Sunday, December 01, 2013

My secret card game shame

Sometimes, the stuff we buy is totally aspirational:  we buy it more for the people we wish to be, or to become, than for who we actually are.  Card games are like that for me, and I figure at least it’s not as bad as fashions (for some women) or shoes (for some women) or… well, almost any other indulgence.

Everimage[4] a sucker for fun new card games, I bought the game Sleeping Queens today while we were in Nahariya (note:  links point to the English Gamewright version; the Hebrew one is licensed by FoxMind), for ₪40-something instead of the ₪60-something in the big chain bookstores.  This is more than it costs online and in stores outside of Israel, but in this case, I really like the fact that the cards and characters are all marked in Hebrew. 

We played this once already, as soon as we got it home.  Naomi said she didn’t want to play, that she had played it at school already.  I asked if she’d understood the rules, because a lot of what goes on at school goes over her head, and she kind of shrugged.  Still, I persisted, and I explained everything carefully in English and we both had a good time.  There’s a little math involved, but not so much that it’s heavy.  And there’s a little silliness involved, but not so much that the game is babyish. 

imageI even think Sleeping Queens is a game GZ could get into if he ever gets over his “twosies fish” obsession.  Huh?  Never heard of “Twosies Fish”?  Well, here’s my basic taxonomy of the boringly basic “Fish” card game.

  1. “Twosies” is the lowest level.  Basically, anytime you have a pair (TWO cards with the same number), you put it down.  If you have fished your wish, you go again. 
  2. The next level up is “Foursies Friendly,” which is where you have to collect all four cards with the same number, but if somebody asks, you have to give them ALL the cards you have with that number. 
  3. Then, there’s “Foursies Meanie” where things get interesting because you can bluff a little:  if someone asks, and you have that number, you must give them ONE card.  They have to ask again to find out if you have more, and risk striking out if you don’t. 
  4. Finally, there’s “Foursies Fiercies,” the final variation, where you must request the EXACT card you are looking for.  If you need the Six of Diamonds, you must ask for the Six of Diamonds.  If the person you ask doesn’t have that EXACT card (even if they have other sixes in their hand), they can say no and you have to go fishing.

You wouldn’t believe the amount of fun a 6-year-old can have with a basic deck of playing cards.  Seriously.  Certainly, I don’t.  But I try to bear with it because after years of my inviting him to play card games he’s finally, finally (sometimes!) saying yes, and playing eagerly when he does join in.  (He chortles to himself as he lines up his pairs, and often creates a literal line of them across the floor, to the point where he has to get up and run across the room to place a new pair at the end of the line.

But in general, I’m not joking when I say I’m a sucker for card games.  I’ve bought three recently.  They don’t take up much space, don’t cost a million bucks (well, in the big-chain bookstores here, they are kind of pricey), and they give you something fun to do on Shabbos afternoon.  If I could ever peel myself off the sofa… mainly, I’m too exhausted to play, which is where the aspirational aspect comes in.  Also Friday night; just too darn wiped out.  :-(

imageOne of the other new games came from eBay, the card game Mummy Rummy, which is kind of cool, if  complicated to get started.  I played it once with Naomi Rivka, and I suspect that it gets easier and more fun once you become very familiar with the cards.

But the other game, Flips and Flops, was a total disappointment.  I’m not even linking to it here.  It’s another FoxMind game, so I was expecting a play experience similar to the GameWright type games that FoxMind licenses here.

But alas, this game seems rather poorly thought-out, and we couldn’t figure out a way of playing that didn’t end the game in a very unsatisfying 3 minutes or so.  I emailed the company, but they don’t seem to give a hoot and never got back to me, so there it sits on the shelf, despite GZ’s initial excitement over the box graphics (with a mean crocodile and some escaping frogs, not to mention a “medal” you win at the end of the game, it looks like the sort of thing he’d totally love).

It seems like this isn’t a GameWright game, either, but one FoxMind kind of thought up (or failed to think up) on their own. What a lousy experience, especially considering the ₪60-some-odd shekels I spent for it in a store here.  Big frown!

Besides these, there are a few other staples on our card-game shelf, just begging me to wake up and play them with a kid…

  • Skip-Bo, a more fun game (my humble opinion!) from the makers of Uno.
  • Uno, because sometimes the kids like it.  This is just straight Uno.  Coming on our shipment from Canada are also Harry Potter Uno and Star Trek Uno.image  There may be others… I forget!
  • Monopoly:  The Card Game.  Note:  this is NOT the same as the commonly-available Monopoly Deal card game, and there are a couple of others out there as well, confusing the playing field (so to speak!).  This one is like a miniature Monopoly set, in a little box, so it’s packable and easy to play anywhere.  (I’ve played Monopoly Deal, and didn’t really like it much.)

Before I leave off this post about card game winners and losers, I absolutely must mention one winner I think I’ll never regret… and that’s this set of blue plastic playing card holders.  I don’t even imageremember how long ago I bought them – ages and ages ago.  (Oooh, just checked this old blog post, and apparently, I ordered them in 2009.  So not all THAT long ago.)

There are all kinds of playing card holders out there – some designed especially for kids (here’s one by Gamewright themselves!), others for adults with arthritis and other disabilities…. but I don’t recommend any of them except these.

The card holders we have are made by a company called Jobar, which seems to make therapeutic products and lifestyle aids in general.  The day I bought them, my son noted that a friend of his had these at home for a sibling with a disability.  They are very sturdy plastic, though they will tip over backwards if pushed – they’re not bulletproof, but have made it unbelievably easier to sit comfortably with the kids and play card games.  Indeed, they are often the difference between frustration / tears and happiness / fun… and sometimes, if only one kid is playing, I’ll take the other card holder, just because it’s an easy way to keep my cards secret and organized.

It occurs to me now that, however aspirational my card game lust may be, most of these games have had quite a bit of playing time, and certainly, the card holders have seen a lot, a LOT of use in their four years with our family.  So it may not just be a dream of who I want to be… playing cards may actually be something our family enjoys, and will enjoy more as the younger kids get older.

Are there any really, REALLY great games we’re missing?  What do we need to add to our bookshelf?  Inspire me with your family favourites – I’d love to hear about them!!!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Something about this just tickled me… maybe it’s late and I’m tired.


This is also sort of a test post.  Haven’t been over here much lately because we’ve been BUSY with the project of a lifetime.  Come visit me sometime over at my for-now Israeli home… Adventures in Aliyahland!

(I do anticipate keeping this blog and posting to it once our life becomes less about aliyah and more about, well, day-to-day life.  We’ll see.)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What? No etrog?? What will we do? – WE DIDN’T HAVE AN ETROG

cover_esrog_shadowHard to think about Sukkos (aka Sukkot), but believe it or not, we have less than 40 days until Rosh Hashanah now and you-know-what can’t be far behind.  I’ve always found this to be a yom tov without a lot of fun stories for the early elementary level… so I created one and called it We Didn’t Have an Etrog!  It’s been out for a while now, but I thought I’d take a few minutes to show it off here because life between now and then is going to be crazy-time for us.  :-o

It's just not Sukkot without a lulav AND etrog! These children have worked hard to grow their etrog... but even hard work isn't enough without a bit of patience and some help from Hashem!

Sample page views from We Didn’t Have an Etrog! (click images for larger version):

image image image image image image

To order now – in time for Sukkos! – click here

I also have a number of other books available through CreateSpace. 

and, of course…

Because you’re not ordering directly from me, your order will NOT get caught in all our aliyah craziness.  Oh, and did I mention that all proceeds will go directly towards helping needy olim settle the holy land.  ;-)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Journey to Motherhood, with illustrations by Naomi Rivka, age 7

(she’s 8 now, but I found this in an older notebook…)

story 001

One day I became really tired and lazy.  “Please tell me why!” I yelled but I already knew, I was expecting a baby!

Nine months past [she means “nine months passed”], I stayed home from class.  The day had come at last!

I took a year of [off] from work, to hang out with my little baby girl, Veonica!  I named her Veronica Elizabeth.

story 002story 003 

The story actually goes on and the main character becomes a grandmother, and then a great-grandmother.  And nobody in the family wears more than a bikini, because – of course – they’re all mermaids.  There are no males in the story.  Yet I find it oddly (very oddly) touching.

Going through a ton of paperwork because the journey is well and truly underway now.  In twelve days, we will be en route to our new home in the Holy Land!!! 

Please follow our adventures over here at my aliyah blog if I’m not around here at this blog much…

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Never put off…

card1… ‘til 16 years from now what really ought to be mailed today.  Isn’t that how the quote goes?


Seated on the floor Tisha b’Av morning, sifting through 30 years worth of papers (highly recommended for the occasion as both a saddening and deadening kind of occupation), I came across a small stack of thank-you cards from YM’s upsherin… ie, the upsherin we held when he turned three.

Yes, the same YM who is turning 19 in a month and a half.

I still really like the “logo” I designed for his upsherin – a blue scissors, open, with “YM” from top to bottom one way and the Hebrew letters yud and mem the other way.  I mock-airbrushed it with my set of “Blo-Pens” – a truly kitschy-but-cool craft supply if ever there was one.  I used cutting-edge scanning & colour-copying technology to apply the logo to everything from the invitations (in fridge magnet form!) to the program (yes, there was a program) to, well, the thank-you cards I don’t think anybody ever got.

To be very fair, because his birthday comes out right after Sukkos, I didn’t get around to doing the actual upsherin until maybe a month later.  So they’re not REALLY 16 years old, right?

And okay, some of the intended recipients are already dead – not least, the “Zeidy” in this card. 


(card reads “Dear Bubby and Zeidy – Thank you very much for the new kippah and my special Winnie-the-Pooh surprise card (+ the loader!).  Iy”h you should see this much nachas (and more!) from me and all your children and grandchildren in the future.  Love,”)

I never mailed the stack because I was having him initial each one, a tedious task for a 3-year-old, and one which I eventually abandoned in favour of, well, abandonment.

I threw away the obvious cards – people we’re no longer in touch with; people who have died (“Dear Nanny”).  The rest, well, I have the idea of giving them out at the goodbye party my mother’s making for us this coming Sunday.  You know, with a small smile and a “whoopsie.” 

After all, who hasn’t had something slip their mind from time to time… for 16 years???

(p.s. Interested in upsherins in general?  Here are pics and video from GZ’s!)

Thtupid-Word Thursday: It’s a twofer! “Shinny” and “Snuggly”

Two words that make me bananas – and not in a good way.  I’m including these both here to save time, and because these are similarly misused words – due to their inadvertently doubled vowels – that both keep popping up everywhere I turn.

So!  Snuggly vs Snugly.  Anyone???

This nut is something that fits “snugly”:

This teddy bear, on the other hand, is kind of “snuggly”:

Well, okay, it isn’t really very snuggly.  But it’s “Dydee Bear!” the official diaper-service mascot bear that my sister had as a baby.

This “data center knowledge” article is another example.  Aww… it’s snuggly!


As for the other.

Shinny vs Shiny.  Really, unacceptable.

These are shins:

To be fair, these, too, are shins:


And this is shinny:

An informal game of hockey, often played in the streets.

This ring is nice and shiny:

This is nice and shinny:


Liv Creme Hairdressing and Conditioner<- So, clearly, this hair product does not make “hair look so nice and shinny,” as one reviewer mentioned.

Neither does this one.  ->






This hotel is really not “shinny and new”, however alpen-lovely it may be.  But maybe a few tips for keeping your motorcycle looking “shinny and new” couldn’t hurt?

Hilton Garden Inn Davos

“Shinny and clean” silver, anybody?


Hmm… what a bright, shinny belt you are wearing today!


Okay, enough. I am beating a dead horse and we all get the point.

Here’s to a bright, shinny day, with maybe a bit of snuggly tossed in here and there.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Fwd: Old note to myself, which I am throwing away.

Ah, the things that amaze us with Kid #1.

On a packet of Duncan Hines Cookie Mix in the grocery store:
"YM loves the idea that there are brands of things... he's 5 years old, doesn't know very much, so he looks for those names he knows like beacons on the supermarket shelf."

Throwing away their report cards today, now that they've both graduated from high school and we are purging like crazy.  Actually, I am purposely NOT throwing away their report cards:  I have turned them over to their rightful owners.  If they want to throw them away, so be it.

One child agreed, the other said I'm supposed to keep them, presumably cherishing them forever.  The truth is, if we were staying, I probably would.  But we're not staying, and it feels good to pass them on.

Have an easy fast, world.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Devarim, Chazon and Aliyah: My Thoughts

Almost every year, my mother corners me to give a dvar Torah at a ladies’ Shalosh Seudos (Seudat Shlishit) our shul organizes at different homes around the community.  She always hosts the one closest to her birthday, which happens to fall out this week.

Weirdly, even though I have done it a bunch of times, it always seems to happen on a different parsha, so I cannot just reuse another one from a previous year.  (Would I do it if I could?  Um, heck yes?)

So here’s this year’s.  If you are within walking distance, please come to my mother’s place for party sandwiches and more.  But if you’re coming on Shabbos, please don’t read it!  I wouldn’t want to ruin the wondrous moments of shock and surprise (mainly when you realize just how long this thing is going to be and decide to stay away…)

Here’s a list of previous summer divrei Torah, in case you’re vastly curious and/or slightly masochistic:


This week’s parsha opens the last book of the Torah, Devarim. Devarim means “things” or “words.” It’s a pretty vague name – you might as well have called it “stuff.” But! But. It turns out this book hasn’t always been called Devarim.

Each of the books of the Torah has an older name, which may reflect better the essence of each book. Vayikra is Toras Kohanim, the Torah for the Priests (in Latin, Leviticus); Bamidbar is Sefer HaPekudim (in English, Numbers). (Bereishis is Sefer Hayetzira, Shemos is Sefer Hageulah)

So: Devarim. Its fancy “English” name is Deuteronomy, which means “second.” And its ancient Jewish name is “Mishneh Torah”, which means “repetition of the Torah.” (you may be familiar with the Rambam’s book by the same name)

But why do we need a repetition?

Maybe “stuff” isn’t such a bad name for this weird book that – at first glance – doesn’t seem to know what it’s about.

Sefer Devarim isn’t about history – the entire book takes place over the last 39 days of Moshe’s life: all one speech, not much story.

And it’s not so much about mitzvos either – sure, there are lots of them, big ones, too, but not much we couldn’t find elsewhere. This is old news.

Most people say, “well, it’s a new generation, so they need to hear it again.” But why not just read them the original Torah – why write them a whole new one?

Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks points out that scholars of antiquity have discovered recently that when treaties were struck in the ancient near east, they all followed a standard template: He says, “The precise form of ancient covenants… had six parts. [1] They began with a preamble, establishing the identity of the person or power initiating the covenant. This was followed by [2] reviewing the history of the relationship between the two parties. Then came [3] the provisions of the covenant … then followed [4] a provision for the covenant to be deposited in a sacred place, and read on a regular basis. Next came [5] sanctions associated with the covenant, namely blessings that would follow if it was adhered to, and curses… if it is broken. Lastly there is [6] a statement of the witnesses… usually the gods of the nations involved.” 

With this framework in mind, it suddenly becomes clear: sefer Devarim is a treaty between Hashem and the Jewish people.

First, this week, we read the preamble, then, the history, conditions; Moshe describes how to preserve the Torah and pass it on to the generations; we hear about the blessings and curses, and finally, he calls on heaven and earth as witnesses, right near the end.

And why now? We’ve come a long way with Hashem over 40 years in the desert; big things are ahead with Yehoshua and his conquest of Israel. And now, between the two, just as surely as a ketubah comes between courtship and honeymoon… Devarim comes between our history and our future.

But why read it at this time of year?

It’s summertime. Many of us – okay, I’ll just speak for me – are at a spiritual low point in our yearly cycle. The material world pulls very strongly in the summertime. Summertime is fun and easy.

But along comes the 17th of Tammuz, the three weeks, and finally, the Nine Days leading up to Tisha b’Av. All of a sudden, we’re told to be like mourners: no music, no simchas, no dancing, no haircuts, no meat, no wine. What was that? No meat? No wine?? But actual mourners are allowed to eat meat and drink wine!

So why no meat or wine?

Because meat and wine are us. In the Bais HaMikdash, meat was everywhere as korbanos: substituting one life for another. Wine, too, was splashed all over the place, like blood. We are meat – fragile human lives. We are wine – easily spilled, bringing out the worst in each other.

So for nine days, we leave behind the physicality of summer, our meaty, bloody bodies, and act like the spiritual people we aspire to be.

And right in the middle of it, always, we begin sefer Devarim, this “treaty book” that sets in stone our relationship with hakadosh baruch hu.

Now, in the ancient world, who were the parties to a treaty? Usually, mighty kings with armies, weapons, fields, animals, resources. Peers, certainly – otherwise, one could just overrun the other. But not here.

Here, it is Hashem, the omnipotent Creator of the world, and us: meat and wine, with all our messy fragilities. And Hashem comes and says, “Dear bnei Yisrael: You’re a mess… and I love you. I need a partner in creating something eternal.”

So we, for our part, abstain from meat and wine, and weep for the days when our love was out in the open; when the whole world could see the sweetness of that connection.

This week is also called Shabbos Chazon (“Vision Shabbos”) after the haftarah read the Shabbos before Tisha b’Av, from the book of Yeshayahu (Isaiah). It’s gloomy stuff indeed. Yeshayahu’s whole hideous vision parallels the horrors of megillas Eichah, Lamentations, read on Tisha b’Av.

But the haftarah ends on a hopeful note: “I will restore your judges as at the first… you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.”

Megillas Eichah also ends with hope:

כא הֲשִׁיבֵנוּ ה אֵלֶיךָ ונשוב (וְנָשׁוּבָה), חַדֵּשׁ יָמֵינוּ כְּקֶדֶם.

Return us unto you, O Lrd, and we will return; renew our days as of old.

Yeshayahu, gloomy though his visions may be, is clearsighted when it comes to our destiny:

ו הַבָּאִים יַשְׁרֵשׁ יַעֲקֹב, יָצִיץ וּפָרַח יִשְׂרָאֵל; וּמָלְאוּ פְנֵי-תֵבֵל, תְּנוּבָה.  {פ}

ה בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא, יִהְיֶה ה צְבָאוֹת, לַעֲטֶרֶת צְבִי, וְלִצְפִירַת תִּפְאָרָה--לִשְׁאָר, עַמּוֹ.

6 In days to come shall Jacob take root, Israel shall blossom and bud…

5 In that day shall the Lrd of hosts be for a crown of glory,

Hashem is “crowned with glory” only when Yaakov “takes root.” His destiny is bound with ours by that sacred treaty, carved in stone, treasured forever. Welcome to sefer Devarim.

For many Jews, this prophetic vision of blossoming, of crowning Hashem as king of the whole world, is happening today in the modern State of Israel. The official Prayer for the State of Israel expresses this as terms of “reishit tzmichat ge’ulateinu,” the dawn, or “first growth” of our redemption.

I know, I know. I’ve been to Israel and it’s hard to see that vision on the ground, with screaming bus drivers, fistfighting cabbies, mystifying grocery stores. I know our new lives in Israel will be a struggle. These are regular glasses, not rose-coloured ones.

Yeshayahu, too, saw clearly. He saw sin; he saw so much badness in Israel… and still, he saw the beauty in our future, and the permanence of that treaty, struck so long ago, between the one God and His beloved nation.

And somewhere, between our history and our future, is this dry, dusty, sweet piece of land we call Israel.

It’s the greatest story ever told – and I want to be part of it. We are each one small brick in the rebuilding, but every brick counts. May we all merit to be together in Yerushalayim in the restored Bais HaMikdash this Tuesday… and if not, together for a Shabbos meal in the Holy Land someday very soon.

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