Yesterday, we couldn't play on the computer, drive in the car or color while everyone else in the country was out having a good time on the last day of vacation. My kids were so bored and they let us know it. My mother had said that she'd try to come over at some point and by 8 AM everyone was anxiously awaiting her arrival so we'd have something to do. We played games (Monopoly, SkipBo, finger baseball) but the kids were still bored. Rivka insisted that we should walk to Savta's house so the two of us walked there around 3 and of course when we got there she was on a bus coming to our house so we missed her and walked right back home. Once my mother came though the day got more exciting as she played more games with them and helped us get a delicious dinner together (the last of the Pesach leftovers). Then after the kids were sleeping we converted the house back to chametz.

Shabbos though wasn't boring for the girls at all. We had Sarah Rosen (we had her for the seder) over with her three daughters and one is a year older than Rivka. My niece Talya (a year younger) and two Rosenbaum girls (about Rivka's age) were also there. Leora had my niece Ayala and another friend came over after lunch. So we had a lively house full of girls that day. Zvi didn't have anyone though so he was bored two days in a row.

I think it's good to be bored on the last day of vacation though so that you might actually look forward to going back to school. At least it should work that way but for some reason Zvi and Leora still weren't anxious to get back. Now we're off to get some pizza so we can enjoy some delicious chametz that we've missed for the last week.

Relaxing Day

After a busy chol hamoed we had a very easy day today. In the morning the kids and I went to visit my parents and grandmother while Shira exercised and cooked. She, Ornat and my mother had made so much food for the first days that she didn't have to cook much today. We went to Herzliya to the Baks' hotel for lunch and enjoyed the bouncy toys at the yom kef there. Then Shira took the kids swimming in the pool. We got home the same time that Danny and Ornat came for yom tov and now we're ready for two more days of rest and relaxation before the kids go back to school on Monday.

Snorkeling for Techelet

I was going to write all about yesterday's tiyul snorkeling for chilazon but I saw that The Muqata did the same thing a few years ago so I'll quote him for some of it:
there's a biblical commandment for one of the threads of tzitzit to be blue, "techelet." A few years back, a group of Israeli (mostly olim from the US) became determined to discover the biblical blue. The gemara talks about the different ways to identify the techelet - it must come from a snail, must be like the sea, must be very steadfast, and identical to the fake plant-based techelet. The Murex Trunculus answers all these conditions, and was found in mass quantities along the Dor beach. The only problem was that the dye produced from the Murex was royal purple -- "Argaman", and the researchers couldn't figure out how it could turn blue. One day, a researcher in the 80's from Hebrew University put his beaker full of Murex dye in the sun while waiting for his coffee to heat up. When he came back 10 minutes later, he removed the fibers which were in the beaker, and when exposed to air, the fibers turned a brilliant blue, and the secret of techelet was re-discovered. For the murex dye to turn into techelet instead of purple, it needs to be exposed to sunlight, which breaks away the bromide from the indigo. You can read all this fascinating information on the Techelet website.

First we watched a movie about the history and the process which was very interesting and even Yeshaya was interested because it was about the ancient city of Dora. What could be better than a movie about Dora? We went snorkeling to try and find the snails. We didn't actually find any but people in our group found about 20. Then we made the dye and dyed a piece of wool techelet. It was pretty cool and we all had a great time.

Last night, my friend Dov Segal who is in Israel for Pesach took a bus out to Modiin to join us for dinner and then we hung out together for a while. Always good to catch up with old friends.

Double Digits

Yesterday was my 10th birthday and I had a great time to celebrate. We started off the day at Eretz Breishit. There, we went on camel rides and we pretended like we were visiting Avraham in his tent. The person who pretended to be Avraham and the person who acted as Eliezer went to get dried fruit and drinks for us. They told us the story of Avraham's life and how there was a good chance that Avraham's real tent was very close to where we were. Then they taught us how to write with a bamboo stick and ink in old Hebrew script like Avraham may have written.

Amy and her family were planning on going on a tour of the choma of Yerushalayim in the afternoon. They invited us to join them but Leora and Zvi just wanted to go home and relax. So they dropped my mother and me in Yerushalayim and everyone else went home. We met Rivka, my oldest cousin, near town and walked to the Old City and found a restaurant to use the bathroom and cool off. We then met the rest of the family and went on the tour around the City. It was a lot of fun but a little scary for my mother who is terrified of heights. After the tour we went out to eat at Cafe Rimon. The food was pretty good considering the fact that it was Pesach.

At 7:30 there was a sound and lights show on the walls of the Old City. It was so crowded on the way down the stairs when we were leaving. We found a bus that was going to the tachana merkazit but it was also really crowded and we had to stand. Finally, when we got off that bus we went on the bus to Modiin and we actually had seats. We got to Country Center at about 10 PM and Avraham Butel picked us up and drove us home.

Pesach bagels

When we used to go to my aunt and uncle's house in Baltimore for Pesach there was a constant supply of bagels coming out of the oven. We all helped make them and we certainly all helped eat them. They're especially good to take on tiyulim since matza is too crumby. I baked them yesterday morning and again this morning for our tiyulim (an entry with pictures about today will come later) and we all enjoyed eating them with cream cheese, margarine or just plain. So I figured I should post the recipe here so I won't lose it and so our loyal readers can try it at home. I think it originally came from the outside of a Manischewitz box.

Mix 2 cups matzo meal with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon of sugar.
Boil 1 cup of water with 1/2 cup of oil.
Mix them together and then add 4 eggs.
Mix it all very well and then let it sit for 15 minutes.
Roll into strips and pinch ends together to make circles so they look like bagles. Put on a pan and bake at 375 for 50 minutes or until they look ready. Makes 12 small bagels.

I double the recipe but only use 4 eggs total since we have more than enough eggs in everything else (actually the first time was an accident but it tasted fine so there's no need to include so many eggs).

Chocolate and Parrots

Our friends, the Neustadters arranged a trip today to the Ornat chocolate factory. About 40 people came including Danny and Ornat (who managed to get a free chocolate since she shares a name with the chocolate) and family. We got a tour of the place - it's not exactly a factory since they don't manufacture the chocolate there but they import it. We also got some free chocolate and the kids got a chance to make their own chocolate balls. (Check out the picture on the top. It was taken when we were done with the tour and just as the picture was snapped our next door neighbor smashed into the glass door. I'm not exactly sure what happened but she was in a lot of pain and was bleeding quite a bit from her nose)

After that we went with the Spodeks to the Parrot Farm. We're in the middle of a chamsin - heat wave - so it was in the 90s today. The Parrot Farm is free for chol hamoed so apparently hundreds of people had the same idea and the place was more like a zoo than a farm. We brought our lunch and managed to snag a table in the shade and ate there. Leora was kvetching about the heat and Rivka and I were being hit by allergies (they've hardly bothered me in Israel but for some reason it was really bad there). Yeshaya had fallen asleep so Leora, Zvi and I went quickly to go see the parrots and then we were ready to go home. The kids were afraid to let the parrot climb on them but I thought it was kind of cool the way one climbed down my back.
When we got home Rivka and Zvi played a game while Leora and Yeshaya played on the computer and watched Dora. The older two kids then went by themselves to have a picnic at the park. It's great when they get along!

First Days of Yom Tov

We had lots of company for yom tov. My Uncle Danny, Aunt Ornat and their three daughters were here. My Saba and Savta and Bubbie and her metapelet were also here. Shabbos was pretty quiet and normal except that we had pitas and no other chametz or matza during the meal. We ate lunch really early so we could finish the pitas by 9:55 in the morning. We all took naps after lunch so we could stay awake for the seder and then we went to the park.

We had a lady from the community and her daughter join us for the seder which only started at around 8:45 at night. I was the only kid who stayed awake until the end. The four cups of grape juice were especially good because my parents got Kedem grape juice which tastes much better than the stuff we've been using all year.

After lunch, we went to the park again on the first day of yom tov and we took short naps so we could stay awake for our seder the second night. Our second seder was much smaller and faster. It was just our immediate family and two of my cousins sat with us just so they could enjoy the grape juice. We started as early as we could, around 8:00 and finished before 10. It was a little weird because my grandparents were going in a taxi and my aunt and uncle were on the phone and taking pictures the whole time but it was chag for us.

Yesterday we walked to my grandparents house for a "chol hamoed" party for all my first and second cousins that are in Israel. It took us about 35 minutes to walk there. We got there at 1:15 and stayed for about four hours. We split up for the walk back and the girls all took the stairs and the boys went around with the stroller (here is a map - the girls basically followed the red line and the boys followed the pink line). I walked ahead and went a slightly different way and got home first. The Spodeks were still at our house and decided to sleep over again. The neighbors had set up some bouncy toys in the driveway and invited us to play on them. So we played, showered, ate supper and went to sleep so we could get up early for our trip today.

Chag Sameach

Today was actually not nearly as stressful as it could have been thanks mostly to Shira's excellent planning and organization. We've also been helped by my parents cooking and picking things up for us and by Shira's brother and sister-in-law cooking and helping prepare.

Yesterday was a great day. For a late breakfast we went out to eat with the Baks to celebrate our siyum of Nedarim. We actually finished about a month ago but were asked to make a siyum after the 5:45 minyan shacharis. In the end some other people had also planned on making a siyum there so we didn't actually make our siyum but we still celebrated. Then for an early dinner we went out in honor of Rivka's birthday. Our custom is that we go out for dinner to the restaurant of the birthday kid's choice on every birthday. My father joined us for that.

After a pretty boring breakfast, we went to do biur chametz. It's a very different experience here than in Baltimore. In Baltimore, there is one centralized biur chametz location at the fire station and everyone brings their chametz. Here, it's each man for himself. We joined with our neighbors and made a small fire at the corner to burn the chametz. It's definitely more fun this way but a little more dangerous too.

We went to the park this morning for an hour or so and then we went to Nof Ayalon to pick up some things that my sister had bought for us and hung out there for a while. We had a scumptious lunch at my mother's before coming home to prepare and rest up for Shabbos and our company. For Pesach, unlike Sukkos, we won't be doing melacha for two days of yom tov which means we have a 3 day yom tov to look forward to. Should be lots of fun!

Chag sameach to everyone.

Where to live

We are trying to decide the best place for our family to live if we move back to Israel. We've had a great year in Modiin and have lots of really good friends and my parents here so it would be hard not to come back. The biggest problem here is that we're not crazy about the options for schools. The school for our kids this year worked out really well for them and we don't regret the decision at all but we don't think it's the best long-term answer for them. Another problem with our current neighborhood is that the price of houses is really high.

When we came to Israel for five weeks a year and a half ago, we spent a Shabbos in five different communities and didn't decide where we wanted to live. We spent a weekend in Beit Shemesh and Ramat Beit Shemesh and considered BS a possibility of where we'd eventually settle. Now there is a new community starting there that looks like it will be really excellent. Our biggest fear is that it will probably be (almost) all Americans living there and it will make it hard for our kids to learn Hebrew and feel like real Israelis.

On Sunday night, Shira and I went to the Blass Bar Mitzvah in Beit Shemesh and we were talking to recent olim who live there. One family that came two years ago said that their kids still don't really know Hebrew because they only interact with English speaking kids. That really scared us from living there. It's a tough decision because it would make life easier in the short-term to live amongst Americans but I think for long-term success we'd probably be better living in a mixed community with American olim and natural born Israelis.

So the search continues. We haven't ruled out Modiin or Beit Shemesh but would like to check out other options. Every community has its benefits and drawbacks and it won't be an easy decision but it's something that we need to consider carefully. We went through the same basic process when we moved from St. Louis. We could have moved anywhere in the US and checked out many different communities before ultimately settling on Baltimore. We're very happy with that decision.

My Sleepover Party

On Thursday at 5:30 eight girls came to my house for a sleepover party for my 10th birthday. We had an exciting night planned. First we ate pizza. Then we made bracelets out of beads. After that we talked and giggled and ran around outside and then we got into pajamas and ate ice cream. We all slept in the living room on mattresses and couches. After we were all comfortable, we watched Mary Poppins. The movie ended at 10:30 but then we giggled and talked some more until we went to sleep at around 11:30.

We were all up at 6:30 and got dressed and ate breakfast. Then we went to the park and we davened when we came home. Everyone packed up their stuff and their parents came to get them. One friend stayed for a few extra hours. We walked to Country Center (30 minute walk) to get fruits and vegetables for my mother and popsicles for us. Then my father picked us up and we came home and played Pig/Tongue with Zvi. After that we watched a movie until her father came to get her. When she left I took a nap so I could go to my Savta's house for Shabbos.

This is what we did at Savta's house. We ate both meals at Bubbie's and rested for three hours after lunch. We played Casino a lot. Then Bubbie came over for Shalosh Seudos and we ate outside. When we were finished we went over to Bubbie's and played Rummikub and Guess Who until Saba came home from shul. When he came home, we made havdala and my father came to get me.


All the kids in the country had their last day of school before Pesach last Thursday. So now, everyone is scrambling to find things to do with their kids for an entire week before Pesach. We have our plans all set for each day of chol hamoed but we don't have so many plans for this week. There is a daycamp at a nearby school and we gave our kids (besides Yeshaya) the option of going today to try it out. They all agreed to go but this morning Zvi backed out. Rivka and Leora didn't know anyone there so they got a little nervous when they got there but ultimately stayed. Hopefully they're having a good time and will decide to continue the rest of the week.

Rivka had a slumber party on Thursday night with a bunch of girls from her class since it's almost her birthday. She told me that she's going to blog about it so I won't write anything. Zvi played his fourth game of the season and we won 17-4. We're now in sole possession of first place at 4-0 but we haven't yet played the three best teams. After Pesach, five our next six games are against those three teams and we're missing out best player for the first of those games. We got our uniforms so we look like a real team now. Go Cheetahs!

Rivka went to Saba and Savta for Shabbos. We ate Shabbos lunch at the Steiners which was great so Shira didn't have to worry about cooking too much. Then Leora watched Yeshaya so we could sleep for an hour and in exchange we walked her to Aliza Spitzer's house. Aliza was her primary translator in her old gan and is her closest friend here. Unfortunately we don't get them together enough but they were thrilled to see us and Yeshaya played with their son also. We then went to the park and that took us until bedtime. It was another nice and relaxing Shabbos.

Pesach cleaning

Historically, Pesach cleaning has always been done by the mother of the household (well, historically in our family at least - interesting post on the division of labor in the family here). Our house has barely anything in it since we've only been living here for 8 months and we didn't bring that much junk with us. So we figured we could delay cleaning the house until it was really almost Pesach. It's just 10 days away now so it's time to start. The problem is that Shira went to the doctor yesterday and today and tomorrow she's going to be busy grocery shopping (apparently you get much better prices and find many more American products when you leave Modiin to grocery shop).

I decided that as long as I'm home all morning doing nothing with Yeshaya I might as well start cleaning (the truth is that Rivka really started cleaning on Friday by cleaning the drawers in her night table). The advantage of a man cleaning is that he will rarely confuse Pesach cleaning with spring cleaning. I did throw out a lot of junk but that was stuff that was clearly garbage. My main purpose was just to look in all the drawers and cabinets and stuff for chametz. I didn't wash the windows, organize the shelves or dust the hard to get to places (I figure that if there's more than an inch of dust then I don't even have to check there since we haven't been there since we moved in). I finished three bedrooms upstairs (all but my room) and I'm happy to report that it wasn't a complete waste of time. I found some chocolate in Leora's night table drawer (probably only kitniyot) and some falafel bisli (chametz gamur) in a bag in a cabinet.

Another week goes by

We (mostly me) have been a bit lax in our blogging lately. I guess that means that we're busy and don't have too much time for the computer :) We had a good week, nothing too much to report. We got organized for Pesach. Had the Rabbi come by to tell us how to kasher our kitchen and we realized that we have quit a lot of kitchen utensils that are all metal that are easily kasherable. That will save us money and also save us the hassle of having to get rid of it in a few months. Today David did our tally and we only have 85 more days left. David announced this with a smile, but I felt really sad. This past shabbos we ate a simple meal at home Friday night and enjoyed a yummy meal at the Obersteins for lunch. My brother Avi was very close with Nina and Shmuli while studying in Bar Ilan. The Ort's were also there in addition to several of the Oberstein's relatives.
This evening we will be heading to my cousin's, Nechama and Yair Cohen, for dinner. We always enjoy getting together with them. We also will most likely make a stop to drop off another Baltimore bound duffel bag.

On a side note, my sister-in-law, Tikki is raising money for the National MS Society walk. Feel free to make a donation and help her achieve her goal.