Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Wow. Oh wow. I don't even know where to start, and that's the problem with not blogging often enough!!

There is something in the air this time of year in Israel, there's something about all doing the same thing together, building succahs, shopping for arba minim, cooking up a storm. Then, to all sit down together, at the same time is just amazing. My favorite is to hear singing from the surrounding succahs, or even just the clink of sliverware on china over table talk. It's indescribable.

The heat has put a little damper on the sleeping and eating aspect though. The night meals are beautiful, but if you have your succah in the heat of day like we do, the meals are kind of quick. BAW and the kids slept in the succah the first night, but they were so hot and uncomfortable, that was the only night. The stark contrast between here and R must be noted: where normally there is so much rain and cold that it's often hard to spend enough time out there, here we are battling the heat!

At Ein Gedi this week I was shmoozing with an older Israeli man. I made a comment about how crazy hot it was and he said, "Hu rak rotzei sh'anachnu ne'ehyeh ba'succot! Lo Ba'chutz ba'tiyulim!" Could be. Although those succahs get pretty hot, too...

So, YT was beautiful, and I am always worried that it will feel strange to keep "only" 1 day. But once it happens, it's so obvious that THIS is the right way, and 2 days suddenly just seem unnatural. Uncle S and Aunt D were with us, which was really, really nice, except that Aunt D was on her own for the second day; while we were out hiking in the bat cave, D was here with a friend having her second day meals :)

Motzei YT we went to the school Simchas Beis HaShoeva which was really nice. Lots of singing and dancing with Lenny Solomon. Girls had dancing inside too, and everybody really enjoyed. Especially me, cuz' we left the 3 little guys home sleeping ;)

Motzei Shabbos we got to head to our very first (this time ;) Hachnasas Sefer Torah for our shul. The kids loved it! It was beautiful to see the 2 Rabbi's of RS dancing together. Everyone was so happy, and there was such a beautiful feeling in the air. As BAW says, it's so nice to see the Rebbeim here with a mutual respect of each other, even though they are so very different. We've missed that. 

Sunday we got up and out early and headed to Ashkelon Park Leumi which is a beautiful stretch of beach in Ashkelon. The beach was gorgeous and full of families. Uncle Y and Aunt C joined us later in the day, and it was all around a beautiful day. We got home later, put everyone in baths and bed and then BAW and I headed out to Aroma for some grown up time. I love going to restaurants with succahs!

Monday we rode with the extended Ws to Ein Gedi, which was spectacular. The ride down to the Dead Sea might even be more fun than the actual hike in Ein Gedi. The kids could not keep their eyes off the road: camels, Bedouin settlements, scenery like we have never seen before.There is nothing more spectacular that all within a 2 hour drive you hit big city, sudden desert, and then majestic mountains. Only in this country. 

After an hour of mountains and desert, the oasis of Ein Gedi suddenly looms above you. The entrance to the park has been modernized since we have last been there, but to walk the trails where Dovid HaMelech hid from Shaul is awesome. The park is filled with wild life, waterfalls and trails. It was 110 degrees there that day, and I have never, EVER been hotter. It was crazy. But so beautiful that nothing could ruin the day.

That night BAW headed out with some of the bigger kids to the Beit Shemesh concert, but I stayed back, having had quite enough excitement for the day, thank you very much.

Yesterday we rested up in the early am and headed out for yet another trip to the Beit Guvrin caves about a 10 minute drive from here. It was a perfect "last day of chol hamoed trip", not a lot of walking, but awesome scenery! Saba joined us on this trip too, and it was so nice! 

I had an "aliyah moment" on this trip, and it nearly had me in tears. Towards the end, we were sitting and letting the kids run and have fun. A Israeli couple in their early 40s with a bunch of kids struck up a conversation with us. When I told her that we had just arrived this summer, her reaction was incredible. She was SO happy for us, and so excited. She called her kids over and said, "See, this is what it is all about! People leaving their homes and coming here to E"Y because this is where we belong. This is what it is all about!" She went on and on, telling me that life here is hard, and that she has been here 42 years, and still there are days that are hard, and that living in Israel is not for the faint of heart. Then she gave me all of her phone numbers and told me that I should call her when I am frustrated or having a hard time, or just need someone to talk to. I could not get over this amazing woman. Mi K'amcha Yisrael!

Today we returned the car, and I am on the couch while BAW is cooking up a storm. Smells sooo good! That was YT in a nutshell, and I wish I could be more detailed, but it's almost YT here again...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Today is the tomorrow that I had hoped for yesterday

I figured that I can't let yesterday's post sit and stew too long, lest you think that we are miserable and drowning in our sorrows ;)

Quite the opposite, actually. Today was an all around great day, on all counts. 

Yesterday ended on a funny note; around dinner time J was outside with N and she saw a black dog almost get hit by a bus in front of our house. A heard this and tore off down the street, and caught the culprit. No, we didn't bring home the bus driver. The dog is an adorable small male Rottweiler mixed breed, who looks either like a puppy or a small, young adult. He had no tags, only a really yucky chain metal leash. We took a walk around the neighborhood, figuring somebody would recognize him, but no luck. Then we brought him home so I could post a message on the local email lists. The more we got to know him, the more obvious it was that someone might very well be missing such a great, even tempered, totally house broken and trained dog! Sadly, it's more than 24 hours later, and no one has called to claim him. The ID chips that are implanted under the skin are very popular here, so tomorrow it's off to the vet to see if he has one. I am purposely avoiding the questions of "Do we want him?" "Will we keep him?" It's just interesting that the day I was feeling so bereft and so LOST, he just about showed up on our doorstep.

Those of you who just don't understand love of pets, or dogs, I'm so, so sorry for you. There is something about the loyalty and unconditional love of an animal. Those of you who get it, well, you just get it. TPH told me that the word "dog" in Hebrew "KELEV" comes from "k'lev". However he is, he is showing his heart, and that his heart is always towards his owner. We'll try and find his rightful family, and if not...we'll see. So far he has two names: Sirius and PadFoot. But then again, that might just be one name ;)

Ok, back to today: We thought long and hard about the drop off process and decided that part of the problem is that BAW always brings them all the way to the gate. This morning, he walked them only about a block from home, and they walked the rest of the way. Thank G-d there were no tears, only smiles. R also went off without any crying at all! The first day! BH!!

S came home today with one of the cutest things ever clutched in his hand. A piece of paper with 7 digits scribbled in classic first grade handwriting on it. He triumphantly thrust it at me as he burst through the door, and told me that it was his "best friend's" number, and could I call him right this second for a play date?!! I skeptically looked at it, and assumed that the kid had no idea, and just wrote a bunch of numbers, cuz it didn't  look like any of the typical "999" numbers around here. But every time I doubt kids, I learn that it's really me who's the skeptic, because when I took a closer look, it WAS a "999" number, just scribbled backwards. Obviously! Hebrew goes right to left, so the kids often get mixed up! Well, I did call that mother, and he is coming over tomorrow. I was just so impressed by the resourcefulness of a couple of 1st grade little guys. 

A also came home SO EXCITED! Yesterday had been cool enough when a police officer came to the school and taught them all how to be crossing guards. This is a privilege reserved for 6th graders and it was a big cause for excitement. But TODAY was even better! Today the gym teacher had the 90 something 6th grade boys run an in school marathon and the top four would go on to compete in a race with the top kids from other schools. Well, guess who came in #3?? He was so proud and already has a practice run he is going to do every night to work up his stamina and speed. I couldn't be prouder, or happier for him.

J came home with an ENORMOUS and extremely cool succah decoration. It was so easy, but super impressive! Teachers, fear not, pics coming on FB soon... ;)

So, just so you know, things are looking up today. Everything is good. The weather has been mid to upper 80s (ok, mostly 89, but hey) and finally, FINALLY bearable!

Today I am smiling. :)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The good AND the bad

I guess it's only fair to include the bad with the good, right? Just so you don't think it's all fun and games and kosher restaurants over here....

Today was not a good day. Today we all cried, and cried, and cried some more. 

The boys got back from Uman and were so excited to share it with me when they got back, it was amazing! But with a week away from home and school, came even more anxiety with school starting up again. Stomach aches, sore throats, even "I need glasses!", I had all the excuses this morning. Anyone is who is sending their Jewish kids to school this year knows just how sporadic school has been this month because of the early Holidays, and we aren't even through the biggest break of all.

BAW, as usual walked the boys to school, and came back looking very sad. He said that both S and B were clinging to him and bawling. A seems to continue to do ok, he heads off on his own everyday, and talks about friends he's met and seems to understand some of what he's been learning. J also heads off on her own in the am to walk with a bunch of girls. The two oldest for the most part seem like things are good, and it probably helps that they are a bit older; they are able to understand that all beginnings are hard, and that things are only getting better every day. But then again, who knows?  THIS week they seem good. 

So, after BAW came home dejected, I offered to take R up to his Gan. We have a great walk up together, he skips and dances besides me, chattering all the while. He even thoughtfully looks up at one point and says, "Today I am going to try REALLY hard not to cry!" His resolve lasts a long time; until he enters his classroom, and then, suddenly it's gone and he is clinging to me and sobbing for me please not to leave. I kiss him and hug him and wave all the way down the steps. When I leave the buildingburst out crying. 

Now, don't get me wrong. Most days are good days. But when the bad days come, they are really bad. I got home and started to look for some documents that I need ASAP, and with every box that I opened (yes, I still have boxes, it's aseres yemei teshuva, don't judge) the tears came fresh. I cried for my big house with my green yard. I cried for my 2 dogs, and even might have shed a tear for my smelly ferret. I cried for my friends. I cried for my sun-room, my basement, my playroom. I cried for my cars. Both of them. I cried for cool, crisp fall mornings, and crunchy leaves underfoot. And my family. I cried a long time for my family.

I am already starting to feel better, and am sure that the kids are doing fine. They come home everyday smiling and happy, and for the most part, they work hard on their homework and seem to enjoy the extra time at night sitting with us and working together. We still have a long way to go though, and we know it. Succos is just around the corner, and hopefully it'll be the last new start for a while. 

Who knows, I might even have some time to unpack some more of those boxes...

Sunday, September 5, 2010


It's that time of year again; time to take stock of the past year, deeds and misdeeds, good and bad, successes and failures. And somehow, it always sneaks up on us and we are never ready. Those of you who are on FB can tell that I am finally in the "groove" with the articles, videos, etc. that I have been posting. Since women don't usually make it to selichos, I'm going to try and use the time that TPH is there to learn something, or watch something inspiring. Last night, I was perusing aish's website, and found some pretty good stuff. It's something.

For me, and more and more women every year, this time doesn't only mean shopping, planning, cooking, menus, etc., but for me it comes with another factor altogether, and that's the departure of roughly 30,000 men to Uman. These men go to daven at the grave of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov on Erev Rosh HaShana, and stay through until after the holiday.

 TPH doesn't go every year. I think since we've been married 12 years, this will be his 7th or 8th time going. It's hard traveling from the States: 24 hours total door to door. From Israel though, it's a different story; they hop on the plane and are in the Ukraine in 2 hours. 

Admittedly, I have mixed feelings about sending the troops to Uman. It does mean a week home alone with the kids over a Yom Tov. It also means finding a way to get us all to hear shofar, which is harder than it sounds (no pun intended :).  But, as I get older, I am more inclined to send him happily, as I see the recharge that it gives TPH, and how it truly affects our home throughout the chagim. 

This year though, besides just having gone through the biggest upheaval we have ever faced as a family, both A and B will be joining BAW on the trip. It will be A's 3rd time, and he gets to be the seasoned big brother for B who was supposed to go last year, and was crushed when they didn't make it. You can imagine the worries that come with sending a 7 year old off for a week to the Ukraine with his father: Will he be bored? (Davening goes from 4am to 4pm) Will he get lost? (20,000 to 30,000 men go every year) Will he be tired? Hungry? (When BAW is davening for 73 hours a day, who will get him what he needs?)

But you push these thoughts away, and you trust your husband. You trust that he knows what he's doing, that he cares about his kids as much as you do. And most importantly, you send them because they want to go. No,they are dying to go, BEGGING to go, and I do believe that it is good all around and that the whole family reaps the benefits throughout the year. 

So, like all good Breslov women, I am packing. Packing clean shirts and pants, challahs, cookies, snacks, fruit. Books, siddurim, machzorim, seforim. Drinks, PJ's, pillows, blankets. Sweatshirts, shoes, socks. 

And while I am packing, I am hoping that they'll think of their mother/wife and say a little prayer for me, too.

Friday, September 3, 2010


TPH calls it "Spawn of the Devil", and for many it may bring to mind Ed Norton's OCD character in Fight Club, but you know you all have a soft spot for IKEA, necessary caps or not.

We love it, we hate it, we despise it, we crave it. And we always, always go back for more.

For those of you who have never been, you are missing out. Really. It's one of those experiences that a person must complete once in order to say that they have lived life to it's fullest. Furniture store? Nope. Housewares? Gigantic understatement. Imagine 2 football fields worth of furniture, housewares, restaurants, kids' playing areas. It's not a store, IKEA is an experience

It has earned it's nickname in Casa "W" as "Spawn of the Devil", during one particularly draining trip there, when we were ready to get out of there, and fast. That's when we discovered the engineering/architectural design genius of IKEA, wherein you CANNOT and WILL NOT exit, until you have seen every single Woonkamer, Keuken, or Farfenshnizelboigenheim. You are forced to go through isle after isle of cheery (yet almost creepy in their perfection) displays. On this particular trip, the kids were cranky, and TPH was hungry, and let me tell you, I don't know which is scarier. Suffice it to say, that was our last trip to IKEA together, and I have been left to navigate IKEA's catacombs alone ever since.

Yesterday, after breezing through with J (whom, like her mother does not going into a catatonic state when shopping there), we were on our way out, when a guy with a wild look in his eye flew by us into the warehouse section muttering, "La'Azazel! Eifo Ha'Kupot?!" ("Oh hell! Where are the registers?!")

Well, TPH, you won't come with me, but after I saw that, I know you'll always be there with me in spirit.


There are some funny emotional moments that I have been having here. 

Like when we found out that S's  amazing Rebbe was the same one that A had back in 1st grade when we used to live here. 

Or when I pass by our old apartment and find 20 foot tall trees where I lovingly planted and nurtured small saplings. 

Or like, when R looked up at me at the playground in the shopping center and said, "Imma, this is my favorite playground ever!" and I was reminded of my older kids saying the exact same thing at the exact same playground 6 years ago.

Or when I ran into an old acquaintance and she said, "Oh good! You are here, I was getting worried, I haven't seen you around lately!" Yeah, like in 5 years...

It helps make the blow softer; leaving one home for another home is easier than just leaving home. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

First Day of School

Well, here we are more than a week later...more than a VERY busy week later!!

The kids started school last week, and have surprised me with their courage, bravery and great attitudes! They all seem to like the friends, teachers and schools! Granted, there have been several meltdowns, but I guess something would be wrong if there wasn't...

The first day of school we dropped everyone off without a hitch. Keep in mind, this entails getting everyone up, and out by 7:20am and WALKING them to school up a very large bunch of hills. But we did it. The kids were nervous, but there were no tears and they marched boldly in to tackle the first day of the rest of their lives.

I got home about an hour later, after some shopping, and lo and behold there was a lunch lying forlornly in the middle of the living room. I had 13 minutes to get it up the hill in time for "Aruchat Eser" a weird Israel meal that they eat at 10am which is not breakfast or lunch. So, I called a taxi, and RAN to get it there before said child found he was without a lunch and had a (nother) reason for tears. I literally walked into his classroom as the teacher said, "Time to eat!" Peeked in on the other two boys who were both smiling and talking to other kids :)

I am still amazed every day by how surrounded we are by a Torah lifestyle here. As I was walking out, I passed two boys that looked to be in about 5th grade. They were talking about money. I missed what the first kid said, but as I passed, the other said, "Well, this month, I am giving all of my money to Tzedaka. Because we know that in Elul if we are Rachmanim to needy people, then Hashem will be a Rachaman to us!"

Needless to say, I walked out in tears, and most definitely not because I was sad to leave my kids! :)