Thursday, September 24, 2009

Expect the Worst and You Might Be Pleasantly Surprised

I made the dreaded trek out to the Tel Aviv US Embassy today with Shauli, Jonah, and Kayla.
We needed to take care of a couple things. Report of Birth Abroad for Kayla, passport for Kayla, and passport renewal for Jonah.
We had already tried this once at the Jerusalem Embassy but arrived late for our appointment and were told to leave because we were too late. And we had rented a car and made a special trip out to Jerusalem! Talk about frustrating!!!
After that bad experience, we decided to try out the Tel Aviv Embassy and finally got around to making an appointment.
We took the new bus direct to the train in Rosh HaAyin and then the train to Tel Aviv. Yes, I know we could have taken a bus straight to Tel Aviv but you never know if you will get stuck in traffic (most likely you will) and I know for the kids, it's way more exciting to take the train. And for me, it's way more comfortable to take the train!
From the train in Tel Aviv we took a cab to the Embassy and arrived about 15 minutes before our scheduled appointment. Shauli took our backpack and phones to go check them at a nearby storage facility (for 10 NIS). In the meantime, the guard checked that I had an appointment and pointed me towards the door for people with strollers. I was allowed to take in our stroller plus my diaper bag/purse. Truth is, I think I could have gotten away with a much bigger bag (a real diaper bag or something close) and put in food, drinks, pretty much whatever - as long as it wasn't electronic. As I was going through security a lady said to me, "Oh, I think you are coming to see me." And I answered, "Um....I don't know?" And she said, "US Citizen services?" And I said "Yes, passports and for my baby." And she said "Yep, you go right ahead and I will be there in a few minutes." I told her I was looking forward to it because she already seems so nice!!!
As I was trying to open the door, another person came along and offered to help me. And then a nice man saw that I looked lost and pointed me in the right direction for US Citizen Services. Woohoo! Off to a good start. Everyone so friendly and English being spoken everywhere!!!
We got to the room and it was empty...... I looked around and was like ok... am I in the right place? The place where I expected to wait hours.....there must be a trick. I brought Jonah over to the toys (they have toys, a TV, kids books, and magazines!) and looked at the 4 windows which were all empty. Then a man on the other side noticed I was looking a little confused and came over to his window where he apologized profusely because he didn't notice I was waiting. Can you imagine?? He apologized to me!!!!
Shauli arrived and we told the man (who actually was Australian and a new worker there) what we were there for. We went through all the papers I had brought and I was actually prepared and gave him the forms, originals of all documents, plus photo copies! Except I had brought a regular size envelope instead of a large one, luckily they have extras on hand there and too much postage (I brought enough for 2 envelopes but he said they would put them all in one when they send them back).
My fear was the passport photos..... I had them taken for the kids at 2 separate places and they ended up being 2 different sizes (neither of which were 2x2). Apparently telling the Israelis taking the passport pictures that you need American passport photos, doesn't cut it. They have no clue what that means (at least the ones in Ariel). I knew Jonah's were way too small but I was hoping Kayla's would make the cut... They didn't. Lucky for us there was another woman there who overheard and told us that the same place where they check bags also do passport photos (I bet they get a TON of business). So Shu took both kids there to get new photos done and I finished with the paperwork. Everything went smoothly, the man was so helpful and pleasant.
Shu returned and we paid (ugh) with our American credit card. Then we took a seat and waited. Not too bad though - 15-20 minutes? As soon as we discovered the books/magazines we got called to the next window. That's where my "friend" from earlier was sitting. She checked our receipts and had us sign a few things (even let Jonah sign his own passport paper). Made some cute faces at Kayla and chatted Jonah up. And then sent us on our way!!!!!!

We were in and out the door in less than an hour!! WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Dare I say, it was almost an enjoyable experience.... Here I was expecting a total nightmare based on various stories I have heard and it turns out (in my experience) the people were so nice and helpful, there were no insane wait times, and the whole thing was generally a very easy process.

Since we had all that extra time, we actually went to the beach afterwards (right behind the embassy) and then headed over to Azrieli mall where we met my friend, Laurie, (who I know from Ben Gurion Uni) for lunch. Mmmmmm....Chinese food.....

We also happened to get roped into a new phone plan with Cellcom (many many more minutes for less money and fancy new phones!) And the crazy part is - I spent about 2 hours or more dealing with Cellcom!!!! More than double what I spent at the Embassy. Who knew?

So....moral of the story. If you expect the absolute worst, you can only be pleasantly surprised.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dirty Shoes

This article totally freaks me out. Because my baby daughter Kayla seems to be drawn towards shoes. No matter how many toys or other things are in the room, she will find the pairs of shoes, go get them, and proceed (as many babies do) to put them in her mouth....

Ew gross!!

And after this article, I am slighty freaked out.
Can your flip-flops kill you?

Thanks to Concerned JewGirl for the link.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Last year, at the end of the school year, Jonah's teacher mentioned to me that he has trouble cutting properly. So over the summer we worked a little bit with Jonah on cutting, letting him cut, and even buying him special Lefty scissors. At this point, we still aren't sure if he is a lefty or a righty because he uses different hands for different things. Even when he is writing, sometimes he uses his left hand for English writing and his right hand for Hebrew writing.

Cutting is a skill we take for granted but it is also a skill that we learned when we were young. Jonah is now learning that skill but as the one trying to teach him, it's not so easy. I show him how to hold the scissors but he says it hurts his hand. Instead of his thumb being on top, he likes his thumb on the bottom, with fingers on top. Well, that is about the extent of my occupational therapy skills. What else am I supposed to tell him or show him to get him to hold the scissors correctly?

Have you faced this issue or one similar with your children? What did you do? I did mention it to his new teacher this year and she said she had already noticed and would keep a further eye on it and try to work with him. She told me to work with him at home but I told her, I try to show him how to hold the scissors correctly and he just says it hurts and he doesn't want to. Not quite sure what else to do beyond that. She told me to let him practice cutting. But does it matter if he is cutting "incorrectly"?

Shauli thinks this whole thing is craziness. Let the kid cut, the way he wants to. What does it matter? Why is everyone making such a big deal about how he holds the scissors? I don't really know the answer but I'm guessing it has to do with other fine motor skills. If he can't hold scissors correctly and it hurts him, maybe it will affect other fine motor skills in the future. Or maybe it's just an issue with cutting and I should let him cut the way that is most comfortable for him.

Need some opinions on this one ...............

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Letter to Our Aliyah Shalicha :)

Dear Shira,

Hi there. I just wanted to drop a quick line to you and let you know how we are doing, a year after we made Aliyah.

We moved to Israel last September and moved straight to Ariel. We could not have made a better decision or found a more fitting city. It is beautiful, the community is so warm and welcoming, and it is situated in central Israel and therefore close to everything. The Anglo community has really grown in the past year and we have found both new Israeli and Anglo friends. In fact, we just hosted a Kiddush on Shabbat to celebrate the birth of our daughter and to celebrate the completion of our first year. One of the hardest things about making Aliyah was leaving our friends and some family behind and I was filled with such warmth and happiness looking around and being surrounded by so many new friends.

I want to thank you so much for your assistance in helping us with this huge step in our lives. I'd also like to make a personal request. When you speak to people considering Aliyah and talk with them about communities, please keep Ariel on file in your mind. :) It is really is a fantastic community - a real city with a small town feel to it, a growing Anglo community but plenty of immersion with Israelis. Affordable housing, and not too far from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. I would be happy to be in touch with anyone considering making Aliyah and/or moving to Ariel and tell them about my experiences here. Ariel may not be the city for everyone but I know there are many many people that would be and are happy here. I appreciate you spreading the word to those it may be right for.

By the way, are you the Shaliach for St. Louis too? And if so, has my grandmother, Margo Grossmann been in touch with you? I know she is considering Aliyah (which would make us SOOOO happy) so I thought I would let you know she is my dear Grandma. :)

Thanks again,
Natalie Zacks

PS- I am attaching a family picture taken a few months ago at my nephew's bar-mitzvah.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Shauli's Speech at the Kiddush

Shabbat Shalom,
We decided to give this Kiddush to give thanks to Hashem for the birth of our daughter, Kayla Rivkah, and to celebrate completing our first year living in Israel.
We named our daughter, who was born in January, Kayla Rivkah. She is named after my grandmother, Rivkah. She was a great בעלת חסד, her house was always open to guests, and our hope is that little Kayla can emulate her מדות . As we were looking for names, we came across the name Kayla, which we really liked. We discovered that the name Kayla has Hebrew origins meaning crowns. Or so we thought.

After I named her in shul, Rav Avner came over and asked me what Kayla is. Shai Urim was there and he answered it’s a very nice American name. So go figure, we have our first child born in Israel and we give her an American name!

However, since then we’ve heard some nice possible meanings for Kayla, such as derived from the name Michaela, which means "who is like G-d", or that it is connected to to the Hebrew word קהילה ,community.

Which brings me to the second reason for this Kiddush. We celebrated our first complete year in Israel this past week,and it has been quite the experince, ברוך השם We, as well as our kids, have adjusted to life here, found friends, and can't imagine living elsewhere. We are filled with gratitude to Hashem and to the Ariel community, who have made us feel at right home.

Thank you very much!

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Well, the Kiddush on Shabbat was a smashing success!!!!

We decided to finally have Kayla's Kiddush (to celebrate and thank G-d for her birth) and also have the Kiddush to celebrate our 1 year "Aliyahversary".

Did a big shopping trip on Wednesday (thanks to Rechelle for the ride and to Joanna for calming me down and helping me choose pretty tablecloths, napkins, etc.)

Thursday we had a family BBQ for those who wouldn't be able to come to the Kiddush. But only Sarra, Shlomo, Sruli, and Shev showed up - plus our friend Shlomi. Must have been something about "S" names. Although that doesn't excuse Sim, Shany, Shilo, and Shoham. :)

Friday, Shu and I cooked for Shabbat dinner in the morning and then I started getting nervous about the cake platters I bought. They were WAY too small! So Jonah, Sammy, and I went to the mercaz and raided the 5 NIS store. It's supposedly the $1 store but that would mean 3.77 NIS so that's not quite the case. Jonah and Sammy each got a toy for coming along and behaving so nicely, and I didn't find any platters but just bought big rectangle aluminum pans to put the pretty pink napkins inside. The boys also each got a "Barad" (icee) before we left too.

As we got off the bus near our house they saw Dotan (of the barbershop Otan and Dotan) sitting outside his shop. They are huge fans of Otan and Dotan and often call out their window "Otaaaaaan! Dotaaaaaan!" as they are supposed to be sleeping because they can see the shop from their window. We passed him and Jonah said I want to get my haircut. Sammy agreed. I was surprised but that was fine. I had planned to take them next week but with Sammy's long days at daycare, getting a haircut today and next door would be preferable.

We went home, got some money, and returned. Little did we know - there was a LOOONG wait. Jonah was fine. Sammy began to freak out before we even got through the door. He was clinging to me, crying, and begging to go home. But after the 20+ minutes we ended up waiting (and the stickers Dotan gave them) he calmed down enough and was ready for a haircut. Jonah went first and did an excellent job. He's a pro already and has never really been scared of haircuts. Although at some point he got hair in his mouth so he tried to wipe it off with the "cape" that he was wearing and proceeded to get hair all in his mouth and all over his face. It was pretty gross - poor kid.
Sammy's turn! He asked to sit on my lap but Dotan convinced him it was more comfortable to sit on the big pillow instead. He looked so small sitting in that big chair with the haircut cape on him. Just his tiny head and tiny feet sticking out. I wished I had my camera. And he had such a brave look on his face!!! Well, we got through the haircut and he did surprisingly well. I think even Dotan was shocked. Kol HaKavod Sammy!!

Back to Kiddush home and started getting nervous. There was still so much prep and then we had to get the things to shul. AH! How was it all going to get done?? Lucky for me, my friend Yael called and offered to come over with a friend and help me out. They had both worked at Chabad on Campus and were used to preparing meals for lots and lots of people. They came over and I showed them the pans, baked goods, and veggies (needed to be sliced and plated). If life were a cartoon, there would be a whirlwind of activity, hands moving, peels flying, and in a minute, the dust would settle and there would be 5 platters of baked good and 4 platters of veggies all perfectly prepared. Wow!

Then our friend Josh came by and picked up the sodas, boxes of food and paper goods, and the baked goods and veggies and we dropped them off at the shul. That was that.

Had a very nice Shabbat dinner along with our friend Shaya who spent Shabbat with us. Then we had a scary experience with Shauli breaking out all over his body in hives!! That was not fun. But he survived, thank G-d. We think it may have been an allergic reaction to the new detergent I used. Who knew Shu was so sensitive?! :)

Shabbat morning arrived and the guys headed for shul. I made it there by about 10:00 and fluttered around nervously until kiddush time. Then so many people offered to help I didn't even know what to do with everyone! Luckily, Idit and Joanna and Yael and a few others really took care of things. The tables got set, the food went out, and it was time. Rav Avner made kiddush and once again, in cartoon world there was a whirlwind. Plates flying, crumbs all over, and when the dust settled, the food was all gone.......
A regular kiddush at our shul consists of Bamba, pretzals, chips, crackers, store bought brick cake and soda. A fancy kiddush consists of those items plus cholent and kugels. We made it in between and served: Bamba, pretzals, crackers, pink and white marshmallows, carrots and cukes, chummous and matbucha, and home made cakes, cookies, and brownies. Not to mention instead of just plain white tableclothes and napkins, we spruced it up a bit with bright pink tablecloths and cute pink napkins with baby girl shoes on them.

Avi introduced us and I think he said some nice things about us, however it was all in Hebrew so I didn't quite catch it all. Then Shauli made a nice speech both in English and Hebrew (I will post in my next blog) and then we cleaned up and that was that. I met a bunch of new people who asked about Kayla and about us in general and we got lots of compliments on the Kiddush. So Hooray! It was a success!!
Thanks everyone for all your help and for those who couldn't make it, you were missed.....

I will attach a pic of the cute napkins and maybe one of the tables (although that was Friday afternoon so it's missing quite a bit of the food).

Thursday, September 03, 2009

School - Then and Now

As we approached the beginning of the school year, there was a feeling of excitement in the air. For about a week prior to school starting, whenever you met another parent, the conversation always started with - it's almost time for school to start. Hooray!!!!
Gan started on September 1st, Jonah's 5th birthday. So it was a good day in general! He is in Gan Chova this year which is the equivalent of Kindergarten. He also switched from the 3+4 year old gan to the 4+5 year old Gan.

The Big Day

Jonah was mostly looking forward to his new Gan and we had gone to an Orientation the week before. We met the teachers and saw the Gan and the yard (complete with basketball net).
Although as we got closer, he was a bit more hesitant and as we passed his old Gan he said, I don't think I want to go to Gan. But he put on a brave front and we arrived at the Gan. The teachers greeted him warmly and he sat down at a table to play with the other kids. I stuck around for a few minutes, taking pictures, and chatting with him and some of the other parents. Every once in awhile he would glance at me and give me a shy smile. He was fine with me leaving.....I was the one who was having a harder time. Well, Sammy (my 2 year old) was really excited to go to Ma'on (daycare) and kept pulling on me, "Let's goooo". I waved goodbye to Jonah and off we went.

I cannot begin to compare the difference between leaving him last year and leaving him this year. And I am NOT envious at all of the new Olim going through this with their own kids. I remember the tears, the emotion, the heartbreak. In fact, one day I too left in tears. I kept wondering, what did I do to my kid??? How could I take him away from a Gan he loved going to every day and put him somewhere that he doesn't know the kids, doesn't speak the language, and is in tears as I leave.

Those were a rough couple of weeks in the beginning. But now I look at him and listen to him talk about Gan and I want to burst with pride. Because not only does he enjoy going (and his teachers seem to love him) but he is helping out the 2 other Olim boys that are in his Gan. Whether it's translating between them and the teacher or showing them different toys, or playing with them in the yard, he is helping them fit in and feel comfortable. And next year, those boys can help the next batch of Olim. It's a good cycle we have going here. And a fantastic community.

Baruch Hashem, Baruch Hashem, Thank G-d!!! Life is good. :)