sarah's space

this is a mom blog

tomorrow July 13, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — sarahzelcer @ 2:26 am

it has been so long since I posted.  so many times i have thought about writing, and have begin composing in my head, but it just hasn’t made it to this blog.

i sit here on the night before I go back to work following my third mat leave with my son, Lev.

Lev was born on September 2, 2014.  He was born at home, like his sisters, arriving so quickly I think I was in shock for a good five minutes after he was born, looking down at this beautiful pinky purple teensy person cradled in the crook of my arm.  I loved those early newborn days.

we had a lovely year.  Lev is a sweet, gentle, relaxed little guy.  our first months together were largely spent cuddling at home.  then we started venturing out, mostly to take his older sisters to school and daycare, Mama and baby dates, yoga and to the occasional story time at the library.  we started meeting Yona for lunch twice a week at her school.  we volunteered with Roots of Empathy, I started chairing the board of Nava’s daycare and served on the parent council of Yona’s after school program.  We took the kids to dance and circus and swimming classes, to doctors and the dentist.

Winter was cold and long and intense.  we snowshoed and sledded and spent hours layered in the falling snow. but it was warm inside, nursing my baby, sometimes falling asleep together on the couch.

spring arrived and we burst outside.  baby swings, long stroller walks.  barefoot, dirty baby feet.  playing in sand. music classes, time in parks.  little hands suddenly into everything.

suddenly I was offered a job. something I had wanted, something I had pursued.  But suddenly they wanted me a few months before my leave was scheduled to end.  I would be leaving my baby.   my open spaces for my kids would be narrowing to smaller windows.

With the excitement and sense of accomplishment also came grief.  I had some big cries.  and i feel twinges of bittersweet, as I reflect on the past ten and half months of endless time and space to be with and love and get to know my children in new ways.  I feel gratitude for having had this time with them.  I feel sadness that Mike and I are on our way out of our babies stage.  Our kids are growing.  they are still little but time moves so quickly.  I look at them and us and I am aware that this is the golden age of our lives, the sweetest of sweet times, with our intense but loving brood, our togetherness, our team spirit, our family bear hugs.  these are the days we’ll remember.

Lev fell asleep tonight on my hand,  he was so tired- we had been camping this weekend- and was flopping around in his crib trying to find the right position.  with my hand in his crib he would collapse his body on to my hand and arm, head first, until his cheek was perfectly nestled into the palm of my hand.  and then, his eyes closing, asleep.

and tomorrow.


Summer July 19, 2012

Filed under: baby friendly destinations,Summer — sarahzelcer @ 5:11 pm

So many things I’d like to write about, so little time.  The crazy logistics (and expense) of figuring out childcare.  Struggling over where to send our kids to school.  De-cluttering.  Siblings.  Our adventures in Israel and the challenges of re-settling into Toronto.  Why yoga, art, and details are so important.  But these are all time consuming topics so I will stick to something simple and fun- summer!

June 1st was the day we were able to move back in to our beloved neighbourhood downtown after renting our house out for five months.  We had great tenants- I will save that topic for another post one of these days.  Weeks spent unpacking (my parents’ basement is still full of our stuff…sigh).  I love our neighbourhood in the summer.  Dufferin Grove Park is a few blocks away.  The park is a year-round gem, but the energy and activities of the park pick up in the summertime.  Wading pool and playground teeming with kids.  Puppet shows and festivals.  Farmer’s market bursts into new life with more vendors and colourful local produce that shifts every few weeks with the season…raspberries and strawberries, now blueberries.  Kale, chard, asparagus.  Tomatoes and grapes soon.  Cinnamon buns, organic dinners served, musicians singing while kids run around covered in dirt, babies crawl around, and feasts are laid out on picnic blankets.

Yona started a day camp this July.  Our first time camper looked so big and so small in her oversized t-shirt, sunglasses and camp hat.  Mike takes her to the downtown JCC every morning to catch the bus to camp, which Yona gamely boards, with her backpack and lunch.  We feel both excited and wistful.  She seems so independent.  My awesome sister in law has been picking Yona up every afternoon along with her kids, and Yona spends the late afternoon in cousin heaven, eating and playing and wrestling and generally being goofy.  Sometimes we meet at the awesome Neshama Playground in Oriole Park, or watch my nephew Liam’s sportball class at Ledbury Park before enjoying an evening swim at the Ledbury splashpad & pool.   Summer evenings go late, kids often falling asleep covered in sunscreen and sand and watermelon or freezie juice on the way home.

We went urban camping last weekend with friends at Glen Rouge Park.  Our friends wanted to give their three year old a camping experience but didn’t want to actually have to sleep in a tent overnight somewhere.  So they booked a campsite, and we spent the afternoon roasting marshmallows, eating, playing in the tent, and collecting leaves and bugs in the forest before heading home for dinner.  It was awesome!  We’ve planned a two-night camping trip in late August as well after a successful and fun car camping trip in Presqu’ile Provincial Park last summer.  Highly recommend some version of camping fun- if you are looking for a campground, check out Ontario Parks.

We’ve also been spending some time in Muskoka, enjoying beautiful Muldrew Lake, and look forward to our time at a rented cottage in Prince Edward County in August.  We had a great time up there last summer, eating amazing food in Picton, picking blueberries, and rolling in the sand dunes at Sandbanks Provincial Park.

Haven’t spent a ton of time at local attractions yet but in August Yona won’t be in camp or daycare (Nava’s daycare will be closed for a week too) and my mom & Mike’s mom are stepping in to help.  They plan to visit the Toronto Zoo (i love the Toronto Zoo.  It has great conservation programs, amazing exhibits & an awesome splashpad.  Also very cheap membership for students like me), the Ontario Science Center, Canada’s Wonderland (haven’t gone there before), our neighbourhood playgrounds and parks, including the newly re-constructed Adventure playground at High Park, Riverdale Farm, the Toronto Islands,  with maybe even a little berry picking thrown in there. 

And of course…some down time too.  Hanging with friends, eating dinner in the backyard, where Yona, peering through the fence, secures us regular invites to impromptu gatherings at our awesome neighbour Shelagh’s house, where I marvel at her colourful and whimsical and beautifully maintained garden and un-cluttered home and Yona plays with Flora the gentle golden retriever and Mr. Pip and Pierre, the two cats, while Nava crawls around and Shelagh serves Mike & I beer made by our other neighbours who opened a brewery down the street.  And some people think you can’t have a fulfilling family life downtown. We go home lightheaded for bath and bedtime, feeling warm and grateful.


memories. May 11, 2012

Filed under: Summer,Travelling with Baby — sarahzelcer @ 6:59 pm

we returned home a couple of weeks ago.  the last few months in Israel were a dream.  our move to rosh pina was smooth, our home there lovely. 

am feeling so sad in this moment because our camera was stolen out of our car this morning.  it was new, and expensive, and I am kicking myself because I probably left the car unlocked in my harried process of getting the girls into daycare this morning.  but more than the loss of the camera or the money is the sinking and sad feeling of realizing that there were photos on our memory card that hadn’t been backed up of the last few weeks of our trip.

photos of special moments.  nava’s first birthday party in the park.  amazing photos we took in Gush Chalav on her actual birthday.  photos of friends. photos of yona on our neighbor’s farm.  little moments, beautiful moments, of an amazing and unique time in our lives.  the photos of those times are gone now.  in this moment, the only thing I can think of to do that is productive is to write about those moments as vividly as I can, hold on to the memories of them, which are the most important.

Yona’s last day at Gan.  We arrived to see all the kids outside sitting in a big circle, with Yona on a special chair. Click. Yona handing out the snack she had brought to everyone- orange slices, cookies, meringues.  Click. Her teachers Ilanit and Annette crouching to pose with her.  Lovely shot of Yona actually smiling with Annette, Annette’s arm hugging her close.  Click. Three cute little classmates of hers loved my camera and wanted to me to take pictures of them.  Click.

Nava’s birthday in the park.  a sunny saturday afternoon in rosh pina.  we gathered at a park where everyone hangs out.  a sweet little play area with a jungle gym.  nava crawling on the jungle gym, crawling all the way up the slide, sliding down again, crawling up again, sliding down.  yona decided she needed to pee and peeing right next to the playground on a stone bench despite my pleas not to 😉  kids started arriving, members of families we had befriended.  batsheva, arieh and their 7 (out of 8!) kids.  they had to come in two shifts.  hanging off the monkey bars, climbing on top of the roof.  lost yona for a moment and then realized that she had found a little puppy and was playing with it.  mike arrived with the food and we set up a little picnic area in the field next to the playground.  michal, hagai, and their 3 kids Zohar, Amir and Gilad arrived with little gifts for Nava and a gooey chocolate birthday cake which Michal had graciously made.  Ilan and his girlfriend, with his new two month old puppy.  Other people we recognized were there too and popped by.  marla and her daughter Gaya.  Liron and his kids. we had a picnic, sang happy birthday and cut the cakes.  we had a bucket of little kids toys to give out as loot bags.  there were so many kids in the park that we were swarmed. the bucket was this maroon plastic bucket we used to bathe Nava because our new place didn’t have a shower. I have a funny image of mike holding the bucket with a crowd of kids around him.  Pieces of watermelon mushed into grass, a huge container of hummous.  Gilad sitting next to the food, eating with quiet concentration, stopping to pose with his arms in the air.  *click*.  Nava absolutely filthy, Yona too.  someone showed up with a horse and he have a few kids rides, including Yona (her ride was brief because the horse started bucking).

On Nava’s actual birthday I had to work all day and felt so sad about it.  When Mike picked me up around 3:30 pm I was feeling like a horrible neglectful mother.  We drove to Gush Chalav, a town we had wanted to visit.  We intended to try and find a hike that would take us to the ruins of an ancient synagogue and then get dinner, but the gps guided us up, up into the town and then into a field.  it was breathtaking beautiful.  olive groves, fig trees beginning to get green a leafy.  the most amazing views of the green rolling hills of the Galil.  We parked the car and decided to walk the path to the top of a hill to have a little picnic.  We were the only ones around.  Late afternoon light.  Nava’s beautiful bond wispy hair blowing in the breeze.  that beautiful perfect baby skin.  blue eyes.  still gummy smile.  wearing a pink ruffled shirt and white cotton pants- the picture of a warm summer afternoon.  she was crawling all over mike and then me.  Yona let Mike give her a ponytail with his bandana.  She ended up with a hilarious doo right at the top of her head.  sun warmed skin.  we ate snacks and drank in the beautiful surroundings.  mike snapped a million photos. click click. Nava giving kisses *click*, yona giving hugs *click*. wind blowing our hair *click*.  horses grazing in the distance *click*.  our bright blue car with the israeli flag attached to the window parked in the distance *click*. My spirits swelled, grateful and happy to be spending those moments with my family.  so relaxed.  remembering that soon I would be leaving this place, felt wistful but thankful. happy, so happy.

we walked back to the car, all in a great mood.  we had a restaurant in mind for dinner, but on our way back down we passed by a sweet little place with an outdoor courtyard overlooking the green hills.  we continued down to the first restaurant, and saw that there was no view (and we’d have to sit inside)…so we loaded up the kiddos and went back.  the owner of the restaurant was an outgoing Arab man named Tony (I felt skeptical about whether his name was actually Tony but we went with it).  we sat outside in the courtyard, and ate the most amazing meal we had had in Israel.  a fresh flavourful herb salad.  smoked whole eggplant in tehina.  kebabs.  a veggie soup.  fresh bread with pesto and olives.  lemonade.  the sun set behind us- I raced to snap photos.  mike asked another patron to take a photo of us all together.  click.

it started to get chilly and we went inside.  nava was crawling all over the restaurant.  the inside was cave like, with moroccan lamps everywhere.  we ordered dessert and then the staff surprised us with a little birthday cake and birthday hats for all us, they were blasting a happy birthday song.  yona was in heaven- we didn’t restrict her dessert intake at all.  sweet nuts and honey and condensed milk and chocolate.  we snapped some photos of all of us in our hats.  click. we bought art off the wall.

Habonim beach.  sand toys.  Dari and her beautiful kids.  Yona running around naked, gathering water in her bucket by the water’s edge.

Hamat Gader.  Baboons and hot springs.  Yona holding baby chicks.  Deer and Ibex.

Another day, a visit to rosh hanikra.  we took a cable car down a steep incline and explores the caves.  I spent five minutes with the camera trying to catch the perfect waves. *click*.  you could rent golf carts or bicycles, and we opted for a two person bicycle which was huge and had a steering wheel with a car seat in the middle and a little rickshaw in the back.  nava was in the car seat, yona in the rickshaw.  mike tried to steer but his long legs kept getting in the way.  yona was wearing her huge sunglasses which attach to her head via a velcro strap with a bandana tied around her head, looking like some sort of bubbie verson of Jackie O.  we were cracking up.  the bike “path”  was actually a main road and israeli drivers (notoriously fast and impatient) had to maneuvre around our ridiculous contraption.  mike got out a couple of times to film the hilarity.  *click*.  another couple took some photos of all of us together *click*.

Mark’s farm.  our second last friday.  all our good bye photos- yona gathering eggs from the chicken, a single egg cupped in her hand, still warm.  saying goodbye to the goats, katrine, the lovely French canadian WOOFer who had been so lovely to Yona every week and let her help milk the goats.  Mark, the hippy farm owner, posing, smiling, with Mike and Nava.  Nava playing with a hollow gourd at the table.  the cheese and baked goods.

Anotherday- yom hazikaron. rememberance day for israel’s fallen soldiers.  walking through rosh pina.  stopping in a beautiful local shop filled with windchimes. *click*.  stopped in another shop where a south african expat carves musical instruments out of local wood.  he played the mbira and we took a shot of Yona trying out the didgeridoo *click*. 

Yom Haatzmauut.  Israeli independence day.  huge townwide celebration in rosh pina, with fireworks and performances.  tennis courts were converted into a massive kids’ party, with sumo wrestling stations and bouncy castles, a mechanical bull.  yona running around at 10:30 at night, with all the kids of rosh pina, none of them the least bit tired.  blurry shots of yona bouncing away with her friend Zohar. *click*.

Next day.  I packed in the morning while Mike took the girls out to the playground.  Afternoon traditional Israeli family bbq with our friends Michal and Hagai and their families. Yona running around in a polka dot dress, playing with Zohar.  Amazing food.  Israeli flags strung up everywhere.  Yona and Zohar hugging.  Pose for a photo with Michal. Hugs goodbye.  *click*.

The shuk in Jerusalem.  Nava eating a felafel. Yona with her beloved Auntie Robyn.  Hugs and snuggles.  beautiful shots of their radiant faces hugging. *click*.

Last coffee with our cousins, Ariel, Nomi, Jody.  Nava crawling on the table, Yona crawling under the table. Posing for our last pics together. *click*.

On the airplane, a random March of the Living participant fell asleep on my shoulder, while nava was on my lap and yona on my other shoulder.  I couldn’t move.  *click*. 

Yona wheeling a huge suitcase through the Toronto airport.  *click*.


Won’t You Be My Neighbour? February 21, 2012

Filed under: fathers,mom networks,Travelling with Baby,Uncategorized — sarahzelcer @ 1:44 pm

“we are looking for friends in tzfat and/or rosh pinna area.  tall man and baby available for playdates daily.  3.5 year old tags on in the afternoons.  cute and lovable family.  enquire within.”

This was my joking but-not-really-joking facebook status a few weeks ago.

It’s sort of strange, going away for four months.  It feels like a long time when you are telling, say, your family members and friends back home.  Or if you’re Nava.  Little Nava has had all sorts of monumental changes since arriving here (sprouting teeth, crawling, signing). But it doesn’t sound like a very long time when you are meeting people locally and trying to build relationships.

When coordinating all the details of our temporary move here while back home in Toronto, we had to imagine what our lives would be like without really knowing.  Even though we’ve both visited many times (even with Yona a year and a half ago) and Mike has lived here in the past, this was a new kind of trip.

We’re here short term.  Way longer than a usual visit or tour but much shorter than other people who come for a year or more, or who decide to move to Israel.  In the latter case, it might take longer to transition and more time to make friends.  In our case, we were hoping to transition kind of quickly and establish some sort of “real life” here for our family.   For us, real life includes a good neighbourhood, daily routines, friends, school for Yona, good food, fun outings.

The good food and fun outings part have been easy.  The neighbourhood part has been the first challenge.  We rented a place unseen from Toronto because we felt that we needed to have the security of a place to live right away.  There’s a cute little town called Rosh Pinna where we wanted to live which is at the bottom of the mountain, and the city of Tsfat (where I am working), located at the top of the mountain.  Tsfat is a religious city and has its charms, but I didn’t want to live there.  So we found, online, a nice looking apartment that is rented out as a zimmer in the high season (zimmers are a big thing in northern israel, sort of like little holiday apartments for tourists) in a neighbourhood that is in the middle of Tsfat and Rosh Pinna called Nof Kinneret (View of the Kinneret).

As the name suggests, the neighbourhood does offer beautiful views of the Galil and Lake Kinneret.  On a clear day, we can even see the beautiful snow-capped Mount Hermon.  Its gorgeous.  The apartment is nice too.  That’s the good part.  The annoying part is that Nof Kinneret itself is a very isolated neighbourhood with very little to walk to.  Nary a coffee shop in sight.  A few playgrounds that no kids seem to hang out in except ours.  The only convenient thing about the neighbourhood is Yona’s gan, which is nearby.  Nof is very hilly (the one time I walked Yona to her gan felt like my workout of the century).  Young families seem to live on our street but pretty much none of them (except for one awesome family a few doors down) have introduced themselves and in fact, barely seem to notice us except when they are nearly running us over while speeding down the street in their cars, flicking their cigarettes onto our front porch or stealing Yona’s stuff (see previous post).  And there is really infrequent bus service so Mike has had to drive me to work almost every morning, and ends up spending a lot of time driving each day.

The house is owned by a guy who lives in the center of the country, and the rental of the apartment is brokered through a woman (who I connected with through the internet) who works in a gallery in tsfat.  When we lost our key, it turned out that no one else had a copy.  Mercifully, we eventually found it and then the broker told us we should make a copy for ourselves.  The apartment is supposed to have laundry but because they never brought over a washing machine, our upstairs neighbour (a surly chainsmoking woman named Shoo Shoo) does our laundry.  She also seems to have other unofficial roles, like acting cranky, collecting the rent money and bringing us extra clothing hangers.

Because we are considered “holiday renters” we are charged way more for rent because a lot of people here don’t consider it worthwhile to rent out places short term.

Yona actually really likes Nof Kinneret, which she called Knuffle Kinneret (shout out to Knuffle Bunny, our beloved book which we left back in Toronto).  Our porch has daily visitors, including some neighbourhood cats and Rocky the Rock Rabbit (a strange oversized rodent who likes to hang out by our house).

So, the neighbourhood has not been a winner. we had committed to this place until mid-March, but have found that we spend most of our time in Rosh Pinna, and have been meeting other young families who all live in Rosh Pinna as well.  We’ve spent weeks wavering back and forth about whether it is worthwhile to move, Mike even met with the broker to see if she would cut us a break (she wouldn’t) and finally decided to carpe diem- or at least carpe a new apartment.  So we found a place with lovely landlords in Rosh Pinna and are moving in a couple of weeks.  Yona is consoled by the fact that we will be able to walk to her favourite playgrounds, to playdates, to the grocery store, and to the neighbourhood farm where just last week she hung out with its fourteen new baby goats and ate fresh cinammon buns.

The other thing we committed to early on was Yona’s gan. Its a little…different than what we are used to.  firstly, there are a ton of kids (over 30, I think) and 3 teachers.  They let the kids watch TV and give them candy every day.  No one speaks any English. We didn’t know much about gans in the area before we came and tried to do some last minute research before committing to her current school.  We were told that it would be hard to get Yona into a city-run gan because we aren’t permanent residents here, and her current school had no problems accepting her.  We did find one gan in Rosh Pinna that we heard was great and run by an American woman, but she didn’t have space for Yona.  So when we heard about this gan, we checked it out.  It has a good reputation, was close by, Yona seemed ok with it, the teachers were sweet, so we decided to go for it.  They say kids learn fast and maybe Yona is learning more Hebrew than we think, but I think she is mostly just spending her time playing and wondering what the heck is going on.  Every time we meet another parent they tells us that their kid comes home talking about Yona- she seems to be some kind of a rock star there.  But it is hard for her to break through, friends-wise.  She knows some of the kids’ names, but not all.  When something happens, like Yona getting bitten by another kid, we find that our not-so-great language skills means we can’t have a satisfying conversation with her teacher.  On the plus side, they say these kinds of experiences build character, and she’s only there half a day.  Not to mention that fact that she goes completely willingly and has fun there, which is the most important.  And Mike gets a little down time with Nava in the morning, which is important too.

So after a week or two of the isolated Nof neighbourhood and the Hebrew gan, we decided that we really needed to find friends.  This is where having kids is extremely helpful.  Kind of like having a dog helps you meet people in your neighbourhood, having kids is a great excuse for meeting adults who also have kids under the guise of a playdate.  I started to explicitly ask all the people here at the Faculty where I am working (and even some people I ‘know’ through email that I don’t even know personally) to help find us friends.  Slowly but surely my small but loyal local network started trawling their address books and came back to me with suggestions:

“try michal, a phD student at the faculty.  she lives in rosh pinna, has 3 kids, 2 of them are the same age as Yona and Nava”.  We called her and had a lovely playdate on Saturday afternoon.  We’re going back tonight for dinner (make your own pizzas).

“try liron, he has 3 kids, really nice guy”.  Mike called.  Liron thought it was hilarious.  We had a playdate yesterday and met his lovely wife.  It turns out they are friends with a couple, one of whom went to university with me.  I got her number too.

We even called the cousins of the cousins of the cousin of our uncles cousins, who live in Tsfat.  They had us over for lunch.  Their daughter is married to someone whose family operates one of the oldest dairies in Tsfat and they and their 3 kids live in Rosh Pinna.

I picked up a very nice older man out for a power walk in Rosh Pinna who subsequently had us over for tea, let us pick grapefruit off his backyard tree and let Yona jump on the big trampouline he keeps for his 18 grandchildren.

I also knocked on the door of one of our neighbours in Nof who had once said hi to us and casually mentioned that we should come over to play.  We came over the next day and then again this past weekend.

Colleagues are starting to have us over.  My supervisor and her lovely husband.  The Associate Dean of the Faculty and his lovely wife.  Another one of my advisors.

I reconnected with an old friend from high school who lives about an hour away with her family. It was lovely.  We played on the beach, ate good food, watched each other’s amazing kids play.

Its both a lot of work and exhilarating, this process of finding new friends.  You have to really put yourself out there.  But fortunately, we have found, with help, some lovely folks.  And we have also found that people are willing to reach out.  They offer to have us over and they mean it- even calling to set dates.  Now that we are beginning to have some community, it feels great.  Its so nice to have a social life.  Its nice to have playdates.

Mike got in touch with a local planning professor and might do some research and attend a conference while here. I’ve been offered the potential opportunity of publishing some of my research.  Its nice to feel like we are learning and growing professionally and academically.

we miss our friends and family back home.  Its amazing how much we rely on our networks in so many ways!  You realize that when suddenly they aren’t there anymore.   One of our friends had the awesome suggestion of facilitating a pen-pal relationship between their daughter and Yona.  They’ve already exchanged their first set of “letters” and send out little photos and movies depicting each other mailing and receiving their notes.  So cute.

We’ve been skyping with our family and some friends too.  That’s been fun. Yona had a skype call with her best little friend named Eva and she was flying high for days afterwards.  You should skype with us too.  its fun and easy.

So we are almost at our midway point.  It goes by so fast.  Four months.  Not a long time.  Now that we have moved beyond some of the rocky transitions of our first weeks, we are looking forward to hanging out with new friends, exploring this beautiful area, making the most of our time here.


lost and found February 15, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — sarahzelcer @ 9:03 am

“we have a problem”.

Mike’s words, over the cell phone, as I waited for the bus.

He was with both kids, frantically trying to get Yona to her ballet class on time at the local community center.  He started to explain to me, half in Hebrew and half in English, what had happened.  He had come home with the kids.  things got hectic with the loading/unloading of children and stuff and somehow, Yona’s little backpack which she carries around everywhere got left outside on the curb, and neither she nor Mike noticed.

Until they arrived at ballet class, and realized that they didn’t have it (or yona’s ballet clothes, which were inside).   Mike rushed back home with the kids, and found the bag, contents strewn about.  no ballet shoes.  he thought yona’s sunglasses had been in there and worst, he knew that her little camera, a kids’ digital camera, was missing.

he remembered, with a sinking feeling, seeing two kids hanging out, playing, as he had left our street to head to the community center the first time, and he remembered noticing that one of them had a camera just like yona’s.  now he realized, ominously, that that had been yona’s camera, and that those kids must have found her bag and rifled through it.

He explained all this to me with significant anxiety and not a little frustration.  As the primary caregiver during the days, he’s been deftly juggling a lot of balls in the air, making sure Yona and Nava are satisfied, fed, happy, rested.  He was exhausted.  And we had been losing a lot of stuff lately.  For one full day last week we were locked out of our apartment, having lost the only key (which mike eventually found in the gravel on the road after retracing all of his steps during a previous 2 hour walk with Nava).  Nava’s cute little hat that she wore every day is gone, who knows where.  And now, we were both realizing, Yona’s ballet shoes (a few weeks old, though easily replaceable), her cute sunglasses (also replaceable) and her camera (replaceable except for the hundreds of photos still on it that Yona has taken over the months since receiving it as a “big sister present” from her aunt when Nava was born) were AWOL.  Sinking hearts.

we weren’t sure what to do.  how do you talk to a parent in a foreign language about your suspicion that kid stole your kid’s stuff?  Mike was sure that one of the kids we saw was the daughter of our upstairs neighbour, and that the other was the girls’ cousin, a boy who lives a few doors down from us.  he left a message for our upstairs neighbour, explaining what he thought had happened into her answering machine.  I called the boy’s father.

The dad was receptive and responsive and careful.  He promised he was going to look into it for us, make a few calls, help us figure out what happened.   An hour later, he called back.  Now with his son, he was able to reveal a few things.  Yes, the girl had taken the camera.  No, it was not our upstairs neighbour’s daughter (who also happened to be this man’s sister in law) but a friend who resembled her.


He asked his son who denied having taken anything but said that the girl had taken the camera and maybe something else out of the bag.  The father knew the girl and her mother but didn’t want to call her- he thought it might be better if his sister in law did instead.  The same sister in law whose daughter we had just accused (in a nice way) of stealing yona’s stuff.

we got home after ballet, feeling miserable.  It’s not easy being in a new country, a new neighbourhood, and not feel isolated- especially since, with the exception one very lovely set of neighbours, none of the families we know of on the street are particularly.  And now one of their kids took our kid’s stuff.  we felt pretty helpless.

Mike reached into his backpack and pulled out Yona’s ballet shoes.  one mystery solved.  still no sunglasses.  still no camera.

we ate dinner, gave the kids baths, put them to bed.  around 8:30, a knock on the door.  I opened it, to a cute little girl in her pyjamas standing on the stoop.

“is this yours?”

she was holding the camera.  she passed it to me.

“thanks so much for bringing it back,” i said, realizing that this little kid, this mini delinquent, had probably thought it was her lucky day, happening upon an abandoned backpack with such a great toy inside.

back inside, yona was happily reunited with the camera that she hadn’t even known was gone.  flipping through the photos, we saw pictures of the little girl, her dad, her family.  on the street, in the car, joking around, kids and parents posing for photos.  parents not exactly looking concerned at the fact that their kid came home with another kid’s camera.

feeling relief for our forgiving upstairs neighbour and the little girls’ parents, who, despite their questionable parental values during this whole fiasco, eventually did the right thing and drove their kid to our house to return her found treasure.


Brave Little Girl January 19, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — sarahzelcer @ 9:32 am

Shalom from Israel! It has been so long since I posted, and life has changed.

little Nava is now 9 months old, a bright, blue-eyed smiling baby.  Our past four months have been full and busy.  Yona moved to part time at her daycare, I resumed being a student by enrolling in a course at U of T, there were trips to the zoo, science center, the children’s storefront, soccer, gymnastics, baby music classes and swimming galore.  there was the chilling of the air, the re-patriation of fall and then winter jackets. there was the re-gathering of beautiful mamas at Sasha’s every week for a collective exhale and embrace.  falling leaves, dwindling numbers of kids at dufferin grove park.  there were essays, course readings, final papers.

and there was planning.  lots and lots of planning as we prepared to move to Israel for a few months so I could complete a practicum for my public health degree at the new Faculty of Medicine of Bar Ilan University in Safed before returning back to work at the end of my maternity leave.   Hundreds of emails, internet searches, ads posted,and friends/acquaintences consultations later, I identified a practicum, we found a place to live in the Upper Galilee, we rented out our house in Toronto, packed everything up, got on a plane, rented a car, and now here we are.

Our first ten days here were spent adjusting and relaxing with family in Rehovot, Tel Aviv, Efrat and Jerusalem.  We slept in family homes, apartments, and even a caravan on a Yeshiva.   We have eaten very, very well.  Yona and Nava visited their Aunty Robin’s zoo, played on the windy beach, sampled offerings from the Israeli shuk, went for walks, grocery shopped, played.  On Sunday night we made the long drive to the north, arriving at our new home half way up a mountain too late to see the breathtaking view of Lake Kinneret and the  beautiful valley of the Galil below, but in time to inhale the crisp, cool air.

A few days later, I am now a working woman, carving out a work space for my self in a beautiful new expansive building which is still largely under construction, permeated by the smell of fresh paint, curlicues of wood shavings and plaster littering the floors which are then washed, it seems, ten times a day.

After ten days of holidaying, with little routine, late bedtimes and sleep ins, and virtually no other contemporaries to play with, we could tell Yona was needing a little structure and definitely some playmates.  The area we are living in is a quiet, new suburban community and we haven’t really met any young families there yet.  We are quite close to a small town called Rosh Pina and when visiting the matnas (community center) there, we discovered a weekly ballet class is held on Tuesday evenings and we were invited to come try it out.

I had my first meeting with my supervisers that day, and got a lift down the mountain to the matnas.  There I found Yona sitting serenely, in a pink shirt and tights, amongst a sea of similarly dressed Israeli girls, hair in a pony tail.  She couldn’t understand anything the teacher was saying, but was enthusiastically participating, taking visual cues from the other kids, running around delightedly with a huge smile on her face.

It was adorable. She loved it.  We signed her up for weekly classes.  For a few minutes, when the ballet class ended and the room was suddenly filled with little girls and their siblings and parents it felt like we were part of a community of young families.

So then we undertook the next challenge is finding a gan yeladim (literally translated into a garden for children, its the Israel version of preschool) for Yona.  In some parts of this country, we’d have a lot of resources to work with (friends, family who know the area, know people, who could ask on our behalf) but up here, we are on our own.  It seems that getting into a city run daycare is challenging when you aren’t a permanent resident or citizen, and there is one private subsidized daycare in our neighbourhood.  The people who rented our place to us spoke the the Ganenit (woman in charge of the gan), and Yona and Mike visited it yesterday.

We talked it over with Yona, who said she wanted to try it out, but when we arrived this morning, she was teary and overwhelmed.  I whispered into her ear, “let’s give it a try.  it will just be for a little while.  let’s see if you like it.  you might have fun!” We went in together, Yona full of trepidation, into the small room filled with children chattering in Hebrew and lovely teachers who speak only a little bit of English.  The scene was a bit chaotic.  Kids moving in closer, gathering around.  Yona turned to me, eyes full of tears, and said, “Mommy, stay.  Stay with me, Mommy!”.  My heart was full for her.

How overwhelming it must be to enter into the unknown, to not understand the language, to let go of your anchor and allow yourself to face your fears.  Actually, I know exactly how that feels.  I feel the same way here, starting work in a new place, sitting in on meetings, grasping only about 20% of what is being said in rapid fire Hebrew, throngs of medical students I don’t yet know laughing and chattering around me while on break from classes.   I’ve haven’t yet taken the bus because I am having a hard time making sense of the bus route I found online and yesterday I ordered a substandard sandwhich because it was the only thing I understood on the menu at the snack kiosk.

So back to Yona.  I took off her jacket and hat, and she fell into my arms, crying.  Language barrier aside, we could feel loving energy from both the teachers and students who gathered around, concerned for Yona, wanting to alleviate her sadness.  I led her to the crafts table.  One student handed her a paper, the other a tree shape to trace, the other some crayons.  Yona got to work.  After a few moments, I asked her how she was doing and she said she was feeling a little better.  I promised her that Daddy would be back soon to check on her.  And then she did what she does at night when she resigns herself to going to bed.  She turned her face to me, lips puckered to give me a goodbye kiss.

Then: “mommy, I want to push you out the door!” A residual ritual from her beloved home daycare.  She gave me a little push.  The teachers and kids clapped for her.  I went towards the door. Looking back at her, I could see her at the table, lip quivering, eyes teary, but forming the resolve to stick it out.  My eyes filled with tears for her- my brave little soul, facing her fears, terrified and probably lonely.  Her teacher, seeing my face, gave me a reassuring hug as I slipped out the door.  I walked to the car, tears streaming down my face, so touched and inspired by Yona’s courage and strength.

Israel work weeks are 6 days (Sunday to Friday) but many people, including my colleagues here, don’t work on Friday because of the Jewish Sabbath.  Tomorrow is Friday and we plan to go on a little tiyul (outing) to explore our beautiful surroundings.  We are in this together, Mike, Nava and I and Yona- our brave and resilient trouper.


Supermama doesn’t live here September 22, 2011

Filed under: baby and me,mom guilt,parenting philosophies,Uncategorized — sarahzelcer @ 12:37 pm

it’s a wednesday morning and i have just finished slurping my  lukewarm-turned-outright-cold coffee. nava has been nursed, breast milk has been pumped, eggs and toast gobbled, and nava is on her tummy time mat making her signature high pitched sounds which tell me my time is very, very limited before she loses it and needs to nap pronto.

it is almost five months later since nava was born and summer has given way to a cooler autumn. school has started again, wading pools and splash pads are closed, and yona just left for school wearing a jacket. time flies.

we had a beautiful, beautiful summer. the weather was unbelievable, hot, perfect (i can say that because we finally installed air conditioning. otherwise i would be complaining about the unbearable heat and humidity and the fact that we had to evacuate for half the summer to one of our parents’ houses in the ‘burbs). we moved yona to part-time at her daycare. we spent lots of time out of the city, at cottages in muskoka and prince edward county, and even managed our first camping trip with friends. more on that in a future post. we visited the zoo, riverdale farm, high park, strawberry picking, blueberry picking, wagon rides, going everywhere with a packed swimsuit and towel.

and yona turned three. yup. i can’t believe it either. we celebrated with several festivities- a family party, a daycare party, and a party for friends in the park. the latter was our most successful party to date, as i have begun to realize what goes into a good kids’ bday. last year we hired kids’ musicians to come to the park to do a music class for half an hour- it was cute, but expensive, and unnecessary- we were already in a great playground and kids know how to make their own fun. last year we had an afternoon party which was nice, but our strategy this year was to gather in the morning, when kids tend to be their best selves, and which tends not to conflict with too many nap times. and we did t-shirt decorating! the kids loved it, the t-shirts became the loot bag, and it was a great activity for the older and younger kids. a bit messy though but that’s mostly why it’s so fun. finally, we had the party at an awesome new playground midtown which seemed to be a nice compromise location for all our non-downtowner family and friends. we topped it all off with ice cream cone cupcakes which is my new favourite version of bday cake (more details to follow). now we are planning to pick up yona’s present- two goldfish- later today. which reminds me that mike and i will need to figure out how to inevitably explain mortality to yona in the coming weeks or months when one or both of those suckers bite it.

yona is starting some organized activities now- outdoor soccer, gymnastics, swimming. it’s fun to watch but difficult to see her confidence get shaky when she tries something new and can’t quite do it. mike says he can relate,that as a kid he wasn’t that coordinated and as a result, his experience with sports was a mixed bag. i know that kids need to experience challenges and failures but it is still painful to see yona struggle through that. though blissful when she gets something or is enjoying herself. i am no tiger mama. for me, as long as she tries something i don’t care if she is great at it or not.

in other news, little nava is small but mighty. she’s little, but strong, and has started to giggle (cutest sound ever), play with toys, and learning to sit. she has big blue eyes which follow me around everywhere, and there is no question right now that i am her one and only, the centre of her universe, the love of her life. this is a great feeling. occasionally, it would be nice if she enjoyed the company of others but we will get there. before you know it, she’ll take a page out of her sister’s book and will start telling me to go away or even call me, as yona did the other week, a “miserable fungus” (no i am not even kidding. where she got that from i have no idea). so i am enjoying nava’s adoration and am trying to drink in her babyhood and enjoy every second. how did five months fly by so quickly? (by the way, now typing with one hand as nava is now sleeping on me and firmly still latched on).

as for me, i felt surprising normal after nava came along. i healed way faster this time, and after a little while, i felt pretty comfortable going out on my own with both kids. i felt together and organized and accomplished and was cooking and baking, cleaning up occasionally, like some sort of strange postpartum domestc goddess. it’s amazing how quickly one can fall back into the groove of nursing, nighttime wakeups, diaper changing, learning and responding to the cues of little people who can’t yet use their words.

that is until recently. for some reason, i know longer feel together, organized or able to accomplish that much. i am exhausted by 8 pm, ready to fall asleep in yona’s bed. i am back in school, just one class, already behind on my readings by the second week. we are still planning to move overseas for 4 months in the new year, but haven’t really planned out too much yet. sometimes life feels really overwhelming. it feels familiar and different. going for hours, sometimes a day, with forgetting to pee, wearing clothes stained with food and spit up, walking everywhere with my baby in the carrier, hair up in a perpetual ponytail. on a good day, i have brushed my teeth, brushed my hair, and have remembered to put on deodorant.

i re-joined my mom’s group with sasha again, with other mama friends who are also on number 2. ah. that group is like therapy. i just let myself unload my anxiety and tears and no longer care that doing so will expose my vulnerabilities, my imperfections. the love and empathy with which it was received just help fill my soul. i love you, mamas.  it feels so good to unload.

in a much lighter vein, i got an ereader. it sounds kind of frivolous but i think this is a great invention for nursing mamas or anyone on the go. it fits into my fanny pack (yes i now wear a fanny pack) and my course readings and some books are on there. i can easily hold it in one hand
and am loving it. and i got a haircut. sometimes it’s the little things.

one thing i have realized this week, after feeling like, as one mama friend put it, i hit a wall and slid down, with ooze marks, into a temporary puddle on the floor: i don’t want to be supermom. a lot of people have said to me, because of school, work, homebirthing, having yona home 2 days a weeks, mothering two girls, getting out and about, because i look semi-together to the average outsider, that i am some sort of a super mom. no thanks. i don’t want that title. too much pressure. i am a mama, struggling with regular mama things, sometimes feeling great and sometimes not so much. generally really happy with my lot and feeling uber blessed. imperfect parent. uncertain about how to manage work-life balance, childcare, logistics. in a great partnership with someone who is on my team and in it with me. (i love you, mike). but no supermama. there’s a movie out now, which i haven’t seen, called “i don’t know how she does it” (i think it’s based on a book). I don’t know how anyone does it- childcare, picking your kids up from school when school ends at 3:30 but work ends at 5.  keeping the house a non-disaster zone.  i don’t want to/can’t just get it all done, i want to enjoy it and remain present in my life. i’m sure
every mom out there struggles with this. i would love to hear from you.