Monday, August 24, 2009

I Heart Faces: Nostalgia

This week, the theme at I Heart Faces is Nostalgia. Every year as the summer draws to a close, I feel nostalgic. Both about the end of the carefree days of THIS summer as well as the days of summers past! There is nothing like spending an entire day outside running around in a fun park with good friends.

This picture says it all...

Monday, August 17, 2009

Happy Birthday Little!

Dear Little,

I am a day late in writing you this birthday letter, but you were more than a day late in being born so let's call it even! Yesterday, you turned three. Or "free" as you call it, proudly holding up four fingers on each hand. You can actually count fairly high--I've heard you get as far as 17 in more or less the right order and in 2 languages no less! You can recognize a few numbers and letters too. I think you maybe should be able to recognize a few more and sometimes feel like I'm not spending enough time on things like that with you.

But you are smart as a whip. Nothing gets by you. Especially if I am chewing gum or eating candy. You either smell it or notice my mouth moving from a mile away and come running to say "Also I want gum." Or you just help yourself from my bag.

You are so independent. You announce "I needa pee" and then off you go to take care of it by yourself, only sometimes coming back to me with your shorts around your ankles because you need some help pulling them up. And then you run back saying "I needa flush and wash my hands." You like to pick out your own clothes...almost always a shirt with yellow somewhere on it and "sebenteen shorts" (which are shorts with any number or letters on the leg).

Your favorite food by far is a yogurt drink. You have at least 4-5 of them a day. You are also partial to hummous by the spoonful, being the true Middle Easterner that you are. Although you certainly don't look the part with your beautiful white-blonde hair and bright blue eyes.

Sometimes I look at you and have no idea where you came from. How you got to be this perfect little boy. So sweet when you want to be and so sure of what you want, especially when what you want is "don't talk to me, Mommy!" You are truly a Daddy's boy in every sense of the word. When you wake up in the middle of the night because you have fallen out of bed you cry for Daddy. When you wake up in the morning, you run right for Daddy. When you fall and get hurt you cry for Daddy. When we ask who should put you to bed you choose Daddy. I love that you have that relationship with him and nothing makes me happier than the one random time that you say "I need Mommy!" (of course it only happens when Daddy isn't around but that is ok).

You were only 9 months old when we moved to Israel. You don't know of any other life other than the one you have here. Hearing 2 languages is normal to you. You love Yuval Ha'Mevulbal and have no idea who Elmo is. You play with your toy cash register and say "20 shekels please" because you don't know what "a dollar" is. But you can identify the difference between the Israeli Flag and the American Flag. And you know that going on an airplane means "we going to 'merica."

You love the beach, the pool, the sprinkler park, anything with water. You are fearless when it comes to jumping in the water or climbing up a jungle gym. But you are terrified beyond terrified of cockroaches and dogs.

You love books--sometimes you want them read to you and sometimes you just want them next to you in your bed. You also love motorcycles and cars and coloring (you know that we only color on paper but sometimes you get confused and think the wall IS paper).

Until just a few days ago, you couldn't pronounce the "sc" sound. It came out "ch." So "scared" was "chared" and "squirrel" was "chuirrel" etc. I'm sad that you can say it right now! You are growing up so fast. I love you more than anything forever and ever!!

Here is you just born:

One Year Old:

Two Years Old:

And Now:

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Two of My Favorite Things--the Beach and a Clean Playroom!

This past week was the one week of the summer that I had both kids home all day every day. I was originally looking forward to it because my sister and brother-in-law and their two boys were supposed to be here. But, sadly, plans changed because of my grandfather's death and my sister and her baby didn't come. My bro-in-law and nephew were here for a week (the first part of which I missed because I was in Boston), but they left early Tuesday morning. So we had to fend for ourselves for the rest of the week. We did a variety of fun activities and overall I think the kids had fun, but I know they were happy to start camp again this morning. They do much better when they have routine.
The week ended on a high note with a weekend visit from our friends M&A and their 3 boys who live up north in the beautiful Golan Heights. We met them on the beach in Herzliya on Friday afternoon for some fun in the sun. I LOOOOOVE the beach and have gotten over being annoyed by all the sand that gets tracked into the house after a trip to the beach!
Here is Big and his friend S hard at work building in the sand:

It is interesting to note how 2 kids growing up in TOTALLY different environments can be SO similar. And how 2 adults who grew up in very similar environments can be so different. S's dad, M, and I grew up together outside of Boston. We went to the same school from Kindergarten through 12th Grade and lived in the same community. He is now living out his dream on a Kibbutz in the Golan Heights and working as an archeologist. He lives with his wife and 3 boys in a temporary caravan that is more or less the size of a postage stamp. While he and his wife are both American, their kids were all born here and are much more comfortable speaking in
Hebrew than English (although they understand English perfectly). They are truly integrated into Israeli society, with the only indication of an American connection being that their kids (thanks to grandparents) are fully decked out in clothes from GapKids, Children's Place, Gymboree, Old Navy, etc.
I, on the other hand, am totally shocked that I have ended up living in Israel (whether or not it's a permanent move is irrelevant...I never thought I'd be here for any significant amount of time!) The community that we have chosen to live in has a huge Anglo population and I find it easy to maintain an American identity while still living here. It is a HUGE priority for me that my kids speak English properly and without an Israeli accent and that they learn to read and write in English as well. While they do ocassionally switch into Hebrew when talking to each other, so far both of my kids are more comfortable speaking in English.
So, Big is growing up in Israel but in a clearly "American" home. His friend, S, on the other hand, is growing up in a completly different part of Israel in a clearly "Israeli" home. But the 2 of them are 2 peas in a pod. They always have been, from a shared obsession with Thomas the Train to Hot Wheels to Transformers and Legos, they are always into the same thing at the same time! It's great because although we don't seem them often, when we do, those 2 just run off and have the best time together.
In other news...I spent hours on one of my favorite activities--organizing the playroom! Even though it only takes about 30 seconds for all my hard work to be messed up, I get tremendous satisfaction from organizing the toys and putting everything in its place. What do you think about the results?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Beautiful Nature

I love when friends and family come to visit us here. Not only because it's always great to see people whom we don't get to see often, but when we have visitors we tend to do fun things and take advantage of all this country has to offer. Like yesterday, for example. My brother-in-law and my 7 year old nephew are here so yesterday Big and I joined them for a really great day!
First, Big and I drove down to Jerusalem to pick them up and then we all drove down to the Dead Sea. Big has been there before and on the way down he told his cousin all about how cool it is to float in the salty water. It was ridiculously hot and of course there was not an ounce of shade anywhere on the beach. And, while floating in the salty water of the Dead Sea is definitely cool, the novelty wears off after about 5 minutes and then it is just itchy. So we hung out there for a short while and then went across the highway to Ein Gedi, which is literally an oasis in the middle of the desert.
Our first order of business was getting some lunch which turned out to be ice cream. As my mother is known for saying "an ice cream sandwich can be is a SANDWICH!" After we ate our nutritious lunch, we started our hike. I was a bit nervous about Big making it thorough the whole thing and I had visions of having to carry him and both of us falling off a mountain. I asked at the entrance whether the shortest hike was suitable for a 5 year old and was told that it was super easy and that it was only a 10 minute walk to the first waterfall, so if he didn't want to keep going after that we could just walk back.
My worries proved unfounded and we did the entire hike. It wasn't very long or very difficult (other than the steep parts on the way back down where I wished I wasn't wearing flip-flops!) but it was a lot of fun. It was probably close to 100 degrees so it was amazing and refreshing to stop and cool off at the 4 or 5 waterfalls that are along the trail. I vaguely remember doing this hike when I was in Israel on a summer tour in high school and again when I was here for the year after high school. So weird to be doing it again with my kid!!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

My Grandpa

I've been away for the past week for a very sad reason. My mom called me last Wednesday night around 11pm my time. As soon as I saw her number on the caller ID I knew something was wrong because she never calls me that late (even though it was only 4pm for her). A number of thoughts ran through my head about what could be wrong and who might have died. But not for one second did I think it was Grandpa, and so I was beyond shocked when she simply said "Grandpa died." He was 91 years young. My Granny passed away in November after being sick for a very long time. Grandpa took care of her and made sure she had everything that she needed. It was nice to see him being able to enjoy life after her passing. He lived in an amazing assisted living facility in Florida where he had tons of friends and was actively involved in the community. I couldn't (and really still can't) comprehend that he was just gone. I'm so glad for him that it was quick and painless. He had driven his car (yup, almost 92 and still driving!!) around to the front of the building to pick up his friend to take her to the grocery store. Apparently, he got out of the car and just fell to ground and that was it. He had recently told my mom that he didn't want to be sick like my grandmother had been. He didn't want people to need to take care of him and worry about him. I'm so glad he got what he wished for. I just wish it didn't have to be so soon. The last conversation I had with him, the Friday before he died, we talked about our next visit to the US coming up in September. He was very much looking forward to it as were we.
After I hung up with my mom, I switched into planning mode. I had to book my flight, deal with work stuff, and figure out plans for the kids while I would be away. The funeral was set for Sunday, so I had a couple of days to get my act together. Luckily we have an amazing support network of friends here as well as a fantastic babysitter so I knew Krazy and the kids would be fine.
I flew out on Saturday night--Continental Flight 91 to Newark. Same flight I took in November when my Granny died. Packed flight. Middle seat. Overly concerned that the person sitting next to me would have swine flu and cough on me. I did take a few minutes to bask in the glory of traveling without kids. I am not the best flyer and I know my Grandpa was looking out for me and ensuring a smooth flight. I arrived at Newark at 4:45 in the morning and had 3 hours to kill before my flight to Boston. I finally made it to Boston and even had time to shower before the funeral.
While we were all sitting in the "family room" before the funeral, I just kept waiting for Grandpa to come into the room. I could see him and hear his voice so clearly. My aunt and I both spoke, but it was so hard to put into words what an amazing person he was.
My 4 days in Boston with my family went by too quickly and next thing I knew I was back on the plane. I had the most breath-taking view of New York City as we took off from Newark, but I cried tears of relief when I saw the coastline of Tel Aviv come into view 9 hours and 41 minutes later. It was good to be home.

Grandpa: September 5, 1917-July 29, 2009
We will love you and miss you forever.