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.