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April 16, 2014

The Arsenal experience

This is the story of our family outing to watch last night's Arsenal football match.
Hidai and Ron are big Arsenal fans and so they try to go to as many matches as they manages, but Yon and I have never been to a real match before because - a) football watching is an expensive hobby, b) Yon isn't very into the whole football thing (unlike me of course. Not), c)taking a partially blind and very sensitive to noise child to a football arena with 65,000 people yelling all the time is not so easy. But it was part of my UK Bucket List, and as it is a big part of Ron's life, I really wanted to have a chance to go with him to a match once. So I decided to research the thing, and found Arsenal's disability scheme, which were little to no help and after some very unpleasant emails we managed to find some help through the very nice lady who runs our building's resident association and has lots of connections in Arsenal, and we managed to get 4 tickets in the front row of the family area to the match against West Ham.
Then, because this is my life, they moved the match. And instead of an early afternoon weekend match, they placed it bang on the day of Yon's hospital visit.
Ok, we thought to ourselves, after all last time the doctors said everything is static, and we are not anticipating any problems, so it should have been a short and relatively easy visit.
Then, because it is my life, the test did not go as planned, and of course they had to put the drops in, and of course they had to fit him with mew glasses, and of course we were the last to leave the hospital and everyone were exhausted.
Not the best odds for an enjoyable match.
But we went anyway, and because my hand is not in a good shape, this is going to be more of a photo post to try and answer the question - how do you take a partially sighted child to a football match?
On the way to the stadium. Look at our team spirit with the scarves! We should have also brought gloves and hats, it was that cold by the end of the match...

We arrived quite early and had time to take some pre-match excitement photos.

Yon really enjoyed the photo-op.

Look at me in my front row seat! We were seated right behind all the photographers. You wouldn't believe their cameras! It wasn't the best view of the match as my two seasoned supporters informed me, and we weren't lucky enough to have a corner in our corner, but I thought it's really exciting to sit  there, and I got to see my favourite player -  Szczęsny up close so what do I care? 
This is how close to the players we were. Not the best photo quality, but by this time I had a Yon trying to kick me while "sleeping" on half my body.

At half time, after it was 1:1, Ron agreed to be a bit happy (there were a few shaky moments when we were down 1:0 where I feared for my boys), so I took a photo of him before Arsenal loose and he will be sad again (they didn't, but you never know with them).

The stadium lights interrupted a bit, but still, Hidai is cute :)

And lastly, we asked the lovely security guy who sat with us to take a photo of all of us.

Then the second half started, and this is how Yon spent it - curled up under both of our scarves and with his hands on his ears because of the noise. Hidai and Ron said it was a lot less noisy then usual because we were in the front row, but it was too much for Yon.

And in the end he fell asleep and missed the last goal of the match.
Lesson learned - Yon and football don't mix.
But I had a great time, and got to strike off an item from my bucket list!

April 14, 2014

Freedom and hope

When I was a really young mum (and also very young) the one sentence I hated most (fine, fine, maybe not most, but it was definitely top five. I really had lots of issues then) was "enjoy every day, because time goes by so fast". Well, let me tell you the truth - it didn't. It moved, as time usually moves - in slow, agonisingly slow motion. Each hour dragging on for days, each day into months. I felt each and every moments of those early years, and I can't look back and say that enjoyment was what comes to mind as first thought. Like I said, I had issues. But when my tiny baby looked up at me and said - It's less than a month to my birthday, here is my wish-list. Do you need me to go over it with you? - I got what those well-meaning souls were talking about. My baby is nine in less than a month (and yes, I did need some explaining on the list). Two months after that my teeny tiny baby is five. And I have no idea where the time has gone.
My babies at the library
We have a long standing discussion with my parents about what the most important thing in life is, and for us it's always been time. You can't turn back the clock and you can't bring back even one minute you lost. Time, in many regards, is the one thing money can't buy. And lately it has been slipping through my fingers.
Life around here at the moment is not what you might call... Good. Actually it's rather rubbish. We are having some issues with Hidai's work, and with him being the only one actually in charge of putting money in the bank (I know it's a shocker but blogging really isn't the high paying job the rumours say it is) it has put a strain on the last couple of months. I did not react well. I like to think that people who don't know me very well think I am one of those composed and very much together people. One of those people who deal with every bump and disaster in a calm, collected and casual manner. I like to think that because in reality I am not one of those people at all. I am one of those have an anxiety attack, cry in the bathroom, and don't leave the house people. When the going get tough, and it's time for the tough to get going, I sit under a table with a box of chocolates. I know it's pathetic, and it is also why I haven't written in three weeks. I couldn't read or write or talk to anyone (I really am sorry, all the people I've ignored). I didn't bake or knit or even took photos. I wasn't on my computer other than to play Candy Crush. Things got so bad I didn't even manage to keep the laundry schedule. I couldn't tell you what was going on, because honestly I didn't think anyone would care. After all, I have already written about my anxiety attack once, and how much self-pity can anyone really stand? And if I am completely honest here, the main reason I didn't write is because I was, and still am, ashamed. I am so very very ashamed that I fell apart. I should have reacted better, I should have been stronger, I should have weathered the storm. I didn't, and still don't. But I figured after three weeks of not writing or communicating with anyone the only readers I have left are my parents, who already know all that so writing it makes no difference.
depression chocolate doesn't have to be bad chocolate
In order to write something coherent I have been sitting here for the last few hours trying to piece together the last couple of months, and all I get is a blur of Candy Crush, chocolate and tears. And it makes me angry, and even more ashamed. Because I've lost time. I've lost two months to oblivion and fear. I have lost holidays, birthdays, friends, time with the kids. I have let fear and anxiety and depression rule my life.
Hidai's birthday was shockingly bad
And I am more ashamed still, because I have no idea how to climb out of the black hole in which I find myself. I am not sure I am strong enough. And I feel small and sad and pathetic. I know it could be worse, I know that for a lot of people it is. I know the thought of the prospect of Hidai having no job for awhile shouldn't reduce me to this, and it makes me even more pathetic. So I decided to write, because no one will read anyway, and because to me it is a nightmare with one shoe dropping after the other and no breathing space, and because there are many shades of black, and this is mine.
Today is Passover Eve. Passover is one of the biggest holidays for Jewish people (and even has the movie - Prince of Egypt - to prove it). It is not one of my favourite holidays (the food isn't all that great with the whole "no flour" thing), but this year it makes me sad. It makes me sad and lonely that we are all alone, that I can't cook or bake (thanks to the fact that my hands are in a very bad shape. Because when it rains it pours), that I have lost another moment I shouldn't have.
Passover has a whole biblical story, as any serious holiday should, and obviously someone tried to kill the Jews, as in every single one of our holidays, and it is the one holiday where you really can't make the story child-friendly no matter how much you try (too many dead and abandoned kids in there). But it also has one of the most important messages, if not the most important, of all our holidays. Because Passover is all about escaping slavery. Of every type. For me, it's a slavery to my demons, to my fears and anxiety.
Passover is about freedom and hope. The two things I need more than anything right now, and the two things I just can't seem to reach.
We won't be having a proper Passover dinner this year, I could't bring myself to do that, both physically and mentally (think Christmas-meal size of dinner, than double it). But I figured baby steps are better than no steps, and bought some chocolate and wine.
So happy Passover everyone, here is to freedom and hope.
And to believing that miracles can really happen.

Picture from Here

March 24, 2014

House number nine

Way back when we started thinking about moving a house we really did meant for it to take three months to find a new house. We planned on being less in "shopping mode" and more in "browsing mode". Fast forward exactly one month an we think we found The One. Yes, I know, we really are not to be trusted in these matters. Honestly though I really have no idea how that happened. We've compiled a very long and detailed list of things that will make everyone feel happy about the house, and after Hidai said I can't just store it in my head but we have to write it down, he made me break it down to "must have" and "nice to have" and we called it in the apt name "list of demands" and sent it to all the realtors around. It is a very long list.
In the end we've seen a grand total of nine houses in real life and (dozens more on the internet), and house number nine won us over.
House number nine
The thing is, house number nine is... Well, it is a house. We have never lived in a real house with three floors and cracking floorboards and what people around here like to call "character" or "period features" and we usually call "uninhabitable" (yes, renovated was one of the must haves). We have no idea how you live in a house? Ever since we moved in together all those years ago we lived in flats, and though our first one was over three floors, it wasn't a house and it wasn't on the ground floor but a part of the weirdest apartment complex you have ever seen.
We loved the control and closeness an apartment gives you - for better or worse there is nowhere to run in an apartment, and when the boys were tiny it is exactly what we wanted, to able to know what they are doing and where at all times. It kept the scribbling on the wall to a necessary minimum. But now we found ourselves having our Weekend lazy coffee and cake sitting on the floor in our bedroom because the boys are a) watching a movie or b) playing something very loud on the xBox or computer or iPad or c) running around in some sort of weird pretend-play.
Coffee and cake on the bed, because this is how we roll
And as fun as hiding on the floor with cake sounds, the penny finally dropped on the day I found myself hiding under Ron's bed (he has a raised bed with a very nice reading / hiding corner underneath) while the kids invaded the living room with their loud noises and electronic games. They can sit there together, Yon with the iPad watching YouTube movies about his favourite games (Infinity and Mindcraft) and talking back at it, while Ron is playing his Fifa on the xBox with that annoying soundtrack and shouting at the screen and all the while music is blaring in the background. So I did the only thing possible - I hid under the bed. In my defines we have heated floors and that spot is the best in the house, but still. So we decided it might be time to expand, and have the boys banished to a floor of their own where they will get one bedroom for beds and quiet reflection (also known as reading time) and the other for more physical activities (also known as playing football in the house) and electronics (as in breaking our own rule and kicking the xBox from the living room ), while we get a floor of our own and we all reconvene around mealtimes in the lower floor. We are willing to let them pass through the kitchen not on mealtimes on sunny days to release them in the garden for a bit of outdoor football, but that's it.
Hiding under the bed
The problem with the whole thing is that I never wanted to live in a house, I have never thought of myself as a house person, as "house material" and now I found that I stopped looking at apartments completely. I guess it is the natural order of things, and I guess the majority of the ten people who will read this post live in a house anyway and won't understand how people can raise a family in an apartment.
I can explain about my bad knees and (very justified) fear of falling down the stairs, or the too many horror movies and TV dramas where the people get killed in a HOUSE, or the fact that I don't do well with gardens, or insects. But the truth is it is the stereotype, the one I have in my head after too many years of lousy American TV and too many romance novels - the suburban wife/mum stereotype. And I am really worried that I will become exactly that.
But on the other hand, that is all it is - a stereotype. And it is a big step for me in letting the boys grow and starting to let them go. So we decided to treat it as "a house adventure", after all in the past five years, living life as expats, we learned to look at most things like that - a two year adventure and then we'll see.
We decided to take the boys with us to all the viewing, so they could get a "feel" of the houses and we could see how Yon is managing the stairs, because we were and still are to be honest really worried about how he will handle it when he is hurrying or when he, as usual, goes around without looking (yes, friendly stairs were a must have). They loved it in house number nine, didn't want to go home in fact, and Yon ran up and down the stairs without fear (he did went down on his bottom and held the rail on his way up, but he did not let it ruin the game for him).
And that is what won us over. Yes the house ticked all the must have's and most of the nice to have's, but so did other houses we've seen. The thing is that house number nine has something that the others didn't. It has the love-in-first-sight and that all important x-factors that makes a house into a home.
House number nine is the first house we've seen that actually made us want to live in a house, and hopefully it won't take us long before we embark on our very first two year House Adventure.

I am linking this post with #MotivationalMonday over at Pinkoddy because... Well because this house motivates me to move on and to let my boys grow. And with #MagicMoments over at The Oliver Madhouse because it was a magic moment for us to feel the possibility of living in a house!

I hope you enjoyed reading the post :) I would really appreciate two minutes of your time and a vote in the writer or family categories in the Bib blog awards - Just press the photo and copy in my URL - Thank you very much!

March 21, 2014

Coffee break

Some people say that material things don't matter, and that in the western world we accumulate too much unneeded stuff, and that people put too much emphasis on owning things and not on spiritual things. Me, on the other hand, I am a firm believer in that the more you buy the better off you are. No, not really. I am just kidding, But I do have to admit that I really like my material stuff. I get unhealthily attached to my prized possessions. Take my rolling pin for example. I have four rolling pins. My oldest, and favourite is a traditional wooden one that I've had for about 12 years and moved it 3 countries before it handle broke a few months ago. Do you think I threw it away? No, I did not. I keep it in the cupboard, with the other three rolling pins thinking I might use it without a handle. I don't, but it's still there waiting for me, and every time I need a rolling pin it breaks my heart to see it there all sad and broken.
Yes, I am weird, but that is hardly news. At least the rolling pin doesn't have a name, which I can't really say about most of our other possessions. A few weeks ago my friend Izzy wrote a post about naming things, on which I commented with an "of course we name inanimate object, doesn't everyone?" Like Roomby which we treat in a combination of a third child love and a sweatshop slave driving but is in fact our iRobot vacuum cleaning robot that we've had for the last three years (and two countries), and Cici, the last car we owned, when we were living in Gibraltar (still, after two years, I can't get used to the whole driving on the opposite, not to say wrong, side of the road here. The bus driver does it so much better than me), which was a Citroen C3 (I know, you couldn't have guessed that one) and which was the cutest most adorable car we have ever owned. It had kind of a gender crisis since Hidai and Ron refused to drive a female car, and I said something that cute can't really be a male car, but we'll ignore that for the moment. Then of course you have the iPhone which doesn't have a name but is never more then 30cm away from me at all times (yes, even in the shower), and my wonderful new Macbook which I keep patting whenever I see it, to the point of Hidai looking at me weirdly. I have no idea why. It is after all, totally normal.
But nothing is more precious to me than my Nespresso machine. Let's put it this way, if the house was on fire, the Mac and the Nespresso will be the things I will run back inside to save (kids, Hidai and iPhone come first obviously). I bought my first Nespresso machine in 2007, as a gift to myself after I lost all the weight I gained during Ron's pregnancy. My excuse was that Weight Watchers said you should buy yourself something small to congratulate yourself for the achievement. And a Nespresso machine is quite small in its dimensions. This past October, with no relation to Weight Watchers, I decided it is time to indulge again and also the machine started making weird noises instead of coffee, and I bought myself a new Nespresso Lattissima, and life has never been the same. I know that I really should try to migrate more towards drinking tea, at least for as long as we are living in the UK, that this is not a coffee-lover country but I am a coffee person completely, and the only times I drink tea is when I am ill. And even then I put three spoonfuls of sugar in it. That is why Hidai is in charge of the tea drinking in this house, and since moving here he has even discovered the adding of milk to his tea, so at least one of us is being more in line with the UK life.
So back to coffee, the last two weeks, as I have already mentioned, were not all roses and sunshine. Especially in the one night when at about two in the morning Yon decided to start throwing up and we spent the rest of the night running between the toilet and the watching machine. It was one of those night when you tell yourself - wow, I am old, I really am not up to any more babies. We don't do lack of sleep well, and now that the boys have grown, we don't do lack of sleep at all. I guess every once in a while you have to go through one of these nights that reminds you why you really don't want to go through any more of those nights. What does that has to do with coffee? No, we didm;t give Yon coffee the next day, but after having a night like this, the best gift you can get (after time to catch up on sleep and chocolate - because chocolate is always the best gift you can get) is an enormous black box filled to the brim with coffee capsules.

Carte Noire sent me exactly this box, because they had both a new range of coffee and a sixth sense that I will need a huge amount of very strong coffee if I am to get through a day like that. Carte Noire makes coffee capsules that are compatible with Nespresso machines* and they have a new range of four flavours that differ in their intensities. Now, you might be new to this blog so you don't know this, but this is a very serious blog (not really) and I usually don't do reviews around here, in fact I can count on one hand the number of reviews I've done over the past year and a half of writing this blog. But this is coffee, and therefor second only to chocolate, so I couldn't really say no, right? The best thing and the worst thing about Carte Noire is rolled into one - each capsule is wrapped individually. The bad - It is very annoying after a night of little to no sleep to try and wrestle with the wrapping. The good - the smell. I have no idea how they've done it, but once you open the wrapping you get the most deliciously intense smell of raw coffee. I am not ashamed (ok just slightly ashamed) to say that I stood in the middle of my kitchen and just sniffed the wrapping for a few good minutes before I even put the capsule in the machine. I did think at first that I was extremely lucky, or just hallucinating, but every one of the capsules, in all the flavours, had that same wonderfully intoxicating smell of coffee. The coffee itself was, well, coffee. It was strong and hot and kept me alive for the day and without harming young children, so I definitely recommend it for times of sleep crisis. Other than that, when I tried it again on a day where I was actually conscious, I found that it worked wonderfully with my Nespresso machine, and that you could really distinguish between the tastes and strengths of the difference kinds. If, like me, you have a tendency to not look which capsule you are taking from the box and just like being surprised, than you'll love the fact that all of Carte Noire capsules look the same, and if you tear all their wrapping in advance and stuff them in a single box you won't be able to distinguish between them by look. And also you will lose that fab smell. But on the other hand, you won't find yourself ripping viciously at a small wrapper with eyes that are half closed. The coffee itself was really good, and after trying all four flavours (more than once. Just to be sure you understand) I preferred the stronger tastes while Hidai liked the less strong ones, and the kids loved the big black box it came in.
I know I turned out to be a real coffee snob / weirdo in this post, but the truth is only one of those things is true. To risk becoming an even bigger weirdo, the real reason I even drink coffee is because coffee, for me, is really the excuse for cake (and sometimes a very necessary energy shot), and seeing how the last few weeks were filled with hard times, they were naturally filled with cakes, and because you have to drink coffee to not feel guilty about eating cake (it really is how my mind works) - they were filled with coffee. Mainly Carte Noire coffee, so I feel like I am a good authority to tell you this - Carte Noire coffee works fabulously with all kind of cakes.

This is a sponsored post, though all opinions, craziness and cakes are definitely my own.

**Nespresso® is a registered trademark of a third party without any link with Mondelez International group. Compatible with all Nespresso®* machines bought before July 1, 2013. After that date, compatible with most Nespresso®* machines bought. For additional information regarding compatibility, please see UK:
Want to know more about Carte Noire?
The new range of capsules will be widely available in UK supermarkets making them a convenient and affordable way for coffee connoisseurs to create an extraordinary espresso at home.
The new range of capsules features four distinct flavours and each espresso comes with its own special character.  Some are accompanied by subtle fruity notes, whereas others offer a more complex chocolaty or nutty aftertaste. What’s more, there are a range of intensities so the higher the number, the higher the intensity, providing real choice whatever the mood or occasion:
·       N°3 Élégant is an exceptional pure Arabica coffee with a smooth and subtle taste enhanced by cereal notes.
·       N°5 Délicat is a pure Arabica coffee with fruity notes and a silky texture
·       N°7 Aromatique is an aromatic pure Arabica coffee with delicate hints of cocoa
·       N°9 Intense is a rich, intense blend of pure, darkly roasted Arabica coffee

March 19, 2014

Taking that next step

For Jewish people Tuesday is a lucky day. It is supposed to be doubly-good (I really have no better way to translate it). I wish my Tuesdays would get the memo. I had a horrible day, where things continued to overwhelm me and I was looking at all the tables in our house trying to find one I could crawl under. In an attempt to relax and take my mind off things I did laundry. How pathetic is that? Obviously it didn't help but at least everyone has clean sheets and I had the perfect hiding place - under the laundry. 
But you know what they say about finding the silver lining and all that so this is not another dark hopeless post but one about the pots of gold I found today.

The first one was all those comments I got which, together with massive amounts of chocolate (I ran out of cake) got me through the morning. 
When I wrote on Monday about my anxiety attack and how bad I was feeling these past few weeks, for the first time since I started my blog I hesitated before pressing the "Publish" button. I know it's weird coming from someone whose blog is all about the most intimate things that happens in all our lives, but somehow that post felt so much more personal and private and publishing it felt like bearing my soul. I was worried people would laugh at me or belittle my feelings or just look at my post and say "oh, grow up already. Life is tough and it's past time you learnt it". To be honest, I am not really used to having people aside from Hidai and my parents who worry about me, and I was totally unprepared for the amount of positive feedback I got, and all the people who commented and wrote and worried about me. It helped so much, so I just wanted to say a gigantic thank you to everyone.
The second was Ron. Last week was a rough week for him in school with his one-on-one talk with his teacher going from bad to worse and our understanding that it is time to take him for a formal gifted-kids-assessment (also known as an IQ test) if we want to stop being "those parents". We had a talk with his head-teacher on Thursday about letting him go even more forward, and letting him prove what his limits are and fixing the fact that he got the impression the school doesn't care about him. I know it is going to sound silly, but we worry constantly about Ron's education. To be honest the school system isn't very helpful in that and gifted kids rarely get treated like SEN kids, though they are, and they don't get ELPs or professional advisors and meetings to discuss their progress. It is so hard to find teachers who understand gifted kids, who thinks of them as needing extra help and attention, because it is so hard and so important to keep them challenged and interested and prevent them from becoming underachievers. We are very lucky that our head-teacher sees things eye-to-eye with us and she set to fix what needed to fixing. As a result Ron had what he considers the funnest day of school - he got to do some level 6 maths tests from 9:30am till 2pm and in between tests he talked to the head-teacher about his goals for the next half-term. Add to that he got to participate in a special maths course that is being given in a local secondary school, and they had some questions from the Junior Maths Challenge and he got them all correct. You have never seen such a happy boy.
The third was Yon. When Yon got diagnosed I didn't have time to think or to feel or to do anything but try to accumulate enough material to make sure we are giving him the best help we can. When your child is diagnosed with a disability you go through the process of grief, complete with all the trimmings and stages. I have no idea what stage we are at now, most days it's acceptance with a dash of denial I would guess. But the thing I found is that no matter what stage you are on, you always have that one thing that bother you most, some tiny fear or anger or sadness about something he will never be able to do. It could be that he'll never play sports, or that he could never drive, or that he might need a cane. For me, it is that he won't be able to read. I love books, always have. Books, and love of reading, were the one most important thing I wanted to give both my kids. Ron learned to read when he was two years old, not because he enjoyed reading but because he enjoyed the learning process and the patterns he discovered within. I wasn't the one who managed to convince him books that are not about football are interesting, that honour is reserved to his last year teacher to whom I will always be grateful. Since he discovered reading is fun, he has become a regular bookworm and is now stealing my Kindle every chance he gets.
But with Yon it is much more complicated. How do you teach a child with 40% vision to read? How do you teach him to enjoy a whole book when you are not sure he can read a sentence? How do you teach someone to read when the letters keep moving in front of their eyes and they need to read each letter individually? Yon didn't want to learn. He is so different from Ron, and learning through visual aids is not his thing at all. But reading requires visual learning. Add to that the fact that he doesn't like to be taught at all, or being told what to do, and you get a problem. Yon taught himself the letters and sounds from listening repeatedly to songs on YouTube, and then over the summer I convinced him "to be like Ron" and do some workbooks which were mostly doodling and made sure he was prepared for reception.
What I wasn't prepared for, was how good his reception teacher is with him, and how much he came to enjoy learning to read. Today he came home from school and was so extremely proud of himself because he got his new reading book. It was an Oxford Reading Tree level 4 book (a year 1 book) and a note saying he is the most advance reader in his class.
Sometimes there are days when you look around and you ask yourself how am I supposed to go on? How am I supposed to climb this new mountain? Then you open your eyes and see a nine years old conquer every new challenge you put in front of him and a tiny not even five years old overcome blindness without ever loosing his smile, and you see a world full of people who care, and suddenly it becomes a bit easier to take that next step.

I am linking this post with the wonderful Small Steps Amazing Achievements linky over at Ethan's Escapades because I've missed it, and the Siblings linky because of this photo of my two dudes :)

I hope you enjoyed reading the post :) I would really appreciate two minutes of your time and a vote in the writer or family categories in the BiB blog awards - Just press the photo and copy in my URL -
Thank you very much!

March 17, 2014

Just breathe

Today is the first day in more then two weeks that I feel I can write, that I actually want to write. And still I am not sure how to go about it, like somewhere along the way I've lost my words or maybe myself. In the last few weeks it has become clear that we are on the verge of change (just to clarify - not pregnant and not moving country) and it has caused what I realised last night to be a mild case of an anxiety attack. For me, anxiety doesn't wash over you in one big wave of cold sweat. It creeps up, slowly, until you feel like you are drowning, like there is no more room to breathe. I didn't even notice it at first because anxiety has become a constant part of daily life these past few years, but then I found myself sitting in my living room just looking at the clock and waiting for the bad news to reach me. In my mind I had no doubt that there are bad news coming my way, that it will happen any minute now. Though nothing really happened I could feel my heart beating faster, I could feel myself getting impatient, I could feel the certainty of my life crumbling before my eyes.
Some of it, I figured out yesterday, is because of the waiting. We are on the verge, and some of the changes will happen in the next few months, while others will need more time to develop but has been set in motion. We have been inching toward those changes for months now, and it has been slowly driving me mad. I don't do slow or waiting very well. I like retrospect and talking about things to death like the next person, but long processes are not really my thing. Waiting is even less, and our lives are going in the way of no more swift changes, no more finding a house in two weeks, no more moving a country in ten days. I have tried doing it gracefully, I have tried embracing the wait, I have tried pushing it to the back of my mind and ignoring it. None of my carefully executed strategies worked. So I did the only thing I could - I baked. I decided to make a cheesecake, because a baked cheesecake is a good lesson in patience - you have to buy the ingredients (because who amongst us really keep in the house about a kilo of Philadelphia?), then you have to prepare it and bake it for almost 2 hours, then cool it, ice it, and put in the fridge for about 7 hours. There are no shortcuts, no way to cheat the system, no way to steal a little piece straight from the oven. It turned out perfect, so maybe patience is a virtue after all.
Some of it was the distance from Denial-Land. I do miss Denial-land so much. The older I get, the more I come to understand the guy in the Matrix who just wanted to go back to not knowing. Sometimes I wish you could un-take the red pill. Most of the time we live our lives in the sense that "it won't happen to me" - I will not be in a car accident, my house won't be burgled, I won't lose my job, I won't wake up one morning and discover my son is half-blind. After enough of these things happen to you, you stop saying "it won't happen to me", you just go with "I wonder which of these will happen next". Sure, you have to get back on the horse and all that, but how can you really stop being afraid you'd fall again?
Some of it was fear. Not the good kind of fear, the one that keeps you alive and unharmed, but the crippling kind of fear that paralyses you and stops you from moving forward. It's the fear of repeating the same past mistakes, it's the fear of the future, it's the fear of everything disappearing in front of your eyes.
I hate the word anxiety, it makes it sound frivolous or silly somehow. It makes me think of fragile victorian women who needed smelling salts. Somehow the word makes it to be something that you should have overcame by yourself, something weak people or childish people or over-dramatic people suffer from.
It might be true, God knows I told myself all these things on many sleepless night, when I couldn't see how morning will ever come. For me, anxiety gets worse in the night. Somehow, deep into the wee hours of the night when the house is eerily quiet, after the fifth time I checked the house is locked and the kids are breathing, that is when I can't control it anymore, when I can't tell myself that it really will be ok, that the voices in my head are just irrational fears that have no relation to my real life.
Anxiety takes everything that is bad, or hard, or uncertain and makes it ten thousand time worse, and when life keeps putting more and more hurdles in front of you it makes it harder to be able to distinguish between real-life problems to tackle and irrational fears. In the last couple of weeks everywhere I looked something was broken and needed me to fix it, or it was stuck and needed me to wait, or it was just soul-suckingily hard. Kids were sick, DLA and forms needed to be filled, money issues reared their ugly head, Ron had trouble in school, jobs were delayed, houses around here were expensive rubbish...
I felt like I was drowning. All I could do was keep my head above water and try to breathe. But I couldn't write, or smile, or see a way out. I lost my way and my blog. All I did for two weeks was played Candy Crush, knitted animals and baked.
Last night I told Hidai all of my fears. I just sat there and told him about the noise, and the anxiety, and the deep dark fears. I let him see inside the darkness of my mind. Hidai gave me hope, my little ray of sunshine and reality. He gave me, like always, his ear and his shoulder and way more love and understanding than I deserve.
And he helped me start to find my way back.

March 4, 2014

Food for March

I know it doesn't look like it when you look out the window, but the calendar can't be wrong. It's March. I have spent the last weekend congratulating myself on surviving another UK winter, right before Monday arrived and I went to pick my boys up from school and promptly got caught in the biggest hailstorm we had all winter on the one day we were supposed to go check out some houses for our "how does it feel to live in a proper house" research project instead of going straight home. But if you ignore this freak-storm that lasted exactly from five minutes after I left home to five minutes before I got back, as most storms tend to do, you could look around and quietly whisper - it's beginning to look a lot like spring.
Trying to get out of school
And do you know what spring brings with it, other than flowers and sunshine and smiles? Food. Spring is, without a doubt, the season to be eating. It raises two problems - the first being that I still have 3 kilos to lose because unfortunately February was less than a stellar month in all areas of life, so it will come as no surprise to learn that what I thought of as a less than ambitious target of loosing 8 kilos and exercising 4 times a week was in fact too ambitious. The other problem is that spring is what comes before summer. And summer is the season to be showing off your diet's results. Well, the solution here is easy and clear to all - we live in the UK, we can always wear a coat under the pretence that "a summer coat is so in this year". And until we move to the suburbs were people actually have dress codes (or so I hear), we can always wear whatever we want under the label of eccentric rather then just plain weird.
Truth is I planned to get right back on the diet-horse on Monday, it's just that I didn't have a set Monday in mind and so I found myself last Wednesday when it became apparent that Monday has already passed, making an apple crumble. Apple crumble is the best cake ever, because it's a guilt free cake - after all, it is mostly apples. If you just ignore the sugar, flour and butter of course. But why would we want to be so petty? But then came the text message from school - we have moved year 4's cake sell to this Friday. Please bring your cakes on Friday morning. Ha, I thought to myself, here is my chance to get out of making a cake for school. I hate doing anything just because I have to, and baking is no different, but Ron looked at me like I ran over his puppy and told me he promised the whole school I will bake them cupcakes. 
I tried explaining that I don't have time on Thursday, I tried explaining that I don't have the ingredients needed for 40 cupcakes just lying around the house, I tried blaming it on the school. We all know what happened next don't we? I got him to compromise on a cake. Now that raised another dilemma - if you bake a chocolate cake for school, are you supposed to not bake one for yourself too? After all, how will you know if it's any good? And also it was my mum's birthday on Sunday (happy birthday mum!). And the fact that we live in different countries should not mean we don't deserve to enjoy some birthday cake. Yes, I baked two chocolate cakes, with chocolate icing, and sprinkles on top. 
It was the best decision ever, as I don't even dare trying to buy anything in the school bake sale with all the people fighting there for every cake, and Yon, who lives for chocolate cake, was devastated when he discovered that the cake is going to school and not all intended for him to eat.
Apparently, and not that I'm bragging or anything, my cake was the first one sold out, and it went for the highest price per slice :)
Cakes on their way to school
But that is not enough, because on Friday I decided it is high time to get some Jewish food supplies. I go to Golders Green about every three months to get some real hummus, pittas (don't get me started on what goes for pitta bread around here), wine and sweets. So we had more cakes. With chocolate. I am just thankful that Yon is even a bigger chocolate crazy than me. Makes me look so much saner when he runs around the house yelling "chocolate. My precious..."  (he does an excellent Gollum). 
Yon really likes pancakes
And then somehow we got to today, Tuesday, and though I told myself again, that I will get back on the diet-horse on Monday, we somehow stumbled upon Pancake Day. And you know I am not one to give up a good excuse to celebrate a holiday, regardless of its relation to me, if it has good food. Right after Pancake Day we have Purim, which you don't know about unless you are Jewish and why would you want to be Jewish? There really aren't a lot of reasons, but Purim is the main one. It is, after all, the candy holiday. Very diet fitting.
Purim food
After that Ron and I always celebrate St. Patrick's Day, for one reason alone - we get to eat mint-chocolate. Hidai doesn't like it and he always looks at us funny when we eat it, so I don't get to eat it a lot. Why on St. Patrick's Day you ask? The answer should be obvious really, because it has a green wrapping of course. And green is the colour of St. Patrick's Day. I expected you to know that.
That is followed by Mother's Day, or as I like to call it - Only Mummy Gets The Good Chocolate Day. After all, nothing says we love you mummy more than not eating my fancy chocolate, right?
Is it flowers or is it really.... You guessed it ;)
Hey, it's not my fault. I wanted to diet, I wanted to exercise. It's not my fault I opened the mailbox and discovered a box of chocolate from Hotel Chocolate last week.
At that point I decided to look at it as fate's way of saying - lose the diet, embrace the spring!

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February 28, 2014

House hunting in London

Last week I woke up and it hit me. In four months will reach the two years mark of living in London. It's a silly thing, but I can't believe it's been almost two years. They have not gone as planned at all. London was supposed to be my oasis, my peace and quiet and no more worries zone. It was supposed to give me back the peace of mind and ability to sleep a full night. It was supposed to be, in my head, a smooth ride. Instead it gave us two years full of bumps along a magnificent road.
So I didn't notice the time passing, because I was too busy looking at it through appointments and tests and forms to fill. The only way I track the months is through my friend Michelle's beautiful little girl - every month she puts a photo on Facebook, and every month I "like" it and say out loud to myself "but she can't be 11 months old! She was just born, like, yesterday!" I stopped saying that to Michelle though. For some reason she doesn't find it amusing...
Time is a funny thing, and as we are fast approaching the birthday season around here, it never even occurred to me to connect it to the passage of time in London.
And then another frightening thought hit me - our contract for renting this flat is up. Now you might think that it's frightening because we really want to stay here and the landlord won't renew our contract, or he might up the rent a few tens of pounds a week. But that's not it at all we can stay, and the rent around here stayed about the same this last couple of years so no upping it. No, the real reason it's frightening is because it suddenly dawned on me that we can move.
Just an example for a house and a street around here
Why would we want to move? Mostly because it's been two years, so somehow it feels mandatory. We've never lived anywhere more than two and a half years. In 13 years we moved 6 homes, 4 cities, 3 countries. I just can't think about this flat being the one that breaks our tradition. Then there is the fact that it's practically a shoebox, and not an adult-zise high-heel knee-high-boots shoe box. No, we live in a child-sized shoebox. And it's getting a tad crowded, but then again, maybe only when the kids are around. And thirdly, because moving solves everything. I mean, what do you do when your head becomes over populated with worries and questions and what-if's? You move. If the over population isn't too bad, you move a house, or a city, or in London's case a borough. If the questions become too much, you move a country (or at least that is what I tell Hidai whenever the question of Ron's secondary school pops up).
The problem with it is, that once the the thought of moving starts creeping in, you can't put the genie back in the bottle. Now we have to move because everything about this place annoys us.
So last week we decided to check the area, you know just to see what's out there before we actually start looking.
Look! THere's a rainbow! It must be a sign that it's time to move ;)
And here arose a few tiny insignificant problems. First of all, I have no idea how not to move immediately. Our average time of finding a place and moving is between 2 days and 2 weeks. I always find a place I want to move to, and then it annoys me to no end if I can't. But Hidai said we have to get to know the area better and be much more calculated and reasonable this time around. I on the other hand found three places I was willing to sign with on my first hour of looking.
But we are being calculated and all that, so we sat down to make a list of demands. It turned out we want to live in our flat, if only it included the flat above, just so we'll have somewhere to hide from the kids. We narrowed it down to the most basic two demands - obviously the kids can't change school, and we can't move too far away from Arsenal or Ron will hate us forever. But that's ok, we thought very naively, because we are on the border of three boroughs, two of which have a very good selection of homes in lower prices than what we pay today. Success. But not for us, because we have to stay in our borough. Yon is in the middle of all the evaluation / assessment / registration process and if we move we lose everything and have to start all over. And the worst part is we lose our special advisor, right before he starts year 1. That is a big fat no.
So after a very nice weekend of Zooplaing around the boroughs and selecting a few homes to see and fantasising about all the money we'll save, and the incredibly spacious house we'll have, we found ourselves right back where we were two years ago when we  had one week to find this house - with no choice of properties. Our borough is not an easy one to find a decent house for a decent price in. In fact it thrives on very old houses and very high prices. Mostly because it populates too many "young professionals" who think putting the main loo on the roof is quirky rather than just plain idiotic, its advantages - central, close to the tube, trendy, diverse and close to Arsenal - are also what makes it so hard to find a decent place that fits a family of four.
Our view in Gibraltar
Our view now
Then you have the problem of not actually wanting a house. I have to confess, I am what you might call totally paranoid, and Hidai is what you might call a neat-freak. And we got used to having a magnificent view when you look out the window. Somehow living in an old crumbling house (not because that is how houses in general are, but because that is how most houses that are for rent in our area are), that looks exactly like every other house on the street, that never feels clean, always faces the street, and has no view other than cars, just doesn't seem appealing. But on the other hand, it has a garden and much more space. And also it might have a loo on the roof, which is a feature after all.
Truth is, we love our flat. We love everything about where we live, right from the "legendary address" to the newness of the complex, to the underfloor heating and double glazing, and the view. It's just that it's small. And our downstairs neighbour is against kids and treadmills. And it's been almost two years.
And I am starting to feel those itching feet, that need for newness, the thirst for adventure. I can feel it bubbling just underneath the surface, and I know - hold on to your suitcases boys and girls. We are moving.
Well, not really, we have about four months here, and still no idea what to do with our list of house-demands. Then again, my Zoopla, Right Move and Prime Locations accounts are all set to "immediate alerts" so...

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February 25, 2014

DLA - filling the disability forms

You might have noticed I wasn't here this past week. There were no new posts, no tweets, no Facebooking, no me anywhere around the web. You might think it was because it was half-term and I was busy doing all these wonderful educational but still fun activities with the boys, and really who am I to burst my image as one of those mums who uses every opportunity to have out door fun with their kids? An image I apparently have, judging by the fact that I was nominated as best family travel, innovative and crafty blogs. Me. But the sad truth is we left the house once this whole half-term and even that was so we could go to Yon's Outreach program half-term coffee morning and meet his advisor. Hidai and Ron left the house a second time to see the unveiling of Dennis Bergkamp statue at the Emirates and the match.
No, my week started with two sick kids, continued with benefits and disabilities, and ended with depression and anxieties. So I wasn't here. in fact I wasn't anywhere, I unplugged all electronic devices (except for playing endless rounds of Candy Crush and Pepper Panic), cancelled all calls or meeting people, and pretended like I can just hide under the covers for a week. Disappearing is my coping mechanism, it is what I do every time I feel the abyss closing in on me. It all started on Monday when both boys felt rather poorly and I decided to fill Yon's DLA forms. DLA is a disability benefit and choosing last Monday, the day of the Benefits Street big debate, to fill the forms might not have been such a good idea. Mine is not a political blog or one that thrives on controversy, and so I have not written my opinion on the war on benefits before, but I do have to say this, it feels awful. Filling this form was (still is as it's not yet finished) one of the hardest hurdles to go through. The form is divided into 3 parts - the details part, mobility part and care part. I started crying in the details part with the doctors and tests and diagnosis. The mobility part was all about how he needs help moving around because, you know, he doesn't see the around. But the care part, that one broke me. The point is to show how much assistance Yon needs during the day. You would think, like me, not much. He wakes up - goes to school - comes back - plays a little - goes to bed. Right? Not really as it seems. Because you start reading the questions - problems with moving around the house? yes; problems with food? yes; problems with noise? yes; problems with bath/toilet? yes; problems with clothes? yes; problem with speech? yes; problems with communicating? yes; needs supervision to make sure he is safe? yes; needs help with development? yes; needing extra help at school? yes; and of course, problems with vision? yes.
The only questions we answered with a "no" were to do with medicine.
Then you have to write, and explain why you answered yes to almost every question in the form, and then add all the documentation from the school, hospital, advisors, council, whatever you have.
Then we took it to our outreach advisor to go over it with us and see that we filled it correctly and wrote everything, and because you have to add a letter from someone who knows and treats the child. Because his parents aren't enough.
To get something between 20 and 40 pounds a week. Who in their right mind thinks that anyone will go through this if they don't really need it?
I get the point of view of the system, I get the need to put all kids on the same level and judge them on the same scale, I get the need to not make it easy for people to trick the system. But I think the truth is it deters the people who needs it and not the people who are heartless enough to claim disability benefits they are not entitled to. Filling forms like this one, or like the Arsenal one is having to beg for help, having to relive the worse parts of your days, having to shout out to whomever will listen "but he is! he really is disabled!". It is hard only when you have a disabled child.
The people at Arsenal Disability Team for example did not think Yon is disabled enough or that we are worthy enough to buy 4 tickets in the front row so Yon could actually see what is going on and not have to sit  in a crowded middle row next to the giant speakers. They sent me to look for teams that aren't doing so well, or wait to next year because they prefer to sell their tickets to real fans. But hey, they have a seeing-eye toilets around the stadium somewhere. Aren't you proud of them?
We eventually got the tickets, because we asked for help from people with more connections than us in the Arsenal headquarters, and we will be going to one of the matches in April. But it is still unthinkable to me that we will have to feel so bad and jump through so many hoops. It kills me that we have to get special treatment, that we have to beg for favours, that once and again we have to prove that Yon really doesn't see. It kills me that we are made to feel like beggars and thieves, like we have to stand and justify once and again Yon's needs and his entitlement to be able to live a full life. In a perfect world, society should help the weak, the Special, the defenceless. It should support and accept the different.
But it doesn't. It makes you fill forms that reduce your child to a burden and you to tears.

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February 14, 2014

Slippery slope time

I am sure Friday has not been the same this last two weeks without my constant whining about Weight-Watchers and dieting. I know, I told myself the same thing, it's not really Friday without some  chocolate reminiscing. Unfortunately I had been extremely ill for those two Fridays I missed, but there really is no need to feel sorry for me, because other than the fact that I managed to watch each and every TV episode I have ever recorded or downloaded or queued or whatever, I have managed to watch two whole shows I have never watched before (every episode from the first to the last series), I have also managed to bore myself out of my mind and so did the unthinkable - I knitted. I know, everyone around here also found it hilarious, but I did. It's not the first time I tried knitting, but a rare combination of two left hands, no eye-hand co-ordination whatsoever and a distinct lack of artsy genes have resulted in a not bad collection of needles and yarn but not even one real finished product. This time around however I was really determined, and also starting to feel like I am loosing my mind due to TV overload, and I knitted one heart (not because of Valentines, because it's easy), one fish (because Yon felt it doesn't count unless there's an animal there), and one whole hat, and another half a hat but I vowed to finish that one too. Just as soon as I become sick again.
Heart & fish
But the main thing about my being sick is that you know how when you feel bad you lose your appetite and all that? Well, I don't get that. For me, sick means carbs. Lots and lots of carbs. Way more than usual amounts of carbs. And chocolate. Obviously. It is a known fact after all that chocolate is nature's way of combatting the flu. Only losers think it's chicken soup. But if you have to have soup throw in some (meaning lots) croutons and grated cheese. Also, when I'm sick I need my tea to have three teaspoons of sugar and one of honey. It's mandatory (and not the way I usually drink my tea). You would think the next line will be on how much weight I gain throughout this illness food-fest, but no, I always lose weight when I am ill, no matter how much I eat. The problem is I usually gain it all back in the first three days of feeling better.
My new hand-made hat!
This time around I continued to feel bad even after the week of antibiotics and was on enough medications to make sure I started seeing flying elephants instead of flying cakes, that I didn't gain back any weight, but I did lose all my Weight-Watchers mojo. It is surprising how easily you give up on everything you gained just to go back to those same bad habits you worked so hard to vanquish. I need to lose another 4 kilos. It's not much, but unfortunately it doesn't lose itself. And more than that, I need to get back into the hated exercise regime we've just managed to establish around here before I conveniently became ill.
I don't know about anyone else, but I always find the fact that I have to change the way I live in order to live according to someone else's rules and method a tad difficult (look at me with my restraint writing) so while Hidai tries to convince me that if you add the exercise points and the weekly points to the daily maintenance points you actually get enough points to live a decent life, I tend to think that if you need to worry all the time about every piece of cake that goes in your mouth life really isn't all that decent. I tend to look at it as somewhat of a slope kind of thing, sure you start off with the best intentions and promise you will forever keep writing in your app every little piece of chocolate and never over indulge again and that of course no one needs that second piece of pie, you slowly start slipping and after a while the only thing you do is keep paying the Weight Watchers monthly fee on account of the fact that stopping the payment is like admitting defeat. But I was supposed to be on the honeymoon period of the diet, after the horrible start and before the slippery slope. And I am not. I am somewhere around mid-slope. I find myself saying too many times a day - life is too hard to not eat cake.
Take yesterday for example. We got two parcel slips. Why would parcel slips cause an actual slip you ask. One was indeed the very nice chocolate I ordered for Valentines Day. The other was Yon's DLA forms. If you are still not sure what it is, DLA is a very harmless name for Disability Living Allowance. And form is a very harmless name for the 40 something pages in which I am supposed to detail everything Yon can't do. What does it say about me that I was more relieved to see the forms than the chocolate? Nothing good I guess.
Chocolate and wine all ready for Valentines
The moral of the story? That I got chocolate for Valentine's Day. I even added a note. And a bottle of wine. The problem of the story? That the boys went with me to pick the parcels up and informed me that they see themselves as equal chocolate deserving partners. When I gave up trying to explain it's mummy's chocolate and tried to at least get kisses in exchange for chocolate, Yon informed me that he will not give me any kisses, as I should share with them because apparently "sharing is caring".
Yes, but not with my really expensive and super fancy Hotel Chocolate box.

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I am linking this post with #WobblesWednesday over at the fab AutismMumma
And with #PoCoLo over at the lovely Vevivos.

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