May 28, 2005

Lag Ba'Omer

We are very glad that Tyler is in preschool. He has fun and has made lots of friends. Also, it helps us get to know our neighbors and learn about Israeli culture and Jewish traditions. Last year at this time we were surprised by the bonfires built all over the city and we didn't understand what was going on. This year, we were invited to a bonfire celebration with Tyler's preschool.

Lag Ba'Omer is celebrated on the 33rd (the L of Lag stands for 30 and the G stands for 3) day of Omer, which is the counting of days between Passover and Pentecost. It is a happy celebration in the middle of what is supposed to be a somber period. No one is quite sure what it celebrates: either the end of a plague or of a war that killed 24,000 rabbinical students in the 2nd century.

Now it is a time when families get together for a picnic and bonfire. During the week before Lag Ba'Omer, children scour the city for anything that will burn. Construction sites hide their supplies because anything loose is scavenged. Scott saw several 7 or 8 year old children pushing shopping carts full of wood that they had found.

We actually celebrated Lag Ba'Omer a day early because the parents of the children at Tyler's preschool thought it would be safer without the chaos of the older children the next night. We ate hot dogs, pita, hummus, and we cooked potatoes in the bonfire.

Family at Lag Ba'Omer

The children were really good around the fire. They were content to run around in the trees on the hill next to our apartment building.

The bonfire

One of the parents led the singing of songs about Lag Ba'Omer. As you can tell from the picture below, the children only sang half-heartedly.

Tylers class singing Lag Ba'Omer songs

Tyler was thrilled that he got to hold a sparkler.

Tyler with his sparkler

A couple of days after Lag Ba'Omer, one of Tyler's preschool friends had a birthday party at Nemashim. It was the third time we had been there for a birthday party. Both Tyler and Brooke love it. It is kind of like a Gymboree, with a padded floor and lots of toys to play with. Brooke's favorite thing is a motor home with a kitchen to play in. She alternated between driving the motor home and cooking in the kitchen.

Brooke cooking in the motor home

Brooke was convinced that this padded ramp was a slide. She climbed down it several times. We think she was a little confused that she didn't slide down.

Bumpy slide

At the birthday party, there was a clown. Tyler doesn't like clowns (possibly due to the fire-breathing clown from a previous birthday party), but this one brought a parachute which Tyler loved.

Tyler and the parachute

Our other adventure of the week was a trip to the American Embassy in Tel Aviv. Tiffany had to renew her passport. We also had more pages added to the passports of Brooke and Tyler. We got to the Embassy shortly after it opened, so we were done just a half an hour later. We received the passports when they were finished by courier service.


"She's not a guy, she's a girl!" - After Tiffany said, "Good job, guys," to Tyler
and Brooke.
"Fireside" - Lag Ba'Omer bonfire
"These are all my kids!" - About a picture of his friends from school


"Shoes" - just like it sounds.
"Feet" - What the shoes go on.

Posted by sjbowden at 9:35 PM

May 17, 2005

Greece, part two

On Saturday we slept in a little which was nice. Our driver for the day, George, picked us up in a 9 passenger van. It was nice because we were able to use Brooke's car seat. George isn't a licensed tour guide, so he couldn't take us into historical sites, but it was significantly cheaper to have him as a driver than to hire an official tour guide.

George first took us to the Corinth canal. It is a 4 mile long canal that separates the Peloponnesian peninsula from the rest of Greece. It was built in the late 1800s to allow ships to go between the Aegean and Adriatic seas without going almost 200 miles around the Peloponnesian peninsula. We took the picture below from the pedestrian bridge across the canal. You can see the railroad bridge a little farther on. Tyler was very disappointed that we couldn't go across on that bridge.

Corinth canal

Next we went to a place where they make reproductions of ancient Greek pottery. Of course we had to buy a small piece. Tiffany loved the Santorini pottery because it is blue. It was fun to see all of the museum quality reproductions, especially some of the more famous pottery pieces that Tiffany had studied in a Greek Mythology class at BYU. Nearby was the city of ancient Corinth. We went to a museum and wandered around the streets and ruins where Paul once taught. We also enjoyed seeing actual Corinthian columns.


Mycenae was probably our favorite place of the day. It is a fortified city on a hill, which reminded us of Nimrod's fortress in northern Israel. The museum there has amazing intact artifacts discovered there. Mycenae played a large role in Greek mythology. Helen, the sister-in-law of the king of Mycenae, was the cause of the Trojan war.

Acropolis of Mycenae

We picked a flower on the hilltop and Brooke surprised us by trying to smell it.

Brooke smelling a flower at Mycenae

Here is Tyler in a cutout next to the famous Lion gate of Mycenae.

Lion Gate at Mycenae

After Mycenae, we had lunch at a tourist restaurant. It had pictures on the wall of all the famous people that had eaten there. We were pretty sure that our driver got a free lunch for bringing us there. Oh well, it was decent, but not great.

Tyler and Brooke fell asleep on the way to our next stop, Epidaurus. Epidaurus was known in the ancient world as a healing center. Tyler, who claimed that he was too tired to walk, somehow managed to climb to the top of the theater there. The theater is in the Greek style with a round stage, which is unusual because most of the round stages were turned to semi-circles by the Romans. The theater is very well preserved and has excellent acoustics.

Theater at Epidaurus

After Epidaurus, we took a scenic drive home along the Greek coast and passed the port where Paul arrived in Greece. We got to the hotel late, but not too late to go out for ice cream.

On Sunday morning, we went to the Archaeological Museum of Athens, which is where many of the best preserved artifacts from all over Greece are kept. We spent the morning there and then ate gyros again for lunch. Below, Tyler is standing in front of a mosaic of Medusa at the museum.

Tyler and Medusa

After lunch we went to the Monastiraki market area. We bought fresh cherries, strawberries and bananas and wandered around the shops until James and Heidi had to leave to catch their flight home. Our flight didn't leave until late at night, so we spent more time in Athens. We took a funicular to the top of Lycabettus hill, which had a beautiful view of Athens. Tyler enjoyed the funicular more than the view.

Lycabettus hill

Here is a picture of the Acropolis from the top of Lycabettus hill.


We then wandered around Athens. We saw a lot of high end shops, closed on Sunday, which Tiffany was sad that we had missed. We even saw Tiffany's favorite French clothing store, Alain Manoukian. Tyler was thrilled to see a toy shop full of toy cars. We then returned to the hotel and had dinner at the hotel restaurant, which was relaxing. We bought some more souvenirs from the hotel gift shop, including a necklace for Tiffany and a toy car for Tyler. The shopkeepper thought Brooke was so cute that she gave Brooke a stuffed Olympic mascot doll.

Several hours before the flight we took a taxi to the airport. We had so much time to kill that we watched "The Incredibles" outside an airport toy store and then let Brooke and Tyler play on the play structure at McDonalds. We then blew the rest of our Euros on candy and toys in the duty free shops.

Tyler fell asleep in the stroller before we boarded our flight. He slept through security, boarding, the flight and then passport control in Israel. He woke up as we were waiting for our baggage. He was mad at us for picking up the luggage. He was very concerned that we were going to miss our flight. It took us a little while to convince him that he had slept through the whole thing.


"I dead the bug" - Tyler killed a bug in our hotel room all by himself.
"Heaterator" - Air conditioner. As in "Brooke got a heaterator thing stuck in the heaterator."
"Is it the Easter bunny?" - about a statue of a horse.
"Basement" - the base of a Kinder Egg toy.


"Boo" - a general exclamation, we aren't sure exactly what it means.

Posted by sjbowden at 10:31 PM

May 16, 2005

Greece, part one

Brooke was very cute in her blue and white outfit the day before Israeli Independence Day. Our friends from the church, the Hansens, gave us a flag to hang in our window. Tyler's teachers gave Brooke a little flag to wave.

Independence day

Scott had a couple days off for Israeli Independence Day, so we used the time to go to Greece with our friends the van Ormans. We started our trip on Wednesday, May 11. We had to leave home at 2 AM to catch our flight at 7 AM which was no fun. Fortunately, parking, security and checking in went very smoothly. We bumped into the van Ormans at the airport even though we were on different flights. Their flight left about the same time, but stopped in Cyprus. Unfortunately, their luggage stayed behind in Cyprus, so they didn't get it until later. We were lucky enough to get a nonstop flight, so our flight was only two hours long.

When we arrived at the Athens airport, we discovered that there was a city wide strike. Fortunately we had no problems debarking from the plane, getting our luggage or getting through passport control. However, we did have to take a taxi to our hotel, instead of the metro as we had planned. It turned out well because we don't think we would have enjoyed carrying our luggage up and down stairs and on the metro and to the hotel with two small children. In the taxi, Tyler said, "hello," to the taxi driver about a million times. Fortunately the driver was very nice and didn't mind. Our hotel was a Novotel, which is a French chain, so Scott had fun hearing lots of people speaking French and seeing so much writing in French.

We made the mistake of telling Tyler that our hotel had a swimming pool, so every five minutes in the car, in the plane and on the way to the hotel he asked if we could go swimming. After we checked in, we changed into our swimsuits and swam in the unheated swimming pool on the roof of the hotel. The pool wasn't too cold and the weather was nice, but it was the only time we swam on the trip. The pool had a beautiful view of the Acropolis.

Acropolis from our hotel roof

After we went swimming, we met our friends in the hotel. We walked down the street and found a marvelous gyros restaurant. It was amazing; we even got Tyler and Brooke to eat some. After lunch we went shopping and bought some fun groceries that we can't get in Israel. We saw 5 liter cans of olive oil! We can't imagine going through that much olive oil. We wandered around downtown Athens and then took a nap at the hotel. For dinner we had KFC, which was fun. After dinner we did some more shopping, including buying Golden Grahams and a toothbrush with a Lego figure in the handle for Tyler. We had ice cream and then went back to the hotel and planned our sightseeing for the rest of the trip.

On Thursday, we slept in. We had bought yogurt for the kids (even the same kind that they love to eat in Israel) and milk for Brooke. Brooke couldn't open the fridge in the hotel room, so she put her milk in the closet and pretended it was a fridge.

We bought donuts for breakfast and Brooke and Scott helped the shopkeeper chase out a pigeon that walked into the store. We had bought a backpack carrier in Israel, so we put Brooke in it. She loves it, she can see everything and she doesn't have to walk. We then took the metro to the Acropolis. We first saw the theaters that are to the side of the Acropolis, including the theater of Herod Atticus.

Theater of Herod Atticus

Of course the most important thing we wanted to see was the Parthenon. It was a long hike to the top, but we had fun. Once at the top we went to the museum, admired the sights and saw the other monuments. The most exciting part of the Acropolis for Tyler was the crane being used for restoring parts of the Parthenon. We had to watch it for fifteen minutes.


Here is a link to a satellite map of the Acropolis:
Satellite map of the Acropolis

When we were done, we hiked back down. Below is a picture of ancient Agora, which used to be the center of ancient Athens. We walked past Mars hill, where Paul preached, and through a pedestrian zone with lots of shops. Our friends' boys wanted McDonalds, so we got gyros from a nearby stand and ate them inside while Tyler ate a McToast (a grilled ham and cheese sandwich on an inverted bun). Maybe they have them in the States, but they certainly don't have them in Israel.

Ancient Agora

Our next stop was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We were lucky enough to catch the changing of the guard. The honor guards wear traditional uniforms and are called Evzones. Tyler asked for his picture with one of the guards, so of course we couldn't refuse.

Tyler and an Evzone honor guard

Here is a video of the honor guards, changing at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Changing of the Guard (video)

We then walked to the National Gardens. There is a zoo inside where the kids had lots of fun feeding leaves to an ostrich. Both Tyler and Brooke had fun running around. We took the metro to the temple of Olympian Zeus, but it was closed, so we wandered around and shopped. We ate panini sandwiches for dinner.

On Friday, we took a day cruise. Tyler was thrilled because a purple bus picked us up from the hotel to take us to the ship. It was a fairly large ship with a couple of hundred passengers. The four youngest people on the ship were Brooke, Tyler and the van Orman's boys, Daniel and Skyler. In fact, we were the only two families with children. Brooke was a hit with everyone. The ship's lounge was a great place to relax and let the kids run around and play.

In the lounge of the ship

We were fortunate that it was a beautiful day, not too hot but lots of sun.

Tyler on the ship

Our first stop was Poros. It is just like the postcards you see of Greece, with white houses and blue doors and trim.

Painted house on Poros

We ate ice cream (Carte d'Or, one of our favorite brands from France), bought post cards and climbed to the lighthouse to see the view.

From the lighthouse on Poros

After we boarded the ship, Brooke and Scott went to the upper deck to take pictures of Poros as we left. They got to see a family almost miss the ship. The family came running up as the ship was pulling away and started yelling at the ship. The crew saw them and then backed the ship up and had the family jump aboard.

Island of Poros

While we were on board the ship we watched traditional Greek dancing and the kids played. Our next stop was Hydra, which was a little different from Poros. There weren't as many painted houses and it was nestled on steep hillsides around a bay. We ate chocolate croissants and bought a few souvenirs.

Island of Hydra

During the next segment of our trip we ate lunch on board. Neither Brooke nor Tyler ate very well, but it was fun to eat some traditional Greek food. Our next stop was the island of Aegina. There was an "optional trip" which is another way of saying that it cost extra. We did it anyway and toured Aegina on a bus. We stopped at ruins of a temple for the goddess Athena, saw a Greek Orthodox basilica, and ate pistachio ice cream. Aegina is where a significant portion of Greece's pistachios are grown. Both Tyler and Brooke were able to nap a little on the bus.

Athena ruins on Aegina

The ship then returned to Athens. When we got off the ship, several people told us how brave we were for traveling with children. We returned to the hotel about 8 pm, ate gyros, gave Brooke and Tyler baths and then went to bed. It was a long day, but relaxing too because of the time on the ship.

Stay tuned for the rest of our trip.


"Do we clap now?" - When the plane landed, Tyler wanted to clap. No one else clapped because it was a pretty rough landing.
"I'm almost 5" - What Tyler told anyone who asked how old he was. Remember his 4th birthday was the week before the trip.
"Don't use all my energy" - Tyler accused us of stealing his energy while climbing to the Acropolis, which is funny, because we think he steals ours.
"An alligator eating a dolphin" - Cheez Whiz drawing Tyler requested on a Ritz cracker.
"Why does the boat not have seatbelts?" - We are glad he is so safety conscious.


"Kay" - Brooke says this instead of nodding her head for yes.

Posted by sjbowden at 10:55 PM

May 8, 2005

Tyler's 4th Birthday

After Tyler went to bed the night before his birthday, Tiffany decorated his door. He remembered that we had done it for his third birthday and asked if his door would be decorated again this year. He loved the decorations and we had to leave them up for a couple of days.

Good morning Birthday boy

Tyler's birthday fell on a Friday, which was convenient because it meant that his pre-school birthday party was actually on his birthday and Scott had the day off. Tyler's class has 27 children in it (and two teachers and a couple of helpers). Tyler doesn't normally go to school on Fridays, but most of the other kids do. We dropped him off in time to eat breakfast at school, but the party didn't start until later. We arrived after they had breakfast and their morning routine.

Tyler's class

On Fridays at pre-school they welcome in the Sabbath day. As the guest of honor, Tyler got to be the "Abba shel Shabbat" or father of the Sabbath. It means they sing a song, light candles and wear the traditional clothing. He got to pick one of the girls to be the mother.

Video of Sabbath singing and Happy Birthday singing

There was lots of singing and dancing at the party. Tyler got to pick who he danced with. All of the girls were begging to be picked. We were pretty impressed. Below he is dancing with Amit. She is called Amit ha-bat (the girl) at school to distinguish her from Amit ha-ben (the boy).

Dancing with Amit the girl

Tyler's teachers played a song about hugging your family, so one by one we each got a hug from Tyler.

Hugging Brooke

Tiffany made a birthday cake for Tyler's party. In Israel, the tradition is to place an extra candle on the cake, so Tyler had five candles. We also had to bring a specific list of treats for the party: marshmallows, chips (several kinds), Bamba, M&Ms, etc. The teachers made plates of food for each child. Tyler didn't want his cake. For some reason, he doesn't like cake, even chocolate cake.

The birthday cake at school

Pre-school parties are a little different from "normal" birthday parties. The children didn't bring presents for Tyler, but we had to bring presents for each child! Tiffany's mother sent us Matchbox cars for the boys and a toy gardening kit for each girl. The children were thrilled. Some of the parents even mentioned to us how nice the presents were. We thought the Matchbox cars were especially appropriate because Tyler takes a Matchbox car to pre-school every day.

From the entire pre-school, Tyler received a toy car and a laminated book with pictures for him drawn by each child and a photo of the whole class. Tyler also gave the class a present, the Hebrew version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Passing out presents

At the end of the party, Tyler experienced another Israeli birthday tradition. Tyler sat in a chair and we lifted him up into the air 5 times: 4 times for his birthday and 1 time for the coming year.

Israeli tradition

After the party, all of the children played. We brought Brooke with us, so she played too. She had a blast. She rode on the ride-on cars, played with the pretend oven and had no problem pushing the older kids around. The teachers were very impressed and told us that we should send her to pre-school too. They said she would fit in very well with the younger class. They don't understand why we would want to keep her home.

After Tyler's nap, he got to open his presents. He got too much stuff: from us, his grandparents and his friends. A lot of the things we bought in the States in February. We are terrible parents; after Tyler opened his presents, we put some of them away and Tyler has been earning them since. If he would just stay in his bed during naptime he would have all of them.

Tyler and the loot

The Killpacks came over later and we ordered pizza and celebrated Tyler's birthday at home with another cake.

Blowing out the candle

Tyler was excited to get a package from Scott's parents. They sent Tyler a Lego Alligator toy. It has Duplos inside and when you push the alligator along the floor, it "eats" Legos from the floor. Tyler loves it and so does Brooke.

Unwrapping the alligator


"Present store" - Where he believes birthday presents come from.


"Ball" - Just how it sounds.

Posted by sjbowden at 10:05 PM