Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday Night Is Games Night

Friday night has become games night in our house. We are not strictly orthodox about keeping Shabbat but we do celebrate by lighting candles and eating a festive meal; and we don't do ordinary things like work, laundry or cleaning.

You can see from the photo that tonight's games were Mastermind, TAKI (like Uno) and Rat-a-tat Cat!

Other options are Mancala, Kalooki, Backgammon (Shesh Besh), Rummikub, Frustration (though we are growing out of that one), Set, Othello (Reversi), and Triplica (I hate this card game but DD likes it).

We take our games night seriously. Whilst we don't have a green baize games table, we do have paper and a pen for keeping score and of course drinks and nibbles.

We need some good board games like Monopoly and other classics but we have a dilemma. If I buy them in English she can't play them with her Israeli friends. And I don't want to buy them in Hebrew. I think her friends are just going to have to be good at English if they want to play at our house.

As DD was looking for a game this evening she noticed that we also have some large (1500 pieces) puzzles in the cupboard. "When are we going to one of these big puzzles together?"
"In the winter on a rainy Shabbat when we don't want to go out all day," I replied. We are looking forward to it already.

What are your family's favourite games?

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Rosh Hashana So Far So Good - R2BC

Today is the first day of Rosh Hashana which started at sundown last night. DD and I continued with our new (from one year ago) tradition of doing tashlich with soap bubbles. We sat on the balcony and blew away our sins and bad habits from last year and we promised to try harder for better habits this year.

DD: I'm going to try to not lose my temper and scream at you. (Me: thank you.)
Me: I'm going to try to go to bed earlier and get up earlier. (I got up this morning at 10 but it's a process.)
DD: I'm going to do important things like homework and shower, before television.
Me: I'm going to do the dishes in the sink and prep my lessons for the next day, in the evening and before social media time. (I did the dishes last night.)

And so we went on....

I tried to capture the bubble blowing on camera but Rubbish Photographer struck again. Then we did some selfies which were equally rubbish but I posted a few on the right sidebar because DD is almost nine, not four as she was in the previous thumbnail.

We ate some of the Rosh Hashana menu with symbols - salmon for a year of being sameah (happy); peas and sweet potato (afuna  and batata for akuna matata) to have no worries, fruit salad for dessert for a sweet year, and we drank our apple juice spritzers through the last two straws (the shop didn't have any at 1.30pm and no time to go to another shop) for a suck-cessful year. I wanted to make a salad out of a whole head of lettuce for the head of the year but the shop had also run out of lettuce.

We played Taki, Set and Kalooki until far too late. We have established another tradition that Friday night is games night. (I know it wasn't Friday yesterday but Festival evenings are similar to Friday nights.)

We got up late this morning - I felt bad about not going to synagogue as it's a small community which only exists because enough people do make the effort to go. We will go tomorrow as we're going to friends for lunch afterwards. And we heard the shofar blown (all 100 blasts) as the next door neighbours had private blowing on their patio. Then, throughout the morning as men came home from synagogue and blew the shofar for their womenfolk who had stayed at home - I''m guessing but there are shofars blowing all over the neighbourhood atm. I think we're covered.

Friends are coming here for an early dinner tonight. I took a big white fish out of the freezer and I want to make some sort of baked fish dish. I've never baked fish before (except for salmon) so I'm off to find a recipe.

So far, and 18 hours in, it's been a good year. :~D

I'm linking up with Michelle's Reasons 2B Cheerful on Mummy From The Heart.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Gift Of Wadi Qilt

Tonight is Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. It's a two-day festival but this year it finishes as Shabbat comes in so actually it's three days straight of eating, socialising, praying, eating, sleeping, and did I mention eating? If you do the whole lot religiously, which we actually don't, that's the equivalent of six Christmas dinners at home and a number of smaller refreshments (like cocktail parties without the cocktails) at synagogue after the services.

We only accept invitations or make a big meal for once a day. However, that's still a lot of cooking and cleaning for me and DD was home because the schools are off from today. This is good because otherwise I'd be at my school, but difficult because she gets bored.

At 8.30 this morning we got a phone call from DD's BFF. Would DD like to go with them to Wadi Qilt. She wasn't sure. She's a bit of a ditherer and she worries in case it's going to be a difficult hike. It's not, it's a gentle stroll through the riverlets to the waterfalls and natural pools at the end. I accepted for her.

So off she went in her swimming costume, wearing my old sneakers - we threw her old ones away and she wasn't going to ruin her new sneakers walking through the water. This caused me to ponder on two things. 1. Decluttering is not always so brilliant. And 2. my daughter has almost the same size feet as me. (I knew this as she already takes my socks and this summer I bought us the same size socks).

I had five hours to shop, cook and clean. So I did go shopping because the supermarkets are going to be closed for the next three and a half days (from 2pm today). Then I spent a lot of time on the computer, and then DD came home.

Luckily she fell asleep in the sofa this afternoon and I did get some cooking done. And some laundry, and some grading  papers for college. Not as productive a day as intended but then it never is these days.

DD had a wonderful time. I think one of the greatest gifts you can give a single mother is to take her child out for a few hours before a major festival or weekend. We both appreciated it very much.

I wish everyone a wonderful, good and sweet year (Shana Tova Umetuka) whether you're Jewish or not. 

(I joined the Country Kids Linky at Coombe Mill with this post.) 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

ALEH Adults Update.

This is an update on my post: ALEH All People No Limits. Many friends and readers wanted to know what the children of ALEH do when they become adults. The website and videos all talk about the children and there is no mention of what happens later. So I contacted ALEH and received this welcome and heartwarming reply from Elie Klein, on behalf of ALEH's Communications Department.(I bolded the important bit.)

Our firm serves as an extension of ALEH's communications department.  Dov Hirth from ALEH saw your inquiry and requested that I respond.

I want to begin by letting you know how much we all love and appreciate your blog post.  We are so happy to hear that you were so touched by the presentations at the ALEH Jerusalem Ladies Committee gala, and we are so grateful that you chose to share that experience with your readers.  ALEH really is a special place, and we would be happy to take you on a tour.

Regarding your questions,  ALEH provides a continuum of loving care for individuals with disabilities, a framework for life – from infancy and childhood through adulthood.  Some of the children you saw in the video are not actually children – they are young men and women in their teens, 20s and even 30s.  While some ALEH residents move from our Jerusalem residence to our rehabilitative village in the Negev once they have reached adulthood (some prefer the predominantly adult community there), most of our residents remain in the ALEH centers where they are raised.  After all, it's HOME! ;-)

Again, it's one thing to talk about ALEH but experiencing it is something else entirely.  We would love to host you at any one of our four residential facilities.  Just say when.

All the best & Shana Tova,

A good answer, right? 
If you would like to donate to ALEH please visit the ALEH website.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Style And The Individual: When To Turn A Blind Eye

A while ago I went to an office that was situated in a roof extension. The ceiling was the sloping roof of the building and the windows were sloping skylights. They were tall windows with the tops stretching up and inwards to be above almost the centre of the room but near enough to the bottom of the slope so you could see the wonderful view over rooftops to the mountains beyond. It was really quite stunning. And the office itself was pristine, with clean lines and fresh white paint.

However, this bright, new, efficient space was 'finished' in a most bizarre way. Some budding interior designer (not) had put curtain rods along the tops of the windows and draped beautiful turquoise curtains framing each side of each of the two windows. Except of course, the curtains didn't frame the windows at all. They hung straight down into the middle of the room.

The two female secretaries had tied a knot into each curtain so that they didn't have them in their faces all the time. And the sun beat down into the room, casting eerie shadows like hangmans' nooses on the walls obscured by the knotted curtains.

I tried not to laugh but I couldn't help it. They told me I wasn't the first to be amused. The plan, or I should say the revised plan, was to put another rail at the bottom of each window to hold the curtains in place. But they needed to order new curtains with hems or ringed holes for the curtain rods on the bottom as well as the top.

"They make blinds for these sort of windows you know," I told them. I offered to show them and we spent a few minutes browsing Velux Blinds on the computer with the lid of a cardboard box taped over the monitor to block out the direct sunlight. We even found blinds in turquoise.

Years ago a friend told me that when planning your space, have the finished room in mind. That way you can make small changes as and when you have the resources, but you are always working towards your vision of how it will look in the end. If you don't do this, you'll waste money making changes to patch up what you have rather than towards the desired end.

My new friends in the dazzling office (pun intended) weren't ready to embrace the full uncluttered effect of crisp new blinds made to measure. They wanted curtains. I noticed they had crocheted doilies under the potted plants and I let the matter rest.

This is a collaborative post.  

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sunday Snippets

Shut the Box
Persevering. Sunday Snippets is an invention of Jax Blunt on her blog Making It Up. I've done it before but it never became a habit. This month Jax set herself a challenge to blog all 30 days of September. I decided to join her but missed a week of days in the chaos and exhaustion of going back to school. I've not given up though and I'm still aiming to blog as much as I can this month.

Realizing that despite the heatwave of last week, this weekend the summer really did end. I had to wait all day to do laundry while the previous washes dried on the line. During the summer the washing took 2 - 3 hours to dry. I could have done laundry all day if I had enough things to wash or if I felt like I needed clean sheets and towels every day - which I don't obviously.

Wondering how this happened: I spent the summer decluttering and organizing my house only to find that two weeks into the new school year, we are once again living in an enormous mess. Luckily we have a few more holidays over the next few weeks because of the Jewish Festivals. God always gives you a second chance.

Discovering a design fault. We have this game called Shut the Box, which a friend sent for DD last Chanuka. I admit that we've not played it that much but we  never noticed the error - or possibly an intended quirk? (I don't think so.) DD just showed me. How did we not see this before? Did you spot it?

Enjoying the cooler weather. It seems like nothing to you but, believe me, we suffered this week - possibly more than during the whole of July/August which was bad enough.

Saving money by going back to my regular supermarket instead of shopping at the expensive boutique supermarket around the corner. My regular super is a ten minute walk away (downhill) and a 20 minute crawl back up the hill with a heavy trolley (yes I  have shopping-trolley, don't judge). I just could not do that trip in the heat. I could have taken taxis of course but the cost of the taxis was about the same a the savings so I didn't bother.

Sleeping well. DD has finally gone back to sleeping in her own bed after about two years of sleeping with me. We used to share a room in the winter to save on heating two bedrooms, and then separate in the spring, summer and autumn. But for the last couple of years she's not made the move back. I didn't mind too much but recently I noticed that I keep being woken in the night by stray elbows, knees and feet encroaching onto my side of the bed. It was probably always like this but only now it started to bother me. Well DD is bigger and I'm menopausal - nuff said.

Compromising by sharing the family bed on Friday nights when we don't have to get up in the morning. DD: "People say Shabbat is the best day, but it's not, it's Friday!"

Relaxing in our pyjamas the whole of Shabbat. DD wakes up on Shabbat morning with two question. Are we going anywhere today? Is anyone coming? She loves it when the answers are no and no as it was yesterday.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Happy Birthday To A Regular And Loyal Reader

Happy Birthday to Margie from Toronto!


I hope you have a lovely day.
 I wish you a wonderful year full of health, happiness and success in everything you do.

With lots of love from Jerusalem and many thanks for all your comments on this blog. We've never met but I regard you as a friend. Your regular feedback is gratefully  received. And I love the insights you share about your own life in Toronto (and Scotland 😊). 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Location Location Location - R2BC

Location location location (I'm top right). 

It's that time of the week again. Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful this week. As usual I've joined the linky being hosted during September by Michelle from Mummy From The Heart.

The highlight of this week was obviously the ALEH event. A wonderful evening organised by wonderful people for an amazing organisation.

Diary of a Millenium Baby
DD has started writing a daily diary - in English. It's something she started off her own bat with no suggestion from me. Today she decided to start writing in cursive, after reading Muggie Maggie by Beverly Cleary. Who says that books don't influence children. She kept coming to me with requests for various letters in cursive. I'm impressed and proud of her passion for writing. Yesterday she said she might like to write a blog - but not include the secret things. Of course not include the secret things.

Locker Luck
I finally have a locker to be proud of in the teachers' room at my school. For two years I was the locker in the corner at floor level in the smaller block of lockers. I tried swapping the stickers around a couple of time so that I got a seemingly unoccupied locker but the owner always reappeared and swapped us back. Then, the other day someone pointed out that a teacher had left and her locker in the bigger lockers block was empty. I wasted no time moving in.

Finally, room for my teabags and private mug. Room to store notebooks for marking, textbooks, papers, anything I need for working during breaks and free periods without having to retrieve my stuff from a dusty stockroom in the furthest bomb shelter - which is where I had been keeping things for lack of any other solution.

I have to mention that I'm on the same row as the Deputy Head. Just four doors down in fact - she has locker 1 and I'm at number 4. You could call it a penthouse, although it's the same size as all the other lockers in the block -  no balcony or anything. I'm wondering now if I have building rights on the roof.

The Learning Lab
DD has been invited to attend the Learning Lab at school. It's twice a week from 2.20 when school ends, till 5pm. It's very similar to the afternoon programme she already goes to but with more emphasis on work. They help them with homework and to prepare for school tests, concentrating on Hebrew, Maths, and English. Obviously we don't need the English but the other subjects are very welcome.

That's all for this week folks with best wishes to everyone for many Reasons 2B Cheerful over the coming week.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

ALEH: All People No Limits

Before most of the guests arrived, Rubbish Photographer strikes again
This post wasn't supposed to be about ALEH. It was supposed to be about how my lovely friend Sally-Ann invited me to a charity dinner organised by the committee she's on.

Before I got there I couldn't even remember which charity it was in aid of.

This post was supposed to be about arranging for DD to stay overnight with a friend, getting all dressed up for a mid-week dinner at the King David Hotel (very pish-posh), meeting lots of people I know there (I think I've explained about the Anglo community in Jerusalem before - we're mostly all friends or friends of friends), a fabulous buffet supper (ok, turns out it wasn't a dinner), amazing entertainment by Nimrod Harel (Master Mentalist - OMG he was incredible!) and basically a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Then I came face to face with ALEH. I knew about ALEH of course, like you know about loads of prominent charities - RNLI, RSPCC, RSPCA, Oxfam, etc.... ALEH.

Thirty-five years ago a group of families in the centre of the country (that means near Tel Aviv) who each had a severely disabled child, clubbed together to rent an apartment, hired a special education teacher, and amassed a group of volunteers to help give their children the quality of life they deserved, but that is so hard to provide and sustain at home on your own.

This was the beginning of ALEH. Today ALEH has four campuses around the country providing medical care, rehabilitation facilities, education, and above all, a warm and safe home in which each child can reach his or her full potential. Today over 700 children are under the loving care of ALEH.

On Monday night we heard from Shirat Malach whose 18 year old son, Tuvia, has lived at ALEH for the past 15 years, since he was four years old. One poignant memory she shared was about Tuvia's eighteenth birthday. The family discussed how they should celebrate but in the end didn't run with any of the ideas. Shirat said that on the morning of Tuvia's birthday she couldn't get out of bed. She couldn't bring herself to paint on a smile and pretend that everything was wonderful. The family stayed home and did nothing. However, in the evening they were sent photos of Tuvia enjoying a lively birthday party at ALEH, surrounded by his  friends and carers. "They did what we could not do at that moment," Shirat told us. There were few dry eyes in the room.

We saw this video about ALEH:

I spent much of the evening thinking of my blogging friend Candi in Dublin, and wishing that her family and all families who need such a wonderful organization, could have an ALEH.

Thank you Sally-Ann and Tony for inviting me. It was a memorable evening and so important for the continuation of a vital service, saving children and their families from desperate situations.

If you would like to donate to ALEH please visit the ALEH website.

Click on the photos below to enlarge them and read about some of the ALEH family in Israel.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tuesday Tidbits #47 - Didn't I Not?

DD: How do you spell moven?
Me: Moven?
DD: Yes, my friend has moven to another table.

DD: My new class teacher keeps telling us we are all one family, and she even has a  big sign up saying, 'Welcome to the class 4"1 Family'.
Me: That's nice.
DD: No it isn't. It's creepy. Every time she says it I think of a wicked witch saying it in a screechy voice. It's like she's trying to make us believe we're something that we're not. Creeeepeeeee.

We've been watching some reality tv on You Tube with Gail Vaz Oxlade helping people get out of debt (Till Debt Us Do Part and Money Morons). DD got hooked on it. So we were out shopping for school supplies last week...

Me: Ooh look, bed linens on sale. I just want to see the sheets.
DD: Remember, we're only buying needs, not wants.

Sometimes the lack of an English environment shows in DD's language. She's developed her own tag question convention that makes her sound like a character from Jane Austen.

I drew that unicorn quite well, didn't I not?
I'll soon be able able to cook my own supper, won't I not?
When I'm 9 I'll be walking to school on my own, will I not?
I can stay here while you pop down to the shop, can I not?

DD slept over at my friend's house last night. She woke up at 2 am crying and she said she wanted to go home. My friend's ever practical 6yo son turned to his mother and suggested, "you can call a taxi for her."

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Week 1 Done And 546 For My Birthday - R2BC

DD playing with her friend's little brother in the park.
She's very good with little children. 
Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week. The linky is back with Michelle on Mummy From The Heart for the month of September.

Just getting through the first week of school is a worthy R2BC. This is what it was like... The children are all in different years obviously, so you get confused when talking about e.g. 5th Grade Girls and you actually mean 6th Grade Girls except when you really do mean 5th Grade Girls but the person you are speaking to is thinking 4th Grade Girls.

Some of the teachers have changed classes. They changed the places of the classrooms. We are all scrambling to finalize out timetables to fit in all sorts of groups and one-to-one tutoring so that the children involved don't miss anything vital. And the kids themselves are only given schedules day by day until it's all finalized. So when you ask a group (made up of pupils from three different classes) if we can meet on Thursdays in the 2nd lesson, they don't know because it's only Monday and they won't know what's happening on Thursday until Wednesday afternoon.

It's amazing how an early start and a full day of work can be so exhausting when you've been used to the long, lazy summer holidays. DD and I found ourselves struggling to keep our eyes open in the early evening at he begining of the week. By Thursday we were getting used to it but I still managed to keep to the planned 'in bed by 8 pm' for DD and 11 pm for me (well sometimes 12).

My Birthday
By vainly trying to hide my age, I apparently turned off the whole birthday notification thing on facebook. For one second I was upset that I'd not got 300 Happy Birthday greetings. Then I realized that it didn't really matter.

I got some lovely messages from good friends on Whatsapp, my cousin and a friend from LA emailed, my mum skyped, and one friend messaged me on facebook to say he remembered anyway (which is how I knew that I'd done a facebook fail). It was fine. I didn't need anything else and after day two at school, I was too tired to celebrate anyway.

However..... I blogged about it and then the messages came. They were even more special because a blog post requires a higher level of engagement than just responding to a notification with 'happy birthday x'.

After a year of trying to claw my way back into the top 1000 blogs in the TOTS100 ranking, I suddenly jumped about 700 places back to 546 (555 in August and 546 in September). It was the only best birthday present I got. If I can get back into the top 500 it displays that on the badge on my blog.

I was once in the top 100 for about two months - back in the day when they had about 700 UK parent blogs registered. Then they jumped to 3,000 and I managed to stay in the top 500 for years. Now blogging has become a professional career in the advertising and PR fields and there are around 6,000 UK parent blogs registered with TOTS100.

I'm thrilled with 546 but I'm not sure how it happened. Maybe it's simply a matter of blogging more often - I posted 16 times in August. I certainly don't keep up with Instagram or Twitter much, which are two of the variables in the ranking equation. Maybe all the professional bloggers were away enjoying free promotional holidays during July and August so there were only actually 546 of us blogging over the summer?

I decided to join Jax in her Making It up Blogtember 30 Day Challenge. It's now September 8th and this is only my fourth blog. I've not given up entirely but mine might be only a 25 day challenge. And next month I may be back down in the 1,000s but I'll always treasure my 546 for my birthday.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Happy Berefty Or Tomorrow Is Another Day

Random Birthday cake from a previous year.
Today is my birthday. Two years ago I tried to celebrate my birthday with DD and it was a disaster. And last year wasn't much better.

Today was only the second day of school and I had to meet three new classes. It was my first long day. It was hot and very humid outside. I didn't expect much from today.

Last night after our first full days back at school, DD and I both went to bed before 8 pm and were asleep within 10 minutes. Consequently I woke up at 5.30 this morning. I forgot it was my birthday. I did the dishes in the sink from the night before, showered and dressed, and made myself a cup of coffee. Meanwhile two good friends Whatsapped me with birthday greetings and I remembered (obviously).

I opened facebook before checking my emails, just in case some birthday wishes had come through. Nothing. Otoh, it was only 6.30 in the morning and 4.30 in England, so I wasn't too surprised. My cousin in London had sent me a Happy Birthday email with an attachment I couldn't open. But it's the thought that counts. I did expect to see all the facebook greetings when I came home from work though.

I didn't mention my birthday at work. Seriously, it's a school on the second day of lessons. Everyone is a bit crazy and confused as all the classes have gone up a year and changed names, and the classrooms have been swapped around. We also have a temporary timetable until October while they iron out the kinks. (I wish they'd have said before I copied mine into my new diary in ink.) I only remembered every time I wrote the date on the board at the beginning of each class.

I arrived home, after picking up DD on the way, hot, bothered and exhausted. There were some more whatsapp messages from people who know. DD had her now regular meltdown (well regular since yesterday) as a result of being hot, bothered and exhausted. I quickly prepared a snack for her and poured us both long drinks of cool water. Then I turned on facebook and...... one direct message from an old friend saying, "Facebook didn't let me know me but I remembered anyway - Happy Birthday!"

What?! Facebook didn't tell you? How could that be?

I always wish friends and even 'friends' a happy birthday on facebook. I'm the first to say that the birthday greetings is one of the nicest things facebook does. People always post comments after their birthday thanking friends for the greeting and saying how touched they were. I've loved it in previous years.

For two seconds I considered rushing over to my profile or my settings or wherever it is, and checking. But then I decided not to. Those who know know and if they want to send a greeting they can. How much is it really worth when you merely type 'Happy Birthday xxx' because the notice is there? It's a nice gesture. I like nice gestures but I don't need them.

DD finally stopped shouting at me about how she wants pizza and why can't she order it from her own pocket money? She's drawing. "Are you making me a birthday card?"
"No, why should I when you won't let me have pizza and all I want is pizza!?"

Happy berefty momey
Then minutes later I got this delivered into my lap with a kiss and a cuddle. So I'm not quite as "berefty" as I was 10 minutes ago.

I'm going to make sausages and chips for supper. And later I'll do some grading. I should clean the bathroom. Nothing has changed. I don't feel any different, not even older. And tomorrow is another day.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Eagle Of The Ninth

In English Literature for each term of each year in secondary school, we had to read and study one novel, one play, and a set of poems.

Some of the literature was great - not like lessons at all. Reading The Chrysalids started a life long (metaphorical) love affair with science fiction in general and with John Wyndham in particular. I never fell in love with Shakespeare but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it's not hard to understand. (Only in adulthood did I come to understand the genius of Shakespeare.) I unexpectedly enjoyed Jude The Obscure by Thomas Hardy. Less so The Mill on the Floss but I read it nevertheless. (George Eliot - I had to google it just now as I'd forgotten). I will always remember The Admirable Chrichton (though I never made the connection with Peter Pan at the time). And I was very relieved to be in the class doing To Kill A Mockingbird for O'level rather than Far From the Madding Crowd.

We read Jane Eyre and I'd forgotten the whole of her life before going to be the governess at Mr Rochester's place. It was only when watching a tv drama years later that I realized there was so much more to the book.

I thought The Importance of Being Ernest a bit silly and I refused to read The Trumpet Major - I don't remember who it was by and I don't care. A soon as I found out that our end of term exam was on the play not the novel I stopped even pretending I was reading it. (I couldn't resist googling it and what do you know? Thomas Hardy again! I'm surprised.)

The very first novel we were given to read in the Lower Fourth (Year 7) was The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff. It was the sort of novel I would never have chosen to read in a million years. It was, in my opinion, a boys' book. It was about the Romans in Britain and one particular Roman on a quest to the Highlands of Scotland to find the Eagle mascot/banner of the Ninth Legion that had mysteriously disappeared. Why they had chosen it in a girls' school was beyond me.

The first week's homework was to read the first three chapters. It was the weekend and I was finding it heavy going. We had English Lit. on Monday and I was still new enough and young enough in my school career to know think that it had to be done. I remember going across the road to play with my neighbour, Naomi, and my mother told me to take the book with me. At some point, Naomi went to watch something on television with her parents and I sat at their kitchen table and forced myself to read.

A miraculous thing happened during the course of that book. I got into it. By the middle I suddenly wanted to know how it ended. And the language wasn't too heavy or complicated. It was actually a pleasant read.

All this was in 1974. Jump forward 20 years and I came across a copy of the book in a clearance sale at The British Council Library in Jerusalem. I bought it because I remembered that I'd enjoyed it. I thought it would be fun to read it again, especially as I'd forgotten the ending, and most of the beginning and the middle. That was in 1994. Can you see where I'm going with this? It's now 2017 - 23 years later and I'd still not reread The Eagle of the Ninth.

However, I'd not removed it from my bookcase even after a number of book culls - some of them quite ruthless. So there was some commitment there in theory if not in practice.

Reader, this summer I reread it. It did not disappoint. I understand now why it was considered an educational novel for 11/12 year old girls in an all girls school with a ethos of academic and career achievement. Now I will pass the book on. I won't be needing to reread it again.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Fourth Grade!

Hello 4th Grade!
September 1st is the day all the schools go back in Israel. My facebook feed will soon be full of first day of school pictures. At DD's school this morning there was a lot of kissing and hugging and wishing each other a good year - the parents and the children.

DD still thinks it's the law that you have to have your photo taken on the first day of school. "But why Mummy?" I could actually think of a few reasons why it's a good idea but I didn't voice them.

I met DD's new teacher - she's young and beautiful and speaks fluent English. DD will love her. This is great as she's loved all her teachers so far, since the first nursery teacher at 19 months old. And so have I.

There is a new girl from South Africa in DD's class and I told DD to look out for her. I met the mother outside and she said DD was lovely, she had the girl sitting next to her and told her that everything will be fine. (I'm waiting to see how fine it's going to be when DD's best friend comes back from holiday next Wednesday :~P. But they are all great kids so I'm sure they'll work it out.)

Now is it just me, or does the weather feel cooler today? I swear it happens every year. August 31st is unbearably hot and September 1st is cool. I think this may be just me.

Just for fun - this was the first day of 1st Grade
We did a lot of some English and maths over the holiday but no Hebrew. I'm praying that DD will be able to keep up with all the reading. One of the reasons she is in the afternoon programme is because the teacher there helps them with their homework. Third Grade Hebrew was just about my level. Now I'm out of my depth.

It's 8.30 am and I've now got to do all the things on my own schedule that I promised I'd stick to from September 1st. I didn't write blogging for this slot but flexibility is also a virtue, no? I start at my school on Sunday so I'd better get going.

Wishing all those going back to school this week, and their parents, a happy, healthy and successful school year. xxx

(A friend just called - she's meeting another friend for coffee and would I like to join them? Well yeah! Sorry my new schedule - laters.)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Very End - R2BC

This month's final Reasons 2B Cheerful and, as usual, I'm joining the R2BC linky with Becky on Lakes Single Mum. 

The very end of the long summer holiday.
I can feel that the evenings are already cooler. I am so through with the heat of July and August. Even though September can be just as hot as August, psychologically, it's not so hot even if it is, iyswim. We went out for pizza for supper to celebrate.

A week of sickness, but it was this week and not next week.
We came home from a lovely weekend away last weekend but all our plans for the week were sabotaged when DD got strep throat (a fever, very sore throat, and a hacking cough that would not go away) and was put on antibiotics. Then she got an infection under her crowned tooth and we had to have it removed (luckily it was a milk molar and we saw the adult tooth growing under the gum on the x-ray). I thanked the universe that she was sick this week and not next week when we are both back at school.

I have my timetable for next year. 
I'm a bit panicked as I have extra teaching hours and an extra day at school. However, as I keep telling myself, it's just a matter of having a routine that covers everything you need to do and being strict about sticking to it. It's the last bit I'm not so good at but on September 1st anything is possible.

Poster girl.
At the beginning of the year I set myself a loose target of  10 blog posts per month. Today I'm back on target with 80 posts on the last day of August. Yay me.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Bored Into Reading

Or just bore them into it
I think I've cracked the magic ingredient to fluent reading.

I did my MA dissertation on what makes a child an avid reader and my research seemed to support the current thinking of the day in the year 2000. You need to read to your child when s/he is young, have plenty of interesting books at his/her level readily available and easily accessible, have adult readers in the home who model reading as an enjoyable pass-time, you need to validate reading as a worthwhile activity, and you need to provide time to read.

Simple and obvious when you think about it. So I did all that but my daughter did not become an avid reader. Some of it I put down to the fact that she is working in two languages and so she doesn't get the practice in reading English at school. A lot of it was to do with the fact that the computer was far more enticing, not to mention a ready supply of dvds.

We only have the one living room where the tv and dvd player are situated. By the middle of the holiday I was sick of hearing Harry Potter and various other favourites over and over again. The computer that DD played on, broke at the beginning of the summer and I deliberately didn't get it fixed. After a few weeks I was beginning to regret it.

Towards the end of the holiday I thought we'd better start getting back into some sort of routine. I always remember my friend's brother, Philip, telling me how the rule in his house was the children had to be in their bedrooms by 8 pm. I once mentioned this in a blog post and wrote 8.30 because I thought no one would believe that teenagers would go to their rooms at 8. But later I confirmed it with him and they did actually go to bed at 8 all the way through school. On the other hand, it wasn't strict lights out at 8 pm so I expect they did homework or read, but I know for a fact that there were no screens involved, or phones. (Although nowadays teenagers have their own screens and phones in their bedrooms so I don't know if you could enforce that with older kids.)

I started the in bed by 8 pm rule. We often don't manage it as we're out late or in the middle of a game. I read to DD at 8 and leave the bedroom at about 8.30. Then she's on her own and she's bored stiff. Not yet having early mornings and being, like me, a night owl, she's just not tired at 8.30 pm. I tell her she can read. And she started to read because there was nothing else to do. She sometimes does sudoku or tells herself elaborate stories but mostly she reads.

So there you have it. The missing ingredient was BOREDOM! There had been clues of course. When I did my MA dissertation I did mention that many of the children I spoke to were orthodox Jews so they had little else to do on a Shabbat afternoon but read. And my youngest nephew became a book-a-day reader because he wasn't into sport and his older brothers commandeered the tv for watching football and every other sport at every opportunity.

Now I need to figure out a way to bore DD into practicing her recorder, doing her maths workbook, tidying her bedroom, and washing the dishes. Unfortunately every time I suggest one of these worthwhile activities she'd rather read a book.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Last Weekend Of The Long Summer Break

DD at the wedding

Last weekend we went to one of my favourite places in the world - the kibbutz where my friends live. On Thursday night one of my friends made a wedding for her daughter. Like in July, a number of old friends from around the country came and we had another mini-reunion.

Away on the back of a tractor

It's an old kibbutz tradition that the bride and groom are driven away on the back of a tractor after the chupah (the wedding canopy where they make their vows) and before the party. It's not done much anymore and I actually don't remember seeing it before. It was sweet.

We stayed after the wedding and Friday saw us in the pool with another friend's daughter and granddaughter.

And then Shabbat. Relaxing as always. Too much food. Lots of games of backgammon. I finished a book. DD fell in love with the dog (when you're grown up and have your own home you can have a dog if you still want one....), and we came home ready to face the final week of the summer holiday.

Just idyllic

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Theater In The Rough - R2BC

Rubbish photographer strikes again. 
Well they made a point of saying that they spell theatre the American way so I've done the same for SEO purposes and also because it's annoying when someone writes my name Rachael instead of Rachel.

Last night we went to the annual Shakespeare in the park production by Theater in the Rough. It was the penultimate performance. We'd been planning to go every night (10 performances in all) since the first night, but somehow something came up on all the other days.

This year was The Taming of the Shrew. I read the synopsis to DD before we went. We've previously seen Richard III and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Both were excellent and easy to follow even though they both have complicated plots. I thought this production would be a doddle compared to the others as the plot is quite straightforward. DD was a bit shocked by it. "He treats her like a slave!" Well yes.

I'd forgotten about the changing places and pretending to be other people. Those bits weren't in our Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb (originally published in 1878 but my Wordsworth edition is from 1994). So it did have the complicated Shakespeare twists but this production was further complicated by a switching of the genders.

As the whole play is the antithesis of feminism, they had men playing the women and women playing the men. They didn't want to dress in drag so they wore modern clothing with a nod to the character. For example the women wore their everyday jeans, trousers or leggings but with a jacket or a waistcoat. And the men wore their trousers and t-shirts but with a girl's blouse on top. This meant that, unlike in previous productions with elaborate medieval costumes, everyone looked the same and it was very difficult to keep in mind who was who at the beginning.

And after that my battery died
After a bit you get to know the characters and sort it all out - but it required some concentration. DD sat with the programme and matched up the pictures with the players. She loved the performance as it was full of humour which she found quite hilarious.

She didn't like the fact that we moved around the park for different scenes. "Why can't they just let us sit and enjoy it instead of moving about all the time?" She asked out loud. Some people around us, especially the older people, agreed with her but actually it adds to the special atmosphere. As the whole audience walks between scenes the actors are still playing in character and you feel like you're in Padua with them, rather than just watching a play.

It's very laid back. Some of the actors are our friends and we were waved at from the 'stage' and exchanged a 'hello,' whilst moving from scene to scene. They always announce at the beginning that if you miss a few words during the performance, don't worry about it, "it's Shakespeare, there are plenty more where they came from." As I said, all very friendly and laid back.

All in all, the whole production was superb and well worth seeing. Last performance tonight at 5.30 pm in the park behind The King David Hotel. 

This is my Reasons 2B Cheerful post this week. I've be joined the linky with Becky on Lakes Single Mum

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Wink From The 2017 Solar Eclipse

View from my balcony - no eclipse this time :~(
I was in London on August 11th 1999 when the last total solar eclipse visible from the UK occurred. My parents and I got in the car and drove up to Harrow Weald Common from where you get a view of the whole of London lying flat out before you. 

We had our pinhole camera thingies which my Dad had made by following instructions in the newspaper. You stood with your back to the sun, held up the card with the pinhole and saw the image of the waning sun projected onto another card held in front of you (being careful not to eclipse the pinhole with your head obviously). We had all heard the warnings and we were all being sensible and not looking at the sun. I have to say that I caught my Mum peeking and she didn't go blind so who knows. However, I won't take her next time as she cannot be trusted in eclipse conditions.

Obviously we weren't the only people who came to the common. The car park filled up and then people parked in the driveways and when they filled up, they parked down the road - a narrow country road with no pavements and absolutely no parking allowed. But on this day nobody cared. 

Office staff came with hampers of champagne and posh lunch. This was very funny as the whole thing lasted only 2 minutes so that was 12 minutes if you count 5 minutes waiting time either side of the eclipse. And there was no possibility of having a post-eclipse picnic for the rest of your lunch hour as the whole parking thing relied on everyone leaving straight after the eclipse or cars would be blocked in. 

It definitely added to the event by enjoying the atmosphere of everyone coming together. There was a camaraderie among strangers which I know to be true because we all sat in our cars for up to 20 minutes afterwards allowing the gridlocked car park to slowly empty out, last in first out. We were all relaxed like we were saying good bye to friends. Silly really, but that's how it actually was. 

There was also a bit of the end of the millennium anticipation come six months early. Was this the beginning of the end? It really did go eerily quiet as the birds were silent, and obviously the road was silent, and the people were silent with awe and wonder and suspense. 

So I was a little disappointed to find out that the much publicized eclipse of two days ago was only going to be visible in North America as a total eclipse. Parts of Northern and Western Europe would see a partial eclipse but the Middle East - zilch. So I forgot about it and got on with doing nothing which is what we do in August. 

Suddenly the light dimmed like when one lightbulb on a five-bulb chandelier goes but you still have the other four. I knew immediately what it was. It was a wink from the solar eclipse telling me, "not to worry love, there'll be another one - an annular solar eclipse - in your part of the world on December 26th 2019." 

"In an annular solar eclipse, the moon is too far from the Earth to block out the entire sun, leaving the sun peeking out over the moon's disk in a ring of fire." NASA

I can't wait.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Essential Emergency Fund And More Decluttering - R2BC

Some minimalizing progress and some less good events that, with a bit of Pollyanna attitude, I can turn around to be a R2BC. I'm joining the R2BC linky over with Becky on Lakes Single Mum.

Decluttering Books

I wrote the other day about sorting out all my books and letting go of my academic dreams. In addition to all the academic books, I got rid of 20 year old guidebooks to various cities around the world, children's books that DD has grown out of and which we didn't love, various out-of-date reference books, and a few novels that I'm never going to read. About 100 books in all.

In addition to the books in the photo which are all being given away, donated, or possibly sold; there were also a pile of magazines and the city guides that went straight in the bin.

That seems incredible as I sort and donate books every year for the Yedidya Bazaar in March. Only two years ago I got rid of 200 books (although that was the first cull in about 25 years). I think it's a process and some books it takes you longer to realize and come to terms with the fact that you don't need them anymore.

Empty Furniture

I decluttered a whole chest of drawers out of its usefulness and sold it on facebook. The guy who bought it also took an old armchair down for me and put it by the bins. Within half an hour I saw a man stop and load it into his car.

I also have one empty bookcase but I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it yet.

Gone to a better home in the back of a passing car

Not So Wonderful

I had a blocked sink so I had to get the plumber in. It cost not a trivial amount of money. On the other hand, he changed the crappy IKEA drain set-up underneath to a much more efficient arrangement that goes straight into the wall without the long, narrow pipe, which is the part that gets blocked.

I swallowed that cost and moved on. However, I was then alerted by a neighbour that my solar heated water boiler on the roof was leaking big time. Having established that the tank that was falling apart was indeed mine, I needed to get it fixed. I bought this apartment 16 years ago and inherited all the equipment on the roof. I've never had to fix or replace any of it, so it was time.

Yesterday they came with a new boiler, two new solar panels, and a new stand as the old one was rusted through. All new. All fully guaranteed for 5 years. All costing an absolute fortune. But I chose the best and not the cheapest in the hope that I won't be dealing with this again for another 20 years.

Emergency Fund

This is when you fully understand how important it is to have an emergency fund. And how important it is not to dip into it for months that are a bit tight or if you want to treat yourself. It's not for an impulsive holiday, a new sofa, or even the new fridge which I had to buy only a few months ago and which could be put on 12 monthly payments without added interest.

The new solar boiler had to be fixed asap as water was dripping into my upstairs neighbour's apartment. And I had to pay all of it up front. Luckily I have been paying small monthly amounts into an emergency fund all year.

Usually I need to use some of it to get us through the summer as I don't get paid for teaching my summer courses until the end of September and I don't get paid an August salary for teaching in school. I was getting excited because we didn't go away this summer and various tax rebates came in so I thought I was going to get through the whole summer without touching the fund. I had dreams of rolling it over for another year. Man dreams and God laughs.

It still makes things very tight for September as the emergency fund won't cover the full amount of the waterworks. But it makes it doable instead of impossible. So we'll do it and be cheerful about having the foresight to save for emergencies.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Teacher Drawings And Real Art

DD had a good week. Friends came over, she went to a movie, she went to the pool, we went to a birthday party, we bought her school supplies and then this happened:

I found it as I was decluttering my books, bought in 1985 as a newly qualified teacher. My students often tell me what a good artist I am but I know it's just 'teacher drawing'. It's not hard to learn simple line drawings to illustrate your lessons on the whiteboard. There's no shading or detail involved or even much perspective. Anyone can learn to do teacher drawings.

I gave the book to DD as she loves drawing. She has spent hours drawing detailed landscapes and roomscapes full of animals, plants, furniture, and people. Here are just a few of her creations:

 I think there is a definite point when teacher drawing becomes art. Don't you?

Monday, August 14, 2017

Letting Go Of My PhD

Have you ever wondered why people talk about 'my degree', 'my M.A.', or 'my PhD.', when they haven't even got it yet, or even not 'yet'? It's like everyone has a Ph.D. by the mere fact of thinking about it, it's just a matter of whether you've actually done it or not.

I got my B.Ed. at the usual time after A'Levels and a gap year. I went back to do my M.A. in my 30s which was almost 20 years ago now. At that time I remember saying, "if I ever start talking about doing a Ph.D. please shoot me." It's a bit like childbirth. After a while you forget about the trauma and start to think about diving into academia again. And exactly like pregnancy and childbirth, it's not the doing of it that one yearns for, it's the having it at the end.

I was never a good student at school. I could have been but I didn't have the sitzfleisch to actually do all the studying required. At college I did ok, but only ok because I didn't get what they were looking for in an academic essay. When I did my M.A. the tutor explained it to me and after that I did really well. Why hadn't anyone ever explained it to me before? Why hadn't I thought to ask? What I learned from that experience was that anyone can do a Ph.D., you just have to find a subject that you're sufficiently passionate about to devote up to five years of your life to it.

I never found that passion although I did rather like the idea of being Dr Rachel Selby, or Rachel Selby Ph.D. So I coddled the dream in the back of my mind and bought a 'how to' book but essentially, I did nothing about it because having an M.A. was enough at my level of academic career. And then it wasn't. Suddenly the colleges only want to hire teachers with Ph.D.s and Head of Department is out of the question.

So I looked into starting a Ph.D. last year. My mother even offered to help pay for the tuition (it's much cheaper to do it in Israel than in the UK). However, the problem is not the cost of the tuition, it's the cost of the time you won't be able to work, the babysitters you'll need for late afternoon/evening courses, and the quality time you won't be spending with your child. Added to this, I'd be nearly 60 by the time I finished. I saw the amount of work involved and scared myself out of the whole idea.

It was too late for a Ph.D. for me. If I'm going to spend that amount of time on a project, it needs to be something lucrative. Why not just write that novel, not have to pay for the privilege of writing it and not have supervisors telling you what to write? And no costly books to buy or find online in order to read everyone else's research before you start - you make it all up. Ha! Why not indeed?

There are five more photos like this - 30 books in total!
Meanwhile my decluttering went up a notch yesterday as I tackled the books. More about that later but suffice to say, I let go all of most of those academic books about linguistics and education. I even let go the 'How to do a Ph.D.' book. I've read it after all so what do I need it for? LOL.

They are all up on the local facebook 'buy, sell, swap' group.

P.S. If I were to do my Ph.D. these books, which are all 20 years old, wouldn't be any use to me anyway so there was absolutely no point in keeping them. I leaned this lesson when I tried being an academic advisor to Benny Lewis for his book, Fluent in 3 Months. I got a mention in the acknowledgements nevertheless but it was all very embarrassing.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Shopping In My Closet And Other Simple Pleasures - R2BC

"We are more interested in making others believe we are happy than in trying to be happy ourselves." Francois VI Duc de la Rochefoucauld, Prince de Marcillac (Paris, 1613 - 1680)

Can you believe that this was written almost 400 years ago? I don't need to explain it to you but if I were to comment, the words Face Book, Instagram and social media would feature heavily.

Becky on Lakes Single Mum, who's hosting the Reasons 2B Cheerful linky this month, wrote a low key post celebrating the simple joys of a summer break with no pressure and luxurious time to organize your life. I was inspired and relieved as we've done a lot of nothing this past week and I was hard pushed to know what to write about.

As Catherine from Escape with the Family (about recently moving to live in France), beautifully expressed it last month, "It was another simple day but these are the type we enjoy and we have nothing to prove and nobody to impress."

New diary and pencil case for me
New Diary
It's that time of year again when I search for the perfect diary. A whole year full of promise and hope in one little book. As an extra bonus, it starts on August 27th as that's the Sunday before September 1st. Two weeks, two days, I can hardly wait to get started. Except that I'll have to go back to work. Remember that our New Year is in September, which is very convenient for the academic year and makes a lot of sense. 

Last year I made my own diary. I had loads of fun drawing and colouring in and making my own designer pages but I abandoned it when I realised that I do in fact need to know the Hebrew dates, Shabbat beginning and ending times, and whole host of other information that's much easier to have printed for you than to copy out yourself. Not to worry, that creative activity kept me out of the fridge for a few hours.

DD already told me that she wasn't coming with me for the great diary hunt. So while she was riding her bike in the park with a friend, I found this. It's actually very similar to the diary I ended up with last year. A full year spread, each month as a one page table, and each week on a two-page spread, with room in all sorts of spaces for additional notes and lists.

New Pencil Case
My old pencil case, bought in WH Smith about 15 years ago, finally fell apart. This new one is in fact a make-up bag that came with a tote that someone gave me once. The tote is long gone but I found the make-up bag in my collection of toilet bags and small pouches that I sorted, decluttered, and partially repurposed. I believe it's called shopping in my closet. I won't be able to do this once I'm a true minimalist but meanwhile I love the surprises at no cost. Did you notice how it perfectly matches my new diary? I'm so ready for this year. 

New school bag for DD
The Spudy
Following my successful declutter and organisation of all my lotions, potions, and other bathroom and dressing table stuff, this week I tackled the spudy. So successful was this that a large chest of drawers was emptied and removed and replaced by a small three-drawer cabinet. It's a small room and the difference makes it a much more comfortable space. 

School Backpack
We found a new school backpack for DD with a matching pencil case, for 99 nis. Those of you who know about school bags in Israel will know that this is a great price as the discount stores are selling them for not less than 199 nis and the chain stores in the malls have school bags for over 200 nis only. (Israelis - the shop is Griffin on King George St, in Jerusalem, a few doors down from The Bell Center).

In the great bag reshuffle, I gave one of our two carry-on cases to my nephew to help take all his gap-year stuff back to London with instructions to throw it out on arrival as the zips were all broken and the pull out handle didn't. I've commandeered DD's school backpack from last year which I bought because it was also on sale for 99 nis but was actually far too big. This will now be our second carry-on bag (the one we don't offer to check in). Because I tend to choose red, all our luggage now matches. Very pish posh even if we're only going on Easyjet to Luton Airport. (How many of you thought of Lorraine Chase? Naaah, Lu'on Ehpawt. LOL)

Marathon Paydate
DD's friend asked if she could come over in the morning as her mum had to go to work. She came at 8.30 am and left, reluctantly, at 7.15 pm. I think you could call that a successful play date.