It’s 8:30….

March 11th, 2015

It’s 8:30 and the house is quiet.clock

All of the little people in my house are tucked in bed, asleep, or on their way.

There is mess all around me, the whirlwind that was the past three hours, but I don’t mind. I can clean it up leisurely, at my pace, in quiet.

Quiet.

This reminds me of days past, when I had children ages 5, 4, 4, 2… and a newborn. I would live for 8:30, surviving getting through 5 pm, knowing that if I just stayed patient, dealt with it all, that eventually 8:30 would come.

And it would be quiet.

It’s different now; this 8:30 is just the calm before the second storm. A high schooler at a late night school program. Three boys playing baseball hours away. They will all come home at 10:30 and want food, attention and love. Adrenaline making it impossible to shuffle them off to bed at a reasonable hour. They may just tuck me in.

I miss the quiet solitude of 8:30. Most nights it is a hive of noise and activity until I finally say “enough”. They still go to bed before me, but just by minutes.

I know that there will be a time in the not-so-distant future when 8:30 will be quiet again.

Quiet.

Quiet with no storm to follow….

But I know I won’t find it nearly as blissful as I do now.

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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!!! 

 

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Father and Husband

The two dads

2010 in honor of Father’s Day, I posted my Top Ten things I appreciate about my two favorite Dads as fathers, my Dad and my husband: http://www.ima2seven.com/happy-fathers-day/

I decided to make a new list this year. Having moved 6,000 miles since last year, and having had lots of life changes this year, I don’t think it is the same list:

My Dad:

1. Tries to think before he speaks, and will walk away for a while if he thinks he can’t.

2. Believes in the principles of paying forward, civic responsibility and tzedakah, and demonstrates it with his actions.

3. Has supported my move across the world, with assistance and patience, without making demands or getting angry when I don’t call or that I took his grandchildren so far away.

4. Doesn’t show off what he has, but enjoys it.

5. Really works at being a role model to my children.

6. Has always instilled in us a belief that family, including extended family, matters. This includes inviting extended family wherever possible, without any “keeping score” about being invited in return.

7.  Keeps himself educated about the world, and therefore forms opinions. Yet doesn’t impose them on everyone else.

8.  Makes my husband feel like a son.

9. Calls my children across the world to talk baseball with them.

10.  (I kept this one from the last list) Still pouts when I go home.

 

My husband:

1. Skips to “gan” with my 5 year old almost every day.

2. Can be incredibly firm with rules, and yet incredibly, incredibly goofy.

3.  Understands that asking for change in one’s children requires patience – and finds it.

4.  Drops everything to advocate for his children with doctors.

5.  Still wants more kids……..

6. Remembers that when I am pregnant I am uncomfortable and gestating, and therefore the Queen….of everything.

7. Continues to be in charge of cleaning up all things gross, at all times, without any hesitation.

8. Has stayed committed, emotionally, financially, and with his time, to my stepson. Despite the obstacles, and there are many, he steadfastly gives him as much as he can.

9. Never stops being a teacher to his kids (and sometimes everyone else’s!)

10. Finding opportunities for extraordinary opportunities for the kids, and making time for them, even when it’s really hard.

Happy Father’s Day to you both. I love and appreciate you.

 

What is your TOP TEN? What do you appreciate about the fathers in your life? 

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The customer is always right. We all already know that.

When it isn’t so clear that one party is a “customer” however, it can sometimes get muddy.

Earlier this year I had a meeting at my son’s school. He was the victim of violence in his class. He wasn’t hurt seriously, but he was ganged up on by 10-15 kids TO ONE. Yes, 15-1. On the new kid, the new oleh. When I went into that meeting I thought that I was remarkably calm. I didn’t drag 15 other adults with me to gang up on the staff. I sat respectfully in my chair, and I heard the school out. They said they were sorry………………………… but.

But, they aren’t a private school and they can’t pick and choose who is there.

But, they didn’t know he was having any issues with anyone in his class because he doesn’t complain to them.

But, they didn’t hear from us in the weeks leading up to the incident when there had been verbal taunting.

And you know what? All of those “buts” are true. And that didn’t make one spot of difference to me.

I only heard one thing:

THIS IS AS MUCH YOUR FAULT AS OURS. WE ARE NOT REALLY TAKING RESPONSIBILITY, WE ARE JUST APOLOGIZING TO FIX THIS, TO MAKE IT GO AWAY. THIS IS AS MUCH YOUR FAULT AS OURS.

I recently had to deal with a very disgruntled “customer” who felt very wronged. I then had to deal with a very disgruntled staff member who felt that this was truly not all their fault and proceeded to take partial responsibility and apologize to the “customer”…… but.

And that is what upset the “customer” the most.

Why the quotation marks? In the non-profit world, it is not always easy to know who is a customer.A service recipient? (they aren’t paying for goods or services) A donor? (neither are they) A participant? (sometimes they paid, sometimes they didn’t) A participant’s parents? (sometimes they paid and didn’t receive a service) What about a volunteer?

It is my personal approach that the answer is “all of the above”. Especially in the non-profit world, the “customer experience” includes just about everyone who comes in contact with your staff. A positive emotional response to what you do is your primary goal, results in increased membership, donors, participation, etc.

It isn’t always possible, to treat everyone with stellar customer service, or to tell everyone that they are always right, but it certainly is an ideal.

I think the same is true at home. Who is the customer, so to speak? Your spouse? Your parents? Your kids? We all know that everyone would prefer being spoken to nicely. We all know that a happy home makes everyone want to be there more, visit more, give more.

But what if someone is upset at you and you are just 100% certain that it isn’t all your fault? What if you know that if  only THEY had let you get enough sleep, or done their job properly, or come home on time, or stopped using the computer or…. then you would have just been the mother/wife/sister/friend of the year?

I think we all want unequivocal apologies. At work, at play, at home. If you think you could have done better, then say it. No qualifications. For most adults, this isn’t showing unrealistic weakness. Even if one can’t recognize it in the heat of the moment, most of us know that the other person with whom we are upset would have done better if we had let you get sleep or had come home on time or had done our job properly or….

I am sorry and will try do to better or differently is often much harder than it sounds. It is our honor and self image at stake, after all. As if it were ever really about us.

But doesn’t that unequivocal apology make you feel better when you are upset?

I have been on such a long, long hiatus from this blog, and I am hoping this marks the beginning of the end.

I am sorry, and I will try to do better.   :  )

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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.   :  ) 

 

 

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The hard part.

August 24th, 2012

Ask most moms, and my guess is that they will agree that labor is not the hard part of having a baby.

Okay, labor is really hard. It isn’t the hardest part. That is day 3, or 4, or 5.

When you have a baby you have all sorts of drugs (natural as well as perhaps otherwise) in your system from the pain and adrenaline. You are thrilled to be done, G-d willing successful, and no longer pregnant. You have this beautiful baby!

A few days pass, and you come home from the hospital. Your milk comes in, suddenly your baby wants to eat in a serious way – and all of the time. Your hormones kick in. Your husband turns to you and says that work is done cutting him slack and it is time to go back/get serious/work more hours. Your other children decide they have had enough being big and brave and supportive and are ready for some “you need to show me you love me too” attention. All at once. And somehow you realize that your house is a disaster and a week’s worth of laundry has piled up. And this all comes down on you as day 3/4/5 of sleep deprivation makes your coping skills really, really limited.

Am I right?

So this is what this particular phase of our aliyah feels like.

The kids put on a brave, positive face. They made it through camp, and have really made tremendous efforts. But one month without furniture and a whole week home without camp in which to notice is just about enough. School starts soon and the “orientation” meetings didn’t really help, they just brought the reality of starting over in a new language to the forefront. Anxieties are at an all time high. Places of refuge and comfort at “home” are at an all time low.

My husband and I too are done allowing all of the take out food and the ‘getting by’ – we are also anxious for familiarity, routine and doing one thing – anything – that doesn’t take three times as long as it should.

The heat is at its highest and patience is at its lowest.

On day 3/4/5 after having a baby I routinely want to handle the situation by crawling under the covers, ignoring everyone and falling into a deep, blissful sleep for three or four days. I dream of someone else coming along and being the Ima for a day or two, taking care of it all — including me. None of that happens, but the phase does pass.

I find myself craving the same solution here.  And similarly, I usually manage a daily escape into sleep for about 45 minutes instead. It helps.  Now, as then, there is no one else to be the cheerleader and to say “yihiyeh b’seder” (it will all be all right) another one hundred times. There is no one else to make sure I drink enough, sleep enough, eat enough.

There is no other Ima coming along to say “I’m sorry” after every complaint, and the complaints these days are endless.  They are entitled.  This move is asking so much of them.

Everything I learn as an Ima is a tool to help me be wiser in the rest of my life – at least if I am fortunate enough to learn as I should. I know this too shall pass. The time will come when they will tell me I am exaggerating their current woes when I recall them. There is a time that the “aliyah baby” will coo and be adorable and I will forget just how miserable day 3/4/5 was. I know the day will come.

But I gather my strength and endurance to make it through until it does.

 

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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?

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I packed up for our big move to Israel early. It made a lot of sense under the circumstances. My parents really wanted us to come for our annual extended stay in our magical place, Cape Cod. So why lose out on rental income on our US house by delaying the inevitable?

So I made plans to have our lift picked up seven weeks before we left the country, and we cleared ourselves and 12 years of living in the US out of our home three weeks before leaving for Israel. I tried to have a plan. I tried to be organized. I tried to get it all in the right bags: donate, sell, bring to Israel, bring to Cape Cod, bring to Cape Cod, then Israel…. I am sure you can imagine just how much reality fell short of that goal.

We got out of our house a full 36 hours later than we said we would. And someone went back to get something I left there after that! But I was fairly confident that I had put the important things where they need to be.

Something inevitably was going to fall through the cracks, and I prepared for that eventuality. We will buy new whatever it is, I told myself.

But I wasn’t prepared for it to be my daughter’s precious case full of items that are very sentimental to her. I can buy her a new case, some new trinkets, but I can never, ever repay the emotional value of the items that are now missing. My heart breaks. She hasn’t yelled or screamed. She remains optimistic that it will “pop up”. I, in contrast, have dreams of the case in free fall down into an abyss. I am so scared that it was left behind and that our renters threw it away without any idea what it was, or something equally awful. For now, I am grateful that it is hurting me more than it is hurting her.

I know that our road home to Israel will be paved with many, many bumps, twists and turns. I just hoped the little heartbreaks along the way could be mine, and not the kids.

I also know that this period of transition is part of the process, and that I have to accept many things won’t go as I hope, many things will be hard for my kids, and many things I just won’t be able fix quickly and easily.

Still – please, Hashem, make all the falling through the cracks from hereon in be MY stuff…..

 

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Moving is nuts….

June 26th, 2012

I have to be out of my house by Friday. My aliyah date isn’t until July 22nd, but we won’t be here. We are going back to my parents’ house/summer getaway/magical place on Cape Cod first.

Uprooting your life to move with school-aged children is honestly crazy. Finding a way to say goodbye to your close friends and family is crazy. Finding a way to say “goodbye” to my stepson as he leaves for college and finding a way to tell him we are still his parents and love him but will be six thousand miles away? Definitely crazy.

Love makes us do a lot of crazy things, and my love for the land and the people of Israel are worth it. But right now in the middleof the storm of crazy I am spending a lot of time trying to have faith and hold on tight.

This move feels a lot like giving birth. And we are getting close. I think I am in the ninth-month-with-braxton-hicks phase right now, and when I was pregnant, that made me pretty crazy too.

Just as then, I know what will come in the end is all worth it.

….But if anyone wants to borrow some stir-crazy, bored, emotionally strained children for a few days, just let me know. :  )

 

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Trust Fall

June 13th, 2012

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.

 

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