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.

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.]

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.