Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Twas the Week Before Pessach

When I showed Raphaela some of the goodies (relatively speaking, for this holiday) that I had bought for Pessach, she spontaneously exclaimed, "You are the great greatest Mommy!"


The weather continues to vacillate between full-on Summer and the threats of the return of rain and Winter.  Raphaela suggested, "We should carry our umbrella with us, that way it won't rain." She laughed and continued, "We will have played a big joke on the clouds!"


I was describing to Raphaela the mob scene that we would face at the supermarket before the holiday, and she came up with this insight:  "Why, that sounds like the plague of Locust."


We attended the grand opening of the Gazelle Nature Preserve, an oasis less than ten minutes from our house (walking distance), across the street from Raphaela's ballet class.  Raphaela was so busy examining a pair of lady bugs under her nature magnifying glass that we both barely registered the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir "Batman" Barkat, walking right past us.
After work and errands, we end up at the local bakery almost every day for a quick cookie and cup of something warm and comforting.  As the week goes on, the display window gets more and more empty, just as our own shelves at home become less and less populated with chametz.  He really does make the best coffee in town, and I will sorely miss it for the next week and a half.
At home, having run out of breakfast cereal, Raphaela is eating things like canned corn and fruit salad for breakfast.
Raphaela announced with pride, "We almost finished all the junk food we got on Purim from the Mishloach Manot!  I didn't think we could do it..."
Just as every child awaits the annual Purim costume catalog, today we received the annual Pessach toy catalog, toward the ritual of Afikoman presents after the night of Seder.  Of course my daughter picked out everything Elsa and Anna (from Disney's Frozen), unaware that I have already ordered a special gift; with the hopes that this activity will get us well through the week of vacation next week.  I bought her a play house that one must first color and then construct,.
Assuming it is no more complicated than a piece of furniture from IKEA, we should be OK.
In cleaning the house, I have come across puzzles and toys that Raphaela has outgrown and probably not even played with for the last few years.  Normally (to avoid potential debate and trauma)  I donate these toys to an organization during the day, when Raphaela is not home to catch me in the act.   As we will be having Seder with my brother and his family this year, and as my daughter seems to have matured, I asked her if she would agree to give these items to her younger cousin, who is not even two years old.  Raphaela immediately agreed, and even went around the house with me to find things I may have missed. 
She's a great kid, she's a keeper.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Sister Worship

Last night, apropos of nothing in particular, Raphaela began a five minute long monologue, while lounging in the bath tub.

"Oh how I wish, " she said with longing, "Oh how I wish I could become my cousin N.  I love her hair and I love the way she wears a pony tail. I love the clothing that she wears and I love the games that she plays.  If only I could become her instead of being Raphaela, life would be grand."

I reminded my daughter that by trading identities, she would also lose me as a mother.  And that she would get three other siblings in the bargain, with whom she would have to share her space and her toys, and well, everything.

"Don't worry Mommy," she reassured me. "You would be allowed to play with us!"

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

First Grade Prep Class

Raphaela has begun a preparation course for First Grade, given by the school itself toward the purpose of observing the girls who will enter their halls next year socially, and to get a sense of their incoming levels of things like phonics and math.  Eight sessions in total, four of which for the parents as well, to help us help our child adapt to this crucial academic transition.

I think this is a good idea, mostly because Raphaela will have explored the halls of the building with friends old and new, it will not be scary and new.  The activities they seem to have done so far, as well as the little presents they have received from the teacher in charge, have only encouraged Raphaela that First Grade will be a fun and enlightening experience.  The way my daughter bounded out to me after that first session, smiling from ear to ear, I have not seen her this jazzed in a long time.  Hearing her say with confidence, "I'm a big girl, I am a First Grade girl!", it only reaffirms my gut instinct that I made the right choice.

I truly believe that the moment Raphaela can read, the core focus of First Grade, the entire Universe will open up to her.

The Gan psychologist called me this morning, three months after I had put in a request to have an official Ministry of Education assessment done vis a vis First Grade.  When I told her that that ship had sailed, that train had left the station,  etc. she seemed puzzled and disappointed. I reminded her that we only had until April to make the final decision, and she should have done this assessment ages ago, if she really meant to help.  The psychologist's response? "Well, I was busy..."

This morning Raphaela reminded me, without my saying a word, that she had another prep class this afternoon, and that we have to bring her workbook.  She is remembering her so-called homework on her own initiative, that is a very good sign in my book.

Post-script:  The teacher of Raphaela's Nature Class, a woman with years of experience in the Israeli school system, has severe objections to this preparatory class, and to the pressure in general on children at an early age, in First Grade.  She made the analogy of taking a beautiful butterfly and crushing it in your fist, trying to control and corral the natural creative tendencies of Raphaela and kids like her.  I pray to G-d she is wrong in this case, I am comfortable and happy with my choice of educational institutions. 

I would hate to think that I am crushing Raphaela's spirit and potential.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Grandparents Party

The party in which I brought down the average age in the room significantly.  (Two other children besides Raphaela had non-grandparents sitting in the audience.)

The party in which I actually did feel out of place, and a bit resentful and jealous, feeling like both Raphaela and I are seriously missing the benefits of having grandparents near by. (But not enough to consider moving back to the United States.)

The party in which the following song was sung in Hebrew:  "A family is a mother and father, a grandmother and grandfather, sisters and brothers that fill the house.  Nothing less will do." (Not joking, I felt like I was attending a kindergarten in Stepford.)

The party in which the only saving grace was the bouquet of flowers Raphaela presented to me at the end of the event.  (At least I got some appreciation for doing the job of a mother and father, grandmother and grandfather, aunt and uncle, sister and brother, all wrapped in one tired package.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Right and Privilege

Today I had the honor of voting in an Israeli national election, an exceptional right and privilege to be able to participate in a Parliamentary Democracy; to be a Jew actively engaged in choosing a government in a country that is mine.  No matter what the results, I will never take that for granted.

Then, it being yet another school vacation day, Raphaela and I met our cousins at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, where we voted for a second time.  My daughter chose the Turtle Party ("Affordable housing for all") while I opted for the Lion Party ("Security and Leadership"). Perhaps the most realistic of all the Zoo Party options was the Lemur Party, which encouraged people to "get out of the trees" and face the reality of the complicated Middle East.

The leisurely pace of our day, the pleasure of not needing to be anywhere for anything in particular; it is perhaps the closest I have come in the 18 years I have lived here of experiencing the Israeli version of a true American Sunday.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Our First Diorama

In anticipation of the Grandparents Party/Torah Party this Friday, the children were asked to choose one of their favorite stories and create a diorama, to be displayed and admired at a table at the event.

In what will be (I can only assume) the first of many in her academic career, I present Raphaela's rendition of Jacob's Dream.  While I acted as the consultant on the project, I can honestly state that Raphaela did the majority of creative expression and heavy lifting;  no helicopter parenting for me, something which is frankly easier to achieve here in Israel, where the young are given more responsibility and independence than in the United States.

This diorama is sponsored by a great box we got from Purim Mishloach Manot, plastaline molding clay, and Playmobil toys.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

At the Sports Expo this afternoon, picking up the t-shirt and bib and instructions for the Jerusalem Marathon on Friday.  Every vendor is giving out stuff, and Raphaela walked away with quite a haul, including a balloon, sticker, bracelet and sweatband.

On the way to the car, Raphaela, skipping and smiling, said to me, "Mommy, I am happy all over my body because I got so many presents."

"Wow," I said, "why do you think you got all those gifts?  It's like a birthday party!"
"Because," Raphaela answered, "everyone loves me!"
I kissed Raphaela on the head and said, "Everyone loves you, but especially your Mommy."
"Oh yes," she replied, "my Mommy loves me best of all."