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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Mickey mouse vs. the dentist

I took the kids to the dentist last week.  In the US I was fastidious about twice a year appointments but this is the first time we've been in the 17 months we've been here.  I was a bit anxious.  First I'll start by saying that we had an amazing pediatric dentist in Kansas.  If you live in or near Overland Park, and you don't take your kids to Dr. Matt, then you are basically a negligent parent.   (Not that I'm judging.)  We went to him because of his credentials but he is so personable and the entire office is so friendly, plus they have it set up in such a kid-friendly way that after experiencing the long lines at the actual Disney world I think my kids would prefer a trip to Dr. Matt.  For them it was like going to super fun land and they came home motivated to take good care of their teeth--with actual instructions and know how.  But enough about smilesdentistry (and no I have no vested interest) it's just that I was pretty sure he was going to be a tough act to follow.  Plus, here we're on a socialized medicine plan and were just going to our plan's local dental clinic.

I am happy to report, we were quite pleasantly surprised.  There was some initial confusion in which I thought the tech was the dentist and the dentist was the tech, (have you ever had a dentist who wore a big gold chain?  It was a first for me)  but he was very good with the kids.  No plasma TV to watch in the ceiling while you are lying back in the dentist chair, but N even had a minor procedure and was fine.  The dentist recommended removing two of N's baby teeth.  N told him "Please don't do anything that will cause my teeth to become straighter because I want to move to England and become a footballer (soccer player) and I want to blend in."  Where does the guy get this stuff??  All I can say is he reads A LOT.   Fortunately, the dentist had a sense of humor and they hit it off.   A couple of painless shots and the teeth were out.  N and the dentist were like buddies at the end with him calling N the next Mr. Bean.

Afterwards, we took them for flu shots.  A being our youngest and bravest jumped right up to the table and pulled up her sleeve.  N who had just had the oral injections and was still having fun with his numb mouth requested the numbing spray prior to getting his shot.  The nurse happily obliged.

Meanwhile my parents sent N a pair of goalie gloves.  Boy, was he excited.  By mistake they happened to choose the color that his favorite goalie wears.

Cost of kids goalie gloves:  $15

Cost to mail to Israel:  $15

Getting yellow goalie gloves in the mail from your grandparents:  Priceless

And the school year moves along.  Thinking of last year when we just couldn't get help and comparing to this year when our kids are not even new olim (new olim have the most "rights" to get help) and all the help they are getting.  L's school just started a twice a week after school program to help with homework and for reading exercise.  The school librarian works with this small group and I am so excited.  First of all, school here ends at 1:30 so she now will get twice a week after school for free plus tons of help to close the reading gap that 2nd year Olim tend to have.  Hooray!  If anyone reading is considering aliyah, take note:  Go to a place where the schools have Olim-- it is much easier for your child and much better academic support.  The English programs at both schools are also good.  L's friends from Australia were complaining that they have to learn the American spelling for certain words (i.e. color vs. colour) but I guess such is life.

Today, the 17th of Tevet, is the 8th Yahrtzeit for Michael's dad, Arthur.   We miss you Arthur.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Winter wonderland

Only a short time after my last post, it started snowing in Modiin!!  According to neighbors, this is a first.  What fun.  Our kids were so thrilled (until they realized that hats and gloves were still in boxes--snow is actually pretty darn cold).  No matter,  all the kids ran out and had their 4 minutes of snowball throwing until their hands just couldn't take it.  Guess that's better than spending 10 minutes getting them bundles up just to have them tell you they have to go to the bathroom.  Actually, if we had all the winter gear they would have missed out on the fun in the time it would have taken to bundle them up.   My sense is that this snow might not be here in the morning but loads of fun for kids.  Very glad we don't have to drive anywhere.

Covered in a blanket

One day you're on the beach on Hannukah vacation, marveling at how warm it still is in December and next thing you know, bam--cold and rainy, winter has arrived.  OK, so it's not that cold in Modiin for those of us who have lived in regions of the world that experience real winters but cold enough that I had to run out and buy socks for everyone (something like 40 to 48 degrees farehnheit, with wind and rain).   Ariella, who is our most authentic Israeli child, was reluctant to trade her sandals in for a pair of socks and shoes but even she didn't venture out into the cold and wet with exposed feet.   It's possible the weather changed on a dime like this last year but I suffer from a condition I call "weather amnesia."  I don't know if that's even something real or if one can find it in the DSM-V--though with current trends to label everything I suppose that wouldn't surprise me.  It's just that I can't remember weather from year to year so patterns escape me.   Let's just say that even though we are now into December it was sort of shocking that it got cold and wet.  Luckily a friend had dropped a bag of hand-me-downs off for Ariella or that poor girl would still be wearing sundresses.  At the store I learned that what we call tights are called garbayot (long socks) here and what we call leggings they call "tights."  Make sure if you are repeating these words at home to yourself to add the accent whenever words such as "bank," "lobby," or "villa" are spoken in Hebrew.  Otherwise, you will never be understood!

Before all of you make fun of me for applying the adjective "cold" to 40-49 degrees, please remember that buildings here are designed for the majority of the year, which is quite warm.  They therefore are made of stone, and keep it cooler inside in the Summer.  But there is no (meaning zero) insulation.  So when it is 43.5 degrees outside, it is 44 degrees inside (since your body heat helps out a little).  This contributes to the feeling of cold, and explains why even the Olim from Britain and Canada are feeling the chill.

Anyway, living in a country that is so dependent on rain I actually have a feeling of increased security when it is pouring outside.  Like, ugh it's wet and icky, but hooray the Kinneret is filling up.

There is something I don't understand, though, and if there are any city planners reading I would like you to chime in.  (Elaine M. if you are still reading--maybe Andrew could advise?)  I haven't noticed much in the way of drainage systems here.  I mean 150 years ago they were draining swamps and the like, but for instance in my city which is relatively new (20 years old or so), when it rains large puddles appear on the roads and sidewalks, and some buildings have small floods.  Now I come from Kansas City, home of wet basements.  I totally get that if it rains excessively and the ground is completely saturated, basements fill with water.  But this is not an excessive rain situation.  This is more puddles accumulating in the street after a morning of rain.  I don't see drainage sewers.  I started thinking that maybe in climates that are prone to drought there is a reason for this and would love it if any readers could comment or explain.

Friday morning update:  I didn't send this post out last night, and I awoke this morning to weather news from Jerusalem that makes our Modiin winter seem somewhat underwhelming.  Jerusalem often gets some snow, and people from Modiin will sometimes take their children to play there.  However, today, Jerusalem has gotten a much larger share of snow than usual, leading to the shutdowns of the highways, and the army and police rescuing 2,000 motorists who were stuck because of the snow.

I remember a massive snowstorm in Nashville that completely shut that city down, demonstrating that the essential thing is preparation, preparation, preparation.  At the time, Nashville only had 3 snowplows.   I bet you they wouldn't have even noticed that storm in Toronto.  Karen, if you're reading this, do you remember that storm?  The one where people drove 20 minutes to work, realized the fury of the storm and turned around at 9:30 or 10 a.m. to get home, only to arrive home 10 hours later. . .

Any potential Christian tourists sharing Bing Crosby's dream shouldn't hold their breath, though, since next week is forecasted to be in the high 40s and low 50s in Jerusalem, which should melt everything away before December 25th.  Which, by the way, is cousin David's birthday.  Happy birthday, David!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Invasion of the body snatchers

This year I wanted to do some serious research for my blog so I decided to conduct an independent study on where to find the best sufganiyot (Hannukah doughnuts) in Modiin.  I knew it wouldn't be easy because there are so many fantabulous bakeries here and only 8 nights, but I felt that in this time of dedication (read another blog for the Hannukah story) I could show some dedication of my own.  After all, if you find yourself in Modiin some Hannukah I want you to get the absolute best sufganiyah out there.  I really only had your best interests at heart when I started, but dear readers I quickly learned that it was no mission for amateurs.  I mean I can put away some chocolate chip cookies and I can eat a pint of chocolate chocolate chip ice cream like nobody's business but these doughnuts were an entirely different matter and I'm sorry to report that I had to abort the mission after only three nights.  Sometimes, as it turns out, there really can be too much of a good thing.

And how do you burn off the calories from little fat bolus donuts?  Local runs in Modiin!  Last week Nehemiah ran in a local race.  Modiin has a yearly 5/10K, with shorter races for kids.  He qualified to run the 1500M on behalf of his school, instead of having to register independently.  It was a lot of fun.  There were 500 runners in his age group.   You might be asking how I burned calories standing on the side lines, so let me tell you-- since none of the parents knew where the finish line was, we cheered our kids on at the beginning, walked half way to the point that we thought was the finish line and then turned around and walked back to the start since it turns out the start and finish were the same place.  We had to move kind of fast too because this is only like a 7 or 8 minute race.  Afterwards the kids played in the olympic village the city set up.  All in all, lots of fun.

Poor Michael injured his foot so even though this was to have been his first official 5k it looks like he is sidelined for a bit.  No worries, he is shadow boxing while he waits for his foot to heal.

Last Friday, our neighboring city (the border of which is one block away from us) had their own race.  This was just a show up and run deal, and N and L both ran and then played in their bouncy/craft/play area.  The girls designed dreidels and N and a buddy made their own fun.

Now the kids are on break from school to celebrate Hannukah.  We planned some day trips and part of the blog experience is chronicling them so we can look back and say "Hey, remember that time we went to the Alexander River to see the sea turtles and that guy rode up on horse back, tied up his horse and walked away?"  Yeah, that actually happened while we were at Nahal Alexander.  I thought it was more a beach where we could swim but it was actually a big grassy park and you can watch the turtles come up on on the banks of the river.  Not sure where he came from.

We took a day to harvest fruit for poor people.  We joined up with an organization called Leket Yisrael.  We learned there that 1 in 4 Israelis lives below the poverty line.  Fortunately, great organizations like these are working hard to help.  One of the many ways they help is to have actual fields where they grow fruits and vegetables that are donated.  Our day we were assigned to pick clementines.  Our group was about 50 people, some from a bat mitzvah group that do mitzvah projects each month in preparation for becoming bat mitzvah, others from a school group from a town in the South, and a handful of families like ours.  We worked for about 90 minutes and the leader told us that we picked about 1000 Kilos of fruit, or about one ton.  He told us this would be donated to about 250 families.  We felt really good about that.  The other thing that we felt really good about is that sometime during the harvesting there was an invasion of the body snatchers.  I don't know if was the manual labor, or hearing about hungry children, or knowing that our work made such a difference, but our children spent the next several hours playing so nicely and treating each other with such love and respect, that I felt like we had become a family from an old-style TV show, like Leave it to Beaver, or the Brady Bunch.  I did not want to change the channel.

I'm not really that familiar with Invasion of the Body Snatchers (the film), so I don't know how to wrap up the analogy, but basically in the movie you're totally rooting for the "good guys" to get back to themselves but in this version I was rooting for my kids to keep up the charade.  Anyway, by morning the 'pod people' seem to have left and our children were back.  Today we went to the old city of Jerusalem on a tour organized by our city.  It was great because we went by bus, so there was no need to worry about parking etc.  Ariella sang songs about Jerusalem the whole way there.  She wanted everyone to join in but it was a group of Olim and she couldn't understand why they didn't also know the songs from school.  At one point she switched to "Adon Olam," because she said every little kid learns this one.  She was a bit confused as to why the announcements on the bus were being made in English.   Our first stop was the generations museum outside of the Kotel (Western Wall).  Apparently it took the artist 6 years to create the glass sculptures that he uses to depict the generations over thousands of years that have been in or have yearned to be in Israel.  Nehemiah got pretty excited when he saw his name etched on one of the sculptures.  The tour is done with a headset that is programmed in many languages.  Ariella chose to listen in Hebrew but I chose English.  She turned to me and told me that if I want to learn Hebrew I can't just to go to ulpan-- I have to also choose Hebrew.

Afterwards, we took a tour through the tunnels underneath the Kotel.  Nothing like thousands of years of history to put things in perspective.  What an awesome feeling to stand in such archeological sites and feel so connected.  And to be reminded how glad I am that I wasn't born a Roman soldier.  King Herod (who made a number of additions to the Temple area) did not mess around.  I'm not sure when it developed, but there is a custom to write a note and leave it in the wall with your prayers.  Lital put a note in asking for my dad to get better.  It was very sweet.