Oct 25 2013
A trauma in three acts:
The Friday could not have started any nicer; my 4-year-old daughter, Raphaela, celebrated her birthday in nursery school–always a touching and emotional event in the Israeli school system–and as a bonus, my parents had arrived the day before from Boston and were able to join in the festivities.
That afternoon, my parents offered to babysit Raphaela, a luxury for me both as a single mother by choice, and as a woman who moved to Israel 16 years ago, with no immediate family living anywhere on the continent. What a sense of freedom knowing that my child is in capable and loving hands, and that I have several hours with no responsibilities other than to myself.
Then, that evening, while waiting at my parents’ vacation apartment for my father to return from synagogue, Raphaela tripped on a quilt and smashed her chin directly into the hard cold tiled floor that typifies most Israeli buildings. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 24 2013
When I was pregnant with my son, I knew he was going to have blond hair and blue grey eyes like my father. I knew he would take after my American side–rather than his Israeli father–because all the time I was pregnant, I craved pizza, hamburgers, and Coca-Cola.
I was not surprised when he was brought to me: a skinny old man with blue eyes and strawberry blond hair. I gave him a name my Israeli-Jewish husband approved of: Eitan. In America we would call him Ethan, a Puritan name, to reflect my own American Protestant roots. I called him Eitan ha katan because it rhymed. Ethan the little. When my son was 2 years old, we moved, for six months, to Israel.
Conversion to Judaism had never really been a question. My husband and I married just seven months after meeting and I knew I had no chance at an Orthodox conversion. According to Israeli law, I would never be Jewish, nor would our son. And anyway, my husband had grown up on a kibbutz. His childhood was largely secular. His own father had been rumored to eat sausage on Yom Kippur. When we’d lived on the kibbutz for those few months, my father-in-law took great pleasure in bringing me wrapped deli ham from the Russian butcher as a Friday night treat. Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 14 2013
For all y’all out there who think divorce is like the worst thing in the world for the kids, let me tell you something: it doesn’t have to be.
My son and daughter are best friends and allies. Born a year and a half apart, they tandem nursed (think National Geographic Magazine, and you get the idea), go halfsies on the last slice of mushroom pizza, and fall asleep holding hands in a queen-sized bed in our one-room apartment.
They’re closer than any other sibling pair I’ve seen their age. Just last week, my daughter chased down two boys from her class who were teasing her brother:
“You will NOT talk to him like that. He is my brother, and he is awesome.”
And a few days after that, when his sister slipped and fell, my son ran over to help lift her off the dirty ground before I could even say, “Sweet Girl, are you OK?” Read the rest of this entry →
Oct 7 2013
Israel does a lot of things exceptionally well: Jewish life in general, giving people reasons to weep from spiritual depth, falafel, breeding good-looking Jews. But you know what Israelis aren’t doing so well? Feeding children. And while some mothers may fantasize about expensive vacations or ivy league acceptance for their kids, I find myself lost in a flurry of daydreams involving my toddler eating unsweetened peanut butter on whole wheat bread or some yogurt without added sugar.
Am I crazy? Maybe. But Israeli preschools leave me no choice. On English language forums for mothers in Israel, almost daily, a frazzled mother tells a tale about how their kids get a snack, supposedly to “keep them going” in the afternoon, of white bread with chocolate spread, cookies, or the infamous Bamba (think peanut butter flavored cheese doodles). But don’t worry, they don’t really give 2 and 3-year-olds candy and cake anymore. Having realized that it’s not so nutritious, they only give it on special occasions, including but not limited to a class birthday, an upcoming holiday, Rosh Chodesh, and Shabbat (you know, that weekly occurrence). Really very infrequently, they say. Read the rest of this entry →
Aug 1 2013
Did anyone else notice that the time frame Secretary Kerry has set for this current round of Mideast peace negotiations is the same amount of time it takes to bring a child into this world? Maybe it’s because I’m currently in my eighth month of pregnancy that I couldn’t help but notice that the target isn’t one year, nor is it six or 10 months–no, it’s nine months.
After eight months of pregnancy, I’m not that comfortable. My ankles are swollen. My lower back hurts. I don’t sleep that well, leaving me tired during the day and restless at night. Read the rest of this entry →
May 29 2013
I bought a dress last week.
It’s a dress straight out of the summer of ’53–pale mauve with a sweetheart neckline, spaghetti straps, and a skirt that twirls. It’s the kind of dress you lose your virginity in in the backseat of a Chevy Bel Air after the Hop.
It’s also the also the kind of dress you wear when you get tired of keeping it real in blue jeans and a tank top, when you want to rub coconut vanilla lotion on your legs and feel like you’re stepping into another era, another life.
It’s the kind of dress you wear when you want to feel pretty, oh so pretty. (Tralalalalalalalalala.) Read the rest of this entry →
May 22 2013
I’ve been an uncle officially for 17 years, since my sister had her first son. Since then, three more nieces and nephews have popped out, giving me at least four reasons to bring gifts from Israel.
As more and more of my friends have had kids over the years (and there have been at least a few of those years, with my somewhat impending arrival to the age which rhymes with “sporty”), an increasing number of children have called me “Uncle Benji” despite a lack of blood relation. I have perfected animal impressions (which includes my personal and undisputed favorite, “the chicken”), I have become quite good at “online babysitting” (entertaining little kids with an Ernie puppet), and I am not ashamed to admit that I have developed such entertaining material that I have been caught recycling it across families in both English and (albeit, broken) Hebrew.
But I have never actually been a father. Until last week. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 23 2013
My kids need little organized effort to enjoy our company. In our house, especially in spring, that often means tossing balls with Abba. My two youngest will ask Dov if he has time to play catch with them, and if his schedule isn’t on overload, he will say yes. Nothing could please them more.
There will be a rush to gather mitts, ball, and caps. You can hear the buzz in their voices, and the rushed breathing of boys as they put on their sneakers. I glance outside the window from my workstation, and watch them wait at the curb for their Abba to pick them up, looking down at the ground, shuffling their feet, kicking stones with their toes, with only an occasional hopeful glance upward, just being boys. Read the rest of this entry →
Apr 18 2013
If you’ve ever visited Israel, you may have noticed that one thing the small country definitely does not lack is cats. And while this may pose a problem if you, like me, are allergic to anything with fur (or pollen or hay or grass or dust or melon; yes, I’m a mess), cat lovers will find themselves right at home.
Little cat lovers will love The Cats on Ben Yehuda Street, a picture book that gives kids a taste of Jerusalem through the story of its cats. Featuring Mr. Modiano, the curmudgeonly owner of a fish shop who hates cats, and Mrs. Spiegel, his customer and owner of a little gray cat, Ketzie, the book tells the story of an unlikely friendship, of both the human and feline variety.
The Cats on Ben Yehuda Street is just one of the great Jewish kids books sent out by PJ Library this month. If you’d like to get free books delivered right to your home every month, be sure to sign up for PJ Library today. If you live in the New York metro area, you can sign up directly through Kveller here. If you live elsewhere, check out this map to find a PJ community near you.
Sign up for free books from PJ Library today.
Apr 17 2013
So, this is 40.
This morning, I woke up too early, in a dark and peaceful house. Once the haze of sleep began to lift, it dawned on me: Today is my 40th birthday.
More precisely, it’s my Hebrew birthday. My secular birthday doesn’t come until a week into May, and in our house, our kids like to celebrate both. Since this year my Hebrew birthday falls a few weeks before my secular one, I realize it’s like I have a birthday “zone,” an especially welcome transition period for easing into this new decade, one that seems to strike terror in on-the-cusp-of-middle-aged hearts around the world. Read the rest of this entry →