Sunday, June 22, 2014

Highlights and Revelations

Part Three: There was ice cream.

Other highlights from our trip:

Versailles (“Ver-Sails”). Visit this place, and you will totally understand why the French Revolution happened. If there is a word that means supercallifragallistically gaudy, Versailles is it.

These people had antechambers. You know what antechambers are? Rooms that exist just to be rooms! They serve no other purpose than to be a room you can go in before you go into the next room. Sometimes, there were antechambers to antechambers!

Each room had intricate paintings on the ceilings and furniture covered in gold, but that isn’t even the best part. The Versailles palace also contains a separate palace so that if you just need to get away from the palace, you have another palace to go to.

This second palace was given to Marie Antoinette and there was a lot of information in French about her. I’m not sure about the whole story, but all I know is that you cannot, in fact, buy just her head in the gift shop.

Louvre in a Nutshell: Massive Museum, Teeny Mona Lisa. Seriously. It's as big as my framed diploma. And you can't get within 10 feet of it because of all the other tourists and their cameras pushing each other to get close. If Leo had just made it a mite bigger, it would have been easier on all of us.

Arc de Triomphe (“We Surrender!”) and Eiffel Tower (“Migdal Ayfel”): These represent two entries in our ever-growing list of “Tall Buildings We Have Not Ascended.” Don't worry, there are selfies to prove we were there.

Haagen Daaz restaurant. You read that right. An entire restaurant devoted exclusively to ice cream. Two floors plus outdoor seating, with fancy wait staff and everything. As part of our QKE vacation certification (Quite Kosher Enough), we felt comfortable eating Parisian Haagen Daaz. Sadly, most of the menu items came with a baked good, which even for the lax standards of QKE is NQKE. But we found two exquisite cookie-free desserts: I ordered one that had five scoops of ice cream surrounded by fresh raspberries, strawberries and whipped cream and are you drooling yet???? Donny ordered a scoop of ice cream in an espresso (I told you he got into it). We sat in rapturous, heavenly-ice-cream-eating-induced silence, until it was broken by:

The Amcha. Aka fellow Jews/Israelis. Funny because when you're in Israel, you say “Israelis!” in a mumbly, exasperated grunt, but while in Paris, you say, “Israelis!” with a cry of excitement. This particular amcha – an Israeli woman – interrupted our bliss to ask a question on behalf of her French-speaking charedi sister. The sister was wondering if it was okay to eat here, and when her eyes alighted upon Donny’s kippah, she felt we were safe people to ask. We explained that the ice cream itself was kosher; stay away from the cookies. QKE FTW!

We enjoyed our other encounters with the Amcha during our trip. In one restaurant, we had a choice of speaking to the waiter in French (“?como estas?”) or Hebrew. Naturally, we jumped at the chance to speak Hebrew. Did you read me?? We were HAPPY and GRATEFUL to speak Hebrew. Someone please tell my ulpan teacher. We also got chance to converse with the Amcha during our stroll around the Jewish Quarter. We passed numerous falafel stands including one that –and let me tell you, it hurt to read this – proclaimed its falafel “The Best in the World!” Um, excusez-moi, Paree? Clearly they have never been to Ofer’s. Or any other falafel stand in all of Israel. Please, Paris. We don’t claim to have awesome macarons. (As TZ-carrying Israelis, we’re not even sure that they qualify as dessert, lacking as they are in yeast dough and chocolate). So just stay away from our falafel.

Then, suddenly, it was time to leave. Pack up our stuff, say "A I R P O R T" really slowly to the cab driver, and head off into the sunrise (the only time we saw sun). All in all, the trip was amazing, but it was also great to come home. To the fam, the world’s actual best falafel, and even to Hebrew.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Things the French Like and Do Not Like. Also: War!

Welcome to Part Deux of "Gila & Donny Take Paris (But Then Give It Back Because It's Cold and Rainy and No One Speaks English)"

Things the French like:

Pharmacies. There are about 3 pharmacies per block (“rue”) in Paris. I do not understand why Parisians are hurting themselves all the time. Perhaps they are falling down the stairs in the Metro system.

Espressos. They really love their dark, bitter coffee drink. Even Donny and I kind of appreciated it by the end. Donny more than me, though, I’m still a milk girl. Examples of espresso-lovin': McDonald's ads feature an Egg McMuffin next to an espresso. Nespresso ads also feature espressos only. Not a milk frother in sight. (We got to see lots of ads during our numerous hikes to and from the staircases in the Metro stations.) If you order an espresso, they make it for you using the fancy coffee maker. Order a latte (“hafuch”), and you get coffee from a machine. 

Mumbling. How to speak French: Find a word. Place all the sounds at the back of your throat and gurgle them out.  

Things the French do not like:

English. English is not as beloved of a language as we anticipated. In fact, in the Louvre (“Mona Lisa”) which is one of Paris’ top tourist attractions, the little descriptions next to each piece of art are written only in French. But, we were ok with this because it allowed us to make up our own stories about every painting.

Being Audible. When we asked the nice lady in the amazing kosher chocolate store the name of a certain kosher bakery, she said ... something. I couldn’t make out any recognizable vowels or consonants. See, “Mumbling,” above.

English. The French simply do not appreciate how easy it is to speak in English. Even the people in the hotel did not like talking in English. And they DUB grown-up movies! And TV shows! I turned on the TV in the middle of an episode of Greys, and there was Bailey, yelling in fluent French! It was tres (totes) disturbing.

Surrender. This brings us to one of the highlights of our trip, the War Museum.

The War Museum: Fancy Uniforms and: Jews? What Jews?

First, let’s just say that the existence of the EU is nothing short of a miracle, considering that for hundreds of years all these guys did was kill each other and hold grudges about it. But, only at the War Museum can you get a real French perspective on all the battles. Each battle is commemorated with: guns, knives, paintings and uniforms.

I like guns and knives so that was pretty cool. Adding the paintings of war scenes was a bit strange, but I’ll admit that I enjoyed it. But, the uniforms.

Conversation, circa 16th century:

“Jacques! 1517 called! It wants its uniform style back. Forget your red uniform with gold trim and silver buttons. 1518 is ALL ABOUT the blue uniform with the red trim and gold buttons!”

We were very curious to see what the French had to say about World War II. (Like, “What did they wear?”) Here's what we learned:

The word for “surrender” in French is “resistance.” It turns out that the French fought bravely throughout the war. (And they had very nifty uniforms. In a modern sense, of course.) Especially brave was Charles de Gaulle (“Sharle the Gew”) who spoke bravely about bravery from London.

There was no discussion of French life under the occupation, but I suppose that makes sense after all that brave fighting. But, then it occurred to us: What about the Jews?

Clearly, after fighting bravely for so long, the brave fighters returned to Paris, only to have this conversation:

“Where is Shmuelik? Have you seen him?”
“I could have sworn he was just here yesterday.”
“Huh. Now that I think about it… didn’t we use to have a lot of Jews?”
“Ah. You’re right. I think we did.”
“It sure looks like they left in a hurry. It appears that they didn’t even have time to turn off the gas in their houses of worship which appear to have been completely destroyed in a terrible accident.”
“Strange. You think they would have fought bravely, like us.”

But these were brave fighters. They certainly would have hopped right into their Renault (“Rue”) tank and bravely travelled east looking for Shmuelik.

“Let us grab a quick espresso and be on our way. We need not worry that our extreme tank will break down, as I’m sure we can find an out-of-work German mechanic who could fix it for us. If we hurry, we can follow safely behind the Americans who are only here because they raised a lot of money with E-bonds and have not in any way taken away from our bravery.”

Then, as they bravely followed behind the Americans liberating the concentration camps: “Shmuelik! There you are! You look very hungry. Baguette?”


To be fair, at the very, very end of the World War II exhibit, there was a single wall dedicated to the concentration camps and the Final Solution. This one had English that went something like this: 

“Thereusedtobe76,000JewsinFrance. Theyallgotdeported. Only3percentcameback.” And then, “To learn more, visit our Shoah Museum!" 

Join us tomorrow, or whenever I remember to post, for our final installment: Highlights from Our Trip. (Here's a clue: It rhymes with "dice bream.")

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

This Way to the Sortie

A Blog in Three Acts
Contributors: Gila & Donny

“Sortie” is French for “exit.” However, you do not pronounce it “SOR-dee.” Well, you should, but the French don’t. This is one of the many lessons Donny and I learned last week, when we made a trip to Paris (“Pareeeee”). Surprisingly, it turns out that the French were not at all welcoming when we explained to them how to correctly pronounce their language. 

In any case, it was a Sunday-Thursday getaway, leaving Momz, Dadz and Ariella in charge of the house. 

Here are some of things that we learned by accident so that you don’t have to.

Getting There
You will want to acquire fake dollars (“Euros”) for your trip. These can be used just like currency to buy things. Be sure to bring a large change purse as many of the Euros come in easy-to-carry coin denominations that look just like shekel but are actually worth approximately 30 times more.

When you arrive, the passport clerk may be surprised that you have absolutely no stamps in your passport and ask you in complete shock whether this is your first time in Europe. Simply explain that Europe is mostly a place to fly over on your way between New York and Tel Aviv. She will totally understand.

In the airport, you will be greeted by extreme French engineering. I say, “extreme,” because we are all extremely lucky that it works. The escalators are strictly for “escalating” without any of the pesky “stairs” to get in the way. Hold on tight!

In Paris itself, getting around is very easy. You can take a cab, provided that you know that you do not hail them. They stop automatically at the “Taxi” signs. Also, you will need to have the patience to teach the cab driver English.

Or, you can take Metro. The Metro is a terrific option, especially if you like walking up and down stairs. Escalating is not allowed in the metro stations. (Handicapped? Have a stroller? Tough noogies (“nougat”). The SOR-dee is that way.)


Stay tuned tomorrow for: Things the French Like and Do Not Like

Monday, May 19, 2014

Life on Repeat

I love reruns. Back in the day when we had actual TV and not this streaming stuff, if a "Friends" rerun came on, I was in heaven. Especially if it was the one with "Chanandler Bong." ("That's MISS Chanandler Bong!")

So this works out really well because MY LIFE IS A RERUN, PEOPLE.

Not only do I say the same exact things every single day, I sometimes say the same exact things every 15 minutes.

"Hang up your towel."

(Beloved Readers, you could be forgiven if you mistakenly thought our towels are in fact made out of burning hot fabric with poisoned tips that instantly melt your face off, a la Bad Nazi Guy from "Raiders." Because that is how loathe my children are to pick them up from the floor.)

"Put your pencils in your pencil case." This is after the half hour spent sharpening, breaking, and re-sharpening these pencils. So the pencils can be all ready for school, see. Guess where these pencils are 15 minutes later? Did you say in the pencil case? ARE YOU EVEN PAYING ATTENTION, EVEN A LITTLE? No, they remain uselessly on the counter. The sharpest, uselessest pencils ever.

"Do your reading." Oh, did you think I said "Lay on the floor zooming tiny cars in a circle and then wander off to your bed to lie down for a bit and then examine a dead fly on the mirpeset?" You're right, I see how that can be confusing. "DO YOUR READING."

"Brush your teeth." Did you brush your teeth? "Brush your teeth!" Still not? "BRUSH YOUR TEETH!!!!!!!!!!!" (Yes, there are a lot of CAPS in a rerun life).

"BuckleUpCloseTheDoorPutYourBowlInTheSinkDon'tLeaveDirtySocksOnTheCouch" x10

[Child's question]
"No"
"No"
"No."
"Still no"
"Still no and now I'm angry."
"No! Don't make me sing the song."
I sing the song. I don't know about you, but I actually feel a little better now.

"Take your bath."
"Yes, you have to."
"No you can't take one tomorrow night instead. You smell."
"There's no way you can get out of this. Take your bath!"
"Now! Yes you need soap! TAKE YOUR BATH!"

And when you're done ... hang up your towel.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Facebook is for Snarkers; Or, Get Off My Facebook!

I believe Facebook is for wit and snark. A place to entertain the masses. To make fun of stuff, mostly yourself.

However, there seem to be those who think otherwise. I call them, simply, Happy Cheerful People

Happy Cheerful People, I love you. I really do. It's people like you who make the world go round instead of imploding in a mushroom cloud of smirks and eyerolls. But I beg of you, take it elsewhere. At first I thought there should be a new Facebook for peppy people with eternally smiley children. But then my friend pointed out: "They already HAVE their own Facebook. It's called Instagram. And Pinterest!" So true. Pinterest: Facebook for the chipper, creative types.

So, please, get off my Facebook if you ever:

Have morning dance parties with your children

Refer to your offspring as "my happy little helpers," with accompanying photos of the beautiful food you managed to make with said helpers. My helpers just crack egg all over the counter.

Frequently make use of the little hearts, or the words "amazeballs" and "ridonkulous."

Wish a happy birthday/anniversary to "the best husband ever." (Oh MAN! You mean I got stuck with the second-rate husband? Not fair! And anyway, we all know now that George Clooney is the best husband ever, so game over.)

Were taking selfies at the beach or pool the Friday before Pesach, while I was elbow deep in my fridge, with the contents of my kitchen on display for the entire world to see. (5 open bags of rice cakes? And 3 jars of rosemary? I don't even use rosemary! Really, us? Why?) Or maybe I was toothpicking my sink. Or perhaps scrubbing dried milk and cereal bits off chair legs. Whatever. Know what I wasn't doing? Taking selfies at the beach.

Use the words "precious" "my loves" or "angels," in a non-sarcastic manner, to refer to your children.

Post pictures of homemade meals that required more than three steps (and "serve" counts as a step)

Post pictures of homemade clothing.

Actually, anything you made yourself belongs on Pinterest. Go there, my people, be with your own kind and your Mason jars and corks and dinner ideas that don't include the word "frozen" and strips of felt and like, ideas.

Use the phrase "Nothing like...." Because you will contradict yourself within the next 24 hours with the next thing that there is "nothing like."

Post about how your children requested your organic kale, bean + tofu bake for dinner ... again!

Post pictures of your set table and dressed children more than 30 minutes before start of chag.

Compare your Hawaiian vacation to your Caribbean vacation and crowdsource about where you should go next. Especially if you also post accompanying pictures of your toes.

Freely post pictures of your children in your living room/kitchen/dining room, because you aren't embarrassed about all the stuff that will appear in the background of picture: POCs and scattered remains of art projects and a squished Chess box and Legos and foil pans you haven't put away yet and the challah cover that's still out and Mt. Laundry. Why aren't you embarrassed? Because they're not there. I'm sorry, we can't be friends.

Have frequent meaningful teachable moments. "Every day is a learning opportunity!" Just, no.

Write about the awesome science/cooking/art project you did with your children that actually worked out. Here's one of ours:



Write, "Little Brady practically toilet trained himself! Bye-bye diapers!"

Badmouth TV, accompanied by a picture of your child playing with a stick or ball of dirt or a crumpled up piece of paper or his toes, and write, "Imaginative play at work! Who needs TV?"

Loyal Readers, what would you add to this list?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Parenting Through Cynicism

This post is dedicated to my children. Whom I love, though Loyal Readers of this blog may have the opposite impression. And one day, if they (my children) read through this blog, perhaps they will feel insulted. But then they will have their own kids and say Ohhhh, now I get it.

Because that's the thing. It's an unwritten rule (I think - hope?) among people who make fun of parenting on blogs that there's a single, underlying, unwavering truth: We love our kids to pieces. Like, so much it hurts and makes us a bit teary. But see, we don't need to blog about that. Everyone knows that. And since I live to entertain, it is much funnier to write about how you walked past the bathtub the other night and the following words came out of your mouth: "Do not put your foot in your brother's penis." (Just like that, the words rolled right off, without even thinking, like it ain't no thang.) Instead of "Gazing at my sleeping angels this morning. Nothing sweeter than these precious little faces! And, is that snot or saliva in her hair?" (See, I can't even through a pretend beautiful thought without snarking it up.)

So we write about the omg, exasperating, frustrating, when-is-it-bedtime, I can't believe I/they just did/said that moments, because parenting is often exasperating and frustrating and full of waiting for bedtime. (In the great words of the Dowager Countess on Downton Abbey - before she died of influenza - haha, did you think I spoiled something? I haven't even caught up on the latest season yet! I'm just playin' wicha - anyway, she said "One forgets about parenthood. The on-and-on-ness of it." Oh yes.)

But there are some Important Things I've learned about parenting through cynicism. And this post seems especially relevant now, having just come off a (lengthy, oh-so-lengthy) Pesach break. Where there was lots of eye rolling and "is it bedtime (mine) yet?" and "I'm running away and never coming baaaaaack!!!!!" moments, but also lots of genuinely enjoyable, fun, beautiful, amazing moments. Like Nadav doing the mah nishtanah ("But Ima," he whispers before he starts, "I need to stand on a chair!") and our chol hamoed tiyulim, hiking through aquaducts and climbing on ruins and beautiful views and lots of ice cream and realizing during car ride conversations that - yay! - our kids have a really awesome sense of humor and are fun to be around, when they are not pelting each other with potato chips and carefully noting every unfairness that is hurtled in their direction. (Seriously, the Unfairness Log could wrap the earth seven times).

So here are some of the Important Things I've learned:

1. Know when to turn it off. A healthy dose of cynicism is crucial for helping you get through the day, but knowing when to turn it off is equally as important. When I was tiyuling with the goons, I wasn't thinking, "Wow thank God they are not fighting." I was honestly and totally enjoying myself, enjoying them. For who they are, not what they were or weren't doing.

2. Only be cynical about your own kids. An obvious one. In the same way that you can make fun of your family members but God help the stranger that tries to, don't be cynical about other people's kids and their lack of parenting skills.

3. Listen to the stupid stories. I really try (and sometimes it's hard, man, so hard) not to roll my eyes at some seemingly insignificant story from school or a guess-what-happened-in-my-TV-show-last-night! Because of this powerful quote (and no, not "Wait for the Ben & Jerry's to soften a little. It will make it much easier to scoop into a bowl or directly into your mouth.") This one, which I found out thanks to Google, originates from Catherine Wallace: “Listen earnestly to anything [your children] want to tell you, no matter what. If you don't listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won't tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.” (Italics are mine.) So true.

4. Don't be a killjoy. Yes, when they are telling really obvious, unfunny jokes or singing through their entire Pesach repertoire (and there are MANY, many Pesach songs), I am tempted to indulge a big, yelly PLEASE STOP!!!!! (that's the polite version). But then I think, so what? They are enjoying themselves, having fun, being silly. Unless it's destructive or at a headache-inducing noise level, kids gonna do lots of things that will amuse themselves and will most likely bother me. But that's okay. They are kids, for crying out loud (yes, something else they excel at). Let them be silly and amusing and annoying. I'll deal.

So that's some of the behind-the-snark here at ABA.

In other news, an amusing Pesach moment:

Nadav, looking horrified at the idea of "matzah pizza," tries to negotiate for real pizza. "Just a small one," he bargains. When that was met with a definitive no, he tried a tactic that had worked so well the week before Pesach: "But I will eat it outside! On the mirpeset!" He was confused and angry and saddened when I refused that, too. In the end, he settled for scrambled eggs. Again. I gave him poofahs for creativity, but that did not mollify him. Oh well. Now he's back to big pizza that we can even eat inside, so all is well.

Also!!! He totally gets ruins now! "פעם זה היה בית. עכשיו זה נשבר/Once this was a house. Now it is broken." Yep, that's about right.




Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Cheating Post

As some of you may know, I also blog over at Jewish Values Online. Normally, the posts are a mix of semi-serious and snark. However, this week's blog post was something that I think my snark-only ABA readers would enjoy. So, here is the link, if you haven't read it yet.

If you have, I apologize for posting a new post here that's really just an old post from somewhere else.

Is it naptime yet?