Monday, May 30, 2011

How To Host A Happening For Two Year Olds

 Yesterday evening the three nursery classes at DD's pre-school (ages 2 - 4) hosted a happening in celebration of the Jewish festival of Shavuot. This is when we celebrate the giving of the Tora on Mt. Sinai. In agricultural terms we are celebrating the wheat harvest and other grains. Two traditions are to eat dairy foods - the Israelites were waiting to receive the dietry laws about eating meat and, conveniently, ancient communities had run out of meat by this time of year - and to wear white in honour of the purity of the Tora (or possibly to look like a big cheese cake ;-) ).

All the children came wearing white. 

They crushed herbs to sprinkle on the Israeli salad (tomato, cucumber, pepper) which they helped to chop. And also put together skewers of vegetables, olives and cheese. Yes, this is what Israeli children like to eat.

They poured different coloured grains through a funnel to make decorative jars. And they made wreaths of flowers to wear on their heads.

 They helped to make non-cook cheese cake which we all enjoyed at the end.

 But the best thing of all was making pitta bread. First DD rolled the dough - and poked it a bit for good measure. Then she gave it to the lady to put on the fire. Finally, after a bit of a wait, we got to eat it. Then we didn't stop discussing it all night - it had made that much of an impression.

As evenings for two year olds go, this one was a 10 out of 10!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Daughter Has A Future

Yesterday my friend Hipstermom wrote about how her two month old baby had three jabs in one day and how unfair this seemed on such a little one. It did seem harsh but she is also grateful for the fact that her baby is now vaccinated. When the twins at Nursery went down with chicken pox I shrugged smugly - DD was vaccinated.

As a mum in Israel, I don't have to worry about mumps, measles, rubella, chicken pox, hepatitus A or B, diptheria, small pox, polio, tetinus, whooping cough and there are two more on the immunization record which I don't even know what they are as they are written in Hebrew with the Latin medical translation. For good measure DD and I both had swine flu shots two years ago as we flew to England during the scare. I wasn't concerned about being in England but the thought of sitting on a plane for five hours with the same air going round and round sent me running to the shot shop.

Last week I was tagged by Michelle at Mummy From The Heart to write this meme about the Save The Children campaign: Born To Die, which ends on June 13th (so you have to act now). I was supposed to have my daughter draw a picture of herself doing what she wants to be when she grows up, sign the petition, write a post encouraging everyone to also sign, and tag eight people.

DD is 2 1/2 and whilst I am extremely grateful that she has a future - the point of the picture, she ain't expressing any thoughts about it yet. (She did present me with a picture which she said was a triangle cheese - I'm not sure if she really wants to be one but I'm trying to dissuade her.) I half thought about giving it my own interpretation but, after signing the petition, I sort of forgot about it. Then this morning I saw that Gemma from Helloitsgemma has also tagged me for this meme. There's only so much guilt you can handle so here it is.

On June 13th in London, the UK will host a Global Immunisation summit. Save the Children aim to put pressure on those attending to increase funding for immunisation. As Save The Children puts it:

The jabs we take for granted in the UK are not available to 1 in 5 children worldwide.

Over the last decade, millions of children have been immunised – protection that saves two and half million children every year. That’s a staggering 7,000 lives every day.

But many of the most marginalised children from the poorest countries, who are at most risk of dying from diseases, are still missing out.

Summit: life and death moment for millions of children
The global immunisation drive led by the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (GAVI) is the best way to end this injustice. If GAVI’s work is fully funded, 4 million more children’s lives could be saved by 2015.

So please sign the petition here. Whilst DD is showing all the signs of growing up to be a proper little madam, she could also become a professional jigsaw puzzle doer. Whatever, I fully expect her grow up and be something. Which is the whole point. Our children were born to be and do, not born to die.

I am tagging five US and Israeli blogging parents whom I follow religiously and love reading. I don't know what they will do with this but if there are any responses I'll link them in my blog.
Hipstermom in Israel
Raising An American in (duh) America
Creating Motherhood also in America
Jewish Single Mom By Choice in Israel
What Me Worry? A Midlife View of the MidEast from a father of teenagers in Israel

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Moral High-Grounders and Other Idiots 1: TV

Last summer in the park I overheard two mothers falling over themselves to show how much they restrict television viewing for their children.

Mum A: Actually I can't remember what she said because I was so amazed by Mum B.

Mum B: Our kids are allowed to watch one DVD on a Friday afternoon before Shabbat (we have half-day school on Fridays before the Sabbath). And only if they ask for it. That's it. And if they forget to ask, they've missed it for another week.

She looked so pleased with herself and I wasn't in the mood to enter a discussion about it, so I kept my mouth shut. But it left me wondering - what did she think she was achieving with this draconian TV law?

First a little background. I came from a home where the TV was on from when we got home from school until the last person went to bed around midnight, except for the half hour when we retreated into the kitchen for supper, en famille, around the table. Even I think this was too much.

No one was forced to sit in the lounge and watch it, but it was a temptation that had to be actively fought in order to do something else. It was so easy to say - I'll just watch this programme and then I'll go and work. Before you knew it, it was 10pm and who feels like starting work at 10pm?

My sister, and many of my friends say - no TV until homework is finished and instruments practised. This seems like a good balance and one I will probably adopt when DD is old enough to do homework (either from school or set by me) and music practise.

For now, the TV and I are bringing up DD together. I put it on in the morning so that I can rush around doing what I need to do before we leave for Nursery and work. After Nursery we generally go to the park, out for tea at friends' houses, or to the shops. When we come in it is time for bath and supper. Then the TV goes on until stories and bed.

We usually do puzzles or drawing while the TV is on in the background. So why do we need it? We probably don't but it is company for me while DD is engrossed in her puzzles or artwork, even though I may be helping her. And sometimes she needs to just relax and watch and not do anything. Don't 2 1//2 year olds deserve some down time too?

A friend from Perth, Australia , grew up with early morning runs and swims at the beach, tennis after school, boating at weekends, etc... Another friend from Manchester, UK, grew up hurrying home from school in the rain and watching all this outdoor life on TV. They once debated if either of them, as adults, were better off as a result of their childhood lifestyles. Both are hard-working,  intelligent, enjoy hobbies (some active), and have full lives. There was no definite conclusion.

Bottom line: do what is convenient for you and your family, whatever saves your sanity. However, do allow your children the time to do other activities (obligatory or voluntary) without having to fight the temptation of the TV. And most important: do it quietly whilst recognising that other families have different criteria (for me this means: no Daddy to take over in the evening and I need to get some things done in peace). Please don't stuff your smug rigidity down the throats of all the human mums at the park.

Monday, May 23, 2011

IUI Round Two

The three weeks until my next appointment went much faster than the previous two of the 2WW (the two week wait). This time I saw Dr B who explained that doing IUI without any intervention had a success rate of about 2% whereas IVF for a woman my age (42) was about 25%.

"I feel I want to give it one more go before I start having operations." I told him, "It seems hastey to rush into the operating theatre just because it didn't work the first time."
"There is another option," he said, "a sort of in-between stage. We do IUI but you take hormones to stimulate your ovaries. There will be more eggs thereby raising your chances of success."
"What does the success rate rise to with that procedure?"
"For a woman your age [I wished he would stop saying that] about 5%."
"Better but not much."
"Or you could go straight to IVF?"

In other words - stop wasting everyone's time - is what he meant. When I look back on it now, six years later, my optimism was laughable. However, I hated the idea of messing up my system with drugs - I'd never even taken birth-control pills before. I was the customer and though Dr B wasn't convinced, he agreed to let me try one more IUI without intervention.

I was told to come in for the blood test and ultrasound on the fifth day of my cycle. As I was already on day 10 this meant waiting another month. However, the fifth day rolled around again, and again I started the process of early morning visits every few days. On day 15 I was ready for the IUI and this time there were two eggs. This time around I knew more about the system and had paid my 350 shekels and done all the paperwork before knocking on the door of the Sperm Bank at 11am  precisely.

This time I knew to hold the tiny vial of sperm suspended in about 3ml of pink solution, tight in my hot little fist. I returned to IVF and went to add my name to the treatment list. I was horrified to see about 10 people already listed. I looked round the waiting room and there they all were, one hand fisted, sat in order on the row of plastic chairs, each fiercly guarding her place in the queue.

I realized that I had been too British. When I was told 11am, I should have turned up at 10.30. It was a repeat performance of the last time. Except that instead of four women ahead of me waiting for four treatment rooms, there were 10 women. And of course, you can have 104 treatment rooms but if you only have two doctors working...

Then one doctor was called away to do an emergency ceasarian. If I were needing an emergency ceasarian I'd also want the doctor to drop everything, I reasoned. But I'd been there for over an hour and my fist was numb from trying to keep the sperm warm. The receptionist said she'd call another doctor to come and it would only take a few minutes. A few minutes can be a surprisingly ambiguous length of time. When the new doctor arrived he saw the next two women on the list. And suddenly, I was the only one left. The doctor was willing but we had to wait for a treatment room to become available.

I'd been waiting over two hours when Professor H arrived for the daily staff meeting. He was the Head of Department, the most experienced, the Professor, the one who told all the other doctors what to do, the one who made all the big decisions. But it doesn't matter how important or brilliant you are, if sperm cannot survive for two hours in an aching fist you cannot make a baby.

Prof. H seemd surprised to see me still sitting there looking dejected but resigned to the fact that I'd probably wasted my time. He quicky found a free room and hurried me in. He was kind enough to make encouraging noises but I was already thinking about the next time when I would be banging on the door of the Sperm bank at 10am.

It may be that spern can survive for hours in their little pink bath but I didn't want to ask. What was I going to do if he told me there was no chance. Make a fuss? Demand my 350 shekels back? Go somewhere else next time? No, better not to know. And anyway, there's not much difference between 2% and 0% is there?

Two weeks later, during which time I desperately tried to feel something but didn't, my non-pregnancy was confirmed.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

IVF: Gearing Up For Round Two

So I wouldn't have my first child at 42 but I could still get pregnant at 42. I read gossip magazines when they came my way (Hello, OK) and focused on the Hollywood stars in their late 50s with their 10 year old children. Some of the children are adopted and even though I was still far away from considering that option, I revelled in the fact that a woman in her 50s could be the mother of a small child and that it was acceptable. I loved it that the pictures looked happy and natural.

If I had to have a Hollywood body in my 50s, so be it. Whatever it took not to be the mother at the school gates who looks like the grandmother. If anyone could pull it off, I could. Years of being an indoors person had saved my skin. I'm uncomfortable in the heat and sunbathing has to be the most boring passtime ever invented - I'd rather watch the paint dry. I'd have to get my weight down but I'd done this before and I could do it again. I was ready for 'round two.'

Meanwhile, my friend M had a party for just her women friends. There were about 15 of us of all ages, cheese and wine, and even a programme of activities (M is a great one for organizing). The first activity was an ice-breaker. We sat in a circle and everyone had to tell a short story or some unusual  information about themselves. Some of the accounts had to be made up so that afterwards we would all vote on which we thought were true and which not.

One woman had a small baby with her. As she dandled him on her knee she said, "This little thing was the result of IVF and he's a miracle baby because we only did it once and it worked." I liked that story. Other stories were more or less interesting but varied enough to keep us amused. A very attractive woman who looked about my age, told us she was in fact 48 and had had her daughter at 44. She was now trying to conceive again for a second child. I liked that story too.

We completed the circle and M suggested we take a ten minute break to refill our glasses and then reconvene for the voting. She also suggested that when we come back, we sit in different places to make it more of a challenge to remember everyone's stories. I wasn't so interested in all the stories, though there turned out to be a few surprises, as I was so focused on the baby stories. The woman with the baby was easy to remember - he was still sitting on her lap.

We all voted 'yes' as it was such a simple story. Why bother to make up something like that? It was so matter-of-fact that it was almost boring. The woman laughed, "I lied! I got pregnant the old fashioned way eight months after our wedding." I was furious with her. How dare she laugh off IVF as if it were a frivolous detail - like where you had sex when you conceived and in what position. I missed the next vote entirely as I was busy regaining my equilibrium.

The other baby story woman was also easily remembered as everyone had been fascinated by her. She was the oldest woman in the room and the most attractive. Thankfully her story was true. I didn't yet realize what trying to get pregnant at 48 entailed, but I was reassured that she wouldn't be trying if there was no hope.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tracks of My Years: Do You Know Where You're Going To?

This song was first in the British charts when I was 14 years old. I remember sitting at my desk in my bedroom doing my homework. Well I wasn't actually doing so much homework. I had just had my hair cut from very long into a bob with side-parting and no fringe. The hairdresser had blow-dried it to a sleek, straight, shiny finish. This lasted precisely one week - I could never achieve the look myself and, sadly, I have no photo of it. I was also enjoying a thin phase - I have had a wide range of weight throughout my teenage and adult life.

On this particular evening, owing to the coiffe and the slim figure, I loved myself. I thought I was the bee's knees. I could  hardly tear my eyes away from the mirror on my desk. And then this song came on to admire myself to. It was a perfect three and a half minutes. I had no idea where I was going to but, on that evening, I liked the things that life was showing me. I was full of hope for the future. And then back to the maths - or whatever subject it was.

BTW, I always wanted to see this film, 'Mahogany' that gave me it's theme tune - but I've never seen it anywhere and have no idea what it is about. I should google it I suppose. Also, if I try to remember a time that I was happiest with my self-image this is one of two pictures that always spring to mind. The other was aged twelve, wearing a short green skirt and skin-coloured tights, emptying the dishwasher and singing songs from The Carpenters. I don't know why I was so happy - emptying the dishwasher was the worst job - but I was.

This post was inspired by Jen at Mum In The Madhouse who has a regular Tracks of My Years post. And thanks Jen for teaching me how to embed a YouTube clip in the blog.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Flying Alone with a Baby or Toddler

We live in Israel and my family all live in London. After the initial visits by my parents and sister, to see DD when she was just born, we quickly established that it was cheaper and more beneficial for a greater number of people if we travelled to London see them rather than them coming here. The clincher was that DD flew for 10% of the adult air-fare until she was two years old. For us that meant $660 instead of the $1200 it would have cost my parents to come to us. We took full advantage of this arrangement and I flew four times with DD before her second birthday. Now that she is two we will not be such frequent flyers. We'll have to constantly be on the lookout for deals and savings on Orbitz.

The first time we went was for the Passover holiday in April when DD was four months. This was the easiest trip as she was used to just sitting on my lap and observing the world. I had to ask the man next to me to hold her whilst I fastened my seatbelt, and again when I made up a bottle of formula, but he didn't mind. We went again at 10 months, 16 months (for Passover again) and at 23 months for my nephew's Bar Mitzva. Each age has its advantages and disadvantages. Here are some useful things to know.

1. You can take the buggy with you right up until you board the plane. When you come off the other end it is waiting for you as you enter the terminal. Having the buggy with you as you go through the airport is essential as there are long walks and an exhausted child can sleep. Also, there are times when you need to busy yourself with passports, lugguage, etc... It is invaluable to have your child safely strapped into the buggy.

2. Do not plan or offer to buy any duty free for yourself or anyone else. Buy all your (light-weight) presents beforehand and pack them in your main lugguage. Even if your child falls asleep in the buggy and you have time to shop - you have enough to schlepp without adding bottles of perfume and plonk.

3. When you get to the airport check in your lugguage and go straight through passport control and security to the departure lounge. You will have got through the tedious queuing part whilst you are both still fresh. And there is plenty to see and do on the other side. There are long walks to the departure gates - encourage toddler to walk and run all the way. The idea is to tire her out so that she will sleep on the plane as much as possible. I play a continuous game of friendly 'chase' for almost the whole hour before departure.

4. I have not had the courage to use the cheap air-fare carriers when travelling alone with such a small child even though you can get great deals. You want to know that the cabin crew will help you if you need it - sometimes there are steps down from the plane and I need help (in the winter I have my hand-lugguage, the nappy bag, my coat, and a young child). Also the serving of snacks and a meal provide some structured activity to keep your child occupied for some of the journey. As do the films and complimentary colouring book and crayons (let's make a card for Grandma!).

5. Tiny  babies are the easiest. Up to four months you can order a sky cot that fixes to the wall in front of you. You have to hold the baby during take-off, landing, and turbulance. The only disadvantage is that just as she gets off to sleep there is bound to be turbulance and you have to pick her up. You can ask a nice lady or stewardess to hold your baby while you go to the loo in a way that you would not leave her with a stranger in any other situation as they can't run off with her on a plane. When she is more mobile it is great to have a bit of leg room for her to play on the floor. The window seat one row behind the emergency door is ideal because there are only two seats instead of three next to the door. You can ask your travel agent to pre-book this seat for you.

6. You are allowed to take bottles of baby milk or formula on the plane. Security will ask you to taste each bottle to make sure that it really is milk. Take more than you need in case of delays. Also planes are very dehydrating so your child should drink a lot. DD was having one bottle of formula a day in addition to breast feeding right from the beginning and I found it easier not to breast feed on the plane. You may want to pre-express.

7. Take far more nappies than you think you will need in case you are delayed for several hours. And change the baby just before boarding the plane. There is a changing table that folds down in one of the toilets but the less you have to use it the better. Having said that - one trip to the loo and a nappy change can kill another 20 minutes. It may be worth putting a slightly older child into pull-ups even when they are toilet trained as there is sometimes a longish queue for the loo. Dress your child in clothes with easy access.

8. We take small picture books and plenty of snacks with us on the plane. You may not be able to eat yourself when you have a child on your lap (under twos do not get a seat and there is not room to bring down the table - last time I just took the cold tray without the hot part and my neighbour kindly shared his table) and the food isn't necessarily what babies like. DD likes plain pasta shells in a tupperware, cucumber sticks, apple slices and crackers or cream cheese sandwiches (nothing offensive smelling like salami or tuna!). Most of it doesn't get eaten but we are prepared!

9. Do not be afraid to ask for assistance if you need it - most people are happy to help. In a long queue situation it is perfectly acceptable to find a staff member and say: I'm travelling alone with a young child, would it be possible to bypass the queue? It often is and other travellers really don't mind.

10. Remember that it bothers you more when your child cries (screams even) on the plane than it does the other passengers. Most of them are thinking : Glad that's not my child so I don't have to deal with it. They put on their headphones and tune out.

11. Some people prefer to travel at night as they say the children sleep throughout the journey. My experience was that, having told DD we were going home, she stood in the aisle and pointed towards the door, screaming, "HOME!" not understanding that the plane was actually moving. When she thought I didn't understand she tried to explain, "HOME MUMMY, BED!" It was 2am and the poor child was exhausted. All I could do was try to tell her that there was no bed, bed was sleeping on mummy's lap. It was futile until she eventually conked out. Next time we are taking a daytime flight. BTW - a stupid woman across the aisle asked me: Is she always like this? I replied: I don't usually keep her up till 2am so I wouldn't know (refraining from adding: you stupid cow).

12. If you are going somewhere civilised, plan a trip to a local supermarket rather than schlepping a fortnight's worth of nappies and formula with you. Ditto baby shampoo and wet wipes. And pouring boiling water over cleaned bottles and letting them sit for five minutes is just as good as sterillising.

That's it - enjoy your holiday. This post was submitted to the BMB Carnival, Travelling With Children and hosted by Emma at Me, The Man & The Baby.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thank You Thursday: More Than Just A Funny Story

Sometimes I read a blog post by another mummy blogger which speaks straight to my heart. My Thank You Thursday this week goes to Emily Carlisle over at More Than Just A Mother, for her post last Sunday entitled Accidental Parenting: Naked Beans Night. First of all Accidental Parenting is a phrase I wish I'd coined myself. Emily describes the well-known phenomenon of absentmindedly doing something one way - once or twice - and this becoming the only way to do it that is acceptable to your children. I won't spoil Emily's post by retelling her hilarious example - and anyway, I think it's only fair that you click on the link and read it yourself.

More important than the story is the concept itself. There are things we woud never have planned in our perfect-parenting dreams and behaviours we would have readily frowned upon - until we found ourselves allowing them in our own households. And, as Emily so rightly points out, once a 'way' of doing something has been established it often involves too much effort and energy to reverse the custom. So thank you Emily for understanding why I give DD a square of chocolate halfway through her main course (only if she remembers to ask for it). Once it was a way of giving her a treat for eating half and giving her the encouragement to finish her meal. Now it's just what we do sometimes and, in the spirit of picking your battles, it's not terrible it just happened.

And even more important than all the above, after you have recognised the concept and forgiven yourself for initiating the Accidental Parenting customs in the first place, is the reminder from Emily to consider all this next time you see an act of imperfect parenting from another parent. As Emily says, they probably didn't plan to parent that way. It is most llikely an act of Accidental Parenting. So you could put aside your judgement and just smile knowingly.

Once again, thank you Emily Carlisle at More Than Just A Mother for your brilliant observation and for giving us the concept of Accidental Parenting.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Holocaust Day, A Photographer's Moral Dilemma

Do you remember many years ago, when the world's attention was focussed on drought and famine in parts of Africa? There was one memorable photograph of a clearly dying child struggling to reach the aid center. It was reported that the child died only metres away from medical attention and fresh water. The question everyone asked was: Why didn't the f***ing photographer pick her up and carry her to the centre?! What was he thinking?!

I am not a photograpgher. My photo albums are full of photos that friends have taken and kindly given me a copy. When DD was born I didn't even have a camera. I was using disposeables - and not very often. It's hard to summon up the enthusiasm when all the pictures come back blurred, off-centre, too light, too dark, etc... Then a group of friends got together and bought me a digital camera as a new-baby gift. It was a brilliant gift and, once I stopped putting  it up to my eye, much easier to manage. Now I didn't resent paying for 36 rubbish photos as I could pre-order the ones I wanted. In fact the rubbish ones get deleted before going to the photo shop.

However, something has happened to me  since I started blogging. I have become a photographer. Not a very good one - but you don't need to be a good one with a digital, you just keep trying till you get something nice. Thanks to Silent Sunday over at Mocha Beanie Mummy - which I enjoy immensely, I now find myself walking around all week with one eye out for a suitable photograph. Every view, tree, flower, building, street, scene, is observed with a photographer's eye. And from that, when a series of photos is required for the best effect or more explanation is needed, I find myself planning an illustrated blog post. This is so not me, except that now it is.

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel. It is a very solumn day. All the schools have remembrance services, the radio plays only sad music, there were no places of entertainment open last night, no restaurants, and we have 24 hours of Holocaust related broadcasts on television. The most haunting broadcasts I remember from 20 years ago (for obvious reasons these do not occur any more) were middle-aged men and women who had survived as babies and didn't know who they were. Each one went something like this: I was born somewhere in Poland, I think my mother's name was Hanna and I know I had an older brother called Mendl. I was brought to Israel from a displaced persons camp in Germany in 1946. I was about seven years old. Does anyone know who I am?

The most moving and poignant part of the day is the memorial siren. At 10am for two minutes everything stops. The traffic on the busiest streets stand still with the drivers standing on the road next to their vehicles. The pedestrians in the street become statues. The lights change from green to red and back to green again but no one notices. There is an eerie silence. You feel the weight of remembering on your shoulders. You try to remember harder. Most of us today weren't even born then - but still we remember.

I took my camera out and went to stand on the main road. I've never even considered doing this before. Ususally I stand on my balcony and the street below me is often empty. But today I thought it would be interesting, and not unimportant, to show my blog friends a significant aspect of life in Israel. I positioned myself at a crossroads and took out the camera. I started to have doubts about the reverence of taking photos when I should be solumnly standing and remembering. I braced myself for dirty looks from other people. I thought about how to hold the camera surrepticiously so as not to draw attention to myself. And then the siren sounded and I pressed the ON button. Nothing happened - the batteries were flat. Devine retribution? Who knows.