Monday, March 28, 2011

זה היום עשה השם

Back when I only had Barak, someone posted a comment asking me if he was always hilarious and adorable or if I only posted the good parts. I said that yes he was always hilarious and adorable, and yes I only posted the good parts.

I mostly do only post the good parts, about everything. I do whine on this blog, but I try to keep it to a minimum. (I should probably try a little harder on that front.) I don’t really use it as a place to air angst or misery or painful things in general. I’m not that kind of a blogger. I have nothing against those blogs—I read a few of them avidly, much to my husband’s chagrin—but that’s not generally what this blog is for, for me. It’s about the kids, my life, a chronicle of what our days are like, something for the kids to enjoy later, I hope. It’s not quite The Good Parts Version, but it’s not the Dark Cobwebs from the Dungeon Version, either.

This week was hard. Hard things happened this week, to other people, and I was powerless to help; much more minor things happened to me that I should have had better perspective about than I did. Iyyar and Avtalyon were both sick and now Marika is looking under the weather; it was Purim, which is always a challenge. Put together, it was hard to stay on an even keel.

Last night it all came to a head. I came home and my husband and I talked until almost 5 in the morning. I had to get up at 6:30, but somehow, it was okay.

Today I feel better. Today I feel lighter. Today I am looking at my family and loving and enjoying them, and trying hard to not try to be in charge, and to embrace the transience of everything, and the uncertainty and the lack of control we all have.

This is the world.

This is how it is.

This is how God made it, and that means that this is how it has to be. That doesn’t mean we have to like it. We don’t understand it. We can’t understand it. And just like a kid can rage at his father for strapping him down in a carseat when he doesn’t want to be in it, just like a baby can feel betrayed by the mother who holds him down to get a shot at the doctor’s, we can feel rage and feel hurt and be bewildered by how cruel and arbitrary it all seems to us, so much of the time, so much more so these days. We don’t have to like it. We don’t have to understand it. But we have to accept that somehow, in a way beyond us, it is right.

זה היום עשה השם

This is the day the Lord hath made. I can't always rejoice and be glad in it. But I have to try.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Keeping the ball rolling

Don't want you to give up on me again, after all!

A few people have asked about the origin of the kids' names. First off, you should know that they're all made up. I don't use any real names on this blog, except for when they're really common first names, and also except for the name of my erstwhile cat. My kids' actual names are a little odd in America but pretty normal here. If you want the full story on their blog names, you can go back to the blog entries around when they were born (May 2006, January 2008, and November 2009). But the short versions:

Barak: He was born before I started the blog. I started this blog in spring of 2005, when he had suddenly gotten very mobile very quickly. "Barak" means "lightning" in Hebrew, so it seemed appropriate.

Iyyar: He was born in the Hebrew month of Iyyar. I wasn't feeling very creative, I guess.

Avtalyon: My husband was bucking for this as his real name. I put my foot down. The compromise, which wasn't much of a compromise really, was that we used it as a blog name.

Marika: She is named after my Hungarian grandmother, whose nickname was actually Mariska, which she hated. She wanted to be called Marika instead. So that's what I use here.

What else is news around here? Well, it's Purim soon. No! Not on Sunday! On Monday, because in Jerusalem we celebrate Shushan Purim (it's a walled city!) What's actually been occupying most of my headspace this week, though, has been Iyyar, who's been really, really difficult lately, and has been seeming, well, just really stressed. I don't know if I can put my finger on when things started getting so hard with him, but I'm thinking it was around my trip to the US. But it seems like it's been getting worse, not better. He came home from school last week with his sleeves and kippa all chewed, and the next day I went to talk to his ganenet (teacher) to see what was going on. I didn't get much out of her, so I asked a Hebrew-speaking neighbor and fellow parent to try again. She didn't hear anything from the ganenet about what might be bothering Iyyar, but got an earful about how Iyyar was bothering her/the other kids. He doesn't sit still, he throws toys, he runs around, he doesn't listen, when you tell him he's done something wrong he grins at you.

I'm sure she's not making it up, but I'm also sure that she's not the kind of person who would never have said anything about it until directly asked in March if there were any problems. Also, I've asked regularly how it's coming, and the only answers I get are regarding his Hebrew progress--uniformly positive. This is all stuff he does at home at his worst, but it's not all the time. My theory? He's been causing a little trouble all year, this month has been bad, and now that she's fed up she's retroactively annoyed at him for all the annoyance he's caused since September. And also, unfortunately, since he's acting up the other kids don't want to play with him, which upsets him and so he acts up more and... yeah. Not a good cycle.

Iyyar is a little out of step with the other kids. This is not news. Yehudis noticed it when he was two, and although his last year's teacher did not, she was not particularly perceptive. Yesterday when my husband went to Iyyar's Purim party (I was at the doctor with Avtalyon, who came down with strep, again, on Thursday) he came back saying that Iyyar hadn't participated at all, hadn't done anything the other kids were doing. But in October, when I went to a similar mesiba, he did everything he was supposed to do. So I don't know. Do I think he has any massive developmental issues? No. He did talk late and he is a little spacey, but he manages OK at home, he plays with other kids, he's learning his letters, he can sit through stories, etc. My husband says he's like he used to be as a kid--just kinda out to lunch. And disorganized. And prone to fantasy. And not really all that attuned to what's going on around him

I took him out of school on Wednesday and we went out for falafel; the point was some Imma time but it really didn't go so well. He didn't listen to me, he did this incredibly annoying thing where you're trying to talk to him and he pointedly looks elsewhere, he deliberately wandered off when I asked him to stay close to me. He's also been really, um, sketchy in the matter of truth-telling lately. And bedtimes. And staying calm--he's been falling about screaming at the least little thing.

Yeah. Just generally difficult. Like I said it's hard to pinpoint when this all started, but I am sure he hasn't always been like this. Hopefully, it's related to my having been away, and it'll pass. Right? Right?

He's so cute and sweet when he's not driving me crazy. I wish I knew what to do. I think he needs more one-on-one time, more attention, more talking time. That's usually the answer. It's hard though--I make a point to walk him home, and he doesn't listen and runs off. Or argues, or kvetches for something. And then I end up yelling at him (not at volume, but sternly) and how did that help?

He did a great job cleaning up with me tonight though. We picked up all the toys in the living room together. I feel bad complaining about him--did I mention how cute and sweet he can be? It's just been a bit... difficult lately.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Part five in the increasingly inaccurately named...

Only the Hitchhikers among us will know what the title is about, but that's OK.

I thought of two more things on my aliya list. And since 18 is a good number, and 16 is meh, here are two more:

17. Sickies. How could I have forgotten this one? I admit I had heard about the "cholim chadashim" syndrome, and had definitely registered other people saying "you and your kids will be sick a lot the first year." So maybe it should not have come entirely as a surprise when we went nearly six months with at least someone, and often more than one someone, sick every. single. week. As in, home from school sick. Avtalyon has had four eardrum ruptures since we've been here. (Yes, he is now down for tubes, but the approval and scheduling take time.) There have been too many colds to count, along with stomach viruses, strep, an attack of mystery insects that Iyyar's ganenet was convinced was chicken pox, an infected hand, a MRSA-infected infected foot, more stomach viruses, pinworms, lice, boils, frogs, and... oh you get the picture. Lots of sick. LOTS. For some reason, this caught me off guard.

I think we may have gotten hit unusually hard because of having three boys in three different schools/ganim; lots of bugs to pick up and pass around. Also, the rain came late this year and I'm told that wreaked a lot of health havoc on its own. Still. You have been warned. It won't necessarily happen to you, and I hope it won't, but it might.

18. And last! (For now anyway.) There are many ways in which making aliya is like mothering a child. For example, you can't do it perfectly, you will lie awake nights worrying that you're doing it wrong, and somehow, everyone you meet knows how you're doing it wrong and will tell you so. For example, I have lost count of the people who have told me that I MUST DO ULPAN RIGHT NOW. Five hours a day, five days a week, for five months. Must! Or our klita is doomed! No time, you say? Well you must MAKE the time! (That is a direct quote. As if I have not been daydreaming for years about magically finding another seven hours in every day, the way people in Manhattan dream about finding whole extra rooms in their apartments.)

Barak's rebbe? He wants us to only speak Hebrew at home. (He is serious.) I've been told by other mothers that my insistence that my child ride in a booster seat is ridiculous, and I should let him take the bus to school by himself. Aged six. Crossing an intersection that is eight lanes of traffic crossing six lanes of traffic, with several islands and a light rail line in the middle. I've been told that we must buy a car, no matter what, and not to do so is an act of irresponsible parenting. I could go on and on and on. I won't.

What it boils down to is the same thing I tell myself as a mother. Nobody else knows my situation like I do. Nobody else knows my children like I do. I can and should listen politely to other people, because maybe they'll tell me something I don't know. Maybe it'll be useful. Maybe not. Ultimately, you take the advice that works for you and leave what doesn't. So I hope some of this whole long screed will come in handy for you, and if it doesn't--well, feel free to ignore. : )

Thursday, March 10, 2011

איזה היא עשירה

A few years ago, Grandma E came to visit us in Chicago. She's been a few times (she's kind of like the Godfather that way--she keeps saying she's done and then we keep dragging her back) so I don't remember which visit, but I think it was when Barak was two or three and we had the first whiff of the job insecurity that was going to be the recurring theme of the next, well, the rest of our lives, to date anyway. We were in the kitchen and I was making noodles and I'd made some homemade pesto to go with it. I was grating cheese and she saw me grate a little pile of parmesan and a bigger pile of muenster (or whatever it was) and sprinkle the mixture on everyone's noodles.

"Why are you using the muenster?" she asked.

"Because the parmesan is expensive cheese and I'm stretching it with cheap cheese," I told her, and she nodded.

My husband came in and we had dinner and I just remember it being a lot of fun with a lot of laughing. Later on when he'd left the room, she said, "Well, you two won't ever be the richest people in the world, but you might just be the happiest."

It was one the nicest things I've ever heard and it's one of those things I sort of pull out when I'm having a week like this one.

Money is just money. Yes you need it. Yes you need enough. But "enough" is subjective.

We have a place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear. There is money in the bank. Not endless amounts, but not nothing, and enough that the wolf is not actively howling at the door. I have a job. And IY"H, somehow or other, my husband will, eventually, get one too.

Did you see in the news earlier this week about the Chinese-Jewish guy in Honolulu who was determined by Gallup to be a composite of the world's happiest person? This was part of a three-year (I think) attempt to determine who's happy. I don't think there is any objective criteria for what makes you happy. It's too complicated, and I think everyone knows that declaring Alvin Wong as the world's happiest man is a little tongue-in-cheek. But I can tell you one thing that is absolutely fatal to happiness, and that is comparing yourself to other people.

It was hard, back in America, to look at my friends and their houses. With, you know, basements. And closets. And kitchens. And those were my kollel friends, who are not exactly wealthy. But a carpeted basement playroom! That seems like such unimaginable luxury right now.

But last week we had our eighth anniversary, and Hadassah the Amazing babysat for us. (Did I tell you she cleaned my kitchen while we were out? I did? Well, let me tell you again. She cleaned my kitchen when we were out!) And even though we ended up taking the bus to go get pizza, it was so much fun, and we really enjoyed it. And when we came back, she opened the door before we knocked, and she said, "I knew it was you because I heard you laughing."

It's all OK.

I'm not saying it's not hard. It is hard. I do too much. I sleep too little. I worry a lot. I don't know what's going to happen next. But right now, I am just where I want to be.

Monday, March 07, 2011

What we're up to

The kid-by-kid update:

Barak seems to be doing OK these days. He is happy to go to school in the morning and generally in a good mood, if tired and prone to meltdown, when he gets home. Homework continues to be an Issue. He spends 8 hours a day in a Hebrew environment and by the time he gets home at 4:30 PM, he wants nothing but a quiet corner and a box of Lego. Homework? Surely you jest. I had been letting him get away with it for a while but his teachers (his regular classroom teacher and Morah Penina, his lovely 80-year-old tutor) both called me a couple of weeks ago saying, look, he's not making progress and you need to be reinforcing this at home. So since then I've been trying, but it's so not pleasant and such a struggle. He's six and a half. It's too much for him. But they're also right in that if he doesn't pick up Hebrew by the end of the year, kita beit is going to be really hard.

He's being really good with Marika lately. Just a really sweet big brother. Yesterday we were out on the playground and he was giving her turns down the slide; he sat on top, I put Marika in his lap, he held her and slid down with her. She LOVED this. I wish I'd had a camera. She wanted to do it again and again and again and...

Iyyar is also getting good reports from his moros, who say that he's playing nicely and picking up Hebrew well. He seems to understand everything you say to him in Hebrew--I can give him running directions in Hebrew and he follows them. One thing I want to mention about him though is how much better his face looks. Last year, almost the whole year, his face was puffy. He almost looked like he was on steroids. He wasn't sick, it was just some kind of a reaction to something. I don't remember specifically when it stopped looking like that but I was just thinking the other day how thin his face looked, in a good way. No more puff. I don't know what it was but I assume he was allergic to something that's not in his environment anymore. Who knows what?

Last Shabbos Iyyar and Avtalyon made a huge mess dumping out all the toys in their room, right after it was all cleaned up for Shabbos. I told them they had to pick up before they could have seudat shlishit. By "pick up" I meant a minimal standard of "Lego in Lego box, laundry in basket, rest of toys in toy basket." No sorting or putting away of things in right places, just dump it in the basket. They ignored me and wouldn't do it. I offered to help and started doing it with them and they still ignored me, so I said, OK, you're on your own, come out when it's done.

Five hours. They were in their room for five hours. Eventually, they got hungry and they did it. This is I think the third time in two weeks that we've done this. One of these days they will get a clue and just do it in the beginning when I am there offering to help. Right? Right? Right?

I pick Iyyar up from school twice a week and we talk the whole way home. His brain is really all over the place; we start talking about one thing and then he's asking me about something else. I think Barak had more of an attention span at that age--actually I'm sure he did. Not that I'm worried about this, it's more of a personality thing; Barak FOCUSES, where Iyyar is more prone to flying around all over. Also in the "sweet brother" category, he's been saving pieces of treats for Barak and Avtalyon--yesterday he got a chocolate vaffel (like wafers) at school and broke off pieces for both of them and put them in plastic bags in the kitchen to save them. Big pieces, too. Totally unprompted by me. So sweet.

Avtalyon is being really, really cute. His big thing these days is that he hates being wet. If he spills a tiny little bit of something on his shirt, that's it, ALL his clothes come off and he's naked until I make him get dressed. But he wants new, all-dry, uncontaminated by proximity to water clothing. Sometimes I let him, sometimes not, depending on what the previous outfit looked like.

He's also all about the dramatic hand gestures. He likes posing for the camera, scary action poses and so on.

When I came back from the US I brought the box of Clics from the basement. I also brought a new bike helmet, because I couldn't find the one we had already and the kids have been zooming around down the hill on their little ride-on car in a way that makes me nervous. What do these two things have to do with each other? Well, there must be some genetically programmed desire in my children to make train tracks out of Clics while naked except for underwear and a bike helmet, because so far they've all done it. Barak did it, Iyyar did it, and Avtalyon has not seen any older brothers do it within memory but two days after I got back, he was doing it too. Go figure.

On days when I pick Avtalyon up from gan (Abba and I switch off--it's a complicated schedule) we have this whole obstacle course that we have to go through to get home. There are low walls to walk on, ramps to run up and down, and of course the Alligator/Elevator we have to ride. It's an outdoor glass elevator that goes up to the sixth floor; he pushes the button, we go in, we ride to the top, come out, admire the view, go back down. More low walls, the cat by the schwarma stand to find and comment on, and then the revolving metal security door to ride. Yes, ride: he climbs on the lowest bar and I turn it for him. Fun fun.

And Marika has suddenly become a toddler. She's walking instead of crawling as her primary means of locomotion and is getting close to being too big for the Snugli. She has had for months a habit of reaching her non-sucking-thumb-hand down under my sweater when she's ready to fall asleep, to grab a nice soft handful of t-shirt. Lately it's been warmer and I haven't been wearing sweaters, so she's been reaching into my shirt and grabbing, you know, what's there. This is a little awkward while in public and she may soon be graduating to a stroller as a result.

Yesterday we went to Geula with a friend on a skirt-shopping expedition. It was really fun. I bargained hard and got four skirts for NIS 360, about $100 these days; we also stopped at Moshiko for falafel. I brought the stroller for her and it did make it easier; I could try stuff on, she fell asleep, I could eat. But it's such a pain to bring a stroller on the bus, even though people do usually help. I just don't have enough hands to hold her, hold the stroller, and hang on when the bus starts moving before I find a seat (which it always does).

Favorite word these days: "yeah!" If you ask her a question, any question, with a yes/no intonation, she'll say, "yeah!" with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Also, I've heard her say, almost distinctly, "What is that?" ("Wah dee dah?") and "I want it!" Right now she is playing in the pack and play next to me saying, "Ah dee dee! Ah why? Why? Whee ditch. Ah de det'." Palatalized consonants continue to abound. "At'. At'. At'." And if you prompt her, she will say thank you, very seriously. "Ta tuh."

The jet lag was awful but she seems totally over it now. Oh, I didn't mention: yesterday on our shopping trip I bought her a toy stroller for the princely sum of NIS 20. It's a nice one too, with a metal frame, and just her size. She loves it. The boys put Grover in there for her and she pushed him around the house for a while; then later in the afternoon my SIL came over. I had brought her back some dental floss from America (long story, but it's one of those things that's much cheaper there) and Marika demanded to hold them; two minutes later they were of course gone. We hunted for a while with no luck until with a flash of inspiration I looked under Grover's tush. She had, naturally, stashed them there, because what is a stroller for if not to give your dental floss a tour of the apartment under a Muppet's rear end?

Anyway, that's the news from around here.

Hey, have you noticed I've been blogging more? Hmm? You have? Well, I've noticed that yesterday, 38 distinct visitors came and read this. But nobody but Jasmin does much commenting. So maybe you could, you know, say hi. Because if I'm going to go back to blogging more often, it's much more fun if you wave back. OK?

Saturday, March 05, 2011


I can't sleep.

So much on my mind, so much of it unbloggable.

We came here knowing we'd be here for a year, anticipating the possibility of two, and having no plans after that. It was OK at the beginning because a year is a long time and we had a Plan B for year 2. But now we're at a point where it's looking very likely that we'll be here for a second year. Okay, good, fine, we knew that might happen. What is freaking me out is a) not knowing if I, personally, will have a job post August and b) seeing all the people here making plans NOW for what they'll be doing post August. If we stay for a second year, we will at this point next year, be in the same job-seach position, and without backup plans, and that is Scary.

What would make me able to sleep a little better would be some kind of an assurance from my boss that I can keep doing this for another year. The knowledge that at least we will not both be unemployed would help a lot. But until we know what we're doing, it's probably best not to even broach the subject. So far as I know, no one's complained, and that's the important thing. It does, however, make me a little bit insane when it comes to work--I am so paranoid that someone will complain about me (even though, to my knowledge, no one has done this in the last six and a half years) that I am bending over backwards when it isn't even called for and thereby getting even less sleep.

So tired.

Going to try to sleep again now. Wish me luck.

Lessons learned, part 4 of 4 (so far)

13. Keep your eyes on the prize. Whatever it is about aliya that made you want to be here, remember it. Write it down. Everyone has their breakdown moment, or two, or fifty. You’ll get yelled at in the store one time too many, or your kid will lose his hasaa again, or you’ll have no idea what all those piece of paper you just signed in the bank were. Take the piece of paper out, listen to the Eitan Katz CD, watch that Come Back video one more time.

14. Jet lag with children: Two weeks. Seriously. I’m sorry, but this is true.

15. Think way ahead of time about how much luggage you’ll have with you (100-170 lb per person, plus car seats/strollers) and how you will get everything to the airport. A friend with a minivan will not do it. Two friends with minivans will also not do it. We needed a friend with a minivan and another friend with a U-Haul.

16. Try really hard to maintain your sense of humor and not take things out on your spouse/kids. My husband wasn’t around for any of the pre-aliya planning because he was simply not home; he worked every day including Sundays and was out of the house from 8 am till 10 pm most weekdays. He brought things to work to scan/copy/email, but that was it. He did not deal with any of the logistics, packing, planning, hauling, loading, etc. because he really couldn’t. So when a week in it transpired that he did not know the difference between Misrad Haklita, Misrad Hapanim, and Bituach Leumi, I should not have blown up at him.

I'm sure there will be other things. It's only been 7 months. I still worry, a lot. Will we have jobs, will we find a place to live, will we be poor, will we be happy here, will the kids be happy here, and always, in the back of my mind, when will there next be a war, and what will happen to us in it? Because in Israel it's always "when" and not "if." But l'at l'at, as they say, slowly slowly, we are settling in, feeling more comfortable, feeling more glad to be here--to be home.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Lessons learned, part 3 of 4

9. Everything costs more here. Everything. My tendency when packing is to be minimalist, but I really wish I had packed more of those little random things—needles and thread, first aid items, sippy cups. School supplies here? Three times the price, if you want good quality. Barak desperately wanted a backpack like his classmates’, so I bought him one, but oh do I wish I had stocked up at Target the previous August. There is no such thing here as a $1 pack of crayola markers. A pack of good quality pencils is $4. Bring it. Yes, you can buy everything here, but you’ll pay more and it won’t last as long.

10. Leave room in your budget for the unexpected. For us, there were two huge unexpected expenses: transportation and food. We did not expect to be paying about NIS 800 a month to get children to and from school, and we did not know that the cafeteria food would be so soy-laden that two of our kids couldn’t eat most of it. It threw an extra NIS 2000 onto our monthly expenses. When you thought you’d be able to manage the first year on your sal klita, that’s a huge difference.

11. NBN grants are not what they once were. The economy is down, their fundraising is down, and the days of $18k grants are gone. I did not know this when I applied and it was a very big shock to get our grant letter. Obviously any gift is wonderful, helpful and appreciated; I am very grateful for what they gave us. But don’t count on the money, or even on any ballpark amount that you think likely. As I was told, "we give away as much as we have," and what they have changes month to month.

12. Ask for help. Forget that American thing of self-reliance. You can’t make aliya without other people. Try not to call the same person every time, but get over the not wanting to call. You have to. When someone offers to help, put their number in your cell phone.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

We interrupt this series of posts to bring you

a totally unrelated post.

I can't sleep. This NEVER happens to me. I have always been able to fall asleep more or less the minute my head hits the pillow, probably because I am so perpetually underrested. Since I got back from America, the jetlag has been killing me. Not only that, but I seem to have developed, overnight, an inability to metabolize caffeine. I have been, to put it bluntly, something of a Diet Coke junkie for the last, oh, twenty years or so. It has never been even a tiny bit of an issue for my sleep; I have never thought twice about drinking full-octane Diet Coke right before bed. Apparently, I can't do this anymore, as of last week sometime. Two days ago I drank Diet Coke while working and couldn't sleep until 5 am; the next day I didn't have any and fell asleep by 1, which is the earliest I've been able to sleep since I got back.

My schedule is bad enough sleep-wise. If I can't take advantage of every opportunity I have to sleep, it's a disaster. I've kind of been a wreck the last couple of weeks.

Right now it is 3 am. I am pretty sure the reason I can't sleep is that I went out (yes! I went out! with my husband! and no children!) for pizza (that wasn't the plan but it's what ended up happening) earlier this evening and had a Diet Coke with my pizza because come on, what's pizza without Diet Coke? I think this was a terrible mistake. I really really can't sleep.

Oh, have I told you about Hadassah the Amazing? We love Hadassah the Amazing. She is the chesed girl that Onetiredema's... friend? cousin? someone? set us up with. Every Tuesday at 2:30 she turns up as if by magic and for two hours entertains children, holds babies, and--wait for it--sometimes even washes the dishes. For free. This is part of her seminary program--the doing of chesed. For some inexplicable reason, despite the pervading craziness of our household, she appears to like us, and offered to babysit for us this evening so we could go out for dinner (the original plan. the pizza happened when the restaurant we went all the way around Jerusalem to get to had downgraded from its previously mehadrin hashgacha. alas). Not only did she do this FOR FREE, but when I came home she had washed ALL the gross crusty dishes in the sink AND put away all the toys.

Amazing. Lovely. Really. Tuesdays are totally the best day of the week because of her.

Let's see, what else...

Oh, Barak earned his airplane. For the last seven months or however long it's been, both he and Iyyar have had jars of coins. For every night of civilized bedtime (read: I do not have to go into their rooms after 8 pm and they do not come out) they get a coin, valued at 1 shekel or 25 cents (yes we still play fantasy exchange rate around here) in their jar. Said coins are exchangeable for Playmobil or, upon discussion, other things. Barak decided back in September sometime that he wanted the white airplane. This would be the $52 giant Playmobil jet. I said, that is an insanely expensive toy and I am not buying it for you but you may feel free to earn it. And he has been. Every day he makes sure I dropped in a shekel, he's been counting them regularly, and before my trip he had about 165 in there. I told him that if I heard only exemplary reports during my absence, I would front him the other 50 and bring him the plane, but it was going to live in his room so Avtalyon couldn't dismember it like he does all the other Playmobil. Barak was naturally only too happy with this, and I brought him back the plane. Now Barak has set his sights on the airport AND the cargo area. I'm not even sure they make the airport anymore, but I'm very happy he's a) so good at delaying gratification and b) working toward some nonviolent toys for a change.

I am really looking forward to Shabbos. I decided to give myself an "off" Shabbos. No guests (sorry Alisha, you don't count as a guest) and I am not going to stress about what the house looks like. Not only that, but I got a Groupon coupon for catered Shabbos food and used it, so Abba is going to Talpiot to pick up some Naomi Catering food--really really expensive stuff but we paid NIS 80 for NIS 200 of food so it's OK. I have chicken soup left from last week so all I have to do is make matzo balls, buy challah and chummous and dessert, and I'm set. I may also make sushi, just because I love sushi and because Alisha is coming, but I may not. I'll see. I have no plans to get out of pajamas the entire day.

Do I try to go to sleep again? I am really really wide awake here. Hmm. Maybe I'll take some knitting into bed with me and see how that goes. Stay tuned, as always, to this ever-exciting channel.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Lessons learned, part 2 of 4

5. I know everyone says this but it’s so easy to forget: as hard as all the transition is on you, it’s ten times harder on your kids. They WILL act up. They WILL be monsters. And as much as you want to scream at them, “Why are you doing this to me when you see what I’m trying to deal with right now?” they are saying to you, “I need you to reassure me that some things are still the same.”

6. At least half the details you thought were worked out will fall through. For us, it was schools and school transportation. We arrived thinking all three boys had schools and workable ways to get there; in the end, only Avtalyon did. It was really, really hard to let go of the plans we had that obviously weren’t happening, and even harder to start from scratch the day before school started for Barak. In the end, it was really truly for the best: they are both in fantastic schools, both, I think, much better for them than the places we’d chosen from the States. But it was hard, hard, hard.

7. If you don’t speak Hebrew, start working on it as soon as you decide you’re making aliya. For us, it was hiring an Israeli babysitter and asking her to only speak Hebrew with the kids and, as much as possible, with me. I can’t even begin to say how much this helped. I still speak Hebrew like a caveman, but I can function in Hebrew: I can mostly say what I need to and I mostly understand what people say to me. This is about 90% because of Asnat. Also, get a copy of “The First Thousand Words in Hebrew.” It’s cute, it’s not taxing, and it’s a good thing to look at while you’re nursing a baby, sitting on the couch on Shabbos, or between things.

8. Don’t believe the people who say your kids will speak Hebrew by Chanuka. Yes there are kids like that but they are not the majority and your kids will probably not be among them. Find out exactly what help your kids are entitled to, and insist on it. Call again and again and again. This is not rude; it’s expected. Get the teacher’s home phone number and check in regularly. Again: expected. The more the administration sees you involved, the more they will pay attention to your kid. Israeli classrooms are big and if your kid isn’t acting up, the teacher will not see a problem—even if one is there. Barak, for example, is not picking up Hebrew quickly. He is now getting 10 hours a week of 1:1 tutoring at no cost to me. If I hadn’t hocked the principal mercilessly for four months straight, he’d be getting exactly 0.