Rosh Hashanah was only a few days ago, and yet I find myself not at all sure just where to begin blogging. So much has gone on, and it has been so long since I collected my thoughts here.

I was determined to remain calm at holiday time this year. With unexpected guests, a steady pile-up of details, the kids’ intense first week of school, kids having off from school on the day I needed to prepare, two new jobs and that other minor detail of my SOUL BEING UNDER FINAL INSPECTION, consistent calm was a large enough goal to be the only one. I am happy to say that in the days leading up to and the days of Rosh Hashanah I did manage to remain calm…. I lost it a little once, only once, (with my husband) and promptly sentenced myself to some time in bed, which led to a half-hour long nap and a return to myself.

Early in the morning erev Rosh Hashanah I had gotten a last minute announcement from my DSS that he was coming for the holiday. I knew that three days of yom tov (and sibling time) in a row would be no small feat for a teenager who generally lives a completely secular life, primarily as an only child. It wasn’t easy for me to adjust to the change with basically no notice.  At the same time, it made the whole holiday feel more real, more complete. I had my whole family home, and it filled my heart. That just doesn’t happen as much as I would like anymore.

I missed Shofar blowing entirely the first day of Rosh Hashanah because the first night one child got sick and spent the better part of the night vomiting. We stayed home together the next day. I stayed calm. I wound up with tons of leftovers because some of our guests understandably didn’t feel like taking chances. ( Said child was on the trampoline and asking for food all at the same time by three in the afternoon, but I had to stay home with him that morning nonetheless.)There is a tzadik in our community who blew the shofar 100 blasts for a second time in one day, before eating his meal or taking his nap, so that I and his mother-in-law could fulfill the mitzvah. Other guests came hours earlier than my husband got home, trying to be very patient while lunch hour got much closer to dinner hour.

I had to miss (part of ) shofar blowing on the second day of Rosh Hashanah because a GANG of teenagers were on their way to my house without any adult supervision or permission! I took it as a backward compliment that any teen would be crazy enough to think that we are that “cool”… we aren’t. Part of me really wanted to resent my removal from davening…. but I remained calm.

Over the course of those three days, some of my possessions were damaged. My children got into it with each other, and younger children got hurt by older children. Albeit accidentally, there was a lack of care and restraint. After so much “together time” some of us forgot to “use our words”. And I remained calm.

I think that I have made a consistent mistake in the past to confuse excitement with seriousness. If there is no build-up, tension, excitement and drama then there is no serious “largeness” to the holiday.

The learning I was able to squeeze in during Elul this year kept returning to the idea of  our effort being the point, not the output, or other people’s expectations.  I heard repeatedly that accepting that this might not be my year to win medals in High Holiday davening, but that sometimes having small children  means showing devotion to G-d by refraining from davening and focusing on the needs of others.

I guess it was my time to hear this message, to learn this lesson.

I davened when I could, set up and cleaned up a lot of meals (gave away as much honey cake as I could so it wouldn’t stay in my house) and tried to prioritize remaining a calm presence in my home as a means of showing my service to G-d and my way of crowning him King.

I don’t know if it improved the holiday for any of my kids. Three days of yom tov, long hours at shul, too much dessert and too little sleep seemed to be a lot for everyone to handle, Ima’s mood notwithstanding.

I know the change made for a better holiday for me. The serenity I cultivated translated into a great sense of emunah, faith. There was no lack of noise and chaos throughout the days, but the lack of anxiety and stress or a “having to” feeling made my holiday more meaningful.

This is only the beginning in a long month of three-day holidays. I hope I can keep the calmness up. Only a few days out, I sit amongst piles of work, mess, laundry, leftovers and dirty dishes… and pray I am really up for the challenge!

Haveil Havalim

July 18th, 2010

The preamble:

Founded by Soccer Dad, Haveil Havalim is a carnival of Jewish blogs — a weekly collection of Jewish and Israeli blog highlights, tidbits and points of interest collected from blogs all around the world. It’s hosted by different bloggers each week and coordinated by the formidable Jack.

I have not commented on every entry, but I have read (and enjoyed them all.) Especially when it comes to Judaism and Torah, it isn’t always a good idea to weigh in. If yours did not receive my two cents, please forgive me – maybe you will consider yourselves lucky! Looking back, there seem to be two common threads this week; oppression / dislike of Jews around the world (especially in the media) and “can’t we all just get along”, both very appropriate for the Nine Days.

Thank you, fellow Jewish bloggers, for becoming an important community for me. I hope this first shot at the carnival aptly conveys my gratitude:

Paul Gable presents Israel Matters posted at Brushfires of Freedom. It may be a hard pill to swallow for some, but is a critical call to action for us all.

Mrs. S presents Visiting day FAQ posted at Our Shiputzim: A Work In Progress, saying, “Thanks for doing this!”  - I am sure lots of us echo her thanks.

Mordechai Torczyner presents Talking to children about depression posted at The Rebbetzin’s Husband. The debate seems to still be open as to what age is appropriate, and I look forward to following the comments as they develop.

Chabad presents The eighth note! posted at lubavitch.com Chabad-Lubavitch news site. As a musician, I would just love to learn more about who “they” is that says there will be an eighth note, and where they say it! Please let us know.

Allison Josephs presents Mi Casa Es Su Casa posted at Jew in the City a helpful reminder of how to give… and receive.

Yisrael Medad presents Did He Deserve the Medal? posted at My Right Word, saying, “Perhaps this British soldier didn’t deserve a medal?”. I’m no Yisrael Medad, but I think he deserves the medal. Maybe it is the historians who need to get sacked.

Yisrael Medad presents Write to J Street posted at My Right Word, saying, “You don’t really like J Street, do You?”, in which he exposes how US enforcement of NGO rules seems frighteningly inconsistent. What a surprise.

Yisrael Medad presents Hillary Clinton’s Humor posted at My Right Word, saying, “Hillary feels so Jewish, becoming the mother-in-law of one of the tribe, that she feels she can be humorous about antisemitism”. Not very funny, indeed.

and….Yisrael Medad presents JPost.com | BlogCentral | Green-Lined | A grand newspaper or a political rag sheet? posted at Green-Lined, saying, “At his Jerusalem Post blog, Yisrael Medad takes on the New York Times”. He can accept that glaringly obvious anti-Yesha stance of the paper. Here he takes issue with the lack of journalism standards. For me, just another reason to never read the NYT.

Culture

Susan Howe presents 12 Truly Bizarre Funeral Customs from Around the World posted at The Budget Life Blog, saying, “Various funeral and burial customs surrounding the dead have grown up in various places around the world. Some of them are really interesting to know that they still exist as technology advances.” This is fascinating and researched glimpse  at traditions I have never seen before. Some are downright amusing. Others are downright disgusting.

Robert Avrech presents The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Proust, Jews, and Jewish Inverts at Seraphic Secret.

Humor

Heshy presents Yo momma is so frum posted at Frum Satire. Now, now, I resemble that remark…..

Judaism

Lisa presents The Morality of Flattery and Christian Zionists posted at Lamrot Hakol (Despite Everything). I am wondering if it is such an accepted idea that Christianity is idolatry? Maybe I am simply too ignorant on this front.  Important point, whether you agree or not.

Rachel Barenblat presents 6 tastes of Ruach ha-Aretz posted at Velveteen Rabbi. These are little glimpses into what sound like an intense retreat.

Risa presents Yearning posted at Shiloh Musings. Beautiful.

Ben-Yehudah presents Response To Hecht’s “Anti Semitism USA, Circa 2010” posted at Esser Agaroth.

David Levy presents Tisha B’Av by Candlelight posted at Jewish Boston, saying, “Dan Brosgol remembers observing Tisha B’Av at Camp Ramah.”  Me too! Me too! I fondly remember Tisha B’Av by Candlelight at Ramah as well… and I have more than a decade on Dan Brosgol.

Ben-Yehudah presents Eating Shuwarmah During The “Nine Days” Oy! Geeeeevaaaaald!!! posted at Esser Agaroth. Tasty story. Very Israeli.  Do you agree with Minnesota Mamaleh‘s “to each his own”?

Personal

Mirjam Weiss presents A Fishy Story in Two Parts posted at Miriyummy, saying, “Girl vs fish, fish wins, and a cross cultural dinner.” Great story, great recipe, and apparently, a great future son-in-law.

rickismom presents Beneath the Wings (a Poem) posted at Beneath the Wings. Beautiful poem. Inspiring.

Home Shuling presents Something more, or just different? Explaining Orthodox Judaism to my children. – Homeshuling posted at Home-shuling. Can I comment on a blog post… about me? It isn’t really about me, it is about the ever-impressive author, but since I am mentioned I think you will have to all just read it and judge for yourself.

shorty presents What have i done lately? posted at Shorty’s Adventure. Sad, struggling, honest. I hope that when the Nine Days end you feel your spirit lifted and new optimism… oh, and freeze challahs so they don’t go to waste.

Lady-Light presents Received a Gift: an Unexpected Visit to Family!, Monday Activities (Second verse, same as the first), and  Tuesday Activities…Last, Bittersweet… posted at Tikkun Olam.  I put these together since they chronicle the same experience. A beautiful one at that.

Elise/ Independent Patriot presents EMERGENCY CALL NOW: NO RESTRAINT AND SECLUSION IN THE IEP posted at Raising Asperger’s Kids, saying, “Because it is against basic jewish ethics to abuse the most vulnerable in society plese list this blog so ppl will call and help stop this addition to the bill. It takes away children’s rights and teh rights of parents to stop the abuse.” This is a disturbing policy. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We hope you will keep your readers posted on this bill.

Minnesota Mameleh presents Summer Days Summer Nights posted at TC Jewfolk. I can’t say I agree completely with the “everyone does what works for them” approach. Maybe I will have the honor of a healthy cyber -dialogue on the matter with the amazing Mamaleh herself one day. But her post is sticky, gooey sweet… and yummy.

Politics

Ben-Yehudah presents Jewish Criticism Of Israel posted at Esser Agaroth, saying, “From Yo’el Meltzer, posting at Esser Agaroth.” How and when can US Jews criticize Israel? This is an interesting principle from which to operate.

Risa presents Remember Gush Katif posted at Isramom. Thank you for making me cry, even though you are right, the tears aren’t enough.

Torah

I haven’t written any comments next to the entries in this section. I read and enjoyed them all, and learned. I promise. You should too.

Batya presents Careful With Words, Promises, Pledges, Oaths etc posted at Shiloh Musings.

pc presents The Goel hadam today posted at Torah Down Under, saying, “Can the goel hadam kill an accidental murderer today”.

Josh Waxman presents Rav Yaakov Emden’s Eight-Legged Camel posted at parshablog. Distortion? Myth? Interesting. Four legs are enough for me, thanks.

Rabbi Yehoishophot Oliver presents Understanding the two sides within posted at A Chassidishe farbrengen.  I hope the way I understand this is correct. I have always thought that true kedushah comes from the integration of these two sides, not just the struggle, or the primacy of one.

Israel

Joel Katz presents Religion and State in Israel – July 12, 2010 (Section 1) and Religion and State in Israel – July 12, 2010 (Section 2) posted at Religion and State in Israel.

Eric presents Lies In Iran’s Media Exposed posted at The Israel Situation, saying, “Iran’s newspaper wrote a horrible, incorrect article about UNIFIL and the Lebanon War in 2006. This is a line by line look at the facts.”

Eric also presents My Israel Support posted at The Israel Situation, saying, “A look at what I am doing to support Israel at home and ideas for you to do the same.”  I can’t look at the mainstream media anymore, never mind analyze its inaccuracies and biased coverage against Israel.  Good luck with the new assignments!

Batya presents Winner Takes All, Losers Be Damned posted at Shiloh Musings.  An insightful observation; I look forward to reading your vision of how we can change things for the better.

Ilana-Davita presents her Weekly Interview: Ruti posted at Ilana-DavitaThank you for the intro to Ki Yachol Nuchal! I am looking forward to reading more… from both of you.

Anonymous presents Eleven days posted at Door number three, please., saying, “Uberimma and family are making aliya at the end of July. Be part of their welcoming committee at Ben Gurion, especially if you are a soldier!” Good luck on your upcoming aliyah! Yashar Koach, titchadshu, and b’hatzlacha…. I am not sure what I like better, the post, or the list of 100 things on the side.

Harry presents presents This is the story of Johnny Rotten – In Israel at Israelity.

Harry also presents T + L love J Town at Israelity.

.. and Harry presents Tourists flocking to Israel at IsraelityNice to hear (and end this with) some good news. I hope he is right that it’s the best year ever for Israeli tourism. Hope we can make it the best year ever for aliyah too.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of haveil havalim using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

I hope that this is a meaningful Tisha B’av for you.

L’Shana haba b’Yerushalayim habnuya.

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Playing Hooky

May 30th, 2010

I had a glorious day this week playing hooky with all of my kids.

We own a game that is no longer produced (by Mattell) called Chatter Matters.* It is a very hokey family game designed to get the family “talking”. One has to answer questions about how well they know other family members, about their own childhood memories, etc. Part of the shtick of the game is that each player gets to choose their “prize” from a list at the beginning of the game that they will get if they should happen to be the winner. The list includes things like “the dessert of your choice alone with the family member of your choice” & “movie night at the house one night, and you pick the movie.”

This game became very popular in my house over the long Pesach break, and led to many very sweet family conversations and moments. It also led to one child winning a trip to the zoo on a school day.

So, this past week I took off of work, pulled all the kids out of school (except dss), and too off for a day at the Philadephia Zoo.

I was quite excited at the prospect that on a school day it would be deserted and we would have full run of the place. Imagine my suprise when I pulled up and not only the two closest parking lots were FULL, but there were 90 buses lined up on the street parked as well. (An employee told me that was the actual number the next day.)

We managed to avoid the throngs of school children for the most part. This was one of the many aspects that made it easier to have gone to a place I already was very familiar with.  We enjoyed the zoo tremendously, and we love the Philly Zoo in general. So much so, that I have decided that I am going to write a separate post altogether about the zoo itself.

I wanted to make separate, and I hope not too obvious points.

The Zoo itself was part of the reason that I was able to take six kids on an adventure by myself, and part of the reason we all managed to have fun. However, the kids were really in a great mood simply because I had taken them on a school day. I dropped my work and we just had a one-day mini vacation where it was all about them. The impact was tremendous. Maybe other people get to do this more often than we do, but with so many kids it isn’t easy, and I know in Israel Sundays aren’t time off and here they seem to get swallowed up by simchas and the insane birthday party circuit alarmingly quickly.  They felt loved,  and they actually said so.

I also told them that many people would consider it simply crazy to take six kids ages ten and under on an outing for the day without another adult. That it was in their hands; they could prove it can be done by listening and cooperating. That it would probably encourage me to be brave and try it again. Or, they could show me that it really is crazy, and I just won’t try it anymore.  Somehow, by some miracle, they seemed to get that. I am consistently re-amazed at the efficacy of a good in-car, pre-event pep talk. By the end of five hours at the zoo with 90 degree weather there was admittedly some melt-down commencing, not entirely on the part of the children, but everyone, including ima2seven, managed to keep it together.

I did call poor husband who had to go to work instead of coming out to play hooky and ask him to have some dinner for us when we walked in.

The last comment I want to add is that (of course) they learned a ton. And (of course) not just about animals. I have a tough time believing they would have learned more had they been in school. And even if they did, I wouldn’t have been right there, eating up every minute of it.

*The link to this game from Amazon sells the game. I think it is worth it. For a better description you can visit this other link, where they are selling the same game for $110.95.

1. Peel a clementine/tangerine. If you start it, they can peel off the rest. It gives you more time, and they are sooo happy, with a yummy reward for a job well done.

2. Putting the silverware from the dishwasher basket into the drawer. So it won’t be sorted properly. You can always do that later.  Just take out sharp knives first.

3. Turn off the lights in their room at bedtime. Very empowering.

4. Put their own shoes on the right shelf, in the right drawer, or in the right closet.

5.  Push the stoller… okay maybe only for fives steps, but still.

6. Get out of the car, once mobile. They like the extra time it takes once you have taken them out of the car seat to climbing out of the car — sometimes it is a lot of extra time.

7. Putting the groceries into the back of the cart. (Bet you already knew this one.)

8. Play with push pins. No; it isn’t too dangerous. Tlhey can put them into the top (or side) of a cardboard box, especially if you do it first and make holes. Great for their dexterity, and keeps them busy and out of trouble for a number of minutes.    Works best when they are in a high chair, so you don’ t have to worry about push pins everywhere.  They also get that the ends are sharp, and avoid them. This is also a great lesson. Not for every kid, I admit.

9. Sprinkle on cinnamon and sugar. I use this instead of honey and syrup on food. Much less sugar. They love to do it themselves.  A one year old can sprinkle it on unsweetened apple sauce without any help.

10. I was waiting to post this until I came up with a tenth. But I think it would be more fun if you sent me your suggestions….

“Work at Home” Mom

January 25th, 2010

I am trying something new this year. I am now what I like to call a “work at home” mom. I am working as a PR consulant part time, from home. I also am home full time with my 1 1/2 year old son.

while the other six are in school during the day, that only gives me until 3:30 to work until basically 9 pm, when bedtime is over.

(I also carve out time for teaching early childhood Jewish music classes and some Torah learning.)

I have remained a “stay at home” mom for almost the entirety of the preschoolers-rearing stage — a long ten years. I am glad that I did, and it has always been because I felt it what was best for my kids. I even kept everyone home for a year, with 3 preschoolers and a baby having “Gan Ima” all day every day. (The horror others had that I was “homeschooling” my children who were all too young to technically be in school is for another post.)

But being home with my kids full time was always a struggle for me.  I don’t enjoy going to the playground for hours. I don’t like fingerpaint. I don’t enjoy sitting on the floor with one cute little child and playing trains. Certainly not as much as I liked working. I LOVED working. I enjoyed my career. When I gave it up, it was never forever and it was never really completely. I found fulfillment in event planning or article writing within my Jewish community instead of for an employer. I joined the shul board, founded a Jewish girl scout troop… lots of activities to keep me busy and engaged at certain elements of my career.

Two years I began working again outside of volunteering. Very, very part time, and all from home.  At first pregnant, with a sitter for my toddler. Then,  with a little baby around. It wasn’t so complicated. He loved to nurse and sleep, and those things made it easy for me to squeeze in work. And parts of my brain started to buzz with activity again.

Now I have developed a business and a client base. (I happen to love the clients I have now.) My little one is a lot less little, and I find myself doing a challenging juggling act I never really attempted when my other children were this young.

A friend who has her children in the same school was laid off this year, and is having a go at consulting, and also at trying to be a “work at home” mom. Her little one is younger than mine, and still a tad easier. (He will catch up soon enough, I have no doubt)

“G” & and I are trying an experiment; we are going to try to work in the same house 2 – 3 days a week while the little ones play, sleep, whine, make messes, etc.  The idea is to have a mother’s helper here with us, share the expense, be with our children, while successfully earning money.

When my now ten year old was 18 months I would have never made it past the guilt to such a plan. I needed to be spending my days at mommy and me, music classes, gymnastics for toddlers, and water babies — which very pregnant with twins was quite a picture, believe me.

Now, I am a different woman, ten years older with a lot more experience and confidence. Those classes were fun, but she didn’t need them. What she needed, and what my little one needs now is a happy, healthy, focused, centered mommy who can give her little one(s) attention and love with a whole heart and mind.  She didn’t really like those classes any more than she liked the park. It was “Ima time” no matter how you sliced it, made it fancy, added programming, or spent a lot of money on it.

I am hoping that I can find the perfect balance for this child and for me – his Ima – at this stage. The experiment with his friend, my friend, a sitter and two laptops all in one house is a new one, and you will have to follow me in seeing if it works.

But I can tell you that I nurse him to sleep while writing letters and articles. I take a break between skype calls and emails to nuzzle his neck and tickle him like crazy and even to play with trains a little…. and so far, it is the most fun I have had being home.

Now if I can just find a way to get the 20 weekly loads of laundry done in the mix……….