Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Common breastfeeding mistakes, part 2

Click here to read part 1, with paragraphs 1-7

8. Underestimating the importance of a good, professional lactation consultant. If you need a lactation consultant, look for an IBCLC. Some "lactation consultants" actually do more harm than good with their misinformed and misleading advice.

9. Insecurity about the ability to produce enough milk, or milk of "good enough" quality. What nursing mother hasn't encountered the raised-eyebrows question, "and how can you be sure you have enough milk?"; there are few things to undermine one's confidence like this one. I have spoken to a mother who used to have a skinny baby - who has by now, several years later, turned into a skinny child. Which is now natural and normal. But back then, of course, "not having enough milk" was to blame.

10. Lack of support. A supportive husband, a community of women who successfully breastfe(e)d, La Leche League's hotline - all of those can increase the chance of a successful nursing relationship. I have always got wonderful support from my husband, who never complained about a messy house or lack of proper dinner on days when, it seemed, the baby had to be at my breast every waking moment. And on the flip side of the coin, it's so easy to become discouraged when you are a new mother, have no support, and hear the authoritative tone of someone who tells you "sometimes it just cannot be done".

11. Deciding to combine breast and bottles of formula so that "others can help too". It can very soon lead to a drop in milk supply and a switch to using formula entirely. There are plenty of other ways to help a new mother, other than feeding the baby, such as changing diapers, bathing, and entertaining the little one while Mommy gets some rest.

12. Difficulty to breastfeed in public. Not long ago, after my sister-in-law's wedding, we were away to spend Shabbat chatan with her new family. Our room was far away from where we went to pray or take our meals, so there was no way for me to retreat there during breaks to breastfeed. So I nursed just about wherever I could. I nursed in a dusty back room in a synagogue. I nursed on a bench in a deserted playground - which was alright during the evening, but during the day, I found myself crouched with a fussy baby in a tiny spot of shadow behind a bomb shelter, trying to nurse her while throwing nervous glances all around me to make sure no one is looking. I was feeling increasingly bitter about this forced exile while everyone were enjoying a leisurely meal in an air-conditioned room. Well, when I came back, I saw another mother (previously unnoticed by me) sitting on the floor right next to the table and nursing her baby with her entire breast hanging out. No one seemed to be paying her the slightest bit of attention. So I thought to myself, next time I might just pull a chair aside, throw a blanket over myself and the baby and get it over with. I'm a huge proponent of modesty, and obviously I don't think one should let it all hang out, but a nursing mother doesn't need to feel like an outcast.

13. Fear of nursing because the mother is ill. I have known mothers who have stopped breastfeeding because of a minor infection which took a few days to treat. Surely breastfeeding-compatible medicines could be found for that, or at least the mother could resume nursing after a few days, and in the meantime keep up her supply by pumping.

14. Wrong interpretation of the baby's signs. A fussy baby doesn't mean that the baby isn't getting enough milk, nor is a baby who nurses very often. Perhaps the baby wants to nurse just for comfort; and if the baby does need more milk, nursing as frequently as possible - not spacing feedings by using a bottle or pacifier - is the way to boost production.

15. Believing that there really isn't such a big difference between nursing and using formula. When things get rocky, how many mothers choose to quit simply because they haven't been informed about the important benefits of breastfeeding? Too many give up on breast milk too easily.

I think this is the time to say that I know there are also mothers who badly wanted to nurse their babies and truly couldn't, because of no fault of their own, whether it was a medical problem or lack of knowledge and support or a combination of all of the above. The purpose of my blog is not to put other mothers on the line of defence. I think we are all united in wanting the best for our children, and also in all of us being far from perfect.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Common breastfeeding mistakes

Not long ago, I had to face my first ever "are-you-still-breastfeeding" comment, followed by spooky stories about four-year-olds who refuse to wean and are causing daily embarrassment to their mothers. I understand that the longer I breastfeed, the more "haven't-you-weaned-yet" remarks I'm going to hear; and in honor of this event, I'm going to summarize (and add my comments to) a great article I've read (here's the link to the original, in Hebrew) which lists 15 common mistakes that might hamper breastfeeding.


1. Starting by saying "it's great if it works out, it's alright if it doesn't" – breastfeeding is far too important and can encounter far too many obstacles to start out with such an attitude. More often than not, it takes a great deal of commitment, patience and perseverance to succeed.


2. Getting advice from women who didn't breastfeed or had a bad breastfeeding experience. Whether to breastfeed or not is each woman's personal choice, but it really annoyed me when I was told by a certain mother, "you might not be able to breastfeed, I couldn't do it past three months, I didn't have milk" – and when questioned a bit, it turned out that this mother actually started heavily supplementing when her baby was only a month and a half old, because she couldn't find the time to breastfeed as often as the baby needed. I'm very sorry to hear of such a regretful breastfeeding experience of someone who obviously had no supportive environment, but why provide misleading information to another mother?


3. Thinking that if you hear something about breastfeeding from a doctor or a nurse, it's necessarily true. It isn't. Many medical professionals haven't got a clue about breastfeeding, and this subject certainly isn't covered extensively enough in medical schools. I've encountered this numerous times, and already wrote about it here and here.


4. "Let's give a bottle after breastfeeding and see if the baby is still hungry" and "let's pump and see if there is enough milk"; babies are born with a strong urge to suck, even when they are not hungry. Milk pumps can be awfully ineffective; I, personally, can never have letdown with a breast pump; if I need to pump, I can only do it effectively if my baby is nursing on the other breast. Breasts are not bottles and trying to measure them like bottles can be very misleading.


5. "Pain is a normal part of breastfeeding" – it is not! Pain indicates something is badly wrong, such as an incorrect latch, which can also cause lowered milk production. If you are in pain, get help.


6. "It isn't that important to nurse shortly after delivery". Nursing right after the baby is born, while the baby is usually alert and active, is far more important than some of the routine proceedings hospital staff insists to do right after the delivery.


7. Giving bottles (even with pumped milk) and pacifiers while the baby is very young. This can lead to the baby learning and strengthening feeding techniques which are alright with bottle-feeding, but are ineffective and/or painful when the baby is transitioned to the breast. For example, when the baby is bottle-fed, there is no need to open the mouth as wide as during breastfeeding, and there's no waiting until the letdown. The flow of milk is generally faster. Yes, sometimes there is no choice but to use bottles extensively, such as when the baby cannot nurse for a period of time and the mother is exclusively pumping, but when there's a choice, it's so much better to avoid artificial nipples.


I'll stop for now because this is getting a bit long. Coming soon: part 2 of Common Breastfeeding Mistakes.

Monday, September 28, 2009

We survived Yom Kippur

Surprisingly enough, this fast went well enough for me, compared to Tisha B'Av two months ago, which was a hellish experience of extreme weakness. This time, I felt well and was up on my feet right until the end of the fast, and I also had enough milk for Shira so that I only had to give one supplemental bottle of milk I pumped beforehand.

Answering to those who asked, no, I do not take any liquids during fasting, it was full 25 hours without food or liquids but as I said, it went fine. I can only explain this as a little miracle which is certainly not beyond God's capability of working in the lives of those faithful to His commandments.

We are still in the upswing of holidays, preparing to celebrate Sukkot this weekend, so I expect the next few days will be busy with preparations and setting up the sukkah. I have several posts I have started to draft and write, and hope to be back posting in full swing quite soon. I'm also busy, to my immense satisfaction, with other writing projects.

In the meantime, thank you for all your kind, thoughtful notes and your prayers on our behalf. Those who emailed me and got no reply yet - I hope to send you answers as soon as I have a spare moment.

And for the time being, I'm off.

Mrs. T

Friday, September 25, 2009

Yom Kippur coming soon

I'm not sure I will be able to write before Yom Kippur, so I thought I'd just drop by to wish all Beit Yisrael Gmar Chatimah Tovah - May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for Good! I hope you all have an easy, spiritually profitable Yom Kippur.

As you can imagine, I'm a bit apprehensive about the fast, given that I'm still breastfeeding a lot (even though Shira likes her solids and gradually eats more and more) and remembering how difficult it was for me on Tisha B'Av. But I'm sure it will go well, with no long-lasting consequences.

And now I'm off to continue preparing for Shabbat!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Chocolate coconut cake

Another great recipe from here (link in Hebrew). I made it yesterday and it looks like it will be gone before Shabbat. The most deliciously soft, moist and simple chocolate cake I've ever tasted.
1 cup sugar (it says 2 cups in the original recipe, but I knew it would be too sweet for us. 1 cup is plenty).

1 cup cocoa powder (my husband said it's a tiny bit too much - I might make 3/4 cup next time)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tbsp. baking powder

1 cup (100 gr) grated coconut

1\2 cup oil (it says 1 cup in the recipe, but again, I know my husband likes less oil, and it turned out great)

2 eggs

Mix well. Add 2 cups water and mix again. The mixture is supposed to be runny - you may add a tiny bit of flour and not more.

Pour into baking tray and bake until knife comes out clean. I'm not sure about the temperature because each oven is different, I usually bake at a temperature much lower than stated in the original recipes if I don't want to burn whatever I'm making.

I just enjoyed a slice of this cake now and must resist the temptation of taking another one!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My wonderful life

I'm living a wonderful life – the full, rich, busy life of a stay-at-home wife and mother. About two years ago, at the end of my college years and with my heart newly turned towards home, I had dreamed and imagined myself living just the sort of life I have now: with a husband, and a baby, and a lovely little home to take care of. A life of simplicity and finding joy in the simplest things.

I do love my life. I know that my choices are causing many raised eyebrows among family, friends and neighbors, who don't hesitate to express their astonishment as to why a young, capable woman such as myself is "wasting her time" at home. Add to this the fact that we are not rich – we have all we need and more, but we do live rather frugally – and people are wondering how come I'm not on the lookout for employment outside the home.

I have received several job offers, none of which would have left me with any substantial amount of money at the end of a month, after deducing daycare and other work-related expenses. I must admit: when I explain why I'm at home, I often cling to this point, which makes me feel as though I'm not being entirely truthful because in fact, even if I could make more than my husband, it wouldn't make the slightest change to my belief that the woman's primary mission in life is to be a wife, mother and homemaker, and that since the Almighty kindly gave me a husband, a child and a home, He evidently meant me to be there for my family.

My days are a kaleidoscope of activity. I'm sure it cannot be compared with the mad rollercoaster of families where both parents work outside the home, but I'm literally busy every minute of the day – busy doing things I love, things that make life worthwhile. I'm sure the busyness will increase as our daughter grows, and as (hopefully) more children are added to the family.

The modern homemaker often finds herself in a situation when it seems almost impossible to redeem her value no matter what she does. She is perceived as lazy and selfish because she stays home instead of "contributing financially" by working outside the home, especially if the family is going through a period of financial troubles; or else people pity her for being horribly taken advantage of, turned into a housekeeper and nanny while being denied the opportunity to unfold her wings and pursue her talents and ambitions.

On top of all the natural challenges of being a wife, mother and homemaker, there is always the pressure to prove that you are doing something worthwhile (something that no sane person would have doubted a couple of generations ago). And God forbid if she ever complains about being tired or not having enough money – when a "working woman" says she is tired or finances are tight, she gets sympathy, but a homemaker is simply told to stop being lazy and go find a job.

So, we are not perfect and neither is our life. We all sometimes wish we had more support, or enough money to never think about it again, or more leisure time – at present, I keep apologizing to people who sent me questions for replying to their email after a month, yet if they knew how little time I actually have on the computer, they would marvel at the fact that I'm still updating this blog regularly enough.

Ah, how I wish I had enough eloquence - and time - to express the deep degree of contentment that spreads over me after a day of baking, mopping floors, washing, ironing and giving snuggles and baths! After a long, productive day I feel at peace with myself and with the world, feeling that this is just where I ought to be – right where I was placed, and where my heart belongs.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Phew!

We've done a lot of work on our storage shed. We threw out piles and piles of rubbish, and also gave away some donatable items and clothes. One of the rewards for this was (apart from the newly freed storage space) getting to know our local second-hand store, where we found some real bargains, such as a printer we got for 15 shekels (something like 4$). I have no idea how it ended up there, as it looks hardly used and it works really well. My husband also pointed out that this is a laser printer with various functions beside printing such as fax and scanner; it's much better than a regular printer because it's much more economical when it comes to ink costs.

Here's a picture of some of the junk we got rid of.

I wish I could say we now have much more storage space but it wouldn't be entirely truthful. In fact our storage shed looks much like it did before, mainly because it now stores many of the things we used to have piled up in the house. But of course, it means the house looks more spacious now, and when you live in a tiny like ours (only two bedrooms), you can imagine how important that is! I was finally able to put away our Pesach pots and dishes, stocks of toilet paper and detergents, and also plan to put away the clothes Shira has already outgrown.

I can't stand having ugly, unused junk in the house. The more things you have, the more you are enslaved by them because they demand upkeep and cleaning and give nothing in return. Therefore, I'm a huge proponent of throwing away or giving away whatever you don't need. It literally gives more room to breathe.

Monday, September 21, 2009

My first ever yeast cakes

Hello, dear friends – I'm glad to be back online. I hope all my Jewish readers had a great time celebrating Rosh Ha-Shana, and if you are in Israel, I hope you enjoyed the wonderful coolness after the first rain of the year.


We didn't spend the holiday at home so I didn't have to do too much cooking, but I made these yeast cakes to give to family. It was my first attempt ever at making yeast cakes so I was a bit apprehensive, but luckily, I came across a great recipe so the cakes were a success. Here's the link to the original recipe for those of you who can read Hebrew, and here's the translation for the rest of you.


1 kg flour

3\4 cup sugar

3\4 cup oil

100 gr margarine (I skipped the margarine altogether and just added a bit more oil)

250 ml whipping cream (that's approximately one cup – I used the non-dairy variety)

4 eggs

50 gr fresh yeast or 2 tbsp dry yeast

1 cup of warm water


Filling of your choice (I used chocolate and date spread)

Beaten egg for brushing the cakes


Mix all the ingredients of the dough. The dough will be sticky – do not add flour at this stage. Let it rise until it doubles – it's pretty warm here and it took me about two hours. Then poke the dough a couple of times to let air out and let it rise until doubles again. Make sure you use your largest bowl for this!


Now comes the time for creativity. After the dough is rolled out and spread with filling, it can be shaped in a variety of ways. Here's what I did:


I divided the dough into 12 parts, rolled each one out and spread filling evenly on top of it. Then I rolled it in and coiled it into the shape of a snail. I made 6 snails for each baking tray, placed them close together, and put it in the oven (after brushing it with egg) where they rose and sort of blended together, making a single cake.

It took the cakes about an hour in the oven until they were ready, I don't remember the exact temperature because I kept tweaking it but it wasn't too high. I took them out of the oven when a knife came out clean out of the middle of the cake. If anyone has a more elegant method of making sure your cake is ready, you are more than welcome to share!


I prepared the cakes on Wednesday and we sampled a small bit of one of them, just to make sure I won't be embarrassed by bringing them over for people to eat – we loved it. My in-laws only served their cake on Sunday evening, and it's amazing how well it keeps in the refrigerator.


I love baking, and now that it's getting cooler I love it even more!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pretty dresses for little girls

The people who lived here before us used to have a children's clothes store, aimed mostly at religious Jews I think. They had plenty of merchandise left when they moved, and told us we can have it all. We got some really good finds - we have them to thank for our stock of lovely baby blankets, for instance.

There were also some very pretty dresses for little girls. We have most of them sealed in two large cardboard boxes and plan to donate them to a local second-hand store - there are several of each variety so it wouldn't make sense to keep them all, as well as dresses for girls aged 12-14, which we would have to keep for another 10 years or so!

I'm sure the people at the second-hand store will be thrilled to receive the clothes - they are in excellent condition, brand new in fact, and mostly still in their packaging and with price tags on them. They are of excellent quality, too.

We have, however, saved a box for ourselves as well, for dresses which can be used by Shira in a year or two. Aren't they pretty? I love old-fashioned flowery patterns, much better-looking than what I usually see in the children's clothes department. They look so pretty and feminine, and I look forward to seeing Shira wearing them.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Work in progress....

We are working on a long-postponed project - getting our storage shed in order. I have taken some pictures and hope to share them soon, perhaps even before Rosh Ha-Shana. It might seem funny to some of you that I'm so enthusiastic about an organized storage shed, but keep in mind that we live in a tiny house and any bit of extra storage space is priceless and gives me more room to breathe.

Our living room is currently full of cardboard boxes and piles of items that need to be sorted - it looks as though we are moving. It will be all well-worth it, though, once we are done! We got rid of mountains of junk left from the family who lived here previously.

So much to do... I'm off for now!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

In anticipation of Rosh Ha-Shana

A pomegranate hidden between the leaves. I love pomegranates, their top looks like a little crown and they always remind me of the closeness of Rosh Ha-Shana, the Jewish new year which we will celebrate at the end of this week.

This week will be full of preparations, and I'm sure my Jewish readers won't have too much time online in the following days so I'm already going to wish you a very happy Rosh Ha-Shana. I hope you all have a lovely time celebrating with your precious families and dearest friends.

May the following year be blessed in all ways, to all of us. May we once again witness the goodness of G-d in all He does, and let's keep hoping for the gathering of Israel, the arrival of the true Messiah and the rebuilding of the Third Temple in our generation.

These few days before Rosh Ha-Shana are a wonderful time to plan changes and make resolutions, and pray for the upcoming year. It's going to be busy around here, but nevertheless I'm determined to carve out some quiet time to lift up those personal prayers. May peace be with you all.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

An imprint on eternity

It's not easy to be a stay-at-home wife/mother in our culture even if your family can easily afford it, because it's simply the norm for a woman these days to be "out there doing something", if she wants to be considered an accomplished adult.


Things become even more complicated when your family is going through financial difficulties. Most people who know you will suggest the "obvious" solution of you getting a job outside the home. Once you point out that after daycare and travel costs, and other work-related expenses you will be left with next to nothing at the end of each month, they may suggest finding a way to earn money from home, which is good for some situations but not when the wife and mother is already struggling with her domestic duties. The life of a mother of several children who are old enough to help out is not like the life of a mother who has three little ones underfoot.


As for me, I know that whatever employer that could be unfortunate enough to hire me, would soon realize that they made a grave mistake. I doubt I could be a good worker at any job outside the home, because my heart is so wholly and completely at home. I often feel that the complaints about women who are incompetent workers are nothing more than an observation of women who should really be at home taking care of their families.


It is often claimed that the homemaker's work has no lasting value, and only the work that is done outside the home counts. That is an evil twisting of the truth, for indeed, the wife and mother at home invests in nothing less than souls of her dearest ones – the images she imprints upon her children, and the atmosphere she creates in her home, is basically an investment in eternity.


The home is a woman's delight; a woman's pride and joy, and also the mirror that reflects her character. When you are told that someone's home is peaceful and quiet, and that whoever comes is always welcome there, doesn't it make you draw a mental picture of a sweet-spirited, content wife?


Here is how I picture my home: cozy and warm, generally clean but not too tidy as to make people uncomfortable to stretch out and relax, with a large variety of books, toys and craft supplies easily available. With herbs growing in the garden, and perhaps a pair of knitting needles and a half-finished scarf on them lying on the sofa. With something delicious baking in the oven, and a pot bubbling on the stove. With beautiful, though not necessarily matching mugs and plates laid out on the table for dinner. I think that'd reflect my personality as an introvert who loves her cozy corner.


I have been at home since I got married a year and a half ago, and I'm thankful for every moment. Time flies by so fast – I'm especially aware of it since Shira was born. Every day I look at her and marvel – her precious babyhood is passing by too soon. But at least, I will be able to tell myself later, I was here to enjoy every cherished moment.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The virtuous wife

It puzzles me when certain religious leaders – and because I do not want to offend anyone, I will refrain from giving names – talk about how women should be modest (certainly), home-centered and spend most of their time at home (so far so good), and without pausing for breath they say that the true Wife of Valor is supposed to shield her husband from all the evils of this world, so that he can dedicate all his time to studying Torah – they go as far as saying that men shouldn't even know what a supermarket looks like or how to pay the bills.


How does that work, exactly? They conveniently gloss over the matter of where money would come from, and say that God will provide. Though undoubtedly God is the only source of every spiritual or material blessing we possess, it does not cancel the fact that in the ketubah, the Jewish marriage contract, a man promises to care for and provide for his wife.


In every generation, I suppose, there were a few men who were nearly detached from this world, so much that they didn't really know how to handle everyday transactions. However, I don't believe this is the ideal situation for most people, and I don't believe that a woman should feel guilty every time her husband does the shopping.


As for homemaking and childcare, though I agree that it is primarily a woman's calling, I don't believe that when help is desperately needed and the husband lends a hand, he is "wasting time that could be spent in learning". Surely it's not only a matter of studying the Torah, but also of living out its principles – which include helping the needy, especially those closest to oneself, such as a wife who is about to collapse under the burden of several small children, advanced pregnancy, and a house which is in the process of being cleaned for Pesach.


I have an issue with the following message: You should be a modest, quiet, home-centered wife. You are supposed to delight in raising a large family. Your energies should be devoted entirely to your family. You are also supposed to be the main breadwinner, and you must never ask your husband to help you, even though you feel you are about to snap under the load. If you don't manage, you are weak.


It seems to me that not too many women are strong enough for this kind of life. And I don't think there is anything wrong with that. While there may be SuperMoms who did it all and truly and really lived out every line of the description of the virtuous wife from Proverbs 31, every day of their lives, most of us will fail to achieve this standard. Some days we can do more, some days less. A home is an enterprise, and I do not believe that husbands and sons are supposed to be entirely detached from its management.


I feel that by spreading the message I referred to above, Jewish religious leaders are cheating women out of their basic right to be supported by their husbands. When someone boasts of the fact that his mother never had any hobbies or friends, never received household help and never went out just to breathe some fresh air, I see danger in setting this as a general guideline for Jewish women. Most of us do need help and refreshment, and acknowledging these human needs will, in my opinion, help to establish a healthy family life much more than telling women they mustn't ever speak about their needs.


And don't get me wrong – I'm talking about rabbis whom I greatly respect, and whose books I read for daily inspiration and encouragement. But just on this point, I beg to differ. Perhaps I'm not spiritual enough, but I know that following these standards would wreck havoc in the lives of families who currently have a happy balance. What good would this do to anyone?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Monday, September 7, 2009

Another find

I just love how it looks! I cleaned it out and used it for storing all our kitchen towels, which were previously crammed at the back of one of our closets - very inconvenient. I mostly kept using the ones at the top of the pile, since I couldn't reach the rest. Yesterday I discovered some kitchen towels I even forgot we had. Now they are all neatly folded in these little drawers.

One little step towards being more organized.

And... you are probably guessing already, right? It's another entirely free, exceptionally lucky find of my husband's!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

"Do you like it here?"

To read what happened earlier, click here.

When I came downstairs, the first thing my eyes fell on was the doorway, which was full of people – more so than I ever had seen in this house. I knew that the tall figure standing there, being hugged and kissed by everyone, was David. The family's voices rose in a happy commotion. Catherine was holding on to his sleeve, Uncle Ben was clapping him on the shoulder, and Aunt Anne kept happily repeating how much he has grown and how thin he looks. Sam, Nathan and Rachel were jumping around, squealing with delight and attempting to touch every part of him they could reach.

I put on what I hoped would pass for a gracious smile, and approached. He looked somehow very different from the photographs I had seen – I mean, obviously I could recognize him, and he still looked the same, with his way brown hair and brown eyes – but for some reason, he does not smile when he is photographed, and now he was positively beaming at everyone around him and his face lit up. He was waving his hands, clearly in the middle of telling something exciting, and though I could not make out the words, his voice sounded more pleasant and mature than I had imagined. I fruitlessly tried to smooth out my skirt, uncomfortably aware of the fact that I spent a couple of hours lolling in bed wearing it. It suddenly struck me that below the knee, my legs were bruised and scratched from working in the garden earlier that week.

- Oh, here you are, Becky! – said Catherine, who was the first to notice me, and looked even more excited than last week, when she completed her first ever king-sized quilt. – Come here and meet David!

- So this is Becky? – He said, smiling and looking at me. – It's great to meet you at last. Alright, Mom, now that we're all here – I'm starving! What's for dinner?

Once the table was set, David loaded his plate with roast chicken, a mound of mashed potato, and three kinds of salads, and let out a satisfied sigh as he contemplated his plate for a second. It took him about ten more seconds to empty his plate and reach out for more food.

- That's right, son, - Aunt Anne looked at him approvingly as he devoured more chicken, - it looks as though you haven't had a proper dinner since you left home.

- It's great, - he said in a slightly muffled voice, having just swallowed a mouthful of potato, - I could never be quite reconciled with the students' diner or take-out meals, I missed your cooking too much!

- Becky and Catherine took over cooking today, David, - said Aunt Anne, looking fondly at Catherine and me. I feigned intense interest in my napkin, which Catherine artfully folded in the shape of a wreath. – I haven't been feeling well lately.

He looked impressed.

- Wow – I could never have guessed it was not you – excellent, girls! Well, Becky, - he suddenly looked right at me, and I promptly put my napkin back on the table, - how do you like it around here?

I felt a flush creeping up my face, and hoped it would go unnoticed in the soft light of the dining room. Well, you know, it's boring, and I don't have any friends, and I don't go out anywhere, and I feel miserable holed up here 24/7, and I'm constantly being nagged to go on with my knitting when I'm done with my school projects – but otherwise, it's really great!

- Well, it's, um… - I stammered, - it's really beautiful around here.

- Aren't you bored here? – He asked. – After all, you used to live in the city, don't you miss that?
Aunt Anne, Uncle Ben and Catherine were now all looking at me intently. I remembered my open complaints during the first weeks – about having no TV and no proper entertainment. Back then I felt entirely within my right to grumble about it, but now I could not bring myself to say it again, and I sincerely hoped that the others would not remind me that I had done that before.

- You know, - I began, carefully weighing every word, - there are other things to do here – things I never had back home. For example, one can take long walks – see all kinds of birds and animals – and the views are simply fabulous -

- Becky paints, David, - said Catherine, shining with pride. – She never misses an opportunity to pick up her brushes and go out. She had done some outstanding landscapes already, and now we are trying to convince her to move on to portraits!

I blushed again. Well of course, it's my only valid excuse to get to spend some time alone, outside the house, without Aunt Anne breathing down my neck about schoolwork or chores.

- Really? – David looked genuinely interested. – Well, I can't wait to see that!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

And off I go, to prepare yet another Shabbat

There are beds to be made...

... Floors to be mopped, and some dusting done...

... Food to be cooked...
... And more food to be cooked...

... There are dishes to wash, the garbage bin to empty, fish to feed, and one oh-so-cute, sweet and cuddly baby to take care of (which is entirely my pleasure!) - in short, there are always so many things that make home a comfortable place to live in, and when we come closer to Shabbat the pile of work nearly always becomes mountainous.
I look forward to tomorrow evening, when we can sit back and enjoy the fruit of our labors.
Until next week, take care!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The homemaker's need to recharge

One of you ladies asked me the following question:

Do you have neighbors you can visit with during the day? Do you have activities or hobbies apart from your family? Other professionals get breaks, so I am having a hard time getting my mind around not needing to do anything but home-making round the clock.

I don't see being a wife, mother an homemaker as a profession; it's what I live and breathe every second of every day, and also what I love the most. I don't have shifts that can be over and done with. I wouldn't have it any other way, and I'm thankful for the privilege to be there for my family, to keep my home, to hold my baby any moment of the day or night when I am needed.

I do have "my own" things; I don't see hobbies and friends as something that prevents me from doing my "real" job. You see, I've noticed that there is an incredible pressure on stay-at-home mothers to prove that they aren't wasting their time at home, which often causes us to feel a twinge of guilt for spending twenty minutes with a book, and I don't think it's fair - we are in no less need of recharging our batteries than those who work outside the home.

In my spare time, I enjoy writing - stories, poems, journals, you name it. Also here on this blog, of course! Writing rejuvenates me, I have been doing it throughout most of my adult life and I would miss it terribly if suddenly had to stop. And reading - I've always been a bookworm, a quiet hour with a favorite book to me is as comforting as a mug of hot chocolate. I can strongly relate to what Pendragon said in a comment a few days ago:

"My ultimate idea of home is a place with books everywhere and every spot from the bed to the couch in the living room to the front porch to the grass outside representing a spot to curl up and read and think. To me, home is a place where the hours pass by very slowly and one has the luxury of absolute privacy and knowing one will not be bothered."

Among other favorite things of mine, I love the luxurious feeling of soft yarn sliding between my fingers, and enjoy knitting and crocheting. I expect each one of us finds joy, comfort and relaxation in different things - some of which can be even directly related to our work as homemakers, such as gardening, soap-making and canning.

I have friends - though admittedly, not too many, as I've always been an introvert - and I often stop for a chat with a neighbour over our clotheslines. It's true that I don't often mention my friends or family here - partly because I want to keep private, partly because a blog cannot be a true mirror of one's life. We also live in a remote area, which means that we don't see our friends and family on a daily basis - we knew moving here would not be without challenges, and we love it.

Of course, most of my time is spent taking care of my baby and my home, and I believe it's very important to find a balance here - when you are the manager of your own time and you spend your days at home, it's easy to become distracted and waste far more time on hobbies than you would think reasonable. A short break can stretch into hours and "extras" can become all-consuming. That is hardly the point of being home full-time - while most of us undoubtedly seek a less stressful lifestyle, it doesn't mean we should become unproductive.

Indeed, we homemakers must be very careful when balancing the needs of our family and our needs for rest and refreshment - self-discipline and careful time-management are the key.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

CoverYourHair giveaway winner

Yesterday, I randomly selected the winner for the CoverYourHair giveaway. Just to add a bit of interest, I'll mention that I did it in the old-fashioned way - wrote everyone's names on pieces of paper, mixed them in a bowl, and asked my husband to pull out one for me.

And the winner is...

... drumroll...

The lady who called herself "Morethnrubies1"!

Congratulations! Please contact me at domesticfelicity@gmail.com so you can shortly receive your gift - I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks again for your participation, everyone! Hosting this giveaway was such fun, and I look forward to doing something like this again sometime. I was especially pleased to read comments from ladies who said that even if they don't win, they are now more encouraged to cover their hair, seeing how many other women are doing the same.