Sunday, December 26, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #182 – some things take almost a year and a half to seep into your consciousness...

For example…
Ahava’s Mineral Shampoo for Men of all Hair Types is the very same product as Ahava’s Anti-Dandruff Shampoo for All People of All Hair Types.

Of course there's no way of telling this from the packaging. I'm certain, in fact, that the only way to ascertain this liberating truth is to actually live here for precisely a year and a half (the time required to visit the Ahava factory exactly twice, search in vain in your local pharmacy for the same products exactly 100 times, to be told by (but not believe) your local pharmacist that the two products are the same, and then to visit the Ahava factory a third time and be told by an Ahava expert that the two products are, in fact, the same).

For example…
A 2.8% fat yogurt actually has 4.2 grams of fat. (it takes a while to internalize the European-style nutritional info given per 100g)

For example…
The (school sponsored) Egg Falling Competition (whereby students drop eggs from the roof of school to see if they can sufficiently pad them to keep them from breaking) actually marks the two month countdown to Purim (which actually marks the unofficial end of the school year).

For example…
A toilet paper roll is a valuable raw material. (As kids acclimate to the Israeli recycling mentality they will re-use EVERYTHING). Barbara is weaving me a scarf using a toilet paper roll and toothpicks as a loom.
For example…
All peppers are the same. There is no hierarchy of peppers. 9.90 NIS per kilo for light green, dark green, red, orange, and even yellow.

For example…
Double dutch jump rope. (Okay, so this will seep into your seven year old’s consciousness).

For example…
Margarine is good. (But only for suffocating lice). My neighbor offered me some cookie dough for the kids to roll out and cut with shapes. They heard me ask her if the dough was made with margarine. They rolled the cookies but refused to taste the dough and wouldn’t even taste the cookies.

For example…
It’s wasteful (shameful, even) to use a water bottle only one time. Becky’s been hounding me for months to devote a kitchen drawer to rinsed-out water bottles so she can reuse them. And she’s not waiting for me. I see her washing bottles herself and filling them with iced tea, orange juice and even coca cola. (Although, for Becky it’s less about recycling and more about sneaking sweet drinks to school...)

For at least the past 6 months I’ve been sending eco-friendly reusable water bottles with the kids. We fill them with Mai Eden in the morning and we water the plants with leftover water in the evening before we wash them out for the next day. It was going along very green and good until the Mai Eden delivery mishap - a half-order of water was delivered. Inevitably, halfway through the month, we ran out. And so I went back to buying water bottles.

Barbara’s grade is having a recycling competition – which class can collect the most water bottles. Barbara was proud to report:
My class is winning the bottle competition! We have the most bottles!
(Having a hard time picturing the Israeli classmates with single-use bottles).
Actually, it’s me bringing in most of the bottles. Everyone else washes theirs out and reuses it four times.
Oh, the shame.

For example…
Removing the fatty vein from a #5 (Minute Steak) Roast is not an Israeli concept. In fact, it’s downright wasteful! Bob and I had big plans to visit the shuk last Thursday but then I woke up sick. He ended up taking the baby to the grocery store and visiting the local butcher instead. I forget that when Bob maneuvers here, he does everything in Hebrew. And his Hebrew is pretty Israeli. As per my request he ordered a #5 roast, 2-3 kilo. And he ordered it in Hebrew.

The butcher handed him a roast in a bag, all bloody and juicy. Bob handed it back to him and said,
You’ll clean it up for me, yes?
But it’s good like this! The juices are all good!
No, you don’t understand. My wife is American.
Ahhhh! American! Yes! She wants London BOIL. It’s London BOIL the American women like. I will cut it and deliver it to your wife.

Several hours later my meat order arrived. A minute steak roast, split into two plus a mysterious third package.

It's in my freezer now, awaiting a time when I become Israeli enough to know what to do with it.... the fatty vein.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #181 - postscript

I asked Rosie if she needed to take lunch to the Shabbat party.
(Giggles) Of course, Ima!
Of course she shouldn’t eat chocolate cake until she’s eaten her chocolate sandwich!

She bounced out the front door in princess braids, a Shabbat dress, earrings and even lipstick. I watched from the doorway, in my pajamas. And as I started my challah, put up my roast, cleaned my vegetables and worked on another experimental whole wheat cake, all in my pajamas, I thought of my Rosie, the Ima Shel Shabbat, glamorously lighting candles, singing songs and baking cake in gan. How I hoped that cake wouldn’t embarrass her!

She came home euphoric.
How was it?
What did you do?
I don’t know.
How was the cake?
Like you always make, mommy!
But I never made that cake before!
Yes, mommy – it tasted like the cake you always make.
Okay…Who made it? Did the morah understand the directions?
I called different people to put in the ingredients.
And did everybody like the cake?

Did you sing songs?
Which songs?

I don't know.
Did you light candles?
The morah helped me.

What else did you do?
I don't know.
Did you like being Ima Shel Shabbat, Rosie?
I loved it!
Do you think next time mommy can come see you be Ima Shel Shabbat?
(Giggles) Of course not, Ima!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #180 – Ima Shel Shabbat

In Brooklyn when your child is the Shabbat Ima you get a note home inviting you to join the class and asking you to bring in a snack or a drink.

Tomorrow my Rosie is the Ima Shel Shabbat in her gan. I am not invited. This is not to be taken personally. It’s just not done. Last year I asked the Ganenet if I could just pop in. She told me I should just give her my camera and she would snap some pictures for me. They make it like a big non-event. Because seriously, doesn't the real Ima have enough to take care of on a Friday morning?

And while I did not receive an invitation, I did receive a petek (note) listing for me the items I am to send in with her tomorrow. I looked over the petek and understood only one word, ooga (cake).

Cracking the code…
1st attempt:
Rosie, are you supposed to bring cake to the Shabbat Party?
No, mommy. I have to bring something for the cake!
What are you supposed to bring for the cake?
Something something something
(really fast in Hebrew).
Uh huh.
Mommy, maybe you can call the Morah?

2nd attempt:
Bob – can you read this petek?
It says you have to bring things for cake.
Things for cake?
I think you have to bring ingredients.
(quickly passing the buck) Here, Barbara, tell Mommy what this petek says.
It says you have to send tzedakah.
Oh, wait, no, it says you have to bring ingredients for cake.
What ingredients? What cake? What are they talking about???

3rd and final attempt:
Morah? Shalom. It’s Rosie’s mom. What should she bring tomorrow?
Thankfully the morah was in the company of an English speaking friend who kindly advised me over the phone:
You need to send a recipe for cake. And you need to send all the ingredients to prepare the recipe.
I looked at my groceries, just delivered, sitting on the kitchen floor, wondering what cake recipe could be made without white flour and white sugar.
Got it. Thanks!

Okay but that wasn’t even the hard part
I quickly turned a chocolate cake recipe into a whole wheat, brown sugar chocolate cake recipe and measured out ingredients. Now came the fun.

3 cups flour became
3 כוסות קמח
2 cups sugar
2 כוסות סוכר
Etc. etc.

I decided the reason Israeli's love these little envelopes of vanilla sugar is because they are so easy to send to gan when your recipe call for vanilla. I mean, that's why I love them now. Because how is anyone sending in one teaspoon of vanilla?

I worked with my doctored recipe and Google Translator for almost an hour getting the measurements and then the instructions ready for a class of Hebrew speaking 4 year olds. I had Barbara proofread the recipe. I can’t believe after all that work I am not invited to see my Rosie be Ima Shel Shabbat! Maybe it’s for the best. Maybe I shouldn’t be there when the untested doctored cake comes out of the oven…

I put the ingredients together in a bag with the recipe and showed it to Rosie. She told me she wants to wet her hair in the morning so we can fix it just so. This is sounding less like a non-event and more like a magical princess party.

A friend of mine recently commented in the middle of our 10 year old daughters’ school play that her daughter didn’t know how to strike a match. She mentioned it after one of the 10 year olds on stage lit candles. With a match. I said Barbara had never struck a match either. We laughed as we recognized the difference in Israeli vs. American upbringing but I wondered – at what age are Israeli children instructed in match striking? Is it in gan? Is that why they don't want mommy's to come?!

Rosie - will you light the candles tomorrow?
Yes, Mommy but the Morah helps me.

She’s so very excited to be Ima Shel Shabbat. And while I stay home being the real Ima, preparing for the real Shabbat, I will be thinking of my Rosie. Lighting candles, looking like a princess. I’m so very excited for her.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Swirling Thoughts #179 - The Road to
Singapore? Zanzibar? Morocco?

We packed up snacks (potato chips and Shugi’s) and water and were on our way. I recently described the Shugi to my friend Michele.
It’s like a granola bar. Without any granola. It’s made of corn. But it’s mostly sugar.
And then she got the joke.
And they really call it Shugi?!

Once again we were the envy of the road with our Chimigag but maybe this time we were too enthusiastic.
Look at all this space in the car!
I know! Everything fit in the Chimigag!
Three hours into the drive…
Oh, the baby threw up! Where are her clothes?

Lucky chance spotting
I was excited to see Bedouin tents complete with YES satellite dishes. My kids were rendered speechless at the site of two dead sheep. After that they were wide eyed the whole way down. Who knows what else we would spot! There were wild camels grazing, the Shugi factory(!!!), chemical plants and the hint of an alleged nuclear facility…, military choppers, and an ominous sign confirming the presence of wild camels.

There was the hand-painted chill-inducing sign reminding us that
גלעד שליט גם מגיע לחופשה
(Gilad Shalit also deserves a vacation).

We found the fountain of youth (translated as Youth Fountain) and the Plant Quarantine Zone (with instructions not to throw any fruits). Next came a Firing Zone and then, as we slowed down to enter Eilat, six and a half hours into our journey, we were looking into Jordan. But not like in the north where you see a border fence, a buffer zone and lots of nature. We were looking into a busy city just on the other side of the border fence. We could see the drivers inside their cars! My kids couldn’t understand where we were.

Are we still in Israel?
Is that Israel over there?
No, it’s Jordan.
(And then, to really confuse them, I pointed straight ahead and showed them Egypt).
Are we leaving Israel?
And then it hit me.
Remember how we lived next to Raymond in Brooklyn? He was our next door neighbor, right? So Jordan is our next door neighbor now.
Ok fine. But how much longer until Eilat??
We’re here!

And so we were! Eilat was a blur of sunshine, friends, pools, Israeli breakfast, and sufganiot (jelly donuts). There were adventures inside of Eilat as well – the search for a hunchbacked token thief in the video arcade, the returning of a lost boy to his mom with the helped of an armed waiter, children (not mine!) playing in the pool with glass beer bottles (and the gentle exchange of bottles for plastic cups), sink holes in the sand pool and a heated discussion with an aloof lifeguard which led to a sign being placed over said sink holes (yes, this exact sign):

Asher was a superhero with his metal detector, detecting Shekels, Euros and Rubles, stopping to pose for photo ops with people who’d never before seen a metal detector.

Peetoosh and I took the scenic route home (the flight over the Negev is breathtaking) and Bob drove with the kids. I don’t know what they spotted out the window, if anything. They made it back in 3 ½ hours.