Monday, July 17, 2017

Bedknobs & Broomsticks Revisited

Welcome Angela, it's been so long, apart from Murder She Wrote of course.
Last night DD and I watched Bedknobs And Broomsticks on dvd. She's very funny in that we saw a film we liked on Saturday night and she only wanted to watch the same film again. She has a hard time believing that anything could be better than or as enjoyable as what she already knows. I, on the other hand, know of a few more films than she does and I refused to sit through the same film again.

We are on a movie quest to find something DD loves as much as The Last Mimzy. We have the dvd of this but it doesn't work. We lent it to a friend and it came back 'wiped clean', or so it seems. Probably the FBI destroying the evidence. 

Last Monday night we watched Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Wednesday night we watched The Lion. The Witch, and The wardrobe and on Saturday night we watched Mrs Peregrine's Children. I wanted to watch Escape to Witch Mountain last night but I couldn't get it. Then I hit upon Bedknobs and Broomsticks, which we did manage to get on dvd. 

B&B came out in 1971. I first saw it in Edinburgh in the summer of 1972, or 3, or 4, 5. I seem to remember that I was 12 which would have been 1975, but maybe I was only 9 in 1972? The film was released in the UK in October 1971 and I also remember it being quite a new film so maybe it was in 1972. 

We were on holiday in our caravan. We'd seen the Edinburgh Tattoo and the parade for the start of the Edinburgh Festival. We'd been to dinner with a cousin who was living in Edinburgh at the time. I remember the pink and white drop-waist dress I wore and that I read my cousin's three year old son a bedtime story. Then she asked if we didn't mind that we kids, (my sister, brother and I) sat on a separate children's table for dinner while the four grown-ups sat at the dining room table. I minded very much but of course I said I didn't. That feels like being 12. 

We toured Scotland a bit. I remember going to Oban and possibly the Isle of Skye - or maybe we didn't go over to Sky but just sang the song as we motored across country. I remember talk of getting to the Highlands where there are tropical gardens. I was eager for this as I'd never been anywhere where there were palm trees. I was thinking in terms of Brazilian rainforests and Hawaian beaches, LOL. Anyway we didn't make it that far north and I've always wondered about those tropics in Scotland. FYI, I googled it and it's call Inverewe

I feel cheated that I missed that whole evacuation thing. 
So back to Edinburgh and it was pouring with rain. My parents decided to kill the afternoon by taking us to see Bedknobs and Broomsticks. This was a huge concession - we never went to the cinema while on holiday, only at Christmas. It must have been the second or third or fourth.... day of rain. I remember my Dad queuing up for tickets while we sat in a cafe across the road and drank hot chocolate. The queue went around the corner - every tourist family in Edinburgh for the festival must have had the same idea. 

I don't think I've watched the whole film through from beginning to end since that rainy day in Edinburgh 42 (or 45) years ago. I certainly didn't remember all of it. DD loved it. "You see? I know some good films, you have to trust me."

I'd love to show her The Railway Children but we need to read the book first. So, on that premis, we can watch Heidi. I'm trying to think of other films from my childhood that I loved. When the heat is in the mid-30s (that's high 90s in old money) every night is movie night. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Chronic Ails Of Narnia

The full set of Narnia
A couple of weeks ago I wrote that we were on Book 4 of the Chronicles of Narnia, Prince Caspian, and that we were still enjoying them. Reader, I spoke too soon. And interestingly enough, this is the same place I got to as a child before I got fed up with yet another battle and another quest and more talking animals and more mythical woodland creatures, and just more and more same, same, same.

Last night DD and I finally agreed that we weren't interested in finishing Prince Caspian. However, we did want to know what happened in the end. Not what happened to Caspian - he obviously became King Caspian and who actually cares? But we wanted to know what happened to the children so we read the final few pages of the book and were totally satisfied.

And then we needed to know what happened in the final three books, although not in so much detail that we had to actually fight the battles with them. So we read the blurb on the back and the slightly longer blurb inside the front cover, and the first and last few pages of each book.


If you, like us, can't be bothered to read through seven books of very similar plot, here is a synopsis of the Chronic Ails Of Narnia.

1. The Magician's Nephew (1955). Diggory and Polly, next door neighbours in Edwardian London, are sent into another world by Diggory's magician uncle. They find a dying world and wake up an evil witch who follows them as they escape and enter into another new world- Narnia. Aslan the lion (God) creates the new world in a similar fashion to the creation story in Genesis, and appoints a human King and Queen to rule over it. It's all very Garden of Eden. The witch is hiding somewhere on the fringes of Narnia, biding her time. Diggory brings home an apple and plants the seeds in his garden. Wood from the resulting apple tree was used to make the wardrobe in the next book.

2. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe (1950). Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are evacuated during WW11. They are staying with an old professor (Diggory) in his country house. The find the wardrobe and go through it into Narnia. There they find that the Witch is in power and it is perpetual winter (though never Christmas). They defeat the witch with the help of the magical creatures and talking animals, and Aslan of course. Aslan sacrifices himself as payment for Edmund's betrayal but comes alive again a few days later. The children become the four Kings and Queens of Narnia and they rule for many happy years before one day, finding the path back to the wardrobe and walking through it to return to the country house just a few minutes after they had first left.

3. The Horse and his Boy (1954). This story was fitted in later and is about one episode that happened while Kings Peter and Edmund, and Queens Susan and Lucy, were on the throne of Narnia. A boy and a girl run away from their lives in an oppressive southern land (Calormen - later thought to be based on pre-Islamic pagan countries in the Middle East) with the help of two talking horses originally from Narnia. They help save Narnia and discover that the boy is in fact a Prince of the neighbouring Archenland who was kidnapped as a baby. They get married and become the King and Queen of Archenland.

4. Prince Caspian (1951). The four children are sitting on the railway platform waiting for their trains to return them to their boarding schools, when they are pulled into Narnia where the orphaned Prince Caspian had blown the magic horn to summon them back. It's a few hundred years after their last reign and they find their castle in ruins. Another race now rules Narnia and they've tried to eradicate the talking animals and magical creatures who are of course living in hiding in the woods. They defeat the oppressive rulers and King Caspian takes the throne. The children get back to the station in time to catch their trains.

5. The Voyage of the Dawntreader (1955). Only Edmund and Lucy go back to Narnia as the other two are too old. They are accompanied by their odious cousin Eustace. In this story they help King Caspian as he voyages on a roots tour to find the seven lost friends of his father. It is Edmund and Lucy's last trip to Narnia.

6. The Silver Chair (1953). Eustace and his schoolmate Jill find Narnia as they try to escape from the school bullies and ineffectual headmistress. Eustace is of course a good boy now. King Caspian is old but his son Rilian has disappeared whilst on a journey of his own. The two children have to find Rilian. After they find him they return to school where Aslan makes sure the bullies and the headmistress catch a glimpse of the magic and are terrified into better behaviour. The head mistress actually loses her mind and her job.

7. The Last Battle (1956). This one is incredible, as in you won't believe how it ended. Jill and Eustace are thrown back into Narnia to find it at its darkest hour. All the baddies are at war in one final struggle between the forces of good and evil. In the midst of all this, Peter, Edmund and Lucy arrive. They were waiting on a station platform for their parents' train which they see approaching and suddenly they are in Narnia. And their parents are there too. And they meet all the characters form the previous six adventures, including Diggory and Polly and the first King and Queen of Narnia. (Susan wasn't with them as she had grown too old and sophisiticated for Narnia "games".)

Can you guess what happened? The train they'd seen approaching had crashed into them and they'd all died and gone to Narnia. I could not believe that that was the ending. C.S. Lewis wouldn't get away with that today. And how come I never knew that? Why didn't anyone tell me before?

Here is a link to the Wikipedia article about religion in the Chronicles of Narnia in which C.S. Lewis is quoted as writing:
The whole series works out like this.
The Magician's Nephew tells the Creation and how evil entered Narnia.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe the Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Prince Caspian restoration of the true religion after corruption.
The Horse and His Boy the calling and conversion of a heathen.
The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" the spiritual life (especially in Reepicheep).
The Silver Chair the continuing war with the powers of darkness.
The Last Battle the coming of the Antichrist (the Ape), the end of the world and the Last Judgement.[3]

So there you have it, the Chronic Ails of Narnia. Next stop E. Nesbit (yes I have the full set). And meanwhile, does anyone want to buy the full set of Narnia for 100 shekels?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

A Night Out On The Town - R2BC

Flea market finds
On Thursday evening we were summoned to visit my youngest nephew who's touring Israel with a group of other 16 year olds in the summer after their GCSEs. It's a sort of rite of passage for Jewish kids. They call it "going on tour" and everyone knows exactly what you mean.

35 years ago, when his mother and uncle (my twin sister and brother) were on tour (although it wasn't called that then and it wasn't such a thing), I was finishing my gap year on a kibbutz in the middle of nowhere. They had a free Shabbat so the two of them left their group in Tel Aviv on Friday afternoon, took the bus to Bet She'an where I met them (all prearranged via pay-phone obviously) and they spent Shabbat on the kibbutz with me.

Shabbat, which goes out at sundown, finished at about 8.30 pm and they insisted on leaving that night. They got on the bus that came into the kibbutz at 9 pm and headed off into the darkness, to somehow arrive in Tel Aviv and then find their way back to wherever their group was staying.

By the time my older nephew did this same tour three years ago, the once six-week tour had already been reduced to a month and there was no free Shabbat. In our day the groups spent a week on a kibbutz volunteering. Nowadays kibbutzim don't need volunteers as there are foreign workers, much more automation, and much less agriculture, not to mention fewer kibbutzim that operate like traditional kibbutzim.

Older nephew (though not oldest who did a two-week tour without any visiting opportunities because he'd spent a whole school term here when he was 14) had a visiting couple of hours whereby Israeli relatives (everyone has Israeli relatives) met them in a shopping mall and were permitted to walk around with them and buy them supper. They were not permitted to leave the mall.

DD and her cousin
(the floodlights are the athletics stadium #MacabbiahGames)
Youngest nephew, on his three-week tour, is staying at a youth hostel in Jerusalem. We were summoned to visit them at 20.00, after their supper, and stay for an hour. They were not allowed to leave the building. Luckily there was a kiosk selling coffee and a large terrace with uncomfortable chairs and tables. We had a lovely visit for an hour and then we left. He's having a great time and I didn't tell him about 35 years ago when 16 year olds on tour could just leave the group and find their way around the country on buses to visit relatives for the weekend.

It was unbearably hot on Thursday and DD and I had both fallen asleep at 4 o'clock and slept until 6.30 when we got up, had showers, and dressed to go out. By 7 pm it was cool in Jerusalem and by 9 pm it was positively chilly. We weren't tired of course and we felt like the evening needed finishing off.

First we crossed the road from the Youth Hostel and were able to watch some of the athletics taking place at the Hebrew University stadium. This is my second encounter with the Maccabiah Games (the Jewish Olympics with over 10,000 athletes competing in events all over the country) and I don't even do sports. We couldn't make out the running but we watched the javelin throwing in the centre of the track.

Then we got a bus into town where DD had pizza and I had felafel for supper. We found a flea market and music and people dancing on top of buses. It was all very street party. (Shame we couldn't share it with Youngest Nephew.) We left town at about 10.30 and went home after a very satisfying night out on the town.

We were this close #MacabiahGames

I'm linking to Reasons 2B Cheerful over at Michelle's Mummy from the Heart.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Zumba, Skype, Maccabiah, Narnia - R2BC With Strange Words

Here are my Reasons 2B Cheerful for this week, It's a mixed bag. And as usual I'm linking up with Michelle's R2BC over on Mummy from the Heart.

Sexy Zumba
DD had her end of year performance at Zumba. It was the first time she's ever performed in anything and she was so excited. I sat in the middle of the second row, camera in hand, almost as excited as she was. Reader, it was a complete comedy. They were very sweet as they danced to, "C'mon c'mon turn the radio on, it's Friday night and I won't be long, I ain't got cash, I ain't got cash but I got you baby."

I was ROFLing (well not literally - ROChL?) as 12 eight year olds tried to look all sultry and sexy. Shimmying their shoulders and sashaying their hips, the hands on the backs of their necks, the pouting lips, the long pointed arm with the wiggle of the index finger....

And then it was, "Hit the dance floor, hit the dance floor...." I have to admit they did hit the dance floor very impressively. But then came the vertical backstroke move and I was giggling again. On the other hand, look at old video clips of Pans People and they're pretty funny too.

Pension Planning
Today I had a two hour skype meeting with a money management person. She's not a financial consultant but more of a guide to help you sort out what you've got, where it is, and how to access it. I've worked in so many different places over the past 30 years and each one had a different pension plan. I kept all the paperwork of course but it's all in Hebrew. The numbers are not in Hebrew obviously, so I had some idea of what was in each plan but not what it meant in terms of pension.

My favourite was a pension plan that I started 25 years ago with 10 pounds a month contributions and stopped after two months when that job didn't work out. That 20 GBP has grown to about 125 GBP and will yield about 4 pounds a month in pension when I reach 67. That was the most ridiculous but I have some more small amounts in various places and Debbbie went through all of it and told me how to go about consolidating it all into one of the larger pension plans.

After two hours I was exhausted but very happy to have it under control and to have the knowledge necessary for planning for the future.

20th Maccabiah Games
That title is a bit misleading because I had nothing to do with the Maccabiah Games - the Jewish Olympics held in Israel every four years. I'm very proud that over 10,000 Jewish athletes from all over the world came to participate, and that the spectacular opening ceremony took part in Jerusalem tonight, but sport isn't really on my radar.

My Friend, Sally-Anne, however, has a sporty family and a niece competing in the swimming. The whole family came over from London and had tickets for the opening ceremony. So to make it even more of an event S-A made a spectacular pre-ceremony BBQ on her terrace. That I went to with great enthusiasm. It was fun catching up with S-A's family who I knew years ago in London where we were neighbours as kids. And though I enjoy watching Wimbledon and ice-skating, I have to admit that one of my favourite participation sports is chewing.

Laid Back and Back in Narnia
Apart from all this, we are one week into the summer holidays. I've tidied my apartment but not yet cleaned it, I'm still finishing off with students from last year's English course who have until the end of the month and the summer course has begun, but it's all online so no pressure. It's 10 pm but there's no Summer School for DD tomorrow so she's still pottering about. As soon as I post this we're going to have the next chapter of Prince Caspian. Yes, we're on the fourth Narnia book and (amazingly) still enjoying it.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Swinging From Trees And DD's Night Out

The Moonlight Movies starts tonight with Moana. DD's friend came for supper and they are going down by themselves. I told my visiting nephew that DD's friend is coming over for supper and then the two of them are going out to a movie on their own. Then I explained that it's outside our building on the grass and projected onto a white wall. We've been going down (or not) with varying degrees of success for the past four years. I am ecstatic that this year they can go themselves (her friend lives in the next road).

Another milestone passed last week was at the end of school class party. DD's class has a very strong parents' committee so they always plan something good. This year it was an adventure and team building evening in the woods. And best of all, they asked me to bring 40 ice-pops so no cooking or cutting up vegetables or fruit for me!

They started off with some team building exercises. The one I could see and understand what was happening was where they stood on mats in a line and by passing the two spare mats from the end, up to the front, they had to walk the whole team forwards to the ropes.

Here's a story about me and ropes. I was once in the car with two friends on our way to go hiking near The Dead Sea. The driver shoved a book of trails in my hand and told me to pick one. "Number 4 looks quite good," he said. I looked at hike 4 and amongst the equipment listed was 'ropes'.

Me: We can't do this one, it says you need ropes.
Him: It's okay, they provide the ropes.
Me: No you don't understand. I don't do anything that involves ropes.

So DD's first rope activity was parallel ropes that climbed high into the trees and on which they had to edge along. DD got herself all harnessed up in the safety gear and helmet. She  climbed on the first rope, looked up, and changed her mind.

The second rope activity was a pulley system whereby two children were pulled up to the top of a tree (at a 45 degree angle) by their classmates. Then they were let go so that they slid down again at great speed. I was sure DD wouldn't do it.

However, she surprised me. I think she surprised herself too. By the time she decided she wanted to do it there were no more children left so she went up with her sporty teacher. Reader, she loved it.

The pop-ices went down well too. I bought the very big ones (that you're supposed to break in half and share with a friend) and put them in an ice box. We saved them until the very end when the food was long gone and the kids were all tired and sweaty from swinging through the trees.

So that's a sleepover, an action activity involving great height and ropes, and a night out with a friend sans adults, all in one week. I feel big changes in the air (if there was any air during this heatwave).

Monday, July 3, 2017

The Weather, The Wedding, And The Sleepover

Today it was 37 degrees C in Jerusalem. That's 98.6 in old money. The day before it was 36 and tomorrow they are forecasting a blessed relief of only 35 degrees. I hate the heat more than most and we don't have air conditioning in our apartment. So this is how I cope:

I leave home with DD at 8 am. She goes to her Summer School program and I go into my college (both are down the road). I sit in the cool A/Ced teachers' room or in the library, and do my work. Then I collect DD at 1 pm and we come home to basically do nothing until the weather breaks at about 6 pm. That's the thing about Jerusalem, it gets cooler in the evening, unlike in other places in Israel where you can be sweltering in high humidity all night. I guess then you do need to have air conditioning. I'm happy to rest during the day and get up at night.

It's now 11.15 and DD has just gone to sleep as, like me, she's a night owl. We both slept for over an hour in the afternoon so I'm now wide awake. I like this informal chatty style of blogging but I do need to catch up on the events of last week.

The Sunday before last I was invited to a wedding on Kibbutz Shluchot just south of Tiberius and the Sea of Gallilee. To cut a long story short, the groom's little sister had her Bat Mitzva on the Shabbat before the wedding and lots of people joined them for the whole weekend for the double celebration. Most of our mutual friends are close family or close friends with the groom's family so it was going to be hard to find someone driving up to the wedding on the Sunday from Jerusalem. I've also come to the conclusion that sometimes it's easier to just take public transport and be your own boss. I was actually looking forward to travelling on my own without having to entertain DD on the journey.

The bus traveled up the valley road that follows the Jordan River. We left Jerusalem on the east side and drove towards The Dead Sea. Then, with a view of The Dead Sea to our right which I was on the wrong side of the bus to get a photo of, we turned left towards Jericho. Passing the turnoff to the Alemby Bridge Crossing on our right, we continued north towards Bet She'an. The mountains rose out of the dessert landscape and were spectacular in the late afternoon sun. I took photos from the bus like a crazy tourist. I was mesmerized. You know I go for greenery rather than deserts, so I don't quite know what came over me.

Friends (a couple and another friend who also happens to be my brother-in-law who came for the celebrations) had spent the day at a guest house near the kibbutz and they met me from the bus so that I could go back and change at their place. We then went to the wedding together.

There were about a dozen of us who'd been teenage friends back in the UK and had been living in Israel for now 30 years or more. We get all nostalgic and it's as if no time at all has passed. Except that many of them are now passing round photos of their grandchildren on their smartphones. As a young mother myself, I indulge them and they indulge me talking about DD.

After the chupa (literally the wedding canopy) I phoned DD to see how she was getting on at her first sleepover that wasn't at my sister's with her cousins. She gave me a whole speech on the phone about how she doesn't miss me at all and she doesn't know what's happened to her because she's very happy to sleep there.... "and it's not just because I don't have a choice!" Hooray! We have entered a new era. What's more, my friend had her hairwashed and in bed by 9 pm. I must find out how she did that.

I came back south after the wedding in the car with friends and my b-i-l and the two of us stayed overnight with them in their house just outside Jerusalem, coming into Jerusalem for work with them in the morning. Apart from the fact that I had to then spend the day in school teaching, I felt like I'd had a mini holiday. Reconnected and relaxed.

Thanks Sarit for having DD to stay. Thank you Julie and Boaz for taking me and bringing me back and having me to stay overnight. Thanks Jonny and Sari for a wonderful wedding. Mazal Tov to Rebecca on your Bat Mitzva. And Mazal Tov to Ben and Tehilla on your marriage. I hope that in 30 years time you will be celebrating weddings with the same friends you danced with at yours - like we are.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Slimming Sunday - Vegans Vs Ketos

Vegetable Shakuka with eggs and cheese
My blogging friend Michelle from Mummy from the Heart, has been running a Linky called Slimming Sunday for about four months. I thought - great! I'll join that as soon as I have something significant to share. Sadly I'm still waiting. And I promised my real life friend Janet that I would stop writing about weight loss and just do it. Sorry Janet.

Added to that, this is not the post I should be writing today. The last few weeks of school were hectic with all the wrapping up activities, parties, reports, etc... I have about 10 posts backed up in my head and if I don't write about them soon they will become too historical for interest.

However and despite all of the above, here I am. Also because every so often I get asked on facebook how it's going. It wasn't going until yesterday. I was still at the stage of doing loads of research and not having the time to clear my mind and get it into the right place for this project. Every time I did make a good start, a party or a festival or a holiday or an invitation to dinner would open the flood gates and wash me back to the beginning. It was very frustrating.

About the research. There seem to be two camps with opposing views. On the one hand there are the vegans who advocate high carb (all whole grain and organic of course) and low fat but absolutely no animal products. I sympathize with this camp as I think veganism is the ethically correct way to go and it's certainly cheaper and more convenient to stock up on pasta, rice, couscous, oats, beans, etc... But the science doesn't add up. Carbs are just pre-glucose with little nutritional value. They keep you burning the glucose instead of burning your own body fat. They feed cancer cells, provoke insulin production until you have insulin overload and end up with a fatty liver, heart disease, and possibly Alzheimers. Go directly to type 2 diabetes, do not pass Go, do not collect a healthy old age (or even a healthy middle age).

On the other hand, you can find many testimonials that swear they have reached health Nirvana through high carb, low fat, veganism. I think some of them are too far in to back out gracefully having based their whole reputation on this theory. You'll have to do the reading/listening yourself and make up your own mind but it doesn't make sense to me. There is also some dodgy research behind it. For example Ancel Keys who showed that a high fat diet in 7 countries lead to heart disease. He conveniently left out the other 15 countries which he studied and that did not show this correlation. As a result a whole generation (us) have been brought up to fear fat and strive for a low fat diet while obesity has become epidemic. Something must be wrong.

The other camp is a combination of a ketogenic diet (to whatever degree you choose to follow it) and intermittent fasting. Just for the record, the keto diet is very low carb, moderate protein (so it's not Atkins) and loads of vegetables. To be fair, the vegans also advise loads of vegetables so that's the one thing we can all agree on.

Intermittent fasting is as little as no eating between meals to water fasts lasting several days. The most popular choices seem to be the 16 hours fasting/8 hours eating window per day or the 5 days eating:2 days very reduced calories. When I first brought this up a facebook friend commented - I bet your doctor didn't recommend fasting. I'd not spoken to my doctor about it specifically but when I did she actually said I should try to extend the fasting to 17 or even 19 hours a day.

Keto eating is not hard. Who doesn't like meat, fish, eggs, cheese, vegetables, and salad? The hard thing for me is giving up potatoes in any way, shape or form; and giving up the convenience of a sandwich as a meal on the go. And we choose not to have meat at home so that makes it even more difficult.

But I've never been a breakfast eater and I've always known that for me it's best not to eat at all than to try to eat moderately. So yesterday on July 1st, with 2 months of summer holidays ahead of us (although I am teaching a summer course but this is way less pressure than a full schedule), no festivals until mid-September, feeling relaxed and motivated, I ate between 2.30 pm (vegetable shakshuka with three eggs and covered in grated cheese and a small salad) and 5.30 pm (having finished a large salad bowl with tahina dressing).

The Slimming Sunday Linky is once a month so I'll report back about my progress on the first Sunday in August.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Here Comes Summer - R2BC

Here are this week's Reasons to 2B Cheerful. I joined the R2BC linky at Becky's Lakes Single Mum

Shabbat On Kibbutz
Last weekend we went to one of my favourite places and spent Shabbat with my friends on their kibbutz.

Reports Finished
Yep. All done. And only one more week of school to go.

Water Slide Open
They opened the water slide at the pool. When we go for DD's weekly lesson we get there 20 minutes early so she has time to play in the pool before the lesson. This week we found that the water slide was open for the summer. DD rushed to go on it. As she crashed into the water at the bottom, she called out to me, "that's the best time I ever had in my life!"

This coming week I'm going to a wedding on a kibbutz in he north. My friends' son is getting married. These are friends from my teenage years and it's going to be a bit of a reunion of about seven of us from way back when we were all friends growing up in England.

DD will be sleeping over with a friend. Her first sleep away apart from when she stays with my sister and her cousins in London. I'm excited. She's not so sure but as I'll be out of town so she'll have to get on with it. Seriously though, she's eight and a half so she's old enough to know that one night comes to an end and I'll be back the next day. And she's staying with close friends who she's known all her life.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

DD Published In Kids Read

Warning: this is a completely 'proud mum' post. If you're not in the mood for my kvelling, go away and come back later.

There is an annual magazine published in Israel called Kids Read. It accepts English writing in response to books and poems that kids have read.

I am actually on the publishing committee but since I'm not available for evening meetings atm my role is restricted to proof reading. I am not on the selection committee. And all the entries are selected anonymously. This is significant to mention because DD has a piece in this year's Bar Mitzvah Edition (i.e. the 13th edition).

The pieces are sent in by teachers up and down the country and throughout the year and Kids Read comes out in June. I knew DD's piece about the book Stone Fox (she wrote a short epilogue to the story) had been chosen because I proof read the final copy before it went to print. However, it was lovely to receive an email from her teacher, Karen, telling us and inviting us to the launch party.

DD and Karen, her English teacher

Last week we went to the launch party. DD loved it. Some of the committee performed some funny poems about reading which DD thought was hilarious. There was a new prize presented in the name of one of the founding committee members, Lynda Waxman, who sadly passed away earlier this year. After that some of the children read out their entries and DD had an opinion about each one. She also said that she'd like to read next year if she's chosen again.

The highlight of the evening was when each child's name was read out and they went up to the stage to be presented with their own copy of Kids Read. It was like a degree graduation and I was about as proud as if DD had got a Ph.D.

When we got home DD took Kids Read to bed with her and read some of the entries. She particularly liked poring over the pictures of all the book covers from each book or poem that is written about. It has remained beside her bed for browsing and of course for reading her own piece again when she wants to relive her glorious moment. Which she does quite often, LOL.

Friday, June 16, 2017

On Being A Teacher - Reasons 2B Cheerful

I did a lot of learning about self-development this year. Remember the Breakthrough posts I wrote about the course with Devorah Sisso Stieglitz? I still owe you (me?) a post for Breakthrough #6. I got stuck on visualizing a fabulous future for myself - my goals seemed to stop at getting through the week, cleaning the bathroom, and paying the bills. I'm going to work on it again over the holidays. Watch this space.

Meantime, In the interests of gratitude and the laws of attraction - both essential to leading your best life possible, here are my reasons 2B cheerful for this week. The linky is back with Michelle on Mummy from the Heat where a group of us gather to be thankful. It sounds soppy but actually it's vitalizing.

It ends
I was having a moan to a friend last week about how much there is to do at the end of the school and college year. I was writing reports, setting exams, grading exams, end of year parties (mine and DD's), I was given the task of organizing part of the end of year family outing for my school, prepping the summer course, packing up the English room as they need it over the holidays for something else, etc, etc, etc....

My friend sat there patiently while I got it all off my chest and then replied, "yes but in three weeks time it all comes to an end and you have two months off." I got it. I shut up.

Poor but safe
The foundation that pays part of my salary for one of my jobs only pays for 8 out of the 10 months of the school year. So at the end I am paid by the organization that pays the other half of my salary at that particular job. It comes out as much less at the end of the month as they each have different ways of calculating the pay. And, for this particular job, I get almost nothing over the summer. It's annoying but, otoh, I don't work there over the summer. Otoh, teachers still have to live and pay bills for that two-month period.

Last week a friend who had a high-flying position in hi-tech suddenly lost her job when the company reorganized and scrapped her whole department. I went to work that day and thanked God for every irritating thing about my school and for every difficult pupil. I am so lucky to have a job that helps me almost get to the end of the month in the black.

Finishing early
For the final two weeks of the year, the 6th graders who are leaving this year and are busy with their leaving events, get let out of school at 1 pm. So that's a 1 pm finish for me two out of three of my days at school, for the duration.

Patient friend who is regularly in her office till after 6 pm: "What time do you usually finish then?"
Me: 3 pm.
Friend: Oh.
Me. Oh.

I do teach a summer course over the summer but it's mostly online so I can do it at home. Thus, unlike most other parents, I will not be paying a fortune for summer camps and juggling child care with work obligations. If I were to get my full salary over the summer in return for working, it would all go in paying for summer programmes for DD. So in fact, being a teacher is the best thing to be.

I actually enjoy teaching. I like being with my pupils and my students. Staff rooms are usually friendly and supportive places. I have fun. There I've said it.


Friday, June 9, 2017

Supper At School - R2BC

Another week and more reasons 2B cheerful. I'm not mentioning the elections as all we know for sure is that, at the moment, nothing is for sure. As usual I'm joining the R2BC linky which is over at Becky's Lakes Single Mum for the month of June.

Supper At School

They had a Supper at School Shuk at DD's school to raise money for the end of year events. DD's class made desserts in cups. I was a bit tardy in seeing the list for contributions - I only got there 20 minutes after it'd been sent. Thus I missed the disposable tablecloths and plastic spoons options. I was also too late for the easy jellies. I was drawn to the chocolate mousse but raw eggs in 30 degree heat, not to mention the expense and the time involved..... I reinterpreted it as instant pudding and we made 20 cups of chocolate, butterscotch, and vanilla puddings. We added sprinkles.

DD wanted to take a tray of desserts out into the field and try to get some passing trade. I could have told her that selling is a thankless task. I'm useless at it. After a long time and only two sales she handed the tray to her friend who promptly sold the lot in about three minutes. *sigh* We have other talents.

Blog Ranking

I've been placed 57 in the Top 100 Single Moms Blogs list. I don't remember submiting my blog but I'm chuffed it was picked up anyway and placed at number 57.

In the tots 100 I also went up last month although I'm still in the 1200 range. There'll be a party when I break the top 1000 barrier again.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Away For Shabbat And Other R2BC

We didn't do R2BC last week because of the terror in Manchester. Yesterday there was more terror in London. I love London and I am very very angry and very very sad. Here are a few Reasons 2B Cheerful even though there are those who are terrorizing the civilized world and the civilized world has not yet decided how they are going to deal with it. I hope they come up with a plan before there is more suffering and heartbreak.

Away for Shabbat
We went to the seaside in Netanya to stay with my cousins. Though they do live right on the front we are not beach people especially and preferred to watch the sea rather than be in it. You don't have to splash about in it to be hypnotized by the beauty of the sea. And every so often I find myself thinking in wonder, that's the Mediterranean and I live near it.

So we didn't descend to the beach but we did make full use of the pool. And we met, bumped into, and visited with all sorts of lovely people  - old friends and new.

Chronicles of Narnia
We finished The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and now we are nearing the end of The Magician's Nephew. I'd forgotten quite how much the birth of Narnia and Aslan echo themes in the Old and New Testament. I've never got further than the first couple of books before but now I hope DD wants to continue with the series. I am intrigued as to how far the religious allegory is taken.

Fidget Spinner
If there was one thing I knew about them, it was that I was never going to buy one for my daughter. Even though most of her friends have one (Why? They are not all ADD?). Firstly, I don't understand the attraction. You spin it. And then you spin it some more. Secondly, teachers hate them. Whilst the kid with real ADD problems might be helped to stay in his seat, he is not focusing on his work or the lesson but focusing on the spinner. And meanwhile all the kids around him are distracted by it. I tell my students - If I see it I take it until the end of the lesson.

So we get to Netanya and my cousin has very kindly bought DD a bunch of small gifts and games to amuse her during Shabbat. By far the most used was the spinner. I say used, but actually she just fidgeted with it. The other major thing you do with it is try to get it out from under the sofa when it spins off your fingers. All good fun I suppose when you're 8 1/2.

DD has taken the fidget spinner to school today. I'm opening a book. Even favourites on lost or confiscated.

That's all for the past week. I'm linking this post to reasons 2B Cheerful which is back with Becky on Lakes Single Mum for this week. The coming week is full of more report writing, and planning and organising the end of year lessons and events. See you on the flip side.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Segula - A Journey Through History

A couple of weeks ago I bumped into my friend Sara Jo Ben Zvi walking down my street. In reply to my query about what she was doing in my neck of the woods, she replied that she's been working around the corner for the past three years. She then pulled out of her bag a glossy magazine which was presented to me as a gift. 

It's called Segula - A Jewish Journey Through History. (And I know the editor. :~p.) Segula means Treasure but it also has connotations of protective charms and miracles. I read it from cover to cover. Every article was a fountain of information that I didn't even know I was missing. 

The edition I was given had the theme of 'Jewish Women in the Arts.' Sure, I know about a handful of female Jewish poets and obviously some modern singers and actresses. However, I had no idea that in the last century one of Egypt's most famous actresses, Laila Mourad, was Jewish. I had no idea that the Jewish Enlightenment in Europe, 1770 - 1881, had many Hebrew speaking heroines. I had no idea that in the mid 1800s the first American Jewish novelist was called Cora Wilburn and that she traveled the world before settling in America. And there are about 10 more articles about Jewish women in history, each an informative gem.

The thing about Jewish history when you grew up in Britian, is that  unless you went out of your way to learn it, you don't necessarily know very much. Of course I know the main events - most of them. But the details, the life stories of the characters, the heroes and heroines, the legacies - not so much.  For example, I know that King Alfred was supposed to have burned the cakes, how each of King Henry Vlll's wives died (well not the last one but I assume it was old age), that Sir Frances Drake insisted on finishing his game of bowls before defeating the Spanish Armada, and I've been to Pudding Lane and know of its significance. But of Jewish history after the Bible, I know the labels on the timeline. one sentence of explanation, and that's about it. 

This is the blurb from the Segula Magazine website:
"Segula - The Jewish Journey Through History
Enter a world of fascinating articles, vibrant illustrations, timelines and maps to discover the heroes and villains who changed Jewish history. Stand at the crossroads of progress and meet the Jews who made a difference. Encounter colorful communities and learn how Judaism survives in exotic and far-flung locations. Read Segula - the bi-monthly magazine from Jerusalem that brings Jewish history to life!"

The Segula website has some featured full-length articles and also short pieces about all the people and events featured in the magazines. Each piece is positioned on a timeline so that you can read about events from a particular period or choose a topic. Reading on the website is free but you have to register. 

The magazine is printed in English and Hebrew. For an English subscription of six issues the cost is 265 shekels in Israel and $78 dollars to send abroad. it seems a bit pricey but you get 75 pages of articles written by history professors and experts in their fields. There are almost no advertisements for things you don't need or want. (The issue I read had one page about an Ecology Magazine and one about a charity to support soldiers without families.) 

Be warned Jewish friends who are approaching significant birthdays, I think I've found the perfect gift. 

Disclaimer: though I didn't pay for my copy, Sara Jo has no idea that I'm writing this review and recommending Segula. 

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.