Monthly Archives: April 2012

Dealing with defiant child

The following is a question that I recently answered online on a parenting board; this was asked anonymously.  Since I felt it was such an important issue with so many misconceptions surrounding it, I spent a long time composing a response and am sharing it here.

>>my oldest is 11.5 and I need advice He has been going to sleep late and then going late to school because of it. He just called me up from school to ask if he could go somewhere that finishes late. I told him no – because he left for school after 9:30 he cannot be home late tonight as a consequence. His reply was “your going to get it mommy” and I know if he says this he will come home and do everything possible to make my life miserable including hitting his sisters. How would you deal with this? this is a difficult child we are dealing with.<<

I don’t generally have time to respond at length to parenting issues on discussion boards, but I still sometimes find it interesting to see the questions and responses.  In this case, the advice given by another poster was a hard line discipline approach comprised of escalating consequences to push him into obedience and submissions, and a number of posters agreed that this was the way to handle this situation.  I, on the other hand, felt it would be disastrous in the situation described, and addressed why I felt that approach wasn’t beneficial or productive.  Here’s what I wrote:

“Firstly, there are so many things about your post that are important – to understand how attachment, child dominance, and the roots of frustration and aggression all go together. It’s more like something for a book than a post, but I’m going to share the following to flesh it out a little bit.

A parent is meant to have the lead in a parent/child relationship, and when a child is is the lead, the roles have been reversed. The child calls the shots, feels in control, and the parent responds from the passive position. The dominant behavior you see is a sign of an alpha child rather than a reflection of the child’s personality. (Here’s something worth reading if you’d like more details on what an alpha child looks like.)

There are a number of steps involved in dealing with an alpha child, and one major step involves taking the lead – but you must simultaneously be dealing with the underlying attachment issues for this to be able to happen. What you’re describing absolutely is an attachment issue – realize that the reason taking things away has the potential to be effective (in the short term) is because your child is more attached to those things than to you – and using someone’s attachments against them is a very risky parenting strategy. 

Don’t think creating attachment and unconditional love means you become a doormat to them – this is a huge misunderstanding of the terms – you must have standards that you uphold, but you don’t give your child the message that you only love them when they behave according to your standards. Children must know we love them not matter what, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept whatever behavior they want to exhibit.  When you invoke consequences and keep upping the ante, when you use what they care about against them, you are desensitizing them to caring, not to respecting and loving you more.

As parents, we want to raise our children, not just control them. I’m not saying all of this as someone whose kids get away with whatever they want – not at all – but the tough love approach can only work unless you really work on the emotional connection aspect and are able to convey a clear message of love for the child as he is right now, otherwise you’re going to push your child further from you.  (When a person is pushed to do something beyond the level of his feelings of emotional connection, he’s going to respond with counterwill, which is a defensive reaction to any perceived coercion – and alpha children are full of counterwill. “I don’t care what you say/do, I’ll do what I want.”)

So to begin to deal with the aggression, the alpha behavior, etc, the first step is to emotionally connect with your child.  (Thwarted frustration turns into aggression when a child is unable to adapt and move to futility; a child can only move to futility when his heart is softened, which can only happen when he has a strong emotional connection with his primary caretaker.)  Flooding a child with frustration (eg consequences) who doesn’t have the ability to feel his feelings of disappointment and sadness is going to provoke him to aggression.

Basically, attachment is the primary thing to work on in the beginning because behavioral issues like these are symptomatic of deeper relationship problems.  Start by conveying your love, appreciation, and enjoyment of your child when around him.  He’ll be tough for a while, but your goal is to soften his protective shell and show him that you’re his ally, that you’re there for him and aren’t giving up on him no matter what.”

At this point, there were further responses by other mothers sharing their frustration with the difficulty in parenting these challenging children.  I could really feel the discouragement and a strong sense of despair, almost as if there was nothing to do for children like these – some mothers mentioned that their children had been to therapists and were on medication, but it wasn’t making a difference.  I was concerned, though, about what seemed to be an attitude of making the success of the relationship dependent on the child’s behavior.  So I wrote the following:

“It’s so, so challenging to have a difficult child, it’s so painful as a mother to feel like a failure, to feel that our best efforts are thrown in our face again. Maybe it would help if you were able to see the pain that is at the root of their behavior?  You’re seeing very hurt children who are afraid of rejection and feel very unloved at some level.

Don’t think of them as manipulative or trying to hurt you; it doesn’t serve you.  Everything a person does makes sense when you understand their developmental needs.  Children who are this tough on the outside have hardened their hearts because their deeper emotional desires for closeness with a parent weren’t being filled. I’m not saying that to guilt anyone, and I’ve had to admit the same thing in my own relationships with some of my children at times.  Being honest about where we’re lacking is the first step in finding an answer.

I have nine children and let me tell you, it doesn’t matter how perfectly what you did worked with everyone else. In the past I’ve made the mistake of insisting in my own mind when I’ve felt frustrated that it’s my child’s fault that he’s not acting the way he should because if all of my other kids were so wonderful, it can’t me me, right?  (And don’t you think a child feels this, no matter how nice you are on the outside? You bet they pick up those vibes.) Yes, it can and is me and my responsibility.  We have to get our egos out of the way and focus on what the child needs, not on getting the strokes we want.

The process of raising children is very individual and you have to find the specific key for the heart of every child.  It doesn’t matter if it looks like you’re doing everything right from the outside.  It doesn’t matter if it worked with all seventeen of your older children.  It doesn’t matter if your house is clean and you make nice meals or buy them nice clothes.  If your child doesn’t perceive it as an emotional deposit for him, if it doesn’t reach your child, it’s not right for him, and it’s the responsibility of a parent to find the key.

I spent a long time trying in my first post (ie the first part of this post) trying to figure out how to condense some very significant principles.  I did this rather than share specifics of how to address behavior, because when you get down to it, parenting is about who we are to a child, not what we do.  If you understand and address your child’s unseen needs, then it will be productive, and someone else using your same external strategy isn’t necessarily going to get the same results.

For children who are emotionally toughened as what has been described, they won’t back down, they will continue to escalate, and they will continue to distance themselves from you if you try to push consequences.  Connecting with your child emotionally is the only way you’re going to change things, and first and foremost, that means a change in the way you think of your child.  Stop blaming them for ruining what would otherwise be your wonderful life.  And then it means a change in the way you interact with your child.  And it’s going to mean learning to feel and express unconditional love for your child.  This is the process of growing with our children that we were put here for.”


Israeli Memorial Day and Independence Day

On Tuesday night, we were eating dinner when suddenly a siren went off.  I had talked to the kids about the sirens that are sounded throughout the country for Holocaust Day (last week) and Memorial Day for one minute each, and explained to them that out of respect for the memory of those who have died, everyone will stop what they are doing and stand in silence.

Our home is located on a quiet residential street, but from one window we can see the busy shopping center a couple of minutes away.  Dd17 happened to be standing there when the siren went off, and she said it amazing, it was as if someone pushed ‘pause’ on the street scene.  Everyone instantly stopped walking and talking, cars pulled over to the side of the road and their drivers got out to stand silently next to their cars, and there was a sudden quietness except for the piercing siren.  We talked about how different Memorial Day here is than the US.  Here, there’s a sense of shared pain for the families of those who died protecting Israel (over 22,000 in the last 64 years).  Maybe it’s because it’s such a small country that everyone either knows someone who died in this way, or knows someone who knows someone – I read once that in Israel, there are only two degrees of separation between all the residents of the country.

There was a lecture that evening in the local hesder yeshiva about the Second Lebanon War given by a colonel of the northern command that I would have loved to go to, but unfortunately didn’t learn about it until the next morning.  (This notice came via an online digest, and when things are posted on short notice, the information that comes through the digest is often after the fact.)

The next morning, I did my shopping in the early part of the morning since the stores closed early for Memorial Day.  I got home in time for the 11 am memorial siren; all the kids except dd17 were in school, and they were disappointed they couldn’t watch the street scene she had described.  Later in the day, ds13 left for his weekly tutoring job in a different neighborhood, and after waiting 45 minutes for a bus, he came home.  He told me only two buses had come by at that time, and this was at a stop that usually has buses going through every couple of minutes.  I looked up the schedules online and found that most of the buses stopped running about 2:30 on Memorial Day, something I wasn’t expecting.

With the end of Memorial Day came the beginning of Israeli Independence Day.  This, too, is celebrated with much more patriotism and emotion than in the US.  For a couple of weeks already, Israeli flags begin flying everywhere – lining the main streets of the city, in front of homes, from car windows (there’s even this cute fabric cover for the exterior mirrors of your cars that is patterned as an Israeli flag that I saw on lots of cars).

>>Did you do anything fun for Yom Haatzmaut? (Independence Day)<<

That evening there were local free concerts that I might have enjoyed attending if not for the fact that we’re in the period of time called sefira, when we don’t listen to live music.   (There are those who feel that Yom Haatzmaut/Independence Day has the status of a religious holiday and do listen to live music, but this isn’t our belief.)  The streets may have been empty of the usual traffic and shopping noise, but oh, my!  – it was so, so noisy. There were fireworks going off and something that sounded like cannons being shot off (I assume those were different fireworks), the singing and sounds of people out celebrating late at night (the national laws regarding quiet hours are suspended on Independence Day), the distant music from the concerts (one concert began at 11 pm) – when I finally fell asleep after 2 am there was still plenty of noise.  I didn’t mind the noise; there’s a sense of national connection when everyone is celebrating together and I was able to appreciate that even without being actively present at any of the special events.

For the day itself, it seems that the entire country has a bbq and goes on trips!   But since most buses aren’t running that day, if you don’t have a car you’re definitely limited in this regard.  Dd17 went with a friend and her family to the Golan to a bbq at an army base to support the soldiers who remain on active duty on Independence Day, followed by a hike.

There were local activities and I sent dd15 and dd11 to scout a couple of sites in advance as far as what would be suitable for a family with children.  One large park had lots of musical entertainment, and the other had inflatable jumping things to play on and they were setting up for some kind of performance later in the day.  I thought I’d take the kids to the second park in the afternoon in time for the performance, but somehow I didn’t really pay much attention to the time and then suddenly it was too late.  It wasn’t something that I felt too badly about missing – while they would have enjoyed this, they were busy having fun all day with friends and each other.

However, next year I’d like to be a bit more proactive in taking advantage of the opportunity to do something as a family while everyone is home from school (well, almost everyone – ds13 had school as usual).  This week I’ve been really busy with others things so my focus wasn’t on planning for this.  It’s nice that there are so many local and free activities, and I’d like to research some of those events further in advance next year!


Starting third trimester

It’s hard to believe that time is going so quickly, but I’m now officially in the beginning of my third trimester!

Today I had my first prenatal visit with the nurses who oversee that aspect of care here.  I wasn’t looking forward to this visit much – especially not after being chastised by the secretary on the phone when making the appointment for delaying my visit until this point.  I was feeling so tired of being chided by seemingly everyone I’ve interacted with in the health care system (only three or four people, but still!) for not doing something that they think I should do, when they think it should be done.  Especially since I’m doing all these things I don’t usually do!

But it went really well.  The nurse was unexpectedly warm and friendly, and told me three separate times during my appointment how impressed she was that I was having my tenth.  (She said she stopped at two because she had a boy and girl and it seemed that’s what everyone in her circles did.  And then when she was almost forty, she really wanted to have more children but it was too late.)

I’ve done all the blood tests and everything has come back fine.  She did say my iron was a drop on the low side, so I’ll have to eat some more iron rich foods.  For those who have asked, in general I feel great.  I’m really, really grateful that I’ve only had slight twinges of sciatic pain so far, and that usually has been when I’m in one position too long.  I don’t take that for granted since I’ve had pregnancies in which sciatica was a major pain factor for months.

I think part of avoiding this is listening to your body – last Friday I did a lot of Shabbos preparations that dd17 usually takes care of because she was in the hospital (she got home for Shabbos, happily!), and by late Friday afternoon, I could hardly move without significant soreness.  That’s what happens when you ignore your body’s signals!

The main thing that’s concerning me right now is technical – mainly, my birth plans.  I have a really good feeling about the birth but I’m getting a bit anxious about the midwife being so far away.  She told me she’d need five hours notice to get here, which initially I said wasn’t a problem. But it’s niggling at me so much that I’m realizing I better pay attention to my intuition.   As I’ve said before, there are always yellow flags before red flags, but the problem is we usually ignore our mental warnings and intellectually convince ourselves how there’s no reason to pay attention that them!

I don’t think it’s because of what happened at the last birth that I’m feeling so apprehensive; my births aren’t usually especially long but they aren’t especially short, either.  Well, most of them were less than five hours long from the time active labor began, but there were three exceptions to that, which is 33%, right?  :)  In any case, I’m going to have to think about alternatives, which may be as simple as paying for a taxi so that she can be here in two hours from the time I call.  I found out there are two hospital midwives who live in my community, and I’m considering asking them as a backup plan if they would come over if needed.

Overall, I feel great.  Every day I think about how fortunate I am to be expecting; there’s something truly magical about a baby growing inside you.  When the nurse asked me if I was feeling movements, I told her yes, and then added, “That’s the nicest thing about pregnancy!”  With my earlier pregnancies I thought it was nice, but now I have a much more intense feeling of appreciation and enjoyment.  When I was a younger mother, I was very caught up in all that I needed to do every day and didn’t take time to savor the moments the way that I do now.  It’s not that life is less busy now than it was then – not at all!  But there’s been a shift from focusing on all that needs to be done to focusing more on enjoying the moment – some people are naturally like this, but I had to consciously work to develop it.

My kids are all looking forward to the new baby, but at the same time there are so many other things happening in the next few months that it’s not as if it’s the exclusive focus of any of us.  Our children were all born in different months, with the winter months being the quiet months.  So birthday season has started for us, and from the beginning of April and on, someone has a birthday to celebrate every few weeks until the end of November.  That’s not to mention Lag b’Omer, my mom moving here, the haircut of my soon to be three year old, Shavuos…lots of nice things to be busy with!


Two little kids, pregnant, and overwhelmed – a response

>>I have two kids two and under and just found out i’m expecting my third (my mom doesnt even know!), and I feel so totally overwhelmed. I’m nauseous and tired and most days I wake up wishing it was the time my husband comes home. My daughter doesn’t nap (shes 2 and a half) and my baby (11 months) usually has to spend his days napping on the go bc i’m trying to keep my toddler occupied. I feel guilty he doesn’t get the right amount of sleep (i’m crying just thinking about it). I feel guilty I can’t stay calm most times she decides to hit/bite her little brother just as she sees me slightly occupied. I feel guilty I don’t know how to handle her tantrums most times. And worst, I feel guilty that I spend most of my day wishing they would just leave me alone. I look tired and down, and I hate that because I’m usually cheerful and happy. 

But I feel the most guilty that I can’t imagine how people homeschool, and that I think I’m turning into the mother who can’t stand being around her kids. The mother who is relived the kids are going back to school after one day off. The one who cringes at the thought of the kids being home for one whole week during summer break in between camp. I don’t want to turn into that mother!

The worst is that I don’t just want to send them to a daycare because I can’t handle things. I feel like a child should be at home until the age of 3. Though at this point I’m seriously considering sending my daughter somewhere for half a day.

I just don’t know how you did it! How did you possibly homeschool while your family was growing? It feels so impossible and daunting.  As much as I love the idea of homeschooling, I really don’t think it’s for me. But I do want to do the best thing for my children now and being a miserable mom isn’t helping. Do you have any piece of advice for me?<<

The very first thing I’m going to say is, don’t compete and compare.  When I’m feeling under the weather, thinking about everyone who is more competent than me just depresses me!

Realize that everyone has challenges, and just because you think someone is doing so much better than you, it may or may not be accurate.  Fifteen years ago, I had three young children (ages newborn, 20 months, 37 months).  At that time, my days were non-stop work and I didn’t feel especially relaxed at any point until my children were asleep.  I would go out with them and think to myself how everyone I passed was clearly managing so much better than I was, because everyone looked so happy and content.  And then I suddenly realized, if someone looked at me, they’d be thinking the same thing!

Sometimes in our minds we set people up to be much more perfect and saintly than they can every possibly be in real life.   It helps to remember that everyone has their struggles, and everyone has their tough times.  If we didn’t, there would be no purpose in us being here in this world, since our souls were put here to grow from our challenges.

You can only do the best you can with the tools you have right now.  Some people have more physical or emotional resources than others, and sometimes you yourself will have more or less ability to accomplish what you want than you do right now.  Live the stage of life that is in front of you, doing the best you can.  All you can do is take the next right step.  Sometimes we look too far in advance, and it doesn’t help us.  While I think it’s important to look to the foreseeable future to think about what you’ll encounter so that you can be more prepared when you get there, that’s only advisable if you can actually do something today that will make tomorrow better.

Trust that tomorrow will come, that better and easier days and stages will come.  In some ways it’s easier for me now with nine children than it was with three very young children.  At that point, I couldn’t imagine coping with a bigger family (I dreaded the thought of more children, to be quite honest), since I had my hands full taking care of the family I had!

When you’re pregnant, realize that it’s not really a good time to assess your abilities.  During the first trimester of this pregnancy, I had to consciously remind myself that I’m a competent person who was legitimately very low energy right then.  Without that, my negative mental recording would start playing over and over, focusing on all that I wasn’t doing in the way I felt I should be able to do it.  When we’re at our worst, it’s not the time to make blanket assumptions about who we really are.  Our true self is our highest self; the lower self is just a mask.

Your children are so young!  You don’t have to think about homeschooling them!  Don’t wonder how anyone does it.  Just think about getting through each day with all of you in one piece.  At tough times, that’s an accomplishment to strive for!   When they’re old enough to think about this, you’ll be in a different stage of life and have developed different coping strategies.

I don’t want to tell you to put your children in daycare to give yourself a break – this is a very individual decision – but I do think that you can give yourself a huge break by letting go of the guilt.  It doesn’t serve any productive purpose.   Unrealistic expectations of oneself can be as oppressive and real as a physical load on our shoulders.  The burden we place on ourselves when we tell ourselves we ‘should’ be able to do this or ‘should’ be able to do that is very often abusive, and very rarely productive.  To borrow a twelve step program slogan, “Stop ‘shoulding’ on yourself!”

When you can do more, you will do more.  If that time isn’t now, be as accepting and loving to yourself as you possibly can.  We women hold standards for ourselves that are damaging because they set us up for failure before we even start!


Eight month aliyah update: communal involvement

Here we are, eight months after our move to Israel!

I’ve been feeling a bit of a lack in terms of community recently.  I moved here knowing the Anglo community was very small, and that was actually something I saw as an advantage since I anticipated that there would be more of a sense of warmth and connection among those who were Anglos.  However, that didn’t pan out as I expected.

What I found instead was that as nice as everyone was, everyone very much lives their own lives.  This isn’t a small city, and most of us don’t live close enough to one another to naturally bump into each other throughout the week (or even month!).  We shop at different stores, pray at different synagogues, and have separate lives – so this doesn’t make for a very strong sense of social cohesion, though I’m sure most of us would like to have this.  Originally this didn’t bother me that much since I was busy getting our lives organized and I didn’t want to step on anyone’s toes who might have had plans for something.  When I was here longer and saw limited movement on this front, it became something I thought about more.

I didn’t want to see something that I have the ability to change, not take action, and then become apathetic and accept the status quo as “that’s just how it is”, and I know that’s the pyschological reality.  So since I have so much extra physical energy and time (said tongue in cheek :)), I decided several weeks ago that it was time to step up to the plate.  One person can’t do that much on her own, but if everyone says, “There’s so much to do and I’m only one person, so why bother?”, then nothing will happen!

This is why I began to offer Torah lectures Shabbos afternoons beginning on Pesach.  My hope was to create a time and place where English speaking women could come to connect and share ideas on a regular basis.  Although I’m very willing to continue giving these lectures each week – it’s something I really love doing – my goal was to involve more people, to build more of a sense of active involvement among others.  At last week’s class, I asked for feedback from the women attending if they’d be interested in having a weekly class, and if there were others who would like to take a turn giving the shiur (Torah class).  The feedback was that it would be good to continue, and this week another woman will be giving the class, with my goal being to set up a regular rotation of women who will give the class.  I’ll continue to speak on the rotation.

I also hope to begin giving parenting classes again soon.  Originally I thought I’d offer these in Karmiel, with a similar goal to above of creating a place of connection for local women, but decided that the Torah lectures were more immediately of value to the women here.  I still plan to begin teaching classes soon, but I’m considering offering them in Tzfat instead, which has a much larger English speaking community. I’d very much like to get that started in the next couple of weeks, but if I see that it’s too much to organize in a different city in that period of time, then I may decide to wait until the fall rather than push to get an eight or twelve week parenting series in before my due date.

I also see the importance of setting up an official women’s organization for the English speaking women in the community, so that there’s a framework for women to get involved.  It’s really hard to volunteer to do something when you feel it’s all on your shoulders from start to finish, and most people aren’t going to do it.  But I think that once there’s a basic structure, more people will be willing to get involved.  I’ve mentioned my desire to get this started to several women in the last couple of weeks, and intend to hold a planning meeting where I can solicit feedback sometime in the next ten days.

Dd15 just started a shmiras halashon group for English speaking girls ages 12 and up that meets at our home on Shabbos afternoons.  For this, she prepares some information on the importance of guarding ones’ speech and leads a discussion, and I think they have some activities as well.  (I took the littles out when she did it the last couple of weeks so I’m not sure exactly what goes on!)  The feedback has been good and she’s enjoying doing it.

Dd17 really wants to have a Friday night davening (prayer) group at our house for girls ages 8 – 12, but I told her that as nice an idea I think it is, I’d rather she not do it.  That’s because there’s a different girls’ group for Hebrew speakers that meets at this time, and I don’t want to create separation between the English and Hebrew speakers (most of the girls who would come are already fluent in Hebrew).  Edited to add: she’s instead running a group for high school girls, in which they meet weekly for a video shiur (Torah lecture) followed by an activity.

The advantage of moving to where there’s nothing going on socially is that there’s room to get involved, but the disadvantage is that there’s nothing going on unless you get involved!


A trip to the eye doctor – why bother to go with an 18 year old?

Someone asked me yesterday for an update regarding the army status of ds18 and dd17.  Dd17 received her permanent exemption from army service a couple of weeks after my post on the topic.  After lots more paperwork and visits since my post on this a while back, ds18 was told that he will be given a deferment for a year, dependent on some medical forms they want him to have filled out.

This morning ds18 went to the doctor to get the first of these forms filled out, and then was told he also needed to make an appointment with an eye doctor to get the second form taken care of.  He mentioned to me that he had a 7 pm appointment for the eye doctor, and I later overheard him asking dd15 if she wanted to come to translate in case he needed help with the language, since her Hebrew is better than his.  Since I needed to drop off some paperwork for the lawyer (as mentioned yesterday) around the same time as his appointment, and the law office was at the halfway point from our house and the doctor’s office, I told him I’d be happy to go with him if he’d like (I checked this with dd15 first; I didn’t want to horn in on their time together if this was something she wanted to do with him).  He accepted.

As a parent of maturing children, there can be a feeling of conflict between wanting to give to them and take care of them, while also giving them the chance to be independent and do things for themselves that they might be uncomfortable with.  Often this means pushing them beyond their comfort zones, to do things alone that you could easily take care of for them.  And sometimes you need to step back and away from the issue of independence and grab the opportunity to be nurturing!

It’s really an issue of balance and of knowing your child.  When we got here, I felt I needed to push ds18 to deal with some big things that came up as a result of making aliyah (like mandatory army service) on his own, because it was way outside of his comfort zone and something he would have gladly deferred to us to deal with.  I knew he had the ability to do it, and that taking care of these foreign issues on his own would give him the confidence that comes from acting in spite of your fears of not knowing/being enough, and comes from dealing with challenging things and rising to the occasion.

I’ve been very impressed with how ds18 has gotten lots of technical and legal things done on his own in a country where the language and mentality is a challenge for him, and has done it with a really great attitude.  So I don’t need to worry that by offering help I’m creating passivity or dependence on my assistance.

We do things for people we love not because they can’t do it on their own, but because we want to show them we care.  A wonderful way to nurture someone is to offer to do something for them before they ask for your help.  It’s nice to be responsive to requests, but so much more powerful when you initiate the giving exchange.   This is apparent when you think about marriage – you offer to bring your spouse a drink or pick up something unsolicited from the store that you know they’d like because you know it will make them happy; giving them what they ask for is nice but doesn’t have the same emotional punch.

When I heard ds18 talking with ds15, I saw an opportunity to be the care provider in the relationship, something that gets harder to do as your children get older.  But don’t think this was a one sided proposition!

I really am loving watching my teen children grow up – I don’t tell them enough how amazing and special each of them is – and when I tell them, they think I’m biased because I’m their mother.  I probably am biased, and that’s okay – it doesn’t mean my perception isn’t accurate!  Each of them has very different personalities and strengths, but are all growing into such wonderful people that I sometimes feel very humbled to be their mother.  So while I took the opportunity to accompany ds18 with the intent to give to him, it ended up a treat for me to have three hours to spend together with him (we took care of a couple of other errands while we were out).


Today in Jerusalem – bris, mortgage banking, and maternity shopping

This morning I attended the bris for the baby of someone I’ve known for about eleven years now.  We met when he was a guest of ours in Seattle, and he later moved to Israel, got married a year and a half ago, and now he is the father of an adorable baby boy!

It was so wonderful to be able to be there with him and his beautiful wife!  It’s very special to be able to share joyous occasions with friends, especially nice to have the chance to further longstanding relationships after moving to Israel, and it was worth the four hours of traveling by bus (in one direction) to be able to be there this morning.  :)

From there, I went to a Jerusalem bank to take care of some paperwork for a family member in the US.  They’re moving to Israel soon, and have given me power of attorney to help them purchase a home here for them to move into when they arrive.  I was really glad to get this done; there are so many hoops to jump through when buying a home in Israel, and I have a sense of relief every time one big piece like today is taken care of.  I need to go to the lawyer yet again tomorrow to take care of the next step, but fortunately he’s here in my city so that makes is simpler!

I also took the opportunity while in Jerusalem to buy some maternity clothing, since I can’t find suitable items locally.  I was hoping to do this before Passover, but wanted to combine this with other Jerusalem area errands, so I waited until now.  I didn’t find all that I hoped for – I would have loved it if I found some summery skirts – but I did find a few tops, shells, and something suitable for Shabbos.  This was really in the nick of time since my regular wardrobe really can’t stretch that much further (pun intended) to accommodate my 27 week size.  :)

I was so gratified that I was able to do all of this and still make the last bus back (4:25 pm) to my city.  When traveling on local buses, getting to and from each place takes so long, especially since I wasn’t familiar with any of the places I was going or the buses I needed to take to get there!

I’ve only been to Jerusalem three times since moving here, but every time I get back to my city, I think how nice it is to be home.  Jerusalem is a very busy city, and I don’t really enjoy the hustle and bustle so much.  We may lack some of the conveniences that are found in bigger cities, but it’s so nice to get back to the greenery and slower pace of a smaller city!


Menu plan for final days of Pesach

Despite my optimistic hope of several days ago that the vegetables I bought would be sufficient for the week of Passover, they weren’t!  I do have some things left, like onions and potatoes, but most of the salad vegetables except for avocado were finished.  Yesterday I went to the vegetable store for yet another order – I’ve spent 50% of my monthly food budget on vegetables in less than two weeks!

Here’s what I bought:

  • 3.7 kg zucchini
  • 2.7 kg cabbage
  • 2.5 kg fennel
  • 2 kg red cabbage
  • 8 kg cucumbers
  • 4 kg kohlrabi
  • 8 kg red and orange peppers
  • 5 kg Granny Smith apples
  • 30 kg carrots
  • 24 kg tomatoes

So now I hope that we’ll have enough to get through the rest of Pesach!

Now I’ll share what we’re making, and it will immediately be obvious why we go through so many vegetables.  I’m breaking the list below into main and side dishes, which will all be supplemented with a variety of salads (we usually have a selection of 5 – 7 for each meal).  Here’s what we’ll be having for the next couple of days:

Thursday night dinner:

  • chicken soup
  • meat stew with carrots, kohlrabi and zucchini (we also made this for seder night)
  • mashed potatoes and gravy
  • selection of salads
Friday lunch:
  • roast chicken
  • cauliflower kugel
  • variety of salads
Friday night: 
  • chicken soup
  • roast turkey
  • roast vegetables
  • roast potatoes
  • variety of salads
Shabbos/Saturday lunch: 
  • chicken and cabbage stew
  • vegetable matza kugel
  • variety of salads
Here are the salads that we’ve made so far:
  • pickled radish salad
  • Moroccan carrot salad
  • beet salad
  • tomato mint salad
  • carrot and pineapple salad
  • cucumber salad

I don’t have enough containers to make in advance all the salads we’ll be having, and some salads are better made fresh, anyway! We’re planning to prepare different salads when we need to.  These will include some of the following:

  • Persian tomato cucumber salad and/or Israeli salad
  • guacamole (great to spread on matza!)
  • pepper olive salad
  • cauliflower salad
  • fennel orange avocado salad
  • tomato avocado salad
  • fresh salad
  • coleslaw

You may have noticed that we don’t have desserts listed.  Usually I make a lot of kugels, baked goods, and homemade ice cream for Pesach.  This year we discussed it and decided that although it’s nice, it doesn’t enhance our holiday enough to do consume that much sugar. :)  We bought some fresh fruit and dried dates; my husband gives the dates as treats to the kids when they answer holiday related questions, and we serve the fruits for dessert on the lunch meals (at night it’s so late that it’s excessive).   It’s worked out nicely so far!


How to recognize redbud blossoms

I learned about these local edible blossoms just a few days ago here, and the very day after reading about them, saw a tree next to my house that looked like the picture shared.  I was pretty positive the first time I walked by the trees after reading about them that these were redbud blossoms, but to be sure, we picked some to bring in and compare.

Redbud blossoms
Photo by Bob Gress – the blossoms above are mostly closed and just beginning to bloom

Sure enough, it was a match, and I’m delighted to have another wild edible to add to my list of local foragable foods!  The tree is beautiful, and now that I know what it looks like, see that they’re in bloom all over my city.

How can you recognize these lovely edible blossoms?  The tree is usually less than twenty feet tall, with young trees having a smooth, gray bark.  More mature trees have a reddish-brown bark with flattened scaly plates.  The flowers are a beautiful pinkish color, and the central petal (called a standard) is flanked by two more petals (called wings).  Below them are two more petals called keels.  (Tell your kids all about this when you’re picking them and you’re learning about science and botany!)  The leaves of the tree are like a heart shape.  (More details here.)

Since we have so many dogs locally, I don’t do much foraging of things that grow on the ground for obvious reasons.  Seeing the abundance of these blossoms growing on trees so close by has got my frugal juices flowing!  I’ve scoured the internet for ideas on how to use them, and seen some yummy sounding ideas.  Use them in muffins, pancakes, for dessert with yogurt and berries, sprinkled into salad, pickled, or made into jam!

Redbud blossoms have an almost nutty flavor; they more closed they are, the more tart they are; the open blossoms have a sweet flavor that is very pleasant.  I wasn’t surprised to learn that they are high in vitamin C, because the tart flavor makes one think in that direction.

The young pods of this tree are also supposedly edible, but since they come out after the flowers, I haven’t yet had a chance to taste them.  I often wondered when I saw these pods if they were edible, but didn’t know what the tree was called.  Now that I know what the tree looks like, I plan to experiment by using the pods in stir fries in place of snow peas.


Pesach family outing to Park Hagalil

Today is the first day of chol hamoed Pesach in Israel, the intermediary days of Passover that have the status of a semi-holiday.  (In the US, the first day of chol hamoed will be Monday – we get five days instead of four!)  All of the schools here have vacation, and in Israel it’s a time of family trips and activities across the nation.

We went to a local park with most of our family members as well as our lovely guest who came from Jerusalem to spend the weekend with us.  Dh needed to work and ds18 was supposed to meet us there later (though since it’s such a large park and he didn’t know which section we were in, he couldn’t find us when he got there).  The park we went to is called Park Hagalil; it’s a huge park that includes a very nice playground, an ampitheater, a waterfall, and lots of other stuff.  There’s no admission fee and it’s just a ten minute walk from my house.

It’s a really nice play to go, whether you’re a kid or an adult – the first time I went to the waterfall, I had fantasies of taking a regular early morning walk and then sitting there for some quiet time before I started my day each morning.  But I’m not an early riser so it’s remained wishful thinking.   I find the waterfall area very restful and calming, and thought we’d start off at there and then go to different areas since the kids would get bored after a while, but I was wrong – we spent almost four hours there and no one wanted to leave.

Most of our family next to the waterfall pool

There’s a small path to the right of the main pond behind some rushes that the kids spent loads of time at – there were frogs, tadpoles, and little fish there that kept them interested for ages.  I didn’t actually go over to look at it, since I was happy to plop myself on the grass in a shady spot and watch everyone while chatting with our guest and the older kids.

(l-r) Ds9, ds6, ds4, ds2 cooling their legs opposite the waterfall

Ds13 quickly got soaked under the waterfall, then he and the other middles  enjoyed hiking up the hills surrounding the waterfall.

Ds13 and dd11

Ds13 had brought his baseball equipment with the intent to play with ds18.  But the area we were in was hilly and ds18 wasn’t there, so he played catch with all of his younger brothers instead.

Ds13 playing catch with the littles


Ds2.5 very excited about throwing a baseball

Ds4 retrieving the baseball that rolled down the hill into the pool

At one point, a huge flock of large birds flew over us.  It was an unusual sight because they weren’t birds we had seen before.  Our guest is an amateur birdwatcher, and had her binoculars and bird guide book there, so she was able to look them up and tell us what we’d seen.   They were some kind of stork migrating to their summer homes; learning about them from the guidebook made it more interesting for everyone.

Flock of migrating storks flying overhead

It was a lovely day out!