The wisdom of asking questions

Asking questions is something that is very encouraged in Jewish tradition and culture. We see this already in Abrahams relationship with God, – he asks questions, and it is acceptable and encouraged. You want to raise your children to be critical thinkers, not to just receive and accept whatever they are told without thinking for themselves.

Kite flying during chol hamoed Pesach

Kite flying during chol hamoed Pesach

We have an eight year old and a ten year old here in our home, – and boy, do they ask questions! Of all kinds! Our daughter will very often at night, when I have prayed with her as she is going to bed, quickly turn to me saying: – Can I ask you something? And of course, I say yes, as I am trying to prepare for the coming question. Often it is just something little, like: – What are you going to do now? Where are you going to be? How long do you think you’ll stay up? But then all of a sudden she asks: – Imma, do you believe in hell?? Eh…. good night and sweet dreams to you too!

And then the other day, she was wondering: -Why is water wet?? We actually googled that one, and found that many others had asked the same question, and the answer is that “wet” is how you describe the feeling of water. So there you go! You’re welcome.

the kite high up in the air

the kite high up in the air

Now at Pesach the whole thing of asking questions is part of our rituals. There are standardized questions that we all ask and answer, and we hear about different types of children, of whom the saddest type is the one who doesn’t know to ask. This year we talked about the fact that somehow the one asking the question may in certain ways be wiser than the one providing the answer. I gave the reasoning that the one asking the question is openminded and ready to learn, while the one answering, may have more of an attitude of “having arrived” and not seeing the need to keep on moving forward and learning. Then one of the children added; – and the one giving the answer, may even have the wrong answer…

So, people, let’s keep asking questions. Let’s keep thinking and seeking and learning and growing! It is OK to come up with answer too of course, as long as we keep an open mind to learn more about the subject.

Enjoying Pesach

The weeks leading up to Pesach are always very much influenced by the fact that they are the weeks leading up to Pesach. In addition to work and all the normal parts of life, you take on this huge project of sorting through all your belongings and cleaning every little corner in your home. This culminates in the cleaning of the kitchen which comes at the end of it all, – there you scrub your pots until they look brand new, and the same goes for the oven (I am SO thankful that my husband takes care of those parts!).

My husband using a blowtorch to clean an oven-rack.

My husband using a blowtorch to clean an oven-rack.

Then I boil everything, – utensils and pots and anything metal. Glas gets to stay, but anything ceramic gets removed and replaced by our Pesach-dishes. All of this we do in order to remove the leaven from our homes. And as I work on it, I try to think of what this symbolizes, – the removal of sin and pride and everything bad from our lives, our hearts.

And then Pesach arrives, and you decide that it is all good enough. The last day before Pesach was devoted to cooking, – in my sparkling clean kitchen and my almost new pots! (And somehow after that it was not all so sparkling clean anymore, but at least there was no leaven…)

Our Pesach table

On erev Pesach we sat around our decorated long dining room table and enjoyed one of the most special evenings of the year together with dear family and friends. I sat there and just soaked it all in. The sights of the candlelight flickering on my children, the sounds of the singing of these familiar and traditional songs, the depth of the content of what we were reading together. I am glad that a Seder Meal takes a long time. Just think of all the preparations that have gone into this! You wouldn’t want it to just fly by!

Our family ready to enter the holiday of Pesach. :-)

Our family ready to enter the holiday of Pesach. :-)

By the time the festive meal was served, we were all quite hungry, – so I got tons of complements on the cooking! This is the way to do it folks, – starve your people before feeding them, and they will love your food! ;-) We had the traditional chicken soup with matzaballs, then we had turkey breast and beef, both with their own gravies, mashed potatoes and tzimmes (*which I think was the most popular dish, so I might write a separate post with its recipe), and of course salad and all the parts of the seder-plate, of which of course the sweet charoset was the one that most was eaten from. A good friend brought yummy desserts, one forrest-berry mousse cake and one chocolate mousse cake, – yum and double yum!

Pesach

In the weeks leading up to Pesach I had late nights sorting and cleaning, and I kept waking up really early thinking of what project on my list I was going to try to get to before I was starting work that day. And really, I am the type of person that enjoys that type of thing too. I really really enjoy the results, tidy cabinets, the thought of that I know what I have and where I have it. And now after Pesach arrived, – I have slept soooo well! Long nights, relaxing mornings. No thoughts of what I have to accomplish, – just enjoying time with family and friends. It is lovely!!! There certainly is a time for everything.

Pesach at the pool

We have had good friends from out of town staying with us, and have really enjoyed hanging out with them. Be it over long breakfasts or by the pool in the afternoon or watching a movie in the evening. We also got together with a lot of our friends here in the area for a fun barbecue picnic in a large park here in Jerusalem. Lots of fun! The children get to run around playing with various balls and kites, or just roll around in the grass, while the adults get to sit on picnic blankets and enjoy good food and fellowship. (The kids of course eat too, – but quickly…)

Pesach picnic

Today we have had a wonderful time touring the land together with my in-laws. We visited Shilo and Psagot in the beautiful hills of Samaria. The views of these terraced hills are just breathtaking. And the thought of the depth of history of what has been going on out there is amazing.

Where the tabernacle stood

Where the tabernacle stood

The Tabernacle was in Shilo for 369 years after Joshua brought the Israelites into Israel. So this was the place were the people came to for worship, like they came to Jerusalem after the Temple was built.

a model of the altar that was in the tabernacle

A model of the altar that was in the tabernacle

It was in Shilo, for example, that Hannah came and prayed for a son, and later brought Shmuel there to serve God in the Tabernacle.Pesach trip

They have very well done movies in both Shilo and Psagot, and they have as a common theme that they want to connect you with the Land.

photo 1-83 Once you connect with the Land, it will connect with you. This is an amazing process, and I witnessed it happening in my children today.

The view towards Jerusalem from Psagot

The view towards Jerusalem from Psagot

It was a real privilege to be out there as a three generation family. We are so blessed!photo 3-67

I am glad Pesach is not over yet! I am planning on making the most of every moment of this holiday of freedom and redemption!

Pesach trip

My Jerusalem Marathon Experience

One of the things on my bucket list got accomplished last Friday when I completed the Jerusalem Marathon. I can’t say I finished particularly strong, but I ran the whole thing and finished with a smile.

The Jerusalem Marathon is one big collection of hills, really. As we were finishing the climb up to French Hill towards the Hebrew University, one British runner asked me: “This is the worst part, isn’t it?” Wanting to provide the positive answer he wanted to hear, but at the same time sticking with the truth, I answered: “Yes, and then there is another tough one on the other side of the university.” Ah, yes”, he said, “That is another worst part…” I didn’t have the heart to tell him that there were another five worst parts waiting for us downtown afterwards…

Me running up Jabotinsky, at around kilometer 27. Still smiling.

Me running up Jabotinsky, at around kilometer 27. Still smiling. And look, ahead of the Ethiopians, – at least some of them. ;-)

This same runner was the one who turned to me before this exchange, and asked if I was going to be smiling during the whole race. :-) I answered that I was planning to run with joy. One might as well enjoy it, if one is doing it! And the smiling came easily through the first three quarters of the race. After that I had to work on it. Really, there is something that happens in a Marathon once you hit the 30 – 32 kilometers. I told myself that this is where the marathon starts, up until now it has only been warm-up, and wow, was that marathon hard! I kept reminding myself that I had trained in Jerusalem, and therefore had a huge advantage in comparison to all those who came from abroad and other places in Israel. It’s hard to imagine how hard it must have been for them!!

There were plenty of water stations, and good crowd support, which was highly appreciated. Lots of little children had come out to cheer, I high-fived them all, and I stopped to hug my daughter and mother in law who waited in the middle of the hill at the 25 kilometer mark. I loved seeing the Jerusalem savtot (grandmas) hanging over balconies or out of windows and shouting encouragements after us, - Great job, you guys! You are amazing!!

Our running family. My husband and I both did the full marathon, and our 10 year old son did the 10 K.

Our running family. My husband and I both did the full marathon, and our 10 year old son ran the 10 K race.

But in spite of the well put together race and everything, the hills were very hard, as was the burning sun from a sky free of clouds. So around the thirty kilometer mark I realized that I would not be able to make my time-goal, and I made a new goal which was simply to keep running, and not start walking. You would be surprised at how many people start walking during the last kilometers of the race! They must have been running at an ok pace up until that point, but then somehow just give in to the exhaustion of the process, and start walking. Oh, but it was tempting several times! Especially in that killer hill at around kilometer 40, where more than half of the people around me were walking, and I was running at a super-slow pace, but at least I past the ones walking.

Here is my husband finishing his race. In an amazing time of 3 hours 39 minutes. I don't know how he does it.

Here is my husband finishing his race. In an amazing time of 3 hours 39 minutes. I don’t know how he does it.

For the last quarter of the race I was struggling with a bad heart-burn and a feeling that I could throw up any time. This was the reason for me not pushing harder toward any time-goal, but just focusing on finishing, and keeping on running, no matter the pace. For the first three quarters of the race I kept sucking on some energy-giving jelly beans, which I enjoyed, but for this last quarter I could not even imagine trying to get one more of them down. I was very thankful for the bananas that were given out at two food stations along the way. That is such a perfect fuel for running, stabilizes the stomach and provides good energy. I had also brought some pretzels with me to help stabilize the stomach towards the end. Those were in a ziplock bag attached to my new fuel-belt (which by the way was a great help, freeing up my hands). But at some point in kilometer 26, a runner behind me yelled at me: “Hey, you are dropping pretzels!”, and yes, there was a hole in the bag, and I ate the remaining four pretzels soon after.

Me just after finishing and receiving my medal. I finished in 4 hours and 22 minutes, for those interested. The main thing for me was just finishing, and running it.

Me just after finishing and receiving my medal. I finished in 4 hours and 22 minutes, for those interested. The main thing for me was just finishing, and running it.

One of the few common experiences between this marathon and the Tiberias marathon I did a couple of months ago, was the bursting of a blister at kilometer 39. Only now I knew it was not a toe-nail that fell off. Both because I recognized the feeling from last time, and because I knew that toe already did not have toe nail… (sorry about the details…)

My amazing husband running another fantastic race. Coming up by Mt. Zion hotel here. You can see King David hotel in the background.

My amazing husband climbing the hill to Mt.Zion hotel. You can see King David hotel and the Montefiore windmill in the background.

To sum it up, – the Jerusalem Marathon is a breath taking experience. The views are spectacular. Really. The Jerusalem stone, the arches, the gates, the walls, the houses, the streets, the views of the desert surrounding the city, – all the people lining the streets cheering us on. It is an amazing experience. One that I might, just might, have to do again some time… We’ll see.

Life…

High time for another blog post. Somehow when the habit is gone, it is hard to get it done. Even though I think up all kinds of posts in my head, they just don’t make it to the blog… So here we go, – I thought I’d give you a sign of life.

At the time of writing, I am high above the clouds, in an airplane, on my way to Norway. The circumstances for this spontaneous winter trip are sad. My dear grandfather passed away, and the children and I are going to be with the family there, so that we can go through the mourning processes together. Our hearts are heavy with sadness trying to grasp the fact that this beloved man no longer is among us, but at the same time we are so very thankful for the life that he lived, and for all the wonderful memories we have from our times with him.

great grandfather

Going through this process, my grandfather becoming ill, being in the hospital and eventually passing away, has naturally influenced on my days. Somehow you become less present, and just go through the motions of life. Yet at the same time you become very aware of what is really important in life. – Take good care of each other. Be good to each other. Definitely to those close to you, but also, – it doesn’t hurt to just be kind to strangers you meet as well. You have no idea what kinds of struggles they are going through. The day my grandfather passed away, I was at the supermarket, and being totally distracted, midway through the shopping, I accidentally swopped shopping carts with another customer… I was thankful the other customer just smiled as we swopped back… Kindness is especially appreciated at times like those. And we just never know what others are going through, so we might as well have patience with them…

Back to the moment. I am sitting here watching my daughter. 8 years old and so excited about every little detail. She just got her child-meal, and upon opening the little butter-pack, she exclaims, - Ah, wow! Look! There is a star-pattern on it! Isn’t it just beautiful?

Oh, to have the simple joy of a child! To notice and appreciate the little things in life.

A big secret to how your life and your days are experienced, depends on your attitude. And here we have a choice. Why not choose a thankful attitude? Why not choose to appreciate the little joys and blessings along the way? Why not choose to show kindness to those around us, and to ourselves? This is our chance at life, – let’s make it a good one.

Fun Fridays

Here in Israel we only have one-day-weekends. (So be very thankful for your two-day-weekends those of you who have those! ;-)) When you add to the picture, that we do not drive on Shabbat, which is the only day off, – you have to be creative and very intentional about your trips and outings that are not done solely by foot!

Look how beautiful the almond trees are right now!

Look how beautiful the almond trees are right now!

I want us to utilize Friday afternoons as much as we can, to go straight into weekend-mode and enjoy it to the fullest. I stop working when the kids come home from school, and we have about four and a half hours till Shabbat starts. (Don´t forget that there are lots of preparations for this which also have to get done at some point…)

I should write a separate post about our princess and her dolls. She does not "play" with them, - she "practices" for becoming a mom...!

I should write a separate post about our princess and her dolls. She does not “play” with them, – she “practices” for becoming a mom…!

So the last two Friday afternoons we’ve been making the most of it. For the first one, we went jeeping and hiking in the hills surrounding Jerusalem.

hiking

It turned out such a lovely and wonderful outing! Just to smell the air, to rest your eyes on nature. I loved the feeling of being surrounded by nature only, – I am a nature girl at heart, I guess that is what it comes down to.

enjoying the hills of Jerusalem

I enjoyed watching the children skip along and get creative about coming up with games and fun stuff to do out there, – there was a positive energy going around.

flowers in Israel

The almond trees were blossoming. The poppies were popping up everywhere, as were the cyclamens. They were so beautiful! We only wished we could have picked some… If we were the ones making the rules, we would have said everyone can take only one, instead of making it none… ;-) But don’t worry, – we left them all there! We just picked some of the yellow ones, – now, don’t you tell him they are weeds!!

picking flowers

We came back home with renewed energy, and really felt like we had gone somewhere.

Jerusalem

On Shabbat I read something about finding the connecting points between heaven and earth. And really, when we have our eyes open to find them, – they are everywhere! Be it in the synagogue when singing the prayers together with our people, be it at home around the shabbat table with the family and at the same time with our whole people everywhere, – or be it out in nature enjoying His wonderful creation!

hiking

Then on this past Friday, it was actually the shared birthday of our prince and me. Yes, he was born on my birthday! The best birthday gift ever!!!

Ok, now for a special birthday moment. I was born 14 minutes after 2 o’clock on February 14th. That is twice 2.14, right? And then, this year, being 2014, – it was three times 2.14! So, – this is us making that very moment a special one, with really yummy chocolates for desert after having gone out for lunch to celebrate!

A sweet moment. I am so rich, - surrounded by my beloved family! #blessed

A sweet moment. I am so rich, – surrounded by my beloved family! #blessed

The power of positive belief.

Now you may think that this is going to be about religious faith, which really is the closest to my heart, but no, this time I am going to write about something that to me is a much more newfound revelation.

running in Jerusalem

running in Jerusalem

I have been thinking about it while I am out running. It is about how the physical and the psychological or emotional are so very connected. It really fascinates me. Because you would think that you could just tell yourself, – believe in yourself, believe that you can do it, think positively! But no. It has to be more real than that.

Blossoming almond tree

Blossoming almond tree

I had heard that “it is all in the mind” or that at least 50 % of let’s say marathon running, is psychological. Positive self talk and such. Belief in yourself, belief that you can do it. They say that is why we train, – in order to train our mind to believe that we can do it. Of course there is a physiological aspect to it, – I am not saying there isn’t. But that is just so much more obvious than this other more hidden one.

So anyway, – now I have experienced this for myself.

out running

out running

After I successfully ran the Tiberias marathon I got a real boost of confidence, and now out of the blue my pace is about 20 seconds faster per kilometer than it was before. It just jumped like that. Because I all of a sudden believed I could do it! This lead to me earlier this week running my first ever sub two hour half marathon distance. (Now, anyone who is familiar with those races and times will see that I am still not a fast runner, but hey, here it is all about comparing yourself to yourself.)

Almond blossoms

Almond blossoms

But really, – think about it, when you feel good, when you feel confident, your performance is just so much better than when the opposite is true! These things are all so connected!

I want to take those lessons to other parts of my life too, – that are much more important than running! ;-) An area that comes to mind is parenting. Not only is it important to think positively about our own roles as parents, – but we want to help the children experience this as well. I see it very clearly with them, – when they feel good, – they do great! When they don’t feel so good… -well, you get the idea. So we want to focus on successes, build confidence and think positively. And the positive will thrive!

just now...

just now…

PS. The photos in this post, with the exception of this last one, are from my recent runs in Jerusalem. The Almond tree is blossoming! Always such a hopeful and positive sign!

Movie Theater Birthday Party!

Time for another birthday party. Our son turned 10! Yes, it´s a big one. Two digits. He has been counting down for 101 days, so there was certainly no lack of neither expectations nor planning… ;-).

Birthday party preparations. :-)

Birthday party preparations. :-)

As soon as he started talking about wanting to do a Movie Theater theme for his birthday-party, we were supportive. We liked the non-competitiveness of it, the togetherness. And it seemed like something we could do and control. We got to borrow a huge screen from a friend here in Jerusalem, we already have surround sound set up in our living room, and there has been a projector sitting in our storage room for a long time already.

photo 4-38

I found fun movie-theater themed things like popcorn-cups at a local store, and our son went ahead and designed little movie-theater tickets which served as invitations to his party.

birthday party

We chose Donald Duck movies to be shown at the party, because those are in general clean and ok with everyone, it is a classic that most people like, and it was less likely that kids would complain that they had just watched that movie.

Fun decorating the cake.  Thank you, tante Raggi for the non-stop! :-)

Fun decorating the cake. Thank you, tante Raggi for the non-stop! :-)

It turned out they all loved it. And it seemed to be helpful that we kept bringing more and more food as well! :-) For this group of 9 children I made 6 large pizzas, and 7 bags of popcorn, – oh, and carrot sticks… And, of course, – birthday cake! We chose a really yummy chocolate mousse cake, and they ate almost the whole thing! Several came back for seconds! Growing boys!!

birthday party

It was such a joy to look over at the group of kids, and see happy faces, – and most of all such a content expression on the face of the birthday boy. At the end of the night, he said this was the best party ever! Now, I have to admit, – I think he has said that every single year at his birthday…

Make a wish...

Make a wish…

But I think for me, – this really is one of the favorites. We were never even close to a melt-down. In spite of all the excitement and all the expectations, everything just sort of went along relatively calmly. And for that I am thankful. It was a good experience in every way. Guests genuinely thanked for being invited, and also said it had been the best party ever… (It really is a kid thing, this “best ever”-thing…). I guess for them, life and everything, just keeps on getting better and better. :-) Not all bad, really. Not all bad.

birthday cake