Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Gratitude Challenge Day 15

Another post from bed on my phone after another very long day, so bear with me again please!

Today I'm very grateful to a friend who, although I haven't known her all that long, has alteady taught me many invaluable lessons--the most important one? To always take care of #1! It seems like it wouldn't be so hard, but with a houseful of kids and a crazy life, I always seem to put myself last. She's reminded me (and often needs to insist!) that I do things for myself, even if only occasionally.

I wish I knew why I find this so challenging. Why for other people this is a healthy part of living, but why whenever I do something for myself I feel overwhelmingly guilty! Don't make judgements-it has nothing to do with how I was raised or how my husband treats me. No one had ever treated me even a little bit badly, it's

But with the help of this friend I'm starting to figure it out. I'm starting to realize that stopping for coffee   for JUST ME, or buying MYSELF an overpriced, bad, not-even-American-novel is ok! So, my friend, thank you for helping me be me, and for helping me find myself again. Thank you for mall trips and lunches, coffee and pedicures.

And even though they might not know it yet, my family thanks you too. Cuz' if Momma ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

My Gratitude Challenge Day 14

Today I'm grateful for a lot of things: That Hurricane Sandy is slowing down. That everyone I know in it's path is safe and sound.

But today I'm especially thankful for my Nachman. In the past, I've shied away from giving my kids' names, but here it's fitting to mention him and his name.

My husband has Breslov roots. Back before it was a fad, or the thing to do, him and his father and brothers made the yearly trip to Uman in the Ukraine for Rosh Hashana to pray at the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. Recently, it's been harder for him to get there every year and harder for me to send him every year, but our strong Breslov connection remains.

Nachman is our youngest of six, and he has 4 older brothers. Every time I was expecting (and I usually knew what I was having in advance), TPH would gently put in a vote for the name "Nachman". Almost always I veto'ed it immediately. Too Talmudic. Too outdated. Too 'Jewish' (Awkward in an American Park Setting). Too much of a mouthful. It never appealed to me, and being the smart man that he is, TPH did not push it.

Cut to: Time #6 in the labor and delivery room. Unlike with our other children, this time we really did not have a name picked out. We spent most of the hours in the hospital discussing possible names, not coming to any that we could agree on. I knew it was a boy, but TPH wanted to be kept in suspense (yes, that is hard, but that's for another time). He kept saying throughout the pregnancy, "All we need now is a red headed boy or a blond girl."

And a red headed boy it was. A perfect, beautiful red-fuzzed baby boy -- with seemingly no name in the near future. We were stumped. TPH went home, took care of the other kids, brought them to ooh and ahh over our newest addition, and then left me and the Little Guy alone for the night. How I stared at him wondering what we could call him.

That night, our dog (a puppy actually, he was only a few months old) ran away. I still like to tell myself he was looking for me, his favorite owner whom he last saw in much distress. TPH was besides himself with exhaustion (physical and emotional) after spending all day with me in the hospital, then all night juggling the kids and looking for the dog. Around midnight he gave up. We cried to each other on the phone in the hospital, both feeling terribly guilty that we let such a thing happen, and helpless that there was nothing else we could do but hope that he was safe and call the pound in the morning. I hung up with TPH and lifted that perfect little sleeping baby out of his bassinet to hug. To comfort me.

And holding him and smelling that sweet newborn smell, suddenly all my troubles seemed to leave me. All my worries were gone. It was ok here and now because I had this little guy. And like a bolt of lightening, it hit me. He was going to be my Nachman, my "comforter". I called TPH first thing the next morning (woke him up actually!) to tell him my decision and make sure he was ok with it. The rest is history.

A story about a lost dog (who was brought to the local pound after being spotted a block away from our house, and returned to us early the next morning) may seem silly. But as always, Hashem knows what He's doing, and when they say there's Ruach Hakodesh (a Divine Inspiration) that comes along with the naming of a Jewish baby, it's not just some goose bump hokey pokey.

Hashem knew that in a few short years I'd be miles away from my family, a community that I love, and that in the midst of some pretty rough stuff, I'd need a comfort. And here he is. Oh boy, here he is! Always there with a hug or a smile, a joke or a very, very large temper tantrum,  he's there. He seems to know innately when I could really use that extra hug, and lately he's reverted a bit to sleeping in my bed every night. I don't move him. He comforts me like no one else. True to his name, he is my real Nachman, and I am grateful for him.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

My Gratitude Challenge Day 13

Oish! Missed another day! I did promise a 30 day challenge, but who said anything about consecutive days, huh? Ok, ok, I'm trying!

Is it in bad taste today, as Hurricane Sandy is a'brewin' to be thankful today for the beautiful weather we have here in Israel in October? Each day is clear and crisp, warm but not hot, and there has to be something said for the fact that my kids are still in shorts and tees. I'll admit, the summer clothes here wear a lot harder, and after 7-8 months of heavy duty use, we more often "give away" than "put away".

But we spend afternoons at the park, on the "block" or in the yard, and although we're starting to need rain here, and I'm sure it's just around the corner, I have to be thankful for the most gorgeous days that we've had this past week. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

My Gratitude Challenge Day 12

Today I'm grateful for Erev Shabbos. The only real day "off" beside Shabbos, here in Israel, we really start to appreciate Fridays. Much more so than in America, Friday here is actually a day to get out and do things; go out to breakfast, hikes/walks with the kids or just general family time. We've learned to cook most of Shabbos on Thursday night (ideally, not always :), and Friday is a family day. It's nice to work with the kids in the kitchen, or take a group to the grocery store, or just hang out with them. 

TPH and I enjoy our quiet Friday mornings together and usually try and get out in the morning for breakfast, or even just coffee and browsing and the bookstore. In a funny way, it has an almost Shabbos-like quality to it. I still miss my Sundays off, but am starting to really appreciate these Fridays as well. 

Have a great Shabbos!!

One of my (and the kids!) favorites: This must be at least the 3rd or 4th time posting this one here :)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

My Gratitude Challenge Day 11

Today I'm grateful for my car. Yeah, yeah, I know it's just a rental, it doesn't even fit my whole family in it at once, it's covered in heavy Israeli dust, and it smells like something had a really nice but short life in it. However, after being without one for a year and a half, I am very, very grateful. It's all about recognizing and being thankful for the small things. Cuz when we stop and think about it, sometimes those small things aren't that small at all.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My Gratitude Challenge Day 10

Oish! I missed a day! I've been working lots of hours and trying to keep everything together, so I often fall into bed well after 1am lately...

Last night was a "catch-up" night, and I was gently snoring by 9:30--so I forgot to post!

Today I'm thankful for my Sisters in law. Let's face it, when you marry into a family, you never know quite what you're gonna get! Being married to the second brother (of 4 boys) in the family, I was daughter-in-law number 2 to enter the fold, and I was so lucky to hit it off with my older SIL right away.

Over the next couple of years I became very close with my younger brothers-in-law, and like a protective older sister I was nervous about who they'd bring home. Those prospective girls had better be worthy of such great guys! 

One, and then the last, youngest brother-in-law got married, and with each time we were so lucky to have added another wonderful SIL to the family. We also hit it off right away, and have gotten only closer over the years. We don't speak often enough, but texting abounds. And sometimes that's even better. I know that they're always there for me, to kvetch to, to cry to, or to joke around with. Lately these three tremendous SISTERS have been a huge support to me, and I couldn't be more grateful for each of them in their own way.

It's a true gift to be able to say that not only are these my sisters in law, but some of my best friends as well. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

My Gratitude Challenge Day 9

You'll have to forgive my typos and whatnots, I almost forgot tonight! wth the help of some pretty amazing technology I'm posting on my iPhone from my bed.

Tonight I'm extremely thankful for my BED! Affectionately named The BBBs over time (Big Blue Beds) our two full sized beds cannot be beat. So, while I fall into bed and push over the slightly snoring small redhead, and gently push him away from my so his breath doesn't kill me in the night, I bid you a sweet farewell! Wherever this bed is, is home!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

My Gratitude Challenge Day 8

Today I'm tired and cranky and overworked, but won't go to bed without being thankful.

Today I'm thankful for healthy babies! And happy first time parents. Happy grandparents, happy aunts and uncles and happy cousins. I'm also very grateful for Skype and FaceTime. 

It's hard to be far away when the family celebrates a simcha on the other side of the Great Blue, but we all have so much to be grateful for, that it's hard to be grumpy for long. 

Good night!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

My Gratitude Challenge Day 7

Today I am grateful for the 10 years of teaching I got to do while in the States.

I'm often sad that I'll no longer be able to teach Limudei Kodesh (Judaic studies) here since a) my Hebrew is not good enough, b) even if it were, I'm just culturally not Israeli enough and c) I can barely keep my life together as it is, imagine having to leave the house every day for an actual honest to goodness $6 an hour. No thanks.

If you know me personally, you know how much I loved teaching. And it's hard to not be able to do something you love. Yes, I could teach in a seminary or other English venue, but it wouldn't be the same. I love Kodesh subjects, and I have a certain affinity for 3rd graders, and I miss them. But this post is about being thankful.

Today I'm thankful for those years because I really got to get up every morning and do what I enjoy doing. Lately, I'm starting to see other benefits. I'm grateful because I can actually sit and do homework with my kids. I can shock and surprise them while they are struggling over a Rashi and I can yell it out by heart from the kitchen. I can make them smile as I explain something in a clear and easy way, and they suddenly "get" it. They love that when we do Parsha questions at the table I can share the most obscure midrashim (we had fun with the Pheonix today during Parshas Noach).  

So, while I miss being in the classroom, I'm so, SO grateful for my years there and for having a dream job from which I'm still reaping the benefits. Besides, I'm pretty sure I have a cute 3rd grader around here somewhere...

Friday, October 19, 2012

My Gratitude Challenge Day 6

Today is a no-brainer.

Today I'm grateful for Shabbos. I seriously don't know what I'd do without it. After crazy day after crazy day, by the end of the week we need to relax and recharge. Especially here in Israel where Sunday is a regular work and school day, by the end of the week we're feeling the burn.

For those of you who've never experienced a Shabbos, it may seem boring. What? No driving? No computers? No TV? No going out?

But the beauty of Shabbos is that it allows us one day a week to sit back and do...nothing. Nothing but rest, connect with our families and with G-d. It's not only a beautiful thing, but a necessary one!

So, put away your hammer, your iPhone, your Android, your Blackberry, your iPad and your Galaxy, there's nothing left to do, but chill with your kids and your Creator.

Shabbat Shalom from the Holy Land!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Gratitude Challenge Day 5

I'm always thankful for my health, but today I'm thankful specifically for being able to move.

Here's why:

When I was younger I broke my leg in a sledding accident (don't laugh! tobbogan + dark + Cobb's Hill at night=not a great combo), and was in traction in the hospital for 6? 8? weeks. After that, I was bedridden at home for another 8 weeks with a double cast on both legs. Since I was only 7 at the time, I essentially had to learn to walk again with many months of extensive physical therapy. 

Although that was many, many years ago, I clearly remember sitting in my room crying and thinking, "Please Hashem, just let me be able to WALK again!"

He did, but 6 months is a really long time, especially if you're 7.

In high school, my knee locked up again and I needed more surgery, which once again put me on my back for  a few weeks. Again, I remember thinking, "Please let this get better so I can move again! If you do, I'll never again take moving for granted!"

And...He did.

Over the years I've had back trouble, knee trouble, a mysterious inflammation in my leg one year, and every time I beg and plead to please get me back on my feet again so I can function! And I always make the same promise in my head: "Make this go away so that I can move, and I'll thank You every day again for the gift of mobility!"

And I always get it back, BH, and for a few days I remember my promise and I'm super thankful. And then most of the time when I say "Zokef K'fufim" I remember, and I'm thankful. But then I fall into the same old, same old every day, and I start to forget. I start to take for granted the most basic of gifts every day; the fact that I can get up in the morning and run to gan, do Yoga, or take a brisk 45 min walk, run to the store, work, wash the floors, and bend down and kiss boo-boos. Some people can't. But I can. And today, when I'm feeling good (and have been for many years now!) I'm going to keep my promise and be thankful for that.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Gratitude Challenge: Day 4

Today I'm grateful for Facebook. Don't laugh!

If you know me, you know I've been a fan since day one, but besides the entertainment value, there's a lot of good that goes on there. First and foremost, it helps me stay connected with my loved ones. All 265 of them. No, really! Remember, I've made aliyah before, and this is my second time trying to bridge a gap that goes much further than halfway around the globe, and much deeper than the Atlantic ocean. I have to say that although it's still hard, if I didn't have Facebook, I might've very well had a(nother) failed aliyah. For reals. 

For those of you who don't have family overseas, it's hard to know just how hard it is to make those crucial phone calls. The time difference makes it a lot harder than you'd guess. Even if I wait until the kids are in bed so I can steal a few quiet minutes on the phone, I'm usually too tired to make the effort or it's a bad time for my loved ones who are still in the middle of their busy days. But FB lets me see those hourly updates of my nieces and nephews whom I miss terribly. Because of FB, I can chat with, keep up with, and generally stalk my loves. 

So thank you Facebook for bridging the gap. 

I'm also grateful for the positive impact that FB often has. Yes, there is plenty of negative junk too, but if you're mature enough (I always tell my kids they can get a FB account when they're 31-that's when I did!) it can be a great tool for connecting with others on many levels. Take for example my good friend Wendy B. I was so touched that Wendy decided to follow suit and start her own 30 Days of Gratitude after reading about my new challenge. 

Or how about the charity organizations, tehillim groups, and prayer requests? The neighborhood association groups? The "frugal" groups? Or my all time favorite user: "Hashem"? ("So and So shared Hashem's photo" still gets me every time...)

I know that FB still has it's haters. But you've got to admit there's a lot of good to be gained here. And for that I'm grateful.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My Gratitude Challenge: Day 3

Ok, I've got one: 

Today I'm grateful for my work at home job(s)! I would never be able to work out of the house at this point in my life and there are almost too many perks to count. It's not an easy thing, and one really has to be an excellent multitasker or it won't work (and doesn't for many). But today I'm ignoring the difficult aspects and focusing on the positive:

Sending emails from bed. 
Grabbing (quiet!)kisses from my kids while I sit through meetings. 
Setting up appointments from a park bench while my kids play at the playground nearby.
Making my own hours more or less.
Doing conference calls in my jammies.
Pretending like I'm my own boss. 
Washing the floor while I QA.
Running to the store in between meetings.
Being available for drop off and pick up, or bringing lunches or other forgotten items to school.


Monday, October 15, 2012

My Gratitude Challenge: Day 2

Let's face it. The first few days of this "Challenge" aren't going to be too challenging...

Today I'm truly thankful for 6 beautiful people who give me my favorite title in life! They are messy (ok, they are downright slovenly), loud, needing to be fed every single darn minute, and are always in my space. But they are also the lights of my life. 

As they get older, and are becoming "real" people with mature thoughts and feelings, I am constantly amazed at how much we can laugh (or cry) together. I might not always be the best mother: was it tonight at dinner that I yelled, "If you don't stop fighting I'm going to run away, and find another Abba and marry him and have NEW babies!!"? Or how about right before dinner, when BAW came home with N in tow whom he found outside a block away "Just walking the dog, Imma!"? But I digress...

What was I saying? Oh yes. I might not always be the best mother, but we've had some pretty good times, me and my 6 shining stars. I'm hoping this is just the beginning of those times.

And I know it's only Day 2, but out of everything in my life, I have to say that they are the best things that ever happened to me, and for them I am eternally grateful.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

My Gratitude Challenge

It's time to bring this blog back from the dead. 

I've had a rough couple of months. I'm not sure the hardest parts have past yet, but I figure there's no time like the present to get back on the blog wagon. Hardy har. 

With the struggles of the past few months (you may know some of them, but trust me, you really don't know all of them), my relationship with the Big Guy Upstairs has become strained, to say the least. I often start my days angry or sad, and it's hard to have a relationship when you feel sad or angry with someone (or Someone) most of the time. It's harder still to pray, or to feel a real connection. I'm only sharing these very personal details with you because I want your help with my next step. 

I've heard that one way to brighten one's spirits, while at the same time feel connected again is to show gratitude; to feel real gratitude from the heart. I'm going to pledge here to sign in every day for the next month and post one thing that I'm grateful for. It won't be easy. With 2 jobs, a bunch 'o kids and the craziness of every day life, it will be downright difficult. But I'm hoping that by posting one thing I'm thankful for every day, I'll become a happier, re-connected person. 

Here's where you come in: Either be a loyal reader and stand by the sidelines and just tune in to let me know that someone out there is keeping me to my promise. Or, join me, and post one thing a day that you're thankful for too. It might me feel like less of a nerd. 

So thanks. And that's my first thank you; Thank you for friends I can count on. If you have allowed me to lean on you over the past few months (and you know who you are!) I thank you, and I am truly thankful for you.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Another year, another anniversary

Here we are again, time for The Anniversary Post. A friend reminded me yesterday (on our big 1-4) about the post I wrote last year on this day. It's here. The truth is not much has changed. I don't have any earth shaking revelations that I've gained since last year. If writing again, I would still say that I am amazed at how much work a marriage takes. On both sides. 

We've had a rough year. The lack of touchy-feely blog posts might have been a clue. Things, challenges, arose that I can't really talk about here, but they were hard. Really, really hard. Thank G-d we're all ok and still standing. 

The bottom line is that if you have that person next to you that you can lean on, give support to, and get support from, it's a very good thing. I know that not everyone's challenges in life are the same. I also know that we get what we can handle. There are many times during this year where I've really doubted that. That Someone may have made a mistake as to just what we are both capable of handling. 

But our anniversary brings me back to the present, it's an anchor. It reminds us that we've been very, very blessed this year as well. We celebrated an upsherin, a bat mitzva, a bar mitzva, and all surrounded by family and friends. We were so, so fortunate to be visited by grandparents, our kids great-grandparents who have never been to E"Y before. We are lucky to have celebrated multiple graduations, and the completion of another successful school year. Thank G-d, we've made it another year. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Of Knee Socks and Leggings

Sometimes I am appalled at the disorganization of the schools here in Israel, our children's' schools not being an exception. There are countless times I have stood outside of one child's school, locked out, while trying in vain for over an hour to reach the office or someone inside to come out and unlock the gate. 

There are so many homework assignments that are not checked by teachers or followed up on. There are "CRUCIAL! OBLIGATORY!" school meetings or assemblies that are often called for Friday mornings and not announced until late Thursday afternoon. Trying to reach any of the offices is not only frustrating, but often leaves me wondering if the lack of ability to reach anyone in the school building could actually be dangerous. As a former teacher I am often horrified by the lack of follow up by teachers with students and parents alike, and I wonder if my children are the only ones who seem utterly clueless of important things like, "Well, the rest of the class seems to have working on that workbook for the past 3 months, and I just realized now, but no teacher ever bothered noticing, so..."

That said, somehow mine kinder are thriving. They are happy and they are learning. They are approaching the end of school year number 2, and if not completely fluent in Hebrew by now, most of them are grasping just about all of the school material. There are bad days, but they don't come often at all. They genuinely seem to enjoy going to school and are up at the crack of dawn every morning and moving purposefully to get out the door. (Read: Up at 5am, fighting with each other at 5:01am and only pausing to fight long enough to listen to me scream at them from my bed.)

So recently I was wondering why it is that although the schools here (and yes, yes, I know some are better than others, please don't start telling me why my kids should go to your kids' school) seem to be running on chaos and a prayer, why my kids aren't miserable. After 2 incidents that happened this week, I think I have some insight into why. I only have time to tell you about one:

J is nearing the end of her 6th grade year. As this is the end of many elementary schools here, the kids have to choose, apply to, interview with, and hopefully get accepted to a new school. It's a "Senior Year" in a sense. So, here she is, in her senior year in June, not doing much in school but fooling around and practicing for their end of year production/graduation when she calls BAW in a panic on Sunday. She's sobbing that the vice principal has been after her for weeks, and that she's going to make her go home because she isn't wearing knee socks (the school rule), and could we please bring her some. She's also been told that if she doesn't get knee socks they will take away her part in the play/dance/shindig. She also says that although she is wearing short socks, she is also wearing leggings that overlap with her short socks. 

BAW, not a big fan of the knee sock rule in general, asks to speak to the principal and firmly tells her that we both have work and will not be heading out to the school any time soon to bring knee socks. He also tells her that he is 100% behind school rules and will speak to J when she gets home. That could've been it. 

But then he tells me the whole story, and my heart goes out to her. I imagine her being shunned by a Burka wearing VP, mocked by her peers, and eventually being destroyed for all eternity. I get the damn socks and head up to school. My plan was to slip her the goods and get out. After all, there are 10 days left of school. 

As I walked up to the building I could hear the girls practicing choir for their performance, and the first thing I see when I enter the building are 85 6th grade girls with their backs towards me standing on bleachers belting out tunes. The second thing I see is about 10 of those legs as bare as they day they were born. First I was annoyed, then I started to get mad, then I was breathing fire. Why single my daughter out, when obviously there were many other girls in worse "state of undress"? Why pick on my kid who does not have a mean, immodest, rude bone in her body? Why make me late for work? Why embarrass my daughter who was CLEARLY covered while others were not? Why constantly give my daughter a hard time? 

In the middle of the practice, I marched over to the VP and demanded she give me a few minutes of her time. She rolled her eyes at me and said, "Can't you see I'm in the middle of something here?" She refused to speak with me, and luckily the music blasting drowned out the few choice words I had for her in my limited sailor's Hebrew. 

I went straight to the principal, and this was the turning point. She immediately saw how upset I was and took me into her office. (Incidentally I've seen her 'round town, and both her and her daughters are wonderful sandal wearing women.) I told her all sorts of reasons why I was upset and how this vice principal has no place in chinuch banot if all she can do is embarrass my child. I also told her that I completely agree with school rules and will 100% back them up. But where is the "ahava" we talk about all the time? Where's the love and kindness and compassion we are supposed to approach each child with when we teach them? Have we learned nothing from the "off the derech" generation? Is this a way to "teach" future mothers of Am Yisrael, leaders of the Jewish people? 

She listened to me and she listened well. And then something miraculous happened. Out of all of the chaos I've been experiencing in that school for 2 years, there was complete and total clarity when it mattered most. She agreed wholeheartedly and apologized to me. She said, "You are totally right. These girls are on the cusp of becoming women, leaders of Am Yisrael. Yes, rules are rules, but it's not the 'what', it's the 'how'. I'll speak to the vice principal and your daughter." She heard me out, she took care of the problem, but most importantly, she did it with the values and love that I want my daughter to learn from her!

J came home that day and said, "Imma, my teacher pulled me out of class afterwards and she said that she saw the whole thing, and spoke to the principal, and they both feel that I should not have been yelled at. She wants me to be happy and said she'll help me if anyone gives me a hard time again. She said she's proud of what a tzanua, great girl I am." So I dodged a bullet. Not only did I not mortify my daughter (and let me tell you how I was quaking in my boots all day until she came home to give a verdict!) but she came out feeling more loved and appreciated and proud of who she is than ever. 

And that, my friends is why my kids get up and get out the door. There are teachers and principals who love them and who truly care about their feelings. There are people in the administration who share the same vision as me: that we are raising the next generation and we better do it right, with the love that every child, every person deserves. 

Monday, April 30, 2012

Where We've Been

This page seems very, very empty and there is SO very much to say. 

In my idealist's mind, I had planned to document all of the craziness of our lives over the past couple of months; Bat Mitzva, Purim, Upsherin, Restaurant opening, Pesach, Bar Mitzva, but happened. And there was just no time. 

I said goodbye to our visiting family yesterday, and I'm discovering that this is something that does not get any easier. I was a good sport while they pulled out of the driveway, but then I came into the house and had myself a good long cry. I just keep reminding myself how lucky we are that not only were my parents able to come to share the Bar Mitzva with us, but my grandparents as well who have never been to E"Y before. If nothing else, that comforts me tremendously. 

While the visits are intense, and long and even exhausting, it is always hard when they come to an end. Sigh. 

The Bar Mitzva itself was beautiful. The Bar Mitzva boy did me proud. I know how much he was out of his comfort level by "performing"; first laining, then a speech, but he did each one and did them well. I even barely had any "Wow, I'm So Old" moments. I was too busy enjoying the moment. 

After shul on Shabbos we invited the community over for a kiddush on our street, and then had the extended family for Shabbos lunch. Not only did my parents and grandparents come, but Uncle Y surprised us by making a last minute ticket. The kids were ecstatic (as were their parents :). 

The next day we had a beautiful small and intimate event at one of the local shuls, where the Bar Mitzva boy and BAW spoke. We even had music (Rosh Chodesh, ok?) and dancing and of course the obligatory slideshow. All throughout I kept glancing at my grandparents and just feeling so grateful that they were here and able to share with us. 

Anywhoo, that's it. I did it. I pulled it together, and not too shabbily I might add. We're back to real life over here. For us that means school for most, fevers for some, laundry for one. I wouldn't say we're relaxed in any sense of the word, but it's a good feeling to be able to concentrate on work and the restaurant, and just get things done that we've both been neglecting for a while. That's about it. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Miss Young Married Smarty Pants

Yes, yes, Blogger, thanks for pointing out when I sign in that I've had a DRAMATIC drop in viewers over the past few months. Well guess what? I've also had a DRAMATIC drop in sanity over the past few months too. Blog THAT!

You know when you've thought about something for years, and anticipated it and then, suddenly it is upon you? Well that's us. I feel like yesterday I was expecting J and kept wondering aloud, "If this is a girl, then her Bat Mitzva will be before A's Bar Mitzva even though he's older! And wow, it'll be right after Purim. Oh, and with Pesach in between! That will be kind of hectic."

Yes, that young girl thought she had it all figured out, and even anticipated the craziness. But oh, how far off was I! Yes, that baby was a girl!  And yes, that Bat Mitzva was indeed a few days after Purim, bh. It was beautiful. She is beautiful. Bh. 

We are now days away from Pesach, with the Bar Mitzva a week after that. But there were things that Little Miss Young Married Smarty Pants could never have known: like how that baby would be followed by a bunch more, one of them needing an upsherin just days before the Bat Mitzva. It was beautiful. He is beautiful. Bh. 

Little Miss Young Married Smarty Pants also could never have known that we'd be living in Israel, and TPH would be opening his own restaurant (American BBQ, yum!) two days before the Bat Mitzva. (Even Mrs. Big Smarty Pants had no idea how much that would turn her life upside down.)

And Little Miss Young Married Smarty Pants could never, EVER imagined how exhausted she would be during this amazing, awesome time of Simcha. But, she's learned. And she's learning. No matter how crazy things are, she CAN get them done, simply because she has the help of HK"BH and her amazing family. Another thing she never could have known: those two babies back then? Well, they've turned into the most amazing, helpful young adults. They've also become my close friends. It is beautiful . Bh. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

200 Strong

I already had my next post all planned out, but when I opened Blogger today I was stopped in my tracks. To date I have posted 199 posts, and if all goes well this will be my 200th post! (girly shriek here)

It's kind of amazing since I started years ago with not much to say. I woke up in the middle of the night one night and starting making The Lists. The lists that you make when you can't sleep. The lists that have hundreds of things to do on them, of which only tens will actually come to fruition. It was brilliant--#759: Start a blog! Why? Because everyone is doing it! 

The name came to me immediately (oh boy, did I think I was clever!). Nekuda Tova literally means "good point", an excellent name for a blog. But I would put a little Bresslov twist in there. Rebbe Nachman of Bresslov is famous for seeing the good in all Jews and reminding us all that we all have a Nekuda Tova, a "good part". And hence my tagline was born: Nekuda Tova: we've all got one. 

Cut to the next groggy morning. I signed into blogger, set myself up, and there I was! Viola! My own platform from which to shout my many opinions! My own soap box to stand upon and declare my views! 

But then something funny happened. I realized I had absolutely nothing interesting to say. At all. Not only was I not feeling funny or interesting, I was feeling downright cowardly. Who was I to think that anyone actually wanted to hear what I have to say? Won't it be weird to put my whole life out for public viewing? Ew. Thus my very first writer's block was born. How I wished to write something funny, witty, interesting! I would come back day after day, take a deep breath and...give up. Nadda.

You can look back at the first posts, but I'm pretty sure it was more than a full year from the time I opened my blogger account until I actually put something out there. And it was rocky at the beginning. I had no idea where the blog was going. I was unsure what my actual point (good or bad!) was. I would carefully, cautiously type out every sentence; checking, double checking not to reveal too much and yet keep it interesting. 

Gone are those days, let me tell you! Boy have things changed. As I sit here on my 200th post, I write with reckless abandon. It usually takes me no more than 15 min to throw you something to read and my only regret is that I wish I had more time to write. The biggest obstacle I've overcome is WHO I'm writing for. While I started out nervous to impress, or anxious about my audience, I now realize that I write for one person, and one person only, and that's me. It's very freeing to put "pen to paper" at the end of the day and actually come up with something coherent and expressive. 

But, some things actually haven't changed at all. I still love the blog's name. And oh boy, do I still think I am so clever. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

No More Excuses

The Abuse Scandal in Nachlaot has become fully exposed in the the past day or two thanks to A Mother in Israel's translation of the Israel HaYom article. I warn you in advance, it's terrible. It will leave you reeling, and if you can't handle it, you shouldn't read it. 

I can't (won't) post a link here because my kids are my biggest blog fans and I don't want them reading details or anything about it. A and J, you are young. There is much time to hear horrible things. And there are plenty of horrible things to hear. You will thank me later, I promise. The rest of you are savvy enough to do your own internet search and find the article that A Mother in Israel has posted on her blog. A and J, don't even think about it. 

That said, and you now having read it, take a deep breath. Cry a little and have some tea. That's what I did. I heard about it over a week ago, so I may be ahead of some of you and behind a lot of you. Now, after your cry, come and get angry with me. Get angry for those kids, and their parents and the fact that they can't even promise their babies that these monsters are in jail. 

We all have a lot of questions: How could this have gone on for over a year and no one noticed? How could these same monsters have been one and the same people who the parents welcomed into their homes week after week. How could such things have happened right under the parents' noses? How could such a thing have gone on, period?

I don't have time or the heart to get into it again. Like I said, every time I dwell on it, it only saddens and depresses me. I think simply that we are a trusting people. We trust our neighbors and our fellow Jews. It's a lesson that Leiby Kletzky a'h helped us learn the hard way. Maybe we need to stop being so trusting. Maybe we need to talk to our kids more about the realities of our sad, sad world and tell them not to be too trusting either. 

The hardest thing to stomach is that most of these "people" (if we can call them that) are still roaming the streets. Due to the parents "tampering" with evidence (by questioning the children themselves before they were brought to the police, or even showing them pictures of the suspects), most of the testimony of the children has been thrown out and is inadmissible in court. In the article it says the testimony of one 3 year old victim was thrown out because the parents gave her candy so she would speak to the police. Bribery? Coercion? Who the H knows. But it's maddening. 

So here we are again. There are lunatics down the block from me burning trash, slashing tires of buses as they go by, harassing young girls, and generally abusing passersby. The police have to be begged to interfere, and do so only after they received some really bad PR on several news channels. And  once again, in this horrible story the law actually stands in the way of true justice. I wonder how these detectives or interrogators can sleep at night. Maybe I've watched one too many a cop show late at night, but I always understood justice to be something that the police WANT. Something that in this case they will stand up for and get these losers off the streets. 

Honestly, Israeli police, I've had it. Find a way. Get past whatever legalese or fear of "wrongdoing" that's holding you back. Risk losing your job. Show some moral conviction and some strength of character. Get this scum off  of the streets, period. Case closed. No more excuses. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

What's Going on in Bet Shemesh, You Ask?

So, a lot of people from afar have been asking me what's going on in Beit Shemesh. (And please don't ever, ever call it BaiS Shemesh.) The answer is a whole lot of nothing and...everything.

When I leave my house I don't have to dodge rocks or spit or other unmentionables. No one ever yells "SHIKSA" at me when I go shopping, at least not in my neighborhood. My kids b'h are not victims of any sort of religious harassment. So don't worry, we personally are not under siege. (You might be curious: on a personal note, we are not on the ultra-frum side of things. But don't worry: my hemlines are still ok and even though TPH now wears a Kippah srugah, yes, we are still Jewish. Shocking, I know.)

On the other hand, a whole heck of a lot is going on just down the hill and it's too close for comfort. In Ramat Beit Shemesh Bet, a mere 15 min walk from where we live, worlds are colliding and it ain't pretty. The most recent wave of protests started in September when a National Religious school opened up near an ultra orthodox neighborhood. Today's and yesterday's news out of Bet is that there are many ultra-orthodox men protesting. But by protesting I don't mean marching with signs. In RBS B protesting means burning and flipping dumpsters. It means pouring gallons of oil onto the roads to make driving dangerous. It means blocking traffic by sitting in front of buses at crowded intersections. It means throwing cinder blocks into car windows, with or without children inside. And it means more verbal abuse to anyone different who dares pass through their neighborhood. 

So what exactly are they protesting? Well, tomorrow it might be something else, but today they are protesting the arrest of 6 of their community members who have been arrested for tax fraud, money laundering and collecting money under the pretense of charity. What exactly is there to protest? That we live in a country governed by actual (gasp!) laws? That we don't live in the wild west? That swindlers have been caught? What exactly IS there to protest? Maybe they do really feel that these individuals are innocent, but I fear that in this case "protest" means "display our anger and frustration in any way we deem appropriate". 

What starts to get scary is that the Aida chareidiS  (yes, that one's fine with an S) reportedly took a stand today and said that as a group they do not follow Israeli law and will not abide by laws or enforcement by police. That above all, Torah is law. This particular usage of Torah scares me because I'm not quite sure where they've found in the Torah that it's ok to spit on little girls, harass grown women, or to make the roads (in their own neighborhoods?) dangerous to drive on. 

We had an interesting conversation on Shabbos regarding the Parsha. There are 70 years missing in Moshe Rabeinu's life that is not chronicled in the Torah. Every year, (Shemos, Va'era, Bo) we like to take down the Midrash and find exactly what Moshe was up to during those years. Pretty interesting if you ever want to take a look. 

This year TPH drew our attention to something very specific that actually is in the p'sukim. In the Torah that WE learn in our house, it says that Moshe fled from Paroah to Midyan. There the daughters of Yitro were trying to draw water from the well and were being harassed and chased away from the well by the local shepherds. Moshe (and I'm pretty sure we all hold of Moshe Rabeinu) didn't spit at these non Jewish girls who were most probably not dressed according to the "frummest" of standards. He didn't sit from afar and yell "PRUTZA" at them. Instead, he stepped up to the plate, er, well and did what any real Torah abiding frum Jew would do. He helped them. They weren't Jewish, but he stepped forward and helped another person in need.  I'm pretty sure the word used there is "and he saved them". 

These are the type of people that I see when I open the Chumash. To me Moshe Rabeinu is somebody that my sons can model their behavior after. Now, I'm not sure what Torah these other folks are learning or where it says in their Torah that they are justified to act the way they do, but once again I know that the best I can do is teach my kids that in our Torah we act like Moshe Rabeinu. Simply? Be a mentch!

So while things are coming to an ugly head down the road, I applaud and thank those people who are brave enough and invested enough to take a stand against this craziness in any way that they can. And to those people who just sit on the couch and watch what's going on with a "that doesn't affect me" eye, you are so very wrong. Today it's just down the road. But if it's not stopped soon who knows where it will be tomorrow? 

So that's what's going on in Bet Shemesh. In MY Bet Shemesh however, it's the same old, same old. Grocery shopping, working, homework, cleaning the floors, the occasional breakfast with friends or husband if I'm lucky. Oh, and teaching my kids that no matter what, in OUR Torah we learn from the best, and if nothing else, we are mentchen. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Gang Wars

A peaceful Shabbos afternoon....

I was just drifting off with N and TPH both snoring gently nearby. Suddenly, the  main door flies open and I hear B stumble in sobbing. Before I even open my eyes, somehow BAW is awake, dressed and down the stairs to investigate. B who is turning 9 this week is gasping for air and can't catch his breath. He's sobbing and wailing like I've never heard before. By now I've grabbed whatever sweatshirt and boots (boots?) that are lying nearby and am on my way downstairs. BAW has already run out the door, while B lays looking wounded on the couch. He still can't catch his breath. When he does he wails, "The Arabs! On Tzeilim! Are beating up A!"

With an animal-like roar I scream at whoever is in the house "DO NOT LEAVE THIS HOUSE!" I am out the door and on Tzeilim in less than 10 seconds. No one. Nothing. My heart is pounding, I can't breathe. I move faster than I have in a long time. Hashem has mercy on me and I see friends of B brandishing 3 foot long metal poles. They look scared but ok. "WHERE IS A??"

And suddenly he's there, loping towards me in a way that only pre-pubecent boys can; awkward and growing, light on their feet but heavy all at once. He is not bleeding, he looks fine. Oh thank G-d he looks fine. 

BAW is a step behind and he's looking determined. "A said some kids were beating up B and his friends."


"No, no, just some neighborhood kids." 

And I sigh in relief for only second until my Mama Bear claws come out in earnest. "WHO? WHERE?  HOW?" BAW and A look really scared now because once I am unleashed, that's it, and they both know it.

The story starts to unfold. There have been these "gang wars" (for lack of a better term) going on between my B and his friends and another group of 8-13 year olds in the neighborhood. It started a few months ago with a clubhouse. "Our" boys built themselves a treehouse and one day the other boys saw them and decided to yell at them and threaten them until they left. It was the only other time I have seen B this hysterical. Apparently, "our" boys had found another spot and had stocked it with sticks, poles and piping in case the other boys decided to stop by. Which they did. Insults flew, and some of their boys held our boys' hands behind their backs while others punched them in the stomach. 

Arabs, no. But not good either. I literally chased the kids down. I found one on his porch and yelled up to his father about what had happened. I only stuck around long enough to hear the kid crying and screaming while a very embarrassed father came back to the porch to tell me "it was taken care of and it wouldn't happen again." I tracked down another group who I told that if they touched any kid I know again I'm calling the police. Most of them looked nervous enough and went on their way. 

And then there was the instigator. A little shrimp of no more than 9 or 10. Who got right in my face and told me to call the police, "What will they do to me anyway? They won't believe you. I'll just make up a lie about how they started with us!" This was the one who punched my B while the bigger one held his hands behind his back. It took every ounce of strength I have not to pick him up by his collar and slam him against the wall. In retrospect, I'm sure it was a bit of a scene especially because it was mincha time and every man in RS was on his way in or out of shul. But I don't care. Seriously, you don't mess. 

Once everyone seemed to disperse, (Oh, and BAW magically reappeared after ducking in for a quick mincha, "What? I knew you had it under control!") we took ours home and had many, many long talks. We talked about the type of "friends" who get you into sticky situations like that. We spoke about all being part of one community, one neighborhood, one "Am". 

We closed with self defense lessons. You'd think that there would be a lot of joking around. Not this time. This time the instructions were given clearly and concisely, and were first demonstrated by BAW on A. Then they each had to try to break out of an arm hold or other type of hold. 

A few lessons learned: My gentle, nervous American boys have got to learn the difference between Arabs and 12 year old street fighters. Next time I cannot promise I won't have a genuine heart attack. My sweet American boys have got to become a little more street smart. And I never thought I'd say this, but my peaceful American mentchen have got to step up their game and they have to learn to fight. If not to fight, then to at least defend themselves. Hey, Big Mama K can't always be on the prowl. Sometimes a girl just needs a shabbos nap!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Changes for the Big Ones

Making Aliyah at any age is tough. Making Aliyah with kids is tougher. Making Aliyah with medium/large kids is really tough. 

BH my brood has settled in nicely even if we could still used a few good Hebrew lessons every week. In Israel most elementary schools end in 6th grade, and 7th-8th although middle school are attached to the high schools. So, 6th grade is a big year for girls and boys alike. For the girls it's a year full of bat mitzva parties, entrance exams and visiting prospective schools and then making the big decision. I'm finding this year a bit more stressful with J in 6th, more than when A was in 6th last year. For A, this year of 7th grade has been more challenging; a new school, longer hours, bar mitzva practice and increased learning and school. 

Back to J: she's been pining to go visit Chorev in Yerushalayim to check it out. I've been pretty much against it. It's far; it would mean a 40min to 1 hour commute each way every day ("But there are vans that go from RBS every day and I'll be with friends during the ride!"). It is very academic and although I think she's just about the smartest girl on earth, I wonder if she'll be able to hack it. IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE. ("Remember Imma, I've been here for a year and a half! I speak Hebrew!")

Long story short, I was blown away. I have heard only good things about the school, but unless I see something for myself I am the forever-skeptic. What impressed me most was not the gorgeous multi-building campus, nor the highly academic courses, or even the top notch staff. It was not the fact that we met in the science building in one of several auditoriums. What impressed me most was the girls. Now, I'm not an idiot; I know they bring their finest girls to answer our questions and to represent. But I was struck at how refined each and every girl we met was, and how articulate and mature. 

After we left there were two girls from Michlala standing outside who asked us for a ride towards the central bus station. Once they got in we they asked if we had just been to the open house and what we thought. They told us that they themselves were Chorev graduates and again, we continued to have a frank, mature conversation about the pros and the cons of the school. 

It won't be such a hard sell on me anymore. I'm still wary of her traveling so far away every day. The size of the school (750 girls!) freaks out this small town girl just a tad. But being there, looking at that school and the quality of those girls reminded me that although making Aliyah may have been one of the hardest things that we've ever done as a family, it's good. It's really good. 

Here's to hoping that Hashem will once again guide us and help us chose the right thing so that each one of our children will grow in every way and each one of them will reach their true potential. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

My New Life as a Working Woman

I cannot count the times I've opened up this blog template and tried to start...something. ANYTHING! But alas, as always, real life comes before pen to paper. Sigh.

I got a job in mid-October and if you'll notice, it's just about the same time I stopped writing. Recently during one hectic morning while I was putting in a load of laundry, I was trying to explain (to the child gagging on toothpaste) what a "necessary evil" is. Well, this job is one. I'm pretty sure all jobs are necessary evils. Necessary, but evil nonetheless.

On the "pro" side, I get to chose my own hours and work from home. On the "con" side, well...I get to choose my own hours and work from home. I never understood when people who work from home complain how hard it is. Puleeze. It's the perfect balance, I thought. Type a few things on the computer, throw in a load of laundry, make a few calls, do some dishes, right?

Wrong. Oh so wrong. Maybe it's because this job involves all sorts of deadlines and pressure and people waiting on me, and me pressuring people, but to say the least it's been a stressful transition for everyone. It's hard to know when to step away from the computer and do what absolutely has to get done at home. It's also hard not to answer those phone calls when I know someone needs something from me at work. I have to often remind myself that 7 people also need something from me here, too.

It's also hard not to play hooky once in a while and head out with TPH for breakfast or to take one child out of school for some one on one time when I really should be working.

And it's REALLY hard not to feel like a shmatta all the time :( My migraines have increased three-fold at least, I never get out to walk or exercise anymore and my house looks like a tornado hit. Because I work both opposite and Israeli office and an American office, I don't get to bed before 1am and it shows. I tried starving everyone the first few weeks but that didn't go over too well, so I did start making supper again recently. Like all beginnings it was hard. But like always, we get over it and move on and keep on movin'.

On the positive side, the people I work for are wonderful, and to show their thanks for my hard work, they treated me and TPH to a shabbos up North in one of these hotel/resort places near the ocean. It was a perfect chance to recharge our batteries (even though N joined us :) and we had a really nice time. But here I am again, deadlines to meet, phone calls to make, dishes to wash and laundry to fold! Perfect balance indeed.