Sunday, May 31, 2009

Shavuot; Or, How the Roses Survived a TWO DAY Chag and Lived to Tell About It

In case you were worried, yes, we DID survive Shavuot, two day-ness and all.

On Erev Shavuot, we went to the Kotel (Yaakov is unfortunately confused between the "Kotel" and "Eretz Nehederet" and spent much of our time there wondering when we were finally going to to to the Kotel. I'm sure God is shaking His - or Her - head and wondering how on His good green earth I managed, as a parent, to screw that one up.) Anyway, the reason for the trip to the Kotel (only our second one since we came; sorry, again, God.) was that the family of a former student of mine was making a bar mitzvah there. My student, Deena, had emailed me months and months ago telling me they were coming in May for her brother's bar mitzvah and that they wanted to invite me. And unlike the hordes of third graders that you say a tearful goodbye to every June, promising to give each other big hugs in September, and then come September, forget the hug, they barely recognize you and they have only a vague recollection that the holes do, in fact, go on the left, Deena did remember me and sent an invitation inviting our whole family to davening at the Kotel and then a shindig over Shavuot/Shabbat in the hotel. It was really quite sweet and touching, and although we declined to join them in the hotel (a decision which many of our friends, specifically Robbie Sassoon, told us we were foolish for making, but come on, do you want to be sleeping for two nights in the same room as Heavy Breather and his sister, Bunny Rattle? I thought not.), we did join them at the Kotel for the davening/layning. Well, at least the kids and I made it for davening. Donny dropped us off and then went to look for parking, a feat worthy of Odysseus, and made it in time for the last strands of "Aleinu." But Deena and her family were thrilled to see us - I got a lovely bone-crushing hug from Deena - and when the davening was over, we said goodbye and "shmied" around the Old City with the kids. Walked around, bought some shoko - in bags, of course. Ariella was fascinated with the "sha'arim," having learned about them in school, and thus exposed our weaknesses when it comes to the ancient entrances to the city of Jerusalem. "That is sha'ar Yafo," we said authoritatively. "And that one is, um, also sha'ar Yafo," we said a few minutes later, a little less authoritatively. But our gig was up - we humbly admitted that we did not know the sha'arim and would look them up for next time, ma'am.

After Yaakov flew to the car (it's sooo much faster than walking), we headed over to Beit Shemesh to visit Aunt Leezy, Uncle Elie, Netanel, and of course, Geraldo. Tomorrow, God willing, Geraldo will be getting his real name. But I may still call him Geraldo, for kicks. He was tiny and cute and soft and enjoyed being held by Aunt Gila.

Shavuot Highlights:

The Roses star in.....Escape From Dimri!

Yes, it was our first stunt scene for our upcoming movie. Walking home from shul on Shavuot, it was quite hot and the children, who had walked so beautifully on Thursday through the Old City, could now not handle a ten minute walk home. We decided to take the "through the building" shortcut. For those of you not familiar with the Dimri layout, there are 9 buildings. We are number six. There is not an indoor passageway connecting the buildings, but if you walk through each individual building, you can at least get out of the sun as you make your way to number six. So we arrived at Building #1. Many Dimri buildings have two entrances and exits - one for the residents, and one for the offices that occupy the ground floor. Donny opened the door to the office wing. "I don't think this is right," I said, (that's right, I WARNED HIM. Let this go on record.) "I think we need to go through the other entrance." But the door was opened, so we walked in. We reached the other side. Door locked. Haha, thought we. We will simply go back the way we came. The door must have been left open by accident, however (dimribyaccident), because when we reached the door we had come through, it, too, was locked. From the inside. We were in the proverbial pickle. Luckily, there was a window to the outside that opened easily (to deter the burglars, you understand). I hoisted myself up and out, a delicate sight to be sure, then Donny handed me Ariella and Yaakov, before coming through himself. We certainly provided entertainment to the nice grandfather out playing with his grandkids in front of the building. The truth is, he didn't even look at us so strangely. He must have not listened to his wife, once, also.

Second Highlight: The Kiddush!
In Which Random Jews Take Our Seats
We arrived on Shabbat to the festive, Super Duper Gala Deluxe Kiddush Rabbah! Yay!!!! In order to make this even more festive and Super, not to mention Duper, Gala, and Deluxe, they had set up tables and chairs in the (sort of) shade. This was a formal event, people. The problem was that there were not quite enough seats for all the people. Especially because there were folks there who I don't believe ever stepped foot in this shul before, maybe are not even from Modi'in, but got whiff of the shnitzel and Yerushalmi kugel, and planted themselves down. Took up an entire row. The best row. In the shade. And kicked me out. "This entire row is taken," they informed me, calmly removing my "I'm saving this seat bag" and placing it on a chair directly in the sun. Luckily, some nice people took pity on us and found us seats. We ate, we enjoyed, we went to the park, we went home WITHOUT getting locked in the building, we ate again. 'Cuz you can never eat too many lunches.

PS Every time we pass Building #1 Yaakov starts wailing, "I want to climb through the window again!" If there's a little blond Israeli actor who needs a stunt double, I have your man.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Poll results; in other news, Dadz eats rugelach

Day 2 of the 'Rents Invade Israel went something like this:
[8 PM the previous evening]
Dadz: We should go out to breakfast tomorrow! You and me and Momz!
Gila: Great idea! I love breakfast! And I love you, and Momz, and tomorrow. Let's put them all together and serve them with warm crusty bread!
[Everyone goes to sleep. I wake up at 3:30, in a sweaty panic that the camp shirt I got for Ariella is too big. Seriously. I worry about the strangest things. Also, while we're here, in the italicized brackets, I would like to put something up for discussion. Donny claims that the apartment is too noisy at night. He sleeps cocooned under his blankets - yes, in the plural - with an extra sheet over his head as an additional sound barrier. And yet he still complains that the tiny Hyundai Getz tooling down Sderot Chashmonaim in the middle of the night wakes him up. And YET, when a child is bawling outside our room - and sometimes even INSIDE - he will not so much as stir. Not only that, in the morning, while recounting every car and truck that went by, he will have only a hazy memory of said hysterical child. "Oh yes," he will mutter vaguely, "there was something in the middle of the night. What happened?" Oh, only your 3 year old, covered in puke and sobbing wildly into my ears. Nothing so terrible as a CAR, of course.]

Where were we? Oh yes, breakfast.

[Tuesday morning.]
Donny: Why aren't you exercising this morning?
Gila: [brightly] Oh, no time, Momz and Dadz and I are going out for breakfast.
[Donny is jealous. Gila takes kids to gan, returns home, and starts doing random household chores that are too boring to recount here. Any second, she is sure, the 'rents will awaken and it will be time for BREAKFAST!]
Gila: Well, it's 9:00. Maybe I'll do a little work. [Sounds of the keyboard clicking away.]
Gila: Hmmm, it's 10:00. I'll do some laundry, get it in before they wake up and we go out.
Gila: Well, it's 11:00. Hmmm....I really have some errands I need to run.
Gila: It's 11:20. I'm off. The 'rents owe me breakfast.
[Gila runs errands, returns around 12:15. Parents are in pajamas, Momz at the computer, Dadz meandering around the living room with a dazed look on his face.]
Gila: You owe me breakfast.
Momz: What's today?
Dadz: Is there rugelach?

In exciting Dimri news....
This week, a sign went up in the elevators that there was going to be...wait for it...a Building Six Shavuot Party! Ok, let it out....YIPPEEE-KIE-FREAKIN'-YAY!!!!
There were sign up sheets in the elevators with a list of food. We were supposed to sign our name and apartment number next to the food item we wanted to bring. One problem that many of you are already foreseeing is that there are two elevators. So what if you sign up for a half kilo of cheese borekas in Small Elevator, but someone else already signed up for the same half kilo of cheese borekas in Big Elevator! It can lead to nothing but tragedy, to be sure! Probably the Va'ad was thinking that the husband and wife would tag team, each riding a different elevator at precisely the same time, in order to "chap" [ed. note - read that with an Israeli "ch" sound] the food item they wanted. However, the problem turned out to be the reverse. As of today - the day of the party - the party was likely to consist of 6 melons and a bottle of coke. And to think we're missing the fun!

As promised, we will also discuss poll results. 35% of our voters (17 voters in all- now if there are 22 readers who claim loyalty, shouldn't there be a minimum of 22 votes? Hmmmm? HMMMM??) claim they do, in fact, post comments, and are waiting for their mugs. 29% do not want us to know what they were thinking, which of course means I'm DYING to know what they're thinking. 17% have nothing to say, and another 17% are waiting for the VP of Tech Support to return their calls.
Now, for those of you who are waiting for their mugs, I have good news! I just deputized our VP of Tech Support to become our VP of Customer Service and Mugs! Dadz - are you reading this? You've been promoted! Dadz, Dadz, I'm down here! You've minimized your screen - see, I'm on the bottom. Click on me, Dadz - come back! D-A-A-A-A-A-A- [Dadz closed the window. Now no one can see the blog. Darn]

Monday, May 25, 2009

We interrupt this blog... give a huge shout-out and mazel tov to my sister, Leezy, who gave birth on Monday to a baby boy! And a special MT to the proud papa Elie, and big brother Netanel "What New Baby?" Klein.

My parents arrived this morning, and after a whirlwind two days of driving, flying, visiting, not sleeping, more driving, more visiting, and, of course, rugelach, they are now both "resting." You know, "just for a few minutes." [Sn-o-o-o-o-o-o-r-e]

Dadz was very happy to see us in person, because this way we do not suddenly disappear as we do on that pesky Skype. Although, when he left the table, he did wonder aloud where everyone had gone. Just kidding! (But I am looking forward to great opportunities for Dadz humor over the next few days.)

To all you Israelis (and Americans with money to burn), the brit of Baby Boy Klein will be Monday, in Beit Shemesh. Davening at 7:30, brit at 8:00. Poofahs for all who attend!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bombs and stuff

Welcome to Loyal Reader #22, Richard "Shimshoni" Weider! Thanks for joining! Also, make sure to vote in the poll!

First, I'm sure many of you are wondering how we reacted to the news that our former shul was the target of a recent terrorist plot. If you are, you are not the only ones! Look out for next week's Jewish Press, when your favorite blogger (that's me, people. Pay attention.) just might be quoted as a former-Riverdalian-turned-Modi'inite-reacting-to-the-news-of-the-attempted-bombing. That's right! In print! Well, maybe.

For those of you who feel it is too soon to make terrorist jokes, please skip this paragraph.
Now, after our ohmigodican'tbelieveit shock, we were relieved to read that the shul had never been in any real danger, since the terrorists were using fake bombs the whole time. That'll teach them to buy their terrorist apparatuses from guys wearing FBI jackets. However, as a former devout RJCinian, I am proud - in a totally perverse way - that our shul ranked as #2 on the terrorist target list. To loosely quote one of the fine apprehended suspects: "We wanted to do something big, and the World Trade Center had already been done." And the Riverdale Jewish Center, located at 237th St. and Independence Ave. in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, was choice #2???? Strange, but we'll take it! Suck it, HIR!

Moving on....
A lesson we (and when I say "we" I really mean Donny, since any mother worth her subscription to Parenting magazine knows this already) learned over Shabbos:
3 year old boy + heat + not enough water + dinner consisting of mackerel and orange juice + hour of playing Monster with Daddy = 3 year old boy puking the remains of said mackerel and orange juice all over the floor. Twice. Let it be known that I was at a shiur during this travesty of a dinner, and therefore, when Yaakov did the deed while Donny was at maariv, I left it on the floor for him to clean up. (But, good mother that I am, I did clean up Yaakov.)

Oh my God! Save us! It's a two day yontov and we're NOT GOING TO SURVIVE!!!!!! This basically sums up the Israelis' attitude toward Shavuot this year. Our shul is hosting a massive kiddush for Shabbat lunch which will include rolls so that everyone can have lunch at shul because how will we ever survive, so many meals, it's too much to even think about, ohmigod, save us, it's a two day yontov AND WE'RE NOT GOING TO SURVIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I, for one, am looking forward to the kiddush.

Friday, May 22, 2009

אני שחקנית

Before I regale you with my debut in the Not-Yet-Ready-For-Prime-Time-Or-For-That-Matter-Any-Time-Ever-Ever-Ever Players, let me give a special aliyahbyaccident welcome to Loyal Reader #21, the Real Israeli and Life Coach, Jenny Sassoon! As you can see if you click on the link, Jenny is a shining example of how you can do so much more with a blog than just make fun of Dadz.

Back to the theater. The title of this post refers to the play in Yaakov's gan today in which I so admirably performed. This was my debut in a Hebrew-language play. Many of you may remember my star turns back in the day. For example, there was my mesmerizing performance in our ninth grade play at Bais Yaakov, "The Education of Hyman Kaplan," in which I played none other than Hyman Kaplan [insert modest blush here]. Read below for some critical acclaim I received:

"Leibtag [ed. note - that's me] wowed the audience tonight in a breathtaking performance that was by turns comedic, heartwrenching, and touching. Her multi-layered portrayal of Polish immigrant Hyman Kaplan was one of the most outstanding performances I have ever been privileged to experience. Also, she was sure cute in that hat." [me, in a review I made up right this minute.]

"That's my Gils!" [Momz]

"Grumble, grumble." [Dadz, upset because no men are allowed at the BY plays.]

"That was one of the worst excuses for a Polish accent I've ever heard." [a critic who shall remain nameless; I occasionally call him up and warble snatches of the hit song from "Hyman Kaplan": "Oowhile Oowe Oowere Oowaiting Oowith OoWilliam OoWest..." and then hang up. Hehe.]

Then, in twelfth grade, I had yet another starring role [modest blush again], playing the part of "Clueless Boy at Kotel," at the Bais Yaakov Yearly For Women Only Extravaganza, but unlike most Bais Yaakov plays which involve someone shrieking out "Shema Yisrael" right before their car is about to drive over a cliff and then they are miraculously saved because they davened, this play had many witty and clever lines, thanks to the crack writing team of Silverberg & Silverberg. Also, I got to wear jeans.

Which brings us to the present (assuming we just skip over everything from "twelfth grade" until "now" because the only acting I have really done since then involves lying to my children. ("Sorry, guys, the Elmo game doesn't work on Mommy's computer." They believe me. 'Cuz I'm just that good.)
So today, Yaakov had a play at gan. This much you've gathered. We arrived at gan at 9:00 and sat down to watch the presentation of Chana'leh and her Shabbos dress. First the dress is clean, then it's dirty, then it gets clean again thanks to the moon. Don't ask. It was pretty short. But then, the play was performed again - and instead of the Play Lady playing all the different parts, she asked parents and children to perform. Yaakov and I played the part of "old man." I wore the beard; Yaakov clutched the cane; I wore a suit jacket and carried a sack; Yaakov clutched the cane. He really liked that cane. I think I performed admirably. They had given us scripts, but the parent rendition was a much more loose, ad-libby, make it up as you go along kind of thing. Which is much more difficult in Hebrew than it is in English. At least for me. The other parents seemed to be doing fine. But I think I pulled off my role with aplomb. The truth was, at this point, there were many children crying and fighting over props and parents trying to soothe them, so not many people were paying attention to my debut. Nonetheless, I'm sure those who were will be talking about the "Ish Zaken" for years to come.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Poll

I would just like to point out that our Minister of Polling has come out of hiding and has posted a new poll. I know, I know, for a Minister he's pretty much a slacker. You're thinking I should have let him go a long time ago and found myself a new minister. But he's the one who makes money, so I have to let him stay and keep his ministerial position. Nepotism, folks, what can you do. In any case, make sure to vote, even if you don't comment!

Risa was of the opinion that Dadz should receive 1,000 New Poofahs for joining. I thought about it for a while, and then realized it wouldn't be fair to award poofahs only to Dadz for joining. But if everyone who joined received 1,000 NPs, the New Poofah would be devalued and our homes wouldn't be worth anything. Or something. But, I did realize something. A while ago I offered poofahs to anyone who could get Dadz to join as a Loyal Reader. So it just hit me - I get those poofahs! Whoo-hoo! My first ones! (What, you thought I secretly doled out poofahs to myself when no one's looking, the way I do with the Jelly Bellies Donny brought back from America? I have more integrity than that, people! Shame on you!)

I would also like to take this moment to welcome Loyal Reader #20 - Cheryl! Thanks for (finally) joining!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Our intrepid commenter, Risa, has been foiled by blogspot. Although blospot thinks she has signed up as a Loyal Reader, and therefore does not allow her to sign up again, she does not appear on the list of Loyal Readers! A conundrum, indeed. So in the meantime, until blogspot sorts out their issues, we will welcome Risa as a Loyal Reader in Abstentia.

In other, very exciting news, we are proud to welcome Loyal Reader #19, none other than DADZ! Below is a transcript of the conversation between Dadz and me which led to DADZ becoming our latest LR:

[Dadz and Gila are talking on Skype via our cool webcams. Dadz likes to call during work when he gets bored. This is a frequent occurrence. Somehow, these calls inevitably coincide with Donny and Gila watching Scrubs. Tonight, however, Gila is home alone when Dadz calls.]
D: I should really sign up as a Loyal Reader on the blog.
G: I could tell you how right now.
D: No, no, Momz sent me an email a while ago with instructions. Let me see if I can find it. [Pause.] Here it is: "1. Go to Facebook."
G: Stop right there, Dadz, those are not instructions for the blog. That appears to be instructions for logging onto Facebook.
D: [dejected] Oh.
G: It's okay Dadz, I am here with you, I can help you through this. Go to the blog.
D: Ok, I'm on the blog. It's one of my "Favorites" so it's easy to get to. Uh oh, now we can't see each other!
G: [patiently] No Dadz, you can't see me because you minimized your Skype window when you went to the blog. I, however, can still see you.
D: [uncomprehending stare]
D: Okay, now what?
[Gila walks Dadz through the steps of registering. Luckily, Momz had the foresight to set up a gmail account for him previously, and even luckier, Dadz knew his login and password. He registers.]
D: I did it!
G: [perusing the Loyal Reader list on her computer. It is indeed updated.] Um, Dadz, when I mouse over your picture, it says "Bernad Leibtag."
D: [in frustration] Those idiots!
G: [doesn't have the heart to tell him that it's not blogspot's fault that he typed in his name incorrectly. Decides to let him continue thinking that it's the "idiots'" fault.]
D: But wait, I want to change my name anyway. [Dadz, ALL ON HIS OWN, goes into his Settings and changes his name from "Bernad" to "DADZ." He even fills out the "About Me" section. To wit: "About Me: I'm DADZ." Succinct, that Dadz.]
D: I'm going to call Momz and tell her I did it! I've called her a lot today. I think she's getting a little sick of me.
[Phone ringing.]
M: [who has Caller ID. Picture the eye-rolling in her voice] Yes?
D: I became a Loyal Reader! Okay that's all I have to say.
M: [trying to muster up enthusiasm] Good for you!
D: [finishing up his hard work on blogspot and taking a well-deserved breather.] Hey, now we can see each other again!
G: Yes, Dadz, yes we sure can.
D: Well, I guess that's it. I should probably get back to work. [All that's visible of Dadz by this point is his eyebrows, behind mountains and mountains of tax returns.]
G: Okay, Dadz. You did good tonight. Bye.
D: Bye. 10-4. [He actually said that.]

And that is how Dadz became a Loyal Reader. Kappayim L'Dov!

In other news, I am still awaiting ideas for our 20th Reader Celebration. We are inching inexorably closer every day.... Leave a comment below with your thoughts. Or just one thought, if it's been a tough day. And if the staff of aliyahbyaccident chooses YOUR celebration idea, you will receive a free aliyahbyaccident mug! (That is a lie. But still.)

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Solved Mystery

A few welcomes and honorable mentions:

First, an Official Aliyahbyaccident Shoutout to "BubbyT," my third grade morah and Loyal Reader. Apologies for not properly welcoming you earlier! Happy reading!

Now Risa, our erstwhile Anonymous poster and slighted reader: The staff of aliyahbyaccident appreciates your loyal readership and especially your frequent comments. The staff loves commenters and wishes a few more of you would leave a comment every so often (ahem ahem.) However, for some reason you are not appearing on the Loyal Reader list. Perhaps, as you said, it takes some time for the registration to make its way overseas. We suggest you try re-registering so we can give you the warm shoutout you deserve. If you are having any trouble, please don't hesitate to call our VP for Tech Support, Dadz. You can reach him at

And finally, an honorable mention to Richard Weider, a fellow Samsonite and blogger. Thanks for your comments!

Risa and Richard - YOU could be our 19th and 20th Loyal Readers! Remember, when we reach 20 Loyal Readers....hmmmm....well....can't think of anything.....

What do YOU, oh Loyal Readers, think we should do to celebrate reaching 20 Loyal Readers? (Im yirtzah Hashem by all of us, bimhera v'yameinu, amen.)
We welcome your comments below.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Missing Shout-Out?

An anonymous loyal reader has been pointing out to me that I have been remiss in my welcoming of Loyal Readers, and that there is a Loyal Reader that - gasp! - has not received a proper shout-out in the blog. I have perused my notes carefully and I seem to have welcomed all my Loyal Readers when they joined. (And I always know when there is a new one because, pathetic blogger that I am, I eagerly await new Loyal Readers and have been known to refresh the page several times a day to see if the number has gone up.)

In any case, if you, Anonymous, either are the unwelcomed LR or know who the unfortunate soul is, please let me know, either in the Comments section or through an email: gila strudel gilaanddonny nekudah com.

On the same topic, if any other Loyal Readers felt that they were not properly feted (you're impressed with my vocabulary. Admit it. But full disclosure: They use that word a lot in People magazine.), please let me know and we will fete away on the next blog post. (I'm pretty sure that's legal in most countries.)

In any case, I thought this would be an appropriate time to add to my FalafelMark greeting card collection:

On the Occasion of Forgetting to Welcome a Loyal Reader

Thank you for your Loyalty
You make me feel like Royalty
In welcoming you I was remiss
For your readership's worth more than NIS
To Welcome you grandly is what I meant
With love, The Staff of aliyahbyaccident

In other news, there is no other news because thank God everyone went to gan today. I will, however, share two Funny Kid Stories:

Ariella, Future Writer of Technical Manuals
Ariella: You know what, Mommy? After Shabbos, well, I mean on Sunday, I'm going to try something. I'm going to put the DVD in the DVD player upside down, with the picture facing down, and see if it will still work!
Daddy: That is not a good idea, Ariella. You'll probably scratch the DVD. I can explain to you how DVDs work and then you'll understand why you might ruin it.
Ariella [exasperated]: I know how DVDs work, Daddy. You put it in and press "Play."

Yaakov, in "Patience is a Virtue"
[Mommy is putting more cholent on Daddy's plate. Yes, even though it is a hijillion degrees out, we eat cholent. It's called air conditioning, people. And we are real Jews.]
Yaakov: I want cholent.
Daddy: Then you ask nicely, "Please, Mommy, can I have some cholent?" [Daddy repeats this a number of times -"Please, Mommy, can I have some cholent? Please, Mommy, can I have some cholent?" - because it takes a while for Yaakov to internalize these messages. ]
Yaakov [exasperated]: Stop, it Daddy, she's giving you some!

That's all, folks!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Special Welcome

I would like to take this opportunity to give a special welcome to my sisters, the incredible, indefatigable, invincible, but never indecisive Silverbergs from Baltimore, MD. (Well, they are no longer Silverbergs, but they will always be Silverbergs to me. Tell Mom and Dad I said hi!) Loyal Readers from the very beginning, they have now publicized their undying loyalty to aliyahbyaccident by joining our Loyal Readers Club. (The story on how they became my sisters will be for another time, but for those of you who were wondering, RKT = rice krispie treats, Dadz's favorite dessert.)

Well, it finally happened this week. My superpowers wore off and I got sick. All year, I have managed to stave off the angry beast of bacteria, the satan of strep, the villain of viruses. At the beginning of the week, both kids had strep, although by Monday night they were both back in action. Donny then got sick on Monday. And on Wednesday morning, I wasn't feeling so hot. I figured it was just a one day thing, but Wednesday night I couldn't sleep because swallowing was so agonizing. My glands felt like two painful golf balls in the side of my neck. I was lying in bed, trying to fall asleep in between painful bouts of swallowing. As you might imagine, I was unsuccessful. So at 1:00 in the morning, I got up and tried to make some tea. On the way back from the tea kettle to the table (a distance of about 7 steps at the crow flies), I fainted and fell on the floor. Haha! I thought. I got up onto my chair, and sat gazing at the tea kettle. Hmmm, I thought to myself, somewhat hazily. That water is going to need to be turned off soon. "D-o-o-o-n-n-n-y," I croaked, but the defenses Donny puts up against the Outside Noise worked against me here. Having no choice, I started making my way slowly to the stove, collapsed on the floor midway, woke up (or, in fainting parlance, "came to"), reached up from the floor to turn off the fire, and then lay back down on the floor. For a few fuzzy moments I was conscious only of a blissful happiness that I did not have to get up anymore. Then, my first coherent thought was, "How in the name of falafel does Yaakov find sleeping on the floor comfortable????" Eventually I made my way up, got to the couch with my book and phone, and put Crisis Plan #2 into action (CP #1, as you remember, is "Call Donny." This had, as we saw, failed miserably.) So I called Momz. The phone call mothers love to get when they are 6,000 miles away. "Hi Mom," I croaked. "I just fainted. Twice." Momz was oozing sympathy, while in the background Dadz was fretting. "Tell her she better be off the phone before 'Lost,'" he said anxiously.

I passed the rest of the night on the couch, reading, dozing, and eventually I crawled back into bed. Thursday morning found me at the doctors, and you will all be happy to know that as of today, all four of us are on antibiotics! I give thanks to the One Above and to Alexander Fleming.

In other news, I had a realization this week. One of my barometers for rating a community is how they would respond to the Baby Scenario. In other words, if someone had a baby, would the community kick into action, bringing them dinner, helping take care of their other kids, etc? I worried that our Shimshoni community was rating fairly poorly in this matter. When a friend had a baby a few months ago, I brought over meatballs and rice, and she seemed rather caught by surprise that someone would actually do that. This week, though, I was asked to take part in preparing a Shabbat meal for a family with a new baby. My task was cake. Then it hit me - the reason people don't do the whole bring-the-family-with-a-new-baby-dinner thing is that in Israel, people don't DO dinner! What, they're going to show up at someone's house with a few yogurts and an unpeeled cucumber? Of course not! So instead, they take pains to prepare elaborate Shabbat meals for new-baby-families. I felt much relieved to realize that our shul was not unfriendly, they just don't eat dinner.

I would also like to point out that I blogged FOUR times this week. Have a good Shabbos.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Today, Ariella was FINALLY returning to school. After being home on Shabbat due to it being Shabbat, then on Sunday and Monday due to strep, then on Tuesday due to Lag b'Omer, she was more than ready to be back at school with her friends. She was practically skipping down the path towards gan. But before we entered the hallowed gates, the guard stopped us. "Shvitah," he said. A strike. From what I could understand, there was a strike of the assistants. The teachers were in gan, but kids could only go if there were parent volunteers to stay in the class all day. One of the three adjacent ganim had a parent volunteer, so they were opened for business. However, Ariella's gan, which is a "gan meshulav," (aka there are some special needs/LD kids) needed at least two parents. And apparently no one had volunteered. Now, I have seen these kids in action, especially Itai, who personifies the ancient saying, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," provided that he would have them kick him, throw water on him, trip him, make fun of him, and generally make his life miserable. So I don't blame all 32 parents (well, actually 64) for staying way the hell away from Gan Shoham.

But my poor daughter was so excited at the thought of being back with her friends, she was actually in tears when we headed back to the car. Luckily, we saw one of the friends, Shani, standing there with her mother, and politely asked if we could kidnap Shani for a few hours for entertainment purposes. The mom readily agreed and said she would be in touch if she heard that gan was opening.

So Shani and Ariella returned "habaytah" and played pretty nicely for a few hours. Ima shel Shani called a few times, only to say that Batya (the Wednesday teacher) was sitting in gan all by her lonesome, because no parents had come and therefore gan was not open. (I would not fault Batya for discreetly turning away parents at the door and spending the morning reading a magazine. She's not a fan of Itai, either.) Apparently, a phone call had gone out last night to all the parents to ask if they could come in and sub. I never got the phone call; had I, it might have given me some inkling that there wasn't going to be gan today. Maybe they just skipped me because they wanted someone who's verbal abilities extended beyond, "Shalom! Mah shlomech!"

After about two hours, however, the girls were staring at me with that "What do we do now?" look. House, cards, coloring, and beads had been played with and discarded. So we drove Shani back home and Ariella and I ran some errands. Then she went to chug and a birthday party, during which point I did a little sleuthing, in the form of asking someone, to find out if there was gan tomorrow. It seems the strike is a one day affair. Let's hope so. Otherwise, tomorrow may find me sitting on Itai, trying to persuade him not to kick the other children ("Shalom! Mah Shlomech!"), while Ariella happily runs around with her friends.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Two posts in a row! This is for all of you out there who complain, "You don't post enough." Let me explain here that in order to post, something has to happen. Brilliant though I may be, I am not God (at least not most of the time) and therefore cannot create something from nothing. So if I do not post, it's because the day went something like this:

Woke up. Ate breakfast. Kids went to gan. I did stuff. Kids came home from gan. Food was consumed. Baths (maybe) were taken. Kids went to sleep. Yaakov came out of bed. Donny came home. Yaakov came out of bed. We ate. Yaakov came out of bed. We threatened Yaakov with having to sit on the couch and listen to Daddy discuss man's responsibility towards God and country. Yaakov quickly escaped to bed. We went to sleep.

Not very exciting, you understand.
Today though, I will tell you the story of the Barbeque That Wasn't.

Once upon a time there were two little children. Let's call the girl, oh, I don't know, Ariella, and the boy, um, how about, Yaakov. Okay. (This is why I can't write the fiction book Donny keeps telling me to write. I can't even make up names!) Ariella and Yaakov were both home sick on Sunday, because they managed to get through March and April without a trip to the doctor's, and decided to make up for it post haste. However, they weren't, like, so sick. So their mom decided to take them to Yaakov's gan's Lag b'Omer shindig in the evening. Why, you ask? First, except for the aforementioned doctor's visit, the children had not left the house all day and had both taken naps, and therefore had energy to spare. Second, their mother was in charge of bringing the corn on the cob, and did not want the other little gan children to suffer through a shindig without corn.

Now at this point, some of you astute omer counters might be wondering - isn't Lag B'Omer not until Monday night? (Uh-oh - if I wrote that does it mean I can't count tonight? I can tell you one thing - I am NOT asking Rav Aars that question. He'll start telling me to do libun chamur to my omer sign or something. And then marry Jonathan. From now on I stick with my "Don't ask, use the pot" approach.) It seems, though, that because there are so many Lag B'Omer medurot going on on the actual day, many gans/schools choose to celebrate a day early, in order to ensure they will have a patch of rocks on which to celebrate. So we drove to the large patch of rocks where the gan shindig was being held. I drove slowly, trying to identify our gan mothers from among the dozens of other gan mothers. We found the spot. It was exactly 6:00, the time it was called for. And there were exactly two other mothers there. We waited for about a half an hour until the rest of the families showed up. All around us were flaming, ginormous medurot, spewing fire and ash and all manner of toxic fumes. And all we had was a tiny little circle of stones. (No, Momz, not THAT circle of stones.) Apparently someone forgot to bring the WOOD. Eventually, we got the wood and kindling gathered. Then we all sat around, staring at it, until someone suddenly exclaimed, "We need to LIGHT it!" Yes, yes, we all nodded excitedly. So approximately 50 minutes after start time, we had a roaring fire and we sat down to retell the story of Bar Kochba using a stuffed lion and some drums.

Ok, I thought when it was done, time to eat. But, first rule of a medurah: Medurah does NOT equal mangal. In other words (i.e. English) "bonfire" does not mean "barbeque." The fire was simply to be yotzei the mitzvah of medurah b'lag b'omer. (Like cheesecake b'Shavuot.) The food was all pre-cooked: hot dogs, salads, corn (ahem, ahem), Bissli, of course. But first, we had to make pita! Tha's right! Get out your aprons! It was 7:00 in the evening, my children were ravenous, and there we were, bringing out flour and oil and water and sugar. Plus, we were not equipped with a pita-making kippah (I am Crazy Hyperlink Blogger tonight!), so the pitot had to be made one at a time in a foil pan held over the fire. Luckily, the real food was being put out, and my kids decided they'd rather eat hot dogs than make pita. So we ate and beat a hasty retreat. The funniest part was how much FUN all the kids and parents were having! No one cared that it started late, that it was past bedtime, getting chilly, and they had to wait forever for their pitot. Nope. They were having a grand old time, jumping on rocks, watching the fire, peeing (and more) when the need struck, chowing down on hot dogs and marshmallows and (eventually) pitot with chocolate spread. I'm thinking I need to get me a little Israeli spontaneity.

The End

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

Some important updates:

1. Happy Mother's Day to all of my Loyal Reader mothers! Mother's Day, as many of you know, is not celebrated here in Israel. And trust me, it's not because "every day is Mother's Day." I'm not actually sure why we don't celebrate it; Israelis love any excuse for a vacation day and a barbeque. Maybe it's because the greeting card industry hasn't really made it to Israel yet, and what would Mother's Day be without some good old fashioned Hallmark? And, I might add, the lack of greeting cards makes trips to the drugstore much less fun. 'Cuz you know when you go to the drugstore you end up spending half an hour reading all the cards. Well, at least the funny/inappropriate ones - no one I know actually spends time reading the drippy ones involving pastels and sunsets and flowers and true love and bad poetry. ("Husband - From the moment I met you I knew that we two were destined to be one/Although I wish you would use your own toothbrush/Love, Your One and Only.")
ANYWAY, the point is that we Israelis are much more productive as a people because we do not while away our working hours reading greeting cards. (We while them away blogging.) The only thing you can do when you go into a drugstore here is buy drugs. And makeup. Although you need to create a diversion when purchasing makeup in order to fend off the advances of the Makeup Ladies. You know the Annoying Mall Makeup Ladies? Well, in Israel, they take the form of Annoying Drugstore Makeup Ladies. They have taken over NewPharm and SuperPharm and HappyPharm. There is no such thing as just picking up a bottle of nail polish - you need to engage in conversation with the Makeup Lady. I hate that. So I lurk in the aisle, overturn a cart of overpriced BandAids, and then, while Makeup Lady is temporarily distracted by the noise, I grab the first bottle I can find. Which is why my toenails are blue now. It was the first thing I could reach.

2. I was able to finally meet Merav Balsam in person, and let me say, it was an emotional greeting for us both. I snapped pictures and Merav slept and made some unintelligible noises. Today, when I called the house, I heard her crying in the background. She misses me. Anyway, she is quite cute and tiny and we are looking forward to spending more time with her.

3. We had a lovely Shabbat with my cousin Talia and her friend Shoshana, who are both here for the year. Apparently I was Shoshana's counselor back in the day at Shoresh. I feel old. We also had company for lunch, which means that I actually cooked this week. First time since Pesach. It was an odd sensation, like getting back on a bike after a long absence. (That was for you, Dadz.)

4. I went to a shiur Shabbat afternoon at our shul given in Hebrew! I know, you're impressed - a shiur? Me? I haven't cracked open a holy text in many years, except to listen to Donny layn and find the answers to Ariella's parsha questions. It was an odd sensation, like getting back on a bike.... Anyway, I would say I understood about 80% of the shiur. It got hard during the back and forth among the ladies in the crowd, but I pretty much followed. At the end, I realized that I totally got the introduction and the question, but was a little fuzzy on the answer. In other words, exactly like I feel after a shiur in English! So I felt good. We discussed the cheery topic of a kohen's dead relatives, focusing on his dead wife. Fun times!

5. Finally, to underscore the point that there is NO Mother's Day here, Yaakov has presented me, not with breakfast in my bed, but with puke in his bed. And Ariella might have strep. They are now both temporarily resting. Ahhh, the joys of motherhood....

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mazel Tov and Conferences

First of all, a big Mazel Tov to Lisa (of LISA fame) and Nafi Balsam on the birth of their daughter on Monday! This is all very exciting. First of all, it means Lisa doesn't have heartburn anymore. So obviously she is very relieved. Second of all, it means Nafi is NOT going to kill me. So obviously I am very relieved. Relief and happiness all around! Mazel tov mazel tov! Kiddush!

Why was Nafi going to kill me, you ask? Oh, you didn't ask? Too bad, I am going to tell you anyway. See, a few weeks? months? ago... Hmmm. I often lose track of time (Yaakov watched "Thomas" HOW many times in a row?) Anyway, some time ago, I had a dream that Lisa had a girl. I of course told Lisa about this dream. Nafi took this as a nevuah, but warned me about what happens to false prophets. I was very nervous that should the baby be a boy, I would see a horde of robe-and-sandal-wearing zealots striding purposefully down Sderot Chashmonaim in order to do me bodily harm. Fortunately, I knew they would be waiting for the elevator in our building for SO FREAKING LONG that I would have time to formulate an escape plan before they could come up. (Stand very still, arms outstretched, with jackets and umbrellas draped over myself in an attempt to pass as a coat tree.) So I guess I wasn't so nervous about being killed. But still. Anyway, we are all very eager to meet Soon To Be Named Baby Girl Balsam. I was going to visit Lisa today in the hospital but Yaakov woke up with a fever (hence the many Thomas videos) and I figured even in Israel they probably would frown upon bringing sick children into the maternity ward.

On Tuesday I had Ariella's parent-teacher conference with the one, the only, the inimitable, Morah Maya. Morah Maya, for all of you who were wondering (and that includes me and Donny), lives in the better Modi'in - Modi'in Elite. Anyway, Tuesday was conference day for all 32 little angels that inhabit her class. Luckily, our report was pretty good. Ariella has picked up the language and Maya said that in every area Ariella is ready for first grade. She loves math (just like her mama. Ha!), she plays with the kids nicely, and she has overall made tremendous progress since September. I would say! September Ariella's Hebrew consisted of knowing how to ask for milk and water. May Ariella speaks beautiful Hebrew (although she knows her vocabulary is limited compared to her friends; she often asks me how to say things, and I sometimes think if we could combine my vocabulary with her knowledge of how to actually speak it, we'd be unstoppable!), she can recognize and write all of the letters and knows how to spell by sounding out the word - a much more successful endeavour in Hebrew than in English, I can tell you - and even understands the content of the lessons at gan. Recently, she came home and told me the stories of Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Shimon - it was the first time she was able to relay an actual lesson from gan. Maya said that Ariella is a "yaldah maxima" (which does not mean she's fat; it's has an "awesome" kind of meaning.)

Morah Maya did say that Ariella has a mind of her own, and can be a bit stubborn. Hmmm. That's like standing outside in Eilat, in August, at 2 PM and saying, "A bit toasty, no?" At least we see that the true Ariella has come out, which is kind of comforting, in a strange way. She also mentioned that Ariella's pencil grip is not good and that might be why she is resistant to writing, and we should possibly have her evaluated for grapho-motor skills. Just add it to my List of Things To Do... (By the way that is the actual name of my list. "Things to do." It's a very unfancy Word document in which I keep my daily list of...well, you get it.)

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Well, now we're back to real life until Shavuot. And this year, we Israelis will be celebrating a 2-day chag(-ish) just like you chutznikim, as Shavuot falls out on a Friday. The exception, of course, is that we will be able to eat chametz on the second day. Ok, fine, you can eat chametz too. I just needed to sound smug about the whole 1 day yontov thing.

The children have recently become obsessed with the penguin movie "Happy Feet," a movie which Daddy brought back from that long ago and far away place, America. Some observations:

1. I have never seen the movie myself. This actually works to my advantage, because Ariella cannot draw me into endless, long-winded and circular discussions about the whys and hows of the movie. Haha! "I don't know Ariella, I haven't seen it," is an oft-heard statement around our house. Fret not, we still have endless, long-winded and circular discussions about "Cars," "Ratatouille," "Finding Nemo" and "Monsters, Inc." And, of course, "Toy Story," although sadly, "Toy Story 2, " my personal favorite, has actually cracked from overuse and no longer works. (To answer your question, yes, we are a living homage to all things Pixar.) But Ariella does manage to ask me many, many questions regarding the minutiae of penguin life. Can they fly? Why are they black and white? Why do they walk like that? How many babies do they have? Can the daddy have the babies? Why do they lay eggs? How does the baby know when it's time to come out?
While I do appreciate her keen sense of curiousity, I look forward to the time when we can delve into the true classics together: The Princess Bride, Harry Potter, and Lost.

2. I know you've probably forgotten by this point, but this is supposed to be a list of observations, so here is another one, from Yaakov: "Penguins are scary because penguins are NOT scary." Discuss.

3. Donny: There is a lot of singing for a movie about dancing.

Ok, that's really it for today. You want more?

Well, I'm making spaghetti for dinner... I'm sad that there are only two more Losts... We started a new toilet training initiative on Shabbat - instead of bribing Yaakov with candies, we all get candies when we use the toilet, the idea being that Yaakov will want in on the candy fun when he sees everyone else chowing down... Ariella went to the bathroom an unprecedented nine times yesterday... We are eagerly anticipating the imminent arrival of our new niece/nephew/cousin/cousinette, via Aunt Leezy, and then the arrival of Bubby and Zaidy, via El Al... We are also eagerly anticipating the arrival of the new Baby Balsam, via Lisa... Now I'm talking to Rachel on the phone... Little boys, white shirts, and tomatoes don't mix... Or they do, but it's then difficult to unmix them... Now I'm off the phone, Donny is home, and it's time to eat that spaghetti. Goodnight!