Monthly Archives: May 2012

Canning when you can’t buy canning supplies

>>Do you know where I can get canning supplies in Israel?? Can’t find any in my area! A lady gave me a couple dozen jars and a few lids but no rings! Have been looking and not finding anything.<<

Back when I was the owner of over a thousand canning jars, many dozen lids, and endless rings, I decided to move to Israel, land of many things but canning supplies weren’t one of them.

So I agonized over what to do with my canning supplies (including my heavy duty shelving units which could hold the weight of dozens of full jars), which I had acquired with much time and effort.  I very much enjoyed being able to fill my pantry with shelves of beautiful jars of food bought at great discounts and home-preserved for the long term.  I primarily canned real food (eg chicken, ground meat, vegetables and fruit) versus specialty items or jams, so I had jars I could pull off the shelf and heat up for an instant meal.

This was mentally a hard thing to let go of, but it became obvious that I couldn’t justify the cost of an overseas container just to take my canning supplies – though there are lots of other things that would have been nice to take, those were the main things I was having trouble letting go of.  How did I make the decision to sell all of my canning supplies?

I was able to let go of this because I had a backup plan for canning that I could do in Israel.  When I began canning, I read several books to fully understand the science of canning, the safety issues, how to prevent possible bacterial contamination, etc.  As a result, I felt I understood why each step was taken and realized there were different ways to get the same end result – a safe product.

What was that?  Factories don’t use canning lids and rings, but rather suction lids.  Many foods you buy come in these jars, and can be used to safely water bath high acid foods (this is a very important detail).  This was my plan when I moved here, and I’ve gradually accumulated several dozen jars (thanks to one particular friend who graciously saves her jars for me!).  I bought a new canning jar lifter before I left and packed it with the things I wanted to take on the flight so I’d have it right  away, but one of the littles found it and played with it, and when I found it the boxes for the flight had been sealed.  So it will come whenever my few boxes of books arrive.

The problem I have with these jars is that they aren’t very large, and I preferred canning in half gallon jars.  So when I canned fruit compote, we could easily use two jars for just one breakfast.  Knowing the work that goes into processing the fruits, it’s a little discouraging to see it disappear so quickly!  However, it does offer me a workable option and one that I’ve overall been satisfied with.


Sciatica and what you can do about it

I’m now almost at 30 weeks of pregnancy, and I’m feeling good overall.  The main physical pregnancy related symptom that I’m not especially enjoying is some sciatic pain.  I’m really, really glad this isn’t as intense as it’s been in the past, but it’s still not fun.

I did a little bit of research to see what is helpful for this, and thought I’d share some of the suggestions I learned about with you.  Some of them I currently do, some of them I’ve done in the past, but they all can be useful.

– Chiropractor – I went to a chiropractor weekly with my sixth pregnancy, and after an appointment I had a lot of relief.  However, it didn’t last long; the chiropractor told me it was because the heightened amount of relaxin a pregnant woman has in her system makes it harder for the body to ‘hold’ the adjustment in place.  Currently, my health insurance doesn’t cover a chiropractor (not that I know of, anyway), and it hasn’t been something that’s been problematic enough to pay out of pocket for a visit.

– Stretching – the sciatic nerve comes through your gluteus  muscles, so stretching them and your hamstrings can help.  Even a short stretch can be helpful, but it’s even better if you can hold the stretch for a minute or two.  I do this whenever I get sciatic twinges and have found it very helpful.

– Posture – make sure your pelvis is tucked in when you stand.  The sciatic nerve runs through a really small area. When your belly gets bigger, it can cause the lower back to arch excessively (lordosis), and this can put pressure on the sciatic nerve by tilting the pelvis a certain way. Try to remember to keep your lower back somewhat flat by drawing the sacrum down. Keeping the abs engaged is also helpful.

My fifteen minute morning workout (T-Tapp) has a focus on proper body mechanics and this has been helpful for me keeping my posture decent even though my workouts have been very sporadic.  I do wonder if I did this regularly if I’d have any sciatic pain, but this has remained an academic questions since I haven’t made daily workouts a priority use of my time and energy.  I do the basic back stretch at least once a day, though.

– Icing – start with icing (15 mins on, 15 mins off) for the first couple of days to get any swelling down. Afterwards, you can use heat (hot baths or heating pad), either by sitting on a heating pad or taking crazy hot baths.

– Homeopathy – I’ve never tried this but read that the the homeopathic remedy Hypericum Perforatum works very well.

– Nutrition – I do believe that many physical symptoms have their root at the level of a nutritional deficiency, so when I read the following, I found it plausible: the leg you’re having pain in determines what the deficiency is. The right leg indicates a potassium defiency, the left leg indicates a sodium defiency. To increase your potassium, you can supplement with black strap molassas. For sodium you can use alfalfa concentrate caps (not tablets) or liquid chlorophyll; I’ve also read that spirulina works really well in treating sciatica.

Here’s a site with more information about what sciatica is technically, as well as more tips for how to minimize sciatic pain.

If you’ve experienced sciatica and have tips of your own to share, please do so in the comments section below!


Looking for girls’ high schools

Dd15 has been an amazing sport about her school experience this year, but to say it’s been far from ideal is to dramatically understate it.  She’s been in the school’s most difficult class since their founding, and though there have been substantial efforts on the part of the administration to deal with the underlying issues, there haven’t been significant improvements.

So we’re now searching for another option for her for the coming year.  The challenge is that in Israel, everything is very religiously polarized.  I like the school she’s in now very much – the administration is charedi, but the student body is a mixture of girls from homes of different religiosity.  There’s an openness and acceptance of the girls that I think is important, and I wish that there was a way she could continue there.  But short of moving up or down a grade, that’s not a possibility.

Two different schools have been recommended: the first is a Bais Yaakov in Haifa, and the two teachers who know her best have both made this recommendation.  It’s taken a week but I’ve been able to be in touch with the school and finally got a name and the direct extension of the person to talk to.  Maybe tomorrow will be the lucky day I manage to reach that contact.  :)  I’m not thrilled about dd having to commute so far daily (not to mention the significant added expense) but the recommendation of these teachers is something I value.

A neighbor who knows our family and this daughter well strongly recommended another school, and gave me a phone number for a teacher who works there.  I called her tonight, then spoke to a parent who sent two daughters to this school, and I literally feel sick to my stomach.  Dd15 and ds13 came into my room right after these calls and asked me why I looked so depressed.

You know why?  Because I can’t stand the kind of attitudes I’m hearing, and the idea of having to put my child in a place where this considered normal and acceptable, and even desirable really disturbs me – namely the exclusive, judgmental, narrow minded attitude that being a good person means conforming to very narrow external guidelines.  (I hope to write another post about this issue in depth, regarding bringing teenagers on aliyah and the cultural divide that you encounter between the American and Israeli approaches to being an Orthodox Jew.)

The teacher kept trying to to assess dd with questions like who the girls in her class are rather than answer my questions about the school, and though she was very pleasant, her comments all implied negative judgments of others that aren’t living according to a strict Israeli charedi definition of Judaism.  One statement that was representative of the entire conversation was when she told me the school is unlikely to accept dd15 because dd17 uses the internet and might ‘corrupt’ her younger sister (without knowing a thing about dd17 and notwithstanding that dd15 doesn’t use the computer).

The mother who sent her daughters there was overflowing with praise for how wonderful the school is and how they only take good girls from the best homes.  “What constitutes the best homes?” I ask.  Families who are “keeping the house clean”, I’m told.  Being that I like clarity rather than ambiguous statements like this, I ask what this means specifically.  I wasn’t surprised at the answer – it was pretty much what I expected – but what I was dismayed about was what she told me right after that.  This isn’t the first time I’ve heard the approach she was telling me was the norm, but I’m having a very, very hard time reconciling it with my idea of what it means to live a life of integrity as a Torah Jew.

Here’s what I mean.  She said, if people have a computer, they keep it quiet.  Me: “You mean, they lie when they are asked if they have a computer?”  Her: “Yes.”  But, she continued, “You’re not really lying.  If your daughter doesn’t use the computer, then it’s like you don’t have a computer.”  I said that approach would present me with a challenge to my sense of integrity.  She said (and she’s not the first to tell me this): “Everyone does it.  You’re living here now and you have to forget your ideas of how things work.  You have to learn to play the game, say ‘yes’ to what everyone else says yes to, and then do what you want.  It’s not about being truthful, it’s about what you believe in.”  I was very subdued when I thanked her for her perspective and hung up.

Dd15 is a wonderful girl, and I think that any school would be lucky to get her.  Really.  (Her teacher at a meeting last week told me, meeting my older girls caused her to reevaluate her long held beliefs about education and parenting.  Why?  Because “the school system can’t and doesn’t produce girls like yours”.)  She’d have no problem going along with all their rules, and her code of dress and behavior are already in line with what the school demands.  She really wants to grow and have a religiously strong peer group. And it does sound like the school has a very warm and positive approach to Judaism and to the girls.

So what’s my problem?  I feel very conflicted, because in so many ways we share the values of this school.  And in so many ways, I want to run screaming as fast as I can in the other direction.  Do I really have to deny my basic sense of honesty and decency to get my child into a good school?  They say that in order to acclimate when you move here, you have to be willing to do what everyone around you is doing, but I like who I am, I like who my children are, and I think it would be a real loss to just go along with the crowd when I don’t see any benefits in terms of the long or short term results of that approach.

Tomorrow I’ll give this school a call and speak with them directly, and will probably go ahead and visit there for the sake of doing our research (unless they tell us our family isn’t ‘clean’ enough first).  And I’ll call the other school (which is currently the only other option) and see about arranging a visit there.  This entire process has meant tremendous inner conflict because there are substantial philosophical issues involved in making these choices that have long term impact, but I’m hopeful that we’ll find an option that will be a decent choice for dd.


Lag B’omer in Israel!

What a wonderful Lag B’omer we’ve had this year!

I started my preparations for the night by having all the kids take naps.  Then late in the afternoon, I took in my laundry and closed all the windows to our home since I was warned that one of the few places where people can get permits to make bonfires is in my neighborhood, just a five minute walk from our home, so the smell of smoke will be heavy.

We started off by attending a bonfire at the hesder yeshiva close by.  My husband often davens (prays) there and knows a number of the men but I hadn’t had a chance to meet hardly any of the women yet, so this was a great opportunity.   I was told they would have activities for children and thought it would be nice for our younger kids to have something geared toward them rather than just standing around and watching, so we set off with the six kids ages 13 and down.

Bonfire – I’m guessing it was over 20 feet high (photo credit: Shmuel Furman)

Meanwhile, the older two girls went directly from school to a friend in Tzfat and spent the day there.  At about midnight, they took a bus from Tzfat to Meron, which is the hottest spot to be in the entire country on Lag B’omer, since it’s where Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was buried.  (Parenthetically, I had originally seriously considered having ds2’s haircut there today, since his birthday is in just a week and a half, but decided against it mostly because of the massive crowds that I felt would be dangerous for young children. )  I was really glad the girls could go because it’s a Meron on Lag B’omer is a very memorable experience, and they’re old enough for it to be positive for them.  They left Meron at about 4:30 am, spent the day in Tzfat, and came home about 3 pm – and promptly fell asleep. :)

Back to us and the bonfire.  As we walked to the yeshiva, we saw several other bonfires and it really right away got us into the Lag B’omer mood!  While we were walking, a couple of the kids were saying they wished we could do our own fire and didn’t seem too excited about watching someone else’s.  But when we got there, the bonfire at the yeshiva was particularly huge and extremely hot, and some middle school aged kids who were there started two or three of their own bonfires under the supervision of their parents, smaller but still fun for our kids to watch.

Dd11 at bonfire (photo credit: Shmuel Furman)

Pitas with hotdogs and drinks were served, dd13 bought marshmallows to roast right before we left home, and the kids all had a nice time.  Throughout the evening, I met several of the other women, including a couple mothers whose feedback about specific schools that I wanted to gather information about was very helpful.

Roasting marshmallows (photo credit: Shmuel Furman)

We had intended to go from there to the bonfire at ds13’s school and arrive , but I was too busy chatting to leave when we had originally said we would. :)  So by time we got to the second bonfire, we were just in time to see everyone leaving.    Dd11 and ds13 left a bit before dh and I, so they were in time to see the end of a performance there.  We got back home at about midnight, seeing lots of smaller fires along the way, which was something the little kids particularly enjoyed – actually, I think we all did, because there was a feeling of everyone celebrating the holiday at the same time, of being in a Jewish country that I haven’t as strongly felt for other holidays.

The next morning, at 9:45 am Lag B’omer themed music began booming throughout loudspeakers close by.  This was the introductory part of a parade organized by Chabad that we were planning to attend at 10:30 am, but the music got things started sooner. By the time we got there, the plaza area where people were gathering was filled with people, and we were directed to the area where our children were given balloons and hats to wear.  In the meantime, the music was playing, a sefer Torah and tzedaka box were dancing, and the atmosphere was very festive.

Soon afterward, the parade began, led by a truck playing music, with all the children and their parents following through the streets after it.  The streets had been closed for the parade, with police guarding all the possible entry and exit points, and this was the first time the littles experienced being able to walk in the middle of a street!  After walking about fifteen minutes (during which point ds9 and ds6 were separated from us, but they were assigned to each other as ‘buddies’ by me in advance so it was okay), we arrived at Park HaGalil, where everyone was given a bagged drink (it would be called a popsicle if we had taken it home and frozen it) and found a seat under the huge tent that was set up over the stone ampitheatre.

There was music, followed by a performance of two characters who it seems are very popular, Shlomi and Stam.  Their performance was about an hour and was well done, fun and engaging for the kids.   It was really nice to see the wide mix of people in attendance – charedi, hesder, chabad, secular – Chabad does outreach well and it was nice to be part of it.

We left before the raffle at the end, and when we got home made some popcorn (there had been some for sale at the event but I hadn’t taken any money – and honestly probably wouldn’t have bought any even if I had!).  Then we had rest time, because I wanted the kids to be able to enjoy our activities later in the day.

At about 5 pm, we went to a local park to meet six other English speaking families.  Ds13 took his sport equipment, and it was really nice when they had enough people to get together a game of baseball, the first one since we moved – ds13 is a talented baseball player and this is something I think he’s missed since coming here.  Following that they played Ultimate (frisbee) while the little kids played on the playground or with the balls they brought.

Ds13 pitching to dh (picture credit: Shmuel Furman)

All the families brought their own food, but one couple thought to bring ice cream and cones for everyone, which was a really nice treat towards the end of the time we were there.  (They live close by and kept it in their freezer until it was time to serve it.)  The men and older boys sang and then danced together, which was really nice, while we ladies spent the entire time chatting.  It was really very, very nice – we all enjoyed it a lot.  I had planned to stay home when everyone else went so I’d have time to prepare for my class on Shabbos afternoon, but was really glad that I didn’t do that.  (Not sure when I’m going to prepare, but I’ll hopefully get started with that after I finish posting!)

We got home when it was almost 10 pm, and all agreed we’d had a very full and enjoyable Lag B’omer!


Real life learning for littles at the playground

Sorry I haven’t been posting much lately – I’ve started giving a weekly class on the Torah portion of the week (initially I didn’t intend to give this more than once a month but am really enjoying it) and have three older kids that need help in finding a different educational framework for the coming year (which honestly I’m not making much progress on yet).  I’m also planning to start a new parenting workshop here in Karmiel next week.  So though I have many things to share about, there’s not much time to do it!

This week right after my class ended, my husband brought the littles to meet me at the park near where the class was held.  It was a very crowded time, but that’s the main reason I wanted to be there, since I knew there would be people I’d enjoy speaking to that I don’t usually get to see.  The littles set off to the playground equipment to play, but ds4 soon came to me in tears.

He told me that it wasn’t fun to play there, that there were big girls (a group of ten year olds) who were taking over the play equipment.  I know he prefers to go to quiet parks where he can enjoy himself without older children racing through the play structures, pushing the little kids to the side, and I generally take him at times and places that we’ll all enjoy ourselves.  After all, it’s pretty reasonable for a child to want to have fun when they go somewhere to have fun, don’t you think?

Interestingly, I was talking to a preschool teacher when he came over to me, and she right away said, “That’s how life is, he has to get used to it now.”  It’s interesting because he didn’t ask me to do anything, to take him home – all he said was it wasn’t fun for him because of the older kids playing at the same time.  All he needed was a little bit of validation and understanding that this wasn’t a framework that he felt good in.  Sometimes it seems adults are so resistant (afraid?) of giving children any room to experience their emotions.  In this situation, I realized there wasn’t anything to be gained at that moment by discussion, so I agreed with her that children need to learn how to deal with difficult situations.  I didn’t say that I thought that it would be harmful for them to learn it at that time and in that way!

Anyway, I take ds2 and ds4 to the park pretty regularly, at least a few times a week.  And generally it’s a very positive experience for all of us!  We regularly spend two and even three hours at a park where there’s no one there but us (sometimes ds6 is there, also), and I always love watching the emergent learning process in action.  We usually go to what we call ‘the corner park’, a park just a couple of buildings away from us.  It’s a very simple playground, nothing that you would think could hold the attention of young children for long.  It had a climbing structure with one swing, a couple of slides, and a huge sand pit – and usually they don’t play with any of the playground equipment.

Last week when I took them, I was watching them play while listening to children in a private gan (playgroup) a couple of houses away, and it was so interesting to contrast the type of experiences children approximately the same age were having, especially since so many people think that children in a home framework are unstimulated.

During our most recent visit to the park, I sat on the bench the entire time – ie, I wasn’t involved in initiating or structuring any of their activities.  Most of the time ds2 (almost three) and ds4 were interacting, sometimes they were playing independently of one another and having their own experience.  (It’s important for children to have time of their own to just be without having to interact with others, even siblings.)  While we were at this simple little park for a couple of hours a few days ago, here’s some of what they experienced:

  • dug in the sand
  • found and collected rocks
  • wrote letters on the brick sidewalk with chalkstone they found in the sandpit
  • experimented with chunks of concrete with little pebbles cemented to it how to get the little pebbles separated from the concrete, throwing it until they broke apart and had little pieces (they had a strong feeling of accomplishment with this!)
  • climbed a tree
  • rode scooters
  • blew a recorder (one of them brought it to the park)
  • found dried seed pods that fell from the tree, opened them up, collected and counted the seeds
  • chased butterflies
  • stopped to listen to the birds singing, speculated about what they might be saying
  • gathered plastic containers from the recycling container nearby to use as sand toys
  • filled the recycled bottles with water from the fountain
  • made sand structures with wet sand
  • watched an airplane go by, talked about the difference between helicopters and airplanes and what they are used for
  • swung on the swing
  • picked flowers and blew on the petals to see if they would fly away
  • were given a couple of small boxes by a man going by, and used them to make molds for their sand ‘chocolate’
  • watched the ants working and carrying small bits of food and leaves to their homes

This is just a sampling of a typical visit to the playground, and it’s filled with so many discoveries and exciting things for small children.  (And if you want to be academic about it, there was science, social studies, math, writing, language arts and physical education happening.  :))  I love taking them to outdoor spaces when there aren’t loads of people around – there’s something about the outdoor air and the general sense of quiet that absorbs excess energy and allows children to center themselves, when they aren’t distracted by other people.  For children to really be able to learn, they have to  have their attachment needs fulfilled so that they have the extra emotional energy available to explore.

Conversely, you can go to the same park when crowded with children, and the experience will drastically shift.  Instead of allowing a child to discover inner quiet and make special discoveries, his energy becomes focused on navigating the inevitable social situations that arise.  That’s not to say that there isn’t a value in that – particularly if a parent is actively involved in guiding new social situations and limits the interactions when they see the child is past the point of gaining anything, it can be positive.  Sometimes a child will find or make a friend and it can be a great time for them!  But you can see how, for example, for ds4 above, he was in a situation of trying to protect his boundaries (emotionally and physically), having to compete with others for space or attention, and not only was there no space for learning to happen, there was no space for him to even have fun.

I’m in no way suggesting that there’s only a value in going outside when no on else is there!  What I do want to share is how for meaningful emotional, social or academic growth to happen, a child has to be in a place where he feels secure and connected to the adults in charge, and has to have space for independent experiences that aren’t orchestrated and controlled by adults.  This is so easily accomplished in a relaxed outdoor setting.

How can you know when a child is primed for learning?  When we pay attention to and respect our children’s cues, it becomes very obvious when this is happening, by watching their body language and listening to what they tell us.


Accepting toddler toileting difficulties

This morning I woke up and thought to myself, “If mothers knew before they had children what they signed up for – how many different needs they’d simultaneously be expected to deal with of children ranging across all age spectrums – they’d never sign up for this.”  Sometimes the task of being a responsible mother for all of our children feels daunting.  What I remind myself at times like these is that while I clearly can’t do it all on my own, there is a Higher Power who can and will help me if I just remember that I’m not expected to do it all, and I just need to ask for help.

You may be guessing that I have a lot on my mind right now with parenting.  Right you are!  One thing I was grateful for was that last night, before the newest issue that is giving me an opportunity to grow in new ways as a mother came up (and as a parent, there will always be something!), a different issue resolved earlier that same day.  :)

That was a toileting issue of my soon to be three year old son.  I started working with him on learning to use the toilet about seven months ago, and he immediately got the idea of urinating in the toilet.  That usually is the harder thing for kids to understand, so it was nice that we were in for a quick and easy learning process.  And we were.  Except for the fact that urination isn’t the only p0tty learning that toddlers need to learn, and I was cleaning up stools daily that are much easier to deal with in diapers than underwear, every single day.

Since I don’t have a dryer and here in northern Israel, we had a record rainy season this year – I think it rained 29 days straight in January – this meant that I ran into an issue of not being able to keep up with my toddler’s laundry needs because it took two or three days for his clothes to dry on the rack inside.  In light of that difficulty, I decided to put him back in diapers and start again when the weather got warm.

And that’s what I did, sometime before Passover.  However, I was seeing the same issue with no end in sight.  A friend told me a number of her children had the same thing, and the root cause was was an issue of the anal sphincter not being able to release unless they were in a standing position.  I wasn’t sure this was the issue ds2 was having (I thought something about it was frightening or intimidating to him), but it was good to hear from another mom who understood the unpleasantness of having to change dirty underwear two or three times a day!

After feeling a bit frustrated by the mess and lack of progress on this front, I stepped back and asked myself what difference it really made if it happened sooner or later.   Trusting that it would happen when ds was ready,  I was able to let go of my desire for it to happen by the time he turned three and interact with him as I cleaned him up each time from a positive and non-pressuring place.

Side note – many times as a parent, you don’t see progress in a given area, and it becomes critical to reinforce to yourself your belief in your child and the growth process.  Development won’t always happen when and how we expect it, but it will happen when the child is ready.

Not long after I shifted my attitude on this, I saw ds looking like he needed to go to the bathroom, and asked dh to run him to the toilet to sit there (I had someone else who was falling asleep on my lap, in case you’re wondering :)).  He got him there in time for him to finish having a bowel movement on the toilet.  This was the first time ever, and ds came out and told me what he did, feeling very proud of himself.  We didn’t say much about it, other than telling him it sounded like he felt good about that – his toileting successes are his, and I didn’t want him to think it was about pleasing me.

The next day, he asked for help unbuttoning his shorts before going to the bathroom himself, and soon called to us to tell us that he was finished, and sure enough, he had done all his business in the toilet.  The day after that, I was on the second floor of our apartment and without telling me until after the fact, he again went to the bathroom on his own!

So ds2 is now reliably bathrooming (I think I just made up that term :)) on his own.  It was a good reminder that sometimes you think that something is going to be an issue for a long time, and suddenly – literally overnight – a child can move through a stage and be ready for a totally different level of readiness.