A Trip to the Consulate

Part of being an expat is deciding if you want your kids to be registered as citizens of your birth country.  Sometimes you want the tax benefits; sometimes you think that it is better for the kid in the future; and sometimes you think that it is worthwhile, or necessary, of the present.

We never really debated the subject; it was just kind of obvious that since Yitzchak and I are both American, and we have family in the States, that we would register our kids as American citizens.  When Shlomo was born, and we realized the expense involved (admittedly a pittance in comparison to expats who are not married to other expats, or who did not spend any time actually in America), we thought about just getting him a visa for his Israeli passport whenever we wanted to travel.  Not only did this turn out to be against the rules, it wasn’t even worthwhile financially.  We spent about a thousand shekels on getting him a Report of Birth Abroad and an American passport, and then we still had to get him an Israeli passport (because we were planning to travel).  Now, we had to register Tova.  Having no immediate travel plans, we pushed it off and pushed it off and finally decided to get it over and done with, for the sake of taxes.

Here is the story, for those who are interested in life in Israel and life as an American expat.

Part One: Making the Appointment

There is a U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, and there is a U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem.  Because we used to live in Jerusalem, we went to the consulate to register Shlomo.  Because I hate Tel Aviv, and know where the consulate is (since I’ve been there before), I emailed the consulate and asked if we could still come to Jerusalem, even though technically the consulate is only for the residents of Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria.  The response I got was that we could go to the consulate and did not have to go to Tel Aviv.

Throughout this narrative, I write, “I,” because while we weren’t sure if Yitzchak would end up coming, it was pretty obvious that I had to go, since I am nursing Tova, and was still on maternity leave.

Then, I had to make an appointment with the consulate.  There were a few issues with this:

1. It is, at minimum, a two and a half hour trip into Jerusalem, not including the bus that goes from the Jerusalem Central Bus Station to the consulate.  Two and a half hours, multiplied by two trips (there and back) is already five hours minimum.  From the Central Bus Station to the consulate is about an hour each way, by bus.  Taxi might be faster, but costs a lot – maybe 100 shekel, or more, per trip.  The taxi may not save us time, either, because Jerusalem has awful traffic jams.  So far, we have a seven hour trip at minimum – and that’s not even counting the time we would spend at the consulate, which is calculated to be about an hour and a half, on average.  Total amount of time to travel from home to the consulate and back: 8.5 hrs.  Or, in other words, an entire [work] day.

2. We needed to get Tova a Consular Report of Birth Abroad.  Let it be known that this is an absolutely gorgeous document.  We also wanted to get her, and Shlomo, social security numbers.  When Shlomo was a baby, I sent in an application for a social security card, but we never got the card.  I don’t know if the application was rejected or if the card never reached us.  At any rate, because we wanted their social security numbers for taxes, we wanted to make the appointments in enough time to send in the forms at least before the June 15th expat tax date.  Looking back, I realize that my calculation was foolish, since it can take up to six months to get the social security cards.  But no matter.  We need to do it, and the sooner the better.

We debated whether to get Tova a passport at the same time.

The pros: No need to worry or race if we end up traveling, or if we decide to move back for whatever reason.

The cons: An extra $105 (about 420 shekel), and it expires in 5 years; Yitzchak would need to waste an entire day so that both of us would be present, or we would have to waste money on a notarized consent form that he allows his child to get a passport when he is not physically present; if both Yitzchak and I are at the consulate, where is Shlomo?

Which leads us to #3:

3. Only the people who are absolutely necessary for the appointment are allowed into the consulate.  In other words, if you are applying for a Report of Birth Abroad, one parent accompanies the child.  If you are applying for a passport, both parents.  But – if you have another child who has nothing to do with the appointment – he will not be allowed into the consulate.  Hmmm . . .  I considered making a fake appointment for Shlomo (because, after all, he did need a social security card, even if I didn’t need a separate appointment for it), but Yitzchak reminded me that Shlomo coming with us meant Shlomo running laps in the consulate, for about an hour.  We decided to that it was worth trying to avoid having to discipine him.  After all, what’s wrong with running laps?  (Answer: Nothing.  It’s just that the consulate isn’t really the place to do it.)

4. We are always loath to part with such large sums of money.  The trip to Jerusalem is about 80 shekels round trip.  The Report of Birth Abroad is $100 (400 shekel).  That’s a LOT of money.  But we have no choice; we are required to file taxes and we want to be able to write down all exemptions possible, just in case, somehow, it may in some fashion look like we earn enough to actually owe something.  Plus, we probably qualify for $1000 a year, per child, in tax returns.  With Shlomo we were too lazy, and stingy, to get an accountant to deal with it, and we didn’t know how to file ourselves.  But things have changed since then (mostly expat tax laws), and it looks like, lazy or not, we need to file this year.  Which means, why not do it all at once?

5. The appointments are made online.  You can only make one appointment per child.  I cheated the system, not knowing which day I wanted to go, and wanting to make sure I had an appointment that worked for me.  The system allows you to make appointments only for the next three weeks or so, and they get taken very quickly, leaving only 8 or 8:30am appointments, and even then, only on one or two days out of the month.  You need to really keep on top of the appointment site in order to get one that works.  I made two appointments for Tova, and got past the system’s block by changing a letter in her name.

Part Two: The Stupid Rules

American security is infinitely stupider than Israeli security, for the simple reason that they do not know what they are doing.  One example is what I wrote above – only the people pertinent to the appointment are allowed entry.  Here are a few others:

– If you come more than half an hour early for your appointment, you may be denied entry and your appointment will be rescheduled.  Gee, it’s nice you wrote that on your website and not just on the window outside the consulate, for folks like me who are dependent on buses, live a few hours away, and called Egged, only to be told that the only bus that goes to the consulate leaves once an hour, at a quarter to the hour, and takes 50 minutes to get there.  It’s a shame I didn’t schedule my appointment differently.  On second thought, maybe I couldn’t have scheduled it so that it worked with the bus schedule.

– If you have a stroller, you need to leave it at the gate.  Oh, and they aren’t responsible if it gets taken.  Make sure you bring a sling, if you have a baby, or your arms will get exhausted.

– In order to be allowed entry, you first need to prove you have an appointment.  This you do by handing them the printout of your appointment details and the documents and forms that you brought with you.  The guy you proved it to gives you a pass.  Then, pass in hand, you go to the security guy, who asks you more questions, gives you a basket to put your phone and charger in, and asks if you have other electronics that need to be in the basket.  Basket in hand, you go through the doors, to pass through the metal detector and put your bag through the x-ray machine.  If, like me, you have forgotten about an electronic device that you happen to have in your bag (I forgot that I had the camera), they get very angry at you and treat you like you are a bigger threat than Iran.  The contents of the basket are put into a “cell” and you are given a card with the cell’s number, which you present in order to get your belongings back when you are done.  By the way, they are not responsible for any electronics put in the “cell”.

– Let’s say you need to make a phone call.  You go back to security, show your card, get your belongings (all of them), walk outside, make your phone call, and need to be readmitted by the guard.  Let’s say you need to get a document or whatever, and you walk out for a second.  Same deal.

– They take checks, written for the exact amount, according to that day’s exchange rate.  No credit cards.  They take cash, but do not give change.

– No one is allowed to wait outside the consulate.

– No sealed envelopes are allowed in.

For more stupid rules please see here.

Part Three: The Debate 

I had a Thursday appointment and a Friday appointment.

Advantages of Thursday:

– If only I go, and I am on vacation, it is just a waste of a day (and not a waste of two peoples’ days and double the money).

– It leaves me all of Friday to prepare for Shabbat.  Therefore, it is less stressful.

– I can also do some clothes shopping while I am there (I hate clothes shopping, but sometimes there is no choice); on Friday the stores close early and I probably won’t have time to shop.

Advantages of Friday:

– If we are not home for Shabbat, it is not a wasted trip.

– Yitzchak has books to pick up in Jerusalem; if we go as a family and are not home for Shabbat, we “kill” two birds with one stone.

– We do not want to be home for Shabbat anyways, since it is the Shabbat before Pesach.

– If I go on Friday by myself, I can meet my friend, who I haven’t seen in ages.

In the end, my cousin saved the day.  We went on Thursday afternoon to Jerusalem, I did some shopping, we stayed at my cousin’s overnight, and early in the morning I went to the consulate, and Yitzchak went to pick up his books.  Then, we all traveled to Kfar Chabad for Shabbat, and after Shabbat went home.  On Thursday night we changed the clocks, which meant an hour less of sleep for everyone, but more time to get things done.  It was tough, because we were exhausted from all the running around, but we made it.  My cousin was also traveling for Shabbat, so we helped them get out, as well.

Total time spent going to and from the consulate: 4 hours.  Not bad, considering that if we had traveled to Jerusalem just for the consulate, it would have taken an entire day.

Oh, and I forgot – Friday was our fifth anniversary.  And we spent it traveling.  To and from the consulate, from Jerusalem to Kfar Chabad.  We had thought to do something else, less for the anniversary than because it was an excuse to get a babysitter and take a breather.  But in the end, like every year, we forgot the date until afterwards.

Stay tuned for the next section of this riveting narrative . . .

Wow, Obama! Your Revenge is Stunning!

Seriously, Mr. President?  Grow up.  You’re acting like an elementary school kid.  I should know, I’ve taught them.  What was your point in letting the world’s worst-kept secret out of the bag?

Israel is not a nuclear power.  We have no nuclear reactors, no nuclear bombs.  We never always have.  What’s your point?

I mean, of course we don’t have a reactor.  Well, duh.  Why would we?

Why would we?  Because, if you will recall, we are the only democratic, free, state in the entire area.  We are surrounded by hostile nations, and we need to keep them in fear of us, for survival’s sake.  That’s something that you seem to like to forget, with your two-state solution garbage and refusal to let us kill terrorist murderers.

Yay, so you proved that Israel does have nukes.  Wowee.  We are all impressed, Mr. Obama Bin Laden (or, as Grunt likes to call you, OBozo).

Obama, I believe that you are worse than McCain, by far.  I would’ve loved McCain for president, and I voted for him, despite Palin.  I believed that you were better than Romney, though I didn’t get to vote in those elections.  But now, I’m not sure.  Because however bad Romney may be, he’s not a ten-year-old out to get revenge on Netanyahu, and all of Israel, simply because we didn’t vote the way he wanted.  Boo-hoo, Obama.  A democratic state didn’t vote the way you wanted.  Would you be taking revenge on Romney if he had won the elections?  Would you be taking revenge on America?

Get over it.  And leave Israel alone.  It’s enough that you tried to interfere with our democratic elections.  We beat you, because we don’t believe, justly, that the “Palestinians” want a two-state solution.  If they did, we would sign a deal with them.  They don’t.  All they want is to push us into the sea.  In their words, not mine.

Now, please explain: What was your point in declassifying only the section on Israel, in this report from 1987?

By the way: We have a Fisher-Price plane that comes with a luggage thing, a skateboard, and two people: a white kid with a helmet, and a black captain.  The luggage thing is used as a podium.  The black captain stands on the podium, and Shlomo says, “I’m Obama-rama making a speech.  Pchhh,” and pops “Obama” off the podium.  He learned this from us, with our warped sense of political humor, obviously.  I think I started doing it because I was frustrated with his kvetching and wanted to distract him.  But right now, I feel like it’s really appropriate.  Obama-rama, stop making speeches; get off the podium and stop trying to run Israel.  You’re president of America.  Not prime minister of Israel.

But I promise, if anyone pushes you off the podium, we will make sure that they go sit in the corner.  Pushing isn’t okay, and it counts as violence.  We just ask you to step down, of your own accord.

Why Do Mothers Choose to Formula-Feed?

During my maternity leave, I went back to an old hobby of mine – reading about baby feeding, health, and development.  Probably, all of you know on which side of the breastfeeding – formula feeding divide I very firmly stand.  That said, it irks me a lot when people say, “The most important thing is a happy mother; if breastfeeding is too hard for you, it’s better to just give your baby formula and quit nursing, as long as you’re not stressed out.”  Which, by the way, is bunk.  Then there are those who say that mothers who choose, from the outset, to add formula, care just as much about their babies, and do not do it for convenience but for the baby’s sake.

I’ll let Alpha Parent say it; here’s a quote from her post comparing past and present in baby feeding:

Self-interest is still quoted as the prime reason for not breastfeeding. From the UK Department of Health Infant Feeding survey (which involves around 8000 mothers and is done every 5 years): “The most common reason for choosing to breastfeed was that breastfeeding was best for the baby’s health, followed by convenience. The most common reason for choosing to bottle-feed was that it allowed others to feed the baby, followed by a dislike of the “idea” of breastfeeding.”

And here’s some more, for those who claim that breastfeeding doesn’t allow you to sleep at night:

Breastfeeding mothers get more sleep and their sleep is of higher quality. A breastfed baby can eat as soon as he is hungry. If co sleeping, that means before the baby even starts to cry. A formula-fed baby has to wait for formula to be prepared and warmed, in the meantime getting more and more distressed and agitated as well as waking others in the household. When breastfeeding, even the mother does not need to wake up fully to nurse her baby. Furthermore, the hormones produced during nursing have a relaxing effect, and the mother is likely to sleep even better when she nurses her baby. Studies have shown that parents of infants who were breastfed in the evening and/or at night slept an average of 40-45 minutes more than parents of infants given formula (Doan et al). Parents of infants given formula at night had more sleep disturbance than parents of infants who were exclusively breast-fed at night.

And for those who think that Dad can feed the baby at night if you formula feed:

I’m sorry to burst SMA’s bubble but as Gabrielle Palmer (The Politics of Breastfeeding, 2009) has pointed out, “The reality is that few fathers actually do take the whole responsibility of infant care and most artificial feeding is still done by mothers”. Pauline Lim, author of the very useful book Teach Yourself Successful Breastfeeding, concurs that:

“In reality few partners actually share the night feeds, so don’t be tempted to stop breastfeeding for this reason. There might be an odd occasion when this happens but the novelty wears off very quickly, leaving you firmly back in charge of the night-feed. This is particularly true when your partner has to get up for work.”

Remember when we were dealing with tongue-tie?  I pumped and went to sleep, and Yitzchak fed her the pumped milk.  Or, sometimes, I just pumped while he fed Tova the previously pumped bottle.  However, this was for a very limited time, until Tova finally learned how to nurse while lying beside me in bed, and Yitzchak did it not because he ideologically believed it was better for him to share the nighttime burden (because there is no question that nursing is better than getting a bottle of pumped milk, no matter how fresh), but because I was so weak, out of it, and barely functioning that he basically had no choice.  It wasn’t easy for Yitzchak and I don’t think we would have been able to keep it up long-term.  Especially since I would wake up when Tova cried and then have to fall back asleep. During those early weeks, however, it was a lifesaver (and you know something is wrong when it’s easier to pump than it is to nurse).

Here’s a study that compares the health of formula fed, or mixed formula and breastmilk fed, babies with those exclusively breastfed for the first six months.  Obviously, any breastfeeding is better than none, but that does not mean that supplementing a breastfed baby with formula does not have any undesirable side effects.  Another thing that should be mentioned is that breastfed babies are not healthier than formula fed babies; rather, formula fed babies are sicker than breastfed babies.

Don’t worry, give me a few days and we will get back to the elections.  We are still waiting on the final 1% of votes to come in, and until they do, nothing is official and the only thing we can do is speculate.

 

To Bibi Netanyahu: A Message from Israeli Nationlists

Do not think that we voted for you, and gave you such a huge margin over Hertzog, because we like you.

We do not necessarily like the way you lead.

But we voted you in, because the thought of Hertzog leading a leftist government, that possibly included Arabs, sounded like the beginning of Israel’s demise.

And we love Israel.  We love our country, and would like to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israel Independence Day) knowing that unless someone nukes us, or the sun blows up, we will probably still be around to celebrate next year’s Yom Ha’atzmaut.  We do not want to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, in about two months, knowing that by next year, Israel will be no more, because half will be given away and the other half will be so bombarded with rockets that normal life will become completely impossible.

And therefore, Bibi, we voted you in, to lead a right wing government that gives us a chance at a future; a government that does not mean complete suicide by giving in to terrorists, murderers, by pretending to be their friends.

Bibi, you owe the religious, and nationalists, a lot.  Because so many of us wanted to keep you strong, to ensure that you would lead the government and not Hertzog; because of this, you lead the biggest party by far, and the rest of us are small in comparison.

You would not be this powerful without it.  We gave you our votes, and we did it happily, because we love our country – and not because we love you.

Bibi, if you prove that you love our country less than we love it, you will be out of office.  We ask that you stick to your word and keep a two-state suicidal solution off the table.  Stand tall, let us defend ourselves, stick up for what we, as nationalists, know is right.  And do not give in to world pressure.

Because otherwise, you will soon find yourself with no coalition, headed for primaries that you will not win, and another election that you will definitely not win – because we helped you out, in our communal time of need – we helped you, because you were the one who had the power to help us – and you cheated us, by going back on your word and becoming a leftist, and by compromising our integrity, our identity as a Jewish State, and our security.

Stick to your word, and do not cheat us, the nationalists, millions of whom are religious nationalists, who voted you in.

Election 2015 – Preliminary Results

We won – and we lost.

Likud came out six mandates ahead of Avoda ((Labor;) or rather, Hahitachdut HaTzionit (Zionist Union)).

Hertzog, unless Kulanu (“Together”, headed by Moshe Kachlon) will sit with the Arabs, will not be able to form a coalition.

In order to form a coalition, you need 61 mandates.

Hertzog has 24; Yesh Atid has 11; Meretz has 4.  24+11+4=39

If he takes Kulanu, which has 10 mandates, he will get 49.  The Arabs have 14 mandates; if Hertzog takes them in addition to Kulanu, then he will have 63 mandates, or, in other words, a coalition.  If Kachlon doesn’t agree to sit with the Arabs – and being a former Likud member, and whose voters are right-wing, he very possibly may not agree – then Hertzog has no coalition.  Yay!!

The chareidi parties, Shas and Aguda (UTJ) will not sit with Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), because he is the one who spearheaded the campaign to force chareidim into the army.  Technically, the chareidim are more worth it than Lapid, because together, they have 14 mandates, while Lapid has only 11.  But Hertzog’s natural partner is Yesh Atid, and he will take the chareidim (some of whom will probably agree to sit with Arabs, some of whom will probably not) only as a last resort – unless a miracle occurs and they agree to sit with Lapid, which is highly unlikely.

Let’s take a look at Bibi.  I was right last time, and maybe I will be right this time.  Last time I said, why not just take Lapid and Bennett?  With Likud, Lapid, and Bennett, we already have a coalition, and because it is only three parties, it was expected to be stable (less demands, less zigzgging, less chance of it toppling over stupidities; Lapid proved stupider than I thought and therefore the potentially stable coalition was very unstable).

At any rate:

Bibi has 30 mandates; Bayit Yehudi has 8; Shas has 7; Yisrael Beiteinu and Aguda (UTJ) have six each. 30+8+7+6+6=57.  It’s still just short of a coalition, but if Kulanu joins them, then they will have 67, which is a good coalition.  Will it happen?  Actually, it’s very likely.

What does it depend on?  A few things:

1. That Kulanu refuse to sit with Arabs, and agree to join Bibi.

2. That the chareidim not insist on changing the draft law, and agree to sit with Bibi without making completely unreasonable demands.

3. That no one else on the right make completely unreasonable demands or refuse to sit with each other.

4. That Netanyahu and Hertzog not agree to a unity government.

If any of the first three happen, we are headed for new elections.  If the last one happens, we are in big trouble.

I am also very frustrated that 3+ mandates of right wing votes went to trash.  Like in previous elections, a lot of right wing votes went to a start-up party that no one was entirely sure would pass the threshold.  Last time, it was Otzma L’Yisrael, and 66,775 votes went down the drain.  This time, it was Yachad, and 118,368 votes went down the drain.  Also remember that last time, the minimum was 2 mandates; this time, the minimum was raised to 4 mandates.  Especially during these elections, when every right wing vote mattered, losing that many votes is a huge frustration and loss.  Wherever you would’ve put them – Shas, Aguda, Bayit Yehudi – they would have done something.  If they had all gone to Bayit Yehudi, then they would have 11 mandates instead of 8.  Let’s say some were taken from Shas and some from Aguda, as well as those from Bayit Yehudi – Bayit Yehudi would have 9, Shas would have 8, Aguda would have 7.  And possibly one of those would have gained two extra seats, because it’s not just 3 mandates – it’s 3+, which means that Yachad’s extra, plus someone else’s extra, might’ve added a second mandate to one of those.

Remember we said that a right-wing government, without Kulanu, had 57 mandates?  If we had those 3+, we might very well have had a coalition right there, even without worrying about who Kachlon will join.  Isn’t that a shame?  I, and many other right wing voters, think it is.

Dang It, Elections – Again!

Again, because we had elections two years ago (I think).

It’s good, because Lapid and his party[-ruiners] have caused a lot of upheaval, and a lot of problems.

It’s bad, because the reason for these elections is that Lapid stepped over the line and got kicked out of the Knesset – toppling the government.  In other words, the prime minister toppled the government with his own hands.  And after Tzuk Eitan was stopped prematurely, a lot of people are disillusioned with the right.  Which is stupid, because it’s Obama’s fault that we stopped Tzuk Eitan, not Bennett’s or Bibi’s. At least, not directly.

On the other hand, the left is even worse.  Arabs in the Knesset?  Peace process?  Dividing Israel up?  Give me a break.  Why?  So that there will be no place in all of Israel that has more than 30 seconds to run to the bomb shelters?  Thanks, guys.  Herzog as prime minister is the beginning of Israel’s demise, or rather, suicide.  Ugh.

For the first time, though, Yitzchak and I debated what we should vote.  In the past, I voted Ichud Leumi (National Union); when they joined with Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home), I voted for Bayit Yehudi.  Yitzchak, too, voted Bayit Yehudi, simply because it was the obvious choice for both of us.  We care about security, and we want a party whose members have heads on their shoulders, and will take care of our security concerns, along with all the other issues (like economics, religion, education).

But Bennett made a few mistakes in Tzuk Eitan and afterwards; I think he let the power go to this head.  On the other hand, he’s a good guy, and he listens to his rabbanim (rabbis) when they tell him that he’s being stupid.  He also listens to the public.  And he’s a pretty good economics minister.  He also is STILL head of the only party except for maybe Yoni Chetboun (Yachad) who cares about security the way I do.

I considered voting Yachad because I really like Yoni Chetboun (he used to be in Bayit Yehudi, and many people, myself included, think that it is a real loss to Bayit Yehudi that he left; again, mistake of Bennett’s).  But I just can’t bring myself to vote for Eli Yishai, who is number 1 on Yachad’s list.  I just can’t.

And while Bibi is a better option than Buji (Herzog) for prime minister, I can’t stomach voting for him, either.

So I am sticking with Bayit Yehudi, and after weeks of debating, I am finally happy with my choice.

Yitzchak is voting Likud, because he is afraid of what will happen if they don’t get enough votes.  I can’t say I blame him,

And the left?

They are underhanded.  The way you vote in Israel is that you show your ID card, they give you an envelope, and you go to the stand and choose a piece of paper to put in your envelope.  If you put two pieces in, your vote is discounted.

The left has been putting up signs and advertisements everywhere, “We are stronger together!  Vote for both [Machal (Likud) and Tav (Bayit Yehudi)]! Place two slips in the envelope.” There is also a picture of both notes in an envelope.

left wing, right wing, bibi, bennett, netanyahu, israel, elections 2015, elections, middle east, peace process, security, trickery, underhanded tactics, advertising sins, deception, advertising deceptions, unity government, arabs, coalition, government, politics, votes

This is the banner that the left is using to try to disqualify right wing votes.

 

In other words, if right wing votes are discounted because we misguided them, then the left will win.  The reason this desperate, underhanded tactic may work is that there were a few times when there was a direct vote for prime minister AND a vote for which parties – meaning, two slips in the envelope.  And I think that when you vote in municipal elections there are also 2 slips of paper.

And that’s not even mentioning the fact that many polls that show Likud as stronger than Avoda (Labor) aren’t shown to the public . . .

All we can do at this point is pray.  There is a good chance that if Likud and Avoda are close, even if Avoda gets more, Bibi will be given the first chance at a coalition, simply because he has more people willing to work with him.

Just.  Pray.

Today is March 8

One year from the day that the Malaysian Airlines plane went missing.  It still hasn’t been found, or heard of.

During this year, another Malaysian Airlines plane crashed.

And another Asian plane, albeit from a different company, was hijacked.

Kind of makes me never want to fly to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, or anywhere else in that area.  I guess it’s good that we have no plans, or interest, in doing so.

But doesn’t it sound kind of funny, that three planes went down, two under very suspicious circumstances, in the same area, within less than twelve months?

But of course, we are playing Ostrich.  The same game that kept us happily in the dark, until the morning of September 11, 2001, when we woke up with a jolt and realized that terrorism isn’t a game.

Israel has already realized that terrorism is for real.  The problem is, that Israel’s realization gives the rest of the world somewhat of a guilty conscience and messes up their game of Ostrich.  And so, the world continues to suffer, and Israel especially continues to suffer.

Good day, world.

I beg your pardon for interrupting your game again.

The Best Purim

I think Purim was always the holiday I liked least, for the simple reason that too many people get drunk.  I will note here that despite what most people think, if you read the Shulchan Aruch, you will find that the vast majority of Ashkenazi poskim who commentate the book (rabbis who tell us what the halacha, or Jewish law, is) forbid getting drunk.  The Beit Yosef, a Sefardi rav and the author of the Shulchan Aruch, does not advocate getting drunk, either.  In the Shulchan Aruch, he writes the language of the Gemara, “a person is required ‘levisumei’ [ed: commonly translated as getting drunk, but it is not certain that that is the only understanding of the word] until he cannot differentiate [between ‘cursed is Haman; blessed is Mordechai’].”  In his commentary on the Shulchan Aruch, called the Beit Yosef, he opines very strongly against getting drunk.

In other words, people who get drunk on Purim should learn halacha.  Tipsy, maybe is okay, IF (according to Jewish law) you know that you will still be in charge of your faculties.  Drunk – absolutely not.  Most people do not know this; I am not sure why.  Probably for the same reason that most people don’t know that a baby’s gut doesn’t fully close until around six months, so anything they eat dribbles directly into the bloodstream.  We expect people to be educated and know the things that are important to proper living, and are basic to the values that they claim to hold dear.  In reality, it doesn’t work that way.

Israelis also have an odd habit of using firecrackers around Purim.  We will simply say that this is a nasty practice and Yitzchak and I both hate it.  Thankfully, where we live now, there are fewer firecrackers, and hardly any drunks.

Now that I have fully explained why other Purims were worse, let’s go back to the title of this post: Why was this Purim the best?

First of, all, we did all the shopping beforehand.  Second, the mishloach manot that we prepared were simple: yogurt, some cherry tomatoes and cucumber sticks, and a pita, placed in a disposable bowl and wrapped in cellophane.  We froze the pitot so that they would stay fresh, and the rest of it, including the bowl, I prepared the night before.

Third, and this is what made the biggest difference: Yitzchak went to shul, to daven maariv [the evening prayer] and hear the megilla.  I stayed home with Shlomo and Tova.  He arranged with a friend that he would borrow the friend’s megilla at 10:30pm and return in at 7am the next morning, when they met in shul.  Then, Yitzchak came home and read the megilla for me, while I nursed Tova.  After that, we went to bed, and set the alarm for 5:30.  At 5:30 we woke up, said the morning brachot (blessings), and at 5:45 Yitzchak read for me again, while I nursed Tova in bed.  Sometime towards the end, Shlomo woke up; when Yitzchak finished reading, we did some last-minute things, and he left for shul, with four mishloach manot in his hand.

That left Shlomo and I with six to deliver; Shlomo helped me wrap them up (he held the cellophane while I wrapped the ribbon), and then I gave Shlomo breakfast, nursed Tova again (while Shlomo ate) we got dressed, and we left.  It was a quarter to nine.  At eleven-thirty we were all back at home, with me doing the obvious (i.e., nursing Tova again, since three hours had passed), while we sat for a bit to rest and eat.  Then we had Shlomo take a nap.  It sounds strange, but the big boy had been a VERY big boy while walking and delivering mishloach manot for two hours (we had made some for bus drivers, and Shlomo insisted on waiting for buses instead of using the time logically to finish the rounds, and then meet the bus with no wait time; we had also gone to the store to get diapers).  He was exhausted.  So he went to sleep, Tova went to sleep, and I went into the kitchen to prepare the meal, which, because we had surprise company, had been set for 3pm.  Then Yitzchak got called off to read the megilla for someone else; by the time he was finished reading, an hour later, I was also finished cooking.  Then we cleaned up, talked, ate, and guess who went back to bed . . . and Purim was over, pain-free, drunk-free, and very calmly.

Honestly, it was the calmest, nicest, Purim I’ve ever had, and I would do it again – even though Purim is my least-favorite holiday – in a heartbeat.

Poopy-Training and Tzuk Eitan

Remember how, during Tzuk Eitan (Operation Protective Edge), we were potty-training Shlomo and a siren went off while he was on the potty?

Well, 6 months later, we are about back to where we were then.  How we did it, I don’t know.  I think by just making a direct reward, a direct consequence, and letting it be.  In other words, the direct reward and direct consequence are the only things that we associate with pooping.  It was just getting to be too much, and we felt like everything in his life, and ours, was connected to poopng . . . something we didn’t feel was healthy or beneficial.

Direct reward: He gets his pacifier from the moment he’s off the potty until he leaves for gan the next morning.  There is no connection between the pacifier and the potty, you say?  You’re right.  Except that the pacifier was the only thing he really seemed to care about on a long term basis.

No potty, no cookie?  No problem, I don’t need a cookie anyways.

Potty and half an hour of uninterrupted playtime with one of us, even on a busy day?  Well, that’s nice, but I get it enough anyways, and when I really want it I’ll poop in the potty.

No potty, no pasta (because pasta is constipating and he eats too many carbs)?  Who cares, I like vegetables and as long as I’m not hungry it doesn’t make that much of a difference.

No potty, no tablet? Meh, who cares.

Poop in pants and pick it up with a wipe?  Who cares?

Poop in pants and pick it up with my hands?  Ewwwwww.  But it’s not so bad, it gets a reaction, and the solution is simple: Don’t poop.

No potty, no pacifier?  But I waa-aa-aaa-annn-ttt.

Originally, I suggested trying poop-f0r-pacifier for a single week to see if it would work.  The idea was that at the end of the week, something would have changed.  Either he would give up the pacifier, he would poop in the potty, or possibly both.

In the end, what happened was none of the above; and all of the above.

He is much less dependent on the pacifier, and can sleep well without it.  (If Tova wakes him up, we give him the pacifier whether or not he’s pooped.  Tova waking him up is not something that he can control, plus it means that he won’t become resentful of her waking him or us up.  Win-win.)

And when he wants the pacifier, which is nearly every day, he sits and poops on the potty.

If he poops in his pants, he helps clean it up.  Just like he would clean up after himself if he spilled oatmeal.  We clean up our poops, he can help clean up his.  Because he is a clean freak, this is a very awful punishment – which is why, when it was done by itself, he held in his poop for a whole week and became seriously constipated.

Shlomo isn’t pooping every day yet, but we’re averaging about three times a week, which is pretty good.  Sometimes he holds in his poop so long that he gets poop smear stains on his underwear – poop that tried to come out but got pulled back in.  When that happens, he has two choices: Put a big poop in the toilet, or touch the poop in the underwear.  It’s been about a month since the last poop outside the potty, and we’ve only had a few big smears and a few little ones.  Tfu tfu tfu, may it continue to get better.

Also, at some point more than a month ago, we switched from potty to toilet seat.  We took the stool and the toilet seat and sat him on the big toilet.  At the beginning he was afraid and held Yitzchak’s shoulders, until he realized he wouldn’t fall.  Then he had a choice: No toys and potty, or toys and big toilet.  Guess which one he chose – the big toilet.  He poops with his tablet in hand.  And if that means that he only poops 6 days a week and doesn’t poop on holidays, so be it.  The maximum is three days, and even that is only once a year, and not every year.

The toilet seat has this lid in the front meant for making sure that the pee won’t spray all over the place.  He complains that it hurts his peepee.  Solution?  Stick a wad of toilet paper between the plastic and the peepee.

We are still working on peeing while sitting on the potty.  At present he insists on standing up to pee and then sitting back down to try pooping.  Eventually, I think he will get it.  In the meantime, he has peed on himself a few times when we told him to push down his peepee and pee into the toilet while sitting.

I write the bathroom-appropriate details because I assume that some of my readers are parents who are potty-training boys, and I assume it will be helpful.  If Shlomo reads my blog when he is older and protests my explicit instructions meant for potty-training parents, I will let him reword it.  Otherwise, I will save it for him and his wife when his son decides to pull the same stunts.

I take comfort in the fact that Tova, unlike Shlomo, does not like sitting in dirty diapers.  She will cry until you change her diaper, even if it only has pee in it.  Shlomo did not care if his diaper was wet or dirty, unless it got his clothes wet or dirty.  The biggest obstacle to his potty training was that he simply did not care.  For all that he is a neat freak, having a gross bottom was someone else’s issue and not worth the break from playing.  Hopefully, since Tova seems to dislike being wet or dirty, she will be happy to learn how to keep herself dry and clean by going to the potty.  She is also a girl, and supposedly girls train faster – but this we will see in due time.

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Update from after Shabbat, Feb. 28: Apparently, I need to stop posting poop-training updates.  Shortly after this was published we found poop in his underwear – or rather, slime in his underwear.  It was much more than just a little stain.  Then he pooped in the toilet.  The next day, we found another stain in his underwear.  And the day after that.  Sigh.  Today I told Shlomo that my contract includes washing poopy underwear for maximum eight months, and that it applies to one-, two-, and three-year olds, but not to four-year-olds.  Then I got a brilliant idea: My contract doesn’t include washing a 4-year-old’s poopy underwear, right?  And the extra loads are a waste of water and electricity; if I don’t do the extra loads I suffer from the stink and have to make sure nothing touches it.  Solution: He can hand wash his own poopy underwear.  Fair enough, no?  It takes the task of my hands, and saves electricity and water . . . and teaches him some responsibility.  We’ll see what happens now.

A Tongue-Tie Survival Story

Survival?  Well, I don’t know.  But it does sound catchy, and we did make it through with not a single drop of formula.

When the hospital’s pediatrician checked Tova he told Yitzchak, “Just so that you don’t sue me, she has tongue tie.  It shouldn’t cause a problem for nursing and in 90% of cases it doesn’t.”

When Yitzchak brought Tova back to me (note: in Hadassah Ein Karem they don’t separate you for a minute; in Soroka it took two and a half hours before she was brought back to me, during which time Yitzchak was with her for all except five minutes) he told me what the doctor had said.  Angry as I was at how the birth had gone, the birthing-factory treatment (they have 20 delivery rooms and no competing hospitals) and how I was being treated like an idiot (thanks, Soroka), I rolled my eyes, thought, “Oh, great; a nursing mother’s nightmare,” and asked why they hadn’t clipped it.  Yitzchak told me it shouldn’t be a problem, and I hoped that he was right, while reminding myself that he was the sane one at the moment (and I was the exhausted, hormonal one).

After a few days, we brought Tova to the pediatrician because we were concerned about her jaundice.  The jaundice, thank G-d, turned out to be fine, but the pediatrician asked to weigh her (fine by me, since I hadn’t taken her to the well-baby clinic to check her weight yet) and discovered that her weight was not fine; I think she had gained 50g.  We were to come back in three days.

Three days later she had gained only another 30g.

Three days after that, we came back again.  This time, she was already over a week and a half old and hadn’t yet regained her birth weight – and at the rate she was going, we weren’t sure when she would.

At two weeks, she still hadn’t.  I don’t remember when it was, but there was a week in there that Tova gained only 70g – slightly less than half of what she should have gained.

I remember that during this time my mother called and asked how we were doing.  I said we were fine and thank G-d everything was going pretty good.  And as I said it, I thought of how ironic it was.  Shlomo had bronchiolitis (or bronchitis, not sure which) and was on antibiotics.  Tova wasn’t gaining weight and the pediatrician, Dr. R.,  had sent us for a pee test and told me to pump, see how much I got, and then feed her the bottle to see how much she took, and had given us a referral for the ER just in case she did XYZ (don’t remember what).  I was sore, overwhelmed, and dealing with excruciating pain every time I nursed.  Yitzchak and I were barely sleeping, despite being blessed with a baby who, if left to her own devices, will give us a decent night’s sleep.  And with all this, I told my mother I was fine.

Then we did a nursing test.  I brought Tova in, she was weighed, Dr. R. put me in a private room to nurse, and then 40 minutes into the nursing session Tova was weighed again.  To our credit, she had gained 85g.  Not all would stay, obviously, but it meant that she had eaten quite a bit.  Don’t tell the pediatrician, but a good portion of it was squirted into her mouth, since she wasn’t nursing well.  Not that it mattered, of course: the point was to see how much she was getting, and it didn’t really matter which of us was doing the work, as long as it did the job.  To my dismay, the previous day’s “cheating” backfired: I had sent her to be weighed just after a meal, so that the scale would show more.  It wasn’t enough, obviously, and when she was weighed, hungry, the next day it looked like she had “lost” weight.  I didn’t tell Dr. R. why she had “lost” weight; it was enough that to see that she obviously could get enough and officially rule out milk supply as the issue (it wasn’t the issue and I knew that, but we had to prove it).

Several times along the way we were suggested formula – starting in the hospital.  Because even a single bottle of the stuff can do permanent damage to a baby’s gut, Yitzchak and I have started calling formula “medicine”.  It is lifesaving when medically necessary and potentially damaging in any other case. What parent gives their kid medicine when it’s not medically necessary?  And what parent will expose their kid to something even potentially damaging, if there is another option?  Thankfully, our pediatrician was as reluctant as we were to add formula and gave us other options.

The “other options” weren’t fun, though.  The next step was to see if she would gain weight if enough food was forced down.  So, Dr. R. told us to nurse every two hours, maximum every three at night, and come back in two days.  If she hadn’t gained at least 50g – well, let’s not think about that.

We did it.  And thank G-d, she gained 70g in those two days.  In other words, problem found, and it was a simple, easy-to-fix problem.  Tova wasn’t eating enough, and therefore wasn’t gaining enough.  Thank G-d, a million times over, that that was the problem.

However, since she was such a weak nurser, and didn’t want to be nursing so often, each feeding took about an hour.  Every five minutes, we were waking her up.  At one point, I was pumping in the evening, refrigerating the bottle, and Yitzchak was feeding her one of the late-night feedings so that I could sleep a bit.  (After all, I was only three weeks postpartum.)  Other times, Yitzchak gave the bottle I’d pumped earlier, while I pumped a new one.

You know that there’s something wrong when it’s easier to pump than it is to nurse.

Thankfully, I had a hospital-grade pump from Yad Sarah and could easily get 80-90 ml in about 20 minutes (from one side).  Let’s hope that when I go back to work and have to pump, I still have an easy time pumping the amount that she needs.

For a week, I nursed every two hours during the day and every three at night.  Ten feedings a day.

We asked the pediatrician – maybe it’s the tongue tie?  We were told to go to the ENT; the place where he does it, and he himself, will not clip a tongue before the baby is 8-10 months old.

Then it was every two hours during the day and every four at night – for another week.  Nine feedings a day, she said.

Then we got permission to let her sleep – no more than five hours – at night, but we still had to do every two hours during the day. Eight feedings a day; don’t do any less.

Then I realized that the usual postpartum breastfeeding pains had gone away, but Tova was STILL hurting me every time she had nursed.  I managed to keep her from making my nipples bleed, but the dark lines on the tops hadn’t gone away, and my nipples would often continue to hurt for an hour after each feeding – which in those days, meant that the side I had nursed on hurt pretty much until the next feeding.

It suddenly occurred to me that maybe her gassiness, my sore nipples, her difficulty gaining weight, and the long nursings, all had a common cause: TONGUE TIE.  I went online, asked if I was on the right track, and asked for referrals.  I was given two names: Dr. C., a surgeon in Be’er Sheva, and Dr. K., a surgeon in Ashkelon.  Be’er Sheva is closer, so Be’er Sheva it was.  I asked for a referral and Yitzchak took her in.  Dr. C., and all of Soroka, will only clip the tongue when the baby is at least a year; we should wait and see if it interferes with her speech development.  Yeah, and what about the nursing?

[Then Tova got a cough and we borrowed a nebulizer from Yad Sarah, bought a mask and saline solution, and “masked” her three times a day for five days.  Dr. R. wanted to see her again just to make sure that she was able to breathe okay.  And we got another list of things to watch for and another just-in-case ER referral.  Thank G-d, these referrals were never necessary.]

Then Dr. R. told us to go the Tipat Chalav (well-baby clinic, where nurses check development and give vaccinations) and that she was officially dismissing us.  Thank G-d.

I made an appointment with the surgeon in Ashkelon.  He, I had heard, would clip the tongue in the clinic, on the spot.  He was on vacation for a few weeks, so I took an appointment the first day he was back.

We went back to the pediatrician to get another referral.  Dr. R. doesn’t like surgeons; she prefers ENTs.  So she went to ask the ENT herself, partially to make sure that it was really impossible and partially because maybe if she asked the answer would be different.  It wasn’t, and she gave us the referral.

In addition, for the past month or so, Tova’s poop had been forest green.  Dr. R. said it could be because she had a cough, but sent us for a stool culture.  Thank G-d, it came back negative and the doctor said we didn’t really need to do it after the color changed back, even if it wasn’t perfect.  But we did it anyways.

So, we went to Ashkelon.  And I took Tova on a bus, by myself, to Ashkelon.  We left at 1:30pm and came back at 7:45pm.  She was two and a half months old, and still taking an hour to nurse.  Both buses were late, so I arrived 40 minutes late.  Thankfully, Dr. K. still took us, and even forgave us after I explained what had happened.  He asked some questions, including one that surprised me – if milk spilled out the side of her mouth while she ate (it did).  Then he checked her tongue, expressing surprise at how far the frenulum was tied, “It’s tied practically to the end.”  (Dr. C. had said it was “borderline”.)

Then he took out a sterile kit with scissors, a long q-tip, and asked me to hold her chin.  Using the q-tip to hold the tongue up, he showed me what he was about to cut, took the scissors, reassured me that the crying was okay and I shouldn’t worry, and clipped.  It took about two minutes.  There was a bit of blood, but after another two minutes it had all but stopped bleeding.  Tova, the sensitive baby that she is, cried hysterically for long after the bleeding stopped.  Dr. K. said that she would calm down when I started nursing – and she did.  I took her to a corner of the waiting room and nursed.

She latched easily.  She sucked fast.  It took 40 minutes, but not 40 minutes like the previous 40 minute nursings had.  Previously, when I stopped after 40 minutes, I felt like she hadn’t finished but didn’t have the energy to argue.  This time, I was pretty sure she’d eaten enough.  And – what had been sore still hurt.  But as any nursing mother knows, previous sore spots and new sore spots feel different.  There were no new sore spots.  And she didn’t leak milk.

I went to the wheelchair bathroom (that’s what you do with a stroller; this one happened to have a change table, too) and changed her diaper, which had leaked.  It had been full before the doctor clipped her tongue, but for obvious reasons, I nursed before changing her.  Since Yitzchak had forgotten to pack me wipes, and I had decided not to ask because obviously he hadn’t forgotten, I had to clean Tova in the sink.

We went home; Tova pooped on the first bus; I nursed her on the second bus, stopped just before I had to get off, and finished nursing her fifteen minutes later when we arrived home.

When we got home, a few things happened:

1. YItzchak changed her diaper – and her poop, which had been green when I changed her diaper in Ashkelon, had suddenly turned mustard yellow again.

2. She went back to nursing for an hour.  Luckily, this was temporary.  Now she nurses for twenty or thirty minutes; more than that happens, but not often.  She can eat every two and a half or three hours.  I am starting to trust Tova to tell me when she’s hungry. But I still want to weigh her again, just to make sure I’m not making a mistake by trusting her.  She still spills milk sometimes, but after she finishes nursing, not while she’s still attached.

3. Nursing didn’t hurt anymore.  After two and a half months of torture – it didn’t hurt anymore!  I’m still in shock, a few weeks later.

I have a life again.  When I was nursing an hour out of every two, this is how my day looked:

Nurse.

Pee and drink OR eat OR shower

Nurse

Sort laundry

Nurse

Poop and eat a bit

Nurse

Shower and get dressed

Nurse

Put in a load of laundry

Nurse

Get the point?

In three words: It Was Awful.

But we did it.  Without a single drop of formula to ruin our baby’s gut.  If I hadn’t read up on the subject of formula, nursing difficulties, and tongue tie, I wouldn’t have made it.

If Yitzchak hadn’t been so helpful and supportive, I wouldn’t have made it.

And next time they tell me in the hospital that my baby has tongue tie, or I see that my baby has tongue tie, I will wait a week to see if the weight gain is normal.  And if it’s not, or the baby isn’t latching well, I will make an appointment with Dr. K. in Ashkelon and take the baby to get its tongue clipped at three weeks instead of at two and a half months.

I tell this story for a few reasons:

1. It is therapeutic for me to write it.  Very therapeutic.  This post has taken me about two hours to write, and I feel so, so, so much better now.

2. If this post helps anyone else, I will have done a lot.

3. I believe that it is important. Important to write about nursing difficulties, important to know that they can be overcome, and important to be educated.

I do not tell this story because I want everyone to know that I, Chana of Little Duckies, gave birth to a tongue-tied baby and am a radical anti-formula mother who insisted that her baby will have no medicine that is not medically necessary.

I would rather be able to choose who I tell my story to and who I do not tell my story to; this choice vanishes the moment I write the story on the internet.

But it is important, it can be done, and if any of you are in Maccabi in the south of Israel, use the “contact me” page and I will try to help you out.  After all, it was another mother online who helped me.