Or-Tal's Writings

entrepreneur/mother/education revolutionist/high tech addict



Travels With My Family – Part II

With A Camper In New England

It was a first attempt, and a pretty good experience. We decided to rent a camper for our long route through New England. This turned out to be a really smart decision. We had all the convenience of, well, a small mobile home really. The camper felt nicer, better equipped and safer then the Airbnb rental we had experienced in New York the week before. Comfy beds, kitchen and bathroom travelling with us everywhere… And the kids being able to switch seats, and not be pressed together most of the time was one of the best features.

We prepared a long route and based our timing on references made by other travelers before us. But we hadn’t taken into consideration how slow we are in getting organized in the mornings, or how many times the iGo GPS will lead us through the wrong route. We had extended our camper rental for a day, and we still didn’t get enough of the beautiful New England views, sites and towns.

The worst of this part was my 9 year old breaking his arm. We took him to the wonderful Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and he got his arm in cast. He was particularly disturbed by not being able to draw and not having the chance to see whales, since we had to continue south, towards the next site on our route. On the bright side, the cast is coming off next week and the whole thing has been marked as just one more experience.

I think perhaps one of the best days of this tour was our visit to Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth New Hampshire on the very day they had a harvest festival. We enjoyed the shepherd dogs demonstrations most of all and got very excited by the whole happy atmosphere.

Museums With Kids

It amazes me when people say that “New York is not for kids”. What do you mean? I ask, what about all the museums?

For some reason most teen-parents we spoke with think a family vacation is Disneyland oriented, totally dismissing museums and defining them as “boring for kids”. This was never the case with my kids. Not that they don’t like Disneyland. They did. Still, with all the excitement we had experienced in Paris 2 years ago, I am not sure where they got more excited – at Disneyland or in the Louvre. We almost got kicked out at closing time, the kids simply refused to leave.

Similarly we had this fantastic experience now in New York. Two visits to the Natural History Museum, one to the Metropolitan and one to the fantastic (wish we had time to go back) MOMA. Why would anyone think this could be boring is beyond me. Each museum is like an expedition of something new, surprising, exciting or beautiful.

My 13 year old son is an amateur photographer, with way too simple cameras, and he collected many of his impressions through the lens of our old mini Cannon. We really should get him a serious camera (recommendations welcome).


Travels With My Family – Part I

Repeating Experiences

When my daughter was 12 years old we took a vacation together in London. This was our first ever mother-daughter vacation, and it was great. It wasn’t only a 5 day vacation. It was the foundation of phase two relationships between mother and daughter.

We strengthened it two and a half years later, taking a 2 week vacation to spend time in New York, Washington and Boston.

This fall we decided to take a family vacation in the US. Packed the family – one husband, one 17 year old daughter, one 13 year old son and one 9 year old son and went for the longest vacation we ever dared to take: 23 days. Some of it was re-visiting places for me and my daughter.

Revisiting has its own charm. The exchange of meaningful looks between us girls, or the enthusiastic chase towards a familiar site we visited 3 years ago. But most of all, it is so important to know you can return. That good times, or good vacations, aren’t a “once in a lifetime” occurrence. It’s so good to know you can do it again.

We also had a chance to improve on another experience. This time I haven’t lost her on the subway. She took her travels freely and happily to meet us at the Metropolitan Museum one morning. That one was for me…

In the movies

I had full intention of sharing my travel log with my readers. But too many things prevented it from happening. To count only a couple – lack of internet connectivity throughout most of our vacation, and me getting really sick for a big chunk of it.

So I’m left with bits and pieces. My 13 year old, on a first glimpse of Manhattan, 6AM, from the taxi riding into town said “I feel like I’m in a movie”, which became this vacation’s slogan.

We had the privilege to celebrate Rosh HaShana, the Jewish New Year, twice – once at my brother’s apartment in Manhattan, and on the following night with their kind friends at their apartment not far from there. People tourism is the best type of tourism. The kind that fills you with real excitement or revelations. And having that privilege of being invited to join a festive meal with people we met for the first time was moving. Thanks Dara and Seth Kessler. More to follow.

Rosh HaShana Desert

School Year, Fall 2011

This September is very eventful. The ongoing social demonstrations and protests across the country continue. The school year opened. The Palestinians intend to declare their independent state. A game, from Israel, “Shaker” won Techcrunch Distrupt in San Francisco. Saveby has launched and running a successful alpha version. And by the end of the month we, that is myself, hubby and kids, are on our way to a first ever family vacation in the US.

There were so many topics to write about, I just kept starting and never got to finish any of my posts.

New School Year
My eldest daughter has started her last year of high school. All education revolutions we are talking about for the past 3-4 years will have no effect on her. I just hope some changes will happen before her future born kids will begin their own schooling.

My son started 8th grade, which is the last year of elementary school here; next year he is starting high school. This year he will choose a high school, and hopefully will be accepted into any program he chooses. Isn’t that what parenthood is all about? Opening as many options to our kids? This year is so crucial that we have jointly decided to give Ritalin a chance. A bit sad, in my view, that a child needs to be sedated in order to make it through a school year. But the effort to keep up without it has become a real burden. Grades are just too important this year.

My youngest joined a new school this year. For him we chose a Waldorf Education  school, fortunately not too far from home. He is still hanging to his skepticism about “any school ever fitting” his state of mind regarding education.

Shaking Disrupt
I was very excited at the winning of Shaker at the Techcrunch Disrupt in San Francisco. Not only because it’s one more representation of the startup nation, coming from Israel, but because it is a game.

The gaming (not to be confused with gambling) industry is moving forward big time. From the launch of Maple Story, to the launch of Q2L, a public middle school in NYC dedicated to games and game development, and now the winning at Techcrunch of an entertainment feature. Not technical, not tool, not another commercial innovation – all those are great, and fantastic, and every new idea is exciting, but the winning of this game puts another crown on the head of this industry. “People want to have fun”, I told a colleague who was wondering about this choice. “And it’s time we acknowledge this need across the board. From the obvious social networking, to other aspects of life, like education systems (yes, that again) and you know what? even health systems. We Want Fun!!”.

Shaker holds a tremendous promise and great potential for many other industries, way beyond Facebook. I really hope I get to meet with these guys soon and share some thoughts with them. Congratulation Ofer Rundstein, Yonatan Maor and Gad Maor.

Saveby a Totally Different Way
Saveby is my own startup, on which I am slaving for the past year with my co-founder, Yoav Perry. After a lot of research and development we released our alpha version and sent out alpha codes to willing participants across the US.

Saveby is the self-service group-shopping platform where parents from across the web -who are interested in the same product, band together to get it at group discount. Merchants accept these group offers to get volume sales.

Saveby is NOT another daily coupon, local deal or private sales site. It is not a middleman, haggler or merchant. It is simply a platform where parents can form or join group offers for the things they want -and have quality merchants accept their offer. Saveby is free to use. Payments are processed securely with PayPal. We really aim to disrupt current ecommerce by finding a real way to restore the power of the masses, the shoppers, to their hands.

Merchants are only happy to participate: “it’s our turn to sit back and relax and get best deals offered into our inboxes”. So this can really be the breakthrough ecommerce needs now. If you want an alpha invite too – let me know.

Launching the alpha isn’t a simple task. And it is especially complicated when half of the company isn’t located where the market it. But that’s how things are at the moment, while we’re still bootstrapping.

The idea about an “alpha” stage is that it isn’t perfect. Our alpha testers are people who have agreed to help us make the suit fit better. They take the time to share their feedback with us, make suggestions, try it and of course – tell others about it.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank some alpha participants for taking the time to go over the system with us: Josh Becker @DadStreet, Jim Turner @genuine, Amit Knaani @amitos from Vikido and BabyFirstTV, Aparna Vashisht-Rota @parentella and many more. I hope to meet face to face with some of my favorite parent bloggers during my visit to the US (starting next week) and introduce the system to more alpha testers. Next stage will take us to a full commercial testing.

A First Ever US Family Vacation
Vacation? Now?? Indeed this sounds strange. Who has the time to take a vacation during an startup launch?? Well, apparently we do. Even startup founders need to take some time to breathe and relax and renew. My kids and hubby deserve some quality mom time. Of course this cost mom a lot of hours in planning, reserving, ordering, arranging (getting a house sitter…)… And did I mention I intend to use some NY time to meet with my favorite business and blogging connections face to face? Let me know if you want in my schedule, between a sea of museums my kids (yes, it is them) insist on visiting. Oh, and recommendations are welcome.

Experiencing Independence

I don’t know how it happened exactly, but when I went to look at the map, my daughter thought I was going to get off, so she ran off the train, the door closed, and I stayed on the train for another station, while she was out there, all alone, on the corner of 53rd and fifth, middle of Manhattan.

While I was attempting to get right back on the train back one station, she went out to the street level to get a mobile reception. By the time the train arrived, she was outside, trying to call me, but I was under ground, no reception.

She didn’t freak out. She looked around, realized that where she was is approximately 4 blocks away from our apartment and started to head back to the apartment.

I was worried that she won’t panic or attempt to go on the next train after me and prayed that she was smart enough to remember that when you lose your parent you are supposed to stay at the same place and not move. Especially since I saw her get off and I knew where she was.

Later that evening she explained to me that she went a little further away from the subway station because she had no reception and it took her a while to realize she had to select a mobile operator. “By the time I realized that”, she said, “I was already one block away and didn’t sea the subway station at all, so I thought it would be simpler to head right to the apartment”.

The evening ended with giant smiles to conclude her little adventure.


When I was 14 I could only dream of going abroad. But I was a lot more independent in traveling around on my own, in my city of Haifa and even to Tel-Aviv. I began traveling by public bus when I was 9 years old. No cell phones then.

Still, missed being able to explore new countries. I am so happy, as a mother, to be able to travel abroad with my kids and award them with these experiences, and education.

Strangely enough, on the plain on our way to the States, I told my daughter, that while this girls’ trip is a joy for me, I can’t help thinking about my first time in New-York. Making the revelation, discovering this incredible city all by myself. I was 23 at the time. There is no doubt that this is a totally different experience then visiting it for the first time of your life with your parent, which normally would assume responsibility for … well, not getting lost, for instance.

So I could well understand how the little adventure yesterday ended with her feeling a little ‘high’. I was happy to realize how grown up a 14 year old really is.

Vacation Can Happen!

I don’t have to submit a vacation request to my employer. I am an independent consultant, after all. I can come and go as I please. Last year I had heavy doubts before I dared to take some time off during the summer with the family. This year it was a little easier.

I still worry about taking a vacation without jeopardizing my one-person-show business. The same questions keep popping into my head about when to stop and then how to restart. But the summer has its own pace and a vacation seems to be a part of it.
Seeking approval I discussed this topic on the DEI (Digital Eve Israel) list last year. Got reassurances all around. Some suggested using blackberry or a laptop, other suggested a complete relax, provided I don’t leave a project in its course. Last year was OK: I finished a project just before going and got back days before the beginning of the new school year, marker of new projects beginnings.

So here is a quick reminder why a vacation can happen even when you are a sole proprietor:
-The fact is that I am a marketing and communications consultant. I am not solving global warming. The world won’t end if I’m gone a week or even two.
-I must inform clients and contacts in time, finalize projects before the vacation. Plan the schedule so it won’t interfere with significant clients’ events. Go for August, most people all over the world are going for August anyway. How significant can anything done on August be?
-I try not to start new projects until after my getaway. And tell everybody. Set a vacation response for my email.

Go for it.
I just want to turn off my brain and stop the ongoing convincing. The summer is slower anyway. Let’s look for a totally different environment. An internet connection is preferable – but I am setting myself in a vacation mode. No emergencies. I want all the family to relax into a non-emergencies atmosphere. Enjoy each other’s enjoyment. Fill your lungs with air and water your eyes with fresh sites.


Next: getting back.

Summer observations.

Longer days. More hours of daylight. More demand for fun. Less time to work. More time with the kids. Vacation – a must. Thinning events. Too hot: Less time outside. More time for writing. Reading? Too hot. Nothing new. New projects? After the summer.

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