Monday, December 31, 2012

(On the way to Gan today, as Raphaela watched me dole out some kibble to the street cats we feed every morning)

Raphaela:  You are an Animal Rescuer!
Mommy:  Sort of.  But I don't have a Magic Bag like Diego.
R:  You have a back pack like Dora.
M:  Yes.
R:  And we go on hikes and trips together.
M:  Yes.
R:  And we see animals on our trips!
M:  Yes we do.

Then Raphaela smiled and squeezed my hand tight.

A Woman of Valour

It has been quite a while since I came across a story of a woman of immense power and conviction, someone who inspired me to aim higher and do better.

Rita Levi-Montalcini, born in 1909 to a Jewish Italian family leaves me in awe, jaw dropped all the way to the floor.  She died yesterday at the age of 103, and her obituary states that she was active physically, intellectually and professionally until close to her last breath.  Her impressive life resume includes:

At the age of 20, in defiance of her family and their belief that woman should not pursue an advanced education,  she became a doctor and a surgeon.

When the Nazis barred Jewish academics, she continued her studies in cell structures and genetics in secret, risking her life to obtain the supplies she needed and working out of her bedroom in a makeshift lab.

In 1943 her family fled went underground and fled, and after the war she worked as a doctor in a center for refugees.

She received a Nobel Prize in 1986 for research that increased the understanding of the body's repair and memory systems.

In 2001 Levi-Montalcini was honored by Italy, naming her a senator-for-life.

The one thing her obituary fails to mention is children and surviving family.  A preeminent biologist with intimate knowledge of the human body who never experienced pregnancy or the joys and trials of motherhood.  Did she achieve all this at the expense of a personal life?  It leaves me wondering if she was happy in the end, if her accomplishments, fame and longevity made that sacrifice worthwhile.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Gan 2013-14

When I was pregnant, I received all sorts of advice from all sorts of people, mostly along the lines of "You won't sleep for the next 18 years, until they go into the army, and then you definitely won't sleep."  While I have found the sleep thing to be true thus far, I would advise future parents that the early childhood care-taking situation and his/her education will not just keep you awake at night, but will make you want to cry.

Last year I erroneously allowed myself to get trapped in three months worth of list making and obsessive thoughts regarding Gan;  I have promised myself that this year the process will be quick and clean and simple.  I am looking for a place that is close to the house, has a good reputation among local parents, feels light and spacious, and has services until approximately four in the afternoon.  This morning before work I wandered up and down throughout my neighborhood, checked out four different nursery schools and now have options in my head with which I am comfortable and basically happy.

The big question mark remains the reformation from the Jerusalem Municipality, changes in the afternoon schedule that begin in February 2013:  the price of the two to four pm time slot ("Tzaharon") will decrease dramatically, and they promise what they call a "hot meal"  every day.  The Municipality however refuses to reveal the intended menus, and Raphaela's lunch may well become a sandwich and perhaps a hot vegetable, as opposed to the fully hot and protein filled lunches she currently receives.

From the moment of her birth, my daughter has been an "Eater," and a sandwich will simply not be enough to get her through the day.

So I've made my list, I will check it twice. I would like to think that it is a sign of my maturity and increasing experience as an Israeli parent, this new sense of calm and acceptance.  Either that, or I am simply a naive American who made aliyah 16 years ago, and wishes to believe that it has to work out for the best.

Land of the Luddites

For the past two weeks my desk top computer has been non-functional, a reflection of its age, almost eight years old;  when I tell those better versed in modern tech that I just replaced it now, they are gobsmacked, and can't believe that I trusted my clinic data to a machine that by all rights died along with the dinosaurs.

During this last two weeks, before I finally broke and ordered a new super-speedy super-quiet and all around pleasure-to-work-with new computer, I recorded my office data by hand, and checked email on my iPad only  when absolutely necessary.  Turns out, I wasn't missing much in terms of information, and in fact it freed up much of my evening and gave the time and attention back to me and Raphaela, because I wasn't sitting in front of the screen.  Much to my surprise, I survived this lack of access to the Internet, and even went to bed earlier than usual.

In college at Barnard, computers and automated systems were so simple and mostly unguarded by passwords and sophisticated programs, and so it was easy enough to hack, an activity in which my friends and I dabbled.  Today the technology has evolved faster than the blink of an eye, and I can barely use my phone without knowing that my three year old understands it and utilizes it better than I, me with my generational genetic flaw.

I have felt this way about Internet dating for a while now and my brief computer-less experience only reinforces my belief:  technology, while it may contribute to the overall efficiency of the business of globalization , it is not so slowly corrupting the essential experience of the human race. 

We have forgotten how to sit in a room with people we don't know, introduce ourselves and over the long term become friends, and maybe even lovers. 

We have forgotten that people deserve time and space to consider a contract, even if you just sent it by fax or email. 

Classic grammar and spelling is shot to hell.

We have let ourselves become accessible to anyone from anywhere in the world, 24 hours per day, and created an illness for the 21rst century called "Adrenal Overload Syndrome"; our body physically and emotionally does not have enough hours of sleep in order to repair and recover, causing an increase in all sorts of cancers and the eventual collapse of entire organ systems.

Families sit in the same house, separated and isolated, this one texting on the phone, this one checking email, this one watching television.  The concept of going outside to take a walk together or ride a bike down the street has vanished, to be replaced by childhood obesity, increases in ADHD and spectrum Autism and horrific posture.

I appeal to you, my readers and all inhabitants of Gaea:  shut off your phone and your computer, go play outside with someone you love.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Social Secretary

I was never a member of the popular clique in school, I was one of the shy and intellectual kids who studied all the time and dreamed of being invited to one of the mysterious and magical cool people party.  I have always been happy with two or three close friends, and prefer entertaining in small more intimate settings.

My daughter amazingly has been blessed with sociability to the extreme, she is the "It Girl" at her Gan, and frankly, the thought of it makes me giddy.  Lately she has been receiving invitations for play dates, and I am having a hard time juggling her schedule; popularity can be exhausting!

(Sometimes all I want to do at the end of the day is get into pajamas and chill out with Raphaela, that's the comfortable introvert in me.) 

Because she is an only child, I will continue to encourage her to seek out healthy friendships and learn the art of hostess-ing.  It is the least I can give her, in my quest to help Raphaela fulfill her happiness potential.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

When I was pregnant with Raphaela, I gained a total of five kilo, thanks to the fact that I could not keep most food down for the first four months, and the fact that up until two weeks before her birth, I was running for exercise at least four days per week.

One of the few foods that gave me comfort was Aroma's winter Orange Soup, with some warm whole wheat bread and butter. (While Raphaela grew inside me, she also blessed me with the temporary capacity to enjoy dairy products.) I loved that meal so much that I tried to reproduce the recipe at home.

Today, in between errands, I relived that little piece of memory, sitting at the Aroma Cafe in Jerusalem, with their Orange Soup warming me from the inside out.  The winter cold here seeps into your bones, and a serious warm bowl helps to relieve that sensation of perpetual shivering.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Spirit of the Season

I woke up this morning, infused with the spirit of Christmas.  I don't by any means plan on getting a tree and placing it in my living room, but I must admit that looking at the calendar and observing the date, December 24th ie "Erev Christmas", I burst into song.

All morning Raphaela and I have been more buoyant and affectionate than usual, and I like it.  My thoughts at the moment have returned me to my childhood in New York: the cartoon television specials, playing in the snow for hours without noticing the cold, school vacation, ice skating at Rockefeller Center, the abundance of decoration and cheer in the windows of the department stores.

New Yorkers, usually a surly fast-walking lot, smile more between Christmas and January 1,  and wish each other a "Happy Holiday" with no particular ulterior motive in mind.

Christmas barely registers in Israel, and ultimately, that is why I choose to live here and raise my daughter here, but I am thankful nonetheless for my American upbringing.

Since returning from the States three weeks ago, I have been feeling like I am in a holding pattern, neither happy nor sad, not particularly motivated to fill every minute of my day with some errand or work in the clinic.  I feel like I am waiting for something, or someone, and today is the first day I am light inside, and open to the idea of a wonderful new development in my life.
(On Shabbat, while playing)
Mommy: I love you as big as Space!
Raphaela: I love you as big as Love!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's the End of the World As We Know It

(I bet that song is running through your head now...)

So to celebrate the last day on the Earth, at least according to the Mayan calendar, I dropped Raphaela off at Gan and then parked myself at a lovely table at my favorite bakery in Jerusalem, ordered a cup of coffee and a danish, and read the newspaper before starting work in the clinic.

In case the Mayans - who, it must be pointed out, did not manage to forsee their own extinction - were correct, thanks for reading my blog!  ;-)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Israeli Politics

Among the multitude of political parties on the slate for January 2013's Israeli elections, two parties not only have no women on their list, but have no intention of placing women on their list, not even in a symbolic location (120/120).  I will not name these two parties, but I will give you a hint:  they treat women and anyone else as second and third class citizens, they leech from the government and spit on the modern State of Israel; and they justify their abhorrent behaviour saying that essentially, God likes them better because they are Ultra Orthodox,and therefore they have a divine right to treat other humans like garbage, even their own wives and mothers and sisters and daughters. 

Today some enraged Israeli citizens, feminist and otherwise, filed a suit to disqualify these two parties from the general election in January.  When asked to explain themselves, Shas and Yahadut Hatorah (oops, I told...)  replied that in denying the women of their movement a voice, they are following the Torah!  "In the halacha, men have certain roles and women have a different role."

The bulls**t meter is reading high on this one.

Unfortunately, living in Israel has jaded me against the general behaviour of the Ultra Orthodox community, and just this morning, a patient and I - both tolerant and modern Orthodox women -had a conversation on the topic, in which we agreed:  the Ultra Orthodox have as much right as anyone else to move into a neighborhood and expect certain services ie take it over and push out anyone not like you.  But as a citizen of Israel and the world, be a Mensch;  serve in the army, pay taxes on legitimate work instead of the grey market, support the government instead of cursing its existence and throwing stones at Israeli policemen.

These Ultra-Orthodox parties claim racism and bias, that the 'white folk' treat them unfairly.  As one of their so-called second class and a Barnard College graduate, I can say with assurance that the reception they receive is equally proportional to their actions.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Modern Medicine

"I have a stomach ache, I need Hershey's Kisses to help me feel better." said Dr. Raphaela, on the way home from Gan today.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Eighth Night, Eighth Light


Last night, in honor of both the last night of Chanukah and a birthday, my friend invited us to his and his wife's house down the street for a casual Saturday evening celebration.  Having been unable to find a baby sitter, I decided that rather than pass up this social opportunity, I would break routine for Raphaela, bring her with me to the party (in her pajamas), and let her stay up later than usual.

When we arrived, we were the only mother-toddler in the room, and for the most part, most of the guests were female, younger and my age range, married and single, pregnant and not pregnant.  Inevitably - and not by my initiation by any means - the discussion turned to the pressure in Israel on women to have children, and the stress for "older" women in terms of fertility, which in this country means over the age of 35.

Several of the women asked me, "How do you do it, a single working mother with no real family as a back-up system on this continent?"  My answer, "I have become an amazingly efficient multi-tasker and I don't get much sleep."  I imagine that description fits most mothers of a three year old.

Several of the woman around my age asked me if Raphaela feels less-than by the other children around her because she does not have a father active in her life, and I replied that as far as I know, it has not come up in conversation for her.  In fact, several of the children in her Gan are the product of a single mother by choice, and "as long as the check clears," the Gan staff treat my daughter no differently than any other kid.

As far as insensitivity, based upon the reactions of most of the women in the room, tactlessness abounds, and it doesn't matter whether or not you are attached to a man.  I still think that my story wins ie the matchmaker who recently called me to suggest a first date, and without blinking said, "He wants children, I assume you froze your eggs, right? Unless that information is too personal..."

Raphaela has only recently begun to ask me on a consistent basis, "Where is my father," and before I have a chance to answer her, she has moved onto another topic, usually Diego the Animal Rescuer, her current crush.

As the only person under the age of 30 in the room, Raphaela received lots of attention and ate way too many snacks, and around ten pm I tried to put her down for a nap in my friend's guest room.  My daughter, however, gets super-stimulated by social situations, and so I regrettably put on our jackets and went home.  I could have stayed several hours more, surrounded by a fun and adult environment.

One woman my age, a person whom I admire for planning the most amazing single parties which I cannot usually attend, asked me privately as we were on our way to the door, "Really, how are you doing?"  I told her that in times like this, when I must choose between putting Raphaela to bed and playing with my friends, I tend to get a little sad and resentful, because I know that I need the company to maintain my own sanity.  But do I regret the fertility treatments and the birth of my child? "Not for a moment."

Thursday, December 13, 2012

LIttle Pitchers, Big Ears

This morning I asked Raphaela to brush her teeth.  She looked at me, wagged her finger and said very sternly, "Not now, I'm VERY busy!"

Wow, I have to watch not just what I say, but how I say it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

This morning one of my errands included the pet store, a business owned and run by an extremely sweet and handsome Israeli man;  we briefly dated years ago, until he became more religious, and we remain friends.  (I seem to have that effect on men I date; inspired by me, they become more observant than me and thus become "not my type anymore.")

I asked him whether he was enjoying himself this Chanukah and he sighed, explaining that he had no one with whom to celebrate the holiday, and thus he found it uneventful and lonely.

There is nothing I have enjoyed more this year than sitting with Raphaela, snuggling, and watching the candles quietly burn, and listening to this friend, I appreciate it even more.  And so I invited him to join us one evening, though I don't know if he will accept the offer.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Increadible Edible Mouse

For most of the eight days of Chanukah, Raphaela thankfully has full schedule at Gan, but today she had vacation, and so I planned a full and fun day.

 To truly qualify as vacation, Raphaela and I slept in, if 6:30 am counts as sleeping late.  Then we spent most of the morning at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, first observing the animals for real that we have come to know and love through Dora and Diego.  Raphaela eagerly jumped from area to area, naming them all: Tapir! Peeing Cotton Top Tamarin monkeys! Iguana! Crocodiles large and small! Elephants! Tigress! Linda the llama!

A large eagle in the aviary sat on the rock right next to us, chirping away, and a lemur practically walked up to me and tried to jump onto my head.

Toward the end of our visit, Raphaela and I participated in a special zoo Chanukah activity, with sugar dough.  Together we constructed a totally edible candy mouse, and after very clear instruction, I told Raphaela that when she felt ready, she was allowed to eat her creation.  It almost sounded like cannibalism, the way she gleefully planned  the eating of the various mouse body parts, though I could tell that Raphaela harbored a certain level of hesitation about consuming her newest friend.

The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying the warm Chanukah weather, and I treated Raphaela to a mini-manicure.

It took several hours, and my daughter ate the tail and the ears of the candy mouse, and then she cradled him, placed the rest of him carefully on a plate, and tucked the mouse into bed.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Overheard, as Raphaela was talking on the phone with her cousin in Silver Spring:

RR:  A great miracle happened HERE!
Cousin N: No, a great miracle happened THERE!

Holiday Friends

Living in Jerusalem, I most happily report the absence of Black Friday type sales and Christmas related mega-marketing.  When we visited the States, however, Raphaela had a very different experience of the holiday season.

Not a materialistic girl by nature, whatever store we entered, she immediately fell into the "Buy me/Get me" routine that I can remember from my own childhood.  I myself do not enjoy shopping per se, and so we entered as few stores as possible. And when we were besieged by Christmas paraphernalia, Raphaela would ask me, "Where is Santa?"

Allow me to explain:  both Dora the Explorer and Diego have holiday themed shows, which then get translated into Hebrew for the Israeli audience.  Halloween becomes Purim, and Christmas becomes Chanukah.  But for Raphaela, Santa does not represent Christmas, she does not even know or understand the meaning of the term;  the jolly old man dressed in red represents a friend of her friends -Dora and Diego - and he is a man who helps the animals and comforts people with presents of food and hugs.

My parents, who could not fathom why my daughter growing up in a Jewish country knew of Santa, cringed every time she mentioned him, and I continually explained the innocent context until they backed down.

Then I reminded them of this story from my youngest brother, who for some odd reason received a Santa Clause doll from one of our cousins: around Raphaela's age, my brother became so attached to the toy, that my parents could not take it away from him.  Instead, because of the white beard, my brother and I renamed the doll "Rabbi Santa," and it became a fixture in the toy chest for many years.

There is room for all this holiday season, and I would rather complain that Chanukah jelly doughnuts appear rather early in the Israeli supermarkets, as opposed to the crazed run-over-your-neighbor-for-an-xbox events in the American stores.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Keeping Children Out of Harm's Way

This morning in Raphaela's Gan, as we were walking in the door (late again, because of jet lag...) I observed a scene between two of the children fighting over a puzzle. The boy slapped the girl in the face and then moved to the other side of the table, with the puzzle, and the girl put her head on the table and started crying.  The teacher had not seen the beginning of the event, and assumed that the girl was crying because she could not share the toy, and as the teacher opened her mouth to chastise her, I could not help myself and whispered quietly, "She is crying because he hit her and then took the puzzle away from her."

The teacher then had to revise her intended actions, and began the negotiations of the boy apologizing to the girl, and the girl getting cuddles and reassurance.

I can't help myself, really, especially if I see injustice being done to a child.

I received a phone call yesterday which challenged this personality flaw even further.  Ten years ago, after much internal deliberation, I reported a female patient of mine to Israeli Social Services, because I had the proof I needed that she suffered from Munchhausen by Proxy, that she was injuring at least two of her children because of this bizarre and sad disease.  I reported her with the proviso that the patient not be told who summoned Social Services, because I could not trust this woman to behave in a rational way if she had found out that I was the informant.

Unfortunately, the Social and Child Protection Services in this country lack the resources to take proper and long term action.  They sent an inexperienced social worker over to the house, who after a short interview, came to the conclusion that the children of the household were not susceptible to any immediate and severe danger to their physical or emotional health, and did not need to be removed from the home.

Shortly after, I told this patient that I felt I could not provide the Chiropractic care she truly needed, and referred her out to a colleague.

Yesterday she called me for the first time since the incident, asking if she could return to me as a patient, and I felt severely conflicted.  It was clear even from her speech on the phone that she continues to behave in an irrational way as regards her health, and that her paranoia is alive and well as regards the world at large.  Clearly I cannot treat her with an open mind and heart, and I don't know how to explain this to her without arising anger on her part.

She suffers from a serious mental disorder, and if she chooses not to get help for herself, Gesundheit!  (as my great-grandmother used to say)  But I know that she hurt her children and her family, and that I cannot abide.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Raphaela's First Lie

Since we have arrived home to Jerusalem, I have been preoccupied with organizing the house, unpacking and doing laundry and getting Raphaela back into her routine, despite our jet lag.

Apparently tonight I was not paying enough attention to her, because I walked into the play room and found every toy and book and puzzle scattered on the floor.

Reasonably upset by the chaos, I asked, "Raphaela, who made this terrible mess?"

She paused for a moment and answered, "Umm, Alona [her friend from Gan]" And then she laughed when I challenged the statement, a small sweet laugh that you might expect from The Little Prince.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Jiggedy Jig

Home again, home again, jiggedy jig!

I first of all complement Swiss Air, on the best leg of the flight either way this trip.  Their planes were clean and the seating decent even for a long-legged person like me.  The personal entertainment system worked without a hitch, and I managed to watch two movies that had been on my list.  It was a night flight, so Raphaela slept most of the way, blessed be.  The level of professionalism and courtesy was high, and they arrived exactly on time, according to the itinerary.

The airport in Zurich even had a Gymboree play area.

I wish I could unequivocally praise El Al in the same way, though I must admit that when I saw the large bold Israeli flag on the tail of the plane, I actually started bawling.  It felt good to see the symbol of a place that brings me comfort and joy, that feeling of home and family.  Dorothy said it best, I think.

As we landed in Tel Aviv, we were greeted by a beautiful sunset outside our window, and as we climbed through the hills of Jerusalem and reached our building, I received the most classic Israeli welcome:  one of the crazy old people who lives on the first floor saw me carrying luggage and herding an over-exhausted three year old, and felt that this was the perfect time to discuss with me - as a Chiropractor and as a neighbor - whether my cat Harry was causing her allergies.  I looked at her and said, "Really?!  I've just returned after a two week vacation, shlepping suitcases and a crying child and you want to accuse my cat of causing you problems because he walks down the stairwell?!" 

She stopped her ranting, wished me a hearty "Welcome Home" and hastily closed her door.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Pre-Travel Stress Disorder

Last year in Gan, with the prolonged bully issue, Raphaela became passive and quiet and fell into the role of the victim, as did many other children in her class.  This year as one of the older girls in the class, she has become confident and "cool," a leader for the other children.

Today, when we went to the Children's Museum in downtown Boston, a boy (a stranger) her age tried to prevent her from playing with a particular interactive toy.  Raphaela stood her ground physically and emotionally for five minutes against this boy, until he backed down.  I couldn't have been more grateful for her new Gan at that moment.

As our trip winds down - our flight to Israel, barring a snowstorm, tomorrow - Raphaela has had to say goodbye to " Hilary's House" and it's beloved tenants, and today my brother Judah "The Macabee" returned to New York.  My daughter cried tears of deep grief, saying between the sobs how much she already misses my brothers and their families.  All this before we actually get on the plane tomorrow night and she parts from her grandparents.

Over and above the basic physical torture of traveling with luggage and a three year old, I am preparing myself for a difficult farewell.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

No Place like Home?

Born in New York, moved to New Jersey, moved to Boston, back to New York for college, Toronto for grad school, Israel in 1997.  I've been around, and perhaps the fact that I don't have one space where I can say, "I was born there, I grew up there, I have roots there," that allowed me to move to Israel to start fresh.

The only house that ever stayed the same, an emotional constant for me, was my grandparent's place, but now that they are both gone, the house feels empty and sad.  I would rather remember it when it was infused with the sounds of family and the smells of my grandmother's cooking and baking.

On this trip thus far, I have spent a week with my brother, or as Raphaela calls it, "Hilary's House" in Washington DC, and while in New York for Thanksgiving, I visited my aunt and uncle; theirs is a house where I spent many weekends during my college and post college years.  Now Raphaela and I spend the last leg of our trip in my parents' house in Boston, where I did not grow up, as they bought it just as I was leaving home to go to Barnard College.

My home lies in Israel, where I have given birth to my daughter and started a business, though I would be fibbing if I said that I will not miss being surrounded by familiar faces and family.  I think that Raphaela in particular will have a difficult time returning to our Jerusalem apartment, after spending two weeks in multiple story colonial homes with big back yards and crunchy leaves.

Today in synagogue, the Rabbi gave a speech with the intention of mobilizing his congregation to empathize with and support Israel.  While his motives may have been positive, he manipulated facts and portrayed a skewed view of life in Israel, the place I actually live and raise my daughter.  I felt angry, and wanted to interrupt him in the middle and say, "Hey everyone, we may have troubles at the moment, surrounded by enemies who have wanted to wipe us off the map for quite a while now, but we live a rich and beautiful and almost normal life. We are not all war refugees or orphans.  We appreciate your help, so come support us by visiting, step outside your suburban illusion and experience it first hand."

I think I am ready to go home.

Friday, November 23, 2012

American Thanksgiving 2012

My grandmother must be smiling right now.

Rebecca Keller, after whom Raphaela is named, was born in British Palestine in 1922 and orphaned at the age of 11, worked all her life as the matriarch of the family to keep all of her children and grandchildren close.  Every Thanksgiving and Pessach we crowded into their Rhode Island house - 25 people and one bathroom - and ate and played and ate together.  It is her effort all those years that have kept the cousins together.

Since moving to Israel almost 16 years ago, I have never had a full and proper Thanksgiving.  All that changed yesterday, when my brother and his family and my family piled into the car, got lost looking for gasoline, and arrived at my cousin in Long Island at one am.  The holiday must be inaugurated with stress, right?

Each bedroom was full last night, with cousins and in-laws, and this day promises to bring my mother's extended side of the family for the festive traditional meal; all but three of my first cousins arrived, from as far as North Carolina and Philadelphia.  There were enough men to make a minyan (Jewish quorum) for my uncle, who lost his mother last month and had to say the Mourner's Kaddish.

But first, this morning, we watched the Macy's Day Parade in our pajamas, and I felt like a little kid again.  My brother and cousin left the house for a local and semi-competitive football game.  The nieces and nephews borrowed my iPad and played Angry Birds during the commercials.

My cousin, whose wife cooked and organized the meal for 24 adults and 17 children, had started preparing the enormous amount of food over a month ago, and told the following story:  they had lost power during Hurricane Sandy, and of all their priorities, she strung a cable from her house to her neighbor, for the sole purpose of keep that one refrigerator and its contents safe.

There was enough food for all of us, with second helpings, and probably 50 more.

There was a family football game with all the kids in the backyard. There was of course the Thanksgiving football game on television in the background.

The meal concluded with a surprise birthday cake for Raphaela, so she could remember that she not only met her nearest and dearest, but that they honored her with a celebration as well. 

And my grandmother smiled.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Last Day DC

This last day in the DC area at my brother and sister-in-law's house was most ordinary by vacation standards, and yet I feel so happy and relaxed right now, that it is sad to leave to New York for Thanksgiving.

In the morning, we went to my nephew's nursery school for their Thanksgiving Show, entitled "Grandparents and Special Friends" Day.  We were obviously the special friends but also acquired celebrity status as family visiting from war-torn Israel.  Each of the children classes put on their own show, followed by refreshments and a personal visit to Lev's classroom.  My great grandmother attended as well, so it was truly a multi-generational affair.

Turns out half the staff there has family living in Israel as well.

At first, Raphaela experienced a complete panic attack and meltdown as we entered his Gan, and had to be forcibly removed from the show area to cool down in the Principal's office. In front of All. The. Other. Parents...

(Head of Nursery:  Can I get her [Raphaela] anything?
Mommy:  No, thank you for asking.
Head of Nursery:  Can I get you anything?
Mommy:  Valium please.
Head of Nursery (laughing):  Oh, we keep that in the locked closet.)

I believe it was a visceral reaction to someone else's Gan, and missing her own space and her own teachers.  Once she calmed down, we were able to watch my nephew sing Hebrew songs in his Native American costume, and then hung out in his classroom for about an hour, where Raphaela immediately befriended a little girl named Ayelet and didn't want to leave.

Then we girls got our pre-Thanksgiving manicures by a sweet woman named Chu, where she befriended a little three year old Asian girl named Michaela, who also got her nails done.  After a quick stop to the candy store, because good nutrition has gone out the window this trip, we returned home to prepare for the long road trip this evening, the most terrible commuter day of the entire American calendar.

We could not have benefited from better weather this past week, and I find myself not only enjoying the time spent with my daughter in the new environment, but I have also rediscovered that part of myself that is open and friendly and relaxed.  I have befriended the people we have met in the area, I am staying in my pajamas into the better part of the early morning, and I am happy.

For now, anyway.  Until we return to Israel, where hopefully there will be some resolution within the next week, so Raphaela does not have to learn how to dash to the bomb shelter in her Gan.

The Ever Expanding Menagerie

Before we left Israel for this trip, I encountered serious resistance from Raphaela when I explained to her that she had to choose only one doll that would accompany us to America.  We settled on Baby Wolf, and all was good.

At home, she sleeps with an entire menagerie, and the rest of the dolls can be found in toy boxes throughout the house.

Less than a week in Washington at my brother's, and she went to sleep last night with no less than eight stuffed animals, most of which inexplicably are hers:  two small bunnies (her sleeping attachment objects), Baby Wolf, Mommy Wolf and Dora the Explorer (belongs to my brother), Rudolf whom we call in Hebrew Tzvi (snagged at CVS yesterday, against my wishes) and the newest member Elise, her gift from her great grandmother.

I am not quite sure how this happened, though I can happily report that as the effects of jet lag wind down, Raphaela woke up this morning at five am; as opposed to the 2:30 am of the previous days, I almost rejoiced when I looked at the clock.

At this rate, by the time she settles into a sleep schedule we will return home.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Alte Bohbee

Today I had the pleasure of introducing my daughter to her great grandmother, my father's mother.

At almost 97 years old, this woman travels to every family event, and always has a gift and a lollipop for her great grandchildren.  What a blessing, her mind is as sharp as ever, her body that of a 70 year old.  In her 80's she established an organization to revive the Yiddish language in the United States, and she regularly writes short stories.

At the age of 96, Alte Bohbee received an ipad as a birthday gift, and she is more proficient on this modern technology than I.

It is rare to have four generations together, I myself knew two of my great grandparents, and I am happy that I was able to have the opportunity this trip to continue the tradition with Raphaela.

The Seat of Power

For today's field trip, after the kids and my brother and sister-in-law returned from their normal (non vacation) day, we all crowded into the car and drove into Washington DC itself, the capital of these United States.  The last time I had toured this area, I was a seventh grade student on a class trip, meeting our New York local representative on the States of the Capitol.

Because both the House and the Senate were out of session, Raphaela and her two older cousins were able to run and play along the entire concourse of the Capitol Building, right up to the main stairs.  It was a joyous event for them on this Fall day, and watching Raphaela break out of her usual clingy routine and run almost so far that I couldn't see her, watching her jump up and down the stairs and laugh, I could not ask for anything more.

It would be a far different story if we were at home in Jerusalem, waiting for the next siren.

I must also admit that having been outside a large urban area for the past 16 years, and with my political science side dormant, it was such an electric turn on to walk past these edifices of government and power.  It is here, in a place like Washington, that you feel that there are little people collectively making big decisions, and the architecture reflects the seriousness of the responsibility.  And while Jerusalem has the Knesset and the Courts, more of the decisions are made in back rooms and small meetings; the architecture of my home is warm Jerusalem stone.

(This morning when Raphaela woke up on Jet Lag time, 2:30 am, she looked outside the window of the house and exclaimed, "Look Mommy, a big tree!  And another tree, and some more trees!  And big piles of leaves on the grass!")

Along the way during our children's walking tour of the city, we all got ice cream - I chose a long time favorite, a Good Humor Classic Ice Cream Sandwich- and then proceeded to the Hirshorn Museum, where I saw the astoundingly artistic and politically provocative Ai WeiWei sculpture exhibit.  My brother (not the art gallery fan) enjoyed it less, and chose instead to watch the kids in the lobby.

We rounded out the day on the famous Carousel, looking toward the setting sun on Washington's Monument.  In the car ride home, before Raphaela fell asleep, all three kids engaged in a lively round of "Old McDonald," with Raphaela adding in her own spin and humor: "Old McDonald had a Volcano." (With a "shake shake" here and a "shake shake" there...)  The mood was so infectious that we all joined in.

When we did a  round of "What did you enjoy best today," my niece and nephew said without hesitation, "Ice Cream!"  Raphaela responded, unprompted, "My Mommy."

There was one uncomfortable event, when my four year old nephew took off running down a busy street in DC, to the point where it was difficult to see him and it appeared that he was about to walk into the intersection by himself.  As a mother, and especially as a parent raising a child on the crazy driver streets of Jerusalem, I immediately shouted out that he had to stop and wait for us.  Later, it appeared that my sister-in-law was annoyed that I had not trusted him to be safe, that his independent spirit had been compromised. I immediately apologized if I had overstepped my authority and explained that I did not want to see him hurt, that it was not him that I did not trust but rather drivers who do not pay enough attention.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Family Section

I have become that person that no one wants to sit next to or even nearby.

On the plane, as well behaved as Raphaela could have been, she continually kicked the seat of the business man in front of her.  I noted that he and his colleague imbibed inordinate amounts of beer during the 11 hour flight, and I certainly understand them.

Yesterday, after a long day at the Children's Museum in Baltimore, Raphaela and I, and my brother and his family (three children under the age of six) arrived at the Chinese restaurant for dinner.  They immediately directed us toward the corner and behind a screen, separate from the decent folk who came to the establishment for a relaxing meal.  And the crew of cousins did not disappoint, so much so that half way through the meal - albeit after a long day of trips and physical effort - we adults asked them to package the food that remained and made a quick escape.  They gave us extra fortune cookies on the way out as a "thank you" for our leaving.

Despite the hectic environment, I found myself smiling and enjoying the stress of the day's adventure.  I have no close family in Israel, and have never had the experience of a stressful day trip with aunts and uncles and cousins, the "noise" of people who love each other, and not simply because they are related by blood.   What amazes me more is the sudden realization that now I am the adult in the family, the aunt who tells stories and brings presents;  somehow in my brain I still see myself as the small child entertained by my mother's and father's generation of relatives.

Raphaela has been thriving since we arrived in Washington, following around her older cousin as if she is a goddess, whatever Neshama does Raphaela will be right behind.  Whereas Raphaela barely wishes to go down the small-ish slide at our local park in Jerusalem, she followed her cousin onto an elaborate three-story suspended climbing structure, and then barreled down a two story windy and enclosed slide.  I stood there with my jaw dropped in shock and pride that my daughter would exhibit such boldness of spirit.

Her other cousin Lev, a four year old piano prodigy, has started to teach Raphaela to read notes, and they sit together and play what almost sounds like a classical music duet.

There is something to be said for peer pressure...

(On the way home in the car, my niece asked me if the war was close to my house in Jerusalem.  I honestly did not know how to answer, how much detail to provide, when I myself am having a difficult time dealing with the onslaught of information and mis-information.)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Travel Log II: Suburbia

My brother and sister-in-law have been phenomenal hosts thus far, and it has been a pleasure beyond words to watch Raphaela play with her cousins.  She has always preferred to play with the older kids, and now can emulate two pseudo siblings, a completely new experience.  In our house in Jerusalem, it is normally just the two of us, except for occasional play dates and weekends away.

For me, my brother's house falls under that Utopian Brady Bunch concept.  You pull up to a driveway and park without fighting with your neighbors.  Scattered leaves from the last vestiges of Fall Foliage crunch under your feet as you walk up to the front door.  Instead of the cold and bizarrely designed tiles that characterize most places in Israel, the hard wood floors are warm to bare feet, and glow as only wood can.  The playroom/family room is in the basement, the communal areas are on the first floor, and the private bedrooms inhabit the third floor.  The backyard is big enough for a porch, a swing set and a hammock, and grass to spare.  A short half mile walk away, you find the local shops and bakeries, including a newly opened and fully Kosher supermarket.

Right next to this shopping center, Raphaela and her cousins played at the small lake and play ground, populated as well by ducks and geese.  In that moment, watching them interact and enjoying the crisp Fall air, not answering my cell phone with calls from patients, I felt more relaxed than I had in years.

For all that I have willingly and happily sacrificed to build my life and family in Israel, I have never let go of the dream, this dream of a house of my own with a little bit of nature and a little bit of privacy; that sense of space and quiet which I took for granted growing up in America and now desperately miss.

Meanwhile, I check email and facebook at every spare moment, hoping to scan some details about the critical situation in my home country.  I cringe every time I read that sirens went off in Jerusalem (they would even attack Jerusalem!), thinking about my neighbors sitting in bomb shelters while I photograph the geese at the lake and sip a Peppermint Mocha coffee from Starbucks.  Thinking about how I would comfort my daughter, and my cat Harry, if we were in Israel right now.  Feeling guilt for not being there, and grateful at the same time.

Several unconventional people deserve thanks, and I want to acknowledge them before they get lost in the shuffle:

1.  In transit on our first plane, there was a group of Israelis traveling to India (via Vienna), and they befriended Raphaela to keep her entertained so I could try to rest. "We Israelis have to stick together."  On our second plane, several older American couples also watched her briefly so I could go to the toilet or get Raphaela a drink of water.

2.  My iphone and ipad did not function as expected at Dulles Airport, and so two strangers at various times lent me their cell phones to call my brother.  Thank you Maria and Carlo for your generosity.

3.  My brother could not pick us up straight away, so his mother-in-law took up the task, though she does not live in the same area.  She drove us to the house and sat in rush hour traffic, she packed a dinner and snacks for us in case we would get hungry along the way, and she even bought Raphaela a small gift.

4.  One of Raphaela's bunny dolls, one of her oldest transitional objects since infancy, did not survive the plane trip so well.  We took Pink Sister Bunny to "Dr. Cho", as we now all call the local tailor and dry cleaner;  Pink Sister Bunny underwent major reconstructive surgery and returned to us before Shabbat as good as new, and for only $15.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Travel Log I

Two days before we left for the States, Israel killed a top level Hamas leader.

One hour before our taxi arrived to take us to the airport, I checked facebook to discover that my country had gone to battle, bombing multiple locations in Gaza to defend the right of its citizen to live without a constant barrage of missiles.

I can't stand the idea that I am leaving Israel as she goes to war.

Ten minutes before the taxi arrived, standing outside in the Jerusalem cold at two in the morning, Raphaela decided that she needed to pee, and before we even got to the airport, I changed her into her spare airplane outfit.  This did not bode well.

The Nesher taxi took the extremely long and winded route, and what should have been a 35 minute drive in the middle of the night turned into close to an hour and a half.

Three hours spent waiting at Ben Gurion for the flight.
Four hour flight to Vienna, terrible food.
One hour transfer to second flight, Vienna to Washington DC, delayed because the plane has not yet received the approval of the engineering flight crew.
Eleven hour flight in small seats and poor quality ear phones, so Raphaela and I watch movies without sound, and I don't lip read.  I had miscalculated the time change between Israel and the rest of the world, so at a certain point I started wondering why the captain had not announced that we should put on our seat belts in preparation for our descent.  When the gentleman sitting behind me told me that we had two more hours, I wanted to scream.
Factor in the seven hour time difference between Israel and the East Coast, and the approximately two hour wait to get off the plane and out of Dulles Airport, followed by an hour ride to my brothers in traffic.

Way too many hours for my taste, now I know why we haven't come to the US to visit family in three years.

Thank G-d for all the snacks I packed in our carry-on, and for the ipad, which kept Raphaela entertained.

Most traumatic check in event:  twice, in Israel and then again in Vienna, the security people insisted on ripping Raphaela's doll out of her hands so it could be x-rayed, because a small stuffed animal is obviously suspect.  My daughter twice collapsed on the floor in tears, and quite frankly, I didn't blame her in the least for holding up the line.

Most annoying behaviour from Raphaela, other than the fact that she didn't sleep for more than two hours the entire journey:  at a certain point, I was literally too tired to keep my eyes open.  I had essentially been awake and functional since Wednesday morning.  As soon as I would doze off and immediately to into REM sleep, Raphaela would poke me and say, "Boo!" (like in her swim class) and inform me that I was not allowed to close my eyes.

I love my child, but after 36 hours in transit, I need to sleep, badly.

First, must peel off the clothing I have been wearing for the last day and a half, take a shower and wash off Airport Cooties.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Jerusalem of Gold

This morning, after dropping off Raphaela at Gan, I looked at the phenomenal view from my neighborhood:  the Israel Museum, the Knesset, the stupid expensive cable bridge, and all the other buildings in the horizon still twinkled with the early morning golden sunlight.  And I thought to myself with a contended smile on my face, "This is my home."

I took a virtual snapshot in my head, to carry the image with me on our trip to the States.

This afternoon when I picked Raphaela up from Gan, I saw that the nursery teachers had arranged an impromptu party for my daughter instead of the usual three o'clock snack time.  They were explaining as I entered the room that Raphaela would be going on a plane and would not be in Gan for a little bit of time, that they would all miss her and wait for her safe return.  As we left the class room, all the children threw kisses in our direction, and it moved me to tears.  In fact I had a hard time leaving Gan today, because that is Raphaela's second home, and it has become a place of happiness and loving kindness.

Almost sixteen years after moving to Israel from America, I feel more Israeli inside than ever, and though I look forward to Raphaela meeting her extending family this Thanksgiving trip, I know that it is a short two weeks and then I return to place where my heart belongs.

We return just in time for Chanukah, the Festival of Lights.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Countdown to Flight

Less than 24 hours before we fly to the States, Raphaela is enjoying herself in Gan while I am no where near ready.  I work this morning at the clinic and then have to shut down the office for the next two weeks;  then I have a few select but important outside the house errands;  then I have to finish the bulk of the packing before I pick up Raphaela from Gan at four in the afternoon.

Don't worry, the dolls that will accompany her on the plane have been washed and stand at readiness.

Though I didn't plan it per se, similar to the situation I experience before Pessach, I have not gone to the supermarket recently and am hoping that I leave as little fresh supplies in the house before we leave.  One Devil Dog remains as a snack for me, one small bag of Bamba remains for Raphaela, though there is plenty of fruit in the bin in the fridge. I am not sure what we will eat for dinner, there is always take out if I get desperate and don't want to cook.   I can also eek out that last bit of moisturizer and toothpaste this evening, no worries. 

The house cleaner came yesterday, so now Harry has two weeks to make his own mischief.  He has already planted himself on our suitcases as a form of protest;  if I cannot pack, then we cannot leave.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Raphaela and I have some of our most meaningful conversations before five am, when she comes to wake me and we snuggle in bed together:

This morning she asked me if I was happy, and I said "Yes."

Then she said, "So you have lots of  friends?"  I smiled and said, "Yes, I do."

"Good for you, Mommy!"

(Now if only the jet lag from our trip to the States tomorrow would reset her internal clock, so we could have these chats just a little bit later in the morning.)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Slogging through the miserable rain this afternoon, when I picked up Raphaela from Gan, I couldn't help but notice that she had not one but two stickers of "Excellent" on her shirt.  Her teacher explained to me that all the children received one sticker for helping to put away the toys, but that my daughter deserved to get two, because she was one the best helpers in the whole class.

The little things make me so happy.  (Thank you, Universe!)

Magnet Madness

One of the many benefits of the new Gan is the fact that Raphaela and I can walk there together, giving us ten or so minutes of quality time to start the day and observe the happenings of the neighborhood.

Several weeks ago, some random repair person peppered the entire Jerusalem area with his magnets, sticking them on any surface on the streets and within buildings that would hold them.  Raphaela became obsessed, started collecting them and sticking them on our front door.  I personally dislike a sense of random clutter in my living space, but these magnets are as precious as gold to my daughter, and so I must respect her newest hobby.

At first, I would scout out the area, and if I saw more advertisement magnets ahead of our route, I would surreptitiously remove them before Raphaela spotted them and insisted on taking them home.  "Damn magnets, they multiply like rabbits," I would mutter under my breath.  Somewhere along the way, I became a convert, and now actively help Raphaela add to our expanding collection.  For example, this afternoon while getting a facial, I noticed several magnet stickers on the door of their establishment - a pizza place, a sushi place and a heater repair person, none of which we have on our door - and without shame asked if I could take them for my daughter.

It brought me back to my elementary school years, when every grade brought another fad collection; stickers, stationary, base ball cards, Barbie dolls, and more that I cannot recall.  Ah to return to those more simple times, when my biggest concerns in life were homework and my sticker collection. 

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Story Time

The focus of story hour at Raphaela's Gan has been classic Israeli books, like "A Tale of Five Balloons", "Hot Corn," "The Lion who Loved Strawberries," and "Yael's House."

When I came to Gan to pick Raphaela up yesterday, all the children were gathered around a large cardboard box (Yael's house, what else?) and knocking to see who might be found inside.  Raphaela would not leave, and invited me to sit in the circle with her and her friends until her teacher finished the story.  At a certain point, several children had to go to the toilet and I was given the task of keeping the remaining kids entertained for a brief period of time, so I continued the story of Yael's house. 

The book essentially tells the story of a girl who wants to have a play house of her own, a private space;  she finds a large wooden box a la the Israeli Kibbutz and steps inside, only to be taken away by tractor to a dark warehouse.  The story ends well, with the Kibbutz giving Yael the box as a gift and promising never to take it or her away by tractor again.

When the nursery teacher returned, she winked at me and said, "Let's give these children a stronger moral of the story, shall we?"  And the teacher proceeded to tell the class how worried Yael's mother was when her daughter disappeared, and how important it is to tell your parents where you are when you go outside to play. 

Then the children took all the girl-looking dolls they could find, and merrily stuffed them inside Yael's house. Nothing beats the sound of giggling toddlers.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Matters of Perspective

One more week before we are meant to travel to the States for Thanksgiving.  I, or rather the nerdy girl in me who always hated missing even one day of class, sat with her teacher today and asked essentially how I could make up for the loss of "material" about Chanukah that Raphaela would miss while we are away.

Her Head Nursery Teacher, who recently lost her 91 year old mother to prolonged illness and old age.

Meanwhile, our actual Thanksgiving plans remain in the Undecided category;  the original plan included a festive meal with cousins (in Long Island) and Shabbat with my sister (in Long Island).  Due to Hurricane Sandy, my cousin does not have electricity, and my sister cannot live in her house. 

An Ultra-Orthodox mother of five and due to give birth in December to her sixth child, my sister and her family lost their car and the entire first floor of their house to the flooding.

Not Undecided is the American Public, who go to the polls today in an atmosphere of a dead-heat between Romney and Barack Hussein Obama.  Will it be the Muslim or the Mormon who wins the day?  Is there ever really a candidate who likes Israel, or just likes getting that bloc of votes?  What effect will Hurricane Sandy and its terrible aftermath have on the election?  When do the Americans get smart and abolish the Electoral College?  And how many lawyers are gearing up as we speak to fight the inevitable recounts and State-by-State law suits?

Hey, that's a thought, maybe my Absentee Ballot will count this year, for a change.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Late Starters

From almost the moment that Raphaela was born, I started reading her books.  Maybe it was more like Maisy's Bedtime and less like Tolstoy, but Raphaela became a book hound early in life.

The library near our house had been closed for several months because of renovations, and finally re-opened at the beginning of November.  When I picked up Raphaela from Gan today,  I told her that we would be attending the grand reopening of the library, and that we would be able to borrow two new books for the house.

My daughter screeched in joy and literally danced all the way to the library.

As we left with our books in hand, I witnessed the following conversation in Hebrew between and Israeli woman and her son, a boy of approximately four years old:

Mother:  I have to show you something very important, do you know what this place is?
Boy:  No I don't know.
Mother: This place is called a library, a place where you can borrow books and take them home, and when you are done, you exchange them for other books at the library.
Boy:  (Silent)
Mother:  Would you like to try the library some day?
Boy:  (With no particular enthusiasm) Sure, why not?

It must be a cultural issue, but I find it difficult to believe that a four year old has never been exposed to the concept of libraries and - horrors - reading for fun, and I wonder (without judgement of other's parenting choices) what he does at home to keep himself entertained.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This afternoon, while playing in the house, Raphaela found a Winter scarf;  she put it over her shoulders, told me that she was wearing tzitzit, and launched into an entire re-creation of the Gan morning singing and praying.

The first thing I did NOT want to do was say, "No sweetie, only Jewish boys wear tzitzit and can lead the prayers."  Instead I smiled, nodded my head and said, "Yes, that is tzitzit.  Can I hear the songs you sing at Gan?"

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Serious Choices

After months of trying to coordinate with my lawyer, I finally sat down with him today for a marathon meeting to finalize my (brace for it, arghhh) Last Will and Testament, before we fly out to the States in two weeks.  You would think that as a Doctor, I would not feel quite so depressed and squeamish on the topic, but it is a far different thing when making choices for you and the ones you love, the child who depends on you.

Of course, I should be blessed with a nice long and uneventful life, though it never hurts to be prepared.

We discussed the issues large and small, including guardianship and financial planning; why I haven't yet bought my own place; what happens if I cannot make medical decisions for myself; the philosophical implications of the connection between the body and the soul; and who gets the cat.  He humored me when I discussed my wish to donate organs:  "I don't mind giving up body parts I no longer need, but I don't want any experimentation done on my brain."  (Said the Luddite and the science fiction reader in me.) By the end, I was physically nauseous with a headache, shivering and had trouble concentrating, because I did not want to have to imagine worse-case scenarios.

All this I do for my own peace of mind, and for my daughter's future.  Now I think I will pick Raphaela up from Gan, take her to Gymboree and enjoy living in The Now.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Giving Tree

My "To Do When You Have Time" list includes the project of sorting through Raphaela's book shelves, culling those that are no longer appropriate or challenging at the age of three, and introducing some of the more advanced books that Raphaela received as baby gifts.

Shabbat being Shabbat, the floor of the playroom was entirely covered this afternoon as Raphaela and I sorted through her collection, and then we sat on my bed to read together.

We started with The Giving Tree (Shel Silverstein), and about half way through the book I started to feel both sad and angry, and by the time we got to the end I was crying.  I'm not even sure how to explain my reaction to this fable of Motherhood and Sacrifice, but I do know that I didn't like it.  When Raphaela saw me crying, she gently closed the book and put on the side and said, "Don't worry Mommy, we won't read this book anymore."

To counteract my sadness, we read Corduroy (Don Freeman) and by the end I was once again crying, but this time out of nostalgia: "This must be home...I know I've always wanted a home." When I explained to Raphaela that these were tears of happiness, she took the book from my hands and smiled, and said, "I will hold onto this book for us."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Last night, while sleeping in my bed, with her head up against mine [hogging my pillow], Raphaela laughed in her sleep.  For almost three minutes she giggled as if she was dreaming about being tickled, or having just heard a funny joke.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Murphy's Law of Swim Lessons

After months of resistance and suffering, I canceled Raphaela's swim lessons starting the month of November.  This evening, the first part of the class elicited the usual chorus of "No," and then for no discernible reason, something switched in Raphaela's head.

She participated.  She swam. She jumped through the water obstacle course with no hesitation and sheer joy.

At the end of the half hour, I gave the teacher a look, she returned that look and said, "Let's not spoil the moment with words."

Of course, this is Little Miss Swimmer's second to last lesson before we go on "break."

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Leap Frog

First the month of back-to-back Jewish holidays and intermittent vacation from Gan.  Then Raphaela was ill, and last week her birthday party dominated my schedule.  Now that all those events have passed, our visit to the United States takes priority.

While indulging in excessive list-making for the trip, it occurred to me that soon after we return from America after Thanksgiving, it will be Chanukah, time once again to register Raphaela for Gan, for next year!  Since I wanted to give myself the opportunity to choose wisely, knowing that next year Raphaela must officially enter the public school system, today I visited a Gan down the street, one whose principle Nursery Teachers has not only received personal recommendations, but has also won award from the Israeli Ministry of Education.

The location of course presumes that we will continue to live in this neighborhood next year, though my thoughts wander towards a more single Mom friendly area of Jerusalem, if only it didn't involve moving. (Sigh)

The kid to staff ratio was good;  their program extends for two years, so Raphaela would not have to switch yet again before first grade; I observed during unstructured play time, and there was plenty of choice of activities;  I was particularly impressed with their library corner.

The teacher with whom I spoke said that she would be happy to have Raphaela join their nursery next year, but warned me that the ultimate decision lies with the Municipality.  Because my daughter was born on Erev Succot, she straddles that boundary of being a bit young within the rest of the group.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Emunah Birthday Bash

Israel does an amazing job with nursery school birthday parties, the protocol is firmly in place:  crown, picture collage from the rest of the class, traditional songs and dances.  Your child will feel like a Princess, a Movie Star, the Center of the Universe. 

The new Gan did not disappoint today, and in addition to the regular and expected chain of events, I felt almost as included as the young guest of honor.  I sat next to Raphaela in a slightly larger but just as decorated chair.   I was asked to give my daughter a blessing in front of her class mates, and became overwhelmed by the emotion; her three teachers followed, each coming up to the front of the room and bestowing their personal wishes and affection.  For a brief period - as much as the patience of toddlers would allow - Raphaela's friends were encouraged to ask me questions about her, to tell stories about the origin of her name, her family, and what kind of games she prefers to play.

Raphaela and I had a special dance at the center of the circle, a girl and her Mommy.

At a certain point in the ceremony, Raphaela was encouraged to give money into the classroom charity box, to show that we should remember others during happy occasions.

The chocolate birthday cake, which I designed myself this year in an African jungle theme, worked its magic, with all the children inexorably drawn to lick the frosting, seemingly hypnotized and chanting softly, "Cake, cake, we want cake." 

All in all a successful party, and it pleased me most of all to see Raphaela interact with her friends, behave like a leader and role model for the other slightly younger children in the group.  The self-confidence and leadership skills she gains this year makes the change worth while, and adds tools to her life experience.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Getting to Know You

Now that the bloc of holidays has ended, the parents in the class and the Gan staff in general seems to have relaxed, and we are all making the effort to learn names and get to know each other. It helped that the Birthday Board has photos of Raphaela, in honor of her celebration this week, and it has not gone un-noticed that the family portrait contains Raphaela and her mother (and cat), sans father figure.

 In conversation today with the manager of the Gan, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that "C" [Ultra-Orthodox/"Chardal", hair covering, nine children] has a JSMBC sister, whose boy is now five years old; a child welcomed with full and open hearts by the family.  C asked me if I have any family in the country who  help me, and noted with gravity and some level of admiration that I was "really doing this all on my own."  C noted that there are two other single mothers in the Gan this year, and that she has always been impressed how single parents by choice "clearly invest in their children," and how " happy and communicative" my daughter has been since she started their program.

How refreshing to receive not only a lack of judgement, but rather positive reinforcement, especially coming from people who spend nine hours/day with my child, and see her outside the context of the house.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Double Take

Yesterday afternoon at the park, as Raphaela was swinging from the monkey bars, I saw a father with his son and my jaw dropped open.  This one year old was the male version, a clone, of one of Raphaela's close friends, whose mother conceived via fertility treatments as an Israeli single mother by choice.  This woman always jokes that her daughter- dark straight hair, deep olive skin and petite - looks nothing like her, with her seriously Ashkenazi freckles, light skin and curly strawberry blond hair.

Yes, they say that each person has a doppelganger somewhere on the planet or in an alternative Universe, but this felt entirely different.  Obviously I did not go over to the man and ask him if he had at one time been a donor, but the question continues to haunt me:  Would I recognize Raphaela's biological donor if I ever met him on the street?  And what would I say to him if I dared to approach?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Countdown to Birthday Party II

Assuming Raphaela stays healthy, I have scheduled her Gan birthday party for next week.  In response, her teacher gave me a list of supplies, which reads as follows:

"To Raphaela's Mother, Please bring the following for the birthday party:

1.  34 Loot bags, to be given out at the end of the school day
2.  Four to five photos of Raphaela, to be displayed on the Birthday Board
3.  One package of small paper plates
4.  Healthy snacks for 34 children, to be given out right after the party
5.  One package of balloons (optional)
6.  Candles for birthday cake
7.  One small birthday cake (Kosher)

The party will take place this coming Wednesday, G-d Willing, Amen!"

The Gan will provide the all-coveted Birthday Crown, Birthday Booklet and the entertainment.

Perhaps my math brain is sleeping, but one small cake for 34 children?  I think I shall ignore that instruction and bring a larger cake, enough to feed all the class and even some of the teachers.  After all, this is the first party of the Gan year, I want everyone to come away happy.  As one of the older children in the Gan, Raphaela can set the trend.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Teething, Again

As a baby, Raphaela's teeth erupted without fuss;  no fever or diahrea or crying, they simply appeared. We got lucky.

Two days ago, Raphaela was sent home from Gan with complaints of severe ear pain, though no other symptoms, not even fever or loss of apetite.  Our family doctor examined her and said that her ears were clear on both sides, as was her lymphatic system and her throat.  He theorized that Raphaela could be experiencing the effects of erupting molars, and concluded that she could in fact return to her routine. She stayed home with me (and a baby sitter) yesterday and acted more or less like herself, so when she woke up this morning with no fever and some low level crankiness, I informed her that she would be returning to school.

"Mommy, I feel better but I don't want to go to Gan.  I want to stay home with you."

For both our sakes and with a little bit of bribery, Raphaela happily got dressed and went to Gan, leaving me the normalcy that I need to work today and actually make some money after a week and a half of vacation.

When I left her there, she seemed fine and settled in quickly.

Here's the problem:  ever since my heart-to-heart chat with Savta Shira, I have been doubting every decision I make regarding Raphaela.  Every time I open my mouth, I think to myself, "Am I giving into her again?  What a parody I have become, the stereotypical overtired/overworked/overindulgent/weak single mother.  [The kind I always saw on the BBC parenting shows with Dr. Tanya, and said to myself, I will never become THAT...] Wow, am I a lousy person."

I will get out of this loop of negativity, but I don't know how to convey to Savta Shira how betrayed I felt, and how deeply it has affected me both in terms of the trust in our relationship, and how I see myself as a parent.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Painful Truth

If your family can't tell you the unedited truth, then who can?

I used to think that I always want to hear the ugly truth, rather than the sugar coated half-truth version, but after today I may reassess my opinion.

Savta Shira called me this afternoon, first she apologized if she seemed distant and less communicative than usual at our most recent visit yesterday.  She explained that since the Summer she has been on the road to burn out, between dealing with her son (who moved to Israel with his family this Fall), her other son who got married in August, several clients and friends who died of cancer, and her other adopted families.  Turns out, she did not really want company this past weekend, she needed to be alone, but "it cannot be avoided on the holidays."  And, she added, I should not take it personally, she didn't want "people" around her in the general sense.

[So it was all a lie?  She was not happy to celebrate Raphaela's birthday?!]

Then she continued and told me that the real reason she called is because she has become extremely concerned about both myself and Raphaela.  She had noticed at the last few visits that as Raphaela gets older, she shows less and less of an ability to play with others when I am to be found anywhere in the vicinity.  That she has me "wrapped around her finger," that "I don't sit for a minute because I am so busy taking care of her,"  and that this connection to me is becoming objectively unhealthy.  While Raphaela is a "sweet girl," if I don't change my behaviour as a parent, I will hurt us both, and Raphaela will turn into a "manipulative and spoiled child."

"Not everyone knows how to be a mother.  You need help, though it's not your fault you don't have any family who will support you."  [Bells went off in my head, Savta Shira cannot be there for me!]  She continued, "And it's better that you hear it from me than from your own family, when you see them in November in the States."

Just to make me feel better, apparently I am clearly physically and emotionally exhausted all the time. Savta Shira noted that the person I was before Raphaela, the woman who exercised and went to movies and hung out with friends, has gotten completely lost;  in addition, my clear road to parenting has gotten muddled because of the "modern garbage" in which you give children a certain amount of choice.

Now for the cherry on the icing on the god damn chocolate cake of f***king honesty:  I was a topic of conversation throughout the weekend, between Savta Shira and her children, Savta Shira and some of her friends, and between Savta Shira and her daughter-in-law, an Occupational Therapist who specializes in kids. They all want to "help." I love being talked about behind my back, though I give them points for informing me after the fact.

I thanked her, because I know that it comes from love and caring for our welfare.  I have already expessed to myself, to Savta Shira, and to others that I feel a great need to reclaim some space and to take better care of myself.  I am aware that I sometimes give into Raphaela rather than hold steadfast, because the day must move along and I am indeed a single mother.

And yet, this hurt and pressed buttons deep within me.  Because I have spent most of my life feeling like my presence was unwelcome among my family, that I was too much of a burden to be loved unconditionally.  That's a large part of the reason I moved to Israel, to redefine and strengthen my inner self in a clean setting, but the old wounds remain, closer to the surface than I would like to believe.

When I get attacked like this, even when it comes from the best of intentions, I turn inward and shut myelf off from others.  I stop eating and I lose my enthusiasm for even the most simple daily tasks.  I cannot feel emotionally safe in an environment where I feel less-than or judged.

This event took place in the shadow of a difficult day; my first full day back at work in over a week, Raphaela's Gan called me take her home at noon, because she was complaining of severe pain in her right ear.  How am I supposed to take care of myself, create a safe space for myself, when I have a child who is conveniently ill as soon as the holidays end?  Is it better if I dump Raphaela in a field somewhere and hope someone takes her home, like a stray kitten?

Savta Shira tried to soften the blow of this important conversation by providing her own  theory:  "With your history with your family and the abuse, it is natural that you would overcompensate in raising your daughter.  You have become over-protective because you have forgotten that Raphaela is not you, and you are not your Mother."

Whatever.  (That's the word that appears when I shut off my feelings and go into Zombie Mode.)  I am going to have to work very hard to not shut myself off from Savta Shira and her family, a place where right now, I quite simply don't feel safe.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Through a Child's Eyes

We went away to Tekoa, to Savta Shira's family, for the final days of Succot.  I had no intention of attending the dancing Sunday night;  I thought that I would dress Raphaela, send her off with friends and get in that nap I so desperately needed.

Instead, Savta Shira insisted that I join them, and thus found myself in their synagogue, on Simchat Torah.  As the Universe would have it, I was also the first women to get the Torah from the men's side and dance at the center of the circle, one hand on the precious symbol of Judaism, the other hand holding Raphaela's.  The choice baffled many of the women in the room, and several of them came over to me during the event and introduced themselves, with the implicit question "Who the hell are you and how did you get to be the first one?", behind the niceties and the curiosity.  But I actually became emotional at that honor, and got caught up in the singing and the dancing, more than I have in years.

I also completely underestimated Raphaela's response to the evening.  A child who generally dislikes large crowds and noise, she sobbed in grief (with a stream of 'real tears') when I suggested at a certain point that we had to leave the dancing and go home for dinner.  In all her three years of life, I have never seen her so adamantly insist upon anything, and the thought of breaking her heart made me change my mind.

(Her resistance to leaving, crossing the threshold of the doorway, reminded me of one my favorite scenes from the movie, "Field of Dreams," with Doc and the hot dog and the white line on the base ball field...if you don't get my reference it's OK, it means something to me.)

The Jewish communal experience only got sweeter today, when she braved the men's section all by herself and discovered The Candy Man, who gave her a lollipop, a treat she never gets from me at home.  "I'm happy now, Mommy."  After the joyous aliyah to the Torah for the mass of children in the community, the synagogue had arranged for each child to receive a goody bag, similar and perhaps even nicer than one she might anticipate from a friend's birthday party.  Bamba, soft drink, chocolate wafers, hard candy; as a parent and as a Chiropractor, I can't say that I was thrilled with her 'lunch,' but as another woman said to me, "It's the holidays, just let it go."

After two friend birthday parties during Succot, her own mini birthday celebration at Savta Shira's house, and her upcoming party at Gan,  I have reached my tolerance for junk food, and had a hard time accepting that our primary protein the last few days has been chocolate cake.  (What?!  It has eggs, grains, possibly healthy oil and chocolate, which has been credited with many curative properties...)

Most of all, I learned from this weekend that Raphaela craves a warm and welcoming sense of community, and that I as the adult in the house must seek out that place that will grant her that gift.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Post-Birth Body

After giving birth to Raphaela and nursing for the first year and a half, I had lost a significant amount of weight.  A fashion-conscious Israeli friend of mine came over before we moved last year and helped me clean out my closet from clothing that was either way too large for me, or past due to be donated.  I think I gave away almost 15 bags to charity.

As the Israeli Winter approaches, I noted that I have very little to wear either during the work week in the clinic, or for more dressy occasions, and finally took the time yesterday to shop for myself, while Raphaela was at Gan.  The saleswoman, a soft-spoken pregnant Russian woman, helped me choose outfits that appealed to me both in terms of color and style.  At one point, I came out of the changing room to get her opinion, and she said gently, "No, that doesn't work because it showcases your small problem areas."

Yes, you may groan and/or laugh. I certainly reacted that way.

"Small problem areas," like my little leftover belly bump, like my hips which have always been a bit wide; as both an objective Chiropractor and as a woman, I know that if I embrace a proper exercise regimen, they will resolve as they had in the past, before Raphaela was born, when I was working out consistently five days a week. In fact, I had been running up until the two weeks before my daughter came into the world and co-opted all my free personal time.

I have promised myself that elusive period of "after the Chagim" and after our trip to the States, I will set aside the time to tone my body and train for the 2013 Jerusalem Marathon.  I want to be able to look into the mirror and be happy and proud of my body, not to impress anyone else but for myself.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Jerusalem March 2012

Last year, Raphaela (in stroller) and I participated in the short route of the Jerusalem March;  we both enjoyed the carnival afterward in Gan Saccher, though the day was dominated by the historic return of the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit to Israeli soil.

I woke up this morning with every intention to once again walk in the March.  I dropped Raphaela off at Gan and...decided that I was going to do nothing today.  Rather than obligate myself, I made of list of errands that could get done, if I felt like it.

I did not answer the phone for patients today.  I washed the car from the mud of the recent rain.  I went to the mall and bought myself a new Winter outfit.  I visited friends visiting from the States for the holidays.  I checked my email, folded some laundry and sat down for a quiet lunch.  I read a book about arms and armour.  I took care of myself and my house without the distraction of a toddler and without the pressure of the time schedule.

It was lovely, and bonus, Raphaela gets a more relaxed Mom this evening.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Yesterday, while shopping in the mall, Raphaela started to wander off, and as I attempted to pay, I shouted toward the door [in English], "Raphaela, come back here and wait for Mommy."  She shouted back [in Hebrew], "Don't yell at me," and the other adults in line laughed at her response, and her independent spirit. 

One woman came up to me and said, "Of course she wants to explore, she's a big girl."

(Indeed, she grows every day.  I measured her height for her birthday and found that she stands tall at a bit over three feet!)


Tonight my daughter told me that I was "muy muy bonita."

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Swimming Lessons Reconsidered

Raphaela and I have been swimming together once a week, for the last two and a half years. We swim at the same pool in Jerusalem where Israel's Olympic athletes train from childhood.

At first her progress was remarkable, and I constantly marveled at her courage even as a baby.  But several months ago, when Raphaela was on the cusp of full fledged swimming and diving on her own, she froze for some as yet unknown reason, and her lessons became a half-hour session of "No!"

At home I would tell Raphaela to prepare for the pool, and receive a wildly enthusiastic response.  When we entered the water, I would watch the emergence of a broad smile on Raphaela's face.  Once, however, the actual class had begun, it became quite frankly a waste of time and money, week after week.

The teacher, whom I respect both as a person and as an experienced instructor, has attempted to pull Raphaela out of this rut, to no avail.  She has suggested that if no other solution can be found, that we take a break of several months;  a pressure free time where swimming is neither a chore nor an obligation. I am inclined to agree, and even take partial responsibility for a certain aspect of this setback;  I definitely feel that we would see higher achievement and motivation if there were another adult (husband, baby sitter, grandparent etc) in the water with her besides Mommy.

In fact, the initial goal of the lessons, ie to make Raphaela comfortable in the water, had been accomplished a long time ago.

If I am being honest with myself, as a former lifeguard and a lover of swimming, my frustration stems from a sub-conscious desire to see my daughter share this passion, and yes, to maybe some day train professionally and compete.  I know I must let go, and as a parent I must learn not to impose my dreams and fantasies upon my daughter.  Raphaela is her own person, she has her own map for her life, and I don't want to foil her destiny by playing out my secret desires through her.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Yesterday, on Erev Succot, while taking a walk throughout the neighborhood, Raphaela almost got run over by a silver car, right before my eyes. 

Our street, infamous for being impossibly narrow, is hardly fit to take cars in both directions and almost impossible to negotiate by sidewalk, upon which many of the neighbors regularly park said cars.  Drivers take the curve near our house at a dangerous speed, without necessarily paying attention to pedestrians.

I stood there, paralyzed, screaming "No! No! No!" from the deepest part of my soul, experiencing every parent's worse scenario.  Thank God, the driver saw Raphaela and swerved to the side, almost crashing into the man selling flowers for the holiday on the corner of our street.

In between my tears, I held Raphaela tight to my chest, explaining the dangers of cars and trucks, that she must never cross the street without Mommy, and that I love her so much and never want to see her get hurt.

My daughter seemed less traumatized by the event than her mother.  I must remember these feelings of terror and relief in those moments when Raphaela drives me toward insanity.

And so particularly on this day, when Raphaela turns three officially according to both the lunar and solar calendar, I want to thank God for sparing my daughter's life, and for bringing this light-filled joyous child into my life, thus saving me as well.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Happy Lunar Birthday

Three years ago this night, starting at 7:15 pm, I went into labour; after an unintended completely natural birth, Raphaela emerged approximately 12 hours later at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, the morning of Erev Succot.

Happy birthday my darling girl!

Today I read a quote from the artist, Pablo Picasso:  "Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."  May G-d grant me the ability to always act in my daughter's best interests, and allow her to fulfill all that she is meant to be.

We went outside tonight, to inspect the full moon and officially inaugurate her birthday, and its light was blocked by rain clouds.  Along with Raphaela's birthday, Israel is apparently poised to receive the blessing of rain, just in time for the holiday.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Countdown to Birthday I

While watching Dora the Explorer last week, Raphaela became over-excited by an episode in which all of the characters stage a surprise birthday party for Swiper the Fox.  For at least the past month, every morning Raphaela will take a dress out of her drawers and ask me if this is the day she gets to wear her birthday dress.  Recently, I pointed to the moon and explained to her that when the moon is at its fullest this month, she will be three years old.  We check the skies every night in anticipation.

For years I shunned my own birth day, after a 'traumatic' event that occurred to me at the age of 11:  my mother forgot to make my birthday cake (banana with chocolate icing) because my parents had to deal with some tantrum from my brother.  Even now, as an adult, I feel the remnants of anger and think, "How could they have forgotten me?  Birthdays? Bah humbug!"

Only through Raphaela's enthusiasm for the birthday ritual - crown, cake, balloons, party, friends - I have re-discovered the joy and celebration of the event.

This year she will surely have one party at Gan, after the holidays of Succot.  When we visit the States in November, I have already arranged for a celebration of her third birthday with 50 of her relatives, at Thanksgiving Dinner.  The question remains regarding a separate, small, private party with friends and adopted family from Israel.   The only time which is both appropriate and feasible falls on Chol Hamoed Succot, but most of those days are 'booked' by her friends' parties, and the school year at Gan is still too fresh to know who she would invite from this new group of children.

Women, Slaves and Farm Animals

As a teenager at the Orthodox Maimonides High School in Boston, I felt barraged and  insulted by the dominant language in Talmudic and other halachic texts, when referring to those who had less responsibility in performing "time based" rituals.  Women, slaves and farm animals were usually grouped together, and when it came down to an explanation, I was told that we women had more of a "natural spiritual connection" to G-d - because we got our period each month - and that men needed more structure in order to forge that bond.  That in the natural and practical order of things, women had less time because we were meant to fulfill our purpose in the home, transmitting the key values of Judaism to the next generation.

OK, so men say a prayer every morning that essentially translates as "Whew, thank the Lord that I am not a woman."  Women are considered unreliable witnesses in a Jewish court and don't count for an Orthodox minyan because we are more emotional. But hey, biology has given us the most important job in the Universe, that of ensuring the physical continuation of civilization, and apparently we get very little credit for the artistry of pregnancy and birth.

For years I pursued the Judeo-feminist agenda, until it became too tiring to swim against the stream.

This year, for the first time in my life, I understand the concept.  I took care of Raphaela the entire Yom Kippur, and it was physically exhausting.  While fasting, I served meals almost constantly to a three year old whose patience for sitting quietly lasts no more than ten minutes.  At ten in the morning, I could not keep my eyes open and begged Raphaela to take a nap with me, thus gaining one hour of rest for both of us, but no more than one hour.  When the fast was over, I found myself famished, and literally counting down the seconds on the clock until I could put food in my mouth, fuel in my body.

On Tuesday evening, Raphaela and I joined friends and casually strolled down the empty roads of Jerusalem, an exclusively surreal Israeli field trip that gives a totally new perspective on our neighborhood, and on co-existence.  Religious and secular, bike riders and tricycle riders and pedestrians, we all enjoyed the crisp air and the silence of the night of Yom Kippur. I even heard crickets and birds, without the noise of traffic.

Raphaela and I had a repeating conversation throughout the next day:

RR:  Where did all the cars go?
Mommy:  They are sleeping, it is Yom Kippur.
RR:  Can I put on some music?
Mommy:  Not today, it is Yom Kippur.
RR:  I want to watch Dora and Diego.
Mommy:  Dora and Diego are at home, the television doesn't work today. It is Yom Kippur.
RR:  Mommy, do you want some of my lunch?
Mommy:  I am fasting, that means that I am not eating all day, it is Yom Kippur.
RR:  I don't want this Yom Kippur!

Needless to say, I set aside one hour during the day for a Yom Kippur activity, my attempt to pray for the health and success of me and my daughter, while providing entertainment for an easily bored toddler.  I opened the pages and chose any passage that could be sung, and together Raphaela and I danced and celebrated the day with song.  At certain key phrases of blessing, I instructed Raphaela to say "Amen," (in Hebrew) which she did with gusto and enthusiasm.

At the end of this hour, Raphaela did the most extraordinary thing:  in pantomime, she placed an imaginary crown on my head, and fastened a robe of royalty on my chest, because that is what she saw for me.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Like every issue in Israel, the annual decision regarding Daylight Savings Time was fraught with dirty religiously-based needless politics.  Last night we changed the clocks  - "Spring Forward, Fall Back" - and I thought about that lovely extra hour of sleep, especially since the dream of the Shabbat nap has been deemed impossible by my daughter.

Predictably, Raphaela woke me up at four am, one hour earlier than her usual, and ready to go.  ("Mommy, you will not close your eyes anymore!")  As well, not surprisingly, we were the first to arrive at Gan this morning.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Anyone? Bueller, anyone?

Last night I needed to talk to someone, I could not fall asleep because an issue that I thought was dead popped into my head and I started obsessing.

Having no other adult in the house, I picked up my handy iphone and started perusing my contacts list.  I literally called or messaged close to 20 friends and family, both here in Israel and abroad, before one of my friends answered.  She, in the middle of her workday, could not spend all that much time on the phone with me, and had not much to add in any case other than, "Stop obsessing!"

This time of the year, from Rosh HaShanah to Yom Kippur, we are supposed to connect to our Inner Voice, converse with G-d and put in our list of requests.  Perhaps not a single person was available to force me to have that discussion with a Higher Power, or perhaps it simply made me feel lonely.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Holiday Post Script

My most intropsective moment during the last five days took place not in the synagogue, or at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens throwing away my sin, but while reading a book to Raphaela.

As planned bribery, I had bought several items to be interspersed throughout the very long weekend, one of which was a children's book - apparently a New York Times best seller in English - that had recently been translated into Hebrew, called "Pete the Cat: I love my White Shoes."  (Eric Litwin)  When I had seen the book in the store, I thought, "Cats...teaches colors...what could be bad?"

In actual fact, above and beyond its feline or educational value, the moral of this story is this, that no matter what s**t you step in, continue moving forward and "singing your song, because Life is beautiful."  This expression of hope and optimism represents Rosh HaShanah, the idea that you look back on your decisions for the last year and renew your commitment to pay more attention for the upcoming year, with the hope that G-d, The Universe and Everything will cooperate and show you positive results accordingly.

Believe me, this holiday was not easy for me, as I was on call for five days straight, without the assistance of Gan and with minimal distraction from Jewish ritual, playdates and meals with friends;  if you are a parent with small children I am quite sure you understand.  Hang in there, school starts again tomorrow! (Until the next set of holidays breaks into our regular routine...)