Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Friday Report

1.  Yesterday, we had a completely new door installed;  new lock and key, and much more safe.  I timed Raphaela's nap to their arrival, and despite the horrendous construction noise (serious drilling, hammering and bashing), she slept through the entire event.  In a lovely touch typical to Israel, once he had reinstalled the door frame and the new door, the construction worker (a non-religious man) gave me a full explanation of the difference between Ashkenazim and Sephardim in the way they place their mezuzah. He also told me that I did not have to make a new bracha, because the mezuzah had only been removed for several hours.

2.  The Assutah Sleep Clinic called me specifically to tell me that I would be a poor parent if I had not already acted on the report they sent me, that Raphaela's situation is "pretty bad."  Then they added, "But don't panic!"  The Gan called me one day this week, concerned that while Raphaela was napping she had very shallow breathing and seemed to have minor "frothing at the mouth."  Then they added, "But don't panic!"  Right...

3.  Today, while dropping off Raphaela at Gan, I happened to find out that most of the nursery teachers from this year will not be returning next year.  I still trust the place and the head nursery teacher, and I know that the Gan provides an excellent and trustworthy environment, but it makes me sad because the women who take care of my daughter and her friends are warm and loving and professional, and Raphaela loves them.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Minor Progress

After spending the last few days hearing that even if I wanted to pay privately, there was a long waiting list for the better Pediatric ENT surgeons in Jerusalem.  This evening, when we returned from swim lessons, I called and begged again, and somehow got a meeting with Dr. Weinberger at Hadassah Hospital for this coming Sunday.  He has an excellent name, and though I must pay out of pocket in order to benefit from this appointment, I am told that the Israeli HMO and/or my supplemental insurance will reimburse me once Raphaela completes the surgery.

Beggars cannot be choosers, and at the moment our appointment is set for eight pm, past Raphaela's bedtime.  Maybe she will sleep the entire time we must sit in the waiting room, and make the hospital experience less stressful for everyone.

Monday, June 27, 2011

And That's Why There's Health Insurance

Yesterday, the results of the Assutah Sleep Clinic arrived in the mail just in time for me to bring them back to the ENT surgeon.  The summary of the data:  Sleep Apnea?  Hell, yes!  (According the readout, Raphaela woke up 16 times in one hour because of the snoring and the limited breathing.)

After re-examining her tonsils, the ENT decided that Raphaela should have both her tonsils and her adenoids removed, and the sooner the better.  Unfortunately, because the surgery will require that we stay over night in the hospital, he cannot perform the procedure himself, and gave me the names of other highly recommended surgeons in both Hadassah and Shaarei Zedek.  I have decided to activate my private insurance, and try to get the head of the department for our case;  as much as I appreciate the benefits of the Israeli Universal Health Care system, I will feel better if I can meet her doctor and know that he will be responsible.  I am also going to ask him if he will allow me to be present in the operating theatre during the surgery, not only because of my medical background, but also because I am quite curious to see it being done.  And I know on some level that Raphaela will know I am there, in the room with her, and it can only help.

Last night Raphaela came into my bed at some point, and while she lay beside me, I heard her laugh in her sleep.  It reminded me of a passage in the book, The Little Prince, which describes the musical and magical quality of the laughter of a child.  She awoke this morning and immediately asked me for kisses, and I could forgive the fact that it was five am.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

It's a Miracle!

This past Shabbat, we had dinner at friends who have somewhat older children.  We have eaten there before, and I seem to remember having a conversation before about Raphaela's mysterious paternity. 

During the meal, one of the kids asked me if I have a husband, and who is Raphaela's father.  I replied with my standard, "I didn't find the right person yet to be the father, and so I had a baby first and will have a husband later."  It went over well, or at least I thought it did.

Later, my friend told me that her children are in a bit of shock, because they have an aunt who is also an SMBC, and she had been telling her nieces and nephews that her twins were conceived by a miracle from G-d.  I apologized to my friend, that I had disabused them of the myth of immaculate conception.

Friday, June 24, 2011

We have Liftoff!

This afternoon, while I was preparing for Shabbat in the kitchen, Raphaela stood up on her own and took at least three steps, with all the joy and confidence in the world.  What an amazing way to go into the weekend!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Doctors' Strike

Today I received a check from my private insurance company, a bonus for having NOT activated my policy when I had my appendix removed.  The letter accompanying the check explained that they paid me 50% of the amount that the surgeon would have been paid for performing his job.  If I am doing my math correctly, the surgeon would have earned about 3100 NIS.

Wow.  Now I understand why they are striking.

I do, however, appreciate the check; though it doesn't quite make up for the two weeks I did not work, or for the slower Chiropractic season in the Summer, every little bit helps.

Monday, June 20, 2011

They Pull Me Back In

(Yet another Godfather reference)

At pick-up today, Raphaela and I stayed in Gan later than usual, playing in the sand box and talking to some of the other parents; we have gotten friendlier as the 'academic year' comes to a close.  One of the parents, an Israeli woman married to an American man, said that she was baffled as to why her daughter, when asked a question, replies with a casual surfer-dude "Yah" as opposed to a proper "Yes" in Hebrew or English.  Her confusion ended when she heard Raphaela use the phrase.

Raphaela and some of the other girls her age apparently hang out together, speaking in their secret language and picking up each other's habits, like teenagers having a pajama party.

I mentioned that Raphaela and I were planning on going to Gymboree this afternoon, and one of the other mothers joined us with her daughter.  They had joined the Gan in the middle of the year, and her daughter was having trouble adjusting to a new place; I felt like she would appreciate the invitation and the company.

Turns out (three guesses, and you get only one...) she is a non-religious Israeli SMBC, a woman one year older than me, who lives down the street and works crazy hours in hi-tech.  She is lucky enough to have a mother still living and close by, who can baby sit and help out on a regular basis.

Once again that destiny of mine crept up on me, my vision of opening a center to advocate for the rights of single parents in Israel.  I had pursued this direction one month ago, contacting various agencies that had initiated similar projects.  I was told (no exhageration) that the people who had been given the task were doing it badly, but because their names were on the letterhead, I had to fit into the faulty program, rather than spearhead a movement that could truly help men and women raising their children on their own.

 Very frustrating.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Public Apology to my Mother

I was watching an episode of Dr. Phil yesterday, in which he discussed the positive and negative consequences of the Big Brother manifestation and complete lack of privacy in this internet age.

There is also a principle of Pessach cleaning, which states that you make an item usable for this particularly finiky food holiday using the methods it normally requires for the rest of year.  Fire with fire etc.

And so I am using this public forum to apologize to the woman who brought me into the world, a person who exemplifies compassion and irreproachable service in her community.  I have slandered her good name in this blog, and have shattered my parents' trust, a situation which will never be repaired between us.

Relationships between mothers and daughters are complicated, and in anticipation of the mis-steps that I will make with Raphaela, I also hereby apologize to her, in advance.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Summer Camp

When I dropped Raphaeal off at Gan this morning, they had posted a sign that said that "Due to popular demand..." they are extending their run by one more week into August, a camp of sorts for the kids who already attend the nursery the rest of the year.

I will, of course, take advantage of this arrangement, especially since I had started interviewing sitters for the month of August and found the pickings to be slim.  It also depends upon the timing of Raphaela's surgery;  I have yet to receive the results of the sleep clinic, and therefore cannot return to the ENT surgeon to finalize.

In Israel, you pay the same monthly amount for the whole year of nursery, even though they do not work during August; everyone deserves a vacation, and I presume that they charge the tuition this way in order to spread out the payments.  But here is my question:  if we have paid full price for the month of August, shouldn't the camp be free, or at least charge a minimal symbolic amount?

At the end of the day I am not complaining, the phenomenal care they provide has allowed my daughter to grow emotionally and intellectually this year, and I trust their care takers.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Would you like fries with that?

(NoteThis will be a posting about vaccination.  I know that people disagree almost violently on the subject, and in fact the purpose of this posting is not to advocate any particular position, but rather to tell a psuedo-medical vaccination joke.  In fact, this introduction will probably be longer than the posting itself, and if you still feel the need to comment with every bit of research out there that supports or decries the use of vaccinations, go for it!)

Yesterday Raphaela received her final vaccination in the DPT series, and Nurse Shoshana asked me if I would like to "Supersize" the vaccine, as long as we were there anyway.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

On the Nature of Blogging

I address this post to those who read my blog, whether you comment on a regular basis or choose to remain silent, and I address specifically those readers of mine who also maintain their own blog on the world wide interweb (as my technologically challenged friend calls it).

Let's face it, as in any artistic and creative expression, the written word can be interpretted (or mis-interpretted) by the intended audience.  I am a truthful and open person by nature, I have chosen the medium to share pieces of my life, and I would like to say that the picture I paint is as accurate as I see it, given the fact that no one sees their lives objectively.

I go through phases where I question the usefulness of blogging, as well as the basics:  did I represent the person or event in an accurate and fair manner?  Have I achieved my goal in this particular post?
Did I compromise my sense of fairness and well-being for the sake of sensationalism, the "better story"?
Has the internet become too exposed, and do I have no business airing my private affairs on a public and international forum?

Do I need some professional support system as well, like a social worker or a therapist? Probably, and not simply because of my past, I think everyone could use an objective and kind voice in their lives.

Recent comments to me personally and on the site have raised these issues once again.  I continue to blog because I believe that my experiences can help find common ground for those women who are single mothers by choice, and those who may be considering it, and even parents of young children who have the support of a long-term relationship.

I also continue because of the choice to live in Israel and not close to my family in the States; I want to share the joy of having my daughter, and it gives me some comfort to know that those of you out there on the planet are participating. Raising a child as a single parent is in some ways easier in Israel than in the States or the rest of the known world, but I think that the feelings and frustrations are universal.  However, as the author trying to do some good, as well as vent a bit, I would like to know if I have failed or succeeded in my purpose.

Post a comment, please, post anonymously if you want to chew me out, remembering that I am still a human being, and these days, given the various projects and stressors I am juggling, I have thinner skin than I would like.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Real House

Yes folks, it's that time of the year again, when my landlord pretends that he forgot that the lease must be renewed by the end of June, he stalls and then one week before I would theoretically have to move or re-sign, he declares that rent prices have risen sharply and that I can take it or leave it.

The stress eats away at me the entire month of June, wondering when he will 'remember' to inform me of the rent increase and how nasty he will become during the negotiations.  Then I will debase myself and plead as a single mother, and maybe he will meet me half way, or not.  I became tired of this ritual long ago, and have actively started to look for another place.

Oddly enough, though I have always been very exacting and very careful with my money and my budget, I don't actually know how much I can afford to pay for rent each month, should I choose to move or stay in this location with a rent increase.  Classic business texts say that your rent should be no more than 30% of your monthly income, and so this weekend I plan on crunching the numbers and figuring this out for certain. (Or I could magically inherit lots of money and buy my own place, and not have to deal with Slumlords.)

I have three different real estate agents searching for me, I check on-line listings and have asked my friends and other Gan parents to look out for me as well.  I am happy at the idea of finding a new, more modern place, and I am terrified at the backlash that this current man can inflict upon me, no matter what our rental contract states on my defense.

I gave birth at the age of 41, a late start I know.  At the age of 41, my mother had five children, a husband and an 100-year old New England Colonial.  I don't need a giant house, but I do want a place of my own, a space where I feel safe and relaxed, an apartment in which I feel pride and want to have guests over, rather than feeling ashamed or shy about my living space.

These money issues and house issues are certainly a hold-over from my childhood, my attitudes toward wealth, spending and prosperity influenced and programmed by my upbringing.  The fear of nasty and verbally abusive men can be traced at the very least to the abuse I suffered in high school, and the definite lack of positive male role models in my life.  Time to upgrade the programming, for mine and my daughter's sake.  No one should have to live in fear of being homelesss.

Recruiting Help

Over the years, I have learned the most essential key to success, as far as I am concerned:  Never be afraid to ask questions, and never be afraid to ask for help.  Having suffered from some version of benign neglect as a child, it took physical space away from my family, therapy and positive experiences to understand that people will help if they can, if you ask.

Starting during the most recent holiday of Shavuot, Raphaela began half-walking, standing with legs straight in the air but remaining in a crawling position, so when she crawls/walks she looks like one of the monkeys at the zoo, butt in the air but just as speedy as before.  My GP does not feel that Raphaela is suffering from a neurological problem or a serious developmental delay; as long as each day brings change in the forward direction, we do not yet need to start physical therapy. My mother does not understand the Israeli HMO system, and though she met my GP, my mother still does not trust her;  I continue to ignore the nagging of "There is nothing wrong with physical therapy, your sister's kids had physical therapy.  Why don't you just pay privately?" 

The staff at the Gan, however, have offered their services, and have declared to Raphaela that now that she is half-walking, they are going to let her get away with pure crawling less and less.  They give her one hand and have her walk to the lunch table or to the activity corner, and though my daughter makes a fuss, she complies and is perfectly capable.  I believe, in my unprofessional un-PT opinion, that Raphaela will walk when she realizes that she can accomplish so much more with free hands.  Then I will spend the rest of my life keeping up with her, and I welcome the challenge.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Lease Renewal

The lease on this apartment, in which I have lived since 2005, expires at the end of June.  You would think that I could rest easy, knowing that I am a quiet, model tenant who always pays the rent on time, that I would not have to worry about negotiating the renewal.  Instead, I lose sleep at night, thinking about the nasty man who manages the property.

I had wanted to already find a new place, but my emergency appendecteomy put the search on hold for several weeks.  In the worst case scenario, I renew my lease here, find a new place and give them one month's notice (as per the stipulation in the contract), break the lease and then move.

It may sound very TV sitcom 1950's, but there is some part of me that believes that if I had a husband, a "man of the house," he could deal more effectively with the landlord;  Israeli men tend to respect others of their gender over the "weaker sex," and would be less likely to try extortion, financial or emotional. (Similar to the situation of buying a new car, getting dry cleaning done, or having a hair cut:  men pay less than women.)

Instead, I must create a set of arguments in my favor, possibly beg, and though it makes me ill, explain the importance of stability for the sake of my daughter.  No one, not even a crabby 85 year old slum lord can resist a baby, right?

The Beginnings of Mischief

Raphaela has now adopted the classic Israeli kid behaviour of the one-shoulder-shrug, though without the classic "tick" sound effect that can accompany that small act of defiance.  Combined with her powerful "No," I can say that this truly represents the beginning of her independence as a person.

During bath time, she will pretend she has hurt her finger, start to wimper and present me with her hand so I can kiss it.  At which point she proceeds to squeeze my nose or various areas of my face, with a big smile, thinking she has tricked me.  It works every time, LOL.

Not satisfied with the toy cell phone I bought her, Raphaela loves picking up the land line phone and trying to dial out.  She will hold her head to the phone and start babbling, and I see a mirror of myself.  The battery -free TV remote does not fool her either, at the age of one a half she has more of a grasp on technology than I ever will.

Meal times have gotten more complicated as well; Raphaela used to politely hand me her plate and utensils when she was done eating, and now they are delivered generally via throwing to the floor.  If I am to fulfill my job as a parent, I must start setting boundaries and defining acceptable actions.

That being said, she has also shown an increadibly generous and affectionate side to her.  Raphaela freely distributes kisses and hugs, I often observe her talking to one of her friends at Gan, and holding his/her hand.  During meals,  Raphaela will make sure that I have enough food, to the point that she will hand feed me from her plate.  She will offer Harry a taste as well, or put a cup next to his face so he can drink.  The look on her face says that this is impotant to her, and I am glad that she has developed empathy and sharing skills.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Assutah III/Tel Aviv

I woke up in the Assutah Hospital Sleep Clinic at my regular time, ie around five am, and Raphaela woke up within twenty minutes after I did.  Her mood was not stellar, nor did I expect it to be, and even the bribe of Bamba did very little to improve her disposition. 

I briefly washed my face and brushed my teeth, and after six am I called my Uncle to pick us up and bring us back to their apartment;  after my own appendectomy last month, and this round of tests for Raphaela, I have come to value family even more.  While we were waiting, Raphaela helped feed the fish in the Japanese pond outside the hospital, amazing how they swarmed around a few pieces of bread.

I did not feel awake enough or emotionally ready to immediately return to Jerusalem, and so after a brief breakfast, I took Raphaela to the private nearby beach.  At 7:30 in the morning, the beach is empty except for a group of serious surfer dudes, the sand is clean and soft, and the sun feels just right.  Raphaela immediately settled in  and started digging and building sand castles. With very little convincing, she agreed to stand near the water's edge, and her bravey increased exponentially.  By the time we left we were both soaked, and in fact it was my daughter who pushed me to go deeper into the ocean.

That's three "firsts" for Raphaela:  first time in Tel Aviv, first time (and hopefully the last) spending overnight in a medical facility, and first time at the beach rather than a chlorinated pool.

We spent all morning at the beach, and when I knew it was time to leave I started tearing up, I could not imagine leaving such a tranquil and happy place to return to my "real life" of preparing for Shabbat, checking emails and making office calls.  The ocean has always made me feel whole, and I think that if I lived near the sea, I would never get any work done.

The drive back to Jerusalem was so much smoother and quicker than the ride the previous day, the highways remained clear except for one minor accident. Raphaela slept all the way home. Of course, between our clothing and our shoes and our beach bag, Raphaela and I brought home practically enough sand to set up a small beach on our living room floor.

Assutah II

On Thursday afternoon, Raphaela and I battled traffic on the Ayalon highway, and after one and a half hours, arrived at my Great Aunt and Uncle, who live in Ramat Aviv.  We spent several lovely hours there catching up, eating dinner and giving Raphaela a very unsuccessful bath, before we had to leave to the Assutah Sleep Clinic.  It felt wonderful to have family around me, to disperse some of the accumulating stress about this exam and its implications.

It also became quite clear to me that unless I live in Tel Aviv, I will not work there no matter how high the demand;  the commute would kill any positive energy I have toward my work as a Chiropractor.

For some reason, based upon the glowing descriptions I had heard, I expected the Assutach Hospital Sleep Clinic to resemble the Ein Karem Baby Hotel we stayed in right after the birth.  The facility was fine, but hardly a place of luxury;  the staff was pleasant and helpful, our room had a twin bed for the parent, a crib for the child and a small sink.

In fact, Raphaela was one of three children her age spending the night, and I again realized how blessed I am, because my daughter was the only child who went into bed and fell asleep quickly and without a fuss.  As well, the other parents told me that their children were being monitored because they have been ill "all the time," whereas Raphaela thank G-d has only really been sick twice since her birth.  (Not counting the perpetual low-grade runny nose...)

Neither of us had a decent night, in fact I cannot imagine how any child or adult rests when they are attached to electrodes and boxes and USB cables.  In the morning, the technician commented to me, "Boy, she snores!" and then told me that in his non-medical professional opinion, Raphaela experienced Sleep Apnea many times during the night. In any case, the results come back within three weeks, at which point my family doctor and the ENT can figure out which surgery Raphaela requires to give her the gift of normal breathing.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Losing my Identity (Assutah)

Funny how when you become a parent, you lose your identity for a while.   I myself am guilty of the crime:  out of laziness more than anything else, I have not learned the name of every single parent of every single child at the Gan.  Often, I will say, "Hello, Mother/Father of _____!"  and then smile, to assuage some of the guilt of not knowing their grown-up name.

Today, Assutah Hospital called to remind me of Raphaela's appointment at their sleep clinic.  This exam brings the ENT and my family doctor one step closer toward understanding when/if Raphaela will require surgery.  The phone conversation started with, "Am I speaking to Raphaela's mother?"  I am of course proud and happy to be my daughter's mother, though it entails only a part of the entire package that is me.

Right now I am most concerned about getting to Tel Aviv safely and finding the hospital.  Because I do not have a GPS or Smart Phone, I have written the driving directions on Post-its; I will stick them on my steering wheel and peel each set of directions off as we achieve it.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

On Shoes and Socks

Where is Raphaela's shoe?
It's sleeping with the fishes...(with a nod to The Godfather)

I think that the cousins of the sock gremlins (who steal one sock from a pair out of the dryer) have taken residence at Raphaela's Gan.  Almost every day she either comes home with a different pair of socks than she wore in the morning, or she has no socks at all under her new shoes.  I have given up keeping track of the socks that have gone MIA, and written it off as part of the life of a toddler.

Yesterday, at the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem, Raphaela decided that she wanted to feed the ducks in the murky (scummy and somewhat smelly) pond, and so she took off one of her new shoes and threw it into the water.  She has a good strong arm!  As I watched the shoe sink under the green-ish water, I called out for one of the zoo staff and their pincer sticks;  "Help, help, someone with a stick!"  When it became clear that none of the workers were nearby, I climbed over the fence and went into the pond/swamp, and retrieved the shoe just in time.

Raphaela found the whole scene hysterically funny, and laughed out loud as I struggled in the water.  When I returned victorious, shoe in hand, I said to my daughter, "This is not funny, this is actually disgusting, the idea of your shoe in that pond."  Which made her (and many of the other parents watching this play out) laugh even harder.

I am quite sure the other parents were laughing in sympathy.