Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Play Date

After almost four months, Raphaela has a BFF in school, at least for this week...

Yesterday afternoon, she and N had a playdate at N's house, a successful one, so happy that Raphaela did not want to come home.  Raphaela also came up with a "great idea, I will dress up as Elsa for Purim and N can be Anna, we can be like sisters!"

This morning I saw the mother of this girl, and she thanked me.  She told me that Raphaela is "such a good influence" on her own daughter:  "Not only did N clean up her room, she behaved so well, and really related to Raphaela, really played and gave of herself.  So thank you!"

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Israel Family Day 2016

Family Day is Israel's answer to Mother's Day or Father's Day or Grandparent's Day, traditionally celebrated by Hallmark in the United States.  When Raphaela was in nursery and kindergarten, they made more of a fuss about it, this year it seems to have gone by almost un-noticed by her First Grade teacher.

This morning I took a picture of our family, and explained to Raphaela that today's holiday works for everyone, all kinds of different situations, because all of them are loving and valid.

Raphaela nodded her head and said, "God has the biggest family of all, everyone is related to him!"

Saturday, February 6, 2016

36 Grown-Up Hours

For the first time since Raphaela was born, she stayed with my parents (who were visiting from the US) over Shabbat, and I stayed home, alone, with no one to care for other than myself and marginally, our cat Harry.


On the way to school, half way down the block, a man called to me.  I turned around and did not recognize him, he had just dropped his little boy off at a nursery near our house.  He said to us, "I see you and your daughter walking to school every morning. I am headed in that direction, to that school, do you want a ride?"

"No thank you," I said. Because I know that Raphaela is very possessive of our time together in the morning, and because it is a beautiful sunny day, atypical for Jerusalem in February.

After we came home from school in the afternoon, I asked for Raphaela's help in packing the overnight bag, and showed her all her clothing and her toothbrush and hair accessories. "And WHY," she asked with suspicion, "will you not be able to take care of these things yourself?"

I had put off telling her that I would not be joining the rest of the family on this sleepover party, and could not avoid it any longer. I explained that she would have special bonding time with her cousin and her grandparents, and that I would pick her up after Shabbat.

Holding back tears, Raphaela and I chose a special doll that she would take with her, to remind her that I am always with her and always love her, no matter where I am.  That seemed to do the trick.

Friday Afternoon

After dropping Raphaela off at my parents and driving home, I could actually feel my stomach drop a little. It felt odd, it felt wrong for the house to be so quiet, for me to have not much of anything to do for anyone.  For the first time in six years I had free time without responsibility, and I had no idea what to do with myself.

Apparently, motherhood has altered my identity and my essential state of being, and there's no going back.

Friday Night

Dinner with friends, with good food and a very good bottle of red wine to share.  I would estimate that half of the conversation that I contributed to the evening somehow involved my daughter, not counting the people who said, "Too bad Raphaela is not here, I haven't seen her in a while."

I call that the "Mother of" Phenomenon:  since I gave birth, my name (and that of all mothers to children in Israel) became "Raphaela's Mother," even amongst the parents of her classmates. In Israel, where family values take precedence above all, you are defined by your relatives and most especially your children.

Shabbat Morning

I can do it!  And more miraculously, Harry can do it!  My cat (whom I have had longer than Raphaela) who usually wakes me up at the crack of dawn, let me sleep in until 8:30 am.   I have not slept past six am in years, and I did not think my body remembered how.  Of course, it meant that I missed the party at my friend's house for International Ice Cream for Breakfast Day.

Shabbat Day

I finally got into the groove, stopped feeling guilty, and of all the activities I did today, perhaps the most inspiring was the five kilometer plus hike around Jerusalem. I didn't have to pack a picnic lunch (Raphaela needs snacks when we go on trips), just myself and my sneakers and my bottle of water.  I walked through the park, felt the sun on my face, smiled at random people and generally remembered why it feels so good to get some exercise into my life.

I had been waiting for that push to return to an intensive training program for the Jerusalem Marathon in March, and now I have it.  That adrenaline also reminded me that I must take care of myself and my body, if I want to stick around for a long and healthy life, and watch Raphaela grow into her full potential.

Saturday Night

I needed time away from Raphaela in order to miss her, in order to understand how we fit into each other, even when we are apart.  The closer it got to the end of Shabbat, the more I started going back into Mom mode, thinking about how she has school tomorrow, and hoping that the weekend passed without incident.

I feel truly grateful that my parents were able to take Raphaela for her first ever sleep over, she enjoyed the time with her family, and I was able to have this time to myself.

As soon as she saw me she started crying and fell into my arms, saying that she missed me; my father said that she had been 100% until I walked in the door. It's nice to be missed.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

I had a random thought yesterday, as I was walking with Raphaela yesterday while we were doing errands after school.  My daughter skipped along, singing to herself, telling me stories from her day, and saying hello to every person we met, spending a little more time if we bumped into someone we know.

She had a smile for everyone, and a hug for the special people.

I marvel at her joy, at her light. 

Having grown up as a withdrawn and sad girl, having faced and worked through not the easiest of childhoods myself, I marvel that I am able to raise such a happy child.  And I am proud of myself.

Raphaela is my penance, my redemption if you will.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

I Have a Dream

And in that dream, I get one month off from my responsibilities as a mother, where I don't have to get up early and make lunches and take to school and pick up from school and supervise homework and hear another story about the imaginary unicorn who went to school.

Of course I am more realistic,  and so God Willing, this coming Shabbat, my daughter will be having a sleep over from Friday to Saturday night with my parents, who will be visiting from the United States.  That is assuming that Raphaela's cough does not develop into anything real;  my parents are essentially coming to meet my brother's new baby, and I don't want her making anyone ill, especially not a newborn.

What will I do for that 36 hour period?  I am hoping to make arrangements with friends and have some grown-up play time.  Or maybe I will stay in my pajamas all Saturday and eat junk food all day.  But this would be the first time that I will be alone, away from Raphaela, since she was born, unless you count the three days I was hospitalized with my emergency appendectomy.

There is, however, a major catch:  the last two times my parents have visited Israel, marks the last two times that Raphaela fell and split open her chin, necessitating a visit to the emergency room at Shaarei Zedek Hospital. One of those events occurred when Raphaela was playing with my mother, who has never gotten used to my child's high level of energy.

Accidents, both times, totally unintentional and I do not blame my parents in any way.  The second time we went to the emergency room, they looked at me funny and asked many questions to confirm that I am not a negligent or abusive parent.  If we show up a third time with the same exact injury, I can pretty much guarantee that Social Services will show up at my door.

So yes, I admit that there is a part of me that does not trust my parents to keep my child out of harm's way, given their track record.  Three times is NOT a charm.  Considering that the entire weekend will be spent running around with cousins, I pray that the cycle of dangerous falls and stitches is over.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Last night before bed, Raphaela and I read the Dr. Seuss classic, "Yertle the Turtle."  I had always thought it was a not-so-veiled reference to Hitler and World War II, or at the very least an anti-bullying diatribe.

After we finished the book, I asked Raphaela what she learned, what she thought about the moral of the story, and she replied, "We learn the God is bigger than all of us."

Well push me down with a feather, I did not see that answer coming.

Frozen, Jerusalem Style

Apparently Elsa was very busy last night, because this morning we didn't have any running water, and nor did the car start.

I was complaining about the fact that I would not get my morning shower, my ten minutes of me-time, and Raphaela said, with a practical tone of voice, "Mommy, be thankful for what you do have.  And besides, now we can have a great breakfast together, with all that extra time."