Baby #8

March 31st, 2014

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.

IMG_0093

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”

 

 

 

 

Community…

December 16th, 2013

We are finishing up the storm of the century here in Neve Daniel, our little mountain in the Judean Hills (Har HaBloggerim)… it has been one more experience of many that is a window into how true community can transform a place, and transform people. The trading of goods, offers of heaters, and of all kinds of help of all kinds shows the power of this place as people see each other’s problems as their own and opportunities for chessed.

The coordinator of youth programs in Neve Daniel has been advertising that she has a cadre of teens ready and willing to help today. Someone organized some Torah learning for kids this afternoon, the librarian decided to open up for the bored, and those who managed to get out by car today have offered rides to others before leaving the yishuv.

As the social being and true extrovert that I am, all of this community sharing is like a dream for me. At the same time, as a part of any community, you invite upon yourself to share in the pain and loss of others, just as much as their happiness. Just as others share in your problems, their sadness becomes yours.

Like most of us, I am a part of different communities, like circles on a Venn Diagram of my life. One is my beloved mountain here… but another is my [Jewish] blogging community.

Both communities have been rocked by the loss of Stella Frankl, wife of our own Yarden of both Neve Daniel and of his blog “Crossing the Yarden.” It hurts all of us, and many of us have written about his loss – and his heroism.

So it makes the pain even worse to learn of Phyllis Sommer’s loss of Superman Sam. Of the world‘s loss of Superman Sam. Phyllis, you have shared your life with us on line, and you have shared your families struggle and pain. And now we share your pain, too. Phyllis and I have never met, nor do we have that much in common. But through her blog her heartache hurts me too; her Sam has touched my heart, her loss is shared, and her tears are mine.

It would be so much easier if bloggers could drop off a cup of sugar or update a fellow writer on the roads or electricity, like a  neighborhood community in a snowstorm can. 

But what we can do is spread the word and pay tribute to those loved ones so dearly missed. Please visit Phyllis’ blog and lend your support however you can.

Baruch Dayan Haemet, and Goodbye, Superman Sam.  

 

Post-Partum….

December 1st, 2013

“This is your seventh baby? This one is going to just pop right out, you will see…”

I can’t tell you how many times I heard that over the past few months.

My youngest is 5 1/2 – which means it has been a while since I have been pregnant. I was younger, fitter, and while I had my hands much more full with a house full of little ones, I also had more energy.

This pregnancy was harder. Much harder…… but it was nothing compared to the labor/delivery.

None of my other deliveries were easy, but they were pretty straightforward. I have shared with just about any woman who will listen that I proudly delivered twins without an epidural or surgery at 40 weeks – and 6.5 and 8 pounds.

This labor was more than a day, on no sleep, with a “failure to progress”. I was spared a c-section, but at the price of tremendous amounts of strain on my body, the likes of which I have just never experienced.

… I don’t know if it is my age, the hormones, the difficult labor, the very full house or a grand combination of them all, but this time post-partum hit me BIG TIME.

I found myself just crying for what seemed like no good reason. I felt overwhelmed, and mostly I resented every single person that tried to check in with me, asked me what I was doing, expected me to be chipper, friendly, happy, open or affectionate. Including  my own children.

“Can’t they see I am trying to recover?”

“What is wrong with them? Why are they calling me? ”

“How can they possibly ask me for a hug.”

“Just stopped by? Seriously?”

More than anything else, my moodiness, touchiness and lack of ability to be a charming friend and hostess to others seemed to be met with consternation at best, horror at worst, rather than compassion. 

I am in week two now, and what an amazing difference a week makes! My milk is flowing, my child is occasionally sleeping for a whole couple of hours not in someone’s arms. I am no longer taking pain medication round the clock, feeling achy and weak the minute it starts to wear off. I can put on my own shoes. There is a rush of relief that the Shalom Zachor and the Brit are both over. The trauma of the birth doesn’t come to me in flashes like it did last week. Neither do the unexplained bouts of tears. I am able to smile when someone walks in the door, and you might, just might occasionally find me answering the telephone.

The help, advice and meals I have received have been just amazing.I think that religious Jews who have a community that takes turns at lifecycle events  being there for each other, are the luckiest people on earth. And I count myself as one of the most blessed because I live in Neve Daniel.  The love and support expressed from around the world has been so touching, so wonderful.

The most positive experience has been the communal celebration of this birth by our neighborhood, family and friends.

Why write such a negative post during this weekend of thanks??? Why bother writing this? Because I think that when we are truly happy for people we want to connect to them. To reach out and let them know. I also think that 9 times out of 10 a new mother, at least for that first week, needs exactly the opposite. Sometimes love means giving someone space.

I have always dropped off donated dinners to new moms with a note and a delivery person, and I have never thought to make a visit or a phone call in the first week. But I also doubt I have ever been sensitive enough to avoiding asking “how are you” for a week, or assuming that maybe a hug for the new mom is not in order at a bris. I never knew that difficult sleeping when your baby sleeps is a primary symptom of post-partum baby blues, but I have always known that lack of sleep makes everything else harder.

I have had many friends who suffered from post-partum depression, but I didn’t see  it – that is part of what I am describing, which is a desire to shut everyone out during such a dark time. I heard about it after the fact. Until now, I never understood why it was traumatic enough to cause some of them to think twice before having another child.

I haven’t enjoyed the experience, but I do hope it is going to make me a better friend, relative, neighbor and eventually mother to new moms. That I will have a newfound appreciation for that space.

If you ever give birth and I seem aloof during your first week, please don’t be offended, I will just be giving you your space, whether you need it or not. My guess is that if you are a brand new mom, you will be FAR too busy to notice, no matter how you are feeling.

yehudanoam

 

One last note: our beautiful new baby’s name is Yehuda Chaim, and I will post our thoughts and words on the baby and his name just as soon as this little newborn will grant me the time. In the meantime, wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving and Chanukah!!! 

 

That person….

October 30th, 2013

chalk-on-groundI once had the honor of enjoying a shiur by Rabbi Shimon Green from Jerusalem who was visiting New Jersey. He said that everyone has “that person”;  ” That person that drives you up a wall, that you simply cannot stand. That every little thing they do is so annoying it is like fingers on the blackboard – just for you…. but don’t worry he went on; you are undoubtedly that person to someone else!”

I burst out in the laughter of surprise and recognition.  I am a second wife who has been dealing with a first wife, who hates my guts, for many years. Enough said, but far be it from me to assume I am only “that person” to her. I may be that person to a lot more people.

I also think, however, that the flip side is true. Many of us have “that person” that has made some huge, life-changing impact on our lives.

And quite often, I believe that “those people – ” the angels that appear as humans to us –  don’t think of their own actions or behavior as anything much at all. Just as the people who seem to have no raison d’etre other than annoying us often aren’t even considering us for one instant, those that have a hugely positive impact on our lives aren’t trying to change us, or our lives, or even inspire us. They are just living.

My now 8-year old daughter had to go through the difficult process of aliyah only 15 months ago. She went from a small school, 5 minutes from home, where the staff were also members of her shul and community, were her Ima’s friends, gave her hugs, and were her extended family, to a huge public school with 30+ kids in a class, over 200 to a grade, and not a lot of personal interactions between individual students and staff…. all in a new language, of course.

Idit is one of the secretaries in the office, and I very much doubt that she realizes just how much she is “that person” for my daughter.

Shira began last year surprising Idit with hugs. While it certainly wasn’t the norm in her big Israeli public school, it was definitely my daughter’s norm from New Jersey. Idit responded with cookies. She didn’t realize that we don’t give our children cookies, except on Shabbat. It was most definitely the way to my daughter’s heart, as well as the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

The cookies have stopped, but the daily hellos – and hugs -  have remained. Shira knows she has a friend, a go-to person, a safe harbor in the storm that is aliyah.

I had to drop off a forgotten assignment this week, and since I couldn’t find Shira, I gave it to Idit who assured me that she and Shira would find each other before the next class. She called me in before I could leave to tell me how much she loves my spunky daughter. She also wanted to add that Shira often comes to the office during recess, or stays inside, saying that she doesn’t know who to play with.

One of the hardest parts of aliyah is getting past kids being friendly to really making friends. (It’s true for the adults making aliyah too – a different blog post…) Idit suggested that I send Shira to school with a toy from home for the playground or something new that she can share with friends – or potential friends – that will both give her something to do and attract her peers. What a simple, easy idea. The next day Shira went to school with some sidewalk chalk in her bag and I am already hearing reports of improvement in her social life at school.

The teachers are busy, dealing with 30+ kids throughout the day, and they are not  assigned to monitor the playground every day. When they do, they are literally watching hundreds of children. They are watching out for fights and violence (I am not confident they even catch most of that) but certainly are not on the lookout for the lone immigrant child that quietly opted to stay inside. Idit noticed. And her quiet, quick word to me was all that it took to bring a little more sunshine into my daughter’s life.

I will continue to try to convey to Idit how much more of an impact on my daughter she is having than she realizes, and I hope there is a point in her life where she comes to understand that by doing what must be a relatively thankless office job in a public school, she is meriting being an angel on earth for at least one little girl, and by extension her family.

… So what does that mean for me? It means yet one more reminder that I need to live my own life consciously, trying to be “that person” in the lives of others, rather than “that [other] person”….

 

 

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. 

 

 

Adar….

February 15th, 2013

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.

Turtle

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.

We want you

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. 

…BUT…..

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

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.  

 

 

How Are We Doing?

November 18th, 2012

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:

 

 

 and   and

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.)

Before:

 

 

 

 

 

 

After:

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…..

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.   :  ) 

 

 

Stranger in a strange land…

September 4th, 2012

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.