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.