Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Den

She has her own bedroom of course. A whole room to herself where she can be by herself and do whatever she wants in private, even in secret (although we are not allowed to have secrets these days). However, the current exploit du jour is building a den in the salon using the sofa cushions.

Surely she could build something similar in her bedroom using the duvet and pillows? Apparently not. The bed doesn't have the right kind of cushions.

Here she is emerging from today's new house. A sort of Bauhaus inspired design wouldn't you say?

And here is a glimpse of the interior filled with lots of soft furnishings to make it comfortable.

I feel like I'm living in an episode of Your House In Their Hands or Changing Rooms. I never know what I'm going to find when I return from the kitchen after putting the kettle on.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Slipping Through My Fingers?

Last week DD came home from school saying something about an outing this week. She didn't know any details because... "I didn't bother to listen because I knew there'd be an email."

Sure enough there was an email. The parents' committee had arranged an outing to the Jerusalem Fire Department, where one of the fathers works. It is tomorrow morning. We have to take them to the fire station at 9am and pick them up at 11.30. School finishes at noon on Fridays anyway so no lessons will be held.

DD: Well I'm not going to that. THAT doesn't interest me at all!

I didn't push it. We are entering the last month of the school year, there seems to be more homework all of a sudden (or is that just my perception?), it was 44 degrees C (111 F) in Jerusalem this week. We are tired and I'm picking my battles.

I put it out there on fb just to see what other mums thought about me letting her stay at home. Some understood while others were adamant that if I give DD a break in First Grade she will grow up to be an irresponsible adult with no committment to her work.

It's a very Israeli thing that all the children have to be the same, do the same, get the same. It's left over from the days when we were a strongly socialist country and everyone was a closet kibbutznik. It's total b***sh*t of course. Israel has one of the highest wealth gaps between the rich and poor in the western world. So I had to laugh when one mother suggested that if I allow DD to opt out of a Friday morning school outing that doesn't interest her, I would be encouraging a sense of entitlement. LOL, there are kids in this neighbourhood who opt out of a week at school in order to go skiing every year so I don't think missing a couple of hours at the local fire station is going to impress anybody.

I admit I was deliberately provocative when I said I'd let her skip her 'Tiyul Shnati' (big class trip that is usually a hike in the mountains somewhere) next year if she doesn't want to go, as she hated it so much this year. This is particularly shocking to Israelis as the tiyul shnati is the big bonding and socialization event of the year, and it promotes the compulsary love of the land and beautiful countryside. (Imo it's not beautiful - it's Mediterranean scrub and there is no countryside as I know it.)

Other mums, the British mums interestingly, said it's also not healthy to grow up thinking you have no control over your life and have to do what everyone else wants to do even if you hate it.

A few weeks ago DD's best friend was away for three days as her family went to Eilat. A lot of families go now because it's cheaper than in July and August and the climate more pleasant. Last week two out of the six children in DD's swimming lesson group were absent because they were taking a few days in Eilat. And a mother of one of my pupils told me he will be away next week. "We're going to Eilat," She sighed resignedly, "the kids so need to get away. They really need it."

Well my 6yo daughter, who is in school six days a week, five of them from 8 am till 4.30 and half day on Fridays, also needs some time off and we can't afford to go to Eilat. Anyway I can't take time off my work before August but actually we don't need to be in Eilat, she just needs not to have to get up for school once in a while.

The truth is that last weekend was a school holiday for Shavuot (Pentecost) and they had three days off. She went back on Tuesday, which is only half a day of lessons and the rest activities. On Wednesday she stayed home because the weather was 44 degrees C. and imo, that is too hot to go out. (NB I didn't tell them this on fb - I didn't dare. Even though it was her class teacher's day off so no maths or Hebrew. Even the teachers only have to go to school five days a week!) Today she went back to school and tomorrow is the outing.

DD came out of school at 4.30 today and said, "I told my teacher I'm not coming to the fire station and she said I have to go."
Me: "So are you going?"
DD: "I suppose I'll have to."
Me: "Good. When we get home I'll phone one of the parents and organise a lift for you."
DD: "No need. I arranged that Daria will take me because you don't have a car."

When I called Daria's mother to confirm this arrangement she said that Daria had already told her they were taking DD and bringing her home afterwards.

So this post is partly to describe how this whole amusing episode has left me wondering what my role is here as the mother. That Abba song springs to mind - Slipping Through My Fingers. She's only 6 for goodness' sake!

And also to open the topic of mental health days and whether children should be allowed to decline to go on a fun school trip if they don't want to go. What do you think? Luckily we don't get fined for being absent but how does it impact your decision (uk mums) knowing that you could get fined for giving your kid a break?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hello Haircut

When I was a child in the 1960s my mother made me have short hair. I begged for long hair. I wore scarves over my head to pretend I had long hair. I covetted the long hair of various beautiful girls who seemed like princesses to me. I hated being called a boy - for some reason I was made to wear trousers aswell when I yearned to be more feminine in dresses and skirts.

The title of this post refers to how my dad would greet us on returning from work and seeing we'd had haircuts would exclaim, "Hello Haircut!"

The line was that when I could look after my hair myself (i.e. brush it properly) I could grow it long. I passed the hairbrishing test at about 6 years old and never looked back. I had the longest hair it would grow to until age 15 when I had it cut short on a whim. Came out of the hairdresser and crying and didn't go back until I was about 45.

Thinking about it in later years I assumed it was because short hair was 'in' in the 1960s. Think Twiggy and that pixie look. And I thought maybe my mother couldn't be bothered with doing our hair every morning. Though I didn't think that was a good enough reason.

When I had my daughter I swore I would never make her suffer short hair. She loved her long hair and was always measuring it against her back to see how long it was. But oh the tangles in the morning. Oh the fights over getting those tanlges out. I was beginning to understand.

However, the final straw was the lice. All the kids have lice here. When it gets so bad we have a classwide de-licing night when the whole class is asked to do a teatment and comb them out. We have regular discussions on fb about the best way to de-louse. No one wants to use harsh chemicals. There's no point in expensive treatments as one loose strand of hair and it's like open borders and free passage into the UK. At the height of the season we sometimes admit that combing out with the fine-toothed comb and lashings of conditioner is in fact only population control rather than lice genocide.

In the end neither of us could stand the combing out every b*&%dy night and the constant scratching. So, reader, with DD's permission, I cut her hair.

It looks great. She has the perfect hair that everyone wants - wavy but not too thick or frizzy. I wasn't allowed to take photos but I managed to sneak a few shots. We still have to comb out regulalry but it's so much easier and so few tangles that it takes a fraction of the time.

And when I told my mum she said, "why do you think I made you have short hair for so long?" I was amazed. I don't remember anyone having lice when I was a child in London. Lice was a throwback to Victorian street urchins. Sure we were checked sometimes at school by Nitty Nora the Flea Explorer, but no one expected her fnd anything. But apparently, there was lice. It was such a shameful thing that if anyone had it, it was a big big secret. Lol, here it's just a way of life.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tuesday Tidbits #32 - All Sorts Of Ridiculous

Doing a handwriting workbook from school, DD had to write 'wind' where it was suitable. I was helpig her read the phrases.
Me: A strong ...
DD: Yes.
Me: A cold ...
DD: Yes.
Me: A blue ...
DD: No!
Me: A hungry ...
Me: A sour ...

Seeing a picture of Anjelina Jolie as Maleficent.
DD: I know her. She was at Sapir's party.
(It had been a cinema party and they'd watched the film.)

DD: Mummy, canter tooth go on paper?
Me: What?
DD: Canter tooth go on paper? Or are they only on your skin?
Me: Oh, can tattoos go on paper? No, they're only on skin.

Last year we had a male swimming teacher and a couple of male substitutes when he was away.
DD (when I pointed out her new swimming teacher): What? You can have girl swimming teachers? I didn't know girls could teach swimming!

Me: You need to finish your homework before you can have your tablet.
DD: What will happen if I take my tablet?
Me: I'll put it away in a high place until the summer holidays.
DD: How long is that?
Me: Two months.
DD: Well lucky if it happens today and not yesterday because that would be even one more day to wait until I can have it back.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A-Z Of Time And Money Saving Household Systems (Part 2, N-Z)

You can read A-M here.

14. Nutrition. Real food, proper sit-down meals, smaller portions, no junk, drink water. It's not rocket science although a number of people have managed to expand this advice into whole books and industries. If you do this you will save loadsa money on food, fewer sick days, doctors and medicine. You will also be more energised for all aspects of your life, more efficient, happier, and spend less money on clothes because you'll look great in everything you already have.

15. Offspring. Your children need systems too. Children with structure in their days get more done and do better than those without. Encourage your children to create a daily and weekly routine to include their homework, hobbies, social activities, exercise, computer time, music practice, and enough sleep. For younger children do it yourself or together and put it on the fridge (with a sticker-reward element if necessary). You don't have to include everything and over-schedule them. For us the important items (which are the ones that meet the most resistance) are homework, brushing teeth, hair washes, and reading practice (in two languages).

16. Places. Everything you own has to have a place in your home where it lives. If it doesn't have a designated place it will be all over the shop getting in the way, looking messy, and ultimately getting lost. This applies to post, hats/gloves/umbrellas, remote controls, miscellaneous stationary and home office equipment, gift wrapping items, stores of unused toiletries for eventual use or regifting, old magazines, glasses and sunshades... in short, everything. And of course you need to regularly put everything in it's place.

17. Queen for a day. Time for yourself to do something fun, has to be built into the system. It could be once a month or once a week. It could be a coffee or lunch with a friend, it could be a cinema or concert outing, it could be a day shopping or at a spa, a monthly mani-pedi or a massage. It doesn't have to be a week in Paris though that would be nice. Just something to make you feel relaxed and good about yourself. Factor it in according to your budget. If it's a walk in the woods and a picnic by the lake that's fine. If it's a gin and tonic and an uninterrupted dvd that's also fine. If you plan it it will be money saving because the alternative is to reach the end of your tether and go on a spontaneous splurge.

18. Rainy Day. Even if you regularly finish the month in minus, you need to find a system for saving for a rainy day. I put the minimal amount allowable into a savings account by monthly automatic transfer and forget about it. There's hardly any interest atm but when I have a reasonable sum I'll review the best place to put it and move it if necessary. It's a pay yourself first system even though I could often do with the money for other things. One of my friends started collecting 2 shekel coins. Whenever she had one in her purse she put it in a jar. When she had 1,000 2 shekel pieces that would be a short holiday for her and her children (about 350GBP). Other friends have occasional work which is outside their regular income and put that money into savings. Another system is to look at your expenses and see where you can shave off savings - and of course save that money. Sell unwanted items on Ebay or your local Buy, Sell, Swap group on fb (start one if you can't find one). Set yourself challenges for furnishing a small emergency fund (new fridge), a larger fall back fund (temporary unemployment of up to 6 months), and a long term plan (new house, pension). These are but a few saving systems I've heard about, there are plenty more I'm sure. You might need to be creative but don't try sleeping in Heathrow aiport and having someone set up a Go Fund Me for you. It's been done and it backfired.

19. Shopping list. Have one on your computer with all the household items you use regularly. Print it out once a week and tick off things as you run out. Before you go shopping check it against your menu plan for the coming week and add any special extras such as birthday cake decorations or a gift to take to a party.

20. Timetable. You can go take a look at the FlyLady. This is timetabling in the extreme. She has Control Journals for every inch of your house for every hour of the day, every day of the week, every month, every season, every occasion, and every year. You could schedule the life out of your life. If you search You Tube for Control Journals there are hilarious and excruciatingly boring at the same time, vlogs of people showing you their giant files of lists and routines in great detail. Having said that, it makes sense to schedule tasks outside of your regular work for housework, accounts, mending, cooking, gardening, quality time, hobbies, etc... You can take it as far as you like from jotting things down in your diary to the full control journal lifestyle. Things will get done and you won't have to throw money at projects that you could have finished yourself but now need help with because the time ran out.

21. Underwear. We had 6 years worth of socks and knickers (well maybe only 4 years on the knickers) stuffed into drawers in DD's bedroom. I also tend to keep socks, knickers and bras way past their usefulness. what's more, I always buy a packet of knickers or socks in M&S (or Primark for DD) on our yearly visit to England. So the underwear mountains just keep growing. For DD the ridiculous thing is that the older items don't even fit her anymore and for me they're just worn and holey. Go through your underwear once a year and free up space. You might also be surprised to find enough good pairs of socks/tights/knickers so that you actually don't need to buy more for a while. Throw out the tired things.

22. Vegeburgers and kugels. Any leftover vegetables, pulses, and grains can be made into vegeburgers (or if you bake it in one big dish it's a kugel). Just saute your vegetables if necessary, soak your pulses and cook them if necessary, and mix everything up with eggs and any grains (rice, polenta, flour, breadcrumbs), or mashed potato for binding. Season and make your mixture into patties for vegeburgers or turn into a well oiled dish and bake in the oven until golden brown on top for kugels.

23. Wardrobe. You need to be able to see what you have and it needs to be folded ready to wear. Otherwise you'll be in a perpetual nothing-to-wear cycle of buying new clothes and sending them to Narnia at the back of the wardrobe. Last year Project 333 was popular. You choose 33 items to wear for 3 months. This cuts down your choices but, if all 33 items coordinate, you actually save time and have more choice. You change your 33 items with each season for weather conditions and variety. The great thing about this is that you don't actually have to throw anything out, just pack it away for the season. If an unexpected skiing trip lands in your lap (as it does - to some but not to me) you can of course dig out your skiing gear for the holiday. Same for scuba diving, hop picking, and volunteering in Africa - your 33 items do not have to cover every eventuality.

24. Xtras. There are so many more systems that work for people. Here are some I can think of. If you have experience with any of these I'd love to read about it in a comment. Couponing, bartering or swapping services such as gardening or babysitting, pot luck or contribution dinners and parties, car pooling, entering prize contests, upcycling, swap meetings, thrift shop shopping, house swap holidays, staycations, camping, planning for future events by gift buying in advance when you see something on offer, vegetable growing, and store cupboard kitchens.

25. Yearly Goals. The years go by and those years when you didn't have a baby, graduate, move house or get a new job, can be lost in eras of minimal achievement. If the word 'goals' scares you, call them intentions or aspiritations. You can do it yearly but it's also good to have a system of monthly or even weekly goals. It's true that 'how you spend your days is how you live your life.' Don't over extend yourself or be unrealistic but it is important to know where you want to be heading or you might never get anywhere. What a waste of the years that would be. Five and Ten Year plans are also helpful. Mind maps are a fun way to do this with coloured pens but lists work just as well.

25. Zzzzz. You need to make sure you're getting enough sleep or every other system will work at half effiency levels. Work backwards from the time you have to get up in the morning and make sure you get what you need - you know what your optimum number of hours is. If you like to read in bed, go to bed half an hour earlier to allow for this. Leave your tech devices in another room.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A-Z Of Time And Money Saving Household Systems (Part 1, A-M)

1. Accounts. Have files or folders, a drawer or a shelf for all your household bills and documents. Keep it contained in one place. Have a pending basket where you throw in papers as they arrive to be dealt with later. 'Later' needs to be a specific time in the week when you sit down and clear the pending box, pay the bills, answer letters that need answering, and file everything into the appropriate file/folder. Schedule this into your week, it shouldn't take longer than an hour tops. It can be done in front of the tv on Sunday night or at 6am one morning if you are an early riser. The golden rules are to keep it contained and regulalry keep on top of it.

2. Bedtime. You can't make the children go to sleep and it's often frustrating to have them messing about when you need the evening to be child-free to work or have time to yourself. Do your bit of the routine - supervise homework, enforce music practice, serve supper, de-lice hair, supervise baths and clean up the bathroom afterwards, read stories, put out clean clothes for the morning, etc... And then set a curfew for 8.30pm. All children have to be in their rooms. They can read or play quietly but they have to stay in their rooms. I met someone last week who had his children doing this until they were 16 although I don't think he was still supervising baths.

3. Cooking. Prepare everything in double proportions, make in two dishes and freeze. You then have one week on and one week off cooking. Or alternate days of cooking (using different dishes from the freezer not the same food two days running). You may have to add the pasta, potatoes, or the salad but the soup, sauce, or main dish will be ready. Just remember to take it out of the freezer in the morning.

4. Declutter. It's obvious that the less rubbish you have, even if it's treasured rubbish, the less you have to look after, the less storage furniture you have to clean around, and the easier it is to find and get at what you want quickly and efficiently.

5. Evening Meals. Have a loose weekly menu. For example, Mondays - pasta, Tuesdays - pizza, Wednesday - bangers, beans, and mash (or shepherds pie), Thursdays - fish and chips (or fish fingers depending your age and budget), Fridays - chicken, rice, and vegetables, Saturdays - soup and salad based meal, Sundays - toasted sandwiches, pancakes, omelets or French toast and leftovers. It gives you a starting point and then you can add whatever sauces and vegetables you have in the house. A clearing up rota is good. Or at least a help with the clearing up rota for younger children. In our house it's DD's turn every night #onlychildproblems

6. Flowers. Don't have cut flowers in the house. They last for a week tops and then you have to throw them out and wash the vase. Pot plants last for years, they are less messy, and only need watering regularly. I love flowers but I keep them outside on the balcony or as flowering plants in the house.

7. Guilt. If you don't feel up to doing any of it one day, don't do it. Use your time profitably to catch up on sleep or tv programmes you wanted to see but missed. Do not waste valuable leisure time feeling guilty about it, even if it is unplanned leisure time.

8. Housework. Only clean half the house each week. Bedrooms and bathrooms one week, living rooms and kitchen the next. This requires a certain amount of cleaning up as you go and toilets and sinks will need a once over in between times, but most rooms can survive two weeks between cleans.

9. Ice-cream. We live in a hot climate and the kids want ice-cream every day. They don't get an ice-cream every day but it is hard to say no when you're walking home past the shop and it's 30 degrees C. I have two strategies. The first is to buy a box of cones and a tub of ice cream for the freezer (I could make my own but I don't). This is way cheaper than buying something on a stick or in a cone from the shop. The second idea is to buy small, cheap children's yogurts and freeze them with a plastic spoon stuck in though the lid. A quick once under the cold tap and the frozen yogurt cleanly comes out of the tub. DD can have a frozen yogurt every day if she wants - it's a yogurt!

10. Jobs. Everyone who lives in the house should have jobs. DD is 6 1/2 and her jobs include unpacking the 48-roll packet of toilet paper into the cupboard in the bathroom and making pyramids of the rest on the shelf behind each toilet. She also waters the plants on the balcony every day in the summer. We're working on tidying up her stuff before the bedtime curfew. Actualy we're still working on the bedtime curfew idea.

11. Kitchen Closure. I have a friend who is one of six children and five of them boys. His mother used to clean up the ktchen after supper each night and lock the door. They had a fruit bowl and some nosh, drinks, and tea/coffee making facilities in the morning room (sounds posh but it just meant a separate room for the table instead of an eat-in kitchen) but the kitchen was closed. With eight mouths to feed their mother needed to know what food she had in the fridge and that it was not going to be eaten late at night by teenage boys with hollow legs. She was also able to clean up and know that she would have a clean kitchen to come down to the next morning. You don't have to go to the extreme of actually locking the door but a Kitchen Closed policy has its merits. (You could temporarily open it for a 9pm tea break if you eat supper early.)

12. Laundry. You could do up to 10 loads of laundry in one day, squash it all onto your clothes horses/line to dry and/or tumble dry in the machine. However, you then need to iron everything. If you take the laundry slowly and smooth out the wet clothes on the clothes horse or hang tops on the line on hangers (pegged of course), it will dry without any need for ironing (with a little help from body heat). It may take a few days to get to the bottom of the basket but hours spent ironing are eliminated.

13. Muffins. DD has to take a 10 o'clock snack to school every day. This is for most children a sandwich and some fruit. It's a leftover from the days when people got up a 6 and had their main midday meal at about 2.30 when they came home from school. We live oppposite the school so, though school starts at 8, we get up at 7.30 and there is no time for breakfast. Ten o'clock snack is actually eaten at 9.40 so it is essentially her breakfast. She gets a hot lunch at 1pm. Only she doesn't like sandwiches. So at half the price of buying unfrosted cupcakes in the supermarket and with twice the goodness (not scientifically calculated), I make a batch of muffins every couple of weeks. I make it with silan (date syrup) instead of some of the sugar, I grate in some carrots and courgette, and if anyone asks it is absolutely not a cupcake (which they are not allowed to bring to school), it's a healthy(ish) muffin. This works for us but the point is, a batch of muffins in the freezer are a cheap and healthy snack and they take only about 10 minutes to defrost.

You can read N-Z here.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Was That Me 33 Years Ago?

I've never been much of a photographer. My friend S has made about 40 of those photo books of her son's life and he's only four and a half. I've still to compile our first photo book and DD is six and a half. So you'll not be surprised to hear that my album from my gap year 33 years ago is an exercise book with a few photos, postcards of the kibbutz we lived on (Sde Eliahu if anyone who doesn't know is interested) and lots of writing. A bit like my blog really.

There was a Swiss guy with us, Alex Avidan, now Dr Avidan in Jerusalem, who was and still is an avid photographer. A few years ago we held a reunion of sorts and Alex compiled a powerpoint presentation of all his 344 photographs from our year together. It was set to all the songs we used to sing and had us exclaiming, "who are those kids?!"

Yesterday he posted a link to his photos on facebook after another friend posted a selfie wearing our beloved sweatshirt that we designed ourselves. Actually Alex reminded us that he designed the sweatshirt aswell. LOL, had I realised back then that he was such a high achiever I would have tried harder to attract his attention.

So here are a few photos of me among Alex's gallery. It was 1981-1982. We were living as farmers on a kibbutz on the Jordanian border. We travelled the country in the back of an old Leyland lorry. We sang and danced a lot. We thought this was life. Who knew?

Me aged 19, notice the farmer's tan

We loved to sing and perform

This was my favourite seat on the Leyland

A country girl at heart?

All photos by Dr Alexander Avidan.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tuesday Tidbits #31 - The Kibbutz Edition

We went to our favourite kibbutz for a long weekend as my good friends SJ and Nadge were celebrating the Bat Mitzva of her youngest daughter.

We were put up in an empty kibbutz house. It had a bathroom and a kitchen, a living room and a few bedrooms but the only furniture was the two beds we slept in. Apart from the two beds it was completely empty.
DD: It's a good job this isn't our real house.
Me: Why?
DD: I can't help thinking there's something missing.

We were introduced to an old friend of Nadge who had come from the UK with his wife. He and his lovely wife were sitting in the garden when we arrived. 
Me: Hi, I'm Rachel Selby
Friend of Nage: Hello, I'm Fred Bloggs*
Me (recognising the name Bloggs from a female facebook friend in the same town): I know that name. Who's Lisa Bloggs?
Friend of Nage: She's my ex-wife.

*Names have been changed.

Eating in the communal dining room.
DD: It's so lucky for them. They don't even need a shop. They just come and choose what they want to eat.

On the way back to our hosts' house from lunch in the communal dining-room on Saturday, I was boldly leading the way with a bunch of guests who didn't know the kibbutz as well I do. Chatting away, I headed for the blue front door and we all trooped into the living room.
Us: Chatter chatter chatter.... silence.
Me (to the girl sitting on her sofa reading): Ooh, sorry. Sorry, wrong house.
Us (all troop out again and go to the right house two doors down.)

At the party DD was placed on the children's table. Of course she wanted to stay with me. 
Me: If you don't sit with your friends and have fun with them, there's no point in you coming. I won't bring you here next time when there's a party. (She reluctantly sat with the children and had a great time.)

We arrived home around midnight and DD, who'd been asleep in the car, was barely awake as I helped her put on her pjs.
DD: Mummy, will you take me there again when there's a party?
Me: Yes, you were a very good girl.
DD: Good, because I kinda miss that place.

Left. DD having fun on the children's table.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

7 Things You Didn't Know About Maeve Binchy And Me

I'm reading Maeve Binchy again. I think I've read almost all of her novels. They're easy to read. It's like sitting at the kitchen table with a friend and have her tell you all the gossip. There are no surprises, everything falls into place for the good guys and the bad get punished.

Sometimes the storylines are too simplistic. In fact it's almost unbelievable how everything falls into place in a Binchy novel. Someone has an idea for a business and with lots of hard work implied, though not felt at all by the reader, it all comes together and two minutes later they are a roaring success.

It's obvious that Binchy never had children of her own as there's often the perfect solution of aquaintances looking after other people's babies and toddlers with no thought to the children who might not be (and often aren't in real life) happy about this arrangement. Single parents work through the night to finish college courses whilst working full time in their day jobs. There's never a shortage of childcare.

Psychological issues and addictions are magically overcome with a bit of effort and support from good friends.

Maybe that's why I like these novels, it's like Disney for real(ish) people.

Minding Frankie. (2 shekels (33p) at the Yedidya Bazaar)

Whilst reading about Binchy's life, I found some amazing parallels with my own life. Here are some things about Maeve Binchy you might not have known and some things about me you might not be interested to know:

1. The oldest of four children, Maeve and her siblings would go down to the beach whilst on holiday and trail their swimsuits in the sea. Then they'd go back to the accommodation and hang their wet suits on the line so their parents would think they'd been for a healthy swim, which they had not.

We have a lot in common Maeve and I. As a child I remember going to great lengths to wet my towel and run the shower over the bath, sprinkle the bath mat with water, wet the soap, etc... to make it look as if I'd had a bath when I hadn't. 

2. She started out as a teacher in a Jewish school in Dublin, teaching French, Latin, and History. In 1963 when she was 24, the parents of the school bought her ticket to Israel. She volunteered on a kibbutz for a few months. Her father typed up her letters from Israel and sent them to a local paper where they were published. This is when she decided to be a writer.

I too started out as a teacher in a Jewish school but the parents gave me a box of chocolates at the end of the year. When I came back from my gap year on a kibbutz in Israel, my mother presented me with a file of my letters that she had kept. I was so embarrassed re-reading them that I threw the whole file in the bin. 

3. Whilst in Israel she went looking for the location of the Last Supper. She was underwhelmed to find just a scraggy hillside. The guard teased her that she expected to find a dining table set for 13. Binchy cried that she had in fact expected just that. After this experience her Catholic faith lapsed somewhat.

I now live about five minutes drive from this spot. Actually I have no idea where it is she went, it could be around the corner for all I know. There's a lot of scraggy hillside around here. 

4. Both her parents died by the time she was 32 and, having sold the family home, she went to live in a bedsit. Why? I don't know but it seems a drastic move for a 32 year old with a career. Why not a flat with a couple of bedrooms?

I have flat with a couple of bedrooms. 

5. Maeve Binchy was 6 foot 1 inch tall. Yes really. 6'1". Who knew?

I'm only 5'3 1/2" but like Binchy, I am overweight. 

6. She married children's author, Gordon Snell in 1977 when she was 38. They lived in London for a while as he worked for the BBC but eventually returned to Ireland.

I've never even been to Ireland but I did live in London for a while. 

7. After being rejected five times her first novel, Light A Penny Candle, was published in 1982 when she was 43 years old. She was paid 52,000 pounds for it - the largest sum ever paid for a first novel. It was gladly received as they were two months behind with the mortgage at the time. When she died, Binchy was one of Ireland's richest women.

I aspire to this. 

OK, so some of the parallels are weak. However, if you want to write novels I suggest you read Maeve Binchy. And then sit down somewhere comfy and pretend you're telling your story to your best friend. Maeve and I do both love a good gossip. I just haven't written mine down yet.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Four Babies, One Degree Of Separation

We were just returning from the shops when we met my downstairs downstairs (2 flights) neighbour. Last week I'd noticed two bouquets of flowers left on her doorstep so I asked her what the celebration was.

"We were in Kathmandu at the time of the earthquake meeting our four new grandchildren," she told me.

Her son and his husband had both been expecting with surrogate mothers and both ladies had twins. The grandparents had flown out to help bring the four babies home. They were caught up in the earthquake and stranded in Kathmandu.

The family were rescued and brought back to Israel on the empty Hercules plane that delivered the field hospital and volunteers to Nepal. The outgoing cargo was 260 skilled manpower including experts in neonatal and adult care; a fold-away field hospital with 80 beds, 4 intensive care units and advanced medical equipment. On Israel's medical team is a young Nepalese doctor who has been resident at Jerusalem's Hadassah Hospital for the past two years. The return journey included Israeli tourists trapped in Nepal, 33 babies born to surrogate mothers and their Israeli fathers (and some grandparents it turns out), and some Nepalese brought to Israel for medical treatment (including some of the surrogate mothers).

I was so excited about this story that I went directly to my baby present box and found all the newborn things that I'm never in time to give. On my way back down to deliver my presents, I met my downstairs neightbour (1 flight) and told her the news. She has a toddler so I left her going through her baby stuff to see what she could offer.

All four babies were downstairs - three girls and a boy. Tiny, beautiful babies, brought home on the back of an enormous humanitarian aid operation. And they'll be staying here with their grandparents for the first few months with help from the other set of grandparents and the uncles and aunties.

Of course I had to share with my friends on facebook. "I saw the grandmother on television," said one of my friends, "please tell her mazal tov from me." I promised I would. I've offered my services to help if they need an extra pair of hands.

Another friend wrote that she knows the pilot who flew them home. His mother told her that he said after all the things he's seen and done during his service, he will never forget the landing in Nepal and seeing the devastation. And he will never forget the privilege of being able to fly home under an Israeli flag and bring so many of his countrymen home with him.

Other friends wanted to know the names of the babies. I couldn't remember the boy's name but my downstairs neighbour had just returned from visiting them and was able to remind me.

One more friend told me that the army unit sent to carry out rescue operations is her husband's unit. You have to understand that everyone's husband is a reserve soldier and so everyone is attached to a unit - even after they've retired.

That's the thing about Israel, everyone is connected by only one degree of separation. And that's why it's special.

P.S. The two surrogate mothers are being well looked after as well - that's as much as I can say.

Monday, May 4, 2015

I Cannot Believe I Did This

You've seen the photos of DD on her pony ride in England. Well here's the truth behind the pictures. Reader I cannot believe I did this.

Last year when horse riding was the bee's knees

When we were in England last year we took DD to Aldenham Country Park. It's not huge like some other farm parks but it has everything we need and it's only ten minutes in the car from where my parents live.

There is a farm where you can feed the animals, a petting area with rabbits and lambs, an adventure playground, a lake with ducks, and pony rides. Last year DD loved the pony ride. It's a pound a minute but five minutes didn't seem like very much time so we paid 10 pounds and bought her a 10 minute ride.

She didn't stop talking about it for months. And asking, 'can we go back to the farm one day and go on a horse again?' If it hadn't been the end of our holiday we would have found more horse riding for her before we left. Having said that, I was also mindful of not encouraging an expensive hobby that we can't afford.

So this year we went back to Aldenham, obviously, and had great fun feeding the animals. Of course I bought DD a 10 pound for 10 minutes ride on the pony and while we were waiting for our time, she expertly climbed round the adventure playground three times.

Ponies are DD's thing at the moment. My mother bought her a My Little Pony toy (which also cost 10 pounds) and it instantly became her BTF (Best Toy Forever). She found My Little Pony on my parents' wall-to-wall cable package and watched it at every opportunity. And every time we popped into Sainsbury's for my mum, we had to go to the toy isle to check if the My Little Ponies had got any cheaper. Funnily enough, they never had.

Last year we loved it

Anyway, back to the story, After the third go round the adventure playground I suggested we stroll down to the paddock to be ready for our pony ride. DD didn't want to go. "I've changed my mind, I don't want to go on a pony."

"What?! You loved it last year. Why not? You talked about it for months. I've paid 10 pounds for the ride and I can't get my money back. Don't be so silly, we're going. I've bought the ticket and we're going. You can't change your mind after I've paid for it....."

DD: "I don't care, I don't want to."

Now this child is not afraid of being on a horse. She was just enjoying herself so much on the adventure playground that she didn't want to leave. I couldn't promise her that we would return to the playground after the ride as we were with my friend who needed to go home. That was another factor, my friend Danielle who had so kindly driven us there and spent the whole afternoon with us, had been a bit 'surprised' when I bought the pony ride tickets at 3pm and the next available time slot was 5.30. However, she graciously agreed to wait so that DD could have her ride.

I was furious, I was stymied, I had five minutes to come up with something. That's when I heard myself saying it. I am not proud. This was not my finest parenting hour.

I said, "If you go on the pony ride I'll buy you another My Little Pony toy."

Think about it. I actually said that if she accepted the expensive treat I'd already bought her, she would get another expensive treat as a thank you from me. I still can't believe I said that but I did.

DD, beaming triumphantly, skipped happily to the paddock for her pony ride. In semi-shock I listened to her babbling on about whether she was going to choose Twilight Sparkle or Shuttlecock Fluttershine to go with her Pinky Pie.

This year it was a means to an end

She climbed on the horse without a care and did her once round the big field at the back. She didn't not enjoy it but she wasn't overly enthusiastic about it either. It was a means to an end and the next day we popped into Sainsbury's and bought Twilight Sparkle with three sets of detachable wings.

Since then I've been going over it in my mind. Whilst I'm happy not to have an expensive and potentially dangerous hobby on my hands, and whilst I don't resent that I bought DD one present to keep (not including books and clothes) from our holiday, I'm still struggling with it. And since then, I've been giving short shrift to changing one's mind. "You said you wanted shnitzel for supper so that's what you've got." "You told X you wanted to go to her party so you have to go."

There, I've told you. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Tidbits #30 - Leisure Activities

I was finishing an email while DD set up the Frustration for our nightly marathon - 2 colours each and best out of three games (I refuse to play with the genie). I could hear her popping the dice impatiently. (It's a pop-o-matic device with paddles.) Eventually I finished.
DD: Ok. it's my go, I'm first.
Me: I thought you just had your go, I heard the dice popping.
DD: That wasn't my go, I was just come-onning you.

We bought an ice-lolly at the zoo.
Me: You can choose from the fruit ice-lollies, the others are too expensive.
DD: Pleeeease, can I have a Frozen just this time.
Me: Ok, just this time.
DD (unwrapping the accompanying figure inside, finding Olaf and then seeing that there are 6 figures to collect): When I've got the full collection I can play the whole story with them. I only need 5 more!
Me: *sighs* I knew that was going to happen.

Me: Who's your best friend?
DD: My tablet.

DD: I know why we don't have a chimney in our home.
Me: Why?
DD: Because we don't have Christmas here.

And this one from a young student who suddenly improved in reading and spelling.
Me: Fantastic work! What happened, did you have extra English lessons in the holidays?
Student: No. I read a book.

Friday, May 1, 2015


It's a tradition in our school to celebrate the generations of our families. The children invite grandparents, an uncle or aunt, or an older cousin or sibling. We don't have any of those in the country so DD brought her old mother. (One of the grandmothers told how she remembered the liberation of Jerusalem in 1967 - she was 9. I was almost 5 so not much difference in age there.)

The theme this year was Jerusalem which will be celebrated on Jerusalem Day in 2 1/2 weeks time. And now that I think about it - why didn't we do this generations thing on Family Day (instead of Mother's Day in Israel) back in March? The whole thing was a bit of a mystery to me but as our school is more about tradition and culture than about religious practice, it fitted with the school ethos.

We started in the hall with a community sing-song and slide show of Jerusalem songs and videos. (What we will do on Jerusalem Day I don't know). Then we split into classes and went back to the classrooms. In DD's class some of the grandparents told of their memories of the Six Day War and visiting the Old City for the first time.

Others who immigrated later, told about what Jerusalem means to them. I told the following story. It's not about what Jerusalem means to me but it fitted in with the stories about 1967 and the Six Day War.

In June 1967 (or maybe a little earlier when they knew war was likely as the surrounding countries were all mobilizing troops on the borders), when I was 4 1/2 and living in London, my mother went to her weekly WIZO meeting (Women's Zionist Organization - like the WI for Jewish housewives). There they were shown a letter from the Israeli Government. It said that plans had been made to evacuate all the children from Israel in the event of war and if it becomes necessary. (They meant if it looked like Israel would lose.) The women were asked how many children they could each take. My mother wrote down four.

Then the children decorated photos of themselves with their grandparents and wrote something about Jerusalem. This was DD's picture. The photo was taken at my youngest nephew's Bar Mitzva and DD's note reads - I am my family representitive in Jerusalem.

We finished with the 'bringing in Shabbat' ceremony that they do every week. It was a lovely morning. Very moving, as usual. I found the themes slightly cobbled together - Generations, Jerusalem, and Shabbat but if you look at it all in the name of  Tradition then I suppose it fits. I'm all for tradition so here's Topol in Fiddler on the Roof who, after all, describes tradition best of all.