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...)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Baby Wolf

The first day that Raphaela walked into her new Gan for this year, she noticed a pile of stuffed animals, and most notably, a baby wolf.  Given her fascination with the children's opera Peter and the Wolf, she immediately rejoiced because they had apparently started her new Gan with her.

For the past two weeks, she has been saying good-bye and "See you tomorrow" to this doll, and this morning, one of the first things Raphaela did upon arrival was seek out Baby Wolf.  Her teachers told me that they no longer put this toy with the rest for the group, they set it aside at the end of every day for my daughter, that they consider it her personal item for the rest of the school year.

I appreciate their consideration, and Raphaela's persistence.

Meanwhile, all of us here in Israel are mobbing the supermarkets and the bakeries and shopping malls, and as we pass each other on the street we sing out "Happy Holidays!" and "Have a good and sweet New Year!"  It feels like Christmas has arrived early in Jerusalem.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Rosh HaShanah 2012

We don't say "thank you" often enough, we forget to be grateful for the things we have.  Toward that end, I want to start by wishing all those who have taken the time to read my blog a wonderful year, full of health and joy and success, surrounded by the love of family and friends.  May you always be able to enjoy and appreciate the small amazing moments in your life.

Please also forgive me if I have insulted or offended.

As a gift to myself this year, I forgive myself and accept that I am an imperfect human being and mother, a person who sometimes feels overwhelmed but mostly manages to do right by myself and my daughter.  Near-perfection is over-rated and quite frankly, exhausting.

I have a friend whom I have avoided visiting since she returned to Jerusalem.  Allow me to explain:  my friend (and former acupuncturist), a woman five years older than me, flew to Australia to settle her recently deceased father's estate.  While abroad, she suffered a major and unexpected stroke, so much so that she received several months of rehab in Australia before she could even board a plane to return to Israel, to continue intensive therapy.

I saw her soon after, sitting in a wheel chair and able to speak, though that spark of personality, that essential element of who she was as my friend and spiritual mentor was gone.  She almost remembered me, and we had a conversation on a superficial and juvenile level.  The encounter so depressed me, that I wouldn't even walk by her house for the next two years.

This week, in honor of Rosh HaShanah, I visited her with my daughter, whom she had never met.  My friend is no longer confined to a wheel chair, but she requires full-time live-in assistance, and her intellectual and mental capacity will never rebound.

And so I return to my original point:  I thank G-d for our health, for the roof over our heads and the satisfaction I get from helping patients every day, and for our ever growing and deepening relationship as mother and daughter, and as friends.  I am truly blessed, and proud of myself for taking the risk of becoming a single mother by choice, because otherwise I would have never met the evolving human who is Raphaela.

To round out the ebbing Jewish year, I am happy to report that Raphaela's Gan classmate - who last Chanukah lost his baby sister to crib death - will soon welcome a new brother or sister into the house.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Despite all sorts of international pressure to boycott Israel, the Red Hot Chili Peppers came to our little country, visited the Western Wall before their concert, and then performed last night in Tel Aviv.

I did not go to the concert, because it would have meant figuring out a place for Raphaela for the approximately 12 hours she would have needed care;  it would have meant arranging for someone to pick her up from Gan and take her home until this morning, in order to arrive in time for the concert  by 6:30 pm. While we have many good friends, at this point Raphaela will not stay with them alone for more than several hours.

The pre-Mommy adult went to movies and concerts, and listened to the RHCP; that person I was before I had a child had the freedom to take the weekend and travel, or just sit on the beach and read a good book;  the woman I was before I had Raphaela could get involved in either frivolous relationships, or try out a more serious connection and experiment without worrying too much about the consequences.  The Me that I was before Raphaela could sleep past five in the morning, and could get in a nap on Shabbat without having an interruption every five minutes, "Are you sleeping Mommy?"

I know that today is September 11, and I should be saying something deep about the import of the day.  I know that Rosh HaShanah fast approaches, and I will state for the record that I am eternally grateful that both I and my daughter are healthy, and that I have the privilege of watching her grow into an amazing human being every day.

So, G-d, Universe and Everything, thank you, and please keep us safe and well this next year and beyond.

But I am also a woman who has no instant family as baby sitters, no secret account or trust fund that allows me to work part-time or take even the brief Sabbatical I need after almost 17 years of working in the field of Chiropractic.  I run  and react and serve others from the moment I wake up until the moment I collapse in bed at night, worrying if I have done enough to take care of us as a family,  and to make a difference on the planet.  I am also the woman who has not been intimate with a man for way too long, has not taken a vacation for close to five years; I miss the days when I would choose a random European country and wander around, meeting the citizens, observing natural wonders and learning a new language.  I am the adult who has had way too many conversations with a three year old about bodily functions and Dora the Explorer and Bob the Builder.

Our planned trip to the States in November for Thanksgiving, it is my gift to Raphaela so she can get to know her cousins and extended family.  I am paying for the entire trip myself, and I am under no illusions that this family affair will qualify as my vacation.

I wanted to go to that concert last night, I really really did, for me this day and the person who used to inhabit this body.  I am burning out, and this morning I am feeling tired and resentful, instead of appreciating the blessings I have in my life.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

"Raising the Ritalin Generation"

As both a parent and a Chiropractor, I highly recommend that you read this opinion piece, published today in the International Herald Tribune and originally published on August 18 in the New York Times.

The author, Bronwen Hruska, relates her and her son's personal experience with the misunderstood diagnosis of ADHD, and Hruska deftly points out the various problems with said diagnosis, as well as the side effects of the addictive drugs commonly prescribed.

For her son, " was a matter of growing up, settling down and learning how to get organized...We might remind ourselves that the ability to settle into being a focused student is simply a developmental milestone."

In my own experience in my clinic, I have seen many children prescribed Ritalin, and about 15% of those kids who actually have a chemical imbalance that justifies its use.  Teachers, doctors and parents must learn to be more selective, rather than blanketing the entire generation with drugs.

Or as Hruska writes, "We're also ensuring that down the road, when faced with other challenges that high school, college and adult life are sure to bring, our children will use the coping skills we've taught them.  They'll reach for a pill."

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Moments from a Day

Ever since we watched the movie "Field of Dreams" together, Raphaela walks around the house whispering, "If you build it, he will come."  Kind of cute and eerie at the same time.  Sometimes she gets confused and says, "If you build it, he will build it." 


When Raphaela woke up this morning, after about ten hours of sleep, her curls falling over her face, she came up to me with a big smile and said, "I woke up from my nap!"


We were sitting in bed snuggling, when she suddenly jumped out of bed, and after a minute came back in and said, "I checked your email," placing an imaginary package into my hand.


This morning Raphaela asked for milk and I gave it to her in a cup.  Apparently that particular cup offended her in some way, so she immediately dumped the milk out into the sink.  I explained to her that we do not waste food, and told her that as a result, she would not be getting a second helping of milk now.

Then I went to the bathroom for all of 30 seconds, during which time she dragged the heavy step stool over to the kitchen cabinets, climbed on top of the counter and pulled out the vessel she preferred.  Then she opened the fridge and took out the milk, and had I not caught her in that moment, I am fairly certain that while some of the liquid may have ended up in the cup, most of it would have been a puddle on the floor.

Three cheers for independent thinking, but I am seriously thinking about getting a lock for the refrigerator.


When I took her to Gan this morning, she asked if I would stay with her "a little bit."  So we sat down and started working on a puzzle together.  After a much shorter time than I anticipated, Raphaela became annoyed and perhaps -in teenage fashion - embarrassed by my presence, and said to me in a firm voice, "Mommy, go home now."

Desert Island

A question was asked among friends today, "If you were stranded on a desert island, what item(s) would you want with you?"  One of my friends had the most brilliant answer, she said she would bring Dora along, "because her back pack has everything you need inside..."

(Of course you would have to put up with the infernal singing, and possibly Boots the Monkey as well.)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Relative Age-ism

I distinctly remember the phrase, "You know you are old..." floating around during the entire process of my fertility treatments, because in Israel - considered planetary experts on bringing children into the world - any woman over the age of 35 should have decreased expectations regarding a healthy and normal pregnancy.

Now, a joint committee of the Israeli Fertility Association and the Maternal Fetal Medicine has issued a report in which they recommend that any woman over 45 be considered "high-risk" to the extreme, and that these women undergo a whole slew of extra monitoring throughout the pregnancy.  This gamut of testing would specifically target any woman undergoing IVF, but views all such females over the age of 45 as having a higher risk for blood pressure, diabetes and obesity issues, not to mention a statistical increase in multiple births and children with disabilities.  Women over 50 would be further subjected to heart function tests and screening for cancer.

The oldest woman to ever give birth in Israel was a 64 year old, who utilized both egg donation and IVF in 2004, and acted against both Israeli and international policy.

There is a fine line in medicine between facilitation and Big Brother tactics, and the larger question must be debated regarding the role of the hospitals and the government in deciding which women are "allowed" to enter into pregnancy, regardless of potential health risks.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Real People

This week, for the first time at the bakery, Raphaela put in her own order, start to finish:  "Passion fruit shake please and a chocolate chip cookie, dark not white.  Thank you."

Yesterday at the zoo, we checked out the new crocodile exhibit ("Will they eat us?") and becaues it was not so crowded, the staff allowed Raphaela to help them feed the animals at the petting zoo.  Then we sat down for a small picnic snack, and I had an actual conversation with Raphaela:

Mommy:  Tell me about your day at Gan.
Raphaela:  I played with Shira and Chana, and I woke up after my nap.
Raphaela:  Did you work today?
Mommy:  Yes, I did.
Raphaela:  A little or a lot?
Mommy:  I helped six patients today.
Raphaela:  Good for you, Mommy!

I realized that my daughter will turn three years old within the month, and it seems to me that over the summer she became not just a big girl, but so much more of a real person. 

Towards the New Year

Twice a year, before Rosh HaShanah and before Pessach, I clean out mine and Raphaela's closet and donate the clothing to a worthy organization here in Jerusalem.  Until now, I have held onto certain items of baby clothing, because they have sentimental value and because the option of another child in the future lurks at the back of my brain. The bags of saved outfits have taken over my entire storage area.

I have given myself until the age of 45 to become pregnant, for both health and personal reasons.  I have also accepted with love the blessing of one thank G-d healthy and vibrant daughter, and could feel most satisfied with that lot for the rest of my days.  There is no shame in finding a partner in the future and enjoying each other's company while building a blended family; giving time and attention to me as a woman and as an adult to enjoy a relationship, without reintroducing the complications of fatigue from pregnancy, 24-hour nursing and several more years of sleep deprivation.  The man who comes into our lives might also not want to expand the family anymore at our stage in life, and assuming I love him, I would accept that situation.

This morning, apropos of nothing in particular, I thought about donating all those bags of clothing this year, thus creating physical and emotional space as we head toward the new Jewish year.  I thought to myself, "Worse case scenario, LOL, I fall madly in love within the next year and enter into another pregnancy with a healthy baby, and we have to buy new clothing..."