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solid gold dancing... down under June 19, 2012 |


Let's not even start with my obligatory apology - which actually sounds more like a confession - "forgive me, it's been six years since my last blog..."

It's been a long time, that's for sure. Hell, almost a year. That's got to be a record.

So let's start in the present and work back a bit.

Doron, the kids and I are now living in Melbourne, Australia. We arrived at the beginning of February. Our decision to leave Israel was long and painful, but not to sugar-coat things, we were simply drowning financially. We just could't sustain ourselves any longer. Doron had lost his job (and the company car) thanks to major employee cuts just before Rosh Hashanah last year (around September) and although I was working, my entire salary was going to pay the children's daycare and my car.

Doron could have got another job working for yet another insurance company in Israel, but the thought actually severely depressed him. The salaries in Israel are just so abysmally low (unless you are one of the fortunate few working at a senior level in high tech/clean tech/bio tech - actually just about anything ending in "tech" in Israel will generally give you a decent living.

We tried really, really hard to make things work there. I mean - insanely hard. Many of our friends thought too hard to be honest. A few others, less close friends I might add, gave us the not-so-subtle "you're abandoning The Land you Zionist traitor" spiel. That hurt. A lot.

Doron and I love Israel, with all our hearts. We met there. We married there. Our beautiful children were born there. But we were faced with the very frightening reality that in about 3 months we wouldn't be able to pay our rent. So what normal person with young children to support would have opted for Zionism over Realism? Please. As if I have to answer that question.

It took about three months for Doron's permanent residency spouse visa to be processed and approved. We were about as open-and-shut a case as you can get, so it was just a matter of time and the standard red tape.

The cost of the visa, the international shipping and our air tickets near wiped us out, but what option did we have left? At least we had a huge amount of healthy positive optimism, our mutual shoulders should one of us need to lean extra hard on the other one for a while and an awful lot of Faith (yes, with a capital "F").

In many ways, I am glad that our children are still so young as I am sure it would have been quite traumatic for them had they actually understood what was happening. Still, I am sure that the experience of waking up in their home one morning with all their familiar surroundings, going to daycare as usual and then hopping on a plane in the middle of the night never to return to their home must have registered some degree of trauma in their young minds.

An awful lot has happened to us since we arrived and I do regret that I have not kept on top of it with this blog. Some things have been wonderful and others quite dreadful. On the positive, I was accepted to a fabulous government program called NEIS which provides training, mentoring and financial assistance to people who want to start their own small business. I studied at RMIT and received a Certificate IV in Small Business Management and my Lamaze Childbirth Education practice, birthwell birthright is well under way now. I am already teaching private couples and in July I will be teaching group courses as well. I know that the potential to grow and develop my own business here is far greater than anything I could have hoped to achieve in Israel. It's simply because I have a huge potential English-speaking market here.

Doron is also doing extremely well. He found work here almost immediately, and although it isn't the best job in the world, the fact that he landed something in his field almost immediately is quite astonishing and I am so incredibly proud of him. He's always keeping his eye on the future and is constantly seeking new and better opportunities. I don't doubt for a second that he will land a fantastic job that he loves in the very near future.

The children have made a remarkable adjustment and it never ceases to amaze me how resilient children are. They are happy, settled and love their Jewish day care which makes us so happy. Liev just turned three and Amalia just turned two and we had a lovely little birthday party for them at home the other week.


Liev


Amalia

Doron and I have made some truly wonderful friends. People who, despite the fact that they have only known us for a few short months, have welcomed us like family. It's been really humbling. You know who you are and you will never know how thankful we are for your friendship and support.

Without a doubt, the hardest aspect of moving back here has been living at home for the last five months. It doesn't matter that I am now 39 years old, and married and have two children of my own now. I might as well be 15 again. All round it's been a rather horrendous experience and extremely emotionally damaging.

We never planned on staying any longer than about 4-5 months, but still, I wish we'd had the financial means to have been able to move out far, far earlier. The good news is that we have found a lovely home and we're moving in next week. We will finally have our own home, our own space and our privacy back. We can be a couple again. A family. Our shipment left Israel last week so it will be a couple of months until it arrives, but we don't have a lot of furniture coming - mostly household items that we can manage without for a short period. Friends and relatives have come to the rescue once again and are lending (and even giving!) us a whole range of amazing things to help us establish our new home in Australia. Again, we've been totally overwhelmed by everyone's generosity.

So that, in a nutshell, is what has happened in our lives over the last (almost) year. I had considered taking the blog offline and (maybe) starting a new one, because well, let's face it, "Solid Gold Dancing in the Holy Land" is no longer in the Holy Land - and definitely hasn't done any Solid Gold Dancing in a while!

But then I thought about it again and decided that my heart is, and always will be in Israel and once a Solid Gold Dancer, ALWAYS a Solid Gold Dancer.

Onwards and upwards.


no easy solutions and no easy conclusions July 24, 2011 |

Time for my bi-annual blog posting! How times have changed - I used to have seemingly endless opportunity to transcribe my thoughts and blast them into the blogosphere, but my one and two-year olds definitely keep me busy.

Still, occasionally events take place in my life that compel me to write and such an event took place last week; the after-effects of which are still playing out in my conscious thoughts and even in my dreams.

So, before I get into that story, I need to back up a little and update you on where I'm at these days.

Firstly, I've now completed my Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educators Program (yeah!) I've finished my course, handed in my major assisgnment (designing and writing my own 15 hour teaching course), completed my student teaching and observed four babies being born at Sha'are Tzedek hospital in Jerusalem (that was a truly amazing experience and
totally deserves another blog all of its own). All that's left to do now is take the international exam at the end of October - pass it (!!!) - and then I will be a fully qualified Lamaze Childbirth Educator.

I'm in the process of building my own website and promoting myself and hopefully I will be able to start teaching expectant women and their partners in the very near future.

So, the second major life change is that I also have a new job. I deliberately avoided applying for anything that a) didn't really seem like a great job and b) positions that I felt wouldn't give me flexibility as a working mother with two very young children.

This position was a maternity leave cover, full time for three months, but with a very strong chance of continued full time employment (hence why I went for it). The job is a very creative marketing position with a not-for profit organisation that produces award-winning documentaries about the international threat of radical Islam. I'll say right upfront that it is absolutely NOT an anti-Muslim organisation. Their films highlight the very real and ever-present threat of extremist religious fundamentalist muslims - the Al Qaedas, the Jihadis - people for whom their one goal in life is to wipe out democracy, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, rights for women, gays and lesbians - you name it (remember there ARE no homosexuals in Iran).

So, apart from being very interesting work that intersects so many of my interests and passions, they also happen to be the most parent-friendly organisation I have ever come across. I can leave work at 3pm every day so I can go and pick up the kids from their daycare in Modi'in.

We really looked hard to find a great daycare that we knew the kids would be loved and cared for by really professional staff. We also wanted them to be together, because they are close and I knew it would be an easier adjustment for them both if they were together. So far, so good (more or less!) Our daughter has adjusted effortlessly. She hasn't cried once! Our son is having a harder time adjusting, but we fully expected this, especially as he's two and has been at home with me almost continously since he was born. He cries a bit in the morning when I leave him, but the ganenet (kindergarten teacher) has told me that he stops crying almost immediately and doesn't cry at all during the day. (I hope she isn't saying that to make me feel better!). She also said he plays really well with the other kids, and eats and naps well too (ha! better than I could manage!) Certainly when I have come each day to pick them up, they are both very happy and playing with the other kids and seem to be very relaxed and at home there.

On their first day last week, their ganenet sent me some photos of them which I thought was a really lovely thing to do to ease a worrying mother's anxiety!


Amalia playing with her new friend

Liev playing in the garden

I've rather skimmed over this major transition - but I can't express how unbelievably stressful the whole thing was for us. I basically had a week to find quality daycare for the kids (in summer this is no mean feat given most gans close for at least a week in August), work out how to get to and from work (in Jerusalem - in the Old City no less!) and be able to drop the kids off in the morning and pick them up in the afternoon (their gan is on the total opposite side of Modi'in) and in the end there was no other way to do it other than to get a car.

We're renting one at the moment, because we want to see how things go over the next few months, and at this stage a long-term position is not a definite. It's so weird to be driving every day, especially after having had a license for about 10 years and never having driven! Still, having a car is such a liberating experience! I don't think I will ever be able to go back to being a public transportation girl!!

So, back to the story I started to mention at the beginning of this blog.

So my first day at work. As you would expect I was a little stressed, a little nervous. I had a new job, I was driving in rush hour traffic for the first time, dropping Amalia off at her new day care - oh, and I forgot to mention that the night before my first day at work my son woke up in the midde of the night with a raging fever and so my husband had to stay home with him (like that's ALL we needed) and then at 3pm when I left to go home and pick up my daughter, I was stressing that I wouldn't get there in time and so I thought (stupidly I might add at this point) I would try a slightly different route home in order to bypass the worst of the inner-city Jerusalem traffic.

Big mistake. BIG BIG MISTAKE.

Somehow I got myself heinously lost. Totally and utterly disoriented. My GPS was not helping me one little bit because where I was driving was too close to East Jerusalem (i.e the Arab part of the city) and the GPS is not programmed to pick up signals from there. Who knew my GPS had a political standpoint?

Given the traffic was so heavy (and let's not forget what maniacs Israeli drivers are) I had no choice but to continue with the flow of the traffic. There was no opportunity to turn off the highway, no u-turns and no familiar signs. Before I knew it, I couldn't even READ the signs as they were all in Arabic. I realised that I was very much inside East Jerusalem now. All the while, I was looking for a way to turn around, but the chaotic traffic that surrounded me would have put me at huge risk for a massive accident and so I just continued in the only direction I could - straight ahead.

Another few minutes and I am still driving through Arab neighborhoods and more and more people are looking at me as I drove by. I'll admit I was really beginning to feel nervous. As I tried hard to maintain my focus and calm, I vaguely caught sight of a sign on the side of the road that said something about "Area A" and "Palestinian ID card holders only". What that actually means for those of you outside of Israel is that the Palestinian Authority (PA) have designated control over both security-related and civilian issues in Palestinian urban areas. It is also illegal for Israeli (Jewish) citizens to enter such areas without a permit.

Somehow I had managed to drive straight into the West Bank.

Ok, so I think it is fair to say now that I was somewhat peeing my pants by this point. The roads were now pot-holed and unsealed. Drivers were chaotic and unpredictable and I was even more nervous at this point to draw yet more attention to myself. I was hoping against hope that if I just continued straight I would finally get back on to a main road or find a checkpoint where I could ask for help.

I finally did spot a checkpoint, and in the distance I saw the Israeli flag flying. I breathed a massive sigh of relief and tried to calm myself until I got there. What was confusing my though was the fact that the cars ahead of me were moving swiftly through the checkpoint, which didn't make any sense to me. It is well known that the Israeli army search cars coming from the PA and going into Israel extremely thoroughly and there are chronic delays. I soon realised why I was moving through so quickly. I was not driving OUT of the PA, I was driving further INTO the PA! The Israeli side was on the other side and from where I was, there was no way whatsoever to get across, other than continuing straight and then attempting to find somewhere to turn around and get in the line to go out again.

Checkpoints are crazy places. Chaos rules and being a sweltering hot July day did not make things easier. Thankfully I sat in air conditioned comfort, but even with the cold air blasting me to the maximum, I was still sweating from fear. The bumper to bumber traffic snaked around a traffic circle and at this point my instinct just told me to get the hell off the road and somehow try to find my way back. At this rate, I was only a couple of kilometres from Ramallah.

I pulled the car off to the side of the road where two young men were selling fruit from a stand. I did my best impersonation of a lost tourist and asked them for help (in English naturally!) They spoke just a handful of words in English, but I think they more or less understood that I needed to get back to the other side of the checkpoint. Now, I know this sounds crazy, but again, at this point I did not have a whole lot of options, my adrenaline levels were at an all time high and all I had to go on was my basic instinct. Did I think the kid selling fruit was really a terrorist in disguise? No. Was part of me worried that he might do me harm? Yes.

Still, as I said, I was desperate and so when the young man offered to show me the way back by hopping into my car, I agreed. I should also point out that I was at most 400 metres from the checkpoint, but I was desperate not to make any more errors and so that's why I agreed to let him in my car.

He was a nice young guy and he genuinely wanted to help me. Sure, he also wanted to sell me his fake designer perfume and aftershave, but didn't hassle me when I said no. He got out, I thanked him profusely and slowly nudged my way into the now very SLOW queue of cars waiting at the checkpoint for the Israeli side.

Just when I thought I was home free, a young boy, no more than 10 or 11 years old, walked by my car and tried to sell me a bottle of soft drink. I waved at him to indicate, no thank you and looked straight ahead. Obviously, this was not the answer he was looking for and he started to pound my driver's side window with his fists. I continued to stare ahead hoping he would just go away.

He didn't and instead, he just got angrier. Before I knew what was happening, he tried to open my door and I realised that I hadn't locked my doors. I grabbed the handle and just slammed it shut and managed to locate the central locking on my car (remember, this is a new car! I didn't know where anything was!) Once the kid realised I had locked the doors, he got angrier still and continued to pound away with his fists and yelled obscenities at me in Arabic (I got the basic gist).

Suddenly, the car ahead of me rolled forward and I was able to shift up that tiny bit closer to the checkpoint and the Israeli soldiers I could now see ahead of me. The kid ran away, knowing he'd get in trouble if he got caught and I just held myself together long enough until I could roll down my window safely and yell for a solider's attention.

A young man came up to my car and immediately realised that I was not, shall we say, a local. By now, my accumulated stress boiled to the surface and released itself in an outpouring of tears. Somehow I managed to say that I had got horribly lost, that I didn't know where I was, that I was trying to get home and please could someone help me.

The soldier smiled at me, told me to take a deep breath and relax. I was okay, everything was fine and I was now back in Israel. He gave me instructions on how to get back to the main highway (In real terms I was only off course a couple of kilometres - but I might as well have been on a different planet!) Once I was waved through, I just hit the gas and got home as quickly as I could.

This little "experience" added two hours to my journey home and of course there was no way I could pick my daughter up. I was constantly on the phone with Doron and as he was home with Liev, he was able to drive and pick her up thankfully. I tried to explain to Doron what was happening to me, but it wasn't until I finally got home that I was able to explain the full extent of my experience to him and he truly understood what an emotionally fraught experience I had just endured.

To be painfully honest, I actually had a full blown panic attack when I got home. I cried uncontrollably and I could still feel the stress hormones surging through my veins.

It wasn't until the next day that I was able to relax and calm down properly and start to evaluate my experience more objectively.

The more I thought about things, the more complex it became. The more questions I had in my head and the more troublesome it became for me on so many levels.

Yes, I had a traumatic experience. Getting lost and being in a known hostile environment where my safety was genuinely at risk was a legitimate fear. Many people over the years - not just soldiers; civilians too - have been kidnapped and murdered by terrorists in the West Bank.

Was I over-reacting though? Was I allowing myself to feed off the media frenzy, both what I absorb locally, and what I read internationally? Surely not ALL those people want to kill me? Surely it is only a tiny percentage? And it's not the kid selling watermelon by the side of the road, or even the angry little kid who hated me because I wouldn't buy soda pop from him and because I was white, affluent and (probably) Jewish.

Despite the very real fear I was experiencing at the time, I couldn't help but look at my surroundings. Literally just a couple of kilometres on the other side of the Green Line and I was on a whole other planet. The roads in the PA are horrific, the conditions appalling. The poverty and degradation was palpable. Just a 20 minute drive away is the city I live in, Modi'in - the picture of modernity and middle-class comfort. You could not draw a greater contrast if you tried such is the aching gap between the way I live and the way the Palestinians live.

As thin and tenuous a line as I know it is, I am not going to get into the political mire of blame here. This is not a blog about my personal political standpoint or beliefs. It IS however, a blog about my deepest personal feelings, even the ones that make me feel very uncomfortable to verbalise.

The thing I found the most surprising about my whole experience was that after I had relaxed about it, the one person I really wanted to speak to and "debrief" as it were, was my friend Shaden who I studied with during my Lamaze course. Shaden is a great friend, a woman I have a lot in common with (our birthdays are only a day apart too!) and I respect her enormously. She is also my only Palestinian friend.

What I wanted to say to her I wasn't sure. Would I offend her? Would she think I was crazy? The best thing about our course was that politics and religion had no place in our classes. We were seven women all learning to become childbirth educators, learning how to empower women - all women - to give birth with confidence and to help improve maternity care for women everywhere.

I normally find that at the end of a blog I am able to draw some nice neat conclusions, but here I draw a blank. I don't have the answers (yet) and I am unable to say "this is right" and "this is wrong". People simply have to understand that life here in Israel is, and never will be, simple.

Whether you associate yourself with the'right' or the 'left' or somewhere in between - as far as I am concerned, no one has come up with a workable solution. The crisis that exists here is so multi-layered, so complicated, so deeply emotional that it just cannot be "fixed" - with a signed agreement brokered by whatever U.S. President happens to be in office, a security fence, a checkpoint, or even a so-called "two-state solution". To assume such tactics can solve these problems is beyond naive.

And so this is where I will leave this blog. I am sorry I can't end it more decisively, but I hope that baring my emotions has given you all some food for thought about this land that I - and many others - call home.






Link


blog archives February 15, 2011 |

In case you want to read past blog entries, just click on the little tag that says "pull" on the top right hand of the screen. It will open the drop down page containing all my previous blogs. Happy reading!

tough decisions February 13, 2011 |

Unwittingly, I feel like I experienced a major rite of passage today. It's been building up over the last week, but today was the culmination and boy did it hit me square in the guts.

So let's back up to a week or so ago. A friend emailed me with a link to a job he saw advertised and said something like, "hey there. Not sure if you are still looking for something, but I saw this and thought of you..."

I checked out the link and saw that it was for an amazing job. And not just any job. This was the ONE position I had wanted - coveted - for more than four years. I am not going to mention what the job was because as you will see, ultimately it is not really all that important. The one drawback I could see from the outset was that it was a maternity cover position for six months. Still, I thought to myself, who knows where it could lead to if I got it. Women don't come back from maternity leave all the time, or she might take more time off, or maybe it could lead to another position at the same place, or it could open doors to other amazing opportunities... I let my mind wander and allowed myself to play career fantasy for a few minutes.

I actually waited until the 11th hour (literally) to send my application. It was not like most jobs where you can simply send your CV and a cover letter. This job didn't allow you to send either.
Instead, you had to read a number of jargon-filled attachments and application guidelines and then fill in a very detailed and convoluted internal application form. Words like "behavioural competencies" and "organisational skills profile" made my head hurt and after five hours of solid work on my application I rolled into bed at midnight utterly wiped out.

Two days later I got a call from them inviting me for an interview. I prepared myself as best as I could and kept an open mind. I figured I had to go for it otherwise I would forever be asking myself, "what if?"

When I left home the weather was cool, but sunny and pleasant. By the time I arrived in Tel Aviv, the heavens had opened up and I got caught in a torrential downpour. Despite being well dressed for the weather (raincoat, hat, gloves, scarf, umbrella and boots) I still managed to get soaked to the bone in the less than 10 minute walk to the interview.

Luckily my raincoat, hat and umbrella kept my top half relatively dry, but from the knees down I was literally dripping. My feet sloshed with every step and I couldn't believe this was how I was going to be seen for THE MOST IMPORTANT JOB INTERVIEW I HAD EVER HAD IN ISRAEL!

Thankfully, I had about 20 minutes before I was called and that was long enough for me to squeeze the excess rainwater out of my skirt (although I felt bad about leaving a puddle in the reception area where I was waiting) and I fluffed my hair back to some semblance of sleekness. A lipstick refresher and I was almost feeling normal again (except my feet were still squelching).

I was met by the director of the organisation and invited to enter a conference room where two other people were waiting for me. One was the assistant director and the other was the woman whose position was being replaced during her maternity leave.

I sat down and placed my rain-soaked coat and accessories on the floor next to me. I was given a glass of water and told that I would have about 30 minutes for my interview and that each person on the panel would take it in turns to ask me questions and at the end I would have a few minutes to ask any questions I had.

I felt like I was somewhere between doing an oral exam in high school and being on trial for some criminal offence. It was intimidating, unnatural, painfully formal and rigid. Hmmm. Not unlike the application form that I had spent half the night up writing.

Anyone who knows me well knows I like to talk. In this situation (like my 200 word limit for each answer in the application form) I was politely interrupted if I went on too long and told that "sorry, but we need to move on to the next question."

The half hour went like that and I walked out of the interview feeling somewhat deflated and not at all confident that I had made a decent impression. I also felt edgy and stressed and to make myself feel better, I went to a nearby mall and bought my son a cute pair of pyjamas. (It really did make me feel better).

I got on the train home and started to think philosophically about the whole thing. I applied. I got an interview. I followed it up. No regrets. Move on.
And then as I was exiting the train station in Modi'in, I got a call. It was the woman going on maternity leave. She wanted to do a follow up interview with me right there on the phone, IN HEBREW, to check my language skills (a percentage of the job requires reasonably good Hebrew). I was put on the spot, but what the hell, I just jabbered away as well as I could in Hebrew and realised that I managed pretty well for about 20 minutes.

When I finally got home I realised that maybe I hadn't sucked as badly as I initially thought I had. And then I began to think more seriously about what it would mean if I was actually offered the job. I had to delay more in-depth thought until after the kids were in bed and I was able to discuss it with Doron when he got home from work.

It all got a bit more complicated the next morning when I received an email from the director telling me that it was down to me and one other candidate and was I available for a second interview in a week or so.

Honestly. I am not being falsely modest. I truly believed I stank in that interview. I couldn't believe I had been shortlisted to one of two applicants. I now had to think very seriously about what would happen if I was offered, and subsequently accepted, the job.

As a maternity cover position, the most important thing to remember is that there was no guarantee of future employment beyond this point - and my instinct was telling me strongly that this woman fully intended to return to work.

The salary was decent - but not great. But after doing the maths and calculating the net income after tax, pension and of course day care costs, we worked out that I'd be taking home about 1,000 NIS a month i.e. bugger all.

Putting the children in full time day care meant I would get to spend about 2 hours a day with them.

My ability to study for the Lamaze Childbirth Educator course would be severely compromised.

It was beginning to become clear to me that unless I was able to magically morph into Wonder Woman complete with invisible jet, I was unlikely to be able to manage everything. Something - or possibly multiple things - were going to be sacrificed.

But this was my dream job. Opportunities like this didn't come up every day. Or any day for that matter. What kind of a test was this I thought to myself? What the hell was I supposed to do?

The more I thought about it, okay, agonised over it. Lay awake at night thinking about it, I realised something very important.

The fact that it was this amazing job that I had dreamed of getting was irrelevant.
The length of the contract was irrelevant.
The money was irrelevant.
The only thing that mattered at all were my children.

And that was my kick in the guts. That was my dose of reality, my rite of passage.
I told myself that there will be other great opportunities in the future, when the timing is right. But my kids will not always be so small and vulnerable and utterly dependent on me to be there for them day and night. They need me and I need them.

I wrote to the director this afternoon and thanked him sincerely for the opportunity to interview for such a wonderful job. I also told him I was withdrawing my application. As I was finishing the email, my son Liev came up to me with his arms outstretched and wanting me to pick him up for a cuddle. He wanted to play on my computer. I let him press the "send" button. He laughed when he did and then he clapped at his job well done. He kissed me. I cried.

No one ever said a rite of passage was easy.

just had to post a pic of my beautiful children January 28, 2011 |

new beginnings January 13, 2011 |

I've discovered something interesting about life in Israel since becoming a mother. I've discovered that this is not the family-friendly society I thought it was - well, in the work world at least. In that environment I am persona non grata it seems. You see, here in the Holy Land prospective employers think it's totally acceptable to grill you on your marital and family status (all asked in the most innocent of enquiring tones of course). Being the unsuspecting novice, I answered honestly - although what else could I do really? - and surprise surprise, that's the last I ever hear from them.
The last interview I attended lasted for more than an hour and even included an impromptu second interview with the CEO, so I figured I stood a pretty good chance. Did I hear a thing? Nope, nada, zilch, klum.

Initially, I didn't even make the connection with having kids, I just thought I was having a run of bad luck and that the "right job" was just around the corner waiting for me. Still, the string of rejections was having a pretty pummelling effect on my self-esteem and it was only after talking to a number of friends that it dawned on me that perhaps it wasn't me at all, but more a case of the category that I now fell into.

The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became. I thought about the last place I worked. Almost without exception they fired women immediately upon their return from maternity leave. Totally illegal, but they would keep them quiet by offering them a very attractive payout. So what's behind the anti-mother sentiment? (And it sure as hell doesn't apply to fathers! Men don't routinely get asked if they are married or have kids in job interviews) Well, employers figure, little kids get sick all the time, especially when they are in daycare, which means mummy will have to take lots of time off to look after said sick kiddies which means a loss of productivity, which means a loss of profit. Oooh crap, don't want to risk that. Better give this applicant the wide berth eh?

And then there is a whole other argument I found myself considering. Say for the sake of argument I did find myself a great job, with lovely family-friendly, pro-mummy co-workers who had no problem with me working flexible hours so I could leave early to pick my kids up from daycare. (Does that sound as fanciful as I think it does??!) Well, the shorter hours that mothers generally work means a rather significant cut in salary and after tax, cost of child care etc I would be lucky to clear about 2,000 shekels (about $450 Australian dollars) a month. Oh, and I'd get to spend about two hours a day with my children.

Sounds fabulous, doesn't it?

So, back to Square 1 it seemed. That is, until I received an email in my inbox a couple of weeks ago. It was from the woman who ran the childbirth preparation course Doron and I attended before Liev was born. She was now offering a course to train other people to become internationally certified Lamaze childbirth educators. Talk about a sign from up above!

The course is a 15 week program (1 full day of study a week) with a written exam at the end in order to qualify. Following that I will be able to start my own business and run courses for parents-to-be right here in Modi'in (and potentially other areas).

If someone had told me even three or four years ago that my career would take a turn like this I would have laughed. "What, me? A Lamaze instructor, are you insane?" But the amazing thing is, everyone I have told so far has responded with overwhelming enthusiasm. Without exception, people seem to think I was made for this field. As surprised as I have been by people's reactions (I fully expected at least a few, "what the's") I have also been so reassured that I am pursuing the right direction.

It's true what people say, having children changes you (whether you like it or not). It literally changes the person you are, or thought you were. It forces you to see the world in a totally different perspective and makes you realise what an awesome responsibility you have now.

Having children in Israel, without my family here was also challenging. It adds a whole other set of fears, anxieties and stresses that perhaps otherwise I wouldn't have experienced had I given birth in Australia.

Having experienced all this first hand - and having two children under the age of 2 - makes me think I might actually have a reasonable amount of wisdom to pass onto couples and women who are about to have their first baby. I also have a number of friends in Israel who are single mothers - both by choice and circumstance - and I thought that I would also love to offer a childbirth preparation course exclusively for single women. As far as I know, the only women-only courses here in Israel are for religious women. When a girlfriend of mine who was expecting her baby (conceived through an anonymous sperm donor) attended a course like this - precisely because she didn't want to feel miserable and lonely in a couples group - ended up hating her course and felt judged and uncomfortable which I think is just awful.

A single-mothers Lamaze course would also provide these mums-to-be with an instant support network and friendship circle so vital once baby has arrived.

I am truly so excited to embark upon this new chapter of my life. Through my despondent and depressing search for work, I stumbled upon an incredible opportunity which will allow me to both remain at home with my children while they are still so young and simultaneously pursue an exciting and challenging new career that I feel has the potential to open doors I never previously even imagined.

And so it seems that Solid Gold Dancing in the Holy Land is about to begin a new adventure and I look forward to sharing the journey with you.

the one about the mouse December 12, 2010 |

WARNING: this blog probably won't be enjoyed by extreme animal lovers (i.e. the kind of people who think even cockroaches should be humanely treated and gently shooed out the front door rather than squashed underfoot).

Ok, so about two weeks ago, I was sitting on the couch talking to my mother in Australia with my 18 month old son sitting next to me watching Tellytubbies and my 6 month old daughter rocking away in her little chair by my feet when all of a sudden I caught sight of a little grey tail scoot down the wall behind the TV.

"Argggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" I yelled in my mother's ear (sorry mum!) "Shit! I think I just saw a mouse!"

"A mouse? Are you sure?"

"Definitely a rodent!" Smallish. But rodent. Yucky. Dirty. Disease-carrying. Rodent.

I found it almost impossible to continue the conversation with my mother as I was too preoccupied on keeping an eye out for my unwelcome house guest and making sure he didn't make a move towards me and the kids. I said good bye to my mum and called my husband.

"Doron. You are not going to believe this, but we have a f%$#ing mouse in the house!"
"A what?"
"You know! Achbar sadeh! A field mouse!"
"Are you serious? How the hell did he get in the house?"
"I don't know!!!!!!!!!! But I am here with the kids and I have an effing bloody mouse, rat, rodent thing running around and I don't know what to do!"
"I'll look for him tonight and see if I can catch him. If not, we'll call someone."

I hung up the phone and stared at the wall opposite me. Not only was the mouse near me and the kids, he ran right next to my son's toy box - surely a perfect hidey hole for a little mouse. I was too scared to touch anything (I know - I'm such a wuss) and I didn't want the kids to sense my fear, so we just kind of did other stuff and waited for Doron to get home from work. Thankfully our little friend didn't show himself again that afternoon.

After we put the kids to bed, Doron poked around the corner of the living room I had seen him, but he seemed to have moved on. We left the balcony door open a little that night hoping he would run out during the night.

No such luck. Sighting #2 happened a couple of days later, on a Friday morning when we were all in the living room and Mr Mousey decided to make a dash from under the sofa (we were sitting on it ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!) back to the direction of my son's toy box.

Doron got up and started to look for him. He jiggled the toy box and a couple of minutes later, the mouse ran out and ran across the carpet right in front of me and back under the sofa. Doron and I screamed and the children spontaneously burst into tears. Shit!

I took the kids into another room so that Doron could have a go at catching the mouse but after 2o minutes or so, he declared defeat having lost all sight of the little bugger.

We decided to call an exterminator who said he could drop by before Shabbat. Great, we thought! We're going to deal with this problem properly now!

The exterminator, a man called Amos from a nearby town, arrived a couple of hours later and confirmed we had a mouse (bloody genius eh?) He found several tell-tale mouse droppings around our kitchen and laid several sticky traps for him. He told us that most likely that night after we went to bed, the mouse would come out, be attracted to the traps and he'd be caught by the morning.

"I'll drop by again on Sunday and pick up the mouse and the traps for you." he said with total confidence.

"How much do we owe you?"

"350 shekels"

We had to stop our jaws from dropping. 350 shekels to come over and spend 10 minutes laying some traps that cost all of 20 sheks at the local hardware store?

Well Amos. Your traps didn't work. Mr Mousey laughs at your silly traps. Sunday came and went and Mr Mousey is king of the castle and is making our lives hell. We kept the door to Liev's room closed all the time, after I discovered mouse droppings in HIS COT!!!!!!!!

Then a couple of nights later, Doron found droppings in Amalia's cot!!!!!!!!!!! They were not there when I put her to bed the night before (she is in our room) and so that means (sorry to creep you out people) that he was in her bed while she was sleeping. The mere thought of it makes me want to vomit.

We could hear him munching away on my books in the living room and we saw him run down the back of the pipes of the kitchen sink. He was even getting into my wardrobe and eating the paper that was stuffed in the toes of my expensive Kenneth Cole high-heeled shoes. Bastard. THIS WAS WAR!

We'd also bought our own traps. More of the sticky kind (Mr Mousey was somehow able to remove the bamba* from the trap and not get caught on it! How???) and the other kind of trap that he has to walk into to get the food which triggers the door to shut on him (but doesn't hurt him) He avoided those ones and decided to stick to my abundant collection of fiction instead.

(*Bamba is a popular peanut snack here in Israel and apparently mice are very fond of it as well)

And now we arrive at last night. I was eating some dinner and watching telly and Doron was out taking a walk. All of a sudden I heard the little bugger munching away in the corner of the room, somewhere inside my bookcase. He was louder than usual, as if he were saying to us, "Munch, munch, munch. You can't catch me you pathetic humans. I will eat my way from
Jane Austen to Markus Zusak and then I will feast on your babies' fingers! Hahahahahahahahahahahahaahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Something just snapped in me. Mouse. This is your last night on earth. Enjoy the time you have left my friend.

When Doron came home a few minutes later, I told him that the mouse was in the bookcase somewhere. With the kids all tucked up (and safe!) in bed, we decided to engage OPERATION MOUSE. We slowly took the books off the shelves and built a wall from one corner of the wall to the other, effectively cornering him in a small confined space. Sure, he would be able to climb over the books eventually, but we were counting in him being a little bamboozled initially and that would give Doron time to give him the old one-two with his shoe (I warned you that animal lovers would not like this blog).

About half an hour later, all the books were on the floor and Doron finally caught sight of him - eating a BLOODY PIECE OF BAMBA behind the bookcase! Doron moved the bookcase and the mouse then took refuge behind the CD tower. With almost nowhere left for the bugger to go, we were pretty confident that we were going to catch him. Suddenly he darted out from behind the CD tower and tried to make a run for it.

"There he is!" I yelled. "Get him!"
After the initial shock, Doron got his bearings and ran towards the mouse, stomping on him in one clear and very forceful motion. He didn't even have time to feel it I am sure. Gone instantaneously. I hope that makes the animal lovers feel a bit better.

And that was it. No more terrorist mouse in our home. We now had one very dead, very squashed mouse on our living room floor that needed to be scraped up and the floor cleaned and disinfected. Sorry, is this too much detail?

We sat there, Doron and I, staring at Dead Mr Mousey, suddenly looking so tiny and innocuous and we couldn't believe how something so small had caused us so much trouble and how frought with stress we had been. Following our recent trip to Massada, Doron looked at me and said that somehow this scene reminded him of the story of Massada.

"How? I asked. "So is the mouse a Maccabee or a Roman?"
The jury is still out on that one.

Doron took the mouse outside and threw him in the dumpster and I was left to clean up (the least I could do considering Doron performed the actual dreaded deed) and then I had the joyous task of putting ALL my books back (about 8 packing boxes worth) and because I am totally anal, I had to put them back in order didn't I?

So here's a photo of our fortress of books and if you look carefully, you'll spot Mr Mousey (deceased) but don't worry - it's not gory or anything.

RIP Mr Mousey

So, needless to say we slept very soundly last night knowing we and our children were safe from any unwelcome nocturnal visits.

Doron is now considering a career change, so please drop us a line or give us a call if you want him to take care of any unwelcome visitors. We'll get the job done. I guarantee you.






good bye Holy City, hello Modi'in October 29, 2010 |

Looks like these bi-annual reports are becoming the norm. It still makes me sad that I don't have more time to write, but I guess with two kids under one and a half at home with me ALL THE TIME, I have a decent enough excuse.

So where to begin? Well shortly after Amalia was born in June, we started looking for a new place to live. My husband got a really good new job that based him out of Tel Aviv - and provided him (us!) with a company car - but the commuting was a killer and he was soon pulling 14-15 hour days, coming home absolutely wiped and hardly ever got to see the kids (he left before they were up and came home after they were in bed). Obviously, we hardly got to spend any decent time together either and so we knew that we really had to move.

It was not a hard decision because the fact is we loathed and detested our apartment and couldn't wait to leave. Jerusalem we loved, the apartment we hated. To add fuel to the fire, our landlord became the landlord from hell once we told him we wanted to leave and soon the situation there became untenable. I couldn't wait to find a new place so we could pack up and get the hell out of there.

Problem was - where to move to? We had a list of basic criteria: decent commuting distance for Doron, good public transportation for me (until we are in a better situation financially and can afford to buy a car), a reasonably sized English-speaking community would also be nice (yes I know I am supposed to be all acclimatised and native Israeli by now, but the fact is I will ALWAYS think/dream/swear and speak in my native tongue no matter how good my Hebrew gets (although truth be told since I have been at "at-home mum" it's deteriorated no end. Although I can sing loads of kids songs in Hebrew thanks to the children's cable channel on TV!)

In terms of the apartment itself, well the most important thing was that it had to be either on the ground floor or have an elevator. Being on the third floor without an elevator and two babies (and nappy bag, groceries etc etc was a KILLER!) Some outdoor space would be great too, having gone without even the tiniest balcony in our last apartment we realised how important it was for us to have some outdoor breathing space.

We looked at a few cities and although we did see some nice places (most out of our budget unfortunately) nothing felt absolutely right and we were determined not to cave in and take a place out of desperation, only to end up in another nightmare accommodation situation.

Then a friend suggested Modi'in.

Modi'in
is a very new city - Israel's first truly planned city in fact - that grew out of the coastal plain roughly halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv some seventeen years ago. There was literally nothing here before 1993, bar a few rural communities. Now Modi'in is home to almost 80,000 people. That's some pretty crazy population growth!

I actually visited an Australian family who were living in Modi'in back in 2003 when I was first in Israel and studying in Arad. I was only meant to spend Friday afternoon with them, but missed the last bus before Shabbat and so I found myself stuck there for the whole weekend. I don't remember much about that weekend (except cursing the fact that I was stuck there all weekend without so much as a change of underwear) but I do clearly recall what a gorgeous house this family lived in. It was two storey, with a basement and a large garden. I'd never seen anything like it in Israel. It was so.... western! However, outside the house all I can remember were dusty unsealed roads and lots and lots of empty space. "Who in their right mind would want to live here?" I thought to myself at the time. "It's in the middle of fucking nowhere!"

Well seven years later I am living here! With my Israeli husband and my two Israeli-born children. Me and 80,000 other people. There's still a lot of unpaved dusty roads and tons of construction (the other side of our street for example!) but what a testament to this insane country I have called home for almost four years now. Take a bit of arid land, put some decent town planning to good use and voila! a city custom-built for families. Loads of greenery, parks and playgrounds practically at the end of every street, schools, shops, malls - you name it, it's all here.

When I was still living in Hong Kong, the last place my family lived was a place called Discovery Bay, located on Lantau Island (on the opposite side of the island to where the airport is now). Disco Bay or "DB" as it was more commonly referred to by locals, was also an anomaly in HK. People lived in HOUSES (WHAT??) or condos or spacious apartments with lovely views of either the mountains or the sea. It was very nice, but also a little creepy. It was all a little bit too... sanitised... too clean... too organised... too artificial. So not Hong Kong. Where's the dirt? The pollution, the crud, the stench?

And that's how I thought Modi'in would be. Kind of the Disco Bay of Israel. Maybe even a little "Stepford Wives-ish". And it's because of this, my pre-conceptions of a place I hadn't seen in seven years and had only spent 24 hours in anyway, that initially I didn't even want to check it out as a possibility.

Well, when we were running out of options and every day in our Jerusalem apartment was killing me that little bit more that we decided what the hell, what can it hurt to check out the place?

Well, damn lucky we did. We drove into the city on a Friday morning with half a dozen or so apartments to see and Doron and I just looked at each other as we drove around. "Yup" we said, "this is the place." We just need to find the right apartment.

That, we discovered, was easier said than done. Modi'in is overwhelmingly populated by owner-occupiers. I read somewhere that only about 17% of all property here is rented. So lots of gorgeous places and not a whole lot of them up for rent. We were also approaching the big holiday season in Israel (Jewish New Year, Yom Kippur, Sukkot) and NO ONE moves at this time. We were getting desperate. After months of searching for a place to live (practically every weekend was taken up with flat hunting - never fun, but totally not fun with little kids!) we were exhausted and more than a little bit despondent.

Then - finally - a new listing. It was advertised in the week between Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur. We called the owner and went to see it a couple of hours later. We came. We saw. We loved. We took it!

We really found a gem of an apartment. It might only be two bedroom, but while the children are so small, it's really not a big deal. It's full of sunshine during the day, and we have so much more living space, it's wonderful, such a luxury! And best of all, we have two HUGE terraces (combined probably the size of our old apartment!) that I can't wait to decorate with loads of plants, an outdoor table and chairs, the hammock we got from a friend for our wedding which is STILL in its wrapping paper and of course being the Aussie that I am - a BBQ!!

We moved three weeks ago and although we still have to put pictures up on the walls, it definitely feels like home - something our last place never felt like. We've got friendly neighbours, an amazing online community of residents who send helpful replies to my numerous questions and queries about life in Modi'in and tonight we discovered our local shul (synagogue). It's in the street behind ours, which is actually still being built. In fact, the only completed building is the synagogue. As we walked home with the kids in their Sherman tank (our affectionate name for our double stroller) we laughed as we realised that we were walking in the dark (no street lights here yet) down an unpaved street, my sandals filling with sand and building rubble. "This street is a building site and yet the one completed building is a synagogue". That really touched me. I hope it gives you a sense of our new home and the warm community we have found.

Here's a photo I took the other day of Liev and Amalia (Amalia had just rolled over onto her tummy for the first time and big brother Liev was pretty thrilled!) in our new home.


Shabbat Shalom from Modi'in!

Welcome to the world Amalia Devorah July 03, 2010 |

Hey, I've just ended almost 83 weeks of pregnancy (with a measly 12 week break in between having my son and getting pregnant with my daughter!) I don't think I need to apologise for my lack of blogging these last few months!

Obviously my most important news is the safe arrival of our daughter, Amalia Devorah. She was born on June 7th at 8.34am and weighing in a healthy 3.4kgs. Amalia is an old Hebrew name which means "God's Creation" and Devorah was Amalia's (paternal) great-grandmother. She didn't have a name at all until she was a couple of days old, but we're very happy with our final choice. We hope she is too when she is old enough to yell at us,
"what the hell kind of name is Amalia??!!" Sorry darling.

Amalia Devorah and me

As you might also expect, it's been a pretty hectic last few months. Liev, our son, is doing brilliantly, thank God and he's now walking - ok, like a little drunk man, but he's loving his new found freedom and we're forever running after him trying to prevent imminent danger.

He's now going to daycare which he seems to really enjoy (well, most days) and especially seems to enjoy the Moroccan cuisine he eats each day freshly made by Zahava, the lovely lady who looks after him. Having him out of the apartment each day certainly makes life easier for me and frees up my time to look after Amalia, who for the most part (and I hope I'm not jinxing this!) is a very chilled little girl who sleeps and eats very well. She does possess a fine set of lungs though which she tends to exercise on a daily basis at least once.

I am not 100% sure what Liev makes of her. Initially, I think it was rather a shock to his system to see another little person at home. The first couple of days were rather teary and he was very clingy (totally to be expected). But now, almost four weeks on, I think he is rather enamoured by her and he loves to rest his head on her and cuddle her. Oh that melts our hearts...

Liev and his baby sister

My mother was here for a whole month and I seriously don't know how we could have managed without her. When she left last week I really was quite devastated. How were we going to cope on our own? Over the years, I've lost count of the tearful farewells I've had to make to my family, but somehow it seems to just get harder each time. I've been in Israel for three and a half years now and this was my mum's third visit in that period of time. The first time I was still single, the second time (only a year later!) was for my wedding and this visit (two years after the wedding) she arrived to meet her grandson for the first time and was here for the arrival of her granddaughter. What a blessing is that? Liev and my mum truly bonded, it was a beautiful thing to observe and utterly heartbreaking when my mum left. I am just grateful that Liev is still so young (he just turned 1) that he didn't understand she was leaving and doesn't yet have the memory to preserve her or note her absence.

Liev and his Safta Zelda

It never ceases to amaze me how life just has this weird way of working out. The last year or so have been tough for us. We had to move apartments and we settled on a place which was really unsuitable for us and we've grown to really hate it. My husband changed jobs and was full of hope that it would provide him with a long awaited career boost only to discover it was a dead-end. Money has been getting tighter and tighter and with baby # 2 just around the corner, we were really stressing about our crappy situation.

I really believe my mother's visit was a good omen. Almost as soon as she arrived, good things started to happen. My husband got invited for an interview for a great job. Then he got called back for a second, and then third interview and before my mum left we found out he got the job. On top of being a great job, it has several excellent perks - including a car! Yeah!

The job is in Tel Aviv and commuting would be hell, so we're moving to the Big Smoke in a couple of months, once Doron is settled in the new job and we've managed to find a good apartment. Initially, I resisted the idea of living in Tel Aviv, but I've actually come to be quite excited about the change. We've got a lot of good friends there, so that's a bonus to begin with, plus I have really missed living close to the sea and I can't wait to go for walks along the beach with my family. Culturally, Tel Aviv has a lot more to offer than Jerusalem (sorry dear city of mine, but it's true). I think it will be a good change for us, I really do.

So all in all, things are looking good. I miss my family desperately and we can't wait to go and visit them in Australia (probably in March next year) and thank God so far my dad is responding well to his cancer treatment. You'd think it would be easier for me to live so far away from them now that I am married and have my own family, but it's the opposite. I find it incredibly hard to live so far away. Now that I have children, I feel so sad that they don't get to enjoy having their grandparents around them. I didn't have mine around me when I was growing up in Hong Kong, so I know what it feels like. I don't think I want that for my kids, but I don't know how I solve that problem. That's something to deal with in the future I guess.

Well, it is WAY past my ridiculously early bedtime of 9pm (the only way I can guarantee several hours of sleep each night!) so I had better sign off for now. I can't promise a regular slew of blogs, but I can promise that I'll always check in to let you know about the milestones.

growing - metaphorically and literally February 12, 2010 |

Wow. Ok. Six months to the day since my last blog. I have given up apologising (even to myself) because as much as I would love to write more often, life at the moment just doesn't seem to allow that luxury! It's kind of insane to actually list all the things that have happened in my life in the last half year. Oh God. I hope this posting doesn't become a shopping list or one of those "End of Year Wrap Up" letters that people write when they can't be bothered to keep up to date with their friends on a regular basis. If it does, I apologise profusely now.

I'll also try and be as chronologically accurate as possible. If for no other reason, it will help clarify everything for myself and prevent me from writing an incomprehensible rambling of disconnected thoughts.

Ok, so not long after my last posting back in August 2009, my husband and I found ourselves in every parent's worst nightmare - rushing your baby to hospital. Liev was almost six months old, totally gorgeous and (we thought) totally healthy. One evening, we were up to our necks in packing boxes, frantically trying to finish packing up our apartment for the movers who were due to arrive at 7am the following morning. We thought we'd get Liev bathed and ready for bed nice and early so we'd have more time to get organised.

One moment I am holding my cherubic bundle of joy who was his regular smiley happy self and the next moment he is staring lifelessly at me, his body limp and the corners of his lips and nose turning blue. He was conscious, but it was if "the lights were on, but nobody was home."

I yelled for my husband to come and we both agreed something was horribly wrong with Liev, although we had NO idea what it possibly could be. Within 15 minutes we were at the emergency room of our nearest hospital. By the time we were on our way there, his colour was back to normal and he was able to acknowledge us, but he was incredibly tired and barely able to keep his eyes open. Slightly hysterical me didn't know if he was trying to sleep or falling into a coma.
I snapped my fingers at him and prodded him to keep him awake.

He was looked at immediately and the doctors started to run a series of tests - blood tests, heart tests, neurological tests. While all this was going on, Liev seemed to have returned to normal, so we were totally stumped as to what had happened to him at home. Had we imagined it? Or over-reacted?

The attending doctor told us that it was hospital policy to admit babies brought to the ER for 72 hours of observation. At that point, we could keep him there, or transfer him. Firstly, I was gutted we couldn't take him home, but then again, we were terrified it would happen again. We figured, we were already in a hospital (ok, not the BEST hospital in Jerusalem) but how bad could it be? It was just for observation, right? We decided to admit him.

For the next two days, my husband and I did shifts so one of us was always with Liev (I slept there). We also had to somehow move apartment. I have no idea how we did it, but we did. I think I was semi-conscious for most of it. I was running off a store of adrenaline I didn't even know I had. As soon as the boxes were in the new apartment and the food was shoved back in the refrigerator, I locked up and got back to the hospital to take over from Doron and settle in for our third (and we assumed) final night.

In the early hours of the morning, my son woke me with a strangled cry I had never heard before. I leaped out of bed and went to his cot. He was as rigid as a board and staring into space, unable to make eye contact with me. I picked him up and yelled for the nurses, whose apathy in coming to help me still makes my blood boil.

Once they realised the situation was serious, they took him from me and rushed him to the treatment room and called for the pediatrician. Liev was revived shortly after with some oxygen and then he fell into a deep sleep. The doctor arrived, looking none too pleased for having been woken up at 5am, and after a perfunctory look at Liev (although no medical history taken, or questions for me) decided to 'diagnose' Liev with dysentery. This - despite the fact he had never had a fever since being admitted, and didn't have diarrhoea or showed signs of dehydration - all classic symptoms of dysentery.

He prescribed antibiotics, which the nurse handed to me and told me to give him and well, that was it. I am obviously not a doctor, but I knew he was 100% wrong. Every cell in my body told me that. Meanwhile, Doron had arrived and we started to discuss what to do now. Not long after, Liev had another 'attack' - although this one was longer, and seemed more severe. More oxygen, and he was back with us - until he slumped into another coma-like sleep.

The doctor finally agreed to call an external pediatric neurologist and then it became deafeningly clear to us that Liev was in the wrong hospital. They had NO idea what was wrong with him, they didn't have the necessary specialists on staff and we were not about to let our baby become an 'experiment' for them to work with until they worked out what the hell was wrong with him. The most disturbing aspect of all of this is that some of the doctors, the nurses and even the doctor who performed the CT scan on him all told us in no uncertain terms to "get our baby the hell out of here and take him to one of the other hospitals where they could properly treat him". That's it, we thought. He's out of here. We told the doctors we wanted to transfer him.

We then found ourselves in a bureaucratic nightmare. The hospital refused to admit that they were unable to provide him with proper treatment and therefore would not pay to have him transferred by ambulance to another hospital, although they had no issue at all with discharging him. After speaking with a number of people, we determined the best hospital to take him to and decided to pay for the transfer ourselves, which also meant paying for a doctor privately to accompany him because the ambulance wouldn't take responsibility for a baby suffering regular seizures without a doctor on board.

It took about 7 hours, but finally we had him moved and despite the fact that Liev was still extremely sick (and we still didn't know what was wrong with him!) we were able to breathe considerably easier knowing we were in a good place that would take care of our baby properly.

Liev was in hospital another 3 days, during which time he was examined by several pediatric neurologists (including the head of the department), underwent a battery of tests and scans and finally diagnosed with infant seizures/childhood epilepsy. He was given an anti-seizure medication and the seizures completely stopped, almost immediately.

As devastating as it was to hear that Liev had epilepsy, we were given some encouraging news. His seizures (even the worst ones) were very mild on the epilepsy spectrum (he didn't fit, for example) and he only suffered a handful of them in a very short space of time, none of which had any lasting effect on his brain. The fact that a small amount of the drug they administered stopped the seizures almost instantly was also very encouraging as it told them his condition was mild and controllable. Although it's impossible to truly predict how his condition will develop and how long it will last, the doctors are reasonably confident that he is one of the majority of children who develop unexplained seizures in infancy who will just as suddenly and inexplicably grow out of them in early childhood. Well all I can say is, please God and Amen.

We were finally able to take Liev home almost a week after that traumatic first night he was rushed to hospital. He's been taking a daily dose of the anti-seizure medication ever since and so far, so good. He hasn't had another seizure.
Tfu-tfu-tfu as us Yids say.

Yesterday, he finally underwent an MRI scan, the results of which we should have in a week or so when we go to see his neurologist. Hopefully, we'll also get a better idea of our path with him in the next 6 months or so.

So, if that experience wasn't stressful enough to deal with, I was also coping with being pregnant again - something we hadn't told anyone yet except our families. I was in my first trimester and I spent the week in hospital with Liev terrified the stress was going to cause me to miscarry. I didn't, thank God, and now I am developing a nice round belly and carrying a little sister for Liev who is due at the beginning of June.

Thinking our dramas were behind us as we settled into a routine in our new apartment and with Liev who was growing from strength to strength (he crawls, stands, babbles incessantly and waves hello to us which melts our hearts!) we were rocked with a new family drama. This time my father in Australia.

It started with a major heart attack that he suffered in December which resulted in an angioplasty procedure to place a stent in his artery which they discovered had a 90% blockage. Incredibly, my dad recovered well from his operation and was able to return home a week or so later. We thought that was the end of it until I received a text message from my brother a couple of weeks ago to say my dad was in hospital again, this time for an emergency operation to repair a ruptured bowel. A few days after his surgery (during which he suffered another heart attack) we received the devastating news that my father has cancer. At this stage, it's hard to know what the future holds. He's in a difficult situation because his severely weakened heart means that they can't operate for a few months to remove the tumour and even starting a course of chemotherapy has huge implications as the treatment will all but destroy his immune system - essential for his recovery from his heart attacks.

It's a delicate balancing act that his oncologist and cardiologist will have to navigate in the coming months. In the meantime, my dad has a remarkably positive outlook and attitude and I am so incredibly proud of him. It is unbearably hard to be on the other side of the world right now. I haven't seen my dad in 3 1/2 years - not since I left Australia to come to Israel at the end of 2006. Of course we talk regularly and skype each other with webcams, but it's not the same.

Going to Australia now to visit is not really an option as I am approaching my third trimester of pregnancy and that's hardly the time to start hopping on planes. Hopefully, we'll all be able to visit later in the year, with two babies in tow.

Reading back, I am kind of shocked at how dramatic this post is. It's a wonder I haven't become a total basketcase the last few months! Well, I am not a rock and there have certainly been more than a few occasions when it's all got too much for me and I've crumbled under the pressure. But I've also got through everything so far thanks to my amazing life partner, my husband Doron who has propped me up each and every single time I have felt like it's just all too much and my beautiful son who is the true light of my life and the precious cargo I am carrying in my belly at the moment whose persistent kicks remind me that she's around and part of the family already.

Once again, I have been made acutely aware of the fragility of life and how much we must truly bless what - and who - we have in our lives. When you finish reading this, please give your nearest and dearest a big hug and a kiss and tell them how much you love them.

Yours hormonally,
Me xx

life through a mother's eyes August 12, 2009 |

It's hard to believe that it's been almost three months since I slept through the night. Actually it's a lot more than that if you count the fact that for the last month or two of my pregnancy it was almost impossible to find a comfy position to lie in for more than half an hour and so I was tossing and turning all night, re-arranging 56 pillows to support my belly, back, boobs, legs you name it... and getting up two or three times to pee as well. Fun. Not.

Liev is now getting on for three months old and it's totally amazing to observe all the tiny nuanced changes and developments he makes on an almost daily basis. He's getting close to doubling his birth weight and he's got those adorable chubby baby thighs you just want to pinch and kiss all day long. He's also got a pair of lungs on him that would put any opera singer to shame. If only the noise they helped to create sounded as sweet. He sleeps reasonably well through the night now - not nearly enough, but I know there are other new parents out there who would kill for 5 or 6 uninterrupted hours of silence in the night. His smile totally kills us and he's on the verge of laughing - we can't wait for that. Sometimes I look at his adorable little face and just stare in disbelief that he came out of me. I made him in my body. How insane is that?

Before he was born, I spent many an hour wondering what motherhood would be like. How it would change my life and whether it would be a change that I would absorb effortlessly or with a struggle. I have been working pretty much full time since the age of 18 - that's half my life - and I tried to anticipate how I would relate in a world without a job, at least for a while. How long would I want to be at home with him; would I be climbing the walls after three months or would I find myself in maternal heaven?

Well so far, I have been rather shocked to discover that I love being at home with him. I love, love love it and here's the kicker, here's the sad bit: I feel GUILTY about that. I feel guilty that I want to be a full time mother. I don't know for how long. Maybe six months, maybe a year, hell! maybe until he starts school. I don't know whether it is my own inner guilt about not working and contributing financially (and these are tough times), or whether I am channelling the desperate cut throat workplace we all sadly live in these days and feel that as a woman I still need to prove that I can "do it all" and work full time and be a full time mum and loving doting wife and keep a home that looks like something out of a Martha Stewart magazine (except it doesn't!) I waited an awfully long time to be a mother and it's an incredible totally life-altering experience I don't want to miss a day of. I certainly don't want anyone else raising my child and witnessing all his "firsts". That's my privilege and joy to discover.

Don't get me wrong though. It's not all a bed of roses, far from it. Being a mother is without doubt the hardest bloody job I have EVER done. It is exhausting, relentless, thankless (apart from those heart-breaking killer smiles he gives me) and incredibly unglamourous. I live in old track pants, shapeless t-shirts more often than not walk around covered in vomit and spit and I can't remember the last time I wore make-up and dressed up a bit. My husband and I hardly have a moment to ourselves, let alone together and I just totally fantasize about being able to go to the movies!

Still, despite all this, I wouldn't want to be doing anything else right now or be anywhere else but with my little boy. I am incredibly lucky in that I have a pretty fabulous husband who supports whatever decision I end up making. I know I don't have to decide tomorrow, next week or next month for that matter. I am sure I will change my mind often along the way too.

But right now, my track pants and shapeless t-shirts feel just fine.




a whole new world June 20, 2009 |

Without sounding like a confession dear reader, it has been six months since my last blog. I have been thinking about writing, planning to write, even fantasising about writing for months - everything BUT actually write! I must thank Paula - who left a lovely note on my last blog which I wrote back in December urging me to update and helped to give me the push I really needed to get going.

Well, here we go!!

Let's start with my most exciting (and undoubtedly most important) news - my darling baby son Liev Israel was born on May 30th, 2009 following a rather gruelling 30+ hour labour which threatened to end with an emergency c-section, but thankfully did not. My incredible husband Doron and tireless doula Debbie were by my side the entire time and I don't know how I could have got through it without them.

He was almost two weeks overdue - as long as they will let you go without inducing - and despite my hopes and somewhat idealistic dreams of having a "totally natural birth", I ended up having just about every medical intervention known to modern medicine. My little Strudel (as he was affectionately known
in utero) just didn't wanna come out.

I really can't go any further without showing you some photos of the little man!


Liev one day old

First photo with my boy

The slumbering angel

We were home a couple of days later and this is the point at which every new parent has a mild heart attack. What the hell do we do now? It's incredible how such a tiny little creature can fill even the calmest, most together person with a sense of total overwhelming fear and apprehension. So much for my theory that at 36, I wouldn't be quite as freaked out as a young new mum - uhhhh - WRONG!!! It seems that my many years of being around other people's babies and countless babysitting favours did bugger all to quell my own fears and anxieties.

The sleep deprivation started during the labour. I went for almost three nights without sleep, which is kind of insane. Coming home with him we were faced with trying to work out his repertoire of crying. Is it hunger, dirty nappy, too cold, too hot, or just wanting a cuddle?

Doron had to go back to work after just two days at home with Liev. It nearly broke my heart to see him leaving that first morning, holding back his tears at having to leave us behind for the day. I admit (and hope by doing so that I will make other new mums feel better) that I spent many a moment in the first couple of weeks spontaneously bursting into tears. Motherhood can be so totally overwhelming in the beginning. We're only three weeks in now, but I know it's getting better every day. It is extra hard because we're pretty much doing everything on our own. My family are in Australia and Doron's family consists of an elderly father and three younger brothers, none of whom have ANY experience with babies.

Don't even get me started about the sleep deprivation! Still, I think everyone assumes that you're unlikely to get 7-8 hours of deep, uninterrupted sleep for quite some time, and certainly not in the first few months. I am learning to have a nap when he does during the day and not be quite so obsessive about cleaning the house, doing the laundry or checking my email when he goes down for a little sleep.

I am also learning that this whole experience must be taken one day at a time. Worrying about when I will go back to work - even if I will WANT to go back to work, worrying about money, worrying about moving apartment (an absolute necessity at some point in the near future given we live in a one bedroom apartment!), worrying about his future, our future; hell, even Israel's future! - it's just not worth the mental anguish! Deep breath. One...day...at...a...time...

You know, I was going to write about all the other things that have happened in the last six months since I last wrote, but you know what? It's just not important. What IS important is that Doron and I have been blessed beyond belief with the most precious gift a human being can be given - a child.

We chose Liev's name very early on in my pregnancy. I'd heard the name and liked it and Doron also liked it but it was important to him that the name had a strong, spiritual meaning too. In Hebrew, "li" means "my" and hence the popularity of names starting with "li", such as Liam (my people), Lior (my light), Liron (my joy) etc. The "ev" in Liev turns out to be an old Aramaic word meaning to be in one's prime and to have a source of inner strength as given by God. We loved the meaning and felt it was perfect for our little boy. Israel, his middle name, was my late grandfather's name and I wanted to honour his memory by naming our son after him.

It's kind of crazy to think back to where I was two and a half years ago. Newly arrived in Israel, footloose and fancy free (a nice way of saying single and lonely!), rattling around in an empty apartment until my things arrived from Australia. After the furniture came, I acquired a cat, about eight months later I acquired a boyfriend (soon to become husband) and now we are three - four if you count Sydney the cat and we are busting at the seams in this little flat.

I never thought that "Solid Gold Dancing in the Holy Land" would prove to become such an epic journey of self discovery, but I am so glad I've been able to document it along the way.

With Doron and our little Liev in tow now, I feel my journey - now our journey - has only just begun.



All about Solid Gold Dancing in the Holy Land

I started this blog in April 2006 essentially on a whim because I was bored one day (big mistake). As time went on and the countdown to my return to Israel really began, the blog began to take shape, form and meaning (some of the time). I realise that it has become an outlet for my many varied and often jumbled emotions, but most of all it is tracking the adventure of a lifetime. Bookmark me and come along for the ride!