Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday night

Sorry I couldn't come up with a better name for this post. It's been that kind of a weekend.

Thursday's ER visit? From the perspective of today, it was nothing. Iyyar was limping. He was holding his foot funny. I got worried--it didn't seem to hurt him a bit but he was positively hobbling. I called the pediatrician and talked to the nurse, who said to bring him in in the morning. Ada, Babysitter of Amazingness and Inexplicable Baby Voodoo-Master, was consulted via email from her day (well, night, really) job at the local children's ER. Might be a toddler fracture, she said.

Hmm, I thought. If I wait till the morning, take him to the pediatrician, he gets sent for an x-ray, then if it needs a cast... it's going to be all day, and I'll have to either take the baby to the ER (no way) or leave him all day (no way--he still won't take a bottle from anyone other than Ada, cf. Inexplicable Baby Voodoo-Master, above.) What to do? Well, since Ada was actually working that night, the most reasonable course of action seemed to be just taking him to the ER for x-rays after Avtalyon had gone to sleep.

Which I did. Iyyar, for the most part, had a great time--he got to see Ada, he got to play with toys, he was plied with Bamba which he happily piled into the vomit basins conveniently provided, he pulled ear-probe covers out of their dispensers and discovered a DVD player with buttons within his (carefully supervised) reach. There were stickers. There were fish tanks, one with an actual shark. We got, thanks to Ada, total red-carpet treatment, and she hung out with us as much as she could sneak away from her desk. Iyyar was delighted to be reunited with his buddy; I had very little to do but trail along after them hauling the carseat.

And then there was the x-ray, which was less fun, but! Ada helped! and there were bubbles! Note to self--spring for the additional cab fare and use more distant children's ER if any further ER trips are necessary. Especially if it's Ada's night on.

Verdict: no break, it's probably muscular, keep an eye on it and bring him to your pediatrician if it's not better in five days. Ada was bidden farewell ("Right back? Rika right back?") and I tried not to feel too much like chopped liver, we took a cab home and Iyyar passed out in the back seat.

All in all, no big deal.

Fast-forward to Friday morning.

I was sitting working, the kids were with Asnat, and I heard the door open at around 10. It was MHH. What's up with that? He's supposed to be at the beit medrash, preparing his d'var Torah for the Shabbaton tonight. He came in--staggered, actually, and stood there, swaying. I took a look and realized that he was a) gray like dishwater, b) sweating profusely, and c) looking really, really ill. "I don't feel good," he said, unnecessarily. "Go eat something," I said. "Did you eat?"

"I did eat!" he said. "I had some heartburn this morning, so I took a Prevacid [he takes it for reflux] and then I had breakfast and went to kollel. And then I started really sweating. I thought I was going to throw up. Now I feel really nauseous. And really tired. I'm going to go lie down."

Nausea... heartburn... profuse sweating... dizziness... gray... fatigue...


"I think we're going to the ER." I said.


"Let's go to the hospital."

"That's what Marvin said."


"Marvin at the kollel. He wanted to take me to the ER. He said I was dia... diaphor..."

"Diaphoretic. Sweaty."


"Well, let's go."


"Because you might be having a heart attack. I'm calling a cab." I called the cab, picked up the sleeping baby to give him a top-up nurse, and we left.

We got to the ER and boy there is nothing like coming in with that list of symptoms to have them swing you right past everyone else in the waiting room and get you hooked up to a bunch of machines really really fast. The EKG looked fine, his heart sounded fine, and he was looking distinctly better. "Do you still feel sick?" I asked him, an hour later, as he was hanging out on the gurney in a hospital gown covered with stickers and wires. "Um, no," he said. "Just really really tired."

The attending came in, and explained that while they were sure he had not had a big heart attack, he might still be having a little one, and they would like to admit him, do two more blood tests six hours apart, and then put him on a treadmill in the morning. Which would be Shabbos. MHH looked horrified. "You're staying," I told him. He called his local rav, asked a few shailos, and that was that.

Did I mention that my cell phone was not working? No? Well, it wasn't, so I was checking in with the babysitter with the ER phone. I called myself a cab, waited until MHH was back from getting a chest X-ray, called a few people to find someone who could run food, clothes, and Shabbos supplies back to the hospital, and then went back home. Starving baby, worked-up kids (especially Barak, who, remember, had seen me disappear to the hospital with Iyyar the night before), and... you have GOT to be kidding me... no electricity. Which meant no phones, because we have VOIP.

No food, no power, no phones, a whole bunch of people to call and plans to cancel and stuff to do in three hours before Shabbos. Asnat lent me her cell phone, which was a lifesaver; I called Ada to tell her that our Friday night plans were off, and she offered to come over anyway and help out, which was lifesaver #2; getting three kids ready for Shabbos when you have notice is one thing, but doing it all on your own with no notice, a husband in the hospital, and, oh yes, NO FOOD, PHONE, OR ELECTRICITY is something else. There was no possibility of just eating what was in the fridge--we'd just been in Israel for two months and there was nothing in the fridge or freezer. So I loaded everyone in the stroller, and off we went to the bakery (where I immediately caved to Barak's request for a $2 slice of cake--which he will remember forever), the grocery store (since when is roast beef $18/lb?! we'll have the bologna) and the produce store (where I bought orange juice and cookies, planning to take the bribery route through the evening). We went home, calling Grandma E on the way; I fed the kids dinner, and then Ada turned up and gave them baths and got them into pajamas while I took a shower. MHH's new rosh kollel (did I mention that the shabbaton we were supposed to go to was the first shabbaton of his brand-new job?) called and then came over with food; I put the baby down, and was about to light when Jenny from work called and, as if inspired by a host of psychic angels, offered to come over the next day to check in on us and on MHH in the hospital. I gratefully accepted, lit, let the kids eat their cake, Ada and I put them to bed, we sat in the kitchen schmoozing and looking at baby pictures for a while, and then she left and I went to bed. By myself.

Let me state for the record that I cannot imagine being a single parent. No--let me restate that. I have imagined it, and the very idea fills me with unspeakable horror. I know that I could not handle it, practically or emotionally. I don't know how anyone does. I couldn't sleep; the baby couldn't sleep; I ended up taking him into bed with me for company and nursing him most of the night. The kids woke up out of sorts and asking for Abba; they were acting up within minutes, and I yelled at them by 9, instantly regretting it. We went outside to play; Jenny came, and went off to check in on MHH. At this point my stomach was in the kind of tight hard knot it has not been in since... can't remember when actually. My legs felt like water. To say that I was in a state of increased anxiety would be, you know, an inadequate descriptor of the situation.

We came inside and had lunch; I was about to put Iyyar down for a nap when I heard a familiar knock on the back door. Jenny came in. "He's fiiiiiiine," she said, reassuringly. "They're discharging him. "

"Really? He's fine?"

"He's so totally fine. I think he's milking it, actually. He's being pretty pathetic. Guys!"


The rest of the day was better, from my point of view, although the non-husband-related anxiety was pretty high again later when I visited a good friend whose baby was clearly in need of a return trip to the hospital from which she'd just been discharged. We got home at around 6, the boys had their Shabbos yogurts, Avtalyon had some rice cereal (or maybe it was cement--hard to tell, they look the same), and everyone went to bed. MHH came home, looking totally fine; he was kicking himself for not just catching a ride home with Jenny at lunchtime. What did they think had happened? No idea, really; sleep deprivation, dehydration, reflux, vagus nerve something, who knew. He wasn't supposed to stop taking his reflux medicine, and was supposed to check in with his GP.

He went over to the top shelf of the kitchen cabinet to get his reflux medicine and I was about to leave the kitchen when I heard a strangled sound. "What's this?!"


"What's this? This isn't my reflux medicine."

"No, that's mine."

"What is it?"

"Those are the class-A controlled-substance narcotics the neurologist gave me when I had that thing with the nerve in my face."


"Ohhhhhhhhh. Oh no."

"Um. Is that what you took yesterday?"

"But it says [our last name]! I thought it was mine!"

"That's the last name of everyone in this house. You took one?"

"I... I think I... I took one, and then I ate breakfast, and then I went to the kollel, and that's when I got sick."

"About half an hour later, then?"

"I guess." Pause. "Could it have really made me that sick?"

I googled the drug in question (I'm fast-forwarding a little here--I'm tired of typing) and read off the list. "Common side effects include dizziness, nausea, lightheadedness, vomiting, drowsiness... less common side effects include allergic reaction, depressed respiration, irregular heartbeat, anxiety..."


B"H, he's fine. He will be reading prescription labels more carefully in future. We will be keeping our respective medicines in different locations in future. And all of us will be trying to get some more sleep.

Friday, August 29, 2008


We're back.

Where to begin?

With the trip? The trip was fine. The kids did great, and nobody threw up. Getting out the door was crazy, what with the 4 am motzai Shabbos departure, and neither MHH or I slept at all that night. But we did it, and even successfully got our VAT back at the airport, which is not for the faint of heart. Most of our luggage made it--just the strollers and Barak's booster seat were left in London, which turned out not to be a problem at all because a) it meant we could all fit in one van and b) British Airways gave us a new carseat! "We have to! Otherwise how would you get home from the airport?" More reasons to love BA.

Then we got home. The less said about that the better. The tenants, we immediately noticed, had not cleaned. The had not cleaned the stove, or the sink, or the fridge, and where are all those fruit flies coming from? Sheets dirty in washing machine... are there ANY clean sheets? Pretzels in couch, toys, all over house, and let's not think about Pesach. Okay, it could be worse... wait... are those my fleishig glasses in the milchig cupboard? Where are the sink tubs that I use in my treif sinks? They're in the guest room?! What have they been washing dishes in all summer? Is that a fleishig spatula in the parve drawer? And what's this pile of flatware in my fleishig dish rack... milchig, milchig, fleishig, parve, parve, milchig...

[sound of uberimma's head exploding]

The father of the family is the principal of an orthodox school. Nuff said. We're not sending our kids there...

We are about 70% unpacked, and the kids are about 50% over their jet lag. One duffel bag left to unpack, and several baskets' worth of clean laundry piled on my bed--it's hard to put away laundry when both rooms where clothes are kept contain sleeping children at the only time of day in which I am at liberty to put laundry away.

MHH started his new job a couple of days ago, and B"H so far so good. I met the other kollel wives and felt a little bit fish-out-of-water-y, but I'm sure it will be fine.

Back to work now. Next up: our exciting late-night trip to the local children's emergency room. Don't worry, everyone's fine, and Iyyar has lots of new stickers and play-doh now...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


I keep thinking during the day of various things I want to blog about, and then when I sit down at the computer... do I really need to finish this sentence? I don't, do I?

Usually when this happens I sit down and write a list post. Today, I think I'll take more of a stream-of-consciousness approach. Bear with me, please.

I just got back from a skirt sale someone was holding at a neighbor's apartment. I went for the skirts but stayed for the shmoozing--it was mostly Anglos, a couple of new olim, and one who just got here a few weeks ago. She told me that she came on her pilot trip in January and saw nice rentals in this neighborhood for about $650. By the time she came in June, there was nothing--not even yucky little apartments--for under a thousand. They did not have the money for a nice place and did not want to live somewhere gross, so ended up renting something a half-hour walk away from the religious neighborhood. Not the way to an easy klita.

The religious neighborhood is, in fairness, spreading out and up the hill; the mayor does not want to zone any of the new neighborhoods being built as religious, feeling that the city should be integrated, but of course the religious families want to live together (in walking distance to the religious schools, happy minyans, and so on). Of course, as the desirable neighborhood spreads, so do the rents. I am hoping that in two years, our current timetable, the following three things will happen:

1. The Israeli real estate market will tank as it has already done in the states, making things more affordable;
2. The American real estate market will recover, such that it will be possible to sell our house without taking a massive loss (the woman I talked to tonight took a $70k loss on the sale of her house--doesn't bear thinking about);
3. The dollar will recover, at least to the level of, say, 4 NIS to the dollar.

Hey, a girl can dream, right? And while we're at it, how about good jobs for me and the mister?


The good news (did I write this already?) is that Asnat is staying with us for, it appears, another year; she can only stay until 12:30 so I will have to work with that. The bad news is that I still, as of this writing, have no way to get Barak home from nursery school in the afternoon. I have a ride in the morning, but that's it. So for now, I have to pick Iyyar up at playgroup 15 minutes early and walk the mile and a bit to get Barak. It's okay for right now, but once it gets cold it won't be.

Avtalyon is still not-quite-crawling. He gets up on all fours, pushes back with his feet, and propels himself forward a few inches while collapsing on his stomach; by doing this a few times in rapid succession, he gets around quite nicely, although not fast enough yet to be really dangerous. One thing he just started today was pushing his tush up and to the side, in one of the early stages of getting into a sitting position unassisted--I guess I'd better work with him on sitting, because for now he topples right over. He is so happy lying on his stomach, doing the swim and watching everything around him, that I don't spend nearly as much time with him as I probably should. Barak, at this age, demanded constant attention--he was too big to want to lie on his back, couldn't roll over or sit, hated being on his stomach, and basically either was in my arms or crying pretty much all the time. Good thing he was my first, hm?

Uh-oh. Avtalyon's awake and kvetching in his crib. He's already had his late-night snack, so I'm hoping he'll go back to sleep on his own. For the last couple of nights he's been waking up a few times in the night and then declaring morning at 5:15 am. It's getting a little wearing. Today I put Iyyar in his crib for a time-out--I don't remember now why--when Avtalyon was already napping. I thought I'd lie down on the couch for the allotted two minutes of Iyyar's confinement and guess what? Yup. I fell asleep. I don't know how long I was asleep for but suffice it to say that Iyyar was royally displeased when I finally came to rescue him.

Speaking of Iyyar, his phrase of the month is "cool water!" which is actually intended to be "cold water!" You have to be drinking water all the time here, and we usually keep a few emptied soda bottles full of water in the fridge. Although I don't think Iyyar really cares about the temperature in his sippy cup, he has heard us talk about cold water enough that he demands it himself. He also likes it when I give him ice and let him put it in there himself. "Iyyar do it! Iyyar do it by a self!"

He is also very fond of bicycles. The entry way of this building is a veritable parking lot of bicycles and strollers, and Iyyar wants them ALL. "Bike ull! Hell mut! Bike ull!" And he tries to climb on. Strangely, he has not at all been put off by the spill he took last week when we were in Beit El--three concrete steps down on a tricycle, landing on his face. One of his front teeth is now at a different angle than it was--think it'll fall out? I'm hoping not, baby tooth or no.

In case you haven't noticed, I'm tired and cranky. It's hot, I'm not getting enough sleep, the cost of living here is discouragingly high, we're leaving in a few days and I have a really intimidating amount on my plate both at work and at home. I'm hoping the people who rented our place left it clean, but there will still be a fair amount of apartment reassembly, not least of which will be putting away all the stuff I tossed in the back bedroom before we left. And returning the borrowed baby saucer to my SIL. And packing. And getting food for the trip. And cleaning the vomited-on car seat. And repacking the Shas, Shulchan Aruch, and assorted seforim into boxes sized in accordance with BA's luggage allotments. And so on.

Ah, well, it's all good. And tomorrow I'm taking Barak on a quick trip (without Avtalyon, so it'd better be quick) to the Tachana Merkazit for one last tichel-buying expedition. Hey, they're cheaper than seforim--and a lot lighter to pack.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Six days

Not the war. How much time we have left here. Six days.

This morning I took Barak up to the kanyon, otherwise known as the mall; we took the bus, did a big grocery shop at Mr. Zol (literally, Mr. Cheap, but it isn't at all--Sheffa Shuk was a lot less expensive), and I am pleased to report that I successfully managed to order grocery delivery in Hebrew. I wasn't totally sure it would arrive, but it did. Barak left his hat in the store, but we went back and got it, and then took the bus back home.

We spent, just for the record, a little over NIS 500 on groceries today. It was what I would consider a normal week's grocery shop, not counting fruit, vegetables, milk, or bread, which I usually buy daily. That's around $150. There were some expensive items in there--a pack of diapers, a five-pack of wipes--but those are normal components of our grocery tab. I did not buy anything along the lines of paper goods, cleaning supplies, shampoo, or anything like that. I also did not buy any meat, although I did buy some extra things to take back to the States, which probably balanced that out. This means that I can reasonably expect to spend around $800 a month on food here--about a quarter of what I could expect my monthly take-home income to be. And our kids aren't even eating that much yet. And we have all boys.

How do people do it here? The food costs more. The housing costs the same. Transportation, so far as buses, is slightly cheaper and much better, and maybe clothes are cheaper, but the quality is lower so they don't last as long. I know that part of how expensive everything feels is the weak dollar, but even with the dollar being weak American salaries are still way higher than Israeli salaries. How in the world does anyone buy an apartment here, let alone a house or a car? I feel like I've asked everyone in the world this and the most common answer is a shrug and a gaze off into the middle distance. I've had a few people tell me that they rely on nissim, which is one approach I guess but it's not one I'm entirely comfortable with myself.

Yes, tuition is much lower here. That's huge. But we're not really paying that yet, so we're not feeling it as much.

I'd better go help Abba get the kids out of the bathtub. More later.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Not for those with fear of heights

That's Iyyar, on our mirpeset. To the left of him, outside of the picture, is Jerusalem; to the right is a whole lotta desert. After I checked out this apartment for the first time and went back to Ramat Beit Shemesh, I tried to explain to my husband what it looked like here.
"It's really... biblical." I said. "Well, I mean, of course it's biblical. It's Israel. But it's biblical in a kind of apocalyptic way. It's just really, really, really intense."
Which it is.
Biblical. And intense.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Moving on

We're clearing out of this apartment today and heading to a new place in Maale Adumim, where we'll be for a little under two weeks. It's kind of incredible that we've been here for over seven weeks already--didn't I just unpack these bags?

A lot has happened since I posted last. Barak has spent the last couple of weeks at Camp Kinderlach--yes, really--which he loves so much that a mere "Barak, do you want to go to camp tomorrow?" in a mildly threatening tone is enough to get him to go to bed. Iyyar has started talking like you wouldn't believe--he's gone from "Ah wanna dat!" to "I need da oder one blankie also!" and, waking from a bad dream, "I no gike it DODDIE!"--two days after we came back from visiting a friend in Efrat with some of the sweetest dogs ever. And yesterday a new phase in brotherly love was reached, with both Barak and Iyyar wrestling on the couch and onto the floor--while giggling.

Avtalyon is crawling like the minute hand of a clock--if you glance at him he doesn't look like he's going anywhere, but if you glance back a couple of minutes later, whoa, how did he get all the way over there, and is that Barak's sneaker in his mouth?!

More later--speaking of the baby, he just woke up.

Friday, August 01, 2008

More firsts

Iyyar's first really complete sentence, as of about five minutes ago.

Background (as always): as some of you may know I have, er, a certain fondness for Diet Coke. Nothing, you know, addiction-like or anything, certainly. Just a healthy--um--I mean--a fondness. Right.

Anyway... where were we. Oh yes. So, while Barak sees me drink Diet Coke and has long since accepted that he never, ever gets any, Iyyar has not given up hope. But he knows that the direct ask will get him nowhere. So he tries subterfuge. He doesn't want Diet Coke--no no. He wants water. That water, that I have. The kind that just happens to be cold, black and fizzy. And in a Diet Coke bottle.

I just came back from dropping Barak off at gan and was sitting at the kitchen table drinking what my mother used to refer to as the Elixir of Life when Iyyar noticed. "Amma? Water? Please?"

"Nice try, Iyyar. No. That's not for you."

Brightly and winningly: "That water! That water please!"

"No. Sorry. Not a chance."

Lifting froggy cup, eyes fixed purposely on prize, leaning forward in high chair, "I want that water in here!"