Monday, March 19, 2012

Yesterday and Tomorrow

My baby, Yakir, is a crazy man. Truly.

And I say that with the experience of raising six boys and of dealing with lots of craziness. But this kid? Well, he seems to take the cake, and then stand on top of it, dancing. As I often say, Hashem either has quite a sense of humor, or thinks I'm far more energetic than I am.

With that said, there is one time during the day when he stops. When I bring him to bed at night, I've found that I can actually snuggle with him for a few quiet minutes after he finishes his bottle and before I put him in his crib.

Pure bliss.

So, last night, it was a very strange dichotomy for me. I was cuddling with Yakir and relishing in these snuggly, delicious moments, when I caught Matan out of the corner of my eye. I could see him in the hallway with his long, lanky body, his impish grin and his playful enjoyment as he kicked our punching bag around.

It was the strangest feeling to sit there, cuddling with the tender, delicious little man that Yakir is, while looking up at what Yakir will someday be. Looking at Matan and admiring the blossoming too-soon-to-be-teenager, I couldn't help but think of the boy in my arms as him. And I sat there cuddling the him of years-gone-by and watching the him of today, and thinking with absolute wonder about the fleeting passage of time.

It's so hard, at times, to cherish each moment. There is so much chaos, so much to do, so many lunches to make and items of clothing to wash; and yet, in a moment like this one, I'm reminded of what really matters; and of how quickly the baby in my arms will become the soon-to-be 12 year old boy standing before me with all of the independence and confidence he can muster.

And I wrapped my arms around Yakir just a little bit tighter, and let the laundry wait for a moment longer than usual.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lessons Learned From My Sons, the Cheerleaders

I love Purim. I think it may be my favorite holiday during the year. Am I allowed to play favorites? Here are a few of the reasons that I love Purim, and that I enjoyed myself this year as much as I have in the past.

How often can I ask my six boys (and my husband) to dress as girls - and have them do so with glee?

How often do I get to hear Matan talk about all of the charities to which he could have given his money, and then hear him discuss why he gave it to the new shul in Itamar?

How often is singing completely off key seen as "just part of the fun?"

When else do we go to shul with the express purpose of making noise (lots and lots of noise)?


When I think about Purim, it embodies so much of what I love about Judaism. There is the story about triumph over evil, about faith and hope and perseverance. Then, there is the obligation to give charity to the poor - to remember those who are not as fortunate. There's the obligation to offer gifts to others (and to receive gifts in exchange). And there's the obligation to enjoy a festive and joyous meal with those you love.

What, really, could be more important? What could be more lovely? And, as one of my friends, Ruti, pointed out so poignantly, we are able to do all of this because of the young men and women defending us - here in our own country.


This year, I loved watching my boys relish in the fun of dressing up as girls.

They were cheerleaders, cheering for their mom (with the requisite cheer "2, 4, 6 8, who do we appreciate? Mommy, Mommy, GOOOO Mommy!"). When we first told the boys they would be cheerleaders, the younger ones were worried. "We'll look so silly! People will make fun of us! We can't be girls!"

I was surprised to see my older boys confidently explaining why it would be cool to be girls and why it would be so funny. During the day, they strutted and preened and had a fantastic time - even when they saw their friends and even when they ran into girls that they knew.

It tickled me to see their confidence and their ability to be silly and enjoy themselves, even while wearing a skirt and a wig.

There is enough to worry about on a daily basis in the world - raising children, working, keeping afloat financially, dealing with health issues and so much more. What a joy it is to have a day like Purim to enjoy together and to celebrate the elimination of the Hamans that threatened us - and that continue to threaten us to this day.

We all need a day when we can feel invincible like Superman,

and even feel safe and confident enough in our powers to take a brief nap and escape the worries of life.

Monday, March 05, 2012

My Dear Kings and Queens...

Willy, Willy, Harry, Ste
Harry, Dick, John, Harry III
1, 2, 3 Neds, Richard II
Henry 4,5,6 then who?
Edward 4,5 Dick the bad
Harry's Twain, then Ned the Lad
Mary, Bessie, James the Vain
Charlie, Charlie, James again
William and Mary, Anne Gloria
Four Georges, William, then Victoria
Ned, George, Ned, George
Now it's seen, a second Bessie is the Queen!

What, you might say, is all of this?

Why, it's the ever-so-important chronological list of the kings and queens of England.

And I do, indeed, know it by heart.

Recently, I finished a charming book by Philippa Gregory called The Queen's Fool. It was a beautiful look at Queen Mary's reign and it brought the entire monarchy to life.

Of course, while reading the book, I had to recite my kings and queens in order many, many times to think about when Mary's reign occurred, who came next, who came before her, etc.

And it got me thinking about school recitations and about the history of this history list.

It was 9th grade history class with Mr. Combs, my charming British teacher. On a Friday, he assigned the kings and queens of England to us, and gave us the task of reciting them all by the following week.

My jaw dropped. I was never good at memorizing anything, and I was always the first one to panic about a seemingly-overwhelming assignment.

Mr. Combs explained that we should learn the kings and queens because...well...because.

He did offer one fun anecdote. One student, he claimed, left the private school where we were learning and went to a public school. Somehow it came up that she knew this parlor trick, and she bet the teacher an instant A in the class if she recited them all on the spot. Needless to say, as legend had it, she got the A.

Um, and therefore we should all learn this collection of nonsense? What can I say. That was the rationale.

And so, I headed into the weekend that I still vividly remember to this day. I went to Big Bear Lake with my friend Alexis, and before I could say "goodnight" on Friday night, she appeared to have memorized the whole thing.


And I, on the other hand, spent the entire - ENTIRE - weekend saying, "Willy, Willy, Harry who?" Oh shoot, "Willy, Willy, Harry, Ste, 1, 2 3 somebodies...

And on and on. It took me so bloody long to remember that list.

When it was time to recite it for Mr. Combs, I started to stutter and I couldn't remember it at all. We had two tries, and two tries only. A perfect recitation received an A. Anything else received...who wanted to find out?

On the second try, I managed to make my way through it all and I was so proud of myself and relieved. Little did I know that I would recite it thousands of times through the years and feel the urge to do so anytime that anyone mentioned something about that part of the world.

As a teacher myself, I actually made my students memorize pieces from The Odyssey. I would recount Mr. Combs' story and my own experience, and promise them that it was fun to memorize something and that it challenged a part of the brain. Rather than just having them do rote memorization, however, I had my students act out scenes from The Odyssey with their own interpretations, but with the original words. It was one of my finer teaching moments every year.

At one point, I realized that Mr. Combs, as a fellow teacher, would certainly enjoy hearing about my experiences. What teacher doesn't want to know about an old student who still remembers him, and that has closely emulated his teaching style?

So, I wrote to Mr. Combs at Westlake. In the letter, I wrote down the entire list and I asked him, playfully, what we would do when Elizabeth II gives up her reign.

He wrote back an appreciative letter, but he did not answer my question.

I do wonder, sometimes, if there are hundreds of old Churchill students reciting passages of The Odyssey at random times during their lives.

Perhaps a few are cursing me.

Perhaps a few appreciate the exercise.

And perhaps a few have taken the lessons learned and incorporated them into their own lives, or into their own teaching styles.

One never knows.

But I promise to continue reciting the Willy, Willy, Harry Ste's for as long as I can remember it.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Nostalgic Jumper

There are times when little things in my life make me nostalgic and remind me how far we've come in our journey. This cute little blue jumper that Yakir put on this morning is one of these things.

11 years ago, when Matan was a baby, we enjoyed a few weeks of rest in Burlington, Vermont (one of my favorite spots in the world) with my in-laws. We were at one of those scrumptious arts and crafts fairs when we came across this jumper. The artist was selling many beautiful items of childrens' clothes and I couldn't resist this one.

As I went to purchase it, she asked me if she should put a child's name on it for me. It would make it so personal and cute. My mother-in-law and I looked at each other and thought about it for a minute. It sure would be cute that way. But wait a minute, we discussed; what if I had another boy sometime and then he'd be walking around with "Matan" written across his chest.

No, we decided, it would be better to leave it off in the event that I had another boy who might want to use the jumper.

Little did I know.

Now, 11 years later, it's one of the items of clothing that has gone from Matan to Yehuda to Amichai to Eliav to Zeli and now to Yakir. I'm sure we have other items that have made it through all six of them, but this one seems to be the closest to my heart.

I got a kick out of it this morning when I put it on Yakir for the first time and watched him prance around the house. I was taken back to all of my other experiences with all of the other boys who wore it.

Who would have thought that this jumper, which doesn't include the name "Matan" written across the chest, would get quite so much use.

(It even has a little car on the tush!)