Tag Archives: parenting

Let it snow, let it snow

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For readers who are knee high in snow at the moment, look away now. We in the Med see very little of the cold white stuff, in fact here in the coastal plain snow just doesn’t fall. Last weekend on hearing the news of a snow fall in the Jerusalem area and the Golan, our childers understandably wanted to make a snowman. Therein followed a long two and half hour journey to the foothills of Mount Hermon, an hour  of frolicking before the badly equipped munchkins became thoroughly wet, cold and slightly tearful before we bundled them back into the car and drove two and a half hours home.
At that point, I needed this IMG_4086

Luckily, hubby was well prepared and had not only stocked the car with kid friendly snacks he had also remembered a tot for me.

The last part of the journey North was slightly fraught as the childers failed to understand how we could have arrived in Ramat HaGolan and still there was no snow, until in the distance we spotted this,

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I should point out that apart from at 3 months old, our twins have never seen snow in the flesh and come to think of it on that particular Christmas visit to the UK the tiny tots actually didn’t see the snow as they didn’t leave the warmth of the living room.  No. 1 son, then aged two and a half did sledge, build snowmen and make snow angels, however, he has no recollection of it whatsoever (I am so glad I made a special photobook of that holiday to capture memories otherwise lost).  Therefore the excitement as we arrived to the white was steaming up the car windows and sending the noise levels to deafening levels.

Their excitement, their smiles and awe at stepping into the snow for the first time, at throwing snowballs at Daddy and finally the long anticipated building of a snowman was worth the noise, the seemingly never ending journey and did I mention that we did all this after school and nursery finished at midday on a Friday and I don’t like snow?

Sadly iphone batteries died before I could capture the snowman and the ‘body of snow’ (literal translation) that the childers insisted we put on the bonnet of the car (in front of the passenger windscreen) for the journey home – unfortunately it didn’t make it all the way back.  I will however leave you with a selfie, not something I have done before on the blog but I like my eskimo look.

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Remember my Name

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ImageI have always had a bad memory for names and it’s even worse now I live somewhere where the names are not familiar and have no point of reference for me.  Following a visit to Israel I telephoned the house that my Husband-To-Be was staying at and spoke to one of my now very good friends, I had met her and spent time with her only a week earlier but I called her Hagar, her name is Gali.  No they are not similar in any way but the week I had been visiting Israel I had met a lot of H-T-B’s friend’s girlfriends and there was Hadas, Hagar, Gali, Tali, Michal and Michal.  It was very confusing for someone who knew a host of Clares, Rachels, Sarahs and Helens.  You would have thought 10 years on I would have got better.  Not so.  Of course I no longer call my friends by the wrong name but a couple of weeks I made what the French would call a faux pas, the Israelis call a fedeekha and what us Brits would call a balls up.

I was on my daily power walk (yes I am old and I don’t jog) and my phone rang. The name Noa came up.  Noa is a very popular girls name here – not to be confused with Noah with a kh sound at the end which is a boy’s name.  I don’t know anyone called Noa but she was saved in my phone and when I spoke to her it turned out she was one of the Mothers from the twins’ nursery inviting us all over for dinner.  How lovely.  I said great, made a note of the date and kept walking.  A few day’s before the date I asked her to pick the twins from the nursery and I would get there as soon as poss with no. 1 son because I had double booked something.  All good so far, she was sweet enough to deal with my two 3 year olds plus hers and a baby alone for half an hour.  One hour in to our date I received a text message ‘are you on your way?’.  I was so confused.  I am here.  What on earth.  Oh bugger.  I am at the wrong house with all my children and now how do I explain inviting ourselves over, asking for the favour and who on earth really invited us?  Uh oh. I wondered why there was no sign of dinner.

To cut a very confusing story short Noa is the name of the girl whose house we had all invaded and the mother who had invited us was also Noa.  Oops. I eventually explained the predicament and  went to dinner at the other Noa’s house (whose daughter has the same name as my daughter) and all was well. Must remember people’s names, must remember people’s names.

Luckily my name also causes problems for Israelis.  There is no ay sound in the Hebrew language so Katie is often pronounced Ketie or Kitty.  As I am sure I have mentioned before, the Israelis love coffee shops.  The local coffee shop is to an Israeli what the local pub is to a Brit.  Many of the coffee shop chains have a name system whereby they call your name over the microphone when your order is ready.  I have been called Hattie, Kaley, Kitty, Ettie and my personal favourite Titty.  Yes someone called me Titty once.  Go figure. Thank goodness for Katy Perry, I now say Katie, as in Perry.

At a meeting in the early days here a receptionist asked me (in English) who she should say was here and I said, its Katie.  She promptly picked up the phone and said Skatie is here.  My Brit friends still call me Skatie to this day. So you see it’s not just me mispronouncing, messing up, not remembering names but if everyone had pronounceable Anglo name I am sure I would fare a lot better – Chen is an old school friend of my husbands, pronounced Khhhhhhkhhhen.  I really don’t stand a chance.

Is this just me or do any of you have the same problem?

Never Forget

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It’s a week of armies and war and soldiers and remembrance and the childer’s have reacted in a what I can only call a big muddle.

Their Dad is spending the week in the miluim which is the army service that all males do until around the age of 40 to 45.  He’s training which means in essence walking a lot, usually at night with a huge backpack.  To be honest I don’t know what he’s doing but I know he is carrying a gun and wearing army fatigues which in itself turns my blood cold.  The childers, sorry rephrase that, the male childers in our family think this is rather cool.  Daddy in uniform, with gun – yay.  Hmmm maybe not. Unfortunately for hubby he also turned 40 this week and what better way to spend a landmark birthday than tramping in the desert with a load of other nearing middle age sweaty men.

This week was also Holocaust Day in Israel where at sundown all stores, restaurants and places of entertainment close as a mark of respect for the millions of lives taken in the Holocaust.  The following morning businesses re-open but at 10am a minute siren is sounded throughout Israel and the country comes to a stop.  Everyone stands in silence, where ever they are.  Cars on highways pull over and drivers stand by their cars, buses stop, streets are silent.  It is a moving and awe-inspiring experience that I often believe should be replicated on war remembrance days around the world.

The government and Yad Vashem released new guidelines to teachers on how to answer children’s questions about the siren and what the Holocaust was and for the first time the recommendation was that State nurseries should also be included. So that is where my almost 6-year-old and twin 3-year-olds learnt a little about Hitler, Germany, anti Semitism and remembrance.

In reality when they came home and I asked them what they did at nursery this is snippets of the conversation we had:

Number 2 son (age 3) – we know about Eeeetlerrrr.  He drank poison and died.  He’s dead.

Daughter (age 3) – yes and he drank poison and he was a baddy and he was called Eeeetler.

son (age 3) – and and and and Joan (not her real name) the nursery teacher’s grandpa and grandma had to hide in the woods and he got shot in the leg and there was lots of blood.

daughter (age 3) and they didn’t have any plasters

son (age 3) – and they were on the roof

Me – who was on the roof?

son (age 3) – the soldier who shot him and they  tied his leg with material and they ran away

Me – and then what happened

both – he’s dead, he drank poison.  he was called Eetler.

other son (age 6) – who’s Eetler?

Yes indeed.  That is what happens when you try to tell history to children too young to even begin to understand.   I did  tell them that their teacher’s grandfather was not Hitler, at least I am presuming he wasn’t. I then let the subject drop rather than try to right the story.  I will wait for any questions to explain more.  Right now it seems like they think it’s an adventure story. There was no mention of remembrance or the siren, or paying our respects.

One day later number 1 son had been taught his teacher’s version of the government’s guidelines.  This is what he told  me:

‘Israel was at war with Germany and they used to be the baddies but now Israel is good friends with Germany. Germany put the Israeli’s in the prisons and some of them died and then the English decided to help and they opened the prisons so that the Israelis could go to Israel.  Some of them died and that’s why we have a siren and stand in silence so we can remember them.’

I have paraphrased as it was told to me in Hebrew but the particular use of Israelis and the English ‘deciding’ is word for word.

Since Holocaust day we have had 3 nights.  All 3 nights number 1 son has screamed out and shouted in his sleep – what he is dreaming about I don’t know.  He has told me he doesn’t want me to get old, he doesn’t want me to die, that he doesn’t want to grow up, that he loves his life and his family and he wants it to stay the same forever.  He has told me that when he finishes school he will have to go to the army and he wants to because soldiers have guns.  He also asked what do soldiers actually do and that there are bombs in the ground that blow tanks up. To say his brain is muddled is an understatement.  I think that Daddy is  a soldier at the moment added to the bits and pieces of what he learnt about Holocaust Day have merged and he is trying to make sense of it all.  Interestingly when he asked me why we need soldiers and an army I told him they were there to protect us and keep us safe and he said yes we need to defend ourselves from the baddies. “Who are the baddies?” I asked him (dreading the answer) and he looked at me like I was crazy and said “the other States who want to kill us and the robbers, the baddies” – duh silly Mummy.

I don’t know if his new fascination with death and old age is related to what he learnt.  I don’t know if the fascination with soldiers and armies and wars is due to the absence of his Dad or what he learnt.  I don’t know what he dreams about that makes him sit bolt upright shouting in his sleep.  I do know that it started this week and as a parent I have little or no control over what he has been taught or told in pre-school.  I hope what he told me is all he heard.  As for my babies I can categorically say that I think it is wrong that they were even taught about it at such a very young age.  I think personalizing it with tales from her own family was wrong of the teacher and the fact that they mixed her grandfather and Hitler rather suggests that it was too big a tale to tell.  At the very least the guidelines set down should have been adhered to more strictly and the same amount and type of information should have been given to all nursery aged children.

I didn’t grow up here, I am not Jewish so I have no point of reference by which to navigate the waters of Jewish history. I can only hope that I have dealt with their questions well. To remember and to respect and to never let the facts of the Holocaust be forgotten is incredibly important for everyone, Jewish or not. However, at the tender ages of 3 to 6 children’s imaginations are wild and the difference between fact and fiction isn’t clear.  As they grow they will develop the emotional intelligence to understand, for what purpose do they need to be taught about it now?

 

In remembrance of all those who perished in the Holocaust and during the Second World War.  We must never forget.

Holocaust Day

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this tricky subject.  Was the government unfair to the teachers? Are the children to young?

 

 

My children stroke snails

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Whilst in Switzerland in January I ate, a lot.  My friend’s partner is a bit of a foodie.  He likes nothing better than cooking up a storm of an evening, especially when they have visitors.

IMG_1626He picked me up from the airport and we went straight from one country to another by driving the 5 minutes from Geneva airport into France so we could go to the supermarket.  I am always happy to visit a French supermarket, in fact any supermarket that isn’t in Israel is a pleasure (you may remember my distaste for Israeli supermarkets from this post).  French supermarkets are just a joy to behold.  They sell billions of delicious cheeses, ready made bouillabaisse in glass bottles, so so many creamy individual dessert pots and the wine, well the wine – it’s affordable and most of it good including the stuff in a box.  I was happy to see Vin de Pays de Laude which was the cheap wine of choice for me and my pals back in the day when we lived in France.

Stefan, my friend’s partner is the best person to go shopping with if a) you have a desire to eat anything unusual or try something new and b) if you have loads of time, patience and no shopping list.  To say he is a sporadic shopper is an understatement.  I remembered from my last visit that popping to the shop for milk can turn into a half hour excursion resulting in a trolley full of stuff you don’t really need.  Happy to go along with what ever as I was sans enfants and in a foreign country I merrily trawled the aisles whilst he filled the trolley with delicacies for my 4 day visit. I eventually made it back to Switzerland and my friend clutching bacon flavoured snacks (can’t get those in Israel) and a box of ready made fondue – yum.

The first night I tucked into snails and have been regaling my childers about this ever since.  I must admit I have never seen the point of eating snails.  They basically don’t taste of much and you could easily eat garlicky buttery sauce with a piece of bread and get the same affect albeit without the shells.  Still, when in Rome.  My childer’s screams of disgust never cease to amuse me.  ‘what, you ate real snails?’  ‘did you eat the shells?’ and the best ‘ what for?’ – good question.

I have eaten snails a few times before in my former life when I went to Michelin starred restaurants and travelled business class.  On one occasion I took my Mum to the restaurant where hubby was the pastry chef (The Providores in London – what a great great restaurant) and she ate snails.  I am not sure she enjoyed them but she was very proud of herself.  I have also eaten kangaroo and alligator, caviar and frogs legs but nothing screams euughh like snails.

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We don’t see many snails (the non vacuum packed variety) in Israel as it very rarely rains but when it does they come out in their thousands and my childer’s love them.  A couple of days ago whilst emptying number 1 son’s drawer at pre-school I found a tupperware box with holes punched in the top and a poor lone snail swishing around in a puddle of watery grass, I dread to think how long it had been there.

We always have a snail farm when the rain comes.  A snail farm for ye unenlightened few is a cardboard box with a saucer of water and handfuls of grass and a cabbage leaf tossed in for good measure.  There are usually around 5 snails at its inception and 1 hour later there could be 1, if we’re lucky.  They aren’t fond of the farm.  Tears and ‘rescue’ missions follow.

This morning after the 20 minute walk to travel less than quarter of a mile to the nursery the twins came upon a ‘baby’ snail (he was quite small) and they both sat next to him and stroked him.  ‘He’s so sweet’, ‘ hello little snaily’ (but in Hebrew).  At that point, already late, I tried to douse the flames (causing the smoke to come out of my ears) with the puddle they were all but sitting in and dragged them away with promises that we’d see him again later.  I then asked them if they’d like to eat him for dinner.  Does that make me cruel?

 

AEIOU I sometimes cry

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wmu-g-gb7You have probably noticed that that slogan t shirts are back in style after a 30 year break.  Yes it was the 80’s when we sported ‘Choose Life’, ‘Just say NO’ and ‘Frankie says Relax’ t-shirts and yes that was indeed 30 years ago.  Hmmm.  I had a particularly fetching pale pink cut off t-shirt (also in vogue again) with ‘Ne Touchez Pas’ written across it.  Rather inappropriately for a pre-pubescent 11 year old to be wearing a t-shirt like this, especially when 2 hand prints were printed above the words – you can guess where.  What was my Mother thinking?!  (she doesn’t speak French so maybe she just didn’t get it…?!).

I have been eyeing up on the style blogs a few sweatshirts and t-shirts with cool slogans printed across, my personal favourite being, ‘I have more issues than Vogue’.  Luckily here in Israel there are also slogan printed items to purchase, such as this beauty.

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In case you can’t read it, it says;

MIANI DANCELIKE

EUN DMC

MIX EVERY  CNES IMASTER

FLADN

ANO TRNASHS GOYTAR LIKG

NIRVANA

THE MUSEUM THEY DESERNE

Nope it still makes absolutely no sense but FLADN might become my word of the week.You can’t beat a bit of clothing tat off a market at the best of times but I have found that in a non-English speaking country the opportunity for spelling, grammar, general nonsensical and inappropriate English lends a whole new meaning to the word tat.  Take for example the velour child’s track suit with ‘ blow me’ written across the bum.  Obscene, offensive or just plain hilarious?

The reason for my sudden interest in the written word? I am currently trying my best to teach number 1 son to read English.  Although he understands and speaks English, his default language is Hebrew and once he gets to school in September he will be learning to read and write in Hebrew.  My plan is to get him to learn the basics before he goes to school so that he isn’t confused learning to write both languages at the same time.

We are working with educational work books and flash cards but to liven things up a bit and to keep him interested we sometimes do our lessons on the hoof.  I like to call them field trips but they are often errands that I have to run and I take him along with me and package it as an English lesson.  For example in the mall we stand outside the stores with English names and he spells them – ‘Golf’ and ‘Fox’ were easy but we looked like we were casing the joint outside ‘Honigman’ we were there so long.

There are a few difficulties using the everyday world of Israel to teach English as there are soooo many mistakes.  Menus for example that are sometimes so ridiculous that you have to read it 5 times before understanding what it actually is.  ‘Egg Plant on the Fire’, ‘Respect the Chicken’.  I know that Israel is not alone in their translating skills and I am more than certain that if a British restaurant tried to translate their menu to French or Chinese or Hebrew with the aid of only Google Translate the results would be equally amusing.

IMG_1538My personal favourite was discovered a couple of weeks ago when no. 1 son and I went on a field trip (I needed to go to the chemist) and we found a puzzle in the $1 store (the clue is in the price).  This was the piece for the letter E.  Not terribly helpful although he does remember the letter E by saying ‘it’s not a hippo, it’s an elephant’ so in a round about way it worked.

I am finding the whole teaching lark rewarding and frustrating in equal amounts.  I am stunned when he recognises words and letters, knowing that I am the one who taught him, but I do worry that I am teaching him the ‘wrong’ way and just knowing the letters and spelling out the words may not be enough.  I am hopeful that the use of song, signs and the odd slogan t-shirt will aid his learning although our field trips will bypass restaurants and market stalls for the time being.

Just another winter’s tale

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sunshine

The sun is shining the temperature is 28 degrees Celsius and whilst Europe and the States is frozen in the grips of a polar vortex or 3 feet under water, the sun in Israel is shining as ever.  No sign of winter here.  In fact it would be fair to say that Spring has sprung and we hardly got a glimpse of anything we could even laughingly call winter.  My childers are so excited by a puddle (invariably caused by a sprinkler system) that full rain wear is donned complete with umbrellas and on occasion, gloves.  Yes, really, I kid you not.

IMG_1472On my return from snowy Switzerland I kept my 3 little ones wholly entertained with picture after picture of snow.  Snow on a tree, snow on a house, snow on a hill, snow on a road. I informed number 1 son that we would again be heading back to the UK for our annual August retreat and he complained bitterly.  I was so upset thinking he didn’t want to go to visit Granny and Grampy but in fact all he was upset about was that we weren’t going in the winter so he could see the snow.  I pointed out that anything is possible and a bit of sleet is not unknown in the Peak District in August.

So there we were enjoying the unseasonably warm weather when January’s lurghy hits us full throttle, in the jugular, so that in the space of one week all 5 members of the family come down with flu or a version thereof.  Other ex-pat Brits here agree with me that it’s the lack of cold that means the germs are never fully killed off, coupled with the use of those germ spreading forms of heating; the air conditioning unit, that results in half empty classrooms, queues at the doctor’s surgery and an uptake in sales of paracetamol.

Not that I am one to complain (uhum), I was ill enough to take to my bed for nearly 2 weeks and visit the doctor twice.  Unfortunately husband and all 3 childers were also ill at some point during this two weeks which led to what I can only describe as one of Dante’s layers of hell.  On one particularly awful Saturday, husband shivering in bed, all 3 children spluttering and whining, I drove them to the beach to let the wind blow some of the germs away.  The sun was bright and the wind strong, just what the Doctor (from 1933) prescribed to blow the cobwebs away.  45 minutes later as I struggled to drag  2 of the 3 back to the car, 2 in tears (me and 1 child), sweating from fever and exertion I decided that yet another kid’s animation movie would not be so bad for them after all.

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Finally we are all recovered and hopeful that we have seen our fair share of sickness for a while at least.  So its back to the grind, goodbye to way too much nonsense TV and able once again to think ourselves very lucky to be living in such an agreeable climate.

What I have learnt this Christmas

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IMG_30521.  People are grumpy.

In recent months I have been adding a little extra to the family coffers by working in customer services for online stores in the States.  Usually at about 2 or 3 hours a day this has added a little pocket-money during the quieter months of my new business venture.  During the run up to Christmas people went wild  with their credit cards and my hours grew tenfold, literally meaning I was spending more time with American shoppers than my own family.  Luckily there is no Christmas in Israel (at least not in my part) so my own Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve and even on Christmas morning was stress free.  Not so much the onliners.  Oh. my. goodness.  Talk about first world problems.

“My dogs special Christmas biscuits haven’t arrived yet and I ordered them a week ago” “I’m sorry the postal service is delayed due to the season” ” You have ruined our Christmas, what do I give the dog now?” A bone?  Purlease.

“I am really tired of dealing with you, your labels don’t print out straight and I need to return the water bottle I bought from you.  I wanted blue and you sent me green, I HATE green”

“I bought this [can of spicy salsa] from you and I don’t like it, it’s too spicy.  Can I return it?” Umm, you opened it?  Ate from it? Then NO.

“If my order was broken in transit why should I use my printer ink to print your [prepaid] return labels?  I am not wasting my ink or electricity printing, you need to send them by mail immediately”

“Call this a skateboard?  I have been skateboarding for 8 years and I have never come across such a s**t board.  I carn’t [sic] do my trix [sic].  It’s too heavy.  Send me money back now”

I could go on, and on, and on, and on.  The word I seldom came across was ‘please’.  The punctuation and grammar, never mind the spelling and most of all the anger has been just, well, shocking.  Why do people get so upset about such tiny things.  One man who did write a very rude and angry message to me did apologise after I was super nice and kind to him in my reply.  He told me his wife had just been laid off and he’d had forced early retirement.  Now that’s a real problem (albeit not mine so why are you YELLING AT ME).  The colour of your water bottle, that, is not.

2. Christmas is not for everyone.

As I have mentioned in previous posts the delicate balance between keeping Christmas in my life whilst bringing the children up in a Jewish country with a husband who has trouble being in the same room as a Christmas tree has its own challenges.  This year my husband explained his slow but sure acceptance of the holiday as part of my culture and therefore part of our children’s and for that I am extremely grateful.

Christmas is always a time of reflection and memories, something about the age-old family traditions; where the stockings are hung, what goes on the top of the tree, whether to finish all the chocolate coins before or after breakfast, brings back bygone Christmases and those no longer with us to share them.  Those hit by tragedy this past year in particular have had it tough and I have to tell you that if avoidance is your thing then Israel is the right place to come (and it’s sunny in December).

3. The best Christmas parties are when a group people get together with one aim to have fun.

We have been at two Christmas gatherings this holiday season.  The first at a friend’s house where, like last year, I was the only Christian but who doesn’t like an enormous dinner, sparkly lights and mulled wine right?  The second we had at our house with our Israeli friends who quite possibly didn’t know it was Christmas save for the small tree in the corner of the room (which by the way fell off its stand by the end of the evening).  Both gatherings were fantastic.  Fun for the kids, fun for the adults, fun for our stomachs.  If the message of Christmas is goodwill to all men no matter what their faith then we are on a winning streak.

4. Presents are nice

I love getting presents and the fact that I didn’t expect even one under the tree for myself this year meant I was stupendously pleased when a bumper bottle of Chanel arrived from Ma & Pa plus two bottles of gin and a much-needed winter coat from husband (I am off to Switzerland soon) were my loot.  I went shopping, uhum Santa went shopping, for the childers’ presents in a $ store and for the bargain price of 20 quid I filled their stockings with all the beads, toy cars, crayons and puzzles they could wish for.  Our lovely relatives from the UK provided the main presents and so far, 5 days later every single toy is being played with, every book read and every puzzle built, underlining my philosophy that a few of the right stuff, no matter the price goes a long way.

5. I miss Christmas but this year not as much

Perhaps because my sister was here, perhaps because I knew my parents were with my brother and his family, perhaps because I didn’t dwell too much and I was simply so busy this Christmas I had no sad moments longing for Christmas in the UK.  I miss my family and friends on a daily basis and although its more poignant during the festive season and I want to have a ‘proper’ Christmas again I think I can safely admit that this Christmas has been fun.

I hope all of you enjoyed your holiday season, whatever you celebrated or even if you didn’t.  I want to wish everyone a Happy 2014.  Thanks for reading and supporting my mutterings this year.  Onwards and upwards!

 

 

The Joys of Parenthood

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One overheated room, one five-year-old at a swimming lesson, two three-year-olds trying to get into pool to join said swimming lesson.  Just another Monday afternoon chez nous.  Last week after overheating the twins for half an hour whilst trying to hold them back from the water (without someone calling social services) we all went outside to the play park to blow off some steam.

Back in my youth our local play park, the ‘rec’, installed a new fangled roundabout that us kids lovingly named the sick machine.  It was bright orange and could turn way faster than any run of the mill roundabout.  The play park at our swimming pool has a strikingly similar roundabout.  

On this particular visit the name became a reality. After some excited spinning(‘more, ‘faster’) No. 2 son complained his throat hurt and he wanted to get down; he waited just long enough for me to pick him up before he let rip and projectile vomited all over me.  Down my shirt, on my jeans, in my hair, on his shorts, down his t-shirt and in his hair – I did say it was projectile.

Love is managing to say ‘there, there, it’s OK, you’re OK, Mummy’s here’ when in reality you want to scream a swear word followed by ‘eugh’, ‘yuk’, ‘gross’, ‘oh my god’.

I changed his clothes – mums of 3-year-olds always travel with a spare set – and then peeled off my sodden, stinking, only worn once shirt, covering my dignity with my cardigan which a) didn’t have buttons and b) didn’t fully meet in the middle (fashion you know).  I then carried the poor chicken home, cursing roundabouts and flashing the motorists.  Of course the other 2 wanted to stay at the park and their brother’s obvious distress wasn’t enough to convince them otherwise.  Empathy is not children’s strong point.

 

Once home I ran a bath, plopped poorly boy in it and then discovered on removing my underwear that a warm puddle of lumpy stinking sick had collected in my non so ample cleavage.  Cue Mummy’s turn to throw up.  I hastily showered us both with way too much soap and thought that it was over.  Wrong.

You see when you have twins everything is in twos and lo and behold 2 hours later when sleeping in her bed, his sister started making strange coughing sounds.  She also kindly waited until I was holding her upright in her bed before she projectiled all over me.  (yes I know it’s not a verb).

Mummy is covered again, so are the sheets, the pjs, the poor little half asleep princess who found herself in the shower whilst half asleep.   Back to bed, clean and washed and bleurgh, it happened again but by this time the munchkins had got their timing sorted and tandem vomiting ensued.  More dirty sheets, more dirty pjs, more upset and confusion, 2 sleepy children, 2 exhausted parents, a terrible smell of disinfectant and one fast asleep 5-year-old who didn’t stir throughout.

I am happy to report that by 7am the twins were fully recovered and eating their body weight in cornflakes.  Their mother on the other hand was slightly nauseous, battle weary and dealing with an awful lot of washing.

Ah, the joys of parenthood.

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A bitter sweet symphony, that’s life

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Parents will do anything to protect their children but sometimes it’s the little things that you can’t protect them from and though they may be life lessons, they are so hard to learn.

Yesterday was voting day for local government in Israel.  We chose a mayor and the members of the city council and so as usual I wanted to take no. 1 son to the polling station yesterday evening so he could see the democratic process in action (and he likes posting the votes in ballot box).  It was getting late so decked out in full pj regalia and ready for bed (the kids not hubby and I) we all went, en famille, across the road to cast our votes, twins in the double stroller and no. 1 son on his scooter.

courtesy of wikipedia

courtesy of wikipedia

As an aside I should say that voting in a foreign language is no mean feat.  In Israel you don’t mark the box on the ballot paper and post it like in the UK,  you choose the slip of paper with your candidate’s party already marked and post that.  Sounds simple right?  Wrong.  The party is not written on the slip of paper, instead there is a letter or a couple of letters and unless you are familiar with the letters of your party (it’s not the equivalent of D for democratic or L for Labour, more randomly S for Labour or G for Democratic – I am sure there is a reason for it but I haven’t found it out yet), its hard to know who you are voting for.  I am an old hat at this now so am ready prepared before entering the booth, but the first time I was well and truly thrown and took the longest time to vote in the history of democracy as I laboriously read all the small print to figure out which party was which.  But that’s by the by.

scooterFast forward to this morning when no. 1 son was looking for his scooter to go to nursery on.  Ooops.  Scooter was left outside the community centre polling station.  After dropping off the little ones at nursery this morning we hurried over to see if the scooter was still there.  Of course it wasn’t.  We checked with the manager, the cleaners, the caretaker, no scooter.  The more we searched the more silent no. 1 son became, not like him at all.

By the way in Israel we refer to scooters as corkinets.  I am still researching why this is and where the word comes from – it’s also used to refer to the electric scooters – if anyone can enlighten me….

As we walked away with my plans to put up a sign in the neighbourhood and worse case scenario (for me) get him a new one, the questions began.  ‘So where is it now’, umm, ‘why would someone take it?’ umm, ‘Saba and Safta (grandparents) bought it so how can we get another one, you don’t know where to buy one’.  And then the fat slow tears.  The worst kind of tears for a parent because your eyes fill too.  No screaming and carrying on, no demanding and stamping just silent wet tears because at 5 you just don’t understand that someone would take something of yours, that something that you love has just gone and that you won’t see it again.  

It’s a fact of life that things go missing, that people take stuff that doesn’t belong to them and hard though it is for him, it is, after all, only a scooter but it broke his heart all the same and a little chunk of mine too.  I wanted to make it alright for him.  I wanted him to understand that it’s not so bad, there are things we can do to make it right but the fact remained that he left it and now its gone.   I empathise, I am incredibly over sensitive and was known in childhood to give emotions and personalities to inanimate objects.  When we lost a camera in a theme park when I was 10 I couldn’t sleep I was so upset – ‘all those photos that we will never see’, ‘poor camera, is it alone somewhere in a dark empty theme park?’.  Yes really… I know.

When he comes home today he may well have forgotten about it (until he wants to ride it) but I am bracing myself for the next level of questioning ‘ did a thief take it?’, ‘will the police catch them?’, ‘will they go to prison’.  Yes, no, no, life sucks sometimes but it’s not the end of the world, possibly not what I should say.  Poor kid, perhaps the newly elected Mayor can help.

It’s life Kate, but not as you knew it

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My friend is a teacher back home and her Remembrance Day assembly this year is how wars affect families.  She asked me to write about my family’s experiences, she actually suggested I make a video to which I snorted and said no, although seeing as she is an English teacher I am a bit scared about the grammar mistakes I have made.  Anyway, here’s what I wrote.

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Until 9 years ago war was something that happened on the news, to people in the army and in history.  Then 9 years ago I moved to Israel and war, or at least the constant threat of it has quickly become a part of everyday life. Now I am the not so proud owner of my own gas mask and my home has a bomb proof safe room.

The first time I experienced war first hand was 18 months into living here when the 2nd Lebanon war broke out between Israel and the Hezbollah in Lebanon.  My husband as a serving member of the Israel Defence Force was called up to fight.  In Israel all able men from the age of 18 to around 40 are either serving in the army or are reservists and so despite my husband being a chef and more attuned to baking on a daily basis he also has to be trained and ready to fight as a combat soldier.  When war broke out we knew there was a chance he would go, we thought as a reservist he would be needed to take over from the positions of the career soldiers whilst they went into Lebanon.  Not so.  He called me from the barracks after a week and told me in code he was going in.  That was the last I heard from him, or about him for over a week.  It was my first taste of the real fear that it really could happen to us, that it wasn’t just news and it was truly terrifying.  Life continued as normal in Tel Aviv and if you ignored the fighter jets and choppers flying overhead you wouldn’t know there was a real war going on just an hour’s drive North.  They called Tel Aviv the bubble, a bubble that on his return from whatever he experienced seem unreal and difficult to comprehend.

We now have 3 children and this time last year when the Gaza conflict broke out and the sirens were sounding throughout the middle and south of the country it affected us in a different way.  This time we heard the explosions, saw the soldiers and tanks on route to the South and had to prepare for possible missile attack.  We are lucky enough (so far) to live in the centre of Israel so a few hours from the North and South borders where, in my experience, the missiles fall.  One day during last November my kid’s play park was full of young female soldiers handing out leaflets of what to do to prepare and how to react if the siren sounded.  It also gave clear guidelines on how long each area of Israel had from the alarm sounding to detonation.  We had 2 and a half minutes.

Our children are still very young so were seemingly unaware, although my eldest did ask me why ‘they’ wanted to throw rockets at us.  Tricky to explain the intricacies of war to a 4 year old especially as there are always 2 sides, not always one right and one wrong.  The conflict was mercifully short but the ‘bubble’ that Tel Aviv had lived in was well and truly popped.  We are not really safe anywhere.

This summer’s tensions in Syria brought a new wave of panic as the real threat of chemical attack once again reared its ugly head. We were advised to buy bottled water, to ready the safe room and to make sure our gas masks were in date but for now, that threat has lessened and I hope never becomes a reality.

Since 2004 when I moved to Israel the terrifying terrorist war has quietened down, the bus bombs and unexpected attacks on the general public not so common.  But there is always the fear and you are never far away from armed security and army personnel, nor from those whose friends and family have been injured or killed.  We are vigilant and we try not to panic.  I choose not to talk to my children about it, others tell theirs everything. For me, as a Briton, it is something that I didn’t have to deal with growing up and I want to protect my little ones from the fear for as long as possible.  If we stay here then it will all too soon become part of their everyday life anyway.  My children, like all Israelis will join the army at 18; the boys for 3 years and my daughter for 2.

Although not strictly speaking a war-zone at present, life here is tough; the threat and fear is real and constant.  When the sun is shining and the Mediterranean sparkling it’s hard to envision the ugliness of war.  I cannot imagine how it must have felt to be a mother in Gaza city or Beirut, Iraq or Afghanistan in recent years.  I hope for my family’s sake that we and all families affected by war around the world experience some peace.