All in The Name of Beauty

I don't like salespeople. Let me be more specific, I don't like rude or pushy salespeople. It makes me very uncomfortable walking into a store and having people follow me around, watching my every move. I usually don't need any help, I'm fairly confident that I know what I like and need. But what's worse than department store salespeople are make-up counter salespeople. I loathe walking by them. Most of them here look like they've walked right out of a White Snake VH1 music video with the plastered makeup, Aquanet laden hairdos, and clothes that scream I'm too short, too tight, too trampy.

Matt finds it ironic that I don't like salespeople, considering I spent most of my adult life working in sales. In my previous life before kids, I used to be a pretty darn good salesperson - winning multiple awards, trips, and large electronic items (which are all in storage in Maryland), though I digress...

This morning I took a break from the pre-pack out organization that I've been doing all week, and went to the mall. They have a MAC store here and I needed to pick up one quick item: a pressed powder, though that proved a little more difficult than I had expected. Here's how the irritating conversation went down:

Me: I'd like a pressed powder please.

MAC lady: Which one do you want? Matte? Shimmer? Sheer? Bronze? Blot Pressed? Iridescent? Mineralized? Sculpt and Shape?

Me: Uhhhhhhh (I then go searching through my mom purse to find my make-up case with my old MAC pressed powder in it). I'd like a StudioFix NC35 please

MAC lady: You don't want that one.

Me: Yes I would. That's the one I'd like.

MAC lady: Are you sure?

Me: (Getting agitated) Yes (said with teeth gritted), I'm very sure. NC 35 please.

MAC lady: Well fine, but it can't be for you.

Me: Really? Look at my face and tell me it's not for me.

I was peeved. I needed 2 minutes in the store. I didn't need commentary about what I was purchasing. I didn't need advice. I frankly didn't need any more help than for her to pull out the make-up from behind the counter and ring me up. I've been wearing this for several years - it's my favorite cover up. It IS the right shade for my skin tone, thank you very much.

What got my goat today was that this saleslady, the one who told me that I'm wearing the wrong shade, clearly hadn't bothered to look in the mirror herself. Her face was painted white like Dita Von Teese. She had thick blue eye liner on both the top and bottom lids, cream eye shadow, no lipstick, and had used so much mascara that her eyes looked like mini tarantulas. A brush through her oily hair would have been nice too. But who am I to say? I'm just the customer with the wrong colored pressed powder.

I don't think I'll be venturing out shopping too much more before we leave. Vacuuming the floor, washing the dishes, and scrubbing the toilets are a little more relaxing than getting chastised in a make-up store. Oh yeah, did I mention recently how much I miss Swan?


Bye-Bye Black Jeep

Matt said good-bye to a dear friend today. Though not one to be very sentimental, he couldn't help but be sad giving away his cherished Black Jeep. It was the perfect car for him - no frills, carefree, open air, fun, and rode like a Radio Flyer wagon.

Everyone recognized Matt's car - it was simply known as "The Black Jeep" among Embassy personnel and the neighborhood. It has been driven around Israel for at least 10 years - passed from diplomat to diplomat.

Matt actually sold the Jeep several weeks ago, but the insurance and registration was paid up through the end of April, so we kept the car as long as we could. The new owner is another dad from the preschool. He had been taking the Embassy shuttle to work everyday, this will be a nice commuter car.

So long and farewell Black Jeep. It's been a nice bumpy ride.


Spring Break is Over...

They're going back to school tomorrow. I'm smiling from ear to ear. Need I say more?


Mother Nature

I'm short. I'm not petite. I'm not vertically challenged. I'm just short. After 34 years I still haven't come to grips with it yet. Every pair of shoes I own have heels on them - even my flip flops. As I was primping before we left to our first of 2 parties today, I stared into the mirror and pondered...

What it would be like to be 6 inches taller? Would it have hurt anyone to give me a few more inches? Was sixty inches all that was available?

I then looked cross eyed at my hair, of which I'm still growing out a horrible cut from 2 years ago, and lamented on how I desperately want it to grow longer, faster, thicker. It also needs a good hair cut. It'll be painful, but just 6 more weeks when I'm back in California I'll get one.

And seriously, could my boobs hang any lower? It wouldn't hurt if they too were a few inches higher. After kids and the Katz family genes, they're more like marbles in sacks.

The girls got my thin as onion skins finger and toenails too. They've always been ugly. They've always grown in odd directions. They've never been my finer feature. Their growth could slow down a little bit. I have an idea - can we transplant growth from my nails to my hair?

As I snap back into reality, I realize that none of this can actually be changed; I'll forever be stuck wearing high heels, I'll never be satisfied with a haircut or hair length, this summer I need to invest in a great pull-them-up bra, and my finger and toenails always need to be painted.

I guess I can deal. I don't want to deal, I wish I didn't have to deal, but I will deal. Thankfully life has handed me only a few lemons. I'm going to use them to make sangria.


I Miss Swan

I cleaned the toilets today. I can count on one hand the amount of times I've cleaned toilets in this house since we moved here. I can't say I'm proud of how few times I've cleaned them... well, yes I can. Swan usually comes twice a week and cleans her sweet heart out. Sadly (for me) she is in India on vacation for another 3 weeks, and brilliant me, decided not to hire anyone while she was gone. Clearly not one of my better ideas.

There are a few key benefits of living overseas; one of them being the opportunity to have inexpensive hired help. I'm a big fan of hired help. I'll gladly pay for someone to come in and clean my home - specifically my bathrooms and kitchen so that I don't have to.

I enjoy coming home to a clean, fresh smelling house with no visible dog hair, and endless vacuum marks on the carpet. I love walking into my kitchen and having sparkling counter tops and wiped down appliances. I heave a sigh of relief that all I have to do is wash my clothes, and Swan neatly folds and places them in piles so all I have to do is put them away.

At the end of the month, the most work that I want to be doing is opening up Matt's wallet to pay for the help. But alas, for the next 3 weeks you can find me in grubby clothes vacuuming, scrubbing, and cleaning toilets. Did I mention how much I miss Swan?


Challah-less in Herzliyya

During the 7 days of Passover, the Jewish laws prohibit one from owning, eating, or benefiting from Chametz (leavened products - such as wheat, barley, oats, spelt, or rye that has not been completely cooked within 18 minutes of coming into contact with water). One of the most significant observances is the removal of Chametz from the home. This commemorates the fact that the Jews leaving Egypt were in a hurry, and did not have time to let their bread rise.

Herzliyya Pituach is not a very religious town, and therefore the grocery stores here do not remove all of the Chametz from the shelves. Instead, they cover them with large sheets of paper or plastic. Some stores are insistent that you can't purchase anything from behind the plastic, though there are many who will turn a blind eye when ringing up your groceries.

This is our first Passover here in Israel as we always took our R&R in April - May. Sadly, I did not do a good job of stocking up on our bread products, and my girls and I are jonesing for some Challah and pita bread. Sunday can't come fast enough!

Here are a few photos from one of my local markets. The sign in the middle says, "Chametz - please do not open."


Lists of Things

I have a notebook filled with lists of things; things I need to buy, things I need to sell, things I should donate, things I need to do, things I want to do, things I think I need and want to do, things I don't really want to do, but need to do anyway, things I want Matt to do, but know he'll turn them back on me so I'll have to do them, things I wish I could click my heels and make disappear, things and things and things.

What's fun about my notebook is checking these things off my lists. I love to use a colored pen and draw a big check mark next to the item, write the date, and know that they're completed. Today's checked items were:

Sell Children's Playhouse - check

Sell White Washed Wicker Chair - check

Sell Sewing Machine - check

Sell Matt's Black Jeep - papers signed - double check

Schedule Outgoing Inventory and Checkout - check

Find an Interim Sponsor for Swan - check

We've finally made a dent in selling our heavy / bulky / extra items before our pack-out 4 weeks from today! So far we've sold (or donated) most of the things we hadn't planned on taking to Chennai. All I'm waiting to sell now is our patio furniture, Matt's bike, a rice cooker, and of course, our Land Rover. I think I may have a buyer for the car, but I don't want to talk about it and jinx ourselves before the deal is potentially complete next week. Fingers Crossed.

The gigantic weight has been lifted off my shoulders now that I found an interim sponsor for our maid. HOORAY!! When you sponsor a maid you are required to either find them a new sponsor before you leave OR send them back to their home country. Although Swan is from India and has recently completed building her house in Pudhapur, she's not quite ready to go: she wanted to wait one more year, make a little more money (she makes about 4 times the amount of money here in Israel than she would in India), get pregnant, and THEN move back. Swan will eventually be sponsored by one of the new guys in Matt's office, however he doesn't arrive until mid-September. And, as Swan isn't allowed to stay in the country without a sponsor, I had to find someone who was willing to take over for the 3 months in between our departure and their arrival. It was a stressful few weeks, but it is now done and checked!

More things to come ~ stay tuned!


Jerusalem Biblical Zoo

Today we went with several preschool families on an excursion to the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. As many of you know, we are no stranger to this zoo, it's one of our favorites. However, while I was the one who sent out the e-mails and encouraged people to attend, in retrospect, it was not the best day to go. This week is a holiday and everyone is on spring break ~ the zoo was JAM packed.

We met at the preschool at 9:30 am and caravaned to the zoo. There were 7 families who joined in the fun, and after an hour long drive, we all made it. Of course getting inside the gate was no easy task; it was schlepping bags, dragging strollers, reminding everyone to hold hands and put their hats back on their heads, and begging them to hold on "just one more minute" so I could pay the money and then take them inside to go potty. Oh yeah, the forecast called for mid 70's, but it was easily 90+ degrees, and it was hot!

The entire group didn't really stay together. As we all had kids who were different ages and different interests we split up and did our own things. We hung out intermittently with a few families, and once they were too hot to stay out, we went off by ourselves. We walked around the entire zoo, spending lots of time with the lion who was napping, the bears who were swimming, and the penguins who were not in the water. The girls had a full day, and when we left at 3:15 pm we were pooped, and I was sunburned (ok, I blocked up the kids but completely forgot about me). Here are a few photos of the girls, their friends, and the animals they enjoyed watching.


The "Ick" Factor

Like a moth to a flame, Sheridan is drawn to the most disgusting things one can imagine. As Matt's nemesis (see previous blog about gray hair), her tactile fetishes drive him insane. Just today she managed to touch / play with: chewed gum that someone stuck on the wall outside the coffee shop, bird poop in the backyard not once but twice, and at the end of the day she was elbow deep in urine and toilet water. While this is gross, the icing on the cake is that immediately after touching this stuff, her thumb goes directly back into her mouth.

Our first reactions when seeing this is to sterilize her from head to toe in an isopropol alcohol bath. While none of this is new, it's only getting more agitating as she gets older. At some point we're hoping that she grows out of this.... preferably before moving to India?

She is going to have one strong immune system.


Playgrounds in Israel

In the past few years, most of the playgrounds in Herzliyya have replaced their sand ground with the new squishy flooring. (Actually I've heard it's a law that all of them need to be upgraded, but I can't confirm it). Regardless, the playgrounds here are fantastic! Most of them have new equipment, and it's so nice to not come home with half of the playground in their shoes.

We just finished our first week of spring break, which was relatively uneventful. We've spent the last 4 mornings at this park in Kfar Shemaryahu, right near our preschool. There are always at least 3 or 4 other moms and kids from the school there. Someone always grabs cappuccinos, we all bring snacks, and the kids poop themselves out.

Swimming Lessons

At swimming lessons on Thursday, the teachers decided to take photos of the girls underwater. They had a great time "posing" for the camera.

...... Ailie & Sheridan ....... ...... Ailie, Tamar, Sheridan .....

...... Iris & Riley ......


Ahhhhhh the joys

As I sit here this afternoon frustrated with the State Department for screwing up our travel orders for the 4th time this month, I remember Chevy Chase driving around the round-about in the movie, European Vacation. "Hey everyone, there's Big Ben." We're apparently stuck in the same round-about; e-mailing Washington, waiting for a response, e-mailing Washington, waiting for a response. You can see what needs to be done and how to get out. But ... you ... just ... can't.

This next move to Chennai will be our fourth in the past 8 years, and every time we go through this it's as if it's the first one the State Department has EVER done. Once you find out where you're going, you fill out a sheet of paper that states every piece of information about your move. The irony is that NOBODY bothers to really read it. Of course you can't leave your current post without the correct travel orders, which requires you (in theory the employee, but in reality the wife) to continually e-mail HR, State Department headquarters, travel technicians, transportation, and management. I'd pull my hair out if my thyroid wasn't already taking care of that for me!

Many years ago I read this joke about Government workers. Someone who worked in an Embassy definitely wrote this. It always gives me a chuckle.

My Dog Is Better Than Your Dog!

Four men were bragging about how smart their dogs are. The first man was an engineer, the second was an accountant, the third a chemist, and the fourth was a government worker.

To show off, the engineer called to his dog. "T-Square, do your stuff". T-Square trotted over to the desk, took out some paper and promptly drew a circle, a square, and a triangle. Everyone agreed that was pretty smart.

But the accountant said his dog could do better. He called his dog and said, "Spreadsheet, do your stuff". Spreadsheet went out into the kitchen and returned with a dozen cookies. He divided them into four equal piles of three cookies each. Everyone agreed that was good.

But the chemist said his dog could do better. He called his dog and said, "Measure, do your stuff". Measure got up, walked over to the fridge, took out a quart of milk, got a 10 ounce glass from the cupboard and poured exactly 8 ounces without spilling a drop. Everyone agreed that was good.

Then the three men turned to the government worker, and said, "OK, Mr. Government guy, tell us what your dog can do". The government worker called to his dog and said, "Coffee Break, do your stuff". Coffee Break slowly got off his feet, ate the cookies, drank the milk, crapped on the paper, sexually assaulted the other three dogs, claimed he injured his back while doing so, filed a grievance report for unsafe working conditions, put in for worker's compensation, and went home for the rest of the day on sick leave.


Town Hall Meeting

This afternoon I attended the Embassy Town Hall Meeting to discuss the closure of the U.S. Embassy Association. About 70 people attended, one-third of whom were spouses of Embassy personnel. To my surprise and delight, every single American Embassy family who had a child(ren) at the preschool attended, and I was also able to escort in a family who isn't part of the Embassy, but has a child currently attending the school. It was a very long meeting, lasting well over 1 1/2 hours, with a majority of it devoted to parents speaking out about the sudden closure of the school. Every aspect of it was hashed out; from the surprise to the teachers, parents, and international community, to how we can proceed from here. While we never received concrete answers, we did get the agreement from the Ambassador and Management Office that they will do everything in their power to help with the privatization of the school so it can continue to run in the 2008 - 2009 year. It was a very small victory.

One victory that didn't happen - the return of the $300 deposits made to the Embassy Association upon arrival at post. Due to the incurred debt, the Association is under severe financial constraints and doesn't have the ability to repay each family when they depart post. Let's just say that that discussion was not well received.

We had our own personal victory this morning. Both girls slept in until 7:45 am. Of course, we capped off the evening with Sheridan falling asleep at the dinner table at 6 pm. It's not looking good for me tomorrow morning. Hello 5 am, I'm sure I'll be seeing you.


Barbeques, Birthdays, and Breakdowns

It was another action packed weekend; company for dinner on Friday, a BBQ on Saturday night, a birthday BBQ on Sunday night, dog bath and vet visit Sunday, and a husband who went MIA due to another protection detail.

The girls are now on spring break for two weeks and we're gearing up for lots of play dates, trips to the pool, the zoo, and parks. Several moms are devising action packed schedules to keep the kids occupied during their time off. The break couldn't come at a worse time for us as we're elbow deep in planning for our pack-out, our summer in California, our consumables shipment, and our move to Chennai. Every day something new pops up. This weekend's biggest upset was discovering that the cost of a minivan for 41 days in California was going to be $2300, not including the 12 days in DC, where we would then add on another $700. This doesn't include gas, parking, insurance, etc. It only took a few minutes to come to the agreement that renting a full-size car is a much better idea. Oh this is going to be an expensive summer...

Here are a few photos of the girls at the birthday party we attended tonight. There were about 15 kids there, two of whom were teenagers who entertained the kids all night. As Matt was working, we carpooled with my friend Christine, and we stayed until 9pm (when all 5 kids melted down at the exact same time). We always seem to miss the 5 minute window to leave on a high note when everyone is happy. Does that ever happen to anyone else? Let's hope they sleep in tomorrow.


Our New House

We received word earlier this week that our housing in Chennai had been assigned. Housing assignments are based on family size, position, and general availability.

This house is in an area called Kumaraguru. It's a 4 bedroom house, with a smallish yard. What you see here is pretty much what we get. We're looking forward to seeing photos of the inside.

Front of House


.... ~ Outside of Gate ~ .... ~ Long Driveway ... View from Back ~


Israel's Drill

Today Israel held its biggest ever emergency drill to help prepare the country for any future conflict that would include rocket attacks on Israel's major cities. At 10 am, air raid sirens went off throughout the entire country, lasting about 1 minute. When I heard the sirens I quickly grabbed my camera, walked outside our front door, and began recording. I added a smidgen of commentary to document what the noise was all about. The video is nothing to look at, but it sure was interesting hearing the sirens blasting loudly outside our home.


Preschool Teachers

The Fantastic Preschool Teachers

L to R: Miss Christine, Miss Mini, Miss Michele, Miss Pia, Miss Ilana, Miss Julie

Ambassador Riley

On Friday, April 4th, I attended Riley's Ambassador Program Ceremony, where the kids celebrated their international experiences in 8 different countries; Switzerland, Japan, South Korea, Holland, Tanzania, Chile, United States, and Israel. Throughout the past 8 months they've learned about where they come from, their classmates home countries, and embraced a multicultural appreciation. I filmed the beautifully scripted ceremony where I of course cried (Riley told me in advanced that I would because I always cry when I'm happy). Oh my little girl is growing up.


The End of an Era

Earlier this week I received some sad news that I'm having trouble getting over. The American Embassy International Preschool, where my girls have attended these past 3 years, will be shutting its doors at the end of this school year. I'm more than upset, I'm devastated.

The preschool was founded in the late 1970's by an Embassy spouse, who wanted a playgroup for her special needs child. Over a few short years, this playgroup grew into the leading English-speaking, and only American preschool in Herzliyya Pituach. For many of us, the preschool was the second most important place outside of our own homes. We went to the preschool at least twice a day; to drop-off and pick-up our children. We participated in Circle Time, holiday events, and fundraising for new playground equipment, a computer, and updated materials. Riley has been in all 3 classes, I've taken class / school photos for the past 2 years, and this year I became the Parent Board President. These teachers have been my friends, my extended family, my life for the past 3 years. They've met every family member who's come through Herzliyya, they've signed up for this blog, they've cared. Oh have they cared.

I'm so sad.

The United States Embassy Association, who manages the preschool, has been in dire financial straits for as long as we've been in Tel Aviv (and actually much longer). Due to mismanagement of money, all four of the Embassy Association's entities have now closed. First they closed the pool as they were no longer able to afford to pay the pool cleaner to maintain the pool and the cleaning crew to clean the bathrooms and grounds. Then they closed the newly updated Recreation Center. Next they closed our Commissary. And this past Monday we got news that they were closing the preschool at the end of the school year. A preschool that follows the strict American standards and curriculum as set by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), which accredits preschools across the United States. A preschool that has professionally certified teachers, all who have been there from 8 - 20 years! A preschool that for a long-time has been the only profit-center for the Embassy Association, yet was sadly attached to the sinking ship.

When you leave a place and move on to the next, your biggest hope is that you left behind a legacy; a place that has thrived from your participation, your donations, your love. I'm leaving behind memories of a special place that once was, and will be no more.

I know that the teachers will all rise above this, they'll band together and find an alternative to the preschool's closure. They're amazing women with a gift, and in no time they'll figure out their plan "b" and move forward. For now, I'm working through my grief, and can only hope that our footprints in the dirty sand at the preschool did not go unnoticed.


Our New Car

We did it!!! We bought a car in Chennai. Over the past month we've been looking online to see what kinds of cars were available there, and have even contacted a friend at the Ford Dealership here to purchase a new car with right hand drive and ship it directly to India. While it didn't look to be a problem to purchase something there, we'd still have to rent a car when we got there and then spend the time test driving, negotiating, etc. When we received an e-mail from the Community Liaison Office last week about this car for sale, we jumped at the chance. It's a 1993 Toyota Prado Land Cruiser. It's an automatic, 7-seater, with gray velour interior. It takes diesel fuel, it has a 10 disk CD changer, and best of all... it's already pre-dinged. Wahoo - we're set when we get there! Now all we need to do is sell my Land Rover.... anyone interested?

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