Friday, November 27, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #88 - I may have to return to the hospital – just to unspoil myself

Since I came home with the baby I’ve been pampered and doted on in a way that made me forget all about the Cheder Ochel. Delicious meals have been prepared and delivered to me daily by a tireless and amazing group of friends and neighbors. My mother-in-law has been here by my side, helping with the diverse and sometimes ridiculous needs of my four other kids – baths, homework, laundry, sickness, mediation /arbitration, and, of course, snacks, cuddles and loving. Bob has mastered more household tasks than most men I know (read: sponga, laundry, putting tights on a 3 year old) and has been on hand day and night.

This Shabbat the step-down begins with our last meal to be delivered. Note to self: stock up on eggs and salami. Tuesday, mom-in-law leaves. No amount of eggs and salami can compensate for this one. I need to read up on cloning myself. And then, Bob returns to the States.

But there is some sort of inverse (or is it reflexive?) nesting property at work. A few days ago I woke up from a mid-day-post-nursing-armchair-snooze with an overwhelmingly urgent need to put out a crudité for my kids. It occurred to me that despite of all the nutritious meals coming in, more candy and junk was passing their lips in the absence of my vigilant oversight than fruits and vegetables. And so began the process of cleaning out 3 weeks worth of aging tomatoes, cucumbers and lemons from the depths of my refrigerator. I was lucky to find some peppers and carrots, thus making the crudité a reality in spite of my rotting veggie drawer. The next morning I woke up and snuck away from my sleeping baby to prepare crepes for my kids’ lunch. And then I was seized by a need to polish my silver. Yesterday when Rosie returned from school I heard a voice asking her how her day was followed by “Does anyone in gan have lice today?” It was my own voice. And then, “Let’s comb through your hair just to be sure you are clean.” And so my refrigerator, my silver and my children’s hair are in pristine condition. Perhaps some of this excess energy CAN be channeled into cooking, homework, laundry, mediation/arbitration, snacks, cuddles, loving, please Gd no sickness, and getting my 3 year old dressed in the morning.

The sponga will have to wait.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #87 – water, color & time

Mai Eden revisited
Every time I see a Neviot water delivery truck I stare at it longingly. (Neviot being the alternative to Mai Eden). While I was in the hospital, my monthly Mai Eden delivery came. But for some reason instead of delivering my usual 5 bottles of water, they left me 2. And so began the painstaking process of trying to reach Mai Eden and making my situation (running out of water fast) understood.

First I tried the star number. In Israel there are these numbers for all sorts of places – Cellcom, Kotel tours, Mai Eden – that are just a star (*) and four numbers. Yes, Israel is that small. So the Mai Eden star number gets you to an automated menu offered in Hebrew, Arabic or Russian. I try the Hebrew. I let the menu repeat a few times until I think I’ve got a handle on it and I press 4 for sherut (service). “Medaber Anglit?” (do you speak English). “Yes.” Amazing good luck! So I start to explain my situation – 2 bottles delivered instead of 5 – and he cuts me off quickly. “This is sales. I will transfer you to customer service now.” Okay…. Back to the automated menu in Hebrew, Arabic or Russian.

I listen a few more times and then decide to dial a number they are offering for further service. Another star number. I dial it and unbelievably I can understand the automated Hebrew instructions to enter my Teudat Zehut number. Okay so it’s a little weird that the water company wants my TZ but it’s not that weird. It seems like everybody wants that number before they talk to you. So then a guy comes on. “Medaber Anglit?” In perfect and cheerful English he replies, “Of course!” This was really weird. As in too good to be true wierd. And I knew it. But I proceeded. “I usually get 5 bakbookim (bottles) mayim (water) but this month I only received 2.” Quiet. And then laughter. “You want Mai Eden! This is Misrad HaRishui. They have the same number!”

Why does Mai Eden have the same number as the Department of Motor Vehicles? And where was this cheerful English speaking fellow when I visited Misrad HaRishui? So many questions. Still no water.

A few nights later my babysitter from the summer – the one who encouraged me to talk tough with the dryer service people – stopped by with my friend, her mother, to drop off dinner. Right away I put the babysitter on the job. I dialed the Mai Eden star number and handed her the phone explaining the situation as the menu started. After a few minutes she handed the phone over to her mom – and almost immediately it was clear why the apprentice had deferred to the master.

My friend got through – to a person! – with my message, brought back an answer (Apparently my order has always been for 2 bottles but by some miracle my delivery man senses that I want 5 and has been delivering me 5. Perhaps because I was in the hospital and couldn’t telepathically communicate with him this time he deferred to the original order of 2. Yeah, okay.), and stated my request in demand form (3 additional bottles to be delivered this week). I was ready to do a victory dance as she hung up the phone when she said, “I doubt it will come but we tried.” Huh? “But you told them. They said okay. What do you mean?” I was confused. Evidently when you live here for 15 years you learn who to believe and who is to be believed only upon delivery.

Everything that can have color will have color
When I asked Bob to bring me cotton balls and rubbing alcohol from the pharmacy I smiled when he returned with a colorful array – it looked like a variety bag of Israeli marshmallows. And the alcohol was bright orange.

In 4 ½ months I still have not deciphered all the car makes on the road here. Skoda? Seat? “Mini” cars were celebrated in America. Contrast that with the mini as a way of life here. So the cars are unrecognizable and small. At least to me. Then there’s the color…

The most popular car color in Israel seems to be cobalt blue. Especially so for Mazda 3 and 6. A close second is electric salmon – very popular in the Opel line of cars. Tied for third are electric chartreuse (Peugeot) and electric kelly green (Citroen Berlingo and the new Egged buses). And it all just makes sense.

Some time trivia…
We operate on military time here. My kids finish school at 14:45 today.

Phones in the Ministry of Health in Israel are only answered between 13:00 and 15:00 Sunday through Thursday. At every other time there is a message reminding you of this fact.

There are 3 candle lighting times in Israel. They are for Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. In Tel Aviv the practice is to welcome Shabbat 20 minutes before sunset. Jerusalem has the holy custom of taking in Shabbat 40 minutes before sunset. In Haifa they basically split the difference and welcome Shabbat 30 minutes before sunset. I’ve been told the practice in Efrat (to observe Tel Aviv candle lighting times even though we are just minutes from Jerusalem) was implemented by our chief Rabbi (Rav Riskin) in order to give soldiers time to return to their families before Shabbat.

Now I’m out of time.

By the way, my supplemental water delivery did arrive. Just in the nick of time!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #86 – little known facts – or maybe just some stuff you wouldn’t have occasion to contemplate

East 3rd Street or Zerubavel?
My driveway in Israel gets blocked by carpooling gan mothers and cement delivery trucks – not quite as often as my East 3rd Street driveway got blocked by Kings Highway shoppers and diners – but often. I sent Bob out today to speak with the construction site shomer (watchman) about the cement truck about to block our driveway. They spoke. And yelled and cursed. In multiple languages – Hebrew, English, Arabic and Russian! Like East 3rd Street! Except that they reached an agreement. Which is good because the shomer was carrying an M16.

I never thought about being illiterate and having an accent
When you make aliyah to Israel as an adult, no matter how long you are here, you retain an accent which identifies you as an immigrant. Think about any immigrant family you know. My father-in-law has been in America for more of his life than anywhere else but his accent gives him away in an instant. But when you make aliyah, your children grow up speaking your native tongue like natives – in my case that will be English like Americans – and they will also speak Hebrew like Israelis. I pick up trempers (hitchhikers) all the time and I ask them in Hebrew where they are going. And they answer in Hebrew. Once they are in the car, I ask them more specifically but I tend to ask them in English. Half the time they answer me in California or New York English. “You’re from the States?” I will ask. “No – my parents are,” they will invariably answer. And so goes the second generation. These kids then get married, often to a non-Anglo, speak only Hebrew with their spouse and raise children who do not speak English at all or who speak broken English with an Israeli accent. Woah. I’d better get back to ulpan so I can speak to my grandkids.

This is way better than the new Target
If you wake up one morning with a pulling desire to daven at Kever Rachel (Rachel’s Tomb in Bet Lehem) – like I did the morning I went into labor with my own Rachel Merav – you can. You do not need a tour guide. You do not need a bullet proof bus. You just get in your car and drive there. You say hello to the cute soldiers who will then open the gate for you, you drive in to a parking lot that is free of charge and full of available spots. You park and walk less than 100 meters into the building that houses Kever Rachel. If you are coming from my house in Efrat it will take you 12 – 15 minutes to get there. Assuming no one is blocking your driveway.

Rachel Merav
So the big question lurking is about my daughter’s name. I recently met a woman here who had a baby and didn’t know what to name him. It was a free name but they were out of ideas. So she and her husband went through the phone book. They got to Akiva and loved it. End of story. But not exactly. When Akiva got to gan there was a party at which parents and children sat together in a circle and went around telling the origins of each child’s name. In a pinch, a story about Rabbi Akiva was concocted and the ganenet (gan teacher) was none the wiser.

It’s not always 100% spiritual – sometimes it’s just practical!
So we named her Rachel as in Rachel Imeinu, buried in Bet Lehem, on the way to Efrata – there are tons of biblical and local reasons to have named her Rachel. Of course the fact that Rachel can be pronounced by Americans and Israelis tipped the scales considerably…

Merav was a daughter of King Saul. He intended to marry her off to King David and then have her influence King David to come into danger. According to most, the marriage did not go through. Perhaps Merav was an independent minded woman. A nice quality in a namesake.

And then there’s the Hebrew word ‘merav’ which means, roughly, “to increase”. Certainly our blessing has been increased by the arrival of our Merav. And we certainly hope for increased blessing in our new homeland.

So now I’m covered with two possible stories in the event of a gan party.

The real deal – significantly less glamorous – on the order of a phone book name
I once picked up a tremper who I thought was Israeli but then answered me in perfect English. Her parents had made aliyah. She was very nice and we spoke the whole way to Jerusalem. She told me her name and I really liked it. It was Merav.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #85 - i'd give it a B+ but there's one thing for sure – you won’t get spoiled here!

Sometimes less is more
After a labor, epidural stabbing episode and finally, B”H, delivery – all of which I’ll spare you the details (which include someone – not me – fainting in response to my epidural stabbing episode) – I was wheeled to the maternity ward. I couldn’t wait.

Here is the Cheder Ochel (eating room) and some…jelly donuts?
They handed me a bag with a picture of a baby saying “Kef Li b’Hadassa” (literally “Fun Me at Hadassah”) filled with gifts – a towel, a lovely clean hospital gown and a package of sufganit ploos. It took me a while to figure out why they were calling maxi pads ‘jelly donuts ploos’ – in fact, jelly donuts are sufganiOt – but I can’t find any maxi pad related word to feed into google translator that will give me back sufganit ploos.

Ich bin ein Berliner
As I contemplate the urban legend of JFK calling himself a jelly donut, I am led to the (legendary in Israel) Cheder Ochel. “This is where you go to eat.” She wasn’t kidding. 3 times daily an announcement comes over the loudspeaker. “Cheder Ochel is open for the next 40 minutes. Go eat.” Sometimes a nurse would pop in and wake me with such kind words as, “It’s a shame to miss breakfast – go eat.” Other times no one would wake me and I would come out of my room starving only to find the food station of the Cheder Ochel locked up tight. There are two different ladies who alternate attending to the food station during Cheder Ochel hours – one maternal and loving, the other possessive and scary. Both take their jobs extremely seriously.

The big plate is for vegetables
My first dinner the (nice) lady handed me a tray all set up with big plate, small plate and bowl. She spooned me soup assuring me it was good for my health. When she saw me putting an apple and piece of cake on my big plate, she took both and moved them to my small plate, eating the bite of my cake that broke off in her hands. “The big plate is for yerakot (vegetables).” Then she gestured toward the cucumbers and tomatoes and waited for me to fill my plate. The whole experience reminded me of every other Israeli experience I’ve had to date – a combination of someone knowing what’s best for you and then telling you all about it. It was cute and the cake was good so I didn’t mind.

Water and hats – for tiyulim (hikes, trips) only
When you give birth in America (okay, so my experience is limited to Mt. Sinai hospital in NYC), the maternity nurses give you a pitcher of water and some paper cups and remind you to keep drinking – especially if you are nursing. They also put the cutest little knit hats on the newborns. In Israel (well, at Hadassa Ein Kerem, anyway) there are no hats for newborns. No big deal. But there is also no water for the mommy. Well, there is water – in a small room off the Cheder Ochel is a machine with cold water – but there are no cups. No pitchers. No nurses reminding you to drink while you nurse. I filled and refilled the water bottle I’d brought in when I was in labor maybe 40 times in 2 days. When I tried to take a paper cup from a drawer in the Cheder Ochel the food station lady was all over me. “What are you doing? You don’t open that drawer!” She wasn’t the nice food station lady from dinner. When my friend came to visit me with ice cream and asked the nurses for 2 cups for us to eat it from the nurses gave her a bowl from the coffee station (at which there are no cups) – it was the bowl that held the coffee grinds – and told her to wash it out.

In the spirit of ‘less is more’ I will skip over the broken hearing test machine (with which I was assured my baby had passed the hearing test – even though I was watching the machine flashing “broken” the whole time), and also I will skip over the night nurse who told me my big baby needed to eat more and will need the sides of her tongue cut loose so that she can nurse better. I mean, what more could I say about that anyway?

And then, as Bob tossed me the car seat and ran out of the room to get back to the car (because, ultimately, that is the procedure), my phone rang. It was the dryer service contract people. Wanting to schedule my appointment to fix the tubing on the back of my dryer. I laughed out loud. “I called you a MONTH ago!” She was quick to correct me – “No, you called us two and a half weeks ago.” I assured her that two and a half weeks worth of wet laundry was so much better than a whole months worth but that I no longer needed the appointment. But I had to ask her – “What’s with you guys?” And the answer – “You live in Efrat.” Okay...

Before I could have a second laugh the phone rang again. I won a contest somewhere. And now my name has been passed to this woman. She works for an agency who recruits for reality shows. Did I want to be in a reality show? Laughing, I told her, my life is a reality show.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #84 – advance registration – it only works if you bring the papers!

As we filled gas on the way to the hospital I suddenly realized…“The papers! We forgot the papers!” Somehow, in that moment, getting the hospital registration packet – with my sixty-some blood sample labels – seemed more urgent than anything else. “We must go back!” I told Bob, in a panic. Calm and almost laughing, Bob answered “Your water broke, sweetheart. We are already in Jerusalem. We are not going back.” I pleaded with him, “But they will YELL at me!” To which he smiled and said, “They probably will. Pshhhhhhhhh!”

And so it went. “What is your blood type?” Am I supposed to know this? I always call my sister-in-law when someone asks me this question. I don’t know why she can remember it and I can’t – maybe because of her medical training? Anyway, when I admit I’m not sure (saying you have the popular one is not enough, apparently) they ask for my papers. “I registered!” I assure the triage midwife, and then I whisper, “But I left my papers at home.” She looks at me sternly and I try to look pathetic. “Pshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

When the triage doctor asked the baby’s estimated size I was ready with the answer. “Seven pounds, thirteen ounces as of two weeks ago!” Pounds? Oh, you need it in kilos? Bob is trying to get a conversion on his Trio while the triage midwife is scratching her head and calling out a series of approximations in kilos and grams. The doctor questioning me, clearly unnerved by the lack of an understandable answer to his question moves on. “What was your glucose level?” I tell him excitedly that I passed the sugar test twice. “You have the numbers?” I confess meekly that I do not. “Pshhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

A few more doctors and midwives “Pshhhhhhh”’ed me that night but ultimately I prevailed – I delivered a baby at Hadassa Ein Kerem blee (without) papers.

As it turns out, all that pshhhhh-ing was just a warmup. When I showed up at the pediatrician the day after they sent me home he asked me if I’d registered the baby at the Kupat Cholim. But I just got home yesterday! Pshhhhhhhh! Did I know her birth weight? Excited and proud I announced, “Eight pounds thirteen ounces!” Pshhhhhhhh. He wanted kilos. But this time I had a paper – something they gave me in the hospital and told me to hold on to – a little birth chart for my not so little baby. “Four kilos and ten grams…Ooooh-wah!!”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Swirling Thoughts # 83 – so many thoughts, so little time…

This past Tuesday Hashem blessed our family with a delicious little baby girl. Well, maybe not so little… “Arba kilos! Oooh-wahhh!” Not to be outdone by any of her siblings, Rachel Merav, our first Sabra, made her entrance to this world as grand and dramatic as she was able – from her vantage point which I would characterize as “swimming around in a bunch of water.”

But maybe I should back up. There are many stories to tell and each one deserves its moment. This is the story of my water breaking. In my dining room. In front of my kids. Also in front of the sofer who was here checking our mezuzot. As he grabbed his stuff and left, calling out “Mazal Tov!”, Asher was trying to explain to the other kids and to Bob what was going on – “Mommy’s thing! It happened!” And there was a lot of confusion about the significance of the event. “Is the baby coming out now?” Barbara (little, not Grandma!) did an impressive amount of explaining.

We made our way to Hadassa Ein Kerem in fine time, we even stopped to fill gas. We got to the parking lot and this time instead of screaming, “The Baby! The Baby!” Bob just gave the attendant a knowing nod. He got me to the top of the hill and dropped me there so he could go park. So far so good. Except that I guess my water wasn’t done breaking. And so I stood there a moment to survey my situation. A quiet night at the hospital. I made my way through the security hut and then, all alone in the open courtyard under the stars (did I mention my water was still breaking?) I burst out laughing. Hashem has a serious sense of humor.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #82 – intended meaning

“Would you like trout with your bagel?” – trout meaning whitefish spread, of course...
While my mother-in-law and I were enjoying American style bagels and cream cheese in the German Colony, Bob was on a tiyul with Asher’s ulpan – in honor of the yahrzeit of Rachel Imeinu last week, they started out on a “quick and easy” hike on Derech HaAvot (literally, the path our forefathers, Avraham and Yitzhak took) followed by a trip to Kever Rachel (Rachel’s Tomb) and then a picnic in Gilo Park in Jerusalem.

Bring a hat means bring a hat – about this we mean business!
The trip note specified to bring a hat and plenty of water. Upon their arrival the teachers made sure everyone had a hat. Those who didn’t were issued a hat from the lost-and-found. Bob heard the kids saying, “Oh! But we’ll get lice!” And the teacher reassuring them, “It’s okay, it’s okay.” Later in the trip there was an incident involving a child, some food allergy and then hives. And the teacher saying, “It’s okay – we’ll be home in an hour!”

A quick and easy hike...
At least that was the intention. Quick because it was a mile and a half – from Alon Shvut to Neve Daniel. But no one counted on the need for snack breaks every five minutes. 2 hours to walk a mile and a half. For people like me who are all about pace, that’s an 80 minute mile. And then there was the easy part. Easy because there was a path. But no one counted on the hot weather (“It’s so hot!” “I’m so sweaty!” now repeat in a British accent to get the full effect). In spite of it all, they had a great time.

Jokes designed to induce labor
Ever since we started playing beat the clock (read: Bob plans to leave on my due date) I’ve been on the receiving end of hilarious stories, poems and jokes. The idea being I will laugh myself into labor. And then there’s the walking. Since Shabbat I have been tackling everything from steep stone stair cases to uneven Old City cobblestone. Last night, in search of a shish kabob restaurant on the order of David’s (yes, the last time I ate good shish kabob was on Kings Highway), we hiked up and down Ben Yehuda and Yaffo Streets. Until the kids were almost in labor. As Bob anxiously awaits it appears my baby has hunkered down for some more iced coffee and chocolate. Looks like the joke is on him…

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #81 – Nesting is overrated. Isn’t there something about sentimentality just before birth?

Last summer (when we were “trying out” Efrat) I wanted to make some special foods to welcome Bob back from a trip to America. I asked the health food store owner where to buy grape leaves to make yebra (grape leaves stuffed with meat and rice). He smiled and extended his arm, gesturing to the beautiful landscape, and said, “It’s shmita – just walk around and pick the leaves.” And so, with the help of my kids, we roamed Efrat picking grape leaves from anyone whose vine was extending over their fence. Mind you, it was summer time, the kids were out of camp and there was not much else going on.

Fast forward to now – the shmita year is finished and who has time to hike all over Efrat picking grape leaves? Between ulpan, school notices, quick trips to Jerusalem, and the matter of being 9 months pregnant – grape leaves must be purchased, not picked. So Wednesday Bob headed to the shuk and brought back an array of meats, fruits, Middle Eastern delicacies (read: ka’ak, olives, halva) AND grape leaves.

Sometimes a special experience gets sandwiched in between larger, more noteworthy experiences. Roaming Efrat picking grape leaves with my kids is a tender memory that was tucked away in my consciousness. Until yesterday. Between the much anticipated arrival of my mother-in-law and the still anticipated arrival of “new baby”, my Barbara sat with me and rolled yebra for the first time. I showed her all the tricks my mother-in-law had taught me – fold over the bottom, then the sides, roll it up, keep folding in the sides, lift it gently, like you would a caterpillar, place it seam side down on the tray. She was a natural – happy and proud.

No matter that the nursery is still unpacked, there is no crib and I still have not gotten to the pharmacy for the urgent list of vitamins and creams my doula insists I need. My mother-in-law is here, a family tradition has been passed on, what more do I really need to do? Okay, maybe nobody answer that…

quick and easy shmita review:

Friday, November 6, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #80 – situations

No matter how good you are at Beytzim, spanech jibn in your lunchbox is grounds for teasing.

Don’t they worry about identity theft here?
In uplan today we learned how to fill out a questionnaire. Should I now return the paperwork to Rosie’s gan that they gave me to fill out 2 months ago? Important things to know: mispar teudat zehut (your Israeli ID number – memorize it since everyone asks you for it and not just government agencies – vendors like the butcher and the local community center theater require it before they take your credit card info), shem prati and mishpacha (private and family name), tariq and eretz l’eyda (date and land of birth), and matzav mishpachti (effectively ‘marital status’ but literally translated, family situation).

We have a situation
This is Asher’s newest expression. As in, “Aba – we have a situation. Mommy spilled the milk in a bag all over the floor. She is sitting in it and I think she might be crying.” Or this one, since he found out Bob is banking on me delivering early and hoping to travel to NY on my due date, “Mommy – we have a situation. Aba thinks he’s leaving the day you are supposed to have your baby!”

How a 3 mile road through the picturesque Judean Hills could remind me of a Tarantino film…
High on Bob’s mayoral platform is a plan to grind down the 12 or so speed bumps along the main road of Efrat. The older bumps are tolerable and serve their purpose – they slow you down and if you drive over them at a reasonable speed there is no negative consequence. The newer bumps, however, are totally unforgiving at any speed. People giving me tremps apologize as we bump along knowing full well they are contributing to the bumping up of my due date. So today for the second time I gave a tremp to a soldier. With a very big gun. And though it was pointed down and surely locked and safe, I held my breath as we bumped along the main road.

School Uniforms
In Brooklyn half of every flyer that came home from school seemed to reiterate the school dress code. For Asher, my little soldier, it was easy peasy. He had a drawer of khaki’s and a drawer of collar shirts. He mixed and matched every day. I never really gave it a thought until I came to visit the boys’ school last winter and the principal mentioned there is no uniform and also no dress code. No dress code? I was incredulous. He called some boys from the hallway into his office. They were in basketball shorts and crewneck t-shirts. “You see?”

Since school started Asher has been loving the freedom of wearing soft cotton crewneck shirts and soft gym pants to school. He wears this same style to bed each night and in the morning I have to really look at him to decide if he’s put on fresh clothes or if he’s still in his pajamas. Basically, he’s all snuggly all the time. What could be better?

My friend, who actually reads the emails in Hebrew as opposed to running them through Google Translator, gave me the heads up today. Hello Kitty uniforms in the girls’ school were just a rumor. Barbara will be relieved. But the boys school is taking feedback for the next two days and then deciding on uniforms. We’ll have to monitor this particular situation carefully….

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #79 n. pl. id·i·o·syn·cra·sies A structural or behavioral characteristic peculiar to an individual or group.

I wonder
Do Israelis visiting Brooklyn go into shock when they come across a 24 hour pharmacy? How about when there’s a special on Hunts Tomato Sauce and you can buy 20 cans for $4. Do they try packing cans into their luggage?

Multitasking is truly an art form here
In 4 months I’ve grown accustomed to many of the idiosyncrasies that characterize life in the aretz. But then I’ll forget and plan to do my pharmacy shopping at 2pm on a Wednesday afternoon. I’ll park and start walking up the steps. And then I’ll remember. But I’ll continue up just in case. Just in case Wednesday has magically turned into some sort of “special American hours day” where the pharmacy remains open continuously past 1pm…

Of course there are no special hours and the pharmacy is closed. Not just a segur sign in the window closed. The gate is shut and there’s a huge chained padlock dangling from it. That kind of ha-ha-GOT YOU closed. Probably until 4pm but I don’t even bother checking because the only time for me to do my pharmacy shopping today was at 2pm. I’ll try again tomorrow – after ulpan and before the post office (which closes late tomorrow – I think 1:30).

Recall that sometimes Efrat runs out of things. Items like watermelon, flushable wipes, Philadelphia cream cheese. It’s not that any one store runs out. It’s that the entire town runs out. 3 makolets and a restaurant once ran out of eggs. So I guess it makes sense that when an excess of items comes available, it comes available to all the stores as well.

Bargain redefined
So with 40 minutes to kill and no pharmacy I headed upstairs to the small makolet with a partial grocery list I’d been carrying around just in case.

Something I’ve come to know and accept although I couldn’t begin to explain – Israel produces tomatoes, both fresh and canned, and tomato paste (in little plastic tubs) but no tomato sauce. Nothing even resembling tomato sauce. My Israelification still incomplete, I pay the 9.50 NIS for a 15 ounce can of imported Hunts Tomato Sauce. As I see the sign in the small makolet, I realize that lately every store I go into is running a special – 2 cans for 15 NIS. That’s about $2/can. What a bargain!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Swirling Thoughts # 78 – nesting but not really and could it be colder here than on Hoth?

Does doubling a recipe of spanech jibn count as nesting?
As I was furiously unpacking a basket of miscellaneous items that Bob had announced would probably be sitting atop my dresser for the rest of my life I recalled a theory I’d formulated in my last pregnancy or maybe the one before that – it’s not that you start to nest when you are getting close to giving birth. It’s that as you get close to giving birth, you nest so furiously you put yourself into labor. Not wanting to really test the hypothesis just yet, I slowed down. The basket of miscellaneous items is now officially unpacked, the hospital bag is sort of packed but that’s about it. Oh, yes, and soon there will be a spanech jibn in my freezer.

If your pace is slow enough and your expectations are low enough…
We took a leisurely trip into Jerusalem to Ace hardware today. We searched for some items we recently realized we were lacking (door mats and a mechanism to hold rain boots). A 50% success rate – not bad. On the way in, the soldiers at the macshom (security checkpoint we pass through on the way out of Gush Etzion/in to Jerusalem) were all wearing these really cool snow suits. On the order of Han Solo on the cold planet of Hoth (see pic). Except that they were full-body snow suits – head to toe. Bob, always looking for lively conversation in Hebrew, asked one of the soldiers where he could get one – if they were army issued or not. The soldier looked at Bob funny since he really speaks Hebrew like an Israeli (and wouldn’t an Israeli already know the answer to that question?) and Bob had to tell him we’re “Stam Amerikayim!” He laughed and waved us along. Did he know we were headed to Ace? Where they actually carry the full-body Hoth suit. And space heaters. And bathroom heaters. And bed heaters. We live in the desert, right?

When it’s cold and your house/dorm is made of stone, there is nowhere to hide
One of the yeshivah students we host for Shabbat called this afternoon to ask where he could buy a space heater. Seems he’s been freezing in his dorm each night. Bob, who never forgot the bone-chilling cold of winter in an old city yeshivah dorm, heard the call to duty loud and clear. Together, they went to buy a space heater and Bob made him a shopping list of things for his relatives to send. Namely down comforter, puffy coat and long underwear.

We learn this in school!
Becky just asked me if I want to play Beytzim. Seems it’s a game. A game where you throw the ball against the wall and then jump up and let it bounce under your legs. Where have I seen that before? I thought Beytzim meant eggs!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #77 - Stupid Idiot Boots

I moved to the desert, right? We pray for and celebrate rain here, right? I came with 44 coats plus ponchos and rain boots for each member of my family, just in case, right? So what did I do wrong? Evidently a lot. We’re in the middle of some psycho storm from Cyprus – who knew? The kind of rain in which you cannot carry an umbrella because the accompanying wind turns the umbrella into a launchable missile.

Becky sobbing and screaming.
Becky came down in socks and water shoes, screaming her refusal to wear “stupid idiot rain boots”. Her rain boots are yellow. They should have been blue. Also no good – her yellow rain slicker. Her choice – a pink windbreaker and pink earmuffs. Did I mention it is freezing cold outside in addition to pouring rain and whipping wind?

Rosie sobbing and screaming.
I loaned the housekeeper the Dora umbrella so she could hitchhike home in the rain last week. That would have been okay if the umbrella was back in our house this morning which it clearly was not. The fact that Bob carried Rosie to school under the huge Barney’s umbrella and that she wouldn’t have been able to manage her Dora umbrella in the wind – totally irrelevant.

Barbara not sobbing and screaming but her face all crinkled up getting ready to sob and scream.
I ordered Barbara yellow boots about a month ago. Once I placed the order she came to me and said, “The boots you ordered – they’re not yellow are they?” I headed that one off at the pass by ordering her a pair she picked out and pushing the yellow ones on Asher.

Me, ready to sob and scream.
Asher, my soldier, dutifully taking orders, flopped down the stairs looking like the Gorton’s Fisherman – yellow boots and matching slicker. Bob to Asher, “Are those boots too big for you? Lisa, I think Asher’s boots are too big for him. Look at how big these boots are. These boots are definitely too big.” Stupid idiot boots.

Swirling Thoughts #76 – it’s all about the weather now

A missed photo-op
At the Gilo junction: a Chossid’s very extremely long grey beard blowing completely horizontal in the wind. I couldn’t get out my camera in time.

44 Plus
I’ve been caught in the rain without boots, umbrella or coat 3 times so far. I can’t seem to get in synch with the weather. Bob, on the other hand, has been anticipating the weather and talking about rain gear and winter coats since Shabbat. Today, while I was sonograming and eating gourmet ice cream in Jerusalem with my dear friend Michal, he was hard at work setting up a place to hang our winter, spring, fall, rain, wind and Shabbat coats.

In Brooklyn it seemed quite normal to have various coats for various seasons. Believe it or not, I gave away maybe 15 coats before we left. But somehow, arriving in Israel with 44 coats (plus ponchos) to a house that (in the Israeli style) lacks closets of any type and most definitely coat closets, seems totally ridiculous. And yet, it’s precisely what we’ve done.

Smooth sailing or the calm before the storm?
Today as I made my way to the obstetrician I got there without detouring to the Prima Kings. For the first time ever. Okay, so my friend was driving but it was me directing her. At about the same time, Bob was making his way to the mall in Talpiot – he went straight there, parked easily, shopped and left. A stark contrast to his first visit. I asked him – any stories? Blogworthy mishaps? The fact that he set out for two closets and came home with one hamper didn’t seem surprising. Even the way they told him he could order the closets and IF they were in stock they’d come in about 3 days. If not, Bob asked? Well then, we’ll have to wait for the manufacturer to make some more closets. Even this we took in stride. It’s a small country. The whole entire inventory of any one thing can’t be massive because where would they put it? It’s all starting to feel normal now.

When we bought the Grandis and Bob said something about the front or rear fog lights not working, I asked if we’d had fog lights on our Volvo in Brooklyn. He looked at me funny and explained all cars have fog lights. Never having had occasion to use them, I didn’t give it a further thought. Until tonight. In the summer time clouds will settle upon Neve Daniel, across the highway from us, rendering it virtually nonexistent. Today when we got in the car for taekwondo carpool, we could see nothing beyond our house. It was as if we were on a cliff. Four years of driving through blustery snow in Syracuse did not prepare me for driving through cloud cover in pouring rain in Efrat. I think I drove 2 miles per hour the whole way. I asked the kids in carpool if this is what winter in Efrat is like. They said yes. This feels anything but normal.

When we got home, soaking wet, Bob assured me it’s only a storm. As per the email from our local weatherman. It spoke about strong weather coming in from Cyprus with more rain and wind. And regarding the wind:

‘Winds will be very strong, especially in the center of the country. So, be careful of possible flying objects.”