Tuesday, December 30, 2014


"Mommy, what if my bunny turns into a zombie bunny?  Will he try to eat my brains?"

Saturday, December 27, 2014

The SceneFriday afternoon, pre-Shabbat cooking

Raphaela walks stealthily into the kitchen, holding something that vaguely resembles a toy gun.

"Give me a taste of that squash or I'll shoot!"

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Super Woman

A (not married, no children) friend of mine complemented me this week, saying that I had the "Super Woman and Super Mom thing down pat."  I replied, "Thank you, I think."  Because being on and capable and organized and strong all the time gets tiring, and I secretly pray that one day I can collapse, and know that there is someone there to be my safety net and pick up some of the day-to-day responsibilities of my life.

Here's how today, Thursday was supposed to play out:

5:30 am:  Wake up, after the previous night in which I went to a late concert, leaving Raphaela at home with our baby sitter
7:30 am:  Take Raphaela to kindergarten
8:30-10:30 am:  Work in Chiropractic clinic
10:45 am:  Pick up Raphaela from Kindergarten to go to Shaarei Zedek Hosptial, to remove the stitches and get examined by the plastic surgeon
11:30-12:30:  Shaarei Zedek Hospital
12:45 pm:  Pick up Raphaela's new eyeglasses.  (Mercifully, because we had to pay privately, the optician gave me a nice price, saying that at this age, glasses are like "that toy that keeps breaking.")
1:15 pm: Return Raphaela to school
1:45-3:30 pm:  Work in Chiropractic clinic
4:00 pm:  Pick up Raphaela, come home for a quick snack
5:15 pm:  Leave house for Chanukah play
6:30-8:30 pm:  Chanukah play
9:00 pm:  Collapse in utter exhaustion

Here's how today, Thursday, actually played out:

5:30 am:  Raphaela wakes up, I tell her I need a half hour more of sleep
7:15 am:  Take Raphaela to Kindergarten
8:30-10:15 am:  Work in Chiropractic clinic
10:25 am:  Pick up Raphaela from Kindergarten
10:30-40 am:  Pick up Raphaela's new glasses, they look beautiful on her and open up her whole face
10:45 am:  Drive to Shaarei Zedek Hospital, the long way (I missed the proper exit)
11-12:30:  Wait for Raphaela's appointment with the plastic surgeon (they are running late...)
12:30-40 pm:  Removal of stitches, no anesthesia and it seems to hurt Raphaela even more than the original injury.  Such a trooper!
12:45 pm:  Drive Raphaela back to school, where she declares that she is worn out from her ordeal and just needs to rest
1:15 pm: Arrive home and eat a small quick lunch
1:45-3:30 pm: Work in Chiropractic clinic
4:00 pm: Pick up Raphaela from Gan
5:15 pm:  Amazingly, the bus comes right away and it takes less than ten minutes to arrive at the theatre with 45 minutes before the show starts
6:30-8:15 pm:  Raphaela, my good friend and her daughter, and 3,000 other Israeli children from across all walks of life and all religious levels watch a loud sparkly version of "101 Arabian Nights," featuring some A-list Israeli actors and the absolutely stunning Ethiopian Miss Israel.  Too bad we can't hear parts of the songs because of the din of all the children echoing along the fabulous acoustics of the hall.
8:15-8:30 pm:   The MC announces that in honor of their final performance and the recent holiday of Chanukah, all children exiting the theatre will receive a special candy box full of treats.  Raphaela and I almost get trampled just trying to get out of our seats, and I cover her face, worried that some jostling child or parent will rip open the not-yet-healed wound on Raphaela's chin.
8:45 pm:  A taxi gets us home, Raphaela is juiced up from the adrenaline of the show and the gift, I have a throbbing headache.
9:00 pm:  Raphaela collapses into bed.
9:15 pm:  I collapse into bed and vow that now that I have given my daughter the Israeli Chanukah "Festigal" experience, I will never do it again. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Chanukah VIII

Last night, as we lit a full compliment of eight candles for Chanukah, Raphaela became sad that the holiday was coming to an end.  To cheer her up, I reminded Raphaela that there is always a great holiday on the horizon, with Purim the next one of the Jewish calendar, and Christmas vacation starting in the United States tomorrow.

Raphaela got very excited, and said, "Oh goody, that means we are going to get snow tomorrow night!"

(If the miracle of Chanukah is that the small amount of pure olive oil lasted eight days, then the miracle of Christmas, according to every television show, is that it snows when you least expect it.  It amazes me that living in Israel where Christmas and New Years come and go without notice, my five year old has a full grasp on the lore of these non-Jewish holidays.)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Raphaela the Brave

My daughter continues to astound me, as she maintains high positive energy despite her ordeal last week, and the bandages that cover the significant stitches on her chin.  This is my girl, who barely cried and lay perfectly still, even as the anesthesia started to wear off with the plastic surgeon only half finished.  Raphaela felt every pain, and showed bravery and constraint that I doubt most adults could manage on a good day.

This morning Raphaela asked for some coins and she has been giving them out all day to friends and strangers alike.  She tells them that she is giving them money that they may then give to charity, explaining that she is doing "good deeds" to thank G-d for taking care of her.

Then this afternoon we had what she called an "important talk," in which she explained that she is getting tired of the boys in her school who "fight and go crazy all day," IE we have arrived at the Cooties Stage, hooray!  I told Raphaela that she doesn't need to be friends with everyone, and that if she chooses to play only with girls for now, she is a perfectly normal child.

This new development certainly makes my choice of elementary schools easier, because it clearly answers the question, "Does Raphaela need/want boys in her class?"  When she is in high school and in the midst of adventurous dating, I will remind her of the time when she decided that boys were "wild and ichy."

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Festival of Lights

Every Friday night, as part of the blessing I give my daughter, I use one of my favorite quotes from Bob Dylan, "May you always know the truth and see the light surrounding you."  I am particularly grateful this year to be able to light the candles with my daughter, reminded of our own little miracle. (Raphaela's face at the moment looks like she was hit by a truck...)

After two days of resting, I sent Raphaela back to school this morning, wondering if she would be able to stay out of danger;  you can't tell a five year old who is feeling fine that she must be especially cautious with her every day activities.  The fall happened as a natural consequence of children playing, and I would not want her to become fearful of experiencing a full life, as life requires an element of risk and uncertainty.

When I was preparing her lunch this morning, my gourmet chef looked at me and said, "You've made some good food choices there, but they're a little boring."

Once we found a shirt that I could pull over her head, we headed off to school, where I advised her teachers that (a) except for a gazillion stitches Raphaela is fine (b) I am the one still traumatized by the event and (c) I encouraged the teachers to allow Raphaela to have a full discussion about her wounds and her visit to the emergency room.

I was told later that after Raphaela spoke in front of her friends - "Mommy, I told them the whole truth!"- there ensued a class discussion where every child stood up and talked about their scars and moles and previous injuries.  I couldn't have planned it better myself.

Post script:  As I was walking home with Raphaela this afternoon we saw the mother of one of the boys who had front row seats to the face smack-down two days ago.  She asked me, "How are YOU doing? My son gave me all the gory details.  Was it really that bad?"

Monday, December 15, 2014

That Terrible Phone Call...

when the iPhone tells you it's the school on the other end of the line, and indeed, apparently Raphaela and her friend were playing together hand-in-hand, when they fell down on the concrete.  Somehow her friend walked away with a scuffed knee, while Raphaela almost broke her nose and re-opened the one year old scar on her chin.

Literally left an understanding patient on the table, back to Shaarei Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem, where Raphaela was stitched up, but the full extent of her injuries will not be known until the swelling subsides.  The damage this time was so much worse, because of the scar tissue left over from the previous fall.

At least this time I packed a hospital kit and I knew which anesthesia would not cause an anaphylactic reaction and potentially kill my daughter.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Trick of Memory

(Or:  "Tell a Lie Enough Times and you Start to Believe It")

For as long as I can remember, I have been called "The Smart One in the Family," and I convinced myself in my head that if I am getting top grades, I must like school, and I must have had an overall positive experience from the beginning of my traditional education, in elementary school.

Today began the process of scouting elementary schools in Jerusalem, toward Raphaela entering First Grade next Fall.  Having already consulted with many parents in my area who have daughters slightly older than mine, I constructed a list of my first and second choices.  This morning I went to the Open House for my second choice program; second only because it would mean driving every morning and sitting in traffic, as opposed to walking down the street for ten minutes..

My primary question for Raphaela, without imposing my own skewed views on the subject, is whether she would do better socially in a mixed class or an all-girls class. I have heard cogent arguments for both sides.  As well, the choice of the vein of Zionist Nationalist Religious education (as opposed to another stream) also has extreme implications on our family life.

When I walked into the building, it felt like...Jerusalem.  Old Jerusalem.  That translates to a dingy exterior, small-ish classrooms with no locker space to keep books and back packs, and those Israeli tiles that they used in the 1960's, the ones that are brown and speckled and look dirty even when they are bleached and spotless.  The principal and the teachers seemed committed and enthusiastic, and I appreciated their program of supplementing - "challenging" - children who seem to be bored in a particular subject.

I did not like the little speech I got about the detriments of bi-lingualism, and how it's better not to "confuse" children.  Quite the contrary, I have read study after study that states unequivocally that children who speak at least two languages fluently have a more flexible brain, and can absorb and process information more quickly. I also did not hesitate to point out that when this generation of  computer-literate and generally life-savvy children hit the job market in their 20's, the person with the better English will win the game.

Then it hit me, as I was observing these kids and examining their displayed art objects, this little voice in my head said, "You have been lying to yourself all these years!  You did well in school because you worked damn hard, but you had a difficult social life and low self-esteem.  You always felt like an outsider, you most absolutely did not like school!"

Joining the chorus was a voice even more surprising, that of a mature anxious mother, "Some part of you does not want Raphaela to grow up, and the idea of her starting First Grade scares you to death.  You are afraid to make the wrong choice, you are afraid she will not have a good group of friends, you are afraid that she will miss out because you did not grow up in Israel through this same educational system..  Will my daughter be happy?!"

I left the school premises with the information I needed, and a whole new set of nightmares to keep me awake.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The chorus from one of the songs that the children in Raphaela's class sang tonight, at the Gan Chanukah party; an extravaganza that included minor pyrotechnics, a brief re-enactment of the destruction of the Temple, and of course, doughnuts.

"Like the flame, the Jews will never be extinguished!"

The Sort-Of Story of Chanukah

As told by Raphaela

Once upon a time there was a Princess who wanted to play with her dreidel.  Antiochus [the Greek ruler] came and broke her dreidel and tried to put pigs inside the Jewish Temple.

Antiochus got an "X" for his bad behavior!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Showering 101

When Raphaela was a baby and I needed to shower, as the only responsible adult in the house I had no choice but to strap her into a bouncy seat and bring her into the room with me.  As she became a toddler, she would often choose to be in the room with me and play while I took a shower, and I despaired of ever having that ten minutes or so of privacy and quiet time.

Then, for a while, Raphaela was quite content to eat breakfast or play or watch a video, and I felt that it was safe enough to leave her roaming the house while I could not supervise.

This morning, Raphaela decided that she wanted to learn the art and science of showering like an adult, and asked if she could observe my technique while I went through my morning ritual.  At first I didn't think she was serious, but she insisted.

The first order of business was Plumbing 101, a brief and yet detailed explanation of water pressure and pipes IE where does the water come from and where does it go.

Her comment on my hair mask:  "Is that the same mask you put on your face sometimes?

When I was lathered up she exclaimed, "You look like a cow!"  Ready to be insulted, she explained that my whole body was white from the bubbles, and my hair was still brown, and so...I looked like a cow.  Then ensued a deep discussion about the difference between a lufta sponge and other standard methods.

Eager to understand why I shave my legs, I was quick to point out that a razor is sharp and really only for adults who know how not to get cut.

As I washed off she became most enthusiastic and proclaimed with genuine admiration that I was "the champion at taking showers" and that she could not wait to be a Mommy so she could do the same.

Raphaela, so eager to grow up, and Mommy, who forgets that children see and hear everything, that we are role models even when we just want to wash our hair in peace.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Real and Imaginary Friends

My parents had come to visit us for two and a half weeks, and it took two days for Raphaela to truly absorb the fact that they were no longer our neighbors down the street, once again the grandparents who live on Skype or Facetime.  Raphaela and I were in the supermarket last Thursday and in the middle of the fruit aisle, she burst out crying, saying how much she missed my mother and father and asking when they would be returning from America to Jerusalem.

The only way to console her was to whip out my cell phone and on the spot arrange a video call with my father, who spoke to her and calmed her down. (Praise be the iPhone!)

On the way home Raphaela declared that from now on she would only play with family members, real or imagined.  Which leaves my brother and his family, whom we see infrequently, and her two imaginary siblings, a younger brother and an older sister.  I got the sense that since my parents had returned to the their home in Boston, Raphaela had chosen to play by herself with her imaginary brother and sister, rather than with her real classmates during the day.

Concerned, I told her that in order to be happy and have good days, we need both our real and imagined playmates, and that we should treasure the real people around us, even if they are not related by blood.  To encourage her, I told her that when I was little I had an imaginary friend who was a super hero, and while I have not abandoned her (even as a grown up), I truly enjoy the time I spend with my real-live grown up friends.  Then I  asked her to name some of the children in her Gan that she likes, and Raphaela begrudgingly filled our her list. I reminded her as well that there are people who love her everywhere in the world, even if we cannot eat Shabbat dinner with them every week.

I can only hope that the sadness and the social isolation she is imposing on herself will pass.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Mommy Store

(The Scene:  a minor tantrum by Raphaela because of some perceived transgression by Mommy)

Raphaela:  (with sour face) I don't like you anymore.
Mommy:  You don't have to like me all the time, but I will always be your Mommy.
Raphaela:  I want another Mommy then.
Mommy:  OK, after I take you to school I will go to the Mommy Store and buy you a new one, a better model.
Raphaela:  (approximately two seconds later) Did you go to the store yet?
Mommy:  No!
Raphaela:  Alright...I will take you back.