Teenage Turmoil & Our Tel Aviv Family Vacation
1:47 a.m. ain’t what it used to be. I still love the utter silence, the aloneness, the ability to focus on the only thing making noise in the house- my fingers tapping on the keys. That part of my night-owl-ness I can still connect to.
We’re leaving tomorrow for a week-long Israeli road trip and all the doubts of traveling again with my family make swallowing a real endeavor. We found the cutest little Airbnb five minutes walk from the beach. Awesome sponsors ready to make the Tel Aviv portion of the trip beyond kick-ass. Family, friends, and maybe even my long-lost cousins. All real woo-hoo-able.
I think it’s the fighting around here lately that is bringing up all my fears and doubts about being in a closed vehicle or closed quarters with my kids. Like it or not, technology and having their own rooms have made our teenage-bursting home life more bearable when the shit hits the fan. Explode and then scatter, each to his own distraction corner. Sometimes, it sucks. But. It. Does. Work.
Natural, Healthy Development
And so it is, sometimes, or maybe all the time but we just don’t fully realize it… You’re this leaf, vibrant, swaying in the breeze, feeling so alive and lush and moist…. and then you fall, it all does, all at once, and you find yourself in a labyrinth of dryness, death, decay, and darkness. And as you lay there, with all the wind knocked out of you still trying to understand where alive went, you learn. You learn that this is also beautiful. You learn that this is also growth. You learn that this will catapult you on your spiritual journey much more than peace and serenity did. And so you breathe into this, too, and find out how this too can be alive, in different shades and from different directions than you planned but all the same, alive.
And so I’m going through all the lovely and gross, gently high and sharply low, and beautiful shades of being a mom, loving myself, and finding my way. It’s truly exquisite.
I know all of this is learning. All of this is bringing out strength, wisdom, patience, and humor in Kobi and I that we just didn’t know was in there. It’s also demanding razor-sharp clarity. About our limits, our role as parents, our determination to do this right and stay high even when it gets ugly.
Just today a friend came over with her two girls and was telling us that when she was 14 she asked to go to boarding school cuz she desperately needed that space away from her home life. She needed to spread her wings and grow and develop in ways that she just couldn’t living with her family. She spoke of how important it was for her to push away from home and pull towards kids her own age.
[Note: I don’t want any of our children to feel the need to leave home to figure out who they are. We want to be there, as strong and loving, wise parenting leaders to guide them. Always. At the same time her talk helped me grasp how normal the turmoil of this growing away process is.]
And so we’ve discussed The Ying Yang of Living Without, and now we’re looking deep into the eyeballs of a different push and pull, give and take, darkness contrasted by light. We’re at this brink of letting go/stepping back while still guiding/teaching/being very much present while simultaneously being pushed and run over all slightly off equilibrium in this painful yet gorgeous process of enabling unsteady wings to fly.
This morning (again) was tough, as sometimes family life is. Sometimes it’s tough in a closed, cramped vehicle; sometimes it’s tough in the living room; sometimes (often) [lately, usually] the kids can fight (ferociously) and Kobi and I (against our better wise-parent judgement) get entangled in their drama and in the unpredictable storms of shifting hormones/middle school woes/self-esteem messes/adolescent confusion/sibling rivalry and we drown. Well, I’ll speak for myself. I drown.
What’s in Store
In our personal parenting lives, it’s a fascinating roller coaster of pulsating emotions that we know (waaaaaay deep down inside) is and will be not just ok, but extraordinary.
Three are in the shower, three in the pool, and one’s gone home. She [again] didn’t feel comfortable with the sexually-infused banter of normal hormone-pulsing teen talk and the touchy-feely pushing-the-limits of truth or dare. And now, (I’m laughing as I type), they are all in the shower. Five girls, two guys, all in their bathing suits, a throbbing mass of laughter and hands shampooing someone else’s hair. I sip my lemon water, chew of this bowl of mixed dried fruits and nuts, and feel so unalarmed by my daughter’s budding sexuality and the openness of her relationships (I love her friends!)
And Our Adventures In Tel Aviv
After a few nights with Kobi’s family around Jerusalem [will post later, I promise], we have to look forward to…..
[Note: Everything in black is written now, before we depart. The blue text, my photos, and any Facebook album or YouTube videos will reflect our experiences after each venue. Numbers 2, 3, 4 and 5 were lovingly sponsored.]
1- Nahalat Benjamin Market
It’s this outdoor hippie artists’ market of like 300 creative geniuses presenting their own works of art. You just walk around ooohing and aaaaahing while you snack of this, that, and the other. Of course, you buy something beyond-words cool (I already spotted online these magical glass-blown teardrop-shaped bubbles to hang in the garden). The weather now in Israel is getting post-summer cooler so we’re thinking if the temperature is kind…being bedazzled and meandering in an outdoor market should be lovely.
It was just that magical. We gave each of our kids 50 shekels (like $12) to buy whatever they wanted. It was this huge gentle-swaying midst of creativity all in one time and space. October Tel Aviv is breezy and lovely. So, so, so glad we did it!
2- Hatraklin Bistro Meat Restaurant
[Brady Bunch tune] So here’s the store of guy named Yossi…. And here’s the story of a guy named Moshe…. And they combined culinary dreams and created this exquisite meat-lovers haven of deliciousness. (Clearly, our mission will be to confirm what hundreds of TripAdvisor’er’s are already saying.) I’m lost between the steak seared on your own piping river stone or the chopped liver in butter sauce. Clueless if to go for the artichokes with real mozzarella or the oven baked breads. Tantalized between all the desserts. Their menu is making me drool.
So our evening was the most magical thing on the planet. We were greeted like family and treated like royalty, which turns out every guest in the place gets that special attention and love. The appetizers and middle-meals were unreal. I have never enjoyed chopped liver (carmelized with dates and fried onions, soaking in butter) more in my life. The artichokes were truly exquisite and the meats really turned me again into an unquenchable carnivore. Every member of the staff was so cute and friendly and just wanted to serve us with love, alongside of Yosi who kept coming to the table to pour us more of his hand-made wine. And just when I thought I couldn’t actually indulge myself in any more tantalizing sensations, they brought out these desserts- each sweet, amazing, unique, and beyond delicious. The entire evening was truly a remarkable experience. I’d like to take my mom and siblings there when mom comes to celebrate her 70th.
Thank you Hatraklin Meat and Wine Bistro for having us!
Interview with co-owner Yosi from Hatraklin Meat and Wine Bistro, Tel Aviv-
3- The Bunker- New Escape Room by Vertigo Escape Rooms
So all I know beforehand is that Gilad is a super sweet guy and that this is a new endeavor for them in Israel, on the ‘escape room’ scene for six months now. You know how much I always root for the underdog and you know how much I admire geniuses in their own right taking risks to make their dreams come true…. And so, we got super lucky and Gilad invited us to experience The Bunker Escape Room where you’re basically going to get obliterated within an hour if you, as a prisoner of war, don’t figure out how to get out of the bunker before it gets bombed.
Interview with Gilad, part of the genius creator team of The Bunker, Vertigo Escape Room
Our Official Family Review Minutes After Escaping from The Bunker, Tel Aviv, Israel
The geniuses behind this escape room simply cannot be praised enough. To think so out of the box and connect things so randomly seemingly-unrelated into the secret (and only way) out of a tight situation is enthralling. The intermeshing of technology and actual props was already ridiculously impressive.
I wish I could tell you more about its awesomeness but it’s really hard to review an escape room cuz both this amazing company (and the Escape Room rooms below) we can’t show you video or photography of the event itself. Suffice, somehow, with our impressions afterwards and the videos, and know that it really is an amazing thing to do with teens (who have so many opinions) cuz they were totally engaged, challenged, and we felt so bonded by getting out of these situations together, under pressure against a common enemy (who was not mom or dad, for a change!). Highly recommended. Soooooo memorable!
We totally, totally, totally recommend Vertigo’s The Bunker.
4- Master Market Culinary Tour of Carmel Market
So Yossi from the Hatraklin Bistro Meat also generously offered us this adorable-looking food tour in the Carmel Market. According to the little video, you walk, eat; learn, walk, eat, learn; walk, eat, learn. We can do that. We can. We can. It looks like the adults (we’ll be joined by Uncle Roni plus 2/4 of his kids) and the kiddos can equally enjoy tasting, walking around, and soaking in the lively rhythm of one of Israel’s most famous authentic markets. I’m thrilled to have fun activities interspersed between beach time and hang-out-at-home time. The Food Tour has tons of positive reviews on TripAdvisor so we’re happy to ‘suffer’ through this one too.
Best video summarizing our day:
So Kobi and Orazi slept in and Dahnya, Solai and I and uncle Roni, and cousins Talia and Tomer joined in. We met a sweet couple, Moshe and Meira, whose kids got them the tour as a gift. The guide, Tamuz, we decided, is the human version of Minnie Mouse. Too adorable for words.
We thought as Israelis who live here that we’d be bored by the food and the history trivia bits cuz… you know. Not at all. We died for the humus (truly magnificent restaurant- Humus Magen David), we ate bidders (or something like that from a guy named Kobi. It’s deep fried thin crust with mashed potatoes and an egg broken into it- to. die.for.) and had the best halva (sesame seed and sugar dessert). Roni (and Dahnya- *cough, cough* loved the wine and beer tasting). Even trivia about the Yemenites and some third generation market folks; also the singer retired coffee maker… It was a lovely three + hours. Lovely. We loved the Master Market Culinary Tour! Truly a highlight of our Tel Aviv stay. Thank you hosting us!
(I picked the best pics to put here. You can see the entire album of the tour here. )
5-Two Escape Rooms by Escape Room- Titanic and Gravity
Here we’re going to get spoiled with two escape room experiences with up to eleven people. (This is where my two long-lost cousins, 1/4 of Roni’s kids, and maybe some friends get to be invited in too)… In the Titanic Escape Room, we face figuring out how to get out and not die and are meant to free ourselves before our time is up. In the Cyber Quest Gravity Escape Room, we’re smashed into this virtual reality in which if we don’t act fast, not only do we die, but I think so does the rest of the universe. We’re already all bubbling and trying to figure out how to divide our teams so that we a- have an adult in each room (required for kids under 14) b- we have some of the cool-headed calm thinkers mixed in with the think-outside-of-the-box creative geniuses and c-we reduce the lethal combinations of family members who freak out on each other under pressure. They’re rated #1 on TripAdvisor for fun things to do in Tel Aviv!
So after much to do and coordination and a bit of why-should-he-go-I’m-coming-extended-family drama and a late train that prevented two from joining us, we ended up being six people total. We divided ourselves as such: Cyber Quest Gravity Escape Room with these psychedelic interactive glasses that see everything as if it was right before you – Kobi, Dahnya, and Solai. Escape Room Titanic where we died and asked for tons of help (ego-free!) as we got closer and closer to imminent death- Gabi, Orazi and cousin Talia.
Each group came out gushing about how phenomenal there experience was. I tried to capture us live right after the experience. In one word- both rooms: AWESOME! Like I said above with Vertigo Escape Room’s The Bunker, both of Escape Room’s Titanic and the Cyber Quest Gravity were insanely awesome. We are still buzzing from the experience and in awe of the geniuses that put together such amazing adult and teen entertainment.
If you go to Tel Aviv, we loved this escape room!
Interview with Shai from Escape Room
First Reactions Seconds After Escaping Gravity Escape Room
First Reactions Seconds After Escaping Titanic Escape Room
6- Tiny Apartment 5 Minutes from the Beach
So the owner’s like this sweetheart who moved to Israel from Germany (?) and rents out her dainty little home on weekends and holidays. The pictures look adorable, comfy and with the fun frequency that comes with a home with little people toys and clothing around. She’s situated right around the corner from the Carmel Market, and all the reviews confirm that she’s literally a five-minute walk from the beach. Below is my favorite Tel Aviv Beach video. As I was telling the film crew from Ireland (great story! Another day! Promise!):
“The beaches of Tiberias don’t have the same vibe as the beaches of Tel Aviv. In Tiberias you’ve got all the old and overweight Russian men playing matkot [Israeli beach tennis] in their tiny Speedo bathing suits. in Tel Aviv, you’ve got everything young and sexy doing all their young and sexy things in all of their perfect young and sexy appeal. It’s just a totally different world.”
We’re excited for major beach time.
Israel is a Dangerous Place Video:
So turns out that she’s still a sweetheart but from New Zealand. Single mom with two girls and now a new boyfriend that they’ll be moving in to live with… therefore, by Nov 15th, their place won’t be rented any more. Considering the absolute dumps and sub-human conditions we’ve lived in in the village with the indigenous in Ecuador or the pier house on Koh Rong Island, off southern Cambodia and other very cheap long-term deals around the globe; you’d think we would have been super cool with the moldy smell and the dump-ness not portrayed in the photographs. Well, we weren’t.
The highlight of my apartment experience were the crystals her daughter had on a shelf, the fairy on the light bulb, and this book, which now I will order cuz, yes, this I want:
After This Holiday…
We’re looking forward to settling back into our comfy, delicious routines.
Feels like we’re passed all the heart-wrenching drama of acclimating back home after 3 1/2 years out in the world. We’re now fine-tuning little things like ILLITERACY, but, we can do this domesticated life thing in Israel. We’ve got a remarkable school staff, tons of resources, and a vision of where we want to be.
I spoke to a counselor at their school last week. I cried no small amount. Shared the bullying, the lack of self-confidence, confusion, and the emotional tolls of our parenting choices on our kids these passed two years. She said something powerful. Something like this:
“You chose to pursue the nomadic family adventure lifestyle. All three of them are paying a steep price. A very steep, and an often painful price -academically, socially, and emotionally and they will pay this price and feel the burden of it for the next few years. It is not easy. But what you’ve given them, what they’ve experienced, their maturity, the kinds of adults they will become due to those years spent intimately with you and due to living with different people and cultures around the world is priceless. What you’ve given them as people, and as a family, is worth the price they have to pay now. When you zoom out and get passed this painful consequence of your choices, you will see that it was worth every bit of it and that they will be better, happier, more open-minded, more cultured, more appreciative and more successful people because of it.”
We’ll take the bumps and bruises from our long-term family world travels and gratefully chug along of this road called normal. We can do normal. We can. We can.
Normal also means having cats (four), an organic vegetable garden, and working/living/traveling locally. Normal also means roots- building friendships and relationships that don’t have to end in goodbye. Normal also means embracing the joys that come with routine while creating little normal pocket vacations like normal people take as tiny breaks from their normal lives. Normal also means going through the typical whirlwinds and emotional storms of normal teenage-parent and teenage-sibling relations.
We know that these mini-miracles will continue to occur for us whenever and wherever we go in life. They are actually unfolding like the wings of a soft light-sparking firefly all, all, all the time. We’ve just got to slow down enough, stop enough, and witness it in every leave, in the wind, in people’s faces, and in our own unraveling personal life tapestries. It is so.- from Dead Lizards, Gardens and Being Home in the Sun
We can do this.
Been to Tel Aviv and loved it? Anything we missed? Would you have taken the a vegetarian dish (and stood by your morals) or drooled your way (guilt-free) through the steaks and liver? Thoughts on what our normal is? (We’ll never be per say ‘normal’. You and I both know that. But our version of normal…today….back home….after life on the road… as a case study….is intriguing to me) Thoughts on the steep price we’re paying vs the benefits of long-term globetrotting?
Leave a comment, or don’t and just smile. Yeah. Like that. I feel your frequency either way. I’m sending a hug back.
[Note: 5:29 a.m. Holy shit.]
You may also like to read a few other crazy adventures like….
Some of my home-made favorites about family life and dysfunction include:
6- and maybe my favorite just because the video is unreal (God, how they’ve grown) Blessed Chaos
Love, love, love the artist talents of geniuses. Thank you for your phenomenal art, in order of appearance: