Summer Musings.

Monday. The day I have been looking forward to.

“Really?” you may find yourself asking. “But why?”

In the most basic way, I am free this week from camps. It was a day we could wake up and just float through the day puttering around. Last night as my pen wrote at a frantic pace filling in plans for August followed by the quick tapping of inserting all of the plans in my iCalendar, I came to realize how fast these summer weeks can fill up. My lofty dreams in June of hiking down the local trails with three little kids have given way to blocking out precious time at home where the most exciting part of our day is a trip to the library. I have no idea how this snuck up on me. Trying to plan a park/picnic playdate with a friend who I have not seen in a long time, I realize with horror we only have three open days in all of August. How is this possible?

Part of me embraces the rich experiences we will have and people we can share our summer with and the other wants to run and hide playing board games with two older ones in our rec room while Jacob naps and stop answering calls, texts and emails.

So, I will protect those days like a fierce tiger mama and try to remember it is all brief. Soon enough school bells will ring and my voice will become once again raspy as I plead with three kids to get out the door. I want my kids to have a fun and full summer. I have the rare opportunity of being able to be with them for two months and see all their little eccentricities.

Now all of the above is coming off a crazy mixture of insane baseball playoffs for our two girls Saturday morning followed by trying to celebrate our eleventh anniversary Saturday night. Having three or more it was a “divide and conquer” type of weekend. I took Audrey to her baseball play-off/fun day and Mr. L took Elizabeth. We flipped to see who would take Jacob with them. I won. Now we love spending quality family-time with him, but a rambunctious two-year old trying to emulate his older sisters in well, everything, would spend some of the time running onto the field trying to also play baseball. So, I ensured to pack his mitt and plastic bat along with a few choice Tonka trucks to play with in the gravel dug-out if need be. The text messages from Mr. L started as soon as we arrived at our noon hour game,

“It’s raining here and I didn’t bring an umbrella.”

‘”:(” I wrote back while trying to grab Jacob’s attempt to hug his sister as she went up to bat.

“Damn” I thought to myself, “hope it doesn’t rain here. Good thing I brought my umbrella.”

Audrey and her baseball trophy.

Ten minutes later another text from Mr. L.

“It is POURING here and they are still playing. I have to go to the bathroom but can’t find it. I am soaked. There is nothing to eat, you said there would be a concession stand.”

“:(” Then I added, “Look around, they said there would be a concession stand. That is probably where the bathroom is. I don’t think there is one here either.”

As I pop up our umbrella watching the drizzle of rain start to fall but happily watch Jacob munch on the pizza organizers of the league had brought over to the parents/siblings.

I can’t help myself. “They brought us pizza, thank goodness. Jacob and I were starving! ;)”

After that I don’t get too many other text messages.

After eleven years of marriage, kids and everything in between, I’ve learned how to get my digs in now and then. After all, I spent the entire baseball season driving one, two or sometimes all three to various baseball diamonds since May sitting through freezing cold nights wrapped in blanket, arranging babysitters for the other kids when he couldn’t make it home on time, boiling in the heat and sitting in the rain. I thought it fitting I get the better end of the deal this last Saturday.

The day ended with Mr. L taking a nap once our babysitter arrived and waking upon my  nudges (and a huge cup of coffee) so we could make our dinner reservation. Good thing he sent me a beautiful bouquet of roses earlier in the day!

Eleven year anniversary!

Eleven year anniversary!

After the baseball frenzy of Saturday, a quiet Sunday was very much welcome. Our first inaugural family bike ride with two out of three riding was a milestone for our family. How much I look forward to future bike rides!

First family bike ride!

First family bike ride!

Yet, as it goes during the summer, my parents stopped by with their anniversary gift. They had brought beautiful plants for our backyard, which they planted, bonus!  I have learned over the years to welcome last minute visits, embrace them even, especially during the summer. After all, it was a couple of hours the kids had doting grandparents to entertain and all I had to do was get out a casual picnic lunch eaten on our patio enjoying the garden. Bliss.

Looking ahead to August, it may be busy but I will look forward to the things that fill our days. After all, summer will be over before we know it.

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The “P” word.

Trying to keep on top of my very lax habit of printing family photos, I took a long ago idea from a friend of mine to print a photo book for my girls of our latest vacation away. Both girls have mentioned wanting to take photos to school of their trip so I went ahead and put the order through while enjoying the last sip of the delicious red wine I stumbled upon from Argentina. Of course, feeling all proud of myself, I decided to go ahead and order prints. Usually having little luck with our local photo supplier and their slow upload speed, I decided to give it a whirl. I am still waiting for my photos to upload.

Maximizing what little time I have before said glass (okay a couple of glasses) of wine takes affect and sends me into a deep slumber, this Mom of three decided to share today’s latest adventure. To backtrack a little, since the beginning of July when we returned from our trip, I have found myself struggling to balance fun, teaching kids about helping around the house and trying to get my own stuff done. Some days are more successful than others.

Sending my two oldest kids to all day camp the past two weeks has helped alleviate some of the load, but my younger guy (and me) started to rely on the dynamic of three kids to keep each other entertained.

It was with some relief that this week my toddler and younger girl are home with me while my oldest girl finishes her theatre camp. We have swimming lessons to keep us busy, baseball season is in its final week and today Audrey and I planned a visit to a local farmer’s market, checking out a local pet store and then baking very berry blueberry muffins during Jacob’s nap time. On this cooler than expected July morning it seemed a perfect plan. Except I also had to get groceries.

As a mom of three, I know how many stops a toddler, especially a toddler boy can make before he starts acting up. Two, maybe three if it is a good day.  I never plan more than two or three errands in a day because I know (from experience) what can happen. Yet, groceries was a must-do after a full morning of wandering around an outdoor market, visiting the toy department at the local Target and then impromptu visit to a pet store. We still needed bananas and milk.

All started well, both kids were crammed into one of those “drive-drive cars” as my kids call them. Audrey loves these cars as they are the only shopping cart I will allow my growing five year-old to sit in. Soon after we hit the fruit aisle, the shoving and tickling soon commenced. My pleas to keep quiet and pick up the few items we needed fell on two sets of deaf ears.

Then it started. The bathroom humour that my two and a half year old toddler thrives on loving the reaction out of me and his sisters. Laughter and condemnation in one shot yet all of it his ultimate goal, undivided attention. We started talking about the potty with Jacob recently. Of course, with that discussion comes the inevitable “pee” and “poop” bombs that I cringe at but expect. What I did not expect was a toddler who has two older sisters who are aware of the names of their body parts and him being a born comedian, now thinks “penis” is the best word in the world. Yes, I said it. Penis.

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From pottytrainingsolutions.net

Although I applaud the correct usage of his body part, teaching him that this is not a public word is proving to be more difficult. It was never more apparent than today standing in line at the check-out in the grocery store I hear his little voice singing that famous Wiggles song, “Choo-choo chugga chugga big red penis.” Wait, what?

“Oh no..not here.” I think to myself shushing him while glaring at my five-year old who is in a fit of hysterical giggles while I am trying to load our groceries on the slow conveyer belt hoping nobody stands in line behind us.

Jacob is now giggling with his sister blowing kisses to us both a wicked smile on his face. Trying to follow some insane advice to ignore the usage of the word “penis” in his public vocabulary, I continue loading and move the “drive-drive car” to the end of the row. As I start placing our bags into the cart, I see him standing up in the cart out of the corner of my eye. Reaching to sit him down, his little voice becomes enormous as it echoes through the store, “Where is my penis?”

Everyone looks our way. I am unsure whether to laugh or hide my head in shame. Audrey is now in full hysterics laughing while looking at me and says, “I can’t help it Mommy. It’s so funny.”

Jacob is having the time of his life, wiggling his diaper clad bottom continuing to yell, “Where is it? Where is my penis?”

I am desperate. I grab my debit card trying to punch the numbers quickly muttering to the cashier, “I”m sure if it wasn’t my kid I would find this hilarious.”

Thankfully, she is a cool grandmother type who is snickering and tells me, “Don’t worry. I was in your position and now I’m not. It’s so much better being the Grandma. Just turn your head, laugh later and write this down. It will be good ammunition some day. Let’s give him a lollipop to distract him.”

As I thankfully shoved the sugar-free lollipops in both my kid’s mouths quieting the “bathroom” language for the moment, I smiled. My kids may be loud, but they are never boring. And yes, I am writing down this wonderful moment for future use.

A note to parents of small kids, ignoring a certain behaviour may work for some kids. For those with a blossoming comic in their midst, ignoring them is like a challenge to get your attention even more. It can have the opposite effect. Distraction is a much better tool as a lovely grocery store cashier reminded me today. The lesson today, have on hand lollipops, stickers or anything to distract a stubborn wise-cracking comedic two-year old. It may save you some future embarrassment.

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Cheeky toddler and me.

Chucking the checklists, at least once in a while!

From sheknows.com

From sheknows.com

Checklists. A parent (or parents) of three or more kids rely on checklists. Checklists on my iPhone. Checklists on my calendar. It seems there is a constant checklist in my brain. Sometimes I can turn it off and remember life is not about checking items off a list. Other times the list seems so huge I give up and take the kids for ice cream.

How many checklists can one person have? For myself; one for me, one for the household stuff I am responsible for (which is most of it), one for each child (so that is three), the dog, the occasional request to help with Mr. L’s business and then if we make any plans, an additional checklist of packing items for road or overnight trip. Each day I have anywhere from eight to ten checklists to be considered. I love them and I loathe them.

However, the feeling I get from checking off a major item is very satisfying. For example, I have a fitness checklist for myself. It is more of a goals list, but at its essence, it is still a checklist. Finish a 5K run. Check! (Yeah!) Immediate pat on the back. Borrow road bike. (Check!) Plan out another mini checklist for training for said Try a Tri. (Sort of check.)

My training, as with other parents, is very dependent on other people’s schedules. My kids, our family commitments and life in general including weather. There are some days when it seems easy to fit it in. Kids asleep, weather fair, head out for scheduled bike ride. Check! Other days, all good intentions fall to the wayside. Pick kids up from camp. Head to health club to fit in swimming laps while kids splash around in pool with Mr. L and eat their Friday night pub-ready grilled cheese. Swim five of ten laps and realize Mr. L cannot chase two-year old and fight off wasps attacking our food at the same time. Reinforce my belief that men (or my guy in particular) although great in some things, cannot multi-task children with other activities. Swim-time aborted. Black clouds roll in. Winds and pouring rain ensue. Bike ride planned for the evening cancelled. Take kids home and feed them microwaved s’mores. Indulging in the gooey deliciousness myself because lets face it, who can resist s’mores? Summer fun. Check!

Wait, all of that was not on my check list! However, seeing my kids messy faces and happy smiles as we put on a rare evening cartoon after indoor s’mores and then tucking them into bed after followed by continuing to watch the amazing lightening display last night over our house. Mr. L finishing some work so we could enjoy Saturday without any distractions. Perhaps not on my planned checklist, but it is okay. Sometimes life cannot be planned by a checklist.

One thing I try to remember each summer is that for us, summer is short. Before too long we will be in the midst of school and activities wishing we could return to a July night eating treats before bed. As much as I depend on our checklists to keep us semi-organized, letting them fall by the wayside is sometimes more fun.

Weekend Fun Guide (July 19-21 2013)

All great ideas from @vacaywkids!

Vacationing with Kids

Happy Weekend!  Be sure to get out and enjoy the sunshine (and hopefully less humidity) with the family this weekend at a fun festival in Ontario!

Tim-Hortons-Free-Swims

Tim Horton’s FREE Swim

Tim Horton’s is sponsoring FREE swim times at community pools across Ontario until the end of August.  Need to cool down and escape the heat?  Check out where these free swims are located

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National Ice Cream Day

Did you know that Sunday July 21st is National Ice Cream Day?!  Guess this means you can eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner right?  And as if that wasn’t exciting enough,  the first 200 guests at each Cold Stone Creamery location will receive free ice cream

dogs-in-movies

Thinking about taking in a movie with the family this weekend?  Check out what’s playing on Saturday mornings at Cineplex theatres for their Family Favourites.  At 11:00am you can watch a movie for only $2.50!…

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Running through summer.

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From technorati.com

Running. Fitness. Goals. Not me, generally. However, this past spring I took on a bunch of new fitness goals. Why not? The pockets of time I possess need to be filled with something. My casual saunter through life needed a bit of direction. My mother thinks I should rest. “You’ll wear yourself out!” she says. To be fair, being on the petite side she was always afraid I was sicker than other people or not strong enough to compete or would get hurt. Becoming a parent I realized, those are her issues. I was not sicker than other children. I kept up with those bigger than me. I even played field hockey and was a decent wing player. So, I reassure her I am fine and head out the door to run 5K after my wee ones are tucked into bed.

Others applaud me on. Mr. L encourages me and does not bat an eye when I tell him I am heading out to run, again. He has learned to back off the coaching. At first he gently nudged me to get my yoga, nap-loving, television show catch-up butt out the door. He would email me work-out plans and sign me up for races I could not hope to finish. He would frown when another chocolate cookie was popped into my mouth after dinner with a sarcastic comment. We both quickly learned although well intentioned, him being my coach would not work. I appreciate his input and ask him for opinions but his way and my way of welcoming fitness into our lives are different journeys.

After all, he did it about a year ago. He went on a fitness life change-over that I am extremely proud. He changed his eating habits and how he spent his free time. I love looking at my buff husband and glad he has found something of his own besides family and work.  However, I am one of those people who just has to figure out her own way. The kids take up a lot of my energy and I am generally exhausted at night. When I took on my journey to a more fitter Mama, I had ease myself into a routine that I felt comfortable with and celebrate the smaller milestones. I am not trying to lose weight. There are no apparent health reasons for me to get moving. It is a lifestyle choice to welcome regular physical activity and fitness into our lives and our children’s lives.

Life is also full of schedules, (other peoples) that interfere with my own. Being the main caretaker of house, home and well, our lives, there were some weeks if I got out to the gym or for a run it was an amazing feat of creative scheduling. But I kept plugging along, ignoring that little voice telling me “why bother?” June was crazy with end of year activities, school wrap-up, planning and packing for our family trip. I ran on the beach in Israel. Loved the camederie of seeing other runners sweating in the blazing heat at eight am. One of my favorite, personal memories of our trip is going for a run and then spontaneously going for a swim (yes, in my running clothes) in the choppy waves of the blue Mediterrenean to cool off. I was by myself and felt wonderful, powerful even as droplets ran down my legs walking back to our apartment. But in that moment I felt for the first time that I could do this. I could reach my fitness goals and maybe even learn to like it.

Upon our return home life slowly returned to normal. The kids were driving me crazy and we were all suffering from jet lag. But I kept going out even when my body was up at 4 am, I would be out by 6 am running by Lake Ontario seeing the sun rise knowing I have my first 5K run this Thursday so had to “ramp up” my training. I had forgotten how beautiful Ontario can be in the summer.

Sun rise over Lake Ontario

Sun rise over Lake Ontario

Four days until my first race of the summer. I have run the course twice, bettering my time by shaving four minutes off the total 5K. I can finally see the improvement Mr. L and others have told me about. My lungs do not burn and my legs keep pumping. Will I ever learn to love running? Who knows. But I can say, I have learned to appreciate it.

Travelling with kids – an overview

Our first family overseas trip is becoming a distant memory as we immerse ourselves in the busy and humid days of an Ontario summer, it seemed like a good time to review our trip before other parts of life take over completely. The pros, the cons. The lessons and tips for other parents considering their first overseas trip with small children. A round-up of my suggested spots for families travelling to Tel Aviv, Israel. (This last one will be in a separate blog piece!)

Mr. L and I had a lot of discussion when the idea of this trip was brought up a year ago. We have family commitments in Israel and knew this would be an inevitable trip in order for our children to see their grandfather each year. There are also numerous cousins and friends whom we wanted to strengthen our connection. We chose this year, when our children were seven, five and two for a couple of reasons. 1) His father could no longer make the long flight to see us in Canada due to health reasons. 2) We hoped the older two would manage the flight well with the help of mini iPads, books and snacks leaving us to take turns dealing with our two year old.

The pros as we discussed would be many. Seeing the country where their father grew up. Experiencing a different culture. Learning more about their jewish heritage. Lots of sun and beach time. Meeting family members and cousins close in age to our children. Family time together. Deciding if this was going to be an annual trip for our family as we hoped but we would not know until we did it once.

The cons were more logistic in nature. Cost of travelling with five people. Accommodations for a family with three small children. Not knowing how any of the kids would react to a twelve + hour flight (taking line-ups for customs/security and baggage into consideration). Obvious safety concerns when traveling to a middle eastern country. The heat in Israel. Language barriers.

But, in the end the pros outweighed the cons. Not every family is ready or able to take a trip like this. The most important thing when planning an overseas family trip is to be realistic about the potential cons and plan for them as best as possible. Discuss, discuss, discuss. Know your children and take their personalities into account. We are fortunate to have three fairly outgoing and adaptable children who like to talk and learn new things. Well, two out of three if I am being honest.

We do have one child, Audrey, who is a little more of an introvert and takes longer to become comfortable in new situations. (Although once she is comfortable, she can hold her own in any situation.) She also does not deal well if her “equilibrium” is upset or has not in the past dealt well with being away from home. However, being only five, we were hoping this trip with our support, her being a bit older and having her older sister as a playmate, she could find her own enjoyment.  If you have shyer, more introverted children who do not do well with an upset in their routine, waiting until they are older may be wiser for a major trip. Starting with smaller trips may be a better option.

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Some general tips I learned on our first overseas trip:

1) Pack light. We were heading to a beach culture meaning casual wear and bathing suits. I overpacked (as usual) and did not take into account a grandfather who upon our arrival had purchased enough clothes for each child on our two-week stay.

2) Take a carry on per child and if they are old enough to pull a rolling suitcase. Let them.

Mr. L thought I was crazy but I will stick to my rule of a carry-on for each person. I have been victim to luggage being lost and was thankful I had packed that extra set of clothes in my carry-on. Each child had their own little rolling suitcase, brightly coloured with a change of clothes, bathing suit, favourite sleep item, books, iPad mini/or iPod touch and change of diapers for the toddler. It was more organized and I did not have to spend time digging for each item on one big carry-on.

3) Two year-olds still need an umbrella stroller.

We had not planned to take one as our little guy favours walking over being strapped down but a neighbour of ours (and a Mom) gave us one of their strollers and told me, “You’ll thank me.” I did when we got back. Jacob wanted to sit down at times and feel safe in the stroller at a busy airport or after a long day at the beach. It was also helpful to carry things when we were out.

4) Take aloe vera, sunscreen and all medications.

Tel Aviv is a modern city by all accounts. There are pharmacies and grocery stores. But unlike us, they have sun most of the year. Hot sun. I did not take aloe vera assuming we could find one in a pharmacy if need be. Israelis do not use aloe vera, they do not need to being brown most of the year. We finally did find a small tube tucked way back in a shelf after our first day at the beach where we all spent way too much time in the strong sun.

A rotovirus hit us on our second week. I had taken all the regulars. Advil, tylenol, Gravol, but for some reason did not anticipate tummy issues. There is not much to be done with a virus, but I wish I had taken more Advil so we did not need to hunt it down at the store to help with low fevers. If you have any natural remedies to help with tummy troubles, take it with you.

5) Do not spend your first day on a beach for the whole day. You will get sunburned, even when slathering sunscreen on.

In a climate like Israel, the sun is hot and strong. We knew that. We pulled the kids under umbrellas, chased them with hats and tubes of sunblock. Yet, we all got sunburnt. Wanting to feel the fresh sea air, we overdid it. Next time, half a day will suffice.

6) Flights. If you can afford first class. Get it. Since most of us cannot, we got the bulkhead seats. Extra leg room for all of us and bags the kids needed. It also meant our kids did not bother anyone in front of them.

7) Make a general outline of what you hope to see and do for your trip before you go, but be flexible.

You may want a day out of the sun. You may get sick. In our case we had family visits so fit those into our plans. We also planned a lot of down time for our first trip. Really, a walk to a nearby park to get ice cream was fun enough for our kids. Remember, you are travelling with small children. We still have a toddler who naps and after one day we tried to see if he could go without it. It was a disaster. Having to go back to the apartment for two-hour naps cut into our day, but it was nice downtime for everyone. I napped most days, a luxury I do not get at home.

8) Family time was really great but Mr. L and I scheduled some one-on-one time when we could. We were lucky to have family to babysit so we could sneak out to dinner alone a couple of times. But if you are without that luxury, ensure your accommodations have a patio/balcony somewhere where after all the kids are asleep (usually by 8 pm) the two of you can talk, drink a glass of wine and enjoy some quiet time on your own.

9) Let your kids be comfortable at their own pace. Tel Aviv is a busy and dense city. I loved it, but I could see it was a bit overwhelming for our kids. We made our outings in the less busier times or in short durations going out longer as the kids became more accostomed to city life. We went places early in the morning or after dinner. Saturday is unusually quiet in Tel Aviv as most of the businesses are shut down for the Sabbath. Not a great time to hit the beach as everyone is there, but a good time to see other sites.

10) Try to remember through tantrums, complaining and illness to watch your kids splash in the waves or dig in the sand. Enjoy how they charm the people you meet or family members and most importantly remember that this is only the first of many future family adventures. It can only get easier and better. (We hope!)

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As the sun sets in Tel Aviv.

Being the first day everyone seemed to be feeling better and after lounging poolside for most of a day, Mr. L and I leaped at the opportunity to sneak out for dinner on our own. My in-laws were kind enough to offer to babysit, so after showers and tucking them into bed with kisses on their sunburnt cheeks, I finally got to play dress-up with one of the few dresses we had bought on our shopping trip.

Mr. L and I chose a restaurant close by and within walking distance. Just in case we needed to make a quick escape home. After all, we were coming off all three kids not feeling well and it was the first time his father and his wife had looked after our kids. As we walked hand in hand we ventured through Nahlat Binyamin, a lovely pedestrian area full of textile shops where an Arts and Craft market sets-up twice a week.

Nahlat Binyamin

Nahlat Binyamin

Continuing on, we came upon, Tracklin, a romantic candlelit restaurant. We were seated and promptly greeted by a charming server who introduced us to a local Israeli wine. Sipping our glasses we placed our order and settled in. It was refreshing to be out on our own enjoying each other’s company, good food and wine. A plate of warm bread was placed before us and we nearly devoured it.

Tracklin Restaurant

Tracklin Restaurant

A delicious combination of Italian artichokes with goat cheese later and a melt-in-your-mouth slow-cooked ribs that was one of the specials of the night later we were feeling very full so we nearly passed on dessert. I am so glad we chose not to! On the dessert menu was a chocolate mousse, a dessert that is my kryptonite, so we decided to share it. Although in hearing about the dessert choice, I had inquired about a dessert I did not recognize, (Shocking but true!) called Mallibee.  Mallibee is a custard dessert that is garnished with fruit, fruit sauces, dates, nuts – pretty much any topping. Our kind server brought us one “to try” and we were delighted not only with the service, but the dessert. Mallibbee will be my new favorite dessert when eating out in Tel Aviv.  Later that week when telling Mr. L’s family about it, D. our host at one brunch, made this “little piece of heaven” for our last family get-together. We so much enjoyed it that I am currently trying to score the recipe. After a pleasant night out and feeling re-energized, we were ready to continue our family adventures in Tel Aviv.

Italian Artichokes Appetizer

Italian Artichokes Appetizer

Slow-cooked ribs

Slow-cooked ribs

Walks on the boardwalk after dinner one night, trips to Carmel market where Elizabeth took her cherished ten shekels she had been saving to buy a large cup of freshly squeezed orange juice and visits to the park we soon found ourselves in the last few days before our trip back to Canada.

Elizabeth loving the orange juice stand!

Elizabeth loving the orange juice stand!

Jacob on the boardwalk.

Jacob on the boardwalk.

Low-grade fevers prevented some of our pre-planned activities from happening, but we did manage to get out to the Arts and Crafts market. Another great place to spend a morning when travelling with kids (or solo!). But ensure to get there early! By eleven am the place is busy and hot! Amongst the jewellery stands, hand-glass blown vendors and dragging our kids away from the people making huge bubbles with bubble sticks, we managed to pick up a few gifts for loved ones back home. The kids also got to see a glass artist torching his pieces of glass to make unique necklace pendants or animal shapes. A must-see for any visitor to the market.

Arts and Craft Market

Arts and Craft Market

Stained glass art.

Stained glass art.

Our last few days were filled with family/friend visits where we lingered trying to get in our last piece of conversations and make plans for future trips. The kids were spoiled with treats and hugs from the warmest people I have had the pleasure to meet and we lamented that our visit had to end so soon.

Jacob with Israeli cousins.

Jacob with Israeli cousins.

Mr. L and I managed to get in one last dinner out. Dutifully researching via TripAdvisor, he had chosen a place that was again walking distance again from our apartment. Upon sharing his choice with the cousins one sunny afternoon lounging in the backyard looking upon a lemon tree, they chastised him for choosing a good, but too casual of a place for a date night with your wife. A phone call later from M. and we had scored a table at one of Tel Aviv’s top restaurants by the sea, Raphael.

Getting fancied up in my LBD, (another new purchase courtesy of my FIL), we hailed a taxi and walked down the steps into a modern, low-lit restaurant decorated in black and whites. In no rush and ordering one of our last plates of humus, I enjoyed a wrapped vine-leaf appetizer stuffed with fragrant rice and lamb followed by a light and refreshing dish of white fish. Deciding to go easier on the desserts, we opted for a gelato dessert and I ordered a pot of delicious mint tea that came in a stunning silver tea set. Walking down the boardwalk after dinner, we talked about our trip and plans for next year.

Raphael Restaurant, Tel Aviv

Raphael Restaurant, Tel Aviv

Tea Time

Tea Time

Our last day in Israel was spent, where else? At the beach. We relented and got the kids their heart’s desire, frozen ice cream treats from the guy shouting on the beach, and they devoured them in between eating snacks and ordering our last meal beach side.

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Audrey looking at the waves.

Jacob and I.

Jacob and I.

Elizabeth enjoying ice cream at the beach.

Elizabeth enjoying ice cream at the beach.

As we packed up the apartment, trying to stuff extra clothes and gifts into already full luggage, doling out Advil to still lingering low-grade fevers we dealt with the onset of tummy troubles that would follow us on the plane and home to Canada for a week. The kids were awesome going through line-up after line-up at Israeli security and enduring a twelve-hour flight.

We arrived home at YYZ (Toronto) just in time for Canada Day and are now straight into the first week of summer vacation.

One trip was over. The biggest trip this Mom with three kids has taken and we not only endured but I learned a lot about my kids and our family. Most importantly was that we can do it. We can travel, survive and have a good time. We will be planning our next family adventure soon.

Last sunset overlooking Tel Aviv.

Last sunset overlooking Tel Aviv.

Through illness and hot days we continued…

The morning I woke up with the feeling that someone was stabbing knives into my stomach, I knew that was it. I was going to be down and out for the day. My new mother-in-law’s words came floating back to my mind the night before at dinner, “You are looking pale. Are you okay?” (Translated by Mr. L as she speaks only Romanian or Hebrew.) I had brushed aside her comment with a smile stating, “I am always pale.” Being a freckled redhead I am quite used to these comments.

Yet, here I was, the morning after, clutching my stomach in pain and cursing a very contagious viral bug we had all picked up. Steeling myself, I made a decision to try to at least make something of another beautiful day in Tel Aviv for the rest of the family. After all, had not we dragged two ill girls to a family meeting a couple of days before? If they could do that, I could do this.  Certainly I could return the favour. So after a shower, two sips of coffee and breakfast of plain toast, we piled everyone into the rented large vehicle to check out Old Yafo.

Mr. L and I had been here on our last trip eight years ago and I had loved the old buildings and stone staircases. It is one of the must-see tourist attractions  when visiting Tel Aviv. Feeling my adrenaline (and Advil) kick-in we walked down by the old Yafo Port by the boats and warehouses that are being turned into artist spaces and lounge-type restaurants. Finally finding the staircases up to the square, we made a go in the increasing heat with Mr. L carrying the stroller and me carrying Jacob when his legs got tired. Step after step the girls were squealing in delight at the secret passageways and doorways that opened up into artist studios.

Old Yafo-Tel Aviv

Old Yafo-Tel Aviv

Finally reaching the top, we felt the full force of the heat as it radiated off the white stone and the kids ran to the fountain in the hopes of feeling a spray of water on their faces. Feeling light-headed myself I looked anywhere for shade when Mr. L suggested an ice cream stop at a nearby umbrella-clad Gelato place. Sitting under the shade as I sipped water to calm my rumbling stomach the kids tried to eat their ice cream before it melted. Knowing I had reached the end of my ability to be out, I suggested we walk back to the car, quickly. Although not feeling well, I could appreciate the open square and remembered the main staircase from our last trip. I lamented it would be nice to come back for dinner to one of the many restaurants looking over the sea.

Staircase to Old Yafo

Staircase to Old Yafo

However, we walked back down the hilly street to the waiting car and I made it back to the apartment just in time and put myself to bed for the rest of the day.

The next day, I was feeling shaky and but we decided to head out for a morning at the beach to get some fresh air. Afterwards we met up for dinner with my in-laws for an Italian dinner on Rothschild Avenue. The deliciously fresh spaghetti mariana with fresh mozzarella cheese felt like heaven in my empty stomach. Jacob was getting a bit grouchy, so I took my girls up to the rooftop patio for ice cream as we looked at the sunset. As they drew pictures of the sunset and ate their dripping ice cream bars, I relaxed knowing that even though illness had hit our little family, we could still enjoy something simple as ice cream and a sunset.

Spagetti - good for an empty stomach!

Spagetti – good for an empty stomach!

 

Post-dinner ice cream.

Post-dinner ice cream.

Taking advantage of a day when we all seemed to be feeling well, Mr. L suggested we take a break from the beach and head to the Gordon Pool.  Packing up our gear and picnic lunch, we navigated traffic, parked nearby and walked down towards the pool. An oasis from the sand and sun in downtown Tel Aviv the lounging chairs and large umbrellas provided a luxurious and kid-friendly environment. Overlooking the marina and sea, it is a beautiful place to take in the sun, play in the kiddie pool, splash around in the salt water pool or swim your lap at the designated swimming lanes. Clean change rooms and showers  inside the corresponding health club made a nice change from the quick beach-side showers we had become accustomed. It was a pleasant way to spend a day after the last few days of illness for nearly everyone.

Gordon Pool, Tel Aviv

Gordon Pool, Tel Aviv

More to come….