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...)