Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Yesterday afternoon, after picking up Raphaela from Gan, I could not help but notice the large red bite mark on her arm.  I ashed her how this happened, and we had the following conversation, in Hebrew:

Raphaela:  "A" bit me.
Mommy:   What did you say to her when she bit you?
Raphaela:  (loudly and dramatically) "No no no!  We don't hit in Gan."

Fast forward to the evening, at our weekly swim lessons.  Raphaela has found particular delight in hitting me with one of the swim toys.

Mommy:  Stop hurting your Mommy!
Raphaela:  (looking at me like I am an idiot)  Mommy, we don't hit in GAN...

For the record, I quickly disabused her of her assertion and pointed out that we don't hit PERIOD, not at Gan and not in the house  and not at the park, and not in the pool.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Medical Update I

We just returned from the rude yet very talented Israeli  Opthamologist, who examined Raphaela and came up with a diagnosis which perfectly explains her late walking, and her insecurity in rocky and uneven areas:  my daughter is apparently far-sighted (+3.00) at the moment, and can see something two meters away easier than something right in front of her face.  Hence, she takes stairs carefully, because she cannot necessarily see the edges clearly.

The doctor did not recommend glasses, but rather that all the people in her life get her used to seeing things further away, rather than straining her eyes up close.  He predicted that Raphaela's brain and that nature would self-correct, and that we re-examine the situation in six months.

On the avian front, the baby birds Masha and Bella (named so by Raphaela) have grown quite nicely, they have almost reached full pigeon size, and soon I predict will be flying off with their mother.  Honestly, they barely fit in their nest, and I say all power to them.  How wonderful to have a National Geographic special on your window sill!

The Magical Mystery Medical Tour

(With my sincerest apologies to the Beatles)

Last week, both Raphaela and I went to our family doctor, and both of us received anti-biotics.  Technically, I went to the doctor twice last week.

Tonight, in an effort to rule out any issues that might be interfering with Raphaela's growth, we are going to the Optometrist, to get Raphaela's vision checked;  for no reason other than prevention, and because sometimes I see her reading books and holding the text close to her face.

We have a follow-up appointment with our GP at the end of this week, and next week, I have my semi-annual dental visit, and Raphaela has a follow-up appointment with the Physical Therapist.

Somehow, in all this, the head nursery teacher has found it appropriate to accuse me of being a "neglectful mother" who does not take care of my child's most basic needs.  Raphaela's allergic cough, despite many assurances from me and our physician that it is not dangerous to the other children, bothers her, and today she called in the middle of the work day essentially to threaten me:  "I would have sent her home today with that cough, and I am not allowing her to attend Gan tomorrow.  What kind of mother hears her child suffering and does nothing?"  (Apparently she is talking about me.)

Interesting how the Head Nursery teacher's entire approach toward me and my daughter changed when she understood that Raphaela would not be returning to this Gan next year.  All of a sudden, my daughter's toilet training within the framework of the group could be "put off to a more convenient time for her."  When the class bully scratched her face and hit her, in front of me, it was "not important" who did it, and I was told that Raphaela's word could not be trusted.  And now I neglect my daughter. 

Where is she when I lose sleep because I wait to hear my daughter breathing?  Where is she when I find the time in between the rest of my life as a single parent and my work to go from doctor to doctor?  Was she with me when I took her to the emergency room on Shavuot, and was told that nothing could be done except wait a few days?

After her disturbing phone call, and given her recent obvious turnaround in her treatment of Raphaela and me, her mother, I don't know whether to be more angry or concerned.  A part of me feels like I only have to ride out this storm until August,  and I am at the very least grateful that she does not spend all day with my child.  But right now, if I saw this woman, I think I would punch her.  Best to avoid the Head Nursery teacher and follow my parents' advice, "If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all."

Then again, I have yet to hear the advice, "Don't blog angry..."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Proper Education

On the way home from the park today, after a most successful Shavuot play date, I witnessed four religious boys (wearing large black velvet kippot) abusing two street cats.  I walked over, Raphaela in the stroller, and started shouting at them (in Hebrew) "Stop what you are doing this instant! Stop torturing these cats! They are living beings and they deserve respect and kindness."

One of the boys, a lanky obnoxious thing, began to make fun of my American accent, and I restated my position, "I don't care if you mock me, but don't you dare think that your actions are OK on any level.  As a religious person, you are even more accountable for your actions."

He responded by waving around his kippah and said, "This old thing?  I wear it just for show."  To which I said, "Clearly!"  A proper education and system of values starts and ends in the home...

Once we got past that street corner, I explained to Raphaela that Mommy was yelling because the boys were not treating the cats well, and that if we see someone acting badly, we say "No no no!"  I wanted to be sure that Raphaela knew that I was not angry with her, and that she learn on some level that if you believe in something important, you must stand up proudly and fight for it.

It also reinforces her self-confidence to assert herself if other children behave inappropriately, in Gan or at the park.

Friday, May 25, 2012

I have been taking anti-biotics for allergies turned into a sinus infection.  Raphaela just started a series of various medications for a cough that is turning nasty.

This morning, in her eagerness to take her drugs - not ignoring the irony that she is the daughter of a Chiropractor - she dropped an almost full glass bottle on the floor.  Shards of glass and sticky syrup everywhere, not to mention that now we must return to the doctor, get another prescription and go to the pharmacy again.

My cleaning person did not show up today, nor did she answer her phone or reply to my SMS reminder.

My patient did not show up today, but neglected to tell me, so I sat around waiting for a cleaning person and waiting for a client, not using the time wisely ie to clean the house and the floors myself, before Raphaela returns from Gan.

And now we enter into a lovely long weekend for the holiday of Shavuot, where I predict that I will officially go insane, and cry on a regular basis. There are not enough play dates in the world to save me.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Something in the Air

On a daily basis, Raphaela stuffs at least one of her dolls inside her shirt, and she proudly and with obvious pleasure walks up to me and says, "I have a baby in my tummy."  I think she understands the very basic facts of pregnancy, ie that the Mommy (rather than the Daddy) gets fat because a baby grows inside, and she has hinted several times (by playing with that small bulge in my mid-rift that will not go away) that she would not object to being an older sister.

Yesterday, one of her Gan friends asked me if I have "any other little ones at home," and when I answered in the negative I became less interesting to him.

Today I found out that one of my closer friends is pregnant with her second child;  a woman my age who herself has undergone the fertility process to bring their son into the world, and saw this round of treatments as the last chance before the biological apparatus stopped working properly.  I hugged her and we jumped up and down, and I proclaimed that I felt more than ready to be an "Auntie" to their next child.

Admittedly, some part of me thought that the time is NOW, that if I don't even attempt to get pregnant again I will have to suffice with the one wonderful Raphaela that I have.  Most of me feels blessed that Raphaela and I are happy and healthy, that I get to see her learn and grow and surprise me every day.  I can live with that, and my friend will inherit an amazing collection of girl's clothing.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Raphaela's First Wedding

Last night, Raphaela and I attended the wedding of one of her nursery teachers, and as a two and a half year old, she still had a hard time understanding the significance of the event.  She (and some of her class mates) assumed that this was simply a really fancy birthday party for Oshrit, and expressed surprise that we had not driven to the Gan itself.  Makes sense to them:  she wore a tiara, Oshrit sat in a special chair and was the center of attention for the evening. Once I re-explained the concept, she asked, "Will there be food there?"  Raphaela, always the practical child...

Because of my obsession with time, we were one of the first to arrive at the reception, in fact, around the same time as the bride and her immediate family.  Soon after, however, many of her friends trickled into the hall, and most of the woman's side was comprised of toddlers and their parents, and staff from the Gan.  Raphaela felt so comfortable that she soon took off her shoes, and started dancing and twirling and rolling on the floor with some of the other children.  It was a unique and joyous opportunity for me to watch my daughter play with her friends, and her dancing in sync with the music almost moved me to tears.

It also felt like an appropriate way for the parents and the staff of the Gan to celebrate together, our last hurrah so to speak, as next year many of us will move onto other educational venues, and our children will not see each other every day.  It felt comfortable, like home, or like a college reunion.

I eagerly participated in several of the Jerusalem wedding customs, including getting a blessing from the bride for myself and Raphaela, as the bride has 'special powers' on the day of her wedding;  several of us women were told to sit in the bride's chair, as it brought a "segualah" (good luck charm/Old Wives tale) for marriage and pregnancy; and I completed the trifecta by drinking some wine from the under the Chupah.

Raphaela and the other kids, despite their enthusiasm, started to show their exhaustion about half-way through the Chupah, and so we parents snuck out quietly during the Jewish marriage ceremony.  And while Raphaela went to sleep later than usual, she woke up exactly as expected (5:30 am) and we were the first family at Gan in the morning.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Happy Mothers Day

Tonight, one of Raphaela's favorite nursery teachers from Gan is getting married, and she has invited all the children under her care to attend the reception and the Chupah.  When I told Raphaela that we would be dancing at Oshrit's wedding, she looked puzzled, until I explained that after the "special party,"  Oshrit would be the Mommy and her husband would be the Daddy.


Raphaela very much wanted to take her umbrella to Gan today, and I explained that we normally need an umbrella only when it is raining.  My two and a half year old then suggested that I check my iphone for today's weather forecast, and only then agreed to leave the umbrella at home.


Happy mothers day to all women who have the joy and the responsibility of parenting, weather you are a single mother by choice or by circumstance, or a woman in a relationship who still performs at least 80% of the nurturing and care giving in the home.  In this modern life, we women work and parent and keep the house in working order, we excel at multi-tasking in a way that most human beings would find hard to believe, and so I salute you all.

As a single mother with no family in Israel, I don't expect to get flowers, or a cheesy Hallmark card, nor will anyone go out of their way to complement me as Raphaela's mother.  I doubt that Raphaela expects any less of me today in comparison to any other day of the year. 

What I desperately need is a real vacation, and consistent baby sitting.

Here's what I would like as a Mothers Day gift:  would all you men stop staring at me (in admiration, I am assuming) while I struggle with holding bags, Raphaela's toy, the garbage and attempting to push the stroller, and instead return to the age of chivalry?  Ask me if I need help, or better yet hold the door open for me so I need one less arm, as I am currently in the process of growing extra limbs, thanks!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Who Rules the House?

Raphaela, apparently.

My parenting counsellor had Raphaela come with me today, and she observed us playing for almost one hour.  Afterwards, she gently suggested that Raphaela rules the house, and that I have to take back my full authority and power of conviction in order to minimize - if not eliminate altogether - Raphaela's aggravating selective hearing and manifestation of the Terrible Twos.

The counsellor assured me that it is clear that I love my daughter and that I am a good mother (whew), but that I enforce my role as the mother inconsistently, and that I give up on the "small battles" too quickly.

I don't disagree with her assessment, I sometimes feel as if Raphaela is a Little Dictator, though it is difficult to be told by an objective observer that you are all too human, and that I am making classic and obvious parenting mistakes.

Monday, May 7, 2012

We Are Family

When I first moved to Israel in 1997, I joined the Tora Dojo martial arts organization; I was alone in a new country, and they were the closest thing to family I could imagine.  My father had received a black belt - one of the original ten -  from the style's creator, Dr. Harvey Sober.  Many of the teachers here in Jerusalem had gone to college with my father, remembered me as a little girl, and welcomed me. I felt like I had the social safety net I needed.

After several years, and having a achieved purple belt, I felt that the style of martial arts that Tora Dojo represented here in Israel no longer fulfilled my needs, and it took me six months to officially stop going to class, and another six months to stop feeling bad about leaving my 'family.'

I have approximately two weeks to decide where Raphaela will go to Gan next year.  I suffer from too many choices rather than too few, and it is driving me mad.

Option One, Gan Yarok (her current nursery):  Raphaela is happy there, she knows the place and some of the children returning next year;  she will have one more year of a great child-staff ratio of 1:5-6. Despite some of the glaring problems with the Head nursery teacher, I have many good things to say about the place and what they offer, the feeling of independence that they foster as a Montessori program.

MAJOR DOWNSIDE:  It is the most expensive place of the three, with the most vacation days and the least hours per month.  As a single mother, money is a real issue.
THE BIG QUESTION:  Is Raphaela's "security" worth the extra money, even if it means that I end up struggling a little within my budget?

Option Two, Gan Mazi:  Although it is a  municipal nursery, they have an uncharacteristic ratio as well of 1:5-6, with a mix of Russian/Hebrew/English/Spanish language children, and an Immersion program, with several children her age whom she knows from swim lessons.  She can stay there for the next three years, until Raphaela starts first grade.

MAJOR DOWNSIDE:  It is not within walking distance of my house, and Raphaela would have to be toilet trained, no matter what.
THE BIG QUESTION:  Is Raphaela ready for the public system, or is three years old simply too early?

Option Three, Gan Emunah:  A five minute walk from my house, Raphaela's classroom for next year is full of toys and drawings, and the teachers seemed warm and at the same time, had good control over the group of three to four year olds.  It is private but much less expensive than Gan Yarok, with up to 26 children in the class and they supply all meals and snacks for the day.

MAJOR DOWNSIDE:  It would be a new place for Raphaela, and as far as I know, she would not know any of the kids in her class.
THE BIG QUESTION:  Is it worth transferring Raphaela for this one year, when she would have to switch in the public system next year, no matter what?

And then we get back to the question of family, that sense of guilt and dread if I pull Raphaela out of Gan Yarok, away from everything she has known for the last two years; wondering what amazing things they might be doing and feeling bad because Raphaela missed out on that experience.  I certainly can't agonize over this decision for too much longer, and don't want to hand it over to indecision and the Greater Universe; I want to own it and be 100% with my process.

As a friend of mine reminded me, when the Universe makes a de facto choice, it is not always in mine (or Raphaela's) best interests.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Out of the Mouth of Babes

Raphaela's close friend at Gan (nickname:  "Nanu") was playing with another Gan child, and her mother (a JSMBC) witnessed the following exchange yesterday:

Boy:  You don't have a father!
Nanu:  Well you don't have a cat!

Nanu's mother told me that at the time, she put on a neutral face, and calmly explained that some people don't have fathers in the house and some people don't have cats in the house.  She knew that children's 'cruelty' comes not from calculated malice, though it did not stop her from crying herself to sleep last night.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What's Yours is Mine

On a recent road trip, instead of the usual radio station of classical music, I inserted one of my "mix CDs," which contains the music of mostly the 60's and 70's; the songs that defined my childhood.  I explained to Raphaela that this was Mommy Music, and that since I am the only driver in the house, I get to choose the background noise for this journey.

This morning, radio tuned to the classic music station, my daughter declared that this was Raphaela Music.  I tried to explain to her that Mommy likes all kinds of music - except maybe Country and Rap - but she insisted (metaphorically, with the word "MINE") that if I have my Rolling Stones and Queen, she gets her Mozart and Bach.