Friday, April 29, 2011

Musings on the Royal Wedding

As  a teenager In 1981, when Prince Charles married Lady Diana, I bought the books and read the papers and sat transfixed in front of the television.  I envied Lady Diana and her Princess life, and was naive enough to think that the movie The Princess Bride was only satire.

Today, the only reason I saw any part of the Royal Wedding is because I happened to be flipping channels.  Frankly, the ceremony seemed stiff and boring, and I heard that the kiss on the balcony disappointed, both times.

Happy as I am for two people in their thirties who found committment after nine years of dating, I pity the former-commoner Kate and her budding anorexia.  I do hope that love can conquer the pressure she will face as the wife of Prince William, second in line to the throne and son of the legend, Princess Diana. 

I wish I were less cynical about the institution of  marriage, and I wish that some part of the less-practical teenage me still existed, the one who believed in true love, the idea that everyone can find their Prince Charming.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Travel Plans

I had originally thought that the summer, when Raphaela has a vacation from Gan in any case, would be the best time to travel to the States.  My sister-in-law is due to give birth some time in July, and it would be nice for Raphaela to meet her new cousin and play with the other children in the family.  Growing up, my grandmother worked hard to get all the aunts and uncles and grandchildren togethe at least twice a year;  to know each other and see each other as friends as well as relatives. Because of geography (by choice), Raphaela will not experience that.

Then I called the airlines, and it would cost me close to $4,000 just to fly in August, not counting all the expenses and shopping once we arrive.

Then I thought that Thanksgiving presents a wonderful opportunity to see the family for a holiday, and the plane tickets are certainly cheaper.  I had resolved to book the tickets once Pessach ended and life in Israel returned to "normal."

But last night, I lay in bed thinking about the experience of traveling with a two year old, and remembering that the last few trips to visit my family have provided more trauma than family bonding.  I felt selfish but honest, announcing to my four walls that as much as I want Raphaela to know her family - especially since she technically has only one side of relatives - I don't want to go to the East Coast for two days, nevermind two weeks.

I don't want Raphaela to miss nursery, I don't want the hassle of the trip, and I don't want to go with rosy expectations of spending quality time with my siblings and my parents, and inevitably feel disappointed and hurt.

Not to mention that moving will cost money, and no one in my family is volunteering to help pay for the expenses of traveling and missing work.

I don't know what to do, and have consulted with my brother.  If we can spend at least one week at his home in Washington DC and then the holiday itself in Boston, it would go a long way toward making the trip emotionally bearable.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


I think Raphaela weaned herself:  in the last two days, though I had only been nursing twice a day, when I asked her if she wanted "boobies," she declined and continued playing.  I somehow thought that the process would be more traumatic and emotional for both of us.

Now I can go on my new sexy bra shopping spree.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Return to Routine

As expected, after spending more than a week at home on our own lazy schedule, Raphaela had an extremely hard time at Gan this morning, grabbing onto me when I tried to leave and crying as we parted.  I count myself lucky that her nursery was open at all, (most nurseries and schools remain closed today), it gave me a chance to finish errands without worrying about schlepping her around.

Setting a personal record, I was in and out of the US Consulate in less than a half hour, in order to replace the stolen Social Security cards;  I arrived at the supermarket so early that I sat at the Aroma Coffee shop, where I had the first blueberry muffin fresh out of the oven (ah Chametz);  I was one of the first customers at the Mega Supermarket, stocking up on EVERYTHING, all we had left in the house from the holiday were two yogurts and two peppers.

Got home with an hour to spare before returning to the routine (and drudgery) of the Chiropractic clinic. This afternoon Raphaela has music lessons, and this evening we swim. As far as my errands list, miles to go before I sleep.

And starting today (the famous "after the Chag") I look to move in earnest.

Though boring at times over this last week and a half, I must admit that I enjoyed spending time with Raphaela and watching her do little girl things, she has started to mimic me and pretend to put gel in her hair.  She says "tickle tickle" and gently rubs my arms or face, and has taken to memorizing certain lines from her favorite books.  Now if only she would officially start walking...I will announce it from the rooftops.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Exploration Stage

Years ago, when I had the time to date full time, I bought a book by Harville Hendrix, entitled "Keeping the Love You Find."  The book provides a step-by-step process toward examining how personal relationships at every stage of your life has brought you to the state of being Single, starting at birth and until your last adult fling.  In fact, the exercises can raise such intense feelings that he recommends that you not date until you have finished and digested the whole book, and can jump in to the gene pool armed with a new and healthy perspective.

I have kept this book because it did force me to see repeating patterns in my unsuccessful dating, and because his descriptions of each stage of childhood development help me understand how Raphaela now views the world and her place in it.  As a parent, I strive, to the best of my awareness,  to prevent her from getting stuck in later years, when she starts forming love and friendships outside our small circle; especially given the unconventional aspect of her conception.

Hendrix writes, regarding the Exploration stage:  "The child's drive is not to be autonomous or separate, but to explore the world...Actually he is torn between his newfound fascination with the world and his conflicting need for reassurance of his mother's continued availability. He wants to leave, but only if everything will be the same when he returns.

Like all children, he refuses to go to bed peacefully.  He wants more experience, more fun, another story.  He doesn't want to miss anything. What seems like defiance is more indicative of the powerful drive to explore and experiment, and the degree of frustration when that drive is thwarted.

He is exploring, not rebelling."

As a mother, it is my job to set protective limits, watch Raphaela conquer her world, and be proud of her assertiveness.

Raphaela's world is more complicated than mine.  Today at the zoo, I heard a child say, "Those bears are from Syria, they are terrorists."  The adults snickered and launched into a discussion of Middle East politics.  The most I worried about as a sheltered child was the neighbor who lived near the park, who had a large and scary dog.  Raphaela's reality in Israel will make her grow up more quickly in many respects, and will give me far more to worry about than whether she knows how to cross the street to visit her friend's house. 

Regardless, for the quality of life we have in Jerusalem, and the happiness I feel with Raphaela, we are staying, for now.

Raphaela the Reader

In an editorial comment today by Lawrence Downes (IHT 24/4/11) entitled, "The children's book comes to e-life," he writes:  "With electronic books...mere pictures and conversations are passe, at least pictures that don't move and conversations you can't hear...Maybe the more a book supplies imagination, the less the child has to fill in, the less benefit she gets."

I am a voracious reader, my book shelves are over-flowing, and I have read to Raphaela since the moment she was born.  She can sit in her room on the floor and 'read' by herself for an hour at a time, whether or not I am in the room;  when the television is on and we play in the salon, Raphaela barely takes notice of the flickering images on the screen, and I have yet to introduce her to the concept of early so-called educational computer games.  My only lapse occurs with Youtube, I choose certain classic Sesame Street skits and we watch them together; the clips bring back many fond childhood memories, and I know that Raphaela enjoys it.

I admit my status as a Luddite, and I know that Raphaela and her generation will use technology and take it for granted on a vast scale compared to me, or even my younger siblings.  I can only hope that I instill a love of reading and learning and expanding the mind, a feeling though old fashioned, can only help her now and in the future.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Chol HaMoed 2011

Day One:  Ever since Raphaela stayed awake through all of the seder, her sleep patterns have become erratic at best, and she refuses to nap during the day.  After spending the morning at the garage getting the car fixed, and after a messy lunch, we went to the Botanical Gardens followed by the park.  When she fell asleep on the swings, I took her home for the nap that should have taken place two hours earlier;  better late than never.

The onslaught of families during Chol Hamoed constantly amazes me, the parks and sidewalks become so congested that you can barely push a stroller.  I also feel great sadness when I observe poor parenting skills and the devastation these undisciplined children cause to the public areas in Jerusalem.  The Municipality will surely have much repair and clean-up work, after the holiday ends and the younger population returns to Gan and school.

Day Two:  Spent the early part of the morning rearranging furniture, which I tend to do when I am restless, and as my grandmother would say, "Trying to make a dollar out of 99 cents."  I can't wait to start apartment hunting once Chag ends.

It became obvious very quickly that the day would not give play-outside sunny weather, and that my plans for an early morning at the zoo fell through.  Bummer.  I learned that there is only so much you can do with a one and half year old inside the house, including various meals but no television, before you force your child and yourself to take a nap.  We ventured outside for a short field-trip to the supermarket, to stock up on yogurts and fruits and vegetables;  food disappears so much quicker on Pessach.

Day Three:  Thankfully, Raphaela's pool scheduled extra swim lessons during this week, I enjoyed getting out of the house in the morning and Raphaela as usual enjoyed the water.  As soon as we arrived home, the rain-hail-sunshine-rain cycle began, and thus we spent another afternoon at home, which gave me the opportunity to transition from chag to Shabbat ie more cooking.

With only one half-day left on Chol HaMoed on Sunday, I hope that my friends  and cousins visiting from the States will call to arrange to get together, as I return to my regular work routine on Tuesday.  Raphaela has until Tuesday to get back on her normal sleep schedule, before starting Gan again.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Seder 2011

Last year, before flying to the United States, I bought Raphaela a high chair, in anticipation of introducing solid foods at the age of six months.  You may recall that Raphaela stayed awake for 25 hours straight, from the time we left Jerusalem and until we arrived at my parents' door step in Boston.

This year, I permanently removed the tray from the high chair and converted the seat so that Raphaela can sit at the table with the adults.  She eats everything, except for olives and highly spicy foods, which she finds less appealing. She stayed awake for most of seder, participating as fully as a one and a half year old is able;  in her fancy dress, sitting on the floor playing Leggo with the older kids and chatting away, I realized that I have a daughter, a real little girl, a real person.

As much as it shook up our plans when the car died, I must admit that it was fun seder;  I felt a genuine warmth and welcome from our hosts, the proceedings were oriented toward the children at the table (as it should be), and it was wonderful to wake up in my own bed this morning.  Tonight, trying to stay awake as late as she did for seder, Raphaela passed out on the floor while playing.

One of my friend's sons heard Raphaela last night say a word that sounded like "Abba" (Dad), which prompted him to ask, "Does Raphaela have a father?"  Since it was in the middle of the Haggadah, I told him I would explain later, in private, and he said, "Oh, so she has a father but he is not involved in her life, right?"  That worked for me.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Self-Fulfilling Prophesy

We were meant to have Pessach seder at Savta Shira's in Tekoa.  Tekoa, for those unaware of the Green Line geography, sits in the Gush Etzion area, over the Green Line and about a 25 minute car ride, if you take the back road through Arab villiages.  For the last few days, I have been looking forward to the holiday, but fearing for the safety of the journey.

This afternoon, with some last minute Pessach shopping on the list, my car would not start.  Most likely the problem lies in the battery, but I don't know if it can be resolved before the holiday; the whole country shuts down as Pessach gets closer and closer, Israel is consistent that way.

Some voice in my head said "THANK G-D," when my car stalled, and that gave me the clearest answer, we will stay in Jerusalem for the seder, Raphaela and I will sleep in our own beds, and we will visit with Savta Shira and Jonathan once the car is well again.  The worst thing I could imagine is stalling in the middle of an Arab villiage with my baby, given the latest hostilities in the Middle East.

My Life Coach has told me repeatedly that I have the extraordinary super-power of manifesting my thoughts and intentions, for both the positive and the negative, and apparently my car (and the Universe) listened this time.

The Drunk Baby Sitter

Today, my last day of work in the clinic before the official start of Pessach, the baby sitter whom I had interviewed and hired to watch Raphaela showed up 15 minutes late, and drunk.  At nine in the morning, she reeked of alcohol could barely keep her eyes open.

I felt outrage and disgust, and Raphaela instinctively started crying and did not want to play with the intoxicated care taker.  Chiropractic immediately took second place to my concern for my daughter's safety, and in a very kind way, I gave this woman a cup of coffee and told her that she was in no state to take responsibility for a small child.

This woman did not interview as the type who would put herself and her charge in danger.

There were more surprises to come, on this day before the holiday...(to be continued)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Bus Ride

This morning, after dropping Raphaela off for her first 'school outing' to the Botanical Gardens in Jerusalem, I hopped on a bus towards the center of town, to pick up some office supplies.  It was the same bus line that I had taken in and out of a year, during my fertility treatments and early pregnancy, the route toward Hadassah Hospital.

As I sat on the bus, thinking about that year, waking up very early so I could get to the hospital early, and finish blood tests and ultra-sounds and doctor consultations (still early); and then start my official work day at 8:30 am, having experienced a whole morning already.  Doing these procedures over and over, sometimes four times a week, and feeling exhausted emotionally and physically by the end of the day.

Perhaps today, for the first time, I admitted to myself that as a single parent, as much as I would like to give Raphaela a sibling, it would be logistically improbable, unless I was married.  Not only do I want to conceive my next child the "fun" way, but without baby sitting and a real commitment of support from those around me, I do not have enough hours in the day, nor do I have the energy to be pregnant, work full time and take of Raphaela properly.  And that is all before a second child would be brought into the world, demanding my attention and having those most basic needs.

Saying this aloud gives me a sense of relief as much as sadness, I am so thankful for what I have and plan to appreciate it, rather than yearn for what might be missing.

The Cute Side of the Terrible Twos

It's true, I did not think that I would have power struggles over clothing and bed time stories and breakfast with my one and a half year old.  She can be sweet one moment, pretending to cry the next, and clingy to the point of not allowing me to put her down the entire time that we are home.  She has even started the classic maneuver of putting on the most wonderful smile as soon as we leave the house, so that everyone can say, "Oh, what an angelic child..."

There is always the irresistable side of this phenomenon, as I watch her express herself and her opinions, and behave the adventurous toddler.  I told Raphaela to prepare to leave for our swim lesson.  In response, she took a bunch of her toys and stuffed them down her shirt, so she looked pregnant;  as she crawled around, you could hear the plastic fruits and animals clinking against each other, but the bulge didn't seem to bother her at all.  She then took her jacket and went to the door, and let me know with a smile and a coy tilt of the head that she was ready to go, that she had all the essentials. 

What a smile, it has bewitched me from the moment she was born.

We arrived at the pool  and all of Raphaela's recent water hesitations seemed to have disappeared.  She willingly jumped into the water and swam, crawled through tunnels and swung on the rope.  Every time she performed a daring feat (for a toddler), I rewarded her with a hug and a kiss.  I treasure these moments, as much as I treasure the tantrums, because ultimately, Raphaela is following the plan, and I get to watch it and foster her growth every day.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Terrible Twos, A Bit Early

A patient of mine joked with me, that kids these days are doing everything earlier than the previous generation, and indeed, that has recently been my experience with Raphaela.

The good news is that she has four more teeth coming in, and for much of the time, Raphaela shows a playfulness, clear communication, and sense of humor that is an absolute pleasure for me as a parent. 

The bad news is that for the last week and a half, she has not gone to bed easily, and has not stayed asleep during the night.  Which means that for the last week and a half I have not slept properly, and today I snapped.  This morning, after Raphaela had taken off her pants for the fifth time in ten minutes, I sat on the bed and started throwing a temper tantrum, and said that Raphaela could go to Gan naked, for all I cared.  I felt so thankful that she had nursery today, because I needed time for myself, without the responsibilities of parenthood.

In the expertise of temper tantrums, I learn from the master, my daughter.  Her exhaustion, combined with the natural desire to test her own limits, have made for a potent combination;  this morning (after waking up at 4:30 am) she sat on the floor, curled up like a little porcupine, and pretended to cry for over 15 minutes, until she realized that I had crawled back into bed and was pretending not to notice.  She wants chocolate for breakfast, and can beg for quite a while, even though I continue to say "no" and offer her cereal or fruit instead.  Raphaela has even tried throwing toys, at which point I stop playing with her.

For her teeth, I have tried almost every conceivable natural and conventional medicine remedy.  For her tantrums, I accept them as a normal and healthy sign of her development as an independent human being.

But yesterday at Gymboree, Raphaela asked to nurse, and for the first time since her birth, once I opened my shirt, she looked at my breasts, climbed off my lap and went back to playing.  My little girl is growing up.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Social Insecurities

When I picked up Raphaela from Gan today, two other parents were standing together and talking, practically beaming about the fantastic play-date their two girls (both in Raphaela's group) had experienced this week.  This same mother has invited several other kids from the group for play-dates with her daughter.

Not my daughter, at least not yet.  The insecure child in me felt socially outcast, and she is now wondering why Raphaela has not received this "Golden Ticket."  I hope, of course, that nothing I did as a parent in the Gan has dissuaded this family from inviting us over.  My concerns stem not from my issues (though it could be argued otherwise), but rather from wanting Raphaela to have as many friends and fun days as she can imagine and deserves.

I can also get pro-active and start inviting children over, take the initiative rather than sitting shyly in the proverbial corner.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Inspiration Needed

For the past two nights, Raphaela has barely slept, and the congestion begun in the Winter continues, no matter what I do to try to help my daughter breathe.  It hurts me to hear her snorting and coughing.  Two nights ago, as soon as Raphaela managed to fall asleep, Harry started vomitting.  I had become spoiled by getting uninterrupted sleep cycles for the last few months.  Last night I was exhausted, almost passed out on the floor while Raphaela played with Leggos, until she passed out right next to me.  Perhaps a new set of teeth are arriving, and based upon the symptoms, it will be a big and painful event.

In times like these, I take inspiration from one of my heroes, Christopher Reeve, who wrote about  the challenges of parenting, especially after his accident:  "I believe that becoming a parent is a gift, even though parenting means taking on enormous responsibility.  It's a miracle that a child can come into the world and instinctively give us unconditoinal love.  If we can return that kind of love and provide a nurturing environment, the responsibility becomes less challenging."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Stories from the Work-Zone

A woman my age, in fact the person who is most responsible for me taking the step to become a single parent by choice, came into the office today.  She told me that she had scheduled a full medical check up, including a mamogram, and asked me if I had done that particularly uncomfortable procedure yet.  In fact, I recently had my breasts examined as part of my annual exam, and the surgeon only told me to return in one year; he advised me about weaning Raphaela, and said nothing about needing a mamogram at my 'advanced state.'  Thank G-d there is no history of cancer in our family, but it is times like these that I feel old per se, and have to remind myself that I have a one and half year old toddler, and that age is just a number representing chronology, not the person you are inside.


A woman who had been a client over ten years ago, returned for Chiropractic care this week.  As part of the re-evaluation routine, I asked her if anything of major or minor importance had happened in the last decade, vis a vis her health.  All of a sudden her face fell, and she said, "I thought you knew, my daughter A. committed suicide three years ago.  That's why I started running, and I am coming to you now for running injuries."  I immediately started crying, as much out of shock, but also coming from a sense of extreme empathy.  Very unprofessional of me, but I could not help myself.

It seems that since I gave birth, every event of the parent-child variety affects me in an intense and personal way, and at this point I cannot blame my reaction on pregnancy hormones.  A commercial on television that features a father pushing his son in a carriage brings me to happy tears; I love watching the fake birth scenes in dramas and remembering my own birth experience.  And when a woman tells me about the loss of her daughter, I have to stop myself from thinking about the anguish it must have caused, pain that I would not wish on anyone. It is un-natural for a parent to bury their child.


Several couples I have met through my clinic have special needs children, and amazingly, their marriage and family have withstood the pressure of the situation.  True, when they tell me stories about their teenager still in diapers, or the difficulties of their son or daughter getting a proper education, I almost want to tell them to stop talking, that I can't hear their stories because it makes me sad and uncomfortable.  Then I realize that I need to hear about their lives, so I can appreciate even more how blessed I am, and never take it for granted.


One of my clients works with a volunteer organization in Israel which places at-risk children in foster homes, and creates programs to help these boys and girls deal with the traumas of their young lives.  She told me today that she had put out the word that they needed essential supplies, like cribs and strollers and toys, and the generoisty of the response from the community was overwhelming;  she received more equipment than she could possibly use, or store.  Two of the children she placed this week suffered from Shaken Baby Syndrome, and the parents of these babies had been arrested.  When I asked her how she does this achingly difficult work every day, she answered, "I like to think of the Tikkun, because otherwise I could not get out of bed in the morning."

We must value and celebrate every day, all those small moments of perfect joy.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Return to the Pool

After allowing Raphaela's immunity system to strengthen for two months, we returned this evening to swimmng lessons.  I had thought that by the time April and Pessach arrived, it would feel like Spring in Jerusalem, but no, it rained all day today with a definite chill in the air.

Still, I bundled up Raphaela and drove instead of walking, and wondered if she would remember her love of the water.  Though she did not resist any activity during the lesson, she was certainly more timid than she had been in the past, and spent much of the lesson curled up in my arms and sending coy smiles to the instructor.  Her instructor, Yael, seemed quite pleased overall with Raphaela's participation, and it made me feel better to see her skills return slowly.

Now I await the true test, ie will Raphaela come down with a debilitating cold one to days after her lesson.

Over Pessach, because all the nurseries are closed and I will not be working, we will be able to have several make-up lessons, to get Raphaela back in the swing of swimming and to fill the vacation schedule.  As well, Savta Shira's pool will be open during the first day of Pessach, and I will take Raphaela to the smaller pool, assuming it is warm enough outside.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bilingual and Proud

Today, when I picked up Raphaela from Gan, her teacher told me that at the morning "meeting" - in which they sit in a circle and sing songs as a group - during the song that asks each child individually, "How are you today?" (in Hebrew), my daughter answered (in English), "OK!"

Pessach Cleaning

Always a proponent of "dust is not chametz," I do not go into manic Spring Cleaning mode before Pessach.  I live an orderly enough life - even with a child who drew in purple crayon all over the floor yesterday - that other than the fridge and the stove, the house does not need a complete once-a-year overhaul.

When we were growing up, our family chametz philosophy commanded us to eat all leavened products before the holiday arrived.  In fact, we ended up finishing most of the food in the house several days before seder, and would then wander around the house complaining that there was nothing to eat.

While cleaning out my freezer this morning, I found a small package of three frozen cookies, leftover from the New York party in honor of Raphaela in April of last year.  My aunt, an impecable cook and baker, had made several different versions of fancy sugar cookies to celebrate my daughter, and I know that the halacha dictates that I consume them or throw them away;  though I am sad to lose the memories and physical reminders of that party, I know they will be tasty.    

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Our Great Family Doctor

When I took Raphaela to the doctor today, to examine her allergic reaction to the insect bites from Hell, my GP opened up her computer file:  in a minor snafu, all of the basic data had been erased and needed to be re-entered.

Israel, for the last 63 years, has adhered to the male standard; by which I mean that when a woman gets married, the Ministry of the Interior automatically changes her maiden name to that of her husband;  in fact, all beurocratic identification asks for the name of the Father.

Our family doctor got angry that the circumstances of Raphaela's conception and birth meant that the slot for "Father" would remain blank, and that there was no space that recorded the name of the mother.  She decided, after noting my relative indifference to the subject, that she would put my name as Raphaela's father.  She also decided that she was going to make it her mission to have the HMOs refine their computer programs, to be more in line with the modern reality of the family.

My GP was extremely supportive of me during the pregnancy, and has given me her home phone in case I have a Raphaela emergency during the night or on weekends.  She has often expressed her admiration of me as a single mother, and is one of the few people who acknowledges that it is harder than I make it look.  I appreciate her, and wish there were more people like her in my life.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Happy Allergic Birthday

Today Raphaela turned one and a half, and to honor the occasion, we both stayed home suffering from allergies.  In particular, Raphaela got bitten by some bug thing, all over her face and her left hand, and the areas are now red and swollen.  I plan on taking her to the doctor tomorrow, just to make sure it isn't anything more severe.

Luckily, the replacement HMO cards arrived just in time for Raphaela to require medical care.  

I know that nature and genetics shuffles the deck, and that Raphaela Thank G-d turned out very well, but I can't help but feel a little guilty for giving her my allergies and my sensitive skin.