Sunday, June 29, 2008

2008 Caribbean Carnival and Bhutan

Some time after Ari finished work on Friday, we picked him up at a celebratory cocktail party at PS 7, an upscale restaurant not far from his office. For dinner, we decided to revisit a restaurant we had loved on Larry's last visit to DC, Georgia Brown's. Ari was extremely pleased with the results of the meeting (which btw, only began with his co-workers at Starbuck's before moving across the street into corporate headquarters, silly me), and had partied so hearty on free drinks at the cocktail party that Saul needed to drive. Since Ari needed no more to drink, I had a Peach Bellini while we waited for 20 minutes in the very pleasant bar area for our table. The food was even more delicious than we had remembered and the service even more delightful. The waiter packed up a nice tray of their delicious corn muffins and biscuits for us to have for breakfast. Ari, as happy and poised as I have ever seen him, treated us to dinner.

The Caribbean Carnival, which we attended last year also, passes within two blocks of Ari's condo. It was even bigger, better and more colorful than last year. Around 11:30 a.m., we took some beach chairs and settled into our usual spot and found that the judges stand had been moved this year to a point only a few yards away. This allowed us to get some great photos and movies as performances took place in front of the judges stand. There was even one performance of which we managed to catch a few seconds before the judges ran out to stop it as "parade inappropriate." Considering the tenor of this celebration, that is pretty inappropriate as you can judge yourself--nothing really pornographic, though. The weather, which had gone from hot and sunny to dark and threatening in the space of two hours, held off raining on the parade.

One of the less colorful photos in the slideshow is the bald-headed mayor of DC, Adrian Fenty, throwing some beads to us. Ari is very proud of the fact that not only did he take the photo, but he caught the beads as well.

It was very difficult to choose from among all the wonderful photos and videos we took, so I have included a few short videos to give the flavor of the dancing, culture, and steel drum bands.

At the beginning of all this celebration, Adele called on Saul's cell with some rather bad news. The EKG had shown that Mom has a slight leak in her mitrial ventricle. It is not an emergency room situation, but she needs to see a cardiologist for further examination right away. We are hoping it can be handled with medication. The condition is probably age-related. There was no need to be home any earlier than planned.

We spent the afternoon admiring our photos and resting up from the heat. For dinner, we consulted the new issue of The Washingtonian, which contained their recommendations for the Top 100 Cheap Eats. We chose a Chinese place in Rockville call Michaels Noodles and it was both incredibly delicious and incredibly cheap. Dinner for the three of us was $35. Ari was thrilled because he had been missing the home-style Chinese food of Hunan Homes in Los Alltos, CA, and now can get his fix within a half-hour drive. After dinner, we decided to go see a movie in Rockville, but the movies we were interested in seeing were all beginning an hour later. While we were waiting, we took a stroll around downtown Rockville, where a large crowd had settled into the town square to see Bee Movie on a large outdoor screen. Saul and I had seen it and deemed it ho-hum. Ari wanted to see it, but didn't want to sit on the concrete benches or grass in the heat. The town center has recently been turned into a very, very upscale planned neighborhood in the style that is becoming so popular now with twenty and thirty-somethings. The pendulum is beginning to swing back to the type of urban, walk-to-the-corner ice cream parlor, play with the kids down the block type of neighborhood in which I grew up. This generation appears to be moving away from the suburban, half-acre lawn, high maintenance, drive-to-the-mall type of existence to which we all aspired and I have actually achieved. By the time we returned to the theater, I decided I was too pooped to see a movie. We were glad we had not stayed because within minutes we heard on the radio that there was a severe thunderstorm warning for the exact area we had just left. The sky became black with clouds, but then they followed us back and we arrived just as the lightning show was beginning. I immediately fell asleep and was only vaguely conscious of the rain pelting down.

This morning, we slept late. Saul and I finished packing and we all decided to make a brief visit to the Folklife Festival taking place on the National Mall. Larry's sister, Susan, and her husband,Ted, visited Bhutan last year with a tour, and Matt Lauer of the Today show was there last year on day 3 as part of his "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?" tour. I doubt if I will ever get a chance to visit, but it would definitely be on my Top 10 list. Although we could only bear the 90-degree temperatures for a little while, we were able to absorb a brief taste of the pleasant and exotic nature of Bhutanese life and crafts. I am dying for a pair of those boots!

When the heat became too much to bear, we headed for a favorite breakfast spot of ours, also on the 100 Cheap Eats List, called Hollywood Cafe East in Wheaton, MD. We drove back to Ari's after brunch, loaded the car, and headed for home.

When we arrived home at 5:30 p.m., Mom was asleep and Jess and Alex were anxious to get on the road to avoid a storm. When they left, Mom awoke feeling okay and I made us all salami omelet sandwiches on whole grain toast, helped the girls shower, and read them the next chapter of Samantha, by Anne West Strawbridge, the first "grown-up" non-picture book I had ever read as a child. Then, Saul (who had cleaned up the kitchen) came in to tell them a story about how Shmuel had lost his third tooth. Sami lost her loose tooth over the weekend, but saved it to show us before putting it under her pillow this evening for the tooth fairy.

I hope this coming week will be as satisfying as the last one. I am worried about the assessment on Tuesday and what the doctor's will say about Mom's condition.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Baltimore and DC

I am delighted to report that I am writing this blog from Ari's dining room table in DC. Mom has been okay. They sent her home after her EKG at Abington Hospital and so far, no news is good news. We also were able to arrange coverage for her most of the time we are away. Adele took her back to her house after the EKG and gave her dinner. Afterwards, Beth had come over after work and brought her home to sleep. Jamie picked her up yesterday and went with her to lunch with my brother, Ken, whose business is only a few miles away. After that, Jamie dropped her off at Adele's again. Ken told me he would be responsible for Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday until we arrive home. My sister and brother have really come through for us, although I know that things are difficult and complicated for them as well.

In addition, with Aunt Ruth's help, we have managed to convince Mom, "sort of," to allow us to try to arrange live-in help for her for the two weeks we will be on vacation in Ocean City, NJ, with the kids, and possibly beyond the vacation. We contacted an organization called Fine Care, which has been advertising locally for quite a few years, and who provided wonderful care for our friend Carol Shackmaster's stepmother, Sophie Beilan, of blessed memory, at her home when she died of cancer in her late 90's. In her early 90's, Sophie traveled with her synagogue choir to perform in Israel. She was a wonderful lady. Many years ago, I had the pleasure of hosting a party for her and my uncle, Stefan Strauss, of blessed memory, when they were honored during Simchat Torah by Adath Jeshurun. I have scheduled an assessment with Fine Care to take place at my home on Tuesday evening. Adele and Ken have arranged to be present. The whole situation is something about which I have mixed feelings just as Mom does. Having a stranger moving into your home feels like having someone arrange a marriage for you. It could turn out to be a wonderful arrangement, or it could be a nightmare. When we built our home 16 years ago and combined households to care for my father (who died the month before the house was completed), we agreed that should Mom need nursing care, we would see that she received it at home. I have had the luxury of working at home for myself for the last 33 years, 11 of them catering (Senders Catering) and 22 of them in desktop publishing (Details & Designs). We always assumed that it would be cheaper to provide care at home than in a nursing facility, but that remains to be seen.

On a happier note, we spent Thursday morning packing and preparing for our trip (even though we were not sure then that we would be going) and headed off to the swim club with the girls. Around 5 p.m., we had dinner at the snack bar there, Boca Burgers with bleu cheese sauce and fries. Then we headed home for showers. The girls dressed in their pajamas, set up their DVD player in the back of the car, and we left around 6:45 p.m. for Baltimore. We took the long way there which involves Route 202 to Route 1 and then over the Conowingo Dam. The trip takes an extra half hour that way, but it is usually a scenic, leisurely drive compared to the 2-hour I-95 Route. Unfortunately, it was not leisurely enough. Saul was pulled over and given a $90 speeding ticket for doing 69 in a 55-m.p.h. zone just before we were about to make the right turn in Bel Air, MD. Izzy, who has enough chutzpah for a 4-year-old to fill two adult Hell's Angels, was annoyed that the policeman dared to pull us over and make her late to see her mommy, and she let him know it while he was at our car window. In addition, she kept pointing out to him, after I had explained to her why we had to stop, that everybody else was going much faster than her Saba.

Jessica had returned a little earlier from her latest adventure in weight-loss boot camp when we finally arrived around 9:15 p.m. We kissed the girls goodnight and headed to DC arriving around 10:30 p.m. Ari had our comfy sofa-bed from IKEA all made up and ready for us. The next morning, we rushed to leave at 8:00 a.m. so that Jessica could leave for work on time, but she called as we were preparing to leave to say that Alex's plane was arriving early and that she was leaving with the girls to pick him up herself before going to work. That gave us a chance to drop Ari at work before heading out for Baltimore. Alex, workaholic that he is, had planned to go into the office that day. When we arrived, he began to show us some of the wonderful items he had brought back from Israel. There is one that we think is particularly special. Years ago, at a house sale, we had purchased a Megillat Esther for a pittance that was beautifully illustrated. When Saul's father was too ill to go to synagogue to hear the Megillah read, Alex and Jessica brought it to his bedside and they all read it together. Alex purchased a beautiful silver and wood casing to house the scroll. When I asked him how he knew it would be a perfect fit, he told me he had become so familiar with handling it over the years that he just knew. When I get the opportunity, I will photograph some of the items and the Megillah and put them up on the blog. The place where most of the items were purchased is Yad L'kashish (Lifeline for the Old), which employs the elderly to make its products and uses its profits to benefit the elderly in Israel.

Around 11:30 a.m., Alex went to the office and we took the girls into Baltimore to Port Discovery, a children's museum that turned out to be one of the best we have ever visited. Just before the policeman had stopped us, I had noticed a billboard advertising a new "Robots" exhibit there. When I asked Jessica about it, she said she had heard good things about it. That was an understatement! We found street parking, but the signs were so confusing that we flagged down a mounted policeman who was going by on a very large horse to see if we were parked legally. Even he wasn't sure, but he advised us to go for it. We stopped for a Mexican lunch across the street from the Museum at a restaurant called "Howl at the Moon." The place was practically deserted for lunch, but seems like the bar crowd in the evening is what keeps it hopping the rest of the time. They had a children's menu, however, and were very accommodating. The food was good. 

We decided to buy a $95 one-year family membership at the museum. Regular admission is $11.50 per person over the age of two. If we visit twice, we will have gotten our money's worth and we had so much fun, I am sure we will visit more than twice. We started at the top, the third floor, with the robots exhibit. One activity involved tables of interlocking colorful robot parts that could be assembled and then plugged in to motorize them. There is a huge climbing construction that radiates out to all the floors in various contraptions from the ground floor to the ceiling of the building. There was a waterworks room that had all kinds of interesting and imaginative installations to teach about water and pipes and sinking and floating objects. One water table held Legos with which to construct boats to see if they would float. What could be better for a child than water AND Legos!

There was a mystery room where kids entered a dark tunnel and crawled around in the darkness before emerging by climbing up into another room. Izzy held onto the leg of a little boy who took a shine to her and mentored her through the journey. After that, she went through herself over and over again. She took Sami, who is afraid of the dark, by the hand and tried to encourage her through, but Sami pulled away from her and came back out. When we were tired of chasing them around, there was a play 50s diner room where adults could sit at diminutive red leather booths, order from a menu and have play food delivered to them on trays by their children. There was a cash register with play money, a play refrigerator, stove and sink, and a jukebox. We had to coax the girls out of there eventually because their play kitchens at home and at our house are among their favorite toys. Jessica asked us to be back by 5:00 p.m. so we left a half hour to make a circuit around the second and first floors to see what we had missed. There were wonders too numerous to mention any one of which could fill a whole day. No more worries for us about what to do on a rainy day in Baltimore! We showered the girls and helped them dress, left them in the care of Alex who came home from work first, and headed back to Washington.

We picked up Ari at the office, filled his Prius with gas, and drove over to a new shopping facility that has reasonable underground parking near his condo. We spent an hour wandering around Best Buy,  Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond. I was really pleased to find gardening gloves for children at Target and a little beach chair shaped like a giraffe for Izzy that she had been coveting since she had seen one at the swim club. The movie, Persepolis, had just been released on DVD and was for sale at Best Buy. We thought the movie was amazing when we saw it together on our last trip into DC and Saul had been waiting for it to be released on DVD so that he can show it to his Middle Eastern studies class at Chestnut Hill College.

We put our purchases into the car and walked across the street to have dinner at "The Heights" (meaning Columbia Heights), which is at the border of Ari's neighborhood, Petworth. The place is very gothic-looking, but its huge windows keep it from being overly dark and brooding. We had grilled rare tuna with sweet chili sauce and jasmine rice, horseradish-coated tilapia over a giant spinach-stuffed portobello mushroom and crab cake with mashed potatoes. All our generous portions were extremely well prepared, nicely presented, fresh and tasty. The complimentary salads were mixed greens with jicama, beets, and grape tomatoes in an orange vinaigrette. Delicious! We considered ordering a house-made pitcher of either red or white sangria, but after that kind of day, I was afraid I would just slide right under the table after a glass or two. Saul and Ari opted for beer, and I ordered blueberry lemonade. We were very pleased with the check which, by DC standards, was very reasonable.

I stopped at Marshall's as we headed back to the parking lot because I had forgotten to pack a few shirts that I had planned to take with me. I bought two nice tees and two blouses. By 10 p.m. I was sound asleep. Today, after we dropped Ari off at a Starbucks downtown (of all places!) for an important meeting, we are just hanging around the house, catching up on email and blogging. Jess, Alex and the kids are off to Cranberry, NJ, for a weekend with Elaine and Maury. When I spoke with Mom this morning, she was in good spirits. All is well with everyone. We are waiting to see how Ari's work day pans out before we decide what to do about dinner. I am really enjoying just hanging around here, blogging at the dining room table, and gazing out the window.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Samara's Corner

We have encouraged Sami to keep a journal of her own while she is here at "Camp Bubbie and Saba." The following is what she has written so far (with some corrected spelling and grammar). The part Sami enjoys most is the drawing. We hope to have more entries and drawings from her as the summer progresses.
16 June 2008
Today I jumped off a DIVING BOARD! I rode my bike, too. Izzy did this, too! I met a girl named Maya. I played with her at the pool.

17 June 2008
Today I saw someone feed two big fat hippos, and I saw a lizard named Spike and a giant tortoise. We even saw a gorilla. We went to the petting zoo, too. Also I saw some snakes, crocodiles, and frogs. I woke Bubbie up at 5:00 in the morning.

18 June 2008
Today I went to see stars called the Mango Men who are really neat because at the end they shoot t-shirts with foam blasters.

19 June 2008
Today I went to the pool and met three new friends--Loran, Amy, and Georgia. And I went to see Curious George and I jumped off a diving board. We went to the pool in Gigi’s car and I had a mixture of Shredded Oats, Koala Crisp, and Honey Nut Cheerios.

22 June 2008
I went to the pool and to the William Penn Inn because of Irv’s birthday! I played sharks and Marco Polo. At the William Penn Inn, I watched the chef make omelets.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Best Laid Plans

It looked like a great day for swimming. I had just finished writing the previous blog at 7:30 a.m. when the girls came to wake us, so I was able to head them off and let Saul sleep a little later this morning. At breakfast, Izzy said that Mom had been coughing a lot and we should check on her. I decided to knock and go in and found Mom at her desk going through some papers. She said she had awakened early and had already had orange juice and water and had taken her pills, but had not yet made her oatmeal. I was encouraged because she seemed really good and strong this morning. I offered to make her oatmeal and she took me up on it and said she would join us in the kitchen in a few minutes. She ate all the oatmeal along with fresh blueberries this morning and seemed to be fine. After about a half hour with the girls, she went back to her room. I was feeling very happy. I planned to make a trip to Trader Joe's in Valley Forge to put in a supply of prepared soups that Mom had requested because they are in cartons that are easy to open, pour, and can be easily microwaved in a bowl. They also don't require any chewing and come in many flavors. When we are gone for a few days, she mostly eats oatmeal with fruit, yoghurt, and soup supplemented by snack foods such as peanut butter filled pretzels and whole grain crackers.

I called Roxy early this morning thinking perhaps we could meet after I shopped at Trader Joe's and we could have lunch at King of Prussia Mall with the girls before going off to the swim club. She declined, but as we were talking, the whole plan fell apart anyway. Mom began to urgently call me from her bedroom. I immediately hung up and went in. She was sitting in her easy chair as white as a sheet. She said a strange feeling had come over her and she felt very, very afraid. She seemed very frightened and miserably uncomfortable but was not able to articulate what was wrong. I brought her some orange juice and insisted over her objections that she sip some. She seemed very lucid and was physically moving as normal. I held her hand, patted her knee and we talked for a while. I told her I didn't know what to do for her and she had no suggestions. I asked if she wanted me to arrange for her to go to the hospital again to have her levels checked and she was vehement in insisting she did not want to go. My brother happened to call and she spoke to him a bit. Again, I decided not to send her to the hospital because she is having an EKG done at 10 a.m. tomorrow. After about 10 minutes of discomfort, she was feeling better. It is very uncharacteristic of her to feel frightened and that alone was very disturbing. I told her that I could and would cancel my plans to go to Baltimore if she was not well. I let Jess and Ari know that there might be a change of plans depending on how she feels. She was fine for the rest of the day.

With all this going on, we did not leave the house until 11:30 a.m. when I was fairly sure she would be okay. We programmed her cell phone with speed dial to each of us and put a sticker on the back with who each number represented. Sami decided she would like to have lunch at Bahama Breeze when I gave her a few alternatives. She still has memories of the fun we had at Bahama Breeze in Orlando when we were visiting Disney World a few years ago. When we left the restaurant, Izzy was carrying her leftover pizza in a circular box on which the waitress had drawn a palm tree. Izzy loves palm trees ever since our trip to Hawaii. Before we left, she had colored in the palm tree with the crayons provided. As we headed for the door, a manager spotted her and asked her if she would like a shopping bag in which to carry her box. She was charmed and thrilled by the serious attention she was paid. As we were going out the door, she sighed and said, "I really love this place!" We could have been the best commercial ever for Bahama Breeze. The food was great, too!

At Trader Joe's, a little way down the road, there was a "find the puppy" contest for kids. While Sami was explaining to me that they were supposed to find a puppy somewhere in the store to win a prize, my eye fell on a little stuffed black and white puppy hanging over one of the signs. That entitled each of them to a "delicious" lollipop. We bought the soup and some other items and headed back home. By 2:00 p.m., we were all exhausted and Sami seemed under the weather. She sounded a little hoarse and said she wanted to go home and get in bed. Izzy was beginning to change into the little monster she becomes when she is tired or hungry. When we arrived home, Mom was sleeping peacefully and had eaten the lunch I readied for her. We all took a long nap. We had a choice of three different concerts in three different parks this evening. We chose the Elvis impersonator over a blues swing band and a name with no further explanation. I had the brainstorm to make "Toad in the Hole" for dinner using a heart-shaped cookie cutter to cut the hole out of the whole grain bread. The kids and Mom were all charmed and ate every bite. Saul wound up actually executing the meal as I was on the phone with Ari through most of it.

After dinner, Sami was acting lethargic, which could have been that she wanted to lay around and watch t.v., but she also felt a bit warm to us. We stopped at the nearby Rite Aid to purchase a thermometer and took her temperature in the car, planning to return home if necessary. Luckily, her temperature was 98.2 so we continued on to the concert. The girls really got into it participating in an "America the Beautiful" number and receiving ribbons draped around their necks. Towards the end, "Elvis" stopped singing for a moment to pose especially for Sami to snap his picture.

All our plans are up in the air for now as we see from minute to minute how everyone is feeling. Luckily, we have been able to squeeze all the good minutes out of the day that we possibly can.

Wm. Penn Inn

Sunday morning, a brunch had been scheduled by my sister at the Wm. Penn Inn in honor of both Irv and Fran Small's birthdays. This friendship goes back many years. Irv had been a childhood friend of my brother-in-law Larry. When he finished his tour of duty in Viet Nam, we were introduced for the first time. Saul was doing his service at the time in the Naval Air Reserve and I was spending a lot of time at home doing nothing. Irv and I began joining Adele and Larry and their friends to go out on occasion, although I let him and everyone else know that it was to be a platonic relationship. Irv would have liked it to be more than that at the time, but I wanted to marry Saul, and though we had a great time flirting with each other, nothing ever happened that either of us regretted.

Eventually, when Saul was home on leave, he fixed Irv up with Jardena, an Israeli girl he had met at Gratz College while taking classes there. It was a blind date and I remember Irv asking me to describe her. As I began describing her physical characteristics, I remember suddenly realizing how similar they were and eventually telling Irv that she could have been his sister. At that moment, I realized how terrific a match it would become. They married the following year and eventually moved to Walnut Creek, California. They have raised a son, Ron, who is an independent film maker.

Irv's mom, Fran, still lives here in Philadelphia, and once a year around his birthday, he comes to stay with her for two weeks. She is in her late eighties now, but up until the last few years, she would go to California to visit him as well for a few weeks every year. When he comes in, Adele and Larry usually spend a lot of time with them, and we try to see him a few times also. When Ari lived in California, we would also get together and spent a few New Year's Eves socializing.

The girls were very excited about brunch at the Wm. Penn Inn. Sami had been there last year for a family celebration while Izzy and been visiting with her other grandparents, and remembered it fondly. Izzy knows it as the place with the pineapple flags hanging outside which we use as a landmark for when we are almost home. When people ask where we live and are a little familiar with the area, we always describe our location in relation to the Wm. Penn Inn. It has been here for many more years than we have and holds many fond memories for us.

Saul began working there as a waiter when he was 19 years old and technically too young to serve drinks. He got the job through Jerry Weiss with whom we also have maintained a friendship over the years. Jerry trained him in how to do French service holding two forks in one hand which was all the rage at the time and how to prepare certain dishes, like steak Diane and caesar salad, tableside. I understand tableside service has been making a comeback recently. Saul worked his way through college waiting tables. When I was in college as a Business Education major, the owners hired me part time to do bookkeeping. On Saturday nights, Saul would be waiting on tables and I would be sitting in a back room totaling columns of figures and jiving them with receipts. Afterwards, we would have a late night date at Perkins Pancake House or Feraco's Pizza, both places which didn't mind customers coming in at midnight.

It was at the Wm. Penn Inn that we met three British brothers, Alex, Ian, and Alistair. The oldest, Alex, was one of the chefs. They all used to play terrible pranks on each other while they were working. One that I remember involved tapping someone who was carrying a tray on the elbow with the edge of a plate--the waiter's equivalent of hazing. Ian has been working at various places in the area all his life and for the last several years has been back at the Wm. Penn Inn along with his son, who is now older than all of us were when we met. I gave him a big hug on Sunday.

We had a lovely brunch, as we always do, and Izzy was suitably impressed. The girls spent part of the time standing behind velvet ropes watching the staff make omelets, eggs Benedict, and waffles to order.

Mom, who used to take great pride in looking just so, was having a difficult time getting herself together for this outing and we didn't want to fuss over her too much for fear she would demur and miss out on this occasion. Once we got her to the table and situated, she really seemed to enjoy herself. We all came back to the house afterwards, the girls took a short nap, and Mom, Mrs. Small, and Larry dozed off in their chairs while Saul, Irv, Adele and I socialized for a couple of hours. I finally was able to show Adele a bit of my blog and encourage her to use her computer more often to check it out.

When they left, we spent the afternoon at the swim club and all went to bed early.

The girls took our warning seriously and have been letting us sleep until 7:30 a.m. for the last few days. Yesterday morning was spent doing laundry and doing what the girls have called dumping day. Evidently when the toys, games, and art supplies begin to turn into an unholy mess at home, they dump everything out on the floor and reorganize it to put it all back in its proper place. When we began the same process with their toy closet here, Sami explained to Izzy that it was just like dumping day, only at Bubbie and Saba's house. We had lunch and went to the swim club for the afternoon. Sami has been managing to find someone new to play with every time we go. She enters the pool as soon as she is done with her art session and doesn't come out again until we tell her it is time to leave. Both girls went off the diving board multiple times and are loving it.

After showers, I made Mom some eggs for dinner and we took the girls to a nearby pizzeria, Franconi's, for dinner. We stopped and picked up some groceries at Redner's a few stores down and then tucked the girls into bed for the evening. We went to bed early.

Tomorrow, we are planning to take the girls home to Baltimore for a couple of days. Alex is returning from Israel on Thursday and the four of them are going to the other grandparents in Cranberry, NJ, for the weekend. This is the weekend of the Caribbean Carnival in DC which goes right by Ari's condo and which we really enjoyed last year, so that is how we are planning to spend our weekend off from the kids--listening to steel drum bands, admiring the costumed dancers marching with their clubs, and having mud slung at us by the mud jumbies. Today looks like another good day for swimming!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Belly Aching

On Friday afternoon everyone at work decided to skate out early, so I decided to go for a much needed mani & pedi before heading to the gym. Thank goodness I did, because my first bellydancing class required bare feet!

This class was, despite its entirely enjoyable format, a serious workout! The teacher is a great dancer, and her style is very free form. There was no counting of repetitions, no standing in lines, and no shouting of moves. She simply taught us the basics of the moves, and then encouraged us to mimic her movements as she danced around the room. Once we had all semi-mastered the skills, she brought out huge scarves for everyone, and taught us how to manipulate them properly. Did I mention we all got to wear scarves with bells wrapped around our hips? It was a total blast!

Saturday morning I woke up late, had some breakfast, and went at noon to a mat pilates class. This was BY FAR the hardest workout I did all week! It was killer trying to stand on one foot for 5 minutes as we changed from one exercise to the next. I have learned that balance is a skill I must practice.

Saturday's bootcamp meeting at the park was pretty cool. We were put through our paces by a drill sargent from the local national guard. I was distracted during the instructions, and when I made a mistake, I had to drop and do 10 pushups! After the calesthenics we ran 1/4 mile to a large hill at a 45 degree angle. In our teams we had to relay roll a tire up the hill. My team won 3 times in a row!

When I got home, I jumped in the shower, and when I came out, Ari was here ready for a night out. We went to see Kung Fu Panda which was cute, but nothing special, went out for sushi, and then back to the theater to see Get Smart, which was also cute, but extremely predictable.

He slept over and Sunday morning the dog was practically in a full out tailspin needing some exercise. So we took him for a walk around the neighborhood, had some breakfast, and then decided to do some shopping at Arundel Mills. I needed some staples like tees, tanktops etc. and Ari was looking for a second opinion on some clothes for work. We had lunner at Chevy's and headed for home. I wanted to check out the Ford Escape Hybrid so we swung by a dealership, but it was closed.

It was a really fun weekend and I enjoyed spending time with Ari as usual. This morning Eytan Hammerman came to pick up the diningroom set we have been babysitting all year while they were in Israel. After work I went for a test drive in a 2006 Escape, and decided I need to try a new one to see the differences. Then I went to the gym for the bootcamp Monday night workout. I did not have any trouble keeping up this time, but I still need to work on the combinations so I don't look foolish. :)

Saturday, June 21, 2008


I awoke Friday morning at 6:00 a.m. with an unexplainable feeling of dread. This happens to me sometimes, I think, because of all my accumulated bad thoughts, awful scenes on television, and premonitions that haunt the subconscious. I have trained myself to push away these feelings by concentrating on all the wonderful blessings in my life. Even if the day does turn out to be dreadful, starting off with these feelings is just totally counterproductive wearing me down and interfering with my ability to deal with problems. I wondered if I would be able to go back to sleep until the girls would awaken us at the targeted 7:30 a.m.

At 6:15 a.m. four-year-old Izzy knocked on the door and said said that she was knocking early because "It was an emergency." She said that Sami had been coughing and coughing. She didn't sound very freaked out--more like concerned about whether she would be in trouble for knocking before the appointed time. I wondered if I had let Sami stay in the pool too long and maybe now she was sick. Some other more ominous thoughts crossed my mind as I hurried to the other side of the house where they have their own bedroom. Sami coughed a few times for effect when I arrived and looked suitably doleful. Once I determined that nothing serious was wrong, I helped them shower and offered to make them both hot cocoa with whipped cream to soothe the throat. I cooked Sami a scrambled egg and turned on the television to the Upside Down Show which we all love. Contentment reigned.

I went back to shower myself and Saul got up to have breakfast and made breakfast for mom who is still struggling just to get herself back and forth from bedroom to kitchen. She has been spending most of her days dozing in her easy chair in front of the t.v. I think that she would be content just to do that at this point in her life. I had made arrangements to have someone come in to help her three days a week a few months ago, but she flatly refused to have any parts of it and I saw no point in forcing the issue if she was not going to cooperate. Now, since she had pneumonia, I don't know what to do, because every time I broach the subject, she just seems miserable and doesn't say too much. I hope she will get her strength back soon. Saul and I feel badly about her gradual loss of the ability to take care of herself. Right now, it is no big deal to provide the care she needs ourselves, but what happens when we are away?

The printer's broker came at 8:30 a.m. to pick up the final version of my publication to take to the printer. Saul went out to water the potted plants on the deck after breakfast and the girls and I joined him outside. They helped me pull out some weeds and grass that had grown in the mulch around the heather. Sami helped Saul to repair the railings in the gazebo with extra screws to keep them from turning under the weight of the herb boxes that hang on brackets from them. Then, we all moved to the garden to finish planting the rest of the herbs that had been languishing in pots these last few weeks. The girls took turns digging holes with a trowel and choosing herb plants to put in them. With each plant we crushed a leaf and inhaled the odor of pineapple sage, or lemon basil, or cinnamon basil, or parsley, or a host of others. Unlike my kids, they really seemed to enjoy the weeding, digging, and garden work. Sami proudly took a photo of her dirt manicure, an expression I appropriated from a recent commercial.

After we all had lunch, Saul took the girls to the swim club for two hours while I prepared Shabbat dinner. I made the dough for challah, took a tray of smoked turkey in gravy and three quarts of homemade chicken soup out of the freezer, and made a chocolate sheet cake substituting pareve coconut milk for the sour cream and milk in the original recipe. Sami made some new friends at the swim club. She exchanged phone numbers with one of the girls. When they returned, I sent them out to pick a few leaves from the different herbs they had planted to ready a mixture to add to avocado for guacamole. Then I helped them shower again and sent them off to bed for a nap, promising them they could each make their own individual little challah. Saul and I laid down in bed for an hour as it was one of those rare afternoons where dinner was under control and we began reading an article that Susan Shipper-Smith had sent about Chicago Chef Grant Achatz in the New Yorker. At 5:30 p.m., I had to awaken the girls to make their challot which they did contentedly. After each one tasted her own after the brachot, they each went around and distributed a tiny morsel to everyone at the table just as Saul did with the large ones.

Beth brought a new friend, Paul, to dinner, and Sami chattered away happily to him all evening, barely pausing to take a breath in her animated conversation and Izzy, who is usually the more gregaraious, could barely get a word in edgewise. Beth also came to dinner proudly bearing a golf trophy. Her group had won first place in the company tournament.

Faith Rubin also joined us for dinner bearing Barnes & Noble gift cards for the girls, as did Larry, who brought wonderful cinnamon buns which are dairy, so they will be saved for special treats during the week, or perhaps I will freeze them for later. Both Ari and Jessica called us during dinner and everyone was very contented with their day. Alex had already called the girls from Jerusalem in the morning. I had the girls call their other grandparents right before dinner to wish them a Shabbat Shalom. We had a long, mostly satisfying, phone conversation with Ari about work until 1 a.m. It really was a Shabbat Shalom!

This morning, we awoke to screams from Izzy about 6:30 a.m. On the intercom, we determined that the shrieks were due to an argument over which program to watch. They got a severe warning that the next infraction of the rules would result in the t.v. being removed from their room. After that, silence reigned. Saul got up to oversee breakfast at 7:30 a.m. while I stole an extra half hour of just languishing in bed. The girls helped him unload the dishwasher from last night.

Finally, I dressed for services, sent the girls to dress for services, and reloaded the dishwasher with the remainder of the dirty dishes. I grabbed some breakfast, tea and a bagel spread with cream cheese and olive spread I had made on Thursday (which Izzy loved), combed the girls hair, and we headed out for the 45-minute drive to the synagogue where I was able to say kaddish for my father whose yahrzeit is this week. Thankfully, the girls had made friends among the kids who are regulars there, and they couldn't wait to play hide and seek again with them in the large room downstairs.

The Torah portion this week was about Moses sending out 12 spies to scope out the promised land. Ten came back saying the task was impossible, describing the inhabitants as giants and themselves as grasshoppers by comparison. The other two said that with God's help, it could be accomplished. Rabbi's sermon today spoke of how people's insecurities can interfere with their ability to realistically assess what they are capable of accomplishing and also, how those insecurities can cause them to project unrealistic characteristics onto others as well as themselves. All this was very interesting considering that the conversation with Ari last night dealt with insecurity and how it affects the dynamics of the workplace. Another interesting tidbit was that I noticed that one of the ten spies was a descendent of Manasseh, son of Joseph. I remarked to Saul that Ephraim was not represented. He explained that Manasseh was the oldest, therefore representing the tribe. If Manasseh was the oldest, why do we bless our children as Ephraim and Manasseh instead of Manasseh and Ephraim, I wanted to know. Josh Gordon, the cantor, found an earlier reference to answer my question. When Israel blessed his grandchildren, Joseph presented them appropriately so that Manasseh was at his right hand and Ephraim at his left. When he blessed them, Israel crossed his hands. He explains to Joseph that both will be great. We therefore have an ongoing tradition that the merit of children may not be based solely on birthright. It was also interesting that we invoke the names of these two to bless our children, according to one tradition, because they were the first siblings in the Bible to actually get along with each other.

At the appropriate time, the kids all paraded around the synagogue holding the silver Torah ornaments and shaking the hands of the congregants, a practice Rabbi Addison has instituted to include the children in the service. They also went up on the bima to lead Ayn Kelohaynu and Adon Olam. They were presented with boxes of Mike and Ike candy and had cake and juice at the kiddush, so by the time we arrived home, they were both sated with sugar and asleep. We packed them into bed for nap, had a quick bite ourselves, and were able to nap until 5:00 p.m. I had begun doing my New York Times Sunday Crossword Puzzle before falling asleep. It was so easy this week that i was able to finish it it within a half hour after I woke up. The girls were really hungry and we gave them leftover smoked turkey and black and white rice for dinner. Mom had leftover chicken soup with Saul's homemade Chinese dumplings. We had promised the girls that if they napped, we would do something special this evening. Saul had a glitch in his prescription for his stroke medication. The doctor on call was able to arrange a 7-day supply at a 24-hour pharmacy nearby. So after dinner, we picked up his prescription, took the girls for water ice at Rita's and then went to Barnes & Noble where they used Faith's gift certificates to each pick out a new book.

When I tucked the girls into bed this evening, I couldn't imagine being more contented.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Not So Hot

So last night was the first Bootcamp walking night at the Owings Mills High School track. The Weather was GORGEOUS! It was 71 degrees and sunny with a light breeze in the middle of June! What a pleasure to have a good excuse to be outdoors, getting healthy, and socializing with some really incredible women.

Unfortunately, since it was the first session, the trainer was unsure of what we were all capable of, and I felt she was way too easy on us. After some light muscle stretching she set a goal of 1 mile (4 laps around the track). I walk about 3 times that much around my neighborhood in the evenings with the dog, so I was a bit surprised, but I decided I would try to talk with a different person for each lap, and get to know some of my comrades.

I took lap #1 with Frances (the director of the program and its creator) she told me about how she got the idea to do this, and about some of the challenges and rewards of working full time as a counselor and social work manager while raising 2 kids and starting this business. I admire her even more now, and we chatted a bit about how she could market the bootcamp to a broader audience since she is trying to make this her full-time job.

Lap #2 was with a woman who is currently a police officer, but is getting her degree in elementary education. I mentioned that Naomi is working with some pretty difficult circumstances in her DC charter school, and that a police officer's training could really be handy for a teacher. She agreed, but said that she is not interested in working with what she called "kids who are only coming to school to show their (gang) colors." She wants to work with kids who have the right attitude, but are lacking an environment conducive to learning.

Lap #3 was with a woman from my team who works for Under Armour. If you didn't know, Baltimore has one of the central offices of the Under Armour Corporation. I have met a number of people who work there, and I am always staggered by the dedication and number of hours per week their employees give to the company. They must have some incredibly supportive business practices the have such devoted employees. She even works on Saturdays, and was concerned that she might be late for our session at 4 on Saturday.

As I started the final lap, the trainer admonished me for "moseying along" at what was a leisurely pace for me so that I could "chit chat." So I took the last lap alone, walking to the pace of the theme song in my head "Ain't No Stopping Us Now!" I was "on the move" and "it was alright!"

For anyone reading who doesn't know me well, I always have some song or another bouncing around in my head. No need for Ipods here! I am usually thematic, but occasionally I find myself humming aloud, much to the extreme annoyance of everyone around me!

Anyway, as I came around the final lap, I was finally getting into a groove, and so I decided to take one more while the others were finishing up. One of the mentors (who incidentally has been at every class I have taken this week) caught up with me, and encouraged me to actually run the back half of the lap. I was nervous about my knee, but it was actually fine. I was so proud of myself!

When I got home, I fed the dog and then dumped all of the rotting food from the refrigerator whose smell nearly knocked me out when I opened the door! We had an unexpected crowd staying over last weekend. Elaine decided to go food shopping while Alex was out food shopping. Needless to say, we had a whole lot of stuff that was either double purchased, or that Alex and I don't really eat. While they were with us, some of it got eaten, but they did not remember to take the leftover food they had purchased home with them. I have come to the conclusion though that I will only buy bagels and challah at Golberg's since all of the cream cheese went moldy, and when I looked at the dates on the container I realized that they had re-stickered the lids covering the previous week's dates with new ones. EEEEW!

Once the fridge was empty, I realized that I would need to restock for Shabbat, so at 10:00 I headed out for the Giant. I have always found food shopping to be very relaxing, especially at night, so I decided to take my time and browse for some all natural and organic food that was low in calories and fat. I found some really great options. I also discovered that the Giant is now carrying a lot of the Israeli products that I usually have to go get at 7 mile market. I think mom described most of this in a previous blog. I bought Of Tov Sesame Chicken Schnitzels for my Shabbat dinner. Cool! In looking for a link for the chicken, I just discovered a kosher peapod-style website Avi-Glatt!

Anyway, I got home, took a shower, and got into bed, only to be startled by the start of a veritable concert of noxious noises. They have been doing road construction at my intersection for a few weeks from 7pm-5am. Last night the jack hammers started at 12:45am and did not stop until 4am. Worse than that was the constant beeping of the backup alarms on the equipment, and the final straw was the dog barking at every worker that set foot on my lawn. I watched some really bad TV until I was just too tired to care anymore, and I finally dozed off around 3:30am. Hopefully they are almost done with my particular stretch of road!

Thursday, June 19, 2008


The girls are really getting into the routine, now, and again allowed us to sleep until 7:30 a.m. They are especially a pleasure on bright sunny mornings when we can sit over breakfast and discuss our plans for the day. Unfortunately, those plans have been thwarted several times.

Mom appeared dressed in the kitchen again today and while she is still weak and shaky, she appears to be growing stronger each day and is eating a good breakfast. When Saul left at 8:30 a.m. to have the car door repaired this morning, we thought he would be back in about an hour. At 11:00 a.m. just as I was about to call him, he called me to say that they were still struggling to get the glass out of the locking mechanism. Since the weather was gorgeous and cool again today, we thought we could do something special outdoors. I was disappointed that the whole day was disappearing because of the car door. Saul persuaded them to drive him home and when they actually finished the car at 3:30 p.m., they delivered it to our driveway and left the key under the mat as we had instructed.

I received my final edits around 11:00 a.m. also, so I tried to steal a few minutes to finish up my work before making lunch. Once I started pulling leftovers out of the refrigerator for lunch, I decided to use up a few items that weren't going to last much longer to put together a few meals. We decided at lunch to spend the day at the swim club. Arts and crafts were at 2:00 p.m. and Sami was excited to be there. She made a mobile with wire hangers which we need to find a place to hang tomorrow. It was a bit too chilly to swim, but Sami stayed in the water the whole time other than when she was crafting, and Saul and Izzy braved it for quite a while. I just don't love the water that much and was content to sit on my folding chair and enjoy the cool breezes. The girls both had the opportunity to dive from the diving board again today and Sami went off many times because there were no crowds.

We returned home for dinner around 5:30 p.m. and around 6:30 p.m. we finished up and I stole another hour on the computer to make the last few edits.

At 8:00 p.m. we traveled to a different park than last night, spread out blankets and chairs, and watched an outdoor showing of the movie, Curious George, under the stars. They began the movie almost 45 minutes late. Sami really enjoyed it. Izzy does not have the same attention span. Unfortunately, it was 10:15 by the time we left and we all arrived at home totally exhausted.

Perhaps we will even be able to sleep until 8:00 a.m. tomorrow.

The Mango Men in the Park

Our day turned out rather free-form, even for us. The girls did wait until 7:30 a.m. to wake us up and mom, though tired, was able to get out of bed, get dressed, come to the kitchen, and eat her own breakfast. She does seem to be getting stronger as the effects of the antibiotic begin to wear off.

Yesterday, when we were leaving the zoo, my passenger-side car door would not open. As tired as I was, I climbed through the driver's seat and over the console in our Honda Pilot to get into my seat, and then had to climb back out again when we arrived home. I had not mentioned that when Beth came over early the day of the picnic, she asked if we were aware that our car window had been shattered. Before we went to the picnic, Saul spent an hour vacuuming up glass with his shop vac, finding nary a trace of anything that could account for the breakage. We had uncharacteristically left it out of the garage and unlocked. Not a dime was missing from the coin holder. It appears to have just shattered by itself. Saul was able to arrange for the glass to be replaced in Norristown and left us at the picnic for about 2 hours to take care of it. When the door lock jammed at the zoo, we assumed a piece of glass fell into the wrong place. This morning, first thing, Saul offered to bring the car back to Norristown, but they said they were too busy and that they would send someone out to our home to repair it between 12 and 5 p.m. today.

Our whole day changed from minute to minute. We had decided to go to the swim club if the weather warmed up, but when we came out of Costco after buying milk and orange juice and getting the girls pizza for lunch, we got caught in a huge downpour. We had decided on the next rainy day to take them to see Kung Fu Panda, but we had to wait for the repairman. The girls watched Thumbelina and The Jetsons, which I had recorded on TIVO for them. I dozed off for an hour, and Larry Shipper stopped by to return Saul's wedding ring which he had kept during the colonoscopy and forgotten to return. The repairman showed up about 3:45 p.m. and was really ticked off at his co-workers because he didn't have the proper tools to fix the door which needed to go to the shop based on what Saul had said was wrong in the first place. First thing tomorrow, hopefully, it will be repaired at the shop.

My work finally came in and I worked on the computer for several hours while Saul supervised the girls riding their bikes and got dinner together. I had to shut down the computer as a large thunderstorm hit just as they were all sitting down to dinner around 5:30 p.m. The Wednesday concert in the park was scheduled for 7:00 p.m. and we were sure it would be cancelled. As we were finishing dinner about 6:30 p.m. the sun started to peek through the clouds. Fifteen minutes later, we decided to ride by the park to see for sure whether the concert had been postponed, fully expecting that it would. To our surprise, The Mango Men were setting up their equipment, brushing some of the puddles away with a broom. The concert began a half hour late, but we really enjoyed the Jimmy Buffet-style music in the unusually chilly, but clear evening. At one point, they organized a limbo line for the children in front of the grandstand--great fun! Some of the photos were taken by Izzy and Sami. Izzy took the very close-up photo of Sami's mouth. Sami is about to lose a baby tooth and has been playing with wiggling it all day. She let Saul try to remove it with dental floss when we returned this evening, but it is still not 100% ready to come out.

After tucking the tired, but happy, twosome into bed, I spent another few hours on the computer, hopefully finishing the publication and sending it to the printer tomorrow so I can finally be done with it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I Got Problems! So What?!

So I have definitely resolved the nausea issue by eating a snack before the workout each night. (thank God) Tonight's workout turned out to be a triple workout. I wound up getting to the gym early, and did the last half hour of the Step Aerobics class which was awesome, but when I complimented the teacher at the end, it turned out that she was a sub, and that she did not do a true step aerobics, but a mix of step and her class which is more of a pilates.

We all thought it was great, and asked her to make it a regular part of the schedule! :)

My Brickbodies class started immediately after that, and boy was that some hard work! It is basically a combination of weight lifting/strength training and cardio all set to thematic hip hop. While keeping up a continuous stream of cardio motion we also were lifting hand weights to work our arm, shoulder, back, and abdominal muscles.

Considering how sore I am tonight, I am a bit worried for the "day after" pain. The music was pumping though, and the teacher Dwayne was a good cheerleader and kept us all going. The hip hop lyrics were thematic and inspirational. By the end of the workout we were all struggling to lift our arms, and the last song was "I Got Problems." It made me giggle. The music for the cool down and stretch was "Knocking on Heaven's Door." Ironic, but a little sad too!

I was worried about holding the steering wheel for the drive home, but I called Naomi for our daily pep talk, and that really helped. She is facing some tough issues right now, so each night I call her after my workout, and we pump each other up. It is quickly becoming an integral part of my workout routine. Hopefully she will be feeling better soon, and we can go back to just schmoozing.

Tomorrow is the next bootcamp workout which is walking at the Owings Mills HS track.

The Aloha Spirit Makes a Brief Visit to DC

A year ago this week, a significant contingent of the characters chronicled here at Marilyfe descended upon the Garden Island of Kauai for an amazing trip that may one day be regarded as the preface to a new chapter.
Before I left for San Francisco last week, I was looking for something non-productive to do on the plane, so I decided that it was time I caught up with one of those shows everyone has been talking about for years--Lost. Ever since I finally embraced the 21st century and bought an iPod in March, I have found that it is now something without which I am not sure how I survived. But this is, perhaps, best detailed in a different post.

I downloaded Season One on my iPod and wound up not having any non-productive plane time until my return trip. Needless to say, I immediately became addicted from the first episode, yet consciously aware of two things:

1. If my mother were to ever watch this show, I might not be able to get her on a plane again

2. Choosing this as my entertainment on a plane was at best insenstitive of me, and at worst, a bit creepy

Though, I do have to admit that I took some solace in the fact that despite my bird's eye view of midwest flooding, there was certainly no chance of us crash landing on a remote island anywhere between San Francisco and DC.

Besides, I'd already been through the fun of an emergency landing with oxygen masks and everything a few years ago. I actually dozed off--mask and all--while the pilots circled the New Mexico desert outside Albuquerque dumping excess fuel so that the plane didn't blow up when we touched down at the airport.

So I'm now about half way through Season Two, and something I have been particularly enjoying is the beautiful setting of the show, which is filmed exclusively on the island of Oahu. Lush tropical greenery, pristine beaches with crystal azure ocean, red earth and dazzling topography make me want to spend some more time in The Aloha State as soon as possible.

But lest you think from this and my last post that I spend all of my time wishing I was somewhere else, I was treated to a beautiful double rainbow during my walk home from work today that I wanted to share. I took these shots along New York Ave. with my brand new Blackberry Curve, which features a 2.0 megapixel camera.

Here I've incorporated the remnants of the downed tree from one of my earlier pictures on the blog

So if gas prices and inflation will keep me out of Hawaii this year, at least I can try to spread a little bit of the Aloha Spirit here in the District.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

At the Zoo

Again this month, my work did not flow in as promised and I find myself thwarted in planning my time as I would like. When the weather promised to be exceptional today and my work had not appeared, we looked for an activity that would take us outside, not be too costly, and not be too far away. We decided on the Philadelphia Zoo.

The girls woke us at 5:30 a.m. this morning. We had set an alarm in their room to 7:30 a.m. and told them not to disturb us until the alarm went off, but I guess they did not take it too seriously. I got up and helped them get breakfast and then left them watching Sprout and went back to sleep. Izzy came and knocked a second time around an hour later. Then mom buzzed us on the intercom and said she needed help getting her breakfast. Saul got up at that point because I was so exhausted and wound up making her breakfast and feeding it to her in bed because she was too dizzy and weak to get up and her hands were shaking too hard to hold the spoon. We are hoping all this is just a reaction to the medication and the weakness created by the pneumonia. By the time Saul was finished giving mom breakfast, both girls had gone back to sleep. A half hour after that, mom was able to get up and dressed and walk to the kitchen. We decided not to go very far away so that we could be back in case of an emergency, but when we left she was okay, ensconced in a chair, and watching television.

The Philadelphia Zoo was a good choice. For $94, we bought a family membership that allows us and up to six children to visit for free all year and includes free parking. Going to Hersheypark or Sesame Place for one shot would have been a lot more expensive, almost double. We took the girls for an early lunch at a Chinese Buffet in Plymouth Meeting Mall where Izzy and Sami could eat their fill of sushi, especially the bubble kind (caviar) for Izzy.

The zoo was delightful. We had not been there in many years and were happy we had chosen it as our activity for today.

During dinner, after the girls had showered, Beth stopped over, had a bite, and invited us to view her new kitchen renovation. It is really beautiful with gorgeous and functional wood cabinets, granite countertops, and new appliances. Mom was okay for the rest of the day and joined us for dinner. I hope the worst is over.

We have told the girls that if they wake us too early tomorrow, we will remove the t.v. from their room. I really need a good night's sleep soon.

Who Knew I Could Be Aggressive?

So, the small bowl system seems to be working. I had a small bowl of cornflakes with banana and skim milk for breakfast. A small bowl of stringbeans and chickpeas over salad for lunch. A small bowl of fruit salad for an afternoon snack, and a small strawberry non-dairy smoothie and a small soft pretzel (no butter no salt) at the mall before my kickboxing class. This was a good combo before the workout, by the way. It gave me some energy and I took a few tums to keep the smoothie from burning. Normally I would go for the yogurt in my smoothie for some protein and lactic acid, but Alex recommended not eating any dairy before exercising, in the interest of not puking (which is currently my only workout goal). 4 litres of water today too!

Kickboxing was SO much fun! Who knew I had it in me to beat the hell out of a punching bag! I also liked that this regime got my heart pumping and the sweat pouring without requiring any jumping up and down, and with minimal coordination. Since there were only 10 of us there for the class, the teacher was able to help us with the technique. I learned to jab, roundhouse and uppercut, front kick and side kick. By the end we even went up against the teacher with target gloves. The boxing gloves were the only offputting part. They were borrowed from the gym, and by the time I was done my hands were soaking wet. Which means that the previous person's were probably soaking wet too! GROSS! I washed my hands 3 times before I left the gym!

Tomorrow is my mentor's favorite workout. It's called "Brickhouse" and is supposed to have the best music! I'll let you know.

I thought I might Puke, but I was still having fun!

Mom has asked me to contribute with some anecdotes from the Fitness Boot Camp in which I am participating this summer. I have enrolled in the ReinventU Boot Camp for the next 12 weeks, and I am hoping to get a healthier approach to my life. Part of the program is journaling, so I guess this counts!
Saturday evening I attended the opening orientation which was at the gym that hosts the camp Chizel It . I could tell from the orientation that this was going to be a great experience for me. The format of the camp very much suits my personality (and weaknesses). The group of 50 women are divided into teams of 7-10 people under the leadership of a mentor that was also a participant in the last bootcamp in the winter. In your team, you are also matched up with a "workout buddy" whose skill and schedule match your own. My buddy will be assigned next week, but I am pretty sure it will be a woman who is an RN and keeps a very similar schedule to mine.
Last night I went for my first 1 hour workout session, and it was brutal but fun! We meet every Monday night from 7-8 for a "mixed workout." Charles (the owner of the gym) started with some low impact cardio, then high impact, then step, then floor exercises, and finally stretching. I was a bit thrown to not have a warm up, and with the lights off, the strobes and disco ball flashing, and the hip hop music pumping like a night club, I realized that skipping dinner was probably a mistake. But I powered through the nausea, and did what I could to keep up with the seasoned women who have been doing this for 6 months. Everyone was really helpful and many of my new friends took the time to help me work on my form and give me advice on how best not to injure myself. Some of the combinations of pumps, kicks, punches and steps were confusing, and I felt like as soon as I had gotten into the groove we would change sides! I am sure in a few weeks I will be a natural, but for now I am only mildly coordinated. It was really so much fun, and I am happy to say that I did not throw up or embarass myself in any other way.
It was really uplifting to feel the common energy and vibe of a group of women all hell bent on improving themselves physically and emotionally. The director of the program, Frances, is incredible and has the wonderful attitude of encouraging her women by boosting them up, and not judging.
My mentor Marcia is bubbly and giving, and our team ended the night together with her offering a prayer that was both inspirational, and well-spoken from her heart, and that I think was worthy of our major accomplishment and our future challenges.
My goal for the next 10 days while Alex is away is to attend a class at the gym every night. Once he returns, getting home after 9 every night may not be so do-able, but by then I should at least have a foundation of exercise that I can do on my own at home, and a healthy eating and water drinking regimen (which I started last night as well).
One of the "free gifts with purchase" was a set of portion pals. They make it easy to see how much you should be eating of the things you like to eat. (if a bit depressing at the beginning) so after looking at them and considering the practicality of actually putting my food on them and cutting etc. I realized that this would not be a practice that I would keep up. My compromise is to only eat meals that will fit into one of the plastic Gerber bowls I have for the kids. They are almost exactly the right dimensions to match the pals. Last night I had a chunk of challah with a Tablespoon of TJ's Peanut Butter and a teaspoon of light cream cheese, and an artichoke.
Tonight I am off to kickboxing!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Monday, Monday, So Good to Me

My dear friend Roxy called in the middle of all this and suggested vehemently that I ignore my family and go back to my previous meandering way of writing my blog. I definitely agree with her. It is not nearly as fun for me to try to pigeonhole my life and my thinking into various categories. It makes everything seem unrelated and inside the box. My synapses rebel at having fences put around where they can go. If you are going to comment, just make it clear in your comment about which tidbit you are commenting.

While mom was happily viewing all these photos and videos last night with Saul, she suddenly became very sick and dizzy and could not walk back to her room. Saul had the idea to sit her in an office chair and push her back to bed. She fell asleep almost immediately, but I got up several times last night to slip quietly into her room and listen for the sound of her breathing. Saul was up several times last night using the bathroom in reaction to the medication for his colonoscopy today. Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep last night. The only reason I didn't call an ambulance was that I knew Mom was going to see her doctor today.

Larry Shipper arrived to take Saul to the hospital at 8:15 a.m. Mom didn't feel great this morning, but managed to get dressed and walk into the kitchen. She usually insists on getting her own breakfast, but this morning, I got it all together for her. My sister, Adele, arrived to pick up Mom at 11:45 a.m. In between, I shlepped the moon bounce out of the garage and set it up because the weather looked wonderful at first. Sami used it for 10 minutes and Izzy wasn't interested. Within an hour, the sky got as black as night outside and I shlepped it back in. Ten minutes later, the sun came out and stayed that way most of the day.

Almost everyone arrived within a minute of each other at 11:45 a.m. Adele brought Randi along, so she could bring mom back from the doctor, Saul and Larry arrived bearing the news that Saul had two small polyps that were easily removed and that he felt fine and didn't need to go back for three years. Jamie arrived also to meet her mom and grandmom with her new ultrasound photo (see guest blog below) and do some errands with her mom. We all had a raucous impromptu lunch with me pulling all the leftovers from Friday out of the refrigerator to feed us all. When Randi brought mom back, we got the good news that the doctor felt her heart was fine and she did not need to see a cardiologist and that her pneumonia was gone. Randi and Jamie had both had bouts of dizziness while on the same antibiotic as mom was taking for the pneumonia. Her final pill was this evening, so hopefully, the good spirits that arose from all the camaraderie and good news today will carry her through the next few days.

Jamie stuck around for a while and had dinner with us--delivery pizza and ice cream. She just called to say she arrived home safely. Alex called the girls from Israel today. His plane took off and landed as scheduled. Alex was called upon to lead an adult tour when one of the rabbis injured his knee. He was just there in December leading a teen tour.

When Larry came this morning, he brought me an article from The Wall Street Journal about elder blogging. Then, when I asked Roxy how the writer's group meeting went this morning, she said that Cynthia had brought in a copy of an article about elder blogging from The Wall Street Journal. I am really convinced that there are no coincidences. Rabbi Sidney Greenberg used to say that coincidences are God's way of remaining anonymous. So now that I introduced the subject of blogging to my writing class, here is the link to that article about elder blogging entitled "Put It in Writing.”

I think that this is the most amazing form of communication ever. Ronni Bennett has been blogging for four years now and look what she has accomplished! No longer does one need to harness one's imagination, inspiration, or creativity to conform to what is commercially considered fit to print. You can simply run your ideas up the flagpole and see who salutes. How self-affirming!

In addition, there is the kaleidoscope of sight and sound to accompany the written word, appealing to more of the senses. I only wish there was a way to transmit the smell also--the scent of flowers and trees on a summer day, the steam of an iron on freshly washed cotton. Perhaps there will be a library in the future where one can grab the appropriate scent just as one can grab the appropriate graphic right now to transmit an idea.

It was a very happy Monday!

Our Great Weekend

Beth works for Toll Brothers and their company picnic was this weekend at Camp America. We had an absolutely spectacular time! The food was wonderful and included delicious veggie burgers with melted cheese, potato salad, cole slaw, chips, two pasta salads, tossed salad, a dozen different types of iced drinks and water, all kinds of ice cream, funnel cake, soft pretzels, and cotton candy to name a few of the things in which we indulged.

The girls climbed rock walls, moon bounced, went paddle boating, swam in the large pools, went down a water slide, and climbed in a ball pit. There were many other activities available for which we did not have time, such as pony rides, face painting, water balloon tossing, and a host of others. Sami passed a swimming test by swimming the length of the pool which entitled her to a bracelet which gave her permission to go into any of the pools without adult supervision. We returned home totally exhausted and totally sated.

No one complained at bedtime that they weren't tired.

While we were waiting to go to Beth's picnic, Izzy serenaded us on the piano with a rousing version of Modei Ani Lefaneyha.

We also spent a day at Beachcombers, our swim club. The weather was incredible and both girls had a chance to go diving off the diving board into the dedicated diving pool. A lifeguard waited below with a float. Both girls jumped off without any hesitation and Izzy is only four! They both loved it and neither needed the float.

Saul also had a chance to video them riding their bicycles.

In addition to all this good stuff, they finished my patio this weekend! With the blocks that were left over, Saul and I began reconstructing our garden with block walkways and planting a few Cherokee Purple heritage tomatoes among the zinnias in the hopes that the deer, bunnies, and groundhogs won't notice them.

Our Little Bean

I was told by the Senders clan that I can type anything I want. Oh boy, are we in trouble! How much time do we have? Putt... putt... putt. Anyone who knows me is aware of my reputation as a chatterbox, however, in this case, I will keep it simple. I just have three little words: We are pregnant. Well, technically, I am the one who is pregnant. My husband, Andy, is along for the wonderful adventure... and foot rubs (tee hee!). He's actually been very attentive these days. We both went to the doctor on Friday, June 13, 2008 (Yep, Friday the 13th -- Do you expect anything less from me?) and got to see a picture of the latest addition to our family... our Little Bean. That's what we've been calling him (or her) these days. Our Little Bean measures up to a whopping 8 cms (about the length of the short side of a credit card) and is due to arrive on January 12, 2009. See our Little Bean below (and we think you'll agree that the nickname is appropriate).

Grandmom and Grandpop Strongin (that's Kenny and Randi nowadays!) are very excited. This is their first grandchild, after all. Also, both of Kenny's sisters and all of Randi's siblings are each grandparents already... so the Strongins are more than ready to step into their new roles. Auntie Haley and Unkie Erik are also pleased with the news! I have already been dubbed "J-Mama" by one of Andy's close friends from college. The Parker Grandparents (John & Cindy) are thrilled to be only a half hour away from us in Dover, DE and very excited to welcome their 6th grandchild to the bunch. My sister-in-law, Suzanne, has three little beans of her own. She is an angel for offering up some of her best maternity clothes and enough books to last me from now until the baby is 18 years old (and she says she has more!). All in all, Andy and I are extremely blessed to have such an amazing and supportive family as we prepare for the journey of our lives. There is lots of love to go 'round, so keep spreading it. Eventually, it will come back to you... maybe from our Little Bean (who I am sure will be full of love and laughter for everyone he or she meets!). Thanks to Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Saul (and especially Ari, who is the FCOR -- First Cousin Once Removed -- of our Little Bean. Haha!) for allowing me to post this short (ahem) blog.

Friday With Sami, Izzy and the Family

A few days earlier, Erica had called and asked if their family could come to Friday night dinner. She had scheduled family portraits for Saturday morning with Mom and was supposed to fix Mom's hair. The pneumonia intervened and Mom wasn't feeling up to it during the week, so she figured by Friday, Mom would be feeling better. She wasn't. We all did have a wonderful dinner, though. Mom ate a little and went back to her room after a while, but really seemed to enjoy the family around her. She was feeling somewhat better in the morning and the portraits came out beautifully.

First thing on Friday morning, Sami and Izzy helped me to bake a sour cream pound cake for dessert. We had bought ice cream and whipped cream and giant strawberries to go along with it. I was missing a few ingredients, so we took the girls and went to the supermarket while it baked for an hour and a half. We also squeezed lemons and limes together and made fresh limeonade as Izzy calls it. Izzy particularly loves to work in the kitchen. Saul and I made strawberry soup, seafood lamaize, blintzes, tortellini, hydroponic lettuce salad, steamed broccoli, and corn on the cob. The girls are experts at setting the table from their experience with Mommy and Daddy at home. With all that, we had some time to play in the afternoon. The girls took their bikes out and rode around the cul-de-sac while I watched, and they met two of our neighboring girls, Joelle and Camilla, also on bikes. Last year, Beth bought a Chuck E. Cheeses Moon Bounce that was a terrific deal. She paid $50 for it and on the side of the carton was a coupon for $25 worth of credit which we used there last year. I went next door and brought it over in my wheelbarrow and set it up so that Sami, Izzy and Brenna could bounce before dinner. I just wish there was some way to bottle all the energy they expend and transfer it to our old bones.