Monday, June 30, 2008


Iyyar is starting to talk more, and much more expressively, and now that I am home with him while Barak is at school I get the benefit of it much more than I did before. Barak tends to kind of dominate the conversation when he is here, not surprisingly, and until now I was hardly ever with Iyyar without Barak there. So now I am hearing all kinds of gems.

For example: in general, I buy generic diapers, but I get Pampers for Iyyar and Avtalyon to use overnight because they leak less. Pampers have Elmo on them, so they are very popular with Iyyar, who is right there in the Elmo target age bracket. I brought a bunch of Elmo diapers for the trip, and now Iyyar is, sadly, out of them (and into generic Titulim, which seem fine) while Avtalyon still has a stack left. A couple of days ago, I was putting Avtalyon into a clean diaper with Elmo on it, while Iyyar watched--rather resentfully, as it turned out. "No want it!" he told me emphatically, lips pushed out in a pout, shaking his head firmly for emphasis. "No want it Elmo baby tooshie!" If I can't get Elmo, NOBODY gets Elmo.

Speaking of Elmo, he is very much a fan. He refers to all Muppets generically as Elmo, but does also identify Ernie (uh-nee), Big Bird (bih buh), Grover, (go wuh) and Cookie Monster (kumana!) Diction may not be his strong point, but expressiveness is. He does the best faces, and also gives the best hugs; if you ask him for a hug, he'll usually say no, but if you then act all hurt and pretend to cry, he'll rush up to you, fling his arms around you, and carol "hug!" Better than that it getteth not.

He's got a new name for Barak, who is now "Ayyar!" (funnily enough). When we drop Barak off at school, Iyyar is often perturbed: "Where Ayyar go?" And sometimes, when waking up from a nap or in his high chair, Iyyar will call roll.

"Abba? Where Abba go?"

"Abba's davening."


"Barak's at school."


"Binyamin's home."

"Ah koh?"

"Yaakov's at home too."


"Baby's shluffing."

"Baby oofing?"

"Right, he's shluffing."

Then, seriously, "Oh. Kay."

When he sees a park, which happens roughly every sixty seconds around here, he demands to avail himself of it ("pay! pay!") and when he sees the falafel store, he knows just what he wants "Ah foo! Ah foo!" And he's developed a habit, clearly derived from his big brother, of calling me in a very peremptory fashion. "Ah MA!" he bellows, righteously, sometimes whacking me insistently on the closest body part (and getting told off for potching). Pay attention to me NOW!

And, of course, he lives to go outside ("annai!") and eat, well, just about anything, but especially cheese ("shee"), milk, ("muk!"), bananas ("na na") and anything that I am eating ("DAT!")


Saturday, June 28, 2008

First shabbos in the holy land

I will confess it didn't begin totally auspiciously--there was much screaming and jumping around at bedtime. But everyone was in bed by the time Abba go home from shul, the table was set, and, for the first time in (cough cough), I actually davened maariv. So amazing--I could look out the window and see the orange sun sitting on the horizon, and when I came back down from putting Avtalyon back to sleep it had just vanished, right at shkia. I know of course that this is just a function of being on the fifth floor, but still--it's pretty cool and we don't get it at home.

One delicious dinner of food I didn't cook later, I fell asleep on the couch, waking up at 2 am to hear a screaming Avtalyon. He's been sleeping really, really badly this week, and Thursday night woke up every single time I put him down, all night long--the only sleep he got was in my arms, and I only got sleep sitting up. Friday he had some long naps in the stroller, and Friday night was back to his "but I can't sleep!"routine. I decided to try him in the little folding baby cot, instead of the carseat he's preferred his whole life, and guess what--he slept! Till 5 am! I, however, was wide awake, as was MHH. He gave up by around 4 and got up to learn, and I got up at 5 when the baby did for an hour and a half of playtime. At 6:30, the kids woke up, just as MHH got back from davening vasikin. I gave them a quick breakfast and then off to the park.

The morning was not off to a fabulous start; nobody had slept enough and the crankiness was already in evidence. Even with the carrot of a crack-of-dawn trip to a brand new park dangling in front of him, Barak whined and kvetched and rolled around the floor with the "I need you to get me dressed for me!" routine that drives me absolutely berserk. We finally made it out the door (and down the 5 flights of stairs) a little before 8, and walked outside just as the first non-vasikin-davening men were heading past with their tallitot tucked under their arms.

It is very quiet here generally but since we are in a religious neighborhood on Shabbos morning there were no cars at all. I pointed this out to Barak.

"Barak, is it so quiet? Why is it so quiet?"

"I don't know."

"Is it because it's Shabbos? Look, are here any cars?" Barak looked around but didn't seem to know what I was talking about.

"Are we allowed to drive cars on Shabbos?"


"So, look around. Are there any cars?" He pointed at the cars parked on the side of the road.

"Dere's cars over dere."

"Yes, but are here any cars driving? Do you see anybody driving cars?"


"Why not?"

"Because we're in Israel."

"Oh. Can I climb up dere?"

He didn't seem to be getting it. And then it hit me.

"Hey Barak, do you want to do something that you never ever did before in your whole entire life?"

Barak perked up. Lately this has been his thing--saying, "I never did that before," about whatever it is he's doing. "Yeah!"

"Do you want to cross the street by yourself?"

He looked at me as though I had completely lost my mind. "You can if you want." We stopped at the side of the road and I looked up and down to confirm that it was in fact completely deserted, which, so far as vehicular traffic anyway, it was. "Okay, go ahead." Barak's mouth at this point was gaping open and he was staring at me in complete shock. "It's okay. Go ahead." So he did, walking with an I-can't-believe-I'm getting-away-with-this grin, very quickly and carefully, across the street--all by himself. When he got there he turned around and started giggling madly. "I did it! I did it all by myself!" I crossed over with Iyyar. "Barak, how come I let you cross the street by yourself? Do I ever let you do that in America?" He shook his head. "Not in a hundred million years, right? But here it's okay because it's Israel [okay, it's a dati neighborhood in Israel] and it's Shabbos. So there's no cars. So it's okay."

Barak, still with the dazed grin, "I like Israel. I like crossing the street all by myself."

More later--Avtalyon's up. Again. Everyone had way too long naps this afternoon so I think it's going to be a wild kind of a night.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Quick pre-Shabbos roundup

It's almost time to light but I wanted to put up a brief post first. So, the trip was, you know... a trip with three kids four and under. Let's see--Iyyar had diarrhea, then he threw up, then he threw a few tantrums. I thought packing three changes of clothes for everyone in our carryons was overkill, but by the time we got off the first plane he was on his last pair of pants. Avtalyon nursed, slept, and screamed--sometimes all three at once. Barak was pretty good--he stayed up until the equivalent of 2 am on the first flight, finally conking out--you guessed it--just as the plane started to descend. Oh, and of course they lost our stroller.

But I do love BA. When Iyyar vomited all over himself, carseat, clothes, and floor, and started to scream, just as Avtalyon was already howling, and Barak decided to get in on the act by wanting me to start his movie (Horton Hatches the Egg) again, two stewardesses turned up with paper towels, plastic bags, and magic salt that dried up the vomit so I could clean it off. Then they brought us all water bottles. Nobody was anything but completely lovely and helpful--they gave the kids little activity bags, and when they saw we had kosher meals offered them juice but no (nonkosher) bags of pretzels. As we got on flight #2 with three exhausted childre, two of whom were screaming their heads off and the third of whom was wailing that he wanted his EGG, they didn't bat an eyelash. The flight attendant standing by the door was positively jolly about it. "Dear, dear!" he said to Iyyar, who was flat on the floor hysterically pounding his feet and fists. "Come come! It's not that bad!" One of the bright spots about changing at Heathrow is, of course, the WH Smith at every other departure gate, and I availed myself of the availability of Cadbury; Barak, naturally, sniffed out the chocolate, but was successfully deceived by my sneaky ploy of buying two Kinder Eggs (small) and did not notice the three bars of Dairy Milk with Caramel (large, and all mine).

Anyway, we're here now. We're staying in a sublet apartment which is bigger than what we have at home, if not quite as childproof; it is conveniently located about six minutes from the makolet and about as far from the falafel and pizza places. Yesterday I had the most fabulous sandwich of real genuine tomatoes (purchased with traces of real genuine dirt) on fresh squishy pita bread, followed by a dinner of one of the best falafel sandwiches I've ever had. The kids are slowly recovering from the jet lag, as are we; our kitchen is stocked after a trip to SuperZol courtesy of a friend of Tanta Rivka's, and we have challah, spreads, tomatoes and some Shabbos takeaway for dinner. The kids are in bed, the house is ready, and I'm just sitting here listening for the siren to tell me it's time to light.

There's the siren. Shabbat shalom.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

And so it begins...

Barak is in his last week of playgroup. He goes to a very chareidi unlicensed playgroup, conducted by a very chareidi lady who teaches parsha in both Yiddish and English. She clearly has her act together, although does not really invite anything in the way of parental involvement. I wasn't thrilled with the playgroup at the beginning of the year, but Barak has really enjoyed it and at this point I would probably send Iyyar when it's time, if we're still here (which at this point it looks like we will be.)

I know that Barak has friends, because when we walk to school we pass the playground first and the kids who see him all start yelling his name. When we get there, he drops his bag and rushes off to play without a backward glance or a "Bye, Imma." And sometimes, he comes home talking about his friends.

One of his friends, who we'll call Dovie, lives around the corner from us. We pass his house every time we go to the park. The first time Dovie was outside playing when we went by was the first warm day in March. Barak spied Dovie, Dovie spied Barak, and it was like something from a movie--they ran screaming toward each other and then Barak turned around toward me, breathless with pleading, "Imma, can I play with Dovie? I want to play with Dovie!" We hung around and they played for an hour or so, until it got too much for me to juggle Iyyar and Avtalyon on the sidewalk. A week or so later, Dovie showed up with his mother on Shabbos to play; another time, we went over there. Then Dovie's mother invited us for a Shabbos meal and Dovie and Barak played happily for hours, the whole afternoon. Barak talked about Dovie. He talked about him a lot. Dovie, it appeared, was the bomb.

But since then, we've gone over there a few times to see if Dovie wants to play and he hasn't wanted to play. Last Shabbos we stopped by and when Dovie saw Barak, he got all stonefaced and told his father he didn't want to play. Barak said nothing but obviously felt bad. Then yesterday, we passed Dovie playing on the sidewalk. Dovie saw Barak and then carefully pretended not to see him at all, as we passed within about a foot; Barak looked at him and then didn't say hi either.

Oh dear.

Now, for the record I should mention here that in elementary school (and through high school) I was That Kid. The one that nobody plays with. I was overweight, I had the wrong clothes, I was big on vocabulary and low on social skills. Last picked in gym, not invited to birthday parties, picked on by bullies, etc. It was miserable, and I was miserable, and I would really, really hate for any of my kids chas v'shalom to go through the same thing.

Lately, I've heard Barak say, to Iyyar and once to me, "I'm not going to be your friend anymore!" It's pretty obvious where he's getting that. When he said it to me, I think I was making him a snack, and then I shrugged and said, "Okay, if you're not my friend I don't need to make you a snack," and left the room. That seemed pretty effective--he hasn't said it to me since--but still, it's coming from somewhere. Not necessarily Dovie, but that stage of childhood appears to be here.

I have to admit I was not so happy yesterday. I know that this kind of thing is, unfortunately, normal, and I can't shield my kids against it. But I did want to know what was going on, so I could have some idea of how to talk to Barak about it. This morning, on the way to school, I tried a sort of subtle approach.

"Barak, who's your friend?"

Instantly: "Dovie's my friend."

"He is?"

"Yeah. He's my friend."

"Okay. But yesterday, when we saw him, you didn't say hi to each other. And when we went over there on Shabbos he didn't want to play."

Barak, unperturbed: "Yeah. He doesn't say hi to me and he doesn't play with me but he's still my friend."

Okay. Yes. Well. Not "friend" as one would normally define the term, but still--he didn't seem upset, so I didn't push it. I did, however, ask the morah for a minute when we got to school.

"Has anything been going on between Dovie and Barak?" I gave her a quick round-up.

"Oh..." she said, and in that second both Dovie and Barak appeared, separately, within five feet of us. We switched to Hebrew.

"I think something happened with Dovie and Barak. Do you know if something happened? Barak used to talk about him all theh time but now Dovie doesn't want to play with him."

"The child behind me [Dovie, whose name she didn't want to say] is a difficult kid. He can be hard with the other kids."

"Did my son do anything I need to talk to him about? Is he behaving okay, and are the other kids playing with him?"

"Oh, your son? No! Your son is very, very, very sweet [m'od, m'od, m'od matok]. No, your son is great. It's not him at all."

I looked around and saw him happily playing with the other kids, and felt a bullet dodged, for the moment.

If you think I'm overreacting--well, I might be. But unless you, like me, were That Kid, you don't know what being That Kid is like. And I don't want Barak to know it either.

T minus FIVE DAYS!

And I have so much left to do...

The big thing that happened this week is that Sarah the Wonderful
is singlehandedly enabling us to go to Israel by taking Emese the cat for us while we're gone. Wait a minute, I hear you thinking. Sarah lives in Michigan. I don't know where Uberimma lives (or maybe I do) but I'm pretty sure she and Sarah don't live in the same city. Or state.

We don't. We most certainly don't. We don't even live in adjacent states. Enter Hermando, the Kitty Chauffeur, who I think is probably referring to me as the "gringa loca" even now, because I am paying him (gasp, choke, choke) to DRIVE MY CAT to Sarah's house.

Along with a batch of latkes that I have yet to make.

But will, as soon as I draw up a rental agreement for the family who is renting our apartment while we're going. Oh wait. I didn't mention that part? That in addition to packing, we're getting our place ready for someone else to live in. Yes, well... there's that. Oh, and I'm still working. And all that.

But Barak filled up his whole sticker chart, and tonight went to sleep enraptured by the strains of "When a Felon's Not Engaged in His Employment". So really, it's all going pretty well.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


1. We got Avtalyon's passport yesterday. This is a saga in and of itself, in that it took us over two months just to get his birth certificate. And I filled it out at the hospital! By the time it came, it was too late to get a passport by mail, even with expedited service, and still too early to get an appointment at a regional passport center. This week, though, we passed the 2-week threshold for same-day service, and MHH, Barak, Avtalyon and I loaded up and headed out to our nearest one. I left Iyyar with the babysitter, since we couldn't all fit in the car and Barak would have fun while Iyyar probably wouldn't.

The whole experience was surprisingly painless; our appointment was at 1 pm and we were out of there, passport in hand, at 3:30. I was surprised at the number of absolutely brand-new babies in there--I saw two that couldn't have been more than a few weeks old. Barak enjoyed the whole experience, from looking out the vertiginously high office windows to campaigning for the Slurpee I got Abba while we waited (Barak got ice cream--I refuse to let him even taste Coke).

2. Other trip preparations are moving right along. Last week I went to Target and bought a ton of sunscreen, dental floss, Lego for my nephews, diapers and wipes (I know you can buy them there, but I want at least a week's worth to bring with) and so forth. I've already packed Avtalyon's clothes, out of his 6-12 month stuff, which he's almost into already. And most important, of course, I have carefully selected and packed the yarn and needles I will almost certainly not get to use the whole time we are there.

3. On Barak's potty front, so far, so good. He is close to filling up his sticker chart, the reward for which has been, to date, his choice of truck from the toy truck selection at Target. However, today, something extremely strange happened.

This would require a bit of back story to really tell properly, but the very short version is that during my misspent youth, I was quite fond of Pirates of Penzance. So much so, in fact, that I, um, ended up more or less memorizing the whole thing. Not on purpose, but just from the number of times I listened to it. Last night, during a very late email exchange with my knitting buddy Cecilia (who considerately lives in Sydney, and therefore is nearly always at her computer when I am) I developed a hankering to hear it again. Alas, the LP I owned in junior high is long gone, and I couldn't really justify spending $25 on a new set of CDs.

Tonight, at bedtime, Barak was being... resistant to going to bed. "I don't want the baby song," he told me peevishly. "Fine," I told him. "I'll sing you a pirate song instead." Whereupon I took a deep breath, opened my mouth, and belted out "Pour, oh pour, the pirate sherry..."

Now, chances are none of you has ever heard me sing, and there is a very good reason for that. I'm not tone-deaf or anything but I am not very well endowed in the vocal department. Barak, however, thought it was... amazing. He stared at me, openmouthed and clearly, um, awed.

"Imma," he breathed, "Can you sing some more pirate songs please?"

I obliged with a rousing rendition of "When Frederick Was A Little Lad," followed by "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General." He wanted more. I started singing, "With Cat-Like Tread.." and then realized after a few "tarantaras" that I didn't know the segueway into the next bit.

"I'm sorry, I don't remember how it goes," I told him. "I need to listen to the CD to remember, and I don't have that CD."

"Could we get it?" Barak asked, practically whispering. "Could we get it, and listen to pirate songs?"

I considered. "Do you want that to be your sticker chart prize? Instead of a truck?"

"Yeah! I want the pirate CD instead of a truck."

I can see that Barak's musical tastes are going to be just as normal, boring, and run-of-the-mill as my own.

Friday, June 06, 2008

More overheard

Today, a friend of ours offered us a midafternoon lift to the supermarket. I don't usually go there but today it seemed like a good idea, so I went, leaving Iyyar and Avtalyon with Abba and bringing Barak.

We finished our shopping first and spent a few minutes sitting on the bench behind the checkouts. String cheese had been on sale, so I'd bought some (for the first time in months) and Barak was enjoying one while we hung out waiting.

"Imma, know what, Imma?"


"You, and me, and Abba--we're not twins."

"No, you're right, we're not."

"But if... if you had a pink shirt and I had a pink shirt, den we would be twins."

"Oh, is that how it works?"

"Yeah. I sink so. I sink dat's how it works."

"Hmm. So, see that lady over there?" I pointed at a heavyset black woman in a fuchsia tank top.
"She's wearing a pink shirt." I looked around. "Also her. See that lady? She's wearing a pink shirt too." Young, thin Hispanic woman in a light pink t-shirt. "They're twins, right?"

Barak looked doubtful. "No, I don't sink so. Because her pink shirt is light and her pink shirt is dark. Dat's why dey're not twins."

Okay then.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

What a difference four months make

The fabulous Israeli friend with whom I share babysitting commented to me a few weeks ago that it seems that I am always holding the baby. "Every time I see you, you are holding him! Why don't you put him down some of the time?" I said, knowing exactly how it was going to sound to her, "If I put him down, he cries." She rolled her eyes. "You need to teach him that he has to go down some of the time!" I was spoiling him, he was bossing me around, I was being manipulated. And so on.

A week or so later, the same friend gave us a ride home from the Yom ha-Atzmaut barbecue that will go down on record as the Coldest Yom ha-Atzmaut Barbecue Ever. Avtalyon, being in a moving vehicle and all, was in his car seat and oh, my goodness, he did not like that. At all. He objected. He objected most strongly, with his usual force, vigor, pathos, and volume. And my friend, my tough Israeli friend was, within two blocks of our departure, casting anxious glances into the rear-view mirror, asking if he was okay, or sick, or hungry, or... or... or... should she pull over so that I could hold him? I said that no, it wouldn't help, because he'd start crying again the second I put him back in and I wouldn't drive without him buckled into the car seat. He wailed the whole way home. Piteously. Miserably. Heart-rendingly. Loudly. And by the time we got home, tough Israeli friend, clearly on the point of nervous collapse, said, "Now I understand why you hold him."

Anyway, in this video you can see Avtalyon, begging, no, pleading to be picked up, while his mother heartlessly records it all on camera. You'd pick him up too, wouldn't you?


Lately, Barak has been figuring out that a) he is Jewish, but not everyone is Jewish, and b) he eats kosher food, but not everyone eats kosher food. This has been a subject of some interest to him. There are two bakeries that we pass often; one is kosher, one not. The produce store we buy almost all our produce and dairy at also has a non-kosher deli counter. There is an ice cream man at the park who sells kosher ice cream sandwiches, but everything else in his freezer box is not kosher. Likewise, most of Barak's friends are Jewish, but not everyone he knows is: our neighbors are Hindu and Muslim, one of his babysitters is Christian, etc. A few months ago we were in the hamburger place (kosher, obviously) with a bunch of teenage boys in white shirts, black yarmulkes, black pants, tzitzis, and big payes. They were there with their rebbe, obviously having a siyyum. When it was time to bentch, Barak heard "rabosai n'vareich" and looked over--and then asked, in his carrying three-year-old voice, "Imma, are dey Jewish?" Just, you know, to be entirely clear.

Yesterday, Barak came down with a nasty sore throat and a little bit of a fever. I called the doctor, who said to bring him in for a strep test, which I did this morning. The nurse who took the swab is not my favorite and really hurt him--I've seen how she does things enough times and she just isn't gentle. (Yes, I've complained.) By the time we were done, Barak was crying and miserable and we decided that perhaps a trip to Baskin-Robbins on the way home was in order.

One cup of vanilla ice cream later, equilibrium was more or less restored, but Barak's sore throat was such that he didn't eat much of it. "I'm gonna put it in the freezer for later, when I poop potty," he informed me. And later, he did indeed reclaim the ice cream. I got it out for him and left him in the kitchen while I went to do something else. And that's when I heard this:

"My ice cream is kosher. I eat kosher because I'm Jewish. Jewish people eat kosher food and I'm Jewish and that's why I eat kosher food. I can eat the ice cream because it's kosher and I'm Jewish. People who aren't Jewish don't eat kosher. They don't eat ice cream. I'm Jewish so I can eat ice cream."

I'm going to let him think that for a while.

In other news, I took Iyyar and Avtalyon for their two-year and four-month checkups, respectively. Iyyar is, incredibly, average for weight and height--I say incredibly because of how much he still eats, even though he's slowed down quite a lot lately. And Avtalyon has rocketed from the third to the fifty-first percentile for weight. He charmed the socks off the nurse with his big chubby grins and dimples, then wailed most piteously when the lady he thought was his friend stabbed him with DTAP and Prevnar shots. But he forgave her quickly.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

In which I figure out how to put video on the blog

Guess who this is?

Avtalyon, aged about twelve hours. He looks pretty different now. A lot bigger and fatter, for one thing; smilier and more vocal, for another.

I found the camera. Stay tuned--I'll try to get the Bologna Song for you.