Wednesday, December 31, 2008
It was said that there will be an essay contest which will run through January 31, but regardless of the contest, I thought - I must do that!
It's easy to gain praise if you do something obviously heroic, such as for example saving a baby from a burning house or volunteering to deliver food and medication to a war zone. But most men and women have few opportunities like these, and so it might be easy to miss the nobility of their lives. My husband is a hero - of a different kind - and I'll make sure I acknowledge this, even if no one else ever does.
Every day, my husband goes out to a job that isn't particularly fascinating, rewarding or fun, and spends long hours steadily doing his work in order to provide for me and our soon-to-be-born baby. He doesn't complain about not having the job of his dreams, and instead, seeks to provide us with a sense of financial security.
His maturity, resourcefulness, and steady, reliable attitude give me confidence that no matter what, he will do everything in his power to make sure that I, and any future children we might have, are fed, clothed, sheltered and taken care of. He is a rare gem among the young men of today, who hover from one school program to another, change jobs on a whim, even during tough times, when they are "dissatisfied" - and expect to be provided for even when they undertake the duties of husband and father.
At the same time my dear husband, a man of a generous, humble heart, doesn't forget to express his gratitude about simple everyday things, and constantly tells me what a great help I am to him, gently encouraging me to improve in areas that are lacking.
A couple of weeks ago, he told me, "ours is the most special little home, because you tend to it. Thank you for not working outside the home. With all my work stresses, I can't even imagine what our life would look like if you worked too!" - this was so deeply touching, to get a confirmation that I'm definitely not wasting my time, and my efforts are appreciated by the only person whose opinion should matter - my husband. Also, it's important to know that far from adding to my husband's stress (due to "not contributing" financially by earning a second income), he feels I relieve his burden by managing our home!
By definition, human beings aren't angels, and one could always find something to complain about. But every day, I realize more and more strongly that I've been blessed by a wonderful, loving, sweet, caring, understanding, patient, generous and committed husband, who took me under his wing when I became his wife. When I'm sick, he tends to me; when I'm sad, he comforts me; when I'm insecure, he relieves my burdens by his confidence. I know God Himself brought us together in the blessed union of marriage, and thus placed me under my husband's leadership and protection - and by trusting my husband, I trust God.
We are a new couple - married less than a year - but during these short few months of our marriage, my beloved husband displayed incredible gentleness, kindness and generosity, so many times. A couple of weeks into our marriage, I became pregnant, which led to a somewhat debilitating condition throughout my first trimester. Think terrible, overpowering sickness when I saw a couple of dirty dishes in the sink. For a while, I mostly just slept, ate whatever I could keep down, and struggled to keep on top of simple tasks such as laundry and making beds. Never once, my husband complained about there being no dinner, or about dishes being unwashed, or about my mood swings. Once, he took a day off work simply because he thought it would cheer me up.
He accompanied me to all the more important check-ups I had to do throughout pregnancy. He rubbed my back when it hurt, and my feet when they were swollen. He researched important information which might concern me and the baby. Without pointing this out, it was always obvious he is more concerned about my health and well-being than his own, fulfilling the commandment given to Jewish husbands, to love their wives as themselves, and respect their wives more than themselves.
We started out with a rather limited budget, and a small loan on our house which we are determined to return as soon as possible. For the first few months of our life together, we slept on air mattresses, cooked on a tiny portable gas stove, and lived in a tiny, sweltering hot temporary building without air conditioning. Sometimes, I became discouraged, but my husband showed the most amazing skills, providing us with all the needed furniture and appliances. I have always been frugal, but my husband taught me the meaning of resourcefulness - bartering, buying second-hand, and not turning up my nose at a beautiful piece of furniture unjustly labeled as "trash" by someone else. At first I thought we'd be overwhelmed by baby expenses, but with God's help, we got everything we needed for free or nearly for free.
At the same time, my husband never showed temptation to cut back on the monthly sum of money we give to charity under the pretext of saving. On the contrary, he always keeps pointing out how we are so much better off than the widows and orphans who have no clothes on their back and no food on their table. In the most humble way, his hand is generously stretched out to those in need, from a hungry cat to organizations that support Jewish education. Equally, it's easy to see his thoughtfulness and generosity towards his family, my family, neighbours and strangers. Not only with money, but with his time, effort, and willingness to take other people's matters to heart.
As I try to write some sort of conclusion, I find myself struggling to find the proper words to express my gratitude for the husband I have been given. As I see the beauty of marriage, of family, friendship, closeness, of true, sacrificial love unfold before me, I feel I am basking in a tiny reflection of God's love towards all His children. Every day is a treasured gift and blessing bestowed upon me, and I simply thank God for giving me my husband, and thank my husband for being the man he is.
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Last night, a disturbing event happened where we live: an armed man from one of the nearby villages sneaked in, and committed a completely unprovoked attack on one of the local people here. The victim, who was transferred to the nearest hospital, was only lightly wounded, praise God - but it certainly wasn't for lack of trying. We were requested to stay inside while the police and military searched the area for the terrorist. Things are not exactly calm around here, as you all probably know, and while we don't panic, we are aware of the situation.
We have enough food in our storage cupboards and freezer to last for weeks - a supply of flour, rice, beans and lentils, pasta, canned tuna, sardines and vegetables, all sorts of nuts, as well as raisins and chocolate. I have never been happier about our stockpile before. We didn't start it purposefully with such an occasion in mind - we simply bought a lot when we saw a good deal on something. But it certainly feels nice to know you have a lot of food when it comes to a point you think you might want to avoid any unnecessary trips. We also have a supply of soap and toilet paper, but I don't think it will come to a point when we run out of those. I think we should get some more sugar and yeast while we still can... and it's one of the moments when I feel we should just go ahead and start raising a couple of chickens for eggs, even with the possible complications involved.
A bigger concern, right now, is what will happen when I go into labor. What if, for example, it had happened last night when we were requested to remain inside until morning? What if the police blocks the roads in order to catch a terrorist, precisely when my husband is on his way to pick me up when I'm having contractions? There should always be the option of calling an ambulance, of course, but I'd hate to be cut off from my husband at a time like this. Our family, especially my in-laws - who live in a less isolated and safer area - have invited us repeatedly to stay with them until I give birth, but you can imagine what being away from home for an extended period feels like for a nesting soon-to-be Mom. However, if the tension in our area continues to escalate, we might stay away for a while until the baby is safely delivered.
In the meantime, preparations for the arrival of our little one continue. Yesterday, my husband took a day off work, and I can't help but think that nesting got him, too. He sorted out through items in our storage shed; hanged new lamps on our ceilings; fixed up the curtains in our bedroom; and could hardly be stopped from installing a bathroom cabinet when it was close to midnight. He says he doesn't want the baby to hear any drilling in the first months of her life, so all those jobs must be completed as soon as possible. In between lending him a hand, I was polishing our sinks, taps and mirrors.
In the picture, you can see my husband's hands, and mine, on my belly. Lately, we use every opportunity to take some tummy pictures, because we realize it can be gone any moment. :o)
Thank you again for all your kind wishes, thoughts and prayers on our behalf and the behalf of Israel. My inbox is currently exploding with emails, and I think it will take some time to answer them all - especially if the baby decides to make her appearance in the next few days. I'm sure you understand. Thank you for being such sweet, thoughtful, gentle friends.
My warmest wishes to you all,
Monday, December 29, 2008
Not long ago, I was contacted by a lady who wanted to buy a certain gift for her children, but because she felt it would mean spending a bit too much money, she ended up using some resourcefulness and creativity and making it herself. Her children loved what she did, but later she felt guilty for refusing to open her pocket and buy the brand-new, commercial, perfect-looking version.
There is a whole industry built around children, from babies to teenagers, with a seemingly endless stream of products and services - which we are supposed to buy, if we want to be good parents. Or so they would have us believe.
But you know what? The people who are behind promoting sales of brand-name children's toys, clothes, and various "development enhancers" are interested primarily in your hard-earned money! Wrapping us in guilt for not being able to afford this, that and the other material possession for our children does not serve us or our children - it serves the interests of those who work within the industry.
For many generations, children have developed just fine without having their own private rooms, fancy toys, and new clothes. They had simple home-made toys and games, many siblings and cousins, and early, active involvement in family life. Have you ever thought why today, when so much effort is put into "child development", it takes so long for people to become mature? In my opinion, this is at least partly due to children's early separation from their mothers, lack of siblings, and early institutionalization.
Children need mothers who are ready to put in time, effort, love and devotion, and actually be there for their children. A simple toy you make for your children, or a game you make up together, is much better than buying a fancy gift you can't afford.
My observation is that children get tired of toys pretty quickly, and it doesn't matter how expensive they are. When we are talking about something you made, your children will know Mom made it just for them, and they will know the time and effort you put into making a gift for them. This will teach them, from an early age, to appreciate the value of work and everything that goes along with it. When I was a child, a hat or sweater that Grandma made was worn with extra care, because I remembered all the time she spent with her pair of needles, knitting away. It also taught me a link between a ball of yarn, a pair of knitting needles, and an item of clothing. No such kind of educational experience is attached to store-bought products.
"The best" is not the shiny, new, brand-name things sold in stores. Not if you would have to go out to work and spend less time with your children in order to buy those things, or put your family under a financial strain. I believe with all my heart that love, nurturing, family time, creativity, contact with nature, good reading and simple entertainment are the best - but of course, it's not a popular choice, and not one that is promoted by those who would otherwise have your money in their pocket.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
We know only too well, however, that Israel is small and being safe today does not ensure safety tomorrow. Those who are purposefully trying to harm innocents in the cities that are currently being attacked, are only waiting for an opportunity to do that all over Israel. Therefore, we put our trust in the Lord, who is ever faithful.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
I'm typing with a heavy heart, with much hesitations, hand hovering over my keyboard, writing, deleting and re-writing. I sincerely hoped I wouldn't have to write this at all, but recent dialogues through email and through this blog made me realize I don't have much choice.
I started this blog being vague about my religious and national identity. A year ago, I made the necessary clarification about me being Jewish. I knew it was an important turning point - one that made my blog more personal, allowed me to open a wider range of topics, and started contact with precious people I wouldn't have a chance to meet otherwise. I was amazed to discover how many of my readers are actually Jewish; in the process of converting to Judaism; have a Jewish father, grandparent, or best friend; live in Israel, visited Israel, or plan to visit Israel; are studying Hebrew and/or Jewish traditions.
I also received many questions about Jewish beliefs and customs, which I had great pleasure responding to, especially since it often prompted me to learn something new myself (as I always state, my knowledge is very limited). People have emailed me about a wide variety of issues, from how to prove one's Jewish ancestry to how I tie my head scarves, and even though sometimes I felt my inbox would burst with emails, eventually I answered each one.
During the past year, I also received dozens of messages of a different kind - peaking during holiday season, which eventually prompted me to write this post, as uncomfortable as it may be. I'm talking, of course, about people who wrote to try and dissuade me from following the faith of my ancestors, despite my explicit request not to do that after the first few messages started to fly in. I know at least a few of you are reading this right now.
Numerous times, I also had to stop discussions here from sliding into theological debates. And please understand that by debate, I don't mean questions such as, "why do Jewish girls and women traditionally wear skirts?" - I'm talking about direct confrontation with my faith, which could easily get ugly if I gave it space on my blog. Notice that even now, I'm not debating; I'm not quoting from Scriptures, and I'm not defending my point of view - I refuse to be dragged into this publicly. A few times, I also had to stop discussion following a direction which would be offensive to other religious groups, such as for example Catholics.
I realized that up to this point, I have lived in a very sheltered environment. I spent nearly my entire life in Israel, in a Jewish community, among Jewish peers. New year always started in Autumn, and I had only a vague idea about another religious holiday taking place around Hanukkah. Until I started writing for LAF and started this blog soon after that, words such as "Evangelical" or "Bible Belt" didn't hold much meaning for me. The first time I made any personal contact with non-Jews was during university, when I had some Christian Arab friends. However, somehow we never reached the point of religious discussion.
But this time, of living in a country with a Jewish majority, is but a short point in our history. For many centuries, Jews had been persecuted, unjustly accused, despised, libeled, hanged, burned, tortured, banished and butchered for refusing to let go of their faith. The fact that I'm sitting here, identifying as a Jew, proves that many generations of my ancestors preferred to die rather than renounce their direct link to Mt. Sinai. Around five hundred years ago, my relatives preferred to leave all their belonging behind them in Spain, and journey into the unknown to Northern and Eastern Europe (where a large part of them would be subsequently tortured and murdered), rather than accept conversion - even a mock one - and comfortably retain physical security. Others, such as my husband's ancestors, sailed to the shores of North Africa. Jews fled to wherever they could still practice their faith without being murdered.
Have you ever wondered why? Stubbornness? Masochism? Tribal instinct?.. It would have been so much easier to just dissolve into the majority, assimilate, give up, like it had happened to countless smaller nations. Why is it that from Poland to Yemen, you could find exactly the same book of Torah in every synagogue, zealously preserved and protected from the smallest changes?
To all those who wrote to me offering to share the Truth, Light and Salvation - I would like you to know that I'm not offended; not angry; not hurt. Yes, at times I felt exasperated because of the unbelievable amount of similar messages from different people, but I know each and every one who wrote had my very best interests at heart. I know that each one of you felt sincere concern for my immortal soul, which according to your beliefs, will burn in Hell for all eternity if I don't accept what you are so willing to offer; I know that from your point of view, you aren't only doing me a favor - you are performing a sacred duty.
But from my point of view, you are asking me to commit spiritual suicide.
The Lord promised He would preserve the Jewish people, and this is indeed what happened, and what will continue to be until the End of Days. However, there were always individuals or groups who have cut themselves off by accepting whatever religion that was prevalent at the time. Right now we are celebrating Hanukkah, which isn't just the victory of the Jew over the Greek, but also of the committed Jew over the Hellenized one. Hanukkah is a victory of the few over the many, which is why it's so symbolic concerning the entire Jewish history. Yes, there will always be those who walk out. But some will remain. And some will die for their faith and the preservation of their people - not because they are too stubborn to do otherwise, but because certain things are worth dying for.
If you are one of those who told me, "But I'm not asking you to stop being a Jew - you can follow all your sacred traditions but still complete your faith", know that I understand - from your point of view, my faith is lacking something, and the completion you offer is the only way to restore it. You don't see the wickedness in rejecting the core of my belief while maintaining a Jewish appearance.
But from my point of view, accepting what you offer and insisting that I'm not breaking the chain because I would preserve some weak, merely physical, cultural resemblance of "living as a Jew" is meaningless.
Thankfully, right now I'm not facing the choice of renouncing my faith or dying. But many faithful Jews, among them sages, scholars and learners, had to make the choice throughout the centuries, and they chose to die. And after a year of learning, I'm convinced that not only they were heroes - from their point of spiritual purity, they had no choice. And they would do it again, and again, and again. Not to be strong, not to prove something, but simply because the horror of doing otherwise overcame the fear of death.
This year also made me aware that even here in Israel, we aren't as safe from spiritual attacks as I once thought. All of a sudden, I started noticing little things - certain literature handed out to unsuspecting people; certain messages in our newspapers. With increasing disgust - I'm sorry, but I can find no other word - I noticed that the main target groups are the weak; the lonely; the elderly; the teenagers; the under-educated in their own faith.
And we aren't taking this lying down. There is a counter movement of teaching Jews what it means to be Jewish, before they throw away their precious link to our people. Also, most foreign organizations here in Israel who try to get hold of the holy souls of precious Jews, are acting on a semi-legal to illegal basis, which gives us grounds for legitimate battle - we never forced our faith on anyone, and believe that in our country, we are entitled to the same privilege. Part of our monthly tithing goes to the cause of stopping the spiritual hunt of innocent Jews. For us, it's a matter of survival.
I will finish now. This post was very sombre for my blog, especially today when we are all supposed to be enjoying a pleasant holiday season. If I dampened anyone's mood, or hurt anyone's feelings, I apologize. I hope that very soon, we can go back to brighter and happier topics; wishing everyone a wonderful weekend.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
We didn't expect our grapefruit tree to blossom right now (we are used to seeing citrus trees bloom during spring around here), yet it is all covered with flowers, which were soon found by many buzzing bees. The nectar also attracts beautiful sunbirds. It smells divinely, and the birds are fun to watch while I hang out the laundry in our back yard.
When we moved in, there were a few grapefruits on the tree, but they were tiny and sour. I'm not sure if it's because the tree wasn't taken care of during the Sabbatical year, or because it's still young, or simply because it's not a high-quality variety. We'll have to try to give the tree better care this year, and see what happens.
For Jews, "inheriting" a fruit tree in their yard bears a certain risk, because it is forbidden to destroy fruit-bearing trees (Deuteronomy 20:19-20) even if the fruit is bitter. There are a few exceptions to this rule, specifically if the fruit tree causes damage in some way, but it isn't so in our case - which means we are probably stuck with this tree for better or worse.
Right now it's raining outside in the most delightful way, which means this is going to be an indoors day - which I'm perfectly happy with. I'm glad for every bit of rain we are getting, because this winter has been a little dry so far.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Still, women in previous generations had a huge advantage over today's women in the following: one, they weren't expected to "be it all" and "do it all". Once a woman got married, no one expected her to combine her natural duties of wife, mother and homemaker with a full-time career outside the home. And two, people often lived in close-knit communities, and a woman typically had a supportive network of extended family and/or neighbours, who could offer help and advice to an often overwhelmed young, inexperienced wife and mom.
My grandmother tells me that her mother received help from neighbours after the birth of each child. Women sent her home-cooked meals, home-baked bread, and helped her clean her house and do her laundry (which wasn't easy work back then) while she recovered. In the meantime, she could focus on taking care of the new baby. Because there were many neighbours around, it didn't take that much effort: perhaps a meal and a bit of help around the house from each one.
Because so many people had large families, the special period with a new baby was better understood and treated as a natural part of life. The ones who extended help a couple of weeks ago might have a baby themselves a short time after that, and they knew they would not be left without support.
Today, many people don't know their neighbours; in packed, crowded apartment buildings, it seems as though we are divided more than ever. Also, with most women choosing to have only one or two children, and those children being in daycare from a very young age while their mothers go out to work, a young mother who stays home with her children often feels isolated - especially if her husband works long hours and her family is far away.
Bethany, a young mom, recently commented: "I am so jealous that you have a neighbor with a baby! (And that you actually know your neighbors). We only know a few of ours, as people are typically very private in this part of the US and also very busy (ie away from home ALL the time). Not the best atmosphere for a housewife. It can get sort of lonely. I would love to have other women around during the day with little ones!"
Things are a bit different where we live. It's a small place where people know each other, and where women typically have more than the average number of children. I've been told that there's a group of women around here who took it upon themselves to organize the delivery of home-cooked meals to new moms in the first few weeks when they are home with their baby. Also, it is noticeable that women are around much more. Our quiet street isn't deserted in the middle of the day; women who live nearby smile at me, ask how I am, and offer encouragement. One stay-at-home mom offered me to call her in case I go into labor while my husband is away, and I want some company and support while he's on his way to pick me up.
I think it could be so wonderful if networks for the support of new moms became more common once again. I'm not quite at that point yet, but I've heard that a hot meal is invaluable while you are recovering from birth and getting used to taking care of a newborn.
Speaking of new moms: Mrs. W, a mom of two young boys, recently announced that they are expecting another little one to join their family! How exciting. Wishing you a safe, uncomplicated, easy pregnancy, and a healthy baby in his or her due time.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Thank you for all your kind, thoughtful words of advice about the headaches I've been suffering. I'm happy to say that it seems I've nailed down two major triggers of headache: energy-saving light bulbs and computer screens. Replacing the light bulbs, cutting down on overall computer time and working in stretches no longer than 15 minutes has helped tremendously, and yesterday and today my headaches have been much more manageable.
Being sensitive to energy-saving light bulbs explains why I've previously suffered from headaches during the evening and night - after I've been exposed to them for hours. I wanted to pass this along, in case it helps someone else who is suffering from migraine-type headache. I'm no longer sleep deprived because of the pain, which makes things so much better. I still plan to visit a neurologist, but since I'm so close to my due date, I'm pretty sure we'll take the "wait and see" approach anyway.
Added: thankfully, reading a book or doing needlework do not have the same effect as reading from a computer screen, and don't seem to be headache triggers. I'm so glad about that. Give me an evening to curl up on the couch with a good book and some crocheting or knitting, and I'm happy.
I still feel as though I've been a bit under the weather, perhaps even with a little cold thrown in, but now I can pick things up again and do bit by bit all the things I planned for the next two weeks - clean every nook and cranny, wash the baby's little outfits and blankets, and pack my bag. Oh, and I should also cook and/or bake something for our neighbour next door, whose baby boy was born three days ago. :o) Won't it be fun to have two little babies in two houses side by side?
Reducing time spent in front of the computer screen means I might be late in replying to emails, but eventually I believe I will answer each one. Thank you again, ladies, and I hope to "talk" to you soon!
Thursday, December 18, 2008
It looks as though pregnancy headaches are a common complaint. I tried the suggested preventive measures - paying attention to my posture, getting enough sleep, exercising and eating balanced, varied meals - but to no avail. My headaches are becoming stronger and more persistent. It starts around evening hours, and gets worse at night - always a throbbing pain at my right temple area. I suspect those are what you'd call migraines, because light makes it worse. I used to love to fall asleep with a candle on my bedside table, but now even this little light annoys me and seems to make the headache worse.
If you Google any combination of the words "migraine" and "food", you'll find long lists of potential triggers; I can't say how much truth this holds. I certainly consume some foods which can supposedly trigger migraine (such as dairy products and bananas), but not excessively, and most importantly, not more than at any other time in my life.
The only thing that helps, so far, is to sleep through the pain, but with it being so bad, it's difficult to fall asleep. Last night, for example, I went to bed at 11, and didn't fall asleep until half past 2 in the morning (and lack of sleep in itself, I've heard, can make things worse). It was pure torture. I'm usually not the type to complain about every little pain, so trust me when I say I've never been in so much agony in my life.
Today, I had an appointment with my doctor, who told me that I'm probably experiencing migraines which might be pregnancy-related, but I still need to see a neurologist, which I'm going to do as soon as I can get an appointment.
In the meantime, I would like to ask you ladies: did any of you have migraines that started during pregnancy? If you also had migraines before pregnancy, did they become worse or more frequent? Did things go back to their former status quo after you've had the baby? And what non-chemical, risk-free methods do you know that might ease the pain? Your experience will be much appreciated, because I'm at a loss here.
Oh, and because several of you asked, I'm adding this to the post: the first thing my doctor thought of was preeclampsia, but thankfully, that was ruled out.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
* Elderly ladies offer to carry your grocery bags for you. Nothing like it to make you feel totally incapable! :o)
* You tell your mother over the phone that you need to go and hang the laundry, and she says, "Oy. Be careful!!"
* People offer you a lift when you are on your evening walk just to get a little exercise. Happens to me all the time these days. I suppose that, as much as I like to indulge myself with the thought that I'm energetic and in good shape, my waddle looks pitiful.
I am enjoying this very special time, just a few weeks before my due date, and would like to take advantage of this opportunity to pass my best, warmest wishes to other expectant Mommies.
Kelly, from the interesting "Generation Cedar" blog (one of my favorite reads), is a homeschooling Mom to seven dear children and is currently expecting another darling little one. I always love reading Kelly's thoughts on homeschooling and raising children.
Crystal Paine is expecting her third child, and recently published many practical, helpful posts about keeping things real and under control, even through the nausea, tiredness and lack of energy many ladies experience during pregnancy. I was happy to read Crystal is feeling better now that she is past her first trimester - way to go, Crystal!
Dear Jewels, in her most recent post, shared with us the happy news that her oldest son and his wife, Claire, are expecting another addition to their young family. Their two beautiful girls now can look forward to a little brother or sister - what a blessing. I look forward to reading further updates on Claire's pregnancy.
I'm also very thrilled for Bethany, a young mother of a sweet baby girl, who is expecting her second child. May this time of your life be abundantly blessed! Bethany recently shared her perspective on pregnancy and childbirth in this fascinating post.
Many blessings to any young, or older moms (and grandmoms!) who are reading this. Many of you have been a "support group" to me during the past months, and your experience, advice and friendship are of a tremendous value to me. Thank you for all the kindness you have displayed towards our little family; thank you for sharing your lives through this very imperfect method of communication - blogging and emailing. My life has been made richer through daily contact with all of you, and even though I couldn't respond to all your comments, do know that I have been incredibly blessed by reading each and every one of them.
Photo: me at a beach trip today, with Mom and a cousin. It was a very warm December day, but the beach was nearly stranded except for a few old men with their fishing rods.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Here's the original recipe:
"CHOCOLATE SOUR CREAM CAKE
180 grams (6.5 oz) butter - room temperature
(3/4 cup) sugar
2 eggs - room temperature
300 grams (10.5 oz) sour cream
about 1/3 cup milk
1 ½ self-raising flour or all purpose flour + 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup cocoa powder
Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
Place butter and sugar in a bowl and mix with electric beaters until light and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time and beat in.
Stir in sour cream and milk.
Sift in the flour and cocoa and stir until well mixed.
Place into greased and lined pan and place in the oven for about 40 minutes.
When the cake is cool, cover it with frosting - melted chocolate, butter and icing (confectioner's) sugar."
I intended to follow the recipe exactly... honestly! :o) But that never happens around here, does it? When I was already mixing and stirring, I realized I only have one egg (shame on me for such neglect of our food supply!) - I wanted to hop to the grocery store, but it was raining. So I took a deep breath and proceeded with just one egg, and it was still excellent.
I also decided not to make the frosting. The cake was so moist and rich that I saw no need to, and my husband isn't a big fan of frostings anyway. I'm very happy to add this recipe to my list of "easy and delicious baked goodies" - excellent when you have unexpected guests, or simply very little time for baking.
Monday, December 15, 2008
By purchasing items I don't really need, especially cheap, low quality, mass-production ones, I'm encouraging a further overflow of this product into the market. I'm giving a hand to environmental strain and under-paid labor in countries like China.
When I buy things I don't need, I'm wasting valuable storage space, which is a scarce resource in a small house like ours. I don't want to end up re-arranging our furniture or adding extra shelves for the purpose of storing items I never use. We do have an outdoors storage shed, but it's meant to be a place for seasonal items and a stock for non-perishables like toilet paper, not a dump for things we mindlessly bought and never used.
I've also found that an excess of possessions has an effect of cluttering my mind. When I have too many items in my closets and drawers, I'm unorganized. If I have too many clothes, I'll put part of them away and only use a few items I love. I like to use one brand of shampoo, perfume, or body lotion at a time, and nothing grates on my nerves like a cluttered bathroom cabinet. I don't want to have trouble remembering which things I already have!
That's why I'm also careful about acquiring freebies or things people are giving away. For example, in a discussion of one of the posts here, I mentioned that we don't have a changing table, even though we could get one second-hand for free. However, we had to consider the fact that the baby's tiny room must already hold a closet, a cupboard, a guest bed, a drawer chest, and a crib. Putting a changing table in there would mean blocking the only bit of free space left.
Here's a useful article on the benefits of being more organized (hat-tip to LAF):
"How big is your wardrobe? Do you or your children own 30 pairs of jeans at $60 a pop because you don't keep up with the laundry or because your closet is so stuffed you can't find anything? That adds up to $1,800 worth of jeans. If you cut it down to even 10 pairs you would save $1,200. How many tops do you own? How about those shoes? Before you say, "There is no way I have that many jeans, shoes, or tops!" go count you clothes. You may be surprised..."
"Do you buy new items because you can't find something? The cost of things like tools, glue, tape, ropes, garden tools, kitchen items, light bulbs, batteries, office supplies and other things really adds up."
Keeping clutter under control by not buying items you don't need certainly helps you save money, but even more importantly, it preserves your sanity, your efficiency, and helps your run your home more smoothly. If you already have a lot of clutter, getting rid of it might involve a lot of work. Therefore, my solution is: don't let unnecessary items in your home in the first place - it will save you a lot of headache, time and money later on.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Also, belly-dancing music is fun, and can be easily found through sources such as YouTube. Dancing is good for the spirit and for general well-being. Even if you're not into belly-dancing, shaking that tummy for a few minutes to your favorite music can be a real mood booster.
Of course, one must always be careful. If dancing feels painful or uncomofrtable, if your doctor or midwife recommends certain limits to the type and/or duration of your daily exercise, all of this should be taken into consideration. There are certain positions you might want to avoid altogether, because of the strain on your back. Still, a healthy pregnant woman, I believe, has no reason to avoid a healthy, daily portion of dancing.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
And I'm not even going into the sub-divisions of which kippa that is, its material, size and color, whether the man is wearing a traditional black suit and hat (diagnosis of the secular population: "complete religious freak") or just normal everyday clothes (diagnosis: "slightly tweaked in the brain"); for women, length of skirt; whether a woman is also wearing stockings and a wig, or a head scarf or hat (if she is married), and how many hairs are sticking out.
The secular Jew is largely a modern phenomenon; if you are a young Jew in your 20's or 30's, your great-grandparents most likely were religiously observant - which cannot be said about the generation of our grandparents. My grandmother married a non-Jew, which would have sent her parents to the grave if they hadn't already been murdered in the Holocaust by then. The next generation retained only a vague consciousness of their heritage - mostly thanks to rampant anti-semitism which wouldn't allow them to forget they are Jewish. From what I've observed, the almost complete detachment from tradition is stronger in the Ashkenazi Jewish population than in the Sephardi, Yemenite or Ethiopian communities.
In no other place, at no other time there had been greater antagonism than right here in the modern state of Israel, between those who debate on the laws of a Sabbatical year and those who eat shrimps in a restaurant by the sea; those who keep the day of Shabbat holy, and those who drive to clubs and bars on Friday night; those who pray three times a day, and those whose foot never stepped in a synagogue; those who won't remain alone with a woman they aren't married to, and those who initiate a gay parade in the holy city of Jerusalem; those who love and welcome big families, and those who look with disgust at a family with ten children; I could go on and on, but I think you get the picture.
Of course, it doesn't boil down to mere differences. There are many secular Jews who know far less about Judaism than some of my non-Jewish readers here. If you haven't lived in Israel, you'll find it hard to believe the amount of ignorance, suspicion, myths, unjust criticism and even downright hatred, which is directed by the secular population towards the religious.
Examples? I have too many to share them all. Just a few tidbits from what I personally heard: "religious people are brainless robots"; "religious people get married without any affection, simply in order to breed"; "religious women are nothing more than baby machines"; "large families are a drain on society"; and my personal favorite, "Torah scholars are useless". It's beyond sad how some Jews treat their own heritage with such contempt. There is even a small community of people who shriek hysterically about how circumcision, entrance into the covenant of Abraham, is a capital crime against humanity and should be outlawed. Ironically, often those same people depart for a year or two of "soul searching" in the Far East, where they sometimes become the most enthusiastic followers of exotic religious cults.
Not long ago, I happened to read an article about breastfeeding on one of the Israeli news websites, which mentioned a dry statistical fact that religious Jewish women breastfeed at higher rates and for a much longer period of time than their secular counterparts. You cannot imagine how many hateful reactions this simple statement produced! Starting from "of course, they don't mind being enslaved to a screaming baby" to "ministry of health shouldn't be so encouraging towards breastfeeding, you see how those parasites are late in returning to work and prefer to sit on their rear end and breastfeed all day long."
I must say I was amazed how, of all things, a discussion about breastfeeding could be a source of such open hostility. Not to mention the degree of ignorance displayed; one woman actually referred to primary milk as "clostridium".
Others are simply confused about their identity. They are proud of being Jewish, but afraid to take the plunge into religious observance. They are plagued by difficult questions, such as - when we talk about "preserving the Jewish heritage", what do we mean? What, ultimately, is the source of our ownership over the land of Israel? What will I say if my child wants to marry a non-Jew one day?
All of this leads to the inevitable conclusion that the secular Jew, the Jew who denies his heritage, is an empty cell. The Torah has sustained us, as a people, a nation, a community, since Mt. Sinai and until today - and nothing else ever will.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Maybe I'm inexperienced, but I honestly don't understand where this is coming from - buying not only what we know we'll need, but everything we might need, and even things we have only a remote possibility of ever using, and buying it all before the baby is even here. I mean, last time I checked, we live in a country overflowing with shopping centers. If it turns out we need something we don't have, anything from a milk pump to a changing table can be bought, brought home and put to use in only a couple of hours. And I certainly refuse to stock up on items we hope we won't need, such as formula and bottles!
I've already said a couple of times we believe a baby doesn't care if his or her furniture, clothes and toys are brand new. We also believe the fancy "baby university" mobiles aren't really necessary for a baby's development, and human contact - such as lots of cuddling, singing, hugging and playing - is much preferable. A huge industry has developed around babies - an industry which is trying to lure us not only to buy everything brand new (which is totally unnecessary in itself, as so many people are more than willing to pass on good-as-new cribs, strollers, and baby clothes), but to buy lots of things we don't really need.
What about those fancy baby shower gift packages, which cost more than twice the real worth of items they contain ("a rubber ducky, a bath puppet, a rubber ducky bath book and a baby bath spa CD with baby tunes...")? I say, save your money and wrap some useful gifts yourself - no reason to pay an exorbitant price for pretty ribbons someone has tied for you.
Why does the baby's room need to be decorated in "baby fashion"? I mean, if a mom likes to do some creative decoration, that's fine, and it's lovely for a baby to have a pretty room - but ultimately, safety, warmth and regular air circulation are all that matters... right? Why can't the baby's toys be put away in a normal, "adult" drawer - why should we pay a ridiculous price for a plastic "toy box"?
Do babies really need hooded towels in order to be bathed? What is a "nursing chair", and why a simple, comfortable armchair with a pillow for support won't do? Do we actually need a specialized cupboard for bottles and pacifiers (even if we end up using them)? Am I missing something if I store the baby's clothes and diapers in one of our closets, instead of a "baby drawer chest"?
The baby things we didn't buy yet aren't going to disappear tomorrow. Stores will remain full of items they are hoping to sell, and whatever we might need later, most likely it won't be a matter of life and death whether we have it here and now, or a day after. So until this little one arrives, we'll stick with our strategy: have all the basics (such as car seat, stroller, crib, clothes, diapers, bedding, blankets) ready. Anything else we might need later, we can get later. I'm sure that refraining from "just in case" spending will save us a lot of money.
Illustration photo: baby shower gifts
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
The young woman in question became pregnant sometime during her two years of service, and now is the mother of a 6-months-old baby. After letting her supervisors know she's pregnant, she forgot all about army - until she heard men from the army banging at her door late at night, telling her they have an arrest order for her "illegal abandonment" of her post in the army.
Now, I cannot guarantee there hasn't been any misunderstanding. Perhaps this young mother should have presented more documents; perhaps some of the documents she presented have been lost. But obviously, the military men who came to arrest her should have seen that there was some kind of misunderstanding. However, they were "just doing their job", which meant the young mother was taken to military jail for 48 hours, with a baby left behind crying for her mother's milk - an act for which I can find no other word but inhuman, and which means no young mother in Israel is truly safe from such an intrusion. What if the next bureaucratic flip involves me, and the army comes banging at my door, demanding me to drag my pregnant belly to the nearest boot camp?
The obvious question that comes to my mind is, why do we even have compulsory service for women? Why are 18-year-old girls taken to boot camp? Women in the army is one of the "holy cows" of Israeli reality, and you'd be eaten alive for questioning it. People have tried to guilt me into silence by statements such as, "don't you know we have a terrific army that protects you every single day?"
I see a flaw in logical thinking when it comes to dealing with the question of women in the army. It's true that: (A) there are women in the IDF; and (B) we have a pretty good army. It doesn't mean, however, that A necessarily leads to B! On the contrary, I believe that overall, our army is a good one despite, not thanks to, presence of women.
In the past, a small number of women served in the army as nurses in field hospitals. They were out of the line of fire, and I doubt they even knew how to shoot. Also, their service wasn't compulsory. In Israel, the recruiting of so many young women to the army serves one main purpose: an agenda of egalitarianism and a Marxist tradition.
I've heard Israel is held up as an example in other countries where people are trying to promote more extensive recruiting of women. Yet how many of them know what is really going on in the IDF? Imagine a closed military camp which consists of about 50% of men and 50% of women, both of them at ages 18-20... trust me, the things that are happening there are far, far worse than on an average university campus. A friend of mine, who was a nurse in the army, told me that by the time they finish army, most young women are firmly on The Pill. I just have to wonder how many pregnancies happen in the army each year and are hushed up. For the record, the young mother in the first part of this post also became pregnant out of wedlock - during her service...
Of course, not all women are motivated to go to male-type units, and no one forces them, so many are sent to desk jobs. I'd say this is better than women in combat, but it's also a waste of money and resources. Each soldier costs us money - training, dressing, feeding, health care, social benefits, and so on. The huge amount of women who are unnecessarily sent to the army results in an excess of desk workers - most young girls who served as secretaries didn't pull even half their weight, there simply isn't enough work for all of them, so if they aren't crawling in the mud and shooting, many sit around polishing their nails. It's a sort of day care for highschool graduates.
Apart from the money it costs us to sustain this large number of useless uniform-bearers, there's also the matter of young women wasting several years of their life on nothing. Consider how much time is going down the drain, when instead of being given the opportunity to do something useful, young women are forced to while away a couple of years in some high-rank commander's office who needed one secretary, but was given three because there simply wasn't anything else to do with these young women. All of this is done in the name of egalitarianism. Our army could be much more organized and efficient if it consisted of men alone. But try to say it aloud, and you'll be shut up sooner than you can blink.
Free mixing of the sexes has created problems of inefficiency and decline of sexual morality in the work force as well; but consider how much worse it is when this happens in the army - efficiency of the army is a matter of life and death. Which, considering our present situation, makes me feel more than a bit unsafe.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Yesterday we had plenty of sunshine around here - not so good in terms of rain (so far, this winter has been pretty dry, which will hopefully change yet), but on the other hand, excellent for laundry, rows and rows of which are now hanging on the clothesline, waiting to be taken in, folded, sorted and put away.
There's also a sinkful of dishes to be washed; rooms to be tidied; some errands and grocery shopping; and before I start dinner, I hope to get some work done on a couple of continuing projects I'm tackling around here, trying to complete as much as I can before our little one arrives.
So now that I'm energized by my morning cup of cocoa, I will roll up my sleeves and get to work. I'm wishing all you ladies the most wonderful day!
* Picture: Mr. Duck used to be very suspicious of us at first, but now he has been successfully tamed and roams our yard at all hours.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
I know many women are reluctant to talk about finances with their suitors, out of fear of seeming greedy and materialistic. Yet there's a distinction between seeking only men who earn a lot, and looking for a financially responsible husband who is willing to provide for his family.
Consider that your husband will be the man whom you count on to provide for you and any future children you might have, the man whose leadership you are supposed to trust in all areas, including finances. Money will inevitably remain a part of life - and therefore, young people shouldn't be too shy to find out about things such as debts, spending habits, and lifestyle expectations, and make sure you are on the same page - before marriage.
Financial decisions made by either spouse before marriage will impact both. I'm not saying you should not marry someone who happens to carry a large debt - but keep in mind that once you get married, you will not be able to step aside and say, "this is your debt, honey, you pay it off and leave me out of it". It will influence your life, whether you want it or not. For example, if you aspire to be a full-time wife and mother, this might not be possible for a while if your husband has debt to pay. Again, I'm not saying, don't get married because of something like this - just wanted to point out it's a factor to consider.
Unwise spending habits is something even more crucial to find out as soon as possible. If you see your potential spouse can't resist frivolous spending, and/or can't hold a steady job, don't expect a change after marriage. Sometimes, lifestyle expectations are irreconcilable - for example, one of the spouses dreams of organic farming, sustainability, and making it on one small income, while the other thinks a couple should have two incomes, one of which is dedicated to "treats" and luxury items.
No Orthodox Jewish marriage happens without a pre-nuptial agreement. It's called a ketubah, and includes all the duties of the husband towards his wife, such as financial support and marital relations. It also includes a sum of compensation the husband will give the wife in case of divorce. The ketubah is signed in front of witnesses, and is read aloud during the wedding ceremony. Without a ketubah, the marriage isn't considered valid. The ketubah has served as protection to Jewish women for many years, and I think it's a wonderful custom. We may be called pragmatic and materialistic, but again, money is a part of life.
In the realm of finances, I believe that a wife can and should gently offer her opinion, especially if the husband is interested in her counsel. However, the wife should also stand behind her husband's financial decisions, and once he has his mind set on something, she would be wise to support him and trust his judgment. My husbands consults with me every time before making (or deciding not to make) a major purchase, but if I see he is already set on it, I simply tell him - I trust that you know what is best for our family. Some men are less than wise financially, or have spending habits that are incompatible with supporting a family, or can't hold a job - which brings me back to the first part: if you want to feel protected under your husband's leadership in all matters, do talk about finances before marriage!
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
This 5-year-old does it in 24 seconds! Sure enough, there's also the matter of attaching diaper to baby... but still, it seems to me as though the whole affair could be completed within a minute - after you've had a little practice.
A couple of days ago, I mentioned that with all the baby things we've been so generously given/promised (crib, clothes, stroller, car seat...), there's hardly any baby shopping we plan to do before this little one arrives; I know there are more things we might need, but we'd rather buy them later on, when we see they really are necessities. Other people's 'must-haves' might prove to be of little use to us.
Well, Lillian pointed out that no matter how we look at it, most likely we won't be able to do without diapers/nappies. We have been thinking about cloth diapering in the past few months, and it seems that the more convenient varieties cost so much! Yes, I realize that with quality cloth diapers, that's a one time investment and we'll still save a lot of money (not to mention it will be healthier for our baby's bottom and the environment), but still, for us, it's a substantial sum to spend at once. Furthermore, from reading online discussions I gathered that there are more than a few people who spent lots of money on expensive diapers, just to remain dissatisfied with them.
So, we decided to start simple - just like our mothers used to do. Yep, with flat squares of fabric that need to be folded to fit baby. These are inexpensive, but if you happen to have some spare fabric, you can make you own. I found lots of soft, absorbent natural fabrics (such as flannel) in my mother's old stash, and currently I'm making our own diapers. We thought that if it works for us, great - if not, I can use them for other purposes (burp cloths, rags, etc). It might sound 'primitive', but it worked twenty years ago, so why would it suddenly become impossible? Also, flats have the advantage of drying quickly. Depending on our needs, we can always move up to fancier types of cloth diapers, but it would be a waste to invest in expensive ones just to discover they don't work for our baby at all.
Back when we first talked about cloth diapers here, someone provided me with a link to this useful guide to sewing your own diapers. I saved the link, but don't remember who sent it - anyway, thank you! Here's also a link to making wool diaper covers out of old sweaters. I haven't tried this one yet, but it sure looks interesting.
I realize different Moms had different experiences with cloth diapering. For some it worked, for some it didn't; some were satisfied with the simplest diapers, and some won't go for anything but a very certain brand of all-in-ones; some came to the conclusion that the money-saving factor is not that big for them, and that washing diapers is too big a mess, so they might as well use disposables. As two inexperienced expectant parents, we don't know yet how it will be for us.
We definitely think cloth diapering is worth a try, though.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Well, I must be one of those few pregnant women who has no clue. Pineapple? Spicy food? Castor oil? I'm not sure whether such methods can truly work, but regardless of that, I don't think I would ever dare to try them on myself!
I mean, I don't even really trust the "due date" concept. To me, it sounds like an arbitrary line that is supposed to give some kind of estimate of when to expect the baby - and that's about it. I guess it could have been more accurate if we knew when I ovulated, but we don't. There are methods to get to know your body and keep track of your ovulation cycle, but I never bothered to do that before I was married - and after I got married it happened only once, so there you go...
Also, maybe our child will need another week in Mom's tummy to mature. Or on the contrary, a week less. I trust that my baby will come out, as all babies eventually do - so why push my body to do something before it's time? Most likely, the little one will be here sometime around mid-January, but I do hope I can avoid panic on the doctor's side if I'm a few days past 40 weeks.
By the way, a few days ago Karen and her husband welcomed their new daughter, Elizabeth Jane! Congratulations, Karen!