Friday, November 17, 2017

Just Don't Sleep Through Christmas - R2BC

Almost the end of a long Friday and here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week. I'm joining the other cheerful bloggers on the linky over at Mummy from the Heart, as usual. 

DD in one of her art classes. Still in shorts and t-shirt you'll notice. 
We are constantly hearing about how most of us are sleep deprived. And most of us are feeling it too. 

I read an article about how not enough sleep 'turns off' certain cancer fighting hormones (or somethings) in the body. The researcher who wrote the paper said he gets panicky of he doesn't have his 8 hours a night sleep. He said that 8 hours a night is as essential for good health as a healthy diet and avoiding known toxins like asbestos. 

Well I'm easily persuaded and as it doesn't involve going to the gym or breaking a sweat, I tried it. For a month now I've been resisting the lure of the computer screen and making sure I'm in bed by 10 (10.30 at the latest) every night. I don't know if I'm fighting potential cancer cells successfully, but the knock-on effects are amazing. I'm not tired in the mornings. It's not a struggle to get out of bed. I'm happier to go to work, I function better at work, and I don't eat as much as I did in the longer evenings.

None of this is rocket science of course but it's a revelation to me. It took me a good few days to make myself go to bed so early (for me) when I wasn't even tired, but once it became a habit, I'm loving it. 

The Festive Season
It's begun. And I allow it to begin now. I watched a vlog recently where they were already decorating their Christmas tree in the first week of November. One of the comments said that their family had given many sons to the First and Second World Wars and they had suffered more than their share of losses. In respect for their family members who fell and for all the fallen soldiers, they do not start decorating for Christmas until after 11/11. I like this idea. I like it because it shows respect and because it stops Christmas blurring borders with the summer holidays. 

Personally I would like to ban Christmas until December 1st. Let's give full attention to Hallowe'en, Guy Fawkes, and Thanksgiving without them being overshadowed by creeping Christmas. But on Sunday it's the 1st of Kislev, which is the Hebrew month in which Hanuka falls. So even by my own rules, the Festive Season must be allowed to begin. 

We have already been invited to a Thanksgiving Dinner next Thursday. I suggested that the traditional gift to bring would be some blankets infested with smallpox. This didn't go down well. So we shall arrive with wine and redeem ourselves by getting into the spirit of it all. (Although I've already been warned that there is a lot of dessert in the main course.)

The Weather
It's holding out. Middle of November and I'm still in sandals. It was 25 degrees C, today in Jerusalem. Warm and balmy. Just right. Of course, 10 years ago we would have been panicking that we've had hardly any rain this season, but now that we have desalination plants no one seems to worry about the water situation anymore. We should though because the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are in danger of drying up completely and where is beauty if not in natural bodies of water? But for now it's nice to be warm and not have to turn the heating on. I have a personal challenge to not use the heating until December 1st. (Not even on Kislev 1st!). 

Thursday, November 9, 2017

I See Music In Our Future - R2BC

It's that time of the week again and though I've been sick for some of it, there are still reasons 2B cheerful. However, because of the sicky, it's a bit of a recap and an update on things already reported. I've joined the linky over at Michelle's Mummy from the Heart, where us cheerful bloggers share the cheer. 

DD had her third clarinet lesson, but the first lesson with the full instrument. Ronit had given her ligature (you see we learned the proper name for it) to her teacher and it worked. She came home all excited and exclaiming, "I can play my clarinet! I can play my clarinet!" What she meant was that she could get a sound out of it. Which is 100% improvement on last week when she couldn't get a sound out of it. So her homework is to practice. I've banished practice sessions to her bedroom with the door shut until she can play a tune. That sounds harsher than it is because I'm actually only thinking of the neighbours. DD's bedroom is the only room in the house that only shares a party wall (including ceilings and floors) with one other neighbour instead of three.

After her lesson, and while she was still excited about it, I put on my CD of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto. The adagio (the middle bit) is possibly my favourite piece of music of all time. DD complained all the way through that it was boring and she wanted to watch Mama Mia.

A clarinet playing friend called after reading my blog post and offered to give DD help with her technique. He also mentioned that his son had taken clarinet to great levels, eventually necessitating them paying 13,000nis (almost 3,000GBP) for a good clarinet. Mama Mia suddenly sounded like a good idea.

Sick Days
I was sick on Sunday and Monday and didn't go to school. I went to college on Tuesday (which is entirely different from teaching in primary school - far less energy involved) so I thought I'd better go back to school on Wednesday. However, I had to leave before the last lesson. I came straight home and went to bed. DD had to fend for herself all evening. She foraged about in the fridge and in the larder for food. Evidence the next morning suggested that she ate crisps, biscuits, and ice-cream for supper. I vaguely remember her coming in to ask me a few times and I just said, "I don't mind, you can have what you like, just no cooking."

Good bye old friend. I'm eating the fibre from now on.
The cheerful connection here is that DD was so good and amused herself  until bedtime. She brought me glasses of cool water when I needed them and the phone when it rang. Eventually I saw all the lights going out and a little voice said, "I'm going to bed now. Shall I turn the light out right away or can I do some sudokus in bed?"

She took the magnets only. She didn't want the books. 
I put some items up for sale on our local facebook selling group. I sold the juicer. Research has convinced me that eating the whole fruit or vegetable is better. More fibre and less fructose. I loved the juices. My friend and I used to call them the nectar of the gods. But you have to follow your head in these things.

I also sold a big bag of magnetic letters, numbers and shapes. It all goes to keep some cash in my purse and will pay for my next bus ticket. Every little helps. And that's two fewer clutter items in our home.

DD and I both enjoyed playing the recorder last weekend. I'm looking forward to a future of recorder duets.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Why I Need To Get Flu Shots

Seriously, you think I had the energy to find relevant photos? 
I took two sick days from school this week - Sunday and Monday. I had a cold and a cough, a sinus headache, a sore throat and no voice. The usual November and winter afflictions. I'm almost better today and came to college (on Tuesdays I teach in college).

It's a big hassle to take a sick day from school. Because I'm a subject teacher and not a class teacher, I had to notify (by text or whatsapp) every class teacher of groups I teach on that day (or on those days) that I wouldn't be there. Some of my groups are from 4 different classes!

I had to notify the break-duty co-ordinator and try to do a swap with someone. There were no swappers available so she did it for me and I owe her two breaks in the future.

I had to notify the substitute co-ordinator, even though I knew she'd just cancel classes where I take groups out of other lessons and tell my groups to stay in with the other English teachers if their class also had English. So then I had to try to think of what work they could do on their own without disturbing the rest of the class, and text that to the English staff. (The Head of English said she was teaching 'telling the time' so one of my groups could learn it with her group. This was gratefully accepted as all my textbooks are at school so I had no idea what to give them.)

I had to organize a sick-note from my doctor but felt too unwell to actually go in and get it. I will get it within the next two weeks but she won't see me sick so what's it worth really?

I sat with the staff contact list and my phone, and texted/whatsapped for a good half an hour to fulfill all my obligations. I was sick but not disfunctional. I wondered if I would have gone into work if I worked in a quiet office? Possibly. But I couldn't have controlled classes of lively children.

I once had real flu, about 20 years ago. The type where you basically die for a week and it takes about three months for the virus to totally leave your body. I remember that I (stupidly?) went back to school after only one week. Had I stayed at home another week to really recover I might have avoided the three months of semi-sickness. Seriously, for three months I went to work, came home and went back to bed.

Back then you just phoned the school office and your head of department and they dealt with everything. If I got real flu now there's no way I'd be able to do all that notifying and organising - I couldn't even stand up.

So I'll be going for my flu shots when I pick up my sick note. And for DD too. Because I can only deal with low grade sickness in my job.

Do other teachers have this, or is it just my school?

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Dusting Off The Descant

With all the shenanigans over DD's clarinet and me requesting a recorder group instead, I got all nostalgic about my recorder. A few years ago, before DD was born, I bought myself a new descant recorder and got out my old recorder books from school (circa 1973). I started to play again but, as with a lot of things, I didn't get very far. DD now has that recorder for school.

While I was trying to persuade DD that the recorder is just as good as the clarinet (and failed), we watched You Tube videos of recorder ensembles and they are beautiful. So when we went to buy the reeds for the clarinet, I bought myself a new recorder. It cost less than the reeds for the clarinet despite being a Yamaha.

At the weekend I got out my old books - the black one (book 1) and the blue one (book 2), and started to play. I began at the beginning, going over the notes - B, A, G, upper C, upper D, F#, E and lower D. It went surprisingly fast. My fingers seemed to remember of their own accord. I got to page 30 in less than an hour, and playing fluently, reading the music an' all.

Something was missing though. There were tunes I remembered that just weren't there. So went back to the box and found the recorder book from my primary school, the red one. And there it was, nestled somewhere between Go and Tell Aunt Nancy and London's Burning - Tallis. I loved playing that when I was 10. It felt like a proper piece of music rather than a folk song, which of course it is.

Then DD came in and said she wanted a go. So she took the black book and worked her way through the notes B, A and G. (Don't ask me what they have been doing in school for a year.) She got all excited about it. Later in the day she went back to practise it again.

I proclaimed Saturday morning to be music practice morning. I am determined to get to the end of the blue book this time. Did you notice what good condition it's in compared to the black book? There's a reason for that.

Minimalism shminimalism, there is also a reason why despite being an Olympic level declutterer, there are some things I've held on to for 45 years and not sorry.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

I Went To Hell And Back (The Clarinet Saga) - R2BC

Can you spot the missing piece? It's the clip that holds the reed. Who knew? 
After paying not a small amount of money for DD's extra art lessons, which I didn't begrudge at all, we got a letter from the school saying that each child had to choose one of the following instruments: clarinet, saxophone, flute, trombone and trumpet. DD chose the trumpet. I vetoed that so she chose clarinet.

Then we got a letter that we had to go and rent the instrument from the Jerusalem Music Centre at a cost of 300nis, we had to leave a deposit of 1,000nis (a cheque that hopefully won't be cashed), and we had to buy the reeds for the clarinet.

I was annoyed. I wrote an email to the Headmistress and the class teacher in which I wrote:

Dear .........
I want to ask you about the musical instrument lessons and make a suggestion.

DD has been playing the recorder at school for a year now and though she enjoys playing she didn't get very far with it. Therefore, I'm not so happy about paying 300nis to hire a clarinet and leave a 1000nis cheque as deposit when music is obviously not her passion (unlike art, which she loves and has some talent for). 

However, I do think that music is important and that it's a wonderful opportunity to get lessons at school at this age. As they already have recorders, could the school offer the option of a recorder group as one of the groups for the musical instrument lessons? The recorder isn't just an instrument for kids. It's a proper instrument and recorder ensembles can be beautiful.

I would love for DD to be competent in playing a musical instrument and to be able to read music, but I don't see the point of starting a new one when the instrument we have is lovely and would fulfill all the music requirements without the added cost and pressure.

I know there is at least one other member of the class who would also be interested in this option.

The answer was no. They said very nicely that they'd discussed it with the music co-ordinator and it's too late to change things now. Perhaps for next year. (Hands up anyone who believes the clarinet teacher could also teach recorder.) I was so tempted to reply, "That's great thanks, so we'll wait for the recorder group next year." But DD is not quite 9 and she doesn't want to be different from everyone else so I agreed to get the clarinet.

I reminded myself that the music programme is one of the reasons I chose this school. I had to admit that 300nis (about 65 GBP) is a very good price for what will be about 30 lessons, hopefully. And DD was happy. My mother, via skype, also reminded me that when we were kids they bought recorders for each of us, two violins, a melodica, a guitar, and a flute, and none of us plays anything today. I admitted that I still had a keyboard that I bought 25 years ago in order to learn the piano, and I don't use it at all now. (DD chipped in here, "yes you do use it. You put all the clean laundry on it when you can't be bothered to fold it up and put it away." Thanks for that Darling.)

That night I couldn't fall asleep for worrying about the 1,000 shekels that they'd take if we lost or damaged the clarinet.

The JMC is in Hell's Valley. I'm not kidding. It's in the Valley of Gehenna (also called Hinnom), if you know your Bible:

"In the Hebrew Bible, Gehenna was initially where some of the kings of Judah sacrificed their children by fire. Thereafter it was deemed to be cursed (Jer. 7:3119:2-6).
In Rabbinic literature and Christian and Islamic scripture, Gehenna is a destination of the wicked..... the King James Version of the Bible usually translates with the Anglo-Saxon word Hell." Wikipedia
No buses go there. Of course not, it's cursed! So we took a taxi down, down, down towards the depths of the rocky cliff below the Old City of Jerusalem. We hired our clarinet and because God's mercy is not abandoned at the gates of Hell, we met the mother of one of DD's classmates there. She not only gave us a ride back unto the land of the living, but she also took us straight to the music shop where we shared a packet of reeds. (DD has only lost one of her reeds so far. :~) )

Lo and behold, the first clarinet lesson cameth! DD came home and told me there is a piece missing from her instrument and you can't play it without this piece. I closed my eyes and saw my 1,000nis being taken as we are accused of losing the missing piece. At the very least it would be two more taxi rides to sort it out.

I called the music teacher. He told me to call Ronit. I asked for her number. I got nothing. I sent a slightly hysterical text message to the class teacher saying I need to speak to Ronit. Who is she? Where is she? Can I please have something to go on here - a surname, a number, an email? Anything? I got a number.

Meanwhile another mother gave me the number of Yaffa who also goes to the JMC and might be able to get the missing part for me. I spoke to Ronit and she told me to speak to Chikol who is in charge of the instruments at the JMC, and she might be able to bring me the missing piece if he has one spare. I spoke to Chikol and he said he would give the missing piece to Yaffa. I texted Yaffa. She replied that she is the flute teacher not the clarinet teacher. By this time I wasn't sure who'd I'd spoken to. I contacted Ronit again and she said she would get the missing piece from Chikol today.

So hopefully that is the end of the clarinet saga. This is my Reasons 2B Cheerful post this week because we do not have to go back to Hell and sort it out. Otoh, we've not got it yet and we've not tried it to make sure it's the correct piece that was missing. Ho hum, for now I'm cheerful so I've joined the R2BC linky on Michelle's Mummy from the Heart.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Growing Up Reasons 2B Cheerful

Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week. I'm joining the linky at Becky's Lakes Single Mum as usual.

The First day of 4th grade photo
taken from an awkward angle
by #rubbishphotographer
To School Alone
I had actually started letting DD go to school completely on her own at the beginning of this school year as we live opposite. It took me a long time to be ready to let her cross the road by herself. I'd stand watching her from the balcony so that she knew I was watching and she'd look carefully and cross sensibly. Then it got even better as they started crossing guards on the very zebra crossing she uses. The 6th Grade do it in many schools. It's an Israeli thing.

It's been a process. In 1st grade I had to take her into her classroom, put her bag under her desk and wait with her till the bell. In 2nd grade I left her at the school gates. In 3rd grade I crossed her over the road and she walked down the street herself. Now I don't even have to go downstairs.

During the week, that extra 10 minutes to get myself together before leaving for work makes an amazing difference to leaving the house calmly and not forgetting things that get forgotten when I'm trying to get two of us out at the same time. And on Friday mornings I don't even have to be dressed. I feel like I've got my full weekend back instead of just the one day that the kids, unfairly imo, get.

I usually collect DD from the afternoon programme on my way home from work between 4 and 4.30. However, two days a week she has the Learning Lab which finishes at 5. On those days she comes home on her own too. Such a small thing but to be able to do something without one eye on the clock and not having to pop out even for 15 minutes makes a difference. And I know I'm going to love it when the winter comes and hopefully the rains.

Life Lessons
DD came to me this evening with a letter about Girls' Football Club. She gave it to me tentatively and I noticed that in her other hand she was clutching a 100nis note.
Me: "Where is that money from? "
DD: "It's from my pocket money." (My mother had given it to her when she left last December.) "The football club costs money and I know you've spent a lot of money on my activities this year so I'll pay for it." My heart broke a little bit and I told her that I would pay for it if she really wanted to go. It was 300 shekels for the year so she didn't have enough anyway. Hey, it's sport so that's healthy.

In the end footy is twice a week on the exact days and times that she already has other activities that are already paid for. There were tears but we had a good discussion about how you can't do everything, everyone only has 7 days in a week, and life is full of choices and tradeoffs.

We've been watching episodes of the property renovation programme 'Love It or List It' and DD totally got it.
DD: "Like if you want to renovate the en suite and you want to knock down walls for an open concept living space but then they find that your foundations are cracked or your walls are full of asbestos, you have to let something go. You can't do everything so you have to choose."
Me: "Right. Only that's because of a limited budget. This is because of limited time."
DD: "Right, But you still have to decide what you want more."
Me: "Right."
DD: "Right."

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

An Overabundance Of Art

During the summer DD was drawing and she told me, "I wish I could learn how to really draw with shading and perspective (yes she knows what perspective is) and things like that. Not just painting at school." I said that we'd look for a class. I don't do that every time she expresses an interest in something but she is genuinely passionate about art and she spends hours copying pictures and doing tutorials on You Tube for how to draw.

The school year started and I had asked about classes on fb but hadn't yet followed anything up. Apparently the classes at the Israel Museum are great but it's a whole performance to get there if you don't have a car. Not complicated, it's just one bus ride, but we'd have to allow for an hour each way and I'd have to wait for her for the duration of the class. (Although we'd probably have made an arrangement for one way with a friend and taken taxis.)

So I was delighted when we got a letter about the Enrichment Programme after school once a week for 1 1/2 hours. There are a number of subjects including maths, science, sport, music, and art. They take only 15 students from the whole school for each subject and they choose those with a passion or special talent for that subject. DD certainly has the passion and I think she does have some artistic talent. This was the only thing that she really wanted to do.

There was great emotion excitement in our house on the day of the auditions and interviews. DD nearly missed it because she'd been at her extra Hebrew lesson when they announced it. She didn't have any of her art supplies with her and had to borrow from a friend. She came home in tears because the teacher might think she wasn't serious about it if she couldn't even bother to bring her art things. I wrote a letter. #Pushymother? Maybe on this occasion but, as I said, this is the only thing she really really wanted to do. (And it is miles cheaper and great tundras more convenient than schlepping to the museum every week.)

She got in. I was very proud and DD was very proud of herself though she did say modestly, "the teacher said it's not just if you're good at art, it's more important that you have a spark." (Translating from Hebrew.)

Then a few weeks later we got a letter about Elective Subjects, once a week during the school day. There were some great choices - Photography; Virtual World Tour; Agriculture and Gardening; Animal Care; Kings, Rulers and Government; Drama; and History of Art. DD chose photography but she got her second choice, History of Art. We had to go out and buy more art supplies but I'm happy to encourage DD's art. (I'm thinking she can always sit in the park and draw cartoon portraits for a lot of money if she can't find a job.)

In the first History of art lesson the teacher arranged some still life under a lamp and they had to choose one item to draw. DD explained that you draw the outline and then you only draw the shade and you smudge the charcoal for how much you need. (They are exploring traditional drawing implements as well as shade.) I'm not saying that DD is a child prodigy or anything close but I was impressed with her outline shape of the bear even before you look at the shading.

The Learning lab after school twice a week to help weaker students with homework and to prepare for tests (we need it because of the Hebrew) also has art once a week (the other day they do cooking) and the afternoon programme on the other three days (because school finishes at 2.20 and I don't get home until 4.30) also has art once a week (and cooking and zumba). And of course the whole class gets art in school once a week too.

So after a casual request for some art lessons in August, DD has ended up with art five times a week. Two sessions are just arts and crafts, one is the school curriculum and two are serious lessons in theory, technique and style. And all in her school. I love our school anyway, but what an amazing outcome this is!