Shades of Gray

"Jill, get in here quick," is what I heard from Matt late one night last week. He was in the bathroom getting ready for bed, and the tone of his voice sounded much different than his normal quiet, even keeled temperament.

"What is it," I called back to him as I slowly began to get up from the computer chair. "What do you need?" I wasn't really in the mood to go check up on him, I was engrossed in an eBay auction and I didn't want to be bothered.

"Jill, hurry, COME HERE," he yelled again, this time with more urgency.

I peered around the corner and cautiously moved towards the bathroom. His voice sounded funny, and I didn't know what to expect. Did I forget to flush? Did the girls get into my makeup tray again and smear lipstick around?

I saw Matt's reflection in the mirror. He was staring intently as something, though from my angle I couldn't quite tell what it was. I walked closer towards him when I noticed that he was picking at his hair.

"What are you doing?" I asked him sarcastically.

His response, "Jill, what is THIS? Is this what I think it is?" The "THIS" he was pointing to was a hair... a gray hair... to be more precise... his first gray hair. "Yup, sure is," I laughed at him. Clearly he wasn't laughing back.

Matt has always joked about the kids stressing him out to the point of losing hair, but the fact is, he has a great, full head of it. He's doesn't have a receding hairline. In fact, it grows so fast I often wonder if he's related to those darn Chia pets. Apparently though this wasn't a laughing matter. Matt probably spent 15-20 minutes searching his head. He took out another mirror, he dimmed the lights, he looked himself in every possible angle. He found one more gray hair.

Of course I couldn't contain my amusement. He was going this crazy of 2 measly gray hairs? I quickly got my camera and started snapping away. "Grab your gray hair and look over this way," I said to him. I snapped a few photos of him, of his hair, which irritated him to no end. "You are NOT going to post these photos in that *beep* *beep* blog of yours," he snapped at me. "You do not need to be telling everyone every aspect of my personal life."

A few minutes passed and I walked over to him, pulled my hair into a semi-ponytail to reveal my scalp, and showed him my MANY gray hairs. "Ever wonder why I get my hair dyed dark brown," I asked him. "It's to cover this... you... *beep*!!!"

Despite his hysterics, he's a long way off from Grecian Formula or Just For Men.


Time Change

For all of you who call us... Israeli Daylight Savings Time begins today (Friday) March 28th. We will now return back to our normal time difference: 7 hours ahead of Eastern, 10 hours ahead of Pacific.

Video Clips

Here are videos of both of the girls. The first one is Sheridan at her swimming lesson today as she swam from the middle of the pool to me on the side. The second video is Riley at her ballet class on Tuesday. We were allowed to watch about 3 minutes of her routine, so I enclosed the middle clip, which was the longest one I had.

BTW - The clips need a bit of time to buffer. If for some reason you get an error message, be patient and try again!


You Know You've Adjusted to the Israeli Culture When...

10) You take directions on a map with a grain of salt ~ there are three names to every street and nobody knows where they are going

9) You expect to see a few people urinating on the side of the road on any given outing

8) You eat salad for breakfast

7) You have less than 1 second to start driving once the light turns green before the cars behind you begin to honk

6) A cell phone is an appendage rather than an accessory

5) Parking karma is any spot on the sidewalk in front of a store

4) Thirty minutes late is considered early - forty-five minutes late is on time

3) You wonder why people have a use for fancy clothes

2) You automatically open your purse, pocketbook, briefcase when nearing any public building entrance

1) You find New Yorkers pleasant and laid back


A Nice Surprise

My aunt and uncle from Indianapolis are in Israel for two weeks visiting their granddaughter Eden ... and their son and daughter-in-law too! We saw them this past May when we did a stop-over in Chicago to visit the cousins on our way back to Israel, and before that they were here in September, 2006, for Jeremy and Yaara's wedding. Last night they drove up to Herzliyya to stay with us, to store luggage, and use our house as a launch pad to their next destination. While cooking dinner we were greeted with a few more visitors ~ my cousins came to show off their new baby and to get ready for a wedding in Tel Aviv. They stayed long enough to learn how to discipline a 3 year old eating (or rather playing with) dinner. It was a short visit, but we quickly caught up, I snapped a few photos, and sent them off with two bags of baby clothes.

My aunt and uncle left this morning for more shopping and sight seeing, but will be back to spend the weekend with us. Good thing because Riley thought that she didn't get to say goodbye.

Jeremy, Riley, Eden, Uncle Paul, Sheridan, Auntie Debbie, Yaara

Sheridan & Riley with Eden ~ The girls with Jeremy, Yaara, and Eden


Two Glasses of Wine

As I sit here alone, a bit lonely, anxious to move on, and overwhelmed with all that's in store for me in the next 9 weeks, I am reminded of the little things that really matter in life. A friend just sent this to me and it seemed only fitting to pass on. A little perspective perhaps?

When things in life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the two glasses of wine...

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly and the pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous, "yes".

The professor then produced two glasses of wine from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

When the laughter subsided the professor said, "Now, I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things; your family, your children, your health, your friends, and your favorite passions. Things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full".

"The pebbles are the other things that matter... like your job, your house, and your car. The sand is everything else - the small stuff".

"If you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical check-ups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. Do one more run down the ski slope. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first - the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand".

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the wine represented. The professor smiled and replied, "It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple glasses of wine with a friend".


Chag Purim

This past week we celebrated another Jewish holiday. What's this one about you ask? The same as most of the other holidays: "They tried to kill us, we won, let's eat". For young children, Purim is one of the most joyous and fun holidays on the calendar. It commemorates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination.

The story is told in the Biblical book of Esther. The heroes of the story are Esther, a beautiful young Jewish woman living in Persia, and her cousin Mordecai, who raised her as if she were his daughter. Esther was taken to the house of Ahasuerus, King of Persia, to become part of his harem. King Ahaseurus loved Esther more than his other women and made Esther queen, but the king did not know that Esther was a Jew, because Mordecai told her not to reveal her identity.

The villain of the story is Haman, an arrogant, egotistical advisor to the king. Haman hated Mordecai because Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman, so Haman plotted to destroy the Jewish people. The king gave the fate of the Jewish people to Haman to do as he pleased, and he planned to exterminate all of them.

Mordecai persuaded Esther to speak to the king on behalf of the Jewish people. This was a dangerous thing for Esther to do, because anyone who came into the king's presence without being summoned could be put to death, and she had not been summoned. Esther fasted for 3 days to prepare herself, then went into the king. He welcomed her and later, she told him of Haman's plot against her people. In the end, the Jewish people were saved, and Haman was hanged on the gallows that had been prepared for Mordecai.

Purim is a holiday filled with noise. The kids had a carnival on Wednesday at their school. They made hamentashen, triangular chocolate-filled cookies in the shape of Haman's hat, they played with gragers or noisemakers, which surprisingly disappeared upon their return home..., and they dressed up with all their teachers and friends; Sheridan as a dinosaur and Riley as Cinderella (before she went to the ball).


Riley's Ballet

There's no ballet video today. Yesterday's performance was too long and large of a file for me to upload without the chance of the internet going down, interrupting the upload, and forcing me to throw the computer out the window in sheer frustration.

Instead here's a sweet photo of Riley's girlfriends before class.

From left to right is Riley S., Kit, Riley P., and Mia.

Calgon Take Me Away

I'm pooped! I don't know how single parents do it. I like the help. I want the help. I NEED the help. Every evening I look forward to Matt's companionship, the adult conversation, and most importantly the help with the kids during the evening routine. Bathing the girls and reading them a bedtime story is Matt's "thing", while I'm free to clean the kitchen, have a few "me" moments, and then swoop in to kiss them goodnight. These days I'm juggling the schlepping, the afternoon programs and activities, the play dates, the meal times, snack times, evening routine, and of course the housework. I'm going to need a serious vacation when Matt returns.


Matt Turns 29..... Again

For the past eight years Matt has been celebrating his 29th birthday. Unfortunately this year the Vice President kept him from spending it with his family. Matt has been in Jerusalem for the past week preparing for the upcoming VP visit, and won't be home until next Tuesday. Sigh. So I decided to bring the party to him.

I hired our maid to stay with the girls on Saturday night, prepared their dinner and breakfast in advance, detailed their schedule, and then got all gussied up to see him. We went out to a nice restaurant not far from his hotel. We had a great evening together, followed up by an even nicer night. We did the nasty "S" word thing that married people with children rarely do anymore... Yes we did .... we had sleep! If you thought I was going to say anything else, shame on you. For one whole night I didn't have a little munchkin (or two) waking me up for a drink, to snuggle, to go to the potty, to change the sheets because we didn't make it to the potty, to snuggle, for a drink, and to snuggle some more. I also didn't have a 4-legged fur ball licking my face at 5:45 am and wanting to go out and have a little breakfast. No sirree, I slept until 8:48 am. I would have slept longer except my maid called because Sheridan wanted more pancakes and she didn't know how to make them. Go figure.

While a great evening was had by all, we can't wait for daddy to return home next week so we can have a belated birthday celebration with cake and frosting.


It's a Pajama Party!

Riley & Sheridan's preschool held a pajama party today and all the kids came to school in their PJ's. They performed in a circus, they watched skits, and they thoroughly enjoyed their morning. As Matt is out of town for the upcoming Vice President visit next week, the girls and I planned on continuing the party by having a popcorn and movie night. Sheridan was so tired that she fell asleep and missed out on all the fun. Riley and I stayed up and watched the first half of Mary Poppins. We both dozed off for a few minutes here and there, so we decided to turn off the movie and watch the rest tomorrow morning.


A Child's View...

Don't you just love the sweet innocence of children? Their laughter, their view of the world, their naivety. I had a beautiful moment with Riley today when she came home from a play date. It wasn't a normal play date with one of her little girlfriends. It was a special play date that I planned far in advance, with a friend from her class she normally doesn't see outside of school. It was with a boy named Christian, and he has Spina Bifida.

Riley took an instant liking to Christian when she first met him back in November. His first day of preschool just happened to be his birthday, so when Riley told me all about the "new kid" she didn't say anything except how cool he was since his mom brought in cupcakes. No mention that he uses a walker, or that he wears a treach tube. Only how "cool" (her new favorite word) that he's five.

Christian was attending the preschool two days a week, but due to several illnesses and infections he has only been to school a few times since January. We saw him at a few functions outside of school; once at a friend's post-baby shower, and the other time was at Riley's bowling birthday party. We haven't seen him since then.

She had been nagging and nagging for several weeks to schedule a play date with him. So I canceled Riley's swimming lesson for today so she could spend the afternoon at Christian's house. She was there for about 2.5 hours and came home with the biggest smile. I wanted to know all about her play date to which she answered in one long winded sentence, "Um.... we played dinosaurs, we watched Caillou, we played in his room, we colored, we ran around, we played with swords, and we ate Mac and Cheese". "Oh yeah, it's so cool, he shares a room with his sister and he sleeps in a small bed because you know he can't walk well, right?" She ended our minute-long conversation with the tell tale sign of a good time, "Mom, can he come over next week to my house?" I was so proud of her, I was almost in tears (who am I kidding, I was in tears).

Riley my love, when you're done, can I borrow your rose colored glasses?


Who Needs A Pillow

... when you have a puppy to lay on. The girls used to fight over whose turn it was to snuggle with Libby, until they realized that she's big enough for both of them at the same time.


Judged By The Company You Keep...

If this old saying is really true, than by association with these special friends, our stature in life has significantly increased. We received amazing news today that our friends here in Tel Aviv finally received their long awaited delivery from the stork; a handsome 17 month old little boy from Guatemala.

Our friends already had two beautiful girls and wanted to adopt one more child to make their family complete. Their adoption process was long, arduous, and heart wrenching. It was a game of hurry up and wait. It was endless forms, Government bureaucracy, little to non-existent communication, and a whole lot of tears (for them and for their friends).

DNA alone does not a parent make! It's horrifying to watch the news or read the paper these days and see the ghastly things that parents, caregivers, strangers do to children. Anyone can have a child, just check out the teenage pregnancy rates in the United States. But to adopt... well for that you must be screened, scoured, poked, prodded, and have your entire life checked out and approved by some Government Shmo who needs to make sure that he stamped the correct paper and signed his name on the dotted line.

Our friends loved their little boy from the moment they received the e-mail he was born. We all fell in love when we saw his two month old photo of chubby cheeks, out of control hair, and smiling face. For the past 17 months we've all watched him grow. Through the delays, the red tape, and the tears they persevered. Today they increased their home by two more feet.

It's a good thing that little boy can already walk. Once he meets his sisters, his grandparents, and heads back to Israel, his feet will never touch the floor. I can guarantee that none of us are going to let go. He's finally made their house a home.


The Anti-Who?

Most families have one of these. It's the inquisitive child, the one who notoriously and inevitably always finds a way to get into trouble, the ham, the performer, the one who doesn't understand the word no, who can hurt themselves one minute and laugh it off the next, the one who has absolutely no-fear of anyone or anything. We have one of those, and her name is Sheridan.

Riley, our oldest, is a pleaser. She loves rules, she loves organization, she loves to tattle on her sister when she thinks she's doing something that we wouldn't like. She loves all things pink and frilly, she loves princesses and ballet, she loves praise, adoration, hugs, and kisses. She's also sensitive... oh boy is she sensitive. She freaks out at the faintest sight of blood, she'll cry if she stubs her toe, scratches herself up against the wall, or even remotely thinks you're upset with her.

When she was born, Matt's family and friends joked that he was getting paid back. In his previous life before wife and children, he was a little rough around the edges; all boy with little sensitivity. G-d showed a funny sense of humor and gave Matt two daughters... and a female dog.

The youngest is the polar opposite of Riley in every way, shape, and form. While she too loves the pink and frilly, she is also drawn to all things dirty and disgusting. She's very tactile, she needs to touch, smell, pick up, and taste everything she puts her hands on. She likes to antagonize, play the mommy vs daddy card, she's sarcastic, she's precocious, she has a vocabulary that rivals four-year olds. Above all, she's the funniest little 3 year old I know. The world is Sheridan's stage upon which she must entertain, time and time again. Every meal is an opportunity for her to "test" her new material. Every meal I have to discipline her, yet quickly turn away so she doesn't see me laughing.

We've often asked ourselves who she takes after. We know that the oldest has more of my mannerisms. But where did the little one come from? Both of us have brothers who were jokesters and who continually got hurt and into trouble. Is she like them?

The other night, Matt suddenly remarked that Sheridan reminds us of her cousin Justin in personality. It was an "Ah-Ha" moment. Justin has always been a curious child with endless stories about him. Some similarities between the two ...
Justin occasionally ate a crayon or two, and had a colorful diaper... Sheridan decided to strip her clothes off her and used green marker to color on her private areas. Justin knocked his front tooth out at age 3 ... Sheridan fell down the stairs and cracked half of hers out at 1 1/2. Justin pooped a penny ... Sheridan made wall art with her poop. Justin's antics are slowly turning his dad's hair gray... Sheridan's antics are causing Matt's hair to fall out.

Justin's father, my Uncle Stu, is the calmest, sweetest father known to man. He rarely raises his voice, and even in the most trying of times, remains even-keeled. Matt used to find great humor in Justin's paternal antagonism and often referred to Justin as the "Anti-Stu".

Matt's not teasing anymore. It looks like we've been repaid again. We have the other "Anti-Stu".


When in Rome...

I've had a moment of introspection. In 2.5 years I've come to the realization that I've adapted to the pushy nature of Israeli society and notorious lack of social consideration.

For the first time I found myself fending off a woman attempting to cut in front of me in line at the market, who felt that her 6-pack of yogurts took precedence over my "10 items or less". Rather than being congenial, I instinctively puffed out my whopping 5 foot frame so that she couldn't pass by me, and shot a look that could stop a herd of charging elephants.

Though proud of this minor social battle, I found myself dismayed that this had come so naturally. Surely this is something I'll have to work on during my home leave in California. Maybe.


Internet Down

For the past 48 hours our internet service has been down. We've had spotty service with a few minutes here and there that it's worked... you can't imagine the frustration. The modem burns out every 6 months or so (literally), and we've already had ours replaced 4 times! Of course it ALWAYS happens on Shabbat. Arghhhhhh....


The Dancers Walk

It's been awhile since I've filmed the last minute of Riley's ballet class... though judging from the below video, nothing has changed. At 5 years old Riley's every desire is to grow up and become a famous ballerina. She flits and floats around the house as graceful as can be. However, when she gets to her ballet class, she looks like both her feet fell asleep.

My sweet, beautiful child, you truly take after your mother. I'm so sorry.

You Know It's Time To Go When...

You're holding up your shower curtain with zip ties, rather than spending the 20 Shekels ($6) on new shower curtain rings.


We Hit The Lottery!

No, it wasn't money that we won, it was the satisfaction that we finally found a punishment that had an affect on Sheridan. As many of you know, she is one stubborn cookie! In 3 years, 2 months, and 12 days we had yet to find anything that bothered her. You could take away toys, desserts, privileges, put her in time outs, threaten her, send her to her room, or dare I say spank ~ and nothing, I mean NOTHING worked. She may cry for a brief moment, but she'd end up finding something in which to amuse herself in every situation. Until today...

She hates, despises, utterly detests standing in a corner by the front door with her nose against the wall. There's nothing for her to grab, and if she turns around all she sees are the staircases leading up to the bedrooms or down to the play room. Utter desolation.

Sheridan was sent there twice today. Once for walking down the front steps and out the front gate onto the sidewalk to chase a friend after both I and the maid told her to not to. The other time was because she didn't help her sister clean up the play room after 4 of their friends came over, and instead proceeded to color all over her hands and her new dress after I asked her 3 separate times. Both times she wailed, screamed, and threw the biggest tantrums promising to "NEVER do it again".

I cracked open a bottle of wine, called Matt at work, and did a Hi-5 with our maid after watching the defeat take place. Of course, with our luck she'll probably like it tomorrow.


It's "Uncle" Nick!

We just returned from a fantastic lunch (well as fantastic as it could be with 2 fidgety, overtired girlies) in Jerusalem with Nick, an old friend from Oman. He's here leading the advance team for Secretary Rice's upcoming visit this week. We met him at the King David Hotel and walked to a little Italian eatery right around the corner. It was a quick visit ~ he had to get back to meetings and the girls needed a nap. Nick has been here several times with the Secretary of State, but it's the first time I've been able to see him (Matt usually works the detail with him... but not this time as he's getting prepared to do the VPOTUS detail next week. More on that later).

We've visited Nick and his bride Alison at both of their posts since Oman... we spent a week with them in Budapest, and met up twice in D.C., most recently in January on our way back to Tel Aviv from California. Hopefully Alison can make it out here in May before we leave for our home leave in California and then onto Chennai. Hint, Hint, Hint!

....Sheridan took this photo...


Sheridan's New Dress

This is by far my favorite dress I've made! It's the same one that I made for Riley last week. However, this one came together perfectly on the first try. Sheridan tried it on several times today for strap fittings that when it was finally completed she refused to model it for a photo. Arghhhh. I'll try to snap a few on Monday when she wears it to school.

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