Thursday, August 30, 2012

Shabbat Ima

I burst with pride when the Head Nursery Teacher told me that she had chosen my daughter to be the inaugural Shabbat Ima of the Gan year;  Raphaela "participates with confidence"  and shows "maturity,"  and they wanted a girl who could lead the way for the rest of the group.

Like I said, bursting with pride.

There is a concept in the Israeli Army of the "Best Rookie Soldier," an honor accorded the Trainee who excels within the group;  my little champion Raphaela made it through her first week of a new place with flying colors (pthoo pthoo pthoo), and it validates my choice to give her the opportunity to adapt and deal with change.

One day this week, Raphaela had a play date with one of her closer girl friends from the previous Gan, and I watched their interaction.  This other girl, bless her heart, is quite aggressive and bossy (as is her mother), and I could immediately see the change in Raphaela's behaviour, she became passive and shy in her own house because of a much stronger and almost overwhelming presence.

I am actually grateful that in this new Gan with new children, where Raphaela is one of the older children rather than the youngest in the group, Raphaela's truest and happiest nature can shine through;  she can express herself as a confident leader, and after all, what more could a mother want for her child?

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Definite Progress

Yesterday Raphaela stayed a full day at Gan, including a nap in the afternoon and no accidents.  This morning there was no crying as I left, because she immediately got busy playing with a moving puzzle.

Progress, definite progress.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New Gan, Day Two

This morning, the Gan insisted that parents not draw out their good-byes, and that we tell our kids that we will return soon, as today continues to be a short day relative to the normal schedule. 

I sat with Raphaela and did a puzzle, and then told her that I would come back as soon I finished my work;  Raphaela responded by pushing me toward the door and saying that it was alright for me to work "a little bit." Of course once I got to the door, she realized the implications of her consent and started crying, and had to be physically separated from me by one of her teachers.

I know that this place is good for her, as well as recognizing the benefits of a structured program outside the house, but the crying haunted me regardless during the morning.

After one patient, I picked up Raphaela, and found her sitting with another little girl and playing house, she barely reacted when I walked into the room. One of her teachers told me that Raphaela was a "champion" after I left her in the morning, and the Head Nursery Teacher told me that my daughter is "focused and a good listener...mature" for her age.  Apparently Raphaela also approached a few children during sand box time, to befriend them and include them in the group play.

My major concern had been that Raphaela would be entering a room with lots of kids, none of whom she knew, and this news provides me with great relief.  Now if only she would agree to use the Gan bathroom, we can get back on track with toilet training.

The Head Nursery teacher also sent me home with "homework," a small Hebrew book they had given to each child that tells the story of a girl's first day at Gan;  Raphaela enjoyed the gift and actually asked me to re-read the book several times, and I appreciate the educational cleverness of reinforcing the joy and eagerness to start Gan for the full day.

Monday, August 27, 2012

New Gan Fresh Start

A few days ago, I did a project with Raphaela in which we both made beaded necklaces with the same butterfly charm at its center.  I explained to Raphaela that she could wear the necklace when she starts her new Gan, and she will know that even when Mommy is not there with her, we are connected to each other.  Several times each day since then, Raphaela will come over and insist that her butterfly kiss mine.

Together we set off this morning to her new Gan, a wonderful and quick walk from our house, these hills of Jerusalem will either kill me or finally whip my body back into shape.  I was most pleased to learn throughout the morning that at least half of the families are Anglo-Saxon, because it means that culturally and linguistically Raphaela and I will better relate to those who float between Hebrew and English, those who chose to leave their country of birth and their extended family to live and thrive in Israel. It doesn't matter how many years you live here, that 'security blanket' of like-minded people makes you feel like you belong.

The room was bright and full of toys and books, the teachers warm and inviting, and the place radiates a sense of joy and prosperity.  Raphaela moved from table to table, trying out all the various art projects and tasks that had been set out for the children.  We introduced ourselves to the other kids sitting with us, and have already set up several play dates once the school gets settled into its regular schedule.  To our happy surprise, there is a boy named "Carmi," and now Raphaela's imaginary friend has been made real.

The administrator of the program made an effort to know each child and the parents, and made it clear that she welcomed our input, questions and concerns.  She seems like the kind of woman who will stop and say hello if she sees you on the street, outside the context of the Gan.

When they served the morning snack, Raphaela wolfed it down and I was impressed with the variety and healthiness of the meal.

The morning concluded with story time and an art project, and as each child left for home, they received a hug and a special treat of chocolate in honor of their first day at a new school.  Both Raphaela and I can't wait to go back to Gan tomorrow, and I can rest easy knowing that I made a good choice.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I think I speak for most if not all parents when I say, Gan starts tomorrow.  AndThank G-d for that!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Trouble in the Kitchen

Yesterday, Raphaela showed me some Leggo pieces and informed me that she was baking bread in the oven.  She plays this game often, with some box acting as the oven, and so I nodded my head and stopped paying attention.  Turns out, Raphaela had placed the plastic toys in the real oven and had figured out how to turn it on;  the kitchen was full of toxic smoke and had I waited a few minutes longer, we might have had an actual fire on our hands.

Today for the first time, Raphaela figured out that she can open the refrigerator and 'cruise' for food by herself, without my help or guidance.  She spent much of the day with the fridge door open, staring at the food as if it were a Picasso at the museum, and my insistence that she not waste electricity and/or allow food to spoil fell on deaf ears.

These revelations of Raphaela will require "baby proofing" on a whole new level.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

It's So Third Grade

This week, the mayor of Modiin Ilit [an Ultra Orthodox enclave bordering a Modern Orthodox and very homogeneous Modiin, in the center of Israel] declared that only the Ultra Orthodox could visit the Second Temple archaeological site within their borders.  They would in fact deny entry and/or evict any person who did not fit their mold, who did not look like they belonged and therefore did not deserve to enter the area.

In retribution, the mayor of Modiin declared that all Ultra Orthodox would be banned from the public parks in his city.

Apparently this conflict stems from the desire of Modiin Ilit to become incorporated into Modiin, to take advantage of their resources, and the refusal of Modiin to accept them legally or otherwise.

But seriously, how old are we?  So now Modiin Ilit is not going to invite its sister city to its birthday party?  Modiin says that Modiin Ilit has the cooties?!

Last night, someone asked me what I held against those who became more religious, and I replied that I respect people's choices, as long as it doesn't hurt others and as long as the intentions come from a place of self-improvement.  This story of local civil war provides yet another example where religious extremism reigns, to the detriment of all.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Lucid Dreaming

Last night I had a dream, in which my parents decided to go on sabbatical, and took all of us children with them.  At this point in the dream, I was in college, and the decision was very sudden with no real warning or preparation time before we left.

My parents and siblings, and many other guests are sitting around the table of meal, and the host has decided that each person at the table must explain their secret desires and hopes for their life, in a creative and entertaining way.  Each person at the table then proceeded with elaborate performances, I stood up and sang an aria from some opera.

At a certain point, several others and I left the main table, and were talking in the kitchen.  We observed that the host's wife, an artsy sort of individual, refused her husband's demands, saying that she did not have to perform for anyone and that she would not demean herself for his pleasure.  I confided quietly that in fact her strength of character and individuality represents my secret desire and hope, that I wished I could be more like her.  I wished that I did not acquiesce to the demands of others, only because I had been trained to be a "good girl" and to fit into society.

As I stood in the kitchen washing some dishes from the meal, I burst out crying, uncontrollable tears on the verge of wailing.  I had been thinking about the life I had left behind to join my parents on sabbatical, friends and classes;  how we had traveled so quickly that I had not finished settling bills or packing up my apartment.  How I felt at a loss because I did not have any time to plan what I would be doing for myself, this year of my parents' choosing.

The host heard my crying from the next room and asked impatiently, "what is that noise all about?"  As I stood, still crying, one of the others took a microphone and explained my feelings and my needs to the group.

(I have had the skill of lucid dreaming since childhood, and I tend to remember all my dreams, each night, but I tend to hold onto those that clearly send me a message from my subconscious.)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Inter-Species Conspiracy

Harry, my ferocious feline, and Raphaela seem to have made a secret pact, which involves pushing me out of my amply sized bed, and making sure that I do not sleep well past 4:30 in the morning.

It starts when Harry settles in at night, sitting on both my legs so I cannot move;  if I dare to change position, I hear a vague meow of complaint from the foot of the bed.  Then Raphaela chooses some random hour in the middle of the night to crawl into bed with me, where she of course needs to use my pillow and most of the length and width of the bed until she finds a comfortable position.

At this point I am resting in a cramped ball in the far corner of the bed.

Then, around one hour before sunrise, Harry decides that he needs all of us to start the day on his schedule.  He does so by crawling over Raphaela first, waking her up and reigniting the sibling rivalry between them.  Raphaela shouts in a state of half-awareness, "Go away Harry, there is no room for you here."  At which point Harry makes his point by sitting on top her, and Raphaela makes her point by poking me, curling up next to my body, and demanding that I do something about the situation.

This goes on for longer than I would prefer, and by the time Harry leaves the room and Raphaela falls back asleep, my alarm clock rings.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Clean Slate

Since we have moved into this new apartment, a pigeon couple has chosen the safety and refuge of a small window sill in the bathroom, where they have raised many pigeon babies, from egg to full-sized flying birds.  Their last two eggs were less successful, one of the hatchlings died at birth and one of them died after two days.

The mother pigeon simply abandoned the nest, leaving a small rotting corpse behind.

Today I vacated the nest and scrubbed down the window sill.  For whatever reason, this place became toxic to the young birds, and this gives them the opportunity to try again with a clean slate, literally and figuratively.

Last night my best friend told me that her almost 12 week old fetus was not going to survive the pregnancy, and that her doctors had already initiated the procedure for a "natural miscarriage."  Her first child, a daughter the same age as Raphaela and one of Raphaela's closest friends, was conceived via IVF, as was this second baby.  My friend had been told by many doctors that as unlikely as it was for a first successful pregnancy, a second was even less likely.

I understand their sadness and their anger and their frustration, and I admire their commitment to trying again, once her body has recovered.  I can remember my own feelings when I had a particularly nasty natural miscarriage right before Yom Kippur, during my year of fertility treatments; something I would not wish upon any woman.

Here's the scariest part:  apparently 17 other woman who all received IVF treatments around the same time, they all experienced a sudden and unexplained end to their pregnancy.

My friend and her family will be moving down the street into our neighborhood next week, into a new clean apartment and with a clean slate, ready to try again.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Animal Adventures Camp

Day One:  The World of Butterflies
Day Two:  Children's Yoga, in animal forms
Day Three:  Animals of the Zoo, with a giraffe project
Day Four:  Baking Cookies, in animal forms
Day Five:  Shabbat party

Next week, they have scheduled a petting zoo!  Don't you wish you were three again?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Murphy's Law, Full Throttle

Man, that Murphy is a bastard!

After only one day of Raphaela's summer camp, where she played with her closer friends from Gan and thoroughly enjoyed herself;  my daughter wakes up with a fever this morning.  Some less considerate parents might have drugged their child and sent them along to camp in any case, but I do not believe that Raphaela should spread around whatever virus she may be fighting at the moment.

So I desperately called our baby sitter, because today is one of my busiest work days at the clinic this week, and asked her to watch Raphaela, even though she may have made other plans.  Thank G-d the sitter agreed, and I can keep Raphaela home for one day, with the hopes that tomorrow we return to our regularly scheduled program.

Truth be told, I should have known this was coming.  Raphaela has been crawling into bed with me for the past few nights, one of her tell-tale signs that an illness has invaded.  Denial is a dangerous creature.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Lost Impact

Raphaela was playing rough and kicking me, and I told that she does not kick Mommy, and that she will get a Time Out.  She said, "OK," and then walked herself to her room, closed the door and played in there for about a half hour.

Raphaela spilled about 50 very small and inconvenient beads all over the floor in the house, and I told her that she needed to help me clean it up, or else I would put them away myself and they would not reappear for a very long time.  She said, "OK," and didn't seem to be at all phased when I stuck it in the highest shelf of the highest closet.

I wish I knew what I was doing wrong here.  I have followed the guidance of my parenting consultant: I speak in a firm voice, I make eye contact and follow through consistently on my warning. Raphaela has no reason to think that I don't mean what I say, both in words and in actions.

There is a theory that the generation of children born after 1988 are "Indigo" kids, and that they have within their programming a completely different approach to Life, the Universe and Everything.  (Thanks, Douglas Adams...)  According to this theory, the standard rules and systems of child rearing don't work, and parents must adjust to a new reality.  These little humans are meant to be the peace makers, to fix the collosal problems we have created for ourselves and the planet.

Or maybe I am having a less than stellar day as a mother.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

I admit it, I am a Cryer.  I react with tears even at the most corny commercial in which two lovers unite, or a father holds his baby.  I have been on the verge of crying watching the Olympics, when an American lip syncs the National Anthem as he or she receives their gold medal.

But this made sad and angry, the story I heard in the morning news about South Sudanese migrant workers here in Israel, who have begged Israeli social services to take their children, because they cannot properly feed and house their family.  The parents making these requests cannot work in Israel on a legal basis, and say that they are afraid to be seen on the streets, lest they be deported.

They want their children to be safe, safe from poverty and starvation, and safe from the violence in their home country, if they are forced to return to Africa.

I am not a politician, and I am not a millionaire;  I don't know how to solve the illegal immigration problem in Israel, the United States or anywhere on the planet.  But the idea of a parent having to give away their child, to be raised by the welfare system just to have enough to eat, that is too much.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Off Switch

On the first morning that we did not have to rush to be out of the house to get to Gan, Raphaela still woke up before six am; I know children don't come with an individual instruction manual, but wouldn't it be nice to reset their internal clock with the flip of a switch?

Thank goodness for our most beloved baby sitter, who will keep Raphaela busy during the day while I work, and I am going to take advantage of the extra help and go to the supermarket myself, without a toddler in tow.  Now that's luxury...

Monday, August 6, 2012

Bob the Builder

Raphaela recently discovered the television programs, Bob the Builder and Thomas and Friends, and we watch it every day for all of its ten minutes before bath time.  I have several observations as an adult and a parent as to its so-called educational value, as well of some questions:

One, are Bob and Wendy dating?  Is Bob turned on by the fact that Wendy has as much skill in  construction, or does he find it threatening as a man?

What is the general phenomenon of talking vehicles, such as the trucks in Bob the Builder or the trains in Thomas and Friends?  As an adult, I find it odd and at times scary, especially the expressions on the face of the trains in the Thomas and Friends.  (I am impressed, however, that they convinced Ringo Starr to narrate.)  Perhaps the reason that every show features a crash or injury due to negligence is because trains are not supposed to talk unless they are possessed a la Stephen King, and cement mixers with ADD are not meant to be left alone to finish the job.

What kind of message does Bob the Builder send to children with the scarecrow character Spud?  This individual in the show, in every show, plays pranks, disobeys instructions, refuses to do his job and holds back the group with his lack of consideration and carelessness.  Instead of teaching him, it becomes a joke, and it tells children that you can misbehave and not experience the consequences of your actions.  Every show has Spud saying, "Sorry Bob, I won't do it again."  And lo and behold, he has forgotten his promise by the next show.

Spud is like Gilligan, vote him off the island and their little world will be a better place.

Random note to the politically astute, Barack Obama poached his campaign from Bob.  "Yes We Can!" is a trademark of Bob the Builder, and I wonder if the President had any qualms about stealing from a children's show.

Yes, both Bob the Builder and Thomas teach teamwork and some version of socialization and morality, but I do feel the need to watch it with Raphaela, and make sure that the better lessons are understood and stated clearly.

Quite frankly, I would rather introduce Raphaela to classic Star Trek episodes, we would both enjoy it more.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Bonus Time

All year, I have taken Raphaela out of Gan early on Sundays and Thursdays, because I control my own clinic schedule, and because I believe that she is still young enough to need quality time with her mother.  When Raphaela becomes a teenager, it may be another story, she may find me old fashioned and embarrassing, and I want to take advantage of the time I have. 

The End of the Year Party took place this past Friday, and given the recent events at Gan, I felt uncomfortable as the Head Nursery Teacher went from parent to parent.  She told each child how much she loved them and how much they had grown in the past two years.  She ignored my child, and though Raphaela did not know the difference, I found it petty and vindictive. 

No matter, it's Sunday and just as I was about to leave the house after work, one of the other teachers called with a spectacular offer:  since only three days remain until the end of the school year, and since there is a birthday party scheduled for the afternoon, she suggested that Raphaela stay the full day and not miss the festivities.

Amazing how the offer of a few extra hours during the day changed my entire mood.  I thought, "Now I can have lunch, catch up on some housework, and watch the Olympics.  Maybe even take a nap..."

Of course as soon as the nap idea crossed my mind, a patient called with a Chiropractic emergency, and I told him that I happened to have some available time this afternoon.

I love my daughter, and I want to watch her grow, but I am realizing more and more the value of personal activities for myself, a brief period each day where I reconnect to me.  Not Raphaela's mother and not some one's daughter or sister or doctor, just me.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Raphaela decided that today warranted her Winter scarf, rather than her Summer hat.  So off we went to Shabbat lunch, Raphaela in her cotton dress and sandals...and scarf, in the heat of Jerusalem. 

There was no convincing her otherwise, and as I have been told often, you have to pick your battles.