Friday, December 27, 2013

Dr Jeckyll and Little Miss Hyde

Even as a baby, Raphaela always seemed to know that Friday was somehow different;  different schedule and special events on Shabbat, and she would behave (badly) accordingly.

Today after I picked her up from Gan, Raphaela was in a stellar mood, and in fact one of the most lovely children I have ever seen. She saved me a cookie from her Gan Shabbat party, and also got me a sticker, saying, "I love you so much Mommy and I love to give you Shabbat presents."

I wanted to pick her up in my arms and hug her as tight as I could, and thank the stars that I had the most generous and sweet little girl.

Then we walked to Palmach to do errands and her entire demeanor changed.  She became uncooperative to the point of throwing a tantrum, throwing her back pack on the side walk and making a general spectacle of herself.

Gritting my teeth and painting on a smile that said, "Sure, judge me for being a lousy mother. Just wait until you have a four year old, " we walked home; or rather I dragged her home as she cried for no apparent reason.

When I asked Raphaela why she was crying, she answered me all Exorcist style, in a perfectly clear and scarily rational voice, "Raphaela's not here right now, she has disappeared inside Baby Unicorn [her normally well-behaved alter ego].  Baby Unicorn  who wants to cry very loudly for no reason."

She then resumed crying and as we got close to the house, her perfectly rational/terrifying possessed voice said, "Baby Unicorn is very tired and will take a nap when we get home."

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Makeup Game

Walking home from Gan today, Raphaela told me that she and some of her friends were talking about makeup, and applying  it as part of a pretend game.  Raphaela also informed me that one of them is not allowed to have makeup, because she is "too young."  (All of three and a half, as opposed to the rest of them who were all grown up at four.)

I don't remember thinking about makeup until high school, maybe, and perhaps I am more old-fashioned than I wish to admit, but it feels very early to have this conversation.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Walking to Gan this morning, small puddles of water and islands of ice remain on the street.  We passed by one particularly impressive pool of water and Raphaela, who usually grabs the opportunity, refused to jump and splash.

"Mommy, that a deep puddle." she said.  "Maybe it has worms inside, or piranhas, or jelly fish!"

Man in the House

My (newly engaged) youngest brother came to Israel for the last three weeks on a business trip.  We have always been very close despite the age difference, and though he spent the work weeks in Tel Aviv, he came to us in Jerusalem for the Shabbat weekends.

Raphaela connected to him immediately, and now that he has neared the end of his stay with us, I realize that my daughter learned certain things for the first time in her life, having a non-girl human being live with us.

At first, when my brother would expect privacy while on the toilet or while getting dressed, Raphaela became distressed and took the closed door as a personal insult.  I explained to her that just because she follows me everywhere (shower, bathroom, supermarket, garbage runs, nap time) does not mean that other people enjoy the same level of intimacy.  Trying to teach her the value of respecting other's wishes, I pointed out that if her uncle did not want her watching, he had every right, and she must wait with patience until he comes out of the guest room.

She gets it now, at least for people other than Mommy.

Then, this morning, she observed my brother placing Tefillin (phylacteries) while he prayed and seemed intrigued.  It hit me that she had never seen them before, and the three of us - my brother and I and Raphaela - had a lengthy discussion about Tefillin, what they represent and who wears them.  I explained that although I know certain very dedicated women who wear Tefillin on a regular basis, the practice is reserved mostly for Orthodox boys and men, over the age of 13.  Raphaela then made sure that she could still pray as she always does in Gan, and I reassured her that G-d listens to us wherever we are, whether it be synagogue or with Tefillin in the morning, or at home. 

She asked me if I pray on a regular basis, and I told her that I talk to G-d all day, throughout the day;  when I am working I ask G-d to help heal my patients, when I am driving I ask G-d to help me find a decent parking spot, and when I watch her sleep at night I ask G-d to keep Raphaela safe and healthy and happy.

Perhaps the most important lesson of my brother's visit is this:  Raphaela became so attached so quickly to my brother, and exhibited so much curiosity about the ways of men.  She could not stop talking to him at home, and about him in school, and was overjoyed when he took her to Gan one morning.  When I start dating, not just having fun but when it becomes serious with possible signs of long-term commitment, I will  be very careful as to when Raphaela meets this man who could become a new and key element of our lives.  For her sake, I cannot bring someone into the house, watch her connect and have him disappear.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Gilligan's Island PTSD

This morning, half awake and half asleep, I turned over in bed to check the time, and noticed that my digital alarm clock was dead.  I immediately shot up and said, "S**t!  Another electrical shortage, I thought this was all behind us! I can't take this anymore..."

Then I grabbed my flashlight - which has sat next to my bed since the storm - and started roaming around the house, seeing if any other lights worked, it was pitch dark.  I went over to the electrical box and shut down the whole system and implemented a restart.

Went back to my bedroom only to realize that my alarm clock had been somehow unplugged, and that house was functioning properly.  There I was, wide awake at five am.

Snow Man RIP

Raphaela has brought home a lovely new phrase from Gan, "I am so hungry, if you don't give me food soon, I will die!" (And other similarly themed statements.)

Funny thing is, she has no real concept of Death.  We saw a dead cat on the road, run over by a car and squashed flat, and Raphaela said, "Mommy, that cat is broken.  You are a doctor, you can fix it."

Our recent snow experience seems to have brought home the concept, at least slightly.  Someone had built a snow man at the intersection above our street;  the snow man standing there as if he was waiting for the light to turn green.  When we first saw him he was tall and proud, and as the days have gotten warmer, he has melted into nothing but a small blob of dirty ice on the sidewalk.

This morning, Raphaela noticed this change and said, "Mommy, our snow man is getting smaller and smaller." I explained to her the concept of melting, and then added that soon the snow man will disappear, be no more than a memory from the storm.  After a moment of silence for his decline in health, we continued walking to Gan.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Gilligan's Island, Day Seven

With Gan back in the routine, and the water and electricity staying stable so far (pthoo pthoo pthoo), and with no scheduled patients, I took the day to catch up on our home life.  Truth be told, I was supposed to attend a Chiropractic conference in Tel Aviv today, but the car is still a little stuck in ice, and the Jerusalem roads are far from safe.

I went to the bank and supermarket, so now we have actual healthy food to cook and eat.  I bought more litter sand from the pet store, because Harry has been inside with us for the last week;  he suffers from depression when he gets stuck in the house for too long.  Several desperate loads of laundry will need  to be folded at some point today.

While getting dressed this morning, I found a set of silk undershirts, perfect for this weather, some of them still in their original packaging.  I smiled, remembering that these had arrived at my grandparent's house for my grandmother, during her shiva.  One of my aunts told me that I should take them back to Israel, that they will keep me warm someday, "She doesn't need silk undershirts anymore," they said.

All these years later, and my grandmother is still taking care of me.

School started at ten am today, and so Raphaela and I took the opportunity to snuggle in bed and take the morning routine a little easy.  I noticed that her finger nails had grown long, and told Raphaela that we would have to trim them today.

Mommy:  Your nails grow so quickly! I remember when you were a baby, I had to cut them every other day just to keep up.
Raphaela:  When I was a baby, did I also have a father?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Gilligan's Island, Day Six

10 pm, Monday Nigh, Text Message:  "Parents, there will be Gan tomorrow in Jerusalem, starting at ten am.  Please be sure to escort your children all the way to the building, as there will be a large area of play ground covered in ice and snow."

6 am, Tuesday morning, Mommy:  "Oh Raphaela, you have school today, Hooray!"
Raphaela:  "Oh Mommy, I am feeling soooo sick (convincing crying), I really think it is better for me to stay home and play with you, just to be safe."

9:45 am, Tuesday morning, Text Message:  "So very sorry, the Ministry of Education along with the teachers have decided that the school grounds are still unsafe and therefore, Gan is canceled for today."

9:50 am, Tuesday morning, Email:  "Unless of course you parents are so desperate to get your kids back to school that you come to the play ground with shovels, put your back into it,  and clear a safe path.  Otherwise, closed."

10 am, Tuesday morning, Text Message:  "Hi, this is the English Afternoon Class.  Even if you don't have Gan in the morning, feel free to bring your kids to our regular session from 1:30-4:15."

12 noon, Tuesday, Email:  "Hello fellow parents, we have worked very hard and the teachers are on their way, come on back to Gan, today!"

Mommy:  "Raphaela, do you want to go to Gan and see everyone?"
Raphaela:  "No. I don't want to walk in the snow and ice."
Mommy:  "OK, then we will go to Tania's in the afternoon and you can see your friends at English Camp."
Raphaela:  "Hooray!"

13:00, TuesdayRaphaela and I set out on foot to her afternoon English program.  A walk that should take less than ten minutes takes us close to a half hour.

13:30, Tuesday:  I see one patient, the first time I have worked in close to a week since the snow started.  A middle aged and supposedly educated Israeli woman asks me if she should clean the ice and snow on her porch with water.  The younger former New Englander snorted, and wondered if Israel teaches the basic physics of ice-liquid water-steam.

14:15, Tuesday:  I visit my friend, stuck in bed with a virus, and we hang out  in her warm house until I must pick up Raphaela from nursery.

16:00, Tuesday:  Walking home from Gan, Raphaela tells me that one of her classmates, "N," made fun of her picture of a snow man.

I tell Raphaela that it does not matter what other people think about her creative efforts, and then I point out that she was in fact the only child in the whole group who gave the snow man ears ("Because he has to hear things, Mommy!") and a full facial expression.  I reassured Raphaela that I loved her no matter what, and that she must always listen to her true Inner Voice.  My daughter responded, "That's right, I drew the best snow man I could draw and my Mommy loves me.  N's Mommy doesn't love her as much as my Mommy loves me."
16:45, Tuesday:  A walk that usually takes ten minutes takes close to a half hour, as the sidewalk slowly begins to freeze over again for the evening.   And now the wait begins, as each parent sits by their radios and their face book status, waiting for notification for tomorrow, praying and hoping that there will be school, a full beautiful day of school.
19:30, Tuesday, SMS:  "School - G-d willing - will take place tomorrow, starting at ten am."
20:00, Tuesday, Raphaela:  "Mommy, if they tell us there is school tomorrow and then they cancel again, I will get very angry."

Monday, December 16, 2013

Gilligan's Island, Day Five

This morning on the primitive Isle of Snow Sieged Jerusalem started like any other:  I woke up freezing and with a stiff neck, I made my bed to maintain some sense of normalcy and then tested the faucets, no water again.  I called up the water company with my home made coconut phone and this conversation ensued:

Mommy:  For the second day we don't have water, our pipes froze.
Service Representative:  Yeah (sounding quite resigned and bored by the conversation)
Mommy:  I said, we don't have water.
SR:  Yeah.
Mommy:  What?!
SR:  It's happening all over Jerusalem...yeah.

Then I recharged my home made coconut phone and called the HOT cable company, to find out why I am unable to download movies to entertain my daughter on this, the fifth day of the Snow Siege.

(Waited on hold for 30 minutes)
Mommy:  Our television works, but the service for downloading free videos and movies for children does not.
SR:  What is wrong with you parents these days?
Mommy:  What?!
SR:  Here you are, you have this golden opportunity to spend quality time with your offspring, and you are complaining that you can't rent movies.  Enjoy the time with your children while you are home with them!
Mommy:  But that's exactly the point, my daughter has been home since last Thursday, she does not have Gan today and I have promised her that we could watch a movie.  And I can't watch that movie if your service -for which I pay each month including December - does not work.
SR:  You should count your blessings, there are some people in your area whose cable is not working at all, they get no picture on their screen.  At least you can watch some lousy television programming that we offer.
Mommy: But...
SR: I suggest you call us back when all the snow melts and life in Jerusalem returns to normal, maybe we will take care of it then.

Then disaster struck:  Crazy Neighbor Lady, an elderly woman with severe dementia and living alone, got trapped in the building's elevator.  Panic, crying, screaming and pressing the emergency button over-and-over, the rest of the neighbors stood by and tried to talk her down.  After several hours, after her release, her dementia made her forget the trauma.  I would laugh at the irony if it weren't so sad.

Frustrated from being house-bound, I called a friend of ours who lives relatively down the street, and asked if we could hang out with them today, assuming I could convince my snow hating sabra Raphaela to bundle up and leave the house.  The promise of friends, a warm house and actual cooked food, did the trick.

Black ice covered our entire street, and it took us 15 minutes to mountain climb the set of stairs near our house, the area had become one giant steep and menacing sheet of ice.  I give Raphaela credit, she got on all fours and crawled her way up.  Then we walked carefully for another 15 minutes and arrived at Eden.  Warm house, friends from Gan, fresh pancakes with chocolate chips, a blanket tent built in the living room and a large screen television running children's movies.  Adult company for me, and the feeling of not suffering for five hours or so.

Until Raphaela, tired from the lack of routine and the lack of decent sleep, asked to go home.  I practically cried as we left that haven of support and returned to the ice box that is our home.

It's alright, Mr. and Mrs. Howell have planned a talent show, and Ginger will loan me a dress for the occasion.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Gilligan's Island, Day Four

Woke up this morning to find that we had no running water in the house; apparently the main water supply for parts of Central Jerusalem froze over during the night.

No school or work, four days of the Snow Siege and I am running out of projects with which to entertain Raphaela, not to mention food.  The events of this Winter Storm have officially qualified me to win Survivor Jerusalem.

I wrote a song based upon a popular tune, called "No School Today":

No Gan today,
the snow won't go away.
It's one big icy plain,
I'm going to go insane!

We may actually leave the house today, first time since Thursday, to see if the bakery on Palmach is open.  It must be warmer there than the ice box that is our home.

(No phone, no bikes, no motor cars, not a single luxury.  Like Robinson Caruso, it's primitive as can be.  And damn cold.)

Gilligan's Island, Jerusalem

Around noon on Friday, our street lost power, along with most of Central Jerusalem.  Usually cold and unbearable in the house, Raphaela and I put on several layers of clothing and jackets, since we could not turn on any heaters.

Nor did I have hot water for a shower; my hands felt frostbitten after washing a few dishes.  I could not even boil up water for a cup of hot cocoa, which would have provided great comfort for both of us.

The lack of electricity also meant that my television, land line phone, computer and wi-fi were non-existent, so I had no way of communicating with the outside virtual world, not to mention  having to find creative ways to entertain Raphaela, by candle light.  Ye olde fashioned newspaper was not delivered, so nothing to hold in my hands and read anyway.

Along with all my concerns for us, thank G-d at least inside a house, I kept wandering over to the window and wondering how our street cats were faring in this storm, having not been properly fed since Thursday and living in the thick of almost one foot of snow. On Friday I managed to find one brave cat and feed him, and today on Shabbat I found three others.

Apparently, in consideration for the Ultra-Orthodox, the city took care of  their needs for basic power before Shabbat, since they are "real Jews."

We pagans went into Shabbat with no electricity, so practically speaking we had no cooked food, and could not eat any food that required heating.  Dinner was yogurts, chumus and vegetables rescued from the fridge, with potato chips for dessert.  When power returned briefly during the evening, Raphaela's first response was, "Oh good Mommy, now you can cook me something."

Having spent most of the day today inside, I ventured outside after Shabbat to clear the snow off the car, start up the engine and attempt to move it a little, before the whole street frosts over tonight and turns into black ice.  My former life in New England has served me well this weekend.

Now for the great question:  Raphaela has been on Snow vacation since Thursday, and given the fact that the streets have barely been plowed and the situation of fallen trees, it will probably be dangerous Winter Wonderland for at least the next few days, will she have school tomorrow or Monday?

(Or will I have to cancel patients again? Ah, who needs to make a living anyway, right?)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Snow Day

Israelis, for all their collective bravado, see the slightest sign of rain and turn into 1950's wives who have just seen a mouse:  "EEK, rain!  Pull out the heaters, stock up the fridge, batten down the hatches, drive like morons!"

With talk of snow on the news, Raphaela came home last night from Gan and informed me that if it snowed overnight, there would be no school tomorrow.  When we woke up around six am, the ground was wet from rain, with no flake in sight, and so I sadly informed her that she would be going to Gan today.

At seven am the snow began, though the news reported that school would go on as scheduled.  As the flurries became more intense and started sticking on cars and on the ground, I suspected that we would have a Jerusalem Snow Day - no Gan, no work - and the eight o'clock news confirmed it.  Raphaela immediately ordered me to call her best friend and arrange a play date, and told me a story (in advance) of the fun they will have and the snow adventures they will share.

Of course no one wants to go outside in this weather, and after several attempts with friends, Raphaela expressed anger, "Why doesn't anyone want to come to our house?  Why doesn't anyone want to play with me?"
I explained that she should not take the snow personally:
Mommy:  Do you remember yesterday when your hand were so cold when we walked to Gan?
Raphaela:  Yes.

Mommy:  Do you remember how sad you were in the cold?
Raphaela:  Yes.
Mommy:  Do you want your friends to be sad and cold like that, just to come to your house?
Raphaela: (pause) Yes!
That attempt at empathy backfired, and now both my daughter and my cat Harry can sulk because they are stuck in the house.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Evolving Friendships

From the age of one to thirteen, I had a BFF named Beth.  We did everything together, and confided everything in each other.  When my parents were going through a divorce I practically lived in her house, and when her parents were having issues with Beth's older brother, issues that completely disrupted their family life, she practically lived in mine. 

We swore that we would never lose touch and that we would be, literally, best friends FOREVER.

Then we moved from New York to Boston, and Beth became Ultra-Orthodox. Our lives and our belief systems diverged, and after attempts to stay in contact via snail mail - remember that this was the pre-internet and social media generation - we drifted and she became a pleasant memory for me.

It took me until post college to understand that if a friendship changes or fades, it does not reflect badly on me as a person.  We as human beings evolve individually and as a peer group over time, and some connections that once made sense lose their focus and their purpose.  And that's OK, perfectly normal for most of the population of Gaea.

It's the reason couples get divorced, they become different people and if they don't work at it, they fall out of love.

I met one of my current closest friends at the pregnancy and birth preparation class at Hadassah Hospital.  Our daughters were conceived on the same day through fertility treatments, and they were born a week apart.  For the first several years of their lives, we four girls hung out together, and I imagined that these friendships would last FOREVER.

In the last year or so, because the girls attend different school program and because we see each other less, that aspect of our connection has fallen apart, and for a while it made me sad.  I resolved however that it should not affect my adult friendship, and last night the two Mommies got sitters and met for dinner; the first time in a long time.

The food was yummy, the restaurant warm and cozy, and the conversations wonderful.  It is the kind of relationship that is quite simply familiar and comfortable, where you immediately slip into patterns of trust; my own little Field of Dreams.

We even joked at one point that we will still be friends at the age of 90...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

On the Eighth Day of Chanukah

5:00     With no Gan and no Chanukah camp today, and no patients scheduled, despite there being absolutely no reason wake up early, Raphaela and Harry "The Highlander" wake up earlier than usual, raring to go.  With the rain pouring down from the heavens, there is also no particular reason to leave the house today, and Harry will spend the rest of the day begging by the door, thinking that those little bits of sunshine in between the clouds are reason enough to attempt to go outside.

8:00     We have already eaten breakfast and had the hot chocolate I was saving for later, in desperation, I have revealed my secret weapon to Raphaela, the project for this afternoon.  Raphaela will spend much of the morning hugging the box and asking, essentially, "Are we there yet?"

8:30  With the briefest break in the rain, Raphaela and I bundle up and run outside to feed the street cats;  poor things, fur matted down and looking slightly miserable, they seem grateful for the one meal they might receive today.

10:00  We brave the rain and rent the latest (real person) Smurfs movie, a parable which questions Nature vs. Nurture and the usefulness of surprise birthday parties; as well as sugar coating the difficulties facing step-families, it features (what I am assuming)lots of CGI. Unless of course the Smurfs and hyper intelligent talking cats and ducks are real and are active members of the Acting Guild.

Lunch  In which I learn that when eating pasta shaped like animals, one does not mix species.  Elephants with elephants, lions with lions, turtles with turtles and giraffes with giraffes, like in the Ark.

12:30-14:30  Chanukah Nap.  Meanwhile, the sun seems to be pushing through the clouds, though the weather and the temperature outside are not much more welcoming than this morning.

15:00  The day's surprise and special project, a do-it yourself kid friendly confectioners kit, in keeping with the week's theme of Chanukah and the other miracle, Chocolate.

16:30-17:30  Dora and Diego on television, Lord bless them.

17:45  Bath time IE the first time either of us have taken off our pajamas since yesterday evening.

18:30  Dinner followed by story time, in which we read a new favorite of Raphaela's, an Israeli children's book about a bully in Gan who finally gets put in his place by the new kid, who doesn't understand why the other children and their teacher have been letting him get away with this crap for so long.

19:45  Bed time, and I smile in the knowledge that tomorrow Raphaela returns to Gan. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Chanukah in the Old City 2013

Since Raphaela has never been to the Old City in Jerusalem in a cognitive conscious way, I had decided that on one of the days of Chanukah I would take her on a walk through the Old City and to the Kotel [Wailing Wall].  The weather report for the next three days is threatening rain (finally!) for the next three days,  so we set off today.

My expectations of her ability to traverse the rocky paths and the long walk were low, and Raphaela far exceeded them, walking almost four hours on the steep and broken streets, pushing through the massive crowds without fear.  When we concluded our tour and were on our way to the bus stop, Raphaela said, "Mommy, why bother taking the bus?  We can walk home from here, it's not that far from here!"  Well, she might have had excess energy but Mommy felt pretty exhausted.

While it is less advisable to give charity money to random people wandering around the Old City, I wanted to teach Raphaela the joy of giving with a full heart, so I set aside a bunch of loose change, gave it to her and told her that she could give it to whomever she felt fit.  Raphaela distributed the change to many people, including a random mother walking with her children;  the woman laughed, understanding the meaning behind the gesture, and suggested Raphaela give the coins to someone more worthy and more needy than herself.

As we walked through the alleys, I explained to Raphaela that the ridges in the stones were part of an ancient sewage and drainage system, and that the Jews in the time of Chanukah did not have a modern plumbing system or bathtubs like we have today.  Raphaela seemed even more concerned when I told her that in the time of the Macabees, there was no such thing as television or the Internet.

"What did they do with their time, Mommy?" (Very valid question for this generation...)

We lost count of the number of menorahs we saw, large small and very large.

At the Kotel, I explained to Raphaela that although G-d listens to us everywhere, this place, a remnant of the Temple, G-d listens very well, and that she could make a special wish.

I submitted my regular Christmas list IE health, good friends and supportive relationships, professional success, the end of this war of terror and World Peace etc.  When I asked Raphaela what she had discussed with G-d, she answered that she had requested Love.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Willie Wonka's Chanukah Projects

Every Chanukah, the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo features some hands-on project for children involving candy.  Last year Raphaela made a full sized mouse out of sugar dough - ears, whiskers, tail and everything - and it took her almost three weeks to finish eating it; she had decided the mouse was her friend and felt slightly guilty cutting him up piece by piece.

If you ask Raphaela about her candy mouse, she will still say, "He is in my stomach!"

This year the zoo had a chocolate workshop:

That sucker was gone before we got to the tiger habitat.