June 28, 2013

A Perfect parent? don't make me laugh

"Did you know that the first Matrix was designed to be a perfect human world? Where none suffered, where everyone would be happy. It was a disaster. No one would accept the program. Entire crops were lost. Some believed we lacked the programming language to describe your perfect world. But I believe that, as a species, human beings define their reality through suffering and misery. The perfect world was a dream that your primitive cerebrum kept trying to wake up from."
Imperfect parenting. the subject made me think of this quote from The Matrix, mainly because I am a geek at heart so my references are always so... Geeky. 
But also, because Imperfect implies the existence of Perfect. When you stop and think about it, talking about Imperfect Parenting is actually like saying "yes, there is Perfect Parenting out there, and I am not it". 
Is there really a set of criteria, of rules, that defines what and who is a perfect mother? I googled it, but couldn't find one. I did find so many articles, photos and sayings that tried to convince me that it's okay to not be Perfect. 
Parenting is the only area in life in which we try, constantly, to be perfect. We accept that there is no "perfect" for anything else in our life, there is, after all no such thing as the perfect wife, or the perfect worker, or the perfect daughter, or the perfect boss, or the perfect friend, or the perfect customer, is your husband perfect? are your children perfect? are your parents perfect? You get my drift. Because non of us is perfect, because there is no Perfect. There is no universal set of criteria that makes for a Perfect Human Being.
What makes parenting different than all the other areas of life, is it the way parenting is portrayed in the media? or maybe the fact that people feel they "give up so much" to have kids so they have to make it perfect? or maybe it the silent competition all parents have - who is better, whose child is smarter, who has it tougher, who sacrificed more, you name it - it's in the competition? maybe it's because of the feeling that after we have kids our entire self-definition becomes dependant on them, we are "only" parents? or maybe it the fear, the fear that everything we do could be the wrong thing, and could hamper our child's future?
I think all of it tantamount to pressure, to the enormous parenting-pressure people are under even before they become parents. I think it's especially true today because the average age for having the first child is around 30, and the decision when to start a family is a more conscious one, it is more than just "oh, let's have a baby because we feel like it". There are advantages to being more cautious, more organised, more conscious about the prices you pay and the changes in your lives that having a child brings with it. There are also disadvantages, and one of them is a higher dose of what I fondly call The Fantasy of the Perfect. You know, that image you get in your minds-eye, that mystified look, the How It Should Be picture you painted for yourself. It sets the bar too high. There is no way but to fail and fall.
It makes parenting, and life, harder than it should be.
That is why, for my post about imperfect parenting I chose to tell you about all the ways in which I am the perfect poster girl for an imperfect parent.
I know some of the people reading this will leave this post with a "what a bad mother" chuckle, or a "poor kids" look, and it's perfectly fine by me. You know why? Because I am out of the parents-competition, because I will probably say the same about you, and because as I am weird this way and it will probably only make me satisfied to hear. let's start then, shall we?
Orli, Just Breathe - A Perfect parent? don't make me laugh
The poor kids
If you want to start from the really early stages - my two boys weren't breastfed, they slept in their own bed in their own room from the beginning, they ate store bought baby-food and not homemade, they watched TV from when they were tiny.
Fast forward to today, I don't do "positive parenting", I don't do "democratic parenting" and I don't do "I am your best friend parenting".
I don't like sports. Especially football. I do make an effort, otherwise I have almost nothing in common with Ron, but really-honestly-privately I honest to God hate sports.
I don't like playing sports. All that running around? Not gonna happen. Either play with daddy or play on the iPhone.
I don't like parks, I don't like Zoos, I absolutely hate picnics, BBQs, petting-zoos, ant-farms, etc. Basically everything to do with nature is a big (BIG) no-no.
I don't do bedtimes. If Hidai isn't here the kids are usually on a "no need for a shower kids, just brush your teeth and go to bed. Let's make it an early bedtime" routine. If I have to, they will get a quick wash, and not the elaborate splash-in-the-tub they get with daddy.
I don't read them stories before bed. I don't read them stories every day. I don't read with Ron at all anymore. Yon gets stories if he asks for them. And if I can't get Ron to read them to him.
I don't bake / cook with them. I take my baking very seriously, but not as serious as Ron who won't let me put 203 grams of sugar if it says 200 grams in the recipe. Even if I swear to him that it's okay. Even if I beg.
I don't do arts & crafts. Ron thinks creative activities is punishment, and Yon just wants to take everything and use it in some weird imaginary and elaborate game, that has something to do with animals.
I have a competitive streak.
I shout. and yell. and scream. and slam doors.
My house is not always clean (though it is always tidy).
I use swear-words (sometimes, when I don't pay attention)
I let my children eat junk food. 
I don't play with them every afternoon.
I let them play on the WII, iPad and iPhone so I could get some more time to write.
I hide the chocolate and eat it after they are in bed.
I never volunteer for anything in school.
I'm sure I could find some more examples if these ones aren't enough, and now whenever you think you aren't perfect you could always revisit my list and feel good that about yourself, because hey! there is someone less perfect!
Perfect is not only an illusion, it's also pretty damn boring. Who even wants perfect?

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June 26, 2013

An Invisible child, a Special child

It took me awhile to even start writing this post, because when it comes to Yon, things are always so much more complicated. Being a parent to a child like Yon brings with it so many difficulties that you can't imagine beforehand. It starts with the most banal question of all, what to call his condition? Is he a disabled child? a special-needs child? a Special child?
The outreach advisor that met us on Thursday called him an Invisible child.
She meant to say that because his disability isn't showing in anyway apart form wearing glasses and a hat, that people forget about it and his special needs aren't met.
And just like that, she made my beautiful child into disabled, with special needs and invisible.
We call him Special.
Orli, Just Breathe - An Invisible child, a Special child. Ocular Albinism
Being the parent of a Special child you have to be constantly prepared for the little twinges in your heart that comes unexpectedly and randomly when you are walking on the street and see something interesting and he doesn't see it, or when there is a discussion about travelling with kids and you suddenly realise you can't give any tips about playing games that involves looking outside, or when you have to give him the iPad because somebody made the letters too small for him when using that app on the iPhone.
Being the parent of a Special child you have to be constantly prepared for the big twinges in your heart that comes quite expectedly when you are facing reality, like the fact that Yon is moving from Nursery to Reception in three months time. That's why we had the conversation with the outreach advisor who is helping us educate the school about Yon's... What should I put here? Problem? Condition? Disability? I can't use any of them. About Yon. None of the teachers in our school has ever educated a child with Ocular Albinism, and they, like most, were unaware of its existence until now. Let's face it, most people haven't seen a person with full Albinism in real life, let alone someone with Ocular Albinism (strange as it sounds to me now, before Yon was diagnosed we were part of that large faceless mass). In our borough, at the moment, there are only 6 children with full/Ocular Albinism.
Yon is one of them.
Being a parent of a Special child, you learn to behave differently, to look at everything differently. You learn to say everything aloud and not count on a look to be sufficient, because you can never be sure he sees the look, or knows what it means; you learn to not "disappear", as in, walk a little further beside him; you learn to leave the house a few minutes earlier so that the going down the stairs will get the time it needs; you don't move anything in the house; you look at road signs and think "why the hell are they up there?" because Yon can't see them; you activate all the accessibility features on each device you own.
Orli, Just Breathe - An Invisible child, a Special child. Ocular Albinism
Being a parent of a Special child you learn to be weary of change. Children with vision problems don't like change, they don't like new places, new routines, new food, new people. We need to move Yon to Reception. It is located one door to the right. For all he cares it's a million miles away. Reception means a new room, with new teachers, new children, new routines, a new place to put his bag, a new playground, new hours. It will be his first time eating lunch at school, it will mean sitting in class, it will mean learning letters, phonics, maths.
It means we sat down with our advisor and the school SENCO (look at me using the lingo - Special Educational Needs Coordinator) to discuss the fact that if there are stairs it's a problem, if there are posters in class that are hang high it's a problem, that if the size of the letters is smaller than 14 or 16 it's a problem, that if there are PE lessons with balls and climbing its a problem, that if there is a lot of noise in the lunch hall it's a problem, that if there is a lot of light in the classroom it's a problem...
It doesn't end here, what about reading from the white-board? What about finding his friends in the playground? What about tests / assessments / etc.?
And then there are the real worries, could he be able to read? Could he be able to write? Will he need a tutor? an iPad to connect to the smart-board?
That is the moment we moved into the realm of Mainstreaming.
Orli, Just Breathe - An Invisible child, a Special child. Ocular Albinism
Being a parent of a Special child you find yourself constantly checking, examining and following. You never just gaze fondly at your child.
Being a parent of a Special child you get used to what no one should ever get used to - the endless stream of doctors, specialists, tests, advisors, psychologists; the endless stream of questions, of examinations, of people looking at your child and trying to assign the wrong explanations to things that are so tough to understand; the endless need to explain, educate and enlighten people just to go through it all again the next day.
Being a parent of a Special child you learn how little doctors really know about the inner working of the body, how much you have to learn by yourself in order to do the best for your child, how precious it is to find good people along the way.
Being a parent of a Special child you learn to take it one day at a time.
Last thursday we had a Yon day. Yon days are always rough. Yon days usually start the day before, with the realisation that I can no longer pretend it's "someday" and have to deal with it being "this day". Yon days are anti-diet days, days that stretch me to the limits, days that leave me empty inside. Yon days don't always take a day. This one took almost a week.
Yon days are here all too often.
Orli, Just Breathe - An Invisible child, a Special child. Ocular Albinism

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June 24, 2013

My life in books

I planned so many different things for this post. I was going to write about imperfect parenting (to get myself in a Blogging Carnival for the first time ever), I was going to write about our latest Yon meeting at nursery (where we learned about him being a part of what is called children with "invisible disabilities", how hard it is to get the help you need from the school system, and how annoying it is when people patronise you and your parenting skills. Yes, fun times), I was going to write about sharenting and how unfair it is that we are, once again, not a part of the trend. it's the FoMo thing all over again. I mean, obviously we are parents and we share, so strictly speaking we are sharenting, and obviously we have friends who are parents and they put the odd baby / child photo on Facebook, but I want the real thing - the baby poo photos, the placenta talk, the vomit descriptions. I want to feel a part of the real phenomena. It is not my fault that all our friends have boundaries.
But before I could sit down quietly (not ashamed to say - hide in the bedroom in the excuse that it's boys time and mummy is a girl) and decide which of these very important and post-deserving subjects to write about, Hidai & I had to embark on the very glamorous job of cleaning the house, who was another casualty of my latest illness, and hasn't been cleaned for (let's say) a couple of weeks. Don't worry, I am not going to write about cleaning the house, glamorous as it is.
Orli, Just Breathe - My life in books
 It just that while I was cleaning I had to go into the kids room and really look around. It happens every six months or so, that I stop and look around and not just go through the motions, and every time I come to the same conclusion - it's time to Spring Clean the hell out of the room. I don't know why I'm surprised, after all it's the end of June, and the last time we did it was December, to make room for all the Christmas presents.
It just that I felt like they are playing with everything, and that the room isn't in that bad of a shape, and that there is nothing really to do there right now. Maybe around September. I will take a moment to note that the kids share a room, at their request, and that they love it. I, on the other hand, still feel the need to explain and excuse myself. It wasn't us. We were searching for a three bedrooms flat, like we had in Gib, but they insisted on sharing.
I don't really mind it anymore (except for the need to explain, and the incessant giggling after bedtime), but it means they now have one medium sized room filled with LOTS of things. LOTS of things. The fact that they have parents who love buying them things, and especially books, combined with the age gap (4 years) which means that they can't really share the games, books and other bits, the fact that they love different things, and the very sad realisation that they are teeny tiny hoarders who can't throw away anything, all means one thing - LOTS of things. In an itty bitty living space.
Orli, Just Breathe - My life in books
Orli, Just Breathe - My life in books
Parts of the room
This time I looked around the room and you know what I saw? I saw books. I just counted, and they have 200 books. You probably think I'm exaggerating, but I am not. You have no idea how many books they have. It is totally my fault. I take full responsibility. I love books. Always have.
I have by now wasted half an hour of trying to describe how I feel about books with little to no success.   Books are at the centre of my life. Always have been. They were beside me wherever I went, they were my rock, my escape, my guides, my solace. Books were how I survived the teenage years, how I learned English and Italian, they are who I turn to when I have a parenting question. I still, to this day, keep books I read for the first time when I was about 10 years old. I can still recognise every book I've ever read by reading the first line, I can still tell you which milestone was accompanied with which book, I still can't stop reading when I start a book, I still prefer the book to the movie, and though I don't get to read as much as I would have liked these days (it's about time and becoming more selective), whenever I feel the pressures of life becoming too much, I read.
For me, a life without books isn't worth living.
And when I had the kids I just knew that they would love reading as much as me. How could they not? So I bought every book I found, and the whole thing kind of took a life of its own... Whenever I went in to a book store and there was a sale? I bought books. Whenever there was a holiday or a birthday? Books. Whenever I wanted to buy a book for myself? I bought one for Ron also.
Orli, Just Breathe - My life in books
Ron's library when he was 2 years old
When we moved out of Israel we (obviously) took all of our books with us, but we started to buy children books in English so the kids will get used to the language, to the books, to the culture and the references, but to this day the majority of books they have is in Hebrew. Before we moved here we cleared out all the baby things and donated all the toys and books that weren't being used anymore, but even now, there are still so many books...
Orli, Just Breathe - My life in books
This is not all we took out of their rooms that time...
Today I was looking at the books and it suddenly hit me, most of them will never be read by the kids. I have so many books there that I read through the years, and my kids won't read them at all, or will read them in a different language. You would think that by now I should have gotten used to it, to those little signs that the Hebrew is slowly disappearing from our life, after all - they, and we, do everything in English, except talk to each other at home, and even that is slowly changing. The kids feel more comfortable in English, and I understand it, support it, and even encourage it. After all, they live here, they have no need to read a translated copy of the Hobbit when Ron is perfectly capable of reading the real thing, they have no need to read children books relating to life in Israel.
But when I looked over all my books, books that I can tell you how old I was when I read them, books that I can tell you when and where and why I bought for Ron, my heart ached.
It ached because there are so many gaps between my boys and me. There is the age gap; there is the gender gap (boys, let's be honest here, will never want to read Anne of Green Gables, and I will never read Football Academy); there is the language gap (the boys speak English as a first language. I don't); there is the reading vs. hearing gap (Yon will probably prefer (or need) Audio books and not written books, which is not the same); there is the were-we-are-growing-up-gap; there is the culture gap; I looked at those Harry Potter books in Hebrew and they were mocking me, they were, at that moment, the representation of every single one of those gaps, and of those naive dreams I carried with me as a young mum, about peacefully reading to my child, about sharing the love for the same books, about passing on the bookworm torch to the next generation. Dreams I didn't even think I still had.
Books are my one big love in life (okay except maybe for the boys and Hidai. Depends on the day you ask) and they have now become one more thing that I won't be able to share with them;
Orli, Just Breathe - My life in books
Reading together


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June 20, 2013

Smart kids and lost innocence

My aim was to write a funny post this time. I know you don't believe me, but I was going to write a funny post. I was even going to open with a joke. I had it all planned out, I really did. Right until the moment were Ron came home from school in distress.
You have to understand, Ron doesn't have bad days at school. Ron doesn't do distress. It is so rare for him, that it can only mean one thing - a difficult question for me to answer.
He doesn't have small questions this child of mine. When he gets distressed it's because of things that I can't explain away easily. How can you explain away heartbreak? Or why Grandparents need to go back home? Or why there is teasing in the world? Or wars? And let's not forget that special moment where I had to explain about different religions, God, and synagogues. Yes, the day Ron came back from school with the notion we don't believe in God because we are Jewish will stay with me.
It's because he usually reaches his own conclusions, based on all the things he hears, sees, and imagines.
Sometimes, though, they're things he can't figure out for himself, and that is when I get the really tough ones. Yesterday it was about school. But as usual it was about more than that, it was about life, and it touched a chord with me that has been there for quite some time.
I am sitting here debating how to write what is in my head without sounding like I am exaggerating  or bragging, or too pushy. Ron's intelligence is, let's say - above average. He was always like that, and we have been worried about him since we figured out that he is like that. He is our eldest so it took us a while to figure that out. I know how it sounds, it's fine, I don't blame you. After all, we live in a society full of parents pushing their kids over their limits to achieve things that they (the parents) wanted, or to make everyone else feel inferior. We live in a society were kids are for show, and most of all they are a reflection of us as parents - if my child is smart it means I am a great parent. If my child is super-smart...
So you see shows like Child Genius on Channel 4, and you have shows like BGT, and everywhere you look you have little stressed out kids with pushy parents.
I do get them, the pushy parents. You really can't help it but feel that immense pride when your child does something that no other can. It is indescribable that pride, it's like nothing else, like no other pride you've ever felt before. Yes, I get them.
I also know that there is a very fine line between encouraging and pushing. That line is so very thin and frail, and you have to check yourself almost daily to make sure you don't cross it. It is so easy to cross it because these kids are pleasers and because you never know where you will reach the mental limit. It is so easy to push just a little too hard.
That is why we have a checks & balances system in place, and unless it's both of us agreeing that we need to push, we don't.
Having a smart child has its challenges, you need to encourage without pushing, you need to be able to answer all the questions, you need to still seem smarter than him, you need to make sure that he is not bored at school, that he has friends, that his emotional development is catching up with his abilities, that he has challenges, and that he gets plenty of positive feedback at school.
You need to give your child the ability to be his age and ten years older at the same time and give love, attention and encouragement to each of those sides.
We found a system that works for us, and at home he gets all the "extras" when school is off - he can read what he wants, do whatever level of maths he wants, etc. He gets a taste of the "more to come". During school terms he doesn't do extra work. Might read when he is bored but that's it. He has football as a stress-relief, his big love in life, and a challenge. Kids like Ron, I think, needs a place that forces them to work hard and not give up, because everything else in life comes so easy to them. Otherwise they will hit that wall someday without being prepared for it at all. Football, where you have to repeat every move thousands of times to make it perfect and where you have to learn how to lose and keep going, gives him just that challenge.
We do expect him to excel. You don't have to do all those extras - football, reading, maths. But if you do something you do it to the best of your ability.
And right here lies that fine line I told you about before. I don't think we are over-doing it. He doesn't read Shakespeare, just Lord of the Rings; he doesn't do secondary school maths, even though he could. But I do expect him to get all his answers right, and I do test him on what he read so I know he understands.
He does get a lot of extras at school (as much as they can), and he loves his school, but still I found myself worried about secondary schools, about maybe it's better to have him take a proper IQ test and have that letter that will make people stop looking at us funny. I want him to have every opportunity there is out there. Do I sound pushy? I hope not.
Anyway, I am rambling. Yesterday he came home distressed because he felt forgotten at school. He felt his teacher doesn't think he is smart anymore, that he doesn't think he is doing his best.
And it was up to me to explain to him that, yes, life isn't fair. I hate it when I can see a tiny bubble of innocence bursting when I talk to him. I make it a point to explain the truth to him, but why does the truth has to be so damn hard to explain?
I hated it when I had to explain to him that the educational system is aiming for the middle. For the normal, and therefore sometimes the kids that are not in that middle (in both directions) gets forgotten, and that it doesn't say anything about him, or about how his teacher sees him, just about the system. I don't like mediocracy, I don't like "systems" of any sort, and I hate it when I have to defend one. I found it even harder to explain to him why he can't and shouldn't showoff his smarts, why he should be okay with getting the same oral quiz as everyone else even though it's easy for him, but that way he doesn't stand out, and everyone else feels smarter. I explained about self-worth, and knowing who you are, I explained about the greater good. And I hated every word that came out of my mouth. I was angry. I was angry at the teacher, the school, the system, the society, I was angry at them all for making me hurt my little boy with an explanation about how being good doesn't mean you will get the recognition you are promised, about how being extraordinary sometimes means you are taken for granted. About how negative behaviour gets you more attention than good one.
Because it's Ron I can explain it, and he understands it. But because he is still 8 years old, he is still hurting.
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June 17, 2013

How I ruined Father's Day

We usually don't "do" Father's day, because up until now I only had one view of it, and to put it as plainly and crudely as I can, up until this year, I always saw Father's day as a made up day that is solely intended to lessen the importance of mothers. Father's day is how men are trying to steal our one day a year that recognizes the fact that motherhood is a tough job, and that women are the only ones who do it properly.
Okay, I was always aware that there are single dads raising their kids alone somewhere in the world, and I salute them. Truly I do. But they are the exception and I am talking about the rule. Motherhood is damn hard, and we deserve our day. What we don't deserve is all this men coming in and trying to belittle it. Because that is what Father's day does. It belittle Mother's day.
Why? because mothers are the ones who do all the heavy-lifting. They are the ones that deal with all the mundane, less-fun aspects of parenting; they are the ones who makes sure the house, the kids, the husband, they all run smoothly, while fathers gets a thank you for, well, just showing up.
Also, Hidai doesn't care about it so passionately so he lets it be.
What changed this year? Why did I decide this year to abandon my views and organize a Father's day for Hidai?
It was a combination of a few things actually, with the whole discussion about the "men deserts" & the million kids with no dads in the UK and some reminders about what bad fathers can cause, I sat Hidai down and asked him about his take on the whole fatherhood subject, as someone who is both a father, and a son, and as someone who wanted to do things differently than was done before.
Hidai said, fatherhood is mainly about choices. Although it is true that mothers can also choose not to be there, with fathers it is more socially acceptable to be at work until after bedtime, to be busy over the weekends, to be less involved in your child's life, to not know what's going on in school, to not know who your child's friends are, and also to not be there at all. To be honest, he was talking more about life in Israel than in Gib and the UK, mainly because that is where we grew up, and because that is where we became parents. And also because we found it to be more prominent there than in Gib or London.
For men, he said, it's more complicated today than in the past. We expect more from them - to be good husbands, fathers & workers - but most men grew up in houses where these expectation did not exist. They are in uncharted territory.
It dawned on me. It dawned on me that I am part of the problem. That this view is what allows fathers to be content with just showing up. It is what allows men to not have to work harder at home, or with their kids, or with their wives.
I have two boys, who someday (hopefully) will become fathers and make me a grandma, and I want for my boys what every parent wants for his kids - better. To have a better life, to have better option, to be better people. And it's up to me, up to us, to make sure they will get there. It's hard work, making sure they will get to that "better", and it's up to Hidai & me. We are the role models here. I look at them, and as young as they are now, I know the years fly by, I know that teenagers (and twenty-something boys) don't listen to their parents, and I also know how important it is to plant the seeds now.
How could I demand responsibility and accountability from them later, when they will be fathers themselves, if I don't raise them that fathers are important? That fatherhood is about more than just showing up? If I am not setting the right example?
So I figured that maybe we should make more of an effort with Father's day to remind us to stop once in a while and look at the choices we make, the role models we set for our kids.
For me, it was also a chance to say thank you to Hidai, who has managed to do just that, and ignore everything else in his personal history and the society he lived in to become the best dad I know from the moment Ron was born. He won't like it if I gushed about him here, and anyway it's his story and not mine to tell, but he does deserve a thank you.
As we Jewish people like to say - man plans and God laughs. As luck would have it, after a few very good and illness-free months, I was sick from Wednesday onwards, and all my plans went right down the drain. That is why, in the end, even though after being kind of a single-dad for almost a week, and taking care of an annoying me to boot (I get really grumpy and unhelpful when I am sick. REALLY unhelpful. I don't do the I'm gonna die thing, just the it's the end of the world, my life sucks, nobody loves me anymore routine) he deserved a Father's day more than ever, what he got was a card from each of us (Yon's nursery made them cards for Father's day. I didn't get nursery cards for Mother's day. Not fair.), a brownie (each got one), and one gift.
Orli, Just Breathe - How I ruined Father's day
Father's Day celebration
He didn't get the cake I wanted to bake him, he didn't get a fancy lunch (though he did get pizza. But that was because, like I said, he was in charge of everything and so 3 nights in a row we had Pizza Night), and he didn't get the gift he wanted (because I needed to get out of the house for that).
Orli, Just Breathe - How I ruined Father's day
Pizza for the ill
He did take the kids on a playdate in the afternoon and had to listen to me cry all evening about how the kids hate me and my life is worthless.
Orli, Just Breathe - How I ruined Father's day
Playdate kids
Best Father's Day Ever!
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June 13, 2013

Weight-less or Weight-loss

This is a story I have wanted to tell for quite some time but always chose not to. I am not sure why I want to tell it, and not really sure why I didn't. It's not like you can call me shy, I tell you most of everything, but for some reason I felt I couldn't write about this.
I usually try that every post will have a purpose, at least in my mind, and this one's purpose always seems to elude me - is it a victory story? is it a moral story? is it a bragging story? or is it a shameful story and a cautionary tale? I think that it's partially all of them, but most of all, for me, it's a shameful story, because it's more about my shortcomings than my success in overcoming them. And unlike my other shortcoming, which I find endearing (and thankfully so does Hidai), this one I am ashamed of. Why? because being fat is, in our society, something to be ashamed of.
I wasn't obese, I was just fat.
I have been in a battle with my weight for a long time, in fact for as long as I can remember. I was one of those really tall-really skinny girls while growing up, until one day I wasn't anymore. I don't remember when that happened, I guess like everyone, somewhere around the teen years, when you start getting all the body issues and such. I dabbled with an eating disorder when I was about 20 (the army was not the best years of my life), and then went from being very skinny to being fat, and kind of stayed there, except for short periods of times (like just before our wedding). My weight didn't increase so much (except for pregnancies) but neither did it decrease so much. I stayed within the same 5 kilos radius for about 10 years.
But the real thing is, it didn't really bother me. I mean obviously it did, but not in a severe nerve-wracking, can't-think-of-anything-else way. Just the normal way. I had a closet full of nice designer clothes I bought over the years, I had a husband who loved me no matter what I weighed, and I was, for the most part, content with it.
Most people who are fat talk about food as obsession, and they are right. No matter what your vice is, you eat to celebrate and to mourn, when you've had a good day or a bad day, everything is a good excuse to eat. For me it's not the food. I mean I like food, but I don't love it. I am a vegetarian, I hate cooking, and I have a family of boys who doesn't care about food. I am a dessert person. I adore baking, I am addicted to chocolate, and I can and in fact do, live almost solely on sweets. Chocolate is my comfort food, my celebratory food, my I-am-working-and-can't-think-about-what-to-write food, my I-fought-with-the-kids-and-feel-horrible food, and my I-just-need-something-right-now food.
And I always just need something now.
I have, by far, the worst eating/exercise habits of everyone I know. I eat something just about every hour, I live on snacks (in fact while writing this post I had to stop four times for a banana, 3 kiwis, 3 rice cakes and coffee), I hate exercising and anyway have so many joints/back/knees problems that there are so few things I can do.
I wish I could tell you something happened and it all changed one day. I wish I could tell you I had an epiphany, or even a rude weakening. I didn't. I think it crept over me over time, my dislike of myself, my shame. It was a time in our life with so much uncertainty, so much disorder, and I needed something that was in my control. Something I could focus on and change. Something that was mine. So one morning, August 1st, 2011 to be exact, I woke up and told Hidai that that's it. And it was.
This photo is not what drove me, but it's what I use as a bench mark, it's my "before".
Orli, Just Breathe - Weight-less or Weight-loss
I signed up with Weight Watchers online, we bought a treadmill, and that was indeed it. It took me 4 months of hard work, obeying without fault the Weight Watchers regime and exercising 5 times a week (running and Pilates), until I made it to 2 kilos below my target weight.
Orli, Just Breathe - Weight-less or Weight-loss
This is the success part of my story. I lost about 13 kilos (about 2 stones), and went from being size 14-16 to size 8-10. I am almost two years after, and I am still keeping my target weight.
Oh, how I wish I could leave it here, with the success, with what you can usually see from the outside - me, thin, baking all the time and eating all that chocolate without gaining weight.
But the truth is, I can't do that, because I've already started the story so I will finish it where it really belongs - in the embarrassing facts.
They say losing the weight is the easy half of the battle, keeping it off, that's the hard part. It not true, it's just that you expect the tough part to be over one day, that all effort you put in to it, the bad days, and the cravings, they are the worst and when you finally reach that golden-coveted target weight it will be easier. It doesn't. When I just lost the weight and became skinny I had lots of compliments (some genuine and some not so much), I was able to talk about it all the time, enjoy it and the envy looks I got, explain about it. I was the one who made it. Now I am in London, where everyone who knows me, knows the "after" me, and where everyone is fit and skinny (or so it seems). Now I am just this "new me" that isn't new at all. I already said it in a different post, and I will say it again here - people don't change. I wish I could be one of those success stories that then went on and changed their way of life completely, or one of those "yes, and the minute I started exercising I got addicted to it", or at least one of those people who has self control. But I am not. I am still just the same old me. I still battle everyday with my addiction, with my bad eating habits, my need for more sugar and my lack of exercise-motivation. I am still me, and every time I have a bad day I eat chocolate, every time I relax my control I gain 2 kilos.
I live in fear that one morning I will wake up and discovered my weight increased by 13 kilos. I go on the scale 5 times a day.
It's a journey that has no end, and you want to know the saddest truth of all? I still look at the mirror and see the same woman who weighed 13 kilos more. For me, I haven't changed at all.
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June 10, 2013


Summer is here, and the blogosphere is awash in summer-posts, summer-lists, and my "favourite" summer-survival guides. What do all these things have in common you ask? Well isn't it obvious? (No. I don't mean summer.) They all want to help you deal with those vacationing little monsters also known as your kids. So I decided, because a) I don't want to be left behind, and b) because maybe the real purpose of all these lists is to make sure we even get some summery weather here, and if so, I am so totally in, to add my own Ultimate Guide To Summer!
Orli, Just Breathe - Summertime
Summer, officially runs from June 21 to September 22 (from the longest day of the year to the day in which day and night are the same -12 hours each. You really do learn something new every day!), but as every parent knows Summer really runs between the last day of the school year and the first day of the next year (from the day you are excited and energetic to have your kids with you to the day of total exhaustion and willingness to sell them to whomever is willing to pay first).
In that regard I have 6 weeks until Summer, (which will then run for exactly 6 weeks for Ron. 12 more days of vacation for Yon because he is starting Reception, and that is how it goes apparently). First option is to go through those 6 weeks until summer in a desperate attempt to ignore the fact that it is indeed upon us soon. It's kind of easy here in the UK, because lets face it - it's not like the weather is getting any hotter or brighter or anything resembling a proper summer. If you look out the window (most days) you could easily think - hey that's autumn! or even - hey that's winter! Works wonders for the denial-loving souls.
Unfortunately (as we learned the hard way. The really hard way) that doesn't really works and you still get summer, just with two bored out of their mind kids and no plans.
That is why we usually go with door number two and make plans for summer. This year it's important for us
a) because although it's officially our second summer here in the UK, it will be our first one as people-who-really-live-here;
b) because we need to plan the summer-budget & the Hidai-summer-days-off well in advance. Why, do you ask? well, simple, it's bloody expensive to do everything we planned, and Hidai hates it when I spring days off on him. If it's not planned two months in advance  it's not gonna happen. Oh, the spontaneity we live by;
c) because it is so easy for me to just let them be, you know? they are old enough and I am busy and lazy enough, and If I let them, they would sit around all day, each with his own electronic device, swapping them occasionally and coming up for air only when they are hungry or out of battery;
d) because if I won't do fun stuff during the summer then I will not have good photos and stories for the blog. And also, I will not be able to nag my kids later in life with a "you know how much effort and money we put into your summers?!" and guilt trip them into doing whatever I want;
and e) which is the real reason, after all, and every parent knows that, we use our kids shamelessly to do things we want but feel embarrassed to admit - love water parks? cartoons? Zoos? fairs? kids are your answer. Also, kids are a great excuse for why you just "had to" watch the first match of the season - does "it wasn't me, the kid begged me" sounds familiar?
Orli, Just Breathe - Summertime
A few guidelines I had to plan according to -
Kids have to leave the house at least 4 days a week otherwise they start bouncing on walls, or crying / bickering / whining / annoying the hell out of me for no good reason.
Yon has to learn how to be able to function without afternoon naps (yes, he still go for a nap every day between 1pm and 3pm. Half of the time he even falls asleep. But since he is starting school full-time in October, he has to get used to not sleeping in the middle of the day. I will also need to get used to being without those two quiet hours in the middle of the day).
As far as I know and could find out throughout the year, there are no organised activities for full days for kids around here (and the ones I did find were only for Ron and very expensive).
Ron does math & reading every vacation (okay, I feel the need to justify myself here. It is not my fault. The kid loves his math. He loves it. And now that he discovered the joy of books he also loves that. I can't say no to reading books now can I?), and now Yon will start too, as he is starting school and it's the tradition.
I hate nature. It is a super important guideline, especially for me. I don't like going to the parks, I don't particularly enjoy Zoos, or petting-zoos, or playing football or sitting on the grass.
Ron has to practice his football, preferably outside of the house. Surprisingly enough less things get broken when you play outside.
Nobody in this house likes arts & crafts. That is, by far, the best thing about having (non-artistic) boys. I don't have to do any arts & crafts that are more complicated than giving Yon a piece of paper and some colouring-pens. That does not stop me buying boxes full of arts & crafts materials, but that is a totally different personality disorder.
Orli, Just Breathe - Summertime
Taking all these very valid points and guidelines into account, I sat down to make my summer survival plan. First thing is first, I informed Hidai that I am enforcing our "one day a week" rule, according to which Hidai takes one day off in every week the kids are home, there by insuring that I get one day off a week (actually he is insuring I get three days, because weekends are mostly his responsibility anyway. The joy of an all boys household - they get to watch football, and I get 5 hours to myself - pre-match, match and post-match of course).
By now I felt like I'm half way to a well-organised summer, after all I've just chucked half the week in Hidai's lap. Unfortunately for me, I still had to sit down and chart The Plan. Which I did, and I am going to share it here in a desperate attempt to make sure we actually do about half of it...
Without further ado - The Big Summer 2013 Plan!
Time table that includes time for - a morning movie, playtime, snack times, going out to the park time, reading, TV, meals, maths and various electronic devices.
Library - I am so ashamed to even tell you that, but, we haven't been to the library yet. We've been here a year and still don't have a library card. Ron is going to the library once every two weeks with his class, but as a family thing we still haven't done it. I used to love libraries as a child, and now I found the Summer Reading Challenge which I think Ron would enjoy, so library visiting is going in on the list.
Kids week - after watching We Will Rock You with the kids over Easter and seeing how much they loved it, I've decided to try and use this offer this year and take them to at least one more musical. The only thing is - Yon doesn't like the whole people-dressed-as-animals thing, and Ron isn't big on fantasy, so we will have to search the list quite carefully to find something everyone will like...
Outdoors fun, is something summer is good for, right? So I am hoping the weather will agree with me and we could finally take the kids to Kew-Gardens, Hampton Court, Crystal Place Park, a pick-your-own farm (where Yon could touch EVERYTHING), Brighton Beach, boat ride in the Themes, Water park (hopefully will help Ron's dislike of water), Chessington World of AdventureDinosaurs mini-golf, the Ice Cream Festival at King's Cross (we were there last year so this is a maybe), the family festival at the Zoo, and of course how can I forget the first match of the season?.
Indoor fun - if I ever finish my chocolate-free lifestyle and go back to normal life, than I am taking the kids to Cadbury World. Museums - Science, Transport, Childhood, etc., Discover Children Story Centre, and obviously at least one movie (Monster University and Smurfs 2 are a definite).
So basically my plan (as it stands now) is to have Mondays & one other day as Timetable days (unless someone wants to help me clean the house. Somehow that never happens), and all other weekdays are one family fun day and two park / library outings - depending on the weather obviously. Weekends are also divided into two - one lazy day at home and one is meant for family outings.
In about a month from now I will start writing it all down according to precise dates. Like I said, it's all about spontaneity in our house.
There you have it, survival through fun. And military precision.
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June 7, 2013

Letting go

How good are you in letting things go? I am ever so terrible in it. I missed a TV show by Sarah Millican, who I find really funny, even though I did know about the show a week in advance and all it required of me was to set the Sky box (or whatever it's called) to record it on time. Yet I didn't, and as we were entertaining that night, completely forgot about it. It came back to me the next day. It's been almost ten days, and I still can't let it go. It's killing me that they hadn't put it on 4oD. Killing me. And you want to know the most idiotic thing of all? It's supposed to be bits from the DVD Sarah Millican - Thoroughly Modern Millican Live, which I've already seen!
I can't let go. I still get upset thinking about the university professor who gave me an unjust grade and wouldn't let me appeal (it's been about 7 years now), or the teacher that said I am cutting classes (even though I wasn't, but I decided that if she already thinks that, I might as well go ahead. It's only been 18 years since) or the email I got when I applied to a freelance work where I was told that I am simply not good. I still remember (with shame) the things I said and shouldn't have, the things I should have and didn't say. I am not good in letting go. After all I had this opening for a week now, and though I wrote two other posts, I still had to use it. Not good in letting go, in putting the past's misgiving behind me. Hidai says that is why I am not good with forgiveness. He is right of course (he also should heed his own advice and stop arguing with me, but he doesn't), I don't forgive easily, and I forget even less.
This is why when I do put things behind me, I expect them to stay there. It's only decent. But it's not always the case is it? We got a very unpleasant email about a week ago, that wasn't addressed to me, but still hurt, still made me sit down and look back at things that should be left forgotten. I hate this kind of emails, first of all because they feel like an intrusion into my home, and second because I let it go, I put the past where it belongs, so in order to deal with it I have to drag it back up, I have to remember. I prefer not to. In order to remember I have to look back, really look back, and let in so much ugliness and hate that it takes a few days to air-out the house. Thank God at least the weather is nice and we can open the windows and let the sunshine in.
We archived the email, opened the windows, and moved on. But it did got me thinking about this whole "letting go" issue.
I mean, it was fine if it stopped at grievances right? that would be normal (though a bit vindictive), but what about the things that shouldn't bother me? the things that you are supposed to just brush off and move on from? the things you read on the internet and has no relation to you at all? why can't I let go of those? like our Facebook "friend" who a few months ago posted his support for employers who don't like to hire women because "they might get pregnant at any given moment", and caused me to still not be able to look at his posts, or the childless woman in one of the groups I'm in who "just wanted to know, with no judgement why do women choose not to breastfeed even though they know it's the best thing for their baby?" and made my head explode. Why can't I let go of these? There is more, because at least these were in my Facebook feed, but why can't I let go of the idiotic "don't tell your daughters they are beautiful" instruction made by the woman's minister? I don't even have daughters to tell anything to.
Or the guy who went on the Telegraph to tell us all how he doesn't really like his kids and that all men wish they can spend less time with their kids. Why can't I just put him aside?
I guess it's the one common thing they all have together - the meanness of people. I know it's kind of naive but I never really got how or why people think it's okay to just be mean, and now I find I have to deal with explaining it to Ron.
I know some people will say (I know that because they said it. Not really a guess here) that I shelter my kids too much. I have never really allowed reality to enter life when the kids are around, I don't like them watching news, or knowing about wars and death and hate, or even watching those "nature movies" where an animal gets eaten. I don't appreciate the Israeli model in which kids get fed the harsh reality of life there from the cradle.
Judge me all you want. kids should stay kids. Kids are meant for fun, for a life free of worries, for magic and fairy-tales and for Santas. They are not meant for death and hate.
But reality is what it is, and as Ron is growing up, bit by bit I have to relinquish my control, and let reality in. In the last year I had to find answers to questions like why there is a war in Israel, why there is teasing in the classroom, why did one child insulted him, why does the girl he like doesn't like him back, how do we overcome fear, and more. I had to talk about stranger-danger, about private parts, about getting lost, about poor people and about fair-trade. I had to make sure the YouTube isn't showing what it shouldn't. I had to deal with growing up.
Truth is, every time one of those things comes up I immediately send the kids to Hidai to deal with. Or to the school. I never know what to say, how to explain reality and still keep the innocence. If it makes any sense, I want them to keep on coming to me for answers, but I don't want to be the one to burst their bubble. I don't want to give them the answers they are seeking, but I do it anyway. I tell them some about the world we live in, about the world we left behind, about what we believe in and what we don't believe in, because otherwise Ron comes back from school with all these weird ideas he concocted for himself, or he thinks less of us (he finds it really hard to believe that we did things, that we went to university, or that we know English or whatever).
It's funny how life works sometimes isn't it? There are so many moments in life that you want your kids to be older, to not need your help with dressing, or eating, or walking to school. But then when you get to these points, and your child grows up and doesn't need you anymore, all you want is for a little more time, just a teeny tiny bit of time for them to stay young, for you to not have to send them off into the world.
Yes, Ron has a field trip this week. No, it has nothing to do with my post... Ahmmm, nothing at all.
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June 4, 2013

FoMo and us

You know the saying "you learn something new every day"? well, yesterday I learned about FoMo. If you are like me, you've probably never heard of FoMo, and are now looking at the screen going "what the hell is she on about now?! Isn't it enough that she wrote about frugal last time?!" Well, first of all apparently all the cool kids are writing about frugal these days, haven't you heard - there's a recession going on. And second of all, this time it's not me. It's my sister-in-law & my brother who were here yesterday and gave us an introductory course into the world of "the young-professionals", better known as a double-income-no-kids household, and they explained the whole FoMo thing.
FoMo is the acronym for - Fear Of Missing Out, which we learnt yesterday is something of an epidemic among young-mature people who are in a constant state of being afraid for their social standing and the way they are perceived among their peers. I sat around for a few hours yesterday and today to read about FoMo, and discovered, firstly, that I have a fear of missing out of interesting syndrome. I immediately want to be a part of it, or at least research the sh$%^t out of it. Secondly I learnt that FoMo is a very big umbrella that you can find a variety of anti-social, rude and idiotic behaviour hiding underneath.
You can have Digital FoMo, where you fear you are missing out on emails, Facebook updates, Twits, etc., and constantly check your computer / phone.
You can have Social FoMo, which is the classic one, the everybody has more fun than me, kind.
You can have Work FoMo, which is both fearing how others see you professionally and the fear that you are forgotten in a meeting or missing out on a project, etc.
You can have Food FoMo, where you fear you are missing on the great new foods / restaurants / diets that everyone else knows about.
Thirdly I learned that FoMo, basically, is where the cool kids feels uncool. So they made it cool, and now it's cool and totally acceptable to have FoMo.
But what I also learnt is that according to the "FoMo quiz", I have FoMo. Which should have made me laugh, but really got me upset so kids, don't try this at home.
The thing is, I can't have FoMo. It's a young people thing, it's a single people thing, it's a we-don't-have-kids-people thing.
I don't need to fear that I am missing things, I know I am. I don't need to check my Facebook to know that once again I will miss this opening, that gig, or the latest exhibition. I know I will.
I also know I don't really care.
Because this is what those FoMo quiz people don't get -
Sure, I check my phone first thing in the morning, because I use it as an alarm clock, and because it only takes once, and after the first time you missed bad news because you haven't checked your phone in the morning, you check your phone in the morning.
Sure, I jump whenever there is an email or message, because I am in a constant state of what-else-could-go-wrong-now. It's the same reason why I can't pass my mailbox without checking it.
Sure, I will look at my phone when it rings wherever I am, because I have kids who are not next to me at that moment, or a husband who is at work, or family and friends who are an ocean or two away, and that phone call is probably to tell me something bad happened (or as it usually happens, to sell me car insurance).
Sure, I have Facebook open on my computer at all times, because a) I need it to get to Candy Crush, and b) how else am I going to not do what I am supposed to be doing?
Do you know how many times I checked my Facebook while writing this post? The only other option is folding my laundry. I prefer checking Facebook.
Sure, I post photos of every fun thing we do. You have NO idea how many photos I have that I don't post.
Sure, I check what everyone else is doing, but it's not because I fear I am missing out on all the fun, it's because all parents have a competition - whose baby is cuter. That is why all parents post identical photos - here is my most beautiful baby sleeping, there is my lovely girl sucking her thumb, etc. I don't mind telling you this because I don't have babies anymore, and because mine were the cutest. But now that they are older, and also seeing as how we don't have many Facebook friends living in London, we enter into a new competition - who can portray a more convincing picture of the perfect family abroad?
So no, I don't have FoMo. I have a paranoid personality with a competitive streak who really likes snooping around on other people.
Well, Hidai just said my conclusion is sad, but true. Nice of him isn't it?
But be that as it may, I have to admit that living here in London, and especially here in this "young professionals" building complex, you find yourself a bit jealous from time to time. There are moments, usually those who calls for chocolate; or those when the "it will be better in two years" doesn't work; or  when you fought with the kids all day, and are now feeling like a low-life and the worst parent put together; there are these moments when you look at them, the young professionals who go to the gym whenever they want, who are dressed nicely in smart clothes, who go out in the middle of the week just because, who have loud parties on the weekends and sleep in, you look at them and feel that pang of jealousy, that pang of "they have it so easy" (also, because of a slight personality defect, it is usually accompanied by a "wait and see when you have kids"). Now, I know, never judge a person before you walk a mile in his shoes, but when I see designer shoes it is sometimes tough being un-judgey.
And yesterday they sat here, my brother and my sister-in-law, and they gave us an honest glimpse into that world. It is such a rare thing looking into a life so different than your own, rare and (for nosy people like me) so intriguing. I think it is true that you only get what you can handle, because I don't think I could handle living like them. I don't think I ever stopped to think about the way these young people (all young people not specifically my brother & sister-in-law) live, how much stressful all this FoMo thing really is. I was looking at them yesterday, explaining their hectic lifestyle and it hit me - it's their baby. Their social life, their FoMo, it is their baby. It is a very demanding thing that you spend money on, constantly have to nurture, to feed, to care for. It takes up every minute of your time and is constantly on your mind. It is not all it's cracked out to be from the outside, sometimes someone pukes on you, and it keeps you up at nights. It is just like a baby.
Except that it's not.
The way I see it, there is only one thing that really makes you realize your full potential as a human-being, and that is having kids. Kids, your kids, makes you try harder, look at things differently, grow-up, be responsible, slow-down, appreciate things differently, worry more than you thought possible, love even more than that. Kids makes you into the best version of yourself you ever thought possible.
FoMo makes you jaded, babies makes you fresh.
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