In the heart of Tel Aviv lived a family…for awhile.

Tel Aviv, Israel

Tel Aviv, Israel

Downtown Tel Aviv is a compact city full of white cement buildings. Laundry hangs from rooftop lines or on patios and you quickly get used to hearing the clanging of pots through open windows as neighbours prepare dinner.  The nearby sea provides an occasional breeze during the heat of late June and is beautiful backdrop full of ever-changing shades of blue. The Kerem neighbourhood near the Carmel Market is busy as people hurry to buy flowers, wine or cheese from the local cheese stand and our family quickly became part of the ebb and flow of people walking around the neighbourhood. One morning the corner coffee shop barista started making my morning cappuccino as I sluggishly walked towards his shop and he cracked a long-awaited smile confirming, “One sugar? To go?” I knew then we were starting to feel at home in downtown Tel Aviv as I placed my ten shekels on the glass deli counter with a nod in exchange for a piping hot cup saying “Ken. Toda!” and made my way back to the apartment we had rented up the street.

Around the corner from our apartment is the Shuk (Carmel Market) and is a hub of activity from early in the morning until end of day. You can buy pretty much anything you need at the market and it is very convenient to be able to run out on a moments notice to pick up food or supplies. Trays of freshly baked chocolate croissants or burekas lay in tidy rows or various piles of fresh olives to taste to help you choose just the right one to take home are hard to resist amidst the fruit and vegetable stands. If you cannot wait until later to eat, there are falafel stands or fresh melon grilled right in front of you to appease hungry stomachs. The best tip for heading to the Carmel market is to go early before the crowds appear and you are swimming like fish upstream trying to pile your groceries into your cart or stroller. When travelling with kids it can be a bit overwhelming and hot for little ones so going early is a must. For older kids it can be an interesting experience once they realize they can dip into that bag from the baked goods stand and munch on fresh pita or know that the juice guy will toss them a slice of freshly cut orange as they squeeze a frothy concoction of apple and orange juice into a plastic cup. Elizabeth quickly got used to our daily morning stroll as the two of us joined the crowds to grab croissants still warm from the oven for breakfast, coffee for Mom and a glass of fresh juice for eight shekels, which she insisted on paying for herself. We would navigate around the forklifts delivering produce to the stands and motorcyclists heading to work carrying our groceries the short walk back to our apartment.

Baked goods at Carmel Market

Baked goods at Carmel Market

Fresh olives and eggs.

Fresh olives and eggs.

After one particular morning, we thought a reprieve at the nearby park was a must for our kids after a larger grocery day letting them munch on snacks as Mr. L quickly took our groceries back to the apartment. A huge benefit to having an apartment in the heart of downtown Tel Aviv is everything is five minutes away.

Park near our apartment.

Park near our apartment.

One evening we decided it was time to check out one of the other fabulous beaches near my in-laws. As much as I enjoyed the downtown Tel Aviv beach, it was a fabulous break to go to Tel Baruch Beach on the north side of the city. Reminding me of downtown Miami with palm trees and manicured lawns and streets lined with pristine apartment buildings, this particular area is popular with seniors and families.

The beach was quieter and very family oriented with a playground. Heading away from the lifeguard area to a quieter area on the other side of the cove, the water was warm and although a little deeper, the kids had a blast finally seeing sea shells to collect. The nearby restaurant, Blue, was relaxing with couches to lounge in for a casual dinner after our swim. There was a huge sand pit for the kids in the middle of the restaurant complete with cube shaped bean bag chairs and we enjoyed dinner as the kids ran in between the table and the sand pit. It was a lovely way to end the day.

Little man checking out another beach.

Little man checking out another beach.

Blue Restaurant, North Tel Aviv, Israel

Blue Restaurant, North Tel Aviv, Israel

Unfortunately, the tummy troubles hit again the next day and although we attempted a morning in Old Yafo and managed to explore the oldest stone staircases of Tel Aviv grabbing ice cream to cool off, we quickly headed home where I was put to bed for the rest of the day.

Climbing the steps in Yafo-Tel Aviv, Israel

Climbing the steps in Yafo-Tel Aviv, Israel

Entrance to main square in Yafo-Tel Aviv, Israel

Entrance to main square in Yafo-Tel Aviv, Israel

The duration of the trip we spent changing plans as on again and off again low-grade fevers combined with rotovirus symptoms hit most of us. Unfortunately it did cast a bit of a shadow on the rest of our trip, but we managed to take things day by day and see how different family members felt. Dealing with illnesses, thankfully not serious, while travelling means you quickly learn to just enjoy each day or sometimes each hour. The times when the five of us could all go out together became quickly limited as Mr. L and I switched off being at home with one or two of the kids while the rest of the family went out, even if only for a stroll to the park.

More to come….

When Being a Stay At Home Mom Sucks

I could have written this! Constantly reminding myself that my house does not need to look like a show room because frankly I would rather go for a walk with my kids after school is a daily occurence. Why oh why do we put these pressures on ourselves?
Great blog post!

Kinda Crunchy

I don’t know about you but when I hear the words “Stay at Home Mom” I imagine a woman who looks refreshed, well put-together, and confident. I thought, as a SAHM, I would be not only keeping the house clean, but making awesome home projects from Pintrest and making healthy meals from scratch. Oh man, our house was going to be awesome.

Ha. I can barely keep the floor vacuumed.

This image is a stark contrast from the reality I have experienced… and it’s not just me. Other SAHM’s seem to consistently struggle with feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, and insecurity. I love this meme because I feel like it really captures my reality:

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So what happened? If you read my post “The Importance of Self-Care for Moms” then you know how I feel about the difficulties of juggling tasks as a mom. It just feels like our…

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Visiting in Tel Aviv.

After a visit to Mr. L’s city where he grew up we were going to head to a mall to meet my father-in-law. However, dealing with traffic in Tel Aviv is a whole new experience and with Jacob getting fussy, we opted to take everyone home for a much needed rest from the heat. After all, we were not used to the constant beat of the sun on our backs or temperatures in the low thirties (Celsius).

We have also learned that travelling with three or more kids, including a toddler, meant that a break each afternoon was necessary. We had attempted to forgo naps and rest times on one of our first days and Jacob, still napping most days, was a disaster by five o’clock. We decided that perhaps sticking to a later afternoon nap so he could keep up with the later culture would work best.

So, forgoing a mall excursion we headed back to the apartment where we all rested or napped. Having no real dinner plans we threw caution to the wind, packed up the brood and headed down for dinner at the beach. Apparently, we were not the only family to think of this as the beach was packed with families, couples and kids celebrating their last day of school. Settling down under a couple of umbrellas and ordering a casual beach dinner, (quickly becoming the norm for our family), we let the kids loose into the sea. Watching all the other naked little boys running free and forgetting the diaper bag, we encouraged our little guy to be free as only a toddler can be. Our family munched on chicken strips and humus as we watched another beautiful sunset over Tel Aviv and all the spectacular colours that came with it. No words can describe the brilliant pinks and oranges that streamed across a clear sky or how the sun looked like a ball of fire as it quickly sunk below the horizon. Yet, another wonderful end to a day for this family with three or more kids in Israel.

 

Beach dinner
Beach dinner 
 
Jacob baring it all.

Jacob baring it all.

 

Sunset over Tel Aviv

Sunset over Tel Aviv

 

The next day we could not escape it. We had to visit the mall. One of the busiest days to go but we felt the kids needed a break from the sun and my in-laws kept pressuring to take us shopping. A hobby they love of which I abhor, dreading taking three small kids shopping, but apparently this mall (as with others in Israel) there are indoor playgrounds for the kids so it was a win-win situation. The kids (not being used to busy malls) were wide-eyed as we made our way to the food court where the playground was strategically placed. Without a backward glance, the three of them took off being familiar with the usual jungle gym of climbing structures, tubes and slides. Mr. L gave a wave and we were off.

Indoor playground at Israeli mall.

Indoor playground at Israeli mall.

 

Stores were crowded as my in-laws generously dragged me their preferred store to preferred story. Bypassing some of the ones I would have liked to go in but being a good guest I went with them, let them dress me up and pick out a few items. It was pointless to argue and it was very kind of them. At the end of it, I had scored a couple of cute dresses and pair of shoes. Not bad for an hour shopping trip.

After escaping the mall and dealing with traffic in Herzelyia, a feat upon itself, we finally made it home for naps. We had resolved to get everyone down for a good rest as we were meeting with family later for dinner at a cousin’s house and were expecting a late night. We also decided not to visit a mall in Israel again on a Friday or Saturday, both extremely busy days of the week as people finish work early and go out both nights. Israeli’s work very hard and play very hard. It is not uncommon for the normal Israeli to work very late hours Sunday through Thursday and then ensure they make the most of their two days off.

That being said, dinner at Mr. L’s cousin was a most enjoyable eye opener to Israeli hospitality. Without more than a casual phone call from Mr. L announcing our arrival, the family dropped any other plans to treat us to dinner to their home in Rishon LeZion, a suburb of Tel Aviv popular for families with small children. Their gorgeous apartment overlooked Rishon with a huge balcony complete with bouncy castle for all the kids. Language was not an issue for our kids and their Israeli cousins and typical shyness gave way to games of snakes and ladders and sneaking more treats from the cupboards. It was one of the most enjoyable family get-to-gethers we have been to. Family caught up, stories were exchanged and we all relaxed under the humid night as the continuous and delicious amounts of BBQ spread across the casual table.

Dinner with our Israeli family.

Dinner with our Israeli family.

The latest night our kids have ever experienced, it ended after more treats for the kids, warm hugs and kisses to all and promises to try to get together one more time before we left. It was a warm feeling to be so welcomed into a family’s home who I had met only once years before. It was also heart-warming to see our kids so cherished by our cousins that my little man threw us over for his Israeli family following them around all night and weeping upon leaving.

The sun went up the next morning yet our family slept, and slept. It was like recovering from a party. Being a Saturday the streets of Tel Aviv were surprisingly quiet. Mr. L told me because of the Shabbat, most stores were closed and the buses did not run. (Travel Tip: Buy any food or supplies on Friday before the stores close. Barely anything is open Saturday, including restaurants!) We finally made our way out of the apartment to head down to the beach with Mr. L warning us, the streets are quiet because everyone was at the beach. “Pshaw,” I remember saying, “it is only ten-thirty am, how busy can it be?”

Well, he was right. It was packed. My jaw dropped at the sheer amount of people setting up their own tables and umbrellas. Bringing down their coolers and inflatable pools, it was like a huge party where everyone was invited. We were lucky to get one of the last available chairs and umbrellas to rent and settled in. Israelis truly go to relax by the beach on their days off. Our usually lax way of watching our kids splash in the waves as we sat right at the shore gave way to being constantly vigilant about keeping an eye on all of them.

Busy Saturday at the beach in Tel Aviv.

Busy Saturday at the beach in Tel Aviv.

 

That was also the day tummy troubles visited our family. The girls complained of tummy aches and after lunch one started throwing up but had no other symptoms. After appearing fine, the younger girl went right to sleep for naptime and we had to pull her out of bed for another family visit that afternoon. Pleading with her to “buck up” until after the visit, we regretted not listening when she began throwing up on the way to another set of cousins for coffee. Feeling horrible but knowing it was our only chance to see this set of family, we endured the visit as our family tried to make us feel welcome even though two out of three of the kids were feeling terribly sick. We visited as long as politely possible and hustled our kiddies back to the car, plastic bags at the ready for any other inevitable sickness and got them all home and two of them into bed. Thankfully, the next day both girls seemed fine although the bug did hit Jacob one morning and knocked this mom on her back for a full day. A twelve-hour bug, unfortunate but not unexpected when traveling. A good rule of thumb when traveling with small children, 1) Take or know where you can purchase medicine for tummy troubles if outside of your home country. 2) Stock up on bottled water and keep everyone hydrated. I think that helped us get through this faster than others. 3) If your kids say they do not feel well, listen and postpone any set plans. You may need to make a get-away home. 4) Ensure you have lots of downtime in your schedule to re-schedule plans if illness strikes. Thank goodness for Imodium and nearby drug store!

More to come…

“Here we go, go, go! On an adventure..”

When Mr. L and I decided a year ago to fling ourselves into a new classification of family, families that travel, we had no idea what to expect. Up until this point we had taken brief family trips to Cuba, Mexico and Florida all with general success. But the idea of organizing a trip to Mr. L’s country of birth, a twelve-hour flight away, seemed too daunting to contemplate. Yet, with the onset of a heart condition by his father who still lives in Israel and cousins asking when we were making the trip, we made the decision that this summer would be the first inaugural trip to Israel for our family.

We agonized over the airplane ride. How would the kids sleep? I hunted for new books and toys. Mr. L uploaded new movies and games to each of their cherished but closely monitored devices. We coordinated with family in Israel on visits, booked the car and apartment.

Traveling with three or more kids, we have quickly learned that you have to be creative and strategic in well, pretty much everything. Mr. L reserved the bulkhead seats for us on the airplane thinking the extra leg room would work well for our brood. His father gently tried to nudge us towards a swanky hotel on the Tel Aviv boardwalk, but having a two year-old we knew a 3 bedroom apartment with full kitchen and separate sleeping quarters for Mom and Dad would be a better choice. We booked a place a mere seven-minute walk to the sandy white beaches along the Mediterranean and a full open market around the corner where we could pick up food on a moment’s notice. We booked a vehicle with a folding down third row to hold the umbrella stroller and luggage and could easily hold a full car seat and two booster seats. Mr. L called and confirmed, twice on everything. We ensured our insurance was all in order. On paper, we were set.

Fortunately, delegating the duties when planning to travel comes naturally to us after three kids and eleven years of marriage. Mr. L takes care of the logistics on the trip, I take care of well, everything else. Shutting the house down, a last-minute run to the grocery store for snacks on the plane, packing and researching places to go to name a few. It works for us, mostly. Forgetting Aloe Vera when you are a freckled redhead is not ideal in a country where the sun is out all day and the temperatures can reach as high as thirty-five degrees Celsius and the locals are putting tanning oil on their bronzed skin. But for the most part, we were set.

Then finally, after rushing to collect school items, drop off teacher gifts, a musical theatre play and all the things you have to do when leaving school two weeks early, we were off!

The kids did amazing at the airport and all slept on our overnight flight, except the Mom holding the thirty-pound two-year old who kept shifting every half hour. It was the most exhausted I felt on a trip. But we arrived intact with our entire luggage to meet his Dad with tired smiles. After a very, very long wait for a taxi shuttle to pick-up our car we were off to our apartment. (Note to self: Next time rent from a car company located in the airport!) His father had stocked our fridge so we were set for a casual dinner at the apartment. After a brief walk on the boardwalk looking at the blue waters, we headed back to the apartment and put everyone to bed. But not before I got a chance to see our first sunset from our fourth floor patio overlooking the water.

The next day began our real trip. Still feeling a bit tired, we headed to the beach for the day. Packing up towels and sand toys, the girls wasted no time in plunging into the warm salty waters and digging in the sand while we watched from rented chairs and umbrellas. The nice thing about Tel Aviv is that every block on the public beaches there are huge lifeguard stations and they will whistle and yell at anyone venturing too far into the waves or where the current may be too strong. Another set of eyes on your kids is not a bad thing. As well, casual restaurants are plentiful with beach chairs and umbrellas at your disposal. For a small fee one can rent lounge chairs and umbrellas in the open spaces. This is an ideal set-up when travelling with three or more kids erasing the need to lug down your own chairs and umbrellas along with all your other gear. The water is also fairly shallow and sandy so a parent of small kids can feel confident that their little ones are safe. Like bath water this time of year, the water provides a pleasant swim and even on a “red flag” day the girls jumped the waves enjoying teasing us with how far they could swim. Jacob was a little more hesitant hearing the soft roar of the sea. Yet, by the end of the day even he was coaxed into the relaxing waters to kick at the waves and spot the silvery fish near the shore. You can take a cooler, which we did that first day, full of fresh watermelon slices and sandwiches. (And lots of water!) Or alternatively (as we have done other days) you can switch it up and order from the nearest restaurant a plate of humus/pita, huge and filling salads or hot dogs for the kids to munch on in between building sand castles or taking another dip in the sea. Alongside your food, beer is available or refreshing Limonana, a delicious drink of lemonade and fresh mint leaves. What other way is there to start a family vacation?

Bringing sand home is inevitable, although there are numerous foot rinsing stations or showers. But back to the apartment we went to have showers, a quick rest and then out to dinner with my father-in-law.

Our first dinner in Israel was at a local favorite restaurant, The Old Man and the Sea in Jaffo. Windowless, it overlooks the sea and families gather here to watch the sun set counting the minutes as the sky turns from pink to orange. Upon sitting down, the table is overflowing with middle eastern dishes; humus, salads, falafel, pickles and pita. A pitcher of Limonana appears and is always filled. One feels as if eating like royalty. Diners munch on the dishes as they await their main courses. We finished early as the restaurant filled up. Still being on Canadian time, our brood was getting tired not used to the Israeli culture of late nights so after watching the sunset, we headed home for a long night rest.

After another morning at the beach and walk around the Carmel Market to pick up fresh chicken for dinner, we hosted our in-laws in our small kitchen, took the kids down to the local shop for ice cream and across the street to the park. Sunburnt but happy, the kids finished their treats, played on newly discovered equipment, squealed in delight at the stray cats that seem to populate the city streets and another day was done.

Our third day we wisely thought a break from the beach was a good idea. Our brood, being Canadian and having a very cool spring, were not used to the heat and sun. So into the car we piled to take a trip to Mr. L’s town of childhood, Ra’anana. Elizabeth asked numerous questions as we drove by his old apartment building and walked down the streets of his youth. Audrey, being affected by the heat more than her sister, trudged along only perking up as we neared a toy store and our destination for lunch, La Trattoria. A well reviewed pizza place in the area. After a toy was bought for each child, we ate our lunch on the patio and awaited the most delicious pizzas. Everyone was stuffed as we left to wander down the streets, stopping as Mr. L pointed out which stores were the same and which were different when he lived here. Ra’anana is a quieter town, albeit still busy. Tree-lined the downtown street is filled with cafe’s, bakeries and fresh fruit stands. Elizabeth pulled us into a bread shop that had cream-stuffed éclairs on display in the window. Lacking chocolate, I was not sure what to expect. As we all tried the soft desserts, we instantly all wished we had bought more. They were simply, divine. Walking back to the car as we wiped cream from our mouths, I said to Mr. L, “this is the type of memory I want them to have from a family vacation.”

More to come…

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Six Sleeps Until…

The clock is ticking. Each precious minute that goes by my mind keeps spinning. What can I do now? Where am I in that mental checklist because I’ve been too busy to make a real one? Will I be able to accomplish this overwhelming never-ending list? Welcome to my hell week. 

What is hell week you may ask? Is it not a throwback term to university days where exam upon papers upon presentations were thrown at the students. The sink or swim mentality of keeping up with your studies? Yes, that is usually what the term refers to. But this week, in the life of a SAHM of three or more kids it is the week where I must pack up my family of five for our first trip overseas, get the house in some sort of semblance of tidiness in between the half jobs of putting away winter coats (thank you cool spring) and re-organizing my girls bedroom. It is also the last week of school for my kids. Teacher presents are to be wrapped. Cubbies are to be investigaged as my two girls still need assistance in that area. Quick teacher meetings to ensure their report cards will be mailed home and that they place a years worth of schoolwork into my girl’s knapsacks this week where I can lovingly pile them into a corner until we return. End of year parties to attend while still adhereing to the plethora of activities that fill our evenings such as baseball and soccer. Did I mention Elizabeth’s musical theatre play is the night before we leave? Throw in a dress rehersal or two. Don’t forget Father’s Day. Cards are to be mailed and something for Dad in the morning before we all cram into the van for our overnight flight to Israel. I can handle it. Maybe. 

Now, before another word is said. Yes, we planned our trip according to these dates. Yes, we could have planned it another time, perhaps after school was finished. However, our destination is a hot climate. The difference between June and July is the difference betwen 28 – 34 degrees celsius and 40 degrees celsius not to mention the cost of the flight doubles. When you are traveling with five people the cost of the flight is a consideration not to mention when three out of five cannot tolerate those kind of hot temperatures, the decision was clear. We would endure hell week and try to remember the end goal.

A trip with our family to see a beautiful country where Mr. L grew up. A lovely two-week visit with his father and cousins. Laying on a white sandy beach every day viewing the Mediterranean. Shopping at the Carmel Market in downtown Tel Aviv. That is the goal at the end of hell week. 

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Wish me luck! Any last minute packing tips? 

In Anticipation

The countdown is on! What countdown you may ask? The end of school where parents anticipate lazy and less-scheduled days? The time of the year when there are no more mad rushes to get lunches ready for the next day? Or perhaps simply the beginning of summer where the weather warms up and the sun shines into the evening? Could it be the big family trip of the year that makes a parent’s stomach tingle as they look beyond the packing to frolicking somewhere on a beach with their most cherished ones?

A parent’s anticipation this time of year could stem from all of these or the anticipation can be mixed like a less than satisfactory weekend cocktail, with dread. For a SAHM, summer can be the hardest part of the year. Running at full throttle to ensure our brood has a balance of rest and relaxation coupled with activities or camps to keep them busy so the house is not entirely destroyed. Checking the cupboards and filling them with healthy snacks as they attack like scavengers desperate to fill their never-ending empty tummies. We ask with a hint of panic in our voices to other parents at the park, “What do you have planned for the summer?” in the hopes a future playdate will be offered as we look ahead to eight weeks alone with our kids.

Now please do not misunderstand me, there are some wonderful things about spending eight weeks with a group of young, young people. The morning cuddle in bed knowing you do not need to rush to get out the door. (If it is not a camp day.) The leisure to have a planned reading time lounging on the newly put together patio set with coffee in one hand and Ramona the Pest in the other enriching your children’s mind with wonderful children’s literature. Successful outings to the ice cream shop to reward excellent behaviour. The family trip planned overseas to introduce the kids to a new culture.  All of these and more will build memories.

However, for a SAHM of three or more (at the younger age spectrum) who is for better or worse, on their own with the kids for eight weeks, with the wonderful comes a big dash of reality. The reality if it is a rainy, cool summer. The reality the house will not really be clean for eight weeks. The reality my time really becomes their time. The reality that I am up to bat. Some days I may strike out and others hit a home run, but all I can do is keep going.

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When I have brought this up to other people they look with confusion at me and state, “why  not enrol them in camps?” Sighing, I often wonder how to explain the budgetary constraints of enrolling three kids in never-ending camps throughout the summer when you are on one income? Or the logistics that it would be harder to enrol three kids in three different camps at three different locations because their ages are far enough apart my options are limited. For all of our sanity I need to be able to have a one-stop drop off and pick up. Not to mention my two-year old is too young to even appreciate camp and going through the inevitable separation disaster of a new environment makes my skin crawl to upset his schedule again a week later. My older two are in a couple of camps for the summer. Carefully chosen for not only their individual interests but convenience there are a couple of weeks where two out of three kids will be exploring theatre, art and the wonderful outdoors. But after that, our days will be casually planned with well, whatever strikes my fancy.

So think of me and others like me this summer and if you happen to see a red-haired woman walking a yellow lab with three small kids trailing after her and she looks a bit tired, give her a thumbs-up. She will appreciate knowing that she is doing an okay job and that somebody noticed.