December 30, 2013

Christmas 2013: The Highlights!

Ten days since my last post. It's been a very long vacation which cost me about 5,000 pounds and 5 kg. I'm joking of course. It was only 3,000 pounds. While writing this I am still half comatose from the enormous lunch I've had today, and yesterday and every single day before that. Holidays and food are intertwined in a way second only to football and beer (yes, I know my analogy is steaming from the fact that today's entertainment was watching an Arsenal match at the pub), and trying to write anything while in this state is proving to be somewhat difficult. Summarising a holiday is never an easy thing. After all in our family if you finish a holiday with lots of photos it can only mean one thing - it was a lousy holiday. And if you did have a good time, and you don't have photos, you probably ate too much and drank too much and already went through all the Christmas chocolate and now can't move or think. And anyway nobody wants to hear how you are full of love and light and wine.
On the other hand, no one wants to hear how my Christmas did not go as I planned at all this year. I was sick for most of the time and even needed antibiotics, my Christmas baking did not go as planned (at least as far as I'm concerned. Everyone else said it was totally fine, at least that is what their crumbs filled mumbling sounded like ), I haven't slept well in weeks, my posting schedule went down the toilet, and I gained at least 3 kilos.
So I have decided to do a Christmas recap in one go by using everyone around and publish it when no one will read it - right before New Years.
Without further ado - Christmas 2013: The Highlights!
1. Grandparents visit (because they made me write it first). It is so much nicer to have then here when we are all on holiday, there is no pressure to get to school, or get things done on time, or while everyone is stressed and busy. Holidays are the best time to entertain and Christmas with its many activities and added excuse for everything (we absolutely HAVE to eat a second breakfast made entirely out of chocolate and Baileys. It's Christmas) is the best time in the year for it.
2. Christmas dinner. Well, actually no one here put it down as a highlight, but the way I see it - we survived the making and eating of yet another holiday meal, during which we swore at least a dozen times that we will never do that again, yelled about ten times per person, accused each other on ruining the food at least a dozen times, ate too much during preparations, worked for ten hours on food that got eaten in under an hour (and had three days worth of leftovers). How can that not be a highlight? And yes, of course we will do it all again next year. After all it's what we call bonding in this family.
3. Yon's pick - Meeting Santa at the London Zoo. Yon is not a big fan of Santa actually, he finds the whole thing quite intimidating, and he is never willing to talk or smile, but this time was (somewhat) different, because it was in his beloved zoo. I booked the tickets in advanced and prayed for weeks that we'll have good weather. I hate booking in advance, especially in London, exactly because of that - you never know what kind of day you're gonna get, but we ended up with a sunny and cold one, which as it turned out was perfect - the animals were all awake and inside so we saw all of them (except for the always sleeping lion), and though the queue to see Santa was about an hour long, he was really nice, everything was organised really well and the boys loved the gifts they got. We even managed to get a family photo out of it with Yon not looking as if we made him sit next to a serial killer.
4. Ron's pick - his xBox. He asked for one four months ago. He waited ever so patiently for it. He did his best to be on the good list. He worried up until Christmas Eve that he won't get it. He jumped in the air (literally) when he ripped through the wrapping paper. He can't stand being apart from it. He already mastered the FIFA 14 game, and is having long conversation with the Kinect. So it comes as no surprise that his xBox was his choice, but what he really meant was Christmas Day. I really don't think there is anything better than waking up to Christmas Day. I got a Kindle and have already read one book, Hidai got a ticket to a Pearl Jam concert in July, grandparents went for phones and booze, but Yon got the best presents of all - a robofish (who died an early death due to lack of batteries) and a camera and is now spending most his time walking around the house snapping blurry pictures of everyone.

5. Hidai's pick - LegoLand Windsor. As we were sooooo good this year Santa has decided to give us all an extra gift - one night at the LegoLand resort. Actually we decided on that because we want to work our way up to DisneyWorld. We were unsure how Yon would react to the hotel, and Ron to the activities and figured one night at LegoLand when most of it is closed because of winter is the perfect place to start. Despite a few minor glitches at the beginning (apparently it's a big surprise that when you book two rooms under your name you want them to be adjoined. Or at least close.) and the fact that Yon wasn't feeling very well, we powered through (got the rooms) and it turned out to be a wonderful holiday for the family. I was so happy to see Yon running through the castle in the indoor play area, or the outside play area, and I was happy to see Ron willing to try all the activities (he was only slightly crossed about losing to Hidai in the shooting game). We will be back for sure in the summer to see the rest of the resort and activities (and beat Hidai at shooting).
6. Grandparents pick 1 - Boxing Day Shopping. As real Londoners we laughed in their faces about the thought of going out to Oxford St. for a spot of shopping, and declined their generous invitation to drag two boys to do their favourite activity of all - watching other people shop. As it turned out grandparents loved every minute of it, and bought everything they planned to, so next year we are sending them with a list of our own.
7. Grandparents pick 2 - Football at the Pub. We wanted an authentic pub watching experience as we've never done that, but as it turned out we chose the poshest pub around because of a combination of having to have vegetarian food, a family-friendly atmosphere and clean toilets. As my dad summarised it, it cost us the price of a new tablet, and the boys were less keen on the food (the chocolate brownie went down without a problem though), but Arsenal won, the people were happy, and the food was great. Next time we rob a bank, we'll be back for sure.
8. My pick... Well, I loved it all, but my highlight was without a doubt watching the Hobbit movie (the second one of course) in the cinema. And although I spilled half my popcorn when I tried taking a photo with my phone, had a shrieking girl sit behind me and encountered a drunken guy on the bus back, I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience of actually not going to the cinema to watch an animated movie. And as for the distractions, which to be honest used to drive me crazy, it's amazing what getting used to watching TV and movies with children gets you accustomed to.
9. Last thing we did just before Christmas was connect our TV (and all other devices) to both Netflix and Hulu. This is the place to admit I love silly American TV shows, and by using some electronic hocus-pocus managed to connect all my devices so that I can watch all my TV shows and the American Netflix channel. We've already watched three movies (which is a personal record for us, but unfortunately were lousy).
10. As I see it, like most things in life, Holidays never go as planned, and so far this one has proven to be the same. Every year we find a different solution for it. Usually it includes some chocolate, lots of arguments and the weirdest sense of humour around, but this year we've decided to add the secret ingredient and added alcohol to the mix, and by now grandparents have already drank the whole Chocolate Baileys we bought them, a few bottles of wine and many many glasses of beer. Next year we are planing ahead and starting to stock up in September.

Happy New Year Everyone! See you on the other side :)
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December 20, 2013

Ten Years Wedding Anniversary - Friday Recap 2

Sunday is our ten years wedding anniversary, and 13 years since Hidai and I met. We got married exactly three years (minus one day) after our first date. I know what you're thinking - who gets married on December 22? People who don't think about the future, that's who. We were young, we were stupid, we had a really good reason. You see, we chose that date not because of our overly romantic nature, but because we wanted to spend our honeymoon in London on Christmas (also it needed to be Monday evening because Tuesday brings good luck, and for Jews a day is from sunset to sunset, so Monday evening is actually Tuesday; and also we are not really known for our patience and ability to wait, so we wanted to get married and go on our honeymoon the very next day). We had the most wonderful time here in 2003, but now we are stuck with a wedding anniversary date that in reality means we don't get to really celebrate our anniversary. The kids are always off school, Christmas is around the corner and all the preparations are in full swing, my parents are here and we spend our nights on the air mattress in the middle of the living-room. All contribute to an extremely romantic feel. This year for example, for our big celebration we are having coffee Friday morning before the craziness begins, and are going to the zoo to meet Santa and some reindeers on Sunday. Ron thought it was a very nice way to celebrate. Since my parents are here we can get a night off (no, we don't have a babysitter so no, we don't get nights off normally) and we are rounding up the celebrations with The Hobbit movie. We might even go all out and buy popcorn. If we go totally crazy we might even buy the VIP seats just to feel rich and special. Yes people, we know how to celebrate in style.
Selfie in sunny Gibraltar
I don't usually do the romantic-sappy posts about Hidai, firstly because it will embarrass him, second of all because it will go to his head, and thirdly because every time I sit down and try to write it he does something that annoys me. Just like this morning when he made fun of my using hebrew and English in the same sentence. But seeing how he apologised nicely, and it is Recap Friday I decided to give it a go and try to write a ten-year-anniversary post. I only have one tiny problem - What does one write? because I have no clue. I've seen lots of anniversary posts, and they all made me a bit teary, and they all wrote very nicely and very movingly about the love they share, the moment they met, the wonderful wedding they had. I love reading it all, but writing it? I feel like such a fraud. Next thing you know I would try to write a happy post. What is the world coming to?!
Guess when
But still, ten years of marriage and thirteen in total is a long time. You shouldn't really just brush it off. It does deserve some sort of mention. Even if not of the sappy kind. Hidai and I met on a blind-date organised by mutual friends who were dating at that time. We fell in love on that first date, where I explained to Hidai that my favourite actor is Bruce Willis (the early works), and we both spent half the night organising the table at the cafe where we sat. We haven't been apart since. We moved in together 8 month later and spent a year at my parents before moving to our first ever flat.
We managed to finish 3 university degrees (Hidai one, I two), go through 13 work places (most of them are Hidai's), have two kids and two miscarriages, and move 6 houses in three countries. But those are just the basic numbers of our lives. And numbers don't really tell the story do they? The story is in the details behind the numbers, the story is in the way you travel together. And what a way it has been so far...
Meeting as young as we did means we basically grew up and grew old together. We went through almost everything life can throw at you in these years, and did it together, but Hidai had issues with me writing it all here and as some of it is his stuff I respected his wishes. Looking back I can hardly believe how young we were when we met, how easily (some would say carelessly) we did it all, and how far we've come (some would say not really).
Our one and only official portrait 10 years after we met
At the end of the day after thirteen years together I would say it's going rather well (I would say that just because I am afraid if I say anything more I would jinx it). Before we got married someone told us we shouldn't get married so young, because we will find ourselves one day sitting on the couch at night watching TV and not talking. We did get married young, and watching TV together is still one of our favourite things to do. Though we do it in bed mostly and not on the couch.
And here is the sappy-lovey-dovey part of the post: after thirteen years together, in which we still keep the one rule of no jobs that require travel, Hidai is still my favourite person to talk to and the only one who hears every passing thought I have exactly the moment I have it, he never says "no" to anything I want (and learned never to say "relax"), he still brings me everything because I'm lazy and makes me tea when I'm sick, he still encourage me to go after every dream I have no matter how crazy it is (including trying my luck at the Bake Off), he still tells me he loves me every night. He is still the one person I can spend more than an hour at a time with, and the one who will readily admit I saved him form a life of workaholism and family-issues. We still see everything eye-to-eye, have the same sense of humour and dance in our underwear in the kitchen.
dancing at my parents, about a year after we met
But if I had to say what's the one thing that kept us together all these years and made our marriage work, is that Hidai is my favourite person in the whole wide world to fight with.
He always apologises so nicely.

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December 18, 2013

The nights before the night before Christmas

Three more days till school breaks for the holidays. I never thought I'd say that as a parent, but I will - Bring on the holidays. It's going to be 16 and a half days of total madness - Christmas, entertaining people, grandparents, bored out of their mind children and bad weather (hopefully snow, probably lots of rain). And still it will be better than what we have now. Now we have a whole lot of people who are at the end of their rope.
So let me count the ways in which this period of a second-before-the-holiday drives everyone crazy -

We went to the school yesterday to give out our Christmas gifts to the teachers and the moment the head teacher saw us you could see her thinking "on no! What the f*&^ck could these two want now?!" Yes, we have been spending a lot of time at school lately. Yesterday I told Hidai I think I'm there more than some of the teachers. Hidai is a governor and had some governor things before the break, we had all the festivities, we've had our usual meetings about Yon (and some unexpected ones) we've had trouble with Ron, I will be volunteering in school from next term helping children learn towards the 11+ exams, we've had parents-teachers meetings, and we've had lots of talks with our head teacher, so she was excused for thinking we were there to nag her once again, so just stood there waving chocolate at her saying "no, no, just Christmas gifts!". She is exhausted, Yon's teacher said they are all counting the minutes, the boys are so out of it Ron actually had a fight with Siri (about weather or not Arsenal would win the league). And with the iPhone (it bullied him). And with the computer (none of his players scored). And with my baby-tree (it's in the middle of the football pitch also known as my corridor). Yon just informed me yesterday afternoon that he "absolutely definitely totally NEEDS YouTube. He can't do anything else because he NEEDS YouTube". Of course he watched YouTube all afternoon. How could I refuse that plea?
Baby tree at the football pitch
It is not surprising then that the school is on a not-really-studying-anymore mode, they had pantomime, class parties, school play, movies, presentation days, fair, singing, etc. Yesterday it was the school play. They don't do nativity shows in our school, just secular school plays that are nice regardless of your religion and beliefs, and this year they chose The Wizard of Oz. I am not a big fan of school plays to begin with, and this one had even more issues for me than most with the amount of time they needed to commit to practice during school hours and after, the person in charge of it, and it having 8 main roles and a whole school who wanted to participate but couldn't. Ron got to be a guard and had three lines and insisted we come watch him perform. Of course we came. And sat in the second row, and smiled, and waived and took loads of photos. Was it worth the 6 weeks of after school practice? and the week he missed football for it? and the fact that he had nothing but rehearsals for the past week? No. He was very excited about the whole thing and hardly slept the night before, he was worried about his scene, and he was up to the end quite disappointed to get such a tiny role. He was excellent of course - came on stage on time, fell asleep on time, sang on time, and performed his lines in the same incomprehensible mumble as everyone else. And immediately went to change and play some football in the rain. As one does.
I am just happy it's over for the next year or so, so I could go back to my never ending list of things that needs to be done before Christmas. To add to the fun I've had my first physiotherapy session this morning, and now if you remember I wrote a few months ago about my health-scare and tests and everything I went through. You would think I would have an update on that. You would be wrong. When I went to see the doctor she didn't have the results. When I went back today they had the results but not the doctor, so I still don't know exactly what we are talking about. I did have a physiotherapy session where she basically told me to continue wearing the splint at all times, do some neck movements and come back in a month. Not really sure why. As a result I now have pain in my back, neck and hand. Totally worth it.

I have spent five hours in total I think wrapping presents this past week. It used to be fun, I used to do it while watching the xFactor final with a glass of wine and some nibbles. This year the children have decided to watch the xFactor so that was out of the question, and I was left with having to wrap them in the middle of the night with Hidai checking the boys every few minutes to see that they are still sound asleep. I finished it all yesterday morning and now have to check that I have enough chocolate to put in the stockings (I don't). And I still have to put all the bows and trimmings on the wrapped gifts.
Last present to be wrapped this year!
I have my menu for the Christmas eve dinner, but there were a few disagreements about my choices, decisions to be made about what to give the children on the night before Christmas (books), still haven't bought any of the food and I am living in fear that Ocado won't deliver my turkey. If you wonder why I don't buy it sooner the answer is really simple - lack of fridge space. And as a vegetarian that turkey staring at me every time I open the fridge gives me the hibijibis, so if everything goes according to plan it (and the rest of the food I have yet to even order) will be here on Sunday. And now I remembered I am missing one wine glass. Don't suppose when a guest asks if I want them to bring something "one wine glass" is an acceptable answer???
Hidai last year with our first ever turkey (all cooking thanks goes to my mum)
We are late to everything. Everything. I am never late to anything, you see, I have a rule against it. But these days, we are a few minutes (not to say half an hour) late to everything. No one has any energy to actually get up and get ready, and so in the end everything is done in five minutes, in a rush and with lots and lots of yelling. On Saturday we had a Christmas party at Yon's outreach program. We were half an hour late. And still we were the first to arrive. It ended up being wonderful, the boys love going there (Ron likes it because they have a court he can play uninterrupted football in) and we ended up in McDonalds having a very good and open conversation with Ron about Yon's condition. When asked if he has any questions of his own, Yon answered with a resounding "I love my glasses".
Kids at the outreach gathering
I have made a Christmas Fun List which bear a striking resemblance to a bootcamp agenda, and is intended to make sure everyone has fun. And that's an order. We will be - going to meet Santa (and reindeers) at the zoo, going to WinterWonderland, Having a night at LegoLand, having a few days of shopping (including the mandatory Boxing Day), Taking my parents to see the lights at Oxford st, Piccadilly st. Covent Garden, Upper st. etc., Doing the Kew Gardens at night tour, and probably a museum or two. Some people hinted that it might be a tad too much planning.
Last year at WinterWonderland. Yes we still have the giant teddy
I got into a fight with a company who did not pay me for some work I did for them. It was 35 pounds, and after a month of chasing them I did what any sane person would do. I went on LinkedIn, found the names and emails of every person whose job title began with a C (or a director) and wrote them a very angry email including a promise to let some other partners of theirs know how they treat people. I got 3 apology letters, including the CEO, my money and a delivery of flowers & chocolate. Which the boys ate alone.
Apology chocolate. THe best kind.
I have Christmas songs stuck inside my head. I can't shake those jingle bells. Yon however have decided that our new theme song is Gary Barlow's Let Me Go, and whenever someone turns on the iTunes he runs over shouting "I Want That Gary Barlow Song!!!" He still hadn't figure out he can find it on YouTube. Please don't tell him.

So as you can see, life here is going smoothly and peacefully as ever. Just keep it in mind, that if you don't hear from me again after Christmas you will know why!

And yes, the blog share buttons have mysteriously disappeared. Or as I like to think of it - has taken some time off to enjoy the holiday with their family, and will just as mysteriously come back after they have some mulled wine and a rest...

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December 16, 2013

That second chance

A few days ago I went out with the girls. Let's clarify - I don't have "girls", but I do have Steph. And Steph has "girls", and she was kind enough to feel sorry for little old me and rescue me from sitting alone in the corner by inviting me to come hang with her and the girls. Of course I went. How else will I ever get the chance to write "I went out with the girls"? If I wait until I had "girls" it would be a very long wait, somewhere around quarter to never or so. Anyway Steph and the girls took me out to see a show called The Night Before Christmas in the Soho Theatre. I have never been to a show in Soho before so I wasn't really sure what to expect, and the theatre kind of reminded me of going to a play at school, but regardless and with no connection to the gigantic glass of wine I was given (wine at 2:30 pm. The day was just full of firsts), I really liked the show. Steph warned me about there being lots of curses, so I am not sure what it says about me if I thought it was really a perfectly normal amount of swearing (that being said, there were parts when they were talking really fast and I was a bit lost so some of the more explicit curses went over my head). The thing that stuck with me from that show (well except from the fact that I had two glasses of wine. And that I went out all by myself. Both of which are unheard of) was a few lines there right before the end, about how when we grow old we lose our dreams. We give up on them, and are just content to live our lives as they are. Not thinking about the future, about the possibilities in everything, but thinking instead about the past and its missed opportunities. I found it just so damn sad. Do we really? Then I got a comment on the post I wrote about living in London, and that comment said exactly the same -  "I think it's admirable that you followed your dream to live in London, despite your hard times. Very few people get to fulfil their dreams like that".

So I asked Hidai (because he has to hear every thought I have) if he thinks it's right. At what point exactly do we lose our dreams? The ability to believe we could do anything? He said sooner than you'd think, that most never had it to begin with, that most people, us included, aren't raised to believe it. I don't know if he's right, but I really hope not. And yet I see it everywhere I look - I hear it from women when they become mothers, from women who followed their husband to a life of expats, from older people when their kids are grown. And yet I don't want to believe it.
Last night we watched the xFactor final. I love the xFactor, when I'm asked I say it's because it's my sign that Christmas is nearly here, but if I'm honest it's not only that. I love seeing the journey and I love it when people get a second chance to fulfil their dreams. I rooted for Sam Bailey and Rough Copy from day one, and was extremely sad to see the boys voted off in the semi-final (have to say I voted for them) and very happy for Sam that she won (of course we voted for her). But then they made the whole thing exactly about that - that second chance, that dream she gave up on, those twenty lost years.
Ron wants to play football for Arsenal when he grows up. He really believes he could. Actually he really believes he would. And putting aside the question of university and weather a football career is what we want for him, we told him to go for it.
At what point in life does "go for it" vanishes? At what point are we left with the "what ifs"? And on the other hand, he probably won't play for Arsenal. Am I right to let him believe he could? Is raising your kids to believe they can be anything, do anything the right thing? Am I harming his sense of reality in letting him believe he has a chance? I read a few people who said their parents told them that, that they are the best, that they could do anything, and then when they grew up and realised no one is standing outside with the keys to a whole new future they didn't know what to do.
And still I tell Ron if he is willing to commit the time and effort and work hard he could. Is that the difference? The knowledge that everything comes with a price-tag? I have no idea but I don't think so. I think its the price itself.
In a different lifetime I was studying to be an accountant. I was working alongside a man, whose name I can't remember, but who was I think in his fifties (I was very young, and everyone looked really old to me). His life long dream was to study history. Instead he was working in an accountant office. He wasn't a sad man, or a grumpy one. It was just that I found it sad. The "I can't go back and do it now" line. Life is so short and it goes by so quickly, so I decided on one rule in life (ok, I have tons of rules, but that one made the top five) - No Regrets. Running away from the what ifs comes with a steep price-tag believe me, it also comes with lots of hard work, and not a lot of money. Mostly I think (for me anyway) it comes with lack of worth, with those moments were my life seems wasted, where it seems like a bad example of a person who just can't make up her mind. It comes with never having a "real" job, a "proper" career, or a knowledge of what's to come. It comes with all those moments of self-doubt.
Hidai said it happens to everyone, that thought "maybe that's it. I've hit my glass ceiling. That is the end of the road for me, it's as far as I can go". Lord knows it happens to me every time he is looking for a new job, it happens to me every time I feel a hiccup with the blog, it happens to me every time we have a future budget talk. Do you though? Do you really have a glass ceiling? If Ron wants it enough won't he be able to play for Arsenal?
When I'm confronted with our lifestyle I always have two nagging and contradicting thoughts -  Will we one day wake up and realise we have unfulfilled dreams? Will running ever be too much?And on the other side of it, how many new dreams could one person have? What if one day I will wake up and realise I have no more dreams to fulfil? No more mountains to conquer?
I don't know which one of those options is worse.
Steph's photo (and idea)
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December 13, 2013

So how is it to live in London? - Recap Friday part 1

Mid-December, it's 10 o'clock in the morning and everything outside is dark and grey and gloomy, the only sound around the house is the Christmas music, and my eggnog latte is right beside me. Something about this whole scene makes me pensive, and I feel the need to start making mental lists of the good, the bad, the what-where-I -thinking of the year. December always get me in this mood. The need to look back over the year(s) and see where life has taken me. It's not only because December is the obvious month for it - after all in 18 days it will be 2014, it's also because I am not the best person there is with dates, ok, I am extremely bad with numbers and dates. I had to have my wedding ring inscribed with my wedding date so I'd remember it correctly; I am forever forgetting Yon's birthday (it has a 7 and a 9 in some order); I have no clue what my phone number (or my home number, or Hidai's number) is. I can go on. That is why I long ago decided to celebrate everything in December. Well, it's kind of a no-brainer really because Hidai and I met in December, got married in December and left Israel in December (not the same one obviously).
So for the next few weeks, Fridays will be known as "recap Friday", and will give me the option to look back at the last year and get some much needed closure.
This week is my - So how does it feel to live in London? recap. Truth be told we moved here in July 2012, so you should have read this one back in July, but you didn't. Because I didn't write this in July. First years don't always take 12 months. Sometimes they take 18. Sometimes they take more. A first year ends when you have inner-security, when you can hold your head up high and say "I'm here". First years are over when the fear is manageable, when you feel you have a place to call home, when not everything feels like life-or-death all the time. I am not sure I'm there yet, but I am going to fake-it-till-you-make-it, and say that yes we are starting our second year. Second years are about building, having roots and belongings. Third years are usually when we leave, so I have no idea what they are all about.
Living in London was our dream from the moment we set foot here on December 23, 2003. One of the hardest moments of our lives was stepping inside the plane to go back to Israel 10 days later. We swore we would some day come back to live here. It took us 8 and a half years to make it happen, but we did. Over the years we came back here to visit every chance we got, so it wasn't like when we moved to Gibraltar and didn't really know what we are getting ourselves into. But living is not the same as visiting is it? Tourists have a different sense of the city, of life. You are never in a hurry, you don't care that everything is so bloody expensive, you stay in a hotel. The biggest fear when you get what you dream about is - what if it turns out to be not as good as I dreamt it? What if my bubble will burst? What will happen if the life I built in my mind will turn out to be so much better than the life I will have in the real world??? (The second fear is what's next? but that's for a different day.)
We had an image of life in London, we had so many expectations of it, and we arrived here after a very tough time a bit broken and sad. In a sense I think we expected London to heal us, to give us back some things we lost along the way. It's not really fair to expect it of a city, or of anyone for that matter, but unconsciously that what we did.
London is a very confusing city, it's big and small, touristy and intimate, young and old. It is full of contradictions, and is never boring. So you won't be surprised when I tell you that it did not fail to live up to every single one of our expectations, and at the same time that it didn't.
Life in London is more than anything else confusing. We chose to live in a central part of London, in one of the more touristy areas around here (especially on match days), and yet there are weeks I don't leave the house and I am starting to feel like I live on a different planet; This city makes me feel old more than anything else (and frumpy and a bit fat, but that's more to do with me than the city I guess. Everyone here is always on the way to or from the gym it seems). Everyone around here are my age or older, but they all have younger children, or no children, they all have careers, they all make me feel as if I am living a different lifetime; This city frustrate me to no end when I try to find something (other than "London has lots of parks") to do with the kids that won't cost a hundred pounds to enter and all the emails I get on "what's going on in London" hasn't got one thing; This city feels me with a sense of wonder whenever I walk its streets; This city always makes me smile when I'm feeling bad; This city makes you feel like a foreigner, but that being a foreigner is perfectly fine; No matter what you do, how you dress, what your accent sounds like - walking the streets of London there will always be someone weirder than you. Even two; It's London - everything is possible, everything is at your fingertips, you can do anything. And as soon as we win the lottery and finally get a babysitter we will.
I love living in London. Its reality is different to my dreams, as reality is, but it is no less wonderful. I missed the green when I was in Gibraltar (now I miss the blue), I missed the ability to order food (now I miss the Morrisons), I love the buses (but not the tube), I love walking around, I love the changing of the seasons (we don't have autumn in Israel. Or spring. Just Summer and three days of rain), I love the ability to be a tourist in London because you can, but then just take the tube and be home in less then half an hour, I love the culture (though I would enjoy more of it if I win the lottery or at least get a babysitter), I love online shopping (though maybe if I enjoy it less I would be able to enjoy the culture more), I love that my kids grow up in a multicultural and tolerant environment, I love the grey (not the rain. I hate rain) I was afraid of it before we moved, but I find I love it (in the winter. Less in the summer) and I love how excited everyone get when it's sunny (adore the "the weather is too good for work" line) and how everywhere you can see people sunbathing or cleaning in the nude (seriously). London, and the UK, has welcomed us in, and I am grateful for that. It has also taught us some harsh lessons about what living as expats really means and made us feel at times like we are trying to get in to a club that doesn't want us; it made me feel sad and afraid and lonely; living here made me realise that I don't belong and I will never be; living here made me come to peace with the widening gap between me and my children; London did not heal my wounds, it did not gave me peace.
But it did give me Oxford st. in December, and that is pretty darn close.

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December 11, 2013

Christmas cards

I haven't really kept it a secret that I love Christmas. I mean I've written about six posts relating to the holidays, posted about twenty photos of various holiday activities, and talked about it non-stop. My house looks like a giant bauble full of glitter has exploded all over it, I've been munching Christmas treats all day long, and the concierge at our building knows me, my apartment number and how many packages I got today when I just enter the reception area. And with about 700 apartments to look after I think that's saying something (no, contrary to popular opinion around here it does not mean I should stop buying things). But bit by bit I feel the "holiday anxiety" starting to creep up. You see, the truth is I don't like holidays that much. Ok I don't like holidays at all. They are too intense, to stressful, too full of people I rarely like, too... Too suffocating. For me, one of the main perks about living abroad with no family in sight was never having to go through another of those holidays again. Or so I thought. Because as the kids are getting older holidays are becoming much more important. Holidays, after all, are about forming traditions and connections. For many people this connection is with God, for some it's with their country, but for me it's about my boys. By choosing to raise my kids in a different culture, language, environment than I grew up in, I lost something that I couldn't fully appreciate up to that point - I lost the continuity thread that runs through the generations. They don't sing the same songs, read the same stories, or even learn the same history of the world as me. Their view of the world is different to mine and is build on different foundations. And that is exactly what I want for them, but it also makes finding that connection and traditions that much harder. It all depends on me. And I don't really like holidays.
I've adapted, as one does, and over the last four years we created our own traditions and I made my peace with the holidays. But then you have Christmas. And Christmas is not just any old holiday, it's The Holiday, and it comes hand in hand with a gigantic Christmas dinner, what feels like 1,000 presents, two weeks off school and work, and my parents. And the key to the success of what is starting to feel like Mission Impossible 7 is me. And I don't like holidays.
I do, however, like lists. I have a very complex Excel file to organise all the gifts (due to various family issues, I buy all my kids gifts and give them out under different names. Don't ask. It's as absurd as it sounds, and causes me distress to talk about). This file is my saviour, as I have to have the exact same number of gifts per child from each family member, and trying to keep track on what's been ordered, what's arrived, and what is yet to be wrapped is a sure way to go crazy. But it doesn't end here, because you have the teachers presents, the building presents (you know - cleaners, concierge, etc.), our presents, guests presents... Unrelated to that I have the holiday-visit-schedule because past lessons have taught us that six people do not fit well inside a tiny shoebox for long, so I set out to arrange a list of activities that takes into accounts 2 grandparents who don't like the cold, 2 parents who are very tired and 2 kids in different ages who like very different things, and one of them has special needs. Easy peasy. And lastly who can forget the Christmas dinner? Now, I've read all the magazines, and I've eaten 2 traditional Christmas meals, one of them last year we made ourselves. BUT this year we are hosting, and that is completely different because according to Jewish law if you are hosting one person it's as if you have invited a hungry platoon. You are required to make enough food to feed three times the amount of guests you have for at least three days (plus ten precent extra just in case). It's not just when you are talking holidays, it's every meal. But when it's a holiday? it's unforgivable if you don't. There is nothing worse for a Jewish hostess than no leftovers. The saying is, if everything you made got eaten and you don't have any leftovers than you haven't made enough food. Try harder next year. If anyone will be willing to come over again. Bad hostess. So you'll understand when I tell you that I have been stressing over the menu for two weeks now, and having endless conversations with my mum about how many types of pre-dinner nibbles is acceptable, and why I am not going to serve soup. How can you have a holiday dinner with no soup??!
I am having trouble sleeping. The stress of having a perfect (or at least acceptable) Christmas is getting to me, and as it's on top of a less than stellar time, I am starting to crack. I know I am over-reacting, but the last couple of Christmases were a bit on the tight end, and last year was six months after we moved here, so I really want this year's to be perfect for everyone. And last week I started to feel like I'm crumbling under the pressure of all that needs to be done. I really am a very organised person usually (ok I'm obsessive compulsive), and when I am under stress I tend to clean, clear and organise everything I see, but somehow this Christmas became like one of those monster-projects that you just can't defeat, you know the ones - every time you finish one task three jumps up and threaten to bury you underneath a new pile of "have to do's".
This is how I found myself in BHS last week looking for Christmas cards, without being sure even how many I need. Because I forgot to buy them. Ron loves writing Christmas cards to all the kids in his class. I have no idea how many of them actually celebrate Christmas, but since I couldn't find a box with 25 "season greetings" cards they got generic ones (and I also bought a giant dog for Yon. Or maybe it was for me. It looks exactly like a real one and it's fur is so fluffy and cuddly. I need cuddly). He got into the habit when we were in Gibraltar, where everyone give out Christmas cards every year. I think it's a lovely tradition and he enjoys it and doesn't seem to mind that it's less common in our school here. And on top of everything this year we had Yon joining the party. Last year I wrote his cards, but this year I wasn't sure what to do. Should I let him write his own cards or not? I hate these dilemmas, I never know what the right answer is, and I have no basis for comparison. As a rule of thumb I try not to compare Yon to Ron, because I know Ron is not a good indication of what a child is expected to do, after all not all kids know how to write in two languages when they are three.
This is how I found myself on Monday afternoon not really sure what to do, but Yon is going through an "I want to be Ron" period, and he wants to do everything Ron does. He really wanted to do those cards. In the end what I did was write each child's name on the envelope and he copied it to the card and added a JonJon at the bottom (that's his real name - Jonathan. But no one calls him that, because it's too serious, so it's JonJon to everyone except me. And you). He wrote 25 cards, most of them were even legible. It is an incredible achievement for him to be able to copy from a different paper without making a mistake and without getting tired. On Tuesday morning we took the cards to school to hand them out. I thought he would want me to do it, but I was wrong. He was so proud of them, he told every child he saw, he showed the teacher, and he handed them all out by himself.
It always amazes me how much inspiration we can get from our children. How much better they are than us at dealing with difficulties (most of the times), and with Yon, how he doesn't let anything stop him doing exactly what he wants.
I now have three lists ready, one food order for the 21, a complete schedule including Google-Calendar invitations, and a set menu for dinner. And all I am missing is one gift that is on its way and 2 books for Ron.
Because if Yon can do it, I can do it too.

I am linking it for the last time this year (!) to the wonderful Small Steps Amazing Achievements at Ethan's Escapade. Have a wonderful Christmas Jane :)
To the equally lovely Motivational Monday at Pinkoddy, who is always inspiring me to do better :)
To Victoria's wonderful #PoCoLo. Have a very merry Christmas!
And to Jaime's Magic Moments over at The Oliver's Madhouse. Merry Christmas :)

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December 9, 2013

On Croods and fears

I got a copy of The Croods from 20th Century Fox (and you can get yours anywhere because it's out today on DVD or Blu-Ray), but the truth is I've already seen it in the cinema on Easter, and this copy goes straight to the pile of movies my children will be getting for Christmas. We have a tradition in our house, every morning where they don't have school the kids watch a movie and we get to stay in bed and enjoy an extra hour and a half of sleep. But in order for that to happen they need a variety of movies, and also I need ideas for Christmas & birthdays, so they each get about 4 new movies per occasion. As you probably guessed we have a lot of movies. What you might have not guessed is that a few of those DVDs are older than the children. Here is the place to confess something I don't think will fit well with my blog-personality - I love animated movies. Love them. My favourite movie of all times (right up there with Die Hard) is The Emperor's New Groove. Which Hidai and I actually watched at the cinema before buying on DVD. Just like Shrek, and Hercules. I take my hat off to the people behind the good animated movie because for me they are doing the impossible - talking about subjects that should be talked about but rarely are. A good animated movie has it all - a message, a crazy character, good music, catch phrases, and silly jokes. Because a good animated movie knows the truth - it's not any less influential and powerful if you say it with a joke.
The Croods is no different, and tonight before I sat down to write this post I asked Ron if he remembers the movie. He remembered the plot better than me I have to admit (and I've watched the Previews again!), and though he said his favourite character is Belt ("Cook. Conversationalist. Navigator. Also keeps my pants up"), he remembered that the message was that sometimes change is coming, and even if you are afraid, you still have to deal with it. For me it's one of the more important messages in life, because it touches upon bravery being the ability to overcome fear, and the fact that life is full of changes.
Some lives more than others. Our lives are fraught with change. For us, the only constant is our family while everything else is in constant danger of being changed. I've said it before and I'll say it again - we are adrenaline junkies, and change is a very big adrenaline-rush, and most of the time we go with Barney Stinson's New Is Always Better rule. When I look at life, for me the equation is - evolve or die.
I know I was supposed to write a simple review about the movie, which I loved, but unfortunately for the 20th Century Fox people, this subject has been on my mind for a variety of reason lately because for me, with my social-fears, everything I do with this blog is me overcoming fears and changing; because Yon's diagnosis threw us smack into the middle of the disabilities world and we had to learn how to swim or he wouldn't get the help he needs; because of Mummy Tries wonderfully touching post about changing yourself and your parenting in order to avoid past generations' mistakes; because life as an expat makes you more conscious about decision not a lot of people get to make - do you want to become a part of your new country, or stay in a small & closed community filled with "people like you". Our decision is obvious, but it is not the obvious decision.
A lot of people let fear of the new, of the strange, of the others dictate their lives. Fear is a good thing. It can save your life, it can make you more cautious when you need it, it usually makes you stop and take a second look, or run away at the appropriate moment. Fear is also a crippling thing. It can make you fight to keep something that is no longer there, it can make you rush, it can make you not change even when there is no other choice.
For the kids, Belt's Da-Da-Da was the most memorable line of the movie, and though it is funny, the one I remembered was "New is always bad". I know so many people who think this way, so many people who just want things to stay the same. They are forever sitting inside their caves, hiding from any sign of change. "This is how we survived" they say, if you don't take risks nothing bad can happen to you. "Always be afraid" is their mantra. If you don't hold your head up high, if you look at everything and see danger, you'll survive. I know so many people who think this way, who let fear run their lives.
And I would recommend that each and every one of them watch The Croods.
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December 6, 2013

Talking out loud about special needs

It wasn't the post I meant to write today but it's the one I'm going to anyway, because late last night my best friend (sounds so high school doesn't it?) texted me to tell me her son's tests did not go as well as could be expected and they are now starting down the assessments, diagnosis, and finally disability and Special Needs road. My heart goes out to her, and I wish I could have just hugged her, but she is in a far away country, and there is nothing I can do to help. I know there is nothing I can do for her, because I still remember how there was nothing anyone could do for me when Yon first got diagnosed. When we started down that road nobody wants to ever walk on. She was on my mind all night. There are so many things I want to tell her about where she is headed, about this road of ours, but I can't. Because some things are not really for talking. Some things sound better in writing, and some things I can't say without crying. And besides I know she'll read this post.
When I woke up this morning I had every intention of writing her this post, but first I had to go to school for a parents meeting in reception. They are trying to get more parents involved in the school, and reception is a good place to start - the kids will be in this school for 6 more years, and as it happens for most of the parents it's their eldest or only child so there were quite a few parents who came to the meeting and really wanted to get involved. As the discussion went on one of the mothers, whose child is on the spectrum said something about in a few years time teaching the children about disabilities and sensitivity and inclusion in general. To help shape their understanding and to help prevent bullying. Then another mother, whose child does not have any disabilities, suggested that what needs to be done right now is to make the Special (or as she put it - different) children stand up in front of the class (or the school. She is a fair person. She gave us choices) and explain to everyone "what's wrong with them".
And all of a sudden my world shrunk to this tiny spot. I couldn't think, I couldn't remember my words, or my English, I was so angry I actually shook. And all of a sudden I was reminded how much Yon, and children like him, will have to overcome.
And as it's always comes in threes, I came home and found a different mum who wrote in one of the many Facebook groups I am a member of about how parents of children with ADHD are disappointed that their children didn't turn out as they (the parents) wanted and should still remember to love and support them in spite of it. She, also, does not have a child with disability.
Yon doesn't have ADHD, nor is he on the spectrum. Nobody ever heard of Ocular Albinism, and if I had kept my mouth shut not one of those parents would have known he has any disability. And I'm ashamed to say I considered it. For one tiny second I considered keeping my mouth shut.
Of course our school will do no such thing, and of course I spoke my mind (As much as my limited English at the time allowed me). That is not the point.
The point is, you forget. When you walk down our road you don't have time to look at other roads. When you walk down this road it consumes you. All you see is the people who walk alongside you. It doesn't matter what disability or condition or whatever their child has, they are still your travelling buddies. The people who walk alongside you talk the same language, deal with the same things, understand you in a way no one else can. Ocular albinism is unique, and so I find myself walking along people whose children have other disabilities than Yon. No one shares our exact road, and yet they do, they understand when I tell them I complained about being told to wait for an hour in a small crowded place filled with people he doesn't know and noise. They don't look at me the same way Ron's teacher looked at me when I told her she can't expect us to do that with Yon just because she wouldn't give us first slot in the parents-teacher meeting like we get every single time. Up until now. Because she thinks we are exaggerating.
And you forget. You forget that there is a world outside your road. You forget that other people who walk on other roads look at you and your child and your traveling companions and see something else.
You forget it until you come to a crossroad and collide with them.
I have no idea how to make people understand what ocular albinism is, what disability is. I write my blog, I talk to people, I am a silent member in so many groups where I advise on all things eye-related, I listen and help (hopefully) everyone who approaches me. And in my head I was making a difference. I was helping. Only I wasn't. Not even in the 60 parents in our reception classes.
Some of it is my fault. Even today, after a year down this road, I find it hard saying out loud that Yon is disabled. I fumble over the word, I've tried avoiding it as much as possible, I find it hard explaining it to new people. I hate talking about all the things that are wrong with him and seeing that look in people's eyes. You know that look, and that tiny step backwards, like it's contagious. I find it hard to explain how his vision (or lack thereof) affects his behaviour, and what Blindism is (it's the ways in which blindness causes similar behaviours to autism but they stem from different reasons).
No, none of these things says that I am disappointed in Yon. But yes, my secret shame is that I find it hard to talk about his ocular albinism calmly, in English, on the fly.
Maybe that is why I couldn't tell my friend everything I wanted to say. Maybe that is why I hope I said more today. What I wanted to say to my friend last night is that it will be ok. That it's a tough road, and it's filled with tests, and doctors, and people looking at you funny, and that it's ok. It's ok to feel guilty, it's ok to feel angry, it's ok to cry more than you thought you could ever cry, and worry more than you ever thought possible. It's ok to hate the world, and yourself, and your genes. It's ok to be afraid. And it's ok to be sad. Because on this road you also discover more love than you thought possible, and happiness in places you didn't think were possible, and courage and strengths. Yours and his. You discover the people who walk alongside you, and understanding.
Ours is not an easy road, that's for sure.
What I should have said today is that we don't teach our kids that they are different, we teach them that everyone is different. And that I guess there are some things that you only understand after you've walked a mile on our road.
Life will be harder for Yon. And he will meet so many more people whose bigotry and lack of knowledge will be spoken without a second thought. I can't shield him from that, and I know it. As he grows up he will need more help and it will be more noticeable. But he will also have the strength and ability to deal with these people. He will also have love and friendship and acceptance.
Because that is what you learn walking on our road, that bigotry and meanness shouldn't, couldn't, wouldn't win.
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December 4, 2013

Gifted and the internal storm

This year was supposed to be Yon's year. I was all ready for it to be a difficult year for Yon, with the move from nursery to reception, with having to learn how to read, with dealing with the systems to get the help and assistance he needs. I was ready for it all. And none of it was needed. Because in life, in the end of the day, it never the things you are ready for that hits you. And I wasn't ready to worry about Ron. It sounds flippant maybe, but the truth is he is in year four, it's his second year at this school, he is popular, a good student, he is known and he is loved. Why would I worry? I was so sure that I have nothing to worry about this year. And the realisation that I have dropped the ball hit me like a blow. Like a physical blow.
It's not that I haven't worried about Ron before, of course I have, but this last year was all about Yon, and Ron... I guess he got pushed aside a bit. I guess it's the curse of the "normal" siblings, or the older child, or the fact that there is a whole new world of worry you discover when you have a child with disability that makes everything looks small and insignificant in comparison, or the fact that he is so... Ron, but it really doesn't matter why, the truth is I got used to relying on the fact that "Ron is ok". And he was. Until he wasn't.
And when he had a hard time settling in school it hit me - he is in year four. My options are limited. My influence on the school is limited. My ability to protect him and to solve all his problems is very very limited. What can you do when your child needs your help and you aren't sure anymore that you can give it?

I am not the home-schooling type. I know not everyone thinks the same as me, and I respect it completely, but as for me, I believe children need school, they need the structure, the other adults, their friends and the ability to make mistakes without their mother looking. And to be honest, I don't think I have what it takes to be a good home-schooling-mother. And I hate arts & crafts. But it doesn't mean I don't know what problems you face when you send a child to school. The school system isn't perfect, far from it. And though I don't agree with the lady I read this week who described it as a prison, I do agree that like any system it has to be aimed at the middle, at the "normal", at the "average" child (the brackets are because of course there is no such animal, but you know what I mean). My kids, like plenty of others, do not fall under that definition. The biggest fear I have is that they will both "get lost"in the system. It is easy for a busy teacher to pay less attention to the good kids, the silent kids, I understand that, I was that child, and I'll be damned if I let my children fall between the cracks of the education system.
But then you get to year four and you realise the system is so much bigger than you, it is so much harder to change and to move and taylor to your child's needs. I see it with Yon and the SEN and disability side of the coin, and I see it with Ron and the giftedness side of the coin. It all depends on the school and even more than that, on the teacher.

I guess some of it is our fault. We have this discussion every year, should we or shouldn't we get Ron tested? Should we try our luck with Mensa or not? And we always decide not to, because we fear the pressure it will put on him. We fear his need to be better than everyone, his innate competitiveness, and to some extant we fear the label. Gifted is not an easier label to live with than any other SEN label. And Ron has never missed anything because he wasn't tested, but the other side to the decision not to test him is that every year we start off as "those parents", every year with no exception we start from scratch. It isn't any easier to convince a teacher after a teacher to give Ron what he needs than it is to convince them to give Yon what he needs.
But he is Ron, and until this year we never had a problem with it. However, when you put together a new teacher who does not like maths and football as much, his beloved teacher from last year going to Hong-Kong to teach English, his edging towards becoming a tween, and a rough year around here, what we got was a very long and hard adjustment period that included tears, screaming, throwing things, hitting a few bins, a mandatory "I hate you", and maths mistakes (you have to understand Ron doesn't make maths mistakes. As he put it - "I was born to do maths and football". Maths mistake is like a big neon sign screaming that something isn't right). It all spiralled downward very quickly.
When kids grow up you can't fix everything. We couldn't fix it all for Ron this time, and I guess from now on we will never be able to anymore. One of life's harshest lessons we have to teach our kids is that life isn't fair. You don't always get what you should or what you deserve to. And you still have to go on. One of the harshest life lessons we have to learn as parents is that sometimes it's not ours to solve. Sometimes you can talk and explain and get upset all you want, but at the end of the day - it's his to solve.

Last week we felt he is finding his way back. We talked to him, we talked to the teacher, we talked to the head-teacher, we talked and talked and worried. And I can see it so clearly now when I look in his eyes, I can see the child he was and the tween he is becoming, I can see the rough road we are heading down, and I hope I can see the adult he will become.
In the end, he had to fix it all for himself. He was the one who made sure to train hard and be the only year 4 child to get to play on the school football team (most of them are year 6. Big year 6), and though we did talk to the head-teacher about advancing his maths by taking him out of his class, he had to take the tests they put in front of him, and last week (without our knowledge) they made him do 4 maths tests. One year 4 test, and 3 year 5 maths tests. when two of them were surprise-tests. He passed all of them, and they moved him to study maths with year 5 and promised us that they will build him his own plan. All he cares about is that they will allow him to never use a number-line again.

We couldn't make the school change the winter-play to something that has more then 10 characters in it. We couldn't make them understand that you should encourage children to participate and not audition them as if it's a Broadway show. But my Ron, he never cease to amaze me. I explained it to him, and I told him that though I don't think the school decision is fair it is what it is and we have to accept and respect it. And most of all I told him I am proud of him for trying and doing his best. I also told him that he doesn't have to take the minor part he was promised (in the end he got a part with three lines. Because his parents made a fuss about it). He looked at me and said no. He will take it. And he will not stop auditioning until he got a main part.
Because he is pure determination my Ron.

Linking this post with Small Steps Amazing Achievements over at Ethan's Escapade,
                                    Motivational Monday over at Pinkoddy
                                    #PoCoLo over at Verily Victoria Vocalises 
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December 2, 2013

Christmas Spirit Quest

Yesterday was December 1st, so it's officially the beginning of the Christmas Season. I know it's "the thing" nowadays to say how much you're not into Christmas, how much you aren't moved by it, don't like the commercialisation of it, or just plain simple don't like it. I have made it no secret that I love Christmas. I get teary eyed watching each and every commercial on TV (the Nexus one had me in actual tears), I love walking around London like the tourist that I am oohing and aahing whenever I see a tree or some lights, I love the commercial present buying crazy run, I love how everything looks just a tad more fun and smiley and cheerful in the middle of another cold spell. When it's getting dark even before the clock shows four pm, you need some fairy lights in your life.
Also, and this might explain some of it - it is my fourth Christmas. In total. We never celebrated Christmas when we were living in Israel, and we got to Gibraltar two days before Christmas eve 2009, so our first ever Christmas was in 2010. I am like a child when it comes to Christmas. The way I see it, I have about 5 more years of Christmases before my boys will both be to old and too teenagery to get excited about it, and I am too old to care that I'm not behaving according to the norm (I am rarely in the norm anyway so I would probably have to stop doing everything if I cared). I embrace the Christmas with all my heart. I start shopping in October, and by the time December arrives I have all my gifts ready at home and only buy the small things, I listen to the music 24/7, I put the tree up on December 1st (because Hidai won't put it up sooner).
But not this year. This year I somehow lost my Christmas spirit. Hidai says it's because we've reached Christmas so tired and after a (very) long year filled with trials and obstacles that it's no wonder all I want to do is sleep. This year has been tough, and we still have one piece of the puzzle we need to fix and won't be able to before Christmas, and today we had another meeting with Yon's advisor to basically make sure everything is progressing nicely and that Yon will get his Partially Sighted certificate soon, and on Friday we have Ron's parent-teacher conference which wouldn't have been something to worry about in regular years but this year isn't as regular as we would have liked, and on Thursday I am finally going to meet my doctor to see what my MRI results were. If you put all this together you know what you get - less than Christmas.
So I decided to go on a Christmas Spirit Quest. How do you get into the Christmas spirit when all you want to do is curl up in bed until, lets say, May (well maybe not May. That's my birthday and this year I will be old, so lets say July)?
1. Take Children to Supermarket. We took the kids to Sainsbury's to start buying silly things, and also because we didn't have milk, but mainly to watch the supermarket get all Christmasy. I love supermarkets, some of my fondest memories of Gibraltar are from the Morrisons. Unfortunately I don't get to go to the supermarket as much here because unlike in Gibraltar, I don't live across the road from the it and can take the cart home with me, and unlike in Israel I don't have a car, so I do most of my shopping online. But for Christmas I made everyone take the bus and go to Sainsbury's to buy 60 pounds worth of Christmas knickknacks and milk.


2. Tour Oxford Street. Because a) can you really beat the lights at Oxford Street? and b) these lights and that street, more than anything else in the world make me smile. Hidai and I came to London for our honeymoon. We arrived one day before Christmas eve 2003. We spent the whole week we were here in and around Oxford street. It was when we fell in love with London, and every time I see those lights, which were the first thing I saw in London, I fall in love with London just a little bit more.

3. Have a Drink at Starbucks, because for me nothing beats their holiday range. And this year they've added an absolutely divine orange-mocha to the range. It's like they've bottled Christmas in a red cup. Ok so that's a slight exaggeration, but it is very yummy and immediately makes me feel cheerful.
4. Go to a Christmas Event. Because as a stay-at-home-mum, or a work-from-home-blogger or whatever label I fall under these days, the one thing I don't have is a proper Christmas party. Hidai insists on working for companies who don't throw proper bring your partner along Christmas parties, you can't really count the kids Christmas parties at school, and it feels a bit odd to dress up in a fancy dress and drink some bubbly with myself at home. So no Christmas party. Britmums were nice enough to recognise this need and organised what you can only call a work-Christmas-Party only with no one getting royally drunk and sleeping with the boss. There was wine, there was music, there was so much fabulous food from Morrison's (whom I already confessed I miss terribly ever since I've left Gibraltar), everyone were dressed smartly, I had good friends and new friends to talk to, and there was also what I assume was a very good explanation from Morrison's head chef - Neil Nugent about how to make the perfect turkey. Being a vegetarian the moment he talked about shaking the bird by its legs was the moment he lost me, but everyone else looked really impressed. As I will be either delegating turkey duty to my mum or ordering one from Marks & Spencer, so I spent most of the talk trying to see if I know anyone in the crowd. I always find blogging events funny this way - you know so many people virtually, but then you wouldn't recognise most of them if they stood right in front of you waving a red hankie. Add to that the fact that names are really not something I am good with and an overall social awkwardness, and what you get is me mostly looking like a complete idiot trying to see what was written on everyone's tag names without appearing too obvious about it. In the end out of 80 bloggers there, I talked to six, and what's even sadder is that for me it was a huge accomplishment. But putting my social inaptness aside, it was so much fun to get to go out and have a Christmas party in the middle of the day just because. And we got a very generous (and yummy) goody bag (already ate all of it. Who am I kidding, we ate all of it on the same day), and the opportunity to take some leftovers home (which I declined because the thought of having to travel on two tubes with a polar-bear made me envision some horror stories, most of them including said bear all over my clothes).


5. Bake Loads of Tasty Things. I baked and fried and cooked, and basically I have not left my kitchen for anything other than laundry. I made tiny baked doughnuts, quick yeast-less doughnuts, real doughnuts, latkes and mini-pancakes. All within the span of four days. And I also bought some Sainsbury's doughnuts and real bakery ones. If I see another doughnut until next December it's too soon. Ok you twisted my arm. I can eat a Krispy-Kreme one. But just because you insist.
6. Put on Lights, Decorations and Tree. This year it took us three days to finish the whole thing - On Friday we put all the lights up, on Saturday Hidai put the tree up, and on Sunday we decorated the house and tree, and now it looks like Christmas has exploded all over our house. Every year I fantasise about a nice grown-up tree with tasteful decorations that we've collected around the world and are of course in matching colours. You know, like you see everywhere on Pinterest. What I have in reality is slightly different. Well, it's a tree, but here ends the resemblance. The kids think the idea is to have no empty branches on the tree and as a result we have a mismatched array of beautiful baubles and keepsake I bought over the years, Arsenal baubles (we are at 5 at the moment. But somehow there seems to be more every year), regular baubles and kids school artworks. It does not look like something you would put on Pinterest, and also for some bizarre reason - does not photograph well. But it does light up the room.

7. Listen to Christmas Music. Because nothing puts you in the mood quite as much, right? I think so, but Hidai - who is for diversion in his music for some reason - claims you can't listen to the same 10 songs over and over again for a month, even if they are done by different artists. I have no idea what he is talking about. THe iTunes claims that our Christmas playlist includes 226 songs at the moment, so they must be different. No?
8. Plan a big Christmas Dinner. Because that's just who we are. Big family dinners. Yes, I see the irony of the situation, but the truth is nothing screams holidays better than planning a meal for 11 people. Where will we put all of them in our shoebox of an apartment? Not sure. Might have to invade the neighbours.
9. Buy Egg-Nog, and drink festive coffee at home. Last year I managed to buy one carton of eggnog before Ocado ran out. This year I already have three, and of course they haven't run out. I know you can (and maybe are supposed to) make it yourself, but it took me awhile to even get used to the idea of drinking something that has "egg" in its name, and the thought of actually making one is too much for me, I prefer to think of it as having metaphorical eggs only. But anyway, it makes every coffee a tiny Christmas celebration.
10. Buy All the Gifts. Because even if it doesn't put you in the Christmas mood, at least you'll have all the presents.

With every one of those actions, I felt Christmas becoming more and more real, and if that's not enough we decided to have an Elf on the Shelf this year, only in our house it became an Arsenal Santa in the Shelf and Yon took a shine to it, so it spends most of it's time being dragged around the house together with an iPad or a few animals...

We still have the kids play and party at school, the building's tree and lights ceremony, Yon's outreach program Christmas party, guests, our tenth wedding anniversary and my parents arriving. All that before Christmas. Did I find my Christmas spirit? to be honest I am not sure. But I think I'm getting there. And if I forget it for a second, I have the 20 Amazon packages arriving every single day to remind me...
Egg-nog coffee anyone?
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