Old MacDonald had a device, uh-oh…

We are a digital family. In particular a Mac family.  Paul and I have Mac Book Airs, we both have iPhone’s.  The kids also use Mac devices, Aaron uses an old iPhone 4 (as a gaming device, not a phone) and Faith uses a 1st Gen iPad.

As with most connected people these days we are a bit obsessed. Yes, all of us, parents included. Personally, I feel very disconnected if I don’t check Twitter and/or Facebook a few times an hour.  Its a bit obsessive and I am trying to at least reduce the amount of time I spend on my phone. Aaron is particularly addicted to {Minecraft}.  Faith watches YouTube videos about Frozen, Superman and those plastic eggs filled with toys and sweets.

I will take responsibility for the device usage by our kids getting out of hand recently.  It much easier to tell the kids to go play a game or watch a video while I’m checking my phone cooking or cleaning than it is to have them underfoot while I’m busy.

The problem is that both kids (and probably the parents if we are being honest) were ‘disappearing’ from the family.  Aaron stopped wanting to go to the park or out to an event (like the olim Purim party) because he wanted to play on his phone all the time.  They would give excuses not to go out, its cold, I’m feeling sick, it will be boring, to name a few.

We tried to limit device time by only allowing them one battery charge a day but that caused fights because the phone battery never lasted as long as the iPad battery.

The final straw for me, came when I walked into the house the other day and no one greeted me.  I think the house could have burned down around them and they would not have noticed, they were so involved with what was on their devices.

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So Paul and I agreed.  No more devices during the week.  We would take them away on  Saturday night (school starts on Sunday here) and only give them back after school on a Friday.  On top of that, the iPad will be charged once during the weekend and the phone twice.  If they run out of battery so be it.  As for the parents, I am making a concerted effort to not be on my phone when I’m with the kids.  I have to say, the kids are adjusting far better than I am.

Aaron and Faith are playing together.  They kick the ball and play hide and seek and draw and make light sabers out of cardboard and sticky tape.  They are practicing a concert to put on for mom and dad at the end of the week.  They make up games that only they know the rules of.  They sit and talk to me while Im cooking and tell me about their days.  They actually want to go outside and play at the park.

I am going to be limiting my online time as well, especially when Im with the kids.  So, no more Twitter and Facebook for me during the week (Im allowing myself half an hour at night to catch up before bed). And no more games on my phone during the week either.

Its so easy to let these things get out of hand but the bottom line is we all need limits and we all have to be strong and stick to those limits.  It really is the best thing we could have done for us as a family.

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Becoming an Israeli, voting and the crab that got away.

So, about 7 or 8 months ago we decided to move to Israel. Within four months we had completed our application forms, filled out our medical forms and received a host of unabridged documentation from the Department of Home Affairs (which is a miracle in and off itself!), we received our visas and our plane tickets in the last month before leaving. Three months ago we left South Africa and arrived in Israel on the morning of December 16th 2014.  A few hours after landing, we left the airport as citizens.

You see, as Jews, we are entitled to Israeli citizenship by virtue of {the Law of Return}.  Take a moment and click the link to read exactly what the law entails.  Its a short but very informative page.

So, we landed at the airport, went through to the office, waited a bit since there were a few people ahead of us and then Paul and I had our photos taken and we were issued our Israeli ID books (the kids get theirs when they are 16 but they are listed in our books).  And that’s the long and the short of us becoming Israeli citizens.

Three months and one day after arriving we participated in our first election. *Edited to add: If the election had taken place on 15th March instead if 17th March we would not have been able to vote, you have to be a resident for at least 90 days before being eligible. I only found this out today :)

*Photo by Paul

*Photo by Paul

Its quite daunting having to choose a party without having directly experienced much of what the previous government had delivered/failed to deliver.  I decided to research each party (online and by discussions with colleagues and friends) and disregard any that didn’t stand for my own views on Israel as a Jewish homeland.  I was then left with a handful of parties that somewhat fit my views and beliefs.  None of them fit exactly, some had things I wanted, some didn’t, so I made a pro/con list and went with the party that had the most pros vs cons.

The election day is given off as a public holiday, so we decided to be at the voting station early (they opened at 7am) so that we could then take a train out to Tel Aviv and explore a bit.  We wound up arriving at the voting station at 7:30am and were the only people there.  I walked in, handed the official my ID document, they marked me off the voters roll and gave me a small envelope.  I then went into the booth and chose the slip of paper with my party’s name on it, placed it in the envelope, sealed it and then dropped it in the box in front of the officials.  A process of less than 5 minutes. Easy peasy.

After voting we hopped on a train and went on an excursion to the Tel Aviv Port which is very much like the V&A Waterfront.  We watched people fishing, almost got splashed by some waves, saw lots of dogs that had been shaved for the summer (think standard poodle with only his tail and his head not shaved).

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We saw a huge crab escape a fishing line (come back tomorrow for a photo that Paul took) and watched a trio of young kids play keyboard, base and trombone for the crowd with a bunch of little kids dancing like no one was watching in front of them.

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We took lots of gorgeous photos, Paul’s mostly more gorgeous than mine. We then met up with my brother and his family and a friend of Paul’s who also happens to be an ex Saffa and had sushi for lunch.

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Faith wasn’t feeling so well so we called it a day after getting an ice-cream for dessert and headed back to the train station to go home.  I ended up having a fantastic nap before dinner.  A great end to a fantastic day.

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Lets talk about sex, baby.

I remember the first time I heard that {song}, it was at a friend birthday party.  All of a sudden everyone got so excited, her older brother (who was playing DJ) was going to play this song I had never heard of before, it was quite exciting, I mean really, the lyrics have the word ‘sex’ in them!  Granted, we were 12 years old, it was very risque.

Last night though, my 7 year old decided it was time to ask how babies got in mommies tummies.

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I’ll back up a bit here to say that this has been coming for a while.  About a year and a half ago, he started asking how babies came out of mommies tummies.  I explained that there were two ways a baby can come out, c-section and vaginal birth. And that was that.

A few weeks ago, he started asking me why only ladies could have babies.  I explained that ladies have a womb and men don’t and that’s the place a baby has to grow.  I also said that with some animals its the male that carries the babies, like sea horses, which he already knew, thank you very much!

Last night while trying to get him to go to sleep he started asking again about why ladies have the babies not the men. We discussed it again.  He went quiet and I thought he was asleep. And then…

‘Mommy, how do the babies get inside the mommy?’

Thank heavens it was dark, I think I may have looked like a fish out of water!

I started by describing the differences between men and woman.  Women have wombs, men don’t.  Women have a vagina, men have a penis.  At this point he proudly told me that women have boobs and men don’t. I explained about sperm and eggs.

I then told him that when a man and a women love each other very much they have sex. I very (very) briefly explained about penetration. I explained that the sperm and the eggs join up and that they start to divide and multiply and start making a baby.

He then proceeded to grill me on the mechanics of how the baby develops? When does it have a heart and a brain?  Is it alive if it doesn’t have a heart yet? Why is it so small? If the baby starts off so small how does a lady know she is pregnant?

Eventually I said we would find a video on YouTube about the development of a baby from conception to birth and that it was 10pm and it was time to go to sleep.  I didn’t tell him it was time for mommy to have a stiff drink.

So, that was it. Our talk about sex/how babies are made.

Did I explain it the right way? Who knows. Will he keep asking questions? For sure.  Am I happy with how the discussion went?  I think I am.  Am I putting him to sleep tonight? Hell no, that will be Paul’s job!

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Lingo

I am lucky that I work in an environment where I can speak English.  That being said, English is a relative term.

I work with Brits, Americans, Canadians and of course Israelis.

Sometimes I will be speaking and I will get blank looks.  I then realise I have used a South Africanism.

Here are a few words and phrases that I seem to use on a regular basis and that have gotten me those blank looks:

  • Sies/sis = Literally, yuck. An expression of disgust.
  • Lekker = Literally, tasty. Meaning nice or good. When someone feels not lekker they feel sick.
  • Howzit = A shortened form of ‘How is it?’ Or ‘How is it going?’ It is used as another way of saying Hello.
  • Eina! = Ouch! Apparently this is possibly from the {Khoisan} language. I always thought it was Afrikaans.
  • Eish! = Wow! an expression of amazement, I tend to use it when I cant believe how dumb/ridiculous someone has been.
  • Klap = smack. From Afrikaans.
  • Just now = This one gets me into trouble all the time! For most people (everyone that is not South African take this literally), it means right this minute. For South Africans it means sometime in the near future, not immediately.
  • Now now = THIS one means immediately.
  • Yebo = Yes. From Zulu.
  • Aswell = Me too. Funny that the Brits all seem to know this one.
  • Braai = BBQ
  • Takkies = Sneakers.

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You don’t really realise how your culture effects your language until you speak to people from other places. Coming from a country with 11 official languages, each of them adding there own flavour to the English language, it shouldn’t be a surprise.

Have you said something to another English speaker (from a different country/culture) and had them look at you funny??

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Purim!

{Purim} is the day we celebrate the Jewish people overcoming a plot by the Persian Empire to wipe us out.

You may have heard the expression ‘The whole Megillah’? Meaning the whole long story. That comes from the reading of the Megillah or the Book of Esther on Purim.  Its the story of {Haman} (boo hiss) and {Mordecai} (yay) and of course the phenomenal {Queen Esther} (woohooo!!!).

We also give food parcels to friends and the needy. These {gift baskets} should contain at least two different foods/drinks so that two separate brochas (prayers) can be said over them.

A large part of Purim is that it is a celebration.  As such we have celebratory meals and parties.  Everyone gets dressed up, including the adults, and fairs/carnivals and parades with much singing and dancing take place.

This was our first Purim in Israel and it was quite the eye opener.

The children started by having special dress up days at school throughout the two weeks leading up to Purim.  They had Hat/Hair do Day, Country Day, Celebrity Day, Pajama Day to name a few.  They had face painting and hat making days.  They made gift baskets to exchange with each other and to bring home.

The Friday before last was the annual Modi’in Purim parade.  There were floats and jugglers and stilt walkers.  There were ice cream vendors and candy floss and popcorn.  There were balloons and bubble guns.  There were entertainers and actors and singer and dancers.  There was lots of fun!

On the Monday evening we went to the annual Absorption Centre Purim party.  This is a party for Olim (new immigrants) and was great fun. Lots of kids, music, games, popcorn, candy floss and a show.

Then both Paul and I had work Purim parties.  My theme was Supermarket and I went as Fairy Dish-washing Liquid.  Paul didn’t have a theme so he went back to his roots and went as Clark Kent/Superman.

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superman

The kids were off school on Thursday and Friday so Paul and I took off Thursday (we get Friday off every week) and we dressed up and missioned around town doing our thing.  We went to an anglo Shul to hear the Megillah and landed up getting there late and only hearing the last 5 minutes.  I wasn’t feeling well so Paul took the kids to the {Se’udah} (meal) that we had been invited to.  They had lots of fun eating and drinking and playing with all the kids there.

On Friday we were supposed to go to the Purim fair but by that stage I think we were a bit Purim’d out so we went to the park and just relaxed.

Needless to say, Purim in Israel is insane. Fun but insane.

Here are some pictures that Paul took over the Purim weekend.

 

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And that’s enough of that :)

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I’m not in Kansas (Jozi) anymore…

Every now and again it hits me.  I’m in Israel.  The holy land.   A foreign country.  A place I didn’t grow up in.  A place with a unique blend of cultures.

Purim parade fun.

Purim parade bubble lady.

A few of those ‘WOW’ moments over the last week or so.

  • A young girl waiting at the bus stop, dressed to the nines, carrying a rifle.
  • The religious Jewish man sitting next to the religious Muslim man on the bus, having a chat.
  • The shopkeeper and the customer having a full on screaming match over the price of something (I think) and then hugging each other good bye like best friends.
  • Getting on the bus covered in glitter, wearing wings and carrying washing up gloves and a dish washing brush ‘wand’.  And no one so much as batted an eye.
  • Seeing a man stop his car at a road side farm stall overlooking a gorgeous valley, put on his {tallit} and say his morning prayers.
  • Walking Aaron to school this morning and seeing all the families (moms and dads too) dressed up for Purim.
  • Watching Aaron walk on his own to school most mornings.
  • Walking to the local supermarket at 9pm to pick up some milk or a choccie just because.
  • Hearing someone speak with a South African accent at the bus stop and practically throwing yourself at them and playing ‘Jewish Geography’ to see if you ‘know’ them.
Purim parade butterfly!

Purim parade butterfly!

So many more special little moments and they each bring a smile to my face and quite possibly a tear to my eye.  Although I will deny that last bit to my dying day!

*Photos taken by {Paul Jacobson}

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Did you know?

Today I found out that the word for pomegranate in Hebrew, rimmon רימון, is also the word for grenade.

I also found out that in a variety of languages, pomegranate and grenade are the same/similar word.

According to {Wikipedia}, its all the fault of the French.  They named the military grenade after the pomegranate (because of its shape) and the name seems to have stuck.

*image from Wikipedia

*image from Wikipedia

I resorted to Google Translate to test this out (keep in mind that Google Translate is not always the most accurate so please correct me if there are any mistakes).

  • In Afrikaans it is granaat for both words.
  • In Dutch it is granaat and granaatappel (grenade apple).
  • In French a pomegranate is a grenade, end of story.
  • In German it is granate and granatapfel (again, a grenade apple).
  • In Haitian Creole both are grenad.
  • In Hugarian a grenade is a gránát and a pomegranate is a gránátalma (once again a grenade apple).
  • In Latvian you have granātābols and granāta (you guessed it, grenade apples again).
  • In Norwegian can you take a guess? Granat and… granateple (in case you missed it that would be a grenade apple again).
  • In Polish you get a granat for both.
  • In Russian you have гранат for a pomegranate and граната for a grenade.
  • In Spanish they are granada.
  • In Swedish we have the ever original granat and granatäpple.
  • In Welsh they are grenâd and pomgranad (and are surprisingly easy to pronounce!).

There you have it, your useless fact of the day.

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Keeping Kosher: Almost a year down the line.

Yesterday on FB, Angel asked if our new Israeli apartment was {already kosher} when we moved in.  She remembered what a huge process it was when we initially decided to make our {home (in SA) kosher}.

First off, its been almost an entire year of keeping kosher.  Im so impressed with us.  Mostly its been easy, some days its been a challenge but all in all its been a fantastic journey so far.

Now, almost a year down the line, we are living in the State of Israel, the Jewish homeland. This definitely makes keeping kosher so much easier.

Firstly, no, apartments here are not automatically kosher, you still need to make the counters and sinks and ovens/stoves* kosher.  Even if the previous tenants were kosher. Rather safe than sorry.

As for buying kosher products, a large majority of stores/supermarkets/butchers in Israel are kosher.  There are a few stores that are not kosher and that sell non-kosher meats such as pork and shellfish which is also not kosher, and these stores are also usually open on a saturday (shabbat) while strictly kosher stores will be closed over shabbat.

For example, the {local supermarket} down the road from us is kosher.  They close on shabbat and all the products they carry are kosher.  This makes keeping kosher so much easier than in South Africa.  In SA there is one store that is strictly kosher, aptly named {Kosher World}, and quite a few of the big supermarkets like PnP and Woolies stock kosher items (sometimes in specific kosher sections) but you have to check each item to make sure it is a kosher product.  There are also a few strictly kosher {delis}, {restaurants} and {butchers}, mostly in Jozi.  But the percentage of kosher to non kosher items/stores/places to eat is not in your favour.

On the subject of kosher butcheries, in SA, kosher meat is very expensive, especially kosher chicken.  Here, since everything is kosher, I don’t seem to notice the price as much, it is what it is, except to say that beef is way more expensive than chicken.  This is because 99% of beef is imported into Israel, cows in Israel are pretty much dairy cows (as an aside, dairy in Israel is UNBELIEVABLE! Cheese, cheese, cheese, all the yummy cheese!).

Chickens here are cheap and huge and yummy.  I bought a whole chicken to roast last night, 1.8kg for about ₪32.  Thats R96.  The same kosher chicken in SA would be on average R135.  I spiced it with salt and pepper and roasted it for an hour and a half, it literally fell off the bone and it was so yummy!

I cant wait for our first {Pesach}, stores here will only stock items that are kosher for Pesach, everything else will be removed from the store or covered up, so you know that if it is on the shelves you can eat it.  I’ve also been told that the bakeries here make the most amazing rolls and breads that are totally pesadik (kosher for Pesach) and that you cannot even tell that they don’t have yeast and flour and other non pesadik ingredients.

Oh, Angel mentioned my cutlery and crockery.  Since all that stuff was already made kosher last year, we don’t have to make it kosher again.  Once our lift arrives (its actually on the water, finally, and should arrive at the end of March) we can just unpack everything into the kitchen.

So, do you have any questions? Please ask in the comments and I will try my best to answer them.

*Most apartments in Israel do not come with a stove/oven included in the rent.  You usually buy your own and take it with you when you move.  Our landlords were very nice and bought a brand new oven/stove unit and included it in the rent.  Of course this means if we ever leave this apartment we would have to buy a new unit or possibly buy this unit from our landlords.

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About that time my kid performed in a concert. In Hebrew.

Aaron and Faith started school about 2 weeks after we arrived in Israel.

Neither spoke Hebrew, although Aaron had been learning the alphabet and some basic words when he was in Grade R.

Earlier this week Israel celebrated {Family Day} and Aaron’s class held a concert and dinner after school.

We each had to contribute a food or drink item (we got sliced veggies) which we sent to school in the morning.

The concert was held in the classroom and the teachers and children had transformed the room into a stage and dining area.  We were directed to our tables, with seating charts, and sat down to wait for the show to start.  The children all stood up in groups of 4 or 5 and each child recited lines they had been given.  In between the kids talking they sang songs and danced.

family day

Aaron was part of the last group to stand up and speak.  He was awesome. He spoke clearly and with confidence. In Hebrew.  My heart almost burst right out of my chest! I am so very very proud of how far this child has come in the last 6 weeks.  He is making friends, doing school work and standing up in front of a room full of people and speaking in Hebrew.

After the concert the children served us the food that we brought and then sat down to eat with us.  They also made cards and small gifts for us which they presented when it was time to go home.

I cannot express enough how amazed and proud of my kids I am!

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Beanies and gloves and scarves. Oh my!

The majority of my Facebook and Twitter time lines are South Africans.  This means I’m seeing a lot of shorts, t-shirts, swimming pool and {braai} (BBQ/grill) pics.  I keep thinking to myself, sheesh, are they not cold? I’m freezing! Then remembering they are all in the Southern Hemisphere and experiencing the hottest summer in ages.

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Which means I am in winter. Cold, miserable, rainy winter (to be fair it hasn’t rained that much but when it does its nasty!).

If I hailed from Cape Town, maybe it wouldn’t be such a shock to my system.  Winter here is very similar to a Cape winter.  Lots of wind, days of rain, biting cold.  I’m not used to that.  {Jozi} winters are mild and sunny and dry.

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In 35 years I’ve never had to wear a down jacket (or a jacket of any kind!) or a beanie or a scarf and definitely not gloves and yet that is what I leave the house in most days. And I’m still cold to the bone and cannot wait for a steaming hot bath at the end of the day.

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Having had a bitch and a moan, at least I can say that winters in Israel are relatively short (also very green and pretty, see the rain I mentioned above). Spring lasts only a few weeks and then we are in for some super hot, dry weather.  Thank heavens for air conditioning!  I cant wait though, I’ve always loved Israel in summer.  I find it invigorating. I’m looking forward to longer day light hours and hot nights and braais on my balcony.

*Photos by {Paul Jacobson}

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