Moishe Witkes, Mentor for Kav L’Noar together with input from the staff of Kav L’Noar wrote in to Ima2seven with the following information about the 8th Annual Conference Promoting Healthy Family Relationships at the Ramada Hotel on January 22,2012:

CONFRONTING ABUSE IN OUR COMMUNITY. 

I felt is was important enough to publish as a separate post. Please read the information, and attend the conference if you can. May we see such a conference and increased education in the Jewish communities in chutz l’aretz as well.

Moishe Witkes writes: 

“In response to the latest reports regarding the sexual abuse of children involving a ring of pedophiles in Nachlaot, I need to express my sorrow for the young children and their families who have been victimized. I feel frustrated. We are faced in our community with an avoidable tragedy.

As a social worker and clinical therapist having dealt with abuse in our community, I am unfortunately not surprised by these events. When there is insufficient commitment to transparency and education, these events can plague our community. Unfortunately, child sexual abuse is an uncomfortable topic in most communities and even more so in the religious community.

Our duty as professionals, parents, volunteers and leaders in the community is to ensure the safety, healthy development, and growth of our children. It is critical that we are informed and familiar with the inherent risks in the relationships we initiate for our children.
More information about sexual abuse and useful tools to help build awareness, educate and prevent more children from being abused and hopefully prevent these tragedies from occurring in our communities will be discussed at the upcoming
8th Annual Conference Promoting Healthy Family Relationships at the Ramada Hotel on January 22,2012

CONFRONTING ABUSE IN OUR COMMUNITY

This conference was planned several months ago and will feature Rav Zev Leff and Dr. David Pelcovitz. A message from a parent whose children are victims of abuse will be included in the program.

Please visit our website http://www.kavlnoar.org/ for more information and to register for the conference.
http://www.kavlnoar.org/the-8th-annual-kav-lnoar-conference-promoting-healthy-family-relationships/
If you would like to contact the author you may do so via Email:MoisheWitkes@gmail.com
Questions can be sent now for Rabbi Leff and Dr. Pelcovitz tokalnoarcenter@gmail.com

I have been very fortunate to be writing lately of frivolities, indulgences, and good news.  I am so grateful for all of the good in my life these days.

But I am also crying. I have been crying a great deal over this particular tragedy, which is tragic on just so many levels…. The neighborhood of Nachlaot, one of Jerusalem’s oldest, has been broken – destroyed.  The people who live there – members of our one Jewish family – have been attacked, ruthlessly, for years. The children EVERYONE who lives there, is in constant fear.

Except for the terrorists.

There is a ring of at least 10 adult male pedophiles who have been terrorizing the neighborhood of Nachlaot. They are clothed in religious clothing and have been attending local synagogues as upstanding ovdei Hashem. And only 3 of the ten have even been arrested. The situation is a nightmare.

I don’t know where to focus my anger, sadness and outrage because there is just so much wrong with this story:       

1. The police made a statement on the TV news in Israel in Wednesday that “there is an investigation underway and a police presence in the neighborhood and the families are satisfied.”   This is a scandal, a lie, a sheer cover up. The ringleader of the ten – many of whom he recruited – is walking free. The police have thrown out the testimony of scores of children as “unusable” because the investigators themselves couldn’t get around to acquiring their statements fast enough. Children who were told that if they were brave and told the truth would see the bad guys taken care of by the trusted authorities now see the police doing little to nothing, and their rapists walking free, sharing their kiosk and daily bus.

2. There are not enough Haredi therapists qualified to treat the dozens (probably more than 100) children in their sector that have been terrorized. Their parents understandably want therapy for their children from a Haredi therapist. So children are going without treatment. On Wednesday’s channel 10 news report an anonymous Haredi parent said he did not ask his children if they are among the victims. His claim on TV is that his RABBI TOLD HIM NOT TO ASK HIS CHILDREN. I don’t even know what to say. **Note: Please read Chavi’s comments below that this was a distortion by the television news, and has more of an explanation, of course.  A tragic, but logical explanation

3. There isn’t enough money in the world to put the staff on this case that is necessary. There aren’t enough investigators trained to take statements from children. So the statements aren’t all being taken.

4. There are very consistent accounts from many children that siblings were forced to watch the molestation and rape of their siblings, and that the sex acts were filmed. NO FILM HAS BEEN RETRIEVED AT ALL. While private investigators could be very helpful in this case, it costs money.

5. Parents do not feel safe allowing their children out at all. Yet they must run from therapy to therapy to treat their children, if they are in fact getting treatment.  How they can be in so many places at once – and of course not getting the therapy for themselves that they need – is just beyond me.

6. The silent victims are the ones that scare me the most. Who knows how many children can’t, won’t, admit what has been done to them? Each of these children, those who have bravely spoken out and those that have not will grow up with all of the scars of this horrible nightmare:

  • The scars of being raped
  • The scars of watching the violation of others
  • The scars of not being believed or heard
  • The scars of being betrayed by the police, their government, their rabbis, their community
  • The scars of being betrayed by Klal Yisroel.
The city has (finally) admitted that there is a real crisis here and they don’t have the resources, training, manpower or no how to address it properly. This must be fixed. We owe these children, these families, nothing less.

Kol Areivim Ze L’Zeh“. We are all responsible for one another. Every Jew is a cell in one Jewish body that acts to serve G-d. And yet this part of our body is screaming, terrorized, broken, betrayed. And where is Klal Yisrael??? Where is the outcry and support from the Rabbis? The community? The Jewish Human Rights Activists?

Who in the Diaspora KNOWS about this? 

Chana Jenny Weisberg at Jewishmom.com has done a HEROIC job of publicizing this horrific tragedy, but since it is her community she has paid a price. And she has been mostly alone in her efforts. I am so grateful for her letting me know and giving me an opportunity to pray and cry with the mothers and children of Nachlaot.

But we can do better. WE MUST DO BETTER.

I know there is a lot of press right now about Beit Shemesh and the tensions between religious and non religious groups in Israel. I hope this sinat chinam is not related to this horrible suffering we are seeing. But regardless, this is our chance to show some unity and help poor innocent children, religious and non-religious who have all been hurt.

We simply must act. 

Kol Areivim Ze L’Zeh. We will be held accountable for our silence on this matter, and it makes me tremble, quite honestly. I worry about these children as adults. How their untreated trauma and terror can create Jews who hate the world, hate Israel, hate Hashem, G-d forbid.  G-d forbid, it can create future victims, according to research.

I hope this bleak and poorly written blog post makes you upset. And I hope it empowers you to help.

There is a lot that YOU can do:

1. MAKE A DONATION. There is so much need, both in terms of resources to help these families, as well as to fight the battle properly in court. (Assuming they can get an arrest of the known perpetrators). These children will obviously need YEARS of therapy and assistance. Their souls, their minds, their well being are the collective responsibility of the Jewish people and right now they are broken. Destroyed. I hope to see their future participation in the type of camps and retreats set up for other terror victims, such as the work at One Family Fund. I hope they read this, and make an inclusion for this horrible type of terror victim.

Click here to make your donation to the Nachlaot Pedophile Crisis Fund:

(Note: If the link isn’t working for you, please try logging in to Paypal and then clicking on the button. Sorry.) 

2. Letters can be sent to these children to let them know that they are NOT ALONE. That Klal Yisrael loves them, and that most Jews are not the monsters they have experienced. They need love, lots and lots of love.  Letters can be sent in Israel to:  Children of Nachlaot (or Yaldei Nachlaot) c/o Weisberg Family, Shirizli 11a, Nachlaot, Jerusalem, Israel

In America to: Nachlaot Children, c/o 3 Overton Road, East Windsor, NJ 08520. They will then be sent to Nachlaot. Gifts are welcome too, but please send them directly to Israel.

3. Emails can be sent to the Justice Minister, Yaakov Neeman:  Neeman@hfn.co.il.  At least one person has had trouble with that address, so you can also send to the Ministry’s Director General: mancal@justice.gov.ilComplaints to the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat can be sent through the form at this link: http://www.jerusalem.muni.il/jer_sys/residentsRequests/requestAccepted.asp?Type_complaint=100.

They are waking up to the extent of the damage, but public pressure and concern will help get the attention and resources where they need to go. It is already too little too late, but we can still make a big difference. Not just to help these victims, but to pressure the administration(s) to make permanent changes so something like this can never happen again.

NOTE: Since the writing of this post, this is finally being discussed by the Knesset. Please see Altea’s comment below. Pressure and attention is still needed, of course. If you can read in Hebrew, or if you use google translate, you can read more here:  http://www.jerusalemnet.co.il/article/41031

4. Prayer – this will always help. Join me in letting Hashem know that these are our children too, and that their trauma is our trauma. That Nachlaot is broken, so we are broken.

5. Publicity – please share Jewishmom.com’s articles on this matter with people you know. Share this post. Let people know. Make sure your local Jewish paper is talking about this. Appeal to your Rabbis and leaders to talk about this. Grown Jewish victims of pedophilia around the world will tell you the damage they have been caused by Jewish institutional silence. It is a second rape. We can do better. We must show them that we can and will scream out loud in pain for them over and over until the noise is heard.

6. Volunteer.  Altea Steinherz is a local lawyer and hero. She is coordinating volunteers and says she needs anyone who can and will help. You can email her at: alteasteinherz@yahoo.com.

7. Donate. I said this already, but I want to remind you in case you got distracted. I am sorry for not making this story easier to read. I am too upset, and too much time has gone by for these families already.

Please leave me comments to this post, so that I know I am not alone. Because I will keep making noise until I feel like someone out there is hearing me. I hope that happens soon. I also must mention that in addition to her other heroic efforts on this front, Chana Jenny Weisberg raised $4500 for these families. Would that it were enough. Let’s help rebuild Nachlaot.

We, Klal Yisroel, can do better.

Additional resources for information about the situation in Nachlaot include:

Israeli news report from Channel 10 

An Aspiring Mekubal

Failed Messiah

Haaretz (all the way back in October – little has changed since)

Jewishmom.com 1

Jewishmom.com 2

My Teacher, The Abuser 

A Mother in Israel

An Elul Experiment….

August 31st, 2011

 

Female chemist

I am feeling prodded? inspired? by Rabbi Phyllis Sommers’ BlogElul project. She challenges us to blog daily for the month of Elul about the month and its process of introspection and teshuva. Since I am working on the parameters of my computer and internet use this month, it might be quite counterproductive for me to participate.

I have to see whether the exercise helps me use my internet time better, or becomes one more task that just pulls me away from the people I love. Time will tell… and I am here, blogging Elul, for now.


I am trying a new family project this Elul, as an experiment.  We are going to (try to) focus on one midda (character trait) or mitvzah each day of Elul and try to improve it.

While I know this is not that different from what many people do during the omer leading up to Shavuot, I am trying this new approach with the children that somehow managed to turn into big kids on me this summer. All of them. All at once.

That’s a different blog post. What I have found to be so interesting so far is the list itself. I had put some choices down on paper to give the kids some ideas and a head start. What they wanted to add was such a personal and honest reflection of what they know they need to work on that it simply fascinated me.

I know that part of real teshuva means not focusing on everything. Choosing one, maybe two areas or challenges in your own life and truly focusing on change in them is the advised course, and often the most effective.

list

I wanted everyone to be setting an example for each other, and it of course is forcing me to step up. Today the kids chose to focus on saying all of the brachot, or blessings, and doing so properly. So I had to be more focused on nursery-teacher like loud pronouncements of my own, making time and space for their “Amens”. Which is all good.

It feels a little like the office pool that loses weight together. We are a team, trying to take baby steps and improve, but together.

I don’t know if this will work, or if we will keep it up all month. I hope we do. It certainly is a self-imposed mechanism for me to focus on my family on that which matters.

I will keep you posted on our progress, but if you have any ideas for what should be on our month long list, I would LOVE to hear them!

It has been almost a full month since I last wrote a blog post. I am not sure if this is an indication that I have truly spent the month on vacation, or precisely the opposite.

Being at a house by the ocean that is not my own with a stream of visitors and visiting time withgrandparents has been wonderful. I am not sure I would use the word “leisurely” or “relaxing”. The lack of school structure for six kids for one month certainly might have eclipsed my ability to blog, beach house notwithstanding.  I feel like I have been busy, and tired. I have spent a great deal of time shopping, cooking, cleaning and doing laundry.

I wrote last year about finding the moments of personal vacation within my family vacation, and every year this is a different experience, since the ages and circumstances of the family are always changing. I discovered kayaking this summer, because our old, dear and generous friends lent us theirs for two weeks. Out in the kayak in Barnstable Harbor, there was more than one moment this month when I could not hear a single sound. Not a child, not a phone; not even a boat or seagull.  And I love the fact that my older brother showed me the ropes my first time out.  No spa visits like last year. Not even some “escape shopping”.

I am experiencing a different kind of relaxation… and that is the sort of phase II with my family. What I mean is that we don’t have any babies, nor are we expecting one (right now). After years of vacationing with strollers and car seats, middle of the night nursing, bottles and diapers and bouncy seats and carriers, we are just a family with a gang of kids. Day trips are suddenly possible. The kids can buckle themselves in the car, or at least buckle each other. No sunscreen battles, or constantly running after a destructive 18 month old.

We are still in transition, don’t get me wrong; we are potty training, and still planning around the “baby’s” nap. But 3-11 years old(My SS sadly didn’t join us this year)  feels REALLY different than a house full of babies and toddlers.

My pockets of personal vacation are less about escaping all of the child care because the child care is less intense. This is probably just the calm before the storm, (right Miriyummy?) given that they will all become teenagers practically at once – and then I am thinking “intense” will become  a fitting description again.

I have found that as in a traditional vacation, this year has been more about an escape from much of the long list of responsibilities I have. No escape from the childcare or housework ones, of course, but a break from work, my house, my scenery, my routine.

A break that has been in blessedly gorgeous surroundings with quiet bay waves, lovely neighbors, gorgeous hikes and silent kayaking.

Wow. After all of these years I guess it has started to become a vacation.

Neglect

October 30th, 2010

I have neglected this blog for a very long time. I am doubtful that there are any of you left still checking in, my once-faithful readers.

I agreed to take on more work this fall. I love the work, but my new timetable does not leave me any time for blogging. It doesn’t leave me any time for dishes, laundry, cleaning… or even sanity, either. I am working on correcting that, and I will keep you posted. Forgive the pun. In the meantime, this blog is just part of this long neglected list.

I am able to post now because I decided to neglect a portion of my family and take off for Massachusetts this weekend.  Driving all day Friday meant neglecting my work for the most part as well.  I am in Cape Cod,  by my parents with two of  my children. The men are all at home alone, no doubt playing endless amounts of baseball, eating raw meat and leaving socks all over the house.

I am attending – and co-presenting at – LimmudBoston, a conference on Jewish education.  This is to pursue a love of mine that is a cause I believe in deeply, but is not directly related to my family or my career. I am working with two other fantastic women on the creation of an Early Childhood Jewish Music curriculum. I will have to write a separate post to fully explain, but the gist is that little children can learn about music, and can do so with Jewish music.

I got up here after a week of insane intensity; of non-stop running. My children spent the week letting me know I was neglecting them, running to meetings, charity events and appointments all week.  I was supposed to drive to the conference this evening… and I neglected to do so, writing this post instead.

Something happened on Friday when I finally stopped. Just simply stopped. Having someone else make and serve the Shabbat food, not running after my kids all weekend, curling up with a book, I just  slowed down. I guess I couldn’t rev back up this evening enough to drive 90 minutes in the dark and I put it off until tomorrow.

The conference is an indulgence, albeit an important one. I believe this curriculum needs to be created, and that eventually someone with money will be convinced as well, and that it will happen. Sitting with so few responsibilities feels medicinal, but indulgent as well.

Since starting to work full-time, I cannot say that I have yet struck the appropriate balance between all of my activities, responsibilities and self-maintenance, but I know that this weekend is a very long overdue correction of major neglect… of the latter.

I was all set to publish this (brief) post, and was blessedly interrupted by a small child urine emergency, involving a quick change of bedding as well as comfort and kisses very late at night. So, I no longer need to worry about any guilt at all over a) being here (to deal with it) instead of in Boston at the conference, or b) neglecting my parenting * other responsibilities  so I can sit and blog…. at least until the next time.

A New Phase of Recognition

September 26th, 2010

I was a little surprised by my children’s reactions to the rebuilding of our sukkah this year.  Every year has been met with some level of wonderment and suprise as well as excitement. This year…. there was recognition. They had very clear expectations of what it looked like, where it would go, certain decorations, and even our annual problems with it.

As I was scrambling to get ready for yet another 3 days of yom tov in a row, I considered why this made any impression on me at all. They aren’t babies anymore was the most obvious and immediate thought.

Then I stopped to realize that I have now lived in this house longer than I have lived anywhere since I was sixteen and we left my childhood home in Connecticut. My parents moved to Boston at the beginning of my junior year which felt like a death sentence to me at the time. My life was my friends, and leaving that behind was unimaginable. Rather than put down new roots for the remaining two years of high school, I chose to spend part of 12th grade in Israel.  This led to many years of moving; three years at university in Canada, a brief return to Boston, and then aliyah.  I had thought for many years that once I had settled in Jerusalem that that was it. The end. Enough wandering.

First I would find a job. (I did.) Then I would find a husband. ( I did.) Then I would find a nice house in a nice Israeli suburb, settle in, and never leave.  That part wasn’t exactly what Hashem had in mind. So I moved to New Jersey, and took a while to settle here in the amazing community in which we live.

Time has passed and many babies have been born, thank G-d.  I have been busy with much and don’t pause to consider how long we have been here. I DO spend time “counting down” until Israel, but that clearly has distracted me from the roots that have been planted and grown here.

I think there is something wonderful about the wonderment and surprise of the sukkah  box that emerges each year. I am also enjoying this phase of recognition. The familiarity is becoming part of their holiday experiences, as ritual is intended to be.

This is just one piece of a much larger adjustment to a new phase. After over a decade of  “making babies”, my husband and I daily come upon some new aspect of having a house full of children, not infants and toddlers.  For example, we both took a nap at the same time on Shabbat.  Imagine that.

How does this change sukkot? Well, their expectations of us have changed, since they now have expectations for the holiday and its routine. Certain decorations from year to year have become important to them. Sleeping in the sukkah with a specific set-up matters. (Even at the expense of hundreds of mosquito bites, apparently.) Our sukkah door, (which I photographed and tried but failed to upload here ), must be added to every year, according to certain parameters not only not determined by me, but for the most part I am not even privy to.

This means I get to adjust my expectations too; children old enough to recognize so much from year to year are definitely old enough to start helping get ready for the holidays in a BIG way.   :  )

Health Nuts

June 15th, 2010

My husband and I try to keep our house as healthy as possible. This is true in terms of my stellar housecleaning (not!) as well as the food that is allowed in the house.  We don’t buy chips or cookies for the kids. We reserve dessert for Shabbat and simchas. No sugar cereals. This includes “healthy” cereals, like Life, that actually have a lot of grams of sugar. Absolutely no candy, and no juice.

Many people address these choices with a great deal of scorn. We are “mean parents”, we are creating hoarders with food issues,  and of course our children will take twice as much junk as other kids whenever we aren’t around, didn’t you know?

First of all, let me just say that my kids do have juice and dessert when they are in other places, and yes, they sometimes sneak stuff (and think that we actually don’t know), and that a few times every summer we simply have to go get ice cream because it is just too hot and Ima feels like it. So there are exceptions.  They also still come out waaaaaaay ahead in terms of junk consumption, despite the sneaking. And not only do they not have food issues, they are learning the AMAZING skill of taking “just one”, and they recently declared that when allowed a “normal” sized piece of birthday cake that it was just too much icing and they couldn’t eat it.

I find it terribly amusing just how opinionated other people are about this particular issue. Most of the time when parents really feel the need to probe this issue with me, they eventually tell me it is because they are not really happy with the amount of sugar and junk their own kids eat, but they just don’t feel there is any way they could buck the system.  They want to believe no one can do it, therefore our existence is problematic. I get that.

Bucking “the system” isn’t always a lot of fun. I don’t know that I would stand up to the irrational and ridiculous social pressure to load my kids’ bodies with sugar if my husband and I were not such a united front on the matter. He couldn’t care less what anyone thinks, pretty much all of the time, so this doesn’t seem to be an issue for him at all. He is even happy to be the bad cop, saying no more consistently and without any defensiveness than I could ever manage.

The “why” we do this is on the one hand simple and obvious – it’s healthy – and on the other hand a lengthy explanation.

I tell my children that our body is like the front lawn of our neshama, our soul.  Now why would anyone want to fill their front lawn with garbage and junk? I also explain that we have a mitzvah to guide all of our actions by serving Hashem, and that sugar slows us down, makes us more prone to illness, and makes less room in our bodies for the food and drink that do help us serve Hashem. Which, by the way is true.

I don’t tell them that without developing a taste for all things oily, salty and sweet early on, that they are learning how to actually taste food, try a wider range of things, not become “picky eaters” and to have a ground work of healthy habits that I hope will prevent the weight struggles and food issues from which I suffer.

I do tell them that the restrictions are out of our love for them, their bodies, and our love for Hashem. We want to show we appreciate the wonderful, nourishing foods that He created, and that we don’t take our miraculous bodies for granted.

One of the hardest parts of this decision? Trying to explain to my children why other G-d fearing, well-meaning, caring good parents are happy to “litter all over the front lawn” and give their kids a green light to eat whatever they choose!  I of course explain that their are different approaches, etc., but in the mind of a four year if we restrict their junk consumption because we love them, then what does that say about those other parents? What does it say about the teachers in school who tell them to go ahead and eat the candy – Ima and Abba aren’t looking.

Confronting this battle within my kids’ school is another article in and of itself.  I am proud to say that on a local level, progress has been made….. very small amounts of progress over a very long amount of time. We aren’t the only ones:  Soveya is an organization trying to change the thinking about food in yeshivas and the frum world in general, “one pound at a time”.

So. how did I get started on this topic today? Homeshuling’s  Amy Meltzer posted an article about juice for kids.

I never really thought cutting out juice was necessary. I only gave pure juice (as opposed to cocktail or sugar drinks) to the kids, and I diluted it, but juice is healthy, right? And then five years ago, just when I thought the pediatrician would tell me that our food policies were too strict even for him, he said “don’t ever kids your kids juice.”

What?

He explained that kids crave fruit sugar, and that fruit is GREAT for kids. They will get the sweetness they crave, but that the fruit itself has important fiber and vitamins that they won’t get if they have the juice. He also explained that kids who drink juice drink a LOT less water than kids who don’t. This is true from my experience. So, armed with the powerful phrase “The Dr. said”, I stopped giving the kids juice, cold -turkey, years ago.

Now I buy a LOT of fruit. People gawk in the store and give me looks that clearly show they are sure I work at the zoo. One day I am going to print up a shirt for myself that says:

T-shirt graphic

[ I hope you like my first drawing. You can see why I don't make them. I am no Allie Brosh, nor do I aspire to be. But I really do want a T-shirt that says that, if anyone is thinking ahead to my birthday. ]

…Getting back to my point, I do buy a lot of fruit, but I am spared the endless dilution of juice and the lugging of large jugs. (I lug large bags of fruit instead.)

The juice article that was posted:  http://www.inhabitots.com/2010/06/11/85-of-kids-drinks-snacks-could-contain-high-levels-of-lead/ explains that many, many brands of juice for kids may actually be toxic.  Kudos to Dr. Shah for sparing us. Do you think maybe this will hold back the ridicule from the scornful throngs?

On a last note, food policies are like religious observance; anyone to the right of one is “extreme” and anyone to the left is “too liberal”. So we are by no means considered hard-core in healthy eating circles. After all, we still have white flour, white sugar and even – gasp! – hydrogenated oils – in our home. Everyone has to find the balance that works for them. What we do works for us. I never try to suggest it would work for everyone. I am amazed when the same people who campaign on my children’s behalf for lollipops and other forms of food dye ask me with astonishment how I get my kids to eat nicely, or how I get them to sit still.   If you tell me I am doing great with the cutting down sugar but am far from feeding them healthily, you may be right.

…. But at least it turns out I am sparing them lots of lead in juice. Who knew?

I seem to have hit a selfish phase lately. I think it has been brought on, like most things, by a combination of factors.  I am not saying it like it’s a bad thing, it just is.

Pesach was a  long two weeks of break from school, with my husband spending a lot of the time home.

I turned 38, which I already blogged about, but feels, well, older, for some reason.

I got sick, and it took a while to feel better.

And my youngest child turned two.

For some reason I have yet to understand, something happens to me in my subconscious when my littlest ones turn 2. It is as if an alarm goes off in my body that screams “enough!”. I give a lot of time and attention to my kids, not as much as some, but a lot. I nursed a lot of my kids until 2 or close to it. And after two years (not even including pregnancy) of giving up so many of  my own needs and desires,  I get restless. I think the restlessness is good. It helps me allow my children to become more independent and grow.

So, with all of these reasons brewing, I have taken half of a day off for a massage and manicure / pedicure. I have taken naps when I feel like it, including at 7 pm. I have planned an overnight trip, on the weekend, without my family, just to spend time with friends. (I can’t wait!)

I am sure that many of you cannot see what the big deal is. “Me time” is an important given for many. But it hasn’t always been easy for me. My guess is that moms of a large number of kids are a self-selecting group for whom this is often true.

I know the old idea that I am taking care of my family by taking care of me. It doesn’t go down that way with the troops in my house. Especially since taking care of me lately means getting away from them. :  )

I have mentioned before that this year I am feeling older – and wiser. I think the selfishness is part of that unfolding wisdom.

It isn’t that I haven’t done things for myself before. The selfish phases do come.

More often then not, when I have a child that has recently turned two.

Happy Birthday to me.

March 23rd, 2010

It’s my birthday today. It is both my English and Hebrew birthday. Since the Hebrew calendar syncs with the Roman one every 19 years, I am either 19, 38, or 57 today. I will let you guess.

I don’t really expect or enjoy much fanfare on my birthday. I remember my 30th, because I spent it in bed with a stomach flu. The rest past about 16 are pretty unmemorable, and that’s okay with me.

For me, birthdays are a day for reflection and gratitude. (And handmade cards from my kids.)

This year, my 10 yo made me a beautiful necklace, with her Safta’s help, without my knowing, and managed to keep it a surprise. I am pretty impressed, but I am also bracing myself that my kids are getting older as well, and in a much more dramatic fashion than I.

When I was just turning 31, my neighbor and close friend told me how great it was to be in her 40′s. I thought she was CRAZY. I didn’t want to be getting any closer to 40 myself. But she said that her 40′s were about implementing the wisdom she spent her 20′s and 30′s accumulating.

That was very little consolation to me on that younger side of my thirties.  Didn’t sound attractive to me at all. Now as I get closer by one more year, I totally get what she meant.

This year is about starting a very new chapter in my life. While I generally don’t rely on any plans I make, we don’t expect to be having more children.  And that has never been true before since I got married. And the ones we have aren’t a household full of little ones any longer.  I am also adjusting to my new work life. Conveniently for me it comes at a time that my schedule is minimized so I can prepare for Pesach, clean,feel the renewal of spring, and contemplate.

Now if I can just make this the year I get a decent figure back, and get in shape!!!

Day trip (with six kids.)

February 15th, 2010

I read that NYC’s “Gazillion Bubble Show” was coming to NJ’s State Theater in New Brunswick for a special “Family Fun Day” for President’s Day. The theater had a whole day of activities and shows planned, some reasonably priced and some free.

I have taken a true hiatus from day trips with my kids. The whining in the car, the whining when we leave, the inability to please so many people with any one activity, the money… the list of reasons goes on.  Child #7 was definitely the tipping point. But I have been feeling ready to jump back in. I thought that everyone except for dear stepson, who is a teenager, would enjoy. I thought it was a real find to grab a group rate price of $10 when NYC tix go for $40-60.  With that performance combined with the other free activities, it made for an unusually reasonable day, not too far away, and I have been thinking that maybe my kids are (or is it I who is?) ready.

True to my usual way of doing things, I had to turn it into a production. I wanted to get the group rate. A group is 10 people, and we were seven, so I didn’t think it would take much. Once I found out, however, that the tix were selling out really fast and I was already making plans, why not include some more? I also arranged to order kosher food from the town next door and have it delivered to the theater between shows! Of course food for six adults, two babies, two toddlers and eight kids isn’t really very simple, is it?

The day was NOT a complete success. Almost no one liked the bubble show. It was too young for the kids old enough to sit still, and too long for the kids young enough to appreciate  it. It is also really hard to see bubbles and appreciate them from far away. Duh. As you can imagine on a holiday day, with a bunch of activities that were free or inexpensive, it was CROWDED. I expected that. Doesn’t make it any more fun to deal with, though.

The day was also NOT a complete failure. This is some of  what I learned:

  • Pep talks – good ones – before going anywhere really do make a big difference.
  • Kids making a mess and eating in the car on the way to somewhere that is a long experience is worth it and a good idea.
  • If I am going to take my kids somewhere without another adult in my party, but with friends, then I need to speak with my friends ahead of time about the eventuality that they will end up helping me in one way or another. My friends were 100% okay with this  - this time. But I didn’t talk about it ahead of time, and I should have. I was lucky they were so cool, but I forget so easily how it just inevitably ends up that I have to be in at least two places at once.
  • Labeled bracelets, especially for the younger ones, with my number on them. My wise friend brought some and had extras. Thank G-d we didn’t need them, but they are great for peace of mind.
  • I will never buy nosebleed tickets to a performance with little ones again. It was just too much of an issue. They felt they could be noisy because they were so far from the performance, and they didn’t engage well. Not worth it. No matter what. This had never occurred to me before, and I am glad I will know better for next time.  I hope at least one person reads this and gets to learn this before doing it.
  • Always bring a notebook so kids can “journal” or take notes. In the case of one child, that turned the whole day around. This is often really successful.
  • Kids – my kids, anyway – bond when they have a family outing, whether it is an outing they enjoy or not. The experience bonds them; even if it is sometimes against me!
  • Bring something (small) to read, do, or daven from. Even if I am sure I will never have a chance to use it.
  • Nothing, but nothing, pleases everyone of all ages as well as the zoo.
  • My boys have outgrown outings that aren’t sports, active or “guy stuff”. They just aren’t interested. Next time I will let them go sledding into a creek with their Abba like the last time, and take the girls somewhere with me quiet and sedentary…. maybe only one of my girls.

The ten year old gave the day a 6.5 – that’s pretty good. She is very visual, and liked the bubbles better than the rest. My four year-old told me that the best parts of the day were hugging Elmo, and my reading her bedtime story. I think that just about sums it up. The next time I am thinking of taking them on a day trip, alone, I am going to reread this post.

Especially the part about the bedtime story.