Sunday, September 28, 2014

A little update

It has been a while since I posted, and I received some anxious inquiries from friends and readers, who wondered how we are all doing and whether everything is alright. So, yes - we are doing fine, settling into our new home. I've been, and still am, extremely busy with everything that needs to be done, and sometimes it seems as though there will never be enough time to accomplish everything while I'm still, ahem, light enough to be mobile and active. 

We've now passed through Rosh Ha-Shana, which means the Sabbatical year is here. In the last weeks before the beginning of the new year (which, incidentally, also marked the fourth birthday of our Tehilla), we raced against the clock, trying to complete all we won't be able to do in the next twelvemonth. There wasn't much time (as we've only moved so recently, and garden work, by necessity, wasn't a first priority), but at any rate we've cleaned the yard from weeds, put the flower beds in order and gave some space to the poor suffocated geraniums, and planted a bit here and there. My desire to have more plants is by no means satisfied, but until the end of the shmita, I will have to be content with potted plants. Luckily it's possible to grow almost everything in pots.

Our life out here is even more adventurous than in our old home. Water supply has been inconsistent for the past month, and so we are planning to install a water tank for the times when water is cut off. I've learned an important lesson: do not put off laundry, dishes or showers, or the water might be gone when you least expect it!

Knowledgeable folks around here have also warned us that electricity might not be very reliable in the coldest days of winter, and as I'm due in January, we are preparing accordingly. We will probably purchase a small generator and/or a gas stove for heating. Many people here have wood stoves, but neither of us feels up to chopping wood on a regular basis. 

It would be wrong to say I haven't been writing it all; on the contrary, I began a new book (while trying at the same time to find representation for the previous one), and I soon realized that if I don't make writing my first priority whenever I have computer time, which is so very limited (not to mention the irregularity of our internet connection), nothing will be done. So I'm trying to make the most of the little time I do have, even if it means I temporarily slack as a correspondent, a blogger, or a reader. 

There are still many alterations in the house to be made and, of course, a chicken coop to build. Also, Yom Kippur and Sukkot are still ahead of us, which means there is a lot to look forward to in the next few weeks. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Time of changes

Well, I'm finally able to take a deep breath and say: we did it. The last things were packed, the moving van came, and all our furniture, electric appliances and towers of boxes arrived at the new house. The girls spent a couple of days with their grandparents while we frantically packed and unpacked, and after a week I can proudly say that the only boxes are those in the storage shed. Er, don't mind the clothes strewn on the bed in the mess room. Guest room, I mean.

It wasn't easy. Especially so, since I'm now about halfway (!) through my third pregnancy. I've been extra careful not to lift anything heavy, of course, but still it was exhausting, and now we're savoring some well-deserved rest and enjoying what is left of the summer (which, in Israel, can unofficially last until the end of October).

I don't have a regular internet connection these days, which is both a limitation and a blessing... I do hope we'll get this fixed sometime in the near future. In the meantime, here's a cheerful wave from our little home in the hills.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Nursing on demand and parental authority

There is a lady who writes in an Israeli magazine, whose articles on parenting I always look forward to. She speaks a lot about parental authority, delegating responsibilities to children, resisting worldly influences and other subjects I find instructive. Her most recent article was no exception. She lamented the fact that so many parents are encouraged to choose the so-called "child-centered" lifestyle, becoming slaves to the child's choice of friends, clothes, toys, extra-curricular activities, and... nursing on demand. 

Are You Afraid of Your Child? How to Get Your Parental Authority Back

Nursing a newborn on demand? Why, yes. "In the past," she writes, "new mothers were told to breastfeed according to a schedule. Now it is recommended that you do it whenever the baby feels like it." 

I felt compelled to send this lady a personal email, in which I pointed out that all the examples she used in her article were good ones, except nursing on demand, which in no way "spoils" the baby or harms the mother's authority. Quite simply, the fact that the recommendations in hospitals changed is due to finding out that nursing on demand (or rather, on cue) is actually the easiest and most intuitive way to establish successful breastfeeding - which is important not only for the baby, but for the mother's health as well; try skipping a feeding for the sake of a schedule and you may end up with painful engorgement, complete with a plugged duct and high fever. 

She wrote back. Her response was polite but self-assured. "Our mothers breastfed on schedule," she said, "and we turned out a lot better brought up than the current generation of children." True? Perhaps. Cause and effect? Not in the least. 

I responded and said that, indeed, our mothers were told to breastfeed on schedule - and not coincidentally, it was a generation of formula-feeders. My mother-in-law, for example, was told to breastfeed her newborns every 4 hours. No more, no less. Baby is crying? Let him cry until the set hour. Baby is sleeping and you are thinking of taking a nap yourself? No way - wake him up to nurse. Unsurprisingly, her milk "just ran out" after 1 month, after which she had to give her children's cow's milk (as formula wasn't readily available), and  many years later told me how she "was one of those women who just couldn't produce enough". 

I also heartily recommended this lady to discuss the matter with a lactation consultant, and to consider all the facts. After all, it is a pity if a new mother who threw feeding schedules out of the window reads her article and thinks, "what if I'm spoiling the baby? What about my 'authority' as a parent?" 

Imagine the following situation. It's nearly evening, and I'm busy making dinner. A five-year-old is hanging around and says, "Mom, I'm hungry." "Dinner will be ready in an hour," I say. "But I'm still hungry," she insists. "Alright, then," I say, "if you feel you really need to eat something right now, you can get yourself an apple or a pear." She proceeds to do so, and settles down with her little snack while I continue making dinner in peace.

Does the exchange above make my household "child-centered"? No. Does it make me less of an authority as a parent? No. Would it be better if I barked at my little child, "wait for dinner!"? Again, no. By the way, those who have been reading for a while know I'm very much in favor of regular family meals. But if I get myself an unscheduled snack, sometimes before dinner or right before bedtime, and find it acceptable, why should I refuse when it comes to my children? I'm not speaking about things like sweets and treats, of course, but about an apple before dinner or a slice of bread and cheese before bedtime. 

So what is the difference when we're talking about a baby? A baby is completely dependent. She cannot get up and get her own snacks. She cannot communicate her needs in words or negotiate. All she can do is signal to me that she needs to be picked up and fed - which, if the baby is exclusively breastfed, can only be done by me. So there is no getting around the fact that I must, indeed, feed when the baby needs it, not when it is most convenient for me. This has nothing to do with authority, and everything with meeting the most basic need of a tiny human being. 

Think of a novel concept: scheduled diaper-changing. After all, why must we be slaves to the baby's whimsical schedule of bowel movements or wet diapers? Why must we hurry with a new diaper in hand every time? As parents, we are the leaders, and thus the baby must follow. She must learn that she is part of a family, and adapt to the family schedule. Thus, from now on, diapers will be changed - regardless of how wet or dirty they are - five times a day, at set intervals, and once at night. Try this for a few days, and you will see how your baby soon stops crying because of a messy diaper! 

Sounds ridiculous? Of course. But in my eyes, this concept really is no different from feeding on cue vs. feeding on schedule. Some day, your children will be able to go to the bathroom without your help. Some day, they will open the fridge and make themselves a sandwich. But babies need their parents to provide those primary needs, and it is the parents' job to do so. 

Image taken from

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How to subdue a pumpkin

I love pumpkin. It has this delicious, neutral, slightly sweet taste that makes pumpkins perfect for a wide variety of dishes - soups, pies, quiches, cakes. Not to mention the lovely bright orange color. It's just that, whenever I'm faced with a nice fat chunk of pumpkin, the question is - how am I going to cut it/slice it/grate it? Uncooked pumpkin so hard that, whenever a recipe calls for pumpkin, most of my work actually involves dealing with the unruly vegetable. 

So today, when I wanted to make pumpkin fritters, I came up with a brilliant but simple solution: I took the whole piece, boiled it in a large pot, and when it was done (which doesn't take a long time), I could just scoop the pumpkin from the rind into a bowl, easily mash it up, and voila - it's ready for the making of fritters. No fuss, no mess, no sweat. 

Here's to kitchen tips that make life easier! Especially now that so much of my time is taken up with preparations for the house move, which is due to take place in about a week and a half. 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Orangey orange cake and a lot of cardboard boxes

Packing is now in full swing here. Our guest room is bursting with boxes, the closets are almost empty, the curtains have been taken down, and I have this uncomfortable and slightly melancholic feeling I always experience as I look at an emptying house. So many memorable times were spent here, both sad and happy. So many dinners, lunches and cuppas with friends. So many leisurely evenings with propped up feet and a good book, or curled up in an armchair with some yarn and a crochet project. I am so looking forward to when we have moved into the new house and I can start the hard but satisfying work of unpacking, after which everything will be in proper order again. 

Since we have at least two weeks left here, though, my kitchen cupboards are still full and cooking/baking is going on as usual. Today I decided to go ahead and try the orangey variation of the lemony lemon cake. My husband surprised me with a bag of oranges last week - they couldn't be fresh at this season, of course, but they served well enough. Instead of 2 large lemons, I used 4 small oranges - 3 for the batter and another small one for the syrup, and was able to use a little less sugar. 

Mmm... tomorrow, I think I'll make orange juice to go with breakfast. Nothing jump-starts a day like a small glass of fresh orange juice. Why small? Because I'm too lazy to make enough for a big glass for everyone. ;o)

I have detached myself from the news websites a little in the past days, because I felt that anxiety about what is going on was making it difficult for me to cope with the several high-pressure personal situations we are currently facing as a family. I do have to say, however, that while I am generally focused on my private little corner with its chickens, whatever is cooking or baking, and getting up in the middle of the night to comfort a child who woke up with a cough, I also live in Israel. Moreover, I unashamedly live in the "disputed" area of the so-called West Bank, and indeed, as a Jew who believes in the Torah I believe Jews have a right to live - and live safely - in all parts of Israel. While I will never be a second Daniel Greenfield, I will very occasionally share my opinions on certain regional hot topics. 

I am not an authority on anything; not an official, not an expert, not anyone's representative. Since this is a private corner of the web, I did not sign any contract that states my content must be consistent, or that I am under obligation to read, publish, or respond to every comment. Really, if I did, I think my mind would go numb. Just today I received a mile-length scathing retort which stated that, as I admit I was born out of wedlock, this fact must have affected my thinking abilities (!). While it was mildly amusing, I didn't bother to finish reading. I had more important things on my agenda (like packing all my husband's jeans). 

And thus, dear friends, I reserve the right to be as eclectic, inconsistent, and unprofessional as I please. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Breastfeeding questions and concerns

A couple of days ago, a friend emailed me with some concerns about breastfeeding, and I thought I'd share several of the general points here, because they are often asked by mothers of new babies. I'm not a lactation consultant, of course, but as a dietitian and as someone who loves breastfeeding, I often find myself answering questions such as what a mother should eat while nourishing a baby at her breast, when baby is supposed to start solids, etc. 

1. Crying baby = hungry baby = "you don't have enough milk"

Are you familiar with this scenario? You go on a visit to your relatives. After some time, your baby starts crying. "She must be hungry," rightly observes the nearest auntie or your mother-in-law. You go and feed the baby. Half an hour later, the baby is crying again. "Oh no!" cries the concerned relative. "The baby is obviously still hungry. You don't have enough milk" (variation: "your milk must not be nourishing enough"). 

In truth, there may be a million reasons why babies cry. Maybe they are hungry; maybe they just messed up their diaper; maybe they are tired, have a rash, or are fussy or over-stimulated. Or maybe it's colics/teething. I realize how comforting it is to think that we can always pinpoint and control the reason why a baby cries, but it just isn't so.

2. "Perhaps the baby is colicky because your milk is of 'low quality', and formula would be better"

Baby colics - inexplicable tummy pain that doesn't have to do with a known issue such as reflux - are commonly thought to be related to the growth process of the digestive system and the muscle spasms associated with it. The symptoms certainly aren't caused by "low quality milk", and though it isn't scientifically proven, my logic tells that the food of nature - mother's milk - is certain to be gentler on a new and sensitive digestive system than a bottle of something based on cow's milk.

3. "It isn't normal for a baby to be hungry so often. Your sister-in-law's baby is fed formula and usually looks satisfied for a much longer time after a bottle."

It's normal for babies to have growth spurts and, at a time, nurse more often than usual. It's also normal for breastfed babies to determine frequency of feeding - for example, "cluster feed" in the evening (which is when things get a little crazy, because you want to have your dinner, and the baby wants to have his!) and sleep for a stretch of time at night. It's normal for breastfed babies to nurse more often than formula babies take a bottle, because the proteins in mother's milk are more easily digested than cow milk protein, and also because a breastfed baby isn't urged "to finish these last 20 ml from the bottle". Think how you feel after a light, easily digested meal, vs. a big, heavy meal. Most likely you will want to lie down and have a nap after the bigger meal. This doesn't mean that it's healthier.

4. "I think my baby is gassy because of what I eat!"

Often mothers will ask me, "what should I eat while breastfeeding?", and more importantly, "what shouldn't I eat?". One was particularly anxious recently. She asked if she must exclude cabbage, oranges, chocolate, beans, milk, eggs and a million other things from her diet, because she "heard it might give the baby gas". The thing is, food passes through our digestive system and breaks down. Then it is absorbed into the blood flow. Then it's made into milk and is received by the baby. So, while it's true the baby is getting his nutrition from you, it's not like you ate cabbage = the baby ate cabbage. Sure, you might have indigestion, but the baby's digestive system isn't dealing with it all - yours does the job! 

Or it might work the other way: "my baby was absolutely miserable until I eliminated eggs, all dairy products, all grains, beans, and almost all fruits and vegetables from my diet. Now the baby is happy but I don't know what to eat." 

First question is: how long ago did you do that? It's very probable that the baby's colics/gas/whatever symptom was development-related and has passed on its own, while the mother is convinced her diet was the culprit and continues to needlessly restrict herself for months (frustration and early weaning, here we come!). 

Second question: did you eliminate all those foods from your diet at once? More often than not, the answer is yes. If so, even if one of the foods in question was indeed the cause of the trouble, you have no way of knowing which. Consider: there was a wave of crime in the neighborhood, and ten suspects were arrested. The crimes stopped, so obviously you've caught the culprit. The problem is, nine innocents are held captive for no fault of their own. Obviously the investigation must continue until we can pinpoint the criminal! 

If you are suspicious that a particular food is giving your baby certain symptoms, you might want to eliminate this particular food from your diet for a week or two, then re-introduce it and see what the effect is.

I hope all breastfeeding mothers out there eat well, drink plenty, and are happy and healthy. I wish you all a long and successful breastfeeding relationship with your baby, and hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed mine. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Israel's "fault": not enough civilian deaths

Today, while browsing some blogs, I came across a post (written by an American, Christian blogger) which can be summarized as the following: Israel, so far, has suffered far less civil casualties than the residents of Gaza. Conclusion: Israel is somehow at fault, because not enough of our citizens are dying.

It's pretty obvious what we need to do in order to gain worldwide sympathy, right? Just die in larger numbers... um, no. Sorry, we've already tried that multiple times in history. Doesn't work.

In addition, the operation in Gaza is "an act of excessive revenge for the kidnapping of three people". No mention that the three kidnapped teenagers - Gil-Ad Shaer, Eyal Yifrach and Naftali Frenkel (who, by the way, was an American citizen) - also happened to be brutally murdered.

I will not link to that blog because I don't want to give it traffic, but here is a copy of the email I sent the blog author:


Do you wonder why much fewer Israelis than Arabs have, so far, been killed in this conflict? 

The answer is simple. The Israeli protect their citizens. We invest much in devices such as the Iron Dome. Actually, to the best of our ability, we protect Gaza citizens, too. It seems Israel cares a lot more than Hamas about the citizens of Gaza. Hamas uses live people as a human shield and the death of citizens is conveniently utilized as propaganda. 

Meanwhile, Gaza and West Bank Arabs continue to receive complex and expensive treatment in Israeli hospitals, at Israeli expense. And I'm not referring to war casualties, either, but to things such as children's oncology. I saw it with my own eyes when I did my hospital internship. 

Ask yourself: can you imagine an Israeli being thus treated in a hospital in Gaza? 

Ask yourself the following question: if (hypothetically, of course) rockets were constantly launched at the southern cities of USA from across the Mexican border, how would USA react? How long would it be until a full-blown war on Mexico? And how would the lives of USA citizens be valued, against the lives of Mexican citizens? Somehow, I think Israel was a lot more patient than America would be. Israel has tolerated things that are beyond anything any reasonable country would put up with. 

Israel vacated the Gaza strip in 2005. It was a one-sided act; it was also a mistake. Why? Because ever since, the citizens of southern Israel have known no peace. Such a situation as they have been living in is intolerable. I do not doubt that the kidnapping and murder of Naftali Frenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrach served as a catalyst for the current operation in Gaza. However, this doesn't mean that the operation was unwarranted. On the contrary, I believe it was tardy in coming. I am certain that if you lived in Sderot, you would feel the same.

I also believe Israel has no way to ensure its safety but re-take control over Gaza and wipe out the Hamas entirely.