Posted by Sarah Tuttle-Singer
The first time I went to Israel, I was 16.
And from Los Angeles.
We’re talking triple threat.
I was on one of those summer programs in Israel–you know, those Jewish hookup-fests thinly disguised as “educational and spiritual trips” where hormonal teenagers hike, swim, and share mono together.
(I think most of our parents imagined that we’d all be earnestly singing Hava Nagila and Hinei Ma Tov around a camp fire, but no.)
It was a great time to be in Israel: The dollar-to-shekel exchange rate was in our favor, and Ben Yehudah Street was our motzei Shabbat smorgesboard, teeming with other Jewish American hormones teenagers helping the economy.
We’d sidle in and out of shops, duped into thinking our novice haggling actually made a difference in the prices, and inevitably, we’d buy too many T-shirts at Mr. T’s. But hey, you can’t leave Israel without an olive-green IDF T-shirt (in English) or a fire engine-red Coca-Cola T-shirt (in Hebrew.)
During that summer, I spoke Bat Mitzvah Hebrew. And I was fluent in my mistakes.
Not that it mattered.
Whenever we would have exchanges with “the natives”– and by “the natives” I mean rich kids from Ramat Aviv who spoke English as well as we did– I’d inevitably end up playing around in their language: An ingénue tripping adorably over words with “Chet,” “Ayin” and “Resh.” But in a cute way.
And every time I’d stumble through the language, the Israelis around me would hold my hand and help me through.
And who can blame them? I was 16, from Los Angeles, and blonde.
Well, that summer was a long time ago, and things have changed.
In the interest of full disclosure, let me break it down:
I am closer to turning 40 than I am to being 16.
I have two children, and a postpartum tummy to prove it.
I can feel the first signs of early arthritis twisting my fingers like the roots of a begonia plant. Really.
Retinol is my weapon of choice in the War on Aging.
While it’s true my Hebrew has improved a little, the language is still new to me.
In Hebrew, I misplace words, leaving them somewhere buried deep in memory.
In Hebrew, I’m a time traveler, turning past tense into present, future tense into past. My passive verbs go running. My active verbs are stoned on a beach in the Sinai. I confuse my masculine and feminine verbs and nouns so often that it’s as if they’re cross dressing.
In Hebrew, I’m 16 again: breathless and giddy as I stumble over new words, wrapping my lips and twisting my tongue over unfamiliar sounds. Speaking Hebrew gives me butterflies in my stomach.
And like that summer, as I trip through the language, I’ve found that others are still willing to pick me up and walk me through the nuances of something that is both a little familiar and yet utterly foreign.
(After all, I may no longer be 16, but I’m still from Los Angeles, and I’m still blonde.)
But this time, I am not going home in eight weeks. This is my home. I’ve got two children who need a mother and not a 16-year-old friend. They need badass, not breathless.
They need a grownup.
And so, I must continue to practice.
Instead of grunting and pointing at something on a menu, I will speak up and order. In Hebrew.
Instead of wandering around lost for an hour and a half, I will ask for directions from a shopkeeper. In Hebrew.
Instead of letting B. do the talking for me when we speak with M.’s preschool teachers, I will find out how my daughter’s day was. In Hebrew.
And even though I know that I will inevitably fall hard on my ass, I will take these first few steps. And somehow, someday,I will toddle toward linguistic adulthood. In Hebrew.
A big Todah Raba (See? I’m busting out my mad Hebrew skilz!) to Kveller.com for allowing me to repost this.
Kveller.com offers a Jewish twist on parenting, everything a Jewish family could need for raising Jewish children—including crafts, recipes, activities, Hebrew and Jewish names for babies… and advice from Mayim Bialik.
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January 19, 2011 | 2:56 pm
Posted by Sarah Tuttle-Singer
By now, you’ve probably gotten the memo:
I’m still breastfeeding M and Little Homie.
(And I’m happy to take on another customer or two if you know of anyone in Israel who is interested. I charge 75 shekels an hour. I could really use the money.Thanx.)
It’s like a spread in National Geographic magazine over here - M on one tit, Little Homie on the other. I think B may have taken a picture or two, because, hey, if Octomom can get propositioned by Vivid Entertainment, maybe I could sell these pics to Hustler.
(My contact information is on the right side of this page. Again, I could really use the money Thanx.)
You may assume that I’m one of those crunchy granolla mamas with the wind blowing through my
hair, all hippied out and high on my attachment parenting ethos.
I’m really not
The only reason I tandem breastfeed is because
it’s easy to shut my daughter up by shoving my tit in her mouth when she’s in tired or sick
The women on this kibbutz are way more badass than I am. They all lift their shirts up with reckless abandon and feed their kids, and the men don’t even bat an eye. In fact, when I was skulking around the Kibbutz dining hall the other day looking for a potted plant to nurse behind, one of the other mamas asked me why I just don’t feed the baby at the table like everyone else.
And while I’m down with others nursing in public, I can’t bring myself to whip out my tit in Kibbutz dining hall and feed Little Homie in front of everyone.
It has nothing to do with modesty. I’m really not a prude. But in the immortal words of Chris Rock:
“40 year old titty? That’s your man’s titty. 20 year old titty? COMMUNITY TITTY.”
And while I’m only 29, after two back-to-back pregnancies, serving hard-time with a Madela nursing pump when M was little, and breastfeeding for almost three years straight it boils down to this:
My breasts look better in a bra. Under a shirt.
And besides the convenience of breastfeeding - tandem or otherwise - I believed
that my boobies would make lots of shiny, happy antibodies, and M and Little Homie would shit rainbows
that nursing would make my kids healthier.
But not so.
Newsflash: My boobies are not magical.
There’s a rumor going ‘round these parts that I’m having an affair with the
brooding, intense, and incredibly sexy
oncall ER pediatrician at the nearby hospital.
I suppose this begs the question how did I meet an ER pediatrician in the first place.
Ever since we landed here, our entire family has been body-slammed with disease.
(For some serious Schadenfreude Porn, click here and read about our crash landing in Israel. That should give you a general idea.)
I miss the halcyon days when I used to think that the sniffles was something serious. I remember hunkering down with M or Little Homie, brandishing the bulb syringe, steaming up the bathroom with a hot shower and eucalyptus essential oils or whatever, and speed-dialing Dr. S.
“My 8 month old is congested!”
And, the ever-patient Dr. S would give us the signs and symptoms that are worth worrying about, and I would hang up reassured.
Those were the good old days. Cozy times wasted worrying over a little snot.
My world view has changed after facing the following:
1. bilious vomit (everyone)
2. throat infections and swollen glands (everyone)
3. mastitis (yours truely),
4. ear infections (Little Homie and M)
5. allergic reaction to Amoxicillan (Little Homie),
6. a nasty-ass croup that never ends (M)
And now this:
Little Homie is really sick.
For the last seven - seven - nights, we haven’t slept. Normally, the boy is pretty stoic—Unlike M who goes all Greek Tragedy on us when the wind blows through her hair—but this time he’s really suffering. And together, we’re cranky, crying, and covered in crud, curled up on the couch waiting for dawn.
Not that it’s much better during daylight.
And yesterday, after his fever climbed to 41 C / 105.8 F - (no, seriously) we got the diagnosis:
Little Homie has Pneumonia.
(INSERT OMINUS MUSIC HERE)
As in, Pneumonia.
(Even the word sounds kind of creepy.)
And while I can name about 20 other kids here who have the same thing, it still scares the shit out of me.
A nasty case of the sniffles can’t kill you. But Pneumonia can.
Even with tremendous help from B and my Fairy Godmother in Law, my mind is starting
to crack open and leak all over the blogosphere.
And if we survive this latest onslaught, maybe I’ll stuff my not-so-magical boobies into a real bra, slip the kids some formula and
pass out piss drunk under a bush somewhere
go on vacation.
I think I need it.
January 12, 2011 | 2:57 pm
Posted by Sarah Tuttle-Singer
When I was six years old, I started getting stomach aches. They began shortly after Michael’s roly-poly baby brother fell headfirst into the swimming pool of their big, beautiful house in Beverly Hills on a warm Saturday morning. And drowned.
I heard my parents talking about it. They were somber and sad. My dad shook his head, and my mom cried quietly at the dining room table after the phone call came.
“Poor Jeanine,” my mom whispered. “No mother should ever bury a child.”
Up until that point, my only experience with death involved Blind Tom, our one-eyed goldfish who went missing shortly after Nebbie, our geriatric cat was seen eyeing him and making lazy circles around the fish bowl. But still, while I cried a little and avoided kissing Nebbie for a few days, I understood that cats have to eat too. This was all part of nature.
Michael’s little brother drowning on sunny Saturday morning seemed like a crime against nature.
Michael didn’t come to school for a while after his brother drowned. Maybe a week passed before he came back. Maybe more. When you’re six, time is more flexible, and the days and nights are mushed into one long memory. But when he did come back to school, he didn’t talk to anyone. He sat still and silent during Story Time and stared at his hands.
Then, in the middle of the story “Why Mosquitos Buzz in People’s Ears,” Michael gagged and vomited all over the big blue rug.
All the kids shrieked “Eew” at the smell of rancid cheerios, milk, and goldfish crackers. Michael began to cry and dry heave, and the teacher wrapped her dimpled arms around him and rocked him against her until he quieted down. She was crying, too.
That afternoon, I got a terrible stomach ache.
“I’m worried about my stomach,” I told mom when she picked me up at school.
“Does it hurt?” She asked.
“Yes. I’m afraid of throwing up.”
The next day, my stomach hurt so much that I went to the nurses office. I lay on the vinyl pink couch and counted the cracks on the tiled ceiling while she called my mother and asked her to come pick me up.
My mom took me home and made me peppermint tea, and I felt much better. But later that afternoon, my stomach seized, and I thought I might throw up.
“I’m worried about my stomach. I’m worried about my stomach.” I repeated over and over while bouncing from one leg to the other in a frantic attempt to distract myself from the niggling nausea. I started breathing very fast, and everything blurred around the edges. “I’m worried about my stomach. I’m worried about my stomach.” I was crying and gagging and trying to breathe.
My mom wrapped her arms around me, and held my rigid body tight against hers as she sang the song she had always sung to me whenever I was afraid of the monsters hiding in the closet: “Everything’s ok. Everyone’s ok. You will be ok. Everything’s ok.” Over and over and over she sang until I slumped into sleep.
I stayed home the next day and my mom and I watched I Love Lucy reruns and went to the beach. We ate cucumber sandwiches and homemade brownies on our front porch for lunch, and while she dug up weeds in the garden, I wrote a poem:
Life is worth Living.
Eggs are still hatching.
Mamals have babies.
But if you want to stay in your house
Cowering like a little mouse
That’s ok with me
But I would keep living.
That night, when she tucked me in, I asked what it meant to die.
“Dying means we aren’t here any more.”
I thought about my dolls and stuffed animals. Who would take care of them for me?
“Are you going to die some day?” I asked in a small voice.
My mom traced her fingers over my back, drawing letters that I could half-decipher. “Honey, I don’t plan on dying for a long long long time.”
“No. I wish it could be this way. I wish we could all live forever.
I thought about this while she rubbed my back. I thought about Blind Tom. I thought about Michael’s baby brother.
“Why can’t we?
“It just isn’t how things work,” she said sadly.
“Am I going to die?” I asked as I felt my stomach start to flip-flop, and I thought about Michael throwing up on the rug during story time.
“Not for a long long time, and not until you’re ready,” she said in her warm, reedy voice.
“How do you know?”
“I just know.”
And I believed her.
January 6, 2011 | 3:28 am
Posted by Sarah Tuttle-Singer
Last week, I sat under a tree near the kibbutz dining hall, and told a woman I had just met that I was miserable in Israel (hey, that kind of rhymes!) and wanted to go home.
Now, granted she had a kind face, but she was essentially a total stranger. (I will say in my defense that everyone knows everyone around these parts… which in hindsight might not be such a good thing when I’m bitching and moaning about how i’m like thisclose to hauling ass back to Ben Gurion airport, the kids under each arm like footballs, and dragging my husband by
(But we all know how I feel about oversharing. And now, so does she.)
So, the sympathetic woman and I spoke for a while—she was once a new immigrant, as well, and essentially understood some of my feelings in a way that only an expat can… And eventually we U-turned and exchanged names, family affiliations, the ages of our kids—all the mundane particulars that fill in the spaces of our character.
“Are you working?” she asked.
“I write a humor column,” I sobbed, blowing snot from my nose on the sleeve of my sweater.
I’ve never been even tempered. In fact, a close friend with a psych background recently suggested I might have something called Cyclothymia.
There are days when I am flying high, and I love it here: When I want to soak in every single solitary moment, to smile and say “boker tov —good morning” to everyone I pass while I push Little Homie in the stroller on my way to the coffee place where they make the best lattes in the world. I want to rub my fingers over the lavender growing near the dining hall—I want to touch every fucking leaf on every fucking tree. I want to sing. And sometimes, I do, loud and free.
There are days when I feel like I’m actually putting down roots in this beautiful place, while my arms reach toward the sky.
It’s like this kibbutz is crack, and I am a junkie, licking the last traces of powder from the table.
But then, there are other days. Dark days, when I shrink into myself - crabbed and crippled. Days when I wake up from a dream about Coffee Bean or Barnes and Noble, or my dad, with a sob stuck in my throat. Days when I can barely breathe from loneliness.
Days like today.
Sometimes, I feel like a stumbled and fell into a Nirvana song - only this isn’t some teenage angsty bullshit. This is my life. I know there is help out there: There are people who can tinker with my misfiring synapsises, and, if need-be, hit the reset button on my crazy switch with a strong dose of Lithium.
But the thing is, I’m scared to get this fixed because deep down I feel that the highs are worth it.
My emotional landscape is like San Francisco, and I’m driving a Ferrari at like 1000 miles per hour, up and down and up and down and up and down the scaly dragon humps of the city.
And the view from Lombard Street is pretty fucking awesome.
And besides, if I do find even ground on the slow train through the flatlands, I’ll have to change my blog name to The
Well-Adjusted Baby Mama. And who wants to read that?