Tuesday, November 29, 2011

On the other side of the door

Have you ever had to climb into your house through a bathroom window? I had this unforgettable experience yesterday.

Around midday, the girls and I were returning home from a play-date visit in a friend's house, tired out and ready for lunch, story time and a nap. I opened the door, let Shira in, and lingered outside with Tehilla to give the chickens some fresh water.

Just as I had my back turned to the door, I heard an ominous click of the door locking from inside.

Now, I'll explain - I have two locks, a lower and an upper one, and the lower tends to get stuck so I only use the upper. The key to the upper lock was in my bag, and the lower lock has a fixed key inside it that can't be removed, and another key which can be used from the outside and which I didn't bother to take with me, because I'm not using it anyway, right? The point is, Tehilla and I were out and Shira was in the house on her own, and there was a locked door in between.

I tried to get Shira to unlock the door, but the lock was stuck once more. All the windows were locked from inside too (for safety reasons) and I couldn't quite get her to understand how to open them. Once it dawned on us that we're separated by a locked door, we both got quite panicky. I heard Shira crying inside and could do nothing - I felt so helpless, my husband has the key but he was at least an hour and a half away.

I called a friend who lives nearby, more for moral support than anything else, and she dashed right over to try and get us to calm down, and to coax Shira to give the key another try from inside. In the meantime, I made a last desperate check of all the windows and discovered - hurray! - that the shower window is unlocked.

Problem is, it's a small window that opens only halfway, and it's right near the ceiling. In a stroke of uncharacteristic technical brilliance, I managed to remove the glass panes, which left a square right below the ceiling, large enough for a rather thin person to climb through (I'm proud to say I was even able to replace the panes later, in correct order).

I found a ladder behind the garden shed, took one of the plastic garden chairs and slipped it through the window into the shower stall so that I would be able to step on it once I swing my feet through the window. I then realized there's no way I'm going to be able to do this in my long denim skirt. Sincerely hoping no one can see this, I slipped out of my skirt, immensely thankful that at least I'm wearing long pants underneath. I then climbed to the top of the ladder, swung one foot over the window, then another (in an acrobatic fit I had no idea I was capable of accomplishing) then I climbed down to the plastic chair - and yes! I was in!

I hurried to my frightened child, comforted her while telling her never, never, never to mess about with the lock again, and swung open the front door, admitting my friend together with her little ones and Tehilla, who was sitting in her stroller all the while, enjoying all the attention and oblivious to anything exciting going on. With a deep sigh of worn-out travellers, my friend and I settled on the couch and sofa to nurse our babies. Finally, rest was at hand.

Later, when I was at leisure to think it all through, it occurred to me how this whole situation illustrates something bigger - the feeling of helplessness, the frustration, the fear; separation from our dearest ones; knowledge of being very close to something precious - so close, yet unable to reach it. And finally, the miraculous discovery of a way to get to it - doing things you didn't think you could do, climbing up a steep ladder, a dangerous - squeezing through a narrow gate, and finding yourself, finally, at the peaceful place your heart so desired - your home.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Winter flowers

I was pleasantly surprised to spot narcissuses popping up all over our yard, in every crack between the rocks. Here is one of the first clumps that has burst into bloom. I saw cyclamen leaves come up too, and it all looks very promising - seems we'll have a carpet of flowers once the rain season advances!

We've been very busy here, as always. Thanks to all who have sent us useful tips about introducing new chickens to a hen-house. I'm pleased to say our old birds are already letting the new one eat from the same tray once they have eaten their fill, without pecking her.

I hope there will be time for a longer post and/or more photos, later this week. In the meantime, I remain

your friend,

Mrs. T

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A new bird

My husband knows I'm partial to black chickens, so two days ago he got me this cute black pullet you can see in the picture above. Now, since she is so small, yesterday she managed to escape through the bars of the chicken house and was gone all day. I thought it was the last I had seen of her, but just after sunset she turned up and went into the coop to sleep with the other chickens.

This morning, I noticed the new bird is getting pecked at a lot, which is probably unsurprising, considering it's a newcomer and much smaller than the others. Luckily for her, she can get out of the coop while the others can't, so they can't really harm her (though they still show every sign of aggression). I left her to wonder around the yard, while keeping the rest cooped up inside. They have access to the same feeder, and the little chicken is seen but can get away from the pecking. I do hope they all get used to each other soon and order is established.

If anyone has tips on introducing a new bird to your flock, advice would be most welcome.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Winter woollies

OK, so they aren't exactly shapely. They didn't even, strictly speaking, come out identical. But they were very quick and easy to make, and are pleasantly warm on little feet, which makes for a satisfying cold-weather project.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A re-run: "What's going on? Women are coming home!"

I rarely do re-posts on the blog, as somehow there is always something new to say, but today is a special occassion. I had an email from a reader who was outraged by some sayings of feminist Linda Hirshman, and wondered whether I might consider debating her points. Now, as it happens, I already wrote a blog post in response to Linda Hirshman years ago, back when I was still single. Here it is:


This article is a rather old one, but this is the first time I came across it. Thanks to Green Eyes for sharing the link! When I saw it was written by Linda Hirshman, I already had a vague guess about its contents, and was proved right: Hirshman expresses her deep and sincere concern about women who make the choice to opt out of the workforce and go home to their families. It was a true masterpiece as a whole, but some of the following pearls of wisdom really got me ticking:

"What is going on? Most women hope to marry and have babies."Really? What backwardness! What lack of rational thinking! Of course, this is the reason why we are all here in the first place, but why on earth would someone willingly choose this sad fate for themselves, if they have glorious alternatives in the form of high-paying career, dating into their late thirties, fertility treatments in their 40's, and loneliness in later years?

"Prying women out of their traditional roles is not going to be easy."
Pay attention to this, ladies. It's not about what you want. It's not about what your husbands and yourselves decided will be the best for your family. It's not about what makes you peaceful and happy, or gives you contentment, or enables you to take better care of your children; it's about someone's willingness to push a certain anti-utopian agenda on us all.

"If women never start playing the household-manager role, the house will be dirty… Either the other adult in the family will take a hand or the children will grow up with robust immune systems."You should never allow yourself to make an effort to keep your home pretty, tidy and well-managed; you should never allow your home to become a safe haven of relaxation, warmth, love, joy and hospitality, because if you enjoy your home, this might make 'prying you out of your traditional gender role' much more difficult. Don't mind if your children get infections from food pathogens, either. The important thing is that you don't give in to your natural drive for making your home neat and clean!

"Have a baby. Just don't have two. A second kid pressures the mother's organizational skills."
You mean, being a busy wife and mother of many children makes you better at organizing, multitasking, being flexible, effective and resourceful? Or you mean that motherhood and home life are a full-time job? That's no news to us. We knew it all along, and as a matter of fact, we don't see anything wrong or negative in it. It's the feminist camp that tried to convince us family and motherhood are of little value, and rob us of our intelligence, skills and talents.

But if – as we are told all the time – it's all about 'choice', why should they even care about what we freely choose?

"We care because what they do is bad for them."If you make your husband and yourself happy by being keeper-at-home, it's bad for you. If your children have their Mommy with them, it's bad for you. If you don't give into the habit of addictive consumerism and live frugally and resourcefully, it's bad for you. If you have time to pursue your talents, practice hospitality, and create a peaceful life for your family instead of being exhausted, harassed, overwhelmed and stressed out, it's – again – bad for you. To keep matters simple, everything that is bad for your career, independence and/or bank account is bad for you.

"Now the glass ceiling begins at home. Although it is harder to shatter a ceiling that is also the roof over your head, there is no other choice."
This statement really simplifies the matters. These are no hints or implications: it's acknowledged that what we are encouraged to do means shattering the roof over our heads. Fortunately, no one can force me – or you – to do that. I'm opting out. I choose to keep the roof – and my home – intact.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A 10%-off coupon at Princess Modest Swimeaar

Princess Modest Swimwear is a website I only got acquainted with recently, when their representative contacted me and offered a 10% discount for my readers. The brand is Israeli but ships worldwide, and I'm always in favor  of supporting Israeli businesses. To activate the discount, simply type 20010 as coupon code when ordering. PS: the coupon is valid until December 31, 2011.  

Now, personally I'm not sure I would feel comfortable swimming at a mixed beach or swimming pool even fully dressed, because even modest swimsuits are bound to cling a lot when they are wet, and at women-only beaches or pools I'm OK with wearing a simple one-piece swimsuit and my husband's swimming shorts. But modest bathing suits such as these have the additional bonus of sun protection, which is important in Israel. I would also wear something like this, I think, if I had a private swimming pool in my garden.

Anyway, it looks a lot better than what you can find in most standard stores. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Over a thousand

For a while, I've been looking forward to my 1000-th blog post anniversary, but when it came it sort of slipped by unnoticed, and only yesterday I saw that I already have, in fact, published 1,023 posts since beginning this blog back in 2007.

A lot of things have happened along the way. When I started blogging, I was single, a university student in her final and very busy year, with long-unacknowledged and suppressed yearnings for things I hardly dared to name - home, family, marriage, motherhood.

Now I'm a very thankful mother to two dear beautiful girls. I spend my days taking walks to the playground, cleaning up spills, breaking up fights, giving baths, reading stories and getting excited about every new step along the journey, be it an original way of making play-dough or the fact that my almost-3-year-old expressed keen interest in washing the dishes.

In the beginning, I loved long and heated online debates with a lot of rational discussion. Now, I am most gratified by personal emails from people who have been, in some way, touched by what I have to say here, and in turn felt called to share a bit of their life with me. This is, without a doubt, the greatest gift I got through blogging - the personal contact with many different people, the revealing of hearts, the touching of lives. I am so grateful for that.

I love life. It's so beautiful, and I'm enjoying it so much. The awe-inspiring splendour of nature, the familiar, comfortable surroundings of home - it's all part of the harmony of life. You, my readers, visitors and friends, are part of it too, and for that I thank you.


Mrs. T

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A taste of winter

Winter in Israel doesn't exactly mean shoveling snow, but we still get more than enough days which are rainy or very windy, so we stay home, apart from a quick dash to feed the chickens (who would have been horrified if they knew that the wonderful aroma spreading throughout the house is actually chicken soup).

So, these past few days, we've had rain or strong winds non-stop. The winds were such that two days ago, I got up at 4 in the morning and let the chickens out of the coop because I was sure it was going to collapse right on them (it did not - what a pleasant surprise).

Anyway, we have been cooped in the house, ourselves, and those of you who are mothers to small children know what this means. It's generally easiest to occupy children out of doors. There are plenty of interesting things to see, a lot of what can be professionally called "educational opportunities", and you don't have to worry about stains on the floor or crumbs on the sofa. A couple of rainy days, though, and a bad case of cabin fever starts to form.

So, after we've exhausted our supply of picture books and puzzles, I proceeded to constructing a doll's house from an old shoe box, with furniture made out of match boxes and corks. We also made a tent from some chairs with a large blanket draped over them, and spent quite a while observing a spider spinning its web on the outside part of one of the windows. It will last, I suppose, until next time I clean the windows on the outside.

Soon enough, a fine day will come and we'll go out to observe how everything is turning from dry yellow to vibrant green, and how winter flowers are beginning to pop out of the earth. And now, some hot soup is waiting for us on the stove, and I hope that you, like us, are headed for a delicious lunch (or breakfast, or dinner, or tea).


Mrs. T

Monday, November 14, 2011

Large families, faith, freedom and pride

I really enjoyed this post by Melissa at Permission to Live. I do love her fresh, invigorating thoughts, despite many differences in background, upbringing and religious beliefs.

I have discussed birth control in the Orthodox Jewish community before, though I can't remember right now in which post exactly. In a nutshell, it is encouraged to have a large family, and children are seen as something more important than numerous possessions or unlimited freedom to pursue personal interests. When opting for rabbinical counsel regarding birth control, there are few instances when it is acceptable, and fewer still when it is recommended.

But there's balance, and this is very important. There really are some situations which are radical. There are special circumstances of physical and/or emotional health (though I admit, those are sometimes stretched to an unbelievable extent, such as "my emotional health does not permit me to have children unless each one has a room of his own").

I know of a woman who is deeply religious, devoted to her children, and who strongly desired to have a large family. Indeed, she does have a large family, though not as large as she could have had, had she not used birth control due to her extraordinarily difficult pregnancies, during which she is basically incapable of functioning normally, and thus has to rely heavily on help. So each times she struggles, seeks counsel, tries to walk in truth of what is best for everyone involved.

See, this is one of the many reasons I'm so grateful for being a Jew. Our laws are so numerous and complex, and things are rarely black and white. It's impossible to say that if you are using birth control, you are selfish, lazy, and lacking faith, and if you don't, you are a crazy religious fanatic who looks down upon everyone else. Life is many-faced and so fascinating and wondrous.

Because it's such a complicated issue, it's good for every couple to have a rabbi to whom they can turn, perhaps not on a regular basis, but in troubling circumstances such as when there are genuine problems with the mother's health or other special reasons. It's impossible to write a neat list of who should and who shouldn't have more children, and in which circumstances. That's why we talk to a rabbi. Not to have him think instead of us, but to guide us into looking with (hopefully) more precision at our personal wishes vs. what G-d wants.

Also, an important thing to keep in mind is that a large family isn't, or at least shouldn't be, a cultural statement. Children aren't trophies or achievments, they are ours not as our possessions, but in the sense of belonging to us as we belong to them, and as we all together, as a family, belong to one Maker who placed us all on this earth and blessed us by bonding us for life.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Backpack or suitcase?

Following thoughts from my recent post, the principle of simplifying often comes to whether you are walking through life with a backpack, or dragging a large suitcase along. 

The wheeled suitcase looks more fashionable, it is bigger and you can fit a lot more into it, which will allow you to travel with a higher degree of comfort. But with a backpack, you will stay light on your feet, you will probably be able to walk further and visit places you will hardly reach if you have a suitcase in tow. Even more importantly, it will leave both your hands free to reach out to those close to you. 

Now, if you decide to travel with a backpack, you will have to settle for the bare necessities, because not much more will fit in. You will have to decide what is truly important, and what isn't. The good news is, when you are having fun most likely you will forget about other things you could have had, anyway.

There might be bumps along the road, of course. Sometimes you will realize that your backpack is about to rip from all the things you are trying to cram into it, while in reality some true necessities are missing. Then you will have to sit down, re-evaluate and... re-pack. 

What truly matters is the uniqueness of each individual journey. Yours, mine, your family's, your children's. Each person is a fascinating world, the depth of which you can perhaps never quite reach. We are all so unique in purpose and destination that no one can tell you what you must pack in your backpack, or even what you can pack, although many people will have many things in common. 

And so, some of us will be sweating through our shirts or freezing in the high winds while climbing a steep mountain, while others will be enjoying a leisurely journey along a green river's bank. There is no telling which way is right, which is better, because our purpose always remains the same, and we don't know whether we have reached it until we have walked all the way till the end. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Throwing off excess weight: take it slow

I'm not talking about physical weight (this actually has never been a problem for me), but about things, commitments, relationships, projects, obligations that are clogging our life and dragging us down, preventing us from focusing on what is truly important. Some things are inevitably missed out on if you aren't walking at a slower pace, preferably like the caterpillar in the picture above.

I'm not sure whether this is normal, but I feel it's necessary for my sanity to have a clear, not-too-crowded routine, to know what to expect from my day, not to feel torn between various obligations that make my time rush past without allowing breathing space. I like it slow, clear, simple, straightforward, with a few goals that can be reasonably achieved without cramming.

I guess this makes me a misfit in the modern world, where being overwhelmingly busy is an inseparable part of a successful life. But then again, I suppose my definition of successful life is somewhat different.

Same goes about things. Clutter is constantly irritating to my brain. I like to have just as many things as I can reasonably and comfortably place in my closets and cabinets without cramming. I prefer the empty look to the overstuffed. And my refrigerator - no, it's not that I like it empty, but when I open it to place a pot inside, I like to have comfortable space without having to move everything on top of each other.

The bottom line is, I don't like the thought of there being anything that I'm supposed to have done, without actually the time/possibility to do it. If I can't let go mentally, it will continue sitting at the back of my mind, harrassing me.

So I prefer to simplify. There is abundant joy in knowing you don't have to do, have, go, see, say too much. It allows to focus on the truly important. For me, watching along with my children as a young tortoise pokes its head out and starts crawling between the bushes counts as truly important. Children are not adapted to the rush-along life, and neither are most of us, if we look deeply inside - not long-term anyway. As a mother of little ones, I'm happy to live my life slow.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Book review: The Pig in the Pantry and Other Homeschool Tales

Some time ago I got an email from Rose Godfrey, asking me whether I would like to read and review her new book, "The Pig in the Pantry and Other Homeschool Tales". I happily agreed, of course, and over this weekend I read Mrs. Godfrey's book from start to finish, to my great delight.

Recently I have read quite a bit of "serious" homeschool literature, which was wonderfully inspiring but sometimes made me wonder whether there are people who are actually living up to all these lofty goals. Mrs. Godfrey's book is a collection of short stories from a very real, funny, bubbling-with-life large family, with a mother who pretty much tried it all and lived to tell the tale. Reading it was encouraging, in the way of talking to a good friend who makes you laugh like there's no tomorrow, and who doesn't think you are crazy if you are hiding a can of soda in your toilet container.

Overall, if there's any conclusion I have reached about child-rearing so far, as a young mother paddling along with her super-energetic nearly-3-year-old and an attention-seeking baby, it's that there isn't really a definite conclusion. There's not "one right" way to raise children or families or keep homes.

You don't have to live on a farm in the middle of nowhere in order to give your children the perfect authentic experience of nature and animal life. You don't have to live in a big city full of museums and beautiful architecture so that you can provide as many cultural development opportunities as possible.

...o You don't necessarily have to homeschool your children, nor send them to a particular kind of school.

... or provide just the right number of extra-curricular activities, play dates, play groups, field trips, spare rooms, a particular routine or anything specifically that has worked great for someone else's family but might not be a workable solution for yours.

There are, though, some essential components - love, time - a lot of time, as much as you can make, for it is from the very mundane "being there" that precious moments spring up - and patience, and my, I do hope that
!it includes the kids being patient with me as much as it means me being patient with them

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Rain, rain, come again

I'm typing this as the rain is drumming away on the tin roof and against the windows, creating one of the cosiest sounds in the world. It's warm and dry inside, and though the electricity goes off once in a while, it doesn't bother me - it's simply a good reason to light some candles!

Now, if you had to group the entire human race into "sunny" people and "rainy" people, "summer" people and "winter" people, I'm definitely for summer and sun. Which is why it's very fortunate that I live in Israel! However, because winter is so brief here, and rain so scarce and precious, it makes for a very welcome change, and every rainy day is thoroughly relished.

I usually try to give the children as much outdoor time as possible, which I believe is most wholesome for them - not to mention that it's such a relief for a tired Mom to just sit back, relax, and watch her children's happy play in the sand box, without having to worry about them demolishing the house. Rainy days, however, call for more time indoors, and can you think of spending a day inside without a creative outlet? So give us paper, crayons, watercolors, glitter glue, beads - we love it all. Or how about some playdough, or experimenting with real dough (with tasty results to show afterwards, and a house smelling sweetly of baking)?

Steaming mugs of hot tea or cocoa. "Valse Triste" by Jean Sibelius on the CD player. Curling up on the couch under a warm soft blanket. Reading stories. Laundry drying inside on the folding rack (not my favorite bit, but it happens inevitably every winter). Some crafts, some cooking, some dawdling about. Time passes in a luxuriously slow way, and what I want more than anything to is grab it and make it go even slower.

In the house where we live now we have a wide front porch which is sheltered from the rain, so we can go out and inhale the clean, moist, fresh scent of it, and watch the drops falling all around us without actually getting wet - what a delightful treat for the children. There is no greater delight for me than to be one of them - their mother, the one responsible for all their basic needs, yes, but also their friend, another child who loves what they love and enjoys what they enjoy, and who lives a full, rich life looking through their eyes.

I know some of my friends far away have already had some snow - in some parts of the world it will last until May. Other friends, in the southern hemisphere, are welcoming spring. All seasons are beautiful, in a year as well as in life. May we enjoy them all and savor every moment that is all the more precious because we know it will never come again.


Mrs. T

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

For the Family's Sake

"For the Family's Sake"  by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay is a book I just got started on, but it's so good I couldn't wait to share some selected quotes with you. I have been wanting to read this book ever since I got "For the Children's Sake", by the same author, and it doesn't disappoint.


"It is easy to excuse ourselves from working at our everday lives with the words, "if only..."

"If only I were married."
"If only I were married to another person."
"If only we could leave this miserable home and have a nice place."
"If only my spouse had not died/left me."
"If only I had more money or a better job."
"If only I had more time/energy/ideas."
"If only I'd had a good childhood model."

I can tell you, so many of these "if onlys" sounded familiar that it sent a chill down my spine and served as a true wake-up call to do the best I can with what I have.

Here is another quote I loved:

"How could anyone dare to suggest or say that working at the huge task of making a home and carrying on through years and years of ups and downs is not one of the very few truly worthwhile ways to spend our energies and gifts in human life?"