Well, here we are, in approximately our 100th day of Chanukah, or thereabouts. So much has happened, it's hard to remember it all, it's just a jumble of sufganiot and dreidels. On Wednesday, Yaakov had a half day of gan, so Ariella and I hung out in the morning, and then got Yaakov at 12, picked up pizza and headed over to Lisa's to eat lunch with Lisa and Michali. Lisa was stranded for the day since her husband had taken the car (bad!) and her two older kids (good!) to work for the day. So we hung out for a while and then came back home. Yaakov fell asleep in the car, but he needed his beauty rest to get ready for...his Chanukah mesibah!!!!
After baths and beautification, and the arrival of DADDY at the homestead, we headed out the door. Yaakov's party was called for 5, and then we were going to Bet Shemesh to L&E's for a party/siyum. We got to gan at 4:55, and got good seats right up front. The whole apartment was totally tricked out for the party - "Pimp My Gan" - and it was all very exciting. Then, we waited. And waited. There were two kids who were late, and the ganenet wanted to wait for them, which was very nice, except the other nine kids were running around and/or crying like crazy people for the next twenty minutes. Finally, the show started. And I do mean show. Ophira, the ganenet, had told all the kids to come in a white shirt. I figured they just wanted everyone to be in party attire. But no. That was not the reason. The party started, they turned on the music and off the lights, and they had one of those special lights that makes white things look purple, you know? That was why they wanted the kids in white - for the special effects portion of the evening. First, we danced with our children. Then, the kids were herded into the kitchen and put on their dreidel costumes. Each "act" was complete with its own prop or two, loud music, dances, hand motions, lighting effects, the works. Our son, or should I say, Donny's son, stood there. As he said, it was a flashback to his own childhood when he stood, frozen, at school parties. The party he had been anticipating for weeks was finally here, and he just stood there. (At first he didn't want to leave our laps, but finally agreed to let Ariella walk him to his spot.) He did walk around in circles when appropriate, but he didn't lie down on the floor, shake his various shaky things, twirl around, put his hands up in the air, bang, jump, clap, put his right hand in, put his left hand out, etc. etc. He seemed so totally overwhelmed - poor guy. (The best part was during the sufganiya song. The kids were supposed to be sleeping dounuts and the morot went around and patted them on their heads. Which sufganiya was NOT sleeping? You got - our little Yaakov. Typical, typical.) However, I can't say I blamed him for not participating. What would have been wrong with sitting in a circle and singing "Maoz Tzur" and, Yaakov's favorite, "Kad Katan?" The music was blaring so that you couldn't even hear the kids singing, such as it was. The darkness, loud music, all the parents snapping pictures... Ariella's mesibah was a similarly overblown, technicolor production that was more about "show" than "showcasing the kids." I really respect and admire both kids' teachers, but I don't know what happens Chanukah time - they go crazy with these mesibot! And neither party really reflected what the kids could do. I have to give a shout-out here to the SAR mesibot, whether it was Chanukah, birthday parties, Yom Ha'Atzmaut, etc. They really knew how to put on an appropriate, kid-centered party which allowed the kids to participate individually as well as in the group.
Another interesting aside, since we're being all serious and pontificating here, mind as well get it all over with at once: Many of the frum Christians in America complain that the religion is absent from Christmas these days - it's all about Santa and presents and trees. It seems that there is something similar here with Chanukah. On the one hand, it's the Great Equalizer - all Israelis, dati or not, celebrate Chanukah. Probably more light a menorah than put up a sukkah. On the other hand, Chanukah has become more about the trifecta of dreidel-latke-sufganiya than Bet HaMikdash-Macabees-miracles. At Yaakov's gan party for examle (the gan is not dati; I looked around at the party and thought how ironic it was that we ended up at this gan, being the only dati people and the only English speakers), they did not start off with candle lighting and Maoz Tzur. All the songs they sang were these popular children's songs with a traditional/nationalistic bent - about sleeping sufganiot, spinning dreidels, and one of those slow, put-your-arms-around-each-other-and-sway songs called "Anachnu Navi Et Ha'Or." Yaakov definitely learned the other Chanukah songs and has been singing them at the top of his lungs for weeks (well, he more or less knows the beginning and end of each line, so one of the songs, called "Chanukiyah li yesh" comes out as "Chanukiah [mumble mumble] YESH/doleket [mumble mumble] AISH" and so on. But the focus at the party was dreidels-latkes-doughnuts. I found a similar phenomenom at the Microsoft party we went to on Thursday. Anyway, there are my thoughts, take 'em or leave 'em.
Phew! So many insights, so little time. Back to the gan party. So we left the party a little early to head over to Bet Shemesh, where the Kleins were hosting a family Chanukah party. We got there late, but Leezy was nice enough to wrest some latkes away from her nephews and save them for us. Yum! I don't know about you, but I have a One-Latke rule - I only make them once during the chag. I will, however, eat them as many times as possible, so it was very exciting to be able to eat latkes that someone else made. After dinner, they invited a few men over so Elie could make a siyum. Leezy brought out some desserts - cookies, a big tray of candy, and nuts - to munch on. Yaakov and Ariella actually attacked the candy, like they hadn't seen it in ages, when in fact, they still had a piece in their mouths from two minutes before. (That's another thing about Chanukah here - it's like eight days of Purim, candy-wise. You know those dreidels that they fill with candy? Well, the kids basically had two of those each night. Ariella got one from her party. Yaakov got one from his. We bought to give out to all the kids at the party. Leezy also gave one out to all the kids. Momz and Dadz sent us a big, beautiful package of candies. Then the kids each got one more the next night at Microsoft! I'm surprised their teeth haven't just given up and fallen out.) Anyway, after the siyum, Leezy brought out ice cream and doughnuts, which we attacked like we hadn't seen a doughnut since...Yaakov's party one hour before. We left around 8:00 to head back to Modi'in. It was an exhausting, but fun, night of partying. Chanukah has got Pesach beat as Most Tiring Holiday.
Thursday started off as Pamaja Day - Yay! No one had gan, Donny took the car so he could get the tires fixed, so we were stuck inside, which was not a bad thing. The kids were thrilled to be able to eat in their pjs and play with all of their new goodies. They spent the morning playing with play-dough and eating taffies. Guess I should be glad it wasn't the other way around. The Microsoft party was called for 4:00, and we were taking a 2:00 train. We've been promising the kids since September that on Chanukah, we would take the train and see Daddy at work, so here was our chance. All Thursday morning the weather was gray, cloudy, and drizzly. Then, about 1:15, fifteen minutes before we needed to leave for the train, it started to POUR. I have found that the rainstorms here don't last so long, but when it rains, it's really intense. So of course, when we left to walk to the train station (about a 7 minute walk), it was pouring buckets. We had coats and an umbrella, but what we needed was full-body gear. We've walked there before, since it's right near the mall, but always in dry weather. Therefore, I hadn't quite counted on:
1. The Lack of Sidewalks
2. The Preponderance of Mud.
3. The Rivers running down the side of Sderot Chashmonaim, so every time a car, bus, or even bike drove in the right lane, we got totally splattered with dirty water. We couldn't even move to the side and out of range because of #2.
4. The Need to Cross the Street, and said Rivers. Ariella and I could sort of jump over the river, but poor Yaakov's feet went right into the water, thereby soaking his feet, and mine, by way of splashing. By the time we got on the train, we were all soaked from the knees down. I let Yaakov take off his socks and shoes so I could wring out the socks. I hoped they would dry somewhat by the time we got off, but they stayed just as wet and only got colder. However, the kids had a fabulous time on the train. There are four seats facing each other, with a table in between, so we had room to spread out and eat our snacks. The kids had fun looking out the window, Ariella insisted on knowing what city we were in every step of the way, Yaakov climbed all over the place, and between the snacks, the window, and climbing, they were really great for most of the 1:40 trip. Donny met us at the station with the car (they only replaced two of the tires...sigh...I'm sure I'll end up on the side of the road again sometime soon...) and drove us back to the office. We got to see Donny's office and meet his roommate, Alon. Then we went downstairs to the party. They had tons of activities for kids - Ariella got a sparkly tattoo, braids in her hair, both kids painted chanukiot, got candy (like you had to ask), made some other projects, ate hot dogs, corn, sufganiot and pancakes (yes, that was the menu), and had a generally merry time. We came home, put the kids in bed, lit quickly (another ironic casualty of a week of partying - we've been lighting late every night and skipping the singing.) Then, L&E came over because they're coming for Shabbos. Donny did the food shopping, and we stayed up too late with L&E doing who knows what, certainly not me.
So now it is erev Shabbat. Leezy, Elie, Donny and I just finished scarfing down doughnuts from Ma'afeh Ne'eman (they were "rayk bifnim" but tasty all the same.) The Never-Ending Chag continues! Whoo-hoo! Party! Say it with me: Candles-doughnuts-dreidels-candy! Candles-doughnuts-dreidels-candy! Have a Shabbat Shalom, Chanukah Sameach, and Chodesh Tov!