Sunday, May 31, 2009

Chocolate mocca ice cream cake

Hello there! I hope everyone had a wonderful couple of days. We had a lovely time celebrating Shavuot with family. A wedding we attended just before the holiday, and a couple of reunions with friends before and after, made the last few days unforgettable.

Last week, a couple of days before Shavuot and my dear husband's "real" birthday, I made an ice cream cake and popped it in the freezer to enjoy on its due date. Everyone loved it! I made the layers using Petit Beurre biscuits, and I found the excellent recipe on the biscuit box. Now, I usually tend to mistrust untested recipes, but this one sounded so good I felt I ought to try it - and I didn't regret it!

I doubled the batch, so my husband could take one cake to work to enjoy with his colleagues.

So, here goes (with slight modifications):

~ approx. 30 petit beurre biscuits (for layers). I used chocolate flavored.

~ some milk, for softening the biscuits
For cream:

~ 5 tbsp sugar

~ 3 tbsp. milk

~ 2 tbsp. cocoa powder

~ 1 tsp. instant coffee

~ 3 egg yolks

~ 3 egg whites + 1\2 cup sugar

~ 1 cup cream cheese

~ approx. 3\4 cup softened butter

~ 1\2 cup chopped chocolate

Prepare cream: separate egg yolks from whites. In a deep pan combine sugar, 3 tablespoons of milk, cocoa powder, instant coffee and chocolate. Cook until chocolate melts, then take the mixture off the fire and stir in butter until it melts. Stir in egg yolks.
Beat egg whites (using an electric beater) with sugar until you get a firm foam. Mix egg whites with chocolate mixture and add cream cheese. Mix well.

Take a rectangular baking pan or deep tray and put a layer of biscuits on the bottom, after softening them by dipping them in milk. Cover with a layer of cream, then again a layer of biscuits, and a layer of cream. Decorate with whatever your heart desires: grated chocolate, coconut, chopped nuts, etc.

Freeze overnight and enjoy!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Shavuot

Wishing all my Jewish readers a very happy Shavuot - the day we got the gift of Torah! May your holiday be infused with holiness and joy of spending time with your precious ones.

Talk to you in a few days!

Mrs. T

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Simplicity

I remember once, we spent Shabbat with my husband's relatives, and after we had some delicious cake, I asked our lovely hostess if the recipe is simple enough to make (thinking this is definitely something I want to try). She smiled at me and said, "my dear, I only use simple recipes!"

Don't get me wrong, I love a fancy cake that takes hours to prepare, or elaborate, color-coordinated decorations. There's a time and place for fancy. But sometimes, you must switch to simplicity mode in order to maintain your sanity.

When you cook for a large number of people, and/or are at a busy season of your life (with a new baby, for example), elaborate recipes often have to be set aside. It doesn't mean, however, that you have to give up on having a table laden with good, wholesome, home-made, delicious food. You just have to hunt for those recipes that are simple and suiting your family's taste. I especially love dishes that can be made by throwing the ingredients together in a pot or pan, and letting it all just cook on the stove or bake in the oven.

I love to iron. I love the wonderful smell of freshly ironed clothes and sheets. I love how homey it feels to stand there with an iron in my hand, humming merrily as I work. But these days, time is precious and not so easily obtained - and so I hardly iron anything but my husband's buttoned shirts.

I always attempt to have as little unnecessary possessions as possible. Having too much stuff makes me feel suffocated; stuff leads to clutter, and living amidst clutter makes my mind disorganized. In a small home, it's better to seek beauty in functional things. You don't need to have many ornaments. A mixing bowl, a collection of wooden spoons, an apron, can be inspiring in their simple beauty.
Simplicity and letting go of non-essentials has been a blessing in all areas of my life, including relationships. I gave up trying to keep up with many people's lives (such as through Facebook), and eased the strain by focusing on those relationships which are dearest and most precious to me.

For those who are struggling financially: living a simpler life doesn't necessarily mean you will spend less money in every given area, and in fact, some times you will aim for higher quality, and thus often more expensive products (such as fresh, truly wholesome food); but saving money is a very logical outcome of wanting less, finding out you need less things that money can buy, and spending the bulk of your time at home.

It's sweeter than I could have imagined, to simply let go, reduce the amount of noise and distractions, of clutter and junk, of shopping trips and phone talks, of disturbing news that penetrate my home from the outside, of disturbing thoughts. It's so important, so essential if I truly want to delight in the beautiful and simple life of a wife and mother - a life I was so richly and abundantly blessed with.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Blessings of closely spaced children

For those of you who might wonder after reading the title of this post, no, I'm not pregnant again. Yet (*smile and wink*). But you never know how soon it might happen, right?! People often talk about the difficulties and challenges (very real, I know) of having two babies close together, but rarely about the blessings of it.

I don't want to sound like I'm dismissing the difficulties of those who have several young children, as I certainly don't know anything about it yet because I just have one baby for now - I can only imagine. But I refuse to believe it would be as terrible as some tell me. After all, before Shira was born people told me about all the horrors I would experience in the first months of motherhood, and I'm still scratching my head trying to figure out what they meant. There are difficulties, adjustments, yes, but it's all a part of life and the joys are so much more obvious.

I'm being entirely honest here, without trying to gloss things over. Yes, we have our share of sleep deprivation and trying to cook dinner with a fussy, crying baby in the background (as well as times of no dinner at all) but we are so happy, and treasure each day with our little sweetheart.

And so I remembered a wonderful comment one of my visitors, Mrs. R, left not long ago here on the blog, and decided to dig it up for all of us to enjoy all over again.

"Blessings of very closely spaced children (not by any means an exhaustive list!):

1) those children will likely have a very close relationship

2) they will both grow into your helpers nearly at the same time

3) their training will be fairly similar, not exact of course, but very similar due to their closeness in age

4) your organizing skills will be honed

5) many times the training that you would have waited to start will be started in the first child out of necessity, thereby teaching that child to work (and we are to work 6 days!!). Many times children are capable of doing muchmore than we parents think they are able to!

6) you & your husband will be put to the test in training obedience from #1 sooner than many parents think that training should be started, resulting in a well trained, obedient child who will be a blessing to her mother and father. I liken it to getting to the essentials EARLY!

7) your creative skills will be stratched and honed in finding ways to keep #1 creatively busy while you are unavailable with #2

8) your trust in the Lord will increase as you rely on His provision for your time, sleep, health, etc.

9) your love for your husband will increase, just as it did when little Shira was born

10) (for levity) just think of how much good use you will actually get out of all those nearly new newborn things!!"

Don't you just love this list? I know I do. If we're blessed with another child soon, I will surely want to keep this within easy reach.

Monday, May 25, 2009

On to married life with a good start

Back in the end of 2007, I had no idea how soon my life would become a whirlwind of changes. In less than four months, from a single woman not knowing whether she will ever get married, I became a wife; and a couple of short weeks later I already had a baby on the way.

It's amazing how swiftly God can work the most incredible changes in our lives, and there is no way we can know His plan. Therefore, every single woman who is contemplating marriage, should put her best efforts into preparing - whether she has a potential husband in view or not. Even if you don't know it, he might be already on his way and when he arrives, you will be so glad that you put time and thought into preparation of mind, heart and soul, as well as into practical work of your hands which will be useful in a home of your own.

Lately, I've been following Tracy's blog with great excitement. Tracy and her husband Verne will be giving their beautiful daughter, Autumn, away in marriage. Autumn is only 16, but she is far better equipped for marriage than many women today who get married in their late twenties or thirties. Autumn is blessed to have two loving, involved parents and a protecting father, and to witness the wonderful example of her parents' marriage. She is homeschooled, and therefore knows better than the average young person how a home is run and managed. She can cook, she can clean and bake and sew, and to sum it up, knows so many essential things I had no clue about when I was her age. I'm so looking forward to reading all about the wedding, and the beginning of Autumn and Jon's new life together. I know many of my fellow blog pals are just as excited for Tracy and their entire family.

Unfortunately, many young women in our generation were raised by single mothers who were bitter and disappointed in marriage and men, and hardly spent any time at home. They might have earned prestigious education, but they know very little about the workings of marriage and family, or the womanly works and arts such as cooking, sewing, and everything involved in providing a pleasant home. And when these young women (such as myself back then) realize that in fact, what they want most of all is to have a good marriage and family, and an orderly, loving home, they discover that they are on their own and there's no one to guide them.

I felt this way in college, in particular during my final year. I was completing all my assignments and taking my tests, but my heart wasn't into it at all. I was growing to love more and more the simple daily doings of a home, and could hardly wait to get married and have a family and home of my own. In the meantime, I was stocking up on valuable practical homemaking skills - thank God for that, because I had no idea how soon I would meet and marry my husband. How thankful I am now that I spent the couple of years prior to my marriage catching up on all the basic domestic knowledge I had missed out on before! Marriage, then motherhood, just came upon me so soon and suddenly there's much less time to learn.

Over the time I've been blogging, I received emails from many young women who told me that they want to get married and dedicate their lives to raising a family and keeping a home, yet their parents are either absent, uninvolved or discouraging. It does make their path harder. It's my sincere wish that more young women had someone to understand the desires of their heart, and to guide them.

Without anyone to do that, we have to exercise an extra measure of caution and care. The world would have us believe that preparing for marriage and learning to love the home can be put on the back burner, while in fact it's one of the most important things a young woman can do. I'm firmly convinced that us coming to marriage unprepared, our expectations inflated and ambitions unsatisfied, is responsible in a large part for the horrible divorce rate of today. A good, solid marriage is so, so important for the well-being of the individual family and their children, and of society in general. Putting time and care into marriage (and in preparation for it) is one of the most important investments you'll ever make.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

So precious

Just a few snapshots from last weekend. Flowers from my husband...
And Shira's tiny feet, wrapped up in a towel after taking a bath. So very, very precious.

I could eat them up.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mini-birthday cake

Yesterday, on my husband's "mini birthday", we enjoyed this delightful cake and still have a lot left over for today and, I think, even Shabbat. I made the layers with my super simple brownies recipe (double batch), but of course, it would be ten times more delicious using the recipe of chocolate bomb brownies - mmm. A chocolate lover's delight!

I took a cup of whipping cream and whipped it with just a few tablespoons of sugar and a little cocoa powder, and spread the cream between layers and on top of the cake. I decorated with dried cranberries because this is what I had on hand, but I wish I had some almonds or nuts to chop and sprinkle over the top. You could also decorate with grated chocolate or coconut. My husband loved it.

The serving plate, which is part of a set, has a special story behind it. When we were very newly married, just before Pesach a year and a bit ago, my husband saw a lady putting these plates out on the street. He asked whether these plates were ever used (important for kosher-keeping homes, as ceramic plates and cups, unlike glass, cannot be koshered) and she said yes, they are kosher dairy plates and he can keep them - she has too much to store in her home. Since back then, we had only four plates altogether, these were a very welcome addition. We have a set of twelve - six large ones (like the one in the picture) and six small ones. They are nice and sturdy and I love them. One of the many things that were rescued and found a new life in our home.

I have rice cooking on the stove for tomorrow night, and carrots and potatoes boiling for potato salad, which firmly established its place on our Shabbat table. I'd better go and check how things are going in the kitchen. Wishing you the loveliest weekend!

Mrs. T

PS: My husband's "real birthday" is next week - what a good reason to make another, even bigger and better birthday cake, isn't it?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Away from home... and back home

We stayed with family since weekend and until yesterday, and Shira had the wonderful opportunity to spend time with my grandmother. It's so sweet to watch them together - Grandma and Shira seem to understand each other so well, and are quickly becoming good friends. And Grandma looks at least 30 years younger when she holds Shira. I think it's thanks to the big wide smile that so easily comes upon the face of anyone holding a superbly cute baby.

As lovely as it was to visit with dear ones, I'm so happy to be back home, back to cooking and washing the dishes in my cozy kitchen, hanging laundry on the line, tending to the garden, and even doing a wee bit of crocheting - all this in between nursings, which are always my favorite part of the day. So quiet, peaceful, full of contentment for both Mommy and baby.

It has been fascinating to watch Shira over the past week or two. She suddenly picked up speed at gaining control over her little body. She rolls over and grabs toys; yesterday, she snatched away my glasses as I was attempting to undress her for a bath. She's becoming such a wiggler that it's getting more and more difficult to change, dress or undress her.

Today is my husband's "other birthday" - counting by the "other calendar", The one that we will really celebrate is his Hebrew date, of course, but I think today might also be nice to do something special... a little "mini birthday", so to speak. He will be 29.

Well, I'd better roll up my sleeves and get going, before the best part of the day slips away. Thanks to all the dear ones who took the time to email me in the past two days. I have read all of your notes and plan to catch up with you and answer your questions soon.

Your friend,

Mrs. T

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Well-meaning but misguided

As we move along our parenting journey, I realize how important it is for every nursing mother and baby to have a pediatrician who is not just supportive of breastfeeding, but thoroughly educated about it - and unfortunately, they seem to be rare.

Back in university, I only had one course dedicated to infant nutrition, which emphasized the importance of breastfeeding but didn't cover many important details such as supply and demand, possibility of poor latch, overactive letdown, distracted nursing, and many other common issues breastfeeding mothers often have to deal with. I know that in medical schools, more often than not even less is learned about this wonderful, God-given way of feeding babies.

Most pediatricians today tell mothers they should nurse their babies - if everything goes smoothly, if no problems arise, and if the baby is gaining weight strictly according to age-appropriate charts. From stories of fellow mothers, many pediatricians have only a vague concept that breasts make milk, and have all too many misconceptions, such as:

* It's very common to have inadequate milk supply.
* A mother's milk supply can dry up for no reason and it's normal; it isn't worth the trouble to check why this happens.
* Whatever a mother does or doesn't do, it doesn't affect her milk supply and therefore it's pointless to try and improve it.
* Each baby needs to eat at such-and-such intervals, and weight gain should be such-and-such number each week.
* Weighing a baby before and after a feeding is a good way to assess how much food the baby gets throughout the day, because the amount of milk a baby gets per nursing session is the same every time.

I'm not saying pediatricians have no clue. They certainly have lots of knowledge, and their advice and opinion regarding a child's health should be taken most seriously. But - and this is a serious but - don't be overwhelmed by someone's authority just because he is a doctor. Western medicine often has an impatient, quick-fix attitude, which is good for acute conditions, but many times displays little knowledge and much arrogance towards treatment of anything that has to do with chronic illnesses, allergies, and nutrition.

In certain areas, nurses tend to know more than doctors; or less. I had a nurse tell me that even if breastfeeding is going well, it's recommended to supplement with formula starting from four months.

Many medical professionals have an attitude that can be described as well-meaning but misguided. Be careful.

Monday, May 18, 2009

When a Rabbi meets the Pope

Go over here to read an interesting article about Jewish-Catholic relations, written from a Jewish perspective.

"Was I wrong at that moment to believe it's at last possible to cast off centuries of mistrust, misunderstanding and religious intolerance?

What went through my mind?

I heard the past speaking to me. I don't know how it was possible for time to become so compressed that in those few moments, I could clearly make out so many conversations in my mind, all of them vying for my attention, all of them claiming my conviction. Some were filled with anger. Some were disbelieving. Some advised caution. Some were overcome with joyous emotion. All were battling for my agreement. It was simply too difficult for me to decide, too momentous a moment for me to come to any conclusion.

But with all the voices fighting to be heard within me one seemed most recognizable. I could swear that in the Vatican itself I heard my father, of blessed memory, whisper in my ear," Perhaps. Perhaps."


As someone who grew up in a country with a Jewish majority, and didn't personally know anyone of a different faith until I went to university, I find such writings very informative. Even as a secular Jew, I always lived in a Jewish country and that was normal for me, but for my ancestors, their scattered Jewish communities were like unstable little boats in a vast ocean of a non-Jewish world. Everyone around them had different beliefs, celebrated different holidays and lived by a different calendar.

On a larger scale, though, modern Israel is still like a tiny boat in a sea of non-Jewish and many times hostile countries. We will always be a minority, and that's the way it's supposed to be. We will never be liked or supported by all or even most nations of the world. But it doesn't mean peaceful dialogue, aimed at better understanding, should cease to exist.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A simple shelf

For a long time, I've wanted to have a shelf above my kitchen sink - just a simple shelf for spices, sugar, tea and such.

My husband found this shelf, and after I cleaned it, he fixed it up for me. It's just what I wanted - simple and sturdy, and all my spices are within easy reach.

And the best part - it didn't cost us anything. What a blessing it is to have a husband who is skilled with his hands and can do all sorts of work around the house, and who can see wonderful things in items others have labeled as "junk".
Have a lovely weekend!
Mrs. T

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Israel's ministry of health recommends earlier introduction of solid foods

Yesterday, we heard that Israel's ministry of Health gave a set of new recommendations regarding introduction of solid foods to babies. The updated recommendation is to start giving solids beginning from the time when baby is four months old, and to start replacing full meals by solids from six months onward.

As a mother of a four-months-old, naturally I'm interested in hearing more about the specifics of these new guidelines. I didn't find much information about it online - here's a link to an article for those visitors of mine who read Hebrew.

I would very much like to know details such as why the recommendations were changed, what is the research behind it, and whether other countries are following the same lead. We're not talking about a slight variation from the previous recommendations, but about a substantial change - in the new list of foods for babies four months and older you'll find even fish and eggs, which previously weren't recommended as first foods because of their potentially allergenic effect.

In the article I linked to, I found a rather vague explanation that "early introduction of solid foods helps to prevent food allergies"; however, until now it has been thought that early introduction of solids might be a cause of allergies. No information could be obtained from the official Ministry of Health website. Could this be a fad?

During the years while I studied for my degree in nutrition, perhaps the most important thing I learned was that nutritional recommendations change constantly, and one shouldn't follow blindly. There's also a variety of opinions by a variety of experts on any given topic at any given point in time.

My personal belief is that introduction of solids, as well as weaning, should be mostly child-led - we can offer, but if the baby shows no interest, it's better to wait a bit and then try again. I'm against arbitrary guidelines such as "all babies must eat such and such amount of solids by such and such time" - all babies are different. As for potential allergies, to me it seems that it's safer to wait rather than rush.

I will certainly be on the watch for further information about this.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

About me - always changing

It's probably a bit uncommon to write an "about me" post when I've been blogging for two years already (where did the time go?!), but I thought it might still be a good idea - both to give an introduction and a welcome to new readers, and as a kind of re-evaluation for me.

When I began writing this blog, I was a daughter living at home and just discovering my passion for anything and everything domestic. I was a new reader of LAF, and reading their articles inspired me to start writing - more articles than could ever be published through their website. When I had a folder bursting with written materials, I started a blog to both release and organize all my thoughts and musings, and perhaps occassionally to write a more personal post and/or upload a few pictures. I've been an enthusiastic diary-writer all my life, so an online journal was a natural extension.

Before I knew it, this blog connected me to an inspiring, encouraging network of like-minded ladies - daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, grandmothers - and time after time, I was amazed to discover just how much in common I have with women who don't share my faith, country, heritage or even language. It turns out that women from all over the world, from all cultural and religious backgrounds can connect in their love of family and home.

A lot has changed in my life since then. I met my dear wonderful husband, Yitzhak, and we were married in spring 2008. Ten months after our wedding, I held a tiny little love bundle in my arms - our firstborn baby daughter, Shira.

Now I'm a blessed wife, mother, and guard and keeper of our home. The love of domestic life, the serenity it brings, and the stability a wife and mother at home gives her family is one of the most wonderful discoveries a woman can make. I'm passionate about womanhood, wifehood, motherhood, and feel it's a privilege to share my passion with others.

I love the domestic arts and the simple daily doings of a home - laundry on the line, dishes waiting in the sink to be washed, sweeping the kitchen floor, the smell of freshly ironed clothes. I'm a novice cook, baker, knitter, crocheter and gardener. I am blessed to have the gift of time to savor and enjoy all this.

Even more important is to note that my husband and I are Orthodox Jews. My faith and heritage is the greatest treasure I could ever own. Building a faithful home in Israel is a priceless gift. I enjoy talking with people who want to know more about Judaism, and don't shy away from answering questions about our life in Israel, but I avoid open religious and/or political debates, because they are too draining and I have no time or energy to spare for that. I know you, my readers and friends, will respect this.

This "about me" post will be placed at my sidebar, and I think it will be updated in the future. My child will grow beyond infancy. Hopefully, more little ones will be added to our family. We might move, develop new hobbies, start a family business and many other things which will re-define our personalities, thoughts and plans. We are still young, still very much in the process of learning. I embrace growth and change which will help me become a better wife, mother and woman.

I welcome you to this blog - consider it as an extension of my home. Take a seat, have a cup of tea and some cookies. Do you like this recipe? This is the first time I tried it. Please feel free to write to me and share your thoughts, it's always a pleasure to hear from you. You can also browse my sidebar for links and hop on to some of the wonderfully inspiring websites and blogs I so love to visit whenever time allows.

Your friend,

Mrs. T

Sunday, May 10, 2009

After a refreshing weekend...

... I'm popping in for a quick hello. I hope your weekend was as wonderful as ours. During Shabbat, time flows in a luxuriously slow, almost meditative way. Long family meals. Long conversations. Quiet walks, quiet slow reading. The computer is off, the radio is off, the cell phones are silent. Bliss.

On Friday, the house was full of smells of good cooking. Soup simmering on the stove, no-knead pitas, peanut butter oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Yum. What a delight it is to set the table with homemade foods and a variety of salads, and later share it all among the two of us. And let me tell you, little Shira (4 months old this week) is looking at the table with more and more interest. Before we know it, she'll be snatching food from our plates...

And once again, the week begins with another fruitful, simple days: a pile of washed and drying dishes, a neatly swept kitchen floor, picking up here and there, tending to the garden and simply pottering around. What can be more pleasant than a slow start of another week here at home?

I took some new photos from our home and garden to share with you, but I can't figure out how to transfer them from my husband's camera to the computer, so it'll have to wait at least until he comes home.
In the meantime, here is a (rather blurry) picture of the nastiest fish in our aquarium. We have mollies, platies and one swordtail. All the fish get along very well among themselves, except for this black horror - he absolutely terrorizes all the other fish. If he's at one half of the aquarium, the rest are at the other half. When I feed them, he darts right to the middle and attempts to swallow all the food - and I'm pretty sure he does that simply out of greed. I think we will have to isolate him to keep peace and balance in the aquarium. Perhaps he might learn a lesson after a day or two of isolation? Hmm.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Why it often feels lonely at home

Many homemakers today feel isolated and lonely, not only because most women work outside the home, but also because many of those who stay at home don't find purpose and fulfillment in their work as mothers and wives. Often, the wife and mother being at home is only tolerated as a transitional stage aiming towards something bigger and better.

"What do I do? Oh, not much. I just look after the kids for now"; "I'm waiting for a job opportunity to open up"; "For now I'm a stay-at-home mom, but I hope to continue my degree next year" - such statements devalue the importance of the homemaker and discourage women from seeing wifehood and motherhood as a noble vocation.

Without seeing the possibility and importance of long-term life at home, so much falls by the wayside. Why improve the home, if it is just a transitional point? Why work on long-term projects, why establish routines and family traditions when you know that The Big Wide World - a job, college, etc - is just around the corner? And so women tell: "the six months I stayed at home after my baby was born were the dullest, most boring months in my life"; women at the end of their maternity leave confess that they are bored at home. Their already gear their minds towards something different.

Of course! If you know you will only be home for a few months, you won't bother building a satisfying home life. This is something that takes years, not weeks - the sweet fruit of a good, solid home life ripens slowly, and its rewards are sweet.

I know enough women who currently stay at home, or have stayed at home in the past for more or less extended periods of time, from a few months to a few years. But there aren't nearly enough women who see homemaking as an important and inspiring job, worth dedicating the best and most fruitful years of their lives to; I don't know nearly enough women who delight in living and working in their homes, who love and treasure their home as a safe haven for the entire family, and who see the importance of their secured, continuous presence at home.

And that is why I am so inspired by you ladies - an online community of dedicated homemakers who live rich, fruitful lives at home. Some of you run home businesses, some of you homeschool your children, some of you volunteer in the community; and you live beautiful, simple, full lives, and don't think you might want to leave the next day. You might be scattered all around the world, but I know you are out there, and that is so uplifting. Oh, how much I have grown, how much I have learned from your comments and emails, and from visiting your blogs! How important this is to a young wife like myself.

Through the blog of dear Jewels (which is dedicated almost in its entirety to the treasures, blessings and incredible value of loving, faith-filled, rich life at home) I followed a link describing a book of Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, For the Family's Sake: The Value of Home in Everyone's Life. If you click on the book cover, you can browse the table of contents and read the first pages - very inspiring. I am inclined to order this book. But even in the first few pages, which are available online, you can find many pearls of wisdom. Stop by and be encouraged.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The gift of children

The more I think about it, the more I am amazed by the awesome, incredible gift of children. If He wanted, God could make us all out of air. If He wanted, he could make us grow from seed like plants. If He decided so, we could be born right into adulthood, or have a childhood too short to create any substantial memories.

But no. He chose to give us this fascinating, wondrous, blessed way of children conceived, shaped, gently and carefully nurtured in their mother's womb. He chose to give us, mothers, the gift of babies and children - not for a month, not for a year, but for a beautiful, ever-changing, long yet fleeting season.

And without even knowing it, those little ones touch lives. They bring smiles and lots of joy to anyone who sees them - parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends. A miracle! I will never forget how I saw Shira, who just emerged from my womb and was suddenly out - breathing, moving, crying. My first words were, "this cannot be!"
(Shira's hand - so tiny and precious. It looks like she's trying to reach towards something.)

Whether you have children yourself or not, it's a blessing and privilege to meet children in this world, to know children, to be their friend and let their little lives touch yours. It's an even greater gift to be able to bear children - a gift not every woman will have, and for those of us who were so blessed to have it, it's not forever and will only last a season in our lives - perhaps ten years, perhaps twenty, but it will pass.

Even though I'm young, and can hopefully have many more children if that is God's will, I try to imagine what a mother must feel as she approaches the final years of this beautiful, incredibly rich and fruitful season in her life. There must be a bittersweet finality in knowing that though you've raised a lovely family, no more children of your womb will be added to it. Of course, there are always miracles (like our Mother Sarah, who gave birth to Yitzhak at the age of ninety), and there's the joyful expectation of grandchildren, but what must it feel like to know that never again you will feel a child moving within your body; never again you will hold your baby who has just entered this world, never again you will melt at the sight of your child's first smile!

Think about reading a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful book, approaching the end of it, and knowing that you can never read it again. Wouldn't it make you treasure every page?

I've never met a mother to many grown children who looks at her family and says, "I wish I didn't have my fifth, sixth and seventh children". But I know more than a few older couples who wish they could have had another child, or even, tragically, couples who wish they had known it would soon be too late - before it was too late.

What am I trying to say? Just that every moment spent with each and every dear child, and indeed, with any of our loved ones, is a treasured gift that will never return. Relationships filled with love are of the few things that are truly important here in this path we walk upon earth.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Fix your eyes on the lovely things

We don't live in a perfect world. All around us, terrible things are happening: wars, crimes, and all sorts of perversity we don't want our dear children to know about. Sometimes, it feels as though even a temporary escape is impossible, unless you retire to a summer cottage somewhere in Lapland - which isn't an option for most of us, including me (as much as I'd love to).

We can't ignore reality. But it's part of our sacred work to provide a safe, comfortable, secure, welcoming, nurturing haven here at home - for our husbands, who return tired and in need of rest after a long, hard day at work; for our littles, who need to grow and mature before they are ready to face the hardships of this world; for older children, who need to feel there's a place to return to where they will be welcomed, held and loved.

This is why we must be very careful about what and who (and when, and how much) we let into our homes, into our lives, and into the lives of our precious dear ones. I've been in homes when the TV is on at all hours when the family is awake - and it's so easy to be lost in anxiety when you listen to its alarming messages. Tension, agitation and anxiety sell, so this is mostly what you will find on TV. I've been in homes where parents don't want the children to read secular newspapers, yet leave those newspapers spread out on the coffee table and say, "don't touch these". Can you think of a more foolproof way to make sure the children do read those newspapers?

We can't forever shelter our family from the world, but we can protect our home, our little corner of the world, from negative influences. I'm not talking only about the dangerous, the immoral and corrupt, but also about the ugly, vulgar and unlovely - superficial books, tasteless music, and hundreds of websites with thousands of articles and interactive games which don't contribute to the development of mind or heart.

Surround yourself by lovely things that set a positive tone to your home. Cheerfully do your housework to good, uplifting music. Read good books - inspiring, educational books that feel like visiting with a good old friend every time you read through them. Do hand crafts and use them to decorate your home. Bake, cook, write, paint, work in the garden, enjoy the rustle of wind while you hang out the laundry in your back yard or on your balcony. Learn new skills. Have people over for tea, keep in touch with good old friends, call your family regularly. Limit time-wasters as much as possible, because time is so precious, and an idle mind is dangerously fruitful ground for discontentment and negative attitudes.

Enjoy the present. Every day is a gift that will never return. Every day is another step in independence taken by your children, so enjoy them while they are little bundles in your arms. Savor those chubby little cheeks, the tiny hands, the precious little feet. We don't know how long we have, so now is the perfect time to love those dear husbands, children, parents, grandparents and friends of ours.

Take the time to enjoy simple things. Each of them is a gift - every cup of tea with fresh home-baked cookies, every child's kiss, every dish waiting in the sink to be washed. Don't over pack your life with activities that might be good and worthwhile, but will turn your days into one hectic race when there are too many of them.

Take the time, every day, to pray and realize that God is Love. And every thing we love and enjoy here on earth is a reflection of His deep, everlasting love.

This is a reminder to myself as much as to anyone else. I chose this photo from our garden as an illustration, because there's something very pure and beautiful in this first single white flower among the bare branches.

I hope your day is as lovely as mine. I have so much more to write, but I must go because so many things are calling to be done. Cooking, a walk to the grocery store, a garden to tend to. A little baby to nurture, hold and love. I hope today will be a day of happiness and cherishing the gifts we all have - too many to count.

Your friend,

Mrs. T

Monday, May 4, 2009

The silent glory of the homemaker

One of the most challenging parts of a homemaker's job is that so much of it is composed not of projects which have a beginning and end, but of never-ending, almost unnoticeable tasks that are so necessary to the smooth running of a home, but aren't considered real accomplishments.

We might receive appreciation for a delicious dinner, a beautifully set table, a skilfully knitted sweater. But what about all the other things we do each day? Washing the dishes, doing the laundry, sweeping, mopping, picking up clutter, taking out the garbage, bathing the children and other everyday tasks just don't seem to count. And so, at the end of a day, it's easy to feel as though the bulk of our time has been taken by... nothing.

Some of us are blessed by attentive husbands, grateful children and supportive communities that don't let us feel as though what we do is unimportant. But more often than not, the homemaker's routine work goes unnoticed. Like a perfectly functioning mechanism or a healthy body, we don't notice its function until it's disrupted or broken.

In the hottest days of summer, do you think much about your air conditioner until one time it's broken? Do you pay attention to everyday blessings such as electricity, running water, clothes and food in abundance? Probably not. Most people hardly ever pause to think about the beating of their heart, even though they would die if it stopped.

Similarly, much of the homemaker's work is often unnoticed until the faithful wife and Mommy gives in to a mean case of flu and stays in bed for a couple of days. And then, when the clutter piles up and the family runs out of clean dishes and underwear, the other household members finally realize it's time to pitch in. After a couple of days, Mom is back on her feet sweeping, dusting and folding laundry, and hopefully, an important lesson has been learned about how much work it really takes to keep a home running.

This is one of the reasons why the husband and children (when they are old enough) should share at least some of household load. It doesn't have to be much. It can be something as basic as every family member picking up after himself. Getting help from other family members doesn't mean that the homemaker is bad at coping with her work. It's a gesture of respect which will do a great service to the children in years to come. The wife will usually be the primary household manager, but if no one else ever helps to sort and fold laundry, it's so easy to assume that neatly folded socks appear in drawers automatically.

My husband works hard and I don't expect him to do any housework during the week, but on Shabbat nights, he usually puts on an apron and washes the dishes. He does that very sweetly and out of love. And it serves as a reminder that there are dishes to be washed, and that I do that several times each day.

No matter what the circumstances are, it's important to get up and try to do the daily works with joy in your heart. It's not true that we have no control over our moods. If you dress in pretty clothes, put on cheerful music, light some candles and smile, your spirit will usually be uplifted. Nothing does wonders like a daily portion of time spent in prayer, preferably early in the morning. No matter what, we know He sees what is right within our hearts, and therefore, we don't need to worry that we don't receive enough appreciation for our work. As long as we offer it all to Him, we should be fine.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Our beautiful, fascinating country

Hello everyone. I hope all you ladies had, or are still having, a lovely weekend. At the beginning of the week I often feel less than motivated, so today I will resort my favorite mood boosters: cheerful music; uplifting reading materials; cultivating a vision of my home the way I would like to see it.

Speaking of uplifting reading, go ahead and read Rhonda Jean's post about the homemaker's work:

"No one would apply for our jobs. We work long hours, have no days off, we have to balance our budgets no matter what the circumstances, we are responsible for the mental and physical health of any number of children as we raise them to take on that responsibility for themselves. We act as role model, advisor, counsellor, guide and friend, we drive them to school, the library and the doctor, we explain boundaries. We support and encourage our partners, or if we're single parents, we take on a dual role. Whether we are single or attached, our job requires that we cook nutritious food that meets guidelines for good health, we clean toilets and faces and everything in between, we sew, mend and repair, we teach and nurture, administer discipline and model kindness and generosity, we are optimistic and brave, we are stewards of our homes, land and assets, guardian of our morals and privacy, and protector of the small and weak."

And in the meantime, here are a few snapshots from our drive last Wednesday.
Can you see the piles of stone in this picture? These are ruins. We aren't sure exactly how old they are and if they were investigated already. If they weren't, I'm sure they have the potential of most interesting archaeological findings. We'd take a peek ourselves if there was a convenient place to stop, but as there wasn't, we had to resign and just took a few photos while sitting in the car.

A stop by the roadside: I'm nursing Shira at the back seat of the car. I wouldn't post this photo without being absolutely sure you can't see anything inappropriate!
A mountain road. I loved the beauties we discovered along our trip. It's always worthwhile to explore your surroundings before going far!