Monthly Archives: March 2013

Competition time

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I have entered a competition.  I think its the first competition I have entered since High School.  Having entered this one I now know why it’s been 22 years since I competed.  I’m just not very good at it and it makes me nervous.  I would be hugely appreciative if you could visit my entry at this site and if you’re feeling hugely generous, leave me a hugely complimentary comment so that I can win some dosh – never has a girl needed a cash boost than right now.  Thanking you all very kindly, don’t worry I won’t be touting for sponsorship money next.

My competition entry – comments need to be added by Sunday 31st.

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Starry starry night

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Many years ago a friend went home to his parents for the weekend.  On his return I asked him how it had been and he replied,’ there was lots of sky’.  I have never forgotten that statement. If you live in a city like I did at that time, you don’t notice the sky between the buildings, you might (if you’re English), constantly talk about the weather but probably don’t spend too long looking at the sky.  If I look up at the sky I get vertigo, how weird is that?  I look up and get jelly legs.  I prefer to look out rather than up.

When I think of my parent’s house I see the view from their back window.  Unhindered by other buildings the view is of garden and fields and the not so distant Peak District.  The sky is often steely grey and there are times the clouds whizz past so quickly they make your head spin but it’s possible to stare at the sky for a long time.

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My home now is all blue sky – almost neon.  I can’t leave my sunglasses at home, ever, winter or summer the light is bright here.  At this time of year the weather is changeable; 35 degrees on Friday, 17 degrees 2 days later, but mostly with blue sky.  When the clouds and rain comes it’s dramatic and the navy blue clouds are threatening and picture worthy.

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When I think of meeting my husband for the first time I think of the stars in the sky above the beach in Port Douglas, Australia.  Later at Lake Tekapo in New Zealand we lay on the lake shore and watched the satellites and marveled at the amount of stars.  I have never seen such an amazing amount of lights in the sky – man-made and natural – as I saw in the Antipodes.

When I think of my childhood I think of blue sky with fluffy clouds, like a kid’s painting.  That has to be a good sign right? I must have had a good childhood because I am sure the weather in North West England was also pretty dismal in the 70s and 80s. I also remember that heavy and lead coloured sky before a snow fall, poor England has seen a lot of that recently, blizzards in Spring makes the novelty of snow very tiring.

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I remember the stars on my friend’s ceiling when I was very young.  They magically appeared when we turned the lights out.  Sleepovers at her house were extra special because of those stars.  I really thought they were magic, they almost made up for the hamster that annoyingly squeaked around its wheel throughout the night.  One of the first things I bought for my first child were some glow in the dark stars for his ceiling.  I think I appreciate them way more than he does.

image from www.National Geographic.com

image from http://www.National Geographic.com

desert skyNext week we are camping in the desert and I am foreseeing a lot of sky and star watching, if there is one place in the world that there is a lot of sky, it’s in a desert.  We are either mad, adventurous or optimistic thinking that 3 under 5s under canvas in the desert is a good idea. I am hoping that the sheer amount of oxygen that will be filling their lungs on a daily basis will make for peaceful nights.  I am also hopeful that the camel spider aka wind or sun scorpion aka akrabut (in Hebrew) doesn’t make an uninvited visit to our tent.  We once saw one of these massive and frankly terrifying creatures on a trip to the desert and I never want to see one again.  In fact any animals, snakes, reptiles, creepy crawlies can stay away.  Stars and a bright moon however are most welcome and I fully intend to drink in as much sky as possible to soothe my soul and remind myself what a mere dot I am in the big picture.

Seders I have known

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In 1997 in Wellington, New Zealand I attended my first Passover Seder.  I had absolutely zero idea what a Seder was, truth be told, I didn’t really know what Passover was.  I had vague recollections of being taught about this important Jewish holiday in a Religious Education lesson at high school but as my RE teacher was very suntanned, except under her chin which was pearly white, I spent more time staring at her neck and wondering how she didn’t notice, than what she was teaching. Shame on me. In a Wellington hostel we joined a group of other Jewish backpackers who, as far as I can remember were very disorganised and noisy and couldn’t decide what order to read the Haggadah, which is the guide and story for the Passover meal.  I also remember being given a cold hard boiled egg (my idea of hell) and being shown to dip some leaves in salt water.  To say that it was a bizarre experience is an understatement.  We left before the end when half the guests were concentrating on downing the full glasses of wine which are part of the ritual while others argued about whether to keep reading or eat.  Not the best introduction to the Jewish faith methinks.

16 years on (where did that time go?) and we are approaching the Passover Seder again and my mind has been mulling the memories of the Seders I have attended since that chilly evening in Wellington.

For those of you who, like I was, have no idea what a Seder is, here is the 39 & Counting guide – again if you are Jewish please skip this part for fear of a) being offended and b) choking on your tea with mirth at my lack of knowledge.

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The Seder is a ritual feast which is held at the start of Passover in which families and friends gather and retell the story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt where they were being kept as slaves by the Pharoah.  The dinner is guided through the reading of the Haggadah which tells the story, includes blessings, songs and rituals (salt water on lettuce amongst others) to remember and symbolise the struggle of the ancient Jews in their escape (salt water represents the tears). The Seder  includes drinking four cups of wine (merry backpackers in Wellington), eating matzot which are crackers symbolising the unleavened bread they carried as they had no time to let the bread rise, eating symbolic foods placed on a special Seder plate and then reclining in celebration of their freedom.  This is very much in a nutshell and if you want to know more, click here.

One of the most notable things about a Seder is that give or take a few cultural changes depending on the nationality of the guests it is pretty much the same all over the world and has been for thousands of years.  Quite amazing if you think about it.

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a child size glass and grape juice – my glass is larger and full of the real stuff

When we lived in London we had one Jewish friend who went back to her family in Scotland for the holiday so my husband was resigned to doing it chez nous with just the 2 of us – which is odd and obviously leads to a lot of skipping of the text and a lot of wine drinking.  However, the first year we were there we were invited to the house of one of the congregants of the synagogue that my husband was working at as a security guard.  (So sad that a place of worship needs security). The house was in St John’s Wood and was gigantic.  They were hosting around 20 people, all of whom were a long way from their particular homes and were as an assorted a bunch as the Wellington crowd. We sat around a beautifully decorated table and I witnessed for the first time a ‘proper’ Seder.  The mood was friendly and welcoming – I had no idea what to do and was guided throughout – the food ranged from the usual (roast chicken) to the highly unusual (for me), gefilte fish (excuse me, what is that?) and when they passed a platter of chopped liver I must have looked horrified as my table mate quietly told me what it was and that it was delicious (still not my thing).  The reading was solemn, the songs jubilant and although the experience was way outside of my norm I found it moving and impressive.

The London Seders that followed were less impressive in our pokey flat but nevertheless we always had them, of varying lengths throughout our time there.

In Israel of course Passover starts the second the Purim costumes have been sold,  rather like the Easter eggs arriving on the shelves minutes after the Christmas decorations have come down.    3 weeks ago no. 1 son insistedIMG_0296 I bought matzot in the supermarket because he thinks them delicious.

We now do the Seder with my in-laws of course, once with a more religious member of the family which was a longer and more serious affair, once with no.1 son as a new-born where I spent the evening rocking and running between rooms as I tried to settle him enough to keep on reading (ah the foolishness of a first time mother).

One year my sister was visiting during Passover and we had the Seder in a tiny hotel dining room in a desert town with 6 other hotel guests.  That was bizarre.  My sister was the loudest singer at the table (Hebrew being her strong point – not) and the meal and reading was over in less than an hour.  Only we remained until the ritual was complete.  I really enjoyed that Seder in fact.

Next Monday there will be assorted members of our extended family sitting around the table.  I am thankful that although young, my children are able to sit at the table/occupy themselves/join in rather than cry and breastfeed as in previous years.  They will be dressed in their best bib and tucker – a great excuse for my daughter to wear one of the many party dresses that have been handed down by English cousins – and best of all there will be at least 7 other adults to help when we have to convince them that the party is over and its time to go to sleep.

The greatest part of Passover for me personally is that as a baker and pastry chef my husband gets to take a holiday.  For the duration of Passover no leavened bread is eaten so basically no regular bread,  cakes,  biscuits so hooray his bakery shuts and we get to see him.

Happy Passover and Chag Sameach everyone.

available at zazzle.com

available at zazzle.com

Ode to Jesse

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Dear Jesse

Thank you for coming to stay with us this week.

Thank you for remembering me and not holding a grudge that we gave you to another loving member of the family when so many children arrived in such a short time.

Thank you for being the same furry, cuddly bundle you always were

Thank you for letting a little boy rest his head on your back even though it’s probably really annoying.

Thanks for not snapping when 3 miniature people circle around you and corner you under the table.

Thank you for being so patient when the scrap for who holds the lead starts.

Please refrain from rolling in crap, dead animals or stinking rubbish while you are staying with us.

Also, if you could not bark at shadows in the dead of night waking our ever wakeful household that would also be appreciated.

Thank you for coming on really long walks in really hot weather all those years ago when you first came to live with us.  I needed those walks to give me purpose when I was finding my way in a new country, when I spent hours and hours alone and was doubting my decision.

Thank you for making me stay when I was determined to leave.  If it hadn’t been for rabies rules in the UK I could well have thrown in the towel years ago.

Thank you for listening to my moans and for letting me cry in your fur.

Thanks for making me get out and walk when it would be much easier to crawl under a blanket.

Thank you for being an unknowing fluffy saviour.

I promise this week you will be spoilt rotten; walked, fed, groomed, stroked ’til you can take no more.

Thank you for being my pooch, no matter that you are now a pooch-in-law.  

You will always be my Jesse.

X

 

Dedicated to Doggie and for my lovely friend and her family who had to say goodbye this weekend.

 

Good Day Sunshine

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The strangest thing happened this morning.  Everyone I met on the early morning drop off was happy.  What’s the secret?  Mother’s loading 3 or more children into cars with smiles on their faces, men chatting happily with small children in carseats behind them, the lollipop man was smiling, someone let me out and smiled at me.  It was all very peculiar.

I spent the short drive back wondering what I was missing. Do I just usually not notice people’s exuberance at starting the day? Was I earlier than usual and my fellow grumpies had not set out yet?  Was  I missing the declaration of peace between Israel and all their Arab neighbours?  (I don’t listen to the radio news because a) I hardly understand it and b) Wheels on the Bus always takes precedence in my car)  Was it just because it was warm, unseasonably so, and the sun was shining?  It was clocking 26 degrees at 7.45am so we are in for a scorcher, by 11am everyone will be too hot and yelling again.

Apparently March 20th is the UN’s official Happiness Day, so we only have a week to go before we can all smile for no reason save for the fact someone told us it’s Happiness Day.  I was reliably informed through a FB  status update that it was the UK’s Happiness Day a couple of days ago although I must confess I can find no evidence of this on Google – Elly that radio station had you fooled.  I am taking all of these clues and today’s smiley school run as a sign of something, what, I don’t know, but it has got me thinking about what is it that makes people happy?  Or more specifically why can’t we be happy more often?

So what is it that brings happiness? Health, love, family, friends, wealth (enough that money is not an issue – is that possible?) and the one that I believe can make you happiest in a moment is hope.  The times in my life when I have been the saddest the thought that I haven’t got anything to look forward to was the one thought that I couldn’t shake, even though in reality it probably wasn’t true. The promise of something good coming, the promise of a change or an improvement be it a fresh coat of paint or a new haircut,  a holiday, a visitor, a new job, a pay rise, something simple.  Without hope, we have nothing, someone famously said so I am thinking that perhaps everyone’s smiles this morning were not due to their all-encompassing self contentment, more that the sunshine and warmth was germinating hope.

I am feeling pretty happy today, I have hope for a change for my family and my daughter has a temperature.  Ha ha I am not happy she is sick, I am happy we get to have a day off together without the rowdy boys and my head spinning in 3 directions.  What one might term ‘quality time’ (and to be fair she really doesn’t seem that poorly at all).  So we’re off to do our chores together and she is happily loading the washing machine as I type.  Happy days indeed.

Hey Mama

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Today is Mother’s Day in the UK, the perfect opportunity to expound on a Mama’s number 1 enemy, no not alcohol…guilt.

I defy you to find a mother who does not feel guilt at some point, if not all the time.  I would also go as far as to add that those who were immune to guilt pre-children are now also racked with it, at times, or all the time. If, like me, you were predisposed to guilt before children then I send my deepest sympathies.  Not satisfied with carrying the guilt for our own actions we also feel guilty for other’s and waste precious living time worrying and feeling guilty about how our actions may affect others, even those we don’t know.  Exhausting.  Add to that kids and phew it’s a minefield and unfortunately like regret, guilt is one of those negative emotions that festers and lingers and doesn’t feel easier to handle with time like say, anger or horror.

Maybe you feel guilty because,

  • You don’t spend enough time with your children
  • You spend too much time with your children and you fight
  • You work
  • You don’t perform well enough/spend enough time at work
  • You are too distracted by work when you are with your children
  • You wish you worked to get away from your children
  • You deny them foods that are bad for them
  • You’re creating future eating disorders by denying them foods that are bad for them
  • You feed them junk
  • You’re creating future eating disorders by feeding them junk
  • You are not a good role model –
  • You don’t take care of yourself/are overweight/always dieting/lazy/have a bad attitude etc etc….
  • You are better looking/smarter/more successful than your child (how can they possibly compete!)
  • You are too strict
  • You’re not strict enough
  • You let them watch too much TV (play too many computer games)
  • You’ve banned TV (and computer games, smartphones and tablets) and maybe you’re holding them back
  • You argued/swore/lost your temper in front of your children
  • You’re not teaching your children a 2nd language/tennis/skiing/how to hold a knife and fork
  • You didn’t sleep train
  • You did sleep train
  • You didn’t breastfeed
  • You had a c section
  • You resent your stretch marks/inability to sneeze without peeing/droopy boobs that pregnancy left you with
  • You had them too early in your life so resent your lost youth
  • You had them too late in your life so you are too tired now
  • You give them antibiotics when they are sick
  • You don’t give them antibiotics when they are sick
  • You did/didn’t immunise
  • You have a bad habit that might affect your children
  • You can’t afford for them to go to the best school/club/university/holiday
  • You spoil them with too many privileges
  • You don’t appreciate your children enough
  • You are too clingy and reliant on your children for your own happiness
  • You don’t live with their father
  • You do live with their father but you hate him
  • You gave them advice you don’t know was entirely right
  •  You kept something from them/revealed too much

You get the picture and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

End of the day there will be times (constantly?) that you will feel guilty no matter what because you are a mother and for every mother who feels guilty for doing it one way, there is a mother who feels guilty for doing it precisely the other.  Time to remind ourselves what we know we should do: Don’t focus on the bad bits; don’t set the bar too high and; rid yourself of the nagging thoughts that everyone else is doing it better.  They’re not.

Today even if it’s not your official Mother’s Day let’s give ourselves a break, even for a few hours.  Let’s dwell on the positives and applaud our achievements, as the queen of the quote Oprah once said, ‘Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment’. If we’re all doing our best we shouldn’t feel guilty right? Happy Mother’s Day.

image borrowed from www.colourbox.com

image borrowed from http://www.colourbox.com

Is it worth pointing out that I already feel guilty about this post because it didn’t include fathers or those who don’t have children AND the guilt that it might in some way say I don’t appreciate the positives of motherhood.  You see, it never stops.

When the cat goes away the mice get revenge

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There were 5 in the bed and the little one said; roll over, roll over

So they all rolled over and one fell out

And went to sleep in a different bed

There were 4 in the bed and the little one said; roll over, roll over

So they all rolled over and one clung to the edge of the mattress

And put one foot on the cold floor

There were 4½ in the bed and the little one climbed over the big one and shouted at the middle one

And the middle one cried

And the little one begged for milk

And the big one grumbled

And the really big one reminded them all that it was 5 am and it was in fact her bed in the first place.

Lesson learnt: Don’t presume that you can get away with having a little holiday sans childers without some kind of payback, even 3 weeks after your return.

Si Si San Miguel

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When I think of expats I think white vests strained over burnt bellies sipping San Miguel in an English caff in the Costa Del Sol. Definitely not the reality of the millions living away from their birth country for most expats.
Flag_of_Israel These days so many Brits seem to be intent on leaving Britain with its rain and recession or have already made the leap to a new life; I have as many British friends scattered around the globe as I have left in Britain.  But why?  Is Britain today so bad? I watch A Place in the Sun Home or Away and yell at the TV “Don’t do it”; don’t think because it’s sunny and you can buy cheap run down property that your life is going to magically become a Disney movie. Or maybe that’s just me, or the place I chose to live. No nuclear threat in Disney, right?
Soon my neighbourhood is closing down for an evening to do a missile attack training exercise. Oh yes we will be going through the motions of what to do if/when we have a 2 minute warning to get somewhere safe. (If I remember my reading of Z for Zacariah in High School, no safe room is going to save us). Armed with pamphlets, gas masks and jolly faces for the childers we will be doing a dummy run for the unimaginably possible. Although one half of me is considering doing a runner to a friend’s house out of my area, the other half is thinking we should really be prepared. But how do you explain it to a 4-year-old and 2 x 2 year olds? Hmmm. Must try to refit the bomb proof door back on our in-house bomb shelter.
Since day 1 I have had a love/hate relationship with Israel. It’s got so many benefits; the weather, the outdoor living, the beach, desert and mountains, the child friendly family oriented culture, the can-do attitude and the fresh, dynamic perspective to life. Of course if you’re Jewish it comes with a billion other benefits.  However the downsides to living in Israel are in a class of their own:
Always being the bad guy no matter what the truth
Living under threat
Being surrounded by difficult neighbours
Not an island but no way out except by plane (or a really long booze cruise to Cyprus)
New language (to me at least) – new alphabet and back to front (to me).
Its not just the books but even some of the doors to fridges, washing machines, rooms, open back to front (to me)
The lack of savlanoot
Having said all that Israel has been my home for the past 8 years. My children were born here, many of my friends are here, our home and life, not to mention the mundane bank accounts, insurance policies, health care etc is here. So when I am reminded with a bang of all the bad stuff in the form of a leaflet handed to me in the park by a soldier, outlining our missile training, it makes me wonder if I am up to the challenges of living here. It ain’t easy. Maybe a bit (OK a lot) of rain is better.
Recently in a store at 9.30 on a Friday night I met a 19-year-old buying a packet of Turkish coffee (or botz as it’s called here), he asked for a spoon and some cups because him and his mate were heading down to the beach to hang out for the evening where they would cook their coffee on their camping gas and pass the time. That in a nutshell is what I love about Israel; no 20 pints and a kebab, no hair gel and pant revealing skinny jeans, just  knowing at 19 how to enjoy the simple life. Pas me a  San Miguel, I’ll get my gas mask.

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