new immigrants to adjust and feel welcome and supported. (Hence my ability to blog!) At the same time, my youngest is riding a bike outside with a friend who only speaks Hebrew. They have gotten to know each other well enough in Gan (preschool) that he begged to come over.
We went out to Back To School Night at my 2nd grader’s school in the evening. I understood every word the teachers said, but couldn’t tell what the subject were on the weekly class schedule. I took offense at something a teacher said, but after discussing it with her, I realized that I likely simply misunderstood her meaning because of my immigrant Hebrew. While other parents scribbled in the forms they were asked to fill out, I brought ours home. I won’t need a translator, but I will have to sit with them and figure out what they are asking me.
And of course the parents knew each other, caught up on their summer and talked about their kids with the ease of returning families. We, on the other hand, made an emergency meeting with the teacher who is concerned with my daughter’s angst and struggles with adjusting.
So which are we? I didn’t expect to feel any more Israeli than I do, nor did I expect to feel any less of a new immigrant than I do. Yet despite my trying to maintain realistic expectations, it feels so very, very odd and disconcerting to be neither one or the other. This gives me a new appreciation for people who write of being from two races, or two religions. Does one fit in both worlds, or neither? At times it feels like the former, at times, the latter.
In the end, of course, it doesn’t matter. Not only will my self-definition continually change, but others will always perceive me and my identity as olah/toshav hozer/American/Israeli through their own lenses.
But this does make me mindful of the transition that is the teshuvah of Elul. Our month is not supposed to merely be one of “being on our best behavior”, but rather it is supposed to be a month of house-cleaning our hearts, minds and souls in a transformative manner. We ask to be forgiven our transgressions because we have striven to be different people than the ones who committed the sins in the first place. We return to the land of our soul, returning home, but different.
And this is the story of this strange phase we are in, in this Land – we have returned home….. but different.
Share on Facebook
This morning I am surrounded by overstuffed suitcases, carry-ons and “personal items” – with pillow pets peeking out of them.
Today is the day that, if Hashem decides they will go according to our plan, eight of us will board a plane for Israel. One-way tickets.
The ninth, the first child, my stepson, will say goodbye at the airport. Before I met my husband I never in a million years thought I could be a stepmother. Then I met my stepson.
In a million years I never thought I would leave Israel. Then my stepson moved to NJ. There was no other choice for us.
In a million years I never imagined it would hurt just this much to leave him here. He is a grown man, going off to college. But that doesn’t matter. Not to him, not to his father, not to his siblings, and not to me. We moved here just so that we would mean enough to him that it would be this painful and heartbreaking to be apart. This tremendous ache is our sign of success.
He knows, as his stomach churns and his heart aches, that this is what we need to do. For us. But it doesn’t make this part easy.
It has been a crazy and intense three weeks of limbo in Cape Cod, our “magical place”. Surrounded by my parents and brothers and a steady stream of visitors, we have tried to squeeze in a little bit of pre-trip errands as well as a few dabs of much-needed vacation.
I am sorry I haven’t been able to write about it. Perhaps when this adventure starts to calm I will find the time.
… But we all know this adventure won’t be slowing down anytime soon, right?
Share on Facebook
Wow. I have been gone a really, really long time. I think I may have mentioned once or twice (or a hundred times) that we are moving (back) to Israel. Everything else has experienced some neglect, not just the blog. I hope to make up for it, all while sharing tremendous mountain views from the Judean Hills.
While we are in this intense period of transition
we my children are having the very expected roller coaster of mixed emotions. We went through a particularly challenging bump in the road for about a week in which we thought the perfect picture or plan “we” had made was in peril. Of course Hashem had a better plan and the pothole in our road was a gift, but at the time the sudden upheaval and uncertainty was extremely distressing – and therefore not lost on the kids.
When I was suddenly standing on uncertain ground (again) it was too much for them to bear. “You told us everything was set!” they cried. ”What do you mean things may change!”… “If you weren’t right about what school I would be in, then how do I know anything else you told me is really going to happen?!?!”
I sat them down on Shabbat morning, and I told them the story of the Peer Group Retreat I went on with Weston High School in 10th grade. I never really understood why we went to “peer group” or what the point was of putting their perceived “leaders” in the school all in one room. Shouldn’t we have been meeting with “non leaders”? (Whatever that means.) But it meant some measure of status to be chosen, we told ourselves it would look good on college applications, and it probably got us out of other classes. So we went.
We did get to go on a retreat at a campgrounds in the spring. We had ice-breaking sessions, conversations on leadership, lectures on the evils of drugs, we had to use teamwork to navigate a ropes course, and we learned… trust falls. I told the kids about the fear of closing your eyes and leaning backwards, completely letting go, prepared to let your peers catch you. I related the story about being told to go to the next level, onto low bleachers, falling blindly backwards from that height into the arms of your classmates. It wasn’t easy, and we all learned that no matter your weight, with a group behind you to catch you if you can really let go, they will catch you and you won’t fall on the ground. We all had to do, had to learn it by doing.
Aliyah, I told them, is one big trust fall.
You have to know that Hashem is going to catch you. You can’t waiver, and you can’t doubt. You won’t be able to lean and you won’t be able to fall if you don’t trust. You can be scared and you can be anxious. But you must trust that you will be caught.
Then, of course was the fun part – I let them each try a trust fall. It was immediately apparent who could let go and lean and who really had to work on the trust. I think by having to do it then finally understood what I meant.
The pep talk was at least as much for me as it was for them. I would hate for my anxieties over changes in our plan or troubles along the way to ever be misinterpreted as a lack of faith in the Master of it all.
Share on Facebook
There are plenty of memorials to Maurice Sendak, z”l, on the web this week. They are mostly articles and facts you may or may not know about him and his unique body of work. No doubt he was successful, if not controversial, and he definitely was a man defined at least in part by his Jewish son-of-immigrant roots.
I only offer my personal connection.
I was an early reader. As a student in Hurlbutt (no I am not kidding) Elementary School in Weston, CT, I spent a good deal of kindergarten off in the corner with friends like Susan Bruno and Simeon Hellerman “reading” while the rest of our class listened to records about the alphabet and what sounds they make with The Letter People inflatable 21″ dolls. I thought the dolls were horrific, but then again so was being put off to the side publicly at five years old… there was clearly no concern about social ostracization in the educational system back in CT in 1977.
I put ‘reading’ in quotations marks because we were given headphones larger than my head that plugged into record players. We would play records that went with books and follow along, reading and memorizing each story. The number of books to choose from was significantly smaller than the number of school days when we were sent off to the corner. Along with Susan and Simeon, Rikki Tikki Tembo became one of my closest daily companions. As did Pierre who didn’t care, Really Rosie, Johnnie and the little boy who ate Chicken Soup with Rice.
When I look back upon that time now, I appreciate much more fully how fortunate we were to have access to such educational technology back then! Those ridiculous headphones and record players were most likely not available in most schools then, and we lived in the town that housed Weston Woods. This was the company to first produce books on record (and then tape) for children, and I am guessing we probably had those records before most, if not all, of the country. They created the Really Rosie movies as well as the other animated Sendak stories, including the recorded version Maurice Sendak himself reading Where the Wild Things Are.
His books such as these were formative for me, and for some reason (probably my parents’ PR) I knew he was Jewish and that it was supposed to be a source of pride. I have been so fortunate to pass along my love to my children who have learned Where The Wild Things Are in two languages, have a ‘wild rumpus’ song and dance of their own (that my husband created with my stepson) and who have thought for years that I made up that tune to Chicken Soup with Rice, not Carole King.
So for me, the connection is a truly personal one. My status as an early reader was and remains an indication of nothing regarding my intelligence, only my lifelong deep love affair with books. A love affair spurred on early by the wonderful creations of Mr. Sendak who will be missed, but who will live on in our house and bookshelf for what I hope is many generations to come.
Share on Facebook
My four year old is – well, he is my youngest child. I am sure he occasionally does things that someone out there might not find adorable and charming; I just can’t see it. He has all eight older members of his family wrapped around his tiny finger, and of course he knows it.
Thankfully my children are relatively close in age. This means that as far as they remember, they were all treated the same way at his age. In reality, by the time they were each four years old I had a two year old and a newborn! They were lucky to join a snuggle while I nursed someone else, or to find me alert and awake enough for five minutes to appreciate them.
With him it is different. I savor the minutes, having learned with the rest just how quickly they run. It doesn’t matter how many Bubbes told me it would be this way, to “slow down and enjoy them because it goes so fast“. Only with my own personal experience – and some sleep – did it all set in. And now he is forced to be my “baby forever”, poor kid….except that he enjoys it so darn much.
My little precious baby was born with an interesting speech anomaly. I say “born with” because my son didn’t babble like other babies. He made a seriess of pre-speech sounds – all through his nose. It concerned me then, and I was told he would grow out of it.
As he grew, his speech developed rapidly, with the quickness and vocabulary of a child that is raised by eight family members instead of two. But his nasal sound production remained. He could not annunciate a “ch”, “sh”, “j” or “tr” sound. At preschool at 2 they all noticed, and it concerned me even more, and I was told, again, that he would grow out of it.
As our planned aliyah crept closer, I started to move from concerned to slightly panicked. How could I move my son to a new place, ask him to acclimate to a new social environment in a new language, and not help him first correct his speech?
I finally got him an evaluation, recommendation and miraculously, insurance approval for some help. The evaluator told me that the problem was significant, that it was in fact masked by his level of speech, and that it was physiological, with habits learned wrong from birth, and that he would NOT outgrow the problem himself. It was an anomalous speech impediment that wouldn’t be easy to correct, but that once we found the key, she was optimistic he would correct the rest himself quite quickly.
Last week my son said “sh” for the first time. I cried and cried. I thought the day might never come. I cried in joy that I had fought to deal with it now, not later. I cried in pride that he clearly struggled so hard in that tiny little body to correct that which was completely natural to him, subverting the ego and listening to correction after correction. I cried that the gates of success were open for him in Israel, and his success would make his new life – which might be so much effort at the beginning – so much easier.
Once he could translate a “wind sound” (as the brilliant speech therapist Dawn told him) into a “sh”, he quickly began “j” and “ch” – on his own. It was beautiful. He can hear and feel the difference, and often patiently corrects himself, already in week one, without prompting.
What gratifies me most is the joy he feels from overcoming a challenge. I hope he never remembers his funny way of talking as a baby and toddler. I hope he does remember struggle and mastery and hard work with a huge finish line. The need for that skill will remain forever and is at least as important as the wonderful sound of a properly anunciated “sh….”
What makes me so misty-eyed is the innocence and childlike manner of his work. I wish I could preserve this sense of exploring the world without ego. As I help my older children navigate the thorny path of middle school with peer pressure and insecurity, I wish I could keep him safe from it all, remaining in a world where being corrected is okay, and getting it wrong until you get it right only makes you a hero.
Do you hear this gushing? I definitely sound like an Ima of her youngest child.
Share on Facebook