Monday, September 29, 2014

Pre-Birthday I

(In anticipation of planning a small fifth birthday celebration for Raphaela at her English class on Thursday)

Mommy:  Raphaela, what is your favorite color?
Raphaela:  White, because it contains all the colors inside it.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Rosh HaShanah 2014

(First picture:  Raphaela, standing on the original stones in the "new" Old City of Jerusalem, street that dates back to the Second Temple)

Raphaela:  (while standing at the Wailing Wall to "talk to God" before Rosh Hashanah)  Mommy, does God speak Hebrew or English?
Mommy:  God speaks all languages, even silly ones, and even when you are not speaking out loud.
Raphaela:  Even Spanish and Chinese?

Every time an Israeli soldier walked by:
Raphaela:  Shanah tovah [Happy New Yearl] soldier!  Thank you for keeping us safe!
I think Raphaela would have rushed over and hugged them if I had let her.

Raphaela:  Mommy, why don't fish heads wear hats?

(In preparing the traditional Rosh Hashanah fish head, I stood at the counter in my kitchen.  About half way through, I realized that our gold fish tank had a front row view of the proceedings, and must be screaming in little gold fish voices at the anguish of their brother, or at least his head.  I quickly apologized and moved my cooking station elsewhere.)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

This morning, on the way to Gan:  "Mommy, when can I get a real tattoo?"

Delicacies and Danger

This morning's random topic on the way to school was:  Puffer fish.  After explaining to Raphaela that this fish has a special gift to keep it safe under the sea, I mentioned that it was basically poisonous to human beings, and therefore we would not ever eat the puffer fish.  I added that the Japanese make this meal as a luxurious  version of "truth or dare," that some people trust that the chef has removed all the bits that could kill you.

Raphaela (contemplative): Why would a person purposely choose to eat a food that is dangerous and poisonous, that could kill them if it is not prepared properly?
Mom:  Good question. Some people take risks where others don't. And maybe it even tastes yummy...
Raphaela:  Snow White ate a bite of the poisonous apple and died, and then the Prince kissed her and saved her.
Mom:  Also true, but fortunately only a very small group of random magical apples are poisonous.  Most fruits will most definitely not kill us.
Raphaela:  That's good, because I like apples.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Running with Scissors

On Friday, Raphaela asked for the child-safe scissors, so she could cut up some paper project in the living room.  She came back to me about a half hour later and said, "Mommy, I decided that my hair needed a trim, so I gave myself a haircut."

In a panic, I checked her long beautiful hair for signs of random destruction, and other than looking "floofy," it seemed undamaged.  I stared at Raphaela, straight in the eyes, and said, "Honey, I need you to know that I am not going to be angry at you, and I need for you to tell me the truth. How much hair did you cut off?  Can you go to the living room and bring me those pieces of hair so I can see?"

Indeed she did return with the smallest clump of hair, and I told Raphaela how proud I was, that she had told me the truth and showed me the damage even though she thought I might be angry.  I also explained that if she really wants a different hair style, we need to go to a professional hair stylist, we cannot take care of this at home.

On Saturday night, after Shabbat, I tried to use my iPad, and it had quite simply died some time over the weekend.  Fearing that Raphaela had done something, I again called her over and reassured her that I would not be angry, and that I needed to hear the truth; had she played with and/or dropped the machine when I was not in the room with her?

Raphaela swore up and down that she had not touched it, and then conjured up a potential explanation, a la classic Greek mythology:  "Maybe the iPad thought it had wings and tried to fly, and then failed and fell on the floor."  (Very Icarus of her...)

I wanted to believe Raphaela, and since she has in the past been unafraid to admit to the truth I gave her the benefit of the doubt.

Raphaela then added, "Mommy, why is it that we need all these machines around us anyway?"

Thursday, September 11, 2014

It's the Little Things

This morning I went to take a shower and left Raphaela to her own devices.  As long as she doesn't burn the house down I am good to go.  When I came out of the shower, I heard her "reading" from memory the entire text of Dr. Seuss's  classic The Cat in the Hat.  When I asked her what she was doing, she said, "I am reading my favorite book to my friends."

You've never heard a great rendition of this book until you've heard it in the cutest Israeli accent.


After dropping Raphaela off at Gan, I happened to pass by her most excellent nursery teacher (H) from last year, she works in the same building as Raphaela's classroom this year.  H casually mentioned to me, "I heard that Raphaela is adapting really beautifully to her Kindergarten this year."

That's enough to keep me smiling all day.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Speech Therapy II

Apparently Raphaela performs better in many areas when I am not present in the room, so yesterday I dropped her off at Speech Therapy and took a walk.  When I returned a half hour later, Raphaela had just finished playing a game, and the speech therapist  (Y) asked her, "Who won, you or me?"

Though Raphaela had more points than Y, she hesitated and not wanting to create hurt feelings, she then answered, "We both won."

Y insisted that Raphaela do a re-count and told her that it was OK, even good, to win a game, and it was OK, even good, to own the feeling.

Then Y told me a story about the session:  in the middle of their therapy/play, Y pretended to cry because she was losing, and Raphaela got out of her chair, gave Y a big hug and said, "There there, we don't cry over a card game!"

Saturday, September 6, 2014

One of Raphaela's classmates and friends came back to school this year with significantly shorter hair, she had donated her long pony tail for wigs for cancer patients. Kudos to this little girl, and the moral education she is getting from her parents.

Today Raphaela and I were discussing the theoretical concept of haircuts, since she has made it clear that princesses have long hair, now and forever.
RR: But I will get my hair cut very soon.
Mom: When?
RR: I will give you a hint...when is it that I turn 12 years old?


Brushing Raphaela's hair in the morning can become traumatic for all involved;  this morning instead of crying, Raphaela said to me, "Mommy, we have to pray to G-d for help in getting rid of all these knots!"

(Apparently, in response to the upcoming Jewish holidays, the Gan has been doing a segment on the power of prayer.)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Tales of Horror Dating

Shortly after I moved to Israel 17 years ago, more Jerusalem-ites than I could count -matchmakers, friends, random humans - would say, "Oh, there's this guy 'M' who would be the perfect match for you, he's your soul mate. You must date him!"  After several years of continually hearing this name, I told these well-meaning people to convert their thoughts into action and actually arrange for us to meet. I gave them permission to give him my cell phone number, so we could talk and start the process rolling.

One afternoon, my cell phone (which serves as the primary contact for my clinic) rang and I answered the phone, professionally, "Hello! You have reached the doctor. How can I help you?"

After a minute of silence and static on the other end, M ripped into me for close to ten minutes;, calling me an arrogant bitch, how dare I use my professional credentials to make him feel lousy about himself and the fact that he is "in between jobs," and how having called me now makes him unwilling to ever meet me in person.  Before hanging up, I calmly explained to him that he had called my work phone during the day, that he had ginormous issues, and that I was grateful that we would never meet in person.

Flash forward to this week, and a matchmaker called me to suggest "a boy" who might be appropriate for me, "in certain respects."  Not more than ten words to describe this boy/man and I asked the match maker if his name was M; the woman seemed surprised that I had guessed at this information, because when she told him about me he didn't know who I was and did not remember having ever spoken to me.

I suggested that it was near impossible, since there are so few female Chiropractors in Jerusalem, and because he had in fact spoken to me rather rudely that last time someone tried to set us up as a potential couple, way before I became a single mother.

"No," the matchmaker woman insisted, "he doesn't know you or remember you.  He seemed very pleased to learn that you are a doctor, because he is looking to get married so he can increase the income in the house, in order to pay his bills and his alimony to his ex-wife, and the child support he owes for his three children."

Yep, that's what she really said, no more and no less.

"Perhaps I misunderstand," I stated carefully, "but are you telling me that the only reason he wants to meet me and the only reason he sees me as a potential wife is so I can contribute my bank account and my earnings toward his unsuccessful life and his unpaid bills?" 

"Oh no, " the matchmaker said, "he thinks it might also be nice to meet you.  But he wanted me to be honest and upfront with you regarding his true intentions."

"OK," I started, counting to ten in my head before continuing, "please let him know that I remember him very well, and that it is most convenient to discount and berate a woman for being a professional when it bruises your ego, and then embrace her success when it works out to pay off his debts.  Please tell him, and please consider this for all your clients, that when a man or a woman says, 'I want to marry for money,' it is a complete turnoff."

I ended the conversation by respectfully requesting that this terrible matchmaker  take me off all of her lists, that I had no interest in working with an insensitive individual who obviously learned the craft at the Kris Kardasian School of Greed and Barely Human Interaction.


At 10:15 am this Friday morning, Issac delivered the beds for my niece and nephew.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

I Do Not Make This Up

On the way home today from a day of Gan, Raphaela sat in the back in the car and asked, "Mommy, why are there evil people in the world?"

I explained to her that the most treasured aspect of our humanity is our soul, which gives us the ability to make better choices or worse choices.  I explained to her that above all else, our actions define us to the outside, whereas our thoughts define us inside our head.  "Evil people are humans who made the wrong choice, the selfish choice, the decision to hurt other people rather than help them.  But there is also a special place for forgiveness.  A bad choice can be unmade, changed into a better choice.  We are never stuck or trapped by our decisions."

Raphaela refined her question:  "But why does there have to be sad things and bad things in the world?"

Trying to understand the subtle difference between the two queries, I said, "G-d created us, and then gave us this freedom of choice, and also made some sort of decision not to step in every time we do something stupid or hurtful.  There is good as there is bad, there is light as there is dark.  It is our job to think about how our actions affect ourselves, our lives and the people around us. And to learn from our mistakes."

[Thinking to myself, "I can't believe I am having this conversation with a five year old..."]

When we pulled into our parking spot, Raphaela had a plastic cup in her hand which she threw on the ground outside the car.  Very Israeli as things go, unfortunately.  I stopped and looked her in the eyes, and said quietly, "Can we rethink that choice?"  My daughter immediately picked up the cup and said, "You're right Mom, I shouldn't have littered, I will throw this out upstairs."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Second Chances

This morning, somewhere before six am, my daughter asked me, "Mommy, what do you want to be when you grow up?"

Bleary eyed and bleary brained, I answered, "I always wanted to be an astronaut and go into space.  But now that NASA canceled their manned space program, it is my dream to take off at least six months to a year from work and travel around the world."

What then ensued was a heated philosophical question between myself and Raphaela, my five year old initially arguing that we only have one go-around at life, and that I won't get a second-chance career as an astronaut. "God only gives you one chance to get it right!" she said.   I eventually convinced her regarding the merits of reincarnation.  (True story, not exaggerating!)

Later, my friend Rachel suggested what would have been the perfect answer to Raphaela's original question namely, "When I grow up, I want to be an adult who gets to sleep past six am."

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Customer Service, Israel Style

My younger brother, his wife and four children (aged one to Second Grade) moved to Israel almost three weeks ago, and have chosen to live in Jerusalem in the Ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of Har Nof. They came for Zionist and idealistic reasons, my brother told me that he cannot see raising his family within the American value system;  none of them speak Hebrew and they are about to get a crash course on life in the Jewish country.

This morning, my sister-in-law called me and asked, "We ordered beds for the kids and they were supposed to come this week.  I spoke to the company this morning and they said that they are not sure when the beds will be delivered, maybe this week or maybe next week.  Is that normal customer service?"

Instinctively I laughed, not at the question but because I could recognize the American attitude and expectation over the phone.  "Welcome to Israel!" I bellowed. "The country where nothing ever really gets accomplished unless you yell and threaten, in Hebrew."

Then I asked for the suppliers phone number, because that's what family does for each other, especially when I in fact speak Hebrew and can shout with the best of them.  Otherwise, my nieces and nephews may never see a normal place to sleep.

Me:  Hello, is this Issac? I am calling on behalf of my brother, they ordered beds for their children and I understand that you were very unclear about the delivery date.
Issac:  Ah, I see that you actually speak Hebrew.  Thank G-d, I broke my teeth trying to speak in English on the phone.  Yes, I will admit that I am the person from whom your family ordered the beds.  But I don't know when they will be delivered.
Me:  What's the problem with the order?  These children came from the United States three weeks ago, they started school yesterday and they go to sleep on the floor at night. Don't they deserve a decent bed?
Issac:  Oh, you KNOW those Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, too many children and everyone sleeping on the floor and everything is always an emergency.
Me:  (gobsmacked)  So because they are more religious than you or me, their money and their needs are any less valid? I have my own issues with the Chareidi world but I am calling you right now as an Israeli and as a sister and as an aunt.  We must support and encourage the people who choose to live in our country, despite all sanity.
Issac:  It's like I told your sister-in-law, I can't make any promises.
Me:  You have no idea what kind of sacrifices my family made to be Jews in Israel.  Four children moved away from everything they know, from a country where they actually speak the language and have friends, where they each had their own bedroom and space to spare, and they moved into a two bedroom apartment for six people.  The least you could do is get them their beds, when you actually promised to deliver them.
Issac:  OK, OK.  I will do the best I can to deliver it this week, as I had said originally.
Me:  I'll be calling you back to make sure.

Because I will.

I wish I had a personal nagger on my side when I first moved to Israel 17 years ago.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Year Older

The physical therapist had suggested a group physical activity, in order to increase Raphaela's self-confidence in a group setting.  The Talmud states that it is the parent's supreme responsibility to teach a child how to swim, literally a matter of life and death.  I figured that we had taken a break from swimming lessons, and I love the water:  I had worked for many years as a lifeguard at a lake near our house in Boston.  Since  Raphaela has shown so much maturity this Summer, why not try again.

I found a class down the block from our house, and the director of the swim program seemed quite efficient and understanding of the psyche of young children.  We arrived at the pool this evening, Raphaela spent ten to fifteen minutes rolling around the floor, explaining that she refused to go into the pool because she did not like the ladder;  it was one of those ladders that perhaps seems scary because it is carved in the side of the wall.  Then when she finally agreed to go into the water, she held onto the instructor Anna for dear life, practically choking the poor woman; after screaming, "This is too hard, too hard!, she was eventually asked to leave the pool.

The director of the pool swimming classes suggested that (a) perhaps Raphaela is too young for lessons or (b) perhaps we need to start with a series of private one-on-one classes to help overcome the fear or (c) I should randomly take Raphaela to the pool with me and "play around" and blow bubbles until she increases her comfort zone.  In any case, I await his call.

On the way home, Raphaela asked me if I was angry at her, if she was going to get a punishment. I assured her that I cannot be angry at her if something scares her, but that I would be quite disappointed if she doesn't even give new experiences a try.  I told her that very often, things do not go your way the very first time, and you must push through failure in order to get better and have that satisfaction of knowing that you overcame your fears.

"But I want my life to be easy.  Easy EASY.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy!"

I reminded Raphaela that for example, when she was a baby, she didn't know how to walk.  And that when she decided to start walking, there was lots of falling and mis-steps.  And that if she had given up on walking, she would not be a big girl today, a girl in Kindergarten who can walk and run and jump and skip and hop and climb ladders and dance.

Then I asked Raphaela if she had any ideas about what she wanted to be when grew up.  She immediately answered, "A soldier and a doctor, and a doctor for soldiers and animals."

Mommy:  Those are wonderful goals.  Do you think it is hard or easy to learn to be a doctor?
Raphaela:  Easy.
Mommy:  Nope!  Mommy had to work very hard and learn a lot of things and take a lot of tests to become a doctor.  I work hard every day too.   If you want to be a doctor some day, and I am sure you will make an excellent grown-up, you will have to work hard.
Raphaela:  Why?
Mommy:  Because if you give up and don't try, you will never know what you are truly capable of.

Raphaela was quiet on the way home, and when I tucked her in tonight, I looked her straight in the eyes and told her this story:  "Mommy really wanted to be your Mommy, and I went to the hospital and ate healthy and exercised and prayed to G-d, asking for the most special and wonderful baby Raphaela.  It didn't work right away, it certainly wasn't easy, and I kept asking G-d to help me and I cried a lot, but I kept trying, I never gave up.  Because if I had said, 'This hurts too much, this is too hard,' if I had stopped trying, I wouldn't be the luckiest Mommy in the world right now.  And I am so glad that I kept trying and finally got my dream."

Post-script:  Tomorrow afternoon we are scheduled to scope out a pre-ballet class. Oy.