Thursday, February 11, 2016

This Is Not A Love Story, It's Complicated

This week I read Keren David's sixth young adult novel, This is not a Love Story. Well I did love it so it was sort of a love story for me.

It's about three young adults who meet in Amsterdam. All of them for different reasons. None of them with parents checking up on their whereabouts - partly because of their personal circumstances and partly because it's Amsterdam. Of course they all fall in love but this is not a love story, innit? Unless you count falling in love with Amsterdam. If anything, this story shows how everything is about love - family, friends, where you live, who you are - even if you are not in a relationship. As the cover says, it's complicated.

For me the icing on the cake was that the main characters are Jewish in a way I've never come across in a novel for general reading. The plot is nothing to do with being Jewish, there are no pogroms or concentration camps, but at the same time the Jewish element is not shoved into a symbollic lighting the Chanuka candles party. Neither are there Jewish stereotypes like the wise old Rabbi or an overfeeding Jewish mother (who is invariably and irritatingly called Miriam in other novels). In fact it's about a couple of Jewish families in the way me and my friends are Jewish - not very, nothing to see, and yet all encompassing. Again it's complicated.

I have to admit that Keren David is an old friend of mine. I've reviewed her books before and though I did disclose this fact, it wasn't particularly relevant to the review. However, this time I took great joy in recognising some of the characters in the book. Some specifically and some less specifically. The less specifically identified characters were the parents in London who are all our (my friends and mine) fathers and all our mothers (except for those with weird parents).

One of the characters goes to my nephews' school and he and his friends are all their friends. Actually they're all my friends from thirty years ago but with slightly different Jewish slang and internet.

I love the way Keren included Jewish vocabulary without explaining it. I can't believe the editors let her do this but it does make the whole thing more credible. Don't you hate it when characters in a book say things they obviously both know already for the soul purpose of explaining to the reader? Like they're in a literary version of the Truman Show? Well there's none of that, thank goodness.

In fact I've written my own TINALS companion book including any Jewish slang you might want to know. It's not very long so I've copied it here:

Batty and Barmy - short for Bat Mitzva (for a girl) and Bar Mitzva (for a boy).
Neb - short for nebishe or nebekh, a pathetic person that we all feel sorry for.
Youth Movements - not Yiddish but quite a Jewish thing. National youth clubs with an ideology over and above having fun, very much like Scouts.
Beck - rich young Jews with designer clothes and expensive social lives.

If you want an extremely good book to read with the added bonus of an insight into my family and community, read this book.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Building Noah's Ark

Having told you you how happy and grateful I was not to have to build Noah's Ark as one of the other girls in DD's group has parents who love doing craft projects, I actually got quite into the whole event as more and more amazing arks turned up at school. The parents really outdid themselves on this one. Here are some photos.

I even sort of want to make one myself now.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Reason 2B Cheerful - February 2016

 The Reasons to be Cheerful linky is being hosted by Lakes Single Mum again this month.

Almost finished bar the roof of the cabin.
1 Noah's Ark

An arts and crafts project at school had the 2nd Graders put into groups of two, three, or four to make a Noah's Ark. I hate these types of project as they are homework for the parents. Remember when I had to make Mini Israel?

We got our group so I called one of the other mothers in the group. And then God answered my prayers when she said: "I was just about to call you. I'll take the girls home from school on Tuesday and give them lunch then my husband will make the ark with them. You don't have to do anything."

It turned into a family effort with T's big sister helping and her little brother lending his toy animals. The end result is amazing. Thank you dear people. Btw, I have put in a request to be teamed with you for every art, craft and science project for the duration.

2 Spring is in the air!

It's February! I once described February as the Monday morning of the year. And it is if you live in Northern Europe. But here in Israel the weather has turned warmer and hints of spring are everywhere. We are still using the heating for another 6 weeks probably but only in the evenings.

Spring is in the air and the window is open (only one but it's a start).

3 Decluttering

Putting these two tv-stand type units one on top of the other, has saved me about 100 GBpounds. That's what it would cost to have a tall Billy bookcase delivered by Ikea and built in DD's bedroom. It also means one less item of furniture in the living room (one of the units was already in DD's bedroom).

I'm getting the decluttering urge again. Partly because of Rachel Jonat's Minimalist Mom series on her blog (of the same name), partly because it's almost spring, partly because the Yedidya Bazaar is in just a couple of months, and mostly because I love the feeling of less stuff and more space.

4 Shabbat

It's Shabbat and we have a whole day of nothingness before us.

Shabbat Shalom! xxx

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Tuesday Tidbits #38 - Winter 2016

DD: Did you have a tablet when you were little?
Me: No I didn't. They weren't invented yet.
DD: Well I'm so lucky because I was born when electricity had already been invented.

DD: Mummy will you stop singing Christmas songs, you're ridicking my brain! (From the word ridiculous.)
Another time:
DD: Stop asking me all the time if any more of my teeth are wobbly. That just ridics me!

At the airport walking to the boarding gates and seeing the signs: C1 - C9 and C10 - C25.
DD: C9 take away C1? C8!..... C25 take away C10? C15!
DD: Ben Gurion Airport take away Terminal 1? What does that mean?

April 2012 with Grandma and Grandpa
DD: Last night I dreamt that Grandpa came alive again.
Me: That's nice. What was he doing?
DD: He was fixing the train set for me. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Meetings, Tests And An Expat Mum

Have you ever thought about the disadvantages of school children whose parents don't understand the language that well? I never really thought about it until we became one of those families. And we have the advantage of my being a teacher and that I work in the school system here.

Our parent-teacher meeting in December was a wake-up call for me on a number of levels. I know that DD's Hebrew reading is weak as she only hears, speaks and reads English at home. However, the teacher started talking about having her assessed for learning difficulties. I dismissed this as ridiculous as she can read perfectly well in English.

"Can she read a text and write answers to questions about it?" Asked the teacher. "Um no," I mumbled in reply.

So on one level I realised that we need to practise Hebrew reading at home and that homework has to be more of a learning experience than just a matter of getting it done and out of the way - which had been our attitude to it thus far.

On another level I realised that, like the proverbial cobbler whose children go barefoot, I had been neglecting DD's English skills. She is comfortable reading English on a "Frog and Toad" sort of level but she's 7 years old. If we don't step it up now she might end up with no language in which she can read extensively and express herself in writing, despite being able to speak fluently in two languages.

We started practising Hebrew reading every night as well as English reading and we invited a friend in a similar position to join us once a week for a formal English lesson. The fact that the other child comes to his English lesson with his books and his pencil every week at a set time, gives us the formal structure to do some real work which we never seemed to find time for on our own.

Then last week I was talking to another mother who happened to mention the word list for the spelling test this week. I knew that they had been having spelling tests recently. DD showed me that so far she's got 7/10, 6/13 and a momentous 1/11, which is when she decided to show me. She wasn't overly upset about it but I think she needed an ally. I had sent an email to the teacher asking if there was a word list but got no reply. Turns out they were getting a printed list of words every week but DD had no idea what it was for so she just 'lost' it somewhere.

I'm sure all this information was in an email somewhere but I tend to skim the emails for the letters ש"ב (HW - homework). The emails are in Hebrew and I'm not very good at reading the long, details about what they are learning in school. If they're teaching it I'm happy with it and I assume that my child is learning it.

So this week we made sure we had the list. The test is today. Last night DD copied the list of words out once. Then she tried writing the list under test conditions and got 9/14. So we took notice of the mistakes and tried again. This time she got 13/14. We did it one more time and got 100%. This morning before school she 'took the test' again and got 14/14 again.

I'm on shpilkes waiting to hear how she got on. I just checked her timetable on the fridge and saw that Hebrew isn't until the end of the day. Ooooof, I want it to be over already. I wanted her to get it down while she still remembered. I can hardly wait for 4.30 when I collect her from school.

LOL. If I'm like this now for a spelling test in 2nd Grade, what am I going to be like when the serious exams come round in ten years time?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The No Snow Saga 2016

Please excuse the clothes dryer - I brought it in to keep it clean and dry.
We are in the mountains and a freeze-thaw-freeze situation makes our roads treacherous. Add to that the fact that no one is experienced in driving in ice or snow conditions and that the city does not keep road clearing equipment for two days a year (if that). It's safer and cheaper to just shut down for the duration.

However, to understand the actions and reactions and general hysteria in Jerusalem when snow is forecast, you have to go back two years. We had quite a heavy snowstorm that year (heavy for us means about 10cm) and snow tourists flocked in from the centre of the country (they never get snow in Tel Aviv). That year the snow was heavier than usual and many people got trapped in their cars on the highways for up to 24 hours. In the city they had to open up schools to house the stranded snow tourists over the weekend. We were stuck at home for a glorious five days!

So last year they shut the roads early in and out of Jerusalem and closed all public institutions. They weren't taking any chances. In the spirit of not taking any chances, we got three days off school and no snow. It was hilarious.

Obviously this year, as a result of last year, they are not being too premature and even though snow was forecast for last night, they made us wait until 5am this morning before making a decision. The suspense on fb last night was killing me. At 9.30pm my college cancelled today. As this is where I work on Tuesdays it was all over for me at that point. And the snow had started by the time I went to bed at 11.

At 4.30am I woke up and looked outside. There was snow on the cars. I turned off the alarm and went back to sleep.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning (at 9.15) and outside was wet but clear. "Is there school today?" asked DD. Me: I don't think so but I'll check on the computer. Of course there was school and fb was full of posts about disappointed children (and teachers) having to be in school at 8am. Woops.

So we are sitting here at the computers - me blogging and DD watching Tangled - and watching the no snow out of the window. It keeps trying to snow. Is it sleet? Is it snow? Is it getting warmer? Is it all over? Probably.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Five Years And What's Changed?

Five years and two days to be precise. I remember walking home from the nursery with my friend Shira as she explained to me what a blog is and how to set one up - basically google blogspot and follow the instructions. A few hours later and I was a blogger.

The first post. Cute. I got some encouragement from veteran bloggers who I later discovered were only about three months ahead of me in the game. I think Gemma was my first blog friend. And I now see that Jazzy commented on that post so I guess we've also known each other for five years. Reading back over some of the posts I wonder if maybe a blog cull is called for. Not all posts are keepers.

I joined a couple of online parent bloggers' groups in the US and followed some blogs. It didn't take me long to realise that I felt more at home with the British bloggers.

At the time I was the mother of a just 2yo who'd been in full time childcare since September. I was fast coming to the end of the money I'd saved up to allow me to be a fulltime mum for a while and I'd not yet found gainful employment.

The job in publishing where I wrote educational textbooks no longer existed as the company had folded with the ongoing global recession. I loved that job. Shame.

I went to a first interview in a non-profit organisation run by Americans with serious career-heads. The hours would have had me dropping DD off at nursery at 7.30 (when it opens), running out the office door to catch a bus to pick her up at 4.30 and every bus ride being fraught with anxiety in case I was late. And what if she were ill? What if she were sick for a week? I couldn't take the stress and embarrassment of having to call in sick on a regular basis.

I needed to get back into education somehow, somewhere. But how? Where? And meanwhile no money left.

My apartment was a mess. Full of baby equipment, too much furniture acquired over the years for previous abodes and that never quite fit into this one. Boxes of donated baby clothes till about age 8 (yes we're still wearing some of it now). Too many books (yes you can) and too much stuff in general.

I was bored, underemployed, eating for comfort and lonely.

Fast forward five years and what has changed?

I found that perfect job in a Teacher Training College which got me back into a work environment I love. It took a few more years of miracles (I honestly don't know how I managed to keep afloat for the next four years) before finally having enough work to actually cover the monthly expenses. There's little to spare but at least the fear of losing everything has been erased. This final piece of the jigsaw puzzle only fell into place during the last few months. It's not perfect by any means but it's a lot more secure than previously.

I also started paying myself first, as they say in all the how to be a millionaire books. I've been putting away a small amount each month. Money that I thought I couldn't afford to save has been saved and it's starting to add up to that small-medium emergency fund you're supposed to have. Another leg of security.

I embraced decluttering and minimal(ish)ism.

The baby equipment and the toys in the living room have long gone. The boxes of hand-me-downs have been worn and handed down again. Books were culled and five bookcases (yes five!) were let go. OK, I replaced two of them with two smaller bookcases but we're still three down. A desk went, a new wall turned a walk-through room into a proper bedroom, a second toilet and a proper shower were installed in place of the old bath, and finally just this week I got my new (2nd hand) dining table which is the right shape for the room. Less is definitely more manageable and more comfortable to live with. I'm loving the space.

Blogging has changed my life and saved my sanity. I joined facebook and twitter only to publicise the blog - I didn't really get it before. Both these platforms have led to networks of new friends (twitter) and reconnections with old friends far and wide (facebook). Groups have allowed us to share information, conversations and all sorts of entertainment without the need of a babysitter.

Best of all, it's all written down. Well most of it. Not the really private bits. It's like a journal with photos and public feedback.

I am still overweight. It's a process.