Monday, June 30, 2008

It's the end of the year as we know it...

... and we feel fiiiiine. (Are you getting the reference despite my horribly off-key singing and mangled lyrics?)

Thanks everyone for the well wishes yesterday. Today's been a better day, and more significantly, it was Itai's very last day of school (the photo below is from their end of year ceremony last week). He certainly took first grade by storm - he came home clutching a straight A report card and certificate for being his class' outstanding student! (Yes, you might say I'm so proud I could practically levitate.)

This week was also full of end of year parties for the kids' after-school activities. Yesterday's was Itai's, for soccer. They had the kids and dads (except Jay who's still on the injured list) team up against a few young guys from a local farm team, who played their little hearts out against the dads while letting the kids score enough to keep them happy. The final score was Kids/Dads 4, Semi-Pros 3. Just a wee bit rigged (watching the pro goalie whiff was a riot) but Itai's been on cloud nine all day talking about how they beat the real players! He genuinely has no idea that they threw the game (though throw would actually be a drastic overstatement, they literally had to stop in their tracks each time they wanted the kids to get the ball).

That was followed today by Maya's end of year party for her sports class. The teacher asked me to take pictures for her so Itai stepped in and acted as Maya's "grownup" for the activities. He was thrilled with the responsibility and Maya was thrilled to have her brother there with her. They were utterly adorable, not that I'm prejudiced or anything of course.

I'm completely wiped now from all the chaos but somehow my two energizer bunnies are still going strong, there's a full living room soccer game raging around me as I type. Speaking of which I should probably go do something about that...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Don't get too comfortable

Just when things seem to be going along swimmingly, you have an afternoon that kicks you in the teeth hard enough to remember that it's not all fun and games after all. I should know better than to get cocky and think good thoughts about how things are going - they just tempt the fates into giving you a good swift kick in the ass.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Curiosity and the Cat

Curiosity killed the cat
imagine that
it killed the cat

Once upon a time, there was a young family living in a tiny house at the edge of the forest. This house was tiny indeed. Much too small for the mother, the father and their three small children. Woe is me the mother cried, we cannot stay in this shoebox. There is no room in the kitchen, no room in the den, and for the children no room at all. They are growing and need more room, soon we will be so crowded we will be forced to sleep on the roof! We must have a larger dwelling or I don't know what I shall do.

The husband was not deaf to his wife's pleas, nor to their plight. He agreed to peruse the notices nailed to a tree on the village green (or perhaps on the bulletin board at the post office) and see whether a more fitting home could be found.

After searching high and low he determined that there was a dwelling to be let at the far end of the village. Curious to see whether the answer to their pleas had been found, the father bundled the mother and all three of their young children into their wagon and set out over hill and dale to see the dwelling that would perhaps become their new home. After an arduous journey they reached the home and found its owner, a woman heavy with child. Yes she told them, the house is for rent, and yes, the babe is to be born this very fortnight.

The family entered into the house, looking at rooms, poking in cupboards, turning on taps. The father and the mother exchanged significant glances before asking their leave to return to their own tiny home to consider their future.

They loaded the three children back into the wagon. They loaded themselves back into the wagon. The father began to back out of the drive and then a mighty thump was heard - DISASTER!

The father, in his retreat, had driven his wagon directly over the (heavily pregnant, remember) mistress of the house's beloved cat, who had sought his rest under the vehicle and being, they later found out, deaf as a post, had not heard the sound of the engine starting and consequently had not abandoned his place of refuge.

Upon disembarking from the wagon they found that the cat was indeed, dead. Killed by their curiosity.

(Note from Robin: this is in fact a true story but one which thank goodness did not happen to me. The mother in the story gave thanks upon its telling for one small thing - that it had been her husband, and not she, who was driving. At the time it was told to me she was still waiting to see whether the incident would send the woman into labor.)


Thursday, June 26, 2008

TT - 13 Summertime Cocktails

Pick your poison. Fuzzy umbrellas not included.

1. Frozen margarita

2. Daquiri

3. Cosmo

4. Tequila Sunrise

5. Appletini

6. Bloody Mary

7. Screwdriver

8. Sex on the Beach

9. Mint Julep

10. Caipirinha

11. Sangria

12. Kir Royale

13. Mimosa

So what's your favorite?

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

WW - Triangle Palm

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(click to embiggen)

I Will Not Be Broken - 5 Steps to Overcoming a Life Crisis

Bad things DO happen to good people. And to bad people. And to everyone.

That is the premise of a book I was asked to review - Jerry White's I Will Not Be Broken - 5 Steps to Overcoming a Life Crisis. There are plenty of books out there that talk about why bad things happen. This one doesn't. It takes it as a given that everyone experiences a crisis in their own life or in the life of a loved one at some point, whether it is a horrific accident like the land mine that took Jerry's leg, or the loss of a loved one, or a serious illness, or the loss of a job, or the breakup of a marriage, or any one of a thousand other tragedies and crises that turn our lives into chaos in a single moment. Instead of dwelling on the why, Jerry provides a blueprint for the how - how to survive your moment and come out of it even stronger.

This survivor's blueprint has grown out of common experiences Jerry has seen over and over again in his work with survivors around the world through Survivor Corps, an organization that helps victims of war and terror to take their lives back. It is based on five simple and concrete steps for a person to follow to find their way from victimhood to survival, and then move past mere survival to a vibrant and thriving life. I'll let Jerry explain them in his own words:
1. FACE FACTS. One must first accept the harsh reality about suffering and loss, however brutal. "This terrible thing has happened. It can't be changed. I can't rewind the clock. My family still needs me. So now what?"
2. CHOOSE LIFE. That is, "I want to say yes to the future. I want my life to go on in a positive way." Seizing life, not surrendering to death or stagnation, requires letting go of resentments and looking forward, not back. It can be a daily decision.
3. REACH OUT. One must find peers, friends, and family to break the isolation and loneliness that come in the aftermath of crisis. Seek empathy, not pity, from people who have been through something similar. Let the people in your life into your life. "It's up to me to reach for someone's hand."
4. GET MOVING. Sitting back gets you nowhere. One must get out of bed and out of the house to generate momentum. We have to take responsibility for our actions. "How do I want to live the rest of my life? What steps can I take today?"
5. GIVE BACK. Thriving, not just surviving, requires the capacity to give again, through service and acts of kindness. "How can I be an asset to those around me, and not a drain? Will I ever feel grateful again?" Yes, and by sharing your experiences and talents, you will inspire others to do the same.

The book is full of survivors' stories. The effect of these shared stories is twofold - they show the remarkable strength and resilience of the human spirit, and at the same time they make your own crisis seem more manageable ("if they can overcome such incredible obstactles, than surely I can overcome this"). There is even a chapter which talks about how to support someone else in their struggle, how to build them up and encourage them to thrive, and equally importantly what not to do.

Here, come see for yourself. You can download several chapters of I Will Not Be Broken (for free) here. Their easy to read style, clear plan of action, and inspiring stories will definitely touch your heart and leave you wanting to learn more.

The steps laid out in I Will Not Be Broken worked for Jerry and thousands of others. They can work for you too.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Separation Anxiety

I wondered when it would happen. It was inevitable, and healthy, and age-appropriate, and normal and all of those sorts of things that a mother wants for her child, but somehow it still took me by surprise. My son is growing away from me, away from his family. He is developing relationships and skills that have nothing to do with me, and he is managing those relationships and cultivating those skills on his own, neither seeking nor desiring my help or even my cognizance.

The same child who still needs to be reminded to brush his teeth each night is receiving phone calls from his friends, and when asked what they wanted responds with "nothing, it's private." Private? At seven? With friends that aren't even seven yet? I don't remember even receiving phone calls at that age, let alone private ones.

I don't mind the privacy per se really. We've already had the good secrets/bad secrets talk, and the "you can always tell us anything" talk and I'm as confident as it's possible for a parent to be that the message has gotten through. And more to the point, I can't imagine that first-graders have such devious secrets to keep, not these good, smart, well-behaved kids from good families that I know well. I'm just surprised that it's started so early. The days when I controlled his whole environment ended years ago, but this is a new level of independence, a period of pulling away and defining the boy he is going to be, not the one his mother wishes him to be. You expect some resistance and secrets in an older child, but my son is still walking that fine line between young child and older and the moments that tip the balance one way or the other often catch me unprepared. Sometimes I'm exasperated by his childishness, while other times it is the older child's sudden appearance which takes my breath away.
I knew about the separation anxiety that peaks at just about nine months; I was prepared for it, I'd read books. It came, we coped, it left.
Nobody told me that there was another round at seven - or that this time it would be mine.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Something to Eat

She opens the refrigerator for the 27th time that afternoon, sure that this time there would in fact be something better inside. Why is it that the hungrier she is, the harder it is to feed herself? At age oldenoughtoknowbetter she ought to be past this by now. She knows damn well that she could make herself a wonderful chefs salad, or a decadently rich dish of pasta with fresh forest mushrooms, or even just whip up a batch of vegetable fried rice if she'd only just take the time. The ingredients are all right there in front of her. The problem was that all of those things needed preparation, at least a modicum of effort, and she was hungry. Very very hungry. And the longer she waited the worse it got, until she was gnaw your own arm off hungry, much too hungry to even think about making something that would take at least 45 minutes to prepare, nevermind that she had already wasted at least double that amount of time with her fruitless surveys of the refrigerator.

She was so hungry she couldn't think straight. It was time to end this charade, there was not going to be any cooking that afternoon. With a sigh she gave in to the inevitable and reached for a slice of two day old bread and a piece of cheese of questionable origin. Better not to dwell on that one. She'd been trying to feed herself for over three hours now, she had to just pick something for god's sake and EAT.

If you could really call this eating. There has to be something better in there. Maybe if she looked just one more time...

Friday, June 20, 2008

Science Experiment, Take 4

It took them four tries - the science kit was long on cool experiments but short on precise instructions - but after some trial and error (including one round where mom learned why you should never look directly down the barrel of a stoppered container of vinegar and baking soda - yes really) but they got it sorted and science, in the form of a small plastic race car, was brought to life, right there on the kitchen floor.

And at 7 that's really all you need for a happy ending, isn't it?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

TT - Israeli Late Night TV

It's 1:30 in the morning and since I crashed out on my daughter's floor before and ended up sleeping there for a few hours I am now distressingly wide awake. Wide awake in the wee hours + no great ideas for a Thirteen = "What's On TV Right Now". If you were looking for pithy prose this definitely isn't the day - try again on Friday when the writing prompts start. In the meantime, you get drivel:

1. Channel 3 (general entertainment) - Martha Stewart, about to be followed by Oprah

2. Bip (comedy) - The Simple Life (oh god, this is that horrible Paris Hilton thing, isn't it?)

3. Xtra Hot (more general entertainment) - Jack and Jill (just ending), followed by Arrested Development

4. AXN Action Channel - The Sentinel

5. (skipping the strictly Israeli channel since what's on won't mean anything to most of you - to those who care it's Yellow Asphalt with Moshe Ivgi)

6. Channel 8 (documentaries) - American Shopper - "Documenting the introduction of "Aisling", a new supermarket sport that promotes self-expression through creative shopping". Huh?

7. (skipping the Russian channel) Israeli Channel 10 - Ring & Win, a local game show

8. Israeli Channel 1 - How Dares The Star - culture and music

9. HOT Gold (movie channel) - The Prestige. Thriller. Rival magicians in turn of the century London battle each other for trade secrets. With Hugh Jackman.

10. HOT Fun (movie channel) - Domestic Import. Comedy. The life of a couple is in turmoil, as the Ukrainian maid they hired is only interested in finding an American husband.

11. HOT Action (movie channel) - The General's Daughter. Thriller. The daughter of a well-respected general is murdered and the investigation exposes dark secrets and corruption. With John Travolta.

12. HOT Drama (movie channel) Il Tempo dell'Amore (in English). Drama, depicting 3 impossible love stories. 1 in the South African Boer War, 2 in Occupied France, 3 in current day Italy.

13. Hallmark - Mary Bryant. Drama. Part 2: In 1788 Mary Bryant, a starving young Cornwall girl, is convicted of a petty crime and sentenced to seven years in the Australian penal colony of Botany Bay.

We've got cable so the list could go on and on (and that's only the English and Hebrew language offerings, there are also a number of foreign language channels) but there's 13 of them for you.

Now I just need to avoid getting sucked into watching any of them and force myself to go to bed! Say goodnight Gracie. G'night Gracie. (Sheesh, I must be getting tired (I hope I'm getting tired!), I'm writing utter nonsense.)

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

WW - Red Sea Fish

Taken here this past weekend.

The observation pools:

The Red Sea Reef tank:

The underwater observatory:

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Virtual beach party - come shake off the doldrums

I'm in a bit of a posting slump this week. Jay hurt his leg fairly badly last week and has been laid up at home for the past three days, I've had some real issues with my own feet this week too. Thankfully I'm walking fairly well today but we were quite the sight this week hobbling around the house. What a pair. Everything else is basically fine, kids are both fine, but my energy and creativity are feeling sapped. I figured this is a good time to do what any self-respecting blogger does in a slump - make her readers do the work!

So come on, help me kick my muse in the ass again. Let's start this summer off right with a virtual beach party. Bring something to eat, something to drink, a beach chair or blanket crash out in, and bring a goodtime summer attitude. Share your favorite posts or photos. Tell me silly stories. From a look around the blogosphere I'm definitely not the only one feeling flat this week, so let's shake things up a bit around here.
I'll start things rolling - here's a big batch of frozen goodness to get this party started:

Image courtesy of Stock Food

Now who's got the chips and the music?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

There and back again

As you may have guessed from my silence this weekend I didn't manage to liveblog our trip. I'd say it was because we were too busy having fun but the truth is it's more due to connectivity issues. We did in fact have fun, but I could have snuck a post or two in there had I managed to get and stay connected again. Oh well, better late than never.

We're back home again after a weekend of sun and fun. It hit 104 F (42 C) one day but the wind was strong enough that it kept things bearable. We went boating, swimming in the Red Sea complete with coral reefs (little ones, we didn't go to the main coral beach since the kids are still much too young to snorkel) and their associated fish, spent lots of time around the hotel pool (and jacuzzi - Maya's favorite part) and even made it back to the Underwater Observatory. The outside observation pools and Red Sea aquarium are usually my favorite haunts, but this year the actual "in ocean" underwater observatory was a real star. I've never seen so many fish in the open water before, there were even two large school of tiny little fish whipping this way and that. Maya particularly loved the Red Sea tanks (that's my girl) but overall the turtle eggs were their clear favorite again this year, no contest.
I'm whipped today. I spent the whole day racing around (oh my poor aching feet) on just four hours of sleep so I'm just going to shut up now and let the photos speak for themselves. It's not like I'm writing anything wildly coherent anyway... Oh, and happy Father's Day to all celebrating.
Eilat, 2008.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

On the way to Eilat

I haven't disappeared on you. We're in Eilat for the weekend for Jay's company's annual event. It's not as hot as in previous years but this year's hotel is not at all up to snuff and the awful whiny music coming up from the pool for the past several hours as I tried to get Maya to sleep didn't help. We did have a nice lunch break near Mitzpeh Ramon on the way down though (climbing wall and scenery pic) and a nice swim in the hotel pool this this afternoon. Jay and Itai are out at an evening event at Park Timna now. Dragging Maya out for something that didn't even start until 9pm and wasn't really for her age group didn't sound like a winning plan so she and I stayed back at the hotel and saw a musical version of Tarzan put on by the hotel's entertainment team. (It was awful, she loved it.) After that they put on a bunch of kids music and let the kids go wild on stage, which if Maya's enthusiasm level was any indication she'll remember as one of the highlights of her life to date. Unfortunately you won't see it because I can't seem to get the correct version of the picture to upload. I hate using unfamiliar software, it makes me feel like an idiot. Hopefully I'll get it sorted tomorrow when Jay's around. I'm on his computer and things went a bit wacky. Also all of my post processing seems to have disappeared so the landscape pictures look totally washed out (not helped by the fact that I was shooting one handed while the other hand kept a death grip on Maya's arm to ensure she didn't go plummeting over the edge. You'll have to take my word for it, the views of the Machtesh Rimon crater were stunning. I'm not doing justice to them.
Come back tomorrow when I will hopefully have sorted out my technical frustrations and will be feeling less ornery. In the meantime have a great end of the week everyone.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

WW - Pink umbrellas. And Feet.

No, there's no connection. Just playing around this morning, avoiding work.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Find the connection

What do Mrs. Brown, an English monarch, milk (or lack thereof), a tailor, Suzie Q and Mary-Ann all have in common?

Any idea?

Still nothing?

Not yet?

Come on, the oldsters among you have a better chance with this one. Think hard, you can get it.

Well, first we heard this and this, and then later this and this (but with them), and then saw this who did this, but we never did hear this*.

For those of you whose musical tastes are not older than dirt and who are now completely bewildered, I went tonight to go see Herman's Hermits and The Animals in concert, and they ROCKED! I hadn't seen Herman's Hermits since 1987 (and that was a reunion tour back then!) and had never seen the Animals. They were only playing ONE date in Israel in a city quite far away but I managed to find a few friends to go with and off we went to spend the night cheering, singing along, and hooting like schoolkids. It was a fabulous trip down memory lane to the days of my misspent youth.

And now, since it's 2:39 in the morning, I'm off to bed. I'm not nearly as young as I was the last time I saw these guys and morning is going to come much too soon.

*I suspect it was being saved for a final group encore but since it was already 1am and we had an hour+ drive home the woman driving decided to leave during the final set. What idiots put the weakest band (The Marmalade) on last anyway? At least that way we didn't feel like we missed anything (other than the encore and this fab song) by leaving a few minutes early.

Friday, June 6, 2008

I nearly lost a friend once

Many years ago I called the home of a very dear friend who lived in the US. His wife answered and told me he wasn't home. I wasn't all that fond of his wife, they had a very difficult relationship and I blamed her for it. I had known my friend for over a decade by then and after that many years of close friendship I knew him nearly as well as I knew myself - I knew his thoughts, his dreams, his disappointments, and yes, his marriage troubles, which were many. Still, as his friend I felt obligated to be polite to his wife and steeled myself for a few minutes of inane chitchat.

I got my world ripped apart instead. After a minute or two of polite how are you's I asked how things were going with my friend, more to make conversation than an honest desire to know. She responded by suddenly swearing me to secrecy and telling me that he had hit her. More than once. And that I couldn't say anything. To remember that I'd promised her I wouldn't. I suddenly couldn't breathe, it was as if all the air had suddenly been sucked out of the universe. This couldn't be happening. This man, my friend, would never. Could never. It was unfathomable. He'd always been a protector to me, how could he ever hurt someone? I felt utterly betrayed. It couldn't have hurt me worse if I'd been the one to he'd hit.

I was so angry. I have never been that angry in my life. It was as if he'd ripped apart the very fabric of my soul. I wanted to rip his heart out with my bare hands, but I had promised to keep this devastating secret and I was afraid of what might happen to his wife if he found out she had told me.

I kept the secret, not telling a soul. It took everything I had, but I had promised and I kept that promise. I paid a heavy price though. I couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, smoked way too much, fought with my own husband. It affected every aspect of my life. Everywhere I looked I saw only black despair. Week after week I held my ground and refused to answer my friend's repeated calls.

One night my husband and I were in the grocery store. I picked a fight over something stupid. My husband stopped and told me enough was enough. Whatever was weighing on my mind that was causing me to act this way, it had to come out. Now. No more hiding, no more pretending that everything was alright. And come out it did, right there in the middle of the grocery store. Before I had gotten two words out I was sobbing hysterically. When I finally calmed down enough to get the words out he asked me why I hadn't just confronted my friend. I explained that I had sworn I wouldn't. Jay got angry. How could I throw away over ten years of love and friendship without giving him so much as a chance to defend himself. After holding out for another hour or two I finally agreed to speak to my friend.

With a sick feeling in my stomach I placed the call. He was so happy to finally hear from me, and so hurt that I'd been rejecting him. I heard that and exploded. I let four months of pain and hurt and anger come flying out of my mouth almost of their own volition.

And through the phone line I heard a hurt which mirrored my own. In keeping silent, in becoming the judge and jury in this conviction without trial I had committed a betrayal of my own. A terrible betrayal.

Despite everything I knew about his wife and her history, it truly never occurred to me that she had lied just to drive a wedge between us, to remove me from the picture, and yet she had. She had lied and I had believed her.

It took years for our friendship to truly recover and only newer and more twisted examples of his wife's instability finally made it clear to both of us how this had happened, and how close we had come to losing each other. Another eight years later and they are enmeshed in a bitterly acrimonious divorce with no end in sight.

She nearly cost him his best friend, and she did cost him his dreams and his innocence. That pales in comparison to what she is doing now. I only pray she won't cost him his son as well.

The Writers Island prompt for this week was reconciliation.

Blue (and green and a bit too much brown)


I really liked the lines in this one, and the way the light and shadows create their own counterpoint.
As always, constructive criticism is welcome.

Goalie gloves, sort of

Crazy kid...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

TT - June Holidays

Did you know that June is jam-packed full of holidays? I mean come on, everyone knows about Father's Day, graduations, and the gazillion wedding anniversaries, but did you know about these:

June 5 - Festival Of Popular Delusions Day (wouldn't it be better to call this "The Moon is Made of Green Cheese Day"?)

June 6 - National Applesauce Cake Day (could do worse)

June 7 - National Chocolate Ice Cream Day (getting even better now)
June 8 - Name Your Poison Day (uh oh, I hope this isn't a result of the previous two holidays)

June 9 - Donald Duck Day (now this could be fun)

June 10 - National Yo-Yo Day

June 11 - National Hug Holiday (we used to have a group here that ran around hugging people, I wonder what happened to them)

June 12 - Machine Day (are we talking coffee machines, copy machines, flying machines? How can we celebrate with such a wide mandate?)

June 13 - National Juggling Day and Kitchen Klutzes Of America Day (I sincerely hope no one is celebrating these two simultaneously)

June 14 - Pop Goes The Weasel Day (can you imagine the chaos this could cause?)

June 15 - Smile Power Day (is this replacing fossil fuels?)

June 16 - National Hollerin' Contest Day (remind me to take an excedrin that morning)

And last but not least...

June 17 - Eat Your Vegetables Day (really? they have a holiday for that?)

Hallmark is missing some great opportunities here, don't you think?

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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

WFMW - Scavenger Hunts

Shannon's looking for ideas to beat the "Mom, I'm boooooooooored" blues this summer. Here's mine:

Send your children on a scavenger hunt. Depending on their ages it can either be around the house (great for a rainy day) or around the yard or neighborhood, just make sure your kids know exactly where they can and can't go. We don't want little Charlie trying to walk to the mall to buy his way to victory.

Give each child or group of children a list of items to find (or pictures if they can't read yet) and a bag to put them in. Set a time limit and send them off.

The lists can be straightforward or convoluted. One mom I know used to devise riddles - the kids had to solve the riddles to figure out what they were looking for (clever, but since I'm severely riddle-challenged I'd find that a punishment, so we skip that bit).

The first child/group back wins.

You can get creative with the prizes too. They can be traditional prizes or even things like the right to pick the entire dinner menu for the night - including dessert of course!

Happy scavenging.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


I stumbled across a fun new photo project the other day. Anna Carson is hosting Project Blue where, you guessed it, people post photos of something blue. Hmm I thought, this will be fun. I have loads of blue things around. 113 (yes really) attempts later I'm humbled to say that my photographic skills still lag far behind my artistic vision. I can "see" what I'd like to capture in my mind's eye, but making that vision a reality is a lot more challenging. I'm learning (and hopefully improving) each time I take out my camera but SLR's are a whole new world for me and the learning curve is still steep. One of these days I'm going to have to find the time for a photography class. In the meantime, I'm haunting photography sites and trying to glean tips and techniques wherever I can. Oh, and taking hundreds of pictures.

Here are two that managed to hide from my overactive delete key.

Constructive criticism gladly accepted.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Big Fat Mommy Brag

Wait a minute, did I just call myself fat? Nevermind, you know what I mean...

Look away now if you don't like shameless bragging, but I'm so damn proud of my kid that I just had to share.

Itai, my first-grader, had his (almost) end of the year parent-teacher conference last night (or more correctly "parent-teacher-student-littlesistertaggingalong conference). I love the way the students themselves are included in the conference here in Israel, so that the child knows exactly where they stand.

We walked in last night expecting a good report, but what we got just blew me away. The teacher started out by saying "I could have told you you didn't have to actually come in since there are no areas of concern, but I figured you'd enjoy hearing this."

She sat there and RAVED about Itai - academically, behaviorally, socially. What a wonderful kid he was, what a special kid, what an amazing kid, what a pleasure to have in her class. On and on... After she finished her own charter member of the Itai Fan Club bit she went on to read us the comments from all the various specialty teachers, which were equally wonderful. Not that as his mom I didn't already think he was all of those things, but what an incredible feeling to have the rest of the world agreeing as well. This really is an incredible kid, and I couldn't be prouder. He's meeting the world head-on and taking it by storm.

I had a lot of concerns about sending my child into the Israeli educational system, and I know that the system is still in many ways very flawed, but I have to say we have been happily surprised at every turn. Both of my kids are getting exactly what they need, and I am both grateful and very, VERY relieved. I don't know if it's our particular school system or if we've just gotten very lucky so far, but whatever it is I'll take it, and hope that it the system continues to surprise and impress me.

Itai and a friend working on a school project.