Oh, my poor abandoned blog! It has been so long. I have thought of you and I've meant to sit down and write but you know how it goes. Anyway, my parents came to visit for almost 3 weeks and it was such a wonderful trip. Whatever I had hoped it would be in terms of my father and the possibility that it could be his last time in Israel, my expectations were exceeded. For starters, on the first night he gave me a letter and a necklace. It was so meaningful, and now I have them for the rest of my life. For those who don't know my dad, you can see what a caring and thoughtful man he is. And really, since the natural order in life is for parents to die first what an amazing thing for any parent to do for their child. So, if any readers out there want to take a cue from my dad: write a letter to your child for when you are no longer around. It will mean a lot to them.
A few highlights from their trip:
While they were here my dad's energy was incredible. We took advantage of every minute. First of all, my parents brought about 20 pounds of candy to Israel. The dogs at the airport were probably going nuts thinking that there was something contraband tucked away b/c who in the world brings candy to Israel? But God bless my parents--they brought 4 suitcases worth of stuff. One of the things they brought was fresh blueberries. It had been over a year since we've had berries, so they were a big hit. I am not sure why we don't have blueberries here. I have heard you can pick them in the Golan but that would be a drive of several hours, so maybe on some future trip.
After the first Shabbat spent with good friends in Elazar we headed up North. We went rafting on the Jordan River. By "we" I mean everyone except for Ariella and me, because in the rafting company employee we found the one person in Israel who was concerned with safety and wouldn't let Ariella go in, because she was under five. We still had fun though, because well frankly, when was the last time you spent a couple of hours without any distraction hanging out with your child outdoors? I learned all about her desire to become a bird and live in the tree tops or a lion and roar at the animals in the jungle.
Our friends in Elazar recommended we go to a placed called "The Orange Grove." What a fabulous tip. I haven't seen it in guide books, but if you are visiting in Israel and have children I would try to get there. It's like winning a golden ticket. But instead of being invited to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory you are invited to his back yard. They literally built a backyard type play area in an orange grove. I mean some people have pretty cool yards. They have zip lines, and a pool and a cool jungle gym (hey Jay and Margie--how are you doing?) but nobody I know has a back yard like this. Pretty much any cool thing you could think of to run and jump and play with in a backyard was in this orange grove and it was a ton of fun.
One day we went to the Jerusalem zoo and then met cousins at the outdoor mall bordering the old city. My dad and one cousin walked to the Kotel (Western wall) and then met us at a restaurant. Some kind of artist fair was going on, and the mall was packed. Musicians were playing and it was just a very festive atmosphere. Luckily, the Italian place we like is sort of hidden away so there was no wait to get in. As we were trying to figure out exactly what the relationship would be between my kids and my mom's cousins' grandkids, their daughter said "We're English speaking relatives in Israel--that's practically like being twins." And it's true. For us anyway, as we don't really have much family here. As we were leaving the restaurant, Lital said she wanted ice cream and since it was only 10PM and we were in Jerusalem with the grandparents, she got her wish. You never have to go too far to find ice cream in Israel (unless it's 10PM and you're at Mamilla mall with your children. That particular detour will cost you at least an hour!)
One day while driving with my mom, I got distracted by Waze (oops) and popped a tire as I bumped up the curb. I pulled the car over about a block later and before we could even get out of the car, a jogger stopped and offered to change the tire. I was so confused as to why he had been out running with a jack but later my mom explained that it was from my trunk. I took a whole semester of driver's ed and frankly I feel like I should get a refund or something because I knew absolutely nothing about changing a tire. In fact, I didn't even put the car in neutral as I was apparently supposed to. The fellow who was helping joked that he should have known Americans wouldn't know to put the car in neutral. Don't be offended, I lived up to every stereotype imaginable that day. It is something I love about Israel and Modiin people are really helpful.
As is the case with most trips, we didn't do everything we wanted but we had a truly great time together. My parents left the night before school started. Now, I've previously told you about our "courtyard of dreams" (another great name from my friend Ilene). So two nights before school started they had a movie night for the kids in the courtyard with a giant screen and projector and super-loud speakers. It started at 8PM. There were two movies. It was literally in our courtyard so of course there was no way I could keep my kids from going. Yes, they went to bed at midnight two nights before school started. I mean I love our building, our neighbors, our courtyard but why would you plan to deprive children of sleep right before the start of school? Does that sound like a good idea to anyone?
In spite of the late nights, the school year has gotten off to a great start. Each child is in a different school. When we first got to Modiin we heard about a school that started about 6 or 8 years ago and has a tremendous reputation. Basically people told us not to even think about getting our kids into the school because there are wait lists and it's impossible to get in. It's not a private school but maybe more like a magnet or charter school. So naturally who does Nehemiah become friends with right away---a bunch of the kids from this school. They all assumed he could just "get in". You know, because they're 10 years old. One of our projects while my parents were here was trying to get him in since it did seem like such a good fit. And while there are many ways in which I could describe Nehemiah, motivated student would not be one of them. In spite of that, and in spite of all the odds, we did get him in! It was such a relief. Running with this new crowd of kids N had started to feel really comfortable in Israel. One day he announced that he was going to stop calling soccer by that name and call it football. He reasoned that really only Americans called it soccer and he wasn't in America any more. I took this as a real sign of progress and then he went on to tell us that he thinks he has realized his true destiny: to be British and be the goalie for Liverpool!
Lital is in the local public school that is basically on our corner. She slid right in and the teacher said that unlike new immigrants who tend to stick with English speakers only, Lital is friends with native Israelis and immigrants. Most of the school-age kids from our building go to this school so it is a natural fit. I was very happy to hear that. Ariella goes to a Gan (kindergarten) in a building right next to Lital's school. We are in a very sweet spot in the mornings b/c the girls have about a 5 minute walk (don't worry, I take Ariella) and Nehemiah has about a 12 minute walk. Everyone can get out and no need to rush into a car. It is actually pleasant. Last night Ariella asked Michael how to say "Spanish" in Hebrew. She explained that she wants to find out if anyone in her class speaks Spanish but she can't ask them in Spanish because she doesn't speak it, and she can't ask them in English because they wouldn't understand, and she can't ask them in Hebrew, because she doesn't yet know how to say "Spanish"! What she plans to do with this information is beyond me. We are glad that she has a few English speakers in her Gan because she no longer speaks English like a native but instead translates from the Hebrew. For example:
"Will you give to me that apple?" or "Hadar wants me to visit if you let." Between English at home and having a few English speaking friends, hopefully that trend will reverse itself.
Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year starts tomorrow. I have crammed a lot in, perhaps rambled a bit. Our year is certainly off to a sweet start. Let me sign off with the following blessing, inspired by Ariella:
I wish to you a good and sweet year!