Sunday, March 30, 2008

Cheap and Cheerful

We have been working hard to prepare for two business events this week – a house party in Jerusalem and a UK trip. It has been hard to firm up the plans and make up the products as well as keep my 9 month old entertained.

She is at the stage where she wants to involve me in everything she does - eat, sleep, play; they all need assistance, support or praise, preferably all three. She needs constant stimulation and without attention she is off causing trouble; touching the television buttons, pulling books off low shelves, investigating the contents of the rubbish bin; crawling under the table then sitting up and banging her head.... she is trouble with a capital T.

These days I have discovered the best toys for a curious toddler. I have a pile of colourful, educational toys to teach her hand/eye co-ordination, pre-reading skills, movement control etc. etc. However, by far her favourite toys are the things I keep by the rubbish bin, ready to throw out – empty plastic bottles, empty cereal boxes, plastic packaging etc. She loves the feel of them, the noises they make, rolling, throwing, playing with them.

I have resorted to getting a cardboard box and have filled it with cleaned out packaging. Forget the expensive and the impressive; the cheap and familiar is what keeps my daughter amused these days.

Sharona B

A Memorable Day

The kids had today off school as part of the Purim break. There were all sorts of activities taking place but my daughter and I decided to stay local. We wondered down to the local mall, had a slice of pizza, bought some summer sandals and then played in a pile of snow.

Yes you did read that right! Today was 34 degrees – it was unseasonably hot. Sometimes Israelis drive me mad for all sorts of reasons but it has to be said they are a resourceful and extremely child centred society. OK they live in the Middle East, but why should their children miss out on the excitement of snow?!! So today a truck full of snow arrived, which was deposited in a local car park. Kids came out, some in sandals, some in wellies, some with buckets and spades – they climbed up the snow, made castles, threw it at each other and had a lot of fun.

I have to say what a unique experience it was to have a snowball fight in the sweltering heat. It was the baby’s first experience of snow; she giggled at the sensation of holding it in her hands and tasted it, enjoying the cold sensation.

A strange and memorable day.

Sharona B

Back to Basics

This Purim somehow felt like our first in Israel. Last year we had still not found ‘home’ and were very much ‘newcomers’. This Purim marked nearly our first anniversary of living in the same place, quite an achievement since our first six months was played out in three different towns.

The children got dressed up as usual. Not being particularly clever on the sewing front I bought my costumes as usual. Most years the costumes just about make it through till the end of Purim before falling apart. My daughter’s costume was, of course, a princess, and was covered in frills and sparkle. My son was a knight, complete with sword and shield. Both of them shed most of their sparkle before their first outing and the dress turned out to be quite uncomfortable. My son disliked his and ended up donning a cloak, some fang teeth and making a very good vampire (with the help of face paint).

We noticed that many people here hand made their costumes. There are lots of large families here and the cost of buying each child a new outfit would be high. I thought the hand made costumes were great and in somehow were much more in the spirit of Purim. Some of my daughter’s friends came dressed up as a strawberry, a tub of chocolate spread etc. They were inventive and funny and what’s more they were comfortable! I think I am going to make the effort next year to have a go at making costumes myself. Purim has become quite commercialized and the shops certainly did well from their sale of costumes and mishloach manot.

We did make our own Purim baskets though – we bought a selection of sweets, biscuits, fruit, nuts and made cakes. We really enjoyed making them up and adding labels the kids had made on the computer. On the day the kids went out in fancy dress to deliver them all. It was extremely hot this year and they came back tired and hot but with the job done. I took a photo of my little princess daughter, full of frills, face painted, but struggling from having walked around in the heat for nearly an hour; she decided to ‘take five’ and curled up on a rock to catch her breath. It ended up being the picture of Purim for me, encapsulating the day.

We were invited out to eat at our Rabbi's house and a wonderful seudah was put on. A little while after we started eating a group of people dressed in ambulance uniforms turned up. An extra table and chairs were soon gathered and they joined us for the meal. I had assumed they were dressed up and only found out afterwards that they were a local Magen Dovid Adom crew who had called in after coming off duty. So I was not fooled by a disguise but fooled by the lack of one!

Sharona B

A Place for Sentiment

It is just over 18 months since we made aliyah. I have been thinking about things I may have done differently with the benefit of hindsight. I have decided that it might be nice to introduce some of the ‘lessons learned’ in some of my blogs. My reflections may help others who are in the planning stages of their own aliyah.

So, what could we have done better? Let’s start with shipping this week.

When we made aliyah we sold most of our worldly goods, deciding to start again. We sold toys, furniture, kitchenware. We gave away clothes, bedding, pictures etc. Not only did we want to start afresh but we felt that the value of our items was likely to be less than the cost of shipping them to Israel. We needed to watch every penny and in my blinkered haste to organize a minimum shipment I sold two very special items of furniture with great sentimental value; an antique bookshelf which my grandfather had given to me, remembering how I had admired it as a child in his office and a rocking chair that he had hand upholstered. I regret now that I had not held on to these two items, which were after all priceless.

One of our great finds during the unpacking of our shipment (when we finally organised its arrival over a year after our departure) were the two tiny pairs of ‘first shoes’ I had carefully kept for my kids. Packed away in an old shoe box, the lid was removed to gasps of excitement. Likewise there were thrills when we hung a chiming clock on the wall – finally our home rang out hourly with that old, familiar soundtrack to our lives. The lesson therefore, don’t get too ruthless, there is a place for sentiment within us all.

Sharona B

A Round of Applause

Purim is approaching. The kids have their costumes, various noisy instruments and our mishloach manot are slowly coming together.

As you may know, when we read the Megillah we are obligated to understand the story of Purim in both a historical and modern context. In every generation there are those, like Haman, who seek our demise. It struck me as a little ironic that Haman and Hamas, separated by just a letter and by many centuries, both have the same ideology.

Again, in Israel, we live in difficult times. Much hostility surrounds us, from local and afar; both blatant and concealed. May we learn from events past and present to steer our path towards a more a peaceful existence.

On a lighter note, we had much excitement in our house this week; two ‘firsts’ for the baby inside of a week – our little one can now clap and wave (although not together!). She is so proud of her new accomplishments. The other day she started crying because I had taken the liberty of sneaking off to do some work and was not attending to her every whim. This I am sure is not so unusual but the strange result on this occasion was a red, teary face and indignant sobs, accompanied by her still proudly clapping her hands!!

Chag Purim Sameach - Happy Purim

Sharona B

Stage Delight

So here I am, sitting admiring the view from my garden. The trees are weighed down with purple buds, some of them already flowering into pink blossom. The Israeli flag flying on a pole at the end of the garden is fluttering in the breeze. Beyond it, the Shomron Hills, dotted with trees and patches of rock, bask in the rays of the afternoon sun. The soundtrack is that of the leaves rustling and the birds chatting, aside from that… silence. I breathe in the clean air and exhale the stresses of the day. The view from my house is a true tonic.

I moved here a year and a half ago from the UK. We wanted to change our lives for the better; change gear, change priorities, take control. In that time we have lived in four houses (in three different towns). We have had a baby. I have written the first draft of a book. We have set up a new business. Well we wanted change….

When I decided to write a blog I wondered what I might write about. Now I am writing my first entry I am wondering which of the many topics on my mind I should select first.
This week has been busy. My husband just came back from his first business trip in the UK; my mum, who was visiting, just went back home; I had a birthday and I put the finishing touches to my website.

I could talk about any of these, plus more. However, the thing which made me swell with pride, that made me look back and consider our progress over the last year, was seeing my daughter perform in her first ever school show – talking and singing in Hebrew.

My just-turned eight year old is a bright child but a bit of a perfectionist. She has not spoken Hebrew for the 18 months we have been here, to much comment from her teachers. “By now she really should be speaking in Hebrew…” Her brother talks ten to the dozen and corrects my poor grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. My husband and I both knew that she was slowly taking it all in, assembling the language in her mind and would speak in her own time. During the preceding few weeks she finally gained the confidence to play with a neighbour’s little girl who speaks no English and very fast Hebrew. I started to hear her chatting away to her friend and knew that she was finally on the way. So when I went to see her at the school show; when she got up on the stage and spoke her lines in clear Hebrew; sang her songs and performed her actions with such joy and gusto; I just knew that she had passed a very important landmark.

So my first blog is dedicated to my daughter. As we say in Israel, “kol hakavod” – well done, or quite literally “much respect”.