Sunday, January 29, 2012

Clothes are overrated

You know those special moments with your children, like a big good morning kiss out of the blue or the way that their little faces light up when you come home at the end of the day?  How about the moment when you open the bedroom door that your toddler is resolutely pounding on only to discover a stark naked child who is very pleased with herself for having gotten to said nudity?

That's right, we have a nudist on our hands.  I think that every child (and probably most adults, too) has an inner nudist, but at this age it's still acceptable.  L.H. is so committed to disrobing that we have instituted nakey-time every night before changing into pajamas, just so that she can get it out of her system.  The biggest giggles of the day come from these 5-10 minutes of freedom.

There's one thing I really don't understand, though - doesn't she get cold?  I know that we live in a relatively warm area, but our apartment seems to trap the cold and it is frequently colder inside than outside.  During the winter I always dread changing into or out of pajamas or taking a shower, simply because I get so cold.  And yet I can barely get my little girl to put on her clothing to begin with.

I guess that there are some things in life that are just worth it.  I'll accept being cold because in return I get to be naked.  I'll accept having piles of dirty laundry on the couch because in return I get a happy husband.  I'll accept the crazy bureaucracies of this country because in return I get to live in the land that I love.

All of life is give and take; sometimes it's just not readily apparent.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Working from home

The beauty of having a work from home job is that you never actually have to deal with people face-to-face.  In fact, it is rare that I even have to speak with them on the phone.  I like this arrangement very much as I am more of a shy, introverted person and not so good with the spoken words.  Writing, however, is a cinch.  That's why I'm a pro at interpersonal relations when it comes to emails.

Something else that I really appreciate about not having any clue who my coworkers are, however, is that I get the feeling that I am one of the younger employees.  As an editor, I am in a position of power and responsibility over the typists.  If they need to be patted on the back, I do that.  If they need to be dressed down, I try to fob it off on someone else and if I can't, then I do it.  I'm comfortable doing what needs to be done and giving criticism because there is an anonymity to it all.

If, for example, I knew a specific person personally in real life, I might be more hesitant about telling them what I really think.  Or let's say that I know that my typist is older than me, especially if it is quite a gap - I wouldn't feel so comfortable giving them the criticism that they need to hear and internalize in order to improve their work.

I guess that a large part of this is due to my upbringing - you must respect your elders.  I'm not talking about unconditional respect, like if you see someone committing murder it doesn't matter who they are - obviously they are no longer someone you should respect.  But respecting your elders is more generally realizing that people older than you have experiences and knowledge that are valuable and that they can share with you.  You should respect everyone, but those older than you get a little extra.  You can't talk down to them.

So for me, who feels very young despite having just marked off another year, to be having to pass along less than positive comments to people who are potentially my 'elders' can be a little bit uncomfortable.  This is why I very carefully do not ask personal questions about age or where people are in life.  My curious side would very much like to know, but the side of me that just wants to do what needs to be done and doesn't want to feel bad about it runs away.

Does any of this make sense?  I'm scared to find out if the people below me in the company are older than me because then I might have to respect them more and then I'd be afraid to criticize them.

And this is why I love the anonymity of the internet.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


I am obsessed with food.  I don't mean that I like food; I mean that I am completely obsessed.

Aren't we all? you ask.  Nope.  I distinctly remember that I used to like food, I used to think it was yummy and all and I would eat regularly and with relish, but I didn't spend my entire day thinking about it or planning in detail what I was going to eat next.

Do you know how on a fast day you might spend hours - particularly the last few - fantasizing about the food to come?  You can almost taste it and your mouth waters in anticipation.  Now imagine that for eight straight months of your life, you have access to plenty of food but can't eat any of it.  Do you see where I'm going?

I spend an embarrassing amount of time on cooking websites and blogs, just looking for ideas or even just looking at recipes so I can say 'yum' and then go grab myself a snack.  There are some days when I eat like there's no tomorrow, and other days when I'm afraid to eat top much because it might come back up - except that the pregnancy is already a distant memory, and I know that nothing short of the stomach flu will make me upchuck now.

There must be some trick to convincing your brain that really, the nightmare is over.  It's okay to go back to normal now.  But is it really?  My stomach is permanently more sensitive than it used to be and still can't handle a large amount of food in one sitting, and there is a list of foods that I still have a strong aversion to and simply can't convince myself to consume.  N. is always asking me to make lasagna, but I know that I won't eat it so I keep putting him off and putting him off.  Will I ever be able to eat lasagna again?

Knowing that the HG is more likely than not going to plague me with future pregnancies also makes me cautious, because in a way it seems like it can hit at any moment - even when I know logically that it won't.  It is difficult to break free of a fear and an expectation when you know that it lies in your future.

I suppose if an obsession with food is the worst problem I have, I'm doing pretty well - so long as I don't overdo it.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


Having grown up in a house containing thousands of books, with a family addicted to the written word, and with full access to a good education, I have pretty much always taken literacy for granted.  When you hear about someone in the US being illiterate, your mind automatically jumps to the conclusion that they must be immigrants from some third-world country or something like that.  To me, illiteracy was always a faraway problem.

Fast forward to my adult life and my next door neighbor, a very old Yemenite woman who just lost her husband.  She comes from a very respected, intelligent family - her father was a big rabbi in Yemen.  She married a big rabbi in Yemen, and two of her sons have gone on to become rabbis here in Israel.  And yet, as I recently discovered, my neighbor has never learned to read or write.

I suppose this shouldn't surprise me, considering her background.  I'm sure that Yemenite women in the first half of the last century weren't exactly offered equal opportunities for education and betterment.  Heck, chances are they still aren't.  But coming from 2012, where people make an effort to make literacy a common thing in even the most remote or 'backwards' countries, it seems a little strange to me.

What must it be like to not be able to read your own mail?  To not even know if it's addressed to you or not?  Now that she lives alone, if she didn't have a son who lives 10 minutes away, what would she do to get through life?  I mean, think about it - a simple thing like grocery shopping can suddenly turn into a very big deal if you're not familiar with a product.  If you always buy exactly the same things then I suppose you don't need to worry, but what if you want to branch out?  How can you tell the difference between the five types of flour on the store shelf?  How do you know if something is cottage cheese or white cheese, when the containers are identical?

One part of me feels sorry for her and wonders what she does with her free time, but another part of me can't feel sorry for her because she doesn't feel sorry for herself.  She was always content having her husband manage things that required literacy; she was always content learning from him instead of searching it out for herself.  Illiterate or not, she is a super-independent woman who has somehow managed to get herself through the literate world without being able to read her own name.

As much as I think it's terrible to find illiterate people where there are resources for teaching them, apparently not all of them want to be taught.  Something to think about.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Friends no more

Sometimes life throws tough decisions at you, and you have to learn how to live with it - whether you decide right or wrong, one thing or another, you have to live with your decision.

I find that I actually have a harder time making small decisions than big ones.  It takes me longer to decide what to eat for lunch than it did for me to decide to move to Israel.  I think that part of that is because the little decisions don't really matter and you can change them anytime without a problem.  The big decisions, though, can cause you to lose a lot of sleep and it's better to just lay out all of the pros and cons and make a swift choice so that you aren't stuck wrestling with yourself forever.

One of my hardest decisions, though, was to cut someone out of my life.  I had a friend who I liked very much, but I felt that she was being a bad influence on me.  Not bad in terms of drugs, alcohol, illegal activity, etc.  Just bad in terms of negativity and questioning my relationship with my husband.

I don't have so many friends that losing one doesn't hurt.  Even now, nearly a year later, there are times when I consider picking up the phone and just calling her, just to say hi and chat and see how things are going.  But I know that I have gone down the road in another direction, and going back won't bring me anything good.

It's not often that I actively decide whether to keep a friend or not.  Sometimes people sort of drift in and out of your life - or just drift out - and it's called moving on.  People fall in and out of friends all the time.  I guess what hurts is that it wasn't a natural progression of events; it was a targeted move on my part for us to be separate.  A friend becomes a little part of you, and to surgically remove that part isn't always so easy.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The lost year

Within the past week I had my birthday on both the Hebrew and English calendars.  What's sad is that I didn't remember about my English birthday until my bank called me to say Happy Birthday (okay, and my brother, sister-in-law, and her family stopped by and took us out to dinner).  I didn't remember about my Hebrew one until everyone on Facebook was wishing me Happy Birthday (I set my Facebook date to the Hebrew calendar).

And you know what the saddest part of all of that was?  I had to do the math to figure out how old I was.  Several times.

I know that when people are really busy and thinking about a million other things, personal matters like birthdays and how old you are can fall by the wayside.  But that's really only a small part of my problem.  You see, in my mind, there's actually a missing year of my life.

We got married barely two weeks before my birthday, and six weeks later found out we were expecting.  The sickness hit almost as soon as we knew, and then the next eight months until our beautiful little girl came into this world were just one long, never-ending nightmare.  For many months I was living hour to hour, and on my worst days I just tried to get through one minute at a time.  Do you have any idea how long it takes for a day to pass when you are living like that?  Each new day was an eternity that I just wanted to forget.

The human mind is a wonderful thing.  They say that women forget how difficult childbirth is, and that's why they have more children.  For me the birth was a breeze and something that I spent many months looking forward to - it's the pregnancy that needs to be forgotten.  Seriously, I would happily give birth 10 times as long as someone else carries the baby to term.

So that was my lost year.  The first two months were just trying to get into a routine after the wedding, learning to live with my new husband and how to have a happy marriage.  Then there were eight months of darkness and despair (and no, I'm not exaggerating).  Then the remaining two months I had a newborn and was trying to regain my health and strength while also taking classes to finish my university degree.  In my mind, it's like that year of my life never happened.  I was never 22 years old.

On the other hand, it was the most difficult and the longest year of my life - and I don't remember a lot of it.  As I said, the human brain is a wonderful thing.  You forget things like pregnancy and childbirth so that you do stupid things like have more.  Children are wonderful and all, and I now find myself in a position that I am willing to try for another one (I'm still not sure why I'm so willing).  I am making sure to remember enough of what I went through so that I can be prepared for the future and so that I don't underestimate how sick I can get and get proper treatment at the first sign of a problem.

So happy birthday, Devorah...however old you are this year.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Ode to N.'s tea

Okay, so not quite an ode.  But seriously, N. makes the most delicious tea.  Whenever I make tea it turns out okay, but if you're sick and you want a really fantastic cup of tea N. is the man to make it.  He gets the balance between the sugar/honey and the lemon just right.

Then again, my former roommate (A.) also used to make me really good tea when I was sick.  She bought limes and if I remember correctly, the tea was just hot water, fresh squeezed lime juice, and sugar or honey.  I actually did feel a big improvement after drinking her tea.

The bottom line is, if you want a good cup of tea - don't come to me.  I was sick and actually waited all day for my husband to come home before I drank tea, just because I knew that his was so much better.  Yay for husbands who make tea. :)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Book Review: Just One More Swim by Caroline Pitcher and Jenny Jones

This book is another gem that my sister sent to me.  While the story line is just fine (two polar bear cubs learning about their environment, gaining confidence, and becoming free spirits), the real beauty of this book is in its illustrations.

Each page is filled with a canvas painting with gorgeous hues and soft, flowing lines.  My favorite part, I think, is the fish that mama bear catches after digging a hole through the ice.  It is painted in a whole different color scheme from the rest of the page, and stands out in joyful contrast.  You can almost imagine the little creature wriggling in her paws, trying to get free.  Sometimes I pick up the book and just look at the pictures because they are so wonderful.

Ima rating: four out of five for the story, six out of five for the illustrations.
L.H. rating: three or four out of five.  She got this book at the same time as Spoon, which she is completely obsessed with, so it's hard to tell what she really thinks of it.

Book Review: Sesame Street's Lots of Opposites

This book was a gift from N.'s aunt, and L.H. immediately fell in love with it.  I was surprised at first (actually, I still am) because it seems like it is aimed at an older crowd, like 2-3 years.  Even so, it is one of her favorites so I won't argue with her.

The book teaches all sorts of opposites, using dialogue between the beloved Sesame Street characters.  I wish I was better at voices so that I could actually make each character unique, but again - L.H. couldn't care less.  I think that some of the pages are quite complicated, but overall they do a good job of portraying some difficult concepts on little board book pages.

Ima rating: four out of five, for a slightly older child
L.H. rating: definitely five out of five

Being thankful

There are a lot of things to be thankful about how things turned out in the end after my terrifying pregnancy, but I feel that I need to mention the seemingly simple acts of two friends in particular.

At some point during my first trimester, I developed a fever.  I didn't have any medicine in the house that was safe for pregnancy with which to lower my fever, but I felt that I had to get it down.  So I called up my faithful friend I. who had Tylenol and who lived a 10-15 minute walk away.  Even though it was already pretty late at night and she had to be up early the next morning, she came over with the medicine and sat with me for a little while before going back home to bed.  From her side it was such a simple thing to do, and yet to me it meant so much that I had a friend whom I could call upon when needed and who would help me out, even though it was inconvenient.  I am so thankful for that.

My other friend who bears mentioning is D., along with her husband O.  On a Wednesday I had gone in for IV hydration, but I still wasn't doing well.  As in, by noon on Thursday I was thinking that we should go back in again.  I wanted to wait it out a little bit and see.  D. came over that evening with her husband and a pot of orange soup that he had made for me that day.  It was the best present ever.  I don't know how, but by some amazing miracle I was able to eat all of the soup and it all stayed in without a fuss.  It gave me enough liquid that I was able to skip the hospital visit that evening, and I was put back onto a good track (well, a good track for a woman with HG...).

They say that soup has healing powers, and it's true.  Not only did I feel the warmth of friendship; it actually physically made me better.  So to I. for her Tylenol and friendship, and to D. and O. for their soup and visit, I am eternally grateful.  You have no idea how much that meant to me at a very dark time of life.

Eating homemade, eating healthy

There is a growing movement, at least in the US, to eat more 'natural' foods.  This includes less processed food, more whole grains, more organic products, etc.  Many people think that since I am a vegetarian (and have been for my whole life), I must be into all of these things, too.  Truth be told, organic really isn't my thing.  Are there merits to this 'natural' way of eating?  Sure.  Am I going to take on all of these habits and the extra expense that comes with them?  Nope.

That being said, I am changing my cooking and eating habits, and the hyperemesis is largely to blame for that.  While I was pregnant I could eat very few foods, and I noticed that some things in particular were sure to come back up.  But then I found that the more pure the food was, the fresher, the freer from preservatives and additives, the more likely it was to stay in.  The two biggest examples were apple juice and chummus.

I spent my pregnancy pretty much chronically dehydrated, though I only went in to the hospital for IV hydration when I got really really bad.  I probably should have gone more often, but even just getting there was such a nightmare, not to mention that I would come home and just continue vomiting.  So finding liquids that would stay in was at the top of my list of priorities.

Apple juice seemed like a likely candidate at some point, so we bought some.  Mind you, at least in Israel most of the things labelled 'juice' don't necessarily have much relation to the real stuff, but N. went out and bought me a bottle that was labelled as 100% juice (I'm pretty sure he must have spent half of those eight long months going back and forth to the grocery store, trying to find me something that would stay in).  Needless to say, this '100% juice' did not sit terribly well.  Why, you might ask?  Well, it could be the added ascorbic acid or the other couple of things that were in it, if you actually read the ingredients.  My juice was not pure.

We finally decided to move up to the refrigerator section, where there were bottles of juice that only had juice listed in the ingredients.  And you know what?  It worked.  That stuff was like magic.  Pure apple juice, and it stayed inside my belly where I got needed hydration and calories to keep the babe growing and myself from fading away.  There were about two months at the end of my pregnancy where that was all I could drink, so it took me a year after giving birth to be able to drink it again at all.

The chummus was more obvious.  If you pick up a package of chummus from the store, there's a list of around 20 ingredients.  If you make it yourself - six.  My mother-in-law makes her own chummus so that was how I found out that I could tolerate homemade and not store-bought.

Before all of this, I had never really thought so much about the amount of extra things that go into your normal, everyday food.  Sure, I wasn't buying those super processed foods that are clearly terrible for you and I was trying to steer away from things like MSG, but I wasn't really thinking about seemingly harmless foods.  It takes an overactive stomach to realize that things aren't as innocent as they seem.

Now I make from scratch a lot of food that we were previously buying ready-made, and you know what?  We're much happier that way.  Aside from being healthier, yummier, and cheaper, it also opens up more options for me in the event that my next pregnancy continues on this trend.  So am I an 'organic' person, buying only 'natural' foods?  No, and I don't plan to be.  I plan to be as healthy as I can on our very limited budget, and trying to keep out of my body things that shouldn't be there.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Have you ever lived in an apartment without windows?  I never really knew such a thing existed until I lived in one myself for the first seven-and-a-half months of my marriage.  The first six or seven weeks were okay, but then the hyperemesis set in and my teeny tiny apartment with no windows became a smelly, claustrophobic prison.  We had a row of glass block windows that let in plenty of sunlight so darkness wasn't an issue.  Air flow was.

As I'm sure you know, a pregnant woman has a ridiculously heightened sense of smell.  I was smelling things that I hadn't even known existed before and that no one else could detect.  The problem was that all of these smells were making me vomit.  For several months, N. had to warn me before he opened the fridge (even after we got our fridge replaced).  He had a very limited list of things he was allowed to cook, and only if I was forewarned and he opened the door to outside to try to dissipate the offending odors.  I am thankful that he went along with these crazy things even though he didn't fully understand what was going on.

The worst smell, though, wasn't from food.  Since we don't have a car and we lived a distance from the grocery store, my in-laws bought us this granny cart that had a wire frame and a bag insert.  Useful, right?  Well, who knew that the bag outgasses even after it outgasses and that the stink is horrific?  When I was in the apartment and had been for some time I was more or less able to ignore the smell, unless a whiff of air came from that direction.  The problem really was when I had been out of the house for a bit and wanted to come back in.

It was so bad that I'm getting queasy just writing about it.  Whenever we went out for the doctor or the hospital or away for the weekend, of course I wanted to get home and collapse into my own bed and vomit in my own bathroom.  What I did not want to do, however, was enter the apartment.  I used to wait outside for a little while after we got home, in the hopes that the open door would do something for that everlasting stink.  Eventually I would have to go in and inevitably I would head straight for the bathroom and lose whatever small amount of food or drink I had managed to stick inside in the past hours.

My home became my prison in more than one way.  I was so weak that I couldn't really leave to go anywhere. Just going down the stairs to exit the building was more than I could manage.  But what really got me were the windows.  Who builds an apartment without windows?  I felt trapped, rebreathing the same air over and over again, living with the same stink that no one else could smell for days and weeks and months on end.  I just wanted a breeze of fresh air to blow across my bedroom, instead of the air of the fan or the a/c which just brought me the same old smells.  I just wanted the smells of outside - even if they, too, would have made me nauseous, at least they would have been different.

When we were searching for an apartment later in my pregnancy, my main stipulation was that it have windows (and a bathtub and a whole lot more room).  Thankfully, we now have many windows to open (or not) as we please.  And the best part is, we have a semi-enclosed porch which is perfect for storage.  Guess where the blue granny cart went?  I shoved it in a corner and I won't go anywhere near it, because I still can smell it and it still makes me sick.

Windows.  I can't get enough windows.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

It's a small world...or is it?

I spent the past couple of days with N.'s family celebrating the simcha of his brother A. marrying a wonderful girl, Z.  I'm not saying that just because I have to; I really do think that she's wonderful.  Either way, at Shabbat dinner I found out that my sister-in-law's brother-in-law's parents are very close friends of my father's second cousins, who send me their regards.  Are you lost yet?  Good.

It's really not as complicated as it seems, but wouldn't it have been easier to just pick up the phone and call?

I love when things like this happen, because they're just ridiculous.  For example, I recently received an email from my brother in the States telling me how he had eaten Shabbat lunch with the distant cousin of someone I went to elementary school with.  This piece of information is crucial to me why, exactly?

People call it Jewish Geography, although I'm certain that other people do it, too.  We as humans (and perhaps specifically as Jews, with our unique history) have this need to reach out and find something familiar, find some commonality with other people.  In a way trying to find that connection with someone you've just met is testing them to see if they're legitimate and if you can accept them.  Not that a lack of friends in common makes us shun people, but somehow two people knowing the same name makes you almost like family.

It's funny.  I spent 18 years in Chicago, always in the same community.  Since I left, people always like to ask me if I know so-and-so who lives there or who lived there when my grandparents were in their 20s.  The sad part is, 80% of the time I say no.  It just makes me wonder how I could spend so much time there and go to all the schools there and still not know anybody?  I mean, it's not just that I don't know the person in question personally - these are names that I've never even heard in my life.

It kind of makes you think about how much you really know about anyone living around you.  How well do you know your neighbors?  Do you know what they look like?  Their names?  If they have kids?  Pets?  I'm not even sure how many apartments are in my building.  My downstairs neighbor gave birth to twins (at least I knew she was pregnant) but I didn't find out there were two of them until four months later.  I know nothing about anyone.

I could go on and say how this says such bad things about society and that we're too caught up in ourselves and our latest gadgets to pay attention to the real world, but I'll save that rant for a different blog.  I suppose, though, that there is something to say for getting regards through a chain of a zillion different people - at least it gets us all to talk.

How NOT to save a life

I love swimming.  For as long as I can remember, I just loved getting into the water and gliding around like a fish.  My parents sent me to swimming lessons from an early age, and I actually continued on with them all the way until I got my lifeguard training in high school.

I excelled in my training and passed all the tests with flying colors.  It's the things that weren't part of the training but happened anyways that really stick out in my mind, though.  Of course I still retain all of the First Aid and CPR knowledge and how to rescue a drowning person without inadvertently killing them, but that wasn't all.

My most vivid memory from during the training is from one Sunday afternoon while we were practicing drowning and saving in the deep end of the pool.  I usually tried to avoid playing the drowning person because I didn't actually trust all of my classmates to save me properly.  In fact, one time I wound up having to save myself because the other girl was just taking too long.  After all, I didn't want to actually drown.

At any rate, our instructor wasn't in the pool with us that day because she was having sinus problems.  There were little kids having swimming lessons in the shallow end, and one group of them was in water around 4.5 feet deep.  There was this big plastic bench a few feet away from where they were clinging to the wall for them to stand on when they got out there.

My teacher was walking along the side of the pool, fully dressed, when she noticed on of the boys slip under while the lifeguard was helping another child.  So being the good rescuer that she is, she dove right into the pool to save him - and bashed her head against the plastic bench.  Moments later the lifeguard saved this poor, disoriented instructor, after she had plucked the boy out of the water (he was totally fine, by the way).  My instructor, however, was not.  In addition to being sopping wet in her regular clothing in Chicago in February, she managed to get herself a concussion.  We taught ourselves for the rest of the day.

Aside from the lessons that can be gleaned from this on how NOT to save a drowning person, I think that the more important lesson is simply - look before you leap.  Not just when you are diving into the shallow end of a swimming pool, but with everything in life.  If you make a hasty decision, you could wind up with a nasty smack on the head.  If you take even just three seconds (in the case of my teacher) or a few minutes or a few days in other cases to assess the situation and think things over, then you can avoid that plastic bench altogether and save the drowning kid in the process.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Book Review: Trains by Byron Barton

My mother sent me this board book for L.H. to enjoy.  It can be difficult to find English children's books in Israel at reasonable prices (if at all), so mostly I rely on other people sending them.  When we first received this book, I wasn't quite sure what to think of it.  To me it seemed a little bit boring because it had no plot line and only a handful of words on each page.  L.H. fell in love with it, though, so I decided to resign myself to liking it.

The truth is, the simplicity of the words and the drawings gives the reader a lot of room to be creative.  Instead of L.H. quickly losing interest and turning the page like she does with other books that have more words, she points things out to me and waits for me to tell her when it's time to turn the page.  There are plenty of things that can be counted - cars, people, trees, houses, etc.  Additionally, many pages lend themselves to some fun with sounds, whether it's the choo-choo of the train or the ding-ding-ding of the crossing gate.  L.H. is fond of the page with the little red caboose, because then of course we have to sing the song to go along with it. :)

Overall, I would not recommend this book for an unimaginative person, because they would find it boring.  As long as you are willing to go beyond the words, though, and bring your child into interaction with the book, then everyone involved will have a good time...even after the hundredth time.

Ima rating: four stars out of five.
L.H. rating: if she could count to ten, this book would definitely get ten stars out of five.

Sweet Potato Fries

I first started making this recipe when I was looking for finger food to feed L.H.  I made my first batch and half of it made it into my belly before I remembered that it wasn't even for me!  This is a delicious, healthy way to make sweet potatoes, and you can play around with the spices to personalize it.

Sweet potatoes
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400F.  Cut up scrubbed or peeled sweet potatoes into whatever size and shape you want (I do strips).  Put the cut-up potatoes into a big bowl, sprinkle with olive oil and cinnamon, and toss to evenly coat.  Place them on a baking sheet and stir them around a bit before popping them in the oven for 30-45 minutes.  They will be mushy, not crunchy like white potato fries.

You could also add a little nutmeg or brown sugar, or if you want to make it spicy instead of sweet you can put curry powder and chili powder.  I haven't tried this yet but it's on my to-do list!

These fries are perfect as a finger food, a snack on the go, or as a side at a meal.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Book Review: Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

My big sister was an English major, worked for several years at Borders, is a book enthusiast, and has her own book blog (Booksellers Without Borders, look on my sidebar for the link).  With all of that, I can always count on her to recommend or send me books for the babe.  The most recent shipment included Spoon, chosen out by my nephew as a present for the cousin whom he has never met.

I love this book for many reasons, but mainly for the message it delivers: be thankful first and foremost for what you have because you are special and no one else has what you have.  I think that this is a very important message to deliver to children from a young age, especially in today's society.  It is so easy to see the brand new gadget that everyone else has or to be jealous of trips abroad or opportunities not given to you, but if you focus on that then you miss the special parts of your life.  You never know what part of your life your friends are looking at and wishing that they had.

To quote loosely, "who is the rich man?  He who is happy with his lot."  May we all be happy with what we were given.

Ima rating: five stars out of five.
L.H. rating: undetermined, but seems to be about 4.5 out of five.

A time of need

"A psychologist is someone you see only when you've given up trying to help yourself."

As I mentioned in my first post, my pregnancy really sucked.  I had severe hyperemesis from weeks 6-22, when it let up a bit but never fully went away until I gave birth.  Pregnancy for me was a very dark time and there were many times when I was on the edge of depression.  If it wasn't for the support of my wonderful husband and a handful of close friends, I don't know how I would have gotten through it all.

My physical recovery after the birth went pretty smoothly, overall.  I had to eat pretty much constantly to make up for everything I had lost for those nine long months and to keep up my milk supply for the babe and it took me 10 months to gain back all the weight, but there were no serious issues.  My psychological recovery is a different question.

I knew that because of the pregnancy complications I was at higher risk to have postpartum depression or other issues so I was on the lookout and told my husband to be, too.  After several months I felt that things just weren't right with me, so I was considering going to a psychologist to see what was wrong and fix it.  I shared this little tidbit with my friend, and the above quote is what I got back as a response.  I was so hurt and angry after that that I closed the door on that discussion with her and proceeded seeking treatment on my own.

I feel like there is a lot of stigma surrounding having any sort of psychological issue, so there are probably many people who go without treatment or do it in secret so that they don't have to deal with what other people think of them.  And you know what?  That is terrible.  Everyone should be able to get the help that they need without anyone making them feel bad about it.  The way I see it, you go to a psychologist not when you have given up helping yourself, but when you realize that your problem can be bigger than you and you are reaching out to someone else in order to help yourself better.  Does that make sense?

At any rate, post-traumatic stress isn't something where you can just "help yourself" and just get over it (ditto for postpartum depression, although thankfully that wasn't my issue).  Most women get PTSD from their births, but I got mine from my pregnancy.  My birth was fast and uneventful.

As time goes on, I am slowly coming to terms with everything that happened and accepting it as part of my life story rather than letting it control my life.  I can now look at pregnant women without getting sad or anxious; I can eat almost everything (couscous, lasagna, and bean salad are still on my Do Not Touch list); and most importantly, I can think of having more children in the future without entering panic mode and breaking down into tears.  Just talking about my horrible experiences all the time has helped me sort of process them and learn to live with them, which is part of what this blog is for - getting my experiences out there in writing so that I can look back and see where I was and how far I've come.

Of course one can never know what future pregnancies will be like, but I am preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.  If I have to live through the hell of HG again, then at least I will be prepared physically and mentally as much as is possible.

So have I given up on helping myself?  No, and I never did.  I was just searching for the missing tools that I needed in order to work things out.

Delicious Smoothies

I've made these smoothies a couple of times, and they are just too yummy to pass up:

1 pint strawberry yogurt
1 banana
1 kiwi
enough milk to get it to the consistency that you want

Stick everything in the blender until smooth and enjoy!  Blending it also makes it satisfyingly frothy, and this makes enough for about 2.5 people.

Breastfeeding in public in Israel

I didn't move to Israel until I was 18, so I feel more comfortable hanging around in American parenting forums than in Israeli ones.  So I hear about all sorts of controversy around nursing in public and what's acceptable, what's not, nurse-ins, etc.  I hear all sorts of stories of people asked to nurse in public bathrooms or other equally uncomfortable areas...and I can't relate.

One of the things that I love about Israel is how baby-centered it is.  I have nursed in public numerous times and not once gotten a negative comment or an odd look.  Instead I have seen smiles, heard comments about how cute the baby is with no mention of the fact I was nursing, and heard a grandmother pointing out to her two granddaughters how nice it was to see a mother nursing her child.  The girls even came over to me to see and were so interested and happy.

Of course, I don't just whip things out.  I am a very modest person myself and respect the feelings of other people.  I almost always use a cover but even when I don't I make sure that I am covered as much as possible.  I don't see a reason to completely expose myself, but I also don't see a reason to hide.

A friend posted this earlier today, and I thought it was just spot-on:

Because parenthood is all roses

I was recently reading a blog post about some of the less…joyful…sides of parenthood, and found myself clutching my belly with helpless laughter - which is why I was so surprised when, as I read through the comments, I found one mother who was less than pleased.  "Shame on you," she wrote.  Apparently motherhood should be all roses and happy times, according to her, lest we put someone off of having children.  And what about those people who are struggling with infertility?  G-d forbid that they should find out there are hard parts to being a parent. 

I think that anyone who praises parenthood as perfectly lovely, heavenly, easy, or whatever else should be shot. While I wouldn't trade being a mother for anything, you'd have to be blind not to see that such a blessing comes with its (many) challenges.  There's nothing sweeter than your baby coming up and giving you a hug and a kiss.  And there's nothing more frustrating about her then going to the other room, peeing on the floor, and playing in it.  Although I must admit, I laughed my head off at her pee party before popping her into the bath.

Anyone considering having children must know that there are bad times that come with the good.  Otherwise, one of those bad times will hit and they will simply despair.  It's great and all if you love your baby for taking off a poopy diaper and smearing it all over your brand new white cloth couch, but it's important that people also know that you're allowed to be annoyed about it and that you're allowed to share that annoyance with other people.

So to the mother who said "shame on you" - I'm glad that you see parenthood as an endless stream of happiness and good things.  But some of us don't, so don't go getting annoyed at us when we're just trying to let off a little steam and get a good hearty laugh at the same time.

The scars of HG...

I don't want my brother-in-law to get married.  I know it sounds strange, but it's true.  Once he gets married his new wife will, B"H become pregnant.  And truth be told, I don't think I can handle it.

You can't handle it, you ask me?  What is there for you to handle?  She's the one who will be pregnant.

We need to backtrack 22 months to my own marriage and the start of my own family in order to understand this.  We were one of those blessed couples who conceived on our first cycle.  It was overwhelming at first, just because we hadn't really been expecting it to happen so soon.  But of course we were happy.  There was a little neshama growing inside of me! 

Within a week of finding out the good news, the sickness hit.  At first I thought it was just normal morning sickness, but it was so terrible and unrelenting.  As time went on it just got worse and worse.  In a matter of a month I dropped 10 kilo and I was going to the emergency room frequently to be rehydrated.  My days were spent alone in bed, too weak to get up or do anything.  My legs were like twigs and my ribs and spine were sticking out.  When I laid down, my tummy sunk in and looked like a hollow cave.  No one would have believed there was a baby inside.

I eventually got a name for this terrible illness, and the name was Hyperemesis Gravidarum.  At first I had no clue what I was dealing with, but then I did research and found the most wonderful and helpful website full of women who understood (  I had no one in real life who really 'got' what I was going through, so it was such a relief to discover this site.  It was also during this time that I discovered who my true friends were - the ones who stuck around even though I was walking death and couldn't even talk to them for more than two minutes at a time, let alone see any of them.

I spent a lot of time asking Hashem why this was happening to me.  I just couldn't understand what I had done to merit this suffering.  Did I not daven enough?  Was I lacking in emunah?  Was I forgetting some important mitzvah?  But more than that, I spent so many hours crying (dry tears, my body had no liquid to spare) and praying that my baby was okay.  I was so sick that I was positive it would have a negative effect on the baby.  If I wasn't eating, then how could the baby grow and thrive?  I lived from ultrasound to ultrasound, waiting to see those tiny little legs kick, the miniscule heart beating so fast, the healthy flow of blood between mother and baby.

For nine months I suffered, not understanding why this was happening, not knowing what the impact would be on the baby.  In the end my baby girl was born skinnier than any full-term baby I've ever seen and perfectly healthy.  She took one breath and immediately started searching for food - which I could finally give her!

My healing process has been much longer and is nowhere near complete.  I find that I avoid pregnant women and don't want to hear about other people's pregnancies - partially because it brings back very painful memories of my own, and partially because deep down inside I am jealous and I wonder why I couldn't have had 'that' pregnancy.  Which is why I don't want my brother-in-law to get married.  It is easy to avoid pregnancy topics with other people, but when it's family - that's a whole different story.

As difficult as this whole experience has been, I have still managed to pull some good from it.  How amazing is Hashem and how amazing are these bodies that He created for us, that a woman can be malnourished for her entire pregnancy and suffer from many dangerous side-effects related to that, and still give birth to the most perfect, healthy child?  Every single baby is a pure miracle; with some it is more obvious than with others.

The other good that has come out of this (and I'm still working on this one) is bitachon.  During the pregnancy I was so helpless and there was so little I could do.  My life and the life of my unborn child were completely in G-d's hands in a way that I hadn't felt before.  Of course our lives are always in Hashem's hands, but I hadn't really felt that way before hand.

More than that, I have to have tremendous bitachon for the future.  Since I have had hyperemesis already in one pregnancy, I am likely to have it again - and in some women it gets worse each time.  Only Hashem can control if this will happen or not, and only my bitachon in Hashem can control how I come out of it.  I have to trust in Hashem that everything will go well and that the whole family survives the ordeal in one piece.  I have to trust in Hashem that we can still have the large family we wanted, even though we got off to such a rough start.  And I have to trust in Hashem that one day, I will be the one with 'that' pregnancy that everyone is jealous of.