Thursday, April 29, 2010

Nursing no longer

When I just found out I was pregnant for the second time, I decided, despite dire warnings, to go ahead and continue nursing Shira, because abrupt weaning just seemed very untimely and harsh. And indeed, she continued to nurse quite a lot for the following couple of months.

After the first trimester, however, my milk production dropped very quickly, until I had no more left, and my daughter started spending less and less time on the breast, until a short while ago, I realized that she just isn't interested anymore.

I'm very thankful for the wonderful 15 months of nursing we had together. That time was so sweet and precious, I wouldn't trade it for anything. All the countless hours of having my little child in my arms, so completely peaceful and relaxed, any time of night and day. It's a tiny bit sad to say goodbye to nursing her, but I'm at peace - she weaned on her own, at her appropriate time, gradually and with no outside pressure. And she's an exceptionally healthy child, very open-minded when it comes to food and ready to try just about anything. We never gave any formula or commercial-brand cereals.

I am so looking forward to nursing, God willing, this new baby who is due to be born to us around the end of August. I hope it goes as wonderfully as it did the first time around. Nursing is truly such an awesome privilege, a loving gift from the Almighty to mothers and babies.
Photo credit: allposters.com

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Pregnancy update

As you can see above this post, I updated my pregnancy ticker. Yesterday, we went for an ultrasound, and the doctor confirmed what I already suspected: that although I'm officially 24 weeks along, it actually seems more like 22 weeks - which ties in with my original suspicion that I became pregnant later than I was "expected" to.

He suggested to update the gestational age and due date, and conduct all follow-up accordingly. This will become very important close to the end of this pregnancy - I don't want to be pressured to induce at 40 weeks, thinking that I'm 42 weeks along!

And just while we're on the subject of follow-up for pregnant women, I must say how grossly inefficient the system around here is. Honestly, if I did all the tests and check-ups that were suggested to me, even if only just the ones I could have for free, I would pay a high price in travel costs, energy, time, and a disruption in my home life. Why would I need a monthly visit just to monitor my weight and blood pressure? This can be done so easily at home.

Also, unfortunately, there is virtually no alternative system (such as affordable private care by licensed midwives). We're just stuck with the only clinic within reasonable distance, and are trying to make the best of it.

PS: And... as to the big question... whether we are having a boy or a girl this time - I think I'll keep you all in suspense just a little bit longer. :o)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Today

A flowering cactus.
These flowers come and go so quickly - I know this one will probably be gone tomorrow, so I hurried to capture it on the camera.
A clothesline beneath the grapevine.
And homemade pizza, fresh out of the oven. I had lots of leftover dough, which I rolled out into several more pizza crusts and tucked away into the freezer - for an occasion when a quick meal is needed, or we simply feel like having a pizza night on the spur of the moment.

Hope your day was just as lovely as mine!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A couch makeover

Some of you might remember that we inherited a 2-seat and 3-seat couches, and a matching armchair, from the previous house owners. We presently use only the 3-seat couch and the armchair, because we simply don't have the space in our living room to squeeze in the 2-seat. The couches are sturdy and comfy, and we'll probably stick with them for a couple of years longer at least. 


They come in a flowery pattern which we like, but we've been using covers because we realize that without a cover, the couches will probably soon be in need of re-upholstering, which would be way too much trouble. 


This is the original cover from the set we inherited with the couches and armchair. You can't see it very well in the picture, but it's getting threadbare in some places and torn in others. It was really time for a makeover. 


Finding the right couch cover wasn't easy. The first set we tried was too small to fit - apparently they make furniture smaller these days. We had to look for something more old-fashioned, and once we found it, we were told it's even no longer manufactured. I suppose we were pretty lucky. 


Deep blue. I like it. 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Random notes

My friend Jenny just launched her home business of making and selling gluten-free mixes. You can visit her etsy shop here. I'm so excited for Jenny, knowing this is something that has been given much thought to. Jenny has been living with Celiac and practicing a gluten-free diet for a while now, and I know there are many people out there who will love Jenny's baking mixes. I think they would make for wonderful gifts.

Jenny is not Jewish and her products are not kosher, but I know this isn't an issue for most of my readers here.

On a completely different note, have you visited the new LAF? The website switched to a new platform and is so much easier to navigate now. The outlook is great, interesting articles are pouring in, and I'm excited to say I've been invited to contribute as well.

Today I only have about half a day at home, to prepare for a long family visit weekend away from home. This week we just seem to be out and about much more than usual. I expect to be good and tired when we come back.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Some photos from Independence Day

We had a good time celebrating Independence Day, and thoroughly enjoyed my husband's day off work. Above: fireworks, Monday night.
On Tuesday we took a lovely seaside trip.
Boats on the water.
Mossy rocks.
Clusters of seashells.

A truly beautiful day.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Time spent in prayer, a priceless treasure

One of the most precious times, and the highlight of my day is the time I manage to snatch in the morning, while the house is still asleep, to pray and simply be with God. Sometimes it's a long time, sometimes shorter, but even the shortest stretch of time of lifting my heart up in prayer is a treasure and works wonders in the life of my family and beyond.

I start with the standard set of morning prayers, and then proceed to personal prayers and requests. I pray for my family, and myself, and for my husband and daughter separately. Sometimes about things in general and sometimes about something more specific which I know is needed at the moment, be it physical or spiritual. If there is time, I also pray for other people who, as I know, are needy of that.

There are days when I wake up to so much to do, the house sometimes still being messy from yesterday, that I'm tempted to forgo the prayer time and just rush off to do chores. However, I have come to know that a day started off with prayer, sincere thankfulness, and pouring out my heart to God, will bring forward much peace and sweetness with it, even if other things are seemingly – and only seemingly - delayed. In this case the longer road is actually shorter.

Other people could do my household chores, but no one could love and pray for my family the way I am meant to. I know it is one of the most important gifts I can give my loved ones and myself, and what's even better - it is freely there for giving and taking. Nothing can replace the deep sense of contentment that washes over me after I have spent that special time dedicated to being alone with God. I pour out all that is in my heart, even if it's too complicated to put into words, and I know He understands, and I come away encouraged and uplifted. Things I cannot tell anyone, I tell Him, and He is always most loving, thoughtful and considerate, and my burdens are lifted off my shoulders, and what He plants in my heart is good and right.

I have found that virtually the only opportunity for me to have such a peace-filled stretch of time is to get up before anyone else does, and be alone while the house is asleep. Admittedly, it means that I get less sleep than I might have had otherwise, and getting up isn't always an easy task. I do not want to set an alarm clock because I try not to wake my husband, and so the only way left is to simply pray, before I go to bed, to wake early the next day. And usually it works. He is ever close to those who seek Him.

If it's still dark, I might light candles, and enjoy their flickering flames as I contemplate the day/week ahead of me. I like to think and plan on what there is to be done, and if there is time, I make a start on the many things that are to be done at home. But even if there isn't, my heart is at peace: He is walking with me along every step of the way.  

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pumping rooms at work: the magical solution?

A friend of mine shared this article with me, and I just thought I would jot down a few comments regarding it. It concerns employers being obligated to provide pumping rooms for breastfeeding mothers.

First, I believe it truly heartbreaking that mothers to young babies must go back to work – or pressured into thinking they must, which at the bottom line gives the same result. And not just because of breastfeeding, of course, even though it's certainly a crying shame to miss out on the wondrous experience of nursing one's babies.

Second, I don't think employment should be a charity institution. If there's a company that employs young mothers and decides it's still profitable, even with maternity leave, pumping rooms, more sick leave and all the related costs, that's one thing. But if a company doesn't gain, only lose, from hiring mothers to young children, and is still required by law to hire them and provide certain conditions which aren't profitable to the company, it's not fair to the employer and other employees. If I had been an employer, I certainly wouldn't like to have to hire someone who will eventually cost me more money than they bring in. Even if it sounds very callous, and even if they need the money very badly. It isn't good for the economy to turn employment into charity.

I do believe in anti-discrimination laws, as long as they come in a form of protection against pointless discrimination. Once the condition in question starts to influence actual performance and/or company profit, I think that's a legitimate concern, not discrimination. If an essential part of the company work is completed on Saturdays and can't be moved to any other day of the week, this company shouldn't be forced by "anti-discrimination laws" to hire Orthodox Jews. If the job requires certain physical capabilities, people with physical limitations who can't do it without excessive help aren't supposed to be pushed in. And so on and so forth.  

Now, to the actual question of pumping rooms. Of course, if a nursing mother must go back to work, it's wonderful if she can continue breastfeeding her child. But is pumping really a solution for everyone? Is it even for most?

The following statement really grates on my nerves:

"The notion that if you have a baby or are nursing you should stay at home -- it's just a historical notion these days."

The idea of having your cake and eating it too is part of dangerous, misleading, elusive rhetoric promoted by feminism. This is just one example of it. Yes, there probably are women out there who work outside the home full-time and succeeded in never giving formula to their babies, and that's wonderful, when there is no choice for a woman but to go out to work. But the home environment is certainly more conductive to breastfeeding than being apart from the baby for many hours a day.

Not all of us have equal milk supply or equal milk storage capacity. Some of us have extra and can pump plenty, some of us can't. Personally, I can tell I never managed to obtain any significant amount of milk using a pump. On the rare occasions I needed pumped milk, I had to store up in advance by having my baby nurse on one side and pumping on the other side when I felt letdown. The delicate combination of hormones released by the nursing mother while holding her baby to her breast, hormones that promote milk production and release, does not work the same way with a breast pump.

There was also a time when I had to nurse every hour to perk up my supply. It would not, of course, have been possible if I spent any significant amount of time outside the home. So I don't feel at all happy about statements that say, "Women who work outside the home can always continue to provide all the breast milk their babies need if they just pump." It's not as simple as that.   

Of course, nursing is just the tip of the iceberg. The entire trend to create a "family friendly working environment" is an illusion. No occupation that takes a mother away from her young children for many hours a day is truly family friendly.  

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sulphuring grapes


Last year, apart from the annoying pest of wasps who like to suck out our juicy grapes (and make our life difficult because I'm literally anxious to step out of the house once they arrive in swarms), we lost half our grapes to mildew. This year, we decided to act in advance and sulphur our grapes. Grapes are still considered organic once sulphur is applied.

It was our first time to do so, so before I went ahead with it, I checked out some gardening forums. It's recommended to buy a sulphur dusting device, but right now something like this is just out of budget for us. We didn't even buy the sulphur dust – it was in our storage shed among gardening supplies and other goodies we inherited from the previous house owners, such as a refrigerator, a washing machine, two sofas, oodles of baby and children's clothes and some kitchenware. And yes, I do realize how lucky we are, by the way – we have bought a new washing machine by now, but it was such a relief not to have to buy it right when we were married. We are still using everything else. Sturdy, homelike-looking sofas in great condition, and a nice spacious refrigerator in perfect working order – what a great gift to a new couple.

Anyway, the grapes. In one of the less professional forums, someone suggested putting some of the sulphur dust into a thin cloth, tying it, and shaking above the grape vine to cover it in a coat of dust. I tried it, and guess what, it worked just nicely. I did it for the front yard vine, which is low. The back yard vine is propped on taller trellis so I will probably have to use a stepladder once the berries start to appear there (our back yard vine is of a later-ripening variety than the front one).

By the way, the picture above is from last year. Sulphuring must be done while berries are still tiny, which is 
about now around here.    

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ice-cream


Photo courtesy of allposters.com

For a long time, I have looked for a simple recipe for homemade ice-cream, which could be whipped up quickly and without an ice-cream maker. To no avail: every sort of ice cream I tried came out hard as stone after a few hours in the freezer. Until finally, yesterday I stumbled upon a winner. My husband and I both loved it – my husband even went as far as to say this was the most delicious ice-cream he ever tasted.

The original recipe can be found here, on this great website which most of you can't enjoy because you don't read Hebrew. You can also find a picture if you follow the link – I didn't put in a picture of my ice-cream because, to be frank, my choice of a freezing tray wasn't very successful – it was too wide, and my finished product looked more like a flat cake than anything else. Tasted wonderfully, but wasn't very impressive to look at!   

So, here goes. The following only makes about four servings (for the ice-cream lovers, who can't help but do justice to this wonderful dessert), so next time I plan to double the quantities:

1 cup of whipping cream (or a standard-size container of 250 ml)
2 tbsp instant pudding powder
1\2 cup milk
4 tbsp walnut, chocolate or halva spread – I used chocolate. I think it's possible to experiment and use mashed berries or any type of unsalted nut butter, or any other flavor you choose.
2 tbsp liqueur or brandy (I used banana liqueur). The alcohol plays an important part, as it prevents the ice-cream from freezing solid.

Whip the cream and instant pudding until firm. Stir in milk, chocolate spread (or whatever you choose to use), and liqueur/brandy. Then beat it all up some more with an electric beater until you get smooth cream. Pour it into a container and pop into the freezer for several hours or overnight.

Don't forget to scrub out the remaining cream from the bowl and eat it together with your little one(s). :o)   

Monday, April 12, 2010

Expectations

God is not looking for perfection, and though I always knew this, in my mind, I think that it only began to sink into my heart not so long ago. It cost me a great many tears until I reached this realization, but the reward was infinitely wonderful, because it gives a sense of security and confidence each one of us, as His precious child, deserves.

He is not, and cannot be, looking for perfection, because he did not make me perfect. He left room for improvement, and he delights in, and appreciates the efforts I undertake to improve.

Yes, there is the standard (vast and challenging) set of commandments each practicing Jew sees him or herself committed to. But other than that, He watches and appreciates me according to my own abilities and limitations – not those of other people.

For example, even though I am dedicated to – and know my place is in – my home, with my family, caring for my child, even though I have never been happy and content anywhere the way I am in my home throughout each day, the practical truth is that I'm challenged when it comes to everyday domestic tasks. And I mean, really challenged, which is why, when I say "if I can do it, anyone can", I mean it most sincerely. I think the reason for this is a combination of natural clumsiness and forgetfulness (I'm prone to knocking things over, and I'd be lost without my notes and lists), and not being required to lend a hand around the house when I was a child, which could have formed helpful lifelong habits (but which undoubtedly would have been frustrating for whoever tried to engage me in helping).

So, if someone stops by one day and examines my house with a critical eye, perhaps some lingering undusted spots may be noticed, and some lack of order. But God doesn't see this. He knows what my house had been like before, and knows the effort I put in to achieve a certain measure of tidiness. He knows the long hours I spend working in my home every day, long after the baby goes to sleep, scrubbing floors, ironing and working in my kitchen. He knows I do it all with a joyful heart, thinking about how to make life more comfortable and orderly for my family. And he appreciates it, even though I might be forever and always lagging behind someone else's standards.

He doesn't want or expect us to be perfect. He wants our dedication, our faithfulness to the important tasks handed to us, our willingness to improve, our best efforts, our cheerfulness, our joy in being with Him, our appreciation of the blessings that adorn our lives. And he wants, appreciates and loves us, just the way we are, with our weaknesses, our misconceptions and our failings.

He sees us through eyes of compassion and love, which is how we are to be with our own children: to value and cherish them for what they are, never compare them with others, but celebrate their achievements as they make progress at their own pace. Who knows how many children's souls have been terribly wounded, not by lack of care or provision, but by constant remarks about some other child, who speaks three languages and plays the violin. Thankfully, God is beyond human failings. Yes, He will never fail us.  

We should know that each and every little thing is rewarded, even when it is seemingly noticed and appreciated by no one. He sees, He knows, and that is why pleasing people or measuring up to other people's standards is not supposed to be our primary goal. He looks at our heart, and may we ever and always be strengthened and comforted by this knowledge.   

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Making bread

Making bread is one of my favorite homey things in the world. Just the scent of fresh bread wafting from the oven is heavenly. The following is a simple recipe I tried last Friday. The ingredients listed below are for a small batch of about 6-8 buns, but the amount can be easily doubled, tripled and so on, as needed.

1\2 kg flour
1 tbsp dry yeast
3\4 tbsp. sugar
1\4 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. oil
About 1 1\2 cup water – water should be added last, gradually, to make sure the dough doesn't turn sticky. More water can be added if needed, but most likely you'll need a bit less.
I also threw in a teaspoonful of caraway seeds.

Once the dough is mixed, pull up your sleeves and start kneading. This, without a doubt, is my favorite part of the whole bread-making process. As an added bonus, it's interesting to observe for Shira (15 months old), so much that soon, I have no doubt, she will want to join in and start kneading herself.

After a few minutes of hard work, you should have a firm, smooth, non-sticky ball of dough, which you next leave to rise until it doubles in size. In cool weather, it may take several hours, which is why I like to mix my dough early in the morning.

Once the dough has doubled its size, knead again and leave again to rise, until the size is doubled once more. Then form your buns (or single loaf, if you choose) place them in the baking tray, and leave for about another half hour. Finally, pop the tray into the oven. For my buns, it took only about 20 minutes at medium heat until they were ready. For a loaf I suppose it would take longer. The key is to observe: once your buns and slightly browned on the top, and a toothpick comes out of them dry, they are ready.

For a long time, I believed that working with yeast is supposed to be complicated. But once I dared to try, I was rewarded by many delicious varieties of homemade bread – which isn't just a money-saver, but is also infinitely superior to all affordable sorts of commercial bread. You don't need any special skills or equipment to go ahead and start enjoying fresh bread hot from the oven – just some flour, water, yeast, and a bit of experimenting.

Oh, and another point: I used to believe making bread is time consuming. It is not, really – it's true that it takes a while for the bread to rise, but the actual process of your work on making and kneading the dough shouldn't take more than 20 minutes, with this simple recipe.



(I know the photo came out a bit blurry. Sorry about that! I was in rather a hurry because it was already late afternoon on Friday, but I really wanted to take a picture to share with you on the blog. A recipe always seems more "real" and tempting to try when you see a picture. I suppose this one is better than nothing.)  

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spending time with our children, in joy and love

The other day, someone told me that obviously, I will need to send Shira to daycare once the new little one is born, because it's "impossible" to have two littles at home full-time (what should one do with twins or triplets, I wonder?). Imagine that! Instead of raising my children side by side, and taking advantage of them both being home so they can truly become the closest and dearest friends, I'm supposed to send one of them away for most of the day.

I didn't feel it was fitting to argue at the moment. I simply said that financially, it doesn't make any sense to shell out money for daycare when I'm staying home with the new baby anyway. It was only then that I got an understanding nod and a resigned sigh: "yes, yes, of course you have no money to spare. But it will be so, so hard on you!"

And just so you understand, the person who voiced such an opinion was an experienced mother of five. After fifteen years of parenting, she believes that being home with one's children is a struggle, and that being home with two of your children is impossible.

Holding such a view is not uncommon. Around here, mothers go out to work when their babies are very young, any misconduct or misbehavior in children later on is explained away by "oh, that's today's youth, there is nothing you can do" (simply spending more time with the children doesn't occur to anyone), and during vacations and holidays, when all the children are home together, havoc reigns and mothers all over the country sigh and say they wish summer was over. This is true even for many religious Jewish families, which is especially sad. No wonder families are becoming detached. Just a generation ago, it was common for a child to be home until they were three years old. Now, most babies are away from home when they are just three months old.

People may have five, six or more children, and never know the joy and comfort of a habit of spending entire days together as a family. Not long ago, someone I know quit her job to raise her one-year-old boy. She confessed to me that she discovered she essentially had no idea what to do with a curious, active baby at home all day long. She was challenged, and surprised – and she is enjoying the experience.

I assume that in every more or less normal family, children are loved. But do we enjoy spending time around our children? Or do we view them as a particularly time-consuming and tedious household chore? I do not want to sound self-righteous. I'm a new mother, learning along the way. I am, as much as anyone else and perhaps more, guilty of impatience, of moments when anything and everything seems more important than a baby who is seeking attention.  Of moments when I feel I simply must run off and tend to the laundry, cooking, ironing, or whatever. Of driving myself crazy by thinking about how efficient I could have been, of counting hours that are slipping away and imagining everything I could have accomplished.

But thinking in terms of efficiency and cost and effect is pointless and frustrating when you have children. I have come to realize that being home with my children will never work out if we don't enjoy spending time together, if I don't learn to abundantly pour out time and love into them. Or at least, it will never be joyful. All my life, I have been working with timetables and check lists and goals. Now, it's a special challenge to learn to slow down, sit on the grass with my one-year-old, and count the butterflies. Life has a slower pace, and a sweeter one.

It feels as though from a journey by speed train, I unexpectedly had to switch to a trundle in an old-fashioned horse-and-carriage. It feels unusually slow, and there are bumps along the road – but I can also notice the flowers growing by the road side, smell the grass, hear the birds chirping. It might not be a very efficient way to travel, but I know I will reach my destination anyway. So I can sit back and enjoy the journey. And I love it. Oh yes, I do. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

It's so nice to simply be home

Pesach is over, and things are slowly starting to fall back into routine. During the holiday, I took an almost complete computer break, and even though I have missed being in touch with the wide world, it made for a very refreshing change to have the days flowing in such a sweet and quiet rhythm. Also, as our custom requires, I skipped all chores which weren't absolutely necessary, which means there's a lot of catching up to do now. A week without doing laundry is as much as we can handle. :o)

Some friends wrote and expressed their wish to see a photo of the Seder table we attended, and/or photos of our Shabbat/holiday table. So I thought I'd explain that, as Orthodox Jews, we do not operate electric appliances on Shabbat and holidays, and time and space do not permit me to set the table in advance, so for now, taking such photos is beyond my reach. There are many sample photos of Jewish Seder tables on the web, if you care to look.

We stayed mostly close to home during Pesach, because some of us didn't feel very well, but we had a great time nevertheless - we are blessed to live in an area where lovely corners are abundant if you just poke your nose out of the door.

Some photos from a lovely spring walk.

And some interesting looking rocks found outside.  
It's so nice to simply be home today, to do little odds and ends around here, to poke in and out and be in peace. To do all necessary work in a steady and slow rhythm, with my little one right beside me (and another little one in my belly), to enjoy spring, to see fresh leaves and flowers adorning our little garden, to observe the tiny grapes springing out of the grape vine. The beauty of it all is truly indescribable.

I have plenty of ideas which I hope to share with you all, as time allows, and countless emails I so wish to reply to. Thank you for your patience and understanding if it takes me a while to write back. It might take time, but I do plan to get back to all who wrote to me.