April 26, 2013

The joys of boys

Everywhere I look these days I see people writing lists - 10 reasons for this, 7 for that, 8 things to say, 20 to do. The blogosphere has become list-crazy. And why not? Lists are fun, and you are able to generalize stuff without feeling bad about admitting things you otherwise wouldn't really want to admit. Want an example? As it happens, I have just the thing. Let's write a list about what "everyone" likes about sunny days. "Everyone" likes the way the sun impact the behaviour of guys. What do you mean how does the sun impact the behaviour of guys? The minute the sun comes out guys start to undress. I swear every sunny day I get to watch at least 4 different half naked young guys, usually cleaning (why do guys clean naked? why do I care?). That is completely not the reason why I work on my laptop that is facing the window and not the desktop that faces the wall. Totally not the reason. Anyway, where were we? Oh, yeah, lists. See what I did there with the whole ogling half-naked guys and making it appear totally acceptable? 
So I decided to write a list also, because I want to be part of the blogosphere, and also because I lead a very boring life and I figured there should be a limit to how many times I complain about Albinism, or bureaucracy, or about how boring my life is. So a list it is. I started out with this amazing list that reveal all the mysteries of the universe and the way to happiness. But then I remembered I found this type of lists so god damn condescending and ended up with a list about, as you might have guessed from the title of this post - life on mars. Which is in fact how I sometimes feel about living in my own house (hence the very common complaint of  - what the hell is going on in this house?! that I am known to shout in frustration to... No one in particular), or as a more flattering name - The Joys of Boys.
As you all know, I have two of those, three if you count Hidai (which I sometimes do, especially after I discovered he sneaked another annoying rock song into my playlist. Don't go anywhere I have to kill that song), and just one of me, so life sometimes feel like an anthropological journey into the unknown (and undeveloped). This is what I learned about living with boys:

1. Around the house –
  • Boys are horrible at cleaning. Whatever you ask them to clean it will take three times the normal amount of time it should and will be done in half the efficiency, and anyway you will have to do that again after they finish. Unless it's their valuable guitar. Oh, then it's lovingly patting it, and gently wiping it, and putting it back after cleaning its surroundings with such care and delicacy. Still takes three hours for one task though.
  • You on the other hand get the pleasure of cleaning the toilet (actually it's all the area surrounding it also, so let's say the bathroom) anywhere between 3 and 5 times a day, and that is on regular days.
Yon cleaning
    • You get to have one laundry load for black, one for blue, one for grey, and your 3 red / purple / pink shirts that are never enough for one load.
    • You ask them to do something. Say, bring their trousers so they won't go naked around the house. Reasonable request you would think, so after the half hour discussion about not going around the house naked, your highly intelligent child goes to his room to bring his trousers. He comes back with a zebra and still without trousers. Why? because he forgot what he is doing. It is not restricted to trousers unfortunately.
    • The amount of food boys eat is not necessarily directly related to their age. More to the amount of chocolate / meat/ cheese/ chips in the dish. And in many cases it is negatively related to how long you wanted the dish to last - if it's meant for 2 days it will be finished in one meal. And vice versa. Also, boys eat a lot. A lot. 
    • Boys sleep like they are teenagers, or in the army (or in college, pick your metaphor, but you get my drift) from the moment they are born - one hand under their head, one touching themselves, drooling everywhere, snoring at all ages, and hard to impossible to wake up. And when you try they snarl at you. Even when they are four.
    • Boys like to go to the toilet together. But actually I think this one is also related to the next part - entertaining young boys, because they tend to spend long period of times on the toilet. Yes, for some reason boys learn at a very tender age that a toilet is a) a good room for playing and b) the best place to do your reading. 
    2. Entertaining young boys –
    • You get to learn all sorts of interesting facts. What, are you saying you don't find (insert any footballer name here)'s number, birthday, clubs history and number of goals & assists interesting? What do you mean what's football? 
    • You get to know all of Bob's tractors, Ben10 aliens, and watch every talking animals show there is, but you have no idea what is Hello Kitty (seriously. What is it?).
    • You find yourself really thinking about your pacifist views the first time your child gets a toy gun. On the one hand you always said you will never allow toys like that in the house; on the other hand – you can squeeze 10 minutes of quiet and maybe a cup of coffee out of that gun.
    • You get to play all the Super Mario Kart you want and tell yourself it’s all in the name of connecting with your child.
    • All they need for a fun day is that you throw them out the house with daddy and a ball. You have to just say the word "park" and they are at the door with shoes on. You on the other hand are never needed there, and so can get a couple hours of quiet to, you know, do laundry. And also feel guilty that you are missing your kids’ childhood.

      • On the other hand, if the weather forces you to stay inside they apparently see hitting each other as a good way to pass the time.
      • After a day or two of rain you have to take them outside or they start bouncing off the walls and running around the house screaming "ahhhhhhhhhh" just because, well, they already finished jumping on your bed, emptying all their toys and kicking a ball around to see if they can bounce it off the wardrobe (they can't).
      • A kissing monster is a good way to get hugs and kisses from boys older than 3. Bribes also works. Boys learn at a very tender age that - mummy is an embarrassment, kissing is icky, especially at school, and hugging is out of the question. Unless you want something. Then they are all huggy-kissy creatures. Oh, also when sick. 
      • On a match day it is advisable to go to a different room, close the door, and ignore any noise that comes out of the living-room. Boys tend to get slightly emotional at certain points of life, and no, it's not the birth of their first-born, or their wedding day that gets them all emotional. It's a football match. So you will probably hear shouting, screaming, fighting, more shouting, some crying, and it will end with some cursing. After ten to twenty minutes of quiet, when you gauge it safe to open the door and tentatively ask "how was the match?" you get the answer "great fun. We won". 
      • Want to talk about your boys while they are in the room and without them eavesdropping? Couldn't be easier, just turn on the TV and stick them infront of it. nothing you will say from that moment on will penetrate the TV attention wall.
      3. Talking to boys –
      • You get to hear the answer "I don't know" to more questions than you thought possible. Want an example? Okay, this is a conversation that happened in this very house on Tuesday. Ron needed to learn the words of "Yellow Submarine" to sing in class on Wednesday. I told him to find the words online and we will print them. After a couple of minutes I ask him what's going on. He says, "I decided I prefer to write the words myself on a piece of paper" I ask "why?"  He answers, "I don't know". 
      • So kids, they go to school right? Then they come back and you want to know how was their day. It does not seems like an excessive demand right? Or so you would think. It goes like this: "how was your day?" you get one of two possible answers - the well-rehearsed one that is the same every day and never changes, or the short terse "fine" with nothing else to follow. That is why every mum of boys comes with the abilities of a highly trained prisoner interrogator, and why those 15 minutes of walking home are super important, because what you couldn't get out of the prisoner by the time you got home will be forever lost. 
      Walking home
      • Every question you ask, even a yes or no one, or say a tough one like "what do you want for dinner?" will cause the recipient to look like a deer caught in the headlights, look around for an escape route or someone else that will save him, and when there is no way out, he will try a tentative "ahhhh.... yeeeeesssss? no, no, I meant no" to gauge your reaction. Even when you tell him there is no right answer. In a boy's mind, there is always a right answer that he doesn't know.
      • Also you can always threaten them by telling them you are going to ask them how they feel. Ron thinks it's a form of torture, so I am not ashamed to say that when the "I'm bored" yell comes out of his room I tell him we can discuss how it makes him feel... There always seems to be some miraculous quiet after that...
      • You really want to invest in your boys for the sake of all young girls everywhere, you really want to raise boys who are considerate to women, who respect women, who will know how to put the toilet seat down. But then he meets those young girls, and you meet some of those young girls, and then someday you find yourself telling them "you know girls, they like to change their minds" or "girls love talking about feelings" or "you know what, it's better if you let them chase you. Don't chase girls".
      • I bow infront of JK Rowling who captured the essence of boys emotional range completely in this one one sentence - "A slightly stunned silence greeted the end of this speech, then Ron said, "One person can't feel all that at once, they'd explode."
        "Just because you've got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn't mean we all have," said Hermione."
      • In the end of the day, when there is something serious to discuss and a point you really want to get across, you find yourself using sport analogies. Yes. Sport analogies. 
      4. Shopping for boys –
      • The correct way to check if shoes are a good fit – run to the other side of the store, hop on one foot back, try to kick your brother. Now, what do you think? The correct way to check if trousers are a good fit - run to the other side of the store, hop on one foot back, try to kick your brother. Now, what do you think?
      • And in the end it doesn't matter – shoes will get ripped within two months, and all trousers have holes in the knees. With boys, it’s just easier to buy in bulk. It’s not like the next time you’ll find yourself in the store it won’t be in order to buy the same black / blue trousers…
      • And if that is not enough, why do the people manufacturing kids clothes think I want to buy shirts with monsters, or explosions, or dumb saying of how dumb everyone, on them? Why can’t I find one that says, “I love mummy” on it? I am sure my 8 years old would just loooove it, don’t you think?
      So yeah, list conclusion - boys are weird.

      Read more »

      April 23, 2013

      Times like these

      I hate bananas. There. I said it. They always start so nice and yellow and inviting, and you get tempted and buy them, and then after a day or two you realize - nobody ate them and you get stuck with bananas in the house, that nobody wants to eat.
      Why am I telling you this? Isn't it obvious? I am sharing a deep dark secret here, so you would feel appreciated and loved and as a part of my inner circle you will want to come back. But also so you would understand how rare it is that we found ourselves eating banana-muffins. The truth is we are trying to cut down on the amounts of food being eaten in this house (I am saying we and mean me, I am saying food and mean chocolate. It's like you need a code-breaker here), and so we found ourselves buying very large amounts of fruits & vegetables, because everybody knows - if you don't have chocolate but you really really need some you will eventually eat the bananas. Yeah... No. You secretly eat the chocolate-chips you hid in the baking drawer and lie about it. Oops. Ahhhhhh... No, of course that's not me, it's strictly hypothetical. The thing is, it's not enough to buy them, you actually have to eat the fruits & veg for them to have an effect on anything but your fridge (why am I keeping my fruits and veg in the fridge? because I am from Israel, where it is warm, and you keep everything, including yourself, in the fridge). And we did try, really we did, we started eating more salads, which everyone really enjoyed (okay except Yon who hates all types of fruits and vegetables and is making sure we will not forget that fact for even a nano-second), we ate the mangos, we ate the grapes, we ate the pineapples. I jumped on the opportunity, and the very well known fact that apple crumble is a diet-related cake, and made one. It was finished on the same day. Very diet appropriate. But then we got stuck with the bananas and after we had to throw away a box of strawberries because they've gone bad, we couldn't possibly throw those out too. There was only one solution - I made banana & chocolate chips muffins.
      Big mistake.
      The thing is I love baking. Love it. And (even if I do say so myself) am very good at it. So I try not to bake, because a) when I start it is very hard for me to stop, and b) we eat a lot. A lot. Which was not our intention for April.
      In the last week we had - apple crumble, banana & chocolate-chips muffin, carrot & hazelnut muffins, and chocolate cupcakes.
      Each of them had a good excuse (especially the chocolate cupcakes - we ran out of milk on Sunday afternoon, so I had nothing to give the kids for breakfast on Monday - hence chocolate cupcakes).
      Today Hidai held an intervention for me, which basically went something like - STOP BAKING! NOW!!!
      Still thinking I could sneak in a last batch of pistachio cookies in there though.

      I guess since we are sharing all these intimate secrets, it's just fair that you know the truth - I don't have a photo of the apple crumble because it was finished before I could get my phone and take one (and also because I had to stop eating to do so).
      But I should also tell you the other truth, I bake when I am stressed, and it seems to me that our lives are spinning out of control at the moment. Every aspect of it is not how or where it should be. Let us count the ways - 
      1. Bureaucracy. The never-ending story of life isn't it? Our last bureaucratic hurdle of moving to London is yet to be over, and we are still waiting for all our documents, passports and stamps of approvals to come back from the Home Office, and with each day that goes by I become more and more convinced that we are on our way to get deported. Also, we found out that the nursery charged us "by mistake" (yeah right, is that what we are calling that nowadays?) money for an hour a week that is supposed to be covered by the council. It's not the money, it's the principle of the thing (and the money). On the other hand, I was very happy to get the news that Yon has a place in the school we wanted (the same one Ron is in) for next year! What? It's not like I was worried or checked the site obsessively every 5 minutes from 8am. 
      2. Yon. It doesn't go away. We've had a tough couple of weeks with the whole living with Ocular Albinism part of the diagnosis. On the one hand you can ask - why? since nothing's changed since before. The diagnosis just gave it a name, nothing else. And it's true, but it also took away our sense of hope. We were at the doctors for his regular tests, and the girl who does the first eye-test (the snellen chart) looked at us very disappointed and says "there is no change from last time", and all I think was, yes, and there will never be. This is it. This is how every eye check from now on will look, and in fact the best we can hope for is this "no change" comment because it means there are no complications. He did get new glasses out of this visit, electric blue with zebra stripes on the inside, that he chose by himself (almost), and that's it, we have been moved to the non-emergency cases, to the static cases, to those who can come to hospital every six months because nothing will happen in the middle. We have never gone through 6 months of no doctors with Yon, but there you have it - static condition. There is nothing the medical world can do for him. Obviously that's not all, because the day he came back from Easter vacation the advisor from the outreach program came to view him at nursery, and then talked with us. It was, by far, one of the hardest conversations we've ever had about Yon's condition, even more than the doctor telling us the diagnosis. Because it was the first time the full meaning of his condition hit us - the realization that we are no longer able to deny, to hide. We are no longer able to say "we will wait and see". We moved to the realm of "how much help he needs from now on", not "if he will need in the future" but "what he needs now". We moved to the realm of registering him as partially blind to get all the assistance he needs, to the realm of iPad apps to the partially blind, to the realm of magnifier glass to read small prints, hat on at all times to reduce glare, to the realm of teaching him letters and reading and typing at home so he won't need to concur that in class next year, to the realm of special keyboards and mouse. To the realm where you have to tell him why he is the only one with glasses, why he has to wear his hat, why he can't see the damn numbers on the weather app. To the realm of testing him all the time at home, of watching him even more, of being torn even more. To the realm of having a disabled child. Even now, a week later, I can't seem to be able to write all this and not cry.
      Trying out the magnifier glass. He didn't like using it, to magnify things, but it turned out to be an amazing sword.
      What I find the hardest is understanding. My eyes are fine, I never had a problem with seeing, never had glasses, so I can't understand how it is to have a problem, I can't understand what it is he sees and how. I couldn't imagine that he will react so badly to getting his new glasses which he picked by himself, but he did. He cried, he refused to wear them, he was so miserable, and I didn't know what to do, how to help him. How can you help him when he doesn't see how high the stairs are? How do I help him when he doesn't see the letters in the book? How? I can't. Nobody can. So we hug him and tell him it's all right. But it's not. It's just what there is.
      So we scoured the net yet again, and found this great video by a girl named Casey who explains what she sees, and this other video showing the world as a person with Albinism sees it, and we found some others also, and they were all done by young, beautiful girls who lead whole and good lives. And they all talked about the biggest paradox of it - looking "normal" on the outside and wanting to be "normal" and not use any assistance, while needing it and not being able to live without it. And they all raised the question we also find terrifying - how can you not let your disability define you.
      No answers here. Just a whole lot of questions, so I added some new things to the blog, because maybe there are others in search of the same answers as us. The blog now has 2 new sections - Ocular Albinism (on the right bar, the glasses icon) that for now only includes Yon's story in full details but I will add to it all we know and learned about Ocular Albinism, and a new section in the overhead bar, of how to survive vision problems, which contains all we learned about dealing with having a child with... You guessed it - vision problems.
      New glasses and new hat
      3. Ron. Because we can't forget he is here, he needs his attention, his share of love. His birthday is in less than 2 weeks, and it is totally not organized to my standards. The presents are all jumbled in my closet, I don't even remember what I got him and if it's enough. I have no clue what to bake for his class, if he wants to bring party-bags, I don't even have wrapping paper for his presents. I need to buy him clothes. I put everything I have left at the moment into talking with him, playing with him, reading with him. Into making sure he does not feel forgotten. And the worst part of it is, I'm not even sure if it's working.

      Ron, a rare picture because he doesn't like it when I post photos of him usually...
      4. Money. Because how can you have a hard time without throwing in a tiny financial situation? Don't get me wrong, every month is somewhat better than the one before, but we still have to budget every penny, wiggle and maneuver money around, and worry about every little thing. We are not where we wanted or hoped to be this time of the year. On Thursday I dreamed we won the lottery. Nothing big you see, just a hundred thousand or so. It was one of those vivid dreams, the ones you remember after you wake up. The ones you are sure are real. So I made Hidai go out and buy us a lottery ticket. We had 1 number. But that's an improvement, because last time we had none! 5 more times and we hit the jackpot :).
      5. Health. This Spring-no-Spring thing is killing me. Apart from being constantly on the verge of the flu, my joints are not dealing well with all these changes (and yes I am aware of the fact that I sound like an eighty years old, but with the amounts of painkillers I had to take today and the fact that I can't wear high-heels, which I waited all winter to get back to, I don't care).
      6. Weight. Self explanatory right?

      Well, there you have it. Hopefully you survived reading all that, and got all the way to here. I am sure you want me to say something profound, or meaningful, or smart.
      I might have found such a thing but the painkillers are making me see flying zebras so I will leave you with, well, the image of a flying zebra.
      But also with the only saying that we live by in times like these (and we have the fridge magnet to prove that):
      When the going gets tough,
      The tough eats chocolate.
      Read more »

      April 18, 2013

      The things (well-meaning) people say

      You know how it is that from the moment you are visibly pregnant strangers, friends and other well-meaning people feel its okay to comment about everything concerning you and later your baby?
      I bet there isn't a woman alive who haven't heard "from the shape of your belly I predict a boy!" or "he looks cold why doesn't he have socks on?" or "why is he crying? Here, let me help you" (granted the last one is usually being said to Hidai, and usually on the way to school when one of the kids is having a particularly bad morning).
      Well, imagine you had a red-haired baby with not a hint of redness in your husband or your hair... Yes, over the years the "ohhhh, did you check which of your wife's acquaintances has red hair" saying was heard quite a bit around our house, and always made me want to say "Oh! That's it! I can't hide it any longer! I was sleeping around on my husband and this is in fact not his son! Please don't tell him..." just so I could see the look on that person's face... Obviously none of it is true, and obviously I didn't say it, but a meek "some grandparent on some side had red-hair" instead, which is also not true (red-heads genes just come as they like). We also got the "look how many freckles he has" and "oh no, he will be miserable at school" saying which I love. But I guess I have to thank all those people because it's nothing compared to what we get with Yon, who wears his glasses since he was 6 months old, and now as it turns out needs to add a hat at all times to that, which might look not-so-strange had we been living anywhere else but in London...
      It took me a while, but in the end I figured, you can get upset, you can ignore, or you can sit down and make a list of all the things people say when they see Yon or hear about his situation.
      Obviously I got upset.
      And then sat down and wrote a list :)

      "You are overreacting" Of course I am. I mean it is obvious that with your vast knowledge of children's vision problems you can diagnose him right away and decide that we are hysterical. Thank you oh great one, I feel better already.
      "It could be worse" Of course it could. It could have happened to your child.
      "Well, be glad that this is what's troubling you", (more commonly known as שאלה יהיו הצרות שלך) Why yes I am glad thank you. After all I wouldn't want your enormous troubles instead. Did you manage to find the right dress for tonight?
      "But he looks so normal" Wow! Did we forget to stick on his forehead-sticker again?!
      "Are you sure?" No, we made it all up.
      "But my sisters'-husbands'-second-cousins'-friend had the same exact problem and he's really quite normal" Well, it depends on what you call normal. Did he stop drooling and walking on his hands already?
      "I'm sure if you work with him it will get better" Sure, cause what's a little static-irreversible-genetic condition? The real problem is we're neglecting the kid.
      "I know a really good doctor" That's really lucky, you can go to him to fix your nose after I punch you.
      "What he needs now is your love and support" True, because up until now we gave him hate and abandonment.
      "That's nothing. My child has a real problem" Okay, so we are doing this. Should we also undress and compare scars?
      "I can't believe it took you this long to find the right diagnosis" It's because we didn't really care up until now.
      "Does he like his glasses?" Well considering he can't really see without them, then no. He doesn't.
      "It's a non-invasive test" Oh, so you think sticking electric probes to a 3 years old eyes and making him look at a flashing screen of black & white stripes for 3 hours is what exactly?
      "But I swear he saw that bird in the tree", Did he also tell you about the dinosaur he swears is next to it?
      "You need to remember that this is the only thing he knows", so he won't mind it when he doesn't see what everyone else sees? Sure.
      "You need to be strong for him" He is not terminally ill thank you.
       "On no! Poor baby" (usually comes with the have to be strong one), Again - not terminally ill.
      "He didn't really cooperate (in the test)", Really? I wonder why. What if I try shining a light into your eyes for 10 minutes straight. Let's see how well you react.
      "Have you thought about alternative medicine?" Now that you mention it, I'm sure positive thinking and some herbs will fix different wiring in his eyes.
      "But he is such a smiling, happy child", That's the drugs. Want some?
      "I'll keep him in my prayers", We tried praying, but you are still here talking to me.
      "Nobody's perfect", Especially you.
      "It will be alright" (Hidai's favorite)  Did you check that on your crystal ball?
      "There is always hope", No. There isn't. which part of static-irreversible-genetic condition do you think we can hope to fix?
      "The only thing he won't be able to do is drive", Or play some sports, or sit anywhere but in first row in class, or use a computer mouse, or read a printed book, or recognise his friends in the playground, or take off his hat, or copy from the black-board, or, or, or. So yes, sure, the only impact is on his ability to drive.
      "Move on already". I can't.

      Okay, so no one really said the last one. People just look at you in a certain way and you know - you did it again - you talked too much about it again, you weren't happy or up bit or full of hope again, you did not move on.
      Over the last 4 months we discovered so much more about Yon's condition, and had 6 meetings with different professionals about his condition (5 of them over the last 2 months...), and in every meeting we discover how much more severe his condition really is, how much more assistance he will need in school, and in life.
      (Because of the move-on already thing, I thought another long post about how bad Yon's condition really is and haw bad it made me feel was too much, so his latest status updates are on the blog's Facebook page)

      I know everyone wants to help and I know everyone means well, but humor - even if it is more towards the dark and cynical side - is all we have left. You either laugh or cry.
      So I really hope no one got insulted if you think you are somewhere there. We found ourselves there in a few sentences we tell ourselves to make us feel better... Okay Hidai did, but he took it rather well I have to say. Anyway that was really not my intention, and in any case, the thing is - I don't think there is a right thing to say.

      A hat and a coat. This is how we roll :)
      Read more »

      April 14, 2013

      Memorial Day

      When we first left Israel I had so many moments that felt... Wrong... Moments where I missed living in Israel, that made me feel "not at home". It took me a while for example to get used to the fact that outside of Israel, Friday will never be the same - you will never have the same feeling of sacredness that falls down around you around 2 in the afternoon, you don't have the big family dinner (in fact, most Fridays you have to finish things at work so you get home later than usual), or the morning with no kids and no work, when Hidai & I used to sit around at our regular cafe and have our own couple time, or the extended family time - we used to go to my parents every 2 weeks for Friday. At the beginning I didn't cope well with it, and I spent quite a few of my first Fridays feeling bad, until one day I discovered I no longer feel bad, I have found my own Friday rhythm and we managed to keep the special dinners, the candles, the early(ish) closing of the work day - the essence of Friday. I found that the same process returned again and again with many of those early moments, and over the years we slowly managed to build many traditions that replaced our old ones - Fridays, birthdays, holidays. But there are still some things that you just can't replace, some moments that even when you build a new tradition for them, you can't really truly capture their essence.
      Today is one of those days. Today is the Israeli Memorial Day (well, it's the eve, but if you remember I told you that Jewish peoples' day is from sunset to sunset), and though I can, and do, light a memorial candle, listen to Israeli radio, and explain to Ron about all of it, I still can't shake the feeling that it's not right. If we were in Israel we would light our candle and go to watch the opening ceremony and the lowering of the flag, we would stand silently while the sirens are blasting, remembering those who died; in the morning the whole country would stop for a day to commemorate those who lost their lives in wars, the kids would wear white shirts and go to memorial services in school while we would listen to those sad sad songs on the radio, and after the 2 minutes siren we would all go (like we did every year while in Israel) to visit Hidai's friend who lost her brother. We would finish the day with the closing ceremony and Israel Independence Day.
      There is so little of that we can do here, so little that would mean something. So little, and yet every year we try to commemorate this day in the best possible way, to remember those who died.
      Why? I guess because it is still one of the most important days for us. Because we do remember. Because memorial day, for me, is about remembering that, well, war is bad. In war people die. I know it might sound simplistic, or maybe naive, but maybe if we all remembered it a little bit more, a little less people will have to die fighting in wars that they sometimes believe are right and sometimes believe are wrong.
      Memorial day, for me, is just that - a day to remember those who died, a day to remember how it felt when Hidai went off to war, and I was left behind waiting for him to come back, praying that he would. It's a day to think about all those who did lose someone, who has someone that did not come back.
      Memorial day, for me, is a day to think about my time in the army, about Hidai's, and about my kids and what I want for them.
      Memorial day, for me, is a day to stop. Just stop and think. Stop and remember. Stop and respect those who died. Because it doesn't matter if the wars were wrong or right, those people gave up the most important thing anyone has to give up - their lives. And they are worthy of remembrance.
      This weekend, in honor of Memorial day and Independence Day we decided to celebrate Israel and show the kids a little bit more of their heritage and the way these days are done in Israel, so on Friday morning we all went to Golders Green to experience the Friday morning shopping atmosphere while we buy some real Israeli food and incidentally hear some Hebrew spoken by people who are not us. We bought all our regular stuff (well, the things they had in stock anyway. We forgot the rule - after a big holiday it's best to give them a couple of weeks to restock), but unfortunately didn't find any of the Independence Day necessities - flags and plastic hammers. We did buy the traditional Independence Day food though - pittas, humus, fries, pickles, and all the making of a proper salad. We have everything but the meat, because - vegetarian here...
      When we got home, we put on the Israeli weekend radio, that is full of songs in Hebrew (and news, but that's a different story) for the first time in a long long while, drank some coffee with rugaelach and kokosh cake, we even had a newspaper (local one but still) and felt... Well, we felt the weekend quiet descending upon us. It's the first "real Friday" we've had since we left Israel.
      Then we talked to Ron about the meaning of Memorial day, Independence Day (he did not believe us about the plastic hammers though) and Israeli music, and went on to eat our Friday night dinner because let's face it, Jewish (and Israeli) important dates are all about food.
      Just writing all of this makes me want to eat something.
      The thing is, the kids are growing up and we have to deal more and more with the need to teach them about our history, about our traditions, about the place we come from. The kids don't look back, they don't see Israel as "home". For them it is the place their parents come from, and they don't feel a connection to it so it's up to us and only us to create this connection, and it raises questions about what we can teach them, what we want to, which part of our history and traditions we want them to be part of, and how can we do that while choosing to live outside of Israel. How do you explain about the people who died in wars so Israel could exist while choosing not to live in Israel? How can you portray the degree of national importance Memorial Day has while dealing with the fact that this year it's on Monday, the same Monday in which the kids go back to school and Hidai goes back to work after 2 weeks vacation?
      I have no answers - easy or difficult ones. Every year these questions become more prominent, harder to answer. Each year the understanding that they will not know the things we took for granted when we were in Israel, that they will not have the same traditions or holidays or life experiences as us, that the gap between us is deepening, each year this understanding becomes more real, more final.
      This year we commemorated both Memorial Day and Independence Day on the weekend -  Friday to Sunday and added the Israeli-Weekend to the explanations, lighting of the candle and listening to the music so we would feel like we did enough to portray the spirit of the day, but the truth is, you really can't shake the feeling of both not doing enough and not doing it on the right day.

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      April 9, 2013

      Big Dreams and Easter Vacations

      Be careful what you wish for, cause you just might get it all... For some reason, this phrase always makes me think of winning the lottery, so no, we did not win the UK lottery. In fact last time we played (we do it once a month just because of the old joke about the guy who dies and when he reaches heaven goes to God and says - why did I never win the lottery? and God says - because you never played...) we had exactly 0 correct numbers... So yes, no lottery winnings for us, but anyway I was trying to start a whole different post.
      One of the things I discovered over the past couple of years is that realizing your dreams and living in them are two very different things. Usually you don't really think about it do you? You have a dream and you try really hard to realize it, thinking that thing, the fulfilment of that particular dream will change your life forever, for the better. But it doesn't end there, because say you did it - you realized your dream. Now what? Well, here is the kicker - you now have to go on living with it, after it, in it, however you want to look at it.
      I'm guessing by now you know me a little bit, and you know I don't do well with unrealized dreams. I have a sever aversion to what ifs, to the road not taken, to giving up. So I try to make each and everyone of my big life-changing dreams come true. To this day I only have 2 I still have done nothing with - I have not lived in San Francisco and I have not opened a bakery (though I did have a baking business in Gibraltar). Oh yeah, when I was about 20 I wanted to someday be up the corporate ladder, but I reckon if I go to SF, I can always take a ladder to Google headquarters and climb it :)
      Over the last year we made some big changes and realized some dreams. Small stuff like, you know, moving to London. It's not like we've been dreaming about doing that for about 8 years. Noooo. The thing is, there is a difference between the moment you sit down with a bottle of wine and some chocolate and tell yourself - "yeah baby, we've done it" and the actuality of living here. A moment that has yet to come now that I think about it. It's important to stop and enjoy your moment, right? When asked I always say yes, sure, enjoying your victories is important. Take at least as long as you would had you failed. But we didn't, couldn't, and now maybe it's too late because now we have to deal with the reality of this dream, of living here and sometimes, well sometimes, it's not all it's cracked up to be. Because some of the reality of living in London is that it's more for the "young professionals" or the "young at heart" or anyone who doesn't have an 8 years old and a 4 years old boys that needs recreational activities. I know what you are going to say - it's you, so stop blaming London. Maybe it is, I don't know anymore, I do know that it feels kind of weird complaining about London - how can we? How can we complain about living in London? and especially after all the years we've dreamt of coming here? but somehow we found ourselves with the realisation that it's April, it's a week into Easter, and in the last 3 months we had one day of outside-the-house-real-London-day-of-fun, and we really can't see it changing any time soon. We found ourselves sitting around last week thinking that, hey, we expected more. We expected a never ending stream of opportunities, of things to do. We expected it to be LONDON, and not "just" London.

      So we searched and scoured the globe in order to find fun things to do in order to save Easter and London from total ruination -
      When my friend was still here we took the kids to Covent Garden to see the Easter Eggs and Easter Bunnies scattered around, and of course eat some chocolate muffin. Yon can't leave the house without his beloved Starbucks chocolate muffin.

      Hidai and Ron went to watch an Arsenal match for Hidai's birthday and because we found one we were quite certain the team will win...
      Then we took them to Ripley's Believe It Or Not, because my friend wanted to go and we've never been. I didn't really know what to expect, but I found that I am not a fan of the whole 2 headed 3 legged animals and weird looking people. Everyone enjoyed the mazes - mirrors and lasers. All in all a good day out, which was finished with McDonald's and 2 very tired kids.
      We had a visit from the Easter Bunny that the kids waited and waited and waited for, but when the morning came it took them about 3 hours to notice them on the dining table...

      Hidai took advantage of the only semi-sunny day to take the kids to play outside a bit and pretend it's actually Spring.
      Lastly for now we took them on the best day out we could think of - a visit to the M&M shop (fourth time) because my kids absolutely love it.
      we took them to Yon's shrine - Hamley's. The minute he goes inside it's like he is in heaven. All those soft toys and animals, he just can't get enough. We were there for an hour going through each and every animal before Yon let us leave.
      After that and the traditional chocolate muffin and McDonald's we took them to watch We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theater. We wanted to take them to a musical, but we are not big fans of the kids musicals - I don't understand the whole movies-made-into-musicals thing and Yon isn't big on the people-dressed-as-animals thing, so that went out the window. We finally settled down on Rock of Ages, but the lady at the ticket booth said it is not advisable with it being set at a strip-club and all. So we took them to We Will Rock You because we've already seen it a few years ago, and the kids knew almost all the songs by heart. We've bought tickets in the middle of the stalls and prayed that the kids will like it. They loved it. Ron was transfixed, and even Yon was into the whole thing for most of the time, except for about 10 minutes at the start of the second act, but by the time the big numbers have arrived they were both singing and clapping and everything. So very recommended.

      Oh yeah, we also taught the kids how to play real Black-Jack with chips and all. A very viable life-lesson for Ron, the house always wins (and as I was the house, I treated it as if I won).

      So did we save London for ourselves? to be honest I am not sure. We decided when we got here to try and enjoy everything we could in London, that way if we leave here we will have no regrets, we will feel as if we exhausted everything there is to do here. We haven't of course, but we also found out that some things are not for us anymore, or were never for us, and that what we get out of London is somewhat different to what we originally thought. Yes, once again we learned the lesson that things are more complicated than we think.
      For this week we have so many plans... Tomorrow is yet another one of Yon's fun-fun-fun eye checks, then we have a movie on Wednesday (maybe, it's all rain dependant) and a trip to Golders Green is also on the cards.
      Yes, we are all about the fun.

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      April 3, 2013

      Spring - Facebook, Projects and Fun

      I have a Facebook page! I am live on Facebook! And as you can see I am totally cool about it. Please like me on Facebook... If you will like me on Facebook you will get even more interesting insights into my life, insights that let's be honest - you just can't live without! Like the one where I watched the full Lord of The Rings movies for ten straight hours and now every time we wait for the grocery shopping delivery guy to go up the stairs, after we buzzed him through 3 gates, and there is nothing left to do but stand at the door, rolling up our sleeves and taking a deep breath, we recite "you are soliders of Gondor  and whatever comes through that gate, you will stand your ground!"
      Please like my page, even though you now think I'm weird...
      This is how I spent last Saturday - watching all of the Lord of The Rings movies on Hidai's computer
      It seems that Spring is here, at least in spirit if not in actual weather... It's been cold and snowy the whole of March and the beginning of April though is sunnier but definitely not warmer, though there is always hope that by July we will see the double digits again... Then why am I talking to you about Spring when it is so obvious it's yet to make an appearance in the UK? Because like I said, it's here in spirit, mainly in me being in serious "projects mode". You know, like Spring cleaning, just without the cleaning (yet. It was postponed for tomorrow because we woke up at 9 today. Yes I said 9. The kids slept until 9). My first project was the Facebook page. Did I mention that I have a new Facebook page for the blog? no? well...
      Kids pretending it's Spring by playing outside
      Anyway, the other big project I undertook was the fixing of Yon. As you know we had a really big shock with everything Yon related - medical and behavioural, and because we agreed to ask for a formal psychological assessment, we had to feel some very long forms that details everything in his life. Actually the nursery teacher and school psychologist did that and Hidai & I just went over what they wrote and added / corrected where needed. It was horrible seeing everything in writing, and even though I know it always looks worse in these forms, it was very very bad, it was like another shock to the heart all over again. Also we got word back that the specialist from the outreach program our teacher found will observe Yon on the 15th, which is his first day back in nursery after 2.5 weeks at home. So I embarked on a Fix Your Yon program, and my objective is to fix as many of his quirks as I possibly can - and that is how I found myself sitting across the table from him trying to decide what was the best option to make him abandon the straw and start drinking from a cup like a normal person. I looked at him, while considering all my options - bribes, pleading, threatening, and in the end I opened my mouth and what came out was "well... You will need to start drinking without a straw from now on, so... go for it" and he did! I was so surprised, I can't even explain how much... The thing is, up to that day if you even hinted at a no-straw situation he would freak out and start screaming and crying, and now within 2 days he came to terms with it, and he enjoyes the whole clapping-cheering-"I won"-situation he has going on... After the drinking success I decided to tackle the getting himself dressed issue in which every turn used to be "mummy's turn", and within one afternoon became "Yon's turn".
      Encouraged by my huge (and might I add surprising) success, I turned my attention to trying new food, and in the last week he ate whole plates of new things without fighting, shouting, crying or saying "I don't like it"... Lastly we eliminated the whole "not saying what I want, I just point and get it" situation that was becoming somewhat annoying. I am planning on giving back the nursery a new & improved Yon 2.0 (or at least 1.5).
      With Ron my projects are easier, we are reading The Hobbit, studying Maths, and working on moderation (you don't have to memorize the whole book just because I asked you to tell me what you read today) and taking life just a little less seriously (well, I don't think the hour long conversation I had with him about budgets, loans, interest rates and savings helped, but he is such a delight to talk to I couldn't help it...).
      I got an ice-cream maker from my parents, and my next culinary project is ice-cream! I will totally ignore the fact that we are still very deep into the single digits, and the fact that everyone still has a semi-cold, and make lots and lots of ice-cream because I've wanted an ice-cream maker for ages and I will not let reality destroy my ice-cream dreams (and beside, I keep the house on around 25 degrees Celsius at all times, so it's warm enough to eat ice-cream).
      Ice-cream maker! So exciting!
      The Birthday Season has officially started yesterday with Hidai's birthday, then in May I have Ron and myself and in July it's Yon's. Each birthday requires one heart shaped chocolate cake with chocolate sauce, writing and decorations; 10 "Birthday Boy" balloons; 3 birthday cards; and gifts. Hidai got to go to the Arsenal match (they won, an added bonus), he got a manly bookmark and chose to choose his own birthday-present-clothes, so it was a relatively easy birthday to organise. Ron is a different matter all together. He is by far the most difficult to shop for or to organise things for. He is the most amazing child, but asking for things is not his strong suit. I know a lot of people will trade places with me but when it gets to his birthday it can be a bit problematic. He doesn't know what he wants, he doesn't want a party but he wants to celebrate, he only loves football and there isn't a match close enough to his birthday, my parents are coming from Israel especially for his birthday, and it's a bank holiday. It ends up being a military operations, or like I wrote yesterday in my scheduling email - there will be shirts in the end saying "I survived Ron's birthday" :). All his presents have been chosen and are either hidden away in the house or on their way, we chose to take him (and all the rest of us also) to the Warner Brothers Harry Potter tour as a birthday celebration (which leads to another project - watch all 8 Harry Potter movies with Hidai so he knows where we are going. I already watched them of course), he chose which cake to take to school, and there is a 4 days tight schedule for everything and everyone. Thank God I have 2 months before Yon's birthday...
      Mazal Tov Hidai :)
      Have fun this Easter. Yes, it's a project, because for me everything is a project... I need to prepare the venues, the budget, and the time-table. We decided that Easter is a great time to go out and about, to remember that yes, a 20 minutes tube ride will get you to the heart of London, and there is so much we haven't done or seen. So much fun things we still need to do in London, and Spring is the best time to do it. Also, we won't have another long family-holiday until Christmas, so we can't pass up this opportunity. I won't elaborate, first because we still haven't done much - between the Bank Holiday, and some weather-health-work-cleaning the house issues we still had one more indoor day, and second because I am hoping to have a whole post just for Easter things because of all the fun we will have.
      Easter fun has to start with Easter eggs right?
      And lastly, I bought flowers. Daffodils to be exact, because they are yellow, and lovely, and so so Springy. They came all closed-up and disappointing, but I put them in water and within a day I had Spring in the house. I wish other things in life were like that also, but I don't care - I have yellow sunny girly flowers. All is good in the world.
      My flowers
      Oh, yes, did I mention I have a Facebook page?

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      April 1, 2013

      Passover and Girls Night Out

      Passover is the biggest holiday there is for Jewish people. It's all about how the Jews left oppression behind (with God's help of course) and went back to being free men. The long version includes (naturally) the story of how someone tried to kill the Jews and did not succeed (again) and so we eat, and if you want to read it here is the semi-short BBC version and the even longer version. Don't get me wrong I actually like Passover, well that is not entirely true, I only like the message of the story - the from slavery to freedom thing, and the saying that in every generation everyone must see themselves as if they are the ones that were freed and make sure their children know the story (trust me, it sounds way better in hebrew), because I believe it is true, we all have things that binds us, that enslaves us and we should try and free ourselves from them.
      On the other hand Passover food sucks (it's very unexplainable as far as I'm concerned but the basic is no flour and yeast), the real story has some unpleasant concepts I would rather spare my kids, and the whole concept of big extended family dinners is too much for me anyway, so why bother?
      This year we added the fact that I was unsure which metaphorical slavery we were escaping (I like to have one, it makes the holiday more relatable), Passover eve (when you eat) was on Monday, and the money and energy were too low for cooking a big meal.
      So we didn't bother with the traditional Passover.
      Instead we had a week-long visit from my friend who came over from Israel and a pizza-dinner with my brother & his wife.
      That's me drinking coffee. All the photos in this post are my friend's since I am no good in scenery photos...
      And as it turned out, I did escape some metaphorical chains this Passover. For the first time ever I took 2 whole "me days". Hidai worked from home and was in charge of the kids and I went out with my friend (she said no names so I'm honoring her request). We went shopping, we went to see an exhibition in a real grown-up museum, we saw a musical, we drank coffee without rushing, we did not enter the Disney store, M&M world, Hamley's, or any other kids-related or boys-related activity.
      My friend is way posher than me, so we visited all the designer boutiques and stores I usually feel intimidated by, like they know I don't have enough money to buy anything, and what can I say? after viewing everything, I still feel intimidated, but I also didn't see anything I wanted and after having to put my Aldo bag on the floor at Starbucks numerous times this week I still don't get how you're supposed to leave the house with a £400 bag...
      Burberry on Regent St.
      If anyone wants to buy me a birthday gift though, I do understand how you leave the house with those  (fine, I will probably settle for these also)... But I digress, the point of the story was not to encourage you to buy me birthday jewellery (I would also like a Kindle), even though my birthday is next month.
      The point of the story was that I have never ever ever left my kids to just stroll around the city. In the last 8 years (Ron's birthday is also coming up) I abandoned my kids five times - 1 night away when Ron was a year old, when I went into labor, when we flew to Gibraltar to plan the relocation and 2 romantic vacations with Hidai (both were spent shopping in London. Romance is our strong suit). Do you see a common theme? I had Hidai with me, and it was always for a "thing", but I've never just left them all and went shopping for a day. Actually, even more embarrassing, I haven't gone out (for dinner or a show or a movie or whatever) without Hidai even once in our 12 (something) years together. I can't say I haven't thought about it (especially when I get totally frustrated with all of them, or when Hidai doesn't understand what's it like to be the one "left behind"), but I've never done it. Now I did, and I thank my friend for it, because if it weren't for her I don't think I would have ever done it. I've been waiting for her visit and for the "going out" experience for quite some time now. How did it feel? Wonderful. and Awful. First of all I was super excited, and kept saying "yay! I can't believe I've done it!", I enjoyed eating, drinking and sitting without having to first of all make sure anyone else is looked after, I loved getting on and off the tube without counting people, I went to a museum! A real museum, with art! Not "the science museum" or "the transport museum" or "the children museum". I went to the Tate Modern to see the Lichtenstein exhibition. It's been years since I've seen the inside of a real museum (only problem was we had to walk over the Millennium Bridge to get to the museum. I love museums. Walking on bridges over rivers not so much...),
      Crossing the bridge
      no-one said "I'm bored" or "I'm cold" or "Can I have your phone to play" or my favourite "Are we done yet??????", we saw "Viva Forever" which is a total full-of-fun chick-musical based on the Spice Girls songs (I was very much surprised to see how many of them I still remember). In short - I had fun.
      Waiting for the show
      On the other hand I did have some kids-related errands to run so we stopped at Boots and my shopping was mostly related to Easter-eggs, I even took my friend to her first Marble-Arch Primark experience to buy some socks and underpants for... You guessed it - the kids. Also, I had to walk over a bridge (twice), my phone died because I'm not used to being out so long and didn't think to bring a charger with me, I haven't spoken to Hidai and my kids for a whole day (unprecedented), I finished the day talking to the 7 years old girl and her 20 something sister who sat next to me at the theatre and gazing at the redhead girl infront of me (she had hair the exact color as Ron, gorgeous red hair), I missed them all like crazy, and mainly I think, for me London is "our" city, mine and Hidai's. It's always been like that - our honeymoon, every romantic vacation we ever took, our dream destination. It was weird "being in London" without Hidai.
      I think sometimes we don't realize we are enslaved. Sometimes we have life choices we made some time ago and we fail to change them, or even to examine and validate them, or to be happy or sad about them. Sometimes choices become facts of lives. Just-the-way-it-is-and-it-can't-be-changed kind of thing. This Passover thanks to my friend I had a chance to examine one of mine, a very fundamental one, I had a chance to feel how it is to not be here for my Hidai and my kids. I had a chance to look into the "what if" mirror. And I took it. I took my chance, I had so much fun, I had an adventure :) and in the end of the day, all of it made me realise I made the right choice for me.
      (That is not to say I did not close myself in the bedroom to write all this and left Hidai with the kids and the WII).

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