occasions

TEN by Susie Lubell

Dearest Sugar Bee,

Ten years ago at this moment I was lying in bed next to your Aba, breathing and meditating my way through contractions. He was snoring. For hours I lay there on my side moaning quietly while the contractions grew stronger and closer together. Aba had a bad cold, I recall. When you're older I'll tell you about Man Flu. At around 5 am I woke him up because it was show time. Grandma stayed with your brother and we drove to the hospital. And three hours later you were out. All yellow and furry.

And now look at you. Ten years old. No longer yellow and no longer furry. Confident and beautiful and generous and loving. And funny! The other day when your brother wouldn't give you something you asked for you said, without missing a beat, that your heart was a dark and stormy night. We all fell over laughing.

Indeed the days of dark and stormy have relented for the time being. No more tantrums over ponytails. Or outfits. Or homework. Maybe a little drama still surrounding homework. And piano. No one is perfect. 

This year judo is out and dance has pas de bourreed itself centerstage. Every night the musical stylings of Taylor Swift inspire a frenzied display of cartwheel split combos to make any dance mom proud. In fact I am not a dance mom but you get your fill just watching Dance Moms and cheering for Maddie or Mackenzie or Ashleigh or Chloe or whoever it is. I don't even mind it really since it seems to be helping to improve your English vocabulary. Although you sometimes sound like you're narrating your own sitcom. Bam! What?! Cue: arm fold and million dollar smile.

If only you could get your brother to start filming you, and your mother wasn't such a disaster at baking, I think you might have a future in YouTubing. So far we have tried and failed at macaroons, lollipops, chocolate covered popcorn, frosting, fondant and meringue. I have other redeeming qualities.

In other big news, this year we were finally able to give you the sister you never had. Far furrier than you were, even at your furriest, Muna has your big brown eyes and shares your love of dancing. She's also a natural runner, like you, and loves to have her hair brushed. And eat salami. I'm afraid Muna the Mutt is the best we can do at this late stage my dear. The good news is that she will never borrow your favorite sweater and wreck it or steal your boyfriend. 

Tomorrow Grandma and I are taking you to get your ears pierced. Finally! You've been waiting for this day for as long as you could talk. Begging me to pierce your ears. Well the day has finally arrived. I'm considering getting a nose ring myself or maybe a second hole in one ear. I actually have two extra holes in one ear, that I did myself when I was fifteen, but have since closed up. A story for another time. When Grandma goes home. Grandma says she's getting her tongue pierced. She's pretty hilarious. After piercing we'll have brunch and go to your favorite stationery store, because you are my daughter after all. School supplies are in our DNA. Gotta stay organized too. Ten minutes after Grandma arrived you were already organizing her purse. Everything has its place girl, amirite? (cue: mother daughter handshake).

I wish you another outstanding year. I wish you continued intuition to skillfully navigate your relationships with friends and family. I wish you utter confidence to express yourself in dance and music. I wish you a year without lice. A lifetime even. And I wish your feet would grow so we could share shoes finally.

Love you mieces to pieces, my Sugar Bee.
Mommy

The Girl is Nine... by Susie Lubell

Dear Sugar Bee,

For as long as I live I will never forget a moment that happened this year. We were on the plane flying from the United States back to Israel. About an hour into the flight you suddenly started sobbing. I was already trying to remember where I'd stowed the children's tylenol, sure you'd burst another ear drum, when, between sobs, you told me you were worried that your kids wouldn't know your Grandma. All I could do was stare at you and cry myself. 

We had just had another great visit with her and goodbyes are always hard for you. They're hard for me too. And I thought my God, you are a spectacular child. Thoughtful and considerate. So expressive. So full of love. We cried together for a little while until the flight attendant ended our moment. "Something to drink?" Make mine a double.

And today you are nine which hardly seems possible. I watch with utter astonishment how you courageously navigate your relationships, especially with your friends at school. With this one not talking to that one and that one telling everyone else not to talk to this one. And you in the middle of all of it telling everyone to be friends. Standing up for the bullied. Sitting next to the outcast. Negotiating peace between battling girl tribes. 

Unfortunately you often leave your peacemaker hat at school to come home and wage war. Brothers are not always easy. I know that. And you have them coming at you from all sides. But those two boys love you very much. Especially your little brother whose greatest joy is playing dolls with you, setting up playmobile, building forts, making tea parties, dressing up with you and basically spending every moment he can with you. And while sometimes you lose your last shred of patience for him and then I want to hurl both of you off the roof, you are largely two for the road. You even willingly offered to sleep with him in his room on a semi-permanent basis so that he wouldn't feel lonely in a room by himself. You are the kind of big sister that I had always dreamed of having for myself. 

What else? It looks like your days as a pixie ninja may be numbered. You've already announced this is your last year in judo, which I respect. It was a good run. Hopefully you'll find something equally awesome to do next year. Maybe you'll join your brother on the roller hockey team. And then we can accessorize with some striped tube socks, a terrycloth headband and a unicorn tee shirt and casually segue into roller DERBY. Then you can really get out some of that signature Sugar Bee aggression. How can someone so sweet and cuddly one minute be so terrifying the next? Wait, I think one of your rolled eyes got stuck. Nope, it's back. Glad these episodes are short-lived.

My birthday wisdom is more of the same stuff I always tell you. Always try your best. We were just talking about this a few weeks ago when you had some tests coming up at school and you were complaining about how everything is so hard for you. I know that can be frustrating, especially when it seems like things come so easily for others. All I can tell you is that training yourself to do the hard work will serve you best in the long run. The ones who seem to breeze through reading and times tables will eventually come across a subject or skill that does not come naturally. And they won't know what to do next.  But you, who have always had to work hard, will rise gracefully to meet every challenge. 

All my love and mieces to pieces,

Mommy

Eleven by Susie Lubell

Taken right after getting off Montazooma's Revenge at Knott's Berry Farm this summer. I am never going on that thing again.

Taken right after getting off Montazooma's Revenge at Knott's Berry Farm this summer. I am never going on that thing again.

Hello kiddo.

Happy birthday. It's that time of year again. When we look back at what a year we've had. The ups. The downs. The completely inexplicable. The truth is I can't remember much past last week but I'll try to review some highlights. 

You won. We bought you a phone. We said we wouldn't and we did. We explained that you didn't need it. That it wasn't necessary. That it would only cause problems. You listened. You agreed. But you kept asking anyway and we just couldn't take it anymore. You broke us. High persistence. Low distractibility. Well done my boy. You will go far in this life. I gave you the choice of having my old iPhone 4 for free or a $100 toward the phone of your choice. After days of searching eBay and Amazon you took the $100 and upgraded to a shiny refurbished iPhone 5c, paying the rest off from your own savings. And that was that. Aba and I worried that it would be a disaster. That you would lose it or break it or spend all your time on it, but I'm happy to report that it's been fine and now I don't have to get a zillion Whatsapp messages from your classmates. And that rechargeable case you insisted on buying has come in handy when my phone has died on occasion. It's nice to have one early adapter in the family. Now you just need to get a job to support your habit.

But we didn't just get you a phone. This was the year that we went balls out. We said, sure, all the research points to handheld devices as the singular factor causing the deterioration of verbal culture, handwritten expression and empathy. True, the radiation these things emit is enough to pop corn, cause a blood moon and melt the ice caps. But why stop at one device? Why not throw caution to the wind and TURN. THIS. MOTHER. OUT. You know what I mean? So we bought you a Kindle and a Raspberry Pi too. And a drone. 

The Kindle is just plain genius parenting. English age appropriate books are expensive as hell in Israel and generally hard to come by. You can't just pick up Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing at the library. The only English books at our library are the Fifty Shades trilogy that I donated last year. But on the Kindle you can get whatever you want and sometimes it's even free. Plus I can use it too. Win. Win. Win. 

The Raspberry Pi is sadly also a device and not an actual pie. It's like a bitty motherboard with ports whose operating system you load on an SD card depending on what you want to do. I don't even know what I just said. All I know is that the whole thing cost me like $30 and whatever you did to it made it turn our television into the Internet. 

But electronics aside, it's been a great year for a lot of other reasons. You kicked it up a notch in piano. You joined the local roller hockey team. Your first friend in Israel who moved to Canada two years ago moved back and now he's basically Canadian. We should send all Israeli kids to Canada for a makeover. He was a great kid to begin with but now he's a Canadian level great kid. And speaking of great kids, you and your sister have found some common ground in your plight to grow up in the same house. Turns out the only thing you can't stand more than each other is listening to your little bother yammer away all day long. That child does not shut up even for a second. Like if he's awake, then he's talking and it drives you and the rest of us mad hatter. Wait, I think I hear him now. He's saying stop widing on da compuda because I'm tawking. Only God can save us my dear. And earplugs. 

Beautiful boy, I wish you another kickass year. I wish you patience and empathy. Such difficult skills but you are getting there slowly. I wish you endless curiousity and wonder. I wish you would clean up your room. You are a shining light. A shining, rechargeable, solar powered LED light.

I love you,
Mommy

 

On Saying Yes by Susie Lubell

A week ago I was on a camping trip with a few families and I got a phone call from the director of my choir. I sing in a choir. I like to sing. I've always liked to sing. In college I sang in an a capella group which might have been the best thing about college. We rehearsed twice a week and performed around campus. It was good fun. But once I graduated, I stopped singing. Anyway, this year the director of the music school in our town (the guy who built it from nothing) announced that he was starting a new adult choir and even though I preferred to sing Annie Lennox and Led Zeppelin rather than Mendelsohn and Psalms, I decided to try it. Turns out it doesn't much matter what I'm singing. I like it all the same.

But back to the phone call. He called to ask if I wanted to sing a song in Yiddish at the Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony in our community. I let out an incredulous chuckle. Are you kidding me?You want me to sing in public? In Yiddish? Next week?  He said No, not kidding. Yes, Yiddish song. In front of people. Next week. Isn't there anyone else you can ask? I mean I barely speak Hebrew and you want me to sing in Yiddish? Gevalt! He said, I want you to do it. It's a beautiful song. It fits your voice. I told him I'd think about it. He said he'd send me the music and a recording of him singing the song. He sent both immediately after we hung up. He was serious. 

We returned from camping and I ran into him at the supermarket. Ugh. Are we doing the song? he asked. I still hadn't said yes. Sensing I was on the verge of saying no, he said, "listen, let's practice it a few times and then you decide." I didn't want to disappoint him but I also really didn't want to learn a new song in another language and sing it at a public ceremony four days from now.

You see I get nervous doing anything live in front of other people. Even just talking. This is why I like blogging. Because I can edit. If something doesn't come out right, I can go back. I can even unpublish. I can SHUT. IT. DOWN. Performing is not like that. Once you hit the wrong note or screw up the words, you're done. I mean, your life is not over, but it's still a bummer. An irreversible bummer. And I tend to hold onto bummers for a long time. I wasn't always like this though. I used to perform all the time in a children's theater company. I used to play piano in recitals and in front of judges. Even in college, performing with my group was a rush. I loved it. I sang solos in front of hundreds of people. I regularly made a total ass of myself on stage. It was awesome. But in the twenty years since the last time I was on a stage, a kind of performance anxiety had taken hold. We can even call it fear because that's what it really is. Fear of looking foolish. Fear of making mistakes. Fear of getting in over my head. And it's kind of pervasive. I felt it in graduate school. I felt in my various positions in my various careers. This fear that I'm just not qualified. 

Plus there's this thing about knowing when to say no. People are always talking about being skilled at saying no. Knowing when to forego opportunities because they are not worthy of your time or energy. Understanding your priorities. Not getting roped into someone else's circus. I'm all for that. And in my quest to slow down and stay focused on my family and my work and my own happiness, I've gotten pretty good at saying no. Maybe too good. Some days it's more or less the only thing I say all day. Just ask my kids.

But then I recalled what he said on the phone. I want you to sing it, he said. That's when I had my Moses on the Mountain moment. If the director of the music school asks you to sing a song, no matter what language or key or day of the year, you sing it. You go learn the music and sing the song. Because he knows you can and your job is to trust him. If you get the call (and in this case it literally was a call) you answer it. Had he asked my son or daughter to play piano at the ceremony, I would have encouraged them to do it because the only reason not to is the fear and that's not a good enough reason. And all this without mentioning what an honor it would be to sing this particular song in rememberance of those who had perished in the camps and fighting in the resistance. And those who lived to share their horrors.

So I said YES. And I practiced and we worked on it together and I practiced more. I practiced a lot. I even recorded myself singing and we all know how painful it is to listen to a recording of yourself. But I said YES. I let go of my fear. I got up on stage in front of 500 people and I sang my heart out. I said YES.

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.

Eight by Susie Lubell

photo credit: Naomi Davis

photo credit: Naomi Davis

Dear Sugar Bee,

Happy birthday to you my dear. Another year goes by. A great year I'd say. The days of tantrums over bumps in your ponytail? Gone. Crying because your favorite tights are in the laundry? Over. Psychotic episodes and hyperventilation over homework? Thing of the past. You are kind of a badass, my little girl. A thoughtful, self-aware, clothes folding, towel hanging, little brother dressing, mommy snuggling, vegetable eating badass. And it hasn't all happened over night. You have worked hard! Harder than many. 

Let's take reading for example. Uch! Screw reading. Who needs it? Well it turns out that reading is important even though it is difficult. And yes, reading the time is also important, namely so you can stop asking your mother. And I know everything is backwards here. You read right to left but then tell digital time left to right! What?!?! That makes no sense! Tell me about it. You learned how to read music this year too and English, both of which are also left to right! It's enough to drive anyone completely mad hatter. I get dysgraphia just thinking about it. But you never give up. You are diligent and persistent and it is quite spectacular to watch. 

And you know what else was spectacular to watch? Your first judo match. You were so nervous and didn't' even want to compete. And then you got out on the mat and DOMINATED. You were like a fairy ninja. You pranced over to your opponent with your raven pony tail bouncing and then threw him to the ground like a sack of potatoes! Huzzah! You surprised everyone and I think you even surprised yourself.

As for our power struggles, which once took a daily toll, they are now so sporadic that when they occur I think we are both startled. I have gotten better at recognizing one in the making and diffusing it and you have gotten better at letting whatever it is go in the first place. It's harder to let things go with your brothers though. I know. I wonder sometimes how you much being a little sister to your older brother has shaped you. For better or worse. We'll never know I guess but I think your relationship is becoming incrementally easier for you to handle. Increments sometimes so small they can only be detected by a scanning electron microscope, but still. It's forward motion. You have yet to finish a game of Taki with him that didn't end in huffing up the stairs, but at least it's not huffing and screaming.

Thankfully you have many friends to distract you from sibling strife. And to watch you all play together is to watch magic unfold. You still make tea parties for your dolls and animals. You still sing and dance around the house. You rollerblade through the living room, arms flailing. And while you've given up on a little sister, your brothers are willing participants when you want to play hair and nail salon. Plus you have adopted several older girlfriends and relatives to be your proxy sisters. I think those are the best kind of sisters anyway. 

I hope it's another wonderful year for you Sugar Bee. Full of rainbows and hearts and smileys. Your spirit, intuition and courage are a shining light to me and Aba and all who know you. Except for maybe that little boy you trounced in judo. He's afraid of you. Very afraid. 

love you mieces to pieces,
Mommy

My Montefiordieth by Susie Lubell

Yesterday I turned 40. I had been telling Mr. Rosen for the months leading up to my birthday that all I really wanted for my 40th was to be chilly and wear a nice woolly sweater. Because by the time it's September I have had enough of summer and yet I know that there are still at least six weeks left of hot weather but my Polish skin just cannot take it for one more moment let alone six more weeks of moments, all of which leaves me feeling depressed and miserable. So we started thinking about getting out of the Middle East. My first choice was Norway. I would spend my 40th in the fjords. It would be my Fjordieth. Alas, those tickets were too expensive. We also looked into Berlin, Warsaw, Northern Italy. I would have flown to Greenland if I could have found a cheap ticket. But then with my birthday falling this year during the Days of Awe, that reflective week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipur, and with the kids off of school and our bank account depleted from our very recent trip to America, we decided to rent a hotel/flat in Tel Aviv for a long weekend and turn up the air-conditioning really high so I could live out my birthday fantasy and, wait for it, sleep under the covers.

As it happens we found a lovely rental on Montifiore Street which is walking distance to just about everything. We arrived Friday evening and made our way to Jaffa Port where we had dinner at The Container. On a Friday night where we live you could hear a pin drop and even then it makes only a very dull thud. But at the port in Jaffa, it is a frenzy of diners and revelers. There were no tables at the restaurant so we sat at the bar which was a charming stack of shipping pallets. Port chic. I had salmon sashimi and smoked beets on arugula salad and Mr. Rosen had the lamb kabobs. DELISH. Then we took an evening stroll down the boardwalk and up through the twinkly lights of Jaffa's old city.

The next morning, despite our best efforts, we could only sleep in until 7:00. We walked to Rotschild Avenue and had a cup of coffee with the other early risers (moms and runners) before we slowly made our way toward Dizengoff and settled on a cute cafe called Streetz where we had an Israeli breakfast for two. Let's give it up for Israeli breakfast because it is damn good. Eggs any way you like them, chopped salad, fresh bread with all manner of cheesy spreads, jams, tuna, shredded halva...with coffee and fresh squeezed juice. It's the breakfast of champions. By the time we were finished it was getting hot so we decided to walk to the Cinemateque and get out of the mid afternoon sun. We saw an Italian documentary called Caesar Must Die about a group of felons (murderers, mafia kingpins, drug traffickers and the like) in a Rome prison who put on a production of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Powerful stuff.

After the movie we walked back to Montefiore and took a nap. Around 5 PM we drove to north Tel Aviv port and had an early dinner at the marketplace in one of the hangers. Steak sandwiches, crispy potato wedges and apricot soda. A foot volleyball tournement was happening on the boardwalk so we watched that for a while and then watched the sun set. At that point we decided to walk back to our car and head over to a nearby restaurant with live music only to find that our car had been towed. Though Mr. Rosen had taken such care to perfectly parallel park at the bus station cum parking lot by the port, we both failed to remember that after sundown, the parking lot returns to its former self as a functioning bus station. So we took the number 4 bus back to our hotel and decided to leave our car with the Tel Aviv municipality until we drove home the next day realizing that was the only way to guarantee "free parking" for the rest of our trip.

On the morning of the 8th we celebrated my Montefiordieth first with breakfast at the eclectic brunch favorite Puah in the Jaffa flea market and then spent a few hours doing one of my favorite activities in the world, delighting in treasures, old and new, in south Tel Aviv. We dreamed of one day buying a fixer upper apartment and living in this funky, gritty part of the city and filling it with flea market furnishings and having an art studio or a gallery or a cabinet making workshop under our beautifully renovated home. By 2 PM that dream melted as the afternoon sun drilled down upon us. So we refueled with fresh carrot, beet, apple, ginger juice and decided it was time to start heading home to the Jerusalem hills where cooler weather trumps south Tel Aviv charms. Mr. Rosen went to pick up the car at the tow lot and I checked out of our flat and right before we got on the highway we stopped at my favorite hole in the wall for stuffed pizza.  My cousin introduced me to HaTanor (the Oven) in Ramat Gan fifteen years ago and there is nothing like it. Imagine a puffy pizza crust stuffed with cheese and sauce, boiled egg and zaatar (mideastern spice). And nothing beats the ambiance of this little nook near the Tel Aviv stock exchange where ultra-orthodox diamond dealers, suited stock brokers, scruffy software engineers, Russian mafia and scantily clad persons of questionable profession share the one thing they have in common. Their love of good pizza.

We got home in time to spend dinner and the rest of the evening with the kids and Mr. Rosen's parents who graciously babysat for three days so we could live it up in the big city. By 7 PM Mr. Rosen had to go to a school meeting and it was time to get the kids in the bath. Funny how quickly life returns to normal. As great as it was to stroll around the big city for a birthday weekend, soaping up my two year old is it's own kind of birthday gift.

Thanks to all for your birthday wishes.

IMG_6299
IMG_6306
IMG_6307
Tel Aviv Cinemateque
IMG_6308
IMG_6309
IMG_0396
IMG_0392
IMG_6310
IMG_6312
IMG_6311
IMG_6314
IMG_6313
IMG_6315

Goodbye to summer by Susie Lubell

Critter

A few pictures from our trip to Santa Fe. It was another great trip, with some interesting twists. Namely that my sister-in-law was put on bed rest at 32 weeks with her third child. In Albuquerque. Which is 60 miles away from her home Santa Fe. Not ideal. But we all rallied. My other sister-in-law and brother-in-law cooked delicious vegetarian cuisine all week. The kids spent a lot of time exploring the arroyos, finding treasures, and rigging ways to haul their treasures home. We went to a dia del nino festival one morning and dressed up like senoritas and conquistadores and built adobe houses. We celebrated my niece's fourth birthday with unicorn cake. The kids gave themselves many many tattoos and painted several hundred coats of nail polish on their hands and feet and legs and everywhere else. There were also many water fights between siblings of all ages. And a few family visits to the hospital. It was a great end to a great summer.

But now I'm ready to hunker down for a little quiet and reflection. Hopefully autumn weather and spirit are around the corner.

Desert Flowers

La Familia

Adobe House

Unicorn Cake

Tattoos

Water Fight

Bed Rest

Having my cake and sharing it too by Susie Lubell


I woke up this morning to a beautiful and tasty breakfast of fried eggs on toast, chopped salad and chocolate. Because today is no ordinary day friends. Today is MY BIRTHDAY. And, since I lowered my expectations for my birthday by several orders of magnitude based on last year's fiasco, SO FAR SO GOOD. 

And coincidentally this year my birthday is also the birthday of the WORLD. It's Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, starting this evening. Some of you may know that I have a thing about sharing my birthday. I don't like to share. Thank god I'm not a twin. But then I had to go and marry someone whose birthday is five days after mine and he has a brother with a birthday a week after that and now suddenly all of my birthdays are shared occasions. Which I hate have come to accept. But this year is especially communal because this year I have to share my birthday with the WORLD. And that's also why I shared my birthday with son's kindergarten class. 

I went in after recess to do a little Rosh Hashanah presentation for the kids and it was a AWESOME. I am now Miss Susie, loved and revered by 26 five-year-olds. Most importantly, I even managed to blow the ceremonial shofar which is like blowing a trumpet except it's the horn of a ram. Seriously. And we all had apples dipped in honey to signify a sweet new year but only after I made the kids sing happy birthday to me. And then I asked if any one had any questions and several kids raised their hands to tell me when their birthdays would be and one kid told me his grandma was 87. Love kindergartners.

On tap for the rest of this wonderful day:
1. Make dinner for mine and my brother's family.
2. Drink latte.
3. Revel in my facebook birthday wishes. 
4. Go to post office.
5. Buy heavy cream so my husband can make me a cake tonight.

ALSO, in the spirit of sharing my birthday, I'm offering BUY ONE GET ONE FREE (of equal or lesser value) through the end of the day tomorrow midnight (pacific time) on all items in my ETSY shop (except ketubahs - why would you need more than one ketubah?) Write BIRTHDAY in the message to seller and I'll reimburse you via paypal for the second item.

Happy Day everyone!


Stuff by Susie Lubell

Big Sur

Has it really been more than a week since my last post? Jeez. I don't even have much of an excuse. Except that I have been completely obsessed with the LOST finale and spent much of my time looking at videos and listening to podcasts and figuring out how I was going to watch it since I inadvertently signed my husband up for a parenting lecture on the same night. What on earth was I thinking? More on this parenting lecture later. We may be on to something.

And in fact my mom was visiting to help me watch the kids while they had a few days off from school for Shavuot, the holiday where we celebrate Moses getting the ten commandments by eating blintzes and cheesecake which doesn't make a ton of sense but I think over the generations no one has questioned this odd custom since it's so delicious. Incidentally my son told me the other day that his sister took one of his toys and with tears in his eyes, perhaps fearing the fate of her soul, explained how that's breaking one of god's commandments. Oy.

PLUS we were camping this weekend and happily out of range. It was our (now) annual trip to Big Sur with a few families from our old preschool. Two of the other families also watch LOST so last year on the trip we spent a lot of time theorizing about Jacob and the Man in Black. This trip was all about wondering how it will end.

Here's how it ended for me. Sobbing in front of my monitor the day after it aired since our digital antenna couldn't get ABC to work. And thinking about how we struggle as adults to work out all our stuff. And knowing that I'm simultaneously helping to create the stuff my kids will have to work out. Stuff can feel weighty.

Kid-colored lenses by Susie Lubell

Kite

My son loves to play in our car. When I allow it, which is to say when I have time to keep an eye on him from the kitchen or garage, he's happy to play in there for long stretches. When he's done invariably I have to put everything back to its off position - wipers, seat heaters, indicators, hazards - but it's a small price to pay so I indulge this simple pleasure. I wish I could take that much pleasure out of being in my car. Maybe if it wasn't so filthy. Or if I was five.

So recently I've been trying to see the world through kid-colored lenses. Last weekend we took the kids to fly kites. As we were setting up the string and trying to get these things up with little wind, it occurred to me that I had never flown a kite. Or at least I don't remember ever flying a kite. And I found it to be completely exhilarating. At one point I was actually running with my kite (no wind can be a problem) and I'm sure I had one of those golden retriever with his head hanging out a car window kind of grins. Just running with my arms up in the sky waving my kite.

And this weekend I took the kids up to San Francisco for the day to give my husband time to build our murphy bed (more on that later). My son bugs me constantly to take trains. He loves trains. He is enchanted by transportation. So we got on a 10:15 train to San Francisco and he talked the entire seventy-five minutes it took to get there. The color of the tracks. The naughty boy who was skateboarding at the station. The back hoe loader that was next to the tracks. The south going train. The man who collected tickets. He enjoyed every part of the trip especially getting to the final station where there were dozens of trains. But it gets better. I took them on the Muni - the light rail system in San Francisco or the "electric train" as he calls it. So now that we've taken Muni I figure all I need to do is get a trampoline and I can hang up my hat until he goes to college, basking in my "greatest mom on earth" title. Right? We took it five or six stops to the Ferry Building and got off to get some kettle corn at the farmer's market.

We sat at the wharf and ate kettle corn and strawberries and watched the seagulls and the boats and the zillion people buzzing about. I wish I'd had my camera. There was even a guy who writes poems for you on his old school typewriter while you wait. You just give him the topic (and a few bucks is my guess). I wanted to catch the 3:15 train back home (by this point I was back to wearing my mommy-colored lenses) so we didn't stop for a poem on the fly. But the next time we have transportation day I will absolutely take a moment to ask for a poem about taking a moment to enjoy life's simple pleasures.

Corner View - Spring by Susie Lubell

Seder Plate

Seder Project

Happy Passover everyone. Traditionally in Hebrew you say Happy Spring Holiday. It's the holiday that celebrates deliverance from slavery (when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt way back in the day) and the rebirth and renewal that is spring. These are pictures of our seder plates - the ceremonial plates that are the centerpieces of the seder table. One was the real deal, a beautiful plate that my cousins got us for our wedding from the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam, and the other was a clever art project my mother-in-law brought from Israel. On it you find the most important symbols of the holiday, many of which symbolize springtime  - the egg, the parsley, the charoset, which is chopped apples and walnuts...so springy! This holiday is the best. There's so much involved. I was leading the seder and trying to tell the story of Passover to the four kids at the table and trying to make it snappy because kids at a table generally want to eat, but there's so much to the story and so many themes and characters. They should really make a movie. Oh wait! They did.

But by far the best part of the evening, and the part that the kids had been anticipating since, well, last Passover, was a visit from the Prophet Elijah (Eliyahu). It's kind of our version of Santa Claus, but without the gifts. Toward the end of the seder we open the door to let in Elijah who drinks from Elijah's cup, a special goblet (read: holy grail) that's in the middle of the seder plate. So for the last four years we've made my brother Aaron dress up in a white sheet, a tallis, a rasta hat, sunglasses and a white beard and dance in while we sing his song. He twirls in, takes a sip of wine and leaves before the kids start to suspect that Uncle Aaron is not at the table. The kids are simultaneously terrified and captivated by Elijah and the adults think it is HYSTERICAL. Later on I went outside to get some mint to make tea and my son was concerned that Elijah was still out there and would get me. Love it. We might have one more year before the jig is up.

For more spring in your step, head over to Spain.

Three by Susie Lubell

Three

Dear Sugar Bee,
Today you turned three. How lucky I am to have you in my life. Here are a whole bunch of things that I love about you:
  1. the way you hug my neck
  2. how you share with your big brother
  3. your voice
  4. how you sob when Aba leaves the house
  5. how you snap out of it twenty seconds later
  6. your sense of style
  7. your belly
  8. the way you know how to calm yourself
  9. the way you dance
  10. when you say I love you so much mommy
  11. how you potty trained yourself (that was really considerate)
  12. the way you march
  13. your silly words
  14. your curls
  15. how you worry about your brother
  16. the way you skip seven and ten when you count
  17. your indiscriminate love of stuffed animals
  18. the way you snuggle in the mornings
  19. your willingness to try new foods
  20. your ability to forget what you were crying about
  21. your friendly demeanor
  22. your love of tiny things and tiny places to keep them
  23. the intensity in your eyes when you run
Every day with you is a blessing. Even the days when you draw on the walls or change your shirt six times or won't let me brush your hair. Those are the days that I learn the most from you. To have fun. To be patient. To let go.

all my love,
mommy

Originals by Susie Lubell

Originals


Original animals


I've decided to put some of my originals up for sale in my ETSY shop. I'm slowly getting them listed but if you sign up for my newsletter (which I send out every 2-3 months) you'll be ready to go snag one before they get shipped off to New Hampshire for the Enormous Tiny Art show next week. Exciting! You'll also find the code to get 20% off anything with a tree in it. And find out why I'm doing such a silly sale.

Sign up here.

Corner View - Holiday by Susie Lubell

Hannukah

The holidays seem like a hundred years ago now. We celebrated each night of Hanukkah with different friends. The kids lit candles, opened gifts, spun the dreidle, sang songs. Now that they're older we're really enjoying the holiday. Although I think I may have to re-evaluate my gifting strategy for next year and reverse the one present per night policy. My son would wake up every morning and pester me about his gift the entire day. Can he have a hint? First letter? How big? That got old. But it's hard to compete with Christmas. Not that it's a competition. But Christmas never backs off. The commercial part of it anyway. It's always bigger than life. Even during a recession. This year I finally got questions like, why can't we have lights on our house like everyone else? And so it begins. We're not like everyone else. We make our own light. And our own chanukkiah (that's what we call a menorah)! The idea for the rocks covered in tissue paper came from Aimee. By the eighth night it felt like an inferno. And for Christmas we did like all good Jews. We went to the movies while my mom babysat.

To see how holidays were spent around the world, visit Jane and take the tour.

The last day of the decade by Susie Lubell

2000

On the last day of the last decade I somehow got wrangled into selling these silly glow-in-the-dark 2000 glasses. You know, where the two middle zeros are for your eyes? Seriously. I was living with my boyfriend in Israel at the time and a guy I knew, the boyfriend of a friend, had this idea to make lots of money selling these things around the country and he convinced me to be his "Southern Region Representative." I don't even remember what the split was but maybe I made a buck for every pair. So imagine this American girl standing in front of the mall trying to pawn these things off. I won't even make you imagine. Here's a picture.

I mean people must have thought I was a total lunatic. Toward the end of the day I called the dealer guy and told him I was still sitting on a giant stack but I was done because this was not how I was spending the last day of the friggin decade. The MILLENNIUM, for the love of ginger! And he was annoyed. And I was like, back off mon frere (he was French). He actually wanted me to stand outside the clubs downtown at night and sell these things. Um, no. I made one final attempt to offload in bulk at one of the clubs to no avail. So I washed my hands of this venture, went home to finish making my dance mix CDs for the party that my future brother-in-law was throwing, and, freed of my obligations, I partied like it was 1999.

Flash foward ten years. On the last day of this decade (a great one by the way) we decided to take our kids skiing for the first time, an equally ridiculous notion. We piled on the clothes, piled them into the van and drove over to rent our equipment. Except there's a giant line and no one has our reservation  and it's a hundred degrees in there and unfortunately the 12-person family of first-time skiers from Mexico has walked in before us. Fantastico.

We finally get our stuff and go out to the van except my brother-in-law can't find the keys to the other car (we took two cars fully expecting my son to hate skiing and want to come home). We look everywhere. No keys. So we drive home in the van. As he walks in the door he realizes the keys are in his boot. Apparently he missed his bib pocket and the keys slid all the way down his ski pants. I'm not sure how you don't feel something like that but ok. We fuel up on protein and carbs and pile the kids back in the van.

Finally around 2:00 we make it to the slope and, after some initial concern, both my kids learned to ski. It was actually totally incredible. My daughter went down a few times held by her armpits but my son actually learned how to ski by himself and stop by himself (more important). We were completely amazed. I love when that kid surprises me.

Later that evening we went out for dinner and ended up at cocktail party discussing New Mexico's budget crisis with the State Secretary of Finance who was very interesting but could not pick up on social cues, like the one where you look at your watch and yawn. We also had lively conversation with a sexologist and his partner who does PR. Get me out of here! The evening ended with me going to sleep at 11:30.

Flash forward another ten years. I'm sitting with my husband at our favorite restaurant in the yet to be determined place where we finally settled down. Our son, who is FIFTEEN is at home watching our daughter, 13 and our twins (just kidding chamud, only one more...) because we paid him $300 since the going rate for babysitters is now $50/hour (holy crap). We're celebrating the success of my third book (a novel about a mom who has a very active imagination - somewhat autobiographical) and my husband's most recent invention (a hearing aid that wraps around your head like a turban because after years and years of devices getting smaller and smaller, giga is the new nano).

Can you hear us giggling? It's because we still feel like we're 26.

Thankful by Susie Lubell

Much to be thankful for this year. The list is long. But near the top of the list is New England style foliage at the end of November when it's 67 degrees outside. No joke. This is where I live. It's not paradise by any stretch of the imagination. A block from our house is a street with like forty-five car dealerships and ten big box retailers with a curious mix of Craftsman bungalows and downright ugly apartment complexes. And there's no open space between towns - just one long stretch of suburban sprawl. But sweet surrender, the weather here is unbelievable.

And of course, the three things I'm most thankful for are these characters. This is our annual Thanksgiving Day tradition of raking the leaves and dumping them, along with our kids, into the yardage bin. They appear to enjoy it.

I'm also thankful that my sister-in-law made Thanksgiving dinner this year because she has a special way with a bird. We actually went over there a few hours early for the first of hopefully many family band practices. It's true friends, I have a wonderful husband, two diabolical delicious kids, a newly refinanced home where it's 65 degrees at the end of November, flexible and creative work that I love AND I'm lead singer in Uncle John's Band. Watch for us on You Tube.

Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Suppers in the sukkah by Susie Lubell

I am telling you there is nothing that erases a five year old's one hour tantrum about something so RIDICULOUS I can't even bring myself to write about it on a blog that I created explicitly to purge these kind of incidents, than dinner in the sukkah. How rad is a Jewish holiday where you're commanded to build a fort in your yard and eat all of your meals out there for a whole week? You're even supposed to sleep out there and don't think we didn't consider making the kids do it. Alone. You know, to fulfill our religious obligations. It happens to coincide this year with my son's birthday so of course we are enjoying many birthday celebrations out there in the sukkah. We even put balloons up. And the kids made paper links and other decorations. My brother thinks we should throw on some drywall and call our place a 3/1. The only rules about the sukkah in fact are that is has to be temporary. And it has to have only three walls. And you have to be able to see the stars when you look up at the sky. Amazing, right? And you thought Hanukkah was the best gig in town. Hanukkah's got nothing on Sukkot.

And this year is no exception. We've had people over basically every night this week. Our son made is clear that he didn't want a birthday party so we decided to just schedule various friends and relatives to kick it with us in the sukkah all week. And on his actual birthday I emailed the mom of a close preschool friend that he no longer sees much (switched schools) to invite them over and they are so great they just came with no notice. I love when people just come and don't worry about what should I bring and what kind of gift blah blah. Just bring your people over to the sukkah and sit back for spaghetti and star gazing. Next night my brother and niece came. Tonight, two more families. Tomorrow, more friends. I'm a little exhausted to be honest but then I just sit back in the sukkah, look up at the stars through the palm leaf rooftop and I'm at peace. Everything melts away. Even the one-hour Super Nanny stumper. Gone.



Five by Susie Lubell

It was five years ago, last night, that I was rocked out of bed by what I thought was the mother of all contractions and which turned out to be, I would later learn, only a fairly mild one. My labor began with a few cramps at 5:00 pm that day and I went about padding around the house, sorting through things, packing my suitcase for the hospital, sending a few emails. I don't think I can meet you guys for lunch tomorrow because I might be in labor. That kind of stuff. I wish I had a picture of what I had put in the suitcase just for the visual hilarity of it all. Did I think I would have the time and energy for a round of gin? Light reading? Journal writing? I mean I should have just packed my laptop and done my taxes, right?

From that first sucker punch to the gut at midnight I spent the next sixteen hours in various places in my house, generally on all fours, with my husband basically sitting on my back with all of his weight (it sounds like porn, but trust me, it was not sexy). Our doula, a close friend and doula-in-training, called around 2:00 and my husband told her, I think we're fine. You don't need to come yet. Could be a lot longer. She lived an hour away. This was a miscalculation. By 4:00 I had contractions one minute apart lasting about a minute and I remember yelling HOSPITAL NOW and then I spent the worst seven minutes of my life in the car. And then had four more contractions just trying to get into my labor and delivery room. I was 9 centimeters.

Our doula came to the hospital and rallied me through pushing with her commentary. Jesus that's a lot of hair! And it was a lot of hair, and a lot of baby that followed. And that's how I came to be a mommy five years ago today. Five years ago today I pushed this tiny, helpless kid out into the world with all of my might. Today he blew me a kiss and rode off into the world on his new bike with a new bike bell from Grandma and all the confidence that comes with being five.