Old Friends

Just recently I was lucky enough to have one of my best friends, a college roommate from over a decade ago (!!!) come visit with her husband who was also a good friend. I'm so glad we live in a place with travel appeal! I had fun getting to explore Galilee and Nazareth with them, but of course the best part was getting to talk and talk and talk. There are few things in life as good as a true friend from the past!

Dana and I at the Sea of Galilee. I have never seen water so abundant with fish - huge schools everywhere and so many of them were jumping up through the surface.
At the Mount of Beatitudes. Ryan read the Beatitudes as we sat on the mount and it certainly made me listen to the familiar verses with a fresh perspective.


Snow White

A few nights ago Ella wandered off as I was reading Michael a book. I heard Ella banging around with the broom and figured she was just being cute practicing her chores. When I finally went to see what she was up to, I found her with a huge smile and powdered white in flour from head to toe. The kitchen, dining room, chairs and tables were all covered in flour like a bakery had exploded. There was also a broken jar of peanut butter, for good measure. It was one of those epic messes I will never forget - it took me the better part of an hour to clean up. What kept me smiling as I cleaned, however, was finding that she had also emptied the drawer with the wash cloths. Wash cloths were all over the mess in her attempt to clean it up, in addition to the broom.

Lately I've been finding wash clothes all around the house. At first I was confused, but now I know who the culprit is and understand the wonderful intentions. It makes me laugh every time I find a stray washcloth now.

Other things about Ella at this utterly adorable phase of her life:

She calls the bookcase in her room her "suitcase".

She has learned that asking nicely is the way to go. She has a special sweet, extra squeaky voice she uses on command to be polite, always with a "mommy, please". If she is having a tantrum, she can even stop herself mid-meltdown and change to her special squeaky nice voice to make her request. I think she could bring peace to the middle east with that voice.

I want to get everything about her on video, but anytime she sees the camera she stops what she is doing and chases it. This is what I got for trying to catch her being adorable in some bunny ears.
Ooooooooo, camera!

She is steaming full throttle ahead in the "DO IT MYSELF!" stage. Going to the grocery store with both kids is about the worst idea anyone could come up with right now. Yet I keep doing it for little items and thinking that it's just for xyz, we'll be in and out. But it has not been pretty lately.

It seems like if I actually want to move quickly somewhere, she bullheadedly insists on walking. If I have my arms full of 50 things, then holding her is the only acceptable option. Diaper changing, sunscreen, or clothing always sends her running. Cooking dinner turns her into a koala bear. I have actually suggested changing her diaper when I am cooking dinner as a clever way to send her running so that I could cook.

She loves to put things away and loves singing the clean-up song while she works. She loves finding trash and throwing it away herself. She's a great helper these days with diapers.

She is so nurturing with her stuffed animals. She puts blankets on them, gives them drinks, takes them for rides, etc. I find this so fascinating because I hardly understood the point of stuffed animals with her older brother.

But she also loves trucks and watching sports with Rob, so it's not all stereotypical around here. When Rob was playing football she would get ecstatic about going to his games.

I think going on little walks, where she gets to walk the whole thing and we take our time and she can explore, is probably her favorite activity. I remember it was Michael's obsession at that age also.

If she sees an animal that doesn't run away immediately (there are a LOT of stray cats here), she almost always proclaims "He likes me, mommy. He likes me!"

Today she called Rob's watch "Daddy's time machine".

If you go to give her high five, she will decline and request high tens instead. 


The School of Chocolate

The School of Chocolate started a few weeks after we moved to Israel.
It started pretty simply, before any of our things that we shipped here had arrived. We were looking for something to do and since he had become aware of other kids his age going to some mysterious place called preschool, we decided to play school one day. We wrote down 5 or 6 subjects on a paper and improvised what to do with each subject from there. One of the things on our list was "snack time". We decided on chocolate milk. I was having such a fabulous time that I splurged and threw in a few M&M's. We giggled together over how much we loooooooove chocolate, how much fun we were having playing school, and there we christened The School of Chocolate.
For a couple of weeks, he wanted to play The School of Chocolate every waking hour. It felt a little backward at the times I had to tell him no to playing school. He has mellowed out about it, but half a year later he is still really, really into it.
Half a year ago
Today. Still going strong!

It has become one of the staples in our life together and something that makes this phase of my life wonderful. It has been such a fun way for us to interact and bond. It also somewhat diminishes those nagging feelings I can get over the fun he misses out on in real preschool.
It has advanced from it's roots of scrap paper and borrowed toys. We have long since moved in, gotten all sorts of supplies, toys, and games. But the heart of it has remained the same - it is a game. And we keep it very simple - we write up several subject ideas and improvise from there. Everything is games and play and what he is interested in that day, that moment. I try to involve Ella in parts, and Michael loves getting to teach her. I have Pintrest-worthy ideas sometimes, but it doesn't matter if I don't. We've explored multitudes of ways to have a treasure hunt, every variation on hop-scotch, and scouted every random thing there is to notice on the walk around our block.
Many times, he will ask me to play The School of Chocolate, and then rattle off a detailed, numbered list of all the subjects he wants to do.
Of course it always involves something chocolate with our snack or lunch.
Sometimes we are busy with other things and we roll through 6 periods of school in 15 minutes. Other days we play for hours and might turn a regular old park trip into "P.E.".
It always starts with him as the teacher, blowing the slide whistle and calling, as if to a big crowd, "Children, come in, The School of Chocolate is about to begin!" I come in and he tells me the first subject. He usually hands the teacher role to me after that.  
He likes to blow a whistle in between subjects, too.
When we drift away from what we were doing with "school", he'll often ask me "mommy, are you still the teacher?" I'll ask him whether he wants me to be or not. He almost always says yes. Many times this happens right before naps, so the teacher sings his Little Monkey Michael nap-time song and kisses him to sleep.
Sometimes even when we aren't playing, Ella likes to call me "teacher-mommy".
Today we didn't have any plans, so we had a full blown School of Chocolate day. It was particularly fun and ideal today (in the not-overly-perfect sort of way). As I tucked Michael into bed tonight, he asked me what we are going to do tomorrow. I revealed the exciting news "go to the Super Park. Does that sound like fun?" (It is an AMAZING park with slides three stories high and zip-lines and the works.) He paused and replied, "no, not really". Surprised at his replied, I wondered why not, and he replied that he really just wanted to play School of Chocolate again tomorrow.
Love of my life. May he never grow up and leave me for real school!


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