I've said it a million times before. I love my iPhone. Until I moved across the globe I never really had a need or desire for a smart phone, but since I've been here, it's become a crucial part of keeping in touch with everyone back in the States.
This might just be the coolest app offered yet!
The iKotel: Bringing the Western Wall to the iPhone
by Elad Benari
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation has launched a brand new iPhone application that brings one of Israel’s most precious sites, the Kotel, right to users’ phones.
The new application allows users to watch the Western Wall Plaza live on their phones at anytime, take a virtual tour of the Western Wall tunnels, and send a note to the Kotel through the iPhone. The application even features a compass which is pointed towards Jerusalem, a particularly useful tool for worshippers.
The Western Wall rabbi, Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, welcomed the initiative and said: “The Western Wall has been in the heart of every Jew in the world for 2,000 years. It is only natural that in the technological age there will be ways to express the love and devotion of the Jewish people to the Western Wall and to Jerusalem. We hope that the new application will strengthen the younger generation’s bond to the Kotel.”
The application is available in Hebrew, English, and Russian, and may be downloaded free of charge from the iTunes store. Welcome screen:
"R!" "R! It's time to get dressed." "R!! Please answer me when I'm talking to you!" "My name is not R. My name is Black Chest."
"Black Chest? Why Black Chest?" "You know, like a pirate." "You mean, like Black Beard?" "Exactly, but I don't have a beard, so I'm Black Chest."
Or later the same day, on a walk with B to the merkaz he says to me, "I'm having a vision." Startled, I reply, "Wow, a vision of what exactly?" "You know, where you divide one number by another: A Vision."
Along the same lines last week he came home from school and told me his test was on "Divination". "WHAT?" "You know, multiplication, divination."
And so begins the long slow dance of forgetting our English...
I would be remiss if I didn't jot down just a quick note about today.
Today is one year since TPH's grandfather AH"S (Grandpa W) passed away. As I type, TPH, A and B are at Saba's house for the Yartzeit Seuda. Not only do we miss Grandpa W, but it's an important milestone for us as well. One year ago, TPH escorted the aron on the flight to the levaya (funeral) in Israel. And one year ago, TPH made his decision; it was time for him and his family to return to Israel.
I don't want to sound like some cow-towed wife who follows her husband around the globe at random, but since the very first time I met TPH there have been two things about him that have stood out above all others; his tremendous kindness and sensitivity towards others, and his unequivocal love for Eretz Yisrael.
Besides these, TPH is smart. So smart in fact, that he visited schools while here for the shiva without telling his wife. So smart that he met with principals and other families with kids our ages. So smart that he applied to said schools and got accepted. Then he came home and started the not so long process of selling that wife on the idea of moving back.
So, it's been one year today since this whole craziness began.
We miss you Grandpa, and thank you. In your merit eight of your children and His have returned home.
Blogging is not something that can be done on command. Ever.
Having a husband that works from home is 90% Awesome and 10% Not Awesome. Take for example, the fact that he can dodge out several times a day to drop off and pick up R from gan. Awesome. Or, that when we are having a homework meltdown or episode, or simply have four kids who need help at once, he can jump in when needed. Very Awesome. Or, when scary Arab looking man is at the door (plain old Sefardi water guy) I can panic and send him to answer it instead. Totally Awesome.
But then there are the times when he is trying to work, and small people with red hair cry incessantly by his locked door to be let in and played with. Not Awesome. Or when he has a conference call and we have to tiptoe around so he can actually hear what the other parties are saying. Not Awesome. Or, my least favorite of all, when my laptop is in the shop, and somehow it is MORE IMPORTANT for him to work than for me to check FaceBook or blog at my own convenience! Not Awesome at all. Hmpff.
So, during this time of withdrawal computer repair, I have concocted several sneaky ways of getting him off the computer for 3-5 minutes at a time. Like, "TPH! The toilet upstairs has a leak!" This usually gains me 2 minutes, enough time to update my status and quickly return his settings to normal, until of course he realizes the toilet is functioning perfectly fine. Or, "Could you PLEASE go and get some milk?? Diapers? Eggs?" is actually a pretty good one, and will give me a full half an hour to myself.
Only those of you who have computeritis like myself know how serious this can truly be. The day starts off fine, with a perky, "I can SO do a day without the computer!" attitude. Until about lunchtime.When I start to shake and get that scary look in my eye he'll mope out of the room to give me a few minutes to fuel my addiction.
So, during those rare times in the past week or so where he's given up his favorite toy, I have had to force myself to write, and on command! And as you can see, it is not pretty.
We are closing in on six months. Six short months after taking the plunge and moving to Israel with our 6 kids, leaving friends and family far behind. I've been thinking lately about how some things have changed in these six months, and how some things are very much the same:
We no longer kvetch, cry or stamp our feet because we have no car. We take the bus, taxis, or train, and get much use of the delivery options the stores have to offer.
I never, EVER would've thought it possible to live 6 months without a clothes dryer. Not only do I still not have one, I am thinking that I may try to make it through the "winter" without one.
Car seats seem optional.
The kids no longer run terrified into the house when someone stops to ask them directions. Now they smile and give beautiful directions in Hebrew.
We are praying for rain, and not praying for the rain to stop.
We still miss our dogs.
We have been to the Zoo in Jerusalem 4 times.
The 25 minute walk up to school is not only doable, it's "fun!!!".
N knows how to fully operate Skype. He needs Bubby, and he can dial her right up.
My kids prefer Israeli ketchup.
They can also now tell over much of the Parsha at the table.
There are only 3 months left to Ulpan. (Hebrew classes specific for new immigrants.)
We still miss our Sundays.
Not only are the kids not nervous to go into the stores by themselves, but they stop there on the way home from school every day.
I no longer find it particularly remarkable that it's 72 degrees outside, and it's the end of December.
N somehow knows to say "Shalom" to Hebrew speaking strangers, and "Hi" to English speaking ones. Don't ask me how, he just does.
I will call the kids' teachers instead of doling out the task to #1 Hebrew Speaker: BAW.
We are almost unpacked.
We still miss our friends.
I can count on one hand the times I have worn my sheitel (wig) since I got here.
A had his first Hebrew speaking play date, and lived to tell the tale.
We still haven't set up our Wii, and we are still alive and kicking.
Mr. "Ma Zeh" is the least afraid of all to use his ever increasing Hebrew vocabulary.
I do still lose my breath every time I round the corner and come upon the Kotel.
There's been lots of talk of late of FB's privacy policies and the like.
I spent some time this past shabbos getting informed by a friend about their new policies, specifically involving photos. News to me is that once your photos are posted (and even if you delete them!) all photos are property of FaceBook. I have at present, 152 albums (not photos, ALBUMS!) on FB. And it has started to make me nervous.
There are things that I LOVE about FB: being in touch on a daily basis with friends I would've otherwise had nothing to do with in the past 20 years, being able to share life with close friends and family, even though I am half a globe's distance away from them. But all of this privacy business has been giving even me, one of FB's biggest promoters a moment's pause.
I'll be the first to admit that I use some of FB's features and it keeps me and my "friends" out of trouble. The HIDE feature allows me to block incoming updates from "friends" whose language is more than desirable, whose postings are blantantly boring and inane or whose shabbos menus are just making me want to shoot myself. Don't worry, I'm not feeling THAT snobby, I'm sure plenty of people block me, too! I mean, really, how many updates a week can you read about a crazy 2 year old?
This is not the first time I have been disenchanted with the big blue network. I have seen (and been involved in!) senseless fights, hurt families and friends, loshon hara and sinas chinam. I have also seen new friendships formed, old ones mended, a spreading of Torah and tremendous Kiddush Hashem. Over the years I have been struggling hard to stay on this side of the fence, and to convince others to do the same. And yes, it's been a struggle.
So, while I am still holding strong and posting daily, my faith in FB is starting to waver just a teeny bit.
I've been avoiding my blog. Not intentionally mind you, but it seems that every time I get a minute to sit down, too much has happened to report, and it's overwhelming.
So, just a quick catch up: Chanuka was beautiful! With different sets of family here back to back we were busy, busy, busy! Chanuka parties, W "shabbaton" (we counted 238 lit menorahs between our house and the Ws!), pool rental for all the cousins, Ammunition Hill on the first day of vacation! We love that place, we've been going there since before we even had kids. It's the mixture of the history and the pride in living in Israel, and the humility one feels when you can actually see how much others have sacrificed so we can live where we do today.
I'm sure most of you are well aware by now of the Carmel fire that spread through parts of Israel during the holiday, but I wanted to make mention of it here, for posterity. BH the fires have been put out, but they are now saying that this may have been the worse natural disaster Israel has ever faced.
Z arrived in the middle of Chanuka, and it was a great visit. It never gets boring to show "new" visitors all the sights and sounds of Israel. We did the Shuk, Old City, Kotel, and Malcha (KFC, baby!) all in one day. Traveling without a car is hard. We take buses, trains, taxis and mostly do lots and lots of walking. I came home that night and tracked our trek through town that day, and it was close to 3-4 miles. After dinner, we took the train home. By the end of a day like that, we were beat!
But up and out early again the next day with Z: showing him around the merkaz, and then some of the bigger kids took him on one of their favorite hikes, to Mearat HaTeumim, which we affectionately call The Bat Cave. The hike ends in a cave full of bats, which unfortunately was closed for the winter :(. Not to worry, BAW made Chinese for dinner; he made some and ordered some from the restaurant that opened ON OUR BLOCK!
The next day we headed with the Ws and Z to the Biblical Zoo in J-lem. Again, getting there was a pain (I drove BAW and 3 boys to train, then came back and picked up Z and 2 more kids, and 1 kid went with Saba)! But well worth the trip in the end. We came back and had pizza. I am confident that Z now thinks that we ONLY eat out. Z and D then headed out to J-lem to see the sights, while we called it a day and put everyone to bed.
Friday was more low-key as the kids were back in school, and I had lots of cooking to do. Shabbos was a bit of a let-down because we had grand plans to take Z out and show him around the neighborhood, but a very sudden, very weird sandstorm hit. Around lunch time (ok, that's 10am here, but who's counting) the sky suddenly got very orange and you couldn't see anything. The wind was blowing like crazy, and there was sand everywhere! Even inside R needed his inhaler and everyone else was complaining about sand in their throats and crunching between their teeth.
Sunday we headed out to take S back to school in Be'er Sheva. and the sandstorm just got worse and worse. There was very poor visibility on the highways, and at one point we went for Shwarma and couldn't eat normally because there was sand in everything. Well, that and because I put this ridiculously spicy thing on my shwarma, with no idea as to a)what it was, b)what it tasted like c)if it was poisonous, toxic or otherwise life-threatening.
S's school was surprisingly nice. Clean, nice campus, nice teachers, Rabbis, etc.
Sunday night the storm finally broke and we woke up to freezing, pouring rain! BH!! We've been waiting, fasting, praying! It has stopped now, and we still need tefillos, but BH there was some. We'll take whatever we can get.
Z left last night. I spent most of the morning cleaning and getting to things I've been neglecting for a couple of weeks. Today is Tuesday, our short day at school, so by the time I get everything clean, the Gremlins will be back to wreak havoc.
Today was one of those days. Yup, you've had 'em. The kind of day where you want to run away screaming. Or drink. A lot.
After the morning rush (which actually went pretty well today) I plopped the youngest two down in front of Caillou, and ran upstairs to get dressed. BAW was in the shower. After about 5 minutes it dawned on me that I didn't hear any noise downstairs. When it's too quiet with Little Red on the loose, I don't think, I just panic.
Me: "R! What are you watching?"
Me: "Where's N????"
R: "Outside. Heading down the steps."
FIVE MINUTES they were downstairs folks, maybe less. We live on a VERY busy street, the main one going into our neighborhood from the highway. As I said, I was upstairs getting dressed, which without getting into too much details insinuates various states of undress. I grabbed a bandanna, but had no time for shoes as I flew down the steps. I swooped down on him (in only a diaper of course) just in time. I won't even mention the group of work men with their dirty looks at the undressed woman who can't keep an eye on her own baby.
And that's how this wonderful day started. He came upstairs and sat on my bed with me while I had a near heart attack. It took 10 minutes for my heart to stop pounding and my breathing to be normal again.
When I could breathe again, we got dressed and headed out to the park. Once there, N always goes on his merry way, climbing to the highest room in the tallest tower. And instead of saving the princess, he dances around just out of my reach, dangling his feet over the edge, swinging off a one story high drop, yelling, "Imma! Look!", until again, I get the eyeball rolls of "What is wrong with this mother? Why doesn't she control her kid?"
When he does finally emerge from the slide he always, always comes right over and pokes me with one finger while saying "EEP". He is not autistic (at least not that I've decided yet), he is merely giving me a shock from the static of the slide. Every. Single. Time.
Then came The Incident with the Disgusting Cat at the Park. In a desperate attempt to seem "normal" (and not mildly child abusive) I try to make small talk with the other mothers in the park. For them, it's easy. Their cute babies play at their feet while drinking bottles, or munching crackers. Mine looks more like this:
But without the safety pulley and rope, mind you.
After talking to another mother for I dunno, 23 seconds, I neurotically look over at N, and behold, he is sitting on the ground with a HUGE stray male FILTHY cat draped all over him!! Now, ya'll know me: I like animals. I actually LOVE animals. But first of all, I hate cats. And there are few things I hate more than dirty Israeli cats, so imagine my delight when I find this:
After ten minutes of the cat laying on him, him laying on the cat, him trying to be a cat, I dragged him home and washed him up, really good. Then came my favorite time of day: NAP TIME!!
Except, nap time is only fun when you can find the passy and the child actually naps. It is NOT fun when, say, the passy is lost, the child climbs in and out of the crib, and the mother suddenly out of the blue has an inexplicable backache unlike any she has ever experienced. It was such intense pain, and so out of the blue, I can only attribute it either to stress or, running through the streets at 7:45am hardly dressed, and grabbing up a 25 lb toddler and hauling him all the way back up two flights of stairs. Hmmmm... we may never know the real cause.
So, there we were, him not napping, me not being able to move. Let me tell you, it was not pretty. He always starts off by "washing the dishes." Translated to: spilling water over any and all surfaces in the kitchen including (but not limited to) counters, bread on counters, stove top, igniter flames, and floor. Then, he gets down off his step ladder, and slips on the floor and cries. This is just what happens. We have it down to a science by now.
And then comes The Phone Call. Dummy that I am, I actually answer it. "Hi, this is the secretary of AY boys' school. Please hold for the principal." Oh Shoot.
"Hi Mrs. W. Is it possible that your first grader "S" is allergic to rabbits?" "Um, yes. I guess so." Scintillating conversationalist that I am in Hebrew. "Well, he isn't breathing very well. It could be something. It could be nothing. But we do have rabbits visiting for today. Also, his face is swelling. Kind of quickly. Maybe you should come pick him up."
BAW was there in about 3 minutes flat. While I lay on my back, also flat. And yes, it looks like he does have a pretty severe rabbit allergy. After a quick stop to the pediatrician who assured us he'll be just fine, we now have an appointment with a pediatric allergist for some more extensive allergy testing.
Since it's Tuesday, and my favorite day of the week, school was out early, so everyone walked in at just about the same time. Thankfully, BAW had managed to score some more passys in the midst of all the chaos. Don't worry! I was helpful too! Someone has to hold a place on the couch.
At this point, I was in so much pain, I was crying, and had no way to get any relief. That's when the kids got home, needing lunch. Oh, and I forgot. J had 2 friends come over straight from school, and B had one.
That put N's nap off forever as the girls needed the room. The rest of the afternoon was uneventful, and there's not much to report, except a trashed house, busy kids and a very bad backache. I did get a hot bath, but it helped almost not at all.
Hungry kids, broken mother, working father, R's Chanuka party at 5pm, big party here tomorrow with family = Crying mother.
Then came a strange turn around. Just yesterday I was asked to say daily perakim (chapters) of Tehilim for a very sick infant in the neighborhood. Since I was sitting around anyway, and it was getting close to shkiya, I sat and was able to have some real kavana. I davened that the girl should merit a refuah shlaima along with all the other cholim of Am Yisrael. It took me no more than ten minutes to say, and an amazing thing happened. My back ache was almost gone!!!
I believe! (Please say this with a heavy Southern preacher's accent.)
And just in time for me to jump up and get R dressed for his party (5pm? No other kids from the family invited? Are you kidding me?), and run right over there. It was nice to be just me and him and we really had a great time at a beautiful party! On the way home, I noticed, no back ache! Really! It was truly amazing!
An even better end to The Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day was that a friend who is visiting from the US left me a message while I was out and is going to stop by in a bit and say hello. Oh, and I even got my dough for chanuka cookies up and in the fridge.
Our time is too short, and this post is too long, but one final thought. What's amazing to me is the ups and downs we can have in a day. I am going to remind myself that no matter how bad the "downs" the "ups" always follow.
Those of you who are my friends on FB know that I take a special delight in announcing the never ending heat over here in the Holy Land. My personal favorite is the little cactus symbol they put on the weather sites to show that it's REALLY going to be a scorcher. Rarely has there been a day below 80 since we arrived here in July, and it makes my kids giggle that it's almost chanukah, and it's 83 degrees outside. They pride themselves on never once wearing long pants to school, and continue to insist that they are hot enough to stick with shorts. However, all kidding aside, we're pretty desperate for rain over here.
Today has actually been declared as a day of fasting and tefillah for rain by the head Rabbinate of Israel. Due to the increasingly desperate state of drought, they have requested that anyone that can fast does. Arutz Sheva has all the latest here. So please, with the excitement of chanukah in the air, don't forget us over here, in the worst drought that Israel has seen since 1962.
The Chanukah box has been unearthed and is sitting in the middle of the dining room covered in dust.
I guess that means we're almost there; kids are super excited, with some family already here, some more on the way, and a week off of school! We're hosting a family party here on Wednesday night, and I am trying to get myself in gear for the main event. While I'm off doing that, watch this:
It'll get you in the mood, guaranteed! Even Little Red walks around singing it :)
I don't know if you remember my post "Ma Zeh?" but take a quick peek. What I am about to tell you is about the very same Ma Zeh child.
Today he came home from school positively glowing! He had actually called me from BAW's cell on the walk home bursting with good news. "Imma! I gave my book report today in front of the whole class, IN HEBREW!!!" I was floored. Sure enough, BAW was up there for another parent/child workshop day, and the teacher pulled him aside, and was singing his praises. He stood up, gave the whole report in Hebrew, clearly, and everyone understood and enjoyed!
After coming home and showing me the report as well as the teacher's special attached note with a "Metzuyan" and "100%", he's been a remarkably good mood. He keeps randomly stopping and exclaiming, "This is the BEST DAY EVER!"
Most Olim with kids make Aliyah in the summer. It's an easy transition time for schooling, and NBN sends the majority of their flights then. For those of you who missed it on FaceBook, here's a Nefesh B'Nefesh video I posted recently. (We had a meeting for parents of all children in ulpan and there was a great speaker (forgot her name). She said when she made aliyah and the day to day got tough, she used to watch old NBN videos and cry, and it would remind her that she'd done a great thing by moving her family here, no matter what the hardships! )
So, for those who come in the summer, there is a catch-phrase that gets passed around, "By Chanukah..."
By Chanuka, the kids will be speaking Hebrew!
By Chanuka, all the boxes will be unpacked!
By Chanuka, you'll be well adjusted, skinny! And things will be perfect!
Well, let's face it; Chanuka is VERY early this year, a good month earlier than usual, but that said, in our house we've still only got 0/3, and it's not a very good ratio. :(
However, there is some truth in all of this "By Chanukah" business. Although the kids are not yet speaking Hebrew, they are understanding lots and lots and speaking some. The don't shy away from the Israeli kids, because during this time of miracles, there is no longer a language barrier. Although not ALL the boxes are unpacked, ALMOST all the boxes are unpacked, and those that aren't, probably won't be any time soon. And, although things are NOT perfect, we are, BH feeling much more well adjusted by now, and some of us have even lost a few pounds with all the walking.
Chanuka is the first real vacation time home together since the wild chagim at the beginning of the year. It's a time for the family to regroup and reflect on the past few months. To compare old schools to new ones, far friends to close ones. To talk to each other and realize just how far we've come in 6 short months.
By Chanuka, when you meet fellow new olim in the streets gone is the wild look their eye, replaced however by a calmer (if not more haggard) expression. By Chanuka, done are the frantic phone calls from one new oleh to the other ("Where am I supposed to be? WHEN is that meeting? WHO am I, again?"). By Chanuka, the kids have good, solid new friendships in place. By Chanuka, the house is set up, guests are back on shabbos. By Chanuka, we can look around and finally take a deep breath, and realize that everything is going to be ok.
"Well, since I wasn't born in America, I couldn't be the President there, but here I come: President of Israel!"
"A dentist came to school today and looked in my mouth and said 'yafeh' ('Nice'). I haven't brushed my teeth since last shabbos."
"Some Hebrew speaking kids think I am clueless. So, I just walk up to them and start speaking another language."
"I LOVE being in a big school! There are soo many kids! Too many kids, but that just means SO many kids." ?
"This hero needs to use the bathroom!"
It's amazing when I take a few minutes out to spend time with each kid one on one, and I find out what they really have to say. These random gems all came from one of my favorite little guys on a walk home tonight from the merkaz.
It's a beautiful night tonight, and I am proud to report that today, November 22, 2010 two very monumental things happened at Casa W.
1: We went an entire 24 hour period with not ONE air conditioning unit on!! GO US!! 2: My 2 middle guys informed me that they are some of the last standing kids in school in shorts, and they actually might just start wearing pants as of tomorrow.
We've been busy over here; Middle School applications for A, which comes along with researching the different options, parent meetings, etc. Birthday party for S, getting ready for the arrival of Uncle S and Aunt P.
Oh, and the frequent buying and consumption of sufganiyot. How is buying jelly or caramel filled donuts all that time consuming you'd like to know? Well, I figure there are only 12-14 hours in the day that the offspring are awake. Roughly 6 of those hours are spent with them nagging me to give them money to buy these seasonal donuts. Another hour or so goes into them walking up to the stores and perusing the bakeries until they find the ones that are "just right". Actual consumption time: 43 seconds.
So, yes, we've been busy. At least we'll have an Israeli President who doesn't brush his teeth to show for it.
Living here is tough. I won't mince words. Those of you who know me know that I probably couldn't mince words if I tried. Garlic, yes. Words, no.
There are days that are very, very hard. I think that as time goes on it must get easier as we adapt to daily living. But living here in general is just harder. There are still days that I cry. I admit it. There are days that I cry a lot. Over my family, my house, my cars, my comforts. Stop me now, this is about to turn into a country song.
With all that, it's hard to keep your eyes on the prize when you live here. But if you look for them, the reasons to be here (no matter how subtle) are there. And then once every couple of days you get one that hits you full on. And it's beautiful.
This week, A and BAW attended an after school program/assembly at the boys school for grades 4-6 titled "Eizehu Gibor-Who is a hero?" As an American parent (even one who knows a little hebrew) things tend to get lost in translation. For example, the boys have been coming home with different "hero" type projects, but never was it clear to us that this was a school wide program, culminating in this event.
This program was at 6:15pm (huh??), so although mothers were invited, I sent BAW and A for some "Abba-A Time, Hey". I can only give over the evening in third person as I wasn't there, but I'll have BAW read this post before I post it, to make sure that I get it right.
They came home beaming: both of them full of things to tell me. This fact in and of itself is noteworthy. When a 6th grade boy comes home from a school program excited, that's 2 points right there.
The night started with a gathering (over 200 people) of boys and their parents, and the principal welcomed everyone with a speech defining what a "Jewish Hero" is, ie: what it means to be a "gibur" and how we define real gevurah.
Then, everyone was sent off with a page of mekoros all about "Eizeh hu Gibor" to learn b'chavrusa, which BOTH husband and boy said were fantastic.
Then came the highlight of the evening, 27 year old S'derot resident Avichai Seli. A true Gibor in his own right.
First, an explanation: There is an annual international Tanach Contest held in Jerusalem each year called the "Chidon HaTanach". It's a competition for high school students sponsored by the Israeli government, held each year on...you guessed it: Yom Ha'azmaut, Israeli Independence Day.
Avichai won the Chidon HaTanach when he was in 12th grade. Cool, right? He's also deaf. Oh, and blind.
He went up and told his life story, which might have been an unfortunate one if viewed by an outsider. At age 2 he was hospitalized for a unknown virus that left him deaf in both ears. At the age of four, he received cochlear implants, which were just starting to "hit the market" at the time. He explained in detail how he clearly remembers the moment they turned them on, and in that one moment how his life changed. He never understood until then that the movements coming from people's mouths were actually sounds that meant something. (I'm sure you've seen this.)
His mother took the next few months and taught him how to speak. She took him outside everyday, pointing to objects as they went, making him repeat them, "Tree", "Grass", "House", until he gained a vocabulary. Several times throughout the speech, he reiterates how people think he's the "hero", but really, he sees his parents as the true heroes; for never giving up on him, and pushing him to succeed.
At the age of 6, right before entering school, Avichai took another life-hit. He was playing at a playground when he took a fall from high monkey bars and hit his head, permanently damaging his optic nerves, and losing his sight forever. Again, his parents did everything in their power to help him. They had to fight a long, hard fight to get him into a mainstream school, and once he was in, they made sure he had a one on one aid, the braille that he needed, etc.
This real life hero adds that his elementary years were miserable. He was in a school where the kids bullied him relentlessly. And then again, everything changed. He switched schools and entered a middle school Yeshiva, and suddenly he found himself surrounded by new, friendly faces. Kids who wanted to help him in every way. Avichai says here that it was precisely at this juncture in his life that he realized anything is possible, and that if he wanted something badly enough, he could accomplish anything.
One thing that he always really loved was stories from Tanach. During the years after his implants, his mother spoke to him as much as possible, telling him stories often to improve his speech and vocabulary. And what stories does a Jewish mother tell her son? Tanach stories of course! From a young age he was enthralled with these stories. And then one day realized just how far he could take this knowledge.
In middle school he set winning the Chidon HaTanach as his next goal. The winner of the competition is named the "Chatan HaTanach", a prestigious title both in an out of Israel. He started competing in 9th grade, and each year, won a spot closer to 1st place. By 12th grade he placed first at the Chidon (which he took in Braille!), and won the title. His amazing story does not end there.
Avichai was determined, like most Israeli boys his age, to serve in the army. He fought 2 long years with army officials to be able to serve. After all, they argued, what could a blind and deaf 18 year old have to offer the army? Finally, he was accepted into the intelligence division of the army, and rose in ranks to a Captain. He loves to joke that he of all people joined the intelligence which is known as the "eyes and ears" of the army.
After Avichai finished the army he got his degree in finance, and added as an aside that just three weeks ago, he got his Master's degree in law, and currently works in a large brokerage firm here in Israel. Avichai is truly an amazing person, overcoming obstacles that most of us would be challenged to face, even given only one of them!
The most inspiring part for me, however, is that A came home, walked through the door and excitedly said to me, "Imma! He is the coolest person in the world!"
And that's what this is all about. A school program that brought in someone like Avichai who made an impression on my young impressionable. Who showed these boys that if a person puts his mind to it, he can accomplish anything.
And, simply, what better lesson can we teach our boys than that?
So my Sunday mantra has now become "Clean all the things? :(" I can still get a chuckle out of TPH if I tilt my head and wilt to the side just the right amount.
This morning was a bit easier though: Uncle S was here and took N to the park so that I could Clean All the Things. Then, I remembered it was Rosh Chodesh, and I just Cleaned Some of the Things.
This post was really supposed to be about BAW. When I got engaged to TPH, I promised myself that no matter how many long and wonderful years we were married, I would always appreciate him. I've been good so far, but wanted to share a story with you that shows how much of a better man he is than I.
First grader S came home from school on Thursday with a note that he needs to bring "Chips" to the class party on Sunday. I assumed (even though deep down I knew) that the teacher couldn't possibly mean "french fries", which is what the Israeli's call "Chips". After all, I'd already done all my shabbos shopping. How could they expect me to get to the store, fry up some french fries for 35 kids on Sunday morning, and then send them to school with a five year old who walks there?!
After we clarified that it was indeed french fries, my first reaction was, OK, forget it. The teacher said 4 other kids are supposed to bring FF also, so we'll just skip out on it. But BAW said, "No. We're team players, and we are going to get the FF." We were supposed to walk up to the store last night, but TPH wasn't feeling well so we ditched that idea too.
Cut to: the next morning at 6:30am. I groggily come downstairs and find TPH peeling, cutting and frying potatoes so that S will have some to bring.
Ha! So, after my much aggrandized post that I will now be posting pics on my blog, I haven't had even a second to upload :(
I was telling you that we are starting a new family tradition: the once a month family trip. Some of you might laugh, and say, "only once a month?" But with our ever changing lifestyle, and a bunch of kids to get to a bunch of places all the time, there just seems to be no time for family time! This reminds me of the first time I read Rabbi Brezak's book calld "Chinuch in Turbulent Times" (BEST chinuch book, ever btw). He writes that every parent must strive to spend a half an hour alone with each child every couple of weeks. He might have even said every month, I have to go look it up and check.
Well, imagine my haughty and naive response: "Hey BAW! Check this out!! Ha! Once a month! That's crazy! Should be once a day!" BAW had a similar response, and now that we are older and our brood three times the size, and somehow 10x more demanding, we often chuckle over this earlier exchange. The sad thing is that it really does take an effort to find 1/2 hour alone with each of the kids. Ever.
We have a funny "family-ism" that's become second nature in our house. You know what I mean: words that you use in your home that have become invented over the years. Words that if you use them outside of the house, you get funny looks.
So, we have a saying that goes, "Imma-Abba Time, Hey!" Or "Imma-S Time, Hey!" or "Abba-J Time, Hey!" This connotes any two people in the W family getting alone time together. I don't know where or when the "hey" part was added, but the funniest part is that it doesn't even have it's own exclamation mark anymore. Just monotone with the rest of the sentence. As in, my 5 year old might say on our walk to school, "Is this Imma-S Time, Hey?" Or on our way out the door for our Friday night walk, J says, "Have fun Imma-Abba Time, Hey".
SO, about that trip...hopefully I'll get the camera out tomorrow to tell you all about our family trip to the Biblical Zoo in J-lem this past week, if I can find two minutes to myself.
Ironic how there's there's no "ism" for plain old "Imma-Time, Hey."
Ha! I love it! I just got my first "Crazy American" eye roll!
Was at the park doing the morning "let's run down this baby so he sleeps well" trick, when a native Israeli mother went out of her way to come over to me to give me a piece of her mind. "Isn't he cold in shorts? He must be freezing!!" I was a little embarrassed, and sheepishly said, "No, I think he's ok." Collective eyeball roll of the other mothers around me. I looked around and it dawned on me that most kids were in corduroy pants, long sleeves, and a couple even in sweaters.
On my way home I was feeling a little insecure, so I checked my phone for the weather. 79 degrees.
I have a secret, and where better to share it than privately on the internet (of course only after I link to it on FaceBook).
My secret is...(nope, not pregnant) I am going to start putting pics on my blog. Yup, that's the big news.
See, me and TPH have had this argument from my very first post. He is of the "old school" mind that there still is a chance to chronicle your life on the internet and remain anonymous. He thinks that if someone sees who we are...I'm not sure what.
I still won't use our *real* names, cuz' I like to pretend that it's cool to be sketchy, but I can't live without photos anymore! I am the person who spent the first 5 years of my marriage carefully cataloging our photos, and putting them into adorable scrapbooks. My older kids can pull any one of these off the shelf and spend hours reminiscing to perky titles like, "A's first Havdalah!" Or "J's third molar came in!" or "Turtleback Zoo for the 17th time!"
My younger kids however, are hard pressed to find even a pic titled, "S's first steps!" or "R's first foods!" I am not going to take all the blame for this though. When my older kids were younger, things were different. We still had our film cameras, and if you didn't get to the store to develop them and put them in an album somewhere, that was it. No memories.
But now, when my first grader is looking for VIP pics for school, I can yell: "Go look on FB, in my albums!" So, really it's the same thing, but instead of pulling out the albums, they can pull up the albums. I figure if I can post pics and blog at the same time, viola! Virtual scrapbook!
This all sounds good in theory, but let's see if I can actually follow through...
My 10 year old daughter is a literary genius. Well, maybe not yet, but she will be. Trust me. I am not bragging (well, maybe a teeny bit) and I am not over dramatizing. Words and language are already her passion. She uses words unknown to most college professors, she's been reading the Lord of the Rings Trilogy since she was 8 and has completed it several times. She was finished with the Harry Potters 2 days after the final one was on shelves. So, imagine my excitement when she started to write!
Here is a poem she wrote this week. Reprinted of course, with her permission. (The original is in pink pen, written into the shape of a heart. Hey, she's still a 10 year old girl!)
If You Were Here
If you were here I wouldn't be moping or sighing. If you were here I could talk to you instead of sending letters. If you were here I could laugh with you and actually see you laugh, instead of hearing you on the phone. If you were here, you could feel my hand slipping the candy into yours, instead of watching it slip out of the package. If you were here, I could inhale deeply and smell the baking cookies, instead of getting 35 emails from you saying you baked cookies. If you were here, I wouldn't miss you.
And one more...
One single morning, I was pleased to see, The colors of the rainbow, glimmering there for me.
There stood Red, proud and strong, the colors of bravery and love. I could've looked at him for hours, but there was more to see of.
Then danced Orange, carefree and true, Seemingly she's always waiting there for you.
After came Yellow, Happy, sunny and bright, Just him, his smiley face, Makes the world go right.
Swishing lightly, follows in Green, The lover and mother of Nature, With the likes of which, You have never seen.
Serenely drifting, The tide brings Blue, A Father of Water; Old, young, the same and New.
Purple and Lavender are here, Serious and Cute, They are in the same color family, But alike right down to the boots.
And there I was marveling, How precise the colors were, And how rainbows were rare, And then of how the colors are always there for sure.
Have I mentioned how much I LOVE living in Israel?! Especially now that the weather is finally cooperating, I feel like we can at last start living here, and loving it!
This morning, I popped out of bed (please read: “groggily slogged to the bathroom”) and loudly started announcing that “we” were leaving in ½ an hour for school, which drew some funny looks from the brood. See, “we” never go anywhere in the morning. “We” generally stay in our pajamas until about 9am when N starts yelling for the park so persistently that it might just be child abuse if I ignore him any longer. “They”, on the other hand trek up the hill no matter what the weather, and when they need a parental unit for whatever reason, it’s “he” that goes up, and never, ever “We”. So, when I said, “we”, I got quite a confused and suspicious reaction.
Don’t get me wrong. In my defense, I am not just an overweight, lazy mother. For the record: I am an overweight lazy mother, who really, really doesn’t like the heat. And now that it seems to have officially dipped into the 70s more than one day in a row, I really have no more excuses. I’ve also spent a lot of the last week walking and it IS getting easier.
So, S, J and I trekked up this morning (B and A got a ride to ulpan in BS), and it was really a beautiful walk. The mornings here are crisp and clear and smell of something fresh and new. It’s a nice ½ hour to spend with the kids one on one, or one on two. I also love the hustle bustle of the mornings of all the kids getting to school, men coming home from shul, shopkeepers opening and the town coming to life.
My real agenda this morning was to help first grader S unpack his backpack and leave his books at school. Over the past few weeks, his books have slowly made their way from his cubby to his backpack, and everyday he has been schlepping a 20 lb bag up the hill, like a little pack mule. Yesterday, when S took his shirt off, BAW pointed out that he has not an ounce of fat on him. Regardless of his new GQ physique, I couldn’t take him carrying all that around with him. For some reason, I can’t get him to leave the stuff in his cubby on his own, so I figured this was a job for SuperMom. “We” to the rescue!
Another fine point: I needed to speak to them at the school to remind them that once again, the kids are complaining that there is no toilet paper in the bathrooms. Even when I send them with tissues, they are embarrassed to take them out of their backpacks and bring them into the bathroom. The dirty job of a mother….
So, off “we” went, and it was clear that J wasn’t going to believe that I was actually going to walk up with them until she saw me head out the door. About half way up, she says to me, “Hey, Ima, you do pretty well for someone who doesn’t do this every day!” Thanks for the perky encouragement, J.
We dropped J off and made our way up to the boys’ school. I still can’t get over the fact that a 5 (ok, almost 6!) year old makes this walk every day without complaint. Not to mention the 7, 10 and 11 year olds. I am really so proud of them!
Now, this particular boys’ school is known for total and complete chaos. And still, I love it. The boys are so happy, smiling, playing, schmoozing, and for the most part, doing it all like mentchen. We walked into S’s first grade classroom, and the boys run over, “Y! (They call him by his full name) Boker Tov!” They put their arms around his shoulders, they hug him, and dance a little impromptu jig as only first grade boys can. They notice me and immediately start to authoritatively help me, mostly in English with Israeli accents, some in Hebrew, a few in good ole’ American English.
“This book goes in the cubby, this one stays in the backpack.”
“Here, let me do it.”
“Come, Y, I will show you.”
They take over completely, throwing old papers away, organizing the cubby, and eventually hand me back a near empty backpack. They reminded me on some level of a coffee clutch of old Sefardi men. You know, the retired taxi drivers that sit around and drink “Caffe Turki”; brusque in their manner, yet efficient, and caring. And thankfully none of them had a cigarette. It was endearing and sweet.
After saying goodbye to S, I headed to the office to file my TP complaint, and the only thing to report from that visit was that a teacher gently put her hand on my arm and looked me square in the eye, and corrected a wrong word I had used in Hebrew. (I used “ya’giya” for a woman, she earnestly repeated “ta’giya” about four times.) So, that set back my using Hebrew ever again for about 6 months. Thanks.
Otherwise, besides that and the fact that for no reason known to man or the inhuman Bezeq phone company, we have had no internet for the past two days, all is good. I am writing this the old fashion way; in Word, and I guess I’ll have to repost it on the internet if we ever get it back.