Sunday, September 28, 2008

Driving Around Modi'in - Not as easy as it sounds; And Elevators

Today I had my driving lesson. Let's call the teacher "Steve." He picked me up around 9:15 at the apartment. We are getting ever closer to that elusive goal, the Israeli driver's license. Steve and I drove around Modi'in for a while, and he told me at one point that had this been the test, I would have failed. Nothing like a prediction of doom to give a girl confidence! As all olim will tell you, it is frustrating to have to go through this process when most of us having been driving, mostly satisfactorily, for 10 - 20 years in the States. But this is what we must do. Anyway, Steve was actually a really nice guy, and of course, he knew people at SAR - "It's a small world after all..." We were schmoozing for most of the drive. The tricky thing here is traffic circles and one-way streets. You don't have to do any parking for the test (at least that's what I've been told), so for those of you who remember (Dadz) my atrocious parallel - or for that matter, any - parking skills, you'd think I'd feel some sense of relief. How bad can a driving test be, if you don't even have to park? First, you have to understand that in Maryland, the driving test is at a course. You don't need any real-life driving skills to pass. You just need to know how to signal, do a 3-point turn, stop, park, and stop again. That's it. So I've never really had a test experience under actual driving conditions. Steve told me some good tips to know about driving here. One classic mistake people make is when turning onto a one way street, you're supposed to make a "tight" turn into the left lane instead of a "wide" turn into the right lane. (This is also true in America, but there are fewer one-way streets.) However, once you are safely ensconced in the left lane, you should quickly signal to change to the right lane because you are not supposed to drive in the left lane unless you are turning. And then once you are in the right lane, you should do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around, that's what it's all about, hey. So there's a lot of practice with making turns from one-way to two-way and one-way to one-way and two-way to two-way and do-si-do, swing your partner round and round. At the end of the lesson, of course, Steve thought it would be in my best interest to have another few lessons. It's like the ice cream store people telling you that you'll actually save money by buying the larger size. It may be in your best interest, but it is definitely in their best interest. I think that I will have another lesson, though, since I panic easily and this might help. Although to listen to all the wrong things you're doing for 40 minutes straight is not exactly calming.
In the afternoon I attempted to get my Hep A vaccine. I was unsuccessful. Well, that's not entirely true. I did get the vaccine, just not in a way that will actually protect me against the disease. See, the way you get a vaccine, at least for adults, don't know about the kids yet, is that you go to the pharmacy. You get a vial of the vaccine. Then you go upstairs to the nurse and she injects you with it. So I was able to obtain the vial of the Hep A vaccine, but unless I can wave it in front of me, chanting, in order to ward off illness, it's not doing anyone much good right now. Although they did take it out of my hora'at keva, which I love. It is now resting comfortably in the fridge. I was given a number to call to make an appointment with the nurse, but when I called the number, it rang and rang and rang until it finally hung up on me, exhausted.

In our elevator there has been a notice asking people to pay the "vaad habayit" of 300 NIS in order to "receive the Shabbat elevator" (which has not seen the light of day yet), and clean the building before the chag. There has been an ongoing argument between anonymous elevator bloggers about the "payment" and the "cleaning." They are writing on the notice back and forth to each other. It goes something like this: "Nothing has been cleaned yet!" "That's because people haven't paid the money!" "Clean the building!" "Pay the money!" "Clean!" "Pay!" and so on and so forth. It's riveting! Especially since we don't have television, this is real entertainment! I often find myself going to the elevator numerous times a day to keep up. But here's the funniest part. This notice, and another one announcing the times of the Shabbat elevator, have been slowly eroding. Every time I go in the elevator, the paper is shorter and shorter. I realized that people must be ripping off pieces of paper to jot down notes, or take a phone number, or write a shopping list. This amuses me to no end. I just imagine the dude in the elevator, talking on his cell phone, needs to write down a phone number or directions, so he just rips off a piece of the notice - not caring he is interrupting the argument; now it just says, "Clean the bui-" - and jots down the necessary information. What a great use of resources! My only question is: How the heck is he able to get cell phone reception in the elevator??????

Lunch update: Today, Donny had 2 pieces of shnitzel, plus rice, and potatoes. I ate: yogurt, and then pickles to fend off starvation.

Kid update: Yaakov came home, all excited about the "dubi" that he made in gan - a little teddy bear designed to hold honey. It was so cute to see how he defaulted to the Hebrew word. Ariella wore "kachol v'lavan" to school in honor of her Rosh Hashanah party and also made some really nice projects for the chag.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


We had a nice, mostly restful Shabbos. (I will continue to use "Shabbos" and "Shabbat" interchangeably, so get used to it.) Friday night for me used to be synonomous with "Soup, followed by collapsing on the couch with People." Shabbos morning was "Work my way through the NY Times, and Read People Again, Because Once is Never Really Enough. Also Drink Coffee." Hence the title of my book on child-rearing. (See: earlier posts.) But now, I am bereft of all newspaper, except for the Hebrew newspaper I get at ulpan on Tuesdays, which is written in "Ivrit kalah" i.e. Ivrit for Dummies. So I've been doing a lot of reading books, but I'm almost halfway through my third book. I only brought 3 new books, so this is causing me no small amount of panic. I take comfort in knowing that there's always rereading all 7 Harry Potters. However, the upside to my lack of reading material is that I am forced to actually spend time with my children, and I have discovered, on the whole, that they are not such bad little people, really. We read books, play Memory, I break up the not-so-occasional fight, and then we start all over again. On Friday night, the kids were actually really cute. They took out this wooden fruit toys and some other random toys to the mirpeset. We have a little kiddie table and chairs out there, and they decided to set the table and have Shabbos dinner. They were so funny, especially when Ariella decided to bentch. First she bentched, as much as she knew, then she began singing gibberish to the tune of "Adon Olam." When she gets started, let me tell you, she could rival the minstrels in medieval times. She goes on, and on, and on... Today, Donny went to the far away shul, and we tried to meet him coming home but the timing didn't work out. Yaakov was very disappointed that we didn't see shul or Daddy. Donny liked the shul he went to today, which I am happy about, but I kind of wished he liked the closer shul, because that would be much more convenient for me.
In the afternoon, Donny and I basically left the children to their own devices and tried to sleep. It kind of worked. Donny locked the front door so they woudn't be able to escape, thereby limiting the amount of damage they could do to themselves. Of course, since Yaakov has managed to break his leg slipping on a magazine, we probably didn't limit all that much. Eventually everyone fell asleep, and then of course I had to wake them up so they didn't sleep too long. It is one of the ironies of life, that children sleep when you want them awake and are awake when you want them asleep. One of the hard things about school on Sunday is that they have to be in bed at a reasonable time after Shabbos (or "motzash") as it's called here. As I write this, it is almost 9:30 and I'm pretty sure one or both of them is awake. After naps and Shabbos party, we walked to a little park down the block from our apartment. It was very convenient, and pretty empty, so my kids got to be the crazy ones, unlike last week. We also met a nice couple at the park, who had a little kid and spoke English and were very sweet and said they would invite us for a meal! Nice people! Here! They don't actually live in Dimri, which might account for this anomaly. It got kind of cool at the park, so we went home and read more books until Shabbos was over. Then I checked Ariella's hair for nits - I am becoming very paranoid about this. Her gan sent home a note, first asking for money (in post-dated checks, naturally), and then letting parents know a couple of other things, including the importance of checking for lice once a week. My favorite line was how lice had already been found in some kids, "vezeh rak inyan shel zeman ad shezeh yagi'a eilecha habayta!" - and it's only a matter of time until this comes to YOUR house!
Food update: Ariella LOVED the chicken soup...phew! And as for the carrot kugel, it tasted fine, but I should have used a different setting on the oven because the inside was all mushy and gross.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Doing the Jew Thing

This morning, we let Ariella play hooky from gan and took the kids into Jerusalem to the Kotel. We parked near the Dan Pearl, and the kids walked all the way through Shaar Yafo, past that sketchy Arab part, then through the "maze" of the rova and down the stairs to the kotel. Donny and I stayed in the car and napped. Ha ha! No, we actually went with them. Ariella was very into writing a note and sticking it in the wall. She also wanted to know when "instruction" (i.e. construction) would begin for the third Beit HaMikdash, and would people be allowed to daven at the kotel during "instruction?" Ariella and I went as close to the Kotel as possible and said "Shema" and "HaTikva" because we are both Jewish and Israeli. She wrote a note which said, "Dear Hashem, Thank you for good food. I like blintzes. Thanks for making good food. Love, Ariella and Yaakov." She spent a long time trying to find a good "hole" for her note. She decided not to ask God for anything, because, "She might take a really long time to give it to you." (Yes, Ariella consistently refers to God in the feminine.) So she settled for giving thanks. She finally found a proper hole for her note, and then we walked backwards away from the Kotel. We met the boys, and then headed back to the car. The way back was longer, mainly because there were some tired and cranky children (I will not mention names), who insisted on being held, and whined for a good portion of the walk back. We made it back to the car, and then attempted to drive to Kiryat Moshe, where Donny's uncle lives. We stopped at 2 bakeries on the way back, and in true Israeli style, the best bakery was the hole in the wall one - awesome ruglach, (not that I would know. ..) In Kiryat Moshe, Uncle David met us and led us to where Donny's grandfather and his wife live. They recently moved to a retirement home near Shaarei Tzedek. People, let me tell you, sign up now - this place was gorgeous! Fancy lobby, pool, shuls, near tons of shopping and eating places. You have to be at least 60 to move in. Donny's already counting down - only 29 years left! We had a nice, but short, visit with Zaidy and Sonia, and then headed back to Modi'in. The highlight of the afternoon was Ariella getting to "sponga" the mirpeset. The mirpeset has its own faucet, so she and Donny let the water rip and squeegeed all of it down the drain. Very efficient. I had the more boring job of actually cleaning the rest of the apartment. Meanwhile, poor Yaakov slipped 3 times on the wet floor! Ever since he broke his leg, I panic when he falls. But once I see that he can stand, I'm like, "Oh, get over it, you're fine." Now we are preparing for our 2nd Shabbos at home. Last night I attempted to organize the toys a little - the living room set-up is not ideal for our couches and toys, so the toys were stuffed in the back and the kids couldn't get to them, leading them to fight over the 2 available toys, leading to crying, hair pulling, and shouting (all me). Last night, I started the cleaning by repurposing a big Rubbermaid container. It was being utilized for the all-important function of holding a bent wire hanger and a capusule of Zyrtec. I threw those out and put the art supplies in it, then reorganized the living room. The peace and calm that is my living room now will last about 3.5 seconds, but I will enjoy every nanosecond of those seconds. I am very impressed with how far we have come in 3 weeks: We have a relatively clean apartment, there is homemade chicken soup (which may or may not be edible), chicken, cholent, the infamous carrot kugel and some rice which I realize I have not made yet so maybe I should go do that now. Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Mystery Vegetable, and Other Exciting Events

****Please make sure to read the "Apology" post first...part of my teshuva****

The Turnip that Wasn't was actually a...beet! I think the soup came out ok, but the parsley gave it a weird taste, so I just added more sugar. But I got a good suggestion (thanks, Sarah) to add squash/zucchini to soup, which I will do next time. I'm hoping Ariella will eat the soup.

Some kid updates: So Yaakov is sleeping in a big-boy bed. We got him a bed which came on the lift, and he insisted in sleeping on it. For those of you who remember the Pesach Bed Disaster, this is a big relief. He does play by himself for like 3 hours after I put him to bed, but as long as he's in his room, he can be doing the conga line with monkey, doggie, and froggy, and that would be just A-OK with me. Ariella is asleep about 2.5 seconds after I put her in, but Yaakov stays up and has a big ol' party. He is also obsessed with airplanes, which I can't understand - he's constantly asking to go back on one, and looks longingly at the little airplane on our ModiinFone book. Poor guy. Little does he know I have no intention to ever, in my life, go back on a plane, at least not with him. Meanwhile, Ariella is whiling away the hours at gan, doing I'm not sure what, since she doesn't tell me, but she does come back with lovely art projects. And a shout-out to her teachers at SAR - she has often come home telling me she knows a Hebrew word (tapuach, gezer, etc) and I ask him if she learned it at gan. She replies, "No, SAR!" I'm not sure what she is understanding and what exactly is going through her head all day. She spends a lot of time with Aiden, the fellow oleh, and they are currently conducting a science experiment to see if they can grow a flower in the sand. The way you do it is this: Put a seed in the sand. Take Ariella's water bottle and water the seed. Wait. Repeat the next day. Wonder why it hasn't grown yet. (By the way, if they are successful, they will be the richest Israelis EVER.)
We are planning to go to Jerusalem tomorrow and take the kiddies to the kotel. I told Ariella she could tell her morot that she was going to the kotel because "kotel" is a Hebrew word. Then she asked me how to say "Friday." I said, "Yom Shishi." So she said, "Ok, I'll say to my morahs, 'Kotel. Yom shishi.'" I asked her if she was going to end the sentence with, "500 shekels. Unmarked bills."

Carts: Anyway, back to our day, post-Misrad (You wonderful people, you!) Since we were in the holy city, and we were finished early (it was only 9:30), we did what any good, God-fearing Jews would do during the Month of Judgement: We went to the shuk to look for a Bubby cart. Is everyone familiar with this term, "Bubby cart?" If not, I will enlighten you. It is not a cart made from actual Bubbies. It is not a cart in which to haul Bubbies. Rather, it is a cart USED by Bubbies, I think that's where it got its name from. You know, to put your groceries in after you shop and push them home. We have this problem that we live in an apartment. (Is everyone familiar with this term, "apartment?") We are parked on meenoos shalosh. We need to get the groceries from the car, to the elevator, then from the elevator to the apartment. Modi'in is full of people who live in apartments, yet apparently none of them have this problem because they don't have Bubby carts ANYWHERE. I guess Modi'in people (Modi'inites? Modi'inians? Modi'iners?) have arms of steel. We looked and looked - in supermarkets, in Kiryat Sefer (aka "Modi'n Illit"). To no avail. Luckily, LISA had told us that she was pretty sure in the shuk you could find one. So we looked in the shuk (Ha! That rhymes!). In the third little store'le (you know, a little store), we found it! It was 180 NIS, but when we said we would return in a minute with cash, he brought it down to 165 and said we could pay with a credit card if we bought it right then. I think "shuk" actually means, "Don't pay the asking price, twit." I am very happy with our cart. It is heavy duty. We had been using a suitcase to schlep stuff up from the car, but no longer. Now I have a cool Bubby Cart! I will be the envy of all on meenoos shalosh!

Balsams: Then, after stopping in a bakery for, you guessed it, TREATS, we made our way back to Modi'in. A highly successful morning. We came back home, I did laundry and worshipped my washer and dryer for a few minutes. Then we had to sign a shtar chov with Nafi and Lisa, which basically says if we skip the country they would have to pay lots and lots of money for our rent. But don't worry guys! We're not going anywhere! We'll stay riiight here...Ohmigod! What's that behind you?!! (Quick, Donny, grab the bags and run!) Seriously, though, we are glad we got to see Nafi and LISA before they ditch us for a month and go to America. I mean, we travel 6,000 miles to see them, and then they just leave. Speaking of which, I forgot to write about a very exciting outing this week with Lisa and the Balsam Children. We went to this "fun place" in Modi'in called Eretz Nehederet, which has climbing gymboree type things, riding toys, a little train ride, a climbing wall, etc. It was really nice and I was glad I did something fun with the kids. In general, I'm a pretty bad mother. After all, the title of my treatise on child-rearing is "Leave Me Alone So I Can Read the Paper." But that's a discussion for another time. At least on Tuesday I was an ok mother. Then we had a chance to host the Balsam children for dinner. I even blew them away with our awesome frozen fish nugget thingies.

Shopping: After the signing ceremony, we came back, dropped off our free mirror ("free" because LISA gave it to us - thanks Lisa!), and went to pick up Ariella. From there, we went straight to Supersol Deeel (by the way, I love that the Supersol website is "" - how cute that they use an English term, then transliterate it incorrectly!) Donny went on another intensive cheese-testing mission. We were looking for a few things in the cheese department: sour cream, farmer cheese, mozzerella, and cheddar. Apparently, mozzerella and cheddar are easy to find - you ask the cheese lady for "mozzerella" or "cheddar," using the correct Israeli pronunciation. Thanks to the Ramat Modi'in email list, I knew what the Israeli form of farmer cheese was - "Tuv Ta'am gevinah levanah." (The problem with the email list is that when you search for a certain topic, you often find the question, but then people tend to respond to the questioner personally, and not to the list. Luckily, the woman who asked the question posted the response to the list.) We found the correct farmer cheese, and then, because we couldn't figure out the sour cream situation, we decided to use "cream" instead of "sour cream" and just frown when we cook with it. Now for the carrot muffins. You will see that the muffins shortly become more trouble than they are worth. In our lift, we happened to have had a box of stuff from our pantry. The box included 3 jars of baby food carrots, which I use for carrot muffins. I figured I would make that this Shabbos, because why not - I have the carrots, the rest should be easy! Ha. Ha. In Supersol, I needed to find paper muffin cups. I had the tins, but I wanted to find cups so the muffins wouldn't stick. We could not find the cups. I looked everywhere. (Also strange - they do not sell Shabbos Sponges at Supersol Deeel. Luckily I solved that problem by going to the baby section and buying bottle brushes.) No cups. So I figured I would look for disposable muffin tins. Then I realized, not only were there no paper muffin cups, there were no foil pans of any sort. Now this is very strange. Supersol has everything, man. You can get a polo shirt, on your way to picking up a microwave, which might be too heavy to carry at the same time as your hot water pot, but you can always put them on top of your washer and dryer. That's right. All those things are sold at your local supermarket. If you need to put your lights on a Shabbos clock, you can buy one there. Need a set of dishes? Check. Laundry basket? Check. But no muffin cups or foil pans. Odd.
Ok, no problem, I figured, I'll just make carrot cake/kugel (depending who you ask) instead of muffins. On the way home, Carrot Muffin Crisis #2 occurred - I realized I had no flour. Flour's one of those things that since I always have it around, I never think to buy it. We got home, and Donny said he would go to the mall, try to get his bank card to work, and buy some flour from the grocery store there. He came home with the flour (but not a working bank card - it was nap time at the bank.) I started making the cake/kugel, when I came to baking soda. No baking soda. Crisis #3! I called the two people I know in the building, but no luck. So we figured that we'd go out for dinner, to celebrate it being dinner time, and on the way, pick up some baking soda. Done. We drove to a supermarket in Kaiser and picked up the baking soda. (It said "Soda L'shtiyah," so Donny was concerned it was some kind of drink mix. Now it was in a baggie, and Israelis do love to drink things out of bags, but it clearly said, "Sodium Bicarbonate" in English, so I wasn't concerned.)

Falafel: Anyway, for dinner we found this awesome falafel place (not "found" so much as "called Lisa and asked her where it was") - they give you falafel and cheeps in a pita, and you stuff it with all the sauces, pickles, and salads you can fit. You can even go back for seconds as you make your way through your falafel! Ariella ate a pita, cheeps, and salad. Yaakov ate a pita slathered in ketchup - East meets West. But we did have a big food breakthrough - Ariella decided to try a piece of falafel...and she LIKED it! She even wanted more! Maybe there is hope for her. Then we came home, to my carrot mixture sitting in the fridge, and we encounter...Crisis #4! When turning off the oven before we left, I accidentally turned it to "clean" mode. Haha! Luckily nothing near the oven got too hot, but the oven was locked and there was no way to stop the cleaning cycle. So I waited. Now, though the carrot cake/kugel is done, and there is no parsley in it, so we should be fine.

Unpacking...Not! Donny and I have been successfully avoiding the rest of the unpacking. I'm not talking about the pictures that take months to hang up. I'm talking about a room and half of stuff that needs to be taken out, looked at, then left where it was because we're too tired to deal with it. No, seriously. Our entire bookcase and all of our books are just lying around the 4th bedroom, and there are still piles of clothes and coats in the cheder klitah. We REALLY need to make a push to clean it. Also, our printer is not set up, there are various chairs lying all over the place, and all of our important documents (which started as in a folder but have reproduced and multiplied and we can never find the one we are looking for, although the next day when we're looking for a different important document, we'll find the one we were looking for the day before) are strewn all over the room. Not sure when it will get done...probably in time for our next move...

To end, I would just like to say that it is really, really, cool that the entire country is celebrating the New Year. Donny had a Rosh Hashanah get-together (aka New Year's party) at his office, and everyone, I mean EVERYONE - the checkout lady, the shomer, the random dude in the elevator - wishes you a "Shanah tova." I know that this is Israel and this should not come as a surprise, but it makes me smile.

Misrad HaRishui: An Apology

Before anything, I would like to issue a public apology to the Misrad HaRishui. Donny and I went this morning, to the office in Jerusalem. There was a parking garage right in the building, which was very convenient, and a nice Israeli lady even showed us how to get to the correct elevators. She did not show us the wrong way and then run away, cackling. She was extremely pleasant. She also exhorted us to remember our parking space, because many people who come here forget where they parked. This was an especially good reminder for me, someone who routinely relies on her 5-year old to remember where she parked. ("Come on, Ariella, let's go back to the car." "No, Mommy, the car is this way," is an actual conversation that occurs with alarming frequency.) We got to the Misrad, took a number (naturally), narrowly beating back an old man who was trying to get to the number thingy before us. Two against one, though, the old dude had no chance. In case you were wondering, the number thingy was disappointing - more reminiscent of Goldman's than the kupat cholim. We were next in line, and there was no wait at all. The lovely charedi lady behind the bulletproof plastic took our tofsei yarok, our licenses, PHOTOCOPIED the license herself, and filled out the relevant information, finishing with a stamp. (The Israelis LOVE to stamp things.) So here is my first apology: We did not need to photocopy our own license - she did it for us. Then, not only was there no Copy Surcharge, there was no charge at all! For the entire stamping process! It's unbelievable! We went in and out, and only paid the parking fee (10 shekel.) We went to a misrad and paid NO money. Are you understanding me? If people want to save money, they should just go to the Misrad HaRishiu all day long. All the stamping you could ask for, and no fee charged. I am still on a high from this. I will continue with our day in another post, because I feel like the apology deserves its own posting. I will do an extra al chet for this on Yom Kippur.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cars and poop, the kaspomat, lunch, and The Turnip That Wasn't

Two random thoughts for discussion:

1. Israelis seem to have large families and small cars. Discuss

2. The Hebrew language has appropriated many English words for its own use. For example, "technology," "internet," "email," "integration," - even "babysitter" is an accepted Hebrew word. I heartily applaud this movement. I am hopeful for a time, soon in our days, when all Hebrew is just English words with a rolling "r." However, there is one appropriation which both fascinates and disgusts me. "Hu oseh cocky" is what the ganenet said one day when I picked Yaakov up from gan. Why, oh why, have the Israelis taken the most vulgar English word possible to describe that particular bodily function? Were the other words all busy at the time, and THAT one (which I will not repeat unless necessary) was the only one home to answer the door? [sigh] I suppose I should be glad they didn't choose other, even more inappropriate words, which I will not write here because this is a G-rated blog. (Approved for all audiences who have a sense of humor and too much time on their hands.)

In case you were wondering, my bank card works! Ariella and I took a trip to the mall after lunch, because it's been a while since I burned through some cash. I needed to photocopy my license because we are attempting to complete Step 12,338,002.6/18 of the license process. We are planning to go to the Misrad HaRishui tomorrow, for the great privilege of giving them money, so that they will....take more money from us. Now that I think about it, there should be a Misrad solely dedicated to collecting fees. Once a month, all Israelis would have to go to the Misrad SheLo Oseh Klum, and pay some random amount. And every month it would change! And no two people would ever pay the same amount! Oh wait a minute...we have that. It's called taxes. Ok, back to the story. Anyway, when one goes to the Misrad, one needs an active foreign license as well as a copy of said license. That's right. Apparently the Misrad can't be bothered with making copies. Why should they spend their hard-earned money making copies for you, I say? The chutzpah! How did we get onto this? Oh yes, the bank card. So at the mall I made a copy of my license at Office Depot. (Or, in Ivrit, "Office Depot.") It was really funny because I figured you had to insert money before you made copies, like in America. But no! You just make your copies and tell them at the counter how many you made. It is a very trusting system. We also bought another Hebrew-English dictionary, so Donny and I won't fight over our only copy anymore. And then, because it's Israel, Ariella and I stopped in the bakery on the way out to get some treats. I looooove treats. We went to Bank Discount, to the "kaspomat" (ATM machine)used my secret code, and voila! Money came out! I hope it was mine! Wait, I hope it was someone else's! It was very exciting.

Lunch: For 7 years, minus summers, I was very spoiled by SAR lunches. Every day, there was soup, fresh bread, a salad bar, and a hot lunch - ravioli, chicken, mac'n cheese, meatballs, etc. And I ate. A lot. I love lunch. Meanwhile, Donny is munching on a bowl of cherry tomatoes (if he's lucky), or just the bowl (if he's not.) Then, we'd have dinner together at night, and I'd eat again. A lot. I love dinner. Donny was always envious of my lunch situation. As well he should be. It rocked. Now, though, how the lunch tables have turned. Donny gets free lunch every day at Microsoft. Roast beef. Shnitzel. Cheeps!!! And I am eating...yogurt. Without sugar. (Israel, what is up with that??) It is very sad. Hence the excitement today at the mall when there was an opportunity for TREATS! Solid food! Oh glory be! So I am very sad about my lunch matzav.

Turnips...or are they?

I attempted to make chicken soup this week. Right now, as I type, it is cooling on the stovetop, and I am praying that it turns out ok. I went to the supermarket on Monday with my list in hand, but I was unable to find all the necessary ingredients. Something happens to me when I enter a supermarket. I stand there, slack-jawed, my list drooping from my hand and drool running down the side of my face. I am very overwhelmed by supermarkets. (In Hebrew: supermarket.) I knew what I was looking for, but I could not find all the ingredients. I also lack what some might call "patience" when it comes to shopping. So I did spend a few minutes trying to locate celery, turnips, and parsnips, but I gave up after a while. Plus I had Ariella with me, "helping." If you know what I mean. (And I mean, "Not really.") I found carrots (those are easy - they look the same in America), and what looked like dill and parsley. I was unable to find celery, but who really likes celery anyway? All those strings, and it tastes like feet (different feet from the cheese feet.) I was also unable to find parsnips, but I did find what looked like very dark turnips. I was excited by the find, so I bought 2. I was hoping that the lack of parsnips and celery would not be noticeable. As the song says, "All You Need is a Whole Chicken, Sauteed Onions and Garlic, Lots of Carrots and a Turnip if You Can Find It." (The Bubbe'lehs, circa 1963.) Today, whilst peeling the "turnip" I discovered it was much too dark to be a turnip and was actually a....can anyone guess? I'll give you a hint: It was not a turnip. The soup is emitting a bit of a strange odor and I'm a little afraid of tasting it because I kind of don't want to know if it's ruined. So I'm waiting until Donny gets home. I will keep you posted.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Laundry and Hebrew (But not at the same time)

We now have clean clothes! It is very exciting. The electrician did his thing, and then I did mine, baby. The clothes were practically having fistfights (sleevefights? collarfights?) over who got to go in first. I did laundry pretty much all day, and now it is all clean. The washer and dryer are definitely one of the highlights of our aliyah - we've never had such good machines before. The children wore clean clothes to gan today. Yay!
This morning I had to go back to the bank because our ATM cards were not working. We were supposed to be able to activate them online, but were unsuccessful. I waited outside the bank until their doors opened and was only the third in line! They bank ladies tried to hide under their desks when they saw me come in, but to no avail - I found them, and in my mangled Hebrew tried to explain what happened. The nice lady activated my card for me, but said Donny had to come in to do his own. She swore that we should be able to do it on the internet. Similar to the time they promised us either account number would work. We're onto them now. Anyway, I think I have a working card. We'll see what happens when I try to take money out - such suspense!

This brings me to a discussion about the Hebrew language. Back in the US of A, I was considered a fairly intelligent, articulate, educated person. I was able to talk to my students, ("No, Kenny, we do not eat the toothpicks."), explain delicate situations to their parents ("Maybe your daughter is complaining that she's 'bored' because she knows you'll let her stay home every time she says it. I mean, are you BLIND, woman? Any doofus can see she's manipulating you! What kind of parents ARE you?" - sorry, that one's been bothering me for a while), and fluently converse with my administrators at work, ("We need a video for Friday."). Now, I come to Israel, and I sound, to put it mildly, like a blithering idiot. I did have many years of education in the Hebrew language, but it doesn't seem to have helped. Granted, many of those years were spent learning "Ivris," which is not the dialect spoken here, and other years were spent memorizing nivim in Mrs. Steinhart's class. (Funny how knowing "Tovim hashnayim min haechad" doesn't really help when you need to explain that your ATM card doesn't work, or that you have no hot water, or that yes, of course, you agree to pay the Breathing Fee at the bank.) But still, you'd think between 12 years of yeshiva education and a year and a half in Israel, I'd sound a little more intelligent. But it's all the conjugating! And the lack of vowels! And the he/she! And words that are similar but mean completely different things depending how you pronounce it! For instance, I'm pretty sure when I told Yaakov's ganenet that I was going to leave a blanket in gan for him, in his drawer, I ended up saying, "I'm going to stay in this drawer now, with Yaakov's blanket."
Oy vavoy. At least I know "pinkas."

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Return to Normalcy (?)

Last night was our first semi-normal night. Donny came home from work, we had dinner, then wasted time on our respective computers. Just like old times! It was sort of fake, though, because really we had tons of things to finish doing, like unpacking and sorting through everything in the 3rd and 4th bedrooms. It's always that last bit of unpacking that takes forever - once the space is livable, there's not as much motivation to clean up...

This morning was tough for Ariella. She bawled when I left her at gan - it was heart-breaking. I can't even imagine the effort she needs to put in to get through a single day. We've been trying Gan Through Bribery, which has some effect, but when it's time to say goodbye, there's no bribe in the world that can help. Today I told her we were going food shopping after gan and she could get a special treat. Two special treats, even! 1,000 special treats! Please don't cry!

Today I played hooky again from ulpan because Danny the Electrician is here installing the correct plug for our dryer. (OIM: Danny the Electrician has a shul nearby - Donny davened there on Shabbos morning.) Last week, when we figured we'd be able to do laundry on Monday, I decided not to take another load to Lisa's, thinking we'd be able to hold out. We've done ok (Ariella is down to her last outfit, and Yaakov has worn dirty shorts only a couple times), but it is very crucial that I do laundry today! I am hoping that all will be well and we will have clean clothes by the evening. Amen.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

My First Single Mom Day

Today, (whoo hoo - I am now caught up!) Donny started work in Haifa. For those of you who have been following our saga, this is called IRONY. He took the train around 7:45. The kids and I, of course, were out of the door even earlier. I dropped the kids off at gan and then had a random 45 minutes until ulpan. I tried to find some things in Modi'in but instead got lost. "Getting lost" is a running theme in my life, like "being hungry" or "getting a migraine." I then made my way to ulpan. Afterwards, I - all by myself! - went back to Terem to pay them for their services, then went to the pharmacy (in the same building) to fill the prescription for Ariella. I had also gone to the doctor on Friday, and he filled out my tofes yarok as well as giving me a prescription for Imitrex. The best part is that Imitrex in Israel is in tablet form! All of the pain-killing beauty without that awful spray running down your throat for hours. So I got both prescriptions, for Ariella and for me, and they put it on our "hora'at keva" - basically deducting it from our bank account. It feels like it's free!
A funny thing about pharmacies and the kupat cholim: They are very into "taking a number." They have these fancy machines that you press a button and a slip of paper comes out with a number - take that, Goldman's Bakery! Then there's a monitor attached to the ceiling and they announce which number is next. The Israelis LOVE taking numbers. When we were in the pharmacy the week before, it was EMPTY! We were the only ones there! No one around for miles! We walked up to the counter, and we were shooed away and told to "take a number!" There's definitely a Monty Python sketch in there somewhere... But, the pharmacies are very efficient. There's none of this waiting around for hours. I showed her the prescriptions, she went to the correct drawers, pulled out the medicines, put them in a cute bag for me, took some amount of money (20 shekel? 200 shekel? Who cares?) from my bank account, then sent me on my way so she could laugh with her colleagues about my atrocious Hebrew. (This is a constant fear of mine.)
In the afternoon Ariella had a play date with Aiden, a fellow oleh who was on our flight. They have become very tight. I think it's amusing because I'm sure had they been in SAR together they would never have looked at each other, much less become BFFs. But I think Ariella likes having Aiden around and feels comfortable around him. There are a few English-speakers in the class, but I have yet to meet their parents.
A word about Ariella's gan: I am very impressed with the gan, in general. There are, as we mentioned, 30 hijillion kids in each class, yet the ganenet knows each kid by name, knows each kid's parent, and is always smiling and enthusiastic. I think they are really trying to make Ariella comfortable. Everyone says, "Oh, by Chanukah she'll be speaking Hebrew." That may be true, but right now it's only Rosh Hashanah. Chanukah is a long time away! It's like having a baby - everyone says, "Oh, the first 6 months are so hard, but then it gets easier!" Well, when you are in those first 6 months and the kid is up all night, spitting up on you, and screaming his head off 6 months seems like an interminably long time. Am I right? So now Ariella is in the screaming and spitting up stage, if you follow. I know it will get better and easier for her, but it's kind of hard now and we are really proud of how well she is doing. She is really putting forth a lot of effort to get through the day. I asked her today if the morahs explain in English to her when there's a project. "No," she said, "I just wait until the other kids do it, and then I copy them!" Pretty smart! There are some things we're already noticing about Ariella and Yaakov. Yaakov first Hebrew word is "neshikah" - kiss. The morahs ask him for kisses and he understands! He also started counting to 4 in Hebrew, and he knew what he was saying. Yesterday, Ariella asked me what a word meant in Hebrew, and she said it with the Israeli pronunciation. It was really cute! So we can see a little bit starting to happen now, but it'll be a long process.
Donny came home tonight around 7:15 - not too bad. We still have our fourth bedroom/office to clean out, but it has been much more fun blogging. Alright, signing off for now.

The Longest Two Weeks, Part IV (...I can almost see the end...)

Wednesday - I played hooky from ulpan to continue the unpacking process. We took a break about 10:30 and dragged LISA to Kiryat Sefer with us so we could purchase more things. We were very successful - we got a crock pot, hot water pot for Shabbos, alarm clocks for me, Donny, and Ariella (mine and Donny's are a 24-hour clock - I've been subtracting 12 a LOT.) By Wednesday evening we had unpacked enough that we were able to eat dinner at home and not have to go out. Oh, I forgot to write about my cooking disaster, which I believe was on Tuesday. I decided to make baked ziti. But we had no sauce. So I made noodles, cut up some tomatoes, mixed the whole thing with cottage cheese and put shredded cheese on top. How bad can it be, right? Noodles, cheese, tomatoes - sounds fancy! Well, it tasted like feet. It was absolutely awful. We decided the shredded cheese was the culprit. Bad cheese! Not everything translates well here. In America: shredded cheese = good. In Israel: shredded cheese = feet. Remember that, kids. So we made eggs. I think on Wednesday we did noodles and cottage cheese, plus a jar of sauce that came in our lift. Can't go wrong with that. And the best part about Israeli cuisine - TAY (There's Always Yogurt.)
Thursday - We had our meeting with the aliyah coordinator for Modi'in, Cheri. We LOVE Cheri. First of all, this aliyah program that she runs is giving us more money! We LOVE money. Second, she was the most helpful person we've met whose name is not LISA. We were having trouble getting a doctor's appointment, which we needed to finish filling out our tofes yarok, and also because Donny was hacking and sneezing all over the place. She told us that there is a family doctor (as well as a pediatrician) located in Dimri, then got on the phone and made an appointment for Donny! Go Cheri! She also gave us the name and number of twin 14-year old girls who are potential babysitters. (Sarah Schloss, if you're reading this - come visit!!!) Then I was off to school and Donny did an in-depth analysis of the shopping at Supersol. He tasted cheeses, examined chicken and meat, and did all of those things which make him Donny but would drive the rest of us crazy. He then picked me up from ulpan. We used one of our suitcases from the machsan to help bring up the groceries. We also stocked up on bottled water and seltzer so we (read: I) won't have to schlep it in every time I go shopping. We did some more unpacking and machsan-trips in the evening so we would be ready for Shabbos.
Friday - Ariella had articulated to me that she wanted to get to school earlier. Sounds crazy, but there you go. By the time we were getting to school, at the late hour of 8:15, the kids were all involved in games and she had a hard time finding a place to fit in. She felt if she got there earlier, when it was quieter and calmer, it would be easier for her. She had actually been asking me all week to get to school earlier, but I kind of ignored her, thinking there was no way we could be out of the house before 7:30. But lo and behold, we all left the house at 7:20 as part of Operation: Help Ariella Not Be Miserable at Gan Because As It is She Doesn't Understand What The Heck is Going On, At Least Now She Can Pick Which Game To Do in The Morning. We dropped off Yaakov first, since this was an "on" Friday, but whoops - on Fridays his gan doesn't start until 8:00. Luckily Ofira loves Yaakov and she was very nice about letting us drop him off early this time. She gave him his daily ration of pita and chocolate spread and he was very happy. He sure loves that stuff! He had been having a hard time saying goodbye in the morning, but now that he has pita and chocolate to look forward to? No problem! Mommy who? Then we went to Gan Shoham and delivered Ariella - second one there! Whoo hoo! She had her pick of the stations! Then Donny and I decided to go out for breakfast to celebrate our existence. We went to the mall near our apartment and found a promising restaurant. We ordered their breakfast special and learned lots of new Hebrew words. Ayin (as in "eye") = sunny side up eggs. Ayin hafucha = over easy. Our successful breakfast was followed by a successful trip to the pharmacy to get Donny Israeli Mucinex (called Mucolit), a successful trip to the bank to get our - you guessed it - PINKAS! checkim - and a successful trip to the bakery to get unbelievably awesome challah and ruglach for Shabbos. Wow! This mall has everything!
Shilat - Shilat is this interchange between Modi'in and Chashmonaim. There are lots of stores there, including one with prepared Shabbos food. You go in, take tins and containers, load up, and pay. They have every kind of chicken, potato, vegetable, and rice you can imagine. It was pretty cool. We just got some soup, and we were really hoping to see one of those huge pots that they cook Yerushalmi kugel in, but oddly enough, there was no kugel at all to be found. We called Lisa, our guide to all things Israeli, who said that she has not actually seen kugel in Israel. We were about to pay for just our soup, but at the checkout counter, they had packaged kugels! Oh glory be! And there was one Yerushalmi kugel left! Whoopee! We left with our food and went back home. Now that the apartment was in basic working order, it was time to actually clean it. The grime on the floor was starting to get an attitude, and having parties with the dust bunnies way into the night. I think it actually smirked at me when I walked past. Anway, I got out my squeegee mop thingy and my "smart-toot" (that's the rag thingy you put on the mop thingy, at least I think it is) and I mopped away. Take THAT, grimy spot near the sink! And THAT, grimy spot in the bathrom, and THAT, grimy spot...well, you get the idea. I also scrubbed bathrooms, something I have not done since my days at 3750 Hudson Manor Terrace (that is a very long time ago, for those of you not up to date with our residential timeline.) That is not to say that we had dirty bathrooms for 6 years, but we had a cleaning lady which we inherited with our second apartment and who came with us to our house. Long story for a different blog...Yonahbyaccident, perhaps? So I cleaned, and made a cholent, and chicken - impressive, no? We were home for both meals, since Dimri is Hebrew for Unfriendly Apartment Buildings Where You Fend For Yourself, Loser. But some very kind and nice old-time Baltimoreans stopped by before Shabbos with cookies, so Dimri redeemed itself somewhat. Nafi came by in the afternoon to take back all the stuff they had given us, so our apartment was looking ever more livable.
SASSOONS!! This was the highlight of the afternoon. The Sassoons, our friends from Riverdale who made aliyah in August, were going to be in Chashmonaim for Shabbos. They actually reside in Maaleh Adumin, which is Hebrew for Centipedes and Desert People Who Explode When Left in 1 Million Degree Sunshine. (I don't know this for sure, it is just what I've heard.) Just so you know, the Sassoons are REAL Israelis. They are not afraid of large bugs, and they don't have a car - they actually walk and take busses. And Noam wears a big kipah. We are very impressed with and humbled by the Sassoons. So we drove over to Chashmonaim to hang out with them for a little bit. Ariella and Noam were reunited, and they expressed their excitement by staring at each other and running in opposite directions. After our all-too-brief visit, we stopped by the Balsams to deliver more of their stuff, then went back home for Shabbos.
Shabbos was very nice - we ate with the kids on Friday night, although Ariella balked at the Israeli grape juice. Oy. We have a long way to go with that one. We were in bed by 10. With this whole no Sunday thing, it is imperative to get a lot of sleep on Shabbos. Shabbos morning, Ariella woke up, and her face was covered in a red, blotchy rash which started to itch later in the morning. (FYI: prichah = rash. Nafuach = swollen. My new words of the day.) Luckily, Terem, the ER of Israel, is very close by. When Donny came back from shul, we ate lunch and I walked over to Terem with Ariella. Luckily the doctor said it was just an allergic reaction. When I asked if there was anything to do, he replied, "There is always something to do!" That is my kind of doctor! He gave us a prescription for a steroid cream and said to give her antihistamine. Thank God the whole ordeal was pretty quick - we were back home by 1:30. The most important thing is that the rash was not medabek - contagious. So many new words for Gila! We played Monopoly, then everyone took naps.
For discussion: I did not sign my name at Terem because I am dati. However, in not signing my name, I was causing the nice Jewish man behind the glass to write for me. Problematic? Discuss.
And for more discussion: What do you answer when your daughter says, "but right it is ok for the people in the doctor's office to sign on Shabbos because they are not Jewish?" Discuss.
After naps, we headed over to the "dati park" in Kaiser. I was told that of the 3 parks, one is "reserved" for chilonim on Shabbos, one is mixed, and one is dati. So we went to the dati park. It was NUTSO! Kids throwing sand everywhere (all the parks in Israel have sand because it's cheap.) Parents totally not watching what's going on. Boys peeing on nearby trees. I guess I should have been happy they at least aimed for the trees. We stayed for a while, then came back. The minute Shabbos was over, I put the kids in the bath, and they went to sleep right after havdalah. It's stressful getting everyone to bed on time on motzei Shabbos! But we had to be up at 6:30 as part of Operation: Help Ariella etc etc.

A Digression - Moving

This was the most difficult move of our lives. We have been so blessed and fortunate to have moved many times in the past 8 years, so we have a wealth of experience with which to compare this. First, it was difficult moving from a bigger place (house) to a smaller place (apartment.) When we moved into the house, there were lots of things that went directly to the attic, oh that blessed level of the house - maternity clothes, old baby clothes, folding table and chairs, etc. Here, everything went straight into the living room. There was no room to move. We have a machsan near our parking spot (which is way the hell down on meenoos "minus-3" shalosh). The first 2 days and nights we made endless trips to the machsan schlepping all of those storage items. There is no concept of "carts" like one would have in apartments in America, so we had to schlep everything by hand. Also, since there is not a single closet, there's no place to just stuff something. Everything was out in the open, boxes and belongings as far as the eye could see. And the mirpeset could only hold so much - "No, not another suitcase! Leave me be, woman!" Finally, it was difficult because of the amount of assembling we needed to do. In a regular move, they come with a big truck and load everything in - they don't need to take every single thing apart. Because we were so scrunched for space in our lift, Donny took everything apart before the lift left (I love saying that - almost as much as "Pinkus!"). He disassembled bookcases, our beds were taken apart, our dining room table was in pieces - and every single thing had to be reassembled from scratch. It was a painful process. We decided we are never moving back to America, because first, we pledged to not be apart from our stuff for more than a night, and second, we can never go through the packing and unpacking of the lift.

One final thought: As our things were being unpacked, I imagined the couches, toy boxes, table, etc. all kind of squinting and stretching, looking around, saying, "Wait a minute - this isn't Plainview! Where ARE we?" And then, suddenly, the refrigerator starts talking to them in Hebrew and they're REALLY confused. But luckily, Nafi and Lisa's folding chairs are there to reassure them - "We did this last year, you'll get used to it, it's not so bad. Klitah Neima!"

The Longest Two Weeks, Part III (we're almost there...)

Gan on Sunday, kids! Up and at 'em! Donny and I decided long ago that Sundays in America are not all they're cracked up to be. The mornings are nice and relaxing, but they quickly become whine-fests and by the time Sunday night comes we're wondering why we love Sundays so much. So we were not too upset by the whole 6-day week thing, especially because on Fridays schools are open, stores open, but you don't have to go to work. The best of all worlds!
Ulpan: I started ulpan on Sunday. At first I was in "alef plus" but after an hour I realized that I needed the next level. So I switched to the bet/gimmel class. It's a nice small class and I like the teacher, excuse me, the morah. It's just very intense - 5 days a week, 8:30 - 12:45. But it's very laid back - people leave to make phone calls, come late, leave early, don't show up - what are they going to do? Kick you out? Send you back to America? "No ulpan for you!" Meanwhile, Donny was going to go to Ashdod in the morning to take care of the paperwork for the lift, but about halfway there, they called and said, Oh don't come until 2:30. So he turned around and took care of some other things we needed to do in Modi'in.
Lift: Donny went back to Ashdod in the afternoon. They had to go through all of our things and decide what we needed to pay tax on. In the end, the only item in our lift was we had to pay tax on was the elliptical machine. Because the import tax can be as high as 30%, we performed a thourough analysis and found that that the elliptical was worth $100... if you know what I mean. They also said they would deliver it on Wednesday, and charge us port fees until then. Donny said, "Well, can you deliver it earlier?" They replied, "Alright,we'll deliver it Tuesday." Ariella and I walked to pick up Yaakov from gan. We ate something for dinner; but I don't remember what.
On Monday, we got into our first car accident. We went back to the eye store to get my tofes yarok (successfully this time). As an aside, we had another OI moment: in America, whenever I needed to get an official picture like for a license or passport, I wore my sheitl because they would give me problems if I showed up in a hat or scarf. In Israel, no one blinked - it's totally normal to get your official license picture in your scarf. Now my purple stripey scarf will be forever immortalized in my license picture. Ok, back to the car accident. When backing out of the space at the shopping center, we backed into someone who was driving behind us. Unfortunately, it was an hysterical Israeli lady who was convinced life as she knew it had ended because we dinged her car. She had to run, so she took our phone number and fled, in tears. Oy vavoy. Donny called Eldan, the rental company, and they wanted him to bring the car in so they could take a look at it. In the meantime, we needed to take Ariella to a doctor because she'd had a bad cold and we were worried it was becoming an ear infection. Someone actually offered to give us her appointment time with the Anglo pediatrician in Modi'in, and we were supposed to meet her at 4:00. So after picking Ariella up from school, Donny drove to Eldan office at the airport (where he was told, "Oh, that? That's just a scratch! Are you sure it wasn't there before?"), came back, we picked up Yaakov, took Ariella to the doctor (where we got a prescription - yay!), went to a park (because we promised Ariella we would), ate dinner, and got everyone into bed. Then we had to clean up in preparation for our lift arriving! Yay! Our first week, we deemed the third bedroom the "cheder klitah," and that's where all the suitcases, and piles of clothing, deoderant, medicines, socks, shoes, random kitchen toys, etc. went for processing. Now we had to clean everything out to make room for our actual stuff. The mirpeset filled up quickly with stuff - it is amazing how much stuff we had even before our stuff came. I was very excited to be sleeping in my own bed soon, something I had not done since the end of June. Oh blessed bed.
On Tuesday, ki tov ki tov - our lift came! Donny called me around 11:30 when they called to say they were leaving Ashdod. I raced out of Ulpan and came home to finish the clean up. We swept and took the last minute things and threw them on the mirpeset. I was in charge of going downstairs to watch them take the stuff out of the lift. It was truly a miracle. You cannot even imagine how stuffed this little container was. It was like Mary Poppins' bag - things just kept coming out, for 3 hours straight. It was an unbelievable sight. Luckily, the mattresses did not fall on anyone's head as we had predicted they might. The best part was, like the miracle of the Israelites bowing down at the temple on the day of atonement, the washer and dryer fit! Without any problems! They just slid right in. The lift dudes were also really nice and assembled a lot of our stuff for us - beds, the dining room table. We unpacked for a while and then went out to dinner at an expensive shwarma place in the mall. Fact: Eating out in Israel is expensive. Fact: Our kids have yet to acclimate to Israeli food, especially Ariella. In conclusion: We spent a lot of money on 2 plates of meat, salad, chips (Israeli for french fries), and pita - separate, of course, I was not fool enough to think they'd eat it b'yachad - and they basically dined on chips and ketchup. Oh well. Donny and I enjoyed our shwarma very much. For those of you who don't know, shwarma is basically the reason I made aliyah. If we'd found a comparable pita place in America, who knows what this blog might have been called? Anyway, we came back and unpacked for a while - the most important thing was that we got our BEDS ready! Whoo hoo! BEDS, do you hear me? BEDS! Now I will digress for a treatise on moving.

The Longest Two Weeks, Part II

Thursday, September 11
Kupat Cholim: We tried to get up on time and got everyone to gan (relatively) early. We then went to the post office for Stage I of getting health coverage. Basically, you decide which kupah you want to join, and you join it. How do you decide? Ask people! (See: Earlier posts). We decided on Maccabi, which has the big advantage of being able to see the Maccabi building from our mirpeset. We took that as a good sign. We went to the post office, paid a "small fee" - they can't tell you what the fee is in advance, because it takes all the fun out of it. In keeping with that tradition, I will not tell you what the fee was. But it was "small". Then we went to the Maccabi building to sign up. We actually registered our bank account information with them twice, because we noticed that we had 2 account numbers, and learning our lesson from yesterday, didn't want to take a chance. We said we would come back later when we knew which account number was correct. When we went to the bank to pick up our checks, we figured out the problem. The bank had given us 2 account numbers, for our purposes here we will call them "old account number" and "new account number." The bank people claimed on their mother's falafel that both account numbers would work fine, no problem, use either one. But when we got our "pinkas checkim" (my favorite Hebrew word - pinkas - it's awesome!) we saw that they had the "old account number" on it. Well, our motto is, "If it's good enough for the checks, it's good enough for kupat cholim and misrad haklitah." So we went back to Maccabi, told them which account number to use, then called Misrad HaKlitah and gave them the right number. Now our account is in working order. Plus we have a pinkas! Who doesn't love a pinkas?
Supersol: Our next mission was food. In the past, when we moved, we took coolers of refrigerated stuff, and boxes of food, so when we unpacked, we had something to eat. This time, we were starting from nothing. It took us a week of shopping to restock. We discovered the Supersol "Deal" Deal in Yishpru, which we became big fans of because it's big, relatively clean, and has this awesome pecan cereal. However, and this is odd, when we went the next week, we could not find Shabbos sponges. Discuss.
Gas man: The gas man came, did some stuff, and voila, we had a working kitchen!
Teudat Zehut: At 5:00, we went to a shopping center in Modi'in where we were able to pick up our teudat zehut. It was very exciting - we are now official citizens! The kids don't get their own until they are 16, but Donny and I have a document with their names and mispar zehut. It's really strange how everything here requires a teudat zehut - you need to carry it around with you all the time. I almost feel like people should call me "Comrade" or "Brother" when they ask me for it.
Dinner: For the first time, we made dinner in our own apartment! No more mooching off the Balsams! We have food and a working kitchen. We made Israeli hot dogs, rolls, salad, and it was quite good.
Lift update: There is a boat going to Italy this week to pick up all the containers and bring them to Haifa. We are hopeful.

Friday, September 12
License: Now that we had a bank account (2, actually), health insurance, kids in gan, a car (for now), and a teudat zehut, we started thinking about driver's licenses. It is a true pain to get a license in Israel. There are approximately 5 hijillion steps, costing 10 hijillion shekels by the end. First, you go to an eye store and get a tofes yarok (literally, "green tofes"). They give you an eye test, photograph you onto the form, and you pay 50 NIS. Then you need to get a doctor to fill out the rest of the form. Then you take the document with your driver's license and go to the Misrad HaRishui (licensing department.) Then you pay them some amount of money. Then you need to get a driving lesson. Then you need to take the test. All of these things cost money. We were starting at the beginning, trying to get the tofes yarok. We were unsuccessful. First, the eye store's computer was down. When I went back later, my mispar zehut was not yet in the system. A failure.
Errands: We also had Yaakov with us, because his gan is only open every other Friday. We attempted to do some errands. Ha! Since Friday is Sunday in Israel, the shops were CRAZY. It's even more intense than a Sunday because everything closes earlier. We tried to get mirrors, so Donny wouldn't have to shave using my little pocket mirror, a crock pot, a bubby cart (because it's a huge schlep to bring the groceries into the aparment). Failed, failed, failed. We finally gave up.
Erev Shabbos/Lift update: We got to the Balsams a few hours before Shabbos, because I needed to do laundry. Although I swore I was going to burn the clothes I wore on the flight, I relented and settled for washing them vigorously, although I did give them a dirty look when I put them in the machine. We also had a chance to check our email. There was an email sent on Thursday from the lift people: "Your container arrived on Tuesday. You only have 4 free days at the port in Ashdod. Contact us right away so that you do not incurr port fees." Our lift had indeed come on Tuesday, but no one knew. Ha ha! Despite the fact that we called every single day, they were unable to coordinate what they told us with what was actually happening. So we were of course ecstatic to have our things, but annoyed that we were going to be charged port fees because they did not contact us in time. We also had the problem of fitting our American washer and dryer, which were exactly 27 inches, into the laundry room, also measuring 27 inches. Hmmm.
We had a very nice Shabbos at the Balsams - the kids played together pretty well the entire Shabbos, despite a few meltdowns from Ariella. I originally thought we should spend our first Shabbos in our apartment, getting to meet people, etc, but it was way nicer going to Chashmonaim, drinking coffee with Lisa, and sleeping in real beds. Saturday night I drove the kids (and laundry) back home - all by myself! First time! - while Donny stayed to do some more emailing.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Longest Two Weeks, Part I

Wow. We haven't spoken in a while. It is now Saturday night, September 20, almost 2 weeks since we made aliyah. The internet was hooked up on Thursday afternoon, and after Donny spent ten hours on the phone with Netvision tech support, finally worked at midnight. There is so much to catch up on I could be here for hours. Here are the highlights:
Sunday, Sept. 7: Left B-more at 6:30, got to the airport at 10. Checked in all 10 bags, met L & E (& N). The ceremony at JFK was hot, sweaty, and way too emotional. Lots of people speaking. Lots of crying. Then we left the parents and went to our gate. (Gate 31, and it was Donny's 31st birthday. If that is not hashgacha pratis, I don't know what is.) We were sitting near the Kleins on the flight, although of course in our row (and in the empty row behind us) the arms didn't go up, so the kids couldn't really lie down and sleep. Not that much sleeping happened. Yaakov fell asleep almost right away for about an hour and a half, and then that was it. He was up playing for the rest of the flight, announcing to everyone that he was, in fact, on an airplane and climbing on the seats. Ariella was definitely the MVP of the flight. She watched movies, colored, played with her games, slept for 2 hours and pretty much entertained herself. Donny and I did not do much of the sleeping, unfortunately.
Lift update: It is currently being held hostage in Turkey, due to the strike at the ports in Israel.
Monday, Sept. 8: Our flight arrived on time at 7:30. The arrival ceremony was very overwhelming. We got off the plane and onto one of those busses. It took us to the terminal, where the party was going on. There was music, dancing, people waving banners. It was really amazing, but way too much for the kids. The hero of our aliyah, LISA, was there, banner in hand. The Eisens and Kleins were there as well, and Doron made us a sign! Thanks Doron! The cameraman really liked Yaakov and tried to get a picture of a chayal holding him, but after 3 seconds Yaakov realized what was going on and totally freaked out. The ceremony was nice, and Olmert was there to give a speech, but at that point, God himself could have come down from the heavens and spoken and I still would have just wanted to go to sleep. They had a lot of food and drinks out, which was helpful. After the ceremony, Donny went to get our all-important Teudat Oleh and the first of our sal klitah payments. Money!!! At that point, the children fell apart. What NBN doesn't show you: Yaakov sleeping a sleep of the dead in my arms, and Ariella bawling her eyes out. When Donny came back, we waited for the baggage (all 10 pieces plus a stroller, yay!), and went out to get our free cab ride home. Yaakov was sleeping the entire time. When he got too heavy in the baggage area, I put out some pillows and sweatshirts from our carry-ons, laid them on the floor, and put Yaakov on top. He slept on. We carried him into the cab. He slept. We transferred him to the stroller and brought him up the apartment. Still sleeping. When we got to our new apartment in Modi'in, LISA was there waiting for us. She had already brought a folding table and chairs, a pack'n play, air mattresses, plastic bowls, plates, spoons, cups, toilet paper, linens, towels, etc. She is awesome. We decided to get moving rather than go to sleep.
Signing up for gan: Yaakov was sleeping and Ariella was hanging out, so Lisa took Donny to the iriyah to sign Ariella up for school. Unfortunately, the closest dati gan was not so close, but at least she was signed up and we had that taken care of. It was then time to wake up Yaakov. Just so you know, we experienced some of the worst PNM (post-nap misery) EVER.
Bank: One should definitely open up a bank account upon arrival in Israel. We decided to go with Bank Discount (which is definitely a bank, but definitely not discount.) We walked to the mall, causing Ariella to comment that she wanted to leave Israel because it is TOO HOT. Of course, the bank was closed until 4, and it was only 2:15. So we went into the mall (it's a new, fancy-ish mall, right across the street from our building.) We got food - pizza for the kiddies and falafel, of course, for us. We still had time to kill - we did a little food shopping, let the kids run around the mall, etc. Then the bank was opened. It took over an hour, and the kids were absolute maniacs. They were tired, bored, hungry, and overwhelmed. We kept bribing them with chocolate, but it didn't help. The manager actually had to come over and shush them! We found out that in Israel, the concept of "free checking" does not exist. You get charged for EVERYTHING - depositing, withdrawing, using the ATM machine, checkbooks, using the bathroom in the bank, thinking about banking at night, looking at the bank as you pass it on the street. You will often see Israelis walking with their heads down, crashing into street signs, so as to avoid a 2 shekel fee. In addition, they informed us that there is no longer an "oleh chadash" program, which would give us some free stuff. However, our nice bank lady called later to say that they had a "new client" program which gave us the same free stuff. Then we went back home, changed Yaakov's diaper, (which had started to colonize some time during our bank visit), and LISA picked us up and brought her to her house for dinner.
First night: So we come home (or rather, we were driven home.) I desperately want to get the kids bathed and take a really hot shower. I start the bath for the kids, and the water is only lukewarm. There must be some sort of button that I didn't press. I wash them up quickly, found some pajamas, and Nafi helped us inflate all the airbeds. When I tried to take a shower myself, we realized the hot water was just not working. In addition, our stove top was not working. Later, we found out they are both related to the gas, which, stop me if you've heard this, was not working. It was a rather sleepless night, between my jet lag, Yaakov crying in the middle of the night, and those airbeds.
Lift update: Still in Turkey, as far as we know.
Tuesday, Sept. 9
Gan: We get up, have rice cakes for breakfast (since we have no refrigerator, so no milk, and the box of cereal I bought on Monday we left in the bank. They will most likely charge us for that.) Then we walked Ariella to school. At that point, wimpy Americans that we are, we decided we needed a car. First of all, as Ariella will tell you, it is HOT in Israel. The walk, with the kids and stroller and all that, was a good 25 minutes. Plus, since she finishes at 1:30, we would need to walk back in the heat of the day. And "shade" is not a concept that has come to Israel yet. So we dropped Ariella off, in a gan with approximately 100 kids, with teachers who don't know English. I was practically in tears, but Ariella was actually ok. Then I called a gan for Yaakov that I had sort of researched beforehand. Since it was on the way back from Ariella's gan, and the ganenet had emailed me a few days before we left saying she had availability, we decided to check it out. We called to say we were coming over. Although I had been told to lower my standards in terms of daycare options for kids, we were actually very impressed with Gan HaOlam HaKatan. The teachers seemed really sweet, and Ofira, the head ganenet, made Yaakov a sandwich and tomatoes. The kids were playing, the room was clean, there was an outdoor play area which had been covered so it was shady. Ofira's son seemed very interested in Yaakov and kept trying to play with him. We signed him up then and there. We gave Ofira the deposit. The way you pay for gan here is to give the ganenet 12 postedated checks for the year. Since he is too young for the school system, the only option is a private gan. I think there are public school-type ganim which are cheaper but they close out really early. So Ariella's going to school basically for free, but Yaakov's gan is similar to what we were paying in America. But Yaakov's gan is a much better deal - it goes until 4, and he gets fed breakfast, lunch, and snack every day. Food!
Refrigerator: Yaakov did not want to stay, so we gave him a one-day reprieve. Lisa picked us up from the gan and drove us to Yishpru, which would soon become our shopping center of choice. We bought a refrigerator, which the guy said could be delivered the next day. Lisa entertained Yaakov by playing with the refrigerators, which he enjoyed.
Hot water and Car: Lisa drove us back home. I stayed with Yaakov, who once again napped on the floor. Lisa drove Donny to pick up Ariella from gan and take them to her house so Ariella could play and Donny could use the internet and research car rentals. Daveeed, the maintenance guy for Dimri, came by with his henchmen to check out our gas problem. He was wearing a kippah, the first of our OI moments (only in Israel.). A far cry from Fernando Perez of 3850 Hudson Manor Terrace. He played around with stuff, and then informed me that "Ayn gaz." (There is no gas.) He did, however, manage to fix the hot water problem. So we could shower but not cook. At that point, I would have traded lots of things - food, children - for a hot shower. I was happy. Lisa came back around 4:00 so Donny could take a train to the airport and rent a car. She also drove us back to her house, where there is interent and food. Donny returned with the car (yay!), we had dinner, and drove back home. (Although it's kind of a stretch to call it "home" at this point.)
Tuesday night was not great - I did not sleep at all, Ariella got up around 5, it was pretty miserable.
Lift update: It is in Italy. "We're not sure why..." Going backwards. Not a good sign.
Wednesday, September 9
We took both kids to gan. We were getting very late starts, but it was difficult to get moving early. Everything starts earlier here - Yaakov can get to his gan at 7:00, and Ariella's gan starts at 7:30. I came back and tried to lay down, and Donny did something or other. LISA came by with real mattresses, since at this point we had no idea when our lift was coming. She took me to Kiryat Sefer to buy some house things - broom, mop thingy, dish rack. In true Israeli style, our apartment has not a single closet, or even medicine cabinet. No mirrors either, no mantle. Basically no place to put stuff. So I also got some baskets for the bathrooms to put stuff in. I like places to put stuff. The more places the better.
Misrad HaKlitah: Later, we took the kids to the Misrad HaKlita (in Modi'in) for our meeting. The representative explained how our sal klitah payments were going to work. We gave her our bank number, but for some reason she said it wasn't working. Hmmm. Not a good sign.
Dinner: We drove back to the Balsams, had pizza with awesome sauce, picked up a bookcase from them so we could organize the clothes. The past 3 nights I had been frantically searching through suitcases to find clothes for the next day.
Refrigerator: Our refrigerator came around 7:00, and Donny went out shopping to fill it. Milk in a bag! Awesome!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Sunday Morning

It is 5:15 on Sunday morning, September 7. Donny's birthday, by the way. Shabbos was nice and uneventful. It poured, so I didn't even go to shul with the kids. Good thing the kiddush was last week. Donny's father came for lunch and stayed a while playing with Ariella. In the afternoon, the power went out briefly and then came back on, but for some reason both elevators were out of service! 4 hours before we were going to start loading the car! Ha ha! Luckily, the service elevator was fixed in time, and the doorman operated it for us and helped us bring down our bags. The cars (one rental, plus my parents' Pilot) are basically ready to go. We are stopping for some breakfast, then heading up to JFK. See you in Israel!

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Shopping (drumroll, please) Has Ended

That's right, folks. Today we went out to the mall to complete our final shopping expedition (in America, that is.) Sunglasses for Donny and me and a sweatshirt for me. We went out with Savta for lunch at Goldberg's. Ariella started crying this morning, because she realizes that it's the "last time" for a lot of things. She articulated to me that she is excited about going to Israel but sad about leaving people here. It has been so nice this summer to have spent more time with all of the grandparents and other relatives here. It was nice for me, and amazing for the kids. They really got to bond with Bubby, Zaidy, Sabba, and Savta. Plus Ariella became an amazing bowler! Ask Savta or Zaidy! Especially Zaidy, who she beat by 30 points!
We are now in the final throes of packing. Although I guess motzei Shabbos will be the final, final throes of packing and laundry.

We Are Carless

Today was one of those typical pre-aliyah crazy days. The funny thing was that it started with this nice leisurely trip to the park. I needed to get the kids out of the house, and I hadn't done anything fun with them since, like, July, so we went to a nice playground. They actually had a great time - it was one of those days when they right away started some make-believe game and played together sooo nicely instead of whining to me to play hide and seek or something. I had to pull them away after an hour, because we had more errands to do and it was so freaking hot! We then went to Giant to buy some snacks for the plane (and treats "for now." We buy a lot of treats these days.) Then we went to Great-Bubby's to say goodbye. One of the nice things about being in Baltimore this summer was that I actually got to spend time with my Bubby.
In the afternoon, Sabba and Zaidy were the heroes. Sabba came over to play with Ariella while Yaakov was napping so I could go return our Chrylser Town & Country, aka The Van that No One Wanted. The Chrysler people were sort of iffy about letting me return a lease that I hadn't purchased there, since I wasn't buying a car now, either. But the guy was nice and let me drop it off and took off the plates. Then we went back to my father's office to mail back the plates and sign the power of attorney documents. Everything was going so smoothly, until we noticed that the POA document for me had Donny's name on the second page. So we had to call the attorney, get a new form, then the copier ran out of paper, etc. In the end, everything got signed and I got a piece of ice cream cake. I took my father's keys and ran.
Later that evening Donny returned home! Yay! No more of this bungalow colony life for us.
Friday is going to be a Day of Much Packing. And, of course, there's a hurricane making its way up the coast this weekend. I'm checking the weather every two seconds. I already have this image in my head of the flight being delayed, the kids going crazy in the airport, eating all the snacks and playing with all the toys I was saving for the far the forecast calls for rain only on Shabbos. Let's hope it stays that way!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Kids are NUTS!

Just a quick note to let you know that the children have gone absolutely bonkers. It's bad enough that there are 3 unstructured weeks after camp until we leave. And I am a terrible entertainer, especially when I'm doing it by myself. But they definitely sense the extra craziness of the past week and a half. Our things are all over the apartment, suitcases are lined up in the hallway, and mommy is yelling a lot. Ariella knows what's going on, but she doesn't really grasp it, and poor Yaakov has no clue what's flying - he's still wondering why we haven't left Bubby and Zaidy's after Shabbos (in June.) They're fighting with each other, having temper tantrums, and spitting (Yaakov). And it's only going to get worse the next few weeks or so, but at least we will be reunited with Donny.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Party!

Monday morning we drove up to NY for our goodbye party. We did it at the Riverdale Dunkin' Donuts, which has a "party room." It was a pretty cute party, at least I think so. We had 2 boxes of coffee (I love those things!), munchkins, and ice cream cake. It was nice to see "our peeps" again. By the end of the party, Ariella and Yaakov's sugar consumption probably matched that of the entire city of New York. They were literally bouncing off walls, taking the coffee stirrers and marching around the room with them, then stopping for a cup of chocolate milk. It was pretty wild. Two of Ariella's friends came, but being 5 year old girls, they basically just stared at each other and smiled. It was a really nice party, but we were so busy schmoozing we barely have any pictures! Afterward we stayed overnight at the Kramers (fitting, since it was Mike who got us into this whole mess to begin with.) The kids were so hyper that even though they were exhausted, it took them an hour to fall asleep because they were giggling. The cause of the giggling was Ariella putting her feet through Yaakov's crib and Yaakov tickling them with his nose. Ha ha! This morning we went to breakfast at the Kleins - Leezy made us pancakes, and Yaakov even ate a few bites of pancake with his syrup. Then time for the drive back home. I should be doing some packing but instead I am updating my blog. I'm glad I have another thing on the computer to do instead of facing real life.