Koala update: Four years

Koala,

I love you so freaking much. Sometimes I look at your face while you’re babbling about throwing lions at people or how all your friends’ dads are policemen (somehow?).

I look at your face, the same exact face I watched when you were laying on me, four years ago, staring off into space, with your then-dark grey eyes. What were you thinking about Koala?

I look at your face sometimes, watching your intense blue eyes stare off somewhere… what are you thinking about, Koala?

Here’s a not-so-secret: We took the full eight days after your birth to decide on your name. I was in such adrenaline-addled awe that everything had worked out pretty ok that we named you based on an idea of calmness.

Not a day longer than after your brit, you showed us that was naive first-time parent  thinking.

When you’re staring off into space, cool eyes somewhere (where?), I know I was partly right, in some way, about your tranquility. You consider the how, the why. You make a concerted effort to sort it out in your head. You’re a thinker.

With you, navigating life is always an adventure. A loud, expressive, emotional, opportunistic adventure. It’s exciting to ride your energy and see where we end up.

Learning what it means to lose something you really liked. Testing what it’s like to finally pet a neighbor’s dog. Discovering what that hole in your underwear is for.

Sometimes we end up at anger. Fear. Frustration.

Sometimes we end up at shock. Discovery. Elation.

It’s been a year of adventure – the better, the worse, the joyful, the painful. And I’m just speaking for myself. I’m learning about you. You’re learning about me (I think we might finally have ‘boobs’ down).

I can’t possibly count how many tears that’s taking – from either of us – but I think with time we’re working it out.

And nothing makes it all seem so simple as when you climb out of bed, walk up to me, put your little arms around my neck, put your lips to my cheek, and breathe into my face: Ima, I love you.

Happy 4th birthday, Koala.

 

Is this Lag-pocalypse? Fire safety events in Israel for Lag Ba’Omer

Are you an Anglo immigrant? Is it sometime around April/May? Have all the branches/wooden planks/crates been mysteriously removed from your neighborhood?

It’s time for the Lag Ba’Omer nag!

Nah. This year I have some praise. Turns out fire departments across the country (or maybe just one in Bet Shemesh) have taken on performing a fire safety week for area families in the days before Lag Ba’Omer, a Jewish minor minor holiday that I’m pretty sure has lost most its meaning since Rabbi Shimon had his way.

We visited on the last day, yesterday, and it was really lovely. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much in the way of personal fire safety – what to do if you’re caught in smoke, how to keep your home safe. How to properly handle a bonfire. Though they did stress the phone number to dial for fire emergencies: 102.

But what they did focus on was how hard firefighters work – which is great because they definitely don’t get the kind of praise and honor and respect that they do in the States or elsewhere.

They also showed how firefighters work to rescue people trapped inside cars post traffic accident – a much more common occurrence here, unfortunately.

We got to climb the trucks, check out tools, equipment and uniforms, and speak to firefighters and volunteers.

All in all, an educational and hands-on way to spend an afternoon.

Climbing the trucks was obviously the best part:

Even Bebe got in on the action:

I was impressed with the turnout:

I do hope everyone walked away with new values and respect for our servicemen.

To the immigrant parents I grew up with:

Dear immigrant parents of childhood friends,

Hi. How are you? Have I told you lately your English is incredible?

It was really fun growing up with your kid. Maybe I’m still even friends with your kid. Most of my friends from childhood had immigrant parents it seems. It really felt that way, at least.

To the point where I kind of felt like an outsider myself. The all-American. None of my grandparents were Holocaust survivors. I’m not complaining. Or bragging. But I just always felt like an outsider in my own community. A big part of that was my family’s religious status, too.

Anyway. I just wanted to say – I watched you as a kid. Not in a creepy way. In a curious way. The way words rolled off your tongue; the words had different edges to mine. The way you’d sometimes mention a story about back home where you grew up. The way occasionally I heard you speak another language, only for you, it wasn’t the second.

The way so many of you had groups of friends with the same background and you’d get together. Everyone there spoke your first language and I didn’t understand, or understood a little because it was my second language. Or how a group of people from different countries could still commiserate over the Old Country, even if the nationalities were unique to each of you.

I always wondered what that was like. To be from somewhere else.

Now I’m here. Somewhere else. And I’ve got kids. Kids with immigrant parents. And  I’m so caught up in my own tangled ideas about being an immigrant, labeling ‘whereyoufrom,’ speaking words with different edges, making it, that on some days, I could just cry.

And some days, I do.

They say, you can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends. But when you’re an immigrant, sometimes it’s the opposite. You get thrown in somewhere where people talk like you, and slowly build what becomes your family.

I guess you guys did that, too. I remember there always being someone at a party or event, labeled as ‘my cousins… I mean, not my real cousins, but my cousins.’

I get it now. Even if we’re not totally there yet.

I also get, after eight years, that it’s ok to melt into your own people for a few minutes sometimes. It’s ok to show your kids that there are so many parts to what make them whole.

That they can feel comfortable with different crowds.

I don’t want to hold my kids back. I have a lot of my own crap to work out. I worry about it a lot.

But once in a while, I have this thought:

That for you, parents of my childhood friends, it’s now thirty or so years later…

…and your kids have done just fine.

 

P.S. – Seriously, your English was always amazing. I appreciate it so much more now. Even if, upon request, I did sometimes explain the slang.

The day the Praying Mantis came to visit.

It’s fun to come home with the kids and hand your son the house key so he can run ahead and then watch him stare at the front door and step back and look at you from over his shoulder like, ‘Mom, whaaaa-?’

Because he had spotted this guy:

Now, I’m that mom and made the saving of the praying mantis a whole elaborate experience, complete with talking to the scared creature, conducting the plastic cup/mail envelope rescue, and setting it free in the dirt of our mini-pomegranate plant.

Then we watched as it took about 20 minutes to climb up from the bottom of the plant to the top of our stone wall.

And eventually fly away to bite off the head of her scorned lover or be bitten by his own.

For days afterwards, the kids would run to the front door to see if we’d have another guest. No such luck yet.

Fifty-Two Paragraphs

Sometimes, pretending to be an amateur photographer helps me be creative.

In choosing a photo to submit for this week’s Fifty-Two Frames, I asked my husband about a cheeky idea I had.

“I think you’re a writer, not a photographer.”

In other words, I seem to enjoy playing with the captions more than handling the photographs. Really, I’m photojournaling.

“Start a Fifty-Two Paragraphs. That’s who you are.”

Intriguing, and then I went off to class, where tonight I was one of the writers to be critiqued on a submitted piece. That exercise may have finally knocked me over the head.

I’m not being the writer I am today.

Ten-year-old me is being the writer I am today.

I’m twenty years late to my own party.

When I was a kid, I had a fear of writing things down because I knew they’d never be as perfect as they were in my head. I ended up focusing on poetry and journal writing. It was easy to perfect poetry, and it was easy to let journal writing be imperfect.

Now I’m an adult, and I’m still journal writing. I’m trying to write fiction, to tell the stories I have inside, and all I’m doing is tugging at a grain of whatever it was I had back then.

It’s not working.

At least I’m learning.

So… Fifty-Two Paragraphs?

Move over Tel Aviv; Yafo is a great day

A few weeks ago we trekked down to Yafo to give the city a little spin. I’ve never actually spent much time there aside from venturing in-and-out for conferences (and apparently writing about it very briefly). We basically parked at the beach and walked up through the port and then towards the center, through the Jaffa Flea Market – Shuk Hapishpeshim – and then back.

It was sweet.

There’s actually all kinds of history as the ancient port city of Israel, read up. I also enjoyed feeling like a tourist in some old Mediterranean seaside town. Which, luckily, is what it is.

Here are my favorite photos, which speak for themselves. And also, go to Jaffa.

Lots of fisherman. Lots of fish. Lots of fish restaurants.

A rare (for me) view of Tel Aviv.

Walking towards the port from the parking lot, passing through art galleries.

That vintage look works on Yafo.

Port style.

Jaffa is not too cool for the Segways.

Everything is relative.

On the way to the market.

Shuk Hapishpeshim – literally, flea market.

Lots of fleas, actually.

How fun to adopt this guy.

See you later, Jaffa!