Saturday, January 12, 2019

A Lifestyle Change - R2BC

We Love London!
"I'll still be blogging," I wrote back on December 1st 2018, when we announced that Reasons 2B Cheerful was taking a month long break for the holidays. And then I didn't. Of course we didn't stop living, heaven forfend, but we went to London for Hanuka and when we returned after only one week away, work suddenly got very hectic and it got cold and it always takes me a while to settle back into real life after a holiday. LSS, I've not blogged for about six weeks.

We had a fabulous time in London. My Mum took us all to see "The Lion King," as a big 10th Birthday celebration for DD. It was amazing. I can cross that trip to Africa off the bucket list as I feel like I've been - and without the malaria shots or risk of ebola virus. We had lots of family Hanuka parties - ours, my sister's in-laws, and an extra one for DD's birthday supper. We went to my nephew's school play which was lots of fun. If you're counting, that's five evenings out of the six we had available. In between we went shopping, we saw the lights in the West End, went to the Hanuka candle lighting and concert in Trafalgar Square, and hung out with friends. It was a really lovely break.

I thought about blogging. A lot. I kept thinking of things or seeing something and I'd instantly go into blog mode - how I was going to write this up and what photo would I use to illustrate it. And then I'd have an hour to write and I resisted. I don't know why. I certainly wasn't short of things to say.

One thing became very clear over the past few weeks, and it's something I've seen in other parenting blogs that have survived the years. DD turned 10 during the holidays and this blog has changed over time, as we have changed. It's no longer just a parenting blog but has evolved into a bit of everything. A lifestyle blog? I'd like to write a lifestyle blog but I feel like I need a lifestyle.

Obviously I have a lifestyle. It's sort of chaotic, lived by default, lots of procrastination, and, it must be said, not the role model I want to portray for my DD. There's a book called, "The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy." So it's been done and I could live up to a similar role, but I don't want to. We have fun and enjoy being laid back about things. However, you can be so laid back it's hard to take your eyes off the clouds above and deal successfully with the real life around you. I feel I need to live more purposefully.

New Year's Day came and went as work pulled the rug out beneath me. I needed to write school reports, hand in end of semester exams, and at my college they suddenly announced that all course materials have to be online. That means no more photocopying as the students can access and print out all their materials themselves. One of my courses is online so no panic there. One of my courses is planned and ready to be transferred but it's an enormous amount of work as you don't just want to scan and repeat. If you're already changing the format, you want to edit and improve. And adjust to a different way of teaching whereby the students don't have to photocopy reams of papers every week.

My third course is new to me this year. I've been making it up as I go along. I've been finishing the lesson plans on Monday nights and photocopying the material for everyone on Tuesday mornings before the lesson. It's been hit and miss but I figured that by next year I'll have lesson plans ready for the whole year. Except now I can't do that because they want everything up and accessible for the rest of the year. So lots of work hit me all at once.

I did the inevitable when faced with such a tsunami. I got sick. And DD followed my lead because she also wanted some time off school during a week of stormy weather. I had the whole week at home - some for my sickness and some because I couldn't leave DD at home on her own all day. I didn't get any actual work done, but I do feel refreshed and ready to hit the ground running tomorrow.

I need a plan. Planning is my favourite thing to do. Implementing the plans, less so. I don't know where this "Project Lifestyle" will take me but I'm up for the ride. I'm feeling cheerful about it. So, a bit late but.... Ready! Steady! 2019!

Reasons 2B Cheerful is back with Becky for January 2019 and I'm joining the R2BC linky over at Lakes Single Mum. 

Saturday, December 1, 2018

R2BC - The Birthday Party

This is the last Reasons 2B Cheerful for a while. We're taking a month off for Hanuka and Christmas. I'll still be blogging though, and cheerful (hopefully). Meanwhile the linky is live at Michelle's Mummy from the Heart.

There's a school policy that most schools adhere to - if you make a birthday party you must invite the whole class or all the girls/boys. When we were told this in first Grade it irritated me and I argued against it in facebook discussions. 1. We have a small apartment (and a winter birthday). 2. It's expensive. And 3, don't tell me who I must invite to DD's party.

Over the years everything has changed. 1. The girls are older and 17 ten year olds is not the same as having 17 seven year olds to entertain. 2. We're not in that same financial situation as when DD was small and I had less flexibility with work hours. And 3, I get it now. If your child is the one who never gets invited to parties, you're very grateful for this rule. Israel still retains much of its socialist origins and the schools spend a lot of time on social cohesion and community building.

In reality, many children had small parties, quietly, usually in the holidays and the invitations were made individually. No one minded. And many parents took the other path - spend the money, hire a children's venue with an organised party included in the price (activity centers, chocolate workshops, entertainer, etc...), send an inclusive whatsapp to the class group and turn up on the day to your child's party. And leave at the end with no disruption to your own house.

We were in the first category and last year I took three of DD's closest friends out to high tea one day after school. It was lovely. In a previous year we had 12 children here for a pirate party in which I was the entertainer so we only invited the English speakers. And one year, in kindergarten, we had a Jewellery making party with seven guests, also English speakers. We usually have a tea with family friends and/or escape to London for a family celebration at my Mum's.

Just once in DD's primary school career, I wanted to invite all the girls to her birthday party. Especially as she has been to so many of their parties over the years. With our new tv and recently acquired Netflix subscription I saw a way to keep it simple. We invited all the girls for lunch and a movie after school on Friday (school finishes at 12 on Fridays). One message to the whatsapp and we were committed.

DD was nervous. What if they don't come? (13 out of 16 came.) What if they hate the movie and spend the whole time on their phones? (There was some phone activity but much of it was  multitasking as we all do when watching tv.) A couple of girls gave her a hard time at school, telling her that she needed to have an activity. I told her to tell them that it's lunch and a movie, take it or leave it. DD was concerned. I was cavalier. If they're bored they can call their mothers (they all have phones) and go home. It's not a disco boat. Most of them walk home themselves anyway. Trust me.

So on Friday morning I got up early and cleaned the apartment. I went out and bought 20 fancy doughnuts. I ordered 6 family pizzas. There was cold water from the fridge to drink as there was enough sugar in the doughnuts and pizzas. And I set the table with paper plates, cups and napkins. Sorted. The girls all walked home from school with DD.

The pizzas were late so we started with dessert. The doughnuts were a great success. I had meant to put some candles in them and have everyone sing Happy Birthday, but I forgot. We put on "The Parent Trap" (with Hebrew subtitles). Then the pizzas arrived and were also welcomed with enthusiasm. By the end of the movie all the phones were away and everyone was hooked. Result.

A couple of girls stayed to play after the party. I chucked all the used paper goods, washed up the three doughnut dishes, and threw the table cloth and hand-towels from the bathroom and kitchen into the washing machine. By 2.30 it was all over including the clearing up. It was the easiest party I've ever made and well worth the cost of the doughnuts and pizzas.

DD was happy and so was I. And Shabbat lunch will be leftover pizza and doughnuts.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

I Did DD's Maths Homework

I know it's a mess. Don't judge me, it was traumatic. 
DD came home with maths homework. Geometry to be precise. I love maths and geometry was always my favourite part of maths. I have also been a maths teacher in my time and I once co-authored a series of maths textbooks for primary school (published by HarperCollins although never actually used but that's another story*). So I offered to help her. She needed help as she didn't understand all the technical terms in Hebrew. Neither did I but at least I understand them in English.

So I'm translating all the technical words with the Google Translate. Meanwhile DD is screaming at me that I don't understand and that I'm doing it wrong. She was totally out of control. It was hard to concentrate. I'm saying, "listen to me, I'll explain," while she's shouting, "no you listen to me - I DON'T GET IT!" You can see how this might take us round in circles. And it did, until I had to send her out of the room and do the homework myself.

I figured that it's ok if I do it providing I explain it to her afterwards so that she understands. It's not ideal but this is the only way we can work. If I show her the answer on the page, she calms down a bit and will listen to the explanation. She cannot watch me working it out as it makes her panic and get hysterical in case I'm doing it wrong.

I worked out that makbilim are parallels and me'unahim are right angles. But now I'm looking at the words, I think it might be the other way around. Alexonim are diagonals, and tzla'im are lines, I know that much. I'd recognise the word for angles if I saw it but it didn't come up in this exercise. It begins with a z.

I kept getting the words muddled up so some of the answers were written after the wrong questions. When you're counting parallel diagonals and perpendicular lines on multi-angled shapes, you need to use different colours on the diagram otherwise you can't keep track. So I employed some pens. Pens don't rub out. The page looks a bit of a mess but all the answers are there - somewhere. Except for two questions which I understood but didn't know what the teacher wanted them to answer: How do you check that two lines are parallel? How do you check that two lines are perpendicular? I don't need to check on a hexagon (meshusheh if you're interested), I can see by looking.

My co-authored maths books for Year 5
I invited DD back to the table to explain my answers to her. She was upset by the messy page but she did understand the geometry in the end. Putting the maths page back into her bag she said casually, "now I need to do my Hebrew homework. Will you help me?" I just couldn't deal with any more of DD's homework tonight. She actually said she could do it herself but she didn't feel like it after doing all that maths. Excuse me? She is so doing it herself tomorrow evening.

*The other story. The books were ahead of their time, using computer programmes in parallel to the books before most pupils had access to a computer for more than one hour a week. This maths programme required an hour of maths with a computer every week when the one weekly computer session in school had to cover all subjects.

Friday, November 23, 2018

R2BC - Kiss And Go Thanksgiving

Unflattering selfie of me doing 'kiss and go'
at DD's school. 
All my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week, are about one day in the life. Yesterday.

Kiss And Go
Even those of us without cars have to do our "kiss and go" duty outside the school gates once a year. From 07.30 till 08.15 you help kids out the cars and remind them to kiss their parents before they go. It supposedly speeds up the dropping off process and helps avoid gridlock outside school. In reality, not that many children come by car and most of them don't need help getting out of said car.

We got the list way back in October and thankfully, for once, my day was a Friday (our weekends are Fri/Sat but there is Friday morning school) so no rescheduling was involved. I've repeatedly asked that we get a sign up sheet but they insist on giving out the days and then we are responsible for finding a replacement if we can't do that day. Families with two adults have more options but there's still a frantic swapping fest on Whatsapp after the list comes out. I got a Friday so I just sat back and let the games play out.

Then they discovered that they'd missed out two days because the Hanuka holidays are shorter than they'd allowed for. Everyone got shifted up two days. God forbid it shouldn't go in alphabetical order and the last two people on the list should be slotted into the two missing days. No, 20 people were shifted to different days and the swapping began again. Obviously no one is going to give up a Friday.

I was suddenly on a Wednesday morning. Now, some of my mornings are more flexible than others but I can honestly say that Wednesday morning is the one day that if I don't show up at school on time, a lot of people are inconvenienced and a substitute has to be found for that first lesson. I refused to accept the sudden change. I kicked up a fuss.

Whilst I was kicking, someone noticed that yesterday had been given to the girl whose family had emigrated to Canada in the middle of October. I jumped in and claimed her spot. So I did "kiss and go" yesterday from 07.30 till 08.15 and then went on to my school 40 minutes away on the bus. (15 minutes as the crow flies car drives but I go by bus.) Mrs X in Toronto is now responsible for "kiss and go" on December 19th. LOL.

A Day Full Of Windows
Thursday is a ridiculous day at school for me. Whereas Wednesday is seven lessons straight with no free periods (we call them windows here) and library duty during morning playtime, on Thursdays I only teach two lesson (and I missed the first one - a group of 6th graders for English enrichment). So I went in to teach one lesson. Annoying but also a no-pressure day when I get to prepare everything for the following week and do all my marking.

I got home later than usual because the new and very young bus driver, obviously on his maiden voyage, crawled along at about 10 mph. I did eventually get there and then we were out and on to gymnastics. DD still loves it and I used the time to catch up on some school emails Whatsapps.

Thanksgiving Dinner
And finally we got to relax as we went on to our Thanksgiving dinner thrown by an American friend for all her nearest and dearest in Israel. It's a big event - catered in a hall with a soft play area for the little kids. DD and the other older girls used this area for gymnastics as the sponge mats were exactly the right thickness. I had a glass of wine, a number of plates of food from the delicious buffet, and long uninterrupted conversations with my friends. Perfect.

(And whilst we did acknowledge that one man's Thanksgiving is another man's Nakba, we tried to concentrate on the joy and good fortune of the European settlers rather than the Native Americans dying from the germ-infested blankets they were gifted.)

One ridiculous Thanksgiving nonsense that has come to Israel, is that all the shops are doing 'Black Friday' sales. It's not even a national holiday here. I refuse to go shopping today. Bah Humbug. Although, actually, it won't help them much as we all did our shopping on municipal elections day three weeks ago which was a national holiday.

Have a wonderful weekend. The R2BC linky is on Michelle's Mummy from the Heart.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

R2BC - Proud Mother

Preparing for Chonchut
Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week are all about DD.

We have a something in Israeli schools called Chonchut (with both ch's being a raspy sound at the back of your throat). The nearest translation I could think of is 'mentoring' as the root of the word is the same as guide and educate.

I first heard of it when DD was in first grade and once a month on a Friday morning, two fourth grade girls would do some fun activities with her and a friend. The whole class was divided into groups of two first graders with two fourth graders. One day we were walking out of school and DD ran over to give a hug to an older girl. When I asked she said, "oh, that's one of my Chonchot (mentors, pl,f) for chonchut (mentoring, n)." I know it sounds like a throat disease if you're not used to it.

The way it works is that the fifth graders are paired with the second graders and the sixth graders are paired with the third graders. Last year in fourth grade, DD was a chonechet (mentor, s,f) for first grade. I remember one Friday when her partner didn't come to school and she had nothing planned. I was very proud that she used her initiative and they chose board games from the class library which the Chanichot (mentorees, pl,f) enjoyed. And one day, as we were leaving school, a little girl ran over to give her quick hug. Her Chanicha (mentoree, s,f) of course. [*wipes a tear at how fast they grow up.]

Hanukkah Bingo with prizes
(After play so some pictures are crossed or ticked instead of using counters.)
This week DD had to organise an activity for her second grade chonchot. Her partner had not been in school for a few days so she took it all upon herself. She spent a long time making a Bingo game with Hanukkah symbols. She told me she also needed something active and I shared a Hanukkah game we used to play in my Youth Club when I was a teenager.

It was all a great success.

And on Friday DD came home with the monthly class prize for good work, kindness and patience towards her friends. I didn't know about the prize until I got an email from the teacher tonight saying that she was proud of DD. Apparently DD 'forgot' to mention it.

So from one proud mother, have a good week and if you're looking for more R2BC, the linky is over at Michelle's Mummy from the Heart.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Blog Guilt - Is It A Thing?

Something I didn't mention,
Do any other bloggers have blog guilt?

A couple of weeks ago I wanted to write my weekly Reasons 2B Cheerful post and I felt that I couldn't do it without first mentioning the fatal shooting of 11 worshipers in a synagogue in Philadelphia. Obviously that didn't belong in a R2BC post so I delayed the post and wrote about this and other tragedies that occurred that week.

Today I wanted to write a Tuesday Tidbits post. I don't often have funny things that DD says or does to write about now that she's growing up. But a couple of nights ago something funny happened and of course I thought of blogging about it. However, I'm still feeling guilty that I didn't even mention the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass) that was last week.

Here I am with a platform that's read by 300 people a day and I didn't write about the Kristallnacht Pogroms. It's was the 80th anniversary, not the 77th or 79th but a significant number that should be commemorated. On the night of November 9th 1938, all over Nazi Germany (including Austria and Sudetenland) Jewish shops were vandalized, looted and torched, Jewish families were herded into the town squares where they were attacked and humiliated, 300.000 Jewish men were arrested and deported to prison camps, Jewish books and and ritual items were burned, and 1400 synagogues were desecrated and torched. Ninety-one Jews were murdered.

This was the turning point for Jews in Nazi Germany. Whereas previously, many had thought the Nazi threat would blow over, now they knew that they were in mortal danger. For most of them, this realization came too late and they were trapped. Some of those who did manage to leave thought they would be safe in France, Belgium, Holland, and other Western European countries. Only those who made it to England and the Americas were spared the horrors of The Holocaust.

On Sunday was Armistice Day, 11/11, when we remember the fallen soldiers from both world wars. My facebook feed was full of my friends' photos of their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents in uniform. Proud and sad at the same time of the tremendous, often ultimate, sacrifices made by their families. Me? 300 readers and I wrote nothing.

Last night and today Southern Israel has been under rocket fire from Hamas in the Gaza strip. People have died, houses have been destroyed. Schools in the south were cancelled today and until further notice. My friends who live there have spent over 24 hours no more than 15 seconds from their safe rooms (rooms of reinforced concrete) or bomb shelters.

The country is talking about whether we are heading for another war against Hamas. Soldier reservists are waiting to hear if they will be called up. A school in Jerusalem has announced that it will take in any children from the south who want/need to get away and find them families to stay with. And that's just the one school I heard about. Many friends have offered to host families under fire who just need a break from it all.

With all that going on I just can't write about DD's funny sayings.

A couple of weeks ago a friend marked the Yarhzeit (anniversary of death) of her husband who died far too young. She asked that we all do a Mitzvah for Michael (a good deed). I immediately thought, what a good name for a blog post, and I had every intention of writing about it. I did two mitzvot (pl.) during that week. I can't write about either of them. Both were good deeds for specific people who either read this blog or know people who do. To write about how these 'poor' souls needed my help would humiliating for them if they found out.

And there was one mitzvah, another one, that I was able to do and I could've written about it here. It was a general offer that was taken up by a complete stranger, via a facebook group. No one would know who the beneficiary is. But it doesn't feel right to brag about good deeds. Either you do them or you don't, but to tell everyone how wonderfully you behaved... nah, not cool.

So instead of writing blog posts every few days, I've been consumed with guilt about things I'm not mentioning and would feel guilty about mentioning other events that happened. I'm wrestling with the notion that a relatively successful blog (successful in that it's been going almost eight years and people read it) brings certain obligations and responsibilities.

I could say, "I don't write about politics," but that wouldn't be real as politics concern me. I've grown out of cute stories about motherhood, or at least DD has grown past it. I want this blog to be about real life but my real life involves others who don't always want to be blogged about. Sometimes it's hard to find a satisfactory middle ground.

Blog Guilt. Is it a thing?

Saturday, November 10, 2018

R2BC - Hi Tech

Goodbye old TV
Here are my highly technical, digital, and magical (well it's magic to us) Reasons 2B Cheerful this week. The R2BC linky is over at Mich's Mummy from the Heart.

Internet And Waste Of Time
I was paying far too much for my internet because it was a package arranged a few years ago which I'd never updated. So I spent about two hours talking (well waiting and talking) on the phone to one company who offered me a good deal. I was already using their router so they told me to call the other company who was providing my internet and cancel it. The other company would apparently inform them and then they'd take over.

So I called Company 2, who I'm already with, and of course they had a better deal for me. So I went with it. They arranged to send me a new router at a very inconvenient time but we fixed it so that the fed-ex guy would meet me at my college. That went smoothly.

Then Company 1 called to ask why I wasn't going with them after all. I said I preferred the deal at Company 2. "How much are you paying there?" "None of your business. And it's not just the money, it's the content of the package." Seriously, if they couldn't give me their best deal after two hours on the phone the day before, I wasn't interested in a sudden new deal only available after you sign up with another company. So she said I had to return their router to the office near the Central Bus Station.

Next day after school I made the significantly out of my way trip to the office near the Central Bus Station with the old router, only to be told that it was mine so I didn't need to return it. I remembered that they'd charged me for it years ago but I assumed that I was being charged for the previous router which I never returned. (Because I didn't know I had to until I noticed that I'd been charged £4 a month for over a year to pay for it.) Turns out, they were charging me for the new router.

It's all double work to get anything done here. But I had my new router and connected to it with no problem. Although we couldn't understand why DD's computer wouldn't connect to our new internet. Luckily she'd been upstairs to a neighbour with her laptop and the neighbour had put in her own wifi for DD and never deleted her password. That might be stealing but DD was given it and we only used it for a couple of days with the intent of sorting out our own internet issues asap.

And after all that, I'm saving about £10 a month.

Smart And Not So Smart
I finally bought a smart TV. I spent a silly amount of time worrying about how I was going to get it home (in a taxi of course) and up the stairs (no clue). In fact I put off buying it by several weeks for this reason. In the end I couldn't put it off any longer as I'd been promising DD that we would get it. I thought I'd have to buy the smallest tv in order to manage it. I don't know what happened to me that the obvious thing, to get it delivered, just eluded me. Of course you get it delivered. I think it was because the last thing I bought in that shop was a vacuum cleaner and, though it wasn't heavy, it was a hassle getting the bulky box home in a taxi and up the three flights of stairs.

Anyway, I chose a bigger TV than I'd originally planned to buy because, if you're already going for a cinematic experience, it's a shame to have a piddly little tv. It's 40" but the living room is only 3 metres across so that's like a giant screen if you live in a big house. I paid, in 10 installments which makes it practically free, and they said they'd deliver that same day between 2 and 3pm. It was Friday and I got a call from the delivery man asking if he could come earlier because it was an early Shabbat (an hour before sundown at just after 4pm).

Hanoch (That's Enoch in Hebrew) arrived with the TV at 12.45 and set it all up for me. Turns out I wasn't even connected to my new internet. (I was using the ethernet - what is that even? I've never heard of it before.) Hanoch called Company 2 for me and got me all sorted out with a new user name and password. He was great. I didn't even mind that I had to look at half his bare bottom as he bent down to fix the legs onto the TV. A cracking experience ;)

We signed up for Netflix. A friend showed me some of the programme and movie options a few weeks ago and if it was only for me, I'd have gone for the BBC Movies and UK TV package. However, DD has friends who don't know English well enough to watch movies without subtitles. Netflix has everything subtitled in Hebrew and some of the children's films are even dubbed in Hebrew. (How annoying is that? It brought back memories of watching the badly dubbed Bel and Sebastion on TV when I was a child.)

It's pure magic. The only downer is that I can't figure out how to change all the movie descriptions to English. I'm not sure it's even possible. And I don't think we're getting to see the full range of entertainment on offer. I'm going to have to explore it a bit more.

Cost of Netflix: about £10 a month.

My Baby Laptop
As a bonus item this week, my baby laptop was resurrected. About two years ago I bought myself a small laptop that I could take with me to work and other places if I needed to work outside the house. It's a lovely little laptop - same as my main computer just in miniature. Then DD's tablet broke and my old laptop (the one before my regular laptop) was rubbish to use. DD was distraught and I finally gave in and let her use my new baby laptop. It was less than six weeks old! And suddenly it didn't work. There was a light  behind the screen but nobody was home inside.

DD swore to me that it just stopped. I was heartbroken. I kept meaning to take it to get fixed. It was under guarantee in the UK as I'd bought it when we were in London, but the contract specifically said that the guarantee is void if you take it abroad. And anyway, we weren't in London, we were in Jerusalem. I couldn't deal with it so I just put it away in the cupboard.

Luckily I didn't declutter it as DD admitted to me a couple of weeks ago, that she'd actually spilt water on it and that's why it broke. She was too scared to tell me at the time because she thought I'd go mental. Which of course I would have done. But I'd also have seen if it it could be dried out instead of just putting it away.

This week I got out my baby laptop and it works! In fact I'm using it now. So that's £100 I didn't spend getting it fixed. Hooray! And a laptop for taking to work which I was sorely missing and causing me to waste loads of usable time whilst, e.g. waiting for DD at gymnastics twice a week and during three free periods in a row at school on Thursdays.

Facebook Marketplace
On Friday afternoon I put on facebook that I had a 10 year old TV and DVD player to give away. On Saturday evening my friend's son came to pick them up. DD and I quickly went through our DVDs and gave her a bag of about 30 that we don't need anymore. We kept about 10 favourites that we can watch on our laptops (not the baby laptop) but I think even these are on Netflix or some other streaming website.

So that's another empty drawer in the living room, one sleek TV instead of a little tv and DVD player on the side, and a plate of biscuits that my friend sent with her son as a thank you.

All in all, a very technically satisfying week.

Update: I ate all the biscuits so now I hate myself.