6 Random Things About Me: Israel Version

I've been tagged by Earth to Danie with my first meme! She was tagged by a friend in the Netherlands, and did hers as an Indian version. I'll continue by doing mine Israeli style.

1. My favorite place for a weekend getaway in Israel is Vered Hagalil in the northern Galilee. It's a quaint, rustic horse farm, overlooking the Sea of Galilee.

2. I really enjoy purchasing art and jewelry from local artisans. We've managed to secure a few wall hangings from Yoram Gal, and I'm leaving here with way too many pieces of jewelry from the amazing Ayala Bar.

3. Yom Kippur is my favorite holiday celebrated here. While I don't enjoy fasting per se, I do appreciate the serenity of the day. The entire country completely shuts down; nobody drives and everyone gets out and either walks or rides their bikes on the streets and freeways (because they can).

4. One of the best family fast food restaurants is Zozobra. This pan-Asian beauty is a model of efficiency. From our take-away order to delivery is 15 minutes... tops. If you eat at the restaurant, they take your order on a hand-held system that sends your requests directly to the chef and the bar. By the time the last person puts in their order, the first person is already receiving theirs. It's lightening fast and delicious.

5. The delivery options here are fantastic. You name it, you can have it delivered straight to your door. My grocery store, Stopmarket, will either deliver the groceries you choose for yourself, or you can call in your order and have them deliver it within a certain time frame. The coffee shop around the corner from the girls preschool will deliver coffee to my car. I can double park my car, go in and order, and they'll walk out when it's ready, or I can call it in and they'll bring it out when I arrive. I have yet to find a restaurant or store that doesn't deliver or doesn't contract with a delivery service. I've hired a manicurists to come in and do a mani/pedi, ordered dog food from a local store, and I have even sent Libby to/from the Kfar Hess boarding kennel in a cab all by herself.

6. Due to my under active thyroid (and having two kids), I've spent a decent amount of time at the Herzliyya Medical Center, right around the corner from our house. This medical center is a one-stop shop for all International families. They direct bill our Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance, I can go in and get a blood test at any time without a referral, and even better, I can pick up my results a few hours later. If we need a doctor's appointment, I can call and usually see someone that day.

The end.

Here are the rules: Link to the person who tagged you. Post the rules on your blog. Write six random things about yourself. Tag six people at the end of your post, linking to their blog. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

I'm not going to tag anyone as I'm still new at this, but I am going to tell you to check out 6 of the 50+ blogs that I enjoy reading... Emily in France, Joeprah, Diplopundit, mackin ink,
Life After Jerusalem, 4everMom. These are a variety of different kinds of bloggers; expats, stay-at-home dad, Foreign Service, editor, stay-at-home mom. If you enjoy these, take a look at my still-not-completely-updated list of other blogs I read on the right column of The Perlman Update.


I Broke The Promise To My Tush...

I am addicted to a few things... daily cappuccinos, red wine, eBay, e-mail, and carrying a camera with me everywhere I go. What I don't tell many people is that I also have a serious addiction to chocolate rugelach.

What is rugelach (pronounced roo-guh-luh) you ask? It's a yeast dough rolled around a sweet filling, and only the best darn pastry that I've ever eaten....ever...period. Unlike in the States where most chocolate rugelach is made with chocolate chips, in Israel they make their own chocolate filling, and it is to-die-for deelish!

When I came to Israel on a month long backpacking trip in 1991, I ate several of these tasty treats every day. I couldn't help myself. Chocolate. Doughy. Flaky. Melt-in-your-mouth divine. Every street vendor, cafe, market, and souk we passed, I grabbed a chocolate rugelach. I will never forget walking off the airplane to my parents greeting me at the gate, and instead of my mom giving me a hug and telling me how much she missed me, all she said was, "Oh my gosh, you're so fat."

When we found out in 2004 that we were going to be living in Israel for 3 years, I got giddy. Not for all the exciting places we could travel, the new experiences we'd encounter, the country's history I'd always dreamed I'd finally share with Matt. No, I got giddy for the pastries. Seriously. I vowed to myself right then and there that I'd make it a point to always back away from the babka, I mean rugelach. My tush depended on it.

Yesterday after dropping the girls off at preschool I stopped by this cute cafe on my way back to the house to pick up a cappuccino. I walked up to the counter to order, but was caught off guard by the display. Staring directly at me at eye-level was the most beautiful creation I could ever have imagined... an entire glass cake pedestal filled with chocolate rugelach. I could almost hear them whispering my name. Was this a sign? It must have been a sign. I ordered my cappuccino and before I knew it the words just slipped off my tongue, "And two chocolate rugelach please."

I couldn't help myself. This display case on the counter was akin to the tschotchkes that are always placed at childrens eye level at the registers. You don't want to purchase anything, but before you know it... bam... you're taking home a pack of opened Starburst and some AA batteries. These displays are designed for people like me, who lack all self-control.

I couldn't believe that I made it to the car before I devoured the first rugelach. The second one actually made it into the house, though it didn't stay there for long before I inhaled that one too. I have to say that I was in heaven for I honestly can't remember the last time I ate a rugelach.

In honor of my last few days in the Holy Land, I'm going to cut loose, get crazy, and eat a few (let's be honest, a hell of a lot) of these tasty little treats. And when you see me in California, there will be no mention of my snug jeans... got it?

It's a good thing that Starbucks doesn't have them or I'd be in real trouble this summer.


Wordless Wednesday - Dare To Be Different

She never once complained that she was the ONLY one who didn't have pink shoes...
Rock On Riley!


Anger Management Classes May Be Needed...

It's no wonder I drove around the roundabout 7 times trying to find the Government Vet in Ramla, 40 minutes from my home. I mean, with a Government facility that's this well marked (insert sarcasm here) who wouldn't drive right in? I was looking for a blue gate, next to the electricity company. Yeah.... right.... as if I know what the utility company looks like...

How did I spot this diamond in the rough you ask yourselves? Was it the Government Seals on the gate? The signs on the doors? Israeli flag flying overhead? Sure, I saw the hint of a blue gate, but EVERY gate on this street is blue! Maybe I should have rolled my windows down and listened for the Israeli bureaucratic machine inefficiently grinding within.

Instead, I drove into the least likely place that I would remotely think of placing a Government Vet's office, and voila, there it was, right in front of me. Isn't it normal to have a Government Vet's office attached to 2 exposed port-a-johns?

Government Vet's Office ........... Well Marked Gate and Driveway

I took Libby out of the car and put on her leash. I made sure I had my 31 shekels (in exact change), and documentation of her most recent rabies shot. We knocked on the only door I could find. No answer. We started to walk around the premises in search of anyone who looked like they could help, or who spoke English. Up walks a guy who clearly sees me and my large black dog on a leash. I ask if he speaks English and he responds, "sort of" and continues to walk right by. I yell out to him that I'm looking for the vet, to which he turns his head and responds, "me, I vet." He must have just assumed that I was taking my dog for a nice walk around this run down industrial parking lot/overgrown horse stable, that also doubles as a Government vets office, for the hell of it.

The entire transaction took less than three minutes. He looked at me, he looked at the dog, he pulled out a sheet of paper and wrote down our name, destination, and Libby's age. He then checked her passport (yes Libby has her own doggie passport with the record of all her vaccinations), stamped the piece of paper 3 times with 3 different stamps, collected my money, and sent me on my way. It took me more time to write this here than I spent in his office.

Am I surprised by any of this? No. Yet it still frustrates me that I spent over 2 hours on the road, in traffic, looking for a vet who didn't even bother to evaluate Libby albeit for a cursory glance, in search of lousy piece of paper that gives Libby her freedom from Israel, that probably won't even be looked at in customs.

Am I angry? Maybe a little... more so at myself... for thinking that it would turn out any differently than it did.

More than anything I'm relieved that it's over, that it's one less thing I have to worry about this week. Though who wants to bet that she gets hurt and we end up back at the vet before we leave? I'd almost be willing to play those odds in Vegas. Any takers?


The Calm Before The Storm

As I sit here at my empty desk... in our empty room... staring at our empty walls where our pictures once hung, I am filled with... an emptiness that I can't quite articulate. I look over at our borrowed bed, a queen size that should be large enough for both of us (let's be honest, I don't take up a lot of room), yet feels confining whenever I lay down. No more red armoire or funky aqua blue night stands that I picked out at Pinky's in Dubai and had delivered for $50 to our home in Muscat. No more bedside lamp that I turned on every-single-night to read for a few minutes before going to bed.

It's quiet inside our house. The desktop computer that we usually left on day and night no longer hums its quiet tune. The girls noisy toys (the ones with batteries that I oh-so-enjoy) are packed up, crated, and are beginning their journey to India. My cappuccino machine, my favorite appliance in my kitchen, no longer wakes everyone up before 7 am, as I try to jump start my eyelids and my sanity. Our house now echoes with the sounds of emptiness... and cockroaches chirping.

Tomorrow Matt goes back to work after a wonderful 3-day weekend, and I begin our final preparations for our departure. With a trip to the Government Vet in the early morning, I can almost guarantee that I'll get lost with the shoddy directions. I'll then follow it up with lunch and an afternoon play-date with Riley and her 4 friends, a mini ballet recital for just me (we'll be missing the big recital next week), dinner (remember, I have to use up all the food in the fridge), and back to burning DVDs.

Right now, in these next few minutes I'll be enjoying the end of my silence, for I know what this week brings.


Anyone Want To Switch Places?

We managed to survive the weekend without anything in our house for the kids to play with. How we did it? I'm still trying to figure it out. The only toys we left them were 3 Polly Pockets, 3 books, 3 ponies, 1 horse, a new pack of crayons, 2 coloring books, and a packet of sidewalk chalk. Oh yes, and don't forget the DVDs that we've been playing on our 13'' Embassy TV set, which we were very lucky to borrow. It's so small that watching a DVD with subtitles (which we did last night) is a fruitless effort. We have tons of toys awaiting their arrival in California next week, but we're to the point where we need to borrow a few items from friends to help us last this next week.

A lot has happened throughout the past week/end. Here's what's been cooking here in Herzliyya:
  • Our frustration continues with the State Department as our orders needed to be amended for the 5th time. Apparently we're allotted an additional shipment of household effects from California as long as they're written in our orders. But were they? Of course not! The orders stated that we could send additional items from D.C. though... which isn't exactly helpful when we're staying in California. This only took a week to fix.
  • We got our visas for India, though they're not exactly correct. We applied for Diplomatic visas which allow us to have multiple entries into India, and are good for the entire length of our tour. Instead, we got them back and all they gave us were tourist visas which are only good for 1 entry within the next 3 months. Now we have to re-apply and do this all over again once we get to India.
  • Our upgrades to business class from Frankfurt to Los Angeles went through - Hallelujah! Our travel agent at the Embassy really came through for us and helped push our upgrades along. For anyone PCS'ing this summer, upgrades can be worked out! Libby was also confirmed on every leg of our itinerary. Yay.
  • We went to another birthday party this weekend for our friend's daughter who turned 4. This little girl is Sheridan's best girlfriend, and they are both going to be so sad to leave each other. The two of them together are little demons and get into all sorts of mischief at school. We've re-named them Thelma and Louise.
  • Riley's slumber party went off without a hitch. The girls played lots of games, they brought in pizza, they took pictures (one of the moms gave them all disposable cameras to use for the night), and they read stories before going to bed at 8 pm. Of course they talked for several hours and finally fell asleep after 10 pm. Sure enough, they all woke up around 5:30 am! The moms were invited over to have an Israeli breakfast with everyone at 9 am, and we ended up staying there until after 11 am. It sounds like they all had a fantastic time... though I still think that the parents were smoking some serious doobie to take-on seven 5-year olds for a slumber party. I can guarantee that I won't be doing that ANY time soon!
  • The Recreation Center pool opened up this weekend, though on a restricted schedule of just 10 am - 6 pm. The only way for it to open was if some poor sap volunteered to be the DRiP (Designated Responsible Person) for the day. Apparently parents aren't responsible enough to watch their own children, so someone else has to take on the job to watch them with you. It's a complete insult. But we decided to take a little insult and swam with the girls for a few hours this afternoon. It's mighty hot outside and the cool water felt great.
  • I finally finished the preschool slideshow today and burned the first copy to a DVD. It's been a labor of love for the past few months; a few hundred photos of the kids from throughout the school year set to music that they've been listening to in class. I can't wait to show it to the preschool director. It's going to be sold as our last fundraiser at the end of the year. Now I get to burn 45 DVDs this week at 15 minutes a pop... what fun.

This next week is already proving to be packed and chaotic: last minute items to send to the States, taking Libby to the Government vet to get checked out of Israel, our house inspection, 2 field trips with the preschool, swimming lessons, videoing Riley's last ballet class, and countless other things that will take over our last week. Please be patient if I don't respond to e-mails in a timely manner. The wireless router was boxed and sent on Wednesday, so we only have our laptop stationary in our room - which means no more computer time for me while Matt watches some crap police movie.

Nine days and counting...


It's a Sleepover!

Riley attended her first ever sleepover tonight with all the girls from her preschool class. We didn't think she was old enough to handle a sleepover, but since every girl was going, we decided to give it a try. Worst case scenario was that we'd received a call at 10 pm telling us we needed to pick her up.

We dropped her off at 5:30 pm, and once inside, she wanted NOTHING to do with me. The mom of the girl who hosted the crazy 7-person sleepover had pillowcases silk screened with each girl's name on them. They were too cute! The sleepover was planned for this particular weekend as everyone knew it was the last time that all the girls would be together. They're a very tight knit little group - and oh so adorable together. It's going to be very hard for Riley to leave them.

As excited as Riley was to stay the night, so sadistic was I just thinking about this brave mom who would be dealing with 7 girls in the wee early hours in the morning. I know that Riley gets up at the ass-crack of dawn, and so do many of the other girls. I'm sure that they'll be up by 6 am with breakfast served no later than 7 am. I pray that Riley doesn't have a pee pee accident; it would be just my luck. Bless them for doing this. Better her than me... way better her than me.

L to R: Riley S, Osher, Riley P, Mia, Kit, and Jana

The big mattress-fest where they'll be sleeping

UPDATE: I received a text message at 10:20 pm saying that all the girls were fast asleep and were doing a-ok. Still no word on the pee pee accidents... I'll keep y'all posted.


International Show

Last night we attended our 3rd and last International Day Show at the American Embassy preschool. The show is the culmination of the year focusing on "The Circle of Life" with songs, movement, and dance.

I got a seat on the grass, front and center. I brought my video camera and my Canon SLR to capture every possible minute. I warned everyone around me that I'm a cryer, and to expect me to choke up throughout the entire performance. True to form, I certainly did not disappoint.

The show was adorable. The kids performed beautifully. The costumes were sweet. Everyone had a ball. The best part of all was finding out that the preschool will remain open next year as it is being absorbed by The American International School, and now not only are the teachers accredited, so will be the school.

Excited to perform at the beginning ... Crying and needing consolation

Riley refused to look at me .... Still trying hard not to look at me


And They're Off...

... the boxes that is.

The movers showed up early this morning. How early you ask? Thirty-five minutes early! At 7:25 am the doorbell rang, and instead of answering it and letting them in, I told them through our intercom that they were way too early and I wasn't quite ready. I needed the last few minutes to get the girls dressed for school, and to throw another load of laundry in the wash.

While Matt drove the girls to preschool, I finally opened up the gate to let the movers in. There were five big, burly guys with more silver "Jewry" than all of The San Fernando Valley combined. I showed the head packer around the house, pointing out what stayed and what went. Everything in every room was clearly labeled: To Storage, To India, Do Not Pack, Nothing to Pack in Here, and UAB (Unaccompanied Air Baggage - our air freight that's supposed to arrive in India 2-3 weeks after we do... supposed to).

They each took a room, hunkered down, and began packing. They really didn't take many breaks, though they did yell for me on occasion when Libby got in their way. She really annoyed the kitchen guy as she was constantly laying on his packing materials, on the paper, and under his feet. The time flew by and around noon I ordered in 4 large Kosher pizzas and a few bottles of soda.

The pack-out moved along smoothly and quickly. By 2 pm they were completely finished packing, though they left out one minor detail. They did not label ANY single box. They had me do it. I had to walk around numbering every box, filling out the inventory list, writing which room it came from, and what they can remember putting in there. Most boxes in the living room and dining room were labeled "ornaments" and "glass". Boxes in the bedrooms were labeled "clothing" or "misc." Boxes in the garage were only labeled "garage". And boxes in the kitchen were only labeled "K" for kitchen. I guess it will be a nice surprise when I open them. Yeah, that's it, a nice surprise.

By 4:30 pm every box was on the van and nailed shut in its appropriate crate. In all we had 1 crate going to storage, and 7 crates going to India, with a total of 182 boxes. Tomorrow I'll know the exact weight of everything sent. I'm hoping to be under our weight allowance so I can send a supplemental shipment from California. I want to send over a large safe. Go figure.

After the movers left I sat with Matt and told him that as relieved as I am for the actual pack-out to be over, that it felt a little weird watching my "life" being packed up and sent on. Matt sweetly replied, "No, it's not your life that was packed, it's your stuff. It shouldn't matter if it falls into the ocean, or never even makes it to our next destination. Your stuff can forever be replaced."

I so wanted to make the moment into something beautiful and say something witty and prophetic back to him, but all that came to mind was, "Well a**, that "STUFF" took me 4 weeks to organize, sort through, clean, donate, sell, and label. It darn well better NOT fall into the ocean."

I think I need to lay off the cleaning for awhile, it makes me cranky.

The "Stuff" going to Storage ... Packing the Kitchen ... "Stuff" in the Garage


Label Crazy

After spending the entire day organizing and labeling all the items in our house, I became a little delirious. I am so tired that I even labeled the kids - just in case I can't remember what to do with them tomorrow when the movers come.


From the Vet to the Emergency Room

We've been fairly lucky. In the 3 years we've lived in Israel we've never had to make a trip to the ER. Sure, we did have to take Sheridan to the children's hospital two years back when she had a febrile seizure and was literally frothing at the mouth. And who can forget the day after we took her to the hospital, when she fell down the marble staircase and chipped her front tooth, requiring another emergency trip to the children's dentist. But neither Matt nor I have had an emergency that's warranted schlepping into Tel Aviv. Until last night.

I woke up early Sunday morning bloated and with an upset stomach. I wasn't sure if it was water retention from the sushi we ate the night before (yay date night), or if it was good ol' fashioned constipation kicking my tush (pun intended). Either way, I didn't feel good. The pain ebbed and flowed throughout the day. Around 3 pm the stomach cramping was so severe, that even the Lamaze breathing that I learned 5 years ago didn't help, and I finally groaned the words, "Matt, it's time to go to the hospital."

Matt called the Embassy nurse, Grant, to ask for directions to the hospital, and to request he call ahead and let the ER know we'll be coming. As he lives right around the corner from us, he made a quick house call to assess my situation before sending us down to Tel Aviv. He ruled out an appendicitis, but could feel my stomach cramping, and suggested I go see a doctor. Of course, before we could go, we needed someone to come over to watch the kids. One urgent phone call to Swan (did I mention that she returned last week - double yay) and she was at the house within 15 minutes. Off to the hospital we now go.

It only took us 20 minutes to get to the hospital, and waiting for us upon our arrival was Tammy, the other Embassy nurse. She helped get us checked in, circumvented the bureaucracy of the ER, and expeditiously got us into an exam room (which is better known as a bed with a curtain that barely closes around it). A big Russian nurse came in and asked me a few questions, followed by the ER surgeon who repeated the questioning... both of them speaking to me in Hebrew. As my Hebrew is fairly non-existent, the only thing I could mutter in Hebrew was, "I'd like a cappuccino, with an extra shot please." Clearly there was a loss in translation, because all they came back into my "room" with was a tray to take my blood and a speculum for my examination. Thankfully Tammy was there to step in and take charge of the situation.

The whole evening was a big balagan (that's Hebrew for circus). I got a first hand look at socialized medicine, and I can honestly say that I didn't care for it one bit. I was moved from one room to another. They stuck me with an IV and immediately sent me across the hospital from one building to the next. They refused to do any further examinations until they had the results from my blood work. They had us waiting and waiting and waiting.

At the end of our 5-hour hospital ordeal, I was diagnosed with an infection (based on blood results and exam), given a 10-day prescription, a shot in the tush to stop the stomach cramping, and sent on my way. We left the hospital at 9 pm, made several wrong turns, got extremely lost, and finally made it home at 10 pm. What a completely wasted day. Matt and I never had a chance to eat dinner, and worse yet, I never got that cappuccino I asked for.

Now all I have to do is bear through the pain until the antibiotics finally kick in, and continue to prepare for the movers on Wednesday. Did I mention how happy I am that Swan's back?


Oh Libby... It's a Good Thing We Love You

Libby the Lab is one expensive dog. We paid a pretty penny for her when we first brought her home 6 1/2 years ago. We had to hire a personal dog trainer as she was too stubborn and out of control for weekly lessons at the local PetSmart. We've always made sure she's well fed, buying several different brands of dog food until we found one that agreed with her stomach and alleviated her horrific smelling gas. When we first moved overseas and were told that she couldn't fly with us due to the heat, we flew her out to California to live with my in-laws, who took care of her as if she were their own. And several months later when they were finally able to ship her out to us in Oman, we spared no expense in flying her there.

I can always count on Libby to have impeccable timing. My mother-in-law found out that Libby was allergic to Leptospirosis in the annual DHLPP shot when she went into anaphylactic shock at the vet (apparently she never had that combo shot in NJ). She was hit by a car just 3 weeks after arriving in Oman, and I had to rush her to the vet for stitches and observation, though I had NO clue where the vet was even located, nor that the Egyptian vet didn't like dogs and stitched her paw with twine!

Over the past few years Libby has managed to visit the vet on such a regular basis that they know my voice on the phone and immediately squeeze her in to any appointment. She has seen the vet for a myriad of reasons including; a snake bite which swelled her hind leg to twice it's size and caused temporary paralysis, endless ear infections, horrible allergies which are only alleviated with cortisone shots, Benadryl, antihistamines, and most recently Prednisone. She had a lump and the vet thought it may be cancerous, so she had it removed and biopsied, only to find that it was just a foreign object. She gets a yearly teeth cleaning (where they put her under a general anaesthetic), her anal glands expressed, bi-monthly park worm shots, yearly immunizations, quarterly de-worming, bi-annually flea and tick collar, and most recently for another change of dog food.

It should have been no surprise to me that on Friday night, just before sundown, we noticed that Libby's chin was bleeding. After closer inspection, we deduced that she probably caught her left jowl on a twig while running through the backyard brush, but because the skin is so loose, it didn't hurt her, and she doubtfully noticed it. I, on the other hand, was very bothered and made a phone call to my good friend the vet. Of course, with Shabbat about to begin, I had to call the 24-hour emergency number. I did, and I left a message. And I waited. And waited. And waited. Nobody called me back that night. Nobody called me back on Saturday either. We cleaned her face a few times with hydrogen peroxide and kept an eye on it, and it actually looked like it was beginning to heal.

Until this morning.

Dingy dog had an itch on her face and with her hind leg scratched it so many times that she reopened the cut and now it was rather deep. No worries, the vet opens at 9:30 am, and after a quick call, we got her in to a 10 am appointment to have her chin stitched up. I'll spare you with the details of how Libby went crazy in the vet, got swiped at by a cat roaming the office, got into a growling match with the office's Doberman Pincher puppy, and instead of getting stitches, just had a few staples put in while being held down by Matt and the office manager. Oh wait, I just told you about them.

Anyway, it was a quick trip to the vet, we left under $200, and Libby has to now wear that darn Elizabethan collar so that she doesn't tear out the staples. Now I have a follow up vet appointment next Sunday, a trip to the Government vet on Tuesday to get her departure papers signed, and a good-bye visit and follow-follow-up at the vet that Friday. As if I didn't have enough to do? Two more weeks dog... you couldn't have waited just two more weeks?


School Photos

I re-took the preschool photos yesterday as many kids have joined the school mid-year and some have sadly moved on ... (the realities of an international school).

I'm the semi-official preschool photographer. I would say I'm the official photographer, but frankly every parent is an official photographer at some point.

Here are photos of the girls class' and the whole school. Can you pick out Sheridan in her class photo? She always makes me so proud!

.......... Sheridan's "Duckling" Class ..........

.... Entire Preschool Photo ........ Riley's "Star" Class Photo ...


Oh The Clutter!

I can't stand a cluttered house. Let me rephrase that, I can't stand clutter in my house. Everyone knows I'm anal retentive, and in my home there is a place for everything and everything in its place. It doesn't help that Matt is the same way. While he appreciates organization, he insists on cleanliness - especially in the kitchen and bathrooms, though he takes it to a whole new level. He also likes simplicity. An open room. Clean lines. He can smell crumbs a room away. However, having a clean house and keeping a clean house are two different things (need I remind you that Swan is still gone? PLEASE come home soon! My house, I mean, I miss you!). So until my maid's return, guess what I'm doing on almost a daily basis?

As we move every few years it's easy for us to pair things down. We're not collectors. Matt doesn't like figurines, we don't have large amounts of stuffed animals for the kids. We keep excess to a minimum. We like art and always buy a piece or two wherever we go, we also buy a few souvenirs everywhere we live that remind us of our time there. We each have a our hobbies; Matt's is anything "gear" related - workout equipment, law enforcement paraphernalia, scuba diving, electronics, and of course, watches. I enjoy my sewing "stuff", photography, endless cookbooks, and jewelry (bracelets to be specific). But even with both of our hobbies, we don't have that much stuff where you would walk in the house and say, "SO, it looks like you're into ......."

Over the past few months I've been slowly watching Riley squirrel things away. She'd play with toys from the playroom and then they'd disappear, never to be seen (or shared with her sister) again. She would fill purses and backpacks with her stuff and cart it around as if she was a 90 year old lady. I never paid that much attention to it until today. As I cleaned her room this morning, and took everything off her nightstand, I discovered how much of a pack-rat, a collector of all-things, dare I say, a hoarder she really was.

Inside the nightstand drawer ... The top of the nightstand

I always knew that she liked "stuff", that she never wanted to throw anything away, but didn't realize the extent of it. The drawer on her nightstand is actually difficult to open, so I don't venture in there very often, and clearly not often enough. In this drawer were: hair bands of all shapes and sizes for her, her dolls, her princesses, her horses, and her sister. She has necklaces, rings, barrettes and bracelets. There are combs, brushes, chap sticks, baby bottles, doll clothes, and even wrappers. The top of the nightstand isn't much better. In the front of it are two picture frames of her cousins which mask the rest of the stuff hiding behind... a can that she uses to put on the bed so Libby won't jump on it when she's not there, a postcard that she kept from Locks of Love when she donated her hair last June, more jewelry, her clay pig, and a toy magazine that she's been looking at day in and day out for the last several months.


This weekend before our pack-out we're going through the last of the drawers, closets, and play room. We'll be throwing out a lot of "stuff", organizing everything for our move. Hopefully Riley won't notice if we throw away old hair bands, wrappers, and broken jewelry. I'll gladly replace it this summer at Target.

I think I also need to buy her her own little treasure chest to store the rest of her tchotchkes that I'm sure she'll continue to collect in India. The nightstand is clearly too small.


The Expat Arc

Moving is never easy. No matter how near or far you go. But add on needing a passport, visa, and a USDA health certificate so your dog can board an international flight, and well, that's enough to send even the sanest of people over the edge.

It has now been four months since we found out we were going to Chennai, India for our next 3 year tour. Exciting? Yes. Scary? Perhaps. Overwhelming? Absolutely!

The great thing about finding out where you're moving several months in advance is having the opportunity to do your research. Thanks to the internet I'm able to order travel books, read up on history and the country, and meet "virtual friends" in the blogging world. One of these new friends I've met is Danielle Barkhouse (Danie), an experienced Canadian expat who moved to Chennai last year.

Danie recently published a book called, The Expat Arc. It's a must-read for expats, anyone in the process of moving, ALL tourists planning a trip to India, and just about everyone else too. The Expat Arc is Danie's journal of her move from Illinois to India. I enjoyed it so much I couldn't put it down, and finished it in one night. She details everything from selling a house in the States, to shipping her dog, traveling alone with her son while her husband is already there, her first impressions, and her highs and lows throughout her first year.

While most companies help you with the physical transition of moving your stuff from Point A to Point B, they don't necessarily help you with the mental transition of moving and expatriation (adapting to the host country / culture). Danie poignantly writes about her culture shock, something that isn't widely discussed out loud, and how she slowly moved through the phases of it. She lets you into her personal window to view what it's like to live in a 3rd World Country. She gives you the tour of India through her eyes.

"Danielle's First Post From Chennai" "WoW."

"Our first day in India was fascinating and overwhelming. We woke up early and stared out the window for hours. I'm not kidding, we couldn't tear ourselves away. Inside the gate of the hotel is a lush tropical paradise...palm trees, colorful plants, interesting birds, good food and eager staff."

"On the other side of the gate is a world that I doubt I could describe. Just when I think I've seen the most fascinating and peculiar thing ever, I see something even more fascinating. Am I using the word 'fascinating' too much? Like I said, I don't believe I have the words yet."

I have a few. Eloquent, Heartfelt, Laugh-Out-Loud Funny. Danie's ability to articulate a good story lends you to visualize her in the situation every step of the way. She has the grand fortune of living on a property that is frequented by snakes, she's had several mishaps with her household help, and she's even had a run in with a large, hairy arachnid (see page 63 of her book for the nail biting horror.)

The Expat Arc is one book you don't want to miss. For my family and friends, it will help answer many of the questions you're already asking me about moving to India. For friends out in cyberspace, it's a fun read about expat life, travel, and understanding yourself. And for all of you planning your trips out to visit us in the next year, bring along your copy as you can meet the author, and she'll sign it for you! Don't delay, go to Amazon.com today to get your copy.

If you have any questions / comments / thoughts for Danielle, she'll be occasionally stopping by my blog to answer them. Just go to the comment section and jot down your thoughts there!


Upgrades, Confirmations, and a Whole Lotta Stress

With our pack-out next week and our move following just 12 short days later, the stress level at Casa de Chaos is kicking up a notch. This weekend's saga revolved around the upgrades on our flight from Frankfurt to Los Angeles, as well as the confirmation for Libby the Lab on all our flights.

When we changed our departure date from May 25 to June 3 and re-booked the flights, somehow our upgrades to business had been overlooked. How do I know this? I spent 25 minutes on the phone with a United agent last Friday. It all started when I called our travel department at the Embassy to ask about Libby's flight confirmations. They told me that they will only confirm the dog from here to Los Angeles and that it's my responsibility to check on her confirmations for the remaining legs of our travel. No problem, I'm happy to call United myself. I also asked about our upgrades from cattle call class to business, to which she also replied that we hadn't been confirmed for our upgrades, but she calls them every week to find out where we are on the list.

So Friday night I called United and spoke with a reservation agent. I prefaced my call by telling her I had 3 questions: 1.) Is Libby confirmed on all flights from Tel Aviv to Chennai - and what is the cost for each leg? 2.) What is the status of our upgrades from Frankfurt to Los Angeles and from Washington, D.C. to Frankfurt? 3.) What are our seating assignments on all flights if we don't clear for the upgrade? Can we request bulk head seating as we're premier members and flying with toddlers?

During our 25 minute phone conversation I discovered that 1.) Libby was NOT confirmed on all flights. Surprisingly she was only confirmed from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. and then Washington, D.C. to Chennai. 2.) They have no record of our upgrade request for our flight from Frankfurt to Los Angeles - it was never resubmitted after we changed our original departure date. 3.) She would not request bulk head seating for us, and we are somewhere in the middle of the airplane for all flights. But at least we're all smushed together! Isn't that great?

I've now spent most of my day dealing with our travel department confirming and re-confirming the dog on ALL flights. I'm also going to battle over our upgrades and the confirmation and re-confirmation of them in the Embassy travel department's system and in United's. They swear that they're taking good care of our travel and our departure. I swear that they're making more work for me. The end result is that I have to continually confirm their confirmations.

Blood pressure rising? Confirmed!


Help Me Be Good

My sweet beautiful Riley has entered the lying and tattling phase. Quite normal I'm sure for a 5 year old, yet extremely annoying nonetheless. The tattling is constant; morning, noon, and night, with all of it revolving around her little sister. She acts like the new sheriff in town, a mini-mom per se, reporting every little tidbit Sheridan does throughout the day. We can't go more than 10 minutes without hearing the following...

"Mom, Sheridan put the crayons on the floor"
"Mom, Sheridan is annoying me"
"Mom, Sheridan touched the TV"
"Mom, Sheridan is laying on Libby"
"Mom, Sheridan stuck her hands in her underwear"
"Mom, Sheridan is ripping the coloring book"
"Mom, Sheridan is trying to unlock the garage door"
"Mom, Sheridan is riding my bike and I want to ride it"
"Mom, Sheridan wants to watch Nemo and I want to watch The Music Man"
"Mom, Sheridan took my pink cup and gave me the blue one"
"Mom, Sheridan didn't hang the towel back on the hook"
"Mom, Sheridan is splashing water out of the tub"
"Mom, Sheridan is touching me and I don't want her to"

After hearing this ALL....DAY....LONG... I go a little stir crazy. Wonder why I'm going gray? I try to let them work it out themselves as attempting to correct any of Sheridan's behavior proves quite futile. Most of what Sheridan is doing is just annoying, it's not destructive and not worth getting upset. And since Riley is reporting back to me no less than 30 - 40 times a day, I'd end up spending most of my free time disciplining.

The lying part, well that's something I'm trying to work on with her and nip it in the bud ASAP. None of the lies are destructive or life threatening, they're all little white lies. But they're beginning to increase in frequency, almost every day now, with most of them again revolving around her little sister. Some of her fibs have been ...

* She pushed her sister off the couch and then when I ask her if she really did it her response was, "I promise I didn't do it... I'm NOT lying". Her friend who was over saw it and ratted her out.
* She'll tell me Sheridan made a mess (to get her in trouble) when really she did it herself.
* She'll break something and then tell me that Sheridan did it.
* When I ask her to do something such as wash her hands before lunch, make her bed, put her toys away, put her clothes in her hamper, she'll tell me that she did it, but when I check up on her, it's not done. She will then tell me that I'm wrong, she did do it, and that she's not lying. Of course not.

A few weeks ago I began talking to a some girlfriends with daughters around the same age, and asking if any of them are going through similar situations. One of them said she had recently been in my shoes, and that she had a 29 book series on manners titled, "Help Me Be Good" that I was welcome to borrow. Great idea. I had wanted to order a few books recently, but due to our upcoming departure I didn't want to have anything sent here as it's more stuff to schlep back to California in 3 weeks. So I went to her house and took a look at what she had. The series of Joy Berry books include topics such as Being Messy, Tattling, Being Destructive, Jealousy, Lying, Cheating, Being Careless, Lazy, and my personal favorite on Whining. I could have taken the entire series back to the house, but as we were pressed for time, I only took four: Being Destructive (this one was for Sheridan), Whining (for both of them), and on Lying and Tattling (both exclusively for Riley). The girls were very excited to read these books as they had heard the one on Obeying at our friend's house earlier that day.

We waited for daddy to get home and then we sat down on the bed and read a book to each of them as their bedtime stories. We started with the one on Tattling, and after reading it discussed with Riley what is acceptable to tell us and what isn't, when she can come and tattle on her sister, and when she needs to just leave it alone. She obviously understood the concepts as when we were discussing how she wasn't being helpful she was trying to get her sister in trouble, she cried. I immediately became giddy. Fantastic! We got through to her. We helped her see the error in her ways! However, her tears were short lived when she saw the next book on Being Destructive. "Oh mom, this one is definitely for Sheridan." It's as if in 20 seconds she completely forget what we had just read. Throughout the book Riley pointed out ways that Sheridan related to the character in the book; she too was always ruining stuff and was completely destructive. Tattling again perhaps? Oh no, just pointing out the obvious. We tried to discuss this book with Sheridan, but she was more interested in ripping the book out of our hands, and throwing her baby off the bed. Think we got through?

We figured that we'd wait until the next night to tackle the other two books that I borrowed, as our first attempt at helping the girls understand about manners didn't quite go over as planned. I thought I'd probably have to re-read the book on Tattling with Riley several more times before it truly sunk in, and at least a dozen more times before Sheridan understood the ways she was Being Destructive. But as we walked out of the room I was left with one statement from Riley, "Hey mom, tomorrow night let's read Sheridan the book about Whining."

I don't quite think she grasped the concepts.


Day At The Beach

We didn't make it down to Tel Aviv today. Our beach bags were packed, the snacks and lunches were ready to go, we were dressed and sunblocked, and then at 6:45 am we made the startling realization that we were absolutely out of our minds. It would have been a blast to spend the day in Tel Aviv celebrating with 100,000 of our closest friends, wading through the throngs of people to find a towel size spot on the beach, being trapped due to road closures until the end of the day, where we would inevitably sit in several hours in traffic to drive the 10 miles back to our house. We would have loved to have had a front and center view of the sky divers and air show, and we really debated going for about 10 minutes, but when we asked ourselves the tell tale questions, "What is the likelihood of the girls having a total and complete meltdown by the end of the day?" and more importantly, "What is the likelihood that WE will have a complete meltdown by the end of the day?", we knew it wasn't worth schlepping them around.

So instead we went to the beach by our house. We walked the 3 blocks, worrying the whole way that it would be too crowded to find a good spot. Boy were we surprised when we got there - the Mediterranean was packed with boats, and the beach was EMPTY. We settled ourselves into a nice spot, unloaded our bags, and let the girls go. Not long after our arrival, we were passed by a small Israeli Navy flotilla, in route to the celebrations in Tel Aviv. About an hour after the naval vessels, we heard a noise in the distance... a formation of Blackhawks, Apaches, and CH-53 helicopters began flying over the Mediterranean, also en route to Tel Aviv. We even got to witness a mid-air refueling over the beach of two CH-53's. The helicopters preceded the last of the entertainment that we were able to witness; 15 fighter jets, three of which were refueling directly above us.

The girls didn't pay a lick of attention to what was going on overhead, they were just thrilled to be able to play in the water, throw sand at each other, and have a picnic lunch. I on the other hand, was entranced with the show, and probably took 50+ pictures and a few video clips.

Our day at the beach ended with a crescendo when a young man stopped to talk to me while Matt and the girls were in the water, and I was laying alone on our large beach blanket. I didn't pay any attention to him until he said something to me in Hebrew. I responded that I didn't understand him, to which he switched to English and sat down next to me. Matt looked over at me from the water, but made no attempt to come over or stop our conversation. The young man asked me several inane questions, and it wasn't until he began with the personal repertoire of questions like, "How old are you?" and "Are you here studying?" that I realized he was trying to hit on me. It was at that moment when Sheridan came running over to me and the young man asked me if she was mine. I told him yes - and so is the other one and the husband out there in the water. He apologized profusely, put his tail between his legs, and quickly walked away. While it was very sweet that he came over, I'm still trying to figure out what signs I sent out that said, "Look at me - I'm single!" I was surrounded with 4 pairs of flip flops, 3 large bags, 2 children's sun hats, children's clothing laying about, Matt's shirt, and a bevy of beach toys that completely encircled our beach blanket. Did I seriously look like I was alone? Oh yeah, I was also wearing a wedding ring - and boy shorts, both of which send out an immediate signal that says I'm married, I'm a mom, and I don't need to look sexy. Though I must admit, I was a bit flattered.

Matt finally came back over and asked me who the guy was. When I told him what happened, his only question was, "So how was his English?" What a pain in the a**...

Here are a few photos from the day.

Boats out in the Mediterranean ... The crowded beach

Navy Ships floating by ......... CH-53's refueling in mid-air

Fighter Jets in formation ....... Laughing with the girlies


Israeli Holidays and Commemorations

This week marks another series of holidays and commemorations in Israel; from last Thursday's Yom Ha'Shoa (Holocaust Memorial Day) to today's Yom Ha'Zikaron (Israeli Memorial Day), and ending with Israeli Independence Day tomorrow.

Yom Ha'Shoa commemorates the millions of Jews who died in the Holocaust, as well as the acts of heroism that saved many others.

Yom Ha'Zikaron
is a Memorial Day for soldiers who lost their lives in battle for the creation of the State of Israel, and for the soldiers who've died subsequently defending the State. Perhaps because much of the Israeli population has relatives or close friends who've died defending Israel, Yom Ha'Zikaron is widely observed throughout all sectors of Israel. Throughout the entire day, places of entertainment, restaurants, and shops are closed by law, unlike in America, in which Memorial Day is often used simply as an excuse for another sale. The radio and television stations play programs about Israel's wars and show programming that convey the somber mood of the day. The most widely recognized commemoration is an air raid siren that's played twice. All activity, including traffic, immediately ceases. People get out of their cars, even in the middle of otherwise busy highways, and stand in respect for the sacrifice of those who died. The first siren marks the beginning of Memorial Day and the second is sounded immediately prior to the public recitation of prayers in military cemeteries.

Tomorrow is Yom Ha'Atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, which is a celebration in honor of the founding of the State of Israel in May, 1948. It's marked with fireworks, dancing, and singing.

We are going to brave the crowds tomorrow and head down to Tel Aviv in the early morning to participate in the day-long celebrations. The roads are supposed to close by 8 am, so we'll have to leave by 7 am to drive down and find parking before we're stuck all day. There will be an air show, ships coming into port, and festivities up and down the pier. As we've always been in California during Independence day, it will be our first and last before we leave. I'm going to bring my camera and video camera, and will post highlights of our day tomorrow.


Thanks For The Memories

I said good-bye to a close friend today. I had only known her for 4 years, but the memories we shared together will last a lifetime.

When we met in February, 2005 we had an instant attraction to each other. I saw her across a crowded parking lot. Her pearly headlights just sung to me. She liked the feeling of my tush on her warm suede and leather skin. One evening together was all I needed - I knew she would be mine.

We went everywhere together; Dubai for a long weekend, off-roading on the beaches in Oman, down to Eilat, up to the Sea of Galilee, and all over Israel. She was able to handle the endless vomiting from the kids AND the dog; it never bothered her. She could deal with 7 people at once. She was reliable, low maintenance, and with her size, always made sure I had the right of way.

Sadly, I knew that our love wouldn't last forever. She's from the UK, and well - we're not. Four years was a nice run. Nobody will ever take her place. She was a dream. She was my dream. She was my baby. Now she's gone.

Good-bye beautiful Silver 2003 Land Rover Discovery TL2 that's fully loaded, with dual sunroof, grill guard, roof rack and running boards. I hope you make your new family as happy as you've made me.

Day we brought her home ....... Our first off-road trip to Seifa Beach

On the drive down to Eilat ...... Our last moments together


Saved By The Bell...

I had an annual exam today. I'm vigilant about having these yearly tests done. I don't particularly care for the whole "exam" part, but I do enjoy getting my results back and seeing that I received a clean bill of health. I thought about having my exam done in California while on home leave, but I don't have an OB/GYN, and establishing myself as a temporary patient is much harder than it seems. First of all I'd have to find a doctor who takes my insurance, and then I'd have to finagle an exam sometime in the 4 weeks I'm in Southern California, which would have been far easier had I not waited until one month before we're leaving. As I am on a first name basis with the International Department at the Herzliyya Medical Center right around the corner of my house, it's much easier to just have it done here. It takes 2-3 weeks to get the results back, so due to our upcoming departure, I needed to have it done quickly. Last Thursday I called the Medical Center, told them what I needed, and they easily fit me in to their schedule for tonight. Sounds perfect, right? Wrong.

Here's my problem. Swan is gone, Matt is in Jerusalem for the upcoming Presidential visit, my backup babysitter is in Turkey, and my maid's sister already has another job. In a last ditch effort I called my maid's husband's cousin, who said she'd try to come. Try to come? Oh heck, those weren't the exact words I wanted to hear. While I had hopes that she would show up, I wasn't convinced. If she didn't make it over in time, the girls would have to go with me.

For most appointments I wouldn't have a problem with schlepping them along to the doctors. They enjoy going with me every 6 weeks to watch me get my blood drawn for my Thyroid. We try to make a game out of visits to the Embassy nurse for shots and routine check-ups. But watching me have an annual exam is not one that I'm very comfortable with. With Riley in her overly inquisitive stage, the never ending questions like ..."Why are you naked?", "What is that and WHY is he putting it into your tushy?" would be too much for one night. And the thought of them seeing me in stir-ups? We would all need therapy after that.

I spent the day wracking my brain trying to figure out a way for them to go with me to the appointment, and not see everything that the doctor is doing. I put aside the new video iPod so they could watch a TV show, earphones so they won't hear the discussion between me and the doctor, and a lollipop (or two) to keep them happy and quiet. I even planned on having the doctor keep the girls in his office with the door slightly open so that I can see them, knowing there was a possibility that other people may see me too.

What a dilemma.

Six O'clock rolled around and no sign of the babysitter. I yelled to the girls to get their shoes on. 6:02 pm they were ready to go. 6:03 pm we grabbed our stuff and were ready to walk out the door. Then we heard it... the very annoying buzzer letting me know that someone is at the front gate. She's here. I'm literally saved by the bell.

I kissed the girls goodbye, ran out the door, and went off to my appointment. Alone.

Crisis averted for at least one more year.


So Close We Can Almost Taste It...

After foraging the refrigerator tonight for leftovers, we sat around the table fantasizing about all the foods we'll eat and restaurants we'll frequent within hours of hitting U.S. soil. Matt put his head back against the chair and starting describing his first meal: a good 'ole Italian sub sandwich, where the oil and vinegar soak through its wax paper wrapper. Yummmm... I told him I have a hankering for cheap Mexican food... you know, the kind that stays with you for days. Oh yeah.... And an In-N-Out burger. Double double animal style.

We probably named 4 or 5 more restaurants and foods that we wanted to eat while we were in California. Though through all of our reminiscing, we noticed that Riley and Sheridan were staring blankly at us. It wasn't until Riley asked us, "Is Mama D's kinda like Cafe Masada?" that we realized they don't know American restaurants. I forget that they've never lived in the United States. Sure, Riley was born in New Jersey, but she only lived there for 3 months before we moved to Oman. And Sheridan was born in Oman - though she's only been to the U.S. a few times: in between our move from Oman to Tel Aviv, and during spring and winter breaks. They don't miss the chain restaurants like Rubio's Baja Grill, Panera, TGI Fridays, and P.F. Chang's. They're familiar with the ubiquitous McDonald's, but aside from that, they really can't empathize with what we're missing - and craving.

I'm only slightly embarrassed to say that in 4 short weeks I look forward to re-introducing them to Americana... junk fast food and mind numbing Reality TV.


Spring Art Boutique

The preschool held a Spring Art Boutique this morning to showcase projects that they've been working on throughout the year. It was set up like a real art exhibit, with the children's designs spread beautifully throughout the school. Every kid was deemed a Gallery Guide, and their job was to take their parent(s) around each classroom and highlight what they did. The girls each took a hand and pulled me along. They were so excited for me to see their artwork - but not as excited as I was to view it. It took us about 30 minutes to walk through, take photos, and give the right amount of "ooooohhhhh and ahhhhhhhh" to each piece. I have to admit, I was mighty impressed. The work was precious, well thought out, and oh-so sweet!

At the end of the boutique, the teachers held an auction of a few projects designed by each of the classes. There was one painting that I accidentally saw a few weeks back and I knew then that I had to have it. So when they opened up the auction with the painting, I was ready to bid. There were a few parent's interested in the painting, but none quite as much as me. To make a long story short - I continued to bid and I won. For the low-low price of 1000 Shekels ($290), I am now the proud owner of Hands of Peace, an original painting done by Riley's class. It's a light blue sponge painted canvas with the outline of a dove, and the Star class's hand prints throughout. It's also dated. We love it - and will cherish it always. Here are some photos of the girls work. Enjoy!

Riley's Artwork from L to R: Spring Flowers, Foil Tree, a Clay Pig

Sheridan's Artwork: Five Little Ducks, Mail Holder

Sheridan Cont'd: Napkin Holder, and Flower from Holland

"Hands of Peace"
Photo of the girls taken BEFORE the auction.


Goodbye Local Market

I'm a creature of habit. I have a routine that I follow every morning. I drive the same roads to school. I have a few key places that I patronize. So when I found out that my favorite grocery market closed today, I was completely out of sorts. No notice, no warnings. How did this happen? I was there on Monday. You'd think they'd let me know. They asked about my daughters. They never told me the store was changing ownership, that it was turning into an AM/PM Mini Market, and they'd be out of a job in a few days. No more busty Russian lady ringing me up. No more Texas Holdem wanna-be poker player trying to sell me overpriced beef.

I have been going to this local market for almost 3 years. It was like Cheers only in grocery store form. It was a privately owned, mom and pop shop, where everyone knew your name, and you could purchase your items on credit. Sure, it was a little more expensive, but if you opened an account, you automatically received a 10% discount, which made the prices comparable to the larger grocery stores. At the end of the month they charged your credit card ~ after the 1st you could go in and ask for your receipt. No muss, no fuss.

As we can't ship our opened food items to India, we're trying to use up everything in our fridge, freezer, and pantry. I'm attempting to go to the store as little as possible, only replenishing dairy, drinks, fruits and vegetables. When we get to the point where we only have enough food to make a tamarind sauce and wasabi mustard sandwich (hold the sandwich), I know it's time to go to the market. Today was one of those days.

I left the house about an hour before I had to pick up the girls from preschool. I needed to buy a few things for dinner. Of course I didn't bring my wallet. Why would I? They know me, more importantly, they know my account number by heart. There wasn't any parking in front of the market, so I circled the block and ended up parking on the sidewalk across the street from the market. No worries. They know me. They know my car. The store was closed, so I walked up and looked into the window. There were a few people inside, frantically cleaning and re-organizing the store. There was a sign on the window in Hebrew that said the store would re-open after 16:00 today. Judging from the mess inside, I didn't believe it was possible.

I had to go to another grocery store. I had to swing by the house to pick up my wallet first. I got stuck in traffic on the newly designed one-way streets. It took me over 45 minutes to traverse the aisles, the people, and check-out. The kid ringing me up didn't even bother to help me bag my groceries. I was late picking up the girls from preschool. What a hassle.

Before you think that I'm waxing sentimental about the demise of the mom and pop neighborhood market, let me be clear, not really... just the inconvenience of it all. In 35 days I'll be pushing my Buick sized, bright red shopping cart through congested allies, in search of my palettes of Charmin and Cherokee brand children's clothing. Found all under the same roof at my neighborhood Super Target.

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