Sunday, January 30, 2011

Two conversations

So mad!! So so mad!

I wrote a post. I wrote a long post. I wrote a long and funny post. Which I SAVED AS A DRAFT. And then published.

And then? Blogger ATE IT.

And now you will NEVER EVER KNOW how I got the cab driver to wear his seatbelt this morning OR what priceless gem of English was shared with me by one of Iyyar's classmates.

Because Blogger ATE MY POST.


Going to bed now. Gnnnnarrrgh!

PS. Cyndy, if you are reading, I think the Roman galleon has now officially been loved more than any other toy in the history of children's playthings. Just so you know. Also, I just bought the motor that attaches to it, and may actually let them attach it so that they can sail the thing on one of those gigantic puddles we now have outside. Historical accuracy? What's that? Stay tuned, as always, to this exciting channel.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A day in the life

The alarm goes off at 6:15, but I never hear it. I wake up when my husband pokes his head in the bedroom and says, "It's almost 7, you'd better get up." Almost 7 is WAY too late, so I get up and get dressed and hear assorted small boys in assorted states of undress shuttle around the house, looking for shoes, discussing lunches, requesting peanut butter AND HONEY AND CINNAMON NOT JELLY PLEASE. Is there a string cheese left in the fridge? Can I have a red apple, not cutted up? Marika is usually still asleep so once I am mostly dressed I go in and pick her up, all warm and sleepy with a funky bedhead, and nurse her and change her diaper and get her dressed; at this point it is around 7:15 and Abba has put Iyyar in the neighbors' car for his trip to gan. Barak and I should be out the door by 7:20 but it's usually more like 7:30 these days (we need to work on that). Check for keys, bus pass, phone, and wallet, put Marika in the snugli (which is really a my tai) and out the door. Turn right, through the gate, down the stairs, and along the dirt path; over the bridge over the highway and across the street to wait for the bus. Invariably, the bus trundles past as we are crossing the bridge. On the bus, which is usually packed but on which someone almost always gets up to give me a seat: Barak usually ends up standing, which used to freak him out but he's used to it by now.

On the highway, off the highway, and we get off the bus right by the Bridge of Strings, on Herzl at the bottom of Yamin Avot. Look to see if the new light rail trains are there today (they haven't been for a while, but the other day Iyyar and I saw two of them, actually running, in the early afternoon--a first, and very exciting). Hike up the hill with Barak, and then down the hill, discussing everything from the concept of negligence and criminal negligence to what treats we want for Shabbos this week. Barak and I have a deal that he is allowed to stop at the bakery we pass once a week for a treat; it's too much to never stop there, because it smells so good, and this way he doesn't hock me every day because he knows it's his decision. If he decides today is the day, he can pick two things, and invariably goes for sandwich cookies because by his logic, that way he's getting FOUR things. (I get a little cheese danish for me and an oatmeal cookie for Marika.) Get to Barak's school usually just as the kids are going in; some days he just marches in without a word, some days he asks for a kiss and even gives me one too (!) I tell him I love him and wish him a wonderful day, then turn around and go back to the corner.

If it's Thursday, I turn right and go grocery shopping. I used to go to Hechi Kedai, the less expensive, more crowded, much smaller chareidi grocery near us, but haven't been lately; I can't go there by myself, logistically, and it is just not a fun experience if I take Iyyar, who wants me to buy everything and is not good at keeping his fingers off things. So I go to Supersol, which has the fun cheese counter, but charges for delivery and really isn't as cheap in general. I know I should go to Hechi Kedai for everything but cheese and the few fancy things you can only get at Supersol, but it hasn't happened for a few weeks.

If it's not Thursday, I turn right, walk back to Herzl and get there just in time to see my bus rumble by; I sit down and wait, get on the bus, go home, and have a snack with Marika--bread and cheese usually. Put her down for a nap, and take a nap myself if I am lucky. Both of us wake up sometime before lunch, and I either go and get Iyyar or Avtalyon, usually Iyyar because his gan is farther away and I have a monthly bus pass but Abba doesn't. Up to the bus stop and on the bus, which only goes halfway up the hill; walk through the park, up the rest of the hill, cross the street, down the hill, and wait until the gan's doors open at 1:30 bi'dyuk.

Greet a smiling Iyyar, then walk halfway home and take the bus from where we can catch it, at the top of where all the stairs start. By the time we get back Abba and Avtalyon are in the kitchen eating lunch, from the dining hall, and Avtalyon is usually covered in hummous and missing most of his clothes, because although he is now down with the idea of using the toilet he still thinks he has to be naked to do so.

Abba heads back to seder at 2:45, and then we play or read books or find other things to do (laundry! baths!) until Barak comes home at around 4:30; sometimes we go outside, sometimes not. Wrestle with Barak a bit over homework but don't push it; I don't believe in forcing homework, which is his job, not mine. Sometimes Marika takes a short nap at around 5, sometimes not. Barak gets his milchig snack as soon as he comes home from school (usually cornflakes and milk, sometimes also yogurt) and always forgets to clean up; I always remind him and then he does. The boys start falling apart and fighting at about 6, like clockwork. They're tired, they want dinner, it's been a long day. Get kids in pajamas and do cleanup (you don't clean, you don't eat--yes I am mean like that) before Abba comes home with dining hall food, if it is a day that seems soy-safe. If the menu looks dangerous, allergy-wise, which is about half the time, I make dinner at around 5 and everyone is happier. I'd do it every day, even with the terrible kitchen setup, if it weren't for the fact that the dining hall food is free and the Supersol food is anything but.

Abba gets back at about 7:15, which is way too late, but what can you do? 20 minutes for dinner, max, and then herd the kids into the bathroom for teeth-brushing and pajamas. Bedtime at 8, which is when Abba goes back for night seder. The kids are usually in bed at this point, but rarely asleep before 9. I am at my computer working, having also been checking in by email throughout the afternoon from when the workday started in America. I don't make phone calls until I'm sure everyone is asleep, and sometimes that isn't until really, really late.

At 10, night seder is over and Abba comes home; he stays in the kitchen, checking email or sometimes doing dishes/laundry/taking out garbage. I try to get him in bed before midnight, but it doesn't always happen. I work until at least 1, often 2, depending on what time the kids went to sleep and I started working; then shower, teeth, bed.

And then the alarm goes off. And I don't hear it.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My favorite thing

I will confess: I like riding Jerusalem buses. It's a really good thing too, because I spend an incredible amount of time these days riding Jerusalem buses.

A few weeks ago, I was feeling ambitious and decided to take everyone to the zoo, solo. I had Avtalyon and Marika all ready when Iyyar came home, and the three of us went up to meet Barak's hasaa at 2:15. He didn't know about my exciting plans--I hadn't said anything for fear one of the littler kids wouldn't be up for it--so when I saw him, I asked him if he wanted to go to the zoo, and when he (obviously) said yes, I told him to run inside and dump his backpack by the shomer's desk (I'd already asked the shomer if this was OK). He was on his way when a couple of high school girls headed in the other direction, who'd overheard, offered to take it for him.

(Would you give your kid's backpack to a couple of strange teenagers in America? Probably not, huh? Here, I didn't think twice.)

Anyway, we went to the zoo, and it was great. We saw the squirrel monkeys, which was awesome, particularly because Avtalyon is obsessed with Caps for Sale and what did he see when he woke up from his stroller-induced nap but a tree full of... monkeys! We saw tigers, we saw wild boars, and of course we saw the best thing in the zoo: the display of North American grey squirrels! Behind bars, where they belong.

On the way back, though, it was harder, because the kids were tired and the bus, it was PACKED. Like, no room to get on in front, so we got on through the back door. And there I was with Marika in the Snugli, Avtalyon in the stroller wedged between my knees, Iyyar in my lap falling asleep on top of me Barak leaning on my side with a sort of glazed look. Nobody was falling apart or anything, but I was buried in children and completely immobile. And I was stuck in the middle of the bus, way far away from the driver. How, exactly, was I going to pay our fares?

I asked. "Excuse me," I said to the nearest guy, "I'm a new immigrant [this is always a good thing to mention when you are about to ask for help] and I don't know what I am supposed to do. How do I pay when I can't get to the driver? Can I pay when I get off?" I had my tickets in my hand. "How many?" he asked me. Um, what? "Me, and my kids. One adult punch and two youth punches, and we all need transfers." In Jerusalem, when you don't travel often enough for a monthly pass, you buy cartissiot--a multi-trip card that comes with a certain number of punches, each good for one trip and one transfer. The guy reached out his hand and took my tickets. How nice! I thought. He's going to take them to the driver for us.

But he didn't. He couldn't really move any more than I could, so he reached up over everyone's heads and passed the tickets as far forward as he could. "One adult, two youth, with transfers," he called over to another stranger. That stranger's hand passed the tickets to another hand, out of my sight. "One adult, two youth, with transfers." Four minutes later, hand over hand, the tickets came back--minus one adult punch and two youth punches, and with the transfer tickets.

Maybe there's another city in the world where you could do this. But if there is, I've never been there.

Hey look at that!

When I post, more people read this blog! Who'd a thunk?

Avtalyon is currently rounding Hour Three of his afternoon/evening nap and oh yes I will regret this but I just can't bring myself to wake him up, because he's just out like a light and I know he'll be miserable if I haul him out of bed before he's ready. Random thoughts, without even prefatory numbers:

What is up with this Israeli school project of sticking clay on paper? Big mess, result too heavy to hang on fridge.

Barak's new tutor: awesome. He loves it. LOVES. Like, he is sad on days he does not have Morah Yocheved.

I spoke Hungarian on the bus today. Someone behind me was talking, in French-accented Hebrew, about the town of Kolozsvar/Klausenberg and all the different names it has. She pronounced the word "Kolozsvar" so correctly I turned around and said, in Hungarian, "But of course the real name for it is Kolozsvar." She agreed, in Hungarian, and we had a nice chat on the 21 bus that was going nowhere in the traffic nightmare that is now downtown Jerusalem. I know the light rail project is supposed to fix the traffic, eventually, but so far? Not so much. Of course, the train is not actually running yet, so we will see, I suppose.

Avtalyon is being delightful lately. Actually, everyone is, although Barak is in a testing phase of "what will happen if I ignore you?" Because he is, on a very fundamental level, a kid who wants to be good, my approach to this has been explaining to him why this is not nice and how it makes other people feel. Not sure how successful it's being, but I'm going to stick with it for a while.

Last night I Went Out With A Friend. On Motzai Shabbos. To a restaurant. Without children. This is an exceptionally exceptional thing for me to do, and it was fun, even though I got totally turned around on the way back and ended up having to take a taxi home. It is really important to go out with girlfriends and without kids once in a blue moon. I forget this sometimes.

I need to post about our daily routine. Maybe that'll be next. Also about our hasaa developments, which I will not call woes because they aren't really that bad, just inconvenient. But okay generally. Stay tuned.

Registered Avtalyon and Iyyar in gan for next year this morning. It took two trips, because I had not taken the forms for a direct debit to the bank in advance of coming, because last time I registered them for gan (in August) I did not need to. This time, I did. Fortunately I was able to fill out the forms at the branch on Ben Yehuda and go back to the iriya, thereby at least accomplishing something today. Which is always good.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Note to self

Do not attempt to speak anything but English and Hebrew if you want your Hebrew to be intelligible at any point later in the day.

I don't know about anyone else who attempts to be multilingual, but I? have a REALLY hard time with more than one second language at once. I speak, or should speak, Hungarian, Russian, and French with a reasonable degree of facility (although my Russian is currently in the tank, I can do pretty well when I need to). My Hebrew is not great, but is B"H improving rapidly. What is not improving is my ability to speak anything but Hebrew and English without completely torpedoing my Hebrew.

So this morning, when I stopped in at Supersol/Shufersal for MORE CHEESE (eat your heart out, Shanna), and overheard the cheese counter lady speaking Russian to someone else, it was really a mistake to start speaking Russian to her. But I couldn't help it, because listening in on a few minutes of Russian conversation ratcheted my brain over from its "Hebrew" to its "Russian" setting and my Hebrew was, in a word, gone. I ordered my cheese in Russian, discussed the cheese in Russian, discussed Russian and Hebrew and immigrating in general, also in Russian, and then went to the cashier with my cheese and couldn't get out a word of Hebrew. Then! I went back to Barak's school, where I had some business to deal with in the office, and likewise couldn't get out a word of Hebrew. It was really bad. Like, three months' Hebrew regression in a day.

I don't know why but my brain just does not process more than one second language at a time. It's like I've got the hard drive space, but not the RAM, you know? My father never had a problem with this. I remember being so impressed as a kid when we would cross the border and he'd speak German with the Austrian border guards, Hungarian with the Hungarian border guards, and English with us, all without missing a beat. The translators at work, holy moley, some of them switch between four or five European languages--and similar ones--without any problem. I just can't do this. If I'm in Hungary, I can speak Hungarian and English. If I'm here, I can, more or less, speak Hebrew and English. Last Pesach, when we were in Boston staying with French friends, by the end of the week my French was as good as it's been since I left Montreal in 1992. But if you'd asked me while I was in Boston to speak Russian, forget it. My French here? In the toilet, completely. I can barely get a sentence out. And when I ran into that Hungarian couple a few weeks ago, I don't know how I would have fared with more than a two-minute conversation--I haven't spoken Hungarian in a couple of years and don't know how cognitively available it is at the moment.

Some people are polyglots by nature; I just am by circumstance. And I think my main advantage, linguistically speaking, is a willingness to sound like a complete idiot, coupled with a willingness to say something that is almost, but not quite, what I want to say. Circumlocutions R Us.

Better post this before Blogger eats it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I can't believe it

What is up with my posts?! I know I wrote two posts in the last week, neither of them is here.

Did anyone see them on their RSS feed? One tonight, one motzai Shabbos?

This is really really annoying. No, I haven't been posting every day, but at least I've been trying to post more than usual.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Brush with the law

On Thursday, after I dropped off Barak at school, I kept going up the street to get to the Supersol a little bit farther up the road. Avtalyon was sick and wasn't drinking, and I wanted to get some juice and bananas to tempt him; I'd told MHH that I might be a little late, but thought I could just make it back home before 9. As it happened, circumstances conspired against me in the form, mostly, of a checkout clerk who was either new or had a bad case of OCD; I was stuck in line for more than half an hour, and when I was done was just about frantic because I knew how much MHH doesn't like being late to seder (and he couldn't leave till I got home, because he was home with a sick Avtalyon.) So there I was, racing back down the street toward Herzl, when I was stopped by--wait for it--a traffic cop.

Oh. No.

Except that I couldn't figure out what I had possibly done wrong. I hadn't been jaywalking. I hadn't crossed against the light. I was just hustling down the sidewalk outside of Shufersal, without having crossed any streets at all.

And then I realized what the traffic cop was lecturing me about.

She was telling me that it was too cold for my baby's ears, and I needed to put a hat on her.

רק בארץ!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Boy, posting daily is great!

Okay, fine, I cheated. I backdated posts. But in fairness to me, I thought I had posted when in fact I'd saved a post to drafts. Oh well. I should get points for trying, right?

News of the day:

1. Barak is reading much better. I just got some new books for him, courtesy of Shanna, one of which he'd never seen before. (Fire Cat. Very cute. Recommended.) A new book is always a great motivator and he plowed through the whole thing, all three chapters, mostly on his own--I helped a little here and there but the light bulb over his head is really going on. I love that.

2. I got a call from Barak's school today and it was the secretary, telling me that his hours had been approved. This is a HUGE BIG DEAL. He is supposed to get three hours a week of tutoring time from the Ministry of Education as a new oleh. The way this works is that the ME is supposed to approve the funding, release the funding to the school, and then the school hires and schedules a teacher. Great! Except that in practice, they don't have enough money for all the new olim so this only happens if you know about it, ask for it, and push for it. It's been four months since school started. It was approved today. The good part though is that it's retroactive, meaning he will get extra hours for the rest of the year. Which he needs. Not sure when this will start--whenever they hire someone, I think.

I'm impressed with his school. Really. The principal is ehrlich, the teachers are nice, the boys seem nice too. But Barak is quiet and well behaved and that he is not catching on is not causing a problem to anyone but him. It's not unique to any school that the quiet kids don't get attention--it's just reality when there are 25 kids and 1 teacher. So when I ran into his rebbe at the bakery on Friday and he told me, "He's a great kid, really great, and it's impressive that he can sit quietly for that long. But I feel that he is not with us." The principal told me the same thing yesterday. "He doesn't bother anyone else, they don't bother him, but he's in a cloud." He said look, he'll learn Hebrew, that's not an issue, but he needs help so he learns it without falling behind. Which is true.

3. Avtalyon is... I'm sort of afraid to say it lest I jinx something. So maybe I'll just say that it might have been an error of judgment on my part to buy three packs of diapers in size 4+ when they were on sale a couple of weeks ago. Because he hasn't been needing them for a week or two.

4. Iyyar has been challenging lately. He had a fever off and on this week and has just been massively cranky. And cranky in ways that reeeeeeally push my buttons. Alisha has been here most of the evening and is reassuring me at intervals that I am exceptionally patient. Like, me yelling from the bathroom where I am wrestling Avtalyon off Iyyar as they fight for supremacy on the toilet, "Alisha? What did you say about me a little while ago?" Yelled back from office where she was winding my yarn: "You're really really patient!" "Thanks!'

5. Shanna and her family visited. This was fun, despite the craziness here and the indescribable craziness of her journey here. Also despite the fact that my life is such that I can't ever do anything and I spent most of her visit at home with sick children/on the phone with clients/frustrated instead of out doing fun stuff or, you know, spending time with them. Her kids continue to be small, spookily verbal and unsettlingly blue-eyed. Her kids and my kids had fun together, and much cheese was had by all. Oh, and pad Thai. She brought me pad Thai. It was wonderful. Everyone should have some.

Monday, January 03, 2011

The wonders of technology

So, you thought I wimped out, didn't you? Thought I didn't post! Well, maybe it looked at the way at the time, but hey, what's this? A post dated yesterday! So I guess I did post after all.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Under the wire

Thirty-five minutes till midnight! It's still the second. I can still blog with a bracha.

Shanna and Alisha are here and Shanna's kids have been winding yarn on the ballwinder Penny sent. We had a birthday party, and that was fun, and we played a birthday game, and ate cake, and all of that was good.

Living room is a mess--squished cake on the floor and so on. I'd better go clean it up.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

January first

Do you know, I totally missed New Year's Eve. I thought yesterday was the 30th and today was the 31st. I only realized tonight, when I checked Facebook and saw all those New Year's good wishes. So, a first of January list:

1. Exciting news: Avtalyon appears to be setting the household record for speed of potty-training. He's been pishing in the toilet occasionally for a while now, but last week sometime decided to wear underwear and use the toilet regularly. Out came the animal crackers, and so far he's only had a couple of accidents. Is it too optimistic to think I might actually have one kid toilet-trained and ready for tzitzit by age 3? His birthday is in four weeks. It could happen.

2. Current favorite Avtalyon lament, "I'm very hungry!" It doesn't really seem to correspond much to the actual state of his stomach. Witness last night, when I opened the kitchen cupboard and he spied something interesting. "Imma! I'm very hungry!" Pause. "I want chocolate."

3. Other funny turns of phrase: "That's weird," which isn't funny when you type it out like that but is hilarious when combined with upturned palms and a face of mock confusion. He also sometimes likes to help me with my Hebrew. "Imma! Adom is RED!"

4. I'm noticing lately that Barak is talking more like me. I guess this makes sense, since I'm his main English language model these days. Still, I'm a little taken aback when I hear him use "indeed" and "conflated" in the same sentence. Use big words with your kids, people. They can handle it.

5. Having discovered the cheese counter, I branched out on Friday to the deli counter. Also cheaper and, more importantly, I can get exactly the amounts I want of what I want. I like turkey but nobody else does: I can buy three slices of turkey and 200g of bologna and nothing gets wasted. It was a busy week and I hadn't cooked, so Barak and I went to Supersol right after school on Friday to pick up Shabbos necessities. Unfortunately, the good stuff was all gone from the bakery, which should not have surprised me. Supersol rolls: yum. Supersol pita: eh.

6. I know, I know, it's Shufersal now. But it will always be Supersol to me.

7. Did you know that the price of cartissiot is going up today? It is. Not sure by how much though.

8. Oh! I never mentioned the washing machine. I have a washing machine! It's a Bosch, 5 kg, 5 years old, fully functional except that every cycle but B leaks a lot. B only leaks a little so we use that. It gets the clothes way way cleaner than the coin-op machines we'd been using, and not only that, it is HERE. I've been doing the laundry, for the first time since Barak was born and MHH took it over. I don't mind. It's right outside the bathroom so it's easy enough to do, and I love being able to keep on top of it. The bathroom is no longer full of piles of stinky laundry, the shabbos shirts are no longer left mouldering for days, and I am a much happier Imma.

9. Actually, I think I won't do a 9. If I'm going to post every day for a month, I'd better leave something for the next 30 days.