Thursday, January 29, 2015

Shabbat Shalom

Whenever Raphaela is happy, she sings with full gusto the Friday night synagogue song "Lecha Dodi,"a love song of sorts between the Jewish people and the Shabbat.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Hakunah Matata

Today I pulled Raphaela out of Kindergarten in the middle of the day, to take her to her First Grade interview.  Raphaela had fun with it, I was a nervous wreck; unable to eat anything this morning because of the nausea, it was like the SATs  and my Chiropractic boards all over again.  (I stop eating when I am under stress.)

How did the interview and testing go? I don't know, since I was not sitting in the room with her.  The teacher who administered the meeting was all aglow afterwards, "Your daughter is lovely, it was such a pleasure," though I would hope that she is kind to all parents who go through this process. I have to have faith in my daughter that she represented herself well and honestly, and I have to trust the Universe that this will play out as it is meant to, for the best benefit of my child in the short and long run.

Raphaela seemed to quite enjoy exploring the school premises and peeking in on the classes and the music rooms and the art activities.

Or to quote my wise aunt, "When she is 20, she will be sitting in some therapist's office blaming you for everything that went wrong and right in her life anyway."

Apparently in approximately one and a half months I will hear from the school, whether or not Raphaela made the cut.  Then I have until April/May to make a final decision regarding repeating Kindergarten for "one more year of play," or moving onto the big leagues.

When I got home, I wrote a brief thank you note to the school, because politeness cannot be counted against you;  a habit learned from my grandmother, after whom Raphaela is named.

Raphaela has lately become obsessed with the Disney movie, The Lion King, and I have taken it upon myself - so I don't go insane and so I can start sleeping again - the philosophy of "Hakunah Matata."  When I start feeling anxious or start worrying about a process that for now is completely out of my hands, "Hakunah Matata!" Or to quote another Disney movie, "Let it go..."

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Baby Sitter Mafia

Tonight I have a brief (10-15 minutes) mid-year meeting with Raphaela's Kindergarten teacher, and I have spent the last two days desperately trying to find a sitter for Raphaela.  Our regular favorite refused to come, because it involves total less than an hour, and it is not worth her time and effort. (I hear that.) Nor can she think of any of her friends who might be available, right...

The building in which we have lived for the last three plus years has a specific code of behavior among neighbors, IE Don't bother us and we won't bother you.  I canvassed several of them, asking if my daughter could just sit in their living room for 40 minutes or so and color, and got a lot of "It's not a good time," "I have a meeting at that hour," "I'm washing my hair," etc.

One family downstairs has a boy aged 13, but I don't know if he is allowed to babysit girls, it's a Jerusalem thing;  besides, Raphaela is afraid of the whole lot of them, because the mother constantly yells at her children, in the house, in the halls and on the street.  One Shabbat, the shouting went on for such a long time, and could be heard clearly outside the building, that several of the neighbors contemplated calling the police and Social Services and reporting the family for possible abuse.

I even posted in a Jerusalem parents group on Facebook, and got no helpful responses.  No sympathy or assistance for the single mother with no emergency grandma or grandpa or cousins to pitch in.

So here I stand, with the knowledge that I must find some solution before seven pm, otherwise I will have to cancel the meeting; this time I actually need to hear what her teacher has to say about her intellectual and emotional progress, because I have yet to decide if Raphaela will be staying back a year in Kindergarten next year or advancing to First Grade.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sitting in the car this afternoon, explaining to Raphaela that in English, a word that starts with "uni" means "one." 

Mommy:  Like unicorn or unicycle.
Raphaela:  (pauses for a half a minute and then...) And like "uno" in Spanish.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Renewed Admiration

Yesterday, to Raphaela's delight, I came to her Gan and gave her class of 34 kindergarten children a Spine and Health lecture.

From start to finish, the activity took less than an hour, and I tried to include some physical and intellectual stimulation, so they would not fidget or stop listening.  If they each took home one or two salient points, I consider myself successful.  (Though I am not sure about the boy whose answer to every question was either "Legs!" or "Bellybutton!")

One hour, and these dedicated teachers do this every day for nine hours each day...I came home exhausted, with a heightened admiration for the job of a teacher.  Seriously, these men and women who educate our children are not getting paid what they truly deserve.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

School Daze II

First Grade or a repeat year of Kindergarten?  Raphaela sometimes lets her imagination get ahead of hard reality; will another year of Kindergarten improve on her social skills, or is that simply a beautiful part of her personality?

Until now I have understood that either way will work, going ahead will stimulate and challenge Raphaela and open many new doors, and keeping her behind one more year will grant her an extra year of free play without real academic expectations, it will give her a chance to feel more secure in her social environment, because she will be the oldest and the tallest by far, she will be the boss.  I spoke today to her teacher and requested an objective independent psychological evaluation of Raphaela's emotional readiness to start First Grade, because the "helpful opinions" are running circles in my head and I cannot listen to my Inner Voice, that energy inside me that knows me and knows my child, and can somehow intuit what is best for her, without all this pesky thinking and analyzing.

Yes, this decision is all about Raphaela and what will suit her best now and as she continues growing and learning and achieving.  And yet, I must acknowledge that this debate starts with me, with me wanting some basic recognition for my parenting skills.  When I do make the final choice, after consulting with the professionals, I want other mothers and fathers to tell me that I am a great Mom, and that thus far I have not screwed her up too badly.

Walking this morning after dropping Raphaela off from school, I bumped into an old friend whom I haven't seen in years, a man who has put two children more or less successfully through the Israeli school system.  He gave me his two second answer, mainly, "Give her another year of play, make it the easiest year she will ever know.  Why do things have to be challenging and hard?  It's our job to smooth the way for our children."

Coming full circle back to me, and a pattern I have tried to break for many years:  I had for most of my teenage life and much of my pre-Israel adult life, believed that if you don't struggle over something, if you don't have to work hard and earn an accomplishment, if there isn't crying involved somewhere, then you are being lazy and not pushing yourself outside your comfort zone.  I have always said and continue to affirm that the moment you slide through your life and stop generating motivation to change and grow and learn new things, you might as well be dead.

Will a year of cruising in Kindergarten be best for Raphaela, or will I feel like we are cheating the system, and that I as a mother am not giving her what she needs to truly fulfill her potential?

Friday, January 16, 2015

School Daze

I have been suffering this whole week from an inner ear infection, it took three days to get an "emergency" appointment with an ENT and I have just begun anti-biotics.  Needless to say, I have not slept well or through the night since Sunday, and I do not function well when my mind has gone Clockwork Orange.  And the pain from this ear infection feels like an alien boring into my brain, 24 hours a day.  No biggie.

My sister-in-law innocently asked me who was taking care of Raphaela when I was sick, when all I want to do is crawl into bed for a week, and I responded, "Really?  The Messiah is late because of me, because he has moved into my house to take over child care, and supermarket shopping, and driving to extra-curricular classes, and taking Raphaela to Gan every morning." I paused, so the cynical nature of my response could be fully appreciated, and then continued, "I am slogging on, every day, because if I do not take care of my daughter, there is no one else to pick up the slack."  "Oh...yeah," said my sister-in-law.

Added to that stress, in less than one week I am meant to decide regarding First Grade for Raphaela; just when I felt sure about my decision and Raphaela's readiness/eagerness, I was bombarded with the strong suggestion that I keep her back for one more year in Kindergarten, one more year of play, one more year of building confidence socially and verbally.

Now I must choose a potential repeat Kindergarten for next year, as well as signing up Raphaela for this monumental transition, and hoping the that the final decision will take place some time between April and May 2015.  I checked out three different schools, one I knew I would never choose, one that was a question mark, and one that was basically always number one on my list.  Most impressed by the elementary school that I had chosen to begin with, I then sunk into a crazed state when the principal warned that their school gets more applicants than the space available.  That there are already 20 spaces taken by "legacies," IE the siblings of children already attending the school.  That there will be an interview process and several months before any parent gets final confirmation on placement.

OK, another several months where I will not be sleeping well.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

White Weekend

The snow started Friday afternoon, about two hours before Shabbat and continued on and off throughout the night.  We took a snow walk on Friday night after dinner, and then again this morning before it all started melting.  For several hours in the morning today, we did not have running water, but we managed. 

Now the streets are mostly clear of snow, and whatever small remaining water and ice will re-freeze tonight.  I wonder if there will even be reason to delay the re-start of school tomorrow morning, assuming there is safe-ish passage on the roads and sidewalks.

Jerusalem of Gold, and Snow.  There is something beautiful about the quiet and the beauty after a snow storm, it feels like a serene black and white photo when the rest of the days are a chaotic splash of color.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The SuperStorm that Wasn't

Tuesday night

Raphaela's ballet recital has not been canceled, so we brave the dust storm to get to the studio, and I take tons of pictures and video.

"In anticipation of..." the upcoming snow storm, school has been canceled for Wednesday and the mayor of Jerusalem announces that as of 9 am the following morning, the two main roads going in and out of Jerusalem - Route 443 and Route 1 - will be shut off to traffic.

I heat up the water and give Raphaela a bath, wondering if it will be her last bath for the next few days.


The weather report says that the snow will only start around two in the afternoon, so we celebrate a snow day without snow.  I heat up the water and take a shower, and cook a bunch of cold-weather appropriate foods, and check email, thinking that it may be the last opportunity for the next few days.

Around one pm, Raphaela and I go into bed for a nap, and I promise her that when we wake up, there will be a white landscape.  Thunder and lightning threaten as we close our eyes.  As soon as Raphaela wakes up from her nap, she asks in a frenzy, "Quick check!  Do we have water and electricity?!"

The grass outside shows barely a sprinkle of snow, children everywhere are disappointed they cannot make a snow man, and parents everywhere cannot understand why school was canceled.

I heat up the water and give Raphaela a bath, just in case.


We wake up to watery icy sludge on the street, and the Jerusalem Municipality announces that classes will begin at 10 am.  Raphaela, who has recently split open her chin in a fall at school, decides that she does not want to slip on the ice and she would rather stay home.  Besides, if she  goes outside she will have to wear pants, and HRH the Princess simply does not wear pants. It is undignified.

I don't care one way or the other, all my patients have canceled through the weekend.  Instead, I heat up the water and take a shower, wash the dishes in the sink, back up my iPhone and throw in a load of laundry, religiously following the Girl Scout model IE "Be Prepared."

Slogging through the slush, Raphaela and I arrived at her Gan, with half the parents keeping their children home because of dangerous road conditions, and the teachers shouting and freaking out because of the danger of the streets and sidewalks.  I assure Raphaela that her teacher is not shouting at her, they are just all angry at the rain and the snow.

I consider not taking Raphaela to English class today, because there is no way in hell my car is moving out of the driveway.  I have parked in a spot that hopefully this year, when the "real snow" arrives tonight and tomorrow, it will not be buried under a fallen tree like last year.

A normal night IE bath and dinner and a little bit of Dora the Explorer and surprise NOT, school has been canceled for tomorrow in anticipation of the "real storm" that thus far has eluded the esteemed weather forecasters.

Friday Morning

The snow was supposed to have begun around four am, at 8:30 am there isn't even rain, never mind the Storm to End All Storms.  I haven't worked for three days now, Raphaela has begun to go stir crazy inside the house and away from her friends and her normal routine.

The Municipality damn well better make up these lost days of classes somewhere along the way.
At the very least, these days of bogus vacation have granted me the opportunity to spend time with my daughter, and appreciate the small and yet essential conveniences in life.

(The saddest little snow man in Jerusalem.)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Great Revelations

For a while now, Raphaela has spoken of this group of imaginary Kindergarten superheroes, a game that she plays with two of the boys in her class called "Team Alpha."  Apparently they wield swords and guns and fight the bad guys, and they have all sorts of secret passwords and equipment.

This morning Raphaela was stomping on the floor quite forcefully, and I asked her what she was doing.  She replied that she was killing the "evil cucumber."  I responded that it seemed a little cruel, after all, how much harm could a cucumber do?

Raphaela said, very seriously, "Team Alpha is not kind to vegetables. Only to people and animals."


Normally when I shower in the morning, I set up breakfast for Raphaela to keep her busy and satisfied for that fifteen minutes or so that I need for myself.  This morning, after I got out of the shower, Raphaela ran over to me, flush with excitement.

"Mommy, you will never believe what happened!  I took some of my corn flakes and my Cheerios and put them inside my cup that had chocolate milk.  It was so delicious!  Why didn't I think of doing that before today?!"

[An Aha Moment akin to that classic television commercial, "You put you chocolate in my peanut butter!]

Raphaela continued exuberantly , "Mommy, you must taste this!  How about you and I have cereal and chocolate milk tomorrow morning for breakfast, together."

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Hell, No! Please No Snow!

It may start snowing in the whole of Israel, including Jerusalem, starting Tuesday night, and continuing (depending upon which app you have on your iPhone) through Friday.  Last year we did not have water or electricity for three days, in an already typically frigid non-insulated Jerusalem apartment.

This week Raphaela is supposed to have a ballet recital, I am meant to meet with my accountant across town, and on Friday Raphaela's potential elementary school scheduled a parents' day/Open House.  Among other things in our regularly programmed week, including me making a living and Raphaela and my first born feline, Harry "The Highlander," not being stuck at home for several days.

Last night I told Raphaela that it might snow this week, and she started crying.  First, she told me she was crying because of the trauma we suffered last year. "I want to be able to flush a toilet," she wailed.  Then she told me that she was crying JUST thinking about the street cats that we feed;  what will they eat if it snows, where will they be warm if it snows, etc. 

It did not comfort her that weather men and woman can often be wrong or at the very least off base.  I assured her that we would have food, that there was plenty I could cook on a gas-powered stove top, even without electricity, God Forbid. (That is, assuming of course, we have running water.)

We can in fact live without phones, television, Wi-Fi and the computer for a few days, if we have to. (Right?)

Raphaela did smile for a moment when she remembered that one of our street cats is named " the frost!" she said.  "She will be OK in the snow."