Friday, September 8, 2017

Navigating the Israeli Shopping Experience

     The Mahane Yehuda Market is my favorite place in Jerusalem. It may seem silly, since we are merely steps away from the majestic Old City walls, the vast labyrinth that is the Church of the Holy Sepluchre, and the serene and enchanting Western Wall (Matt's favorite place), not to mention the countless other noteworthy and beloved attractions of this amazing city. But there is something about this market ("the Shuk") that thrills something inside of me and makes me feel like I belong here in Israel (although I probably couldn't seem any more foreign or look any more like I don't belong to the native Israeli's watching me wander down the Shuk's corridors. :)  All aspects of the Shuk are captivating- from the vibrant colors of the fruits and vegetables stacked high amidst neon signs noting the various prices to the intermingling sounds of Israeli music and loud shouts erupting from the merchants attempting to win customers to their selection of products. Then there is the intense contrast of aromas that surrounds you from the moment you step into the streets of the Shuk - the sweet smells (of perfectly plump dates and melt-in-your mouth Halva), the salty smells (of shiny olives of purple, black, and green & the creamiest Feta I have ever tasted), the fishy smells (of which Annie always declares, "Mommy, something smells VERY bad in here!), and the bitter smells (of rich coffee & bundles of colorful spices). Something feels magical about wondering down the weaving passageways surrounded by it all, and I feel as though this enchantment will always be there- no matter how many times I walk down its streets. There will always be something new to experience, something new to learn...



Here are just a few things I have learned from my trips to the Shuk the last two weeks: 

- Words you need to know: Please (Bavakasha), Thank you (To-dah), Is it possible [to pay with a credit card]? (Efshar?), & Excuse me (Slee-hah). When I come rolling down the Jerusalem hills with our BOB double jogging stroller, I feel like I am saying "Slee-hah" every 10 seconds! It is currently my most-used Hebrew word.

- It is also helpful to know Hebrew numbers as well as the value of Hebrew currency. I first ventured out to the Shuk by myself on just our second day in Jerusalem. After a whirlwind of a trip with one merchant shouting Hebrew numbers to me unsuccessfully, one kind lady reaching into my wallet to grab the correct currency to give to the merchants, and another woman selling vegetables nearly spitting in disgust when I handed her 1/10th of a shekel instead of 10 shekels, I walked through our front door with grocery bags in hand and quickly announced to Matt, "I need to learn Hebrew numbers and what these coins mean!" I now have my currency down and have learned to watch the numbers on the scales at checkout until I have memorized all the Hebrew numbers. And I've also found that if I smile and ask simply "English?" there is usually a kind and helpful person in the crowd who can translate the amount into English for me if I need. But I would love to be able to have a full transaction in Hebrew and fully understand everything being spoken (or shouted) to me :)

A small glimpse of the Friday morning craziness. 
-  There is no such thing as "personal space." Period. This is especially true if you choose to venture to the Shuk on a Friday before Shabbat begins. I had heard that the prices were better at the Shuk on Fridays, so I decided to see if this theory were true, and I set out to the Shuk one afternoon while Matt stayed home with the girls during their nap. Instead of being able to focus on the prices, however, I found myself trying to survive! My feet were being rolled over by shopping carts, sweaty bodies crowded around me trying to push and shove their way through the narrow aisles, and it took almost three times as long to make a purchase as it had on another day I had visited. I learned quickly that, in Israel- especially in the Shuk- there is no such thing as "personal space." This is not always a strange and uncomfortable thing, though; in fact, sometimes it is actually extremely helpful- like the times (yes, it's happened more than once!) that someone has reached into my wallet without invitation to grab the coins I needed to make a purchase. In those moments, when I was feeling so lost, they saw my pitiful American self and saved me so much confusion! "To-dah" a million times over!
Live music lines the
 Mahane Yehuda St. 

- Weekday mornings are the best shopping experiences. The best weekdays to visit the Shuk are Sunday-Wednesday because, in order to avoid the chaos of Fridays, there is an almost-chaotic-but-not-insanely-chaotic Thursday rush that is not so fun to be in as well. But on Sunday-Wednesday, there are only a handful of other shoppers in the streets, the merchants are more willing to barter, and I can actually trek through the market with our mammoth double stroller! (which doubles as my shopping cart :) Also, I specifically noted the mornings as the best time because, not only is it less busy, but it is also relatively cool in comparison to the intense midday heat of these summer months. (So maybe during the winter I'll be wanting to go in the afternoon when it's warmer, we shall have to see!) One thing to note about the mornings, though, is not to arrive too early. I had read that the Shuk opened at 8, but when I went at 9 one morning, none of the meat or fish shops had opened yet. So I have found around 10 AM to be the perfect time.

- A line.... What is that? There is no concept of a line here. I was standing in line (or so I thought) to buy Falafel (on a Friday- not a good idea!) because our stovetop had stopped working and we had no other way to cook dinner that night. The lady in front of me seemed to be ordering 10 or more falafel pitas, so I waited patiently behind her, counting out the correct number of shekels and waiting for my turn to order. Then, I began to notice people coming up on the other side of the counter- shoving coins and bills at the counter, shouting in Hebrew, and suddenly, they were being given food too! Was I on the wrong side of the counter- was the line on the other side? So I began to shift to the other end of the counter when I noticed another couple pushing their way up behind me and reaching directly in the middle of the counter, above the head of the lady still ordering, and, once again, they were being given food as well! And that was my first experience of the Israeli ordering system which basically seems to be: You've got to push and shove, people, because that's the only way you are going to get anything ever. After a lifetime of trying to avoid conflict or tension as much as possible and of being taught to always be polite, this goes against every fiber of my being! But I've quickly learned that sometimes, you've got to do what you've got to do. So, I'll settle for pushing my way through with lots of "Slee-hah's" and "To-dah's" thrown in there for good measure :)

- Children are celebrated and loved in Israel. Anywhere we go with our girls, they are greeted with smiles and affection. And, at the market is no exception- rough burly merchants bend down with silly faces and smiles to give them each a handful of grapes or a special piece of candy. The Halva vendors always offer them special treats to taste. And the elderly Jewish women pinch their cheeks and elbow their friends to look and wave as well. Children are viewed as a blessing and are celebrated here in Israel, and it has been so neat to experience this! (And Annie and Clara don't mind the free treats either ;)

Fresh squeezed juice.... pure deliciousness! 
- Tips for shopping in the Shuk with children are... 1) A stroller is a must, unless you want to feel like you are chasing around little monkeys who's only desires are to escape from you and run to all the colorful fruits surrounding them. 2) Bribery is necessary most times as well. "Please sit in the stroller happily and I will reward you with a cup of freshly-squeezed pomegranate juice." Works like a charm every time :) 3) Mornings. Because everyone is fussy in the afternoon, and mornings tend to be more of a happy time. 4) Pack snacks. I always pack a few little snacks (after all, with the time spent shopping as well as walking to and from the Shuk, that is a very long time for littles to be strapped into one place the whole time!). Snacks usually seem to help the time pass more quickly for them, so we make shopping days on-the-go-snacky-kind-of-lunch days. Some of their favorites are nuts, dried fruit, carrot sticks and cucumber coins, olives, spelt bread from the Natural Bakery, & lollipops (We love the Vitamin C lollies from our new favorite health food store "Anise!")

The booth where I buy my olives... see the pits on the ground? :) 
- Taste-testing is part of the experience.
Especially at the olive counter for some reason. Every time I buy olives, I am enthralled by all the people around me reaching for olives, shoving them in their mouths, spitting the pits onto the ground around me, & arguing with each other about which kind to buy. I felt like a true Israeli on my last visit to the Shuk when I tasted both the purple and the green olives first before deciding which ones to purchase (although I will admit that I couldn't bring myself to spit the pits onto the ground but instead just set them gently near the trash pile- maybe someday though :) But the olive counter isn't the only place for taste-testing! As you walk down the alleys of the Shuk, there are opportunities to taste everything from exotic fruits to Israeli Halva. And every time I have purchased spices, I always find the spice container being shoved in my face as I am told to "Ahhh... Smell!" And I can't help but smile.

- Barter if you wish. Some vendors are more open to bartering, others not so much. My first trip, I was very proud of myself when I bartered for a shopping cart and what was once "120 shekels" I ended up buying for 75 shekels! The transaction went something like this... "Shlee-hah... how much for this cart?" "120 shekels." "Hm... no. 80?" And at that, he vigorously shook his head, "No!!! 75." I had to keep myself from smiling- he must not have been very sharp with his English numbers (but who was I to talk- the one who didn't even know how to count to five in Hebrew!) "Ok. 75 then." And that was my first barter.


- You will need to shop multiple times per week. In America, I had a routine (shocker, right?): I meal planned once a week and shopped once a week- First at Trader Joe's for produce, then at Whole Foods for some meats and dairy, then at Kroger for the rest of the things on my shopping list. But, here is Israel, my once-a-week routine is impossible to carry-out...simply because we do not have a car, so we have to walk everywhere, and my stroller does not hold as much as the trunk of my car used to (even with several bags tied to the handle bar- trust me I've tried!) This was somewhat irritating at first because, although I love the Shuk, a 3 hour round trip with two littles who don't appreciate the experience as much as I do, made the trips not so much fun. But, we have finally settled into our own little routine, found a trip to the market that doesn't include steps (which had been really difficult with a grocery laden double stroller by myself!), and have been enjoying our super-fresh produce that we purchase every few days.


- Become a regular. I have found my favorite places to buy meats, eggs, olives, hummus, nuts/dried fruits, spices, and fruits/vegetables (although for vegetables I rotate between 3 stands beside one another to find everything I need). But, recently, I have felt like the merchants are beginning to recognize me and treat me friendlier- especially if I am buying a bunch of items. And I like to think that I may get better prices this way too! Only time will tell, but either way, I like the familiar faces. And it's fun to become a "regular" at their stands. I am not just an American tourist; I am here to live in your beautiful country (at least for the next two years, that is :)

This is one of the vegetable booths I like to buy from.


Some of the merchants arguing over prices with customers. 


















This man's booth was in one of the back alleys ;
he was sharpening knives that people brought to him. 
One of the bars scattered throughout the market. 



















Friday, September 1, 2017

Thoughts on Preparing to Move Overseas with a Family (Part 2)

(Here is the link to Part 1)

Thankfully, our preparations to move overseas happened gradually as well- over a period of almost a year. I remember that first month after we had made our decision- checking out a dozen books from the library on expats and moving overseas and life in Israel. I googled everything from "what to wear in Israel" to "apartments in Israel" to "what to use as luggage for an overseas move" to "tips for an international flight with toddlers." I found some helpful information, but I still felt like there was so much lacking in the books and blogposts I was able to find. Most of the information was written for expats using shipping companies to move their belongings, or for single expats only bringing 1-2 suitcases and studying abroad or exploring a new country for a year. I felt like a lot of the questions I had about how to move overseas with a family without using shipping company were still unanswered. One of the most helpful things I did was personally email/FB message a few missionaries from our church and talk a few friends, all of whom had either recently moved overseas or returned to the States after having lived overseas. Because they were so helpful for me, I wanted to create a written compilation of all the things they had shared in addition to some things I learned by myself along the way, in hopes of helping others who may be going through a similar process.

Selling:

Because our plan was to move to Israel for 2-3 years for Matt's studies and then move somewhere else internationally after that- either for him to finish his studies or to begin teaching, we made the decision to sell nearly everything we owned. We did not want to pay for storage in the States if we did not plan to return to the States in the near future. 

We first looked into shipping companies and, after many emails and phone calls, soon realized that planning to ship furniture and other boxes, even for a small shipment, would cost thousands of dollars. One particular company, which mostly services Jews making Aliyah, was so kind to give me overall estimates of various shipping options but then to strongly encourage us to consider bringing only the belongings we could fit as luggage on our flight, as that would be the cheapest way. And that is what we decided to do. 

So, here are some tips on selling: 

- Sell in stages. Thinking of selling everything you own can be extremely overwhelming! And we had only accumulated 5 years of marriage worth of belongings, so I can only imagine what we might have had to sort through if it had been longer! We took from January-May to sell everything, and we did it very gradually. Some examples what this would look like are: 1) Selling things you don't need first (holiday decorations, baby items your children have outgrown, clothes you don't use, things in storage, etc.) After Christmas, I sold all of our Christmas decorations except a few special ornaments I wanted to save. Some holidays items I sold right before the holiday took place because people were more likely to buy them at that time, and we just celebrated the holiday without them (more on this later). I got rid of all the baby clothes our girls had outgrown, as well as the baby bassinet, etc. Anything we didn't need anymore or weren't using we got rid of. 2) Selling decorative/unnecessary things before necessities. At the beginning of the selling process, I went through our home and collected all of the decorations (picture frames, wall hangings, plants, etc.) and sold those first. Then, I began to sell larger furniture pieces that weren't necessities and then gradually sold more and more pieces as our moving date neared. At the end, we only had a couch and dining room table for furniture. Then the last week, we had no furniture at all- and we were still able to have families over for dinner that week- picnic style :) 3) Selling toys. I think that selling toys in stages was one of the most helpful things for our girls. At the end of the process, Annie was very insecure, and would break down sometimes, begging me not to sell her special lovey blankie and binky; she wasn't sure why all of our things were gone or where everything was going. But this was only scary for her during the last few weeks, and I think it is because we sold her toys extremely gradually so she didn't notice the selling process as much until the end. Sometimes we only sold 1 toy a week so she wouldn't notice; sometimes we would give toys to a friend of hers so she knew where they were going and she always loved that! We did the same thing with her bedroom: decorations first, then her bed and dresser at the end. We also tried to make the process fun- one day a few weeks before we left Louisville, she took a friend of hers by the hand into her bedroom, exclaiming, "Come look at my special room!" as she showed her the tiny crib mattress on the floor with one blanket and a window covered with a plastic black tablecloth as a curtain. We told her it was a special-adventure-room and part of preparing to move to Israel, and she loved to tell everyone about how she slept in such a special room :)
- Sell through various avenues. We sold most things through two FB mama swap groups, having people come to our front door to pick up items and leave money under our mat, which sounds sketchy, but worked very well actually! We also hosted one yard sale, which was fairly successful (I would suggest having the yard sale at the end of the selling process and teaming up with one or more families so you have more publicity and more people coming to buy things hopefully.) I found Half-Price Books to be the best spot to get rid of books (no one wanted to buy them online); Matt also sold quite a few theological books and Christian literature books to a privately owned bookstore that he loved in Louisville. And I found that the best way to sell clothing was either in bundles on the FB group or to consignment stores or Once Upon a Child if you need to sell children's clothing.
- Have a designated area to put items you need to sell. I used the storage area in our basement. This was helpful because things were "out of sight, out of mind," especially for Annie's toys. If I had to take things directly from her room or playroom when someone came to pick up the item, I think that would have been much harder for her. With this separate area, most of the things we sold had already been down there at least a week before I was able to sell them, so she had most likely forgotten about them already.
- Time your sales with seasons and holidays. The best time for selling toys was the month leading up to Christmas. The best time to sell clothes was right before a new season began. Moms on the FB groups started looking for fluffy dresses and Easter baskets a few weeks before Easter. The list could go on, but you get the idea.
- Sell things in bundles. I found the best way to sell clothes was in FB groups in bundles. I would take a picture of each piece of clothing and then post all the pictures in one post on the FB group. Some ideas were "Women's Small Casual Clothing," "Girls' 2T Summer Clothing," etc. This was also a great way to sell holiday items- "Christmas decorations- all for $10," etc. Occasionally, I would offer to sell items separately but give a significant discount and a preference to anyone who wanted to buy the bundle of items at once.
- And lastly, remember that Selling isn't the only option. There were several items that we gave away  because they were not worth selling. Goodwill was where we donated our items because it was very close to our house, but there are so many options of where to donate things! There were also a few sentimental items that I could not bring myself to sell, but that we weren't able to store. I wanted to give these to people who I thought would appreciate them. Some examples were the glider that I rocked both our girls in (which I donated to our church nursery), Annie's first dollhouse (which we gave to one of her friends), and a lamp my dad had made for Annie's nursery (which we gave to some of our friends who have little girls as well.)

There were times I thought I was going to go crazy if I had to take a picture of one more item to post online. And there were moments of sentimental tears over having to sell "the curtains we have had since our first apartment together" or a favorite baby outfit or a couch filled with so many memories of special times with family and friends. But, God was gracious, and He continually reminded me of eternity throughout this whole process. All these things will pass away. But He will remain- unchanging and faithful through all of life's changes.

Storing:

We did not want to pay for a self-storage unit if we were not planning to come back to the States soon. But we did have a few things we are thankful our families allowed us to store with them. Here is an idea of what we saved: 

- Formal clothing (Nice dresses, suits, sportcoats, heels, dress shoes, etc. that we would not be using in Israel.)
- "Special Boxes" (Matt teases me because I call them this, but I don't know what else to call them, so "Special Box" it is! I have a box for each of us that contains things that are special that I wanted to save: Sports memorabilia and pictures and medals and diplomas in Matt's, journals and letters and pictures in mine, and photo books and coming home outfits, etc. in the girls'.) 
- Family memorabilia (I saved the china my mom gave me and my wedding dress.)
- Books (Matt saved about 5-6 boxes of books to use if he teaches in the future.)
- Misc. (I saved a Moby Wrap, a small container of DVD's, and a case of our CD's.)

Packing:

WHAT TO PACK:
- Research the area you are moving to. I read quite a few sources that mentioned Israel's libraries being very limited in children's literature in English. Because of this, we decided to bring more children's books than we otherwise might have. We also purchased a Kindle for our girls (which was very helpful for the plane ride as well!). I also Googled things that were either hard to find or were very expensive to buy in Israel to get an idea of some other things that might be wise to bring with us.  We take quite a few supplements and eat some health foods that I knew might be hard to find in Israel, so I looked into online ordering from various sites to get an idea of what I might be able to order when we arrived in Israel. I was glad I did that, because I found that, although AmazonGlobal does ship to Israel, shipping costs would be anywhere from $12-20 or more per item! Because of this, I ordered several extra supplements and packed one half of one of our totes with supplements and other herbs and health items. I wouldn't have known these things if I hadn't looked into them before packing.
- Talk to other expats and locals. I am so thankful to have had some friends connect me with a few ladies and families who had lived in Israel. They were very helpful in suggesting things I might want to pack as well.
- Visit before you move if you can! Matt and I were able to visit in February, several months before our move. We rented an AirBnB studio apartment and "lived like locals," shopping at the Shuk and going into various kitchen and home supply stores to get an idea of prices. This helped me see what groceries are abundant in Israel (tomatoes and cucumbers and eggplant, for example!), and I started incorporating more of these into our meals in the States before our move. I also realized meat is extremely expensive here, so I became more conscious to find meatless meals our family enjoyed and to use meat as an addition to meals rather than building our meals around meat. This was helpful as well! I also found a few health food stores in Jerusalem but realized coconut oil was much more expensive here than in the States, so I decided to pack some of that as well because we use it for everything from frying potatoes to making our homemade lotion.

WHAT WE PACKED: 
- What we packed: 1) Clothes & Shoes. We brought summer and winter items for each of us since Israel is hot in the summer but has a winter season as well. Since the area we are living in is a largely religious area, we brought a lot of dresses and skirts for the girls and I; we also brought simple clothing in neutral colors and did not bring many things that were too formal or things we would not want to get ruined (since we don't have a car and will be walking everywhere). Because we knew we would be walking everywhere, we also invested in good walking shoes (Chacos & Birkenstocks) and we have no regrets so far! Walking for hours everyday makes our feet super thankful for our comfy shoes :) 2) Homeschooling Supplies & Children's Books. Since I am planning to homeschool Annie for this year of Pre-K, I brought some basic homeschooling supplies and manipulatives. I also brought the curriculum I created and my teacher planner. We brought quite a few children's books, since (as I mentioned above), I had read that it can be difficult to find English children's books in the libraries here. 3) Toiletries/Supplements. I packed extra toothpaste and organic shampoos that we use because I did not know if we would be able to find these over here. I also purchased a year's supply of our supplements and brought those as well. 4) Health items. I packed my essential oils and brought extra containers for mixtures I create. I also brought things like Shea butter, Coconut oil, Beeswax, etc. which I use for making lotions and sunscreens. I usually order these things from Amazon, but since I wouldn't be able to do that, I wanted to be sure to bring enough to get us through 6 months. (I have a suitcase packed of things for my parents to come when they visit in 6 months- which I will share more about later.) 5) Health Food. I brought a bag of chia seeds, almond meal, coconut flour (for baking birthday cakes and other special occasion desserts), and coconut oil. These are things I thought it might be difficult to find in Israel. In addition, I made a bulk order of herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs (which I love!) and brought some of my favorite herbs that I use for teas. Spices are abundant in Israel, but I haven't found a good source of herbs yet, so I am glad I packed these, especially because they were very lightweight and did not cause any problems. 6) Matt's books. Matt packed about 10-12 books and his reading book stand as well as some files of school papers and work papers. 7) Kitchen items. I brought my food processor, immersion blender, coffee/spice grinder, and basic kitchen utensils. I also brought 4 mason jars (I didn't know if I would be able to find these here, and, although I have, they are very expensive! So I am glad I at least have a few), fermenting lids, and basic kitchen supplies (vegetable peeler, grater, kitchen spatulas and spoons, cutting board, strainers, etc.). 8) Household items. I brought our 3 small Shutterfly family photo albums, a few special pictures in their frames (which I wrapped in dish towels), a bag of home necessities (screw driver, hammer, tape, batteries, nails, sticky-tac, hot glue gun w/ extra sticks, etc.). A few other special home items I brought were: the girls' birthday headband (which they wear each birthday when we sing to them), two very small wooden signs my mom gave me for our room and the girls' room, a few decorative doilies we have had in each of our apartments since we've been married, and a file of our tax returns from the last 5 years. I also brought my Bible, journal, a journal I write in for each of our girls, & our family prayer book.  9) Toys, Blankies, & Diapers/Wipes for the girls. We brought the girls a tea set with some play food, 2 dress up princess dressed, 2 pretend purses, baby dolls, baby doll stroller and bag of doll accessories. We also brought puzzles, play dough, etc. in their carry-ons (See below for more info. about our carry-ons.)
- What I'm thankful we did: *No sheets/comforters. One of the missionaries I asked about what to pack shared with me not to worry about packing sheets/comforters since lots of countries have different measurements for their mattresses than the US. Israel's mattresses ended up being a different size, so I'm glad I listened to this advice! *Special items. Every one I talked to told me to pack things that are special to our family that would make our new home feel like home and would be familiar and comforting in the midst of all the changes. I'm so thankful I packed our family phonebooks and a few pictures. I'm also glad we brought the girls' special birthday headband. *Diapers/Wipes & extra snacks. These were SO helpful the first few days when we arrived and everything was crazy, until we had time to go to the SuperPharm for diapers and to the Shuk to get some groceries.
- What I would have done differently: *No Appliances! I would never bring appliances again overseas. I had a very nice food processor (which is why I brought it instead of selling it), but when we tried to use it here with the plug adapters, the voltage change kept making it start/stop continually. I also had my immersion blender (my favorite appliance in the whole wide world!), but when I tried to use this, it sparked and broke. (I may or may not have cried.) So, the advice I would give someone moving overseas is to not waste any space on appliances! Thankfully, we found an all-in-one food processor and immersion blender in the supermarket by Matt's school for very inexpensive, and I love it! *Bring necessities. I didn't bring dishes or silverware to save space (for my appliances, sadly), but since you need these things for a home, I would prioritize bringing them. I would also try to squeeze in a few towels, by wrapping things in them, since you need these as well. *Bring lots of cash. Setting up our bank account took quite a while to set up because we had to wait for Matt's student ID after he registered for the semester. We brought $2000, but it would have been helpful if we had brought a little more than this since we have had to use shekels for most purchases (transportation, food, household items, down payment for apartment, etc.).

HOW TO PACK: 
This was the part of the move I had SO many questions about! And, unfortunately, it was the most difficult to find information about! (I think it was because so many families who decide to move overseas choose to use shipping companies.)
- Choose your luggage. There were various suggestions I found online and heard from friends about what to use as luggage. One that was most often brought up was duffle bags (specifically L.L. Bean's) as a great mode of luggage for clothes because you could fit so much within the weight limit. We thought about purchasing luggage, but then considered how expensive it would be and also the fact that we probably would not have a place to store multiple pieces of luggage in a tiny Israeli apartment. So, we decided to use totes as our luggage. These were not only cheap ($8 each), they were practical as well because they stacked so neatly inside one another, and we knew we could easily cover with with something and use them as end tables or extra storage in a small apartment. We checked with our airline's baggage guidelines to make sure we purchased the correct size because they come in multiple sizes. We also chose this type of tote because it seemed to be the most lightweight of all the options we tested out at Home Depot (as our girls ran around us and climbed in and out of them, which was quite the adventure!) The only problem we faced with these totes was during the last few weeks before our move when we wondered how we would secure the lids (which do snap quite tightly, we just wanted to ensure they didn't come unsnapped with all the tossing around through baggage checks and then under the plane during the flight.) We tried various sizes of careeners, which did not work. We considered ratchet straps but those were quite expensive, and we were not sure if TSA would re-strap them if they needed to search any of our baggage for any reason. Finally, my dad came up with the solution to use heavy-duty velcro straps that were designed for large electrical cords. We wrapped one strap through each box's corners, and these worked like a charm! If you choose to use this type of tote, I highly recommend this system!
- Spread out the heavy items through all of your luggage, and fill in the rest of the space with lighter items. This probably seems like a no-brainer, but this was one of the hardest things for my extremely organizational, control-freak mind! I originally wanted certain bins for specific items: Matt's clothes bin, Kali's clothes bin, Girls' Clothes bin, Kitchen supplies, Supplements/Herbs/Medicines, Toys/Books, Homeschooling Supplies, etc. However, as you can probably imagine, the Kitchen Supplies and Homeschooling Supplies bins were nearly double the weight of the clothing bins! This meant that I needed to change my method of packing. I emptied all the bins, spread out the heavier items, and then packed the clothes and other light items on the top of each bin. We wouldn't have been able to bring as much as we did if we hadn't packed this way. This really drove me crazy at first, because everything seemed so unorganized! So, to ease my mind, this is what I did...
- Number each bin & have a list of what is included in that bin. Normal, non-control freak people could probably skip this step, but I will say that it was extremely helpful when we arrived in Israel and were looking for specific items like clean underwear, the girls' blankets, soap, etc. We didn't have to go searching through 9 bins; I just looked at my handy-dandy lists and we knew exactly where to look :)
- Carry-ons. We were allowed 4 carry-ons, so we had 3 backpacks and 1 roller. The roller was filled with all of our electronics & plug adapters for Israel (which made going through security much easier because we had them all in one place and weren't searching through all the bags.) One of the backpacks was filled with Matt's work items and books for school. The other two were kids' items- each one had diapers, wipes, toys, snacks, their lovey blanks, etc. (more details on flying internationally with littles in another post :) I would not recommend bringing so many backpacks- 2 backpacks and 2 rollers would have been much better. We already had the backpacks, so we just used what we had, but if I was giving advice to someone about to fly with kids, I would encourage you not to have more backpacks than you have adult backs to carry them :)
- The Folder that "HELD OUR LIFE"- I had an expandable file folder that held everything from Social Security numbers, birth certificates, marriage certificates, passports, extra copies of Matt's Hebrew University acceptance letter, etc. We joked that this folder was "our life" and guarded it like so. It was always with us in our carry-ons at.all.times!
- Extras: In addition to all of our luggage, we also brought our double jogging stroller (Hooray for Azerbaijan Airlines for letting us bring such a big stroller!), Clara's pack'n'play, and both of the girls' carseats (which were required for the private van company that drove us from the Tel Aviv airport to Jerusalem; we also thought it would be wise to have them in case we would rent a car one weekend to explore Israel.)



Look for Part 3 with tips on flying internationally with littles :)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Thoughts on Preparing to Move Overseas with a Family (Part 1)

When did we make the decision to move to Israel? Good question. And one I am not completely sure how to answer myself. The decision came "much like falling asleep- slowly and then all at once" (to borrow one of my favorite metaphors from a famous novel.)

I remember scattered conversations between Matt and I- as we were cleaning up dinner together, brushing our teeth, or reading before bed- in those still and quiet moments, when it was just the two of us, after the girls were sound asleep. I would share with him about silly things Annie had said that day or a new milestone Clara had reached or how I struggled with impatience that day and needed reminders of grace. And he would describe something he learned that day, his passion for the Hebrew language, and his desire to teach it someday. And the mention of a university overseas would come up: What if we moved to England? Or France? Or Israel? And I would smile. It was fun to dream about- England captivates me and I would love to wander down the streets of one of its towns one day or get lost for hours in an old bookstore. And France- please don't even get me started on the food culture of France- living there would be full of so many fascinating things to learn about cooking and eating! And Israel seemed far away and full of unknowns. All of my siblings had visited the Holy Land, so I thought it would be neat to visit as well. But the thought of actually moving overseas terrified me, and the planner in me would suddenly become overwhelmed with the thoughts of What would we bring? How would we sell everything? How long would we be there? Would we need to sell everything we owned or could we put some things in storage? Oh no- what about the long flights with kids? How would the girls adjust? What about Matt's work trips- I would be left alone in an unknown country! How often would we be able to see our families? And that's when the dreaming would usually make a headlong crash into reality. Yes, it was fun to talk about the adventures we might have, but to actually move overseas was not something I wanted to encourage Matt to do. I absolutely loved Louisville- our church with people who felt as close as family to us, the friends who came over spur of the moment to do laundry or spend the night or take Annie out for popsicles and end up bringing her home with a pet goldfish, our first home where we had chickens and a swing in the backyard and a fireplace and the perfect place to set up our Christmas tree, the regular Thursday playdates I had set up with friends each week. It was all so familiar and comforting, and I would have been content to have lived in Louisville until we were an old couple holding hands as we walked through Cherokee Park or along Bardstown Road, eating Graeter's ice cream.

That is, until one morning in March 2016, when I attended the annual seminary wives conference. I came to this conference each year- mostly as an entire Saturday morning retreat to drink coffee, enjoy the calm and quiet, listen to encouraging speakers, talk to other women and moms in the same stage of life as me, and be spiritually encouraged and rejuvenated with love for my husband and littles. But this particular morning, I would listen to one session that was unexpectedly life-changing, not just for me but for Matt and the girls as well. (Here is the link to the post I wrote about that change.) God used that session to change my heart about moving overseas. And I believe that is when our preparations truly began.

We didn't talk more about the future possibilities of his studying abroad more than we had in the past. But when we did talk about them, I could tell that Matt was much more contemplative and serious, as if quietly calculating and considering the possibility of our family moving overseas for his studies. Then, through multiple conversation with teachers, friends, elders, and his Ph.D. supervisor, he was encouraged to consider studying at Hebrew University in Israel. This was still a very distant possibility, until one Wednesday afternoon in June 2016...

Wednesdays were usually quite busy for us. We led a small group from our church that met in our home each Wednesday night. It was around 4 o'clock PM on this particular Wednesday, so we had a few hours before everyone would arrive, and both girls were napping, so I had decided to get a quick shower. As soon as I came out of the shower, Matt met me in our room, with his phone in hand and an unusual mixture of a serious but very excited look on his face. "So... I just got off the phone with someone who studied at Hebrew Univiersity, and he told me about this program that he highly recommends to learn Hebrew. It's in Vermont, so it's close to your family, and there are two options- 3 weeks or 7 weeks. I could do the 3 week one while you stayed with your family and we could see each other on the weekends. What are your thoughts on us doing something like that?" It seemed like a great opportunity, and it was exciting that it was close to my family, so I said something like, "That sounds like a good opportunity, when would it be?" And he paused for a moment before saying, "It actually starts in two days. So we would have to drive tomorrow." He had already talked with the administrators and confirmed that he would be able to enroll in the program, even though the deadline for enrollment had passed. It was a moment of decision. The 3 week program was $5,000 dollars- a very large commitment! And we felt like, if we made this commitment, it would be the first stepping stone in preparing to move to Israel. We had about half an hour to pray and think about it, and we decided to do it. So, after one crazy night of last-minute laundry and packing and a 15 hr. drive- full of Puffs and Barney and pink and purple heart stickers- we had arrived in New York, and the adventure had begun!

After that 3 week program at Middlebury, the decision still had not been made to definitely move to Israel, but we were moving in that direction. And by September 2016, we had decided and announced to our family and friends that we would be moving in the summer of 2017.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Two are better than one.

"Two are better than one, 
because they have a good reward for their labour:
if either of them falls down,
one can help the other up..."
(Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)



My Matt,

What a whirlwind the last few months have been!

The preparations for our move have been so much more draining and exhausting than we had imagined they could be. And, I know I have told you this a hundred times already, but I feel like preparing for this move has made us work together as a team now more than at any other time in our marriage.

You have led and I have supported. You have worked on selling the house, securing a place to stay when we move, purchasing the airline tickets, working on the house projects, calculating costs and planning our budget; while I have worked on sorting everything we own, selling what we don't need, and packing the eight totes we will bring with us.

Two is so much better than one!

I read this verse today and thought of you... Of how you lift me up when I've become weary or discouraged during this process. You remind me of Gospel truths when I am overwhelmed with discouragement over my sin. You do the dishes and make the bed for me when I'm weary. You hold the screaming baby and push me out the door with "orders" for a ten minute walk in the midst of the craziness. You pull out your crazy dance moves or say something to make me laugh when everything is overwhelming. You hold me when I need to cry. You listen when I need to pour out the thoughts that are spinning around in my head that I need to talk to someone about and process.

Thank you for living with me in an understanding way with your listening ears, your gentle words, and your strong hugs. Thank you for showing me humble service like Jesus in the way you serve me. Thank you for lifting me up when I fall down, my Matt.
I am thankful God made us a team.

All my love,
Your Ka

Do Not Grow Weary.

We are moving overseas, and we are coming to the end of our last month in our home. And, recently, I have felt surrounded by chaos- from without and within. My head is almost constantly spinning with a list of to-do's: back up my computer, pay bills, cook dinner, clean up lunch, sort through the girls' clothes, list more items to sell online, vacuum the floor, pick out the multi-colored play dough stuck in the playroom carpet, change the laundry from the washer to the dryer (after running it a second time because I had forgotten to switch it yesterday), text a friend back about a playdate, change the baby's diaper, sit and play pretend "Chick-Fil-A" with my three-year-old, finish packing the totes we are bringing with us on our move - the list seems endless sometimes.

And this past month has been especially wearisome. We had intended for this to be our "rest month" before our move, but deciding last-minute to sell our house instead of renting it created quite a hectic turn of events! And then, when the chaos of the selling process finally waned a bit, sickness decided to join all of us for a bit. So, this past week seems to have been a whirlwind of trying to survive the time stuck at home until the sickness has passed. There is always another dish to wash, always another diaper to change or little hands to help wash, always a meal that needs to be cooked or clean up after, and it seems to have all been enveloped in extra tears and tantrums this week because of the sickness and not being able to get out of the house.



I thought to my self the other day that motherhood (at this stage, at least) seems to consist of wrapping and re-wrapping baby dolls in their swaddles or trying to cook a meal while a little person screams at my feet and vigorously attempts to pull on my clothing. And yesterday, when I finally came down with the cold and desperately wanted to lie down snuggle up in a blanket, and watch a relaxing movie but was instead staring at the kitchen sink about to wash dishes, I thought to myself, "I feel like a servant!" Almost all I do is do things for other people! I wash their clothes, cook for them, clean up after them, wipe their bottoms, scrub the mud off their little feet, wipe their noses, tuck them in, and wake up at 6AM when they cry. In that moment at the sink, I was exasperated and bitter and desperately aching for a break. But then conviction gently pricked my heart and I realized, isn't that what I'm supposed to be? Here I am, my sinful flesh bitter and complaining and fighting against serving others when that is exactly what Jesus has called me to! And truth began to come to my mind...

"Do not grow weary, Kali. Do not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9)

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." (2 Cor. 4:16-18). 

Motherhood is a strange thing because it is one of the best things I have ever experienced but also one of the hardest things! Being a mommy has moments that are sweet and precious to my heart, but it also has moments that are tough and very trying. I was just trying to explain to Matt how as a mom, my life is no longer free but is instead dictated by the little ones I am caring for, not just sometimes but all the time. There is no "sick day" or sleeping in or not being "on-call" during the night; it's a 24/7 thing. And I feel like my heart- my sin and my Spirit- are constantly at war with if I will live for myself or serve the littles God has given me to care for. Serving them can come so easily sometimes- I love watching their smiles and hearing their giggles as I push them high in the swings at the park, I love teaching Annie how to flatten play dough into a "cookie," and I love cuddling Clara when she just woke up and is all warm snuggly. But lots of times I have to pray to serve them patiently and lovingly. It's not always natural and easy and enjoyable to serve. But I have been freshly reminded the last few days that this season of my life is the perfect opportunity for me to die to myself. And if I remind myself of Scripture, I can quickly see how rewarding dying to myself will be! Jesus promises that whoever clings to his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Jesus' sake will find it. I feel like I've been trying to hold onto living for myself which leads to much complaining and bitterness and a severe lack of joy. But the solution is to look to the eternal things- look to Jesus, look to what He did for me as the ultimate Servant and what He is preparing for me when I get to be with Him, look at how He is changing me and helping me fight sin, and to not give up. Do not grow weary in doing good. And oh, how much more joyful Jesus' way is! 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Our Trip to Israel- Tel Aviv & Hostels





Wednesday, March 1st

We spent today in Tel Aviv! I fly out of Israel at 5:30 AM tomorrow morning, so instead of traveling to the airport in the middle of the night from Jerusalem, we decided to spend today in Tel Aviv so we were close to the airport and could go to the airport from here.

I wrote this post from a communal kitchen and bar in a Hostel (never thought I would say that :) It is a neat experience and is bringing out my inner hippie side. We needed a place to store my luggage for the day while we toured Tel Aviv, and a place with WiFi until midnight so Matt could work and I could write before we left for the airport. For $20/night, this seemed like the perfect place. We used the luggage lockers and stayed in the lounge until we left for the airport.  Artsy, unique, full of people of all ages and ethnicities, extremely crunchy, described as having "good vibes," with the inscribed motto reading "Come as you are"- It is quite the place.

Here are a few pictures from our walk around Tel Aviv...

View from the bus window, on the bus ride to Tel Aviv.
This picture does no justice to the view!


Notice the infant car seat in the passenger seat.
This seems quite common. I'm not sure, but I don't think there are any rules about car seats.

First view of Tel Aviv from the bus. 







A beautiful building at the entrance to Ha-Carmel Market


Ha-Carmel Market








First glimpse of the Mediterranean Sea!


The problem with a mere picture of a sight is that it cannot communicate the scents, sounds and feelings of the place to the observer of the photograph. The salty air, the fresh breeze, the sound of birds-
this place was breathtaking after being in the city.
God is such a good Creator, and His creations are beautiful. 


Looking back at Tel Aviv from the beach. 

Old Jaffa in the distance. 





Looking back at Tel Aviv as we walked along the beach toward Old Jaffa.

The color of the water was crystal clear turquoise.











Walking around in Old Jaffa



A beautiful restaurant overlooking the sea. 

Apparently, today was the day to be married.
We saw about 7 brides and a few teenage girls in formal dresses during our walk around Old Jaffa.
 It was strange the weddings were today, because it is in the middle of the week.
It is a beautiful place for pictures!
















The Jaffa Clock Tower.
We ate lunch just beside it. 



We also walked through the Jaffa Flea Market.
There were several stalls selling beautiful rugs!




These animal statues reminded me of Annie & Clara.
They would have loved them! 


This is probably my favorite picture from today.
I love the people of Israel.
This was a portrait of one of the vendors quietly working on a rug. 

These were the scariest dolls I think I have ever seen.
One of them was 1800 NIS. 


We took a different route from Jaffa back to Tel Aviv,
through one of the famous artsy neighborhoods.








I love the plants on the rooftops. 


The display of ice cream in Israel is like nothing I have ever seen before!
Whenever we pass an ice cream shop, we just stop and stare.
Last night, we enjoyed a scoop of Chocolate Flakes on Ben Yehuda St.,
and this afternoon, we choose Belgian chocolate.
The size of the serving cups are extremely small compared to US dessert sizes,
but even with Matt & I sharing the smallest size, we couldn't have eaten more than that.
It is so rich and delicious.
And if anyone ever would have the chance to try some, I would definitely recommend chocolate!





The outside of the ice cream shop. 

Walking back through Tel Aviv.
Some of the buildings were so elegant. 

The display of fruit makes you want to eat all of it :)
So, that was our day in Tel Aviv.
Early in the morning I fly back to the States and get to see my sweet girls!