Thursday, July 31, 2008

Blast from the Past

I got this picture today from our cousins Meytal and Sylvia Wasserman in Netanya, who had gotten it from our other cousin David Moscovits in Chicago. None of us is actually sure exactly how David came into possession of this picture, other than that his two brothers are in it.

It was taken during our first family visit to Israel in the Summer of 1985, likely almost exactly 23 years ago to the month, since we were there from mid-June through mid-August.
By Sylvia's recollection, it was taken during a lunch picnic while visiting the model of Second-Temple era Jerusalem at the Holyland Hotel. Interestingly enough, the model was moved to the Israel Museum in 2005 and has been on exhibition with a nifty video and everything since 2006.

From Left to Right are:
Meytal Wasserman, Sylvia Wasserman, Ari, Jessica, Willy Moscovits, Israel (Sruli) Moscovits, Marilyn, Saul, and Moshe Wasserman

I made some edits in Flickr to the original scanned image, and I like this version a lot better than the one I got in the email, which was overwhelmingly orange.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

And the Good News Is…

When I finished writing this morning's blog, I went into Mom's room yet another time to see how she was doing. She was in the bathroom and told me that she was feeling much better. I began cooking some quick oatmeal for her while I brought some orange juice to her room. My conversation with her woke the girls at about 6:30 a.m. and they wanted breakfast, so I went with them to the kitchen, allowed them to turn on the t.v., toasted and sliced a bagel for them to share, poured them orange juice and milk, sliced some strawberries, washed some blueberries, put out a bowl of cherries and made a pot of old-fashioned oatmeal for Saul. I asked Mom if she wanted the oatmeal in her room and was pleased to hear that she was coming to the kitchen to eat it. Then, I went back to bed. Saul awoke about 7:30 a.m. and covered for me. I awoke to the sound of the telephone which no one answered (Saul had gone outside to water the pots on the deck and Mom rarely answers these days). I missed the first call and was able to pick up the next one which was Roxy. While I was speaking to her, Ken called and I related all my concerns and a rundown of everything that had occurred since Mom had come home. He made suggestions as to how to proceed to get in touch with the doctors. Then I spoke with Adele. The first caller had been Eric, the visiting nurse, who was verifying that he would be arriving between 10 and 11 a.m. I was ecstatic that he was not calling to arrange a visit, but was actually visiting! He arrived at 10:20 a.m. and answered all the really troubling questions that had haunted me a few hours earlier. In the course of examining Mom, he determined that she was no longer in afib and that all her numbers were good. I was even more ecstatic! But his answers still left questions about why none of us had been contacted to discuss the decision to send Mom home in afib.

Adele had tried to reach Mom's general physician and was waiting for a call. While I was deciding who to call next, Aunt Ruth called and we spoke for quite a while. She suggested that finding and questioning the discharging doctor might not be as helpful as contacting her cardiologist, who had probably put in the order in the first place to have Mom released. I called the hospital and obtained the number of his practice. I explained to the receptionist my concerns about Mom's release and she said she would have someone from the practice return my call. We also made an appointment for Mom in a week's time. Right after I hung up, her physician called and, although he had not yet received a report from the hospital, was able to allay my fears about the conditions of her release and discuss the new medication she had been prescribed. He assured me that in no way was her condition dire and recommended that I speak with the cardiologist about the plan for her treatment. Right after I finished that conversation, the cardiologist's assistant returned my call and further assured me that they planned to actively monitor her condition and in no way had written her off.

By 1:00 p.m., I was finally able to get dressed and eat some breakfast. I was relaxed and happy enough to accompany Saul and the girls to Beachcombers so I could be there for Izzy's first swimming lesson. Sami passed the deep water swimming test yesterday which entitles her to access any area of the pool without an accompanying adult. She was beside herself with joy at her accomplishment. The girls began with art projects in the grove before joining us in the pool area. After Izzy's excellent lesson, before heading home, the girls had their faces painted--Sami as a bunny, and Izzy as a butterfly.

Mom had warmed up some of the Trader Joe's soup in the microwave before we arrived home and she ate two bowls of it for dinner. Saul had gone and picked up her new medication and after dinner, she allowed him to check to make sure she was taking the correct dosages according to the new plan (a milestone in an ongoing struggle we have had to monitor her medication). During dinner, I spoke with Ari, who called to relay helpful and hopeful information about Mom's condition that he had researched on the Internet. After showering and putting the girls to bed, I spoke to my cousin Bob, who called to find out how Mom was doing. Then, Saul and I put in a few hours on my computer work. I think I will be able to get a good night's sleep now.

3 a.m. Panic Attacks

Instead of calming my fears by telling me why I am being irrational at this hour as he usually does within a few minutes and goes back to sleep, Saul has quickly run out of arguments as to why I shouldn't be having a panic attack. Yesterday morning when I called Mom, she sounded terrible. She said she had spent the night standing at her hospital room door listening to some sort of argument that was going on between the nurse and a patient in another room. She was distraught because her morning nurse had told her that she had gone into afibrillation during the night and that the evening nurse had told her so. She insisted to me that she had not been told and she did not know whether to believe the nurse. As we were speaking, the morning nurse came in and I asked to speak with her. She told me that Mom had indeed gone into afibrillation during the night and was currently in a state of afib. I had intended to bring Mom home and that was now up in the air depending on what the doctors said. I asked the nurse to have the doctors phone me to let me know what they intended to do and when Mom was likely to be coming home. She verified my phone numbers. I told Mom to speak to the doctors and that I would let her know what they said to me. A moment or two later, Mom hung up because a doctor and his assistant had come in to see her. When I offered to call her back in a few minutes to see what they had to say, she told me to wait an hour or two because she was very tired and wanted to sleep for a while after they left.

I spent the next two hours on the phone with Adele and Ken and a number of other people. Saul and I needed to shop to buy supplies after our vacation, especially if Mom was coming home, and it was 11 a.m. before I was able to get myself and the girls together for a trip to Costco. I tried to call Mom before I left and no one answered the phone. A few minutes after arriving at Costco, my cell rang, but I wasn't able to answer it in time. I could tell from the number that the call had originated from Abington Hospital. When I tried to return the call, I reached a general number and the person at the other end put me on endless hold while she tried to figure out who had called me. In the meantime, a message registered and the call was from Abington Home Health Care Services. A woman named Ginny was letting me know that whenever Mom was released, they would call the following day to arrange for health care services and that Mom had refused the part of the service that provided a health care worker to help her bathe and change her bedding, etc. I reached a machine and left a terse message when I called back to say that I wanted all the services that they could provide. Ginny returned my call a few minutes later to say that she had no problem adding that part back into the package. She told me that she had not heard yet when Mom would be coming home. I told her I was waiting to hear from the doctors. I called Adele to tell her what was happening.

We finished shopping and had lunch at Costco. When Larry came home, Adele made arrangements with me to pick me up to go to visit Mom so that Saul could take the girls in the SUV to the swim club. Saul left with the girls at 1:45 p.m. and Adele arrived around 2:30 p.m. When we arrived at the hospital at about 3:15 p.m., Mom was fully dressed, sitting on the bed and pulling on her second sock. She said that they had just told her that she was being released. When I went out to check with the nurse, she said she had just finished the paper work and was bringing it in for Mom to sign. I called my friend, Laura, who was supposed to meet me with some computer work while I was visiting and she immediately came over and helped Adele and me to get Mom from the wheelchair to the car. Considering how wonderful Mom had been for the last two days, I was appalled at how she looked and sounded. She couldn't wait for the half hour ride to be over and was barely able to make the short journey from the car to her bed. We tucked her in fully clothed at her insistence. Adele ate some leftovers for dinner while I napped for an hour before Saul returned with the girls. Both Adele and I were too exhausted and too overwhelmed to start the process of trying to reach doctors who had never contacted us to tell us what to expect when Mom came home and what was the reason for releasing her so hastily.

Before she went to sleep, Mom spoke on the phone briefly with Ken and then with Randi. We had spoken with Aunt Ruth to tell her we were bringing Mom home and I asked her to wait until morning to speak with Mom to give her a chance to rest. Mom slept for a few hours and after we had given the girls dinner and I was cleaning up, Saul went in and woke her to give her a yogurt smoothie (which she drank eagerly) and made sure she took the proper medication. She immediately went back to sleep and each time I checked on her, she was asleep. After we put the girls to bed and I spoke to Ari for a while, I worked on the computer for a few hours. Then I checked Mom at 12:30 a.m. when I quit work for the evening and she was asleep. Then, I checked again at 1:30. I awoke in a state of panic at 3:30 and checked again. She insisted that Saul leave a light on in her room, so at least I can see that she is breathing and comfortable. Now, I blog because I was not able to go back to sleep this last time. Writing about my day has calmed me a bit, but I am very concerned that the reason this all played out the way it did was that the doctor's have decided under the circumstances of her age that there is no more they can do for her and are sending her home to be comfortable in her own surroundings until the end. If that is the case, I wish we could have discussed it with someone before we brought her home so that I have a better idea of how to deal with her exhaustion and what kind of time frame we are likely to be facing. Perhaps that will come today.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Changes Coming

I hope blogging is becoming a good addiction, like exercising or eating healthy foods, because here I find myself at 2 a.m. on Monday morning in front of my computer. At least I don't have to struggle to find bandwidth on borrowed wifi.

Friday morning in Ocean City was bittersweet. We had decided to eat breakfast out to avoid the fuss while packing. With a combination of listings in the local paper and the internet we were able to locate a gem of a breakfast restaurant called Uncle Bill's Pancake House at 21st and Asbury, a mere five blocks from our home. Jess and I walked there, while Saul drove the girls over and got a table right before a camp bus arrived with 40 teenagers who, luckily, had a private room. The place was homey and spotless, decorated with scenes from Ocean City and old time beaches on the walls. The waitress was friendly and efficient, and our food came out exceptionally quickly and exceptionally delicious, eggs poached just right and pancakes large, light and fluffy. Because of the hubbub in the kitchen, one of the kitchen staff happened to come through the restaurant and was wearing a blue tee shirt that said "Got Pancakes?" Jess has a collection of "Got" tee shirts and had just been commenting that this was the first vacation where a new one had not presented itself. She was able to purchase a new one for $10 that they keep on hand to outfit only the kitchen staff. The shirt says "Uncle Bill's Pancakes" on the back and "Staff" on the sleeve.

We had left Alex packing because he usually only has French-press coffee for breakfast, and coupled with an hour and a half of all of us rushing around after breakfast, we were able to lock up and head home by 11 a.m., fully three hours before the 2 p.m. deadline I had anticipated. I was happy to be on the road so early because Adele had called and spoken to Saul. Mom had been feeling weak and dizzy and her doctor had recommended that Adele take her to the emergency room. She evidently resisted for several hours, but by the time we arrived home, Adele had prevailed, and we learned that it was her heart that was causing the problem. The doctors wanted to keep her overnight to monitor her on some new medication for her heart and she was finally persuaded to comply.

Shabbat dinner at Larry's was wonderful! He and Susan had made a special trip to Heller's Seafood in Warrington and purchased incredibly fresh tuna and salmon. We had soup from Trader Joe's, salad, slices of seared tuna loin with a ginger sauce and poached salmon, tortellini with butter, and fresh local white corn on the cob. I brought homemade challah from the freezer, and for dessert an assorted-flavors pie from David's Cookies that I had purchased at the Costco in Manahawkin and leftover chocolate chip cookies. Susan prepared a spectacular tea! She presented me with a special teapot when we arrived so that I can make my own. The process involves this beautiful glass teapot into which is dropped a specially arranged and compressed dried flower and herb ball. As you watch, the ball gradually opens in the boiling water into a beautiful flower arrangement and steeps into tea. I was amazed to see a ring of delicate white jasmine flowers as the petals opened. Knowing how much Sami likes art glass, she and Ted also presented the girls with artist-made glass pendant necklaces, and Ted gave them cubes of white Post-It Notes on which to draw.

The next day, while Saul took the girls swimming, Adele came over and we went to visit Mom in the new Lenfest wing of Abington Hospital. She was sitting in a chair in a private room, bundled in blankets, when we arrived, but her face looked better than it has in a year. She said she had just returned from a long walk around the hospital floor with her nurse. She told us cheerfully that she was feeling better and that everyone had been commenting about the fact that she doesn't look anywhere near 86 years old. Now that her healthy coloring has returned and the pinched look of anxiety about how she was feeling has disappeared, she really does look much younger. When we returned from the hospital, Adele joined us and we went to the King Buffet in Plymouth Meeting. Adele loves Chinese food and the girls love the miso soup and sushi there. We all felt very good that apparently the doctors have pinpointed what has been plaguing Mom and that the medication is apparently working. The girls are happy that G.G. is feeling better and will be coming home soon. I am also happy at the prospect of havng a visiting nurse checking on her.

Yesterday, while Adele and Ken and Aunt Ruth were visiting Mom, Beth brought Brenna over here so that the girls could play at Beachcomber's together. I packed lunch for all of us, but by the time we arrived there, gray clouds had gathered. We wheeled our stuff down to the pavilion and ate lunch on one of the picnic tables there. By the time we finished eating, the weather had turned really ugly and they had cleared the pool at the sound of thunder. We decided to leave and were pulling out of the parking lot just as high winds and teeming rain began. By the time we reached home ten minutes later, it was beginning to hail. The girls climbed into our bed and watched "Rugrats in Paris," a DVD that Sami had borrowed from Larry, while I took a nap on the sofa. After that, Beth sat at the kitchen table and helped the girls make beaded jewelry from kits she had bought them. While she worked with them, Saul and I did some research on the Internet regarding the 2008 Beijing Olympics for Sami's party theme. Unfortunately, the party store circuit has not produced anything appropriate, so we will have to do our own thing. The rain stopped, but the temperature dropped to 67 degrees F, too cold to go swimming. Then, we discovered that we had lost Brenna's bag. Saul and Beth drove back to the swim club, but couldn't find it. The bag contained not only her clothes, but expensive specially-made earplugs. We have our work cut out for us today trying to figure out what happened to the bag. There was a large family there at the same time we were having lunch setting up for a birthday party.

Ken called to say that Mom had been equally good as yesterday and likely would be coming home today. We took the girls to Franconi's Pizza for dinner and then Beth drove Brenna home. Sami and Izzy climbed into my bed and we watched "Ella Enchanted" before I tucked them into bed for the evening. Ken has been crazy busy because his partner, Jeff, has been laid up with a bad back, and in a troublesome phone call from Ari, apparently he also did something screwy to his back while taking out the trash. He was managing to move around on three Motrins, and I am hoping the damage is minor.

In a few more hours, my computer work will begin anew, Mom will return from the hospital, and I will have party preparations and a birthday cake to prepare. So far, the coming week after vacation appears to be manageable, but any number of misfortunes could be looming that could throw a monkey wrench into my life. So far, so good, though. You never really know what changes could be around the corner.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ocean City, NJ, Part 8

Today was our last full day here and it was very full. When we awoke at 8 a.m., it was pouring hard. We immediately went into rainy-day-at-the-beach mindset, but by 8:45 when we finished breakfast, the rain had stopped and the puddles were beginning to disappear from the brisk breeze that was blowing through town. At 9:15 a.m., I decided to take my chances biking and Jessica said she and the girls would join me once they dressed. Then, Alex and Jessica presented Sami, Izzy, Saul and me with gifts they had specially prepared for us yesterday, red embroidered tee shirt coverups that said Camp Bubbie and Saba Camper and Camp Bubbie and Saba Staff. We posed in them for photos on the porch and we can’t wait to wear them to Beachcombers when we return home. At 10 a.m., as we were preparing to leave, we heard distant thunder and Jess told the girls to change into bathing suits to go to the indoor pool at the gym. Saul and I decided we would take a drive into Atlantic City and check out the Borgata Casino, which we had not yet seen. We changed into nicer clothes and Saul sat down to wind up the computer work he had begun, thinking we were going biking, and finished up with Ari. By then, it was past 10:30 a.m. and, lo and behold, the weather had changed yet again into a bright, cool, windy, sunny day. I couldn’t bear the thought of wasting our last nice beach day sitting in a dark casino and I was annoyed that every plan had been thwarted by everyone’s indecision about what to do until almost the whole morning had disappeared. I changed out of my nice clothes into a bathing suit and cover up and headed to the beach by myself. I figured whoever wanted to join me would get their act together, and eventually, everyone did find their way down. Jessica couldn’t believe that it turned out to be one of the best beach days of all. The breeze was so strong that both kites went up without the slightest effort. We also sculpted sand around the girls and photographed them as mermaids.

Alex went back a little early and prepared a delicious tofu and veggie curry over couscous for lunch which we followed with our leftover ice cream sandwiches. After this late lunch, Saul and I decided to spend a couple of hours at the Borgata anyway. The drive was very enjoyable on such a beautiful day. We parked in their $5 garage, circumnavigated and checked out all the restaurants that surround the casino floor and viewed all the Chihuly glass that adorns the place. Then we lost about $15 in the nickel slot machines. The slot machines kept rejecting our dollar bills until we figured out that they only took denominations above $5. We missed the sound of actual coins falling into the metal trays. The hi-tech electronic machines are wickedly complicated and take all the excitement out of winning as far as we were concerned. But, casinos would all go out of business if they depended on people like us to stay in business.

At 6 p.m. we left the casino and at 6:30 we pulled into the parking lot of The Crab Trap thinking we would put our names in for a table and wait for the kids to join us. When we saw the crowds waiting outside for a table, we immediately headed over the 9th Street Bridge (which was open this time) to make other plans for dinner. Jess and Alex had promised the girls that they would take them up on the boardwalk this last evening to let them select non-living (no hermit crabs) souvenirs of their vacation here this summer. We eventually had dinner at Ma France Creperie again, which proved to be satisfyingly consistent. The owner greeted us warmly and seated us at the satin-pillow-lined banquette in the window again. During dinner, Larry Shipper called and invited us to his home for Shabbat dinner tomorrow evening. This eliminates the worry of how to get everything packed up and unpacked tomorrow and still get dinner on the table. We are also excited about the rare prospect of spending the evening with Larry’s sister Susan and her husband Ted. They vacationed with us in Hawaii last summer and the girls still remember Ted’s pocket kite and magic tricks at Sunday brunch at the Princeville Hotel on Kauai.

After dinner, Jess and Alex walked with the girls up to the boardwalk, while Saul and I drove home. I can’t wait to see what they chose as their souvenirs of this summer’s vacation.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ocean City, NJ, Part 7

I think this may actually be a short entry tonight. We went biking early today with Jessica using Saul's bike. He decided to let his knees recover a bit and get some work done learning the new upgrade for his course for the fall. He also has spent quite a few pleasant hours organizing and preparing the photos and videos we have taken. He would have had a grueling ride today as the wind was quite strong which makes peddling difficult and hard on the muscles and joints, like peddling uphill in one direction and coasting down in the other. The weather was gray and misty when we left and I was sure we would have rain pouring down at any minute, but by the home stretch, the sun was breaking through.

When we returned, the girls were happy to just play quietly with each other and with their toys and watch t.v. Alex went to the gym and Jessica went for a walk while Saul and I just relaxed. I boiled some frozen tortellini for lunch to accompany what few leftovers we still have. When we finished lunch, we drove over to Gillian's Wonderland where they have a special deal on Wednesdays from 1 to 4 p.m. For $20 per girl, they each received a bracelet that allowed them to ride any ride in the park as much as they wanted. In three hours time, I think they covered 90% of the rides available, some twice. Izzy has a problem being "under the line" that allows taller, older kids on the wilder rides. Sami doesn't like the really wild rides, but worked up to some of them little by little. Even Alex, who shuns the rides, went on the log flume today. I was delighted to find that Gillian's still uses their apparatus for catching rings at the merry-go-round (see blog of Thursday, May 15 titled "I Never Caught the Brass Ring), although they don't begin using it until after 6 p.m. After three hours, we returned, showered the girls and, after resting for a while, drove down to a tiny Greek restaurant we had noticed on 9th Street called Katina's. We only needed to wait about 15 minutes for a table. The food was classic Greek fare, spanakopita, dolmades, gyros, kabob's, salads etc., all prepared competently with fresh ingredients. The ambience was small taverna. The service was pleasant and friendly--again, a rather successful evening.

We drove over to Jake's Water Ice just in time for the Disney trivia contest this evening. Again, we came in third behind the other two groups to whom we usually lose. We only missed two of the 20 questions. The winners, again, had a perfect score. Ice cream is our consolation. Tomorrow is our last full day here as we have decided to head for home on Friday afternoon so that we can observe Shabbat and avoid the Saturday traffic jam. We are already feeling nostalgic.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Ocean City, NJ, Part 6

Getting online has been very difficult here and we have had to resort to using the available wifi bandwidth either late at night or early in the morning. Some of the choice photos and videos I had intended to post will have to repose in Picasa and my IPhoto Library for the time being.

Yesterday morning we biked to Goofy Golf on the boardwalk and played a round of miniature golf with the girls. It was extremely hot and sunny even at 9:30 a.m. when we began. After we biked home and rested, we changed and went to the beach for a few hours while Alex went to the gym. This time, because of the later hour, we packed a picnic lunch and ate at the beach. After napping we had intended to have dinner at The Crab Trap in Somers Point, which is right over the Ninth Street Bridge. The bridge was closed to traffic when we arrived and we used our trusty navigator to negotiate another route which took us over a bridge at about 34th Street. When we arrived at the restaurant at around 7:30 p.m. we were told to check back with the receptionist in 20 minutes for a beeper and that once we received one, the wait would be about an hour and 15 minutes. Back in the car again with our trusty navigator, we programmed in "nearest available Japanese restaurant" to locate a sushi restaurant in Margate that Ari had researched for us a few days ago. It was only 5 miles away and had a table for six available. Within 20 minutes, we found ourselves seated around a hibachi table in a lovely Japanese restaurant named Mikado. We had edamame, miso soup, seaweed salad and iced green tea. Then, the chef came and performed the usual hibachi tricks such as the "egg in the pocket," "flaming onion volcano," knife juggling, etc. while preparing a teriyaki salmon with rice and veggies for us. I have embedded a YouTube video for those of you who have never experienced this type of restaurant. The chef in this video is a champion and has quite a bag of tricks. We never thought to video our own experience.

Then we were presented with a huge wooden boat artfully arranged with the sushi we had ordered (including lots of bubbles, salmon caviar, for Izzy). Dessert was warm banana tempura with scoops of red bean and vanilla ice cream. The bill was incredibly reasonable compared to our usual sushi feasts at home. Ari always says we have great travel karma. Apparently, the karma is there even when Ari is not. May it always be so! The restaurant was just down the street from Lucy, the elephant-shaped hotel where we used to go to the beach when I was a child. Of course, we took the kids to see it. It has been restored beautifully and looked much nicer than it did in my childhood.

Today, we biked early and went to the beach early. Lunch was cleaning up various leftovers in preparation for the end of our vacation. While Saul, the girls and I napped, Jess and Alex went for a walk and picked up new sunglasses for Izzy who has outgrown last year's pair. They also went to Jake's, answered the trivia question and had water ice. Tonight, we were determined to have dinner early before the crowds. We awoke, dressed, and Saul drove us over to Ma France Creperie on 9th Street next to the Chatterbox. We have severely taxed his knees with all the biking and walking. Again, our travel karma held. The restaurant was quaint and attractive and we were seated at a banquette in the window where the girls reclined on plush pillows. The kitchen was open and we were invited in with the girls to watch the owner prepare our dinners. As it turned out, the owner was born and raised in France and lived in Israel for many years, so she spoke both languages fluently. In the course of the conversation, it also turned out that her French-speaking cousin lives right across the street from the Wellwood International Elementary School that Sami attends in Pikesville, where they are always looking for French-speaking substitutes. Jessica had a phone conversation in the kitchen on the owner's phone with the owner's cousin. Among the dishes we ordered and loved were a vegetarian-based French onion soup; mushroom and swiss cheese buckwheat crepes; apple, fig and brie buckwheat crepes drizzled with honey; mont blanc (chestnut puree) crepes with house-made whipped cream; and caramelized banana crepes with ice cream. The salads were huge and the iced coffee delicious. We guessed at the Israeli connection from the beginning because they had a mint-flavored lemonade called "lemonana." Nana is the Hebrew word for spearmint and is commonly served as a tea infusion in Israel.

We walked a few blocks down to Pirate's Cove while Saul drove and parked right next to the amusement park and joined us. On the way, we finally saw Mr. Peanut, for whom we had been looking all week, and the girls posed for a picture with him. We used up our remaining ride tickets to the girls' delight on the ferris wheel, tilt-a-whirl, roller coasters, etc. Alex spent some money at an arcade to win a stuffed car toy for Izzy and a Kung Fu Panda for Sami. Saul drove us home and after tucking the girl's into bed, we babysat while Jess and Alex went out for the rest of the evening.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Ocean City, NJ, Parts 4 & 5

Thursday morning, Saul and I went biking on the boardwalk ourselves at 8 a.m. Alex had taken Sami and Izzy earlier while Jessica had gone to the gym for a yoga class. After we returned from biking, Jess decided to take the kids to the boardwalk water park since we were waiting for cousin Brenna to arrive that evening with her Aunt Beth and also our friend, Larry Shipper. Saul cannot walk long distances because of problems with his knees, so he stayed behind to work on his preparation for the upcoming semester at Chestnut Hill College that begins next month. Alex went off to the gym. I don’t enjoy water parks and it was promising to be a very hot day, so I offered to walk there with Jess and the kids and then return myself to give me an opportunity for a long solitary walk through Ocean City. Unfortunately, I underestimated the length of the walk. The water park was almost at the other end of the boardwalk, about a mile longer than I would have liked to walk, and I had a difficult time finding shade in which to walk back. It was fun to retrace the streets and landmarks which held so many memories from 25 years ago, though. Jessica purchased two-hour tickets for the park which cost $20.00 for both her and Sami and $16.00 for Izzy. Afterward, she realized that she could have purchased a $12.00 spectator ticket for herself and still enjoyed all but the most elaborate water slide. I was certain she would never be able to walk back home with the two kids after two hours of playing on the slides, and alerted Saul that we should be ready to go and retrieve them when they called, but they returned on foot flushed with excitement over the great time they had had. After relaxing for an hour after my return home, I set the table while Alex prepared a giant salad for lunch topped with hard-boiled eggs, smoked kippered salmon, sauteed mushrooms, and other assorted veggies. We embellished that with various cheeses, such as feta, Comte, and Jarlsberg, and olives. Larry arrived just in time to join us for lunch bearing six-packs of beer among other gifts. The girls napped after lunch and then we set off for the beach about 3:30 p.m. Again, it was a delightful beach day with warm water and cool breezes.

We headed back home at about 5:30 p.m. for showers and a quick dinner. Then we were off to the boardwalk for Family Night. This weekend is Ocean City’s “Night in Venice,” the biggest event of the summer here. Festivities began last evening with various free entertainment venues on the boardwalk, which was packed with people. The girls fed the sea gulls and then watched a magic show. Also among the entertainment was a yo-yo demonstration and tournament, live bands with dancing, singing guitarists, and break dancers. The rising full moon last night was the most unusual any of us had ever remembered seeing. It was huge and glowed a bright salmon color in the deep azure pre-darkness sky. Unfortunately, we discovered that my new Olympus camera was dead. The previous tennants of our house had left some tickets behind for one of the amusement parks. The girls found these “treasures” in their room the first day we arrived. We used them for the merry-go-round and Izzy was able to get onto the zebra she wanted to ride. After ice cream cones at Kohr Bros. we headed home to wait for Beth and Brenna who arrived amidst great excitement over their visit. By 11 p.m. we all settled into bed, Larry and Beth on the two futons in the living room and the girls together in their bedroom sharing beds.

Friday morning after we all had breakfast, Saul and I went biking on the boardwalk again, Alex, Jess, and Beth took the girls biking on the sidewalk (training wheels do not work well on the boardwalk), while Larry walked to CVS for bottled water, sun screen, and ear plugs. When we returned, we called Costco, where I had purchased the camera, and found that we could exchange it for a new one at the new Costco in Manahawkin, NJ. Following our navigator, we found ourselves on a severely rutted uninhabited road when we reached our destination. As it turned out, we were only a 5 to 10-minute drive away from the actual location and there had been a mixup in the spelling of Strafford Park as opposed to Stafford Park. Larry accompanied us there while Alex went to the gym and Beth and Jessica took the girls to the beach. We all had lunch together after I helped the girls shower around 1:00 p.m. We had leftover salad, rice and noodles, sliced salami, and barbecue beef that I had prepared and frozen. Right now, everyone is asleep but me. I am about to join them.

Part 5 When I awoke, Alex and Jessica had almost finished all the preparations for Shabbat dinner. Jess had set the table with our very best paper plates, pretty glass goblets that were here in the house and real utensils which we had boiled when we arrived to kasher them. We dined on homemade chicken soup with matzoh balls (which Sami had helped make last week and we had frozen) sliced smoked turkey in gravy which I had prepared and frozen earlier, veggie pasta with tomato sauce, jasmine rice, and steamed string beans. For dessert, we had leftover frozen squares of chocolate Texas Sheet Cake which I had made with coconut milk and margarine for a previous dinner, along with the same version made with carob powder instead of cocoa powder because Alex is allergic to chocolate, pareve cinnamon buns that Larry had brought from Eiselin's Bakery back home, snickerdoodles that Sami made last week, and cubes of watermelon. We had intended to take the girls to a free magic show down the street and up on the boardwalk, but after dinner, still in their pajamas from nap time, they were having such a good time playing with each other and just being around each other that we decided to just have a quiet movie night at home. We put a DVD of "Mary Poppins" into the t.v. above the fireplace and Brenna fell asleep laying on Sami's lap. We put them to bed after the lullaby "Don't Go To Sleep" that Julie Andrews sings to the children in the nursery halfway through the movie.

Yesterday, Saturday, we all were on the beach by 9:30 a.m., except for Alex, who really doesn't like sand. The weather was beautiful for yet another day. We have been blessed so far with perfect weather. We were having such a great time and it was so early, none of us noticed we were getting a bit sunburned despite the sunscreen. We were treated to a display of dolphins jumping out of the water who swam very close to shore, but of course, every time we grabbed the camera to try to record their antics, we were too late. There was also a helicopter show over the ocean sponsored by Red Bull. One of the helicopters did a complete loop and we were all amazed to discover that helicopters can not only fly horizontally and vertically, but also upside-down. We also were told that Red Bull was being distributed farther down the beach, but we weren't that interested. The girls discovered a multitude of sand crabs burying themselves with the tide and spent a few hours digging them up, playing with them in their buckets, and then releasing them when the water became too warm. The sand at the edge of the ocean was awash in tiny little clams which I at first took to be pebbles until I noticed them quickly burying themselves each time a shallow wave receded. It is encouraging to me that the shoreline is so full of life. One of the reasons we left Ocean City and built a house in the Poconos was that twenty-five years ago, the authorities began declaring the shoreline unfit for swimming because of sewage and medical waste in the water. When we returned home at 1 p.m. Alex had made an incredible salad with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, avocado and various other goodies including mango, and we lunched on lox and bagels from Costco, various cheeses and had Julie's Organic Ice Cream Sandwiches for dessert (also from Costco). After long naps, Larry, Beth, Saul and I headed with the girls to the boardwalk and had a dinner of pizza and fresh lemonade. We took the girls to Pirates' Cove amusement park in front of the Flanders Hotel. Twenty-five years ago, this area in front of the hotel was a derelict swimming pool, the largest I had ever seen. I always wondered how they managed to maintain such a gigantic pool even in its heyday. We began again with a ride on the merry-go-round. This time, Izzy chose a horse with a giant fancy mane and Sami rode a bunny. Sami has always slept with a stuffed white bunny so bunnies have a special place in her heart. A unique and wonderful aspect of this park is that they have smaller versions of most of the big rides. Brenna was afraid of bumper cars because she had bitten her tongue accidentally on a previous excursion. We were able to persuade her to try mini bumper cars and after a minute or two of uncertainty, she really got into it. Likewise with Sami who was afraid of roller coasters. There were two different sizes of roller coasters and she was proud of the fact that she and Brenna rode the smaller one together. Brenna and Izzy rode together on a very large swing ride that rose high in the air and went very fast. I couldn't even look at it. Izzy was in her glory! In the meantime, Jess and Alex joined us and Jess accompanied Izzy on that ride a second time. By coincidence, we bumped into Franco D'Andrea, the wonderful builder who built our house and Beth's. He recognized Saul after we had not seen each other in 15 years! Brenna was also greeted by a woman who recognized her from camp. On the way home down the boardwalk, we stopped so that Beth could purchase two hermit crabs she had promised to buy for Brenna. When we returned about 9:30 p.m., Beth loaded the car and drove home to avoid the Sunday traffic with Brenna ensconced in her pajamas.

We decided yesterday that we had gotten a bit too much sun so we would take things easy today. Also, the crowds on the boardwalk on this big weekend would have made biking difficult. Alex took breakfast duty this morning while we slept a little later. When I awoke, the girls asked me if we could make poi pancakes. They both helped make a batch while I showed them how to cut a whole pineapple into a fancy serving presentation. Then, we all had a breakfast of poi pancakes and delicious fresh pineapple chunks while viewing the end of Mary Poppins where everyone goes out to fly a kite. While we cleaned up and did laundry, Alex took the girls to buy kites. They chose a rainbow-colored box kite and an airplane kite. Saul, Alex and Jess assembled them on the table when they returned and we took them down to the beach to fly. We had some trouble getting the airplane kite to fly. After rinsing off the sand and dropping off the kites, we went to Scully's for a delicious lunch to which Larry treated us. On the way there, Jessica and I stopped at Jake's Water Ice and answered the question of the day--"What Disney movie has the song, 'Let's Get Together?'" We were the first of the day to come up with the right answer (The Parent Trap) and won a free water ice. After lunch at Scully's, we all stopped back there to collect, and order ice cream and water ice. When we arrived back home, we eventually napped. Alex prepared a dinner of shwarma-flavored turkey in warm pita and we ate all the other leftovers as well. Larry decided to leave after dinner as his sister Susan and her husband Ted will be arriving tomorrow for a visit. During our playtimes at home we have been teaching the girls "Cat's Cradle" with a book and accompanying special string. One night, Jessica worked her way all the way through the book creating all the various configurations depicted. Since then, Izzy has been doing various configurations of her own with the string, incorporating toys, feet, and furniture.

We posed for some photos on the steps of our house before setting out for another Disney trivia night. The competition is really fierce and even though we had a perfect score on the first round, we came in third. We purchased some water ice and soft pretzels and while Alex returned home to put Izzy to bed, we went around the back of Jake's where they were airing the movie, "The Incredibles." Eventually, Sami too, became tired before the end of the movie and we walked home with her and put her to bed also. A thick mist has been moving in since last evening and I fear the weather will not continue to be as nice.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ocean City, NJ, Part 3

While I was blogging yesterday morning, Alex gave the girls breakfast and took them out for an early bike ride. Izzy had awakened super early. Sami accidentally ran into a bench on the boardwalk and stunned herself a bit but was otherwise uninjured. Jess was on her way to the gym to work out. She has lost about 30 lbs. so far and promises to blog soon on her adventures in weight loss. Saul and I had some breakfast and went biking ourselves. Sami was happy to accompany us to her credit. Izzy was happy to spend some personal time with Alex.

We returned around 10 a.m. and just hung out until lunch time. We were expecting Abby and Isaac to visit for the afternoon and they were supposed to arrive around 1 p.m. Both work with Alex and are friends and regulars on Shabbat. The girls adore them and were very excited. They had been staying with Isaac's Bubbie in Atlantic City all week. We had leftover Scully's pizza, (which was one of the best I have ever had) and smoked fish and bagels with all the trimmings for lunch. Abby and Isaac arrived around 1:45 p.m. and we all headed for the beach looking like we would be camping out for a week. It was one of the most beautiful beach days

I can ever remember--cloudless blue sky, hot sun, cool breeze, and warmer water temperatures than we have had so far. We were chased by the tide which came up quickly and soaked our blanket, so we left for home and showers at around 5:30 p.m.

We walked about a mile to have sushi at a restaurant Jessica had spotted at 9th and Wesley. It was set up for takeout with just enough room to seat the eight of us on the most uncomfortable seats imaginable--little round wood circles on high metal legs at small round metal tables. We perched there for an hour while the owner and her young son brought us made-to-order sushi in plastic takeout boxes with packets of soy sauce and we drank bubble tea and smoothies. We had a good time in good company and despite the terrible ambience, we all seem to have survived the passable sushi without any ill effects. On the walk home, we stopped at an water ice place called Jake's to enter a Disney Movie Trivia Quiz. Jessica and Abby are wonders at this, and Sami has watched her share of movies dozens of times. The questions were really difficult, however, and we lost to a group of ten adult aficionados who were out celebrating the birthday of the only child with them. Among the most difficult questions were: the name of Cinderella's stepmother, the name of the aunt who was visiting in "Lady and the Tramp," and where Simba said he was going when he was really going to the elephant graveyard. You will have to write to me and comment if you want to know the answers, or you had better be very good at Googling.

Abby and Isaac left after sampling some of the snickerdoodles Sami had baked on Friday, and while Alex tucked the girls into bed, Saul, Jessica and I watched the premiere Project Runway for this season and went to bed.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ocean City, NJ, Part 2

The weather is supposed to be sunny and hot for the rest of this week. We were off on our bicycles by 8:30 a.m. yesterday, but it was very hot and sticky despite the early hour. When we returned at 10 a.m. we needed an hour to recuperate before setting out on foot to experience what they call Market Day here in Ocean City.

Alex left to workout at a gym he joined nearby. The best deal was a family membership for $80 for a month and they have an indoor pool, so we have a definite backup plan for a rainy day. Market Day, which occurs every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. is a clever ploy to draw people on vacation at the beach and boardwalk to the quaint, 6-block long Asbury Avenue shopping district. The town provides all types of entertainment along the street for families with children including, a group of strolling Mummers, a magic show and juggler, a puppeteer, a man in costume on stilts, face-painting, and balloon animals. Our girls had their nails painted in flourescent pink for Izzy and chartreuse for Sami, colors their mother would never let them choose if she were paying for a manicure. We called on Mom’s cell to see how she was doing and reached Randi, who had just taken her for a doctor’s appointment. So far, everything seems to be okay.

We stopped into a craft shop for children where the two of them spent 40 minutes painting the projects they chose: a piggy bank for Izzy and a jointed wooden snake for Sami. Each was $10. There was also an interesting doll shop, so we stopped in to look around for unusual items for Faith, who has a rather unusual doll collection. Alex met us for lunch at the same restaurant, Scully’s, where we had had dinner the previous evening. We really found a winner here on our first time out! The food was just as delicious. They are serving the same types of dishes as everone else in the neighborhood, but doing them really, really well. As we were leaving, I overheard a man saying to his mother, “Hey, Mom! This is Scully’s--the place the mailman told us about.”

Saul and Alex took the girls home for their nap while Jess and I investigated the variety of Naot available in the local shoe store and shopped for clothes. We didn’t buy anything. It was one of those days where nothing was quite right. The walk back was hot and sticky and I napped afterwards for about 2 hours.

When Saul and I awoke, about 5:30 p.m., we found that Jess and Alex had gone shopping at the local supermarket to replenish our supply of fruits and vegetables. They also picked up a wiffle ball set and some sand toys for the girls. After a dinner of brisket (which I had prepared ahead) and leftover rice or pasta and string beans, the four of them set out to the beach to play wiffle ball for a while. Saul and I were still tired and remained behind. He spent the evening on the computer, while I cleaned up and organized around the apartment and did some laundry. The kids returned before dark and I helped the girls shower off the sand before bedtime.

I think I let myself get too dehydrated yesterday. I had various aches and pains and some stomach problems in the evening. I must remember to drink more water today!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ocean City, NJ, Part 1

Early Friday morning, we headed over to Giant Supermarket to pick up lots of yogurt (our friend Larry Cravetz from Beachcombers has pointed out that this American spelling of the word is preferable), kosher chicken and some other odds and ends. While we were at that shopping center, we stopped into Bed, Bath and Beyond to try to find the type of fat-wheeled cart that we have been seeing at Beachcombers to carry paraphernalia to the beach. They were sold out. Someone had told us that they purchased their cart at BJ's. We decided to call BJ's and they told us there were only two left. We put one on hold and since we would have had to wait 20 minutes for Costco to open, we decided to head there first. Since we don't have a membership, we called Adele who does and agreed to babysit Ava with Saul and the girls while Adele and I went to pick up the cart. I also picked up a special beach chair for Sami (Hannah Montana) that was just her size. She had been very good-natured when we bought Izzy a little giraffe chair just for her. They were closing out a camp-type beach chair with a sun canopy that I knew Saul would love. So far, I have been very pleased with my purchases. Going to the beach with all our stuff has been a "piece of cake." Then we headed to Costco for last minute supplies for Shabbat dinner and our vacation. We finally all had lunch at Costco and headed home with our groceries, chairs, and cart.

Saul and Izzy headed off to Beachcombers after setting the table while Sami elected to stay home with me and prepare dinner. First, we made black and white rice. Then, we made the dough for challah. Then we made 100 matzoh balls together. Then we made snickerdoodle cookies. While Sami was rolling the balls of dough in cinnamon sugar, I made chicken paprikash. Jess and Alex arrived about 4 p.m. and Alex made Israeli salad and a mesclun salad with avocado, cucumber, tomatoes, peppers, hard-boiled eggs, etc. and also prepared a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette. I had taken chicken soup out of the freezer to defrost and we added our freshly made matzoh balls to that. When all the snickerdoodles were finished, we made chocolate chip cookie dough and Sami began scooping it onto sheets to be baked. Sami and I made our challot dough into four small braided loaves instead of two big ones to take on vacation. Together, we said the prayer for challot and burned our small piece in the oven. Larry Shipper arrived early also and helped with taking cookies in and out of the oven. With all the organized help, we were able to light candles and sit down to a delicious dinner together by 7 p.m. In between all that, I finished up all our laundry.

Saturday morning, we spent several hours packing. Miraculously, we were able to jam everything into the two SUV's. Saul and I headed out with the girls around 12:30 p.m. Alex doesn't travel by car on Shabbat so the kids didn't arrive in Ocean City until midnight. By then, we had managed to unpack all the clothes, organize the kitchen and make all the beds. With our navigator in our Honda Pilot, and information from our XM Radio traffic report, we were able to avoid the "code-red" traffic on the Atlantic City Expressway and had a delightful drive on back roads that haven't changed much since my childhood. We even passed a beautifully-maintained orange-colored Weber's Root Beer drive-in restaurant that my Uncle Jack used to take me to visit on our way down to Atlantic City when I was a child. We were ecstatic with the condition of the apartment we had rented during the winter. It was spotlessly clean and very well supplied. We had chosen this one on an excursion with Ari after trudging in and out of about six apartments until it seemed we couldn't tell the difference between them. We took the girls for what turned out to be a below-mediocre dinner on the boardwalk, bought them ice cream and tucked them into bed for the night.

The weather was delightful on Sunday. I got up at 6 a.m. with the girls, gave them breakfast and finished organizing the kitchen with all the things Jess and Alex had brought. By 7:30, I sent the girls to wake everybody and we were all biking on the boardwalk by 8:30 a.m. We were excited to find that our old haunts remain largely intact here. We used to take two-week vacations here in July with the whole family from 1976 until 1983 when we built our house in the Poconos. We always used to stop at Brown's at the end of the boardwalk for freshly-made warm donuts coated with "sand" or cinnamon sugar. We waited for an hour in line on Sunday morning just to sample them again. The anticipation made them all the more delicious. By 10:30 a.m., we had returned from biking, changed into bathing suits and were on the beach frolicking in the ice-cold ocean. We left the beach at 12:45 p.m. and while the girls took two showers (one outside for the sand, and one inside) Alex showered and prepared a delicious lunch of lentil fajitas and fresh salsa. The girls gave us no argument when we sent them to nap after lunch. I didn't feel particularly tired when I laid down, but slept for four hours until dinner time. Alex made veggie pasta with tomato sauce and parmesan, and a large salad for dinner. We took a very long walk almost to the end of the wide part of the boardwalk during which the girls had their first encounter with feeding seagulls breadcrumbs.

We bought them softserve ice cream at Kohr Brothers, another institution here, and walked back to our apartment on streets off the boardwalk. We put the girls to bed and hung around watching t.v. for a while, then one-by-one headed off to bed ourselves. I was too tired to blog last night and we only have a wifi signal available in the back areas of our apartment, so it took a while to get the laptop set up in a position where I could be comfortable using it.

Today, I again arose early to give Izzy breakfast (she awakes with the dawn) and prepare for the rest of us. It seemed like it was going to rain and we wouldn't be able to bike, but around 7 a.m. the sun appeared to be breaking through the clouds and I sent the girls to wake up their parents. We were on the boardwalk on our bikes by 8 a.m., but this time we didn't wait around in the line at Brown's. We hit the beach by 9:30 a.m. and stayed until noon. Today for lunch, Alex whipped up jasmine rice in his rice steamer and a chickpea, trumpet mushroom and vegetable coconut milk curry. The girls headed off for their naps without complaint and fell asleep with their arms wrapped around each other. I slept for two hours this afternoon. After some reseach on restaurants in the area, we decided on a place called Scully's about seven blocks away. Their sample menu showed an incredible array of salads and Alex will only eat "cold contact" foods when dining out. Our choice was fortuitous as everything we ordered was exceptionally and surprisingly delicious, generous, unpretentious, and inexpensive. The service was efficient and warm.

After dinner, we headed for an ice cream parlor called "Johnny B Good" for a children's Karaoke night. Neither Sami nor Izzy was interested in singing, but among the usual off-key performers, we were entertained by a little girl about six years old named Lola who was very talented and surpassingly cute as well as an adult woman who should be on American Idol. On our walk back, we were treated to a luminescent pink sunset. The rain held off and today was absolutely wonderful! Everyone has been checking in on Mom and, with the exception of setting off the burglar alarm accidentally, she has been okay. She has kept her cell phone by her side at all times so far as promised. She managed to convince Aunt Ruth not to come to stay with her fearing that the driving would be too much for her sister. Hopefully, she will continue to fare all right for the next two weeks.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Preparing for our Vacation

I called Fine Care and cancelled yesterday. About an hour later, Aunt Ruth called to say that she had spoken to Adele about scheduling coming to sleep over for some of the days that we will be away. She is a nervous driver, but agreed to undertake the ride so that she can get herself to the train station early in the morning to get to work. Adele agreed to follow her here from her house, about 40 minutes away, on Sunday, so that she is sure she will not get lost the first time. It really is a very easy route and only requires two turns that are unfamiliar to her. We spoke for an hour about all sorts of things, including aging friends and neighbors, modern technology, and food. I also spoke with my friend Roxy briefly, who is an avid reader of the blog and who (with a little help from Saul) commented to Samara's Corner yesterday. While we were speaking, she also had a chance to talk with Sami on the phone. Last night, I was supposed to call her and Aunt Ruth, but again, after bedtime for the girls, had no energy left.

We spent about two hours yesterday morning when I finished on the phone shopping at Costco and the supermarket. We had planned to have lunch at Costco. They have an incredible $1.50 giant kosher hot dog with all the trimmings, including unlimited fountain drinks. The girls also love the pizza. One dollar buys a huge pile of crispy french fries which we all share. Unfortunately, it was so crowded that there were no tables available. I spent a small fortune stocking up so that we would have lots of food in our apartment at the seashore, as well as providing food items that would be easy for Mom and Aunt Ruth to access and prepare. When we returned home, in between unpacking and putting away the groceries, we made the girls and Mom yoghurt smoothies and macaroni and cheese. We were hurrying to get everything squared away so that we could get to the swim club in time for clay. Sami loves working with clay! Just as we were about to leave, the skies opened up and it poured so hard that we realized it probably would make clay impossible even under the cover of the pavilion at the club. We put the girls in for naps and told them we would wake them if the sun came out. It did come out full and strong within 40 minutes. We woke them and made the 10-minute drive over to the club. There was only one family with lots of kids there when we arrived and no sign of clay activity. Amy said she would be available to give Sami her swimming lesson in about an hour when she was off duty. Saul, Sami and Izzy played in the pool for about one sunny hour. The clay teacher came and sat next to me after doing her laps and told me that when they were about to set up, it was raining so hard that no one wanted to get out of the car. The few families that had braved the gray skies to be there early yesterday left immediately when the rain began. After about an hour of sun, the skies darkened and we heard a large thunder clap. The lifeguards cleared the pool and deck of people and we rushed, soaking wet, to pack up and leave for home. Sami was not able to have a swimming lesson.

After showers and some t.v. time, Saul made some sauteed wild flounder for dinner and cleaned up the kitchen while I crashed on the sofa with some books. Sami wants to have a fairy-themed birthday party and I was looking through some old Wilton cake-decorating books from my catering days looking for ideas. When I finished with them, I began reading a book that Beth had lent Sami a few weeks ago about fairies, "Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book." I wonder if Beth has actually read the book because the subject matter is not really appropriate for a seven-year-old, although mostly the prurient stuff requires "reading between the lines." I know that Sami has avoided the book because the fairies are a bit scary-looking to her and definitely a whole different breed than Tinker Bell! I enjoyed the book very much, however, and it is just the type of thing that would be in Beth's library.

Now, the only things left to do are to make sure our bicycles are in working order, make sure we have all the bedding we need, and see that all our laundry is done so we are ready to pack up on Friday. After that, there is only the question of how to get everything into our SUV.

Samara's Corner

At the swim club I made a candy necklace and a real necklace. I went off the diving board. I saw: Sandy, Steven, and Ashlyn. I played ping pong. I went to a magic show. I petted a bunny and fed him dandelions. I got a certificate from the magician.

Marilyn's Note: Since everyone who read Sami's blog wanted to try the corn muffins, including Sami's Daddy, Sami wanted to post the recipe we used. Her Saba was kind enough to OCR most of it from the Good Housekeeping Cookbook with some modifications of our own.

Blueberry Blue Cornmeal Muffins

1-1/4 cups sifted all purpose flour
¾ cup blue corn meal
4 Tbsp. granulated sugar
4-1/2 tsp. double-acting baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 extra-large egg
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup sugared fresh blueberries
non-stick cooking spray

1. Start heating oven to 425°F. Spray a muffin/cupcake pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Into a medium bowl, sift flour, corn meal, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
3. In a small bowl, beat the egg well with a fork; stir in buttermilk, butter; pour, all at once, into flour mixture, stirring with fork until flour is just moistened. (Even if mixture is lumpy, do not stir any longer or holes or tunnels in corn bread will result.)
4. Gently stir in blueberries.
5. Use an ice cream scoop to divide batter into greased pan.
6. Bake 20 to 25 min., or until done. Serve hot. Makes 12 muffins.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Heavy Heart

Saul and I were supposed to have fasting checkups with our doctor on Monday afternoon. We had already rescheduled these appointments twice because we had mixed up dates. We arose early to make sure we had finished light breakfasts by 8:00 a.m. to allow us 6-hour fasts as we were told to do. At 10, the doctor's office called to cancel the appointment. Our doctor's wife had gone into labor that morning and was delivering their baby.

Adele came over unexpectedly to take Mom to the bank and to wash and set Mom's hair. She said that Mom probably had not told us she was coming because she was still angry about someone coming into the house to look after her while we are away on vacation. While they were at the bank, I called Aunt Ruth to see if she would consider taking some time off in light of her recent hospitalization to come and stay with Mom. I found that she is planning to go back to work on Thursday. While Adele was here, we sent the girls to take an early nap and we took the opportunity to take a drive together to deliver some work I had done. The weather has been so weird! On the way back, we encountered some of the heaviest rain I have ever seen, but by the time we arrived home, it had barely rained here. We all had a large lunch with the leftovers from Friday evening's barbecue.

In the afternoon, we took the girls to the movies to see Kung Fu Panda. They both really enjoyed it and so did the two of us. I am so happy that the theaters have made real buttered popcorn available again! I haven't been able to really enjoy movie popcorn since I was in my teens. I made a spaghetti dinner when we returned and we spent extra time putting the girls to bed.

Yesterday, we spent a delightful afternoon at Beachcombers, showered, made omelets for dinner and took the girls to a magic show in a secluded local park which we never knew existed. The girls were delighted with the show and were able to pat the bunny the magician pulled out of his hat at the climax.

Yesterday morning, I called Leslie Fine in the morning to tell her that we would decide about the help for Mom by evening. It really is not fair to keep her hanging any longer besides the fact that, at this point in time, she may not even be able to line someone up. Then, I put in a call to both Adele and Ken. Larry said he would have Adele call me back. She didn't call all day yesterday and by evening, after putting the kids to bed, I was too tired to make any phone calls. When I called Ken at the office, they told me he was at home. He had stayed home for several reasons. He has a cold and a sore throat, he was meeting some contractors to redo his finished basement which had flooded, and Randi had taken her father for cataract surgery. He also said he would call back, but I assume he was a bit overwhelmed yesterday. So this morning, I will be calling Leslie to cancel. I have very mixed feelings about all this. I feel that everyone around me has tried their best to be supportive, but they all have their own lives and routines and are as overwhelmed as I am with this situation. I understand Mom's resistance to having an expensive stranger in the house to take care of her. She has always been fiercely independent and this represents a severe challenge to her self image and an admission of infirmity. On the other hand, I am also angry that she has not held up her part of the bargain when we built this house that, when and if the time came, we would care for her here with help rather than send her to a nursing home. So here I sit, wavering between sympathy and anger. I feel that she has decided that she would rather die than accept help in her daily routine. That is a person's prerogative. When Uncle Jack was dying in the hospital and I urged him to fight and assured him that he could come and stay with me again, he told me he didn't think his future quality of life would make the fight worthwhile. I have never been in this position, thank God, so I don't know what I would do under the same circumstances. In the meantime, I will take the next few days to prepare for a vacation that I will take with a heavy heart.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Samara's Corner

In the last 2 weeks I:

I lost my tooth. I took swimming lessons. I saw the movie “WALL-E." "WALL-E" was about a little robot discovering Earth! I made a new necklace for Saba with little beads! I MADE BREAKFAST FOR BETH!!! I made BLUE-blueberry corn muffins, fruit salad, poi pancakes, peach jelly, and no-pulp orange juice. We went to see the movie “Kung Fu Panda," which was about a noodle-seller dragon warrior!!! And we had a bed-time story about Shmuel the delivery boy!!! It was also about Shmuel’s sister, and how Shmuel taught a history class about Israel to meet Marilyn. Another bedtime story from the book, Samantha, was about a cat statue from China named Crow-Chin-Pantha!!!

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Breakfast, a Funeral and the Pool

Sami's breakfast was wonderful! While I was finishing up my blog yesterday, Saul helped the girls set the table, fixed up my wonderful modular Dacor cooktop with the griddle insert and found a bag of blue cornmeal in the pantry closet. Sami and Izzy had consulted the night before and had decided to prepare the poi pancakes from the mix that Beth had brought back from Hawaii for us. Our own supply of the mix from previous trips and mail order had been exhausted. The price has gone up so much for shipping now that I suppose we will have to forgo ordering it in the future. Sami had picked out the fruit that was going into the fruit salad they had decided to make the evening before at Wegman's which included a mango, peaches, cherries, plums, strawberries, and pink lady apples. Saul taught Sami how to make melon balls from our leftover wedge of watermelon and she later learned how to pit the cherries as well.

When I came into the kitchen, we began by making blueberry blue corn muffins. I am teaching the girls fractions with our measuring cups and spoons. They took turns measuring, leveling, sifting, cracking eggs and spraying the pan. The blueberries from Costco are the largest and best I have ever seen. Beth came over when the muffins had just gone into the oven, helped put maple syrup, orange juice, etc. on the table, and took Izzy back with her to help give her dogs a bath. Haley and Eric were borrowing her dog, Yenta, for a few days to see if Haley could tolerate Yenta's hair with her allergies. They want to have a dog, but know for sure that Haley is allergic to Darcy. I warmed up and buttered the griddle, mixed up the poi pancake batter, and ladled the pancakes onto the grill. Then, I helped Saul and Sami finish up the fruit salad. I broke out my last jar of homemade peach preserves, made from Laurel Molen's gift of a case of peaches last year, to spread on the muffins.

Beth was done with the dogs by the time the muffins had finished and we all had a warm, delicious breakfast. Sami even had time to write her menu on our bulletin board. We had found a fruit at Wegman's that none of us had ever seen before called a black velvet apricot. We cut it into pieces to share and said the shehecheyanu over it. It was juicy and delicious. Saul snapped a picture of himself when we commented that he would not be in the photos.

During breakfast, we discussed catching a movie in the afternoon. For a moment, we had completely forgotten about Saul's plans to attend the funeral of Paul's Aunt Henrietta. He had learned about her death from an email notice from our old synagogue and from our friend, Larry Shipper. No notice had appeared in the paper. Saul had decided to attend the funeral with Larry as we all had known Henrietta for many years and greatly admired and respected her for her warm, practical, and down-to-earth nature. By attending the funeral, Saul was able to see his mother, sister, and niece for the first time since October of last year. His mother looks well and was very happy to see him. His sister acknowledged his presence and when he commented on the fact that his niece was avoiding him, sent her over to say hello. Paul did not acknowledge him, but Saul went over to him at the end to offer condolences. Henrietta's son's family and the rest of Paul's family were all very warm and welcoming. In the end, seeing his family and his mother in good health was a relief.

While he was attending the funeral, I cleaned up the kitchen while the girls played upstairs with their toys and dollhouse. Ari had called to say that he was stopping by with his friend, Zach, on his way back to DC from Matt Katz's bachelor party this weekend in the Poconos. Ari was very amused when I commented that Zach looked very different with short-cropped hair. As it turns out, the Zach with the long curly mop of hair whom I have met twice, is a different Zach. Ari and Zach had a bite to eat and continued on to DC. Haley and Eric stopped in see Grandmom for a few minutes while they were picking up their borrowed dog and shortly after, Saul returned from the funeral.

The girls seemed so tired that we sent them to bed to nap for an hour at 2:00 p.m. Of course, they insisted that they weren't tired. We tried to wake them at 3:15, 3:30, and then finally insisted they get up at 3:45 p.m. The weather had cleared up considerably and we decided to go to the pool. It turned out to be a delightful afternoon. Sami had her first swimming lesson and found many kids with whom she and Izzy could play. We lingered until 6:45 p.m. and then went home for showers, leftover pizza, and movies in our bed.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

July 4th Independence Weekend

I did go back to bed and slept for about an hour on Thursday morning. I had to laugh to see that my Google ad for the "Tired" entry was for a cure for insomnia. Adele called at about 9:30 a.m. to say that she and Larry had picked up Aunt Ruth about 1:30 a.m. and taken her to Abington Hospital. Aunt Ruth, who still works full time for the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, had suddenly become violently ill with vomiting and diarrhea, and had fallen on the way to the bathroom, bruising herself terribly in the effort to pull herself up. She convinced Adele to take her to the hospital rather than call an ambulance because she believed the ambulance would only take her to another hospital. Adele and Larry stayed with her in the emergency room for a few hours until she was feeling better and all was under control. Then they drove home and went back to sleep. Aunt Ruth had heart surgery several years ago and I was hospitalized with a blood clot on the day I was supposed to bring her home to my house to recover. She had waited with the surgery until Mom had sufficiently recovered from her second hip replacement. The three of us spent a few weeks together here being pricked by vampires (nice nurses, really) while we all recuperated. So the doctors were very concerned with the effect the severe dehydration she experienced might have on her heart. Each day since Thursday, she thought she would be coming home, but Mom spoke with her last night and they were still holding her. Perhaps today they will release her. She says she has been feeling okay since being rehydrated. There also has been a question, nationally, about salmonella in the food supply. At first the authorities thought that tomatoes were suspect, but now they are not sure from where the contamination might be coming. Three other people came into the hospital with the same symptoms. Because the symptoms ceased after one awful night, however, they appear to be viral rather than bacterial.

The weather looked very iffy and we decided not to go to the pool. After we all put the house in order, Saul made Mom and the girls fruit and yoghurt smoothies for lunch and we headed out for Philadelphia's Constitution Center which was supposed to have special activities for children on the third and fourth. We luckily found a metered street parking space almost across the street from the special building where the Liberty Bell is housed. When we parked at 1:45 p.m. we put 2 hours worth of coins in the meter. The line of people waiting to file past the Liberty Bell was a block long so we immediately walked the two blocks to the Constitution Center which was supposed to have activities for children at 2:00 p.m. After our experiences with Port Discovery in Baltimore, our expectations were probably too high. We were ushered into a special theater with a wordy film presentation much too long for a 4-year-old. The girls were given cards to be punched for each activity which, when filled, would entitle them to free ice cream. The floor exhibits, like the film were not really suitable for young children. There was a small station set up for them to craft star wands. After that we entered a hall of bronze statues of the signers of the Declaration of Independence posed as though they were in the process of developing the document. Once they realized it was okay touch the statues, the girls got into various poses for photographs with them. The other activity involved singing a patriotic song with a karaoke machine, but the song Sami was given was so obscure that she was unfamiliar with the music. The final station involved receiving temporary patriotic tattoos on their hands. They made us promise not to tell Daddy, whom they know disapproves of tattoos. We filled our card and went to the cafeteria to claim our free ice cream. The girls chose vanilla ice cream sandwiches from a case and after they ate them, we exited from the cafeteria.

We walked back through the visitor's center where the girls were fascinated by a holographic image of the Liberty Bell that appeared to be ringing if you shifted your weight from one foot to the other. The real Liberty Bell still had a long line, but we were amazed to find a window in the building through which the Bell was perfectly visible. Why anyone would wait for an hour on a hot day just to file past it is a mystery to me. We returned to the car with 10 minutes to spare and headed home. Because of the traffic, we decided to take Broad Street. We pointed out Temple University where Saul and I both graduated. Then I had the idea of driving through my old neighborhood by way of the route of the C Bus down Rising Sun Avenue. The girls had been asking questions about the home where I had grown up and I decided we would take a photograph to show to Mom. I also wanted to avoid the area of Broad Street where my friend, Sandy Schinfeld, had been killed by a drunk driver a few months ago. The drive looked mostly the same, although Feraco's Pizza where Saul and I would have late dates is no longer there. Hunting Park was filled with people picnicking. The house looks so different with its yellow-painted stone and yellow aluminum siding that I only recognized it by the street address on the house next door. The enormous leafy sycamore trees that used to line the streets were all gone.

We finished up the leftovers for dinner when we arrived home and eventually headed out to see the fireworks at Wissahickon High School's field. The traffic leaving turned a 10-minute drive into one that took an hour. We packed the girls, who fell asleep on the ride home, into bed and went to sleep ourselves.

Friday, we picked up Larry Shipper, had lunch out at a buffet in Abington, and drove to the Warrington Movie theater to catch the movie "WALL-E." We all liked it very much and Izzy actually sat through the whole movie. When we returned home around 4:00 p.m., Saul barbecued hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken and Moroccan sausages while I made pasta salad, beans, fried onions and various other accompaniments for Shabbat dinner. Faith Rubin joined us, as well as Beth, and we had a wonderful dinner, finishing with chocolate cake and oatmeal, peanut butter, raisin cookies I had taken out of the freezer along with Faith's blonde brownies. Izzy, when she woke up from napping, squeezed lemons and limes on the juicer and we made pink lemonade with some pomegranate and grape juice. Sami, who woke up a little bit later, was annoyed that she did not get to participate, so Beth told her she could make her lunch on Saturday. After services on Saturday, at which Sami and Izzy led Alaynu and Adon Olam, Sami was not satisfied with merely warming leftovers in the microwave, so this morning, I will be helping them to prepare breakfast for Beth. Last night, we headed out to Peddlar's Village after napping for a festival and fireworks. By the time we arrived there, it was pouring and after waiting a while to see if the rain would let up, we gave up. On the way home, we had dinner at Wegman's and bought some supplies for breakfast this morning.