Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Starting Kindergarten!

My Big Girl

It's been a VERY busy week. I ended up getting sick last week with whatever Sofia had in Israel, so it was a very quiet and mostly uneventful last week of vacation. Micah had a great time at camp, but came home ... changed...into a misogynistic pig. Before we'd gotten all the way home, my mother had hung up on him, Sofia was yelling "Mad Micah!" and I had offered to pull over and let him walk (after he announced "I won't be helping out around the house as much any more."). Got home and fought with David and Sam. But he woke up back to normal. Whew.

Twice while he was gone, the three of us went up to school, each for different meetings. Sofia met her kindergarten teacher (and helped wash the play-food), Sam met his new reading teacher, and I had a great meeting with my new boss, the Head of School, and supervisor, the new Director of Teaching and Learning. Both of whom I've known for years: HOS used to be the music and art teacher when Sam was in kindergarten, and DTL goes to my shul.

I felt totally overwhelmed and out of my league, because they are both very learned, Judaically, but they are also both very kind. HOS gave me a great pep talk about how he thinks this is such a perfect job for me. And I met again yesterday for a long time with the DTL, and that went great.

But I have SO much to do! Have to figure out what each class learns and when, and which teachers need my help on which things. Today I met briefly with some of the teachers about it, so I'm starting to get a better sense of what is what.

Friday evening we had our Shabbat dinner as a picnic on the Natick Commons with friends. It was a lovely lovely night. And David was starting to get sick, with a head cold, so it was good to be out of the house and not stressed.

We stayed home most of Saturday - I actually went to shul by myself, which was wonderful. In the evening, we did go up to Stow to my friend's house for a nice party. It was good to see people.

Sunday was the Tropical Storm (by us; Hurricane elsewhere). We did not have any damage other than lots of branches. A tree from next door fell right across the front of our yard, stopping exactly at the edge of our driveway.


The power went out around 11am. I worked frantically on my laptop until the battery ran out. I wanted to start getting the tefillah curriculum in order.

Poor Sofia did NOT enjoy having no access to her movies! She spent most of the day saying "Watch TV?", and then decided to dump all her toys on the living room floor:


We did not get power back until around 10 am on Monday, so I spent the night listening to items in my freezer melt, but actually we did not lose much. The freezer was packed tight, so things did not melt badly.

Monday, I dropped the boys at a friends' (they all went tubing down a hill!) and Sofia at a sitter's house, and then went to school for my long meeting with the DTL. (Actually, the sitter was her daughter, Emma. And they have two cats. This will be an important detail later...)

In the afternoon, Sofia made a big pile of sticks in the front yard, from all the wind-blow. She had a grand time.

Today was the most exciting day: Kindergarten Visit! Actually, since Sofia is going to two schools, she'll do this again tomorrow. But today was at the day school.

First Kindergarten Visit

She was SO excited this morning! We ended up getting to school early ('cause she dragged me out of the house), and when we got there, she made a bee-line for the Learning Specialist's office. And shoved me out the door with a stern "Bye, Mama!". The LS wasn't ready for her yet, so I hung around and annoyed my daughter, but eventually it was time. They had half the class come at that hour and the other half the hour before. The kids went to the classroom, and the grownups talked with the new HOS.

The nurse visited the classroom (and I think did the nit-checks), and I saw her in the hall. "Oh, Sofia was telling me all about her cat, named Emma!" Despite the confusion, I was so proud that my daughter got that much information out on her own.

The boys stayed home alone for the morning - I love being able to do that! 12 year olds can be pretty darn annoying, but that's surely a plus.

Sofia went to her friend G's house for a playdate, and I put on my teacher hat to do some work for a while. Then picked up Sofia, picked up an extra kid for a playdate with Sam, and came home.

And had an anxiety attack.

Multiple pressures:

- School is starting tomorrow
- I am starting to teach tomorrow! and I feel not so ready and very overwhelmed. And it did not help that so far I have not been "announced" with the new teachers, so I sort of feel like an imposter. It happened during the parent time this morning; all the "new staff" were introduced, but I was not mentioned.
- David is away for a few days, and...
- the driveway is getting redone tomorrow, and...
- his new "toy" is arriving tonight (a sports car - I don't want to talk about it. Suffice it to say, he's in his mid-40s.)
- October 22 is looming.

October 22? What's wrong with that?

Well, remember my friend N, whose husband tragically ended his life last April? October 22 is their son (Sam's best friend) 's Bar Mitzvah.

And it's also the date of my grandmother's 100th birthday party.

In Florida.

Up till now, my parents have fully supported that I should be at the Bar Mitzvah. Sam and I both committed to read Torah, and N keeps repeating how important our family is to them and how we have to be there.

Well, someone did not give me a chance to explain to my grandmother why I would be missing her party. Someone just told her "Francine won't be there because of some bar mitzvah."

Of course, my 99 year old grandmother was miffed. "I'm not important enough? I only turn 100 once, you know!"

I tried explaining over the phone, but 1) she doesn't hear so well, and 2) she'd already decided to be miffed.

And then my parents changed their tune. And my father called to tell me how upset he was, and that it would be enough if I just flew out after the bar mitzvah service and got to the party late. Nope, we ALL have to be at the party, at 6pm. In Florida.

So now I have to weigh two very hard things:

The RIGHT thing


Pleasing my family

Honestly, I start hunching over in pain whenever I think about this. Which is why I went in to a full-blown panic attack this afternoon.

So enough about that. David's "toy" is going to arrive in about 20 minutes. I have to go figure out what I'm going to teach Micah's class tomorrow (because their teacher has to go to her mother-in-law's funeral - in Florida - tomorrow, on the first day of school, so I have to go in for what will be my "normal" time slot with the class). Which means Sofia is starting MWJDS tomorrow!!! (And she had public school Kindy Visit in the morning!).

Here are the gorgeous pictures of Sofia playing with the sticks, and of today's event.

Oh, and a cool article about Dyslexia.

Monday, August 22, 2011


The taxi arrived prompty at 8pm, to take us to Ben Gurion Airport. Our flight was not until 11:55, so we had plenty of time to check in and get everything done. Had to get the VAT Tax refund done, get some dinner for everyone, and look at the Duty Free shops. (I almost got fooled - saw the same yad - Torah pointer - Micah had bought, but for "50" and in better condition. Turned out all prices were in US$, so that was WAY more than the 85NIS I'd paid.).

Sofia was not feeling well again, and still refused to eat. Fortunately she slept most of hte time on the airplane, and also fortunately I had three overnight diapers for her. She did drink a lot of water (resulting in completely soaked through pjs), which was good.

The flight, although smooth,was possibly the worst international flight crew I have EVER seen. Really had no idea how to interact with people (and especially with children). It did not affect the Rothkopf family directly - our kids are very good and quiet on planes, and slept most of the time), other than not having our Kosher meal request listed. But as frequent travelers, David and I were appalled at the flight crew's behavior.

The woman who made the Safety announcements in English seemed to be only semi-literate, and kept mispronouncing words (my favorite was "we'll be dumming the lights"). She also gave the wrong flight number (said "979" instead of "797"), which resulted in half the forms for customs being filled out incorrectly (I had a long chat with the customs guy when we arrived in Philly).

They also managed to break our stroller! UGH. When we got to Boston, we filed a claim. David will bring the broken stroller back next week when he goes on his next flight, and they will "try to repair it" (not possible, the aluminum post is completely chopped in half) or offer a replacement.

The bathrooms on the flight were beyond disgusting, and that was from the start of the flight. David composed a letter to the CEO of US Airways, listing all the complaints. Appalling.

Sofia continued ot be feverish throughout the flight, so I guess it was good that she slept most of the time. In Philly, I found some Children's Advil in the store, and it took three of us to hold her down to get the liquid into her. However, that was the turning point. I did speak to the pediatrician once we landed in Boston, but she has been clearly on the mend since we got home. Whew.

I'd called Tommy's Taxi from Logan, and the dispatcher said to give another call when the Logan Express bus got to the ramp in Framingham. Which I did. And we waited half an hour for the promised van - finally taking a JFK van instead. Cleaner, nicer, and actually there (we think we saw the Tommy's van pull in as we headed down the road...).

Home by 11:30 am. Unpacking, laundry, showers, and figuring out life. David and Sam went to David's office for a few hours, while Micah and I finished packing for camp.

I took Micah to the bus at 7am today (my brain was so muddled, I actually got lost going to the JCC in Newton!) for his three nights at Camp Kingswood's Gesher program. I think I am more nervous than he is. At least he knew one other kid, a girl from MWJDS, two grades below him. I was a nervous wreck driving home after the bus left.

I got upset yesterday when I called my grandmother. Apparently some well-meaning relative told her I was NOT coming to her 100th birthday party, but without explaining in detail the reason why. Which is not just "a bar mitzvah", but "the bar mitzvah of Sam's best friend, whose father, one of David's best friends, committed suicide this fall. The bar mitzvah where both Sam and I are reading Torah, and where our whole family is needed to help my dear friend and her children celebrate a joyous occasion while mourning a sudden and mentally violent loss."

So I tried to tell this to my grandmother on the phone, but she does not hear so well. I had intended to write her a long letter about this once I received confirmation of the party date...which I did not receive until after we arrived in Israel. So I will be writing a letter to her today, but I'm already the worst granddaughter in the universe.

Which I guess would be easier to handle if I was not so jet-lagged, worried about my children, and withdrawing from my meds (I stopped taking my "mother's helper" in J'lem). Ugh.

So now it's 10:15, I'm blogging and catching up on emails, Micah is still on the bus to Maine, Sam is supposed to be reading but is probably playing on his ipod, and Sofia is watching "Mulan" while spreading tea party items throughout my room. And refusing to wear a shirt, although she does have on a very pretty skirt.

I have to nap...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Shabbat afternoon, Aug 20

(A final shot from Ein Gedi):

Well, I go to sleep after 2am, and woke back up at 3:30. Sofia was barfing and pooping and feverish again :(

Stayed up several hours with her, and then we finally passed on the couch for a few hours. So we made Friday an “easy” day. No specific plans, other than to get last-minute gifts. I went out around 9 to take two unexpected loads of laundry in (the guy said he could finish them by 12:30 but not folded. No problem.) David and meandered the area for an hour, while the boys stayed home and watched a movie with their sister, who had perked up a bit after sleeping.

After noon, we all walked up and down the shopping streets of King George, Ben Yehuda and Yafo area. Stores close at 4pm on Friday, and we wasted at least 45 minutes in a “BurgerBar” fast food place. Got my father-in-law a tallit (per his request) and managed to find my own father a “distinctively Israeli” kippah, with Jerusalem Lions on it.

Sofia did not want to eat or drink much all day, but at least her fever went away. She did go through many pair of underpants, and fortunately I had a few spare pull-ups for her, too.

Came back to rest and shower at 4. And try to find a ride to the airport. Unfortunately, the Nesher Taxi (shared van, sort of like “Knight’s Limo” back home) offices are closed on Shabbat, and I should have booked on Thursday. By the time I reached someone, the 8pm van only had room for 1 person.

Twenty minutes before Shabbat starts, there is a loud alarm, letting people know it’s almost time. I was at that moment just about to leave the house in search of an ATM. Needed money to pay for the last night in the apartment (we had not reserved it, expecting to go somewhere with the Levy clan, but they could not find anything with room for everyone), and to get to the airport tonight. Of course, I walked in the wrong direction and did NOT find an ATM, so I raced back to light candles, and then we packed up the kids and walked back out. Got cash, and then caught a cab to Eli’s parents’ house, where we had another lovely Shabbat dinner (and this time his brother and two of the boys were also there).

We finally all slept in this morning! It helped that there is far less noise on Shabbat (many fewer cars, for a start), and Sofia finally felt better. But we did miss going to shul. I had considered going to Shirat Hadasha, a minyan in the German Colony that is”Egalitarian Orthodox”, or we would have gone back to the Masorti shul from last week. But both services started at 8:30, and some people in this family did not even get out of bed until 9:45.

So we took our time, packing and cleaning up. And trying to find transportation to the airport for tonight. I tried several cab companies. Thank G-d I finally found one, who will pick us up at 8pm (flight’s at 11:30, but it takes about an hour to get there). We finally left that house at noon. And walked. And walked. And walked.

Can I just say, it is HOT today!

We headed toward the German Colony (which David had deemed “too far” to walk to shul). We walked through the German Colony (passing the shul). We walked into another neighborhood. Then back to the German Colony. All the while, drinking not enough water (we buy the large bottles and keep them in the freezer, then drink the “melt”) and arguing a lot.

The Forced March got to be a bit too much for me, so I took Micah and Sofia in a cab, and David and Sam insisted on walking back. Sam’s so funny. He won’t wear a kippah, but he won’t get into a cab on Shabbat.

Came home, made lunch with the few leftovers (my new favorite, scrambled egg in pita). Sofia settled in to watch movies, the boys played, and David and I both napped.

Sofia just actually ate something, first time in three days, so I took the chance to get on my computer. But she’s done now, and insisting on watching her movies. (Actually, she’s standing next to me, pretending to type!) The boys are being very silly - Micah just locked Sam’s wrists up with the bike chain from the front porch grate. Prior to that, Sam had been hiding himself in the cabinet.

We are looking forward to coming home. I am looking forward to clean feet (the floors in this apartment are rather dingy) and also to going to the gym. Despite all the walking (and sweating), I think I’ve gained about 15 pounds from all the yummy food!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Adrin's Bat MItzvah Party in Israel

Wow! Awesome party.

It took us half an hour to catch a cab on King George, which caused a bit of stress, but we were by no means the last people to arrive. The Krispins were already there, so the boys had Adiel and Itamar to hang out with.

Debka, Adrin and Avia all looked absolutely beautiful. They’d had their hair and nails done, and had stunning dresses, and looked so happy.

The only word I can use to describe the evening is LOVE. Eli has a big family. His brother Coby, and sisters Peninah and Racheli, all have a bunch of kids. All the first cousin kids had recorded messages to Adrin, and then recorded a song!

Back in the States, Adrin had recorded her speech, in Hebrew. The function hall was a typical reception hall, what we might call a wedding factory back home. 4 small and 2 large screens showed a continuous slide show of photos, plus Adrin’s speech. The entertainment staff was ample, and camera and video staff always in everyones’ face. Music was loud and exuberant.

Just about every time I looked at Debka or Adrin, I started to cry with happiness. The word JOY also popped into my head a lot. I had a beautiful conversation with Peninah, and hugs from Eli’s mom, Savta Geulah.

The boys (all four of them), kept mostly to themselves. Micah and Adiel had fun hanging out, and Sam hung with Itamar. My boys were tired from today, although Micah perked up considerably after dinner (and a Coke!).

Sofia was still very tired. As soon as we arrived, she latched on to Eli, until I could tempt her away with sushi! She only ate the rice, and only tiny bits. Later, for the appetizer, she had a few bites of mashed potato. But at least she drank water. She’d slept until 7, when I woke her up for a quick shower, and she had a fever. I managed to get more Tylenol into her, so by the time we arrived, she felt a little better, but she was still groggy and quiet most of the evening. Not sure what’s wrong with her, but her tummy is a little better, at least. Just not much appetite (which for sure means something is wrong!).

We sat with the Krispin family, and had a nice time talking with Ella and Shlomi while the boys played. I danced with Debka and Adrin a lot. Micah eventually got on the dance floor. Sam had to be forced - Adrin asked me to tell all the boys (at least my two and Adiel) that she would be horribly shamed in front of her Israeli family if her friends from the US did not dance. So we got Sam out there a couple of times, but not with enthusiasm. Which made me want to cancel his Bar Mitzvah DJ party...

We finally left around midnight. I’ve had just enough caffeine to get me through sorting the pictures. Here are the best!

Thursday August 18

Well, things did not start too well. At 3:30 am, I woke up to a car alarm shrieking outside. Then my brain sorted out the other noises and realized that Sofia was crying.

She had a bad belly ache, and eventually a fever! I was up with her for about an hour and a half, and then fell asleep on her bed for a hour. I finally managed to get some tylenol into her at 6:30, when David’s alarm went off.

So I was pretty groggy all day. But we got out of the house at 8am, and met our tour driver, Moti Barness. First he took us alongside the Old City, up to the Mount of Olives. The kids all rode on a donkey, which an interesting thing to do at 8:30 in the morning. But they actually all enjoyed it. And they all said “no” to riding the camel!

After some touring through that area of Jerusalem, we headed out toward Ein Gedi. First stop was a Greek Orthodox Monastery, where we hiked, with the aide of a donkey (and his handler, Yusef) to the edge of the cliff overlooking this 5th century wonder. Amazing to think of how it was built, and it’s still in use.

Micah and Sofia and I got head scarves, but at the top of the hill, the scarf guy turned around and demanded payment, 50 NIS for each. So I only bought one, which Sofia wore (very prettily). She loved riding on the donkey, and called herself Princess Fiona (the Shrek movies are amongst her favorites).

After that, we headed toward the Dead Sea area. Came to a rest spot at Sea Level, very interesting. Then stopped at a rest stop (called “Almog”, which was funny because we know a kid named Almog at home), and then continued on toward Ein Gedi.

Sofia kept falling asleep in the car, and was fairly adamant about staying in her stroller, so I decided I would stay outside Wadi David, the Nature Reserve, while the guys went in. I have to admit, I’m jealous. The pictures look beautiful. But Sofia and I hung out, had popsicles, and she watched some of her movies on my iPhone while I read my book (I got “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” out of the library for my Nook!).

When the guys came back, we had our picnic lunch (last night’s leftovers), and then drove to the Dead Sea swim area. It was a very steep walk down, and only half the way was paved, so it was interesting getting the stroller around. And Miss Sofia wasn’t cooperating - she wanted just to sleep.

Swam in the Dead Sea, which is such an interesting experience. Any cuts you might have really burn, so Micah had trouble with his eczema and David with the scraped elbow from his hike in the Wadi. Sofia did NOT like the warm, salty water, and then got some on her face when she tried to get out. So I had to carry her back up the hill to the shower. Fortunately, the kids on the Birthright tour that was there were very nice and let her get in the shower right away, and helped keep Micah and Sofia amused. I went back down for another “swim” with Sam. Then back up the hill, showers, and up to the parking area to change and find Moti (who was having his lunch while we swam).

Drove back toward Jerusalem. He pulled in down a side road near the top of the Dead Sea, and convinced a (very young) soldier to let us through into the Army area (as we drove through the gate, we saw another soldier come to yell at the first). Could see the border with Jordan, right outside our car window. And although we’d had to go through a gate to get in, we drove straight out onto the road on the other side of the area!

Back to Jerusalem in time for rush hour. Stopped at the Dan Hotel so Micah could use the bathroom. Sofia slept most of the way in, and had been sleeping since we got back to the apartment. David and Sam took a quick walk to the Hemp store around the corner (David loves Hemp pants, and both my hemp handbags are ripped), while I loaded the pictures and Micah and I both took our showers.

So here are all the photos from today's trip, plus a few from yesterday.

Time to get Miss Sofia awake and washed, and David into the shower, to get ready for the Bat Mitzvah tonight. This should be FUN. But I do wish I’d been able to sleep more (I snoozed a bit in the car).

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wednesday Evening

Whew, what a day. I had gone out at 8am to pick up the laundry and my breakfast begeleh, and then again to go find an Internet cafe where we could print something. We had reserved tickets for the Time Elevator, but needed the printed receipt. I had found two places on the web that said they had printing, but one was closed at that hour. I stopped in to a little art gallery to ask directions, and the women there (who spoke “the mameloshen” [mother tongue], English- usually that's what we call Hebrew) were kind enough to let me use their computer and printer!

I ended up in the store for about 45 minutes, making friends with the shop owner, Suri, a wonderful lady originally from New York. We traded miracle stories about our children. My story was about how when I was a teenager in Israel, we’d visited Ma’on Latinook, a home for children with DS, and it had made such an impression on me, and when I was creating the Weaning Ceremony for Sofia, I’d found reference to that place, which I had not heard about in 25 years!

Her story was cool: her son is adopted from Mexico (he’s in his 30s now). First, they had gone to adopt along with another lady, and had expected their son to go to that lady and they would have gotten hers. But the Mexican officials assigned them this way, and it turns out her son has the same birthday as her! Just after his Bar Mitzvah, he developed kidney failure. There was about 0 chance of her being a match, but ... not only was her blood type the same (and an uncommon type), but the antibodies matched by more than 50%. The doctor said that if he did not know them personally, he would have sworn from the testing that she was his birth mother. She was a perfect match!

So I returned home after an hour, with a new friend and some wonderful stories. We as a family did not get out until around noon. Stopped for some pizza and juice, and headed to the Time Elevator . It was very cool. Topol, the famous Israeli star (he played Tevya in the movie “Fiddler on the Roof”) was the star and narrator, which in itself was enough to bring me to tears. It was a motion-ride, pretending to plummet down underneath Jerusalem to Biblical times, and then travel through the centuries to modern day. Many moments of tears. This darn city brings out so much emotion!

Sofia LOVED it. I was worried she would be afraid, but not only did she keep her headphones on the whole time, she waved me off when I tried to protect her from jostling against the safety bar. She was very happy. I loved it, too, and I think the boys all enjoyed it. Micah had a lot of questions, starting with who Topol’s character was supposed to be. The first “story” in the film is about when King Solomon had to decide which woman was the mother of a new baby, so he ordered the baby split in half and the birth mother said the other woman could have him (so Solomon knew that was the birth mother, as she would not have wanted her son killed). According to the film, Solomon blessed the child with Eternal Life, so he could then be the narrator of this experience. The melding of Biblical myth and pure make-believe did not make sense to Micah.

After the Time Elevator, we headed to the Italian Synagogue & Museum, which was lovely. Then we went back to the art gallery I’d been to in the morning, and bought a few nice gifts and souvenirs. We got a copy of B√úNTING'S CLOVER-LEAF MAP, 1581 for us.

Then we walked more, eventually stopping for lunch at a Shwarma place on HaMalka (poor Micah is stuck with eating a lot of french fries when we go to meat places, since he does not like meat and is allergic to the hummus and tahini in the salads).

Meandered our way around the shopping area of Ben Yehuda Street and its branches. Sam found the tallit he wants for his Bar Mitzvah. The price was good (a little over $100US, but with no bag), and I found a lovely yarmulke for me - which unfortunately disappeared before we got home! Seriously, we have no idea where it could be. Sam and I raced back to the store, and the guy was kind enough to give me another similar one, although we could not find an exact match. I’m still upset about it.

Got a few little things - picked up some hair product requested by a friend from shul, got Sofia a kerchief (in a Princess bag, no less!), and some other little tchotchkes. Got home late (and then Sam and I had to run back for the kippah).

Made arrangements for tomorrow. We are taking a private tour to Ein Gedi and the Dead Sea. The guy is coming at 8am to pick us up. It will be much better this way - we can make sure to see what we want to see, and we can take things at our own pace. At a certain point (like after 4 people), bus tours start costing more than private anyway. And this way we will be sure to be back with plenty of time to prepare for the Bat Mitzvah party, which is in the evening.

We went out for a quick dinner well after 8pm, and I was really cranky and tired. Sofia fell asleep in her chair before she ate anything, and the rest of us could only eat half our meals, so we’ll have plenty for lunch tomorrow!

I’m still grouchy, because I just checked our home voicemail (love that Xfinity app for the iPhone!) and got sort of a nasty-gram from the public school Extended Day program. I need Sofia in Breakfast Bunch, so I can get the boys to school on time. I’d called the first week in August, but the woman who runs it was away. Several days after I called, someone else called back, and said she would be sure to have the other woman call me on Monday Aug. 8. Well, of course she called on Aug 9, about 2 hours before we left for the airport. She said she would email me the application information, but the email did not arrive until after we were at Logan, so I had not even opened it. I intended to take care of it when we returned next week.

Her voicemail was very ... not welcoming... and basically said that since she had not received a security deposit yet she assumed we did not need the service. I emailed her back, explaining the above, and thanking her “for making our transition to the public school community as easy and welcoming as possible.” Grr.

But now I’m wondering if there is any other way to work out mornings. And I really don’t want to be dealing with this right now.

So I have to go to sleep. Only took a few photos today, but I’m sure we’ll have PLENTY tomorrow!


UPDATE: Just got a nice apology email from the Extended Lady, acknowledging that she'd dropped the ball on this and had not taken appropriate notes, but that I should relax and enjoy vacation. Whew!

Aug 17 Mid-week Observations

Just some observations about Israel:

* People do not say “No” here to questions such as “do you have...”, “do you sell...”, “do you know...”. Instead, they get very vague and mumble (more) and wave their hands and walk away.

* But there are more friendly people here. I get more response to my “Boker Tov” (good morning) here than I would at home.

* Today is Wednesday, and suddenly the greeting has changed a bit. Rather than “Boker Or” (the typical response to “boker tov” - boker means morning, tov means good, Or means light), today people are saying Shavua Tov (a good week) or Kol Tuv (all good). I am used to hearing Shavua Tov on Saturday night and maybe on Sunday, but wondering why the greeting switches midway through the week. Or perhaps I am just talking to different people?

* I have found my favorite breakfast: Turkish coffee (with milk and sugar) with a “bagele matok”, sort of a cross between a pretzel, a bagel and a pastry, sweet, with sesame seeds on top (sorry, Micah). YUM!

* There are cars, and all cars have horns. Most of the time, Israelis are very laid back about time. But not when they are the second or third car back behind a red light that suddenly turns green! They make Boston drivers look like country bumpkins.

* I am trying to speak Hebrew as much as possible, and rehearsing phrases in my head, to see if I can figure things out in advance of a conversation. But I don’t think the boys are doing so. For the most part they have not needed to. The Rabinowitz family is originally from Australia, so the kids speak perfect English, with the Levy clan, Adrin will translate for Sam, her cousin Alon speaks English fairly well, and Micah and Avia are tending to stay out of conversations, and last night with the Krispins, both boys of course speak English (having gone to school in the States). I’m doing all the commerce, dealing with the taxi drivers, ordering the food. David manages on his own when he travels, but he’s mostly leaving the conversations to me.

* We probably did not need Sofia’s car seat, since there has not been one single ride so far where she’s had her own seat. She sits on a lap in the taxis, and even on the van coming from the airport, she was on my lap. Oh well.

* I just picked up the laundry, and the guy had promised he would dry everything on low. The smell is much less perfumey this time, which is a very good thing!

* Poor David keeps staying up until 3am (or later). We get home after 10pm, and he gets on the computer and starts going through his 47 email messages (per day!). So we are trying not to do too much morning activity.

* Sam is sleeping late, too, but of course Micah and Sofia and I wake up early. It gives us some quiet time to get things done.

* The apartment is ... interesting. Size-wise, it’s perfect. Big bedroom for the kids to share, each with their own place to sleep - futon for Sofia, fold-out chair for Sam, couch for Micah. Decent sized living room with a long desk (attached to the wall) so we can have both computers working at the same time. Master bedroom plenty big (two twin beds pushed together, TONS of closet space). Kitchenette bigger than some other places we have rented around the world. But because we are deep in the heart of the city, there’s dirt. No, not really dirt. Grime. That sooty coating on the tile floors. Dingy. It’s gonna take a week of soaking to get Sofia’s feet clean when we get home.

* If I ever have a rental property of my own (which I hope never to do), I would have leather couches. I hate sitting on cloth couches that have been used by a million people before me. They just don’t feel clean. (And the fact that Sofia peed on the one cushioned chair in the living room is just another reason to have washable materials!).

* It’s tough to think and compose my words when there is an insistent little girl clutching my arm and saying, “Mama. Watch. Shrek Third. Mulan. PLEASE. Mama, Watch?” I have all her movies loaded on my computer, which just means I only get a chance on my computer when she’s asleep. This morning is an anomaly.

* Bring more than one plug adapter!!! We’ve had to share just the one, for my laptop, my camera battery, and four iPhones (well, three now, since Sam lost all access to his iPod for the week back when he was miserable on Shabbat). Which means you can only use each device for so long.

Mama, Watch. Mama, Watch? Mama, WATCH! Ok. Fine.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday August 16

We slept late (-ish, depending on your name. Micah and I were up earlier.). I had coffee and breakfast, and went off in search of one of the two coin-operated self-serve laundromats in Jerusalem (actually, there might be 3, but two are relatively nearby). I found one listed online, so I was able to walk there rather easily, just up Narkiss to Ussishkin to Betzalel. Of course, there are only three washing machines, so I had to wait about 20 minutes, but then I got a load of delicate items in (my dress, some things I did not want dried). Then I walked back down to HaNagid to the drop-off laundry with the rest of the clothing. We go through a LOT of clothing!

Note to self: always rent a place that includes at least a washing machine. Micah and I are allergic to the laundry soap the drop-off place uses (anyway, I only brought single packets of things we are probably also allergic to).

Went home, washed up (it was already hot and a bit humid at 9:45), and then went back to get the load out of the machine. Stopped for some groceries too. I felt like a real olah (someone who makes aliyah, and moves permanently to Israel).

We got out of the apartment after 1:00, taking things very slowly. Then we walked.

And walked.

And walked.

Down into Giv’at Klor Garden, through the Valley of the Cross (Emek Hamatzlevah), and back up Givat Ram to the Israel Museum.

The last time we went to the Israel Museum, when we were here four years ago and met the Rabinowitz family for the day, we really spent most of our time in the Youth Wing, so this was a nice chance to see the rest of the museum. First we got lunch (the dairy cafe at the museum was VERY good). Poor Sofia got some sunscreen in her eye (my fault, I’m sure), so she was tired and hot and whiney and unhappy for a few hours. We took a long time in the archaeological exhibit, but I kept getting dizzy from being hot and tired and dehydrated. But eventually I felt better.

Sofia perked up too, when we went briefly through the Youth wing. Then we went up to the art wing, and Micah and I got the “Sofia speed tour” as we chased her through many exhibits.

Around 6:30, we headed toward the gate, but it was so lovely out that we walked around by the Shrine of the Book and the Holyland scale model for a while. Finally left at 7pm, heading back to the center of town to meet up with friends.

Micah’s buddy Adiel and his family just moved back to Jerusalem a few weeks ago. When we saw them yesterday, I confirmed his mom’s email, and she and I were emailing back and forth all day. We took a cab to Yafo Street near Machane Yehudah, but we ended up walking down to King George to meet them, and then walked up King George to have dinner. Had a really delicious dinner - Sofia practically inhaled the rice & beans (the beans here are big white ones, not South American rice&beans), Sam loved his shishlik, I had meatballs and kubbeh, and David had his beloved shnitzel. Micah had “chips” (french fries). That’s all he wanted.

Walked with them a bit back to the apartment, then split up when they headed to their car. David took Sam & Sofia home, and I took Micah to Ben Yehuda Street to pick up the yad (Torah pointer) that he wanted, which Sam and I had found on sale the other night (on sale because it is missing a stone, but I can fix that at home).

Home now, some laundry still drying. I have to go get the drop-off laundry first thing in the morning, because Sam is out of shorts and we did not get home in time to pick up.

Tomorrow we have tickets for the “Time Elevator”, and are going to the Italian Museum.

Here are the pictures from yesterday and today.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Monday August 15 - Tel Aviv

Wow, that was a fun day. I am SO tired now! Apparently, Israeli Coca Cola and Turkish coffee share similar properties: they look the same as their counterparts in the US, but they taste much better and have about 3 times the caffeine. I was awake until after 2am last night!

But I got up dutifully at 7:30, only a little after my alarm went off. Got them all up and fed and dressed and out the door by 8:45 as planned. Got into a argument with David and Sam as to where we should pick up the cab. They both had very vivid memories of picking up a cab, they knew exactly where it was, but they forgot it was to go to Ammunition Hill for the picnic, rather than the other time we caught a cab, to go to Ein Yael. And the train station is near Ein Yael, of course.

But I finally got them into a cab going the correct direction. Made it to Ein Yael just a few minutes after 9am, as planned, and met up with Debka and Eli and Eli’s parents. His brother Coby arrived with three sons a few minutes later. Sister Peninnah arrived with 4 of her kids a while later. And we all headed to the train.

Since we were twenty people, we really filled up the train car, and the “big kids” (my boys, Adrin, Avia, Coby’s three boys, and Peninnah’s two older kids) were running around like a pack of wild animals. Actually, Micah and Avia and Ayelet, Peninah’s older daughter, were quietly playing cards, but the other kids were rambunctious. Sam had a blast!

The trip took about an hour and a half, into Tel Aviv, and it turns out we actually got off at the wrong train station. So we walked. Peninah and her kids and the grandparents went around the city, since they are more religious and would not be able to wear bathing suits on the beach. So we had 5 adults, 5 boys and 3 girls, including Sofia in the stroller.

It was a longer walk than we expected, but fun. The kids all got along really well despite the language issues. I took a special liking to Coby’s son Alon, who at 10 years old is an incredibly sweet and mischievous imp. My eyes welled with tears when I saw he and Sam walking with their arms around each others’ shoulders, so very Israeli.

After what turned out to be a very long 40 minute walk, we finally arrived at the Mediterranean. Gorgeous, of course. We swam and swam and swam.

The kids all had a blast diving and jumping over waves. Miss Sofia was completely hooked, and spent almost the entire time (about 3 hours) in the water, getting bolder and bolder and more independent with each wave.

Debka and I took a walk across the street to get more water, and when we came back, I convinced the grownups to move under a covered awning. The sun was SO hot, and the water was very warm - not refreshing, to my New England taste.

Showering and changing took a little longer than expected, but then we met up with Peninnah and her group, and headed off to catch a bus to the train station. Of course we missed one bus because the kids were all in a convenience store buying ice cream. Coby got a large bottle of Coke for everyone to share, and Peninnah got her father a beer, which he walked around with for the next hour!

The bus was empty when we got on, but by the time we reached the train station, it was packed. I kept Sofia in the stroller (she was so exhausted), so we were sort of blocking the aisle, but we managed to make it out when we got to our stop.

Waiting at a train station with 12 children can be a little challenging, which is why it was a good thing they were all zonked out.

The station we got on at was the third station, so there were already a lot of people on the train, which means we could not sit together. The kids kept running, pack-like, up and down the aisles, but the adults found spots mixed in here and there. Sofia was by now sound asleep.

Took a long time to get to Jerusalem, due to a mechanical problem, but we finally made it. Then we had a long walk across the street and up the hill to get a cab by the mall. Got home, dumped all the stuff, and headed back out for dinner.

Randomly ran into Micah’s friend’s parents while walking down the street. They just moved (back) to Jerusalem, and we were expecting to seem at the Bat mitzvah party, so it was cool to meet up with them on the road.

Ate at “NewDeli” - can’t tell if it’s a takeoff of New Dehli or New York deli. Either ways it was ok.

Then we walked back up Ben Yehuda Street. Sam and I bought something for David (it’s a surprise, I promise I’ll show it next week. Home by 11, shower the kids and me, and now we are both on the computers, trying to get “work” done.

Laundry tomorrow morning! I promise pictures tomorrow - I’m just too exhausted now.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday August 14 - Old City

Well, David did not sleep most of the night, due to the noise from outside (we are right near the center of the city), and due to his internal clock being “off”, so he finally slept a it this morning. The two little ones and I took a walk nearby to Ibn Gabriol Street, where we think my “base” was when I went on USY Pilgrimage in 1981. The few people I am still in touch with (thanks to Facebook!) and I are sort of unsure exactly where the building was, but it is either a condemned building now, or has already been torn down and a new apartment building is going up in its place. But it was cool - I definitely recognized the neighborhood, which is only about 3 blocks from here.

We finally all got up and out around noon, and headed to the Old City. Did not really do too much, just walked around and looked at things. David was still tired and grumpy, and got angry when the kids asked to eat too early, but eventually I managed to get food and drink into everyone, and things calmed down a bit.

When we walked through the Arab Shuk, Micah spotted a little “genie lamp” that he really liked. I tried bargaining with the guy, and we actually went from 60 shekels down to 10 shekels, but then he said he couldn’t sell it now, come back in an hour. It was sort of a funny game. So we told Micah we could not get it there, but would keep looking. As it happened, about an hour later we actually did find ourselves back there (not on purpose), and the guy said, “You’re back? I’m still not selling it to you!” so I said, “That’s ok, I’m still not buying it!” Which would have all just been fun, except poor Micah really liked the lamp.

We went to the Kotel (the Wailing Wall) later in the afternoon. Sofia and I headed in to the Women’s section. She wasn’t too pleased, although once we got right up to the Wall, she was willing to give a “kiss” to the wall (a custom). But she got very angry at me when I tried to walk backwards (you are not supposed to turn your back on the Wall, which is the holiest of sites, so the custom is to back out of the courtyard).

While we were on the women’s side, the boys all went to the men’s side, and then we met back in the main courtyard. Walked in the park outside the Old City walls, next to the Armenian Quarter, and then went in to King David’s tomb. Micah and David also went in to the site of The Last Supper, but Sam got freaked out when he heard it was closing in ten minutes, so he came back down the stairs to me and Sofia.

Before we left the Old City, Micah and I went back inside to see if we could find his lamp. We found similar lamps, although not with the same style. We did end up buying one (first the guy said “for the little boy, he’s such a good boy, pay whatever you like”, but then of course he wanted more. I ended up paying about 32 shekels, which was more than I wanted to spend but still not bad, but poor Micah did not speak up to say he really did not want that one! So I guess someone is getting a gift of a genie lamp when we get home ;)

We walked through the Mamilla Mall, which is a new and very modern underground mall near the Old City, and took the long walk back up hill to the apartment. We were totally bushed when we got home.

Here are the pictures from today.

Had supper (thanks again to Eli’s mom for the Shabbat leftovers!), and Micah and Sofia got ready for bed. Sam had seen a T-shirt he really wanted (the Nike swish, but with “Shabbat, Just Do It”), and I checked with Debka about how much I should pay for it. So Sam and I went for a walk back down Ben Yehuda Street (which is nearby also). That was fun. We got his shirt, checked prices for a few other things, and had a nice time just being the two of us together. I am always happy when I get to spend one-on-one time with each of my kids.

(My kids are all leaning over my shoulder as I write this. Right now, I do wish they would go to bed!)

So tomorrow we are off to Tel Aviv with the Levy clan, taking the train and going to the beach. Should be a lot of fun!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Saturday, August 13

We had a lovely lovely time at Eli’s parent’s house for dinner last night. Aside from all the delicious food, it was just so emotionally warm. Our two families are so dear to each other, and Eli’s folks are just wonderful.

Waiting for Eli to arrive:


Apparently I have been sent by G-d to be in Israel at this moment. On Thursday night, one of Eli’s small nephews, his sister Peninah’s son, was stung by a bee, right near his lip. The kid was crying for a long time, and I’m still kicking myself for not thinking about this sooner, but eventually I realized he should take a Benadryl. Which of course I always carry, because of my own allergy kid, Micah. Well, after they gave him the med (and I had it in the convenient Fast Melt kid’s dose), Peninah took him to the doctor, where it turns out he WAS having an allergic reaction, and had he not taken the Benadryl, he would have wound up in the hospital. I am so glad it all worked out, but again, I am sorry I did not think of it sooner (although Debka reasoned this: at least now they are SURE he is allergic to bees, where I am still not sure about Micah because I stuffed the med into him within 45 seconds of getting stung last fall, so he never had time to have a real reaction).

Anyway, Savta (Grandma) and Saba (Grandpa) live in Ma’alot Dafna, right across from where we picnicked in Ammunition Hill the night before. They live up on the 5th floor, and their apartment is just lovely. And all the porches in Jerusalem are designed with Sukkot in mind - the porch is a perfect place to put the sukkah.

The kids had fun, although Sofia was a bit tired (and once dinner was over, she really wanted to leave, and ended up falling asleep on my lap). It was fun to watch Eli turn into another 12 year old, as he did the Birkat Hamazon (Grace after meals) but his father kept correcting him (mostly for going too slowly).

Eli drove us home, and we passed about a zillion buses - looks like bus tours of Pakistani or Indian Muslims, in Jerusalem for Ramadan. Wild.

We got to sleep around 11:30, all zonked out. I woke up at 7 (courtesy of David announcing “It’s 7:00, are we going to shul?” and then going to sleep), and finally dragged their lazy butts out of bed by 8:15 so we could get out of here. We went to the Masorti (Conservative) shul at the Fuchsberg center, on Agron street.

But...um... Rain? In Jerusalem in August? Really? (It was just a tiny drizzle, but still weird).

Such a special morning. I only burst into tears about 5 times during the service, from extreme happiness and emotion. I had the Shmini (6th) Aliyah (honor of being called to the Torah)! There was a Bar Mitzvah...and the family was from Framingham! They usually go to Temple Beth Am, but the grandparents had been founders of the shul here. VERY Cool. The regular rabbi was on vacation, but the guest rabbi was wonderful, and his wife davened musaf (led the Additional service) - and it turns out she is a Cantorial soloist for the high holidays in Milton, MA! She had such a lovely voice. And I was a bit overcome with sadness that I will not be doing the High Holidays in Ashland this year. Had a really weird Shabbat nap dream about it.

Services ended just after 11am, there was a bit of a kiddush, and we came home for lunch and naps. Sam and David fell asleep right away. Micah and Sofia stayed awake but played quietly. I got them some lunch, did some reading, and took a short nap myself.

It’s a little after 3pm now. I woke David and Sam up a little while ago and forced them to have lunch. I want to go for a walk!


Later: So I finally got David and Sam up and we all got out for a walk. However, the 12 year old was in “silent mode.” You might think that it is pleasant to be with a 12 year old who does not talk, but Samuel takes it to extremes. And he refuses to use ASL, which we can all understand, but rather insists on using his own made-up sign language to try to communicate to us. He was NOT pleasant to be around all afternoon!

But we took a lovely walk anyway. Micah was in a great mood, and David enjoys just walking and looking. We meandered down to Zion Square, up and down Yaffa street a little, and then down David Melech, into the park at Yemen Moshe, back over to Keren Hayesod, down Ramban, and up Ussishkin back to our street.

On Ramban, we found a playground and let Sofia (and Micah) have a bit of fun. It was FULL of very Orthodox families. Some were not friendly, but some were very pleasant. I had a nice conversation with a charming little girl of about 5 years old, regarding why Sofia had changed into her “every day” shirt rather than stay in her Shabbat dress!

While his siblings played, the 12 year old stood with his arms tightly folded across his chest, scowling. He did, however, finally put on his kippah voluntarily. Whatever. The other kids had fun, and it was a nice break.

For today's photos, click here.

We came home, had a snack, and I took a short nap until Shabbat ended. Then we headed back out to find dinner. Went to a yummy Italian dairy restaurant - the salmon risotto was a hit with me and all the kids (although the boys actually had pizza, but Sofia and I shared...).

Sam got into a better mood after eating. Whew!

After dinner, we walked up Ben Yehuda Street, something you’ve just GOT to do Motzei Shabbat (Saturday evening after Shabbat ends). I made Micah pick out a new kippah, since the two he brought are too small and the baseball hat he brought makes him look like a very short trucker. David put up with me (and Micah) going in to LOOK at every store, but he really does not want to buy things there. He’d rather bargain in the Shuk (the market).

It’s nearly midnight, and we’re all getting ready for bed. Sam just realized that he has not been putting his dirty clothing into the laundry, so he missed yesterday morning’s laundry run. Great.....

Old City tomorrow!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday August 12

We had a lovely day today. I woke up early and went out to drop off the laundry at the laundromat and find coffee. Got home and Sofia was awake (and answering the door!). Gave her some breakfast, got her bathed and dressed, and and then I took her back out for another walk while the boys got up and ate breakfast and got dressed. She was so cute. We went into the grocery store, and she tried to convince me to buy her an ice cream. The store keeper tried to give her a lollipop, but she got scared.

Came back, collected the boys, and caught a cab to The Ein Yael Living Museum:
The Ein Yael Living Museum in southwest Jerusalem is a 40-acre site that combines archeology, history, and nature, and is a storehouse of lessons in cultural and technological development of humankind. Dating back to the Middle Bronze Age (4000 years ago) the museum features the remains of a Roman villa with exquisite mosaics, ancient irrigation systems and agricultural terraces. Emphasizing the common histories of both Jews and Arabs of the region, Ein Yael utilizes this unique fusion of elements to bring history to life for tens of thousands of visitors each year.

We met up with the Rabinowitz family. It was great to see them again. The kids were all sort of “blah” at first, but once we started doing things, they got happier. First we made pita bread, then we made pottery. They explored some tunnels and excavations, and played table games on stone tables. They also painted ceramics and did mosaics. It was a blast.

Then we went (in two car trips) to the Mall, and had lunch in the food court - kosher! Very cool. We said goodbye to them and caught a cab back to the apartment. David and I are about to go for a little walk and leave the kids here! Tonight we are having Shabbat dinner at Eli’s parents’ house.

Today's Slide Show:

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Thursday Night and Photos

Yup, a million relatives. And food for two million. Kubbeh (like hamburgers but much much better), chicken wings, steak, hot dogs, lamb chops, dozens of salads, tons of food. We picnicked at Ammunition Hill. The (many many) kids ate and then played a massive game of hide-and-seek/tag, hiding mostly behind trees or adults. They also hovered around the grill, throwing more food on the minute Eli took something off.

So here are today's photos:

We made it to Israel - eventually!

Our Trip to Israel, August 2011
Tuesday, August 9
Of course David worked most of the day, and at the very last minute had to run back to the office to FedEx something. But Dave Burg arrived at 3pm, and by 3:30 we were on our way to Logan Airport...for what would turn into 24 full hours of travel!

We arrived at Logan with plenty of time to spare, just shortly after 4. Of course, between the pouring rain and the major construction project at Terminal B, already it was an interesting trip. When we got to the US Air desk to check in, we were informed that Philadelphia, where we were making the connection to Tel Aviv, was having really bad weather, so they had moved us to the 5:30 flight rather than the 6:30, just to be safe.

Well, that turned out to be a bad idea. The 4:30, 5:30 and 6:30 flights all got turned around. The 4:30 did not take off until after 7pm. We got on the 5;30, but not until after 6:15, and then spent about an hour on the plan, making it all the way to the runway before pulling back to the terminal and deplaning. But the 6:30 got out right before the 5:30, and made it in time!

So, our bags were on their way to Philadelphia, but what should we do? It took a full half hour for the stroller to be brought up from the gate check, and I was holding one very heavy sleeping sack of child. (Sofia had been really excited about flying, but as soon as we got on the plane, she completely panicked. Flopped to the ground, we had to pick her up and struggle her into the seat, where she kept her head pushed into the seat and arms clenched to the arm rests...until she fell asleep.)

Anyway, David had been on the phone with US Air while we were still taxiing back to the gate, but they could not figure out a solution. But the very enterprising gate agent found a way.

We RACED to Terminal E (not so easy to do when you must wait for the shuttle bus, which then makes 6 stops before yours!), and made it with 20 minutes to spare - we needed to be checked in by 9:15. We were going on Lufthansa, to Frankfurt!

Hurry up and wait, but we actually got out at around 10:30. Of course Sofia was wide awake now after her nap. The four kids and I all sat in a center row, which was basically bulkhead type seats but one row back from the bulkhead seats. The most uncomfortable and squashed seats I can ever remember flying in, plus the row in front of us only had 3 seats, so one of us (Mommy) ended up with no video screen. David sat right behind me.

The boys watched Thor while Sofia stared at Kung Fu Panda 2 (but without sound, since she does not like to wear headphones). After the movie, the boys went to sleep, but Sofia was still awake, so we moved her to the empty seat next to David, and then I switched with him. Thankfully, she fell asleep soon after, and I was able to get some rest (plus my legs did not hurt as badly. The bulkhead-type seats do not have moveable armrests, and the edges were pressing badly into my legs).

Got to Frankfurt ...uh.... sometime in the morning. I love walking through the transit hallways between terminals in European airports. You get to see all sorts of humanity! Wait, wait, wait, for the El Al gate staff to arrive.

Then more waiting. We were officially booked on the flight, but no one seemed to know how to “do” the tickets, and we did not have seat assignments. But eventually they figured it all out, and long after everyone else had gone thru security, we went in.

Micah, Sofia and I got to sit in Business Class! David and Samuel kindly took the two Coach seats (David does get to do quite a lot of Business Class flying). It was nice. Sofia fell asleep about two minutes after take-off, freaking out from seeing the ground recede from view. She slept several hours. Micah was absolutely adorable and extremely polite. It was nice. I did not get much sleep, but I did get a little near the end of the flight. I woke Sofia so she could finish Micah’s dinner (since he didn’t eat so much of it!), and relinquished my in-flight video system (where I finally watched my first episode of Glee - ok, I “get it” now!).

So we landed in Tel Aviv a little after 7 pm local time (noon at home). Two big mysteries still remained. Where were our bags, and how were we getting to Jerusalem?

Well, the amazing news is that the bags MADE IT, and arrived several hours before us. If US Air had not “kindly” switched us to the earlier flight, all would have gone as planned!

But when we got through collecting our bags and going through passport and customs, we could not connect with our friend Eli (he and his family are the reason we are here - daughter Adrin’s Bat Mitzvah party next week). We had sent an email from Boston, telling of the flight change, and had left a voice message at Eli’s parents’ house from Frankfurt, but we could not find him. We tried the various cell numbers, the house phone, and email. Nothing. So after about an hour, we gave in and took a “Nesher” taxi (shared van) to Jerusalem. Made it to our apartment around 10:15...which brought us right up to 24 solid hours of transit!

The apartment is nice, right near the center of the city. We unpacked, and I demanded that we take a quick walk to get some breakfast food and fresh air. Found a 24 hour grocery on Ben Yehuda Street. Had yogurt smoothies just before midnight.

But now the reverse jet-lag is kicking in. Micah and David are asleep, but Sam, Sofia and I are WIDE AWAKE. And I can’t figure out how to get my laptop on the network. (Sam just asked what he should do since he can’t fall asleep. I told him he should read. He decided to try going to sleep.)

I was up until about 2:30, working on the internet connectivity (without resolution).

Thursday August 11

Of course Sofia popped into my room at 8:30 to tell me it was morning. I’ve been up for about an hour with her. Right now she’s eating her grits, so I can get back on my laptop, but otherwise she’s been watching her movie and I have been still trying to reconnect the internet. No such luck.



Left the apartment around 11:30, and walked up toward the Shuk, Machane Yehuda, to finally meet up with Debka and Eli and the girls. Finally found them in the mob. Stopped for lunch first - although Sofia and I had eaten breakfast, the boys had not, and they were all grumpy. Lunch was delicious shwarma, and Sofia had a really yummy rice & beans. Then we walked around the Shuk, which is the giant market place.

There is no place in the United States that compares to The Shuk, both for the amount of foods and things, and for the amount (and variety) of people. It was wild. Tasted yummy “Tamar Hindi” (Indian Date) juice, Apricot juice, Almond juice, and not-so-yummy Mint juice (tasted like Scope!). Bought all sorts of interesting items - some sort of Melon, dried dates, dried pineapple and mango, fresh leechee, other fresh fruits. It was cool. But VERY crowded!

Finally burnt out (and the stroller basket was filled to overflowing, ‘cause we also got 6 large bottles of water), so we walked back to the apartment (and ELi fixed the internet connection for us). Debka and I took a quick stop at a local grocery for dairy items. They headed back to visit Eli’s grandmother, and we will go meet them tonight for a barbeque in the park with half a million relatives.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


It's August already. Can't believe it. The summer has flown by.

Sam had a great time at camp. He "got" a girlfriend. I saw pictures, but she ran away when it was time to meet me ;)

Four days before camp ended, I got a call from the camp doctor. Sam injured his knee, but the amount of pain he was reporting was all out of proportion to the injury, as checked by the camp doc and by a visiting orthopedist (husband of the head of the waterfront). I reminded the doc that Sam had "sprained" his finger last summer, and wore the splint until November. So I wasn't worried. And when I saw this photo, I really wasn't worried:
That's his "big brother" Benzi, a dear friend of ours, who gets to drive a cart around camp.

So we picked Sam up on Sunday (the 24th). He complained about his knee for about 2 more days, but by the end of the week he'd totally forgotten it.

Micah enjoyed his last week of camp, although with Sam home, his anxiety level went up a little bit. But not much. He's been really relaxed and happy all summer. It's great. I definitely need to get that kid a Light Therapy lamp for the winter!

Sofia had fun at "school camp" for five weeks. She spent a long time processing that her preschool teachers would not be there. But she enjoyed being there, which is great, because her kindergarten teacher runs the program!

She also had a blast going to gym camp two afternoons each week. Her attention span has improved immensely - last week, one of the teachers said, with tears in her eyes, that Sofia had paid attention to and participated in every activity that afternoon!

Last weekend we finally got to take a bike ride. We rented a bike trailer in Bedford at the beginning of the Minuteman Rail Trail. So I had about 75 extra pounds on my bike, but Sofia was happy. Of course, she did manage to chuck both her dolls out the side, and when I stopped to retrieve them, she tossed her shoes out. It was a real workout for me to lug all that weight behind, so the boys went ahead, and did the entire 11 miles each way. I got a little past Lexington and then turned around. Sofia and I got back to Bedford, had an ice cream, and visited the little Train Museum:
(which was air conditioned...)

Sam was home about 5 days before I sent him off to my parents. He was full-on ATTITUDE! But after three days with my folks, he's much better behaved now.

While he was away, I took a little field trip - Micah, Sofia, and three other kids - to David Farmland. Both my kiddos love the animals, and there is a splash park. It was really a fun day:

Sofia got to gather a fresh egg, but she promptly dumped it into the feed bin:

The kids all had a blast in the splash park. There was a bubble pit, lots of foam and water, and a slip&slide. I really had to drag them out.

Here are four of my five:

Been going to the pool a lot. Sofia did NOT enjoy the two attempts we made at private lessons, so Micah had two lessons and Sam had one (I'd paid for 5). But she no longer wears a bubble, and she jumps in over and over again. But she will only stay within about 4 feet of the stairs (both sets of stairs - every five minutes it's "change stairs"). So yesterday I tried pulling her a couple of feet further out, and she spent ten minutes screaming and clutching my neck. Stubborn little kid!

Micah passed the deep-end test, and was contentedly floating around. It was so weird to see my "I hate to swim" kid doing that!

Yesterday I also took the kids shopping, and I could not get out of Old Navy without buying this outfit for Sofia:

She'd been clutching it and screaming about it. Refused to let go. It was really cute, so I gave in ;)

Now I'm deep into packing for our trip to Israel. It'll be fun, but I'm so not ready yet!

School plans still going well. I finally got a copy of the Tefillah curriculum I'll be teaching. I've also been working with my bnai mitzvah students, and I'll be doing a tzitzit tying workshop at a local shul in September. Cool.

Have a great summer!