Holding on to the moments

In a conversation with my son in the car yesterday, he expressed how impressed he was with my driving-abilities. (Oh, well, let’s enjoy it while we can! ;-)) Then, very fitting to his usual thought pattern, he started calculating how long it will be before he himself will start learning to drive. – In five years, I will be learning to drive a car, and in three and a half years I will learn to drive a small motorcycle… Then the conversation moved on to prices of motorbikes, and the insurance, and having an own bank-account and so on.

These types of conversations leave me with a thought of really wanting to hold on to the days we are living right now. We still have children who love hanging out with their parents, who really want to talk with us and share everything that is on their hearts. While I can go around hoping it will stay this way forever, I have to be realistic and realize that there are different periods and stages in life. And I totally love the stage we are in right now.

We have a ten year old daughter and a son who is just turning twelve. They are becoming more and more independent every day. Hey, – he cooked us Shabbat dinner last week! And this week he is actually not even home for five days, as he is gone on a trip with his grandparents! And as I was listening to her talking about rearranging her room this morning, I realized she is turning into a little me, in her own sweet way!

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While I love that they are becoming more independent, I also totally love that they still want us to be a very central part of their lives. They want to process their thoughts with us, bringing up their big questions about life and everything. They love playing games together with us, and just hanging out. I love those moments, the days we are living right now, and I want to really hold on to them. I have a feeling there will come a day when I will miss them. So right now, – I want to make the most of the opportunities that these days give, – to invest, to enjoy and to make memories.

 

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– Just sit here with me, Imma.

It is that time of the year. Various kinds of the flu, colds and unpleasant stuff are going around. This morning my little princess woke up with a high fever, poor one. She has been knocked out on the couch all day, and was only feeling worse come evening. (We will go to the doctor first thing tomorrow morning.)

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I didn’t take any pictures today, so here is one from New Year’s Eve when we had hot chocolates at the King David Hotel! 🙂

With both of my children, when they are sick like this, and I ask them: – Is there anything you would like? Anything I can get you?  All they want is for me to be there with them. – If you could just sit here with me, Imma…

And so I try to do just that. I have read out loud countless chapters of various books today. We have hugged, we have watched movies, and when she was feeling relatively strong because of fever reducing pain killers, we even started a new knitting project.

And this evening, I must have sat for more than an hour singing songs by her bed. But you know, I am thankful that these types of things actually seem to bring her comfort! It really seems to help! I imagine there will come days when it will seem harder to find something to do to help her, – now at least it is within my reach to do something that actually helps.

So at times like these, when my ten year old baby is in need of some tender loving care, I am so thankful to be able to give it to her, quite easily, in ways that actually comfort her!

At the same time, in between all the hugging and reading, I eat some chicken soup, drink some hot cider and do what I can to strengthen my own immune system. No time is a good time to get sick, but now especially so,  – I have a marathon to run in five days…

Living my dream

Do you remember what you imagined your adult life would be like when you were a child? Call it dreams, thoughts, imaginations, – I think we all had some sort of thoughts or expectations.

For me, if I were to think about it in a black and white type of way, I guess I would have to say that a lot turned out very different than I expected. But then again, – today there were so many moments when I just had to stop myself and think about it, – I am living my dream! What a blessing!

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Like so often, – I am reminded that it is the small things that matter. They make up life, really. Today was a beautiful day. Spring weather with sun from a clear Jerusalem sky. In the morning I got efficient work done for several of the different jobs I have, and still had time for a nice walk (and talk!) with a dear friend.

And it was especially in the afternoon that I was reminded of how this matches my childhood dreams for my adult life. The children both had friends over. The door was open, and they were playing inside and outside, everyone was getting along and there was plenty of creativity and positive energy going around. Two neighbor girls noticed all the fun going on in our yard, and it was decided that they would come and join as well. Meanwhile I was having tea and cookies with one of the moms.

It was one of those days. The kids ate well at the meals. No one got into a fight. Everyone played well and cooperated well. (I guess the fact that I notice these things, tells you that it is not always like that, but that is also part of life, right?)

And so it hit me, that even if the setting (country, language, culture etc.) is not the same as I imagined as a child, the content is still the same. I dreamed of being a mom, my children having friends over, me hearing them playing outside, opening the window to call them in for home cooked meals… Life. My dream came true!!

Even if not every day is like a dream, it is all part of life, and we will take what we get served. Enjoy the good days and grow on the more challenging ones.

And even the parts of my life that are different than I dreamed, – really, I could not possibly have dreamed of the turn my life was to take! It was too much, too good to be imagined!

I feel very blessed, and have so much to be thankful for.

With the Bible as our History-book

The wintery weather has made its wonderful arrival to Israel, bringing blessed peace and cosiness and all kinds of good things! (Yes, it is almost funny how rain brings peace, but it really does, – I guess stone throwers don’t want to get wet and cold!)

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Right now I am sitting here in my warm home listening to the rain pouring down outside. In here it is so nice and cozy. Lots and lots of candles lit. I have fresh cream of butternut squash soup and yummy hot cider. Life is good.

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The last few days have been really nice. The children have majored on puzzles, we have enjoyed knitting and sewing, and I have been reading out loud to them from a book that was read to me (several times) when I was a child.

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I have to share one little conversation that developed from the reading. We heard about a girl who really liked the subject “history” in school. My children do not at this time have a subject called “history”, so they were trying to figure out what this would be. I suggested a subject they have where they learn about our country and our people, – because in “history” you sort of learn the history of your people, I explained. – Ah, they nodded in understanding, – that is what we call “Bible”! That is the history of our people! How precious, don’t you think? What a privilege to get to grow up with the Bible as your history-book, and that is where you find your ancestors and your identity!

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The reality is that the messages in the Bible are really central in so much of what is going on here! Recently I was at a race with runners from most of the schools in Jerusalem, our son was a participant from his school, and I was a parent coming along to help out. I was really impressed with the music chosen at this event, – it had such depth and content! To give you an example, one of the songs went like this: “Israel! Israel! Trust in the LORD!”  And another one was the whole psalm 121 “I lift my eyes up unto the mountains, where does my help come from?” 

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I really am thankful to get to raise my children in a country where faith and the Bible are given such a focus, and are seen as really relevant for our lives! There certainly is no place like Israel! Am Yisrael Chai!

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Joyful temporary dwelling

Here I am, past midnight, looking up on the palm-branches, decorations and lights that make up the roof of our Sukkah. We have been living out here for the past week. Really, – we have slept out here, eaten our meals out here and hosted several parties of guests out here.

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Such good times. A whole week of it! Before actually entering this time, you live in the illusion of it being a long time, but once it actually starts, it sort of flies by! Now it is the last night already. And I find myself sitting here trying to stop the time, or at least really hold on to the moment.

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The children have a friend over for a sleepover party in the Sukkah, and are still talking in the sleeping-bags next to me here. They LOVE Sukkot. All of us together all the time! What could possibly be better?? It’s like camping, just that you have all your comforts right there.

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One of the main commandments concerning Sukkot, is to be joyful! And to tell you the truth, it comes naturally. We have prepared for it. We have just come through the period of Rosh Hashanah, the ten solemn days, and Yom Kippur. Hearing the Shofar-blows marking the end of Yom Kippur is always such a relief. And after having something to eat, the first thing we do that very evening, is to start building our Sukkot. And the joy just becomes part of it. The relief, the thankfulness, the happiness, the playfulness of the whole idea of a Sukkah, hearing the neighbors building their sukkot next to us, the light atmosphere surrounding it all.

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Looking back at this past week, there are many wonderful moments coming to mind. Sitting around the holiday tables together with dear friends and family (in our sukkah or in theirs), eating tasty food, seeing the candles flickering, enjoying good conversation. Being at the synagogue and seeing all the lulavim (palm-branches) being shaken while hearing and joining in the hallel (worship). Very special experiences indeed.

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We have also made some short trips during chol hamoed. Today we went out to Shomron, which really can be called the heartland of Israel. Such views! Such a place! It is the like stones start talking and telling the stories of all they have seen over thousands of years!

Jerusalem

And just being downtown Jerusalem is a great experience at such a time as this. There are so many people out and about! So much fun stuff going on, so much to see! Look at this old map with Jerusalem at its center:

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And here we are at the Sukkah outside of City Hall:

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Tomorrow afternoon we are moving inside again, and tomorrow night we will sleep in our beds again. My princess just begged me for another night outside, – just one more, since we are enjoying it so much! But I am of the opinion that there is a time for everything, and tomorrow will probably be the time to go in the direction of normal again, and at least start sleeping in our beds. We still have one more holiday, – Simchat Torah, but that means Sukkot will already be over.

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It is kind of strange how both Sukkot and Pesach remove something very basic from our lives, – Pesach takes our bread, and Sukkot takes our homes. So then, once the holiday is over, and you get back what was removed, – you have gained a new appreciation for it! All of a sudden we don’t take our regular homes and beds for granted any more! We start noticing them and being thankful for them. Pretty genious, don’t you think?

Please make noise…

Quite regularly we have a relatively big group of children over to our house. Yesterday afternoon was one of those times. We had ten kids aged between seven and eleven around our dining room table, learning Torah, doing crafts, eating snacks, and well, being kids.

After about an hour and a half of them being kids (read: making noise), a couple staying in the apartment underneath us this week, knocked on the door. They wanted to ask about something completely unrelated to the fact that we had the group of children over, but I mentioned that they must have noticed the fact. The couple then explained that they loved hearing it, because their own home had turned too quiet, as they lost their young daughter in a tragic accident a few months ago… The woman turned to my son who had come to the door with me, and encouraged him to “Please make noise!”.

blessed noise makers

Now that puts things in perspective! Thank God we have these live and thriving little noise-makers! What enormous blessings they are, really! And what a huge change it would be to all of a sudden not have them here anymore… Impossible for us to grasp. I pray for comfort for those who have to go through this nightmare.

The perspective stayed with me for the rest of the afternoon and evening, and I found myself being very present there with my children also after the group had left. I was thankful for the moments. I enjoyed sitting next to my daughter as she did her Torah-homework, listening to her thoughts and opinions. I loved reading to them from a Norwegian children’s book that we almost know by heart as they ate their evening meal before going to bed. Getting just a tiny glimpse into the loss that the people who are visiting downstairs right now are going through, makes me incredibly thankful for all those everyday kind of moments. I don’t want to them to just fly by, – I want to be there, to be present, and make the most of them.

Thank God for these blessed noise-makers.

Remembering and Celebrating!

When we celebrate the independence of the modern state of Israel, it is a serious thing, that is done in depth and width and with so many aspects to it. As a family we started the season by going to the Hall of Independence in Tel Aviv on Friday last week. What happened there in May of 1948 was very well known to all of us, but being in the room was a first experience, and we were all touched by it. Sitting there and watching the seats David Ben Gurion and his people sat on, as they decided on the final wording of the proclamation of independence. Listening to the recording of his voice saying it: – …a Jewish state, the state of Israel. We heard of what Golda Meir had tearfully said as she sat there and was part of it, and thought of all those who had been brutally wiped out in the holocaust just a few years before; – it is all too late… But then there was the next thought, of the coming generations; – it is not too late for them. 

Independence Hall

As we stood there together and sang HaTikva at the end, I was really moved. Ok, I admit it, I am always moved singing HaTikvah, but this was very special, standing right there, joining our voices to their broken and heavily moved ones from 66 years ago.

Sunday night this week started the day where we respect and honor the memory of those who have died for what we get to live, – the modern state of Israel. We remember both soldiers and terror victims, as they have all fallen for our freedom here. Oh, and there are so many stories, so many individuals. 23 169 to be exact. And as a people, we take a real break and think of them and actively remember them together. At 8 o’clock Sunday evening we all stood in one minute’s silence in their memory, and at 11 o’clock on Monday morning we stood remembering for two minutes. Let me tell you, a LOT can go through your head during two minutes. I am thinking of all kinds of stories, individuals, heroes, who have fallen. I am feeling with and crying with their wives, mothers, sisters… And I am thinking of my dear ones, thankful to have received my own soldier back home time and time again.

As our children get older, they get to take a deeper and deeper part of this remembering as well. Our ten year old son was more touched by it than he has been before. At school they have a place to honor the fallen ones from their school, and they are always remembered in the ceremony at the school. Most of them were graduates who later, in their army service fell as soldiers. Those are of course very tragic too, but there is one that the children can really relate to already, and that is Sivan. Sivan was still a student at the school, when she on a spring afternoon of 1997 went with another girl to buy some school supplies in Ben Yehuda. And there was a suicide terrorist with a bomb strapped to him, who blew the girls up along with himself. They both died instantly.

A Yom haZikaron photo from Facebook

A Yom haZikaron photo from Facebook

Then there was the story his teacher had told him this year. Of her father being a young soldier, scheduled to do a certain flight. At the last minute, another soldier came and said: – you just got married, I’ll do this flight. He never came back. Had he not done that… we all know what that would have meant for the teacher and so many others. I am sure this young air force soldier is one of those that she remembers as we stand in silence.

As the sun sets at the end of this very emotional day of remembrance, we enter into total celebration, of what these people fought and fell for, of the victory, of the miracle, of Israel!!! And really, – we know how to remember, but we also know how to celebrate!!! And one would not have been what it is, without the other. They are so connected one to the other.

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As you float through the streets of Jerusalem on this night, the overriding theme in your head and heart has got to be: AM YISRAEL CHAI!!! The people of Israel lives!!!

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The amazing joy! The crazy celebrations! The singing! The dancing! The togetherness! All the flags everywhere, on everyone and on everything!

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This year it was also a particularly beautiful night. We have such hot days that they can be hard to bear, but then what helps us bear it, is the knowledge that there will be a beautiful night. Not too cold, not too hot, just perfect for being outside together with everyone else.

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The fireworks were spectacular! Really, better than I can remember them from the past few years. So big! So overwhelmingly taking over the sky! So celebrating!!!

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We fell into bed, slept well, and woke up to continue the celebrations today. And what everyone does today, is barbecue. It does not make a difference that it is so hot no one really feels like eating anything big, – that is the tradition, so that is what we do.

My daughter's plate at our barbecue today

My daughter’s plate at our barbecue today

People fill up the parks from early in the morning to get the best spots (*read: the shady spots). We felt like quite the winners this year, when we, after sleeping in a bit, went jeeping with friends of ours. This way we could escape the crowds and get to see our beautiful country that we are celebrating today. And, yes, find a good and quiet and nice spot for our own big barbecue.

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I really enjoyed the ride in the car. In the beginning I was suggesting songs about Israel, that the children learnt in gan (preschool), because we have been singing them ever since on this day. But, no, now they informed me that they are much too old for those now. So we ended up sitting there singing Arik Einstein songs. Good times indeed.

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And as we drove down from Jerusalem, through Shaar HaGai, the old tanks standing there decorated with flags are again a reminder of those who fought and fell for what we get to live.

The decorated tanks in Shaar HaGai, photo from the internet

The decorated tanks in Shaar HaGai, photo from the internet

Along this road between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, there is a lot of work going on to improve the road. We are always fascinated by all the large vehicles that work relatively constantly all along the road. Today, however, they were taking a break, and I totally LOVED seeing those too decorated with Israeli flags.

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This just goes to show that we are not only fighting for and defending our land, – we are BUILDING our land, our roads and everything!
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And just driving through our beautiful country, coming close enough to smell the flowers, and even catch the butterflies (yes, that was during the hike, not the actual drive…), is always a joy!

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Going with those particular friends has its fringe benefits, because they get us out relatively early, and therefore also back relatively early. So here I am, enjoying the shade of our umbrella in our garden, watching all the flags we have decorated with here. Not all bad, either. I always love it when all of a sudden there is some surprise free time that doesn’t have anything planned yet.

Our son has gotten into the snow-spray part of the celebration this year. (He did help clean the car afterwards...)

Our son has gotten into the snow-spray part of the celebration this year. (He did help clean the car afterwards…)

Anyway, – whatever I am doing, I am still celebrating! Happy 66th birthday, Israel!!! And, – thank you, God, for this wonderful modern day miracle!!