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

Bebe update: four years

New to the Bebe show? Here’s what you missed. 

Four years ago I became a mom for the second time – to a quiet, sleepy, cuddly bebe. Nicknamed by her older brother before she was born, Bebe is also who made me mother to a daughter.

I often feel that while I teach my firstborn a lot – because he asks, because he listens – since she showed up, Bebe has actually been teaching me.

There’s something about you, Bebe, inherently, that makes it so natural and easy for you to give. Here are a few things you’ve brought to me in the last six months.

Next stop: Makeup Princess Kingdom

I had heard it was inevitable. I had heard I must suck it up. I heard it would come, and it would pass.

And still, before I knew it, it had already snuck up on us. First there were the hair accessories. The preference for dresses. It had crept into the house in the form of rubber bracelets, plastic rings, cheap nail polish.

Then, last Purim morning, after months of wanting to dress up as Hello Kitty, after getting your face paint sorted out (all over your face, while calling it makeup,) it came. You asked to be something else. You said the p-word.

So here we are, at Makeup Junction. Princess Parkway. I actually like giving you licence to explore paints, powders and gels (on your face). And if I remove all the girly and non-girly rhetoric of today, I remember that I, too, loved mixing and matching jewelry and hair clips.

I’m ok with it. I’m ok with it. I’m ok with it.

So fill up my old Caboodle (!), since princess or not, you still manage to keep –

Walking your own way

You wouldn’t be one of us if you weren’t a weirdo.

It’s not that you’re a total outlier. You peek around to see what other kids are doing. You hang back if it’s too new, too fast, too in-your-face.

But then I catch you – when you forget to check that anyone else was doing it, when you lose yourself in the moment – I catch you just doing it your own way…

You’re willing to hear me out

I’m not an extremist in any direction, and that’s, bottom line, really all I’d want to pass on for my kids. You’re young, so who knows how it’ll turn out.

But for now, at this point, though often it feels you are already a pre-teen, you are willing to hear me out. If I’m suggesting an outfit, if I’m offering advice on which page to color, if I’m discussing the merits of going into a career where you’re not just a princess but the princess OF [something specific and productive], you listen. Sometimes you stick to your opinion. Sometimes you take me on. And it goes both ways.

I guess I’m learning to try and be accepting. That I have hopes you’ll accept the challenge of making it as far as you want as a female in this world. That you could go as far or in any direction you want, really. That’s what’s important to me. I hope it will be important to you.

And then, you started speaking up

Growing up, over and over, all I ever heard was ‘speak up!’

When I realized I had started saying it to you, it freaked me out a little.

But after a mix of growing a bit older, having Koala as an older brother, have a baby sister, and overcoming some bilingual challenges, you have started speaking up. You’ll tell me a story with incredible detail. You’ll tell us you don’t like something, and why, and please, ima and abba, stop doing it.

And there’s always been a little sass in your back pocket. I love it. And you need it – everyone needs a little sass. So keep it close, use it when appropriate. You’re being heard.

Bebe, here’s to another year of learning and growing, of telling me what is and what isn’t, of teaching me how to be and how to give and how to love. I have a lot more to learn and I know that you have a lot more to give.



Nettles update: twelve months


We did it! We made it to one! You’re still a functioning human baby and I’m still a functioning mother of three!

You’ve experienced much beyond your year. A busy home life! Job interviews! Two trips abroad! Two snows – make that three snows – make that a ton of snow between two countries! Exhausted mother bumping you into things! Siblings stepping on your head!

You destroy things, but you also build.

When you enjoy food, you really enjoy food.

You’re feeling out nature (without eating it all the time).

You’re talking back to us, to the dogs, to the walls, to the pacifiers, to the occasional Sesame Street.

You’re one of the gang.

I remember seeing you the first time like it was an hour ago. My first thought was, ‘it’s a girl?!’ and my second thought was ‘hahahaha your awkward first photo is going to haunt you.’

And then, just like that, like a puzzle piece, like a booster seat strap, you snapped right in… to my arms, to our daily routine, to our car (thank you Diono) and to our family life.

Keep wide-eyed, keep growing, keep laughing with us Nettles.

Nettles update: eleven months

It’s very possible you are the cutest thing ever to have existed.

There’s nothing about your face that I don’t want to eat.

There’s nothing about your laugh that I don’t want to make you keep laughing.

In the last month, you’ve really gotten involved with the household chores. Or, as a parent would call them, ways you go around and mess up the house so I have more to do. But I appreciate the sentiment.

You are incredibly curious. You’ve flown internationally twice now. You’ve been on countless day trips. You take it all in. Every little thing. It’s obvious in the way you look at the world.

You’re moving along so fast… You watch what’s going on with your brother and sister and you want to join. You see a button, you have to smash it. You see a bathtub, you have to hang out next to it until everyone has left the bathroom. You see the stairs, climb them, and I have to breathe really quietly and step really lightly to catch you from falling down them from laughing too hard.

You stood up by yourself for a couple seconds, just to try it out. You get your kicks from just about anything. For example, punching me in the eye. Repeatedly.

On that note, you are a relentless cosleeper.

It’s clear you take more risks than your siblings ever did. You refuse to miss out on the fun, crawling right up to the pile of Lego and freaking out your brother (“She’s going to eat it!”) or attempting to brush your sister’s hair with your nails (“She hurt me!”)

Hey, I warned them you’d want to get involved sooner or later.

And they take you on, too.

But my favorite thing from the last month was that you’ve sharpened your first word. It started out ever so softly, so much so I didn’t realize it. But now I do.

Eeehmma, eeeehmma…

Nettles update: ten months

Your first snow. You kept swinging your head back, looking up at the sky, flakes in your eyelashes.

You speak your language. With your eyes, with your hands, with the beginnings of your words. You mimic and gesture, you glare and nuzzle, you capture the moment in your hands with your touch.

You take a stand… against the walker, against the table, against the laundry, against your siblings.

You get involved. You’re here, you want a turn, you want recognition, you want to make the rules, you want to make the jokes, you want to run the show.



Nettles update: Nine months

You are a force.

Barring, well, physics, you are unstoppable.

The world is your jungle gym. You will claw and climb until you get there (by the way, ouch, get your nails cut).

I couldn’t figure out what was missing – your siblings had a coffee table to learn how to stand up with. We long ditched it, so now there’s not much. Except there is, because I in the last week, I’ve found you’ve figured it out.

So today I caught you like this: (“Oh, that’s a walker?”)

“Ma!!! Ma what are these things in the bath?!?!”

A couple Fridays ago we enjoyed The Great Onion Discovery.

You mangled your prize.

You’ll play along with the rest of them… As long as you’re involved in what’s going on, you’re content.

Especially when it involves mangling.

And, if I haven’t made it clear, you move too fast to be photographed.



Nettles update: eight months

Things have been moving quickly, and by things I mean Nettles.

Aside from the getting across the floor, entering other rooms, and eating whatever didn’t make it into the garbage can, I finally acknowledged your need to climb things. So the overturned laundry basket is now yours.

How are those two little front teeth coming along? We know they’re in there. Under that wiggly, pointy tongue of yours.

(I like to manipulate it on Friday nights by giving you spoons of grape juice and watching you tiny tongue peek out like a kitten’s.)

You don’t mind wearing hats. That’s kind of new. Winter’s coming after all.

And speaking of heads… are you growing curls?

The hair-pulling really hurts. So does getting slapped in the face.

But back to the hair pulling. Bebe is really patient with you right now, but please realize that won’t always be the case.

On that note, I think from what we can see so far, you are really lucky with what you got in a brother and sister. Koala’s concern, Bebe’s coddling. They’re both so excited when you reach a new milestone, show a new trick. They cheer you on. They feed you while I try to get them fed. They teach you. They even tell on you (it’s a good sign, they’re including you).

And they’re lucky because you happily and easily and enthusiastically offer feedback. You respond, you admit, you engage. Your eyes will brighten when you want them to ‘do it again!’ and you’ll laugh hardily when they’ve gone that extra mile to please you. You’ll even offer a pity giggle when it’s warranted.

You’re always, but always, down for a cuddle.


Is it possible to raise modern kids with a less gendered tone? And other thoughts on my tzitzit-wearing daughter

Here’s how my kids tell it:

This morning, Koala offered Bebe a pair of tzitzit to wear today. Note that this on the heels of last week’s Bebe deciding to wear a kippa to gan (and actually doing it the whole day – I was more impressed hair-wise!).

So Bebe accepted his offer. I walked into their bedroom and found her putting them on, over an undershirt, before her sweatshirt. She looked up, beaming.

“I’m wearing tzitzit!”

And I was beaming too, and kinda chuckling, and before I could say anything, she was blessing them. Correctly. Standing there, shuckling, holding the strings in both hands.

I dutifully replied, “Amen!”

The rest of the morning I waited for her to ask to take them off. When we got downstairs she was only emboldened. She took out one of Koala’s old kippot and put it on. She repeated the blessing for the tzitzit and danced around the room. Somewhere between walking Koala to gan and following Bebe to hers, the kippa came off – it was too big and bothersome. But I watched Bebe stride into her gan, greet her teachers, and walk off to see her friends. Confidently.

Later, I asked her – very delicately – if during gan prayers she had said the bracha on the tzitzit. This orthodox-religious gan is located in a very secular-traditional town, with a generally pluralistic (for national religious lite) religious community. The staff are either dati leumi or traditional mizrahi.

I was trying not to put a spin on her experience. She reported matter-of-factly that she had said the bracha – and proceeded to recite it again. I asked, “with the boys?” She replied, “the boys said [insert mumble mumble ‘mitzvat tzitzit’] and then the girls said [insert mumble mumble ‘k’riztono’] and I said the bracha on the tzitzit.”

So let’s get this out right here: This is way less about religion for me than it is about gendered experiences. I don’t wear a talit, I don’t wear a kippa, hell, I barely pray and when I do it’s not to who you might think.

My three-year-old daughter, any way you slice it, is not considering God’s law when she is trying out new things. She’s curious about clothing and ritual. She’s testing out what other kids do. She’s figuring out boys and girls. She wants to be like her older brother. She’s heard me say boys can have ponytails and girls can have short haircuts.

She wants to be involved.

So she’s feeling it out.

That’s how I see it. Is it a sign that my attempts at toning down gender expectations are working?

I mean, there is so much to beat back. So much, it hurts. The colors, from birth. The clothing that reads ‘Daddy’s little girl!’ or ‘Boys get dirty!’ The behavior expectations. The princesses and ninjas. The kinds of activities on offer. The words directed at them. The way we praise. The way we criticize.

Involvement. Involvement in ritual, in activities, in anything we desire to try.

How much of kids is who they were born as, and how much is the way we’ve sorted them into genderized compartments?

I don’t think we should ban princesses or force boys to take ballet. I wouldn’t deny my son the opportunity to be a Ninja Turtle on Purim and, gulp, my daughter to try her hand at princessing any given year. Turns out, of all the chugim I offered them for the year, Koala wanted soccer and Bebe absolutely loves her ballet class.

So it’s in the little things – the things they ask about, the things they want to try, the questions they ask – that I try my hardest to leave it objective. So they can choose their involvement.

And are my tiny efforts going to make a difference?

Perhaps now that I have children – or perhaps the times I’m parenting in – probably both – I can’t help but see instances, trends, expectations in my childhood that molded me to be a certain way. They were everywhere then. And they are everywhere now.

Sometimes it makes me sick.

So while maybe my son’s ‘black velvet kippa’ phase was more about religion (for adults) than anything else, I really believe Bebe’s tzitzit-wearing is more about gender. And for her, it’s more about being involved. She’s asked to wear them on shabbat for tefillot.

I don’t know where it will go religiously. It’s actually more shocking that my son still wears his tzitzit than that my daughter is interested in being involved in a daily activity.

But this should be about gender expectations. We should talk about gender expectations. When applicable, there are actions to take to break down some gender expectations.

And, c’mon, little girls in tzitzit is just as freakin cute as little boys in tzitzit.