Monday, December 27, 2010

Freshly picked radishes

Today, we harvested the radishes we planted not long ago. Shira had a lot of fun pulling the radishes out of the earth with her eager little hands. The ground was soft so it was easy even for a two-year-old to do.

I do feel there is something special in doing and watching the whole process, from planting to caring for the plants, to harvesting and eating them. Not to mention they taste far, far superior to store-bought. I can't wait to plant another batch.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Shira's birthday

Our sweet Shira is two years old today. Exactly 2 years ago, today, 19-th of Tevet, I became a mother, when my baby was placed in my arms for the first time, at nearly 6 on a Thursday morning.

Those were blessed years. We are so happy, so grateful, and so fortunate to be her parents - and Tehilla's, too.

I hope you all have a happy day, dear friends.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

More candles


The pictures are a bit blurry, but you can still see the results of the pleasant time I spent on my new hobby :o) I've now used up all the bits of wax that were waiting to be recycled, to much satisfaction.

Someone asked me what I use for wicks. I recycle wicks from old candles that were broken, or didn't burn well. I melt them down in a can and pull the wick out of the can with the help of pincers. I then place the wick on an old newspaper, allow to cool, and use it.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Purposeful pain

In the past couple of years, following the births of my two daughters, I became passionate about natural birth. The credit for this, like for many other things, goes to my dear husband who first prompted me to research the little known risks and side effects of popular pain relief methods (epidural) and birth interventions (the giving of pitocin to induce or augment labor and artificial breaking of waters to name only two).

This past weekend, I was irritated to no end by a one-sided and biased article written by a well-known Israeli anesthesiologist. The article was titled “Pain is Pointless” (translation mine), and promotes the use of epidural during birth. I won’t say names but it makes no difference – the following attitude is common to pretty much all doctors and even nurses on the L&D staff.

“We see birth as a natural and positive process…”

… So far so good…

“… and therefore it is needed to limit its unpleasant parts and allow the laboring women and those surrounding her to enjoy the beautiful side of birth.”

(Translation: the L&D staff are not supposed to deal with vocal, demanding, unsedated laboring women. The beautiful side of a birth with an epidural is peace and quiet in the corridors. Surely you don’t want to deprive the doctors and nurses of that?)

And yes, birthing is so natural and positive that you couldn’t be possibly thinking about doing it without pain relief!

“… Is the pain dangerous?... The answer to this isn’t simple. The harsh pain is accompanied by physiological changes in the woman’s body, and sometimes these changes can negatively affect the fetus.”

Physiological is the key word here. Why would a normal muscular and hormonal reaction of labor negatively affect the baby, when it is perfectly designed to get the baby out? The estimated doctor fails to explain.

Pain caused by labor contractions, which the doctor so aptly compares in the beginning of his article to pain caused by inflammation, injury or surgery, which can and should be treated to alleviate suffering, differs from other kinds of pain by the fact that it has a purpose. Unlike what the headline implies, it is not pointless. Remaining in full consciousness of her body helps the woman know what is going on, which stage the labor is in, and instinctively assume positions that help the natural process of birth.

“… we should also take in account the psychological damage the pain might cause the laboring woman. The effect of acute, prolonged pain on the laboring woman’s mood is added to the unstable psychological state of many women in labor.”

Unstable and dangerous, and must be taken under full medical control – that is how many doctors see the laboring woman, and that, in my opinion, is a great pity. The psychological state of the laboring woman is not unstable. It is sensitive. It is altered. It is on a different level of conscience. All of this is part of the natural hormonal process aimed at helping the woman birth, both physiologically and psychologically.

“Today there are various forms of epidural anesthesia, including one that allows the laboring woman to get off the bed and walk around.”

(We don’t offer this in our hospital but why bother with details?..)

“Epidural anesthesia does not cause harm to the mother or baby, but improves the condition of both.”

How exactly epidural helps the baby isn’t explained, and neither are the very real possible side-effects of it. Now, I know some women choose to have an epidural during birth. It is entirely up to the mother – but what about offering informed choice? Are you afraid you’ll be out of job if women hear about the real risks of what you are promoting? Sure, nobody usually dies because of an epidural, but the risks are there – prolonged labor, increased risk of c-section, prolonged back pains, more difficult recovery and damage to the pelvic floor muscles from badly controlled pushing to name only a few.

The esteemed doctor also states that epidural allows to smoothly make the transition from “natural birth” (I love how doctors use that term for every birth that isn’t a C-section, even if there are a million interventions and a needle stuck up the immobilized woman’s spine!) to C-section – without bothering to note that epidurals raise the risk of C-sections, as has been confirmed by various studies.

The article implies that either you have an epidural during labor, or you suffer uncontrollably – without mentioning that there are safe and natural methods to get through contractions while making pain bearable, including very simple things such as hot water (which you ran out of last time I was having a baby in your hospital, but never mind) and the change of positions.

I have been blamed several times for “hating” doctors following my posts on natural birth. Nothing could be further from the truth. Doctors do holy work and save lives every day – including anesthesiologists whose skills are needed during a surgery. But I think medical schools fail to educate doctors to view birth in the right way – not as a medical emergency, but as a truly normal, natural process which happens on its own, without the need for an anesthesiologist.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Candle-making

Making candles is something I've wanted to try my hand in for a while. Finally, yesterday afternoon I told myself: why not experiment? It costs virtually nothing and doesn't take a lot of time, and it's interesting for little ones to watch (though you have to be careful to keep them away from the hot wax).

I was inspired by Edith Schaeffer's book, "The Hidden Art of Homemaking":

"Candle-making is almost a lost art... everyone has stubs of candles, though many people toss them away as rubbish. These could be saved in a box, melted down and made into candles again. If you have the professional equipment, stubs can be used for your moulds, but if not, it is possible to use an empty tin can. You save the can after you rinse out the tomato juice, dry it and start pouring in your wax (melted in another tin can), combining colours in any way you like. To fasten the wick in the centre, stick it into the first half inch of wax when it starts to thicken, and tie the top end to a piece of wire fixed across the top of the can. Then pour in another inch or so of wax."

What I did was pretty much the same, although I used an empty yogurt can rather than a tin can for a mould: after the wax cooled down, I gently cut the plastic can and took it off the ready candle. Instead of a wire, I simply used a pencil placed across the top of the can.

It really is satisfying to make something useful out of something that would otherwise be thrown away into the garbage.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

All things home

Those who have been reading this blog for a while know my love for everything home-made, home-grown, home-spun, home-cooked... well, you get the idea. :o)

There's just something very special, a personal touch, to things that are made at home with the thought of the one(s) that will eventually be using them - something that is lost in the era of mass manufacturing and de-personalization of homes, clothes, food and people.

Mass production is convenient. In the past, everyone made everything from scratch for themselves - food, clothes, even houses, with the entire family, often extended family, working together. Not having to do that frees up a lot of time for personal pursuits, but we pay the price of fast-paced life, detached families, and constant fatigue. Somehow, with all our miraculous modern appliances, computers, convenience foods, dishwashers and cars, it doesn't seem we work less. Expectations have soared along with the convenience of everyday life. We are in charge of more possessions and larger houses which require more upkeep, most of which we are expected to do on our own.

Perhaps not many of us would like to go back in time to a period when we'd have to chop wood for fire and carry home heavy buckets of water from the well multiple times a day. But I think many are looking for a quieter, simpler and more meaningful life, which is achieved most naturally and blissfully in a home setting.

I think that is why so many people nowadays are getting back to trying their hand in hobbies which require manual skills and quite a bit of time and patience - sewing, knitting, stitching, making soap and candles, canning and preserving, and many more. From scoffing at these traditional skills, now seemingly "unneeded", people are going back to valuing them and hurrying to learn the secrets of traditional home keeping before they are lost forever. Perhaps we (well, most of us, anyway) no longer milk our own goats and spin our own wool from the sheep we sheared, but many make homemade gifts for their loved ones and enjoy filling a multitude of jars by a generous summer harvest, just the way their grandmothers did.
  

In the pictures above, you can see the beginning of a crocheted scarf. Crocheting is one handy hobby I acquired before marriage, and I'm so glad I did - it's so much more difficult to find the time to learn new skills once you are married, have a home to run all on your own, and little ones come along.

I think the educational value of growing and making things at home cannot be overestimated. There are just so many opportunities to teach your children this way, while having fun and making real useful things with real tools at the same time, with a most interesting process along the way. Digging in the garden is both more fun and more effective than looking at diagrams of plants in a workbook. Harvesting what you have grown teaches the connection between land, plants and the food that ends up on our table. Teaching a child how to knit or crochet teaches patience, perseverance, and satisfaction in a job well done. Just compare this to passive entertainment such as watching TV, and things that pass for "education" these days.

There are many things I would like to try, or learn better, such as knitting or candle-making. I'm not sure when time will allow me to do that. In the meantime, I'm happy with what I can do, and inspired by the work of other people. Inspired to live slowly, peacefully, with a presence of mind and time - at home.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The makings of marmalade

In the picture above, you can see marmalade from grapefruit peels that had been simmering on the stove all morning and into early afternoon. When you make marmalade or candied citrus peels, it is recommended to soak the peels in water for a couple of days, changing the water every 12 hours, to take away some of the bitterness. I didn't do it this time, and the product has a rather strong bitter taste, which means that its use might be limited to baking (which isn't bad either).

I generally have an aversion to using citrus peels in cooking and baking because of all the pesticides used on the fruit, but in this instance it's grapefruits organically grown in our garden. I think I'll use the remaining fruit for juice and zest. Zest keeps beautifully in the freezer and adds a lot of taste to cakes, cookies and sweet rolls.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rainy day

The past two days, the temperatures dropped and we finally have had a good bit of rain. Today, it was windy, stormy and very cold (for Israel :p). We bundled up in many layers - I'm currently wearing two sweaters and two pairs of socks, one of them thick. The view in the picture above, in case you are wondering, is from our living room window.

It was a lovely slow day. Rain means we're staying inside and there is no romping about in the yard and no hanging clothes on the line, but there are plenty of things to do inside the house - reading aloud, drawing, cooking (which provides the bonus of warmth without the additional cost of heating), writing and crocheting (while there was still enough light).

In the area where we live, even a little rain often means problems with the flow of electricity. With today's thunderstorm, we spent most of the day without electricity at all. It got dark pretty early, and so it was time for alternative measures.

I lit candles on the kitchen windowsill
And on the living room table.

Their soft glow was so warm and comforting.

Stories and songs, candied peel cooking on the gas stove and spreading delicious aroma through the house, and everything suddenly looking so beautiful and mysterious with candle light twinkling through the rain in the house across the street, too - it was wonderful, truly. I was even a little sorry when the electricity returned, although it was undoubtedly nice to get back to a world of bright light, where reading, writing and crocheting can be easily pursued on a long winter evening.

It's late, but many things still must be done, and so I will sign off. I hope your day was as beautiful as mine.

Warmly,

Mrs. T

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gifts

Our friend Rose, in Australia, is a talented knitter and has an exceptionally generous heart. Not long ago, we received a surprise gift from her and her family, which was a delight to us all and which I would like to share here with you.

This is one of Jenny's dolls. If you, like me, have been following Jenny's blog, you sure like her doll creations. Shira calls this one "Granny", and it's perfectly soft and squishy, and just the right size - not too bulky for a two-year-old to handle. It is hand-made from natural fibers in Jenny's home in Tasmania. Its little cardigan was knitted by Rose.
The painting below was done by Rose's talented husband Tony. It's postcard-sized and looks just perfect for a postcard.

Below, you will see samples of Rose's outstanding knitting. Whenever I see her work, I wish I had more time to improve my knitting as well. But, for every thing there is a season and hopefully, my time will come as well.
 
I hope your day is as beautiful as mine!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

About faith and walking with G-d

I received an email from a 25-year-old daughter living at home, who feels as though her life is going nowhere as she is unmarried and seemingly is doing nothing “significant”. I’m posting here part of what I wrote to her, omitting personal details.

I do not consider myself to be fit to teach others about unwavering faith; however, the first thing to know and remember is that G-d is ever and always present in our lives, whether we are aware of it or not, and nothing in this world is happening without His direct supervision and guidance.

It can be difficult to realize that sometimes, as the story of us all is, as yet, only half-written, and it’s easy to doubt especially when horrible things are happening in the world (wars, disease, natural disasters) or when our lives seem to be crashing, and it appears we are in danger of losing those we love the most – or when we simply feel stuck and life is apparently going nowhere, which can be just as painful as we think of all the time that went by, seemingly with no purpose. When we see a half-completed painting, it’s sometimes impossible to figure out what the artist means to convey – yet. But when it is completed, oh, we stand back in awe and marvel at the beauty of it all. This is how it is going to be when we finally realize what His plan was – though the completion of it may not be in this world.

But personally, when I think back to some things in my life which were terribly painful, and I couldn’t understand why it is that I have to go through them – and then, a couple of years later down the road, I realized that these trials were necessary for the beauties and wonders I’ve been so richly blessed with. That it was, and is, part of the same path. This gave me just a tiny taste of G-d’s perfect understanding.
G-d loves us. He delights in every good deed and every positive thought. He created us, and he has beautiful, beautiful plans for our lives, if we walk through life putting our trust in Him alone.

It doesn’t matter how old we are, how seemingly far from where we would like to be, how deep in trouble, how desperate. There is no despair, no hopelessness – not when we realize that what G-d wants the most is for us to grow in closeness to Him, and quite simply, walk with Him. There is of course much more, but that’s the start – us realizing, and cherishing G-d’s presence, and turning to Him as our rock, our only ever present and solid hope, our dearest, closest, most trustworthy Father and friend. Nothing can replace that.

We cannot do it all on our own, and in fact, shouldn’t even attempt to. The burden of doubt, confusion, fear, guilt, uncertainty, loneliness and frustration can be grave when we try to hoist it all on our shoulders. But when we turn to Him in pure, innocent faith, it is easy to see how these burdens are lifted off us – and I mean especially those things about which we can’t directly do something, such as the future which is hidden. To stop worrying is not irresponsible or mindless. It the wisest, most sensible thing to do.

Not that we should do nothing. There is always something we can do, but once we have done it, the responsibility is no longer ours and we aren’t supposed to torture ourselves with thoughts that perhaps we haven’t done enough – but rather, trust and continue the walk of faith.

On a more practical note, it is important to enjoy every stage, and in fact, every day of our lives to the fullest, without thinking of it as a transition or a step to something greater. Even if it seems you are doing “nothing” in your life, and nothing is happening, it is not so. Neither should you see yourself as unemployed, but rather, as blessed with the gift of time which is not limitless and which is precious and can be used to do great things – I don’t know you, and of course, can’t tell you exactly what you can/should do with it. But it can bless countless people, among them yourself, and your loved ones and perhaps even people you don’t know.

I’m not sure how clear I have articulated my thoughts in this long and rambly talk, as faith is such a huge, all-encompassing subject that it isn’t really possible to “finish” talking about it, but I hope I managed to convey at least a small part of how I feel about G-d and His presence in our lives.

I leave you with my warmest wishes and kindest regards, and hope your life is beautiful.

Anna

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday updates

 Dear friends,

Thanks to all who have inquired about our safety, following the horrible reports of the raging fires in northern Israel. I haven't been online the past few days, but now is a good time to tell that our home is not in the zone of fire and we're quite safe from it. May G-d turn His wrath upon the evil men who caused this terrible tragedy.

We're enjoying a quiet holiday here. My dear husband took a couple of days off so we can all be together and work on some household projects. It has been busy and restful at the same time. Busy because there's always a lot to do around here, restful thanks to the fact that we're here at home, following our own schedule and taking relaxing breaks as we go along.

In the picture above, you can see the hanukkiah my husband made for Shira from acorn shells and a wooden plank. It is done very simply. Shira and I collected the shells, and my husband drilled holes in the plank so the tips of the acorn shells will fit and fixed them with glue. Then we fixed the candles inside the shells. The interior around the candle is filled with water, so it will extinguish the flame as soon as it reaches the level of the acorn shell. Of course, such a hanukkiah still needs to be supervised since it's flammable.
And here are some grapefruits, picked and brought in, ready to be eaten raw, juiced, or made into marmalade.

I hope all the Jews out there, and especially in Israel, enjoy the remaining days of Hanukkah, and the families who lost their loved ones or their homes in the fire find consolation and know no more sorrow.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy Hanukkah!

Tonight we are going to light the first of Hanukkah candles, and I'd like to take the opportunity to wish a very happy Hanukkah to all my Jewish readers.

I made potato latkes today. There are countless variations for latkes, and I whipped mine on the spur of the moment, taking:

3 potatoes, grated
1 carrot, grated
3 eggs
about 1/2 cup of flour
salt and pepper to taste

Mix it all together, drop onto a frying pan with oil a spoonful at a time, and fry on both sides, and a delicious treat is ready.

Happy Hanukkah, and may we see Beit Hamikdash rebuilt soon in our day, Amen.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Goodies of the day

 Freshly squeezed orange juice.
And crustless potato quiche, hot and savory straight out of the oven.

I think the secret of living a beautiful life at home with little ones is in enjoying the small pleasures of life, without waiting for the seemingly "greater" things to happen. :o)

Have a lovely day, everyone.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Product review: a skirt from Kosher Casual

I was recently contacted by Kosher Casual with the offer to do a product review for them, and happily agreed. A few days ago, this skirt arrived by mail, and after I spent an entire day wearing it, I can most definitely say I'm very pleased with it.
It's a full-length, flowing A-line black skirt. The fabric is light and pleasant to the touch, and wonderfully fitting for warm weather - which is great for Israel, because warm weather is mostly what we have here :o). I'm usually wary about ordering clothes online because it can be difficult to picture exactly how this or that item looks in reality, but this is a classic item that, I think, would look good on just about anyone. The waist is stretchable, which makes the skirt great for pregnancy and postpartum as well.

I know this is going to be something I wear often, and feel great while wearing it.

I'm lucky to be living in Israel, where modest clothing is popular and readily available in many chains. However, I know this isn't the case for some of my readers. If you live in a place where modest clothing is hard to find, and you don't sew, it might be worthwhile to check out Kosher Casual. The clothes and accessories they offer look great, and the prices are very reasonable.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Feminism Q&A

I received an email from a young lady who is studying in college; she asked me several questions about how I regard feminism, and I decided to post my reply here, since I thought it could be interesting to my readers.

“What, in your opinion, is feminism?”

Before I get to answer this rather complex question, you must keep in mind that I’m an Orthodox Jew, and therefore believe men and women are inherently different, and have different roles as outlined in the Bible. These roles are easy and natural for most men and women to assume, and indeed throughout history men have been doing most of the outside pursuits, leading their families and providing for their wives and children, while women were centered on their role as wives and mothers, took care of the practical and spiritual aspects of family and home and leaned on their husband as leader and provider.

Now, I know feminism is a vast movement and not all of it can be tarred with the same brush. Some feminists accept the fact that men and women have different inclinations and capabilities in various fields (though I must say most do not realize the extent of the difference), and claim their only goal is equal opportunities for people of equal capabilities, disregarding their gender. Some are egalitarians and deny that men and women have any inherent differences at all, and claim that the different inclinations we see in men and women are merely the product of social stereotypes (I do have to say I find it striking that some people actually think the dramatic differences in our biological structure bear no influence on our minds).

Some are radicals, such as a certain group of Israeli feminists who infiltrated the army and conducted biased research, on the base of which women were entered into combat units which were previously men-only. The fact that combat training did irreversible damage to the health and fertility of some of those young women, and that the presence of women acted towards the lowering of standards and the detriment of military performance, was apparently of no concern to them. They didn’t care that they are basically putting their own country at risk, as long as their ideals were promoted. Fortunately some sane people woke up and spoke against it.

For the sake of the discussion, I’ll say that feminism is any movement that detracts a woman from her natural role as a wife, mother, nurturer and guardian of the home. Even those movements that claim they only speak about the creation of “equal opportunities” practically continue the damage to the social structure which was caused by feminism. For example, once efforts are done to make entering the work force more feasible for mothers (such as, by lowering the cost of daycare), it becomes expected of women to take advantage of this marvelous “opportunity”.

“Where did you learn about feminism?”


You don’t have to take a special course in feminism to know about it. All you have to do is observe how things are done in all aspects of life today, compared with past generations. I’m 25 years old; for me, feminism was the norm – I grew right into it, thinking women should go into battle and sad and furious when I heard a woman gave up her career for the sake of her family, without even thinking it was feminism. For me, it was simply the right direction in which “women’s rights” were evolving. It was not until later that I realized just how different men and women are and how beautiful and harmonious is the plan of G-d, which includes men and women complementing each other in their different roles. So I suppose you could say I didn’t learn about feminism, but rather, I un-learned it (still in the process of it) later.

“Do you think a young girl could benefit from some aspects of feminism these days?”


I think the key here is to look at what feminism has actually done. Has it promoted the overall happiness of women, stabilized the social structure of families, created a healthier (both physically and mentally) generation of children, contributed to economy, reduced the levels of stress and anxiety for both men and women? No, no and again, no. Feminism robbed countless women of the fulfillment they could easily and naturally have had as wives and mothers, leading them to the false belief they must do something “greater” to be happy, and causing the average “modern” human being to believe that the existence of a woman as “just” a wife and mother is illegitimate. This is now ingrained very deeply in us. Even many of the women who do stay behind to guard the hearth and home, often fret about proving they are “doing enough” at home in order to justify their presence as homemakers.

Of course, I realize that feminism as a social movement did not spring out of nowhere. There was a deep grain of social injustice and therefore dissatisfaction, but was it because there were flaws in G-d’s design for men and women? No, but rather, it was because faulty human beings failed to keep up with what was so beautifully outlined for them. I firmly believe that, had all husbands treated their wives in the fair and kind way they were supposed to, the utter concept of feminism would seem laughable. And I must say that at least in the Jewish tradition, men were never permitted to abuse their wives and were required to treat their wives with respect and affection, and provide for their wife to the best extent of their abilities.

I often hear, “but there were always some who did not feel inclined to marry, and they found themselves in a terrible situation because there were no other options for them. Isn’t it so much better now, when a woman can do meaningful things such as work or study, and support herself in the absence of a husband?” and to this, I’ll say that humans are complex and lives are complex, and I cannot attempt to cover any and every scenario here – but overall, I’m speaking of social trends. Staying single was not a trend, it was more of an oddity. With the onset of feminism, what happened was not that going into the man’s world of academic competition and work was secured as a valid option for the few women who didn’t marry. Rather, it was turned into the expected path for the many, many, many more who wanted to, and did marry and have children, and were then expected to juggle it all so as to “enjoy the best of both worlds” (side note: without truly being able to fully dedicate themselves to either path, as human resources are limited after all).

So, when a young girl today enters university or starts a promising career, it may be said that she is “taking advantage” of the opportunities feminism provided for her, but we mustn’t forget that she is also doing what is now expected of her – again, thanks to feminism. Academics and career are not a “treat”, they are now an obligation, and the reason why this is not fair to women is easy to see when you observe women juggling career with marriage, motherhood and homemaking.

It goes without saying that not all women have “careers”, just as most men do not have careers, but simply jobs aimed at putting bread on the table (and many feminists who hold themselves aloof don’t realize just how snobby and elitist it is to talk about “self-fulfillment” and “self-realization” and “empowerment”. Only a select few can afford that!). Many just work because it is now the expected norm for a woman to be doing “at least something” outside the home, and also because the flooding of the market with female labor force caused a sharp drop in salaries, so that living on one income immediately became much less comfortable than before (though certainly still feasible). Husbands began to feel that it is their right to expect the wife to generate an additional income, forgetting that it is their obligation to provide (again, in the Jewish tradition).
All of this created a vicious cycle, the breaking of which requires conscious decision and quite a leap of faith.

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg and in no way a full account of why I see feminism as nothing short of a tremendous social disaster and the cause of terrible tragedies in countless families and society as a whole. Truly, I could continue talking on and on about rampant divorce, promiscuity, abortions, the downfall of the father’s authority, and general confusion and misery that sadly, now plague the women of my generation. But perhaps I’ll leave that for another day.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Goodies

 Chocolate cake balls made from leftover marble cake that had dried up a bit. If you've never heard of cake balls, here's the general idea.
Oatmeal peanut butter cookies, with chocolate chips replaced this time by a healthier variation of raisins and dried cranberries. Shira helped crack the eggs and stir in the cranberries and raisins. :o)

We had a delightful time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Potty training

Remember I told we've embarked on the adventurous journey of potty training? Well, here's a little update on that. To give some perspective to my newer readers, our older daughter Shira is now 22 months old.

From refusing entirely to go in the potty, Shira moved to consenting to pee in the potty, when offered at the right moment. She does not ask for potty and does not seem to mind a wet or dirty diaper. So, I expect the road will be long yet (although you never know), and from parents who went through the potty training saga not long ago, I've heard the most important thing is not to lose heart and remember that all children will, at some point, be potty trained.

It does not help, however, (and here you'll have to excuse me for a little rant) to get remarks from certain family members (in particular from the older generation), about how I should have started a long time ago, how they potty trained their children much earlier, and how "disgusting" it is to see a 2-year-old still in diapers.

I can't deny that about a generation ago (when I was a baby, for example) potty training took place much earlier, closer to the age of 1 than 2 (or even 3). It's a fact that I was potty trained at around 1 year old, with little accidents. I think it's great if someone succeeded to potty train their children early. Some, I know, are even doing Elimination Communication with their babies starting soon after birth (though I'd love to know how they are doing it if their babies, like mine, "go potty" not soon after, but during nursing - as a general pattern).

I do believe that potty training is a vastly different experience at an earlier age, and my guess is that it is based rather more on conditioning than on cognitive learning. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. I think early potty training is great, as long as baby and parents are happy! But when you already have a 2-year-old who is not potty trained yet, you can sit her on the potty but you can't make her go if she doesn't want to, same as you can sit her in her high chair but you can't make her eat, same as you can put her to bed but you can't force her to sleep. I believe you can practice certain things which can be helpful, but eventually, she has autonomy over her body, little as she is.

Perhaps I could have started earlier, and windows of opportunity were missed (for example during the time I was pregnant and did not feel the sufficient energy to squat by a potty many times a day). Perhaps it is a shame. I'm not sure. Either way, I doubt that it will make much difference in the long run.

What I wish I could do is eliminate the competition element for parents about such basic milestones which will be reached anyway. All children will be potty trained eventually, and those who potty train later for various reasons are not bad parents and should not be made to feel like they are.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

What does it take to be a "good" wife?

It is always very difficult for me to write about marriage, because it seems that I can never stop talking, and once I do, it seems almost as though I didn't really say anything. However, today I would like to share some of what I wrote in reply to a dear lady who told me of her disappointments in marriage, in particular having to work outside the home rather than being a traditional wife like she would have wanted.


I entered marriage with a certain image of an "ideal wife" in my head, which was of course a mistake, because I didn't really know my husband and therefore could only have a very vague idea about what kind of wife he would need. A couple of years later, I'm only still learning about that. I'm making many mistakes as I go along the way, but I have realized that the important thing is to never stop trying.

What I did learn was that, of course, there are the traditional, God-ordained, "templates" of being a husband/father/leader/provider, and a wife/mother/nurturer/nester, which are embedded in us. But the variety is wide. And far more than being a traditional wife, or whatever ideal we might have nurtured in our hearts (for, perhaps, it has always looked so pretty to us in books, or in observing other couples), it is important to be a wife to your husband. 

It is not easy. It involves knowing your husband more intimately than you have ever known anyone, knowing his strengths and abilities, his weaknesses and his needs, and how to enhance them. The last thing I want is for you to think I'm giving out pearls of wisdom from some sort of high pedestal of an ideal marriage. In many ways, I'm only fumbling in the dark, and perhaps will never quite succeed in becoming the wife I wish I could be to my husband. 

There are direct commandments given by the Almighty, which are of course not to be violated (certainly, there is a substantial difference in those between Jews and non-Jews). If the husband tries to exercise his leadership of the household in ways which confront with G-d's ways (for example, in a Jewish home, trying to persuade the wife to stop keeping the laws of Shabbat or purity in marriage), the wife mustn't obey. But in grey areas, and there are many of them (living a traditional vs. modern lifestyle, homeschooling, etc), the husband's leadership is more important than our ideals, or anybody else's. There was also a time when I had to work outside the home, though thankfully I was soon able to return to being a full-time wife and mother. I believe the best, natural and right place for a woman is within the domestic environment, but since working outside the home is not, as and of itself, wrong, I tried to do my best to be a cheerful help mate under less than ideal circumstances (though again, I must admit, with many failings along the way). 

Of course things become more complicated if the conflict in question is something you have actually discussed before marriage, and now have reached a point when you don't know how to proceed and each one of you thinks differently. It happens in the normal course of life, and can be difficult. That's when you must sometimes humble yourself, and trust me, I know it isn't easy. So often, I have been guilty of the sin of pride. Yes, I do very often find myself thinking of the way things are "supposed" to be, but in reality, being a good, loving wife is more important than being creative, clever, traditional, skillful, or any other way I would like to describe myself. 

In the beginning of my marriage, I was always frustrated about my cakes coming out slightly burnt at the bottom. To me, this was a failure because I like cakes to come out nice and soft. But my husband, it turns out, relishes that slightly burnt taste. So now, those slightly burnt cakes are a success to me. 

Here's a post I wrote a couple of years back, as a young bride. It was titled "Becoming One". I have re-read it a couple of times since it was written, and each time I told myself, my, I wish I had been better at taking my own advice sometimes! :o)

A blog I find very encouraging, in case you aren't familiar with it, is Eyes of Wonder. I drew inspiration from it as an unmarried young woman, and continue to draw inspiration from it as a wife and mother. It is no longer updated regularly but this makes no difference - I go back and read the archives, and each time it is like meeting an old friend, or reading the kind of letters you could get from your mother (if you are very fortunate to have such a wise and kind mother). There are parts I copied, printed out and glued into a notebook which I sometimes read for encouragement. 

I think nothing is more important in marriage than to love and give unconditionally. I don't mean the Hollywood-type "in love" feeling, but the steady love than holds out even in the midst of hardships and throughout them. Love, even when things seem hopeless, for of course they aren't hopeless - not really. Nurturing this kind of love makes me feel so blessed. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Kosher Casual's Modernly Modest contest

Just a quick note before the weekend: I wanted to give all you ladies a heads-up about a contest that's taking place at Kosher Casual. They are running a raffle for a $100 gift certificate - I have just entered myself. Kosher Casual offer a selection of modest skirts, tops and accessories. I know many of you don't live in an area where modest clothes shops are available, and I'd love the lucky winner to be one of you.

The raffle ends on November 30-th.

Cooking away

A batch of stuffed peppers. I make these very simply, and it's difficult to provide a recipe, as so much is done by intuition. Here's what I do, approximately.

Take a large pot and 6-7 large or 9-10 smallish bell peppers of any color.

Saute 1 finely chopped onion and 1 grated carrot. Add 1 cup of rice and about 1\ 4 cup water, salt, and spices. Cook for a few minutes until water is absorbed. Let mixture cool down a bit and stir in 1 beaten egg. The egg will make your mixture more sticky. This is a tip I learned from my mother.

Carefully remove tops of peppers and empty them. Fill with rice approximately to 3\4 of their height.

After I have done this, I make a very simple and rather runny sauce for the peppers to cook in, from concentrated tomato juice with some lemon juice, a dash of paprika, thyme and oregano, all this mixed with boiling water. I make enough to cover the peppers almost completely. Then I let it all simmer for approximately 2 hours, on low.

If this inspires you to make stuffed peppers, I'd love to hear how it worked out for you!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

On a cold evening

This has been, so far, a very warm autumn. Hardly any rain and we actually still walk barefoot on some days. The evenings, however, are cool up here, and call for something hearty and warming, like a bowl of rich soup.  It's a very simple meal, which usually involves simply throwing together whatever veggies need using up, and some lentils. Very satisfying, too.

Hope you're enjoying cool autumn evenings too, wherever you are (well, except Australia perhaps :o))

Sunday, November 7, 2010

It's a busy Sunday

Sundays in Israel are like Mondays in most of the world. The weekend is over, and the house is being tidied, floors swept and washed, and everything gathered in order to begin the week in a productive and pleasant way.

It makes my heart especially glad to see a clothesline full of little ones' things. It's lovely to see them all nice and clean, blowing in the warm breeze.

Many things are pulling my attention; the kitchen and garden, and various projects. I guess I ought to get up from the computer now I've said a quick hello, and start somewhere - while the little ones are taking a nap. The day is so lovely I'm not even tempted to take a nap alongside them, which is rather unusual. :o)

Wishing you a great week!

Your friend,

Mrs. T

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pollyanna and girls' education

Recently, I have had the pleasure of reading Pollyanna, a gift from a dear friend (thank you, Judith!). My English-speaking readers are, of course, familiar with the book, but for me, it's new. Right in the beginning, one scene captured my attention - the one where Aunt Polly is talking about Pollyanna's education.

'... At nine o'clock every morning you will read aloud one half-hour to me. Wednesday and Saturday forenoons, after half-past nine, you will spend with Nancy in the kitchen, learning to cook. Other mornings you will sew with me. That will leave the afternoons for your music.'


At that time, Pollyanna is eleven years old, which makes me think what a long way we have gone regarding girls' education - and not in the right direction. Many teenagers today hardly read at all, and as for domestic skills - oh, how I wish I had learned the basics of cooking and sewing (not to mention cleaning) at an earlier age. It would have saved so much trouble afterwards.

Of course I'm happy about what I have learned so far, and it's never too late to learn more, but it sure goes more slowly when you are already married and have children. Basic life skills are so vital to children - of both genders, but especially to girls, who are future wives and mothers. Basic healthful meals and knowing, at least, how to mend a loose button or a split seam are important in every household.

Some home economics is still taught in kindergartens and schools, though it went out of fashion - but even if there were a lot of home economics classes, the best place to learn things like that would still be at home, where cooking, sweeping the floors, sewing, mending, knitting and working in the garden occur as part of our day-to-day lives. A little child learns a lot simply by observing an apron-clad mother, and later by participating in simple tasks.

Shira goes into the kitchen every day, picks up the broom and begins sweeping the floor, in imitation of what is done by adults. Of course, for now her sweeping has limited productivity, but with some encouragement and persistence, this will change in a couple of years. It's the process that counts, and her being able and encouraged to work with real tools.

After the aforementioned speech from Aunt Polly, Pollyanna exclaims, 'Oh, but Aunt Polly, Aunt Polly, you haven't left me any time at all just to - to live... I mean living - doing the things you want to do: playing outdoors, reading (to myself, of course), climbing hills... and finding out all about the houses and the people and everything everywhere...'


I heartily agree, perhaps because I'm such a dreamer and always loved unstructured time as a child, myself. It was not laziness and not boredom - it was necessary, for me, to encourage creativity. The most unusual projects sprang up from that "doing nothing" time. If time allowed, I could tell a lot about it. However I must just say I think children's time is occupied these days in too structured a way, and not necessarily with all the right things. Children have long hours at school and plenty of extracurricular activities, but not much time to live and learn about life. Keeping children occupied like this is perhaps convenient, but I do really and truly think it comes with a heavy price.

When it comes to educating children, I'm only at the beginning of the way, being the mother of an almost two-year-old and a newborn. Our day-to-day journey of living and learning at home is most interesting, and I expect it to get only and ever more exciting as time goes by.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A row of jars

Remember these?

Our locally harvested olives are now all fitted into jars (we use old recycled glass jars that have been properly sterilized) to be preserved according to a traditional family recipe. It required no special equipment and my husband actually did it all by himself.

They are stored at room temperature and will be ready for consumption in several months. In the meantime, they provide an original piece of decoration, don't you think?

Monday, November 1, 2010

What have I been up to?

Just some simple things, you know.
Not perfect yet, but it's a start.
Some potatoes have sprouted in the refrigerator, and I planted them mainly for the educational value, to let Shira water them every day.

We're having fun. :-)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A crop of grapefruits

This is our grapefruit tree. Last time during its blooming season, it attracted a lot of bees, which I was very happy about. It resulted in good pollination and a much better crop than last time. The grapefruits are small but very sweet and taste so much better than store-bought fruit.
I wonder how well they will keep on the tree if we eat them a little at a time, or whether it's better to pick them all at once. We are still very novice gardeners, you see. :o)

I'm relishing the pleasure of picking fruit and eating it, still warm from the sun, right under the tree where it grew. I believe it's also good for children to see fruit growing, then finding its way to our plates. It removes some of the detachedness in having all our produce come home in plastic bags from the supermarket.

We also did some experimental planting of tomatoes and radishes this week, and if the results are successful, I'll share pictures.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Among the things I love the most

Tiny hands and feet of babies.

Bathing babies and the fresh scent of their skin.

A cozy nursing spot.

Laundry on the line blowing in the breeze.

Cakes in the oven, soup on the stove.

Homemade gifts - clothes, books, furniture.

A pot of tea on a rainy day (not that we've had many of those lately...).

Everything quiet, calm, soothing, nurturing that has to do with home and family. What a privilege it is, to be part of a family and to have a lovely little home.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

More breastfeeding-related issues

I'm jotting this down and putting this online, just in case someone with a similar experience is reading. I didn't really expect surprises with breastfeeding this time around, but as I'm learning, you can never know everything! So, here are two new (to me) lactation experiences...

Painful letdown - with Shira, I had mild tingling sensation during letdown which was even rather pleasant. Now, letdown is often so painful I have to gasp for air. It feels like pins and needles. There are no symptoms of breast infection and otherwise I'm feeling just fine. I suppose this is another feature of overactive letdown.

Feelings of depression and anxiety prior to letdown - I didn't really notice this during the first few weeks, because everything was such a blur emotionally - but now that things are becoming more or less steady, I can definitely tell I'm having strong, though fortunately brief, feelings of anxiety and depression at the beginning of each time I sit down to nurse the baby.

It is not postpartum depression as otherwise I'm feeling perfectly fine, and usually it passes after a minute but it is still unnerving because it's obviously a chemical/hormonal reaction which has nothing to do with my real-life emotions, and which I can do nothing about. This is something completely new to me - I never experienced anything remotely alike when breastfeeding my first child. I'm not sure whether something can, or even should be done about this (I can, after all, cope with feeling anxious for a minute at a time), or whether it might pass on its own. I searched the web and came across this link.

So much for breastfeeding babble for today! Hope all you ladies have had/are having a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Leaning on Him

In a comment a few days ago, Rose said that I seem to be a natural when it comes to motherhood. Rose, I do often wish it was so. :o) If motherhood and child-rearing came naturally to me, there'd be a lot less difficulty, and sometimes frustration and even feeling as though I'm at the end of my rope - but also a lot less growth as a person and woman, wife and mother, and a lot less reliance on the Almighty, Who alone has all the answers.

I sometimes hear people say they will not get married until they feel perfectly situated for marriage, or that they choose not to have children because they aren't the "maternal" type. I can only speak for myself, and I can tell that I'm not what you'd call the naturally maternal type. I grew up as a lonely child, without younger siblings or cousins to care for, perhaps this has something to do with it. Also, I'm not a very enthusiastic talker, and verbal communication is so very important when taking care of little ones (talking about the daily activities, telling songs and stories, etc). Those are just two examples of the many reasons why I can't call myself a natural when it comes to motherhood. Child-rearing is not natural for me in the sense of being easy, but it is something I'm working on incorporating into my nature, to grow and change and become the mother G-d intended me to become, by placing children in my arms and instructing me to raise them.

He, the Almighty G-d, places us in situations which are good for us, in the way that they are making us stretch ourselves and grow. Without stretching - which is at times painful - there would be no growth. I believe one can never be fully "prepared" for those enormous changes in our life which come with marriage and motherhood. In a way, we are not ready. It is humbling. It is, at times, frightening. Sometimes we feel inadequate in regard to doing what we are supposed to do.

And that is when we come to our Father. It is a part of His plan, too. If things always went smoothly, we wouldn't learn humility, we wouldn't see how truly needy we are of Him, and how He is the only one who can meet our needs, which are so great. Daily, I ask for help to become the wife and mother my family needs. Daily, I ask Him to teach me, guide me, change me.

And even though I'm sometimes embarrassed at how humble my efforts may seem, how seemingly little might have been accomplished compared to what I planned, I know He is ever and always there, waiting for my tears and my failures and my needs. As of myself, I will never be "successful". But with His help, I make it through every day.

He loves us, and longs for our sincere prayer and for us turning towards Him. I once read a lesson asking the question, why did so many great women of the Bible - like our mothers Sarah and Rachel, and Hannah, mother of Shemuel the prophet - walked for many long years down the bitter path of childlessness? And the answer is, that G-d allowed them to grow in that particular way, and from their grief blossomed the beautiful flowers of sincere tearful prayer to the Lord, and complete reliance on Him, which was what He desired.

Someone said motherhood is the hardest job you'll ever love. It's true. It isn't easy, but I am so blessed to be a mother. I sometimes pinch myself, hardly believing that I was so lucky to be chosen to be the mother of my wonderful children. I'm so excited to think that my journey as a mother is yet just beginning to unfold, that there's a promise of many years ahead to see my children grow. So beautiful. My husband and I are not alone, never - there is a good great Father and King guiding us. In Him we trust.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A bit of this, a bit of that

In the picture above: olives from local trees, sorted and set aside to be preserved and enjoyed later.

Today is a good day for a bit of this and a bit of that.

A bit of laundry and a bit of cooking, a bit of working in the yard, and a bit of resting throughout the hottest hours of the day. The usual heat wave that comes before the rains is especially intense this year.

Hope you all are having a wonderful day,

Mrs. T

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Toddlers, traditions and basics of faith

"I've been curious as to how you're going about teaching Shira the traditions of your faith at her age. I know the celebrations of your faith are serious things, and require strict adherence, but how do you handle that with a active toddler? I know she's still very young, but do you read the scriptures to her? Do you do little lessons that are easy on her short attention span? What do you do when one of your traditions requires silence, or quietness, or prayer? Does she participate, or is she allowed to play quietly while the adults participate in the ceremony?"

… I got this question in the comments, and thought to write a bit about it, as time permits. Since we’re talking about traditions, I’m going to use quite a lot of Jewish terms in the post, which might not be understandable to my non-Jewish readers – however, you can Google them if you are interested.

No age is too young to learn, and I believe children soak up their parents’ values and beliefs from babyhood. I think it’s important to keep children involved in the spiritual life of the family from the start, and not just leave them out of it until they are “old enough”.

Shira learns as we go about our daily and weekly routine, and can understand simple concepts which are explained to her along the way, such as “don’t touch the markers, we don’t draw on Shabbat”; “Daddy is going to say a blessing and we’ll reply ‘amen’” – she now often does that on her own without being told to; “the food on the table is for the Kiddush, don’t take anything right now”; and so on. It’s not too early to start saying the “Modah ani” in the morning and the “Shema” before bedtime with toddlers.

That said, it is understandable that children are children and sometimes, being quiet and sitting still for too long is too much to ask. If I see her particularly antsy during the Birkat Ha-Mazon, I let her out of her high chair and she can play quietly until we’re done. In synagogue, she will usually enjoy herself during the kabbalat Shabbat songs, but I won’t keep her inside when there are bits of prayer or reading of the Torah which require silence. Some times are great for bringing toddlers to synagogue, such as Purim when everyone are expected to make a lot of noise, or on Simchat Torah when everybody is dancing with the Torah scrolls; others, not to great. A wise parent will know to make the discernment :o)

As a rule, synagogues don’t have nurseries so often the mother either brings her young children with her to service or remains at home. Women are not required to participate in public prayer but of course it’s a shame if they can never come. So sometimes there are interruptions by young children and no one makes a big deal of it.

As children grow, they are gradually required to take a greater part in the mitzvoth. Little girls begin to wear skirts and longer sleeves, little boys get their first haircut at age 3 and start wearing a kippa. Children begin to learn the basics of prayer, more emphasis is put on waiting between meat and dairy, and so on. There are many intricacies to Jewish life and the guideline is to teach children what is age-appropriate and what they are able to grasp, to avoid frustration.

But again, the greatest part of learning, I believe, is providing a Jewish home. Children do what their parents do; they learn by example. If they see their parents are happy, proud and excited to fulfill the mitzvoth, they will feel happy, proud and excited about being Jewish and living as Jews, too. So right now I’m focused far more on self-improvement than on teaching.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Two under two

Many people asked me how I’m adjusting to life with two, so I thought I’d write a bit about it. I know a few of you moms out there are smiling, because you’re homeschooling five, six or more children of different ages, and have gone through the transition of adding a new baby many times. However, for me the road is yet just beginning.

I have to say that making the step of adding a second child to our family was, in fact, easier than I thought it would be. When Shira, our firstborn, arrived to join us, motherhood was overwhelming because I had to adjust to the new situation of having someone utterly helpless, dependent, and so very needy, in our home and our life. Now it came more naturally, perhaps because I knew better what to expect.

I was so worn out by the last months, and especially last weeks of pregnancy, that I had no idea how I’d manage taking care of a new baby on top of everything else I had to do (in particular, watching over Shira who is growing more energetic and curious day by day). What I didn’t expect, and what was a pleasant surprise to me, was how much my energy levels surged upwards a mere couple of weeks after birth. Despite the sleep deprivation, and despite having now two under two, I don’t feel as tired as before and much more gets done.

I even started some new projects around the house, and embarked on the journey of potty training (an adventure which merits a post of its own, sometime).

Of course, I also had to prioritize and minimize, and see what is important to our well-being and what can be put off until a less hectic season in our lives comes around. What would be stretching me too thin? What could I do without? How should I better manage my time? Sometimes you just have to stick to the bare basics and peacefully let go of everything else, knowing that life has different seasons and if you try to do too much at once you might easily burn yourself out. Taking care of our loved ones, making a peaceful nest at home, resting as much as possible – everything else can wait.

Many talked to me about the older child possibly being jealous of the new baby; so far, it appears that Shira is taking the addition to our family joyfully and naturally. She often asks to see the baby first thing in the morning, and snuggles her many times a day. I don’t spend less time with her, but some of the time I also have a baby in my arms, to the joy of us all! Some suggested I should send our older daughter away for a few weeks to stay with grandparents, so I can rest, but I believe we are much better off given the chance to adjust to life together as a family of four.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tongue-tie and other breastfeeding issues

At our discharge from the hospital, we were told that our daughter has a tied tongue; however, they assured us that it’s presented in a mild form and isn’t supposed to interfere with breastfeeding.

Back then, before my milk really “came in”, I didn’t feel any difference between breastfeeding my first and second baby. However, once the milk started flowing, I noticed a number of issues which may, or may not, have something to do with Tehilla being tongue-tied.

First off, I must say she is able to breastfeed, and in fact does quite effectively. I’ve read stories online about babies who had tongue-tie in such a severe form that it hardly let them feed and they were dehydrated and rapidly losing weight before the problem was fixed. Tongue is a major player in extracting milk from the breast, and when it isn't functioning effectively, it results in uncomfortable latch and difficulty in breastfeeding.

I did notice that she swallows quite a lot of air when feeding, much more than Shira did, which results in lots of gas and frequent spit-ups. Shira simply did not spit up; I bragged about hardly having to do any laundry for her before we started solids, and voiced my expectation for the same this time around. Well, I had to eat my words – I can hardly count the times I’ve changed Tehilla’s clothes and sheets (and mine, too!) this past week.

She also has a hard time dealing with letdown of milk. I must note that this time, I feel a stronger letdown reflex, and once milk begins to flow, she usually pulls off the breast, gasping and choking, while the spray of milk soaks her, myself, and everything around. Once the flow slows down, she returns to the breast with no problems. I don’t go long between feedings and don’t have any engorgement or particular feeling of fullness.

Again, these aren’t very serious problems compared to what other mothers are facing, and I’m not sure whether this has to do with tongue-tie. A tied tongue can be easily fixed, so I’ve read up, by clipping the frenulum (the tissue attaching bottom of the tongue to the mouth). I have not heard of any risks, but so far, we’re taking the “wait and see” approach.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Starting solids

I got a question by email about starting solids with babies; I don’t consider myself an expert in this area by any means (we only did it with one so far!), but anyway, here’s what we did.

We never bought ready-made baby food. I don’t see why anyone would buy those tiny, overpriced jars (unless you’re on a trip). We never thought to look up recipes, either – we simply improvised. As you dive into it, you’ll see making baby food is easy and fun.

We started giving tiny tastes of mashed or blended fruit and veggies at around five months, though solids didn’t make a full meal until around 6-7 months. First food was mashed banana. After introducing each new food, we waited several days to make sure there was no adverse reaction. After we tried an array of foods, we started making mixtures and smoothies using a blender.

I know it is often recommended to give the baby cooked fruit, but generally, we gave it raw (apples, pears, plums) and only cooked/baked her veggies (sweet potato, zucchini, pumpkin). I never saw that it disagreed with her.

Many grandparents and pediatricians think that cereals are a good choice for baby’s first food at 5-6 months, but at that point, the amylases in our digestive system aren’t fully mature yet and it doesn’t do good to overload baby with starches. Fruit and vegetables are far better as first foods.

As our baby grew older, we felt more and more comfortable to simply take a fork, mash whatever is on our own plate and give it to her. However, we avoided foods that are considered allergenic (such as fish, eggs, peanut butter etc) until she was close to one year old.

When we made foods particularly for our baby, we didn’t add salt or spices because we wanted her to experience the natural taste of different foods, but when we fed her off our plate we didn’t avoid salt, though we did avoid very spicy foods and artificial taste additives. As much as possible, we avoided (still do) giving her foods with added sugar, and fake foods such as morning cereals.

Gradually, our daughter grew out of baby foods. Bit by bit, she moved on to soft finger foods, and now, at almost two, she sits at the table with us and eats what we eat. She is not as picky about her food as most toddlers I know, and will generally agree to try almost everything. Her diet is healthy and balanced.

We look forward to repeating this adventure, in a few months, with our second daughter.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A ray of sunshine on a rainy day

A beautiful gift of flowers, from my husband to me.

Flowers fade quickly, which is why I'm thankful for being able to capture them in a picture (and in my memory).

The days of our lives - with all the details that seem so mundane - are as precious and soon gone as these flowers. Equally worthy of being treasured and kept with all the memories created in between.

Today is a lovely day, and I'm about to log off, to enjoy it fully together with my children.

Thank you for all your sweet and kind notes in comments and emails. Hope your day is beautiful, too.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A short update after a long silence

I disappeared for a longer time than I originally planned, and without warning; between the new baby, and holidays, and the computer I usually work with breaking down, there was not much chance to update the blog. I do have to say, however, that my computer time is very limited right now anyway. It usually seems there aren't enough hours in a day, and my time is divided between taking care of the children, the house, and as much as possible, rest. So I do apologize in advance if I'm late in replying to emails, and another update might not be coming as soon as usual - during busy seasons, one must prioritize.

 Anyway, we had a good Sukkot. The photos in this post are from a trip to Jerusalem we took during one of the days of Chol Hamoed.
 And the news that some of you were surely waiting for; our new little one's name is Tehilla ("glory" in Hebrew). She is perfectly lovely in every way and I already find it hard to remember what our life looked like before she arrived.
 There is a lot to write about, but so very little time, and right now perhaps it's better to stop here. I do hope I'll be able to squeeze in another post sometime soon, and perhaps visit a few blogs I dearly missed.
Hope you all are enjoying this lovely season of autumn!
Mrs. T

Monday, September 20, 2010

It's a new day

Just taking advantage of a few spare minutes to tell that all is well, and we are adjusting to life as a family of four. Days pass in a sort of a blur, that's how busy we are around here. I must say, I'm now wondering how come I don't remember, from those first days/weeks with my firstborn, how easy things must have been with just one baby around. ;o)) I suppose that's what you call adjustment. ;o)

In the meantime, things continue to roll on, with laundry done, and meals made and served (I'm so grateful to the neighbors who brought the timely and thoughtful gift of homemade meals in our first days at home), and dishes washed, and a little cleaning and yard work thrown here and there... and some moments of respite throughout the day.

Two playmates in the back yard.

Exploration.

The last of the kittens. All her siblings have already spread out and left, to find their place in the big wide world. She sticks around for now. 

Thanks to everyone for your kind and thoughtful notes you sent via the blog and email. I will try to reply to all who emailed me, but right now time is rare and precious and I simply need to prioritize... I'm sure you understand. 

I'm wishing all my Jewish readers a very happy Sukkot, and remain yours truly,

Mrs. T

Thursday, September 16, 2010

While He watched over us…

… I was in labor, and every contraction was a blessing, because it meant I went into labor on my own, with no need for an induction (which would surely be considered a necessity by every medical professional for someone who went past 43 weeks, counting from LMP – which only proves sometimes that way of counting, can be way off track.)

Labor was shorter this time, and very intense – I could hardly believe how fast I approached the time to deliver. Like last time around, I used warm showers, a birthing ball, movement and prayer to get through. I also ate and drank throughout the labor to keep up my energy levels.

I truly feel as though I have no right to complain, now that I'm holding such a beautiful baby in my arms, but there was one thing I learned, which is: a hospital is a hospital. Even having a good experience once does not guarantee it will happen again, because you never know who's on shift when you arrive.

Physically, my labor was unhindered. There were no drugs, no i.v. poles. Emotionally, however, I felt very disturbed by being questioned, in length, about details of my pregnancy during intense contractions and by the presence of staff in the room who weren't necessary for the actual delivery. Also, instead of handing me the baby right after birth, the midwife immediately whisked her off to get weighed on another side of the room. There are many other details I'd rather not go into, but the whole experience lacked peacefulness and intimacy. If my first birth was something I fondly remember, this time is something I would rather forget soon. I woke up shaking on the morning after, thinking I'm still there in the delivery room.  

This time, I had my baby by my side nearly the whole time, except for a couple of hours. However it didn't come easy, because for some strange reason, babies are viewed as hospital property that is "borrowed" by their mothers – a situation which, oddly, is seen as normal by most of the mothers. Except for me, there was only one other mother who chose to have her baby in her room. I don't like having to make a "special request" to be with my baby day and night. They also kept making ridiculous requests to bring the babies to the nursery, for things like having their diaper changed (!).  

I stayed in the hospital for a total of about 72 hours, which was far too long – however we couldn't go home due to it being Rosh HaShana followed by Shabbat (for those who are unfamiliar with Jewish customs, we don't drive on Shabbat and holidays.)

I feel that if I'm blessed with another pregnancy, I will probably feel a strong desire to have a home birth with a midwife I know and trust. Despite the risk of being far from the hospital.

Time will tell.

PS: We haven't decided on the name yet. :o)

Monday, September 13, 2010

New arrival

Dear friends,

I don't have more than a few minutes right now, but I wanted to check in and tell you all the happy news: we are now parents to two precious little girls. Our second daughter joined our family 5 days ago, 1-st of Tishrei, the evening of September 8-th. I just had time to light Rosh HaShana candles before we felt it's time to head off to the hospital. She was born around 22 p.m, only a couple of hours into the new year. We spent just about 3 hours in the delivery room, and my dear husband was very supportive all along. 

I went to 43 weeks and 3 days (!), but praise the Almighty, we had the patience to wait and I went into labor on my own and gave birth with no intervention. Just a note of encouragement to all the "overdue" moms out there! 

We are still unsure about a name. I hope to post another update with the name and the full birth story soon. Just thought I'd mention our internet connection has been a bit wacky recently, which is the reason why it took me a while to update and might take a while to update again. 

In the meantime, we'll be spending our time resting, recuperating and adjusting. 

Wishing all my Jewish readers a wonderful beginning to this new year!