Sunday, August 31, 2008

Baby bump

babybump 008, originally uploaded by Anna's musings.

Hello, ladies! I hope everyone had a lovely, relaxed weekend. My husband and I spent a wonderful first Shabbat in our new home - in the previous two weeks, we have been invited elsewhere.

This is not a very good picture - it took a while for Grandma to master the basics of digital camera use - but I decided it must finally be taken, to capture my little "halfway" baby bump. :-)

As you can see I'm not very big yet - not to the extent that people in the bus would hurry to give up their seat for me - but you can definitely tell I'm pregnant! I've been getting rounder and rounder in the past few weeks, and have outgrown many of my clothes. I borrowed a few things from Mom, and also bought a few lovely, feminine, stretchy items that can comfortably accommodate a growing tummy.

The movements of this tiny one are becoming more and more pronounced; it feels like someone is tickling me from the inside! I'm thoroughly enjoying these first interactions, and look forward to the moment when movement can be felt by placing a hand on my tummy, so that my husband and family can say hello to the baby as well.

I hope all of you have been enjoying the last days of summer. We are at the end of summer vacation here in Israel, but still look forward to many lovely, sunny days, which can be enjoyed by making time for a picnic or a walk on the beach.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

More gifts for the little one!

moregiftsforbaby 001, originally uploaded by Anna's musings.

The next batch of gifts for our expected little treasure has just arrived! I received a sweet surprise from my friend Michelle, also a first-time expectant Mom: two adorable baby outfits, a cute baby cap, bib, and a pair of tiny socks. Here you can take a look at it, Michelle - as you see, all reached us in perfect condition. I also received a sweet, encouraging letter - what a beautiful envelope. Thank you, dear friend!

The previous owners of our house had a children's clothes store once, it turns out, and when I started cleaning and organizing our storage shed I found a real treasure trove: baby outfits; an adorable baby blanket; even a couple of baby sleeping bags! What a lovely discovery isn't it? They said they don't need anything they left behind, so it's all ours. There's also an entire wardrobe for toddlers and little children: dresses, pants, shirts, even underwear. All of it still in its nylon bags and with price tags. We'll have to sort through it all, and decide what we'll keep and what will be given away.

Like one of the ladies who replied to my previous post, I also plan to gently wash all the baby things before we start using them, just to give them a sweet fresh smell. I look forward to seeing all the little items of bedding, outfits, sweaters, shirts, pants and hats hanging on the clothesline, waiting to be used by a dear, darling, long awaited little one!

A blessed day to you all. Work week is done early for us this time, and tomorrow we're expecting to do something fun, followed by a restful Shabbat. Thanks to the ladies who sent me encouraging emails about scheduling while making plans for the arrival of a new baby. I so appreciate it, and hope to reply to all emails soon.

Mrs. T

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Why I love being pregnant

I'm a first-time Mom-to-be, and only "halfway there", so undoubtedly more surprises await me along the fascinating journey towards motherhood! However, I must tell that so far, I've been enjoying a simply wonderful pregnancy. I didn't have permanent nausea even during the first trimester, my energy levels are high enough to feel productive and creative (with proper adjustments), so far I was spared many of the pains and discomforts reported by other pregnant ladies, and to sum it up, I'm savoring every moment of this special time! Here's more on why the past months have been so sweet...

The top ten reasons why I love being pregnant:

1. It's wondrously magical to know that God Himself created and placed this tiny new life in my womb. I feel His loving presence like never before.

2. Every day brings something new to be excited about, as I watch how my body and spirit change in order to nurture this new life. There's so much to see, feel, learn, plan, and look forward to.

3. I have a pampering, sweet, kind, loving, protective and caring husband, who calls me several times a day to make sure I'm getting my rest, reminds me to eat well, and then rubs my feet when he comes home from work.

4. Nothing can be sweeter than feeling the gentle (for now!) bumps and movements of my baby.

5. Now is the perfect time to enjoy the wildest combinations of food - I can eat tuna salad with canned pineapple, and respond to inquiries by saying it's a pregnancy craving.

6. I get to enjoy teeny tiny, cute baby things - clothes, bedding, soft cushion toys - buying, making, and receiving as loving gifts. Oh, and I can freely sigh with delight when I see sweet little baby shoes.

7. I can blame my absolute and total lack of understanding of everything that has to do with mechanics or physics on "baby brain". :-)

8. When I notice that my feet swell, I can guiltlessly put them up and indulge in a thirty-minute break of good reading or crafts in the middle of the day.

9. It's time to try new, interesting, beautiful, feminine styles that suit the changes in my silhouette - and bask in compliments from my loving husband, who adores the "pregnant look".

10. It's delightfully interesting to "equip" our expected baby in creative, inexpensive ways - find and restore, get used items from friends and family members, buy second hand, make it ourselves, or see how we can do without!

I would love to hear from all you Moms and Moms-to-be: what do/did you love about being pregnant, and which memories from that time are of a special significance to you? If you'd rather share on your own blog, you are most welcome to post a link! Happy pregnancy to everyone.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Admitted procrastinator

I'm going to make a confession: those of you who have imagined me busily and efficiently working around the house all day long, cooking a delicious three-course dinner for my husband every night, and keeping every item of our clothes or bedding crisply ironed, might just be disappointed by what I'm going to say.

I've been a procrastinator lately. A bad one! Don't get me wrong: the dishes are always done, and most often we've had clean underwear. But it takes me longer to start my day in the mornings, I feel less energetic, less gets done, and in the end, I feel less effective.

Some of it, I'm sure, is about pregnancy. Yes, I'm more tired than usual; I have less energy, and normally need a nap during the day, something I wasn't used to before I became pregnant. And sometimes I just need to put up my feet and rest. Also, some of the general sense of disorientation I've been feeling lately can be attributed to the notorious "baby brain" phenomenon. However, there are also other reasons.

One is rooted in the adjustment I naturally had to make - adapting my routine to my husband's. While I'm most energetic and efficient as an early riser and early sleeper, and normally feel the need to slow down starting from late afternoon, my husband is more active in the late evening and night, and hardly ever falls asleep before midnight. Because it's difficult for me to fall asleep before he does, I stay up late, get up late, and feel that the most productive hours of the morning were lost. Since this is more about my biological clock than anything else, I'm not sure I can do much about it.

Another factor is simply lack of motivation, which in turn has a number of reasons: one, I'm not used to being home alone. When I lived with my mother, there was always someone to tend to - my mother or grandmother - someone to talk to, and usually there was a cat or two at my heels. Having someone else's immediate needs to remember during the day kept me alert and on my toes.

Two, in our old apartment I felt lack of motivation to work hard, simply because it wasn't ours. "What's the point in scrubbing the sink?" - I thought to myself, - "What's the point in removing stains from walls? It's not ours; it's rented; we're moving soon" - and so I let the sinks become disgustingly dirty. Painting the walls was never even a consideration, because we knew we're staying only a few short months. In our new home, I immediately felt a burst of fresh energy.

And finally, I realized that whenever I worked hard, I felt the pull of a good book or the computer, thinking to myself - "We're going to have a baby soon, and I won't have much free time. How sorry I'm going to feel for not taking enough time to rest while I could!" - I still think a pregnant woman shouldn't overtax herself, and I believe it's better to approach the birth of a baby as rested and relaxed as possible, but I have to admit I've been using this as an excuse to slack off.

After much thinking on all of the above, and realizing I can and should do something about it I gradually started feeling a motivational change, which is slowly leading to better use of time. I believe it's very important to establish a good, solid, efficient routine before our little one comes along, because it will be much more difficult to do afterwards. Also, this time I have at home as a new wife with no children yet, is a treasured privilege. I can do special things for my husband. I can complete household projects which will be much more difficult to accomplish in a few months. There's so much to do, including but not ending in preparations for the arrival of a new baby - and like I discovered, the sooner I roll up my sleeves and start working, the more motivated I feel.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Becoming one

As a young wife, I decided to share a few thoughts about the fascinating process that changed so much in my life: the transition from singleness to oneness, from living a separate life as an unmarried woman to adjusting individuality so it can be compatible with life as a couple.

Consider how incredible this is: yesterday, you lived in different homes, had separate lives, went to bed at different hours, and each had his or her private world. Today, all you have, all you are and all you hope to become is shared with another person, who is to become your life partner under the blessed covenant of marriage. Two adults, a man and a woman, with different backgrounds, tastes, desires, experiences and thoughts become one. What an unbelievable alchemy of human souls!

Our culture, which sadly teaches us to be self-focused and self-centered, doesn't promote oneness in marriage. On the contrary, most often you'll hear things such as, "you need to preserve your individuality and remember you're a separate human being"; "you cannot allow marriage to interfere with your life ambitions"; "be careful not to forget about your personal growth" - and is it a wonder, when we are treated like irresponsible children until our mid-twenties?

"I would love to get married," - some young women tell me, - "but I'm afraid it will require me to make adjustments in some of my plans for the next couple of years."

Well naturally! Once marriage takes place, it makes no sense to talk about "my" plans, "my" life, "my" desires... everything becomes mutually shared, and yes, adjustments must be made - otherwise, you'll end up in big trouble.

But please, don't think I mean to sound self-righteous here. I often mention in my writings what a wonderful man my husband is, and what a fortunate woman I consider myself to be - but it doesn't mean I'm anywhere near perfect. It also doesn't mean the transition from two to one went/is going in a completely smooth and unhindered way for me. In fact, during those first few months of wifehood, I felt several times like I had been... well, knocked out. I remember that first morning I woke up to see a wedding ring glittering on my finger - and I thought to myself, wow, I'm a wife now! So what do I do? I was so eager to start!

One of the first things I learned was that I didn't just become "a wife". I became a wife to my husband, which obviously meant that the adjustments I had to make must fit his needs. My husband didn't require a perfectly clean home; he wasn't very insistent on elaborate meals, either; on the other hand, some of what he requested seemed strange to me at first. I was used to doing things differently, and I didn't understand why this or that should even matter... and in the end, I thought to myself: enough that it matters to him. If it's important to him, and going along with what he wants doesn't hurt me in any way, why insist on continuing to do things my way? Obviously, there won't be "my way" or "his way" anymore, but rather, our way, which must be worked out together.

It turned out that a particular challenge for me, as surprising as it must seem, is simple conversation. I grew up as an only child, in a household where family members didn't see too much of each other during the day, so without even noticing it I became a loner. I used to do things in silence, without telling them to anyone but my diary. At first, when my husband expressed his puzzlement as to why I don't tell much about my day, I truly didn't understand what he was talking about. Tell about my day? How does one do that? ;-)

Also, only with marriage I came to the realization of just how hanged up on my privacy I am, and why it can be such a hindrance to building a life together. Another thing typical of our only-child generation. Of course, in the past not everyone had big families either, but look at the trend. My grandmother had 6 siblings. She had 4 children - and only 4 grandchildren, out of whom only one, so far, is married (my cousins are 30, 35, and 40). In the past, even if you happened to have no brothers and sisters, most likely you had many cousins, nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles. Being used to life in a big family goes a long way, I believe, in preparing you to having a family of your own. In a big family, you must - by default - share, make compromises, and be flexible.

Our families are shrinking, and the alarming divorce rate indicates that we have not been taught to be responsible for another human being. I'm not saying that growing up as an only child made me selfish, but it certainly made me too well adjusted to a lonely life, which I didn't realize until I embarked on the road of establishing a life together with my husband.

For me, the journey of becoming one just begins. Marriage takes work. It takes work for me as a young wife, and I suppose it will continue taking work in five, ten, twenty years. It can never be taken for granted. It requires adjustment, flexibility, creativity, compassion, kindness, willingness to meet each other needs - and a good sense of humor can never hurt, either. :-) Oh, and it's so worth it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A restful break

Hello, dear friends. I hope everyone had/are having the most wonderfully refreshing weekend break. We are now back from ours, slowly stepping into the cycle of work after a blissfully restful Shabbat.

After all the activity that naturally accompanies moving and settling into a new house, with a good amount of work done, by Friday we were exhausted. We were invited to spend Shabbat with relatives from my husband's side of the family, which we gratefully accepted, especially since we didn't have the time to prepare everything necessary for a comfortable Shabbat at home.

While enjoying good company, pleasant conversation and excellent food, we made a delightful discovery: it turned out our hostess does the most beautiful pottery work I've ever seen. Oh, you can't imagine just how sorry I felt for not taking my camera along, to take some pictures of those wonderful works of art.

Needless to say, their home was one of the most creatively decorated I've ever seen - not only by pottery, but also by different types of art, such as oil paintings and hand-crocheted covers. On the other hand, it didn't look remotely like a gallery - despite the abundance of ceramic vases, jugs, animals, candle holders and other pottery works - but simply like a very cosy home. Many of the plates and bowls used for setting the table were also made right there in the basement, the secret lab of pottery art. :-) If only I could share with you some of the beauties we saw!

On the bright side, when Shabbat ended my husband and I received an improvised pottery session, with an invitation to come again for a more extended one when we can. We were like two delighted children, taking turns at the potter's wheel and seeing how clay changes shape at the slightest touch.

We do hope for a chance to practice pottery again, as time allows. What can be more satisfying, creative and relaxing than working with your own hands?

Illustration photo: potter's wheel

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Modesty in the home and outside it

As you know, I'm passionate about modesty. Truly, I can't think of anything that would glorify, uplift, and enhance sweet beautiful femininity more than being modest, inside and out. Modesty also helps to make a woman respected, valued and cherished by men and women of all ages.

In my photos, you can see I dress by Orthodox Jewish standards - I wear long skirts, my elbows are always covered, my clothes are not too tight, and when I got married I started to cover my hair.

However, that's what happens when I go out. At home, alone or with my husband, I allow myself to relax my standards. I can wear a skirt that is shorter than normal, or even a pair of slacks and a sleeveless shirt, and I don't wear a hair covering. My husband likes it that way. While I'm visiting my mother, I might also change into something lighter.

Recently, I started thinking about what is the right thing to do, regarding modesty, when babies come along and then start growing and reach an age when boys and especially girls must be educated about the importance of modesty. Can I continue relaxing my standards at home? Or will I have to dress at home the same way as outside?

Will my children see it as a sort of hypocrisy, if the moment I come home I shed my long sleeves and hair covering and change into something more comfortable?

Or will it, on the contrary, convey a positive message: you can reveal your beauty in the circle of your family, but not in front of strangers?

... At this point, I truly don't know. I suppose we still have some time to think about it. It would also be lovely to hear from you, ladies with a heart for modesty: is the way you dress at home different from how you dress outside the home? What sort of message do you think it gives the children?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Settling into our new home

I've been busy unpacking and setting the house in order during the last few days, with great pleasure - I suppose you could say it's the "nesting" instinct, but then again, I've always loved organizing and decorating. I love these quiet mornings of busy but slow, satisfying work. Nothing is more rewarding than doing things at home, for the two (soon-to-be three!) of us. When I get tired of being inside, I can go out and soak the view of endless mountains and olive trees.

This morning we woke to the sounds of Mr. Duck poking around our back yard, looking for grapes that have fallen on the ground. Note to self: when we plant some vegetables, put a protective net around them, unless we make sure they seem totally unappetizing to Mr. Duck.

I'm becoming fond of this quacky neighbour of ours... it seems he's friendly with two little kitties, who follow him around and curl up next to him to sleep. Very cute. I hope to catch it on camera one of these days.

Right now it's early afternoon and I'm on a break; I'm going to eat a simple lunch of bread, vegetables and cheese - I didn't quite get to cooking yet, with so much to do around here.

I noticed that my feet began to swell; I realize most likely this has to do with pregnancy, and perhaps the heat and the fact that I've been mostly on my feet lately contribute their share too. So now I'm typing this with my feet immersed in a pleasantly cool salt bath - ah, the bliss. Highly recommended during hot summer days, even if your feet don't swell. Later I'll go to our cosy bed and prop up my feet while I read a few pages of a good book, before my afternoon nap.

I wish all you ladies an equally nice day, both full and relaxing. Thank you so much for stopping by!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Musings on the preciousness of life

Warning: content might be upsetting. Proceed with caution.

A couple of weeks ago, I've read an article which left me deeply disturbed and wondering whether I should discuss it here. Eventually I decided that I will, but I want to keep matters as discreet and anonymous as possible, which is why I won't provide any names, quotes, or links.

The summary is as following: a religious Jewish woman discovered, during an ultrasound scan, that her unborn baby has a severe neural tube defect. She was told by the doctors there's no way her baby can live more than a few days. Devastated, this woman went to see her rabbi for guidance and counsel. The rabbi advised her to terminate the pregnancy, which she did.

Please note I won't get anywhere even remotely close to judging this poor, grieving, devastated mother. However, many of the comments under the original article repeated more or less the same story: Me too. I was told by my doctor my baby won't live, too. I was told by my rabbi it's alright to have an abortion, too. I went ahead and did it. Some of the women who terminated their pregnancies were at a point where the baby could actually be viable.

Again, I don't intend to judge the women. Instead, I would like to focus on the tendency.

It is understandable that proficiency in religious teachings requires years and years of learning. Being an ordinary woman with, perhaps, less than average (as someone who became religious later in life) knowledge of Jewish holy texts, I could never know as much as a rabbi on the overall. Yet here is the scary part: not all Orthodox rabbis agree that abortion should be allowed because of severe deformities. Far from it! Many, if not most, will argue that abortion can only be an option in the extremely rare cases when pregnancy directly and inevitably threats the woman's life. Since we are talking about human life here, not about whether Ashkenazi Jews should be allowed to eat beans during Pesach, such difference of opinions sends chills down my spine.

It's not even about the fact that medical prognosis might be incorrect. In many cases, healthy babies were aborted because of wrong diagnosis; in other cases, babies were born miraculously healthy despite dire warnings; and finally, conditions that were labeled as "hopeless" at first, turned out to be treatable and manageable. Yes, life will continue to prove time and time again that doctors don't and can't know everything, but let us suppose the diagnosis is 100% correct.

I ask something else: do we believe all life is precious? Do we believe every man, woman and child has the right to live, with dignity, during as much time as God allowed them on this earth - in the mother's womb and outside it - be it many years, or a just a few years, months, days or minutes?

If we do, the logical outcome is obvious: since all life is a precious gift and miracle made by our Creator, it should be handled with reverence and care by those who solemnly vowed, first, to do no harm. But what happens if we don't? What happens if we begin making considerations about which life is worthwhile, and which is not?

Let's start with mothers who are told that their baby "cannot live anyway". Wrong. The baby can and does live, right now. Its life, like the life of each and every one of us, is limited by our Father and King. Yet who are we to make further limitations to this life? Who are we to end it - just to get it over with, for pure convenience?

After I did further research - and at some point I wished I hadn't, because it deeply upset me - I heard about cases of women who had abortions, with the approval of their rabbi, after the unborn baby was diagnosed with Down syndrome. Horror of horrors. I had the chance to know several people with Down syndrome who volunteered on our campus, and they had the most bright, outgoing, cheerful and kind personalities. My blood freezes at the thought that these people might not have been allowed to be born, just because they aren't perfect. Where does this stop? Is life considered not worth living with disabilities (don't we all have limitations, to some extent - even those of us who are labeled "normal")? What about someone who becomes disabled because of an accident? What about elderly people who are no longer "useful"? As you can see, a pit of dark and horrifying possibilities opens when we let ourselves become the judges of which life is worthwhile, who is acceptable and who isn't...

We mustn't forget this, too: it's impossible to "undo" a pregnancy. A woman who is 25 weeks along and discovers her unborn child has Down syndrome cannot "rewind" and turn back time. When she is told she must "do something about it", let us make no mistake - it's suggested to her that her baby should be brutally torn limb by limb from the safety of her womb.

We believe each soul is sent to this world with a purpose. It must be purified through earthly life, before it can return to the Heavenly Throne. For some, it will mean a long life. Some need a shorter time to be in this world, perhaps only in the mother's womb. We don't know the Creator's purpose, so how can we decide? We have His blessing to heal, to try and correct that which is wrong in this world - but disposing of life doesn't correct anything. It doesn't heal. It leaves dark, hollow emptiness behind.

I hope none of my readers were upset by reading this. I believe it's especially important for pregnant women not to dwell on dark thoughts, which is why I'm going to wrap this up now. I'm going to sit for a while in a quiet corner, place a hand on my tummy, feel the sweet baby inside, and revel in the miracle of life.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Shopping-center-free zone

We live in an area without a shopping center. If you go out looking for entertainment, you won't see brightly illuminated windows with hundreds and thousands of items you supposedly "need" to buy. There's a small food store where I go if we run out of milk during the week, a tiny pizza place we've never visited, a post office, and a goat farm.

The only sounds you will hear during the day are of children playing, or the distant humming of a washing machine. Rarely, a car will pass by. Often we are asked how we can live so far from the biggest and brightest. And yet we love it.

There's, of course, the undeniable fact that staying away from shopping centers actually saves you money. You can, of course, restrict yourself to window-shopping only, but this may become a cause of dissatisfaction when you discover more and more things you would want to buy, and see others buying them (most likely very few of them are real "needs" and the rest are "wants").

Most of all, we love the quiet, unhurried mode of life in our little community. In cities, you might not even know your neighbours. Here, neighbours will spontaneously knock on your door with a fresh home-baked cake. A couple of months ago, a lonely man we didn't know stopped us on our way and asked if he may join us for Shabbat dinner because it feels sad to spend Shabbat alone. We invited him, of course, and it makes me anxious to think of all the lonely people who suffer from lack of attention and company in cold, detached, perpetually hurrying urban surroundings.

What does this have to do with the fact that we rarely visit shopping centers, you ask? Not much, perhaps; it just makes me think of a world where people bought less, gave more, took better care of each other and had more time to spend together. A world where people were more relaxed and had more time for meaningful reflection. A world where hours, activities, thoughts, information and people didn't need to be brutally crammed in order to make good use of the time. I feel most of us have lost or never knew this world, and now dearly and painfully miss it.

In this world, less money was earned and spent, not thanks to some magical trick, maybe not even thanks to careful budgeting. People were simply content with less, and didn't work upon instant gratification. Thus, life was more relaxed. Instead of being isolated in cells of lonely existence for the sake of self-fulfillment, couples, families, generations and communities worked together.

... I realize this is not a very coherent post (baby brain... now it's official. :-) Bear with me). I would like to finish with a link to a website where you can read the book The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto. I started reading it yesterday and find it very enlightening - as you know I don't live in the United States, yet I find that John Gatto's voice holds many truths about the public schooling system in general. Just one quote:

Before you hire a company to build a house, you would, I expect, insist on detailed plans showing what the finished structure was going to look like. Building a child’s mind and character is what public schools do, their justification for prematurely breaking family and neighborhood learning. Where is documentary evidence to prove this assumption that trained and certified professionals do it better than people who know and love them can? There isn’t any.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Baby brain: one thing at a time

We have finally moved all our stuff to our new home! What a delight. Of course, the place is now crowded with dusty misplaced furniture, drawers, mountains upon mountains of cardboard boxes that need to be unpacked, and other random stuff, but at least now I know we're going to get more comfortable as days go by and we have the opportunity to do some good hard work in our new home. I'm also looking forward to the end of the Sabbatical year, when we can finally work on our little piece of land and take proper care of our garden.

On Friday, after we moved the last of our belongings and were about to take off to spend Shabbat with my in-laws, my husband (who was busy fixing a leaking sink) asked me to find his shaving machine. While I was looking for it and wondering where I might have put it, he asked me to get a pair of clean socks for him, and some plastic bags.

I just stood there, the wheels of my brain madly rolling, trying to repeat to myself, shaving machine-socks-plastic bags ... and then I blurted out to my poor husband, "Please don't do this to me! I can't think of two things at once!"

Later when I thought about it I realized that, in fact, I never had a problem to think of several things at once, but have lost this capability. I was always very organized, but lately I started forgetting birthdays and appointments. I write things down but then forget to check my lists. And sometimes I can't enjoy more than a few pages of good educational material, because the intellectual effort is just too much for me. I also gradually stopped listening to radio programs and even news ("Huh? War in Georgia? What are you talking about?") and greatly limited the number of websites and blogs I visit daily, because I feel it overloads my brain. It's not like I feel less intelligent - I simply feel there is less room in my brain.

It's true that I'm busy with my new marriage, our home, and preparations for the arrival of a new baby; it's true that I'm more tired than usual - but it's more than that. I really feel as though my brain switched to a different mode.

My sister-in-law says she experienced something very similar during all her pregnancies and also for a while after she gave birth, and other ladies I talked to reported symptoms such as "feeling stupid" and "being unable to think". So I began wondering, maybe I'm experiencing a well-known pregnancy symptom I didn't know about?

I did an internet search and couldn't find anything definite, except that I'm not the only one struggling with "baby brain" symptoms. Some suggest it has to do with sleep deprivation, which wouldn't make sense for me right now - I don't work outside the home, so beside getting my normal night's sleep, I can also take a nap during the day if I feel I need it.

Like several times lately, I invite you to share your experience again, ladies. Have any of you experienced, while pregnant and/or soon after giving birth, symptoms such as extreme forgetfulness, inability to think about more than one thing at a time, and a general feeling of mental overload? Thanks for taking the time to tell!

Blessings to everyone, and wishes of a wonderful week from your friend,

Mrs. T

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Bounty of our garden

Yesterday, my husband suggested we can already spend the night in our new home, so we packed some essentials and had a delightful sleep in our big cosy bed, instead of curling up on an air mattress. Our first night in our new home - how exciting! Since our new home is only five minutes from the old one, it makes moving much more convenient.
Here are some pictures from our little garden. The pomegranates aren't quite ripe yet, but I'm sure they will be nice and red in a month or so. Oh, and here is also our fierce neighbour-duck, looking up suspiciously and wondering what on earth we are doing here. :-)
I'm back in our old house for the day, and let me tell you, the place is a mess. Everything must be moved by tomorrow so I'd better move on and start packing what's left. I hope to share more pictures soon, as we settle into a routine and our home starts to take shape on the inside.
I have so many things swirling in my head, begging to be written down, but it will have to wait a few days. I'm also a bit behind on answering emails - thank you so much for understanding. As soon as time allows, I intend to write back to everyone who graciously sent me a note.
"See" you and "talk" to you soon!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The baby??

Maybe it's too early and it's all in my imagination, but it seems as though I've started to feel very gentle, unfamiliar activity in my tummy. It feels basically like someone is blowing bubbles in there! It happens unexpectedly and then it stops... and it makes me wonder, is the wee baby making his or her first attempts to let me know, "Mommy, I'm here"?

In the meantime, my husband and I are busy bees, working in the new house and transferring our stuff there. It's hard but satisfying work. Our lovely new bed has already been moved, so for our last three nights here... hello again, air mattress! :-)

I hope I won't stay too long without internet after we move, because I'm eager to give all you ladies a more detailed account of our doings. For now, though, it's just a quick hello. A blessed day to everyone!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Home sweet home

In a few days, we plan to move into our new little home. I spent the morning sweeping and washing the floors (always fun to do while the rooms are nice and empty), cleaning the kitchen cupboards, and removing random clutter from the front yard and back yard.

The neighbours' duck spotted and recognized us as invaders as soon as we arrived, and became very agitated. He made a move right at us, ruffling its feathers and making noises that were clearly supposed to be frightening. :-)

There's still a lot of work to do: the windows need to be washed, the furniture brought in and arranged, and all our things unpacked and organized. I will also have to sort and organize all the stuff in our storage shed. I plan to do it all gradually over the course of the next few weeks.

I love our new home. We have a spacious sunny living room, a gorgeous mountain view from our kitchen window, and a clothesline in a very cosy space in our back yard. I look forward to hanging our laundry on it, and to see it swaying in the gentle warm breeze... oh and did I mention how happy I am that we are moving now, while I'm still light on my feet and it's easy for me to move around?

The picture above is from our front yard; it was taken six months ago, when we were planning our wedding and still thinking about whether this house is meant to be our home. As you can see the lawn is wild and the trees are bare; now they are heavy with beautiful pears and apples, and the grape vine has been very fruitful too.

How wonderful it is to look forward to satisfying, good work in our own sweet little home!

Monday, August 11, 2008

First gifts for the tiny one

babygifts 002, originally uploaded by Anna's musings.

Today, I received a package by mail from a far-away blog friend; it contained our very first baby gifts - how exciting! When I opened it, I saw adorable, soft knitted and crocheted baby clothes; a beautiful crocheted baby blanket; a sweet cushion doll; a very cute baby book; and my favorite, the book "Crafts for Baby - Beautiful Gifts and Practical Projects"

After quickly browsing through "Crafts for Baby" I saw, to my delight, that it contains plenty of lovely ideas on how to get creative in anticipation of a little one! The first section gives detailed explanation on some basic stitches - valuable information for beginners such as myself. Then there are instructions for making adorable baby projects such as a quilt, cushions, blanket, soft toys, clothes which look very simple (even in my eyes) to make, and more. I think that working on these projects could be especially fun and exciting with older children by your side.

Thank you again, dear one, for sending this precious and sweet gift for the little one on the way!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Exhausted but uplifted

Hello there. I hope all my Jewish readers had an easy and meaningful fast of Tisha b'Av. To those of you who don't know, Tisha b'Av (9-th of Av) is a fast in memory of the destruction of the holy Temple, which happened 1940 years ago.

Tisha b'Av and Yom Kippur are the only two fasts pregnant women must observe. The idea of spending 25 hours with no food and drink seemed a bit overwhelming, as I'm nowadays much hungrier than usual, but in fact I didn't feel any worse than at other times when I fasted. I could, of course, break the fast if I felt I absolutely couldn't handle it (to the point of fainting or feeling very ill), but I pulled through and I'm happy about it.

Since I feel a bit dizzy, I'll leave the keyboard for now. May we soon rejoice in seeing the Temple rebuilt in all its glory.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Holiness, purity, and satisfying intimacy

A couple of weeks ago, I called a non-religious friend of mine to announce the news of my pregnancy. After chatting for a couple of minutes, she asked me whether my husband and I still take the time to... be together as husband and wife now that we have, umm, "done our purpose". There, it was almost too embarrassing to put in words, but I said it because I feel it's important and should be brought up.

Many secular people tend to think that religious couples - especially wives - view intimacy in marriage as something dull, utilitarian, and tolerated for the sole purpose of making babies. Once you have the "result" of pregnancy, why waste time and energy on this "pointless activity"? We, the religious ones, are thought to miss out on all the fun and excitement.

To be frank, I find it very difficult to understand how a series of random flings can be more satisfying in terms of intimacy than a loving, stable, committed marriage in which you and your husband appreciate each other, truly care about each other, and accept each other completely in heart, body and soul. In marriage, I don't have to compete with an endless number of other women, many of whom will be younger, prettier, and more stylish. In marriage, I can blossom in the encouraging atmosphere of trust, respect and true love. In marriage, I can finally find myself and be myself, knowing I'm loved and accepted as I am.

The truth, despite the message of our materialistic culture, is that physical intimacy cannot be separated from our emotional well-being. The liberation that comes with being married to a loving husband will inevitably lead to better chances of satisfying intimate relations than one would have in an uncommitted relationship, where the woman constantly has to worry whether he will call her tomorrow or toss her aside because he found someone better and fresher.

We are children of a loving God who told us to "become one flesh" and "rejoice in the wife of thy youth". Note that it is said "rejoice", meaning that while physical intimacy is certainly a duty of a husband to his wife and a wife to her husband, it's also supposed to be one of the greatest gifts God gives us in a marriage blessed by Him.

There's a false assumption religious people view sexuality as something shameful and dirty. Not so - how can it be, if we are supposed to "become one flesh"? On the contrary, physical intimacy is so cherished and precious that it cannot possibly be given away to anyone but your spouse.

Of course, after years of suppressing our desires - since teenage marriages are not the norm these days - initial intimacy requires some preparation. I don't know about others, but Orthodox Jews take one-on-one lessons prior to marriage, usually men with a rabbi and women with a rebbetzin (rabbi's wife) or other older married woman who is competent enough and has enough experience to teach. During these lessons, which are usually held in the form of a conversation, we discuss family purity, as well as physical aspects of intimacy in marriage.

There's also this image of a frumpy exhausted woman who is busy running after a bunch of children all day long and doesn't even have time to comb her hair in the morning. Since I'm not a mother yet, obviously I have no experience to share, but I do realize children take a toll on our time, especially when you have a few - children require feeding, changing, bathing, educating, and of course, playing and spending time together. Having children also normally adds to the amount of housework, and I can readily imagine it limits possibilities for spontaneous romance. However children are supposed to be a source of joy and love in marriage, not otherwise. I'm sure my husband and I will have to somewhat rearrange our schedule once we have a little one in our arms. Still, hopefully our life together as a couple will be kept on top of our priority list.

We have an opportunity to show the world that holy and pure does not mean dull and boring. Of course, as religious people obviously we won't discuss intimacy in public with the excessive degree of openness it's normally done these days, but a sparkle in your eyes when you look at your husband will say more than words!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Cloth diapers

While we prepare for the arrival of a new little one, one of the considerations we have to make is whether we are going to use disposable diapers, or cloth. Because of personal experience, information we have read, and other considerations, right now my husband and I are strongly inclined towards the cloth diapers direction. I know many of the ladies who read this are experienced cloth diapering moms, so I'm not sure I have much to add to your extensive knowledge, but I'm still going to share a few thoughts about why we think cloth diapers are a good option...

For the baby's bottom

Just for the record, I was cloth-diapered as a baby, as was my husband and his 4 siblings. None of us ever had diaper rash. My mother used cloth diapers because that was the only option available. Once, a generous relative sent her a pack of disposables, and diaper rash started immediately, after which she went right back to using cloth. Now, I can imagine disposable diapers have evolved during the last 20+ years, and maybe now they cause less diaper rash, however they still contain a whole array of chemicals that can be absorbed through the baby's delicate skin. When you use plain old cloth you don't even have to wonder whether this or that chemical might be unsafe for the baby - cloth is 100% safe and allergen-free.

For the environment

As an environment-conscious couple, we cannot ignore the fact that disposable diapers make a disproportionally large percent of overall waste in the area where we live. Of course, energy is still needed to make and clean cloth diapers as well, but it's much less of an overload. After all, all that is involved in cleaning a cloth diaper is water, and detergent which can even be organic.

For the budget

We made some calculations and saw that using cloth diapers can save us a bunch of money which otherwise would be literally thrown away. Investing in a stack of cloth diapers will pay off soon, even if we go for the handy-dandy, all-in-one diapers available today, as we plan to handle them carefully and use them with more than one child. By the way my mother used simple square pieces of fabric which she folded herself, and it still worked just fine. So we won't necessarily go for the most convenient option after all. We will make the pros and cons of what's available in our area, and might decide that a bit of extra work might be worth the effort.

Cloth diapers are an option for us because we intend for me to stay home with the baby. A daycare facility couldn't be reasonably expected to bother with cloth diapers, especially if we don't use the all-in-one variety. I realize it will probably mean more work for me, but the one and only reason I see in the favor of disposables so far is quick convenience, and that's not enough in my eyes to outweigh the benefits of cloth.

I would love to hear the experience of cloth-diapering moms, and any tips you might want to share are most welcome!

Picture taken from an Israeli website that sells cloth diapers

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Preparing to pack

In only two short weeks, my husband and I plan to move to our new home. The little visitor you see in the picture above stayed in our living room all yesterday evening, listening to our conversation about everything that needs to be done. And there is a lot of work...
The house needs to be painted from the outside; infestations of insects must be exterminated; the garden must be rescued from its wild condition (while being careful with critters like snakes and scorpions that might just crawl out around here); stuff in the storage shed must be sorted out and divided into what we'll keep and what we're going to dispose of; and of course there's the usual packing, moving our stuff, and unpacking, which will be done during several days. Fortunately, as we only got married a few short months ago, we don't have an excess of "stuff" yet.
It's going to be a lot of good hard work, and I'm looking forward to it, because it will be our own first home, and there will be so much more inspiration to invest in long-term projects than in the rented house we currently occupy. We were supposed to move later, but I'm happy we're doing it now - the more time we have to set up our new nest before the baby is born, the better.
Also, right now I'm enjoying a wonderful period of pregnancy: sickness is gone, my energy levels went up again - I even started doing moderate exercise - and though I'm steadily gaining weight, my tummy isn't big enough yet to make me feel "heavy". Seeing this growth and the changes in my body, and knowing they are being caused by the wee baby inside me, is truly fascinating!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Children - fruit of love in the holiness of marriage

A few months ago, when my now-husband and I were in the midst of wedding preparations, I faced more than one pair of raised eyebrows and the question, "are you really going to have a baby right away?" - implying that it would be riskier than bungee jumping and more reckless than drunk driving. I know we're not alone, too - not long ago, I received an email from a young lady who, only a few weeks before her upcoming wedding, received dire warnings from family members telling her it would be unwise to have a baby as a newly married couple, and that she should "just enjoy married life" first.

There's this trend of thinking that having a baby before you "establish your marriage" - whatever exactly that is - might nearly ruin your married life. Sure, getting used to life as a couple has its challenges and requires a great deal of adjustment and flexibility - and having a baby is an enormous transition which puts additional stress on a couple. But to say that having a child will ruin your relationship?

I might have mentioned before how irritating I find the assumption that having a baby is something on your to-do list which you can achieve whenever you decide. With the ideas of "reproductive control" hammered into our heads, we seem to have forgotten that each life is a precious miracle and a gift from God. Not all couples will be blessed with a baby as soon as they start "trying". Some will never have children. And some have a narrow window of fertility, which will be closed sooner than they imagine because of medical problems they weren't aware of. One lady who visits this blog mentioned a couple of times in the comments section how she has been unable to bear a child past a certain age (which would be considered very young by anyone), and how happy she is for the fact that she and her husband opened the door to God's blessings right after they were married. For them, being "wise" and "waiting just a couple of years" could be fatal.

Am I saying the time you will have alone with your husband as a carefree young couple isn't precious? Of course it is, and it should be thoroughly enjoyed. Cherish this time! Be spontaneous and creative, take the chance to go on an unplanned trip or dinner and a movie - or whatever fits into your budget. But if this romantic period only lasts nine months, or if you don't have it at all (which can happen, for example, if you are a military wife and your husband is deployed shortly after you get married and doesn't come back until the baby is born), it doesn't mean that your marriage has less chances to be successful than if you had two, three, or five "uninterrupted" years together.

I must tell you that the news of my pregnancy greatly affected the way my husband and I think, plan, act, and relate to each other. Suddenly we realized we must prepare for a tremendous new responsibility. We had to go over any plans we might have had and see if they will fit in with our expected little love bundle. My husband had a very interesting thought, that perhaps God is sending us a baby so soon precisely in order to steer us on the road of maturity, patience, flexibility, self-control and working as a team. God knows what He does.

I'm not saying it isn't overwhelming sometimes. We had wanted a child; we prayed for God to bless us with a child; yet when we found out I'm pregnant (about a month and a half after my beloved placed a ring on my finger and we were declared man and wife), I found myself looking desperately at my husband, exclaiming, "What on earth do you do with a baby?" (My husband's very practical suggestion: you feed it about every three hours; you change diapers several times a day; you wipe its little face, give it baths, and comfort its colicky tummy. Oh, and while the baby naps you can snatch a few minutes of much needed sleep :-)).

Another warning young couples are often intimidated with is how expensive it is to have a baby, and how unwise it would be to do so before their financial situation is "stabilized". The same people tell them how terribly expensive life is. You know what? Yes you need a certain amount of money to live on. But not as much as others might make you believe you "must have". Much of it depends on your lifestyle choices.

My husband and I rarely go out to eat or to the movies (a picnic with a packed lunch or watching a movie on our computer screen while cuddling under a blanket is much more fun in my eyes anyway); we only have one new item of furniture - our bed; our table, chairs, sofa, refrigerator, washing machine, desks and cupboards are all either rescued finds, or were passed down to us. Household supplies such as plates, cups, cutlery, towels, laundry rack etc were given as wedding gifts or passed down. Recently we found, rescued and gave new life to a lovely, old but sturdy wooden crib we intend to use for our baby. We plan to say "yes" to any used baby items in good condition such as clothes and toys. We are looking into the option of cloth diapering. We refuse to buy into the mainstream brainwashing that you "need" such-and-such amount of money if you want to have a baby.

God's message to us states quite plainly that children are blessings ("and the fruit of the womb is His reward"). He doesn't say anything about children "ruining" our health, finances, marriage, or even our very life. God loves to see large families with many children (though of course His plan for each unique family might be different), and He also loves to see beautiful, wonderful, loving marriages. I don't think He would have made the two things mutually exclusive.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Chocolate balls: a fun and easy treat

chocolateballs 001, originally uploaded by Anna's musings.

I made these easy and delicious chocolate balls a few days ago, and they were loved by everyone! Very fun and simple to make.

Here's the recipe:

500 gr dry biscuits, broken into small pieces
1 cup sugar
100 gr butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon good cognac or liqueur
vanilla extract to taste
chopped coconut, chopped nuts or cocoa powder for rolling

In a pot, bring to boil sugar, water and cocoa powder. Take pot off the stove and add butter; stir until it melts. Add biscuits. Make balls and roll in coconut, chopped nuts or cocoa powder. Put into the freezer or refrigerator, depending on how hard you like them.

This quantity made 20 healthy-sized chocolate balls for me, but if I made them a bit smaller, I think I could easily get 30.


Dear friends, I hope everyone had a good weekend. My husband and I had a refreshing, restful Shabbat. I must say I was very happy to hear from so many ladies who wrote asking for the baby set crochet pattern. I had no idea there are so many crochet lovers lurking around here! :-) I hope you enjoy this sweet pattern, and have many, many quiet, peaceful and happy hours working on it. Those of you who have blogs - I will be delighted if you post pictures of your work and pop in to give me an update when you do!

Blessings to all from your friend,

Mrs. T

Friday, August 1, 2008

Keep it private: why you should guard your personal matters

Several times, I received emails from young wives who felt pulled in two opposite directions. "My husband and I are thinking about doing this and that," - they say, - "but my parents/his parents/siblings/aunt/uncle (and the list goes on) think we should do something very different". This can refer to anything from buying a house or moving, to employment options, having a baby, children's education, financial investments and any decision you would reasonably think should be between husband and wife alone.

Naturally, a young couple that is just starting out might make mistakes, and can often benefit from loving, gentle advice that comes from more experienced family members. However, one must put a very clear line between advice (acceptable) and rude interference (totally unacceptable). Perhaps you have seen it in action. One woman lives close enough to her in-laws for her mother-in-law to "pop in" unexpectedly several times a day and criticize the way the young wife copes with her chores; another receives backlash from her mother for staying home and homeschooling her children; another woman has to endure unkind remarks from tactless family members for "daring" to become pregnant when others think she and her husband shouldn't have more children... examples are endless.

A young couple needs space to establish their own life, and yes, sometimes it will mean they make mistakes - but there's no other way to learn to live independently as a couple. Individual circumstances and cultural differences must be taken into consideration, of course, but generally, I believe a certain distance can do much good in those first years the couple is getting used to married life. As much as we love our parents and the rest of our family, it should be made clear that no one will take part in decisions the couple must make on their own.

The happenings of your life should be presented as facts: we bought a house; we are moving; we are pregnant; we decided to homeschool this year. If you aren't firm, you might be stuck in the bog of "good advice" given to you by any well-wisher who has a spare minute - sometimes not only your family, but complete strangers.

What about times when husband and wife are debating over which course of action to take? I believe it's very dangerous for a wife to let others know she doubts or mistrusts her husband's decisions - especially if those others aren't known for their love, wisdom, kindness, experience and tact. By doing this, she opens the path to further disagreement and conflict. And complaining about your husband to others? I truly can't think of a worse idea. Now, please understand I'm not talking about abuse and other extreme situations. But consider a woman who tells a friend of hers, "Johnathan thinks we should sell our fancy house and buy something more modest so we can pay off our debt faster. I'm not sure I should agree to this. I don't know how he expects me to manage with only two bedrooms and no garage!" - in response to that, her friend yells indignantly, "What? Only two bedrooms? No garage?! That's crazy - you should put your foot down and tell him you don't agree to this!"

See what's happening here? If the conflict remained between husband and wife, a compromise could be reached - perhaps three bedrooms and not two - but after talking to her friend, the wife is determined to plunge further into conflict with her husband. I will assume the friend meant well, but she didn't hear the husband's side of the story; maybe she doesn't know the size of debt the couple has acquired; perhaps she, herself, is in debt up to her ears and doesn't see anything wrong with that; perhaps she thinks "winning" an argument is more important than peace between husband and wife.

Unfortunately, not everyone we know can be trusted, and not everyone we trust can give reliable, sound, godly advice. Friends or parents might have very good intentions, but they often will automatically side with us and puff up our feelings of self-righteousness. Imagine that a woman complains about her husband always leaving his dirty socks on the floor and not throwing them into the laundry hamper; a well-wisher fans the fire of her irritation: "Oh, poor you. You work so hard, taking care of the home and the baby, you do all the housework - and he can't do something as simple as put his socks in the hamper? You shouldn't let this pass. Next time he does this, just leave his pile of socks where it is and tell him he won't have clean socks until he learns to put them in the hamper!"

A minor (though irritating, I admit) detail blown out of proportion. It might not even be worth mentioning. Most likely the husband might find a thousand things to complain about - the soup is too salty, his shirt is crinkled, the toothpaste has run out - every couple has frictions, coming simply from living together. We can overlook each other's shortcomings and move on, or we can wage war on each other for every little thing. For a happy, peaceful marriage I will gladly pick up my husband's socks off the floor - and remember he didn't say a word when dinner was burned last week!

When talking about your husband to others, be kind, respectful, and discreet. In your heart, learn to think about your husband with praise and admiration. If you consider it, there's so much to be thankful for. Your positive attitude will find its way into your husband's heart, and he will be encouraged, uplifted and inspired. Build your marriage every day with a kind, forgiving and loving spirit.