Koala update: six years

Six years – six years a force in my life, six years a mom. Six years old, Koala. Six means:

  • you are going to first grade in four months
  • you are asking a lot of questions but answering a lot of mine
  • this is the last Koala Update I write before you will begin to know how to read.

On your birthday this year, I’m offering six things to take with you, to hold close, as you finish your last year in kindergarten and begin your journey through grade school.

1. With great curiosity, comes great – why do plants have roots, Ima? 

Here’s how much curiosity you are packed with: In the time it takes your sister to get dressed, teeth brushed, shoes on, hair done, waiting at the top of the stairs for you, you have one – yes, just one – leg through your underpants. The reason, without fail, is because you have been into space and back, and have prepared a list of completely unconnected questions to ask right now in this moment. The moment between when the first leg goes in the underwear, before the second one does.

I wouldn’t trade that for the world, but I would implore that perhaps you look deep inside yourself and find the capability to multitask just a little so we get to school on time next year.

2. Get your hands dirty and make mistakes

This past year, I taught you what a pencil eraser is for. Through your tears and sweat of frustration, you saw the logic in this technology and you used it with vigor. I also introduced you to white out – once – because you had drawn a great picture but realized you couldn’t find a solution for the marker mistakes.

The thing about erasers and white out, is, they don’t turn back time, and they don’t leave a blank slate. Mistakes will always be made, and things will get blemished. But are we worse for the wear? This is what growing up is about – we experience, we became a little more full and also a little blemished.

The cuts and scrapes on your knees will tell a story for days to come. You may or may not have a scar on your face from a friendly fight – another experience to pocket.

You struggle with out-of-order and imperfection but hopefully you will come to see there is really no order, and perfection can be found in just that.

3. Use that big head and be proactive

  

In the last few months, there are two modes: the days when you assume you’ve got some kind of blue blood, and others where you’re begging to help around the house.

We’ve grabbed the reigns of the latter and have let you/told you to aspire to help, to do your share, to take care of your sisters, to lead by example.

Guess what? That’s only going to become more of a theme here. Our family grew. Both of your parents have full time jobs. And more than anyone who lives in this residence, you leave your stuff scattered around in organized yet haphazard piles throughout the house.

Now grab a broom.

4. Be kind to the people who love you 

While I remember the day you were born like it was yesterday, your sister worships every day she spends with you. I promise you – this will not last forever. And you don’t need me to tell you that in the last half year she has mustered up quite some sass – it’s no longer a one-way street. And that’s natural, and that’s good. And it will make for a much better sparring partner throughout the years.

Please, Koala. Please be kind to the people who love you. I work on it myself as I say this to you. Let’s get better at this together. It’s a fleeting thing in siblings, trust me. You may never know unconditional love from a peer like you have right now from Bebe.

5. There’s only so much I can give you, but it’s a lot  

Here’s an example of something I haven’t thought about in decades: elementary school. And it’s slowly creeping up on me that suddenly I will be thinking about it a lot more.

It’s where I painstakingly learned Hebrew. And multiplication. And what cliques are.

So, yeah, the thought of you entering the jungle with a few pencils and a Spiderman backpack completely freaks me out.

Is this a do-over for me? Absolutely not. I think the most I can do is encourage you and support you and be there for you as you trek through this stage of childhood.

6. Let it all out 

You know this already, but I don’t hesitate to say it again. There’s no sound in the world like when you laugh.

When you really laugh.

When the funny thing you heard or saw or thought or said has gone deep inside you, planted roots, those roots started tickling your insides, and your whole respiratory system is now erupting in laughter.

So you know how to let it all out. What I want you to try is to let it all out even when you’re not 100% comfortable. It won’t always be comfortable, but there will always be cause for feeling free.

There’s nothing about you to hold back, Koala. We’re always here, waiting for whatever you have next. Just let it out.

The freedom to be as stubborn as we want in our own land

Israelis are nothing if not… persistent. That’s how we ended up here after thousands of years, and it’s how we became Startup Nation. So when we planned to go to the beach weeks ago for Yom Haatzmaut, you can bet the forecast be damned and we were going to the &@!$% beach.

Even if there were 35mph winds, wintery temperatures, and not a single other soul but our party in view.

Visiting and storytelling at Har Herzl on Israel’s Memorial Day

A colleague who visits children of friends and neighbors, acquaintances and others at Har Herzl every year invited some of us to join him today on Israeli Memorial Day. I had never been there on Yom HaZicaron itself, so the experience was new.

There’s a lot to see and hear. High school students. Scouts. Foreign students. Next generation soldiers. Career soldiers.

And family, family, and more family.

We’re getting to the point where there aren’t going to be many people left who remember fighting in 1948. Their gravesites are slightly less occupied by visitors.

I had never really given much thought to the last olim pre-independence; they escaped from Hitler’s Europe, came off the boats in 1947, and stepped straight into ‘uniform’. And of course, many many fell in 1948, fighting for the right to freedom they had lacked only a year before:

Below, this Nissim was a runner for the Jewish army, based in the Old City of Jerusalem in 1948 – locked in and fighting to bridge the sides.

He was show by an enemy sniper, who found a hole in the sandbags – shot right in his own home.

He was also ten years old.

In this pool rest the memories of 140 soldiers who fell to the sea.

And then – this happened.

Mrs. Aharoni comes every year to visit her brother-in-law’s grave. He fell in 1948. She worries about who will visit when she’s gone.

My colleague met her here one year; he had brought his son to show him who came before him in fighting for this land; they asked her for her story. And promised to visit Yehuda Aharoni’s grave every year, so she wouldn’t have to worry that no one would come after her. He started coming ever since.

Last year she didn’t show and he assumed, perhaps, the worst.

As we started walking from the site, we saw a woman being lifted in her wheelchair towards our direction.

Mrs. Aharoni appeared. And my colleague was there. And so were we. So now we’ve heard her story from her.

And we are here, too.

 

Nettles update: thirteen months

13 months. 13 things I hope you will keep doing.

  1. Playing in the dirt
  2. Saying ‘hello’ when I hand you a ‘telephone’
  3. Hide and seek with your shirt 
  4. Climbing over your siblings
  5. Claiming what’s rightfully yours 
  6. Cuddling us
  7. Rumbling on the bed with the blankets and pillows
  8. EATING AND NOT GIVING A $#*%@! 
  9. Taking what you want 
  10. Giggling, snorting, cackling
  11. Enjoying the breeze on your face 
  12. Contemplating everything with the seeming wisdom of a 105-year-old woman 
  13. Watching the world, wide-eyed 

Loose tooth, lose control.

So now I understand why the tooth fairy is a thing. I had dismissed it as bullshit but I take that back now, because six years is in no way even close to the amount of parenting time where you can sit back, put your feet up, and act like you’re the shit.*

*there is, I’m guessing, pretty much no point in parenting when you can do that. 

Koala’s first wiggly tooth had been wiggly for… quite some time. We actually only discovered it was wiggly at the dentist – a few months ago. The same visit where the dentist pointed in the back of his front bottom tooth and said “hey, mom, how long has that adult tooth been waiting there?” and I had no idea what she was talking about.

Anyway, he had plenty of prep time. And also I lost count of how many times he said to us, “feel my wiggly tooth!” At least three times a day. Which is more than you’re meant to actually brush your teeth so he is plenty diligent.

But alas, I suppose there is no such thing as enough preparation for your first time. When you’re Koala.

The boy was so traumatized by his tooth falling out suddenly, yesterday, after months – moaning – literally writhing in shock and moaning, “but Ima, I wasn’t ready!” He was just completely taken by it. He had lost control over a body part. And it had simply up and left.

Doesn’t that sound terrifying?

So, yes, I told him that maybe there is this thing I’ve heard of, this, well, tooth fairy, and I don’t completely understand how she works, but, well, I kinda remember losing some teeth and putting the tooth under my pillow and finding a surprise in the morning.

And now Koala has savings account opened for a new soccer ball.

And who am I to stop a kid from learning some financial savvy?

No better Israel education than the one from your sabra kids

Things I love about Independence Day season in Israel:

  • Every year – without fail – I manage to learn something new from my kids.
  • This morning, all dressed up for the gan celebration, on the way to the car, my gan-aged kids broke out into song together.
  • I asked them to teach it to me.
  • By the time we got to gan, we were all three singing it together.
  • The song – Eretz Yisrael Sheli Yaffa v’Gam Porachat – was stuck in my head by the time I pulled away from gan.

 ארץ ישראל שלי יפה וגם פורחת 
מילים ולחן: דתיה בן דור

ארץ ישראל שלי יפה וגם פורחת
מי בנה ומי נטע
כולנו ביחד
אני בניתי בית בארץ ישראל
אז יש לנו ארץ
ויש לנו בית בארץ ישראל

ארץ ישראל שלי יפה וגם פורחת
מי בנה ומי נטע
כולנו ביחד
אני נטעתי עץ בארץ ישראל
אז יש לנו ארץ
ויש לנו בית
ויש לנו עץ בארץ ישראל

ארץ ישראל שלי יפה וגם פורחת
מי בנה ומי נטע
כולנו ביחד
אני סללתי כביש בארץ ישראל
אז יש לנו ארץ
ויש לנו בית
ויש לנו עץ
ויש לנו כביש בארץ ישראל

ארץ ישראל שלי יפה וגם פורחת
מי בנה ומי נטע
כולנו ביחד
אני בניתי גשר בארץ ישראל
אז יש לנו ארץ
ויש לנו בית
ויש לנו עץ
ויש לנו כביש
ויש לנו גשר בארץ ישראל

ארץ ישראל שלי יפה וגם פורחת
מי בנה ומי נטע
כולנו ביחד
אני חיברתי שיר בארץ ישראל
אז יש לנו ארץ
ויש לנו בית
ויש לנו עץ
ויש לנו כביש
ויש לנו גשר
ויש לנו שיר על ארץ ישראל

Local Holocaust remembrance in 2015 and beyond

Since becoming a mom, everything has gotten harder to swallow. I don’t read the news as much. Especially local evening news from New York. I can’t stomach certain facts of life. And I’ve distanced myself from my cultural ties with Holocaust education and remembrance.

Which is getting easier to do – less voices, more distance from 1945. In Israel, there is a debate over what it all means for the next generation. Can you really expect a generation born into relative national freedom to identify with this historical chapter?

I pushed myself to come out tonight to Tzur Hadassah’s beit ha’am to listen to a local resident and Terezin survivor tell his story. Reuven Fisherman was born and raised in Denmark. Though the Terezin concentration camp in the Czech Republic is the one place I have visited, I hadn’t known the Danish angle. And I hadn’t heard as personal a telling as I heard here.

And I hadn’t heard an Israeli survivor in a long time. Nor one that lives in my community. And has a lot more in common with me as an oleh than many of my other native neighbors.

Like a lot of other survivors, he hadn’t really started telling his story publicly until relatively recently. He published a book in Danish, which was used in a documentary, which is set for release on May 5, which is the exact date he was liberated from Terezin. The book should be coming out in Hebrew by the end of the year he hopes.

There were local scouts in the audience. There were a few other grade school kids. I wondered if my kids will hear a ניצול שואה telling their story, live, in person. I was in first grade when this was all revealed to me in the open. I guess in Israeli standards, they are not too far off from the live, survivor reveal.

Especially since in Israel, Holocaust education starts in pre-kindergarten.