Thursday, June 30, 2011

School's Out

And another school year comes to a close. I know, I know, for those of you in America, school is just a distant, fuzzy memory, but here, June 30th marks the last day (at least for the elementary school crowd).

For some reason, the end of the school year always makes me all weepy and nostalgic.

The beginning of the year is marked by nerves. Wondering how the kids will like their new teachers, settling into our new routines, getting into the grind of bedtime and homework and lunch-making and morning rush. But then things hit their stride "אחרי החגים," and while the first month of school always feels like it lasts ten years, from November on, the weeks just fly by.

And before you can say, "I need to bring in 50 gumballs for a party tomorrow!" it's Pesach and Yom Ha____ and Shavuot and the year is almost over.

Which brings us to today. I can now look back on the year and be so proud of what the kids accomplished.

Yaakov walking in to gan every day, by himself, giving me his patented "backward wave," because it's much more efficient than having to turn around to wave to me. So different from the boy who had to be pulled off my leg last year. And, this year, he got stickers! For good behavior! Who woulda thunk?

Nadav learning to walk! And to shake his head "no" as he throws his food off his tray!

And Ariella? I just loved watching her love school.

But now it's over. All the routines and compromises and accomplishments and disappointments and small arguments and end-of-day hugs that colored this year....finished.

So it makes me a touch misty-eyed, but you know, time marches on and all that. Anyway, we have chofesh to think about! Kaytanot, vacation, and lots and lots of pool days!

And then - onto the next school year.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Henrietta Szold, Revisited

A while ago, we spoke about how Ariella got to take a test from the Henrietta Szold Institute for Smart Kids. Basically, she had done well on part one of the test, in school, so she was invited to take part two. If she passed, she would get to take a Chug for Smart Kids next year.

A different institute, Machon Karni for Smart Kids, also wanted Ariella to take a test. She's in a chug this year, Eshkolot, that she got to take based on the recommendation from her previous year's teacher. But this year they changed the rules. Instead of accepting only kids who were recommended by the teacher, any kid could be considered, if they passed the test. And kids were already in the chug this year had to take the test as well if they wanted to continue the chugim next year.

Following so far? To make it even more complicated, the Eshkolot people said if she passed the Szold test that would count as well. Were Mr. Karni and Ms. Szold friends, back in the day?

Now, these Eshkolot chugim are a pain, timing-and-parking-wise, but Ariella really enjoyed them and wanted to continue next year. So we said we would take this second test, just to make really really sure she would get in and be able to take her chugim.

Well, just last week I received two letters. One from Machon Szold and one from Eshkolot. The contents:

Dear Parents of Ariella,
Your child is no longer smart.

She didn't pass either of these tests. Which means no more Chugim for Smart Kids for Ariella.

I was devastated. I figured the Szold test wouldn't upset Ariella so much, since we never really understood what it was for anyway. But I knew how much she wanted to take her chugim, and now I had to tell her she didn't pass her test.

The American parent in me despaired, "How do you give a test to an 8-year-old that they can't pass???? What is the matter with you people???? What a blow to her self-esteem this will be! Oh the tears, the tears!"

I worried all day about how to break the news to her. When I finally did, she was quiet for a minute. Then,

"It doesn't matter," she said nonchalantly. "It will be like when I was in kitah aleph and I didn't have these chugim!"

And she goes on to discuss which of the school chugim she wants to take next year.(Cooking and computers, in case you were wondering.)

What's that you say? I should stop projecting my own fears and insecurities onto my child, as per my own chapter in my book on child-rearing called, "Stop Projecting Your Own Fears and Insecurities Onto Your Child. You Twit."?

I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you because I'm too busy crying that I - I mean Ariella - didn't pass my test. I mean her test. Hmmmm.

In other Ariella news, we had her mesibat siyum last night. Usually, Daddy gets picked to go, but this time Ariella wanted some girl time. So Daddy came home early and Mommy and Ariella went off. I was excited. The kids were told to bring their chumash, so I figured we would do some sort of parent-child learning. Much better than the usual "quality time" we spent together, consisting of: "Ariella brush your teeth."

The party was at a shul, instead of at school. We walked in, and there was a puppet show set up. I figured perhaps it was going to be a story in chumash they had learned. We sat down.

The show began.

It was about Jews in 15th century Toledo, Spain.

There was a magical diamond. And a talking lion.

It lasted 45 minutes.

Then, we all broke for "dinner" consisting of Osem cakes, rugelach and Sprite.

After dinner, we headed back inside shul. Okay, now we are going to do something meaningful, something substantial, something worthy of children who have completed the entire chumash Bereishit.

We played Bingo.

It was Bereishit Bingo, so poofahs for that. But basically the teachers asked riddle-y questions, and if you had the answer on your board, you crossed it off. Not sure what the purpose of bringing the chumash was, except as a surface on which to place your Bingo board.

After the game, we split into the 3 classes, where the teacher read a beautiful poem to the class (really, it was, no sarcasm there), and said something nice and personal about each kid in class. Each kid got a clock and we went home.

Now, I love Ariella's school. And I think her teacher is beyond amazing. I mean, she could be the president of Planet Awesome. So I was a little surprised at this rather meaningless end-of-year party.

But Ariella had fun.

Plus, I got to see an original song and dance! (Take that, Glee!) Starring Ariella! See, last Friday her class planned a surprise party for their teacher, complete with a choreographed song. And at the mesibat siyum, they got to perform it for the entire grade.

It was super cute. Waaaay better than the Talking Lions of Medieval Spain.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Get a Clue

Donny returned from America, bearing gifts. For he is a wise man.

One of the most exciting gifts he brought is the game of Clue. I remember spending many happy hours playing this game in my youth. The only downside is that you can't really play on Shabbat; or, you can, you just have to be reeeaaaaaallllly creative.

We tore off the plastic and opened the game. As I started to explain the rules to Ariella, it dawned on me how very macabre this childhood game of mine is.

"See," I began brightly, "there's this guy, Mr. Body. And he was killed! In his own house! By one of these people! And your job is to figure out who did it, where they did it, and how!" Ariella starts examining the little toy weapons, which look like a twisted version of Monopoly pieces. She holds up a slightly bent metal one.

"How do you kill someone with this?" she wonders.

"Well," I chirp, "it's a wrench, you see, so you just bang the person over the head again and again till they die! Haha! Okay then! Maybe we should just start playing!"

After a practice round, Ariella was starting to get the hang of it. Yaakov, however, was not feeling so sanguine about Clue.

"This is a vewy bad game faw my age," he declared, and stomped off to play with his new build-a-tube-contraption-and-throw-marbles-down-it toy.

Ariella had just one question about the game. "But why?" she insisted, "WHY did they want to kill him?"

Maybe we'll just stick with Go Fish.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Random Things I Miss About America

We know the big ones - English, Family, and Old Navy, but sometimes, it's not about the Big Ones, it's about... carrots. Not baby food carrots, I'm talking about those little pre-peeled, bite-sized carrots that come in bags. My kids enjoy eating carrots, but frankly, I find cutting them a pain. Unlike a cucumber, which you can just slice over their plates as they're eating dinner ("Mom! Stop dropping cucumbers on my head!"), carrots require a peeler. And unless you have superhuman thumbs, you can't cut them without a cutting board. So now you've had to drag the peeler AND the cutting board. Who has time for this? (And if you say something chirpy and cheerful and helpful like, "Cut a big bag of carrots in the beginning of the week and then you'll have them all week long!" I will bop you on the head with my cutting board. But it's flimsy plastic, so don't worry, it won't really hurt.) coffee refills. Especially because I spend many of my days working at a cafe, where I spend anywhere from NIS 12-16 for a "large" coffee. (Yes, you heard me right, at Cafe Joe, coffee is SIXTEEN shekel). And after about three minutes, the coffee is finished and the cup is just sitting there sadly on your table. But no more coffee for you, unless you'd like to shell out another 12-16 shekel.

....Carvel Ice Cream cake. Especially that ice creamy frosting stuff on top. And the chocolate crunchies. I miss those crunchies. library books, as many as you want. I had to pay a one-time deposit of NIS 35/book, for as many books as I wanted to have out at any one time. So I opted for 5 books (2 for Yaakov, 3 for Ariella), which are finished in about 2 days.

....camps that run for 6 weeks.

....over-the-counter medications. Good ones. That are not BEHIND the counter, necessitating you to wait in line even though you don't have a prescription. Even better, I miss OTC medications that you could buy in the grocery store. Very efficient.

....also, automatic RX refills. (Oooh....idea! Idea! Coffee refills that are both free and automatic. That is the kind of innovation we need!)

Monday, June 13, 2011

In the past week...

...we celebrated Shavuot, about which it says in the Torah, "And thine children shall be hometh from school for three complete days, despite the holiday lasting but one. And thou shall consumeth large quantities of cheesecake."

...we consumed not only large quantites of cheesecake but also large quantities of Donny's famous homemade blintzes. We're machmir like that.

...our air conditioning broke. This naturally happened on Thursday night, once it was too late to do anything about it before the weekend. We did manage to have someone come out and look at it Friday. His assessment: "This is major. I cannot fix this before Shabbat," he said as we slowly dissolved into puddles of sweat. So then,

...we ran around Modiin collecting fans Friday afternoon. All the running around made us very hot. This did not help our situation. very handsome and single, not to mention smart and funny, and also single, brother-in-law came for Shabbat. He was thoroughly amused by our freaking-outness, because he normally survives without the a/c. "You'd think you had no running water," he observed, watching us in our panicked state. He was very helpful in arranging the fans correctly so we had a pleasant breeze all of Shabbat.

...Ariella celebrated her eight birthday with her invite-all-the-friends party. Despite the general exhaustion involved in planning such a party, once it got started, I pretty much sat back and let the girls run the show. Ariella explained the art project (decorating mezuzot), the girls knew the whole drill when we brought out the cake. Those that finished their project early sat around and chatted. They did not run around the room, turning off lights and trying to jump out the window, like children at another birthday party which was once written about here. And, also unlike that other birthday party, at no point were there multiple children in the bathroom with their pants down around their knees. So yay! (This is not to say that we were not happy to throw that other birthday party. Just pointing out what a difference 3 years can make.)

...our air conditioning got fixed! Phew, because the whole "roughing it" thing was quickly losing whatever charm it may have once had.

...we got our new car! (You have to say it like you're on the Price Is Right.) It had been purchased a few weeks ago and was finally ready for pick up. It's a white Mitsubishi Grandis, in case you're wondering, and Yaakov gets to climb in and out through the trunk.

...Donny hopped on a plane to Seattle, via Berlin. Traveling business-class, natch.

...I found out that Loyal Reader and Frequent Commenter SaraK is actually making aliyah! All of those "when I live in Israel" comments were for real! We at aliyahbyaccident wish her lots of luck and good things and English-speaking people wherever she goes. Mazel tov!

Monday, June 6, 2011

In Which We Learn a New Hebrew Word and Send a Tene

You may be wondering why I haven't been blogging so frequently lately. It is either because:

1. I am lazy.
2. I spend all day on Facebook, checking out pictures of people I don't really know.
3. I was busy scrubbing off the blue paint after I finished filming my latest role as Mystique in the new X-Men movie.

Well, I will let you ponder that. Let me know what you think.

Something I learned today:

"Flippers" in Hebrew are not, unfortunately, "fleeeeperz." 'Cuz that would have been sooo much easier. You see, today I went to buy flippers for Ariella and goggles for Yaakov because they are taking swim lessons and these were recommended by the swim teacher as a good investment.

I had learned a few years ago how to say "goggles." And no, it's not "goh-goolz," or even "mishkefay yam," despite the impressive conjugation of the second. It's "mishkefet." So that part was easy. Then came the fleeeperz. The store guy looked at me blankly. Darn. I tried to start explaining how it's something you wear on your feet to help with kicking, except I can never remember how to say "kicking." It's like never knowing where the "tet" is on the keyboard. Some facts of life like to stay tantalizingly out of reach. But we persevered, and I left with my fleeeperz and my goh-goolz.

You may be wondering why I'm scurrying out to buy these items. Well, I am so far (it's only been one lesson) very impressed with the swim teacher, who figured out right away what each kid needed to focus on. Also, he sent a feedback email! In which he called Yaakov a "great little chap!" Well, how can ima shel ha'chap NOT buy him the goggles he needs?

In Shavuot news, today was Tene Day. What the bleep is a tene, you ask? I, too, once asked that very question. The first time I heard the word was our first year here, when Yaakov was in mishpachton. It was a day or two before Shavuot, and on the parent board it said we needed to send our child in with:

1. A tene with various foods
2. A zer perachim

They might as well have written a flerhudgen and a plekerate. Huh? We were able to determine that a "tene" is also a "sal" which is a "basket." Like the ancient Jews bringing their bikkurim to the Temple in days of yore, my son needed to bring in a chocolate pudding and a nectarine. In a basket. And the "zer perachim" is a flower wreath. Which the Jews also wore on their heads as they brought bikkurim. Or something.

That wreath is such a great investment, because you just know how much use you're gonna get out of it after your child wears it for all of two seconds. It can be used for so many things, from poking your sister in the eye to poking your brother in the eye.

So today was Tene Day, and now that I am an expert, plus I have my own personal (Tired) basket buyer, we were totally under control. Chocolate pudding, bag of grapes, and a spoon. (Can you believe I remembered the spoon???)

In related Shavuot news.... (in that it's also about Shavuot...)

I'm pretty sure if you ask most people why we eat matzah on Pesach, they'll have some idea. And yet while the line at the Rami Levi cheese counter was out the door and people were buying cream cheese and gevinah levanah like the world was ending (People: It did not end before Pesach, and it will not end now! It's all going to be okay!), I am fairly certain that almost no one, including yours truly, knows why we're all over the dairy products this holiday.

Ariella came home with something about Torah being sweet like milk and honey; Shavuot is the holiday of accepting the Torah; ergo, we eat dairy. I always thought it had something to do with how before matan Torah we couldn't eat meat because we didn't know the halachot, so therefore Shavuot is a dairy holiday. And then there's the thing about Yael getting Sisrah drunk on wine and cheese and bludgeoning him to death with a tent pin and saving the day, although that's actually a Chanukah story, but since we never seem to eat dairy on Chanukah, maybe Shavuot should just co-opt that bit of history?

Oh wait! I am mixing up my cheese-wielding Jewish heroines! The Chanukah heroine is Yehudit, who got good ol' Holofernes cheesed-and-liquored-up and chopped off his head. Whoops. Maybe Yael and Yehudit should both move to Shavuot.

Ohmigod I am rambling so much even I have no idea what point I'm trying to make.

So I will end (thank God) with this:

Do you think Bnei Yisrael would have celebrated the acceptance of the Torah with a cheesecake? I'm pretty sure they had a wild steak party. "We can finally eat meat! Break out the mangal! Wah-hoooooooooooo!"

Oh yes, and flipper? It's a "snapir."