Monthly Archives: August 2014

Miracles happens when “can’t” isn’t part of your vocabulary!

 

“Can’t is not part of your vocabulary.  If you just put your mind to it, you can do it.”

“If you were never given limits, then you think ‘I can do anything!'”

Wow, was my reaction throughout the following video.  This is an amazing story in a number of ways – I don’t want to spoil it for you so I’ll just say, it’s five minutes well spent.

Watching this makes you want to be a parent like this young lady’s adoptive parents – to so fully believe in your child that your child believes in himself, and goes on to do the ‘impossible’.  A little belief in our kids goes a long way.

Avivah

 

Winding down the summer with lots of warm memories

The summer is winding down…and today marks eight years since I started this blog.  I should choose a nice juicy topic to celebrate that milestone, shouldn’t I?  Some of you have been faithfully reading from the very beginning, and so much has happened in these years together.

But I’m not going to deliberate about a topic to mark this occasion.  I’m just going to share with you some moments in our lives that I’ve appreciated these last weeks.

We’ve had a nice, mellow summer.  Two blog readers visited Karmiel and we spent time together – one came for dinner to us with her family, we met another at a local park and had a barbeque together.  (So if you’re in Karmiel, don’t be shy – email me!)

We enjoyed a family swim at the pool of friends when they went away for the weekend, which was amazingly relaxing and something that we haven’t been able to do since leaving the US three years ago when we had our own pool.

Dd18, ds5, ds15

Dd18, ds5, ds15

 Ds2, ds8, ds5

Ds2, ds8, ds5 and ds6 in inner tube

We’ve celebrated the birthdays of four children (12, 2, 21, 18 and one is almost 7), along with the birthday of my mother’s husband.

Ds21 and dd5

Ds21 and dd5

We’ve spent lots of time just hanging around the house or going to local parks.  It may not be exciting or unusual but it’s still special to me, since having the older kids around and doing activities with all of us together isn’t something we get to enjoy that often anymore.

Dd13 and ds2

Dd13 and ds2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dh and ds12 hanging out with a friendly cat that took a liking to them

Dh and ds12 with cat that took a liking to them

Dd18 and ds15

Dd18 and ds15

I basically disappeared from my blog since my days were filled with younger kids and the nights were filled with talks with the older kids…don’t think when your kids get older that you’ll get more sleep.  Not at all.  Having older kids is what years ago pushed me to a very late bedtime, since I kept staying up later and later so I could have quiet time to myself when they were finally asleep!

Late night conversations with older kids are my favorite.  Don’t let anyone tell you how hard teenagers are.  They’re awesome!

Me helping ds21 pick hundreds of tiny prickles off of his pants - this is how bonding happens!

Me helping ds21 pick dozens of tiny prickleburrs off of his pants – this is how bonding happens! :)

We spent our last evening with everyone home with a wonderful barbeque/campout – we went to the local picnicking area, built a couple of campfires and set up our full sized tent to hang out in.  We brought lots of food, bikes, games and a couple of guitars.  From late afternoon until well after dark, we enjoyed talking, exploring, singing and just being together.

 

 

Dh with ds8, ds6 and ds5

Dh with ds8, ds6 and ds5

Yirmiyahu, 2, having fun playing in the dirt

Yirmiyahu, 2, having fun playing in the dirt

The dirty face to show what he's been busy with...

The dirty face to show what he’s been busy with…

Yirmi, 2, enjoying some freshly grilled chicken

Freshly grilled chicken tastes best when eaten perched on a rock!

Ds21 exploring local caves at the insistence of his younger brothers

Ds21 exploring local cave a short distance from our campsite

We finished off the evening with a siyum made by ds21, who thanked us all for making it possible for him to spend so much of his vacation learning and then said that being home was a big source of encouragement to him, that he gets a lot of love and it really means a lot to him.

The older kids all went back to their various schools/yeshivas this week and the house is quiet again with just the younger six kids home.

It won’t be until Sukkos that everyone is home again – but! – it looks like dd19 will be home with us for the holidays!!!  She doesn’t yet have a ticket but we’re so excited about this.  When she was here for Pesach, she said she wanted to come back for this school year but then it looked like she would have to stay in the US at least through mid year because of her studies.  She’s working things out so that she can finish up what she needs to do there and be home much sooner than we anticipated!  So Sukkos is something to especially look forward to.

I’ve spent so much time just basking in the feeling of joy in being around my children.  The rewards of parenting are so much greateer than the time and effort we put into it.

Now life is getting back to normal – quieter, more regular.  I can finally get myself and everyone else back on a schedule, do all the things that I haven’t been doing now, and maybe even blog a little bit more.  :)

Avivah

The Chinese bamboo tree and our three year aliyah anniversary

Chinese-Bamboo-Tree[1]Today marks three years since we arrived home in Israel!

It’s been a very full three years.  And as I sit here thinking about the blessing of living in Israel, I am so overwhelmed with gratitude that we are able to live here.  So many people for so many generations wanted to live in Israel, and I not only get to live here myself, I’m also able to raise my children here.

I can point to many things about this incredible country that are wonderful, and I can point to plenty of things that are irritating.  But I have a deep soul level feeling that this is where I belong.  It was this feeling that propelled me to tell my husband I thought we should move to Israel along with our nine children that included four teens and one almost teen.  And we did, just five months later.  It was crazy or inspired, depending who you ask!

Many people have told me of having the same feeling of deep belonging when they visit, and that’s how it is – the Jewish soul and the land of Israel have a deep connection and the Jewish soul can never be complete outside of Israel.  You can have a great life – I certainly did! – but there was an empty space inside me that wasn’t filled until I moved here.

Now, our ancient sages have declared that Israel is acquired with suffering and this is as true in modern times as it was thousands of years ago.  It’s pretty much inevitable that no matter how well you plan, how well set up you are financially, with housing, friends, family, community….you’re going to have some curve balls thrown your way.  And some of them are going to be major.  I’ve shared about our experiences with that!  It’s as if you need to be tested in some way as a preparation since living here requires a higher level of spiritual connection.

But life does settle down and – though I know I’ve felt life was settling and then I was hit by a car, and the next time I was feeling settled I had a can of cosmetic wax explode in my face –  I write without trepidation that things have settled.  Our kids have friends, my husband and I have friends, we are blessed to own a home that we love, we live in a beautiful city with lots of green space and beautiful views and we feel at home here in a way we never did in the US despite both my husband and I coming from families that were in the US for generations.

It’s hard for me to explain why our quality of life seems so much higher here, despite having much less materially than we had in the US.  Part of it is the soul connection to the land, part of it is the feeling that life is simpler here, of relationships mattering more than stuff.  My husband has been unemployed for over seven months and that’s not fun though it has precipitated a lot of growth for both of us (and I look forward to sharing with you when this changes!) – but our kids don’t feel poor.  Life is just simpler.  It’s more about living and less about having.  Kids here grow up with more freedom and less fear than kids in the US, and this simple, wholesome life is what I want for my children.

You know about the Chinese bamboo tree?  The Chinese bamboo tree has a very unusual growth pattern.  For the first four years after being planted, it doesn’t break through ground.  It looks like nothing is happening, it’s not growing and the person who planted it wonders if the seeds were a dud.  But he keeps watering it, trusting that something is happening underground even where he can’t see it.  And then suddenly in the fifth year, in five weeks it shoots up to over 80 feet!  An ‘overnight’ success built on years of setting down an incredibly strong, extensive and unseen root system.

I often think of the Chinese bamboo tree and take encouragement from that concept.  We’ve been sent many challenges since we moved to Israel that have forced us to look deeper inside and work through things we didn’t even know were there.  This growth and development isn’t visible and often it’s discouraging to work so hard and see no results.  But one day I trust there will be a shift when suddenly things are going to become so visibly amazing that it will be hard to believe how quickly it all happens.  When that occurs, we’ll finally see the results of building a strong foundation by working through lots of hard times and continuing to move forward.

As we mark our three year aliyah anniversary, I’m happy to be where I am right now.  My life isn’t perfect though I sometimes feel that it is.  I have my family, my health, an amazing husband and I live in Israel.  All of those took lots of effort.  I’m so grateful to be living here, so very, very grateful for my life that is overflowing with blessings.  And while I obviously have no way of knowing what the coming year will bring, I have a sense that we’re getting close to the bamboo shoots breaking ground.

Avivah

Plans for coming year for older kids, transferring toddler from crib to bed

I did something really wonderful for myself about six weeks ago – I asked my husband to set the controls of my computer to shut off at 11 pm every night.

The reason for that I had a strong tendency to stay up too late, too often, and the later it got, the more tired I felt and the harder it became to exercise the necessary discipline to get myself to bed.  I’m now going to sleep earlier and getting up earlier, which is fantastic.  The only problem is I’m really having a hard time finding time to blog.

So that’s why I haven’t been posting as much.

Tonight I’ll do a quick roundup of what’s going on around here and type as fast as I can until my computer shuts down in half an hour.

Ds21 came home for a couple of weeks.  His yeshiva vacation was curtailed because of the war, as were many (most?) yeshivos.  The reason for this is that the people of Israel need physical and spiritual fighting and while our soldiers were risking their lives in combat, the role of our yeshiva students was to create extra spiritual merits.  Thanks to the ceasefire, he came home sooner than we were expecting.

Dd19 is in the US and making plans for the coming year.  She spent the past year in seminary while working towards her BA in psychology, along with working a job on the side.  She hopes to finish it before coming back to Israel next year (not sure if it will be mid year or the end of the school year) and will continue working at the same place.  My, we miss that girl of ours.

Dd18 (yes, 18, the newest birthday around here!) has been deliberating about what seminary to attend next year.  She was in an extremely good position since she did very well in the Israeli seminary she attended this year and her principal really wanted to keep her there for the second year.  She was considering an American seminary and interviewed there.  Before she heard back from them, she decided to stay with the Israeli seminary.  Then a friend currently studying at that seminary heard from the principal of the American seminary that they were very impressed with her and want to work with her to make it possible for her to attend.  (It’s a much more expensive program.)

The financial details remain to be worked out, but they’ve offered her a job as the manager of the school kitchen, a position reserved for very responsible students with leadership abilities.  In lieu of a salary she’ll receive a tuition cut and this will make it possible for her to dorm there, an experience I really wanted her to have.  She will continue her studies in industrial design with her current class in the coming year; her principal was very accommodating about this (usually if someone isn’t currently enrolled in the seminary, they can’t remain with their classmates and have to transfer to a parallel track).

Ds15 left to a one week sleep away camp today.  My older three kids attended sleep away camps when they turned 12, but the summer he turned 12 was right before we made aliyah.  The camp we had sent our older son to had administrative changes and the costs weren’t  manageable, so I very regretfully couldn’t send him.  I’m so, so happy for him to have this opportunity now.  I hope he’ll have an amazing time; he’s worked really hard this past year in school and deserves the break.

Skip all the middle kids, down to Yirmi.  Sorry, no time.  :)  Not much to say, either.  :)

Now that Yirmi turned 2, I decided it’s time to transition him from a crib to a bed.  This is never something that we enjoy doing since it’s so much easier to plop a child into a crib and know they’ll stay there.  It’s even more challenging since he’s used to falling asleep in a quiet room (ds12 shares a room with him and goes to sleep after him) and now he’s sleeping with ds8, ds6 and ds5.  Even when they’re quiet, there are a lot of noises from them moving around.  We started a couple of weeks ago with putting him in his bed for naps.  Now we’re moving onto having him sleep in his own bed at night.  Tonight was the first night and he was very unhappy about my persistence in keeping him in bed.  The challenge is for the adult to stay persistent with this until he’s used to his new sleeping arrangements.  We’ll see how long it takes.

I’ve begun looking for gluten free recipes that use frugal local ingredients, since Yirmiyahu understandably wants to eat what everyone else has and it doesn’t feel so fair to hand him a rice cake when everyone else is having something that looks noticeably tastier.  Right now I have a pot of quinoa pudding simmering on the stove, using sesame milk to replace the dairy milk.

Okeydoke, my time is just about over so I’m going to sign off for the night and hit send.  Don’t worry if you don’t hear from me, all is well but things are just busy and like I said, I’m trying to make self-care and getting adequate rest a priority.  :)

Avivah

 

Preparations for Tisha B’Av

tishaBav[1]This year has been such an intense period of sadness for the Jewish people that it’s been all too easy to be in the spirit of the Three Weeks.

I went to a talk given by someone who grew up in Gush Katif (Gaza Strip) and was living there when the expulsion of all Jews took place in 2007.  It was more of a dramatic presentation than a speech, actually.  I came a few minutes late and when I entered, saw her standing in the center of the room with a balloon in her hands, with a number of other balloons on the floor.  She moved to Gush Katif as a five year old in 1978, married and had five children there.  Each balloon represented a memory in her twenty five years of living in Gush Katif (specifically Kfar Darom).

After she finished sharing the last vignette, someone rose from the audience and began to viciously pop every balloon, until all that were left was her sobbing, prostrate on the floor, with the shreds of the balloons scattered around her.

As a haunting song played the words from Tehillim, “G-d, why have you abandoned me?” and then went on to sing about the dawning of light, she slowly got up and began to gather the shreds of the balloons – the shreds of her life.  She bit by bit fastened them to a shape of a house made of tape on the wall behind her, as it became clear without words that her home now has been built upon the shreds of broken memories and dreams of the expulsion.

As the song came to a close, she sat down with a tehillim in her hand, the ribbon of a single balloon that said LOVE (representing G-d) wrapped around her hand, the balloon floating above her head.

It was amazingly powerful.

Then she shared with us about the background to this presentation.  She said after the expulsion she spoke many times before audiences until she reached a point she couldn’t listen to herself talk anymore.  Then for years she didn’t talk about it, until a couple of months ago she went to a therapeutic drama workshop.  She was asked, “Where are your memories of Gush Katif?” and she responded, “They’re locked up tightly in a box inside me.”

The presentation she gave was a direct result of her therapeutic process, as she began to open up and deal with the emotional trauma she experienced.  She told us how much she regretted having agreed to speak, and procrastinated about her preparations for this talk until the day before.  I was shocked to learn that this was the first time she’s ever presented in this way; she said it was very difficult for her emotionally.  Her emotion had been apparent but I thought perhaps it was done theatrically.  Our feedback to her had been that her message was incredibly powerful and touching, a testament to the suffering and loss of all those expelled as well as a the power of faith in G-d.

When I was younger, I wondered how the Holocaust could have happened – now in front of our eyes we see people calling for the death and destruction of Jews in countries around the world and it’s clear not only how it happened, but that it could easily happen again.  I see news headlines that are so bizarre that I think they must be parodies – yet they aren’t.  I see a worldwide justification of pure evil and the victimization of those who advocate for truth and justice.

In the middle of this incredibly disheartening and discouraging time, in the middle of the fear and frustration – we’re seeing miracles here in Israel (read an example of one miracle here).  Miracles every day that remind us that G-d is truly looking out for us.

The massive terror tunnels that crisscross underneath all of Gaza and leading into Israel civilian centers have been discovered, the mindboggling terror plot that has been in the planning stages for years and was set to take place on Rosh Hashana this year that would have resulted in the death of thousands – it was revealed and thwarted at the very last moment, just in time for us to take actions to save ourselves.  It came about through circumstances that were incredibly painful, but it allows us to directly see and feel G-d’s love and kindness in the midst of our difficulties.

Herehere and here are some of my past Tisha B’Av posts that include links to different videos and lectures for children and adults.  This year Ohr Nava has a lineup of speakers available online, as does the Chofetz Chaim Foundation (and many others – please share in the comments section if you have a favorite!).  Learning Torah is forbidden on Tisha B’Av; unfortunately, Jewish history is filled with suffering,  and reading/ learning about any of that is appropriate on this day.

Wake the Dawn: The Story of Jerusalem’s Holy Temple is a video that I plan to watch with our children on Tisha B’Av.

I usually read Book of our Heritage and learn the laws relating to the three weeks.  Another book that I love for Tisha B’Av is ‘And Rachel was His Wife’ – this is a novel set in the times of the Temple that is engaging and well-done, suitable for approximately ages 12 and up.

Tisha B’Av is not only the saddest day of the year, but the hardest fast of the year.  I can’t quickly find my past post about how to physically prepare for a fast but for those of you who see this in time, I’ll briefly suggest: lots of fluids (3 – 4 liters daily) ideally for the two days before the fast; the meal before the fast should be a mixture of proteins, good fats and some carbohydrates.  Watermelon is a wonderful food in the day or two before the fast to get you hydrated and keep you hydrated!

May this year our sorrow be turned to gladness!

Avivah

1 month update on neurodevelopmental program for ds12

(Not ds12)

(Not ds)

Five weeks ago, I told you that we were preparing to begin a neurodevelopmental program for ds12 and that I’d update you with our progress at the time of our first follow up after four months.

It obviously hasn’t been four months but I’m so amazed and delighted with the changes we’ve seen in the short time since we began that I have to share!

First, a little bit about our neurodevelopmental program.  Our program for ds12 is two hours a day; an hour of this is comprised of two half-hour activities.  The remaining hour is mostly made up of activities of very short duration (2 -3) minutes that are supposed to be done 2 – 3 times a day.  That might not sound like so much but after a month, I’m still not doing everything with him daily.  I’m happy at this point to get to almost all of the activities once a day.

What’s amazing is the kind of changes we’re seeing even though we’re not fully following the program and it took two weeks until we were even doing half the daily activities.  This fits in with the unofficial theme of the week, how you don’t have to be perfect to see good results from your efforts.  :)

To recap about why we decided to do a neurodevelopmental program: ds12 was very emotionally reactive, with poor social skills and self-image.  We give him a lot of time, love, patience – but it wasn’t enough.  It was clear to me that we were missing a piece in the puzzle – I felt like there was some part of his that needed to be rewired.

That’s what ND work does – it rewires your child’s brain.  And it turned out, that is what he needed – to strengthen connections to particular parts of his brain that were weak.

When we began, he was cautiously willing to do the activities but quickly felt discouraged because everything was a challenge.  He was quite resistant  and initially we really had to push him to do the activities.

I emailed our ND therapist to ask if it was normal for behavior to get much worse, because his behavior about two weeks after we began got horrible, much worse than I had ever seen.  Really over the top.  Screaming, crying, extreme emotional overreactions.  All day long.

She said it was normal.  His reaction reminded me of cleaning out the basement, how you have to pull out all the junk before you can thoroughly reorganize – it gets much messier before it starts to look better.  This was the same thing.  Seeing this behavior made dh and I both feel even more committed to sticking out this process.

Now we’re a month in and I.can.not.believe.the difference.  I didn’t expect to see noticeable results for a few months and definitely not until we had consistently been doing the full program for a while.  I didn’t expect that the small things that we did with him could have such huge results so soon.

He is so much happier.

He used to constantly tell me he had the most annoying siblings in the world and get very frustrated with his younger brothers and do passive aggressive things to them (trip them when they walked by, pinch them when he thought I wasn’t looking, eg).  They often told me how mean he was to them and didn’t enjoy spending time with him.

Three weeks into our ND program, I noticed he was playing Monopoly every day with ds6 and they were both having a great time.  Every day.  He never played like this with ds6 before.  He began spending two hours every afternoon doing activities with ds8.  (He walked in while I was writing this and asked me what I’m writing about.  I said, about his ND program and asked him if he sees any changes in himself.  No, he said, but his younger brothers aren’t so annoying anymore. :))  Ds15 and dd13 have started walking with him in the evenings, the three of them doing some program activities together as a group.

He is much more cheerful, helpful and calm.  I came home a couple of days from a morning appointment, and he asked me if I had eaten yet and when he heard I hadn’t, offered to make me a meal.  He now usually handles disappointments gracefully rather than exploding.  I can almost see his self-esteem growing in front of my eyes.  He now smiles often and usually is in a good or neutral mood.

His auditory processing has already jumped from 5 – 6.  I wrote about the importance of auditory processing – this seemingly minor improvement is HUGE (go read the post that I linked if you haven’t so you can understand why all of this is connected).  His visual processing has also jumped a digit.

His physical stamina is building, his gait when he walks has improved.

Edited to add this tidbit because I had to share! – On Shabbos our family enjoys singing together but ds12 had always refused to join in despite our encouragement to participate.  This Shabbos he voluntarily joined our family in singing zemiros (Shabbos songs), as naturally as if this was something he had been doing for years.  Dh leaned over to me to be sure I noticed but whispered not to comment or draw attention to him.  I noticed the moment I heard his voice ring out and wouldn’t have missed it in any case, but a moment later from the other side of the table, dd17 looked at me, raised her eyebrows significantly in the direction of ds12 and subtly pointed to him to singing.  It was beautiful.

It’s pretty incredible to see this taking place. I’m so encouraged to have found a way to help him at the core level and I love seeing the remarkable young man I knew was in there emerge.  I’m looking forward to seeing what happens over the coming months!

Avivah