Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Goodbye and Farewell

This week has become a series of good-byes, from some of her teachers and her after-school activities, and one of our goldfish. Although she understands that the Summer vacation does eventually come to an end and she will return to her routine, I have witnessed lots of emotion and hugs.

Raphaela has a hard time with endings and separation.

I am going to add in one more farewell, and that is the retirement of this blog.

When I started this blog, I thought I could add something to the discussion, about fertility treatments, about pregnancy, about single motherhood and its place in a modern Jewish community.

When I started this blog, I also didn't quite realize that the internet never forgets, and that the world wide web gets everywhere on the globe.  As much as I may have contributed, I have probably also offended people without meaning to.  And for that I apologize.

There is another factor that has most recently become more relevant:  Raphaela has finished First Grade and is reading in two different languages. It will not be long before she can sit in front of the computer and find this blog and read it, all by herself.  For the most part, she will see how much I love her, how beautiful she is, inside and out, and how blessed I feel for having taken the step of becoming a single mother by choice.

There will also be posts that she will read about how hard it is to parent, alone or otherwise, and how not all of my days have been my finest of days.

I think I need to respect her privacy as a fully formed person, and I think that now is a good time to close this chapter.  I want to thank everyone who read until now, and I do hope that something I said helped you.

I will be keeping this blog open now and again, for future postings of photographs, but from now on, mine and Raphaela's life will stay behind closed doors, and closed computers.


I end with one last story:  When we were driving home from school the other day, I reminded Raphaela that once Summer vacation begins, we will be going away for a small trip, in honor of my birthday.

How old will you be, Mommy?


Wow, that's old!

Sorry, just joking, actually I will be 48 in July.

WOW, that's really old!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Summer Haircut

The heat in Jerusalem for the past two weeks has been unbearable.  I had gotten to the point where I was prepared to chop all my hair myself, and so I called my stylist two days ago, in the middle of the day, and declared a hair emergency. I begged him to find time for me in between his other clients, and my patients.

When I picked up Raphaela from school later that afternoon, she looked at my cool and breezy cut and gasped in horror:

Mommy, how could you, what have you done?!

What, you don't like my haircut? I love it!

I preferred it much better when your hair was long, like mine.  You are not going to make me cut my hair too, are you? I LOVE my Princess hair.

No!  You may keep your beautiful Princess hair as long as you want.

Thank goodness, that was a close call...

And the best part is, I can wear my hair short during this hot hot Summer, and then grow it long in the Winter again.

Well, at least that.  Thank goodness!

Saturday, June 18, 2016


This morning in synagogue (the one we like, finally) it was my turn to help with the youth group.  For the most part, it involved gathering about 45 kids into the room, and toward the end, pouring grape juice, and distributing ice pops.

Raphaela and her good friend ("C") sat there, surreptitiously waving at me and mouthing "Great job, Mommy."  She was very proud that her mother had a presence in the room, but played it cool in front of her peers.

A four year old boy sat next to the girls, and he had brought a sharp stick with him from the playground outside.  The kind of stick that you would find as a picture under the dictionary definition of Someone-Could-Lose-An-Eye.  At first he was waving it menacingly toward Raphaela and C, and I watched as my daughter told him to stop and be careful and to put the stick down, away from them and the other children.

As you would expect, he didn't listen much. 

This little play went on for close to ten minutes, and at a certain point, I saw C push her chair back, with a look of fear on her face, and I watched as the sharp end came dangerously close to my own child.

Having determined that this boy's parents were obviously no where near by, and realizing that the girls' non-violent efforts to stop him had failed miserably, I stepped in; I took the stick away, gave the boy a stern look and said, "If you can't be careful with this, you can't have it."

As I walked away, I heard Raphaela and C cheering, and then I heard Raphaela say, "She saved us, hooray!  Isn't a good thing that I have a Mommy like THAT?"

Postscript:  As we walked home from synagogue, Raphaela told and retold the story of their harrowing adventures, the adventure becoming bigger than life with each re-telling.  She said, "You know what I learned today from you?  I learned that you try to resolve a conflict without hitting, and without killing someone."

I think I need to refine the message just a little.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Love and Marriage

Mommy, when you get married...

I am not really dating anyone seriously right now.

I know, it's a theoretical questions.


So, when you get married, you will have another baby, right?  And I will have a brother or sister.

Not exactly.

But that's what happens: you get married, you have children.  (Patting my belly as she is talking)

First of all, I already had a baby, you!  Second of all, getting married does not determine pregnancy, it only happens if your body agrees.  And I don't think my body will agree to have any more children.

Mommy, I really hope you find a good man to marry. I want a Daddy to play with, and I can help both of you.

Raphaela, your job is not to take care of me, or your father. Your job is to help out a little, because you live in the house.  But more important, your job is to be a girl and experience the world and have a beautiful life.

Mommy, you deserve to have a beautiful life too!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Post Shavuot Report

(Random musings after a long holiday weekend.)

I believe in reincarnation, though I have not put too much thought into who Raphaela might have been in a previous life.  This weekend she was playing with some Playmobil figures, and said, "This family is very poor, because they used up all their life savings to buy their house, and now they don't have a financial safety net."

Seriously.  I am not making this up.  Apparently in her previous life she was very fiscally savvy.


Among the various Torah topics that came up during Shavuot were the Ten Commandments, and why some of them make sense intrinsically for society - "Don't Kill" "Don't Steal" - and why some are more difficult, like "Honor your father and your mother."  I explained that the Torah does not actually talk about love in this commandment, it is about respect for the person who brought you into the world.  It is about (in all practical terms) "listening to your Mommy."

Then I looked at Raphaela, straight in the eyes, and said, "The Torah talks about a child honoring and respecting her parents.  I will make you a deal:  if you listen to me and treat me with kindness, I will do the same for you.  Because you are my girl.  I will do the commandment of honoring you, your feelings and your needs."

Raphaela was most pleased.


She has become a shrewd negotiator, this girl.  I wanted to take a nap on Sunday of Shavuot, because I so rarely get that gift during my work week, in fact, never.  Raphaela wanted me to play with her, all day, and resented my taking two hours out of that schedule to sleep.

Then she suggested to me, "Mommy, we always take a nap on Shabbat, and when we wake up, you give me a special Shabbat snack.  If I let you nap on a Sunday, on Shavuot, will you give me a special Shavuot snack when you wake up?"

Deal!  Done and done.


Yesterday we spent some time at the Gazelle Valley near our house, and had a brunch picnic in the grass.  Remarkably, there was a group of three deer that had left the gated off sanctuary and were wandering around the park; they came within three feet of myself and Raphaela, we could almost pet them.  We were so excited and spend a good hour following this intrepid group around the grass and up the pathways, that I didn't notice that I had dropped my small bag.

When we sat down to eat, I realized that it was missing, and told Raphaela that if we didn't find it, so be it. It was not the worst tragedy in the world.

Then a little French boy walked by, and I noticed that he had my little pouch on his arm.  Raphaela jumped up and caught up to him, and said, "That is my Mommy's bag, can we have it back please?"  The boy agreed immediately and came over, telling us his and his whole family's life story;  they are moving to a bigger apartment, they are getting a dog, their exact address, his feelings on women who wear short-shorts...

I took him back to his parents and told them that he had done me a great kindness by finding my bag in the bushes and returning it to me without hesitation.  Parents should hear that they have done a good job, because we so often do not receive any external validation.

On Pessach, the first day of school vacation, Raphaela lost her first tooth.  On Shabbat, Raphaela lost her second tooth.

I explained that the Tooth Fairy does not work on Shabbat or Jewish holidays, and that she would have to wait until Monday night to place her Precious under the pillow.  Raphaela carried around that tooth for two days straight, to be sure that it would ready and able the minute the holiday ended.

She also wrote this letter, and folded it next to her tooth:

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A Visit to the Vet

I dedicate this post today to my first born, Harry The Highlander.  At the honorable age of 14 and a half (that's almost 80 in human years), this cat has taught me patience, and how to love without expecting anything in return.

At home, he is almost human:  needy for attention from people, extremely verbal, easy to purr even with strangers, and always placing himself at the center of any action.  When we go to the vet (thank goodness infrequently) he has been red-flagged by the doctor as a vicious, uncooperative, scratching tiger.  Even if he has to get a simple procedure, he must either be sedated or put in the Squeeze Cage.

Yesterday he had an appointment, and needed to get two injections.  As Harry gets older, the doctor has advised less shots and less intervention, so it was three years since our last visit.  It was a new vet, and I advised him that unless he didn't value his hands, it would be best to use the Squeeze Cage.

"But he looks so sweet and friendly," the vet said.
"Trust me." I replied.

Once caged, Harry allowed the vet and his assistant to do their work, not acting out at all, though  certainly complaining loudly the entire time. No humans were harmed in the attempt.

The vet thought that I had overestimated Harry's resistance to the doctor's office.
I know I didn't.  Because I heard about it all the way home, from Harry.

And finally, to show his displeasure, he ran into the garden and hid from me for the rest of the day, refusing to come inside as it got dark.

(Raphaela, who aspires to be a Veterinarian and Zoo Keeper when she gets older, found the whole experience hilarious.)

Friday, June 3, 2016

Chumash Party

Throughout this year, Raphaela and her classmates have been learning the stories of Genesis in depth.  Her teacher challenges them to think about the emotional implications of the stories as well IE "How do you think Noah felt when the dove didn't return to the Ark?"  "How do you think Adam and Eve felt when they were punished for not listening?"

Today, one month before First Grade officially ends, Raphaela received her official Chumash [Torah], covered in beautiful decorations and marking the time when she will start reading from the text itself; because now she can read in Hebrew all by herself.

This morning, while getting dressed, Raphaela's biggest concern was that her loose tooth would fall out during the performance on stage, in front of all the teachers and the visitors. I assured her that if her tooth dramatically popped out during the show, it would make it all the more enjoyable and memorable.

There was of course another twist to this celebration, grandparents were the honored guests, and having none in the country, Raphaela had to settle with me (boring Mom), and my brother.  Normally during the year, my daughter does not express regret or sadness at being relatively isolated from our family here in Jerusalem, Israel; in the last week we have had several conversations about all the people we love, who live far away.

There was singing and hand movements, speeches and plays, and the bit that always chokes me up, when they spread a giant tallit over all 80 girls and all the parents and grandparents gave them a blessing.

Afterwards, Raphaela's teacher asked me to give a short speech to the class about family and the chain of history that links us all. I was honored, and hope I did Raphaela proud.

All the way home, Raphaela hugged her Chumash like it was gold, and called it her "beautiful and holy book."  May she continue to grow in accomplishments and joy, and may I live a long and healthy life to be able to share in all these moving events.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Money Matters

Yesterday Raphaela had a day off from school; yes, yet another Jewish holiday in the series for the month of May.  We met up with cousins in the morning for breakfast, and then took advantage of International Free Museum Day.

For whatever reason, Raphaela seemed fixated on the topic of money and personal finances the entire day.

As we waited for the bus, Raphaela asked me what kind of grand celebration I had received when I turned 12.  I told her that when I was that age, no one made a big deal about girls, and other than a pretty standard birthday party in our backyard, the event came and went.  She seemed shocked and sad for me, because, she explained, I didn't get loads of presents.  Then she said, "Don't worry Mommy, when I have my Bat Mitzvah you can make me a fantastic party, and give me lots of presents."

When I took out coins to pay for the bus, Raphaela asked me where money comes from, and how did I (personally) have money to spend. I explained to her that I work very hard, and that I get paid for helping people feel better, and then I have money to take care of us.  Raphaela, proud of herself and her future earning capacity, told me that when she gets older she is going to be a Veterinarian.

"That's wonderful, " I said, "but right now you are a little girl who doesn't work. Your work is to go to school and learn great things, play with your friends and do your homework.  And you are too young to baby sit."  Then I explained the concept of an allowance, that if she does her specific jobs around the house all week, she will earn money, and she can then spend on herself or save toward something bigger.

Raphaela loved that idea, and starting next week, we have a chore chart.

When we met our cousins, my very Israeli daughter asked them how much money they make and basically, what is their net worth.  With a nervous giggle, I stopped Raphaela and explained to her that the question was not polite, and that it is really none of our business how much anyone else earns, or where they spend it.

Another life lesson for her to check off the list.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

This past Friday, as I prepared for Shabbat, Raphaela came into the kitchen and said, "Mommy, I can help you today. I do have two free hands."


We have a bird nest on the small shelf outside our bathroom.  The chicks are almost full bird-size at this point, and yet their mother continues to feed them, and they plant themselves firmly in their nest, refusing to even trying to fly into the real world.

Raphaela and I spent the last hour before Shabbat ended (what a long long Shabbat) watching an amusing play between the mother and her babies.  Excuse me if I misinterpret certain bird sounds.

Bird Mom:  What, you are still in the nest? Time for you to learn how to fly! (paces around the shelf near the nest)
Bird Babies:  What do you mean, time to leave?!  We like it here.
Bird Mom:  Well, I am not sticking around when you are perfectly capable of flying like a normal bird.  (Flies away)
Bird Babies:  (Heads bobbing wildly, they both step up to the ledge of the window)  Hey, did she actually leave us here?
Several minutes pass, the mother does not return, and the birds sit down stubbornly in their nest.


This morning, as I was getting Raphaela her breakfast, before I jumped into the shower to start my day, she watched me as I set out her cereal and milk, a glass of juice and a small piece of cheese.  As she took the food to her table, she said, "Mommy, you are like a waitress! How did you learn that?"


As we got ready to go to school, Raphaela admired my pocket book, and asked me what it was made of.  I hesitated for a minute and then said, "Honey, I know that you are a vegetarian and it hurts your feelings when you think about animals being killed and eaten.  So what I am about to tell you might not be nice for you."

She nodded seriously, and I continued, "We get lots of things from cows, food like meat and milk for drinking.  But leather, like my purse or like some kinds of shoes, also comes from a cow, it is their skin."

Surprisingly, she did not flinch, and instead admired how useful a cow could be for humans. Raphaela will not undo her vegetarian choice, but she is quite interested in understanding how milk starts from the cow and ends up in our supermarket.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Mirror Mirror

My mother had me at the age of 21, I don't know if she was ready to be a parent, but that's just what people did then.  My mother had her last child at the same age that I had my first and only daughter.

Some days I wake up and I feel like a grown up:  I have a responsible job where I help people feel healthy, I am in charge of my life and the social secretary for my daughter, I do volunteer work and generally, I am seen as a competent adult.  Other days I look at myself in the mirror and think, "Who is that? How did I get here?"

Raphaela has three birthday parties this week, and that of course started the massive communication among parents for car pooling.  I had agreed to take Raphaela and one of her close friends, and along the way I picked up two other girls from the class.  My car was full of gorgeous chattering first graders, one of whom belonged to me.

One of the girls in the car told me that when I send pizza for Raphaela's lunch, she and other kids in the class get jealous.  Another girl in the car said that I was a "Cool Mom" and that Raphaela was lucky to have me.

Seriously, when did I become that person trusted by other parents to drive their children?  When did I renew my expertise in hair accessories and sticker trading and Barbie?  When did my nerdy interests become cool for the next generation?

I once asked a friend if I "looked like a mother," and she said that I look like the right age and station in life to be a parent, without looking "old."  My friend also said that I seem like the kind of person who should have had more than one.

And yet some days, I feel like I need someone else to be the adult, or at the very least, I need a personal assistant.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Return of an Old Friend

It has been a few years since Raphaela has watched Dora the Explorer, she outgrew the fascination with a magical back pack and talking animals who live in the Amazon Rain Forest.  Dora never seemed to go to school, as she was too busy on her fantastical adventures, and her parents didn't seem to mind.

Recently, we discovered a new show called Dora in The Big City, in which Dora is a teenager, her family has moved out of their colorful isolated cabin in the Amazon and into a posh beachfront town.  Dora has one friend who is a boy (Pablo) and a group of girls who of course represent all the politically correct skin tones and ethnicities.  Dora has also traded in her magical back pack for a magical bracelet; at the end of each show, she and her friends hang out at a juice bar on the pier, and talk about how great it feels to help others.

Dora still does not seem to attend high school.

Well, yesterday we were channel hopping, and delighted in the teenage Dora show, because it was a reunion/cross-over with her old Explorer self.  Her best friend, the monkey Boots, needed help, because the Swiper the Thieving Fox stole Back Pack and Talking Map.  Which of course led to Dora and her troupe to travel by train plane and automobile, and boat, to the Amazon Rain Forest, her former home.

And of course we got to see all of her old friends: Benny the Strong Dumb Ox , Isa the Lizard Gardener, Tiko the Gay English speaking squirrel, Big Red Chicken, Roberto the Robot, etc.  They hadn't changed a bit, and I found myself getting choked up as well.

What impressed me most was that the fox not only acknowledged his stealing ways, but he also showed genuine remorse and helped locate the items.  A redemption of sort for the character, except for that brief moment when he contemplated grabbing Dora's magical bracelet.

At the end of the show, after they did the stupid kid Dora dance and sang of a mash up of the new and old series song, all the new and old characters had a sleepover in Dora's TARDIS-like tree house (bigger on the inside) in her backyard, in the Big City.  As Dora said, and as I concurred, "We were all having such a wonderful time together and getting along so well, I didn't want it to end."

As the screen faded to black, Boots the Monkey started to tell the story of how he and Dora accidentally turned Benny into a potato.

That was one of my favorite episodes...

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The New Synagogue

For several years now I have avoided regularly attending the synagogue right down the street, despite the fact that many of Raphaela's classmates play there during the services.  This particular congregation takes a very conservative view on families, and as a single mother I have never felt welcome there.

Recently, Raphaela has asked that we try the synagogue that meets in her school building; I don't think my daughter has a real interest in the prayers per se, one of her best friends goes there, and it is another opportunity for them to play.

Today we braved the horrible heat and walked there, Raphaela immediately found a few of her friends and disappeared in play.  I noticed that most of the other married women there did not cover their hair; and that when the Torah was being put away, the scroll was passed to the women's section in the most natural and accepting way.

Statistically speaking, there were more children than adults, and they made a real effort to encourage each new person to come back next week as we build this community together.

I may have found a place I like, after all this time.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Politics Start Young

Yesterday was the usual too-long Shabbat, with Raphaela's hyperactivity at maximum, with lots of energy and not enough outlets.

At one point during the day I said in frustration, "You are acting like a crazy person!"

Raphaela answered, "Does that mean I have to move to America and vote for Donald Trump?"


The first US Presidential election that I remember was Carter, at the age of eight.  I distinctly recall walking around the house all day and doing impressions of Carter, with his Southern Drawl.  Among my other successful celebrity impressions was Dr. Ruth Westheimer, to whom I used to listen secretly on her radio show "Sexually Speaking."

A political science major at Barnard College, I continue to be politically active and aware, even though I now work in medicine. I suppose Raphaela's response was indicative of the ranting I have been doing lately about the insanity in the Presidential election.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Yom HaShoah 2016

RR:  There are Israeli flags on cars and houses!  That's because Yom HaAtzmaut is coming. [Israeli Independence Day]
Mom:  Actually there is another reason for the flags, tonight starts Yom HaShoah. [Holocaust Remembrance Day]  There was an evil man named Hitler, he was kind of like Haman from Purim.  Hitler wanted to kill all the Jews, and he did kill too many of us.
RR: How many?
Mom:  Hitler killed six million Jews, and lots of other people as well before he was done.  This was before there was an Israel.
RR:  (in her quiet voice)  Six million...that's a lot.
Mom:  Yes. And still, the Jews are here.
RR: We are still here.  When I have a baby, I will become a Mommy and you will become a Bubby.  Life continues, and we will grow and grow.
Mom:  Indeed! Tomorrow when you are in school, there will be a siren to remember all the people who died, the soldiers who helped them, and all the Jews who survived and built families again.
RR:  But not the kind of siren that you have to run to the bomb shelter, right? I know where the bomb shelter is in our school, we did a drill.
Mom:  Right, that is another kind of siren that I hope we don't hear again.
RR:  I will make sure to drink a lot of water before the siren, so I can stand still and quiet and not be thirsty.
Mom:  The siren does not last that long, I don't think you will get too thirsty.
RR:  It goes by quickly.  And next week there will be another siren, for the Israeli soldiers who keep us safe.
Mom:  That's right, for the soldiers who were killed protecting us and our country.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Deep Thoughts, the Pessach Edition

Every year Raphaela asks more advanced questions at the Seder, as her worldview widens.  Here are the top four issues addressed this weekend:

1. " I see they have the four boys, when do they address the four girls?"

Mommy thinks to herself:  I see I have a budding feminist in the house, though I can't say I am surprised.  I copped out on this one, simply saying that the language of the text addresses the subject in masculine, but the four sons really represent four different kind of children, boys and girls.

2.  "How does the evil son come about, if he was raised in a good family?"

What followed was a discussion about personal choice, and about how eventually a person makes their own path outside their family, and then has to take responsibility for their actions.  "A good person come out of a troubled family, and a bad person can come out of a perfectly beautiful childhood.  Not every Egyptian was bad to the Jews when they were slaves, just like not every Arab wants to hurt us because we are Israelis.  That's why we take away some of the wine when we recite the plagues, because all human beings are God's creations."

3.  "The animals, like the cows and sheep and goats, and the horses at the splitting of the Sea, why did they have to get punished when it was Pharaoh who was not letting the Jews leave?"  Asked Raphaela, the vegetarian.

My daughter had asked this question several years ago, and I admit that I didn't have a great answer then, nor did I have one last night.  Her current food choices only made this more concerning to her.  Someone else at the table explained to Raphaela that animals "exist to serve man and God" and that they were doing God's work by participating in the miracle of the ten plagues.  Secretly, I didn't buy that explanation.

4.  "How does the Prophet Elijah get all around the world in one night?  Does he actually visit everyone who is doing a Seder with their family, like even in France and America?"

I briefly explained the miraculous circumstances of the Elijah's non-death, and that God has given him the job of doing special assigments.  In a fun twist, my cousin (with whom we celebrated the Seder) had left a note from the Prophet Elijah at the doorway, so when Raphaela opened the door to invite him in, she received a pleasant and unexpected surprise. 

To me, the Seder should be about transmitting personal and communal values to the next generation, and I appreciated that all the adults at the table made the night a dramatic and almost magical adventure, geared toward the children.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A Time of Memory Making

Pessach in Israel feels very much like Christmas  or Thanksgiving did in the United States:  it is impossible to find parking at any store or mall, there is way too much preoccupation with food; and people need extra sessions with their therapists, because of the emotional trauma of the Seder and the week long vacation IE lots of family time.

This time of the year I find myself becoming nostalgic, thinking about my grandparents who not only led Seder for many years, but also hosted the whole family (25 people, one shower, two toilets) in their New England home.  The boy cousins slept in army beds in the basement, the adults got actual bedrooms, and the few girl grandchildren were scattered on various floors.  Along with the usual dysfunctional family dynamics, it allowed me to know my cousins well, well enough that we are still in contact and still friends.

So many small things bring back the memories of those relatives, some now passed on and most of us scattered around the globe.

Yesterday was the last day of English Camp, and Raphaela came home tired and sad, already missing her teacher and the other children, including her "boyfriend."  Raphaela started crying, and as I comforted her, I couldn't help but think about my grandmother, for whom my daughter is named.  My Bubby hated saying good-bye, and I have this image in my head of boarding a train some time in college; as the train pulled away I could see my grandmother waving and crying, as if we would never see each other again.

Later in the evening, I had a dentist appointment at the mall to repair a cracked tooth; no Matza for me this year, yay!  Since Raphaela was officially on  vacation, she came with me.  It took 20 minutes to find a parking spot, we stalked shoppers leaving the building and practically ran them over, staking our claim.  I never like to arrive late, so we rushed straight to the doctor's office, but on the way out, we had to walk through the mall and the bustle of the pre-Pessach customers.

I have never liked shopping, especially during the holiday season, and wanted to just get to the car and leave. My daughter the Fashionista was fascinated by every store window, and insisted several times that we go into the store and find me a new dress for Pessach.  We failed in our mission, but her enthusiasm was running at a high, and let me tell you, she has very good (read: expensive) taste.

"My mother would love to shop with Raphaela, " I thought. "Too bad we live on different continents."  Because I spent most of my childhood and high school years moaning and groaning while my mother made me window shop with her.

Today, after I finished working, Raphaela and I went shopping, again.  (Have I mentioned that I dislike shopping?)  Our first stop was the shoe store, toward the purpose of getting Raphaela new socks for Spring/Summer.  Well, Raphaela saw a pair of the coolest, most fashionable sandals in the store and had to have them.  And yes, they look great on her and she has excellent taste.

Then we went to find me a new outfit for the holiday, and Raphaela became my style consultant.  "No, Mommy, that dress makes your tush look big." "Mommy, that dress is so boring, you need something with color, something light and fun."  "How about this shirt, Mommy, it would look beautiful on you!"  Today I did find something to spruce up my wardrobe and my mood.

It hit me that I have a real person with me, someone I love because she is my girl, but also because she is genuinely fun to have around.

Our last stop was the supermarket, the final food run before Pessach starts on Friday. Once again we waited 20 minutes for parking, and another 15 minutes to nab an available shopping cart.  We went through our list, adding extras only slightly, and when we came home, Raphaela helped me unpack the groceries.

I do feel truly blessed.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Emergency Call

This morning while packing her lunchbox for camp, Raphaela was unable to find her water bottle. In fact I was unable to find a travel water bottle, anywhere in the house; I could've sworn that yesterday we had at least four.

Raphaela conjectured, "Maybe the nasty security people from the airport snuck into our house and took them all. You know how much they are afraid of water."

Then Raphaela picked up her imaginary phone and put it to her ear.  "Mommy, I am going to call the Water Bottle Police. Don't worry, I know their number. And if they don't pick up the phone, we can always Skype them."

(Different generation, different world...)

Thursday, April 14, 2016


This morning Raphaela and I went to the bakery and then walked around the neighborhood, as she has no school (since Tuesday) and no camp on Fridays.

I challenged her to an impromptu photo competition, she played around with my camera, and here is her final submission:

She has a good eye, and as she practices, I have no doubt she will only improve.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Tooth Fairy vs. The Prophet Elijah

Last night while I was brushing Raphaela's hair, her first tooth fell out.

It was a cause for great celebration and "happy tears" in our house, as this meant that she was really getting big and more important, it meant that the Tooth Fairy would be visiting our house in the night, after Raphaela fell asleep.

First thing Raphaela did was call her current BFF "N", upon which she got a five minute lecture from her friend that it is stupid to believe in the Tooth Fairy and that the real culprit is our mother or father.  Six and a half years old, and already so jaded...

Undaunted, Raphaela carefully wrapped her tooth and put it under her pillow.  Lo and Behold, when she woke up this morning her tooth had magically disappeared, and in its place, a note from the Tooth Fairy and a gift of ten New Israeli Shequel. (It was the smallest change the Tooth Fairy had on such short notice...)

"AHA!" Raphaela showed me, in triumph. "I guess N was wrong about the Tooth Fairy."

I took a picture of the new gap in her row of teeth, this milestone recorded for all posterity. 

I also noticed that she has another tooth pushing in quite aggressively already, I see that Raphaela inherited my compressed jaw.  Time to start saving for braces, I suppose.

Meanwhile, Raphaela is already anticipating the visit of our next mysterious and magical visitor, The Prophet Elijah, who will visit us the night of Seder and drink some wine while we are sleeping.  He might also leave Raphaela a gift and a note, if she finds the Afikoman, the hidden matza at Seder.

I just hope that Raphaela doesn't do a handwriting comparison between the Tooth Fairy and the Prophet Elijah.

As an afterthought, Santa Clause has his own song, don't you think the Tooth Fairy and the Prophet Elijah deserves one as well?

Monday, April 11, 2016

A Tree Grows in Jerusalem, A Metaphor

Every year shortly before Pessach, Raphaela and I sort through her clothing and toys, and decide what she has outgrown.  Then, while Raphaela is in school (so as to avoid needless trauma), I donate the items to worthy places in the neighborhood.

The puzzles and books go to Raphaela's former nursery school, because at age three they helped my daughter recover remarkably quickly from her previous damaging child care environment.  Within a week of starting this new nursery, Raphaela had transitioned from a quiet mouse to a talkative, happy and glowingly positive toddler, and I will never be able to thank them sufficiently for that.

When I walked up to this building yesterday, I could not help but smile.  There in the upper courtyard grew a strong and healthy tree, a sapling that had been planted on Tu BiShvat the year that Raphaela attended nursery there, over three years ago.

I snuck inside the classroom and embraced her two teachers, and they inquired about Raphaela, the girl she is today:  "Does she still tell stories all the time?"  "Does she still radiate love and give hugs?"  "Does she have a beautiful group of friends?"  "How is she enjoying first grade?"

Like that tree, Raphaela has become a complete personality, with strong roots and opinions, and constantly amazing me every day with her warmth and insight.  And I am grateful every day.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Thicker Skin

This past Friday when I went to pick up my daughter from school, I was standing with a mother whose child has been in the same class as Raphaela for the last few years.  When the girls came out, I gave Raphaela a hug and then a quick hug also to her friend.

"I love these girls," I said to the mother, "especially the ones I have known since they were little."

Raphaela's friend interjected, "That's right, when Raphaela started in nursery and she didn't have any friends, I played with her anyway."

In the past, I have been accused of being too sensitive or quick to get my feelings hurt.  Living in Israel has given me a thicker skin.  Being a Mom has given me a whole new set of life lessons in coping.

So instead of taking this very honest little girl personally, I processed in my head:  "I am not a bad mother," I assured myself. "Raphaela did have social anxiety issues when she was younger.  We have moved beyond that now. Yay!"

Once I finished my internal dialogue, I turned to Raphaela's friend and said, "But we're bigger now, right? And now we are past that whole shyness thing, right?"

Both girls nodded their heads enthusiastically, and we all walked home together.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

How to Start the Day Right

"Mommy," said Raphaela with a broad smile, "I would like to buy you from the store and take you home and you will be my Mommy forever.  How much do you cost?"

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Only in Israel

While driving yesterday, a curious radio advertisement came up on the radio.  It begins with a woman excitedly telling us, the listeners, about this great surprise party that her co-workers threw for her. Then the announcer breaks in, and suggests to this woman sharing her story, that she actually communicate with her family, her parents and grandparents. That perhaps her relatives would be happy to hear about her day, rather than random people on social media.

Apparently there is now a state-sponsored program to encourage people to stay in touch with their loved ones.

This would only happen in Israel, a country that places family above all else.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Purim, A Photo Essay

Above all other Jewish holidays in the calendar year, Purim has the beautiful ability to cross lines of ethnicity and religiosity.  The whole country, whole families, celebrate the day together; everyone in costume, everyone exchanging gifts of food and giving charity, and all in joy.

Like any other religion, Judaism should be inclusive and make all feel welcome.  Purim celebrates just that, all Jews all over the known world at the time were saved, and most were unaware of the intervention (both human and divine) done on their behalf.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Purim 2016

When I was single, Purim held little appeal for me, though I did try to wear a creative costume each year.  When you have children, in Israel, the holiday of Purim (officially one day long) lasts close to two weeks, and the joy and anticipation of the kids is infectious.

On the first day of the month, the school had a Purim Opening Ceremony. There was Pajamas Day and No-Homework Day, and You-Don't-Have-To-Wear-A-School-Uniform Day.  In past years in nursery and kindergarten, the menu included Clown Day, Silly Hat Day, Kings and Queens Day, and the like.

Today, however, the Purim Carnival and Costume Festival takes place.  Raphaela woke up at 5:30 am out of pure excitement.

It is a half day of school with the promise of no academic activity whatsoever.  Pizza for breakfast, and a roaming popcorn stand!  Among their classmates, the exchanging of Mishloach Manot, traditional Purim junk food gift baskets.

To top it all off, this afternoon Raphaela and a friend of hers will be hosting a six and a half birthday party. Both girls were born at the beginning of the school year during the Jewish holidays, and did not have a private party because it was school vacation and the start of the school year, when the girls didn't really know each other and hadn't coalesced as a group.

Raphaela, of course, chose to dress up as Queen Elsa from Frozen, despite my protestations that it was one of the least original costumes out there.  She carefully put on her gown this morning, her crown, some eye shadow, an Elsa ring and an Anna bracelet.  Raphaela was bedecked and bejeweled.

When I suggested some faux sparkly earrings as well, she scowled at me, horrified at my apparent lack of fashion sense, and said, "Really Mommy, it is too much. That's over the top!"

Needless to say, the halls of a Raphaela's school felt like a Disney princess convention.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

This morning as we were leaving for school, it suddenly started raining upon us.  We quickly ran back into the house to get umbrellas and boots, and I said, "It wasn't supposed to rain today!"

Raphaela said, "Those weather forecasters are useless, they never get it right.  Why didn't they just look out their window?"

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Boys Rules

This past Shabbat, we spent lunch and a lovely afternoon with the family of one of Raphaela's school friends, a girl the same age who has been in her class for the last three years.

At one point, her brother and two of his friends were wrestling on the trampoline, and Raphaela came to me, quite concerned.  She told me that the boys were fighting, were not playing nicely and were going to get hurt.

I explained to Raphaela - a child who has essentially grown up like Wonder Woman and the Amazonians - that sometimes this is how boys play, that it looks like they are trying to hurt each other but it's really all in fun; they are friends and will be friends after they finish wrestling.

"Really?!" she asked, incredulously.
"Yes, really.  This is how boys play sometimes." I answered.
"Strange, but alright..." said Raphaela, and returned to playing with her friend.

Monday, March 7, 2016

A Double Celebration

Today is a special day, and not because it happens to be International Women's Day.

First of all, today is Harry The Highlander's 14th birthday, that would be 72 years old in human terms.  Since Harry goes outside, where there is a constant danger of cars and other animals, I had assumed that he would live to be about ten, and that Raphaela would have the chance to choose the next kitten and raise it more as her own.

And yet here he is, thank G-d active and healthy, still chasing birds and lizards, and leading a generally fulfilling life, for a cat in Jerusalem.

To celebrate, Raphaela took a bag of treats to school, to share with all her classmates, as is the custom in elementary schools in Israel.

Today is also the second day in which Raphaela officially feels that her wiggly wobbly tooth may be falling out, sometime in the next two months...Her excitement grows as she imagines what it would be like to get a visit from the Tooth Fairy, and she wrote a note to her teacher expressing this anticipation and joy.

So it's a good day all around to be a six year old, and to be her Mommy.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

My elderly neighbor and friend died this past year, a woman who had shown myself and Raphaela so much kindness.  She left behind a beautiful legacy of family, and a life lived well. 

I had not thought of her recently, and then yesterday I went to our local library chapter to take out a ballet book IE something to keep me busy as Raphaela dances and the parents are relegated to sit outside and wait.

When I opened this book, there in blue ink and an elegant script (the lost art of writing) was the name Mollie Kolatch, and I smiled.  Obviously parts of her library had been donated after her passing.

As I read I smiled even more, because this novel was compelling, intelligent and thoughtful, and I could imagine my friend sitting on her couch and enjoying this book.

I could imagine discussing the philosophical and artistic elements with her afterwards.

I actually finished the whole work in one sitting.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Save the Caterpillar!

Every Shabbat, assuming the weather allows, Raphaela and I walk to the Gazelle Valley Nature Preserve;  we bring a picnic and hike along the trails, and enjoy the fact that the gazelle have become much less shy since the park opened, the 12 of them can be seen up close and with the naked eye.

This afternoon on the way to the Nature Preserve, we spotted a fuzzy caterpillar on the sidewalk, it seemed to be in distress.  We attempted to move it to the side so it would not get trampled, but the encounter left Raphaela quite disturbed.

For the rest of the way until the park, Raphaela got all fired up, and laid out her plans to create an international consortium to save this caterpillar.  "We need to tell EVERYONE  we see that they must be careful and not step on the caterpillar.  We need to recruit at least 200 people to join our crusade to save the caterpillar.  We need to increase awareness of nature and keep the insects safe from bicycles and pedestrians and strollers and dogs."

She caught her breath for a moment and then said, "And when our friends from Holland organize themselves, they will have to come over to Israel and help us.  We may just have to take the caterpillar to the vet."

Sure enough, once we got to the Gazelle Valley, Raphaela literally stopped every single visitor to the park (it was very crowded today), put on her serious face and instructed, "On your way home today, please be very careful.  My mother and I saw a wounded caterpillar."

I didn't even attempt to temper her enthusiasm for this project.

Most of the adults nodded their head and acknowledged Raphaela, a few said that perhaps the snails should be included in her efforts.  This past week we had one day of rain and the snails came out in full force, and several days after there are squashed snail shells everywhere.

On the way home, Raphaela and I passed by the spot where we had seen the injured creature, there were signs of a sad (and yet anticipated) end.  My daughter said to me, "We don't know exactly what happened to our friend, but I know we did the right thing by raising awareness."

(Six years old...)

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Small Gifts

There is a well-known Israeli song that has been adopted by every Kindergarten in the country, called "Small Presents."  This morning it came on the radio and Raphaela got very excited, as it was the theme of their end of the year party last June.

One of the lines says, "God gave you presents, large and small."  To which Raphaela responded, "Mommy, God gave us a gift of the whole world!"

"Every day is a gift, a chance for something great."  I told her.

"That's right, every day is a gift, not just Thursdays."  Raphaela replied.

(I am sure there is an internal logic there somewhere.)


"Mommy, why do you take much more vitamins than me in the morning?"
"Because I am old, and my body needs more of them."
"You're not old, you're a Mommy!"

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Open Season

Today, this jewel arrived in our mail box:

Yes, the Purim 2016 costume catalog has arrived.  All over Israel, children will be pouring over this flyer as if it were a rare and ancient text, one that holds all the secrets of the Universe.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Empty Plate Club

The Jerusalem Marathon will take place next month, and thanks to the gift of beautiful weather, I have been able to train outside in the park for the last week.  Tonight I was talking to Raphaela and expressing the hope that some day maybe we could run together in the Marathon, and Raphaela said, "I will try to run very fast and win!"

I explained to Raphaela that I know that I am not going to come in first place, ("Because usually an African wins," said Raphaela AKA Little Miss Obvious)  and that I am running for enjoyment of it, and to know that I finished something I started.  "Because when you start something, you must commit to it, and finish it, see it through."  I explained.

Then Raphaela and I discussed the one exception to that important life rule, that if you eat and you feel full, you do not have to finish the rest of the contents on the plate.  While I am not actively encouraging wasting food, I have taught Raphaela to listen to her body, and stop eating when her body says "Enough."

"Because if you just eat food when you don't need it, you will get fat, and that's not healthy."  Added Raphaela, who has a Health Class in school.

"And then," continued my daughter, "if you go to a restaurant and you can't finish your order, you ask them to wrap it up for you and take it home, so you can eat it another day."

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Play Date

After almost four months, Raphaela has a BFF in school, at least for this week...

Yesterday afternoon, she and N had a playdate at N's house, a successful one, so happy that Raphaela did not want to come home.  Raphaela also came up with a "great idea, I will dress up as Elsa for Purim and N can be Anna, we can be like sisters!"

This morning I saw the mother of this girl, and she thanked me.  She told me that Raphaela is "such a good influence" on her own daughter:  "Not only did N clean up her room, she behaved so well, and really related to Raphaela, really played and gave of herself.  So thank you!"

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Israel Family Day 2016

Family Day is Israel's answer to Mother's Day or Father's Day or Grandparent's Day, traditionally celebrated by Hallmark in the United States.  When Raphaela was in nursery and kindergarten, they made more of a fuss about it, this year it seems to have gone by almost un-noticed by her First Grade teacher.

This morning I took a picture of our family, and explained to Raphaela that today's holiday works for everyone, all kinds of different situations, because all of them are loving and valid.

Raphaela nodded her head and said, "God has the biggest family of all, everyone is related to him!"

Saturday, February 6, 2016

36 Grown-Up Hours

For the first time since Raphaela was born, she stayed with my parents (who were visiting from the US) over Shabbat, and I stayed home, alone, with no one to care for other than myself and marginally, our cat Harry.


On the way to school, half way down the block, a man called to me.  I turned around and did not recognize him, he had just dropped his little boy off at a nursery near our house.  He said to us, "I see you and your daughter walking to school every morning. I am headed in that direction, to that school, do you want a ride?"

"No thank you," I said. Because I know that Raphaela is very possessive of our time together in the morning, and because it is a beautiful sunny day, atypical for Jerusalem in February.

After we came home from school in the afternoon, I asked for Raphaela's help in packing the overnight bag, and showed her all her clothing and her toothbrush and hair accessories. "And WHY," she asked with suspicion, "will you not be able to take care of these things yourself?"

I had put off telling her that I would not be joining the rest of the family on this sleepover party, and could not avoid it any longer. I explained that she would have special bonding time with her cousin and her grandparents, and that I would pick her up after Shabbat.

Holding back tears, Raphaela and I chose a special doll that she would take with her, to remind her that I am always with her and always love her, no matter where I am.  That seemed to do the trick.

Friday Afternoon

After dropping Raphaela off at my parents and driving home, I could actually feel my stomach drop a little. It felt odd, it felt wrong for the house to be so quiet, for me to have not much of anything to do for anyone.  For the first time in six years I had free time without responsibility, and I had no idea what to do with myself.

Apparently, motherhood has altered my identity and my essential state of being, and there's no going back.

Friday Night

Dinner with friends, with good food and a very good bottle of red wine to share.  I would estimate that half of the conversation that I contributed to the evening somehow involved my daughter, not counting the people who said, "Too bad Raphaela is not here, I haven't seen her in a while."

I call that the "Mother of" Phenomenon:  since I gave birth, my name (and that of all mothers to children in Israel) became "Raphaela's Mother," even amongst the parents of her classmates. In Israel, where family values take precedence above all, you are defined by your relatives and most especially your children.

Shabbat Morning

I can do it!  And more miraculously, Harry can do it!  My cat (whom I have had longer than Raphaela) who usually wakes me up at the crack of dawn, let me sleep in until 8:30 am.   I have not slept past six am in years, and I did not think my body remembered how.  Of course, it meant that I missed the party at my friend's house for International Ice Cream for Breakfast Day.

Shabbat Day

I finally got into the groove, stopped feeling guilty, and of all the activities I did today, perhaps the most inspiring was the five kilometer plus hike around Jerusalem. I didn't have to pack a picnic lunch (Raphaela needs snacks when we go on trips), just myself and my sneakers and my bottle of water.  I walked through the park, felt the sun on my face, smiled at random people and generally remembered why it feels so good to get some exercise into my life.

I had been waiting for that push to return to an intensive training program for the Jerusalem Marathon in March, and now I have it.  That adrenaline also reminded me that I must take care of myself and my body, if I want to stick around for a long and healthy life, and watch Raphaela grow into her full potential.

Saturday Night

I needed time away from Raphaela in order to miss her, in order to understand how we fit into each other, even when we are apart.  The closer it got to the end of Shabbat, the more I started going back into Mom mode, thinking about how she has school tomorrow, and hoping that the weekend passed without incident.

I feel truly grateful that my parents were able to take Raphaela for her first ever sleep over, she enjoyed the time with her family, and I was able to have this time to myself.

As soon as she saw me she started crying and fell into my arms, saying that she missed me; my father said that she had been 100% until I walked in the door. It's nice to be missed.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

I had a random thought yesterday, as I was walking with Raphaela yesterday while we were doing errands after school.  My daughter skipped along, singing to herself, telling me stories from her day, and saying hello to every person we met, spending a little more time if we bumped into someone we know.

She had a smile for everyone, and a hug for the special people.

I marvel at her joy, at her light. 

Having grown up as a withdrawn and sad girl, having faced and worked through not the easiest of childhoods myself, I marvel that I am able to raise such a happy child.  And I am proud of myself.

Raphaela is my penance, my redemption if you will.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

I Have a Dream

And in that dream, I get one month off from my responsibilities as a mother, where I don't have to get up early and make lunches and take to school and pick up from school and supervise homework and hear another story about the imaginary unicorn who went to school.

Of course I am more realistic,  and so God Willing, this coming Shabbat, my daughter will be having a sleep over from Friday to Saturday night with my parents, who will be visiting from the United States.  That is assuming that Raphaela's cough does not develop into anything real;  my parents are essentially coming to meet my brother's new baby, and I don't want her making anyone ill, especially not a newborn.

What will I do for that 36 hour period?  I am hoping to make arrangements with friends and have some grown-up play time.  Or maybe I will stay in my pajamas all Saturday and eat junk food all day.  But this would be the first time that I will be alone, away from Raphaela, since she was born, unless you count the three days I was hospitalized with my emergency appendectomy.

There is, however, a major catch:  the last two times my parents have visited Israel, marks the last two times that Raphaela fell and split open her chin, necessitating a visit to the emergency room at Shaarei Zedek Hospital. One of those events occurred when Raphaela was playing with my mother, who has never gotten used to my child's high level of energy.

Accidents, both times, totally unintentional and I do not blame my parents in any way.  The second time we went to the emergency room, they looked at me funny and asked many questions to confirm that I am not a negligent or abusive parent.  If we show up a third time with the same exact injury, I can pretty much guarantee that Social Services will show up at my door.

So yes, I admit that there is a part of me that does not trust my parents to keep my child out of harm's way, given their track record.  Three times is NOT a charm.  Considering that the entire weekend will be spent running around with cousins, I pray that the cycle of dangerous falls and stitches is over.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Last night before bed, Raphaela and I read the Dr. Seuss classic, "Yertle the Turtle."  I had always thought it was a not-so-veiled reference to Hitler and World War II, or at the very least an anti-bullying diatribe.

After we finished the book, I asked Raphaela what she learned, what she thought about the moral of the story, and she replied, "We learn the God is bigger than all of us."

Well push me down with a feather, I did not see that answer coming.

Frozen, Jerusalem Style

Apparently Elsa was very busy last night, because this morning we didn't have any running water, and nor did the car start.

I was complaining about the fact that I would not get my morning shower, my ten minutes of me-time, and Raphaela said, with a practical tone of voice, "Mommy, be thankful for what you do have.  And besides, now we can have a great breakfast together, with all that extra time."

Monday, January 25, 2016

The predicted snow for Jerusalem did not arrive, and so Raphaela had school today.  Though I did not have any patients scheduled, because they all canceled earlier in the week, "just in case it might snow."

As we arrived at the school building, one of the older girls was giving out a note to the parents who walked inside:  festooned with colorful flowers and butterflies, the note read, "The Keys to a Great Day are a smile, an orderly house, and a cup of coffee."

I asked the girl if she drinks coffee, and she laughed, but said, "I'm only in fifth grade!  But we know that parents need lots of coffee."

Sunday, January 24, 2016

My Two Teenagers

This morning, between the rain and the jet lag from the weekend, both Raphaela and I were moving slowly.  Raphaela more so, it took her ten minutes to find her jacket and put on her boots.  Nudging her along became impatience and shouting, whereupon Raphaela looked at me calmly and said, "Mommy, the more you yell and try to push me to get moving, the slower I will actually be."

Then the cat decided that I must be wrong about the weather, and insisted upon going outside with us.  Even at it rained upon him, and I gave Harry the option to come back inside, he looked at me and defiantly decided that he would stay outside in the cold, in the rain and in the mud.  Because, I surmise, by agreeing to come back inside, he would be admitting that he was wrong.

Later in the middle of my work day, I geared up and went outside, found Harry cowering under a car nearby, wrapped him in a towel and took him upstairs.  All the way up, he sat in my arms complaining, I imagine saying something like, "Mommy, it's disgusting outside!  How could you let me stay out there?"

Anger Management

Normally, Raphaela and I walk to school, but today the heavy rain and the frigidity of the air decided differently, we drove. (They are maybe expecting snow in Jerusalem later this week.)

Quite close to the school, they have a designated drop-off/pick up parking area, where it is expected that parents will stay there no longer than ten minutes in the morning or the afternoon.  As I pulled into one of these spots, so as to avoid getting soaked on the way into the building, one of the teachers from the school (whom I did not recognize) stepped in the way of the car.  I rolled down my window and she said, with a smile frozen on her face, "Were you going to park here?"

"Why yes," I said. "I will be out in five minutes."
"Well," said the teacher, with that odd smile still stuck there, "my friend wants that space.  And she says she was here first." 
I pointed out that the laws of space and time would dictate that if she were here first, her car would already be parked there, and I would have to find another space.
"I SAID," the teacher continued, not budging an inch, "MY friend WANTS this space.  She is going to park here all day."

As it was getting closer to the school bell, I begrudgingly agreed to move my car.  Not because I avoid confrontation;  Israel has cured me of that.  But rather because I knew that someday my daughter might have one of these two teachers, and telling the truth of this situation ["Fucking Teacher Mafia" and "Selfish Bitch" come to mind] would bring harm upon Raphaela some day, in the way that she would be treated by a teacher I am meant to trust with my child and her education.

I spent the next few minutes re-parking, taking deep breaths and muttering, "Let it go, let it go..."  As Raphaela and I were walking up to the school, this pair of teachers happened to be right in front of us.  They looked back at me with defiance and guilt, and I could hear one say to the other, "I wanted that spot. It was mine! Really, I wanted it. "

A less mature me would have walked up to her and said, "Oh, it was your spot? I didn't see your name on it."  A more mature me would have walked up to her and said, "If you have to spend ten minutes justifying your actions, you must know it was wrong."

The mature me said nothing.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

This morning I had an errand in the center of town in Jerusalem, where the parking goes from horrendous to impossible, so I decided to take the bus instead.

A few minutes after settling into my seat, the woman across from me started kicking my leg, hard.  I put on my best stern Mommy voice and told her to stop and she continued, harder.

So I moved seats, and she turned around and started spitting at me, and grabbing at my shirt, trying to tear it. 

It was obvious to me that she was mentally impaired, and I did my best to get away from her, but hey...it's a bus.  When I stopped making eye contact with the woman and also saw the futility in asking her stop, she turned her attentions to the bus driver.

For the record:  I did nothing to deserve and provoke this attack.  No, not a single person watching stood up to help me.

And lastly, if she had not been so clearly emotionally and mentally disturbed, she would not be walking now.

Hell of a way to start the day.

The Big Talk

For most of the six plus years of Raphaela's life, she has very rarely asked about the identity of her biological father/sperm donor, and when she does ask, the subject passes fairly quickly.  In the last two weeks, Raphaela has become almost obsessive about it, and will frequently get this terribly sad look on her face and say, "I miss my Daddy."

Despite the fact that she knows the story of her conception, that I chose to have her and that she does not have a father who will come home, it has obviously become more pressing to her.  Since nothing has changed at home, I can only assume that not only is she more aware now that she is older, but that her classmates have also discussed it with her.

Toward that end, I met today with the School Counsellor/Psychologist, with the intention of gaining some insight and perhaps some tips as to how to deal with this in the best and healthiest way possible. After telling the Counsellor about my approach, she assured me that I am in fact a very good parent and that I am handling it well.

Then she expressed a desire to do more within the realm of the school, because it will undoubtedly come up again in Raphaela's six years at Evelyna.  The Counsellor suggested that she first have a casual sit down with my daughter, to see where her head is at.  Following that discussion, she plans on leading an activity in the classroom to talk about the legitimacy of every type of family;  every family is different, and what matters most is that there is love and a sense of security.  "The girls," she said, "need a common language of respect on the subject."

The Counsellor also told me that there is another girl in the class whose father died over two years ago, during the most recent war in Gaza.  She assured me that both my daughter and this other child show no signs of depression or a "lack thereof" of a father, that Raphaela is warm and well-adjusted, with a deep sense and appreciation of self.

I closed the session by telling the Counsellor that I do tell Raphaela that just because there is no father in the house at the moment, does not mean that someday I will meet a wonderful man who will become both husband and father.

To which the Counsellor applied, in true beautiful and authentic Israeli style, "Tell me what you are looking for, I know people, you know!"

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Shiva Crashers

Growing up in the United States, Shiva [the seven day period of mourning] was a serious adult deal, quite formal in its rules and code of behavior.  Even when my great-grandfather died, I did not attend the funeral or the Shiva, because it was not a place for children.  And I was old enough to know that he was gone.

This past week, the 92 year old father of one of our neighbors died, and the Shiva is taking place quite literally next door.  Every time we leave the house to go to school or to ballet, the door is open and the sign on the door declares that this is a house of mourning.

The first day of the Shiva, I told Raphaela that we were going there not to entertain, but to sit quietly and take our cue from our neighbor. If he wanted to talk, fine, and if not we would sit there out of respect.  Well, Israel being Israel, Jerusalem being Jerusalem, and this being the Jewish country, apparently the law of One Extended Family applies.

At our first visit, Raphaela spoke less than her normal self, but was still warm and engaging, and as we left, she gave him a big hug.  She also left with a glass of juice and piece of cake, kindly given to Raphaela by the mourner's wife.  And every day since, every time we pass the door, Raphaela insists upon going inside for even a minute, to say hello and to deliver one of her patented hugs;  to show him a shiny rock she has just found, or to perform the dance she has just learned.

My Israeli friends tell me that in this country the process of Shiva is far less formal, and that it is "lovely" that Raphaela has made it her mission to cheer up our mourning neighbor.  They cite many examples where the Shiva evolves into a celebration of life and family, a place where smiles and stories are welcome.  I am still uncomfortable with the behavior to some degree, it is the stiff New England American in me, despite the 18 plus years I have lived here.

Far be it from me, however,  to teach Raphaela that compassion toward another person should be limited, in thought or in deed.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Last night I attended the 50th birthday party of my cousin; it was very much a grown-up affair, with a museum tour and a lecture from Moshe Arens, a beloved (retired) Israeli MK.  As much as I enjoyed the intellectual stimulation, let me say that when I turn 50 in a few years, there will be alcohol, and most probably and beach and BBQ involved.

Raphaela stayed home with a baby sitter, and this morning when she woke up, I saw that her very talented sitter Alexis had made my daughter a beautiful French braid, a skill set that I lack.

Mom:  Wow, your hair is beautiful!  Alexis is the coolest.
RR:  Mommy, you're still cooler.
Mom:  (blushing slightly) How's that?
RR:  Because there are lots of things that you know how to do.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Stories from the Parenting Front

Among the various Jerusalem superstitions about pregnancy and childbirth, I had heard many times that if you do not make some sort of official celebration for a daughter, she will not get married in the future.  Sounds to me like an excuse for a catered party.

Last night Raphaela and I attended the Simchat Bat [Hebrew for The Celebration of a Girl] of a new cousin, Baby Rachel.  Between the family gathering, the loot bag for children and the giant table of candy AKA Raphaela's dinner, my daughter declared it to be "the best day ever."

I asked her if she really meant it, that this day and this party held the number one spot on her Best Day Ever List. I reminded her about our beach vacation, my brother's glamorous wedding, starting First Grade, and other events in our lives that could just as easily top the list.

Raphaela agreed and said, "I have a lot of best days ever."


This morning on the way to school, Raphaela asked me, "Which nation does God love best?"

Me:  God loves all his creations and all his people.  Like our friends in Singapore, they are not Jewish and God loves them too.
Raphaela:  And what about the Arabs?
Me:  God created all people, including the Arabs.  God loves them, though sometimes he wishes that they would behave a bit better.
Raphaela:  And what would happen if the Arabs behaved better and everyone was nice to each other?
Me:  Planet Earth would be a great place to live.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Lost Art of Writing

Somewhat frequently, I must sign Raphaela's homework pages, though her teacher generally takes a lasseiz faire attitude towards adult supervision of assignments.  The other day, Raphaela asked me to teach her how to do a "Parent's Signature."

Me:  First learn all the letters, and then you will start learning script letters.  After you know script, you can create your own signature.
Raphaela:  (nodding head in understanding)
Mom:  In any case, it is my job to sign your homework assignments, since I am the Mommy.
Raphaela:  Your signature is easy enough, it's just a line with three bumps.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

I Already Have a Teenager

This morning on the way to school, Raphaela used a term in Hebrew and I corrected her.  She continued to insist that she was correct and I was wrong, and would not listen to my explanation.  Raphaela literally covered her ears and did the "La la la, I'm not listening" show for my benefit.

I told Raphaela that although I don't know everything, I know a little bit more than her at this point in my life.  She replied, "Well we are the First Grade girls of Evelyna, we can be smart too."

When we got to school, I sat down with her and wrote out my explanation, trying to make it clear that it's OK to admit that you made a mistake, and that others have something to teach you.

Raphaela took the sheet of paper and crumpled it up, saying, "I am not interested in this conversation anymore."

Six years old.  Lord help me when we get to the teenage years, where she will know everything and be invincible.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Stories from the Parenting Front

When I became pregnant, I made a vow not to swear in front of my future child, because words have power.
Apparently during the birth (according to my doula) I "swore like a sailor," to the point that it shocked her slightly. I don't really remember, but can you blame me? I didn't get my epidural.

These days, my worst volley of curse words come out when I am driving, because despite the fact that I learned how to drive in Boston, Israeli drivers seem to be even worse.  Last night, while driving Raphaela to ballet in the rain, I substituted the classic Israeli "OOF!" for the F-word, because Raphaela was sitting in the back seat.  She obviously sensed my Code Red level of stress.

RR:  Mommy, Please don't use that word, it hurts my heart.
Me:  So what should I say instead if I am frustrated or nervous?
RR:  Try using "Yesh" [Hebrew for Hooray]. "I love you" also works nicely.

(I have this feeling that my daughter and the Dalai Lama could do good work together.)


6:30 am this morning, while the two of us stood at the bathroom sink brushing our teeth.

RR:  Mommy, I washed my hands to take away the bacteria and stay healthy.
Me:  You know that there is good bacteria and bad bacteria in your body.
RR:  Why do we have good and bad bacteria?
Me:  The Universe is all about balance.  Good and bad. Light and dark. Yin and Yang.
RR:  Male and Female!  Like we learned when God created the world!
RR:  A boy has a penis, what does a girl have?
Me:  A vagina.
RR: Hey, that rhymes with China.
Me:  Indeed.

A Brave New World in Children's Literature

Some of my best ideas and inspirations happened in college, except that I didn't know how to develop them into something real and long-term.  For example, I started taking black and white photographs of the homeless people who lived on the sidewalk near Barnard/Columbia.  In exchange for them telling me their life story and allowing me to take their picture, I would give them a hearty lunch (sandwich, fruits, drink etc) and my full attention during the interview.

"Someday," I thought, "this could become a fascinating best-selling book."  Well, HONY [Humans of New York] has pretty much taken care of that niche in the market.  I follow the site and own the books, and in between loving the content and the impact this project has had, I wonder how I could have done it first.

In college I also took a creative writing course, and one of my favorite (award-winning) stories was the story of The Three Little Pigs, as told from the perspective of the wolf.  In my short story, the wolf was a rapper on MTV, with asthma; no apologies from me vis a vis the back story, it was the 80's.

This past Friday, at the library with Raphaela to get our weekend reading, we took out a children's book called The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, as told from the perspective of the wolf.  In it, the wolf explains how he was framed because all he had was a powerful sneeze, and that he was visiting his neighbors the pigs to borrow a cup of sugar, to bake a cake for his grandmother; a reference presumably to the wolf who eats Little Red Riding Hood's grandmother in another gruesome fairy tale.  The premise of the book, which is less for children than for their cynical and hip parents, is that the media had to hype the story and make him look like the Big Bad, because the birthday cake angle doesn't sell papers.

We have a similar children's book, a gift from a cousin, called Click Clack Moo, Cows that Type, which I feel is written as much for the parents as well as the kids.  The book describes, using animals as a substitute for humans (how very George Orwell), how effective blackmail works if used intelligently.  My mother hates this story and will not read it to my daughter, because she feels it teaches children how to be manipulative and be rewarded for it.

I can see her point, children these days are more savvy, and their books are written accordingly. On the other hand, it is a funny book and the illustrations work well, and while my daughter may be bright, I don't know how much she reads into the subtext beyond the slapstick.

On Sesame Street, Cookie Monster is enrolled in a 12-step program for his impulse control issues, Elmo may as well be taking Ritalin, and Telly is probably on anti-depressants. Snuffy was revealed to the rest of the street over fear that children may not tell their parents that they are being abused, because no one would believe them.  Katy Perry appeared on the children's educational program half-naked, and I don't remember there being any outcry from parents.   We're not in Kansas anymore...

Raphaela and I recently finished reading The Little Prince together, and as I was bawling and feeling my entire understanding of the Universe deepen, she did not venture beyond the basic story IE plane gets fixed, Little Prince goes home to his flower, man is sad.

As a person who was quite naïve until I left for college, I wonder if we are raising this 21rst Century of children better, or if we are denying them some aspect of that idyllic youth, by exposing them to reality too early.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Movie Audition Part II

Apparently Warner Brothers has not yet filled the role for which they had intended to audition Raphaela, almost one month ago.  I have since received two more requests to bring Raphaela in for an audition, and she remains adamant.

But I must be missing something, because we had the following conversation this morning:

RR:  Can you check email, and see if they want me to come for the audition?
Me:  I know they want it, they wanted to see you tomorrow, after school.
RR:  (Mild smile on her face)
Me:  So I can still say yes.
RR:  No!  Tell them that if they ask me again I will get very angry.

So does she want this, or not, and as a parent, do I push her slightly out of her comfort zone, or do I take her "No!" at face value?