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Friday, November 22, 2013

Time to make the doughnuts

Hannukah is rapidly approaching and for the last few weeks, major department stores have all things Chanukah related.  I love walking in and being greeted with Hanukiyot (Hanukah menorah), candles, matches, oil lamps, cooking oil.  Seriously anything you can think of that is somehow related to the holiday will greet you on the shelves as you enter the stores.  I saw mesh skimmers and tongs for deep frying, cake and doughnut decorating utensils.  In fact, my challenge to you dear readers:  Name a Chanukkah related item that you think is NOT on the shelf ready to be purchased at my nearest grocery (well, okay, no Channukah bushes--oy).  In the meantime, the doughnuts have come out in full force.  Everywhere you turn is another doughnut, more decorated and frosted than the next one.  No need to worry about overeating during the Hannuka season, because seriously the grocery carts are so hard to push in a straight line that you easily burn an extra 100 calories every time you go to the store.  (I said I wasn't going to complain about them anymore but note that I'm giving an upside--not a complaint!)

It's a super fun time to be here with all types of parties and events.  We went to Ariella's class party and I am still such a newbie.  I teared up seeing all those kids dance and sing about Chanukah and living in Israel.  It really is miraculous and to be part of it can just hit you all of a sudden.  After their performance we made Hanukiyot.  Since this is Israel it wasn't just glue some parts together it was the full organic experience.  A potter came in with his equipment and the kids got to spin clay on the wheel and then make clay Hanukiyot.  Messy but fun.  Naturally we were the only parents who forgot to bring the clothing for craft time but that's nothing new.   At least I understood the e-mail that had instructed us to bring the clothing.

On the school front, a classmate of mine in ulpan was an ESL (English as second language) teacher in the US and she told me that on average it takes 3 years to gain Academic fluency.  So my kids, at year two, are in the middle.  If you have school aged children and they struggle with any subject, imagine how much more difficult it would be for them if they didn't fully understand the language of instruction.  Modiin does seem to have incredible schools and thankfully they are set up to work with olim.  It is a lot of effort but we are charging ahead.  And sometimes I wonder what fluency even is.  Today I told someone in English that I could see an item under discussion even with my "blind eye," which she politely reminded me is actually called the "naked eye."

I celebrated a little success this week that I might have thought a year ago at this time would have been a miraculous event.  One of N's closest friends from KS called to Facetime.  So they're chatting and continuing their cartoon series when I overhear them talking about when they might be able to actually see each other.  His friend is likely moving to Colombia (the country) at the end of the school year.  I mentioned to N that perhaps they can see each other in KS before the friend moves and N responds with "But I want D to come to Israel.  I want him to meet my all of my friends and see how great it is here."  Well, I knew things had been going well, and life here is so amazing for kids, but you could have knocked me over with a jelly doughnut when I heard that one. 

Special welcome to readers from Yaldah magazine.  I felt so honored to be mentioned.  I do hope you enjoy the blog, clearly Leora W. has exceptional taste!

Meanwhile back on the ranch, Bubbie woke up one day, sold her house and moved into a retirement community.  OK, maybe not that fast but it was pretty impressive.  The other day I called to see how she was adjusting to her new surroundings.  Even though Bubbie left Russia 70 years ago and has been in the US over 60 years, people usually ask where she is from.  Even though she knows what they mean, her usual response is Leawood (the town in KS).   Well apparently when the members of her new residence started asking, she told them she had arrived from Sweden.  This is technically true because they were in Sweden for a few years before emigrating to the US.  The best part is the responses she gets are usually along the lines of 'Yes, I thought that was the accent".  Thank you Bubbie for reminding us that it is never too late to reinvent yourself.  

And even as I adjust to all the inventions of our new lives, I wasn't quite prepared to hear Lital on the phone with one of her friends in Hebrew.   It's not that she's never spoken Hebrew before in our presence, it was the comfort and the fluency--wow!  I don't know the right word to describe how it feels to watch your child converse in a new language.  A word that would combine "strange, but mixed with pride and inspiration" would be close to the word I'm searching for. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Down by the schoolyard

So last week we received a letter from one of our children's teacher.  The teacher expressed serious concerns that her young pupil, while bright and enjoying school, was clearly not working to maximize potential and was not doing the homework.  She explained the steps she wanted us to take and we had to sign at the bottom of the note to prove that we had seen the missive and were in agreement with the corrective steps.

The child:  Ariella

The teacher:  Lital

Wow, home ulpan can get pretty intense when an older sibling bathes in the luxury of authority.  Frankly, I'm a bit nervous about how parent teacher conferences are going to go...

At my own ulpan we are improving our vocabulary daily.  I again notice the ulpan trend of assigning themes to remind current immigrants that no matter how challenging things may be there is no comparing to those with real hardships.  For example, today's assigned reading is about the founding of a town called "Petach Tikvah" (the opening of hope).  Apparently, the founders left Jerusalem in the 1870's and discovered a town that was swamp land and most of the inhabitants were sick with malaria. They brought a Greek physician to the town and he told them that it wasn't fit for human life.  In spite of all of this they named the town "Petach Tikvah" and got to work.  OK, I get it I'll stop complaining.  OK, I'll stop complaining after this one line:  Why are all of the grocery carts built in such a way that they tilt as you push them?  This can make getting your groceries to the car quite a workout.  Between the obstacle course of other shoppers and cars, Oy!

In her regular Kindergarten class, A is learning about tzedakah (charity).  The other day she told me she wants to make sure to bring money for tzedakah every day because that way old people can get food and drinks and have a place to live.  "Though," she commented, "they will still be old."  I'm really not sure if that was a translation issue or the philosophy of a 5 year old.

Another thing I learned in ulpan is that the number of continents in the world is apparently not an agreed-upon fact.  Seems that since I am American, I was taught that there are 7 but for much of the world there are only 6 because they count North and South America as one.  I am proud to report that we have students from 5/6 or 6/7 continents:  Africa, Europe, N. America, S. America,  Australia and Asia (stretching with this one as the teacher is from Israel).  Everyone has to give a 5 minute talk about themselves in Hebrew and it it quite interesting hearing about the different parts of the world that my classmates lived in before moving to Israel.

This morning N's school started off the morning with a run and healthy breakfast.  It was loads of fun.  Each class wore matching color shirts and they all carried banners and torches exclaiming things such as "5th grade 2 is my family".  The 1500 meter run was less a race and more a promoting healthy habits event, but N came in 2nd place for his class.   As I watched him interacting in Hebrew with his friends and classmates I felt that I was watching a type of transition. . .