Friday, September 30, 2016

Making Rosh Hashana Traditions

Candles are a given
Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new Year, is almost upon us - it's Sunday evening - Tuesday evening (basically two days that start and end at sundown). The first evening of R"H is a big family event. It's roughly equal to the Passover (Pesach) seder in terms of being with family and friends.

Today I wished one of the teachers at DD's school Shana Tova (A Good Year) and, knowing that I'm a single parent, she asked me, "what are you doing for the festival? Are you invited?" And a few years ago my father asked me what I was doing for one of the festivals to which I replied, "I'm celebrating with friends." He came back with, "oh good, your friends are looking after you then?" WTF? I take it I don't need to explain how I feel about these inferences?

A few years ago I was deeply moved by a single mother who wrote about always being invited to other families to celebrate the major Jewish holidays. She was writing about the Pesach seder but her thoughts apply to all the calendar events. Her conclusion was that just because they are a family without a man at its head, this doesn't mean that they're not a real family. And as such, they should have their own traditions. She made the seder at home that year so that her children would have childhood memories of their own family seder rather than remembering that they were always the guests at someone else's table.

I have similar thoughts about Rosh Hashana. Not the whole festival - there are four meals involved in a two-day festival. Personally I prefer to keep the celebrations down to one festive meal per day otherwise it just gets gluttonous.

It's lovely to be invited out and we are going to friends for the final lunch on Tuesday. We also have a brunch in our small synagogue on Monday. But what about the two evenings and especially the Sunday night which, to secular Jews, is the biggy? (To religious Jews they're both biggies). I want to stay at home and establish ourselves as a family with traditions. I want DD to have special memories of Rosh Hashana. I want us to have family traditions.

Part of this urge came from Chris Mosler at Thinly Spread who back in 2011 wrote about their special family Christmas Eve and the snuggle-sack tradition. Yesterday Chris told me that they still do it and her kids still love it. I've never forgotten that post and I've always wanted to do something similar. We don't do Christmas and most of our festivals have plenty of customs already. However, Rosh Hashana is a special time with not much going on other than synagogue and meals. Perfect for making up our own unique R"H style.

There is a tradition of a R"H seder which is a series of foods during the meal that symbolize things to do with the new year. For example, some people have a fish's head on the table for the head of the year. We dip apple in honey for a sweet year (we also drizzle honey on our challah and eat honey cake). We won't be having a fish head and we don't like honey but you get the picture. And we will have some symbollic food - I'll let you know when I've decided what.

I'm collecting my thoughts and ideas. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated in the comments. The theme is obviously the New Year and I'm not against a gift or two. Obviously I'll be back with a full report after the holiday.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Messiah Is Coming (Possibly) - R2BC

Not the Messiah but perhaps an Angel doing a recce prior to the coming?
The Messiah might come tomorrow. It says [somewhere?] that when the Messiah comes all the leaders of the world will gather in Jerusalem. Well that is happening tomorrow for Shimon Peres' funeral. I'm not sure if the Messiah is into killing two birds with one stone and arriving when the leaders of the world are here anyway, but s/he could be considering it.

My nephew who is studying in Jerusalem this year, has plans to go out of town with friends tomorrow for Shabbat. I suggested they consider traveling tonight as the roads in Jerusalem will be crazy tomorrow. On the other hand, I told him, he doesn't want to miss being here for the Messiah if s/he comes. It's a gamble either way. His choice.

Our early to bed early to rise campaign is doing all right. So far we've not become healthy, wealthy and wise, but I am as ever, optimistic. It may be because yesterday, which was only day 2, we didn't manage to get up before 7.15 am. However today was better (6.45) and we are both going to bed earlier. DD asks me every evening, "are we getting up at 6 tomorrow?" I think she likes it although she doesn't realize that we've not actually managed to get up at 6 am yet, just 6.30 and 6.45. It's a process.

This morning when the alarm went off at 6 am, I pressed snooze for another 10 minutes sleep (and repeated this action several times). After a minute or so a little voice next to me said, "you're awfully quiet." Then we both turned over and went back to sleep for the duration.

Next week Is Rosh Hashanna - the Jewish New year. You know me, I'm always excited about another opportunity to turn over a new leaf, start anew, etc... This is my favourite time of year.

I'm linking up with Reasons 2B Cheerful over at Mummy from the Heart.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Catching The Early Morning

Sunrise from my balcony
I no longer have this view. The building on the left has added two storeys
Following my Night Owl's Lament here's what happened after I published it at just before 8 pm last night.

Now that we are back at school, 8 pm is the time I insist that DD gets into bed. She reads to me, I read to her - a process that can take up to an hour - and then I leave her to toss and turn for up to another two hours before falling asleep.

The plan was to get up at 6 am this morning so that we are more tired at bedtime and will go to sleep earlier. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with that extra hour in the morning but it had to be done nevertheless.

So at 8 pm last night DD comes into the living room with her tablet that she's been happily watching for over an hour, and announces that she's got to do her Hebrew homework. I was furious because I'd told her that she wasn't allowed on the tablet until homework was finished. I distinctly remembered her checking her schedule for today and saying how it was lucky she didn't have Hebrew so the homework could wait.

DD: "Nooooo! I said I didn't have Torah tomorrow, I didn't say Hebrew!"
Me: "Well it's too late now. You knew you weren't allowed on the tablet until your homework was finished."
DD: Howling with fear. "But I've got Hebrew tomorrow! I've got to do it! I'm doing it!" She takes the page to the dining table. "I need help."
Me: "It's too late now. We'll get up early tomorrow and do it before school." (So that solved the question of how to fill the time.)

She didn't believe me of course. We never manage to get up early. There was a lot of crying and some shouting. I said we could do the homework instead of her chapter of Harry Potter. This did not go down well. In the end she tried to do some of the homework herself and completed one question. This calmed her down and we went to bed for stories.

I left her at 9 pm with promises to set the alarm for 6 am. I think she fell asleep around 9.45. Well it's exhausting having a meltdown.

I intended to go to bed at around 11 but I wasn't remotely tired at 11 even though I'd been on the go since 7 am. So I hung around wasting time until 12.30 am, as one does. And then I got into bed. I passed the time mentally deciding on menus for the coming Jewish festival of Rosh Hashanna. At 1 am an alarm went off in the neighbourhood. At 1.30 DD suddenly woke up and shouted, "WHAT TIME IS IT?" At 2.30 I was cold so I went to get a blanket. (We're still sleeping under a sheet but I think the time has come to stuff the sheet with a duvet.) I think I finally fell asleep then.

6 am and on comes the alarm. It was still dark outside, I'd slept for only 3 1/2 hours, and it was just too early. DD was panicking about her homework but I persuaded her that we could re-set the alarm for 6.30 and still have enough time. She went straight back to sleep and so did I.

At 6.30 it was light outside and we had no choice but to get up. We dressed and I made coffee and poured juice for DD. We then sat and did the homework together.

In many ways it was much more pleasant than doing it in the evening when she's not fresh and we've both had enough of working for the day. It also was nice having plenty of time to potter. I did the dishes in the sink and brought in the laundry from the line. I could get used to this.

To be continued..... 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Night Owl's Lament

We're looking to rent two perches in the owlery. 
DD and I are both night owls. What does this mean? Well, we could both happily stay up half the night and we both hate getting up in the morning. Neither of us feels like eating anything at breakfast time - it takes at least a couple of hours of wakefulness to work up any appetite. And both of us are hungry from about 4 pm onwards and still looking for something to nibble at around 10 pm.

During the long summer holiday we were like a couple of students going to bed later and later and getting up nearer and nearer towards lunch time. This was possible because my work over the summer was running online English courses with papers submitted for grading and feedback. No one in the household had a set schedule. This is nice for a while but after a few weeks it begins to feel slothful and unfulfilling.

The truth is that even though night owls are awake for roughly the same amount hours as larks, they are rarely as productive. Even for a night owl, the mornings are the most productive - if you can catch the mornings. Some of this might be to do with feeling virtuous to have risen with the dawn and have the whole day stretching ahead of you.

There's no getting away from the, 'I'm a bit of lazy slob,' feeling that comes with getting up late. And when it gets dark outside, you slow down and do less even if it's the equivalent of early afternoon for you. Being a night owl basically means you have more time to waste watching tv or messing about online, and less time to live your life.

I cannot describe the effort it takes us to get out of the house on time of a mid-winter morning when you're tired from lack of sleep as well as experiencing the freezing and sometimes wet darkness that everyone suffers. But equally, I cannot describe the willpower it takes to go to bed at a reasonable time.

I can entice myself to bed with the promise of a good book. But DD, who is not yet reading on a level equal to her level of interest and maturity, just lies there being bored. Through necessity she's learnt how to make up elaborate daydreams. I insist she gets into bed at 8 pm (now that we're back at school) and stories can take up to an hour (have you seen the length of a Harry Potter chapter? And she has to read to me first). However, DD can be lying awake until 10 pm, even after a full day of school.

DD has friends who can't keep their eyes open past 7.30 and some who even go to bed at 7 pm! On the other hand, they all get up at 6 am! You can't have your adult time at both ends I know this. Until now I've been pretty smug about having a child who sleeps late. However, she's old enough now that I don't have to entertain her at stupid o'clock and she also has things to do.

The only way we are going to survive this school year is by getting up earlier and being tired enough to go to bed earlier. The alarm clock has been going off at 7 am and we drag ourselves out of bed at 7.15. Tonight I'm setting the alarm for 6 am. I'm not quite sure what we're going to do with that extra hour yet, but it has to be done. I'll let you know.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

How long Can You sleep On A Friend's Sofa?

The answer is - not too long. After a while you outstay your welcome and it becomes uncomfortable for everyone involved. If you've got nowhere else to go you move on to another friend, and then another. Eventually you run out of friends and out of options. Then it's a homeless hostel or a park bench (or a doorway, a condemned building, etc...).

Cuckoo, the new YA novel  by Keren David takes you on the downward spiral with a child soap opera star who gets written out of the storyline. It's frightening how quickly everything falls apart and the hero goes, 'from household name to homeless.'

God, how depressing. Why would anyone want to read such a sad book? Well the thing is, it's not depressing at all. Well it is for a bit and then it's not. Somewhere near the final third, the story becomes inspirational.

Cuckoo is a short book - only 262 pages. Added to that, the chapters are only 2 - 4 pages each and written in a style that makes this book ideal for reluctant readers or non-native English readers.

The brevity of it means I can't really say any more without giving away the twist in the tail/tale. Suffice to say that Keren David's wit shines through and as always in a David novel - people are not always who you think they are.

Cuckoo is totally original.

Every so often  you read a book that makes you wish you'd written it yourself. Cuckoo is one of those books.

Also by KD and reviewed by me - This is not a Love Story and Salvage.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Home - Reasons 2B Cheerful

Lemon Scented Geranium
1 Home
We came home after two weeks in London. As we came through the door DD announced: I'm starting to unpack now. I don't want it to be like last time we went away and the suitcases were sitting around for days waiting for the washing. Lets do it RIGHT NOW!

She got as far as finding her new Monster High dolls at the bottom of the first case and that was the end of unpacking. Two days later and DD's announcement has become a self-fulfilled prophecy. Oh well, it's the weekend.

2 Friends
It felt like the first day of school for DD all over again. However, after I'd seen her across the road she wouldn't let me come in but rather ran off with her friends. After school she went to the park with a friend to walk their dog and back to her friend's apartment afterwards. I didn't see her until 7pm.

3 Family
My nephew is in Jerusalem for his gap year, studying and volunteering. He's been here three weeks already but we left for London a few days after he arrived so we'd not seen him yet. Today he came round (with three weeks' worth of laundry) for lunch and so that DD could boss him around for a couple of hours. At last she has a cousin living nearby!

4 Life
A few weeks ago I wrote about my balcony and how I intend to plant it with cuttings rather than just buying plants from the nursery. My cousin from London visited a few weeks ago and brought me a cutting from a rampant houseplant [her words] of - um - I think she said it's called Lemon Scented Geranium.

Here's the root
Anyway, I put it in water and ten days later we left the country. I'd hoped to plant it before we left but there were no roots growing yet. On our return I was half expecting the water to have evapourated and the plant to be dead. But it wasn't and here is the root.

Tomorrow I shall be pottering about on my balcony. :~)

I'm linking to R2BC over at Mummy from the Heart.

Monday, September 12, 2016

D.I.Y. - My Father's Daughter?

At my father's funeral last January, the Rabbi spoke about his many years of service to the community. He said Dad was the local Bob the Builder. He recalled Dad arriving at the community centre several times a month with his tool box and a list of jobs to fix, build, or decorate.

At home we had a garage big enough for the family car but never vacant. Apart from our bicycles, the only things that went in and out of the garage were wood, paint, and tools (in) and homemade shelves, cupboards, and desks (out). There were thousands of little drawers filled with supplies of nails, screws, nuts, bolts, hinges, hooks, etc.... to rival any d.i.y. megastore. There were stashes of light bulbs, string, brown paper, selotape, glue, sisal, planks of wood, paint and varnish for any occasion.

There was a workbench at the back of the garage. Not your little Black & Decker toy but an enormous table that he'd built himself and attached all sorts of gadgets for holding tools and keeping planks of wood aligned and in place. Hooks, vices, pockets, and holders. When we moved house Dad attached wheels to the bottom of the workbench and pushed it the half mile to our new house along the roads.
Dad would have seen this and made his own.

Us three kids each had home-built wardrobes, bookcases and desks in our bedrooms. If I'm honest, I hated this furniture and craved exquisitely finished, dainty carpentry in my bedroom. In the living-room the wall cabinate made of three varnished wooden boxes, two with drop down doors and one with glass siding doors, were used for a bar and stationery/household papers. A big wooden bench-seat lined one side of the kitchen table, with a padded lid that opened for storage inside the box. Think of a large coffin with a blue vynal lid and you've got the picture.

Dad also did his own car maintenance in ways that aren't possible today now that engines are computerised. Dad had jacks, jump-start cables, oil cans, dip sticks and even a little trolley that allowed him to lie in his back and roll under the elevated car. Whereas my friends might buy their father a bottle of aftershave for his birthday, mine would have been delighted with jar of Swarfega.

Behind the garage was a garden shed that he built himself, obviously. This was filled with gardening equipment. Dad wasn't much of a gardener but there's no such thing as too much equipment. We had a hovver mower, a strimmer, a fork, a shoval, two rakes (one for soil and one for grass), a hoe, a selection of trowels and spades, a wheelbarrow, a hose, a composter, and an incinerator.

All the camping and caravaning equipment was also stored in the shed. Tents, the caravan awning, pumps, deckchairs, tables and deck loungers, jerry cans, Elsan Blue for the porta-loo, calor gas cylinders, special mirrors for driving with a caravan, special headlamp filters for driving on The Continent (as we called Europe in those days), groundsheets, mosquito repelling candles, torches and bungee chords with hooks on either end. Hands up those who didn't believe me when I said I was an experienced camper?

File photo - not Dad
Dad had all the kits too. Overalls for doing the car, a thick plastic apron, gardening gloves and wellies for gardening, safety goggles for welding and sawing, earplugs for when he used the electric drill, a tool belt, and plastic ponchoes for pitching tents in torrential rain.

It was the early 1970s, years before B&Q and Texas Homecare became the weekend Meccas for d.i.y. enthusiasts. Dad was ahead of the times by decades. His favourite treat was to drive over to the local Danny Shop (or was it Dani or any other spelling?) for a browse and usually a buy. Today Engelbert Strauss would cover all the bases.

In many ways I am my father's daughter. I have his face, I have his sense of humour, his sense of justice and community spirit. I am a joiner (as in I join groups and committees, I don't do carpentry) and I volunteer. On the other hand, when the lightbulb went in my bathroom I waited for almost three weeks because I knew my nephew was coming to stay. As he walked in the door and after flying across Europe to visit us, I greeted him with the new bulb in my hand for him to fix the light.

Collaborative post

Friday, September 2, 2016

Reasons 2B Cheerful - The September Effect

We slothed our way through the hot summer. We hated the heat but enjoyed the late mornings and slow pace. And suddenly it was September 1st and everything changes overnight.

1. It really does seem to get magically cooler. Obviously this is psychological but so many people I know also feel it.

2. We went out for lunch in the city centre on Wednesday. Downtown Jerusalem is very pleasant these days with the Light Rail trams making it cleaner and quieter to sit at the pavement cafes. The sad thing is that unless you work there, there is absolutely no reason to go there - other than to travel through on the trams. The theatres, cinemas, museums, and all other sources of entertainment have long moved to other locations. All that's left is offices, shopping and eating. We, and most people, hardly ever bother to go there. But on Wednesday we did and we had fun in the flea markets and enjoyed the street decorations.

3. We've had two school nights so far and I've managed to stick to the new school night rule of getting into bed at 8pm for stories and then lights out. On the first night DD lay awake until 10.30, poor thing, but after one day of school she fell asleep at 9.30 the second night. We're getting there. I only hope I can be strong over the weekend.

4. The school I taught at last year finally had to give me some answers about teaching this year because September 1st waits for no man - even Kibbutz men who make up their own rules as they go along. (I affectionately call it Kibbutz Organized Chaos - with less emphasis on the organized part.) I got the hours I wanted/needed. Of course I still don't have my timetable so I've no idea when those hours will be, but one can't have everything.

5. We are safely and comfortably gerscheduled in a way that makes us go to bed and get up at set times, do our work, do our chores because they are written on the diary, and be productive once again. About the summer holiday, as they say in Hebrew - haya tov vetov shehaya (it was good, and good that it was).

I'm linking up with R2BC back with Mummy from the Heart for September. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

September 1st And So It Begins

In Israel September 1st means back to school for everyone from Nursery to 12th Grade. All schools, all locations, all pupils.

We are not morning people
DD still thinks it's the law that you have to have your photo taken on the first morning of school. She wasn't happy about it but I got my photo. On the second go she tried not to look so grumpy. We are not morning people and this is the first morning in two months that we've been up before 8.30 am. (Or possibly 9.....or even 10.....etc....). She did go to bed at 8.30 last night but couldn't fall asleep until way after 10. I'm hoping she'll be more tired tonight after the early start to the day.

Looking at the photos I'm struck by how casual she looks compared with the uniforms and proper shoes worn in England. Oh well, we all look smarter in the winter.

I noticed a LOT of families speaking English at the drop off today. Much more than usual. I was dreading telling the new Head Teacher that we are going away next week (it's my father's stone-setting in London). However as soon as she heard my rubbish Hebrew she offered to switch to English which she speaks perfectly. Life just got a lot easier.

(As I write a helicopter has been circling low over our road and over the school. This is ominous as it usually means they are looking for something or someone. And now police sirens have started.)

The new Head was very nice and understanding about it. Whilst agreeing that's it not ideal she accepted my promise to take maths and Hebrew books with us and to keep up with the work. I was worried as she doesn't know me yet - I could be a completely flaky parent who's always flitting off for holidays during the school year, but it was fine.

She tried harder to look happy for this one
After a long and tearful goodbye to the school guard of nine years, at the end of last semester, today he was back at his post. In July we wrote cards, bought him a gift, he sat next to the leaving Head Teacher in the 'Goodbye Assembly' and they both shed a tear. She gave him a hug - it was all very emotional. And here he is back again at his post by the school gate. Whatever, it was good to see him.

I signed up for the afternoon program with homemade lunch at 2.30 pm when lessons end for the day. On the one hand it's more expensive than last year but on the other hand I now only have to send DD with her 10 O'clock snack, plus a little extra for the 1 pm break, and not with lunch as well - that was a killer especially as she won't eat sandwiches or anything that I make really.

I got a slight reduction in price because DD decided to be vegetarian and she's kept to it strictly for about six months now. So she'll just be getting the carbs and the vegetables which she'll have to eat - the afternoon lady is very good at making them eat their lunch.

So that's it. The first morning of 3rd Grade. No big deal - I didn't even have to go to the classroom with DD, she just went ahead. Good luck to us and everyone for a successful and happy school year!