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.