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Simply Special

The Happiest Camper on Earth

July 11, 2019 3:40 PM

School has ended and summer has begun. Clear blue skies, ice-cream cones, sprinklers and sunscreen. Laughter, late nights, fire pits and s’mores.

Chaim Boruch finished school with cuteI wondered how our summer days would play out little crafts and smiles all around, and once again, I wondered how our long summer days would play out. This would be the first year ever that we would be able to send Chaim Boruch to his summer-school program, and yet we had a week until it began. I tried my best to keep him engaged while avoiding conflict, temper tantrums and frustrating situations.

We decided that he would join his siblings for the 40-minute ride to their day camp at our fellow Chabad emissaries nearby. And while we were somewhat apprehensive about this idea, we tried to figure out the best way our attention could be divided to ensure that Chaim’s siblings had a smooth and calm start to camp.

Again ... anticipating the worst-case scenario and praying for the best. It’s almost like taking a deep breath before plunging underwater, unsure of one’s strength to keep on swimming before that next breath.

We arrive at camp. So far, so good.

I feel little hands clinging to my skirt as I take in the scene.

Happy faces all around, backpacks scattered, crafts already set on the tables, sweet smiling counselors and the scent of snacks, crayons and sunscreen all mixed together. Each of my kids are given a warm welcome, including Chaim Boruch, who by now has picked up on the lighthearted spirit of camp.

He gestures and tries to communicate with me about what he sees and notices, and I smile back and make happy conversation with him while nudging my little ones to set their stuff down.

I find a seat, and instantly, my 3-year-old and 5-year-old land nervously on my lap. Chaim Boruch has a hand on my shoulder, and I feel good cuddled in this camp huddle.

The theme of camp is “Out of This World.” Each boy is given a yarmulke designed with the solar system on it.

Chaim Boruch sees a pile set aside and instinctively takes off the plain yarmulke he is wearing and exchanges it for the camp one. After all, he learned about the solar system in school this year, so he knows what’s good!

I try to explain to him that these yarmulkes are for the campers, but my words fall flat. There is no discussion here, and I proceed to ask the camp director about how I could purchase a new yarmulke.

I find myself trying to introduce my kids to new friends and counselors, and inch towards the door in the hope that this new experience is a successful one.

Chaim Boruch notices the pile of camp shirts that I am to bring back home for his siblings to wear on trip days. He is pointing and nodding, and, of course, the shirts are orange. One of his favorite colors.

I am tired by now. It feels like itI am tired by now should be dinner time, but I haven’t actually had breakfast yet.

I head towards the ever-so-accommodating director, a friend and fellow emissary, and I see she has gathered the pieces. She kindly gives Chaim Boruch a camp shirt, and at this point, my heart feels like I had just won the lottery.

Chaim Boruch is smiling and happy, and thinks he is a camper at camp “just like everyone else.”

“Just like everyone else.”

What is it about inclusiveness that warms us to our core?

What is it about the small things in life that aren’t actually so small?

Acceptance, community, being a part of one whole.

The Torah teaches us that when the Jewish people came to the wilderness of Sinai and encamped before the mountain, the Hebrew word used for “encamped” is Vayichan, which is singular in tense. Rashi, a commentator, comments that they encamped “k’ish echad b’lev echad: As one man, with one heart.”

The Torah teaches us about the concept of unity despite our “singularity,” and every day we navigate the differences to reveal the unity.

Inclusiveness is not about what defines us as individuals; rather, it’s about highlighting the spark that runs parallel among each of us as a whole.

And so, from one spiritual camp before Mount Sinai, we leave Camp Aleph with Chaim Boruch holding my hand.

He is happy and excited about having “gone to camp,” and we talk all the way home about the morning we have had so far.

I find myself talking, yet my thoughts are elsewhere.

Kind of like scattered blossoms in the wind.

“Just like everyone else” ... I wonder to myself.

I’m not even sure what that means, but what I do know is that I am grateful to be the mother of the happiest camper on earth.

Chana is a proud wife and mother living in Mill Valley, California. She is inspired by the colors and textures of everyday life, and loves sharing her creative ideas with her community. Chana writes DIY projects, crafts and recipes celebrating her Jewish life and shlichus on her blog Chana’s Art Room, and is the co-director of Chabad of Mill Valley with her husband, Rabbi Hillel Scop. To read more about Chaim Boruch, and Chana’s journey, take a look at her personal special-needs blog, Life of Blessing.

My Miracle, My Gift, My Very Special Son

June 6, 2019 2:40 PM

Have you ever scrolled through hundreds of photos, very quickly, in search of the one you are looking for? I’m sure you have. We all do it. Daily. Searching for the moment to share with another.

In preparation forI found myself going back in time Chaim Boruch’s bar mitzvah, I was looking for photos of him from the past 12 years. I found myself scrolling on my laptop, sifting through thousands of family photos, going back in time.

And then, as if I was entirely transported to a time and space far away, I stopped scrolling at the year he was born.

I look at our family. I study every sibling’s face. I stare at my smile. I see nothing but love, laughter and happiness. I see peacefulness. I see calm. I see acceptance.

I realize I am holding my breath ... and finally exhale. I sit for a moment, grateful I am alone in my thoughts. What I realize is that things were so much easier then.

I wonder why ...

Was it because I was so much younger? Was it because I didn’t have time to look at the future? Was I oblivious? In denial? Does it only look easier, and in reality, I am simply just further from those heartbeats of mine in those early days?

Or is it because I was simply grateful? Grateful for a special gift?

I don’t know.

I continue to wonder about the present.

I scroll up to photos that I took yesterday. I see nothing but love, laughter and happiness. I see peacefulness. I see calm. I see acceptance.

I reflect what I feel in my heart and do a quick reality check.

Yes, it is true. Things are harder. A lot harder.

We have a new relationship. A new line of communication. He wants to share, and “talk” and relate. And I listen to his gestures, his noises, his cues, and I guess what he is trying to “say.” Sometimes, I guess right and sometimes, I am so very wrong.

He is easily frustrated and stubborn. He does not understand my point of reason, and I don’t understand where my patience has gone.

I plead with him, with the desperate look in my eyes, but to no avail.

A storm has begun, and it has silenced the sunshine. The high pitch of the thunder and crack of lightning shatter my nerves. There is nothing left but my shallow breath. I have used all my resources and my toolbox lays empty, strewn across my home.

And in these moments, things are hard. A lot harder.

But look at theA storm has begun, and it has silenced the sunshine photos.

The ones taken with my heart.

They are vibrant, full of emotion, full of love and passion and gratitude.

G‑d, You gave me a magnificent gift.

My special son who transforms me, inspires me and teaches me.

On bright sunny days and in midst of a raging storm.

The midrash teaches us that when we received the Torah at Mount Sinai, the very place the Jewish people gathered to receive the Torah was covered with beautiful greenery and sweet-smelling flowers.

Mount Sinai was in a desert, and I can only imagine such an exquisite miracle.

And yet, if I think about it, there are many days where my desert is blossoming, too.

In fact, it is blooming.

Despite little water and little strength.

Chaim Boruch is my miracle, and he will forever teach me to bloom where I am planted.

Chana is a proud wife and mother living in Mill Valley, California. She is inspired by the colors and textures of everyday life, and loves sharing her creative ideas with her community. Chana writes DIY projects, crafts and recipes celebrating her Jewish life and shlichus on her blog Chana’s Art Room, and is the co-director of Chabad of Mill Valley with her husband, Rabbi Hillel Scop. To read more about Chaim Boruch, and Chana’s journey, take a look at her personal special-needs blog, Life of Blessing.
Chana Scop shares her experiences parenting a child with special needs.
Chana ScopChana is a proud wife and mother living in Mill Valley, California. She is inspired by the colors and textures of everyday life, and loves sharing her creative ideas with her community. Chana writes DIY projects, crafts and recipes celebrating her Jewish life and shlichus on her blog Chana’s Art Room, and is the co-director of Chabad of Mill Valley with her husband, Rabbi Hillel Scop. She also writes about a mother’s journey of raising a special-needs son on her other blog, Life of Blessing. She welcomes you to be a part of her creative and touching journey.
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