Wednesday, January 31, 2007

How much is too much?

Children's after-school activities that is.

Right now, Itai has rollerblading once a week and a private English lesson once a week (since we live in a Hebrew-speaking country where he won't be taught English until 2nd or 3rd grade). In theory, we also have playgroup once a week, but with everyone's complicated schedules this year that's a bit hit or miss. I'm fine with this level of activity. He's got a few things, but also has time to play with friends or just chill out.

The thing is, he now wants to add a children's yoga class. He went to a trial class last night and really enjoyed it. On the one hand, I like the idea of yoga for him. Strength and flexibility, but combined with gentleness and restraint. It fits well with my underlying bleeding heart liberal hippy-dippy values. It's also right around the corner in the same studio where I hold LLL meetings.

But, when does "enough" become "too much"? For him? For me, who has to shlep him around? For Maya, who then gets dragged around to all of these things? They're all good, they're all beneficial, but are they all good and beneficial all together.

I'm not sure how I'm going to handle this. First, I think I'll find out whether he can drop the skating if he wants to, just to know whether that's an option. He does really like it though, and it's great for his coordination (he's not the world's most athletic child you might say). I'm planning on dropping the English as soon as he's got enough of a foundation to actually read, but he's definitely not there yet. And now there's yoga... He's already got a yoga activity in his afternoon program, but he's towards the higher end of the age range there so I think it's not as challenging/interesting for him. This class is from 5-8, so a good fit.

It would give me more one on one time with Maya, which is good, but it's in small enough blocks that it's hard to make good use out of it. Though, in another month or so the weather will be a lot nicer and we could spend that 45 minutes at the playground next door to the studio, or go out for an ice cream or whatever.

I've read a lot lately on how children are becoming consumers of activities, rather than active participants. I've never tended towards the overextended end of the scale, and don't want to find myself there through inertia, but at the same time without some kind of framework the tendency is for the kids to come home and want to do nothing but stare at the tv. Not exactly healthy there either, and no fun to fight about. (You'd think that "hey, let's bake cookies together" or "let's play a game together" or something like that would occasionally appeal more than watching the Festigal dvd for the 8,000th time, but somehow it rarely seems to.)

What to do. What to do.

I think I'm going to ignore the whole thing think it over for a few days, and then see if he's still even interested in the idea. How's that for good mothering - the ostrich approach. Why do today what you can ignore until tomorrow.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Saturday in the park (but not the fourth of July)

The weather today was absolutely gorgeous, so we decided to take advantage of it and head for Park Afek, a beautiful park about 10 minutes from our house, for a picnic with some friends. We had a great day playing, picnicking and exploring the park's 400 year old fortress.

(And as a funny aside, Maya was explaining during breakfast this morning that milk comes from cows. We were drinking orange juice, so Jay asked her where orange juice came from. Her answer?... A very definitive "from roosters". I nearly peed myself laughing.)

PS If anyone's got an easy way to manipulate pictures within the text so that I can format them in some way that isn't both difficult and ridiculous (and I'm normally pretty savvy with page layouts) I'd be grateful if you'd let me know. Either I'm missing something, or blogger is making it ridiculously hard to embed photos within the text.
PPS Yes, it's true. I'm a redhead now. I got sick of the blond highlights and decided something drastic was in order. I love it.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Life's petty annoyances

  • Getting phone calls from a computer (and a Russian-speaking one at that, and no, I don't speak Russian)
  • The fact that all of the rolls in the 32-pack of toilet paper I bought were not perforated correctly, making it a pain to rip off what you need
  • My apparent inability to eat saucy Thai noodles without splashing sauce all over my chin (not a good look Muriel)
  • Which goes together with poor quality kaffir lime leaves, which are all broken, meaning that you spend half your meal pulling little bits of leaf out of your mouth
  • Architects. In particular, transit architects. Why oh why can't they ever seem to follow basic, simple, well spelled out instructions and must instead bravely forge new paths where paths were never meant to go. (sorry, work vent).

Nothing huge in the grand scheme of things I'll grant you, but annoying all the same.

Miracles never cease

Two amazing things happened today:

My contractor actually showed up to finish all those annoying little odds and ends that accumulated over the past few months. He's been having (legitimate) health issues and kept cancelling on me, when he wasn't cancelling because he was busy working down south, or because the lintels still couldn't be repainted because the walls hadn't yet dried out enough (we had major water issues remember)... Anyway, he and his partner showed up today and completed my entire to-do list, including two extra things I asked for as a favor, with no question of any money changing hands, though I did insist on giving them a bag of dates from the box we'd received when we visited the kibbutz last week.

And thing number two I'll whisper quietly so as not to antagonize the potty training gods. Maya has been dry after school and all evening for the past two days! She's been completely trained all day at school for months now, but at home it's been a disaster, and that's an understatement. Yesterday morning as I threw up my hands in despair her teacher offered to draw a smiley face on her hand (which is a reward she really loves) the following morning if she stayed dry all evening. She did really well and couldn't wait to get her smiley this morning, and then stayed dry all afternoon and evening again today! She actually GOT UP IN THE MIDDLE OF A VIDEO not once but twice to go use the bathroom. I thought I was going to pass out I was so shocked. I've known for months that she can do it, because she goes of her own initiative all day long, but it certainly wasn't happening around our house. Fingers crossed that a few days (weeks, months, whatever) of positive reinforcement from her teachers will finally do the trick! (You're getting the irony here, right? The fact that her teacher has to reward her for behaving well at home...) Who cares, I'll take it wherever I can get it. I am SO ready to be done with the constant cleaning. Please please please please please let this be it. I wonder what kind of sacrifice would be best to offer to the potty training gods. I'd burn a diaper as an offering, but god only knows what kind of toxic crap I'd be releasing into the atmosphere...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Holy Crap - Tantruming Toddler Thrown Off Plane!

As someone who's flown countless times with young children, and tried my damnedest (and succeeded, if you don't count that one hellish trip back from Maine alone with Maya, who'd already been cooped up in a car for 4 hours before we started) to keep my kids reasonably quiet and well behaved on planes (or for that matter anywhere in public), I really hope that there is more to this story than there appears! What a nightmare for the poor parents, to whom I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt and assume were also doing their utmost to keep things under control. I'm sure their tantruming child was making life miserable for everyone around them and certainly needed to be dealt with, but come on, how many people haven't been in a similarly difficult and embarrassing spot at least a few times. Throwing them off the plane and BANNING them for the next 24 HOURS seems more than a bit extreme.

Monday, January 22, 2007

International Ice Cream for Breakfast Day

What, you've never heard of this holiday? Then read on, because you're definitely missing out.

About 35 years ago a tired and frustrated mom of 6 in Rochester, NY was looking for a diversion for her family's cabin fever during the cold and snowy winter. She hit upon a novel idea and declared the first Saturday in February to be "Ice Cream for Breakfast Day". It was a hit (how could it not be?) and soon became an annual event, with more and more participants each year. Over the years, the mom's children and their friends all grew up, and many started hosting their own "ICFBD"s. As happens, people move around, and before you knew it ICFBD was being celebrated not just in Rochester but around the world. There's even a website now. I learned about ICFBD from a dear friend here in Israel who was a guest in those early years. She's hosted on and off for years, and even her parents have gotten in on the act and often host their own gathering, complete with their own ICFBD scrapbook.

This year my friend decided she wasn't up for hosting, so I decided to pick up the mantle. The hoards will descend on Saturday, 3 February, at 10am. I'm expecting between 30 and 40 people (no one wants to miss a chance at ice cream for breakfast!). It's sure to be a calorie-laden, sugar-loaded madhouse. I can't wait. And if you find yourself in the neighborhood, just pick up an ice cream or a topping and come on along, the more the merrier.

And if any of you decide to adopt this tradition, I'd love to hear about it.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Good thing we went LAST Sunday

A blizzard is hitting Mt. Hermon. They've had to close the ski area and evacuate everyone in convoys so they don't drive off the mountain in the whiteout!

Of course here in Tel Aviv all we're getting is rain. Never snows here. Ever. No snow days for us.

SO glad this wasn't me...

Go send Darcy some love. She's had a helluva day.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hockey at its finest, or was it the Keystone Cops on Ice?

Spacemom was talking about going to a hockey game the other day, which got me reminiscing about hockey games I've been to over the years. While living in Israel means I don't get the chance to indulge my rabid obsession love of the game and see my beloved screwups NY Rangers, I do try to get to whatever games I can. I see the occasional NYR game in NY (though I've actually been snowed out there - what's the chance of that happening when you're only there in the winter once a decade!), I've seen two Czech teams battle it out in Prague, and various and sundry others over the years. The hands-down prize winner for Best. Game. Ever. though goes to a dark horse - the Ankara Police team - in Turkey. But let me backtrack a bit...

Before I had kids I used to travel for work. A lot. The year before Itai was born I spent months on end commuting to Ankara, the capital of Turkey. Now no offense to any Turks out there, they are wonderful people with a wonderful country, but in all honesty there just isn't a whole lot to do in Ankara, especially if you've been there for months already. I'd already done the Museum of Anatolian Culture, done the Attaturk Mausoleum, and seen more solo movies than I ever care to again. I was stuck. Thankfully a colleague from the US came in for a few weeks to break up the monotony, but soon enough she was bored too. So, since we quickly established that we were both hockey fans we asked whether there was any team we could go see. We should have been a bit leary when everyone we asked said "I'm not sure, there might be a team somewhere."

We finally found a game and went over to the arena, where we plunked down the princely sum of 50 cents per ticket. The local favorites were the Ankara Police. They were playing "some other guys" (we never did figure out quite who they were). It was a real scene - lots of local fans (mostly young cops I guess), cheerleaders in the stands, the works. I'm not sure how to adequately convey the level of play we saw - toddler hockey might truly have been more competant. These guys were full of heart, but they were literally falling all over the ice. *I* could probably have done a better job - and I can't skate! After a few minutes it was apparent that serious hockey this was not, so we decided to just start laughing and go with it. And let me tell you, I have never laughed so hard in my life. Bodies were flying everywhere. When the score got up to about 23-2 (I kid you not, 23-2!), the opposing goalie gave up on trying to actually glove or deflect the puck, and would throw his ENTIRE BODY flat out onto the ice every time the puck crossed the blue line! He would just fall on the ice in the vain hope that his body would land on the puck. I'm sure that I'm not adequately conveying the hilarity of the occasion, but this was truly the best comedy show I have ever seen in my life. And when it was over? The entire Ankara team lined up on the far side of the ice, and then all together rushed full speed towards their fans. The only thing was when they got just a few feet away, they all simultaneously FELL. DOWN. ON. THE. ICE. Together. Fell down. On the floor. The. Entire. Team. Fell. Down. Simultaneously.

It was the best damn game I've ever been to. Who needs the Rangers. Who needs the NHL when you've got the Ankara Police. It almost made spending 6 months in Ankara worthwhile. Almost.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Much ado about nothing

I'm going to an "unbook club" meeting tonight. My book club was due to meet, but it seems that almost no one actually read the book. In fact, I don't even remember what the book is (something or other by Amy Tan), shows how much effort I put in this time. I've been slogging my way through the next book (The Schopenhauer Cure by Irvin D. Yalom). It's not that I'm not liking it especially, but I just can't seem to connect with it and so keep avoiding picking it up.

Anyway, back to tonight's book club. Almost no one read the book, but we didn't want to give up on a good night out, so we're getting together anyway. Hence, the "unbook club" meeting. Which I need to leave for in just a few minutes, so I'd better stop typing and get back to bolting down my dinner!

Monday, January 15, 2007

The intrepid travelers return home

We're back from the (not all that) frozen north, and we had a great time. The weather turned out to be beautiful despite the dire forecasts and we were able to get outside and actually enjoy ourselves.

We arrived at the cabins on Friday afternoon to discover that two of Itai's friends were in the cabins right next door to ours, and before you knew it a pint-sized (albeit not all that successful LOL) basketball team was formed, so that got the weekend started off nicely. The next day we visited the
Hula Nature Reserve which just put in a FANTASTIC new visitors center featuring a 3D movie with special effects so cool that the adults enjoyed it as much as the children. You haven't lived until you've been beamed in the face by a virtual fish LOL. After a relaxing afternoon drinking wine and hot chocolate and eating oranges straight from the tree Itai and I went swimming and jacuzzi-ing at a nearby indoor pool while Maya napped.

The highlight of the weekend was yesterday's trip to Mt. Hermon . It was a weekday so not that crowded, and the weather couldn't have been better - strikingly blue skies and WARM. We started out all bundled up and ended up peeling off layer after layer. We didn't ski, but the kids had a great time sledding. Well, except for Maya's first (and only) solo run. Itai had come to a stop automatically at the bottom of the sledding hill, so Jay figured it was banked and sent Maya down alone - where she promptly flew straight to the bottom and UNDER the inflated barrier at the end and ended up stuck underneath. He had to race down the hill to rescue her. Thankfully she's a pretty tough kid and wasn't scarred for life, but it did take about another half an hour to get her back on a sled, and this time obviously with a grownup! After sledding it was off to a local kibbutz to see how honey is made, and then to another kibbutz to visit friends before finally coming home last night.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Heading for the hills

In about 3 hours we should FINALLY be leaving on our oft-postponed (war, business, weather, illness, etc.) trip up north. In fact, I shouldn't even be here, I should be packing!

We're off for a few days of R&R in the mountains with some good friends and hopefully some not too crappy weather. And, if Sunday's forecasted winds aren't bad enough to close the site we're hoping to make it up to Mt. Hermon, home of Israel's only ski area. We won't be skiing, but they do have a cute sledding hill where you can rent sleds, etc. Itai hasn't seen snow in years and Maya was only an infant the time we went to NY in the winter, so this would be pretty exciting stuff for my two warm weather kids. (Jay and I on the other hand are more worried about freezing our asses off - how we ever survived 20-something NY/NJ winters is beyond me!).

Later taters. Back Sunday night. Don't have too much fun without me.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

It's nearly that time again

Cake baking time that is. I've got one month until Itai's 6th birthday, which means it's time to take the cake books down from the shelf and let him at it. We have a few ground rules -- basically he's not allowed to pick any of the really cool superhard ones that I'd never be able to do - but other than that he can go to town. It looks like I may need to do three separate cakes again this year - one for his party, one for his afternoon program, and if his party doesn't fall on his actual birthday then a third one for that. Actually, that's a pretty good reason to make sure his party is in fact on his birthday! In truth, though I gripe a bit about having to do all these cakes, and I did manage to set the bar stupidly ludicrously ridiculously very high for myself when he was much too young to care, deep down I actually really enjoy it. It's pretty much the only really crafty thing I do, and I love the idea that I'm creating memories to last a lifetime. I still remember some of the terrific cakes my mother made for me and I really want to do that for my children too. (Of course, my mother now says that she never put in this kind of effort, that hers were much more amateurish, but it's too late, this has become a tradition in MY family now.)

I think I'll dig out some pictures of previous years' cakes one day and do a retrospective, just to get myself in the mood.

Hmm... Looks like the only recent cake pics on this computer are Maya's. We were in the middle of renovations during Itai's birthday last year, living in a crappy rental apartment with a disgusting kitchen, and I had to buy a cake for him. Anyway, here are some of Maya's. And yes, she's had a lot of cakes for someone who's just three, but each year she too needed one for preschool, one for her playgroup party, one for her actual birthday... I'll have to find the ones from Itai's 4th birthday, too. I kicked ass that year, if I do say so myself. I realize that this probably isn't particularly interesting to anyone else out there, but what the heck, it's my blog ;-).

Monday, January 8, 2007

Death by Comedy

Yes, we had Death By Scrabble. Now it's time for a much more up close and personal "Death by Comedy". Read on, if you dare...

It all started yesterday at the gym. I did usual the recombi bike and weight training, and then got on the cross trainer for the usual final 15 minutes of cardio. Now I don't mind the cross trainer, it's challenging, especially after I've already been working out for over 70 minutes before even starting, but it's a good challenging. I do enjoy watching tv while I do it though, to help the time pass. (Note that fact, it's important to the plot.)

To get back to our story, I got on the cross trainer, put on my headphones, grabbed the tv remote and started working out. While channel surfing I found the Sports Edition of TV Bloopers, and that show was nearly the death of me. That's right gentle readers, you nearly lost me yesterday. How, you ask? Like this...

The show was so damn funny that I started cracking up, and I mean hysterical, tears streaming down your face laughter. There I was, laughing my ass off, wheezing, crying, trying to both stifle the laughter (people were starting to stare at the crazy crying girl) and keep working out at my regular pace. I thought I was going to choke from trying to keep it all together - keep exercising, keep breathing, and stop screaming hysterically at the top of my lungs. By the time I finally finished I was done for. I was gasping for breath, tears streaming down, doubled over with laughter. But I made it. I finished my workout without missing a beat. Death would not get me today. But comedy sure as hell did.

I wonder how many extra calories that burned...

Saturday, January 6, 2007

The next time some obnoxious buzzing beeping toy won't shut up...

... be glad your child didn't find any of these in their stocking this year! Yikes... (#2 had me in hysterics. They can't possibly have seriously thought that was a good idea.)

It's raining, but not inside!

Yay! The building committee actually fixed the roof this week before the big storm and it is NOT, I repeat NOT raining in my kitchen! Wahoo!! We'll still have to get them to pay for us to repaint the kitchen and bathroom ceilings once they dry out, but there is no new water coming in, which is tremendous news. I'm also SO relieved that the leak wasn't from all the massive renovations we did last year, because after years of leaks culminating in having to rip out and replace every. single. inch. of pipe in my house (which with our concrete walls necessitated all new floors and bathrooms and a new kitchen (well ok, the kitchen was more for fun - we'd hated the old one since we moved in 11 years ago)) I'm REALLY REALLY REALLY tired of plumbing issues. The new rep to the building committee definitely gets my vote again next year. Instead of coming with excuses he actually listened, and then went out and got the job done. Thank you Yuval.

Last night's storytelling evening was great. Selections ranged from my scrabble story to Ray Bradbury (one of his non-science fiction short stories) to Alexander and the Terrible No Good Very Bad Day to poetry by William Butler Yeats to Archie and Mehitabel to a hysterical version of Rumpelstiltsken told with a heavy Yiddish flavor. Definitely something for everyone, and the stories always spark some great conversation.

Today Jay and I went out to breakfast while the kids were in school. (Friday is a semi-weekend day here - most offices are closed, but kids are in school a half-day.) We were invited to friends for dinner, so I baked a pumpkin pie this afternoon. I'd planned to make it for Thanksgiving, but our hosts were kosher and requested no dairy. Unfortunately, 2 days before the holiday my other friend reminded me that pumpkin pie had condensed milk in it, and there went that. Anyway, I had all the ingredients in the pantry, and we were going to that same 2nd friend's house, so when she asked me to bring dessert I decided to treat us all tonight instead.

Tomorrow it's supposed to pour all day, so I think we'll take the kids to go see Happy Feet. I have no idea what it's about (something about dancing penguins I gather), but everyone else seems to like it.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Tapenade, chili butter and Death by Scrabble

So, how do these three things go together you ask?

Easy. They're all things I'm bringing to our friends' annual storytelling evening tonight. Every year two very creative friends of ours - she's a singer/songwriter and he's a tour guide - host a storytelling evening at their home in Jerusalem. This is a small, grownups-only event and is taken quite seriously by the participants - everyone prepares either a short story or tale to tell, with contributions ranging from the ridiculous (Jay and I did the "I'm a Baby" scene from Free to Be You and Me one year) to the sublime (O. Henry and other such serious folks). Being a gathering of Jews it of course also involves plenty of good food, hence the tapenade and the chili butter, which I made to complement the bread Jay baked, which the hostess asked for to go with her lentil soup. (That chili butter is FIERY by the way, and was oh so easy to make. I can't wait to eat it!)

Anyway, back to the "story" part of the storytelling evening. The story I'll be reading this year is Death by Scrabble by Charlie Fish (subtitle "Tile M for Murder" - how can you not love that!) and it's hysterical. Great plot twist too. Check it out if you like short stories. It sort of reminds me of an Alice Munro story, though I can't place exactly why. (BTW, the site uses frames, so the link may only get you to the homepage. As of yesterday, it was posted right there in the front, but if not you should be able to find it with a quick search under Fiction.) At last check Jay was still poring over back issues of Harper's looking for his choice for the evening.

A terrible winter storm is due to start tonight, which means Jerusalem will be COLD and rainy and downright miserable. (No snow forecast for there though, I don't think.) The bad news is that it will be cold and miserable, and that the weather caused us to postpone (again. sigh.) our weekend up north. The good news is that we're able to attend after all, since we're not going away until next weekend now.

We've been going to this event for at least 7 years now. It's become quite the January tradition. Last year was certainly the funniest one though. I somehow screwed up, and Jay and I arrived early -- 3 DAYS early! How embarrassing! J* was actually home alone that night, and gracefully invited us to stay for dinner (which we handily had with us in the form of a carrot pie LOL). We ended up having a terrific evening just the three of us. When we came back 3 days later (the right night this time, I quadruple-checked!) Jay told a story about a prince and princess who arrive at a castle for a fete only to find it locked and barred. It wasn't until the very end that it became clear that it was about us. The hostess hadn't told anyone, including her husband, about our little mishap so as not to give away the ending. She and I were sitting in a corner trying desperately not to lose it while Jay read. By the time Jay finally got to the punchline I thought the two of us would explode from keeping all that laughter contained!

Hopefully tonight's grand entrance won't be quite as dramatic, but it should be a great evening all the same.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Reaping What I Sow

I'm not always sure whether my children look/sound/act like me or whether they are not, at various times, either angels in human form sprung fully developed from the head of Zeus (it was Zeus in that myth, wasn't it?) or aliens sent from the planet Bizarro to drive me insane, but one thing I know for sure. Maya's sleep habits were inherited directly from her mother. Why how do I know this, you ask? Easy. She hates going to sleep, no matter how exhausted she is. She always seems afraid that she'll miss out on something if she succumbs and goes to bed. Once she's in bed she'd rather read, play, something, anything but sleep. She can spend hours dragging the process out. Last night, she was put to bed at about 9:30pm, and didn't fall asleep until nearly midnight! (Which of course meant that to get any good quiet time in, her equally ridiculous mother ended up staying up until well after 2am!). Then, come the next morning, she turns from 3 year old into teenager - refusing to acknowledge my trying to wake her up, literally pulling the covers back over her head and rolling over to face the wall, all the same shenanigans her mother used to pull in high school.

It can be exhausting at times, but I can't really get mad at her for it. After all, she got it straight from me. And I might as well just make my peace with it, since it's not like I have a lot of hope that she'll outgrow it - after all, I'm 37, and I haven't yet.

PS My little sister, who was too responsible for her own good, used to have the job of trying to get me out of bed every morning in high school (so that I could get us both there in time). She's now sitting back and just laughing, laughing, laughing as she watches karma come back to bite me on the butt.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Question for the Australians out there

Oh sure, now that I wrote this, no one from Australia has stopped by. Murphy's Luck central, that's me LOL...

I'm curious about something (this is where I now have to admit that I'm embarrassingly ill-informed about Australia). All of the people who read my blog down under *waving* are from the eastern part of the country. I'm just wondering whether that's a coincidence, or whether that's where most of the population is concentrated. Help an ignorant girl out and clue me in, will you? And while you're at it, tell me some more fun facts about Oz. Inquiring minds want to know... (famous quote from an old American commercial, but don't ask me for what, I don't remember. I guess it wasn't that great of a commercial in the end.)