Monthly Archives: July 2010

Post high school yeshiva applications

I’ve been meaning to update here with what’s going on with ds17, but I’ve been waiting for something definite to share, which hasn’t happened.

Here’s the story:  ds thought he was going to a yeshiva in CT, and was already telling people that’s where he was going.  When he went there at the end of May (or was it the beginning of June?), he didn’t find it the environment he was looking for, and I was extremely disturbed at the lack of organization shown by the administration, which was literally incomprehensible to me.  I’ve debated whether to describe what happened during his trip or not, but I’ve decided to leave it at that.  I spoke to key people there afterward to let them know they lost a great young man as a result of their disinterested approach to his visit.  I had one particularly long and interesting in which I was told “wake up and smell the coffee”, that my son is unusual because he’s so sheltered and I’m not going to find a place that meets my criteria.  (My unrealistic criteria: a place where most of the young men attending are serious about Torah learning, not into shtick, and a supportive and warm environment where each person is treated as an individual.  Also wanted a place that was accredited and could grant college credits.)  They were very nice but it wasn’t what we were looking for.

Then I decided to forget about warm and supportive, and just go for a strong learning environment.  Off we went to Ner Israel in Baltimore (I mentioned that we had sent in the application).  Everyone who knows ds and the institution had absolutely no doubt he’d be accepted.  It took three weeks to get an answer, and I was finally told “We have an arrangement with our high school that we do not accept students who have not had the equivalent of 12 years of a normal limudei kodesh background, under normal circumstances.”  The suggestion was made that “After completing the equivalent of the 12th grade limudei kodesh in a yeshiva high school, could he be considered for admission to the beis medrash for the following year.”

This response didn’t bring a smile to my face (actually, it raised my hackles).  I responded that ds had a normal Judaic background, under the tutelage of his father rather than school administrators.  I mentioned that after ten years in kollel (full time Torah study for married men) at well-known and respected institutions that included the Mir and Lakewood, dh was certainly capable of overseeing this and I found it incomprehensible that my son had the same status as someone who was coming from public school might.  Since I was told in that same email that exceptions are only made for students who are head and shoulders above their same age peers (why would he want to attend this  institution if he were way above their level?), or those who returned to Judaism at a later age.   I asked if they’d be willing to considered him a year from now when he is officially the same age as most other high school graduates (18) if he doesn’t attend high school for an additional year, and inquired how many years it would take before my son would have the same enrollment status as those older returnees.  No answer.

Well.  It may be a fine institution but they’ve made it crystal clear that dealing with each person as an individual isn’t their strength.  I think of it like this, and ds feels the same way:  We weren’t told ‘no’.  We were told, ‘There’s something much better coming soon.’  I’m so glad to have been clearly shown why this wasn’t the right place for ds.  There is an option we’re looking into now, and assuming the application process goes smoothly, he’ll travel to NY for his interview on Aug. 10.  (These travel costs and application fees have been putting a serious dent in our budget!)  Ds has a very good feeling about this yeshiva, and for a number of reasons, so do I.  I’ll let you know what happens on that front once we have some closure!


Packing for backpacking trip

Packing for a backpacking trip doesn’t sound too complicated – after all, you can only pack what you a) have room for in your pack and b) have willingness to carry for hours at a time.  That eliminates quite a bit of stuff!

But it takes more thought to take less than to take more!  And if you don’t want to spend a lot of money to get ready, then it takes even more time and advance preparation!  Ds11 and ds17 will be going on a three day backpacking trip to the Appalachian Trail in VA, and though I confirmed we were interested over a month ago, I really didn’t plan as much in advance for this trip as I might have if I hadn’t been so busy with other things, but the total expenses were still quite reasonable.

The man leading the trip is providing tents, sleeping bags, and bringing a camping stove, and I’m grateful that we didn’t have to buy any of those things.  The biggest purchase we were responsible for was the external frame backpack.  Even if you buy these used, they aren’t too cheap, but G-d once again provided us with amazing bargains on the backpacks.  I got ds17’s pack for $15 from someone on CL, which was the cheapest price I had seen.  It wasn’t a name brand pack but it’s decent quality and ds likes the way it looks and feels a lot.

Then I found someone selling two packs for $5 each – and unbelievable as that price was for any pack, it was even more remarkable that they were the Kelty brand, which are a top brand.  (Yesterday they did a dry run and the leader was exclaiming, “How did you manage to get a Kelty for $5?! He couldn’t believe it.)   These two packs were from teens who attended a backpacking camp for several weeks in the summer, but have since gone to college so their mother was cleaning out things they no longer need.  I traveled an hour to get them; I really only needed one more pack at that price, but at that price I felt it was crazy not to get another one.  There’s a good likelihood that with our size family, one day we’ll be happy to have all three.  So I spent $20 on three backpacks, which is cheaper than even one used backpack is usually  listed for (the least expensive I saw other than mine was one for $25, most were closer to $50).

I didn’t shop for hiking boots in advance – I was kind of figuring they’d wear sneakers and manage, so I didn’t put any time or effort into looking for good buys on these.  I did end up deciding to get them something more specific to their hiking needs, though I probably could found something less expensive with more advance notice. But probably not significantly less, since what we found was great footwear at a price I was quite happy to pay: Timberland hiking boots ($13) for ds11 and Nike sneakers with ankle support ($10) for ds17.  We didn’t get shoes for ds17 until this morning and it’s really amazing we could find such a great deal at the last minute.  Generally when you aren’t buying retail you can’t count on what you need being available right when you want it.  They both said the shoes are comfortable and hopefully they will continue to feel comfortable after hiking in them for hours.

The remaining expenses were for miscellaneous items: headlamps ($5 each), moleskin ($4 package), bug spray ($4 – not my typical kind of purchase), and a mess kit ($7).

There are a lot of things we could have bought that were on the list, but I told the boys to make do as much as possible by using what they already had.   That meant they didn’t go out and buy daypacks but used backpacks they already had.  I didn’t buy them hydration bladders; instead they are taking water bottles with them.  They are packing their usual cotton socks, even though wool is recommended – at over $8 a pair for use in the summer, I just couldn’t see it as worthwhile.

The main area my lack of advance planning showed up was the increased costs in food.  Some things I had on hand at the discounted prices I usually buy at, but at least half of the food was bought either today or last night at regular (ie non sale) prices.  Fortunately, my regular food budget had room to absorb it, and though it was bought for their trip, I don’t count it as a backpacking expense.  And it was a nice chance to make my boys feel splurged upon (when I bought them two boxes of granola bars at those outrageous prices, ds11 realized I was doing it because him having nice food was my priority, not shaving every possible penny down).  Here’s what they are taking, which is really pretty simple:

  • breakfast: oatmeal, grits, hot cocoa
  • lunch – eaten while hiking, no stopping – homemade trail mix (sliced almonds, raisins), fruit leathers, granola bars
  • dinner – the first night they’ll have food they bring in with a cooler – hot dogs, hamburgers, smores (graham crackers, marshmallows, chocolate); night #2 – ds11 made tuna casserole and dehydrated it (tuna, noodles, vegetables, sauce); night #3 – we didn’t think there would be a third night and didn’t plan for it; fortunately I bought a vacuum packed package of hard salami that they can use that night.  The boys think they have plenty of the food packed (eg 8 packages of instant oatmeal or grits per breakfast; 3.5 c. trail mix for each lunch) and that they’ll have enough leftover to use for the last night.  I think I have a package or two of foil packed salmon that I’ll encourage them to take along to supplement.

I’m not delighted at the lack of vegetables but otherwise I think it’s pretty much okay.  I think I’ll send them with a few pieces of fresh fruit (went peach picking today so we have lots of those) for the 3 hour drive there. That was they’ll have some roughage in their systems to help keep everything working well.  :)

Not including the food, it was about $70 for both of them to go backpacking for three days, and all of the items they bought can be used for future trips.  The generosity of the leader in taking them without a charge and supplying some items free of charge definitely simplified our shopping and kept costs in check!  I don’t think I would have spent significantly more, however; I would have borrowed the sleeping bags and tents, or used the camping pads and sleeping bags that we have (which aren’t as super compact but was fine for dd15 when she went backpacking for three days last year).

Getting ready for this trip could have been a big deal, but ds11 really got everything organized and taken care of.  I took him where he wanted to go and pretty much gave him free range of the pantry to take whatever food he wanted, and he was the one who got things done. That’s not to say ds17 didn’t do stuff because of course he did, but ds11 was really on top of everything that was needed and got it together in a timely way.  I was remembering just today that dd15 was also this age when she went on a week long dog sledding trip in Maine.  Hard to believe so much time has gone by….. Looking back, I’m so glad I encouraged her to take the opportunity when it came up – special experiences are memories that stay with your child forever.

I hope this will be a wonderful experience for the boys, and having them take so much responsibility for the preparations has certainly made it more wonderful for me!  :)  They’ll be off early in the morning, and I look forward to having them back in a few days.


Looking to the right

As always, it’s been busy around here! (Does it ever stop being busy??)

Ds11 and ds17 are preparing for a three day backpacking expedition on the Appalachian Trail, beginning in the Shenandoah Valley in VA on Tuesday morning.  Ds11 asked me to take him shopping for the final items on his list, so we headed to Walmart.  I was surprised to see the entrance blocked by emergency flares and orange safety cones,  so I continued on to Home Depot with the hope they might have what I needed.

When I went into the store it looked as if they were about to close, so I asked about it and was told there was a major power outage in the area and they were running on an emergency generator.  The dimmed lighting changed the impersonal feel of the big box kind of store it is, particularly when suddenly 50% of the remaining lights went off.  When I asked an associate where something was, he offered to walk me to the appropriate aisle with a flashlight to guide us.  Not your typical experience!

Rather than wait until the next day to finish up the shopping since the next day was already pretty scheduled and I didn’t want to try to pack in more to an already busy day, we decided to go to the next closest Walmart about five miles away.  Since it was across from the Asian vegetable store, figured I’d stop in to do a little shopping.  I’d been planning to get some fruits and vegetables on the way home but wasn’t sure that store would have power so figured I’d get my groceries purchased right then to be sure I had what I needed.  When I came out a short while later, I was unpleasantly surprised to see a 1/2″ scrape running along the entire length of my 12 passenger van, as well as a dented corner.  (I was wondering how a driver could have been so oblivious to doing so much damage, but I think the music or something he was listening to must have been very loud.)

Ds11 and dd13 were both with me and each separately told me, “The good thing about having a used van is it matters less if something is damaged.”  They’re definitely right. But though my vehicle may be older, I want it to look presentable, and this doesn’t positively enhance the visual image of my van!  I understand why someone didn’t leave a note about it – a repair like this isn’t small pocket change.  (Months ago we grazed about 3 or 4 inches of a neighbor’s car – it was an expensive model, unfortunately for us, and the repair cost was $700.  And that was much less extensive than this.)

As I was standing there observing the van, I glanced up and saw the most gorgeous sky.  It was breathtaking – the setting sun was coming through the clouds in beautiful shading and lighting, with everything golden and pink and glowing.   When you looked to the right, all you could see was astounding natural beauty.  But when I looked to the left, all I saw was a plain gray sky. And at that moment, I thought to myself, life is like that. You get to choose which direction you look at when something happens.  There’s always something beautiful to focus on or something to be unhappy about, even when you’re standing in the exact same spot .

As I was driving home and thinking about the damage, I was surprised that my only feeling was minor irritation.  Some people don’t care about how things look, but I’m not one of them, and something that bothers me intensely is irresponsible people who don’t take responsibility for their actions.  But whenever I thought about the scraped up van, I couldn’t help but think about the beautiful sky at the same time.

You know how when there are times of intense emotion the imprinting process takes place?  Well, I think G-d wanted to soften the blow of the experience for me and made sure there was something so powerfully beautiful for me to look at that I would have to notice it when I was noticing something else not so pleasant, and imprinted me with a positive experience to counter what would be a very challenging thing for me to accept otherwise.

Sometimes I feel so grateful for all that G-d does for me, and at times like today, it’s obvious how much He’s taking care of me in even the little things!


West African Stew

This recipe calls for a bunch of ingredients, and I found it when I was once searching for a way to use up some vegetables I couldn’t picture using together.   I once again had this conglomeration of vegetables in my fridge and freezer needing to be used up, so it appeared again on our dinner menu!

I’ve never made this recipe exactly as it’s written below – if I don’t have something, I leave it out – but it’s always been tasty.  This is a one pot meal, so once you have the vegetables prepped, it’s a simple meal to put together.  The spices are typical for West African dishes, but you might want to use less if you’re not so adventuresome – it has a number of spices that might be unfamiliar to some palates.

West African Stew

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, diced
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 small eggplant, peeled and cubed
  • 1 1/2 c. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 each – red, yellow, and green peppers, cut in 1/2″ pieces (I dislike cooked peppers so I leave this out)
  • 2 c. okra, sliced
  • 4 c. vegetable broth
  • 1/2 t. cayenne
  • 3/4 t. ginger
  • 1/2 t. coriander
  • 1/4 t. tumeric
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg
  • 1/4 c. honey (I never put this in)
  • 2 – 28 oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 lb green beans
  • 3 c. chopped greens (kale, collard, mustard, spinach)
  • 4 – 15 oz cans chick peas, drained (or 1 lb dry chickpeas, soaked, sprouted, and cooked- you need to plan a couple of days ahead if you want to sprout them)

Put the onion, garlic, sweet potatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, peppers, and okra into a pot with the vegetable broth.  Cover the pot and bring to a boil. When the vegetables are tender, add the remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil again, and cook for 5 – 10 minutes until the green beans are tender.

Serve hot over brown rice or with fresh whole wheat bread.

This is an economical dish, assuming you buy the vegetables at a reasonable price.   I’m costing the recipe out as it’s written and estimating according to the quantities listed, though it’s possible dd15 added more of something than I’ve indicated when she prepared it.

  • onion – .20
  • garlic – .20
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes – .33 lb (bought in case of 40 lb)
  • 1 sm eggplant – .49 lb (reduced rack)
  • 1.5 c. mushrooms – .99 lb on sale (I dehydrated a large amount last time I bought them on sale so I can use them for cooking when it’s convenient for me)
  • 2 c. okra – .50 per 16 oz. pkg (I bought a huge amount of these frozen a while back because they were so cheap)
  • broth – free if you use veggie trimmings to make your own (can also use water instead of broth thought it won’t be as richly flavored)
  • 2 – 28 oz can tomatoes – .79 each (on sale because slightly dented)
  • 3 c. greens – free – (didn’t use it this time but in past used what we had in garden)
  • 1 lb dried chick peas – .75 lb on sale

Total –  just $5.04 !! – this made a filling dinner for our family with enough left over to have for lunch another day.

(This post is part of Real Food Wednesday and Pennywise Platter Thursday.)


I’m not perfect and don’t belong on a pedestal!

I am so grateful to and appreciative of all of you who shared your feedback with me about the blog in response to my request, either in the comments section or via email.  It was very touching to me and I was choked up reading all of your supportive comments.  It really renewed my positivity about continuing to share here and I thank you all for taking time out of your busy lives to comment.  Amazingly, that’s all it took to for me to again feel enjoyment in writing here!

Practically, a number of good points were made as well. They were helpful in restoring perspective for me, reminding me that I need to do what feels right to me and not worry about those who don’t like what I write, and helped me stop feeling pressured by not having the time to post as often as I’d like.  As of now, I’ll continue posting as time allows, which will probably become less frequent with time but won’t stop altogether.

I received only one email that was slightly negative, though the writer was very sensitive and respectful in sharing her thoughts, which I appreciated.  I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating – I’m so impressed with the quality of the visitors to this blog!  I’d like to respond to her point here, because I think she raised an issue worth commenting on.

>>Here’s the constructive criticism part, and I want to say explicitly that I am only saying this because I have so much respect for you and really admire you, and because I feel that you are my role model in certain areas of life. So — I don’t think you’re fully accomplishing what you set out to accomplish, which is helping young mothers. Young mothers these days feel lost and disempowered. They are definitely looking for guidance. But your posts are too far out of reach for them. You come out as this perfect, all-knowing mother, and I know this is not your intention, but they might feel intimidated and maybe even criticized. I was once telling a younger friend about something I read on your blog, and she told me she read it and felt put off because you said that a child should always listen to the mother and she felt she was nowhere near that, so she ended up feeling incompetent…… I’m just bringing this up because I think it would help young mothers more if you were more aware of their reality and maybe more empathetic …..<<

About five years ago, I was gifted with the opportunity to stumble onto a private blog that significantly improved my life.  This woman had a very large family (I think she had about 15 or 16 – don’t remember the total because she had three children in the short time I read her blog), was homeschooling, and when she shared about her life, hearing the joy she experienced with her children inspired me – I had never met or heard from someone like her.  Even though I had six children at the time (was newly pregnant with no. 7) and I was a pretty good parent, I still felt incredibly inadequate next to her- she seemed to do everything – and I mean everything! – better than I could even imagine doing it.

At the time there were things that my children did that were acceptable to me because it never occurred to me there was anything lacking in the way it was.  For example, when my oldest was 12, he once got angry and said, “I hate you!”  I didn’t react to it – in fact I felt almost amused hearing such a stereotypical comment, and patted myself on the back because I didn’t overreact or become negative.  But when I happened to mention it at a parenting class I was attending at that time and the instructor said, “Well, that’s fine if you don’t mind your child speaking to you in that way,” I didn’t understand why he didn’t share my positive view of how I handled the situation.  Any of my peers I would have talked to would have thought I dealt with the situation well and said it was normal for a child to talk like that.  Now that wouldn’t be acceptable to me at all and the intent of the instructor’s comment is crystal clear. But I couldn’t recognize that there was something lacking there until I saw the example of someone who had a different standard for ‘normal’ than I did.  And it was this woman who took time to share about her life who changed my view of what family life could look like, to show me that there was room for improvement in how I was doing things.

I chose to be grateful for exposure to a more effective way of looking at homemaking and parenthood rather than get sucked into feeling inadequate.  Sometimes I was really perplexed about how she got certain results since they seemed so intimidatingly remote from where I was at as a parent – but she gave me a lot of food for thought.  And those thoughts led to improvements in how I parented and ran my home, and the understanding that while I couldn’t be her, I could certainly be a better me.

A challenge of the internet is that because we don’t see someone in person, there’s a tendency to forget that the person writing is a real person with human failings, and them on a pedestal.  Being aware of that possibility, I’ve been careful not to set myself up as the perfect parent.  I’ve never pretended to have all the answers, to respond to every situation with perfect calm or with the right answers.  Just like everyone, sometimes I’m tired, tense, irritable, and disappointed with my very imperfect responses, and I’ve shared that here!  I have ideals as a parent that I don’t always live up to myself!  But there is a saying, “Shoot for the moon, and at least you’ll reach the stars” – having goals gives me a target to shoot for and even if I fall short, I’m better off than with no target at all.

This blog is a place where I share about what works for me and respond to questions about how our family navigates different situations.  I’m sympathetic to young mothers and having stood in their shoes, and in many ways continuing to be in a place that’s not so different from them, of often facing new situations that I don’t yet know how to handle (that’s the reality of kids growing older and new stages, as well as every child having their own personality!). While I believe I’m aware of their challenges (I speak to many people in real life in exactly this stage), I accept (reluctantly, sometimes!) that you can never make everyone happy and that people ‘hear’ what I’ve written in different ways.   I can only be who I am, and write from my ‘voice’.  I’d love it if every single person who read here sensed the concern and support I feel for mothers who are doing the best they can, and the understanding I have for their struggles.  But of course that’s not possible.

I’ve tried to be as honest and accurate as I could be when posting – it would be foolish to pretend to be more than I am since so many readers have met or will one day meet me in person!  I’m not apologetic for not filling up posts with my fears, doubts, inadequacies, or struggles.  I don’t even want to fill my own mind with that negativity!  Though I sometimes mention frustrations or difficult situations I’m experiencing, sharing that on a regular basis instead of sharing the growth and gains wouldn’t be helpful or inspiring – not for me or for my readers.

On a side note, if any of you are wondering what blog it was that I was so inspired by, it sadly no longer exists.  It was shut down after about a year and the entire blog was erased.  Despite a huge base of appreciative readers, the woman blogging evoked hostility from those who were threatened by her.  They mocked and attacked her, saying she was too ‘perfect’, accused her of making things up and even lying, since ‘clearly’ it was impossible for her to be so organized, or happy, or for her kids to really all get along that well, be so well-behaved, etc.   I think she finally decided she’d rather enjoy living her life without sharing since sharing put her under unexpected fire.  One day I visited the blog, and every single post had been deleted.   I was really sad when this happened and for years hoped that somehow she’d start blogging and I’d rediscover her.  As disappointed as I still feel to this day that I no longer can access her experience, I really believe G-d knew I craved inspiration to grow as a parent and sent it to me via this woman and her blog at a time when I couldn’t find it anywhere.  And because this woman whom I never met was such a help to me, it was her example that was my motivation to start this blog four years ago!


Healthy feet – part 2

After a year of my dd experiencing pain in her feet, I finally found out that the issue was fairly simple to resolve – the cause of the pain was slightly fallen arches, and the answer was orthotics.

Just a week after the appointment in which the orthodist told me the worst thing for dd was to go barefoot, we had a well-read guest for a Shabbos meal.  We have a similar holistic approach to health and nutrition and somehow we stumbled onto the topic of foot health.  I told him my discomfort with the idea that going barefoot was harmful, and my sense that orthotics was addressing the symptoms but not doing anything to treat the cause itself.

In response, he told me of a book he read called Born To Run.  In it are discussed an ancient tribe that lives in Mexico called the Tarahumara. The Tarahumara can run extremely long distances without stopping (100 miles at a time) in an area that has a harsh terrain.  Not only that, but people in their nineties can do this, too!  And they do it without the benefit of expensive running shoes that have been engineered after decades of extensive research, but wearing thin sandals. And though 80% of runners experience foot and leg injuries every year, these people with their seemingly primitive shoes rarely experience injuries, even though they log so many more miles than the typical modern runner.

I wanted to read the book myself to learn more about this, but wasn’t able to get it until this Sunday from my library.  Since it took me five weeks to get the book, I did some research online to learn a bit more about foot health and what kind of shoes are actually most beneficial to the feet (but I was glad to finally be able to sit down with the book!).  In my eagerness to learn more about this, I read the 289 page book at one sitting.  (Here‘s a 1 1/2 minute clip of the author in which you can see his new way of running and foot gear; I thought it was worth watching.)  There was a lot of information about body mechanics, but I’ll sum up what I learned.

The foot is a very complex appendage.  It is very sensitive, and is made up of 26 bones, 33 joints, 12 tendons, and 18 muscles.  When you wear shoes, it weakens this supportive network of your foot, similar to when an arm or leg are put in a cast – tendons get stiff, muscles get weaker.  As the muscles of the foot get weaker, the arch collapses and other injuries occur.  So here was the answer to my unspoken question at the orthodist – why does an arch fall?  And how does wearing orthodics help that?

My understanding in short is that the arch falls because the muscles of the foot aren’t being used enough.  Orthodics are like a crutch for the foot – the create artificial support that the weakened foot isn’t creating for itself.  But to really remedy the underlying issue, it seems the foot needs to be exercised more, not less, in order to strengthen those muscles.  (It very much reminds me of eye glasses, another compensatory measure that leads to increasing muscle weakness over time.)

It seems that minimalist shoes are best for allowing your foot to mimic being barefoot, but other than the specialty shoes I’ve looked into (Vibram, Vivo, Nike Free), I’m unclear about if inexpensive canvas shoes with minimal support are better than good quality shoes in terms of allowing the foot to exercise more (if so, dd has a few pairs of those).  Dd developed the problem she had after a year of wearing Crocs all the time, and the orthodist told us that shoes like that are what keep her in business!  I think a shoe like Crocs might be problematic because there’s so much cushioning on the sole but no support all around, whereas a thinner sole would allow the foot to better protect itself from harmful walking patterns.  When it comes to running shoes, a study showed that ironically, the more expensive the running shoes, the higher the injury rate for runners was.  Those wearing less expensive shoes were actually better off than those with shoes with all of the technology behind it. When the foot is less cushioned, you’re more aware of how you use your feet and adapt accordingly.

I’m strongly leaning toward Vibram Five Fingers, even though they look so darn funky.  But I’m sure my dd wouldn’t wear them in public, and around the house I told her she might as well go barefoot!  My kids are like me – they’re willing to do alternative stuff, but want to look ‘normal’ in the process.  😆  The Vivo Terra Plana shoes look normal, but they are so extremely expensive – over $100 for a pair of flats – and I don’t know how long they last.

I find the idea of spending huge amounts of money to mimic not wearing shoes to be kind of contradictory.  Obviously walking barefoot is free, but since one still needs to wear shoes when out and about, I’m still wondering if there are inexpensive options to the specialty shoes.

I’m looking for a good buy on Vibrams and when I find them plan to get a pair for myself (my arches fell after six pregnancies).  I think if I get dd the Vibrams and can get her to wear them, once her feet feel better it will be easier for her to consider wearing them more frequently, but I’m not willing to pay so much money and have them sit in the box, so it will depend on finding a good deal.  For now I’ve suggested to dd that she go barefoot or in socks as much as she can when at home, and am  still leaning toward having her buy several pairs of Teva shoes when she gets to Israel.    I haven’t found anything yet that says Birkenstock-type shoes (like Teva) are problematic, but I’m not able to independently come to an educated conclusion about that – I don’t know how the body mechanics are affected by cork bottom shoes.  As of now I think it’s a decent option – certainly preferable to a lifetime of orthotics.  I’m far from an expert, but learning so much about how the feet ‘work’ has been very interesting and educational.  If anyone knows of any good options for minimalist shoes, please share!


Healthy feet – part 1

Over a year ago, my dd15 (then 14) complained about foot and ankle pain.  Thinking she’s probably twisted it, I suggested waiting it out, since that’s usually what the doctor recommends, along with ice packs, rest, and elevation.  She didn’t complain much (she’s not a complainer at all), but three months later when she returned from her month at sleep away camp, she told me it was still hurting.

That obviously was way too long for a strain to still be a problem, so I took her to the pediatrician, who recommended rest, cold, and elevation. I told her we did all that and together we determined that a referral to a podiatrist would be in order.  I spent the next five months taking dd to the podiatrist.  He tried a number of things – taping her foot, wrapping her foot, uniboots – but nothing improved the pain.

At one point he said said the inflammation was the problem, so I did some research and prepared some herbal capsules dd was able to take to reduce that, rather than take steroids.  (I wrote about that here.)  Her foot stopped hurting but when we returned, the podiatrist said if we hadn’t reduced the inflammation with medicine he was familiar with, he couldn’t trust that the swelling was actually gone.  He said pain was the only indication that there was swelling, and just because the pain was gone it didn’t mean anything – maybe the herbs I gave her had an anti pain effect.  So she’d still need to take the anti-swelling medication he recommended before he could determine what else he could do to address the situation.

In short, dd decided she didn’t want to, and we never went back – after five months and a number of visits, we were no closer to figuring out the problem and I didn’t have confidence that it was going to be figured out.  I did take her to our chiropractor, who did an adjustment as well as energy work, which improved the situation. But the pain was off and on, and I felt there was something physiological that had to be dealt with.

Several months later, a fantastic orthopedist was recommended by a friend, and I was very impressed by him and grateful that we met someone so knowledgeable and competent.  In our first and only visit in the beginning of June, he determined that the pain was caused by slightly fallen arches – her walking pattern had changed to compensate for this, which was what was causing the pain.  And this could easily be taken care of – all she needed were orthodic inserts.

I met the orthodist there, made an appointment for the next day, and went to get dd fitted for orthodics.  The orthodics she needed were $500 for a pair, and my insurance company recently stopped paying for these.  (I found it ironic that they’d be willing to pay for visits to a podiatrist for months but not a one time outlay to alleviate the need for future visits.)

I asked her about options if we didn’t go with the orthodics, and she mentioned cork bottom shoes were good since they mold to the shape of the wearer’s foot.  The brand she particularly recommended was Teva, which are very pricey.  However, the factory is located in Israel and if you go there, you can buy them at half the price – and the factory is fairly close to where my daughter will be for the coming year. So I told dd we’d wait for her to go and she could treat herself to a few pairs when she got there.

But then at the end of the visit the orthodist said something that I wondered about – she said that for dd, the worst thing possible for her feet was to go barefoot.  This seemed counterintuitive to me, and got me thinking and then learning more…..

(Since this is getting so long, I’ll share the rest of my research in another post.)


Marriage and expectations – part 1

Last week I had a fascinating conversation with two women from India, a mother and her 25 year old daughter.  We met at a social event and we were enjoying the conversation so much we didn’t want to stop when the activity we were there for began!

The mother and daughter were from the upper class in India, not the kind of people I usually have a chance to speak at length with.  The daughter moved here to attend university when she was 18, and the mother still lives in India but comes for a month at a time once or twice a year to visit her daughter.

(It’s not relevant to the topic but it was interesting to hear about the extent of household help the upper caste has – the mother has no children at home, but has five servants – one full time to live with her, one to drive her where she needs to go, someone to cook for her, a gardener, and a house cleaner.  It’s because it’s only her at home that she only needs five servants, she said – her relatives with children still at home have nine servants.  It’s just $60 a month for a full time servant. )

Anyway, one topic that we discussed at length (relative to the time we had to speak) was marriage – arranged marriage, in particular.  The mother had an arranged marriage (she is probably around 45 or 50 years old), and explained to me that the parents intensively research and research to be sure all the important factors are in place.  Since the daughter is still single after living here for seven years, I asked her what her perspective on marriage and dating is, and inquired if after being here so long her ideas have changed.   She said she’d like to date for several months rather than have an arranged marriage.  When I asked her mother what her thoughts on that is, she responded that she doesn’t mind, as long as her daughter finds someone suitable.  The daughter laughed and told me, there’s no possible way on her own she’ll find someone her family deems suitable – there are simply too many criteria.

I asked the mother about her own engagement – she said her husband to be was pointed out to her at a dinner, told he was the one decided on, and asked what she thought of him.  But she said she couldn’t marry someone she never spoke to, so a couple of times he snuck over to her house so they could speak to each other before the wedding.  There are some obvious similarities to the chassidic manner of engagements (though in that case the couples meet each other once or twice for a short time before becoming engaged), and prior to meeting these women I had been thinking quite a lot about why that works so well – which is probably why we ended up having this conversation five minutes after meeting each other!

Part of why I think responsibly done arranged marriages work so well is that parents take their child’s happiness and future very seriously, and do all that they can to be sure the potential spouse is suitable in all ways.  The children trust their parents implicitly to do what will be right for them.  There’s a lot to think about, but my kids aren’t going to have arranged marriages, so it’s mostly philosophical to me.  But the the 25 year old said something else I think is relevant to everyone.  She said that they come into marriage with no expectations, and the relationship grows and develops from there.  That’s exactly the opposite of the American approach to relationships – people get engaged/married on an emotional high, have huge amounts of expectation, and it often goes downhill from there.

Isn’t it true that the cause of most unhappiness in marriage is due to our unmet expectations of our spouse?  We create a lot of our own struggle because we find it so hard to accept the person we marry for who he is, insisting in our own mind (or even verbally) that he be different.  The more acceptance we can develop for our spouses, the happier we’ll be.

But that’s the challenge….


You thought I was what?

Last night I received an email from someone inquiring about my interest in participating in her blog that discusses religion.  My instinct was not to – I’m quite happy with my religion and the meaning it brings me, and have no desire to debate, convince or even be contrasted with others responding about their religions.

Since I try to respect those making requests of me, I make an effort to check out their position before responding in a knee jerk manner.  When looking at the blog of the woman I received the request from, I found a list of upcoming topics and posters.  I  found it interesting and educational to note the wide variety of participants and their respective religions (I hadn’t heard of a womanist before).

Here’s the listing of the religions represented: Muslim, Catholic, Objectivist, Agnostic, Womanist, Pagan, Jewish, Druid, Atheist, Christian, and scheduled (tentatively, I assume) for October there I was……………………….

Buddhist.  😆

I couldn’t help but wonder what led to that categorization.


An early start to the morning

This morning my baby woke up at 5 am, and after nursing him he still wasn’t interested in going back to sleep.  At times like these I figure I’m being sent an opportunity to get an early start on my day – no use bemoaning not being able sleep as much as I’d like!

I got up with him and we sat outside on the front porch for a little bit, enjoying the quiet of the early morning. We got a little damp while sitting there since yesterday (naturally soon after posting about how hot and dry it’s been) we had a fantastically wonderful day of rain, rain, rain!  It was quite a downpour and within a half hour, all three of my empty 50 gallon rain barrels were full.  My plants have gotten a wonderful soaking, which they really needed.  So my porch seats were damp, too.  But I didn’t mind a bit – I was so glad to enjoy the beautiful morning!

Then we went inside and I set the table for breakfast, then started making pancakes – ds11 made the batter last night before he went to sleep so it could soak overnight.  I thought I’d feed the baby some pancakes, make enough for everyone else for breakfast, and go back to sleep with him before either of the other littles woke up, but things didn’t work out quite like that. The boys woke up and went to shul, dd9 woke up and chatted with me a while and helped me make pancakes, and then ds4 woke up.  That was the end of my thoughts of going back to sleep!

He came downstairs and earnestly told me, “We have to do something about my sheet – it keeps making my clothes wet!!”  He’s usually dry at night but a couple of times in the last week he hasn’t been, and he really thought it was the sheet that was doing it!  When I explained to him that he‘s making the sheet wet, he indignantly told me, “Nah uh!  I hold it in!”  😆  I asked dd9 to keep an eye on the pancakes while I gave him a quick shower and dressed him.

We headed back downstairs together and ds4 helped me flip the pancakes and remove them from the pan when they were done.  Little opportunities like this make kids feel like a big help while building competence. A sense of accomplishment helps build self-esteem, too.

Then we needed to take the ducklings out of the hay-lined box where we keep them at night and put them in the yard; ds8 woke up and helped me with that since dd9 was busy feeding the baby bird we found (feeding baby birds is very intensive – they have to hand feed him frequently) and then had to daven (pray).  The kids have been teaching the baby bird to fly and are really enjoying having it as a pet.  We borrowed a cage for it yesterday but it seems to be sitting on someone’s finger most of the day, so it doesn’t spend too much time in the cage.

Once we were outside and finished getting the ducks set up with fresh food and water, I took the opportunity to do some much needed weeding in the garden beds.  Since the ground was so moist it was easy to do.  I had to pull up the spaghetti squash plant (that yesterday I mentioned getting two large squash from) since it was the first casualty of the season from the dreaded squash borer.  I saw another squash plant this morning that will be dead in the next couple of days because of this bug, and decided to just be happy to get anything from my squash plants before they’re wiped out by the squash borers.  It would be nice, if as the ducks get bigger, they eat these bugs before they wreak havoc on my garden!

Ds2 woke up around now and came out, and he helped me plant some onion bulbs, which he enjoyed.  I have about fifty tomato plants that I didn’t get around to planting a few weeks ago when I planted the bulk of them, so I planted a few of them today (only four or five).  Then I pulled up a few plantain plants by the roots, which grow wild and are considered a weed – probably about three pounds of it.  I never thought to eat these until a year ago, when someone here on the blog commented about it when I mentioned harvesting it for medicinal use.  Today I’ll prepare them as a cooked vegetable for lunch, chopped and sauteed with butter- it’s packed with nutrition and is tasty prepared like that.

By the time I came back in at 8:30 am for breakfast, I had gotten lots done!  While I’d love to be able to get up this early on a regular basis, that’s not something I’m currently able to do, so I’m grateful that I was able to enjoy the opportunity today.