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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Dancing with the stars

I should probably take the time to review my blog now and again.  I had completely forgotten last year when the month of Adar started we were introduced to the "Mishe Nichnas Adar" singing and dancing.  Last night just after we had finished dessert and were about to start a traditional Shabbat song we heard a knock at the door.  It doesn't happen all the time but it's not uncommon for a neighbor or friend to knock on our door on Shabbat with a medical problem.  Ariella usually greets them with "my mom is a doctor for emergencies so she can only help you if you're about to die."  Love to see her as a triage nurse one day.  But I digress. 

I was half expecting someone with a sore throat or stomach ache when the door opened and in came a bunch of kids in costume, singing and dancing.  Adar is here and the build up to Purim in this country is intense.  Anyway, it's sort of customary to give each kid a little treat but I was caught off guard.  Really, if you live here and especially if you have kids you always have to have some type treat in your cabinet because life here is always celebrating something or preparing to celebrate something.  The 5 days during the school year where they are not engaged in either of those must be the time where they learn math.  I still haven't figured it out. 

Anyway, my kids joined the group and returned an hour later with sandwich bags full of marshmallows and wafers and lots of great fun.  The Mishe dancing goes on all week so tomorrow I will head to the store so that I have something to hand out and an extra for my cabinet.

Today we were able to see Mars and Venus with our naked eyes.  How cool that no matter where in the world you are when you are reading this blog, we were all able to see that.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Rat race

One of the dreams I have for our family is to eventually own our own home in Israel.  (A dream that would have been much easier if the selling market of our old Kansas house had not, unfortunately been below the buying market from a few years earlier.  But that's okay, you take your opportunities and make worthwhile trade-offs).  I don't fantasize about a yard or covered parking because unless we set up a very successful crowdfunding campaign, we will be lucky to buy our current apartment which has neither.  Real estate in Israel is so expensive.  It's like the entire country is San Francisco or Manhattan.  The Upper East Side of Manhattan.  It's a funny thing if you stop and think about it.  Surrounded by hostile neighbors, held responsible for most of the world's problems, can't keep a government together, and yet buying a home is so expensive.  I probably should have paid more attention in my economics classes (hey Mala!) but I don't get it.  Anyway, I do dream of a place of our own where we can decide what we want to do and not worry about having to move again, but sometimes it's good to be a renter.

And when, you might find yourself asking, is it good to be a renter?  When your kids beg for a dog.  Now don't get me wrong.  I don't have anything against dogs.  I grew up with the world's loveliest Golden Retriever--Ruby Tuesday.  But some days it seems like our little human family of 5 has a very full plate, and if we had one more thing to take care of, Oy! (That's me justifying the blog title).  So I've kind of enjoyed our landlord's policy of no pets.  But darn if my wily kids didn't grab the landlord in person during a rare appearance, and wear the man down.  Finally, he agreed to allow caged pets.  Enter Kitty and Oreo.  The newest non-human members of our family.  Once we got the green light from our landlord, Michael started researching our pet options and his investigation led him to the conclusion that rats make amazing pets.  Yes Rats.  I actually became convinced.  They're so intelligent and friendly.  You can train them, you can love them.  And they will love you back. And they will use a litter box and come when called.

Once we were all in agreement that rats would make great pets (I say rats in the plural because like Lay's potato chips, you can't have just one--they get depressed and die without a companion), we got a little stuck in the practicalities.  I have no basis for comparison as I never tried to purchase a rat in the US, but here in Israel we couldn't find a pet store that sold rats.  When we called to inquire, they always agreed that rats do make excellent pets but no they didn't know where we could buy one.  How about a nice hamster?  My detective work led us to an animal menagerie outside of Rehovot that did in fact sell rats.  Mostly to people with pet snakes, but no matter.  We found them.

In retrospect, my interest may have been a touch more theoretical, which is probably why the actual going to get the rats happened during my last work trip.  Yes friends, while there was an ocean to separate us, my family bought pet rats.   To get to this animal menagerie you have to drive down a very long dirt road (I have since returned there to buy rat food!) and I mean a loooooong dirt road.  Two years of being here make it so normal to have to go off paved roads to find what you're looking for.  And if people are doing 3-point turns or  U-turns on that road--again, not a big deal.   But some dirt roads are longer, and more potentially frightening to someone who hopes their car will retain some value, than others.

My Bubbie's response when she heard we got pet rats:  "Most of the world is paying someone to rid their home of rats and you guys are paying to give them a home!?!?!?!"    Ha!  If she only knew.  Our rats have a hammock--homemade mazes, specialized food and a lot of love from 3 kids--who somehow can't be found when it's time to clean the cage.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Long time no see

Well it's certainly been some time.  It's not that I haven't thought about blogging, because I certainly have.  And frankly the immigrant experience is so ripe with material that nary a day goes by that I couldn't write something.  But, since my last post, my father died.  And while I know I was incredibly lucky to have a dad like mine,  the loss is so complete.  Of course I know that the natural end of the life cycle is death but the utter blackness that is the realization that you will never, not even once, not even a chance, not ever see the person again is so painful.  Though this is the oysandjoys blog (thanks again to my super creative friend Ilene for the title) I think I should focus more on the oys than the joys.   In that light, I offer  a few thoughts about my dad that are happy, especially since he wanted us to remember the good times and remember him as he was throughout his life, not as the cancer left him at the end.

I remember once on a car trip he engaged us for the better part of an hour with an incredible tale about a man he knew who was a spy.  By the end of the story we were begging and pleading with him to tell us who this amazing man was.  His reply.  "His name was Bond.  James Bond," followed by his ever infectious laugh.  My dad was the same person who told me at 8 years old that no one was really happy.  Happiness, he explained, was a Hollywood idea.  Those two stories might begin to illustrate a father who was always engaged with us, always interested in our lives and our friend's lives and in life itself.  I miss you dad.

Anyway, where to even begin?  Last summer we visited family in the US, and at some point I should probably write about the experience as seen through the eyes of my children, who probably didn't even remember the land that they missed and then re-experienced again as foreigners.  They met their cousin, Golda, for the first time and Ariella attached the Israeli "oush" so she became Goldoush.  They loved being with family and seeing old friends but I was relieved to see them eager to get on the flight home.  Home to Israel.  On the flight, N asked a few passengers if they were considering Aliyah. 
"You should do it," he told them.   "It's rough, but it's worth it!"

This morning we went to the Mesibat Siddur for all of the first graders at Ariella's school.  Last year I was so impressed with the show the Kindergarten class put on, but since the Kindergartens in Israel are free standing, hers was just a class of 35.   The entire first grade performs together so this was over 100 children.  It was like a Broadway show.  Costume changes, sets and lots of singing and dancing.  Think more big choral numbers rather than solo parts.  There was one sort of modern dance routine set to the theme song of Mission Impossible which I'll confess I might not be artistically sophisticated enough to have appreciated, but otherwise it was amazing!  At the end of the show, the Chief Rabbi of Israel came and shook the hand of each child.  I didn't even travel to Israel until I was 17 years old, but my 6 year old daughter has already met the Chief Rabbi. 

Watching A in first grade has really been interesting.  The other two are fluent in Hebrew but have not yet reached "academic fluency," (crazy as it seems--this is a 5-7 year process!) but A is truly bilingual.  It's amazing to see her read and write in both languages and actually understand what she's reading.  My hope had been to keep up with the first grade curriculum, but alas they have passed me.  My Hebrew has definitely improved, though.  I have come to realize that when we moved to Israel and I used to tell people that my Hebrew was bad, I was quite mistaken.  My Hebrew was essentially non-existent.  Now, after 2.5 years my Hebrew is bad.  What an improvement!  Even one of the kids' teachers noted a major difference in my ability to communicate.  In spite of my efforts, there still remains such a major gap.  Life without a firm grasp of the language is like living in a semi-constant state of confusion.  I might not be using salt in the dishwasher or cleaning the toilets with oven cleaner any more but I still have a long way to go. 

On that front, I have a new Hebrew conversation partner.  The idea is that she will improve her English and I will improve my Hebrew.  She grew up on a Kibbutz in the 80's, so she was one of those kids who grew up in a "kids' area" and not at home with her parents.  Fascinating. 

Anyway, so much more to write about.  Including elections, house pets, school events.  But for now just getting back to blogging.