It’s over. Everything is over and my kids have won. Now go read my electric bill.

The kids wanted me to write them ‘good deeds’ notes to bring to gan. I scribbled one for Koala – he had cut the vegetables for dinner last night by himself. Then I asked Bebe what I can write for her.

“I shared my spoon with Koala!”

I started writing it and then looked up at my 5-year-old.

“How… how would I say share here?” It’s a verb I just can’t get right because it doesn’t translate the way you’d think it does.

They both answered immediately: “L’vatair!”

“L’vatair… right. So if I want to say ‘she shared,’ I’d say ‘hee vetra?'”

Koala looked over at Bebe, a smile slowly spreading across his face. I caught her mouth responding in a similar smile.

“Yeah… ‘hee vetRa’,” he responded, rolling the ‘resh’ correctly. This resh, or Ima’s lack thereof, has been a a cute source of contention lately.

As we’d say in Hebrew, nafal ha’asimon. I looked from one sabra to the other. It wasn’t the first time either had noticed my linguistic lacking (or pathetic pronunciation), but it was the first time they were in on it together.

In that moment, I could see the future. I could see that immigrant life as I’d known it till now is over. That look between my two children said everything; that look was the last stamp in my teudat oleh. My aliyah may now officially be declared successful.

“Hey. Both of you. Stop that smiling! I know what you’re thinking!”

My two Israeli children giggled and I tossed Bebe her note.

Native children ahad, Immigrant mother, efes.

But also probably a lot more than efes.

Life in Israel: boys will be boys in flower crowns

Israeli kindergartens love crowns.

This is the first year I’ve been personally exposed to the Israeli flower garland thing. In Hebrew, זר. Kids in gan and early elementary school wear these pixie crowns for birthdays, celebrations, ceremonies.

Naturally, the Shavuot chagiga in gan is one of them, and between his gan birthday and this, Koala’s now been fully introduced to the tradition.

And then this…

Little boys wearing flower crowns shooting at each other with pretend guns.

Isn’t that just… a little boy’s life?

Israeli “Who’s on First”

“יש לי חנות.”
“מה יש בחנות?”
“פיצה וקוסקוס. מה את רוצה?”
“פיצה.”
“אין לי.”
“אבל אמרת שיש פיצה?? אוקי אז קוסקוס.”
“אין לי.”
“אז מה יש??”
“כלום.”
“אז אני רוצה כלום.”
“אין לי!”
“אבל אמרת שיש כלום!”

Little does he realize this is EXACTLY how it happens here. #sabrakids

Loose translation:

“I have a store.”

“What do you sell?”

“Pizza and couscous. What do you want?”

“Pizza.”

“I don’t have.”

“But you said you have pizza? Ok, couscous.”

“I don’t have.”

“So what do you have?”

“Nothing.”

“So I want nothing.”

“I don’t have!”

“You said you have nothing!”

To the immigrant parents I grew up with:

Dear immigrant parents of childhood friends,

Hi. How are you? Have I told you lately your English is incredible?

It was really fun growing up with your kid. Maybe I’m still even friends with your kid. Most of my friends from childhood had immigrant parents it seems. It really felt that way, at least.

To the point where I kind of felt like an outsider myself. The all-American. None of my grandparents were Holocaust survivors. I’m not complaining. Or bragging. But I just always felt like an outsider in my own community. A big part of that was my family’s religious status, too.

Anyway. I just wanted to say – I watched you as a kid. Not in a creepy way. In a curious way. The way words rolled off your tongue; the words had different edges to mine. The way you’d sometimes mention a story about back home where you grew up. The way occasionally I heard you speak another language, only for you, it wasn’t the second.

The way so many of you had groups of friends with the same background and you’d get together. Everyone there spoke your first language and I didn’t understand, or understood a little because it was my second language. Or how a group of people from different countries could still commiserate over the Old Country, even if the nationalities were unique to each of you.

I always wondered what that was like. To be from somewhere else.

Now I’m here. Somewhere else. And I’ve got kids. Kids with immigrant parents. And  I’m so caught up in my own tangled ideas about being an immigrant, labeling ‘whereyoufrom,’ speaking words with different edges, making it, that on some days, I could just cry.

And some days, I do.

They say, you can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends. But when you’re an immigrant, sometimes it’s the opposite. You get thrown in somewhere where people talk like you, and slowly build what becomes your family.

I guess you guys did that, too. I remember there always being someone at a party or event, labeled as ‘my cousins… I mean, not my real cousins, but my cousins.’

I get it now. Even if we’re not totally there yet.

I also get, after eight years, that it’s ok to melt into your own people for a few minutes sometimes. It’s ok to show your kids that there are so many parts to what make them whole.

That they can feel comfortable with different crowds.

I don’t want to hold my kids back. I have a lot of my own crap to work out. I worry about it a lot.

But once in a while, I have this thought:

That for you, parents of my childhood friends, it’s now thirty or so years later…

…and your kids have done just fine.

 

P.S. – Seriously, your English was always amazing. I appreciate it so much more now. Even if, upon request, I did sometimes explain the slang.

8 things I’ve already learned this Chanukah

It’s only the fourth night and I can point to eight things I’ve learned this Chanukah:

  1. Chanukah is really really really hard with comprehending kids and not much/no family around. Watching your other immigrant friends run around to local family parties with parents, in-laws, siblings, etc. is tough.
  2. Giving out-of-the-blue presents to a small child is not simple; even when attached to a ‘reason’ like Chanukah.
  3. A second child opening a gift is different to a firstborn in his loner years; the paper used to be the most fascinating thing. A second born knows from watching closely that the paper’s just a distraction.
  4. I really don’t love sufganiyot. There, I said it. There are exceptions, but most are simply not worth it. But for the love of miracles, keep the fried potatoes coming.
  5. My 3.5-year-old can handle holding a burning candle and lighting his chanukiyah by himself… and I didn’t even think twice about letting it happen?!
  6. My kids are already starting to gang up on immigrant mom and they don’t even know it yet. For days Bebe has been pointing at things and saying ‘apiphon! apiphon!’ I asked Koala what she was saying, and he said ‘chilazon!’ which, oddly, I took as a valid answer. Then a couple days ago I heard her sing, ‘apiphon, sov sov sov…’ and felt immigrant-dumb.
  7. I can burst into the Twelve Days of Christmas carol in an instant, while my kids watch in amazed wonderment, replacing all the words with Hanukkah-friendly lyrics – freestyle, just like that, not a pause. And Koala doesn’t miss a beat, sings parts back while on the toilet in the next room. Lyrics below.
  8. A family technologically-savvy enough to get it together from four corners of the world – in this case, three different American cities and one Israeli suburb – and sign on to a Google Hangout to have a virtual candle lighting with their grandchildren/nephew and niece, is a truly amazing miracle.

Eight Nights of Chanukah, remix, lizrael style:

On the first night of Chanukah, my true love gave to me… a dreidal in a dreidal tree…
On the second night of Chanukah my true love gave to me… 2 hot latkes…
On the third night of Chanukah my true love gave to me… 3 fried doughnuts…
On the fourth night of Chanukah my true love gave to me… 4 colorful candles…
On the fifth night of Chanukah my true love gave to me… 5 golden menorahs…
On the sixth night of Chanukah my true love gave to me… 6 wrapped gifts…
On the seventh night of Chanukah my true love gave to me… 7 hanukah songs…
On the eighth night of Chanukah my true love gave to me… 8 bottles of oil…

Yeah, ‘a dreidal in a dreidal tree’ is not the best, I admit.

Home.

I looked up when, among the mumbling, I heard the word ‘מעליב.’

Standing in a long, slow-moving line at a Staten Island department store, I suddenly felt at home. And yet, it wasn’t because I was in Staten Island, or a department store.

She turned around to complain about the long line in English, and then we chatted about the headphones she was holding. Helping her out with the specs, I was filled with a sense of wanting to hug this woman. Who, once upon a time on listening to her loud, unashamed Hebrew complaints, I would have smirked and thought, Oh, Israelis. But like seeing Sabra humus in a Costco, I had discovered a piece of home right there under the fluorescent lights of American shopping culture.

I had to say something once she mentioned she wanted to use them for a plane she’d be getting on shortly.

“So, you live here, or in Israel?”

We ended up switching to Hebrew and talking about our lives in short… She had moved to New York, and ended up in Chicago. I had left New York for Israel. She spoke Hebrew with her kids at home, and actually, her daughter has excellent Hebrew, “better than Israelis back b’aretz.” My kids speak English, and of course, expand their Hebrew vocabularies at their daycares. Her kids attend Jewish day schools – “absolutely, in America, you MUST give your children that.”

We parted ways to pay for our things and wished each other luck. In a way, I felt like this was my parallel universe, maybe ten years from now. With switched accents.

We make choices… we put faith in them… and some of us are fortunate enough to know deep down we’re living the right choice.

 

 

 

 

 

My valuable verbal lesson (or, the lives of tag-teaming Wile E. Coyotes).

Because it’s not all cuteness and button noses, but also plenty of 3am ugliness, headachey whining and life lessons, I’ll share my valuable verbiage lesson from last night this morning.

It’s been a rough few nights. Bebe is having the delayed reaction to the one-year vaccine cocktail, and Koala is going through some kind of behavior-sleep issue during the nights. Which has basically lead to a situation where their parents are doing a Wile E. Coyote dance with dynamite strapped to our backs, slowly burning away at the last threads of our shredded sanity.

I won’t get into specifics because anyone with small children knows what I’m talking about, and anyone who doesn’t have small children has plenty of time to live through it later on.

Anyway, by 3 4 5 6 in the morning, my dynamite wick was pretty much burnt out. So when the boy began his dramatic cry of trivial nearly-morning-but-please-it’s-still-dark issues, I just… exploded:

“ENOUGH! I’M SICK OF THIS! I JUST SPENT 5 HOURS IN YOUR BED SLEEPING WITH YOU BREATHING INTO MY FACE, COUGHING UP MY NOSE, AND NOW YOU’RE IN HERE AND COMPLAINING! JUST STOP TALKING TO ME!”

Somehow, the episode fizzled as Wile E. Coyote II managed to reign the drama in.

An hour later, as we were slowly rousing, I overheard a new cryfest brewing between Koala and a surprisingly-patient-considering-the-night-we-had huz.

And like some boomerang mirror, I opened my eyes and witnessed, well, the boy was just like me. After any words huz tried to put forth, Koala, covered in tears and anger, spewed –

“STOP TALKING TO ME! STOP! TALKING! TO! ME!”

It couldn’t have hit me any harder.