Thursday, April 30, 2009

Our garden in late spring

I captured this young tortoise in our garden and kept it for a couple of hours so my husband can see it too when he comes back from work. Later I released it near our grapefruit tree. It was about the size of half a small tomato. We noticed several tortoises in our garden, and whenever we work there, we are careful not to step on them.

These pear blossoms were the last in this season, I think. The blossoms are almost gone now, and hopefully, soon they will be replaced by pears. Last year's pears were excellent, and we look forward to enjoying them this year too.

A pansy. One of my favorite flowers.

A patch of fresh mint. I don't drink mint tea these days because I've heard it might not be good for breastfeeding mothers, but I enjoy the fresh smell.

Our grape vine is covered with budding grapes. Last year, we moved in at the end of grape season, so we didn't have a chance to see them grow. Fascinating and fun! I love our little garden.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Independence Day

Tomorrow, 5-th of Iyar, Israel will celebrate its 61-st Independence Day. While I don't idealize our country (and especially our current government), I'm proud to call Israel my one and only home. It's not my country of birth, but like every Jew, I belong here, without a shadow of a doubt. And tomorrow will be a day to be proud and rejoice, and look forward to the day when all Jews from all over the world will be gathered in Israel.

To all my Israeli readers (and I know there are not too many of you), I wish a happy Independence Day. Same goes to Jews all around the world and simply to friends of Israel.

So how are we going to celebrate? The possibilites are still open. Maybe with family. Maybe just the two of us. Maybe close to home, or on a short trip somewhere. One thing is certain: it's going to be fun.

Notes of a new mommy

Before I became a Mommy, few people told me how much fun it's going to be. Most talked about how difficult it is, how I can say goodbye to sleeping at night, and how I'm never going to have a quiet moment for myself again.

Of course, with the arrival of our Shira, I said goodbye to life as I knew it before. It would have been ridiculous to think I will still have as much free time as before, or that we will be able to set a structured schedule, or that many quiet evenings won't be interrupted by a crying baby. Life changes once you have a baby, and it's better to just relax and enjoy the journey.

It means slowing down. When I lean back in an armchair, nursing my dear child, I might not be doing all the things I planned, but I'm relaxing like never before. I look at our baby and admire how beautiful and precious she is. I'm enjoying a big glass of water and/or a healthy snack. I can pray, listen to soothing music, read a good book, and even write a bit of poetry if my right hand is free.

Little ones change so fast. In their first days of life, they mostly eat and sleep, but in just a few weeks their eyes begin to shine with bright curiosity, and you are rewarded by their first smile. Often, when we approach Shira's bed, she gives us one of her best big smiles the moment she sees us and kicks and coos and stretches out her little hands, expressing her utmost delight. Isn't it wonderful when a little person expresses such enthusiasm about seeing you, even when you just got out of your bed and are puffy-eyed and still wearing your pajamas?

At first, Shira had largely two "modes" of sound: silence and crying. But before we knew it, she started to experiment with her little voice, and now we can enjoy the delightful sounds of baby babble. The changes of each day are so subtle, so unnoticed, but together they add up fast. And before you know it, those babies sit up, crawl, walk, talk, learn to ride a bicycle, read, and swim… and you ask yourself, where does the time go?

Shira is now at an age when most babies are already in someone's else's care during most of the day. People call me with job offers and ask what I plan to do "next". But I cannot imagine giving up most of the precious fleeting days of my child's infancy. And not just because I think it's my duty to be there for her. I'm simply enjoying the time spent with my dear daughter, and I know I'll never come to regret it.
I look forward to even more fun as Shira starts to explore the world around her more actively. How wonderful it is to look around and see the world through a child's eyes!

We used to live as families. People spent the bulk of their time learning, growing and working together. Now gathering around the table for a family meal is becoming extinct, and even during vacation, many people have no idea what to do with their children. Siblings were each other's playmates, even if they weren't very close in age. Now, a child who is in the third grade cannot be friends with someone from the second grade. Our life used to be a whole, and now it's separated into little cubicles.

If you don't have children, have you tried to become friends with an eight-year-old? Try it, and you'll be uplifted. Children are sharp and enthusiastic, make countless interesting observations and think fascinating thoughts.

So take a child's little hand and go out. The rustle of leaves and patterns of light and shadow become fascinating. The work of ants can be watched for hours. Anything can be a joy, a delight, a most wonderful discovery. Life with children is an adventure, and I'm so grateful for the privilege of being a Mommy and making the most of it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Young children and efficiency in housework: mutually exclusive?

Over the past week, I received two emails from two Moms of several small children, who described a similar problem: both said they can hardly find the time to do anything around the house, let alone time for themselves, because the children (ages from 1 to 5) demand so much attention. Both described the situation as extremely frustrating for themselves and their husbands, who come home to a cluttered living room, a nonexistent dinner, and a stressed-out wife.

I'm probably not the ideal person to give advice in such circumstances, as I'm a very new Mommy and have no experience in juggling the responsibilities of several children, but I still wrote a reply to the two ladies; it was very much alike in both cases, and I'll share an abridged version of it here.

***

Dear friend,

I can relate to not having as much time as you used to, either for housekeeping or personal time for refreshment and rejuvenation. With Shira's arrival, I learned an important lesson in gratitude, patience, and lowering my expectations.

I was grateful, primarily, for three things: a beautiful and healthy baby girl - so many people long for children, and would gladly have all the messes and sleep deprivation, yet their arms remain empty; a wonderful husband who is always ready to help and never criticizes the (sometimes pitiful) amount of work I accomplish in a day; and my own strength and good health, which enables me to continue being motivated in the area of homemaking.

Learning to lower my expectations was a big one. Before I had a baby, I used to have time to cook new, elaborate dishes. I always baked. I never passed a day without knitting or crocheting. Laundry was folded the minute it was dry, and my iron was out a good deal more than it is now. Today, if the house is in a reasonable shape, dishes are washed and put away, a load of laundry is done and there's something (usually very simple) to put on the table, I consider it a good day - a very good day indeed.

Now, I don't know exactly what is going on in your house. Perhaps what you consider "a mess" is something that another person would think entirely reasonable for a house with small children. I'm not saying having children is an excuse to living amidst heaps of dirt and clutter, but little ones aren't known for helping keep a clean house. They explore, and pull out any drawer within their reach; they paint (sometimes on the walls); they drop their food on the floor.

I've seen houses of families with several small children, and if Mom tidies up only in the morning and evening (which is perfectly reasonable, in my opinion), by late afternoon the house might look as though a hurricane passed through it. Maybe dinner is never on time, but look at it this way: at least there's dinner!

My husband has been very understanding, and I think there's a good chance yours might be, too, if he knows what your typical day looks like. I can't be sure, but I think that your husband is stressed because you are, not because the laundry isn't folded or dinner is not on time. Perhaps, even if he comes home to see a living room littered with clothes and toys, and you only started making dinner, you could welcome him with a serene smile and say, "Make yourself comfortable, dear, we'll eat in an hour". Perhaps if he sees that even though you are a bit behind on usual evening routine, things are under control, and then he might regard the problem as nonexistent.

Anyway, I think it would be good if you talk to a more experienced mother, preferably someone who has several children.

***

And that's where you, dear ladies, come into the picture! Perhaps those of you who are experienced in raising several small children can share a word of wisdom with the two young Moms? It will be much appreciated.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Frugality - a way of life

A friend of mine shared this link with me, and it's so good that I simply had to pass it on to you. Excellent strategies and practical tips for us young wives with a growing family!

Just one word about haircuts at home: when you do it for the first time, make sure you tread carefully! I had my first attempt at cutting my husband's hair the day before Pesach. Pesach, as some of you may know, marks the beginning of Sefirat Ha-Omer, a period of seven weeks during which Jewish men do not cut their hair or shave - which means that now my husband has to live with the results of my work for a while. Of course, the only local barber seems to be even less proficient than me, so we had nothing to lose.

I have an announcement to share with you: my husband switched jobs. Things have been very shaky for a long while already at his old place of employment, and someone got fired every week. We feel very lucky that during this time of economical hardship, my husband was able to find a new job, and a more promising one financially, too. He got a car from work, which means that now we can sell ours and put some more money into savings.

My husband will be back from work any moment, so it's just a little hello for now. Hope to catch up with you soon.

Your friend,

Mrs. T

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A meaningful life, right here at home

I got an email from a dear lady who shared her struggles and doubts as a mother and homemaker; is she doing enough, being "just" a wife and mother? Is her work meaningful enough? Does it have long-lasting value? I decided to post my reply here, thinking that perhaps it might be helpful to other ladies as well.

***

Dear friend,

Thank you for writing and sharing the musings of your heart! Please keep in mind that I'm far from being an expert on... in fact, on anything. I'm 23 years old, a young wife and a new mother, and lack the wisdom that usually comes with age, but I'll still try to give my humble perspective.

You wonder what the Almighty has planned for you; don't we all? I believe that we don't actually discover our "purpose in life" until our walk on this earth is over, and until then, possibilities are open. We cannot really know His will, and therefore, the best we can do is grow in loving obedience to Him.

In your case, the Almighty has shown His clear direction by giving you a family and home. These days, when a woman doesn't seek employment outside of the home, she refers to herself as "just a mother" or "just a housewife"; and it's no coincidence that the family unit, on the whole, is experiencing its worst period in human history. How could it not, when women aren't trained anymore to see the incredible value in their calling as wives, mothers and keepers and guides of the home?

Of course, in the endless stream of everyday tasks, it's easy to forget how important your work actually is. Washing the dishes, changing diapers and cooking dinner aren't the most glamorous jobs in the world. You don't earn a paycheck, and you are far away from the public eye. You are never promoted, and even if your work is appreciated by your husband and family - and today, sadly, this isn't always the case - the rewards of your efforts, such as a well-trained child or an organized household, are slow to be seen.

Perhaps some days, you find yourself still in your pajamas in the late afternoon, with no clue what to make for dinner, ripping your hair off because your children misbehave. And then you wonder, what on earth am I doing with my life? At such moments, it's crucial to keep your eyes on the big picture: you are your husband's help mate and the chief supervisor of your home. By answering the call of motherhood, you become the guide of precious, eternal souls, and the results of your investment in them will last forever.

It doesn't mean you must train up geniuses, start an impressive home business, or excel in each and every one of the home arts to make your life meaningful. Even being "just" a good, loving wife, and "just" raising your dear children in a secure, stable environment is a highly important, challenging, indispensable full-time job. Some social movements of the past century would have us believe that the work of a housewife is menial and unimportant, so women were pushed to join the work force, babies were shipped off to daycare centers, and homes were left neglected. And just look how sad and forlorn our communities are today. Families are falling apart, with the most disastrous consequences for children. Turns out that the traditional, humble, unnoticed women's work was not so meaningless after all.

May I suggest that, if you don't do that already, you spend a portion of time with the Lord each day? Pray and raise up all your worries and thoughts to Him. Remember that in His eyes, each and every one of us is precious, not only those who have done things that the world considers "great", but also those who lead simple, humble, honest lives. Modesty, humility and those works that aren't noticed by the world are treasured in His eyes. It also helps to share your burdens with another - talk to your husband, and perhaps to an older, more experienced wife and mother who has a favorable view of traditional marriage, motherhood and homemaking.

Be strengthened. In doing what you do, you are following the will of the Lord, Who gave you a family to care for and a home to guide. You will never regret spending time with your husband and children, being there for them, supporting, teaching, and training. What you do is important and it does matter.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Married love: a special bond and blessing. Don't give up.

I always think not twice, but ten or twenty times, before introducing the topic of intimacy in marriage on my blog, because this is such a private, private matter and the last thing I want is to be ungracious or indiscreet when discussing it. But a recent dicussion on Terry's blog prompted some thoughts that I just had to put into writing.

Some women plain and simple can't stand the thought of being intimate with their husbands, and in those cases, it's pretty obvious that there's a problem (though not necessarily through the woman's fault). When one of the spouses outright denies physical intimacy, an explosion is bound to happen. But what happens when the wife sees marital relations as an inevitable duty, and decides to just grit her teeth and suffer through it?

To tell you the truth, I find it perhaps even more heartbreaking when a wife, maybe out of the gentle womanly quality of submission, bears a load of suffering during times of intimacy with her husband. It's nothing less than a tragedy when a wife resigns herself to a lifetime of misery during times that are supposed to be special, wonderful, and rekindle the fire between herself and her husband. And of course, what husband with an even remote trace of sensitivity will be happy with this kind of arrangement?

Please note that I'm not talking about occassionally getting over a "headache" or tiredness. I mean a situation when the wife (I speak about the woman's side of the matter, because most of the readers here are ladies) consistently suffers through intimacy with her husband, and doesn't attempt any change, either out of embarrassment, or because of disappointment she suffered in the past.

The special togetherness that is shared only between husband and wife is supposed to be enjoyable. I'm not saying that it's always supposed to be everything that Hollywood movies would have us believe, but it's not supposed to cause pain, embarrassment, or discomfort. If it does, it means there's a problem.

I'm not saying this to cause pain or guilt to women who have been struggling with this matter. Obviously, I'm generalizing a lot here, and cannot presume to understand everybody's situation. But I am thoroughly convinced that one must not resign. Perhaps there is nothing wrong on a purely physical level - at least not something a doctor would detect. It doesn't mean your difficulties aren't valid.

By the way, some doctors are very good at making a superficial examination, and telling there's nothing wrong and we should just get over it - even if they were the ones who prescribed medicine that is causing the problem. During the time I have been blogging, I received numerous emails from wives who experienced a rapid decline in their sexual desire once they started using hormonal birth control, but no doctor ever warned them about it, and most doctors outright denied the connection.

Perhaps you have a past of sexual abuse, or simply a burden of impure past, or other emotional inhibitions. In such a case it would be wise to seek godly counseling. Maybe there's a health problem that leads to exhaustion or lack of desire. And even simply feeling "too tired" isn't supposed to be dismissed. Perhaps the wife is up with a small baby several times each night. In that case, it's understandable that she's always tired in the evenings, and couple time can be carved out at other times of the day.

Women are highly emotional creatures; for most of us, it's impossible to satisfyingly connect with our husbands on a physical level, if something in the relationship has gone amiss, or if the wife doesn't feel cherished, loved and secure. Perhaps the root of the problem is actually elsewhere, and by solving it, the issue of physical intimacy will be naturally solved as well.

Body image issues can also prevent a woman from enjoying physical intimacy with her husband. We all change as we grow older, bring children into this world and nurse them, and it's normal. I've lost all of my baby weight already, but my body is not quite the same, nor will it ever be. My hips are different. My waist is different. And that's alright - I exercise and do my best to be physically fit, but I didn't expect to give birth to a baby and still have a slender maidenly figure. Fortunately, I am blessed to have a husband who always tells me how beautiful I am and how attracted he is to me in my new self. Perhaps not all husbands are so understanding. Perhaps some unknowingly cause pain to their wives and lower their self esteem by, for example, pointing out at another woman who recently had a baby, or has several small children, and looks in better shape. Maybe some men think it's a good way to motivate their wives to eat more healthily and exercise, and don't realize how hurtful it can be. Openness on such matters is crucial.

Or maybe the problem is even on a purely "technical" level, but you've never talked about it, out of embarrassment or fear of hurting the other side's feelings. Or you tried, and it didn't work out, and you decided to just live with it - and it usually doesn't improve on its own. With heartfelt prayer, honest conversation, commitment on both sides and lots of hard work, change is possible, and it can bring your marriage onto a whole new level of closeness and trust. It will bless both of you. Don't give up.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hello again

Pesach is over, and after a week of eating matzo, tomorrow we'll be making bread again. Yes, after you get used to the deliciousness of homemade bread, commercial breads starts to taste like bits of old sponge.

We spent a lovely time together with family. As an only child, I've always wondered what it feels like to be part of a big family; to have brothers and sisters, to be an auntie. I assumed I would never have that, but then I met and married my husband, who is one of five and already has nieces and nephews - and few sounds are more cheerful than the noise a bunch of children and babies can make, even though at times, you might feel like reaching for a pair of earplugs *smile*.

It was wonderful to have my husband at home for a stretch of time - he even took two days off work before the holiday, when it became clear I'm struggling to complete even half of the goals I marked for myself, to help me with all the cleaning. Together, we scrubbed the house from top to bottom and worked late into the night.

Yes, I know how lucky I am. I really can't thank him enough for all his help. He's a true knight in shining armor, of the order of Mop and Bucket *big smile*.

On another matter - I apologize for just rambling today - it seems that Shira is having a growth spurt. 3 months. Isn't this when babies typically have one? Previously, she seemed content to nurse on one side each time, but now apparently she needs more, so I let her "finish" one breast and then switch her to the other. She also "cluster fed" a lot today.

Speaking of breastfeeding, I just discovered two wonderful articles about breastfeeding on Mrs. Parunak's blog:

Breastmilk, Ice Cream, and Infant Feeding Schedules: How Much Space is on YOUR Counter Top?

and,

When You “Don’t Have Enough Milk”

True gems!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bedtime battles

When our Shira joined us, I was fully prepared for at least six months, and maybe more, of disrupted sleep. I planned to nurse on demand and didn't intend to do anything (such as introduce a pacifier) to push early night weaning. I was pleasantly surprised when our daughter started sleeping through the night when she was only two months. She also takes at least one long nap, or two shorter ones, during the day - we can certainly consider ourselves lucky.

I used to think that daytime naps "take away" from the time she will sleep at night, but discovered it not to be so at all. On the contrary, if she doesn't sleep at all during the day, she's exhausted and grumpy in the evening and has a more difficult time to fall asleep. Of course, I suppose that if she slept through long stretches of time (3-4 hours) during the day, we might end up with day/night confusion, but it never happened so far.

Dream feeding has been wonderful to help us get more sleep during the night, too. Before I started it, I always felt like I'm missing out on hours of sleep whenever I stayed up after Shira was in bed. Then, after I read up on dream feeding, I realized what a simple and wonderful solution it is: a couple of hours after her evening meal, I can quietly pick her up and nurse her without really waking her. It will fill her little tummy enough to last her until morning.

Dream feeding works for us because Shira nurses effectively and gets a full meal even without being awake, and doesn't just "nibble". She's so calm throughout the feeding that she doesn't even need to burp after it.

Shira can go to bed early in the evening (say, at 7 or 8), and I will gently give her a night-time meal right before I go to bed myself (around 11). Then I get her back to bed, and she keeps on sleeping. I don't talk to her, and make sure the room is quiet and dark. This way, she won't wake up as early as 5 or 6 in the morning to nurse, and we don't feel we need to rush and go to sleep the moment she does, and can have some quiet "adult time" in the evening, which is so refreshing for any couple.

However, we are still at a loss when it comes to finding a good system of going to sleep. We have an evening routine which includes a bath, cuddling and nursing, but even when Shira is obviously tired, it's difficult to get her to sleep or take a nap. Ideally, I would like her to be able to fall asleep on her own when she is tired, in a quiet, dark room with no distractions. But it rarely seems to happen. Sometimes she will fall asleep on my breast while nursing. Other times, she falls asleep in my arms while I'm rocking her. Often, she takes a nap in the car. Even when she goes to sleep in her bed, I must remain by her side, and the process involves lots of fussing and even crying.

She has always slept in her own bed and doesn't have a "bed aversion". I just wish I could do something to help our little one develop an ability to calm down and fall asleep on her own. Am I being unrealistic?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pesach

In the last hectic days of pre-Pesach cleaning, I had so little time to blog that I didn't come online even to wish all Beit Yisrael a happy and kosher Pesach. I hope you are all enjoying the holiday, spending a wonderful time with your family, and eating plenty of good food.

I hope that in a few days, when the holiday is over, I'll be back to blogging more regularly. In the meantime, I'll share a milestone: our Shira turned 3 months old! The amount of joy our little girl brings into our lives seems to grow day by day. What a sweet, curious, affectionate tiny person she is. Little Shira loves to communicate, and coos and smiles at anyone who talks to her. Of course, she also loves to be cuddled and held, and bath time is her favorite hour during the day.

I'm also significantly less tired now - we are the lucky parents of a baby who sleeps through the night (12 hours straight - with a dream feeding - last night), naps at least once during the day, and can entertain herself for long stretches of time (30 minutes to 1 hour) if necessary. She bats her toys or just looks around with the liveliest interest.

Well, happy Pesach! Until next time.

Mrs. T

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: be careful - bad breastfeeding advice

During my quiet moments in the past week, I finished reading "Secrets of the Baby Whisperer" by Tracy Hogg. I'll tell you this: I'm endlessly grateful that I've read this book now, when the blur of those first weeks as a new parent is over, and not before Shira was born or in the first few days with her

Tracy Hogg is a strong advocate of scheduling from the earliest days, and her manner of writing is so authoritative that it actually borders on unpleasantness at some points. There is, however, some useful advice in the book, specifically about baby body language and interpreting signals such as different types of crying. After reading and observing Shira, I realized that many times, I miss early signs of tiredness, which eventually makes going to sleep more difficult. If only for this, it was worth reading. As for scheduling, we have a very simple, loose daily rhythm which works for our family. Since each baby is an individual, I cannot agree that a three-hour schedule will work for each and every baby, even if they are in the same age and weight category.

What I do take a strong point against, is Mrs. Hogg's attitude about breastfeeding. These days, no health professional can be openly anti-breastfeeding - not when the World Health Organization states that "Breastfeeding is the ideal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development". But Mrs. Hogg is obviously not pro-breastfeeding, and the advice she gives in her book might in fact be dangerously disruptive to establishing a successful nursing relationship.

Disclaimer: I have no intention to start a breast milk vs. formula debate. I'm not saying there is never a time and place for formula. I realize that in some cases, women are indeed unable to breastfeed. In other cases, breastfeeding is not recommended for medical reasons. Finally, it's really none of my business how each mother feeds her baby, and the last thing I'm interested in would be to make anyone feel guilty.

However, I believe that someone who calls herself a lactation consultant is supposed to be more, let's say, enthusiastic about breastfeeding. Yes, formula - when made and used properly - will provide the necessary nutrients for normal development, but breast milk is significantly superior. Tracy Hogg implies that there is only a slight advantage to breast milk over formula, and talks a lot about the difficulties of breastfeeding - this alone might be enough to create a very skewed view for a new mother.

Tracy Hogg actually believes that breastfeeding is no more than "the latest trend"; this is, of course, absolutely laughable - there is a reason why the Almighty created women with two breasts. Women have been breastfeeding since the beginning of time. To support this ridiculous statement, Mrs. Hogg mentions that after World War 2, almost an entire generation of mothers chose not to breastfeed. Are we supposed to believe that God's gift of breast milk is somehow less valuable, because a generation was fooled into making a short-sighted choice?

Her section about breastfeeding is literally bursting with examples of women who, for various reasons, couldn't or shouldn't breastfeed. From reading Mrs. Hogg's book, you'd think that inadequate milk supply is a very common problem, while actually, in many cases what is mistaken for "low supply" is no more than unsuccessful attachment to the nipple or slow flow of milk. Mrs. Hogg suggests pumping as a way to make sure a woman's breast milk supply is adequate, while for many women, pumping might be very ineffective, thus creating an unjust sense of insecurity about "inadequate" milk supply. Isn't there more common sense in observing weight gain and especially satiety signals - which is supposed to be Mrs. Hogg's specialty?

My impression is that Tracy Hogg's attitude about breastfeeding is that it's nice, but not important enough to work hard for. Again, whether to breastfeed or not is every mother's individual choice and no one else's business. But a lactation consultant, in my opinion, is not supposed to hint that almost any and every reason - from sore nipples to body image or simply convenience - can and should override the enormous benefits of breastfeeding. She goes as far as suggesting that breastfeeding your baby can make the older siblings jealous, and this, too, is a point against breastfeeding - as if a baby who is not breastfed will not demand the same amount of attention!

Tracy Hogg discards the "myth" of nipple confusion, and strongly promotes the use of pacifiers from the first weeks of the baby's life. She also supports introducing a bottle in the first two or three weeks of the baby's life, to make sure that the baby won't refuse a bottle later on. She strongly discourages non-nutritional suckling which many babies do at the end of a feeding. Now, I don't believe that the mother is supposed to constantly have her breast out and in the baby's mouth, but Mrs. Hogg fails to mention that additional breast stimulation is important to maintain an adequate milk supply.

Much of Mrs. Hogg's advice is clearly more compatible with formula feeding. For example, if it seems that the baby needs more nutrition during the day, Mrs. Hogg might suggest, "add 30 ml to each feeding. Of course, it's more difficult if you're breastfeeding..." - why not suggest an appropriate solution for a breastfeeding mother, such as feeding on both sides (if you're feeding normally on one side each time), feeding for a longer time, or even feeding more frequently?

The fact is, breastfeeding isn't always easy. For some women, it might involve an entire range of challenges, from sore nipples and mastitis, to worrying because your baby isn't growing as fast as your friends' babies who are given formula. Most breastfeeding problems can be solved. Much can be done to boost a mother's milk supply. Perhaps her nutrition isn't adequate - this can be easily corrected. Perhaps she will have to express the milk left after each feeding - my mother did this, and ended up with enough milk for two babies. It will, however, take commitment and hard work. It's a matter of attitude: do we see formula as a last resort, or as a convenient solution of any and all breastfeeding problems?

Also, Mrs. Hogg believes that babies should be weaned by the time they are one year old. She describes a case when a mother was still breastfeeding her two-year-old - in her interpretation, it sounded almost like a tragedy. Of course, a two-year-old is usually exposed to a wide range of foods, but why automatically exclude breastfeeding from the equation?

As a conclusion, some sections of this book are helpful, but you really need to be careful about what you read, and not take anything for granted. Eat the fish and spit out the bones.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A foolproof way to bankruptcy

This article (in Hebrew) was great food for thought for me; it's a fantastic example of why people expect to spend lots and lots of money in a baby's first year - and usually live up to that expectation. For my visitors who don't speak Hebrew - it's basically a record of "average" baby costs. It's written from the ridiculous assumption that a baby needs a vast set of brand-new equipment.

I know most of my readers don't read or speak Hebrew, but I'm sure all of us, no matter in which language, had the chance to come across lists of items we "need" to buy for our babies - or else.

You know what, we still have a long way to go in the realm of frugality, but my husband and I seem like a pair of penny-pinching geniuses when you compare our so far very modest baby expenses to the "average" described in the article. The author somehow reached an astronomical sum of around 15,000$ - in the first year alone.

There is a reluctant disclaimer in the bottom saying that costs can be reduced by using second-hand, but it is mentioned in such an off-handed manner that it makes me wonder if baby product manufacturers pay independent authors to promote extravagant new arrival expenses.

Of course, childcare constitutes a major part of that ridiculously inflated sum. Obviously, mothers who stay at home with their babies don't need to pay for childcare. This is the way things have been for mothers of small children since the beginning of time, but somehow today this isn't even mentioned as an option. Some upper-class women have high-paying careers they are passionate about, but for many more women, work is boring drudgery and much of their paycheck passes straight into the hands of their childcare provider. Is this the sort of progress and liberation we are supposed to praise?

A great thing about baby equipment: it takes much more than one turn to wear it out. It's true about furniture, clothes, toys and more. Shira's newborn clothes, which are already packed away, will be almost as good as new next time they are used. And how many of them did we actually buy? That's right, none. They are all gifts or hand-me-downs. Many people turn up their noses at used baby items, but they are often in like-new condition, and using them can save so much money. All you need to do is ask around - and many times, people offered us baby things even without being asked. We have a used bed, stroller, and more than enough clothes for Shira, and I think those "old" items can still easily serve several babies after she is done with them. There's also the option of buying used, at the fraction of the cost you'd pay for a new item. If you have a lot of money and can't wait to get rid of it, buy brand-new baby equipment and clothes. Otherwise, what's the point?

There are also the many items which are usually listed as must-haves, but which we don't actually need. For example, we got a used stroller (in excellent condition) for free, but if we didn't, we probably wouldn't buy it. Changing table? We could get one for free, but didn't want to take up the space. Changing can be just as easily done on the bed. Speaking of beds, why does the baby's bed need a matching drawer, when any suitable-sized drawer can be used?

And don't even get me going about "developmental activities for infants". I'm very sorry, but a baby doesn't need yoga. Mine, at least, is wonderfully entertained simply by watching Mom do housework. Us talking to her is enough to produce the most adorable coos and smiles.

The most basic need of a baby is to be with his mother. To be fed, held, and loved. How, and when, and why did we let someone convince us that this need can be replaced by a great number of expensive gadgets?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Preparations for Pesach and no-knead pitas

Preparations for Pesach continue, and I'm now reconciled to the fact that I'm not going to complete everything, or even nearly everything, on my to-do list. But at least I'm fairly confident that the house will be chametz-free. We got rid of nearly all our chametz already. This past Friday, we've used up our last package of flour making no-knead pita bread.

While I was recovering from giving birth, one of our neighbours showed up carrying trays laden with hot homemade food, including the most delicious pita bread I've ever tasted. Of course, I wouldn't rest until I got the recipe. I apologize for not having any pictures to show along with it (Friday was too busy to get hold of our camera), but here it is:

1 kg flour (any kind) [edited for my American readers: that's about 8 cups]
2 tbsp. dry yeast (we used fresh anyway)
4 tbsp. sugar
1.5 tbsp. salt
1/2 cup oil
approx. 4 cups water (room temperature)

Mix all ingredients. The dough should be almost liquid.
Let rise for half an hour, mix again and let rise for a second time.

With wet hands, take handfuls of the dough and place in baking tray, leaving generous spaces between the pitas. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or any other topping you like. Bake until nice and golden (took us about 20 minutes at 180 C).

This makes about 20 pitas (depending on the size of your baking tray), which are usually consumed very quickly. I hope you enjoy this recipe when you need some quick bread.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The other calendar

Ever since I remember myself, I've used what can most conveniently be called the "normal" calendar. You know, the one with January, February, etc. Of course, thanks to living in Israel, I at least knew the names and order of the Hebrew months, and could vaguely recall which month we're in (according to the school holidays).

As I gradually became more observant, the Hebrew calendar started occupying a more important place in my life. I became acquainted, apart from holidays, with fasts, the beginning of each month, and the weekly Torah portion. I found out my Hebrew birth date and started celebrating my birthday according to the Hebrew calendar.

Last week, my mother called me and offered her congratulations. I was a bit baffled. Did I reach such a point of new-mommy confusion that I forgot my birthday? Can't be, we're not even close to summer yet, I told myself. "It's your first anniversary," - she said, - "March 25-th!"

And so I realized that I didn't even have to make a conscious decision to mark our anniversary on its Hebrew date. Even without knowing it, it was the only date I remembered, and the only one that matters.

I still follow the world's calendar, more or less, for various reasons - such as paying the bills and publishing my notes here. I do believe that Blogger should introduce a Hebrew calendar option, though.

Of course, with how days and weeks blend into one another ever since our little Shira joined us, sometimes I feel as though I'm back at my point of start: I can only vaguely recall which month it is.