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.

 

Hanukkah in Jerusalem

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I love Hanukkah! Currently it is my favorite holiday of all. It is so amazingly beautiful, so cozy and at the same time so deep.

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We celebrate the miracle of Light. For eight whole days, and not the least for eight beautiful nights we focus on Light!

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I can now look back on eight days full of sweet moments. So many amazing sights of shimmering oil lamps and flickering flames.

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Songs of darkness being removed as light comes in and takes over, and songs of how each one of us are all little lights!

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I have loved having my children home from school for the days of Hanukkah. This makes for so much more relaxing evenings, and not the least more relaxed mornings! It was a wonderful and much needed break for all.

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And I have LOVED walking the streets of Jerusalem during these cool Hanukkah evenings. Seeing the hanukkiot (Hanukkah-menorah) getting fuller and fuller every night, ever more beautiful and bright.

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And there are so many of them! Last night my dear husband and I went for a long run through Jerusalem, and we decided to count how many hanukkiot we saw on our way. The final count was 773 hanukkiot!!!

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The focus on the theme of dedication has been special for me this year. The name of the holiday, “Hanukkah”, means “Dedication”. The Temple was re-dedicated to God, to be a holy and suitable dwelling place for Him.

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The challenge that I am taking with me as we go towards the end of this year’s Hanukkah, is to dedicate myself even more to be a good dwelling place for God. I want to make more room for Him, to fill myself even more with Him, spend time in His Word and get closer and closer to Him.

 

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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!

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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?

Rosh hashana preparations, and napkin ring challot

Here we are at this time of the year again, – Rosh Hashana is right around the corner! I am sitting here in my holiday-decorated home, feet up, candles lit, wine in my glas, – yes, life is good!

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For the last few days, we have done a bit of preparations every day. The majority of the shopping we did already last week, – sooo happy with that decision as the supermarkets get pretty crazy in the days leading up to a major holiday like Rosh Hashana. (It is like we think we will never be able to shop for food again!) Yesterday I drove by a couple of supermarkets on my way to a wedding, and just driving by the parking-lots was stressful!!

Anyway, this year’s rosh-hashana-shopping was a breeze for me! I just wrote a detailed list, sent it with my husband who went to a supermarket late at night after work, and brought everything home on his motorbike! (He is amazing, I know!)

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And then on Sunday I started the cooking. I made a huge pot of chicken soup that day, and a lot of challot, because all of that does fine with a few days in the freezer. I tried something new with the challah this year. Always for Rosh Hashana I make round challot, as it symbolizes the circle of a year, we end one and start a new one. (By the way, – here is the recipe!)

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So, in addition to two large challot on our holiday-table this year, we will each have a mini round challah as a napkin-ring! It was so easy too!

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I just made these looong thin braided challahs (with nice help from the princess), and then connected them in rings to foil-covered empty papertowel-rolls.

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I brushed them with an eggyolk, and baked them for about 12 minutes, let them cool slightly before disconnecting them from the rolls, and they came off really easily. Fun stuff!

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And while I am showing you my productions, – here are some of my Rosh hashanah gifts:

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Raspberry-jam made from the raspberries we picked in Norway this summer, and then froze and brought back home with us to Jerusalem. Yummy, and fun to share! 🙂 And I must say, – just the smell of the jam as it is being made…. I can just close my eyes, and I am back in Norway for a moment…

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As I have been busy preparing for this after work for the last few days, it is helpful that the kids have started to help with lunch-preparations. This was the princess´ turn at it:

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No worries, she was only in charge of the pot in the front, – cooking pasta. I was making chicken soup and jam in the back pots.

While it is nice to have big kids who can help out and stuff, I am glad my kids are still young enough to enjoy crafts in preparations for the holidays. We have had our craft-station set up at the diningroom-table, creating a really fun atmosphere.

kids craftHere we are, at the day before the holiday, and I woke up this morning with a feeling of that today will be an efficient day. So the first thing I did was write a long list of everything I was going to get done after work. And let me tell you, some things on that list were so much more tempting than other things. I like baking, cooking and decorating soooo much more than cleaning and ironing… So the kids and I made a plan in the afternoon, that we were going to finish cleaning the house before opening our Rosh-Hashana-decoration-box. They both worked well on their rooms and put away laundry, while I vacuumed the house, cleaned the bathrooms and changed the beds, – and then came the prize of decorating! Fun fun fun!!!

Of course we put on the right music to put us in the mood, and then it is always fun to find the crafts that they have made the previous years, and all the other decorations that we keep from year to year. It is all simple stuff, but it is still the things that we use year after year, so it has a certain value to us.

Tomorrow I will cook the meats and some side-dishes. Desserts were made today. And then there is the special prize for tomorrow, – the setting and decorating of the table! My sweet mother in law kindly offered to come set the table for me to help me out. But I explained to her, – that is why I invite people, so that I get to decorate a nice table!!! 😉

We are going to have long tables for both nights of the holiday, and then plan on a more relaxing shabbat afterwards. I am really looking forward to all of it! Planning to enjoy it all!

Our family photo from the kotel this year

Our family photo from the kotel this year

I am hoping to stop by the blog again tomorrow, and maybe show you how the napkin-rings look at the actual table and stuff, but in case time does not allow, – I wish you all a shanah tovah u’metukah – a good and sweet new year!

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!”.

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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.