Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Jumping Back In

Last night I dreamt that I had been set up by a matchmaker with a Chareidi (Ultra Orthodox) man, and after that one date, apparently we got married, in my parents' house.  And then almost immediately it was Sheva Brachot *, and that man who sat next to me was the not the man I had been married to, although the details of the ceremony were fuzzy at best.

Then ensued a whole argument with this man, me saying, "You are not the man I married!" with him insisting otherwise.  I remember thinking to myself in the dream, "The other guy was not appropriate for me because of religious issues but this guy is such a schmuck, if I had to take one over the other, I would choose the Chareidi man. Though neither is an ideal mate for me by any means."

This morning, a Chardal# friend of mine, the mother of one of Raphaela's friends, gave me a heads-up, that she had given my name and phone number to a friend of her husband's as a potential match.  "He's Chareidi, like us, but he is a photographer, open-minded, with a good heart."  I expressed hesitation, that my spiritual and religious beliefs fall no where near their world view, but she felt certain that this man and I could find common ground.

He called soon after, and spent the first three minutes of the conversation asking me about my work as a Chiropractor; what techniques do I use, how many patients do I see, how much money do I make etc.  If a potential date chooses to delve into my financials instead of Me, I immediately lose interest; this rule has developed over time and experience.

For the next and last two minutes of our phone conversation, he cut straight to the point, "Where do you stand religiously?"  I told him that I don't fit neatly into any one box, that Jewish values, Shabbat and Kosher will always play an important role in my home, but that I also wear pants, watch television and movies, and go mixed swimming.

"Glad I asked." his tone changing quickly, I could hear in his voice that he had stopped smiling.  "I am sure you are a spectacular person," he continued, "but I could not physically or emotionally attracted to a woman who wore pants.  I am looking for a woman who will embrace the Chareidi lifestyle and keep a proper Jewish home.  That's not you, I don't want to waste my time, best of luck."

He hung up, and I took none of it personally.  I called my friend just to let her know that her sense of this man and his supposed openness was incorrect.  Rather than moving on from the experience, my friend gave me a ten minute lecture, "You are not where we are [religiously] YET, but we still communicate well and our daughters are friends.  I am sure you misunderstood him, so I am going to have my husband speak to him and get his side of the story and his perceptions of your phone call."

Then the cherry on the icing on the cake, "And would it hurt you to stop wearing pants and become Chareidi if it meant you found your soul mate?  Change hurts, but it can bring you to a better place." [ I took short breaths to stop myself from shouting down the phone, "I am a good Jew, I do not need to be upgraded!"]  She continued, "Not that I am judging you in any way of course.  Why just this week I gave up the Internet because my husband told me to; it drives me crazy but at least we have Shalom Bayit!"%

Despite my assertion that a healthy relationship is one in which the two sides accept each other unconditionally, that I should not have to change the essence of my belief system for a man I don't know, I felt that my friend was barely listening.  When I said, "There is compromise, and then there is loss of identity," she said that I was being inflexible.

Yeah, this dating gig is going to be a blast.

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*Sheva Brachot = Seven Blessings in Hebrew, the week long meal-fest for family and friends after the wedding, primarily to invite those who did not make the cut on the A-list

#Chardal = Charedi Dati Leumi in Hebrew, meaning Nationalist Ultra Orthodox, a level of religiosity somewhere between Orthodox and Chareidi.  Also coincidentally the Hebrew word for mustard.

%Shalom Bayit = Peace in the House in Hebrew, implying less conflict and struggle between a husband and wife

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Braver than I


My Raphaela...a real snake...around her neck.
Enough said.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Such Sweet Sorrow

My parents have been visiting us from Boston for the past two weeks.  Raphaela has gotten very used to the idea that she will see them every day after Gan, and that we will eat dinner together as a family.

Just now, Raphaela and I helped my parents with their suitcases and saw them off to their flight.  The mood was festive and playful, and even though we adults had attempted to explain to Raphaela that she would now have to talk with her grandparents on the computer rather than at their "house" in Jerusalem, I don't believe that she understood the implications of their leaving.

I am thrilled that my parents and my daughter became so close, and I hope that we can maintain that connection even with the geographical distance between us.

It is so important to know that you have family that loves you, and I wish for Raphaela the same relationship I treasured with my own grandparents.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

This past Friday night, Raphaela fell and cracked open her chin, all the way through to the bone, forcing us to go to the Emergency Room at Shaarei Zedek Hosptial.  The amount of blood pouring out of her little body was scary enough, until she had a severe allergic reaction to the anesthesia, and then it got even scarier.

We are home now and all stitched up, and I am having a harder time getting past the incident than my daughter.  I am so grateful to have my child, and if nothing else, have learned not to take anything or anyone for granted.

As my cousin said to me, "This parenting thing ain't for the weak."

Today I read Mister (Fred) Rogers for inspiration and faith, and it resonated with me when he wrote, "There's a loving mystery at the heart of the universe, just yearning to be expressed."

Friday, October 18, 2013

Gan Birthday 2013


Today, my daughter along with two other children, jumped her way officially into the Land of Four, with her birthday party at Gan.  The most touching moment for me?  When the teacher scattered flowers on the floor, and then to the tune of Vivaldi, each of the girls 'picked' a bouquet and presented them to their parents, as a way of saying thank you for having raised them well until now.

Funniest moment? When Raphaela performed The Chicken Dance, and man, can she swing her hips!

Most meaningful? That my parents from Boston were there to see the ceremony and enjoy this piece of our lives.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


A few days ago, after I picked up Raphaela from Gan, we sat in the playroom together.  Suddenly Raphaela said, "Mommy, you should get out of the house more."  She continued, "You should call S [her favorite baby sitter] right now, and tell her to come over.  I want her to do my nails."  When I suggested that I could paint her nails just as well, she insisted that she would wait for S to arrive.

 I think it's time I got a life, now that I have my daughter's stamp of approval.

Journey to the Gan Birthday 2013

Beginning of October

Knowing that my parents are coming in from Boston for a visit to Israel within two weeks, and hearing every day from Raphaela about her Gan birthday party, I asked her teacher to finalize a date for the party, asking that it coincide with my parent's visit.

One Week Later

I (and three other parents) receive an email describing what we must bring for the celebration, and that we should "work it out amongst yourselves" as to who brings what.  Acknowledging that Raphaela's teacher must have a reason for having four children share the day, I inquire as to whether two or three might be a more optimal number than four, which I believe robs each individual birthday prince and princess of their time to enjoy the attention and bask in the spotlight.

I am told, "Don't worry, it will all work out."  The teacher then reminded the group that we must make a special cake for one of the girls in the class, "M" who is "deathly allergic to everything."

The email starts a flurry of correspondences and phone calls back and forth, in which one parent (not me, and I thought I was a control freak) decides that she is going to take care of "mostly everything."

Six Days Before Party (BP)

Having received a recipe for a cake "M", it occurs to us that there are two children in the class who have gluten sensitivity, and that they cannot eat anything with flour.  Now we are making both a hypo-allergenic and gluten-free dessert. (Yum?)

Four Days BP

Apparently one of the mothers really wants to be the boss of everyone, make all the decisions and take on most of the work by herself.  I have been given the job of making individual salads for the individual picnic baskets, almost 40 in total.  That's a lot of chopping vegetables.

I suddenly realize that on Wednesday night I have a Chiropractic Board Meeting in Tel Aviv.  Somewhere between Wednesday and Thursday I must do a major shop, including our regular weekly list, stocking up food for my parents' arrival, and the birthday party.  My parents arrive some time Thursday, and on Friday morning we celebrate in Gan.  Then, sometime before Shabbat, I must cook for Shabbat as well. With no wiggle room for breathing or sleeping those three days, I am getting dizzy just thinking about it.

Two Days BP

After two separate trips to the supermarket, I have still forgotten certain items for the party on Friday, d'oh!  And in honor of the occasion of me being stuck in Tel Aviv for a late night meeting, Raphaela will have her first ever, in her whole life sleepover at a friend's house this evening.  (I am not counting as a sleepover the several days that Raphaela stayed with friends when I was in the hospital recuperating from my emergency appendectomy.)

Somehow, between my very specific instructions to the teacher in the morning - "Here is a special bag for today, please make sure that Raphaela takes it with her when she gets picked up and taken home with her friend." -  and my specific instructions to the baby sitter -"I have left a large blue Barnard College tote bag with a B at Gan.  Please make sure you pick it up, it contains her pajamas, her toothbrush and hair brush, and a favorite toy."- you guessed it.  The bag is no where, lost somewhere in Jerusalem between my house, the Gan and the baby sitter.  I will have to search for it tomorrow, because I have so much time while I am getting ready for my parents arrival.

One Day BP

The overnight bag?  Exactly where I left it in the Gan the morning before.

Spent the afternoon creating individual salads for the birthday party tomorrow, and only started getting bored toward the end.  So I pumped up the volume on my motivational music CD, with classics like "Eye of the Tiger" and "We Are the Champions", and finished the job.  Then I started the chicken soup for Shabbat, and felt very house frau, tired, but happy.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

One of my favorite memories of my grandmother is the song "Good Morning Merry Sunshine," which she would sing to me first thing in the morning every day I stayed at my grandparents' house.  I have begun this tradition with Raphaela, and now if we get too busy in the morning routine and I forget to sing, she will remind me, "Mommy, you forgot to sing our morning song!"

This morning she woke up and stretched and told me, "I am not ready to wake up yet, I have not put on my colors.  I am only pure white right now."

Sunday, October 13, 2013

That New Baby Smell

As is our custom, every Shabbat Raphaela and I meet one of her former Gan classmates (and her mother and sister) at the park in the afternoon, and play together.  We had not seen them for several weeks, as the mother recently gave birth to a third child, a sweet little baby boy.

Sitting there on the bench, watching the three girls play, I asked if I could hold the new baby.  As soon as he was placed in my arms, he seemed to relax, and the effect reverberated both ways.  That combination of a new baby smell, the small-ness  and new-ness of everything, it made me feel so quiet and happy inside.

Raphaela came over, tentatively looking at this bundle in my arms, and I asked my daughter if we should take the baby home with us.

Raphaela:  No, that is not our baby!
Mommy:   Well what if there were another baby inside Mommy's tummy, and then that baby came home with us and stayed with us?  You could be a big sister just like your friend.
Raphaela:  No! [most definitively]  We have a doll at home that is like a baby...[pause for dramatic effect] and the doll even has a stroller.  Isn't that enough?

We two mothers smiled at the reaction.

Raphaela:  And besides Mommy, you told me that Harry does not like to share his house or his family.

That's right, blame it on the cat...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Point Taken

Ever since our trip to the United States last year for Thanksgiving, Raphaela inevitably ends up in my bed at some point during the night.  Sleeping with her is like sleeping with a washing machine.

Last night she chose to sleep in her own bed, and I did a little victory dance in my head.  Around midnight, I heard a thump, and then a sweet little "Ow!" and then the beginning of crying. I went into her room and she had rolled off her bed and found herself on the floor.

I picked her up and hugged her, and she said to me, "And THAT is why I like sleeping in your bed better."  Then she took a stuffed animal, walked into my room and settled in, falling back asleep almost immediately.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

This morning, when Harry - our 11.5 year old cat and my first born - came into the room a little after five am, Raphaela - my four year old human child - said, "Harry, be quiet!  Mommy is still sleeping."

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Shabbat Shalom

Walking to Gan this morning with Raphaela, we waited patiently at the cross walk for the light to turn green.  In front of us, an elderly man on the way to synagogue looked both ways and crossed against the red.

Raphaela got very upset and said to me, "Mommy, it was red! He crossed when it was red!"

Once we crossed, we were able to catch up to this gentleman, and Raphaela pulled on his shirt to speak to him about his traffic violation.  Hard of hearing, he leaned down with his good ear to listen.

" Man, be careful!  You are not supposed to cross when the little man is red."

" You are absolutely right.  I crossed because I am running late, but I should not have done it."  He stroked her cheek and continued, " Thank you sweet girl.  Shabbat Shalom."

It's a good thing my daughter has never seen me cross the street in The City, red pedestrian light, zig-zagging between the cars, when I was a "real" New Yorker.  I would most certainly get an earful.