Wednesday, September 23, 2015

I Heard Him In My Heart

Today was Yom Kippur. The Day of Atonement.We fast, we say sorry for anything that needs apologising for, we pray to be written in the Book of Life for another year.

DD has been learning about it in school obviously.

Yesterday afternoon I lay down on my bed for a rest while DD was playing in her room. Suddenly I heard: "Elohim! Elohim! Are you there?"

She carried on speakng but I couldn't hear what she was saying other than, "my mummy" once.

Later I tried to talk to her about it.

Me: You know today is a very special day.
DD (impatiently) : Yes I know, we don't eat and we don't use electricity, and things. But you don't have to do all of it. (She goes to a very open-minded school.)
Me: Right, and we won't do all of it but it's also special because you can talk to Elohim today.
DD (totally embarrassed, going bright red and twisting her face into a trying-not-to-smile grimace) : I DIDN'T! I DID NOT DO THAT!

I left it. However in bed that night I tried again.

Me: You know you can speak to Elohim today and say sorry for anything you need to say sorry for. And you can ask Him to help you be better and also to help other people.
DD: Well other people can ask for themselves.
Me: If they are too ill to speak or too sad to ask, then we can ask Elohim to help them get better. But you can also ask for what you want and He'll answer you.
DD: He did answer me.
Me: Really?
DD: Yes I heard him.
Me: Really?
DD: Yes. Not like a person. I heard Him in my heart.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Our Three Day Holiday

Akko, the garden of the crusader fortress. 
Once upon a time I didn't understand the concept of the mini-break. I couldn't see the point of a three day holiday - wasn't it all a bit rushed? Then I did it a couple of times and was converted. You really do come back refreshed from three days and two nights away.
Water science at the Science Museum, Haifa

Last year we only did an overnight. It was an experiment. This year we upgraded from camping to a kibbutz challet and added on the extra day and night.

Day 1. On the last Thursday before school started, we left home at 7am, and drove north to the Science Museum in Haifa, having dropped my friend's dog at her mother near Tel Aviv on the way. There we met up with the rest of our group. In total we were five mothers with five children between the ages of 4 1/2 and 7 1/2. I won't tell you how old the mothers are but our combined ages are older than the United States of America.

The museum was great - loads of interactive exhibits, some of which you could ride on, explaining about weights and pulleys, water science, gears, pipes and tubes, and many more things that we didn't even get a chance to see. The only down side was that the weather was 38C (100F) and much of the fun was outside. In the end the best bit for the children was when they just ran into the water fountains to cool off. I think we may have eaten a picnic lunch but I can't remember. Maybe we just each gave our children food when they asked for it? We all drank a lot of water.

"Don't worry we won't get too wet"
Then we headed off to Kibbutz Shomrat to check into our challets (we had two for the 10 of us) and off again to the beach. We frollicked about in the swell and as the sun went down we ordered pizza to eat on the shore.
"We couldn't help it. It's just too hot!"

Day 2. Full Israeli breakfast at the Kibbutz, the way only Israel knows how. As well as the traditional cereal and milk, toast butter and jam, there were yogurts, pancakes, pastries, eggs, salads, quiches, fish, bread rolls and cheeses.  To drink: teas, coffee, OJ, or chocolate milk. Something for everyone.

Entrance to the shuk in Akko
We went to Akko (Acre) but as it was Friday we stopped first at a take-out shop to order food for Shabbat. We chose shnitzels, rice, potatoes, salatim, challahs, meatballs, etc... and they kept it all in their fridge for us to pick up on the way home.

Akko is famous for its crusader fortress and castle, tunnels, ancient bathhouse, museum and all things crusader. There is also a beautiful harbour with fishing boats, horse and cart taxis, and a traditional Middle Eastern shuk (market). I didn't take many photos so follow the link to see Akko in all its glory. (I only put my own [rubbish] photos or those donated by friends, in posts as after a while Blogger removes photos pasted from other sites.)

I tried to explain to DD about the crusaders.
Me: They came from England and France mostly to try to get all the Moslems and Jews to love Jesus.
DD: How did they make everyone love Jesus?
Me: They said, 'if you don't love Jesus we'll kill you.'

Stairs were built wide and flat to allow for knights on horses
The Fortress was excellently presented with images of the crusaders and clergy going about their daily business projected onto selected walls. DD was terrified, had a panic attack, and we had to leave.

We collected our food for dinner on the way home. Again I don't remember giving the children lunch other than handing DD a bread roll or an apple from my bag. The afternoon was spent at the pool or beach (we split up), meeting back at the kibbutz for dinner together on the veranda.

Day 3. It was Shabbat. After another big Israeli breakfast we went for a walk around the kibbutz, spent more time at the pool, ate a late lunch together on the veranda, relaxed, and the children played. It was a real day of rest.

We headed home in the evening passing not one but all three IKEA outlets in Israel (Kyriat Ata, Netanya, and Rishon). They were all open and we didn't stop at any of them  - what a waste! On the other hand we had two sleeping children in the back of the car and, for half the journey, a dog.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Tuesday Tidbits #33 - You Tube And Other Auto-Didactic Moments

Hilarious. This is a new word learned from Barbie cartoons on You Tube.
DD: You were right Mummy, my shoes were in my bedroom. Hilarious.
DD: I didn't think I'd like that yogurt but I do. Hilarious.
DD: What do you mean, 'go to bed'? I'm not even tired yet. Hilarious.

Also from Barbie cartoons
DD: O.M.G.! Mummy what does O.M.G. mean?

When someone does something embarrassing on You Tube, someone else says, 'awk-ward!' Then the audience laughs.
DD: What does awk-ward mean? Is it the same as Hilarious?

And here's one she made up herself. 
Me: What do you want in your sandwich?
DD: (silence).
Me: Right I'm giving you old socks and ketchup.
DD: Sorry I was being so ignorious, I was busy.

DD: I can't decide if I want flat cheese or bitty cheese.
Me: Sliced or grated.
DD: No thanks, I'll have bitty cheese.

There is a Prayer for travellers that begins: May it be thy will our God and God of our Fathers.... At school before the summer holidays DD's class had to make up their own prayer for travelling over the summer. 
DD wrote: May it be thy will our God and God of our Fathers that we should all travel safely and no one dies.

On seeing the ironing board hidden behind my bedroom door.
DD: Is that board for swimming?

Dilemmas provoked by The Magic School Bus.
DD: If I eat only a little bit of food, not enough to fill me up, how do I make sure it doesn't all go down into one leg instead of being shared in both my legs?

Magic School Bus vocabulary
DD on smelling a bad smell: I'm getting bad smell molecules up my nose.
DD on seeing blood from a scratch: Oooh I can see all my blood cells.

Magic School Bus logic
DD: Are you tired again Mummy? That's because you've got a big tummy so all your energy goes there instead of going to your head.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Checking Out Nightmare On Rosh Hashana Eve

What's the worst thing that can happen in the supermarket on one of the busiest days of the year?

I admit that I left it till the last minute to do my Rosh Hashana food shop. There was no way I could have lugged it all up the hill in last week's sand storm. Yes, I could have ordered a delivery online but actually I prefer to see what's there and to choose.

Four things spurred me on this morning to brave the supermarket on Rosh Hashana Eve.

1. The weather is much clearer. Whilst I wouldn't go so far as to say that the sky is blue, it's a much less heavy sort of white and the sand seems to have all settled. We could breathe at last.

2. I promised DD Hello Kitty chocolate surprise eggs to add to her Hello Kitty collection. She only gets sweets on Shabbat and this last shabbat she didn't get anything.

3. We have friends coming for lunch tomorrow and I need to serve them something.

4. I have a 25 shekel voucher from Supersol Deal which expires today.

Off we went. Not a big shop but necessary nevertheless. The supermarket was packed as expected although not as packed as it probably was on Thursday and Friday of last week when people stocked up for Shabbat and this two-day festival together, and wanted to get a head start on the cooking.

A word of explanation about the cooking. This is a two-day festival during which no shops are open. You basically have 'Christmas dinner' four times - two evening meals and two lunches. Family and friends gather. It's a big deal. I deliberately avoided the 'What's for dinner?' fb group as we are keeping it very simple this year.

This evening we are on our own (by choice - before anyone starts phoning). We will eat our apple dipped in honey for a sweet year. We'll break our challah and eat it with egg salad, tomatoes and pickled cucumbers. DD will have ice-cream for dessert and I will have coffee. Perfect. Tomorrow two friends are coming for lunch - one my age, one DD's age. Tomorrow night will be simple again and we are going to friends for lunch on Tuesday. By Tueday night we're back to beans on toast.

So, back to the supermarket. We went round the produce section and carefully selected our bananas and grapes. I grabbed 3litres of fresh OJ from the fridge. A quick pop over the main isle to choose DD's sweets and chocolate. Back to the produce/crisps isle. I threw in a bag of popcorn. DD chose her favourite crisps while I decided not to buy a cabbage. I chose my favourite crisps. Picked up a bag of lettuce. And on to the the bakery, dairy, non-perishables, etc...

Fast forward to the checkout where we had been waiting patiently for about twenty  minutes for our turn. DD started helping me to unload the trolley onto the conveyor belt. Suddenly she exclaimed: "Hey! These aren't the crisps I chose!"

Somewhere along the line we had switched trolleys with someone else by accident. I don't know if we took theirs or they took ours. I hope they noticed that they were missing their carefully chosen tomatoes, lemons, and pomegranates before they reached the checkout.

I can tell you exactly when it happened by what was missing from our trolley. It was while I was deciding not to buy a cabbage but after DD had chosen her crisps. We were missing our OJ and bananas as well. I sent DD off to get her replacement crisps. I apologised to the cashier and ran off to choose more bananas and grab another OJ. Luckily the original trolley owner had chosen grapes as carefully as I had. On the way I dumped the poms, the toms, and the lemons.

As we finally left the shop with a full shopping bag on wheels I had a niggling feeling that we'd forgotten something. Half way up the hill I remembered the chocolate and the sweets. DD was distraught. I promised her that as soon as we had put this shopping away we would go round the corner to the smaller market for sweets. I think I may have promised her an ice-lolly as well.

In the end my daughter is as pragmatic as I am and she decided it wasn't worth going out in the heat again for chocolate. She'll wait till next Shabbat. A win of sorts after the all the hassle and upset.

I'm still hoping for a Shana Tova, a new beginning, a fresh new start, and to become the sort of person who doesn't leave everything till the last minute. Shana Tova again, I still have four hours to go into the holiday calmly. Breathing deeply... and relax.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Out With A Gasp

This past week and a half, the last 10 days of the Jewish Year 5775, have been tough. It was supposed to be a welcome cooling down as we entered September and school started. But the cool never came. Temperatures remained in the high 90s right up until last Monday the 6th September. And then we woke up to this.

It was the worst sand storm in the history of Israel and since records began in the Middle East. We've had sand storms before of course but this one has lasted six days! The first day the sky was brown. You could feel the gritty sand in your teeth. I coudn't see the building opposite.

Jerusalem had pollution levels at 173 times higher than averge. People were walking around in surgical masks. The old and infirm, pregnant ladies, babies, and those with heart or lung conditions were advised to stay indoors. Schools were instructed to keep the children inside all day. We were warned not to do any physical activity outdoors.

Depite keeping the windows shut everyone's homes were covered in layers of sand on every surface. My hair felt sandy when I came home from taking DD to school.

The weather stayed at a suffocating 37C (99F) during the day and going down to a pathetic 28 at night (though even that drop in temperature didn't help as we had to keep the windows shut). No wind W.H.A.T.S.O.E.V.E.R. and humidity constantly way above 50%.

I let DD stay home from school on Stupid Friday this week. We don't have air conditioning at home, just fans, and we were just heat exhausted. Her class had a bit of a New Year celebration - we had cold showers and then sat in our wet towels eating ice-cream. I think that was a fitting celebration under the circumstances.

As the days progressed the sky turned from brown to yellow and then to white. Finally this evening I fancied I could see some faint blue in the sky. I could finally see the buildings on the mountains opposite.  The trees are brown from the sand, all the cars are the same desert colour, and my balcony is the new beach. We need a good rain but the first downpour is going to be raining mud.

The paper says this tonight.

We are still being advised not to 'play' outside but temperatures are forecast to be a mild and managable 30C (86F) for the rest of the week. Cool enough to go to the pool on Wednesday I hope.

Tomorrow night is Rosh Hashana. We are supposed to go into the festival in clean white clothes, having cleaned our houses, our minds, and our hearts. This might happen if I get my act together tomorrow. It is supposed to be a new beginning, a fresh new start. It better had be.

Shana Tova to everyone for a happy, healthy and successful year. xxxx

Monday, September 7, 2015

My Birthday, Stupid Friday, And Hitler Ganuff

*Ganuff is Yiddish for thief.

My birthday fell last week on Stupid Friday. I call it Stupid Friday because I have to drag DD out of bed and get her to school by 8 am when school finishes at 11:45 am. On Tuesdays they finish at 1 pm and the rest of the week at 2:20 pm. There is plenty of time during the week to tag those less than four hours onto other days and give us all a break on Fridays. Six days a week at school with only one day off a week is too much. Even the teachers only work a five day week. Rant over.

The previous Sunday I'd got a whatsapp from my friend Sarit. "What are you two doing on Friday night?" "Nothing planned yet. Want to do dinner together? Your place or mine? Share the cooking?" "So you're coming here for a birthday dinner." "OMG I'd completely forgotten it was my birthday this week!"

In truth, I'd probably blocked it out after what happened last year.

So on the Stupid Friday of my birthday I'd taken DD to school and returned home to try and get some work done at least. It takes time to get organised as I have to put on a load of laundry, do the dishes in the sink, check my emails, twitter, facebook, blog and reply to anything that needs replying to. I skim over The Times of Israel Online to check out the security situation in Israel and The Middle East. I skim over The DM Onlime to check out who's been sent home from school for wearing the wrong shoes. I make myself a coffee to sip whilst working and by that time the washing machine has finished so I have to empty it and hang up the wet clothes.

I'd just got to the bit where I open the college website when "WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP!" Skype calling. It was my mother presumably to wish me Happy Birthday. I answered the call only to see her clicking away with her mouse and keyboard and muttering about the sound not working. I hung up. "WHOOP WHOOP WHOOP!" I answered. More watching my mother trying to sort out her computer. I hung up. We repeated this another three times before I changed my Skype status to 'Do not disturb'.

So she sent me an email. Bad news I'm afraid. Howard died suddenly and unexpectedly in hospital on Wednesday. I was shocked. My father has 17 first cousins on his dad's side (my grandfather was one of nine siblings). The oldest of the 19 cousins was my late Aunty Rene but my dad, who was born 12 years after his sister, I always considered to be one of the younger cousins and Howard was about seven years younger than my dad.

I never met some of the cousins but I've known Howard all my life. He lived in our neighbourhood, his children went to our primary school with us, he sat next to my dad in synagogue (when they both went), he was my dad's accountant and my first financial advisor when I started playing on the stock market as an economics A'level student (we're talking penny shares here not high finance). Our families weren't close. A few years ago I was visiting London and out with a friend. She said to me, "You don't know your cousin S (Howard's daughter) very well do you?" "No, not now," I replied, "I probably wouldn't recognise her if I passed her in the street." My friend said, "you definitely wouldn't recognise her, she just walked past on the other side of the road." We had all grown up and moved away but Howard was Uncle Howard and he was family.

My dad lived with Howard and his older brother Arnold's family during the war so that he could continue going to school while his nervous mother and sister evacuated to Taunton for the duration. Their mother, my late great aunt, Aunty Lily, told the story of when Arnold's school were eventually evacuated and Howard, although much younger, was allowed to go too as he was with his big brother.

All the children were on the bus and all the mothers were crying as they waited to wave them off. They were told that the children would send their new addresses as soon as they'd been billetted with foster families. (I can't believe they didn't know at least which county or small town they were heading for but it never occured to me to ask.) Suddenly Howard poked his head out of the window and shouted, "we don't know where we're going Mum, but it's all cos of Hitler Ganuff!" And everyone laughed.

I got a fb message from my sister: Happy Birthday. Hope you're having a nice day.
Me: I just heard about Howard. Feeling very sad.
Miriam: Me too.

I no longer felt like doing any work and so I did what I always do when life gives you a jolt. I hit the bread bin. Three rounds of cheese and pickle sandwiches and a bag of crisps later I spent the rest of the morning playing Farm Heroes.

Dinner was lovely, thank you Sarit xxx.

Facebook delivered as only facebook can (after someone gave me the heads up that my privacy settings meant no one could write on my timeline and I quickly changed it).

The weekend was topped off with a long catch up on the phone with my friend Nicola from LA. Nicola and I were best friends in primary school when we were six and continued to secondary school together until her family moved to LA when we were 14. Nicola told me that she checks to see if I've posted on the blog every day when she takes her coffee break at work. No pressure there then. :~).

A different birthday from last year with some lovely bits, but not best I've had.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Bubbles In The Bath

DD was in the bath on Friday afternoon while I was on the laptop down the corridor. Suddenly I heard her blowing bubbles with her mouth under the water level.

Then she added sound to the bubbling. And then she started singing bubbles.

DD to herself: Wow! I didn't even realize you could do that!

I was smiling to myself in the other room, even though it's a bit gross when you think about it.

Next she tried out speaking bubbles: Hell blub blub blub ooo Mu blub blub blub meeee. That wasn't so satisfying so went went back to singing.

I put it on facebook and one friend replied that she remembered her older sister showing her how to do that when they were in the bath together. She added that that's even grosser if you think about it. I replied that it's less gross than when I asked DD to come out of the swimming pool to drink some water and she replied: No need, I've already drunk a lot of the pool.

When I went to get her out of the bath DD asked me: Did you know you can make singing bubbles under water?

Me: Yes I did.

DD: How did you know that?

Me: Do you think I didn't do the same thing when I was a little girl?

DD: Well I'm not a little girl, I'm 6, but I still enjoyed it.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Back To School And Other Volatile Situations

Unlike in the UK and other countries where each school or district goes back to school on different days, in Israel every school. kindergarten and nursery starts the academic year on September 1st. It's a day of national celebration. Every school has a ceremony to welcome the new First Graders. Every child has the obligatory photo taken (which is then promptly displayed on facebook - to be fair, I've seen a lot of these from the UK and USA too). DD hates having her photo taken but I told her it was the law so she reluctantly agreed.

"If I must"
We started second grade. There were tears on the way to school for the first day. She is terrified that the Hebrew will be too hard. (I'm a little concerned myself).

I was greeted at the end of the second day with DD, hands on her hips, telling me, "Mummy, this isn't going to work if you keep forgetting to put the things I need in my bag!" Of course she had everything in her bag that she needed but she's not familiar with the books yet so she didn't know.

The parents' whatsapp group was buzzing tonight about the second question (out of two) in Bible homework: What Pentateuch will we be learning this year? None of us knew the answer. LOL. I'm glad it wasn't just me. DD wrote, using a full sentence as instructed: I don't know what Pentateuch (I think it means what book of the Pentateuch) we will be learning this year. I resisted the urge to add: So I'm looking forward to a nice surprise. An email from the teacher earlier implied that there had been an information sheet but if there had been it never arrived home. Hebrew homework was a doddle in comparrison. I did most of it myself as we were dangerously near a meltdown. Phew!

WARNING - skim the next paragraph without trying to understand the details. It's just to give an idea of the situation.

There are 'afternoon programme' wars at our school. (School finishes at 2.20 pm whereas working parents do not.) After a six year monopoly for the privately run afternoon programme for grades 1 to 3, the municipality has brought its own afternoon programme to the school which is half the price of the private one. On the other hand the private programme provides home cooked meals and you can sign up for individual days whereas the public programme has no food and you have to pay for the full week even if you only need select days. On the other hand you can pay for a hot school lunch in a sealed tv-dinner type box for next to no money but also next to no nutrients. On the other hand three selected days at the private programme are more expensive than the full week of the public programme. And then there is the third option - school run extra curricular activities. DD wants to do art and magic. Two activities are cheaper than the public programme but three activities would be more expensive. So I'm fine with going with the activities as I only need cover for the two days. Then the private programme realized it was in a precarious situation and started to lower its prices. But they've not updated the partial week prices so it's now more expensive to send your child for half the week to the private programme than for the whole week. And further options in the private programme now include the programme without food or the food without the programme. It's all extremely confusing.

You can tune back in now. Or not.

The other complicated thing is the meal schedule. Left over from the days of rising with the dawn, grabbing a cup of coffee and a chunk of bread, and putting in a few hours in the fields before a proper brakfast at 10 am, every school has the 10 o'clock meal which is brought from home - a sandwich and some fruit and/or vegetables. Maybe a yogurt drink aswell or a cereal bar. Up till last year this was a good idea as the kids didn't eat again until they had a hot lunch after school at around 2.30pm. (Great for us as we don't do breakfast in our house - a glass of OJ and out the door.) Then last year the cheap catering hot-lunches were introduced and served at 12:50. So the afternoon programme lady had to serve her good but more expensive food (which DD had last year) also at 12:50. Only she wasn't that hungry at 12:50 was she? Did I mention that another meal option is to send both a packed breakfast and lunch into school with your child? Shoot me now.

OK, here's what we're doing.

OJ before leaving the house at 7:55am, 10 o'clock meal has now been moved to 9:30 (good for us) and lunch break at 12:50. I am sending in a box of food which will be enough to cover both meal breaks. DD can eat whatever she wants from the box at either meal. And when she comes home at 2:30 she can finish the leftovers, add a snack if necessary and call it late lunch. We'll then have an early supper at about 5 pm. (Twice a week she'll be home at 4pm after her chosen activities.)

I'm exhausted and it's only the second day. Tbh I'm generally exhausted atm but that's another blog post.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Summer 2015 R.I.P.

The summer passed. It was an excrutiatingly hot one. There were weeks when we hardly left home. I shopped online and we ate out of the freezer (only just resisting the urge to eat actually sitting in the freezer). All my summer plans were fogotten - daily homework and reading practice so that everything learned in First Grade would not be forgotten (the chart on the fridge is largely unchecked), learning the recorder, going places and seeing things..... In the end we spent a great deal of time on laptops and/or tablets just getting though the hours.

There were attempts at arts and crafts. I bought a container and filled it with art supplies (I enjoyed that bit). Then I freaked out every time DD got stuck into crafting (which she loves) and got plasticine all over the table, the floor, in different rooms, the beds.... I have signed her up for an art class this coming year, 1 1/2 hours of arts and crafts after school once a week. With this and art during school I am firmly banishing arts and crafts from inside the house until DD is old enough to clean up afterwards. In my defence I want to emphasize that our small apartment has one dining table in the dining-room area. It's not like we have a crafting area in the conservatory or a rec room (wreck room?).

Poser much
We did go to the pool and had our annual mini-break on our friends' kibbutz in the south. We also extended our now annual camping trip to 3 days/2 nights instead of just an overnight. And after last year's fiasco experience, we upgraded to a challet in the Galillee rather than a tent on the beach. The holiday was great - another blog post though.

DD had two piano lessons to see if she was ready to commit to lessons for the whole of next year. We decided she wasn't quite ready.

This is not our piano

We made friends with two new families who have moved into the area from the US and are going to our school. My sister and nephew came for a few days. I went to a wedding and was pleasantly surprised when two people asked my why I wasn't blogging and said they missed my posts. Two months at home and only two blog posts should indicate how lethargic this summer became. We ordered far too many pizzas.

I did facilitate an online English course which was a lot of screen time - the one productive summer activity. However, I don't get paid for it until the end of September so no celebrations yet.

C'est tout. No looking back. Best not to dwell on it. Next year is another summer. Etc... We will try again next year and aim to do better.