Category Archives: Vacation Diary

Vacation, all I ever wanted

We have 36 hours left in Israel, and it has been absolute bliss! We both feel as if we have been here for weeks. We packed so much into 7 full days, saw so much and experienced more. We visited with people from all walks of life, friends, old and new, and family. We saw people who knew me way back when I was in diapers, bumped into school chums, and cemented family bonds. We visited ruins, and new developments. We heard Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau speak in Modi’in, and we sat on the beach in Netanya (I had a beer on the beach at 10 am, because, well, because I could!). We visited kibbutz, went shopping in the midrechov, and ate our way through fast food places. We davened at various graves – didn’t get to Amukah tho – my son put on tefillin in many different locales. I had wanted him to see the real Israel – and that’s what he has seen.

More than anything, after 7 years away from Israel, and some life changes in between, this visit has given me a huge sense of peace. Standing at the kotel brought me full circle.

My son has had the time of his life. I wanted so badly for him to have a great time, and maybe get a feel for his land, but what I didn’t expect was the depth of emotion and connection that he has expressed to me. Driving along the road between Efrat and Rosh Tzurim, as he gazed out across the rolling hills, he exclaimed “I belong here”. What more could I have asked for?


Dear Lord

Here I stand, at the holiest place that we can access, the Western Wall, the Wailing Wall, the Kotel. I am humbled to be stood here in front of you. I am grateful and thankful for all that I am, all that I have, for I know it comes from you.


I remember 16 years ago coming here to pray to you. I was so young and in such deep and throbbing pain and wanted so much. All I craved was a normal life. I asked you to send me a husband, and children, and a happy life. I stood here and cried while praying for those blessings. I cried from the heart, I bared my soul. I wanted a happy life so I could forget the pain. Dear Lord, that is exactly what you sent me. You sent me a man with whom I fell deeply in love, we married, and you blessed us with the four most perfect children parents could ever have hoped to have. The pain receded. Along the way I forgot to thank you for answering my prayers, for giving me all that I had ever wanted. For that I apologize, and I thank you, here, today, now for all that I have.


I stand here today 16 years later, my life in the last three years has radically changed. So much has happened, so much turmoil, so much more pain, so much suffering, yet still so many blessings, so much joy. In even my darkest hour I knew you were there, however I turned away from you. I could not accept that the power of your decision was there to help me, to improve me, to make me stronger, to make my life better. Yet even as I turned from you, you were there holding my hand, cradling my head on your shoulder, drying my never-ending tears. Even though I had forsaken you, you never forsook me, never. You waited patiently until I opened myself back up to you.


When I had no faith left in the world, or in myself, you had faith, you believed, you knew I could turn it all around. You knew I had what it took, it just took time for me to see it. You never left my side, never showed disappointment at my lack of faith. You have been an understanding and forgiving G-d, who strengthens me every day. You gave me the will to continue – how can anyone ever begin to understand the enormity of such a gift?


Hashem, you have healed me many times, but this last time, my spirit was so broken that it took a truckload of miracles on your part. Every day that I have is a miracle. To be able to wake up to face a new day without dread, but with joy and gratitude, – to me that is a tremendous miracle. I have a love for life now that I never could have imagined existed. I will never forget where I was, for because of that I appreciate where I am today.


Dear Lord, today I brought my 13 year old son with me to pray. Look at him standing there, so tall, so proud, so moved by this experience. You blessed him with life, you gave him me as a mother, and you gave me the inner strength to raise him and his brothers to be God fearing Jews, to practice the way of your People. I hope I never let you down.


Look, God, look at him. He is the future of Judaism, he is the way forward, and that is only because of the gifts you have blessed us with. Because of your constancy and strong presence in our lives, he and his brothers are able to believe with a full heart and soul. They have no doubt in their minds about your truth.


Thank you oh Lord for the abundance of your gifts, for the scope of your generosity. The mere fact that I stand here, at the Kotel, in Israel, with my eldest son, speaks of how much you have given me. I have been able to bring my son to his land, to soak up the holiness in this place, because you pulled me through, because you healed me, because you helped me to see my inner strength and grow with it.


In the zchut (merit) of the blessings you have showered us with, I ask you to bless these people that I am davening for. Some are looking for their beshert, some need a refuah (healing), some just need guidance in their life, and some just need to feel your presence a little stronger in their lives. I wish for them that they feel the way I do, that even if they are faced with challenges, that they know that you, our God, will pull them through. I wish them the knowledge that all that you do is for the good.


There are things I want to pray for, for myself, but this time all I ask is continued health and happiness for my family. I know you will send me what I need when the time is right, and that you know what is right for me. Just please give me the continued strength to raise my boys in the right way. They are my life and our future.


Hashem, we teach our children that you are everywhere at every time. I think that in the past I have forgotten that, or even taken it for granted. It has been so important to me to come here to thank you, to pray to you, for even though you are around me always, here the power of your shechinah (divine presence) is at its most awesome.


When I leave here today, I will back away from the wall as tradition dictates, I will not turn my back on it, just as you have never turned your back on me. I relish your presence in my life, I welcome it. I thank you for the opportunity to bring my son to bask in your glory. I pray that you can read my soul, for my words, well, they feel as if they lack the necessary depth to say what I have needed to say.


Dear Lord, hear my prayer, bring us all home, may all of your children find peace. Amen.


Your daughter,


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Shabbat Shalom from Israel

We are having a wonderful time, my son is in awe! just wanted to wish you all shabbat shalom. here is a picture of me taken at Herodian , where we were taken by the awesome Treppenwitz.

Vacation Day One – from Paris

Our flight to Paris was delayed 4 hours, thus making us miss our connection to Tel Aviv, so we are now arrriving 7 hours behind schedule.  Please excuse the typos; i have a limited time on the internet and the lettering on the french keyboards is so diffferent.

this was my sons first flight delay and he is handling it like a trouper. they gave us each a 25 dollar food voucher to ease the pain of the delay. slight prob – no kosher food, but it covered beer quite nicely!

I am in Paris for the first time in my life and i feel no romance, maybe because i am with my son LOL???

i am getting very frustrated with this keyboard – if i could figure out how to use wifi it would be much easier to post.

Son couldnt be happier – they have a nintendo playstation set up where you can play for free – guess i wont see him, until it is time to board!

i will write more when i can get set up properly.

I’m leaving on a jet plane

Well, it’s time to finish getting packed and get on the plane with my 13 year old son. He didn’t sleep a wink last night, neither did I – how could I with him roaming the halls? He wants me to tell him everything, what it’s like on a plane, what it feels like to fly, and I have told him, sweetie, you will find out first hand in a few short hours. He wants to be prepared. I hope he sleeps on the flight!


Last night at dinner the boys were talking about planes being blown up and terrorist attacks, in great detail and with great relish. A friend pointed out to me that really they were voicing their subconscious fears. Scary!


It’s going to be hard to be out of constant touch with the other boys, but they know they are loved. I covered them with kisses and hugs, and they actually let me!! They also need to learn that their mommy has a life too, that I don’t just exist to fulfill their every whim. (hmm, I don’t??!)


If you want me to daven for you, please post in the comments.


Next time I blog it will be from Israel (unless I get a chance to post on our brief stopover in Paris). I wont be blogging as often, but will try to get some posts out.


Be well, y’all!

Happy Trails

I am blessed beyond belief to be taking my eldest son to Eretz Yisrael next week. This is a gift to him from the family, on the occasion of his recent barmitzvah. He has never been to Israel, and even though I have told him all I have experienced there, he has no idea what he is in for. There is just no way for him to conceive of it. Add to that the fact that he is missing school – its all around good stuff!! It is very hard for me to leave the other 3 behind – but they will be well cared for and they will PG get their chance to go with me at the time of their barmitzvahs.


Every time I think of taking him to the Kotel, I cry. I have not been there in so long, yet I strongly feel its pull. The feeling when you have passed through security there, and are standing in the forecourt – how can you describe that to a 13 year old? How can you put words on a presence that is other worldly? The only word I can even think of is magnetism.


Of course, me being me, I am not thrilled to have to be on the other side of the Kotel than him. I want to see what he sees, to feel what he feels, I want to be able to experience this with him, as if for the first time. Even though every time I go there I am deeply moved, I am sure that the feeling is never as strong as it was the first time. But I will see in his eyes what he feels, and sense it in my heart.


He has spent years learning about his land, his people, the Beit Hamikdash, and for him to put a “face” on the lessons will be amazing. For him, to stand against the Wall and daven will I am sure be a profoundly moving experience – one I hope he remembers for all time. To watch him lay Tefillin there will bring me a completeness that I have hoped for, an assurance that he is safe in the traditions of his ancestors.


I am also looking forward to have the chance to daven at the Kotel, to pour out my soul, my gratitude to G-d for bringing me to this point in my life. I am healthy and I am happy, I have 4 children who are the lights of my life and I am surrounded by the most wonderful community a person could hope for.


I have plenty of plans for daytrips etc when we are there, including, hopefully, a trip to Amukah (can’t hurt to pray for a shidduch there, right?), Tzfat, Chevron, Efrat and a bunch of other places. We have family to see that we haven’t either seen in years or ever, old friends to meet up with, new friends to make.


I guess one thing I am looking forward to is showing him Israel as it really is – not the tourist traps, but the way real people live. I want him to get a real sense of what it means to live in our homeland. I am not sure he can get that on a short trip, but at least it will be a start.


Now, I must start packing… many pairs of shoes do I need?

This Ima rocks!!


We got back home safely (thanks to my “GPS”) a little while ago, and everyone (save me) just fell into bed and conked out! I did not get lost on the way, at all. The kids tried to convince me that I did, but they were wrong – they were just impatient. The drive there and back was fine – the kids were very well behaved in the car, if a little too chatty. There were hardly any incidents of fingers up other people’s noses, this time.


We had left the house before 7, but by the time we picked up our friends, filled up with gas and grabbed some cappuccinos it was 7.30. We made great time, getting to six flags just before 10.30.  I had decided to get flash passes which, for 10 bucks extra, allow the bearer to jump the queue and move to the head of the line for 5 rides. Some chumps end up waiting 45 minutes to ride a roller coaster. With 6 kids and 2 adults (one with a bum back) in our party the idea of waiting on line for that long just didn’t sit right. Seeing as this day was costing me my firstborn anyway, what harm could a few more bucks do?


Kid #2 had a hard time with this – he felt it was somewhat dishonest going up the exit ramps of each ride to get into it through the back door. He adjusted. But the looks that people gave us were not pleasant. They could have paid the extra money too. A lot of the lines did move quickly anyway, but it was fun to just waltz up to the front of the queue.


There was so much to see, so much to do, but we were very fortunate in that we managed to balance the crazy roller coasters for the bigger folk, with the sedate ones for the little kids and wussies. I am very proud to say that I rode the roller coasters with my boys. And apparently I scream like a girl. Such high praise!


They have a Wiggles-themed mini park there, and the littlest people in our party were in heaven. Their music is catchy, and I caught a really disgusted look from one of my progeny when he caught me bopping along to the music. Music makes me dance. What’s wrong with that? Oh, other people can see….. well, come on kid, it’s not like I dance like Elaine on Seinfeld, right? RIGHT??!!


Today, shehechyanu, I did something that we never have done before as a family. I took them to the park’s wave pool. I let them go swimming and wave jumping, and I even joined them in the water. No bikini pic – I didn’t bring a swimsuit, but went in in my clothes, having brought a spare ensemble to change into after. I had a lot of fun jumping waves with the little ones, and trying to figure out the most aerodynamic way of sliding down a water slide without getting stuck…. We never did it before because I guess it was too much of an irreligious activity. Well that’s what one of my sons said anyway. My girlfriend and I both stayed modestly dressed – I have seen religious women in bikinis with their hair covered – defeats the purpose – but we allowed ourselves to have fun with our kids without compromising our values. Was I overdressed compared to the thong bikini-wearing crowd? Yes, but I had my dignity intact AND my kids have told me they will remember this forever.


They had a lot of fun at the arcades, and all won or commandeered prizes. I won a few, yet they seem to have disappeared to the beds of the little people.


The one thing that disappointed me from the whole thing – there was a booth there for taking period photographs, you know when you dress up in 18th century garb, or as cowboys etc. I have been dying to do this for myself and the boys for years and today when I finally found a place that does it the boys refused. Point blank. I could have done it just myself, but what would have been the point?


We walked, we rode, we twirled, we screamed, we ate, we drank, we swam, we slid, we drove, we climbed, we dropped, we threw, we tossed, we posed, we smiled, we laughed, we hugged, we kissed, we ran, we hopped skipped and jumped. In fact, there is not much we didn’t do.


This was a wonderful experience for me as a mom, watching the kids have fun, trying to see it all through their innocent eyes. Lucky lucky them, for having a chance to do something out of the ordinary (for us), and to be old enough that they will remember this day fondly. (and yes, there are pictures to prove it. I am a camera snapping fiend).


So now with excitement out of the way, life turns to the mundane – back to school, job hunting, laundry…….


 So I figure that being as it’s the last full week of vacation that I should do something extremely fun with the kids. I never learn. I should give them options to choose between, instead of allowing them to come up with their own suggestions. I was thinking alomng the lines of the local theme park…..they were thinking ROAD TRIP!!!! Of course, they totally conveniently forgot that their mother hates to highway drive as she has minimal highway experience AND that I am rather directionally challenged.


Their first suggestion was Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory in Vermont (a 3 hour drive). Great suggestion and it includes ice cream – how bad could that be? And I have done that drive before. Easy as pie….well, almost. Then someone remembered that there is a Six Flags in Lake George – they drove past it on their way home from NY last week (also 3 hours away). Very quickly the ice cream people changed their little minds and the chanting began – six flags! lake george! six flags! lake george!…come on Ima, it will be so much fun, you can do it, you know you can, we’ll navigate for you (gee, do you think they are aware of my challenges???). Then number one son comes up with “you do know that you can rent a GPS? And I can even read it for you because I know it’s difficult for you”. He means well. He does. And that certainty of my innate inability to get them there is what pushed me to agree to it. I will prove to them, but even more so to myself, that I can get them there without getting too lost. (Hey, I am a realist!!)


But all is not terrible. My girlfriend decided that she and her kids will join us, and she is a driver too. So we can switch off if necessary. Hopefully it won’t be the blind leading the blind (or the blonde leading the inner-blonde)….you know I loves ya T!


It is all so worth it because the kids are psyched beyond anything I have seen in a long time. Their excitement and faith in me will get us there. I shall make sure that the barmitzvah bochur says Tefillat Haderech. And I have printed out the google map directions – for both ways, and they seem pretty straightforward. No global positioning system, but I have my own GPS – God’s Protective System. I trust in Him….Aint got no choice in the matter.


So, spare a positive thought for this loving indulgent mother driving a fire-engine-red chevy van up the freeway – if you see me coming, get out of the way!!!


Home Sweet Home

It is so great to be home with my kids. (Ok, great doesn’t even begin to describe the joy I feel at being surrounded by their smiley faces again). But I feel sad that my vacation is over. I did so much, met so many great people, made new forever friends, renewed old acquaintances and experienced new things. Going on a solo vacation was a total first for me. I have always (in my mind anyway) been a mom, and the kids have always been front and centre. So for me to take advantage of the time they were spending with their dad, to do something for myself, was a huge step. One I am so glad I took, and something I plan to do more often.


I was overwhelmed by the grand scope of things in NY. I think my catchphrase for this trip was “OMG it’s so big” – applied to everything!


Hadassah took NY by storm. I even learned to navigate the subway system, not bad for a person who feels directionally challenged all the time!!  While there I attended a bris, an engagement and a wedding. (and yes I dressed to kill lol). I shopped the avenues in Brooklyn, and I totally hit the big name stores in Manhattan. Visa thinks I am their new best friend. Don’t tell them that I am also associating with MasterCard and Amex! Century 21 along with Syms has become my new Mecca. I am not used to being able to find such great selection of clothing in my size that’s not geared only toward teens. So I loaded up. Got a great Tahari suit for peanuts…what a thrill!!  But sadly, shoes did not make it into my shopping bags. I would not have had room, so I bade them all a fond farewell. Sniff sniff. I was fortunate to see a Broadway show – Gypsy, and to have the experience of standing in line at TKTS to find out what we could see for cheaper. It’s a real experience. Patti LuPone starred in Gypsy and was more than phenomenal. I would totally see it again. I watched no TV this trip – who even had the time?


I did the touristy stuff too – walked along the Brooklyn bridge, visited the empire state building, ground zero, Central Park zoo, NY Aquarium, the Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Word of warning – the Guggenheim sucks the juices out of certain cellphones, for some reason there is no signal inside the building so the phones are always searching and that kills them dead.


Culinarily, this vacation was a huge experience. I ate at kosher Dunkin Donuts (although have since been informed that having an egg n cheese croissant is Bishul Akum, so I am not too sure it’s an experience I shall repeat), I had a meatball sub at Subway in Flatbush (kosher) with Uncle Moishe’s “bang bang bang with a hammer” playing over the loudspeaker (talk about weird experiences…..whoa nelly!). I ate great sushi in a lovely restaurant, and had even better sushi at a picnic on the beach by candlelight. Eggplant parmesan at a local café with the most vilest drink I had ever tasted – a yogurt – mint milkshake. It was totally disgusterating. But we followed that with Carvel ice cream – a  total treat for me, reminding me of my dad taking us to Carvel in Boro Park when I could have been no more than 9 years old. The Nine Days made me sick of fish, but I ate out at Café Renaissance who did the most miraculous dairy tiramisu. Almost orgasmic. I ate at a kosher Mexican place, at Kosher Deluxe with great company (you know who you are), Kosher Delight and a whole host of other fancy and not so fancy places. At one point I risked getting lost in Central Park in order to find a kosher place to eat. (Now, that park is HUGE). I have to say one of the best places I ate at was My Most Favourite Dessert in Manhattan (maybe it had to do with the company…..I was with one of my most favourite aunts).


I have to say that after the first 3 days of stuffing my face I was worried that I would pile on the pounds. But with no car at my disposal I walked on average 50 blocks a day, so all that tiramisu and pasta with cream sauce did not stick to my hips.


I was so blessed to stay with good friends, and I felt at home there. I made my chicken soup and kneidlach for both shabbatot and it was very well received. Shabbat without my boys is generally difficult for me, but being away and being with loving friends helped me through it.


I fasted Tisha B’av for the first time in a long time, and it was an experience I will never forget. Hearing the Rabbi read Eicha moved me so much. He cried as he read it, and for some reason, this year, Israel’s past suffering resonated deeply within me. I spent the day with my friends in a meaningful way and I am so much better for it.


I was blessed to meet up with my kids at the wedding I attended, and that was the biggest treat ever. To get their hugs and kisses and their love in the middle of my vacation was just the icing on the cake. And they put up with my kissing them in public too. I must cherish that memory.


All in all, it was a great vacation, with the potential for more to come of the friendships I have made. I am beat, overwhelmed with laundry, but I could not be happier. I have great memories, I have my boys around me, and life can continue on its merry way.

Ground Zero – stream of consciousness

I am sitting on the steps of Brooks Brothers, looking out over the construction site that Ground Zero has become. Surrounded by tourists and locals alike, cameras flashing, people posing and smiling. For many it has become a tourist site, one of many to visit here in Manhattan.


My parents’ generation talked about where they were when Kennedy was shot. Today’s counterparts talk about where we were on 9-11.


I was at the Y, swimming with a friend while the kids were in school and daycare. We got out of the pool and as we dressed I noticed a message on my cell phone from my sister in law in Israel. She had called to find out if we were ok, which at the time I found very strange.


We got into my friend’s car and turned on the radio. It was around 1030 am and the radio journalists were scrambling to understand what was going on. I called my (then) husband to see if he knew anything about what was going on. I remember him saying that he thought a plane had accidentally hit the twin towers.


As soon as I got home on went CNN. My brain understood that the pictures it was seeing and the words it was hearing were all real, but processing the reality was a different story. As the day unfolded and more details emerged, the shock and the horror began to set in.


Like so many other parents around the world I had a need to find my children, to hold them, and to know they were safe. As I buried my face in their sweet smelling necks I cried for the mothers who would no longer hold their babies, for the children, young and old, who could no longer feel the warmth and love in physical form from their parent. I cried out of relief that my children were safe. I cried out of guilt that my family was still complete. That day I cried at the knowledge that flesh and blood people had so much hate in their hearts that they could commit such barbaric acts of murder and terrorism.


My children were very young at the time, too young to absorb the true impact of the day’s events. The school social workers encouraged us to talk with them, to explain why mommy and daddy were sad, why the world was mourning and in deep pain.


So many times we see that out of tragedy and heartache comes light and eventually celebration. That week, my fourth son was conceived, a bracha in all that sadness. My baby was blessed beyond words to be born into a two parent family. Whilst pregnant I heard many a tale of babies conceived before 9-11 whose fathers died that day, some of them not even knowing of their future child’s existence.


That week I remember wondering how the world would or even could continue to function. How could we ever smile again? Love and laugh again? How would the sun ever be brave enough to come out again?


As time goes on, and we all know that with time comes eventual acceptance, I cannot help but wonder why it happened? What was G-d’s point? Obviously it was a lesson for us to learn something from. Maybe we each needed to learn something different from the same event?


Personally I have a hard time understanding G-d’s purpose in this and other tragedies. Are there not other ways for Him to make His point, without decimating families? Wasn’t the Holocaust enough? How do we answer our children when they ask us Why? The truth is we don’t know, we just have to have faith that it is all for the best, Gam Zu LeTovah.


As I sit here on the steps a plane flies overhead. I try to imagine what it must have been like on that day, sitting here, perhaps seeing those planes hit. How does one ever recover from that? How does that image ever leave our eyes? How can we ever trust anything again?


So many lives lost in this construction site across the street from where I sit. I want to pray. I want to tell G-d what is in my head and what is in my heart. I want to learn from this experience and improve upon who I am. Being here is so humbling, so life affirming.


I had no idea how moved I would be. I had no idea the effect that just gazing over what is now in effect a construction site, would shake me to my very foundation. There were people whose bodies were never found, this site is their final everlasting resting place.


After the Holocaust there was a phrase that became well used – Never Again. I want to understand what the original intention of that phrase was. Never again will we allow human beings to treat each other with such disrespect and blatant hatred? Never again will there be discord and disharmony in the world? Never again will the world stand by and allow criminals to continue to perpetrate and perpetuate injustice?


If we vowed Never Again, what were we promising? Did we even keep our promise to the 6 million of our people who died in the Shoah? Did we become too complacent? Did we allow ourselves to become so comfortable in our world that we believed ourselves invincible, safe from further harm? Did we let ourselves down, or was it our governments? Should they have done more, could they have done more? Could 9-11 have been prevented at all? I am sure there are those that say it could have been and those that say it had to happen, and that it would have happened no matter the governmental interference.


We just went through Tisha B’av, a day of mourning the destruction of our two Batei Mikdash. An event of which our generation really has no true understanding. We were never there at the Beit Hamikdash. We personally never brought sacrifices, or first fruits or any of that. Yet almost 2000 years later we still sit on the floor and mourn the destruction as if it happened to us. We all need to remember, that history has a way of repeating itself, and that we need to learn from it, and grow from all the negative things and the positive. We cannot ever allow ourselves to become complacent. We must always strive to be better people, better Jews, better parents and children. We need to live each day to the fullest that we can, in order to know that we did all we could to make our world a better place.