December 22, 2012

Christmukah part 3 - Build-up to Christmas and Yon's eyes

You can feel the Christmas in the air.
The kids vacation started today, Hidai worked from home and have now started his vacation also, and my parents are on their way here, and I spent the whole day cleaning and getting the house ready. Very festive.
But really, all the beautiful lights are on, the iTunes is non-stop Christmas music (drives Hidai crazy listening to the same songs all the time), the gifts are all ready & wrapped (success!), and I have already made gingerbread (4 types, just because... Well just because), Yule-log type roulade, and some brownies (you know, just because it's yummy). Very festive.
We put the tree up on the 8th of December  Originally I wanted to put it up on the first, some of it was me not having patience to wait, and some of it was wanting to separate Christmas and Hannukah and give each of them the respect it deserves. Unfortunately We didn't get to it that weekend (we were too busy shopping for winter hats. God it was so cold that week), so we ended up doing it on the 8th, which was the first day of hannukah and while Ron and I were still a bit sick. Yon didn't really want to help so he just kept breaking all the candy-canes we bought to put on the tree, and then walked around the tree saying "Don't touch the Christmas" while, obviously, touching the baubles on the tree.
Truth is I envy the people with the "grown up" Christmas tree. You know, the ones that have a color co-ordinated tree, that goes with this year's fashionable color scheme. Our tree is a mis-matched mass of decorations that fill the tree in all kinds of baubles in different shapes. sizes. and colours. It's mostly because we bought what they sold at Morrison's in Gib, and also because we try to get a bauble on every branch... We did very well on that front :). This year we only added 4 new baubles to the tree and were really proud of ourselves.
We did buy outside lights for the first time, but because we were unsure how hard it will be to put them on the balcony, we bought the straight-forward ones, and just one type. Never fear, it is already on the shopping list for next year. More Lights!
We added to that some indoor lights for the kids room and for the kitchen (our room didn't get any decorations because it is going to host my parents who are still not that big on Christmas. We are hoping they will get into the Christmas spirit as soon as they land), some tinsel for the kitchen and the hall, and some "Merry Christmas" signs for the hall and the kids room. Also on the list for next year - wreath, which we didn't buy this year because we live in an apartment and not a house.
But by far, the biggest holiday perches is my baby tree! Hidai and Ron got it for me last week (true, I did have to use the subtle hint - When you go to get your hair cut, you better come back with a baby tree. But at least they did. And some chocolate. And a card), and we put baby baubles around it and some colourful lights and put it in the middle of the corridor so you go past it lots of times every day. So so cute! And also, it's a real tree, which I very much wanted, so now I am more convinced than ever - next year a real tree! (or maybe a pre-lit one. Those are also really cool. Decisions...)
baby tree and card
This year our favorite Christmas song is Walking in the Winter Wonderland, basically because Ron lernt it at choir and performed it twice - once at the Winter Fair in school, and once when they went carolling at N1 shopping center. We came to watch them sing, as it was a session for all schools in Islington, where each school sang 2 songs. Ron's school was one of the firsts to arrive and sing, which was a very very good thing since the whole thing took place outside and it was about 2 degrees Celsius that day. Not really the kind of weather you want to stand around in. Ron was half frozen I think, so he stood at the back and you couldn't really hear him. Also, I think even-though he wanted us to come watch him, he was a bit embarrassed by us (well, I guess it didn't help that Hidai re-arranged his coat and hat, and I called him Ronchuk in front of everyone), so his coping mechanism was to totally not acknowledge us. He refused to even look at us directly, let alone speak to us. We asked him when we got home if he was embarrassed or excited that we came, and he said equally both. Fine, than we will make more of an effort next time to embarrase him more.
Yon coped with the Christmas singing in the same way Ron used to (until this year, when he decided he wants to join the choir  and also announced that he is going to audition to next term school play...) - he cried, and then looked miserable for the whole time, not singing, not talking, and not communicating with anything or anyone. Although he did practice every day for his class's We Wish You A Merry Christmas, when the moment of truth came, he was quiet as a clam. First time in years when he spent half an hour without talking...
Add to that the fact that he still has an irrational fear of Santas, and what you get is kind of a less enthusiasm for Christmas. We are lucky he likes the trees, and the baubles, and singing the songs at home. And the Advent calendar (thanks to that we now know how many numbers he really know the little monster).
His fear of Santas did not go as far as not wanting to see the special message he got from Santa (PNP site. Genius!). We do it every year, and Ron was really looking forward to it, and both of them were so happy to get the "Nice" stamp...
We are also apparently trend-setters! I am guessing the only reason the kids got Christmas cards this year is they were the first ones to give cards in school. Is it not customary in the UK? It was in Gib. Everyone brought Christmas cards. Also, on the last day of term I sent gingerbread trees (with Ron) and comets (with Yon) for the kids, and gingerbread cupcakes with cookies & cream icing for the teachers. I was the only one to give them anything I think... Weird. We also gave cupcakes to the concierge team and cookies to the building's maintenance team because that is what we used to do in Gib and it felt right to continue.
That's it Christmas-wise I think. We are waiting for the last order from Ocado with the Christmas dinner food to arrive, as this year we are going to have a proper Christmas eve dinner, in which although no one tried to kill the Jews, but we will still eat!

On to the second main thing that we dealt with this week - Yon's eyes.
This is so much less fun than Christmas.
Yon has regular check-ups from the time he was 6 months old, glasses since he was 10 months old, and a very good attitude to all of this. His medical record include doctors in Gibraltar, Spain and Israel, and now that we are here we take him to Moorefilds Hospital to have his check-ups. Last time we were there was hard, and in the end our new doctor said that she thinks there is a different problem and that we should do some new test. Of course we said yes, and after some time and some phone-calls, we got an appointment for an EDD (I think. All those long English words, and all those initials...), and after that for our usual clinic. And on Tuesday we had to be at the hospital at 9 a.m, wich meant Ron had to go to school at 8am, to the "breakfast club" and since we were unsure how long it will all take, we asked Tyler's mum for help and Ron went with them after school.
Apparently EDD actually means you hook a 3 years old to a bunch of electrodes in different areas of his head (and then moves them to under his eyes!), and let him watch black and white squares flashing around on a TV set, and in between flash some light straight into his eyes in different speeds. For 2 hours.
Fun right?
It was so hard. You have no idea. We bribed him. We played "find the dancing Zebra" with him. We held him to the chair. We cried with him when he said "I don't like it!!!!" We promised him 10 times that it's over if he just do this thing or that thing (it was never over). It was HARD. He was so miserable when we finished... We took him out of the hospital for some chocolate muffin and juice, before we came back to the hospital for the "usual tests" where he has to say what he sees. He hates this test because, well, he doesn't see. You will never guess that he doesn't see something, that he has a problem, until you put him in that chair and ask him - what do you see? He doesn't. From there we went to wait for the doctor, and of course - we got a new doctor. Not new just to us, one that just started working in the clinic. I am very grateful Hidai was with me, because the minute she opened her mouth and said "oh, it's good that you came in now, this is the right time to start treating his squint" I wanted to just up and go. But Hidai always keeps his cool so he calmly asked her to get us in with our old doctor as she actually READ the file. She did, and we at least got the news from a doctor we trust. So Yon doesn't have a lazy eye, which is the biggest fear with kids that have a squint, and so we don't have to do patching anymore (he had to wear a patch over his good eye for a couple of hours everyday for a while). He would also always need his glasses because he is far-sighted (can't see up close) and because they "fix" the squint, we don't need to operate. All good things.
(how did Garry Barlow said on the X-Factor last year - there's always a BUT)
Yon has a genetic condition called Albinism, and basically means he is like an Albino, but only in his eyes, and hopefully not in a very severe way. The way she explained it, it's like if you are watching an old TV, so the pixels are not totally sharp, so you can't really see everything clearly. That is how he sees the world. As a result, now, he only sees around 70% of what he should, and because of the glasses this affects his up-close vision less, so he plays on the iPhone without a problem, but won't recognise people he knows from afar. She said it could get better if he learns to control it, and as the eyes develop, but it's not treatable and will never go away completely. In his condition now, if it doesn't get better, he will not get a driving license and he can have problems in school, etc.
We are now waiting for a specialist to explain it all again, and will give us all the statistics and formal numbers, but she verified it twice, and it explains so many things we noticed over the years, that we are pretty sure that's it.
What can I say? It was not the news we were hoping for. It is not good news. In fact is bad news. But at least now we have a full diagnosis and we know what's wrong. We also know that there is nothing we can do for him. The fact that he is the most beautiful, happy, funny child I know does not change the fact that he is suffering. It doesn't really matter that he doesn't know he is supposed to see better, it that he doesn't, that his life will always be harder, that he will always have to work harder, or compensate for it. As a parent you want to make sure life is as easy as possible for your child, and we failed. He is going to have to overcome this. By himself.
With Yon, we find most of the time we are watching him. We are not looking at him, we are watching. Ever since he was born, and more after we started treatments. Watching. is it better? Is it worse? Can we take a photo and he won't squint? etc. We are always watching. But now, every time I find myself watching it tags at my heart strings. Nothing you can do. 70%. Genetic disorder. Your fault. Your Genes. Nothing you can do. Poor poor Yon.
Children and health issues should never go hand in hand, but they so often do. We have yon's eyes, last year we had Ron's teeth. It is always a concern. Sure, no one's perfect, everyone has something. But why my kids?
My kids

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December 19, 2012

Christmukah part 2 - How Christmukah came to be

The truth is in real life I don't need to justify Christmukah anymore, but this is a new blog with new readers, and maybe it's not justifying but explaining. I was debating with myself for a week now if it's necessary or not to explain here why and how we decided to celebrate Christmas (and basically every other non-Jewish holiday. But Christmas is by far the biggest of them all).
This will be our 4th Christmas since we left Israel. The first one was 3 days after we arrived to Gibraltar so we don't really count that one, but the year after (Christmas 2010) we decided to celebrate Christmas like everyone - tree, stocking, milk & cookies for Santa, and lots and lots of presents.
That year I felt I had to justify our decision. Not even explain but justify. We got a lot of negative feedback for our decision from almost everyone we know, and I am guessing that some of the people never understood our reasons and still don't. 3 Christmases later, we really don't care anymore. For us, our decision worked great, and we feel that we made the right choices for our family.
I really am not trying to say it's the only choice  or even that it is objectively the best. Just that with our way of life, it was the best choice for our family.
So to be able to write this post and explain the why and how, I had to go back 3 Christmases, to the time just before Christmas 2010, and see what I wrote then. It took me a while but I found it, and since I think this decisions belong to that time in our life, I decided to just copy-paste what I wrote then (well obviously I had to translate it to English, but I kept everything else).
So this is me, December 2010:

This is a complicated subject, because even though I can say that I want to try and explain the way we relate to holidays, in reality the holidays are just one point out of a whole of Jewish identity, family identity, and the gaps between children and parents.
First of all I would like to say I know it's hard to understand it from Israel. I know, and I am not taking offense or feeling other negative feelings for those who does not agree with our decision  We couldn't understand it when we were living in Israel, and in fact last year we landed in Gib 3 days before Christmas and we were fine with not celebrating it. In fact we couldn't even imagine celebrating it at all. But a year has gone by, and things change.
Living outside your birth country intensify, I think, the gaps between children and parents. Why? Because when you raise your children in the same place you grew up they learn the same stories and songs that you learnt, have the same holiday traditions, and when they go to school they learn the same things we did, in much the same way. When you live someplace else, the kids speak a different language, learn different material in school, read different stories and sing different songs, they celebrate other holidays. They grow up in a "different world", and the we have less and less matching points with them, until it reaches the point that, if we are not careful, we will have none. This is, to us, the toughest problem to tackle inside the family. Every family deals with it, and to each their own way. Some of the people deny the problem. You can do that as long as the kids are young and you have more control on what they see / hear / talk / experience and such (for me it's up to age 4 and the beginning of school). Others deny the fact that they in fact live outside of Israel. They forbid English in the house, go to Israel whenever there is a holiday here, do not interact with people outside the Israeli community, teach the kids all the Israeli history when they are 5 and basically isolate the kids. Others yet go the religious route and choose to get closer to the Religious Jews, send the kids to the Jewish school, celebrate only Jewish religious holidays, and basically live inside a closed Jewish community. And the last part has older kids, who go to a public school, has local friends  and they can no longer ignore the fact that they live here, and that here you celebrate Christmas. Or Easter. And when you are the only Jewish child in your year or in the school, and everyone goes caroling, is it fair to take your child out of the performance?
I can remind people that the Israeli community in Gib is quite small, that there are about 5 kids Ron's age or up, and that the only Jewish option is a strict religious one we are not about to participate in. 
I can also remind people that most (if not all) the holidays derive from Pagan traditions that came before Judaism or Christianity,and that most of them are agriculture related. And that Hannukah, like Christmas derive from the winter celebrations that symbolizes the days getting longer and the end of winter. 
In the end I can also say that although for Jewish people everyone has to have a religious affiliation, and so most of the world is Christian, the reality is that a lot of the people in Europe (don't know about the US) do not define themselves through religion. They are not "Christians" but "Gibralterians" or "British" or whatever. And they all celebrate Christmas with a tree and all the trimmings.
And every word is true. But irrelevant. We are not religious people. We've never been. We didn't even celebrate most holidays before Ron was three or four. Needless to say we didn't celebrate any of them "the correct way".
And although I don't like the way the holidays are taught in Israel I can still appreciate the significance of it in Israel. Here? Here I want Ron and Yon to learn about tolerance and patience, about the ability to believe in whatever you want, about being nice and polite to everyone (including non-Jewish people). And no, I dot want them to know they are "different" or "special". I have no idea how many of people living in Gib are Christians, Protestants, Hindu, Muslims or Jewish. And I want Ron and Yon to know that it doesn't matter (I know some thinks it makes my naive. So be it). 
So we decided to emphasize these things - that Hannukah is about freedom of belief, and that is why we are not putting a Hannukah Bush in the house. It's a beautiful holiday that does not need to be "Christmatize", which is exactly what a Hannukah Bush is - a way to do Christmas without admitting that is what you are doing. Hannukah and a bush have nothing in common. And that Christmas is, for some the birth og Jesus, and for us - lights, tree, and presents :)
And all of this doesn't change what I wrote at the beginning - the holiday are just one tiny thing we have to deal with. It continues with questions regarding language - what do we speak at home, and outside, do we explain school things in Hebrew or English? How we preserve the Hebrew and let the English grow? Do we read to them in English or Hebrew? Do we watch DVDs in Hebrew or English? Does it matter if it's Ron or Yon? etc. And we see more and more of those questions with every day...
The kids won't be Israelis. There is nothing we could do about it even if we wanted. Their Hebrew isn't perfect. They don't have Israeli history. They grew up someplace else. Even if we do go back it won't erase all the years outside of Israel. It won't make them Israelis, anymore than leaving Israel makes us Gibralterians. 
And that brings us back to the original problem - we have to find a way to bridge the gaps. To create traditions that will keep them connected to us and vice-versa. So we celebrate Christmukah. We put up a tree, decorate it with the kids, bake cookies with them, open presents from under the tree with the kids. Light the candles with the kids, sing the songs with them, and eat some doughnuts. Because after all, all holidays are really about one thing - family.

Getting back to December 2012, for us, it was the right decision. It was and still is the right way of doing things. We have our small traditions that we love and that gives us the feel of a family. And by now we take them for granted. We have to find our way in so many areas everyday that in this we prefer to embrace where we live and our choices and not fight with it.
Truth is, everyone here assumes that you celebrate Christmas, most people don't know we are Jewish (and even after they know, they still assume that), Ron wanted to be in the choir and do some caroling, and we embrace the whole Christmukah things wholeheartedly.
And if Robert Zimmerman (you know - Bob Dylan) can release a Christmas album, the least we can do is enjoy it!

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December 17, 2012

Christmukah Part 1 - Hannukah

Apparently you can write Hannukah in English in like 5 different ways, so I never know what way is the correct way. I also heard it called The Jewish Christmas, which I found really funny. I go with Hannukah just because :).
Just in case you don't know, Hannukah is NOT a big deal in Israel. Well that's not really true, because you have the doughnuts. And who doesn't like doughnuts? also you have the Latkes. And chocolate coins. But if you don't have kids, Hannukah is not a big holiday. It's not even a proper bank holiday. In fact if you do have kids, it's even kind of an annoying holiday - lots of hannukah parties at nursery and school's off for 8 days.
But when you live outside of Israel it is considered the biggest of all Jewish holidays, and usually the only one non-Jewish people recognise, because of its closeness to Christmas. Like all Jewish holidays this one also moves around every year (I explained this one in my Rosh Hashana post), but it's always somewhere around December.
Personally I adore Hanunkah  It's been one of my favourite holidays for years, ever since we had Ron. I love the food, the songs, the whole lighting of the candles. I try and make the effort to do it correctly every year. In fact Hidai and I have our Menorah that goes back to when we moved in together.
That being said, I don't like the way the story is taught to kids. Like most Jewish holiday it can be summarised in - someone tried to kill the Jews and they failed. Lets Eat. I know I am saying that a lot, but seriously, it's taking this great holiday that talks about freedom, and light, and hope, and has roots in the pegan beliefs that precede Judaism, and all the connections to Christmas, and just throws them away for the All Israeli Way of - it's good to die for our country.
If you really want the story of Hannukah, there is a very short version here. You can find much much longer versions, like this one, but why would you want to?
So this year, because Ron is 7 (and a half like he likes reminding me. Every day.), I told him the story properly, making sure he knows it's been a long long time since it happened (and yes, after we had to go check on Google who it was that tried to kill the Jews this time), and making sure he understands the meaning of Hannukah as we want it to pass - the general messages of freedom of beliefs, courge to fight for what is right, and hope. Sometimes it's easier being outside of Israel. No one will tell him anything different than what we explain. At least not until he is old enough to understand the insanity that is the Jewish holidays.
Yon, as usual, enjoyed the music. His preferred song was the blessing of the candles.
I am slightly ashamed to say we did not resist the doughnuts urge, and ate our first doughnuts before Hannukah. We bought some jam doughnuts at Sainsbury's that were actually quite good (not really real doughnuts, and the filling wasn't strawberries or Nutella, but still...).

Also, you can't have a holiday without the necessary visit to Golders Green, to buy overpriced holiday knickknacks. I bought some very glitter-filled menorah and dreidel hanging things, and some holiday napkins (I find you can't really have a proper holiday without the appropriate napkins), ans table confetti (which we didn't use). Because the kids are older now, I decided they should each get a menorah of their own, that comes together with a dreidel, a box of candles, a sack of chocolate coins and Hannukah shaped shortbread cookies. Well, obviously I was there, so I bought some can't-live-without-necessities. Like Humus.
Hannukah booty 
There were so many other knickknacks at Kosher Kingdom, it was crazy. Next year I am for sure buying the Latkes domino game :). And the Yiddish Hannukah songs CD that was playing. And some of the 8 presents for 8 days ideas they had. It is crazy because it's just done so that Jewish kids won't feel deprived that they don't have Christmas. Oh and don't get me started on the Hannukah bush.
One of the four Hannukah things stands at Kosher Kingdom
So, 8 days of Hannukah, what did we do?
On the first day, Ron and I were still not healthy so we cancelled the big Hannukah celebration with the family and just lit the candles at home, with some music and store bought doughnuts.
First candle
On the second day we went to Jo & Adrie for afternoon tea and carrot cakes, so we did the whole candles thing pretty late when we got home. 
3rd day was uninteresting, as it was Monday, also known as Ron's football day and getting home really late day.
4th day was Latkes day! Latkes are, for lack of a better english explanation, some kind of potato deep fried pancake. Yummy (even if it did not sound yummy from that description, trust me - it is. Especially when you eat it with soured cream or apple sauce). I make latkes once a year, because, well first of all I hate frying things (especially in winter. Not so fun opening all windows at around 2 degrees Celsius), and second of all - if you tried making latkes you know the whole process is kind of disgusting with the whole squeezing the grated potatoes and all. But they are a Hannukah tradition (and yummy), so once a year it is.
Very yummy.
5th day was sweet cheese pancakes and home-made easy doughnuts day. You have to have proper Israeli cheese for both (though I did read in one of my beloved food blogs that you can substitute Israeli soft cheese with Greek yogurt. It really does tastes kind of the same) so I bought lots of cheese and hid it all in the back of the fridge so no one would eat it, and then I had to use it, and while I was making the cheese pancakes I just figured why not fry it all in one go? So I did. Kids and Hidai had a blast. I, on the other hand, ate about 1 doughnut and 2 cheese pancakes. Can't eat fried food... 
It tastes better than it looks
6th day was leftovers day. What can I say - There are always too many...
7th day was mini doughnuts day, but unfortunately they were the kind that looks better than it tastes. I prefer the other kind...
8th day was the day I was planning on making real last day doughnuts, but Hidai put a stop to all the frying madness and also I was again not feeling well, so no real doughnuts this year :(.

It's not a big secret that I had a few concerns with Hannukah this year. Actually I was dreading it a bit, because Hannukah is more enjoyable in a big celebration, with friends and family, and we did not have that this year. I was afraid it will feel lonely and sad, that the kids won't get in the spirit, that it will stretch forever and we won't enjoy it as much as we usually do. And while it is true that we spent most of the holiday just the four of us, it was a very good holiday with lots of fried food and we are now once again very very fat and happy :) 
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December 13, 2012

To Blog or Not To Blog, and also it's Christmukah!

I haven't been here for a while. Some of it is because I am spending this past few weeks half-healthy, or on the verge of yet another illness if you prefer. Some of it was because I was so so busy with organising Christmikah, which always starts with "what's the problem?" and turns in to a military operation filled with excel spreadsheets and wrapping papers.
But mostly it was not being sure if I wanted to come back. I felt the Blog lost its way a bit, or maybe it was me, I am not really sure... But anyway I needed some time to think about the purpose of it all. When we first moved out of Israel, we were still a part. A part of other people lives, people who we left behind and who cared about us. I had a small closed Hebrew Blog that was intended just for those people, to make sure that they will stay a part of our life. Also, I am very bad at keeping in touch. So so very bad. And I am no good in conversations, so the Blog is my way of never having to talk about myself. But the years went by and people moved on. It's a fact of life I guess. But we are not a part anymore. We haven't been to Israel much these last 3 years, and bit by bit our life has changed so much that we couldn't stay a part. As I am writing this while listening to my Xmax playlist, I feel free to say that our life today has no resemblance to our life 3 years ago when we left Israel. It is also changing from the life we had in Gibralter, as every place is different. So the people who I wanted to read stopped reading the Blog, and I lost my one last connection to them. I know not everyone thinks a Blog is a personal way of staying in touch, and it can't be directed to them if it public. But it is. When I write I have these images of people sitting around my table (not crazy. Really. Promise), and knowing they are not reading it made me feel... Forgotten I guess. So what's the point? it's so hard trying to put our lives on a piece of paper, to find the right words, to open up our inner family-life, our dilemmas and hurts, to know that it's out there in the open (and in English). And in the end, that nobody cares.
I know I am writing about how hard life is at the moment. I know that does not make for very fun reading. I guess why would anyone want to read about how hard it is for us in London? I get it. I totally do. So I guess it is mostly my fault. I can say that the 5 months we've been here went by with the blink of an eye (which is true), that Hidai is very happy in his new job (also true), and that the kids are doing GREAT in school (again, true). But it would be only half the story, and for me, without the interesting parts, without the parts that makes life what they are. And yes, right now, since we've only been here 5 months, life is still an adjustment. We are still finding our way. And to me, writing about all these struggles is more real than just saying, yea everything's great here's a photo of Covent Garden.
In the end of the day though, I can't make anyone read. I can't make anyone care. And I can't make anyone understand what it's like moving countries with two kids. But here I am, writing again. Why? First of all, because I prefer to repress everything I just wrote and keep on believing that everyone's reading me, and second because apparently some people are reading me, most of them from the UK, and since I know about 3 people here, I have to assume some people find me interesting :).

The past 3 weeks has been packed with activities and illnesses, with all of us (including Hidai, who is making me explain that he was not really sick. Just a tiny tiny bit) suffering from the unfamiliar viruses that are running around. We seem to catch every single one of them. Fun times.
Ron had an assembly at school, or "Show and Tell" as they call it here. It was a 20 minutes show about ancient Egypt, and he delivered his 2 lines superbly. He was so nervous and excited before, we were afraid he is going to faint on stage... He also had his first parents-teacher meeting, to which his very young (and adorable) teacher wore a suit :). He is a great teacher, and he is getting Ron to do things we would have never guessed are possible (like painting. Or writing stories), and he sat with us with his infinite patience and explained everything, answered all our questions, and put our minds at ease. I don't like writing about Ron at school, it seems wrong somehow, so I will just say that he is doing great, and that the fact that he chose the school when we got here gave him a sense of control that he needed, and that he made the right choice. The school is exactly what he needs.
Both kids made their Christmas cards to give out in class. It's not a big deal except for the fact that they were the only ones who did it. We did ask before and Tyler's mum said that it is done, but apparently not really. Ron didn't care, and this year he made an extra effort and wrote each kid a special personal note. They also had a Winter Fair at school, to which we donated all the toys they don't want anymore (always have a spring cleaning before Christmas or you will not have any room for those massive amounts of new toys...) and were able to not replace them with new ones... Ron preformed with the choir, and Yon got to see his first Santa for the year. Unfortunately he is still very much afraid of all Santas so this will also be his last Santa for the year. Luckily it was his nursery teacher (yes, both kids have male teachers, both of them young and adorable), so after he took off the beard and revealed himself we got Yon to sit beside him. Ron was super excited because he had a chance to meet Yon's teacher... He knew from the start it wasn't "the real Santa"...
Because of all the illness, especially the main chef's (that's me!), we had a very light Hannukah this year, with Sainsbury's doughnuts and no guests... We were supposed to have a family gathering for the first candle but since Ron chose the day before to catch my stomach bug and puked his way through school, we postponed to next year. It was kind of hard on us, first of all because I love love love holidays (one of the reasons we adopt every stray holiday we see), second because I love December holidays (Hannukah, Christmas and our anniversary. What is there not to love?!), and third because we miss the friends we left in Gibraltar and who made last year's December fantastic. We don't have it here, because building new relationships is a tough, time consuming, trial and error process, that I don't think we were aware how much we didn't want to go through again... Sometimes I think moving for the second time is like having a second child - what you miss most are the things you worked the hardest to achieve and that have no shortcuts for the second time around. Like friendships. Anyway, back to Hannukah, I did go up to Golders Green to buy some decorations, candles and dreidels, and we light the candles each night. Hearing Yon bless the candles is the funniest thing ever. Like in any other song, he makes up half the words and there is always a Zebra somewhere in the middle...
Yesterday I was feeling like a normal healthy person, so I made Latkes (which Ron loves and Yon ate because we told him it's like mashed potatoes...) and today they got the easy and fast version of home-made doughnuts. I still have to make one batch of real doughnuts, because it's not really Hannukah otherwise...
Christmas tree is up! We put it up last weekend, and this year we also have lights on the balcony, and lights on the kids' window, and lots of indoor decorations! I love it! The house looks so festive with all the Christmukah decorations. Ron helped a lot with putting all the decorations on the tree, Hidai is in charge of lights, and Yon was in charge of destroying each and every one of the candy-canes. Also he likes going around touching the tree. Not sure why. I really wanted a real tree this year, mainly because there are so many of them going around, and it is so cool! But the boys out-ruled me because of the dirt. It didn't matter how many subtle hints I threw around, i did not even get my mini-tree (another hint...). I did get a vague "next year" promise. Yeah right.
We also have a giant tree in the middle of the garden, filled with lights, that just makes me smile every day. I absolutely love Christmas. Not the religious Christmas. Like I don't celebrate the Israeli Hannukah. I love my meaning of these holidays. The meaning I teach my kids - of miracles, and hope, and light. That the tiniest light can chase away darkness. That miracles are possible. That we are free to choose what we want to believe in. That life is light and laughter.

Next week is the beginning of Christmas vacation, and my parents are coming for 2 weeks.
It is also our anniversaries week - it will be 12 years that Hidai and I are together, 9 Years that we are married and 3 years since we left Israel.
So yeah, it is true that not everything is how I hoped it would, and that we are still adjusting, but hey (and I feel I am entitled to finish with a sappy note) look how far we've come my baby  

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