Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Time Out

It has been almost three years since we returned from a family visit in the United States, and Raphaela decided that my bed is far cozier than hers; she had gotten used to being in the same room as me when we were overseas.

I have tried many methods and bribes to get her back into her own room, none successful for more than one night.

Last night Raphaela had excess energy to the point of misbehaving, and after giving fair warning, she received a time out and a punishment:  we were going to pass on our bedtime story and I needed her to sleep in her own bed, to quiet her body and her mind, and give me some space.  She cried, talked to herself for a while, but eventually settled into her bed and fell asleep.

Having lasted in her room the entire night, she woke me up this morning and told me how wonderful she felt in her own room and her own bed, how warm it was and how nice it is to have her dolls with her.  "Mommy, maybe not reading to me was a punishment, but sleeping in my own bed is not a punishment at all."

Mission accomplished?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Deer Sighting!

With a beautiful national park right down the street from our house, Raphaela and I have frequented the Jerusalem Deer Reserve four times since it opened its doors and today, finally, we spotted actual deer (to be more accurate, gazelle)!  Three of the smaller animals came to the main pond to drink, and all of us sitting there raised a big cheer...whereupon they ran into the field and hid, blending into the tall grass.

At one point Raphaela needed the bathroom, and we were too far away from the only option available to us at the main gate of the park.  Surrounded by nature and not another soul in sight, I told Raphaela to go into the field and hide behind a tree and take care of it.  Several minutes later a clearly American couple could be heard saying, "These Israeli children are disgusting, violating a national park!" That made me the mother of this Israeli child, and hearing their heavily accented Hebrew, I felt the need to reply. I calmly explained in English that she is five and a half and can't "hold it in," and besides, we are not littering per se.  "You disgust me, you Israelis!" was the reply.  I guess after 18 years in this country, I am now officially an Israeli.

On the way home, Raphaela fell and skinned her knew and elbow badly.  I happened to have brought wipes with me, and used them to clean the wound; a man passing by then happened to have a Band-Aid in his pocket.  As I applied the Band-Aid, Raphaela hugged me tight and said, "I am so lucky to have a Mommy who is a doctor!  I wish everyone could have a Mommy like mine."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

In Loving Memory

Yesterday, I and several other parents in the Gan had a minor discussion with the head teacher, when she implied that the boy's job is to fight bravely in the Israeli Army, and the girl's job is to adore their men and give them flowers.

Today, when the siren sounds in honor and memory of the 23,320 fallen soldiers since the founding of the State of Israel, all the children in my daughter's school will stand in silence and contemplation, together:  the kids of both the secular and the religious kindergartens, and the elementary students from grade one to six of the art school.  As it should be, because we are all Israelis living in this country thanks to the sacrifice of these men and women, including the 116 who died in the last year.

We put all our differences aside today, to bless these brave souls and the families who lost them.

Tonight, when we transition from mourning to joy, we stand united again.
Happy 67th birthday to Israel, and all its inhabitants.

Opening the Floodgates

Over the course of my life, I have done various sessions of therapy and personal coaching, to help me work out both latent and active issues that I felt were sabotaging my success and happiness.  It was after a year of directed coaching with an amazing psychologist in Jerusalem that I could commit to bringing the person who was eventually Raphaela into the world.

The one problem I have always had with therapy is that even under the best circumstances, this digging and re-evaluation opens up wounds that then sit and fester, until the work to heal them is done.

This past week, I posted a spot-on article on my Facebook feed, which explained seven (out of the many) least helpful statements to say to an actual single mother, no matter how thoughtful the intentions.  To my surprise, it spurred a string of honest and often heart rending comments from several of my Jerusalem friends, also single mothers by choice.  I have always known any parent - and certainly a woman who has no family in the region and has chosen to parent alone - suffers through bouts of doubt, loneliness, anger and frustration.  In fact, in between the amazing and fulfilling moments, being a mother is hard and involves a tremendous amount of personal sacrifice.

But for the first time since Raphaela was born, I was hearing concrete and intense personal vulnerabilities from women whom I consider the bravest heroines I know; women whom you almost never hear complain about who we are and what we do every day for our children.  Their courage and openness gave me the strength to talk about events I have never spoken about to anyone, for fear of being accused of "having gotten myself into something that I cannot handle," and for fear of asking for help when I most truly needed it.

Here's the unfortunate outcome of this blessed event:  now, for the past few days, I am carrying around all these open wounds and real traumas that I have borne in silence for the last seven years, ever since I began fertility treatments. I find myself with much less patience for my life and my daughter, feeling trapped and somehow cheated,  and trying very hard not to take it out on Raphaela.  Because none of this is her fault and because we both deserve a life of positivity and joy.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Marvelous Monday

The morning started with a bang.  While I was in the shower, our cat Harry caught a baby bird in mid-air, brought it back to the windowsill and ate it.  Raphaela watched the whole thing with a combination of horror and enthusiasm, and was most impressed that he did not "waste his food";  though I heard her chastising Harry afterwards, saying to him, "Now don't eat any more birds, OK?"  Harry has been staking out that birds nest since February, waiting for his chance; I give him credit for his patience and his alacrity, not bad for a 13 year old feline.

Once I dropped Raphaela off at school, for time since before the extra-long Pessach vacation, I did a real run in Gan Sacher, with real sweating and fat burning aerobic activity.  With no specific motivation for staying in shape IE no family event or marathon, I must remember the feeling of elation and commit again to continuing the workouts.

Meanwhile, in Gan, Raphaela had a show-and-tell gig.  Until now, children in her class had brought in their sea shell collection, or a favorite doll, or a soccer ball.  Raphaela decided she wanted to talk about her ballet class.  Which led into (naturally) including selections of paintings of Degas's ballet dancers, her favorite artist.  Which meant that she also felt the need to create her own pastel drawing and add that into the presentation.  Sounds more like a small art history thesis to me, I am proud of Raphaela for making these connections and creating an ambitious presentation.

Raphaela's Nature class finished off the day.  I cannot remember my childhood feeling this busy.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Oh, How I Wish...

"Oh, how I wish you would give me a little brother or sister!"

That has been a common refrain the last two weeks, though I keep explaining that one does not simply order a baby from the store or wish it into existence.
We were walking home from Gan one day with Raphaela's friend and her very pregnant mother, and Raphaela asked her, "Are you pregnant or are you just getting fat?"

Yesterday Raphaela and I walked to the new Gazelle Nature Reserve near our house and spent a lovely Shabbat morning there, so comfortable we were in the puffy beanbag sofas that we could have stayed there all day.  Every time a woman walked by, Raphaela would jump up and ask them, "Do you have a baby inside your stomach?" Israel being Israel, it so happened that every woman she asked answered  yes.

But I was most pleased when my daughter told one of these women, "You know, once you have a baby, you can do and be anything that you want, even when you are a Mommy.  Like, my Mommy is a doctor and a Mom, and she can even be a doctor when she will be a Grandma."

Score one for the home team, someone is listening to my feminist ramblings.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Kardashian Syndrome

Internet goddess Kim Kardashian, her husband Kanye West, their two old daughter North and the 'fragile' Kardashian sister, Khloe, landed their private plane in Ben Gurion earlier this week for a brief visit, along with their support staff and their massive marketing machine.  Immediately, a group was set up on Facebook to follow their every move, with abundant tweets begging Kanye to arrange a free concert.  The magical duo were featured on the covers of every major Israeli newspaper, and the info-tainment industry will probably air a special program on the outfits they all wore to little North's baptism.  Rabid hordes of fans began to stake out hotels and high-end restaurants in Jerusalem, with the hopes of spotting, and maybe even, yes, touching the sparkly celebrity couple.  As if simply being near their assets (pun intended) would rub off on the common folk in some small way.

Who cares, really.  This is a woman who comes from a family more than eager to prostitute themselves for fame and fortune.  We have suffered through daily updates about Kim's gynecological issues and her frequency of love making, her sister's painful divorce, her other sister's dysfunctional non-marriage, her step-father's transgender evolution, and her brother's spiral into mental illness.

I feel dirty just reading that last sentence.

Kimberly even used the Armenian Genocide to manipulate a photo opportunity. Her husband, Kanye West, is at the very least a thug and an anti-Semite, a rapper who felt it appropriate to humiliate a disabled man at one of his concerts;  one of the human beings least qualified for public admiration.

You could argue that I am reacting out of jealousy. After all, I don't have a full make-up and wardrobe team, my apartment could fit inside one of their walk-in closets, and Kimye's clothing budged rivals the GNP of our small country of Israel.  Whereas I can only dream of actually being able to afford a home of my own, something modest in Jerusalem, the Kardashians flew in for two days to purchase a multi-million dollar penthouse in Tel Aviv, on a whim.

This is not about envy, I pity this family for having strayed so far from the norms of basic decency.  I do not aspire to my own reality program, I have enough to deal with on a daily basis in my real life, between single parenting and living in a country surrounded by our genetic cousins who want to wipe us off the map.

This rant is about the Kardashians, the Honey Boo Boos and the Toddlers with Tiaras. The parents who find it praise-worthy to exploit their offspring and actively place their children in harm's way, in order to make a buck.  It is not a far leap from the 21rst century mental illness called "Kardashian Syndrome" to the ongoing tragic news story coming out of Maryland.

It is this same set of skewed and twisted values that allows two Jewish parents to purposely send their ten year old Rafi and his younger sister Devorah alone to the park, so they can be picked up by local police and held hostage for several hours by CPS.  After, all, when the authorities in Maryland have already threatened to remove their children from the home forever, why take that seriously?  And now that the parents are suing the local police, they can expose their children to even more trauma, forcing them to testify in court and relive the nightmare.

The more drama, the better the reality show...

All to make a point about Free Range Parenting and American Constitution, whatever that point may be; and more importantly, to stand in front of the camera while the mother weeps crocodile tears and the father grins with giddy excitement, soaking in the attention from the media.

Let's end the 15 minutes of fame of these parents, the Kardashians and their ilk.  If we really care about our own children and their future, let's stop elevating pond scum into false gods.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Perspective, The Breasts Edition

Raphaela was nursed for one and a half years, until I had to be hospitalized for an emergency appendectomy.  My breasts served her cause well.

When Raphaela was about two and a half, I told her that when she was  a new baby, the milk from my breasts were her major source of nutrition.  Her facial expression read "confused" and somewhat "horrified."

This morning as I was getting dressed, she observed, "Mommy, your breasts are dancing! When are mine going to start growing?"

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Post Holiday Report

Pessach food unopened:  one jar of gefilte fish, one package of matza, four packages of rice cakes
Pessach food unfinished:  Pessach coconut cookies
Appropriate non Pessach breakfast items in the house this morning:  Less than Zero

Skill set to practice for next year, Mom:  properly flipping a matza brei, so it doesn't fall apart
Tours/trips for the next big vacation:  Herodian, Beach weekend, Cinema City
Amount of time the television was used as a baby sitter:  Way too much for my taste.
Skill set for Raphaela, now that Spring has arrived:  riding her bike, swim lessons

Number of Days not worked in clinic:  Nine days
Panic level for my finances this month:  9/10
Days until next Israeli holiday vacation:  10
Our first taste of chametz took place around two in the afternoon, when we stopped at our favorite bakery, after camp.  In a day of bizarre weather, hail stones battered the streets of Emek Rephaim for less than five minutes, and then melted almost immediately.
Raphaela said, "I think God has mistaken us for the Egyptians."
Later today, we went to the supermarket to restock, and I handed Raphaela one bag to carry upstairs.  She slung it over her shoulder in dramatic fashion and started singing in Hebrew, "We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt..."

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Pessach Vacation II

Day Three
Despite the phenomenal heat wave in Jerusalem, we returned to the newly opened Nature Reserve near our house, and because of the hoards of holiday people, the deer remained hidden.  Once the mad crowds die down and children go back to school, Raphael and I will walk there - it's less than ten minutes from our house - and observe the wildlife.
Even without the deer sightings, it is a beautiful and serene place.

Day Four
The Prophet Elijah (or at least his human proxy) finished the cup of wine last night and left a note in Hebrew for Raphaela, "Thank you for the delicious wine!  Happy Pessach, all my blessings, the Prophet Elijah."

Raphaela was of course ecstatic, and wants to start a regular correspondence, reasoning that if we write the Prophet's name on an envelope and put it in the mail box, the letter will most definitely arrive at its destination.

Though we still have plans to make a trip to the Old City before the end of the holiday vacation, today promised to be even hotter than yesterday, so we had brunch with friends who are visiting from the United States, followed by a BBQ with Israeli friends.
Finally today, a decent cup of coffee and a filling dinner.

Day Five
The heat wave broke last night, leaving Thursday cloudy and a bit chillier, a perfect day for a local day trip after several days of sweating.  The closer we got to the Old City, the sunnier it got, and the more pleasant our walk.

Raphaela as usual was in charge of distributing our spare change to those asking for charity, and one of the more elderly women physically captured my daughter into hug, praising her for being a "Mitzvah Girl."  I also gave Raphaela some money to spend on herself, as a reward for her generosity and altruism; she bought herself a new book.

When I asked Raphaela what she prayed for today, she said that she asked for Love, she thanked G-d for keeping us safe, and then asked G-d to send her a father.  Raphaela also took some photos with my camera, she wanted to "practice being a Mommy."

She was full of fabulous questions today, like: "Why does Israel need a President AND a Prime Minister?" "How does God read all those notes that people put in the Wall?" She also wanted to know the background stories behind the names of all the gates to the Old City of Jerusalem; I actually couldn't answer her, and promised that I would look it up on the internet when we got home.

To finish off our vacation, Raphaela agreed to taste my matza brei, which so far has been lacking in consistent quality.  We have barely gone through a half of a small box of matza, and for that I am proud.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Pessach Vacation 2015 (Part I)

Upon returning from Seder with my brother and his family, and upon rejoicing that we as Israelis have the most excellent privilege of only going through that ritual once, our stomachs celebrated as well.  Thus we began our full week of vacation.

Day One

In the morning we went to the Bible Lands Museum, where Raphaela seemed actually nervous and uncomfortable around the tour guides dressed as Pharaoh. She kept telling herself out loud, "They are just wearing costumes, they are just wearing costumes..." I assured her that that kind of slavery would not fall again upon the Jewish people.  (Though I cannot give her any real assurances about Iran and the threat of global nuclear destruction.)  In the afternoon we walked to the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, where the guard thanked us profusely for not driving there.  The exposure to sunlight after a bizarre Winter and the laid-back bonding time did us both a world of good.

In what seems to becoming a tradition for the past few years now, Raphaela has requested that we continue to welcome the Prophet Elijah into our house, even once the Seder has passed.  So she left a full cup of grape juice out on the counter when she went to sleep, and can't wait to wake up tomorrow and see if he took a sip.

Day Two
We arrived at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo ten minutes before it opened, got an excellent parking space and within an hour the place was predictably beyond crowded.  I am not sure who would win the competition today of the most people squeezed into a limited area, the Zoo or the Old City (for the official Priestly Blessing ceremony).  Raphaela especially wanted to see the newest couple, the lions Ziv and Ayisha, and we met up with our cousins for lunch on the lawn near the lake.

My daughter would not share her snacks with me, the Pessach picnic I had so thoughtfully packed for us, reasoning, "Mommy, I am doing this for your own good. I don't want you to get fat!"

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Twas the Week Before Pessach

When I showed Raphaela some of the goodies (relatively speaking, for this holiday) that I had bought for Pessach, she spontaneously exclaimed, "You are the great greatest Mommy!"


The weather continues to vacillate between full-on Summer and the threats of the return of rain and Winter.  Raphaela suggested, "We should carry our umbrella with us, that way it won't rain." She laughed and continued, "We will have played a big joke on the clouds!"


I was describing to Raphaela the mob scene that we would face at the supermarket before the holiday, and she came up with this insight:  "Why, that sounds like the plague of Locust."


We attended the grand opening of the Gazelle Nature Reserve, an oasis less than ten minutes from our house (walking distance), across the street from Raphaela's ballet class.  Raphaela was so busy examining a pair of lady bugs under her nature magnifying glass that we both barely registered the Mayor of Jerusalem, Nir "Batman" Barkat, walking right past us.
After work and errands, we end up at the local bakery almost every day for a quick cookie and cup of something warm and comforting.  As the week goes on, the display window gets more and more empty, just as our own shelves at home become less and less populated with chametz.  He really does make the best coffee in town, and I will sorely miss it for the next week and a half.
At home, having run out of breakfast cereal, Raphaela is eating things like canned corn and fruit salad for breakfast.
Raphaela announced with pride, "We almost finished all the junk food we got on Purim from the Mishloach Manot!  I didn't think we could do it..."
Just as every child awaits the annual Purim costume catalog, today we received the annual Pessach toy catalog, toward the ritual of Afikoman presents after the night of Seder.  Of course my daughter picked out everything Elsa and Anna (from Disney's Frozen), unaware that I have already ordered a special gift; with the hopes that this activity will get us well through the week of vacation next week.  I bought her a play house that one must first color and then construct,.
Assuming it is no more complicated than a piece of furniture from IKEA, we should be OK.
In cleaning the house, I have come across puzzles and toys that Raphaela has outgrown and probably not even played with for the last few years.  Normally (to avoid potential debate and trauma)  I donate these toys to an organization during the day, when Raphaela is not home to catch me in the act.   As we will be having Seder with my brother and his family this year, and as my daughter seems to have matured, I asked her if she would agree to give these items to her younger cousin, who is not even two years old.  Raphaela immediately agreed, and even went around the house with me to find things I may have missed. 
She's a great kid, she's a keeper.