# Sunday, 21 December 2014

Smile Gemach Chanukah play

We haven’t done a Chanukah play for a few years, and some of the younger children have never seen it, so we decided to go thespian again. Without further ado, we proudly present, the Smile Gemach Chanukah Extravaganza...

Our story begins in the Beis Hamikdosh, where the Cohanim are offering the korbonos as usual. Here we see Cohen Godol Chana Liba, being ably assisted by Cohen Elisheva (left picture), and Cohen Godol Simcha being assisted by Cohen Chaya Devoira (right picture)...

Cohanim offering korbonos

But this peaceful life was shattered when the wicked king Antiochus Simcha ascended to the throne...

Antiochus Simcha

Looks pretty mean eh? I know he looks remarkably like Cohen Godol Simcha, but that’s because we didn’t have enough actors to go around, so we all took a few parts! More fun that way!

Anyway, Antiochus’s soldiers spread through the land, trying to prevent the Yidden from keeping mitzvos and learning Torah. They rode around on mighty elephants, and wielded sharp swords, well, sharp-looking swords (if you don’t look to closely!)...

Yevonni with elephant

That’s enough to frighten anyone!

The soldiers first tried to persuade the Yidden by being nice (left picture), but then resorted to threats when that didn’t work (right picture)...

A Yevonni soldier

When the Yidden ran away to hide in caves in the hills, the soldiers rode their elephants out to find them. Note the two mighty elephants in the next picture...

Yevonnim on patrol

We do actually have a third elephant (their names are Olly, Sholly and Bolly by the way) who is much bigger, but he didn’t make it into any of the pictures.

The Yidden hid in caves, and if any soldiers came along, pretended to be play dreidel...

Hiding in a cave

Great cave eh? She does actually have a dreidel under there, but the shirt, ahem I mean bigdei kehuno were a little large for her, so you can’t see it!.

As mentioned, when the soldiers arrived, the Yidden quickly got out their dreidels and started playing (top picture), but as soon as the soldiers had gone, they resumed their earnest Torah study (bottom picture)...

Playing dreidel and learning Torah

In the meantime, the Beis Hamikdosh had been turned over to smelly idol worship, with all sorts of forbidden animals being offered...

But the Yidden rode out in the night and whacked the mighty army, sending them packing. Serves them right for being nasty.

When they came back into the Beis Hamikdosh, they had to clean it up (done with a couple of towels, but the pictures didn’t come out very well). Then they had to search for some olive oil to light the menorah. Clever Cohen Elisheva found a flask of oil...

I found a flask!

Yes, I know the bottle is empty, but if you saw the way it was thrown around, you’d understand why we didn’t want to use a full one!

Singing Ma’oz Tzur, the Cohanim happily lit the menorah again...

Lighting the menorah

After that, they had supper and went upstairs for a bath!

Other famous Biblical stories will be ripped to pieces at other times by the Smile Gemach Thespians!

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# Monday, 08 July 2013
# Monday, 06 May 2013

Two more pictures of Miriam

By popular request, here are two more pictures of the latest addition to the family.

First off, we have the loving father cuddling his daughter, who seems more interested in something on the ceiling!

Yoel cuddling his favourite (and indeed, only) daughter

Next we have a picture of Gittel with her arm around Miriam. This time, Miriam has taken her eyes away from the ceiling, and is now looking at something more interesting to the side.

Gittel with her arm around Miriam

One day we might even get a picture of her looking at the camera!

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# Sunday, 28 April 2013

Cute picture of Miriam (as if there could be any other kind!)

Taken last night, as the Boss was giving her a cuddle...

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# Thursday, 28 March 2013

Mazel tov! We're a babby and a zeidei!

With huge thanks to Hakodosh Boruch Hu, we are delighted to announce the safe arrival of Yoel and Nechoma Bryna's first baby. Without further ado, here is a picture...

Baby Yosefson

She was born at 1:55pm on first day Pesach (26th March '13), weighing 6lbs 13ozs (613 as Yoel was happy to point out!), and arrived home (ie our house) at around 6:30pm the same day! Thankfully she had enough sense to be born between the two evenings, so everyone managed both sederorim, albeit a little tired (understatement of the year!).

I had half a mind not to post a picture of the baby, but rather to repost this picture of Gittel, which co-incidentally was taken exactly two years ago to the day, as the new baby looks just like Gittel did at a few days old. Mind you, Gittel looked like all of our other children at the same age, so I could have reposted a picture of any of them! At least we know she's one of ours!

Further pictures to follow when we get some!

P.S. If anyone is wondering about the title of this post, there are various ways of pronouncing the Yiddish for "grandma." According to Yoel's tradition, they use Babby, rather than Bobby or Bubby, so that's the Boss's new title!

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# Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Four little girls in pink and white striped cardigans

No excuses for this one, just a gratuitous cute picture. The Boss went shopping (ooh-eck) the other day, and returned with some clothes for the younger girls. Amongst these were some rather cute pink and white striped cardigans, which you can see in the picture below...

Four little girls in pink and white striped cardigans

Chaya Devoira liked hers so much that she wore it on Yom Tov, over her brand new dress!

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# Monday, 20 August 2012

The Smile Gemach Summer Holidays–A Pictorial Review

This year, the Smile Gemach headed north of the border for our summer holidays. We went to a family camp, that was housed in an agricultural college in a village called Ecclesmachen (or Ekkershmacher if you ask Simcha), just to the west of Edinburgh. Amazingly enough, we had gloriously hot, sunny weather for pretty much the whole holiday, and came back tanned. Well, some came back tanned, some came back pink, and some came back plain mucky, but we all changed colour!

This is a quick summary of the holiday in pictures. Due to some very boring, and obscure technical reason, the pictures shown below are not actually in chronological order, and are largely just cropped, rather than being lovingly touched-up (who says the camera never lies!).

Aryeh Yehuda does his impersonation of Eric Morecambe, whilst demonstrating is balancing skills on a post. If you are more interested in seeing Aryeh Yehuda demonstrate his skills at falling off things, keep reading :)

A beautiful sunny day on Musselburgh beach, or rather just off Musselburgh beach for these four. And yes, they got very wet by the end of it!

Chana Liba getting wet, and enjoying every moment of it. She didn't enjoy sitting in a wet patch in the car on the way home though!

Chaya Devoira was in the middle of solving some very high-level mathematical problem, when she was distracted by what she found at the bottom of her bucket (no, I'm not going to tell you what it was!). Her favourite activity in school is the sand pit, and so going to the beach was pure Heaven for her. She couldn't decide where to dig first, and spent most of her time shovelling spades-ful of sand from one part of the beach to another.

In his usual style, Aryeh Yehuda spent a good part of his time on the beach carving elaborate structures out of the sand. This one is a particularly accurate model of our old house. By the time we left the beach, he had carved out the back garden as well, including the succoh and the back steps! I didn't get a good photo of the final product, but you get get a good idea from this one.

Shayna Brocho doing her impersonation of Eric Morecambe. As you may have guessed, this is a popular thing to do in our family!

As promised, a photo of Aryeh Yehuda falling off something. He was doing a very good job of balancing on the rope, and I just managed to catch him in the process of toppling over backwards. B"H he regained his balance, and landed on the ground vertically, and without injury.

Simcha on a bridge. Not the best photograph of her, but a good summary of how she spent most of her holiday (laughing that is, not standing on a bridge in a pink coat!)

Chaya Devoira finds a particularly funny piece of sand.

Eliyohu laughs at some obscure and long-forgotten joke.

Somewhere in Scotland, there is a forest that is partially devastated by two little girls, who decided to go picking flowers. As you can see, Chana Liba was fairly enthusiastic in her picking, especially with the lengthy frond in her right hand, of which you can see just over half!

The Boss watches Simcha being a little more modest in her flower picking activities (this time at least).

No, I have no idea what she was doing, but she was happy!

Simcha wonders if she has enough to keep her amused in the car. What you can't see are the two plastic carrier bags, stuffed with other things by her feet!

Reminiscent of Shayna Brocho at the same age, Gittel absolutely refused to set foot on the sand, and spent her time on the Boss's knee. Here, Chaya Devoira joined her, and they held hands, singing. They do this quite a lot actually, it's very sweet!

Gittel looking as cute and radiant as ever.

Simcha finds a nice place to rest. Unfortunately (for her at least), her comfy bed was part of an obstacle course, which caused some problems when Chana Liba wanted to get past!

Chaya Devoira takes delight in spinning Shayna Brocho on some Medieval instrument of torture in a play park. You can just see Shayna Brocho's hand sticking up, as she desperately tries to grab on to something solid. Actually, she loved every moment of it, but that's beside the point!

At the entrance to Linlithgow Palace (birthplace, and country residence of Mary Queen of Scots), there were (and probably still are) some holes in the walls, where the guards would look out and defend the palace against intruders. Eliyohu tries out one of these holes for size.

Predictably, Chana Liba finds a small space, and squeezes herself into it. I'm sure that girl was a sardine in a previous incarnation!

Chana Liba swings Shayna Brocho in another play park. What you can't really see from this picture is that Chana Liba's feet are about a foot off the ground! You can see the rather surprised expression on her face though!

Chana Liba and Simcha show off the very latest in ear fashion!

We still don't know how he did it, but somehow, Aryeh Yehuda managed to ease Gittel onto the sand without her realising. She grabbed a spade and did a little digging, which she enjoyed until she realised where she was and rapidly shot back off to the safety of Aryeh Yehuda's arms! You can also see the pre-pink state of Aryeh Yehuda's knees in this picture. They were a rather brighter shade by the end of the day!

I took this shot of the sun behind a solitary cloud in the middle of the day, when it was very bright and warm. Due to the angle of the shot, the camera did a short exposure, making the sky look dark. I rather liked this one, even though it doesn't look a great deal like the real thing! If you look to the right of the sun, you can see an aeroplane that had recently taken off from Edinburgh airport.

Aryeh Yehuda holding Gittel.

The Boss in a frivolous mood!

We came home last night, very tired, but very happy. Actually, the Boss and I came home exhausted, and in need of a good rest, but that's pretty normal for a family holiday!

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# Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Chaya Devoira banging a milk bottle

One of the children's breakfast time games is taking an empty milk bottle, placing the lid on gently and banging the bottle to make the lid fly up in the air. They then blow into the bottle to re-inflate it before repeating.

In this fascinating documentary, we are taken behind the scenes at Smile Gemach World Headquarters, and see Chaya Devoira banging the breakfast milk bottle...

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# Monday, 25 June 2012

Gittel walking in her new shoes

Gittel shows her prowess at walking on Monday 25th June '12, about two weeks after she took her first steps. Towards the end of the video, we see her in her new shoes, bought later that same day.

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# Monday, 06 February 2012

Chaya Devoira and Gittel in a washing basket

Having a cuddle in a washing basket (two actually, but who’s counting?), Chaya Devoira smothered Gittel with kisses and hugged her as usual!

Chaya Devoira and Gittel in a washing basket

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# Thursday, 19 January 2012

Yoel And Nechoma Bryna's Vort

Following on from the l’chaim we made following Nechoma Bryna’s engagement to Yoel, we had the tenoim the other night. I have posted some photos and a video of this event for those with nothing better to do.

In order not to make the main blog page really long, I added a separate page for the photos. There is also a link to a video you can download if you want to see the tenoim and plate-smashing live, as well as a long, drawn-out and unclear explanation of what tenoim are!

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# Thursday, 12 January 2012

Mazel tov Nechoma Bryna and Yoel

We are delighted to announce that Nechoma Bryna became a kallo early yesterday evening. The chosson is a wonderful young man called Yoel Josephson from Stamford Hill, and is currently learning in Mir yeshiva. We made a l’chaim last night, and are IY”H making a vort on Tuesday evening.

Nechoma Bryna and Yoel

And just to prove that no Jewish simcha is complete without a bit of cake, here is a picture of some cake, with Nechoma Bryna and Yoel in the background!

Nechoma Bryna and Yoel with some cake

Mazel tov chosson and kallo!

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# Wednesday, 09 November 2011

Gittel giggling

Whilst the Boss was taking Gittel and Chana Liba upstairs to bed last night, Chana Liba started jumping around (nothing new there), which set Gittel giggling (nothing new there either). For some reason, Gittel started giggling even more than usual at Chana Liba, so I grabbed my camera, resulting in the following short video…

She was giggling a lot more than this, but she had calmed down somewhat by the time I managed to get the camera. Still, very cute all the same

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# Thursday, 21 July 2011

Recent picture of Gittel

I just realised that I haven’t updated the blog for, ooh ages, and the most recent picture of Her Gittelness is somewhat out of date.

So, without further ado, we proudly present a slightly less out of date picture, that’s actually from the end of May, so about six weeks old. Ho hum, maybe one day I’ll catch up – maybe not!

Gittel - 31st May '11

Aww, ain’t she cute!

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# Monday, 28 March 2011

Gittel Silver

Following prolonged high-level discussions, we finally decided on a name sometime between Friday night and Shabbos morning, so I named the new baby in shul on Shabbos. She is now officially known as Gittel (Yiddish for “good” which seemed appropriate as she’s scrummy!), although gets called Rivka (by Simcha who had it in her head that we were going to call her Rivka and can’t shift the idea), “Little Gittel” by me (or just LG for short), “pitchkeli” (Yiddish term of endearment for someone small) when I want to wind up Nechoma Bryna, “the baby” by people who can’t remember her name, Chaya Devoira by those who get confused, etc.

Anyway, here is an up-to-date picture of her sleeping, which was taken around 2:30pm today…

Gittel sleeping

P.S. For those who didn’t notice, I turned the blog pink in honour of the occasion!

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# Thursday, 24 March 2011

Chaya Devoira gives the new baby a kiss

Chaya Devoira just toddled in to see her Mummy, who had just finished feeding the new baby. Interested to see what was going on, Chaya Devoira climbed up onto the bed and peeked at her new sister.

Knowing what an affectionate girl she is, the Boss put the baby on Chaya Devoira’s knee for a cuddle. Chaya Devoira immediately planted a bit, wet smacking kiss on the baby’s head (see the left-hand picture below).

Chaya Devoira gives the new baby a kiss

In the right-hand picture, Chaya Devoira is having her hair taken out of her eyes, where it flopped after the administered the kisses. She had just come out of the bath (and wasn’t really dressed, but had a dress over her pyjamas to see if it fitted), and so had floppy hair. I included the second picture as you can see more of the baby!

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# Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Mazel tov! A new baby!

With thanks and praise to Hashem Yisborach, we at the Smile Gemach are delighted to announce the safe arrival of a brand new baby girl…

The new baby

She was born yesterday (22nd March ‘11) at 9:32am, after a difficult, but thankfully not too prolonged labour. She weighed 5lbs, 15ozs which, whilst not big by normal standards, is about average for a Silver. B”H, she seems to be healthy and well.

They came home this afternoon, tired but happy. Predictably, everyone is over the moon with their new sister, especially Shayna Brocho, as the baby was born on her birthday!

We will be making a kiddush at home after davenning for anyone who is able to come.

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# Monday, 07 March 2011

Chaya Devoira learns to walk!

One of Chaya Devoira’s main development issues (other than her lack of speech) is her poor motability. Whilst she can crawl reasonably well, she often does this with straight legs (so-called “bear walking). She has not yet mastered the art of standing for more than a few seconds at a time, and walking was something we assumed was still some way off on the horizon. If we hold a hand and lead her, she will walk stiff-legged with us, but will sit down as soon as we let go of her hand.

The occupational therapist in the special nursery she attends told us that Chaya Devoira once took four steps, but we had never seen this repeated, and so the excitement died down.

Imagine our surprise then, when on Friday afternoon she suddenly took a few steps. A couple of the other children were playing with her, and one of them stood her up and told her to walk. Amazingly enough, she did!

I ran upstairs to grab my camera, and got it switched on just in time to see a magnificent seventeen-step stroll across the room! This was followed by some less-successful attempts, but with definite promise.

This video shows the whole thing in glorious technicolour…

Since then, she has shown less interest in walking, but has been consistent in doing a few steps here and there. She has also started standing herself up without holding on to something, which is another promising sign. Obviously we are encouraging her as much as possible. but she has quite a strong will, and if she decides she doesn’t want do something, there’s no persuading her (unless we hold out some food of course!)

Anyway, all good indications of progress, however slow.

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# Wednesday, 05 January 2011

Baking foccacia with the girls (includes recipe)

Shayna Brocho has been asking me for a few days to bake with her. She particularly wanted to make foccacia, which is a sort of olive-oil bread, and is absolutely delicious. Well, we got around to it this afternoon, so I thought I would post up the results, along with the recipe in case anyone else is interested.


  • 1lb 2oz (500g) of strong white bread flour, plus a bit extra for kneading
  • 7g of dried yeast, or the equivalent of fresh (dunno how much, we used dried)
  • 1 teaspoon of fine salt
  • 6 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil (I don't reckon you need anything like this much, see later)
  • 10fl oz (300ml) of hand-hot water
  • 2 tablespoons of rosemary leaves (we used dried rosemary, which usually comes ground up, but works fine)
  • 2 heaped teaspoons of coarse sea salt (we used quite a bit more than this)


  1. Mix the flour, yeast and fine salt in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the water and one tablespoon olive oil, and mix into a soft dough. Shayna Brocho and Chana Liba took turns doing this, and made a right royal mess!

Shayna Brocho (r) and Chana Liba (l) kneading dough
  1. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for about ten minutes, or until the dough is smooth and stretchy. They took turns here too, as their arms were hurting after a few minutes.
  2. Lightly oil a baking sheet or tin, approximately 8in by 12in (20cm by 30cm).

Chana Liba oiling the tray
  1. Roll the dough into a rectangle of about the same size, and place on/in the sheet/tin.
  2. Cover with a damp tea towel, and leave in a warm place to rise for about 90 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 230 degress C, 450 degrees F or Gas Mark 8 (whichever you prefer).
  4. Using your fingertips (they really liked this bit!), makes loads of dimples all over the surface of the dough.
  5. Dribble the remaining olive oil over the dough, and scatter the rosemary on top. As I said above, the recipe reckons you need about five tablespoons of olive oil for this, but we found that we didn't need that much - and we did put plenty on!
  6. Sprinkle the coarse salt on top of this, and bake in the middle of the oven for about 20 minutes, or until it sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.
  7. Put onto a cooling rack, and when cool, cut into squares.

Simple enough for young children to be involved, and fairly quick and easy. The end result? Well, see for yourself...

The finished foccacia

I had some with my supper later. It was delicious.

Note that foccacia is best eaten while still warm, and can go hard if left for too long. It's best made in time to eat it from the oven, but if you have any left over (unlikely to be honest) then 20 seconds in the microwave softens it up nicely.

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# Sunday, 07 November 2010

A few up to date pictures (at last)

Having finally got around to printing some pictures (from the last two years!), I thought it might be nice to put some on the blog. So, without further ado, here are three girls piled up on the couch...

And of course, no blog entry could be complete without a picture of the two world-famous steeplechasers...


Finally, in case you were wondering where Chaya Devoira as in all this, she was sitting on Mummy's knee looking bored, whilst everyone else smiled at the camera...


Well, that's it for the next two years I reckon!

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# Monday, 11 October 2010

Chaya Devoira's hearing

No, she's not been in court, this is hearing of the audio sort!

Chaya Devoira had a hearing test today, and came home with only one hearing aid. Contrary to what you might think, this wasn't because she'd pulled the other out, but rather because the hearing was normal in one of her ears. There is still a slight loss in the other ear, but it's much better than it was when she got the hearing aids.

In fairness, the medical person (not sure what status they have, I wasn't at the test) said that this is the best time of year for hearing tests, as all the flu bugs have died off during the summer, and the weather hasn't gone wet or cold enough to allow them to breed again. We are keeping the spare hearing aid, and will see how she gets on over the winter. If she gets through the winter without any hearing loss, then we might get rid of the spare in the spring, and maybe even stop using them altogether.

Also at the meeting was the support teacher for the deaf, who has been working closely with the little lady since she got the hearing aids. She reckons that Chaya Devoira's speech is of high quality, and instead of teaching her sounds, we should concentrate on teaching her words. We are going to continue with the signing, as this has become a great help in her communication, but we are to play it down in favour of proper words.

All in all, an excellent report B"H.

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# Tuesday, 24 August 2010

New camera, and a cute picture of Chaya Devoira

Well, after about seven years, and almost 11,000 pictures, we finally decided to buy a new camera. Actually, that's not strictly true. We were wondering what to do with all our points from Tesco shopping, and had been disappointed at the selection of places that would take them around Carlisle (where we were going on holiday, which may get mentioned here one day).

Instead, we decided to spend some of the points on a treat, and used them against a new digital camera. Due to the amount of food our lot scoff, we had enough points to pay for most of it (holding back a few points for a post-holiday trip to Blackpool zoo, which might also get mentioned here one day). In the end, our posh new camera cost us a total of £11.94! Seems like a good deal :)

Predictably, the very first picture was of Chaya Devoira:

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# Sunday, 22 August 2010

Bless her little cotton socks

We went to the zoo last week. They had talks throughout the day, each one about a different animal. As we were wandering around, we heard an announcement that there was going to be a giraffe talk very soon.

This sounded interesting, so we wandered along. We watched the giraffes, and listened to the talk.

When it was over, we started to leave, at which point, Simcha burst into tears. When we asked her what was wrong she said...

"I didn't hear the giraffe talk!"

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# Thursday, 10 June 2010

Update after many months

Well, having not updated this blog for ages (about seven weeks, but it feels like a long time), I decided it was about time. Trouble is, it’s too late at night to think of anything witty to write (I know, should be in bed), so I’ll compensate with a cute picture of Chaya Devoira:

Chaya Devoira

This was taken on Chol Hamoed Pesach, on a trip to Catalyst, which is a science centre on the Wirral (North-West England for those of you not familiar with our local geography). Housed in an old chemical plant, it had a fairly tall tower, whose top floor had glass walls on all sides, giving a rather good view of the Mersey, one of the bridges over it and, well, lots of other really interesting things!

Chaya Devoira had a great time crawling all over the place at a pretty impressive speed for her rather diminutive size. She will often stop in the middle of one of these crawls and look up to see where she’s going. It was during such a pause that I caught this picture.

The only other exciting thing that’s happened in the Smile Gemach recently is the return of our fish tank. Rather sadly, we had to leave this behind when we moved, as it was deemed unmoveable. The people that bought our house were very pleased to keep it, and we never got as far as getting another one in the new house.

Well, the people in our old house decided (after two years of fish keeping) that they wanted the space for a toy cupboard, and asked if we wanted our tank back. They removed the fish and took them to a fish shop, and I went round and dismantled the tank and cupboard. Unfortunately, my rather impressive (if I do say so myself) background that I built for the tank (click here for a nice picture) had been destroyed when they were trying to catch the fish (they’re a rather active type of fish, and very hard to catch), but apart from that, it was all in good order.

I managed to get the tank fitted in to our new house by the next day, and it was filled with water and ready for fish. For various reasons, it took about a week before we decided what we wanted to put in it, and another week or so before I managed to get to see the person who supplied me with fish before. We have a great arrangement: he supplies me with fish for free, and I fix his computer, which had conveniently just crashed before I rang!

So far, we only have a few fish, as you have to give the tank some time to settle down before putting in the full stock. We currently have four Neolamprologus leleupi, and four Julidochromis transcriptus "gombi." We are intending to get four each more of these two, as well as about eight Pseudotropheus saulosi, one male (the blue one) and seven females (the yellow one). Why they can’t give them simple names like guppies and platies is beyond me! Still, they look very nice. The pictures below are linked directly from other people’s sites (click the links on their names earlier in this paragraph to see more), so if you can’t see them, it means the site owners have moved the pics!

Neolamprologus leleupi
Neolamprologus leleupi

Julidochromis transcriptus "gombi"
Julidochromis transcriptus "gombi"

Pseudotropheus saulosi (blue male, yellow female)
Pseudotropheus saulosi

Well, as I have now waffled on about nothing for far more time than I should, I’m going to stop. Who knows, I might get around to updating this blog again sometime this year!

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# Monday, 18 January 2010

Silver girls go shopping in the snow

A couple of weeks ago, a pretty heavy (for Manchester) snow storm hit us. The girls trudged off to school in the snow, and we set about our daily routine.

Around 10am, we had a telephone call from the girls’ school, saying that they would be closing in ten minutes, and please could we come and pick them up. Good job we were in eh?

So, wrapping ourselves up, we set off for school. As the Boss was due to do some shopping that morning, and was nervous about the snow, I went with her. We borrowed a neighbour’s sledge, as we couldn’t find either of ours, and off we went to collect the girls and take them with us to the shops.

As we came out of one of the shops, a photographer from one of the local rags approached us and asked if he could take a picture of Simcha, who was pulling the sledge along. Shayna Brocho didn’t want to be left out, so posed with her.

Someone cut the picture out and gave it to us...

Simcha and Shayna Brocho shopping in the snow

The quality of the picture isn’t so great, but that’s because I had to scan a crumpled piece of newspaper!

As always happens, life ground to a halt as the country was totally unable to cope with the snow. Nechoma Bryna was away at the time. She had gone to Lvov in Lithuania, to teach in a school there for a couple of weeks. She came home to find the entire country at a standstill due to the snow.

Having just come back from much deeper snow, and seen the local population carry on as normal, she wasn’t impressed! She did stop complaining about the cold though. Every time anyone commented on it, she said “Huh, this is nothing. You should have been in Lvov.” Apparently it was –15 degrees C when she was there. Ouch .

Predictably, the population of Manchester grew significantly over the next couple of days as the children made snowman after snowman. Our courtyard was so full of them that the cars couldn’t have got out, even if they hadn’t been snowed in.

Most of these snowmen were the usual variety, but one in particular caught my eye. This life-sized one was beautifully carved, and was actually a lot better than this photograph shows...

Impressive snowman

It was fun while it lasted, and a huge mess afterwards. And now it's all gone... except they're forecasting more for Wednesday evening!

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# Sunday, 15 November 2009

Pictures from our recent trip to Eretz Yisroel

As our dedicated reader will know, a subsection of the Smile Gemach recently returned from an all-too brief visit to eretz Yisroel. Here are a select few photographs from the trip.

The small pictures below are linked to larger versions, so if you would like a file suitable for printing, just click on the picture. They have all been resized to fit into a 6”x4” photo, which is a standard UK size. If you want a different size, let me know.

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# Tuesday, 29 September 2009

My boys the builders

Well, to be honest I had higher aspirations for them, but I suppose it could have been worse!

Smile Gemach world headquarters is currently undergoing some expansion, which involves lots of chaps with names like Mike and Steve carrying bricks and wood around the remnants of our once-proud garden (currently a very impressive mud patch). As the walls have risen from the mud, our boys (and in truth, all the boys in the courtyard) have watched with great interest, analysing every new development.

Predictably, they wanted a go at laying bricks. I had a word with the head brickie, who seemed quite happy about the idea. And so, some 20 feet up in the air, we present Mr Aryeh Yehuda Silver, renowned talmid chochum and bricklayer in action...

Aryeh Yehuda lays some bricks

From left to right, you can see him mixing the cement, laying the brick and finally checking to see if it’s straight (aided by one of the Steves). Amazingly enough, he didn’t get his clothes dirty doing this!

Not wanting to be left out, ace apprentice, Mr Eliyohu Silver decided he also wanted to lay a brick, resulting in...

Eliyohu lays some bricks

Again, from left to right, he applied cement to the brick, checked it for being straight, and then whacked it with the trowel to move it into place.

Given that these bricks are part of our extension, I sure hope they did a good job! To my surprise, and their delight, the head brickie asked if they would like to do one of the red bricks. He said they could do one of the last ones. Aryeh Yehuda is already planning an even hapina ceremony :-)

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# Monday, 07 September 2009

Chaya Devoira’s first birthday

Amazingly enough, a year has passed since Chaya Devoira was born. In many respects the time has flown by, and it’s hard to believe she’s one already. Having said that, it’s been a long year!

Before I start waffling (common habit, as the regular reader of this blog will know), here is a picture of Chaya Devoira cutting her birthday cake...

Chaya Devoira cutting her birthday cake

Just before I clicked the button, she was actually looking at the cake, and could even have appeared to be interested in cutting it. Unfortunately, she got distracted by some interesting air molecules to her right, and that was that.

Her interest was soon rekindled when the Boss shoved some cake in her mouth though :)

The crown was made by the people in her school, and she wore it pretty much the whole day. For those curious, she does go to school, although only for two hours, three times a week. The school is for children with special needs, and they do all sorts of interesting and clever things with Chaya Devoira, including the obvious physiotherapy and speech therapy (which at this age is more to do with eating and drinking than speaking, but it all works towards the same goal), to the less obvious hydrotherapy (floating around in a bathtub) and weird massages in a multi-sensory room. This involves rubbing her down with a scouring pad, whilst pretty lights flash on and off!

We interrupt this drivel for a cute birthday picture...

Chaya Devoira cutting her birthday cake

Reflecting on the past year, we have learnt a lot, and grown a lot. Chaya Devoira has brought a lot of Simcha into our lives, as well as helping us get in touch with our own selves a lot more than we did before. We went through some emotional rollercoaster rides with her, but Boruch Hashem, we seem to have come out on top.

Happy birthday Chaya Devoira, we look forward to many more years of your smiles. I could write a lot more, but I think I might get a bit emotional for the generally irreverent tone of this blog!

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# Wednesday, 26 August 2009

One Sunday afternoon on Dartmoor (what REALLY happened!)

For those with loads of free time on their hands, and a high boredom threshold, we present the latest Smile Gemach fab report for the Daily prune...

As usual, please click the small triangle at the bottom left of the video above to play it.

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# Sunday, 26 July 2009

Four little girls

The Boss had just finished feeding Chaya Devoira, and Simcha wanted a cuddle. Chana Liba came in to ask something, and jumped on the bed to join them. Within seconds, Shayna Brocho came looking for Chana Liba, spotted what was going on and joined in. The result? Four little girls bli ayin horo...

Four little girls

Chaya Devoira looks a little surprised, but given that she had just finished a good feed, and was expecting to settle down for a quiet cuddle, who can blame her?

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Fun things to do with a leek – and you can eat them as well!

some leeks todayChana Liba was looking in the fridge for some fruit just now. Obviously confused, she asked “Hey, what’s that?

What’s what?” I replied (yeah, we have very deep conversations in our house!)

That big green thing that’s white on the end” she replied.

With all the intuition of a mother, I replied “It’s a leek.” (Shakespeare would have been sooooo jealous of dialogue like this :-))

As she was still looking rather blank, I asked “Do you know what it’s for?” which elicited a slow shake of the head.

I went over to the fridge, and removed the rather oversized leek from the shelf. Holding it carefully at the white end, I proceeded to thwack her gently on the tochus several times, whilst explaining that this was what a leek was for.

For some odd reason, this turned out to be the funniest thing she had experienced for some time, and she burst into uncontrollable fits of giggles. This of course encouraged me even more, and so began the Great Smile Gemach Leek Thwacking Event.

I chased her around the house, thwacking her whenever I could, whilst she tried (not very hard) to escape. After I was all puffed out, she grabbed the leek and started thwacking me! Shayna Brocho, not wishing to be outdone, grabbed it off her and started thwacking both of us. Simcha, not quite sure what the fun was all about, but not wishing to miss a moment, came hurtling down the hall after us, and the four of us ended up running around the house, and outside into the courtyard. Thwacking a few surprised-looking small children along the way, we made our way around the courtyard and back into the house, taking turns to grab the leek and get thwacking.

This went on for some time, until we all finally ran out of breath and flopped back in our chairs (we were supposed to be eating at this time). The leek, looking somewhat worse for the experience, went back into the fridge, and would have remained there, except that Shayna Brocho decided it was time for some more thwacking! She grabbed it and started bashing me over the bonce with it. This of course started the whole thing off again, resulting in several more rounds of leek thwacking.

By this time, several sections of leek had become somewhat detached from their original place of repose, and were used as secondary thwackers by those not in charge of the main instrument of thwackeration. This allowed Mummy and Nechoma Bryna to fall victim to the Zealous Leek Thwackers of Salford (or the Zltos as they didn’t become known).

Maybe this wasn’t what Hashem had in mind when He invented the leek, but it’s rare that four people can have so much fun for 70p! Visit your local supermarket and enquire about large sized leeks, you won’t regret it :-)

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# Thursday, 23 July 2009

Chaya Devoira’s check-up

We went to London on Sunday for Chaya Devoira’s latest check-up. This was a routine one, just to keep an eye on her after the operation.

B”H, they were very pleased with her. The slight leak on one of her valves is still there (makes her sound like an old car!), but they are not worried about it at all. They took her off one of the two medications that she was still on. They left the other as it helps give her heart a little more oomph, which will help her cope with the leak.

We are going back in early Feb, and hope that they will take her off this other medication as well.

Other than that, she’s doing great. B”H, she’s developing a lot better than we had expected, and whilst it’s too early to say for sure, it does look hopeful for the future.

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# Tuesday, 09 June 2009

Simcha and Chaya Devoira

The physiotherapist came today, and she was very pleased with Chaya Devoira’s progress. During the session, she managed to persuade Chaya Devoira to sit up all on her own! This was the very first time she has ever done this.

Unfortunately, by the time I came in the room and saw what was going on, Chaya Devoira was getting a little tired, and was distracted by the camera, so I didn’t catch her first ever sitting.

The therapist also encouraged her to kneel up and lean on the edge of the play nest, which resulted in this…

Chaya Devoira

Simcha, not wishing to be left out, came over to give Chaya Devoira a hug, causing Chaya Devoira to flop backwards! Still, it made a cute picture…

Simcha and Chaya Devoira

Chaya Devoira has learnt how to play with her feet, which apparently is an important developmental stage. I get told off for things like that, but I guess that’s the difference between being eight and a half months and being six and a half years old (which is what Shayna Brocho reckons I am!).

Simcha is now outside on her trike, learning to use the “puddles” as she calls them. Instead of sitting on the trike and walking along, she can now puddle!

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# Thursday, 14 May 2009

Update on Chaya Devoira

Well, it’s been some time since I last blogged about Her Majesty, also known as Chaya Devoira :). This is partly due to not having as much to report as the previous few months, and partly ‘cos my computer broke and I didn’t have enough time to think about blogging whilst I was trying to fix it, putting up with a temporary one while the new one arrived, uninstalling all the rubbish that came on the new one, installing all the fab stuff I wanted, catching up with a backlog of stuff caused by the above, etc.

All of which is a poor excuse, but as it’s the best you’re going to get, you’ll have to put up with it!

The great news is that Chaya Devoira is doing really well B”H. Since the operation she has been like a different child. She eats well, and has started on solids. We had her assessed yesterday for a local Jewish special school, and they gave her a very good report. It’s obviously too early to tell properly, but the indications are that her condition is mild, which gives us a lot of hope for her.

Here’s a moderately recent picture of Chaya Devoira fast asleep, hence the dark shadows around her eyes...

Chaya Devoira

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# Monday, 06 April 2009
# Thursday, 26 March 2009

Our trip to London

Chaya Devoira had an appointment back in the hospital last Tuesday, as a follow-up from the operation. We took the opportunity to have an afternoon off, and went down on Monday afternoon.

We spent the afternoon in the Natural History Museum, and the Science Museum. This was a bit like being a little boy again! When I was young, my mother used to take me to London for the day on my birthday. We spent the morning in the Natural History Museum, followed by lunch in one of the kosher salt beef bars that used to exist in Soho (not the sort of place a Yiddishe boy would go nowadays!), and the afternoon in Hamley's toy shop, spending my birthday money.

As previously blogged, we spent far too much in Hamley's last time we were in London, so we decided not to do that again. No, this time we spent far too much in the Science Museum's shop! They have some amazing stuff there, although it's pretty pricey. Trouble is, the stuff is so tempting, it's hard to resist! Anyway, we got some more birthday presents, and some afikomen presents at the same time. I even got my own birthday present, which of course I've forgotten about, and will be very surprised about when I get it!

As usual, I've waffled on and forgotten the main point of this blog point. Although spending some time together was an important side benefit of the trip, the main purpose was to take Chaya Devoira for her appointment :-)

They did the usual stuff, a heart scan, ultrasound thingy, some other clever things too. The important point is that the doctor gave her a very good report boruch Hashem. He confirmed that there is a small leak in one of the valves of her heart, but was quick to point out that this was not significant, and could very well never affect her. Even if it requires correction, this could be a matter of decades!

After the appointment, we had lunch in the arboretum of the hospital, where we spent many hours last time. The sun was shining gloriously through the glass roof, and the windows were open, creating a lovely summer feel to the meal.

We then went back to the train station, with a quick stop in Trafalgar Square to say hello to Lord Admiral Nelson, who looked somewhat nervous on top of that column! Sadly the famous masses of pigeons that always used to be a feature of the square were gone. There were signs around asking people not to feed the pigeons, and very few pigeons to feed. I guess they read the signs and went elsewhere!

Anyway, we returned home, tired but happy in the late afternoon, just in time for the children's supper, where we sang Happy Birthday to Eliyohu, for it was indeed his birthday. Supper was spicy chicken cous cous, with boozy trifle for dessert. Yum.

We are going back for another appointment at the end of July, at which they intend to take her off the remaining medicines. After that, it should be just an annual appointment to keep a general eye on her.

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# Sunday, 22 March 2009

Family picture

It's rare we manage to get a decent picture of everyone, but we managed it the other day! Unfortunately, the picture quality isn't as good as it might be, but the smiles are nice...

Smile Gemach family picture 22nd March 09
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# Friday, 20 March 2009

Chaya Devoira laughing

The Boss was jiggling Chaya Devoira up and down, causing her to laugh and giggle. I managed to catch a couple of shots of her...

Chaya Devoira laughing

Maybe I'll try video next time, because the smiles look far better in motion, and the giggle are just gorgeous!

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# Thursday, 19 March 2009

Simcha's birthday

Today, Simcha has reached the grand age of three. She has finally admitted to being big, but is quick to point out that she's still a girl. Apparently she's going to be a boy when she grows up! Don't ask me, I only live here!

Anyway, when we were in London, we took some time out (whilst Chaya Devoira was in the ICU) to visit Hamley's, one of the best toy shops I've ever been in - and I've been in a few! Amongst (too many) other things, we bought an inflatable bouncy castle for Simcha's birthday present. We presented it to her this morning, and I had the joy of trying to blow it up. It took over an hour, even with the aid of a foot pump, but the results were well worth it...

Simcha in her new bouncy castle

She giggled and bounced until the others came home. Predictably, everyone else wanted a go too! Simcha was very good about it, and let them all have a good bounce.

After bouncing, it was time for supper, and the inevitable birthday cake...

Simcha in her new bouncy castle

A good time - and a full tummy - was had by all.

Happy birthday Simcha.

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# Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Post Purim post

Due to a combination of factors, including generally being busy, a computer crash, laziness and a few other things, I never managed to post some pictures from Purim.

So, better late than never, here are the three children who dressed up...

The children on Purim

On the left is Aryeh Yehuda, whose whole class dressed up as convicts. In the middle is Simcha, dressed as a sheep, and eating sweets (which she did a lot on Purim). On the right is Eliyohu, whose class smartly dressed as soldiers.

On Purim day, Eliyohu's real inner self came out, and he dressed as a Chassidishe Rebbe, which I reckon is what he'll end up! Here he is in the middle of a mitzvo tanz (ecstatic dance done by some Chassidim when in a high state of excitement about a mitzvo)...

Eliyohu dancing

Nechoma Bryna didn't dress up, Shayna Brocho dressed up, but didn't stay still long enough for me to photograph, and Chana Liba only wore her costume for a very short time, which I missed when I was in shul, before deciding she wanted to dress in Shabbos clothes instead.

Plenty of sweets were eaten, and a good time was had by all!

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# Sunday, 01 March 2009

Chaya Devoira smiling

Boruch Hashem, following her operation, Chaya Devoira now smiles quite a lot. They are often fleeting, but there are more and more of them. Hopefully they will last longer too, which should make for easier photography!

Anyway, I managed to capture two smiles, and couldn't decide which to put on here, so I put on both!

Chaya Devoira smiling

More smiles as I can grab them :-)

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# Monday, 23 February 2009

Finally home!

I am typing this blog post with Chaya Devoira on my knee :-)

They arrived at around 6:30pm this evening, well, tired, and free of wires and tubes. The Boss worked out that Chaya Devoira has only spent four more days at home than she has in hospital in her entire life. Let's hope that's going to change from now on.

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# Sunday, 22 February 2009

Ooh-err, they could be home tomorrow!

Having blogged this morning about how they might be home on Tuesday or Wednesday, the Boss rang before to say that the doctors had decided that they were being overly cautious when increasing Chaya Devoira's medicine, and they had done two increases today.

They need to take a blood sample in the morning, and wait for the results, but assuming that it is clear, they should just discharge her immediately. This means that they could be out by lunchtime, and maybe home by early evening!

Yippee :-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-):-)

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I came home, but they didn't!

After all the build-up, we woke up on Friday morning to be told that Pendlebury had had an emergency admission at 5am, and there wasn't a bed for Chaya Devoira. After some discussions over the telephone, it became clear that she wasn't going anywhere that day. As the following day was Shabbos, and they don't normally transfer non-urgent cases on a Sunday, this meant that she wasn't going anywhere until Monday at the earliest.

We were now left with the difficult decision of what I should do. On the one hand, the children were all safely staying with friends, and the Boss needed me with her. On the other hand, we had told them all that we were coming home, and we were concerned about the effect that not coming would have on them.

After some lengthy discussion, we decided that I should come home by train. The hospital in London said they would keep in contact with Pendlebury, and see when a bed became available.

So, it's now Sunday morning, and they are still there. There is an ambulance booked for tomorrow morning, assuming that Pendlebury can find a bed.

The good news is that Chaya Devoira is doing great, putting on weight nicely and behaving herself. She is totally tubeless, wireless and not connected to any machines at all. You can actually see her pretty little face for the first time in months!

They increased the medicine again this morning (see the post from Thursday about that), and have only one more increase to do. This means that they may be discharged completely on Tuesday or Wednesday - hurray!

Thanks to everyone who sent such lovely messages. We appreciate every one, even if we didn't get chance to respond individually.

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# Thursday, 19 February 2009

Looks like we're going home tomorrow!

The doctor came round this morning, and said that he had spoken to the people at Pendlebury, who are ahppy to take Chaya Devoira back tomorrow (Friday), as long as they can find a bed. An ambulance is being arranged, which will leave fairly early in the morning. I will stay in the hospital tonight, as it's very unlikely I could get down to the hospital early enough. We impressed upon them the importance of going early, as it is Friday tomorrow.

Chaya Devoira will need to stay in Pendlebury for a few days, whilst they wean her off one of the post-operation drugs, and monitor her weight. This means that she will be in hospital over Shabbos, but at least she will get loads of visitors as soon as Shabbos ends!

So, we just have to daven that there is a bed available.

Chaya Devoira continues to feed well B"H, so it looks like the feeding tube may soon be redundant - Hurray! The nurse took off the nasal specs that were used to feed oxygen into her nose. When she has come off oxygen before, they have left the specs on in case they were needed. It seems that they are satisfied that she isn't going to need them again. This is great news.

What's even better is that you can see most of her pretty little face now. The feeding tube is still there, but that's all. Hopefully that will be gone soon :-)

Update later that day...

It's official, we are being transferred back up north in the morning. They want to keep an eye on her for a few more days, partly to make sure she puts on enough weight without being fed down the tube, and partly because they are giving her a drug that she will need for a few months, and they need to increase the dosage gradually, checking her blood pressure every 15 minutes for the first two hours after each increase.

However, being in hospital in Manchester is defintely better than being in hospital in London. At least the other children will be able to visit.

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# Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Good news about Chaya Devoira

Boruch Hashem, Chaya Devoira continues to go from strength to strength. They took her off oxygen completely this morning, and she stayed off it until around 5:30pm.

When they did the surgery, they attached wires to the electrical control centre of her heart (no, I didn't know it had one either until the other day), in case there were any problems with heart rhythms. If there had been, they would have been able to attach a pacemaker to the wires and regulate her heart. As this hasn't been necessary, and the chances of it being necessary are now vanishingly small, they removed the wires. This is another step towards home :-)

However, the best bit of news altogether was that the doctor decided that Chaya Devoira can start feeding properly, instead of using the tube. They are leaving it to the Boss to judge if she is getting enough milk at each feed, and will monitor her weight to make sure that she is taking enough. Although she is going to need some time to build up her strength fully, she did well today, and scoffed a lot!

We are hoping to get some decision tomorrow about when we can go home. As they still need to wean her off one of the medicines, and they want to keep an eye on her weight, it is unlikely that they will let her leave hospital before Shabbos, but it does seem quite likely that they will try and transfer her to Pendlebury before then. This will be a great move for all of us, especially the other children, who haven't seen the Boss or baby for a week now. We'll have to see what they decide in the morning.

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# Tuesday, 17 February 2009

No present for Chaya Devoira, finally on the ward, but not going home yet

4pm, back in the KIC

As previously reported, I went off to Covent Garden, although along a rather meandering route. This was due to the fact that I have an underdeveloped sense-of-direction gland, and regularly get lost when I don't have my Chief Navigator with me. I somehow ended up in Trafalgar Square, but managed to make my way to Covent Garden without too much excess delay.

When I got there, I found that the shop had almost sold out of the little toy I wanted to buy for Chaya Devoira, and the only two they had left appeared to be defective. Ho hum. I wandered around the shop for a bit, partly as I couldn't be bothered walking back empty-handed straight away. I found a nice wind mobile that I thought would make a good present for one of the girls, so I bought three!

When I got back to the hospital, I found that they were still in the ICU. Yolanda had just gone, and the Boss was getting hungry. We kept being told that we were going to the ward very soon, and then that it would be later, and then that it actually be very soon, and so on. We finally made the move around 2pm, and by the time we had got there, settled in, plugged all of Chaya Devoira's wires in and so on, it was about 3pm. That's quite late for lunch, especially when the hospital will be bringing the Boss' supper at about 5pm. Still, we managed to force ourselves.

The doctor came around just before. He is very happy with Chaya Devoira's progress, and gave us an outline of the plan for the next few days. Obviously, everything is all dependent on how she does, as unexpected changes are to be expected :-)

The bottom line is that there is a faint possibility that we will be let out on parole on Thursday, although this seems unlikely. If all goes well, and Chaya Devoira behaves herself, then they will let us out on Friday. Given the (lack of) speed with which hospitals work, this could make it difficult, if not impossible, to get home before Shabbos. We have a few people who we could ask to have us over Shabbos, although it would obviously be much nicer if we could get home. If it didn't work out for Friday, then it would be Sunday.

So, we settle down for a few days on the ward. We are on a different bit of the ward from before, mainly due to the virus that broke out in the bed next to us. That end of the ward is still closed off. We did quite well out of that, as we are now in a bay of four beds instead of six, and only two others of these are occupied. One of those is waiting for the doctor so they can go home. What's even better is that this bay appears to be completely devoid of TVs!!! This is wonderful, as it's so lovely and quiet. We are davenning hard that they don't decide to bring the TVs back :-)

I think that's all there is to report for now. Further blog posts as events warrant.

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Still waiting to go to the ward

11:30am - I'm currently in the hospital's Knowledge and Information Centre (or KIC to its friends), which saves me having to risk more wrist-slapping by using the ICU's PC, or having to wait until I get back to Yol and Jon's tonight. Yolanda has just come to see Chaya Devoira, and they are fairly strict in the ICU about only two visitors per patient, so I have been chucked out! I am off to Covent Garden to buy a present for Chaya Devoira, which we saw the other day whilst having a walk, but didn't buy.

Anyway, after all the excitement of leaving ICU, we didn't! It seems that the ward still aren't ready to take anyone, so we haven't moved.

We aren't too worried actually, Chaya Devoira is absolutely fine B"H, and doesn't need ICU care at all. She's only here because they don't have a bed upstairs yet. Although she doesn't need it, the care is one-to-one here, as opposed to one-to-five on the ward, and it's quieter. No TVs or DVDs being played at obnoxious volumes, or even at any volumes! Suits us.

We had a small smile when the ward manager came around to explain why we hadn't been sent upstairs yet. Due to a printing mistake, her ID card identified her as a "War Manager" - presumably required for when fights break out as to why people haven't been transferred yet :-)

She said that she had spotted the mistake when she got the badge, but was sufficiently amused by it to keep it.

Not a lot else to say. London is grey, but we are bright and cheerful. Chaya Devoira is fast asleep in the Boss' arms (or she was a few minutes ago when I came downstairs, so we can't really ask for more.

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# Monday, 16 February 2009

Today's Chaya Devoira update

The previous blog post was rather short as I got caught by one of the sisters, who told me that I wasn't really supposed to be using the hospital's computer! She was very nice about it, but I had to end rather quickly!

Anyway, the news is very good. Boruch Hashem, the doctors are very happy with Chaya Devoira. After a difficult day yesterday, she was wonderful today. She spent most of the day asleep, but woke up a few times and was quite happy. Her heartbeat was steady, at a good rate, and her oxygen levels were high.

They have removed pretty much all of the wires and tubes from her, and have just left the oxygen feed to the nasal specs, and the inevitable monitoring of the oxygen levels, blood pressure and heartbeat.

Her heart seems to have settled into a normal rhythm, after having done some interesting things on Sunday. At one point, the two sides of her heart were not beating in synch, and they were considering attaching a pacemaker to the wires sticking out of her tummy. Apparently this is not unusual, but boruch Hashem, it wasn't necessary.

They were going to move her up to the ward this afternoon, but due to an outbreak of a virus, they needed to do more comprehensive cleaning than normal before letting her up, and it was getting late. They decided to leave it until tomorrow morning, so she is spending another night in ICU. We are quite happy about this, as she gets closer attention in there than she would on the ward.

Not a lot else to tell you. We are both tired, and were falling asleep this afternoon. As Chaya Devoira was asleep, we decided to go for a walk to wake ourselves up. We ended up going to Hamleys (hugely large toy shop in central London), to buy some presents for the other children. We had a great time! Unfortunately, we would have needed the bank balance of a small arabian country to buy all the toys we wanted, so we had to content ourselves with just a few things.

I'm not sure how we're going to get the stuff home, especially as Simcha's present is rather heavy! We bought her a Simcha-sized inflatable bouncy castle. I'm not sure how we will keep the other children out of it though!

Going to bed, whacked out. night night.

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An exclusive update - live from the ICU!

This is going to be a very quick one, as I'm using the PC connected to Chaya Devoira's machines in the ICU, and I'm not really supposed to be! The nurse looked the other way!

Boruch Hashem, she is doing really well, and should be going up to the ward in the next hour or so (it's 6:30pm). She's fast asleep, and has smiled a few times.

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# Sunday, 15 February 2009

Quick Chaya Devoira update

Sunday night, still at Yol and Jon's.

After a difficult day, Chaya Devoira was sleeping peacefully when we left her this evening. She has had a few tubes removed, and is looking a lot better. They are hoping to take her to the ward tomorrow, and we are quietly hopeful that we may be home for Shabbos.

All Tehillim is still greatly appreciated, as she is not out of the woods yet, but boruch Hashem, she is well on the way.

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# Saturday, 14 February 2009

This is your Captain speaking, everything is under control

This has been an amazing few days. We are currently at Yolanda (the Boss's younger sister) and Jonathon's house in Golders Green, London England. I thought it would be a good opportunity to type up some of the events of the past few days.

Before I start, please let me assure you that boruch Hashem, Chaya Devoira is fine. The operation seems to have been a complete success. She is still in ICU, but they are expecting t otake her to the ward tomorrow. Right, with that out of the way, here's the story...

We arrived around 2pm on Thursday, and checked in. We were met by a Jewish nurse, who said straight away that she would help sort us out for Shabbos! That was a good start.

The afternoon was a whirlwind of blood tests, x-rays, scans, etc. They discovered along the way that along with all of her other problems, she had a narrowed aorta, which would need sorting out at the same time.

The surgeon turned out to be someone we had heard of, and had davenned that we would get. Apparently he is one of the top heart surgeons in the country.

As you can imagine, we didn't sleep too well that night. We were tired, but the hospital was a bit noisy, and we were a bunch of emotions. We slept on the ward, or rather we lay down on the ward. Neither of us slept much.

Friday morning, they took her down to anesthesia about 9:15am, giving us only a very brief chance to kiss her before she went under. It was a very difficult moment, not knowing if we'd ever see her again. I wanted to give her a brocho before they took her away, but I didn't even get chance for that. They said that it wold take about 45 mins for it to take full effect, so we reckoned they would start around 10am. The surgeon told us it would take about 3-4 hours.

Anyway, we decided that staying in the hospital would be a very depressing and stressful experience, so we went for a walk. We found a park by the Thames, and sat and said Tehillim for a while. After that, we walked along the river, crossed over and went to Covent Garden. It was a surreal experience, knowing that our baby was on the operating table, but us acting like tourists. We couldn't think too much about what was going on, and it was the best way to cope.

Maybe we were wrong, but there's only so much you can daven. After that, you have to accept that we are helpless. Hashem was in control, not us. We have never felt so helpless, and yet so helped!

We got back to the hospital around 1pm, thinking that the operation should be ending sometime during the next hour. We ate something, assuming that after the operation, we would go down to ICU, and may not get chance to eat for some time.

The time dragged on, and we got very nervous. Once 2pm came, and we hadn't heard anything, we were even more so. By the time 3pm came along, we were seriously wondering if something had gone wrong chas v'sholom.

We finally got word at 3:30pm that they were just finishing, and that she would be going to ICU sometime in the next half hour. As it happened, we didn't get called to ICU until 4:40pm, by which time we were in a state! We had already got as ready for Shabbos as we could.

Whilst we were waiting, we had called the children and some friends to let them know the good news. The happiness in everyone's voices certainly helped calm us down.

Going into ICU was not something I would wish on anyone. Seeing her little body, with a huge bloody line up the middle of her chest, and tubes and wires everywhere was pretty tough. There were monitors and machines all over the place, and about five doctors and nurses around the cot.

They told us that the operation had taken longer than they expected, but that everything seemed ot have gone OK. They had done all the work they intended to do, and hadn't found anything unexpected.

We sat there for quite a while, each lost in our own thoughts. Oddly enough, we reacted in very different ways. Once I had got over the shock of seeing her like that, I was elated. I had seriously been thinking that we would never see her again, so being able to see her breathing and alive was like having all my birthdays (and a few of yours as well) all wrapped into one. The Boss was in floods of tears, partly from relief, partly from seeing her like this. She calmed down after a while, but it wasn't easy for her.

We stayed by her bed for an hour or so, then decided to go and have our Shabbos meal and come back down.

We went back to ward, and had just got things ready, when the nurse came and said that the surgeon was in ICU if we would like to come. We raced down, but missed him by a moment. In her haste to get us, the nurse forgot to ask him to wait, and he went off. We hung around to see if he was still in the area, but it became obvious after a while that he had left so we went back up. I suppose after doing two very long and difficult operations in one day, he wanted to go home.

Anyway, we went back upstairs and made kiddush. I started singing in a quiet voice, trying to block the TVs and mindless babble of the people around us from my mind. Halfway through Sholom Aleichem, it occurred to me that the other people on the ward seemed to think it was perfectly OK to play their TVs at a high volume, so why was I singing quietly? I decided to sing louder, and to heck with the lot of them!

We had a surprisingly nice meal, considering the situation and the surroundings.

Afterwards, we went back down to ICU and sat by her cot for a while. They were a little concerned about her blood pressure, as it was higher than they wanted, but they kept telling us that this was not unusual, and a lot of things could happen during the first 24 hours after major surgery.

Sheer mental and physical exhaustion finally dragged us away. We went back up to the ward and went to bed. Neither of us slept too well, although the fact of having so little sleep the night before helped us.

Today was a weird day. I davenned on my own, which I have only done twice on a Shabbos morning since we got married, the second of those being in Crumpsall hosptial, the morning Chana Liba was born. After that, we made kiddush and and some cake and nosh, before going down to the ICU again.

She had stabilised during the night, and they were happy with her progress. It was an odd experience, being totally helpless, and having nothing to do there, but not wanting to leave her.

We stayed for a couple of hours, then went back up to the ward to eat lunch. After we had finished, exhaustion hit me, and I decided to have a rest. The Boss went back down to the ICU.

Due to the TVs, I couldn't really sleep, but dozed fitfully for a while. I came to around 3:34pm, davenned mincha and went down to the ICU. They had taken the drain tube off her, which was a very good sign. This tube was left by her heart after the operation, and was sticking out of her tummy. Any blood that came from the incisions was drained through the tube into a bucket on the floor. This helped them see how the wound was healing, as when the tube stopped dripping, they knew the heart was repairing itself. Being able to take out this tube was a significant step in her healing.

We spent the rest of Shabbos there, and ate a sholosh seudos of biscuits and crisps. The nurse on duty today was quite chatty, and made a point of telling us everything she was doing. This was both interesting, and a useful way of helping pass the time.

After Shabbos, we came to Yol & Jon's, where we had our first hot drink for a couple of days! The Boss has gone to bed, and I am following suit right now.

They are intending to take her off the ventilator tomorrow, and see if she can manage to breathe on her own. Once she is off this for 24 hours, they will send her back to the ward. This will not be until Monday at the earliest. We are going to stay here whilst she is in ICU, and then we'll see after that. The Boss will stay in the hospital once she goes back to the ward, but I may still sleep here and go down there for the day. we'll see.

Anyway, this has been far longer than I expected to write. Hard to stop, there' so much more to tell, but I can't think straight.

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# Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Latest Chaya Devoira news

Well, having managed three blog posts that didn't really have anything to do with Chaya Devoira, despite her being mentioned briefly, here is one that's just about her and no-one else.

Despite my best efforts, she remains very difficult to photograph. She actually looks a lot cuter than this photograph would imply, but this is the best I could manage this morning...

Chaya Devoira this morning

For the technically minded, the white tube is a nasogastric feeding tube, which currently has 23 ml/hour of milk flowing through it, up her nose and down into her tummy. The clear tubes supply oxygen to the little device stuck up her nose, and all that tape is to hold it all together!

Anyway, it's not Tuesday, and we aren't in London. For various reasons that I haven't quite clarified, but are immaterial, we didn't go to London yesterday. There was a surgical meeting at the Evelina hospital yesterday, and it seems they decided to stick with the original date of this Friday (13th Feb) for the operation. We are waiting for confirmation from them that they have a bed, and that the hospital here can arrange transportation, but it looks like this is what will happen.

Boruch Hashem, Chaya Devoira is doing a lot better today. She has been off the SiPAP since 7am yesterday morning (it's now 5pm today), and she's coping fine. As a result, they are moving her out of intensive care today, as soon as they can find a bed on another ward. We are actually quite sorry to leave ICU, as the care has been fantastic, but we don't have the choice. Amusingly enough, the nurses there have become very attached to Chaya Devoira, and are quite upset to see her go.

One thing that we are going to miss when she leaves the ICU is a wonderful fibre optic device they have there, which keeps her amused for ages. It is a large bundle of thin tubes, which glow at various points, and change colour in a very mesmerising way. She will sit and gaze at this contentedly for ages, as will we. If anyone fancies buying us one a present, you can buy them here for the bargain price of £559.00! Can you say "e-x-p-e-n-s-i-v-e" boys and girls?

So, if you find yourself with nothing to do on Friday (no idea what time yet), please say some Tehillim for her. Thanks.

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# Monday, 09 February 2009

New PSG video

Being very busy, without a moment to spare, I have uploaded a new video of the PSG children. For some reason, the quality seems to have deteriorated when it was uploaded, but you get the gist anyway...

If you like the video, please leave a nice comment below, and maybe one on YouTube. Open the video on YouTube, and you can leave a comment and rate it there.

See, didn't mention Chaya Devoira once. Oops, did there!

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# Sunday, 08 February 2009

A fruity post for a change

Just to prove that this isn't actually the Chaya Devoira blog, as you might have thought recently, here is a post that has nothing to do with her.

As tonight is Tu BiShvot (note that the correct Ashkenazic pronunciation is Sh'vot and not Sh'vat, despite the latter being common usage), Shayna Brocho and Chana Liba made fruity crafts in school today.

Chana Liba made a fruit garden, complete with fence...

Chana Liba's Tu Bishvot craft

The fruit, from left to right, are a star fruit, a slice of orange with a piece os glace cherry in the middle, a rolled slice of dried apple, and a fusalis (also known as a Chinese gooseberry, despite not being Chinese, and not remotely related to the gooseberry).

The grass effect was made, rather curiously, by smearing a piece of cling film with jam, and sprinkling desiccated coconut over it. I'm not quite sure why, but it did make for a rather sticky walk home from school!

Shayna Brocho made a very cute craft, which at first glance does look rather like a hippopotamus, but is in fact a baby buggy, complete with grape baby...

Shayna Brocho's Tu Bishvot craft

It looks a lot more like a buggy in real life! This craft was rather appropriate for Chaya Devoira, who unexpectedly ended up being mentioned in this post as well! Maybe I should change the name to the Chaya Devoira Blog :)

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# Wednesday, 04 February 2009

Common cold, so we could be on our way!

The results of the test finally came back, and it looks like the illness was nothing more than a common cold. They are going to take another sample tomorrow and confirm this, but if it is, then they are going to get moving.

Given that tomorrow is Thursday, so the results won't come back until Friday, they will probably keep them in hospital over the weekend, and then take them down to London in an ambulance on Monday, with the intention of operating on Tuesday. This all assumes that the hospital in London has the availability.

I'm terrified and elated all at the same time. It's a weird feeling.

Any Tehillim and davenning that you can do for Chaya Devoira bas Sharon Yehudis would be greatly appreciated.

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# Tuesday, 03 February 2009

Still in ICU, coming off the SiPAP

Chaya Devoira is still in the intensive care unit, but is doing OK. They took her off the SiPAP (machine that pumps pressurised oxygen into her nose) for a few hours this morning, but had to put her back on afterwards. They are going to try again in the morning, and see how she gets on.

The interesting thing is that the doctors are now suggesting that the breathing difficulties might not have been due to a virus or infection, but might have been heart failure :-o

They are also talking about transferring her directly from the hospital to Guys in London, which should speed things up. Trouble is, they still don't know if it's viral or bacterial. It seems that they don't send off samples over the weekend, and Monday's batch are sent at 10pm, so if they take any samples after about 5pm on a Friday, they don't get sent off until Monday night at 10pm. Very efficient!

End of bulletin. Further newsflashes as events warrant. This is Silver of the PSG signing off...

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# Monday, 02 February 2009

In intensive care - but don't worry, it's not that serious!

Chaya Devoira was transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU) this morning. Before you panic, this was only because they didn't have a bed in the high dependency unit (HDU) where she went the last couple of times. Just like before, her breathing became more difficult as the virus/infection set in, and she got to the stage where they wanted to put her on to the SiPAP machine that pumps the oxygen into her at a sufficient pressure to keep her lungs open. They would normally have done this in HDU, but they didn't have any beds, so she went into ICU instead.

Now, I'm pleased to be able to say that I've never had the need to see inside an ICU before. Having seen the HDU, and knowing that ICU is one step up in care from HDU, I imagined that ICU would be a very silent place, where each bed was in its own cubicle, where the nurses crept around and spoke in hushed tones, and the inert patients would lie semi-comatose in their beds, each hooked up to a wealth of serious-looking machines.

Hah, was I ever wrong! Talk about noisy! It was more like an open ward, albeit with rather more security on the door, but with loads of people bustling around. True, there were more machines than I'd seen in one place before, but the majority of these were familiar to me from other wards.

Anyway, right in the middle of it all was Chaya Devoira, with her strange mask on and the SiPAP bubbling away (it removes the moisture from the oxygen before shoving it up her nose, as it wouldn't be too pleasant having a nose full of water!). She was calm and drowsy, although it turned out that this was due to heavy sedation.

All in all, she is doing fine. They slowly reduced the oxygen levels during the day, but she is still on 35% oxygen, which is quite a lot higher than the 21% in normal air. They aren't in a hurry to get her off the SiPAP, as they would prefer to make sure she's really better first. Sounds good to me.

The cardiologist came round while I was there, and we asked him how this would affect her operation. He said that it depends on whether she has a virus or an infection. If it's a virus, then they will want to leave her for a couple of weeks before operating. If it's bacterial, then they can go ahead straight away.

It turns out that Guys hospital, where she is to have the operation, currently has a very short waiting list, and they were going to ring us on Sunday to ask her to take Chaya Devoira down, so they could operate today! As she was admitted on Shabbos, this never happened.

It seems that if she has an infection, they could call us at any time for the operation. This is good, in that she should get seen sooner, but it puts us on alert pretty much the whole time, which is quite a strain. It also brings the whole thing more closely into reality, which had to happen some time or other. Subconsciously, I think we were putting off the thought. Looks like we can't now!

Anyway, no more news for now. IY"H she will be home soon, but we'll see.

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# Sunday, 01 February 2009

Sigh, back in hospital - when we were so close

Due to breathing difficulties, we had to take Chaya Devoira into hospital yesterday (Shabbos). It seems she has yet another virus, so is back on the same routine as before.

Unfortunately, we are still at the difficult stage, where her breathing is very laboured, and she needs high amounts of oxygen pumped into her to keep her levels to a safe point.

Apart form anything else, the problem with all of this is that she was supposed to have her heart operation on the 13th Feb. The cardiology people said that they want a full ten clear days from when she gets over the virus before they will operate. Her previous bouts of these viruses have kept her in hospital for 11 or 12 days, so if this pattern is to be repeated, she would only be coming out of hospital the day we are supposed to go to London to check in.

Oh well, all in its right time I suppose. For now I'm playing Mummy again.

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# Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Chaya Devoira fast asleep in her chair

I managed to catch a picture of Chaya Devoira whilst she was fast asleep, with a full tummy and (presumably) sweet dreams.

As you can see, she has filled out somewhat, and is almost chubby now!

We are still waiting to hear about her operation, but boruch Hashem, things are quiet here, so we aren't complaining.

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# Monday, 26 January 2009

Two cute comments

I had to share these with you, they're just sooooo cute!

Simcha and the frogs

We were sitting at the Shabbos table, and Simcha was on my knee. I was asking her about the sedra, and telling her all about the plague of frogs. I said that when Paro (Pharaoh) woke up, he found frogs in his bed, frogs on his head, etc. I kept going on about there being frogs in his dinner, frogs in his shoes and so on. Unbeknown to Simcha, I had hidden a green plastic frog in the bowl of Smarties that was on the table in front of us.

As I worked my way through the list of places were frogs could be found, I pushed the dish of Smarties under her nose, so that she could see the frog, and asked "And what was in Paro's Smarties?"

After a moment's thought, her face lit up and she shouted "CHOCOLATE!"

Who made the snow?

After hearing the above cute story, someone else at the table said that she had heard another cute one from a family who live very near us. They have triplets, around the same age as Simcha. One day, one of the triplets was looking out of the window at the snow. Turning to her mother, the little girl asked "Mummy, who made all that?"

Her mother answered "Hashem did," to which the little girl replied "Well, I hope he's going to clear it up then!"

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# Sunday, 11 January 2009

Welcome home Oxygen Girl!

After an edge-of-the-seat rush that would have been worthy of a good thriller, we managed to get the Boss and Chaya Devoira home 25 minutes before Shabbos. As I mentioned before, we were expecting the home oxygen people to ring on Friday to arrange to come and assess the house. We thought this meant that they would come and install the system on Monday.

At around 11:30am on Friday, I had a telephone call from them, asking if it was OK to come round and install the system! I replied in the affirmative, and within about ten minutes, there was a chap at the door with cylinders, pipes and a machine. He said it would take about 20 minutes to install, and would then be ready for use. Contrary to our previous understanding, the machine turned out to be a fairly modest, portable affair that sits in the corner of the room, extracting oxygen from the air and pumping it down the outlet tube. This connects to the nasal specs, which are small prongs that go up Chaya Devoira's nostrils, and send oxygen to her lungs. This isn't as unpleasant as it sounds, as the prongs are quite short, but it does involve extra sticky tape on her face to hold them in place, as you can see in this picture...

Chaya Devoira having a cuddle with Grandma

If this were to be a long-term situation, they could plumb tubes around the house, so that she could be plugged in in any room. As we are hoping that this will only be for a few weeks, we opted to have a long piece of tube attached to the machine, so that we can trail it around the house to wherever we want to take her. He also gave us a back-up tank, and a couple of portable tanks, so that we can take her out of the house. These came with a fairly smart carry bag that goes on your back.

Excited with the thought of them coming home, I rang the Boss to tell her the good news, and to get her to ask to be discharged. That's where it all went wrong...

They couldn't find the doctor. I mean, this is a hospital, and they couldn't find the doctor! Unfortunately, without a doctor, Chaya Devoira couldn't be discharged. Furthermore, without a doctor, her medicines couldn't be prescribed.

Whilst trying to be as polite as possible, the Boss nagged them every few minutes until they managed to find the doctor. With that hurdle over, we had to sort out the medicines. Apparently, the pharmacy in the hospital has a turnaround time of four hours, putting it well into Shabbos. Thankfully, the nurses were on our case, and they managed to get this sorted out with about an hour to spare.

So, I set the bath going (as neither of us had managed one yet that day), and shot off to the hospital to pick them up. When I got there, I discovered that there was another hitch. For the last week in hospital, Chaya Devoira was on 0.1 litre/minute of oxygen whilst awake, and 0.2 litre/minute whilst asleep. Apparently you sleep more lightly when asleep, which was news to me as I thought you breathed more deeply, but that shows how much I know eh? Anyway, the doctor had prescribed 0.5 litre/minute, which seemed rather high to us. For those of you thinking that too much isn't a problem as long as she gets enough, it seems that too much can be as dangerous as too little, as if she gets too much, her body thinks that she has plenty of air and slows down her breathing, depriving her of nitrogen, the other main gas in the air we breathe. Apparently this is very dangerous.

So they had to find the doctor, and couldn't! Yup, this is the same hospital, and they couldn't find the doctor again - albeit a different doctor. Time was ticking away, and we were getting somewhat nervous. We tried ringing the home oxygen company, but they referred us back to the doctor. Eventually, we persuaded them to let us go home. The nurse was going to continue to try and see what she could find out.

We dashed to the car, and drove home as fast as the traffic and speed limits allowed. We arrived home 25 minutes before Shabbos, both needing baths, with loads of things to sort out before Shabbos. Unfortunately, in the rush at home, the running bath had been forgotten, so we had a small flood in the ground floor of the house!

Amazingly enough, we somehow managed to sort out Chaya Devoira's vast array of medicines and utensils, mop up the flood, bathe, dress and arrange ourselves in time for Shabbos. I'm still not sure how, but we did it.

Shabbos was wonderful. It was so nice having them both home again, even though we had to watch out for the oxygen tube that trailed around the house. We were never in doubt as to where Chaya Devoira was, you just had to follow the tube!

So, if anyone is feeling oxygen-deprived, just pop round to the Smile Gemach and have a whiff - we've got plenty :-)

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# Thursday, 08 January 2009

Ho hum, still in hospital and Simcha mostly trained

Unfortunately, Chaya Devoira is still in hospital, so I haven't a lot to tell (unless you want to hear about the washing, shopping, cleaning, etc). She got over the virus reasonably quickly, and was only needing a small amount of oxygen to keep her breathing. We had high hopes of her coming home last Monday, but it didn't work out.

The frustrating thing is that she is only on the lowest level of oxygen, and should really be able to manage without it, but every time they try to take her off it, her levels plummet.

They are now organising an oxygen system for the house. I thought that this would be as simple as a canister of oxygen that we would put under her cot, but it seems that they don't do that. They have some fancy system that pipes oxygen around the house, so you can take the baby into any room and plug her in. Trouble is, they have to come and assess the house, then come back and install the system before they'll let her home. This all takes several days, during which the Boss is sitting in hospital wishing she were home.

On a brighter note, Simcha's toilet training went pretty well. We have had a few inevitable accidents, but overall she's getting pretty good at it. Another thing thing to add to my CV!

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# Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Back in hospital, and Simcha is being toilet trained!

As expected, Chaya Devoira is back in hospital. Her breathing was become more strained, and she was working very hard, fighting for every breath. We took her in yesterday lunchtime, and they took her up to a ward in the early evening. She was on oxygen, which helps keep the saturation levels up, but didn't seem to do anything for her breathing.

The doctors are convinced that this is bronchilitis again, whether the same strain or another.

Her breathing was bad during the night, so they transferred her to the High Dependency Unit (HDU) this morning. This is good, in that she will have closer care, but it means that the situation is serous.

With exquisite timing, the Boss had decided to toilet train Simcha this week. Off came the nappy, and out of the house went the Boss! So far, she has done pretty well, with only one accident in 36 hours (excluding sleep time, when she was wearing a nappy). She seems to have the hang of it very well, and goes when asked.

We are running out of sweets though, as I decided to reward her for each successful trip. I don't know how much this has contributed to the progress, but she's eating me out of house and home!

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# Sunday, 28 December 2008

The tube came out - twice - and we didn't go to hospital!

An amazing thing happened. Chaya Devoira's feeding tube came out twice this weekend, once on Thursday night, and once on Shabbos, and we didn't go to the hospital! On both occasions, the Boss managed to get it back in again. I think she's ready for the nursing exams!

Unfortunately, Chaya Devoira's breathing has been laboured for the last day or so, and she seems to have some kind of bug. The nurses came to see her this morning, and they weren't happy. As they seem to trust the Boss to be sensible, they gave her the benefit of the doubt, and let he stay home. They are coming back tomorrow to see how she is. I have this nasty feeling that they may end up back in hospital again.

Ho hum, here we go again!

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# Monday, 22 December 2008

Couple of pictures

Thankfully, life has been pleasantly dull, with no unexpected visits to the hospital. This make blog entries short, which is fine by me!

The only slightly exciting thing that happened was that Chaya Devoira's tube came out again, which resulted in a brief visit to the hospital to have it put back in again. Like last time, I took the opportunity to remind myself what a lousy photographer I am, as I tried to get a decent picture of her. This was the best I could manage...

Chaya Devoira

Not outstanding, but about as good as I have managed. She looks a little surprised, but I guess that's understandable as I was flashing lights right in front of her!

The shame of it is that she has a smile that lights up her whole face, but it's impossible to guess when she's going to give it. I have a hard disk full of pictures of her about to smile, and having just smiled, but haven't yet caught the actual moment. Oh well, I'll keep trying :)

On the other hand, Simcha is dead easy to photograph! Apart from being very photogenic (bli ayin horo), she also smile pretty much all the time. Here she is jumping for joy...

Simcha Jumping

One of her favourite pastimes is washing up. She will pull the stool into the Boogle (which, for the uninitiated amongst you is the small room where we keep the washing machine, dryer, Pesach kitchen, etc), climb up so she can reach her pinafore, drag the stoll back into the kitchen and climb up in front of the sink, ready to wash up...

Simcha Washing Up

I only hope she is as enthusiastic about it when she is able to do it properly!

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# Monday, 15 December 2008

Hurray, they're home!

Boruch Hashem, the Boss and Chaya Devoira came home this lunchtime. The doctor came round this morning, and was contemplating the oxygen levels. He tried turning off the feed altogether, and watched as her saturation levels dropped a few percent below the acceptable level. He turned it back on again, then off again. In the end, he decided to send them home before the levels dropped any further! I think he was satisfied that everything was fine, and wasn't worried about one or two percent on the level.

When she told me that they were ready to come home, I called to Simcha (who was the only one home at the time) and told her that Mummy and Chaya Devoira were coming home. She grinned and jumped in the air. The two of us danced around the kitchen for a few minutes before getting in the car.

So, we are complete again. IY"H we will stay this way now - although I've said that before! They are going to review her case on Thursday, so we should find out about the operation by the end of the week.

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Oxygen levels better, but still not quite good enough

The Boss and Chaya Devoira are still stuck in hospital, although we are hopeful that they will be home soon. As I think I mentioned before, they put Chaya Devoira back onto the nasal specs, which are small tubes that go a short way into her nostrils, so they can supply a carefully measured amount of oxygen. Although this seems like a step back from the oxygen mask kept near her face, it is actually an important stage in measuring how much oxygen she actually needs.

The mask was supplying about 5 litres per minutes (lpm), although much of this was wafting around and escaping into the air. The nasal specs supply oxygen directly into her nose, so very little (if any) is lost.

She was on one lpm before Shabbos, but they brought this down to 0.9 lpm, then 0.7 lpm, with the intention of reducing it to the stage where they could turn it off altogether. At each stage, they have to ensure that her oxygen saturation levels remain high enough.

Shabbos was, by all accounts, a pretty challenging time for the Boss. When I went in on Friday afternoon, the ward was almost empty. The girl in the bed next door was on her way home, and there were only two other patients there, both small babies. This gave some hope that Shabbos would be peaceful.

Sadly, it was not to be. Late Friday afternoon and through the evening, a steady stream of children came onto the ward. Most of these were of an age where they needed entertainment, usually of a noisy sort. Shabbos day was a cacophony of DVDs and PlayStations, both played at full volume of course. Why people can't keep the volume to a reasonable level is beyond me, but it seemed that everyone was competing to see who could be the loudest.

Right in the middle of all this was the Boss and Chaya Devoira. Attempting to create some sort of Shabbos spirit amongst the din, the Boss said Tehillim and tried to block out the noise.

By the time we arrived after Shabbos, she was worn out. The noise had quieted down to the level of a mere earthquake. Thankfully, Chaya Devoira had slept most of the day, and was in fact so sleepy that we were a little worried if she was OK. The nurses reckoned she was just catching up on some lost sleep from the previous few days. How she managed it with the noise is beyond me, but she has impressed me with her determination before! My mother reckons that she has the fighting spirit of her namesake, which is probably a good thing, considering the challenges she faces ahead of her.

The oxygen levels were down to 0.3 lpm by the early evening, and we were hopeful that they could be reduced even further. The doctor had given the nurse permission to decide when to reduce it further, and the nurse seemed happy for the Boss to take this on.

Unfortunately her attempts to reduce the level wasn't met with the success we would have liked. She took it down to 0.2 lpm, which was fine for a while, but then Chaya Devoira's saturation level dropped below the acceptable limits, and we had to raise it back again.

The nurse said that babies often respond better to a drop in oxygen when they are asleep, so the Boss is going to try and reduce it overnight, and see how she is by morning. As soon as she can get the levels down to the point where they can switch the oxygen off, they can come home. We live in hope :-)

Oh, and for those who are wondering, I spent far too long battling with the badly written software that came with the MP3 player, but eventually managed to get quite a few hours of music on there, along with a few videos of the children.

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# Thursday, 11 December 2008

Still in hospital, hoping to be home for Shabbos

Nothing much has changed, except the Boss is even more bored than before! Chaya Devoira is doing fine, but is still not keeping her oxygen levels high enough for them to let her home. It's frustrating, as she is keeping at the same sort of levels as she was doing before she went in, and is certainly breathing fine. I guess they are being cautious.

Being on the open ward has been a bit difficult, due to the lack of privacy and the higher levels of ambient noise, but it has its advantages. The bed next to Chaya Devoira's is occupied by a 13-year old Jewish girl, who had an operation. Her mother stays by the bedside most of the day, and turns out to be a very nice lady. She and the Boss have got quite friendly, which helps things along.

I bought an mp3 player yesterday. I've been itching to buy one for ages, as I love gadgets, but couldn't justify the cost as I rarely need something like that. However, on the suggestion of a friend, I got one so that the Boss could listen to music or shiurim whilst sitting in hospital. I don't know why I didn't think of it before! I even wrote the web site for Start Your Day The Torah Way, who have hundreds of shiurim for download.

The downside of this is that I spent far too much time last night playing with it, and trying to work out how to get some music onto it. I managed, but not without problems. Still, it's given the Boss something for the morning. I'll pinch it back this afternoon and see if I can get some shiurim on.

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# Tuesday, 09 December 2008

Boruch Hashem, much better, but still in hospital

OxygenI managed to get to the hospital in time to see the doctor on his rounds this morning. Boruch Hashem, Chaya Devoira is doing well, and is basically off the oxygen. She still has an oxygen mask near her, purely to increase the ambient levels around her. She doesn't generally need this, but as her saturation levels sometimes drop a little low, this helps keep them up. Hopefully they will be able to remove even this fairly soon.

They finally got the results back from the labs, and it turns out that she doesn't have bronchiolitis as we had thought. Instead, she has something called (I think) a rina virus. Not sure what that is, but it's a virus, and is thankfully on its way out. Like her namesake, Chaya Devoira is a tough cookie, and is not taking all this without a fight!

Having been on a slow drip feed for a couple of days, they decided to start semi-normal (tube) feeding again. They are trying her out with feeds every two hours, and if she tolerates those without problems, then they'll go back to every three hours, like she was before.

Once she can cope with being fed every three hours, and keep her oxygen levels up, she can come home. It looks like this will still be a couple of days though. Unfortunately, they moved her out of the isolation cubicle, which was fairly quiet and private, onto the main ward, which isn't so quiet and not at all private. This is harder on the Boss, who is staying with her, but she's taking it very well.

End of newsflash.

P.S. As mentioned before, we have a fair amount of cake left over from the kiddush, so I decided that for the benefit of those of you who don't live close enough to pop in, I would attach some to this blog post, in much the way that you attach files to an e-mail. If your browser supports cookies, you should be able to download them!

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Chaya Devoira getting better, but still in hospital

Well, having mentioned on Thursday that the Boss and Chaya Devoira were staying in hospital over Shabbos, things moved fairly quickly after I had switched the computer off.

On Friday afternoon, one of the neighbours, who has been an amazing help since Chaya Devoira was born, came over to ask if she could stay in hospital over Shabbos, so that the Boss could come home for the kiddush. Normally, she would never agree to this, but due to Chaya Devoira's breathing problems, the doctors had taken her off milk, and put her on an IV drip. She was also going to be moved to the High Dependency Unit (HDU), which is basically one step down from intensive care. The benefit of this is that Chaya Devoira would have one nurse specifically assigned to look after her. With this extra care, and the neighbour staying by the bed, the Boss agreed to come home.

So, the kiddush went ahead with both of us, but no Chaya Devoira. This wasn't actually a bad thing, as having loads of people breathing and cooing over her in the colds and coughs season wouldn't have been a good idea anyway.

The kiddush was lovely, although we ended up with more cake than we expected as there were seven other kiddushin on the same day! If you're in the area, and want some cake, please drop in and eat some!

After Shabbos, we went off to the hospital to see how things were, to find that Chaya Devoira's breathing had been even more laboured on Shabbos morning, and they had put her on a fancy looking machine called SiPAP. This looked like a medieval instrument of torture, involving a cap that fitted over her little head, with all sorts of wires, pipes and tubes connecting her to various machines that went "bing" and "ping" at irregular intervals. She also had a strap around her head, which held a large contraption over her nose, so that the machine could pump oxygen into her lungs, avoiding her the need to inflate her own chest. I confess that the site of my helpless little baby wired up like that was enough to bring me to tears. She looked so small and vulnerable.

Anyway, she stayed on that overnight. Boruch Hashem, they decided that she was doing well enough on it to try taking her off it on Sunday morning. They gave her a mini version of it instead, which was altogether less evil-looking, and probably less uncomfortable. As she seemed to be doing OK on this, they took her off the machines altogether, and just gave her some ambient oxygen through a mask held near her face. She stayed like that for about five hours, which was excellent.

They put her back on the SiPAP machine overnight, but the doctor agreed to let her off it again this morning. She stayed off it for the rest of the day, and was ready to move out of the HDU into a regular ward by early evening. This is very encouraging, and means that she is well on the way to recovery.

They moved her over around 8pm this evening. She started off without any oxygen at all, and wasn't doing badly. After a while, her blood oxygen saturation levels dropped, so they put the ambient feed back on. This could have been from the exertion of moving, and being off oxygen for a while. We are hoping that she will be able to come off it again in the morning. If she can keep her saturation level up to 85% without extra help, then they will let her home. We have to daven that she'll manage this sooner rather than later.

Whilst she was on the ward today, they weighed her, and she is now 7lbs 8oz, which is pretty good! She still needs to put on some more weight, but she is definitely going in the right direction. The surgical team at Alder Hey hospital are reviewing her case again next week to see if they think she is ready for the heart operation. I hope so, as that should give her a big boost.

Way past my bed time. I wouldn't get away with typing blog entries at this time of night if the Boss were home! Night night.

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# Friday, 05 December 2008

Back in hospital again

Unfortunately, Chaya Devoira has gone back into hospital. Her breathing was a little laboured yesterday, but not enough to be significant. However, it got worse during the night, and we took her to the doctor this morning. He recommended taking her down to the hospital, where she was admitted and sentenced to three or four days servitude. The saturation of oxygen in her blood was low, so she is back on an oxygen feed again. They tried to insert a breathing tube up her nose (the nostril that doesn't have the feeding tube), but they couldn't get it to go in, and she got so upset by this, that they gave up. She seems to be managed OK on the oxygen feed through the mask though.

It looks like she has bronchiolitis, which is not a spelling mistake, but is an infection of the twiddly little passages in the lungs (bronchial tubes, as opposed to the larger bronchal tubes, which are what get infected with bronchitis). To quote from the NHS web site...

"Bronchiolitis is a common respiratory infection that affects babies and young children. It occurs when the smallest airways in the lungs, called the bronchioles, become infected and inflamed, leading to a build-up of mucus. This makes it harder for the child to breathe because the amount of air entering the lungs is reduced." Read the full article here.

Sadly, this means the Boss will miss the kiddush, which is supposed to be happening this Shabbos. The doctors don't seem too worried about Chaya Devoira, as it is a very common infection, and not dangerous. They are keeping her in as a precaution, as her delicate medical condition means that they need to monitor her closely during any infection or illness.

The silver lining in this cloud is that they have given them an isolation cubicle, which is fairly large, isolated from the main ward, and with a real bed for the Boss. This means that she can have some quiet, privacy, and a decent rest.

More bulletins as events warrant. Good Shabbos to you all, and if you live nearby, please come in for a l'chaim on Shabbos morning.

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# Monday, 01 December 2008

Maybe it's wishful thinking, but...

I went into Chaya Devoira's room this morning when I came home from shul. She was awake in her cot, looking at her mobile.

I should point out that I am referring to the colourful decorations, often found hanging over babies' cots. I was not referring to a mobile telephone, as some more astute readers may have realised. We decided not to let Chaya Devoira have a mobile telephone in bed, as we were concerned that she would spend too long chatting into the night, and would not get the rest that she needs before her operation.

As I walked over to the cot, she turned her head towards me and gave the most beautiful smile! Her whole face lit up. The Boss thinks that she does smile at faces she recognises, but I'm not so sure. I don't seem to remember the others smiling quite this young, and given that she is likely to develop later than the others, I think it might be wishful thinking.

Either way, it made my day :-)

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# Monday, 24 November 2008

New picture of Chaya Devoira

Chaya Devoira managed to pull out her feeding tube this evening, resulting in another unexpected (but thankfully brief) visit to the hospital to have it put back.

One benefit of this event was that I managed to get a picture of her without the tube...

As you can see, she is all wrapped up in her snug coat, ready to go to the hospital for tube reinsertion. She is still putting on weight nicely, although we won't know if it's enough for the heart operation for a few more weeks.

That's all folks!

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# Monday, 17 November 2008

Putting on weight (Chaya Devoira, not me!)

Phew, been eleven days since I last wrote anything here. Guess that pretty much sums up life at the moment - very hectic and no time for everything.

Anyway, the great news is that Chaya Devoira is putting on weight nicely. She's up to about six and a half pounds now, which is good, but still leaves here with some way to go before she is big enough for the heart operations.

The surgeons at Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool (where they are to do the operations) are going to review her case again in 3-4 weeks to decide on a date. From what we've heard, the effects of the second of these operations can be quite dramatic. Someone said is was like a light bulb had been switched on in the baby - suddenly he was eating, gurgling, growing and looking around more. IY"H we will see great benefits from it too.

We had a scare on Friday. The nurse from the hospital rang to say that Chaya Devoira's potassium levels were too high. Now, I only know two things about potassium, and neither was very helpful. The first is that if you take a small piece of raw potassium, and drop it in a bowl of water, it whizzes around the surface fizzing for a few minutes, before burning with a small, but bright flame. If you have a chemistry teacher who is easily persuaded, you can convince him to drop a big piece of potassium in, which causes a fairly impressive explosion! Chemistry was fairly dull, but it was brightened up by the odd interesting incident like that!

The only other thing that I know about potassium, is that you get it from eating bananas. Now, as far as I know, Chaya Devoira doesn't eat bananas, mainly because her hands are too small to hold them properly. Maybe we should have held them for her, and she wouldn't have had low potassium levels :-)

Be that as it may, her levels were too low, and it seems this can be dangerous. They whisked her into hospital on Friday lunchtime (it would be Friday wouldn't it?), and threatened to keep her there. After much Tehillim, and some smooth talking with the nurses, they allowed them to come home, although they only arrived ten minutes before Shabbos. To make a rushed time even more rushed, they arrived home with an impressive array of new medicines (to complement the existing impressive array), as well as a pill cutter, a pill crusher and a whole new lot of plastic syringes. This baby is certainly making life interesting!

Anyway, boruch Hashem, things have settled down again, and we are back in some sort of normality (or whatever passes for that in this house). We are trying to get the last bits of our building work done, having told the builders not to come back, so that adds yet another thing to my ever-increasing list of things to do!

OK, ending here as supper has just landed on the table, and it's parents' evening for Nechoma Bryna in 25 minutes. Phew!

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# Thursday, 06 November 2008

I've seen this thing before, it looks familiar!

I'm sitting in my familiar chair, grey and comfortable (the chair, not me - although some may say those words apply to both), contemplating the object in front of me. It looks vaguely familiar, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Actually, I did put my finger on it, which is how you can read this blog entry.

All of which is a rather bizarre way of starting the first blog post for ten days. It's actually the first time I've switched on my computer for ten days, which is probably why it all seems so foreign. I've been so wrapped up in other things, that I never really thought about it. For someone that works with computers day in and day out, I didn't miss it at all :-)

Anyway, enough waffle, time for an update...

Boruch Hashem, the Mrs and Chaya Devoira finally came out of hospital after Shabbos, having been there for just short of two weeks. Chaya Devoira is putting on weight at a nice rate, and they seem happy with her. She was last weighed on Monday (it's now Thursday), and she was 2.76Kg, or just over 6lbs 1oz for those old-fashioned folks like me who can't get their heads around Kilos. They want her to get to about 4 or 5Kg (which is between 9lbs and 11lbs) before they will do the first of the heart operations, but the way she's going, that looks like being well within the original time scale of less than six months old. Here is a picture of them both in our house, just to prove that they got here!

The Boss and Chaya Devoira

Life here has settled into a semi-normal state. The Boss is still very tied up with Chaya Devoira as she needs feeding every three hours (Chaya Devoira, not the Mrs, although she would also like to be fed every three hours), so by the time she's fed her, then given her an impressive cocktail of medication, prepared the expressed milk and high-energy formula, got that down the feeding tube, flushed out the tube, tidied away the equipment and expressed milk for the next feed - it's almost time for the next feed! That leaves me running the house, although with a little help from the Boss, and without any commuting to the hospital, it's easier than it was.

Sadly, our builders have lived up to the reputation of builders everywhere, and the work in the house has dragged on. They're still here, although are thankfully in the final stages. It's all the little jobs at the end that seem to take forever, and make a disproportionate amount of mess! Quite apart from my usual dislike of having workers in the house, we could really do without them right now. Still, I'm sure it will be nice when it's finished! That's what we keep telling ourselves!

Not a lot else to report. My parents have gone to Eretz Yisroel for the wedding of my second cousin Shmuel Meir. We would have loved to have gone, but it was completely out of the question right now. My in-laws are coming in a couple of weeks, so that's something to look forward to. Apart from that, it's housework and nappies!

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# Monday, 27 October 2008

Hurray, she's put on some weight!

Just a quickie as I have some encouraging news.

On Friday afternoon, they started giving Chaya Devoira a high energy formula, along with the mother's milk that she was having. The idea was to try and get extra calories into her to build up her weight. Due to her weak heart, more extra nourishment is needed to keep her heart going, so less is available for growth. The high energy stuff is supposed to provide enough to allow for growth as well.

Boruch Hashem, they weighed her today (Monday) and she has put on 180 grams. This doesn't sound like much, but it's probably around a 9% increase in her total body weight in three days. Seen like that, it's pretty good.

They are keeping her in for a little longer as they want to be certain that the increase is consistent. Unfortunately, they won't give us any idea of how long they want to keep her, but we are hoping that if she shows a consistent increase, they may let her out before Shabbos.

Thanks again to everyone who sent such kind wishes, and thanks to everyone who has davenned for her. Please keep davenning for Chaya Devoira bas Sharon Yehudis as she's not on the home run just yet!

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# Thursday, 23 October 2008

Post-Succos update and some new pictures

It's late, and the Mrs would not be happy if she knew I was doing this right now. Unfortunately, she's back in hospital with Chaya Devoira... but I'm getting ahead of myself.

I mentioned last time that they had come home in time for Succos. That was wonderful. The fact of having a built-in succo for the first time made a big difference as well, as Chaya Devoira would not have been able to stand the cold and draughts of our old shed-type succo, so at least the Boss and baby could sit in the succo with us.

I even managed to get a picture of the four little girls (and a panda), although you can't actually see a great deal of the Lady In The Limelight in this one...

Four little girls and a panda

In case you were wondering, Chaya Devoira is wrapped up in the blanket that Chana Liba is holding! It's actually quite hard to get a decent picture of her, but I managed a half-decent one here...

Chaya Devoira

Unfortunately, the tube up her nose does little for the charm of the picture! I know I'm biased, but she's actually a very beautiful little baby bli ayin horo, but she doesn't seem to come out well in pictures.

Anyway, we had a lovely couple of Yom Tov days at the beginning of Succos, and pleasant, if uneventful Chol Hamoed days. All seemed to be going well - obviously too well...

On the Sunday of Chol Hamoed, the nurse came for her regular visit, and weighed Chaya Devoira. She was very concerned that instead of putting on weight, she seemed to be losing the little she had. Given that she needs two fairly major heart operations, it is critical that she gains weight now. The nurse said we should get her down to the hospital to have her checked.

We should have known what was coming. I guess a week of relative normality at home can make you forget the roller coaster. After a couple of checks, the doctors decided that she needed to stay in hospital for closer examination. They wanted to keep an accurate check of how much milk was going in, and how much was coming out. At least this wasn't erev Yom Tov or erev Shabbos as we've had before. We had a little more time to prepare for Yom Tov in hospital this time, although that didn't make it any easier for the Mrs.

Nechoma Bryna, Aryeh Yehuda, Eliyohu and myself walked to the hospital on Sh'mini Atzeres afternoon. This was about an hour each way, but worth every step for the expression on her face when we walked in. I hope you never have to spend Shabbos or Yom Tov in a hospital, but if you ever do, you'll understand how hard it is to feel the Yom Tov mood. For everyone around you it's a normal day. Nurses are bustling in and out, televisions are on around other people's beds, and you're sitting their in your Yom Tov clothes, trying to muster up some feelings of kedusho. Boruch Hashem, she had a cubicle to herself, which helped cut out a little of the outside world, but it was a far cry from Yom Tov at home. I think we managed to raise her spirits somewhat.

It's now late Thursday night, and they've been in hospital since last Sunday, with little prospect of an early release. The doctors have said that they aren't letting her out until they see an increase in weight, but as they don't really know why she isn't putting on weight, we aren't sure how long this stay is going to be. Boruch Hashem, we have coped well here, but the strain is beginning to show. Hopefully things will ease up a little next week when the children are back in school, and there is a little more order in our lives. We all love holidays, especially when there's a Yom Tov, but it throws out the routine, and that can make situations like this one harder.

As mentioned above, Chaya Devoira was supposed to have two heart operations at five or six months of age. The idea of waiting was to give her time to gain some weight, and have more strength to survive. In a bizarre Catch-22 situation, one of these operations is designed to regulate the mount of blood flowing into one of the arteries, which would help her gain weight (I'm not 100% sure how this works, my medical knowledge is already being pushed beyond its limits). If her weight doesn't increase soon, they are going to have to do this operation at a much earlier age, which is a fairly frightening prospect. We have to daven that they find a way to build up her strength beforehand.

Anyway, I'm going to end with another gratuitous picture. This one has the added benefit that you can actually see a bit of the baby!

Aryeh Yehuda, Simcha and Chaya Devoira

Too tired to type any more tonight, so I'll leave it there. Again, we would like to thank everyone who sent such lovely e-mails. I'm not sure we live up to some of the comments you've made, but we won't argue about that! If anyone has any time to say Tehillim, we would very much appreciate it if you could daven for Chaya Devoira bas Sharon Yehudis sh'tichye.

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# Sunday, 12 October 2008

First Shabbos together

Boruch Hashem, they finally came home, so we actually managed to spend Shabbos together.

Chaya Devoira is still feeding through a tube, to supplement the small natural feeds she has, so we still have to work out how to encourage her to feed more herself. Unfortunately, she is losing weight, rather than gaining it, so this isn't so easy, but the Boss is working on it.

Anyway, it's way past my bedtime, I have bronchitis and feel lousy, so I'm not typing any more. A wonderful Yom Tov to you all, and I'll try and get a more up-to-date picture of the little princess on here soon.

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# Tuesday, 07 October 2008

Boruch Hashem, some encouraging news, but still in hospital

Tuesday 5pm

We had been waiting for a few results to see what the situation was. Of these, the heart issue was the most serious.

The cardiologist came today, and said that as far as he was concerned, she could go home. This was wonderful to hear! He said that they can give her medicine to regulate her heart until she is about six months old,
when they can do the first of two operations to fix the murmur.

Also good was that she doesn't seem to have a virus, so can come off the antibiotics. She does have a slight abnormality with her thyroid gland, but that's not uncommon, even amongst people without Down's, and can be fixed with medicine. We're still waiting to hear from the respiratory people, but I don't think that's too serious. All of this adds up to an encouraging picture.

Not so good, although boruch Hashem not bad, was the news that they won't let her home until they can see that she is feeding properly from the Boss. Feeding through the tube has its benefits and purposes, but they need to know that she will feed naturally before they let her go. Unfortunately, this means that both she and the Boss have to stay in hospital for feeds every three hours (bleah, broken nights on a military scale!) for at least a day or two more. This means that she will have to stay in over Yom Kippur, which doesn't fill her with glee.

Still, in health terms the news is good, so we are very happy. It's not quite how she would have wanted to spend Yom Kippur, but it's obviously how He wants her to spend it, so who are we to argue! It's a small price to pay for a healthy baby.

A g'mar chasima tova to you all. May Hashem Yisborach multiply his brochos on you manyfold, and may we all only see simcha in the future. We've certainly got a little bundle of that right now!

P.S. I'm intending to get an up-to-date picture later today, so will post it here. I have been a bit reluctant to photgraph her over the past few days as she looked so fragile and vulnerable with all those wires and tubes. B"H most of those have come off now, so she may be up to posing for the camera!

Update 7pm... Well, it seems things may have changed for the better. Apparently the thyroid test can give an abnormal reading at this stage, so they are not going to do anything about that right now. They'll test again in a cople of weeks. More importantly, the dietician had a check, and said that as long as Chaya Devoira is taking enough milk, she can go home. The Mrs asked if that meant her feeding, and was told no. She pushed them a little, and got them to agree to teach her how to feed through the tube, which apparently isn't as simple as it looks. If they are happy that she can do it without problems, they will let them come home. This means that they could be home before Yom Kippur! I'm not holding my breath, but I'm saying Tehillim. Mind you, it would be hard to do both anyway!

I have always felt that Hashem Yisborach has a sense of humour (if I'm allowed to say that), and now I'm sure! Thank you Hashem :-)

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# Monday, 06 October 2008

I used to like rollercoasters!

Well, just when we thought we had settled into a nice peaceful routine, we got free tickets to a White Knuckle Ride all of our own! For those of you who have enough sense not to know what one of those is, it's the sort of ride at an amusement park that makes people's stomachs do weird things that you don't want to discuss over dinner!

Anyway, on Friday (3rd Sept, warm and sunny), the Boss took Chaya Devoira back to the hospital for what was supposed to be a routine blood test. This should have taken an hour or so, leaving plenty of time to get them home before Shabbos. We were all looking forward to her first Shabbos at home. It seems that Hakodosh Boruch Hu had other ideas!

It turned out that they couldn't get any blood, as Chaya Devoira's body temperature was too low. They put her in an incubator for half an hour to warm her up, but found that this didn't help. Concerned at her inability to hold a safe temperature, they decided to keep her in for observation for 24 hours. So, a mere three hours before Shabbos, we found out that Mummy and Chaya Devoira would be spending the third of the three Shabbosos of her life in hospital. Obviously, there was a lot to do, as we had not made any plans at all for this. Somehow, we managed to get everything organised, and had Shabbos as ready as it could be under the circumstances at home, and food and supplies with them in the hospital. The mood in the house was a little subdued to say the least.

Around 5:30pm (about an hour before Shabbos), they transferred them to the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital with Chaya Devoira in an incubator, and an ambulance with sirens blaring. I guess this would have been an exciting experience under other circumstances, but unfortunately the Boss wasn't in the right mood to enjoy it. As it happened, I was ill that Friday and Shabbos (been running on adrenaline for too long), and so didn't walk to see them on Shabbos afternoon, which was a good job as I thought they were in an entirely different hospital altogether! They didn't get to the ward in time to ring me before Shabbos to let me know where they were.

Anyway, once there, they hooked Chaya Devoira up to a monitor that checked all sorts of things, and kept an eye on what she was doing. On of the things they monitored was the saturation of oxygen in her blood. In a healthy person, this should be between 90% and 100%, but is allowed to go down to about 80% without too much cause for alarm.

As the Boss tried to feed her, alarms went off as the level plummeted to around 40% (pretty dangerous). They quickly put her on an oxygen feed, and whizzed her off to the cardiac unit where they did various x-rays and scans. The result of this was something we had feared, but had thought we had avoided. We had been told that a common problem with Down's Syndrome babies is a heart murmur, which their initial checks had not found. It seems that she has a large hole between the two main ventricles of her heart, as well as a smaller hole, and a vein that would normally have disappeared at birth. This all adds up to open heart surgery within the next few months.

Bear in mind that I knew nothing at all about this, as this was all late on Friday night. I had retired to bed early, feeling decidedly ill, safe in the (incorrect) knowledge that they were merely keeping an eye on her body temperature. The Boss was alone in the hospital, faced with the prospect of major heart surgery on our little princess, with no-one to hug. Needless to say, hers was not a happy Shabbos.

When we arrived after Shabbos, Chaya Devoira was wired up with an electric blanket, an oxygen feed, various monitors and scanners, and a tube going up her nose so that they could feed her directly, without interrupting her breathing. The poor little mite looked so small surrounded by all those tubes and wires. Yes, I cried.

Anyway, the next 12 hours were tense to say the least. Boruch Hashem a thousand times over, by Sunday morning, she had managed to keep her oxygen levels stable, her body temperature up enough, and seemed to gaining a little weight from the tube feeding. One benefit of that method of feeding is that they can make sure she gets enough milk, which had been a major problem until then. Due to her small size (and other factors), she didn't have much strength to feed, so wasn't taking in enough milk to have energy to feed, which meant she didn't get enough milk... and so on in a vicious circle. The direct feeding through the tube had broken this cycle, and had enabled her to take in enough milk to gain a little strength.

During Sunday she managed to take two proper natural feeds from the Boss. This was one of the most significant acts of her little life so far.

She didn't feed so much today (Monday), but had a good one about 8:30pm this evening. It's still too early to say for sure, but if things continue like this, we are hoping that she will soon be stable enough to come home. We don't want to get our hopes up too much, but she seems to be gaining a little strength. She has been more awake and alert, which is a good sign.

Not really much more to add. We are still waiting for the results of some tests to see if she has a virus (suspected, but probably not B"H), a defective thyroid gland (suspected and quite likely, but B"H fairly easy to sort out with regular medicine), as well as the pre-existing jaundice problem. That seemed to take a back seat with the events of the weekend, but is still with us. If her thyroid gland isn't functioning correctly, then it would help explain the jaundice, and should give another way of combating it.

OK, it's way past my bed time (whatever that is), so I'm going to leave it here. I just want to add a huge "thank you" to everyone who has sent such wonderful words of encouragement. Just knowing that you are all thinking of us makes a huge difference. Apologies for not replying to you all individually, but my time in front of the computer these days is usually restricted to a few grabbed moments before I crawl into bed.

I just want to end with an observation. Someone asked me how things were yesterday morning. When I had explained the situation, he groaned and said "Oy, what a way to start the year." I thought about this for a moment, and politely corrected him. We are in the intense period between Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur. Every Jew is being judged in the Heavenly Court, and we are being called to account for our actions. What we need more than anything right now are merits. Our little bundle of wonderfulness has brought an unbelievable amount of chessed, mitzvos, love, unity and kindness into our community. We have been the recipients of an unbridled outpouring of the sort of support that only a frum community could provide. We have been carried on eagles' wings, not needing to think about anything other than Chaya Devoira. All of our needs have been taken care of. What an amazing start to the year! How could Hashem Yisborach fail to be impressed by the selfless acts of so many people? We have someone sleeping in the hospital right now so that the Boss can come home and get a good night's sleep. Where else do you find such a thing? Sure, we have some worries, but just look at what she has brought into the world. This little lady could well have been responsible for swinging the scales of Divine justice our way. I'm so proud of her!

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# Thursday, 02 October 2008

Latest news on Chaya Devoira

Been a hectic couple of weeks! Between the appearance of Chaya Devoira, a house full of builders (yeah I know, bad timing eh?) and Yom Tov, I've hardly had time to think. I've just got ten minutes now to add a post here before I get back to my washing, cleaning, organising supper, etc. I'm learning how hard it is to be a Mummy, and appreciating once again how much she does the rest of the time!

Anyway, they finally came home from hospital on Tuesday 21st Sept, one week and two hours after the Boss went in. Everyone was delighted to see them, even though they spent a lot of time hiding upstairs trying to get some rest. Chaya Devoira was turning a delightful shade of yellow, which was actually a cause for concern as she is small. She was sleeping pretty much the whole time, and not feeding a lot, which wasn't helping her fight the jaundice.

As a result, we had a call from the midwife on Friday morning who told us to get Chaya Devoira into the hospital without delay, as there was a doctor waiting to see her. To cut a long story short, she and the Mrs ended up in hospital again until Sunday afternoon. They had had her (Chaya Devoira, not the Mrs) under a UV light for 24 hours, and had got the jaundice levels down below the treatment level, and were happy that she was OK to come home.

About 18 hours later (Monday morning, erev Rosh Hashono), the midwife rang and said that the previous day's blood test had shown increased levels again, and they might have to go back into hospital. On top of the stress and emotional upheaval so far, this wasn't what she wanted to hear.

We spent the next couple of hours saying Tehillim, and B"H had another call to say that they would let her stay home and she how she got on. The midwife came in over Rosh Hashono to do some more blood tests. It seems that the levels are still too high, and we have to take her to the Special Care Unit tomorrow to have yet more tests. The poor little thing has had so many blood tests, that they are having difficulty finding a place to insert a needle. Coupled with her small size, which makes finding a vein hard in the first place, we are feeling for her.

Chaya Devoira 1st Oct 08

Anyway, on the positive side, everyone dotes on her, and she rarely gets put down (as long as the Boss allows). We don't have a shortage of people willing to look after her! Aryeh Yehuda even offered to take her at 3am when she wakes up! Given the problems I have waking him up at 6:30am on a normal day, I'm not sure how successful an idea this would be, but the thought was nice.

For those that haven't heard yet, I should mention that we had confirmation that Chaya Devoira has Down's Syndrome. The doctor suspected this when she was born, due to a slight slant in her eyes, and a couple of other signs that they recognise. It took some time for the tests to be done and results confirmed. Right at the moment, the only real difference it makes are a few more blood tests (like she's not had enough yet), and a heart scan in a couple of weeks.

It's funny in a way, as Nechoma Bryna told me just a few weeks ago that she wanted to work with Special Care children, and now she has the chance of in-house experience. As it happens, I made some enquiries about it myself a few months ago. I have been considering a change of career (fed up of computers), and think that this is an area that I would find rewarding. Again, I have the chance for some first-hand experience!

Some people have felt a bit awkward when we have mentioned the subject, so it's worth mentioning that we do not see this as a bad thing in any way. She is still our baby, and we feel about her just the same as we do about the others. She will have her own special requirements, but the truth is that every child has their own special requirements. Each one has to be treated as they need, as Shlomo HaMelech so wisely put it in Mishlei (Proverbs) 22:6 "Raise the child according to his/her way."

The Torah attitude to such children is actually very different from the secular one. Everyone comes into this world to achieve a certain purpose, and when we have done that, we return to Hakodosh Boruch Hu. Just as you give a worker only the tools he needs to complete a job, Hakodosh Boruch Hu only gives each neshomo the tools it needs to achieve its task here. Sometimes, a neshomo comes into the world that is so elevated already, that it does not need a great deal of tools to complete its task. Such neshomos come to the world as special needs children. Yes they are special, but in a much more fundamental way than the world at large considers. We are privileged (and yes, a little nervous) to have been entrusted with such a precious neshomo. The great Torah leader the Chazon Ish zt"l would stand up whenever he saw a Down's Syndrome person. He said that one should show great respect for such a lofty neshomo.

I should counter all that with the admission that we are nervous. We have little idea of what is ahead, and we know that it is going to be a hard road. Having said that, talking to other people in the same position, it seems that the rewards are infinitely greater. Apparently Hakodosh Boruch Hu thinks we are strong enough to cope, so we aren't going to argue!

The children took the news with surprising maturity. Their attitude was simply that she is special, and we need to give her even more love and care than we would have done anyway. They are very upbeat and open about it.

Anyway, I have used up far more than the ten minutes I had allocated! I have to go and get Simcha from playgroup, and the next two from school. I will end with a picture of Chana Liba (straight after a bath, hence the pyjamas and wet hair) holding Chaya Devoira...

Chana Liba holding Chaya Devoira 25th Sept 08
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# Monday, 22 September 2008

Baby update - she's got a name!

We named our new baby yesterday (Shabbos). She is now called Chaya Devoira, after my grandmother (known to all as either Bim, or Auntie Chaya, depending on who you are!) whose second yortzeit was just a week before the baby was born.

The Boss and baby (sorry, Chaya Devoira) are still in hospital, but both seem to be doing fine. Thankfully, Chaya Devoira has decided that sleeping the whole time isn't such a clever idea, and actually opens her eyes sometimes. She's also decided that feeding has its benefits, and deigns to do so once in a while. Still not as much as we'd like, but she seems to be getting there.

Huge thanks to all those who sent e-mails with mazel tovs and the like. Very much appreciated.

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# Friday, 19 September 2008

Mazel tov - new baby girl

After a rather stressful couple of days in hospital, and an emergency caesarean, the Mrs produced a lovely little baby girl this morning at 11:31am. She weighed 5lbs 8ozs, which is 2.5Kg for those newfangled metric people.

Here is a picture of her...

new baby girl

B"H both of them seem fine, considering the circumstances. The Mrs is whacked out and exhausted, and the baby sleeps all the time. Me? I'm not tired, I've forgotten what that means!

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# Monday, 15 September 2008

PSG children video

I just discovered Animoto, which is a great site that allows you to upload some pictures, choose some music and create a 30-second video. Here was my first attempt...

Not bad for about two minutes' effort!

For those that love YouTube, you can watch it there instead.

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# Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Camp Broughton Mews

The boys from the Mews decided to go camping tonight. Apparently this happens every year. Our boys were invited to join the camp, which was a good job as it was in our garden!

By pure hashgocho, I had brought our tent from where some of our stuff is still stored, so between them they had three tents.

These went up in a friendly fashion, with all the tent entrances forming a neat little courtyard...

boys camping

Shortly after this picture was taken, it started to rain. However, when I say rain, I don't just mean ordinary rain, this was rain on a Biblical scale! The bottom of Legh Street was about six inches under water (no, that's not an exaggeration), and the garden was a swamp. This did nothing to dampen their enthusiasm though.

That pile of shoes outside the tents was forgotten in the rush to close the tent entrances, so I don't think any of them are going anywhere tomorrow! That's assuming that their shoes haven't floated away on all this rain ;-)

It's now 9pm. Let's see how many of them actually stay the night there.

9:04pm... Well, it seems my prediction wasn't as far from the mark as it might have been. Our two boys just came in soaking wet. The rain came right through the outer cover and into the tent. They abandoned the plan for the night. Apparently, there are still a few boys out there, mainly because they are too scared to come in! I might have to take a boat across the garden and rescue them.

11pm... Eliyohu braved it again at 9:30pm, and most of the other boys either stayed or went out with him. Aryeh Yehuda is still hanging around in the house, trying to decide if he's going back out as well. Either way, I don't think there's going to be much sleeping there tonight!

Midnight... Aryeh Yehuda finally went out and joined the party at around 11:30pm. One of the boys has taken a tape player out, so there's something that could loosely be described as music blaring out at high volume, together with a whole pile of highly excitable boys, shouting, laughing and having fun. And why not eh? Night night, I want some sleep even if they don't :-D

The following morning... It seems they all lasted through the night, although I don't think they got much sleep. All in all, an interesting experience for them!

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# Tuesday, 29 July 2008

When it's all too much...

Sometimes life just gets to be to much to handle. You've done all the playing you can manage in one morning, you've sat on Mummy's knee and had a cuddle, and then you sit down on the floor to have a tantrum about something totally insignificant.

The result...

Simcha asleep on the kitchen floor

I never thought of the kitchen floor as such a great place for a shloff, but it looks like Simcha disagreed!

Update 11th Aug 08... She did it again. This time she sneaked off upstairs and took her "guggle" from her cot. Captivated by the guggle and the book she found, she fell asleep on her bedroom floor...

Simcha asleep on her bedroom floor
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# Sunday, 15 June 2008

The PSG has a new home

As some of you may already know, the PSG upped roots and moved a mile and a half south from our previous location. Having been based in leafy Prestwich for sixteen years, we finally moved south, and went to Salford.

I was intending blogging our progress as we went along, but somehow I never got chance. Not sure why! Anyway, this blog post will attempt to summarise the events of the last two weeks in a coherent manner (now that would be a first!). Unfortunately, as I forgot to take my camera out of the drawer where it lives, it was packed away by the nice removal men (see below), so I never even got a pic of our worldly possessions stacked up in a lorry. Anyway, for those interested, here's how it went...

Friday 30th May - Packing

The fun started when loads of blokes called Bob turned up at our house. I'm sure they weren't all called Bob, but that was the only name I caught, and it seemed to apply to quite a few of them. They filled every room, and started grabbing items and packing them into boxes in a manner that cold only be described to the untrained eye as haphazard. I'm sure that it wasn't really, and that there was some deep mystical meaning to the order that they followed, but it looked random to us! Sadly, as none of the Bobs ever explained the secrets of the runes to us, we found unpacking a little unpredictable, as we couldn't find much connection between what was written on the box, and what was actually in it, nor much connection between the items in each box. Maybe we need to be trained in the ways of removals... or not.

By the time they left on the Friday, our house was a complete mess. A fairly empty one, but a mess. We managed to tidy up before Shabbos, but had a strange, empty sort of Shabbos, with our voices echoing eerily from the bare walls. Those of you that visited PSG World Headquarters will probably remember that not much of the wallpaper was visible, due to the large number of children's pictures, photographs, oddities and the like that adorned the walls. Once you remove all the bookcases (hee hee, the Bobs didn't expect quite that many of them!), and take down the decorations, it was rather like living in a concert hall (only without the orchestra of course, we didn't invite them for Shabbos).

Sunday 1st June - The calm before the storm

This was a sort of lull in the proceedings. I spent most of shifting out the stuff that the removals men (the Bobs) weren't taking. It's amazing quite how much junk two adults can accumulate over sixteen years.

Monday 2nd June - The Big Day

More Bobs came on Monday morning, only one of whom had been on Friday. They packed up the last of the stuff, ready for the Final Departure. The owner of our new house rang up around 11:30am to tell me that he expected to be out of the house by midday. As the Bobs were still furiously packing, this was rather an academic issue, but it was nice to know.

We finally left PSG Mansions at around 1:15pm, with all of our worldly possessions packed into a great big lorry. It was a bit like going on holiday, only different.

I expected to feel some kind of sad twinge, or at least slight nausea when we left the PSG for the last time, but it was a remarkably unemotional experience. We drove off without a backwards glance. This seemed odd, considering the number of happy years we had there, but I guess it made it easier.

We arrived at the new house after an uneventful drive of some four minutes (approximately, I didn't time it exactly). Rather appropriately, the first thing we all did when we got there was have lunch. It was a gloriously hot sunny day, so the Boss and I sat on the patio doorstep and munched our sandwiches in (moderately) quiet contemplation.

Refreshments finished, the Bobs swung into action. Box after box came off the lorry, and I had to try and dodge them all as I directed each box to its intended location. This was made harder by the cryptic descriptions written on them, but we managed to get pretty much all of them into the right place first time.

The interesting bit came when they tried to get our beds upstairs. Due to the height of the bases, and the art-nouveau dog-leg bend in the staircase, they couldn't get these off the ground floor. This necessitated a complete rethink of the sleeping arrangements, resulting in us taking a ground floor room for our bedroom, and the children taking the second floor rooms, leaving a large gap between us. Having slept in the next room to the little ones all of their lives, we were a little nervous about being two floors below them.

It's an odd thing (well, not really, but it seemed odd at the time), but it's amazing how quickly you can fill up a house with boxes. As the Bobs were bringing them in quickly, we didn't have chance to unpack anything at the time, so we had boxes of stuff on the floor, blocking the doors to the empty cupboards. The house seemed very small!

The new house is in a mews (which has nothing to do with cats), which is home to approximately 30-40 children. We discovered this as they all came to watch the Bobs shifting boxes. Within minutes of the slide coming off the lorry, our garden was full of children - it was lovely.

In the middle of it all, the older children started arriving home from school. The little ones went to a friend after school, but the big ones couldn't be kept away. Amazingly enough, they managed not to be in the way too much. Nechoma Bryna took Simcha, leaving the Boss with two arms to get working instead of the one she had had available the rest of the afternoon. Wandering into the garden to distract Simcha, Nechoma Bryna inadvertently became the centre of a play group for all the children jumping on our slide and playing in the garden. I can see a great future for that girl!

Due to a slight underestimation of the amount of accumulated nonsense, they were still unloading by tea time. A quick 'phone call to the local office resulted in a whole army of back-up Bobs arriving to help, whilst some of the original Bobs (Monday's original Bobs, not Friday's Bobs who hadn't come back) went home to play darts and watch the football (so they told me, I didn't check this out). They finally finished at 7:30pm, and waving farewell, we were left Bobless, but not boxless.

Amazingly enough, by 9pm, everyone who should have been in bed was in bed (although not necessarily asleep), and even those who didn't have to be in bed yet had a bed, and even had bedding to go on it. We didn't even have such a late night.

Tuesday 3rd June - Unpacking

With Simcha being looked after by a friend, and the other children in school, we cracked on with the unpacking. Despite having been given everyone's cheerful warnings about how stressful moving house was, and how we would be living out of boxes for weeks, we were pretty clear by the time they all came home. My seforim were all still packed in boxes as the bookcases needed fixing to the walls, but apart from that, pretty much everything else was unpacked. As the new kitchen has less cupboard space than the old (which had enough cupboards to start a self-storage business), there were some boxes of kitchen stuff in the living room, which resulted in...

Wednesday 4th June - A frustrating, but ultimately productive trip to Ikea

As we needed somewhere to put the excess kitchen stuff, and some more bookcases, we decided to visit Ikea. This was a mistake. Not that there's anything wrong with Ikea, just that the particular Ikea that we decided to visit appeared to have been carefully designed to cause as much frustration and irritation as possible to the hurried buyer. It was impossible to get from one place to another without visiting every single other place in between. I'm sure Ikea think that this is a clever idea as it makes you walk past things you would have otherwise ignored, but the amount of wasted time and frustration it generated caused us to resolve never to visit this Ikea store again.

Anyway, returning home with our heavily laden car and lightly laden wallets, I set to building the new furniture. I wrote about my thoughts on Ikea furniture some time ago, and I don't think they've changed since!

With the new cupboards and bookcases finished, and the old ones fixed to the wall, we were ready to unpack the seforim and say goodbye to the boxes. OK, so it wasn't really "goodbye" to the boxes as we still had them all, but they were flattened and stacked in one of the downstairs shower rooms (where else does one keep one's empties?)

At this point, the story becomes even less interesting than it was before. Suffice it to say that we were totally unpacked by Shabbos, with the exception of a few things that we had no intention of unpacking yet anyway. These were stacked away in discrete corners, awaiting the development of our longer-term plans for the house.

Shabbos Kodesh

Bliss. The weather was glorious, the house was straight (as much as our house ever is), and the grounds were full of happy children.

Sunday 8th June - Moving into my new office

Well, with the rest of the house basically straight, I decided it would be a good idea to move into my new office. In stark contrast to the vast and luxurious office suite that we had discussed before moving in, I ended up with a cupboard under the stairs...

The left picture shows one end of our living room. At the end of the bookcases (on the left), you can see a door that would lead into the kitchen, were it not for the fact that there's a fridge on the other side of it, so it can't be opened. Next to this door is a cupboard under the stairs, which contains my office. The right picture shows an interior view of the office suite. As you can see, I don't have to go very far to find anything!

And finally... is it still the PSG?

For those of you who didn't realise, the "P" in "PSG" stands for "Prestwich," which is where we used to live. Now that we don't live in Prestwich anymore, there has been some debate as to what we should call ourselves. On the one hand, we have been known as the PSG for more years than we can remember, but on the other, it's no longer accurate.

Nechoma Bryna wants to stay as the PSG, because she reckons that no-one knows what the "P" stands for anyway. OK, so now you do, 'cos I just told you, but other people might not (at least, according to Nechoma Bryna). Some of the others suggested the SSG (as in "Salford Smile Gemach"), or simply the SG (guess what that one stands for!). We haven't decided yet, but as we haven't got used to the idea anyway, we are still the PSG by default.

OK, this blog entry has been longer than I intended, and was probably a lot less interesting than I intended! Well done for reading this far - if you did. Shame on you if you gave up reading earlier - but then you wouldn't know I just wrote that would you! You'll be glad to know that we're almost at the end now, so even if you are still reading, you don't have to put up with much more.

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# Monday, 28 April 2008

The PSG hits YouTube - will the Internet ever recover?

Having had fun making short video reports for the world-renowned bastion of fine journalism, The Daily Prune, I finally got around to making some of them public.

First off is a video I made on the Friday before Pesach. As first day Pesach was Sunday, this made Friday erev erev Pesach. We were engaged in the usual traditional pre-Pesach activities, such as jumping around in a sack of potatoes. Don't believe me? Just watch...

(to watch the video, just click the small "play" button in the bottom left of the player above. If you click on the big "play" button in the middle of the main video window, it will open the video in a new window on YouTube)

Next is the report of one of the PSG's chol hamoed outings...

I may get around to putting some more of them here if anyone is interested.

Please leave a comment and let us know what you thought of the videos. Just click the "Comments" link at the bottom right of this blog entry, and then scroll down to where you can leave your comment.

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# Sunday, 23 March 2008

Shayna Brocho's birthday

Today, Shayna Brocho reached the grand age of eight.

The day's excitement started when there was a timid knock on the bedroom door at about 6am, following by a small voice saying "I had a bad dream."

I called, and Shayna Brocho bounced in, leapt on top of me and snuggled under the covers. The bad dream seemed to have been forgotten in an instant, and it was cuddle Daddy time.

Now I don't want you to think that I had any problem with this at all, other than the fact that I wanted to go back to sleep. Thankfully, Shayna Brocho's idea of snuggling Daddy involves putting her arms around me and snuggling close. This is in contrast to Eliyohu, who jumps up and down on me, tickles me, etc.

Anyway, an hour or so later, she heard the sounds of movement in her room, and decided to go and see what was happening. On the way back, she passed by the landing window and spotted... SNOW!

With a huge shout, which woke up the rest of the house, she ran back into her bedroom and announced the good news to the others. This was the start of the party. It was noisy and lively!

We had a celebration birthday breakfast, which she spent in the very best place, on her Daddy's knee. During the breakfast, she opened her presents, ably helped by her Daddy of course...

We were actually looking at the camera, just a different camera!

My parents came to stay for Purim and Shabbos, so were there when Shayna Brocho opened her presents. My mum had been teasing her for a few weeks that she was getting two fish fingers for her birthday present. Sure enough, the present was...

...two fish fingers! Shayna Brocho was highly amused, and gave her grandma a big hug...

Just in case you're worried, she got a real present as well! After the presents, it was time for the birthday cake...

If you turn your computer screen upside down, you will see that the cake is a star-shape, with a girl's face in the middle.

Happy birthday Shayna Brocho

Nothing at all to do with the events of the day, but I managed to catch a nice picture of Simcha at the same time...

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# Saturday, 22 March 2008


Being Purim, it was dressing-up time. The little girls were the only ones I managed to photograph, so unless I can convince the others to dress up again, you'll have to imagine what they looked like.

Anyway, here are (left to right) Queen Shayna Brocho, Queen Chana Liba and Simcha the Sheep...

This isn't actually a great picture of Simcha, but it's the only one I could get with the hood up.

Aryeh Yehuda was dressed as a pirate, mainly because that's what the school decided. All the boys in his class were dressed the same, which made an impressive show when they went out collecting. Eliyohu was dressed as Moshe Rabbeinu, and looked every bit the part!

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# Tuesday, 01 January 2008

Aryeh Yehuda's Bar Mitzvo seudo

Well, the Big Day finally arrived. Aryeh Yehuda's bar mitzvo seudo went off splendidly, even if I do say so myself! This was in no small part due to the magnificent efforts of my good lady wife, who organised the whole thing.

First off, Aryeh Yehuda said his drosho...

Listening keenly (and not falling asleep as it looks in the picture) were, from right to left, Rabbi Chaim Modche Zahn shlita (head of Beis HaTalmud school), Rabbi Pollak shlita (our Rov) and Rabbi Leibish Rabinowitz shlita (rov of our shul)...

Shlepping nachas by the bucket load were the Boss and myself (she's the one on the right)...

More nachas was shlepped by both sets of doting grandparents. Here are his paternal grandparents...

...and the maternal ones...

All in all, the boy did us proud. Looking cool, calm and collected throughout the whole thing, I think we were more nervous than he was!

Two days later, on Thursday morning, Aryeh Yehuda leined in shul...

On the left is Mattisyohu Black, who taught him the leining. He did a great job!

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# Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Sniff, and it only seems like yesterday that he was in nappies!

OK, so it's been a while since I updated the blog. Sorry.

Anyway, it is now only three weeks to Aryeh Yehuda's bar mitzvo, so it seemed like a good time to add some new pictures of the fella.

A couple of weeks ago, he got his tefillin. In line with an age-old tradition, the first day he put them on, he was helped by the family Rov. Below are a "before" and "after" shot of Rabbi Pollak helping him put on his tefillin...

After a predictably slow start, he is now getting pretty efficient at putting them on and taking them off. The one disadvantage of this is that I now have to wind up my own! Previously, he was doing it for me. Oh well, only a couple of years before Eliyohu starts wearing them... now that's a mind-boggling thought!

To complete the "young man" image, Aryeh Yehuda also got a new suit and hat for the occasion...

Sniff, and it only seems like yesterday that he was in nappies!

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# Sunday, 07 October 2007

The children visit the sensory garden

Avid readers of this blog (OK, I can dream can't I?) may remember me mentioning the opening of a sensory garden in memory of my grandparents. Well, we were in Leeds last week, so we took the opportunity of showing the children what had been done. Unfortunately, the garden itself hadn't been tended very well, and was in need of some attention. We were told that this was in hand, and it was being prepared for the winter, following which it would be replanted.

All of which leaves me without much in the way of pictures, except for these two...

The children in front of the plaque

Chana Liba in front of the plaque

This second picture came about when one of the people inside the building by the sensory garden saw us, and came out to say hello. He took a shine to Chana Liba, and gave her a big red flower. She duly posed with it, then waved it around so violently that all the petals fell off! Kind of sums her up really :-)

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# Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Back to school

Today was the first day back at school for the younger girls. For Shayna Brocho, this meant the transition from Infants to Juniors, along with the transition into a skirt and blouse instead of the pinafore dress. For Chana Liba, who started Reception, the change was from Nursery to Infants, which meant a school uniform for the first time.

Here they are, proudly showing off their uniforms before heading off to school...

Shayna Brocho and Chana Liba in school uniform

I will be interested to see what Reception makes of Miss Bonkers! I'm not sure they'll have met anyone quite like her before...

Chana Liba in school uniform
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# Sunday, 29 July 2007

Three little girls

We went to Leeds to see Grandma and Grandpa. Simcha went flying...

Shayna Brocho and Simcha

In case anyone is wondering, Grandma and Grandpa's flat isn't all pink and fluffy! That was a background I added as it suited the pink and fluffy nature of the two girls. Wonderful what fun you can have with an image editing program!

To complement the earlier picture of Simcha in the fancy chair, here is one of Chana Liba...

Chana Liba
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# Thursday, 21 June 2007

Simcha soup

Boy did I get into trouble over this picture!

Mind you, it was nothing compared to the trouble I got in when I put Chana Liba in the fish tank!

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# Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Our 15th wedding anniversary

It is our 15th wedding anniversary today! Hard to believe it, but she really has put up with me for that long!

To mark this historic occasion, I decided it would be nice to buy the Mrs a new pair of candlesticks for Shabbos. The ones she has are old brass ones that were passed down from my great-grandmother. Whilst there is a certain sentimental value to them, they are looking a little past their sell-by date, and one of them leaks wax quite badly.

So, off to the shops I went, with my 50p in my hand. Hmm, it seems that candlesticks cost a bit more than that! I had to spend nearly 80p on her! Good job I like her eh?

Anyway, after breakfast, we had an official presentation. As you can see, Chana Liba did the honours by handing over the present...

Carefully watched by Eliyohu, she opened the package, and was (thankfully) pleasantly surprised by the contents...

Spot the happy Mummy! Good job you can't see the tears in her eyes!

When it was all over bar the soppy bits, it was time for a family picture. For obvious technical reasons (as I haven't worked out how to use the timer on my camera yet), I could not be behind the camera and in front of it at the same time (as I haven't mastered faster-than-light travel yet), so I'm thankfully not in this picture. Those of you with strong stomachs can imagine what it would be like with me in...

Well, that's it for another 15 years. Better get saving.

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# Sunday, 17 June 2007

Simcha's first shoes

Simcha has been walking for a couple of weeks now. We decided that she had become steady enough to have her first pair of shoes. So, off they went to the shoe shop this morning, and she's been tripping over her own feet ever since! I guess it will take a couple of days to get used to them, but she seems quite happy about the whole affair.

Whilst I was taking pictures, I managed to get a cute one of her that didn't show the shoes, but was worth seeing for the expression on her face...

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# Thursday, 10 May 2007

Newer, even cuter picture of Simcha

Having produced a cute picture of Simcha whilst at my parents' flat, I wanted to try and improve on it. The setting was fine, I just wanted to photograph her in her Shabbos dress.

As previously blogged, we went to Leeds last week for the opening of a sensory garden in memory of my grandparents. We stopped off at my parents' for lunch, and I took the opportunity to catch a new photo. Here is the result...

Simcha sitting pretty

Not bad eh? Copies can be ordered at a bargain price of only 1000 quid each! The original is priceless :-)

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# Thursday, 03 May 2007

A lovely memorial of a very special couple

As avid blog readers will know, my beloved grandmother o"h (known to all as Bim) passed away about eight months ago. Despite being blind, she was a tireless worker for many worthy causes, including the Jewish Blind Society in Leeds. One of the projects that was close to her heart was a sensory garden for the blind, where the plants would be chosen for their tactile and fragrant qualities as much as their visual beauty.

Sadly, she did not live to see the realisation of this dream. After she passed on, others took up the challenge, and the garden was officially opened today. In memory of both Bim and my grandfather o"h, the Vivienne And Theo Morgan Sensory Garden is finally open in the new Community Centre in Leeds. We went over for the opening, and thought it would be nice to share some pictures with the world.

The community centre is built around a central courtyard, providing security and privacy for the elderly people who live there. The sensory garden itself is built in raised wooden beds, around three sides of a patio in the courtyard. The beds were designed so that elderly people would be able to touch and smell the flowers without having to bend down.

The official opening began with my mother and aunt unveiling the plaque that marks the garden. Unfortunately, they whipped it off so quickly that I didn't manage to catch them at it! You can see the cover just hitting the bench below in the following photograph...

The grand unveiling

The unveiling was accompanied with a couple of short speeches. The first was given by one of the social workers who had known Bim very well. They had formed a firm attachment, which lasted for many years. That was followed by a short speech from my Aunt, which was very touching, especially given that she is not keen on speaking in public.

After that, it was time to try it out. As mentioned above, most of the plants were chosen for their varied textures (including some lovely furry ones), or their aroma, which included some strong smelling herbs and grasses. Giving the two sisters the first honour, they managed to find the smell of these plants peculiarly amusing...

Smelling the plants

As well as appealing to the noses and fingers of blind people, the garden features a beautiful wind chime, which provided a lovely tinkling background to the atmosphere...

The wind chime

Obviously, a garden like this was not only designed to appeal to blind people, so some brightly coloured flowers were included for the rest of us as well. Due to the bright sunshine in his face, Aryeh Yehuda ended up appreciating these flowers with his eyes tightly shut! Aryeh Yehuda was actually supposed to be in school, but had not been feeling well. As we couldn't leave him at home, he ended up coming to Leeds with us.

Bright flowers for the sighted as well

And of course, the obligatory "smile for the camera please" before we left...

Enjoying the sensory garden

Whilst it was sad that she never saw the completion of this project, this garden is a lovely tribute to a wonderful woman. I feel proud that her lifetime's work will be perpetuated and appreciated for a long time to come.

In loving memory of both Bim and Gramps. We'll never forget you.

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# Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Simcha at 12 and a half months

I know I've been a bit lazy about updating this blog, but here's something to prove that I do add entries sometimes :-)

The day after Pesach, we took a PSG trip to Leeds to see Grandma and Grandpa's new flat. Whilst we were there, Simcha had a go at sitting in an ornate carved wooden chair they have. The result was just too scrummy to keep to ourselves...

Hopefully more regular updates, jokes and pictures will hit this blog... but don't hold your breath!

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# Wednesday, 21 March 2007

My daughter the literary genius

Simcha now has a huge vocabulary of high quality words. She can say "bup bup," which means "Please pick me up" as well as, erm, well not much else really!

Still, we think she's a genius.

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# Wednesday, 07 March 2007

From Horseshoe Crab to Formula One in two weeks - Simcha update

Having commented on Simcha's similarity to a Horseshoe Crab, at least in terms of her inability to roll over, she has made remarkable progress in the last two weeks.

We first noticed that something had changed when she was found sitting up in her cot one morning. Given that she sleeps on her back, she much have rolled over to sit herself up. This was purely conjecture for almost a week, until we spotted her in action.

Since then she has come on in leaps and bounds. She now walks around the furniture quite fast, and whizzes up and down the room using a baby walker, reminiscent of a Formula One driver. She hasn't yet figured out how to turn, so she hits the wall at the end of the room and looks around for help until some kind soul turns her around, but her speed is quite impressive.

I know, in no time at all she'll be getting married and we'll be wondering where the time went!

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# Tuesday, 06 February 2007

My daughter the horseshoe crab

Some time ago, we went to an aquarium, one of these huge ones with loads of fascinating aquatic creatures. Despite the magnificent spectacle of the main tank (which was the size of several olympic swimming pools), my personal favourites were the horseshoe crabs...

Horseshoe crabs

I have always had a fascination for stupid creatures. Penguins have long been a favourite of mine. They stand around on ice floes, not sure what to do. One of them will suddenly decide to go for a swim and, before you know it, ten thousand penguins are having a swim. They enjoy this for a while and then, one of them decides to get out. Before you know it, ten thousand penguins are back on the ice floe wondering what to do. One of them will suddenly decide to go for a swim and, ... well, you get the idea.

Horseshoe crabs have their own peculiar oddity. As you can see from the picture above, they have a domed shell that comes down to the ground/sand/floor/whatever all around. Underneath, they have really little legs.

Now the problem they have is that they are ideally designed for operation the right way up. Flip one over and it doesn't know what to do. It just lies on its back waving its little legs frantically until one of several things happens...

  • A surge of water comes along and turns it back on its front again. This is somewhat fortuitous and cannot be relied upon as an option. However, it is better than...
  • Other horseshoe crabs come along and run all over the upturned one. This causes it to get all upset and wave its little legs even more. At first, you feel sorry for the poor little fellow (at least, we assume it's a fellow for want of an easy way to determine gender), but after a while it's hard not to laugh. They look very comical like that. It's probably not the least bit comical for the horseshoe crab, but maybe I have a mean streak. Either way, this is better than the final option...
  • A passing predator spots the helpless and agitated upturned horseshoe crab and decides it's time for a spot of lunch. One serving of horseshoe crab a la carte later, and that's the end of that.

Now, anyone with enough spare time on their hands to have read this far might be wondering why on earth I bothered writing about this, and (if they had read the title of this entry) what this has to do with my daughter. Read on dear reader, for your patience shall be rewarded (although only slightly).

Simcha is now ten months old. This is a lovely age, full of fat tummies and giggles. She is crawling around the place at a fair speed now, but still has one major handicap in her movment. Unlike most babies, she still hasn't worked out how to roll from her back to her front. This means that if she ends up on her back, which is not infrequent, she does a remarkably close impression of an upturned horseshoe crab! Ah, so that's what all this drivel was about!

Once on her back, she has pretty much the same options as the horseshoe crab...

  • As surges of water are not so common in our house (B"H), the first option can be replaced by a surge of sibling who sweeps her up into their arms and smothers her in kisses with many a cry of "You're so sweet!"
  • Other children come along and crawl/roll/walk over her. This is usually done in a friendly and non-painful way, but does nothing to help the now squeaking Simcha get back on her front.
  • A passing older sibling spots her and decides it's time for a tickle. At this point, she is helpless and easy prey for the PSG ticklers, who will tickle away until they have had their fill.

Oh well, at least she survives to crawl away, unlike the hapless horseshoe crab. For some great pictures of these creatures, you can visit a web site all about them. Just don't tell them we sent you there!

By the way, those who are squeamish might like to know that horseshoe crabs aren't actually crabs at all. They are actually more closely related to spiders and scorpions, so that's OK :-D

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# Wednesday, 24 January 2007

An open letter to Ikea

Dear Mr Ikea,

I write to you in desperation. I realise that you place great importance on giving your customers value for money, but I really feel that in the interests of the Greater Good, you should increase your prices immediately.

You may feel that this is not in your best interests, but I am inclined to disagree. Your pricing structure is altogether too low, and this can, I fear, lead to domestic stress.

"Can we just pop to Ikea dear?" sounds like an innocent request, but beneath it lurks a dark danger. You wander around the shop and she says "Ooh look at that, that's very reasonable." You try and ignore it, but you can't.

"It would look really nice in the front room." - You try a few non-committal grunts, but these don't work either.

"That would be really useful for keeping all the children's toys off the floor." - You try distracting her by pointing out something obviously unsuitable for your home, but it fails.

Try as you might, you can't win. She's been hooked, and you aren't going to leave the shop until she's bought everything.

So you arrive home with a car packed full of huge innocent looking boxes. You can't ignore these boxes like you ignore all the other DIY jobs that she's been asking about for months. These boxes are too big. What's more, they are in the middle of the floor, and the baby is trying to eat them. You have no choice but to stay up until 1am building cupboards, positioning shelves and so on. That's not even the end of it though...

Once you have a new piece of furniture, she does insist on rearranging the entire room to be "more practical" or "give us some more space now we have that big cupbaord you just built" (like it's my fault?)

Please Ikea, put your prices up.

A Desperate (and tired) Husband

P.S. In fairness, I should point out that the instructions were easy enough for my ten-month old baby to understand...

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# Tuesday, 09 January 2007

Simcha's a crawler!

After weeks of trying and almost succeeding, Simcha finally learnt how to crawl on Shabbos morning. She's no Speedy Gonzales, but she has worked out how to get around.

Now nothing is safe! I have to make the house child-proof again. It's amazing how relaxed you become after three years.

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# Monday, 01 January 2007

There were three in the bed

The boys went to a siyum last night. This meant that they got home very late, and by the time we finally managed to stop them chattering and turn the light out, it was 11:40pm. We had all just managed to fall asleep when... crash bang, the world exploded. We had forgotten that there is some curious obsession with marking the change of year with fireworks. Not just one or two, but loads and loads of them.

This is probably fine if you are awake, and even outside to see them, but if you are all exhausted and asleep, this is not so fine. Thankfully, we didn't have too many children wake up. Eliyohu HATES fireworks, and so would have been awful after a very late night and only 20 minutes sleep. The two little ones also slept through, but Shayna Brocho woke up and came in looking for comfort.

To cut a long story short, she ended up sleeping next to me for the rest of the night. It's amazing how much space one small person can take up! I didn't get much sleep, although she did.

Some people have this every night. I suppose I should count myself fortunate that this is only the second time in 13 and a half years I've spent the night with one of the children in my bed. The last time was when the Mrs burnt herself very badly and had to spend the night in hospital. Nechoma Bryna was about 18 months old, and managed to fill a king sized bed, leaving me without any space to sleep! Looks like her sister has inheritied that skill.

Ho hum and yawn. I got a great cuddle though :-)

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# Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Simcha almost crawled today

Simcha (9 months now) has been on the verge of crawling for some weeks now, but never quite seems to take the final plunge. She got quite close today, and took what could almost be described as two steps (if that's the right word to use for crawling) before one of her sisters squealed in delight and picked her up to give her a big hug!

More bulletins as events warrant. Although she isn't crawling in this picture, it's cute anyway...

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# Thursday, 26 October 2006

Bashing hoshanos (and each other)

One of the more interesting parts of Succos (which has a notably large number of interesting parts) is the act of beating hoshanos on the last day of Chol Hamoed (known appropriately enough as Hoshano Rabbo). We have a healthy willow tree in our garden, which started out life as the arovos in my lulav a few years ago. After Succos, I planted it, and it has now grown big enough to provide me with fresh arovos part way through Succos, as well as enough hoshanos for the whole family.

Whilst most Jews take hoshanos of a modest length, there is a custom amongst certain Jews to take very long ones, presumably in remebrance of the ten amoh (Biblical cubit, between 18" and two feet) long ones that were taken in the Beis Hamikdosh every day of Succos. This year, Aryeh Yehuda decided he wanted long ones. This wasn't a problem as our tree grows quite tall and needs cutting back every year, so I cut three sets of long ones (about nine feet), and some more sets of a normal size.

Nechoma Bryna, Aryeh Yehuda and I used the long ones, the others used the smaller ones. In case you've never seen anyone bashing a large set of hoshanos before, here is a stop-frame action shot of Aryeh Yehuda in action...

And here is Nechoma Bryna looking a little more genteel with hers...

...and Shayna Brocho looking pleased as punch with hers (which actually weren't hers, but she picked them up and bashed them around after the previous owner had finished with them)...

A good time was had by all, except for those who had hundreds of willow leaves to pick up afterwards!!

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Lots of girls in the park

Just had to share this photo. We went to Bruntwood park (south Manchester) the day after Succos. All the children were still of school, so we took the opportunity for a family day out. It was a lovely day, made even better by the fact that the non-Jewish schools weren't on holiday, so the place was almost empty. I caught a nice picture of Nechoma Bryna and Simcha...

Well, while I'm at it, here's Chana Liba on a swing...

As you can see, Shayna Brocho was having a great time swinging her.

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# Wednesday, 25 October 2006

The great fishing trip and "new" Macdonald's farm

We went to Burrs country park for a Chol Hamoed Succos outing. One of Aryeh Yehuda's friends had been some weeks before, and had caught fish in the river. The children were keen to try the same.

After some initial searching, we found a spot that had some fish. Armed with nets and a jam jar, we spent a happy hour or so in a battle of wits with the fish. We managed to catch about 18 altogether, with Nechoma Bryna catching the first, Aryeh Yehuda catching the most, Eliyohu catching the most at one time and Shayna Brocho catching the biggest (albeit with rather a lot of help from me), so everyone was happy...

We took them home and put them in a large plastic bowl, for want of anything better. The following day, we went off to a local pet shop, where we bought a small tank. Along with some gravel from the main PSG fish tank, the fish had a new home.

The aforementioned friend of Aryeh Yehuda had given him one of his fish, which was living in a (different) jam jar on a shelf in the kitchen. Originally, he had been named Elbow, after Chana Liba's first attempt at pronouncing "Wilbur" (our short-lived baby fishy friend of some months ago), but Shayna Brocho decided that "Macdonald" was a far more suitable name (what do you mean, "why?"), and that stuck.

Logically, if Macdonald was in a jam jar on the shelf, then the collection of fish in the new tank should be "Macdonald's farm" - and so it was. Sadly, Macdonald himself, having survived several weeks in his jam jar, unexpectedly expired the very day he was to have joined his friends in the farm.

So, now we have a second tank of fish, a little smaller than the main PSG tank. It turned out that the fish are minnows...

Apparently, they are one of the few native British fish that will take well to an aquarium. Ours have already got used to flake food. They can grow to about 4", if they don't get eaten by pikes or trout first. Due to the curious lack of pike and trout in our small tank, I think they shold be safe!!

The only sad part of this is the events of last Shabbos. I came down on Shabbos morning to find that three fish had managed to jump out of the tank during the night. I guess the lid must not have been on firmly enough, although it looked OK to me. What was even more sad was that another jumped out later that same day. Given that we hadn't lost a single fish due to our bad care, it was sad to lose four in one day. We still have 14 left, and hopefully they will grow.

To end off on a happy note, here is a picture of Chana Liba enjoying the riverside...

Chana Liba on a rock

End of fishy tales for today.

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# Wednesday, 27 September 2006

Chana Liba does a headstand - sort of!!

I was throwing Chana Liba around this morning (as usual), and carried her into the kitchen upside down. Before anyone reports me for child abuse, I should point out that she actually enjoys this a lot!! I think she must have some of my genes in there. Anyway, I digress (as usual)...

I gently placed her head on the cushion that we put behind Simcha, so that when she gracefully falls over, she doesn't bash herself. Chana Liba leant over and rested her legs on the top of Simcha's play gym.

The result was this...

She stayed there for quite a while, and only came down when Mummy decided that it wasn't a clever idea :'(

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# Wednesday, 13 September 2006

Two little girls and a football table

Well, having had a rather busy week last week, I didn't get time to post anything here... so time for a quick update.

One little girl

One of the more exciting, if messy things to have happened here was that Simcha started on solids. Her first taste of them was some mushed up carrots, which went down a treat. She has now ventured into mushed up sweet potato, and will no doubt try other mushed up vegetables soon. She did try some carrots that were merely bashed a bit rather than really mushy, but she wouldn't eat those, so it was back to mush!!

Another little girl

Chana Liba started school last week. Having successfully "graduated" from playgroup, she is now officially a Big Girl and goes to school with Shayna Brocho. Despite our slight concerns as to how well she would take to a new environment, she hardly looked back as she went in on her first day. Thankfully, she seems to have settled down well and enjoys it very much.

And a football table

One day last week, Aryeh Yehuda was explaining to me the concept of some complex sounding game that they have in school for wet breaks (not that if ever rains in Manchester of course), and happened to mention that the school were thinking about buying an air hockey table. Now I had been looking at just these very things on eBay only the day before, so I spoke to the school administrator (who lives a few doors away) and told him not to buy one without me checking prices first. He was actually quite happy to let me sort it out for them, so off I went. They wanted two tables for school, and he wanted one for himself.

I sent off messages to a few of the people who were selling new ones, asking what price they would give me for three, and then spotted that one of the sellers also sold football tables...

A football table

I rang the school administrator back and managed to persuade him to buy one of these as well!! They all arrived on Friday afternoon, too late to take them down to school (shame). I decided, purely in the interests of research and quality control, that it would be a sensible idea to assemble the football table and an air hockey table - just to make sure they were in full working order of course :-D

Needless to say, we were very popular on Shabbos afternoon. It was like the World Cup all over again, only more fun. A good time was had by all.

On Sunday, I was speaking to my Mother, and told her about the fun that they had all had with it, and she very generously offered to buy us one!! Thanks Grandma :-)

It's supposed to arrive today. I wish it would hurry up. If it doesn't arrive soon, I might have to resort to doing some work!!

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# Tuesday, 05 September 2006

The saddest day

For those of you that don't already know, my grandmother (known as Bim to the close family) passed away two days ago. She had been ill for a short while, and deteriorated quickly. We went to Leeds to see her on Sunday, and she passed away right before our eyes. The funeral was yesterday (Monday).

It's hard to know what to say about her, it's still too new. She was a truly remarkable woman, who even in her eighties had all the energy and enthusiasm of many people several decades her junior.

I would like to write more at some point, but right now I can't think of the words.

Goodbye Bim, we all loved you.

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# Sunday, 20 August 2006

Daliah and her cousins

As Daliah (eldest daughter of my brother David for those who may not know) is visiting England at the moment, we took the opportunity to meet up with her a couple of times. After some initial problems finding each other (which layby were you in Grandpa?), we spent the day in Durham.

Now I don't want you to think that the children fell in love with Daliah, but they did!! Shayna Brocho especially. She spent every possible moment either holding Daliah's hand, or sitting on her knee. That is, when she wasn't hugging her of course...

Even the normally shy Chana Liba warmed to her and allowed herself a cuddle...

You can tell how surprised Daliah was by the fact that she wasn't even looking at the camera.

The ultimate test came when she managed to persuade Simcha to sit on her knee...

For a five-month old, Simcha has remarkable object permanence (the ability to realise when something ought to be there but isn't), and usually starts crying as soon as Mummy is out of sight. Not only did Daliah manage to hold her for quite some time, she even did it when Simcha could see her Mummy and know that she was in someone else's arms.

It was lovely seeing her, albeit too short. Come back soon Daliah, we all miss you.

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# Thursday, 17 August 2006

Bowls, a game for gentlemen... or not

In the park near our holiday home is a bowling green. We decided to introduce the children (and Daliah, who was with us for the day) to this most gentle of games. As you may know, this game is supposed to proceed at a slow and leisurely pace. Picture old men in flat caps, plodding across the green at a snail's pace. Aryeh Yehuda didn't quite grasp this bit...

Needless to say, most of his bowls went whizzing across the green and landed in the gutter on the other side!! Mind you, my own shots weren't much better as I couldn't seem to make them gentle enough. Amazingly enough, I actually won two of the three games, but only because Nechoma Bryna did a couple of superb shots that were right on target. Unfortunately (for her at least), they were slightly too hard, and they knocked the white ball right over to the other side of the green, right next to my bowls!!

A good time was had by all, and the teams all lined up for a post-match photograph...

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Shayna Brocho makes friends with a butterfly

We went strawberry picking today, and as we were wandering along, I saw a white butterfly fluttering by. I pointed this out to Shayna Brocho and Eliyohu who were holding my hands, and Shayna Brocho said "Oh yes, I've seen it before, it comes in our garden sometimes."

Gently, I pointed out that as our garden was in Manchester, and we were currently just outside Gateshead, maybe this wasn't the same butterfly.

Not perturbed in the slightest, Shayna Brocho insisted "It is the same one, I recognise it!!"

I decided not to disillusion her...

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# Tuesday, 15 August 2006

My fabulous sense of direction

The Mrs sent me off to Tesco last night to stock up on a few basic provisions that we decided not to bring. Given that a major supermarket is rarely far away in our green and pleasant land of shopkeepers, we saved on the limited space in the car, and opted for the traditional start-of-holiday trip to the supermarket.

This should have been a simple affair, five minutes there, twenty minutes in the shop and five minutes home. Of course, had the Mrs come with, this probably would have been that simple. As it was, between my sense of direction, Nechoma Bryna's directions and the two boys' hysterical laughter every time we took a wrong turning, it took us about 30 minutes to find Tesco.

Oh well, having found the shop, I thought it should go easily from now on... or not. Believe it or not, we got lost in the shop. No really, I mean it!! It took us about an hour to find everything we wanted, which involved driving some poor Tesco employees mad with our constant requests for directions. Good job we didn't have a big shopping list!!

Oh well, having paid and got back in the car, I thought it should go easily from now on... or not. Coming out of the car park, we were faced with a bewildering array of choices. We could turn left, or turn left, or erm, turn left. For want of a better direction, we turned left. This would have been fine, except that we wanted to go right. OK, so you just find the next convenient small road and turn round, right? Wrong. There weren't any. As we drove further and further away from the way we wanted to go, I became less and less sure of where we were and how to get back.

With little warning, and even less chance to opt out, we found ourselves driving over the Tyne Bridge. Under other circumstances, this would have been a pleasant and interesting diversion. With three children, beside themselves with laughter, and the thought of ending up in Scotland ahead of us, it was, shall we say, not quite as pleasant and interesting as it might have been. Actually, the Tyne Bridge is nicely lit up at night, and the view of the other bridges over the river is worth seeing. Maybe we'll go back when we know where we are going (or when the Mrs is navigating).

To cut an increasingly long story moderately short, we ended up driving past St James Park, home of the famous Newcastle United football team. At least, I'm told they are famous, my knowledge of football goes about as far as a basic idea of which way to kick the ball (towards the end where the chap who you don't recognise stands in front of a net). After that, it was actually quite straightforward driving and we arrived home a mere hour and a half late.

Oddly enough, the Mrs wasn't a bit surprised...

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# Thursday, 10 August 2006

Making a fool of myself - Part 97a

The Mrs took the children off to the park this afternoon, so I had the house to myself. It was lovely and quiet and I had the chance to get a lot done (I didn't, but that's another story).

At about 4pm, a large blue vehicle drew up outside the house, and I assumed that my peace had ended. The doorbell rang. This is not unusual, as the little ones often like to ring the doorbell when they get home, even if there's no-one in.

I decided to surprise them, so I crept out of my office. I sneaked up behind the front door and leapt out with a "ROAR!!"

It was the milkman...

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# Tuesday, 25 July 2006

Happy birthday Daliah

My oldest niece Daliah turned eighteen today. Judging by the blog entry, David is feeling old and redundant. This got me thinking (well, something has to)...

1) Are parents ever redundant? OK, we can get old, that's a fact of life, but my parents certainly aren't redundant. Maybe I don't rely on them as much as I did when I was small (my life nowadays tends to involve more answering bottom-wiping calls than making them!!), but I certainly need them and rely on them. I have to disagree David, parents are never redundant.

2) Daliah is eighteen. I remember the day she was born. They were living in Israel, and I was there for the summer. I went to their flat a day or so after she came home, and held her for the first time. She was so small. I had never really held a baby before, certainly not one to whom I felt so close. My father has a video of the moment. I looked up at him and said "I want one!!" B"H I got my wish six times over (bli ayin horo). Time has a habit of flying by when you're not looking. I guess that's why middle age hits some people so badly.

Anyway, happy birthday Daliah. May you continue to grow into the fine young woman that you have become. We are all looking forward to seeing you in a few weeks. Lots of love from all at the PSG.

Goodness me, I think I'm getting old, I was almost crying when I typed that

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# Wednesday, 19 July 2006

Chana Liba and the "scrimpler"

The other day, the Mrs was walking with Chana Liba, and they passed a garden that had a sprinkler going. As it was a small garden, water was being sprinkled into the street. Chana Liba took great delight in running in and out of the spray, and refused to come home for about half an hour.

In the past week or so, we have had some of the hottest weather in the UK's recorded history. On Sunday we had the paddling pool out, which caused great excitement amongst the children (ours and next door's). The problem with this is that it takes up a lot of room, and it uses a lot of water. Also, the Mrs doesn't like leaving Chana Liba in it.

So, we decided to buy a "scrimpler" as Chana Liba called it. I just ventured out from my air-conditioned room, into the baking sunshine, to fit a hose pipe to a water supply in the cellar. I fed the pipe out into the garden, and attached the scrimpler. Getting rather wet in the process (which was actually quite refreshing), I set it going and stood back to watch the fun...

...Chana Liba wouldn't go near!! She stayed by the edge of the garden, avoiding the water. Ho hum.

Kids eh?

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# Monday, 10 July 2006

Simcha's first bounce!!

As Simcha is holding her head up very nicely, we decided to try her in the bouncer. This is a fantastic toy that, sadly, isn't made for adults. Shame as it's wasted on babies!! Ours was a present from Uncle David and family when Nechoma Bryna was born (thanks guys). It has been used by each of the PSG babies in turn, and it still going strong. Simcha had her very first go in it today, and here is the result...

As is usual, it took her some time to work out what to do, but once she got it, she had a great time.

Now why don't they make these things in Daddy size?
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How many beans make five?

A few months ago, we decided to try and get some beans to grow. This all started because Shayna Brocho's teacher had done something similar with them in school, and she was eager to try it out at home. So, one Sunday afternoon, Shayna Brocho and I raided the food cupboard and pinched some cholent beans (butter beans and red kidney beans to be precise). Bored of doing homework, Nechoma Bryna decided to join us.

We lined the inside of some empty jars with absorbent paper, then pushed the beans between the paper and the glass and added about 1" of water (so that the beans were above the water). The principle is that the water soaks up water and makes the beans damp enough to grow.

Due to the fact that Shayna Brocho's teacher had done it by putting the beans on some wet kitchen roll in a box that was placed in a dark cupboard, we decided to do a couple like that to compare the success rate.

Well, within a few days, we had a fair number of roots and shoots growing, which developed into nice bean plants. Eventually these were transferred into plant pots, resulting in the PSG Bean Plantation shown below...

The main picture shows the porch window sill with nine bean plants growing well. The inset shows three flowers on one of the plants. Altogether, we have around 50 flowers growing, each of which should produce a pod containing several beans.

All in all a fun way to learn about how beans grow. At the rate they are going, it will be a tasty way too!! I reckon we will get enough beans for one cholent.
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# Wednesday, 05 July 2006

Simcha update

As you can see from the picture below, our little Simcha is growing into a not-so-little Simcha (bli ayin hora). The picture below was taken during one of her many happy moods. She has developed a gorgeous smile, and a little giggle. This is complemented by a lovely fat tummy, which is currently impervious to raspberries, but I am biding my time on that one!!

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# Friday, 30 June 2006

The time of their lives

Shaarei Tefila (where I learn in the mornings) is currently being bashed around as part of the new building. At the beginning of the week, a digger arrived to whack bits off the building and dig a large hole where the bits were.

Being the little boy at heart, I popped out every now and then to, erm, check that the builders weren't slacking. Honest, I wasn't watching the digger, I was making sure they were doing their job right. Ahem.

Anyway, I got chatting to the chap who drives the digger, and pointed out that he should do this job in the evenings as he would have a large crowd of cheering boys for an audience. He told me (half jokingly I suspect) that if I brought our boys down after school, he would give them a ride in the digger!! Not one to miss an opportunity, I took him up on this.

So, on Friday, I took the boys off to see the digger. True to his word, the driver sat them on his kneee in the cab and let them do some digging. He had his hands over theirs on the controls, but they really felt like they were operating it. A good time was had by all...

They both tried on his hard hat as well...

I got to sit in the cab, but being too big to sit on his knee, I wasn't allowed to drive or dig. Shame :-)
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# Sunday, 25 June 2006

Idiot's guide to DIY - by an idiot!!

You know you sometimes read those "DIY projects that went wrong" articles in such august journals as Readers Digest, where they tell the sad tale of someone who decided to knock through his living room and dining room and ended up pulling down a supporting wall, resulting in a collapse of the house?

Well, I always wondered how people could be so stupid. Of course, someone like me would never do anything stupid, ahem.

Shayna Brocho wanted a shelf by her bed, so being a good Daddy, I bought one for her. Having done this sort of thing many times before, I wasn't unduly worried about it. Having said that, previous experience has shown that the bricks in our house are very soft, which coupled with the unusually thick plaster, means you need long screws to hold even light things to the walls. I decided to use 4" screws for the shelf, as it was bound to get some hammering.

The job went reasonably smoothly, until I was almost finished. Shayna Brocho and Eliyohu went into the boy' room for something. They came back in and asked "Daddy, why are there matches sticking out of the wall in the boy's room?" I dismissed this as a childish attempt to get me worried - until they repeated the question.

With a growing sense of tredipation, I went into the boys' room, only to discover that the wall between the two rooms is evidently made of thinner bricks that I had guessed. The holes I had drilled for the screws had gone right through to the other side of the walls, so when I had plugged the holes with long matches, they had poked out of the other side!!

Ho hum. It wasn't actually the best place to hang a picture, but I put one there to cover the mistake. Maybe I should write to Readers Digest :-)

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# Sunday, 18 June 2006

Up, up and away

Yesterday (Shabbos) was a lovely sunny day. I was sitting by the window in the early evening, and I happened to look outside, and saw a large hot air balloon rising behind the house opposite. This being rather an unusual sight, I called the family and we went outside to see.

As we watched it rise higher, one of the children noticed another, then another, and another. After ten minutes or so, we could see about six or seven balloons floating around over the houses. As we watched them, some more appeared.

In the end, we saw thirteen hot air balloons. Most were the traditional shape, but a couple we more interesting. The oddest one was shaped (and coloured) like a large yogourt pot, complete with open lid!!

The favourite of them all though was the last one. Despite being the normal shape, its colours were eaily the nicest. It started off red at the bottom, then faded to yellow in the middle and became green at the top.

We watched them until the last one disappeared behind the trees, and then tried to get the younger girls into bed. This proved rather difficult as they insisted on looking for more balloons. The boys went off to stand on their bedroom windowsill, where they had a better view. Having just managed to calm the girls down and get them into bed, one of the biys yelled "Hey, there's another balloon!!"

You just can't help some people!!

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# Wednesday, 14 June 2006

Face to face - at last

I discovered a few months ago that I have a second cousin living in Stamford Hill (london). We spoke to each other over the string-driven modern type electric telephone, and seemed to get on well. He is slightly younger than me, with one less child, but otherwise a similar background and history.

He rang me yesterday to say that he was coming to Manchester for a wedding and would I be around to meet him. I wandered over to the hall after learning this evening and (amazingly enough in a crowded hall), managed to find him fairly quickly.

It was weird meeting someone face to face for the first time. We got on well, although it was sometimes hard to know what to say. We managed :-)

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# Sunday, 07 May 2006

The big cycling trip

Well, having got new bikes, we just had to try them properly. So, I picked up the boys and two of their friends from school, and set off to Sankey Valley Park, near Warrington. This is a great place for cycling as it has loads of decent paths, many by the side of the Manchester Ship Canal (home to several ducks and not much else), as well as a bit off slightly off-road terrain. Just right for a first trip.

We took a large bottle of cold juice, as it was a hot day, as well as a few biscuits. It turned out that Motty and Zevvy (the two friends) had brought four large bags of some very tasty snack. We had a good cycle, stopped for a feast, then cycled back, stopping only on a bridge over the motorway to wave at some cars. A few even waved back

Next stop - Everest!!

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# Friday, 05 May 2006

New bikes ;-)

Aryeh Yehuda was to do a cycling proficiency course at school, so we had to drag his bike out of the cellar, where it had festered over the winter, and see if it was up to the task. It was, but he had grown a little too big for it. A new bike was in order.

So, Friday afternoon, like I've nothing better to do a few hours before Shabbos, he and I went off to the bike shop. Well, you can't come out without a little something can you? Apart from the spiffy double-suspension bike that he chose, I got myself a rather nice mountain bike to replace the one that was, erm, "borrowed" from our succah last year.

I also succumbed to the temptation to buy a bike computer that tells you how fast you are going, how far you've been, your average speed, max speed, trip time, etc. I don't know how I ever cycled all these years without one of these!!

So, having brought them home, I presented Eliyohu with Aryeh Yehuda's old bike, which pleased him no end. Aryeh Yehuda cycled off to his shiur, and Eliyohu and I decided to go for a quick once around Heaton Park. It was a beautiful sunny day, just right for cycling.

I then realised how depressing the bike computer really is!! You sweat your guts out (if you'll pardon the expression) cycling for absolutely yonks, then you look at the computer and discover that you've only been going about ten minutes and you've cycled a little over three feet!!

Mind you, I did manage 16 miles per hour on the flat, and 24.5 mph downhill on the way back top the park gates, so I was quite chuffed with that. Eliyohu didn't quite manage such speeds, but he was well pleased anyway.

Next project - some real cycling!!

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# Wednesday, 28 September 2005

Don't feel well today - happy birthday David

It's interesting how the juxtaposition of two independent items can create an apparent link between them. I started to type this short entry to explain why I wasn't writing much today. I woke up with a very sore throat and a bad cold, so I don't feel too good. Consequently, I didn't expect to write much.
As I was writing the title, I remembered that it is my borther's birthday, so I added that as a second part to the title. Once I had written it, I looked again and realised that it read as if there was some causal connection between me not feeling good and David having a birthday.
The human mind is a funny thing  (OK, mine is!!)
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# Wednesday, 21 September 2005

Heads down, no nonsense mindless boogie

Yeah, bang your head on the floor!!
I just discovered that I can add pictures to this long-haired string-driven blog. Here is a picture of Aryeh Yehuda doing his "move over Jimi" guitar stance in the kitchen...

No, he can't really play the guitar by the way. This was the first time he'd ever even touched one as far as I know!!

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