To sit a little

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Image: the ever-hospitable Rivendell

I wanted to share this little poem, which I wrote a few years back, and which I still like to re-read sometimes, as a reminder to self that it’s alright to just slow down when I feel the need, close my eyes, and cast all my cares upon G-d. I always come away refreshed after such a silent spell, and ready to go on with whatever is challenging me at the time.

It is fine to sit a little,
Not for long, just for a bit.
Close your eyes and think a little,
When confusion overwhelms.
It’s alright to rest a little,
To refresh the soul with prayer –
Pray with words or tears or both,
Just as you are able.
It’s alright – slow down a little,
Not too long, just for a moment.
It’s alright to cry a little,
Rushing to the perfect safety
Of a child that’s near its mother.
You can lie down for a moment,
Close your eyes and think of kindness,
Think of tenderness and friendship
And of love that lasts forever.
Then get up and walk a little,
Look at beauty, think of gladness,
Smile and know that when you need it,
You can always have a refuge.

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A trip to the beach

DSC_0718An errand run to a town about an hour away ended with a spontaneous trip to the beach, our first in this season. It was the hour before sunset – my favorite time of the day, when the light is so lovely and the colors mellow.

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We happened to have just the two little ones with us, which also made this Hadassah’s first time at the beach (many more are to follow, I hope!). Of course, she spent most of the time napping in the baby carrier, but she seemed to be enjoying herself all the same.

Israel, on the other hand, had a blast… Here is one (of many) photos of him splashing about, or just sitting and letting the waves wash over him. I had to make a conscious effort to stop taking pictures and just enjoy the moment… A moment that can never be perfectly captured, and is meant to be savored in the here and now.

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Some interesting sea life clinging to an old board.

The magical hour ended with the sun sinking into the sea, something I will never tire of watching. It was beautiful, and then the day was truly over and it was time to go home. I hope we can do this again soon.

Expecting Expenses

There is a whole industry built around anxious new parents (and grandparents!) of baby “must-haves”, the sole purpose of which is to make people shell out money. We’ve been lucky enough, so far, to spend remarkably little in our babies’ first year, compared to what is considered average. Here is how we did it.

I would strongly encourage you, before you buy anything new, to look at baby stuff people are willing to pass on, or sell after a brief use at the fraction of  its cost. Most baby things only get a very short and gentle use anyway, if we’re talking about a small family. We got a lot of things from family, friends, and off online swap lists/second hand shops.

If you know people are planning to give you gifts for the birth of your baby, make a list of what you need and pass it around, or simply tell them what you need – otherwise you might be stuck, for example, with a myriad of toys your baby won’t look at for another year or so, but without things you’d find truly helpful to have right now.

I stay at home and breastfeed, which automatically eliminates the costs of daycare and formula. We don’t use bottles or pacifiers, and I comfortably do without all the nursing-related accessories such as specially designed nursing clothes, nursing covers, nursing pads, etc. I do love my nursing pillow, which I got from my sister-in-law, but I wouldn’t buy one otherwise.

Some more specifics:

Car seat – if you have a car, of course. That’s something I wouldn’t get used, because of safety reasons, unless you’re absolutely sure it wasn’t involved in anything that could cause it damage. We chose something very simple, straightforward, and inexpensive. It does its job just fine.

Someplace for the baby to sleep – we got a used baby bed (if you do that, make sure it’s safe – no nails sticking out or something like that). It came with a mattress in very good condition, with a washable cover. We paid a fraction of what we would pay if we bought it new. But with our two youngest, so far, we have co-slept most of the time.

Baby bath tub – I know some parents wash their babies in the sink and/or shower with their babies, but I personally have found the bath tub to be tremendously helpful. However, when I’m at my Mom’s, I bathe my babies in a large old pail that I place on the bathroom counter. Mom bathed me in it when I was a baby, so that pail has served as a bathtub for 5 babies now!

Entertainment – Very small babies don’t really need much in the way of entertainment. Mobiles, in my opinions, are hugely overrated – my babies always preferred to be placed wherever they can observe real people doing real stuff. Even later on, you won’t need that many toys. Better keep a few and rotate them. A large number of toys is an insane waste of storage space, since little ones get bored with them so quickly.

Prams/strollers – Not strictly necessary but I’ve found it to be very helpful. We never bought a new one. Sign up to giveaway boards and look for people looking to pass theirs on, or spread word to friends and family. For older babies, it’s even easier. Some months ago, we actually found a perfectly good lightweight folding stroller someone had just thrown out for some reason.

Slings/carriers – Some people say they can’t do without their slings or baby carriers, some say it’s a waste of money and space. It’s very difficult to know in advance what will work for you, so it would be ideal if you could borrow a sling/carrier you consider purchasing, and try it to see if you like it. Again, this can be bought used, and you could make your own baby wrap from simply a very long, wide and stretchy piece of fabric (you don’t need to sew for it, just hem). I love my carrier and take it whenever we travel, but the downside is the summer heat – it can get uncomfortable with a little one pressed so close for a long time.

Oh, and of course, everything is passed on from child to child around here! We didn’t have to get a single new item for Hadassah, because we have so much stuff left over from her three older siblings. She doesn’t seem to mind. :o)

The photo above is of Shira as a baby. It’s hard to believe she is 9 years old now!

Preparing for changes

I’ve started packing in earnest, and filled three big boxes before I called it a day. There’s something both desperate and addictive about packing; when I begin, it seems at first it will never end, but at the same time it’s hard to stop filling up those boxes. An early start, careful packing, and careful labeling are all necessary for effective, pain-free transition from house to house.

Either way, it’s not a project that can be completed in a day, and in the weeks that are left to us here, we will enjoy our remaining time in this place that has been home so long.

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My basil plants are really beginning to look up. I’m practically salivating just looking at them, thinking of all the delicious fresh pesto I’m hopefully going to make.

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The kittens have found a place to relax on this old chair in the yard I’ve been planning to throw away. I find it hilarious how the little black female is making herself comfortable at the expense of her brother.

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It was an unseasonably cool, windy day here, and when I took Hadassah out for an airing, I put on her this little sweater I made when I was expecting Shira to be born. This brings back such memories… me, on long evenings in our first little home, anticipating the birth of our first child, and diligently working on this little outfit for her. The red buttons came from my mom’s button box. I’ve gotten into the habit of saving buttons too, and now have a button box on my own.

With the next babies, I didn’t have that much time anymore, and had to settle for quicker and less elaborate projects, such as hats and blankets. I haven’t had time to crochet much lately, and miss it. I hope to find a simple and satisfying project to pick up soon, so I can work on it in odd spare moments that crop up throughout the day.

Creating Memories

Though a few days have gone by, I can still scarcely think of anything but Julie’s sudden passing. I have never met anyone for whom, like for her, life was such a great, big, ever-growing circle of love and light. The words I most often remember in connection with her are, “I love to create, and my favorite thing to create is memories. How thankful I am for each one that is stored in my heart, and the hearts of those I love.”

With this in mind, when we chanced to be at the park with the children this week, I put my whole being into being with them. I let go of every care and worry, and only whipped out my phone to take a few pictures.

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Climbing.

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Balancing.

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Precious sibling love.

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From home: One of this year’s new kittens.

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The latest thrift-store find: two lovely vintage kiddush cups. These will get shined and put away in the kitchen cupboard today. Please ignore the table mess. 😉

The gift of today

As time passes, it is clearer and clearer to me that the most important work we have to do upon this earth is in loving, and showing love to, and caring for the people around us, starting from the people closest to us.

I am very privileged in this sense, at this season of my life. I have many people to love. I have little children at home, who need me many hours out of each day, and therefore I have no lack of opportunity to give love and care in a thousand practical ways. I also get to stay home and do all those things myself. My children never had a diaper changed by anybody else but me and their dad, except perhaps occasionally a grandma.

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not some kind of perfect person. I have low tolerance for whining. I snap if a child shows open disobedience. I have all these hobbies and projects and things I like to do on my own, and like every mother of young children, I sometimes desperately wish for a good long restful stretch of quiet time.

But then I look back at the time when Shira was a baby and motherhood was new and overwhelming and I cried because I felt as though I’d never sleep again. Now she’s a 9-year-old who reads, writes, learns, works on her own projects, has her own friends and folds her own socks. She can do the dishes, wash the floor, and fry eggs. I have no idea how this happened, but facts are staring me in the face. It’s bittersweet, really. Seasons chase seasons, and as much as I’d want to stop time, even for a day, I can’t.

All I can do is enjoy. Enjoy the little downy head that is resting on my chest. Enjoy the playdough art and creative spelling. Enjoy the child who is small enough to sit on my lap, because someday soon he won’t be. Enjoy the full house, because one day these little birds will fly out to make their own nest.

Live, love and enjoy the gift. The gift of today.

It’s that time again… preparing to move

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Right now I’m at this stage when I’m psyching myself up for the upcoming house move. I don’t thrive in the mess and chaos of cardboard boxes all around and not remembering whether a something has already been packed or I just can’t find it in the general disorder, but… hey, we’ve survived this several times in the past decade, so I figure we can do it again. Even with twice the number of kids we had last time. Yeah. Totally.

I do have some tips for moving house in a way that will leave your sanity and your possessions largely intact, and I share those in my latest Mother Earth News post:

Moving house is the ultimate decluttering motivator. All those nooks and crannies, stashes and boxes you have successfully avoided until now are going to be dragged into the light of day, like it or not. And, since you’re actually taking the trouble of packing each possession, you naturally ask yourself, do I really need this?

The answer for us, in about half of the cases, is probably not. I’m married to a hoarder, and my kids have magpie-like tendencies as well. If they’re away from home, I can throw away half their toys and they won’t notice, but if I try to gain some more shelf space while they’re here… oh boy. We had quite a bit of drama last week over a one-armed doll.

Just wish me luck as I’m going to pack and move and unpack all over again, okay?