Living in Israel and not owning a television means that on a good day I can shield my kids from most of what passes for “news” today.


My kids didn’t want to go to school because for them every day at school is like going back into battle. Four months in a new country, they are dealing with bullies, lack of understanding the language and the material, being too far ahead in certain subjects and too far behind in others. All of the toilet paper in the bathrooms being used up by the end of 4th period. Teachers who care, they do, but have 25 other kids to worry about, instead of ten. Even the kids who are nice to them most often are still not “friends”. And the noise; Israeli buildings, including schools, echo more than American ones, and when the student population of their grade outnumbers the entire  student body of their school (preschool-8th), it is just so noisy.

So they go off to battle every day, and some days are better than others, but it is still wearying, and still requires bravery.  Now I understand why our young soldiers get such short periods of time to go home! Ten days of sleeping in, hugs and food from Ima, choosing the company you keep and quiet when you want it? Well, of course it is hard to give that up.

They didn’t want to be brave this morning. So they carried on, crying and yelling and threatening and being altogether unpleasant. After all, I moved them here, so ultimately it is my fault.

A part of me really wanted to give them some perspective. “Look at what just happened. Don’t you know what you have? What you are? Alive, that’s what! You are here, breathing and safe, and be grateful and go to school! But give me another hug first. “

I didn’t do that. The last thing in the world they needed was for me to add to their long list of fears. It wouldn’t have given them perspective, or taught gratitude. It would have reminded them that they are right that school requires bravery – of all unimaginable types, bravery that it just shouldn’t require.

But it gives me perspective. I can’t  imagine how many parents didn’t want to send their kids to school today, or how many little children across America didn’t want to go to. Children who also cried and carried on… and unfortunately not simply because they have had a week and a half of sleep, warm food, vacation and quiet.


My condolences to the families and community of Newtown, CT.  I hope that there is some source of comfort and healing there for all of  you. 

Picture Day.

September 12th, 2011

no; this isn't my kids' school, it's just a random shot of the misery of class photos.

Today I decided that for our “Elul Experiment” our family would focus on davening (praying) with kavana, with proper intention.

Today was picture day at school, and one might find this fact to be completely unrelated, but it isn’t.  No one, including me, was able to focus on that particular mitzvah today, as it seems everyone had to instead focus on the proper management of frustration.

As I blogged yesterday, my six year old broke her wrist on Shabbat. So for my husband and I we spent the entire day very frustrated, although not by picture day. It seems that no pediatric orthopedist’s office in New Jersey saw my daughter’s pain as their personal urgent crisis. We both spent the day on the phone, mostly on hold, trying to get an appointment made. While we have one for tomorrow, I personally felt unsettled while her care is still in limbo.

As for the kids? Although this is the second week of school, picture day messed with their sense of routine. As well as messing with their wardrobe choices, their recess and even their lunch. They all told me they had an awful day. I tried to console them with the notion that when the move to Israel (as far as I know) they will be spared the experience of “picture day”. As most of my readers know, they will undoubtedly meet a whole new host of frustrations with which picture day will pale in comparison, but I didn’t get into that.

Everyone seemed to fare relatively well in the frustration management challenge of the day. I choose to confront it with distraction since frustration is almost always born of our lack of ability to change the situation. So we might as well not focus on it. I know this works with me; I try to shift my focus on to the things I can improve or change.  At least for today, this seemed to work with the kids as well.

I would like to share with you one of my tools for distracting them today, a  hip-hop dance video… from Aish HaTorah. I hope you enjoy it!

Rosh Hashanah Rock Anthem  



full bookshelfMy house is full of books. Overflowing, in fact. Kids’ books, adult books, baby books, Jewish books, science books, magazines. They are literally bursting out of every shelf on every floor of the house. Most of them were hand-me-downs, or gifts from my generous parents.  Some are yard sale and “freecycling” finds.  I don’t pay retail for books. Retail for books? But there are libraries out there!

Every month my children come home from school with a Scholastic Book Club Order Form. Not only are they told they have a deadline to bring it back, and that there are cheapo toys offered with 1/3 of the offerings, but they are also informed that the school gets books from the company if we order…. all of which is, of course, reflected in the price of the books. Five kids with order forms every month. And I resist. I do. I recommend that my children take a good look at the bookshelf in their room and select 20 books to discard. This usually solves the problem. Sometimes, I give them a “maybe” when the pleas are strong, and then they forget about it. One of those “maybes” led last week to this from one of my 9 yos:

Dearest Ima,

I really love you and I am so grateful and you get me so much stuff I want, so much things!

You once said I could have one book from the book order. I am pretty sure this is the last book order. I really really want one book. Please can I have it?

I’ll be happy with anything you say about it,

Now please tell me that you would be able to say no?!?