Thursday, January 29, 2009

Getting back in shape

I don't have too much free time around here these days (apart from the few minutes here and there that I use for eating, showers and washing the dishes); however, during the short stretches I do have, I decided that one of my top priorities will be getting back to a regular exercise routine. I feel well enough for a short and gentle daily workout.

I gained 15 kilos during my pregnancy, which is a lot for someone who used to be only 55 kilos. I don't know exactly how much I weigh right now, but I'm not too concerned about it yet. I'm not at all into calorie-counting - just good, wholesome, balanced food, which is important to any breastfeeding mom anyway. Since all my baby eats is produced by me, I must be properly and healthily nourished.

What bothers me more is the flabbiness in the stomach, waist and hips area. It's not something that can be noticed when I'm dressed, but I feel I ought to gradually work on stengthening those muscles, for my well-being and for the sake of my husband.

Various sources encourage women to wait longer, perhaps even a couple of months, before starting to exercise. However, in a few months I just might be pregnant again... and in case I experience a rough first trimester once more, I want to have a sort of head start. Of course, I realize I must be very attentive to my body, careful not to do anything that can be painful or cause potential trauma.

What about you ladies? How soon after giving birth do you normally start working out, and which exercises are your favorite for getting back in shape?

You can find many postpartum exercise videos on YouTube, such as this one.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Keeping it real - revised

Back in November, I wrote a post called "Keeping it real", in response to questions from people who wondered whether my life at home is perfect, and whether the positive image I always try to display on the blog has anything to do with reality.

Well, I thought that now that we have a baby around here, it's time to get back to the topic. First, I still fully stand behind what I said then:

"What I write on my blog rarely conveys my everyday frustrations; instead, I try to focus on the more profound, lingering satisfaction of being a wife and having my own home to tend to."

The way I see it, it's only reasonable to assume that any real person behind any website, blog, column or book might have details about his or her life they choose not to share. I sure have my little everyday setbacks, but it doesn't make my overall happiness and contentment any less sincere.

I also wrote:

"Having a baby will produce a shift in our schedule, availability, mobility, plans, routine, and family dynamics."

Well let me tell you, ladies - two months ago, I knew this in theory, but I wasn't even close to realizing how truthfully this statement would reflect our life. These days, apart from taking care of the baby, pretty much everything else is put aside. Yes, dishes and laundry are still done, and we still shower every day and find time for regular meals, but otherwise - cleaning schedule, cooking, baking, other projects - forget about it. Also, no longer we are free as birds to go out anytime we like, anywhere we want. Many times, a conversation over the phone is stopped because baby is crying. The needs of a tiny human being must be taken into consideration at all times, and often override our own.

And that's alright.

I'm pretty sure I'm as sleep deprived as any new mother out there. Our baby doesn't automatically adapt to our schedule. She's hungry, she's fussy, she needs to be changed, bathed and dressed - and not necessarily when it's convenient for us.

And that's alright, too. Yes, my baby keeps me awake at night, but instead of being frustrated about it, I think of all the women out there who would give anything to be kept awake by their child - and their arms are still empty. And I realize, yet again, how very fortunate I am.

This, in my book, means keeping it real.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I am so blessed

Today, I received a phone call from a friend. She knew I was pregnant, so I expected an inquiry about whether the little one has made her appearance. Instead, I got a... job offer, and a few questions of a different kind.

Didn't I work at all after completing my studies? No, I have been a happy stay-at-home wife. I knew that in a few months, a baby will arrive, and so I took advantage of the time I had. Settling into the role of a wife, and learning how to run a household all on my own, definitely requires some adjustment – and while I'm nowhere near perfect yet, those first months at home were priceless.

I had the time to take care of my health, eat well, sleep and exercise during pregnancy. I didn't have to worry about explaining why some days, I'm less productive, or why I have to use the bathroom more often, or why I have to take time off for various check-ups and visits to my doctor.

Am I finally going to wise up and start using birth control, so I can get my life on track and promote my career? No, I would dearly love to have more babies. Not to mention that I find such inquiries improper. If, when, and how many children each married couple has, is between husband, wife and the Almighty.

After the conversation was over, I realized yet again how very, very fortunate I am. I am blessed beyond measure – beyond anything I deserve.

At twenty-three years old, I am married to my dearest, beloved husband, and we have a home of our own and a sweet baby girl. My husband appreciates the traditional womanly role, and supports me infinitely in my vocation as a wife and mother. There is no need to get my life "on track" – I am already right where I'm needed most, taking care of my family and home, and there's nowhere else I would rather be.

I can spend my days doing productive work at home, instead of running to and from a boring, stressful job. I don't need to think about sending my baby away to daycare in a few short weeks. Nothing threatens to limit the hours during which I can nurse, hold and cuddle my baby. I can enjoy the creativity of home. My husband works long hours, and by being home, I ensure that whenever he can take time off, I'm here.

I have my own realm, where I am truly making a difference, shaping lives, and working towards the future. The Almighty generously blessed me with the gifts of marriage and motherhood, and I praise Him from the depth of my soul and the very essence of my being.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Wearing my baby

My sister-in-law generously offered to lend me her baby wrap (until next time she needs it), similar to this one:

It's wonderfully helpful when I need to get out of the house for short stretches of time, such as for example to the grocery store. Taking the baby in a stroller would be too heavy and cumbersome.

Yesterday, I got out to hang the laundry and water the plants in our garden with Shira tucked inside the baby wrap. I didn't want to leave her alone in the house, even if I'm only in the back yard.

Also, the little one seemed very happy being worn. ;o) She was fussy, despite being fed and dry, but as soon as I placed her in the wrap she calmed down and fell asleep - and continued sleeping when I finished what I needed to do and put her back in her bed. I think it's the warmth and heartbeat, and being in motion, that did the trick.

The baby wrap is just a long, stretchy piece of fabric. Not long ago, a lady who contacted me by email suggested I could make something like this on my own, and I think it can be very simple for anyone who can do some basic sewing. I would consider making it, if I didn't already have one. Perhaps I will, if I need to return it.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Baby Shira

Yes! Our baby girl is now officially Shira ("Shee-rah"), which means "song" in Hebrew.

I know I had said before that we already decided on a name, and in fact, we thought about a different name - but when we had her in our arms, somehow it didn't feel quite right. So we started considering other names, and after a week of holding everyone in suspense, we finally made the announcement.

Precious moments, hours and days are speeding by - all too quickly. I have noticed that Shira started gaining weight and developing adorable baby chubbiness. Some of her little newborn outfits already seem tight.

This new Mommy has developed the useful ability to fall asleep whenever and wherever at all possible - at any hour of the day or night; sitting, standing or lying down. I'm pretty sure all Moms out there had a similar phase with their newborns.

Other priorities (except, of course, nursing, changing, bathing and cuddling with baby) are very simple - meals, showers, clean clothes for Mommy and Daddy, washing the dishes and keeping up with laundry.

I'm lucky to receive lots and lots of help from my dear husband; also, we have a group of volunteers here who deliver meals for new mothers - something I appreciate very much. I know that within a few weeks, we'll probably fall into a routine which includes at least some cleaning and cooking, but for now, the home-made food that is delivered right to our home is such a blessing.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Slow days

Isn't it amazing how a wee little baby changes your life so completely and irrevocably? It seems that most of my time is currently spent nursing, holding and cuddling our precious girl. As I hold her at my breast, I marvel at the perfection of God's design; He has given us this amazing way of nourishing, snuggling and loving our little ones - while relaxing at the same time.

I have discovered that with proper support, a nursing Mom can have one hand free to hold a glass of water, a light snack or even a book.

These beautiful flowers for the new Mom and baby arrived from where my husband works. I think that from now on, whenever I see roses of such color, I will be reminded of the first few days with my little love.

Some lovely twilight pictures, taken by my sweet husband, who has such a talent for seeing and capturing beauty.

I marvel at watching my beloved become the wonderful father I knew he would be.

Thanks to all the dears who have sent me such sweet emails of congratulations and kind wishes. For obvious reasons, it will probably take me a while to reply, but do know I am thankful for each one.

Wishing you the most wonderful weekend,

Mrs. T

Monday, January 19, 2009

The arrival of little Miss T

I have just finished nursing my little one, and since both she and my husband are now asleep, I thought it's a good time to write a few words about our dear daughter's arrival. Those of you who might not be interested in birth stories (like the occassional gentleman) are welcome to skip this.

I woke up in the middle of the night between Tuesday and Wednesday with pretty intense regular contractions which were already five minutes apart, so we got dressed, ate quickly and drove to the hospital we decided on earlier. We both wondered whether we should stay home for a while longer, but since it was our first time around we decided not to take a chance.

To my disappointment, I was told I'm only 1.5 cm dilated and we were sent to take a walk and come back after two hours. I progressed to 3 cm, but then we were stuck. After 3, 4, 5 hours there was still no progress, and I also began to feel my contractions becoming weaker. The doctors began pressuring me to induce, the main idea behind which was, "why not? It's about time!"

We said we're going to watch and wait, thank you very much, and left. We were both pretty sure that it's the stress of an unfamiliar environment and the mental pressure of "not being on schedule" that's halting the progress. By this point we had a sleepless night behind us and were much too tired to go home. I was exhausted, and gladly agreed to stay with my in-laws, who live nearby, and rest.

Throughout the evening, my contractions began picking up strength again, and this time we weren't in such a hurry to leave the quiet and privacy of our room. We prayed together, and around midnight, my waters broke, which meant it's time to go. Since we were a bit disappointed in the first hospital, and had one nearer, we thought we'd just try there. I'm so very happy we did.

I was relieved to hear I progressed to 5 cm, and was sent into delivery room immediately. The entire birth was guided by a wonderful certified nurse/midwife. The only time a doctor came in to see me was to draw some blood and offer an epidural, which I declined. I walked around a lot and breathed through each contraction. I couldn't put my prayers into words, but my husband recited psalms to me the entire time, and I drew the letters of the Lord's name in my mind's eye. I also took long warm showers, which did wonders to help me relax. From time to time, I was requested to do monitoring, which I was able to do while using the birthing ball - something I never did before, and was pleasantly surprised to learn how simple and helpful it is.

After three or four hours, I began to be concerned because despite what I expected, my contractions didn't intensify. I wondered how long I can keep going - but then an examination showed we're already at 9 cm! I was thrilled and continued walking and jumping up and down on the birthing ball. Less than an hour later, I went into the shower again, and at that moment I felt as though I need to push. The painful contractions I felt earlier were gone. I was told to come out immediately, and another check showed what I already knew - I was fully dilated, and ready to welcome the baby.

For the first time, I climbed up onto the bed, and believe it or not, fell asleep for a few minutes. After two sleepless nights, I'm sure you understand. I conserved my strength and only pushed when I felt the need to. It took less than an hour from that point until I finally had our sweet, beautiful, precious, long awaited child in my arms. I have no words to describe that moment. I couldn't believe it, but there she was, our beloved baby. It was Thursday, 5:55 in the morning.

Giving birth to little Miss T was a glorious, wonderful experience, which taught me that my body was made for this and can do this. I'm so very, very, very thrilled we let the baby take her time and went through this without any interventions or drugs. The simplest things, such as warm water and sincere prayer, were most helpful. No, it wasn't painless, and yes, it was hard work, but I knew that each moment is bringing me closer to holding my baby, and I'd go through it all again in a heartbeat.

We returned home yesterday, and it's wonderful to be back. Thank you for all your kind wishes and congratulations.

And what about the name? We still haven't officially decided on that one, but I will certainly let you know when we do.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Welcome, baby!

Dear ones,

I only have a moment to tell you that Yitzhak and I are now the blessed parents of a sweet little girl.

Our daughter was born on the 19-th of Tevet, January 15-th, Thursday. She is dear and precious beyond words, and I don't know what we ever did without her.

I can't wait to share details. As soon as time allows.

Thank you for all your kind words, thoughts and prayers on our behalf.

Mr. and Mrs. T

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Only that which is lovely

Our blossoming grapefruit tree is attracting these beauties. I can never get them to sit still long enough to take a decent picture, so I uploaded one from Wikipedia. One briefly sat on my laundry rack this morning, probably attracted by the bright colors.

I think it's highly important for expectant mothers and mothers of small children to be careful about what they choose to watch, read and listen to, and surround themselves with loveliness. A calm and quiet spirit of the mother influences the entire household and especially her babies.

We live in a world where, sadly, one can find lots of pain, danger and darkness. Atrocities are reported on the news in fresh hourly reports, the purpose of which is to keep us glued to the screen in a permanent state of anxiety and agitation.

I'm not saying we should become disconnected from reality. Some of us are currently in a situation when ignoring the news completely might put you in actual danger. But there is something more tension-inducing about television reports. Thankfully, we don't have a TV, and I don't browse news websites more than once a day. If there is something important, my husband will usually know about it and inform me. For truly urgent situations, we have an emergency beeper.

I have deliberately avoided writing too much about what is currently happening in Israel. This is not because I live in a bubble, but because I'm determined to keep our home a place of peace, rest, and beauty. I'm doing this for the sake of my husband, and for our sweet child who is about to enter this world any day now. I have awareness, but I refuse to become unsettled.

This is why I continue to happily spend my days making beds, doing dishes, folding laundry, cooking, baking and cleaning; I read, do crafts, take walks and watch our garden grow. I sit for long stretches of time with my hand on my belly, feeling the movements of the dear treasure within.

If there is ever a collective draft of all adult men here, I want my husband to be able to go away knowing he is leaving a calm, responsible wife and mother behind, someone who will be a source of support and comfort to any children we might have. Drawing my consciousness within, I surrender to God and give my all to my precious family.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Marriage: how young is too young?

Recent discussions, some reading and a few emails I received got me pondering about what is an appropriate age for marriage. Obviously, this is not a black and white issue, as I heard both from 30-year-old women who are terrified of commitment, and 16-year-old girls who feel fully prepared and willing to enter the covenant of marriage.

The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that the question should be, in fact, worded differently. Not "how young is too young?", but rather, "are we doing enough in order to prepare for marriage and family life from a young age?"

To me, the answer is pretty much obvious. Most young women are woefully unprepared for marriage. And I'm not even talking about the prevalent ineptitude in the realm of housekeeping - even though it is kind of sad when a 20-year-old woman doesn't know how to operate a washing machine, can't boil an egg to save her life and even prides herself for her complete disdain for housework. Just so you don't think I'm pointing my finger at someone else, I'm talking about myself a couple of years ago.

You can learn the basics of cleaning and cooking pretty quickly if there's need to. What is more difficult to reverse is an entire lifetime of secular education that draws the young girl's heart away from home, from her family, from taking care of others, and from every feminine pursuit that might be beneficial for her as a future wife. This is the world's attitude, and it obviously takes effort, alertness and diligence on the parents' side if they are determined to show their daughters a different path.

Furthermore, young women are often terrified of all the aspects of pregnancy, birth and parenthood. Not long ago, I attended a small highschool reunion. One of my old highschool friends looked at my round tummy and asked, her eyes practically widening with fear, "does it hurt?"; another friend, who called me today, asked if I'm on bed rest. Others have asked how come I'm not under supervision 24/7. Obviously, with all its possible discomforts, normal pregnancy is not an illness and is not supposed to make you incapacitated. So far, my pregnancy has been, perhaps, 5% pain and discomfort, and 95% joy and delight. But how will you ever know, if you are an only child (or, at best, one of two children), and grew up in a system of age-segregated institutionalized education, without seeing pregnant women or ever cuddling a baby?

A lot is talked about how dangerous is it to enter marriage before you are ready. Yet purposefully delaying marriage can be a source of frustration, loneliness, future difficulty in finding your match and adjusting to life together, possible difficulty in having children as the woman becomes older, and a huge stumbling block to remaining chaste.

I remember one girl in my highschool who came from a very traditional family. She got married at the beginning of her senior year, and had a baby by the end of it. She was seen by everyone as a "lost case", as someone who has caused irreparable damage to her future. The terrible irony of it was that we were surrounded by young girls who hopped from one meaningless dating relationship to the next, who became promiscuos, caught STDs, had abortions, and became emotionally crippled for the rest of their lives. But somehow, that wasn't viewed in the light of its true horror - while early marriage and motherhood were considered an obvious tragedy.

Of course, as long as "independence", "self-sufficiency", "self-development" and other "selfs" are glorified to the point of drowning out everything else, and as long as young women and men are encouraged to not even think in the direction of preparing for marriage and parenthood as teenagers, we will remain unprepared and the vague term of "too young to get married" will become a common description of just about anyone under 30.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sailing forward

So... here I am with a little update, for all who have been wondering about how things are developing for us.

First, baby is still in Mom's tummy, and Mommy and baby (and Daddy) are all well and healthy.

I'm now past the 40 weeks mark, but according to my first ultrasound, my estimated due date is January 14-th, so we're not even quite there yet. And we realize that it's not at all unusual for a woman to go a couple of weeks past her due date - so as much as we are anxious to see and hold our baby, we're perfectly willing to wait while this little one takes her time.

Of course, as many of you know, once a woman passes 40 weeks, frequency of check-ups and visits to doctor dramatically increases. I went to do fetal monitoring today, and was told that I'm having contractions. I had three in twenty minutes, but I could only feel them when I really concentrated, which according to the nurse means I can easily have a few days until the "real thing" yet. Anyway, it does seem we are making progress.

I try to stay active, and have spent many hours on my feet in the past days. I don't over-strain myself, but I take long walks, dance, and make circular hip movements when I feel back pains, to gently ease the baby's progress into birth position. Her head is so low now that I feel I'm practically sitting on it.

Since I heard labor is similar to running a marathon, I do my best to eat well, drink plenty, and stay healthy and relaxed. I hope that very soon, I can share the excitement of the birth of our precious child.

I'm also very happy for Daja, who had her sweet little girl a few days ago. Reading her wonderful natural home birth story was a true delight, and I think every expecting Mommy should definitely take the time to visit.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Water conservation

It seems we are facing another winter without too much rain, and again, people are talking about a water crisis in Israel.

"The authority plans to continue drilling for water, reopen old wells and prohibit the watering of lawns."

As a matter of fact, according to the Water Authority website, watering of all gardens is already prohibited (link in Hebrew) starting from November 1-st. To my knowledge, such regulations have been toothless until today, but it seems that this time authorities are determined to enforce the law.

I completely agree about the prohibition of watering of decorative lawns. People who already invested a lot of money in their lawns are complaining about the possibility of the lawn dying, but I really think it's a minor concern right now. With our water resources dwindling, we simply cannot afford such a luxury. Personally, I wouldn't spend money on maintaining a lawn anyway - water isn't just a valuable, scarce resource, it's also expensive. Right now, during winter, our yard is covered in wild-growing plants (also known as weeds). In the summer, the land will be mostly bare and that's OK.

However, I believe that the prohibition of watering gardens is too vague and fails to mention an important clause: people who grow vegetables and fruit for their domestic use in their private gardens, thus producing some of their food and working towards sustainability. Such people usually not only aren't wasteful, but do everything in their power to conserve resources. But of course, some over-zealous official might wage war against vegetable patches as well.

As long as it isn't specifically mentioned that watering edible plants is allowed, watering the radishes you planted in your back yard makes you a law-breaker.

Right now, we do minimal watering in our garden. We use mostly the surplus of water we save, such as cold water from showers, and even from ritual hand washing. We also manage to save some rain water in a few large buckets, and plan to add a rain water tank in the future. On rainy days, if we run out of containers, some of the collected water can be recycled for domestic use - such as washing floors, flushing the toilet, and hand-washing.

Even if your authorities don't have strict water regulations, conserving water is an environmentally conscious thing to do, and it will save you money.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Animal fun

The fun part about having animals around, is how they like to participate in everything you do. See how eagerly this kitty is looking from outside, at the little glowing row of Hanukkah lights.
I have no idea how she got up there, but she was clearly stuck for hours and making the most pitiful frightened noises. However, I'm yet to find a cat that wouldn't be coaxed by a can of sardines. This one was down in no time.
We've seen some foxes around, and no signs of Mr. Duck for at least a week. Coincidence? I'm afraid not. We're going to miss our feathery neighbour. Serves as a warning for us in case we decide to get a couple of chickens; we'll have to make sure they have a safe, protected area.
When I went out to hang the laundry today, I saw that one of the neighbours' pet rabbits had escaped again. Since my neighbour is still recovering from the birth of her little baby boy, and there was no one else around, I boldly volunteered to try and catch the wee bunny before it's eaten by a stray cat or fox. I sure had to do a bit of running around, then made a wild leap for it. After making sure my back is still intact, I proudly returned the protesting rabbit to its cage. Spent some time chatting with my neighbour, while admiring her little one who was peacefully nursing. It seems incredible that just a couple of short weeks ago, this tiny little human being was hidden away in his Mom's tummy. Every birth and every child is such a miracle.
There is now fresh clean laundry on the line; bread on the rise; a beautiful, seasonal salad on my plate. And some ironing still left to do. Perfect day.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Handmade beauties and orange curtains

Today is devoted to long-postponed chores such as cleaning the shutters in our laundry room, polishing the bathroom sink and getting our paperwork sorted out and in order. The floors have also been cleaned, again, so overall I think it's already safe to say this has been a productive day. In between, I wanted to share some lovelies with you...
The very cute baby sweater and hat were knit by my friend Brenda. Aren't they adorable? Dear Brenda, I thought you'd like to see another glimpse of the creation you so lovingly made. And hopefully, a baby will wear these soon enough.

This beautiful little blanket was sent by another talented knitter, Kit. I posted a close-up so you can all admire this lovely, original pattern. I'm still taking baby steps with knitting, so you can imagine how impressed I was by this lacy, lovely masterpiece.
We finally put up the curtains in our bedroom, and they are a lovely, bright, glowing orange. I know they may seem too bright to some, but I love the warmth of this color. In the first house where we lived, we didn't have curtains or shutters in our bedroom, and the sunshine used to wake us very early in the morning. So we draped the window with a dark orange sheet - it wasn't very classy, but it did the job. And I loved the warm, orange glow in our bedroom. I'm glad to have it back.

You can catch another glimpse of our curtains in the mirror. You can also see my bedside table - I'm not proud of how cluttered it is, but haven't figured out a proper place for all those knick-knacks yet. By the way, both the drawer chest with mirror, and the bedside table are hand-me-downs that we got for free. Same goes for my husband's bedside table - it doesn't match mine, but we don't mind too much.

PS: I hope my Jewish readers had an easy 10-th of Tevet fast. For obvious reasons, I'm released from it, but I sure hope it wasn't too difficult for those who aren't. May we all see the Holy Temple rebuilt in our day, and rejoice with Jerusalem.

Monday, January 5, 2009

My mind at rest

Dear ones,

I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend, and a nice fresh start to another lovely week. We are home now, putting the finishing touches on what we wanted to accomplish before the baby arrives.

There is so much I wanted to write, and so many interesting topics I planned to discuss, but my mind is blissfully blank today, and I'm feeling a sense of peace which will hopefully take me through the upcoming labor and birth of our child. I can hardly believe it's supposed to happen any day now. When I try to wrap my mind around it, the sensation is so awesome it makes me want to cry.

Despite the recent happenings in Israel, we remain calm. I think that, for us, the sense of danger was there for a long time. Many concerned relatives and friends wrote to us, to be assured we are out of harm's way; but the truth is, we can't indulge in the illusion of "safety" simply because we are currently not in the line of fire. Our security comes from a different source - the One who is faithful and unfailing.

Thanks so much to all the dear ones who wrote to encourage and support us. I also received several emails with questions regarding some of the recent posts here, as well as other topics - and even though I try to reply to at least a couple of emails a day, however briefly, it hardly seems to be making a dent. I do intend to answer everyone's questions, but it might take time - so thank you for your patience.

In the meantime, I remain in a peaceful bliss of joyful anticipation.

Mrs. T

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The mysteries of kippa-making

Since before we were married, I had intended to make a kippa for my husband. It won't be a problem, I recklessly assured him. Some of my crocheting projects had been quite complicated, so how difficult could it be to make something like this?
Illustration photo: kippa. Not made by me...

To make a kippa, basically all you need to do is crochet single columns round and round, changing colors if you wish, until you reach the desired size. For me, the problem was the curve - the kippa needs to lay nicely over the shape of the head, not being too flat or too curved. The first few I tried to make were bubble-shaped. Another looked like a flat rug. I had no choice but to undo, and try again and again.

It turned out that I'm fine as long as it's all about following a diagram-like crochet pattern, or making something following exact instructions, which state just how many rows and stitches must be made. But when it came to estimating the curve as I went along, and adding columns accordingly, I hopelessly failed!

Needless to say, my husband was starting to be disappointed. To keep my spirits up, at the same time I worked on other projects, which seemed much more difficult to him (like the little blanket you see in the picture above) - and yet they were coming along fine, while this, one little kippa, I couldn't finish. Failing again and again discouraged me, and I worked slowly.

Today, I'm gradually progressing to make something which my husband perhaps will be actually able to put on his head in public... and which will be recognized as a kippa. I hope that once I master the technique, I will be able to make a variety of cute kippot for my husband (and if we have boys someday, for them too); I certainly learned one important lesson: just because something looks plain, it doesn't mean it's easy to make!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Wasps on the grape vine

When we moved into this house several months ago, we inherited two grape vines, which we were delighted about. They run across the perimeter of our yard, one at the front and one at the back. The one in our front yard, which bears red grapes, was already out of season when we moved in, but there was still a bounty of white grapes in our back yard. Here is a picture of our white grapes, at the end of season.These home-grown grapes tasted better than any store-bought variety I ever tasted. They had rich, honey-sweet flavor, and you could easily tell they were allowed to grow and ripen properly.

Growing grapes is an excellent choice for an area like ours, where water is scarce and every drop must be conserved. A grape vine is sturdy and resistant to drought, and generally doesn't require a lot of water. Last year was Sabbatical - which means the previous residents of this house did no watering at all - and there was still an abundance of excellent grapes, which makes me wonder if we should water at all this season, and how much. I think most people in Israel don't water their grapes - even though there's generally no rain from May through October - and I've heard this method is practiced in other areas of the world as well, known as "dry farming".

The only drawback is that last season, our grapes attracted large numbers of huge, nasty wasps, who seemed to like grapes as much as we do. We were in competition with them - either we picked the grapes as soon as we could, or they sucked the juice out of the fruit, leaving empty shells. Beside the obvious damage, they look like the sort of insect you don't want to have near you. Even hanging the laundry in our back yard was an adventure; the wasps, apparently, were attracted by bright colors, so when I tried to hang out a set of yellow and orange sheets, I quickly had to dodge back inside to avoid the disgusting creatures.

I dread their return next season; we tried asking several farmers what we can do about them, but got no advice except to find their nest and destroy it, which has been unsuccessful so far - it's obviously not in our yard. If any of you had to deal with this sort of pests and has advice for us, it will be greatly appreciated.

... Everything is going on as usual here. I'm feeling particularly energetic in the last few days, so I'm taking advantage of it while I can. I did quite a bit of cleaning, washing, cooking, baking, and worked on some organizational projects and some crafts, and also repacked my hospital bag, discarded a few items and added others. We will be away for Shabbat, which means I had to prepare the house for our return - I think few things are more discouraging than coming back to a messy house after you've been gone for a couple of days. Especially if, like us, you think there's a possibility you might come back with a new baby.

We are praying for a safe, easy delivery, and healthy baby and Mom. Hope to share good news with all of you soon.

Mrs. T