Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Gam zuh l'tova

Barak's aunt and uncle have a CD for Jewish children that they were playing in the car the last time they were here, over Succos. I don't remember which CD it was--I think it was the Marvelous Middos Machine, but I'm not sure--but there is one song on it that I really liked, about the idea of gam zuh l'tova. Literally, it means "also this is for the good," and it expresses the idea that everything is part of a divine plan, and therefore good, even though it may not seem that way at the time. The song is sort of like the book "Alexander's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day," where everything bad happens--except throughout the song you hear the refrain, "Gam zuh l'tova."

So, MHH's box of books? This is a story of gam zuh l'tova.

But first, back to the beginning.

As I may have mentioned, MHH is a non-traveler in a family of non-travelers. His family do not even speak of traveling. They speak of shlepping. Travel is, at best, a necessary evil. It is not recreational. It is not fun. You only do it if you absolutely have to, and often not even then.

So when MHH's sister made aliyah, about two and a half years ago, and I said, "Well, we'll have to go visit," I don't think he really thought I was serious. Even though he saw my passport, with its extra pages put in where I'd run out of room, and even though we agreed before we got married that I wouldn't make him travel as long as he didn't try to stop me from traveling, I don't think he quite anticipated that yes, I did have every intention of piling him on a plane and getting us all to the Holy Land. I tried the first winter that we were married, and was foiled--he kept not deciding whether or not he was willing to do it, until Travelocity decided for us by pushing fares up above a thousand dollars. The next time we had enough money to go, he didn't have any vacation; then when we had vacation, we didn't have the money. But this past summer, I said, this is it: Barak will be two in the spring, we'll have to buy three tickets to go then, and that's just dumb. We're going in December, and I'm buying the tickets. And he said okay.

But even though he did want to go, in theory, he couldn't quite bring himself to believe he'd enjoy it, because who enjoys traveling? So I laid on the wifely psychology. As I am to yarn, MHH is to seforim (Jewish books). I love yarn because I love using it, but I also love acquiring it and decorating my home with it. So, too, MHH with his holy books. So I said, look, you've started doing this morning kollel that has a small stipend. Let's put aside some of that money for a book buying budget, so you can really go seforim shopping when we're in Israel. I saw him perk up. "How much were you thinking?" he asked. "I don't know, a couple hundred dollars," I said. He perked up more. So in the months to come, whenever I started hearing "I'm going to get airsick, I'll get sick from the water, I'll be jetlagged, Barak won't sleep, but it's a mitzva to go to Israel, right?" I reminded him that he was going to the Land of Falafel and Seforim, and what was he planning on doing with those two hundred dollars, again?

The trip there, as I don't think I've chronicled, was kind of nightmarish, beginning with a flight that was cancelled without anyone bothering to let us know and going downhill from there. When we arrived, there was no luggage waiting for us, and I could see all of MHH's convictions about travel being upheld. However, we discovered that El Al (generous that they are) was going to give us $75 each for our inconvenience. "It's to buy new clothes," I told MHH. "But I packed you a change of clothes in my carryon. So I guess you have some more seforim money now."

Perk, perk. "Hmm. Maybe I'll get..."

So, the whole ten days we were there, MHH was really on one prolonged book shopping trip. There was not a seforim shop we passed that we didn't go into, and I tried my best to make sure that he had all the time he wanted. He went seforim shopping by himself a few times, and once just with his BIL. He found something almost every day, and he'd come out of the store with his eyes glowing, saying, "Look at this print! Look how clear this print is! And look, it explains..."
and I'd nod and say hmm kind of the way he does when I rhapsodize about mitten gussets.

In the end, he had about twenty books, many of them impossible to obtain here, many hard to find even in Israel. I found a sturdy cardboard box, wrapped each book in a heavy plastic bag, packed them carefully with t-shirts and yarn as padding, wrote his name and our address on the side in permanent marker, and wrapped the whole thing in miles of strapping tape.

It was too heavy to check with the rest of our luggage, so at the airport we had to take it to a special oversized freight elevator. We put it on the elevator, and we waved bye-bye.

And bye-bye it went. It wasn't there when we arrived at our destination. And it didn't come the next day. Or the next. Or the next. Every day I called the number they'd given us, even though it only seemed to work on prime-numbered days when there was a full moon and a low tide. And sometimes not even then. And when you did get through, you got through to people who didn't speak English well enough to know what a stroller was when I told them I'd lost one. We got home on Thursday, and Sunday morning dawned with still no bags, no stroller--and no box. But they told us that we'd be compensated, at 58 Euros per person per day. So I bought a new stroller, and some new clothes, and some other things. And I sent MHH to the local seforim store with a mandate to buy some books, which he did. Sunday afternoon, the bags showed up. The stroller showed up, missing a big chunk of metal and a wheel.

But no box.

MHH tried to take this well. He tried. But there was no getting around it. He was very, very sad. He'd sit there glumly at dinner and reminisce about how nice the type was in this book, and how this book printed an attack on itself at the end of it, and how this book had a haskama that was a real haskama. He'd sigh. At work, he'd call me a few times every day. "Did you get through? Did they find it?" Alas, the answer was always no.

The following Sunday, I called as usual, and was told, as usual (after forty minutes on hold), that they had no idea where my box was, that I should call back in 24 hours, and that "that airport"--i.e., Ben Gurion-- was very slow to send luggage. (Funny, they were an awful lot better at dealing with it when you lost it in that direction...) MHH sighed again, and was about to head off to school to grade some art projects that were too big to carry home. I said, "Did you try that segulah? You know, the one on the magnet on the fridge?" He hadn't, so he put some money in the charity box, said it, and trudged sadly off to work, weeping bitterly (okay, not really, but he was really, really sad.)

I put Barak down for his nap, which didn't go terribly smoothly. And just when I had gotten him almost asleep--the doorbell rang. Argh! You'll wake up my kid! So I kicked off my shoes and ran to get it in my stocking feet before they rang again.

And it was the man from the airport. With the box. Or at least, what was left of it. Wrapped in miles of orange security tape, in a large plastic garbage bag.

I have never seen such a thoroughly smashed box. I'm not sure what they did to it, but it must have involved throwing it directly from the cargo hold of the plane to the tarmac, with enthusiasm, multiple times. It had labels on it from Madrid, Dublin, and New York. (We don't live in or anywhere near any of these places.) Our formerly sturdy cardboard box was reduced to wood pulp. And, inasmuch as it could still be said to contain anything, it now contained, mysteriously, two equally throughly smashed (but still wrapped in bubble wrap, with every bubble popped) pieces of tile painted with something very strange that I won't get into.

Of our own stuff, almost everything was there, although the books were pretty banged up--one out of its binding almost completely, some other ones scraped and bent. And one five-volume set was missing entirely, but fortunately it was one that you can get here if you are willing to spend the money on it (which we are, since we are getting reimbursed for it.) MHH hadn't taken his cell phone with him, so I couldn't call with the joyous news, but when he did call me on his way home, and I got to tell him that it came, I could literally hear the sounds of his feet in the background as he danced a jig in the empty office.

So, the gam zeh l'tova? He still got his books. He will now appreciate his books even more. And not only that, he got a whole bunch of extra books, courtesy of Iberia Airlines. Along with new socks, new undershirts, new underwear, and a new stroller for Barak.

If they ever actually send us the check. Stay tuned.

What I made for dinner last night.

It was spectacularly delicious if I do say so.

First I made this, using two cups of whole wheat flour and one of white (I didn't have any semolina, and MHH prefers whole wheat). You really hardly have to knead it at all--a minute in the bowl is plenty. When the dough was done rising and resting (and yes, they are right, the resting part is key), I divided it in not-quite-equal halves, stretched the bigger one into a circle, and put it on a parchment-covered pizza pan and into the 500-degree oven for four minutes. Then I put, on top of that, about a pound of spinach (frozen, thawed under hot water and squeezed out) mixed with feta, mozzarella, one big sauteed onion, two eggs, and black pepper. Then I rolled out the rest of the dough, put that on top of everything, brushed it with beaten egg, sprinkled it with sesame seeds and put it all back in the oven. And oh, my goodness me. I certainly plan to be doing that again soon.

Total work time was actually really minimal. Mixing and kneading the dough took ten minutes with almost no cleanup. The only vegetable prep was the one onion--everything else just went in the bowl. And it was so, so yummy--much better than I'd expected. Mmmm.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

In the interest of full disclosure

I should probably point out that just because I tend to blog about Barak doing things that are, in my eyes anyway, really sweet or really amazing, it doesn't mean that he doesn't, with reasonable regularity, scream, kvetch, misbehave, and drive me crazy in general. I just don't tend to blog about it, because--well, maybe because it seems sort of lashon hara-ey (very loosely translated, libelous), and maybe because I don't remember it once he's asleep and I'm at my computer, and maybe because it seems like normal toddlerdom that doesn't need to be documented. The unintended consequence, though, is that he comes across in this blog as a paragon of saintly toddlerhood, which, well, he's not, really--misty-eyed maternal takes on things notwithstanding.

For the record, then, let me state that when I took Barak to a Chinese auction tonight, benefiting the local bais yaakov, he a) sneaked a cookie, after I had given him one and told him he couldn't have two, b) refused point-blank to hold my hand and did the boneless toddler routine to avoid it, c) ran away from me more than once, and d) threw a major fit when it was time to leave. Yes, he was tired, and it was late, and he had been good all day (well, okay, we had two diaper-changing incidents), so it wasn't really such a big deal.

But I just thought I should let you know.

And no, I don't know if I won anything at the auction yet--for those unacquainted with these things, a Chinese auction is just a lot of raffles. You buy your tickets and put them in the boxes next to the things you want to win. Because I'm boring, I put my tickets in the boxes next to a lot of dishes and housewares and gift certificates to bookstores. Everything's donated, so even if you don't win anything you've just given some money to the school, which is something I do fairly regularly anyway by way of the pushka in the bakery. Still, it would be fun to score the food processor. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Bits and bobs

There are so many things I've been meaning to blog about, and haven't had time to blog about, that I spent Shabbos mentally composing a number of blog posts that, well, I'm probably never going to write. But here are the topics, at least, in a nutshell:

1. Most important: the friend I've been asking you all to daven for went home from the hospital, in a good way, last week. This was not a foregone conclusion even two weeks ago, so we're all really, really happy about this in the Uberimma household. Thanks for your tefilla, everybody. But please don't stop. This is just one battle--the war is still ongoing.

2. The sock binge continues unabated. I finished the orange socks and am on sock #2 of a toe-up pair in rainbow sherbet-colored Regia Nomotta (I think), at 7.5 sts/inch. And I'm really enjoying it. I picked up a set of size 7s tonight to show a friend how to do something, and it felt like knitting with broomsticks. I kind of like knitting with 1s. Okay, I know, I know...

3. Barak is being really fun these days. Lately, if you ask him if he's poopy, he'll tell you, with maybe 90% accuracy. Sometimes he'll even come up to me, put his hands on his tummy, look up at me with an expression of great seriousness and concern, and announce, "Poop." Of course, then I ask him if I should change his diaper, and his expression changes to one of great alarm, he says "no!" and runs away. He hasn't quite figured that causative link...

4. And on the subject of Barak (okay, the next few entries on this list will probably also be on the subject of Barak, if we're honest) he came out with his first two-word sentences this week, if you don't count phrases he learned whole (like "Abba's book" or "open it.") We were on our way home from a shopping trip, I thought I caught a whiff of something, and I asked him if he was poopy ( a recurring theme around here, as you may have noticed.) He shook his head and said, "No poop." Wow.

5. We paid a shiva call last week, all three of us. The mother of one of MHH's kids died, very unexpectedly--I would say more about that, which was obviously a big part of our week, but I don't want to get more identifying, so I'll leave it there. MHH had gone over to the shiva house for mincha, and since he had reported the previous day that there wasn't a whole lot of food, Barak and I came over later with a big pan of still-warm chocolate chip cookies. Barak walked the whole two long blocks with me very nicely, and when we got there was not only very well behaved, but somehow, mysteriously, knew exactly who needed a cuddle. Someone gave him a few board books, and he went straight over to MHH's student, climbed on the couch next to him, handed him the books, leaned on his arm and looked at him expectantly. He never does that with strangers. And over the next hour or two that we were there, he kept coming back to MHH's kid, just being cute and getting him to smile, and making him feel good. How did he know?

6. And today, on a happier note, we went to an aufruf, which of course meant a very big kiddush (lots of cookies and other goodies.) Barak knew that there were going to be cookies, because I told him as we were getting ready to leave the house that we were going to kiddush, and he immediately perked up and submitted to getting dressed with zero protest (not his usual these days--getting dressed usually involves a lot of howling and "no no no!") And he was so patient while they were setting up. He saw all this good stuff coming out--cookies and crackers and pastry and cholent and all of it--and when I told him he had to wait for kiddush, he did, even though there were other kids who weren't waiting. No screaming, no complaining, no sneaky attempts at underhanded cookie acquisition. He just watched all the cookies come out with great interest, accepted my "not yet" with reasonable good grace, and waited until I gave him one. Which, of course, as soon as kiddush was made, I did. (And then MHH took him over to the men's side, and gave him a brownie, and then he got another rugelach because I didn't know he'd had a brownie, and, um, let's just say the behavior went downhill from there--sugar is really not good for his middos or his naptimes. Which is why he only gets it on Shabbos, and then only in very limited quantities.)

7. And he's getting bigger. His American tanta (as opposed to his Israeli tanta) brought him three outfits when she visited (well, she brought more than that, but I'm thinking of three in particular) that were size 2T. Just so you know, Barak is 21 months old and was in the single-digit height and weight percentiles until not too long ago. Two of the outfits he outgrew while we were in Israel; his Shabbos outfit still fits him, but only if I put a sweater on top--the shirt doesn't quite cover the top of his pants anymore. He's just getting taller and taller. And he is wearing size 7 shoes. Wow.

I think that's it. It's late, it's motzai shabbos, the kitchen is clean and I've got a sock I've been knitting that I want to get back to. There were probably other things that I wanted to blog about, but I'm not feeling so inspired right now--I just wanted to get those things down, before I forgot about them.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

This morning

Barak woke up early. He's been waking up early almost every morning since we got back, despite going to sleep late, well, pretty much every night since we got back. However, a new development is that he will now go back to sleep if he gets to come into Abba and Imma's bed. I've tried this trick before, only when very desperate, and it has never ever worked. His usual response is, woohoo! score! playtime with Abba and Imma in the middle of the night!

However, lately, now that he's been a lot clingier and a lot cuddlier than usual, if you ask him if he wants to come shluffy (sleep) with Abba and Imma, the response is a heartfelt "Yeah!" And--get this--he will usually actually go to sleep in our bed, pretty much instantly. Pretty neat.

So, this morning, I pushed my luck a little. He woke up early, but only about fifteen minutes earlier than usual. Ordinarily I would just go get him and call it morning. But I was so, so tired, and so not ready to get up. I thought I'd be sneaky. I went in to his room and said, softly, as though it were indeed the middle of the night and not 6:40 am, "Barak, it's too early to get up. You need to shluffy some more. Do you want to come shluffy with Abba and Imma?"

Barak, who is nobody's fool, says, "Hungy! Befuss!"

Imma tries again. "It's not time for breakfast yet, sweetheart. Come shluffy with Imma."

Barak decides to be amenable to this. So I got back into bed--blessed bed--and tucked him in next to me. Barak hung out there for a minute or two, playing with his blanket, rolling around on his pillow. Then he decided that his pillow was substandard to the task of pillowhood, and that my face would be a much better pillow.

"Barak! Imma doesn't like that."

Imma attempts futile rearrangement of child, while not quite awake herself. And then goes back to sleep. And Barak does not.

I'm not sure how long I was asleep for, but I woke up to the distinct feeling of someone playing This Little Piggy with my toes. I lifted my head about an inch and saw Barak, from the nose up, looking expectantly at me from the foot of the bed.

"Hungy! Hungy!"

"Barak, it's not time for breakfast yet."

Barak, insistently. "Hungy!"

Pause. "Hungy PEESS!"

We had pancakes for breakfast.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Oh, and...

If you are someone who knows me, please send me an email so I can give you my new phone number. Both MHH and I have new cell phones with local numbers, and the old numbers don't give a recorded message with the new ones.

Sock update: sock #1 is done, and sock #2 is up to the cuff (toe-first socks, so this means that all the fiddly parts are done). I think I'll save that for tomorrow's bus knitting, since it's portable and simple, and start something more interesting now.


I'm starting to seriously get in the mood. I haven't been knitting all that much lately. I did a pair of socks and a Meg Swansen spiral yoke sweater, with Uberimma variations, for my SIL prior to our trip. For travel knitting, I brought two balls of Sandnes Smart sock yarn (not machine washable, alas--I did not pay close enough attention to the label) to make a pair of enormoous socks on size 0 (=very very small) needles for a friend with very very wide feet. A tactical error on my part. The first sock took almost the entire trip--I came home with only that and the toe of sock #2. I put those in the mail this past Tuesday and immediately cast on for a pair of socks at a more sane gauge (on 2s) for another friend. And now I'm feeling a very great urge to knit.

Before I was pregnant with Barak, I had been in a major knitting lull. I'd done almost nothing since I got engaged. But when I was about four months along, I discovered the Squares Obsession. I'd only ever done one afghan in my life, and that was my Knitting into the Void Afghan--I cast on a gazillion stitches on size 8s and knit forever (well, two and a half years, off and on) until it was done. But one day at work, I happened across a pattern on the internet (while working very very hard, mind you) for Lincoln Log squares. The pattern was beguiling in both its simplicity and its stash-busting potential. Cast on ten stitches and knit twenty rows. Change color. Knit another twenty rows. Change color. Cast on along the edge of the rectangle you've just created, and knit another twenty rows. Continue ad infinitum, creating either one tremendous square or multiple smaller squares.

I was so taken by this that I went home by way of the yarn store, buying a new set of needles and two balls of yarn so I could start a square on my commute. And I squared almost nonstop from then until the week before Barak was born, knitting two complete afghans for two different friends. Each square took four hours on average, and each afghan had thirty squares. And then you had to weave in all the ends, knit them all together, put on a border, etc. It took for-ever. But ooh, they were gorgeous.

After Barak was born, needless to say, the productivity slowed quite dramatically. It took me more than a year to make him a blanket (a smaller version of the squares afghan, with fewer color changes and therefore fewer ends to weave in)--I only finished it this past fall. MHH still only has one handmade sweater to his name, which is sort of shameful on my part. And it's a Lopi, which is about the fastest sweater you can knit. I made myself a very simple sweater, finished a couple that were mostly done and in bags, designed and knit a sweater for my friend Sarah, and made a few little sweaters for Barak--nothing fancy. I made one for my MIL that looks, in the immortal words of MHH, like something an Imperial Warrior would wear. Still haven't fixed that one. But I haven't really been in the Knitting Groove.

Now, at five months and change, the pregnancy knitting bug is back full blast. It's not quite what it was last time, becuase I have a toddler keeping me busy and I don't have a miserable job to distract myself from. But I'm now plotting multiple projects, carrying knitting around everywhere and--most tellingly--buying yarn, which I've been remarkably good about not doing for months and months. No more.

Mmm. Knitting.

And on that note, I think I have about an hour left on Barak's nap. Quality knitting time, not to be wasted!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

a little cyber bikur cholim

Motzai shabbos, and a friend of mine is about to take me on a Target run. Since I have a long list of things I need from Target, this is very exciting, and takes precedence over my regularly scheduled activity of Saturday-night blogging.

So, since you came here thinking you'd spend a minute or two, please spend it here instead, writing a quick get-well note for a favorite fellow blogger. It doesn't matter you don't know her--we're all friends in blogland, right? Thanks, and tizku l' mitzvos.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Homeward bound

So, if you are trying to buy three tickets (well, 2.5 tickets really--even if you carry an under-two child on your lap, they make you pay, though it isn't much) to Israel, and you're trying to keep things cheap, and your dates aren't flexible, you are going to find yourself having to bite some bullets. I bought these tickets back in August, figuring that if we paid for them at the same time we paid for the apartment, we wouldn't notice as much (what's another couple thousand dollars?)

I had hoped to fly El Al, but quickly realized that was beyond our budget. I nixed the really scary airlines--I do not fly Tarom, Lot, or Aeroflot, thank you very much. I would have been okay with Turkish, but I couldn't buy tickets with them more than 90 days in advance, for some strange reason. I wanted to keep it to one connection, to minimize risks of missing flights (ha) and losing luggage (double ha). Our doughty travel agent managed all of this. However, there was one catch: our return flight left at 6:20 am.

This was pretty seriously inconvenient. We stayed in Jerusalem, and Ben Gurion Airport is in Tel Aviv. Any time you are flying out of Ben Gurion, you are well advised to arrive at least three hours in advance. Allowing time for the airport van to pick up other travelers, and a little extra for just in case, that meant that we had to schedule our pickup for 2 am. Me, MHH, and Barak, the Baby Who Does Not Need to Sleep.

Since I didn't mind if he was tired--we were going to be airborne for 15 hours, and I wanted him sleepy--I decided on a course of action. We'd vacate the apartment we rented the day before our flight, take our stuff over to my SIL's, and let Barak play until he collapsed. Then we'd leave from there, and just let him have unfettered access to his pluggie (=pacifier in the Uberimma household) and blanket, and let him hang out in the stroller/carseat.

Barak was more than happy to demonstrate to me what he's been trying to tell me all along--that he really doesn't need to go to bed. He was up, happily playing, until about 11 pm. Then he more or less got in my lap and fell asleep. I thought I would move him into his cousin's crib, and he woke up, reached for a nearby banana, and went back to sleep.

Fast-forward to 2 am. We dragged all our stuff back down the four flights of stairs and caught the Nesher van, which was right on time, and took us safely to Ben Gurion. You're driving along the highway, with familiar green highway signs in Hebrew, Arabic and English. Then you get to security at the edge of the airport. These security barriers are not plywood painted red. They mean business, and after those, there are the kind of barriers embedded in the road that, when raised, will rip your tires to shreds. The van stopped, and someone got on the van, walked through the van, checked us all out, and got off. We drove up to security, got a luggage cart, got our stuff, our stroller and our kid out of the van, and headed off to check in.

It's 3 am, but the place is as brightly lit and as crowded as if it were 3 in the afternoon. We got in line, and about halfway through an employee came up to us and asked for our tickets and passports. "Someone will be with you soon." With us? Okay.

Everyone in line, it turned out, got their personal tour guide through security. Ours came up to us, took our passports, and started asking questions. She started with the usual. Did you pack your own bags? Have they been with you the whole time since you packed them? Did anyone give you anything to carry? It could be a bomb. Where did you stay? Did anyone give you any gifts during your stay? Who? What were they? Where are they packed? What did you buy on this trip? Where? And why did you visit? Whom did you stay with? What was your address? How many nights did you stay there? It's your sister who lives here? What's her name? What's her address? Does she have children? How old are they? How long have they lived in Israel? Is she your sister or yours? And then I realized that she was asking some of the questions twice, in slightly different ways, to see if she got the same answers. It was friendly, and chatty, and deadly serious all at the same time.

She had us put our bags through the scanner, and they came out with bar codes on them. Then we went up to another security desk, where our bags were opened. But not just opened. Each security person had a screen in front of them, and when they scanned the barcodes on the bags, the screens showed the X-rays of our bags--so that they could see what looked suspicious and check it out more thoroughly. We got another personal security guy. He introduced himself. He asked us to put our bags on the counter. He opened our biggest bag, a purple rolling duffel.

And then they found Frum Chucky.

(Let's backtrack a little. In grad school, I got very friendly with a Torah mi Tzion family--the rabbi, his wife, and their kids. At the end of their two years, they went back to Israel, and one of the first things we did when we visited was get together with them at the Jerusalem Zoo. They had a present for Barak--a cheery-looking, extremely Ashkenazi doll with blond payos, a red satin suit, and a kippa, which, when pressed (doll, not kippa) says Modeh Ani in the frighteningly deep voice of an old Iraqi Jew with, it sounded like, a major cigarette habit. Barak loves it. He dances with it. MHH, after a day or two, started calling it Frum Chucky.)

Our friendly secular Israeli airline security guy saw some electronics on his screen. He plunged his gloved hand into the bag to investigate. And he heard, from the depths of the bag, in a distinctively gravelly electronic voice,

"Mode ani lifonecha, melech chai v'kayam..."

Oh dear.

We explained, he laughed, he showed the rest of the security people, and they laughed. Phew.

The search continued. He pulled out a big supermarket package of Elite dark chocolate. (I really love that stuff.) "Did you buy this?" Yes.

Next item: big supermarket package of strawberry Mentos. Elite chocolate, fine--that's Israeli. But Mentos? This is plastique, right? "Did you buy these?" Yes.

He kept looking at me. "They're not kosher in America." Oh-kay, I can see him thinking. We clearly have some nut cases on our hands...

His hand went into the other side of the bag, and then I remembered--the size 0 double-pointed sock needles! "Um, sir? Could you watch your hand, please? There are some very sharp knitting needles in there, and I don't want you to get stabbed..."

Needless to say, we were at security for a while. They also had to open MHH's (late lamented--we still don't have it) box of seforim, for which we had prudently brought along a roll of packing tape just in case. But eventually they decided we were okay, if slightly nutty, and sent us on our way. And might I point out that El Al security, unquestionably the most thorough airline security folks in the world, did not make me remove my child from his stroller, which every American airport has made me do, no matter how much he screamed before he finally fell asleep two minutes before the airline security line. (This time, he was awake.)

It's 4 am. We're all a little punchy. We're all a little tired. Nobody's slept at all except for Barak, and he has only had three hours of sleep. And he's wide awake now. We head through passport control. And we see... a kosher McDonald's. Now, I didn't grow up religious, and I know all about Big Macs. They're tasty. They're usually treif. I haven't had one in... fourteen years. I'm pregnant. I don't care that it's 4 am. I smell those greasy burgers with their special sauce. And I want one. NOW. And MHH WILL NOT LET ME HAVE ONE. Why? Some nonsense about an unreliable hashgacha. I do not take this well. I start to mutter. "You just do whatever Frum Chucky tells you to do. Frum Chucky wants you to oppress your wife. Frum Chucky probably wants me to wear an abaya. I think you need to, um..." and here I run out of steam, because I haven't actually seen any of the Chucky movies, and I don't know how to kill Chucky. Oh well. Barak would be sad if we did away with Frum Chucky anyway.

In the end, we got on the plane, with Barak still wide awake and happy after an hour or two of climbing on, under, and around the departure lounge seats. He was amazingly good the whole way home, thanks to being tired in the first place (he slept at least half of the way) and major parental bribery (a big bag full of carefully doled out wrapped presents, mostly from the dollar store). No hysterics, almost no crying, the entire fifteen hours. He only really melted down when we got off the second flight, and there was no stroller, and he was so, so tired, and our luggage wasn't there, and we had to wait in the lost luggage line, and Imma had to deal with the lost luggage man and Barak wanted Imma, NOT ABBA NO NO NO, and, well, let's just say that we resorted to chocolate. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

In the end, though, we made it. And we got home to a mazal tov--we acquired a new nephew while we were away. Welcome to the world, Ephraim!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

blogging lameness

Sorry not to have done much in the way of a travelogue. There's been a lot going on around here, and I've been kind of distracted.

Luggage update is that our two bags arrived, but not MHH's precious box of seforim, which he is mourning quietly and sadly. I still maintain that it will arrive eventually. I hope it will; a monetary compensation from the airline would be meaningless, because while it's technically about a couple hundred dollars' worth of books, the actual value of the box is the plane ticket to Israel. Most of what he bought can't be found where we live. Well, we'll keep hoping.

In an unsurprising continuation of the stroller curse narrative, our stroller, which went missing in Madrid, appeared at our doorstep the other night, minus part of the frame and a wheel. It looked like it had been dropped from the cargo hold to the tarmac--I could not have snapped that frame like that no matter how hard I tried, not even with a pickaxe. I've been told to buy a new one and they'll reimburse me; I bought a new one, because I had to, but I'll believe in the reimbursement when I see it. For those of you keeping track, this is stroller number five, for kid number one. I'm starting to think of the rhyme for the wives of Henry VI--you know, "divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived." Only ours goes "stolen, squirrels, smashed,"--so far. Right now we have the el cheapo jogging stroller, which constantly veers left, and the new fancy umbrella stroller with a way too small basket and wheels that are useless in snow, which I bought because it was the only one at Target that I could carry up the back stairs in one hand.

So far, this has all been pretty unimpressive on the airline's part--everything from their canceling our flight without bothering to tell us to giving us a lost-luggage number (which rings in Madrid, over a terrible internet connection) that works only every three days, and even then the people who pick up the phone don't really speak English. (For example, they don't know what a stroller is.) Next time, bli neder, we are going El Al, even though it costs a whole heck of a lot more.

I really do want to blog about Ben Gurion, and why the security folks found the contents of our luggage so entertaining. But there are lunches to pack and a kitchen to clean, and a little boy in the other room who is still waking up every night at 2 am ready to play. So I probably should move my evening in a course progressing to an early bedtime.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

...and we're back

... safe and sound, though without any of our luggage or our stroller. It was a very visity visit, not a very touristy one, so if you're wondering if we saw site X, unless it was the kotel or the Jerusalem Zoo, the answer is no. The high points of the visit so far as Barak was concerned were the playgrounds of Jerusalem, and the made-in-China plastic dog and cat we bought him at the zoo. He behaved himself amazingly well on the flights, if I do say so, and at the Kotel, where I went to pray for a friend and bribed him into a mincha and several tehillim's worth of quiet with six chocolate Kedem tea biscuits. He now, unfortunately, is all too familiar with the concept of "cookie" and requests one regularly. (He is regularly disappointed.)

We stayed in Geula, in an apartment right on the line between Geula and Mea Shearim, which was pretty much perfect for us--it was about half an hour's walk from my SIL, who lives in Sanhedria, and two minutes from just about everything we needed, including a minyan factory next to a seforim store, lots of falafel, some very delicious pizza, a grocery store and so on. Such a pleasure to be able to walk into any eating establishment and just assume it's kosher, because in that neighborhood it wouldn't stay in business otherwise. We did eat well. Motzai Shabbos was still Chanuka, and we found ourselves without matches to light the menora with, so I walked the two minutes to Kikar Shabbos in search of some--and found Ya'aleh, the very lovely bakery, open, empty of baked goods but full of people patiently holding bakery bags and boxes. Since you don't often see a bunch of Jews waiting for food so willingly, I decided to get my own paper bag, and was shortly rewarded when pans and pans of hot chocolate ruggelach emerged from what was literally a hole in the wall.

What else to blog about--the unfortunate tamari incident, my continuing ill luck with strollers, Frum Chucky, El Al security, why you should never fly Iberia, Barak's enjoyment of bran flakes out of the laundry tub, his successful climb up almost all the nine million stone steps up from the kotel, my successful navigation out of the Old City, two sweaters that fit their recipients, the lost luggage and phantom boarding passes, our nephews and niece and their increasingly Israeli-sounding English, hills and more hills, taking buses in Israel and why it's still safer than driving, seeing old friends, having people ask me for directions in the most religious neighborhood in Jerusalem, MHH and his tour of the seforim stores and falafel stands of the Holy Land, my tour of the tichel shops of the Holy Land, Barak's tour of the playgrounds of the Holy Land... all this in time, I guess. In the meanwhile, although none of us seemed to have any jet lag on the way there, Barak is having a very rough time with it now, and none of us is getting much sleep, so that's about it for tonight's post.