Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Israeli elections

First, welcome to new reader "Elana from Bawlmer!" Welcome to the blog, Elana! Thanks for your comment! Yes, we are already veterans of the diseased sticks. I hear that after twelve sticks, your thirteenth is free! [Burst of raucous laughter.] [Like anything here would be "free."]

Today I am home with the little boy, as well as the big boy (you can decide for yourself who gets which designation.) Yaakov got kicked out of gan yesterday - I am beginning to think he is allergic to gan. When I picked him up, he was bawling, in pain, had broken out in some sort of rash; after coming home, taking a little nap, and spending some quality time with Nemo (Buzz begged for a day off), he was back to his old self. But, the unwritten rule of gan and daycare is: He who is kicked out on Tuesday shall not return on Wednesday. Meanwhile, Donny is home retching and coughing and shivering. The truth is I could leave them both home together and go to ulpan (especially since the test is tomorrow); Yaakov, at least, could easily fend for himself all day. (Yogurt? Check. Video? Check. Blue Blanket? Check check.) But I guess it would be unfair of me to make Yaakov take care of Donny all day as well. So here I am. I thought Ariella would throw a fit when she found out that everyone was going to be home today except her, but at the horrid sounds coming from her father, she realized she would be best served by getting as far the heck away from this place as possible.

I thought I would use my morning at home to do some cooking, but lo! And behold! We have no gas! There is a hastily scrawled note in the - you guessed it! - elevator that says there was some sort of gas leak in the building last night, and the gas has been turned off for everyone until they fix the problem. There is no indication whatsoever of when that blessed moment might be. A few hours? A few days? A year? I am considering taking my pen and going into the elevator and giving the va'ad a piece of my mind.... Anyway, we have the use of our oven, but no stovetop. I am seriously considering running out and buying a microwave this morning. I am also fairly certain that the hot water is connected to the gas, meaning we have no hot water either, so no one can shower or bathe. Ahhh.... is this paradise? Or something close to it?

As you may have heard, Israeli elections are coming up (Feb 10). Now you guys in America are all jazzed about your historic election, yes we can, blah blah blah. Here in Israel, we have the opportunity to vote for someone who was already prime minister! So there! We love recycling our country's leaders. Apparently, there is a shortage of perfect prime ministers in the world; 'twould be a pity to waste them. But seriously. Let me give you a brief, aliyahbyaccident summary of the Israeli election process:

Election day is a day off -a national holiday, if you will, but, as Ariella will point out, a holiday during which you're allowed to drive. People vote for one of the approximately 5 gazillion parties, which cater to every whim and desire of the Israeli people. ("Aruchat Boker: Working to make breakfast the most important meal of YOUR day." "Shinayim: Putting the needs of our dentists first.") Every party wants to get lots of "mandates" which in English means "seats." There are 120 seats in all, so plenty for everyone! After election day, we see that no one party won the majority of seats. Oh no! What to do now? So the party with the most seats - the Big Cheese, or Gevinah Gedolah - scrambles around, trying to form a "coalition" which in English means "alliance," and if they are successful, they get their guy (or gal) as prime minister. So the Big Cheese has to make deals with all the parties to get them to join their coalition, and then hopefully, when the dust settles, they have managed to hobble together some sort of government, by hook or by crook. ("Yes, we promise to open up every session of Knesset by eating a big bowl of branflakes!") Then, voila, our new leadership! We're probably going to vote for the guys that aren't planning to hand over Israel to the Palestinians, because we don't want to wake up on February 11th to a knock on our apartment door, and upon opening it, be greeted by Mohammed Ahmed Ajibi with his family and suitcases, ready to move in.

Israelis are very fair about campaigning. For example, yesterday on the radio there was an entire radio segment devoted to "election ads." Apparently there is a set time for the parties to do their thing on the radio, and according to my ulpan teacher, the bigger parties get more time, the smaller parties less time. (I think we should do that with billboards, too - the biggest party would get a huge billboard at the entrance to the city, and the smallest one would get a picture on some guy's refrigerator.) Anyway, I think there are three times a day for "election ads." I was most impressed with the Meretz ad and the Bayit HaYehudi ad, because they had catchy songs. Not just jingles. Entire songs, with stanzas and choruses and everything. So entirely based on ad campaign, I'm definitely going for either Meretz or Bayit. (Although I'm pretty sure that's kind of like saying, "Yeah, I'm undecided -either I'm going to vote for Donald Rumsfeld or Al Franken.") Anyway, I think it's very nice that they save the Israeli public from endless hours of radio and TV ads and condense it for us into neat half-hour segments.

Our gas and hot water have returned. Donny probably has the flu. Yaakov, please God, will be returning to gan tomorrow.

And don't forget to vote!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Return of the Diseased Sticks

Yes, friends, they have returned. Last week was Ariella's turn; she ended up not having strep, but is still on medication for her ears. I was keeping a close eye on Yaakov all week, wondering when he'd get sick. On Thursday, just as I was thinking he was out of the woods, I got a call from gan. They told me he was complaining about his ear. Luckily, I was able to get a doctor's appointment right away. It turned out his ears were fine, but hey, what's that in his chest? That doesn't sound good! Better take him to Terem for an x-ray! So off we ran to Terem. Luckily it was pretty quick, and we were out of Terem, along with our CD of the x-ray ("Yaakov's Lungs: Greatest Hits") in an hour. We went to drop the CD off at the doctor, and were told that he would call us later when he looked at the results. Meanwhile, Yaakov was hopping and skipping around, thrilled to be able to do the food shopping with Mommy and Lala. The doctor called back later and said his lungs were clear (big "Phew!" now). He was acting fine besides for his cough. Anyway, he went to bed pretty easily. Donny and I were just sitting down to get "Lost" at around 10:30 when The Boy awoke. Now, unfortunately, he was actually sick - fever and everything.

I know you are worried about two things:

1. If Yaakov had to stay home from gan on Friday, didn't you and Donny have to miss out on your Friday breakfast date?

2. Did you ever get to finish "Lost?"

Fret not - this Friday was an "off" week for Yaakov's gan anyway, so he hung around on Friday and watched lots and lots of videos. (He now only answers to the name "Buzz.") To answer question #2, we worked very diligently all Friday to get everything done for Shabbos. At 3:00, and hour and a half before Shabbos, we put a movie on for the kids, and retreated into our room to watch the rest of "Lost." Creative, no? You can see now why people line up for my parenting advice.

Friday night Yaakov and I ended up sleeping on the couch together; somehow he got the big couch and I was scrunched on the little one. We kept him on a steady dose of Tylenol and Motrin all day Shabbat, and debated whether we should bring him to Netanel's party on motzash. Since he seemed to be doing better by Shabbat afternoon, and since Donny heard there was going to be pizza at the party, we all piled out into the car right after Shabbat and headed over to Bet Shemesh. The party was excellent - good company and good food (pizza and a ridiculously crazy homemade Cookie Monster cake that Elie decorated himself). And olives.

Today I kept Yaakov home to bring him back to the doctor. We had a Morning of Long Lines. First, they were a little backed up at the doctor, and then, when it was our turn, the receptionist asked if this other mom with Hysterical Twins could go ahead of me. Of course I said yes, because,

A. I am very nice and

B. She wasn't really asking me if it was okay. It was kind of like Donny asking erev Shabbos, "Can I eat some of this chicken now?" as he's swallowing.

So we had to wait an extra half hour for our turn. Then we went to the Maccabi building to drop off our diseased stick and pick up our medicine. There were two lines awaiting me - one in the pharmacy, and one to drop off the diseased stick (yes, you have to take a number and wait for that, too). I had to decide which to do first - stick or medicines? Hallows or Horcruxes? I went with medicine. When we went into MaccabiPharm (or, as Donny thinks it's called, MaccabiFarm - we're patients, dear, not chickens), the line was HUMONGOUS! Our number was 187; they were up to 174. I thought of pulling shtick and running down to drop off the stick while waiting for my turn in the pharmacy, then I slapped myself and reminded myself that people like me NEVER get away with that stuff - I just would have ended up waiting twice in both lines. Luckily, though, there was no line for Diseased Stick Drop-Off. So we returned back home to chocolate sandwiches and Buzz.

Don't forget to vote in this week's poll! Donny's entire future rests upon the outcome!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

An Anecdotal About Jonathan

I give you....An Anecdotal About Jonathan

Jonathan is a delightful young man. He brings a shrewd intellect and incisiveness to all of our discussions. He particularly enjoys parsing the nuances and subtleties of literary classics such as “Curious George,” and “Goodnight Moon.” His punctuality at minyan three times a day is inspiring; we know it is not easy to find time for minyan in the midst of such a busy life, and he is truly a role model for the rest of us. And indeed, Jonathan’s days are quite filled. In fact, we know he is so busy because he is often unreachable for days at a time, unable to answer his phone or an email. This does cause us some concern, however, that a young man who is so intelligent and has quite a knack for computers and software still hasn’t figured out how to check his voicemail. We are sure that with guidance, he will be able to excel in this area as well.

Jonathan is an excellent scavenger, and has proven he is capable of surviving off leftover chicken bits and nuts and berries he has managed to forage. These skills will continue to aid him throughout his life. Jonathan is a young man with exceptional abilities and a quick wit. His friendliness and geniality endear him to all who meet him. We wish Jonathan much luck in his future endeavors, and hope that he is one day able to forage a job and a wife.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Bedtime Story

We will begin today with a little bedtime story, because here, at least, it is bedtime and therefore appropriate. It was written by Ariella.

** Public service announcement: This story contains some violence and may not be appropriate for readers who frighten easily or suffer from aquaphobia. **

First, I will transcribe the story in k'tav Ariella, to be followed by a translation, for those not well-versed in this particular dialect:

Hit The Car
by Ariella
(She was not ok. They were happy. They were going to fall in the water. A big big person went in the water. In the water went the little girl. The end.)

Now, don't say I didn't warn you. When Ariella told me the outline of the story, I asked her if the girl was going to be okay. She gleefully responded, "No! She's not going to be okay! Mwah-hah-hah-hah-hah!" That's my delicate princess for you.

In other Ariella news....we were discussing long and short vowels today, during our private English chug, and I was explaining how the "e" in "cane" turns the word "can" into the word "cane." Like a candy cane, I explained helpfully. Ariella's eyes brightened, "Oh, like how you say the word 'ken' in Hebrew? Like that?" Yes, I muttered, exactly. So we have reached the point in our aliyah, after only a few short months, where Ariella corrects our pronounciation. Donny can't roll his "r's" to save his life; he sounds like he's swallowing a dying fish. I can sort of do it, but Ariella says it's not really good enough, so I don't bother. It's just one more thing that'll embarrass Ariella in a few years (or months....).

Yesterday we had five of Ariella's friends from gan for the "Chaver Nechmad" program. I must say we pulled it off with panache. Everyone showed up on time (and, more importantly, left on time.) I read Ariella's favorite Aleph-Bet book (Australian Leezy - I believe you purchased this for her many many moons ago, so we thank you and say, "Tizki l'mitzvot ul'ma'asim tovim.") Each page has a letter, with words and pictures of things that start with that letter, and the kids had fun pointing out what they saw and trying to figure out the pictures. After that, each kid got a piece of paper. They picked a letter, and then using some seriously awesome art supplies, decorated their paper with their letter and pictures of items that start with the letter. Unfortunately, I didn't know how to say "sequins," "pipe cleaners" and "pom-poms" in Hebrew, so I just grabbed handfuls of the stuff and said cheerfully, "Kazeh!" The timing worked out well - they finished the project, I cleaned off the table, and then served dinner. Noodles, with ketchup and cottage cheese on the side, can't go wrong there. After dinner, the kids amused themselves with our games and toys until the parents came. All in all, they were very sweet, well-behaved kids and Ariella had a super-terrific-awesome time. Aside from occasionally referring to the boys in the feminine and vice versa, I think my Hebrew sufficed for the evening.

Poll results: Keep an eye out for an upcoming blog, "An Anecdotal About Jonathan." It was a close race, but at the last second, the tie was broken. I won't say who broke it. Ok, I will. It was Donny. I will get started after I retrieve my good-old anecdotal euphamisms from the Anecdotal Compartment in my brain, which is starting to rust from disuse, to which I say, thank God. ("Benefits from reminders to hand in his homework without being asked, focus on his classwork, not write on the other students with his highlighter, and get his damn finger out of his nose.")

Some responses to the comments, which, thanks to the Loyal Readers, have been many and varied this time:
Momz: I am sending you immediately to Nivim Remediation. Please contact Mrs. Steinhart for further details.
Arnie: Thank you for your post and your contributions. I will seriously consider calling my "microwave" a "pitzkeleh-gal." It's catchy, I think.
Yael: There is a reason we are already set for next year - it's because the dati options in our area of Modi'in are very few. There's one dati bet sefer for Ariella, and two dati ganim for Yaakov's age. So our choices were pretty much made for us before we even started looking. It's better this way. Too many choices, my little brain starts to get overwhelmed and then I have no more room for the nivm in there, and we know what a tragedy THAT would be. I might start saying things like, "Tovim ha'shamayim min ha'echad."
Sara: Where we will be next year is still up in the air, but since the school system is a public school system, it's based on your neighborhood and you can only register for a school/gan in the neighborhood to which you belong. So for now, we are registering here, in our neighborhood, regardless of what the future might hold.

"Tsk tsk" to Donny: You are about to be undeputized from your post as Minister of Polls! It is embarrassing for the staff of aliyahbyaccident that there has not been a new poll put up all week! So get your nose out of your "work" or "layning" and do something useful with your time!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Tovim Hashnayim Min HaEchad

First, kappyim l'Risa for her keen insights into Israeli translation/transliteration confusion. In the word "meekrogal" (i.e. microwave) we are trying to have it both ways - transliterating "micro" and translating "wave" (gal.) According to Risa, and I wholeheartedly agree, "microwave" should either be "microwave" in Hebrew, or, "gal katan meod." I encourage you all to begin using this new coinage.

On Friday the schools and gans of the iriyah were having open houses for prospective parents to come check them out for the coming year. Now you might be thinking, as we were, "Wait, didn't you just get to Israel? Didn't you just finish signing up for schools for this year?" The answer is, yes, we did, and yes, we did. But this is how it is in Modi'in. (Perhaps it is this way in all of Israel. I can only speak about Modi'in, and as you know, I would never make sweeping generalizations about customs or practices of an entire country based on my own personal experiences.) Anyway, registration is in two weeks, and we went to look at gans/schools for next year. Yaakov, who will be three in April, will be entering "Trom Trom" because apparently one "Trom" just isn't enough. Ariella will be, gulp, in kitah aleph. We went first to Ariella's school for the very good reason that their open house started first. We walked into the office to figure out what we were supposed to do. I figured we would shmie (sp?) around the school for a while, I brought my camera to take some pictures because Ariella is VERY excited to be going into, gulp, kitah alpeh. I thought the secretary would just shoo us in the general direction of kitah aleph, and we would be on our own from there. However, she smiled at us, asked us our name, and then opened up this massive 3-ring binder and within twenty seconds had located Ariella's paperwork. That's right, they already have the information on this year's gan kids (i.e. next year's kitah aleph) ready in their office. Impressive, no? She took our teudat zehut and gave us some papers to fill out. I was very proud that all my ulpan-gimmel work has been paying off because I was able to read and understand most of the paperwork. The truth is, it was really various sheets asking the same question: "Is there anything wrong with your kid? Health problems? Learning problems? Allergies? Social problems? Health problems, did we ask that already? Anything that might in any way prevent her from learning, talking, playing, or eating with the other children? And does she have any health problems? What about learning problems? " Well, you get the idea. Thanks to the good Lord, we were able to answer "no" to those questions which made the filling out-ness that much quicker. (That is not to say she isn't without her own, ahem, unique, sometimes, perhaps challenging personality, but that is something the kitah aleph morot will have to figure out on their own!) We did note that she is an "olah chadashah" and that the language spoken at home is English. While I am somewhat apprehensive about her language abilities once she actually has to be responsible for "content" and not just "Tafasti!" (tag in Hebrew), I keep reminding myself that there are about 7 more months to go before, gulp, kitah alpeh.

On to Yaakov's gan. There are two options for Trom Trom gans - a half day and a full day. Keep him out of the house as long as possible, that's what I always say! We visited the full day gan. The ganenet seemed like one of those hidden tzidkaniot - the kids were all in a circle, giving tzedakah (it was tefillah time) and she absolutely had them under her spell. It was mesmerizing. Every time a kid dropped an agurah into the tzedakah box, she and the rest of the class chanted. "Tizkeh l'mitzvot ul'ma'asim tovim." Donny and I walked out, hypnotized, chanting, "tizkeh l'mitzot ul'ma'asim tovim." We looked around the gan a little, but the ganenet wasn't able to talk to us because she was busy with the chanting, so we shrugged and said, "Looks good! Where do we sign up?"

Shabbos was uneventful. I spent most of it engrossed in "Deathly Hallows." Which I am reading for the fourth time. I do not normally reread books, much less than four times, but as I have said before, "Ani maytah al JK Rowling." Ariella wasn't feeling great so we didn't even go to shul, but it was nice to just chill out. Sure enough, though, Ariella got a little fever on motzash. Sunday morning I took her to the doctor, pretty sure he was going to tell me it was nothing because she didn't seem that sick. Ha ha! She had an ear infection in the left ear and an "impressive" (in a bad way) looking throat. So we got another diseased stick and a prescription and headed over to the Macabi building. Luckily I used my morning at home very productively: I cleaned Donny's Mounds of Clothing from the dresser (the poor pair of pants smushed all the way at the bottom of the pile were suffocating and close to death, but luckily I revived them and showed them their comfy home in the drawer. Drawer - Donny - are you reading this? It's the thing with handles, it pulls out, it's quite nifty, actually, and - get this - there is room in this "drawer" contraption for your clothes!) Anyway, you are probably wondering how I productively used the rest of my morning. The answer is: Talking to Lisa.

Tonight, a very exciting event has occurred: We received our remote controls for the garage! Two remotes! At first, the Dimri Human Resources Department had put a sign up in the elevator that each remote was 80 NIS (too bad you can't use New Poofahs), but if we didn't order them in advance, they would be 150 NIS each. We needed to sign up, via the handy-dandy piece of paper dangling precariously from a single strip of tape method, indicating how many remotes we wanted. So we signed up for two. But then began the another Great Elevator Debate. You know, whereby people communicate to each other through nasty little comments on the signs in the elevator? This time, someone yelled that we should get at least one for free, since we've been paying all this va'ad habayit for months, and what have we got to show for it anyway, not even a "My Dad/Mom/Son/Daughter/Filipino Worker went to Dimri and All I Got Was This Lousy T-Shirt" t-shirt. So then someone from the Va'ad wrote back and said, "Oh, yeah? If you're so sure of yourself, why didn't you sign your name, loser!" And someone wrote back: "I'm not a loser, you're a loser!" And then someone else wrote back, "I'm rubber, you're glue...." So this went on for quite some time, until, suddenly, the graffitied sheet was down, silence ensued, and then a week later a new sheet went up. "Please sign up for remote controls for the garage. It has been decided that each apartment who has paid their va'ad habayit will get one remote for free. However, the old sign up sheet has been, ahem, taken down, so please sign up again." Anyway, tonight was the big Garage Remote Control Handout Evening in the lobby ("Free coffee!") and Donny came back with two remotes. Tovim hashnayim min ha'echad, indeed.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Delurking Day Demystified

Ok, based on the paucity of comments yesterday I am going to think either that I didn't explain "Delurking Day" clearly enough, or everyone except for Momz, Madame President Shira, and SaraQ have Bissli for brains. But since I think very highly of my Loyal Readers, I will go with explanation A. Let's explain this simply. Post a comment. That's it! Whether you've posted before (Momz and Shira) or not (SaraQ), leave a comment so we can see how many of you are out there.
(Quick etymology lesson: Lurk = furtively sneaking around, so delurk = stop sneaking! Expose your identity on the blog! But even if you have commented often in the past, and therefore do not qualify as a "lurker," post a comment anyway, because the staff of aliyahbyaccident LOVES comments!)

So in case I haven't been clear. Post. A. Comment.

PS There is actually a logo for Delurking Day, but I opted not to include it because it has somewhat inappropriate overtones and there are former Bais Yaakov students who read this blog and I want to keep it clean. However, for those of you who are interested (Momz), you can google Delurking Day and see for yourself.

PPS 100 New Poofahs for anyone who can get Dadz to post a comment. I realize Momz has a slight advantage in this contest, but since she hasn't been successful yet, it's really open to anyone!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Quick update

It is a good thing I spend a lot of my time reading other people's blogs. One of the first blogs I started following was Arica "Factor" Saltzman's, and it is kappayim l'Arica that I can report to you this crucial information:
This week we celebrated Delurking Day! Can you believe we missed it? It was officially celebrated on Monday, January 12, but luckily it was a nidcheh this year so it was actually pushed off until Wednesday. (That is a total lie, but I hate being late for anything.) What's that? You don't know what Delurking Day is? Except for Arica? And probably Lisa because she reads Arica's blog? Well, my friends, my Loyal Readers, I am here to enlighten you. Delurking Day (and yes, I am going to use that phrase as often as possible because it sounds funny)....where was I? Oh yes, Delurking Day is the day when Obsessive Readers, Loyal Readers, Occasional Readers, Sometimes Readers, Infrequent Readers, Once-in-a-while Readers, Reluctant Readers, I Hate Your Blog But I'm So Bored I'll Read Anything Readers....basically, everyone except Never Readers, come out of the Anonymous Readers Closet! Post a comment, let us know you are out there and that you heart aliyahbyaccident, or at least it doesn't repulse you too often (digressions on peeing in the park notwithstanding.) Anyway, I know you are there, because you often vote on the polls (unless that's just Momz voting 10 times), so post a comment! Show us some love! Celebrate Delurking Day in style! (And if you insist in remaining anonymous, and those of you know who you are, then you can send me an email instead, no fewer than 250 words, filled with gossip and random thoughts and news about your life.)

And speaking of the polls....only three days left to vote! Don't miss out! You don't want to be standing by the water cooler next week, while all your friends are discussing their picks and the results, feeling really lame because you did not take take part in the poll. Time is running out! Walla!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Nivim and Unfunny stuff

First of all, thanks to Momz and her close reading of the blog. She caught a mistake I made during my "strudel" rant - apparently I put the "nekudah" in the wrong place. Oy vavoy! I apologize to anyone who tried to use that email address ( Good thing she caught that - I have now fixed the mistake, and Momz, I say to you, "WALLA!"


Thank you to my Loyal Anonymous Reader (you know who you are) who sent me my own copy of the BYLine (the Bais Yaakov alumni newsletter.) As promised, the teacher interviewed is none other than.....Mrs. Steinhart, of Nivim fame! Apparently, I am not the only one whose sole memory of "Ivrit" in Bais Yaakov is memorizing nivim! In fact, so enamored are the alumni of their stockpile of nivim that Mrs. Steinhart has created an "Alumni Nivim Contest!" No, I am really not joking! (I kinda wish I was, though!) There are 10 nivim printed on the newsletter - actually a photocopy of Mrs. Steinhart's own handwriting, how nostalgic - and whoever can explain seven of them correctly will be entered into a raffle. In addition - yes, folks, it gets better! - if you remember the English idioms that Mrs. Steinhart taught us for two of the nivim, you get entered - are you sitting? are you ready for this? - a SECOND time! Ohmigod! I might actually plotz from the excitement! All I can say is, tovim hashnayim min ha'echad, baby! (Sadly, that is not one of the ten). I am DEFINITELY going to... bring this into ulpan on Sunday and show Irit, because she will get a kick out of it.

Now, as you may have heard, there is a war going on here in Israel. I haven't said much (read: anything) about it because, frankly, it's not very funny. However, Ariella and I became part of the "war effort" yesterday. There is a program in a couple of cities in Israel to bring homemade cookies to the chayalim. So a woman in Modi'in was coordinating the effort here, and I figured it seemed like a worthwhile thing to do. We like chayalim, we like cookies - what better than to bring them together? Yesterday, Ariella and I made very festive sugar cookies (but not the kind you have to roll out because we have NO CLUE where our rolling pin is, so we made the kind you refrigerate and then cut.) This was the first time Ariella had heard about this war. It could be they're doing something in gan, maybe saying a special tefillah or something, but if they are, she has no clue. So I was explaining about the war, and how we're very safe here in Modi'in (which is true - it's kind of strange how life is completely normal here, in terms of going to school, shopping, etc. As Donny said, if there was a war raging in New Jersey, you can bet that people in New York wouldn't be going about their daily lives. But that's how it is here.) Anyway, I told her that that the chayalim might be sad because they miss their families and they might want a treat, so we are going to bake cookies and draw them a picture. Ariella had, as you can imagine, a number of questions. (She likes to thoroughly investigate an issue from all angles. Don't even ask about our numerous discussions about how babies get in and out.)
1. When do the soldiers sleep?
2. Do they have to fight in the night?
3. Do they have time to eat?
4. Are the bad guys like Yaakov? 'Cuz he can be bad sometimes. [Yes, but he's little and he's not trying to really hurt anyone.] Oh. These bad guys are big. They should know better.
5. Should we give cookies to the bad guys? 'Cuz maybe they're hungry also. [No.]

Today I dropped off the cookies at the woman's house. Apparently I'm not the only one. When I got to ulpan, my teacher told us that she has a nephew in the army, and he came home for a weekend and said, "I don't even want to LOOK at another cookie!" (Well, it's the thought that counts.) In Super-why-don't-you-sign-up-for-our-credit-card-sol, they have boxes of goodies - energy bars, chocolates, Bissli, etc - you can buy at a discounted price that they will send to army bases. So I did that also. Basically our chayalim will be coming home from this operation very fat. They are going to have to roll these guys home. "Come on [grunt]... help me push Katzav...up....this...last...hill. Shoulda...laid off....that last....sugar cookie."
Anyway, the "matzav" is obviously on our minds at all times and we are hoping this war ends quickly and that the good guys win.

Strudels and playdates

We have spoken before about the tendency in modern Hebrew to take English words and just add an "rrrrrr" to them, and voila, a new Hebrew word has been created. There are many, many examples of this phenomenon. Hoo-ree-kahn = hurricane; op-tzi-ah = option; for-ma-lee = formal; and a new one I just heard this morning on the radio: win-win situation = win-win situation. Now, as an aside, sometimes this liberal use of transliteration bothers me, as an English geek. There is an etymology behind English words that gets lost when they're simply transliterated. For example, the word "psychologist", aka "pesicholog" is a combination of "psyche" and "ologist" i.e. one who studies ologies, or something like that. So why not use a translation of "psychologist," which would connote the same meaning in Hebrew? Why transliterate something which becomes meaningless in your language? And then, there are very simple English words which for no good reason are not transliterated. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you "strudel." This is what Israelis call the @ sign in an email. I've heard this a number of times and each time it makes me laugh out loud. Today on the radio, the radio announcer announced, in his very deep, macho, radio-announcerish voice, the email address for whatever it was he was advertising. (Chocolate spread? Pinkasim? Supersol credit card?) He said, "blah blah blah STRUDEL" (Just by the way, I think "walla" is a pretty funny word as well. Walla!) I mean, seriously folks! Since when do we decide on a name for our symbols based on the closest baked good they resemble? Is the word "at" really that difficult a concept to understand? Is it hard to pronounce? Are Israelis peeved that we don't have a masculine and feminine version of it? Clearly, it is beyond my comprehension, but there you have it: "at" has become "STRUDEL." Say it with me! gila STRUDEL! CNN! It just trips off the tongue, doesn't it? Kinda like strudel....hmmmmm.....

Tonight we had an old-fashioned playdate. I mean, REALLY old-fashioned, like the silent movies of old. This evening, Shirat came for a playdate. This is the little girl that has invited Ariella twice to her home, and Ariella has been dying to have her over. So tonight we finally coordinated ourselves and Shirat came. Shirat, as well as Ima Shel Shirat, speak only Hebrew. It was interesting watching Ariella play with Shirat. While the usual girly chatter was absent - and anyone who has spent five minutes with Ariella can tell you she is the absolute Master of Chatter - they did manage to communicate and I was impressed with Ariella's comfort level with Hebrew. She obviously couldn't say everything she wanted, but she was definitely confident in what she knew. First they colored, then played dress-up, then we took out Candyland, because it speaks the universal language of colors, then I explained "Go Fish" to Shirat and they played that. Apparently they have a version of Go Fish in Israel, but they do not call it "Lech Dag." In any case, Shirat was more than adept at playing the game, and Ariella learned a new phrase: "Yesh lach?" Then they had dinner and colored some more. All in all I think it was a very successful playdate and I was proud of both Ariella and myself for handling it with such finesse! Next week, we are hosting a very intense playdate with five of the kids from gan - it's part of this program where each kid hosts five other kids, and you have to send invitations and do all sorts of activities. It is intense work being the parent a five year old in Israel. I will, of course, keep you posted on that, but I was glad to have had a bit of a "rehearsal" playdate with Shirat, quiet though it was.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Shabbat and Parsha

Well, folks, it was a close race, but there is a clear winner in the polls - the next poll will be about what we should discuss on this blog. It was close for a while, with "Blog" running neck and neck with "Encoded message to Jonathan" but then "Blog" pulled ahead with 50% of the vote. Thanks to all those who voted; your "I Heart Wasting Time on Aliyahbyaccident" t-shirt will be coming in the mail any day now.

We had a lovely Shabbat with Yael, Yossie, and Hanani who came all the way from Jerusalem and didn't get lost once. They brought with them some excellent Jerusalem bakery desserts, so we gave them pillows as well as blankets to sleep on. Ha ha! I'm just kidding! Of course we don't demand ransom from our guests in the form of baked goods in order for them to receive pillows, or blankets, or lunch. At least, I think I'm kidding. Hmmmm. It's not a bad idea, though....
So Shabbat was very pleasant and there was even a big kiddush at shul, yay for yerushalmi kugel, and then for lunch we had the New New People in Dimri. You will recall that a few weeks ago New People moved in, and we decided that we could go against the Dimri grain and actually invite them for a meal on Shabbat. It worked out so well, we decided to go for it again when someone else moved in! We have appointed ourselves the Official Dimri Welcoming Committee. We are the president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, and Foreign Minister (because sometimes the new people come from Canada.) Anyway, our Shabbat guests are the New New People, being that they are newer than the Old New People. So they came for lunch with their kids and we had a nice time, and of course we played Jewish geography and it turns out that the wife and I were at Stern at the same time, and the husband is a fellow nerd like Donny but worked for IBM so he and Donny got to dueling with their motherboards. But overall everyone had fun although if more new people move in I think we'll have to give them code names, because it's going to get really complicated once we have New New New People.

What else, what else....Last night Donny went into J-lem for an engagement party for his cousin. (His cousin lives in America, but the fiance's family is from Israel, so they came here to get engaged.) Apparently, in Jerusalem, it is winter. One can actually see one's breath. This explains why the Blochs came for Shabbat armed with their winter coats, which would only have been necessary if they hadn't brought baked goods and we confiscated their blankets.

Tonight Ariella did her parsha sheet with Zaidy. It's not actually a parsha sheet; I mean, the questions are from a parsha, but not necessarily the one we're currently reading in shul. I am under the impression that my daughter is learning Chumash in gan, but I can't be totally sure. In any case, she and Zaidy have a standing "parsha"-date every Sunday. Usually Zaidy is at work on Sunday, because it is ALWAYS "almost the fifteenth" so they just do it over the phone. Today, however, due to Leezy's visit to America (you'll have to read her blog,, to get the details, if, ahem, she ever UPDATES it), Zaidy made the unprecedented decision to stay home on a Sunday morning. So Ariella was able to Skype with Zaidy and see as well as hear him. I believe this was more fun for Zaidy than for Ariella, because he spent a good third of their time together making funny faces and sticking out his tongue into the camera. My five year old was rolling her eyes and wondering when they could get back to work, but the important thing is Zaidy was having fun. It must have been like when Early Man discovered fire and just played with this new toy all day long, until Early Woman whacked him upside the head and told him to do something useful with this new technology instead of just making shadow puppets.

Anyway, I am really scraping the bottom of the blog barrel here, seeing as I have nothing really new to report so I'm just writing random things, but at least, Cheryl, Sharon, and Shoshana, it has given you something to do besides work.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Tests and Timers

****This post is dedicated to Sharon, who should be writing anecdotals****

First of all, for those of you sitting on shpilkes ("shpilkot" in Hebrew), I did well on my oral ulpan test. There are two tests - the oral was this week, and the written is in three weeks. The oral test is basically 5-10 minutes of talking (duh) and you need it to determine your level for the written test. On Tuesday we all had a "practice" day in class and went through the sections of the oral test with our teacher. The first section is talking about yourself, when you came to Israel, your profession, your family, etc. The second section is pulling out a random card and following instructions on it. No, it doesn't say, "Run through the building wearing only tube socks, clucking like a chicken. In Hebrew." It was "situations" (aka "situatziot" in Hebrew) like making a doctor's appointment, inviting someone to a movie, etc. The third section is telling a story about yourself. So we all went around and practiced on Tuesday. On Wednesday, we had a regular day of ulpan, and we each went, one by one, to the teacher who was testing us. (Each ulpan teacher tested a different class.) I think I did okay, I told the story about walking through the pouring rain to get to the train on Chanukah, and for the most part, I had my past, present, and future tenses correct. We're not allowed to find out our scores, maybe because, like the driving instructors, they're afraid we'll rise up and kill them if we don't like the grade. In any case, our teacher, Dahlia, told us later in the morning that we all got level "gimmel" and we all did well. Phew!

So I have been having timer issues. There is a timer on our oven, which seems super convenient, because if you want to time something that you are cooking, what better place to put the timer than on the actual oven! If I am cooking on the stove, let's say, noodles, since we only eat that like 100 times a week, the timer works beautifully. 12 minutes, it beeps, my children have noodles. The problem is, if I am timing something and simultaneously using the oven, the timer gets very overwhelmed. For some reason, it will not only shut off itself midst-timing, it will also shut off my oven. So if I put something in for thirty minutes, at approximately the eleven minute mark (or twenty-five, thirteen, or four), the oven and timer will go on strike. "No more!" they say, standing together in solidarity. (They're unified like that.) So I stopped using the timer on the oven, because I was mad, and instead used the temperamental "Remember-what-time-I-put-that-in-the-oven" timer. It's not very reliable. In any case, during one of our Friday excursions, Donny and I were in a store which sells....timers! So I bought one. Yay! I thought. I used it Friday afternoon to time my chicken. I was glad to not have to rely on my own mental capacities (which are fuzzy at best by Friday afternoon) to remember when to take out the chicken. However, the time on the timer and the time in actual, real life did not seem to jive. After a while, I realized the timer was, sadly, broken. Let's just say that there have been eleven minutes left for my chicken going on a week now. So on Monday, I stopped in another store to pick up a timer. But I didn't know the Hebrew word for timer. I start explaining to the lady that I want a clock for the kitchen, but it's not really a clock, and I don't know the word...."Mishkal? (Scale?)" she offers helpfully. I shake my head, no, it's something you use when you want to know when your food is done. Her eyes light up with understanding. "Ahhhh....timerrrrrr," she says. Yes, folks, the Hebrew word for "timer" is "timer" but pronounced like "time-air" with a nice rolling "r" at the end. End of story: Today, I went to yet another store, asked for a "time-airrrrr," purchased a nice, American-looking digital one, and was all set to use it tonight for my cooking marathon when I realized I had left it in the car.

In another news.....(do you think I overuse that phrase?)....welcome to "Danny," the newest member of our Loyal Readers' Club! And don't forget to vote in the poll - it's a close race this time, and your vote could actually determine the content of the next poll! You have a voice in this blog, ladies and gentlemen! You can make a difference!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ulpan, Parties, and Polls

First, kappayim to Risa and Cheryl for not falling asleep during the dikduk discussion (see: previous post.) Good job, ladies! But Cheryl, is it only "boredom at work" that keeps you reading the blog? I mean, what about the penetrating insights, the scintillating discussion, the perceptive perceptiveness? Do those key features of this blog not entice you to keep hitting the "refresh" button in the hopes that another shrewd analysis of something or other will appear on your screen?
But hey, I love readers, so I'll take you, even if I'm only an alternative to boring work.

So today in ulpan I asked a question that turned out to be somewhat embarrassing. I was reading an article in our Easy Hebrew Newspaper, and came across a phrase I didn't understand. I asked the teacher, and as I read the quote out loud, I realized not only what it meant, but that it employed a rather crude term. She delicately responded, "Ze lo ivrit gevohah," as I simultaneously said, getting slightly red, "Oh, hayvanti. Selicha!" (It turned out the phrase meant something along the lines of "Live life to the fullest," but, and not to get too graphic here, "eggs" don't always mean "eggs." I'll leave it at that.)

Ariella went to her first Israeli birthday party yesterday! How do I know it was an Israeli party? Was it because for "dinner" before the cake the kids were served pita and chocolate? Was it the abundance of Hebrew being spoken? No, it was because the party was Monday and Ariella got the invitation in school on Sunday. I mean, in New York, invitations to birthday parties are sent out weeks, if not months, in advance. Perhaps 5 year olds in Israel don't have such busy social calendars, because, depsite the lateness of the invitation, the room seemed pretty packed. I ran into Shirat's mother at the party. Shirat has had Ariella over to her house twice now, and we're trying to invite Shirat to come here. Shirat's mother (her name in Hebrew is, "Ima shel Shirat," because that is what the parents call each other - "Ima shel _____"). So I see Ima shel Shirat in shul, or at school occasionally, and we always have these awkward conversations, because she has almost no English, and my Hebrew conversational skills are pretty much used up after "Shalom! Mah shlomech! B'seder!" Anyway, Ariella had a great time at the party and the mom ("Ima shel Achinoam") said Ariella participated very nicely and was surprised we had only been here four months.

In poll news: Thanks to everyone who participated in our "Favorite Nivim" poll! Here is some scintillating analysis of the poll, for all of you who are bored at work: Kappayim L'Dov!

Be sure to vote in the new one - there's only a few days left! Also, our Loyal Readers Club has stagnated at seven members. Come on and join! Free car to everyone who signs up! (Remember how I said you would get a free t-shirt if you joined? Remember how then I said I was lying? Similar thing happening here.)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

So That's Why They're Called Chickens!

First, some overdue shout-outs to some Loyal Readers/Posters who have not been shouted-out to yet: My former third grade teacher, Morah Taragin, who feels personally responsible for only teaching us "hoveh" in third grade and not attacking "atid." Don't worry, Morah Taragin! (I actually couldn't remember if we called you "Morah" or "Mrs." and when I asked my mother, her response was, "Don't remember. Cheesh, it was when you were eight!") Anyway, the point is, we wouldn't have been able to memorize atid as well, what with cramming for our "Third Grade Poetry Play" and all. (My poem was about mud squishing between my toes. I am still traumatized to this day. What eight year old girl wants to get up and talk about "mud" and "toes?" Although I guess it doesn't matter, since, "cheesh, it was when I was eight!" I'll just repress any emotions I felt before nine.) Another BY shout-out to Ora "N" Thav, former 12Cer, who is very worried that there will be a quiz on nivim or sufganiot. Don't worry, Ora, since you have such good attendance on the blog you will be exempt from the quiz. And Sharon, I'm glad you, too, are reading the blog instead of writing anecdotals, and if you like, I can write a note to Morah Sara taking full blame for the blank pages.

Let's see....Shabbos was nice and relaxing, no company, Donny took the kids to shul Friday night. Yay! I read the entire "Tales of Beedle the Bard" which was sad because I was looking forward to reading it so much and now it's finished. As they say in Israel, "Ani maytah al JK Rowling." Then I continued my Shabbos ulpan with the Israeli version of Cosmo. I figured I should read stuff in Hebrew, but it doesn't have to be boring! So I read an article and I understood most of it, which I was happy about. Friday night we started our new phase of Operation Get Yaakov To Go To Sleep. Donny held him on the couch and wouldn't let him get up, or climb, or do anything except sit. He said to him, "Yaakov, you are categorically banned from going to sleep. You may not go to sleep. You must sit here with me on the couch."

Historical anecdote: Now, we need to give....get ready for it...kappayim l'Dov! See, this parenting idea started about 23 years ago with Dadz. There is a tale that is now part of Leibtag lore, for Momz and Dadz had a similar (although much worse) case of Not Going to Sleep-itis with my brother, Aaron. The story starts on a dark night, much like tonight. Aaron refused to go to sleep. So Dadz, in an act of heroism, stayed up with Aaron all night. Of course, at a certain point, Aaron was very tired and ready to go to sleep, but Dadz would not let him, and made him stay up. (I may have alluded to this story in an earlier post, but now you get all the gory details.) And so it went, Dadz learning at the kitchen table, Aaron hysterical, Dadz refusing to let him go to sleep. Sounds cruel, but it worked! So well, in fact, that these days, Aaron would gladly sleep through the night and most of the next day as well. Anyway, the idea seemed to work with our little Yaakov. After about ten minutes, Yaakov got really bored/tired. He started begging to go to sleep. Donny "considered" the request, and eventually "relented." Yaakov, so glad to be released from the couch, practically ran to bed. Yay! Score one for the parents, until Yaakov figures out our plan and we're back to square one.

A funny Ariella story: Friday night, we had chicken for dinner. (I know, very original.) Ariella started asking me questions about the chicken bone - "Why is it called a leg?" - and we realized she did not know that the "chickens" on the farm are directly related to the "chickens" on the table. We explained to her the farm-to-table process. She asked, "But if we kill the chickens, how come they're still around?" And when that had been satisfactorily explained, her face lit up with understanding. "I get it! The reason they call them 'chickens' is because they have 'chicken' on them!" An "aha" moment if there ever was one!

Home (not so) Alone

So this week has been pretty boring. On Monday Ariella and I had a mind-numblingly boring day at home so she was more than ready to go to gan on Tuesday. Monday night we met the Balsams at Burger King for dinner, for one last Chanukah hurrah. Technically, it wasn't Chanukah anymore by the time we ate, but you get the picture. Of course, Tuesday morning there were the usual fights about not wanting to go to gan, despite the mind-numbing boringness of the day before, but I had a surprise weapon in my Bribery Arsenal - I promised Ariella we'd go for ice cream after gan. That, plus wearing her new sweatpants did the trick and we all tramped out the door. On my way to ulpan, I decided to check the mail. Our mailbox is not near the main entrance of the building, so I often forget to check it. Also, in New York there was more motivation to check the mail because there could be treats, in the form of magazines, especially my beloved People. Here, there are only bills, takeout menus, and lots and lots of ads for cleaners, babysitters, texis (that's Hebrew for taxi). So I'm not terribly motivated to check the mail every day. But I figured it had been long enough. And lo! A surprise awaited me. This Tuesday was "ki tov, ki tov" indeed because in the mail was.........MY LICENSE!!!!!!!!!!! It's official, folks, I will never have to take another driving lesson/test again! My favorite part of the license is the picture, because I'm wearing my favorite purple scarf. In America, they give you trouble if you show up in a hat or scarf, so I always made sure to wear my sheitl for my license picture. Granted, it was a little strange showing up at the DMV in my sheitl when I was sixteen, but what can you do. Ha! Just kidding! Let me clarify - I've always worn my sheitl for license pictures since I got married.

In ulpan, we are continuing to prepare for our test, part of which is next week. There is an oral test, next Wednesday, and a written test, which is the last Thursday in January. It's a three-hour test! The best part is how they scheduled it - right smack in the middle of the day, from 1:00 - 4:00. Of course, this messes everyone up, because almost all of us have kids in gan/school that need some sort of pick up/transportation/food during that time period. The reason for the timing, from what I heard, is that there are two ulpans - the regular morning one, and an evening one that meets twice a week. So they decided to make the test right in the middle of both of them, so that everyone is screwed! God forbid they do something crazy like, I don't know, administer it twice? Anyway, I've already told Donny he needs to work from home that day so I can take the test and officially be considered "fluent." (Shalom! Ma Nishma! Hakol b'seder?) I'm sure Donny has forgotten, so Donny, consider this your reminder. January 29th. You, Ariella, Yaakov. Be there. It's a little crazy that ulpan will be over in a month (February 5th is the last day, for those keeping track.) Because I still can't put together a coherent sentence. I know lots and lots of words now, but conjugating them so the sentence makes sense is a totally different story. (For example, "I am bored" is VERY different than "I am boring" but in Hebrew, the difference is one tiny, little "vuv." Darn you, hufal.) Actually, "hufal" is preferable to my nemesis "nifal," which, as Donny reassured me, is just a kal gone bad. Not so reassuring. And forget the future tense. I am TERRIBLE at atid. From now on, I live my life solely in the past and present. I did learn one great trick, though - if I can put the word "tzricha (need)" or "yecholah (able)" before the verb, then I can get away with using the infinitive, and thereby bypass the need to conjugate. For those of you who are still paying attention to this lengthy digression into dikduk- and the only people who are are Shoshana, who will do anything not to write her anecdotals, Donny, Nafi, though he doesn't even read the blog but Lisa does, and Dadz, who will read it in a month from now and call to tell me he's all caught up - I thank you for your patience. To everyone else, I'm done now! You can wipe the drool off the side of your face and refocus your eyes!

So the reason for this long and rambling post is that I am home today with the kiddies and not really doing much. Yaakov woke up with a bad cough, and in the past I would have marched him off to school, but I figured I should be a good mother and let him stay home and hack all over me, instead of the other kids at gan. Ariella, sensing that Yaakov was about to have a day off, suddenly had a very bad headache. But the truth is she has been coughing a lot, as have I, so I figured might as well have a day at home. Also, keeping her home has the added advantage that there's someone to entertain Yaakov. We're off to the doctor later (not until the evening, because that's when the English-speaking doctor is there.) and until then we'll have a day of making huge messes in the living room and, of course, food shopping.