Friday, December 30, 2011

Sleep Walking

Raphaela's sleep schedule was somewhat disrupted this past week, because of Chanukah, but last night added a new twist:  around nine pm, she had about a half hour of what I would describe as sleep walking.  She was running around the house, speaking faster and more clearly than she does during the day, and was non-responsive when I asked her direct questions.  Clearly she was interacting within the lucid dream state, or with some spirit that I could not see, nor did I want to when I myself was trying to get some normal hours of sleep.  (Normally I enjoy the para-normal.)

At a certain point she woke up and stayed in my bed until midnight, so you can imagine that I did not achieve the quality evening for which I had hoped.

I am not aware if sleep walking is hereditary, I am certain that no one on my side of the family has ever manifested this delightful trait.  Hopefully this will be a one-time gig.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Only in Israel

Raphaela has two days vacation for the end of Chanukah, and this morning we took a walk around the neighborhood, enjoying the first day of decent weather in a while.  We stayed at the park for over an hour, and lunch/nap time was approaching;  Raphaela refused to walk home, the sunshine, slide and climbing gym held too much allure.

I stood there, not wanting to start an un-necessary and unpleasant power struggle, and said, "Please, please Raphaela. Let's go home and have lunch."

At that moment, an elderly woman walked by the park with her husband, observing the scene.  She said loudly to her husband, so that I could hear, "Our daughter-in-law speaks that way to her child as well.  Stupid young people.  You want to go home?  Pick the kid up and go home."

Monday, December 26, 2011

Bullying in Gan

One of the new boys this year at Gan has what his parents call an "impulse control disorder," and the nursery teacher tells me that it is "normal" for kids this age.

I don't care what you call it, this two year old has all the makings of a bully, and I am tired of Raphaela being the target of his irrational behaviour.  Twice already, when I have come to pick her up at the end of the day, I have witnessed him pushing Raphaela for no reason, grabbing away toys just because he wants them, and feeling no sense of remorse.  I don't know what happens the rest of the day when I am not present and observing.  At Raphaela's Gan birthday party, he spent the entire time torturing Raphaela ie taking away her birthday cake, pulling out her chair from under her, and hitting her.  My daughter talks about him at home all the time, and not in a positive "I want to play with him" way.

Yesterday, he walked over to Raphaela as I was standing there, and hit her in the chest.  I looked at him sternly and said, "No!" at which point he started crying, probably shocked at hearing the word.  When his mother came a few minutes later she said, "Oh, did someone offend you?"  When the nursery teacher explained the situation, she tried to get her son to apologize, but Raphaela ran away from him in fear.

The nursery teacher tried to tell me that this boy gets tormented by other children, so I shouldn't think that he is The Bad Seed Kid in the Gan.  Having been bullied and abused as a child as the adults in my life stood by, I will not let them happen to my daughter.

I cannot give the definitive answer on nature vs nurture, and I do believe that all humans are born with their essential personality.  It is our job as parents to set limits, and to guide our children toward the healthy and productive path.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

At two am this morning, Harry requested to go outside into the rain.  Three flights of stairs later, I returned to bed.  At 4:30 in the morning, Raphaela arrived, ready to start the day.  Did they change the clocks and not tell me?

After patiently explaining that she could come into the bed with me and go back to sleep, or play in the other room and leave me alone "until the Sun wakes up," I received ten minutes of despaired crying.  Then she left the room, and returned with one of those heavy board books and threw it at my head; clearly she wanted me to read it to her, and had no conscious intention to give me a concussion.

I have utterly failed at teaching Raphaela that dark means night and daylight means that I am actually ready to function.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Filling the Void with Light

My Jerusalem apartment always feels cold to me, and on a normal Israeli Winter day, I walk around the house with a sweat suit, socks and sometimes a hat. 

At my Chiropractor this week, she offered an alternative explanation to the phenomenon, one other than the obvious top-floor-apartment and cold stone floors.  After examining me physically and energetically, my Chiropractor (and friend) said that I was always cold because I was "empty" inside, because I constantly give and care for others and do not have physical intimacy in my own life, I do not receive enough hugs and emotional support.

For me, it was a "duh" moment;  if I am not taking care of my clients, I must give all my attention to Raphaela, and only have time for myself once she goes to sleep.  Mind you, I am not complaining about the time I get to spend with my daughter, but no one asks me about my day, and I have no immediate family in the country.

This week as well, a matchmaker told me that I would have successful matches and more potential for marriage if I just "gave up on living in Israel."  It is one thing to move away because I am actively involved in a long-distance relationship; it is quite another to be told that I should remove myself from a place and a life in which I am happy and settled, with no guarantees.  It made me angry.

This weekend certainly repaired some of that damage, as Raphaela and I spent Shabbat Chanukah with Savta Shira and her family.  Hugs, free and frequent baby sitting, adult conversation, nature walks, and delicious meals that I did not have to cook.  Marred only by the fact that Raphaela refused to nap in the afternoon, it was a much needed break from my own reality.

It was only on the way home, where we waited to pass through the security checkpoint for 20 minutes, that real life intruded again.  The IDF had to be extra-careful this evening, because it is the night before Christmas.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ultra-Orthodox Conspiracies

Consider the evidence, Ladies and Gentlemen:

One, kosher candy corn changed color around Holloween, from the usual orange/yellow/white to purple/pink/white, so that it would not be thought that good Jewish children were eating candy on a non-Jewish holiday.

Two, the incident of the Ultra-Orthodox man who held up the bus to Jerusalem for more than a half hour and got hauled away by the police, because he insisted that a modestly-dressed woman sit in the back of the bus, and she refused.  This event represents a continuation of the pattern, which could be seen for example when on Succot, women in the Mea Shearim neighborhood were forbidden to walk on the streeet at the same time as the men during certain parts of the holiday.

Three, the proposal this week by several memebers of the Israeli Cabinet that would give authority over the electrical usage to the Rabbinate, who are concerned that members of their flock are using electricity improperly over the Shabbat.  This would allow Orthodox Rabbis to restrict the flow of energy to all Israeli citizens, religious and non-religious, Jewish and non-Jewish, so that they can control their own.

And now the final straw:  since Chanukah and Christmas fall out during the same week and a half, the boxes of Chanukah candles do not contain the color green, thus avoiding a potential snafu of Christmas-like colors in a menorah.  Meanwhile, in the States, the Star of David is the hottest selling Christmas tree ornament, go figure...

As a side note, anyone from my generation remember when they temporarily stopped making red M and M candies, because they claimed that the specific dye caused cancer?

Chanukah 2008/2011

As the holiday gets closer, Raphaela becomes more excited about all aspects of Chanukah, though I have not introduced her specifically to the Israeli jelly doughnut concept.  She found a beautifully decorated dreidel that I had put on a high shelf, and immediately wanted to play, and I felt the completion of the circle that started with my fertility treatments.

On Chanukah in 2008, I attended the Bat Mitzvah of a freind's daughter, in the Old City of Jerusalem.  I knew that in a few days I would have my final IUI treatment, before Hadassah Hospital would force me to switch me over into the IVF route.  I wanted and needed this IUI procedure to work, after a year of hits and misses and several miscarriages.  Taking the opportunity, I went to the Western Wall after the Bat Mitzvah, and had a serious conversation with G-d and the Universe.  I informed all beings present -supernatural and otherwise -that this would be The One, this would be the IUI that not only got me pregnant, but stuck around for nine months and delivered a healthy baby.

On the way home, I bought the dreidel, in honor of the holiday and as the first present for my future daughter.

The IUI took place on January 1, 2009, and on October 2, 2009, Raphaela came into the world, bringing with her more joy and light and happiness than I ever could have imagined.

May we all be blessed with joy and light, friends and family, in this holiday season.  Chag Sameach!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Technical Genius

Somehow, Raphaela managed to press some buttons on the keyboard on Friday, and erased essential Microsoft code, so half the systems in the computer are now shut down.  I spent two hours on Erev Shabbat looking for the master disc, which seems to have been lost in the move.

Now I can't check email or record office data, and feel stupid and helpless.  A two year old is more tech savvy than her mother.

I knew that my computer was old and needed replacing at some point, I had hoped it would hold out a bit longer.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thank You, Raphaela

When Raphaela was one, she would say "thank you" after I would change her diaper.

Today on the way to Gan, we were practicing crossing the street, possibly the most beneficial skill for any Israeli child.  A car passed by and I held her close to me until the vehicle was but a blip in the distance.  Raphaela looked up at me and said, "Thank you Mommy."

Raphaela, thank you for having such a warm and loving and spiritual heart.  May you continue to be blessed in all that you are.

Pthoo phtoo phtoo.  (Gotta say it...)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

In the crusade to enact No Pressure Toilet Training with Raphaela, I have done all I can to set the stage for success.  We have a potty and a soft seat in the bathroon, next to the toilet;  Raphaela plays pretend games which involve her dolls sitting on the potty, after which she says, "All clean!"  The Potty Book (In Hebrew, girls version) is one of our favorite bedtime stories.  When I go to the bathroom, I forgo my privacy and have Raphaela watch me and hold my hand, as I explain how much fun it is to be a big girl like Mommy and use the toilet.

Now we have an issue of patience, ie Raphaela does not have the tolerance to sit on the potty for more than three seconds, not enough time to get results.  When she tells me that she is about to dirty her diaper, I ask, "Do you want to sit on the potty instead?" and she answers with a resolute "No!"

This morning, when I was getting dressed, Raphaela watched as I put on my own underwear.  She insisted that she too wanted panties and a bra.  I explained to her that she does not yet need a bra, and that she will get underwear when she is a big girl who uses the potty.  Raphaela continued to beg, and so I clothed her in a diaper, followed by a pair of underpants, with her fleece pants on top.

At the very least, her lower body will be warm.

Cultural Language Issues

So the 51 year old divorced man called me last night, to try to set up a date;  he is in town for three days before his next business trip.

A friend of mine told me that I would be lucky to fall in love with a man who travels so often and is barely home, because it would allow me to have that experience of couplehood while maintaining my independence as a woman and as Raphaela's mother.  That feels counter-intuitive to me, though perhaps at the age of 42 I am still naive about healthy relationships.  Isn't the point of a partner for life the idea that you share your time, and that together it all becomes deeper, richer and more fulfilling?

But what do I know...

As I may have mentioned previously, I have had less than optimal success in the Israeli dating field.  This person made two comments during our phone conversation that raised red flags for me, and it took all my strength not to over-react or pre-judge. 

I have not met him yet, and he deserves a fighting chance, as do we all.

In my experience, even when a person says something as a "joke," there is an element of truth to the words, that it comes from a place of programmed upbringing and cultural background.  I have no expectations of changing my partner, I will love him and accept him for all that he represents, as long as the compromise on both sides does not negate my basic belief system.

FIRST AWKWARD MOMENT
Potential Date:  When can you get together this week?  I leave again this coming Saturday night for two weeks.
Me:  I need to confirm a night with my baby sitter, and I will let you know for sure.
PD:  I am sure that you want to find a husband just to have a person to take your daughter off your hands. (Not followed by nervous laughter...)
Me:  (Stunned silence) Ummmm
PD:  Just kidding! (Followed by nervous laughter)

[What I was thinking in my head but did not say:  I don't need a man to validate my existence or provide free baby sitting.  I am looking for my best friend, my lover and the father to my child, possibly more children.  I am looking for the person who completes and balances my life, as I do for them, I am looking for my equal.]

SECOND AWKWARD MOMENT
PD:  So what kind of Chiropractor are you?  Are you the type who does...massage as well?
[NB  In Israel, among some men, the word "massage" is code for, "If I pay you extra,will you have sex with me and not say anything to my wife?"]
Me:  I am a Doctor of Chiropractic, not a massage therapist.  I choose to take a holistic and professional approach to the human body.
PD:  (Nervous laughter)

In my head, my Higher Voice was giving the rest of my mind and heart a lecture about keeping an open mind and giving the benefit of the doubt.  I would hope that he did not mean to call me a prostitute, or imply that I am easy, simply because I touch people for a living.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Yesterday we were reading Raphaela's ABC book, and we arrived at "L is for Love."
Raphaela looked at me very earnestly, and asked THE essential question, "What is Love, Mommy?"

I realized that she needed a way to concretize the abstract idea, and so I showed her a picture of the two of us hugging, gave her a big hug and kiss, and said, "THAT is Love."

Next step, the dating conversation...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The People in Your Neighborhood

(With a nod to the Sesame Street Song)

Ever since Hurricane Katarina (in the United States), I have been feeding street cats in my backyard here in Jerusalem.  Now that Raphaela is old enough to walk with me, she helps me in the charity of sorts;  I feel it is important for her to learn the value of kindness to all those around us, including those cats who are less fortunate to have a warm dry home in the Winter, like our Harry.

When you take the same route every day, you get to know people by their faces, you exchange "Hellos" without ever knowing their names, but they become part of your extended circle of friends.  This morning I passed a particular elderly man, who has exchanged morning greetings with me for years, way before I was even considering becoming a JSMBC.

Today he asked me "How is your beautiful daughter?"  To which I answered, "Pthoo pthoo, doing well.  Healthy and happy."  And the man responded, "Beautiful, just like her mother."

Which I of course appreciated, since I have been feeling particularly lousy and unattractive the past few days, with a cold of sorts and a sore throat slowly encroaching.  Truly, though I am not one to officially pray every day, every morning that we are both healthy and loving each other, I thank G-d for our blessings and our simple yet full life.

Shabbat Shalom!

Monday, December 5, 2011

One of my three ear ring holes has sealed itself for good. 

That might sound trivial if not odd, but I chose to install that particular third hole in my ear lobe soon after I made aliyah in 1997.  I did it to conquer a fear left over from childhood, and quite frankly, to freak out my parents just a little bit.  That third ear ring in no way represented my sexual orientation (heterosexual BTW) or some major rebellion on my part, since many women and men in Israel have more than the traditional one-in-each-ear.

Ever since the hormone rush of the pregnancy and Raphaela's birth, I found myself constantly and somewhat painfully reopening that spot for my earring, and I finally gave into the apparent will of my body.

This seemingly small moment in my life started me thinking about other "holes" and unresolved issues that I have ignored or mishandled until now.  Inspired by this train of thought, I wrote an email to a woman who used to be my best friend until we had a major falling out, several years ago;  I had no intention or rekindling the friendship, too much poisoned water under the bridge, but rather wanted to let her know that I did wonder here and then how she was doing, and that I only wished the best for her.

I felt quite relieved after sending the letter, and hope that she took it in the spirit in which it was intended, that of kindness to a fellow human being who was once a very important person to me.

Now there are a few members of my extended family with whom I would like to improve communication as well, as part of my spiritual house-cleaning project.  Every intention is there, though it is difficult to know where to begin to get past the awkwardness.  This, however, is an important lesson for myself and Raphaela, to show my daughter that most of the time, everyone deserves a second chance.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

So I Don't Forget

This blog is about sharing my experiences with others, but also about recording those moments that slip by too fast at this age.  That being said, I offer these:

1.  I watch Raphaela as she eats Petit Bar; for those who do not know these addictive Israeli snacks, they are rectangular cookies with little decorative petals around the sides.  First she bites off all four corners.  Then she straightens the round edges of the bumps on the side.  Then she slowly eats the middle.
Every time I give her one of these cookies, she says, "Mommy too!" and gets so pleased that we have shared the cookie break.
I can't wait to see how she eats an Oreo! I personally twist open, lick most of the frosting, and then eat the chocolate cookies themselves...

2.  This morning, Raphaela sat her teddy bear at the childrens' table in the salon, and gave him a play bottle.  Then she took the other chair, and the New York Times magazine section, and started "reading" with intense concentration.

We sometimes forget as parents that they observe EVERYTHING we say and do, and furthermore, that children are far more clever than we give them credit.  Our kids are particularly tuned into our moods, happy and otherwise, and know when we are faking it.  I have always enjoyed spending time with young children and cats, because you know that they will give you the G-d's honest truth every time in their behaviour and their reactions.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Gan, Fall 2012

"Already?!"  That was my response when a friend of mine, whose daughter is the same age as Raphaela, told me that she has been investigating potential nursery schools for the last three months, and that the registration for Jerusalem Municipality nursery schools for next Fall begins right after Chanukah, in three weeks.

Normally, a child at the age of three leaves the private nursery system and integrates in the 'public school' system of the city.

Of course I could not sleep at all last night, and finding myself perfectly alert at midnight, I compiled a list of questions and observations toward coming to the decision of nursery school for the following school year.  Thankfully, there is always the fall back position of Raphaela remaining at her current private Gan for one more year, though the price has become borderline prohibitive.  It also depends on which of Raphaela's closer friends would choose to remain there with her, so that she has continuity not only in the location, but also with her peers.

In no particular order:
1.  Cost of basic program/hours [FYI:  Municipal nurseries technically only have a half day]
2.  Cost of extra afternoon hours
3.  Food availability:  morning snack? Hot lunch? Afternoon snack? Kashrut in general?  Quality and healthfulness of food in general [FYI:  Contrary to the private nursery schools, most public programs do not provide breakfast or afternoon snack]
4.  Activities available in the facility itself, and activities imported on a regular basis eg movement, music, nature etc.
5.  How do they deal with a child who is not totally toilet trained? [FYI:  In order to enter the Israeli public nursery, the child must be toilet trained by the age of three]  How do they deal with multi-lingual children?  How do the deal with a child who still may need a mid-afternoon nap?
6.  Integration of the older children with the newer younger children [FYI:  At this stage of Gan, most children stay in the same place until first grade]
7.  Ratio of kids to nursery teacher [FYI:  In contrast to the private Gan which Raphaela attends now, most public programs have a ratio of 1 to 35 children, with minor assistance at lunch time]
8.  How do they approach and teach religious issues and holidays?  Is there a specific dress code within the religious nursery system?
9.  Does the Gan feel clean and light?  Does each child have their own cubby space?  What does the play area look like, can children go outside and get fresh air?  Are there enough outdoor toys to go around?
10.  Structure of a typical Gan day
11.  How does the Gan and the nursery teacher deal with disciplinary issues and disagreements among the children?  Is there a zero-tolerance policy on violence?
12.  How do they expect and wish parents to be involved within the Gan?
13.  How do they celebrate birthdays?
14.  What are the educational goals and teaching philosophy of the place?
15.  What will Raphaela's friends choose as a framework for next year?

No one told me how much legwork you must do as a parent, in order to (hopefully) make the best choice for my daughter.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Where's the Abba?

Yesterday, on the way home from Gan, Raphaela was talking about the other childrens' fathers, and she asked in Hebrew, "Where's my Abba?"

The question didn't surprise me.  When we play with her dolls, there is always a mother and father and a baby.  She has playdates with friends who have two parents in the home.  Raphaela observes both fathers and mothers picking up their children at the end of the nursery day.  I have never tried to ignore the concept.

I answered her with the explanation that has been my standard response for at least the last year:  "There are many different kinds of families.  Some children like you live with their Mommy.  Some children live with Daddy.  Some live with two parents and some live with grandparents."  I then continue, "We are all special families, and I love you as big as space.  I will always love you and I will always be your Mommy."

She accepted my statement and we moved on without incident.

A phone call later that evening renewed thoughts about the traditional father-mother paradign.  A 51 year old divorced man had gotten my number from a matchmaker,  he wanted to speak and possibly set up a date.  He has three children who are relatively older, and he is apparently a very involved father, sharing custody with his ex-wife here in Israel.  He also travels a lot for business, and therefore we were unable to find a time that I did not have plans, and when he was in the country in the near future.

He sounded normal enough, and though 51 feels a bit old for me, (sperm quality, generational gap and all that) I am certainly willing to give him a chance; I find that I cannot truly asses another person unless we meet face-to-face.  I despise what I call "interview dates" on the phone, my experience with Israeli men has been that they use communication media to ask brusque business-like questions, in order to decide if I am even worth the cup of coffee.

We actually ended the conversation because Raphaela started crying in her sleep, and I needed to take care of my daughter.

After we hung up, I experienced an explosion of trepidations that ran the gammut:  Was I ready for dating and intimacy?  Could I love and accept someone else's children from a previous marriage?  Could he love and accept my daughter as much his own?   How do I really know if a man will make the right fit for me and my 'special family'?

I should be grateful and open to the idea, at the age of eight a wonderful man embraced me and my brother as part of the package when he married my mother.  I simply don't know if I am capable of the same generosity and virtue.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Shower Torture

CIA interrogators are rank amateurs compared to my daughter.  Here is her devious plan, I think she took her cue from Harry, who finds a way to sit on my lap or on top of the newspaper or keyboard at the most inconvenient moments.  I think the last time I took a relaxed shower was two days after I gave birth to Raphaela, while the nurse at the Hadassah Ein Kerem Baby Hotel watched her for ten minutes.

Phase I:  After the water has been heated, distract Mommy with as many different request and tantrums as you can think of, including, "I want breakfast," "I need a diaper change," "Can you read me this book?" and the most creative, "I am going to Gan today in my pajamas."

Phase II: Once Mommy has dealt with any minor crisis, is standing naked in the bathroom and is about to get into the shower, declare that you too want to take a shower with Mommy. Then take five minutes to get undressed and to organize all the toys with which you will play inside the tub.

Phase III:  After bringing half the toy chest into the tub, and Mommy has put on the water, decide that you don't actually want to play with anything. Rather, lay down right between Mommy's legs, right under the stream of water, so that Mommy is crowded into a corner and you get all the hot water.  Keep Mommy guessing each morning, by stating on a regular basis that you do NOT want to take a shower, even if you are invited to do so.

Phase IV:  On those rare mornings when you are busy doing other things, and Mommy has a glimmer of false hope, keep going in and out of the bathroom while she showers.  Keep the door open, please, so all the warm steam can escape.  At irregular intervals, open the shower curtain as well. Remember all those urgent distractions from Phase I? Use them all while Mommy has shampoo in her hair.

Phase V:  Once Mommy is dressed for work, and is expected to look like a professional Chiropactor, make sure to wipe your nose on her outfit, just for good measure.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tonight Raphaela and I were playing together, and for the first time since we moved in September, she noticed the group of framed photos of family and friends.  We started going over each picture, I would name the person and explain their relationship to her, and she would repeat the name.

Among the collection, I showed her one cracked photo in an old frame, a snapshot of myself at the age of four, when I was a flower girl at my aunt's wedding.  This particular item had occupied my grandmother's night stand until she passed on.

Raphaela asked, "Who is that?" And I answered, "That is Mommy, when I was a little girl just like you."

I wish I had captured her reaction on video, because you could almost see the wheels turning in her amazing sponge-like brain.  She stared at first, and as comprehension dawned, she broke out into a huge smile and exclaimed, "Baby Mommy!"  Then she hugged the frame tightly and gave the picture a kiss.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Black Friday

If I ever needed a reminder as to why I do not plan on raising my daughter in America, the media came to the rescue. 

An editorial in The Forward, entitled "The American Shabbat, " stated the following:  "Macy's flagship store in New York City's Herald Square and more than 800 branches around the country opened just after the clock struck midnight on Black Friday.  So did Target and Best Buy. Walmart got the jump on its competitors by opening at 10 pm on Thanksgiving Day, but Toys R Us beat them all by starting it Christmas sales that day at 9 pm, three hours before Black Friday even officially began."

Reuters news service reported that "Black Friday turned into a black mark against American shoppers as riotous crowds brawled over video games, waffle irons and towels, drawing international condemnation and even raising questions about the state of humanity."  [Emphasis mine]

The article continues, "One of the most outrageous incidents of the day was in the Los Angeles area, where up to 20 people were injured after a woman at a Walmart used pepper spray to get an edge on other shoppers in a rush for Xbox game consoles." [Emphasis mine]

Pepper spray!?  What is the point of the Occupy Wall Street Movement in New York and around the United States, and the parallel Social Justice Initiative in Israel if not to point out the idiocy of crazed consumerism, and its negative affect on the spiritual and economic development of the human race?

The new battle cry for the United States seems to be, "Give me $1.88 towels or give me death!"

I fully admit that Israeli society is not totally innocent in this regard, the local paper Kol Hair reported this weekend that the Malcha Mall in Jerusalem is the highest grossing mall in the country, ironically, in the poorest city in this country;  and there are plenty of Israeli citizens who get wrapped up in the status game. However, the values of family, community and tradition still outweigh the trend toward emulating the American model, and for that I am grateful.

To paraphrase a core value in Judaism, "Who is wealthy? She who is content with her present life."

Friday, November 25, 2011

I am Thankful

I am thankful for last night's delicious Thanksgiving dinner at the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem, and for Ruthie, who put together a fun group of 30 plus proud and hungry Americans at our table.
I am thankful especially for the turkey, roast beef, Cornish Hen and duck, and the hot Apple Brown Betty.  Less impressed with the stuffing (too much pepper) and most of the desserts (parave, looked better than they tasted).
I am thankful to the woman at our table who said the following, when I expressed concern at the amount of food I was inhaling:  "You can afford to eat this way, you're so thin!" (G-d bless you!)
I am thankful to my daughter Raphaela, who fell asleep in her stroller at some point in the meal, so I was able to socialize with other adults, as an adult.

I am thankful to my lawyer, who must now handle a second round of negotiations with my amoral criminal former landlord.
I am extremely thankful to the Universe that when Raphaela fell yesterday during a day trip at Gan, and hit her head against sharp rocks, they missed her left eye by the most minute amount.
I am thankful that despite the standard s**t that goes on my life, I feel like I am in a good place.

I am thankful for the next round of holidays, both Jewish and international, and for the Christmas carols already swimming around in my head.  But why can't they wait in Israel until closer to Chanukah, before they start pulling out the jelly doughnuts?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Expressive Kavannah

When I first moved to Israel, I took an art class called Expressive Kavannah, which combined meditation, movement, lessons from Judaism and philosophy, and culminating in expression through art (sculpture, drawing, painting etc.).  I enjoyed the class, but got busy with 'stuff', and it has been too many years since I granted free reign to my creative side;  note that taking photos of Raphaela does not count, as much as I love her.

Happily, the teacher re-activated the class and I attended the first lesson today;  my ability to allow the creative impulse to flow, to let go of the contraints of my reality worked out better than I expected.  The theme of the meditation was Genesis, the concept of creation vs creating, and the idea that the Universe can respond to our needs in an infinite number of ways.

And my Christmas list is long, my friends.  One of the reasons I can take a class in the middle of the afternoon is because work remains slower than I would like, I worry about paying the bills and having enough left over to take care of mine and Raphaela's basic needs.  At least three "older women" from my neighborhood (ie women my age, without children) have gotten engaged or married in the last week, and I wonder when I will meet the my soulmate, and a loving father for Raphaela.  I thank G-d every day that I have not yet ruined my daughter, and hope that I can continue to figure out what I may be doing wrong, before it negatively affects her.

For me, this painting started as a representation of the Big Bang and space, infinite possibility and a far greater perspective on the stressors of our life, when we realize that we are but a speck on planet Earth, and that Gaea is but a speck in the Andromeda Galaxay, and that our galaxy is one of many expanding millions of stars. (With thanks to Douglas Adams...)  At some point in the process of the image, I stopped thinking rationally and realized that my Earth was tapping into the energy of the Universe with a psuedo umbilical cord , and that I was actually grabbing to hold onto the Sun as as source of power and strength.  The movement of space became a wave form, crashing over my fears and frustrations, and the empty space an invitation for abundance in every aspect of my life.

Without noticing, my brush went on thick and intense, in van Gogh like strokes, as I layered color on top of color.

The existential creation question is asked:  how could we fallible and finite humans exist in the place where the Higher Power lives, in his/her perfection and infinite-ness?  The Zohar answers that G-d receeded, that he/she took a small step back to allow for us puzzling creatures to live and grow and make mistakes.  That is the white area of my painting, the unknown future and the faith I need to tell myself that it will all work out.

I present this piece, entitled "From Chaos, Order"

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Better Late than Never

In the Summer, Raphaela had already taken her first steps but seemed hesitant to embrace the activity of walking over speed-crawling.  Concerned, our family doctor referred us for physical therapy, but as it happens with managed care, the first available appointment with a pediatric specialist was scheduled for today, approximately three months later, after Raphaela started officially walking.

While I see improvement in her stability and skill every day, I want Raphaela to receive a full work-up from an unbiased source;  it doesn't hurt, and I also need advice from the Childhood Development Center as to how to encourage Raphaela to feel more confident going up and down stairs.  Besides, it gives us the excuse to take a bus downtown, and my daughter loves busses and tractors, in fact any large moving vehicle is a source of great fascination.

Other than the cold and rain of our Israeli Winter, which made standing outside a bit prohibitive, Raphaela found walking through the center of town highly stimulating, said "hello" to everyone who walked by, and counted all the busses and taxis on the road.  The Childhood Development Center itself was far more impressive than I expected, we were treated by a bilingual, highly qualified PT in a bright room full of toys and balancing beams and trampolines.  Raphaela essentially had a gymboree room all to herself, and other than a few specific tests, the PT did not interrupt her play, but rather observed.

Today I learned the following: one, Raphaela's delay in walking may or may not have been caused by her pre-surgery breathing issues, combined with low-grade hypotonia.  Two, because Raphaela is such an active child, the hypotonia (though it remains in the system) should not affect her in any real way, for the rest of her life.  Three, given that she only started walking recently, she is "on track" and will catch up quickly. Four, Crocs are not the spawn of the Devil, just less preferrable footware.  Five, for all of her good intentions, the head nursery teacher must stop pressuring me and Raphaela, and should respect Raphaela's natural growth rate.

The PT gave me some exercises to do at home with Raphaela, to improve stair-climbing and jumping, but happily informed me that we do not need to return for extended visits.  On the way home, I treated Raphaela to a cookie, and she happily munched while looking outside the window of the bus, humming to herself.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

RivkA Redux

"Have Faith."
"Believe in Miracles."
"Choose Life."

RivkA Zuckerman Matitya, my brave and jubilant friend who died last year after a long battle with breast cancer, appeared larger than life on the screen, at the Memorial Gathering in her honor in Jerusalem tonight.  I recognized many people in the packed room, and marveled at the diversity of the gathered group:  young and old, religious and secular, Israeli and Anglo-Saxon, from all walks of life.  All the people that I knew, scattered among the crowd, unified by RivkA; they would not have been in the same room together otherwise.

A leader in the La Leche movement, a swim instructor, a special-needs educator, inspirational speaker, blogger, and a loving mother and wife.  I am overwhelmed how RivkA's embrace of life continues to influence those around her, one year after her passing.  I am sad for her three children and husband, her siblings and her parents, who must feel the loss every day.  I wonder how much more she could have accomplished had she defeated the disease.

I returned home tonight feeling ashamed of myself for not contributing more to my community and for the world at large, disappointed because I want to leave the world a better place than it was when I first entered this plane of existence.

 My mind started to recall the person I was in college, when I first met RivkA.  If there was a political cause, I joined with a vengance.  If I observed injustice in society, I pursued a solution with passion.  I can vividly recall a conversation in the Barnard-Columbia Kosher kitchen, in which it was decided that I would (naturally) be Prime Minister of Israel, the next woman PM after Golda;  and then I hand-picked my cabinet from my assembled close friends, based upon their individual strengths and our committment to Israel and the Jewish people.

I was going to be regularly featured on the front page of the New York Times.  I was going to change the world.

Yet here I am today, 43 years old, quietly helping my Chiropractic clients improve their health and lead better lives for themselves and their families. I volunteer with the Jerusalem Street Cat Society.   I don't feel like that is enough.  Here I am, 43 years old, raising my amazing daughter to G-d willing be the most fulfilled person, to be able to express the best parts of her.  Is that enough?  I can say for sure that if Raphaela is my legacy as a human being and as a mother, that will be enough for me, I take joy from that knowledge every day.  If my taking the step to become a single mother by choice helps another woman fulfill her dream, I am thankful to serve as an inspiration or a role model on some small level.

And yet, I want to do something bigger, something more substantial.  I need to rediscover my Inner Idealist, the woman who seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle of paying bills and managing schedules and simply surviving.

When my grandmother died, so many people came to the shiva, many of whom we did not know.  We listened to their stories, how they came to fall into my Bubby's sphere of influence.  One woman told us that my grandmother had been cooking her and delivering to her Shabbat meals,every week for the last twenty years.  One man told us that my grandmother had been volunteering at the hospital with him, in her "spare time."  Several married couples told us that if it had not been for my grandmother, their relationship would not have lasted intact all these years.  And on and on...

We always knew my grandmother didn't sleep much, but we had no idea how much she gave of herself, often at the cost to herself.

When I have lived a long life, when I move on, what will be said about me?  Will I have made a real difference?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pre-Thanksgiving Thoughts

Last year, when my parents came to visit for Chanukah, the Jewish holiday happened to fall closer to Thanksgiving rather than Christmas.  I had wanted to take my parents to the Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem, for their very fancy gorge-yourself Thanksgiving dinner, which takes place even on the appropriate day every year, the last Thursday of November.  We're talking all the traditional foods, plus...salads and appetizers and desserts galore.  All that's missing are the Black Friday sales the day after the feast.

Unfortunately, Raphaela and I were not feeling 100%, and my parents used the opportunity to fulfill an obligation to visit Ultra-Orthodox relatives, so we missed the first opportunity in too many years to celebrate Thanksgiving together, as a family.

This year, I decided that I would take Raphaela to this meal at the Inbal Hotel, no matter how much it cost and no matter how late it starts, because I want to start a new Israeli tradition with her.  I remember and appreciate where I came from, all that my American cultural background has given me, and the positive memories I have of our extended family gathering at my grandmother's house on Thanksgiving each year.  And my grandmother was a phenomenal cook and baker, we did indeed stuff ourselves.

Then I thought, it would be more fun to go with other American friends, those who still think about this holiday with pleasure and pride in their heritage and upbringing.  That's where I got stuck:  my one close (single) friend who would have come with us will actually be in the States this year for Thanksgiving.  Another American couple I know have other plans with work friends for the meal. 

Turns out that most of my close friends in Israel are not English speakers, nor Americans, but rather Israeli, Russian-Israeli or some European version thereof.  After 14 years in this country, most would congratulate me on a successful integration into Israeli society, and some part of me feels most pleased at this surprising realization.  The other part of me could not fall asleep last night, mining my brain to come up with one name of an American whom I could invite.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Four Sons

Yes, I know it's a little early to be thinking about Pessach, but I had an idea about child development, based upon the concept of the Four Sons.  The way in which they approach the holiday, their observance and acceptance of the Jewish heritage, symbolizes as well the route of the development of the mind, and the human.

At first, a baby can only focus on the essentials, ie food, sleep, attention and filling diapers, and that phase lasts into the beginnings of early language.  They "don't know how to ask" because it doesn't interest them, the rest of the world is outside their sphere of influence, they are the center of their parents' universe.

Then a toddler starts asking "What's that?"  The question certainly isn't sophisticated, and you can't expect to have a philsophical discussion about existentialism with a two year old;  but the child starts to realize that an entire spectrum of experience thrives outside their bubble of family and friends and Gan.

Raphaela has arrived at the Simple Son stage.  Through pointing and three word sentences, I hear a lot of "What's that?"  and "No, I don't want..."  She spends hours in imaginary play, baking birthday cakes (her favorite cooking activity) and lecturing her dolls and Harry about how the world works.  This morning she woke me up at five am, presented me with the clothing she had chosen from her drawers and declared that she was ready to get dressed and start her day.

The independence building that starts now with "I don't want..." transitions straight into the Rebellious Son.  At some point, having understood the rules and the proper protocols of civilized society, we all want to see what will happen when we color outside the lines.  Our parents embarass us, and it's no fun to have homework, or a curfew.  I personally believe that rebellion represents the most important phase of our development as individuals, to become grown-ups who respect their tradition and can be their own person, forge new paths and takes risks without being tied into the rigid expectations of family and religion.

If I had to repeat any time in my life, it would be college.  I made life-long friends, found the joy and the artist within myself, and stopped being so damned serious all the time.

I didn't break out of the Good Girl mode until my 20's, too late as far as I am concerned;  I didn't make the most important choice of my life, the one that brought about the birth of my amazing daughter, until I was 39 years old.  Call me a late bloomer, I suppose.

The last step in our emotional and intellectual development is the Wise Son, the adult who understands that there is a place for rules, and a place for breaking the rules;  a person who understands the full value of experience, continuity and community.

I will make my way there, eventually, with all the human mistakes that go along with it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Final Frontier

I very often say to Raphaela, "I love you as big as SPACE."  She agrees and smiles, and sometimes gives me a kiss in return.

If you are puzzled by the reference, Space is infinite and always expanding, and can also be used as a metaphor for G-d, or your higher power of choice.  As a concept, space represents ALOT of love.

This morning, I dropped Raphaela at Gan, and as usual, we were the first to arrive.  She immediately got down to business, and walked over to the trays of toys and activities, which for the moment, she had all to herself.  As a parent, I am pleased with her eagerness to play independently, and her comfort level at the nursery school;  it allows me to relax during the day, knowing that Raphaela is in a happy and secure place.

But I could not help myself, I wanted to give her a cuddle and a kiss before I left. (She's just that yummy...)   I went over to her and said, "I love you Raphaela,"  and got 'the face'; that expression that one would normally expect from teenagers who are embarrased by their parents.  The face that said, "OMG, C'mon Mommy, don't do that to me in public!"

I laughed, and ignored her protests, and I know that deep down she enjoyed the affection.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Vicious Cycles

My Chiropractic clinic, like life in general, experiences highs and lows.  I have busier days and weeks, and less busy periods.  I like when I hop from patient to patient, it keeps my energy up in the stratosphere, I feel like I provide a constructive service to society, and bonus, I make money for me and my child.

Over the Jewish holidays, de facto I took off for two weeks, because Raphaela did not have Gan and it was virtually impossible to find a baby sitter from my extensive list.  As a result, two weeks after the fact my office visit numbers have slowed down dramatically, because no doctor who runs their own business can expect a consequence-free two week vacation.

I do not get financial assistance from my family, and during a "normal" month, that is not an issue.  In a month where I must spend lots of unexpected money on my car, among other surprises, it makes a huge difference to finances, and my sanity.  I get depressed and worried when I look at my Palm Pilot and see that there are days with huge gaps.  There is that higher voice, the one that communicates well with the Universe that knows that it will pick up again, and the uncertainty of this period of time will pass.  I also know that if I broadcast my concerns - both to the Universe and to my daughter - I will get back what I send out, and G-d knows I don't want it to get worse.

It doesn't stop me from having a hard time falling asleep at night, and I have certainly been praying more than usual.

Today a woman came to me for an emergency appointment, a friend of my cousins and a person who usually sees another Chiropractor, who was not available to her.  After she received a thorough and extra-long treatment, she then explained to me that her regular DC charges her a minimal amount, out of 'charity'; but since she felt so much better, she was willing to pay me 1/4 of my fee.  I am not sure what feels more lousy, working less overall or not being valued  and respected for the time and devotion I give to my clients.

Meanwhile, there is still food to buy and bills to pay.

Friday, November 4, 2011

G-d's Mysterious Ways

Last night and this morning, Jerusalem received its first real rainfall.  This is good news for Israel.

Less good news for me:  I got into the car this morning to take Raphaela to Gan, and noticed a small lake on the floor of the seat beside the driver.  That most distinctly is not meant to happen, and I don't need to be a car mechanic to understand this fact.

I drove Raphaela to Gan, and then immediately took the car to the Renault garage.  They told me that it sounded like a "quick fix," and that I would have the car before Shabbat.

They called  several hours later, to inform me that it was a "good thing" that the flooding forced me to take the car for examination, because they tested for its Winter driving capabilities;  they found that the tires were too worn down and that the break pads needed replacing as well.

A quick fix just became a shitload of money.  But if the drainage system had not malfunctioned, Raphaela and I might have been in involved a [G-d Forbid] terrible accident instead.

So I am thankful to go into Shabbat healthy and whole, both of us.

(My bank account will feel less thankful on Sunday morning, when I pick up the car.)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Report Card

Several years ago, my parents cleaned out the paperwork in the house in Boston and presented each of their children with various records collected and saved over the years.  In looking at my nursery report card, I was amused to see the following comment from my teacher, Mrs. H. Cohen:
"She tends to stay by herself.  She does not mix with the other boys and girls.  She prefers to be with me."

By the end of the year, apparently I performed better in terms of mixing with the other children my own age, and was "Promoted to first grade."  Horray for mini-Me!

As well, I received a "Satisfactory Plus" in being neat and clean in appearance, in listening to and following directions, and in completing projects.  A star in early mathematics, reading and writing,  I fell short in showing an interest in singing.

My teachers in the elementary school years would use descriptors such as "Concientious,"  "Extremely Responsible," and "too outspoken." (You don't fit in well in within the Ultra-Orthodox community if you speak your mind and color outside the lines.)

Flash forward, two months ago:  I gave Raphaela's head nursery teacher a form required by the HMO, in order for Raphaela to receive a consultation through their Early Childhood Development Center.  The form was returned to me only yesterday, and I feared reading it, hearing the "truth" about my daughter.

Ultimately, other than the issue of her late walking, my child seems to have friends, play well with others, listen to her teachers, show compassion and warmth, and posseses both fine motor and gross motor skills.  The head nursery teacher commented that Raphaela is [THANK G-D] a happy, smiling  and independent child, clean and "well-cared for by her mother."  She likes singing and music.

Whew!

While Raphaela does not have a consistant father figure in her life due to the circumstances of her conception, I did not have a reliable father figure in my childhood due to a messy divorce and a general lack of strong male role models.  Perhaps therein lies the difference;  I will continue to provide stability and infinite affection to Raphaela, so that she can continue to play well with others and experience fulfilling personal relationships for the rest of her life.

Monday, October 31, 2011

KayamaMoms

In the past year, when I had a bit of a crisis regarding my work as a Chiropractor and my desire to leave a more lasting imprint on the planet, I came up with the inspiration that single mothers by choice need to have a centralized resource center.  They need a place and an address that can answer questions regarding the technical and beurocratic aspects of the fertility treatments, pregnancy as a woman alone, and the government rights of a single parent in Israel.

I had contacted the American organization, Single Mothers by Choice and they said that they had a representative here in Israel, and I had to pass all my ideas through her; unfortunately, this person was not interested in the vision I presented to her.

Today, I received a flyer via email announcing a new non-profit organization called KayamaMoms, started by someone I know from my neighborhood, named Aviva Harbater.  KayamaMoms was founded to provide "tools and support for Jewish women reaching the eve of their fertility," and who are considering becoming a JSMBC.  The group targets the religious market, and will be hosting their opening event tomorrow evening in Jerusalem, with a series of lectures entitled, "JSMBC:  Halachic, Psychological and Medical Perspectives."

They have amassed quite an impressive set of speakers, including Rabbi Benny Lau, Rabbi Yuval Cherlow and Dr. Miri Godin of Hadassah Hospital, among others.

Many people have forwarded me this flyer, and I am as yet unsure whether I will actually attend.  I don't need to hear that my daughter has validity within the Jewish community, two years after her birth.  I also don't wish to be "Exhibit A" in a room full of women who may or may not fulfill their own destiny of parenthood.

The end of the page states that women who have already taken the step of SMBC are welcome as well, in order to help them "integrate more easily" into the more conventional religious family environment both in Israel and the United States.  I find that statement almost insulting, except that I am sure the sentiment comes from a place of helping, rather than condescention.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tractor Mania

One of the unexpected side effects of parenting is their constant presence in your heart and mind, even when they are playing at Gan and you are living your life as a psuedo grown-up.

Raphaela loves tractors, she gets massively excited every time she sees a construction site and could watch them pushing around dirt all day.  I am currently assembling an A-B-C project for Raphaela and wanted a photo of a tractor;  unable to find a construction area, I settled on "T is for trees."

Yesterday, while driving home from the supermarket, I spotted some repairs on the road, and lo and behold, a tractor!  Without considering the implications for my own safety, I immediately pulled over my car, parked randomly and started snapping away with my handy digital camera.

At first, the workers came over to me and started shouting, thinking that I was some government authority.  I explained that I was collecting pictures for my daughter, and we all had a laugh.  The event left me smiling for the rest of the day.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Attempts at Socializing

A  friend of mine celebrated the anniversary of his aliyah yesterday, with a kiddush in synagogue.  I thought to myself, "What a great opportunity to get out of the house with Raphaela, and enjoy the event with friends with whom I have not socialized in far too long!"

I dressed up for the Shabbat, Raphaela wore an adorable flowered dress, we negotiated for ten minutes until she agreed to sit in the stroller.  We arrived at the synagogue at ten am, thinking that the kiddush would take place within the hour.  It was the first time that I had brought Raphaela into a sanctuary and attempted to sit there like an adult.  My mother always asks me when I plan on introducing my daughter to the Greater Jewish communal life, and this seemed like a good occasion.

Unfortunately, Raphaela has not yet perfected her quiet voice, and so within minutes, she was practically shouting and fidgeting, and we had to leave to go outside.  The services lasted an extra hour than usual, and the clock edged closer and closer to her nap time, and she did not have patience.  I briefly saw a few of friends (shout out to Sarah and Miriam!) and then returned home, feeling dejected and quite frankly, a bit angry.

Not at Raphaela of course, but simply wondering when I get to start going out with friends again, seeing movies or perusing the museum, and maybe even dating toward a long-term relationship, with all the benefits that connection provides, physical and emotional.  When do I get to do something for me, now that Raphaela walks and talks and seems to be more independent?

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Baby" Raphaela

At the magical age of two, Raphaela has truly turned the corner into "real people-hood," and it is not just me who feels that way;  I can see that she understands this as well.

When we play pretend games together, or if Raphaela wants that little bit of extra attention after a bath, she will put on a pout and pretend to cry, assuming the part of the baby she once was.  I will humor her, and say, "Oh Baby Raphaela, would you like your Mommy to kiss you?"  And she immediately smiles and brings me one of her blankets, gets her extra snuggles, and then becomes the opinionated and chatty toddler again.

That leap of comprehension, and her assertion of her self and personality, that's an amazing evolution to watch in any child, not just my own.  

Over the Succot vacation, at a playdate with a Gan friend who is one year older than Raphaela, her friend chose to play the part of the baby while Raphaela was designated the mother in the game of pretend.  Raphaela immediately started tucking in her "baby", and cooking a pretend meal, lavinshing her "baby" with kisses.

It is Raphaela's sense of compassion and generosity that overwhelms me, and I love her more and more every day, for who she is becoming on the inside.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

New Night Time Ritual

Raphaela and I have spent the last two weeks together, in between holidays and play dates.  I love the time we have spent , even when it felt frustrating or tiring at times, because it gave me the opportunity to appreciate her growth; mentally, emotionally and physically.  On vacation, we snuggled in bed in the morning and had a comfortable start to the day, rather than rushing into the schedule for the standard week day.

I have not, however, enjoyed planning and preparing all these meals. At least when she goes to Gan during the week, they feed her a full lunch and two healthful 'snacks', so all I need to think about is dinner.

She now added a new wrinkle to our night time ritual, in which she calls out my name as many times as possible, from the time I tuck her in and give her a kiss to the closing of her bedroom door. It's a competative game for her, those ten to fifteen seconds. She then calls my name several times more after I close the door, to make sure I answer her even if she cannot see me.

"Mommy!"
"I love you, good night!  See you in the morning." (Laughter)
"Mommy!"
"I love you, good night! See you in the morning."  (Laughter) And so on.

Raphaela has changed so much since her surgery in July, and becomes more of a "real person" every day.  I hardly remember her as a baby, and that's normal, the natural progression of our mother-daughter relationship.

Now that the chunk of holidays has ended, I can look forward to the great en masse toilet training experiment that the Gan has planned.  I just may have a child out of diapers within the next month...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

How I Spent My Chol Hamoed Vacation

By Raphaela Rivka Danzig Leeder

Friday (Day One):  Mommy and Olga could not have ordered better weather from the catalog, and after much worry left over from the rejection of the teen years, all our guests arrived for mine and Mika's private birthday party.  We even managed to snag picnic tables right next to the playground, and we children spent close to three hours eating mostly unhealthy fun food and the parents talking to each other in between chasing after the collective group of two year olds.  It felt so wonderful to see Mommy with her friends, and to celebrate our birth will some of my friends, a full charter member of the Mommies Club.

Sunday (Day Three):  Mommy managed to fill the morning with fun errands, and when we arrived at the park, my friend Avigayil from Gan happened to be there as well, and so we played together for two hours.

Mommy got a great offer from a friend, who at the last minute was able to secure a space in a B and B for the rest of Chol Hamoed, but we could not make all the arrangements, including finding a sitter for Harry.

The mosquitos have enjoyed quite a feast on my arms and legs, and I am trying not to scratch. It kinda takes the fun out of sitting in the Succah.   Mommy was surprised that they went after me and not her, as they usually eat her as well.

Monday (Day Four):  Another morning of fun errands, art projects and outdoor play, and after a decent nap, we played with Olga and Mika for several hours.  Our birth preparation class during the pregnancy lacked content and quality, the best thing that came out of it was our friendship with Mika and her family.

Tuesday (Day Five):  Mommy and I participated this morning in the Trek through Jerusalem, which is to say that I sat in the stroller and Mommy pushed me all along the route throughout the city.  We arrived at the finish line at Gan Sacher, where the organizers had arranged Gymboree and concerts and games for the children and the adults.  During one of the dance performances, around 11:10 am, they interrupted the broadcast on the large screen with a live feed featuring Gilad Shalit, and announced that he was officially on Israeli soil.  All the crowd clapped and cheered, and Mommy started crying out of joy for Gilad's parents;  she simply could not help herself.

When the various groups arrived in parade formation, with their costumes and flags and songs about Jerusalem, Mommy picked me up and we danced and sang along with them.  She loves being part of large group, sharing in celebration and remembering our amazing heritage.  I feel very lucky to have been born in Jerusalem, the first Danzig in three generations.

Tonight, as usual, Mommy and I went to our swim lesson; I get more and more confident in the water every week, and soon I will be swimming on my own.

Wednesday (Day Six and Erev Chag, again):  My best friend had a birthday party this morning, Mommy and I went over early to help them set up.  Many of my other Gan friends were there, and the general concensus among the parents was relief that we return to our regular schedule next Sunday.  After a round of playground and snacks and ice cream, and after getting a 'manicure' with sparkly stars, we went home and both took a badly-needed nap. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Welcome Home Gilad Shalit

"I regret the fact that the bereaved families were not with us...not implementing the deal will not return the murdered loved ones and would sentence Gilad to death."  Noam Shalit, father of Gilad Shalit

As an Israeli and as a mother, I rejoice with the Shalit family, may Gilad return safe and sound, mentally and physically.

A small-scale prisoner exchange in 1985 resulted in the deaths of 178 Israelis.

"I don't know whether more soldiers will be abducted...but so long as Palestinian prisoners continue to suffer in prisons, there will be an incentive to free them via any available means. I urge the government of Israel to release [all] the prisoners to put an end to this whole issue."  Sheikh Hassan Yousef, one of the leaders of Hamas

The majority of the terrorists being released have serious blood on their hands, and having spent time in prison has only strengthened their resolve to continue violent and deadly activity against Israel.  Those that remain in jail got there legitimately, by choice and because of their own actions against innocent human beings, and hardly represent 'victims' of the Zionist entity.

"Hamas:  Shalit deal includes ending Gaza blockade"
"IDF to troops:  Don't become another Shalit; Army tells soliders to do anything necessary, including endangering comrades, to avoid abduction." Various Haaretz headlines, Tuesday 18/10/11

As an Israeli and as a mother of a future Israeli soldier, I will have a lot more trouble sleeping after today's events.

"We [human beings] are not an endangered species ourselves yet, but this is not for lack of trying."  Douglas Adams

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Drawing a line, in Quicksand

Raphaela has no problem with the word or the concept of "Thank you."  She has been saying and using that word with regular frequency of her initiative for the last year or so.

"Please" is another story altogether.  She will demand something, and I will say, "How about 'please'?  Can you say 'please'?"  Raphaela then gets a mysterious smile on her face, and answers my question with a clear "Yes."  That magic word has yet to exit her mouth, in Hebrew or in English.

In fact, she would rather give up the item or the request rather than say "Please," like it represents some moral imperative, a line she refuses to cross on principle.

Having moved to Israel from the United States, I vowed that I and my children would not lose pleasant manners and that basic consideration with which I was raised.  I am not sure how to break this impasse with Raphaela, who seems to be about pig-headed and stubborn as her mother.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Bilingual Brain

This week's Science Times posted an article entitled "The bilingual brain from early infancy on," by Dr. Perri Klass.  Not that I truly fear for Raphaela's communications skills, but this piece certainly put my mind at ease.

Essentially, Klass relates research which states that a monolingual child loses the brain's plasticity for language between 10-12 months, whereas a baby at the same age, exposed to two languages, was able to continue to  discriminate nuances in both languages.  This skill applies both to the spoken word, and the ability to discern a difference in speech simply by observing body language and facial expression.

Bilingual babies are more cognitively flexible, and have an easier time multi-tasking as they get older, because their brains are more activated and cooperative from lobe to lobe.

While it may be true that at the moment, Raphaela seems less able to construct complex sentences in Hebrew compared to her peers at Gan, in one year she will have two full languages, and her English will serve her well as an adult on an English-dominated planet.

Grandma Elaine

Because of the somewhat unusual elements of my childhood, several cousins by marriage adopted us, and turned us into one large, close extended family.

Grandma Elaine, the mother of my mother's sister's husband (did you follow that) was one such woman, as were her parents, Papa Teddy and Nanny.  Papa was the great-grandfather I always wished I'd had, and died a painless death when I was already an adult;  Nanny lived two years after Papa died. 

I admired Grandma Elaine for her zest for life.  A more aggressive New York driver than any taxi on the road.  A person who once a year went to Atlantic City with the sole purpose of blowing money and having fun doing so.  A woman who lost her husband early on due to a tragic accident, and dedicated her life to her children and grandchildren, both biological and acquired. As a college student at Barnard in The City, she took care of me when I got sick, and I cannot remember how many times we would simply sit together while we treated ourselves to a spontaneous manicure.

The last time I saw Grandma Elaine, she attended Raphaela's Simchat Bat,  and though not at the peak of her health, I felt glad and honored that she could be there and meet my daughter.  She had gotten quite ill in the last year, and while her death was not unexpected, it was relatively sudden.

Here's where Judaism makes me squeamish:  her son (my uncle by marriage) died at the age of 52 from a rare cancer.  Her only son-in-law, and by extension his sons, are Cohanim and could not go to the cemetery to attend the funeral.  Relatives who live outside the Metropolitan area could not afford to be on the road when the holiday started, and could not come as well.  Because she died Erev Succot, there will be no official Shiva, and I feel like that is a cheat, and a dishonor to her memory.  Grandma Elaine deserves to be remembered, and her family deserves to be visited by those who loved her.  We human beings are not machines,  and you cannot go to a funeral, sit Shiva for ten minutes before chag, and then go into Succot and not have a sense of supreme loss and mourning.

Right before I made aliyah, my father's father (my grandfather) died on Erev Purim.  The funeral took place on Purim morning, and because my father's side of the family is Ultra Orthodox and follow the rules to the letter, the whole entourage trouped back to my parents house (100 plus people) and immediately sat down for a festive Purim feast, as the law of the day requires.  I remember feeling uncomfortable, awkward and sad, that my grandmother, my father and his siblings had to put their grief on hold in order to perform that mitzvah.

Tonight, after Succot ended, I tucked Raphaela into bed and started cooking preparations for Shabbat. With a chicken soup on the stove and birthday cake in the oven, I had to fight the image in my head of the "house frau," the woman stuck in the kitchen, always serving her family's needs.  Then I remembered Grandma Elaine, and felt proud to be in the category of mother and care taker.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

1935 Days

Hi, this is Raphaela at the computer.

When I was inside my Mommy's stomach, we went to the commemoration of the 1000 days that Gilad Shalit was held in captivity.  It was a very moving ceremony, Mommy felt the highs and lows and inspiration, similar to Yom Kippur.  For the last five years, Mommy has had a Gilad Shalit flag flying from our porch, wherever we lived.

This afternoon, Mommy and I took a walk to the Gilad Shalit tent and Succah across from the Prime Minister's house, because today is a very special day for the Shalit family:  it seems that PM Netanyahu has arranged a deal to finally bring Gilad home to his Mommy and Daddy.  I am glad this happened on my Hebrew birthday.

To quote Ariel Sharon, Israel never leaves a man behind.

Mommy has very mixed emotions and worries that Israel is trading Gilad Shalit for 1000 terrorists.  She  wonders what these bad people will do now that they are out of jail;  Mommy says that rewarding very bad behaviour is not very good parenting.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Private Party

Tomorrow, the 14th of Tishrei, marks Raphaela's Hebrew birthday, and tomorrow, Raphaela and I, and Olga and Mika will go shopping for supplies for the private birthday party that we (Olga and I) are throwing for our daughters during Succot, inviting a select group of close friends and the few family we have in the country.

If the weather cooperates, we will stage the event in the Nayot Park down the street, a relatively clean and modern park in Jerusalem compared to others, with plenty of grass and picnic area, and close to home.

I hope to look back many years from now and observe a friendship that started when both girls were swimming around inside, one that grew deeper and more satisfying for us grown-ups and the children from year to year.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I normally do not use this forum to express explicit political opinions, but today I cannot help myself.  An article appeared in the English Haaretz, written by the famous Israeli writer, AB Yehoshua.  You know that automatically, with a headliner author, his piece will be give more credance than usual.

Manipulating biblical quotes and using the history of the Jews' wandering throughout the globe throughout history, Yehoshua essentially claims that in fact we Israelis have no given right to the territory that is the modern State of Israel. The Israelis/Jews, he claims, have no actual basis for a homeland experience, the Palestinans posess a greater so-called right of return. Of course once all of us stubborn crazies on the Right acquiesce, it will be much easier to find a successful two-state solution with the Palestinians, a people who have actively declared their intention to wipe every Zionist off the face of the planet.

He concludes by saying, "In this period of political despair, which is spilling over into the new year, is it not worth trying to clarify old concepts and thereby look for a new breakthrough?"

All my personal politics aside, this is by far the biggest DumbAss move I have ever seen from the Israeli Left.  It is one thing to naively believe that the Palestinians want genuine peace, it is quite another to stand in your own living room, hand over the master keys, and say, essentially, "Please, kick me and my family out of my home and out of my land."

I have said it before, and it is worth repeating:  If Israel falls, no Jew anywhere in the world will be safe.

I am raising my daughter in Israel because I believe in the value of the country, and of the heritage and traditions it represents.  Who needs enemies from the outside when we do a perfectly good job of shooting ourselves in the foot?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Book of Wonderful Moments

I hope this finds all of us after a fulfilling and introspective Yom Kippur, however you spent the last 25 hours.  I will always remember what one of my patients, a 90 year old Shoah Survivor once told me:  she said that life is never all bad or all good, and when we have that brief wonderful moment, we should cherish it, and hold onto that feeling of happiness.

At one point during the fast today, I was reading some inspirational writings from Fred McFeely Rogers - ie the beloved children's advocate Mr. Rogers - and came across an idea about forgiveness that spoke to me on this day.  And so I share his thoughts with you; please forgive me if I have caused you harm,  and  I wish that we all be sealed into the Book of Wonderful Moments:

Forgiving and forgetting are often paired together, but the one certainly doesn't necessarily follow the other. Some injuries, real or imagined, we may never be able to forget, even though we say we've forgiven them.  Other injuries we may never even be able to say that we forgive.  Those are the ones, it seems to me, most likely involve people we've loved, and so I'm inclided to look at what our experiences of forgiveness may have been like from the first people who loved us.

The first time we required forgiveness, we probably did something we shouldn't have when our closest grown-ups thought we should have known better. We made someone angry.  We were to blame. What did the first brush with blame begin to teach us?

If we were fortunate, we began to learn that "to err is human."  Even good people sometimes do bad things.  Errors might mean corrections, apologies, repairs, but they didn't mean that we, as a person, were a bad person in the sight of those we loved.  The second thing we learned (if we were fortunate) was that having someone we loved get mad at us did not mean that person had stopped loving us;  we had their unconditional love, and that meant we would have their forgiveness too.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Time for Change

I have never looked forward to my own birthday, and generally found their celebration a let-down.  I cannot remember more than one or two parties out of the 40 plus years of my life that left me feeling happy about turning one year older.  This past year, I did not even remember my birthday, because it was the day after Raphaela's surgery.

I want that to be different for Raphaela, and today represented a fantastic start. I dressed up for the occasion, as the mother of birthday child;  fancy dress, jewelry and make-up, the works.   The cake my friend made was stunning and tasty, a pink Barbie Princess chocolate cake creation;  the kids danced and sang, played with balloons and colored.  Although it took Raphaela a little time to get used to being the center of attention, she quickly adapted, and then feigned shyness every time one of the other parents came over and wished her a "Happy Birthday."

After Gan, Raphaela and I, and two other parents and their children went to the nearby Jerusalem Botanical Gardens and fed the swans and enjoyed a light dinner.

Before tucking Raphaela into bed this evening, I showed her some of the photos from her busy day, and we talked about all the kids in her class, and I sang her the birthday song one more time, as she grinned from ear to ear.

Now that's what I call a positive birthday experience.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Gan Party Checklist

Raphaela's Gan birthday party will be G-d Willing in two days, on the last day of school before Yom Kippur.  I invoke G-d in particular because Raphaela has the beginning of some version of a cold or allergies, and I would hate to have all this build-up (in my own head, mostly) for this party and then have her get full-fledged sick on that day.

I am a competent cook but a lousy baker, and so my friend Galia, whose talent in creating child birthday cake masterpieces, will be helping me with the birthday cake.

Being a Montissouri Gan, they ask the parents to bring a worthwhile art project for the event, so it is not simply a few songs and some junk food for the class.  I had ordered some great stuff off the internet, but alas, it will not arrive in time for the party.  Instead, I downloaded various coloring pages along the theme of Succot, and created 18 personalized coloring books for each of the children.  The coloring book will also include a page of Succot-related stickers, for use in creating the pictures, or to take home and stick on inappropriate pieces of grown-up furniture.

I have enough balloons, and a somewhat healthy snack bag for each of the kids in Raphaela's class.

This party has kicked my Type-A personality into high gear, and is causing me more stress than I believe it should.  Ironically, for an 'educational system' that encourages free expression and personal growth, the competition among parents regarding birthdays feels most inproportionate.  For G-d's sake, Raphaela is turning two, not going into the army or getting married.  And yet, I feel that I must show the other parents that I can put together a slamming celebration.

All this, and I am trying to plan a more intimate family birthday gathering during Chol Hamoed Succot.  I need the letter "M" on my shirt, for masochist.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Happy Birthday Raphaela

This morning I dropped Raphaela off at Gan, but waited until the clock read 7:50 am, so I could officially give Raphaela her birthday kiss, two years and at the exact minute to the (English) day that she was born and I got to hold her for the first time.

Of course then I started tearing up, overwhelmed by the flood of the memory of her birth, so I quickly wiped my eyes and left her happily playing at Gan.  My emotions will usually get the best of me, and though I am not ashamed of that aspect of personality, I did not want anyone to think that this was anything other than the best of events. 

Free to Be...You and Me

On the occasion of Raphaela's second birthday, I have decided to introduce her to the CD (I suppose then it was a record) that changed my life:  Free to Be...You and Me.  The collection of hippie-like stories and music taught the values of self empowerment, of non-conforming, and exposed me to the idea that almost everything is possible.  ("Mommies can be almost anything they want to be...they can't be Grandpas, or Daddies....")

I especially relate, now more than ever, to the story of the wise and outspoken Atalanta, who defies convention and chooses to explore the world before settling down and getting married.  The one man whom she considers for marriage is the person who treats her with consideration and respect, as his equal.  That in fact is my Jewish New Year's resolution:  now that Raphaela is more independent, I open myself to dating and to doing for myself as a woman, as well as a mother of a child.  Perhaps the standard of man and relationship, set up as a template in my head by Free to Be...You and Me, that of my best friend, my lover, my husband and equal partner, and the loving father to Raphaela, sounds unattainable or unrealistic.

To quote one of the men I most admire, Christopher Reeve, "Nothing is impossible," and since I am now effectively both Mother and Father, I am happy to share that responsibility, and that joy with the right man in our lives.

Gmar Chatima Tovah.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Butterflies

With all the manic preparation post-move for the High Holidays, and for Raphaela's impending second birthday this coming Sunday, I realized one thing:

Since the day she was born, I have looked in on her every night before I go to sleep myself.  It has been two years, and still, every time I watch her in that peaceful state, I feel butterflies in my stomach, sheer joy, and I think to myself, "How blessed am I, how lucky am I.  I love my baby so much, and I can't believe she is mine, and I am hers."

I hope this feeeling never goes away.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Apartment, New Habits

Ever since we moved to the new apartment, and Raphaela has discovered the drawer with the (theoretically) decommissioned baby items, she has decided for the first time in her two years of life that she wants to start using pacifiers.  Since her birth, and as a baby she rejected them outright, and now the combination of peer pressure and the stress of the move has made them fashionable.

Many children in her Gan, including her best friend "Na Nu," have a pacifier perpetually attached and nearby. 

At the very least, Raphaela only asks for the pacifiers at home, and when it comes time to leave the house does not insist upon taking them (that's right, two of them) into the car or during outside errands.  I am very much hoping that this is a phase, a reaction and brief regression because of our recent change of address.

Other than the issue of future braces and their exhorbitant cost,  and other than the negative effect it has on language development and facial muscles;  I have observed too many Israeli parents using the pacifier as a way to shut up their children in public. Then the attachment goes beyond the original plan, with four and five year olds walking around the supermarket with their mouth stuffed and their emotional growth infantilized.

Raphaela turns two next week, and with all the increadible achievements I have witnessed since her surgery, it would be a shame to take several steps backward.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Generation Gap

This morning, while walking Raphaela to Gan, we met one of our new more elderly neighbors, one of the few who has had a conversation with us and taken an interest.  At first she seemed surprised that we were out of the house so early, and I explained that her nursery opens at 7:15 am.  Little does she know that Raphaela wakes up sometime between five and five thirty am, so seven already feels late to me.

Then this neighbor spontaneously asked me if Raphaela was "mine," and she clarified her question by saying, "Did she come out of your stomach?"  I tried not to look offended in any way, and said in a joking tone, "How could she not be mine, Raphaela has my eyes..."

The neighbor then mumbled something about me being single and the assumption that maybe I had adopted, because Raphaela's skin tone is a little darker than mine.

I don't know if this qualifies as an Israeli experience speficially, or an encounter that might happen anywhere on the planet, where the idea of biological parenting by choice has not yet taken hold in the older generations.

Singles Struggle for Attention

Thus reads the headline of the most recent New York Times piece, which examines the position of "limbo" in which single people exist. The science article, written by Tara Parker Pope, explores the less than gratifying place in society for single and unmarried Americans, where the assumption is "that if you don't get married, there is something wrong with you."

Pope continues with studies that suggest that the unmarried folk, whether or not they are parents, tend to contribute more to their communities and toward the care-taking of relatives, they volunteer more and become more politically involved than their married counterparts.  And yet, public policy and insurance companies provide less physical benefits for the unattached.

Judaic ritual and tradition certainly leaves very little room for the recognition of the needs of those outside the family framework.

"...Very successful women in their careers and their lives [felt] bad about not being married, like they were letting someone down...If a person is happy being single then we should support that as well."

If being unmarried  remains one of the "last accepted prejudices," then certainly the status of SMBC adds an additional wrinkle.  I am glad to see the topic discussed among civilized company, and I hope that it opens the floor for a more open debate on the modern Alternative Family.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Music to My Ears

With Rosh HaShanah coming, I should be cleansing my mind and heart, and aspiring to better behaviour.  Since this morning, I have been grinning inside, and feeling guilty for my thoughts of joy.  I will explain.

My new apartment has wonderful panoramic views of...my neighbors, including my old apartment.  This morning I heard noises of drilling and wall destruction coming from the old place, and then the giant construction trash bin pulled up.  That's when I started smiling.

The whole year and a half that I suffered because of my former land lord, his contruction and his illegal apartment, none of my neighbors gave me a kind word, expressed sympathy, or took my side when my land lord was clearly in the wrong.  As long as it did not affect them or their quality of life directly, they stopped being human toward me; and then they decided to come along for the ride when I stood up for myself, and the building.

Now they can live with drilling, vibration and noise right beneath their home, and I promise you, it will affect them and their children directly.  Now they can begin to understand how Raphaela and I suffered by the hand of a Construction Mobster, and why I had to flee the place in which I had lived for six years.

Karma's a bitch.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My Rosh Hashanah Wish

Purim, bag stolen.  May, emergency appendectomy.  July, Raphaela's surgery.  August, major trauma from land lord.  September, moved to new apartment.

There is a Chinese curse that goes something like this:  "May you live in interesting times."
All I really wish for right now, today and towards the new Jewish year, are a few moments of quiet, tranquility and ease.  A few moments where I can look forward to a decent night's sleep, without planning for some future shock to the system or some health crisis.

When I collected Raphaela from Gan today, the head nursery teacher rushed over to me, and with a look of deep and almost alarming concern, told me that my daughter lacks stability and confidence when she walks, and that I must get her checked by a pediatric orthopedic surgeon.  Personally, and even given my background as a Chiropractor, I don't know that Raphaela should be running marathons quite yet, as she has only been walking independently for three weeks now.

Furthermore, in principle I have no objection to Raphaela receiving a full workup, and over one month ago applied to the specialized pediatric clinic through my HMO. When I called the HMO today, they informed me that they only received my request three days ago (!), and with the holidays coming, it was unlikely that anything could be done for Raphaela until three months from now.

So now the worry about Raphaela's development and walking gets to invade my brain, because apparently I don't deserve that occasional peace of mind.  I spoke today to a woman whose specialty, through both private sessions and a group 20-class course, teaches parents the skills they need not just to survive, but to flourish within their family unit.  I can see having one or two private sessions with her, but cannot honestly commit to a half year of classes.  I don't know where in my non-stop schedule I will find the time, no matter how important the experience and the information.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Imaginary Friends

Every morning, Raphaela and I go through the list of all the children in her Gan class, the kids with whom she will play that day.  For the past few days, she has mentioned a "Carmi", and I know for a fact that there is no child with that name in her Gan, not even with a name that sounds similar.  I double checked with her nursery teacher.  Raphaela continues to say this name with assurance and clarity.

This morning, when I asked her about Carmi, she simply smiled.  I believe we have a candidate for Raphaela's first imaginary friend.

Having exercised my imagination as a child, I am all in favor of imaginary friends, and in fact have my own theory about the phenomenon.  I have read that animals and young children have a higher psychic sensitivity, and when the talk to their imaginary friends, they are in fact interacting with spirits or angels, beings that we as adult with filters can no longer see.  I actually hope that Raphaela holds onto that openness to the Universe, as long as she can.

When I was studying in Chiropractic school, I spent most weekends and Jewish holidays with a certain cousin and her family.  Her then three year old boy had nightmares and difficulty sleeping, claiming that he was being terrorized by a "scary black dog" running down the hallway.  At first, my cousin took a step back, hoping that the fear was a phase.  I suggested to her that she treat this image of a scary dog as if her son were seeing and hearing it, that they believe him that this being was scaring him at night, as if it were a reality.  She took my advice and soon after, the black dog "got runned over by a car" and never bothered him again.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Some Things Solve Themselves

The really awful assistant nursery teacher quit yesterday, before she could get fired due to the parents' demands.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Harry and Raphaela

Since the move last week, Raphaela has become extremely attached to our nine year old cat, Harry.  Convinced that Harry has not eaten enough, she follows him around the house, carrying his food bowl, saying (in Hebrew), "Come Harry, eat this!"  At night, she will not go to sleep until Harry has joined her in bed, or has at least come into the room and made some noise, to show that he will remain in the house with her.  Unfortunately, when Harry wakes up at his usual four am, his little sister and new best friend Raphaela wakes up with him.

The cat has also become an effective motivator, if I need Raphaela to cooperate with me, I only need to say, "Let's find Harry and he can help us."

Raphaela has never been afraid of animals, any shape and size, and I believe that this confidence comes from growing up with Harry, since she came home from the hospital as a three-day old baby.  Having a pet in the house also encourages her nurturing side, and should I never have another child, Harry fills in nicely as a sibling.

The cat's behaviour regarding our move is most unexpected, to say the least.  An animal companion who usually gets depressed if he is forced to stay inside the house for more than five minutes, he has chosen to be in the new apartment 24/7.  When I 'accidentally' leave the door open so he can 'escape' into the garden, the same Jerusalem garden and neighborhood he has lived in all his life, Harry starts to cry and hides under my bed.  Personally, I am getting tired of cleaning out the litter box and keeping Raphaela away from what we now call the "special sand." 

On the plus side, one week after the move and all the boxes have been opened, most items in the house have a place of their own, and now I can take my one day vacation reward in Sweden ie IKEA.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Naked Truth

Some of my loyal blog readers have been critical of me in the past, claiming that I only present the "rosy" side of parenting, and of single motherhood.  Well, you guys will enjoy this posting.

Here is the unvarnished reality, the overwhelming experience that is the life of the JSMBC:

I cannot pee, shower, eat, read the newspaper, wash the dishes, check email or throw out the garbage without having an active, curious and at the moment, willful and slightly destructive toddler undertoe.  When Raphaela is awake, I must sacrifice all my personal needs in order to keep her happy and entertained, and to make sure that she does not get into areas of sharp objects or poisonous house cleaning products.

I am the only adult in the house saying, "The garbage pail is ichy, it is not a toy."  "Harry's litter box is special sand, not the kind of sand we play with at Gan."  "When we eat, we sit at the table, we don't carry and spill food all over the house."  "Make nice to Mommy, in our family we don't hit and we don't throw."

I am the only adult in the house telling Raphaela how much I love her, reading her stories and playing with her, bathing her and cuddling her.

Sometimes an overenthusiastic hug is accompanied by accidental hair pulling, head bashing or stepping of toes, several times per day.  I know that Raphaela does not mean to cause me physical pain, but just because I am a Mommy, "if you prick me, do I not bleed?"

I need a shot of coffee in the morning to give me a jump start, and I would enjoy a nice glass of red wine once Raphaela goes to sleep, but I cannot be sluggish the following morning, when my daughter wakes up at 5:30 am.

I have been meaning to get a haircut since Pessach. At this point I don't know when this will happen, because it must be coordinated with my work in the Chiropractic clinic, and Raphaela's time in Gan.  In the mornings I pray that Raphaela acclimate to Gan quickly, so I am not stuck there for an hour when I need to do other errands before work. I have not had a vacation in the truest sense of the word since I started fertility treatments.  I have not seen a movie in the theatre in over two years, and when I rent a video at home, I fall asleep in the middle out of sheer exhaustion.

In between patients, I prepare meals and fold laundry, wash dishes and straighten up the house and return phone calls.  As soon as I finish work, I pick up Raphaela from Gan and the rest of the evening belongs to her.  As soon as I tuck Raphaela into bed, we realize that Bunny - her most treasured and essential of transition objects- has gone missing.  By the time I find Bunny, Raphaela has regained her state of alertness and will not settle into bed.

I worried about Raphaela when I was hospitalized after the emergency appendectomy, and I put everything on hold when Raphaela had her surgery.

Now that Raphaela is walking, when she refuses to leave the elevator or starts running into the street, it is me and only me who drops whatever I am holding and protects her. When she makes a fuss about getting dressed or being fastened in the car seat, it is me and only me who must calm her down and explain rules, in the most loving and quiet voice I can muster. When she gets tired of walking, it is me and only me who picks her up and carries her, now matter how far the distance and no matter how much my back hurts.

And then the cracks in my armor break open, and I want to cry and scream and run away to a deserted island where I have no responsibilities.

You may want to argue that with minor exceptions, most of the scenario I have described applies to any mother.  But women in a couple relationship have another person in the house, even if they are a shitty partner.  There is another income coming into the house.  Someone else can go to the supermarket if necessary.  When I hit my leg on a moving box, fall on the floor and start crying, no one comes to check on me or help me stand up.  When I desperately need to take a nap to make up for lost sleep, no one says, "Let me take Raphaela to the park, so you can get the rest you so deserve."

No one hugs me, or asks me, "So, how was your day?"  No one says, "You look great in that outfit."  No one tells me, "I love you."

I am not sure that my parents would be available baby sitters, even if we lived on the same continent.  And other than a few hours of baby sitting here and there, I would not want a nanny living in my house to take care of my child;  why did I have my beautiful daughter if I planned on handing her off to someone else to raise?

If you are a first time reader of this blog, know that I love my daughter and that there is not a single moment with her that I regret.  Also know that if you are planning on bringing a child into the world, you need a reliable and available support system around you, otherwise you will lose yourself in the process.