Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Do you know where your teens are?

I'm at work. My kids are not, because they have been off since Erev Yom Kippur. That's right, until the end of the Sukkot holiday. Isaac and I haul ourselves off to work and leave the beauties slumbering away. Doesn't seem very fair, does it?

It's about 12:30 PM. My cell phone rings. Ahh. I think to myself, one of the beauties has awakened:

Tali: Mommy, what are we having for dinner tonight?

Me: I dunno.
(suspiciously) Why?

Tali: Can I eat Burger King?

Me: Burger King? Where are you?

Tali: I'm at the mall.

Me: The mall? There's no Burger King at the mall. You mean McDonald's (which just became kosher in Modi'in).

Tali: No, I mean Burger King.

Me: But--

Tali: I'm not at the Modi'in Mall, I'm at the Azrielli Mall in Tel-Aviv.

Me: Excuse me? Who are you with?

Tali: I'm with [my friend] Monica and Liat and Talya [Liat's friend].

Me: Noone asked me about [getting on a train and] going to Tel-Aviv.

Tali: I thought Liat told you.

(somewhat annoyed) No, she didn't.

Tali: Oh......well, can I?

Me: Can you what?

Tali: Eat Burger King.

Me: If you are old enough to find yourself in a mall in Tel-Aviv, I think you're probably old enough to figure out what to eat. I'll see you later.

About 30 seconds later my phone rings again.

Me: Hi Liat.

Liat: Hi mommy.

Me: You failed to mention your little excursion to Tel-Aviv.

Liat: ממש שכחתי. I totally forgot. I'm really sorry.

Me: I just like to be informed, Liat, of where your adventures are taking place.

Liat: I know. I'm sorry. It was a very spontaneous thing. You would have let me go, right?

Me: Yeah, but usually it works like this: The kid calls the mom and ASKS, very politely.

Liat: It won't happen again, I promise. Can we see a movie?

(dumbfoundedly)which one?

(pause) Uhm. It's called The Hangover.

(laughing) I don't think so.

Liat: What if Talya's mother says yes?

Me: Then Talya can see the movie. Do you know what it's rated?

Liat: No. Maybe R.

Me: Yeah, well.

Liat: Okay, mommy. I love you.

Me: Me too. See you soon.

Gotta love life with teens.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Have an easy fast

We squeezed in Tashlich today, and hopefully cast away our sins. We've been missing the beach; hopefully we'll get to go back next week when we're all on vacation.

Wishing all those fasting an easy one.

I'm leaving you with a video of Netanyahu talking to an Israeli reporter after his speech at the UN. The reporter asked him if he thought that by mentioning Ahmanijad's holocaust denial, he was giving it credence. Here is Netanyahu's response.

Bibi said it; I have nothing to add.

Wishing you all the best.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Eureka!! We just got our water bill

Remember this post where I freaked out when I heard about the new water tax? We were way over the average alloted consumption of water. The new water tax would have a huge impact on our bi-monthly bill.

After instituting several water-saving measures, I've been waiting impatiently for the water bill to arrive. Here in Israel bills don't necessarily arrive at expected times. They kind of appear randomly to the point where I ask neighbors and friends, "Have you heard from the water/electric/gas company lately?" It's really annoying, but my bank account and I just try to go with the flow.

Today, when I arrived home, there was the bill, in all its blue and green glory. You know that feeling you get about a test you know you just aced? That's how I felt about our water bill. And boy did Casa Baila ace this one: the bill was about 30% less than our last bill! This is for the summer months of July and August when water usage is at its highest and when the new water tax was institued.

Here's how we did it:

1. I never do laundry anymore.
2. I never wash dishes anymore.
3. We never flush the toilets anymore.

Just kidding!! Here's how we really did it:

1. In the shower the water runs only for soaping up and rinsing off.
2. Same goes for dishes and teeth brushing. Water only runs when necessary.
3. I'm much more selective about laundry. If it doesn't smell and its not stained, it doesn't get washed. I will not run a load that is not full. Period.
4. Sprinklers and irrigation drip system for the gardern (which is huge by Israeli standards, with lots of trees and plants) have been set up for minimum maintenance. And the grass looks okay and we're about to get a ton of lemons off that tree.

As you can tell, I'm pleased as punch with this development. I'm feeling quite virtuous that I'm doing alot more to save the Kineret, although it did require blackmail by the Israeli Government for me to do so.

If only the electric bill (with all that air conditioning) would look so good.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Some people think I lead a very exotic and glamorous life here in the Middle East.

It's true.

Last night, I was invited to attend a movie premiere.

Alas, Brad and Angelina sent their regrets. To bad for them, they really missed out.

You see, I have a very talented friend. Nitsana and I go waay-waay back. I knew her in my college/Bnei Akiva youth group days. At the time she was an aspiring actress. She moved to Israel many moons ago and we sort of lost touch. But I contacted her when we moved here.

That was right about the time that Nitsana was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. She went about the business of getting treatment and beating this disease with the grace of--the tens and hundreds and thousands of women we all collectively know who fight this disease every single day of the year.

Nitsana, never one to sit on her laurels, used her energy to direct and produce a movie short called FLAT. She invited me to see the premiere of the movie and I was glad I was able to go. Nitsana and I are very different; she is artistic and single and lives in Tel-Aviv (her life really does seem glamorous). The premiere was held at a hip pub and attending for me, was stepping out of my box. After I saw the 4 1/2 minute movie, I was so stunned that I couldn't even applaud. It was so unexpected, even shocking.

But it made a profound statement about the way we lead our lives.

I'm going to tell you all that the movie has nudity. Remember, it is a movie inspired by Nitsana's battle with breast cancer. If you think that will offend you, well, you've been warned.

The film was selected to be part of the finals for an international competition in Toronto as the only Israeli film. All the films entered are by or about survivors of Breast Cancer. The winner will be determined by online voting.

You can visit the site to see the film – and if you like it, vote for it. Voting is really easy and you can vote up to three times. You can also send the link to your facebook, twitter and e-mail friends. I'd love to see Nitsana win. You can see the film and vote here. FLAT is on the top right corner.

And while we're on the subject, I've just scheduled my annual mammogram at Machon Hala. Have you scheduled yours (or made sure your wife, mother, sister scheduled hers)?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dippin' the apple in the honey (yuck)

I hate honey. Really. It makes me gag. I used to force myself to eat the apple with the honey because I was scared I wouldn't have a sweet year if I didn't. Now I just eat an enjoyable, crunchy apple and pray for an enjoyable, crunchy year.

The radio station I listen to has been advertising its upcoming "Top 100 of 5769" show and wondering who will be chosen "Person of the Year".

The supermarkets are packed anytime of the day and night.

If you need to get something important done (like finding a job), may as well try to relax, it ain't happening until "acharei hachagim"--after the holidays.

At work, if you're lucky, you'll get a bonus. If not, you'll likely have an end-of-year party. (I had one at work today. Our principal asked all of us to write down our new year wishes for the school and then read them all out loud. I'm happy to say I participated in this Hebrew writing exercise and was even complimented. Maybe I should start a blog in Hebrew.) And, no, there wasn't any bonus.

I appreciate all of this. This country works on my schedule, according to the rhthym of my clock. It feels nice that the entire country, religious or not, will be celebrating together.

Here's my favorite unhealthy drink, Diet Coke, personally wishing me a Happy Holiday:

I have so many prayers and wishes for this New Year, 5770, תש"ע.

May it be the year that Gilad is freed.

May it be a year where no Israeli soldier has to make the ultimate sacrifice so that we can live free.

May it be a year where no Israeli citizen is attacked.

May it be a year where the world recognizes our right to exist in this land as a free nation.

May it be a year where our leaders are strong enough to assert that right even if the world doesn't come to that realization.

May it be a year of health and prosperity.

May it be a year of joy and family.

May it be a year of new friends and old.

May it be a year of peace.

May it be a year of gratitude to G-d for all His blessings.

Shana Tova.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Hitting my forehead with the palm of my hand (you know, like the old "Coulda had a V8" commercial)

Well, it seems I goofed on my previous post. Alot. No excuses. (Okay, one: I don't sleep enough. And I blame that on you guys with all your interesting posts and comments and tweets and stuff).

So in the spirit of the upcoming holiday (the whole forgiveness thing), please accept my apologies:

1. Haveil Havalim is up at Reform Shuckle, not "chuckle" as I dumbly wrote.

2. Contrary to my previous post, Sandman does not post at Ruti's blog.

3. I really feel bad that I didn't mention Bad4Shidduchim as one of the bloggers I met at the convention. She did a great job writing about her experience. We spent a good part of the time discussing thermodynamics (betcha didn't realize how much I know about that topic). It was hard to be bitter and resentful that she won and I didn't when talking to such a nice person.

If there is anyone else I need to apologize to, please let me know before Rosh Hashannah.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Second J-Blogger's Convention

I got into the elevator to go to the first workshop. A man steps in behind me and shouts "I'll Call Baila???!" My big, fat head thinks, "I'm famous!" until I realize that he was reading the words that were sprawled across my chest on the sticker graciously provided by NBN.

Still, I had a ball.

I hitched a ride with One Tired Ema. (She really is tired. I tried to comfort her, but I think saying, with a big sigh, "Just wait 'til they're teenagers" wasn't all that helpful).

Truth is, I didn't exactly learn anything from the convention. The organizers have their agenda and that's fine, especially since I'm on their side. They organized a great event at a beautiful venue (Beit AviChai--I really enjoyed that photo exhibit, did you?), with good food, all for 50 shekel. I have no need to be snarky or cynical.

Only thing is, I wanted more socializing time. I wanted to talk to bloggers I have already befriended and to meet new ones. Not enough time.

Second thing is, I'd like to see some of the smaller bloggers represented. You know, the regular Joe who doesn't necessarily reach or try to reach thousands. Just sayin'.

Over at RivkA's blog, a bunch of us are talking about a more informal gathering (no sponsors, no agendas, just a bunch of fun people hanging out). Stay tuned for details if that does indeed come together. It was good to see RivkA in person.

I forgot to bring my camera this year, durnit, so I can't post pictures, like I did last year; but the convention was fun because these great bloggers showed up:

West Bank Mama, who was to shy to say hello last year. Did you know all her kids are boys? And all of mine are girls. Hmmm.

Mom. Now why wasn't she on a panel?

I saw Batya, but didn't get a chance to say hello. She looks amazing. (See I told you we needed more socializing time!)

Jameel presented, trying desperately to hold on to his anonymity. At least he didn't wear that smiley face thing; it's really doofy.

Gila, who helped me accost Dudi Stark of NBN so we can get interviews.

Ruti. I love your blog title (but you see Dave's point, right?)

Sandman--you see there really wasn't enough time for socializing.

Dave "the-delete-key-is-your-friend" Treppenwitz.

Risa, a blog I am just getting to know.

It was great talking to Pnina, another person crazy enough (didn't you say that to me once, Ruti?) to make Aliyah with teenagers.

And of course, the star of the day, Benji, who was great. Go check out his new Rosh Hashannah video here.

For photos of the convention, see Jacob Richman's site. (And SZ, I'm not going to caption 6,000 photos).

Haveil Havalim is up The Reform Shuckle.

Here's looking forward to the third convention....

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The nation mourns

I was going to put up a quick post about the J-Bloggers Convention, but came home to the news that Assaf Ramon was killed earlier today in an Israeli Air Force F16 Air Crash. Assaf was the son of Astronaut Ilan Ramon, the first Israeli in space, who was killed, along with the rest of the crew, in February, 2003 on board the Columbia Space Shuttle.

Suddenly I don't feel like talking about how much fun the convention was.

Suddenly I just wish there was a way to erase the pain the Ramon family must be feeling.

You know when something really, really bad happens, some sort of tragedy, you might start believing, "Well, now I'm safe. I've paid my dues already. My kids have paid their dues. It'll be okay now". I wonder if Rona Ramon thought this when her son Assaf announced he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps and be a fighter pilot for the Israeli Air Force.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "It is rare that a private tragedy pierces the heart of the nation with such strength. Today we all grieve the death of Assaf, who fell from the heavens like his father Ilan. There is no comfort, only tears.”

It is indeed a very sad night here in Israel.

(Picture courtesy of the Muqata)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Empty nest

Well, Liat informed us she had a Shabbat Ulpana (when the entire grade goes away for the weekend) and Tali told us she had a Shabbat Bnei Akiva (youth movement weekend). When Orli heard this, she said, "Whoa, I think I'll sleep at a friend's house, if you don't mind."

I didn't.

So, yes, Isaac and I had a weekend sans kids. All snickering aside, it wasn't as fun as I thought it was going to be.

Don't get me wrong, it was very relaxing. VERY.

But last night, as Shabbat was about to start, Isaac wished me a Shabbat Shalom, and left for synagogue. I went to light the candles, and the house was silent. I have to admit I had a moment there. A moment of panic. A glimpse into the future. A subdued home. And I didn't like it.

On several other rare occasions we've been alone, without the children. The stars align and they are all away for Shabbat. But with Liat turning sixteen soon, I sometimes feel like I'm hurtling into the future. When those stars align and all are away, I like it alot less than I used to.

Still, Isaac and I both had a good laugh when we sat down to eat. Because I shouted, "YOUR TURN TO DO THE DISHES!!! CALLED IT!!!!" And he immediately responded, "YOU CAN'T CALL THAT!!! I DID THEM LAST WEEK! IT'S YOUR TURN!!"

Glimpsing the future aside, it really was a nice weekend. After all, we have to live in the present, don't we?

Shavua Tov, a good week to all.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

9/11: Remember and Honor--Terence J. Manning

To commemorate 9/11 this year, I decided to participate in Project 2996, which I found through westbankmama. Project 2996 is an attempt by Dale Challener Roe to have bloggers remember and celebrate the lives of all 2,996 victims of September 11. I know other Jewish bloggers are participating in this project, including Isramom and SuperRaizy. (If you are remembering and would like me to link your post, drop me a line).

I have chosen to remember and honor Terence J. Manning, who died while attending a conference at Windows on the World at 1 World Trade Center. His wife, Megan was a colleague of mine at HASC, a pre-school for special-needs children. I never met Terence, but from all accounts, he was a unique, energetic man, who proposed to Megan under the Eiffel Tower. He was a doting father to his two young daughters, whom he used to take to the beach every day in the summer.

On September 11, 2001, Megan was at work. I have a memory of hearing her talk to her husband, who told her he was in the stairwell trying to leave the building. Then she left work and didn't return for several months. Megan faced her devasting loss with grace and strength. It has been many years since I have seen Megan, but I do think of her often in the context of this day that changed her world, and our world forever. I will always carry her and her family in my heart.

Of Terence, Megan has said, "His life was full of laughter and adventure. He left us with no regrets."

(Source: New York Times Portrait of Grief)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Haveil Havalim and Welcome Home

Haveil Havalim #233 is up at Joshuapundit.

And tomorrow morning a planeload of new olim arrive from America on the last NBN flight of what has been an amazing summer for Aliyah.

Welcome home.

(Click on picture to see the whole schedule).

Friday, September 4, 2009

State of the union address, or can you believe it's been two years?

Today we begin the third year of our Aliyah.

People ask me how we're doing. Most of the time I give my stock answer: "We're doing good. There are some bumps in the road, but overall we are happy". I want people to know that life's not perfect or easy here, but in spite of it we are okay. You guys, however, deserve more than my stock answer--you deserve honesty.

We are okay.

I would even venture to say better than okay.

The honest truth is that we all have our difficult moments related to our move. It can be a moment of missing someone we left behind. It can be a moment when we want to express something, but the words just don't come out fluently in this new language we have come so far with. It's adapting to a different work culture. It's getting a bank statement and avoiding it, because it's just easier than trying to decipher it. It's trying to find that sense of community we had, but took us years to achieve. It's watching your kids struggling to find their place. It's feeling like an immigrant.

People also ask if I ever regret making the move. The only thing I regret is not doing it sooner, because I think alot of the things we struggle with are a result of our--ahem--advanced ages. But there would have been other, different struggles I'm sure. (But I would advise those of you thinking of making the move: do it when your kids are young.)

So, no, I don't regret our decision to make Aliyah. I've always felt that I, as a Jew, belong here. And even on the most difficult days of acclimating to my new life, I remember that and feel okay.

I like the way I ended my anniversary post last year so I think I'll end it the same way:

Who knows where the road ahead will take us? I have no idea. But for today, I am happy, living here in G-d's country, and grateful for all his blessings.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Oh well, it was nice to be nominated

Just wanted to let you all know that Bad4shidduchim has won the Send-a-Blogger contest. She will travel on the last NBN flight of the summer, blog about her experiences, and attend the Blogger's convention. Bad4 writes about, well, you see the title. (For those of you needing more clarification, she writes about her dating experiences in the orthodox world). I have to admit I've only read her occasionally, but I've always enjoyed what I read. I'm looking forward to her take on the NBN experience.

Congratulations, Bad4. Looking forward to meeting you at the convention.

(Sigh. I guess I'll go unpack my bags now).