Thursday, December 31, 2009

"Zeh Lo Kashur Elay"

Well. It seems I am behind in my blogging - writing one, reading other people's, commenting, etc. Tsk tsk on me. Naturally, since I am American, I will shift the blame to someone else - namely my friend Rachel. Since I am Israeli, I will now charge her a two shekel fee.

Rachel is here visiting from the Old Country. She arrived on Monday, and since then, I have been showing her the exciting sites of Modi'in, then leaving her to her own devices in the afternoon when I go tutor. She is becoming very close with our couches.

So far, our Tour of Modi'in has included such famous locales as:

1. The Mall!
2. Ofer's Falafel!
3. The Mall - Again!
4. The Frozen Yogurt with Stuff In It Stand at, you guessed it, The Mall!
5. Bank Discount, where I attempted to get a new password, their computer crashed whilst dealing with me, and then of course, I had to go to two separate ATM's in order to deposit a check and take out cash.
6. Bank Discount is, naturally, located in...The Mall!
7. And the tour ends with the unbeatable, the thrilling, Inside of our Apartment.

So Rachel was surely saddened to leave the excitement of Modi'in for the staid, boring town of Jerusalem. But we bid her farewell on Thursday morning (though she will be returning for one last night on the town next week.)

On Thursday, I met with our two interior designers, Donny and Shikma. Donny has probably been spending nearly as much time as Shikma making pictures of our bedroom, kitchen, hallway, and various "nishas." He is having waaaaaay too much fun.

Shikma and Donny talked business. I also contributed to the design discussion, coming up with, what I think, are some truly innovative ideas.

1. Whenever there isn't enough room for something - suspend it from the ceiling! Okay, it doesn't work for everything, like the toilet, but it is certainly a space-saving idea.

2. A conveyor belt from the kitchen to the dining room table! How annoying is it to always be running back and forth when you're setting the table, and then you finally sit down but forget to bring the salt? Well, in my ground-breaking idea, everything would be on a conveyor belt, and you could just pluck off what you need as it comes around! Why this hasn't been installed everywhere is beyond me. But, then, geniuses are always misunderstood in their time.

So we sat around looking at floor plans, Donny saying intelligent things and me, eyes slowly glazing over, turning the papers around to figure out which way is up, and finally, a la Joey from "Friends," putting all the sheets on the floor and stepping inside of them.

In other exciting apartment news, our bank lost half a million shekels! Of ours! (Note: The bank we are using for the apartment transactions is not our usual one, and I will omit the name for security reasons. Instead, I will say only that its letters can be rearranged to spell "Fearsome Junk Lab.")

Immediately after signing the contract, our kablan, Shapir, told us to go pay right right right away. So we transferred about NIS 500,000 (unfortunately, you can't pay Shapir in poofahs) from our branch of the bank, which is located in a far away, unnamed city, to a branch that is closer. I went to the closer branch ASAP, brought the "shovar" (Hebrew for "piece of paper in which you transfer all of your life savings to the kablan, only to have the money lost en route") and paid. The nice guy at the bank - let's call him "Fearsome" - took out his holy stamper, stamped my shovar, and sent me on my way.

"That's it?" I asked dubiously, surely there would be something else I needed to do. Like pay a fee.

"That's it!" he replied cheerfully.

Famous last words.

A week later, Shapir had not yet received the money. It was no longer in our account, but not quite in theirs. Well, where is it? Was there a bottleneck in the wires? We called our banker.

"Well, all that it says here is that the money has been transferred to another branch. What you need to do is call the other branch."

Donny calls and explains the problem. His response?

"Zeh lo kashur elay!" (This has nothing to do with me!)

But Donny was able to convince Fearsome that because he took the shovar and stamped it with his holy stamper, it IS, in fact, kashur elav.

"Hmmmm," he pondered, mulling over out point. "Okay, you have a fair point." (This is Fearsome's MO: Deny first, acquiesce later, after faced with incontrovertible evidence. When I first came with the shovar, he said "Ee efshar!" Impossible! Once I explained that we had transferred our money, reminded him that he spoke with the other branch about this, etc. etc., he consented to admit that it was, in fact, efshar.)

It took a few days and few phone calls, but we heard back from the other brach with the following cryptic message: "Today, I sent the copies [of the shovar, presumably?] to the bank in front of me [Shapir's bank, we hope?]"

So. There is a fairly good chance that Shapir has the money and won't give our apartment away to someone else. If he does, I hope those people like sofas suspended from the ceiling.


And of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the new year, Gregorian as it is. Happy 2010! Now I really need to stop writing "2008" on my checks.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ariella Beats the System

A digression on education.

Ariella is a fantastic reader. She can pretty much pick up any book in Hebrew (provided it's vowel-inated) and read it. In this way, she has now reached my own level of reading proficiency. Never mind the 24-year age difference. She actually sat and read the Hebrew-English dictionary on Friday night. And was very dismayed to find out that while "Ari" was an entry, "Ariella" was not.

However, she does not always understand all of the words. When I do her homework with her, I always ask her to summarize the paragraph in English. If we come across a word she doesn't know, we look it up. You'd think, why look it up? This is first grade reading - can't you just translate it for her? But, if you thought that, you'd be wrong. Many of these words are far beyond my meager vocabulary. For example, thus far, not one story has consisted entirely of the words "Shalom! Mah Shlomech?"

I noticed that the ever-elusive "they" pick words that fit with the sounds they want to teach, but are not necessarily a first-grade-level word. For example, I can't tell you how many stories centered on a "chakah" - a fishing rod. I also can't tell you how many of these children spend weekends with their dads fishing for trout, but I'm guessing it's not a whole lot. The Hebrew word for "molt" has also appeared from time to time. Because when they're not casting a line, the children are clearly watching their pet toucan lose its feathers.

Of course, we do the same thing in English. Many of those "early reader" books love to include words like "jig" and "rig." Yes, easy to read and fits with the rule, but not words first graders have a whole lot of experience with.
(From my early reader, Reading Fun with Aliyahbyaccident
"Come on kids, hop into Dad's rig for a fun day on the lake!"
"Do you have your fishing rod?"
"We'll leave Matty here; he's molting."
"Mo-o-o-o-o-m, Meg is dancing a jig again! Can't you make her stop!"
"If you kids don't stop fighting, I'll turn this rig around right now!!"
Reading comprehension questions:
1. Do you think it's safe to "hop" onto a rig? Explain.
2. How do you think Matty feels, being left all along just because he's molting?
3. Do you think Meg is dancing on purpose, to annoy her siblings? I do. Discuss
4. Did your dad also threaten to turn the car around "right now?" Did he ever actually do it? Mine either. Yet the threat worked, every time.)

But onto Ariella. She doesn't care that she doesn't understand the words. As long as she can
A) Read the words correctly
B) Answer the questions correctly

For example, in one story, a cow kicked over a pitcher of milk. (Those darn cows!) Ariella had no idea that the word "ba'atah" meant "kick." But, using her powers of deduction, she was correctly able to answer the question, "What did the cow do?" In a strange way, we're very proud of her. Though we continue to look up words in the dictionary. In case she ever adopts a macaw.

Meanwhile, Yaakov knows and understands lots. But he refuses to impart his information to us. If you ask him a question, he screws up his face in concentration, makes up a totally nonsense word, then laughs hysterically at us.
"Yaakov, how do you say 'share?'"
[Pause.] "Savta skantooza!" (This is Ariella and Yaakov's favorite phrase.)
Maniacal laughter.

It's just not right. He should really savta skantooza his knowledge with us.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Breakfast is easy. Cereal. Lots of it. Ariella and I probably go through 3 boxes a week. Yaakov eats too, but nowhere near the cereal consumption of his sister and me.

But unfortunately, a few hours later I am hungry again. The mid-morning snack of yogurt did little to tide me over.

Time to do the Lunch Dance.

A two-step to the fridge. Anything leftover from dinner last night? I think hopefully, knowing the answer in advance because it was I, of course, who made dinner last night.
Nope, nothing there.

Well, since I'm already here at the fridge, let's see what other glorious treats will present themselves to me! Yogurt....cucumbers.....oranges......sliced cheese.......3 containers of tomato sauce because I keep opening cans and not finishing them and putting the remains in a container, only to forget about it the next time I need tomato sauce, so I open a new can, and don't finish it....2 containers of olives (see above)....ewwww, what IS that, let's just toss that right now....expired cottage chicken leg from last Shabbat, well, I'll just keep that in there until the Great Erev Shabbat Fridge Clean Out....and....we're closing the fridge.

No problem! I'm just going to look in the freezer! Surely all manner of culinary delights await me in there! I do the Jig of Anticipatory Happiness.

Okay...what can you do with two raw pieces of chicken, some frozen corn on the cob that's may have actually come with the freezer, yeast, and half a bar of dark chocolate? Uh-oh, the half-finished container of Ben & Jerry's that I bought as a "treat" (new flavor - Banana Split, totally worth the 30 gazillion shekels I spent on it. For Donny and me of course; don't show the kids.) It's staring at me. Quick, close the freezer before that becomes the "all-finished container of Ben & Jerry's." And the Jig is up.

We're moving on to the pantry. A little twirl and pirouette or two (I did take ballet, you know.)There is going to be something soooo fabulous in that pantry, that when I see it I will let out a shriek of unadulterated joy.

Jelly. Peanuts. More tomato sauce. Tea bags. Polenta. (Not sure what I'm going to do with it, because I've never cooked with it before in my life, but it seemed interesting. Still sitting there, unopened.) All manner of uncooked beans, pasta, and oats. Ketchup., three bags of opened petitim! DON'T LET ME BUY ANY MORE AT THE STORE NEXT WEEK!

We now begin the Slow Waltz of Lunch Letdown.

Another yogurt, anyone?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Homeowners....sort of....

First of all, MASSIVE MAZEL TOV to Shira, who is not only a good friend but also President of the aliyahbyaccident Fan Club, on the birth of her baby boy!

In the past year and a half, we have looked at many apartments, houses, duplexes, cottages, du-mishpachtis, and a lovely cardboard box. During our house search, there were certain things that I was pretty sure of in my head:
1. We would probably not live in Buchman.
2. We would certainly not live in an apartment.
3. And we would never, ever, ever, buy on paper.

So naturally, this past Thursday, we signed on our first property in Israel. It is in Buchman. It is an apartment. And we bought it "on paper" - i.e. we cannot actually live in our Buchman Apartment until November 2011 or thereabouts. Right now our Buchman Apartment is air and dirt.

The best part about signing? We NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER have to go look at another apartment, house, duplex, cottage, du-mishpachti, or cardboard box EVER AGAIN. Yay!!!!!!

One of the upsides to buying an apartment is that it is cheaper than what we would have paid for a full-fledged Buchman house. We are therefore spending our extra money to hire an interior designer. Since the house is not yet built, we get/have to decide everything - not just what color to paint the rooms, but we can take walls down, put them up, take them down again, shake them all about, decide where we want our electrical outlets, expand or shrink any of the rooms or bathrooms, etc etc.

For those of you who have been inside any of our domiciles over the past 9.5 years, you probably noticed two things.
1. We have POC (piles of crap) all over the place.
2. And no taste.
So we figured, since this is the apartment we will be living in FOREVER, it makes sense to hire someone who has actual taste to help us plan it out.

For those of you visual learners, let me paint you a picture of what you see when you enter our apartment.

1. POC #1: The Coat Tree - a great purchase since our Riverdale days, when we rented a house with a teeny-tiny front closet. The CT fulfilled a where-to-put-the-coats need. But let's face it, it's a mess. Currently, there are 4 sweatshirts/coats per person hanging on the poor branches. And our Shul Bag. And my purse. And my purse that I no longer use. And two scarves. (In case of that freak Israeli snowstorm?) Various hats and an umbrella. Until recently, Ariella's gan bag (from last year) and her Chanukah crown (again, last year). Now, the gan bag occupies another important POC - the Floor of the Ma'amad. Oh, and let's not forget the piece de resistance on the CT - the Apron.

2. POC #2: Our Pantry - again, fulfills a very important where-to-put-the-food need. And, again, is a total disaster. The inside, which thankfully no one sees, is a jumble of pasta, cans, beans, chips, Bissli, and various bags of nuts and raisins which are half-eaten and closed with one of those laundry clips. Which is why I never have any laundry clips. I do attempt to organize it, but I think once I close the doors, all the food jumps to a different shelf and important things, like rice, hide behind the superized can of pineapple I've had since Pesach.

But the top of the pantry is where our true talent shines. This is the "anything goes!" shelf. A vase. Full of pens, natch. A small plastic dessert plate with the medicines I like to have in easy reach (like Prozac), and not all the way in our Official Medicine Cabinet. (i.e. the drawer of the dresser in our guest room.) Let's see....we also have our big fancy bencher holder, besamim and havdalah candle, (there's no room on the sideboard for those things because the sideboard, of course, is drowning under mail, a tallis bag, and Yaakov's kippah clips), a tape dispenser (for emergency artwork-hangings), napkins, a thermometer, and a bag containing 5 jelly beans.

Yeah, we need help. I won't even get into our dresser, the dreaded "toy corner," or the multi-purpose bookcase housing cereal, kids' books, and our phone/router/DSL. Also the camera, and the the router-we-no-longer-use-but-like-to-display.

In addition to our Mess is our No Taste. It can best be described as "A Lack of Any Pretty Things. And an Abundance of Brown." Help!

We met with one group of interior designers - I thought it was just one person coming, and in trooped not only Moe, but Larry and Curly. When we decided not to use them, you could almost hear their collective sigh of relief. (But, if you are looking for someone to install lots of "nee-shahs" - that's Hebrew for "niche" - to house all of your "psilim" (figurines, but it makes it sounds like we have a country of idol-worshipers), Larry Moe and Curly are your people!

In the end, we hired a very brave soul named "Shikma." We are meeting with her on Tuesday "at the site" to begin the planning. We have high hopes for Shikma. She is going to help us find places for All of Our Crap. And any time we run into a problem, we say, "Don't worry, Shikma can fix that!" No room for the dishtowels? Need a place for medicines? Groceries not putting themselves away? Kids misbehaving? "Don't worry, Shikma can fix that!"

She has her work cut out for her.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Who has time to blog when there are sufganiot to eat?

Wow. It's been a busy week. Every night I think I'll have time to blog, but we have been super busy. In the words of one of the gedolim of our generation, these are really "Eight Crazy Nights." Some recent Chanukah highLIGHTs:

Sunday: Kids home! We sleep late!
The kids are in their respective tzaharon/kaytanah programs for this week (thank the good Lord), but on Sunday, everyone was off. 'Cept Donny, of course. So we had a lazy day. Well, lazy in that we went for H1N1 shots (1st of 2 - oh goody!) food shopping, toy buying (combo Chanukah + I-didn't-kick-the-nurse-during-my-shot present. Ariella was actually amazing - she didn't cry at all! And Yaakov was proud of himself too, because, though he kicked and screamed, he told me, "Mommy, I didn't run away from the doctor!"), then new-present-playing, followed by hanging out at the park for two hours. That kind of lazy.

Monday: Ariella the Geek!
And I mean this in the best way possible. She is soooo studious. They got packets of homework - some mandatory, some extra credit, and she insisted on doing every single sheet. She even read half of one of the stories, in Hebrew, of course. And did all the writing herself. Also, as part of their mesibah when they finished all of the letters, each child wrote a story. Since they had only learned 3 of the "sounds," the story was limited to words with a "kamatz" "patach" (and I can never, ever remember which one is which), and "shva." They received a booklet of the stories before vacation. And Ariella read them all to me. Every one. Did I mention there are 31 kids in the class? And due to the limitations of words, there LOTS of stories about "sabbah" "yaldah" and "matanah."

Tuesday: We Make Hockey Pucks!
Every year, the Leibtag sibs do a Chanukah party. However, now two of the sibs live in Israel, and one lives very very far away, in Chicago. So our Sibs Party was one Sib short. Which makes us sad. Every year, the highlight of the party is when Donny and Elie (my brother-in-law) make doughnuts. Donny does the dough and the frying; Elie fills them. This year, however, Donny didn't have time to make the dough, so Leezy and I attempted it ourselves. Well. In the end, we had fried hockey pucks. Which unfortunately, were better than the dried-out sufganiot I purchased as back-up. The worst part is that Elie, who is attempting to reach 100 doughnuts by the end of the chag (some Jews like to say 100 brachot every day; it's a similar kind of endeavor), was only able to down 1 or 2 of the delicacies. However, it did allow us to make very many jokes using the word "puck" which I will not repeat here because this is a family-friendy-ish blog.

Wednesday: The TRAIN!
The day Yaakov lives for above all other days in the year: TRAIN to Haifa day! Yesterday was the annual Microsoft Chanukah bash, for which we get to travel all the way to Haifa, on the TRAIN. I kept the kids home, because Donny was taking the car and driving to work, and we had a very relaxing, lazy morning. Even more relaxing and lazy than Sunday, if you can imagine. All day, Yaakov was asking if it was time to go yet. (He actually started asking Tuesday night.) Oy. When it was finally time to leave for the TRAIN station, you could actually see little excitement sparks in the air. We purchased our tickets and luckily, it was one of the new trains. We found the car with the bathroom and parked ourselves down. What followed was an enjoyable hour and a twenty-five minutes of chowing down on Chanukah treats, coloring, and watching other trains zoom by the opposite direction (Yaakov's favorite part). Then, the kiddies spent the final 15 minutes going nuts, jumping up and down, and dancing in the aisles.

The second highlight of the night was coloring on Daddy's whiteboard and running willy-nilly up and down the halls. We did go the actual party and do fun stuff, but really, what can compare to TRAIN, whiteboard, and willy-nilly? (Yaakov was disappointed we were driving back. "How about," he asked hopefully, "Daddy can drive back in the car and we can take the train back!") Sigh. Must wait a whole year until the next TRAIN day. Maybe Microsoft can sponsor an Asara B'Tevet bash?

Well, there are still 2 nights left, believe it or not. We will continue to light, dance, sing, and eat. And if you see Elie, throw him a donut or two. He needs all the help he can get.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

We Light! We Sing! We Dance! We Eat!

Chanukah is well under way here. Our Chanukah actually started last Wednesday, when we attended the Misrad Haklitah party and lit our first menorah. It continued Thursday, when we had Yaakov's gan mesibah, and we lit menorah #2. To prepare for the Chanukah party - AKA The Event of the Year - the gan finished at 11:00 that day. You know, so Yaakov could spend time taking a long scented bubble bath and getting his hair and makeup done.

Clean Faces and Backs of Heads
Speaking of which, I thought it would be easier getting Yaakov ready for a party than Ariella, because there is no hairdo. But although there was no requirement for Nice Hair, there was one for Clean Face, and Yaakov's has a perpetual ring of chocolate around it. So between locating the kippah and tzitzit, buttoning the shirt, and cleaning off sticky chocolate, it was about even, time-wise. We arrived at gan - at night! Yaakov thought that was the coolest! - and Yaakov took his seat. Last year, at Ariella's gan, only one parent could come, due to space constraints. But this year, we were both invited. Which is good. Because of the Israeli custom of having the parent sit behind the child. So one parent sits behind, with a nice, clear view of the back of the child's head, and the other parent stations him or herself at the opposite end of the room, camera in hand. During this event, Donny played the part of photo/videographer.

A Great Miracle Happened Here!
Now, last year, Yaakov refused to do anything at his gan party. He did sit with the kids, but did none of the singing, dancing, hand motions, etc. It could be that the lateness of the hour, combined with the dark room, black light, and frequent costume changes, proved too much for him. Or maybe now he's just grown up. But this year....the Chanukah Miracle of 2009! Yaakov participated! He sang, he shook the right props at the right times, marched around the room, did the complex hand motions. The program was relatively short - only 45 minutes - and the choreography was fairly simple (march, shake, repeat. Yes, there was black light, but for only one song, when the children were seated). It was such a treat to see him singing his little heart out and following the morahs so intently. (He never looked at me, just at his teachers. He didn't want to mess up.)

In Which the Author Claims a Disclaimer:
Disclaimer: Of course we love our children even when they sit at their various mesibot and do absolutely nothing except suck their thumbs/twirl their hair/cry. Of course, we are still proud of them, we still think they're adorable, blah blah blah. But, let's be honest, it is soooooo much more fun to watch Dancing Yaakov than Deer in Headlights Yaakov. (Dancing Yaakov - coming soon to a toy store near you!)

Party Wraps Up
Then we ate sufganiot (of course), and took our bag of Yaakov Goodies home - a chanukiah, natch, a dreidel, and other sundry items.

Now Chanukah Starts....Without Yaakov
Every half hour on Friday Yaakov asked me if it was time to light his Chanukiah. Then, twenty minutes before candlelighting, he falls asleep on the couch, and is suffering from such bad PNM (post-nap misery) when he awakes that he refuses to light, dance, or sing. Oh well, Thank goodness there are 8 nights!

The Blogging Event of the Century! With Baked Goods!
Motzei Shabbat we headed over to the Tired family for a Chanuka Chanukat HaBayit. The shindig started at 7:30; we arrived promptly at 7:28, so much the better to eat the coffee-chocolate chip-pecan bars. Which, by the way, were milchig. Oh yeah. The second highlight of my night was meeting the one and only Baila! She's much taller in person.

"Judah Maccabee Wuz Here"
So all in all a fantastic start to our chag. Stay tuned for more dispatches from Modi'in - the place where it all happened, where Judah HaMaccabee himself spun his dreidel thousands of years ago and ate sufganiot from Roladin, after which he exclaimed, "Are you freaking out of your mind? 200 zuz for a donut?"

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

What Not to Wear...Seriously....

Some recent excitement in the Rose family (not that anything can compete with the Return of Uncle Jonathan, but you know, we can't have that every day.) (Thank God) (Just kidding, Jonathan!)

Fashion: Help!
Whilst waiting for an appointment, I had the rare opportunity to watch some Really Bad Israeli Television. A talk show was on, and the guest was Israeli Fashion Guru, telling the audience what kinds of clothes should be tossed out of the closet. These are clothes, dear Readers, that I hope with all my heart none of you ever owned to begin with: Glittery t-shirts decorated with skull-and-crossbones, oversized, baggy, tie-dyed stretch pants...
Just give me a minute to get rid of all those clothes in my closet ok done.

Also amusing was observing what the Israeli Fashion Guru and her Fashionable Hosts were wearing themselves - a combination of leather-studded jackets, bad dye-jobs, see-through pocket t's, baggy shirts decorated with, I think, black poodles - and the look all tied together with hot pink lipstick.
Stacy and Clinton, you have your work cut out for you. Just brush up on your Hebrew. Actually, don't bother - did you know "Beeg no-no" is actually a Hebrew phrase???

Jelly and Paint
Today was the pre-Chanukah party sponsored by misrad haklitah. Though Ariella had been invited to a birthday party tonight, she chose to skip the party in favor of the Chanukah activity. Of course I, having not read the chapter of my own child-rearing book ("Leave Me Alone So I Can Read the Paper") entitled "Stop Projecting, You Twit" said to Ariella, "Are you sure you don't want to go to the birthday party? Your friend Rebecca is going - I don't want you to feel left out if all the girls are going to be there...." She responded, with the patience reserved for stupid people or olim at the bank, "Mommy, I've been to LOTS of birthday parties before. I really want to do the Chanukah activity!"

So off we went. The evening started off with sufganiot - can't go wrong there - well, you can, because the misrad haklitah seemed to have found the only doughnuts in Israel with jelly actually inside, rather than just dotted on top. And as Yaakov munched on his, the jelly squirted out the other end. Onto his sweatshirt. And shirt. And pants. And shoes. Oh well.
Then we, somewhat strangely, lit the menorah and sang maoz tzur. I said last year that Chanukah lasts about 3 weeks in this country - apparently the MHK takes that seriously.

Then, there were 2 rooms of activities - one for gan kids and one for school-age kids. However, there was only one of me, who could not be in 2 places at once. Since the gan room was a balagan (hmmmm.....gan.....balagan....I'm seeing the etymology here) we sat with the big kids. There was a slide show of different menorahs from around the world and then the follow-up was creating your own metal menorah. However, the slide show was longer than 3 minutes, meaning the natives were quickly growing restless.

So we trooped back to the gan room. (Luckily, they didn't card Ariella and realize she was actually in kitah aleph). By this point, many of the early raiders had left, leaving a mess, but also plenty of space and plenty of supplies. And there was paint! How fun is that? Soooo not something Mommy ever lets us do at home! So we sat down and painted a kad katan (anyone have a good translation for "kad?" "Pitcher" just doesn't seem to do it.) Yaakov painted his green, then pink, then yellow, then poured glue over it, then finished by covering the whole thing with silver glitter. It is quite bling-y. And the sparkles and paint went really nicely with the sugar and jelly on his shirt. Ariella did a "splotch of color" motif which looks quite spectacular. Then, they spent half an hour doing coloring sheets. Yaakov likes to color his sheets all black so he can see the outline of the picture when the light shines on it.

Although I worried during the slide show that Ariella would regret not having gone to the birthday party, at the end of the evening, she said, "Mommy, this was so much fun. Thank you for taking me."

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Return of Uncle Jonathan

This Shabbat we hosted the elusive Uncle Jonathan. He quietly slipped in right before Shabbat, and just as quietly slipped out after it ended. It was a rare occurrence for Uncle Jonathan to leave the holy city of Jerusalem and make his way all the way to Modi'in. Perhaps with the upcoming holiday of Chanukah in just one week, he felt pulled to come here, where it all happened, and connect with his people and his past? Or perhaps, Yael and Yossie, Jonathan's usual Shabbat hosts, were out of town and he could not go there and was without Shabbat plans at the last minute? You decide.

Despite the lack of homemade food - (full disclosure: I don't cook for my own family, but rest assured if I invite YOU for a meal, you will get more than just various pre-cooked frozen things heated up in the oven.) - Jonathan appeared to enjoy himself. Friday night Yaakov was terrified of "him" and refused to sit in his usual seat, this being in close proximity to "him." He made Donny switch seats with him and continued to throw suspicious glances at Jonathan all night.

However, Shabbat afternoon, he made up his mind that Jonathan was not, in fact, scary. And, he even realized that Jonathan is actually quite useful in the building things department! Good guy to have around! Jonathan spent a long time with the kiddies building elaborate structures with the train tracks and sticks. By the end of the day, Yaakov even consented to call him "UnkaJonthin" instead of "him."

We were happy to learn that Jonathan is now gainfully employed and no longer has to forage for nuts and berries in the forests of Jerusalem. (And Jerusalem's paucity of forests made that quite difficult, let me tell you.) We hope that now that Uncle Jonathan knows how to get to Modi'in, he will come more often. Yaakov needs more friends.


In other news, Ariella's school had a "Chanukat Beit HaSefer" yesterday and guess who was asked to participate in the "tekes?" Well, since I am not in the habit of bragging about other people's children, you've probably guessed it - it was none other than Ariella Rose of Aleph2. Her job, as she explained to me at the end of the day (parents were not invited to the tekes), was to put the "leshem" stone in the right place. There was a GIANT replica of the avnei hachoshen, and 2 kids per stone were called up to place it in. Ariella was with a little boy from her class, Daniel. (pronounced Dah-knee-EL.) She was super proud and excited and in the morning we even did a special hairdo for the occasion (2 pigtails, "down low," like she likes them.)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Back in the Trenches

I am subbing this week and next for a dovrei anglit teacher who is away. Please note: Aside for my recess duty, I don't have to speak actual Hebrew to actual Israelis. Big sigh of relief.

In addition to relearning how exhausting it is to teach, I have gained many profound insights.

Things I learned from my subbing experience:

1. There was a teacher in the teacher's room setting out a spread of wafers, oranges, and other delicacies. It's nice to know that bring-food-to-the-teacher's-room is a universal trend. New baby, engagement, graduation, it's Tuesday....Teachers like to feed each other.

2. When I heard the Israeli English teacher (the one that teaches English to the Hebrew speakers while the English speakers are taken out) talking to her class in heavily accented English ("Good morrrrrning, everyone."), I realized with a jolt what we American teachers must sound like when we teach in Hebrew.

3. I made the mistake of calling one of my students YA-el instead of Ya-EL. She snorted derisively. "What kind of name is that?" And another student, Noad, chimed in, "Yeah, all my American relatives say my name like it has a 'w' in it - No-w-ad. And they call my brother GiLad." (Heavy on the "L.") Haha, I laugh uncomfortably, unable to pronounce those names any differently myself.

4. I had to call the kids in from recess when they conveniently ignored the "tziltzul" (bell) and needed personal reminders. To one child, who was happily digging in the sand with his bucket: "Remain here the pail, boy, for the recess finished already five minutes."

5. I'm pretty sure none of the English-speakers were olim (at least recent ones), because among themselves, even during English class, they spoke Hebrew. One first grader was the spokesperson for her friend, "Shira doesn't know how to say this in English, so I'm going to tell you...."

6. Also an appilling misyse of vawlez.

7. Despite copious reminders yesterday, 1/3 of the kids forgot their book for the book report today and another 1/3 hadn't finished their book. ("I'll just write my beginning, middle, end, for the first thirty pages!") Again, some things are just universal.

To be continued....

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Conference; Or, Hangin' with the Natives

First, a huge aliyahbyaccident welcome to Loyal Reader #54 - "Isobel" - who read the ENTIRE blog, in addition to all the comments! Not only has she proved herself to be a Loyal Reader in the loyalest, readerest sense of the word, but we also anticipate great commenting from Isobel!

Isobel, your engraved aliyahbyaccident tin menorah should be arriving in your mailbox (or "post" as they say in your parts) any day now. Isobel will be making aliyah shortly, and we wish her the best of luck!

Last night was parent-teacher conferences at Ariella's school. At SAR, at least in recent years, parents signed up for conferences via a fancy-shmnacy web site, and parents all over Riverdale would be sitting at their computers, nervously clutching their mice, awaiting for the system to "open" so they could log on as quickly as possible and snatch the prime spots for the teachers they needed. Some parents were known to sneak into each other's houses the night before the system opened and disconnect the internet, in the hopes of lessening the competition. Other parents used the more effective method of stealing their friend's mouse and running around saying, "Na-na-na boo boo, I got the 8:30 and youuuuuu didn't!"

In Ariella's class, there was a simple method. A sheet was sent home. The kids were listed alphabetically by last name. There was a time next to each kid's name. The times ran from 3:30 - 9:10. On the bottom of the sheet was a note: "If the time doesn't work for you" (I certainly hope that by now, you know the end of the sentence was not, "call the teacher to arrange a different time.") "call a parent that has the time you want and see if he/she will switch with you." I thought my time was pretty good - 8:20, which meant Donny would be home - but as I arrived at school puncutally at 8:13, I received a text from my friend (her last name is a "tzadi" to my "reish") saying, "Don't rush. They are super late." However the warning came too late, my friends, too late.

(Digression - was anyone else taught that the Hebrew letter "tzadi" is in never to be called "tzadik?" Well, it seems that in Israel that is exactly what they call it - a "tzadik." Not a "tzadi." And Yaakov calls the "zayin" a "zayit" but I'm not sure if that's just him.)

So I sat in a tiny chair and waited. And waited. My friend - my lovely, wonderful, English-speaking, tzadik-named friend - was called in shortly after I arrived. And then left. So I was by myself. I tried striking up a conversation with the other parents, but that didn't last long. One was a father whose wife had just given birth the day before, and he was at the conference trying to entertain his first grader who had accompanied him. Another was a mom of multiple children, and therefore multiple conferences, who was sending her first grader on recon missions. ("Go upstairs and see if the person who was ahead of us went in yet.") So conversation was at a minimum. Every few minutes Recon Mom would rush somewhere else, disappear for a few minutes, and then come back, red-faced, and sit in the tiny chair. I texted onetiredema to see if she would bring me some food should the situation grow desperate. And maybe some clean clothes, should it become truly desperate.

But finally, only an hour after my appointment, at exactly 9:20, it was my turn! Praise be given! One reason it was so late was because the morah was spending closer to 15 minutes per parent instead of the allotted 10. However, it seemed that Ariella Rose of Kitah Aleph-2 did not need even the full 10. Now, on the one hand I was disappointed not to get my full time, but on the other hand, "Good and short, better than long and bad" certainly holds true.

And it was, thank God, an amazing conference. [Warning: Parental bragging ahead.] Ariella is smart, she participates, she davens nicely, she works nicely with other kids, she's smart, she's helpful, and she's really smart. Now, the smart thing we had known for a while (I can brag about that because I assure you, Dear Readers, the brains are all from Dad. The love of math, out-of-the-box thinking, ambition - all dad. Crying at the end of Charlotte's Web? That is from me.)
We had always been concerned - ever since the meeting we were called to when she was in 3 year old nursery - about her social situation. She can be a little bossy (stop smiling, Lisa, I promise she'll let Moshe eat lunch tomorrow), and sometimes she has too much fun and gets a little carried away. So I wanted to really clarify this to the morah. "And she's nice to her friends? Because we've always had problems in that area." But Moriah assured us that she is a great friend and student, and that if she does get in trouble for something, she takes it to heart and accepts it. Wow! So she had nothing but praise for Ariella - "meuleh" was a word mentioned often. We are super proud of our little girl, who last year at this time had a Hebrew vocabulary that mainly consisted of the word "Die!" (Enough! - the first word every oleh child learns.) I exaggerate, but only a little, and it is really amazing how far she has come in a year. I give us a bracha that all of our conferences should be this terrific!

Okay, bragging over. Back to making fun of the kids.