Sunday, May 28, 2017

Time Blocking

Setting the Scene and Defining the Problem
One of those days or weeks or months when there is too much 'stuff' thrown at you all at once? Teachers especially experience this as it comes to the end of the school year. And if you are a teacher and a mother of several children, it's hopeless.

Maybe in the UK you still have a few weeks to go before it hits you, if your school year only finishes three weeks into July? And if you are reading this in America, I know that some schools have already broken up for the summer (but they go back at the beginning of August). In Israel school finishes on June 20th (high schools) and June 30th (primary schools).

This is what the end of the year involves here: writing reports for each student, end of year tests to be given and graded, end of year parties for every class in every course, attending end of year parties for every activity each of your children attends, the start of swimming lessons, the festival of Shavuot (Pentecost) which includes assemblies and ceremonies at each of your children's schools, unbearably hot weather, and battling a general feeling of, "we're done," from students and teachers and, in the case of getting homework done, parents as well.

I have some of the above but not all. I have only one child whereas some of my colleagues have 4+ children. On the other hand, as a single parent, all the end of year activities for DD are down to me. As a subject teacher rather than a class teacher, I have many more than the standard 30 pupils to write reports for. On the other hand, I only have to write about one subject (English) and not a whole load of subjects and behaviour comments. On the other hand I have to write my reports in Hebrew which is hard for me. I can compose what I want to say without problem and even write it down but typing it onto the computer is so frustrating when you don't know how to spell and you don't know where all the letters are. And I teach summer courses which have to be prepared. Long story short, it's swings and roundabouts and I'm drowning.

On top of all the end of year obligations, you have to keep up with the housework and household responsibilities. I would like to just forget about it all until July 1st but I can't. Firstly, we live in the desert and if you don't dust and mop the floors the desert starts to encroach on your living room. Secondly, if you don't keep paying those bills, answering those emails, filing your papers, and generally tidying up, things start to get lost. Important things like medical prescriptions, professional references that you need when applying for extra teaching hours for next year, bills that go unpaid until you start getting threatening letters and have to pay interest, those end of year tests that you are supposed to grade and return to the students, etc...

So, as you can't stop the world and retreat under the duvet, you need a way to get things done rather than just pushing everything aside. And you need a definite system because wading through, picking up bits and pieces of tasks as you fall over them, or as they become critically urgent, is the least efficient way to go about it and a sure way to lose your sanity. We're aiming to cross things off the To Do list, not chip away at 100 things at once and never finish any of it. No siree.

Time Blocking.
This is the art of dedicating chunks of time to a specific task whilst forgetting all about any other tasks. You need a calendar with the hours marked in. Then you just block off a specific amount of time for the job that is most urgent. But if you also need to do other urgent tasks (or urgent to you because e.g. you simply cannot live with that pile of junk on the dining-room table one more day as it's making you depressed) then give each of those a half hour or an hour. I'm telling you it works. The only rule is that you must absolutely not break into your blocked time to do another unscheduled job. Turn off your phone if you have to, whatever it takes. Here are two scenarios to illustrate the point:

1. No Blocking Time. 
It's 4.30 pm and you are faced with an overwhelming amount of things that need seeing to. You decide to start with grading but get distracted by emails asking you to return you report card comments by yesterday. Meanwhile your child is whining that she's hungry and supper needs cooking (because you are no longer buying processed food and because of this you've already ordered pizza twice this week). So you stop to cook supper and you first have to wash up a saucepan to cook it in. Then you have to clear the table a bit or she's got nowhere to eat. And as you're piling up the papers on the table because there's no time to deal with them or file them properly, you notice a utility bill that needs paying by NOW or you will get cut off. You also find some supermarket coupons that you meant to use and the final date on them is today. So you abandon supper and run out to the supermarket. By the time you get back you're too tired to do any more grading, or report card writing, or tidying the dining-room table. So you order burgers, for a change, waste a couple of hours on facebook and twitter, and get into your unmade bed after setting the alarm for 5 am with the promise of an early start tomorrow. Tomorrow does starts early but the first two hours of it consists of hitting the snooze button 12 times.

2. Blocking Time.
It's 4.30 pm and you are faced with a productive, well planned evening. First you have 4.30 - 5.30 blocked off for clearing the kitchen, cooking supper, clearing the clutter in the living-room (it's ok to plan just to  make relevant piles for filing later in order to uncover urgent papers), paying any outstanding bills by phone, and making a pile of papers that you will need over the next few days. There are philosophies that say you should only handle each piece of paper once but we're way beyond that - this is crisis control not Super Woman.

5.30 - 6.30 pm Feed your children, deal with anything they need you for and if they are old enough (we managed this at age five) tell them that you are busy for the rest of the evening and that they should clean their teeth, amuse themselves for a while and then put themselves to bed. Sorry, no story tonight. You clean up the kitchen.

6.30 - 8 pm. Do that grading (or any prep for your own particular job). Do not look at emails. Do not attend to children (there are apples in the fridge if you're hungry, yes you can go on the computer, whatever you want, just get on with it yourself).

8 - 8.30 pm. Make the children go to bed by shutting down all tech devices. Clean the bathroom and put on a load of laundry. Make yourself a cup of coffee or any beverage of your choice.

8.30 - 9 pm. Deal with emails and whatsapp whilst drinking your coffee. Do not be tempted to go into social media.

9 - 10.30 pm. Write reports (or a blog post, or do your household accounts - you choose). Do not be tempted to go back and do more grading. This is Report Card Time. Just do it.

10.30 pm. Hang out the laundry and go to bed - you may read in bed till 11 pm.

You have a clean kitchen and bathroom, you have done 1 1/2 hours of grading and 1 1/2 hours of reports (or blogging or whatever), you have paid outstanding bills and put aside important papers that were previously lost, the table is organised if not exactly cleared, and you have done a load of laundry. And you are asleep with a clear conscience before midnight. That is freaking amazing!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Are Faith Schools Breaking Down Society?

We, the Reasons 2B Cheerful regulars, decided to give it a miss this week, out of respect for the families of Manchester. Another alternative light-hearted post also did not sit well me today. I have been in turmoil since this evil terrorist attack and trying to make sense of where we as a society went wrong.

We need solutions not just platitudes. Piers Morgan and Katie Hopkins have offered their no-nonsense plans of action for crisis control. I don't disagree with them but we need to go deeper and examine some of the problems in our society. I am writing from Israel and we have some similar problems here. I'm not talking about terrorism. Terrorism isn't similar, it's the same evil wherever it occurs. I'm talking about religion keeping people apart.

When I was a child I, and most of my Jewish friends, went to the local primary school. Yes there were Jewish schools but not many and in London there were far more Jews in local authority schools than in Jewish schools. The divide was mainly down to how religious you were - the more orthodox went to the Jewish schools, the more traditional and reform Jews did not. 

I grew up hearing stories about Jesus, singing hymns, and celebrating Easter and Christmas in school while learning about my Judaism at home and at after school Hebrew classes. It was the dawn of multiculturalism and we had the local Rabbi come in to talk about Hannuka, Passover, and Shabbat. In our area there were not yet enough other ethnic groups to warrant any further multicultural events.

By the time I became a teacher the local authority schools were embracing Diwali, Ramadan and other Hundhu, Sikh and Muslim holidays. However, over the years there has been a rise in Faith Schools. Most of the Jewish community now go to Jewish schools (60% according to Wikipedia).

There is historical and political background. With the creation of Comprehensive Schools and the closing of Grammar Schools in the early 1970s, there was more demand for Public Schools. True to the laws of supply and demand, competition became fierce and tuition fees rose. The middle classes who prioritized academia  needed an alternative and Faith Schools offered a stricter curriculum than the free for all Comprehensives.

But still there were not so many - only 32 Jewish schools by 2001 when the Guardian shows the Government positively encouraging more Faith schools.

"...according to the Blair government, which believes they [Faith Schools] improve educational standards and wants to see more of them. Previous education secretary David Blunkett said he wanted to "bottle" the ethos of faith schools, and a recent white paper declares: " We wish to welcome faith schools, with their distinctive ethos and character, into the maintained (state) sector, where there is clear local agreement.""

Reading between the lines, I see this as meaning that the State system cannot deal with behavioural issues so it's best if the Faith Schools use their religions to control the kids (and scare the hell out of them as only religion can). By 2011. "about one third of the 20,000 state funded schools in England were faith schools, approximately 7,000 in total." (Wikipedia) And these numbers do not include all the privately funded Faith Schools. 

When he went to University my nephew said that he was looking forward to meeting some people who aren't Jewish. He went to Jewish schools, Jewish scouts. Jewish clubs. Jewish football leagues, and prayed with a Jewish community. He'd lived in London all his life and he didn't know any non-Jews!

In Israel for many years we had very set state-run educational systems - The Ultra-Orthodox, the State Orthodox, the State Secular, and the Arab schools. Recent years have seen the rise of other alternatives. My daughter goes to a "Traditional" School. It would have been so easy for me to choose the State Orthodox school around the corner where I am friendly with many of the other parents and familiar with the community. But in the end I had to vote with my principles and chose the school that teaches Jewish values whilst not pushing Jewish practice. We have Orthodox, Traditional, Reform and Secular Jews, a community of Christians, and some African refugees in our school. I love the diversity and I believe our lives are richer for it. (No Arabs yet but it's a process. There is an Arab-Jewish school near us but only one so far.)

However, one thing Israeli State Orthodox, Traditional and Secular Schools have is a definite nationalistic agenda. All our children have to serve in the army and our survival depends on a level of national pride, love of our country, and national responsibility like no other nation I can think of. Once when I posted photos of Israeli flags hanging from windows, balconies and cars on Independence Day, other bloggers commented that it was strange to them, refreshing even, as in England (though not in Scotland or Wales) flying a national flag can sometimes be construed as sinister or provocative. How sad is that?

America is more into nation building than England. All school children pledge allegiance to the flag, the President, and the Constitution - all non-denominational by law. Further than that I can't comment. I know they have their share of Faith Schools as well and have also been tackling problems of internal xenophobia. 

I am beginning to believe that as comfortable and cozy as it is to have your children in a Faith School within your own community, it might be the undoing of British society. I believe that religion should be a family issue and living in communities around your church, synagogue or mosque is a personal choice. However, the Government provides free education (yes I know we pay for it through taxation) and therefore the Government should enforce a national curriculum to encourage nation building in a multicultural society. Call it a Nanny State if you like but the people of Britain need to know who they are, who takes care of them, who they need to protect, who their fellow citizens are, and what they should be grateful for. 

On facebook yesterday, my cousin's Muslim friend praised her for taking the time to get to know Muslims and become true friends with them. Both women have lived in England all their lives and yet being friends is considered extraordinary. This anomaly has to be addressed from Reception Class up, across the nation. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

I Love Anna Hibiscus

Anna Hibiscus is a little girl growing up in Africa. Amazing Africa. Before we go any further, what sort of life do you think Anna Hibiscus has in Africa? I did a little experiment and asked three people who'd not read the six Anna Hibiscus books by Atinuke. They all answered variations on the theme of growing up in a village, poor, coping with drought and famine, fighting to receive an education as a girl, working on the meagre homestead, etc, etc. One of my subjects forgot that this is a children's book and started guessing themes such as child brides and other horrific practices associated with this.

WRONG WRONG WRONG! Let's start again. Anna Hibiscus lives in Africa. Amazing Africa. She lives in a big city in a big house surrounded by a big walled garden. She lives with her father's family. All of them. Her Grandparents, her aunts and uncles, and her cousins (the big cousins, the middle cousins, and the little cousins). They all have wonderful names like Uncle Bizzi Sunday, big girl cousins Joy, Clarity and Common Sense, and Anna Hibiscus' twin brothers Double and Trouble.

The family are comfortably off and there is a constant rubbing along throughout the stories between African tradition and modern times. This in itself is a subtle lesson in which the Grandparents who grew up in the village, are revered and respected. They guide the family with their wisdom and experience, through all sorts of adventures and dilemmas.

Each chapter of each book tells a story with a moral. But the morals are not the old and hackneyed lessons that are repeated over and over from Huckleberry Finn to Milly Molly Mandy to Angelina Ballerina, et al, such as be helpful and you will get your reward, be loyal to your friends, be honest, be kind.... Yes Anna Hibiscus is all of these but in these books the challenges are completely different to any I have read in modern English children's literature.

For example, Anna's mother is Canadian and she wants to go on a short holiday with just her husband and children, as we do. We see how much harder life is when you don't have your whole extended family on hand.

What happens when Anna wants to sell oranges from their trees outside the garden gate with the other child street sellers? The other children have old and damaged fruit to sell and they need the money to help feed their families. Anna comes out of her wealthy compound with wonderfully fresh and succulent oranges from their healthy, watered trees. You can guess the rest.

She visits her Grandfather's ancestral village and teaches the children to read. With her cousins she rescues a homeless orphan whom they adopt after saving his life. There are real challenges faced in these stories and not one of them has charity workers from the Western World coming to sort them out. Just little Anna Hibiscus and her big, lovable family.

When Anna Hibiscus goes to Canada to visit her maternal Grandmother, everything is a bit weird. Fancy being made to sleep in a room all on your lonely ownsome. I mean that's no fun is it?

Every story is a delight. Every lesson learned is a revelation. You are made to look at the world from a stance you'd never considered before. There is a way of life you've never read about, a culture full of tradition and wisdom and pride. Even a certain amount of sympathy towards the Western World which seems to have lost it's way compared to life in Amazing Africa.

Does this review show my prejudices and maybe even some latent racism? Probably. I'm still working on seeing the world from all angles and Anna Hibiscus was an education even for my adult self.

I was lucky enough to be lent all six books in the series by a pupil who passed them on to me as she finished each one. Thank you Hodaya, your books taught me a lot this year.


Friday, May 19, 2017

Lag B'omer Reasons 2B Cheerful

Our bonfire with our picnic table in the background. 
Lag B'omer
I write about Lag B'omer every year but it happens every year so what's a blogger to do? This year the parents' committee for DD's class organized a bonfire for the civilized time of 5.30 - 7.30 pm. A list went out for the accompanying picnic and of course we were urged to bring any wood we could find to feed the fire.

The list is a funny thing. There are 30 children in the class and the items are all about 20 shekels (4 GBP) each so everyone is paying about the same. But the effort differs according to the item. For occasions inside school there are those mothers who like to bake so the cakes are no problem. There is a mad scramble to donate the disposables (plates, cups, cutlery, napkins, etc...) from those that can't be bothered have a busy week that week. The next to go are the bottles of drink which can also be bought in advance. The tubs of humus and cheese are also pretty popular. Pita bread is okay too though it has to be bought on the day to be fresh. What no one likes is the platters of cut up vegetables or fruit. It's expensive, it's time consuming and time sensitive, and it's hard to transport.

For Lag B'omer it was a felafel picnic. By the time I saw the list it had been up a good 20 minutes. Apart from the fruit and vegetables, the only other item left were 20 felafel balls (hot). I went for the felafel balls and thought myself very clever when I hit on the idea of ordering them from the felafel kiosk around the corner. Of course I was outsmarted by the other felafel mums (there were four of us). One of the mothers ordered 80 felafel balls, another picked them up on the way to the bonfire, and I only had to give her my 20 shekels, Sorted.

Our cooking fire for marchmallows
We went with our old wooden broom handle, an old chopping board that was going mouldy inside, a stack of paper supermarket bags, and some small raffia baskets. I felt a bit pathetic when I saw the already built bonfire set with real logs, shipping pallets, and whole planks of wood from I know not where. (And best not to ask.)

One of the fathers made a small fire for roasting marshmallows (another popular item on the list). I missed the bit where it said to bring your own partially cooked potatoes wrapped in tin foil but I don't think DD noticed them and anyway there were loads of spares.

At the end we found out at the parents' committee all have kids in 6th Grade too, so we didn't have to put out our fire as it was being passed on to the 6th Graders (7.30 - 9.30 pm. Or later, I have no idea).

Israelis know how to do all this outdoors stuff efficiently and I'm happy to go with the flow as long as it doesn't include climbing mountains.

Swimming lessons
DDs summer swimming lessons started this week. It's our fourth year and every year I'm amazed at how much better she is and how much more advanced the class is. I also found out after four years that the man who runs the lessons speaks English. I've been breaking my teeth speaking to him in Hebrew until now. I can manage in Hebrew but life is so much easier in English.

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
When we finished Heidi's Children I was dreading getting DD to agree to a new book. She hates change or anything new until she gets there, when of course she loves it. I was thinking of The Railway Children with the promise of seeing the film at the end.

However, on the evening of the final chapter of Heidi's Children, DD asked me, "Have we got the book about the children in the cupboard with a lion and a wicked Queen?" We do have it and I was delighted. Apparently they are hearing it at school in Hebrew and the teacher told them that it was an English book.

DD explained to me about how the children were evacuated to the country during WW2 and I told her about Grandma and Grandpa's evacuation stories. We're well into it now. Of course I have the full set of books in the series but I'm not sure I've got the patience to go through all of them like I did with Harry Potter.

My cousin,  who on her last visit brought us the lemon scented geranium cutting from her garden in Pinner, Middx, was in Israel for a visit. She came round for coffee  the other night and brought me some some seeds for a vegetable garden on the balcony. So I guess I really do have to do it this summer.

As usual I'm linking up with Michelle on Mummy from the Heart for this week's Reasons 2B Cheerful.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Supermarket Chutzpa

Israelis are known for their chuztpa - loosely translated as blatant cheek.

One very irritating habit that happens here in the supermarket, is parking trolleys at the checkout, albeit at the end of a long queue, and then going back and forth filling them so that by the time they have all they need, they are at the front of the queue to check out. We all forget things as we're queuing and no one minds of you leave your trolley to run back and get that one forgotten item, but I'm talking about almost the whole shop done from the checkout queue.

Another ploy is when two people are shopping together and they stand in two different lines in order to take the position that comes up first. The queues in the supermarket are always a bit of a gamble, like at the airport check-in, you never know if someone ahead of you is going to have a problem and hold everyone up for half an hour. I don't mind that couples stand in two queues as in the end they can only take up one place, I'm just a bit jealous that this is something I can never do.

From archives. I had nowhere near this amount of shopping
Anyway, last week when we didn't have a working fridge at home, I was buying just enough to see us through the weekend before our new fridge arrived on Sunday afternoon. Thus I didn't do the shop while DD was in school on Friday morning, but we went together after school. The place was packed with long queues at all the checkouts except for the express line. There is a clearly visible sign up that says, '10 items or less'. We had about 15 items but some of them were multiples. However compared to the full trolleys in the other queues it was practically nothing.

At that point the express queue was completely empty so I went to it. The cashier looked at my trolley and said, "sorry, only 10 items." I replied, "I'm only buying ten the rest are hers," indicating DD. The woman gave me a stern look. I ignored it. I put 10 things on the conveyor belt. Then I put the remaining things in another pile behind them and gave DD a 100 shekel note (about 20 pounds). I told her, "This is your shopping and you pay for it with this,"

DD was embarrassed but by this time the cashier was laughing. When she'd swiped my club card I handed it to DD for her shopping. The cashier, told me to put it away and she did our whole shop in one transaction.

Sometimes I feel very Israeli.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Al Fresco Reasons 2B Cheerful

DD's friend came over for lunch and they had the first al fresco meal of the season.

Truthfully, we are not very outdoors people and we prefer to eat indside even if the weather is fine. That and the fact that the balcony had gathered loads of 'stuff' over the winter and needed to be cleared, so we'd not got round to eating out yet.

We have lots of R2BCs to look forward to in the coming week. On Sunday evening DD's class are having their Lag B'omer bonfire. Sunday happens to be my day off and Monday is a holiday from school. On Tuesday my college class are out on a field trip all day so I get another day off. On Wednesday afternoon DD's swimming lessons start. So I'm looking forward to a great week ahead.

Mine was a short one this week but you can see more Reasons 2B Cheerful over at Michelle's Mummy from the Heart.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Tuesday Tidbits #45 - Food, Sleep, Exercise And Visions

There may be a witch hunt
The Food/Sleep Conundrum
It's 10 pm and 3 hours after supper.
DD: Mummy I'm hungry.
Me: Then you need to go to bed.
DD: I'm not that hungry.

Not (Wo)Man of the Match
DD: The Dodge Ball Tournament was such fun! I loved it! We beat Third grade 2 and Fourth Grade 1! Next we might have to play Fifth Grade! I didn't know it would be such fun, I thought it would be boring but it wasn't!
Me: Did you play in your class team?
DD: No I cheered. I could have played. I had the opportunity to play but I like cheering.

She might be going to Hogwarts....
DD was twisting and turning in my bed, jabbing me with her knees and elbows.
Me: Why don't you go and sleep in your own bed?
DD: No, it's creepy in there. I keep thinking there're ghosts and I have visions of things coming to get me.
Me: Well get on your side of the bed then.
DD: I am on my side. You take up too much room.
Me: Well if you think this bed is too small then you can always go and sleep in your own bed.
DD: I told you I HAVE VISIONS!

Heidi's Children
Marta, the highly strung and emotionally unstable little girl, sells the strawberries she picked because all the other girls sold their strawberries and she was told to do whatever they did. When she gets home she sees that everyone was expecting strawberries for tea and she is distraught. She throws herself on the ground, sobbing and pleading forgiveness. Eventually she looks to the heavens and cries, "dear Lord, please will you forgive me even if the Grandfather won't forgive me?"

DD: Oh perleeeeze! Kill me now. She's so embarrassing!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Broken Fridge Diet

Old Fridge R.I.P.
My old fridge lasted 25 years. I know because I bought it when my flatmate in our completely unfurnished flat, got married in 1992 and took her fridge with her. It then came with me when I moved to my current place 16 years ago. There was absolutely nothing wrong with my old fridge. No bits missing, cracked, broken or bent out of shape. No scratches or dents. Nothing wrong with it except that it died of old age.

This happened last Saturday and last Sunday after school DD and I went shopping for a new one. I wrote about the shopping trip and how we got a free sofa thrown in, here.

Anyway, we had a week of hot weather with no fridge until the new one was delivered today. The freezer was definitely kaput but the machine was still humming so I convinced myself that the fridge part was still a little bit cold.

Luckily I had no expensive meat or fish in the freezer, just bags of frozen (or unfrozen) vegetables and some gluten free rolls for my nephew. I put all these items into the fridge and have been eating my way through them all week. For example, every day for lunch I cooked up a 400g bag of green beans and ate them in a salad with salad vegetables, tuna, cottage cheese, and grated hard cheese. For supper I ate an 800g bag of broccoli with parmesan cheese and some homemade vegetable soup that I'd frozen in jars.

I am writing a book called The Broken Fridge Diet. It worked because I was determined to eat as much of the food as possible so I didn't buy anything out. And it largely consisted of bags of green vegetables. cottage cheese, and vegetable soup.

On Saturday afternoon I had to admit that the sliced cheese was going off. I pretended it was a mature, smelly, blue cheese and finished it off with my nephew's gluten-free rolls that had also defrosted. Have you ever tasted gluten-free rolls? They're disgusting nothing like real bread. I could have cried for my nephew but he likes his egg salad so what is he going to eat it on?

The milk lasted all week - which makes me wonder what they put in it. I eventually threw out a whole 800g bag of green beans, a bag of mixed beans, and two bags of peas.

New Fridge
The new fridge is larger than I thought it was. I set out to buy a smaller fridge than the 525 litre fridge we had. We don't need so much fridge space and I don't have an enormous kitchen. I think what happened was that the smaller fridges in the shop had much smaller freezers. I got scared that my jars of soup and bags of frozen veg, DD's ice-cream, and nephew's gluten-free rolls and pizzas wouldn't all fit. Also, I was only prepared to buy a fridge with an A or B energy rating and the smaller fridges were mainly Cs and even Ds. Oh, and the smaller Electra fridges all had digital displays on the front that I didn't want either.

So I ended up with a Sharp 495 litres, energy rating B. It's only 10 cm narrower than the old fridge and quite a bit taller so it actually feels bigger. They also make more shelves and cubbies than they used to. So far all the food I have fits into the door.

I'm a little bit in love with my new fridge. DD asked me why I didn't buy a vanilla coloured fridge like the old one. (The old one was white once upon a time.) I told her not to put fingermarks all over my new fridge. Five minute later we had this exchange:

DD: Mummy, can you come and open the new fridge for me.
Me: Why?
DD: I want to put my chocolate biscuit in it to eat later.
Me: Why can't you open it?
DD: You told me not put my fingermarks on it.
Me: You can touch the handle to open the door.

Obviously I don't want to cover it in magnets and class contact lists. And the hot plate doesn't fit on top like it used to. I'm going to have to rearrange the whole kitchen to empty the cupboard where the hot plate could go.  I may need a new kitchen.

Finally DD and I went shopping for a few things to put in the new fridge. I bought gluten-free rolls to freeze for my nephew.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

When Fairies Let Themselves Go

When we were in Hamleys in London we saw, in the dinosaur department, large eggs about 15 cm high and 8 cm across. Obviously they were dinosaur eggs but, in a large container with no packaging or labels, we had no idea what they did or what you were supposed to do with them.

A week later we were back in Israel and were invited to friends for the last day of Pesach - which happened to be Easter Sunday. This was a funny coincidence because my friend had bought and wrapped small gifts for each of the children and hidden them around the house for them to find. I'd like to say it was hours of entertainment but she lives in small flat so five minutes later they each came back with an egg. That was the funny coincidence - quite by chance my Jewish daughter went on an Easter Egg hunt in Israel on Pesach.

Here she is on the box, So beautiful!
This time the eggs came in a box. DD's box promised us a beautiful Tinkerbell Fairy that we could hatch in three days and then that she would grow to her full size in a week. How exciting! The egg went straight into a bowl of water as soon as we got home.

DD rushed to check on it every few hours and soon (with a little help from us, I admit) the egg began to crack and we could see the beginnings of a baby fairy emerging from the shell.

Over the next seven days we watched her float out from the discarded shell and begin to blossom like a delicate flower balloon to the size of the Titanic. I don't know, maybe we fed her too much?

Here it is in pictures.

At this point we changed her name from Tinkerbell Fairy to Gudrun-Hildegard. Somehow it seemed more fitting. A lot of her size was down to was bloating and water retention  however. After a week in the healthy outdoors and sunshine, tending the plants, etc... she did slim down a bit and now looks heaps better.

Though not living up to her initial promise, I mean she doesn't fly or sparkle or anything and her wings don't actually open. And she still has the legs of a German peasant. Anyhoo, she has found some peace on the balcony amongst nature. I employ her on a zero hours contract as a scarecrow.  So far it's all working out really well. She seems happy enough.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Social Media: The Extraordinary And The Ordinary - R2BC

Can't get more ordinary than my old fridge
Magic Radio
Whilst in London, cooking with my sister for Pesach, we listened to the most amazing radio. Song after song was a fabulous track from my life. Every one a winner. I thought it might be a golden oldies programme on Radio 2. I do listen to Radio 2 on a Sunday if I'm working at home. However, I was told that it's Magic Radio. A whole radio station dedicated to the music I would have chosen myself. Better in fact, as I've forgotten about much of the music I would love to listen to. Anyway, I found it online and I've been listening to it ever since.

Knorpp and South
Many months ago I started watching this You Tube channel about a wonderful family with nine kids, who sold everything, bought an RV, and have been travelling around America for the past year.

As a mother who can lose her cool and get overwhelmed with one kid who is in full time school, in a home that doesn't move, and surrounded by friends in the community.... I am in awe of how this family functions.

This week they sold the RV and are upping the ante by moving their travels to Europe. I'm psyched. We've all been invited to 'go' with them. When I say all of us I mean me and their other 94,724 subscribers (plus lurkers who watch but don't subscribe). I think our plan is to rent places to live for a month at a time whilst exploring the surrounding area, rather than RVing or camping.

I've already done some more decluttering here so I won't feel like a burden to them. Seriously though, one thing I've noticed about travelling families is that they don't go from everything to one carry-on bag overnight. Often there are a series of downsizing steps which makes the process less painful than you would think. Watching this family over the past year has made me wonder if we could do something similar... maybe.... one day.

Facebook Hilarity
For Independence Day there were a number of posts on facebook involving lists of 69 things. (It's 69 years since independence, obviously.) 69 wonderful things about Israel, 69 things you didn't know, 69 inventions and innovations, etc....

There were two lists of 69 extraordinary women of Israel. This prompted my extraordinary friend, Sarah, to post this:

"I've seen two separate lists so far of 69 fabulous women in Israel. 
Next year, for Israel's 70th birthday, I'm compiling a list of 70 totally nondescript, average women who've done fuck all with their lives like me.  If you'd like to be included in my list, drop me a note detailing your subpar average achievements."

What followed was a hilarious thread lasting several hours, where we fell over ourselves trying to prove how worthy we are of being a total waste of space. Some examples:

Me: I'm now liking my own comments, how sad is that?

Gillian: Where is your lovely daughter?
Me: Oh she's watching You Tube and eating crisps for supper.

Lisa: Oh please can I be on this list? (Notice she is begging.) I'll make you a cake. (And resorting to bribery, thereby guaranteeing a place on the list.)
Me: Lisa, some of us can't bake.

But the highlight of the evening was when Tzipporah wrote: I can peel an orange in one go. Several of us read this as: I can pee in an orange in one go. All over Israel a number of sad women were thinking along the lines of:  Is that a camping game? Do you scoop out the flesh first? Why would you want to?

I still keep bursting into laughter when I think about it. Thanks Sarah, for the best evening's entertainment in a long time.

"In this world, somehow an ordinary life has become synonymous with a meaningless life."

At the end of  Sarah's thread someone embedded a TEDx talk by Brene Brown. I've linked to it so you can watch it. Turns out, it's the ordinary that is important and being extraordinary won't shield you from all the things you are scared might happen if you aren't striving for perfection.

I'm linking up with Michelle on Mummy from The Heart for the Reasons 2B Cheerful Linky this week.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Memorial Day And Israel Independence Day

Memorial Day ceremony at school. You can see the flags as I can't post faces.
It's a two day event. We don't celebrate Independence Day without first remembering those who have fallen defending our country and protecting us all on a daily basis. We also remember those killed in acts of terror.

It feels strange to be writing about Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terror just one week after I wrote a heavy post about Holocaust Remembrance Day. But in history it did all happen so close together and in chronological order. The Holocaust (1938 - 1945), Israel Independence (1948) and so many wars since then.

So yesterday every school, every synagogue, and every community held a ceremony to remember 23,544 fallen. Everyone knows somebody. No, I lie, everybody knows several people who either didn't come home from the army or were murdered in a terrorist attack. This is the reality in a small country surrounded by hostile nations and in which every child, sibling, and parent served in the army. (Not including those of us who joined this amazing little nation after the age of 25.)

The view from the Tayelet
Then night falls and we celebrate Independence Day. DD and I went up to the Tayelet (the Promenade) overlooking the Old City and surrounding neighbourhoods on the opposite mountains. There was a live band. They had me as soon as they started singing The Proclaimers. There were street performers on stilts, market stalls, and the inevitable fireworks.

I suddenly realized that DD had never seen fireworks up close before as we usually watch the display from Mount Herzl from our balcony. It's pretty but far away. Last night she exclaimed, "It's like a dream!" And later she whispered under breadth, "best day ever."

Today we got up late. We saw some of the Air Force fly-past from the balcony as we ate a late breakfast. This afternoon it's the traditional barbeque parties and general relaxation with friends.

Happy 69th Birthday Israel!

"It's like a dream!"