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Wednesday, May 22, 2013

How the other half doesn't live

Well it's back to the US of A for me.  Headed back to work for a few weeks and spend some time with my dad.  If you saw my post about my last flight you will remember that it was rather scary, what with the gasoline fumes, the turning around and landing right after take off etc.  Hoping tonight's will be more routine...triple wrapped chicken, movie, pretend to sleep, triple wrapped eggs and land in Philadelphia.  With of course crying babies in the background---but hey they're not my crying kids so it's  not so bad.  Anyway, after my last flight I received an e-mail from US Air letting me know that I had been upgraded to silver preferred.  This meant complementary upgrades to first class if there was a seat available and a waiver of one checked bag fee.  Wow was I excited.  I have been dreaming of my first class experience and at this point even the grocery store clerk knows that I might be flying first class.

Well, ladies and gentleman, don't believe the hype.  First class upgrades are only "when available."  That means not for flights to Hawaii, Europe, South America or the Middle East.  That leaves Asia, Africa and domestic travel available for upgrades.  But wait!  US Air doesn't seem to fly to Africa, and their only Asian destination is Japan.   That leaves Japan and domestic flights.  But wait!  For flights that are short distances--like halfway across the country from Philadelphia to Kansas City--US AIR uses small planes that do not have first class seating arrangements.

So I guess I won't get to see how the other half lives.  But at least I get to bring an extra checked bag free of charge so that I can bring back more things from Target and Costco.

But wait!  It turns out, everyone on the international flights gets a free checked bag, and while the small print didn't say these things were mutually exclusive, US Air's very flexible customer service department assured me that they are.

The whole thing kind of reminded me of when Bart and Lisa tried to hire a lawyer on the Simpsons:

Israelis are not the only ones with bureaucracy, it seems. . .

Switching topics to "family and friends visiting Israel", my Aunt Marlene and Uncle Hyman were visiting in Israel this week and we had the pleasure of joining them for dinner in their hotel.  Hyman was a hit, especially with his introducing us to the MLB phone app (for watching major league baseball), and Marlene was very indulgent of our children's multiple entree predilections.

It was kind've funny to be the Israeli family that your American relatives take out for dinner. . .

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"...I will not let you go" (Pharoah's song)

Bring a lot of white shirts.  People like to ask for advice for their own upcoming aliyah and I mention this because there is something to celebrate or commemorate or mark in some way that requires your children wearing a white shirt almost every week.  Last week all the activity was around Jerusalem day and tomorrow is Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) so A had to wear a white shirt and festive clothes to Gan today.  Yesterday as we were walking in, one of her friends made mention to me that she needed to bring a basket to Gan the next day.  I gave him a quizzical look.  "Ema shel Ariella" (translation: "Ariella's mom"--kids here call you as the mother of your child's name) he went on, "you can't forget the basket."  See poor little A probably misses out on some of the goings on in her Gan because they require either a knowledge of how things worked in previous years or a commitment to reading e-mail from the teacher.  Now even those of you who are reading in your primary language probably only scan.  Reading it in Hebrew things can get lost.  The parents don't think to mention these details because what kind of person doesn't know for instance that you are meant to bring a basket to gan the day before Shavuot?  So it falls on the kids to bring me up to speed so to speak.  I can imagine those little kids "Chaval (oh what a pity), this week she didn't bring the red flower..."

So after the five-year-old gave me the heads-up, I asked the teacher because I was still a bit fuzzy on the details.  I left the room thinking I would bring her a yogurt and fruit in a grocery sack.   Fortunately, I got another call that night "ema shel Ariella, can she come play?"  I love these phone calls because when I'm speaking with the little kids we're all on the same level and they know what it feels like to not be understood so they don't mind repeating or speaking slowly.  Anyway, I learned when I dropped her off that it was more a decorated bakset that we were supposed to bring.  I'm no historian and I'm not about to get into which tradition came first, but to a girl from Kansas this sounded suspiciously like Easter baskets.  I'm sure it's all connected with the first fruits etc. but if I had been given more than a night's notice I could have sent her with a lovely basket.  As it is I was able to dig something out of our cupboard and we walked in with our heads held high.  All the girls had little flower wreaths on their heads (there's always next year) and since she and her friend had made crowns on the playdate A too had something on her head though a bit more taped-together-construction-paper-than-flowers but she didn't care.

Meanwhile, we are considering getting N a cell phone.  Thank goodness he has really fallen in with a nice group of friends and most nights he isn't home.  It's constant running and doing and going.  I don't want to push my luck but I have also noticed a major drop in comparisons to Kansas or even a mention.    Last week when he was speaking with one of his close friends from Kansas, he learned that his friend was moving to Colombia--as in South America.  Wow, I said your friend is also moving overseas.  N gave me a look and reminded me that there actually was not an ocean separating North and South America.  Details.

Back to the subject of Easter bunnies etc.  Last week L went with a friend to the local community center to watch a movie.  I'll confess I didn't do any screening and the friend's mom told me she thought L understood much of the movie but needed some translation.  Turns out the movie was about Santa and the tooth fairy and a group of imaginary characters.  Really.  We flew all the way to Israel to watch a movie about Santa.  Not atypical for living in the U.S., slightly more unexpected for living in Israel. I have a strong suspicion that L was likely the only kid in the theater who knew who many of the characters were.   Meanwhile, L lost a tooth last week and she told me "I know there isn't such thing as a tooth fairy, but there are moms.  I expect money underneath my pillow when I wake up."  Kids these days.

Tonight we head out of town to stay with friends we made through baseball for Shavuot.  Really looking forward as I'm sure it will be both a meaningful experience for us and great fun for the kids.  With all the Shavuot prep and learning, A has done a great job connecting Passover and Shavuot.   And in what I'm sure will become an instant hit in Jewish households across the world she has taken to  singing "No, no, no, don't let the dog go."

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Right Way to Make Unsafe Choices

I am so excited that my new friend (who feels like an old friend), Gila from mentioned me and my blog in her blog.  I have been reading Gila's blog for around two years and she doesn't disappoint.  In fact, hers is the only blog I read on a regular basis.  Recently, we actually spent a Shabbat with her family and all the different counterparts got along.  Isn't it great when that happens.  Anyway, I mostly started this blog for my mom and my friend Ilene (who came up with the name for oysandjoys) but if any readers from accident want to join--you are very welcome.  I may  have just set a world record for using the word blog in a 5 sentence paragraph.

So do other parents ever get the feeling that the message you may be trying to send just isn't getting received?  I feel like I try to emphasize safety with my children especially since my career involves dealing with a lot of the aftermath of unsafe choices (generally mixed with alcohol, but still . . .)   When Ariella was a baby she used to find tiny little objects in the house, put them in her mouth and then bring them to me and say "choking hazard."  You know all the times I had taken something small out of her mouth and warned her about choking hazards somehow got mixed up in her mind.  We were never able to fix that one.

Today I discovered Ariella blending two phenomena with which our Israel experience has thus far graced us:  Bicycle safety and stone floors.

Well, bicycle safety has always been a big theme for us, and our children, including Ariella, never tire of pointing out the common practice here of bike-riding without helmets.

The stone floor phenomenon is widespread here.  The upstairs, downstairs, and the stairs connecting them in our house and in almost every other home we have seen in Israel are made of stone.  They are rumored to lack the soft, plushy qualities that many carpets possess (except for the "Grey Banshee" that was our carpet in Kansas for several years.)

I caught Ariella blending these two important themes as she prepared to pillow-surf her way down the stone stairs.  Her final preparation:  Putting on her bike helmet.

Friday, May 3, 2013

And how many ways do you use oven cleaner?

So I'm a tad behind with my update as Lag b'omer was last week but it was so much fun that I figure better late than never.  First of all, as with so many things here there is some controversy surrounding the way this "little wee holiday turned serious dedication to burning things" day has evolved.  For instance, where exactly did all of that wood the kids collect come from?  But that is a conversation for a different forum.  Anyway, there was so much build up and so much of it seemed well sort of downright scary,  that I was prepared to consider it a success if I didn't have to use my newly acquired medical license that night.   Fortunately, at least in our little neck of the woods no medical emergencies (though I did make one house call for a trip and fall who was just fine, thank you). 

We had such a great time.  It's a hard scene to describe but essentially every 400 feet or so there are little groups having bonfires.  Our family for instance had 4 different fires we could have belonged to but we chose to attend the second grade bonfire and I let N go on his own to the 4th grade fire since M was out of town.   Even while I'm typing this it sounds alarming that I would let my 10 year old go on his own to burn things with friends but I knew there were parents assigned to monitor and also it's sort of normal.  And he had a complete and total blast.  Imagine organized chaos.  At our fire we made our own pita, roasted marshmallows and hot dogs.  We also ate roasted potatoes and onions that were soooo good.  The technique was rather ingenious.  We poked a long wire through the foil wrapped potatoes/onions and put them in the fire.  After awhile you just pull the wire to take it out.  There were also games and singing.  I felt a certain amount of pride when A and L sang along.  It's new to me but it won't be to them.

The next morning (kids never go to school in this country so they were home with me), Lital pulled out chopsticks and found some marshmallows and as I was making pancakes she roasted a few marshmallows for the group.  Later she and a friend decided to have a bake sale.  We made some yummy cupcakes but as it was a million degrees outside they came back in after about two minutes and we played board games until it cooled off.  As they were designing their posters for the sale, I realized that the plural form of currency (the shekel) shekalim, rhymes with the word for tasty, ta-im.  So they went back out with their cakes and started singing a little ditty.  Well they sold out in 30 minutes,  I'd like to thank it was the cakes, might have been neighbors eager for the poem/song to end.

Today I went to an ultrasound course in Tel Aviv that the Shaare Zedek docs invited me to.  First of all when there isn't any traffic (since Friday is not a standard work day), Tel Aviv is actually only 30 minutes away.  It likely would have taken me 2-3 times as long to get there on a regular weekday.  The course was great, I got to meet a few ER docs and some medical students who served as models.  The lectures were in Hebrew but the slides were in English so between the two I was pretty well able to follow along. The students who were Americans at an American/Israeli medical school (Sackler) told me that after a few months with patient care I would have a decent fluency.  As most of them did not know Hebrew before they came, that was good to hear.  Especially since I recently discovered that I have been cleaning the toilets with oven cleaner for the better part of 6 weeks.  Hmmmm.