Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Raphaela knows Murphy's Law, as it specifically applies to the rain IE if you take your umbrella outside the house, it will not rain upon you.  I learned that the hard way, when it poured on top of me for five minutes as I walked out of the supermarket this week, cart fully loaded, no umbrella in my hand.

This morning we left the house for school, holding recyclables and lunch box and back pack and pocket book and her art portfolio, and we forgot the umbrella.  About half way through, I realized our fatal error and Raphaela insisted that we go back home.

Instead, I suggested that we trick the looming rain clouds and tell them that the portfolio was actually hiding our umbrella.  What ensued was a little play in which we bluffed the grey skies, Raphaela felt very proud of herself when we got to school safe, and dry.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Why and How

Lately, Raphaela is in this beautiful place intellectually where her curiosity factor seems to have expanded exponentially.  She wants to know how and why everything works, she wants to understand where everything fits into the larger picture. And she has started asking questions about my life in a detailed and interested way.

We spent an hour yesterday exploring every icon on the desktop, pressing every button to see what it did to the screen. It was as much an adventure for me as it was for her, as I am technologically challenged.

She asked me a series of questions about my medical degree and education.  How much homework did I do? How many years did it take to become a doctor?  Where are all my notebooks and school books, "are there more than one hundred"? After perusing my library, she chose a book about how to make natural herbal medicine from food in the house, and decided that we should mix up a batch of something.

Raphaela also wanted a play-by-play of every moment from my first labour pains and until I held her in my arms for the first time.

In the bath last night, in between splashing and playing, we did linguistic comparisons between English, Hebrew, French and Spanish;  Raphaela counted to ten in all four languages and noted that many of the words sound the same, because they share the same root.

This morning while I was packing her lunch box, she followed the electrical cords of all the appliances in the kitchen to their source, to understand where they plugged in.  Then she showed me how to use the microwave, a skill she picked up in school where they warm up their meals if need be.  "You just set the time and press this button, Mommy, easy peasy.  Why don't we use the microwave oven at home more often?"

When Raphaela was a baby, I could chart her progress through visible and substantial achievements, like walking or adding words to her vocabulary, or telling me that she wanted to walk into her nursery classroom by herself, because she was a "big girl now."

Her accomplishments these days are more subtle but no less exciting and impressive.

Right now, Raphaela has decided that when she grows up she wants to be an artist, a Zoo Keeper/Veterinarian, a dancer and a Mommy.  Nothing wrong with a little ambition, and I will surely be proud of her as long as she finds a path that brings her joy and satisfaction, and changes the world just a little.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Alarm radio in the background, it is not yet six am, and Raphaela wakes me up this morning:

"Mommy, the radio said that there are bad guys and Israeli soldiers, and that the Israeli soldiers will not get killed when they shoot the bad guys.  Maybe when all the bad guys are gone, my father can come home to us. I miss him and I want to show him how much I have grown."

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

For the past few days, Raphaela and I have been trying to save a new black and white kitten in our garden, obviously abandoned by the mother.  We have been largely unsuccessful in teaching this kitten to do anything that would insure survival, like eating or drinking or bathing itself.

But we keep going, hoping the situation will change, and I know that this exercise is teaching Raphaela compassion.

Until this morning that is, when I went outside and found the kitten dead.  I don't know what I am going to tell Raphaela when she gets home from school today.  I am seriously waffling between sugar coating the whole story - "He went home to his Mommy." - or telling her the truth.

At some point in the relatively near future, we will have to deal with the death of a pet head on, as our cat Harry "The Highlander" is 13 and a half years old.

If I decide to tell her the truth, it will be a good lesson I suppose, though a harsh one.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Ear Piercing Adventures

In our family, it is a tradition to wait until the age of 12, until Bat Mitzvah, to get pierced ears.  That is what I tell Raphaela when she asks to get them pierced sooner, that it must be when you are aware enough and responsible enough to take care of the post-piercing procedures, by yourself.

My grandmother took me to get my ears pierced right before my Bat Mitzvah, at a jewelry store in Providence, Rhode Island.  My ten year old brother came with us and he was going through his "gun stage." He stood next to me and set the scene which left me crying, "They're using this cool gun and they are going to shoot your ear off and there is going to be blood  and body parts EVERYWHERE!"

Actually, this brother never outgrew his gun stage:  after years as a successful investment banker he became a beat cop, so he could legally carry guns and threaten people as an office of the law.  Not counting the 12 or so hunting rifles he keeps in his house.  He remembers that day because not long after we left the jewelry store, it got robbed.  My brother thinks that is really cool.

After I made aliyah, I decided that I needed to do a "Tikun" [a Hebrew Kabbalah term for spiritual repair] of that original experience.  So I went and got a third hole, which eventually closed up.  I remember when my mother saw the third earring, she started to hyperventilate and point, barely speaking, "Why a third ear....ring!"

"Don't freak out Mom," I told her. "This has nothing to do with my sexuality, I still like boys. It's just a fashion statement in Israel, nothing more.  And I promise there are no earrings hiding on my belly button or my tongue or anywhere else. I am too afraid of pain to do something stupid like that."

Flash forward to this past September, when inexplicably, one of my earring holes closed up, in my right ear.  Confident it was just a minor glitch, I tried to push an earring through to reopen it, and there was lots of blood (but thankfully not body parts) everywhere.  So today I am going to get my ear re-pierced, as well as reopening the third piercing.

I am going to try to be brave.  Wish me luck.

Next Step for my Favorite Foodie

This morning I was running late, and I pushed both myself and Raphaela out of the house;  I don't like being late anywhere, and certainly I want Raphaela to arrive in a timely way to school.

About half way through our walk, I remembered that I had set aside part of Raphaela's lunch on the counter, and that I had not put it in her lunch box.  Turns out, my daughter took care of it all by herself.

I told Raphaela how proud I felt that she was taking responsibility, how amazed I was at how much she had grown and how aware she had become of her surroundings.  "At this rate", I exclaimed, "you will be making your own lunches every morning."

Raphaela smiled broadly and straightened her back, so pleased to be offered a 'Mommy job' and truly feeling her grown-up First Grade-ness.  "Amazing," she mused. "I will get to decide what kind of lunch I eat, if it's dairy or meat, if it needs to be heated up or not."

I could already hear her menu planning in her head.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Caught in the Middle of a War and my Profession

I have several Arab/Palestinian patients, though they don't come in for treatment on a regular basis.

During this time in Israel where any Arab could potentially pull a knife on any Jew, anywhere in Israel,  I had not thought about the implications on my work, until this morning.  A Palestinian patient of mine who works for the United Nations called and said that he needed an emergency appointment.

I know him.  I have treated him over the years, and in the sense that I am mostly a good judge of character, he has in the past not seemed like the kind of person who would stab his Jewish doctor.

(NOTE:  Most of the Palestinians who have been actively involved in terror attacks have come from East Jerusalem, they are Israeli-Arabs with a fair amount of wealth and are gainfully employed, fully enjoying the benefits the Israeli life has to offer.)

On the other hand, when I am taking all sorts of precautions in my life, and in the life of my daughter, a part of me went into a panic when he asked to schedule.  I have sworn an oath as a doctor to help all humans, regardless of race, religion or color.  But what good am I to anyone, especially my own child, if I let this person into the office and he ends up hurting me, or killing me?

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Reality from Jerusalem, Israel

I am not going to delve into the political, historical and religious underpinnings of the current Blood Libel/Pogrom/Intifada that is currently taking place all over Israel, compounded by the irresponsible and frankly, ridiculously biased treatment of Israel by the American administration, the United Nations and the international media.

I am not going to describe how I feel as a parent, dropping my daughter off at school every day, terrified and wondering if the one armed security guard is actually capable of protecting anyone, as he cannot be in all places at the same time.

Today I spoke to Raphaela's First Grade teacher and asked her if the girls seem to be affected in terms of focus or fears by the events of the past two weeks.  She explained that they had a brief discussion in class, in which they clarified that there are good people and bad people in the world;  they talked about how parents might be asking them to be more aware and more careful, and how maybe it is not the best time to ride on your bike alone and far away from the house these days.

Her teacher explained that she purposely held this forum right before the morning prayers, to emphasize that there is only so much that we can control, only so much that their parents can do to be extra-careful, and that through prayer we put our faith in a higher power, one that is meant to protect us and bring us comfort in the bigger picture.  Thankfully, Raphaela's teacher reported that most of the girls seem to be clueless and as happy-go-lucky as ever.

For my own part, I have not shared the gory and scary details with Raphaela.  She knows that there are people out there today who do not want what is best for Jews, just as there has been throughout our history:  Nimrod (who tried to kill Abraham), Pharaoh (who enslaved and tried to kill the Jewish people), Haman (who tried to wipe out all the Jews under the rule of Persia), Babylon (who destroyed the Temple and exiled most of the Jews from Israel),  Hitler (The Shoah, six million Jews and several other million non-Jews), Idi Amin (Raphaela learned the story of Operation Entebbe), Arabs etc.

As far as Raphaela is concerned, this current state of undeclared war is just a continuation of history, "so let's go to the zoo." Except that the zoo is a wide open space and full of potential targets, so I as a parent do not feel comfortable taking her there. Instead, we have scheduled lots of indoor play dates.  These days we don't dally before and after errands, we do what we must and get home as quickly as possible. 

These days, the streets of Jerusalem are pretty empty, and there is a small canister of pepper spray hiding inside my pocket book.

On the way back from the supermarket this week, five police vans zoomed past us in the other direction of traffic toward one of the multiple attacks of the day, sirens blazing, and my heart sank. I sighed visibly, and Raphaela asked me what was wrong.  I replied that there was lots of traffic, and that I just wanted to get home safely.

The other day, picking up Raphaela from school, a little girl from her class and her older sister seemed to be scared and confused, because the building was closing for the day and their parents were not there yet.  "Don't worry," said her older sister, "we will just walk home by ourselves." I would not allow it, I called their mother and told her that they were coming with me, and that they could stay with us as long as they needed to.

Last night, as Raphaela sat in the bath tub, we could hear the endless stream of helicopters and police and ambulances outside.  Raphaela said, "Oh, so many sirens! Maybe someone is really really sick.  Or maybe a woman is about to give birth and she has to get to the hospital really quickly."

I am OK with that level of denial for now, she's only six years old.  One of us has to sleep at night.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Overheard and observed, while Raphaela was playing and having a conversation with her imaginary brother:

"I wish I could be as smart as you, Raphaela!"
"My brother, unfortunately you're just not that bright."

Monday, October 12, 2015

Who's on First...Grade

As we were getting ready for school this morning, while I was putting on make up and getting dressed, and Raphaela was packing her back pack.  So, I wasn't really paying attention, as we were in separate rooms in the house, and I wanted to stay on schedule.

Then came a call from far away, which made my Mommy Spidey Senses tingle:

"Mommy, I forgot because I wasn't really paying attention in class yesterday and no one wrote it down for us, but we need two new notebooks.  I think one for art and one for, um, something else."

"You mean besides the notebooks and the art pad that we already bought at the beginning of the year?"

"I don't really remember what they look like."

"Well how can I buy them for you if you don't remember and cannot give me any reasonable explanation of what you need?"

"The teacher said, that those who have it 'Good job' and those who don't, have to get it."

"Are you one of the children who has it?  And again, what is 'it'?"

"I don't think so.  It's two notebooks, you know, notebooks!"

"Raphaela, did you know that there are 20 different types of notebooks, all shapes and sizes, in the store? If you actually need something, you and your teacher are going to have to be more specific.  I can't work this way."

"The kids who didn't have them yesterday, need to bring them in today."

"Bring it WHAT?"

"I don't know."

(I think, in addition to losing my voice, I gained a few gray hairs this morning.)

One hour later, after clarification with other parents on whatsapp, I finally understood that I needed to send in two new workbooks, that were in fact sitting at home. After hastily applying plastic covers and name tags, I drove them over to her school before my work day began.

Furthermore, in my asking about this confusion on the whatsapp group, I seem to have sparked a revolution of sorts, with various other parents replying that the system needs to be revised, as their girls forgot as well.  At least I wasn't the only one, it makes me feel,better about my parenting skills.

Deep Thoughts with RR

Today's Topic:  Friendships

RR:  Mommy, are the friends that I have now going to be my friends for the rest of my life?
Mom:  Not necessarily.  People go to different schools or move to a different town or even a different country.  You lose touch with your friends even if you don't want to.
RR:  So you can keep some old friends and make some new ones.
Mom:  Definitely, it is the natural evolution of people and relationships.
RR:  Mommy, who are your friends?
Mom:  Some of my older friends live in America, and some of my friends are here in Israel.  I have only one friend whom I have known since we were babies, and she lives here in Jerusalem.  My best friend when I lived in New York was a girl named Beth, and I don't know what she is doing now or where she lives.
RR:  No, what I mean is, who are your friends besides ME?
Mom:  You're right, I am your Mommy and I love you and I am also your friend.  But first I am your Mommy.
RR:  When did we first become friends?
Mom:  When you were growing in my tummy.  As you know, I chose to have you, and I loved you as soon as you became an idea in my head.
RR:  What did we do together as friends, when I was inside your tummy?
Mom:  Well, I used to play you music, and read you stories, and talk to you, a lot.  You went where ever I went, since you were inside me.
RR:  What stories did I like?
Mom:  I read you Dr. Seuss "Green Eggs and Ham," and the poem Jabberwocky. I had them both memorized by the time you were born.
RR:  And we will be friends forever and ever?
Mom: I will always love you.

Post script:  It must be said that until I graduated from high school, I saw it as some kind of personal failure if a friendship de-evolved;  I am glad to have had this conversation with my daughter at a younger age.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Observing the World At Six

One of the most amazing and more subtle elements of parenting is watching your child understand the world in a deeper, wider and more abstract way.

Raphaela and I had a conversation about Oscar the Grouch, from Sesame Street.  She asked me how he can walk if he is stuck in a garbage can, and where does he keep all his things.  And most important, how does Oscar go to the bathroom?

I explained that Oscar the Grouch's garbage can utilizes Time Lord technology, IE that it is "bigger on the inside." Just like the Doctor has bedrooms and a swimming pool in his TARDIS, Oscar has all the room he needs in his garbage pail home.  The explanation sat perfectly with Raphaela.

Later that day, we were reading the children's classic, "Go Dog Go," a work of literature that talks about Geopolitics, diversity and Dating Protocol underneath its simple exterior.  Raphaela asked me why the girl dog always seems to be angry at the boy dog, after he says, "I do not like that hat...Goodbye!"

Raphaela observed, "I mean, it's just a hat. Who cares if he doesn't like it?"

I explained that when the girl dog asks the boy dog if he likes her hat, what she is really asking is, "Do you like me?" And when the boy dog says he does not like the hat, but then takes a souvenir from said hat, the girl dog gets angry because the boy dog does not have enough courage to say he likes her.  And it doesn't seem to matter if these dogs meet on the street, at the ski Chalet, or at the Big Dog Party.

I also take the opportunity to point out that it is OK and in fact laudable that the girl dog takes the initiative in talking to (and asking out) the boy dog.

Of course at the end of the book, at the Big Dog Party, the girl dog is wearing the most fancy and beautiful and tempting hat the boy dog has ever seen.  Then the boy dog can say with gusto, "Oh yes, I do like that hat. I like that party hat."

When Raphaela asked me why the girl dog got into the boy dog's car and they drove away together after his enthusiastic response, I told her they were having a " date." 

It's a little early for the sex talk, I think.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

My Future Astronaut

Because I will never get to fulfill my desire to become an astronaut, I remain a proud space geek.  When signs of water were recently discovered on Mars, I excitedly explained this scientific news to Raphaela; where there is water, there is life, and it makes the place practically suitable for humans.

RR:  Why would we want to live on Mars?
Mom:  At the rate that we are going, we are going to need to move to another planet.
RR:  [basically unfazed] Why?
Mom:  We pollute the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the earth in which we grow our food.   Lots of Israelis throw litter on the street. We inject our meat with hormones and then we wonder why we have to work harder to stay healthy.  Al Gore says the planet will be uninhabitable in the year 2050.
RR:  But I love Israel and planet Earth!
Mom:  So do I, but human beings are not treating it so nicely.
RR:  Very well then, we will have to use the water on Mars, and build a house there, and bring a lulav and etrog.  And maybe some of our books and toys.  We need to build a synagogue as well, even though we can talk to God anywhere we like.
Mom:  Sounds like a plan.
RR:  But wait [here comes the panic], does Mars have volcanoes like Earth?
Mom:  I am sure there are some, as Mars is a rock and soil planet like Earth, just with lesser gravity and less access to sunlight.
RR:  Oh, that's not good at all...they are going to have clear out those volcanoes before we go to live there.  Not good at all!
Mom:  Volcanoes are somewhat unpredictable, they don't know exactly when it will erupt.
RR:  Well then, we should invent a cap that we can put on top of all the volcanoes, so the magma will stay inside and not become lava and destroy our colony.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Happy Tears

Though I am not usually one to praise organized religion, I must give credit to the local custom for Simchat Torah [literally translated as "The Joy of the Torah"].

We went to the synagogue down the road from our house, and half her class was there;  she immediately ran off with some of her friends and had me hold the Torah plush toy, which she and many other children in the building had brought to the festivities.

This day of the last day of the Succot holiday specifically celebrates endings and beginnings, the end of the Five Books and the beginning of the cycle with the reading of Genesis.  At a certain point, all the children in the synagogue are invited to stand under the tallit [prayer shawl] and get a blessing, and a prominent gentleman of the synagogue reads from the Torah.

I watched these proceedings from the Women's Section upstairs, and the view made me gasp:  you could not see the floor of the Men's Section as children covered every square inch.  (Like ants at a picnic.)  They sat in chairs and next to the reader and on the stage next at the front of the synagogue, almost 200 little people.

Before you praise their maturity and piety, let me add that they had been promised that if they behaved nicely, they would all receive a three-foot high bag of candies and treats, so these beautiful children had much incentive.

It took five men's tallit to cover the area and the heads of all the children, they said the blessing as a group and listened to the Torah reading, and then the parents sang a special prayer asking G-d and the angels to lead, guide and protect their offspring.

It moved me to tears, this idea of community and continuity, seeing a whole generation before my eyes, the next generation of Israeli children who will lead the way and change the world.

When Raphaela received the ginormous bag of candy as promised, she was moved to tears, "happy tears," as well.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Brief Comment on Middle East Politics

There are terrible things happening in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas right now, with three different terrorist attacks occurring in the last 24 hours.  Senseless violence that has left 14 children orphaned, while Abbas stands at the United Nations and declares that Israel will pay in blood.

Then media outlets like the BBC have the most absurd headlines, implying that the Israelis killed a Palestinian for no good reason, while coincidentally at the same exact time two Jewish men were stabbed to death in the same location in the Old City of Jerusalem by a mysterious someone. Barney the Dinosaur perhaps?  But certainly not the Arab holding the knife right next to their bodies and the body of a small Jewish baby.

The New York Times barely covered the murders, making vague reference within the context of the poor suffering Palestinians.  Wouldn't it have been rational to point out that after Oregon, there were no groups celebrating death and terror in the streets? Do the Americans remember the Palestinian festivities after 9/11?

When the Iranian regime screams "Death to Israel" and "Death to America" in front of the cameras, when they promise to use their first nuclear bomb to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, we Israelis are told that they "don't really mean it."  We, apparently, who live in daily fear for our land and our children, are "over-reacting," and have no right to defend ourselves against an existential threat.

These Arabs are not terrorist, they say, they are "freedom fighters." They deserve to have a flag fly at the United Nations, and they deserve to voice their solid commitment to slaughtering Jews in Israel, because they have suffered so.  No one mentions that there are 22 other Arab states in the region, and NONE OF THEM have offered to take them in or assist them.  No one mentions that most of the Palestinians would prefer to live under Israeli rule, rather their own people, because they know that Israel would not put missiles in their living rooms and their schools and their hospitals, and use their families as human shields.

I am not a politician, I am an American and I am an Israeli,  who chose to raise a family here, build a life here.  Personally I am tired of the rest of world telling us to roll over and play dead, no actually, be dead, because it makes it more convenient for the rest of them.

It is time we took care of our own without being afraid of the rest of world, because the rest of world wants us gone.
One of the nice aspects of Raphaela's class at Evelyna is the fact that many of her friends live quite literally down the street.

Yesterday, we met one of her friends on a walk, and the girls ran off together to play. Next thing I know she is inviting her self over to their house (Succah) for Shabbat lunch, and several hours later, she returned home, accompanied by her friend's father.  I was involved in approximately zero of these arrangements for a play date.

As well, Raphaela went on and on about the delicious lasagna she ate, and how from now on when I make the same dish she will not reject it.  Lasagna is her new favorite food, and she made particular notice of the fact that she did not "give up" easily and was willing to try something new.  At someone else's house.

I think we experienced an important milestone while I wasn't paying attention.