Monday, May 31, 2010

Nourishing Traditions: about going organic

As I went on reading "Nourishing Traditions", I became more convinced than before of the importance of consuming organically grown grains and vegetables and free-range, pasture fed animal foods. However, I must admit that many times, I put aside the book in frustration, thinking, "How on earth is the average person supposed to afford/obtain this?" Don't get me wrong. There are more than enough people who consume junk they could cut back on and buy healthful, wholesome organic foods instead. There is also no denying that the organically grown fruit (and occasionally vegetables/herbs) from our garden are far superior in taste to store-bought foods.

But there are also many, many people in Israel who have no technical possibility to have a garden, who live on a tiny budget, who have many children and strive to put food on the table every month and every day – just to keep their bellies full. For these people, the diet is largely based on beans and grains, and yes, lots of white flour and refined oils – the cheapest they can get. They can barely afford animal products, let alone organic ones.

For us, switching to organic meat would probably mean we (or to be exact, my husband) will never have meat – which is, by the way, one reason why I didn't feel remotely tempted to eat meat after reading the book (unusual, I know). However, I did find it very logical that I experienced an enormous craving for animal foods and especially fish during my first pregnancy, despite the fact that prior to that I haven't touched fish for twelve 
years. 

Until not long ago, there was a local organic goat farm here (recently the man who owned it had to sell the goats and close the business because of health problems). Fresh, organic milk could be obtained there straight from the goats. Did we buy milk from there? Only once. It cost four times more than regular store-bought milk, and that just wasn't affordable for us. And don't get me started about the cheeses. Even store-bought cheese is expensive by our measures.

Yes, you could argue that in the long run, it pays off to obtain the best foods you can have, and you're probably right. But when people aren't making ends meet right now, and are struggling to put food on their table right now, their priority is to feed their families with what they can (of course assuming that you won't find soft drinks, snacks, boxed sugar-coated cereals and such like in their shopping cart, but just basic products which sadly, aren't exactly high-quality today in regular supermarkets).

It doesn't mean, however, that if you don't have access to organic vegetables, fresh goat milk and pasture-raised beef and chickens, there is nothing you can do. We can all make our diets more varied, as our means allow, cook more from scratch, cut out as much refined sugar as possible, and learn traditional techniques of food preparation which enhance the nutritional value of food (such as fermentation, soaking and sprouting).

If currently your diet contains a lot of soda pop and Doritos, it can hardly be expected that you make an instant transition to homemade sour-leavened bread and fermented drinks such as kefir or kvass. But if you simply omit the junky pre-packaged stuff from your diet and switch to drinking plain water and vegetable juices, you have already made a huge step forward, even if you continue shopping in a regular supermarket chain. 

An important point to consider while we look at primitive or traditional diets in order to think which customs could be incorporated in our lifestyle, is that the differences are in a lot more than just a menu. In the past, people were not exposed to the caloric abundance we have today. Quite simply, not only the foods were different but people often had less to eat than we have today. They also exercised more and weren't exposed to pollution, the toxins surrounding the modern agricultural methods, and excessive use of modern medicine. That is why we shouldn't think that simply switching to a more traditional diet will solve all our problems.

One thing I believe doesn't belong in Nourishing Traditions is the occasional tidbits thrown here and there about "optimal" child spacing and how in various primitive groups it was unacceptable to have children spaced less than three years apart. I do realize that pregnancy and nursing have everything to do with nutrition, and that without proper nourishment, the toll on the woman's body is great. I just don't think it's to the point to plant a few isolated paragraphs here and there about primitive practices of child spacing (such as men not cohabiting with their wives for years), and leave us to wonder what we're supposed to make of that (not to mention, omitting the fact that in said primitive groups, monogamy was often unheard of, which meant abstinence for women but certainly not for men).

 This was the second part of my review of Nourishing Traditions. To read the first part, click here. The third and final part of the review coming soon!  

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pictures from a fine day

Olive trees, as far as the eye can see. 
Some local children, among them a brother and sister holding hands. I love this picture, don't you?
I hope you had a wonderful weekend, my friends. Ours was sure lovely, and very busy - spent away from home, so today was mostly a catch-up day. Tomorrow, I hope to post the second part of the review for "Nourishing Traditions", which is already written out. Talk to you later!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Nourishing Traditions book review: part 1

As I finally sat down to write the book review for Nourishing Traditions, I got carried off as I had so much to say – and therefore, I'm going to break it into three posts. First off, I must say that it was a very interesting read, and if you are an independent thinker and care about the health of your family, you should try and get your hands on this book.

Essentially, I suppose "Nourishing Traditions" could be labeled as a cookbook, though the recipes are by far not the most important part for me, as many of them aren't kosher and most of them are based on ingredients which I would have significant difficulty to obtain. However, there was much, much more.  

What did I find especially interesting? Things I learned during my studies for clinical nutrition in a very dogmatic, clear-cut way, based on research we analyzed and interpreted from a certain angle – such as the approach to animal fat and cholesterol consumption - were looked at from an entirely different perspective, and I just found myself scratching my head and thinking, "hey, why didn't anyone ever bring up these very valid points in our lecture halls?"

Then there was the discussion of things I could never agree with, even as a goodie-goodie nutrition student, such as the pushing of "health food" in the form of low-fat energy snacks, low-fat sauces and spreads, fake unabsorbed fats, oils and carbohydrates, and the excessive processing and use of food additives and colorings, while claiming that "no studies had been able to give definite proof that such substances are harmful" (that's what we were told every time someone dared to ask a question, and that was what we were supposed to tell our patients). My rule of the thumb always was, if you want healthy food, do as much work as possible yourself and make it from scratch. Reading Nourishing Traditions only confirms my thoughts on that.

Now, I have a question for you. If you needed a medicine, would you like to get a medicine that "wasn't proved to be harmful", or would you like something that was safe beyond a doubt (as much as possible, anyway)? During my first pregnancy, a doctor gave me an antibiotic which he assured me was OK, and which later turned out to be something new and under-researched for pregnant women. I was furious. I'm sure anyone would be. Why, then, are we so quick to embrace food additives, flavorings and natural sweeteners that weren't thoroughly researched? In many cases, a substance that theoretically was supposed to be harmless proves far from it.

I must say that whenever we composed diets for heart and atherosclerosis patients, I was ashamed of how insipid, how dull and colorless those diets were – it was almost as though we were trying to sell some sort of scam - and I always thought to myself, "no normal person can thrive on this for a long period of time." I kept asking myself, is this really the picture of health? A flavorless diet devoid of all the good things like butter, cream, cheese, eggs and many meat products? It doesn't take a genius to figure out that these people would compensate for the lack of taste by over-consumption of sugar, which was turned a blind eye on until diabetes went on a rampage.

Did we know that most of the cholesterol in the body is actually endogenous, meaning that it is produced by the body, and not originating in the diet? Yes, of course. It's a known medical fact. Why, then, were we so violently pressing low-cholesterol diets on people? Somehow, no one questioned the assumptions we were taught. And somehow, no one doubted that zero-fat yoghurt with artificial sweetener and flavorings should be labeled as "health food."

Nourishing Traditions speaks a lot of the decline in human health starting from industrialization and white flour and sugar becoming prevalent in the diet. If I might add, an even more rapid decline could be seen in the past few decades, with the introduction of fast food, pre-packaged commercial frozen foods, an overabundance of sweet and salty snacks, soft drinks, and the nearly complete elimination of the wholesome homemade meal eaten together at a family table. It is no coincidence that ever since women abandoned the "drudgery" of kitchen and set out to the work force, our nutritional habits have become so decadent, our meals so haphazard and so unhealthy. The foods children (and adults) consume throughout the day are unappetizing or outright junk. Things are a bit better in religious Jewish homes where people make a point to eat good meals together at least on Shabbat. In secular homes, many families can't remember the last time they sat down to have dinner together at all.


Next part of the review coming, hopefully, next week. Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Yellowing leaves on grape vine

Recently I have noticed some yellowing in the leaves of one of our grape vines (the white one), as seen in the picture above.


We don't give our grape vines too much water, but on the Sabbatical year when there was no watering at all they produced beautiful grapes and I observed no yellowing of leaves or other symptoms of disease. So I don't think it's lack of water. Overall the local plants (olives, grapes, pomegranates) are very sturdy, suited to the dry climate and don't require a lot of water. 

I checked out this table of various deficiencies and their symptoms and it looks as though it might be potassium deficiency but I'm not sure. I mean, why just one vine and not the other? Does this have to do with the variety of the grape? Perhaps adding some compost might help? If someone out there is more experienced in growing grapes and has a bit of advice for us, we'll be grateful! 

I do hope it can be fixed - love our grape vines. I love living in a house surrounded by the lush greenery of their leaves. Some time ago, someone suggested I should cut the grapes down if I'm afraid of the wasps they attract, but I don't think I could do that. First, for Jews, cutting down a fruit tree is not a matter to be taken lightly - we would have to consult a rabbi. Second, I don't think I could give them up. They provide such lovely shade, not to mention the most delicious grapes I've ever tasted. So, again, advice is much appreciated. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Baby shopping: don't hurry to load the cart

Not long ago, Mrs. Parunak wrote a post I tremendously enjoyed, about shopping for a new baby.

What can I say? We all differ somewhat on the list of what we consider necessities vs. niceties, but the main point is very clear: you don't need a lot of expensive gadgets to raise a baby. You might even end up refusing some of the stuff kind people are willing to pass on to you (like a changing table – we never wanted one). The list of baby equipment we bought for Shira was very short indeed, and included just a car seat, a baby bath tub, a folding playpen in which she sleeps when we're away from home, and a (second-hand) baby bed.

There were of course also the gifts (some new and some used), such as a pram, a stroller, a high chair, a bouncy seat, a nursing pillow, two baby carriers, toys and books – which we were very grateful for, but which you don't have to buy if you're on a budget. There was also stuff we never used, like the pacifiers from the hospital.

Speaking of toys, we don't have a lot of those. It isn't exactly a secret babies and toddlers quickly get bored with their toys. If we bought a new toy every time she was bored with her old ones, we would have no room to store them (even omitting the budget question!). You just have to be creative. Children will find things to play with, and will not be mentally deprived. Right now our daughter is fascinated by teaspoons. I'm sure next week it will be another thing. Yes, she does like to play with toys and look at picture books. But she equally loves to rummage in Daddy's working tools and look at old magazines.

Much of the baby equipment is only used for a very short time in families and isn't worn out, and then people look for someone to whom to pass it along, which is wonderful. I think this should be common practice everywhere, to help spare environment and budget and take a chunk out of the Great Baby Manufacturers' profits. If you have an excess piece of equipment, look for someone to pass it along to, and if you need something, first look around – perhaps someone can't wait to give it away. Here in Israel we have a great swap website, though usually the passing along happens through networking of friends, family and neighbors.

Baby clothes are hardly worn out, too. Babies only wear a certain size for a very short time, and until Shira started eating solids and crawling (which happened roughly around the same time) her clothes were kept in an almost perfect condition. We hardly had any spit-ups and there was only the occasional diaper blowout, so there was no need to wash her clothes every time they were worn (around here, an item of clothing goes to the laundry when it needs to be washed, not just because it was worn once – helps us preserve our clothes and keep laundry to 2-3 loads per week, which saves electricity and water). Starting from the point of crawling and eating solids, of course, things changed and now what she wears must go to the wash at the end of the day. Crawling outfits got extremely knobbly at the knees by the time she grew out of them, too. So while people love to buy and give as gifts lots of tiny clothes for newborn babies, I think there's actually more need for clothes for older babies and toddlers, as those get more wear and tear. It's important to keep this in mind while shopping or choosing gifts. 

The only clothes we bought for our daughter so far, in nearly a year and a half, were three onesies and a couple of pairs of socks. We were flooded with gifts of baby and children's clothes, new and used. Truly, we were blessed to have more clothes than she could wear. By the way, I've noticed that very often, I found myself laying aside the new, extremely cute but not very practical outfits we got as gifts, in the favor of used, comfortable, sturdy and practical ones. Example: I never saw the point of dressing a baby who doesn't walk yet in dresses and skirts (except, of course, for them being so cute!). It usually interferes with crawling and simply isn't very practical – didn't work for me. Now that she's walking I'm starting to incorporate dresses and skirts in her wardrobe, with the goal of making it skirt-only by the time she's three years old (we will, of course, keep pants and bloomers to wear underneath). Another example: turtlenecks for babies. Didn't work for us – give me a wide neck or even better, buttons please!

I also didn't even think about, and found myself getting along just fine without, stuff that other Moms labeled as absolute necessity, such as special nursing clothes and nursing covers. I suppose different things work for different people, and the point is, even if someone said it's a must-have, it might be a must-have for them and nothing but a money and space-guzzler for you.  

This time around, I don't think we need to buy/get anything at all. Seriously. We're fully equipped! I expect we'll still get quite a few clothes and toys as gifts, which will be nice but not strictly necessary. However, who wants to deprive grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends of the joy of baby shopping?          

Monday, May 24, 2010

Nourishing Traditions, a very interesting read

I have wanted to read this book for a long time, after many positive reviews on websites and other people's blogs. Recently, a blog friend wrote to me and told me she has an extra copy she would be glad to give away. How generous - I was thrilled to hear that. Thanks, Hilde!

So, I started reading and was hooked. I'm not going to post a full book review right now because I'm only about 1\3 through, but I already see that it's a keeper. The perspective is especially fascinating for someone like me, who has a degree and training in what the book's authors label as "politically correct nutrition", so I have studied things from a different angle.

The book is many hundreds of pages thick, but I'm getting forward at light speed because it's so interesting. I look forward to posting a review when I'm done.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Under the weather

In the last few days, we were hit by a virus that is making its way between us. At first it was my husband, then me, now Shira. Our little bird hasn't been feeling well yesterday and today. Right now all she wants to do when she is awake is to curl up on the couch with her Mama, listen to stories, play some quiet games and be held while she makes her way to recovery. I'm so thankful to be able to be there for her and give her the full leisure of my time (even if it means the Shabbat table will be more modest than usual this time.)

For those who asked, yes, we had a lovely time celebrating Shavuot and my husband's birthday, and yes, the cake came out delicious - and yes, we still have a good bit of it left in the freezer. :o) Now, doesn't that make you feel like dropping by?

My little one is asleep right now so I'd better hurry and get a couple of things done. I got up later than usual today so I don't feel the need to nap (and hey, we've been resting on the couch all morning). Wishing you a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Yes, I did it

I spent most of yesterday's afternoon working on this four-layer concoction. Simply chocolate cake with whipped cream and chocolate glaze, sprinkled with crushed peanuts. Who doesn't love that?

Don't have time for more than a few quick words today. I have many pending emails and questions in the comments, and I thank everyone for their patience. I have been journaling for most of my conscious life and have found it to be a time-organizing more than time-consuming activity, however, for me to continue this via blogging I simply must cut back on reading people's blogs, answering to comments and participating in debates. Thank you for understanding!

See you after Shavuot. Happy holiday!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Busy week ahead

In the photo above: stuffed peppers from last Shabbat, looking like colorful little pots filled with goodies.

The week ahead of us is going to be busy, not in the least because Wednesday is Shavuot, which also happens to be my husband's 30-th birthday. We're all looking forward to it.

I plan to make a birthday cake and share pictures afterwards, when there is time.

Hope all my Jewish readers have a wonderful time celebrating Shavuot!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Babies and housework

A soon-to-be new mother emailed me a few days ago and asked how I combine housework with having a baby in the house - both now and when my daughter was just a newborn. I'm sharing here the larger part of my reply to this lady. 




I'm a new mother myself and can only tell you, so far, how I combine housework with having just one toddler around. Other, more experienced mothers do it with two, three, five and more children! I'm pregnant for the second time now and I'm wondering how it's going to work out with two children - I can't tell you for sure yet, but I'm certain the way will be found, perhaps with stretching my creative thinking and wise management of time (which is all to the good, right?)

Anyway, first and foremost, the standards of housekeeping probably will be lowered, at least for a while, with a new baby - and that's OK. And the house will never be as tidy with a toddler around as it was when just two adults were living in it. I have long accustomed myself to the thought that I can spend all day running after my daughter and adjust various displaced items, or I can do that only several times a day. I choose the latter, because it enables me to have a relatively presentable home without constantly fussing about toys on the living room floor. 

Second, babies do sleep. In fact, most of them need more hours of sleep in a day than an adult does, which is a blessing not only to a tired mother but also to a discombobulated house. I do believe that in the period just following birth, rest should be a top priority and when the baby is sleeping and Mom wants to lie down and rest as well, she should by all means do that and not worry about lagging behind on housework. She will need her strength later on! 

But later, as you settle into some sort of a daily rhythm, you will learn to take advantage of the baby's nap times to catch up on housework. Yes, it will probably feel for a while that you're always in catch up mode, and that's alright. There was a time when I was only able to do anything around the house at all while the baby was sleeping. Of course it means focusing on the essentials - there were days when I was exceedingly happy if only the dishes were done, the laundry washed, and I had a simple meal to put on the table at the end of the day. Now I'm able to do more most days, but not always, and again, that's alright. Neither the housework nor I are going anywhere. :o)

Yes, when a little one gets older and becomes mobile, this calls for even more supervision than when they were babies. When Shira was just a couple of months old, I could sometimes leave her alone for a little while on a blanket with some toys. Now I always need to keep my eyes open to make sure she won't pull book off shelves, open the kitchen cupboards, or upturn the aquarium. It means I almost always keep her within my view.

But here's the good news - the curiosity of older babies makes it easy and fun to get them involved, bit by bit, in the rhythm of a house and household chores. They can play by your side while you work and watch you work. To you, cleaning may be a chore - to them, it's wonderfully fun! While I hang the laundry, I let my daughter play with the clothespins - a special laundry time treat. Today, while I was pulling weeds in the garden, she was content to hang around and watch. When I'm kneading dough, I let her watch, poke the dough with her little fingers, and knead as well if she wants to. During Pesach cleaning, I gave her a little rug and she actually went ahead and helped me wipe the outside the the refrigerator. 

Yes, having a little one around does tend to slow housework a bit. It's quicker to finish with the laundry when you don't need to pick up dozens of scattered clothespins at the end - but it also provides an opportunity to teach your child how to pick up and put things in their proper place. It's more efficient and convenient to make bread without a curious toddler who wants to watch whatever you do. But those daily routine things are wonderful for teaching children the practical, hands-on skills of life. It's never too early to start. If you look at housework as an opportunity for a child to learn and be involved, not just a list of chores to whiz through as quickly as possible, it will all become much easier. 

To sum it up, it's not like you're either doing housework while your baby is clinging to your skirt asking for attention, or you're sitting on the floor playing with your baby. You can work while talking and singing to, teaching, and actively engaging your child, and the examples I provided earlier are just a few. I'm sure that in time, you'll find ways that work for you and your family.

Of course, there are still things you'll probably prefer to do alone - without baby around. I usually wait until my daughter's nap time to wash the floors, because she's not yet at an age when I can ask her to stay away from wherever I'm cleaning and I don't want her to get soaked wet and dirty. I also don't like to be interrupted while ironing, so I do that in the evenings after she goes to bed for the night. But things like laundry, dishes, cooking, working in the garden are normally accomplished with no problem during my daughter's active hours and sometimes even with her participation. 

Most importantly, enjoy those precious fleeting days with your baby! I'm sure many people have told and will tell you that, but I simply must say it once more. They grow up so fast. The cute and wondrous things my daughter does now are not the cute and wondrous things she did a couple of months, even a couple of weeks ago. It's so important to take it all in while it lasts. 




Above: two beautiful images of women hanging their laundry with babies beside them, from allposters.com

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Don't have to measure up

I sometimes hear stay-at-home mothers proudly saying that they "work just as hard as women who also have a job outside the home" or that "their days are as packed as anyone's" and they have no time or space to breathe.

I believe, however, that the point of our staying home isn't to measure up against those who try to successfully juggle family life and career. After all, a large part of the joy of home is opting out of the rat race, right? And what have we done if we can say that our days are as hectic as if we also held a job outside the home?

There's an enormous pressure on stay-at-home mothers to prove that they aren't "wasting their time", to justify their being at home for their families – something that doesn't need to be justified, in my opinion, but still often leads to mothers accepting extra responsibilities and activities (even if they have enough on their plate already) such as social functions, volunteering, watching other people's children, starting home businesses, and trying to fill up every moment of the day.

There seem to be two opposing forces tugging at women's lives. One is what I call "the syndrome of entitlement" – it's the notion that we easily can and deserve to have it all, sidestepping every possible obstacle of common sense and responsibility. You want a career but have little children? Put them in someone else's care. Want to have a fancy house but lack the funds? Convince your husband to succumb to an impossible mortgage you will be paying off for the rest of your lives. Want to have more time for yourself? Demand that it must be given to you, at the expense of other people. We supposedly "deserve" a continuous supply of new clothes, manicures, expensive hairdos and weekly outings to restaurants. The entire "I deserve" myth is propped up by the culture of consumption, which is in its turn an essence of greed.

On the other hand, there's the "must be, must do" idea, of us having to be everything to everyone: "fulfilled" in every area of our lives, successful mothers, homemakers and career women, who scoff at the idea of compromise.

In reality, these two forces are two sides of the same coin: the refusal to understand that everything in life comes with a price, that by choosing a certain path we are thereby stepping off other paths. The rebellion against God's ways, against the heart of a wife and mother which draws us to home, to being there for the ones we love – perhaps not having every material good of this world, but in joy and peace.

Ladies, we don't have to be overwhelmingly busy in order to be hardworking wives and mothers. On the contrary, I believe it would be counter-productive. Again, if we opted to stay home in order (among other things) not to be frazzled and to have peace of mind, which is so much more conductive to happy and smoothly flowing family life, and yet we frantically attempt to erase every trace of relaxation from our days, what have we accomplished?

A couple of generations ago, the modern pace of life which has now become the norm would have been seen for what it really is – crazy. Restless. Unhealthy for families, for little children. We should be proud, not ashamed, of keeping an island of peacefulness in the midst of the world's rush, rush, rushing to nowhere. It's important to set a gentle, quiet rhythm to our days, to take a look at what already is on our plate – and if you have at least one little child at home, I'm estimating that in most cases it's more than enough – before we accept additional responsibilities, try to achieve perfection, or in any way turn our days into a hazy blur of ticking things off a to-do list.

The fact is, a day at home with your little one(s) will most likely be full and busy whether or not you try to make it so. We don't have to try and cram more into our day in order to be continuously occupied. It usually happens on its own!
Photo credit: allposters.com

Monday, May 10, 2010

From last Friday


Last Friday, we went once more for a short drive to the library and then to feed the goats. The photo above can be best described as "look over there!" - and, I'm sorry to say, I didn't think to ask my husband to snap even one shot where you could clearly see that yes, I'm in fact pregnant. :o)
She enjoyed waving that branch in front of the goats for a while, until quite unexpectedly, one of them poked a long tongue through the bars and grabbed it - and her source of amusement was gone, just like that, in a split second.

Today we have such hot, dry wind that we're staying holed up inside, waiting for better weather to poke our noses out the door. I heard that the cloud of volcanic ash from Iceland is going to reach Israel today - perhaps this has something to do with the weather.

So we're just having a nice, quiet day indoors. I love those days too. Errands and working in the garden will wait, right?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Butter cookies


Butter cookies. Who doesn't love them? Nice and simple, with a cup of tea, coffee or cocoa, or with a tall glass of cold milk, they are just perfect in every way. Right now I'm enjoying some of these beauties with a cup of blackberry tea.

I took the recipe from here, a cooking website run by a lovely mother and grandmother who makes me so happy I can read Hebrew. It seems that lately, all my kitchen novelties come from there.

So, without further ado… a good, simple recipe for butter cookies (makes about 40). If you have your favorite butter cookies recipes, please feel free to share!

2 1\2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
200 gr. Butter
2\3 cup sugar (it says 1 cup in the original recipe, but trust me, this is plenty).
1 egg
I added grated peel of 1 lemon.

Knead until you get nice, workable dough. You may need to add some liquid (milk or water, whatever you prefer). As much as I tried, I couldn't get my dough to a texture which would be comfortable for rolling out in the way I'm used to, so I just formed cookies with my hands and placed them on a cookie sheet. However, later the lady who posted the recipe tipped me off by telling I should have rolled the dough between two sheets of baking paper. I'll remember that for next time!

I decorated each cookie with half a peanut, and baked for 20 minutes at medium heat, just until the cookies were nice and crisp on the outside and still tender on the inside. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

In praise of the midday nap


Lately, I have fallen into a routine of taking a nap around midday, right when my little one is having her nap as well. This comes very naturally for someone who goes to bed late and rises early – by the time Shira is in bed for her nap, I feel more than ready to place my head on the pillow as well, sometimes after doing some odds and ends around the house. And when one is tired, there's nothing so natural and healthy as to simply rest when possible.

So, I suppose this is an answer to those of you who have been concerned about me not getting enough sleep. :o) When nights are short, I make up for it with an afternoon nap, which is very refreshing, especially during pregnancy - which does tend to leave me a bit more tired as usual. Resting in the middle of the day is far from being a waste of time – on the contrary, it prevents me from dragging my feet by evening, and in fact I'm able to accomplish so much more when I'm energized.

The thing is also that housework will always be there. I'm not saying this as an excuse to be lazy; to keep a home running smoothly, a good many things must be accomplished every day. There are always dishes to wash, laundry to hang out, meals to cook, seeds to plant, floors to sweep and various tasks, errands and projects to accomplish. Homemaking itself is an ongoing project, not something we are supposed to storm at and get done with. Around here, I don't think I ever say "my work is all done". It just isn't, and that's alright – and it's fine and good to sit back, rest and even daydream sometime in between. To enjoy the journey.

If you don't have time to actually sleep in the middle of the day, or if your little ones don't take regular naps, or if they nap during different times, even some down time without sleep at midday can be wonderful. A couple of days ago, we were out to do some errands until Shira was past her usual nap time, and by the time we got home she didn't feel remotely sleepy. So I just put her in her bed for some quiet play with her toys, while I recharged by curling up in bed with a book for a little while. 

Photo credit: allposters.com. I have always loved how cats can curl up and nap whenever and wherever! 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Unconditionally loving our children


I believe that, in our job as mothers, few things are as important as loving, generous and unconditional acceptance of the uniqueness of our children.

Very early, I've noticed, there's a competition between mothers (and even grandmothers), which puts a lot of unneeded stress on everyone involved – I personally was constantly reminded of the fact that there are many babies younger than Shira who surpass her in weight. Now a mother I know is worried because her child (16 months old) is far shorter than my daughter. There's such a wide variety of normal weight and height for babies as well as adults – in most cases there is truly no reason to worry.

Then there are the milestones of rolling over, sitting, crawling, walking, talking, and later, reading, writing and riding a bicycle. Those, too, are hugely blown out of proportion. Shira just started walking at 15 months. Up until now, in the past couple of months, people would look at me sympathetically and say, "oh, don't worry that she's still crawling. I'm sure she'll start walking soon enough" – even though I never said a word about her not walking yet, or me being uncomfortable about it.

Why should we be in competition about whose child completed such simple, natural milestones first? Will it matter, in the long run, whether a child learned to walk at 12 or 15 months? Or that a certain child was a late talker? I learned to read at 4, but today I can't say that my reading skills are better than of those people who learned to read at 6 or 7. Again, there's a pretty wide range of normal development, and if the child is anywhere near that range, there's probably no reason to fuss. On the other hand, if there is some sort of problem, all the more reason not to measure a child against some standards he or she cannot possibly keep up with.

Part of our job is to promote our children's education and development, yes, but also to accept the diversity and to let them know they are loved and accepted – unconditionally. Otherwise, who knows what deep scars it might leave in the tender soul of a child? Parents sometimes tend to point out the achievements of another child – good grades in school, playing the piano, ballet dancing – in a way that makes their own child feel like an ugly duckling. This doesn't prompt success, and even if it does in some way, it's destructive. Many years down the road, the child who becomes a grown-up may still feel he or she is never good enough.  

Children aren't trophies, or honor badges, or show puppies to jump through hoops. They are unique individuals, and while it is certainly possible to understand a parent's pride over the child's achievements, and to understand disappointment and bewilderment when a child turns away from everything the parents had tried to teach him, it does not change the fact that unconditional love is an irreplaceable component.

Love, devotion, tenderness, patience, time. Lots and lots of time, days and months and years, which is essentially what our life is made of. How I pray every day for God to give me all those gifts so necessary for raising the children He placed, or might place in my arms. How I hope and pray to always see them the way he sees me – knowing and appreciating the true value of a human being, thinking the best, and loving unconditionally. 


Photo credit: allposters.com

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pizza


Someone asked me about the recipe we use for our homemade pizza, so I thought today would be a good opportunity to share. I always make our pizza at home. I have found out that it's very easy, not to mention cheaper and healthier, than buying outside.

I shared a recipe for no-yeast pizza crust here, but lately we have been very fond of using yeast-based dough – this one, which is perfect for just about everything – including rolls, pita bread, and pizza crust.

I like to roll out my crusts thinly. I usually have plenty of leftover dough, so I roll out as many pizza crusts as I can and tuck them away into the freezer. It's wonderful for a quick meal. A couple of days ago, it so happened that we had to spend half the day going out and about, and when I came home I was tired and there was a lot to catch up on – and I was very happy about those ready pizza crusts sitting in my freezer. All I had to do was whip up some tomato sauce and add toppings and cheese.

Most often I use the tomato sauce recipe I shared here. It contains quite a lot of onions, which we like (we're big onion fans – our little family gets through no less than ten onions a week!). If you don't like onions in your pizza sauce, you can of course use a different recipe.

Our favorite toppings are olives, mushrooms and corn; to each their own, of course – feel entirely free to use your imagination! I use whatever cheese I happen to have on hand. The important thing is that it's real cheese, not like the stuff you usually get on store-bought pizzas.

I pop the pizza into the oven just until the moment the cheese starts to bubble on top, and the crust is nice and golden at the bottom. Usually takes about 20-30 minutes at medium heat.

By the way, you can also freeze your pizza when it's ready. This way it will be available when you really have no time to cook. I plan to do that before I have this baby, among other freezable meals I intend to try.  

It can be a delicious dinner on a spring or summer night, with a nice big salad and lemonade from freshly squeezed lemons. Yum!   

Monday, May 3, 2010

For every thing there is a season


I was inspired by this post, written by Bethany, to write some more on the subject of working from home and developing our talents from home. As someone who has worked from home in the past, for periods of more or less intensity, I have learned that while working from home is certainly more flexible and family friendly than rushing to an outside job for an entire day, it's still work. It can still be time-consuming, and gobble up much of your energy and resources.

If it's a question of a mother absolutely needing a source of income, and she finds it through a home business, that's wonderful. But if starting a home business is only optional, I believe it should be very carefully considered whether it really is necessary, and how much it will detract from home life, before plunging into it.

I talk specifically about home businesses and working from home here, but to be truthful, the same consideration can be applied to anything that might take up much of the wife and mother's time and energy – such as volunteering, driving the children to and from different activities on a daily basis, even visiting with friends. It's all a question of the time spent on that activity, and whether this amount of time, at this particular season of that family's life, can be spared without putting at risk vitally important things such as peace of mind, relationships, and simply taking the time to enjoy life to the fullest.

Bethany touched on the subject of writing – as someone who has been passionate about writing for most of my conscious life, I can certainly relate to that. Writing can become almost all-consuming for me when I'm in a swirl of inspiration. I have a few short works I've completed not that long ago, and some more on the back burner. Some things I need to translate into Hebrew. I would love to publish someday, perhaps, but currently I'm working in turtle mode, snatching short periods of time here and there – barely counts as keeping up. And I've come to terms with that – the life of a mother is simply very busy, full of things that come around but once and deserve to be savored to the fullest. God willing, time will come when I'm more at leisure, and for now, I'll just enjoy my full life in a young and growing family.

Also, since the beginning of this pregnancy, I have been feeling more and more strongly an effect I have already experienced while I was carrying Shira – being ensconced, drawn within, focused on my nest and on those closest to me. A desire to read, see and listen to lovely things – only lovely, peaceful, calming things. Last time I was about to have a baby, we had a war going on in Israel, and I could hardly bring myself to be updated on the news. Sometimes I'm honestly clueless about some things that are going on here.

Same goes for shallow relationships, social gatherings that are mainly gossip, books and websites that don't leave me encouraged and uplifted – everything that is simply a time-gobbler, or even a good and worthwhile thing but simply too much to keep up with for now, I try to cut out. My time and resources aren't infinite – and there are many days when I feel just how limited they are. Our families and homes are our God-given responsibilities. If there is something I want to do but for the time being it isn't realistically possible, so be it. It can wait. Almost any "extra" can wait, but the same cannot be said about precious things such as the babyhood of my children, nurturing important relationships, and the daily work of tending to my home in a way that will influence the minds of my family in a positive way.   

To sum it up, I'm in a season of life when I'm cutting out many non-essentials, so that I can better enjoy the truly important things that are left. I don't see it as sacrifice, but rather, as prioritizing. I'm casting away things that would become an undue burden for me right now. I want to stay with what encourages and inspires me on my path as a wife and mother, with what helps me to fulfill this uniquely important role.   

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Hidden Art of Homemaking

Some of you have surely noticed my wish list of books (which will soon be updated) on the sidebar of my blog. A book that I have long wanted to read, which appears on my wish list, is Edith Schaeffer's The Hidden Art of Homemaking. Well, a very kind and thoughtful reader of my blog, Joanna, just happened to have a copy of the book she didn't need anymore – and she very generously offered to send it to me by mail.

I am now about halfway through The Hidden Art of Homemaking, and enjoying it tremendously. This little book is full of wonderful practical ideas for anyone, to make the best they can in their homes with the time, materials, energy and budget they have on hand. It's the kind of book which makes you want to go and make a lovely centerpiece for your dining table, write an inspiring entry in your homemaking journal, or to go and stick your fingers into soil, and plant, weed, or prune.

I do have to say this, though. The book is written by a Christian and for Christians. For me to glean from it, as a Jew, I had to skip more than a few parts, and only focus on what's practical and useful for me.

In the photo above: a simple centerpiece of two candles on a tray, on our multi-purpose living room table. It was a patchy day today, with quite a lot of rain in the morning – perfect for lighting candles. It takes only such a little effort, and really brightens up a room in such a lovely way.