the 90th minute

Until September 2007, when my oldest daughter was born, this blog covered daily life and politics in Israel, as well as Hebrew-English linguistic issues, from the perspective of an American-raised journalist and translator living in Israel. Now it mostly serves as the SmunchMonk&Bear news agency, a portal into the bizarre universe of the little people. Read more at:

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Just kvelling

Each of my kids has such a glaringly dynamic personality of her own that I sometimes find myself wondering to what extent each family's parenting style actually makes a difference (given a baseline of consistent love, affection and security, of course). But sometimes Rimonit makes comments that show she really seems to have internalized something I've been trying to drill into her (especially when she says it repeatedly at different times, as in these cases), and it's a bit of an ah-hah moment: a signal that maybe my primary purpose in their lives is not just making sure they don't leave the house naked. Here are the two examples that come to mind:

1. Many times when I would ask Rimonit to clean up her toys, she would kind of listlessly hang around, saying she needed help (even when I was helping her) and that she doesn't like putting things away. I would tell her, perfectly honestly, that I was cleaning up even though I don't like cleaning either, and that I was doing it anyway just because it needed to get done. For a while it didn't seem to have much effect. But recently she has been more cooperative, and as she's putting things away, she tells me: "Ima, I don't like cleaning things up - but I'm doing it anyway."

I totally love this, because if for some reason I had given birth to one of those strange creatures who lives for tidying up, the house would presumably be cleaner but what would she learn from it? That she gets praise for doing something she loves to do anyway? On the other hand, the attitude that Rimonit has been expressing has the potential to help her any time she has to tackle one of life's many unappealing tasks, whether it's cleaning or doing homework or paying bills. Because there's always gonna be something you don't like, but (as I still struggle with) sometimes you've just gotta do it anyway.

2. I've made an effort to highlight (in what I hope is a non-lecturey way) the importance of, well, effort. And practice, and trying again, because that's the only way you'll (eventually) get there. This is particularly important for Rimonit because she has some speech (and fine motor coordination) issues, including word-finding difficulty, meaning that even if she knows the right word for something it can be hard for her to call it up on demand, a problem intensified by her vocabulary gap in Hebrew engendered by the fact that we speak only English at home. This can, naturally, be frustrating, which can in turn lead to diminished self-esteem and a reduced motivation to even try to succeed.

And so it is that Pablo, Disney's penguin that hated the cold (a childhood favorite of Warren's), and the little engine that could have become not just storybook characters but also touchstones for talking about how sometimes we don't get it right the first, or second or third, times, but like Pablo, we have to keep finding a way to get it right (or reach a warmer climate, in his case), and how even if we're smaller than the other guys and the mountain is very big and it's so hard to get over the mountain, we, like the little engine, still have to try, telling ourselves that we think we can. I'm not generally a big fan of stories whose main function is to hit you over the head with a moral lesson, but both these stories have enough personality to stand on their own, as well as being quite useful when there is a message you want to bring home anyway.

As Rimonit's victories have been racking up, we refer less to those stories and more to her personal accomplishments. Last year she became an expert at hopping (both on her right foot and her left one), and still repeats back to me the narrative of her success: "At first it was hard for me to hop on one foot, but I kept practicing and now I so good at it!" ("To be" words, on the other hand, appear more difficult to get the hang of! At least partly because they don't exist as helping verbs in Hebrew.)

More recently, she has really started to get a grip on how to hold a pencil correctly and has been showing a great deal of enthusiasm for writing her name and learning her letters (all in Hebrew - I had started with identifying English letters last year, but it fizzled out when she started speech therapy and we had to work on speech issues at home as well, and now I'm thinking that the best thing to do is to supplement what she's already doing in gan). As soon as she wakes up in the morning and as soon as she gets home from gan she rushes to her notebook to practice writing her name.

Not only has there been dramatic improvement but, at least as important, she has told me excitedly: "I so much better at writing my name and at holding [a pencil]! I want to practice more and get even better!" I can only hope that these lessons stay with her, and that she will always be so excited at the prospect of practicing things that are hard for her and so confident that doing so will help her improve.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Moriya's latest tricks

Some of Moriya's latest frequently used words:

"I!" (when anything is being offered, since she sure doesn't want to be left out)

"Good night!" (to each family member on her way to bed)

"Draw!" (what she likes doing, especially when she sees her sisters doing same)

"Ni" (Rimonit)

"Ne-net" (Kinneret)

Moriya gets so excited to see her big sisters that she loves to run into their room and wake them up way too early in the morning, forcing me or W to try to run ahead of her and close their door before she gets the chance to barge in. When they do wake up, she is beside herself with joy. She also loves catching that first glimpse of them when we pick them up after gan; one time all she wanted to do was hold Kinneret's hand as soon as she saw her.

She has also found a new vocation: generous distributor of kisses (which in her case means she makes kissy faces in the direction of the intended recipient). She is very specific in who she targets, but does accede to requests if someone wasn't the lucky one at any given time. Lately I've noticed that when one of her sisters is crying she'll come over and give them kisses! (Unfortunately, they're not always so receptive at that moment, though sometimes it can take them out of their funk.)


...insists that she is simultaneously "three" (in English) and "arba" (4, in Hebrew). She sees no contradiction in this, though her older sister does, which leads to some of the most ridiculous fights, along the lines of:

Random questioner to K: ?בת כמה את (How old are you?)
K: בת ארבע (Bat arba - I'm 4)
R: No, Kinneret, you're three!
K: Yes, I three.
R: You're not bat arba [=4], you're bat shalosh [=3].
K: No! I not shalosh, I three!!!

Apparently Kinneret is keen to get her Hebrew and English ages matching up shortly, though, since she asks me about once every week or so whether she's four yet - and once she discovers that she has, alas, not yet reached that milestone, she wants to know when the big day will arrive. Oddly enough, she is usually satisfied with the response "On your next birthday you'll be four."


Kinneret has clearly internalized the big-girl changes she has made recently (see previous post), or more accurately, is still in the process of fully making, and has since taken to announcing: "A different time I was a baby and I had to sit in the stroller and I had a bottle and a diaper." Sometimes she adds: "And I slept in a crib."

Yes, Kinneret, a different time. Like last month (for the nighttime bottle and diaper at least). Amazing how fast she can put it all behind her when she wants to.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Some more things

Can't believe I almost forgot to mention: Kinneret is about three weeks into going to sleep without a bottle (of water) - and about a week into going to sleep without a diaper! It's been going pretty well, though not entirely without incident. She's very proud not to be sleeping in a diaper anymore.

I accidentally forgot to tell the babysitter last night, though, and Warren told me Kinneret woke up at night while I was still at work and cried for about an hour, but he couldn't figure out what the problem was. When I got home at around 1 a.m., she came out and told me, very upset, that the babysitter put a diaper on her - even though "I told her I big."

As for Moriya, she makes fantastic kissy noises when you say the word "kiss" and has been saying a really great "UH-oh!" lately.

One of the gang

A reader of this blog might have thought that Moriya was not doing anything interesting lately, since I haven't been writing about her much recently. But the opposite is actually the case: She is developing so extraordinarily quickly that I just can't begin to keep up.

She has truly become one of the gang. When Warren hands out the kids' cups for kiddush or havdala, she is often the first to run over and demand hers (shouting "Doosh! Doosh!" for "kiddush"); when we dance to Shalom Aleikhem or Eliyahu Hanavi, she is right there in the circle with her big sisters; and when Warren has wrestling matches on Shabbat afternoon with Rimonit and Kinneret ("Abba, let's fight on Shabbat!" Rimonit has been known to say), Moriya jumps eagerly into the fray.

And not only does she throw herself into the midst of things, she is also increasingly being viewed as a legitimate playmate by her sisters. While beforehand, Rimonit was a bit more likely than Kinneret to play with Moriya (in a hierarchical kind of way, of course), Kinneret is increasingly forging her own relationship with her little sister. The other day, after Rimonit and Kinneret had a fight while playing, Kinneret turned to the other kid in the house and said: "Moriya, you want to play with me?" Instead of the usual tears and recrimination, Kinneret just moved over to Option B.

Moriya, who's almost a year and five months, absolutely loves music and dancing, whether with a partner or by herself, stomping those little feet. She chimes in on our shoe-and-sock song and when she sees the girls getting their shoes on in the morning, she often runs over to get hers too and calls out repeatedly, as she did this morning, "Shoes! Shoes!"

She's been saying quite a lot of words, some of them regularly (like "mine!" and "more!") and some mostly when she hears other people using them, and she seems to understand just about everything we say to her (like when I told her to give back the pen she stole from my desk, and she came over wearing a mischievous grin and handed over the toy she was holding in her other hand before running away, still clutching the pen). Her ganenot are constantly telling me how she participates in activities, like that game where you're supposed to freeze when they stop the music, better than some of the 2-year-olds. Now if only I could get her to stay asleep after I pick her up so she actually gets in her much-needed afternoon nap!

Some Kinneretisms

1. Chicken pox has been going around Kinneret's gan, even though most of the kids (including K) have been immunized. I kept her home for a few days because it can still be contagious even though it was extremely mild. If you ask her why she was home, she'll probably tell you it's because she had "chicken spots."

2. Once upon a time, we bought a container of humus that comes with a layer of whole chickpeas on top, which Rimonit loved and Kinneret hated. Ever since, Kinneret, a life-long humus lover, has eyed every new container of humus suspiciously and before she deigns to agree to have some, she demands: "It has chick peas?" To which I have no choice but to answer that no, the dip whose primary ingredient is crushed chick peas does not in fact have any chick peas in it.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that she does the same thing with grape juice. A while back we had bubbly grape juice, which Kinneret emphatically did not like, and now she often holds off on drinking until ascertaining whether her grape juice has bubbles. At least she's not asking whether it has grapes!

3. Kinneret appears to have given up on the idea that, in a class of 35(!!), she will ever be ima shel Shabbat again, and lately seems to think she has a better chance if she aims for abba shel Shabbat. Rimonit, sadly, was quick to burst her bubble, telling her: "Ein davar kazeh!" - there's no such thing. I intervened to tell them that while only boys might be able to be abba shel Shabbat in gan, at home Kinneret can be anything she wants. Rimonit remains dubious.

4. Kinneret has been singing "Adon Olam" almost constantly for the last few weeks. It doesn't seem to bother her that she gets nearly every word wrong.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Rimonit, after being informed that three of the four kids coming for Friday night dinner were older than her: "How could they be older than me?? I five!"


And today, after we passed a dog on the way home from shul:

Kinneret: We don't have a dog. [pause] We have a baby.
Me: Moriya's not such a baby anymore. She's been walking for a while now, and once a baby starts walking we can call her a toddler.
Rimonit: Everyone in our family walks. [pause] So is everyone in our family a toddler?