Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Shape of Hope

Over the past months I have shared some of what it means to me to be the mother of a special child, both the highs and the lows, and some days which moved between one and the other with dizzying speed. Throughout, one of my ongoing worries was Maya's move to kindergarten next year. I worried tremendously about her ability to cope in a class of 35 children (yes, I did say 35), where Maya's particular challenges mean she would be in perpetual fight or flight mode, expending all her energy on surviving in what to her would be a highly hostile environment, leaving her with no emotional reserves to focus on learning.

The decision to place a child in special education is not and should not ever be taken lightly. Even when the decision seems clear cut, the emotional toll it brings shouldn't be underestimated. There is still constant questioning, endless second-guessing. Is this right? Are we sure? Is it absolutely necessary? And again, are we really sure?

We had an acceptance hearing for special education last week. Maya has now been officially accepted into a special education kindergarten for the coming year. Surprisingly, the whole process went quite smoothly and very professionally. Everyone involved seemed professionally capable and up to speed about our case. The municipal psychologist presented an overall picture to the committee and then our own private psychologist talked about Maya's specific issues. The whole process took under half an hour. The committee had basically already accepted her to the program we wanted before we walked in, though we won't receive the official notification until July.

Maya will be attending a "language" kindergarten (gan sfati) with children her own age, from our town. Like other kindergartens here it is in a freestanding (brand new and purpose-built!!) building. This particular type of program is for children withOUT cognitive challenges, which was very important to us. There will be a maximum of just 12 children in the class, each with various speech, language, communications or emotional issues, but all will be high functioning. The teacher is certified in special education and will be assisted by an aide, and probably a National Service volunteer as well. A number of trained specialists (speech, occupational therapy, and art or music or some other type of therapy) will come in and out to work with the children individually or in very small groups. Maya is overloaded with therapies right now so it would be a lot easier if she were to receive some of these during her school day instead of after school. This would leave her more free time to just be a kid (and would save me a LOT of running around). Because of her October birthday she's also entitled to and encouraged to stay in kindergarten for two years. (The cutoff here is December 31st, and most children with fall birthdays are encouraged to take that second year, regardless of whether they are special needs or typical.) If things are going well, during the second year she may be mainstreamed into the regular kindergarten a few days a week. The professionals are voicing cautious optimism that with the right supports and a small classroom environment now she will be able to make the transition back to the mainstream system for good for first grade, which is the first year of elementary school here.

On the whole, Maya is doing very well right now and we're seeing a tremendous amount of progress (knock wood, spit three times, throw salt over my shoulder, etc. - I'd hate to tempt the fates into a backslide!). Instead of worrying incessantly about the psychological damage a mainstream kindergarten could mean we are finally feeling hopeful for her future. Hopeful that in this supportive, nurturing environment she will be able to learn, and to grow, and to throw off the chains she is struggling with now.

So that's where we are. Hope has shown its face, in the shape of small building, and it is a beautiful sight.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Transcontinental musings

Shaken about the globe, we live out our fractured lives. Enticed or fleeing, we re-form ourselves, taking on partially the coloration of our new backgrounds. Even our tongues are alienated and rejoined - a multiplicity that creates richness and confusion.
Vikram Seth, Two Lives, Chapter 4.7

Three sentences that capture the very essence of what it means to shift your life from the country of your birth to one far away; that feeling of being at once both at home and a stranger. The way you can live there for twenty years and still remain in some ways apart, yet when you return home you find you have yourself become foreign and long for the familiarity of your adopted home. These feelings are not linear, they bend forwards and backwards, curving over and through themselves from day to day, year to year, moment to moment.

I have lived in this country not of my birth but of my choosing for my entire adult life. While in many ways I still feel very American, it would perhaps be more correct to say that I am in fact Anglo-Israeli, that peculiar breed of Israeli raised in an English-speaking country, neither fish nor fowl. Someone who craves the veneer of polite civility found in the United States while at the same time belittling its hollow ring. Someone who craves the variety of opportunities available there, but knowing of the sacrifices they would require and unwilling to make them.

While I have to admit to myself that I'd like to enjoy some of the material advantages that come with living in the States, there is so much I'd have to give up. As strange as it may sound to those of you who don't live here I feel safe in my daily life, far from the frightening and often sensationalized headlines which clog international news media. I don't worry about someone kidnapping my child, or carjackings, or muggings. I don't have the constant clanging of Amber alerts to ensure that fear carves a permanent groove into my psyche. Children here still enjoy a level of independence which has all but disappeared from American cities and towns. My son has already asked why he will be given less freedom when we visit the United States in August, and I found myself casting about for answers that would not unduly frighten him while still trying to impress upon him the need for vigilance and caution.

My language too has changed. I am and will always be a native English speaker, most at ease in my mother tongue, but now that tongue is peppered with strange sounding foreign words which often leap from its tip almost of their own volition. Some concepts are easily explained in one language while in the other the words fail, with the odd result of leaving me strangely tongue-tied in two languages.

There is no question, my core is and will always be American, it is who I am and the value system that created me, but after twenty years - all of my adult life - in this strange and wonderful land, there is another layer - a layer almost as deep, whose roots bury deeper and deeper with each passing year.

I am living this multiplicity. I cannot be one without the other. I do not want to. The whole is infinitely greater than the two halves, and even more deeply rooted. It is who I am.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

TT - Uncooked Stirfry

Necessity is dictating my list this week. Here are 13 ingredients I have prepped and ready to go for the stir-fry dish I'm trying to cook for dinner tonight. Only catch is that Maya still hasn't fallen asleep so I can't go do it yet. In the meantime, Jay HAS fallen asleep as he put Itai to bed and I'm nodding off here myself. This doesn't bode well for dinner...

1. Multi-color noodles (I'd wanted fried rice but we're completely overstocked on noodles right now and I needed to whittle down some bulk in the pantry.)

2. Leftover cooked meat

3. Broccoli

4. Carrots

5. Oyster mushrooms

6. Green beans

7. Cashews

8. Fresh corn

9. Freshly grated ginger (or at least it was a few hours ago)

10. Garlic

11. Scallions

12. Assorted sauces (soy, hoisin, black bean and garlic, mirin, etc.)

13. Cornstarch and water for thickening


Update: She did eventually fall asleep, but by then Jay was a lost cause so I ended up with dinner for one. Better luck next time.

Visit Thursday Thirteen to see what everyone else is counting this week.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The very very not short dear god it's long meme

Don't worry Domestic Spaz, I still love you.

Ok, plunging right in now...

Favorite person (outside family)? My best friends, they don't read my blog (because I haven't told them I have one) but they know who they are

Favorite food? Pasta

Quirks about you? None. I'm perfect in every way. Sorry, if you haven't fallen on the floor laughing rest assured I'm just kidding. I'm one of Six Billion Eccentrics. (Listen to track 10. Then listen to the rest, especially if you like singer-songwriters. The tracks are wonderfully diverse, I'm a big fan. Just saw him perform here in Israel last week actually.)

How would the person who loves you most describe you in ten words or less? No idea and he's sleeping so I can't ask right now.

Any regrets in life? None I haven't come to terms with

Favorite Charity/Cause? Breastfeeding support and promoting peace and tolerance

Favorite Blog recently? There are way too many to limit it to just one.

Something you can’t get enough of? Time

Worst job you’ve ever had? Data entry clerk in a pre-computerized firm (yes, I am old enough to remember the bad old days)

What job would you pay NOT to have? Pretty much any job on that BBC Worst Jobs show - they go century by century describing the worst jobs imaginable. The one who cleaned the sausage casings so they could be made into violin strings would probably rank in my top three.

If you could be a fly on the wall, where? Inside my daughter's head. I'd really like to better understand what she's thinking. Not a literal fly in her head though, because that would be disgusting.

Favorite Bible verse right now? Not relevant

Guilty Pleasure? Eating gourmet chocolate chips straight out of the package

Got any confessions? I just tore into the bag of milk chocolate chips I bought to make chocolate lollipops for this Friday, when it's my daughter's turn to bring a treat to preschool.

If you HAD to spend $1,000 on YOURSELF, how would you spend it? Shopping spree, and several days at a spa.

Favorite thing about your house? My kitchen, especially the tiles we chose for the backsplash (see the picture in my header)

Least favorite thing about your house? The plumbing. This place is cursed when it comes to anything water.

One thing you are bad at? Following through on things

One thing you’re good at? Empathizing

If you could change something about your circumstances, what? I'd give myself job security

Who would you like to meet someday? Definitely all my internet friends. Some of us have known each other for nine years already without ever having met face to face!

What makes you feel sexy? The right clothes

Who is your real life hero? WhyMommy. Her strength and courage amaze and inspire me.

What is the hardest part of your job? Self-discipline

When are you most relaxed? weekend mornings

What stresses you out? time pressure, being overcommitted

What can you not live without? chocolate. Oh, and air.

Do you agree or disagree with the recent article that reported that blogs are authored by narcissists? It's much too broad to be taken seriously.

Why do you blog? For the sense of community it engenders

Who are you tagging? Whoever feels up to responding to this mongo meme!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sate Chicken Skewers

The chicken itself was long gone by the time Janet asked for this recipe, so since I didn't have any food to photograph I decided to show you the recipe card itself. See for yourselves how well-loved this recipe has been over the years. The card is one of a number of family recipes my mom wrote out for me when I got married and nearly seventeen years later it's still a family favorite. We make it often at home, and it's our favorite go-to dish for summer barbecues whenever we're asked to bring "something to throw on the grill".
Indonesian-style Sate Chicken Skewers
4 large chicken cutlets, cut in strips (or easier to skewer bite-sized pieces, whichever you prefer)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbl oil
1 Tbl molasses
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 Tbl lemon juice
Mix above ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate. Marinate chicken for at least 2 hours.
Just before grilling, soak bamboo skewers in water (so they won't catch fire, which might put a damper on your dinner, so to speak). Thread the chicken onto the skewers. Grill 4-5 minutes or until done. (May take longer if you've done your chicken in chunks.) Brush with marinade. Or don't, I often skip this step.
Note: The original recipe calls for serving this with a spicy peanut sauce, but since no one but Jay and I ever ate the sauce (Israelis don't tend to be big fans of peanut butter in any shape or form) I've stopped bothering over the years. The chicken is delicious plain, but the sauce definitely kicks it up a notch. This recipe is similar to the one I used to make, but I leave out the coconut milk, thinning the peanut butter with a bit of hot water instead. Get creative, it's hard to go wrong with peanut sauce.
Click here if you'd like to see more of my recipes.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

If only...

Somewhere out there, in a parallel universe, another Robin is having a really great day...

Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod! Five out of six numbers!! One more and I win! Holy crap! The jackpot of the century!! Come on, come on, come on 14. Come on. 14, let's go, 14! I can't breathe, ohmigod, pleaseletmewinpleaseletmewin!!!


I won I won I won I won I won!!!! Holy crap holy crap holy crap!!!!! $15 million dollars!!!!!!!!! Oh my god, what do I do first?!?!? Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod!

Where's my phone? Where's my damn phone? Found it! Hello?!? This is Robin. I quit!!! Yes, I just said I quit! I'm done working - for you or for anyone, but especially for you! Done, finished, finito, sayonara baby! I'm outta here!

Ok, now what. Wait a minute! I didn't call Jay! I can't believe I forgot to call Jay! Come on, pick up! Pick up dammit! Hello? Wewonwewonwewonwewonwewon!!! What? Forget the meeting! Come home! Come home right now! And on your way, call the town pool and tell them we won't be needing a membership this year - or any year! We're going to be moving to a villa with a pool just as soon as my fingers can dial the realtor! And a boat! We have to have a boat! Where should we berth it, Tel Aviv or Herzliah? How big should we get? Should it be big enough to take us to Greece?!? And France! We should definitely get a little hideaway in France somewhere! Paris or Provence, what do you think? Oh, and we should donate a bunch too - which would you prefer - to fund a soup kitchen or a full-service homeless shelter? And what about traveling? Let's all go to someplace exotic before we visit my folks this summer! Tahiti or Fiji? What do you think? So many plans! So many decisions! Ooh, and a caravan! Let's buy a caravan to keep in the States so we can go wherever we want! And...

And then phone started ringing, and the kids started clamoring, and the doorbell started ringing, and i came crashing back down to earth... A nice little fantasy while it lasted, but not very likely to come true, especially since I don't even buy lottery tickets.

As long as we're back to reality, for those waiting for a personal update the Lag B'Omer camping trip went very well. We camped right on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea (they weren't allowing camping or bonfires right on the beach) and had gorgeous views of the Tel Aviv skyline on one side and sunset over the Mediterranean on the other. It was absolutely idyllic if you just ignore the unfreakingbelievingly loud and horrifically bad music that blasted up from some all night dance party on the beach from midnight on, and yes, I do mean all night. They finally stopped at 5:30am. Somehow all the kids thankfully slept through it, but none of the adults got much sleep. In the morning we broke camp and headed down to the still-deserted beach for a picnic breakfast and swim. All in all a delightful holiday.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

TT - 13 Things I'm Taking On Our Lag B'Omer Campout

Tonight (Thursday night) is Lag B'Omer, a Jewish holiday celebrated among secular Israelis primarily by the lighting of bonfires in fields and vacant lots all over the country. Last year we saw nine different fires just on our block. (Yes, I have asthma, and yes, this is a particularly delightful evening. I'm already taking preventive meds.)

This year we've decided to upgrade a bit and are hitting the beach with a couple of my son's friends and their families for a bonfire and campout. (Yes, this means that camping at the festival last weekend went well.)

Here are thirteen things we'll be bringing with us (if you're wondering why obvious items like coals for the grill are left out it's because one of the other families are bringing them):

1. Wood of course

2. Two tents (we'll be buying a single larger tent in the States this summer)

3. Two double air mattresses (comfort makes camping a lot more pleasant for this mama)

4. Four sleeping bags

5. Two sets of sheets (adult sleeping bags will be used as "blankets", kids' bags are just for lying on blankets under the stars before we head to bed

6. Indonesian sate-style chicken and hot dogs for the grill

7. A small grill

8. Loads of Israeli salads - hummus (fancy adult version + plain kids' version), red cabbage salad, and tomato and red pepper matbucha salad

9. Pump for air mattresses

10. Bathings suits

11. Sinai carpets (beach blankets)

12. Beach toys

13. Marshmellows!

Visit the Thursday Thirteen hub to see what everyone else is counting this week.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Survival against all odds

They say that a mother's love is the strongest thing on earth. Here's why. Two mothers who used their last breaths to save their children. My heart breaks for all those who have lost everything to the capriciousness of nature.
(taken from a lactation e-mail list I'm on)

China Earthquake - Baby Survival Stories
Under the rubble, dead mothers tightly held their babies; baby girl stayed alive by breastfeeding from dead mother Singtao News (written in Chinese)
In Duijangyan, Sichuan, a young mother tightly held her baby girl, who was about 3 to 4 months old, while using her own shoulders to stop the roof from falling onto her baby. The mother slowly lost her life, however the baby in her arms was still breastfeeding from her dead mother, until the baby was rescued. In Beichuan, another mother who also died using her body to protect her baby, left the last message to her baby: "my dearest baby, if you can live through this, you have to remember that I love you."
In the afternoon of May 13th, the second day after the Sichuan earthquake, scores of rescue workers were digging through a residential area of Duijanyan, looking for survivors. A volunteer doctor said that under the rubbles, they found a young mother holding a 3-4 months old baby. The mother was curling her body, her head lowered, and she had no sign of life, however her shirt was lifted up, and the baby girl in her arms was still sucking on mother's nipples.
Doctor wept as he recounted the scene, "At that moment, we saw a red (lively) little face, against the dead mother's gray breasts that were covered with was such a contrast. Everyone at the scene cried.

"I can't imagine, a dead mother was still breastfeeding her own child. From the way she was holding the baby, you can tell that she was protecting her child, or perhaps the mother put her nipple into the baby's mouth just before the mother died. We carefully took the baby out. The moment the baby was taken away from her mother's nipple, the baby cried."
In Beichuan, rescue workers also found another dead mother protecting her
child: she was kneeling down, bowing her back; both arms on the ground supporting her body - her posture was like someone kowtowing, however her body was crushed so badly that it was deformed, and she was dead.

Since it looked like she was protecting something underneath her, rescue workers carefully removed the rocks and stones around her. They found a baby who was around 3, 4 months old underneath her body. It was because the mother used her own body to block the falling wall, the baby was miraculously completely unharmed. When being taken out, the baby was even sleeping peacefully.
A nurse removed the blanket from the baby to examine her, and found a cell phone tucked inside the blanket. Doctor looked at the screen of the cell phone, and saw a text message left by the baby's mother, "my dearest baby, if you can live through this, you have to remember that I love you."
And in the midst of the devastation, a local policewoman gives orphaned babies a chance at life:
The Face of Rescue: Women's Work

CHENGDU, China - A Chinese policewoman is contributing to the country's massive earthquake relief effort in a very personal way -- by breastfeeding 20 babies.
A newspaper in Chengdu, the capital of quake-hit Sichuan province, devoted a special page to the 29-year-old woman, calling her a hero.
The woman from the quake-ravaged town of Jiangyou has just had a child herself, the Western Urban Daily said. She is nursing the children of three women who were left homeless by the quake and are too traumatised to give milk, as well as five orphans, the report said.

The babies who lost their parents have been put in an orphanage which does not have powdered milk, it said.
Please look here and here to see why giving artificial infant formula in a disaster is extremely dangerous and puts the babies it is purporting to help at risk of serious disease and even death. Think twice too about which aid organizations you support. Dumping in a load of expired or nearly expired formula with no labels or instructions in the local language and then expecting mothers with no access to clean water or washing facilities to prepare bottles for the first time in their lives does not save babies' lives - it puts them in grave danger. Much more good could be done and many more babies saved through the provision of lactation support instead.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

My life in a (very small) nutshell

A few weeks ago Angie tagged me for the six word memoir meme, where you have to sum up your life in just six words, which I might add is an awful lot harder than it looks. I've been pondering it on and off since then, and after much deliberation and hand-wringing I've come up with this:

Family and friends keep me strong.

I'm not traveling this path alone. I may not know what is around the next bend but I know that whatever it is, good or bad, I won't be facing it alone. I know that I will be wrapped in a blanket of love and support. I know that my family and my wonderful, wonderful friends both outside and inside of my computer will be right there rejoicing in my joys and crying with me over my sorrows. All of you, you make me strong. You keep me strong. I couldn't do it without you. Thank you.

Now I'm going to throw this one out to all of you prolific writers out there. Who wants to take up the challenge of summing up their entire life in just six words? Post your entry and come let me know in the comments. I'm really looking forward to seeing what you guys come up with.

Monday, May 19, 2008

And that's a wrap

Another year, another festival. This one though was one of the best we've had in years. The music was fantastic, the addition of a whole extra day made the entire festival feel more relaxed and less rushed, the kids were wonderful, the weather was perfect, literally dozens of dear friends were there, the pool was cool and refreshing (and Itai even remembered how to swim), even the camping went off without a hitch. Better than just without a hitch actually. It went so well that Maya and I will be joining the boys (Jay, Itai and a few other fathers and sons) for a Lag B'Omer campout on the beach this Thursday night after all.

Have I mentioned that the kids were terrific? Itai is now old enough to wander around freely with his friends (something only possible at a closed, extraordinarily safe and family-friendly festival like this one - I know that must sound appalling to some of you out there, but trust me, Jacob's Ladder is truly a land unto itself. I'd never let him wander alone at any other event.) Itai also had his first celebrity crush on a group of young bluegrass musicians. He bought their cd with his own money and came home clutching not one but two different autographed photos. Maya is still a bit young to sit still for the more formal indoor performances, so we mainly stuck to the outdoor stages (where most of the music is anyway) and she alternated between sitting on the side blowing bubbles and playing quietly at our feet. (The addition of a well-timed ice cream or two didn't hurt either.) For the first time in years Jay and I actually came away feeling like we'd heard a lot of music rather than that we'd spent most of our time kid-wrangling.

Times like this are what make it all worthwhile. They make the stresses of daily life (and we've got some whoppers right now) fade away for a few days and give us the chance to just be. To do what we love with people with love.

Who could ask for more?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

No TT for me this week - we're off to the festival!

We're leaving this afternoon (Thursday) for our annual pilgrimage to the Jacob's Ladder Folk Festival and to top it off thanks to the overwhelming greed of the onsite hotel now that our kids are old enough we're back to camping this year.

Two nights and two days of great music, friends, fun in the sun, and loads more great music, capped off by two nights in a tent. Wish us luck, we haven't camped at the festival since before we had kids! In fact, we've only camped one night since, when Maya was only 1.5, and it, umm, didn't go well. Now that she's 3 years older it should be a different story. We hope...

Be back Saturday night. Have a great weekend everyone.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Rebuilding a better world, one survivor at a time

Most people have heard at least something about the international campaign to ban landmines. Many have even heard that the late Princess Diana was involved. For most of us though, that is as far as it goes.

Until a few weeks ago, I had never heard of Jerry White, let alone known that he is a leader in the international fight against landmines. I didn't know that he has this calling because he himself lost his leg to a landmine when he entered an unmarked minefield in the north of Israel, my own country, in 1984. I didn't know about his struggle to redefine his life after his accident, to choose survival, and I didn't know that he had taken it one step further, going on to found the Nobel Peace Price-winning Landmine Survivors Network (LSN), the same organization that Princess Diana was involved with.

I didn't know that he had recently expanded LSN's mission from aiding those injured by landmines to aiding all those who are victims of the worst epidemic of all - the very preventable epidemic of war and violence. The new mission bears a new name as well - Survivor Corps - which reflects both its calling and its philosophy.

Now I know, and I am proud to help spread the word. As you can see from their website,

"Survivor Corps is a nonprofit organization that serves victims of global conflict, by providing tools and support to help them rebuild their lives, improve their communities, and ultimately work together to break the cycle of violence in the world."

They do this through peer support, training and international advocacy, right in the affected communities. After all, who has more of a stake in ending a conflict than those scarred by it? Take some time to visit Survivor Corps' website and read their stories.

Innocent bystanders in faraway places are not the only ones who need encouragement to choose survival. Soldiers returning home from war also need support. Survivor Corps is launching a special program to help American Service members connect with each other and their communities to work together to heal the trauma of war and re-find their place in the world.

Jerry White has taken the lessons he has learned from his journey, and the innumerable lessons he has gathered from others who walk their own paths towards survival, and has written a book - I Will Not Be Broken: Five Steps to Overcoming a Life Crisis - which strives to answer the question "given that bad things do happen, how do people absorb the blows and move through them?" How do we come back after a major life blow - a death, an illness, an accident, loss of a loved one, loss of a job... What determines whether we sink into despair or claw our way back into the light?

I am pleased to announce that Around the Island will be a stop on I Will Not Be Broken's upcoming blogosphere book tour and look forward to sharing my impressions with you. Given what I've read of Jerry White's story so far (and the sneak preview I got of the first few chapters) it's sure to be a powerful and inspiring read.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Not what she'd planned

She'd had it all figured out. Grow up and leave her past behind. Go to college, get a great job, marry a great husband, leave the great job to stay home and raise a couple of great kids. Heck, she'd even bought one of those cute retro aprons to wear with the idea that even if her food sucked she'd look like good making it.

It started out alright. She'd gotten the degree, landed the husband, had the kids, everything was right on schedule. She cooked healthy meals, kept the house and children clean, ferried them around to playgroups and kindermusik and soccer. She spent months planning their annual vacation, searching for the perfect rental accommodation within walking distance of the perfect family-friendly beachside promenade. She kept her husband's work shirts perfectly ironed, and made sure she brought the perfect dish to the company picnic. Everything was perfect. Life was perfect.

And then one day the telephone rang.

There was so much static on the line she could barely hear the voice on the other end. After endless rounds of "who? what? WHERE???" she realized it was her husband, who was in Cleveland on a business trip. Except he wasn't in Cleveland. He was calling from Tahiti. Hold on, he was what? He's not supposed to be in Tahiti, he's supposed to be in Cleveland. What the hell happened to Cleveland? After a few more attempts she finally understood. There was no Cleveland. There had never been a Cleveland. There was only Tiffany, his 23 year old, 110 pound secretary, and Tahiti. And some tiny inn he'd apparently bought in Papeete. He wasn't coming home. Ever. But you don't even speak French, she said. No, but Tiffany does. We've got it all figured out.

They've got it all figured out. Great, just great. And when exactly had all this planning taken place? While she was ironing his shirts? While she was driving their children, the children they were supposed to raise together, to playdates and soccer? While she'd been baking a pie for his damn company picnic?

With just one phone call it had all come crashing down. He'd gone off to live his fantasy, and hers had gone up in smoke. What the hell was she supposed to do now?

This is not what she had planned. Not at all. All of her hard work and this is how he repays her. Damn him for that, she whispered to herself. She opened the phone book to divorce lawyers, promising herself that she'd find one that would ensure he could never afford even an "I went to Tahiti..." t-shirt, let alone plane fare home to see his children.

Two could play at this game. She'd see that his little fantasy turned into his worst nightmare. She wondered how much little Tiffany would like him when he's just a penniless 45 year old man who's losing his hair...

Friday, May 9, 2008

Know Hope

"Know hope".
Someone scrawled that on the slide at our local playground. I often contemplate it as my children play, wondering about the writer's intentions. He clearly had faith in something, but was it in the futility of life or the eternal power of hope? Given the generally low literary levels of English graffiti in this Hebrew-speaking country I can only guess that he meant to say "no hope". How ironic then that he, if it was in fact a he, instead preached a message of optimism, encouraging those who read his words to "know hope" rather than to lose it.
To know hope. A strong message, and one we all need at times. Sometimes when the darkness and confusion are rising all we can do is cling to hope, to have faith that all will be for the best, that the solution is there around the next bend and all we need to do is reach for it.
What a knife-edge we walk, veering between hope and despair, just one small letter separating the two. As I strive to walk the path towards hope in my own life I can't help but wonder about the anonymous writer who inspired me. What brought him to write those words. Was he in fact hopeless, or was it just fleeting teenage angst or the need to mark his territory. Was it a commentary on the state of the world or the state of his love life? Alternatively, if he truly did mean "know" hope, what an inspiring statement to scrawl so carelessly. And what does 919 mean? Is it a message or just a graffiti artist's tag? I can't imagine I'll ever know the answers to these questions, or even what anti-social urges possessed him to deface the park in the first place, but whatever his original intentions he's given me much to think about, and for that I am grateful.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

TT - Israel's 60th Independence Day - 8 May 2008

This is what Independence Day looks like in my neighborhood. Despite everything, more flags are flying today than I've seen in years. Here are thirteen of them.

Visit Thursday Thirteen to see what's on everyone else's mind this week.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

WFMW - Don't try this at home

In a bit of (un?)fortuitous timing this week's WFMW is about what doesn't work for you, and I've definitely got one.

You know those simple little woven bathroom rugs? The kind that get grubby and need to be washed? Throw them in the washing machine if you like, but no matter how tempting it may be and no matter how soon guests may be coming, do not, under any circumstances, be tempted to feed them after midnight. Oh wait, that's Gremlins. Where was I again? Oh yes. Do not, under any circumstances, be tempted to throw them into the dryer, unless you're really fond of this:

Stop by Rocks In My Dryer to see what everyone else has screwed up this week. I bet it will make you feel better about your own last mistake.

We Remember

We remember all of those lost in Israel's wars, and cry new tears for the 65 soldiers and 24 civilians killed since last Memorial Day.

Without their sacrifices, none of us would be here today. There would be nothing to celebrate tomorrow, when Memorial Day's sorrow makes way for the joy of Israel's 60th Independence Day.

We remember. May there be no more.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

It's appointment season

All of a sudden I am absolutely overrun with appointments - mainly for Maya, but also for Itai and I too. My head is spinning just trying to sort out the logistics, the medical/insurance forms, the dates, the conflicts...

For a few weeks it was relatively quiet and now all hell has broken loose.

Oh, and please disregard the ugly gray stain on the floor. That's just where my brains exploded.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Do as I say, not as I did/didn't/would never/umm...

There was a big article in yesterday's Washington Post talking about a subject I've given a great deal of thought to over the years - how much of your past do you, or don't you, share with your children? I'm sure we've all thought about this to some extent, but I suspect the issue is a bit tougher for those of us with more, how shall I put this, colorful pasts. Yes, colorful. There you go. A nice euphemism for "boy was she a screwup, god I'm glad she wasn't my kid".

It's inevitable. Someday my children are going to grow up and discover that there are all sorts of temptations out there, some a bit of harmless fun, others much more sinister. I hope that when that time comes we will have the type of relationship where they will feel close enough to me to talk to me before the moment of decision arrives. And when they do I don't have the faintest idea what I'm going to tell them. Sometime between now and that future I suspect will all too rapidly arrive I have to figure out how to walk a very fine line between being "relevant" and sharing some of the lessons I learned and being a piss-poor example of reasonable teenage behavior.

For now, we've still been able to teach values without getting into such sticky questions as our personal histories - yes, cigarettes are disgusting, no, no one should smoke. Yes, some people do smoke. Why? Because when they started they didn't know yet how very dangerous it is and how hard it would be to stop, but today since we know that already it doesn't make any sense at all to start. Besides, it's completely disgusting, remember? See how I managed to sidestep the fact that I myself smoked a pack a day for seventeen years, stopping only when I began trying to get pregnant with Itai?

I'm not fooling myself though. As they get older the questions will get tougher, they'll probe deeper. The issues will be even bigger. The drug question is in many ways harder, but also a bit easier - maybe I'll take the tack of "in my day (back in the old days, since mom is of course older than dirt) they didn't have such dangerous drugs like ecstasy and meth. Those are SO dangerous, look at what could happen!" Maybe I'll get lucky and by then things like mushrooms will have gone so far out of fashion that it won't even come up (she says foolishly). More likely I'll dwell on the dangers out there, WHY they're dangerous, and then focus on tactics - what to do if you're confronted with something you're not comfortable with, the fact that you can ALWAYS call us to come and get you, no questions asked, that sort of thing.

Sex? I can't imagine children actually wanting to know what their parents got up to. Not really. That one can hopefully stay on the hypothetical plane.

The truth is, I don't think I'll have any idea how I'll actually handle this until it comes up, and then I'll have to make a judgment call based on the actual conversation, the age and maturity level of the kid in question, and my own gut. I don't want to lie outright, but I also don't feel that my past has to be an open book. On the other hand, I don't want them to be so afraid of a misstep in front of some kind of mythical perfect and completely out of touch parent that they are afraid to come to me. I'll be looking for a balance which allows me to share enough to create a bond of trust, without sharing too much and creating an unacceptable example of acceptable behavior. (An unacceptable example of acceptable behavior? Oh god, I'm so overthinking this that I've turned into a Gilbert and Sullivan musical. Shoot me now.)

I'm thinking prevarication and a lot of redirection are going to be involved.

So what have I accomplished here? I've waffled around for an entire post and said nothing more substantial than "I'll have to wait and see". Yup, sounds about right.

At least the experts in the article didn't have anything better than that either.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Finding myself

As I sat here musing about what to write for this week's prompts, I realized that I needed to combine Sunday Scribbling's family prompt with Writers Island's identity. This isn't because my identity is inseparably tied up with my family. A significant portion of it is of course, but there is also a "Robin" who exists beyond (alongside of?) my role as Wife or Mother. External factors are currently threatening a major shift to my way of life and forcing me to reevaluate everything. What are my goals, how do those goals coexist with my values, what do I need from or have to commit to in various areas of my life? Big issues, big decisions. Whether or not this current threat comes to pass, and it very well may, I've still been forced to grapple with my own identity. Who am I? WHAT am I? What are the relative weights of all of these various pieces of me? Who gets what? What value do I place on my role as "mother" versus my role as "wage-earner"? Which pieces get sold short? What minimum division do I need for my family to continue to function? There are no easy answers. (Well that's not entirely true. Winning the lottery would provide an easy answer, but since I don't play it isn't a scenario I'd bet the farm on.)

However it turns out, hopefully I'm wiser for having gone through the process.

And since I've had enough introspection for now, here's an extra little something for everyone who told me yesterday that they'd never seen a pomegranate flower before. Here's the flower again:

And here's what it is growing on:

We don't get any usable fruit from this little tree but it's lovely to look at, isn't it? The birds get to the pomegranates before they are large enough to even think of picking. We do have a few clementine and lemon trees growing in similar pots that give a bit of fruit though, and it even looks like our fig tree has returned from the nearly-dead to bear a number of figs this year. (If you don't know by now, gardening is not exactly our forte. Good thing we have a penthouse - it's a lot harder to kill off a patio than a lawn!)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Playing ostrich

Just thought I'd share a few of my latest efforts. I took these this morning.

Chive flower from my herb garden (which is surprisingly undead!)

Pomegranate flower - these are so crinkly, in a case of life imitating art they always remind me of tissue paper flowers

Think a good thought for me, would you? I've got a lot going on which I'm studiously ignoring by taking and posting photos, but a major chunk of my future is hanging in the balance today.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

TT - Dream Jobs

I didn't see the alphabet theme until after this was written but I figured what the hell, I've never been all that great at following instructions anyway.
13 jobs I'd love to have:

1. Wealthy lady of leisure (a girl can dream, can't she?)
2. Wealthy retiree (notice a theme here?)
3. Travel writer
4. Restaurant critic
5. Menu developer
6. Editor for anything more interesting than what I'm doing now
7. Freelance writer with large backlog (no sense leaving things to chance now)
8. Blogger extraordinaire - one of the few who are actually making a living from blogging
9. Stay-at-home mom without the huge cut in income that would entail
10. Professional vagabond long-term traveler
11. Buyer for a high end housewares/design store
12. Photographer (with the commensurate skills)
13. Staff lactation consultant at a salary I could afford to accept
What would your dream job be?

Visit the Thursday Thirteen hub to see what everyone else is counting this week.