Friday, December 31, 2010

Young Love

When I picked up Raphaela from Gan today, the older group of children was celebrating a boy's third birthday.  Afterward, they distributed birthay cake to all the children in the Gan, and the mother said to me, "You know my son talks about Raphaela all the time at home.  He says he loves her, and when I ask him why, he says, 'Because whenever I talk to her, she smiles at me.'" 

Then the mother asked the boy in front of me, "Why do you like Raphaela?"  He shyly answered (in Hebrew),"She's so cute."

I thank G-d that I got one of the good kids.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mommy's Morning Off

This morning when I got dressed, instead of my usual jeans and comfy Winter shirt, I put on stockings and a mini-skirt, a nice sweater and jewelry in honor of my friend's son's Bar Mitzvah.  It felt nice to walk into Gan to drop off Raphaela, looking like I had dressed up for an occasion, and having her nursery teacher notice that I don't dress down all the time.

I know this Bar Mitzvah boy since he started out in the womb, he and his family made aliyah around the same time as I did.  He performed well, and afterwards I caught up with some people I had not seen in a long time; I can't remember the last time I walked into a shul by myself and could relax without worrying about Raphaela's attention span.  Everyone came up to me and said, "Where's your baby?!" As if I am not complete without my daughter.

Of course the Universe works its magic, and I ended up sitting next to a single mother by choice, who had her seven month old son with her at the event.  Without knowing that I shared her story, she told how she is tired all the time, but that it is all worthwhile every time he smiles.  She lamented that sometimes it is hard when she or her son are not feeling well, and she does not have help in the house.  I gave her my phone number, and told her that we JSMBC have to support each other, and that she is not alone.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Winter's Summer Day at the Zoo

There is a collective sigh of guilt when an Israeli says these days,  "What a beautiful day, what gorgeous weather."  Israel desperately needs the rain, and yet how can you not take your child to the zoo for the afternoon, the sunshine practically begs you to spend the day outside.

For the first time since I got my zoo membership, I did not get lost, but rather took the correct road at the first try, and even found a short cut.  The G-d of Parking was good to me, I could not have happened upon a better spot, as close to the front gate as possible.  Because Raphaela and I arrived in the early afternoon, we did not have to fight any crowds, and we explored parts of the zoo we had never see before.  At various points I parked her stroller in the shade, and we enjoyed the picnic I had packed for us.

Raphaela, G-d bless her, offered every animal some of her food.  She also made friends with every other child she saw, the majority of whom were Arab.  One five year old girl had a camera and was attempting to take a picture of the napping tiger, and Raphaela pulled on her sleeve and posed, "I am ready for my close-up, Mr. Demille." 

This only reinforces my claim, that no child is born with bias, it is the parents who instill values;  I maintain that the children are the key to the future of the Middle East.

Bonus points for today's outing:  because she did not nap all afternoon, she barely made a fuss when I tucked her into bed tonight.  I may even have a quiet night to myself.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Raphaela's Friends, Mommy's Friends

I have finally achieved the status of a Gan Mommy.

One of the other mothers, whose daughter is in Raphaela's group, invited the two of us over for a meal, so the girls could play together and so we could get to know each other better.  I felt warm and accepted, having other parents reach out to me, it is the first time in literally years that I am making new adult friends, thanks to my daughter.

Tonight is Christmas Eve, and normally I attend the annual YMCA special concert of 300 year old tower bells; Raphaela loves music as well, and I know she would enjoy hearing these unusual rich sounds.  But because it is Shabbat we will be socializing instead, with our Gan friends.  Happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Big Decisions

For the first time since Raphaela's birth, I feel myself embracing the idea of my daughter not as an extension of me, but rather as her own person, and that I as her caretaker have the important responsibility to allow her to explore the limits of her will, towards establishing an independent identity.

I am enjoying this shift as well, and this week scheduled a guilt-free haircut, massage and facial;  I can be a woman and treat myself nicely, outside Raphaela's needs.

In fact, this course of thinking has taken me one step further, into an area that makes me sad and joyful at the same time.  I am still nursing, not because it provides essential nutritional, but because we both enjoy the quiet and intimacy of the time we spend together.  (Plus I think it is a wonder of nature that my body can provide milk for Raphaela!)  However, Raphaela has fallen into the habit of waking up once or sometimes twice in the middle of the night for a "Boobies Snack."  She eats and within ten minutes goes back to sleep, but my sleep cycle has been ruined.

I am tired all the time, and unless I can train her to nurse only during the day time, I fear I may have to wean her altogther.  I don't know how to do that, though I suspect it will be difficult for both of us.

Monday, December 20, 2010

How Many Children do I Have?

Every day, when I go to work, there is a corner reserved on my cabinet for the items that give me joy, and remind me of my real priorities in life. 

At the moment, right next to a recent picture of Raphaela, I have placed one of my brother's business cards.  My youngest brother recently graduated from college and is spending the year working as a prestigious Presidential Fellow at Yeshiva University.  He and I have always had a strong and deep connection, despite the 19 year age difference, I am so proud of the person he has become, and can't wait to see how he will fulfill his vast potential.

If you ask me how many children I have, the short answer is one, the long answer is two and a half:  Harry, my almost nine year old cat, taught me how to love and care for someone, over and above my own daily needs.  Raphaela counts as the first human child, but my youngest brother showed me that the more you invest in a relationship, the more you both receive in return.   

Friday, December 17, 2010

Woman Plans, G-d Laughs

FRIDAY 17/12/10
What was supposed to happen:
Raphaela sleeps well, in her own bed
8:30 am Special session of photographs, rescheduled from Tuesday (Sick Day, RR)
9:15 am Drop Raphaela off at Gan
10-12 See Chiropractic patients
12 Pick up Raphaela from Gan
1:00 pm Facial, rescheduled from Tuesday (Sick Day, RR)
2:15 pm Drop off package at cousin's house
4:00 pm  Bring in Shabbat

What actually happened:
Raphaela does not sleep well, all night, in my bed
7:45 am  Raphaela eats breakfast
8:30 am  Special session of photographs
9:00 am  Arrive at Gan, Raphaela has fallen asleep in the car
9:10 am  Raphaela throws up this morning's breakfast, and part of last night's dinner (very graphic!)
9:30 am  After some debate, Raphaela and I leave Gan and return home, whereupon she falls asleep in bed
10 am     Cancel patients, wait to see if she will be happy enough to allow me to get a facial later
9:30-12   Raphaela in and out of sleep, with intermittent periods of dramatic moaning and nursing.  Indefinitely cancel facial appointment.
2:15 pm   Drop off package at cousin's house (quick visit!)
4:00 pm  Bring in Shabbat, hopefully with my sanity intact

For me, pushing aside my own needs again and again has been perhaps the hardest aspect of the experience of this week.  I don't mind at all taking care of Raphaela, but I also need to start taking care of myself, and this week has denied me that opportunity.  I can only pray (for so many reasons) that Raphaela get well over the weekend and is able to go to Gan continuously and regularly next week.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Children are our Future

With Raphaela ill today and at home, and the fridge in a desperate state, we went to the supermarket this afternoon.  While waiting at the check out line, a little Arab girl, slightly older than Raphaela, came over and spontaneously gave Raphaela a toy.

I have always maintained that the end of the Middle East Conflict lies in education reform for the youngest generation, on both the Israeli and the Palestinian sides.  When the newest group of souls sees each other as people rather than life-long enemies, perhaps there is a chance for change and room for optimism.

With a Little Help from my Friends

Afer a tumultuous night, Raphaela woke up with a mild fever this morning, and an overall lousy disposition.  And so I kept her home from Gan, canceled my afternoon patients and plans, and am hoping that the rest she gets today will take care of this Virus of the Week. 

Just to have a backup plan, I am frantically phoning all the baby sitters on my list, because I have a full work load scheduled for tomorrow, and there is no way that I can work and watch Raphaela, should she need another "personal day."

This would be a good time to have grandparents who lived in the same country, but I may have to rely upon my friends.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Old Man Winter has Arrived

After an unusually warm November and Chanukah, Winter arrived two days ago, in the form of 100 km per hours winds, and this morning at 2:17 am, after a loud crack of thunder and lightning, the rains that Israel so desperately needs.

Yesterday, sensing that this deluge was upon us, I tried to rescue a pregnant cat that lives in my garden, give her a warm place to sleep at night, but I missed that window, she is too old to be taken in and even act partially domesticated.  The best I can hope is that she continue to come to my door, so I can feed her, and that she is sensible enough to find a warm and safe place to give birth to her kittens.

Taking Raphaela to Gan has become much more complicated as well, I dress her in heavy winter coats and can barely close the straps on the car seat.  I rush with her into the nursery room so she stays dry, and then must make another trip in the rain and the mud to get her supplies and her stroller.  I worry that Raphaela will get another cold, because of the changes in temperature from the outside to the inside.

I can't remember how I dealt with Raphaela in the Winter last year, of course she was much smaller and didn't do much.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Value of an Hour

Why is it that I pay my house cleaner 40 NIS per hour, and I pay my baby sitters 30 NIS per hour?  Surely my child is more valuable to me than my material posessions?!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Lesson of Chanukah

Today I learned a very important lesson: do NOT go to the zoo when much of the country and their children have vacation due to a holiday, notably Chanukah, Pessach and Succot.

Raphaela got out of Gan today at one pm, and I thought, "Wouldn't it be nice to use our new membership to the zoo and spend a lovely afternoon in the (crazy, uncharacteristic...) sunny December weather?" We had to park in the valley/construction site across the way, and I carried my child, our snacks, my bag and the stroller across a sketchy bridge to get to the main entrance.  Even with the wide lanes and vast spaces, it was difficult to impossible to maneuver Raphaela's stroller, or to get a decent look of the animals at the viewing windows.  I wanted to see the lion and other animals that we had missed on our last visit, but I got lost in the sea of families.

Most disturbing to me was the behaviour of the Ultra-Orthodox families in attendance;  they pushed their way through, or blocked entrance to many of the exhibits. They left litter on the grass after picnicing.  And I heard the following sentence come out of the mouth of a group of 18-year old Yeshiva students:  "Let's throw rocks at the animals, so they will do something interesting...(amused laughter and gathering of stones follow)"  

This is the second time in several years that I have heard that phrase come out of the mouth of a person who claims to be religious, and the hypocrisy disgusts me; wear the right clothing, get married and have lots of children, and it's OK to mistreat other humans who are below you, and other living creatures.

I am hoping that I provide a consistent and moral example to Raphaela in my own actions, so she understands that the relationships among G-d, Man, Beasts and Gaea demand mutual respect

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Final Step, Acceptance

This morning I was sitting at my favorite bakery, having a Chanukah doughnut, when a former patient of mine passed by, on his bike.  I called out to him and he did not recognize me, saying "My G-d you lost so much weight, are you healthy?"  It makes me wonder, having received this comment lots in the last several months, (a) was I so obese before hand and (b) do I look so thin that people suspect I am ill?  I am not dieting, in fact I feel that I eat more junk food than healthy meals, and perhaps, because I still nurse Raphaela twice a day, that has contributed to my continuing weight loss.

Here I am, with a 14-month old girl, and at my lowest weight since high school, enjoying my body and enjoying being a mother.  I have mentioned previously in this blog that I hold onto the idea of having another child, but only with a husband and a dependable support system.  I have also started to accept that I may only be mother to Raphaela, and not only can I live with that reality, but the role of Raphaela's mother gives me joy every day, and I embrace those feelings. 

I have taken a major step toward accepting the job the Universe has set for me:  from the start of my pregnancy and until now, I had a painting hanging above my bed which symbolized the beauty and mystery of pregnancy and birth, a piece which I had done several years ago in an art class here in Jerusalem.  This week I removed that painting and replaced it with a colorful, fun and whimsical poster, one which Raphaela enjoys looking at as much as I; and one which represents the potential for growth and the fulfillment of dreams for myself and my daughter.

Raphaela is in fact growing up so quickly, her Gan sent her home with a menorah that she made herself, and it moved me to tears. (I double checked with the nursery teacher that an adult had not helped her significantly, LOL)  My baby is coloring, and testing the limits of my discipline, and making arts-and-crafts projects in school.  What better gift could I receive on Chanukah?