Monday, August 22, 2011


Today is the first day of school for my kids.


I originally thought of titling this post New Beginnings, but I got philosophical with myself and determined that all beginnings are new, because every beginning is a new opportunity for new experiences, even if the beginning itself may be the same as last year (school, for instance).  But a beginning of any kind is exciting - one has no idea what the end of the day will be like, even for the best planners among us, because life happens every second.  A traffic jam causes one to take an alternate route to work/school.  An offhand comment from someone causes one to think about something they weren't planning on originally...a flash sale convinces someone to finally make that purchase they were putting off for a while.

All of these things are beginnings, new little opportunities for new experiences, new thoughts, new chances.

The kids were welcomed to their new classrooms today - one had new teachers and classmates, one had a new classroom.  One was anxious, one was timid.  I'm confident that when I come home, I'll be bowled over by hearing all the stories of things they did today.  Both were fearful of today's beginnings, but I was excited for them.

It's a part of growing up, and fortunately for all of us, beginnings never stop, so we always have new chances.  It's comforting to know that there's always a new opportunity around the corner.  It's our choice how we approach these new opportunities and these beginnings, but thankfully they never give up on us.  My job is to role-model to my kids how to grab hold of these new beginnings and make them our own so that they too are excited.

But for today - I'll look back on their baby photos and just think about how much they've grown, how they've become these incredible little people and remember that, at the end of the day, what I hope will never change is how tight they hug me...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Master Chef

Recently, my husband found this intriguing show on Hulu called Master Chef.  It's one of those reality-tv shows, but what's fun for us is that it's home cooks - people like us, basically - who are competing to be declared the Master Chef by the three judges, 3 formidable giants in the culinary world (Gordon Ramsay one of them, who I think is hysterical to watch).  The contestants come from all walks of life and are self-taught cooks, but they all have a passion to succeed in the restaurant business.  Since my husband and I love cooking and have fun with it, we enjoy the show.

The contestants have to battle it out through a series of challenges, which got me thinking.  I have a suggestion for a challenge:  shabbat meals.

Somehow, I developed a reputation (among a very small group of individuals, like maybe, 3) that I can whip up shabbat meals in about 2 hours.  On a Friday afternoon.  After I come home from work and the grocery store.  If you're unfamiliar with shabbat meals, the most common description is that it's like preparing Thanksgiving dinner.  And that's not really too far from the truth.  There are usually several courses and the attempt is made at preparing dishes that are special and different from what you'd serve during the week - all in honor of the holy day that is Shabbat.

There are books and blogs and articles all about how one can prepare for Shabbat ahead of time so that one does not feel disorganized as Shabbat approaches on Friday evening (this blog is dedicated to the entire notion of how to de-frazzle oneself).  They're all wonderful, and I try to implement them.  Preparing everything on Friday afternoon is not a sustainable solution, nor is it very nice to have a frazzled mommy who is running around preparing everything right up until the verylastsecond before candlelighting, when all preparation ceases.  <--oh, that's another important point here - one often prepares two meals, one for Friday night dinner, and one for Saturday lunch, due to the prohibition of cooking on Shabbat itself...

And yet, that is the situation I find myself in week after week (except for the frazzled mommy part.  I suppose I'm so used to my routine that I'm no longer frazzled but I do what I need to do and I just "git 'er done").

So here's my suggestion to the Master Chef show developers:  I challenge the home cooks to create two Thanksgiving-style meals in two hours - start to finish.  And I think I'm being generous by not throwing kids into the mix, because things always get more interesting when you're trying to entertain two little kiddos and get the chicken into the oven at the same time...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

It's too hot - summer bucket list

At the start of every summer since I became a mom, I have this yearning to do all things summer-y, the kind of things that summertime lends itself to: drinking lots of lemonade, running on the beach, watching an outdoor concert, etc.  For some reason, with the kids I feel like summertime is a "more fun" time, though there's nothing that makes summer different from the other three seasons.

Maybe it's because everyone's mind goes slightly on vacation this time of year, or maybe it really is the hot weather.

I always try to come up with a list of fun things we'll do each summer, and this year I found out there's a real name to such a list!  A summer bucket list!  Now, usually this list is done before the season begins so that you're prepared...but it's never too late, and since I have a hard time coming up with ideas myself, here's someone else's summer bucket list.

With August here and school around the corner, the pressure is on to accomplish as many as possible...

1.Go to the beach - done!  We did it in Israel

2.Make Popsicles - Done!  We made them Tuesday night and the kids enjoyed yesterday afternoon.

3.Go to the movies

4.Paint using our feet

5.Tie dye shirts

6.Take a picture everyday

7.Roast marshmallows

8.Go for a boat ride

9.Go to an outdoor concert

10.Make homemade soap

11.Play with water balloons

12.Play with squirt bottles outside

13.Whip up some edible sand

14.Play with colored bubbles

15.Pick vegetables from our garden - I think we can take a pass on this this yea'rs since we're in a drought...

16.Make and play with homemade face paint

17.Have an ice cream sundae party

18.Try lots of different sunglasses on and take pictures

19.Build a sandcastle

20.Make frozen bananas - I have frozen bananas in the freezer to avoid throwing them away, does that count?

21.See fireworks

22.Celebrate the fourth of July

23.Go to a parade

24.Visit a farmer's market - DONE!  Went to the Airline Farmer's Market - like a shuk in Houston, but more subdued...

25.Visit new playground - well, we visited playgrounds in Israel, so I think that counts...

26.Play at a splash park

27.Go swimming at Grandma's house - the kids go swimming with their grandparents on the weekends, so that totally counts...

28.Have a late night movie night

29.Go berry picking - we tried to go blackberry picking again this year, but the drought damaged the crop, so not our fault...

30.Visit a fair

31.Make fizzing sidewalk chalk

32.Make smores

33.Visit a sunflower field

34.Make moon sand

35.Plant sunflowers

36.Go blueberry picking - see #29

37.Walk around by the water

38.Make our own strawberry freezer jam - DONE!  We take it up a notch and make our own jam on the stove...

39.Go to an outdoor movie

40.Fly a kite

41.Make our own bouncy balls

42.Make our own gak - tonight I made play-dough for the kids, does that count?

We're not doing too bad! We can make some modifications to fit the attention spans of a 3.5 year old and a 2 year old for the rest, plus we do have to take into account the weather. And then there are special considerations for certain things like an outdoor concert - they tend to start late here, so it doesn't make sense for me to bring the kids out, as much as I'd like to.

But this gives me a good list to work on! Do you have a summer bucket list?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fishtank fun

Friends, it's been a long, long, LONG time since my last post...

Thank you for hanging in there with me.

July has been an extremely busy month for me in several ways, all of which I'll eventually get to, but none of which is the subject of today's post.

Today, I'm writing about our fishtank.

Our fishtank is a new member of our family that came to us in a funny way.

Back when my husband was courting me (it was a long-distance relationship) and I visited him once in Pennsylvania, his apartment was SPOTLESSLY clean except for his fishtank: he said that the brown-ness of the water was "natural" (and let's not get into what was covering the walls).  I said that that thing had to go - as there was absolutely no way it would join us in our marriage if it was so brown.

My amazing husband did so, but I had no idea of his immense attachment to the fishtank.

Flash-forward to this summer - whenever we have run out of ideas to do with the kids and everyone we know is busy, we go to the fish store.  This is one of those "I'd rather be cleaning the tile grout than be here, but I'm here to support my amazing husband" moments for me.  So we've done that several times this summer, my husband always looking longingly at the fish.

And then my husband came with a surprise for me, that was actually a gift to himself.  The day before our wedding anniversary this July.  He came home with a fishtank.  And three fish, each fish in its own pot (for travel purposes, of course).  The kids went wild, cleaning the cabinet with baby wipes.  I just stood there, asking "what, on earth, is that?".

Apparently, I had told my amazing husband that he could have a fishtank if he finds one for $50.  Which apparently was quite the challenge since a 30-gallon tank with stand (and we're not even counting the fish) easily can run you over $200 or so.  I have no recollection of this challenge, but my husband took me up on it and found a tank and cabinet and 3 fish for $50Thank you, Craigslist.

So here I am, the family asleep, me sitting next to the fish tank.  The kids are in love with the fish and the process of feeding them.  The fish are extremely entertaining and serve as conversation starters for my suddenly-fish-loving family.  I have nothing to do with the tank maintenance, but right now, at this moment, I'm happy it's here.  I'm happy my husband got his wish, I'm happy my kids find it exciting, and as I sit here watching the fish swim, I suddenly crave sushi.  JUST KIDDING.

I just find it peaceful.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tragedy for Houston Jewish community

We're back from Israel, and more about that later, but first - devastating news rocked the Houston community over the July 4th weekend...

Houstonians Josh and Robin Berry and their kids were traveling back from Colorado when they were hit head-on by an oncoming vehicle, close to midnight.  The parents were instantly killed and the three children were injured, two seriously.  The children are in Lubbock right now and should be able to travel back to Houston this week to continue their treatments.

The Jewish Herald-Voice has ongoing coverage of the efforts to help the family and to support the children.  Beth Yeshurun has set up a fund for donations to help with expenses which you can access here (select Perlo-Berry Family Fund to designate your donation).

Such a tragedy is hard for any community, but a community is what helps us cope.  All of our prayers and efforts will build foundational support so that the Berry family can go on and live the values the parents taught the children.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Packing our bags and going to Israel...

Don't be jealous.

Ok - you can be a little jealous.

We're going to Israel this week for a 2-week vacation for a family member's bar mitzvah.  My whole family is going - so this is a massive 2-week vacation with my whole family.  My husband couldn't be more thrilled.  :=)

No really - we are psyched.  This is our first real vacation in....years....and we're going with the kids, plus we're going to ISRAEL!!!!!!  Really - is there a better place to go?!?!?

(ok - totally not counting Florence or Paris...)

Anyway, that's why there haven't been posts from me lately (been busy with work and such), and there won't be posts from me for the next two weeks (unless I surprise you AND myself).  But here's a question - I'd love to hear any suggestions you may have for fun "field trips" or activities to do with the kids...we won't be renting a car so activities have to be easy to get to, but so far I've only found activities that are open on Shabbat so that won't do, but if you have any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Kid to Kid: new-ish resale shop in town

Thanks to Tasti D-Lite now going kosher in all of its Houston locations, my husband took all of us to the Galleria location one evening for a frozen dessert* treat.  (Isn't that like out of a dream?  I came home from work and my husband declared that we're all going out for "ice cream".  The kids had a blast, and apparently the frozen concoction was their dinner.  A win/win/win for all.  :-))

**It's not ice cream, and it's not frozen yogurt.  It's a frozen dairy dessert.  Exactly what it is, I don't know.

Anyway - in the same shopping plaza is a store called Kid to Kid and we explored it on Sunday.

By explore, I mean I could have purchased the entire contents of the store if I didn't have a credit limit.

First of all, the store is kid-friendly so we took the kids and they had a great time playing while I was shopping.

Second, the store is clean and well-organized, so everything is easy to find.

The store carries everything - clothes, shoes, diapering supplies, baby gear, maternity wear, books, toys - the whole nine yards.  And it's top quality, gently used items.  I even found some brand new items with original tags on them!!  At a fraction of the original price!!

But here's the best part....just as we were leaving, my son announced that he, well, let's say that he needed a new diaper.  Being the super-organized parents that we are, we didn't have one.  We contemplated purchasing an unopened package of diapers they had for sale, when my husband turned around and spotted a vanity...with diapers...and wipes.  They were prepared for store customers to use - for free.  I got the diaper and wipes, the owner handed me a plastic bag for the dirty one, prepped the changing table in the bathroom for me (a beautiful bathroom, by the way), and this was all done with a smile.  The sink even had a stepstool for the little one to wash his hands.

If you're a parent, you know these little touches are meaningful.

So in sum, I recommend this place, and you can even bring your kids because they will be busy playing in the play area or reading books, and you will be happy with your purchases and pleased with the great customer service.  Happy shopping!