Saturday, April 25, 2015

Deer Sighting!

With a beautiful national park right down the street from our house, Raphaela and I have frequented the Jerusalem Deer Reserve four times since it opened its doors and today, finally, we spotted actual deer (to be more accurate, gazelle)!  Three of the smaller animals came to the main pond to drink, and all of us sitting there raised a big cheer...whereupon they ran into the field and hid, blending into the tall grass.

At one point Raphaela needed the bathroom, and we were too far away from the only option available to us at the main gate of the park.  Surrounded by nature and not another soul in sight, I told Raphaela to go into the field and hide behind a tree and take care of it.  Several minutes later a clearly American couple could be heard saying, "These Israeli children are disgusting, violating a national park!" That made me the Israeli mother of this Israeli child, and hearing their heavily accented Hebrew, I felt the need to reply. I calmly explained that she is five and a half and can't "hold it in," and besides, we are not littering per se.  "You disgust me, you Israelis!" was the reply.  I guess after 18 years in this country, I am now officially an Israeli mother.

On the way home, Raphaela fell and skinned her knew and elbow badly.  I happened to have brought wipes with me, and used them to clean the wound; a man passing by then happened to have a Band-Aid in his pocket.  As I applied the Band-Aid, Raphaela hugged me tight and said, "I am so lucky to have a Mommy who is a doctor!  I wish everyone could have a Mommy like mine."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

In Loving Memory

Yesterday, I and several other parents in the Gan had a minor discussion with the head teacher, when she implied that the boy's job is to fight bravely in the Israeli Army, and the girl's job is to adore their men and give them flowers.

Today, when the siren sounds in honor and memory of the 23,320 fallen soldiers since the founding of the State of Israel, all the children in my daughter's school will stand in silence and contemplation, together:  the kids of both the secular and the religious kindergartens, and the elementary students from grade one to six of the art school.  As it should be, because we are all Israelis living in this country thanks to the sacrifice of these men and women, including the 116 who died in the last year.

We put all our differences aside today, to bless these brave souls and the families who lost them.

Tonight, when we transition from mourning to joy, we stand united again.
Happy 67th birthday to Israel, and all its inhabitants.

Opening the Floodgates

Over the course of my life, I have done various sessions of therapy and personal coaching, to help me work out both latent and active issues that I felt were sabotaging my success and happiness.  It was after a year of directed coaching with an amazing psychologist in Jerusalem that I could commit to bringing the person who was eventually Raphaela into the world.

The one problem I have always had with therapy is that even under the best circumstances, this digging and re-evaluation opens up wounds that then sit and fester, until the work to heal them is done.

This past week, I posted a spot-on article on my Facebook feed, which explained seven (out of the many) least helpful statements to say to an actual single mother, no matter how thoughtful the intentions.  To my surprise, it spurred a string of honest and often heart rending comments from several of my Jerusalem friends, also single mothers by choice.  I have always known any parent - and certainly a woman who has no family in the region and has chosen to parent alone - suffers through bouts of doubt, loneliness, anger and frustration.  In fact, in between the amazing and fulfilling moments, being a mother is hard and involves a tremendous amount of personal sacrifice.

But for the first time since Raphaela was born, I was hearing concrete and intense personal vulnerabilities from women whom I consider the bravest heroines I know; women whom you almost never hear complain about who we are and what we do every day for our children.  Their courage and openness gave me the strength to talk about events I have never spoken about to anyone, for fear of being accused of "having gotten myself into something that I cannot handle," and for fear of asking for help when I most truly needed it.

Here's the unfortunate outcome of this blessed event:  now, for the past few days, I am carrying around all these open wounds and real traumas that I have borne in silence for the last seven years, ever since I began fertility treatments. I find myself with much less patience for my life and my daughter, feeling trapped and somehow cheated,  and trying very hard not to take it out on Raphaela.  Because none of this is her fault and because we both deserve a life of positivity and joy.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Marvelous Monday

The morning started with a bang.  While I was in the shower, our cat Harry caught a baby bird in mid-air, brought it back to the windowsill and ate it.  Raphaela watched the whole thing with a combination of horror and enthusiasm, and was most impressed that he did not "waste his food";  though I heard her chastising Harry afterwards, saying to him, "Now don't eat any more birds, OK?"  Harry has been staking out that birds nest since February, waiting for his chance; I give him credit for his patience and his alacrity, not bad for a 13 year old feline.

Once I dropped Raphaela off at school, for time since before the extra-long Pessach vacation, I did a real run in Gan Sacher, with real sweating and fat burning aerobic activity.  With no specific motivation for staying in shape IE no family event or marathon, I must remember the feeling of elation and commit again to continuing the workouts.

Meanwhile, in Gan, Raphaela had a show-and-tell gig.  Until now, children in her class had brought in their sea shell collection, or a favorite doll, or a soccer ball.  Raphaela decided she wanted to talk about her ballet class.  Which led into (naturally) including selections of paintings of Degas's ballet dancers, her favorite artist.  Which meant that she also felt the need to create her own pastel drawing and add that into the presentation.  Sounds more like a small art history thesis to me, I am proud of Raphaela for making these connections and creating an ambitious presentation.

Raphaela's Nature class finished off the day.  I cannot remember my childhood feeling this busy.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Oh, How I Wish...

"Oh, how I wish you would give me a little brother or sister!"

That has been a common refrain the last two weeks, though I keep explaining that one does not simply order a baby from the store or wish it into existence.
We were walking home from Gan one day with Raphaela's friend and her very pregnant mother, and Raphaela asked her, "Are you pregnant or are you just getting fat?"

Yesterday Raphaela and I walked to the new Gazelle Nature Reserve near our house and spent a lovely Shabbat morning there, so comfortable we were in the puffy beanbag sofas that we could have stayed there all day.  Every time a woman walked by, Raphaela would jump up and ask them, "Do you have a baby inside your stomach?" Israel being Israel, it so happened that every woman she asked answered  yes.

But I was most pleased when my daughter told one of these women, "You know, once you have a baby, you can do and be anything that you want, even when you are a Mommy.  Like, my Mommy is a doctor and a Mom, and she can even be a doctor when she will be a Grandma."

Score one for the home team, someone is listening to my feminist ramblings.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Kardashian Syndrome

Internet goddess Kim Kardashian, her husband Kanye West, their two old daughter North and the 'fragile' Kardashian sister, Khloe, landed their private plane in Ben Gurion earlier this week for a brief visit, along with their support staff and their massive marketing machine.  Immediately, a group was set up on Facebook to follow their every move, with abundant tweets begging Kanye to arrange a free concert.  The magical duo were featured on the covers of every major Israeli newspaper, and the info-tainment industry will probably air a special program on the outfits they all wore to little North's baptism.  Rabid hordes of fans began to stake out hotels and high-end restaurants in Jerusalem, with the hopes of spotting, and maybe even, yes, touching the sparkly celebrity couple.  As if simply being near their assets (pun intended) would rub off on the common folk in some small way.

Who cares, really.  This is a woman who comes from a family more than eager to prostitute themselves for fame and fortune.  We have suffered through daily updates about Kim's gynecological issues and her frequency of love making, her sister's painful divorce, her other sister's dysfunctional non-marriage, her step-father's transgender evolution, and her brother's spiral into mental illness.

I feel dirty just reading that last sentence.

Kimberly even used the Armenian Genocide to manipulate a photo opportunity. Her husband, Kanye West, is at the very least a thug and an anti-Semite, a rapper who felt it appropriate to humiliate a disabled man at one of his concerts;  one of the human beings least qualified for public admiration.

You could argue that I am reacting out of jealousy. After all, I don't have a full make-up and wardrobe team, my apartment could fit inside one of their walk-in closets, and Kimye's clothing budged rivals the GNP of our small country of Israel.  Whereas I can only dream of actually being able to afford a home of my own, something modest in Jerusalem, the Kardashians flew in for two days to purchase a multi-million dollar penthouse in Tel Aviv, on a whim.

This is not about envy, I pity this family for having strayed so far from the norms of basic decency.  I do not aspire to my own reality program, I have enough to deal with on a daily basis in my real life, between single parenting and living in a country surrounded by our genetic cousins who want to wipe us off the map.

This rant is about the Kardashians, the Honey Boo Boos and the Toddlers with Tiaras. The parents who find it praise-worthy to exploit their offspring and actively place their children in harm's way, in order to make a buck.  It is not a far leap from the 21rst century mental illness called "Kardashian Syndrome" to the ongoing tragic news story coming out of Maryland.

It is this same set of skewed and twisted values that allows two Jewish parents to purposely send their ten year old Rafi and his younger sister Devorah alone to the park, so they can be picked up by local police and held hostage for several hours by CPS.  After, all, when the authorities in Maryland have already threatened to remove their children from the home forever, why take that seriously?  And now that the parents are suing the local police, they can expose their children to even more trauma, forcing them to testify in court and relive the nightmare.

The more drama, the better the reality show...

All to make a point about Free Range Parenting and American Constitution, whatever that point may be; and more importantly, to stand in front of the camera while the mother weeps crocodile tears and the father grins with giddy excitement, soaking in the attention from the media.

Let's end the 15 minutes of fame of these parents, the Kardashians and their ilk.  If we really care about our own children and their future, let's stop elevating pond scum into false gods.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Perspective, The Breasts Edition

Raphaela was nursed for one and a half years, until I had to be hospitalized for an emergency appendectomy.  My breasts served her cause well.

When Raphaela was about two and a half, I told her that when she was  a new baby, the milk from my breasts were her major source of nutrition.  Her facial expression read "confused" and somewhat "horrified."

This morning as I was getting dressed, she observed, "Mommy, your breasts are dancing! When are mine going to start growing?"