Gadi’s Journey to Sleeping Through the Night (and Rocket Alert Sirens)

Gadi’s Journey to Sleeping Through the Night (and Rocket Alert Sirens)

Third post this month on sleeping! Seriously who am I? If you would have told me a year and a half ago that these would be my blog posts I wouldn’t have believed you. And yet here we are.

So, after a fairly difficult month last month with Gadi’s sleep (and my own little slumber realization, to boot), a war raging in the South, and moving apartments this past weekend, it looks like we’ve finally turned a corner for the better – in the sleep department, that is. Of course it could be a total coincidence – that whatever developmental leap he was going through, tooth movement he was suffering from or whatever else ended exactly at the same time as we decided to take action. Anything’s possible. But let’s just pretend for a moment that I have some kind of control here, shall we?

About three weeks ago, we decided enough was enough – that an hour of screaming before bed, shrugging our shoulders and trying to laugh about the fact that we no longer had any idea how to help our baby go to sleep was not gonna fly anymore. We formed a plan to give Gadi some firmer boundaries around bedtime, while still keeping the flexibility that seems to work for us. We chose an earlier bedtime (7:30pm) and a little routine (bath, massage, book, feed, bed), and decided to give it a week and see what happened before considering talking to a sleep consultant.

And miraculously, within a matter of days it became downright easy for me to get Gadi to sleep. (If anyone has a direct line with fate please don’t pass on this blog post – tfu tfu tfu, throw salt over my shoulder, kiss the evil eye etc.)

There’s the main points that really helped us.

  • Recognizing overtiredness. We ended up moving bedtime to 6:30pm and even though he usually wakes for another feed around 7:30pm, both times going back to sleep is a breeze. I was making the (rookie) mistake of thinking that crying meant he didn’t want to go to sleep – while in fact the opposite was true. All that crying around bedtime actually meant that I had missed the window.
  • Connecting day and night. By the same token, the only way not to end up with an exhausted baby at the end of the day is to become a Sleep Sergeant 24/7. For Gadi, that means as soon as he’s been awake for two hours – it’s nap time. And all things being equal (ie if my own comings and goings don’t get in the way), he generally starts showing signs of tiredness like clockwork – 120 minutes after waking up.
  • Looking for what’s missing. One day I was watching him struggle to fall asleep, and it dawned on me that his flailing around might be related to a need to be more snuggled up. In 30 degree heat and at 5-months old I thought he was too old and too warm for swaddling or much clothing (if any). Turns out blasting the air-conditioning for a couple of hours before bed and using a thin sleeping bag was just what the sleep doctor ordered.
  • Confidence. It’s really easy to question yourself with a crying baby twisting and turning in your arms. Trust your instincts and your baby will, too. Question everything you do – and I’m guessing your baby will do that, too. Less than ideal. I found consciously reminding myself “he is tired, he needs to sleep” really useful, as well as helping Gadi understand those feelings too – “you’re having a hard time winding down bubba, I know. But you’ll get there soon and you’re gonna feel SO much better when you wake up.” I know he probably doesn’t understand my words but I like to think there’s something about the tone that does come across.

To finish the story, we have now moved apartments, and Gadi moved straight into his own room. As I suspected might happen, he seems to have quite taken to it – and last night he slept through the night. His last feed was at 8pm, at 10pm I carried him out of the apartment sound asleep to take cover during a rocket attack (surreal, yes), and at 5am I woke up to hear him singing, happy shrieking and clicking his tongue down the hallway. Amazing. I was so excited I woke my husband up to tell him – kind of defeats the point, I know. But seriously, I couldn’t be prouder if he’d gone and got a Harvard Law Degree while I was sleeping.

Of course, I know this too will pass; there will be more sleepless nights and the next challenge is just around the corner. But I feel that I learned a lesson in conscious parenting here – and I have my husband to thank for bringing up the issue and pushing me to do something. There’s a lot we can’t control when it comes to babies (and life in general) – but being mindful of our actions and setting some firm but flexible boundaries can go a long way.

A Loving-Kindness Meditation for Today

A Loving-Kindness Meditation for Today

At a bit of a loss for what to do with myself between packing up our apartment (moving this week), playing with Gadi (currently sleeping) and listening out for the next rocket warning siren (last one in Tel Aviv was about 18 hours ago), I decided to sit down and shut up. I usually end each meditation session with a few minutes of lovingkindness (metta) meditation. Here’s what I did today:

 

May I be happy;

May I be peaceful and harmonious;

May I be liberated from suffering;

May I be healthy and free.

 

May my family be happy;

May they be peaceful and harmonious;

May they be liberated from suffering;

May they be healthy and free.

 

May everyone in Tel Aviv be happy;

May they be peaceful and harmonious;

May they be liberated from suffering;

May they be healthy and free.

 

May all Israelis and Palestinians be happy;

May they be peaceful and harmonious;

May they be liberated from suffering;

May they be healthy and free.

 

May all beings be happy;

May they be peaceful and harmonious;

May they be liberated from suffering;

May all beings be healthy and free.

 

And for bonus points (NB: points not redeemable for anything tangible):

If I have harmed anyone, intentionally or unintentionally, I ask forgiveness.
If anyone has caused me harm, intentionally or unintentionally, I offer peace.
If I have caused myself harm, intentionally or unintentionally, I forgive myself.

 

Practicing metta meditation is pretty simple. It’s not a magic spell or prayer; just about creating some good vibes (I’m buzzing a bit now). If you feel inclined: sit down comfortably, straighten upwards, and focus on your breathing for a bit to settle into the present and give your mind a moment to quiet. If you have a regular meditation practice you can also do that before or after – whatever feels right to you. Then repeat the lines above quietly to yourself, in your heart. Repeat or ponder if you feel like it. Bring your mind back if it wanders. Feel the lovingkindness grow in and around you. 

 

May all beings be happy, peaceful and free. 

The Latest Gaza Conflict – In My Head

The Latest Gaza Conflict – In My Head

I’m so conflicted as I write this. I can’t even find a title I like, and that’s usually one of my fortes – it just comes to me in a flash of inspiration.

On one hand, the current reality of my life in Tel Aviv is completely unacceptable. Rockets the size of mini-buses are being fired multiple times a day on dense civilian populations. I don’t feel comfortable taking our five-month-old baby to the pool for fear of a siren going off and not having a protected space nearby in which to take cover. Driving even a few minutes away seems like an unnecessary risk. Every second time I put Gadi down for a nap I end up having to bundle him up and run into the stairwell to take cover during a rocket attack.

And yet. We just went for a walk (on a route with buildings to seek shelter close by) and it’s business as usual. The sun is shining. Families are picnicking on the boulevard. Cafes are full. In a strange, surreal way, the underlying anxiety is actually tolerable – probably even a better standard of living than most people around the world. Sure, there’s an uncomfortable uncertainty – when the rockets will hit, whether Iron Dome will intercept (and let’s face it, one of these days it’s going to miss), if the Neil Young concert next Thursday will be canceled or postponed. I’m not saying it’s not unsettling – but it is livable.

But what about the new mothers just like me in Gaza? All of the normal people in Gaza. As I make my way through this weird-ass week of sirens and bomb shelters, our Gazan counterparts are constantly on my mind. I keep thinking about the mothers who are just trying to protect their own little babies, as the IDF attacks terror targets left, right and center. And to be honest, it makes my considerations seem kind of precious.

I found it hard to sleep the night of the first rockets on Tel Aviv this week – I kept thinking I was hearing air raid sirens and worrying about what angle a rocket would hit if it slammed into our apartment. But there were none, and realistically I would have heard if there was, and eventually I did sleep. Do new mothers in the Gaza Strip have any time to relax between night feeds under these unrelenting attacks, night after night? Are their babies screaming non-stop? Do they have roofs? I can’t stop thinking about it.

I’m so conflicted as I write this. I simultaneously agree and disagree with so many of the arguments I see splattered across my Facebook News Feed. I think the Israeli management of the conflict is stupid – short-sighted and uninspired and aggressive. But yes, we do have the right to defend ourselves, and life for Israelis in the South under rocket fire is intolerable, and what would America do if Mexico…. bla bla. And of course Hamas is no better – the Islamist organization has no regard for human life, poor organization and planning at best and murderous intent at worst. And that’s to say nothing of efforts and failures at fair reporting locally and abroad.

Last time we lived through almost the exact same war – in 2012 – I was running the JPost.com news website. During one rocket attack I was walking home after a long day in the newsroom, blasting music in my headphones, and managed to completely miss a siren. I tweeted about it and received polarized responses – from “take care,” “shalom,” and “stay safe” to “oh poor you, no headphones – think about all the Gazans you’re killing.” Trying to keep an unbiased, journalistic voice, I said little. But you know what – both responses are right. Everyone should be able to walk down the street listening to The Prodigy and not have to worry about their personal safety. All human beings should have that luxury. And yet by the same token, it really was but a small inconvenience to my life – a cute anecdote, if that.

I’m conflicted because I don’t want to be political, and I want this blog to be about mindfulness and parenting and yoga and other such crunchy topics. But this is the reality of our lives at this moment, and I do want to give my internal conflict a voice. I believe that this dichotomy is shared by many, and ends up being the reason that nothing changes. Because for most Israelis (civilians in the South under constant attack notwithstanding) – it’s not bad enough to do anything. And for most Palestinians, it’s too bad to even imagine life any other way.

There has to be a better way. The bottom line is that we – Israelis in Tel Aviv – can deal with life like this. Possibly for a long time. I don’t know how long Gaza can hold out. And I shudder to think of the long term effect on the psyches of the Gazan people – will any of them ever really recover from these bi-yearly military operations? Is there any chance of the babies just like Gadi growing up not hating Israelis? I honestly doubt it.

And it doesn’t matter who’s to blame – this is exactly what we can’t afford to tolerate.

I’m bringing up a lot of questions, wishy-washy statements, emotions – and few answers, I know. Everyone has to take this situation and do with it what feels right for them. But for me – it’s gotta be a catalyst for change. Because if Israel keeps going the way it seems to be going – fast to the Right with no sign of it making anything any better, with regular mini wars with neighboring terrorist groups – then we’re not going to want to raise kids here. And I want to be clear – I wasn’t born into this society; I came here to realize a dream of bringing up children in an Israel of which I could be proud.

I’m not proud right now, and I want to be.

I can’t be responsible for everything, no one can, but I can do my bit to make this society into one that could make peace – when the conditions are ripe. I can speak up against intolerance, against senseless violence and against bolstering an “us and them” mentality which marginalizes the “other” and justifies all manner of unethical behavior. Without pointing fingers, without assigning blame – just calling a spade a spade when I can.

To this end, my husband and I just joined Israel’s left-wing party, Meretz. It’s a small step and you probably won’t see either of us leading the party any time soon, but at least we’ll be putting a little bit of time, money and energy where our proverbial mouths are. Doing something to prime Israel for peace, adding our voices to the whisper that still thinks it’s possible.

But even if every single Israeli followed suit right now, it still wouldn’t be enough – Palestinians are going to need to do the same. In Gaza, in the West Bank, wherever else – please, for your own sake. To those of you looking at your babies and wondering what will be – find some way to do the same. My life is already pretty good. It’s your lives that stand to get so much better if we can somehow find it in our hearts to make peace. Know that there are Israelis who believe in peace. Use the word. Convince your husbands and your fathers and your mothers and your sisters.

For our sons.

An open letter to the Gordon Pool

An open letter to the Gordon Pool

Having issued formal complaints to both the Gordon Pool itself and the Tel Aviv Municipality to no avail, I figured making use of my blog might help solve the issue of smoking at the beach-side facility. For those who aren’t familiar with it, we’re talking about a beautiful, newly-renovated compound with a sea-water, Olympic-size pool and a state-of-the-art gym, enjoyed by tourists and locals alike especially during the city’s hotter months (so basically every month but January & February).

Feel free to pass this on if you share my sentiments.

Dear Gordon Pool, 

I’d like to draw your attention to the phenomenon of smoking around your pool, despite multiple non-smoking signs displayed prominently around the area. 

Over the past few months, both during the week and on weekends (a recent period of “funemployment” gave me the opportunity to enjoy your facilities to the max), I’ve visited the pool both to exercise, and to enjoy the pleasant summertime atmosphere. More than once, I’ve been forced to move chairs or even give up and leave the area altogether due to other patrons’ smoking. I’ve seen people smoking cigarettes, cigars and joints alike, even within meters of the lifeguard station. I’ve asked staff to sort out the issue and had them agree and then blatantly ignore me. Perhaps this behavior, along with the built-in ashtrays in the plastic tables around the pool, is giving patrons the wrong message? 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to be a party-pooper here. I smoked for years, I get that it’s fun. Unfortunately it’s also disgusting and bothers non-smokers, particularly annoying ex-smokers like me. I’m not going to make a fuss about people mixing cheap vodka with fake Red Bull around the pool, though that certainly doesn’t lend itself to the spirit of health either. I understand that this is a sport and leisure facility, but you guys put the signs up yourselves, so I’m sure you’ll agree that smoking is a different story. 

I strongly believe that there is no place for smoking at a facility which aims to promote healthy living, and that your staff are being negligent by failing to stamp out the phenomenon. I urge you – please sort out this issue once and for all so your loyal, paying customers can breathe freely as they enjoy the pool. 

Sincerely, 
Elana Kirsh

Update: One month after filing a complaint with the Tel Aviv Municipality I received a reply, stating that smoking is indeed against the law in the pool area, and that the responsibility for prevention lies with the management. The official also stated that staff would receive further training on the matter, and a copy of his letter was set to the manager of the Gordon Pool compound.
Let’s hope they can follow through!
Raving at the gym

Raving at the gym

I’ve recently been convinced to join a gym. There, I said it. I know, I know, who am I and what have I done with Elana, and what happened to “this place seems like what hell would look like,” etc. Well, things change, people change, priorities change, bad habits change, and when push comes to shove I’m pretty happy with my shiny blue key ring.

Barring two embarrassing pool episodes in the first week, my transition to becoming a gym-goer has been pretty smooth. I even have a gym bag now, and can almost remember all the things I’m meant to pack in order to maximize my visits. Showering with only a hand towel to dry myself today wasn’t necessarily the most comfortable of experiences, for example, but at least I had clean socks and deodorant to put on afterwards.

In any case, earlier this week I found myself in my first spin class, after a know-it-all Orthopaedic told me that running isn’t good for my knee. And I loved it. Yes, I was just as shocked.

It was only last week that I’d said I feel like I have one more rave left in me, despite the fact that I’m no longer into some of the *ahem* behaviours that used to help us stay up all night dancing. And indeed, it turns out I may have many raves left in me yet, all in the weird dark triangular room at the back of the Gordon Pool gym. The neon lights, pumping music, heart-racing, the endorphin rush – it’s totally raving for adults. Or healthy people, as the case may be. At various points during the class I was this close to throwing my hands triumphantly in the air, and when the DJ oops I mean teacher put on an Infected Mushroom track as the last track, I literally wanted to shout “woo!” Yes, “woo!” And since I’ve gone this far, I might as well admit that my new bright green work-out top glowing fluoro yellow was also part of the fun.

So, while I’m neither committing to a spin class a day nor ruling out a rave comeback just yet, I’ll definitely be going back for more. Does anyone know somewhere in Tel Aviv that sells glow-in-the-dark water bottles?

When you blame, you be lame

When you blame, you be lame

The Tel Aviv Marathon was scheduled for last Friday (March 15, 2013), but the main 42km event was postponed due to an unseasonable 35 degree Celcius heatwave which swept the country that day. Unfortunately the marathon itself has now been cancelled altogether due to a tragic death and dozens of injuries during the events which went ahead, including the 21km half marathon, and volleys of subsequent accusations levelled back and forth.

In response to the weather predictions, the Tel Aviv Municipality decided earlier in the week to postpone the main event, and to start the other races earlier than planned so as to miss the heat of the day. I started running in the 10km just after 7am and took the race pretty easy, and while it was hot I can honestly say that it wasn’t that bad. There were plenty of extra water stations, hoses literally watering down runners, and tips before the race on how to deal with the expected heat.

And yet despite all efforts, one person died (supposedly from heat stroke but the family decided against an autopsy) and some 80 people required medical attention.

It took no time at all for accusations started flying, from media and citizens alike. Against the Tel Aviv Municipality, the mayor, the Health Ministry – you  name it, someone blamed it. The question is – what does it help? It’s tragic that someone died, sure, but unfortunately – people die. They die in marathons, they die in car accidents, they die old and young, expected and suddenly. The death of a young father is a tragedy, no ifs or buts about it; in no way, shape or form do I wish to diminish that fact. I just question what purpose all of the blame surrounding this tragedy serves.

Growing up there was a well-known phrase about assumptions: “When you assume, you make an ass out of you and me” (ass+u+me = assume). Last week, as fingers were being pointed left, right and center before I’d even passed the finish line, a revision came to mind: When you blame, you be lame (b+lame = lame).

In Facebook posts and news articles, radio talk shows and countless personal conversations, people tried to find the authority to blame. Others turned the other direction entirely and pointed the finger at the casualties themselves, claiming they were obviously pushing themselves too hard or (as may well have been the case) didn’t know their own limits. Whichever way the accusations go, it doesn’t matter. The fact is, shit happens.

And, as it happens, deaths in marathon running are not as much of an anomaly as Israelis this past week would have you believe. A 30-year-old woman died running a London marathon earlier this year, a man collapsed and died on the finish line of the 2012 Mexico City marathon, and there were three deaths in as many Canadian marathons in 2011. Some likely didn’t train properly or pushed themselves too hard, others were found to have taken (legal) performance-enhancing stimulants. Though Israelis like to think they’re special, when it comes down to it we’re all the same.

But that’s not to say marathons are inherently dangerous; the benefits decidedly outweigh the risks. In the months leading up the events I saw hundreds of people training around the city. Fit people and overweight people alike, young and old, male and female – all taking the opportunity to challenge their minds and their bodies in a pretty damn healthy way. I have no statistics to quote but I’m willing to bet that many of them will keep running after the race (or the non-event, as the case may be). Again – it’s a terrible shame that one person had to die, but the societal gain seems worth it.

In fact, a retrospective analysis conducted in 2007 found that contrary to impressions given by the news media, marathons are not even responsible for an increase in deaths compared to those that would have occurred on the roads had they not been closed for such events. Rather, the risk of death was found to have decreased by 35%. Health gains aside, societies are benefiting merely by closing roads to hold these events.

No doubt, the authorities should conduct a proper investigation into whether or not anything could have been done to prevent the fatality and injuries. However, the bottom line is that tens of thousands of people made efforts towards their health in previous months, and will likely continue to do so. It is horrible that one person had to die, but the benefits far outweigh the risks, and people should keep that in mind before jumping to point fingers.

When you blame, you be lame.