#ImmigrantParentProblems.

So, for just a minute, humor me.

I make an ongoing effort to forget how hard this is. I swallow a lot in order to make the daily grind seem easier. And I try to push away my lucky, amazing, beautiful problems because I know so many people have much worse challenges: poor health… empty wallets… loneliness… family strife… career drama…

But for just a minute, this is about me.

Living here – living anywhere – without your family backbone support is tough. There’s no way around it and there’s no way to sugar-coat it. When people leave Israel after having kids, citing ‘we needed to be closer to our family’ I have no response. I get you. This challenging existence – becoming a parent and making all the pieces fit, every single day – I imagine it would be fairly difficult even with your parents in the same country. City. Community. Street.

But to do this alone… especially when neither of you have parents or aunts or uncles or siblings or cousins or childhood friends nearby. To know every day you’re coming home and it’s all you. All the time.

If you’re going to go out, it’s a babysitter that eats up half your going-out budget. It’s a babysitter who, let’s face it, you’re going to constantly be wondering if the kids are ok for her, if she’s able to put them back to bed, maybe we shouldn’t stay out that late because it’ll be too much for everyone else.

To not be around your family as everyone grows older, changes, morphs into the next chapter – including your kids, including your parents, including the family culture you grew up with. Or even the opportunity to create your own.

To not have any of that family lifestyle. To be naturally independent but then forced to be independent.

To watch as so many people in this society around you do have it. That it’s an integral part of it.

Well, I don’t like to whine too much; I did choose this, it’s now complicated, and let’s face it, I want to raise my kids here and not where I grew up.

But it’s hard. And I’m allowed a few emo days now and then.

Ahem. I now pronounce the self-pity party over and I’m left with this container of amazing, creamy Israeli ice cream in my favorite flavor.

The F-word.

I’m not my best at 4am. Then again, show me someone who is.

Last night, everyone I live with made a subconscious decision to be very much awake and in some sort of need at 4am.

My son woke up to pee. Innocent enough, and while I’m very proud, he did it in a shrieking, freaking, panic-y sort of way: “Waaaahhhh peeeee waaaaahhhh peeeeeee!” Make that plural, since he had to go repeatedly in a 30 minute span, and throw a ‘kocky’ in there for good measure.

My husband, after helping son to the bathroom the first time, pulled a muscle in  his back. Heating pads, pillows on the floor, pressure pointing.

Then the hunger wail started. My daughter was hungry. Forever after. Wouldn’t let me put her down to help son with the on and off peeing. Wouldn’t let me put her down to get some kind of respectable sleep. She just loves me that much, you see.

At some point, my son was on the toilet, my husband was lying on the floor in agony, and my daughter was over my shoulder, when she wretched a liter of 2% down my back. As I grabbed a towel to mop up the mess, I looked up at nobody and figuratively threw up my hands:

“For fuck’s sake!”

I looked up and my son was staring at me. My little, innocent, delicious son, throned on the toilet, pants around the ankles, looking back at me.

“What dis?”

“What?” I exasperated.

“What dis?”

“What.” I spewed.

“Fucks.”

Oh.

“It means… It means… Ima’s overwhelmed.”

Another wonderful, glorious, wouldn’t-give-it-up-for-anything night with the f-word.

Family.

 

 

 

And then there were four…

Having two kids, I’ve heard people say, means now we’re a ‘real’ family…

Of course, it’s silly to think there is a limited definition to ‘real family.’ Two parents and a child felt pretty real, but so did being a couple before that. And I’m pretty sure it’s just the same whether it’s one parent with three kids, or two moms with one kid, or… etc, etc.

But, alas, we grew up reading story books making it so.

So here I am feeling a little bit like the Berenstein Bears (before the book where Mama has little Sister).

Back to gan.

We got back from Australia/Hong Kong late Monday night, kept off the radar yesterday and went back to respective offices/gans today.

The report from Koala’s ganenet was – shockingly good, for a kid who doesn’t sleep much on airplanes.

  • He is definitely taller than when he left.
  • He went to the play kitchen and did netilat yadayim with a cup in the sink – just like his Bubbe taught him every day in Australia.
  • He hugged all the kids.
  • He asked for things he wanted using words – food, water, etc.
  • He pointed to each motzetz and matched it with the kid it belongs to, from memory, along with their sippie cups.
  • He kissed the mezuza (and forced me to kiss it) on the way out.

So much about being away, being with family, being with eight cousins, really did a lot for Koala. He’s opened up, he’s expressing, he’s figuring things out, and he’s gotten over his fear of monkeys.

More on that later; I’m jet lagged.

Got a feeling this whole family’s going down.

It’s amazing the things you can plan a year in advance and then when the date finally arrives, you’re scrambling to make it all happen.

Weddings… Babies… Trips to Australia…

Oh, that? Yeah, we’re leaving tomorrow on a long-awaited, long-planned, finally here month-long trip to Australia to visit the family. And introduce Koala to most of them.

I feel bad for his cheeks already.

Homemade family magnets.

Don’t know about your kids, but mine loves to play with the fridge magnets. Well, with the fridge, period, but also, with the fridge magnets.

I combined that fact with a tip my mother (an early intervention specialist) gave me: show photos of family members to baby or toddler and teach them the names – mama, daddy, grandma, etc., to help him/her identify loved ones.

It’s especially important for us ex pats who left family behind. Half of my son’s extended family lives on one side of the globe, and half on the other. He has been fortunate enough to meet both great-grandmas twice now, but this is a way of incorporating them into his daily life. Same for his grandparents, uncles, and cousins.

It’s been on my to-do list for ages (it’s that kinda thing) and I finally got around to it this week. Here’s the recipe – cheap, easy, kid-friendly – if you’d like to give it a try.

Homemade family magnets

What you’ll need:

  • Photos
  • Colored paper
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Lamination machine/access to one
  • Stick-on magnets

Optional:

  • Love of your family
  • Fridge

Step by step:

  1. Choose photos that show a nice-sized, clear view of the person’s face (that’s the most important part, right?). For me, that ended up being a lot of photos of great/grandparents holding Koala – all the better, as he’s starting to recognize himself.
  2. Get the photos printed. For-real printed, not ghetto inkjet-style.
  3. Trim the photos down into fun shapes (for the sake of space and, yeah, fun shapes!).
  4. Create a background for each photo with a different colored-paper. Cut it in the same way but leaving a little bit of a border.
  5. Lightly glue the photo on to the paper (lightly, because it won’t matter once it’s laminated and you don’t want it to be weighed down).
  6. Go to Office Depot to get them laminated (it’s around four shekel a page). Or if you own a lamination machine, well, you know what to do.
  7. Place a strip of stick-on magnet to the back of each photo.
  8. Stick on fridge, bring your baby over and start naming people!

P.S. It’s a great idea for a kid’s birthday party if you can borrow/invest in a lamination machine.

P.P.S. If you’re friends with me and have a kid the same age as Koala, you better not steal that birthday party idea.

P.P.P.S. I think I’m falling in love with lamination machines. That could get dangerous. Stay tuned.

Koala update: ten weeks.

Is there any other example of how much we can change and grow in just a week or two? Do we ever grow and change as rapidly as we do at two months old?

A lot’s happened in the last month, and I’ll try to break it down.

We’re inching closer to doubling the Koala’s birth weight, which was on the low side when he was born – but he was tiny and proportionate, so I guess that’s all you can hope for, right? I’m amazed at how big he’s grown in two and a half months of life, but at the same time, I’m amazed at how much bigger other people’s newborns are. Not too worried though because Koala has the genetics of human giants.

Just after six weeks, the Koala showed off his first sure-fire non-poop-related smile. At first it took (obnoxious, high-pitched) coaxing from mama. Then, reactionary, as if it’s just simply funny to look at mama’s face. Finally, it happened: spontaneous smiling, already finding something funny by the time mama even gets to the crib. Maybe the thought of what mama looks like when she’s cleaning for Shabbat one-handed? Maybe her singing? Or how freaking funny it is you’re both up at 4 am?

And the cooing. So much to coo about these days. We have entire conversations together. There could be a Broadway play going in the background, but it couldn’t be as entertaining as watching him put his lips together and coo. And gurgle. And laugh in a quiet, open-mouthed, gummy-smile kind of way.

The initial fear of breaking him at my touch has long faded. We can fully enjoy the cheek-smushing, foot-stroking, and ‘fake hugs’ we have him give us around our necks.

It’s been repeatedly freaky to discover and rediscover how in sync I am with him. On this crazy subconscious physiological, biological level. One time he was in the other room, where I had let him lay on his tummy for a bit. Suddenly I remembered I left him there and as soon as I shot up to get him, he started whimpering. Coincidence? No way. It’s something neither of us can control. How does anyone ever let go of that? Not by choice, that’s for sure.

Every day there are moments when I look at him and just think, “love.” How it can all happen like that, so quick… From being a bloated laboratory for human growth and then an all-in-one food source, comfort source, love source for this creature you created.

Ten weeks older, ten weeks wiser, ten weeks more in love.

American taste since…

Ah, the good old days. Pesach celebrated with the family back in America. My grandmother’s Sephardi dishes, my brothers’ haggadah-reading entertainment. 

And of course, who could hold an American Pesach seder with the family without this gem of an experience: 

Kedem grape juice! I know plenty of American olim who claim that it’s better than any of the all-natural stuff they have here. Though I think not. 

Interested in reliving this American tradition? I found these bottles at a supermarket in – you guessed it – Efrat.