Dear Crazy-Haired Child

Dear Crazy-Haired Child,

You’ve got some mighty crazy-looking hair.  It’s half-blond, half-brunette, and intensely curly, while having a nice balance of frizz and a dash of rattiness (fortunately only at the end of the day).  Of course, if your parents were different, we might consider abandoning family tradition and cutting it off so that you could look a bit more kempt and slightly less “mad scientist”.  But as luck would have it, you’ve gotten us as parents along with the custom to grow a boy’s hair until he’s three – and you’ve also gotten some pretty unique genes that have given you hair that’s MUCH different than your siblings had.

itiel

But there are a few upsides to the madness: firstly, you don’t have to wear a ponytail like your older brother did, and as a result, people rarely confuse you for a girl.  Secondly, you don’t have to worry about anyone confusing you for a sibling.  EVER.  Thirdly, there have been some extremely awesome people who have had your type of hair.

Like Art Garfunkel.  And Richard Simmons.  And Will Ferrell.  And a whole bunch of other people (ahem, Michael Jackson) that one day you’ll tell me were so old-fashioned.  And maybe they are/were.  But it just goes to show you that your crazy hair doesn’t have to hold you back, nor should it be a cause of embarrassment.

I wish someone had told me when I was younger that having bad hair wasn’t a curse for all eternity.  I wish someone had told me that instead of spending hours trying to tame the frizz, I should embrace it.  Maybe someone did mention that…but I was too vain to hear it.  I grew up in the era of the Japanese hair relax, the flat iron and the invention of Frizz-Ease (which doesn’t work, by the way), and I wanted to try ALL of them.

My promise to you, as your mother, is that I will always encourage you to feel confident and comfortable with your natural beauty (or in this case, handsomeness).  To be proud of your crazy hair, and to spend your time trying to improve more important things (like the state of our government or the illnesses ravaging the world).  After all, you don’t likely have the baldness gene, so hopefully you’ll be stuck with this hair for quite a while.

 

Are We OK?

When I logged onto Facebook right after Shabbat tonight, I was barraged with dozens of messages; my friends from throughout the country alerting their family and friends that they’d survived the weekend intact, despite the fact that Hamas rockets have now reached Tel Aviv, the Jerusalem outskirts and yes, even Gush Etzion where we live. “We’re OK”, many of my friends noted, “and praying for peace to come quickly to Israel.”

I’d like to counter, however, that while we are fortunate to be alive and well, are most certainly not OK. When the air-raid siren went off shortly after Shabbat came in, I ushered the children into the safe room, and we waited there for a few minutes, until we figured it would be safe to come out. I tiptoed out first, heading to the back porch, where I often meet my building-mates for a quick schmooze or exchange of items. The children, however, were not quite as brave. They opted to stay in the safe room for another hour, afraid that the siren might once again wail.

When it came to bedtime, the two older girls were downright petrified. They ended up sleeping in the same bed, ostensibly because one had things in her bed, and it was too dark to move them…but I knew better. Odelia opted to sleep in the boys’ room because it’s closer to the bathroom, where the lone light shines on Shabbat night. And of course, don’t you know that light in the night scares away those nasty rockets?

When sending the children to shul alone this morning (yes, it’s perfectly acceptable and even legal around here to send children out in the streets alone!), I gave them a quick lesson about what to do in case they heard sirens on the way.

The engagement part that we’d been invited to tonight was cancelled because the new groom was required to stay in the army. Tonight’s Bnei Akiva (youth) event was moved from its normal venue to a new one, because the neighborhood basketball court is too far from buildings, which may leave hundreds of people vulnerable in case the siren sounds. Public bomb shelters are being opened in Tel Aviv, a city long considered immune to warfare. The siren went off last night in Jerusalem, for the first time in over a decade.

Last night Odelia told me not to worry – if we pray hard enough, G-d will protect us against the Romans. And then, in the midst of my first security crisis, I experienced another first – I laughed heartily, despite the dire situation. Then I explained to her that it’s no longer the Romans who are trying to kill us. And that while we must pray, prayer is not enough – we must also take action to ensure our safety, which means deploying our soldiers and heading to the bomb shelters when necessary.

Does this sound like things are OK? I think not.

 

 

The Four Musketeers

Camp Tata 2011If you ask Tzofi what her favorite part of “Camp Tata” is so far, she’ll tell you it was going to Splish Splash, the (somewhat) nearby water park. If you ask Odelia, she might admit that it was getting (free) Slurpees today. Hollie will likely tell you that it was going to the beach, or perhaps getting (also free) ice cream, and Azi will say “Zayde choo choo” (even when we have to wait for the train outside in the pouring rain).

And yet, while these activities are certainly exciting, and are most definitely adventures that they wouldn’t have if they’d gone to camp elsewhere, I wouldn’t choose any of them as the highlight of the summer. At least, not yet. 11 days into our trip, I’ve been mostly a spectator at Camp Tata, the faithful mother who welcomes her tired children with open arms, who washes away the dirt from a day spent running around in the hot sun. And despite the excitement that each child exhibits at the end of the day, it is not the activity that I’d ascribe as the most critical part of the trip – it’s the camaraderie.

In the past week and a half, the kids have been away from their friends, their toys and the freedom that comes from living in Israel, but they never complain. Instead, they’ve been making their own good time, playing together for hours on end, despite the fact that they’re without the closet full of toys that they normally have. They take care of each other in the morning, allowing me to ‘sleep in’ after I’ve worked during the wee hours of the morning, and they whisper quietly in bed each night, playing pretend in their temporary bedrooms until their eyelids can no longer stay open.

There’s no question that the kids (and I) miss their father and their friends. But in the absence of play dates, after-school activities and homework, it’s easy to see how these activities mask the kids’ relationships with each other throughout the year. And in the (forced) absence of contemporaries, nothing is more beautiful than seeing the children love and appreciate each other in new ways. This, I can honestly say, is my favorite part of Camp Tata thus far.

 

 

Traveling with the Fab Four

This post is dedicated to everyone who has ever traveled with kids or sat next to anyone traveling with kids.

Hanging out in the airport

Hanging out in the airport

It’s no secret that I’ve been traveling with the kids to NY every summer for the past 8 years (with one exception, when Mordecai brought them and I came later). I tell people that the kids are world travelers, because over time we’ve had layovers in Switzerland, Spain, England, Turkey, Germany and Italy. And we do this on purpose, because in addition to the cheaper price of tickets with a stopover, I have come to appreciate the layover as a way to let the kids shake out some of the energy that is contained in a tiny airplane seat.

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Chicken Pox and Bagels & Lox

It’s days like these where I honestly wonder if I’m cut out to be a mother. 5 days into a particularly mild case of the chicken pox for Odelia and Azi, and I feel like I’m a chicken clamoring to escape the coop. They’re not miserable, so it seems cruel to be locked in the house. But considering that they might still be contagious and we sold our car anyway, we have nowhere to go. In the past few days I’ve become intimately familiar with the walls of our house, the inside of my laundry machine and the unique personality quirks that make my children special. And I’ve almost lost my mind.
As a life-long overachiever, I’ve always said that I wanted to have a career. I’m relatively certain that this bout of chicken pox drove this point home. It’s not that I don’t love my kids – of course I do. A lot. It’s just that I appreciate them so much more when they’re not home, all the time, for days on end.

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Blue, White & Red All Over

MDA ambulance
Yesterday was Memorial Day in Israel (Yom Hazikaron), which, like every year, was followed by Israel’s Independence Day. As is the custom, kindergarteners are encouraged to participate in our neighborhood’s ceremony to celebrate both of these days. Hollie (age 6) was extremely excited by this responsibility, committing herself to hour-long practices in the hot sun most days this week – sometimes even twice a day. I’ll spare you the gory details of what happened next, but let’s just say that it includes a 6 year old kid dressed up in blue and white, a deep head wound and a talented doctor who performed a makeshift medical procedure on his dining room table, prefaced by the words “I’ve never done this before, but I once read about it in a medical journal, and it sounded cool.”

Needless to say, the situation was incredibly nerve-wracking (yes, it included an ambulance – no, we opted not to use it). However, because it was short-lived, I really had no time to over-analyze things or to worry too much. In simple terms, I was too busy living in the moment.

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Angels in the Aisles?

I did something today that elicited stares, whispers, and even a gasp. Something daring, adventurous and perhaps even a little bit Grocery Shopping - A Family Affaircrazy. I took my children to the grocery store. Not a quick trip to the convenience store for a gallon of milk, but a full-blown, pre-Passover holiday shopping. You might think I took them to climb Mount Everest, the way people were gaping at me. I even heard one woman murmur to her preteen daughter “Wow, I’m glad that I’m past that stage of life.” The truth is, I’ve been taking my kids to the grocery store for the past seven years. Granted, it wasn’t such a big deal when there were only one or two of them. But for some reason, dragging the whole brood seems to be looked at as a peculiar thing to do.

Let’s face it – I work upwards of 50 hours a week. And when I’m not working, I’m probably cleaning, cooking or sleeping. That is, of course, when I’m not helping with homework, bathing the children or doing the laundry. Every once in a blue moon I open a book, sit down for a movie or hang out with a friend. I’m not a hero; I’m just a typical working mother. But why would I want to sacrifice some of my rare, hard-earned quiet time to go to the noisy grocery store alone? And which of the things on my above schedule could I rationally exclude?

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Hearing is Believing

It almost seems inappropriate to be writing about anything other than the brutal murders that took place in Itamar last night. It almost seems insensitive. But when I think about it, I can only conclude that by failing to take note of the miracles of today, we’ll only be conceding defeat to the tragedy of yesterday.