Monthly Archives: December 2012

Weekly menu plan

It’s been a while since I’ve shared a weekly menu.  When I know that I’ll be sharing it here, it helps me to commit to preparing my menu plan at the beginning of the week and that’s a good thing since having it in place before the the first meals need to be prepared makes the entire week go more smoothly.

Friday night dinner – challah, chicken soup, roast chicken, butternut squash, roasted potatoes, sesame green beans, savory baked carrots, leafy pomegranate salad, cinnamon buns; Saturday lunch – challah, hummous, beef stew, potato kugel, carrot kugel, apple kugel, red and yellow pepper salad with olives, creamy cucumber salad, cabbage/tomato/lettuce salad, brownies; Saturday night – sweet potato carrot cream soup, potato latkes, fresh doughnuts

Sunday – breakfast – eggs, fruit; lunch – creamy yam/carrot soup, potato kugel, carrot kugel, salad; dinner – split pea soup

Monday – b – polenta; l – chili con carne; d – sweet potato pear soup

Tuesday – b – oatmeal; l – chicken with celery gravy and baked potatoes; d – Hearty Tuscan white bean soup

Wednesday – b – polenta; l – shepherd’s pie; d – kidney bean burgers

Thursday – b – oatmeal; l –Hearty Tuscan white bean soup; CORN – clean out refrigerator night

Friday – b – oatmeal; l – CORN

The kids have a sandwich and fruit or vegetables as a midmorning snack at school, and usually have a fruit or vegetable with breakfast. Lunch and dinner are usually served with some kind of fresh vegetables – pepper strips, carrot sticks, cucumber rounds. This week I bought a lot of lettuce so we’ll be having more leafy salads with our meals.

Last week I bought a lot of sweet potatoes – the price is usually too high to include them on a regular basis, but they went all the way down to 2.99 a kilo and I bought three cases (small cases). This is great because they’re so versatile – you can use them in soups, stews, baked and eaten plain, or made into breakfast puddings. Since the weather is cool now, they are able to be stored without spoiling in a cabinet on my laundry porch.

My apartment building has been having some kind of problems with the pipes, so the water has been turned off repeatedly at odd times without warning for hours at a time for over a week. This has made cooking the last two Fridays very challenging, since one week it was off until 1 pm, this week it wasn’t turned on until an hour before Shabbos began. Then when it was turned on I was racing to wash my mountain of dishes with a little trickle of water. I told my kids that it was a Chanukah miracle that the food was cooked and all the dishes washed by the time Shabbos began. :) The reason for mentioning this is that the water is currently off and has been for hours, and we’ve used up all the bottles we filled in advance. Once it’s on again, I’ll be soaking kidney beans and white beans so they’ll be ready to be used in recipes this week.

This past week I stocked up on chicken/meat for the month. When I went into the store I saw whole chickens on sale without a limit on how many could be purchased (usually it’s limited to 4 kilos with a purchase of 100 shekels of items that are not on sale so I get just the amount I can buy on sale – usually two chickens), and bought eight whole chickens. The beef was also on sale, so I got four kilos of that (I use a kilo each week in beef stew for Shabbos lunch) and then six kilos of chicken bottoms at half price (though our family prefers dark meat, it’s much more expensive than whole chickens). I only have the freezer space available in my fridge freezer or I would have gotten more.

The guys at the meat counter know my purchasing habits and asked me if I wanted giblets. I glanced down and saw the price, and told them that since they weren’t on sale I wouldn’t bother this week. They told me they’ll make it on sale for me, so I asked how much? When they said six shekels a kilo, I told them I’d take ten kilos!I cooked up all the giblets in a huge pot when I got home, then bagged them into kilo servings. These make a great addition to all kinds of chicken dishes.  (Last year I wrote about using giblets here.)

Celery is such a great addition to winter soups but usually the heads of celery are scrawny and I don’t bother buying them. This week they were huge and leafy, so I bought one to use fresh during the next week or so, and three of them will be sliced up and dehydrated.


Am I out of touch with the realities of raising a child with T21?

I received the following comment to my recent post, ‘Down syndrome – our special gift‘:

>>I hate to be a downer, but its all very easy and good to say that someone with down syndrome is a special gift when they’re a baby, but when they’re 40 or 50 and never grow up, are constantly a child that will need to be looked after, even when you’re old and will need someone to take care of you… how, then, can you say “I got a lamburgini”? I really think you’re not in touch with the realities of what it means to have a kid with downs syndrome. Yes, as a baby they smile a lot, but theres limits to how different they are from all other babies. Its when, as they grow up, they don’t really grow up much and always need more care than other kids, even well into adulthood… Well, I’m interested if you’ll still be singing the same tune then.

Can you tell me- what are the special benefits of a 20 or 30 year old with down’s syndrome? Or a 10 or 15 year old?<<

I’m sure there are others who think I’m deluded to feel grateful for the child we have, as he is, and so I’m glad this was asked so I can share a bit more of why I feel the way I do.

To the person who wrote this comment and others who are wondering the same thing:  I wonder if you have children who have reached their late teenage years or beyond?  I’ve found that those with older children have an understanding that a child being born typical is no guarantee of later results.  It’s nice to think that your newborn baby will bring you nothing but joy and gladness, and sometimes it works out like that – and often it doesn’t.  From my  observations I’ve seen that most families I’ve met (and spoken to about what’s really going on in their lives) has experienced significant challenges with at least one child, and milder challenges with the others. By significant challenges  I’m referring to depression, molestation, addictions of all sort – in addition to the more common learning disabilities, rebellion or extreme unpleasantness.  Plenty of these children are extremely bright.  High intelligence is no guarantee of anything – right now on the news there’s the horrific story of the extremely intelligent young man who entered an elementary school and started killing little children and their teachers after killing his mother.

Or what about parents of children who are born healthy in every way but at some point have serious health challenges?  Or whose child was born prematurely or suffered a birth related injury that causes brain damage, or at a later age suffered an injury that caused brain damage?

My point is that your question makes a false assumption that all parents won’t be faced with very real and even frightening situations regarding their children.  I can’t emphasize this point enough because this reality puts the above question into perspective.   There will be challenges from your children – major challenges at some point – and there’s a false security that comes from pretending otherwise.   I hope I’m being clear about this before I proceed to responding to the specifics of what was asked.

Yirmiyahu, five months

Yirmiyahu, five months

I don’t think that Yirmiyahu will ‘constantly be a child who will need to be looked after‘ when he’s 40 or 50.  Those with T21 who were raised in past generations didn’t have many of the benefits available to children born in this generation.  Never before have things looked so good.  My expectation is that Yirmiyahu will be able to live an independent and productive life as an adult.  Is this living in a dream world or in denial?  No, this is is a reasonable outcome based on all we know now about Trisomy 21 and what adults with T21 are currently accomplishing, what can be done to help our children reach their potential, and this is how we will raise Yirmiyahu.  As world famous brain specialist Dr. Reuven Feuerstein has been known to tell parents what they can look forward in the future for their adult children with T21 – ‘his/her wedding!’

Children with T21 usually have cognitive delays.  Delays doesn’t mean that they never move forward – it means that they get there more slowly.  A baby with T21 will usually crawl later, walk later, talk later – but they get there.  We plan to mainstream Yirmiyahu as he gets older – a child with Down syndrome might enter a typical first grade classroom at the age of 7 instead of 6, and graduate high school at 20 instead of 18.  He may need academic modifications in order to be successful.  I can accept that.  As far as potentially lower IQs, I haven’t seen high IQs correlate with increased success or satisfaction in life, and people with a lower IQ can still have a meaningful life.

>>Can you tell me- what are the special benefits of a 20 or 30 year old with down’s syndrome? Or a 10 or 15 year old?<<

I’m not there yet but I believe we’ll find them – keep reading and I’ll keep you posted when Yirmiyahu is 20!  :)

>>I really think you’re not in touch with the realities of what it means to have a kid with downs syndrome.<<

You’re entitled to your opinion.  I think you’re overly negative about what it means to raise a child with Down syndrome.  :)   That’s okay, I’ve also seen some older children and adults with T21 that would have given me a similarly negative impression if that’s all I had to go on, and it’s because I’ve researched this so much since Yirmiyahu was born that I was able to put that in perspective and now have a better sense of what the landscape really looks like.  There are lots of reasons to be optimistic and encouraged about raising children with T21 in this century.

If you have a child or relative with T21, what has been your experience?  I’d love to hear the perspectives of others.


Down syndrome – our special gift

Today I was reading a lovely booklet that I picked up yesterday at the Child Development Center where Yirmiyahu has physical therapy (he’s now going once a week).  It’s intended for new parents of infants with Trisomy 21, with encouragement and inspiration based on Torah sources.

As nice as it was, one aspect of it bothered me somewhat – how having a child with Down syndrome was repeatedly referred to as a nisayon (test/trial), and the encouragement offered was accepting this perception as the reality.  I understand that a lot of parents have a hard time with the news that their baby has T21, and they can find comfort in seeing their painful experience as having deeper meanings in the spiritual world, and that’s not a bad thing by any means.

This reminded me of a conversation with dd18 a few days ago, when she shared with me about a book she was reading.  The gist of it was ‘why do bad things happen to good people?”, and an example of a bad thing was having a child with a disability.  Dd said that it bothers her to think of our baby being seen as a bad thing when to us he’s just pure sweetness – we think he’s the most wonderful baby in the world!  Our entire family is so in love with him and though he’s only five months old, he has been such a joy to us from the very beginning.

After Yirmiyahu was born and we announced the news that he has Trisomy 21, some people told us what a great attitude we have, commenting on our advanced spiritual level and amazing faith.  They heard what we said but they didn’t understand what we were saying.  We weren’t on a high spiritual level and we don’t have deep levels of faith.  Our perception wasn’t, “Oh, this is so hard but let’s put a good face on it and tell ourselves that it must be for our good.’   We really felt like he was a special gift to our family.  The difference between feeling you’ve been given a gift or being given a challenge are very significant, and how you respond will correspondingly be different.

If your friends all were gifted with Chevys and you received a Lamborghini, would you feel like you were missing out because you got something different from them?  Would you feel that you were saintly for accepting your car without complaining because you wanted to have what everyone else had?  No, you’d be thinking how lucky you were to get a Lamborghini and be so grateful to the one who wanted you to have something extra special!  What if you needed to pay more for premium gasoline and take your Lamborghini in for more frequent check-ups to keep it humming smoothly?  You’d understand that a more finely tuned machine requires more delicate handling and would willingly pay the price to maintain it well because that’s part of having an Italian luxury sports car!  Well, that’s how I felt about Yirmiyahu – we were the family to get a Lamborghini baby.   I truly believe we were given a baby filled with so much love -was not to test us, not to punish us, not to grow us through a challenge – but because G-d wanted us to have the joy of having a very special gift.

We live in a world in which there is so much competition, and we may want to be better than others but not different in any other way.  So having a baby who looks different and is expected to have a delayed developmental curve seems like a bad thing.  But when we’re so busy looking at what we don’t have, we can neglect to notice what we do have – and children with Down syndrome have some unique gifts, gifts that bring tremendous light into the lives of those around them.

I don’t want to seem like I’m living with my eyes shut, I’m in denial, or have plastered rose colored glasses on my face.  I know that there will be challenges.  There have been challenges.  There have been and will continue to be challenges with all of our children.  That’s parenthood.  But my primary feeling is that G-d gave us Yirmiyahu to make our lives richer and happier.  Saintly I’m not but grateful…absolutely.


Importance for infants of crawling on the stomach

I’ve learned a lot since Yirmiyahu was born five months ago about infant development.

When I first began researching, I saw repeated references to the importance of tummy time.  And I had no idea what was so important about tummy time!  Though my first nine children spent plenty of time on the floor and slept on their stomachs, I couldn’t have told you why it was important developmentally or imagined the long term benefits in a variety of areas.

I shared about the crawling track that we built for Yirmiyahu when he was ten weeks old, and very briefly summarized why time on the stomach is very important to a baby’s development.  Crawling is a critically important stage that babies should go through that has short and long term benefits on their physical and cognitive development.  I planned to post with more details about how crawling benefits a baby, but then found the following two articles.  It took me some time to piece together the benefits from various references here and there, but these two articles put it together in one place.

The importance of crawling on the stomach

Baby crawling – how important it really is

Don’t think these are relevant only to those who have babies with delays.   As a parent of a child who is expected to have a different developmental curve, I want to understand about what is healthy for development and why, but this is good information for typically developing infants as well!


Fantastic Glazed Donuts – repost

I posted this recipe last year on the last day of Chanukah when there was very limited time for it to be used by readers.  We made a double batch last night and will probably be making them a few more times during the coming week.  We’ve had a few requests for our recipe already – in fact, as I was preparing this post I got a call about it! – so I thought that putting up last year’s post again at the beginning of Chanukah would be a good idea!


As good as Dunkin Donuts?  These come mighty close!

I’ve been quite happy switching my cooking to local Israeli ingredients, and I can’t be accused of insisting on my American products.  But along came Chanukah and the local doughnuts, and they were a big disappointment to me and the kids.  They were big not so fluffy balls of dough, and you just about had to use a microscope to find the filling inside.

After a couple of these, I decided I had to find something that would come closer to Dunkin Donuts, my favorite splurge food.  And though I can’t say I managed to replicate the taste exactly – the chocolate chips here taste different – this comes pretty close.

We tried this new recipe at the beginning of Chanukah and sent a quadruple recipe with ds12 to share with his schoolmates the day he put on tefillin – they were a huge hit and no one had ever tasted donuts like these. The boys were used to the big balls of dough with a dab of industrial jelly inside.  Then we made another large batch on Saturday night for a Chanukah meal (which included vegetable soup, garlic knots, potato latkes, and these doughnuts), where we were again told how good they were.  When a friend who was there with her family said they were the best doughnuts she’s ever had and asked for the recipe, I told her I’d post it here.  And then last night, for the last night of Chanukah, we made another large batch to give out to all of our neighbors in our apartment building.

Fantastic Glazed Doughnuts

  • 2 1/4 t. dry yeast
  • 2 T. warm water
  • 3/4 c. warm milk (you can use water, coconut milk or nut milk)
  • 2 1/2 T. butter (or coconut oil or palm shortening)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 3/4 c. flour

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the small amount of warm water.  Add the milk (or substitute), butter, egg, sugar, and salt.  Blend this until it’s smooth.

Add the remaining flour and knead until the dough is smooth.  Cover the bowl with a plastic bag and leave it to rise until the dough has doubled, about 1/2 – 1 hour.  Punch the dough down, and roll out a half inch thick.

Use a cup or biscuit cutter (or even a clean empty can) to cut out the doughnuts.  If you want to make the doughnuts with the traditional hole in the middle, use a shot glass or similar sized object to cut out the holes.  (The holes will later become donut holes.)

Place these on cookie sheets and let them rise for about 30 – 60 minutes.  Fry in a pot of hot oil (I used 3 c. palm shortening for this), thirty seconds on each side.  (Edited to add: we add a chunk of carrot to the oil – it keeps it from getting dark.)  These will fluff up beautifully as they fry.  When the donuts cool, dip the top of the surface in glaze and let cool.


  • 1/3 c. butter (or coconut oil or palm shortening)
  •  2 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 t. vanilla
  • 1/3 c. hot water

Mix all of these ingredients for a plain glaze.  If you’d like to make a chocolate glaze, melt one cup of semisweet chocolate chips and mix it in to the above glaze.  Make the glaze when the doughnuts are ready to be frosted, because as it cools off, it becomes harder to use and will lose the glossiness you can see above in the picture.

We chose to leave these as glazed doughnuts, but I really wanted to make Bavarian cream doughnuts, which are my favorites!  (Oops – ds just told me they’re called Bostom cream – okay, whatever, chocolate glaze on top and vanilla pudding in the middle.)  I didn’t have a tool to insert the pudding into the center, though, and didn’t want to make a special trip out to buy one.  But next year, I’m planning to use this exact recipe and fill it with homemade vanilla pudding.


Happy Chanukah!


Considering emotional support available when choosing a school

This morning I had a meeting with the principal of Amichai about ds10, who is having some struggles in school.  Ds10 has a beautiful and sensitive nature and will one day be a man with incredible depth, compassion and insight.  However, a gentle personality is particularly challenged by the rough and tumble school environment and ds experiences significant frustration and unhappiness on a daily basis.

The principal asked me my thoughts so I spent some time sharing some principles of child development that are core to ds’s challenges: the source of anxiety, the need to provide a child with rest/emotional safety and connection, and how the natural growth process of a child is thwarted when this isn’t in place.   I shared specific examples of what isn’t working for ds10 and why, and what would be necessary for him to feel more supported.  The principal was attuned and understanding of everything I was talking about.  He proposed setting up a a meeting – not just with ds10’s primary teacher- but with all of the teachers who interact with him, to share with them what I told him and to talk about how to create an environment in which he feels accepted as he is right now.   Every single time I speak to this principal I think about what an amazing person he is – he really cares about every single child in his school and works to find solutions for whatever challenges come up.

It’s interesting how many people want to know about the religiosity of children attending this school, but no one has asked me if it’s a place in which students are emotionally supported, encouraged, and accepted.  Interesting, isn’t it?  The success of the school experience depends so much on a child feeling safe and connected to the adults in charge, and yet not one single parent has ever expressed any interest in this point or how it compares to the other local option.

I think that it’s important when choosing a school for parents to consider how his/her child will be supported in their educational framework if difficulties arise, because one can’t assume that his child won’t have any challenges. You just never know what will come up.  New immigrants are expected to have struggles, but there are plenty of children who were born and bred in this country who are challenged in some area.  Support and warmth were qualities I was looking for when choosing a school for ds10.  This isn’t a touchy feely issue.  A child can’t learn unless he feels supported, which has connotations even for those who feel academics are primary because the child’s achievement will be affected by the degree to which he feels valued.  In this school there’s a broader definition of success for a student which means there’s increased acceptance of different abilities and needs, and a willingness on the part of the staff to extend themselves to help students resolve difficulties.  As time has gone on and I’ve seen how situations are handled at the two local schools, I’ve felt that this was a very wise decision.

I’m not one to get excited about schools because however good it is, it’s still an institution and it can’t compare to homeschooling.  However, I can get enthusiastic about the caliber of people within an institution, and this principal is truly an educator, a person who has the best interests of the students at heart. Sometimes teachers and administrators view the students as a reflection on them and the ego gets a bit entangled, but that isn’t the case at all here.  When we were going back and forth earlier in the year when considering transferring the boys to a different school, he was the only person involved whose main concern was what was right for our children, regardless of how that affected him.  As far as ds10, I’m cautiously optimistic, and will wait and see how things go.


Time to start applying to seminaries

Have I ever mentioned that it’s never dull in our house?  It’s really not.  I keep waiting for a quiet period but it seems that lasts for a few days at the very most!

Along with the high school applications/interviews/testing that has to be completed in the next week and a half for ds13, we have learned that the deadline for submitting applications for most seminaries is Chanukah.  You know, one thing I thought would be nice about having my kids in school was that I’d be clued in to things like this because everyone else would be preparing for the same thing at the same time.  However, it hasn’t played out like this since we’re looking into different options for ds13 and dd16 than their classmates so we’re having to figure it all out on our own.

After recently requesting the applicationfrom the seminary that dd16 is most interested in, it arrived in the mail today.  (We skipped her up a grade this year and she’s now in her final year of high school, which is how we got to this point so quickly.  :))  We researched several choices that we thought would be suitable for her, and narrowed it down to one program in England.  Yes, I do think it’s very ironic that we’re living in a country with so many seminaries, and we’re looking into something out of the country.  From everything we’ve heard, it would be a really good fit for her, and we all appreciated the specifics we learned from the informational booklet included with the application.

I told her last night that we’ll try to get the application completed by Friday and get it into the mail right away.  Once they process the application, they’ll notify us about the interview process with a representative in Israel.

Fortunately, dd18’s seminary application isn’t due for a while (yes, she just had a birthday – for those who noticed the change in digits :)) so we have a bit of a breather on that!  She visited the specific school in Jerusalem that she’s interested in and is pretty sure that’s where she wants to be, and I’ve spoken to the head of the program briefly to ask about the specifics.  I think it will be great for her.

Having both girls in seminary and ds13 possibly away at a dorming school for high school (though we’re hoping the new local option will work out for him) in addition to ds19 who is already living away from home is something that will definitely shift how things look in our home.  For now, though, we’re enjoying having almost everyone still living at home.