Saturday, May 28

and the kid falls off the horse

It's riding lesson number 10 or 12, I've lost count. The kid is doing pretty well, even on a horse she used to complain about. Looking good, mostly sitting up straight and showing more control than she did a month ago, until the last 10 minutes of the hour lesson. Then the horse is pulling his head this way and that, clearly annoyed at something. I call to the teacher to have a look at the kid's reins and see if she's holding them right. Small adjustment. Seems better. Then they go into cantering, and the kid has lost her poise completely. She starts to look like a rag doll instead of a rider, and then there she goes, slips right off the left side, close to the fence, and my heart stops for a second watching to see how she falls.

Looks okay from where I'm sitting; at least, thank god, the horse doesn't step on her. I'm relieved that the first fall has happened now, knowing it was inevitable and wanting to believe that worrying about it is worse than the reality. I stand up, ready to go to her if she needs me, and I see her getting up too, with the help of the teacher. From where I'm standing I can't see her face, but she's holding her left arm. She's walking; that's good. I'm thinking she'll need a hug at least, so I go toward her. Then I see her distress. She fell on her arm. It looks okay, but she's crying in pain. I massage it, as I always do to bangs that could become bruises -- it prevents bruising -- and check to see if she can bend her arm. She can, but it hurts. Though the teacher insists, and I know it's a good idea, she refuses to get back on the horse. She will again, I'm sure -- though not that horse, which she never liked -- but not today. The arm is killing her.

Got her home, put on lots of Traumeel cream (arnica and other great homeopathic magic), gave her a warm bath to clean off the dust, sweat and tears, and laid her down with a bag of frozen peas in a towel against the wounded arm. The arm's not swollen or discolored -- yet -- but she cries out every time she moves at all. There were lots more tears, she bitched at me a lot and said there was no way she could go to the party her best friend was having this evening. I gave her as much attention and sympathy as I could, but she was in a foul mood and it wasn't easy.

Obviously a bit traumatized over her first, dreaded fall, she kept ranting about the teacher insisting that she take that horse and no other, even though she hates him and there's another one she knows she does better with. And I really have no idea why the teacher was insisting on that horse. I don't know if she was just being mean, but there must have been some agenda, because it's the second time she did it. The kid kept saying, "I KNEW something was going to happen; I just KNEW it, but she wouldn't listen to me!"

After a couple of agonizing hours, the pain subsided just enough (the Traumeel? the ice pack? the ibuprofen? mommy absorbing a shitload of angry abuse?) that she started to think maybe she could go to the party after all, but of course not sleep over, as was planned. At 9, I fashioned a sling out of a big scarf to sort of hold the arm still, and drove her over there.

She called at 10 sounding like the party was better than being at home miserable. At 10:30 she decided her suffering had subsided enough that she'd sleep over as originally planned. Mr. S drove over with her pjs', pillow, and toothbrush.

She phoned several more times to indicate that she was feeling incrementally better, and Mr. S and I settled in to watch a rented movie.

I was thinking of Christopher Reeves today. I think of him as kind of a patron saint of horse riders.

My daughter's friend came with us to the lesson today, and halfway through the lesson told me I shouldn't let my daughter learn to jump because "a lot of people get killed doing that." Well, a mother thinks her child can get killed doing a lot of things, just about anything really, and the list of potentially fatal scenarios just grows with time. How can you stop a kid doing (or doing yourself, for that matter) something they enjoy, even if there are certain risks? That is not my idea of living.

We can't swaddle them, and even if we tried, well... the story of the Sleeping Beauty teaches us that there's no avoiding what will be.

--> UPDATE: A Fractured Humerus is no Laughing Matter
She called me from her friend's this morning at 9, complaining that her arm hurt more. When I picked her up I could see the upper arm area was now swollen, and it hurt enough that she still wasn't walking at a regular pace, trying to keep it still. When I joked with her she said, "Don't make me laugh, it hurts more!" A couple of hours later, I started to think it was time to get it checked. Off we went to the nearest hospital.

We were lucky to find it quiet and didn't have to wait long for attention. The very streamlined, hi-tech process went from check-in, to triage, to curtain where initial assessment was made (no apparent internal organs or parts other than the arm were of concern, no head injury, no vomiting, no blood in urine), and then secondary assessment of arm, and instructions to pee in a cup, then wait for orthopedic doctor, who sent us to get an x-ray. The x-ray immediately appears on the hospital network unlike the old days, when you have to wait around while it gets developed. We walk back to ortho. dr. and wait 5 minutes for our turn.

He quickly tells us the bad news: her arm is broken. The good news: she doesn't need a cast, just a little sling to keep the arm out of (further) harm's way. Prognosis: should be healed in a month to six weeks.

She's broken her humerus, and nothing is making her laugh right now.

the demanding child

Parenting is exhausting, but I kept expecting to be less exhausted with time. Other people somehow manage with 2, 3 and more kids, I'll never know how. My first and only has demanded 110% of my attention and energy since she was born, and even now, nearly 13 years later, the respite from that is hard to come by.

Parents of "normal" kids have a hard enough job, but it seeems there are less of them than ever. Maybe because of poorer nutrition than ever, maybe because parents have to work harder than ever to make ends meet, for whatever reasons, there are more and more kids with behavior problems, many of them forced to take Ritalin to deal with it. We may still return to that option ourselves.

Neal Pollack's article today in Salon, When toddlers get fired, resonates painfully. The details of the biting behavior of his two-year-old are different from our experience, but the surrounding feeling is the same. He says, "We love him very much, but the challenge of caring for a smart, stubborn, high-strung 2-year-old, is not the kind of work either of us wants, at least not full time."

Yeah, how many times have I said, "Thank god there are people who choose to be kindergarten teachers for a living." (And then it was just "teachers". )

His wife, an artist, is desperate: "I feel like a bad mother!" she said. "I don't want to spend all summer with him! He's difficult! He's a difficult child! He wants too much from me. And you're going to go crazy if he's around all the time. Our marriage always suffers when he's home!"

Yep, things are definitely quieter when the kid is out.

Time to go pick her up.

Friday, May 27

holidays as far as the eye can see

Well, can you believe it? ANOTHER school holiday.

There are barely 20 days left in the school year, and the kids have yet another day off. In a couple of weeks, it'll be Shavuot, with even more holidays (including for adults, so that's alright.)

Today it's "Lag B'Omer" which is an actual date in the Jewish calendar, like saying "4th of July". Being the stubborn Squarepeg that I am, I still, after all these years, can't tell you why the whole country acts like pyromaniacs once a year, about halfway between Pesach and Shavuot. But if you really want to know -- here: Ask Yenta. Like Christmas, it's got some religious origin, but has become a very pagan "holiday" -- not the kind where the banks and stores close and the religious don't ride in cars, but still enough to keep kids home from school. Or, I should say, at the mall. (Yeah, that's where my little teeny is now, not that I have any complaints. It's so QUIET at home. mmmm)

For the past week, kids everywhere have been collecting bits of discarded wood from wherever, and lugging them home in (I assume) stolen shopping carts. Last night, the air everywhere was filled with the funk of forty thousand years as bonfires blazed in vacant lots all over the country.

Naturally, it's a good opportunity to cook hamburgers and roast marshmallows too.

From the time I got home from work, around 7:30 pm, my eyes were burning and I was irritated by the stench from which there was no escape. There's a huge lot so close to our building that we could see the fires from our window -- at least 10 groups were in that area, without even being very close to each other.

My daughter went to her class's medurah (bonfire) only at 9:30 pm and didn't call us to pick her up until midnite. I love that she's finally at an age where she doesn't need me to accompany her to all these events, but not yet out so late that I have to stay up later than I want to waiting for her to get home. That will end very soon, I guess, probably even by next year. Blink, and we'll be on to the next stage.

Tuesday, May 17

bill moyers comes out swinging

"News is what people want to keep hidden, and everything else is publicity."

Salon has excerpted Moyers' address to the National Conference for Media Reform. A must-read for anyone trying to cope with our Orwellian times.
Without a trace of irony, the powers that be have appropriated the newspeak vernacular of George Orwell's "1984." ... In Orwell's "1984" the character Syme, one of the writers of that totalitarian society's dictionary, explains to the protagonist, Winston, "Don't you see? Don't you see that the whole aim of newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050 at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we're having right now. The whole climate of thought," he said, "will be different. In fact, there will be no thought as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking, not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness."

As Moyers put it, "A democracy can die of too many lies." He's had it (and who hasn't?) with "the people who ... encourage the pious to look heavenward and pray so as not to see the long arm of privilege and power picking their pockets; ... the people who squelch free speech in an effort to obliterate dissent and consolidate their orthodoxy into the official view of reality from which any deviation becomes unpatriotic heresy."

hatouliada - cats on parade

Cat-lovers or cat-haters, you must watch this compilation of funniest home cat videos!

(Remember to save the link for days when you desperately need a laugh.)

Saturday, May 14

entering the age of oil depletion

It's "the end of the cheap oil fiesta."

Not the apocalypse, but "epochal discontinuity" --- that's how author James Howard Kunstler sees our not-too-distant future. In an interview with Salon's Katharine Mieszkowski, he says some drastic changes in lifestyle are going to be this generation's major challenge, and they've already begun.

Because oil is the foundation of the global economy, and oil production will imminently peak, the next couple of decades may bring some changes we really don't want to think about.

Which is why smart politicians don't bring it up. As Kunstler puts it, "Americans will vote for cornpone Nazis before they will give up their entitlements to a McHouse and a McCar."

"The dirty secret of the American economy for more than a decade now is that it is largely based on the continued creation of suburban sprawl and all its accessories and furnishings."

He also expounds on his view of the takedown of Saddam Hussein:

The Iraq war is not hard to understand. It wasn't an attempt to steal Iraq's oil. If that was the case, it would have been a stupid venture because we've spent hundreds of billions of dollars occupying the place, not to mention the lives lost. It was not a matter of stealing the oil; it was a matter of retaining access to it. It was an attempt to stabilize the region of the world that holds two-thirds of the remaining oil, namely, the Middle East.

We opened a police station in the Middle East, and Iraq just happened to be the best candidate for it. They had a troublesome dictator. They were geographically located between Iran and Saudi Arabia. So we went to Iraq to moderate and influence the behavior of the two countries --Iran and Saudi Arabia -- that are so important to us. We desperately wanted the oil supplies to continue coming out of them in a reliable way. So the Iraq venture was all about stabilizing the Middle East.
And that, in my view, is the only factor that makes the Shrub pro-Israel, as well. What we have here is a lovely and secure little oasis that's just perfect for your friendly "neighborhood" U.S. military installations. For the purpose of protecting oil interests, not Jewish interests.

Not that Jews in Israel aren't every bit as interested in maintaining their fossil-fuel-based lifestyle as the ones in America.

In his new book, "The Long Emergency," Kunstler says that "avoiding starvation will replace avoiding boredom as the national pastime" ... and that's the upside. That, and being forced by circumstance to "work closely with other people on things that really matter to us."

He notes that, "New ideas are often greeted in three stages. First, they're ridiculed. Second, they're violently opposed. And finally they're accepted as self-evident."

Not surprising, considering how much in denial we all want to be about this. It may well be felt first in America, but the fleas on that part of the dog will shortly be biting the rest of us too.

Friday, May 13

vintage 1982 - yom atzma'ut05

I arrived, via ship from Greece, in Haifa port in November of 1982. It was my first time in Israel, and I was coming to visit friends I'd met a year earlier in Canada. The circumstances of how we met and why I ended up living with them in a village 10 km outside of Jerusalem must be saved for another day.

Suffice it to say, I unintentionally "made aliyah" before I even knew the meaning of the phrase.

Israel was only 34 when I arrived, just half a decade older than me. My memories of how the country looked, the fashions that were in style, and the jarring Israeli mentality with its expectations of togetherness fit better with my image of North America in the 60s. The country was old-fashioned, not to mention hot and dusty.

Flash forward twenty-two and a half years -- and when I say "flash" I mean WHERE THE F*** DID THAT TIME GO?? A long time. A generation. The kids who weren't even born when I arrived have already completed the army. I'm working alongside some of them. The martini-glass-shaped personal trainer demanding from me 5 more reps was a newborn when I arrived. Menachem Begin was the PM. A long time has passed, even though I was a full-grown adult [chronologically-speaking] already, and still feel like I'm only maybe 10 years older than I was then.

And yet, in between, I got married, had a kid who is months away from being a teen, spent two of those years back in Toronto, and have survived about twenty jobs.

Israel's been through quite a bit too, and is certainly a sadder but wiser country at 57 than it was at 34.

The year I arrived, Arik Sharon was being vilified and eventually was forced to resign from government over his apparently barbaric behavior in the matter of the Sabra and Shatila massacre. Everyone thought he was washed up politically. But today he's the same guy who is moving heaven and earth to do what, in opposition, he threw all his considerable girth into preventing: giving land back to the Palestinians and negotiating with them towards a Palestinian state. An elegant cosmic joke on Arik.

What a difference a couple of decades make.

Happy birthday, Israel.

Sunday, May 8

maccabi TA clears the highway

Because Israel's premier basketball team, Maccabi Tel Aviv, was playing Moscow in the European Cup final this evening, the majority of my workmates left work early to catch the game on tv. It was starting at 5:40 pm, and the whole country, it seemed, was heading home at 5pm (probably on average a couple of hours earlier than usual).

So when I left work at 7:30 -- already well into the game's third quarter -- the roads were as deserted as Saturday afternoon, giving me the fastest trip home I've ever had, barely 20 minutes.

Yes, I'm afraid it's true, traffic conditons are the center of my existence.

Maccabi cleaned up, for their second win in a row, which is a nice gift for the country during the week of Independence Day (this Thursday). But that nachat* is kind of diluted when you look at the team: Of the starting five, maybe one is Israeli. Many of the team's players are imports from the US and other countries. It's hard to work up that old chauvinistic fervor when the sportscasters can't even interview much of the winning team in Hebrew.

The coach, though, is pure Israeli: When the Prime Minister was shown talking to him by phone to congratulate him on the win, he interrupted Sharon to say, "Arik, listen, Arik! I'm thrilled, and want to stay on another year with the team!" to which Sharon responded, "You and me both." But I could only think, where else in the world would a sports coach call the Prime Minister by his first name? Even if he does know him personally (which is of course likely in this microscopic country), can you imagine Tony or George being addressed that way in an official phone call?

Or Vladimir? Nyet, I don't think so.

*naches, pleasure/satisfaction

Thursday, May 5

yom haShoah

Sometimes it's easy to forget I live in Israel. I live in a modern suburb surrounded by new buildings and lush landscaping. The highways are broad and smooth, the hi-rise office buildings are sleek and shiny, and the sushi at lunch isn't half bad.

But this morning, when I flipped on the radio on my way to work, I couldn't help but remember where I live. It's Holocaust Remembrance Day, and there was nothing but sad ballads on every station. Israel has a huge storehouse of sad ballads in every language, but especially Hebrew, to be played nonstop on days of heaviness in this country.

Strangely, I liked it. I started feeling very sober and somehow more adult. Traffic was awful, as thousands headed out for the 10am ceremonies to be held all over the country. Getting to work took me twice as long as usual, but I never lost my patience, and was uncharacteristically generous in letting people cut in front of me.

In the office, I was all alone in my room when the sirens started up at 10am for two minutes of silence, a time when everyone, no matter where they are, has learned to stand silently. Even on the highways, drivers stop their cars and stand beside them to pay silent tribute to the millions of "Martyrs and Heroes" who perished.

I stood by myself, head bowed and eyes closed. At that moment, I was no longer the whingeing wage slave. I was thinking: I am free. So many aren't. Am I doing justice to that freedom by filling my life with value?

Score: C-

Wednesday, May 4

sex and the smelly city

woop-woop, cheese alert:

Was on the treadmill at the gym last night when Chris Noth in all his Bond-ish glory smiled seductively from one of the screens. I quickly flipped channels and discovered he was flogging deodorant, the shooting of which was reported on last summer when he was visiting Israel.

After "Lost in Translation" how can you not feel sorry for celebs pimping products in foreign lands? Whisky at least has a little cache, but deodorant? eeeeeww.

Aimed at the busy, incredible woman who does it all, he tells her how amazing she is and then says , in mock awe, "Do you even have time to breathe?"

"Deodorant Noshem" [that breathes], he intones at the end, "Now that's a big idea."

Get it? BIG?

oy, Chris.