Thursday, April 29, 2010

What's She Doing?

This morning I signed Raphaela up for a baby swim class at the pool down the street, and the teacher asked me (for developmental and group assignment purposes), "What can she do?" I responded with what I thought might be useful information; such as the fact that Raphaela can hold her head up, roll over in both directions, crawl backwards and holds a bridge position in preparation for crawling forward. The teacher seemed quite pleased.

This somewhat absurd question, however, comes up on a regular basis in the office, when patients will ask me, "What's she doing now?" I am normally tempted to answer that Raphaela is playing the cello, going on an humanitarian mission to Nicaragua next month, and is starting Harvard in the Fall.

What is she doing? She is behaving like a normal, happy child who will be turning seven months. Maybe she should be sleeping better through the night, and maybe once we both get over jet lag, that will happen. But she is basically a baby, doing baby things, and entertaining her mother enormously with every new skill and smile.

As a competitive and driven person myself, I am trying very hard not to get caught in the comparison game, rather allowing Raphaela to develop at her own pace and enjoy herself along the way.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Banner Day

When I looked at my Sunday list, I braced myself for the idea that I should not expect to achieve it; after all, it was quite ambitious given that the babysitting option by Savta Shira fell through this morning.

After making several essential phone calls, Raphaela and I set out in the car around 10 am.

First we went to the bank, where I organized certain fail safe options until I could transfer in money and start earning money at work again.

Then we went to the garage, to get the air pressure in my tires checked; when the engine did not start last week, I wanted to be sure that the rest of car was safe for driving.

Then we parked at the Mega Mall (Hadar) in Talpiyot, Jerusalem, I fastened Raphaela into the sling, and the real challenge began. In the next two hours, I managed to go to Office Depot and even buy a new printer/fax/scanner for the office; I did an amazing job of comparison shopping and found Pampers diapers at a great price in the pharmacy; and then I completed the first real food shop since we returned from the US almost one week ago.

The cupboards had been quite bare, and the food shopping list was quite long. Since this was our last stop of the errands list, Raphaela started to get antsy; instead of continuing to carry her in the sling, I carefully placed her in the child seat of the shopping cart, surrounding her with my jacket and pocket book on either side, in case she tilted.

Which amazingly, she did not. She sat so straight and tall and strong, and I felt so proud of her that I almost started crying and dancing for her in the store. Throughout the entire supermarket experience, she did not once cry or kvetch or try to do something dangerous, other than nibbling on a corner of the shopping list. (Paper has lots of fiber, right?) When there was a delay in the check out, she sat quietly and looked around, occasionally smiling at passers-by. When I got her back into the car, I gave her a bottle, which she held herself and eventually fell asleep in the car seat.

Even though she was sleeping, I told her how much I loved her, how I was proud of her, how much I enjoyed her company, and how thankful I was that she let me get everything done. Today I felt truly blessed as a parent of a six and a half month old, and was damn proud of myself as a single parent.

Thank G-d, phtoo phtoo, my child is a blessing.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Raphaela sits very still, holding the toy at the tips of her fingers, waves the toy around a bit and then drops it. And laughs. Today she grabbed my eye glasses, dropped them on the floor and could not hold in the hysterical laughter.

Apparently physics is funny.

Speaking of gravity, I kind of let Raphaela fall on the floor today, because I hadn't strapped her into the stroller in time. Luckily, she was not that far off the ground and was wrapped in a heavy blanket because of the wind, and the blanket created a protective barrier. Even better, she was drowsy and so her body was relaxed, and the only real trauma was waking up from her nap.

Of course I felt terribly guilty, until I realized that she had escaped this parental snafu without a scratch, and without any change in her mood or behaviour.

Obviously now that she is so much more mobile - even if it's only to crawl backwards and get stuck under a piece of furniture - I must be vigilant in watching her and strapping her in immediately; and I must find the time to baby proof the house.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Jet Lag

Four hours - the drive from Boston to Newark
Eleven hours - the flight from Newark to Tel Aviv, with Raphaela on my lap the entire time
24 hours - the amount of time that I wore the clothing in which I traveled, before I could find the opportunity to take them off and shower
15 hours - the amount of sleep that Raphaela got the first night we were home
6 hours - the amount of sleep that I got the first night we were home, after keeping myself awake all day to unpack and try to establish some order in the house, before patients arrived the next day
20 - the number of times per day that Harry asks to go inside and outside, just to check that I have not left him and that I will answer his every whim

Raphaela grew an amazing amount this trip, not merely in physical size but also in maturity. She has started crawling backwards, and can lift her back up into a front crawl position. She started eating solids, and now enjoys rice cereal, carrots, green beans, avocado and pears. She has become much more purposely verbal, I only wish I understood everything she was saying when she speaks. She shows huge leaps in her fine motor control and pincer grasp.

For all Raphaela grew, that's how much my bank account shrunk. Between not working for three weeks and having to buy a whole extra plane ticket in order to return to Israel and avoid the volcanic ash, I have deep concerns.

I try to maintain the Israeli attitude that it will all work out.
As long as sleep is one of the options that work out, I will be happy.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

In Praise of My Parents

(Bet you didn't see that head line coming...)

For the chesed adopting a random Israeli woman who got stranded at the airport, giving her a place to be for Shabbat and driving her all around the Boston area when they probably had better things to do.

For staying at the airport with me, taking Raphaela and me home and keeping us safe and dry for an extra five days, and allowing me to unpack again, so they can help me pack again Sunday night.

For offering to drive me, my daughter and our new Israeli friend to Newark, where we can G-d Willing get an El Al flight back to Israel before the volcanic ash covers Israel as well.

For understanding that as much as I want to be around my family to have them spend more time with my child, I really really need to get back to my life and my work in Israel, which is unraveling every day that I get stuck here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Volcanic Ash

Last night I packed the suitcases, and went online to pay for an extra suitcase, ostensibly all clothing and gifts for Raphaela. This morning I woke up at four am to finish packing, shower and then wake up the baby and get her ready for the flight.

When I arrived at the airport with my parents, the British Air staff explained that because of a volcanic eruption in Iceland, the resultant ash had closed down all the airspace that belongs to Britain and the Finish countries; and that in all likelihood, I would not get a flight back to Israel until next week.

Another woman there, an Israeli, asked me to explain the situation, and we ended up adopting her, taking her home when we had all been evicted from the airport, helping her reschedule her flight, and inviting her for Shabbat. We Israelis have to stick together.

I called BA as soon as was possible, they kept me on hold for over an hour and a half, and by the time I got through, the first flight available left Monday night, and arrived in the afternoon on Tuesday, which is Yom HaAtzmaut. I don't know what aggravates me most: having to unpack and repack or missing that most amazing of national holidays in Israel, not to mention the start of BBQ season.

My parents of course are thrilled that they get more time with us, while I have to deal with the aftermath, the effect this will have on appointments and patients I must cancel, and the even more severe effect on my earning potential this month.

Who will pick me up from the airport now, on Yom HaAtzmaut, when the citizens of the entire country (including me) should be feasting and celebrating? I wouldn't ask anyone to miss that because of this Iceland "Act of G-d."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


G-d help me, I just helped my mother sign up to Facebook. The rationale being that it provides another avenue through she can keep in touch with me and Raphaela.

Now I have to be very careful when I post updates.

My youngest brother will be the most disturbed by this news, I think, and I have recommended that my mother wait until he "friends" her, rather than her taking the initiative. That way, he has the option of keeping that aspect of his life private.

Too Much Information

Once Pessach was over and my sainted sister returned to New York with her family, my parents noticed that there was a new baby in the house who had flown all the way from Israel to meet them. It took several more days before they took an active interest and started playing with Raphaela; and now that we have only two more days in the United States, my parents have started playing with Raphaela with real affection and enthusiasm.

It is nice to see, it makes me happy.

They have also decided that I should be embraced with a level of parental interest that I never really experienced from them, and at the age of 41 it is almost inappropriate. For example, I was sitting at the basement computer checking email and my father noticed that I had received a new match from the Jewish dating website, SawYouatSinai. We looked at the profile together, and for me personally, there was nothing in there that made me feel like I wanted to get to know this man better. My father, in a gentle and subtle way, suggested that I should not discount any dating options, because you never know where that all elusive Chemistry will appear.

While I agree with my father in principle, I have developed over the years and through extensive dating, a radar about people, and this matchmaking candidate was not only not my physical type, but also too religious for me. Especially when I am raising a baby, time spent out of the house and on-dates comes at a premium, and I must choose wisely.

Of course once my mother heard that my father had had access to my dating profile and matches, she insisted that she get a look as well, and in a not so subtle way told me that she thought this man was perfect: "He's a Cohen, just like your sister's husband!" "What a sweet smile he has, he reminds me of the way Daddy looked when I first met him." etc My mother also seemed distressed when she read the fine details within my descriptions, where I answered the question of "Keeps Kosher" by choosing the option of "Always at Home, will eat dairy in non-kosher restaurants."

An inquisition ensued, in which I had to explain that when I travel in Europe and I need to eat I will seek out vegetarian restaurants and order a piece of salmon, or a salad. Having bought an open-ended ticket on the Lobotomized Religion Train, my mother is now worried that I have lost my way, and will perhaps be an embarrassment to her in the local and family competition of who can call the Rabbi the most in one day.

Then to top it all off, I informed my mother that I would be meeting today with an old friend/boy friend from high school, with whom I still communicate even though it has been 20 years and we both have families of our own. My mother got that look on her face again, and asked, "Doesn't his wife mind that you are meeting with him?"

To which I replied "Why should she?" We are not having an affair, we are two friends getting together, and should a new line of questioning develop regarding our so-called relationship, I will avoid it until I am on the plane on Thursday morning.

This is why I live in Israel.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Princess Raphaela

I wanted to use the forum of the blogosphere to thank my aunt and uncle for hosting a wonderful day that celebrated Raphaela and welcomed her into the family.

I did feel some guilt at having her Simchat Bat on Yom HaShoah, although in terms of the timing of the trip and our return to Israel, it could not be helped and was in fact unintentional. I look at it from the perspective of the appreciation of the State of Israel, whose existence is owed in part to the Shoah, and what better way to celebrate the triumph of the Jewish people over Hitler than to welcome a new young soul.

I took the train from Boston to New York with my aunt, and met my parents there, as they had several other family obligations along the way, before the party. Raphaela fared well on the train and true to form, napped very little and socialized with the other passengers and the train crew.

My aunt, a supremely talented hostess and cook, presented a full brunch spread, as well as a bevy of desserts, including personalized sugar cookies. I practically lived in my aunt and uncle's house in college, and I appreciate the effort and aesthetics she put into this event, especially given that it all had to be prepared in the limited time after Pessach.

I gave a short speech explaining the derivation of Raphaela's name, and cried less than I had expected. Raphaela smiled her way into my cousin's hearts, receiving all with grace and what I would call a sense of royalty.

The nicest aspect of the gathering was the presence of several generations, all of us grown now and with families of our own. The adults sat on the patio while the children found others their age, and it was the first time in several years that so many relatives relaxed together for a simcha. One of my close friends was also able to come with her husband and three daughters, which made it all the more emotional and meaningful to me.

Raphaela only really fell apart toward the end, after several disrupted naps, to the point of refusing food due to exhaustion. I have long given up on maintaining her highly regimented schedule on this trip, and as soon as we returned to my parents' house, even though it was several hours past her normal bed time, I gave her a bath to help her wind down, and tried to get her to nurse, if only to relieve the pressure of all that milk.

I am sure she will get back on track as soon as we have to leave the US and return to Israel.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Family Style Sharing

Last week, my niece had a lovely hacking and productive cough, and would belt out a few, and then immediately after give Raphaela a big kiss and head rub. My sister-in-law had three days of the Cold from Hell in the last days of Pessach, presumably caught from her daughter, and I adjusted her several times.

Two days ago, after a nice break of clear breathing, Raphaela started coughing and her nose started running again. Yesterday, my nose started running and my throat felt scratchy; just in time for traveling to New York for Raphaela's party tomorrow, she and I have less than 24 hours to get better or get drugged. (Not an easy thing for me to say, as a Chiropractor who regularly encourages parents to use more natural methods.)

Somehow Raphaela's immunity seemed stronger in Israel.

This afternoon, my mother complained that her throat felt sore and that she had a headache...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

How I Know I am not in Israel

This morning a beaver (or a squirrel with an extremely large body) walked across my parents' back yard.

I am still surprised when I see gray squirrels abound, and can't stop myself from mistaking them for rats. I have only seen two cats since my arrival, and it makes me sad.

Yesterday my parents fired up the sprinkler for my nieces, and the water ran continuously for longer than I would ever consider showering. The Israeli in me resisted the urge to shut off the water, because it felt like such a criminal waste of natural resources.

Today I went clothing shopping for Raphaela, spent about $200 in three different stores that were all having end of the season sales; the experience of needing my mother to drive me has not necessarily fixed the situation, but it has cut through some of the tension.

I bought about 15 outfits, some toys and books, and had to consider that in the last week and a half since we landed in America, Raphaela has basically grown out of her current size of clothing. I wonder if any of the clothing sitting in her dresser in Jerusalem will fit her when we get home.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

And Then It Dawns on Her...

This morning I attempted to move my return flight to Israel to an earlier day, soon after Raphaela's little debutante ball in New York. The representative of British Air told me that they unfortunately had no places available, and so I am resigned to be stuck in one of the circles of Hell until next Thursday.

I made no secret about my being miserable, and did not hide in a corner to make this phone call.

Next thing I know, my sister and my mother are discussing me at the breakfast table, how insane and hyper-sensitive I must be to want to move my flight. Then miraculously, despite the presence of the favored sibling, my mother wants to take a walk with me and Raphaela rather than spend time with my sister and her family. (Not that I invited her.) My mother starts telling anyone who will listen was a wonderful baby I have, how hard it is on her that I live so far away, and how she couldn't possibly do anything in the next week because "Leah needs me." She even offered to make me breakfast, a huge step over the last week in which she did not notice that I was not at the table and had missed two meals in a row.

There may be some part of me that would feel grateful that my mother noticed me, but I mostly feel angry and neglected; I don't trust her with my vulnerability and with emotions and ideas that are important to me. I may just end up spending lots of time in the next week discussing the weather, a real challenge as I hate small talk.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

My Daughter the Local Celebrity

Apparently people are coming to shul just to meet Raphaela, and one woman came over to me yesterday and said that she had never seen a baby who was just so happy "to be." I have said it before, I believe she was born with wonderful energies and a Zen disposition, but I would like to think that I have some small part in maintaining that state of mind.

I experienced a bit of a high school reunion yesterday as well, with four of my classmates all in the Boston area and visiting their families with their children. What a relief it was for me to be a happy independent grown-up, to be on equal footing with people whose company I did not particularly enjoy when I was 17 years old. You could not pay me enough money to go back and do high school over again.

Today is my family's eighth day of Pessach, I have showered and once Raphaela wakes up from her morning nap, we are going to take a walk to the local pet store to play with the new kittens, as we both miss Harry.

This morning I played nursery teacher will Raphaela and all my nieces and nephews, organizing play so that the parents and grandparents could sleep. After all, I woke up with the baby at five am, so I might as well entertain the masses.

On the way home from our walk, very much planning on getting a decent cup of coffee from Starbucks.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Are We There Yet

Standing in a shul in Boston, saying the prayer for the welfare of Israel, holding my daughter, I started crying.

I am quite ready to call British Air and see if I can catch an earlier flight back to Israel than the originally planned departure date.

I had thought that my coming 6,000 miles with a six month old child, to spend time with her family, I thought that would mean something. Since I have arrived one week ago, my mother has not held Raphaela for more than two minutes, total. She has not once said "I love you" to her grand daughter, a child who radiates such positive energies that strangers approach her where ever we go. The cabin crew on British Air has spent more time baby sitting and showering Raphaela with affection than her own grandmother.

One of the reasons I made aliyah 13 years ago is because when I am around my family, they quite literally ignore me. I felt that I could not thrive or be happy in an environment that tried to convince me that I was not worth noticing. There was no place set for me at the lunch table yesterday, nor did I eat dinner. I never thought that their behaviour would change for me, but had higher hopes for my daughter; the reason I am so upset is not for me, but because my amazing beautiful and social daughter does not deserve this.

It must be hard to concentrate on anyone else when my sister is around, as the sun apparently shines out of her gluteus maximus.

Yesterday in shul an older woman with glasses came over to play with Raphaela, and she immediately started chattering away, to the point of grabbing this woman's arm when she started to walk away. My mother was mystified and somewhat jealous of this stranger, while observing this from three feet away. I understand it very well, Raphaela thought she was Savta Shira. Savta Shira who comes into my house and spends the first five to ten minutes hugging, kissing and cuddling my daughter, and telling her how much she loves her and her Mommy. Savta Shira who has no problem showing loving emotion to a baby who deserves nothing less, and who regularly encourages me and tells me that I am a fantastic mother.

Savta Shira was so happy for me when I told her that we would be at my parents for Pessach, she said, "That is so great, you will have people to watch Raphaela so you can rest, you will have a mother who will feed you and take care of you."

I am not holding my breath.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The G-d Squad

As I had suspected, my status as an Israeli would cause some conflict in my parents' house, where they (like lots of other Jews) have made a notable swerve to the right. We had discussed the fact that as an Israel, I would not be keeping two days of official chag and would not be attending two complete seders for Pessach. My mother even requested that I come to shul the second day in any case, to show off the baby.

But when I did arrive with the stroller and Raphaela after our walk, I was apparently not dressed appropriately enough and my mother's face noticeably winged when I entered the room. I later got the speech about how I disrespected a holy place and the people there, and how I would have dressed more appropriately if I had visited a church or a mosque than I did for her synagogue.

It distresses me that the word "goy" (meaning gentile) was bandied about almost as a curse word, and I replied that all of her friends there, whose opinions count for so much, know that it was not my holiday and they were quite affectionate and warm toward me and the baby, regardless of my clothing. "I am an Israeli, not a goy." But maybe in this case they are almost the same thing.

With my Ultra-Orthodox sister and her brood arriving today, the atmosphere will become super-charged with religious zealotry, and so I will have to hope that the weather improves enough for me to take Raphaela on lots of walks. The pinnacle of parenthood as well, my mother has advanced the theory that pacifier use (which my sister's kids do prodigiously) increases intelligence; and so I will also have to make a stand defending my parenting choices.