Monthly Archives: April 2012

Vegetable shopping for Pesach

Today I did my vegetable shopping for Pesach.  The store was very crowded and I was exhausted when I came home.  But I’ll never fail to be anything but enthusiastic about this store’s delivery service- the more I buy, the happier it makes me to know that someone else is bringing it into my house instead of me.

I took the picture below so you can see the amount of vegetables a family our size buys for Pesach, and why I’m happy not to have to bring it up a flight of stairs.  :)  (You’ll probably need to double click it to see it up close to realize how much is there since the boxes contain so much of it – my kids saw the picture and all said, ‘that doesn’t look like so much!)  To be clear: this is not what bulk shopping looks like for us – that would be way, way more!

Here’s what I got, from the top left, clockwise to the right.  My receipt is in kg, so if you mentally want to convert the numbers I list, a kilogram is 2.2 pounds.

  • first box, top left – three 10 kg bags of carrots (last week we blew through one of these in 2.5 days)
  • box to the right of carrots (fruit box)- 16 kg oranges
  • two kg strawberries
  • 3 kg melon
  • 1 kg apples
  • (next box to the right – green leafy vegetables) – 4 huge heads of romaine lettuce
  • 3 bunches of fresh parsley
  • 1 bunch of fresh mint
  • (to the right slightly down) – 2 large sacks of potatoes (can’t remember how many kg is in each one – I think 18 or 20) – I actually have three sacks but started putting things away before I took the picture and didn’t want to drag it back out
  • (to left of potatoes) 10 kg cucumbers
  • 4.5 kg beets
  • 250 grams fresh garlic
  • 200 grams horseradish root
  • (next box to left) -5.5 kg  kohlrabi
  • 2.5 kg fennel
  • 7 kg cauliflower
  • 3.5 kg green cabbage
  • 2.5 kg red cabbage
  • (bags to the left) 8 kg onions
  • 12 kg red and orange peppers (also another bag in a different box)
  • 15 kg tomatoes
  • 1.5 kg radishes
  • (center right) 12 kg avocados
If you’re wondering about prices, everything was between 2 – 4 shekels a kilo, except for the avocado (5.99), apple (6.99), strawberries (9.99)  and horseradish (31.99 kg).  I get what is seasonal and most affordable; that’s why I can’t prepare my menu until I go shopping and see what I ended up buying!

I also have a box of turnips and some zucchini left from last week’s shopping (which are only left because no one snacks on them, unlike almost everything else).  Since we watched Hungry for Change last week, dd17 and ds13 are eating only/mostly raw (dd17 0nly, ds13 mostly) and you should see how we’re burning through the vegetables!  Also when the weather gets warm, we eat more fresh salads with our meals instead of cooked vegetables that are part of a soup or dish.  It’s a good thing, but it’s not cheap to drastically up your vegetable intake for a family our size.  On Friday afternoon I spent almost 300 shekels on vegetables – it was four boxes full – and on Sunday afternoon almost everything was gone.  Usually that amount can last for a week.  The amount in the picture would usually be enough for two weeks, but for Pesach we use a lot more fresh produce.  As it is, I’ll have to be a bit restrictive of the kids because they love fresh produce and would be happy to snack their way through most of what I got (even raw kohlrabi – they really like it!)

I didn’t get as much fruit as I would have liked, but I was spending so much for Pesach that I felt I needed to be more careful in this area.  I’ve spent half of our monthly allotted food budget so far just for this coming week, plus there are a number of expenses due to not having any Pesach supplies (dishes, pots, silverware, etc) here.  To be fair, I also got more grape juice, extra virgin olive oil and palm oil than I need for the week or even the month, since they’re on sale now.  This is something I always try to do, be sure I have money available to buy staple items when they are on sale.  (You can see in the background of the above picture a couple of boxes with some of those other miscellaneous things – a sink insert and electric hot water pot are on top, some disposable dishes and non perishable food items are underneath.)

For the first time ever, we kashered three pots that we use during the year as well as our silverware, and though it was a lot of work to get the bottoms of the pots spotless, it was nice that I didn’t have to buy these things!  We also kashered a stainless steel salad bowl and a couple of serving utensils.  An additional benefit of kashering these things is that it minimizes the storage space I’ll need for Pesach items for the rest of the year – I’ll just go back to using them during the year.

Now I need to go back out and do some more shopping for the things I couldn’t get this morning –  I ran out of energy after the three stores I went to (the vegetables were just one stop).  So I’m going to rest for a short bit and then go spend more money.  :)


Spiritual preparations for Passover

There are a few things that I was hoping to find time to post about regarding Pesach (Passover) preparations: my thoughts on how much to involve children in cleaning and how much is too much to expect (I’ve wanted to write about this for the past two years and never found the time!), a detailed shopping list with a cost breakdown of food purchases, a menu plan for Pesach, and some menus.  Since tomorrow night is Pesach, there’s no way I’m going to be able to write about most of that!

At the same time, I’d also really like to share about some spiritual preparations that I’ll be making for Pesach.  Pesach is an incredibly powerful time spiritually, with its own unique energy to tap into, and to be able to tap into it, you need to be aware of it and planning for it!  And it’s also the holiday that has so much physical preparation surrounding it that it’s easy to totally lose sight of what the point of all those preparations are.  So I’m going to share just a few things that we’ll be doing.

Preparing for the seder in advance – of course we need to prepare the food and set the table.  But what about being emotionally and spiritually prepared to appreciate and absorb some of the messages of the evening?

  • In our home, everyone takes a long nap on Friday afternoon so that they’re well-rested for the seder.
  • My husband sat down with the older kids one evening earlier this week to talk with them about some of his goals for the seder, and to hear their thoughts.
  • My husband assigned each of the kids parts of the seder to prepare for, to come with thoughts on the portion they were given.
  • Dd17 took time yesterday to help the little kids prepare stick puppets for the seder that they can use to actively participate.

A few years ago, I learned that there’s an amazing spiritual power for growth when eating the matza at the seder, and shared that with my family then.  I thought in advance about the one thing that I most wanted for myself in terms of spiritual change in the coming year, and focused on that as I was chewing the matza, and the older children and my husband also did this.  It’s like a spiritual pipeline that gets opened up straight to Heaven at that time, for that purpose.  Tonight I’ll be speaking with them about this at dinner, in addition to something new that I learned about this year and hope to integrate (to be shared below).  This turns the physical act of eating into something much more elevated and personally meaningful.

This evening is the search for chametz (leavened foods), and like everything, the physical search has much more depth behind it than a nice little ceremony.   Chametz represents the ego, the undesired, the lower self as it expresses itself in our lives.  We hide ten pieces of chametz for the search, and we can take time to think about the ten aspects of ‘chametz’ in our personal lives that we’d like to search out and destroy.  There is a custom to burn these pieces of paper together with the actual chametz earlier in the morning of the day the seder takes place.

This is something that takes some thought to prepare for, you can’t just spontaneously do it at the last moment.  At dinner I’ll be sharing this idea with my family members so that they’ll have time to prepare some of their own ‘chametz’/negative habits/unhappy thoughts or experiences that they’d like to consciously let go of for the coming year.  I hope to sit down with the littles as well and share this concept on a simplified level with them, so that they can each prepare something to burn as well (eg saying ‘poopy’, hitting someone, etc).

I’m also going to be giving a shiur/ Torah lecture for women this Shabbos and the next.  (I was only thinking of giving a shiur on one of these two Shabbosim, but the person I asked about hosting was away for the first Shabbos.  I told her maybe we could do it the second week, but by the time she got back to me and said she could do it, I had already made arrangements to have it held somewhere else on the first Shabbos, so I said I’d give a different lecture next Shabbos.)

This week I’ll be speaking about The Spiritually Transformative Power of Chametz in Your Life, and ways to concretely take away messages of growth for the coming year.   If you’re in the area (as far as I know, there are very few people in my area who read my blog, but still…), the shiur will be held on April 7, 4 pm at Beit Mali, Rechov Chavatzelet 24 in the Dromit neighborhood.

Now I’m off to go shopping for vegetables and the other assorted things that we still need for Pesach!


First prenatal appointment today

When pregnant with my past three children, I called my midwife early on to let her know I was expecting.  When I was three months along, my monthly appointments with her began, with my midwife coming to my home each time.  (For the midwife I used the two births before this, I went to her office every month.)

And now I’m far from my fantastic midwife and I very much feel caught between the medical system and what I want to do.  What I want is regular prenatal care with the midwife who will be attending my birth.  However, that midwife lives too far away for that to be an option.  So that leaves two choices: go without any prenatal care, or go to the local heath clinic.

I had very mixed feelings about this; thank G-d I had healthy and uncomplicated pregnancies, but I don’t like the idea of having no prenatal care at all.  It doesn’t seem responsible to me.  I went into the local clinic to find out about making an appointment for prenatal care, which is taken care of by the nurses – you know, the basics like blood pressure, urine dipstick test, heartbeat, fundal measurement.  They told me they can’t provide that for me until I see an obstetrician first, so it will be officially confirmed that I’m pregnant.  (I was twenty weeks along by that point, and looked down at my midsection and was like, “Are you joking?”)

But I also wasn’t sure how to approach choosing a doctor here, since I need someone who will be willing to sign off on my homebirth paperwork (certifying that I’m pregnant and then after birth signing a form that I had a baby, which is needed to get a national identity number for the baby).  I was procrastinating about making an appointment with an ob because of my concern about how to deal with this paperwork issue, especially after I was told that the health insurance rules are that I have to stick with this doctor (whom I’ve never met) for the entire pregnancy.  I finally decided to go ahead and make an appointment with one of the obs on my health insurance plans, and hope for the best when it comes time to get the paperwork signed.

The doctor that I chose supposedly spoke English, which is why I chose her, but when I got there she told me she only reads English.  Okay, whatever.  I can communicate in Hebrew so it’s fine.  Having been used to the initial intake meeting with the midwife, in which I was asked specifics about every single birth, I was a little surprised to only be asked, “How many children?  Any miscarriages?  Are you healthy?  Date of last period?  Any immediate family members with health issues?”  Ehe noted my one word answers and that was the extent of the intake, except for clicking her tongue that I didn’t have prenatal care until now.

She asked if I want the detailed ultrasound that is usually done about twenty weeks and warned me that it’s almost too late in the pregnancy to have it done and get accurate feedback.  And I was like, “oh, too bad, Pesach is this coming week and it seems like it will be too late for me to get it done afterward”.   She agreed.  Not that I would have had it done anyway, but I don’t see any reason to make an issue of everything if I don’t need to!

My midwife used a fetoscope, which is my preference, but this is a lost art and I assumed the ob would check the heartbeat today with a doppler.  I was surprised that she actually had a mini ultrasound machine in the room to use.  It was pretty quick and since proof of a fetal heartbeat is something the nurses said I need to have before I can go on to get prenatal care, not something I was going to argue about.   Now I won’t have to have it done again until before birth, since my midwife said she needs confirmation that the baby is head down, and it seems doctors don’t know how to tell by externally palpation anymore (something else that is becoming a lost art).

I left with a few blood tests I’m supposed to get done; I told her I won’t do the gestational diabetes test that you have to drink a sugary drink for, but she said there’s a blood test for that, too.  I don’t really think any of these tests are necessary, but you know why I’m doing them?  It’s a proactive move to have it in my medical records, which will be helpful so I don’t look like a whacko woman who has refused everything when I need to get my homebirth paperwork signed.  A blood test won’t do anything questionable to the to baby, and I don’t see any reason to make a stand about something that really doesn’t matter.  You have to choose your battles!

Overall my visit today was a positive experience in that it wasn’t negative.  No, it was nothing like the personal care and concern that I had with a midwife, but that was okay.  I accept that I have to work within the constraints of the local medical system.  It means making compromises but that’s life; you can’t always have what you want the way you want it.  I consider myself fortunate for the prenatal care I’ve been able to have with fantastic midwives for my last five pregnancies.  ‘m really grateful that for my last five births I have had what I wanted.

The paperwork issue has been a source of tension for me, wondering how it will work out. There’s a very good chance that I’m the first person in this city who is having a homebirth with an unlicensed midwife, and that the doctors here have never seen this paper or know what it’s about.  I’m going to stay positive about this doctor being willing to sign my paperwork.  If she doesn’t agree to sign, the only option I’ll have to speak to the health insurance company,  insist on having my ob changed, travel to see a doctor who has signed this paperwork for others in Jerusalem (three hour bus ride away), and then go back to this same doctor in Jerusalem within a couple of days of giving birth.  I don’t mind traveling when pregnant, but traveling right after birth isn’t my idea of fun.  So thinking positively is what I need to do!


Ds18 is home!

Ds18 is home for Pesach!  He got here Thursday night, and everyone is so happy to have him home!  It’s kind of funny how excited everyone gets about him coming – it really underscores that he doesn’t live at home anymore.

Ds comes about every 2 – 3 months and usually stays just for the weekend.  Most recently he was home for the bar mitzva in January.  Everyone looks forward to his visits so much – he’s a fantastic big brother and every single person loves spending time with him.  (He learns daily with ds6, ds9, ds13, reads and plays with the littles, and spends time talking with each of his sisters.)  This is the longest visit home he’ll have with us since last summer – he’ll be here for two weeks, and ds4 is already saying he wants ds18 to stay here forever.

This past Shabbos was so, so special.  The singing was wonderful and it was really nice having meaningful and stimulating conversations with all of the older kids together that don’t happen in the same way when he’s not here.  Having all of our children home really makes a difference – it’s not the same when even one person isn’t there – and ds18 truly enhances our home environment.  Something nice about raising your older children well is that they are then a good influence on their younger siblings.  :)

It’s not always easy watching your kids grow up and move away, but that’s what parenting is about, giving them the roots and then the wings to live their own lives.  And there’s so much joy….


Just in time for Pesach – the plague of lice

Head lice are more common here than the US (probably because insistence on kids going to school lice-free isn’t strictly enforced), and knowing that, I’ve kept a watchful eye on everyone since our move.  And it’s consistently been fine.

But recently when all the kids were sick for a while, it wasn’t on my radar to think about this and I overlooked one child scratching his head, something I would have usually jumped on immediately.  It wasn’t until two weeks after that that I checked the kids last week, and I saw signs of lice in three of them.  It was actually amazing that so few of them had it, being that it spreads so quickly and easily when children put their heads next to each other.

Of the three kids who had signs of lice, two had a very small amount that was easily taken care of.  The third was so heavily infested that I felt almost hopeless for the first few hours I was working on him on day one.  But when I started on day two, there was such an obvious difference thanks to all I did on the first day, and I’m happy to say that the issue is now resolved!

Since I lived here when my oldest four children were young, I had to deal with lice on an ongoing basis, so I’ve developed my approach to handling it that has been pretty effective.  There are many tips available about how to get rid of lice, but I’m going to share what I do.

Firstly, never use the poisonous lice shampoos like RID.  They are dangerous, and even carry warnings on them not to use them too frequently.  Not only that, I don’t think they’re very effective!

I’ve seen suggestions about using vinegar, mayonnaise, Listerine and other things to wash out the hair and smother the lice.  But unless it makes you feel like you’re doing something, it’s just extra work without much added benefit.

The first critical step is to make sure there are no live bugs in your child’s hair.  I have a two pronged approach to this – I check manually and I use a fine toothed metal lice comb to thoroughly comb through their hair. (I bought the least expensive one available at the pharmacy – 35 shekels.  Don’t bother with the cheap plastic ones, which don’t work at all.)  I absolutely don’t rely on lice combs on their own, since I used to see how much they missed, but if you use them regularly and well, they’re probably enough.  It’s like someone speeding – the cops might not catch you the first few times, but eventually you’ll get ticketed.  So if you  keep combing you’ll eventually catch the lice even though the comb will miss a few times.

It’s helpful to condition the hair well before combing.  (Ideally, combing their hair after every bath and shower should be done proactively to prevent lice in the first place – I wasn’t doing this, but now it’s been instituted as standard protocol for everyone.)  I comb firmly against the scalp, to get off anything that might be there.  Lice live close to the scalp, so that’s where you’ll generally find them, not further down the hair shaft.  I do this every day or two once for about two or three weeks if I see a sign of lice, since new eggs can hatch and then mature after the point you think there are no bugs left.  The newly hatched eggs are tiny – about the same as a speck of sand.  You’d have to look closely to even realize that it’s a louse and even then you might be hard pressed to believe it!  They don’t reach sexual maturity until 5 – 10 days, so you don’t have to worry about them laying eggs until then.

After being sure that there are no live bugs, you’ll need to attend to the removal of the nits.  This is a painstaking job (though I personally find it gratifying and don’t mind it), which is where the term nitpicking comes from!  A nit looks like a tiny teardrop shaped bump on a hair – you can tell it’s a nit and not dandruff by touching it.  A nit is firmly attached to a hair, and the only way to get it off is to pull it off each hair individually.   Dandruff can be flicked away. (A couple of kids had dandruff, and I asked them to do a vinegar treatment to get rid of dandruff before I checked them to make it easier for me – I didn’t want to look at every fleck on their heads.)

Nits are different colors depending on their age, so based on this you tell what’s been freshly laid and what’s oldest and about to hatch – white when just laid, getting darker brown and finally black right before hatching.  This can be of practical value to know when there are so many nits that you give priority to those that are the oldest – this is what I did with ds over the two day period I was cleaning him out; I took out the darkest nits and left the lighter ones for the next day.  I know some people rely on combs to get the nits out, but I really don’t think they work for nit removal – what I think you’re relying on is that the nits that hatch will eventually be caught by the comb.

Look particularly behind the ears and by the nape of the neck for both lice and nits.  For some reason, lice seem to love these locations.  I give these areas extra checks and go through the hairs in this area extra carefully.

A couple of myths to debunk:

– You don’t have to disinfect every corner of your house when a child gets lice.  The things people do in this area don’t do anything but make themselves crazy  – the vaccuming, bleaching, etc.  Lice need the head of a host to live, and nits certainly can’t hatch once they’re removed.  I kill every louse that I remove if it’s big enough; the small ones go into a container of water while I comb and then are flushed down the toilet. I wouldn’t drop the nits onto a pillowcase :) but you can do what you want with them; it really doesn’t matter.

– Lice do jump.  I’ve read that people say they only can crawl from one head to another, and it’s true that heads need to be next to each other.  But I’ve repeatedly seen lice jump several inches when I’ve been combing them out.

Prevention: comb out regularly, use a rosemary essential oil/shampoo on your hair (lice don’t like the smell), and if you see a child scratch his head, immediately check them.

I’m happy to be going into Pesach having dealt with this, so that when we talk at the seder about the plague of lice, it will be past history!

If you’ve ever had to deal with head lice, what are the tips that have worked for you?