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