Mother’s Day is Julia’s Day

mother

I became a new mother for the second time on May 12th, 2010. It was an ordinary Wednesday, early in the morning, when Julia jumped into the world. And I mean jumped. One moment I went into labour and the next moment I had a baby girl. Whoever said labour was long and slow hadn’t met Miss Julia Maxine.

Julia was a special gift to us the day she was born but also to her first cousin, who turned five that very same day. The “May 12 Girls” as we call them are kindred spirits and share a special bond that most cousins only dream about. I remember my sister-in-law said to me, when Julia was just a few days old… “You are going to have to balance birthday fun and Mother’s Day from now on. Good Luck.”

mother
The May 12 girls as Julia turned one.
mother
The May 12 girls celebrate in 2014.
mother
The May 12 girls celebrate together on May 12, 2019.

I shrugged it off as Mother’s Day has never been a big deal to me. Even as a child I saw through this rather commercialized day. I told my mother many years ago that no one had to assign a special day for me to tell my mother I loved her or to do something nice for her. I should do that every day, and if I want to buy my mother a gift then I just buy one. I stuck to that promise throughout my childhood and when I became a mother, now to three children, I stand by that.

I am a mother, and I work hard at it. My one request to my husband and children: be nice to me every day! So it’s no big deal that Julia’s birthday falls near Mother’s Day every year, or once in  while on Mother’s Day, as it does this year.

In 2019, Mother’s Day is Julia’s Day. And she has made the most of it. Maybe it’s because her brother had a sleepover birthday party when he turned 9. Or maybe it’s because she figured out her birthday would be on a Sunday in 2019. Julia knew exactly what she wanted this year: you guessed it… a sleepover party of her own.

People said to me, “But Sunday, May 12this Mother’s Day. How can you do a sleepover party?” Ah, I answered, not only am I giving a gift of a sleepover party to Julia, I’m giving a gift to her friends’ mothers as well – I’m taking their kids! And sure enough the mothers have thanked me.

They thanked me, and they also gave me a mix of bravoand are you crazyfor hosting 10 eight and nine-year-old girls for an overnight at my house. Birthday or Mother’s Day, this is no easy task. Girls at this age are high energy, demanding and a bit anxious. But they are still kind of cute and smiley and relatively easy to please.

I haven’t slept much in the last 24 hours. I was a mix of a short-order cook, professional baker, cleaning lady, hostess extraordinaire and mother to ten. My list includes cooking and serving two meals, baking a birthday cake from scratch, making up ten beds (setting up sleeping bags across my living room floor), wiping food off every surface in my house and sweeping up anything from popcorn and cake crumbs to Dollar Store play dough and dirt.

mother
Make a wish and blow our your candles, Julia!

Who said adolescent boys have a ton of energy? Spend the night with a group of 10 adolescent girls and you may think differently. They are like the Energizer Bunny. They just keep going and going. They run around the background. The girls zoom up and down the stairs. Giggling. Laughing. Shrieking. Jumping. Dancing. Do they slow down? No.

mother
My living room Saturday night

I don’t quite know how I convinced them to go bed. I’m not going to say “go to sleep” as some refused to do that. It was a late night. They were excited. It wasn’t just a sleepover party – it was the evening before Julia’s birthday. The fact that Mother’s Day was upon them seemed irrelevant to this group of young ladies.

But not to their mothers and fathers. The girls’ smiling parents heartily greeted me this morning when they arrived at our house to pick up their sweet little girls. They looked at my tired face and kindly wished me a Happy Mother’s Day. And I graciously said thank you. Today was Julia’s Day, for sure, but I am giving myself a gold star too, for Mother’s Day.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful women in the world who are the heart of the home, the family, and in my mind, the world.

Next Year in Jerusalem

Jerusalem

On December 31st, 1988, I celebrated my first New Year’s Eve outside of Canada. I will admit that I don’t remember my exact location, but I know it was somewhere in Israel. Maybe Jerusalem? Or Tel Aviv? Somewhere in the north? My family came to Israel to celebrate my Bat Mitzvah. It would be my first of many trips to this wonderful place.  

On December 31st, 2018, exactly 30 years later, I was here again, in Israel, celebrating with more family. During our two-week visit we are attending not just a Bat Mitzvah, but also a Bar Mitzvah and a wedding party. Israel has seen tremendous change over the past 30 years, but my joy to be here has not changed.

B’shana ha ba’a b’yerushalayim. – next year in Jerusalem – is something Jewish people say not only at the end of the Passover seder, but throughout the year. There is a deep historical and personal connection we have with this ancient city. Memories of my first visit there, back in December 1988, will stay with me forever.

As I joked on New Year’s Eve a few nights ago, as we counted down the clock to midnight, I. planned to check that off my list first thing in the new year with a visit to Jerusalem on January 1st! Hey, we all make New Year’s resolutions, and I’m taking mine seriously. Check!

And sure enough, on January 1st, I went to Jerusalem, to celebrate a brand new year and to also, gulp, start planning my son, Matthew’s Bar Mitzvah. My son will turn 13 in 2020. That’s next year. And he, like so many children before him, for thousands of years, will read from the Torah in this most sacred of cities.

I have had the opportunity to visit Jerusalem twice during this trip, and I have to say, I both love and hate this city. I love Jerusalem because it is steeped in history. At every turn you come across a spot that plays a significant role for one of the world’s major religions. The city sits across seven hills, and on a clear day there are breathtaking views in every direction.

Within a few hundred meters of each other you can visit Christianity’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Islam’s Al Aqsa Mosque and the outer walls of Judaism’s Temple Mount. I won’t get into the politics and religious differences in terms of the logistics of actually visiting all three sites, but let’s say, in theory, because of sheer proximity, one can do this.

Jerusalem
Celebrating his cousin Ariel’s Bar Mitzvah, Matthew with his grandmother and cousin, Elia, at the Temple’s Southern Wall.
Jerusalem
Selfie with a slightly sleepy Nessa.
Jerusalem
Selfie with a slightly more awake Matthew.

One of my favourite bakeries in the whole world, Marzipan, sits in the centre of Jerusalem. No one can load chocolate into a small pastry like they can. And behind this bakery sits a world famous market, where you can find a mix of fresh fruit and vegetables, spices, baked goods and nick knacks, and vendors hollering at shoppers and each other!

Jerusalem
Doing some shopping at the Marzipan bakery
Jerusalem
My kids enjoying their visit to Mahane Yehuda Market

So you ask, what’s not to love about this glorious city? A lot, I say. Try driving through Jerusalem. It’s awful. Try parking. Even worse. It’s crowded, loud and kind of dirty. No road or path goes straight and we always get lost. Construction. Masses of people always descending upon the city.

And yet, there is no other place where I would want to plan my child’s Bar Mitzvah, just like I insisted for my own 30 years ago. Jerusalem is hectic, crowded and loud. But it’s also mystical and magical. This year in Jerusalem. Check. Next year in Jerusalem – see you there in April 2020.

I am not made for a Tournament

tournament

I would consider myself to be a decent mother. I indulge my children when they need indulging, push them when they need pushing and discipline them when they clearly need disciplining. My kids are intelligent and feisty, and all three of them have unique traits that make them loveable in their own way. When any one of them is eager to try something new I am happy to encourage them. This was the case when my middle child, Julia, decided she wanted to participate in a karate tournament.

I am proud of Julia’s drive to pursue karate. Like her brother, we enrolled Julia in karate lessons at age 4 as we felt that learning some self defense skills and confidence in herself would be invaluable. She took to the sport well and has excelled. At age 8 and many inches under four feet tall, Julia has achieved an advanced purple belt.

tournament
As a black belt, Matthew had the honour last week of giving Julia her advanced purple belt

If you look at her face when she is practicing a kata or puts her fists up ready to spar, you wouldn’t want to meet her in a dark alley! My daughter knows what she’s doing!

While Matthew, with a black belt in karate and tremendous strength and poise, shies away from competition, Julia loves it. Matthew would prefer to focus on learning and teaching younger kids. Julia can feel the adrenaline of stepping outside her comfort zone and trying something new, like a tournament.

I am much more like Matthew and typically shy away from anything competitive. It’s not that I am scared to lose, I just don’t like the feeling in the air at competitive events. I will admit that they make me uncomfortable. As the saying goes, “those who can’t…. write.” I never played sports well, so that’s why I became a sports journalist!

But I digress. A couple of months ago Julia announced that she wanted to try a karate tournament. The school where she takes lessons hosts and participates in various tournaments throughout the year, and her sensei encouraged her to train and try one. Sure, I thought, why not.

Wow, I really knew nothing. Julia has been training and getting extra support after her regular karate class, to boost her confidence in her katas and sparring. She decided that she would only participate in one session – sparring – for her first tournament as she wanted to ease into this new world.

I signed her up for her first tournament which we knew would take place in the west-end of Toronto on December 1st. And that’s all I knew. You see, while I am not organized in every aspect of my life, I am a bit of a planner. When I travel, I organize the car rental, hotels and schedule. If I plan a family outing, I take care of the logistics. When I rely on someone else to plan, I get heart palpatations and anxiety.  Walking into anything unknown really bothers me.

That was the case at the karate tournament. I had a date, an address and a time. That’s it. I kept thinking to myself, I’m sure this event would be organized and well-run. It’s karate after all, a sport based on discipline. Boy was I wrong.

We arrived to a place that could best be described as slightly organized chaos. The line-up to register was long and messy. The check-in person kept repeating to me to check the email that was sent to me about Julia’s division. No email was sent to me. She was in division 13, the person told me. That means what, I said? Where does she compete? When does compete? How many other children will be in her competition? No answers.

We finally tracked down one of the tournament organizers from our karate school who kindly walked us over to a room on a lower level where children of all ages were getting ready. More chaos. Most of them were warming up like soldiers before a battle but they were four-feet tall and had no shoes or socks on. One kid was running around with what looked like a plastic sword screaming some version of Japanese gibberish, I think.

While Julia’s assigned zone was clearly a competitive area for children, I felt no warmth from the other parents. For the most part, it was kids aged 6-12 participating, and wow, those parents took it seriously. Some were hollering at their children to warm up, others were drilling their kids on the right moves. Others sat there on their phones and held seats for people who never showed up. Not a friendly face around me. I had clearly stepped out of my usual comfortable space and into another realm.

The one smiling face came from the mother of Julia’s friend, who has been taking her 7-year-old daughter to tournaments for the last year. She saw the stress on my face and tears in my daughter’s eyes as we both stood there overwhelmed and terrified. And her sweet, chatty daughter (like mine) put the cheer back into Julia’s face. Thank goodness for that.

We waited and kept hoping Julia’s turn would come soon. Patience is not one of my daughter’s virtues, especially when she was feeling anxious about her first tournament. Competition like this is new to her, she had limited training and she is tiny! I looked around and noticed that, as usual, the children in her age and category were a bit older, had more training and were much bigger. Julia has worked hard and is a very confident little girl, but this was a bit much, even for her (and me!).

tournament
She got her fighting face on and focused.

Julia sparred against a girl who was definitely older, had a brown belt and was over a head taller. She didn’t have a chance. But, like the shining light that she always is, Julia rose to the occasion and tried her best. She got a few kicks in and threw a fair number of punches. Julia lost her match but she won the day. She walked away with a shiny bronze medal (yes there were only 3 kids in her group but so what) and her head held high. She even said she wants to compete again, and this time with a kata. And her father will take her to the next one.

tournament
Julia listened carefully to the rules before she sparred with the other girl.

Competition and tournaments are not for the faint of heart. They are chaotic, rough and people can be downright mean. I think the most aggressive people in the room were the parents of the 7-year-olds. How can anyone push a child that way? That is not for me. Or for my daughter. If you want to win, great, go for it. But can’t an 8-year-old have fun too? I still have in my mind the crushed look on the faces of some of those kids who scored too low to get a medal. And the look on the parents’ faces weren’t any better. My message: get over it. Relax. Have fun. The junior division of a karate tournament is not worth getting so stressed out.

So I survived and so did Julia. And yes, she even get her own souvenir medal.. Maybe she will try it again. Maybe she won’t. But no matter what she chooses, I will always be proud, as I am a decent mother.

Ahhhh the Wedding

wedding

I don’t attend too many weddings. Maybe I don’t know enough people. Or maybe I’m at an age when most of my friends and I guess family too, are either married or not old enough yet to tie the knot. No matter how good, or bad, the wedding is, it is nice to attend them.

So many people lead very busy lives, with little free or unprogrammed time in the schedule. Children go to school, activities, camp or play with friends. As adults, we spend much of our time working, cooking, cleaning, shopping or if we have kids, chauffeuring them too. Sometimes it seems that one day just flows into the next, with a hectic schedule from dawn to dusk.

I will admit that I don’t put aside nearly enough time for myself, to relax or do stuff that I love. And I mean stuff for me and only me. My recent trip to Scotland was definitely for me (ya I guess David too), and it gave me the chance to recharge my battery. But I will say that I definitely make time for family and for family celebrations, like a wedding.

In the hustle and bustle of our busy lives, we often turn down invitations to celebrations or events because it’s too expensive to attend, too hard to travel or we just don’t have time.  We say, “Oh I can’t come this time but I will try to make it next time.” And we continue on with our busy day. We see the photos and hear the stories and we think wistfully of the next event, when we will attend.

David and I try to attend as many family celebrations as we can. I will admit that we can’t make it to everything, but we try our best. With family and friends who live all over the world, and with our love of travel, we have participated in a fair number of Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, milestone birthdays and weddings. It can be a financial strain sometimes and the timing can be a challenge, but really, it’s worth it.

On Monday we celebrated the wedding of our nephew, Joseph, to his wonderful new wife, Hadas. I will not do a rundown of all the details of the day, from the elegant but simple flowers to the dinner’s main course (oh my gosh they served roast beef and it was cooked perfectly!). If anyone wants a full detailed analysis, you know how to find me.

It was a small, intimate wedding, with family and a number of their close friends. David’s sister, Linda, lives in London, Ontario, and we traveled the easy two hours down the highway on Sunday afternoon to join the festivities. A wedding is not just the short ceremony and party. It also includes the days leading up to the big event, day before, day-of activities and even breakfast the next day. It’s a bit of a package deal, if you want to get the full benefit. Sometimes the best part of a wedding can be a BBQ in the backyard the night before or running around the following morning to the liquor store to secure the right kosher liqueurs!

wedding

wedding
Having fun the night before
wedding
Last minute liquor purchase, phew.
wedding
Nessa enjoyed some entertainment from her cousins before the wedding, at Walmart, of course.

The faces of the bride and groom as they walk down the aisle or how they look at each other during the ceremony are special moments. And will he break the glass on his first try? Family photos – who won’t smile and who will blink when the camera flashes? Which child will throw a tantrum? What was the best appetizer passed around during cocktails? Which dessert was the tastiest?

wedding
The moment they walked down the aisle
wedding
They kept eye contact for much of the ceremony.
wedding
He got it the first try.
wedding
She didn’t sit still and had a wonderful time.
wedding
It’s not a wedding without a big family photo

You have to be there to experience it. I know it’s not always so easy and I’m so glad every time we make the effort. A wedding is fun and it creates such wonderful memories for not only the bride and groom but for all the guests. We have another family wedding, for a cousin, in a few weeks, so who’s next?

To be Blessed with Good Health

health

I don’t take anything for granted.Every day I am grateful for everything I have. Some things have come easily for me and to me while at times I have also struggled. Over the past couple of weeks I have seen a number of people close to me – family and friends – accomplish, overcome, succeed, struggle and even sometimes fail. I have felt a mix of emotions as I have experienced great joy and great sorrow, all on the same day. At the end of a very busy and eventful weekend, I feel blessed for good health.

I received a call early Friday afternoon from my daughter’s school that she had a low-grade fever and seemed lethargic. She had to go home. Kids get sick. It happens. No problem. I brought her home, she flopped onto the couch with her iPad and I quickly threw together a batch of chicken soup in my trusty Instant Pot (makes THE best chicken soup, full of flavour in 30 minutes. I’m serious.).

The soup perked her up a bit, but my husband noticed a strange white pimple-like item on her right knee in the early evening. I will admit I didn’t notice it earlier but decided to check it out. Indeed, there was a rather large white circular item in the centre of her knee, surrounded by a red circle. The knee was swollen and warm to the touch. I quickly put two and two together and realized my daughter had an infection of some kind.

What do I do? It’s Friday night. She has a fever. Something is going on in that knee. I chose the paediatric after-hours clinic. It had a 60-minute wait, but I decided it was my best bet. We waited. And waited. Finally, my daughter was seen by the paediatrician.

He looked carefully. He asked her to bend the knee in different ways and he touched it to feel how sensitive it was. I watched and noticed the slight fear on his face. He was worried. Something was wrong. He looked at me and said that it was probably only a surface infection, and it probably had to be drained. But he also wanted to make sure it wasn’t in the knee joint or a sign of something else. He wanted us to go straight to the emergency room.

By this point it was 10:30 pm. My daughter was exhausted, didn’t feel well and was in pain. The swelling was getting worse. I decided to go to the community hospital and not downtown to the Hospital for Sick Children (the paediatrician suggested this), and we were on our way. Two levels of triage and registration then a waiting room. At 1:00 am my daughter was seen by an excellent emergency room physician who determined that it was just a surface infection. The knee was drained and she was put on antibiotics.

We arrived home at 2:30 am, and I crawled into bed. It was a long night, but my daughter was fine. All evening I had horrible thoughts swirling through my head. Did she have some flesh-eating bacteria? Was this white pimple just the tip of the iceberg of something terrible like leukemia? A hospital waiting room is a bad place to have time to think.

Which brings me back to why I feel blessed for good health. My daughter is fine. She is healthy. It looks like she had a mosquito bite that she scratched and became infected. A seven-day dose of antibiotics will fix everything. But I don’t take her health for granted.

I only had a few hours of sleep Friday night and woke up relatively early Saturday morning to participate in our neighbourhood’s annual yard sale. My family decided to do a bake and lemonade sale and donate all our proceeds to a local charity (luckily, I did my baking Friday afternoon). Not everyone is as lucky as I am to have a wonderful family in a beautiful neighbourhood, blessed with good health.

It seemed poignant to me that my daughter was the most enthusiastic about our bake and lemonade sale. She limped outside and sat proudly at our table. She was a natural at selling and upselling, and we sold out. My son squeezed the lemons for our fresh lemonade and the baby, well she just acted as our cute mascot. We raised $128 for a wonderful organization called ISAND – Integrated Services for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders.

Today I feel blessed. Good health for sure. A great community. And smart, insightful doctors at my local clinic and hospital. It was a busy, eventful weekend. And we are all fine. And healthy.

The Life of the Party

party

Over the past year, when people hear that I have a blog or if they quickly peruse my posts, they often ask me, “Are you a Mommy blogger?” While I have nothing against these talented ladies, my quick answer is always, “No, I am not a Mommy blogger.” Kinetic Motions is about my musings. I write about what I see, experience, hear and feel every day. Sometimes the topics are serious or heartfelt and sometimes they are absurd and light. I admit that I do write about my children often, but come on, they provide such quality material. Case in point is my topic for today’s post: the children’s birthday party.

We have all been to many a birthday party throughout our lives. We were all children once, so don’t shake your head and tell me you haven’t been to your fair share. If you are a parent, you’ve made many and probably attended more than you care to count.

I hosted my daughter, Julia’s, birthday party this weekend. I believe that some people think I am crazy while others are in awe that almost every birthday party I have ever hosted for my children, over the past 11 years, has been in my home. In fact, all except one of Julia’s birthday parties have been at home.  It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it.

So, what’s in a birthday party? How complicated does it have to be? Is it enough to throw a bunch of children in your backyard, feed them a store-bought cake and hand them a loot bag on their way out the door? Yes, it is. The kids don’t know any better and would probably have a blast with bread and water and a cardboard box.

But it’s not enough for me or the birthday parties I host. Again, some call me crazy and others are in awe of the time and energy I put into each birthday party for each of my children. My husband and I often reminisce about some of our best – and worst – birthday parties. I can’t say I have learned any lessons from successes or failures. Some make me smile while others make me cringe.

The key to a great birthday party is to give the children a great time, but also take them off their parents’ hands for a few hours. That doesn’t work as well when kids are little and their parents have to come too. So, for the little guys, I always say, entertain – and feed – the parents too.

While I know they serve their purpose, I highly dislike children’s play places. They are almost like birthday party farms, where the children are herded through like animals. They follow a basic formula, with an activity first, followed by a snack like pizza or hot dogs, finished off with birthday cake. It is most definitely a prescribed formula, and it works for many parents. Kids always love these, but again, I still believe many kids would be happy climbing inside a cardboard box with their friends. They are great for some, but not me.

A level up for a birthday party is a more organized activity, which requires a parent to spend much more time putting together. It can be a karate or dance class, laser tag, an art studio, or for the older kids an escape room. These activities can be costly and the kids definitely love them. But again, they are just not for me.

The best parties I have ever hosted for my kids have most definitely been in my home. Don’t think that doing this is simpler or easier. It is not. It is definitely cheaper, but it’s a ton of work. And well worth it. We invited Matthew’s music teacher to run a class in our basement for his second birthday. Number nine for him was pizza, cake, sports and wildness in the backyard, followed by the original Star Wars movie (watched on a VCR!) and sleepover with all the boys from his class from school.

party
Matthew’s 4th birthday party was not at home, but there’s no way any reptile was stepping into my house.

My pride and joy was Julia’s 7th birthday party last year, which was a formal high tea. The girls decorated tea cups and hats, decorated cupcakes, had their nails done then sat down to real high tea. I served them scones with clotted cream, party sandwiches, strawberries and cream and even English tea in antique tea cups. The kids came dressed up for the occasion and participated fully. David even dressed up as a butler. I will admit I may have had more fun than my own daughter.

party
our semi-formal family at Julia’s tea party
party
The table at the tea party
party
It’s always fun to be silly at a children’s tea party

And this past weekend was the latest birthday party in our home. It was a simpler affair, with apron painting, followed by pizza making and cupcake decorating. Then the kids munched on chips and their cupcakes as they watched the movie, The Greatest Showman. Dinner, the pizza they made, was served in the backyard, as they ran around like wild animals, and of course the event was topped off with yet another one of my original homemade cakes.

party
Celebrating with cake at Julia’s party this weekend. It’s not a party without her “twin” cousin Emma.

My house was a mess. I was exhausted and could barely lift my head on Sunday evening. But I’ll do it again. And again. Like in two weeks, when Nessa turns two.

It’s Worth the 12 Hour Flight to “Montreal” to Visit Extended Family

extended family

Israel is a long way from Toronto. If you fly direct, the flight takes about 12 hours. We travel this distance as often as we can to visit with our extended family. While there are so many wonderful things to do, places to visit and food to eat in Israel, the main reason we come is to see brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. I often joke that it’s my 12-hour flight to Montreal. And it’s worth it.

David and I both have extended family in Israel. Most of the family we visit with are David’s relatives, including his mother, sister and brother, but I have a few cousins too. We see these people once, maybe twice each year, and we savour every moment that we are with them.

extended family
A delicious dinner at David’s sister’s house

I will admit that concentrated time with family can be a bit stressful for all, and tempers get heated sometimes. Okay, often. Yes, there are blow-ups. But isn’t that normal when extended family come together and live under one roof for any period of time?

We just enjoyed a wonderful few days in the desert with David’s extended family. His mother, Barbara, generously treated us to the field school experience in Ein Gedi, which we all enjoyed. It gave us an opportunity to be together and recharge our batteries in the most relaxing of settings.

A night hike in the desert, a trek to a waterfall, a visit to the ancient fortress of Masada and a swim in the Dead Sea were all done with extended family. We relaxed outside under a full moon in the evening and caught up with old friends. What a way to spend a vacation inside a vacation.

extended family
Family lunch at Tel Be’er Sheva on the way to Ein Gedi
extended family
Getting ready to go up the cable car at Masada

After we left Ein Gedi some of us traveled north, first through the desert, then through the heart of Israel and into the Galilee, to see my extended family. I have relatives in Israel who I only met in the last ten years. Over 100 years ago my great-grandfather traveled to Canada from Ukraine. Not all of his siblings joined him, and one brother stayed behind and eventually moved to Argentina.

The family stayed in touch for a while but eventually, over the years, were separated. My great grandfather’s descendants stayed in Canada, and some my great-grandfather’s brother’s descendants stayed in Argentina while others moved to Israel. To make a long story short, about a decade ago we found each other. And now we always get together when I come to Israel.

Not only do I love the beauty and serenity of the desert, but I also adore the magnificence and lush landscape of the Galilee. With fertile valleys surrounded by mountains, how could you not love Northern Israel? And since this contingent of my extended family lives in a small community in the Galilee, I always get the opportunity to go there.

My extended family lives on a Moshav. There is no direct English translation for this term as this kind of community is very unique to Israel. It’s a cooperative agricultural community. Everyone owns their own home and property and for the most part have careers and commute to a job every day. But at its heart it is still a tight cooperative farm.

We love to spend the day with our cousins, at their home, walking around the Moshav and touring the dairy cows on the farm. The kids went on a tractor ride and fed a few cows, some born just a few days ago. Matthew even asked if he could take one home.

extended family
Julia had fun in the grass with the neighbour’s dog
extended family
Matthew enjoyed a tractor ride with his cousin Tomer
extended family
Julia had a knack for giving the cows the tastiest hay

Our trip is not over yet, and when it is we will have a solid 12 hours of flying ahead, to get back to Toronto. We still have a few more days to soak up with our extended family, and we relish every moment. It’s a long, 12-hour flight to “Montreal,” but it’s so worth it.

My Birthday Boy: What it Takes to Make a Cake

cake

Today is March 5, 2018. It’s my son’s eleventh birthday today. For the past few days I have been thinking about what I wanted to write on this day.  I’m a proud mother, and like all mothers across the world I love to boast about how great my child is. If you have met Matthew (or read my blog!), you know he’s a great kid. So, I’m not going to write about Matthew today. I’m going to write about cake.

cake
My eleven year-old

Writing about cake on my eldest child’s birthday makes a lot of sense if you know a little bit about me. First of all, Matthew’s nickname, that I gave him when he was a baby, is Cake. He loved a particular patty cake book, so I of course changed the words to Matty Cake. And it stuck. Or at least for me it did. I still call him Cake. I can’t help it.

But that’s not the only reason that I’m writing about cake today. I love to bake. I’m not a professional and I often skim over recipes and do my own thing. My baking works out, most of the time. And each year, on each of my children’s birthdays from age one and on, I bake a cake. And we’re not talking about just any old chocolate or vanilla slab number with icing. I’m talking about an elaborate theme, with designs, cut-outs, colours and shapes.

I will admit that the finished product usually tastes better than it looks. Again, I am really not a professional. I would barely even call myself an amateur. I guess I’m just passionate. Fun. Creative. And definitely a bit crazy.

My first adventure into crazy cakes was on Matthew’s first birthday, back in 2008. I had a son. He loved everything boy. So, I made him a car cake. By age two he was obsessed with Thomas the Tank Engine. My husband challenged me that he could bake a better cake. He baked Thomas and I baked Percy. Mine was better. Much better.

cake
I made Percy and David make Thomas. Percy tasted better.

As Matthew has grown up I have made a spaceship cake, a volcano, snowboarder on a. mountain and last year it was a basketball net. Some cakes have gone according to plan and others, well, not so much. His Boots cake when he turned three (yep, from Dora the Explorer) looked a bit funky, but the kids liked it!

cake
My strange attempt at Boots the Monkey
cake
He asked for a flying saucer and that what’s I did in my own special way.
cake
It was his first year of snowboarding so I had to do it.
cake
He loved basketball when he turned 10, so that’s what he got

I didn’t slow down when Julia came along. I did the tea party theme when she turned one and made a dollhouse when she turned two. During the Frozen craze, I put together Elsa’s castle. Last year she asked for a butterfly. And of course, I came through.

cake
I tried to make a teapot when Julia turned one.
cake
Julia’s second birthday: the dollhouse
cake
She wanted a butterfly and Julia got one

For Nessa’s first birthday last year I will admit I was a bit boring with a simple, though multi-layered, circular chocolate cake. But I cut out nice letters and made a special mini one for her to smush into her face.

cake
One for us and one just for Nessa on the day she turned one.

Matthew asked for cupcakes this year and no big elaborate cake. I was a bit disappointed, but I dove into my cupcake making this weekend. I produced 60 cupcakes, half white and half chocolate, with icing, sprinkles and a blue icing birthday message. He enjoyed them with his snowboard team and was quite satisfied with my effort.

Julia is still asking for an original and creative cake for her birthday in a couple of months, and I have years to go with Nessa. No matter how crazy the idea is, I’m up for it. Sometimes, the crazier the better.

So, a big happy birthday to Matthew. When he was born, he was the original inspiration for this blog. It only took me ten years to actually do it, and I don’t regret it at all. His love of sports, travel and all things intellectual continue to inspire me every day.

There were Three in the Bed

bed

It has been a busy week, for me, my family and the world around me in general. As I wrote last year, when I first created this blog, life is busy. I always seem to be in motion, trying to balance the many demands in my life. Here is a place that I can think, reflect, discuss, debate, and just write. When I feel like I am so busy that I don’t have time for this blog, I remind myself that I have to make time for this new passion of mine. I feel lucky every day that I found this avenue to share my thoughts. So, share my thoughts is what I will do today. Not deep thoughts, just some musings about the sleeping habits of the people in my household and the bed hopping that happens every night.

When my first child was born, over ten years ago, I went to great pains to find the perfect crib. It had to be safe yet stylish. It had to be functional and a bit fab. The baby furniture was delivered and set up just in time for baby Matthew to arrive home from the hospital. I carefully placed my three-day-old son into his new crib, and he screamed. He hated it. My newborn knew what he liked: my bed.

bed
early cuddles with Daddy for Matthew

I am not going to debate the merits of co-sleeping, sleep training, cribs or beds. I just know what I know – and I know that all three of my children preferred, from the first day of their lives, through today, to cuddle up tight with me, in my bed. Whether it’s good for them (or me!) or not, is not the issue. They like my bed, or someone else’s bed. But not their own, and especially not a crib.

We tried hard to convince baby Matthew to like his crib. By eleven months old he would stand and lean on the railing and scream. I will admit that part of my brilliant child’s challenge was that he could stand but couldn’t figure out how to sit down. But I knew he wanted out.

bed
Even with his cousin, Matthew hated to go near his crib.

Julia was a bit smarter, and when she was fifteen months old she figured out how to climb up the crib’s railing and jump out. She was a bit of an escape artist and was pleased that she figured out how to get out of the crib and high tail it to my bed. Julia was a bed-hopper from a very young age.

bed
Newborn Julia quickly discovered where she wanted to sleep.
bed
It didn’t take long for Julia to discover Matthew’s bed
bed
Sharing doesn’t necessarily mean sleeping
bed
Julia discovered the joys of a crib at age 6, when Nessa was born.

Nessa is my strong-minded and yet also lazy and stubborn baby. I feel like she knew how to say no days after she was born. She was determined to hate her crib, the same one that her brother and sister used, from the first time she saw it. Just say the word crib near Nessa and she shakes her head no. Nessa knows what she wants: my bed.

bed
Nessa knew early on how much she loved a cuddle in my bed with her big sister

They all want my bed, or maybe any bed that’s not their own. Bed-hopping each night is an art in my house. Rarely do any of us wake up in the morning in the same bed we started in the night before. Every combination of people moves around and settles in beds around our house every day.

I am thankful that my children love each other and like to snuggle up together. When they refuse to go to bed it’s often easiest to put them into one bed, cuddled up close, and hope that they put each other to sleep. It usually works. They wander around the house and find other beds as the night wears on, but I think they enjoy their time together in one bed.

bed
These two still like to cuddle up close at night

As I write this, it’s late on Wednesday night and everyone is asleep in my house. Nessa is passed out in Matthew’s bed, which she took over as her own  (she won’t even look at her crib). Matthew is asleep in my bed, with some sporting event blaring on the TV. Julia is actually asleep in her own bed, but that won’t last long. In a few hours, they will all travel to a different location around the house. Sometimes my house is like Union Station in the middle of the night, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

bed
This is how I found them a few months ago when they put each other to bed

My Toddler is a Menace

toddler

She’s everywhere. And I mean everywhere. If Nessa is awake, then she is on the move. I know that toddlers are active and curious little beings. I’ve had three of them. But wow, this toddler takes the cake.

toddler
Enjoying her mess.

Is it a third child thing to be a toddler menace? I am a middle child, so it’s easy for me to say this. My other two children were definitely active and curious toddlers. I remember when Matthew was an infant we bought all kinds of baby proofing equipment for the kitchen, bathrooms and electrical outlets. We set up a baby gate at the top of the stairs and were ready for anything.

We never used any of it.

He wasn’t interested. If I gave Matthew a couple of pots and a spoon in the kitchen, that kept him busy. If I put him in his bedroom to play, he sat with his toys and books and basically just stayed there.

Julia kicked it up a notch and was a more calculating, curious toddler. She was not a menace, but she quietly hid precious items in unfindable places and giggled in a sly way when she knew she did something wrong. She still does.

But Nessa is a menace to society. And she doesn’t even walk yet! My adorable and quite loveable third child travels around on her bum. I call it “bum walking.” It takes quite a bit of talent and strong abs to move around at the speed that she does. She was quite the lump of a baby for the longest time and wasn’t interested in moving at all. When she started to scoot around, slowly, on her bum, we were amused.

toddler
Nothing stays on her feet for long.
toddler
Interesting hat.
toddler
Taking her loot for a ride in the doll stroller

Over the following months, Nessa perfected the art of bum walking, and now that she has combined that with standing and climbing, she can move around quickly and grab anything she wants.

Nessa can open cabinet doors, drawers and even zippers. If it’s within her reach or close to it, she eyes it and goes after it. She has some favourites:

  • Kitchen pantry: removes a mix of spice jars and chocolate chips one by one and scatters them on the floor
  • Kitchen utensils drawer: deftly opens it and takes out tongs, serving spoons and whisks. She particularly likes to open the oven warming drawer as well and drop her treasure in.
  • The water cooler: she figured out that if she pushes on the blue or white buttons that water comes out. Fun!
  • Diaper bag: whether it’s open or not, if she can reach it, she opens it and empties it.
  • Bookshelf: Nessa loves her books and it’s adorable to watch her “read.” It’s not as much fun when she feels the need to read every book on her shelf out all at the same time.
  • Cables: in particular iPhone cables. Nessa likes to chew on them. Yes, I know, that’s a problem.
  • Anything that belongs to her brother and sister
toddler
Elastic bands block her way
toddler
If the doors are open, she dives in.
toddler
Creating one of her early masterpieces – after she dumped the crayons and a stack of paper on the floor.
toddler
That’s how Nessa likes to sit on her little chair

The list goes on and on. It’s hard to get angry with her because she is just so cute. Oh, and she often sings to herself as she scoots around the house, looking for the next place to cause trouble. Could you get angry with this face?

Maybe Nessa is just really intelligent, way beyond her years (or months, she is only a one-year-old). Could it be that her tremendous curiosity is a sign of her need to explore the world and soak it all up before she turns two?

toddler

Or is she just a menace? Cute and cuddly, but one little troublemaker.

I would love to hear stories about other toddler menaces. Were you one? Do you or did you have a child in this category? Am I right about the third child? Leave me a comment here, post your thoughts on Facebook or Tweet me @AliciaRichler.

toddler
The only time she stops moving.