In The Blink of an Eye

Today is my son’s 16th birthday.

The years have flown by while the days (many of them at least) have moved more slowly. If I think really hard I can just remember that desperate need to have a child. The road to conception was not easy and when at my very lowest point I feared that it would never happen I just couldn’t believe it would be so. I remember taping up pictures of babies all around my bed and getting a pregnant girlfriend to roll around on the bed. Positive energy, all of it. I also remember the fertility treatments, the ups and downs of each cycle. My specialist looking me in the eye and telling me
that I’m a very fertile woman. I looked back at her in disbelief, four children turned
me into a believer. I remember hating every woman who complained about the appearance of her pregnant body.

Then the joy and the fear. The joy of being pregnant. Even the nausea was welcome, it meant pregnancy. It made me popular with my nieces and nephews as I always had Jolly Rancher candies in my purse – the sour seemed to ease the nausea and the candies did not bother my teeth like the lemon slices. The fear of the delivery. Why do all women need to share their horrible labour stories with pregnant women? Just don’t do it. It’s mean.

A panic attack before induction – a quick call to my sister to calm me. An epidural and an easy delivery less painful than a teeth cleaning. A wonderful, beautiful baby boy with huge feet. My first miracle baby.

A love so intense that I knew I had to have another baby so that I would divide my focus and give this child some breathing room. But oh the joy of an unconditional love like no other.

Falling in love with my husband all over again as I watched him become Daddy. Seeing that his love for this baby of ours is as intense as mine is, he just always appeared more relaxed about it than I did.

16 years of tears, fighting, imagination, laughter (a lot of laughter) and always love. A sensitive young man with a wicked sense of humor, artistic talent that I envy and
the soul of a poet. How many children love old people? He’s always got something interesting to say and I love being with him even though he drives me crazy.

Happy Birthday to my favorite artist in the world.

Bad Parenting 101

When I make a mistake I really make a mistake.

My eldest, the Artiste is one very funny kid with an eclectic taste in movies, music, books and art. Independent films, jazz and Johnny Cash (yeah that one surprised me) as well as indie bands, Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson, Vonnegut, the surrealists, Banksy and pop art. That’s my kid. I get him. While his sibs like to play their math games with Papa Bear we like to talk about his interests. When he was young he was a huge reader and then he stopped reading in junior high, so I am always thrilled if I can find something for him to read that he likes.

Here comes the problem. My memory is not the greatest and I have never been a detail person. Unless a book ranks as a personal favourite I will probably only remember the gist of it or some particularly salient passage or idea. Now I remember reading a book in high scool or maybe it was early university that was hysterical and very quirky. Just what the Artiste would like and it was on our bookshelf, so I gave it to him to read. His initial reaction was, pretty funny book.

Now here comes the bad parenting, bad memory part. Just yesterday he said to me, “You know that book is kind of a girl’s book and there’s pretty explicit sex in it too.”. My immediate reaction was “A girl’s book?” and then the rest of his sentence sunk in, “Sex? Sex? I don’t remember any sex! Are you sure? Maybe you shouldn’t finish the book.”
“I’m sure and it’s O.K. I can finish it.”
“Hah, yeah I’m sure you can.”
I know that you can’t unring a bell and that at the age of 16 he’s probably seen far more than I can imagine but sheesh I shouldn’t be the one ringing that bell.

From now on I think it’s safer if I read his recommendations.

iPad Love

O.K. I hate the name of it.  Personally I would have voted for the iSlate, but as usual nobody asked my opinion.  Goofy name aside, I am in love with my iPad.  My husband is thinking of either staging an intervention or getting his own.  My kids no longer even ask if they can borrow it.  My iPad and I are inseparable.  I leave the house with it in my hand without realizing it.  I’m spending longer on the treadmill because it’s easy to read on it and I can read longer without feeling guilty (win-win situation), I can also flip to youtube and watch stuff while I workout. I’ve stopped watching t.v. (not a bad thing) so that I can read more.  Books, books, books and more books.

Which brings me to a bad thing.  My last two Visa bills.  Papa Bear now calls my iPad the gift that keeps on giving.  I try to buy the cheap and free books $5.00 and less.  but that adds up.  Cheap books are really fast reads.  Free books – the classics are slower reads.  For various reasons my head is not in there right now.  I keep hoping that each day will be the one that I get my quality reading brain back.  I do have a new appreciation for romantic comedies.  If the author can manage witty dialogue I’m sold.  Although formulaic just like the screwball comedies of the 40’s they can be very entertaining.

Another bad thing, I want to formally apologize to my sisters and to my niece for playing a game on my iPad while we were all sitting around together watching t.v.  I hate when the kids do that, I can’t believe that I did it.  What would Emily Post say?

I’ve downloaded the Economist and am now considering a newspaper or two and switching from fiction to news.  Not enough time in the day for both.  Or is there?  We just don’t eat out enough and I probably spend too much time at the store grocery shopping and doing other stuff for my family.  It’s already the cure to my sleep issues.  Instead of lying there at night counting sheep (or backwards from 1000, my personal favourite sleep inducing exercise)  I read until I get sleepy.  When my iPad bashes me on the nose I know that it’s time to turn it off and I’ll drift back into sleep, watering eyes and sore nose blissfully forgotten as I snore away with my beautiful little iPad charging beside me on my pillow.

I can also post from my iPad, but to be honest it’s a little awkward when it comes to editing.  So I can do a middle of the night post, keep it as a draft and then quickly correct it in the morning on a household computer.  Very satisfying.

I borrowed my sister’s Kindle last weekend, we were thinking of getting one as reading is my main iPad activity but I just did not like it as much. Sorry, Kindle.  The reading light casts a glare on the page, I like reading in bed with a black background and white print and worst of all the Kindle makes a noise every time you turn the page.  This is not a good thing if you share your bed and read at 3a.m.  I know it would wake me up, not unlike the clicking of my husband’s Blackberry does.

I can check my email at 3a.m. – no new commenters (I have great hopes for those of you who live in Europe, it might be the middle of the night where I am but isn’t there some European somewhere on a coffee break who has some comment to make on my blog?).  No one told me that having a Blog would give me something new to obsess about – my stats. Please just let me have a good 10 readers in one day.  My sisters and my nieces make 4 is it not possible that there are 6 people in this entire world who want to read me?  I am a needy Blogger, I am ashamed to say. It’s the iPad’s fault, there’s no way that I would go downstairs, turn on a computer and check my stats in the middle of the night.  Well, let’s just say that it’s not very likely that I would do that.

I love having all of our photos loaded.  At anytime I can flip back in time to baby pictures of my children and I’m transported to those halcyon days before my children started talking back and life was all about the idealism of a new family.  Just like Dr. Frankenstein I created life and as much as I love my own little monsters they do take away from my reading time which reminds me…I bet there’s a free Mary Shelley download, I should go check it out.

I Miss Mike…Douglas

Another nostalgic post.

Born in the early 60’s I am a member of the t.v. generation.  When I’m home alone and I want background noise I turn on the t.v. not the radio. However, I really do not watch much t.v.  For the most part my kids rule the t.v. in our house.  I’m surprised to discover that not unlike my parents there are shows that I have declared off limits.  Unlike my parents these shows do not showcase comedic mixed marriages (Bridget loves Bernie was forbidden in my home),  the shows I disapprove of encourage a level of skanky and entitled behaviour that scares me.  If the show has the word Tequila in the title you may not watch it, the same for the words Jersey and Wives of.  Parental Control, is not about parental control it’s about parents and their children’s girl/boyfriends being nasty to one another.  I hate it when kids disrespect adults but I equally hate seeing adults dropping to the same level.

I also dislike the shows where the uberwealthy kids show off the houses that their parents have built to fulfil their every whim.  We can’t forget the over the top sweet sixteens that are bigger than royal weddings. What values are we giving our kids?

I wish we could turn on the t.v. after school and find the Mike Douglas Show, The Addams Family, The Munsters, The Twilight Zone and the After School Money Movies.  Just for one hour every day and then we can return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Before you start writing in your complaints, I know that there is also a lot of good stuff on too.  Yeah for Discovery and National Geographic and Teletoon  and the History Channel and the Food Network as well as Modern Family, Glee and Ellen.  I’m just ranting about the shows that turn my stomach.




My Son the Monkey

Just a random kind of thought.
I ate a banana today and as I was eating it I remembered my son telling me that he peels his bananas from the bottom up like monkeys do. This caused me to wonder a couple of things. I know that when you peel a banana that way you don’t have to deal with the banana strings. I don’t know exactly why it just works out that way. I wonder if this is why monkeys peel their bananas this way. Why else? It seems easier to open a banana up from the top down. Do monkeys dislike the stringy bits? Is this learned or innate behaviour? Is this further proof that we (my family to be precise) have evolved from monkeys?
But then again, sometimes a banana is just a banana. ; )

Is My Snoring Disturbing You?

Admission time.

I snore, loudly, very loudly. My entire family snores, husband, kids, everyone. It seems that I out snore them all. In general this is not a problem. My family is accustomed to the noise, we have no problems sleeping when in one another’s company.

There are times that it does stress me out. When in New York with my sisters I took a separate room so as not to disturb their sleep. A situation like this does not occur often. There is however a weekly event that causes me great embarrassment. I’m talking about my children’s piano lessons.

What does this have to do with my snoring, you might ask? It seems that I am unable to sit through their lessons without falling asleep.   Now what does this say about me as a supportive mother?   I love you and support you so much that I’m going to prove it by sleeping through your lesson.  When your teacher talks to me at the end of the lesson about your progress I can only nod and trust her because I actually didn’t hear the lesson.  Sometimes, through my snores, I hear my daughter giggle from the piano bench which always manages to wake me with the knowledge that she heard me snoring from across the room.   Sorry, my snoring is actually disturbing your lesson.

Don’t think that I haven’t tried to do anything about it. I always try to go to bed early the night before. I bring something along to read or to do. All to no avail. The piano teacher is so kind, assuring me that she does the same thing the minute she sits down.  She also has four children.  Still, I don’t believe her.

My biggest fear is that I’m going to develop a Pavlovian response to the piano and one day fall asleep right in the middle of my child’s performance  during our yearly music festival.

At least I’m not drooling.

It’s a Frickin’ Marshmallow World

There’s just no pleasing me.

I woke up in the middle of the night to use the washroom and heard the wind howling like crazy.  The rain was coming down and all I could think was; great a cold, rainy, nasty day is in store for us.  Then when I really woke up and went downstairs to make the kids’ lunches (the bane of my existence) I saw snow outside.  A light dusting  coming down steadily and all I could think was; Oh no, not snow, not yet.  Over the next half hour it got heavier and the flakes got bigger.  I told the kids to dress warmly when they headed out.  The boys, of course, will not wear boots but if I can get them to put on the proper weight jacket and possibly a hat and/or mitts I’m pretty happy.  My daughter donned her ski jacket, new boots, new hat and serious gloves but could not face snow pants which was fine.  I warmed up the car, could not find the snow scraper so I cleaned my windows with an umbrella.  Pathetic.

By now the flakes were huge and all of the trees looked like they belong on a brochure for a ski resort.  I groaned in despair and my daughter said, “What’s wrong, I thought you love winter?”  She’s right, I do love winter I especially love the first snowfall of the season.  I love when the ugly grey and brown of late fall are covered with the crisp, fresh, promising white of fresh snow.  In winter I feel proud of mankind, we are so smart, we managed to invent goretex, central heating, hot chocolate, snow shoeing, skiing, winter tires and to learn from the birds and stuff our jackets with warm down.  We are invincible, we can survive anything.

But today, all I could think was, not yet.  I’m not ready to be a frozen challah again I still want to be a warm rising in the heat challah.

Staying Close to Home, Part 3

All right, so there we were in Barcelona with no planes flying and our little getaway looking less and less appealing.

Let me address Barcelona first.  If flights started to take off again we would be departing as planned however we still needed a Plan B incase things did not resume quickly – I am a very big fan of Plan B.  So we would make alternate plans and carry on as originally planned.  I have to admit that Barcelona was losing the initial glow that it had for me and it was even beginning to look a bit menacing.  In my vision of Barcelona as a handsome Spaniard I was beginning
to notice that his sexy laugh lines were really just crow’s feet, he smelled of cigarettes and he was also kind of short.

As I have already written my feelings towards God have taken an unexpected turn over the past couple of years but without a doubt I identify myself as Jewish.  It is my history and I am proud of it.  So, when you are Jewish and you are in Europe over the Sabbath it is very natural to want to check out the old Jewish Quarter and to see if you can find a synagogue to visit.  We decided that we would spend some time walking around, find the Jewish Quarter and synagogue and then go for a nice dinner.  We pulled out the Blackberry did a little search to figure out where were going.  Hmm.  No old Jewish Quarter, in fact no Jewish presence in Barcelona (or Catalan as a whole) for 700 years. Suddenly Barcelona felt a little chillier.  O.K.  there was one street and there were some remnants of a synagogue that had been discovered.  My husband is phenomenal with a map.  While I was still trying to figure out how to open it up he had plotted the course we would walk.  Off we went, a small adventure.  We walked and we walked and we searched and we searched, we almost gave up.  We noticed another man who appeared to be searching just like we were.  He looked at us, smiled and said “They don’t make it easy, do they?” We walked up and down streets that felt more and more like lane ways than streets.  The sun was beginning to disappear and the dark was looming.  We had found the street, but no sign of anything Jewish.  I closely inspected the bricks on the buildings until I found one with some writing on it.  That was it, the sum total of Barcelona”s Jewish history.  I felt sad.  We just wanted to head back to the hotel.

On the weekend we did manage to go to the Gaudi park and it was wonderful.  We did a tour around the city, saw the Sagrada Familia church, designed by Gaudi that has been under construction for 100 years.  I said to Papa Bear, “Wow, that Sagrada Familia must be outrageously wealthy, I wonder who they were and what they did.”  Hee hee hee.  I got home and checked out the family name.  Quickly wacked my forehead with my palm. Sagrada is Spanish for sacred. Did I really pass grade 13 Spanish?  Si, I did.

There was still the problem of getting home.  I called my big sister and asked for an update.  Brilliant woman that she is, she advised that we head to Portugal as all was well there.  We booked two tickets out of Lisbon, confirmed that our flight was still not leaving Spain and headed to the train station to book tickets to get us to Madrid and then to Lisbon.  We were afraid that the trains would be booked solid.  We got tickets, no problem.  So the day we should have been flying home we started our journey to Lisbon. First we got to take a bullet train from Barcelona to Madrid.  Uber cool.  Once we reached the Madrid station we decided to check out exactly where we would board the overnight train to Lisbon.  Hah, its at a different station.  Not hard to get there and not far just unexpected.  We decided to walk around Madrid a little because we had many hours to kill between trains.  Now, I am sure that Madrid is a wonderful city, just not so much around the train station.  We saw two police men standing on a street corner holding machine guns.  It felt like time to go back to the train station.  It was not a bullet train, but it was overnight so we slept on and off, much more than I thought we would.  We were very grateful that  the kids were not with us.  This was an adventure for the two of us, but it would have been a small nightmare for the 6 of us.  Skipping meals, racing to trains, sleeping fitfully this is all too hard on kids.  Anyway we woke up in Lisbon.  I stepped on to the train platform and what was the first thing that I saw?  A vending machine selling books!  How do you not love a country that has books on philosophy available on train platforms?  Can you see that it does not take much to win me over?  Toilet bowls and vending machines, oy am I a cheap date or what?  I won’t even talk about how little alcohol it takes to get me tipsy.

We made our way to our hotel, I was thrilled to see that it was even more beautiful than I had expected.  We walked around the city – beautiful wide open cobbled streets, buildings covered in lovely mosaics.  It felt so spacious. Charming, old world and yet spacious.  We took a double decker tour of the city, saw about 6 museums that would have been nice to visit if there was the time but, oh well.  We saw a plane flying overhead and we got very excited. The only negative thing that I have to say about Lisbon is, what is that stuff that they call coffee?  It scares me.  Spain for sure wins the best coffee everywhere award.  We had a light dinner in our hotel.  I only wanted to eat vegetables because I was petrified of getting sick and having a problem getting on the flight the next day.

No problem, we boarded our plane for the Azores where we would have a stopover and then head back home to Canada.  We heard some amazing stories in the airport from people who had been through so much more than we had. It all went so smoothly that it was hard to believe that we had been so nervous about getting home.  We added two days and one country  to our trip but it was an adventure.  However, I have decided that I prefer at this point in time to only travel to places that are road accessible if my kids are not with me. Our next trip without the kids is New York, planes, trains, buses and automobiles so many possibilities if you get stranded.

How cool is this?

Staying Close to Home, Part 2

All good things must come to an end. It was time to catch our connecting flight to Barcelona and to leave the magnificent Charles de Gaulle airport.  Au revoir Paris. My husband fears that our life in the north has turned me into a country bumpkin if I can be wowed by an airport.  I think I have always been a bumpkin, even when I lived in the big city. Oh well, I yam what I yam.

Happily the flight to Barcelona was uneventful. Once in Barcelona we quickly made our way over to Las Ramblas and our hotel. We found our charming boutique hotel on what is probably the busiest and most touristy street in the whole city. Fortunately our hotel room did not face the street. As an aside, our bed had a remote which we could use to raise our heads or our feet, it seemed kind of strange and hospital like but I would have to say that after full days of touring it was really nice to put my feet up.  A brilliant idea actually.  I’m getting old.  We set out to explore our environs. It’s difficult to explain what it felt like as a Canadian in a European city for the first time. I was utterly charmed. I realized that the country that I live in and love is just so new. It’s like loving a baby, all sweetness and innocence with very little past. Spain was like meeting a well travelled, handsome, knowledgeable, mature man with a killer smile and sexy laugh lines (see the effect left by the trashy novels I’ve been reading?).

We explored Las Ramblas and walked all the way down to the waterfront.  A huge sculpture of Christopher Columbus pointed us to the water, but we would have found it without him. We went into a lovely indoor market.  Can you guess what they had there?  If you guessed an illy coffee shop you win the prize.  Come on over and I’ll make us each a cup or two.  That was a great cup of coffee.  One thing I have to say about Spain, I did not have one bad cup of coffee.

We walked to an outdoor market.  I saw piles of candy and missed the kids.  We saw piles of  innards and sheep heads and I missed Canada, where I would not see piles of sheep heads.  We walked and walked and then walked some more.  I could not help noticing that Spaniards (or maybe it’s just Catalan’s) are not that tall.  I also noticed that the women were all dressed to the nines.  The weather was cooler than we had expected and we did not have warm enough nice clothing.  I bought a black scarf and it made a big difference.  We went out for dinner late, very late.  Something else to make me feel North American, why eat so late?  Don’t they need sleep in Europe?

The next day was more of the same.  More walking and sightseeing.  Late dinners, excellent food – I LOVE tapas-, feeling slightly underdressed and cold.  We went to the Miro museum, a Picasso museum and so much Gaudi.  I love Picasso I appreciate Miro and Gaudi was definitely the coolest but the best was just doing.  We found an old church where a music professor was giving a concert on guitar through the ages.  It was magical. I told Papa Bear that maybe I could do something like this with him every other year.  It was all going so well and I really was like a kid in a candy store.

On our third morning (my husband spent the mornings at his conference while I slept and had a leisurely breakfast) I found out just how out of the news loop we were.  While I did take Spanish all through high school and I can manage fine while we are on a vacation I’m not inclined to sit and watch the news.  I’m sure that I would pick up quite a bit, but this was a vacation.  Now, I did take latin for one year in high school and I’m embarrassed to admit that I actually got teary in grade 10 when I read the short little story that told me that Mount Vesuvius is eruptus and the family of Caecilius est mortus.  I mention this because what I am trying to say is that I think I would have recognized the words Volcano and eruption in Spanish.  But I didn’t watch the news did I?  I think that our concierge may have mentioned it to me that morning.  As soon as my husband returned to the hotel I pounced on him in a panic.  It seems that the beautiful de Gaulle airport shut down two hours after our departure.  Barcelona’s airport was closed and we did not know when it would reopen.  It seemed that we were up an ocean without a paddle…

I Will Remember

I remember red velvet poppies from the time I was a little girl, except back then I would remove the pin, fold the poppy in half and pretend that I had a beautiful pair of  bright red lips to place over my own.  Remembrance Day was Poppy Day for me. Obviously this has all changed.

Remembrance Day is about the World Wars, but this means that it is about so much more.  To me these wars are the quintessential examples of the triumph of good over evil.  Perhaps if the media were as powerful back then as it is today even this would not be so clear.  The day is about the clarity of right and wrong.  It is about loss, bravery, fear, innocence, sacrifice and survival.  This can all apply to the soldiers as well as to the citizens they protected.

When I think about the soldiers on Remembrance Day I am mainly thinking about those involved in the Second World War but my feelings pertain as well to those who fought in the Great War and to those who are now fighting in Afghanistan.  I think about their youth and the extreme sometimes ultimate sacrifices that they along with their families have made for their countries. By saying their countries I mean we, the people who live in their countries.  We owe each of these soldiers a debt of gratitude.  Let’s not be fooled. we could not be leading the lives we do if not for the soldiers who for many different reasons choose to defend our liberty and our basic right to survival when we are at risk.

Each year at Passover we are told to view the Exodus as though it is our own personal liberation from slavery, this is how I see Remembrance Day.  If it were not for some unknown soldiers who liberated my mother in law she would have perished.  I cannot but feel indebtedness to these once young men who gave her back the possibility of a future and in so doing created a possible  future for me with my husband and my children.

To all the soldiers who have fought and to those who continue to fight against the evil of oppression and hatred, I and millions like me thank you and remember you.


I would like to recommend two excellent Canadian novels set within the backdrop of the Great War.  They are: Deafening by Frances Itani and The Stone Carvers by Jane Urquhart.