Monday, September 26, 2011


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 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.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Only in Israel, The Flip Side

The new neighbors on my small street are so used to me, and my car when I lived on the other side of the road, that at least one of them did not read the concise and polite note I left in Hebrew in the mailboxes of the building.  It read:  "Allow me to introduce myself, I will be moving into this building in the beginning of September.  I understand from my land lord that the second parking space to the left belongs to my living space, and I will try my very best to park in an accurate and considerate manner.  Please feel free to contact me, should you have any questions."

I have been parking in the new building's lot for the last three days.  Today I found an anonymous note on the windshield of my car, along with a few scratches that had not been there before.  It read:  "You have such gaul.  How dare you park in the lot of our building when you have a private parking spot across the street where you live.  You are one of the most obnoxious people I have ever seen."

If I weren't so exhausted from the move, I might have entered into anxiety and panic.  Instead, I took a red marker, drew a map of the parking lot and indicated my parking space, and wrote the following:  "The car, whose license plate is *** now lives in this building, along with it's owner.  Thank you.  PS I am in fact not obnoxious." I posted the letter near the mailboxes, so any resident would see it immediately upon entering the building.

I am sure this man or woman did not mean to think the worst of me, or key my car, and I know that I have not violated anyone's parking space, so I hope that my calm response to the situation solves the problem.  As well, perhaps the man or woman who performed these anonymous actions should seen professional help for anger management.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Top Ten Moving List

10.  If it is not attached to you, it will end up packed in a random box, where you will not find it until three days later.  Like the TV remote, the cell phone charger, clean underwear, or the box of Cheerios for Raphaela's breakfast.
9.  As much as you think you have sorted through, thrown out and donated to charity, you will still bring more junk than you can possibly imagine, or have room in storage.  As a former pack-rat, it surprised me to find some of the items in some of the boxes.
8.  My G-d Raphaela and I have alot of books, enough to fill a small library.  I suppose that confirms the supposition that I come from an Upper-Middle Class Jewish Intellectual family.
7.  Once you get involved in packing and moving and trying to find the floor again, it is fairly easy to forget to eat, drink or sleep.  For several days.
6.  The pet psychology books say that a cat owner should lock the feline in the house for two weeks, so he can learn and conquer his new environment.  Because we moved right down the street, I gave Harry the opportunity to escape into the garden, and he has chosen instead to hide under the bed, coming up for air and food occassionaly.  It took him a whole day in the new house to decide to use the litter box.
5.  If you are going to have chaos, do it all at once;  bring in the electrician, the phone technician, the cable guy, the movers and the house cleaners, and let them trip over each other.  When they all leave, it will remind you of the famous Yiddish story, "It Could Always Be Worse."
But don't expect to have internet access for several days.
4.  No house will ever be baby proof, and a new place provides new opportunities to explore and destroy.
3.  Don't open that closet space above the bathroom, the door is warped and will not close.
2.  People are amazing when you ask for help.  My friend Adi, the mother of Raphaela's friend from Gan, took Raphaela back and forth from nursery for several days, so I had one less headache.  Without my asking, my friend Adi then sent over her mother Chana, a super-organized ER nurse, to get my house in shape and help me see some clarity and floor space.  Chana adopted me as a daughter, making me eat and drink and helping get my office ready for patients, and Raphaela's room liveable for a decent night's sleep.  Then Chana volunteered her friend Yehuda to help me with major lifting and carrying.
Only in Israel.

1. You can never have enough closet space, and a kind land lord is worth his weight in gold.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Parents Unite

One of the new hires, the woman who rubbed me the wrong way at the parents meeting last week, has apparently made the same unimpressive impression upon many of the other parents in the Gan.  I have had several conversations with mothers and fathers who feel similarly:  this woman has a perpetual look of confusion bordering on pain, she takes no initiative and literally stands in the corner shaking, waiting for instructions.

It does not take brains to realize that if you don't know what to do with a child, a smile and a hug works really well.  For a person who supposedly worked at other nurseries, she has trouble remembering names and protocol, and cannot muster a smile for children who pick up on every nuance of behaviour.

We have generally agreed that we need to give her a chance to settle into the Gan and become more comfortable with the children, but if the situation remains essentially unchanged by the end of this week, I will say something to the head nursery teacher who hired her.

At the moment, I would not trust the well being and happiness of Raphaela to this woman.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Gan Reunion

This morning, armed with three bags worth of Gan supplies, Raphaela and I returned to the routine of the school year, along with almost every other parent in Israel.  The head nursery teacher asked the parents to stay the entire morning and hang out in the corner, to be seen but not to hover; and so we mothers (especially those who knew each other from last year) hung out and caught up.   Across the board, the parents admitted that as nice as it is to spend time with your child, Thank G-d for the return of sanity, and some free time as grown-ups.

It was an amazing sense of relief and joy to watch Raphaela walking around, on two legs instead of all-fours, as she had done until the end of the last school year.

Once Raphaela feels secure enough to be left at Gan, I will re-start my running program, using the track through the forest right behind the nursery school building.  I ultimately plan on running the Jerusalem 10K next Spring, not to mention feeling toned again, for the first time in two years since the birth.

NEWS FLASH:  The woman who was supposed to be the supervisor for Raphaela's group, one of the new hires, let the Gan know yesterday that due to "personal reasons," she would be unable to fulfill her role.

The most interesting innovation this year should be the post Jewish holidays mass toilet training.  The head nursery teacher informed the parents that starting after Succot (mid-October), all the kids from the age of one and higher will be encouraged to drop their pants and toilet train together, following the Montissouri technique.

I know this route works especially well, though I have one reservation:  Raphaela has only begun recently to explore her more private anatomy, and I hope that the Gan can maintain some decorum among the children regarding relative state of dress during this toilet training adventure.

We ended the day with friends from the States,  for a relaxed meal at the restaurant at the Botanical Gardens;  my one last gasp at Summer vacation before the move next week.