Saturday, December 31, 2011

Date night in Ein Kerem

Ein Karem

Mr. Rosen and I celebrated New Years last night instead of tonight because last night we had free babysitting. Anyway, tonight is a regular school night. It's not a national holiday. No one has off. They don't even call it New Years here since the Jewish New Year is in September. They call it Sylvester. Or was it Putty Tat...What was I talking about?

Yes, New Years. Well our second shipment finally did arrive on Thursday so our house was once again inundated by boxes and hunkin pieces of furniture. Mr. Rosen's parents came up on Friday morning to help build things and watch the kids and then they actually took the kids with them back to Beer Sheva to spend the night leaving us an unprecedented 24 hours in our house to GET. SHIT. DONE. We still had the baby but he's manageable.

But instead of trudging ahead when they left we decided to take a break and treat ourselves to a date in a beautiful neighborhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem and only about a 15 minute drive from where we live called Ein Kerem which means "Spring of the Vineyard" and yes, it's as charming as its name would imply. It has a long history which is why many of the homes feature Arab style architecture and many of the landmarks are Christian. John the Baptist was born there. But now there's a giant hospital on the next hill over so lots of people can make that claim too. Sorry John.  These days it's home to a lot of artisans and funky little restaurants and cafes and galleries. And there's a bunch of stuff open on Shabbat too which is nice.

We parked the car and walked toward the main street to see that a ceramic tile gallery was open so we popped in since the tiles on our coffee table (built by Mr. Rosen) broke in the container. We ogled for a few minutes over the gorgeous tiles and then walked up a side street and noticed this little shop full of beautiful goodies. I plan to go back when it's open and buy one of everything. Finally we decided on a place to eat - a small cafe where we dined on focaccia, warm wild mushroom salad, haloumi cheese sandwich and kabobs. Each dish was better than the one before. It might have only been December 30th, but it was New Years in my mouth.

And then we spent the last day of this unbelievably crazy year finally unpacking all of our things into our new house. We're not there yet, but we're getting close. And it feels good. Look out for a home tour in the coming weeks.

Happy 2012! xoxo

Ruth's Ceramics



Ein Karem



Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dress code

If only this post was about my son's obsession with his school uniform (which is basically a plain t-shirt and the school's logo). It's about what's going on only twenty minutes from where we live in Beit Shemesh, where ultra religious fanatics are terrorizing little girls for their immodesty. Little observant girls who are fully covered, but apparently still too provocative.

This is not a political blog but sometimes shit happens that is so unconscionable that I have to write something about it. Which I was planning to do and then Mr. Rosen sent out this email and I thought high time we had a guest blogger. So here you go.

Yes, we are all aware of this and watching it closely with concern.

The big concern is that if the government allows these idiots to behave this way and does not seriously crack down on them, this kind of behavior will become legitimate within that community.  Within the ultra orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem and a few other neighborhoods in Israel, similar types of behaviors have become acceptable or legitimate over the past 10 years, like woman sitting separately in the back of buses so as to not cause the men in the front to have a humiliating spontaneous erection.  The mistake Israeli governments have made over the years (and this is true for all governments since Ben-Gurion’s) was to let this behavior exist even as a grass roots phenomenon within the religious communities.  There are some very scary patterns within the Israeli religious communities (both orthodox and Zionistic) which in any other democracy would be considered religious fanaticism or racism.  Traditionally Israeli governments have been reluctant to tackle these issues head on because of the Israeli coalition structure which gives religious parties power that is disproportional to their represented size within Israeli society.  It is sad to see the racism that is so pervasive in this country.

Still, having said that, I think there is hope (I ask myself if I can live here long term if hope is lost).  Last summer there was a huge peaceful protest that was energized by the secular majority (80%).  These protests have had a minor effect, so far, on the way the country is governed, but it showed that this majority can snap out of its apathy.  I personally think that the secular majority, which includes the reform and conservative movements,  and the leaders of this past summer’s protests have to turn to the streets next summer and get political.  If violence is called for, so be it.  Human right issues have never been resolved peacefully.  Any racist political establishment anywhere in the world does not change wily-nilly due to peaceful protest.  One of the ways to make a big change here is to change the elected government structure to inhibit the disproportional power of elected small parties.  A constitution has to be written which puts democracy ahead of the state defined as a Jewish one.  I pray that the future will bring these changes.  Meanwhile I hope we find a way to live happily in our bubble of sanity.  We are surrounded by intelligent & open minded people that are passionate and thirsty for change.  Unfortunately my generation does not get to build a country from the ground up, but rather is tasked with shifting the sick trajectory this young country is on to one of democracy, human rights and religious pluralism.  I hope we do not pass these issues down to our children to tackle since by then it will be too late.  I hope the US president and the big American Jewish downers are taking note of this.  Tell your leaders we don’t need any more F-16s. We need more schools that teach poetry, music, math and world history.  It’s time to stop donating to the construction of Israel and instead pump cash into fixing what was badly engineered.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Notice the light  dancing around in little heart-shapes over my son's head. Like a tiara.

Well we are coming off of our eight day Hanukkah vacation. The kids are back in school tomorrow. Our second, smaller container, the one with all of the bookcases, storage units and hangers, the one that will help contain the piles of books, toys and clothes, is coming tomorrow. We've lit a total of 135 candles over the last eight days and the world seems a little brighter. I was happy to have this time off with the kids to be with family and friends. Trying to see everyone we know with only Saturdays to do it (six day school week here...) meant we might not get to everyone before we moved to some other country, so it was nice to have a little extra time for visiting. There were a lot of reunions. We saw friends who had moved to Israel three years ago who we hadn't seen since. And maybe for even a year before they left. The last time we lit candles together our oldest was two months old and their three girls (now nearly teenagers) took turns smothering him with love. We visited a family who we last saw in London seven years ago when our oldest kids were babies. Their daughter and our son are only two weeks apart and hadn't seen each other since. It didn't seem to matter. And of course we saw our son's betrothed, the little girl he's known since they were both a month old. Our families have grown at the same pace so get-togethers are especially easy and enjoyable.

It's hard to believe it was exactly a year ago that we told our parents about our plans to move back to Israel. Before they were even plans really. Just ideas. And now we're here a year later. We're eating sufganiyot. We're cleaning the floors with a squeegee. We're drinking coffee at 4pm. We're driving through check-points. We're paying bills at the post office. We're texting in Hebrew. We're parking on curbs. We're eating a lot of olives.

We're definitely here and we're starting to feel settled.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hanukkah at the Jerusalem Mall


Yesterday the baby and I went to the Jerusalem Mall. Yes, even Jerusalem has a mall. And a rather nice one too. It's about twenty minutes and two roadblocks from here. I'm still getting used to the whole West Bank proximity thing. In the United States you have all these ideals like that Palestine should be fully sovereign. No more settlements. Dual control of the borders. The list goes on. But then you live here and the easiest way to the mall is through the West Bank. Easy since no one bugs you because you and your pasty white baby and your Mazda 5 don't exactly fit the terrorist profile. There's an even shorter way too, according to my iPhone, which takes you along some unrecommended roads. I realized in time and aborted that mission. It's all very surreal.

As was the experience at the mall. My copilot and I browsed around for a few hours looking at all the shops with beautiful clothes and shoes. We found my favorite art/office supply store and bought some two ring A4 binders to get in step with Euro/Israeli style filing. And we breathed in the smell of freshly fried donuts for Hanukah. I even had a peek at the food court, which, besides offering more middle eastern faire in addition to Sbarros pizza and McDonald's, is pretty much as you would expect from a food court. I also loved the sign that listed a bunch of services down a hallway, including the bathrooms, tailoring, mall management and a synagogue. Once I can get some babysitters lined up, there are several pair of size 39 shoes with my name on them.

Happy Hanukkah!

Hanukah at the Jerusalem Mall


Food court

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The empties


The best thing about this pile of boxes is that they're empty. This week started out great but quickly deteriorated. We were so excited to greet our container on Sunday, the one to which we bid farewell in California exactly two months ago. The one crammed with ten years worth of stuff we obviously don't need since we haven't seen most of it since we put our house on the market last February. The one that was full of plastic toys made in China only to travel back to China, switch boats, and then continue on through the Suez Canal to the Port of Ashdod. And while I should have been deliriously happy to watch the four delivery guys deposit box after box in what I thought was our largish new house, instead I felt an emptiness set in. Why do we have so much crap? Why did we pay money to move it here? How will I ever move back to America if all of my stuff is here? How can we unpack if the shelves and bookcases we need to contain all of our crap are only arriving next Wednesday on a different container? FUUUUUUHHHHH. K! And how the eff am I going to get through all of these boxes with Mr. New Tooth Bronchitis Walrus Snot Face McEye Boogers as my constant companion?*

It was not a great week. And yet somehow I managed to unpack the entire kitchen into a space that has half as many cupboards as our old kitchen.** And we managed to get the kids' room functional. And Mr. Rosen built our bed. The one I thought I didn't like but now I ABSOLUTELY LOVE. And all the bathroom stuff is in the bathrooms where there is incidentally a ridiculous amount of storage space leaving us to ponder whether or not it is inappropriate or even gross to keep our tupperware or ziplocks or wineglasses so close to the toilet. Chime in if you have an opinion about this.

We did have some wins this week. The kids continue to like school. We might have made some friends. The psychotic clown at the Israeli birthday party we attended did not give my daughter nightmares. Our kids have health insurance.

One day at a time.

* I love my baby.

** At one point there was one giant box remaining in the kitchen and I thought there is no way this kitchen can absorb even a single extra teaspoon, let alone a giant box of dishes. Miraculously I opened it to find a hamper inside of bigger hamper inside of a still bigger hamper. And the angels wept. Amen.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Bar on the Mountain

Cafe on the hill

It sounds better in Hebrew. Bar BaHar. It's a beautiful little cafe five minutes drive from our house that overlooks the Judean Hills. They serve delicious coffee and a killer shakshouka. If you follow a path just outside of the cafe you get to a charming wooden play structure. The path continues and is perfect for an after-school bike ride. And since our bikes and everything else we own is arriving tomorrow afternoon (!!!) we may be making Bar BaHar a weekly tradition. Did I mention the free wifi?

Jerusalem hills cafe


Stained glass




Friday, December 9, 2011

School Daze


Israeli kids are really exuberant and they move in swarms which can be completely overwhelming to a couple of sensitive kids from a culture that values personal space and manners above all. My kids didn't have a chance.

My daughter started preschool last Sunday (Sunday is the first day of the week here) and managed pretty well for a few hours. The problem is that prek and kindergarten are managed by a regional council of the Ministry of Education. So you don't actually pick where the kids go, at least when you move to town this late in the year. You get placed. And we got placed in the only place with space which is a kindergarten. Meanwhile my daughter won't be five until February. So she's the youngest by a lot. The idea is that she'll stay there next year too (but her friends will go to first grade). It's not ideal. And I tried to make a stink about it but no one would budge. So on her first day a gaggle of girls with the best intentions attack her wanting to do her hair and dress her up and draw pictures for her. All the while yammering in Hebrew. My poor girl basically curls up fetal-like in a corner and sucks her thumb.

That same Sunday we went to my son's elementary school to register him. He would only start the next day. While there he starts to complain of a stomach ache which I chalk up to nerves. When we get home he crawls onto the futon (our only piece of furniture currently) and stays there moaning for several hours. Then I discover he has a fever. And then he proceeds to throw up for the next four hours. May be more than nerves. He doesn't make it to school on Monday.

Meanwhile, our girl goes back to preschool on Monday and makes it through another day with the help of some puppets - Shmuli the hedgehog and Morris the Fox. Trooper.

On Tuesday my son is finally ready for school. He doesn't have his books yet but he does have his uniform. He wears his red hoody sweatshirt with the school logo and meets his teacher, the one we'd heard good things about and were hoping for, in the front office. Score. Turns out all the kids are supposed to wear green, yellow or red (was it Rasta Day?)* so he would fit in great. He gives me a kiss and walks to class with his teacher. I pick him up a few hours later and he looks worn out and like he is about to burst into tears. They had swarmed him apparently and pulled him in a million directions and wanted to show him their soccer trading cards and invite him to a birthday party after school and be best friends. And all he wanted was for everyone to stop talking. Which he made clear at some point when he couldn't take it anymore. Poor kid. He was hungry too and thought he missed lunch somehow. There is no lunch at school. It ends at 1:30 and the kids eat lunch at home or aftercare. Only snack at school. Aha. He also can't follow along in class because he doesn't have his books yet.

Mr. Rosen runs out to buy his books later that day and comes home $150 poorer with sixty pound of books. That's when Mr. Rosen and I hit a low. Why did we take our son out of his amazing school in California so he could sit in class and do workbooks all day long? And this was supposed to be one of the country's better schools.

The next morning he cries that he doesn't want to go to school. He hates school. Hates school? I had never heard him say such a thing. He once told me he wished he could sleep at school because he loved it so much. My heart breaks for him. I pull out whatever anecdotes I can think of. I remind him that his friends Ido and Leonard and Itzel all spoke other languages at home and had to work extra hard in the beginning of kindergarten to catch up and now in first grade they are all speaking and reading and writing beautifully in English. It takes time. He humors me and agrees to go to school. We don't realize it is his teacher's free day (or that there is even such a thing as a free day) and he has a bunch of other teachers for PE, music, road safety (this is a big focus in school apparently - probably because of the way people drive here). He has no idea what is going on and we are equally in the dark.

His sister, on the other hand, appears to be doing well and is making friends. We are fooled into thinking that she is fully acclimated.

On Thursday I pick up my son after school and he has another fever and a rash on his face and it is clear that he is not going to school on Friday. He's a mess. I'm a mess too. I just didn't think it would be this hard and I have to remind myself that it's only the first week and he's only seven and he is completely out of sorts. His Savta comes to visit and sits down with him when he's feeling better to do some of his workbook exercises to catch up. Turns out he likes working in the workbooks. He learns four letter in one hour. By the next day he's reading in Hebrew. A switch has been flipped.

By Sunday, he's ready for school and he's feeling himself again. I pick him up and he tells us about a friend, Roi, who he's been hanging out with at recess. Progress. His teacher and school counselor let us know that he is ahead of his classmates in math and following along pretty well in Hebrew. And that he is a clever and wise little boy. He has endeared himself to the authority figures, as is his way. This morning he tells me he loves his school. I feel like I won the lottery.

Meanwhile in preschool, our little girl is becoming more and more clingy at drop off. She understands that this is not just a temporary thing and she wants out. On Wednesday I leave her there sobbing. And I spend the whole day wondering if I should just keep her home. Or demand she be placed with kids her age. Or start my own preschool. Of course when I pick her up she's fine. She even has a new friend who asks for her phone number to invite her over. Progress.

This has been the hardest thing so far. Harder than the whole health insurance debacle. It's made us question all of our decisions. Was this move the right thing? Would they have gotten a better education in the States? It's obviously too early to tell but we are encouraged by their progress and by the willingness of their teachers to welcome them and ease their transition.

* I later realized it was national road safety day so the kids dressed in the colors of the stoplight.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fat and Fruit Salad

Fat and Fruit Salad

And on a lighter note, something I concocted to lift my spirits last week. All local goodies. I call it the fat and fruit salad:

tzfatit cheese (spongy and salty - feta probably works well too)
sun gold tomatoes
pomegranate seeds
olive oil

Beautiful in the bowl and tasty on the tongue. Apparently one cannot live on pita and Nutella alone. So says my colon.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How it hit the fan and then I lost it


Well it was only a matter of time before what all was on the sidewalk, would rise up and hit the fan. We are on the other side of a horrible week. Things were moving along and we were getting everything done but Mr. Rosen was soon to start work and there were still some bureaucratic items hanging in the balance. One of them was our residency status. As returning citizens of Israel we're entitled to certain benefits, one of which is an exemption on the social security we haven't been paying for the last ten years (since we've been paying into another country's system). The deal is that if you've been away long enough and you come back, you pay a bunch of money and then you get reimbursed by the government, half right away and half after a year. And paying into this system means you have health insurance too. Apparently when Israel went universal with health care many years ago they figured it was easier to run it through social security since that system was already in place. Easy peasy.

Turns out that my status is a little different since I am technically a new immigrant whose status was frozen when I left Israel eleven years ago and now resumes as do some of my new immigrant rights. Some of the rights are useful like financial help setting up my studio. Others are less useful. One thing is for sure: I have a six month waiting period for my residency to kick in and I used up my six months of free health care in 1998 when I moved here originally so we ponied up for private health insurance for me. Mr. Rosen and the kids were supposedly insured the moment they returned, so said everyone with whom we spoke. Not true. It took us two full weeks to get all of our residency paperwork in order, not to mention the strike, so the earliest we could pay this chunk of money was a few days ago. Then the website where you pay was down. FAAAA!!! Meanwhile the insurance we had through Mr. Rosen's former employer was going to expire November 30. And that's exactly when the baby and my older son came down with 103 fever and a horrible rash. Less horrible for the seven year old. Full blown on the baby.

I posed the question of how to get my kids seen by a doctor to a Facebook group I found of English speakers in my town and everyone was sure we could be seen in the clinic. Not true. I went to the clinic and explained our very complicated situation but the receptionist insisted we go somewhere else because we didn't have magnetic health insurance cards. That is when I went all mama bear and started shrieking about how my baby might have measles (it did in fact look like measles and about four other viruses according to Dr. Google). No dice. I walked out hysterical and a nice young woman offered to drive me to another town where she was pretty sure they would take us. We followed her through a checkpost into what is technically the West Bank to a religious town where everyone has twelve kids with rashes so they probably wouldn't even ask for a magnetic card. At this point I am on high alert having forgotten after being away for eleven years that it's totally normal to drive into the West Bank and go to a health clinic in an ultra-orthodox town. Our tour guide sits with us while we wait to be seen except they won't see us either. The kids national identity numbers are not yet in the system. It can take two weeks from the time you established residency. And this is when I ask why on earth would it take two frigin weeks for the country-wide computerized system to be updated? I mean it only took god one week to create all the world! How does it get updated? By hand? Courier pigeon? Maybe a tiny gnome writes the numbers down on a paper and brings the papers by bike to the Ministry of Health? I decide to take pictures of my baby and send them to my brother in law and my pediatrician friend and they both give the same diagnosis which I pretend is the same as being seeing by a doctor in person. Because our only other option is urgent care, which I would only resort to if the rash randomly turned into appendicitis or something.

We're on day five of the rash and it's slowly fading. And my disbelief and disappointment in what I once considered an exemplary national health care system is also fading. Every system has its cracks. We happened to fall into more of a crevasse. And all this during the same week that our kids started hating school. It was a little more than my delicate system could handle. It seems all that time in California made us soft. Got to get me some thicker skin, the kind with long, pokey spines. Stat.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Watch out for poop


In Israel you have to keep an eye out for poop. Dog poop. Because it's everywhere. Israel is ahead of its short 63 years in terms of technology adoption, universal health care, drip irrigation, solar water heating and pita, but they are sorely behind the times in terms of cleaning up after dogs. Even in a small town like the one in which we live as of four days ago, there is still poop on the side walk. So when I walk with my kids to school, we have our heads to the pavement always scanning for poop.

Don't misunderstand. The dog shit situation has improved in recent years, to be sure. When I lived in Tel Aviv thirteen years ago I had to almost tiptoe to work because the sidewalks were so covered. Do pet owners here just think that dog shit is magical and just disappears at the end of the day? Or maybe special poop fairies come out at daybreak to turn the poop into milk and honey?

In our case watching out for poop is tough because where we live there is astonishing beauty around every corner and it's distracting. The old stone houses. The olive and fig trees. The cobalt blue sky. The bougainvillea. It seems to be the perfect metaphor for our own situation as newcomers. So far our settling in has been a great success. We have a car! We moved into our home! We bought a fridge! We have Internet service! We have a bank account! Our kids are in school! I found the place to buy my son his school uniforms thirty minutes away along a winding road in the middle of the Judean Mountains! Beautiful!

But then you hit a dump bump. Like today, for instance. Mr. Rosen left at 7am to go to the Social Security administration so that he and the kids would be registered as returning residents and therefore be entitled to health coverage. Getting to this stage required a mountain of proof that we are actually residing in Israel in general and in our little town specifically. To help us out Saba Rosen stood in line for us to deliver this paperwork yesterday afternoon only to be told that they don't handle these requests in afternoon hours and anyway they can't do it in that office because now that we've moved, we have to take care of it in the Jerusalem office. Hence, Mr. Rosen's early morning departure leaving me to get all three kids ready and out the door by 7:40 for our oldest son's first day of first grade. Turns out that the Social Security Administration is on strike today. And closed tomorrow. That's some seriously stinky poop on the sidewalk if you ask me.

Such is life here these last two weeks. All things moving along pretty well. And just when you've spotted an alarmingly beautiful patch of bougainvillea and you can't believe your luck, you look down to see you've stepped in the poop.

Thankfully there is more bougainvillea around the corner. In our case, Mr. Rosen was able to get to the customs office instead since they're not striking and now all systems are go to receive our container in a little more than a week, barring any unforeseen acts of piracy or god. The sidewalk is clear again.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Welcome to Israel

Welcome to Israel

Shalom! We arrived yesterday evening with all family members in tact and only missing one piece of luggage - the baby's car seat (he rode commando from the airport), which arrived to my in-laws this morning via London. When we got to passport control and the woman in the next line over cut in front of us when our window became available, I knew we'd arrived in the right country. The older kids went to sleep last night around 11pm and woke up at noon. Not bad. The baby was up pretty much from midnight until 4am. Not great.

Mr. Rosen and I ducked out at 10 this morning to start our administrative journey. We dragged the baby along in an effort to reset his internal clock. First stop, the Ministry of the Interior where we had to change our National ID cards to reflect our marriage and three kids. As we got out of the car I started to put the baby's little fleece slippers on and Mr. Rosen said, I don't think he needs those today (it's about 65 out). I knew that if we didn't put them on I would get reamed by at least eleven older women for exposing my child to the elements. We stopped for a latte at the mall under the ministry and a fifty year old man mentioned to us that it was windy outside and that our baby should have a sweater. Didn't see that one coming. While we were sitting there we also saw a young woman come in with her friends to get coffee wearing the clothes she was trying on from the store next door still with tags and a security device attached. Maybe she got thirsty all of a sudden? Only in Israel.

We headed upstairs to get passport pictures taken and we saw a a religious woman (head covering and modest flowy garb) and her teenage son (side curls and giant knit kippah) in line, both wearing Vibram five-finger frog feet "shoes". I guess the quest for good arch support is universal.

With our photos and baby in hand we headed upstairs to the Ministry. The Bedouin man ahead of us was there to register his newest child too. I overheard the clerk doing triage handing out the numbers at the front desk say to him, first wife or second? Nice. The Bedouin are still keeping it real I guess.

After waiting for about forty minutes, which was not a long wait considering the last time I was here fifteen years ago I actually learned how to knit and completed a six foot long scarf in the time it took before I spoke to anyone official, it's our turn. We are both in the system as citizens but it apparently takes the same system 72 hours from the time we go through passport control to recognize we are in country. We have to come back on Sunday. Minor setback. Fortunately Mr. Rosen can come by himself and complete the task for both of us.

Next up, finalizing the bank account that my in-laws already opened for us. On Thursdays the banks are closed from 12-4 and reopen from 4-7. Until then, the kids are at the park and the baby is asleep and mama needs to take a shower. In queue after the bank, shopping for a refrigerator, Ministry of Absorption, elementary school registration and dealing with our iPhones that don't work here. Good times. So far I have not yelled at anyone or cried or used any vulgar hand gestures.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dear California

Santa Cruz

Hi there. How are you? 72 degrees and sunny as always? Just checking in before we fly out tonight. I've been thinking about you a lot and how much we've been through together. I know I haven't always been your most loyal resident. Remember how I used to wear long sleeves and turtlenecks year round in elementary school and tell people I was originally from New Hampshire? Sorry about that. But in my defense I was never exactly your type, at least as far as appearances go. I never tanned. I was a freckle puss from day one practically. I hated the beach and no one was watching out for my skin. It was the seventies and eighties after all. So I figured we might as well go our separate ways.

But I was so wrong! There is so much more to you than your constant sunshine. I love your fruits and vegetables. I love your ocean cliffs. I love your elephant seals. I love your national parks. I love Disneyland. I love your beach boardwalks, your Hollywood hoopla and your spring skiing. I love your taquerias, your dim sum, your In-N-Out, your pho, your pad thai, your chicken tikka masala, your sushi, your grass fed beef and your tofu. I even love your neon strip malls. How's that for devotion?

So for the record I'm sorry I once wished I was from the east coast. It was immature. Now I realize just how much you have given me and how much you have to offer yet. I'll be back one day.

love always,

Monday, November 14, 2011

Where it all began

Essex Street

On Sunday we met up with an old and dear friend of mine and his amazing wife and two delicious daughters. They live on the Lower East Side of Manhattan about two blocks from the corner where my grandmother grew up and about eight blocks from where Mr. Rosen's grandmother was born and raised. In fact we told this to Grandma Rosen and she asked if we had seen all the pushcarts. She remembers it very differently from the funky, eclectic, bistro'plenty place it has become. But even though the vibe is very different now, it was easy to imagine what it looked like a hundred years ago when these women were born. The streets are still lined with five story walk ups (read: three million dollar tenements) and their ubiquitous fire escapes.The pickle guy is still there and plenty of kosher delis. Although now the neighborhood is peppered with Chinese grocers and organic juice bars.

It got me thinking about all of the Jews who came over from Europe at the turn of the century. My dad's parents arrived as kids from Poland and what is now Romania. Back then the country designation made no difference if you were Jewish. Your nationality was Jew and the authorities made it clear you were living on borrowed time.

All of this seems especially poignant right now as we prepare to cross the ocean and start our lives anew. While we like to complain that the process and the packing and the goodbyes and the schlepping seems never ending, we are most certainly doing it on our terms. No one is chasing us out of America. We are not refugees. We are not saying goodbye to loved ones forever only to land in a country full of hardship. On the contrary. We feel loved on both sides of this journey; we are dual citizens; we're making this move because we want to, not because we have to.  That feels incredibly fortunate to me. And we owe it all to our grandparents whose generation made terrible sacrifices so that we could enjoy the liberties they or their parents never had in Europe.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Same old story

Back in the day.

It turns out that having a lot to write about makes me not want to write anything. The stories pile up in my brain and then there's like a bottleneck in there. I have storytelling constipation. I happen to have the regular kind of constipation too but that's from all the moving around. So where are we these days? We're with family in New York. And we fly to Israel on Tuesday.

Our last week in the Bay Area was ridiculous. Even after sending all of our stuff on the container we still had a house full of odds and ends. We decided to have a goodbye/u-pick party as in, come say goodbye and take a can of tuna for the road. Or a toaster to remember us by. Lots of teary goodbyes. My sister-in-law and I had a sob fest that I think caught us both by surprise.

And then, without much ado, we got in our rental minivan and left Northern California. Eleven years earlier, to the day in fact, Mr. Rosen and I left Israel to embark on a new adventure together. We were only two of us back then. Now we're five. Back then we each had a backpack. Now we have eight suitcases and a twenty foot container. Back then we had palm pilots. Now we have iPhones. The cast has grown and a few of the props have changed but it's basically our same old story unfolding again. Can't wait to see how things turn out this time around.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


The kids on a photo shoot inside our container.

I'm still here. Surprise. I did not intend to take a month off the blog. In fact I think I only took a week off after the baby was born. That will give you some idea as to just how hideously busy we have been in the last month. Let me explain.

No, too much. Let me sum up.

  1. Mr. Rosen flies to Israel to interview for a job in Jerusalem.
  2. Mr. Rosen takes the job.
  3. I find a house outside Jerusalem on the Israeli version of Craigslist and Mr. Rosen goes to see it
  4. Mr. Rosen loves the house and rents it for November 20.
  5. Mr. Rosen starts work December 1.
  6. We are moving to Israel for real.
  7. We need to pack everything and ship it to Israel.
  8. We need a to do a lot of shit.
  9. We panic.
  10. We make a spreadsheet. Color coded.
  11. We get the baby an American passport.
  12. Our son turns seven. We skip the birthday party and camp out in his cousins backyard instead.
  13. We hire a shipper.
  14. Mr. Rosen gives notice.
  15. I spend two weeks running around between IKEA, Cost Plus, Target, West Elm, Crate and Barrel, TJ Max, Bed Bath and Beyond, REI, Best Buy and Costco to fill up our container with America.
  16. I lose my wallet (in one of the above places).
  17. We starting sorting, shifting, purging, packing.
  18. We start seeing friends to say goodbyes.
  19. The shipper drops a 20 foot container in front of our house.
  20. I cancel all my credit cards.
  21. We think all of our stuff will fit in it.
  22. Movers come to fill the container.
  23. After it's half full we fear we have too much stuff. 
  24. We realize the movers packed all the kids toys and a bunch of crap we don't need while our furniture is mostly still on the driveway. 
  25. We buy more space in someone else's container to avoid getting a divorce.
  26. Our stuff is gone.
  27. Feeling guilty I organize a bowling party for my son on his Hebrew date birthday. 
  28. More goodbye gatherings.
  29. Someone emails to tell me he found my drivers license on Highway 85 north while he was taking pictures of garbage and mangled car plastic for an art installation he's working on.
  30. I sleep train the baby.
  31. I develop mastitis - the kind with vomiting, fever and a giant red boob. 
  32. Mr. Rosen runs out at 2am to get me antibiotics and narcotics.
  33. I cancel our magazines and forward our mail.
  34. What's left of our stuff goes on Craigslist.
  35. Mr. Rosen transfers half our money to Israel.
  36. I pick up our medical and dental records.
  37. We get the baby an Israeli passport.
That brings us to today. We are leaving the Bay Area on November 1st with our kids and whatever fits in two suitcases each. Before then we have to sell our car, get rid of remaining items and go trick or treating. And say goodbye to everyone we love. We'll be at Grandma's house for a week which may involve a trip to Disneyland and then we fly to New York where we'll be for another week. And then on November 15 we fly one way to the holy land. God help us.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


plenty of nuts around here

Don't you hate it when you post something on Craigslist, for instance the bunk bed that you just bought on Craigslist but that you no longer want because your kids cried when they saw it and want to keep their old one that you don't like, and then arrange for someone to come look at it late at night when you're home alone with your three kids because your husband is in Israel and then tell your friend to call every five minutes in case the buyer is really a psychopath and then answer the doorbell anyway even though you're terrified and sweating a lot having just locked all the doors and windows even though it's like 85 degrees in the house and it turns out to be a six foot three adorably doughy young man from Singapore who magically fits the entire thing into his Mazda 5 and by the time he leaves you're wired from all the adrenalin and the glass of coke you had from the two liter bottle in the fridge leftover from your dance party (don't you just love the way cold coke claws down your throat in the best possible way) so you watch the first five episodes of 30 Rock since you remembered that your friend loaded like seven seasons on your computer when you visited him in August and then you go to bed after midnight knowing full well your baby will be waking you in one hour and then two more hours?

You and me both.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Goodbye to our house
We say goodbye to 607 Leksich Ave. The baby thinks parting is such sweet sorrow. 
He may also be taking a dump in this shot.

Did I ever mention how it came to be that we sold our house?

Remember in April, how we took it off the market after an offer was rescinded because of some confusion over the status of the house - whether it was technically a condo or a single family home? And remember how we were secretly relieved and planned on putting it back on the market in the fall. Plans are funny like that.

It turns out that right before the baby was born we got an offer on the house from a former colleague of mine and his wife. They came over when I was 39 weeks pregnant and said they loved it. They brought their agent the next day. They sent us an offer two days later with the exact price we wanted, a long escrow and two months or rent-back. We signed that offer the same day we signed our baby's birth certificate. Big day. In my birth story I made mention of downloading some forms between contractions. Those were for the house and needed to be signed by Wednesday and it was Monday and I was about to leave for the hospital and somehow I had the wherewithal, barely, to bring them with us, so that in a moment of post partum agony bliss, we could sign. So instead of signing as originally planned on the eve of Passover, the liberation from slavery, we signed on the eve of Shavuot, the day we received the ten commandments. I love when my life lines up with the Torah.

And while we were thrilled to have this lovely couple (half Israeli, half American - sound familiar?) buy our home, the next forty-five days were filled with untold stress as we tried to manage a mountain of paperwork and tend to a newborn. Oh and the other two kids. And there were major stumbling blocks. Like the one where it turns out because of a recording snafu in the seventies we actually owned our property but our neighbor's garage and vice versa. Nice. All that stuff had to be untangled and we didn't have an agent. We drove our agent to leave real estate altogether after the previous deal fell through so we were left high and dry. We ended up hiring a friend of ours who is real estate attorney saving us much money but causing us to run around scheduling inspections and unearthing old contracts. Many sleepless nights. But we were up anyway with our infant so who cared.

So all's well that ends well. And this epic tale ended beautifully on Saturday evening. After we closed on the house we were able to rent it back from the new owners for two months which meant that we could actually spend some time relaxing in what still felt like our home for the entire summer. Last week we moved into a three month sublet not too far away (the home of a professor who is teaching abroad this quarter) and Mr. Rosen moved all of our stuff over the course of the week. On Friday we lit Shabbat candles one last time in our empty little house and sang songs and shared some of our best memories from that special place. And on Saturday night we had a dance party in our empty house complete with glow bands and much alcohol while a sitter watched all three kids in our new place. Genius.

And now we have three months to figure out how we are moving ourselves and our stuff to Israel. The saga continues. Turns out moving to Israel is not as straight forward as it was when my two suitcases and I did it fifteen years ago.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I work full time


I used to work full time in an office. I liked work. But I didn't love it. And I was having a hard time rationalizing spending 8-10 hours a day away from my kids for something that I didn't love. There was the money, which we needed. We still need the money. But we realized eventually that while money comes and goes, time only goes. And time with these kids was precious and fleeting and I better start spending more of it with them. So I stopped working in an office and I started working at home a few hours a day painting and selling my work. And my kids spent less time at preschool and a lot more time with me.

And then I realized that what I had really wanted was a way to paint and sell my work and explore what other untapped creative potential lay buried inside me and spend some time with my kids but not a lot of time. And not time in the car or on the way to anywhere. Like gymnastics or Hebrew school. And what I mostly wanted was to spend time with my kids while they were happy and charming and then magically disappear when they started getting annoying or taking so much time to put on their shoes that they eventually needed the next shoe size or insisting to sit on the booster seat next to the window instead of the one in the middle next to the shrieking baby.

The promise of part time work and part time child-rearing was misguided at best. Foolish, more likely. There's nothing part time about what I do. I work around the clock these days. I'm up two to three times a night nursing. Then we're all up getting ready to get out of the house in the morning. I'm driving to school, I'm driving home, I'm driving to the supermarket, I'm making food, I'm picking up, I'm emailing proofs, I'm nursing, I'm straightening the house, I'm printing some orders, I'm playing with the baby, I'm helping with homework, I'm brushing out tangles, I'm weeding out the 4Ts to make room for the 5Ts, I'm reading stories, I'm nursing, I'm calling UPS to track a shipment that went awol, I'm brushing someone's teeth, I'm writing this blog, I'm going to bed and then I'm repeating the whole exercise again. Everyday. Forever. With a smile.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lumpy birthday to me

Happy birthday

Yes, today is my birthday. And my adorable southpaw baby boy gave me mastitis in my right boob. He prefers the left. Good times.

For my birthday I also reopened my shop and restocked it with all of your favorite prints and cards and for TODAY ONLY (possibly tomorrow if I can unplug these milk ducts) I'm offering 38% off (maybe you can guess why). Go here and use this code: BIRTHDAY38 and get those new baby and wedding gifts off your back, get all of your Jewish New Year cards and gifts out of the way and then reward yourself for being so on top of your gift giving obligations. Go crazy!

If you need me, I'll be alternating warm and cold compresses between pumping, massaging and nursing.

Monday, September 5, 2011


Best view
Even though he won't remember a thing, we have proof the baby enjoyed his first road trip.
Especially the view.

We're back home. I think we were all happy to be home for about a day and then we started missing our trip. Everyone asked me how it was possible to travel with three kids including an infant in a van for four weeks. I can hardly understand it myself, but it was wonderful. It was a lot of work. Especially on nights when we camped. But most of the work, the loading and unloading of our gear, the setting up, the breaking down, the cooking, the cleaning was handled by Mr. Rosen. I was on baby watch. And baby feed. The breastaurant was open 24 hours. So while I wasn't on duty for any of the heavy lifting, I did put three pounds on our baby and that counts for a lot. By the end of the trip none of his clothes fit for which I take personal pride. These aren't lowfat knockers.

After Utah we met some friends in Salida, Colorado, friends who are also moving to Israel albeit three months before us. Their eldest daughter is the one that my son has been friends with since birth. They played beautifully as did their middle daughter and our middle daughter and as it happens they have a three months old. We are perfectly paired.

And then it was the final haul to New Mexico where we returned the Bear Proof Vehicle to its rightful owners and enjoyed some quality times with the Rosens. We realized early on in the trip, after the first exhausting night of camping, that this trip was not about us. It was about the kids - creating some family lore for them. Filling their summer with idyllic childhood experiences. Letting them explore. Making them watch hour after hour of classic Loony Tunes in the van.

Some of the highlights:

  • Cooling off in the creek at Lithia Park in Ashland
  • Kayaking on the Oregon Coast
  • The Wolf and the Bear food cart
  • Seeing my 5th grade teacher Mr. Marshall at the Saturday Market in Portland
  • Eating wild strawberries
  • Mt Hood
  • The hour that Mr. Rosen and I had in the morning on our anniversary after three kids inexplicably went back to sleep
  • White water rafting in Bend
  • Deserted hot springs in Eastern Oregon (deserted everything in Eastern Oregon)
  • My daughter's knock knock jokes (this merits its own post)
  • Monsoon rains in Utah
  • Two terrified kids snuggled into the same sleeping bag during a lightening storm overhead
  • Double rainbows
  • The river walk in Escalante National Monument
  • Picking apples in Capitol Reef National Park
  • Denny's
  • Rooftop margaritas with my brother in law and sister in law
  • My niece's fifth birthday at the alien themed roller rink in Santa Fe (where the baby had a blowout so big it almost dripped into my skates).
  • Friends and family we saw along the way - Danny and Tara, Danny and Rachel, Sue, John and Jessie, Jenn and David, Holly and Rob, Sim and Jen, Shirley and Ran, Yitz and Patricia, Saba and Savta. You guys made this trip unbelievable.
abedi abedi abedi, that's all folks.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Home Tour





Laundry Room

Front Porch


Kiva koffeehouse
Kiva Koffeehouse

This strikingly beautiful two bedroom / one bath sits above Calf Creek and boasts 360 degree views of Utah's dramatic Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument. The property features an open floor plan, chef's kitchen with all of the latest amenities and a separate open air laundry area. While the master bedroom is extremely roomy with a lot of natural light, the second "loft - style" bedroom offer a cozy respite from the elements. Best of all, the large bathroom offers panoramic vistas for a relaxing, often exhilarating, experience. The neighborhood rates very high on the walkability scale and is only a short ride to your morning coffee. Move quickly! This property may only last another 65 million years.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Bend Oregon

A little stumptown coffee froth to show our love for Bend, Oregon - home to 80,000 ridiculously fit people who run, bike, kayak, raft, ski and swim 365 days a year. A little intimidating for this postpartum mama. We stayed with friends whom we hadn't seen in six years and, in fact, getting together required a little bending from both sides - a story for another time. Our three and their three were six peas in a pod. They played outside with the neighborhood kids (something that never happens in our neighborhood), they biked, the made up games, they splashed, they even went rafting. One of our friends in a rafting guide and took our son down the Dechutes river through Big Eddy rapids. The pictures are hilarious - a lot of terror. And jubilation at the end. We were sad to leave them.

After a night camping in Eastern Oregon at a beautiful hotsprings we drove straight through southern Idaho and found ourselves latenight at Denny's and the Western Inn. Yehaw! We're off to some National Parks for the next few days. Be back sunburned soon.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bear Proof Vehicle


Mr. Rosen and I have found ourselves in some hairy situations over the years in our various adventures. While camping in Spain we woke up surrounded by giant cows who tried to steal our breakfast. We once took a ride from a trucker in Turkey who wouldn't let us out where we wanted and started driving east to the Syrian border. In India Mr. Rosen almost got in a fist fight with a bus driver who claimed we didn't have valid bus tickets and threatened to kick us off. Good times. But our near encounter with a family of bears on Thursday night trumps all.

I was in the tent trying to nurse the baby to sleep and our daughter was already out. Mr. Rosen was in the van singing good-night songs to our son who was sleeping in the pop up roof. I'm half listening to him sing and half dozing off myself when I hear some moaning off in the distance. In fact it's the same moaning I'd heard the night before but this time I am hearing it at pretty regular intervals and I'm hearing it in a lot of different directions. I know instinctively that it's a bear. Probably a whole family of bears. It's a friggin bear country jamboree by the sounds coming out of the forest. Mr. Rosen continues to sing and I'm strategizing about how to haul ass out of this tent with my infant and sleeping four-year-old in the event of a bear attack. Plus I can never remember if it's with bears that you're supposed to make a lot of noise and look big or if that's with lions and with bears you're supposed to play dead. I'm also thinking that this chubby baby would seem like a nice scooby snack to a black bear. I'm thinking a lot things. Like maybe we shouldn't have camped so close to that wild strawberry patch. Like why the hell I am in the tent and Mr. Rosen is in the bear proof vehicle.

Finally Mr. Rosen emerges from the van and I call him over.

Me: Can you hear that noise?
Him: It's probably a coyote. don't worry about it.
Me. No. Stop and listen for a second.
Him: Huh. I think that's a bear.
Me: No shit it's a fucking bear.
Him: Maybe more than one bear.
Me: Like Yogi and Boo Boo?
Him: Plus the Berenstein Bears.
Me: What should we do?
Him: I'll start by putting our food away.
Me: Good plan.

So for the next ten minutes I watch from the tent as Mr. Rosen runs back and forth to the van about thirty times putting away all of our food and garbage. Then he comes back to the tent and says he thinks we should all sleep in the van. The big kids will be in the back (the back seats fold down to a full bed), me and the baby in the pop-up and he'll find a spot in the hull somewhere. He then moves our sleeping son in his sleeping bag to the back of the van. Then my daughter from the tent to the van. Then he takes mine and the baby's sleeping bags and positions them in the pop-up. Next he places the baby up there and I climb in along side him. Finally he sets up his own little space and we all huddle together in our armored fortress.

The next morning, our ninth wedding anniversary, there are no signs of a bear visitation but a guy from the forest service confirms that the place is teeming with black bears. So we packed up and moved on to Bend, a beautiful city further south with no bears but teeming with exercise fanatics, which makes me and my postpartum body wish we were still in bear country.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


Mt Hood
Mt Hood from Trillium Lake

Him: Do people die from the lava on Mt Hood?
Me: No sweetie. Mt Hood isn't an active volcano anymore. It stopped spitting out lava a long time ago.
Him: Then why do people die there every year?
Me: Nobody dies there. Who told you that?
Him: Danny told me that people die on Mt Hood every year.
Me: thanks Danny... Yes, people try to climb Mt Hood every year and sometime a few of them die up on the mountain.
Him: Why?
Me: Sometimes there are storms and people slip on ice or they fall a really long way and hit their heads or it's too cold.
Him: Why do people climb it if you can die?
Me: Some people really like to climb mountains. They like to climb all the way to the top and then say they climbed to the top.
Him: Why?
Me: Because they're stupid.

The end.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Food Carts in Portland


We are loving Portland. It is gorgeous and all over the city there are little carts selling food. All kinds of food. And all kinds of carts! It's all kinds of awesome!

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Buried in Yachats

A few pics from our four days with old friends on the Oregon coast. And even though our beach house had seen better days, like maybe in the fifties, we were right near the water and had a giant lawn to ourselves where we did yoga every morning and let the kids run free. We even got together with a family from Corvalis whom we had met ten years ago in New Zealand. Besides sleeping in their garage a few nights when we couldn't find a place to stay in Christchurch, we spent an incredible day together kayaking with dolphins in Akarora. And now, ten years and three kids later, another memorable day on the other side of the Pacific.


Kayaking on Oregon Coast