Monthly Archives: June 2017

snychronicity

Does history repeat itself? A strange coincidence? Or something else?

My husband’s parents flew in from the US for the wedding and we enjoyed spending time with them this weekend!

We’ve been wondering if our branch of the family is related to other Werners and got into a discussion about my husband’s grandparents generation.

We learned for the first time that my husband’s great aunt and uncle had a child with Trisomy 21 who was institutionalized at birth, which tragically was the norm at that time.  I still couldn’t help wincing when the story was shared.

And then we learned something that kind of made us all shiver.

My father -in-law had an aunt and uncle who couldn’t have children.  Someone who was very ill asked them to raise her little son as their own when she died.  Since his mother had requested that her son be raised with her last name, he was raised in every way as their son but he wasn’t legally a Werner.

When my father-in-law shared this story, and then said the birth name of the child raised by the Werners three generations ago, my family members all looked at each other.  “What did you say his last name was?” someone asked.  “XYZ”, said my father in law, and spelled it out.

The same last name of our Rafael.  The same spelling.  A last name I heard for the first time when we were shown his file.  Not a common name at all.

And Werner isn’t a very common name either.

And so three generations ago, the Werners raised a little boy as their own, but keeping his birth name of XYZ.  And right now, the Werners are raising a little boy as their own, but keeping the same birth name of XYZ.

I can’t tell you what the significance of that is but it feels like more than just coincidence, don’t you think?

Avivah

Self-care-300x300[1]

Self-care – you can’t afford not to do it!

Yesterday a very busy mother of four young children who is longing for a break asked me, “How do you make time for yourself?”

I told her, you just have to do it!

So much easier said than done.

For many years, I minimized my need for self-time.  Sure, I would relax with a book or exercise at home with a dvd, but I didn’t really go too far beyond that.  Friends who wanted to meet me for coffee would be met instead with my flat response: “I can’t do it,” “It’s not realistic, I’ve got the kids home all the time.”

But do you know what?  I didn’t even stop to consider how to make that happen – I could have done it if it was really important to me.  But instead I right away assumed it was impossible. When it came to making time for myself (outside of home), with few exceptions I told myself I didn’t need it, that it was too much trouble to find a babysitter, too expensive or exhausting to make arrangements.

Well.

Over the last year I have been actively embracing self-care and it is a pretty darned wonderful thing to expand the ways that I enjoy my life!  After so many years of taking care of someone else and putting my own needs lower down on the list, I’m putting myself right at the top.  And I highly recommend it!

Taking more time for yourself begins with seeing it as an important and valuable use of your time.

This morning I went on a two hour nature outing with a small group of women to a park about a 15 minute walk away.  Later this week I’ll be going on a sunrise hike (I love these – this will only be the third one I’ve done in the last year – I get exercise, social connection, time out in nature and am home by 7 am, without anyone even realizing I was gone!)  Next week I’ll be going away for two days and one night to northern Israel for a women’s getaway. It sounds kind of decadent, doesn’t it?

The morning after the wedding, do you know where I was?  On a hike to a local forest.  When I arrived the organizer looked at me in shock and said, “Even though you said you were coming, I didn’t believe you would actually be here!”  I obviously didn’t get home very early the night before. :) I had a ridiculously full day that day, that included taking dd16 to Jerusalem for her seminary interview in the early afternoon, returning home, then turning right back around with the rest of my family and traveling to Jerusalem for that night’s sheva brachos. Does it seem I was making my day too full and stressful by going on a hike in the morning?

I made this commitment to myself before the interview was scheduled, and I decided I would go because it was important to me especially with the busyness of the wedding season to make time for myself.  I would have cancelled my appointment with my daughter and told the seminary administration I would have come a week later before I would have cancelled this time for myself.  Hiking in the woods and later sitting quietly alone for almost a half hour in the forest while the other women continued on a different trail was spiritually and mentally renewing for me.

Honestly, I’ve had to work through my mixed feelings about all of this.  I’ve been moving out of my comfort zone in this arena for a while and continue to expand the boundaries of how I nurture myself. Because I did so little self care in this way for so long, sometimes by contrast what I do now feels selfish and self-indulgent.  That’s not reality, it’s just my mind getting in the way of letting myself feel good about taking care of me.

self-care

We parents deserve to take time to care for ourselves.  We NEED to take time for ourselves. We are worthy of treating ourselves with kindness and compassion, to create and embrace opportunities to nurture those parts of ourselves that we tend to set aside when the responsibilities of life take up so much space.

When we become parents we don’t stop being the people we were until then – and once we hammer that into our own consciousness, we then have a great opportunity to model this lesson for our children.

The more I recharge myself, the more emotionally present I am for myself and for others.  Really.

Can you afford NOT to take time to recharge yourself?  Even if you don’t feel you deserve to take time for yourself, wouldn’t your children benefit from an energized, upbeat mother who values herself?

Learning to care for and love yourself the way you care for and love your children – the new horizon!

Avivah

The wedding was beautiful!!! (pics included)

What a beautiful evening our son’s wedding was!

We are still floating with joy at the joining of these two wonderful souls. What a special and beautiful couple they make!

I was so touched by the presence of friends from different stages in our lives – Beitar, Seattle, Baltimore, Karmiel and Ramat Beit Shemesh.  There were a couple of women who even knew me from high school, as well as a friend who I met at 16 and several others who came for the bride’s side but turns out also knew me from when I was in seminary (age 17/18).  It was very special to have friends share this milestone event with us and I can’t describe how much it meant to me to have each person there.

I don’t have official wedding photos yet;  what I have are some pictures taken by people on the sidelines when the photographer wasn’t looking (he didn’t allow pics taken at the same time he was shooting). Though they are the same poses by the photographer you’ll see that some of these are obviously in between moments and hopefully my family will forgive me posting these.

First, me and my husband.

Me and my husband

I had some angst about my gown after it arrived.  A blog-reader-turned-friend-turned-seamstress-for-the-wedding asked me what my concern was. I told her I was concerned the color was too much.

She responded, “This gown is to the ‘mother-of-the-groom black-gown’ phenomena what homeschooling is to the ‘keep your kid in an unhealthy schooling situation’ phenomena. It’s so in-line with Avivah Werner……”

So I wore it. :)

Next, a family picture.  Baby Rafael wasn’t feeling well and unfortunately was screaming for the few minutes we took a family photo.  :(    We put our desire for him to be in the pictures on the back burner since it was clear he needed calming, which is why he doesn’t appear in later photos.

(to be replaced soon)

Below: siblings picture (minus Rafael). Back l- r: ds11, ds9, dd16, dd20, dd22; front l- r: ds18, ds23, ds4, ds15, ds8

(to be replaced soon)

Below: my three lovely girls, l – r, dd16, dd20, dd22.

(to be replaced soon)

(Edited -sorry, they requested I remove this.)Below: seven of our eight wonderful sons. Back l- r: ds9, ds18, ds23, ds15; front l- r: ds4, ds8, ds11.

wedding brothers

Below: Rafael (six months) later in the evening with his Bubby, wearing his protective ear gear (sound protection for loud music).

Rafael and his Bubby

The family pictures together with the bride were taken later in the evening and sadly only two pictures were taken even then. It’s very sad. In any case I don’t have any of those yet.  I hate to leave the bride out of the wedding post but I only have one picture and it’s not a good one.

I also don’t have any wedding pictures of the bride and groom yet, so I’ll instead share a picture taken two nights later at the sheva brachos we hosted in our home.

Aren't they the cutest couple?

Aren’t they the cutest couple?

When I used to think about marrying off a child, I imagined it would be a time with a lot of tension (since I’ve heard people talk about it in that way), but it wasn’t like that at all. It has been a wonderful experience all around and we are SO happy to have a new member of the family!

Avivah

Beautiful fireworks on the black sky background

Our son’s wedding – if you’re local you’re invited!!!

The gowns have been fitted, the boys shoes are shines, each one’s clothing purchased and organized in the closet, bow ties sewn for Yirmi and Rafael (will finish putting on the elastic tonight).  Most of the numerous behind the scenes details are taken care of…

We are rejoicing in this happy season of life and welcome you to join us in person!

The wedding will be this week in Jerusalem.  If you are local and would like to come for the chupa (wedding ceremony) or later for dancing, please email me for details of where and when (introduce yourself if we haven’t been in touch in the past)!

I always love meeting my blog readers and would be delighted to have you share as we celebrate the marriage of the amazing young man so many of you have ‘known’ for almost eleven years.

Avivah

 

wedding graphic

Wedding plans, post high school plans, birthdays…busy, busy!

Yesterday someone asked me how I find time to write so often.  Funny how others can look at the same situation completely differently than me – I feel like I hardly am able to find time to write!  It was good to be reminded that there are always two ways to view a situation and that I can choose a more positive interpretation.

It’s a busy, busy season of life right now!

First of all, the wedding!  Less than a week to go with a list of things still to do, but it’s all getting done calmly and without stress.  After seeing friends whose tension level was seriously racheted up when their children were engaged, my goal for this engagement period was to be emotionally present, calm, and to enjoy the joy of this time.  Thankfully that has been the reality and we are so grateful and excited as we prepare for our first wedding.  So often I’ve wondered who our children will marry, and it’s beautiful to see how perfectly our daugher-in-love complements ds23; they are a lovely couple!

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Ds18 will be graduating soon, and has spent the last few months considering his post high school plans.  Since he’s in a yeshiva high school (that includes a full secular curriculum versus yeshiva ketana where no secular subjects are taught) people say it makes it harder (and even impossible) to get into the selective post high school yeshiva he’s interested in, but I don’t believe that these kind of things need to be issues – yes, it sets the bar to jump over higher but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

He went to visit several yeshivas and it was clear to him that this particular yeshiva was the best fit for him.  But they didn’t get back to him quickly about setting up an interview and it looked like it wasn’t going to happen.  (They extensively check out the student before inviting them to interview.)  It was very exciting when he was invited to test there – they’ve never interviewed a student from his high school and it was significant to be invited.  The interview seemed to go well but he was told there was more testing to follow.

I was in the supermarket two days ago when he called. When he told me he was accepted, I got choked up and couldn’t respond.  After a minute of silence and no sound on my part he was sure I didn’t hear what he said.   “Mommy, did you hear what I said?  I was accepted to ‘Blank’ Yeshiva!”

I managed to get out a congratulations through teary eyes.  It’s a huge accomplishment and it happened because of the person he’s built himself into and the efforts he’s made day after day.  Oh, my, so much emotion.  I’d better get some bulletproof makeup for the wedding.  :)

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Dd16 has been considering her plans for the coming year, and last week told me she’d like to go to seminary next year.  While it’s not something we had talked about previously, I completely support her and told her it sounded like it could be a very good choice for her.  She has a specific seminary in mind, and called them two days ago for an application – and was told that day was the deadline!  She sent it in and went to visit and sat in classes yesterday, which she very much enjoyed.  She needs to interview there and it’s preferred that parents come, but I simply can’t go to an interview with her until after the wedding.  They have hesitations about accepting a student her age so we’ll see how that goes.

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Since Rafael joined the family three months ago, I’ve been busy working my way through a list of medical appointments for him.  Yesterday I spent hours in Jerusalem at a hospital having his hearing tested.  It was a very unpleasant test for him and he screamed for 45 minutes before falling asleep when his response to sound stimulation could finally be monitored, but I was very grateful to learn that his hearing is good!

Another project that has taken ongoing effort is getting mother’s milk for him.  I am so grateful to the many women who have donated to him!  He was obviously reacting badly to dairy formula when in the hospital and mother’s milk has been very important in building up his immune system. He’s been almost exclusively on mother’s milk for the last 14 weeks, which is a huge amount of donor milk that we’ve had to get.  For the times that we’ve run out, we’re fortunate that our pediatrician generously gave us sample boxes of a hypoallergenic formula.  I’m in the process of having him officially approved for a different formula (since he’s reacting even to the hypoallergenic formula he’s been getting) and once that happens we’ll be able to purchase it ourselves; hopefully that will be completed this week.

I’ve also been in the process of getting Rafael evaluated for early child development Ds9 and Rafaelservices.  My experience in Karmiel with this for Yirmi wasn’t pleasant and I was dreading going through this process again.  Just reading through paperwork for Yirmi (which I needed because we are opening a new file for him here and they needed it) gave me a sick feeling in my stomach.

The meeting with the physical therapist and social worker was very pleasant, completely different than my past experience.  The physical therapist said Rafael’s development is impressive and that it’s obvious that we’ve been working with him.  Yes, we do invest time and effort into supporting his development but in line with my educational approach, it’s integrated into daily living rather than therapies that we stop our lives to do.  Rafael is delicious and we just love him to pieces!

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Can you believe Yirmi will be turning five soon!?  He’s doing wonderfully and I’ll update on him closer to his birthday.  We’ve been given an appointment with a developmental doctor so he can be evaluated comprehensively as part of the process to get speech therapy services.  Since he has apraxia, a clear and obvious speech delay, I hope services will be easily approved.  We’ve worked on his speech extensively at home and it’s exciting to see how beautifully it’s coming along.  He’s such a cute and smart little guy!

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We are in the middle of birthday season here.  We started the season with ds11 in April, followed by ds8 and then dh in May.  Ds14 will have a birthday the day after the wedding, then Yirmi two weeks later opens July, ds23 two days after that, dd20 a month later and now our lovely daughter-in-love joins the birthday line-up for August!

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Everyone is growing up so quickly!  Time seems to speed up more as the years go by.  As I feel the days flying by I have such a strong desire to be emotionally present for every moment  (which isn’t possible but it’s a direction to shoot for!).  Life is so full and it’s easy to get caught up in what needs to be done on a daily basis, so it’s really a conscious choice that I’m trying to make each day.

Avivah

kids outdoors

Kids enjoying outdoor time without gadgets

Over three years after first hearing about it, I’ve just read the book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv.

There were a number of points made, but the overall message that I appreciated being reminded of was that nature is an important contributor to the quality of life to a child, and something to consciously nurture.

I also appreciated when the author pointed out that being in nature isn’t about taking your kids to a distant national park or walking through a forest, which is what you might mentally picture when reading the title (I did!). Nature is all around us, every day and everywhere we go.

My kids who were raised in the US had different opportunities than my children do now, but they’ve all had a lot of nature/outdoor experiences in their lives.  Volunteering at a sheep farm for several years, trips and classes at the nature center, hikes with a naturalist, enrollment in Junior Rangers summer programs at a state park, sailing lessons, bee keeping, treehouse building…

When I got into gardening, my kids joined in.  We incubated duck eggs and raised the ducks.  We did family projects that were mostly done by the kids  – outdoor renovations like building a platform deck, a brick patio, raised garden beds and a wooden six foot security fence.  They participated in 4H activities for years.

Our yearly family camping trips were such special times for us all – activities included hiking, fishing and boating but mostly was about just enjoying being in nature together.  There is something so centering about being outdoors, hearing the birds begin to chirp as the sun rises, sitting around a campfire at night…

Even our monthly shopping trips were an opportunity to experience nature, as we shopped in Amish and Mennonite farming communities.  At one supermarket I would park our van right next to the horses in the field, and when we bought our raw milk from the farmer we would sometimes go into the barn to see the cows. When I got our free range eggs, we visited yet another farm where we got to see their horses, dogs, turkeys, chickens and ducks.

When they went to sleepaway summer camps, we sent to programs with an outdoor focus where they learned canoeing and archery along with other activities.  Membership in Girl Scouts included hiking the Appalachian Trail (and coming upon a rattlesnake) and a yearly group camping trip.

Now we’re living in a different part of the world with different opportunities.  The specifics look different – we don’t have a car and that has drastically cut down on going places like national parks and campgrounds.  But wherever we’ve lived there have been opportunities to get outside.

Something I really appreciate about living here in Israel is that  It’s a culture in which it’s safer and more accepted for kids to be out without adult supervision. In the US I closely supervised my kids when they were outside, and wouldn’t have been comfortable with things that I now routinely allow.

Our boys spend lots of time riding bikes and scooters, rollerblading, creating hideouts in bushes in the public parks, and playing with friends outside.  Two of our boys participate in a weekly survival/fire/knives/hiking group and that allows them to explore areas beyond our residential neighborhood.

I still love gardening and am grateful to have a yard (albeit much, much smaller than in the US!) where my kids plant alongside me.

We don’t have family camping trips (due to not having a car to get there) but for the last two summers, we’ve set up our large family sized tent on our porch and the kids spent weeks sleeping there in the summer.  My husband has found some local hikes that are accessible by bus and has taken the kids there – one of their favorite hikes happened when they didn’t quite find the place they set out to get to.  But on the way they found animal bones and picked almonds from trees they discovered and had a great time – they plan to go back this year when the almonds are in season and do some serious picking!

It’s really about awareness and looking for opportunities even in the small moments – seeing the interesting bug or bird and taking the time to observe it, sitting quietly on the grass together and listening to the trees rustle in the wind…you don’t have to go far from home for your child to be able to experience nature.

While parents will sometimes say that kids need to invest in their technological skills so that they aren’t left behind, I feel that’s very overrated.  Kids today are inside much more than in the past, on screens and devices and that takes away from the time that they’re outdoors.  Kids need to be outside, to move their bodies, to feel sun on their faces.

I enjoyed these photos taken by a mom of four children who has chosen to limit her children’s access to television and electronic gadgets – she beautifully captured the ability of kids to just be in the moment, to entertain themselves, to enjoy the simple pleasures in life.

You know what motivated me to buy this book?  I wanted to read something inspiring, something affirming, something that focused on something that isn’t achievement oriented but is about letting your kids have room to grow and just be.

That’s a big value for me – to give our children the space and time to be kids, to grow at their own pace, to have a sane and enjoyable pace of life.  It’s something that I sometimes feel is getting lost in our society’s ever increasing pace of life, the drive to accomplish and get things done…as people are getting more disconnected from one another and from themselves.

Nature and outdoor time is part of the answer to shifting away from that driving pace and getting recentered with yourself and your family.  It can be intimidating for parents to get their kids away from screens but it’s worth the effort – there are so many benefits to the individual and to the family!

Avivah