Monthly Archives: October 2011

Halloween – but no one knows or cares!

At dinner, after discussing the heavy snowstorm that hit the northeast US, I asked the kids, “Do you know what today is?”

Blank looks all around.  I prodded, “Today is October 31 – does anyone know what that means?”  Continued blank looks.

“It’s Halloween!”  I announced.  “Really??” they asked in surprise.  Back in the US, it would have been impossible for them not to have been aware of it.

Another benefit of living in Israel – our kids are in tune to the Jewish holidays, and nothing else.  :)

Avivah

Clothing exchanges in Ramat Beit Shemesh

After my post in September in which I shared about great used clothing bargains I found, I was asked by a number of people for the details on where I went.  I don’t track my readers, and though I know there are people reading my blog in a number of different countries, it’s been an eye opener that so many people in Israel were reading this well before I moved here!

There are clothing exchanges (gemachim) all over the country, but I don’t know about most of them yet, and probably won’t, since I’m not going to travel all over to get used clothing!  Here’s the details on where I went in Ramat Beit Shemesh, which is about a forty five minute drive from Jerusalem.

1) 23/2 Reviim – this is where I started, and where I recommend anyone going starts out. Their prices are the least expensive and there’s a very large selection.  The woman running it is an incredibly special person who a good friend of mine has told me about for years who I had long wanted to meet – I was just sorry to learn what her last name was later that evening, after I was long gone!  The prices are 2 shekels for a pair of shoes, 2 shekels per item for kids ages 12 and under, 3 shekels an item for over age 12.

Dd11 is tall for her age, so the clothes I bought her were size 16 – 18 (girls), but I was told that since I was buying them for someone below the age of 12, to pay the children’s price.  That was very nice, don’t you think?!

They also have backpacks, purses, some linens, and tzitzis.  I think the backpacks were a shekel each, I don’t remember now for sure, but the tzitzis were definitely a shekel a pair.  That was an amazing price since I needed a few pairs, which would have cost me about 30 shekels each.  The woman who runs this is an English speaker.

2) The second place I went wasn’t a clothing exchange, but was a person who every couple of weeks does a used clothing sale. I’m going to include her information here, since she does it regularly enough for it to be a good resource to be aware of.  Her address is 3/16 Nachal Zohar, the third floor.  You can call her beforehand to find out when she has a sale – 050-678-9422.  She is a native French speaker, so you’ll need to speak to her in Hebrew unless you speak French.

The used items were 5 shekels each, and she had a bargain box of things that were damaged or for whatever reason not selling (eg kids clothing with words on it) – anything in the box was 3 items for a shekel.  She also has brand new things – I bought brand new womens’ skirts with the tags still on for 10 shekels.

3) 40 Sorek – this is the most expensive of the places I went, and I think it’s good to go to the most expensive places last – if you can find what you want more cheaply, than why not?  The entrance to this isn’t in a building, but down a huge flight of stairs outside – maybe three flights down?  This is also run by a lovely woman who is an English speaker.

I believe the prices were 5 – 20 shekels per item; 5 – 10 for children’s clothing, depending on what it was, and the ladies clothing was 10 – 20 per item.  There were some very nice things there and you can really find something lovely for Shabbos or the holidays.

For my Israeli readers: have you ever gone to any of these places?  Are there other gemachim that you’d recommend and can share the address of?  For my non-Israeli readers: where have you found great bargains on clothing?

Avivah

Medical permission to go back to school

Well, the holidays are over, the kids are over the chickenpox, and they’re all back to school.   For those who were concerned about ds12, thank you so much for asking; thank G-d he is doing much better!  All any of them have left of the chickenpox are some residual pox scabs, which are rapidly disappearing.

The day after we sent ds9 back to school (before dd11 and ds12), we got a call telling us to pick him up – they needed a letter from the doctor that he was allowed to be there.  So he came home and I took him, along with three other kids, to the doctor that morning – my first time going to a doctor here.  (Dh took ds12 to the emergency room at the hospital, so they also didn’t go to the doctor.)

The pediatrician was pleasant.  He did a quick basic exam on each of them – height, weight, heart, spine.  He made a note in each of their files that they had chickenpox, and then told me the school nurse would probably request that they have their booster shots for the chickenpox.

I thought I might be misunderstanding something (because of course all these conversations are entirely in Hebrew), so I said, “But they had the chickenpox already, so why would they need a shot?”  He told me that they’ll have to get the booster shot so they don’t get chickenpox.  I told him that didn’t make sense, they had it and now have immunity so why would a shot help?  He said it’s to keep them from getting it again.  I responded, statistically it’s a very small percentage of people who get chickenpox more than once, and it didn’t seem logical to give all the kids a booster shot for a childhood disease they already had that people usually only get once, to keep them from getting it again.  He told me he’s just letting me know the school nurse will want them to have it.  Okay, fine.

So we got letters for all of the kids that they’re clear to go back to school, and I asked if this is something they have to have every single time they miss school because they aren’t feeling well.  He said it depends on the school policy, and to speak to them.  I rarely need to take the  kids to doctors, so the idea of taking them for a note every time they have a cold and stay home for a day or two isn’t appealing.  I have to get used to this school frame of mind, I guess.

This morning we got a call from the school nurse – I was washing dishes so my hands were wet, so dh took the call.  When I realized who it was, I mouthed to him that I wanted to speak to her, and after the first sentence with her telling him they wanted vaccination records for ds12, he passed the phone right over.  :)  She told me they need ds12’s vaccination records, and since we came from the US and the vaccination schedules are different than in the US, he’ll have to have make up shots to be sure he’s on track with the Israeli vaccination schedule.

In Israel, kids have their vaccination records at school and can be vaccinated without your prior knowledge at school.  It’s not like the US, where they just want to know that your kids have had the necessary shots.  But a school nurse vaccinating my children without me knowing about it isn’t acceptable to me.  Fortunately, I was mentally prepared for this issue, because I think you really have to come across very confidently the very first time something comes up.  It cuts down on the conflict significantly.  Otherwise you’re at a big disadvantage and you end up getting into long and protracted arguments from the position of being on the defense.  I told the nurse his medical records will remain with me, and that I will take care of any vaccinations he needs with the doctor myself.  If you don’t submit their records, they can’t receive vaccines at school.

This was a very short and pleasant conversation.  She told me they will need an authorization on file that I refuse to allow my child to be vaccinated at school, and said ds12 can pick up the standard form from the school office to bring home for me to sign.  It’s nice when something is so easy!

Avivah

Related to the chickenpox issue was an interesting experience I had when I took the kids to shul on Simchas Torah.  They hadn’t been contagious for several days, but still had pock marks.  I was astounded to have virtually the same conversation with almost every single person who looked at them.  It went like this:

“Chickenpox?”  Me – ‘yes’.  “We don’t have chickenpox here, everyone is vaccinated.”  (Me, thinking to myself, do they think I brought it over from America with me??)   Me – “No way! None of my kids in the US have ever got it, and within five weeks of arriving here, my five year old caught it from someone in his class – and there were eight kids in his class who all had it the same time as him.”  “Really?”  Me – “Definitely.  And anyway, even kids who are vaccinated can get the chickenpox.”  Them – “Yes, but it’s a lighter case.”  Me – “Yes, but the point is that they get it.”

Then two pregnant women told me they never had chickenpox, and one said she got a vaccination because of the danger to her unborn baby.  The other didn’t and told me she wants her kids to get chickenpox, but not until after she gives birth because of the above concern.  So I said, “You see, it’s not so simple not to get chickenpox when you’re young because then you can end up in more complicated situations like this.  Better the kids should get it young, have immunity, and not have to worry about it later on. ”  Them – agreement.  LOL.

Time for a major parenting workup

On the third night of Sukkos (Friday night), my family was invited together with several others to the sukka of the rabbi of the city.  I stayed home with ds12 who was at the beginning of his chickenpox saga, but the rest of the family went and enjoyed themselves very much.  They told me the rabbi’s wife was very nice, and yesterday at synagogue (the first time I went out with the kids in a week, because they still have pox marks on their face), she saw dd15 and asked her if I was there , since we hadn’t had a chance to meet yet.

So I finally met her, and she really is very, very nice!  I like her very much. She told me how impressed she was with our children – she couldn’t believe how nicely they behaved without a mother there to keep them in line – and I told her how nice that was to hear, since I think they need a serious workup in  behavior right now. :)

Recently, my older kids complained to me about the behavior of the littles – they’ve told me that they’re on their way to becoming spoiled brats.  They’re a bit strong in how they’re phrasing it – they’re far from obnoxious little kids – but they’re right that there’s definitely plenty of room for improvement.  With six months of preparing for our move to Israel, and then two months of being so busy setting up our lives here, I’ve been mentally less focused on the family itself than usual.  And what that has meant is that I’ve let my standards for the kids’ behavior drop.

I was conscious of making the choice at a very busy time to keep the time I was with the littles positive rather than sporadically discipline them (dd14 at the time was frequently watching them while I was making calls and organizing things, and I couldn’t ask her to do what I would have done), but my older kids saw this as letting the littles get away with things that I’d never have let them do. This was mostly about the attitude rather than actual behavior.  I believe it’s important to pick a standard of what’s acceptable in your home, and then to stick with it.  If you can’t stick with it, you’re compromising yourself, because your kids won’t trust that you mean what you say. And so I decided to let some things go rather than be inconsistent.

I know quite well what’s involved with a major retraining process – I took on this process once before, six years ago.  At that time, I looked at the kids and thought, everyone thinks they’re so well-behaved, but it doesn’t feel like it to me, and is parenting supposed to be this hard?  I wasn’t enjoying being with them, and a big part of that it felt like I always had to correct someone about something, break up some argument, or whatever.  But that wasn’t their fault, it was mine because I hadn’t taught them better.  And I’ve recently been feeling the way I felt six years ago.

This process of consciously raising the bar of your expectations for your family is very, very intense, and it’s the only thing you can plan on doing for about a week.  This has logistically been challenging since we were dealing with a few weeks of Jewish holidays, guests, and six kids with chickenpox, in addition to the usual stuff.  So you can understand my reluctance to start this process.

And then it has to stay a high priority for about three months until the new standards become second nature, and of course you have to continue to maintain these standards.   Part of the approach is based on total focus, and I was unsure how well this would work with everyone in school; in fact, the last couple of days the littles went back to school and it’s slowing down the learning process (because there they see behavior and attitudes that are unacceptable in our home).

The reason it take a huge amount of time, energy, and focus, is that during this stage I feel it’s critical to be 100% consistent to follow up with every single tiny issue.  Usually this level of consistency isn’t necessary as a parent, but when redefining boundaries, it’s very important.  This isn’t a common approach, but it’s my approach.

And so the last few days have been very draining.  (Which is why I haven’t been blogging; I fall into bed exhausted at night! :P)   This process means a parent has to expect some major power struggles, the kind of thing that we otherwise don’t see.  I knew this, and that’s why I needed to be fully mentally present to deal with it all calmly, and not to be so busy that I couldn’t see it through.

We had a guest for the last three days of yom tov (well, it was three days for her), and her time with us coincided with the first few days of this process.  She probably thought I was incredibly controlling and nitpicky (since I was insisting that things be done exactly as I asked, to teach them to listen to what they’re told).

In the beginning,  there’s a good bit of resistance and testing from the littles.  They want to show me that they’ll do what they want, and I need to teach them that they need to listen to their parent.  So this process means I had to expect power struggles at a level never seen before.  And I mean never.  (The two power struggles from six years ago have now become the stuff of family lore. :)) But that’s okay, I actually welcome these because I see them as a chance to show them that I will calmly outlast them.  After holding ds4 for almost two hours straight of crying, screaming, kicking, hitting, and squirming – because I told him to stand next to me and he wanted to do it his way – I was exhausted.  But it’s okay, because once there’s one major blow up, it kind of gets it out of their system – they see you mean what you say and they don’t need to keep pushing you to see how long they have to tantrum before you give in.

Then yesterday was ds2’s turn to escalate.  Ds2 is amazingly sweet and helpful, always running to do whatever I ask, even when I’m not asking him!  But yesterday he lost it over a pair of underwear.  I gave him a choice of two pairs, he chose the one he wanted – and then went to ds4’s drawer and started screaming for one of those. His tantrum was shorter – not quite an hour, but it sure felt like a long time!  I held him on my lap in a bear hug for the entire time, reminding him that he could wear the underwear he chose and that’s it.   What was interesting for both of these tantrums was that as soon as they finished screaming, they took a deep sigh, went off my lap, and then came back right away to sit on my lap, facing towards me with their arms around me, and stayed there for a long time.  Being strong and being loving aren’t contradictions; our kids need and want the security of knowing we can and will enforce what we say.

This is a retraining for me, too, because this process isn’t mostly about discipline.  It’s about being with your kids, enjoying them, and spending lots of time doing stuff together.  Versus letting them play while you get the things you want done.  So it’s a lot of togetherness, and that takes adjusting to since over the years, my older kids have been so involved in the fun stuff with their younger siblings that I became less involved in the hands-on activities and did more of the not so fun stuff, like running the house.  But now the older kids aren’t around as much, and it’s a shift back to how it was years ago, when I didn’t have older kids around.  It’s a very significant shift for me.

My hope is that I’ll have the strength and emotional fortitude to hold out for what I think our family can be, rather than letting it be whatever it turns into, and that G-d will give me the desire and ability to see it through.

Avivah

And now a staph infection…

(In case this appears in your inbox, don’t be worried – I just corrected the title of this old post and sometimes this causes it to post as something new.)

We’ve had a doozy of a time trying to get our health insurance established here in Israel.  To recap, as returning citizens, every family member over the age of 18 has to pay almost 10,000 shekels each (approximately $2700) in order to start our membership in the local health care clinics.  Half of this is refunded within a few weeks, the other half is refunded after a year.

Dh and I figured this expense into our plans, but we didn’t anticipate all of the difficulties in taking care of what we thought would be pretty straightforward.  The weeks stretched on, we repeatedly went to the National Insurance office, and dh and I finally decided to stop trying to fight a battle that can’t be won.  We were at the point that we needed to have the refunded money in hand already to cover our living expenses for the coming month, and had very little faith that if we did pay the money, that we’d get it back. We’ve just seen too much inaccuracy and incompetency, and we didn’t want to risk money we need for our living expenses on office clerks doing what they’re supposed to do, after seeing that they don’t know what they’re doing.  And we were warned that they like to get as much money as they can, and refund as little as possible.  We can’t afford to not get our money back as promised.

So dh went to the local health clinic to find out about getting private insurance for the next four months (after six months of being a resident, the national insurance will automatically kick in without having to pay the large fees).  When he got there, the clerk looked at the computer and told him that I and the kids are already covered!  This was such a nice surprise, and it came just in time.

Ds12 has had a really bad case of chickenpox.  He was burning up for a few days, the inside of his mouth is covered with pox and it makes it very difficult for him to eat or drink anything, and to top it off, he has an infected ingrown toenail that I’ve been working on treating for the last couple of weeks but still looks pretty bad.  I was relieved that we were able to bring down his 105 degree fever, though it went back up to 102 yesterday afternoon.  (I shared about natural chickenpox remedies here , and in the comments, shared some of what I was doing about the fever.)

You know the phrase, ‘no rest for the weary’?  Well, that’s what came to mind when the morning his fever broke, just a couple of hours later he showed me his noticeably swollen ankle.  This worried me, and I asked dh to make an appointment with a doctor – I didn’t yet have any of the info about the health clinic or I would have taken care of it myself.  He went to make the appointment, and an hour and a half later, ds18 told me that ds12’s foot was turning black and he was losing feeling in his toes.  Yes, this freaked me out.

I was so anxious that by the time dh got home a very short time later, I was really uptight.  He said there was a line at the clinic, and because of the Sukkos holiday, the clinic closed mid day instead of at 7 pm,  so he made an appointment for the next morning since he didn’t think it was urgent.  “Tomorrow??  No, no, now, he needs to be seen immediately, it can’t wait until tomorrow!” – yep, I was really stressed.  I rarely take my kids to the doctor, and the very fact I had asked for the appointment was a sign that it was important.

Ds18 told me that ds 12 overheard me talking to dh and it was making him stressed out and to calm down.  But at times when I’m afraid I’m dealing with something serious I don’t have the tools for, the unknown combines with my desire to take the very best care of my children possible and feels like a huge emotional weight.

Ds called the clinic to find out what kind of medical help was available.  Oh, nothing, until tomorrow morning.  How can we live in a city with 52,000 people and there’s no medical help for that amount of time?!?  Well, it seems there’s some kind of emergency station a few minutes away from us, but it’s not clear to me what kind of help is available there, and when the nurse on the phone heard ds’s symptoms, she said there are sometimes complications of chickenpox in older kids that affect their joints and it sounded like that might be what’s happening, and to get him to an emergency room right away.

Easier said than done.  Since our move, we don’t have a car, and we don’t even know where the closest hospital is.  This is such a huge difference from having a car and a major hospital five minutes away, which was our situation until two months ago.  Since moving to Israel,  I use public transportation (and enjoy it!), but taking ds to the hospital by bus wasn’t an option.

We called a couple of friends with cars to ask if they could drive us to the emergency room in a neighboring city, but they weren’t available.  We then called the person we hired a number of times to pick up the furniture we bought from private sellers on a number of occasions to ask him to take us, and as soon as he heard we needed to go to the emergency room, said, “I’ll be there right away”.  And he was.   He’s not a close personal friend, and we called him assuming we’d pay him a few hundred shekels for the drive.  He insisted on waiting two or three hours at the hospital, and when he brought dh and ds home, refused payment.  Can you imagine that?  He said the main thing is that my son is healthy.  We are so blessed with good people in our lives.  (Dd16 made a couple of big gorgeous loaves of challah that we’re planning to take to him today as a tiny token of appreciation.)

At the hospital, they took an xray, and when the podiatrist who was supposed to look at it finally arrived, the xray wasn’t loading for him on his computer.  He was impatient, took a quick look at ds’s leg, and told dh that there was no need to take the xray, it’s not a joint problem and not directly connected to the chicken pox, but is a skin infection that gets into cuts or wounds (in this case it was next to a pox).  (This is what ds12 told me earlier in the day, that the pox right next to it was hurting and he thought it was connected.)  That was a relief.

Dh asked him about the ingrown toenail (which looks bad and though I’ve been treating it, would like to know it’s healing properly), and the doctor says, “It’s an ingrown toenail.”   Umm, yes, we know that.  The question is, is it healing normally or do we need to do something else?  “Come back another time for that, right now we’re dealing with the foot.”  Is he joking??  He’s a foot specialist looking at swelling a few inches from that toe, and after they were waiting two hours for him, he can’t take one minute to tell us anything without making a separate visit?  Sheesh.

He prescribed antibiotics and an antibiotic ointment for the foot, as well as a painkiller.  This is the first time ds12 has ever taken antibiotics or used an antibiotic cream (none of our kids except ds18 have taken antibiotics until now – ds18 had them twice).  I don’t know if it’s any better than the salve that I made that we use, but we’re giving him antibiotics and continuing to keep doing what we’ve been doing (mega doses of vitamic c, chicken broth, olive leaf tea) along with adding in probiotics to offset the negative effects of antibiotics.

So thank G-d though it looks bad and it’s very painful, this morning he was limping but able to walk on the foot (last night he had to walk like a crab, sideways, and pull his leg after him), and hopefully it will be better soon.  It’s a relief just to know what you’re dealing with, you know?

And ds didn’t mind the trip to the hospital – dh bought him some ice cream (ds told me the cafeteria was basically a small room filled with snacks – you’d hope in a place dedicated to healing this wouldn’t be the case!), and during the drive there, he enjoyed seeing an Arab “from a thousand years ago” in traditional garb with a shepherd’s crook herd twenty goats down a sidewalk in the city of Nahariya, which is where the hospital he went to was.  Social studies.  :)

You want to hear something funny but not funny?  Last night, ds12 told me he got worried when he heard that I was worried.  (I tend to be pretty laid back about heath issues and handle things that come up with out getting too worked up.)  I told him that I got worried when I heard ds18 describe his leg to me (as above), and ds12 said, “What? I didn’t say I lost feeling in my toe!  He touched my toe and I said it didn’t hurt!”  And it wasn’t turning black, either, though the healing skin is a darkish pink color, it was just ds18’s way of describing it – so though I’m glad we took ds to see a doctor and had already asked dh to make the appointment before ds18’s description, my extreme worry was based on the equivalent of ‘broken telephone’!

And PS – this morning dh went to the health clinic and the computer now says that I don’t have health insurance.  :(  Apparently it was delayed in processing all the relevant information.  But the kids still do, and we had it in place when we really needed it!

(This post is linked to Real Food Wednesdays.)

Avivah

The World According to Monsanto

Last night/this morning I was up until after 3 am with a couple of kids.  They weren’t complaining, but they had high fevers that I felt warranted a close eye on them.  In addition to giving them each a megadose of vitamin C, I applied cold washcloths to their foreheads, and simultaneously applied egg whites to their feet, afterwards followed by slices of potato to further draw the heat out through their feet.  Thankfully, they woke up feeling better this morning.

But this morning I was definitely tired, and with some kids being kind of out of it as well, I invited them into my room to watch a riveting documentary with me – The World According to Monsanto.  Well, riveting isn’t the word they would use, but it shows how media deprived they are that my two and four year olds sat with me and dd11 for almost two hours to watch the entire program!  And it shows you what kind of thing I watch for entertainment.  😛

Prior to watching this, I was aware of the global domination successfully being achieved by Monsanto in controlling our food crops, as well as the contamination of non GMO crops across the world.  But to watch this documentary opened my eyes even further.

For those of you who don’t know anything about Monsanto, they are a multi-national corporation that brought the world Roundup (herbicide), Roundup resistant crops, dioxin (key element in Agent Orange that injured so many US veterans), rGBH, the growth hormone that was given to cows, among manyother products.  They have genetically engineered many, many crops, which all fall under their patents, making it illegal for farmers to save their seeds from one year to another (if you watched King Korn, you know all about that), controlling the prices of seeds for planting by monopolizing the field (no pun intended).

I’ve often seen Monsanto referred to as ‘evil’ online, but I’ve resisted this kind of language. I’m pro capitalism and think it’s a great service to the world when hard working people get up every day to offer their products/services to the world – it makes the world a better place.  So I’m not anti-business of anti-profits at all – someone who does a good job deserves to be compensated well for it.  But it’s  deeply disturbing that so many people who run the company seem motivated far more by profit, and don’t seem to be concerned about the world they are literally endangering.

I wish I could say I was shocked that this company knew that their products were harmful to the health of consumers, but I’m a little jaded, I guess, because I wasn’t.

And I wasn’t surprised about all the people who were threatened or suddenly found themselves without jobs when they dared to speak out against, or even question, the safety of Monsanto products.  The stretch of their reach is hard to fathom; they are an incredibly powerful company with connections to top people all over the world.

What I wasn’t at all aware of was how this company is changing the lives of  small farmers in India, Paraguay, and Mexico (no doubt other places as well) dramatically for the worse.  The GMO soybean and cotton crops that they are forced to grow (no other seed options are available to them anymore) require not just the purchase of Monsanto overpriced seeds, but also their herbicides and fertilizers.  None of these costs were necessary to farmers when they saved seed from year to year, and planted on healthy soil that supported plant growth.

Do you think these poor farmers have proper protection from the incredibly powerful herbicides that they are using?  Obviously not.  Even those who choose to remain independent and refuse to grow GMO crops are being affected, as the runoff and pollen from GMO fields contaminates and poisons their fields, their animals, and their families.

Watching these villagers having meetings to understand the issues with Monsanto, and trying to figure out what they can do make me think that every time we make a choice to buy or not GMOs (genetically modified foods), we’re making a choice that helps the people who can’t help themselves.  But whether people care about people in another part of the world or not, we ourselves need to understand that foods that are highly unnatural have been introduced into our food supply, and they’ve never been tested on humans before – we’re the guinea pigs.

Right after I watched this, I noticed another short video pop up, Millions Against Monsanto, leading up to World Food Day, which was yesterday.  One of the goals of this advocacy was to get labeling in the US of GMO foods, so consumers can make an educated choice.  I don’t know what is happening with this, but I think it’s a wonderful thing to make people aware of how dangerous GMOs are, and to encourage them to lobby for change.

The documentary was a full length film, and unusual for youtube, it was featured in its entirety.  Here’s the link if you’re interested:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YH4OwBYDQe8&feature=related

Have you ever thought about the dangers of GMOs?  How did you learn about it?  Does that affect your food shopping in any way?

Avivah

Natural chickenpox remedies

Well, it’s happened – five more of our children have come down with chickenpox in the last 36 hours, two weeks after ds5 came down with it. :)

Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to alleviate the discomfort of chickenpox.  I’ll start with homeopathy.

Homeopathy:

a) If you recognize the chickenpox early on, give aconite.  This will bring it to an end very quickly, without compromising the immunity benefits of getting chickenpox.  I learned about this over twelve years ago from a friend who used it at the first sign of chicken pox, and it was over in a day.   I couldn’t find a local store that sells homeopathic remedies, was fortunate to find a friend in the area with a homeopathic kit from whom I was able to borrow the two remedies I needed, but not in time to give the aconite to ds12 and dd10, who broke out first.  But I am giving it to ds2, ds4, and ds9,  and their cases are (so far) significantly lighter than the two older kids  or ds5.

b) Then there are some other remedies you can give, but the main one I’ll mention here is rhus tox.  Rhus tox is good for alleviating the itching, and I’m giving the two older kids rhus tox 30x (3 times a day for 48 hours).

c) Chamomilla is a good remedy for soothing.

Baths:

Lots of people recommend Aveeno to relive the itchiness of chickenpox – but do you know what Aveeno is?  Oatmeal!  So open up your pantry and use the oatmeal you already have there, and it will be lots cheaper and just as effective.  I  put the oatmeal in a knee high nylon and knotted it at the end, to allow all the helpful substances in the oatmeal to seep out, while keeping the oats themselves out of the drain.  Ds5 had a great time playing with this in his bath, and there was no mess at the end when I let the water out of the bath.  The older kids didn’t play all day long in the bath like he did, but they also found it soothing.

I added some herbs to the oats to speed the healing: chamomile and comfrey.  The chamomile is for soothing, and the comfrey is to help soothe the itching and heal the pox.  (I was so glad I decided to bring my medicinal herbs along with me when I moved!)  I used a tablespoon of each herb combined with a cup of rolled oats (I chopped the oats in a food processor but this isn’t necessary).  Lavender is another good herb to include in the bath.

A couple of other things that can be helpful in baths are baking powder, and powdered ginger.  With ds5, I sprinkled baking soda on the damp pox to alleviate itching.   I didn’t bring along the large containers of powdered herbs that I used for cooking as well as for medicinal purposes (like mustard, cayenne, and ginger), so I didn’t use that.

Another herb that is soothing is slippery elm powder; it can be applied directly  on wet pox.

Cool baths are more soothing that hot baths, which can exacerbate the discomfort of itching.

Herbs:

All of these herbs are good when brewed as tea:  lemon balm, echinacea, St. John’s wort, ginger, pau d’arco, and burdock.  I have most of these, but chose to make ds12 some tea with echinacea and cut stevia (the leaf) for some sweetness.  All of these would be good added to the bath, as well.

Essential oils:

Before I moved eight weeks ago, I bartered fifty pounds of spelt berries and six pounds of natural beeswax for several small bottles of essential oils – lots easier to bring with me!!  Naturally, of the four oils that I now have on hand, I didn’t have any oils that were of help in this situation.

Here’s a couple that can be diluted with a carrier oil or some chamomile tea and applied to the pox: tea tree oil and lavender oil.  A few drops can also be added to bath water.

Vitamins:

When dealing with any cold or infection, it’s good to build up the body’s resources to aid it in fighting germs.  Vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin D are always good for any kind of cold. (I posted guidelines for vitamin C dosing here.)

Vitamin E oil is great to apply on the pox to reduce scarring.  Coconut oil can also be helpful when applied to the pox.

Nutrition:

Good nutrition is always important, especially when a child is under the weather.  Now’s not the time to give them sugary treats to make them feel better; they’ll be happy for the moment but it will slow their healing.  Lots of liquids are important to keep your child hydrated; I made a huge pot of  chicken broth with garlic and astragalus that we’re going through quite quickly!

Some other external things that can be applied:

Calendula cream – helps to heal pox after they’ve scabbed.  Witch hazel can also be applied to help dry the pox out.

What not to use:

I’ve always thought of calamine lotion in the same breath as chickenpox, but after learning that it’s suppressive, didn’t go out to buy any for this go around with chicken pox.  While it dried up the lesions, it keeps the toxins from exiting the body through the skin like they need to – you always want to allow the disease to leave the body!

Similarly, I personally try to stay away from fever suppressing drugs – eg Tylenol, Advil, Motrin, aspirin, etc. I believe that fevers aid the body in healing, so when a child has a fever that spikes (like ds12 right now), I use sponge baths or a damp cool cloth on the forehead to relieve excess heat.

Have any of your children had chickenpox?  What tips have you found helpful in alleviating their discomfort?

(This post is linked to the Living Well Blog Hop and Real Food Wednesday.)

Avivah

Peanut butter prices rising soon – buy now!

If peanut butter is a something you use a lot of, you might want to consider buying a bunch now and lock in the savings while prices are still low.

Wholesale peanut prices have more than doubled in the last year, and according to the Wall Street Journal, the major peanut butter manufacturers have announced their intent to raise prices from 24% – 40 % (Peter Pan is only going up 24%, Jif – 30%, Planters – 40%).  These prices will go into effect by November.  I haven’t seen any prediction regarding the prices of nut butters , but it’s very likely that since people already expect to pay more for those items (eg cashew, almond, sun butter), that manufacturers may decide to hike their prices and keep the gap between peanut butter and specialty butters in place.

Peanut butter can be stored for a long time without losing freshness, and by buying at today’s cheaper prices, it’s as if you’ve made 24% profit on your food dollars.  With the pathetic savings rates right now (my bank is giving us a whopping .25 %), this is significant!

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating – by stocking up when prices are low, you’re making your money work for you. Using the information you see in the news can help you make informed purchases that will benefit your pantry.  :)

Avivah

Sukkos menu

Here in our lovely new home, we have a small porch.  The only time that’s really a limitation is when it’s Sukkos, when it’s customary to build a temporary hut, where meals are eaten and family members often sleep.

We accepted that our sukka would have to be very small, and there would only be room for about three or four of our family members under the part that isn’t covered by the roof overhang.  Those who weren’t in the sukka itself would be very close by, at a connecting table inside the apartment. But it was disappointing to think of holiday meals without having guests (didn’t want to invite people and not have room for them to sit in the sukka!), or even all being able to sit in the sukka together.

Last week, a neighbor a couple of houses away who has a synagogue in his home offered to let us use their ‘shul’ sukkah.  I almost rejected this idea out of hand as being too much work, but then saw the kids liked the idea.  Their sukkah is nice and large, and we were so happy that we are able to invite guests!  The family has their own sukkah on the other side of the house, so we’ll each have privacy.  We also built a small sukka on our porch to use during the week, when we aren’t having holiday meals.

Here in Israel, instead of two days of holidays at the beginning of Sukkos, there is only one.  So my menu plan below is just for Wednesday night and Thursday lunch.  We’ll be having 23 people tonight, and then 18 for lunch.

Sukkos menu – dinner:

  • challah
  • chicken
  • potato bourekas
  • coleslaw
  • fresh salad
  • matbucha
  • roast sweet potatoes
  • squash kugel
  • crunchy salad
  • fudgy brownie cake
  • snickerdoodles
  • peach compote
Lunch:
  • challah
  • chicken
  • noodle kugel
  • knish swirls
  • onion kugel
  • sweet potato casserole
  • cucumber tomato salad
  • lacto fermented pickles (the first batch I’ve made since arriving here!)
  • crunchy salad
  • rugelach
  • compote
  • cake
Avivah

Our wonderful new home

Back in March, I began looking for an apartment for our family to buy in Israel.  After a bit of looking, we found the apartment we are currently living in, but there were seven weeks of delays after we and the seller agreed on the price and details of the sale.  There were so many delays and issues that kept coming up that it seemed hard to believe it could or would work out, so much so that at one point I finally told our real estate agent that we needed to move on to look at other apartments rather than spend so much time on a deal that wasn’t moving forward.

Finally, in the first week of June, we signed a sales contract.  Prior to commiting to the final sales date, I asked our mortgage broker how long it would take for the paperwork to be processed.  He told us 6 – 8 weeks, and being the cautious sort of person that I am, we decided not to enter the apartment until ten weeks later, to be absolutely positive the loan would close before we moved in.  Well, man plans and G-d laughs, because our apartment wasn’t ready when we needed to be here.  Some of you remember that we had to delay our flight an hour before leaving to the airport because of yet another issue that arose, and the final loan paperwork didn’t close until a week and a half after our delayed arrival to Israel, twelve full weeks after we signed the purchase contract.

When we went into Jerusalem to sign the final paperwork, I was taken aback to see our file was literally about 400 pages thick.  The broker told me that if even one detail on one paper is wrong, it delays everything.  No wonder there’s always some kind of hold up somewhere or the other.  We had some major complications with our purchase, and our lawyer, real estate agent, and mortgage broker each individually told us it was an unusually difficult process.  (That’s saying a lot since home buying is known to be a drawn out and complicated process.  So different from buying a home in the US.)

A few days after we signed the final mortgage paperwork, we went to the lawyer and signed some more papers for him.  Just when I thought we must finally be finished – how many papers could we possibly sign?? – he told me to wait for a call from someone in his office within the next couple of days, and then we’d need to sign more papers and give them more checks.  (When you buy an apartment here, you just have to loosen your purse strings as much as you can, because the unexpected expenses can be quite extensive.)

Five weeks later, I got a call from his office to come in and finish up the process, and this week I went in and paid them another 1000 shekels for two different offices to write our name on the papers as owners.  And it looks like this is actually the official end of the paper trail  – it’s so nice after all this time to finally be at the end of the purchase!  Throughout the entire process, I really worked to stay focused on a positive outcome, as unlikely as it seemed.  And now, our personal miracle is a reality, and we’re living in the home we bought in Israel!

Someone who rented our apartment several years ago met me and asked me, “How are you managing there?”, with the implication that it was tiny and we must be squished.  This just goes to show that if what you have is adequate or not is so much determined by how you look at things!  I love, love, love my apartment, and feel like Hashem (G-d) helped us get the perfect place for us, and I didn’t know how perfect until we got here.

First of all, our location is amazing.  I had never come here, and though I looked at Google Maps to get an idea of where it was located, I had no idea what this neighborhood is like.  It’s extremely central, just a two minute walk to the local and long distance buses, and also just a few minutes to shopping.  This is hugely convenient for anyone, particularly a family without a car!

Two of the littles on the steps of our building

Usually the most central neighborhoods tend to be less desirable, and the nicer homes are further out in the suburbs. This is true here in Karmiel as well, with the highest concentration of private homes being in the more distant neighborhoods.  But my neighborhood is an exception to this – it’s comprised of almost exclusively private homes, with the exception of my street, and it’s an especially nice neighborhood.  It was designed to be an oasis in the middle of the city, and to create a visual/sound hedge betwen the private homes and the busier central area it’s part of, the builders designed it so that all on four sides they are buffeted in some way.  My street is part of that barrier, though it doesn’t feel like it.   One side of the street is semi-detached homes that back up to the private homes, and then across from that are our apartment buildings, with just ten apartments in each building.  There are four apartments on the entry floor and first floor (two apartments are  one flight down), and of these four, two face the quiet inner street, and two face the busy main street.  The apartment buildings are just a flight high, so we’re the top floor.  :)  (The two bottom apartments have gardens, then the first two apartments on the main floor also have gardens.  All the others have porches.)  My apartment faces the quiet inner street, and though I’m incredibly close to a busy shopping area, it doesn’t feel like it at all – when I look out my windows (and my apartment is a flight up), I see greenery on almost all sides.

Something else very nice about my neighborhood is that it was built to discourage casual vehicle traffic.  Almost every street is a dead end, including mine, and the few cars that go by belong to residents and visiting friends.   We don’t have people zooming through at high speeds, or people looking for a shortcut to where they want to go.  Even as far as foot traffic, the people walking through are the people who live here.

As far as the apartment itself, we have a very nice sized kitchen that allows us to have two fridges and a very large oven.  I get a wonderful breeze through the window on the side porch which abuts the kitchen, where our washing machine and drying lines are.  It’s so convenient to have the washing machine close by rather than down in the basement, and it makes it easier to keep on top of the laundry.  There are gorgeous orange blossoms right outside this window that I love seeing every time I hang laundry or even glance outside.  I also have a small closet here that I’ve turned into my pantry; I store boxes of the veggies I buy on the shelves.

To the left you can see how close we are to shopping, but it doesn't feel city-like

Then, there’s our salon (living room/dining room).  It’s a nice size, and open to the kitchen, which will allow us to have a nice amount of guests without running out of space.  We have a small porch off of the salon, with a beautiful view.  It’s not large but it gets plenty of use; the day starts with the littles running outside to watch the garbage trucks or call goodbye to a departing family member, and ends late in the evening when dh and I sometimes sit outside together to chat.

You can see the hills surrounding Karmiel in the distance - they're not far at all

Then we have three bedrooms on the main floor. The bedrooms are compact but allow for two people to comfortably share a room, with room for guests to sleep over as needed.  Two girls chose the bedroom at the end of the hall, which feels very private since the large trees growing in the garden below create a visual screen for their window.   The other bedroom overlooks the street, which as I said, is a pretty street.

The master bedroom is the same size as the other bedrooms, but it has its own bathroom and walk-in closet.  We converted the walk-in closet to an office – it’s small – only 1 meter x 2.10 meters – but I realized that by putting in a large desk with a built in bookcase that was left behind, we could have a compact but very workable home office.  My husband really, really appreciates this, and I love the luxury of having an office – our computer and desk were always in the main living area before this.   Deciding to use the closet space in this way meant that we had to put a freestanding closet in the bedroom itself.

Just  yesterday we finally got bedroom furniture for our room, and it’s so nice to have it – there’s something especially nice about sleeping on a comfortable bed and being able to organize our belongings!   Though I initially wanted to get dark wood furniture, I realized that the room would look too small and cramped if I were to do that.  So I decided on something very different than what I was initially intending – our new furniture is a pale color, and two of the four closet doors are mirrored, creating a feeling of increased space.   We have windows on two sides of the room, so there’s lots of air and light.

Upstairs are the boys’ rooms.  The older boys have a private bathroom with a shower in their room, which the littles can use as needed.  It’s very light and spacious – just yesterday ds12 told me how much they like it. The littles have a room next to that; when we have male guests who are sleeping over, we plan to move ds9 and ds12 from their room to sleep in the littles room, where there is  space for them.  If we have female guests, they’ll either share ds16’s room or she’ll move into her sisters’ room temporarily.  (This is what we agreed on with her when we let her have this room for her own.)  It feels so luxurious to me to be able to host guests with so little difficulty.

Initially I wanted an apartment that was all on one floor, but having two bedrooms upstairs has been an unexpected boon.  The upstairs isn’t connected to any other part of our building on any sides, so they can go upstairs and make as much noise as they want, and the only ones to hear it are us.  This is great, since instead of telling them not to play noisy games inside, I can tell them to go upstairs and play there!  In an apartment building you need to be more aware of noise than you would otherwise be, and having a ‘safe zone’ is something I really appreciate.  I also think the boys like the additional privacy of having bedrooms in a different part of our home from everyone else.

The windows (except the bathrooms) all have screens , something that you can’t expect when buying or renting a home here, and I was so grateful that we didn’t have to begin our time here battling mosquitoes in the nightime!  I wasn’t expecting it, and it feels especially nice when you don’t expect something and then you get it!  Since our apartment is a flight up, the air flow is wonderful and we haven’t used any fans or air conditioning since we were here.  Our ceilings are eight feet high, but feel like they’re ten feet high, and combined with the open layout of the main area, it lends to a feeling of spaciousness.

We also have an additional storage room on the bottom floor of our apartment building – I haven’t yet been in there, but the bikes are stored there, and it’s nice to have the extra storage space.

Oh, and I already have two friends on the street who live just a couple of doors away, and in general, my neighbors are all pleasant.  (Update: before Rosh Hashana, we sent apple cakes to all the neighbors in our building, in addition to a few others.  When we went downstairs to the neighbor who called the police to complain about the noise, the wife apologized for making problems for us.  That was unexpected, and very nice!)

I feel incredibly abundant with all that we have here, with plenty of room for all of us!  Interestingly, all of the kids said they like our apartment better than our old house, and even though they know it technically has fewer square feet, it feels bigger.  To the person who asked how we’re managing, I told her with a big smile, “Wonderfully, thank you!”

Avivah