Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Real Purim"

As we left megillah reading last night and headed to the car for the shul's "shuk Purim" being held at Ariella's school, she said to me, "Mommy, it's REAL Purim now!" Finally, after two weeks of costume-buying, dressing up at school, making oznei haman, and preparing our mishloach manot, Real Purim had finally arrived!

(PS Mishlaoch Manot Addendum: Remember how I said that Yaakov's gan ensured that there would be no Prince and Pauper of mishloach manot? Well, despite their specific instructions, it was still possible. I won't mention any names, but someone's parents had nothing to tie the cellophane with, so clipped it using a close-pin - so called because I use it to close bags of food - and sent it to gan. Where it was indeed the pauper among the beautifully wrapped and tied bags, complete with laminated Purim cards and big fancy bows. Oh well.)

Shabbat this year felt like Shmini Atzeret of yore. You know, back in chutz l'aretz, where Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah are a two-day yontov, and SA is, at least for a kid, a frankly boring day where all you're doing is counting down for the real fun of Simchat Torah. And having to take a nap because "you won't be able to stay up later!" So Shabbat had a similar feel. We went from the excitement of Friday - costumes at school! baking with Daddy! - to a very mellow, face-paint-less day. And yes, we did make everyone take naps so they would be able to stay up later.

(Of course, I normally spend my Shabbat afternoons alternately dozing on the couch and then suddenly bolting up, terrified the children have fallen asleep somwehere and will be terrors when it comes to bedtime later. So this Shabbat, when I wanted them to sleep, they were naturally playing very nicely until 2:00, when I stumbled out of bed and marched them directly into the only place where they would fall asleep - my bed.)

We actually made to shul for "First Zachor," despite the threatening skies and stayed relatively dry both there and back. Our shul had planned to have another zachor reading - next week - how cool is that! - due to the inclement weather. But Ariella, parroting me very well, said, "If we don't go to shul now, we'll be stuck in the house all day." So off we went, Zachor-ed it up, and then stayed for the rest of davening.

(Bragging mother note: Ariella followed inside for the entire haftorah, then asked me, "Mommy was Agag good or bad?" (Bad.) "So how come Shmuel or Shaul said to bring him to me?" Haha! She read the haftorah on her own - and understood it!)

After Shabbat, the frenzy began - the costumes were donned (again), make-up applied (Ariella picked purple lipstick and blue eyeshadow; Yaakov insisted, like all real fireman, on having a butterfly painted on his face. In blue and green, because those are colors for "banim." Nothing like a manly butterfly.)

We went to shul and Donny did the layning - it's one of the few times since Ariella was born that I got to hear him layn, aside from the practicing. Unlike last year, no one said - at least too loudly - "What language IS that?" He did a great job, and the children - Warning! Bragging ahead - were pretty awesome. Ariella followed along with me. Well, she asked me about every third pasuk "Where are we?" but she did follow and eagerly shook her gragger at every Haman. Yaakov brought his megillah, but it had all of 5 words, so he sat on my lap and sucked his lollipop (which lasted through perek zayin), then his thumb (until tet), then munched on animal crackers (the end!)

We finally ended up at the shuk Purim, where Ariella won some fabulous prizes, Yaakov ran in circles, and they both had some delicious Purim hot dogs.

Are you tired yet????? It's good you took that nap!

Today we continue the fun with mishloach-manot delivery, followed by Breakfast Seudah with Nafi and Lisa, who are very Busy Being Fabulous but able to stop by and eat bagels with us, followed by Dinner Seudah (or Mishteh, as Yaakov calls it) with the Sassoons in Maaleh Adumim.

Now are you tired????

Happy Purim to all of our Readers, both Loyal and otherwise. May your day be filled with happiness and light, and not with poppy-filled hamantashen.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Is It Purim Yet?????

Question of the week:

"So, Mommy, how exactly DO you kill someone on a tree?"

I had kind of been expecting that one - after all, the Tree plays a big part in the Purim story. It defines "vnahafochu." The tree that Haman built to kill Mordechai - haha! - is where he and his sons meet their Maker. And let me tell, She is NOT happy.

So with all this talk about killing people on trees, the question was bound to come up. Unfortunately I was driving at the time, so I couldn't whip out my copy of "Lonesome Dove," but I did grab this "teachable moment" by starting out, "So you know how we're always telling you guys not to grab each other around the neck.....?"

As per Israel protocol, "Purim" officially started on Rosh Chodesh Adar (and it is a machloket rishonim whether to start on the 1st day of RC, which is still, technically, Shvat, or the 2nd. Ariella's school held by the second day, quoting the great rav who so famously said, "I don't get this whole two days of rosh chodesh thing.")

So far, we've had Pajama Day (Yaakov), dress up as the avot/imahot day (Ariella - she went as "Rivkah" and resorted to writing "Rivkah" on her cheek because, shockingly, it wasn't clear which "ima" she was), facepaint days (Yaakov - he does love a good butterfly), Shuk Purim (Ariella), fifth and six graders teaching (Ariella), and a Purim party sponsored by the Misrad Haklitah, where the costumes were debuted.

In between all of this, the children have managed to do some learning about the megillah. Haman - bad. Mordechai and Esther - good. Charvonah - good, because the song says so. Achashverosh - unclear. Also, we have learned that Antiochus is not, in fact, the same person as Achashverosh. And Yaakov does a nice rendtion of the song, "U'Mordechai yatzah...."

Tonight we assembled our mishloach manot (Theme: "Junk Food.") Yaakov needs to bring one in tomorrow for a Secret Shushan exchange. Everyone brings one in, and then they have a drawing so each kid ends up with a friend's MM. Yaakov received specific instructions for what to pack in his MM. Which makes sense, because you don't want to be the kid that gets the loser MM of Bamba and Tropi (this weird, Capri-Sun like drink made of sugar and purple) while someone else got the Taj Mahal of mishloach manot, simply because their mother cared more.

To that end, we packed a Bissli, chocolate, covered wafer, lollipop, hamantash, and trinket (we chose balloon.) The items were placed, as per instructions, inside the mask the children made in gan, and wrapped with the provided red cellophane.

They may not know what to do with Yaakov when he comes in with socks on his hands, but when it comes to mishloach manot, they are models of efficiency.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Farewell to Cheryl

Folks, I have some sad news. We have lost one of our Loyal Readers. It seems that bosses all over are "cracking down" and wanting their employees to "work" rather than read "Facebook updates" and "blogs."

I have heard numerous sad reports of Facebook - and even sadder - Blogspot being blocked at workplaces. And so it is that Cheryl, one of our first Loyal Readers and a frequent commentor, has left our ranks. If you recall, Cheryl often scolded me for not blogging often enough; she complained, "I need something to do at work all day!" Now that aliyahbyaccident cannot be a worktime distraction, it seems we have no place in Cheryl's life. ("Um, I might catch up occasionally on Saturday night," she says, "When I'm really bored. And the cable's down. And the phone is out. And all of my books are on really high shelves so I can't reach them. And my husband has decided to converse solely in Farsi. You know, then.")

So Cheryl we thank you for your year and a half of Loyal Readership. We are not at all insulted that you only viewed us as "somewhat more exciting than work" or that there is no place for us in your day-to-day life, perhaps in between learning Farsi. We wish you the best of luck.

However, we do ask that you return whatever aliyahbyaccident trinket you received upon declaring your Loyal Readership (I believe it was an official aliyahbyaccident skirt hanger.)

In other (happier) news, Ariella's mesibat siyum was "meuleh!" It was a loooooong program - it was called for 5:30 and we didn't return home until 7:30. I was very glad I did not decide to shlep Yaakov along, despite the presence of half his gan who had brothers/sisters in first grade. I would have spent two hours stuffing "vaflim" (Hebrew for wafers, not, as its name implies, for waffles) in his mouth in a desperate attempt to keep him quiet and allow me to watch the performance. He would have been a very, very "shamen" boy by the end of the evening.

The production was held at a local gym to accomodate the 125 kids, 250 parents, 100 grandparents, and 83 wafer-stuffed siblings. The first performance was a dance with all of the kids, followed by many, many speeches (Ariella warned me: "Mommy, there are going to be a lot of speeches. You are going to have to sit quietly and listen to them.") Then each class (there are 4) performed its own little dance number, followed by another full-grade performance. THEN there was the handing out of each. individual. siddur. And THEN they all opened their brand-new siddurim and sang adon olam. THEN we sang Ani Ma'amin, and THEN we went to collect the various haftaot waiting for us.

THEN we left, but THEN we got a phone call from a friend that we had forgotten to pick up the picture frame Ariella made, so we turned around, went back to pick it up, and THEN, finally, went home. Phew!

Despite the length, the production was really quite beautiful. The choreography was "meod" impressive and it was very sweet to see Ariella's face when she held her brand-new siddur.

(When we returned home, she started asking questions. "So, Mommy, is this the siddur YOU got at your mesibat siddur?" she asks, holding up the Artscroll siddur with "Riverdale Jewish Center Purim 5767" printed on it.

"Um, no."

[Distress] "Well, do you still have your siddur that you got?"

"Um, of course, I'm sure it's at Bubby and Zaidy's somewhere." Note to Momz and Dadz: If this is not true, please go out and buy a blue siddur Shiloh and put my name on it.

"How come you don't use this siddur anymore?" she says, picking up my other Artscroll which has disintegrated and is missing crucial pages of Shemona Esrei.

"Um, well, it sort of fell apart."

[Crushed] "Is mine going to fall apart??????"

[Calmly and reassuringly.] "Don't worry, if it does, we can take it to a special store that fixes books."

Once that crisis had been averted, there was the inevitable crash that follows a week of such high excitement and anticipation. Why do we do all that work and it's only for one night!!! she wailed.

Luckily, the next day she was full-swing into the Purim activities at school; namely, the "shuk Purim," at which she purchased cotton candy, pizza, sour sticks, chips, and hot chocolate. As they say, "Mishenichnas Adar, Marbim B'Shoko."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

In Which I Am Reprimanded

I have disappointed my reading public, namely Momz. Somehow we have arrived at Thursday, and I have not blogged since last Friday. [Eyes downcast shamefully.]

Tonight is Ariella's Mesibat See-DOOR, or SIDder party for you chutznikim. So I will surely have a great many things to say afterwards. In the meantime, here are some Weekly Highlights (minus Goofus and Gallant).

1. It has been disgustingly hot this week. I know many of my fellow Israelis are relishing this "summer during winter," and surely to those of you still digging yourselves out of the Great Double Blizzard of 2010 (Momz: "Phew, I finally found Dadz!" Dadz: "You know, if you lick snow off your coat, it tastes GREAT!") it probably sounds fabulous. But readers, I resent sweating in February. We have two seasons: Very Hot and Not as Hot. Because Very Hot is also Very Long, I want to enjoy my cold and rainy days. For more on our heat wave and how to dress appropriately, Israeli style, I invite you to read onetiredema's rant - I mean, analysis.

2. Yaakov went to a birthday party and stayed all by himself. This was a first. He wanted me to stay "the whole time," then said "okay half the time." We got there and the birthday boy grabbed the present out of Yaakov's hands before the door was even halfway open. There were little plates of healthy snacks set out for the kids - chips, those things that are like Bugles, Bamba. And plenty of nutritious drinks, such as soda. Yaakov ate for a few minutes, clinging to me the whole time. Then I laid it out for him - Ariella and I were going to leave, and he could either come with us or stay. Surprisingly, he said he wanted to stay. I explained to the mom that this was his first party, and she said she would take care of him. So we gave our usual goodbye hugs and kisses, and Ariella and I left. As I turned around I saw Yaakov happily eating chips and talking to a friend ("So, dude, I've got like, three tons of sand in my shoe. You?" "Totally." "Rock on.")

When I picked him up, he was covered in chocolate and face paint, and his eyes were glazed over. As in confectioner's sugar glaze. They had done some sort of project involving chocolate powder, and the floor was covered in flour, cocoa, and an unidentifiable crunchy substance. As we said our goodbyes and thank-yous and left, the mom handed us a goody cup and a piece of pizza. ("We lost track of time and forgot to serve the food," she apologized. You forgot to serve four year olds dinner?????)

But when faced with the prospect of the goody cup, Yaakov lost interest in the pizza. So his dinner was basically chips, two marshmallows, and a piece of chocoalte gelt. But, he did reach the major developmental milestone of Staying At Party Without Parent and Consuming Large Quantities of Partially-Hydrogenated Oils.

Well, Ariella's been dropped off at the mesibat siddur, where the excitement was reaching a fever pitch. Donny and I are heading out soon. Yaakov's stuck home with the babysitter. Which he is not happy about. Despite me promising him large quantities of partially-hydrogenated oils as a bribe. Oh well.

Friday, February 12, 2010

In Which I Break a Cell Phone and Get Ice Cream

This week I paid a visit (actually, I didn't pay at all, so yay!) to my good friends at Orange. I had come home on Tuesday and attempted to charge my phone. You know, how one minute it has all its battery bars, and then two minutes later it's hanging on for dear life and you're down to your last half bar? So I put the charger into the charge-y hole. Only it wouldn't go. I then did what any normal, cell-phone using person would do. I tried harder. I really jammed that charger in there, thinking it could just crush whatever obstacle was in its way. Kind of like The Hulk. Unfortunately, that did not work. So I put on my technician cap (it's pink) and looked inside the hole. Yup, there was definitely something blocking.

So I did what any normal, cell-phone using person would do. I took a "shipud" (those long sticks you use for shish-kebabs. Only I never make shish-kebabs and I can't think why the hell I bought those things in the first place, except maybe I wanted the children to inflict bodily harm on each other with them.) Where was I? Oh yes, the shipud. I took the pointy end and tried to manually remove the blockage. The result? The tip of the shipud broke off into the charge-y hole.


Luckily, with the back of my earring, I was able to remove the shipud tip. I tried, once again, to push the charger in, hoping that maybe while removing the shipud, I magically removed the Mystery Blockage. But to no avail. At this point, I think I've also damaged the charger.
I decide to do what any normal, cell-phone using person would do. Wait for Donny to come home.

When he arrived home, he put on his technician cap (it's blue) and took the phone apart to the best of his ability. But the charge-y hole was behind an un-removable metal cage. He then got out his weapons of choice - nail scissors and a flashlight. At this point, the cell phone was practically screaming at us to stop. Our amateurish efforts were sort of the cell phone equivalent of performing an amputation in the field without anesthesia. ("Here, bite down on this shipud.") Of course, the phone had little battery power left, so the screaming was more of a whispery whimper.

Nothing left to do but trek back to Orange. Luckily there was a short line, so they took me pretty quickly. I do love Orange. The nice technician lady took my phone and charger, said, yep, there was definitely a problem, gave me a "chaloofi" (replacement phone) to use until they could fix my phone, and sent me on my way. Needless to say, she put the SIM card into the chaloofi so I have all the phone numbers, etc. Any other way would be so primitive.

And since I had already schlepped all the way out to Yishpru, well, of course I just had to stop and visit my friends Ben and Jerry. That's right, there is now our very own B&J scoop shop, right here in Modiin (despite those who claim that Yishpru is not considered part of Modiin.)

They've got all the classic flavors, just translitered into Hebrew. ( צ'נק' מנקי was my favorite one.)
I got a cone, which luckily came with 2 scoops, because I was having a hard time deciding between בצק עוגיות (ok, that one is just a translation) and פדג' בראוניז . So I got both.

(There are few things as stereotypical as a fat pregnant lady waddling around with a double-scoop ice cream cone. What, you say, I don't look so "fat?" Thank you, you're ever so kind, but my children would beg to differ. Hence the song they sing about me: "Hee shmaynah, hee shmaynah, hee m'od m'od kedoshah." Translation: She is fat, she is fat, she is very, very holy. Not sure where the holy part comes in; I think because "shmaynah" and "kedoshah" rhyme nicely. Although, they sing it about Donny, too: Hu shamen, hu shamen, hu m'od m'od kadosh. And it doesn't rhyme. The reasoning behind this song is truly beyond me.)

Update: Today I picked up my phone. Hakol b'seder, and I paid nothing! Unfortunately, no time for a second trip to B&J. Not to worry, dear readers, I will be back. Oh yes. I will be back.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Of Firefighters and Messy Floors

We'll start with the messy floors. See, clumsiness + difficulty bending = more POC than ever on the floor. Just yesterday, I was trying to get something out of the pantry. As I did, several other food items fell out. "Huh," I said, staring down at them, all forlorn on the floor. "Sorry about that, guys." I walked away. They just stayed there, the bag of animal crackers, package of rice and potato chips. Donny was no help, because he doesn't even notice that there are contents of our pantry spilled out onto the floor. (You know how Stephen Colbert doesn't "see race?" Donny doesn't "see mess.")

So unless the bag of rice jumped up and bopped him on the head, or perhaps texted him, no way he's even going to see it's there. I was finally motivated to (OY!) bend down and put the stuff away when Yaakov came home, made a beeline for the mess, and said, "Ooooh! Animal cwackahs! Do you know what, Mommy? [Actually, that comes out, "Dohwha, Mommy?"] In a vewy vewy vewy long time I didn't eat any animal cwackahs. Kaihavesome?" At that point, I grumblingly swept the mess into my arms and threw everything back into the pantry. Until next time, guys.

Meanwhile, Purim has started early in our house. I always debate whether to buy the costumes early, thus ensuring a good selection, instead of picked over itchy clown wigs, or later, so as to avoid weeks of "Can I wear my costume NOW, Mommy?" But it is physically difficult for me to push things off to the last minute, so yesterday afternoon, we headed out to Kfar Shaashuim, "Your Purim Headquarters." They truly have every gun, tiara, fairy wings, sword, mask, and hat you could ever dream of. If you've always wanted to be a firefighting ninja pirate cowboy, complete with glossy lipstick, you should totally check out KS.

PS I was amused by the selection of "adult" costumes in the back. Which were truly, uh, "adult." If you catch my drift.

I tried to interest the kids in the racks of costumes that were outside - i.e. cheaper. They had soldier and policeman costumes, but Yaakov was not interested in reviving Pajama Soldier Boy. So inside we trooped. After about 15 minutes of browsing through the racks, attempting to move through aisles that were about five inches wide, we settled on Fireman for Yaakov, and Supergirl for Ariella. The fireman costume - "kabai" in Hebrew - is awesome. It's a jacket and hat with tons of accessories - a hatchet, hose, walkie-talkie, and fire extinguisher (which you can put actual water in, which I will not actually do). So at least it's a toy investment as well. (As the package so insightfully points out: "The new field for the children to play, and they can find pleasure in it naturally!" Um, my thoughts exactly.)

And Ariella's costume was a remnant from last year's stock, so it was "on sale." No, these costumes are not cheap, and if I was a good parent, I would make something really creative instead of blowing money on costumes every year. Like take a piece of tape, a paper towel, and a shopping bag and somehow create a dazzling princess costume. Complete with tiara.

But then, if I was a good parent, would I be authoring a book on child-rearing called "Leave Me Alone So I Can Read the Paper?"

And when they were each really little, I did not buy little tiny baby costumes for them. I think we put a duckie towel on Ariella for her first Purim, and Yaakov got a "cape" made out of a pillowcase that read "DestructoBoy" on it for his. So I did my part for "creative Purim costumes." (By the way, check out the chapter in my book entitled, "Buying Purim Costumes: Save Your Creativity for Something Really Important, like Explaining the Feminine Product that Fell Out of Your Purse.")

Tonight the kabaim came out in full force (Ariella joined in as well), and they ran around extinguishing fires. Phew. I feel safer with them around, truly. Now if I can only get them to pick up that pile of napkins that fell on the floor....

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Poster: An Addendum

As I was putting the finishing touches on Yaakov's poster today, I realized something.

It's backwards.

I arranged all the pictures chronologically, starting from when he was a wee little bairn, and continuting to the strong, strapping boy of three-and-a-half that he is now. But the pictures "read" the English way. From left to right. If you look at it the Hebrew way, it seems that he first played golf, then had his bris, and then was born.


I guess you can take the girl out of America, but you can't make her think backwards. Or something.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Kappayim L'Ariella!

Next week, Yaakov is Yeled HaShavua. I'm sure you seasoned parents of school-age children have alarm bells going off in your heads right now, because whenever your child is "chosen" for something, this means you will have to "do work, probably involving glue and permanent markers." In this case, we need to create a poster with various pictures of Yaakov, complete with cute captions.

First came the pictures. This is not like the olden days when you would ransack your old photo albums, steal pictures you needed, and then forget to return them, so that years later, as you're nostalgically leafing through photo albums, you start wondering aloud why the only pictures of you as a baby are blurry or have a big thumb on them. No, no, we are technologically advanced. So of course it took two adults - one of whom is even more tech-savvy than Dadz - a solid hour to figure out how to print things on our specialized photo paper so that the kids weren't missing the tops of their heads.

We got the pictures, thanks to "crop." Now, ladies and gentlemen, we arrive at the hard part - writing the captions. Although I was a teacher in my former life, it is one of my greatest shortcomings that my handwriting is abysmal. I don't have that nice, loopy, handwriting you recall from teachers of your youth. And that's in English, the language I actually write in. This, naturally, has to be in Hebrew. Print Hebrew, if you please, because it looks much nicer. I think the last time I wrote in print Hebrew I was wearing a charm bracelet and watching Jem.

So we called in special ops - Ariella. After a few false starts, we got into a good rhythm: We spread out on the floor, I drew lines for her, wrote out the caption if necessary (in script, of course) on a piece of paper, and she wrote them in beautiful print on the poster. Yaakov helped by occasionally adding his two cents ("This one has to say Yom Huledet Sameach! I'm having a birthday!") - although if his ideas were too wordy, Ariella and I nixed them. He also climbed on me a lot, since Mommy on the floor = jungle gym.

But the final product is beautiful, if I do say so myself. And I do. It looks really nice, and Yaakov was kind enough to say afterwards, "Thank you Ariella for doing that for me."

Samples below: