Monday, August 29, 2011

What A Difference A Year Makes

This time last year I was going out of my mind. DD and I were coming to the end of 21 months of staying at home together, and I was coming to the end of my tether. Truth be told, she was pretty bored too. August last year was horrendous weatherwise - far too hot. Weeks when the temperature never dropped below 35 degrees C. and reached 40 more than once. DD was still a bit dodgy on the stairs, needing help walking down and giving up after one flight up (we live on the third floor, no lift), and she weighed about 10kg. We had no structure, no fixed sleeping times, no fixed mealtimes. DD was too young to play on her own. I ate my way through the month whilst the television droned on in the background to keep me company - and to remind me what a proper person looks like and how one should function.

We were going to go to England this summer to escape the heat but then my sister announced that she and her family would be away for most of August. Well there is no point in spending all that money on air tickets when DD's cousins won't even be there to babysit  play with. So we stayed put and I was dreading it. More than dreading it, I was really quite anxious.

What a difference a year makes. We've had a great August. And although I am more than ready for nursery to start on Thursday (clue: yesterday afternoon DD had a Cornetto for tea while we were out, followed by a yogurt and crisps for supper) I am also amazed and relieved. Here are some of the gifts of August 2011.

1. DD finished nursery for the holidays on August 8th, which meant that we came in fresh. There were only three weeks to fill and my mother was here for the first few days. After a few more days we went for our holiday on the kibbutz. When we came back there were only 10 days left. Well you can't have a melt-down over 10 days with your toddler, that would be pathetic.

2. We have more of a network of friends and support this year. After a year of Nursery we know more mothers and children with whom to hang out. And, since I joined fb in January, we were able to be part of the group: Help I'm a mum in Israel in August -- Let's Plan Something. This ended up being a group of about 40 mums in Jerusalem who are all at least friends of friends. It was the little things like picnic lunch in the park by the waterfalls and canals, a ride along the old train-track park on our bimbas (ride-on toys), and going on the new trams to get an ice-cream, that were winners.

3. No nappies! I had my head in the sand as far as toilet training was concerned. I knew it had to be done, probably, this summer, but I was in denial. Then, one day in July, DD came home from nursery, took off her nappy and announced, "no nappy, knickers." That was it. She wouldn't even wear a nappy to go to bed that night. There were a few accidents during the first week and the first weekend she wasn't remotely interested in using the facilities for number twos. However, basically, that was it - we were done. (Note to self: try to figure out where that anticipated 30 pound saving/month went to.)

4. Remember how I wrote about when DD traumatised an experienced babysitter with her hysterical tantrum? Well, this morning I had a job interview and DD spent a couple of hours with my friend's parents who live near us. She knows them well as we go for tea once a week but she has never been left there on her own. We talked about it beforehand. She repeated the drill: Mummy go out and DD stay with Cecil and Susie - no cry. She helped pack her little bag with a few toys, a book, a dvd, and spare shorts and knickers. She chose a yogurt, a snack, and a plastic cup to take with for breakfast. And she stayed - no cry. A new era has dawned.

5. We no longer take the buggy everywhere which means we can hop on and off buses. DD can stand and wait for me to pay, put on my sunglasses, or whatever, without running off into the road. Our world has expanded to farther than walking distance. And she runs up and down the stairs to get there first.

6. August wasn't that hot this year. 32 degrees was a hot day, 30 was the norm, and many days stayed between 28 and 30. We even had cloudy days and plenty of breeze throughout. Thank you God.

7. My toddler has grown into a little girl. She talks to me and she's good company. She gives a running commentary on her dvds. She's funny. Even better, she can understand, reason, and follow simple instructions. We negotiate :).

8. We have a bedtime routine which takes about 10 minutes. Into bed, story, and then Mummy goes to work (or watch tv, but we call it work) while DD plays with her teddies in bed, listens to her nursery rhyme music and, eventually, falls asleep.

What a difference a year makes. I wonder where we'll be 'at' this time next year?

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Vegetable Soup Dilemma

I cannot get this out of my mind.

A couple of weeks ago I met up with a good and very slim friend in a cafe in Jerusalem. We had originally intended to meet for lunch but she had got off to a late start and had a number of errands to complete. We eventually arranged by phone to be at the cafe at 4pm, so DD and I ate lunch at home.

We arrived five minutes late. We found my friend already sitting with a bowl of vegetable soup in front of her. "I'm really sorry, I hope you don't mind that I went ahead and ordered - I haven't eaten all day and I was starving." I assured her that I really didn't mind, and I started to peruse the menu for DD and me.

The truth is that, at 4pm, I only needed coffee, and juice and a biscuit for DD. However, I found myself ordering the children's meal: pizza, ice-cream, and a drink; along with a coffee for me. I knew that DD would drink her apple juice and eat the ice-cream, and that I would probably get to eat most of the pizza. I was right.

While we waited for our meal, my friend invited me to nosh on the bread and butter that came with her soup. I did. She hardly ate any of it. I ended up eating a whole bread roll and butter, and almost a whole pizza. Whilst my friend, who had been starving, enjoyed her vegetable soup and felt much better.

Today I sent her a question: Did you choose the vegetable soup that day because...
a. it was the cheapest option?
b. you fancied vegetable soup?
c. it was the healthiest option?
d. none of the above? (If d. please explain).

What did I want her to say? a? I also need to tighten my belt and should have ordered the cheaper option. b? If she fancied vegetable soup, that would tell me that I need to retrain my brain to 'fancy' vegetable soup. c? Who doesn't need to make healthy choices - must try harder. d? What else could it be?

Turns out she is trying to eat smaller meals and more frequently to combat a tendancy for headaches. So she has a health issue and is eating accordingly. She did say, very kindly, that she would prefer to eat the cheesecake or the chocolate cake. I also have a health issue - I'm overweight.

So why can't I choose the vegetable soup? It's not like I  have to peel and chop the vegetables myself. It certainly looked tastey enough. And even if I vow to choose the vegetable soup next time - how am I going to keep my hands off the bread and butter?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What I Didn't Mention: Red Alert!

Across the fields is Gaza
There's something about our wonderful, fun, relaxing, action-packed (well, for a 2yo) holiday on the kibbutz that I didn't mention. The kibbutz where my friends live is very close to the border with Gaza. They each have a reinforced room in their homes and when the Red Alert sounds, they all go and stand in it with the door shut, until the danger is over. I wrote about it here back in April. However, since then the kibbutz has suffered a direct hit which damaged one of the houses. Thankfully no-one was hurt, but only because the owner had gone to the safety of the shelter.

On the way down last week, I asked my hosts, who had picked us up in Jerusalem on their way home, what the policy was now regarding Red Alerts. "We go into the shelter now," was the reply. "What about in the middle of the night?"
"If we hear it we get up. If you're lucky you don't wake up and you miss the whole thing."

All was quiet for the first couple of days. Then, last Thursday, two buses and a family car were fired at by terrorists on the road near Eilat. Eight people died and many more were injured. Families returning from their holidays, soldiers going home for the weekend, men, women and children. We knew that the calm was over.

That evening my friend had to go and prepare rooms for a group of  30 tourists who were coming for the weekend. DD and I went with her and we found that the rooms needed a 'going -over' to make them fit for guests. They weren't dirty but this is the desert and sandy dust is our constant challenge. We each grabbed a wet cloth and, while DD played, we got to work. Almost finished and my friend called me over. "Take DD home, I just got a text warning that we're expecting qassams. I'll catch you up."

I took DD by the hand and started to walk with her back to the house. It was a good five minute walk for an adult walking briskly. DD tried her best to keep up. I just wanted to get her home before the Red Alert. "I know, I'll give you a piggy-back!" I stood her on a bench and hoisted her onto my back. This was her first piggy-back ever. I jogged (sort of) along whilst composing a blog post in my mind: My First Piggy-Back. After a short distance she wasn't comfortable and neither was I. "Walk DD!" She cried. "We'll soon be home," I replied as I tried to go faster. But I couldn't make it all the way and I ended up dragging her along by the hand, her little legs working furiously to keep up with me.

We made it home without incident. Apparently it had been a general warning for the coming hours rather than an immediate warning. That night there was a Red Alert at about 1.30am. I lay in bed and considered scooping a sleeping DD up and running to the shelter. You only have about 20 seconds to get there and by the time I'd finished weighing up the pros and cons of waking her up, it was all over. There was another one, so I'm told, at 5.30am but we slept through it.

The next day the pool was closed in the morning - too traumatic to think of hurrying 50 people out of the water and into the pool shelter within 20 seconds. The group of 30 tourists cancelled. We could have come home but I didn't even consider it. I asked if we could still walk to the dining room for lunch or if we should stay indoors. "You can go but if you're outside during a Red Alert, make yourselves as small as possible and stay away from trees and buildings." No problem.

On Saturday afternoon we were having tea in my friends' house when the Red Alert sounded. "Red Alert," said a few people calmly - as if we couldn't all hear it. We all got up, I picked up DD and carried her, and we walked purposefully to the shelter. The man of the house shut the door and kept a firm hand on the handle. This was absurdly comforting, as if he were taking charge and had some control over the situation - which of course he didn't. It was standing room only and so we stood and discussed how long we should wait. After about a minute and a half we all went back to our tea.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Our Kibbutz Holiday

Every morning off to the pool

It wasn't picking oranges or milking the cows, it was just going to stay with our good friends on their Kibbutz. We were originally only going for three days but then were invited to stay for the weekend (with only a little bit of hinting and I accidently mentioned that I had brought Shabbat (Sabbath) clothes with us just in case).

So it was five days of friends (and their wonderful children who played with and entertained DD non-stop), playground, pool, and lots of safe space to run around with no cars or strangers to worry about. We went to see the tropical fish in their little pond a lot. We saw the cows from a distance but experience has taught me that we'll make a closer visit when DD no longer wants to be picked up occasionally (think cowshed floor - DD's shoes - my clothes - got it?).

I couldn't have given DD a holiday this year if it weren't for my wonderful friends on the kibbutz. Big, big thank you! And now for some highlights:

You have to wait for the lifeguard

Lunch in the dining-room (exhausted)

Plenty of down time

Off for a walk with Nadge Junior

On my own in the little pool

I love swimming with Mummy

Friday, August 12, 2011

Library: Please Don't Enjoy The Books!

I started reading at an early age. - DD
Today's activity was walking to the local Children's English Library, choosing some interesting and colourful picture books, sitting in the air conditioning and reading the books together. We left home at 4pm in the cooling late-afternoon. We arrived at the library at 4.10pm and I expected to stay for about 40 minutes. We love books and some of the librarians are friends of mine. It's usually a lovely place to go - although I have never taken DD there before.

There were four other people in the library: two staff members, whom I know, working on a computer in one corner and discussing whatever it was they were working on. A teenage boy with a pile of books and earphones in his ears listening to I don't know what. And a librarian, who I don't know and have never seen before, sitting at the main desk covering new books with sticky-backed plastic. That was it apart from one woman who came in to browse for a few minutes and then left, and a family of three children who dropped off some books, asked a question and also left.

One of the computer ladies got up to show me where the picture books are and we had a short conversation in normal voices. I chose four books - one about a cat, one about the toilet (very topical for us at the  moment), one about a pesky fly, and one about, erm, can't remember. We went to sit at the little pre-schoolers' chairs and table in the opposite corner to the two people on the computer. DD chose the first book and I started to read it to her. I got a disapproving look from the librarian but I ignored it.

Then one of the computer people, the one I hadn't exchanged greetings with when we came in, looked up, smiled and waved to me. This is when I made a mistake. I admit I was wrong to have addressed a few words to her across the room. I know I should have gone over to say, 'hello.' As soon as I got a loud, 'shush!' from the librarian I apologised and went over to greet my friend.

After that it was downhill all the way. I was reading softly to DD but every so often she would point at one of the pictures and exclaim, 'cat!' or, 'cuppa tea!' And every time the librarian gave us another loud, 'shush!' At one point she told DD to look at her and she gave her a lecture (in Hebrew) about how we don't make a noise in the library. Funnily enough it went right over DD's 2 1/2 year old head. Really, who were we distrubing? The boy with the earphones? The two ladies on the computer who were talking anyway? Or maybe she couldn't concentrate on her sticky-backed plastic with the occasional delighted exclamation from a little girl enjoying the books. Silly me - I thought that was the point of the Children's Library.

Then I made my second mistake. DD's nose needed wiping and I opened my bag to get out the muslin. DD saw the little bag of crackers I had brought with us and she wanted one. So I gave her two small, dry crackers. The librarian came straight over to recite the no food, no eating regulations. Now I'm not stupid. I brought dry crackers and DD had two of them. They're not wet or sticky in any way and we weren't setting a bad example for other library users - because there weren't any. 

What would've/could've/should've happened was that DD could've eaten her two crackers and that would've been the end of it. Instead I had to try to take them away from her and she obviously resisted, loudly. At that point I decided that we were leaving. It was 4.20pm. When a grown up librarian insists on playing jobsworth with a 2 year old delighting in the books at the Children's Library, what is the point?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Help....Let's Plan Something

This post is a Thank you Thursday to Lisa Gold Margolin who started a facebook group on July 31st. called: Help Me I'm A Mum In Israel In August -- Let's Plan Something. What a brilliant idea and it's working aswell.

The first posts were full of suggestions of things to do. We have a difficult situation here whereby it's far too hot to go out before about 4pm and the younger children (who don't hang out in the a/c'ed malls) are going stir-crazy in the flats, unless you can get them to an early morning session in the park - yeah right, in my next life as Supermum. And yes, well spotted, most of us live in apartments so there is no flinging open (or sliding of) the patio doors for hours of outdoor activity while Mum cooks dinner. We have local parks with the ubiquitous playground climbing/slides combo and a patch of grass - but small and, to be honest, they get boring after a while.

And finally, there is a limit to what a 2yo can do and enjoy. 2yos don't need to go to theme parks or museums. They need simple stuff that doesn't cost much. It's just a matter of thinking of the stuff, finding it and - thanks to Lisa, posting it on fb so that a group of us can meet up there. 2yos do love company and so do their Mums.

Today I was clicking my way round fb and twitter when I saw a post by J asking if anyone wants to join her and her twin boys in Independence Park, Jerusalem. Apparently (who knew?) there are streams and waterfalls (all manmade but who cares) to frolic in. Oooh yes please! I replied, completely forgetting that I had offered to have one of DD's friends for a couple of hours this afternoon. It crossed my mind to get J's mobile number before we left but I thought: no, let's be old fashioned and find them in the park.

I packed a towel, spare clothes, water jelly-shoes, drinking water, and snacks. We got on the bus into town at 4pm (which is when I remembered about DD's friend - sorry S and J). We went into the wrong section of the park. We sat there, not seeing any water nor any J and her twins. I called two mutual friends and managed to get J's number - but she didn't answer. I was about to take DD home when I suddenly thought: I know there is more to this park somewhere. So we left the small part of the park,walked round the fenced off bit where they are re-landscaping, down the road and into Independence Park proper.

J and the boys had finished frolicking in the water and were on to bubbles and frisbie. DD didn't fancy paddling on her own but we took some pictures. The park is lovely. Plenty of shade, large grassy areas, water, trees... and it's on almost every bus-route. We said we'd organise it better next time. Warn people about the split parks phenomenon. Get a bigger group together. As J said - you need someone to do it first so they know what's what. Next time we'll be wiser. Those of you who commented: Let us know what it's like and we'll do it next week - very clever! On the other hand, we were out for a couple of hours in the cooler weather, had two rides on the bus and went to the supermarket on the way home.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Gallery: Water

At the Jerusalem Zoo yesterday it was over 30 degrees C. I think this may be the first time I have ever envied a penguin.

Pop over to The Gallery at Sticky Fingers for more pictures on the water theme. They range from the dramatic to the tranquil, the breath-taking to the ridiculous (I'm not saying which one I have in mind :-P ).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Ladybird Nursery

Nursery finishes next week. Then there are only three weeks of holiday until next year begins. I love spending time with DD but I am dreading three long weeks in weather that is too hot for anything outdoors during the day. We'll go to town on the bus and have an ice-cream, we'll go to the library (although it also closes for two weeks), we'll have play-dates with water on the balcony, we'll go to the park in the early evening. And for three or four days in the middle we'll go down to visit our friends on their Kibbutz (with pool, animals, playgrounds, a fish pond and, best of all, wide open spaces for running around).

So I don't know why I'm dreading it so much but I am. I haven't even been able to write anything for the past few days. In the meantime, while I try and pull myself together, here are some pictures (taken by the nursery staff) of DD's amazing year at the Ladybird Nursery. I cannot express how much we have gained from this year (yes, me too). Thank you with all my heart Raheli, Linda, Na'ama, Tina, and Rutti. Now over to DD (in my own words :) )

Nursery is lots of fun!

I'm not sure about snakes

The birds are a bit fidgetty

We had a pyjama party!

On our picnic we played with a parachute

Painting is fun

I like riding the bimbas

In the spring we planted bulbs

I liked the birds on my head

We play games

I love Raheli my teacher

Cooking is great!
On Purim I dressed as an orange

I love the rabbit best


We had lollies at the pool party on the roof

Mummy was invited to my Birthday...
...and I sat on the special chair