Acid Wash Jeans In Israel. Awkward.

source: fashionsizzle.com

source: fashionsizzle.com

By all accounts it should’ve been an okay-ish year. A year I survived, mostly unscathed. Except for the perm, but that was finally growing out. At the very least it should’ve been an awkward year. New school. New friends. Braces and acid wash jeans. And also… fourteen.

But it wasn’t. I was no George Michael rocking my acid wash jeans, but it wasn’t awkward. And it wasn’t okay.

t was the year my family and I lived in Israel, which I’m pretty sure was not something I was dying to do as a newly-minted teenager: leave my grandparents and cousins, the friends I’d been with since preschool, the community I’d grown up in. I had just started high school and nothing was more important than what was said on the gray stairs between classes or what happened under the trees at lunch recess.

I did not, however, get to hear the whole conversation on those stairs because I went to live in a place I knew about mainly from my parents’ adventures and stories, from history books and too-quick family reunions. A place where language was not the only barrier I’d have to figure out how to climb over.

It wasn’t awkward. It wasn’t okay. For me, it was the absolute best.

While “Faith” hit no 1 on the Billboard charts, my tightly manufactured curls started to loosen and grow and before I knew it, even my dreams were happening in Hebrew:

In Israel, I learned what it means to “live in the moment.” To be spontaneous and present and to enjoy where you are right now, because you never know what tomorrow, or even the next few hours, might bring. This meant impromptu barbecues on the beach whenever the weather allowed. It meant meeting for ice cream at 11pm, even on a school night. It meant finding new places to explore, new foods to taste, new views to behold as often as possible. To my 14-year-old self it meant life was mine for the living.

It also meant independence. The back of my mom’s car had been the center of my world until then, as she schlepped my sister, my friends and me to ballet, drama and home from school. Much like the minivan is for my kids now. But in Israel we walked almost everywhere. Or hopped on the bus. The 29 bus remains my favorite means of public transport anywhere in the world. Its route ends at the beach.

1988 was the year I saw “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” for the first time, at a small movie theater in Ramat Hasharon. I will never forget that day. It was raining. I thought I would run into Brad and Janet any minute for days after that. Just a jump to the left…

I learnt to play Five Stones (which is similar to or exactly the same as Jacks). The game involves nothing more than your hands, five small objects and two tiny balls. There is no greater commitment than to sit cross-legged on the floor, and transcend language and emotion. This is a wonderful way to forge everlasting friendship.

The history and story of my people were everywhere around me. Indeed I lived history every day. Which is both overwhelmingly powerful and magical to think about. Layers and layers of ancient ruins. Soil touched by biblical hands. The very sea that parted. We went on a school tour to the Negev, where our guide made a wrong turn. We literally wandered in the desert for hours that seemed like days with no food and very little water. I’m not sure I fully appreciated this as an egocentric 14-year-old, but this past summer a family friend showed my kids the hill where “David killed Goliath.” They got it.

Garbage Pail Kids hit their peak in Israel in 1988. They remain a colorful part of my life since that year. A darkly hilarious parody of Cabbage Patch Kids, I don’t know what they represent other than a cynical view on all things cute and cuddly. Perhaps that’s enough. I love them for their creative, whimsical names which are brilliant in English and even more brilliant in Hebrew (Lilach ba-Pach is my all-time favorite. Translation: Lilach in the Trash. Doesn’t sound as good).

“To Kill A Mockingbird” went completely over my head during English class, but Boo Radley found his way into my heart without me knowing. A recent reading of the great novel brought back smiling memories of those scorching hot Israeli school days and an exasperated English teacher trying to impart all of Harper Lee’s brilliance to a smelly bunch of eighth graders, who were more restless than Scout in the first grade. If I met that teacher now, I would tell her it worked.

It was a year of adventure, independence and a whole new world.

A year of fun, excitement, new friends, family, unparalleled experiences.

A year of history, my history, at my fingertips, and my entire future at my heels.

That year was not awkward. And there was nothing “okay” about it.

The best year. Ever.

This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post, inspired by the prompt, “When I was 14…” Hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, and co-hosted by Kerri from Diagnosed and still okay and Dana from Kiss My List. Dedicated to the Kitah Chet class of 1988 at Tali School, Hod Hasharon, Israel. Thank you for a wonderful year.

On Mamalode: I Will Never Forget That I Dropped My Infant Son

DBaby One of my earliest memories as a new mom is when I dropped my newborn son on the bathroom floor. I don’t talk about it much, but I will never forget it. It was a horrifying, heartbreaking moment.

As he has grown into an independent, self-assured teen, I think about that awful morning often. I am so grateful to share this difficult memory on Mamalode today, in my essay I Will Never Forget That I Dropped My Infant Son. I hope you’ll give it a read, and let me know if you’ve had a similar experience.

Teen Trouble, 2014 Style

I love a party. Really any party at any time of day, but especially a nighttime dance party.

Bar mitzvah parties are my favorite. Balloon bouquets, party dresses, disco lights and sparkly shoes. Colorful candy and bright eyes and giddy laughter and the promise of “Footloose” on the dance floor. The boys are appealingly cool in their awkwardness, and the girls are squeally and sweet, and all the parents think this is actually their party and we’ll show you kids that yes, it is all about that bass! Good times.

We celebrated my son’s bar mitzvah just like this a few weeks ago (the DJ forgot to play “Footloose”, but he brought his own trumpet to accompany Macklemore, so he’s forgiven). There were cake pops and jars of jelly bellies and glow sticks, and a screen to live-stream all those fun Instagram pics the kids (and adults) were posting. Yep fun, 2014-style!

And a guaranteed invitation for trouble, 2014-style.

Read more here.

instagram

My Son Has a Secret Life on Skype on Kveller.com

source: kveller.com

source: kveller.com

A few weeks ago I heard my oldest boy Skyping with his friend at 11pm on a Saturday night. And he pretended he wasn’t. Told me he was talking in his sleep. Lied to me.

“Almost everything you and your brother do – in secret – I’ve done,” I told him. I did not Skype late at night when I was almost 13 – 1987 was not a Skype-year – but I certainly found ways to test the limits, break the rules, keep secrets. I wanted him to find a way to relate to me, so that he didn’t feel the need to lie his way out of a sticky situation. Then or ever. His online communication opened the lines for real life communication between him and me.

I wrote My Son Has a Secret Life on Skype and it’s on Kveller.com today. Would love to hear if you’ve experienced similar – either with your own teens or as a teenager yourself. Just when I think I’ve figured some of this parenting stuff out…

E.T. Phone Home

My teenage boy is an alien. And by alien I mean foreign. Far away from me. It’s not so much that I don’t understand him, or that he communicates as if he’s from another planet. There is some of that going on some of the time, but I’m learning to decode and even speak that language (Mmm mmm mmm means “I don’t know” in Teenglish). It’s more like he and I are in different countries, and we call each other only when necessary. To check in. Or remind him to wash his face. Or ask me to email the karate teacher.

et-1

He’s actually not quite a teenager – he’s 12 and a half. Exactly. And I know much is likely to change in the next six months before his barmitzvah. His voice might break. He could grow a whole foot. The glimpses of sullenness and defiance I’m seeing now will probably turn into full-scale epic movies of extreme emotion. I’m bracing myself for way more drama than when I took him to buy “nice” clothes and he grabbed the pants the sales lady held out to him, and actually threw them on the floor. At her feet. Apparently he doesn’t like dressy clothes – frayed cargo khakis and a polo shirt are as “dressed up” as this NorCal boy will go. Thankfully the lovely lady at Nordstrom has two grown sons of her own and remembers those days. But I cringed in horror as I watched my usually even-tempered, go-with-the-flow boy flail in frustration.

We don’t need much from each other, he and I. He usually just gets on with it. Walks to and from school. Even in the rain. Grabs a snack for himself. Does his homework. Gets consistently good grades with seemingly little stress and effort. Brushes his teeth without being told. Jokes with his brothers. Loves his Rubik’s cube. Reads sci-fi books. Watches Psych and Modern Family. I sign his math test or reading log when he asks, he doesn’t beg me to drive on field trips, casually mentions we’re out of frozen waffles (his breakfast of choice) but is happy to find something else to eat.

We spend a little time together in the car, just the two of us, when I take him to his barmitzvah lessons or to karate. But even then we don’t talk much. He answers my questions about school and friends with no more than three to four words. Not in a moody teenage way, just very matter-of-fact. Sometimes he’ll give me a fun fact, or relay a quick story. Ask me why humans are born with an appendix. As we drive passed the park he might yell out the window to someone. “Who’s that?” I ask. “My friend. Michael. He’s in my Spanish class.” Oh.

Remember when I knew all his friends, and their parents, and where they lived? When I could picture him at recess playing basketball or foursquare with those friends, knowing what he was eating for lunch because I packed it for him?

I’m not sad that he’s growing up, becoming independent. I’m not feeling nostalgic or wistfully remembering when he was so attached to me he cried solidly all day every day for the first three weeks of preschool. In my mother-heart I know that he is happy, and thriving, and enjoying his seventh grade life – even if he doesn’t share the details with me. He still loves to eat the cake batter out the bowl. And I leave the chocolate chips out of the banana bread – he hates chocolate.

Our long-distance relationship works for both of us. He’ll happily babysit the younger ones if I ask him to (meaning, if I pay him to). He helps me unload the trunk, fixes his sister breakfast, explains the math problem to his brother. All with no fuss. Unfazed. I can’t remember the last time he needed help from me or his dad, with anything. Schoolwork. A difficult social situation. A problem with a teacher. I don’t worry if he doesn’t come home straight after school, or wonder what he’s getting up to online. Girls are still just friends, if they exist at all in his world, and on the rare occasion I catch sight of him on campus or on the soccer field, he is engaged and social.

His baby brother wakes up wailing, and I bury myself further under the covers. I hear him crying and mumbling to himself, trying to get dressed, but I don’t move. And suddenly this little guy is at my bedside in the half-dark room, and before I even open my mouth to ask what’s wrong, the big almost-man-brother in dinosaur pajama pants is taking him by the hand and leading him out. “I’ll help you,” he says. As if he knows that I need just ten minutes more of quiet.

I am so thankful for this easy boy. Because son number two is not easy – needs so much from me all the time, and always has. Wants to talk and process and find out what I’m feeling and thinking, needs help with his homework, pounds his drums when frustrated or yells that he’s running away from home. And daughter and baby boy have requirements of their own, one being a second grade girl in a family of boys, and the other the youngest of four. Part of the fun and challenge of being a parent, navigating the different personalities and needs and moods of each child. And I wouldn’t have it any different (well, maybe a little different – like just one kid less). But my Big Easy Boy means a little less stress, a quarter of calmness in the frenzy, 25 percent more headspace for something or someone else.

And in his not-neediness I keep him in mind. Fix him an after-school snack. It’s a one-off thing. I’m not even sure if he’s coming home from school. Pastrami on a challah roll with the baby gherkins that he loves – no mayo, no mustard. I leave it on the kitchen counter on a plate, next to a note scribbled on a piece of scrap paper I fished out of the recycling: Daniel. Love Mom. I use the faintest black gel pen. Minimal effort. Minimal fuss. It feels like the most maternal thing I’ve done since I stopped breastfeeding the youngest three years ago.

He calls as soon as he gets home from school.

“Mom? So yeah I got the sandwich… it’s nice.”

I love you, Mom. And I know you love me.

challah

Reposted today as inspired by the Finish the Sentence Friday prompt: “I know my child would rather I not reveal this…” Hosts: Kristi from Finding Ninee and Stephanie from Mommy, for Real. Guest Hosts: Kelly from Just Typikel and Anna from Fitfunner.