Friday, August 31, 2007

Philanthropy Thursday Friday

The lovely and even more lovely-spirited Jen over at Get In The Car has made a suggestion I'd like to adopt here.

On her blog yesterday she suggested the last Thursday of each month as "Philanthropy Thursday", and asked everyone who stopped by her blog to take a second and think, "How can I make a small difference today? What can I do, however small, to make the world just a little bit better?" I'm a day late (Thursdays are generally a crazy day around the ole island) but this is definitely a case of better late than never.

Yesterday, I gave a bag of toys to my cleaner, who is a lay preacher and leader among the foreign worker community here in Israel, a group of primarily illegal workers (though he isn't himself) with almost no access to community resources or support. I've had some involvement with this community professionally (by providing pro bono breastfeeding teaching and support). Each time I walk away impressed by their spirit, will and willingness to work incredibly hard picking up the leavings of those luckier than they, all while refusing to give in to the atmosphere of fear and intimidation my so-called government is creating for them.

I've given them many items in the past, clothing, an old oven, books, and my son's old bicycle... It broke my heart when this man leapt at the chance to take an old pair of Jay's shoes, then accidentally threw them away with my household trash. It cracked my heart wide open when that mattered enough to him to take the bus 45 minutes back to my house to search through the building's garbage for them. I hadn't really thought to give them toys though. I'd mainly been giving necessities, not the things that can put a smile on a small child's face.

K was here the other day, cleaning up my mess, when I saw a bag of toys I'd set aside, rejects from a recent toy swap. I'd been meaning to "do something" with it for weeks, when I remembered that the creche run by the foreign workers' church has very few toys. My own children are lucky beyond all reason when it comes to toys. They are quite honestly drowning in them. They can no longer value what they have because of the excess.

I made a resolution on the spot. I am going to have a monthly toy purge. Instead of saving the toys for a future toy swap, or passing them on to friends' children or local preschools, I will be giving them to K. This way they I know they will be going straight to children who truly wouldn't have them otherwise. I hope that they will put a smile on someone's face.

So there you have it. My small attempt to make a the world a little bit better for someone this month.

Who's with me?

Here we go again

The reason Maya is not attending her "welcome back to preschool" event at this very moment is remarkably similar to the reason I posted this not all that long ago, just with more fever and slightly less throwing up (she says knocking on wood, throwing salt over her shoulder, spitting three times, etc.).

So much for having the chance to check out her new room and meet the new aide (she already knows and loves the teacher) before dropoff on Sunday. Sigh...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

TT #28 - 13 Reasons My Husband Should NOT Get A Unicycle

Uh oh. After I told my husband I didn't know what to write about this week, he suggested this little gem, after which he promptly confessed that the idea of a unicycle was becoming more and more appealing to him! (Is he utterly and totally MAD???) He claims it would be the perfect combination of cycling and pilates. I said it would be the perfect combination of cycling and falling down. Hopefully this list will be sufficiently persuasive that we don't have to figure out who is actually right...

1. I'm allergic to vast blood loss.

2. Broken bones sticking through skin at weird angles would probably make me puke.

3. If he tried to ride in the living room he'd be at risk of getting decapitated by the ceiling fan.
4. The paramedics would be laughing too hard to actually treat his multiple injuries when they arrive to find he'd fallen off a unicycle.

5. He'd need a red nose and a clown costume to complete the ensemble.

6. Where would he put the rack?

7. He'd have to fight all the neighborhood kids for the chance to ride it.

8. Traveling on only one wheel would double his commute time.
9. He'd be at risk of getting kidnapped by a passing circus.

10. He'd be slower than on his bike, and so less able to outrun scary barking dogs.

11. No place to strap Maya's seat. He'd have to take her to school on his shoulders. And she'd have to wear sparkly spandex while doing it.

12. He's already broken quite enough bones getting hit by cars on his bike. Just think of how many people would crash into him because they'd be staring at the flippin' unicycle.

13. And the best reason ever not to get a unicycle? (cue the David Letterman style drumroll) OUR kids would want to ride it!!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Baking Salmon (CORRECTED)

I love baked salmon, but I only love it when it's moist and tender, not overcooked and dry.

Baking salmon on a bed of KOSHER salt takes the guesswork out of it - the salt helps distribute the heat more evenly, ensuring a nice moist texture and excellent flavor, without transferring a salty taste to the fish. Best of all, the cleanup is easy too. (Note: This is NOT rock salt like you'd put on your driveway! Sorry, I always mistakenly call it that but rock salt is inedible (and not sold as food)!!)

To cook salmon this way, buy filets or a large hunk of fish (we usually do the one large piece, it's more easily available here in Israel and is easier to cook) with the skin still on.

Marinate the fish for at least 30 minutes in your favorite marinade, or rub with spices just before cooking.

Cover a large baking sheet with tinfoil (for speedy cleanup) and spread KOSHER salt over the tray to a depth of about 1 centimeter (about 1/3 of an inch).

Set the salmon carefully on the tray, skin side down. Bake at 325 degrees fahrenheit (170 celsius) until just cooked, about 35 minutes.
When you're ready to serve, lift the fish carefully onto a clean cutting board for cutting or serving. The salt will have baked into a "crust" and will remain behind.
When it's time to clean up, just carefully lift up the tinfoil and slide the whole thing into the garbage, then just give the tray a quick wash and you're done. No baked on fish residue to worry about. (I've done this without the tinfoil too. It works, but it's easier with the foil.)

I've been baking salmon this way for years and haven't had a miss yet.

Visit Rocks in My Dryer for all sorts of other household tips.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Calgon, Take Me Away!

I'm having a Calgon moment. Hell, I'm having a Calgon day.

I've been working like a maniac the past two days trying to condense a week's worth of (part-time) work into 2.5 days. (The kids are off this week, Jay and I are splitting the time.) I was nearly done for the day when both children came racing in arguing loudly about their individual and non-reconcilable video preferences, in the process managing to press some button on the laptop and nearly wiping out half an hour's work. No, it wasn't pretty, but I managed to hit undelete and find it again. After that I was attempting to do the dishes when found out that a certain someone had left the wet bathing suits and towels from their (not my, I was working, remember) trip to the beach yesterday to sit and fester in a closed duffel bag. I was getting that into the washer when the grocery delivery showed up, so I had to stop to go put everything away before it spoiled (it's VERY hot here today and the perishables were barely chilled by the time they arrived). Before I could finish doing that a certain small child had managed to miss the toilet AGAIN and pee all over the damn floor, and I mean ALL over the floor, AGAIN. Sigh. Got that mopped up, then it was back to the groceries, then back to the laundry, start straightening up the disaster zone that is my house, and now the solar water heater guy is due to show up in five minutes. Oh, for goodness' sake. I forgot the dishes.

Calgon, take me away!!!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Rockin' On

Let me dispel any doubt. Yes, by god, Ian Anderson has still got it. 60 years old this month and he can still bring the house down. (I'd say he can blow the roof off the joint, but the Caesarea Amphitheater is a 2,000 year old open-air Roman amphitheater and doesn't have a roof.)

Yes, this is an incredibly crappy picture. It was taken on a cellphone camera from what is literally the very top row of what I can only describe as dizzyingly high bleacher-type seating (scroll down for the picture of "the Theater", and yes, it's much steeper than it looks, and yes, people still bring cushions to soften the hard stone benches as they did in Roman times). Oh, and it's a picture of the video screen, not of the actual guy on the stage. We can't expect miracles from a lousy little cellphone camera after all. Heck, I'm surprised that this even came out well enough to see what it is. But I digress...

The concert was incredible, once we finally got there (more on that down below). There was singing, there was a bouzouki, and by god there was one-footed flute mastery. I don't think I could even stand in that position that long, let alone play some of the finest and most creative flute music ever known to man. (I was in fact a flute player for many years, so I say this with some degree of accuracy.) Sitting there listening to those incredible sounds coming from that instrument transported me back to age 16, when I would cut orchestra to sit on the grass behind the school and make my kind of music with my friends. To this day there is still a scrap of faded and nearly illegible looseleaf paper in my flute case that has the chords to some Jethro Tull song. Damned if I know which one, but that scrap of paper has too much sentimental value to throw out. Sadly, the only "cool" piece of music I can still play from memory is Stairway to Heaven, but that one I know well enough to play in my sleep, even all these years later. I can barely manage to scrape out scales, but I can still play Stairway to Heaven. (Yes, that tells you something about the course of my musical (and social) development.)

But why did I say the concert was incredible once we actually got there? That dear readers is one of those "only in Israel" episodes.

We left what was shaping up to be a very successful musical party at friends' in Tel Aviv very early, missing a lot of good acoustic music, to be sure we'd have plenty of time to make it to the concert. We zipped up the highway, arriving at the Caesarea exit, which is only about 4 miles or so from the venue, a full 45 minutes before the warm-up band was due to go on. Traffic was starting to back up, but we didn't think much of it. What fools these mortals be. The traffic was of (forgive the cliche, but the setting demands it) biblical proportions. Thousands of people all trying to get to a single parking lot at a single venue, along a road that quickly went down to ONE LANE! ONE LANE to get thousands of people to a concert on time. We crawled along for so long that not only did I have to finally hop out in desperation to pee behind a bush (thank heavens for long peasant skirts and a former teacher's suggestion to lose the underwear in such situations), but even Jay had to hop out and find himself a tree a bit later, and that never happens. Me, yes. Anyone who knows me knows that I have a bladder the size of a grape (and yes, I do take those "gotta go" pills to deal with it), but Jay is usually much more stoic than that. All told, it took us over NINETY MINUTES to go 4 miles! We missed the entire warm-up set AND the first Jethro Tull song. Then, once I finally got to my seat (after stopping to pee yet again, since you're pretty committed once you're at the top of a Roman amphitheater), I found that some asshole was sitting in my seat and flatly refusing to move. I threatened to just sit on him if he wouldn't move over (and it's not like these were even particularly good seats) and Jay finally lost his cool completely before this jerk and his friends finally moved one seat down to where they were supposed to be in the first place. I have no idea what that was all about, but it certainly wasn't a nice relaxed start to the event, that's for sure. What an asshole...

Eventually we managed to find our happy place and enjoyed the concert itself. Mother Goose, King Henry's Madrigal and Locomotive Breath really knocked our socks off. They never did play Skating Away, so I started wondering whether that was the one song we missed, but everyone I asked either missed the first few minutes as well (I told you the traffic was bad) or didn't know the names of the songs. Nevermind, there were plenty of classics to be had and we went away singing.

As an aside, I heard a disproportionate amount of Russian among the crowd. I wonder if somehow Jethro Tull was one of the bands whose music made the underground rounds before perestroika. I'll have to ask a Russian friend sometime...

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Quiet is Dangerous

4:30 on a weekday afternoon. The kids are home. They've had a snack and gone off to play. After a long day slaving away at my computer I steal these precious moments to do what - to sit again at the same computer, at the same table. This time it's on my time though. The kids are happy, they're busy actually playing with one of the 4,367,972 toys in their rooms, no one is screaming or demanding anything. Even the video is off. Great. I can sneak a few minutes of blog-reading in while all is quiet. I open my feed reader and begin to delve in - a funny post on a momblog, a beautiful photograph on another, a new recipe for chicken and mango rolls that I simply have to try (I did by the way, and they were fantastic, but I did substitute baby greens and cilantro for the unavailable that day bok choy and mint), a book review of a novel I plan to recommend for the next book club book... Before I know it, a half an hour has passed. Silently.

Uh oh.

I get that sinking feeling in my stomach as I realize that I've entered that most dangerous of all parenting zones - the quiet zone.

It can't be good. It's definitely not good. It's never good.

Quiet means that one or both of them are deep into something they have no business being into.

With great trepidation I slowly walk down the hall, to find my daughter has decided to dump out every single boxed game that my son has in his room and scatter the hundreds thousands millions of pieces around her, right under the completely oblivious eyes of her brother. It will take at least 45 minutes to sort them all out and get everything put back in the right box, more if I make her help.

And I breathe a big sigh of relief that I dodged a bullet on that one, knowing that it could have been worse. Far worse. She could have been covering herself and all of her surroundings with tiny stickers (have you ever tried to get several hundred stickers off of the carpet? I have. It's not fun.), or pushing several dozen magnets deep under the refrigerator, or dumping fish food all over the bed, or playing 'can I cover myself head to toe" with that blue gunk in the toilet bowl (we've since changed to the kind that goes inside the tank), or clogging up the toilet with an entire roll of toilet paper, or any one of a million other things that I shudder to imagine remember...

Yes, it could have been a whole lot worse.

The Sunday Scribblings writing prompt for this week was "I get that sinking feeling".

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Recapturing my lost youth

In an effort to stick my head in the sand and pretend that the last, say, 20 years never happened, Jay and I are going here to see these guys tonight. At 60 (!!!) he's been rockin' for a long time by now, but hopefully he's still got a little bit of the old magic going on. And hey, the tickets were cheap, and the venue is certainly worth the trip. (And as a former player of that same instrument he made famous, this will bring back a lot of memories of my misspent youth - cutting band class to hang out behind the school playing my kind of music with my friends.)

But, because the last 20 years DID in fact happen and I'm now the mom of two small children, we'll be spending the afternoon at the pool first. All the better to tire the kiddos out with my dear. Gotta have some sympathy for the babysitter after all. It's going to be a long evening for her.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Stone Soup

That's what I'm going to be cooking this week if I don't manage to find the time to get to the store. I'd been filling in here and there from the minimarket down the block (I'm such a nerd, I just typed "down the blog") and from the greengrocer and thought I was in good shape, but all of a sudden I'm starving and there's suddenly no food in the house.

It's not entirely true. The freezer is full of things that won't be defrosted in time and there are various other ingredients around, but at 10 o'clock at night there's nothing easy to grab and I'm too tired to start cooking. Why am I eating dinner at 10pm you ask? Why, because I ate lunch at 4:30 of course (though that was a very yummy pasta with mushroom cream sauce that I whipped up just because I was in the mood). The kids ate earlier, Jay napped through dinner and I obviously didn't want anything heavy so it just never happened, and now I'm ravenous.

Oh well, I'm off now to go prowl the wilds of my kitchen in search of something effortless and not horribly unhealthy. One meal like that per day is enough for me (or it least it darn well should be!).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

TT#27 - 13 Reasons Garden Centers Bar Their Doors To Me

I live in a penthouse, which means a rooftop patio instead of a backyard, i.e. no soil. Already starting out 2 steps behind. We've tried a number of times to have it professionally landscaped (patio-scaped?) In the past 11 years that I've lived here I've been blown off by more gardeners than I can possibly remember. It's unbelievable, a bunch never even call back, but many came and sat with us, looking the space over, talking with us about our needs, promising to send a price quote, and then vanishing into thin air, never to be heard from again, leaving the world's two blackest thumbs (next to my mother, who is quite capable of killing plastic plants) to fumble around on our own. We haven't exactly covered ourselves in glory in the plant parenthood department (jeez, I can barely remember to feed and water my children, the plants are a lost cause completely).

If there is a super-secret blacklist of customers too dangerous to handle that circulates among Israel's the world's garden centers, I suspect that I am on it. Why, you ask? Just look:

(It took nearly two hours of struggling but I finally managed to figure out how to make a slideshow out of my photos. I have no idea whether the captions will even show up, but nevermind, these pictures speak for themselves. Hang on, I just got it - if you click on an individual photo it will pause the slideshow and show you the caption. Just in case you're wondering what on earth some of these monstrosities are.)

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

And as an extra, just to show that I'm not utterly and completely hopeless with anything green and leafy ALL the time, here is the proof that not everything I have is dead or in immediate danger thereof. A few are in fact surprisingly healthy looking. Rest assured though, it's accidental and certainly no fault of mine.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

My sister just had a baby!

Bouncing baby J has joined the world, via a slightly earlier than expected c-section. He weighed 7 lbs 15 oz (3.2 kg) and is 21" (53cm) long. Both J and mom are doing well. Huge congratulations to his proud mom and dad and beaming big sister R (not that they will ever read this blog, but I'm excited and wanted to share).

I haven't seen pictures yet, but I'm betting he's a cutie.

Oh, and he and his sister will soon be the proud recipients of the super-cool gifts you all helped me find :-).

Storing Children's Artwork

Unless you're lucky enough to live in a home with unlimited storage space (I'm not), figuring out what to do with all the artwork your children create can become a real problem. I keep a few special pieces each year but what about all the rest? It's fun to see how they progress as they grow, but really, how many scribbles or pictures of houses do you really need for that...

Enter the digital camera.

I take digital photographs of all my kids' drawings and projects (and boy do they bring home a LOT of them). Once they're stored digitally, the originals quietly disappear. The kids love seeing their work pop up on the computer's screen saver, and I love getting rid of the clutter! A word to the wise though, always make sure that the artwork you're not saving "disappears" when no one is watching. Otherwise, that fingerpainting they haven't even thought about in 6 months suddenly becomes a treasure they can't live without.

Storing artwork digitally - it works for me. Check out Rocks In My Dryer to see what works for everyone else.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Telltale Heart Clock

Something in this house is conspiring to drive me mad. For the past few days, every time I sit down at my computer I hear a quiet, subtle ticking. An incessant ticking. A maddening ticking. A drive me to distraction ticking.

Why don't I just remove the offending object, you ask? Because I Can't. Find. It!!! My watch doesn't tick, the clock doesn't tick, the dvd player or digital clock on the oven certainly don't tick. I have no freaking idea what is ticking. I'm starting to wonder whether it's something in the new laptop itself, not that I've ever heard of a computer ticking before. Whatever it is, it's driving me mad. MAD, I tell you.

All I know is that I am starting to feel an awful lot like the protagonist in The Tell-Tale Heart. (And oh my god, did you know that someone has actually turned The Tell-Tale Heart into a musical?! Or rather, a musicabre as he's calling it. Amazing. The Tell-Tale Heart - a musical. Good grief.)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Monday, Monday

Remember that song?

What is it about Mondays that drag us down so? Monday isn't even the first day of my week (the week runs Sunday to Thursday here) and I still can't get my act together. I stare woozily at the piles of work awaiting me, unable to take that first step and begin writing. I got plenty of enough sleep, have had lots of coffee and a decent breakfast and I'm still sitting here feeling like I've been hit by a truck.

I've blogged, surfed, checked my e-mail, drank yet another cup of iced coffee, if I don't manage to get to work soon I'm going to have to go do laundry!

What do you do when your nose simply refuses to press itself to the grindstone?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Dear Diary...

Dear Diary,

Wow. It's been decades since I looked at you. 25 years at least. You're looking a bit worse for wear, and the little gold key that stood guard over your secrets has long since disappeared. Nevermind, those locks are even flimsier than the ones on the old travel locks. I just stuck a bobby pin in and it popped right open.

How strange to read about things that seemed so important back then and are so completely meaningless now. Those two girls down the street that made it their life's work to torment you at the bus stop each morning? One didn't get a date until she was nearly 17. The other's parents got divorced and she had to move away. Neither of them were ever even that popular. Maybe that's why they were such bullies.

Oh, and the youth group I wrote about, wondering whether I should join? (I should? You should? How does one write to one's younger self, anyway?) I did join, and I became very active in it, gaining lots of friends, a very active social life, my first trip to Israel (and we all know where that led, much to my parents' dismay), and the complete decaying corruption of my teenage moral fiber (you'd be surprised what some of those kids got up to on some of those retreats). Come to think of it, I wonder how many children are corrupted in the very places that are supposed to be teaching them values...

And that brings me to another thing, self. You're almost at the age, if you're not there already, where you're going to take a temporary leave of your sanity and decide that it would be an adventurous thing to do to try smoking the discarded cigarette butts in the ashtray of Lisa W.'s father's van. For god's sake girl, THINK about it! That is freaking DISGUSTING! Don't do it! And how a revolting experience like that one could end up in 17 years of heavy smoking I'll never understand. You'd think it would have sent you (me?) running as fast as you (I?) could in the other direction. Take it from me, young and inexperienced self. Quitting smoking is HARD. Unbelievably hard. Probably the hardest thing you've ever done. Save yourself a whole lot of anguish and don't bother starting in the first place. Seriously. It's not worth it.

And one more thing before I run away screaming from these annals of preteen angst. (Don't take it personally, there's only so much I can take from the viewpoint of a 38 year old.) This one's important though. It's hang in there, and believe in yourself. Your road is going to have a lot of ups and downs. Growing up, at least the way I did it, is not for the faint of heart. Just be true to yourself, keep a good head on your shoulders, and know that you're going to turn out just fine. Better than fine. So buckle your seat belt, you're in for the ride of your life, kid.

The writing prompt for this week's Sunday Scribblings was "Dear Diary".

Friday, August 17, 2007


Itai is growing up, right before my very eyes. My little boy, that tiny creature that I brought home from the hospital just yesterday, had his first sleepover this week. Actually, he had his first two sleepovers this week.

Sunday his friend came to the pool with us after camp and ended up staying late enough that I told his mother he might as well stay over and save her the trip. (He's the son of a dear friend of mine, a GNI friend in fact. They live in a neighboring town, for some reason she couldn't find a second session camp there so he comes to Itai's camp.) That went well, so when I needed somewhere to dump a playdate for Itai for this morning so Jay and I could go to an appointment with Maya she promptly offered to take him from last night.

He ran off, backpack and toothbrush in hand, with nary a backwards glance. My little boy's not so little anymore.

On the other hand, he's quite full of 6.5 year old sass though. When do they grow out of that? (And please don't say 25!)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

TT#26 - 13 Classic Summer Songs

I started a completely different list this morning, but the pictures were taking so long to upload that I ended up having to scrap the idea for now. I'm uploading them into flickr now, but that's also taking half of forever, so instead I give you:

13 Classic Summer Songs, guaranteed to get you smiling and singing along
(in random order)

1. Summer Nights - Grease

2. Summertime, Summertime - Jamies

3. Summer in the City - Loving Spoonful

4. School's Out - Alice Cooper

5. Surfin USA - Beach Boys

6. Saturday In The Park - Chicago

7. Up On The Roof - Drifters

8. Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini - Bryan Hyland

9. Summer Of '69 - Bryan Adams

10. Downtown - Petula Clark

11. Daydream Believer - Monkees

12. Boys of Summer - Don Henley ("I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac" is still one of my favorite lines ever)

13. Kokomo - Beach Boys

There. You're smiling now, aren't you? Good, I knew you would be.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Thanks to Boho Rap for the use of this awesome banner.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Webcams Help You Stay In Touch

I live 6,000 miles and 2 oceans away from my family. There's no "just stopping by" when it takes a 12 hour flight to see each other. We speak on the phone a few times a week, which works for the adults in the family, but it's a lot harder to keep relationships strong when you have young children who aren't able to or interested in holding long involved phone conversations. Add to that the fact that children change so quickly physically and it becomes twice as hard.

Enter the webcam.

For just a few dollars, I bought a webcam, and then for a few more dollars I ordered one online to be delivered to my parents home back in the States. Presto, instant video conferencing. Instead of my daughter refusing to say more than hello and then immediately goodbye on the phone, we now have 20 minute duets with Grandma and Grandpa (I'd say trio but my father never actually sings out loud, he leaves that to my mom). The kids can drag their latest treasures out of their rooms, show off school art projects and lost teeth, sing the latest song they learned in camp, and just chat with my family. It works so well that we even talked my sister into getting one, and now the cousins can talk directly.

I can't say enough how wonderful this has been for our family. Because they "see" each other all the time, there is absolutely no hesitation when we first get together after a long time apart. Nothing warms my heart (or my parents') like the sight of my children racing pell mell through the airport to rush into the arms of their grandparents as they come through the gate.
And to top it all off, it's free. All you need is a high-speed internet connection and an IM program like MS Messenger. No more running up long-distance phone bills.
I can't recommend this highly enough - webcams are an amazing way to keep a far-flung family together. Now, if they could just do something about that pesky 7 hour time difference...
Stop by Rocks In My Dryer for more great tips.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

About to go off on a consumer rampage

I was literally right smack dab in the middle of a gushy post about how much I love the new frameless glasses I got today when I decided to take them off to clean them for the very first time. Imagine my surprise when, after asking the optometrist TWICE to confirm that they were anti-scratch, I saw a fine scratch line running right across one of the lenses - BEFORE I started cleaning them.

These were expensive glasses, and I am FURIOUS. I will be on the phone with the store first thing tomorrow morning, when I will demand my money back. I am so so so freaking mad.

And, to top it all off, with the stupid screws right in the lenses the freaking things are impossible to clean.

Too bad, I really liked them, too.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Linky - The Meme

Amy tagged me for this (new to me) meme last week, and I'm finally getting the chance to respond. It's an interesting one for me because I get to show off a few of my favorite posts again, and I love the caveat that two of the tags need to be people you want to get to know better.

Here's how to play:

You must post 5 links to posts you've written. At least two of the people you tag must be newer acquaintances so that you get to know each other better . . . and don’t forget to read the archive posts and leave comments!

Link 1 must be about family: Sometimes Mothers Really Do Know Best

Link 2 must be about friends: Tapenade, Chili Butter, and Death By Scrabble

Link 3 must be about yourself, who you are, what you’re all about: No Market For Used Teenagers

Link 4 must be about something you love: Jacob's Ladder

Link 5 can be anything you choose: Vacation Memories

The folks I am tagging are: Janice, Shelly, who's usually overwhelmed with tags but I really want to see what she comes up with for this one, Margalit, Fourier Analyst, LaLa, whose beautiful blog I just discovered last week, and anyone else who wants to play along. Just leave me a link to let me know and I'll post it here.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sunday Scribblings - Goosebumps

I don't tend to get goosebumps from the usual things. When I'm forced to accompany my son on a rollercoaster or spinning ride I just feel ill. (And by the way, when did that happen? I don't remember agreeing to get old and lose my cast iron stomach.) Scary movies leave me with a palpable ball of fear in the pit of my stomach, and I'll generally try anything to get out of watching them.

Songs can give me goosebumps though. Certain songs, usually those based on true stories, with lyrics so haunting you know they will stay with you forever, those give me goosebumps. Those are the things that send chills up and down my spine. Listening to songs like Tommy Sands' "There Were Roses", or to John McCutcheon's "Christmas In The Trenches", or Judy Small's "Mothers, Daughters, Wives". Or to songs like Peter Jones' "Kilkelly" or David Roth's "9 Gold Medals". Songs like these make my hair stand on end, staying with me long after the last note has faded.

Take a minute to read through the lyrics, and see if they don't give you chills, too.

You can find many more goosebumps at this week's Sunday Scribblings.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Soapdish For Words

Even after nearly 20 years in this country, basically all of my adult life, I can still be tripped up by the little things. The big things I can manage - I can discuss politics (if I must), I can argue with the person who cut in front of me in the checkout line, I can gently teach a new mother about breastfeeding. I can do all of these things in Hebrew without a moment's thought. It's not my native language, and in moments of severe stress or emotion I still yell in English, but it's safe to say that I am fluent in the language that surrounds me.

It's not the language that often gets me, though. It's the cultural minutiae, those tiny little details that you just couldn't possibly know without growing up here.

This time it was a "soapdish for words". Huh? Come again? A what?

I received Itai's school supply list and dutifully went off an a grand purchasing adventure. (Second mortgage anyone?) I managed to stumble my way through the basics, and did enlist the store clerk's help to wind my way through the mazes of "magic notebooks, lined notebooks, script notebooks" and a seeming million of other kinds of notebooks more diverse than you could possibly imagine. (If you're curious, a "magic notebook" is for learning to write and has oddly sized lines. I think. Or was that the "script notebook"?) I gathered pencils, and erasors, and sharpeners, and markers, and any number of other school supplies.

And then, right there at the bottom of the list, in black and pink (the paper was pink, not white), there it was. A soapdish for words. I was sunk. What on earth could a soapdish for words be? With some trepidation I asked the clerk. I hate doing that, because it's invariably some stupid thing that Every. Single. Person. In. The. Country knows but me and I end up looking like an idiot. I usually try to save those questions for my Anglo friends with older children so that I can live vicariously through their prior humiliation (though I've had some spectacular failures there too - ask me next spring about the Shavuot fruit baskets), but there it was. I was in the store, buying school supplies, and I needed a soapdish for words. I bit the bullet and asked.

Turns out, it's just a soapdish. A plain old ordinary soapdish. The kids make flashcards, and then store them in the soapdish. He told me to just go to the pharmacy and buy one if I didn't have an extra lying around the house. No, the bookstore doesn't sell them.

Who'd have guessed...

Not me apparently. Heck, I still write the amounts on my checks with English letters because it was too humiliating to have to keep asking semi-literate cashiers how to spell "four". In a strange twist on language education, I was taught words like laboratory but never how to write the numbers (that's an essay in and of itself). Like I said, it's the little things that trip me up...

At least now, when Itai starts first grade in a few weeks he will be well prepared, with the right books, notebooks, school shirts, and yes, the right soapdish.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

TT#25 - 13 Things Robin Wants

My computer was tied up in (still unsuccessful) long-distance remote control tech support most of the evening so I'm copping out and using Senor Google for my thirteen this week. Who knew this is what I've been wanting all along...

1. What Robin Wants for Christmas - you mean other than the chance to run around in funky green tights?

How I Met Your Mother Television show - How I Met Your Mother TV ... Robin wants to tell Ted she loves him, but she can't make the leap. Gosh, life is so darn complicated on sitcoms...

Sky Sports - The Best Sport Coverage From Around The World
Robin wants to be reliable. By Tom Adams - Created on 3 Nov 2006 ... Arsenal striker Robin van Persie says he has set his sights on becoming a more selfless...
The link goes to a general page about Arsenal, so I guess I'll have to die unfulfilled, never knowing a more selfless what Robin wants to become.

4. ROBIN HOOD (Read & Listen Books): Books: Philip Neil ...
The characters are Robin Hood, Marian, Little John, Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet, Lord Fitzwalter and King Richard. Robin wants freedom, Marian and his title and lands back. His first big problem is the sheriff wants to kill him. So he harasses the sheriff. Robin gets 30 comrades to help him and lives in Sherwood Forest. The king comes back and gives Robin's title, lands and Marian back to him. I think what Robin really wants is for this kid to learn not to give away the ending in a book review!

Robin: wants more ferrets. - Nothing I say could possibly top this as a punch line, could it?
Robin: wants to know if there is any way off not getting updates on im? - but updates on what we'll never know.

Robin wants to purchase more or less butter than Batman is willing to sell. I guess times are really tough if the Dynamic Duo has moved from fighting crime into gunrunning for the commodities market.

Robin wants things to go back to how it used to be. (You Tube video clip) Am I really old and out of touch or is this more than a bit obscure? On second thought, don't answer that...
Robin wants to reduce too much behavior to signals - Scarily for someone who HATED studying economics (and is in fact married to an economist), this is like the third different economics reference that popped up during this little escapade. Do I give off some sort of weird economics vibe or something?

Robin wants to contribute something positive and loving to the world - I can go for that. Heck, I'm a fan too.

"O ye of little faith, lay it on me - all of it. Father Robin wants to hear all of it - particularly the juicy stuff." - Sounds entertaining.

Robin and Joanne - Robin wants to give them away too, but he has not found anyone yet. I have no idea what he might want to give away, it was a link to a blog page without that quote. My curiosity is peaked though.

13. Robin wants us all to be more aware. Sure they suck you in with a perfectly reasonable sounding quote, but once you click? Beware! It's another economics link!! Aaaaahhhhhh!!!

Hope everyone has a great Thursday.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Wouldn't this be wonderful...

A cheap, easy, renewable energy source... What a wonderful thing if it turns out to be viable.

Now if only he could get it to market in time to replace my slowly failing solar panels before I have to pay hundreds of dollars to replace them. Wishful thinking, but maybe next time. They only last 8 or 9 years you know...

WFMW - Use towels to protect carpeting

This is probably one of those hacks that everyone but me figured out a long time ago, but just in case you haven't either...

Since sick kids don't always manage to aim very well (despite you screaming "In the bucket! In the bucket!!), when a stomach bug hits your house lay down old towels around your child's bed and on a path to the bathroom to protect your carpet, just in case. It's a lot easier to throw a load of towels into the machine than it is to scrub carpeting.

Now that I've had this stroke of genius, hopefully I won't need it again for a LONNNNNG time!

Check out Rocks In My Dryer for lots more tips.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Down the Big Slide (and Maya is better today)

Jay and Itai visited a pool somewhere in Maryland yesterday that had a giant blue water slide. They told Itai that he had to be able to swim across the whole pool with no water wings to be allowed down it.

So he did.

Four times.

I am SO proud of him, and so glad his dad got the chance to be there and see his moment of triumph.
My boy is growing up. (And all those swimming lessons this summer seem to be paying off, too.)
Exhausted but triumphant

Our very proud (and very handsome, if I do say so myself) ring-bearer

And thank heavens, Maya seems to be over whatever she had and is back to her happy bouncy self (and back to camp!) today. Thanks for all the good wishes. I'm sure glad that's over. My washing machine may never forgive me though, and I'm not done yet.

Monday, August 6, 2007

And here we were doing so well, too (updated)

Maya and I have been having a ball this week, missing Jay and Itai but really enjoying our time together. Friday night's fever turned out to be a one-off thing and we've been cranking right along. Dora was a HUGE success. She loved loved loved it, and behaved so beautifully in the face of temptation, explaining to me that we didn't need to buy any of the toys at the concession stand. I was so tickled that she wasn't asking that I ended up buying her the dvd of the show later. It was well worth it too, she loves to watch it and it's helping her with her Hebrew at the same time.

Yesterday after school we met friends at the new playspace (nice, but way too loud) and she ran around like a crazy person. After that we stopped for dinner, where Maya ate way too many french fries (like more than a full-grown adult male could have managed) and then suddenly remembered that if she ate her dinner well she was entitled to ice cream. I'd been planning on taking her home and giving her a spoonful or two at our house, but instead my girlfriend offered within her earshot to buy her some and next thing I knew my feeble requests for "a teeny tiny one" had morphed into the Ice Cream That Ate Brooklyn. This sucker was huge, and you know she scarfed down every last drop.

Which of course meant that she started throwing up in the middle of the night. She almost never throws up either, so it scared the crap out of her too.

It's now 7:30am and she's fallen back asleep. I'm awake and doing my third load of laundry, and hoping against hope that this is just a result of poor food choices and not some long-running stomach bug. Evil mother that I am, I'm also using this as a chance to instill the message that "too much ice cream is not good for tummies", so at least some good may yet come from this oh so lovely experience.

In any case, she's home with me today. It's times like this that I am very grateful that I work from home. I can be right here at home to take care of my sweet sick girl, and since I'm part-time (and 10 time zones away from my colleagues) I don't need to sweat the hours. I can work when she's feeling better (or napping peacefully watching a video).

Keep your fingers crossed that whatever this is that it's short-lived, would you.

Update: It's nearly 10am. Maya is definitely sick. She alternates between sleeping fitfully and throwing up, and I think she's running a fever. I'd give her some motrin, but I don't think she can keep it down right now. She's such a sad sack, poor thing :-(.

PS Jay, if you're reading this from the wilds of Maryland, how was the wedding? It must have been beautiful. Give J my love, and tell R welcome to the family and I'm really looking forward to the chance to meet him next time.

PPS Any chance of e-mailing a quick pic or two of J&R and one of Itai as ring-bearer?

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Super summer dish - curried chicken salad

It's August already and I don't know about you but by this time in the summer I'm ready for a change from the standard picnic fare.

Here's a variation on chicken salad that will get your taste buds perked up again. It contains mayonnaise, so remember to keep it nice and cool if you do plan on bringing it for a picnic.

Curried Chicken Salad

All quantities are approximate

3-4 chicken cutlets, cooked and cubed (can use dark meat, but I prefer white)
mayonnaise to taste
1 Tbl soy sauce
1 Tbl lemon juice
1 tsp curry powder
about 2 cups seedless white grapes, halved
1 cup roasted cashews

Optional: celery or water chestnuts, for added crunch

Taste and correct seasonings.

Chill to blend flavors before serving.

Bon appetit.

Check here for more of my recipes.

Friday, August 3, 2007

The best laid plans...

No swimming this afternoon. Maya said she wanted to stay home and play with her toys, and ended up getting into bed and falling asleep (that should have been my first clue). I have a cold anyway so I was just as happy to get a chance to rest myself.

She started feeling warm during dinner tonight. Luckily my girlfriend has young children and was able to pull out a bottle of children's tylenol. Here I must add that Maya was an absolute dream all evening. She played beautifully, interacted well, conversing nearly non-stop with my friend and I, started instructing the toddler on how to behave ("no Adam, we don't push those buttons, and we don't scream. We use our words." - that's my girl!), ate well... All the normal things we often take for granted with most children, but a real achievement for Maya, for whom these things don't come that easily. She was truly "present" for the entire evening. I nearly cried when I realized that the 3 of us had been sitting there having a perfectly reasonable, age-appropriate conversation for at least half an hour. No repetition of our words and phrases, no rote speechmaking, no circling the room endlessly. Just a half an hour of completely normal nearly 4-year old behavior. I can't begin to tell you what that means to me. And of course I can't expect you to understand yet, since I still haven't gotten into all of those issues. I will though. Soon.

In any case, we were supposed to have brunch with friends tomorrow but I think we'll take a rain check. I don't want Maya to overdo it. We've got (stupidly expensive and non-refundable) Dora tickets for the afternoon, so if we're only going to do one activity we'd both rather it be that one.

Keep your fingers crossed...

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Pick me! Pick me!

Kailani is giving away a $30 gift certificate to her Koo Koo Bear Kids site and I SO want to win! That flip flop sundress would be absolutely perfect for our long Israeli summers, and Maya would look absolutely scrumptious in that birthday shirt for her 4th birthday (I'd even kick in for the way cute striped leggings to go with it)!

Pick me! Pick me! Come on, how cool would it be for those Hawaiian clothes to travel all the way to Israel!

TT#24 - 13 Activities

My husband and son left this morning for a 10-day trip to the United States for a family wedding. These are 13 of the things my 3.5 year old daughter and I will be doing to survive pass the time while they're gone.

1. Playgroup (hopefully twice)

2. Swimming - we should get to the pool 3 or 4 times at least

3. Dora! I bought us a pair of ridiculously expensive tickets to go see the live Dora show that they're putting on here in Tel Aviv. This is a major big deal to my Dora-obsessed daughter.

4. Brunch with friends (unfortunately the same day as the Dora show, it would have been better if they were on different days)

5. Visit to a new indoor playspace with friends and then get dinner together, there or elsewhere

6. Take the car to the car wash (did this today actually)

7. 3 different therapy appointments

8. Haircut? (not sure, Maya's often less than cooperative about haircuts, and her bangs aren't that long yet)
9. Out for ice cream (that will kill a half hour at least)

10. Weekly kids activity at the pool Tuesday afternoon (must check schedule and see what they're doing next week. Ugh, I just checked and it's juggling and stilt-walking. Not very good for a preschooler. Oh well, maybe the play place over there will have something going on.)

11. Hopefully mooch receive at least one invitation to friends' for dinner

12. Loads of educational arts and crafts and other very beneficial activities Watch way too many videos

13. Count down the minutes until daddy and Itai get home (a la Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?)

Thankfully we've started off on a good foot. Maya was delightful this evening. We had a lot of fun together and then she fell asleep easier than she has in months. Please, please, PLEASE let the new bedtime routine be becoming a success! Things will go very well these next ten days if we are both well-rested, and much less well if we're not.

Check back in for next week's list to see if I still have my sanity. If I do, I may have actually completed the list of my favorite literary characters that's been hanging around in draft form for a while now.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

We Got Gifts!

Thanks to your help, I've just ordered 3 great gifts for my sister's kids:

For her 4th birthday my niece will get a fuschia super-hero cape with a crown applique from superflykidz over at etsy (I was going to go for a play tent, but my sister had just gotten her one for the party. She's been pretending to be a superhero lately though, so I think she'll love this.)

New baby boy will get a custom-made sleep sack (the animal print one) from BeeBee Mod.

And proud big sister to be will get the cutest ever pink hoodie with a flower applique as her big sister gift, also from BeeBee Mod. And, I caught the final day of her big summer sale, so I got the hoodie for half off! Love that.

Thanks again for your help everyone. Smooches.

WFMW - Inflammatory Breast Cancer information

I'm taking advantage of the high traffic WFMW to share this very important post from WhyMommy with as many people as possible. In a way, this is truly my best parenting advice - take care of your own health so that you can stay healthy and stay alive for your children. All the rest is window dressing. Important, yes, but it pales in the face of simply being able to be there.

I've talked before about Inflammatory Breast Cancer, and how my friend in the computer is fighting the fight of her life right now, but this message is so very important that it bears repeating again and again:


Did you hear that? You DON'T have to have a lump.

Rather than retyping that old post, I'm going to let WhyMommy's words speak directly to you. She says it better than I ever could, because she's living it. It's not just a warning to her. It's the battle for her life.

We hear a lot about breast cancer these days. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes, and there are millions living with it in the U.S. today alone. But did you know that there is more than one type of breast cancer?

I didn’t. I thought that breast cancer was all the same. I figured that if I did my monthly breast self-exams, and found no lump, I’d be fine.

Oops. It turns out that you don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer. Six weeks ago, I went to my OB/GYN because my breast felt funny. It was red, hot, inflamed, and the skin looked…funny. But there was no lump, so I wasn’t worried. I should have been. After a round of antibiotics didn’t clear up the inflammation, my doctor sent me to a breast specialist and did a skin punch biopsy. That test showed that I have inflammatory breast cancer, a very aggressive cancer that can be deadly.

Inflammatory breast cancer is often misdiagnosed as mastitis because many doctors have never seen it before and consider it rare. “Rare” or not, there are over 100,000 women in the U.S. with this cancer right now; only half will survive five years. Please call your OB/GYN if you experience several of the following symptoms in your breast, or any unusual changes: redness, rapid increase in size of one breast, persistent itching of breast or nipple, thickening of breast tissue, stabbing pain, soreness, swelling under the arm, dimpling or ridging (for example, when you take your bra off, the bra marks stay – for a while), flattening or retracting of the nipple, or a texture that looks or feels like an orange (called peau d’orange). Ask if your GYN is familiar with inflammatory breast cancer, and tell her that you’re concerned and want to come in to rule it out.

There is more than one kind of breast cancer. Inflammatory breast cancer is the most aggressive form of breast cancer out there, and early detection is critical. It’s not usually detected by mammogram. It does not usually present with a lump. It may be overlooked with all of the changes that our breasts undergo during the years when we’re pregnant and/or nursing our little ones. It’s important not to miss this one.

Inflammatory breast cancer is detected by women and their doctors who notice a change in one of their breasts. If you notice a change, call your doctor today. Tell her about it. Tell her that you have a friend with this disease, and it’s trying to kill her. Now you know what I wish I had known before six weeks ago.

You don’t have to have a lump to have breast cancer.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

P.S. Feel free to steal this post too. I’d be happy for anyone in the blogosphere to take it and put it on their site, no questions asked. Dress it up, dress it down, let it run around the place barefoot. I don’t care. But I want the word to get out. I don’t want another young mom, or old man, or anyone in between, to have to stare at this thing on their chest and wonder, is it mastitis? Is it a rash? Am I overreacting? This cancer moves FAST, and early detection and treatment is critical for survival.

From Robin again:

Everyone who reads this, please, go do your monthly breast self-exams. Don't just look for a lump. IBC is NOT characterized by a lump. Please go right now and read these descriptions of the symptoms of regular breast cancer and inflammatory breast cancer, and if you find anything questionable, please, PLEASE, go see your doctor. Knowledge is power and early detection is critical.