Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Neither prince nor pal

Today I gave the principal a piece of my mind.

Me, quiet little Rachel who never once set foot in the principal's office in all my 12 years of primary schooling. Me, who has total (even if sometimes unjustified) respect for authority figures. Me, who prefers to write and rewrite and edit every piece of correspondence with the school rather than speak to the staff face to face because I know each "event" will eventually be tucked away in my son's personal file. Me, who has showed incredible restraint at every parent-teacher-principal meeting for the past 5 years at my son's elementary school. Today I pulled out all the stops.

Apparently my oldest son, who is in the final stretch of his sixth grade education with only a month to go before that elementary school becomes part of a past he wants to forget, got in a tiff this morning. By "tiff" I mean that he apparently teased one of his closest friends about his new braces, and the friend punched him in the face (no blood, no injury, just your standard 12-year old scruffle). Should I be more phased by this event? Maybe, but I'm not. Know why? Because exactly the same thing happened last week (for the first time), with a different kid.

But last week I didn't speak my mind to the principal - she called, told me what happened, and like a good girl I came to pick him up. Mind you, we have been under the wrath of this principal for the past 4 years, and she's had countless opportunities to get to know my son, his character, his imperfections and tendency to skew the truth (putting it mildly). And yet, without even bothering to sit down with the two young roosters, who are actually usually pretty good friends, to try and discuss what happened and how they could prevent such a thing from happening again, she felt she had done her job with a mere "nu nu nu" and basically "go home and let your parents deal with this."

I understand that they cannot accept violent behavior in school, and by sending the boys home she was trying to send a message to them and to others. What she doesn't seem to understand is that, at least for my son, going home is a prize, not a punishment. In the end it is me (and my salary) who suffers because I have to leave work to go home and play policewoman. We had a long discussion with him at home about the whole incident, and he did get "restrictions" to his regular schedule. But not another word was spoken about it at school the next day. There are so many other effective and much more creative ways the principal could have chosen to deal with it, but that would require some effort and flexibility on her part, heaven forbid.

So this morning, just when I had pulled into the parking lot at work, I got the call. By the number on the screen, I shouldn't have answered. I know better. "Hello, this is the grumpy old troll...uh, principal. You need to come pick up your son, he was in a fight." Not again, I thought. I muted the Brad Paisley disc I had been enjoying until that moment, closed the car windows, and fired up the air con. And then it started. Maybe it was PMS, maybe it was a lack of sleep, maybe it was the rising summer temperatures this morning that got me all heated up, or maybe I've just had enough.

I basically told her what I thought of her all these years (I won't go into detail here, but it was ugly), and how we are counting the days until my son is out of that school. I politely explained to her that I had no intention of coming to pick him up today, and that I believed she was capable of mediating between them to reach apologies and understanding of what they had done (what is a principal for, anyways?). She responded (quite loudly), and suggested that she and I schedule a meeting over a cup of coffee to talk, because she felt that I had a lot of "baggage" about our experiences with the school that she would be interested in hearing. Yeah, right lady.

Funny thing is, when I got home today and sat down to talk to my son, the first thing he said was "Thank you for fighting for me." I almost cried (again, probably PMS), and realized that I should have told the principal where to stick it long ago.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Burn baby burn

I'm plotzing. It's Lag Ba'omer, the Jewish holiday that is celebrated in Israel mainly by lighting huge bonfires, singing, and food (is there a Jewish holiday without food? No). So I'm here, running between one son's 4th grade class bonfire and another son's 6th grade class bonfire, both within 20 meters of each other, among about 20 more fires all in an area the size of a baseball field.

Although the holiday itself has lost most of its religious significance for these kids, it is a pyromaniac's dream come true and I can't for the life of me understand how parents stand and sit around so calmly eating hot dogs in pita while hundreds of children play with fire. Maybe they're used to it because they grew up with this holiday, maybe they just don't see it as dangerous as I do (hellooo???)

So while other parents have gone home, leaving their little firestarters to frollick around the smoldering wooden planks, I am waiting until 11:00pm, the magical hour the children were promised they could stay awake 'til (don't know which fool parent decided that, but the kids all immediately claimed it), because I am worried. Yes, I am an overprotective mother and no, I don't think 10 year-olds should be left to their own devices when it comes to fire. Wish I wasn't the minority in this case.

Update: Thank G-d we're all home safe (and eau d'hickory-smoke has been mostly washed out of my hair). It's a nice holiday and all, but I could do without the bonfire part. Let's just eat.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Comfortably bummed

It would be so nice just to have enough income to be comfortable. A little extra padding, you know? Not to have to decide whether dentist visits are more important than new glasses. Or whether paying the cleaning lady has priority over going to a restaurant. Not to have to decide whether paying next year's junior high school tuition has priority over a plane ticket to visit my family abroad.

Comfortable would be nice. However, it's not my reality. My reality is having to make those decisions all the time, and usually ending up with the less "fun" but more "economically sensible" options. Obviously, some of the major decisions we've made in the past, such as buying a nice house with a garden, or buying the minivan that was just a little bit roomier, have a direct impact on how much we have (or rather, don't have) to spend on the everyday things. It's the reality we've chosen, and I don't regret it.

And so, although constantly teetering on the edge of my overdraft limit, every now and then a light of hope appears, where all of a sudden a little bit extra jingle drops into our pockets to buy that piece of furniture we've been saving for, or to take that trip I've been promising my son. And just when I find a really great deal on airline tickets from TLV to LAX, the dark cloud of reality rolls over my sunny skies and reminds me that we're going to need that money for a rainy day. Sucks, huh? Yes it does. It sucks being economically sensible.

How will I ever seize the day like this? When will I be able to live for the moment, or buy things on a whim? When will we spontaneously reserve a weekend in a cabin up north instead of checking prices online for weeks and ultimately deciding they're too expensive? I'm starting to depress myself.

In all honesty, and lucky for my husband, I'm a pretty cheap date. I prefer camping in a tent than going to a fancy hotel. I prefer going out for ice cream than eating a 3-course meal in some hoity toity restaurant. But I'd like to feel like I could do those things if I wanted to. Comfortably.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Sometimes I feel like there are so many other things I should be doing.

Today I randomly started clicking through a popular job board for communication professionals, just to see what's out there. There's a lot. And there's a lot that I could really shine at, if I ever got the courage to leave my current (cushy) job.

I'm starting to think that 14 years with the same company is an awfully long time to be in one place. Not one job, mind you, I made a significant switch about halfway through - but still, that's quite a stretch. Maybe for our parents' generation, when I think job stability and tenure were considered attractive aspects of a successful career, working somewhere for a few decades was all that.
But I'm Generation X. I've got the itch.

Don't get me wrong -I really enjoy my job. I work at one of the most successful global companies in Israel, and I've stayed there this long because it is stable, it is convenient, the benefits are great, the people are nice, I'm well-respected. So why would I consider a change? (aside from the fact that the salary sucks) For a change, I say.

Is there a certain stage at which my creativity begins to stagnate? I felt it in my first job - regulatory paper pushing - the hours were very convenient for a young mother, but my brain literally turned into oatmeal. When the opportunity for change arose, I jumped at the chance, and helped create a platform for internal communications and intranet where there was none. But for how long? How far can it take me here?

The world is changing so rapidly, with so many amazing opportunities and tools, and a whole new way of communicating with each other. Web 2.0 is a mindset that I'm adopting, but one that is almost nonexistent in our organization. If I don't get out now, will I miss the boat? Should I be learning new skills to prepare me for the moment I do decide to jump?

Eventually, I will choose to scratch.

(Right after the next company-subsidized family vacation. And holiday gift. And after I get my shiny pen for 15 years of service.)

Really, I will.


Blooming like crazy
in our front yard. Wish i could post the smell too - it's heavenly.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Day to Remember

Tonight brings to a close Holocaust Memorial Day, a day in which I can't help but think about how far we've come, and how far we still have to go.

Last night I took the kids to the local memorial ceremony held in our small town, very nicely put together by the youth movement. At the end of the ceremony, when everyone stood to sing Hatikva, I lost it. Looking around at everyone present, and knowing that thousands more cities and communities just like ours were doing the same thing all around the country, I started crying. Crying from sadness about what it took to create this country and the sacrifices that were made; crying from happiness that we are all here, having realized the dream of being a free people in our own country; crying because even though we are in our own country, there are those will do whatever it takes to try and push us out of here; crying because I'm here in the middle of it all, an active participant in a history that stretches far beyond my little bubble - and that is quite hard to comprehend sometimes.

The entire memorial day (including yesterday evening) was accompanied by sad, Holocaust-related songs on the radio, and Holocaust-related programming and movies on TV (hard to believe there are so many, but there are). Many shops and businesses closed. Remembrance ceremonies were held across the country for survivors and their families. At 10 am this morning, the whole country stopped whatever they were doing and stood for 2 minutes in silent remembrance of the 6 million who perished. It is such an ingrained part of this country, of the Jewish history, and of so many people here, that you can't help being personally affected by it.

With all the crap that goes along with living in Israel, the frustration, the heartbreak and my occasional doubts, it is days like this that I am sure that this is the right place to be. I just wish it didn't take a day like this to remind me of that.