Friday, July 30, 2010

Always Have a Spare

When I tuck Raphaela in at night, Bunny lays down right next to her. When I take Raphaela out of her crib in the morning, we cannot continue the day unless both she and Bunny have received a Good Morning kiss.

Bunny, Raphaela's most cherished attachment object, has torn his shoulder. He needs a seamstress more than he needs a Chiropractor.

Luckily, upon the advice of parents more experienced than I, Bunny has a sister, a pink version of himself. This doll has been sitting in a drawer, waiting for such an occasion to spring into action, and will be substituting until the original can return, whole again after his 'surgery.'

Bunny's sister is soft and new, and does not have various stains from being loved and sucked to death by Raphaela, but in the end, there is no replacing the original.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

First Time Meddler

It had to happen at some point.

Both Olga (Mika's mother) and I had become concerned that the swimming lessons had plateaued. The girls, the oldest children in their group, have less challenges each week, and have become used to the regular activities, without progressing to the next level. How many times can you carry a baby through a tunnel, or stick them on a floating exercise mat?

At a play date this week, Olga and I discussed speaking to the swim teacher, and in a kind way suggesting that either we should move to the next group, or perhaps Raphaela and Mika could be given new and more difficult missions to perform. The phone discussion with the swim teacher was cordial and respectful, and in fact the swim teacher promised that she would try to switch the two girls into a more appropriate group.

Thus I officially became a Meddling Mom.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Thoughts on Tisha B'Av

It all started when my mother asked me if I would be fasting today, on Tisha B'Av. My sister, who is due to give birth in one month, will apparently be drinking today, so as not to endanger her fetus, given that the East Coast is recording even higher temperatures than Jerusalem.

I had decided that because I am still nursing, I would drink just enough water to not harm my milk supply. I have never been that much into food for the sake of food anyway, so the eating part of the fast does not concern me.

This morning, when I woke up, for some reason I started thinking about the fact that my milk supply has diminished as Raphaela eats more and more "real food" meals, and spends much of the day outside the house at the care taker. I enjoy the intimacy of breast feeding, and will be sad when Raphaela is fully weaned, even though it represents an amazing step in her independence as a human being.

I continued thinking that since Raphaela's birth, I have not resumed a normal menstruation cycle; which would seem reasonable given that I am still nursing. That thought process led to concerns that maybe my cycle has been knocked out of sync permanently, and that my fertility would need a kick start when/if I get married and want to have more children.

Then I started thinking about how much Raphaela grows and accomplishes each day, and how I would love to have a sibling for Raphaela, though at the moment it hardly feels practical.

I am not sure if babies and fertility encompass appropriate themes for the fast day, but every new Jewish soul strengthens the nation as a whole. In any case, I plan on calling my GP tomorrow to set up some blood tests, just to see where my body is holding.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Kindness on a Sunday

I had stopped taking Raphaela to the park on Shabbat, because 90% of the time I seem to return home angry and frustrated; inevitably, I was clashing with some parent over the fact that their kid had hogged the swing for the last 20 minutes, or trying to find a spot in the park that did not suffer from glass shards, fly-infested garbage, or nearby smokers.

As a result, I normally spend Friday and Saturday basically alone with Raphaela, except for brief interludes of adult company, and by the time Sunday arrives I am feeling physically exhausted and socially isolated.

This morning, however, there was no reason to avoid the playground, and when we arrived, we enjoyed some quality swing time. Then an older Sephardi woman approached me and invited the two of us to join her and the large group of parents, caretakers and children clustered around a picnic area in the shade. The invitation was so kind and genuine, I started crying out of joy and relief, knowing that we were welcome and that both Raphaela and I would get the soul food that we needed.

And indeed we did. We stayed in the park for almost three hours with these playmates of various ages. Raphaela sat on the picnic blanket and shared toys, ate watermelon and cookies and relaxed in the company of these wonderful women, who sang songs to the children, and spoke to me as a grown up. I learned more about their families and they asked me about my experience as an American who chose to live in Israel, and my impressions of motherhood.

I felt relaxed, happy and appreciated for the first time in a long time, and these feelings rippled through the rest of our day.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Surrounded by Toys

This Shabbat, with all the child-friendly toy options available to her, Raphaela chose instead to figure out how to turn on the television, how to get her hand deep inside the VCR, and how to open the slot for the (non-functional) DVD player.

I think we also have a candidate for her first official word, which she started saying on a regular basis since Friday: when she is playing with something and examining it, she gets an introspective look on her face and says "Uh oh." This seems to represent a thinking word, rather than an automatic response to dropping an object, and she says it with such purpose and conviction, I can't believe that it is random.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Happiness Factor

I felt somewhat pathetic the other day, when I told my friend that I was looking forward to my birthday weekend (next week), because Savta Shira said she would baby sit, while I got to take a nap. Most years, pre-Raphaela, I have checked into a luxurious spa for three days and pampered myself in honor of my birthday, and this year I am looking forward to...a nap.

However, I am probably the happiest I have ever been, I cannot imagine a life without my daughter. The joy I get when I see her learn a new skill, or see her smile in the morning, surpasses anything I could have imagined.

In a recent editorial piece in the Boston Globe, Joanna Weiss summed up these feelings, about what she calls the "essential human experience": (Title: "Parental bliss, or lack of"):

"Parenthood is filled with blissful, transcendent moments, family ticklefests on the bed and games of catch in the backyard. But on a minute-to-minute basis, it's largely food service, logistics, tantrum management and arguments about personal grooming. And unconditional love, which is hard to overstate...

Which is to say that having kids isn't rational at all. It's a deep-seated primal urge, something you succumb to, even though you are relatively certain it will ruin your social life...

[P]arenthood does have advantages beyond those fleeting moments of transcendence. It helps you connect to your community. It forces you to meet your neighbors. It fills your house with laughter. It's an excellent excuse for buying toys."

Happy birthday to me.

The Difference a Nap Makes

Starting three weeks ago, they started the drilling beneath me, and it was so terrible that we basically moved out of the house. Last Friday I spoke to the contractor, who told me that they had finished with the "noisy part;" he lied. The first three days of this week the "Congo" drilling continued, and then yesterday, they mysteriously disappeared. No Arab workers, no dumping bin, no headache-causing noise.

I suppose I should have been grateful, but instead got paranoid. I don't know what their plans are, they are certainly not sharing information, and so I still live with basic uncertainty.

Since the drilling started, Raphaela has refused to take naps at home, and when she does not get that 45 minute siesta in the morning, she becomes grouchy and less cooperative for the rest of the day. This morning, after she again refused to nap despite the fact that the house was perfectly quiet, I took her out in the stroller, and perused the hills of Jerusalem for the time that she needed to rest.

The change in her was simply put, remarkable. She became that laid-back, happy and cooperative child, after over two weeks of her perfecting the art of the tantrum. So nice to meet that Raphaela.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Always a First Time

Thank G-d, with the exception of the beginning of allergy season, Raphaela has not been ill. This week changed all that, between my own stress, her not napping because of the construction, her exposure to germs galore at Gymboree, and her exposure to the specific germs of the little boy at her care taker.

For the first time, I had to take Raphaela's temperature, to check if she had a fever and needed to see the doctor before the weekend. The thermometer may be digital, but the placement is far from ordinary. I imagine there will be quite a few uncomfortable experiences as Raphaela grows up, and today I had to stick the thermometer where the sun don't shine.

No fever, but she has been crying on and off all day, in between sporadic naps. Our family doctor is also a colleague and a friend, and she has made herself extremely available to us, and for that I am grateful. She may have extended herself beyond the norm because I am a single parent, but after being awake since five am and essentially holding Raphaela all day, I will take all the sympathy I can get.

And despite the fact that I am a Chiropractor, I will also take some aspirin for my own headache, now that Raphaela is bathed and asleep.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Roller Coaster Day

I go into Shabbat with very mixed feelings about the day, and about the week I just experienced.

This past week I moved my work out of the house for a period of at least two weeks, longer if the drilling continues past the time they specified. The noise and vibration is horrific. The adjustment to the temporary office space went smoothly; convincing Raphaela's current care taker that I needed to drop her off in the morning ten minutes earlier to accommodate the commute was more laboured. The contractor and the lawyers with whom he works had promised compensation, and then seemed to renege.

This past Thursday, the deadline of hearing from the owner regarding renewing my lease for the next year came and went; the contractor implied that there would be no issues, but what does he really know? On July 1, I mailed in my rent payment for this month, and presuming the check is cashed, it would seem renewing the lease and signing becomes a formality.

Before the urgent comments start rolling in, I know full well that the owner could choose to evict me next week, and I have started looking for a new apartment, though I don't really have the time. Meanwhile, I remain in that state of wanting to cry to release the tension, caused by that lingering dread as to what the next week will bring.

(As an aside, what bothers me the most about my current apartment situation is not the noise or general disruption, but the fact that both the contractor and the owner are Ultra-Orthodox, and every time they get caught doing something illegal or downright nasty, they say, "But I am religious, I wouldn't do that..." The hypocrisy disgusts me.)

This morning, at 7:50 am, Raphaela officially turned nine months old, which gives her equal time inside the womb and growing (amazingly) on the outside. She has developed some lovely forms of communication recently, including this low-grade whining and all out temper tantrums if, for example I don't let her play with my car keys. She has become very attached to my car keys. As I was trying to get ready for us to leave for the pool this morning, she also had her usual Friday exhaustion, and so I felt like I was moving 100 miles per hour and standing in one place.

Being at the pool all morning with my friends Michal and Yael and Raphaela's friend Daniel, picnic on the grass and in grown up company, that was delicious and quite a relief from other events of the week.

When I speak to my parents now and they ask me how I am, I severely edit the details and answer something to the effect of "Fine, I am coping." Because this past week when I actually discussed some of my stress in detail, my mother told me basically that I cannot change anything and that I should let shit happen to me, until it is done.

I know that I do not control the Greater Universe, but I do control my choices, and I am not yet ready to give up on the life that my daughter and I deserve.