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Little Einsteins

The holiday of Purim just passed and one of the traditions is the giving of mishloach manot, which are baskets of food, traditionally hamantaschen cookies and other yummy things. I’d like to tell you I’m not sitting here working my way through the cookies and candy, but you wouldn’t believe me anyway, so what’s the point.

Last night we had a “Wine and Smell” party at the house. Pie and a buddy (I’m going to call her Monet) are doing a project for the school science fair. They recruited six friends and gave each of them a T-shirt. The kids (including Monet and Pie) slept in the T-shirt for five days and then they all came to our house so that each mom could sniff the shirts and see if she could tell which one belonged to her daughter. So they all came over last night. Juice boxes for the kids. Wine for the moms. Hamantschen for everyone.

And the little scientists went to work. Sort of. Three moms sniffed shirts. And then I heard Pie say to Monet, “Let’s go par-tay with the other kids downstairs!” as they clomped down to the playroom.

“Um, excuse me?” I yelled. “Don’t you need to finish your experiment?”

Deep sigh. “Oh, okay.”

Back to work. “We’re interviewing people after they smell,” Monet said. Sounds good. I heard Pie interview one mom: “So are you confident in your choice?” When my turn came, Monet asked, “Do you think that you were involved influenced your ability to pick the right shirt?” Why, no, I said. And I waited for the next question. “No, that’s it,” Monet said. To both of them, I asked, “But aren’t you going to ask everyone the same questions? How are you going to get statistically significant results if we all have different questions?” To which they looked at me and said, “Huh?”

It was all very scientific. And while I don’t want to give away any results before the science fair, I will say that, no, I could not pick out my own child. But that’s only because we were smelling shirts. Had it been socks, I could have picked Pie out at 10 paces. Stinnnnkkkky!

The Joys of Children

Pie is having a problem with her butt. Excuse, not her butt. Your butt. Your anus, to be precise.

“It’s pronounced Yur-uh-ness!” she screeches from across the house.

Whatever. Planets were chosen while we were on vacation, so Pie was assigned hers. Yur-uh-ness. Models must be made. The ring of Yur-uh-ness isn’t staying up well (in deference to the abilities of the sculptor and the limitations of Model Magic, Yur-uh-ness‘s eleven rings got mushed into one), and we apparently are a house full of ten year olds.

Uranus. Hee hee.

The girl deserves it, though. She’s become a mouthy little thing. In the car, I said to Pie and Doodles, “No bickering, you guys! This is a bicker-free zone,” to which she instantly shot back, “I don’t see a sign.” We’re entering the tween years folks. For the teen years, I’ll be renting her out as birth control.

And the boy? He thinks if he steals cookies but leaves one in the package, no one will notice. Hey, Butch Cassidy. We’re on to your tricks.

The boy just had his first experience of school sex-ed. What’d he learn? “Oh, hormones and crap. Oh and we’re supposed shower. And use deodorant. Every day!” Gasp! The expectations! Not that he’s following orders.

Mouthy and smelly. Five more and I’ll have a full set of dwarves.

Coming Home

We arrived at Newark at 4:20 a.m., after I sat in a middle-middle seat, between my two children for twelve hours. Pie had her head on one leg, the Boy has his on the other, and my butt was numb for about a good four hours while they snoozed. The rest of the time they watched TV and kept me running to the back of the plane for snacks for them. It worked out, though. One snack for them, two for me.

We arrived home at 8:30 this morning. Adam showered and went to work. Pie decided to go to school. Doodles wanted to stay home so he finished up his homework and practiced his viola.

And me? I accidentally opened the emergency gummy bears.

Note to Adam: We need more emergency gummy bears.

Re-entry is hard.

You Reap What You Sow

Our schedule has been whirlwind, and I’ve barely been able to keep up with my journal, never mind the blog. We went from Tel Aviv to the Dead Sea and Masada, headed to the north, visited Sfat and the Golan Heights, and today we drove to Jerusalem via Haifa and the West Bank.

I will post pictures when we return, but today was quite a long travel. While the grown ups visited the planned Palestinian town of Riwadi, the kids went goat herding. Pie has had a bit of trouble with car sickness, and I’ve tried to help, offering Cokes, sea sickness bands, and suggesting that she move to the front of the bus and not look at devices (this was nixed as the kids all sat in the back, peering over the shoulder of the one kid who brought an iPad). Goat herding was apparently fun–”The goats escaped and we had to go catch them all!”–and I found our tour of Riwadi to be fascinating.

However: The drive was long and the roads were quite windy. It didn’t help that I tried keeping my eyes peeled to get a decent photo of this sign when it appeared:

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“This road leads to Area A under the Palestinian Authority. The entrance for Israeli citizens is forbidden, dangerous to your lives, and against Israeli law.”

I got car sick. Majorly car sick. But do I get sympathy? When we finally made it to our hotel, I laid down and closed my eyes for a moment. When I woke, I found this note next to me:

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For those who can’t make it out:

Dear Mom,
We all are getting sick on this trip but you just have to “suck it up.” You shouldn’t of made it our family modo [sic] if you couldn’t handle it. I hope you feel better soon.
Love your very caring daughter, Pie Pie

So this is me. Sucking it up. And, luckily, we’re done with long bus rides.

Ess, Bubelah, Ess!

 

The way I see it, as a tourist, the biggest problem with Israel is that there are only three meals in a day. I know when most people think of food, they think Italy or France. But out of all the countries to which we’ve been, hands down Israel is my favorite eating, and it has the food I most often try to replicate at home. The fruits and veggies are so fresh (and they are only available in season here); the breads are scrumptious; the sauces are tantalizing.

On our first night here, we met up with cousins. The kids, despite the language barrier, hit it off immediately. Ignoring age, the kids paired up by gender: 8-year-old Pie with her 11-year-old cousin and 10-year-old Doodles with his 8-year-old cousin. Apparently there is one thing that can cross all age and language barriers and Pie and Girl Cousin found it: Rainbow Loom (although in all fairness, Girl Cousin’s English is quite good). Doodles and Boy Cousin played chess and ran and discovered they both know all the words to “What Does the Fox Say?” (joy for the rest of us). Fast bonding for the two of them, and both kids are eager to see their newfound Israeli cousins tomorrow.

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Giggling cousins

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Rainbow loom: maker of friends

That first night with the cousins, we went for pizza in their neighborhood. Pizza, right? It was amazing. The mom was disappointed that Boy Cousin wanted such a boring pizza, but we were fascinated. We’d never eaten pizza with corn on it, but it was delicious. Turns out it’s a super common topping here, probably like mushrooms for us. They also put sauces on their pizza when they get them, either a hot sauce of a tomato sauce.

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Pizza with corn

At almost every hotel in Israel, breakfast is included. The spread of Israeli breakfasts are fabulous, and I have to remind myself that there will be two other meals in the day. Israeli salad, vegetables, fruit, fish, bread, eggs, cheese, so much food (but never, mind you, meats, because all the hotels are kosher and you cannot mix milk and meat at a meal). Even my food adverse son is able to eat, as yogurt and, yes, puddings, are always available for breakfast.

What I eat:

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Bread, fruit, Greek salad, fish, avocado egg salad

What the boy eats:

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Egg, bread, chocolate and vanilla pudding

And then just on the streets and in the markets, where the piles of fresh food and pastries tempt you at every stall.

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Spices in the Carmel Shuk

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Pastries in the Carmel Shuk

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A bread and egg concoction that both children ate while seeing Old Jaffa

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Pomegranates in the Port Shuk

On about every third corner is a fresh juice stand, where they have just about every kind of fruit and veggie possible. I swear, before I leave, I’m going to have a kohlrabi juice. The woman at the stand said it’s quite good.

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A just-moment’s-ago squeezed grapefruit juice

And finally, tonight, the kids weren’t hungry for dinner, so I took the opportunity to indulge in my beloved eggplant, which no one else likes. I had heard of a dish called Sabich, and I was determined to try it. The stall was about a mile from the hotel (ha, Duchess! Even in my quest for food, I’m wracking up the steps!), and it was worth every step. I. Love. This. Food. The pita is incredibly soft. And inside it is fried eggplant, potato, hardboiled egg, hummus, tahini, veggies, and spicy mango sauce. The guy who made it was super friendly, and made sure to make it spicy for me.

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Sabich

I’m already plotting how to ditch the family again and go back for another sabich before we leave Tel Aviv. Now I’m full and exhausted. I’m going to go to bed and dream of sabich.

Shalom!

Okay, so this picture doesn’t really tell you where we are.

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But this sign should give you a hint:

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Because in a country of Jews, you have a country of Jewish mothers. Although, as Doodles said, if it really wanted to be a Jewish mother, it’d tell us to put on some sunscreen.

להתךאות

Where in the World Are Doodles and Pie?

Okay, I won’t keep you in suspense. They’re in Newark airport, where they spent five minutes doing homework before switching to iPods to watch movies.

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We are waiting for our “secure gate” to open. That should give you a hint. And, no, we’re not headed to Sochi.

I have been walking the terminal from end to end in order to bank steps, as I’ve had a nice FitBit lead on the Duchess all week and I want to end on a high note, as I’ll have a very low step count tomorrow. We get on the plane in about an hour and land at 4:20 pm tomorrow, so unless I pace the plane all night, she’s going to take the lead. (And I’m not above pacing the plane all night.)

By the way, what is up with Newark trying to mislead guests into thinking this is New York? Big “Welcome to New York” signs. Lots of “I Heart NY” gear in the stores. If I were traveling from abroad, expecting to step out into New York, I’d be pretty pissed.

And we’ve now hit the point where the kids are about to fall asleep in the airport, meaning they’ll be up all night on the plane. Good times!

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Okay, see you guys on the other side.

Mornings in Our House

Me: I slept oddly. And I had a dream that we got a divorce.
Husband: Huh. Well, good thing you didn’t dream about your teeth falling out. That would be really bad.
Me: What?!
Husband: Isn’t it supposed to be bad to dream about teeth falling out?
Me: As opposed to our divorce?
Pie: Are you getting a divorce?
Me: No. We are not getting divorced.
Husband: I think teeth falling out in a dream means you’re going to die.
Me: If you dream about teeth falling out, you’ll die? How does that work?
Husband: Dunno.
Me: Speaking of death, look Pete Seeger died. Wow, he was 94!
Husband: Pete Seeger? How could he be 94?
Me: He was.
Husband [doing a quick Google]: Oh, I was thinking of Bob Seger. Who was Pete Seeger?
Me: Really? “If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the mooorrrrnnning. I’d hammer in the evening, all over this land!!” Is the boy up? I bet he’d love this song.
Husband: Oh boy. Everything is a song.
Pie: You don’t like her singing?
Husband: She just does so much of it!
Pie: You married her.
Husband: She didn’t sing this much when we met.
Me: Yes, I did. You just weren’t listening.

Note: The boy didn’t like the song any better. Especially when I started to hammer him to wake him up. “Where Did All the Flowers Gone” didn’t go over any better, either. Grumpy family. My singing rocks.

Strike a Flame

It is possible that I am sitting here in total sugar shock because I finished off the bag of Oreos that Lilith brought over last night for movie night. Now, I’m not saying this is what has happened. I am merely saying it is possible.

Of course the daze could also be the numbness that comes from a run on these “feels like 2 degrees” mornings. I hadn’t planned on running, but given that a run in tomorrow’s snow storm may be difficult, I figured I should do it while I could. I decided to end my run at Trader Joe’s so I could buy milk (everyone knows you need milk in a storm, right? It’s one of those strange mysteries of the world. I was going to get the bread, too, but realized if we really do have a storm, baking bread is a good activity with snowbound kids). Really, it’s the walk home from Trader Joe’s that numbs the fingers and freezes the brain. Anyhoos, I’m home, we have milk but no Oreos, and if the power goes out, we are well set on matches.

What’s that you say? I have learned recently that some of my friends are unaware of my match, um, let’s say “collection.” Adam prefers to call it a “problem.” (How is that possible that anyone who knows me doesn’t know about this? I have definitely blogged on this before and surely you’ve seen me grabbing a matchbook or two [yes, I know it's never been just two, but work with me here].) I’ve always liked matches. Who hasn’t? Fire is fun. What’s better to do on a lazy day than play with matches, right? And in the old days, this was no problem. You’d go out to eat. At the end of the meal, you’d grab a book of matches. I got in the habit of picking up two books: one that I put in a tin for a collection and one that I would be able to use. In Seattle, I had a fireplace, and I needed matches to start my fires (or my Duraflame logs, depending on how lazy I was). Nowadays I light Shabbat candles every Friday. I need matches for that. In my New York days I needed matches for… well, can’t quite recall. But I needed matches. Lots of them.
collection

Let me say upfront, I am all for the no-smoking trend. Smoking is a disgusting habit that smells bed and poisons the world. What I am not happy about is the way “no smoking” has translated to “no matchbooks.” Most folks probably haven’t noticed, but matchbooks are slowly disappearing from the world. Take a look next time you go out. Where are the matchbooks? One of Miami Beach’s many charms is that it caters to tourists, many of whom come from countries where smoking is still the norm. Miami Beach often has matchbooks. Every now and then, here in Boston, you will still find a restaurant with matchbooks.

And here’s where the “problem” may be found (not that I am saying there is a problem–just where one might interpret the problem to be): the lack of matchbooks may be causing a hoarding mentality on my part. Because now instead of grabbing two matchbooks, I feel compelled to grab twelve. Some of my friends–thank you, Teener Tuna–understand my matchbook anxiety and they abet me in my matchbook pilfering. Others–I’m looking at you, husband!–find it to be some sort of weird sickness and refuse to help me.

On Saturday, husband and I went out to dinner with friends. The restaurant was quite good and they happened to have matchbooks (which did not influence how I felt about the food–it was mere bonus). So I grabbed a handful on the way in. And on the way to the bathroom. And on the way out. Husband was horrified. “You know, you’re going to get caught and there’s going to be a big article that reads, ‘Wife of travel company executive caught stealing matchbooks.’” No use telling him that they are giving the matchbooks away, and you cannot steal a free item.
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(By the way, wouldn’t you say this matchbook haul was worth it to them? Because I just gave them loads of free advertising on my blog!)

The man may scoff, but looking through my collection brings back a lot of memories of former haunts.
matchesTrips: Vegas; Sparks, Nevada; New Orleans; San Francisco; Memphis. Events: our wedding rehearsal dinner; my sister’s college graduation; dinners with my grandparents; my bachelorette party. Friends: Benny’s Burritos with Ken; Kettle of Fish with Jax; Etta’s Seafood with Barb and Steve. That tin is almost as good as any journal.

So next time we go out and you see me grab a handful of matches. Don’t just stand there, mouth agape: Grab a handful and help me out! Bring back the matchbooks! Long live the matchbooks!

Slave to the FitBit

My kids have figured out how to game my FitBit.

I admit it: I’m a slave to my FitBit (and, boy, I wish someone were paying me to proselytize about the FitBit, but this is all just me; and for you Luddites out there, a FitBit is a very fancy pedometer). I compete with friends for steps, most notably the Duchess. This is a blood sport, my friends. No joke. Many a night, I say to Adam, “S**! I’ve got another 1200 steps to reach my goal and the Duchess is way ahead,” so I stay put wherever I am and march in place. (Adam once asked, “Do you think the Duchess ever just marches in place, cursing your name?” I checked with her husband: She does indeed!)

I have made my kids suffer for the FitBit. “We’ll walk there!” I say, to which they groan, but don’t even bother complaining because they know it’s hopeless. The other night, my son, sick in bed, asked me to go get him a glass of water. “Really?” I asked. “Now? Because the FitBit is charging, so any steps I take won’t be recorded, which means they are POINTLESS STEPS! I do not tolerate POINTLESS STEPS!” But he gave me his sick face (okay, so he had strep) so I got him the glass of water. But I was bitter about it.

On our trip to Iceland, I had the following conversation with my children:
Me: So how can we get back to the hotel, but manage to take 2,000 steps to do so?
Pie: How would you know it’s 2,000 steps?
Doodles: Are you kidding? She’s using child labor for her FitBit.

This past Saturday I went to Shabbat services. But I actually considered not going, because wearing the FitBit with a dress is near impossible. I either have to hook it on my bra or on the waist of my tights, neither of which is comfortable and both of which show through dresses. I did go. Without the FitBit. And I was bitter about it. I tried not to think of all those wasted, uncounted steps.

For a while, the kids fought the FitBit, but they’ve recently embraced it; they’ve learned they can make the FitBit work for them. The other night, my son was downstairs. “Mom, can you go upstairs and get my book for me?” he asked.

“You’ve got legs!” I said. “Use them!”

He batted his eyelashes at me. “I’m just trying to help you get more FitBit steps!”

I got him the book.

The girl knows now the magic nighttime words are “I don’t have enough steps!” She’ll often ask me in the evening, “Do you have enough steps?” Because she knows if the answer is “no,” then she’s guaranteed a good half hour of Just Dance with me.

Because the steps must be achieved.

The kids know to fear those days when I stop suddenly and say, “I forgot my FitBit!” Because where ever we are, no matter what we are doing, I will return home for it. The one or two times I couldn’t do this, I spent a day watching the Duchess rack up the steps without me. And I was bitter about it.

Have a FitBit? Let me know. I’ll compete against you, too. Really, it’s all just fun and games (as long as I’m winning. No competitive streak here, thank you very much. And no, I’m not marching in place while I type. At least, not much).