Sunday, April 29, 2012

In the Middle of the Night

The conversation I had with Raphaela at two am this morning, when she decided that it would the optimal time to play with her new Barbie doll, "Maayan":

Mommy:  The sun is sleeping, Maayan is sleeping, and Raphaela needs to go to sleep.  You can play with your dolls tomorrow.

Raphaela:  Maybe you could turn up the sun a little?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Yom HaZikaron 2012

On the eve of Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day for the 22,993 fallen Israeli soldiers, I am reminded that we do much better for ourselves when we unite and work together as a large, extended family.  I am also reminded of and grateful for their sacrifice, and wonder where I, and the Jews of the world, would be if we hadn't fought for the right to our country.

It is a privilege and honor to live in Jerusalem, Israel for the last 15 years, and I can't think of any other place on the planet where I would wish to raise my daughter Raphaela.

It is a daily struggle, the enemies constantly knock at the gate, and the State of Israel should never be taken for granted.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

On the way home from Gan yesterday, Raphaela and I walked through the Nayot Park near our house, where we saw two Israeli policemen on horseback.  Perhaps a regular sight in New York City, this was a special treat for both of us, and we went over to pet the horses, animals who seemed super-sized and genetically engineered to grow larger than an IDF tank. 

I forgot that Raphaela was holding a sandwich, and as she went to pet one of the horses (whose head alone was bigger than all of my child), the horse snapped up the sandwich and ate it. Then it did the most extraordinary thing:  the horse gave Raphaela a gentle kiss on her cheek, to thank her for the food.

My brave animal-loving daughter did not even flinch, and in fact spend the rest of the afternoon and evening begging me to take her back to see the horses. I am only sorry that I did not video tape the event.

The Downside of Therapy

Today I had the second appointment with the Parenting Consultant, because as a mother (and not just as a single parent) I believe that it could only help myself and Raphaela if I had an objective voice to help me asses certain decisions for my daughter - like Gan for next year - and to give me more tools to deal with the Terrible Twos.

I understand the rationale, the more you know about the mother and her childhood, the more you understand the origin of her choices and coping mechanisms.  I understand that the consultant comes from a background as a therapist, and that she approaches her clients with the traditional Freudian "Tell me about your mother..."

But after today, I remember why I put my therapy on hold several years ago:  put simply, I need help to create a plan in which I take care of my daughter without sacrificing my own identity and sanity.  I need practical information on how to diffuse the occasional tantrum, how to encourage Raphaela to explore and grow while setting important boundaries.

I do NOT need to rehash every excruciating detail of my difficult childhood.  I do NOT need a virtual stranger to make comments which make me feel like an incompetent mother and a terrible human being who deserves to be alone.  I most certainly do not want this woman to rip open many old and painful wounds, and then cut me off by saying, "I'm sorry, our time is up for today."

I spent the rest of the day 'processing' our session, and quite frankly, feeling like s**t about myself, not wanting contact with other human beings.  Before our next meeting, I am going to make it clear to the Parenting Consultant that while I appreciate her approach, it is not working for me, and it is not fulfilling the purpose I intended.  I would like to continue to work with her somewhere in the middle, somewhere between trauma and light conversation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Yesterday, for the first time ever, Raphaela spontaneously exclaimed, "I love you Mommy."

(Tears of joy...)

Monday, April 16, 2012

My Little Sabra

Over Chol Hamoed, I made a point of scheduling a field trip every morning, followed by lunch, naps for Mommy and Raphaela, and then a trip to the park.

One day, a group of older children were playing a fairly aggressive game of soccer, and Raphaela desperately wanted to join in with "the guys."  They ignored her for the most part, and once (by accident) hit her hard on the back with a misguided kick of the soccer ball.

Raphaela immediately asked to go home.  With a determined look on her face, she retrieved her "Dora" ball from the playroom, and informed me that she was now ready to return to the park, armed with her determination, and her own sports equipment.

I worry less these days about her being able to take care of herself in Israeli society, and I so admire her inner strength and character.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Chametz Blues

Wouldn't you know it, my kitchen is back in working chametz order, and I have nothing in the house that I care to eat...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Museum Tour

I moved to Israel almost 15 years ago, and I have continually complained that I don't get to enjoy many of the cultural offerings of Jerusalem.  I made up for it this Pessach vacation, and sampled many museums which I had never entered before.  As a connoisseur of the plethora of museums in Manhattan, I offer my humble reviews:

1.  The Botanical Gardens is literally down the street from my apartment, and though they had the option of art projects for children, I think it is better suited for Raphaela when she has more stamina to walk on her own.  And when the ducks and turtles re-appear at the pond.

2.  Certain wings of the Renewed Israel Museum feel more like a modern airport than a museum, and compared to my artistic home base (The Met in New York), they lack many of the classic paintings and sculptures I have come to expect from a first-class institution.  As well, I found the stroller access difficult at certain points.  We enjoyed walking around the modern sculpture garden, and I would return without Raphaela to see the Archaeology Wing.

Best room in the entire Children's Wing:  a reproduction of the great green room from Goodnight Moon.

3.  The Bible Lands Museum not only had the best Pessach projects for children, but the exhibits are well organized and cohesive, and give a real picture of the Ancient Middle East.  I can't believe I have never gone there before.

4.   As a science geek, the idea of the Bloomfield Science Museum (at the Givat Ram campus) has always intrigued me, and several of my friends said that there would be Raphaela-appropriate activities.  Again, in comparison to the exceptional Boston Science Museum, some of the exhibits felt weak, and I could see Raphaela enjoying some of the more technical and physics-related interactive activities as she gets older;  I am not buying a membership there yet.

5.  The Jerusalem Biblical Zoo remains my most favorite and most worthwhile membership at this stage of Raphaela's life and emotional/intellectual development.  Bonus, it has amazing picnic areas which are much more available during the non-holiday.

For tomorrow's glorious field trip, we will be food shopping, and perhaps have a picnic lunch at the park down the street.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Watch Your Words

This afternoon, one of my Pessach tea mugs went awol, and I stood in the kitchen, muttering to myself, "Where did my glass go?"

Next thing I know, Raphaela has detached the entire heavy glass cover of the coffee table, and has brought it to me, in answer to my question.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Erev Pessach

Thank goodness I took Raphaela to the mall to buy new shoes at the beginning of the week, because the lines for parking at the mall this morning were insane, reminiscent of the pre-Christmas shopping hysteria.

We passed the mall today on the way to the Jerusalem Bibilical Zoo;  after I woke up at four am to finish the kitchen for Pessach, and after Raphaela and I had a make-up swim lesson at eight am at the pool down the street.  The zoo will be assiduously avoided next week, when the entire Israeli Chareidi population invades, but it fulfilled its purpose on this Friday, when I knew that I needed to get both of us out of the house and into the sun light.  It greatly disturbed me that the one exhibit that features pig-like animals -they are actually biologically very large rodents - were removed for the week so as not to offend the Ultra-Orthodox population. 

Hopefully we both manage a nap this afternoon, and then Raphaela can truly enjoy the seder this year, a year older and much more aware of the holiday and its meaning.

The one cleaning activity in which I fully involved Raphaela was the ceremony of the taping of the cabinets and drawers.  She has become so adept in the kitchen, and she needed to understand that the usual cutlery and dishes will be off-limits for the next week.

For the seder itself, with our adopted Israeli family, I bought Raphaela a festive and yet appropriately girl-ish dress, a white dress.  I plan on photographing Raphaela after her bath, within the first five minutes of her wearing the outfit, as I have no reasonable expectation that the dress will survive the evening.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Chametz Panic

Intellectually, I know that plenty of foods qualify for decent and tasty meals during Pessach.  Proteins, fruits, vegetables, even junk, and it's all available at the local supermarket.  I don't eat too many carbs during the week in any case, so there is no reason to miss it for one week.

This morning, however, I went into my local bakery on Palmach, to get my morning coffee.  As soon as I entered, this voice in my head said, "OMG, for one whole week the bakery will be closed, and I cannot have my favorite cookies."  I wanted to take home a little bit of everything, a cinnamon danish, jelly cookies, apricot cake, potato borekas, as if there were no tomorrow.  I would have eaten it all in one sitting!  That's the part of Pessach I dislike the most; a button becomes activated in my brain that makes me feel hungry and food-deprived all the time, no matter how well stocked the fridge and the cabinets.

Having performed an inventory of the remaining chametz in the house, I have come up with an ingenious plan to waste as little food as possible:  for example, I brought a package of unopened Petit Bar to Gan with Raphaela today, and instructed her teachers to feel free to share the cookies with all the children.  Over the next few days, when Raphaela and her baby sitter go to the local park, I will send her with snacks and cookies as well, and encourage her to share with random children playing in the area.  As a bonus, Raphaela can practice sharing with others.  There will be pasta for dinner tomorrow night and until it runs out, and for lack of cereal until after the holiday, the waffles and oatmeal must be finished at breakfast.

Growing up, I remember the hysteria connected to chametz, and at some point before the holiday, the cupboards would be depleted of non-Pessach food, without any real substitutes or options.  As my mother has gotten older, and more organized, the kitchen is Pessach ready two weeks before the holiday, and she can cook to her heart's content.