I really need to purge some emotions by writing this down.

As some back info, Michael has a swim teacher who grew up in Ashkelon, Israel. Ashkelon is a city right near the border of Gaza, and our swim teacher said he lived only about 7 kilometers away from the border. He says that for him, air-raid sirens and rockets have always just been a part of ordinary life. They face real fighting and attacks there, but he does not worry at all while living in Tel Aviv.

Up until today, I've felt rather blasé about the missiles coming at Tel Aviv. When we heard the air-raid sirens at our house on Tuesday night, for the first time during this current flare-up, Rob and I just sat on the couch. We were not in the mood to bother getting up, let alone run around grabbing children out of beds, for what we felt was just another siren in the midst of all the sirens we're always hearing - car alarms that falsely go off, home security systems getting tripped, fire alarms tripped by smoke from dinner, etc. Anyway, with the time we spent rolling our eyes at the alarm and contemplating how obnoxious it was going to be to get our kids out of bed, we realized it was probably too late to matter anyway. (For the record, we got a notice later saying that particular siren was - oh, yes - a false alarm.) After the fact, though, I did wonder if despite our nonchalance we should act more prudently. So I started asking everyone what they were doing and found that pretty much everyone I talked to was acting more cautiously, some friends even sleeping in their shelters. Rob and I decided that we would quickly get the kids and go to our safe spot if it happened in the middle of the night. (Daytime prudence was never an issue for me...only when I am trying to sleep. What? A missile directed at my city? Wake me up if it lands on our house.) I do not know exactly how big the different zones are for the sirens, but my guess is a couple miles radius. Since we are at the north end of Tel Aviv, we are at the far reach of the range of the missiles from Gaza and don't get nearly as much activity as south Tel Aviv (which is also generally not a target in the fighting with Gaza except in escalated times like this).

I talked to some Israelis about it and they said it sounded like we were acting like Israelis...but that, yeah, maybe next time we should take cover. Coming from the locals, it made me take it a little more seriously. I get the sense that Israelis have a hard outer shell when it comes to the fighting, but they take precautions seriously.

One last thing - there is about thirty to ninety seconds from the time the alarms sound to when the missile could land. So, for me, if I am on my own with my baby, two-year-old, and four-year-old, it isn't too hard if we are all awake and hanging out in the living room. But not so easy if kids are sleeping or we aren't right by a shelter.

Okay, so here's what happened today. I was at the pool with my kids. Michael was getting a swim lesson, Ella was swimming around basically dead center in the pool, and I was holding Jake when the air-raid siren sounded. I had committed to act quickly and get everyone to a shelter, but I hadn't really thought about how to do that with a baby in my arms and two kids in the pool. I looked at the swim teacher and he was not making a move to do anything, just continuing on with Michael. I asked if he knew exactly where at the Rec. Center the bomb shelter was, expecting him to take the lead with getting Michael over to it while I helped Ella and Jake. He just shook his head and said "they're crazy", and stayed put while Michael and Ella, completely unaware, kept swimming.

That is when something caught my eye and I looked up and actually saw the missile and the trail of its trajectory in the sky! I was standing there just staring at it and calculating - no, that's not going to land by us. Right? Right?!? Then I saw a second rocket. No, don't think that one will hit us either. Then I felt sick. Calculating whether a rocket is going to hit near you, while simultaneously  calculating that you are totally helpless to get all your kids to safety in time if did, is pretty bad for the nerves. Then I saw those two rockets hit each other and explode in the air. The second rocket must have been from the Iron Dome! I felt shaky and tingly, kind of in shock. The sirens were still going so then I was like, Michael, Ella, out of the pool, we're going to play the siren game. (Wheeeee! Yay! Let's go play games in a tiny enclosed space in a basement!) I don't think I mustered a very good game face. By the time we got to the steps to where I assumed the shelter might be, the sirens turned off.

I thought it was kind of funny that after all the people I talked to making me realize that I should take the sirens more seriously, then I ended up in a situation where I felt totally helpless, with someone who cared even less than I previously had. I think if the teacher had not been someone who grew up in Ashkelon, then maybe he would have gotten the kids out of the pool and I would not have just stood there watching things blow up in the air. I felt helpless and stupid and shocked. About thirty minutes later I really wanted to have a good cry. IBut since I have kids of course I didn't let myself go into that mode. On the flip side, I can't help but feel it's kind of cool that I saw a missile get intercepted by the Iron Dome. Okay, really cool. I never got to see the northern lights when we lived in Sweden, but at least I can say I saw two rockets explode in the sky in Israel!

Here is what today amounts to for me. I've heard the sirens before. I've heard booms loud enough to rattle our windows. I've seen images on the news and internet. But, those weren't really about war and real people launching real warheads this direction, were they? Not until I saw it with my own two eyes.

Another funny thing about today is that when I went to the basement of the gazebo-like structure where I figured the bomb shelter would be, I did find a heavy duty bomb door, and it was locked. Classic.*

As a last side note to anyone who may read this and feel worried about me - please don't worry. Today shook me a bit, but no one even got hurt. What I saw probably shocked me into taking things more seriously now, even though the reality is that we are all pretty safe still here in Tel Aviv. Unless I go for a drive. Drivers here are nuts!

*post note: Rob found out that the shelter is actually just supposed to be the bathrooms and that the room with the heavy duty door was locked to protect valuables. So I was not actually locked out of the safe room. Although I'd still argue that that room is actually the safest.


About Jake

Jake is such a third child. He is lucky to be born into a busy house with four people to adore him daily. That I am left with little spare time/energy to record everything special about him is a small price to pay for the fact that he gets more people to love him, right? At least that is how the story will go when one day he notices he has about 5% of the mountains of documentation dedicated to his oldest sibling.

As a newborn, Jake was a very chill little fella. He would even stay calm during middle of the night diaper changes. Even the cold wet wipes on his bare bum didn't phase him.

I coslept with him for 7 weeks. For the first month he was probably awake more at night than the day, so I was up and down with him all night long. Besides that, when he was sort of sleeping, he was the NOISIEST sleeper ever. So much grunting and meowing and barking and chirping and oinking. But hardly ever a cry during the night. Funny, because he would cry during the day. But at night he did not, even during those diaper changes when he was pooping like 5 times in the middle of the night. He is just so good natured.

After a couple weeks he started to get pretty fussy, which lasted for the next two months. Then one week he just came out of it like magic. I love when that happens. And now he is back to being our happy, chill little guy.

Michael calls him a "Likey Boy". He says "Jake, you're a little Likey Boy, huh? Because you just like things." Michael has surprised me with just how much he adores Jake. He loves to tell people about his baby brother. On multiple occasions, Michael has given speeches to complete strangers, like a store cashier, about his adorable baby brother, telling them about his adorable smile and how cute and tiny he is. Michael has even wished to share a bed with Jake so they could snuggle at night. He says he can't wait until Jake is old enough to play with. Once we were driving, Jake was crying, and I said something about how glad I was that this will be our last baby to have to deal with crying in the car. Even through the loud crying, Michael said it made him sad that I said that because he loves having the baby and wishes we could have more and more kids. One of those moments of getting totally schooled by my offspring.

Jake adores Michael right back and gets overjoyed when he is around. Despite the above story, usually Jake does not cry in the car. Today I dropped Michael off at a friend's house, and as soon as he was gone, Jake started crying. Then on our way back to pick him up, Jake cried the whole way, but magically stopped as soon as Michael got in. Michael sits in the back row so they can see each other. And now I understand the reason behind the fact that Jake cries in the car much less than Michael and Ella did.

Ella also loves Jake and likes to sing and tell him stories. Sometimes she wants me to put him down, and when I am reading to her she doesn't like him to touch her. But all-in-all, the jealousy issues have been much more mild than I was geared up for. Nothing even close to the crazy jealous behavior Michael had when Ella was a baby.

I can hardly believe it, but he is starting to suck on the exact same two fingers as Michael and Ella. When Ella chose the same fingers as Michael, I thought it was a cute coincidence. At 2.5 months, I figured she was too young to do something like that intentionally. But a couple weeks ago, Michael was sitting next to Jake with his fingers in his mouth. Jake was studying him intensely, and then he started to work his same fingers into his mouth. He did the same thing a few days later when examining Ella. One thing I have learned more and more with each subsequent child is that they have much, much more going on upstairs than is apparent.

Jake has a single transverse palmar crease on both hands (one line that goes straight across the palm). The nurse who pointed it out told me "Oh, look, he has a simian crease. That can be an indicator of genetic anomaly, like trisomy 13. But he seems fine, so it's just an interesting feature." Thanks, nurse! For quieting the mind of a fragile new mother. Anyway, clearly he is just fine and I was over any worry quite soon. But, advice to the nurse: if there is an interesting feature on a totally healthy baby, let's not point out it's association to genetic disorders to a mother fresh out of labor, shall we? Now I love his special little crease and love to run my finger along it.

Sometime within his first week, I laid him down for tummy time on the floor for the first time (or nearly the first?), and almost immediately he rolled over onto his back. I thought it was a funny little accident and put him back on his tummy, and he did it again. Turned out not to be a fluke - even though he doesn't do it every time, he's continued to roll onto his back intermittently since the very beginning.

For the first couple months, white noise was Magic on him. Truly magic. The first time I tried it he had been crying for a while and I turned on an Ocean Waves sound track. He went from crying to knocked out sleeping within 3 seconds. It was like chloroform. It continued to work like that for several weeks, often with the same immediate effect. It was AWESOME! We downloaded the track onto Rob's iPhone and it rescued us in several car trips.

I LOVE the miracle blanket and have used it with all my babies. It helps a lot with soothing them and they can't wiggle out. It is a swaddling blanket that is like a straight jacket. Michael was a very wiry baby and even he could not get out of it, so I thought it couldn't be done. But then, at two months, Jake started getting out of it. He seemed to like getting swaddled and I never heard him make even a grunt with getting out. But when I would go in to feed him in the middle of the night and morning, he would have out an arm or two. He's a little Houdini. So I stopped swaddling him at 2.5 months, much earlier than my other two.

Traveling from Utah to Israel with him stunk about as badly as I thought it would. Nine hours of time zone changes! Blech. Of course he had his first good night of sleep the night before our trip. The flight itself actually wasn't so bad once we finally got into the air and the motion + white noise knocked him out. The hard part is once you are home and you are desperate to sleep but your baby is not. Then I was also worried about all the bad habits I was creating with him out of my desperation to  get some sleep.

He still wakes up twice at night to feed. During the day I often have to feed him every 1 - 2 hours, which seems ridiculous to me for a 3 month old. The problem is that when he is wakeful and hungry, he eats just enough to be satisfied, but then is too social and will not take more. Later, when he does want more he is tired and falls asleep and so again I can't get him to take more. I don't know how we will ever get out of this cycle where I feel like I am nursing him all the time. I have learned by this child not to care too immensely. Pretty sure there will be a time when it will work out rather naturally.
He's REALLY into the World Cup right now.


Father's Day Video


My Mother

I recently had the plush existence of mooching living with my parents for three months so that I could be in the US to have my baby. Spending regular, everyday moments with my mom, now under the role of a mother myself, renewed my appreciation for what an incredible mother she is.

My mom is the most patient person I have ever known. That quality, patience, was not passed down in the genes to me. I am mesmerized by how fully she owns it. I even, on occasion, get impatient on her behalf when I think she has every right to lose it. But she is patient with me about that. Anyway, an amazing thing happened when I became a mother. I became patient. My kids have thrown all sorts of tantrums, broken things, soiled things, worn me as thin as a wire from sleep deprivation, etc. Lately I have to get Ella dressed about 5 times in the morning because she keeps deciding something is wrong with every outfit we put on. And the crazy thing is, *most of the time*, I find myself acting like my mother in these situations. It's amazing. She never taught me any of it except by her constant, calm example. I am not a patient person, but because of her, I know how to be patient with my children. It is one of the greatest gifts she has given me. When I do lose my cool, I am acutely aware of how ugly it is. Because of her, I understand intuitively that patience is the best way - and children require so much of it! (Unfortunately, a big difference between my mom and me is that she is patient pretty much ALL the time, and with EVERYONE. If she ever seems ruffled, someone has seriously crossed a line.)

Another beautiful quality of my mom is how non-judgmental and unimposing she is. I am an extremely independent spirit who quickly butts up against being told to do or be anything other than what I've decided on,  so my mother was a match made in heaven for me (both literally and figuratively, I suppose!). I feel that she always gave me a safe, warm, and open environment to be whoever it was that I wanted to be. When I was very young, maybe 5 or 6, I saw my brothers playing baseball and decided I wanted to play baseball also. So she signed me up and let me play on an all-boys team - and my mom is pretty far from being counter-culture like that. She was just supporting what I wanted to do. She never batted an eyelash at my tom-boyishness. She just let me be me. In fact, the only way I can think of in which my mother ever intentionally molded me was when it came to moral issues and in teaching me the gospel of Jesus Christ. She did not compare me to others, did not compare me to siblings, simply did not ever judge. What an incredible gift! I think the only times she did speak up about what I was doing was in issues of morality, spirituality, or safety. And because she reserved judgement for only issues where it mattered, I sensed it and respected it instead of butting up against it as I would naturally be inclined. (Although in matters of physical safety, I know I brought her near to tears with worry on too many occasions, and now I am going to pay for it with a son who is even more reckless than myself....sigh.) And now, even after living with her for three months with my own children, I never once felt judged on any matter involving my own kids or my mothering of them, either.

Anyway, I could go on for quite some time if it weren't for the three little ones of my own. I just wanted to put in writing a portion of my reflections on what qualities have made my mom such a great mom. What's interesting is that it has nothing to do with anything she has done, but everything to do with who she is. I hope that more of her rubbed off on me while I got to be with her these last three months!

Happy Mother's Day mom, I love you. 


Hi Jake

Jake was born on March 20th.  So far he has been a way easier baby then the other two were.
In honor of Jake's birth we got some family pictures.  Enjoy.


Slow Dance to Three Little Kittens

I'm not sure if this video passes as even mildly amusing to others, but Rob and I were in hysterics watching it together.
Yesterday I called Michael and Ella in for lunch and neither responded. I peeked into the sunroom to find them embraced, swaying in perfect unison to the music. Not wanting to ruin the moment, I just sat there and watched the perfect moment from behind the window, trying to stifle my laughter (an impromptu slow dance to Three Little Kittens!) and also almost in tears at the sweetness of it. And then Michael hit repeat and they did it again! By the third round I was willing to risk sneaking a video through the open door, and this is what I caught of their third slow dance together. I'm quite amused at Michael's kisses, Ella wiping them off, and then her perplexed look when she gets pushed away at the end of the dance.
Sweet siblings...



Some things we've been up to in the last month or so that we happened to catch on camera (from end of November to today):
Church at the Jerusalem Center
At a stalagmite cave in the Jerusalem forest

I should have known better than to think we could decorate gingerbread houses  and expect that the kids could wrap their mind around keeping them as a decoration. 

Michael was pretty proud of the decoy (pillows under the covers) he fooled me with during our game of hide-and-seek.
We all love the massage table. The kids think feeding each other through the head hole is soooo much fun.

London trip - Rob took Michael to a Premiere League soccer game.
While Rob and Michael were at the soccer game, I thought I would have some special time with Ella. But all she wanted to do was sit in her stroller holding her balloon while we listened to music. She kept wanting to sit there for at least a half hour. I ended up reading a book. After a child like Michael who craves constant attention, her independence confounds me.  
 Rob and I at our annual date to the Nutcracker, this time in a London theater, where we celebrate one of our first dates ever. I think back to each year we go as a snapshot in our life together. This year this picture reminds me of our trip to London to get a taste of Christmas while living in a non-Christian country. My lack of fanciness and jewelry will remind me of having two young children who timed epic tantrums perfectly so that I would not have time for such niceties like dressing up, plus a big pregnant belly so that I cannot fit into any of my nicer dresses. I get teary-eyed at least once every performance, thinking of all these snapshots over the years since the one we fell in love. 
Buckingham Palace 
The Tube - Cousin Preston, Ella and Michael
Fascinated by the trains. Michael still practically has the Picadilly Line memorized.
Michael's Christmas jersey
New Year's Eve celebration. Most Israeli's don't celebrate the western calendar new year, so we came up with our own celebration. I happened to find some unused bottle rockets on the beach several months ago, and sparklers can be bought at the grocery store year round here. So we lit some stuff at the beach with the kids, had them in bed by 9:00 and called it good. 
Today. A beautiful beach day in January. My favorite thing about Israel. The water is a little cold, but Ella really wanted to put on her swimsuit and go on the surfboard with Rob anyway.

 A funny note from tonight:
Ella was playing with her dolls and I heard her making smacking noises all over them. I was thinking she was doing some sort of funny kisses, but then she looked up and said "Mom, I'm a predator. I eat animals and babies."
Later she put the baby dolls on a tray and was sliding them under a chair. She informed me that she was baking them in the oven.
She's fooling us all with her sweetness!


10 things about my kids

A list of 10 things about my life with my kids lately, just because I'm in the mood...

Ella, 2 yrs 4 mths:
1. In the last couple weeks, Ella has grown up by about a year. She started refusing her booster seat/tray table at the dinner table, she potty trained, and she is no longer in a crib. I did NOT intend to tackle all these things at once - she suddenly became too cool for a booster seat at the same time that I realized that I must potty train her NOW (our life will be turned upside down in a couple months between long-term traveling, having a baby, and then an international move...so I felt it was now or never). At which time she started trying to climb out of her crib for the first time ever and it became a matter of safety to turn it into a toddler bed.
So suddenly there was a circus act to deal with getting her to stay in her seat at meal times, stay in bed at bedtime, and getting her to use the potty - all at once. Fun times.

2. She will pull her pants down to her ankles as soon as she realizes she wants to go pee - then waddle like that across the house to get to the bathroom. So cute. She also keeps putting her head into the toilet when she watches it flush. Gross. I'm having a hard time convincing her to change her ways.

3. Long story short - I got an unexpected ring on the doorbell last week. Someone was calling for me from over our fence (our whole property is fenced in to the sidewalk), asking if this was my little girl. I opened to the front gate to find Ella waddling around the sidewalk next to the busy street - WITH HER PANTS DOWN AROUND HER ANKLES. Oh. My! I was so grateful for that stranger (and grateful it was a stranger...if you know what I mean). Ella was happy as a lark and said she just wanted to go look at our friend's car. Neither of my kids has ever even flirted with going out our front gate until that day, so I was utterly surprised. Now it is on lock-down from the inside, too.

4. When she decided she had to pee while we were at the park, she just started running waaaaaaaaaay out in the distance to the bathroom all by herself, until she was quite far away and I realized what was going on and ran over to her. She is such an independent, free spirit.

5. I stepped on something sharp at the beach and let out a yelp when it got stuck in my toe. Ella was immediately by my side, hugging me and sweetly telling me everything was going to be okay and that "in five minutes it will be all better". She was so concerned and so nurturing. She stroked my face and made everything peaceful like she's a mom herself.

6.  When I show the slightest sign of irritation, she says "But mom, why are you furious?". I have no idea where she came up with that choice of words. Tonight I was irritated that she came out of her room after we'd put her to bed, and she said "Mom, but why are you infurious? It'll all be okay. Oooooh, you should just be happy. It's all alright.", as she gently stroked my arm, making me wonder how in the world such a sweet creature could ever cause me frustration.

7. She is learning stalling techniques at bedtime. She calls us back into her room for questions like "What do animals eat?" and "What is Willy Wonka doing right now?" and "Mommy, are you mommy?". 

8. She loves to go grocery shopping with me and is the most perfectly behaved little angel every second we are in the store. Shopping used to be the activity I did solo on the weekend while Rob watched the kids, until she started requesting to come. It's like she instinctively knows it is a special privilege not to be messed with, so she is perfection in the store.

9. Every time I put her in bed, she barrages me with a chorus of "Goodnight mommy, I love you, I love you three, I love you infinity, I love you, good night..." - the whole script repeated like a broken record anywhere from two to ten times in her squeaky sweet voice. Even though it is utterly adorable, sometimes I have a hard time listening to it ten times before I am allowed to shut the door when it happens to be after a middle of the night visit.

10. She is my imaginative child, and almost always caught up in her world of make-believe. She designates new favorite friends often, and it can be a cat puzzle piece or an elephant magnet just as easily as a stuffed animal or doll. Her bed is often full of puzzle pieces, pictures, magnets, dolls and stuffed animals.

Michael, 4 yrs 2 mths:
1. He still has the compulsion to get completely nude - socks off and all - whenever he has to do his business. (Is that mean to blog? It's just kind of funny.)

2. He loves games. He wants games, games, games, all the time. He eats up all the math games I make up for him and I revel in the way he lights up and asks for more. I love sharing my love of numbers and my love of games with him. When I was a kid, I used to love making up games and making my little brother play them with me. So I love that he loves games also. (Unless it is Chutes and Ladders or Candyland, in which case I want to hide when he pulls them out. I pretty much always cheat with arranging the cards so that we pick some good ones early on and get it over with faster.)

3. In the last month he is starting to show initiative with helping out around the house more, loving to help set the table, dust, sweep, etc. Which is wonderful and terrifying at the same time. It isn't always easy to let kids "help" when it takes so much more time and energy than doing it myself. I have to paste a smile on my face when I am sweeping and he goes to grab his own broom. At the same time, he is getting better and better and it is absolutely astonishing to think that my baby will soon truly be contributing to an orderly house. Nah...could that really be?

4. He loves to perform. We had a primary program in sacrament meeting at church last month and he was a ham, clearing his throat and reading some of his lines in a silly way. He asks every week now when he will get to perform again. Not a shy bone in his body.

5. He likes to rate everything on a scale of one to ten. He handed out an 11 for the first time to a friend's house who has an arcade. He told me that I should build one for him, and said "if I had one then I would play it every minute of every day. Can we get one, please?" Poor kid put the nail in his own coffin with that statement. He obviously hasn't yet learned the subtle art of negotiation.

6. He still goes wild when we go to the beach and rolls around in the sand like a madman.

7. He loves us to read chapter books to him before nap and bedtime, which has made reading to him so much more fun. We recently read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory twice because as soon as we were done the first time, he immediately wanted to read it again. It was so much fun to reread this childhood favorite with him and watch the movie together. It is so much more fun to be the mother of a four year old than a baby. I think I would have been better off when Michael was a baby if I'd had four-year-old Michael with me then also.

8. He still sucks his fingers, snuggles his bearsuit, and wears a diaper at night. There is a pretty stark contrast of how old he acts in some ways compared to things that haven't changed since he was a baby. I've tried a lot of different things with the night peeing and haven't had much success. I haven't even begun to try to get him to stop the finger sucking at night because it feels impossible and I dread it.

9. When he dances, he is all over the floor like a break dancer.

10. He is fearless on his bike. There was a high curb with a little chip in it, which he decided to treat like a ramp (not even close) and tried to ram his bike right up it. Of course he crashed, but he didn't really seem all that deterred. He is going to be a blast to take mountain biking in a couple years.



November Rain

Rain is so much more fun when it can run down your bare skin and feel good. I so love our warm climate. My kids love playing in their rain boots and were so stoked for actual rain to play in with them. These pictures remind me so much of my own childhood in southern California.

Nothing to do with this post. Fairy Ella.


Dancing Robot

I'm pretty sure it was nearly a year ago that Michael saw a picture of Rob and I in robot costumes and decided he wanted to be a robot for Halloween. Month after month he has kept this idea in his mind and not wavered an iota in his desire to be a robot - which is fascinating to me considering how whimsical and fleeting most ideas from 3 and 4 year olds tend to be.
Naturally, Ella wanted to be a robot, too. She also wanted to be a butterfly. And the beauty of homemade costumes is that I could make that happen.
The costumes are semi-complete because I didn't think the kids would fare to well in a bulky headpiece. My favorite thing about Ella's costume was that once we added the light to the control panel up front, it lit up a green circle on the ground about a foot in front of her. She kept trying to step on it as we walked around, and it really kept her moving! I think that is the fastest, most decisive walking she has ever done. So I'm now considering taping it to her shirt anytime we walk somewhere.

Michael got his dance button pressed a lot this night, and he performed almost every time. It was awesome!

Sideways video....ooops. I thought I could rotate it but can't figure it out. Ella's tagline as a robot is "I am a robot, you have pretty eyes!". She got it from a book about a kid who dresses up as a robot. I think she's got the robot voice nailed.

Showing off his rocket boosters


Girls With Guns

We took a road trip to the Golan Heights, at Israel's northern boarder, to check out Banias Falls
and Nimrod's Fortress.
My sneak photos of girls with guns
The hike was beautiful and fun, and exploring the tremendous Nimrod's fortress (from the 1200's) brought out our inner Indiana Jones. But the most memorable part was all the young adults (although 18 yr olds look like kids to me now) casually hiking around with rifles. Big groups, all dressed casually in civilian clothes, texting on their phones, listening to ipods and playing around...with huge weapons hanging from some of their shoulders like a mere accessory. We asked someone why they would carry rifles on a casual outing to the waterfall, but his vague response was sort of like, why wouldn't they? The obvious guess is that they were kids young adults in the military...but it still seemed funny for a just-for-kicks trip to a nature reserve. (At least the guns were not loaded.) The area is right on the boarder of Lebanon and Syria, and at times during our trip we could hear loud blasts echo through the canyon from beyond the boarder, just a few miles away. It was a surreal reminder of what is other people's reality, day-in, day-out, just on the other side of the mountain. And a peek into the crazy things to which people right there where we were are accustomed.

Exploring a tower of Nimrod's Fortress


Sensory Table

A couple months ago, I found a good deal on a tall coffee table from Ikea and decided to make it into a sensory table. I finally had a good excuse to use our round power saw (is that what it is even called?) and I'd say that cutting up a table with a power tool was definitely the most fun I've ever had doing a project. Happily, the kids have also had hours and hours of fun with the result. Even without the sensory bins inside, a table with two holes has been fun for the kids all on its own. I can't thing of any other toy or activity that has captivated them for such long stretches of time that require ZERO help or attention from me.
Table + bins: $31
Hours of cooking dinner uninterupted: priceless

Black sand and a pretty collection of colorful rocks

This last picture is with water marbles, which even I can't get enough of running my hands through.
We've also tried rice (colored and scented with Kool-Aid) and seashells.
I got a little kitchen scale, also on the cheap, and hopefully someone, sometime, will learn something about measuring and weighing from it. But if so, it will be on their own, because this is one activity that I revel in doing nothing. (Besides clean up...which is actually far from nothing.)


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