Wednesday, November 2, 2011

You Know You're Becoming Israeli When...

  • You plunk down a container of chummus, bag of fresh pita and some cucumbers and viola! Dinner is served!
  • Having anyone over for a meal requires much moving and dragging of tables and chairs (away from the wall, back to the wall). 
  • Four kids (on two bunks) sleep in one room. We call it The Barracks.
  • Buying school books is not just for college kids anymore.
  • Your kids are playing in the streets waaay after dark.
  • You don't think it's weird to sit in the dark with the blinds drawn until 4pm.
  • You don't even realize when you sweep the floor 4 times a day and wash it twice.  
  • When you ask your second grader to spell "Hat", he says "Hey, A, T." You don't notice until later. 
  • You stop complaining that every single school event goes from 5:30-8pm.
  • You throw down 150 shek ($43) on the complete leather bound Sherlock Homes for your son and don't bat an eyelash.
  • Every single one of your children have a Bimba injury. Simultaneously.
  • You get indignant when your Rav decides to give a shiur in English for the newcomers.
  • You just sweep out that giant beetle instead of running squealing for the nearest chair.
  • You look at your husband funny when he talks about putting down grass in the yard. Isn't that dirt serving us just fine?
  • 6AM is as good a wake up time as any.
  • Your brood is "freeeeezing!!!" and you look and it's down to a low 62 degrees outside.
  • When you do any kind of writing, you really aren't sure how to spell/write the basics sometimes.
  • You don't think twice about sending your 12 yr old son to school on a public bus.
  • Your 5 year old and his school go on strike.
  • You stop using the air conditioning through Chanuka.
  • The kids bring a bag of "shoko" (chocolate milk) and a roll for lunch.
  • The teachers have convinced you that yogurt and pretzels are "Junk Food".
  • You say things like, "Nu? B'Emet?" and your're not joking.
Yes, really.

Monday, October 31, 2011

More Missiles from Gaza

It's been one of those days where we've been perched on the edge of our chairs, obsessively checking iPhones and laptops to get a glimpse of the latest news: 

Since Saturday, over 35 missiles have been fired from Gaza into Southern Israel killing one and injuring 16 others. Dozens of others have been admitted to hospital for treatment of stress and anxiety. I believe it. 

I just got a text from my 16 year old brother who is in a dorm yeshiva in Be'er Sheva that the siren went off and they made it to the shelter before they heard the "booms" of the missiles landing. It's not a text that you wish for and it kind of makes your anxiety level move from a 2 to a 348. He seems ok, in his words "I'm ok, a little freaked out, but I'm fine."

BBILW (Big Brother In Law W) was ready to jump in the car and go pick him up, but S insists that if he comes out here he'll come tomorrow. I even called my mother who doesn't want either I or BAW driving out there now to go get him, as she's nervous of the risks of traveling there at night. 

So what do you do? You sit tight, and you remind yourself to stop clenching your teeth when you realize your jaws are sore. You try (unsuccessfully) not to let your own kids see how distracted and nervous you are. You don't sleep well (last night was terrible) and you try and keep your head up and your mind clear and focused. And you daven. 

Oh boy do you pray.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Gilad is Home, But It's Not Over

With Succos followed swiftly on the heels by my knee issue, I never really got a chance to blog about the release of Gilad Shalit in exchange for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners. The truth is that I never really have to blog at all because A Soldier's Mother pretty much says what I'm thinking and feeling down to the last comma and period, and after I read her posts I often feel that nothing else needs to be said. This post of her's of the day of Gilad's release was particularly on the mark for me.

Gilad is home. He's sleeping between his own sheets in his own bed, and waking up to the sounds of his loving family surrounding him, and I'm sure lots and lots of home cooking. But it's not over. Not for Gilad and not for us. He has shown tremendous strength and resilience, but I can't imagine the long term effects of such a horrible ordeal, and I'm sure that for Gilad the nightmare is not yet over. 

My 2nd grader and I were talking recently. He was very "into" the part in his davening where they were praying for "Gilad Ben Aviva Shalit", and when he got back to school he told me that the Morah had a long talk with them about how Gilad is home, BH! and how we don't have to daven  for him anymore. I'm not so sure. I'm sure that Gilad can use all the prayers we still have to offer.

And so could we. It's far from over for us. You've seen the videos and the news clips about the first wave of prisoners (would they please stop calling them that when they are actually criminals, terrorists and murderers?) being returned to their homes and families. You've seen the way they celebrated by throwing rocks at the IDF soldiers and civilians alike, by parading their children around with machine guns in the streets. And I'm sure you've seen those stupid, asinine, self satisfied smirks and grins that accompany the promises of more killings, more terrorism, more of our children kidnapped.

So no, it's not over. Not for Gilad and not for us by a long shot. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Saga of a Knee

Two and a half weeks of succos vacation passed by in the blink of an eye for us over here, and just like that my favorite holiday is gone. It's taken a while for me to reflect on the holiday and all the good because I've been very preoccupied with the not-so-good. After a beautiful first day and Chol Hamoed trips to Ammunition Hill in J-lem, the Safari in Tel Aviv, a BBQ in on Tel-Tzora and the Beit Shemesh concert, I woke up with a very, very painful knee on Hoshana Rabba morning. I couldn't move it and was literally writhing in pain on my bed. 

Me and this knee have a history. Avery long and annoying history. When I was 7 I was tobogganing down Cobb's Hill at night and our toboggan hit a tree. Somehow my leg wound around a tree (to this day we still wave at this tree whenever we pass by) and my femur broke in half instantly. I barely remember being put on the toboggan stretcher-style and being rushed to the hospital. The next couple of hours I endured a long surgery and was put into traction: essentially a very large screw was put through my knee to literally hang my knee from a sling above my bed to reset my bone. I was in the hospital in this position for almost 2 months and after that I was sent home with a double cast from waist to ankle. It was not pretty. I missed the second half of 2nd grade. After months of being in bed I had to relearn how to walk, first with crutches then with much physical therapy on my own. 

Once I was completely healed (or so I thought) things went back to normal and I didn't think about that leg again. Until one day in 11th grade. I was sitting in English class and my knee had the weirdest sensation; I felt something slip into place and the pain was excruciating. Worse than that I was stuck in my desk unable to move until they called an ambulance and I was brought to the hospital. I'll never forget that day. We had one more period until the end of the day, and our Student Council had planned a roller skating/blading party with music and pizza. It was a big deal and I loved rollerblading. Long story short there was no rollerblading for me that day or any day after that one for a very long time. My knee needed surgery; x-rays showed that my traction 10 years before had torn cartilage in my knee that had never healed. Now it had somehow locked around itself, and needed to be cut out. Another surgery, another significant amount time of school missed. 

Months later I was back in school with a very large and obnoxious apparatus, complete with a wheelchair and crutches. As only my 11th grade self could, I would complete my outfit every day with neon colored tights. Well, one tight... 

Thank goodness it healed completely and I haven't heard from it since then until now. We spent Hoshana Rabba in Terem, the emergency clinic, first here in town and then in Jerusalem. The original concern was that it was a blood clot, but bh that was ruled out. The only thing I have to go on now is the preliminary x-ray that shows that there are bone lesions on my tibia. Related to my old injury? They won't say. Related to my new jogging regime? Dunno. I'm getting worried, it's been over a week and the improvement is minimal. I have an appointment with the orthopedist next week, and until then....

Here I sit on the couch where I've been parked for the better part of a week. Trying not to feel sorry for myself. Wondering how much damage I've done to my kids by being incapacitated for so long. Thanking my lucky stars for good friends and sister in laws. Marveling at what a wonderful husband I have. 

What's ironic is that every time this knee acts up and I have time to sit and actually think, I go over and over in my head, "I will never take walking for granted again. I will never take walking for granted again." So maybe it's just a reminder that I need every couple of years; to slow down and be grateful for the small things. 

Things could be worse. Grateful for what I have. :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dare We Hope?

If you're on FaceBook, or even if you're not, the word is spreading like wildfire: the Palestinians have supposedly agreed to consider a prisoner exchange deal that would secure the return of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was captured by Hamas in 2005 and held prisoner for almost 6 long years. 

This announcement comes on the heels of an international rally in which 100 communities prayed for the safe return of Gilad. It's a point that needs to be made, that needs to be heard. Prayers are answered.

"Don't get your hopes up." TPH gently reminds me. The Arabs do this. They've done it in the past, and we can't put it past them to do it again. They get our hopes up only to dash them in horrible ways. They've reneged on their deals, they've pulled out last minute. They've even returned dead bodies. They're requesting that close to some 1,000 terrorists be released not only into Gaza, but that they be allowed to return to their homes and families. The complete and utter chutzpa makes my blood boil.

But how can we NOT get our hopes up after davening, praying for this single soldier for so long? How can we, parents of those children who daily have added Gilad to their prayers (some for as long as they have been praying at all) not get our hopes up? How can we as Gilad's fellow brothers and sisters not get our hopes up? As parents? As Jews? As human beings? 

So, I'm trying. I'm trying to stay calm and not get my hopes up. I'm trying to move past being on the verge of (dare I say?) happy tears. I feel tremendously on edge because for once there might be good news. For once there might be something globally Jewish that we can announce with excitement, happiness, and real joy. 

Here's to hoping and praying that this time the news will be ours, and that this time of זמן שמחתנו-- time of happiness and rejoicing be just that. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It's not just Israel, it's the Israelis that I love too

The other night, TPH and I got out for a few hours thanks to Uncle S.

We went to a mall nearby and just walking around and basically enjoyed escaping the new terror that N has become. I stopped in at FOX (the local GAP-wannabe) for tshirts for J. As always, TPH lurks outside any stores I enter, except of course the bookstore. He's always had a fear of stores for as long as I can remember. Maybe this is why...

Me: (yelling like a lunatic out into the mall) "Can you please come in here! I need money!"
Him: "Every time I reach into my pocket to pull out my wallet it hurts."
Me: "Ok, ok! That's very dramatic, I'm not spending that much! J needs shirts for school! And a shabbos dress! And you always make this so difficult and--"
Him: "--No, really. My hand hurts. I have a cut."

Yes, I really am this much fun to hang out with.

So, anywhoo...there we were having a non-existent argument in the store when TPH starts gesturing for me to turn around. When I do I am less than two feet behind a guy who has his shirt off. And it's not so pretty, trust me. But the real piece of cake was when the girlfriend starts yelling at the sales girl (when she nicely asked him to please use the dressing room), "What? He works hard for this at the gym. He should be allowed to show it off."

By now TPH and I were looking every where but at the scene of the crime trying to get out of there before one of us burst out laughing.I glance over as the guy finally tries on his shirt, and then I really stare: Mr. Big Tough Guy With a Large Gold Necklace, who apparently has been working hard on this flabby bod has on a...wait for it...smurf shirt.

Hee, hee. Some Israelis are cute.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Very, Very, VERY Terrible Twos

Wow. I'm slowly losing it over here. 

N has literally yelled and screamed and thrown a fit for the ENTIRE day, giving me a short break only when he took a nice long nap. Any kids yelling and screaming are annoying...but imagine the entire day...for almost a full week. 

He's been sick on and off for six weeks, and to me that just seems too long. There's been nothing concrete to actually be able to treat with antibiotics, and if I hear the word "virus" again, I might possibly lose it. I even took him for a blood and urine test and am awaiting the results, but the doctors keep telling me not to worry, it's just taking him an extra long time to adjust to being in school with all the new germs...but it's easy for them to say. They don't have to deal with him being off the handle in crazy mode all day long. 

Rosh Hashana was a disaster. Everytime BAW left the house he'd cry inconsolably for 2-3 hours straight. Yes, seriously. No joke.I tried everything. The only time that he's mildly happy is when we're outside, and even then lately he's been kvetchy or fighting with other kids. One afternoon he screamed and screamed until I brought him outside, only to sit curled up on my lap for an hour. Any time I made any motion to come inside he started up again. 

The other kids are constantly on edge. I have zero patience for any of the rest of them, and by the evenings when I'm needed most for dinner, homework and bedtime I'm a basket case. BAW who is the most patient person on the planet, no, the universe is slowly becoming unraveled. 

Any ideas? Suggestions? The only thing that keeps coming back to haunt me is that my in-laws have always had this "funny" story about TPH and how he screamed the entire year from age 2 to age 3. I never paid much attention to that story thinking that it must be an exaggeration, because how is that even possible? But guess what? I'm starting to think it might be very possible indeed...

Sunday, October 2, 2011


I think I'm starting to get it. We've been here in the Holy Land 15 months now and I'm finally starting to catch on. Gone are the clueless looks and confused faces we had when we first arrived. We have gladly shed those and passed them down to the newest crop of Olim. 
I'm getting the hang of it here. 

For instance, English cake tins are actually a very good size. Not as big as a 9x13 which nobody ever finishes anyway, but not too small. Or, for example, no matter how little food you have in the house on Sunday morning, you DO NOT go shopping until Sunday afternoon, as it takes a bunch of hours to get food into the stores on Sunday. Or that yes, the banks are really closed on Sunday, and if you can remember that you'll save yourself a lot of trouble.

Or perhaps that maybe some essential stores (think pharmacy) closing in the middle of the day isn't so crazy…because neither is jumping in bed for a quick middle of the day nap. Or that if you wish to hold on to whatever shred of sanity you have left, Shabbos shopping never gets done on Thursday or Friday-- Wednesday only.

Don't get me wrong; I still oft dream of a master bedroom in which I don't have to side step (do-si-do) to get into my closet. Or even one where I can take more than three giant steps, Mother May I. Wegman's may be a thing of the past, but on those long Sunday mornings as I wait for the supermarkets to restock milk, bread and fruits and veg, I can wistfully sigh and reminisce about a 24/7 store that really does carry parsnip and celery and turnip…well, 24/7.

And although I'll most probably never hear a shofar blowing (until Moshiach comes) like SR's in R, I am still yotzei with the one that I barely made it to in shul.

 And most importantly, this small town hick is starting to get things like what being part of the עם  means. It means that when I'm standing there barely able to listen to the shofar with one little guy in my arms with a fever who is yelling over the mechitza, "Hey! There's Uncle S! Hi S! HI!!" and another who just got run over by a scooter whimpering on my leg, it's ok. It's ok because there I stand with over a hundred other mothers and children who are listening with me. Because just by being here, in the Holy Land with my holy brothers and sisters,  I'm "עם", (with) the עם -- and the עם has got my back.

So, although it wasn't my most spiritual RH ever, I am starting to get it and that makes my comfort level which essentially equals my happiness level that much better.

So here's to "getting it", and to the start of a great year filled with only good things for us all.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Scavenger Hunt

I was worried about what I would do with all the kids out of the house almost all day. But then I remembered my Sunday Morning Scavenger Hunts. 

See, every Shabbos or sometimes even Saturday night, I get thrown a list of clues. Literally, they throw them at me. These clues come wrapped tightly in the weekly "Daf Kesher" (Newsletters) that each child gets from his or her teacher. The newsletters in Israel are a Big Deal. Every aspect of what they learned, read, did--it's all in these sheets. Lose these sheets and your child literally should just stay home for the next week of school, as neither of you will have any idea what's flying.

Some children even have multiple newsletters. B's comes home weekly at about 4-5 pages. 2 from the homeroom teacher, 2 from the Torah teacher, and another 1-2 from the math teacher. Now take an average of 3 pages per child and there I am up to my elbows at the Shabbos table reading 18 pages (in small Hebrew font!) and trying to find my clues. 

The clues are usually listed in the "Announcements/Notices" section of these newsletters, and cleverly disguised as Things Your Children Will Need For School This Week , Or Else They Will Be The Only One Without It, And They Will Cry. A Lot. 

Well, once I read and decipher these clues, I have my list of items for my Sunday Morning Scavenger Hunt, and I can set out on my quest.

This week's list included:
A teeny tiny jar of honey
Nail scissors
(Yet another) binder
a geography book
The all elusive Sefer: Chumash Devarim
Hand towels

Now, while I appreciate a school in which they are constantly doing projects and always learning more and more, once I get my List of Clues I start to truly lament the lack of a Target or Walmart in the area. One Stop Shopping is a thing of the past.  Luckily I live right down the block from the shopping center, and if I play my cards right I should only need to hit...3...make that 4 stores for these six items. 

To make a long story short, it took me about 45 minutes to track down that small little jar of honey, the only nail scissors I could find came as part of a larger set of SIX pairs of scissors of various size, and (YES! you have to believe this part!) there are NO sefrei Devarim to be had in RBS (and haven't been for weeks)...and EEP! I forgot the towels!

Well, with nobody home, there's always tomorrow...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Did I Just Say That?

While I've been in bed for the past week (yes, I said week) I've had time to think about all the blog posts I have not been writing. There's....

1. The insanity involving the opening of the girls' elementary school called Orot in Beit Shemesh that's being violently contested by a group of ultra-orthodox crazies. But this topic has been beaten to death for me. My neighbor wrote a great post about it which I hope to publish one of these days when I can actually sit upright for more than an hour at a time. 

2. Migron--another evacuation and demolition of Jewish homes 5 kilometers from Jerusalem. This I can't write about because it's too painful and I get insanely emotional every time I go back to the video of our idiotic government sending our brothers and sons in to evacuate their own brothers and sisters from their homes. It's Gush Katif all over again and my emotions just take control and turn me into a lunatic, so I'm not ready to write about that yet either. So I guess tonight I have to keep it light. 

I'm taking a big risk here and letting you in to some very private moments in the W house. Don't laugh. Or do, but just don't think we're ridiculous. Big Abba W and I have a saying between us that goes like this: "Did I Just Say That?" You wouldn't believe some of the things that we've found ourselves saying. Here are some real-life examples:

--Please don't poke your brother in the eye with toothpicks. 
--Take that Kippah off the dog. 
--Don't put salt in your cereal. 
--Tzitis don't go wrapped around your head.
--Please go put that sniper back in the weapons bin.
--Please go throw out the pancake that is sitting in the bathroom sink.
--Stop letting the dog lick your mouth.
--Don't pour yogurt on the guest bed.
--Whose sock is this in the freezer?
--You can't come to Havdalah with your p*nis out.  
--You cannot leave your teeth on the sink! 
--Your blankie does not belong with you in the tub.
--How many times to I have to ask you not to leave your swords around?
--Please take the leash off of N.

I can't tell you how many more of these there are. I wish I would remember to write them down as they come. You can't make this stuff up. Seriously. Pay attention next time you talk to your kids, and share them with me so I feel less weird and dysfunctional. Wait, Did I Just Say That?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A few good things

So many things to write about, so little time. The truth is that with my "flexible work schedule", I do have more than enough time on my hands. What's been holding me back is a new $10 membership to Lego Universe, a new online Lego peer to peer game. No, I am not addicted, but my computer is the only one that has internet that the kids can use, so by the time the last one is off to bed these days, I'm about there myself. 

I never really reported on the first day back to school, and it is noteworthy in it's non-excitingness. It's really true that no news is good news. I got back from the States the afternoon before school started. I am a little neurotic about back to school, so the books and supplies had all been bought a month beforehand, and the backpacks were even packed before I left for the US. 

It's amazing what a difference a year makes. A started a new middle/high school this year, and I was surprised that he wasn't more nervous. I kept asking if he was ok, and he kept giving me The Look. (Slightly rolled eyes, exasperated sigh) He did tell me that he remembered two things from last year about the first day of school. "One, was that this kid was acting crazy and I was sure that he'd be kicked out. Turns out he's my good friend now, he just has a little ADD. Second, I was terrified."

On one hand my heart goes out to him that a year later he's willing to admit how scared he was. On the other hand, it's amazing to look at this young man and see how self confident and comfortable he's become with himself in the past year. The beginning of this new year has definitely had it's challenges for him: he has to get on the bus at 7am, which means up at 6:15, and does get home until after 6pm. The homework has also increased drastically this year and his Hebrew still isn't where it needs to be. Thank G-d he has an exceptionally patient Israeli father who has been helping him every night. The thing is, he's getting there. I no longer worry about him constantly, and that's a good thing.

J loves school, even though every event, relationship, test, etc. is dramatized to the fullest. Academically she continues to shock me and I just don't know how or when she got so smart. I am tremendously proud of her. One highlight for this school year is the Bat Mitzva class that all 6th graders have. Towards the middle of the year they take the whole grade on a shabbaton to a hotel and give even more shiurim (classes) on what it means to be a Bat Mitzvah. She's very, very excited about it. We are currently trying to figure out what she wants to do for an extra "club" after school, but I think there are too many options and she can't see herself doing just one thing. We're working on it... :)

B has grown by leaps and bounds in one year, both physically and maturity-wise. He reads Hebrew books now almost as easily as he reads English ones, and is really enjoying this Parsha set that we have in Hebrew. He makes no differentiation between English speakers or Hebrew speakers in his class and is an equal opportunity friend. School work has gotten much, much easier for him and he is just about on the same level as his classmates. It's amazing to see how this guy went from having a very hard time to being amazingly well adjusted. It's a very good thing.

S is, well...S. His uniqueness and smile make him so special! He has many friends in class and in the neighborhood and is doing fantastic in school. His teacher had no idea that he is a new "oleh". Probably because after one year he really isn't... :) Both B and S are taking Capoeira at the local Matnas (think JCC) and it's very fast become a highlight of his week. He loves math and does incredibly well in school. He misses his Aunt D, with whom he has always has a special connection. But he's happy and likes school, that's always a good thing!

R has probably had the best change of all. Out of all the kids, I think he had the hardest first year. Strange, being that he was only 4 when we got here, right? He had a fantastic teacher last year, but I don't think that the school was the right fit for him. He also had mostly girls in his class and socially it wasn't the best for him. He spent much of most year on the couch with his thumb in his mouth while clutching his blankie. This year has been a WONDERFUL change for him! His teachers are both fantastic, the Gan itself is great and he is so, SO happy. He was home sick this week and every morning ran to get a siddur. "If I can't go to gan, I must daven at home!" He goes everyday with my amazing neighbor and going with a friend made the initial separation easier. He is so happy, it makes me smile every time he comes home. "How was Gan, R?" "AWESOME! I LOVE IT!" Every single day. 

N is the man. He is out of the house for the first time, and it went surprisingly well. He did cry for the first 3-4 days, but since then he seems excited and happy to go. I was worried about him returning today after being out sick for 3 days, but he went in well. He does the cutest thing when we go in. He seems kind of sad to leave me or BAW, but he sidles up to the teacher and waits for a hug every time he gets there. Once he gets it he's full of smiles and runs off to play. He's learning more and more Hebrew every day. 

All in all it's been a great start to the year. Gone are my nervous, anxious American newbies. I don't know what exactly they are morphing into, but it's happening, and that's a very good thing. :)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Whew, am I behind. I feel like I always have to start with an excuse. It's my blog and I can procrastinate if I want to!

Well, not procrastinating per say, but I have been honestly very, very busy. Got back from the US a week ago, but it's been a week of sending off kiddies to the first week of school, getting used to a new earlier schedule, starting N in gan for the very first time,cleaning and battling jet lag all at once. 

My trip to the states was fantastic. It was so, SO good to see everyone, friends and family both. We (me and B, my trusty travel partner) arrived in Detroit the morning of the wedding and it was awesome to spend time with my family there. The wedding passed in a whirlwind, due mostly to jet-lag and adrenaline battling each other fiercely within me. B was a trooper but insisted in swimming in the hotel pool the day of the wedding rather than sleeping, so by about 9pm he was passed out on a lobby chair. 

The next day we drove back to the R and spent the next week shopping, shopping and visiting friends and family. There is never enough time to spend it with everyone that I love!! :( A highlight was definitely seeing two sets of my grandparents.

The truth is, I was really nervous about the trip. I was worried about going back "home" but the whole experience was exactly what I needed. It lent me a closure that I really, really needed. I left in such a hurry (decided in March to make Aliyah and got on the plane early July) and I never really got to say goodbye properly. After this trip I feel really good. It was great to see everyone, excellent to be there for a family simcha, and even better to just sit and shmooze with everyone. B had a blast reconnecting with his old friends and it was like they had never been apart. 

I won't bore you with the joys of Target, Marshall's and the like. What I can tell you is that B nearly cried tears of joy in the Target and Toys R Us Lego aisles. I got my plethora of gashmiyus in, and I even managed to fill all the empty suitcases that I brought. The best part was when I was checking in at JFK on my way back home and I was 20 lbs overweight. Never before had anyone ever bothered me about being overweight before. They wanted $150 to pay for my overweight bags. I pulled them to the side and started taking out bags and bags of Hershey's. No joke, I stuffed almost 20 lbs of Hershey's chocolate in my carry-on and we were good to go :)

Coming home was amazing. Every time I land in Israel I get weepy. I can't explain it. It's a relief and a gratitude to be home. TPH is really the hero in this whole story; not only did he hold the fort with 5/6 kids, but he took them on trips and did lots of fun stuff with them. I was so glad to see them after being away so long, and it really helped recharge my batteries and give me a whole new appreciation for everyone.

The house was another story. You've heard me complain about how hard it is to keep house here. For some reason the dirt LOVES the houses here and when I don't clean for a couple of days it looks like a crack house in here. I'm serious. Now imagine one excellent husband and 5 cute kids all alone for NINE days...

It wasn't pretty, and I'm still cleaning from it. But no complaints. All in all it was a fantastic trip and I'd do it again anytime soon. Good thing, too. I still have 5 siblings to marry off.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

So What Do You Do?

I told you, I'm flying out tomorrow night, iy'h, and now I have a problem. We like to go to the kotel anytime we leave or re-enter Israel. I don't know where we got this family "minhag"(custom) or even if it may be a real inyan, but it's something that we do.

BAW and I had discussed taking the kids in to Jlem tomorrow to make a stop at the kotel, maybe ride the new light rail, grab something to eat and head home. A kind of "good-bye Imma and B" event. 

But now I'm not so sure. Yerushalayim is on high terror alert. Rockets are still falling in the Southern regions of the country regardless of the ceasefire Hamas had agreed to not an hour ago. Supposedly there was a terrorist apprehended in Pisgat Ze'ev in Jerusalem earlier today, although this has not been confirmed. 

Do we lay low until things "calm down"? Will things calm down? Do we have full faith that on a mission to pray at the Wall we'll be safe and protected?  Do we give in to terrorism? Do we let fear overtake us and not go where we want when we want? 

I dunno. What would you do?


Feeling totally underwater today. Spacey, tired, out of it. It's stress and nothing else. I am flying out tomorrow and have literally spent all day doing laundry (again!), dishes (again!), straightening up (again, and again!), packing and checking various news websites. The packing is the easiest of all. Since America is the land of the free and the home of the Target, Walmart and Old Navy, I am mostly coming with empty suitcases. 

I am a news junkie in general, but when things start to escalate as they have the past few days here, I am unable to turn away from the computer for any long periods of time. I feel like I need to know what's going on all the time. It probably isn't the best thing for me; it makes me sad, angry, and so distracted that I have a hard time taking care of things, and today of all days is one of those days that I needed to be on the ball. Hence the underwater zombie-like feeling. I feel like this post isn't even making any sense. Forgive me. 

What's going on in the South of Israel is scary, but it's also very, very disheartening. The Muqata (don't worry, he's a frum Jew) has a blow by blow of what's been going on almost down to the minute.

The reports say that over 100 missiles have been fired from Gaza into Southern Israel over the past 3 days, thankfully with few (but some) casualties. There are other coordinated terror attacks going on throughout the rest of the country as we speak. In the past half hour Jerusalem has been put on a special terror alert. The attack near Eilat has just claimed it's 8th victim. Others have been seriously wounded by shrapnel, including a 4 month old baby and other children. 

Over shabbos there was also more dismantling of Jewish settlements. 

And then I turn away from the Israeli news and I see this: Spain has decided to back the PA right to their own country.,7340,L-4111821,00.html

What's their reasoning? 

"We have to give them some signal, because if we don't it could generate great frustration for the Palestinian people."

Oh man. We wouldn't want to cause frustration to the Palestinian "people" now, would we? We all know what THAT means. And you, Mrs. Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Trinidad Jimenez have just been bullied. Terrorized is what we call it.  

I constantly promise not to become political in my blog and I often find myself inching my way there, and I apologize. But it comes with the territory of living here, whether or not we like it, we are forced to see just how our government is failing us. It's a constant reminder that even though we are lucky to be living in E"Y, we are still a long way off from the geula and the perfect state of Am Yisrael. 

Let's keep praying that it's on it's way.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Once again we are mourning. Today a very carefully executed attack against more Israelis took place, when Arabs shot up a bus, bombed a car and shot mortars at IDF forces in the South.,7340,L-4110634,00.html#.Tk0vyxAwd_B.facebook

And just like that while we were washing dishes or doing laundry or at work or shopping, everything was once again turned upside down. I had my 2 year old scream through another supper and couldn't even register it because all I can think about is the families who have suddenly been thrown into a living hell and who's lives will never be the same.

And yet, the feelings loss and sadness are followed swiftly by overwhelming feelings of rage, which must be a true testament to the fact that I am becoming more Israeli every day. Rage that once again our government has failed to protect us. Once again they have lacked the masculine body parts it takes to stand up and say, "די!!" "Enough!"

No, I don't expect them to put up more check points or increase soldiers on foot or patrol. I expect them to stop caring about what the rest of the world thinks and to put their collective foot down for once. I expect them to protect their civilians who give their lives and their sons' and daughters' lives year after year while the government continues to tiptoe around public opinion.

I'm not very wise in the way of politics and I don't really have any solutions to suggest. Actually I do. Just one: Man up Israel. Man up.

First trip back

I've been scrambling the past few days to get everything in order for my first trip back to the Old Country since we made Aliyah over a year ago. Renewing passports, finding something to wear and choosing one child to come with me has been surprisingly time consuming. I guess it's because it's not only that but the preparation at home that it takes to make sure that TPH can run the homestead as calmly as possible while I'm gone. 

I'm not the "make-a-dinner-for-each-night-and-freeze-it-in-nice-little-containers" type, but to be fair I did stock the fridge and cabinets with just about anything anyone will need over the week that I'm gone. 

Going on this trip is a surprise. I told my family I'm coming when I got the tickets this week, but what I mean is that it's more of a surprise for me. 

Unless you've made Aliyah it's really, really hard to understand why that first trip back is so hard. I told my family earlier this summer that there was no way I could come. N is impossible at home these days, and I could never leave him. Tickets are ridiculously expensive, so I probably couldn't bring him, and even if I could there was so much potential for disaster that I just threw my hands in the air and said, "Forget it. I can't come."

I see now that these were excuses. Valid perhaps, but excuses none the less. But as always, TPH saw through my excuses even before I did. It's one of those things that make him T. P. H. And gently, as only he knows how, he insisted that I go. He would find the money to send me. He would be fine with everyone at home for a week. Yes, even N. He gently encouraged me to find the strength to get past whatever it was that is holding me back, and to go and spend some much needed time with my family.

I went to Gymboree with a friend a couple weeks ago and we were talking about going back "home", and she said she just doesn't think she'd be emotionally ready to face everyone and everything yet. I am so thankful to her for having this conversation with me because I was worried that maybe I was the only one who was feeling this way. It helps to know there are other normal people out there like me and that I am not alone.

The problem is that I'm scared to go back. I'm scared to see who and what I left behind again. I'm scared I'll want to leave or that I'll never want to leave. I'm scared to see my house again with lush yards and trees and I'm scared I'll compare it to my current rented apartment with dirt for a yard. I'm scared that everyone has stayed the same and that I have changed. Or maybe that they have changed and I have very much stayed the same. 

I'm sure it'll pass and that IY"H the trip will go just fine. I am very, very excited to be able to make it to my brother's wedding and will be forever grateful for a husband who knows me better than I sometimes know myself. TPH, thank you for being just that. Perfect. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Huh? Wha?

I know I sound like I've been a bit obsessed with getting old lately, but here's yet another proof: All day I've been wandering around thinking of ten different things I've been wanting to write about. All day I've been staring longingly at my laptop as it broadcasts hours and hours of Diego, all the while winking at me mockingly, just out of reach.  

And now, finally it's quiet, laptop is in hand (or on lap rather) and I can't remember a DARN thing I wanted to write about! Aargh Blargh!! as we say here in W-land.

I guess one thing I've been thinking a lot about lately is how sometimes I feel like I am an excellent mother; I have it all together, I know my kids well and can reach each of them on their own level in ways to help them grow as people, as Jews and as mentchen. Sometimes

The other 97% of the time I have started to feel totally clueless. As in, I have NO stinking IDEA what I'm doing.  Sometimes I'll post an exasperated post on FB partially to kvetch, partially to get advice, but mostly to just get some much needed sympathy.

Today's post of "Once again feeling like I need parenting lessons" had a bunch of great mothers contributing. Some very seriously, some lending a much needed laugh, but all in it together. That's exactly what I love about FaceBook. (It's networking...socially...ah! I get it!)

And together we reached a very clear understanding: this is really how it's supposed to be. As soon as we feel too much in control or want to give ourselves a big pat on the back (and we should!), we get small loving reminders that yes, we are doing a fantastic job, but we still need the Big Guy's help, and we shouldn't ever stop looking or asking for it. 

So thanks to my FB friends for making me laugh and helping me realize that I'm not incompetent or crazy, or G-d forbid old. Well, maybe a little. Now seriously, what was it I was supposed to be writing about anyway?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Car! A Car! A C-A-R!

My 9 days blogging hiatus is officially over, whew. I'm not sure if I'm more excited to write again or to catch up on all my reading from other bloggers I've missed.

First off I have to say how tremendously grateful I am to The One Above as well as my FIL for ensuring that we had a car almost the whole summer. My in-laws are in the states and my FIL graciously left us the car to use while they are gone. It's been more than a month, and we have used the car to the fullest. 

Granted we've often had to split up (as it's only a five seater), but we've done that great trip to the Canine Unit, the boys went to Park Afula near Be'er Sheva, several library trips, playgrounds, the Mall in Modiin, the movies, the beach, hikes, Yaledudes (water slides), Yerushalayim lots of times, the Kotel, David's Citadel museum, a hike that landed them at Kever Shimshon, the pool at Misilat Tzion, Park Canada, and there is still one more Ulpan trip planned, not to mention the hike to the "Bat Cave" that some of them will do tomorrow. 

And the grocery shopping! Oh, the grocery shopping! There are decent local stores here, but with a car there are so many more options at such better prices. Who would've thought I'd be sitting here extolling the virtues of a car? If nothing else the past year has taught me to be extremely grateful for the small stuff.

I have to say I am beat, I'm sunburned, and I am exhausted beyond belief. I collapse into bed every night like one of the bunch. I'm so happy to have been able to cram it all in and give the kids a sense of fun as well as deepen their appreciation for E"Y even more over the summer. If I've accomplished nothing else, this alone has made it all worth it.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

"Easy" Mourning

Tonight the Nine Days are upon us in earnest. Some years are harder than others to really put ourselves in the mourning mode. But this year it's not going to be hard to mourn the loss of the Beis HaMikdash or the lack of Moshiach. Sadly, it's going to be quite easy to remind ourselves that we are indeed in the midst of a painful galus. It has been a hard year for Am Yisrael, and just revisiting the past year, we are reminded of just how painful our Galus is.

The tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people in the year alone are almost too many to list.  First, the West Bank shooting that left Kochava Even-Haim a'h, Avichai Shendler a'h  and Talya and Yitzchak Imes a'h all dead. Talya was 9 months pregnant at the time of her death. Talya and Yitzchak left behind six children, the youngest of whom was 18 months old. 

Then there were two Christian women tourists hiking not two miles from our home who were stabbed by Arabs and left for dead, one narrowly escaping, while the other one died of her wounds.

Shortly after followed the horrific killing of the Fogel family of Itamar, where Arab terrorists broke into their village and killed 5 out of 8 family members, including two young boys and a 3 month old baby girl.

In March there was the bomb that detonated at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station (at the Beit Shemesh stop) killing one and injuring 50 others. 

There was 16 year old Daniel Viflic a'h who was killed when a rocket hit the school bus he was riding on to visit his grandmother.  

Ben Yosef Livnat, aged 24, father of four children was murdered at Kever Yosef HaTzadik, while on his way to prayer.

Then came the brutal murder of Leiby Kletzky, a'h that shocked Jews all over the world. And while the pain of Leiby's murder is still fresh, none of us will ever forget what happened, not 20, 30 or 40 years from now.

And now this past week, the stabbing and death of the Baba Sali's grandson, R' Yisrael Abuhatzeira zt'l leaves us reeling yet again.   

If there are more that I have forgotten may they forgive me. It seems too many already. 

So, no. It will not be hard to sit on the floor during Tisha b'Av this year and mourn. We need only remember those we lost this year in "unnatural" circumstances. Those that were taken from us too early in heinous, horrific ways. The best we can do is use the pain that we feel and channel it to help us truly mourn the state that we're in; bereft of the BH"M, desolate and without Moshiach, and show that we are waiting and wanting. 

And this time may the answer be "Yes."

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Are you ready for some Mil-Chigs? (TTO: Are you ready for some football?)

It is that time of year again, the 9 solemn days between the first of the month of Av until the 9th signify some very heavy days for us Jews. We will wash only when needed, wear no clean clothes, and eat no meat. 

Until recently, I never really understood the No Eating Meat part. I mean, let's face it, cold showers, no haircuts, and no clean clothes definitely make sense when we are in a mourning period. But no meat? Eh. Who cares. I could live on pasta. And so could most of us. Again, until recently. 

Until recently, I never understood why my mother would shell out a ridiculous amount of cash every week for Shabbos for a nice big brisket. Because it is meat. And I have six brothers. And chicken just don't cut it. 

Until recently, BAW used to silently suffer during the 9 days while we all enjoyed our spaghetti, fettuchini, salmon, fish and chips, ziti, lasagna, quiche, french toast, you name it. But not anymore. Suddenly, his minions have grown. Suddenly there is a choir of hungry men chiming in already kvetching about the lack of meat. "You mean, no hot dogs? What about burgers? Meatballs? Turkey? Schnitzel?! I need meat! I can't be without meat! I'll be hungry! I'll starve! I could die!" These are some serious concerns in our house.

The bottom line here is that Men Love Meat. Some men love sports, some men love cars, some men love money, but all men love meat. I dare you to think of 3 male vegetarians you know. I can't even come up with one. 

So although they are still young, and may not fully understand the state of calamity that we Jews are in even today in 2011, not to mention during the destruction of our Holy Temples, I hope that the lesson will start to become clear. We are giving up something that we really, really love because we lost something that we should be remembering and yearning for every single day. Something that we really, really love, and more importantly something that we really, really need. 

May Hashem turn our time of mourning and sorrow to happiness and rejoicing. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

If You Care

Whew, this blogging things takes D-I-S-C-I-P-L-I-N-E! Not one of my S-T-R-O-N-G points :)

The longer I don't write, the more I have to force myself to sit down and do it. No real ideas for a post today, just some random ramblings of the beginning of our summer vacation.

The kids were finally out of school Friday. Gasp! Through July! Yes, it's true. The beginning of July started the "Extra Month" program that is a mixture of camp and school. The kids go in a half an hour later (8:30am) and end a couple hours earlier. For the most part they are still learning (only Judaic Studies at this point, to everyone's relief we left General Studies in the dust at the end of June), but the days have more of a campy feel: Balloon Day, Drums Day, Baking Day, Kite Day, Talent Show Day, you get the drift. Several times they brought in huge inflatable water slides and had Water Day. The big trip of the month was to an amusement/water park. There was much less kvetching about getting up and getting off to school, and I was happy, they were occupied and still learning and now I don't really feel a pressure to force them to go to summer camp. It was a win-win.

The first two days of vacation have been good, we aren't ready to kill each other yet, so that must be good :) The readers in the family (um, that's everyone except N) have read a ridiculous amount of books this week, so it must really be summer vacation. This whole Get Four Books Out At A Time At The Library Thing is not really working for us. We go in groups since not everyone can get a book out :( and by the time we pull into the driveway the books are chucked at me with an exasperated, "Done!"

Yesterday BAW took the "big kids" to Jlem for the afternoon and the little guys and I hung out in the pool. Today we were all home, but everyone spent a good 2 1/2 hours in the pool. Tomorrow we'll have to get out again because too many days home is no good, but it's supposed to be close to 100 degrees and it's just no fun to go out in this heat. 

That's it, just a boring ole update of what we've been up to. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Guest Post by The One and Only "J"

My daughter has been on my case for me to add some more of her poems to my blog. Enjoy--she's awesome!


Life--You walk, you trip, 
You run, you skip, you do a flip.

Life-- You crash, you fall,
You smash that stone wall.

Life--You scream, you cry,
You let good times pass you by.

Life--Things happen, that's the way to see.
Just relax, let life be.



Let it fill you up
Musical notes drift through life
Forget--and listen.


The Friend Ship

A special ship leaves at half past three,
Let's be aboard it, you and me. 
We'll laugh, play and talk,
Snooze, gossip and walk.

It has no grounds,
no ends, no bounds.
It's made for friendly people you see,
maybe you and me. 

It's whistle is blowing,
It's confetti is throwing.
The flag is showing, 
Look! We must be going. 

Will you come?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

MoBs Part 3: My Birthday "Present"

Last Friday was my birthday. It was a typical Erev Shabbos, actually more relaxed since we were invited out for lunch (shout out to my favorite next door neighbors!:).

After I clean up on Friday on the main floor, I usually stand at the bottom of the stairs, take a few deep breaths and attempt to arm myself with patience. I do this because I am aware that when you send five or six kids upstairs to shower or bathe themselves, you are going to be met with a mess. Usually a very large, very wet mess. So, like every other Friday, I trekked upstairs about a half an hour before Shabbos armed with saintly amounts of patience.

As I peeked into the "kids'" bathroom, I once again girded my proverbial loins. It was worse than usual. There was about an inch of water on the floor; books, toilet paper, shoes were ruined. The bathmat and clothes left on the floor (do you know just how many clothes are left on the floor in a family of eight on Friday afternoon?) were all soaked. I was mad, but  managed to clean it up and keep my cool when I was told it was *mostly* N. Can't blame big kids when little ones decide to chuck everything overboard into the tub.

That took me 15 minutes, and I only had about 15 minutes until shabbos to shower and get ready. Still doable for me, I'm always the last shower, I would just have to hurry. 

But then... I entered... the scene of the crime. I went into my bedroom, and without getting too dramatic I was seriously worried that someone was lying wounded somewhere in the house. My beautiful (expensive!) baby blue comforters were both (remember, we have two full size beds) covered in...blood. Yes, blood. 

Now, not the pools of blood type, but huge big stains of blood seriously covering my blankets, sheets, pillows, and...wait for it... there was even blood on the walls. No, I am not exaggerating,  and yes, after making sure everyone was still alive and not slowly ebbing away somewhere I cried. Long and hard I cried. 

We narrowed it down to two very guilty looking culprits who "did not realize" they were both (!) bleeding from recent cuts on their feet from a hike they had just returned from. For some reason unbeknownst to me and all humankind they decided to jump long and hard from bed to bed before their baths. And the wall? "I don't know, I think we were kicking the wall...?"

After a big speech by both Imma and Abba re: Caring About Other People's Property and Being Responsible for Your Actions I kicked them out of my room and started laughing. It was a scary high-pitched maniacal laugh, while BAW looked on nervously (presumably to make sure I wasn't going to jump off the mirpeset with just a few moments till shabbos to spare). The truth is I had no such thoughts, but the fact that my bed just looked like a dog had given birth on it or a young chicken had been recently slaughtered in my bedroom kind of struck me as funny.

This story ends relatively well. Somehow most of the blood is not noticeable after a good washing. At least it doesn't look like blood anymore. I'm hoping to get them in the machine a few more times and see if I can totally get it out. Why not just flip them over? Im glad you asked. Because on the other side is original artwork by N, in black permanent marker -- duh!

Hopefully, I'll remember the chocolate cake baked by my loving children, and decorated with an unnatural amount of frosting and sprinkles as well as the  beautiful and sweet homemade signs and cards. But I'm pretty sure I'll remember this particular birthday *present* for years to come. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Gush Trip Part #2: Mitzpeh Avichai -- Hill 18

I'm in a bad mood today, so I'm glad I left the blogging of the other half of the trip for today. If I'm reminded about how nice it was, maybe I'll drop the grumpiness. But don't count on it.

After we watched the dog demo, we got back into our cars and drove another 15 min or so until we got to a little place called Ramat Mamrei, also another gated community over the green line. We drove through the town until we got to the edge of it where we hit a barbed wire fence and a dirt road. We drove down this narrow little dirt road (lots of rocks!) for about 5 minutes until the group stopped. We were on an outpost called Hill 18, and it was stunning. We were deep in the Judean Hills and everywhere we looked were more hills and nore mountains as far as the eye could see. Hill 18 is also known as Mitzpeh Avichai. I was going to Google Map it and show you a pic of where we were but two things are stopping me 1) Apparently those areas of Israel are not quite important enough to have detailed Satellite images 2) my mother would post probably kill me if she knew I drove out there with the kids. Shhhh! 

Mitzpeh Avichai is an "illegal" settlement and has been demolished more than once. Several of the dog handlers that we met are living here in one of the "houses" they have erected here. Not including these boys and men, there are 5 other families that live here. The tour guide took us to one family's house.  It is almost impossible to drive all the way up to their home, so we left the cars and walked the rest of the way. I can't explain to you what it was like to meet and talk to a woman who lives with her family out here. There are Arab houses almost 10 meters from their house. On the rocky walk up to the their little house are beautiful plants and flowers that have been very carefully planted; almost shocking among all the the rocks and dirt.

As we walked up to the house, my kids were astounded: "How do people live like this? What happens when it rains?" The house itself (and now I am kicking myself for not taking more pics) is quite literally made out of press board. Press board walls, ceiling, etc. The roof was tin sheets pounded together. The floors are dirt and covered in rugs. The furniture is sparse and mostly very warn. The house itself was originally one room (still some kids sleep in the living room, which is also the dining room, office and kitchen), but they managed to add on one bedroom in the back. The do not live like this because they are poor. They live like this because their home is often bulldozed to the ground, leaving them to start all over again.

The woman living here with her three children looks very much like you and me. She's in her early 30s was nicely dressed, had on beautiful jewelry and was very put together. She works in a museum nearby and her husband learns. She and her husband were the first ones to live on Hill 18, but since then another four families have joined her. She went on to tell us how she's lived there almost 3 years and how in that time her home has been demolished several times, and each time they pick up the pieces and they rebuild. She smiles a beautiful smile as she says that it's easy for the government to come and evict one family and kick them out of their home that is then bulldozed to the ground. "But now we are 5. Five strong families. It's a lot harder to displace 5 families."

When asked what we can do to help, so show that we care, she simply says, "Come. Come visit. Come see what we're doing. Come and spend time with us. 

I was blown away. I have been hearing about people like this for years, but I had a totally different picture in my mind. I hadn't imagined them to be so like you and me. To actually be there with her in her home was so inspirational. 

When I got home I did some research and here's what I found:

An excellent informative article on Mitzpeh Avichai's history here.

And a video showing the tenacity of this incredible crew:

It was amazing for me to meet these people and be there to see what exactly they are doing for the rest of us. But even more amazed were my kids. We had some very interesting talks on the way home. "Why don't we live here? Why can't we come and help them?" It was hard to admit to my kids that you have to be very, very brave to live here, and that maybe their parents are not so brave. "But you have all of us! That lady only has 3 little girls!!" 

It gave us all pause for a moment, and I let them digest all that we had seen on the way home. I am awed at how a trip to see some dogs turned into a tremendous inspiration as well as led us to have an appreciation for other factions of Am Yisrael and recognize how much they are doing on a daily basis.

Just another day in the life... :)