Lizrael Update: Back-to-work edition.

Long time no lizrael update. Let’s see…

Currently, I’m mentally preparing for the Tisha B’Av scene. It’s been a fairly long nine days, what with eating meat being forbidden and eating dairy being unwise. Koala has bad reactions when I eat milk products, so I’ve pretty much stayed away for the last 3 months. I miss cottage cheese. Yes, cottage cheese.

I did my fasting-while-breastfeeding halachic research (namely, asked my rav) and I’m prepared to do what I need to do. Whatever happens now, Yom Kippur is going to be killer later. Sigh.

My brother’s in town and it’s been fun having an uncle around to hang with the Koala. They’re getting along fabtabulously.

Next week I officially go back to work, though I’ll be working from home for a while. The plan is try to get into the office when I can to keep in touch and get into the mood. I was already working from home quite often in the end of my pregnancy but this will be a daily schedule for me. Looking forward to the challenge and chiseling out a nice, healthy schedule.

That’s all for now. Gotta hang with Koala for these last precious hours of government-paid freedom…

When it's not a drill.

It was about 10 o’clock and I finally had the boy calm and rocking in my arms, reading superficial feature stories in the cyber New York Times. I was between starting breakfast and finishing breakfast, because Koala really needed to be held.

Then I heard The Siren pierce my world outside.

For a split second I thought, what’s today? and then I shot up, grabbed my phone and his pacifier with my free hand, and dashed up the stairs to the mamad. I practically dropped Koala on the bed, slammed the door, and went for the window. The window is stubborn, and at a certain point I just let it go; I experienced the nothing could possibly happen to me I have a little innocent baby here rationalization. And besides, Koala was crying too hard so I picked him up and sat in the corner of the room by the door, staring outside at the sunny day.

Note: Never let sunny days fool you – a sunny Tuesday in 2001 changed everything for the worse.

The siren finally ended and I just kept staring while my mind raced, what comes next?

I remembered my phone next to me and called my husband, at work in Jerusalem.

“Did you just have a siren in Jerusalem?”

“A siren? No…”

“We just had a siren.”

“What kind of siren?”

“A bomb siren.”

He checked the news, and lo and behold, a siren drill was posted at 8 am to take place at 10 am in the Beit Shemesh region.

Thankyouverymuch. I don’t read real news anymore.

But now I know what it’s like when (you think) it’s not a drill.

My heart is still racing and the taste of vomit lingers in the back of my throat.

Koala update: twelve weeks.

The three month mark has passed. I haven’t gone insane (in a while), my hair hasn’t fallen out (too much) and I haven’t gotten sick of staying home all day with the Koala (that’s true).

I’m pretty sure somewhere out there people are taking bets. Shame. I’m not aching to go back to work and I’m not bouncing off the walls of my apartment. I’ve made lists to be productive, read books I’ve wanted to read. Part of it is also the commitment I made to go out to Jerusalem at least once a week since family visitors left, and ta da, I have managed that beautifully. Everything in moderation.

That said, I am going back to work in two weeks… not that my Koala knows that and not that he’ll really mind much. I’m working from home for a few months until I feel more confident and prepared to make that next leap into modern motherhood.

In the meantime, I like this life. The breastfeeding is going well, though once in a while I wonder if Koala is growing enough. How did that thought – that somehow they aren’t growing enough – get so wrapped around our mommy-minds?

Sleep-wise, we get some. Koala’s naps are more stable and his nights have fallen into routine. I’m tired, yes, waking up in the middle of the night, yes, but I am well-aware I should thank the gods of baby sleep habits that he’s been so chill and laid-back about the sleeping thing.

The most fun at this age (or maybe any age) is watching him discover what he is capable of. It’s become easier to occupy his attention with toys because he’s actually learning from them. Then again, sometimes he doesn’t need the toys, especially when learning how far he can extend his arms, how he can clasp both his hands together, how his fist fits nicely inside his mouth.

When toys don’t do it, my foot rocking the rocker while I type (as I’m doing right now) is a great occupier and a part of my working-from-home toolbox. There is also wrapping him to my chest, where he’ll sleep and I’ll work in peace; a win-win, like they say in my ex-graduate program.

This has all been on my mind for the past week or so as the countdown ticks towards the end of my 14-week maternity leave.

But it seems as if the  folks over at Materna have been keeping count, too.

I don’t know if it was being surprised more than impressed yesterday when I opened my mailbox and found a little gift from the marketing department of Materna, a leading formula company in Israel.

Of course. At some point in my dazed and hallucinogenic state at Hadassah hospital post-childbirth, I put my name on something and someone received my mailing information and son’s birth date. They auto-release samples and guide booklets to new moms two weeks before they go back to work.

Naturally we’ll all stop pumping and switch to formula… because it’s easier.

Because motherhood can be so easy.

I have learned to respect formula – it really is a wonder-product for many reasons. But I can’t respect the companies behind it (as much as the marketing professional in me does respect their marketing departments’ ingenuity).

And you know what kinda hurts? The little paper photo frame they sent with everything else. To keep on your desk at work, with the Materna logo hovering in the corner. “We’re babysitting your kid because you can’t be there.”

Or, as the Materna slogan puts it: “הכי קרוב לאמא”

Tzur Hadassah gets… sexy?

Check out this headline:

Police bust cocaine lab in suburban Jerusalem

Bet you’d never have guessed where in ‘suburban Jerusalem’ that took place if the subject hadn’t contained a big hint…

Jerusalem police announced Thursday that they had busted a cocaine lab operating out of an apartment in the suburban community of Tsur Hadassah.

Police uncovered 15 kilograms of cocaine at the apartment. (jPost)

I suppose to be more accurate, it’s Tzur Hadassah getting sleazy, not sexy. But without happenings like this we wouldn’t have the show Weeds, now would we?

Giving lone soldiers their post-army profession.

Lone soldiers.

I have no idea if that is just an Israeli concept, but what it means to us is the demographic of soldiers in the IDF who are immigrants and have no immediate family located in Israel to support them throughout their army service. They have no default place to go for weekends off or Shabbat and holiday meals. The family they have to visit is abroad somewhere – Brazil, England, France, Australia, the United States, etc.

They come to Israel and serve and then they leave the army but a lot of the time they don’t leave Israel; they’ve made aliyah, after all. So they need professions, skills, education – they need what we all needed, a first job to kick start a career in Israel.

Your company or organization could possibly help them with folks who’d like to mentor a lone soldier in their potential field.

The HESEG Foundation offers scholarships for lone soldiers and matches mentors with their scholarship recipients in the fields of computers and software, communications, law, business and accounting.

For more information, contact Itamar Shalev.

Here’s a bit more about the HESEG Foundation:

HESEG Foundation provides full academic scholarships and living expenses to former ” lone soldiers ” (חיילים בודדים) who have completed their services in the IDF and have chosen to make Israel their home. Lone soldiers are men and women from all over the world, who come to Israel to volunteer in the IDF. These remarkable individuals leave their families and friends behind, and are driven by their ideals and commitment to Israel’s security and future.

HESEG was established by Canadians Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman as a way to recognize and honor the contribution of the lone soldiers to Israel, by providing them with an opportunity, through education and career development, to start a life in Israel.

The HESEG scholarship program focuses on nurturing leadership and motivating achievement in the academic world, and in broader Israeli society. Scholars are required to meet a high academic level and contribute to their community through weekly volunteer work.

From discussions held by HESEG with its scholars HESEG identified a need for scholar counseling and guidance. As a result HESEG has launched the mentors program, a personal guidance program where professional specialists from different fields offer their guidance and expertise to our scholars and alumni.

There are currently 21 mentors participating in the program, three of which are advisory board members. Mentors are matched up with scholars based on shared interests and meet with their scholars in an informal setting to offer advice and guidance.

My own Israeli Australia.

Just left the Australian Embassy in Tel Aviv. If you happen to be an Australian married to an American and you have children together, then I don’t have to tell you how much more of a pleasant experience it is to acquire Aussie citizenship and passport for your tri-citizen child.

The embassy is located at the Discount building in central Tel Aviv, a building which actually made me a little homesick for New York City (mainly due to the complicated elevator system).

When you step through the glass door of the embassy, the security is… a guy. With a metal detector. The check is as laid back as the atmosphere of the embassy itself. The corridors and stairwell are peppered with Australian photographs and imagery, mostly places I recognize and animals I just want to cuddle.

The view from the tower windows is a bird’s eye of Tel Aviv and the beginnings of the Mediterranean. My Aussie half said it reminded him of Melbourne and the bay.

At the reception window, a guy best described as a ‘good solid bloke’ was hanging around with some paperwork. He must have taken this embassy job because of the location; he was the perfect fit as an Australian relocated to Tel Aviv: light cotton shirt, beaded necklace, shoulder-length blonde-highlighted curls, and the accent we all associate with the late Steve Irwin.

My husband took care of business and I wandered and wondered if either of us could get a job working in this paradise. Imagine hanging out in a little piece of Australia every day, just 40 minutes from home?

As we wrapped up, the Aussie passport clerk told us how much my husband’s preparedness was appreciated; you see, the application was not only complete, but he even brought back-up copies. He shared with us how most people don’t fill in all details, bring documents with mistaken information, or as one applicant did – take the photo details too literally (it says to submit the photo face down; the man tucked in his chin and pointed his eyes to the floor).

“Y’see,” the clerk said, “some people just don’t realise at first they get the birth documents with misspelled names… then they get he-yah and it boomerangs back at ‘em.”

I guess the best thing, aside from the whole thing taking about fifteen minutes, was sitting at the little table by the window with the view and reading a pamphlet about immigrating to Australia. “Retire the Australia way!” “Start your own business in Australia.” “Watch your kids grow up Australian.”

My little Australian paradise. And then… my paradise broken in half and shattered into a million pieces when a guy walked through my happy hallway dreams and yelled into his cell phone, “Yossi? Yossi! Shomea oti? YOSSI!!!”

At least I’m leaving Tel Aviv today with two Australians of my very own.

The truth about sabras.

I’ve been in this mood lately… I’m not sure what it is exactly, but it’s this subtle hostility I’ve been feeling towards my Israeli surroundings.

Perhaps it was the head-on collision between two cars on the Beit Shemesh road (speeding drunk teens versus middle agers at 5pm). Perhaps it was the pointless fire in my neighborhood yesterday. Maybe a frustrating experience at the bank last week. Annoying telemarketing calls I’ve been getting. People at the supermarket.

Probably all of it.

Despite that, today I felt like eating a tzabar/sabra (cactus fruit) and as I was peeling it open, I was thinking about that old cliche: A popular slang term for native-born Israelis is ‘sabra,’ because like the Mediterranean fruit, they are all prickly on the outside yet sweet and soft on the inside.

Yet, what everyone fails to mention in that metaphor is that within the sweet fruit you swallow there are lots and lots of hard, dense seeds.

A degree in degree-getting.

So a couple weeks ago I shared the latest Bar Ilan update that standing between me and my diploma was a ptur in English.

One moment; allow me to rephrase that…

Approximately one fortnight ago, yours truly revealed an update on the outstanding situation regarding the university of Bar Ilan, where the accomplishment of a Master’s Degree was halted due to the matter of an exemption in the English language.

After over a month of bureaucratic ridonkulousness (yes, that is English!) I managed to get through to a wonderful angel named Simone, originally from the continent of North America, who speaks – you got it – English. Helpful since everyone else I spoke to was leading me to the wrong offices or telling me they’d call back someday.

Yesterday I checked my mailbox – and lo and behold! – received myself a nice big envelope with my completed transcript and ishur that my degree has been completed. I should be getting the official diploma at a ceremony whoknowswhen, 2010. Or maybe 2017?

No  matter. It’s only taken four years. I can now register for my extra tax credit.

And start my PhD.