Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Israel Advocacy-My Way

I must start this out by saying that is blog is NOT meant to be political in any way. Of course, I have my views on the conflict here in the Middle East and they may sometimes come across in this blog, but that's not typically why I write or what I like to write about.
I do think, however, that Israel tends to get a bad rap in the press in the United States and around the world no matter what the government or army or citizens of this country do. So, I will occasionally use my little platform here to spread the good word about this amazing country!

For example, only in Israel would the following have happened:
Imagine this scene, if you will...Little and I are in the car driving home from his music class. He is screaming at the top of his lungs about something and I am trying to get him to be quiet. For some reason, I decide to go home a different way than usual and I turn down a particular street. Immediately after turning onto the street, I think to myself "hmm, something seems weird to me...this doesn't look right..." Then, I notice the big giant arrow painted on the ground pointing in the opposite direction of that which I am currently driving! Yes, I turned the wrong way down a one-way street!! There were no cars coming, luckily, and I was able to quickly turn around and go the right way. As I started to turn around, I noticed to policemen on motorcycles. My first thought was "oh crap, I'm going to get a ticket." And then, as I watched them drive right past me, my next thought was "WTF?? Why don't they care that I was just driving the WRONG way down a one-way street??" They didn't even give me a "what were you thinking??" looking as they drove past!

The moral of this story is: Israel is good because traffic rules don't apply.

Hmm, maybe I need to rethink my definition of Israel Advocacy!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I ♥ Faces: At The Beach

This is my first time participating in the I ♥ Faces weekly photography challenge. I'm glad the theme this week is At the Beach because we love the beach and we go often!

Here is one of my favorite pictures, taken on the beach in Tel Aviv. He just couldn't contain his excitement!

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Not-So-Happy Milestone

One reason that I blog is to keep track of my kids' milestones. I don't have baby books for them (that's not totally true because I do have one for Big that I kept up pretty well until he was about 6 months old) and I don't have a good memory for things like that. I can remember my friends' phone numbers from elementary school but I can't remember when my kid first crawled!

Anyway, this evening marked a not-so-happy milestone for Big when he had to say goodbye to his best friend who is moving 6,000 miles away back to America. Granted, we all had to say goodbye to many people when we moved 6,000 miles away to Israel 2 years ago, but Big was littler then and didn't have the same kind of friendships that he and this friend have had over the past year since they have been here. They are just a few months apart in age and they look so similar that it is scary! They like all of the same things and they play so incredibly nicely together. This friend has slept over at our house (that would be Big's first sleepover--see that, another milestone!), knows the code to get in the front door of our building and knows where we keep the good snacks. He and Big were not in school together but would greet each other at every playdate with huge smiles and maybe even hugs. And then they would run off to do whatever they felt like doing without a care in the world.

I'm not sure how much Big understands about what "moving away" means. We talked about how his friend is "going back to America." Big understood that in the same way that he understands that we go back to America a couple of times a year and his response was "ok, so he's coming back soon." Who knows...maybe he will come back soon and maybe we'll still be here when he does. Or maybe he won't. Or maybe we won't. Either way, it's still hard when your best friend moves away whether you are 5 years old or 31 years old.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Whopping Dose of Mommy Guilt

Summer is an interesting time here in the land of Israel. Basically, the school year runs from September 1-June 30 every year, regardless of what day of the week those days fall out (unless they are a Saturday). From July 1-July 21 (again, regardless of day of week), most nursery schools/kindergartens run camps in the school with the same teachers. That was the case for Big and Little this summer. Yesterday was their last day. It's always a big ordeal to figure out what to do for the end of July and all of August as there are very few options and they are all very expensive. Someone told me recently that the month of August can cost more than the entire rest of the school year--and it's certainly true!! I paid a grand total of about 700 Shekels (that is approximately $184) for Big's entire year of Pre-Kindergarten. The month of August will cost me 1560 Shekels ($410)--more than double. How insane is that??
Anyway, I was happy to have found things for both kids for the next 2 weeks or so. Big is going to a camp run by 2 of my friends at one of their homes. It's perfect--many of his friends are going and drop off this morning was a piece of cake. He looked a bit shy for a minute, but then he ran off to play and didn't even look back to wave goodbye to me.
And then I took Little to his new camp. And here's where the Mommy guilt comes in. Little will be 3 in a couple of weeks and he is NOT so great when it comes to transitions and new places. He was so happy at his school and went every day with a big smile on his face and I felt fine leaving him there. His teacher was amazing and started every day with big hugs and kisses and I always knew that he was safe, loved and well-cared for there. When I was trying to figure out what to do with him after his school/camp ended, my friend A suggested that I send him to the place where her son J goes. J is just a couple of months older than Little and they are good friends. I thought that would be a perfect solution and I spoke to the teacher, Bella, and got it all worked out. Then I took him there this morning for his first day. He was, obviously, screaming and clinging to me and freaked out because he didn't know where the hell he was. Bella's response: "I really don't have time for this kind of crying today." Excuse me?????? I almost just turned around and walked out at that point, but I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that she is just your typical tactless Israeli (pardon the stereotype but it is so day I will write a post on the culture shock I still experience almost daily after being here for 2 years!). The 2 other women who work there were both extremely nice (and Bella herself was fine other than that one comment) and were trying to get him to calm down and play with them. I had forgotten his bag in the car, so I left him screaming to go get it. I drove around the block a couple of times to take more time to give him more time to calm down and when I went back, Bella met me outside and said he had stopped crying and I should go. I left and cried the whole way home! I just feel so guilty for leaving him somewhere where he clearly didn't want to be and where I didn't necessarily feel secure that he would be well taken care of. I called my friend A who was appalled that Bella would have made that comment, but confirmed my suspicion that she is completely tactless and says whatever she is thinking.
I just called to check in and one of the other teachers said he cried for about 3 minutes after I left and now he is fine. She said he's not playing with other kids yet, but he is willing to play with her and he seems happy. I'm going to pick him up early and we'll try again tomorrow. Hopefully it will be ok. It's just not going to be worth it if it takes him a week to adjust and then a week after that, it's over!

What is it About Children's Performers?

I never had the privilege of taking my kids to a Wiggles concert or even to Sesame Street Live. We did take Big and his cousin to see Go Diego Go live in Boston, but that was very civilized with tickets and assigned seats. Tickets and assigned seats are just not done here in the Middle East! (Actually, they are done in movie theaters, which I don't really get. That and the intermission. What's up with that??).
Anyway, today was the day that Yuval Ha'Mebulval was going to be performing live at our local mall. He is only Little's favorite person ever. Most nights in the month of July, our mall has some sort of performance for kids. They set up a small stage and have an area blocked off for people to sit on the ground or stand. It's fine for most of the performances because they don't tend to be super-famous people and they don't attract a huge crowd. All except for Yuval. He is a crowd-bringer (is that a real term?). I (thankfully) had to work today, so my angel sent from heaven (a.k.a babysitter, but I will call her Angel becasue that's what she is) took the kids to the mall. She loaded up with snacks and drinks and got there about an hour and a half before the show was to start in order to get good seats. When I eventually got there right as the show was starting, I had to push and shove my way in to get to where they were, but they did have great seats! Angel was truly an angel today--I would say she went way above and beyond when Little announced that he had to pee and rather than risk loosing their spot, she gave him an empty water bottle to use!! I wish the mother of the kid sitting next to us had that kind of quick thinking because her kid just peed ALL OVER THE FLOOR. I guess the excitement was too much for him!
Check out how mesmerized Little was:

Wouldn't you be if you were watching this (excuse the picture quality--taken with my phone)?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wordless Wednesday--Have Your Cake and Eat It Too!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Water Water Everywhere

Because we live in a desert country, water is a precious commodity. Much of the water that runs into people's houses in Israel comes from the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) and there is often talk on the news about the water levels of the Kinneret. It only rains between November and February, approximately, and that rain is supposed to be enough to fill the Kinneret to last throughout the dry summer (and spring and fall) months. This past winter was VERY dry with very few rainy days (except for the week that my parents were here visiting, of course) and now we are having a severe water shortage. I once read an article somewhere that said that one day, people in homes across Israel would turn on the tap and no water would come out and for some reason that just struck a chord with me. We are very conscious of not wasting water and try to teach the kids the same. I have heard Big yell at Little for playing with the water fountain in a park, saying "Little! That water is for drinking, not playing. The Kinneret is almost empty!" They also know that if they take a drink of water and don't finish it, they need to water the plants with the leftovers and not pour it down the drain. Sometimes I think they purposely fill their cups too full so that they can water the plants...and spill half the water on the floor as they walk from wherever they are to wherever the plants are. But anyway, we are trying our best to save water! And, our filthy car attests to the fact that we don't do any unnecessary car washes. Some might say we also don't do any NECESSARY car washes!
Anyway, there is a point to all this talk about water. Sort of. This past weekend we went up north to a Kibbutz for the weekend with our good friends who are moving back to America in a couple of weeks. The Kibbutz had a guest house where we stayed which was basicallly a glorified college dorm without the drunken parties. Not the nicest accomodations I've ever stayed in, but we had an amazing time. On Friday, we wanted to do something fun in the area so we headed out to Mei Kedem. It was very very cool. First, we watched a movie about the building of an aquaduct and how the water moves through it. It was all in Hebrew so I didn't get too much out of it, but afterwards I asked Big and his friend A if they understood it and they said yes and then proceeded to explain what it was about. Impressive!
Then, we took a 20 minute walk through part of the aquaduct. I was nervous, being the claustrophobe (and general big fat baby) that I am, but I'm so glad I did it. It was just so cool. Did I say that already? Little insisted on being carried the entire time, and Big was scared at first so I carried him until I almost fell and dropped him in the water, at which time he finally agreed to walk. For most of it, the water was just about ankle-deep but there were two parts where it was waist-high on the adults. And it was cold water. And a little dirty. But fun nonetheless.
On Saturday morning, the 2 fathers took all the kids to the dairy on the Kibbutz to watch the cows being milked. They came back stinking like cow poop, but they all loved it. We spent the rest of the day at the pool just chilling and enjoying.

All in all, it was a great weekend with great friends. We are going to miss them so much and are so sad that they are leaving. Simon will especially miss his best friend. How cute are they??

Monday, July 6, 2009

Bedtime Difficulties

Bedtime used to be my favorite time of day. Not only because it meant that I was finally going to get some peace and quiet, but because it had a routine and a structure that involved cuddling and reading books and singing songs and just having an enjoyable and relaxing end to the day. Lately, it hasn't quite been going like that and often involved one or both kids crying and multiple trips back into their rooms.

I just want to take a short trip back in time to remember the early days of bedtime routines. Let's start with Big. In my quest to be the most informed new mother ever (ha!), I read a million different books and websites and generally ignored a lot of what I read. But, the one thing that I bought into was the idea that even a little tiny baby needs some sort of routine and is comforted by knowing what is going to happen next. It doesn't matter what time the routine happens, but if the baby knows that once he has a bath, next he's getting a bottle and hearing a song and then he's going to sleep, then when he goes in the bath he is already planning for what is coming next and knows that sleep will soon follow.

The routine we had with Big was very simple and started probably as soon as we brought him home from the hospital: bath, pajamas, read Goodnight Moon on the rocking chair in his room, nurse/bottle, sing some songs and into the crib to sleep. I will freely admit that in the beginning, he would fall asleep on me and then wake up as soon as I'd put him down so fine, maybe the routine didn't always go so smoothly!!

As he got older, the routine never changed significantly, we moved on from Goodnight Moon to other books, the bottle turned into a sippy cup, but the general idea of bath, book, bed stayed on and worked. Sometimes there would be negotiations over how many books or which books, but there was hardly ever any serious crying or fighting.

Then we threw Little into the mix when Big was almost 2 and a half. We kept up Big's routine as best as we could, but it was Little who sort of got the shaft. We'd bathe them together (Big in the big tub and Little in the baby bath on the floor next to him) and then Little would lie in the crib while Big was getting his pj's on and having books read to him. The plan being that then Little would be held and read Goodnight Moon, etc. But Little would often just fall alseep waiting. So, he never learned the routine. Although, I guess his routine just became bath and bed and he didn't really know the difference.

At some point, we seem to have given up on the books altogether. Now, bedtime consists of us realizing that Little MUST go to sleep when he starts hitting and kicking and acting like the overtired little toddler that he becomes at about 6:30 or 7:00. Then fighting with him to actually go to bed, maybe reading him books (it's only recently that he's begun asking for this and even sitting still to listen), bringing him 3 cups of milk (yes yes, I know that is a bad habit). All of this happens while Big is watching tv or playing Hot Wheels games on the computer. Then, when Big is told it's time for bed, he immediately bursts into tears at the unfairness of it all since he didn't get to finish his game (that he's played a million times) or watch enough tv (even though he's been watching for the past hour or more). Then there's more fighting and crying and threats of no books and then maybe reading a book and then discussions about needing to sleep alone in one's bed versus having a parent stay there all night.

And then, finally, quiet. At least until a little voice screams "MORE MILK" or "I NEED TO PEE" or "I CAN'T SLEEP ALONE IN MY BED" or "WHERE IS MY BROWN BEAR?" or "IT'S TOO NOISY."

I think we need to get back into a real bedtime routine. I think (hope) it would make the evenings feel less stressful. What's bedtime like in your house? Any suggestions??

Sunday, July 5, 2009

How You Know You Might Be Spending Too Much Time on Facebook

Yesterday afternoon while I took a very long nap, Krazy took the kids to A and J's. He told me that he and A were sitting at the table playing Bananagrams and then Big came and sat down with them and said "did you know that there is Banagrams on Facebook now too?"

This doesn't have to do with Facebook but was also really cute. Yesterday Krazy was tickling Little and Little was trying to get away from him. Little kept saying "I want to go...I want to go." Then he said "SERIOUSLY I want to go!" It sounded like "see-ee-us-ly."