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.
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.
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.
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.
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…