About Us

There are four of Them: three girls and one boy, little stair-steps all. There are two of Us: best friends, co-parents and truly in love. The Six of us have epic adventures full of laughter and love, occasionally containing tears, but always together.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Holy Ear-Piercing Drama, SuperMoM!

Well before her seventh birthday, Elie announced that she would like to get her ears pierced. Dadam and I talked it over and decided that, if she asked, that would be an okay birthday present. Her birthday approached and we asked her what she wanted and she listed a few things, but the ear piercing didn't come up again. So, she didn't get it done. It should be pointed out that we did not volunteer it for a suggested birthday present because we both felt like it was very important for *her* to desire it enough that it was her idea.

This year, she made it very clear that she really wanted her ears pierced and asked if we could do it for her eighth birthday. We said yes. Then, I panicked. I don't know why, I'm not sure I can really articulate it. I think part of it was that I dreaded the thought of someone causing her pain. (I know it's brief and and I know pain is part of life, don't worry, I'm not delusional.) It seemed like a really big step. I was sure she was ready, but was I?

I mentally hemmed and hawed. I started doing research. Having some professional piercings and having had some mall piercings that didn't turn out so nicely, I was interested to find out that many professional piercers feel like the piercing "guns" that are used in the malls aren't so safe or hygienic. Did we want to take her to some teenybopper clerk at the mall or did we want to use a professional, licensed piercer? Uh, I'll go with the second option please.

More research and I found a place. But they had the wackiest hours! By the time I finally got my head around getting Elie's ears done and we had a free Saturday, it was already April.

She and I hopped in the car and headed out, but as we were driving it occurred to me that maybe they did this sort of thing by appointment. I turned on the bluetooth and called. Sure enough, we needed an appointment. But they didn't do piercings on Saturday, noooooo. GAH. I made an appointment for the following Tuesday at quarter to six. Not my favorite time of day to be out and about, but Elie had been so patient and I had taken forever to be ready. We could work it out.

I knew that I was supposed to have a drs appointment on Tuesday; I had it recorded for 4pm. Adam met me there, after I picked up the kids from school, and I headed in while he headed home. I got in and discovered the appointment was actually at 3pm. I was an hour late. Not a great way to start the afternoon off. But I figured I could wait until 5pm for the dr to squeeze me in. If I hadn't been seen by then, I would head home.

5pm comes and I reschedule, then I got in the car and screamed home. Elie was waiting, excited and ready to go. She hopped in, I put the postcode in the gypsy and we sped off....only to run into massive amounts of horrid traffic.

When we arrived at where the sat/nav thought the business was, it turned out we still had a mile and a half to go and we were at a stand-still. I called the place, frantically. I told the lady that we were on our way and we would be there as soon as we could get through the traffic. She seemed fine with that and understanding.

Elie spotted the business, it had taken us 20 minutes to go that mile and a half, and I navigated around some one way streets and through an alley to get to parking. We ran to the shop, crashed breathlessly through the door and the lady looked at us and said, "Oh, I have to close. I waited to tell you. I can't stay. Call back another day to reschedule."

We.were.devastated. Elie was still and quiet on the way home. There were a few tears, but mostly she was so grown up and so stoic. I tried to think of someplace, anyplace, that we could go to get it done and I came up empty handed.

We got home and ate a quiet and sad dinner. After the kids went upstairs, I sobbed in Dadam's arms because I was so disappointed and angry.

I don't believe that life is cake. I don't think that it is my job to protect my kids from disappointment. They have to learn how to deal with life not going their way. Life is disappointing. And for the most part, I do not feel guilty about the children experiencing disappointment. We don't go out of our way to dish it out, but we don't spoil them to avoid it either. But in this specific situation, I felt that disappointment so keenly. She was being so mature while it took ages for me to sort out how I wanted the situation to go. She handled the false start with aplomb and no upset. And we had made an appointment and done our best to get there and it just wasn't enough! ARGHGHGHGHGHGHG.

The next day I called around to a load of professional piercers and not a one of them would do an eight year old. Fine. I threw in the towel and decided that hundreds of thousands of Claire's customers can't be wrong. We're going to the f-ing mall.

After her piano lesson was done on Wednesday, we headed to the mall. Pop music blared from the mirrored ceiling as families shopped for all manner of garish accessories. Elie sat in a tall chair and picked her earrings. Gone are the days of birthstones and endless variety, choices are limited now. She chose red stones. The girl marked her ears and called the manager over to check her placement. The only part of the piercing gun that touched Elie was completely disposable. With the manager on one side and sales-girl on the other, they did them simultaneously.

Elie sat up straight as they went in, got wide eyed and took a big breath in. Then it was done. Finally done. I think I felt as relieved as she did.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Three is a Magic Number

Dearest Leila-Noodle,

It's finally here!  The day you have been discussing, for several months, with anyone who asks how old you are.  "I am TWO! (holds up two fingers) And on Apwil ninth I will be THWEE!"   Oh so proud, oh so knowledgeable, oh so Grown Up.  You let us all know that you wanted a chocolate cake.  You didn't care what it looked like, just so long as it was chocolate cake, with chocolate icing.  You also announced that you wanted homemade pizza for your birthday dinner.  This year you really *got* your birthday.

Of course, it is difficult for me to believe that you are three.  Three is not a baby, three is middle toddler-hood.  Three is when you do everything on your own, come hell or high water.  Except, of course, when you don't want to do it on your own and then your parents should have to do it for you.  Right. Away.  And since you have three bigger people who have practically done everything you wanted since the moment you were born, you are somewhat used to getting your way.

I shouldn't make out like you are a tyrant.  You are adorable and outgoing.  You love, love, love to interact with new people.  You often randomly wave to strangers who make eye contact with you in the grocery store.  You will talk anyone's ear off, given the opportunity.  You are free with hugs and smiles.  You love a long cuddle and a good book, combine the two and you will sit still for hours.

Speaking of books, you are continuing in your sibling's footsteps with your love of reading.  We go to the library every two weeks and every time, you zero in on one or two favorites which you proceed to mostly memorize through my reading them over and over again.  We all know you memorize them because you have taken to acting out bits of the stories that you find particularly riveting.  I adore hearing you "read" along with me or hearing you act out your favorite lines.    

Not only do you demonstrate an amazingly outgoing personality, but you have impeccable comic timing and people sense.  You seem to be a natural born performer.  You have an uncanny ability, even now, to use laughter to turn a situation to your advantage.  Big eyes, crazy faces and funny hand gestures are all in your repertoire of attention-seeking and distraction.

You constantly amaze me with your observations and memory.  I absolutely adore holding your hand, walking anywhere and listening to you talk.  "Mommy, did you know buses have gypsies (we call our sat/nav "gypsy") too?  Look in this car we are red.  In this car we are blue.  In this car we are silver. (she was commenting on how our reflections changed colors depending on the car that she saw them in) I saw a doggy in the last car.  Do you like doggies, Mommy?"  It mostly makes sense and it's all pretty clear.  I love knowing exactly what goes on in that three-year-old brain of yours.

After the mild initial trauma of going to school, you are now loving it.  You do know how to tug on my heart-strings (or at least how to try) and you often will remark as I am picking you up, "I wanted you today."  But I know you enjoy it because you tell us all about the songs you've been singing and the toys you played with and the crafts you did.  I think it is good for you to go and be your very own little person, dealing with the world on your own terms.

For all the difficulty that being three brings, three is a magic number.  And I am so excited to see where three takes you You take three.
Happy Birthday, Princess Leila.
I love you, Noodle!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

8 Mile Hike of Mandatory Outdoor Fun

GranEde wears a pedometer all the time.  She uses it to track how much she is walking in a day and to make sure she is getting enough exercise.  She wore it everyday that we were on vacation and a regular topic of discussion at dinner was how many steps we had taken that day and how many miles that equated to.  Amazingly, we were walking about six miles everyday.  And the kids were doing it too, even Leila, with hardly any complaints.  I was routinely amazed at how much we were walking and how well the kids were doing, day after day.

On our last day in Edinburgh we decided to head out of town again.  Everyone was interested in seeing a loch and so we picked Loch Leven because it has an island with a castle on it and it had a circle of caches around it.  We arrived in the morning and it was a beautiful sunny day.  (Stirling Castle had been quite damp, with alternating drizzle and down pour.)  We got on the boat and went over to the castle ruins to explore.

It wasn't a very big island and all the grownups agreed we weren't sure how fun it would have been to live there with a castle full of people.

Back on the mainland, we looked at the map and realized that the trail that went only halfway around the lake, was eight miles long.  All the grownups wanted to do it and we knew from all the walking we had been doing, that the kids would be able to handle it.  So we worked out the logistics of not being stranded without a car at the end, ate a picnic lunch, and off we went.

Dadam and GranDude frequently disappeared to find caches.  GranEde set a tough, but fair, pace so that we wouldn't be stranded in the forest in the dark and I herded children.  We had all four seasons in one day; rain, hail, wind, sun.  The scenery was gorgeous.  We saw swans.  We saw gliders and parasails.  It was a fabulous hike.  Much to my surprise (we brought the Ergo along just in case) Leila made it almost to the end.  Her little feet were hurting her and we picked her up for the last couple tenths of a mile.  Everyone else trooped through it all and seemed to have a really good time.

By the end of the hike, all the children were telling us how tired they were.  It had been a long hike.  As soon as we made it to the parking lot, the kids all needed to use the toilet.  After we got that taken care of, they promptly began climbing around, running after each other and generally behaving in a crazy manner.  Where was the tired?!??!?!

It was a fantastic vacay with GranEde and GranDude.  We all had a fun time being together, talking with one another, visiting, listening and laughing.  Oh, there is always tons of laughing.  We are already planning our next vacation together and I, for one, can't wait!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Stirling Castle and Falkirk Wheel

Tuesday we planned a day of exploration outside of the city.  We got up early (helping to motivate all of us was the fact that at 8:30 am the parking laws were being enforced and we didn't want to pay for parking) and got out of dodge.  Our first start was a modern engineering marvel called the Falkirk Wheel.  It is the worlds only rotating boat lift.  It was built to replace a lock system.  We decided to go ahead and pay to ride it; it was pretty darn cool.

After the brief boat ride, we went on to Stirling Castle.  They have started a project to recreate a famous set of tapestries and we actually saw them working on it.  Each tapestry takes four years to complete.  It was amazing. They have also done a large amount of reconstruction as the castle was used by the British Army in the early part of this century and much of the historical architecture was damaged during that period.  However, some amazing stuff got accidentally conserved, like a wall that has its original paint from the 15th century!  Stirling Castle also sits on top of a large hill, with the city down around its feet.  Those Scots sure did know what they were doing.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Scottish Royalty - Past and Present

The next two days we explored the Palace of Holyroodhouse (palace for the Queen when she is visiting Scotland) and Edinburgh Castle (military stronghold for the Scots).  Sunday was the Palace of Holyroodhouse.  It is a beautiful palace, opposite Edinburgh Castle, at the end of the road known as the "Royal Mile."  There are no pictures allowed inside the castle, so one of the facade will have to do.

We all got our audio tours and listened and observed our way through the spaces in the palace that are open to the public.  The kids were adorable with their ears pressed against the audio devices and their desire to punch in numbers that corresponded to the rooms we were seeing.  Leila did give up on hers about halfway through, but then it was adorable to see her pretend like she was on the phone.  Elie and Isaac took their job of sightseeing very seriously and reported what historic facts they learned.  Talia was sort of in and out, but did a pretty fantastic job of staying interested for a 4.5 year old.  

We also toured the Queen's Gallery, which had an exhibition of photographs from Scott's tragic and Shackleton's miraculous antarctic expeditions.  The photos were amazing, breathtaking, heartbreaking and wonderful to see.  They also had a children's activity to do, so we took turns helping the kids find the information they needed to and viewing the photographs ourselves.  Of course, they could only look at the pictures so long before they got serious ants in their pants and we needed to leave.   

Monday we devoted entirely to Edinburgh Castle.  This time, we decided to get the audio tours (when we went in the fall we didn't get them) and I am glad we did.  We did look funny holding the audio devices up to our ears though.  And the kids took it very seriously!

Even GranEde and GranDude looked so cute listening together.  No, this shot isn't posed, but they caught sight of me taking their picture and they both started grinning.  

We explored the castle from top to bottom.  We watched a demonstration of dancing and music from the 14th century.  (The older three even got a chance to take part in the dancing.  Leila had already moved away from the front and missed her chance.  Then she was devastated by not being able to go up with the kids and cried.)  We were there from close to opening time, all the way to closing. 

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Chaos Reigns

Sometimes getting four children and two adults ready to go in the morning can be a very challenging task.  Add two more adults to the mix and it's, unfortunately, not any faster.  Mix in having only one bathroom in our flat and being completely exhausted from lack of sleep and you have the perfect recipe for slow-poke-itis.  But late Saturday morning we did, finally, manage to leave the flat.  We headed out to eat some lunch and wander the city.  On the way we stopped at an ATM to try and get some cash.  Dadam tried his card, no dice.  Huh?  GranDude tried his.  Also rejected.  What the?  Remain calm, walk further and try and different variety ATM.  Once again, absolutely no luck for either card.

Cash can be very useful, and in England, where many places only take cards with a special "chip" which then allows the user to enter a "pin" in to the card machine, it is necessary.  (In America we use "swipe" cards.  This means they get swiped and we sign for our purchase.  Here it is "chip and pin" which was supposed to be more secure, but is only, in fact, more hassle for international travelers and not one bit better.)  All this aside, we needed cash and had none.

Dadam and GranDude decided to head back to the flat to make appropriate calls to stateside banks to try and get the situation sorted out.  GranEde and I took the kiddos and hung out at a very nice, but very busy, playground.  Situation resolved to the best of everyone's abilities, we had lunch.

When lunch was finished, we all concurred that we would like to see the large hill that Dadam and I remembered seeing from the top of Edinburgh Castle.  So, we started walking towards the hill.  And we had a potty emergency.

This is another difficult thing about traveling with children:  At any given moment, some child will need to use the toilet "badly" and when that child announces their urgent need, every other child will also profess to have the same problem.  Combine needing the toilet and not knowing where the closest toilet is located, add in pay toilets (20 pence to get in) and a lack of cash (or coin) issue, then separate members of your party who have no cell phone from the rest and you have a situation that is neither restful nor relaxing (as one might desire vacations to be).  Crisis averted, we found ourselves in an underground mall, with masses of people, stressed out and thinking "this is NOT where I wanted to be this trip!!!"

After winding our way out of the mall, we headed up to a beautiful hill in Edinburgh called Calton Hill.  It is a public park where there are a large number of monuments to various people and an observatory.  It was a beautiful location.

Memorial to Scottish war dead.  Modeled after the Parthenon and still unclear whether it was a folly or they just ran out of funding.

The view of Edinburgh from Calton Hill.  The castle is at about one o'clock.

The kids had a fabulous time just running wild.  They played tig and ran around, with seemingly boundless energy.  The grownups did actually read the signs, take some pictures and even found a couple of caches.  Could vacation get any better than this?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Castle on a (sometimes) Island

One of the many things I enjoy about traveling with my parents is that they are extremely flexible people.  They realize that life is not something that can be scheduled or controlled with any sort of certainty.  So they embrace the adventure and go where the wind will carry them.  Of course, this sort of attitude is extremely helpful necessary when traveling with six other people, four of whom are children.  Sometimes it isn't the grandchildren who cause the change of plans, sometimes it is the grown children.

On Friday morning we woke up and had breakfast.  We needed to be in Edinburgh by the evening, to check in at our self-catering apartment, but we had all day to get there.  GranDude had seen some postcards depicting a cool-looking castle about an hour south of Berwick and so we began to drive down to tour it.  On the way, I saw a sign for Lindesfarne Castle and then right after a sign for Holy Island.  Holy Island is only accessible when the tide is out; there is a small village there and a beautiful castle built on top of the only hill on the island.  I had read about this island and castle when I was an early teen and had always wanted to go there.  Change of plans!

We drove down to the causeway and saw that the tide was out!  There were lots of other people driving over to the island as well and when we got over, we checked the tide tables and discovered we had until mid-afternoon to get back over to the mainland.  Unfortunately, despite MANY large signs warning people that they can only cross during specific times, there are several rescues that have to take place every year when people try and cross while the tide is coming in.  (You can even text the date to a specific number and it will text you back the safe crossing times!)  We were very cautious to take note of the time so that we wouldn't be stuck. (Also it helped that Isaac was absolutely obsessed with the fact that water was going to cover the road at some point in the future.  He was very concerned we might get stuck and need to be rescued.)

Tide information gathered, we began our walk out to Lindesfarne Castle.  It was another sunny day (!) and the view was gorgeous.

At the castle they were running a "find all the easter bunnies and get a prize" activity.  In ten places around the castle there were stuffed bunnies hidden.  When you found the bunny, you wrote down what color is was and what room it was in.  Elie glanced back at me to see if we would be participating, then she came and whispered, "I know we don't celebrate Easter...."  We could hardly resist.  And the prizes were large, adult hand sized, chocolate easter eggs.  It was hilarious to hear our little Jewish children, still keeping Pesach,  so excited to find "EASTER BUNNIES!"

While they were finding bunnies, we were exploring the castle.  The last occupants were a brother and sister, who lived there!  It's not a huge castle, but it is beautiful and we all had a fun time imagining living there.

Keeping in mind the safe crossing times, we crossed back over to the mainland to eat lunch.  After a bout of caching and some tuna on matza, we headed up to Edinburgh!

Beaches and Castles and Ramparts, Oh My!

Thursday morning we woke up to fabulous sunshine.  It was still very breezy and cold, but we decided to make the most of the sun and took a hike down to the beach.  We looked for rocks and shells and examined the tidal pools.  It was very windy and some of us (Leila) complained often that we were "about to blow away."  Many treasures were found along the beach and as we hiked back the children's pockets clinked loudly.

A hike back and some lunch later, we headed out to the ruins of a castle near Berwick-upon-Tweed.  It was an amazing castle and we could see that there would have been at least four stories to the main tower.  We explored and chatted and enjoyed each other and the beautiful day.

The kids really enjoyed running around, they played tig in the ruins and imagined that any space with four walls, or really the foundations of four walls, was a jail.  After we had thouroughly inspected the castle, we decided to head into the beautiful city of Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Berwick-upon-Tweed is city that changed hands between the Scottish and the English a good many times.  When the English had finally got hold of it for the last time, they built a large wall surrounding the city.  Now it has been turned into a sort of raised park that has walking paths, grass, and steep drops into areas that have cannons sitting in them.  Walking on the ramparts does afford a beautiful view of the city and the ocean and with the sun out, we were happy to walk around them.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Hadrian's Wall

Wednesday morning, after another nice Seder, we got ourselves gathered and headed north to see some bits of Hadrian's Wall. The weather was wild; very windy and rainy, with occasional spots of snow! Not really very pleasant for picnicing and walking 1/2 mile to see a Roman Fort and a section of the wall.

We came prepared and bundled up. It was really intresting and we had a great time wandering the ruins.
(The remains of the heated floor in the commandants house.)

(Yes, that is SNOW on the ground against the wall!)

We drove on and ended up arriving at our campsite at half ten. The proprietors were less than thrilled, but we got settled quickly and went to bed. The wind was howling and freezing cold and we were very happy to be in a wooden wigwam.