Wednesday, September 28, 2005


OK, now my weeks of organizational skills are going to be put into action.

I've already bought the drinks from the local drink store and schlepped the ones for the Melava Malka to the Livnot campus, and the ones for the kiddush, home.

I bought all the paper stuff, and likewise, divided up everything.

Food and vegetables have all been purchased. Rolls and pizzas have been ordered and paid for.

Tomorrow, I will be cooking for the Friday night and Saturday lunch meals. Seudat slishit will have to be pitas and leftovers and salads. Sorry.

For Friday night, I need to make soup (keeping some without chicken bones for the vegetarians), gefilte fish, and chicken stew (keeping some stew out for the vegetarians). Plus, I guess, a salad.

Saturday lunch will be snitzels (already breaded and fried), cholent (with some put aside for the you-know-whos), vegetable roll, and salads.

My brother just called to check and make sure that the chechsher that I bought was OK. I bought the best chehsher that I could find. Now he's checking to make sure that it's OK. Oy.

For the Melava Malka, I need to make tabouli, tuna, egg salad and tehina for 150 people. Bake the burekkas. Put out the rolls. Set up the coffee table.

And when all this is done, well, it's Sunday, and Rosh Hashana is Monday night.

Need I say more?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Dreams, dreams, dreams, dreams.....

I've moved on from making lists of what I have to do this week to get ready for the Bar Mitzva to dreaming about it. Incessently. I wake up every morning panic-stricken about something that I didn't do. Of course, in my dream, the bar mitzva is taking place at that instant, and what I didn't do in my dream is something that I real life, these are things that I have to remember to take care of.

And, of course, thanks to my lists, I think that I'm fairly well on top of things. But it's still in my subconscious.

My biggest worry right now is getting everything from where it is now to where it's supposed to be when we need it. I'm mainly worried about getting the heavy stuff to the place where it should be, whether I'll have enough food (though it looks like I'll have enough to carry me well into 5766) and enough drinks, etc. I had thought of hiring a caterer and leaving the headache to him, but it would have probably cost close to twice what I'm paying for the party as-is, which would have left me feeling...guilty. (Boy, if there's one person who embodies the tradition of Jewish guilt, it's matter what I'm doing, I feel guilty about what I'm not doing). So, I'll just have to resign myself to getting little sleep this week.

Margalit is beside herself, excited about having her cousin and his parents (my brother, wife, and 10-month-old son) here. She's pretty much appointed herself to be Shimshi's nanny for the Shabbat while they're here, which probably works well for her parents. She's made pictures for them, written them letters, and is generally giddy with excitement.

Now it's time to also think about the menu for the meals, with thoughts of how to have enough vegetarian food for my (now) two vegetarians. Maybe we'll all just turn vegetarian and solve alot of problems.


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Lists, lists, lists, lists, lists................................

So, as one can guess, this posting will be about.....uh huh.

First of all, this past Shabbat I took the kids camping again. This time was even better than the first. There were about 6 families and some singles, and LOTS of children, so in addition to the extra friends that we brought, the kids were busy with their friends for the whole Shabbat. Avishai ended up coming home for Shabbat from the army, which I hadn't planned for (if I would have known that he was going to come home, I probably wouldn't have planned to go) but he didn't want to leave Tsfat, so he stayed here on his own, and probably had a marvolous time.

The families that camped all set up their tents in the same general area, and each group had their own picnic table for the meals. But in between eating, the adults walked around, talking to one another, sitting, schmoozing, drinking and generally hanging out. Everyone who wanted to daven did so on their own. The kids mostly swam all day, and except for mealtimes, I barely saw them. Ariella brought a friend, and Hagai brought a friend. Yochi hung out with Ariella and her friend, and Margalit had one friend that she brought, plus a gang of other 9-year-old girls who spent the day together. I had enough food for everyone, and it was, if I say so, reasonably tasty. I made a huge chocolate cake which we served to everyone to celebrate Ariella's birthday, and I think that she was pleased. As for me, I slept, read, and relaxed. Got to do this more often!

Now it's time to get ready for The Bar Mitzva...Hagai's, which is next Shabbat.

I will move into organizational mode next week, and will take a couple of days off of work to organize everything and prepare what I need to prepare. But in the meantime, I just keep thinking about what needs to be done, and when. It's one big puzzle...everything has to fit into everything else. When do I move the kiddush cakes from the place where they're frozen to the shul? When do I get the drinks to the places that they need to be, and how? When do I make the salads that I'm going to prepare for the Melava Malka? If I cook for Shabbat on Thursday, will I have enough time on Friday to get everything to its proper place? And onward.

Monday, already, the kids are off school for Rosh Hashana, which leaves me with a lot of time to be rushed and endlessly preparing/shopping/cleaning, with no "alone" time. I think that I'm going to spend Rosh Hashana in BED!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

All My Children

The internet is not working at work, so I’m trying to keep myself busy by doing things that don’t require a connection.

One of the things that I’d wanted to do all week was to post on this blog. No time, and when there was time, I lacked patience to sit and type.

But now….no options, other than sitting here and trying to figure out my Shabbat menu. Even that wouldn’t keep me busy for long, because we were invited out for Shabbat lunch, and I just need to make something for dinner.

Anyway, earlier in the week, I was looking at some of the other blogs that I like to look at, and saw a new posting on the blog “Moving On” – the journal of a young father whose 11-year-old daughter died recently from cancer.

The father noted that most of his entries have been about the death – the dying, what it was like in the hospital, waiting, accepting, and “moving on” with life while remembering his beloved child.

But this time, he decided to write ABOUT the child – what she was like, what she liked, what amused her, her friends…

I thought about that, about writing about my children. Not waiting until something, God forbid, happens, and I need to recoup memories. But simply describing my children, who I love more and more as each day passes. So, for anyone who wants to read a love poem, here’s mine, dedicated to Avishai, Ariella, Yochi, Hagai and Margalit.

Avishai Shimson – I think that having Avishai as my first child was the kindest thing that God has done for me as a mother. Avishai is an incredibly easy-going guy, fun to be with, bright, interested in everything (we used to joke that, as a 2-year-old, we could read him anything, even the table of contents, and he’d be happy) and introspective.

Avishai always had lots of friends, both boys and girls. He’s very athletic, and good in sports and physical activities, which he enjoys. Since he was a toddler, he has loved books, and would sit for hours being read to. When he was little, I had to institute a rule that we would read the same book only once a day, because he loved to hear the same books over and over. Throughout elementary school, he was “a reader”, and though he picked out his own books at the library, he would also read anything that I picked out for him too, including the great classics. He was a Jules Verne fan (as is his younger brother).

Avishai is someone that I would characterize as a leader, though he leads by just being “one of the crowd”. But his personality is such that people like to follow him, sometimes to silliness. He also tends to do things just because that’s what everyone else is doing and if I could change something in his character, I would like to keep him from being so easily influenced by the nonsense that he gets drawn into simply by being with people who are doing something.

Avishai is very family-connected, and is a very loving son and older brother. The younger kids adore him and look up to him, and when he gives me a hug, I feel his love and strength.

Ariella Chaya
Well. They say that when parents name their children they have a prophecy so that the name, which in Jewish tradition is a very important component of a person’s personality, will fit the individual.

An “Ari” is a lion, and THAT name sure fits my eldest daughter! She’s tough as nails, intense, wary, but full of life, and determined to stretch all bounds to try and experience everything.

I worry a lot about Ariella, because she is so vulnerable. Even as a baby, she was incredibly high-strung, and only being held or being nursed would calm her. She’s as prickly as they come, and it’s never been easy to explain things to her, work with her, do a project with her, etc as she has a limited amount of patience for anyone telling her what to do. None, actually.

Even as a baby, she never needed a lot of sleep, and now, as an older teenager, she barely needs any – when she recently returned from the States, after not having slept on the plane for the whole journey, she stayed up all night with her friend and then headed to Tel Aviv the next day…when I saw her the next night, I could see no signs of tiredness or jet lag!

I now know that much of her behavior that has, in the past, seemed to me to be rude or chutzpa, is really a mask for her incredible sense of insecurity. I don’t know where it comes from (she has never found study to be easy because of her learning disabilities, which could account for a lot of this) but it’s a factor in so much of her life and in her interactions with others that I suspect that her abrasiveness to authority that stems from her insecurity in herself will cause her a lot of difficulties in her life.

Ariella has been a vegetarian for the past few years, slowly increasing her commitment. A lot of that stems from her strong sense of sympathy and empathy that she has towards others. I always assumed that I, as her mother and the butt of much blame for things that go wrong, was not considered worthy of her consideration, but yesterday I found out how wrong I was.

Ariella seems to have inherited her father’s family’s artistic talents. She likes art, and is good at it, though the discipline will come with time. Together with her good feel for working with children, I believe that she’d be an excellent art therapist.

Yocheved Tovah
Another example of a child whose personality matches her name. In the Torah, Yocheved was the mother of Moshe, whose diligence and responsibility as one of the midwives for the Jewish women probably saved the Jews in Egypt. Diligent and Responsible are two verbs which perfectly describe Yochi….a “Yekke” (nickname for the German Jews who are punctual, fastidious, and exacting) is a third.

Yochi was the easiest of the children as a baby. She liked to sleep, which was a blessing, after a baby like Ariella who viewed sleep as a punishment. She was happy, cheerful, friendly child, and every teacher’s dream – she is a good student, and school work comes easily to her. She’s certainly the only one of my children who has every put any effort into homework and tests!

Yochi is not as much of an “outdoorswoman” as Ariella is – she likes her comfort. She likes nice new clothes, and has a good sense of style. She’s begun to wear her hair down more, letting the curls blow out in a sort-of wind-swept look.

Yochi is another avid reader, and has lately begun to read a lot of murder mysteries and other adult-type books. But she still likes the teenager-girl books, though I think that she prefers that I take those out for her, and she’ll read them at home, when no one is looking. When Hagai returned recently from the States with the new Harry Potter, Yochi sat down with it and read it through cover to cover, struggling with the English until, by the end, she was reading easily. That’s Yochi – she’ll tackle a task, no matter how hard it is, if she wants to achieve the reward at the end.

Yochi also has a nice way with children, but I don’t know if she would like to work with children full-time. She’s popular with her classmates, but doesn’t seek them out, and is content to stay at home much of the time, unless someone calls her to come out. She seems quieter lately, and more withdrawn than she used to be, and can become quite angry over little meaningless incidents. I think that the adjective that I’m looking for is “deep”, though she doesn’t share her innermost thoughts, even, I believe, with her closest friends.

Hagai Yisrael
I always used to tell Hagai that he’s the stubbornest person that I know, and that it started at birth, when he wouldn’t allow himself to be pushed out, and had to be delivered by ceasarean.

Hagai has been known among his classmates for a number of years as the “gaon”, genius. He’s extremely bright, interested in everything and anything, and soaks up information and knowledge like a sponge. But only when he wants to. At some point, his teachers, bless their souls, have all come around to realizing that fighting with him is useless, and when he’s left alone, he’ll either soar or do nothing, but he won’t bother anyone else either way, so it’s best to leave him alone, because arguing with him is like banging your head against a brick wall.

He’s one of those geniuses that you have no idea that he’s a genius until you start talking about something that he has no business knowing anything about, and then you discover that he knows everything, just through his reading. If I could homeschool him, I would, because that’s how he learns best….on his own, at his own pace, through his own channels. But he does like school, likes his teachers, likes his classmates, and is liked by them, so I don’t feel guilty that I send him to school.

As noted, Hagai’s reading is amazing – he reads everything, about everything, whenever its available After discovering the Lord of the Rings movies, he became enamored with the Tolkien books, and from there, all sorts of fantasy and science fiction reading. In recent months, he’s joined up with a group of local boys to start a chapter of Dungeons and Dragons – which I know NOTHING about, but they’re nice boys, and they have a nice time playing, so I support it.

Hagai is not demanding about food – he eats so few items that there’s little to demand. If one is going to host Hagai, a good supply of corn flakes and yellow cheese will pretty much cover him for any number of days. If pressed, some olives too.

Margalit Chen
Margalit is the child that I’ve had the most opportunity to develop a relationship with, since as the youngest, I’ve been able to spend more time with her. Also, by nature, Margalit is talkative and informative, and tells me everything about everything and everyone.

For Margalit, the adjective that most springs to mind when I think of her (aside from ADHD – is that an adjective) is vivacious. She’s energetic, full of personality, and basically full of herself. No problems with self-image there! Very little depresses her spirits, and being around her is like being around a whirlwind.

Living in our house, one must appreciate pets – at present, we have 3 cats and 2 dogs, along with 2 birds, 2 garden tortoises, and a guina pig. All of the kids like the animals and are kind to them. But Margalit adores animals, and we own 3 cats now instead of one because she brought home the other two, finding them as kittens down the street, and bringing them home to cuddle and kiss. Feeding and care is MY problem, of course.

We live on a street where the ratio of little girls to little boys is about 7-1 – girls rule. Margalit travels with a pack of other 8 and 9-year-olds, and luckily, when I can’t find her, I always have a list of phone numbers to call. Margalit is well-liked by her friends and classmates, and they don’t seem to mind that her stories are usually not true, since she tells them with such energy and fun that their veracity doesn’t seem to be a problem.

It’s a good thing that Margalit is the youngest, since raising her is taking the most effort of all. Not only am I doing it solo, but her hyperactivity means that I can’t take for granted that anything that I say will be remembered or followed up on unless I’m there to make sure that it happens. She’s a complete “balaganist” (disorganized) which drives Yochi, who shares a room with her, to distraction.

Yet Margalit is an amazingly good-tempered and happy little girl who doesn’t hold grudges and is almost always in a good mood. THAT’s nice to be around!

Monday, September 12, 2005

on-line dating

No, I haven't started dating on-line yet, or dating in any other manner either!

Someone from Livnot suggested that, in my free time (of which I have a lot at work lately) I could join some of the on-line Jewish dating services and "chat" with people (obviously with the intention of getting them to come to Livnot!)

So I went "onto" Friendster" today, and discovered that it's too complicated for me -- finding who is out there, who is on-line at any given time, who has the kind of interests that might make them a good candidate for LIvnot, etc. I haven't figured out how one writes to another person, how one retrieves what's been written to him/her, how one sets up a "chat" with friends....awk! Just when I was beginning to think that I knew a little about computers (I helped a friend download a program onto a CD yesterday -- we found the little "send to" menu that allowed us to send the program to the CD) something like this comes up, and I'm back to square one.

I guess if I was truely interested in the dating game, I would hammer it out. But somehow, trying to find that one person out of 1000 who might be interested in coming to pessimism overtakes my optimism at this point.

Of course, I can see how someone who is doing serious on-line mate-searching could get a LOT more frustrated than I! I'm looking for program participants, while they're looking for a life-partner! (Though doing it the old-fashioned way wasn't very successful for me either, in the long-term).

In other news, we're hoping to go camping again this Shabbat. All the kids (except for Avishai, who will not be home from the army this week) seem interested, and I told them all that they could all invite a friend. Don't ask me how we're going to get 9 people, 2 dogs, and all our equipment into the car. God will help, I guess. There are a bunch of people in the neighborhood who are going to go together, so it should be fun.

Hope the dog doesn't throw up this time.

Friday, September 09, 2005

What's my part in this?

I just read an article about the animal-protection people who have been going into Gush Katif for the past 2 weeks, rescuing the abaondoned animals.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I fail to see how people who wave the banner of Torah, as did many of the residents of Gush Katif in explaining their insistance on maintaining their settlements there (not that I totally disagree) could act in such a cruel manner as to abaondon their defenseless animals during the evacuation.

Bewildered dogs, cats, I missing something? Can that be justified? How do parents explain to their children why they left Fido behind to fend for himself, just because they were distressed? They couldn't have planned beforehand?

I guess I have seen so much anti-Torah behavior lately that people somehow justify that I can't be too suprised. People with kippas on their head who...oh, never mind.

At any rate, I volunteered to take an extra animal. Not that I'm so excited about adding another mouth to be fed here, (and if it's a barker, my neighbor will have a fit) but I feel obligated to do SOMETHING, and this is something that I can do. I hope that it also makes an impression on my children, that when something happens, we should all ask ourselves "what is my part in this? What can I do?"

In other animal news, our new pup is probably pregnant. I tried to get her spayed several months ago, but she ran away, and then I never dealt with it, though's time. Unfortunately, it comes together with the whole Gush Katif mess, so all the vets that do low-cost spaying are presently trying to utilize the last days that Israel is in Gaza to get the last of the animals. Hopefully, by next week, we can arrange to have Jenny taken care of.

Monday, September 05, 2005

When Bad Things Happen to Good People

I'm in the midst of one of those "inspiring stories" books which basically tries to strengthen people's faith by giving stories and theological explanations of how people remain strong when "bad things happen to good people".

What I'm getting out of it is that, actually, Judaism has no explanations for this, other than saying that everything comes from God, everything is ultimately for the good, and it is our responsibility to bless the bad as well as the good, and try to increase our strength and faith in the face of both kids of occurances.

One can only ponder this while the bodies and survivors are being plucked out of New Orleans and the surrounding areas. It's beyond imagination what has happened to a modern metropolis, and to American citizens living in the year 2005. The pictures and stories are reminicent of a third world country, or a time dozens or hundreds of years ago when rescue work was not as advanced as it is today.

How could the American government have taken so long to respond to the disaster? Why weren't they ready to move in the moment they realized that something was happening? Why did it take so long to mobilize transportation?

But above all, why did so many innocent people, sick people, old people, children, babies, have to suffer?

This was a man-made disaster in that the people in charge allowed a natural disaster to get so far out of hand. It wasn't evil, it wasn't a sudden tsunami that swept people was pure and simple incompetence.

If I was one of those people who was standing in water for days, surrounded by human waste, garbage, and dead bodies, would I be able to thank God for testing me? Should I?

At what point is the breaking point? How did some people come out of the Holocaust more committed to Judaism and Torah than ever, while others were so traumatized that they hid their Jewish roots from their own children? How can some people endure, and maintain their belief and love for God in the most imaginable circumstances, which go on for years, while others break? What about me...if I was given the choice between being hacked to death or converting, would I stay Jewish? Watching my children being hacked to death? Could I resist? Should I? Would I?