family

The Salt Water by Susie Lubell

I'm peeling the shallots and crying. I'm crying because I'm not with my whole family on Passover. But reminders of them are here with me. I'm setting the table for sixteen with a mix of plates (does anyone have setting for sixteen?). Half are the blue Calico china that my mom bought when I was three. Half are from the Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem which I bought when I decided I was old enough to have my own plates. I'm setting out the silver candle sticks for Shabbat that belonged to my grandmother. 

I'm crying because I'm remembering all of the Passover seders over the last forty years. I remember seders with the Sitzman family. I remember wearing my green velour jumpsuit, the one I wore every day for two years. I remember looking for the Afikomen in their twenty acre backyard. It might have only been half an acre. It might have just been a large patio. It seemed to me like a giant space to find a tiny cracker.

I'm crying because I'm no longer at the kids table. I remember seders at my parents' house, the house smelling of tsimmes and chopped liver and matsoh ball soup. I was always the youngest. I remember singing the four questions and reading about the son who was too young to ask. My brother always read about the wicked son. I remember thinking that was awesome. I remember drawing the hagaddah covers and my mom having them laminated and then using them for the next twenty years. I remember seders as a teenager when my Uncle Herb had to read about the bitter herbs. I remember hiding the afikomen and making the adults looks for it. 

I'm crying because I am so grateful for the family I married into. I remember the huge, wild seders at the Rosen house in Beer Sheva when my brother-in-law used to invite half his medical school class. It was one long kids table. I remember attempting to make matsoh egg rolls and vowing to never do that again. I no longer had to read the four questions because Mr. Rosen had a little sister!

I'm crying remembering a time when I felt more free. Before marriage, before mortgage, before kids. I remember trekking along the Anapurna trail in Nepal and realizing it was seder night. We ran into some other Israelis and asked if they wanted to have seder with us and they told us the seder was the night before. Oops. So Mr. Rosen and I improvised. We rolled a joint for our bitter herb, ate some dried fruit and nuts and called it charoset and then lay in bed freezing at 14,000 feet singing Who Knows One until we passed out. 

I'm crying because this year none of the kids at the kids table need my help eating. We've spent the last ten seders making memories for little kids. I remember the first year that Eliyahu came to our seder. I convinced Uncle Aaron to dress in a sheet, a rasta hat and sunglasses and swirl in at just the right moment sending small children into terrified hysterics. I remember when the older cousins couldn't find the afikomen until we noticed my one year old daughter sitting on the floor next to the hiding spot eating it. 

I'm crying because of the damn shallots. I'm preparing the chicken, roasting the vegetables, putting the hametz in the back room, unfolding the tablecloths that belonged to my husband's grandmother who passed away a year ago. I'm handling her silver too, amazed by how it feels different than our regular "silver"ware. I'm dusting off the Delftware seder plate that my cousins bought us at the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam for our wedding. I'm hauling down the extra chairs. I'm cutting flowers for the table. I'm covering the matsoh. I'm finding the hagadot. I'm preparing the bowls of salt water for the table so we can dip the parsley like we've always done. The salt water seems especially symbolic. I'm crying and I'm letting in the holiday and the memories and the flavors and the traditions and the love.

Art Garfunkel is Not Dead by Susie Lubell

The view from our town after the biggest storm since Noah and the Ark

On the day before the storm I actually didn't even believe the weather report. I mean how could the weather drop thirty degrees in three days.  It would take an act of God to make it snow tomorrow, I think. But that's exactly how it played out. In EPIC. BIBLICAL. PROPORTION. As usual.

On the first day of the storm which was Thursday morning, we wake up to a foot of snow on the ground. I think, ok, it'll be like last year when it snowed for a day and melted by the next day. We get notice that school is canceled and Mr. Rosen gets the call that roads to Jerusalem are closed so we hunker down for a snow day, a novelty in this part of the world.

I take out all the old ski clothes but the kids don't want to put on that crazy stuff. They head outside in their sneakers and jeans until they are freezing. Then they put on the snow clothes. The baby is excited to see the snow from behind the sliding glass doors within the comforts of our warm and dry living room. We bundle him up and take him outside for a few pictures and he makes it known that he hates us and snow.

My mom is visiting and is less delighted by the snow. She puts on three more layers and goes outside to frolic with her grandkids. They build a mini-snowman on the roof of the car. I make chicken soup. The kids watch a movie. We read books. The snow is pretty and still coming down. Snow is fun.

On the second day of the storm we lose power around 2 AM. My mom wakes me up at 4 AM because she is freezing. I go downstairs to see if any circuits have popped. It looks like the neighborhood is out. I crawl back into bed and pray to the Electric Company.

By 7 AM everyone is up and freezing. We put on more layers. I make oatmeal. We get on our phones to see if anyone on Facebook knows what's going on. No one else in town has power either. No school again. Another foot of snow has fallen. I start making onion soup. It's looking like another long day. The kids can't figure out what to do with themselves. My son can't work on his lego project because he can't feel his fingers. The baby is barefoot.

Why is the baby barefoot?

Everyone wants to play cards with Grandma. Grandma wants to go home. The kids take food coloring outside and make snow cones. I do dishes. Grandma reads her book as the steam rises from her nose.

By 4 PM the electricity is back on in our house. Mr. Rosen's parents have arrived from down south to see the snow as has his sister and her family. We make tea and enjoy the heat. We think the worst is over. Maybe we'll go to the museum on Saturday, we think. By 5:30 PM it is snowing again. Everyone drives home for fear of being stuck here. We prepare Shabbat dinner. Shnitzel, butternut squash soup and beet salad. We hear a knock at the door and it's our house cleaner who lives in an apartment down the street. He asks to borrow a heater because he doesn't have one. We give him a heater and invite him to stay for dinner. The lights flicker a little and we worry about the power. We light Shabbat candles and a few extra just in case. After dinner I run the dishwasher, do a load of laundry and charge all of the laptops and phones. I have a bad feeling. Everyone goes to bed early. The three kids sleep on the floor in our room since we gave their heater to the housekeeper.

On the third day of the storm, the baby wakes up at 6:30 AM and wants Cheerios. We go downstairs and I see the power is out again. I make oatmeal and boil water for tea. I put on my down jacket and ski hat. The tea warms my hands. The kids watch a movie. The baby stares out the window and talks about the snow. The snow is on the car. The snow is in the tree. Aba is in the snow. The doggie is in the snow. I make more chicken soup. Facebook friends report that Israelis are hosing down their driveways to get rid of the snow. I wonder how Israelis manage to win all kinds of Nobel prizes andnot know that when water freezes it makes ice.

By 3 PM the kids are annoying each other. The kids are annoying everyone. The baby is sleeping under six blankets. I try to summon up my inner home schooling super mom to think of crafts to do with the kids. I can't feel my fingers and decide that crafts are stupid. We are checking our phones for weather and Facebook updates. The snowfall has abated. Phone reception is spotty. Grandma announces that Art Garfunkle died.

What?

She remembers meeting him at her senior prom. He was her best friend's funny looking date. 

So sad to lose him.

I ask where she heard he'd died and she says she saw a picture of him on an Israeli website but it was in Hebrew so she couldn't read what it said. My phone has no internet connection so we are left to mourn Art Garfunkel for another hour. We sing Feeling Groovy and Sounds of Silence. Grandma finds Mr. Rosen's harmonica and plays Oh Susanna for the kids. Internet is restored and I google Art Garfunkel and it turns out he'll be recording a new album. We are relieved. There is still no heat. Grandma is starting to lose it. I make carrot soup. Snow sucks.

On the day after the storm, electricity is restored. We are elated. School is canceled.  We are destroyed. No one can get to school because the roads are too icy. Can we not salt the roads here people? Is there no spare salt in this country? Did Lot's wife not turn into a PILLAR of salt? Isn't Jerusalem like less than an hour from the Dead Sea, or as I like to call it: THE SALTIEST PLACE ON EARTH?  For the love of ginger, three feet of snow has fallen and the country has completely shut down. Grandma goes to read like her fifth book in four days. We are happy to have heat and hot water. Everyone showers for the first time in five days. I make tomato soup. I have now made every fucking soup I know how to make. I make grilled cheese sandwiches. I go for a walk down the street and see a car has plowed through our neighbor's gate and nearly into his house. Serves him right for hosing down his street. I come home to find an enormous snowman near our walkway. He is wearing my scarf and has on a cowboy hat. He is outstanding. Leftover soups for dinner. We read stories and go to sleep all five of us in the same room again. I admit, it's cozy.

On the second day after the storm, we wake up and school has been canceled again. Some of us moms decide to burn down the school. Instead we drop off the baby and head toward Tel Aviv. Chunks of snow fly off our car as we descend from Switzerland. By the time we park in Jaffa, the last chunk slides down our windshield. We have coffee and snacks in a cafe and walk around the flea market for an hour or so. By 3:30 it's time to head home.

On the third day after the storm, school starts at 9:30. Mr. Rosen goes to work. Grandma and I meet a friend in Jerusalem. The sky is blue. The drivers are cautious. Art Garfunkel is not dead. Life is good.

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Shalom by Susie Lubell

East and West
Shalom, mixed media.

It's been a year since we left Mountain View, our home for eight years and the place where our three kids were born. I remember the days leading up to our departure. All of the stress and running around. Packing and putting all of our stuff in the container. Selling whatever wasn't coming with us. Tying up all of the loose ends. Closing accounts. Collecting paperwork. Trying to sell our car at the very last second. And all the while trying to keep life as normal as possible for our kids. And trying to pay just a tiny bit of attention to our NEWBORN. Remember him? He's paying us back now for our neglect back then. We even trick or treated on our last Halloween, which was frankly the very last thing I wanted to do.

And then on November 1st we bid shalom to the Bay Area and drove in our rented van down south to Grandma's where we'd stay for a week before heading out to New York and finally Israel. It was a time of many goodbyes and many hellos and many times we didn't know if we were coming or going. It was a very unsettling time.

But now we are settled in so many wonderful ways. We have a community of friends. We have happy, adjusted kids. We have a quirky house big enough to host our many, many visitors. We have satisfying work. And I'd say, despite our every day struggles to reconcile our western mentalities with the reality of life in the Middle East (and I'm not talking about the threat of war with Iran or suicide bombings. I'm talking about things like terrible customer service, bad driving and the ubiquitous issue of littering) we're basically at peace with our decision to live here.

Shabbat shalom.

Home by Susie Lubell

home
Home is available as a print on ETSY.

I don't know if it's because my son weaned himself this week after a nasty cold made it so he couldn't breathe and nurse at the same time. Or because we're nearing our six month milestone in Israel. Or because I'm starting to plan our trip to America in the summer and wondering how on earth we will see everyone we want to see and what it will feel like to be there. Or maybe because I keep fast forwarding ten years and my oldest is entering the army. All of it together has me feeling a little vulnerable.  I keep coming back to the idea of home. Where is it? What is home? What will it be for my kids. Is it worth fighting for? Is it worth dying for? Or is it just a place, like any other.

Mr. Rosen and I have spent a lot of time thinking about where we want to make our home and whether or not there is a perfect place for us and our family. We don't have the answer yet but we're getting closer. We might be over thinking it. It might be exactly where we are now. It might not be a place at all, but a connection we have to each other, tethering us to the present.

When your sixty-four by Susie Lubell

Israel Independence Day
 Flags for Independence Day

We got back yesterday from a long weekend in northern Israel. It was Memorial Day on Thursday and Independence Day on Friday so Mr. Rosen and the kids had a few days off. Memorial Day here is very different than it is in America. There are no door-buster sales, for one. Nor does it mark the season for wearing white pants. It's kind of a serious day. None of the cable television stations broadcast and network TV is all either interviews with high up veterans or patriotic performances. There's even a nationwide moment of silence for two minutes in the morning. An air-raid siren goes off and everyone stops what they're doing. Even cars stop in the middle of traffic (though that's an everyday occurrence also). And then at sundown, the Independence Day fireworks begin and the country is happy once more.

Anyway, we headed up north and spent a few days based in Tiberius exploring the upper Galil and Golan Heights. We hiked up to the top of the Arbel, a beautiful cliff above the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). We had lunch in a banana grove above a cave with open tombs and bats (for real!). We found a great little restaurant at Yehudia junction that's open 24 hours, 365 days a year, even Yom Kipur and serves a tasty roast beef sandwich. We hiked up a stream to a very old water milling station and the kids got soaked. We visited a friend of the family and spent the day swimming at her community pool. The next day we drove home along the eastern border with Jordan and watched the green fields of the North fade to the crispy tan of arid land. We made one final stop for lunch in Abu Ghosh, an Arab town outside of Jerusalem, and enjoyed some grilled chicken skewers and middle eastern salads.

To be honest, when we got home I was wrecked. For the obvious reasons - kids fighting in the car, baby up at 5:00 am, packing and unpacking and daypacking and repacking. But also I think my brain is just completely saturated. It's so much to absorb! And more than just the sites. It's the constant juxtaposition of old and new. Glittery and gritty. Orchards and desert. New construction and demolition. Poverty and wealth. Sea and sand. It's one minute we're mourning and then next we're celebrating. It's our own brand of extremism and it's exhausting.

But never mind all that. Happy 64th birthday Israel, you crazy spring chicken. I hope I'm as feisty as you are when I'm your age. Something tells me you won't be retiring next year...

Memorial Day, Israel
 Memorial Day wreaths

The Arbel
 View of Lower Galilee from the Arbel

Banana blossom
 Banana blossom

Secret cave under banana grove with tombs and bats.
 Secret cave under banana grove with tombs and bats

Hike in the Golan
 Water mill hike in the Golan

Pretty weeds
 Pretty weeds in the Golan

Garden gnomes near the dead sea
 Garden gnomes near the Dead Sea

Camel
 Camel in finery

Abu Ghosh 
Graffiti in Abu Ghosh

This year in Jerusalem by Susie Lubell

Staples of Passover
Religious Jews hoarding Passover staples

Psst. I'm still alive over here. We are coming off a nearly three week Passover school holiday break and I have been remiss about posting blog entries. I have however been posting lots of pics on Instagram and I invite you to follow my meanderings over there. I'll follow you right back. It's quite fun! A billion dollars worth of fun, so says Facebook.

I wasn't prepared for such a long break in the middle of the year. But we threw together a pretty fun itinerary packed with visits with friends, travels north, south, east  and west, a trip to some enchanted caves, a fantastic seder, a surprise and mysterious visit from Elijah the Prophet and camping in the desert. We even had lunch one day with Mr. Rosen at his work in Jerusalem.

I will say that spending Passover in Israel is a very rich experience. Between the meticulous nation-wide spring cleaning (removal of all bread and crumbs from the home), hoarding of eggs, potatoes, onions and matzah, and the throngs of Israelis hiking about the country, it's really a lot to absorb. Never mind that we personally experienced no less than five out of the ten plagues (blood, lice, boils, hail, and darkness). Let's just say it's enough blog material to last forty years wandering in the desert, if only I'd had the energy to write it all down. Dayenu. Maybe I'll be more on the (matzah) ball next year.

For now's here's a smattering of pics from those three weeks. Enjoy!

Dead Sea with view of Jordan
Dead sea and view of Jordan

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Saba grating the bitter herb with traditional protective eyewear.

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Seder table including rice cake "matzah" cover for our glutton free guests

Saba carrying his weight
Elder carrying small Israelite during the exodus.

Passover hike in the Negev
Obeying the voice of God, Moses and Miriam put their arms around each other.

Camel helping us reenact the exodus
Biblical ride

Stalactite/mite awesome
Enchanted stalactite cave

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Not bear proof, but hyena proof.

I found an oompa loompa from the tv room up on this ridge! Doopadee do!
The oompa loompa I found on top of Tzin Wilderness

Descent to Nahal Gov
Descent to Gov River Valley

Escaping the burning sun
Respite from heat.

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Desert in bloom

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At Kibbutz Sde Boker

The New Normal by Susie Lubell

Five sparkly new gas masks
Five shiny new gas masks hanging off my stroller.

Some nights I'll be sitting on our couch watching reruns of Seinfeld and eating a bowl of Fruity Pebbles and it feels like I'm back in California. We live in a nice house. I drive a Mazda 5. My kids have playdates. Organic free range eggs are a fortune. It's all the same as it was. And then I remember that my daughter goes to ballet lessons in a bomb shelter. Someone checks my bag whenever I enter a large building, like the mall. My kids have lice. My housekeeper is a Jewish man. I buy my fruits and vegetables in the West Bank. My seven year old has a cell phone. And I pay $8 a gallon for gas.

Not normal.

Last week I met a friend and her three kids in Ramle, a town outside of Tel Aviv known for its poverty and excellent kabob restaurants, to exchange our old gas masks for new ones. It was the first day of Passover vacation so I packed all the kids in the car and we drove to an elementary school downtown where a squadron of adorable soldiers took my two outdated masks and issued five shiny new ones. Everyone was friendly and professional and efficient. Someone from the BBC even interviewed me. When asked how I felt as a newcomer getting gas masks for my children, I was honest. I told the guy I had no intention of using these things. They will go into a closet until the next recall, a decade from now. And then we hustled our six kids back into our cars, drove to a nearby playground, worked up an appetite and then drove downtown to Halil where we snarfed down two plates of kabobs, a plate of fries, hummus, pita, pickles and malabi for dessert. Mmmmmm.

And so it goes. I shift back and forth between there and here, feeling used to it all and feeling shocked by it all, letting go of what I knew as normal and embracing what is now the new normal.


Gas mask lesson
Gas mask tutorial

Playground in Ramle
Playground in Ramle

Parking lot near Halil restaurant, Ramle
My daughter stepped out into this parking lot and asked, are we in India?

Swinging
Cutest ten month old ever

When life gives you lemons by Susie Lubell

Octalemon

When the lemons look like this one, then you best run for the hills because no one should be drinking lemonade from this many-tentacled citrus freakshow. It seems that whatever has turned our zesty friend into the OCTALEMON may be in the water or the vents or somewhere lurking in our quirky home. This has been the winter to beat all and we are down for the count. Uncle. There I said it. We are beat. You win, evil Octalemon.

Since we arrived in November it's been one illness after another. First the boys both had mystery fever with rash and the older one had vomitting. Then the girl had the vomitting. And the older boy had more vomiting. Then the baby had a nasty cough with walrus snot and eye goop. Then I had strep. Now I have a sinus infection and the baby's coughing again. And Mr. Rosen has impetigo. Yes, impetigo, the childhood disease. He's the only adult ever in the history of the world who managed to catch impetigo. Coincidentally last week's Torah portion was about the first seven plagues, one of which was boils. I guess we can feel lucky that it was only boils and not also frogs and lice. So he's in quarantine and the rest of us are trying to stay warm enough to get healthy and survive our first winter in the Jerusalem hills. We were not prepared for this much cold and wet.

And the thing about Israeli houses is that they are mostly built to combat heat. But that appears to be the case in the winter also. Whatever heat we do manage to create just evaporates into the cinder block walls. Bye bye. So the other day Mr. Rosen's dad came and taped plastic sheeting to all of our windows and sliding glass doors to protect us from the cold and, incidentally, chemical warfare. Funny what Israelis have lying around the house. It's not the most attractive option but it was cheap to buy, free to install (thanks Saba) and works great. Hopefully the worst is behind us and we can get ready for a beautiful Spring in another few weeks. With this much rain we have high hopes for a dazzling wildflower season. And a few rounds of hay fever.

Where it all began by Susie Lubell

Essex Street

On Sunday we met up with an old and dear friend of mine and his amazing wife and two delicious daughters. They live on the Lower East Side of Manhattan about two blocks from the corner where my grandmother grew up and about eight blocks from where Mr. Rosen's grandmother was born and raised. In fact we told this to Grandma Rosen and she asked if we had seen all the pushcarts. She remembers it very differently from the funky, eclectic, bistro'plenty place it has become. But even though the vibe is very different now, it was easy to imagine what it looked like a hundred years ago when these women were born. The streets are still lined with five story walk ups (read: three million dollar tenements) and their ubiquitous fire escapes.The pickle guy is still there and plenty of kosher delis. Although now the neighborhood is peppered with Chinese grocers and organic juice bars.

It got me thinking about all of the Jews who came over from Europe at the turn of the century. My dad's parents arrived as kids from Poland and what is now Romania. Back then the country designation made no difference if you were Jewish. Your nationality was Jew and the authorities made it clear you were living on borrowed time.

All of this seems especially poignant right now as we prepare to cross the ocean and start our lives anew. While we like to complain that the process and the packing and the goodbyes and the schlepping seems never ending, we are most certainly doing it on our terms. No one is chasing us out of America. We are not refugees. We are not saying goodbye to loved ones forever only to land in a country full of hardship. On the contrary. We feel loved on both sides of this journey; we are dual citizens; we're making this move because we want to, not because we have to.  That feels incredibly fortunate to me. And we owe it all to our grandparents whose generation made terrible sacrifices so that we could enjoy the liberties they or their parents never had in Europe.

Pssst... by Susie Lubell


The kids on a photo shoot inside our container.

I'm still here. Surprise. I did not intend to take a month off the blog. In fact I think I only took a week off after the baby was born. That will give you some idea as to just how hideously busy we have been in the last month. Let me explain.

No, too much. Let me sum up.
  1. Mr. Rosen flies to Israel to interview for a job in Jerusalem.
  2. Mr. Rosen takes the job.
  3. I find a house outside Jerusalem on the Israeli version of Craigslist and Mr. Rosen goes to see it
  4. Mr. Rosen loves the house and rents it for November 20.
  5. Mr. Rosen starts work December 1.
  6. We are moving to Israel for real.
  7. We need to pack everything and ship it to Israel.
  8. We need a to do a lot of shit.
  9. We panic.
  10. We make a spreadsheet. Color coded.
  11. We get the baby an American passport.
  12. Our son turns seven. We skip the birthday party and camp out in his cousins backyard instead.
  13. We hire a shipper.
  14. Mr. Rosen gives notice.
  15. I spend two weeks running around between IKEA, Cost Plus, Target, West Elm, Crate and Barrel, TJ Max, Bed Bath and Beyond, REI, Best Buy and Costco to fill up our container with America.
  16. I lose my wallet (in one of the above places).
  17. We starting sorting, shifting, purging, packing.
  18. We start seeing friends to say goodbyes.
  19. The shipper drops a 20 foot container in front of our house.
  20. I cancel all my credit cards.
  21. We think all of our stuff will fit in it.
  22. Movers come to fill the container.
  23. After it's half full we fear we have too much stuff. 
  24. We realize the movers packed all the kids toys and a bunch of crap we don't need while our furniture is mostly still on the driveway. 
  25. We buy more space in someone else's container to avoid getting a divorce.
  26. Our stuff is gone.
  27. Feeling guilty I organize a bowling party for my son on his Hebrew date birthday. 
  28. More goodbye gatherings.
  29. Someone emails to tell me he found my drivers license on Highway 85 north while he was taking pictures of garbage and mangled car plastic for an art installation he's working on.
  30. I sleep train the baby.
  31. I develop mastitis - the kind with vomiting, fever and a giant red boob. 
  32. Mr. Rosen runs out at 2am to get me antibiotics and narcotics.
  33. I cancel our magazines and forward our mail.
  34. What's left of our stuff goes on Craigslist.
  35. Mr. Rosen transfers half our money to Israel.
  36. I pick up our medical and dental records.
  37. We get the baby an Israeli passport.
That brings us to today. We are leaving the Bay Area on November 1st with our kids and whatever fits in two suitcases each. Before then we have to sell our car, get rid of remaining items and go trick or treating. And say goodbye to everyone we love. We'll be at Grandma's house for a week which may involve a trip to Disneyland and then we fly to New York where we'll be for another week. And then on November 15 we fly one way to the holy land. God help us.

Sold by Susie Lubell

Goodbye to our house
We say goodbye to 607 Leksich Ave. The baby thinks parting is such sweet sorrow. 
He may also be taking a dump in this shot.

Did I ever mention how it came to be that we sold our house?

Remember in April, how we took it off the market after an offer was rescinded because of some confusion over the status of the house - whether it was technically a condo or a single family home? And remember how we were secretly relieved and planned on putting it back on the market in the fall. Plans are funny like that.

It turns out that right before the baby was born we got an offer on the house from a former colleague of mine and his wife. They came over when I was 39 weeks pregnant and said they loved it. They brought their agent the next day. They sent us an offer two days later with the exact price we wanted, a long escrow and two months or rent-back. We signed that offer the same day we signed our baby's birth certificate. Big day. In my birth story I made mention of downloading some forms between contractions. Those were for the house and needed to be signed by Wednesday and it was Monday and I was about to leave for the hospital and somehow I had the wherewithal, barely, to bring them with us, so that in a moment of post partum agony bliss, we could sign. So instead of signing as originally planned on the eve of Passover, the liberation from slavery, we signed on the eve of Shavuot, the day we received the ten commandments. I love when my life lines up with the Torah.

And while we were thrilled to have this lovely couple (half Israeli, half American - sound familiar?) buy our home, the next forty-five days were filled with untold stress as we tried to manage a mountain of paperwork and tend to a newborn. Oh and the other two kids. And there were major stumbling blocks. Like the one where it turns out because of a recording snafu in the seventies we actually owned our property but our neighbor's garage and vice versa. Nice. All that stuff had to be untangled and we didn't have an agent. We drove our agent to leave real estate altogether after the previous deal fell through so we were left high and dry. We ended up hiring a friend of ours who is real estate attorney saving us much money but causing us to run around scheduling inspections and unearthing old contracts. Many sleepless nights. But we were up anyway with our infant so who cared.

So all's well that ends well. And this epic tale ended beautifully on Saturday evening. After we closed on the house we were able to rent it back from the new owners for two months which meant that we could actually spend some time relaxing in what still felt like our home for the entire summer. Last week we moved into a three month sublet not too far away (the home of a professor who is teaching abroad this quarter) and Mr. Rosen moved all of our stuff over the course of the week. On Friday we lit Shabbat candles one last time in our empty little house and sang songs and shared some of our best memories from that special place. And on Saturday night we had a dance party in our empty house complete with glow bands and much alcohol while a sitter watched all three kids in our new place. Genius.

And now we have three months to figure out how we are moving ourselves and our stuff to Israel. The saga continues. Turns out moving to Israel is not as straight forward as it was when my two suitcases and I did it fifteen years ago.

Namesakes by Susie Lubell

Namesakes
Grammy Edythe Kutlow and Grandma Helen Sachs

As read at his bris...

Dear Idan,
You’ve only been in our family a little over a week and already I can’t imagine my life without you in it. You are so tiny and yet your arrival on the 49th day of the Omer, the period of great anticipation before God gave us the Torah on Mt. Sinai, has profound meaning for our family. Like your brother Shalev, you showed up a day early for the big party. He was born a day before Simchat Torah and you, the day before Shavuot. I guess that’s how you get the best seats. Nonetheless your birthdate appears to be very auspicious. You were born on 6.6.11 at 10 to 10 at night. And I’m no gematria expert but when you multiply six and six you get 36 or double chai. It’s no wonder that you are a Gemini, the sun sign of the twins.

Your arrival is really the beginning of the next chapter in our lives, the one that’s set in Israel, and your name, Idan – meaning “era” in Hebrew – is meant to signify this new adventure. You are also named to honor two important women in our family. Idan is for my Grammy Edythe Kutlow. Your second name, Hillel is to honor your Aba’s Grandma Helen Sachs. Both were incredibly strong women who faced significant challenges in their younger lives but both lived to be well into their nineties. Edythe Kutlow, born in New York City, would have been 101 years old this year. She lived for several years in an orphanage when her own mother was unable to provide for her financially. A resourceful and beautiful girl she lived to find a life partner in Benjamin Kutlow, have three terrific children, nine fantastic grandchildren (I'm the ninth) and now her eighteenth great grandchild. She was incredibly gifted with her hands and made beautiful heirloom baby blankets, kippot, needlepoints and afghans. She even crocheted the kippah that your Aba is wearing today for our wedding nine years ago. She was 92. Aba’s Grandma Helen Sachs was born in Leipzig, Germany and managed to escape the Nazis with the help of her brother in 1939 to resettle in America. Many of her family members could not fathom the evil of the Shoah and stayed behind, including her mother who died in Auschwitz. Helen resettled in Worcester, Massachusetts and along with her husband Julius, had two wonderful daughters and three incredible grandchildren – one of whom was your Aba. You would be her sixth great grandchild Idan. Her lineage was meant to perish in the holocaust and yet here we are, celebrating your new branch on a family tree that only continues to flourish.

The name Hillel also honors the great rabbinic sage who is known for having said,
Im ein ani li mi li. If I am not for myself, who will be for me.
Uch sh’ani l’atmzi ma ani. If I am only for myself who am I.
V’im lo achshav, ematai. And if not now, when.

He is also known for his ethic of reciprocity, or "Golden Rule":
That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.

You’ve come into a world with many challenges and you belong to a people, both Jewish and Israeli, that has faced and continues to face some of the greatest manifestations of hatred the world has known. And yet we are hopeful that you and your generation will be the ones to usher in peace, acceptance, compromise and love. That yours will be the “Idan Hillel” – the era of mutual respect. That is our greatest wish for you, for our family and friends and for the whole world. So you have a lot of work ahead little guy.

One last bit. Idan, you are our third and, it’s safe to say, our last child. Like you, I am also a third child. It’s not always easy Idan. The older two will be in cahoots a lot of the time and you’ll have to make up your own games and use your imagination a lot. You’ll make up for it with very close friends though and when you’re older the age gap between you and your siblings will fade and you’ll forget about how your big brother and sister teased you. Well you won’t forget, but you’ll forgive. Mostly.

And so today we welcome you into a family and a community that already loves you very very much. And we wish you a long and wonderful life shared with the ones you love.

Art therapy by Susie Lubell


Yesterday morning my daughter came into the office while I was trying to squeeze in some work time before getting the kids off to school and she asked if I always knew how to draw. And I told her that I always liked to draw and I did it a lot when I was a kid. And she got big tears in her eyes and said, but I can't do it like you. My drawings aren't pretty. 

And the truth is they're not. Neither of my kids are prodigies, let's just say. Both of them mostly scribble. And I vacillate between being fine with that and being disappointed. How awful, right? But true. For a while my son talked all the time about how he wanted to be an artist. But he almost never decides to just get some markers and draw. He'll get them and write a letter about something or write his name with ten exclamation points. But drawing doesn't come to mind when he's bored at home. He'd rather write memos in his organizer. I'm not kidding. And when we sit down together to draw in the afternoon most often both kids want me to draw something for them or want me to decide what they should draw. Aren't kids supposed to be naturally free and expressive in their visual creativity? The whole exercise makes me irritated. Mostly because I know it's my own fault. I'm probably what's stifling them. I stifle myself sometimes too. The truth is I'm not great at drawing. It's hard for me to just draw a chair or a person or a piece of fruit. Which is why I don't draw those things. Play to your strengths, I say, which for me is color.

So when my little girl came to me distressed about her own abilities all I could think was that I wished I had something I'd drawn as a kid. A few paintings from kindergarten to show my kids that this is how it starts. A scribble. A stick figure. No aspect. No proportion. Just color and love. And outside the lines. Maybe we should go see a Jackson Pollack or Mark Rothko exhibit so they can see that even famous artists scribble and make a big mess.

That afternoon I decided to try something new. While my daughter was napping, my son and I tried some still life drawing and we both drew southpaw. Except he really is left-handed and I'm not. So it gave me an exercise in letting go a little which gave my drawings a kid-like quality. He liked them and liked how his pictures turned out too.  It was positive all around. Then he asked if I wanted his drawings and I said absolutely yes. That's when he showed his true talent. He turned on all the charm and replied they cost $2 each. I might hire him to be my agent.

In case the belly alone wasn't noticeable by Susie Lubell

Seven months

This is what seven months pregnant in the snow looks like. I don't have any maternity ski clothes. I'm not even really sure anyone makes maternity ski clothes in this litigious society since it seems a little reckless to ski when you're T minus two months. I had thought I would just wear my ski pants unzipped for our weekend in Lake Tahoe, but it became clear that would not be an option when I could not get them over my ass. So I wore my jeans. But thankfully on her last visit my mom brought up a giant jacket that we have kept all these years for no reason and here I am in it. It was gifted to me by an old friend from Jr. High who later went to Georgetown and was somehow involved in traffic control for Bill Clinton's first inauguration. It's pylon orange, as you can tell, and, knowing that I always had a thing for orange, he let me have it. Or maybe I took it. Not important. It's size extra-large and since I am now extra-large, you better believe it came in handy on this trip.

On a side note, it reminded me of when I was a senior in college and Greg had graduated early to go do a service project in South Africa. We actually wrote letters to each other on those flimsy blue airmail trifolds. Once he sent me an orange beaded bracelet from Swaziland that I adored. I showed it to my boyfriend at the time and complained how come he didn't know that orange was my favorite color. I was obviously looking to pick a fight, as was my way at the six week point of any relationship. And he said, because this guy has known you since you were twelve and I've known you all of two months. He had a point. Which is why I kept him around for three more months before I had to let him go.

Where was I? Yes, trudging around in my gigantic orange jacket all weekend. We took the kids skiing and tubing and sledding. And they ran around the house in their long underwear playing made-up games with their cousins. Sixty degrees and 20 feet of new snow thanks to our most recent storm, the one that lasted forty days and forty nights and officially ended California's drought. EPIC.


Ski Racer
Junior has a thing for orange too.

There's no place like home by Susie Lubell

rubyslipper
Self-portrait by my four-year old
We're working through some stuff over here. With Mr. Rosen in Israel this week and a series of back out buyers on our house, I am thinking about a lot of things. Like maybe we don't really want to sell the house right now and that's why it hasn't sold. I try not to over-analyze these things, but as I get myself mentally prepared to birth this baby in two months, I'm thinking a lot about some of the stories I read four years ago in Ina May Gaskin's Guide to Childbirth. About how one woman was stalled out during labor because she wasn't mentally prepared to bring this child into the world (I think her mother-in-law was in the room or she hadn't thought of a name yet or something like that. Maybe she had just fought with her partner - who knows. My brain is mush). So her physical body just closed up. She needed to let go of her anxiety so that her body could open up and do its thing, which eventually she did and her baby was born.

I have a feeling that I am mentally holding on to my home. I'm telling myself that more than anything I want to avail myself of this house so that we can move on with our lives and continue to plan for the next part. And when jerk-face backed out yesterday at the eleventh hour I just sobbed. I wanted this thing over. I want the kids to have their friends over again. And I am so sick of making the beds every morning and wiping down the bathroom and doing the dishes on the off chance that someone will want to show the house. But I know there's a part of me that's anxious about where we'll live next. And another part of me that wants to bring the new baby home to this house just like the others.

The other interesting thing is that every time I hear that someone thought the house was darling but doesn't want to live across from a school or in a neighborhood that's so "diverse" I get all mama bear over the house. Like, how dare you talk to my house that way and not value the same things that I value. It must all be part of the process of letting go. A home can be so much more than a place to live and there's obviously a lot more wrapped up in this house than I ever knew. Not to mention all of the uncertainty represented by leaving our home. I don't think we're getting cold feet but this move is forcing us to examine our own ideas about home and where it is and what it means and how do we find it again. I might try clicking my heels.

Growing Pains by Susie Lubell

growth chart

In between our many visits to doctor last week I had a moment of clarity and asked Mr. Rosen to take this picture before the painters wiped away the last five years of our family's growth. This is a little column wall that separates our kitchen, living and dining rooms. The prefect size to stand and be measured. This process of clearing out the house and getting it and ourselves ready for the next era has been an exciting and worthwhile process. Everything about it feels right. And yet, when I stopped to think about this wall and how much we've grown, the kids mostly taller and me, on and off more rotund, I almost start to weep. When we moved in here I was four months pregnant with our eldest. And seven years later I am six months pregnant with our third. This is the house where we grew a family. Where Mr. Rosen and I grew into parents. Where we grew professionally and spiritually and personally. And the kids grew to be able to reach the counter, the sink, the light switch, the cookie jar. And still growing. All of us.

ps. If anyone knows of any cute measurement posters, send a link. Mr. Rosen copied down all of the measurements for transfer to something we can actually take with us.

Stirring the sauce, getting the guns to Jimmy by Susie Lubell


This is the line we use in our family when things are starting to spin out of control. When we have a hundred things to get done and the feds are closing in. It's a line from Goodfellas and Henry Hill is on the phone saying he has to get his brother from the hospital, drop off some stuff for Lois, make sure to stir the sauce and then get the guns to Jimmy. Meanwhile the feds are flying over his house in helicopters because the jig is up. Time to join the witness protection program.

So that's what it's like here. We're juggling a million little things, stirring the sauce AND trying to get the damn guns over to Jimmy's before we put our house on the market. Which is in two weeks. Meanwhile I signed up for a three day workshop to learn some new media techniques with Jesse Reno, which will likely be completely awesome if I can keep myself focused, which starts in TWO DAYS. But before all that I need to get keys made for our realtor, get paint chips for the painters who are coming at 9am on Monday and box up everything else that's still in the house while staying on top of my orders in what has been a freakishly fertile February (sales-wise) so that on Monday morning we can drive down to southern California to see my mom and go to Disneyland. And the day after we get back the stager comes and the house has to be immaculate for the next 2-3 weeks or until we sell. This is starting to make me twitch since we usually can't go more than 12 hours before the house looks like a helicopter actually landed in the living room.And those are the twelve house when the kids are asleep.

Other items to share:
  1. Daily deal is still on. Several boxes of Inner Toddler gift cards are left. Get them before they move to storage and from storage onto a slow boat to Israel...
  2. Please go vote for my friend Jenn Louis, who runs an incredible restaurant in Portland called Lincoln, in CNN's Eatocracy poll. This is the restaurant where I took Aimee during that fabulous weekend last December.
  3. Sign up for my friend Liv's Feel Good Deal of the Day. Liv is magic. And she may possibly have the ability to stop time. This is the only way I can explain how she's able to put out a daily newsletter (and blog everyday!) with great inspirational, motivational content and fabulous deals!
  4. How cute is my new(ish) watch in the picture? It's from this company and the whole this is biodegradable. I think you can bury it and more watches will grow.
And now I'm off to stir the sauce (and then get the guns to Jimmy). If you don't ever hear from me gain, it's because I joined witness protection.

Four by Susie Lubell

Up in the chair

Dear Sugar Bee,

Today you're four years old and pretty much a real person. It all kind of came together this year. You finally could hear and speak and now you don't stop talking and you have many opinions about your clothes and your hair and your friends and your brother and us. Many many opinions. Here are some of my favorites:
  1. Your baby brother should be named either Toilet Head or Boy Beauty.
  2. Mommy has a stinky mouth in the mornings and so does Aba.
  3. Your big brother is nice.
  4. You never want to talk to your brother ever again in the whole wide world.
  5. Mommy doesn't know how to brush hair. Only Aba does.
  6. Mommy is the only one who can brush hair because Aba doesn't know how.
  7. Only your teacher makes good ponytails.
  8. You hate baths except most of the time when you don't.
  9. You don't like socks except with hearts or stripes. Or plain. Or dots.
  10. We can always love each other, even when we're mad.
The truth is, for all of your opinions, you are a happy-go-lucky, funny, funny girl. You're a classic middle child - willing to share, easy-going, considerate, self-assured. That's why we had to have another baby, so you could fulfill your destiny.  As I write this you are rushing to clean up the Play Mobile castle set you just got for your birthday so that none of our baby friends will choke on any of the zillion bitty pieces. You're already such a good big sister.

Enjoy your special day, special girl.

I love you,
Mommy

Princess Crowns

Pin the kiss on the frog

Rainbow pinata

Ladybug Cake

We told the kids by Susie Lubell

Giant Slide

Tonight's family meeting had four items on the agenda.
1. If you want an iPhone app that costs money, you have to pay for it with your allowance money.
2. Everyone is doing a kickass job helping mommy and aba with the move. Kudos.
3. No licking your friends. It passes germs. (And there will be plenty of time for that later).
4. After the baby's born and after summer camp, we're moving to Israel.

Now we fully expected a total and complete multi-party meltdown after we dropped this bomb. Because we have talked to the kids before about the possibility of moving to Israel and our son has mostly responded negatively. As in, no way in hell. I want to be with Heather and Aly in first grade. I want to move to Orange County and live with Grandma in a house with stairs. I don't want to go to school where everyone speaks Hebrew. I don't want it to be nighttime when it's daytime for Grandma. I don't want to carry a gun (I don't know where he picked that one up, but unfortunately that's a valid concern).

This is how that part of the conversation went.
Me: ...our whole family is moving to Israel.
Him: And Grandma too?
Me: No, Grandma is staying here. But she'll visit us and we'll visit her.
Pause
Him: We'll have to redo the settings on your iPhone I bet.
Me: Right. You could be very helpful to mommy with your expertise.
Him: And the plugs are different there. I'd have to practice putting in the the two round holes instead of the two rectangular slots.
Me: That's true. But we could bring all of your old electricity stuff and you could show your new friends how different electricity is in America.
Him: Ya. And there's really big slides in Israel.
Me: In every city.
Him: And I can go to work with Saba and Savta.
Me: Yes. And maybe some of our friends will come to visit us!
Her: And have a sleep over!

This was the abridged version. The original dialogue was heavy on the iPhone settings and the new phone number and calling people in the middle of the night which will be daytime for them, and the video chat feature that my phone has and Aly's dad's phone has. I figured I should just let him talk about iPhone settings for as long as he needed to process this whole thing. I'm sure this isn't the end of the conversation since there's another six months until it happens, but considering how worried we were about telling them, this was a stellar beginning.

Winter Merry Making by Susie Lubell

chingaderas
Chingaderas at Jackalope

Hi folks. It's been a while. We're back from a long and winding winter vacation and it's taken some time to get my groove back. Obviously my new year's resolution was not to blog everyday. Thank goodness. To be honest I don't have any New Year's resolutions because I think they suck. And past experience dictates that I will fail/give up by week two. Who needs that kind of disappointment? I did however make a Daily Schedule for myself which now hangs in my office. I've been meaning to do this for, I don't know, TWO YEARS. So if feels good to have it and will feel even better to use it. I hope. I am thinking about goals for this year and my life coach was awesome enough to send out a worksheet to help me do that.

I have some more big news to share soon, because that's the kind of year it's going to be, but before all that here's a little recap of the last three weeks. Good times. Great memories.

kidseum
Dress up at Bowers Museum in Orange County.

kidseum
Crafting with Grandma

Me and Mr Rosen
Quality time with Mr. Rosen

Back Bay Newport Beach
The historic whale at the Newport Beach Bay Bay where I used to play as a kid.

San Diego
Sun and surf in San Diego

skis
Mini skis for mini people

Rosy cheeks
Rosy cheeked cousins

New niece
Newest niece with her aba

puppet
Riding out the snow storm with some indoor crafting

Sled crash
Crash and burn sledding with my sister in law

Kitchen Chemistry
Kitchen chemistry with Saba

Snowy pottery
Snowy pottery at my favorite store in Santa Fe