Saturday, August 31, 2013


Raphaela has always shown a depth of kindness and concern for others, and in the past, her nursery teachers have mentioned that she is "affectionate and sensitive." 

I never liked the word "sensitive," in my head it implies a fragile egg-shell quality, one which makes a person so reactive as to be inapproachable.  Some members of my family still believe this to be true about me, and often sugar coat rather than present me with straight forward honesty.

Note:  While pregnant, with a double dose of estrogen and other hormones coursing through my body, I did not become that bitchy emotional stereotype.  Actually each day brought more happiness and peace of mind; every time I threw up I thought to myself and smiled, "This means that it's working..."

Years of maturation, life experience and with the help of therapy, my inner strength and force of personality has managed to emerge, and I am happier and more balanced for it.  And while certain situations still make me feel nervous and attacked, that former me, the pushover introvert that I was throughout high school, has been permanently exorcised.

Today Raphaela and I watched a video on the New York Times site, "A Day in the Life of a Piano."  A series of stop-gap images, the trailer for the five minute clip warned that we should have tissues prepared for the conclusion (spoilers!).

Indeed, at that shocking moment, I burst out in tears and Raphaela, so horrified by the scene, ran out of the room sobbing.  Both of us "sensitive," and both us in extreme empathy for a lone piano on the sidewalk in New York City.

I would not have shown her that video had I known the ending.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

New Gan III

Today, the second day of the new Gan, the parents had been told that there would be limited hours (8-11 AM) and that we should not expect to stay with the children past nine AM.  I arranged the whole morning's worth of errands around that schedule.

Raphaela and I arrived at Gan a little before eight AM, and within five minutes, my daughter took my hand, literally showed me the door, and said, "Mommy, get out of here!  I won't cry if you leave."

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New Gan II

Headline, front page, this morning's Israeli papers (27/8/13)

The 2013-14 school year opens today:  2,129,562 children and youth start nursery and elementary school today
The Minister of Education says, "Today is a holiday, excitement is in the air."
The next vacation? Next Week [Rosh HaShanah]


For the past several days, Raphaela has been sleeping with her new back pack and water bottle, bought specially for the start of the new school year.  Last night she got ten hours of sleep, while I could not fall asleep until almost midnight because of nervous excitement. 

Raphaela's first day at the new Gan began with the security guard at the gate (Benni) handing each child a heart-shaped chocolate. Only in Israel...

Her class has 34 children, and she is one of the older children, one of the "first birthday parties of the year."  At least half of her classmates are bilingual Hebrew/English, and have at least one native English-speaking parent.

Three of her classmates from this past year join her, as well as two children from the Montessori Gan, which Raphaela attended for two years.  As well, three other children she knows will attend the afternoon English program.

The class room is bright and airy, and we spent the morning sampling the toys books and puzzles in every corner. I will admit that I had a few emotional moments, realizing that Raphaela has matured so much in the last year, and that today represents a milestone for both of us.

Raphaela has one energetic head teacher and two assistant teachers.  Normally there would be only one assistant nursery teacher, but because there are at least two children who have food sensitivities and allergies, they assigned a separate medically trained assistant teacher to the classroom.  It is the responsibility of the individual families, the Jerusalem Municipality and the nursery staff to make sure that no one goes into anaphylactic shock.

Given the recent push by the Ministry of Health for all children under the age of nine to receive the Oral Polio Vaccine, we explored the bathroom and I reminded Raphaela to be sure to wash her hands. It's natural, children in nursery will expose each other, and the more hygienic the safer.

The children participated beautifully in their first morning meeting, and the parents seems lovely as well.  We have already begun to organize a time-saving and aggravation- avoiding program:  to arrange for a healthy breakfast to be provided at the nursery and by the nursery, rather than having to pack a bag full of snacks each morning.

Indeed, today is a day of celebration for mothers and fathers (who briefly get their lives back, before the Jewish holidays) and for the kids, who get to meet a new group of friends and experience the routine they crave.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Israel Polio Scare II

After much deliberation, listening to the official Ministry of Health explanations and filtering out the useful information, I have come to understand that only children who have already had the dead (inactive) polio vaccine will be given the weakened live polio vaccine.  The live vaccine stays active for up to six weeks.

Before Raphaela's surgery around the age of two, I felt her immune system was too weak to handle the slew of vaccines regularly offered to children, and I did not finish the series.  Raphaela is, as someone said to me yesterday, "one of the unwashed masses for whom this hysteria has been initiated," so it appears that my daughter will be receiving the regular (IPV) vaccine instead.  I must protect her as best I can before she starts school and may be exposed to the live virus through contact with other children in the new Gan.

The weekend newspapers said that we Jerusalemites were terrible terrible people, with a compliance rate of only 2%.  They reported that all the nurses specifically hired to deliver the vaccine were sitting around, twiddling their thumbs in boredom.  The Ministry of Health threatened than any child not properly protected against the disease would not be allowed in school (which starts this Tuesday) for six weeks.  The New York Times featured a page two story about the spread of polio in third world countries, where politicians/dictators deny their population the vaccine.

Sufficiently frightened, I decided that I would take her to Tipat Chalav [the municipal Israeli Well-Baby Clinic system] on Sunday. After a brief work day, Raphaela and I drove to the nearest center, only to be greeted by parents and children overflowing into the street, numbers being assigned and the warning of at least a two hour wait.  We received number 484, and they were only in the mid 430's, and so we settled-in on the floor with my iPad and played games.

At a certain point a whole group of children were gathered around our iPad, and one of the mothers offered to exchange a food run for baby sitting, since I had completely neglected to bring any food for the long wait; I happily agreed to the deal.

Two and a half hours later, I explained to the nurse that my daughter (for reasons I did not wish to explain) actually needed to start the regular IPV series, rather than receive the live polio drops.  The nurse offered me a three for one bargain, she would consider putting in Hep A and Hep B at the same time, and I very firmly refused.  Research has shown that bundled vaccinations cause more damage than a stand-alone version.

All morning long, my amazing and intuitive child  had been asking me, "What is the doctor going to do to me?"  And I had dodged artfully.  Now she understood that she really wasn't going to enjoy this doctor's visit, and she started sobbing and running away, and hid in a corner of the room.  It took five minutes for me to immobilize her, and once the nurse injected the vaccine, I then allowed myself to cry with her.  Frankly, I am surprised you all didn't hear her screaming.

The nurse assured me that it will be "this craziness in Israel" for the next three months, and then invited me to come back after the Jewish holidays for her second dose.  The nurse suggested that maybe I should bring my husband next time, or an extra pair of hands for help.  (And presumably, my husband would not cry like I did?)    I was barely listening, just trying to get us both out of there so I could comfort Raphaela in private, and not scare the other children.

Then we went to the store and I got Raphaela a fantastic treat; as most parents will agree, bribery works.  But when I offered her a Chiropractic adjustment, something I regularly recommend to my clients after their children get vaccinated, she refused.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Raphaela woke me up in the middle of the night, asking where I had put her sunglasses.  When I asked her why she needed them, she explained, "I'm thirsty and I want to get my water from the fridge, but it is too bright for me."

Huh! Makes sense to me...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Five Year Record

For the record, Raphaela has been on official vacation for less than a week, and school starts again next Tuesday.  And also for the record, I have not had a single vacation day all summer, between working and watching my daughter.

That makes at least five years that I have not enjoyed a relaxing adult actual vacation, or had some sort of back-up system so I could take care of myself, without any other responsibilities.  A dubious achievement like this could make a person go mad.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Today, apropos of nothing, Raphaela decided that she was "big enough to take a shower like Mommy," instead of her usual bath.

Summer Vacation II

With our planned play date at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens canceled at the last minute, I needed to find a stimulating activity for Raphaela this afternoon.  After reading one of our favorite books about musical instruments, Raphaela and I turned every possible item in our kitchen and the rest of the house into an orchestra. 

Pots and pans and boxes and jars joined the few instruments we have in our music box, and I wish I had filmed the result.  Both of us started banging and shaking our makeshift instruments, singing and dancing, in between the deep-throated laughter that comes with connecting to something primal and joyous.

I have always known that my daughter exhibits huge potential in the area of music, though I can't particularly attest to our rhythm or harmony today.  Luckily, the closest neighbors downstairs left Jerusalem on vacation this morning.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Summer Vacation I

Less than one day into Raphaela's official summer vacation (all two weeks of it...) and she appears to be bored.  Today she spent much of the time making noise and dumping toys on the floor, the more chaos the better.

Frustrated, I asked her, "Is that really the best way to get my attention?"
She answered with a simple and straightforward, "Yes!"

When I made an unhappy face, she continued, "It's working, isn't it?"

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Rock On, Mom!

Last night, for the first time in at least four years, I stayed out past midnight, leaving Raphaela with our Summer sitter and attending the annual Jerusalem arts fair and an Ivri Leeder concert with friends.  I walked into the house close to midnight, charged up and totally awake after an amazing triple encore, and so watched a little television until after one am.

Perhaps I got four hours of sleep last night, and as a result, forgot several minor events this morning while preparing to take Raphaela to camp:  we both did not brush our teeth, Raphaela did not apply her lip gloss, and I neglected to saturate any of my daughter's exposed skin with sun screen.

This would be almost acceptable.

Around nine am, in the middle of work, the camp teacher called me at the clinic and explained that apparently Raphaela's underwear had gone missing, though she was fully dressed in every other way.  Too embarrassed to explain that I was suffering from rock concert jet lag, I asked her to perhaps find a suitable substitute until I could get there.

The teacher assured me that this happens all the time, and that she keeps a supply of clean underwear and leggings just in case.

In between the enjoyment of having had an adults night out and the feeling of being a terrible mother, I was able to laugh at myself.

Later, I asked Raphaela why she had refused to put on leggings, and she reminded me of the iron-clad rules of her universe:

1.  When she is not a magical Baby Unicorn, she is a princess
2.  Only princesses have the true gift of dance
3.  Neither a princess nor a commoner can dance properly if they are wearing pants or leggings

Monday, August 12, 2013

Raphaela , No Swiping!

I have begun to understand the educational value of the Dora character, Swiper the Fox.

When Raphaela was in Gan, she rarely took her mini-backpack to school, but now in English Camp, she not only fills it every day with her snacks and her toys, but she also uses it as a security blanket of sorts;  apparently, according to the staff at the camp, she wears the backpack all day and they have stopped suggesting that she hang it up like all the other children.

Every afternoon when we return home, I ask Raphaela to empty her bag so we can talk about her day, and so I can anticipate the disastrous clean-up job of her lunch box.  Inevitably, my daughter has brought home a souvenir from the camp:  a brightly colored spoon, a piece of a puzzle, a hair clip or bow.  And every day I ask her to whom these small objects belong and Raphaela will answer consistently, "I asked Tania if I could take it home and she said 'yes'!"

And the next morning I surreptitiously sneak that object into my pocket and return it to the camp without Raphaela noticing.

My issues and criticism of Dora revolved around that Swiper personality, the Kleptomaniac Kid who seemed driven to steal and swipe, who every show apologized and said he would not do so again, and lo and behold, steals and swipes the very next show.  I felt that it taught children that it's OK to engage in bad behavior as long as you apologize each time, and that if you perpetuate the action long enough, people around you will accept it as part of the natural order.

I realize now that children this age like to snag mementos, even knowing that it might be improper to sneak the object into your backpack when you think no one is looking.  As a mother, I must teach Raphaela a value system which includes "Don't Swipe or Steal," while allowing for normative behavior.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Emergency Polio Vaccinations, Israel

The physical discomfort began yesterday afternoon, when one particular client told me a wonderful (NOT) story about how her child brought home L-I-C-E from summer camp and how the whole family got infested.  And how even after several treatments they are still finding critters in their hair.

Just great, now I find myself itchy (psychosomatic) all time.

Then the shrieking regarding the potential polio threat in Israel ramped it up a notch, with the Ministry of Health announcing that based upon recommendations from the WHO, the live polio vaccine will now be imposed upon all children under the age of nine, and not simply those who live in the south of the country.  Apparently the polio was brought into the country via the Egyptian smuggling route, from those who seem to spend time around sewers, and almost 50% of the population in the south of Israel have already received the vaccine.  Though no actual cases of polio have yet to be reported, we are on high alert.

As a Chiropractor, I have certain opinions about the efficacy and safety of vaccines, which I will not share or reveal at this time.  As a mother of my child, my greatest treasure, I find myself conflicted between the reports that state that the live vaccine increases the chance of an outbreak vs. those who claim that there are no real serious side effects.  There are even some who cite the conspiracy behind the vaccine and prescription meds industry;  they speak about "herd immunity" and claim that because most adults and children in the country have already been inoculated with the synthetic polio vaccine, this movement is merely a precaution.

I did not sleep well at all last night, partially because I must make this decision quickly, and as there is no other concerned parent in the picture, I must take full responsibility for the choice.  Having consulted with some of my friends and colleagues in the medical field, both conventional and complementary, I remain more confused and more fearful than ever.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

"Mommy, Superman and Spiderman are brothers, right?"

(I hear the rationale, they both have "Man" as a last name and they help people in trouble...though I think it's time I helped Raphaela understand that we are a DC comics family, not Marvel. Really, almost every Marvel character received his/her superpowers via exposure to radiation, a throwback to fears of the Cold War and the nuclear threat.  How uninspired and lazy.)

Friday, August 9, 2013

Friday Field Trip

With Gan ended, no camp on Fridays and no patients scheduled, I had to come up with a viable plan for an Erev Shabbat, especially given that my daughter finds herself incapable of sleeping late.  After several local errands, I threw together a picnic lunch and thought it would be so clever to get to the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo early, when it opened, before the onslaught.

Heh, heh. Turns out every other parent in the Jerusalem area had the same idea, and by the time we got to the parking lot it was practically full.  In my haste to leave the house I had forgotten to apply sunscreen for the both of us, and I asked a man (a stranger) standing near us with his own family and a bottle of lotion if he could please share with us, and he did so immediately and without hesitation. Only in Israel.

Raphaela and I spent almost four hours there, walking around in the pleasant sun and covering almost the entire zoo, making occasional stops to dine on cookies, fruit and salmon.  We even bumped into one of her classmates from Gan and his family, a pleasant surprise for all of us and a joy to watch the kids embrace and have their little toddler conversations.

The zoo is available to all residents of Jerusalem, and at one point a traditionally dressed Arab family walked by.  Raphaela laughed and said to me, "Look, she's wearing her pajamas outside the house!"  It made me realize that even in our mixed neighborhood, my daughter is quite sheltered, and that I need to explain the diversity of the population of Israel in more detail, and with tolerance.

Based upon our physical activity of the day and the heat of the sun, I anticipate that we will both sleep very well tonight, and I love the time I get to spend watching my child play and grow and laugh.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Jerusalem Rules of the Road

This afternoon, frustrated while driving in my neighborhood and grumbling under my breath, "Drive already!" Sitting in the back, Raphaela corrected me and said, "Mommy, you are saying it wrong, it's 'For G-d's sake, drive already'!"

When we arrived at our destination we found a parking spot fairly quickly and easily, right in front of the store.  Raphaela called out from the back seat, "Thank you G-d for your kindness!"

(Children. Hear. Everything. We. Say. Everything.)

The Great Communicator

(With apologies to Ronald Reagan)

This morning, even before we left the house, Raphaela turned to me and said, "I give you fair warning, if you leave me at summer camp I will cry."

Once we arrived, she looked at me and said, "Actually, I don't think I have to cry today."

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Mazal Tov Jesse and Mark!

Last night I attended the wedding of a friend, a woman who married "older" IE in her mid 30's.  Those of us in the age range of 35-45 represented the youngsters in the hall, and there were several tables of  us:  men and women, married and single, with and without children.  More importantly, we could all reference the same movies and television shows while simultaneously talking about more 'mature' topics, like family life.  We are that generation of children who grew up in the 1970's, and we quickly found common ground.

Turns out our generation turned out pretty cool and accomplished, and I must say, that is the most fun I have had at a wedding in a very long time.  Inconceivable!

Only downside?  Of course we were seated next to the band, so I came home with a splitting headache that follows me even this morning.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Dropping Raphaela off at her first day of camp, I explained to the teacher that in Raphaela's current inner world she is a Baby Unicorn, and that would explain any neighing sound that may come out of her mouth.

"That's OK," said the teacher, "she can join the Lion in the group."

Lazy Days of Summer

With the routine of Gan behind us and camp beginning tomorrow, I have begun to feel more relaxed, even though my day-to-day work schedule has not changed all that dramatically;  as well unfortunately, at the moment there is no real vacation - small or otherwise - destined for me and Raphaela before the end of the Summer, so I will take what serenity I can get.

As a consequence, I have become less diligent about a strict schedule meal times and bed times, and Raphaela stays awake later than usual.  This evening, I allowed her to go to sleep after watching a relatively less scary re-run of a Doctor Who episode, the show in which River Song regenerates and Hitler is locked in a pantry.  (Isn't science fiction wonderful?)  Raphaela seemed particularly moved and impressed by the burst of regenerative energy, and then showed me a scratch she had received at some point today while playing outside.  My daughter suggested that I use special healing energy to fix her small wound.

Since I use certain energy treatments with my clients in the Chiropractic clinic, I gave Raphaela the quickie toddler course on Reiki and Meditation, instructing her to place her hands together, breathe deeply and imagine the energy of the sun and stars.  She was able to grasp the basic concepts, and when I put my hands next to hers, I asked her what this energy felt like.

She answered, "It feels like Love and strawberries."

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Creative Solutions

This afternoon, while driving to the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, a little green car cut in front of us and almost caused an accident.  Without any swearing, I made it very clear that this particular driver had put us in danger, and that I felt some degree of anger.

Raphaela piped up from the back seat and suggested that M - the boy in her class famous for his prolific and inappropriate use of  bathroom words during the school day- come over and try out his artillery on this driver.  "That will show her," she concluded.

All I could do was laugh.