Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Climbing your Mountain

      I remember looking at you for the first time. I remember the overwhelming feeling of intense emotions that rushed through me. I was filled with wonder at the beautiful miracle that was just placed upon my chest. You were beautiful! 

      Exhausted from the long labor and with my eyes closed, I tenderly placed my hand over yours, hoping that everything was ok. I carefully felt your delicate little fingers. You were quiet, but breathing. I gently placed my hand on your side and held you close. You were quiet, but listening. I opened my eyes to look into yours. You were tired as well. I slowly brought my other hand over you. It's ok little one, you can rest now. Your body rose with the rise of my chest, and with each breath you seemed to relax a bit more. I felt shy and was humbled to meet such a perfect human being. Who am I, to raise such a beautiful soul? Was G-d certain He knew what he was doing by entrusting me with such an awesome being? You were quiet but filled with life, and you had an endurance that would later inspire us both, for you had a mountain to climb.

      You had difficulty nursing. You struggled to get nourishment. It was too exhausting for your little tired body. We both cried as you would strain to get milk from me, and then fall asleep to conserve your energy. I so badly wanted to connect with you in this unique way, but I began to realize that your week little body simply needed nourishment more then I needed to bond with you in this special way.  I would cradle you close to my heart as you would eat from a medicine dropper, whispering gently words of encouragement for you to take just one more swallow. Just one more swallow, and again, just one more. Little by little you began to get stronger. Each feeding would consume every ounce of your energy, but you were determined to begin the long assent of your mountain. 

      Every mile stone took great effort on your part. It was amazing to watch your persistence and patience. There were many times I felt tears welling up inside me as I watched you struggle, but then I would recognize your determination and courage. You have strength I could only wish for but G-d has blessed you with a great gift, because your mountain is an awesome one. Climb your mountain, little one, but please, may I be so humble as to ask for you to take me with you. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Cloth Diapers

      Never in a million years would I have thought I would be doing cloth diapers, let alone loving it, but we are. Devorah, a friend of mine, reintroduced me to the idea, so I guess you could say she is the one who put the bug into my head. Over the next few months I asked her many questions until I felt confident enough to jump into it. I must have asked her over 100 questions....
How do you handle messy diapers?
How do you get all of the poop off?
How do you change a cloth diaper when out in public?
What do you do with the dirty diaper when out in public or at a play date?
Can you bleach them?
What if the baby has a yeast infection?
Umm, diaper creams, lotions? Can I use them with cloth diapers?
How do you wash them, on what temperature and how often?
Do you put them in the dryer?
How many do I need?
How do you get stains out?
What name brands do you like? (My head was spinning with the choices.)

      My parents did cloth diapers, using a local diaper service for many years, so the concept was not foreign to me, however I still never thought of cloth diapering as something I would do. My parents, having been cloth diaper pros, gave me some great tips and pointers which were very helpful. So after a few months of reading, asking questions and reading some more I was finally ready to start. I would like to share with you how we do it, all the way from the liquid laundry soap that we use, to handling those messy diapers on the go.

Our Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap

      There are many recipes online for homemade liquid laundry soap, all similar to one another and very cost effective. Does it work? Well I think our sparkling white, clean cloth diapers, which have seen there share of the messy end of things speaks for itself. We pretty much used this recipe from Wellness Mama, the only difference is that instead of using just one bar of soap we use two.

What you need:

Washing Soda,
2 Bars of soap (We use Ivory.)
5 Gallon bucket

How it's Done:

1) Grate two bars of soap.

2) Add the shredded bars of soap to a pot filled with two quarts of hot water. Gently boil until completely dissolved. Set aside.

3) Fill your 5 gallon bucket with 4.5 Gallons of hot tap water.

4) Pour in 1 Cup of Borax and 1 Cup of Washing Soda. Mix well until dissolved.

5) Now add your dissolved soap mixture that you had set aside to the 4.5 gallons of water. (Now you have 5 gallons of liquid laundry soap.) MIX WELL!

6) Cover and let sit overnight.

7) Shake or stir, then pour into smaller containers so you can give it a quick shake before each use.

We use one cup per load. Enjoy!

      I would like to add that on occasion I do add white vinegar and a scoop of Oxiclean. I understand that vinegar is not the greatest on the PUL fabric or the diaper covers, but we have been doing this for the past two years and the diapers seem none the worse for wear. One thing we do not do, is put the diaper covers in the dryer on high heat! Hang dry them to lengthen the life you get out of them.

      We switched our diaper stash a couple of times before I found a brand which I love. We now use mostly Rumparooz diaper covers with the Osocozy pre-fold cloth diapers. The cloth diapers go into the dryer, but again, the diaper covers I always hang dry. I have found that putting PUL in the dryer,  especially on high heat, dramatically shortens the life span of the diaper cover. In the winter they still dry pretty quickly in our chilly basement.

How do we handle the poop factor?

      This tip came from my parents. Many parents today choose to set aside the messy diapers in a dry / wet bag for a day or two until they are ready to wash. While this is what I typically do, I do things a little differently if the diapers are particularly soiled, or if there is a stomach bug going through the house. When my parents did cloth diapering, the soiled diapers were put into a bucket filled with cold water and some borax. (Of course you need to make sure this bucket is out of reach from little explorers. You don't want anyone going in head first! We keep ours behind the basement door.) This functions as a pre-wash so when you are ready to wash your diapers they wash out beautifully. Occasionally I will also add some oxiclean and baking soda. In the past I have added tea tree essential oil and/or oregano essential oil if I suspected a yeast related rash. The essential oils help kill bacteria and any residual odor. Although the oregano is more potent and is said to kill any bacteria a bit more efficiently, I prefer the tea tree oil because it's not as pungent of a smell. Again, I don't typically add the essential oils because after a while it can cause build up in the diapers.
From Left to Right: Alva, Bumgenius 4.0 and Grovia Hybrid

I have since sold most of our Grovia and Bumgenius stash because I have found double gusset diapers to work much better for us, so these are pictures of our old stash. (In the pictures they are about one year old.)
                             From Left to Right: Alva, Grovia and Bumgenius all nice and white.

Cloth Diapering on the Go...and which diapers we use.
These are the items I bring when we are out and about:

1) Clean, ready to use cloth diapers.

     We have tried quite a few different brands of cloth diapers. I have learned that what works best for our babies and toddlers, are diapers with a double gussets. They seem to do a much better job at catching everything. We started out with BumGenius and Grovia Hybrid. I loved that they were so easy to use, as pre-folds and flat diapers seemed so daunting in the beginning. I have since sold and replaced them, and we now use diaper covers with double gussets from Rumparooz and Thirsties, with pre-fold cloth diapers from OsoCozy (I have a few flat diapers). We also have a few diapers and training pants form Best Bottom. In the beginning I thought there was no way I was going to do pre-fold diapers. It just seemed way too complicated, however I have fallen in love with them. They are by far the most cost effective way of diapering and are really not so complicated after all. The diaper covers are also quite fitted, so I can get away without using any diaper pins or snappies. You do need to follow the pre washing instructions for the OsoCozy cloth diapers because it does help to ensure maximum absorbency.
2) A wet / dry bag to place any wet or soiled diapers into while on the go. (Yes, it's as simple as that!)


       I like to add a few sprays of our homemade diaper spray into the wet bag. It has tea tree essential oil and lavender essential oil which helps enormously with any smelly diapers as well as with bacteria. Tea Tree oil also has strong antiseptic and germicidal properties. (I don't think your average person will even get so much as a hint of any smell from a messy diaper on the go.)

      As soon as we get home I scrape off what I can into the toilet and then transfer them to our larger wet-bag until ready to wash. If they are particularly soiled I let the diapers sit in a bucket of cold water and borax, baking soda and our homemade laundry soap. Again, this acts as a pre-soak and makes washing the diapers a dream. Our homemade liquid washing soap is also very effective in its cleaning ability and minimizes, if not eliminates the common cleaning problems that many moms face, like staining and residual smell when using the laundry soap on the market specifically for cloth diapers. Most of the time I really don't need the soak bucket, but one of our babies had particularly loose stool (until I figured out that gluten was the culprit), so those diapers typically soaked in a bucket for a day or two days until I was ready to wash them.

3) A spray bottle filled with our homemade diaper wipe spray.
4) Pre-cut paper towels (I use this instead of baby wipes), or cloth wipes.

       A couple of months ago I was brave enough to switch to cloth wipes, but if you choose paper towels I want to clarify here that in order to make the paper towel soft against the baby's skin, I would first spray the paper towel with a generous amount of liquid and then wipe the baby's bottom with the moist paper towel which is now not abrasive anymore. It is so much easier to clean the baby's skin this way then with traditional disposable wipes. For a really messy diaper I find I don't need more then 4 small (half cut) pieces of paper towels or 2 cloth wipes. The homemade baby wipe spray also really cleans! I never smell any lingering evidence on the baby's skin of what the previous diaper was cooking.

5) A small tupperware or mason jar container filled with organic coconut oil or french green clay that I use as a diaper cream. Two of our children had very sensitive skin and were constantly getting all kinds of diaper rashes despite allergy testing, steroid prescription creams, eliminating wheat, soy, dairy and nuts, you name it we did it and nothing seemed to work, until my sister-in-law introduced me to french green clay. I found there is a little science behind using it.

Diaper Rash

      In the event of a diaper rash, I like to air out their bum with one or two cotton training pants. This is the equivalent of wearing cotton diapers without the diaper cover so their skin can really breath. An hour at a time is what I can do since I need to be on the look out for little puddles to wipe up. Preferably two times a day but even if I only do this once a day and the rest of the day use cloth diapers, the rash goes away much quicker then with disposables. My favorite "creams" to use are coconut oil and french green clay, which I will tell you in a moment how we make it. We do experience dramatically less rashes in general with the cloth diapers then with disposables and since I have zeroed in on different food allergies and a little trick with the clay, thank G-d we have been rash free for quite some time now. If at any time I do notice a little bit of redness on the baby's bum, I immediately use the clay and by the next couple of diaper changes, the redness is typically gone.

The Science behind using French Green Clay

      One of my babies had such sensitive skin, despite cutting out dairy, gluten, nuts, soy and corn products. For a while we were doing organic disposable diapers and while that definitely made a positive difference,  she would still, on occasion, wind up with a rash that left her skin with open wounds. Sometime after switching to cloth diapers I discovered the art behind using french green clay, and the result was a very happy toddler, or shall I say bottom....

      So here is what we do. I put a few cups of distilled or reverse osmosis water into a container. I slowly keep adding tablespoons of the powdered clay as I use the immersion hand blender, until I get a nice smooth clay consistency. But here is the clincher. As you are slowly adding the clay you must also add melted Shea butter. (I choose to add a few tablespoons of our homemade body lotion (show below next to the ready to use French Green Clay), but in the event that I run out, I just use Shea butter.) So the end result is a smooth green clay with a healing moisturizer carefully blended in. Why is this part so important?  I found that when I would just use the French Green Clay without adding the shea butter, the skin which is trying to heal would stick to the clay and would slow down the healing as well as cause the wounded area to be quite uncomfortable. The Shea butter acts as a barrier and moisturizer so the clay can do its magical healing. (Make sure the clay is not too thick, but rather It should be nice and smooth.)

      My friend Devorah explained to me that there are certain ingredients that should not be used with cloth diapers when using diaper rash creams or barriers for extra sensitive skin. It's a good thing she told me that because it didn't even dawn on me that some ingredients would pose a problem. I also found more information on diaperwrecker.com.

Drying the Diapers

      I always line dry. Many mothers have found sun drying them to help with any stubborn stains, but depending on where you live that may not always be an option. I would love to sun them, but often times the weather doesn't permit that, so instead they get the glorious view of our basement.

Let me know if I can answer any more questions!
- Matana
                                                                                                                     Photos below by Mendel B


Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Tell Me That You Love Me

      "A rock you, mommy," my toddler said, as she lifted her tired arms up towards me. My heart always melts when she does this. My spirited child, so passionate about life, was ready to rest in my arms. Sometimes I wonder who needs who more? I reached down and hugged her tightly against my chest. She snuggled deeply into my arms and relaxed as I wrapped my arms around her. She didn't necessarily physically relax, because her muscles were still tense, but I could sense her energy, her emotions and her aura relax. I like to call her my spirited one, so deeply passionate about everything she does, including the act of a simple embrace. Perhaps it wasn't so simple? What was she telling me in this deep embrace? What, in return, was I saying to her? 

      I sat down on the rocking chair and began to rock her as she snuggled, yet deeper into my arms. She took shelter in my embrace and I in hers. She curled up her little body so tightly, until she could no longer bring her legs in any closer, her arms any tighter and her back any deeper into my chest. She nestled her head against my heart and slowly found a position, one of comfort, content and satisfaction. I slowly began to feel her muscles relax. Every now and then she would shift her position and press her body once more deep into my arms as if to make sure this moment would last forever. 

      Each of our children have taught me so much and continue to teach me with such ease and simplicity, yet with immense wisdom and depth. It amazes me how they don't need words to say they have been hurt, rather a look into their eyes is all it takes to understand. To become a parent, is to become vulnerable to your own mistakes, to accept your weaknesses and imperfections and to learn to love again and again. I never go through a day without wishing I had said or done something differently. Perhaps with more warmth, more enthusiasm or even with more love. Rest little one, rest in our embrace and know that my love is unconditional no matter where our paths may take us. Yes, this was a deep embrace, and it was ours.

Photo by Mendel B

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Curriculum Review! Chumash

        My mother has a innate gift for finding wholesome and inspiring new books. Last year my mother introduced me to a beautiful and masterful find, "The Guide to Loshon Hakodesh - Mastering the Basics" by Nachman Marcuson. As a student,  I often felt as if the rules and methods by which to understand and translate the Chumash seemed to be forever changing and never ending. I have never felt as though all teachers throughout every grade were teaching in a uniform and systematic fashion, or if such a concept was even at all possible.

       I am excited to say that this is exactly what I am now using for my 3rd, 6th and 7th graders! Nachman Marcuson has truly created a masterpiece for all ages! The first book (the brown one), is broken down into 16 lessons. Each lesson has a small list of vocabulary words to master and a few new rules to learn about how Lashon Hakodesh functions. At the end of each lesson there is a review based on the new vocabulary and rules provided in that lesson. Nachman Marcuson based his writings on the teachings of Rabbi Freilich, who discovered that by learning 230 key words, you will understand 93% of the words that appear in the Chumash! He heavily encourages complete mastery of the new words listed at the beginning of each lesson before moving onto the next lesson. Because it is definitely possible to use the same books for every child, especially since the author discourages writing in the books, I have found that when the children each have their own copy, it encourages them to truly "own" their learning.


Saturday, November 23, 2013

All's Well that Ends Well.

      A few months ago we decided to take the kids to the Children's Museum. I typically don't like to go to very many places on Sundays simply because the crowds make it difficult to keep track of our incredibly swift, moving targets.  During the week, things are usually pretty quiet, so I have an easier time keeping tabs on everyone (when the boys were younger I used to dress them all identically so in the event that one would wander off I could tell security that "he looks like this one"). So off we went, to the Children's Museum.

      When we got there the crowd was pleasantly thin. I breathed a sigh of relief, not because it was empty but because we had survived the transition of home to museum in one piece and we made it without too many melt downs, band-aides, bathroom trips, changes of clothes, last minute diaper changes, spills and G-d only knows what else.
      We are fortunate to have a beautiful Children's Museum relatively close by with lots of things for the kids to do. We walked in and hung up our coats. The children were so excited! Immediately the older children began to shepherd the younger ones to different parts of the museum and excitedly showed them all of  activities that they could do. It was really cute to see. Sruly had an absolute blast. He looked like any other typical child, completely enjoying himself running around, exploring and letting the other kids show him "the ropes" with a big smile on his face. He thoroughly enjoyed touching, feeling, running, jumping and simply being a part of it all.

      An hour later we found ourselves in the jumping room. This was a cavernous room with an equally large tunnel shaped moon bounce. The kids had a blast  (I'm not sure who had the biggest smile - the kids or me watching them)! This was probably Sruly's favorite activity. After about 20 min on the moon bounce, one of my boys, who is known to be a real tough guy, came limping over to me crying. Just for the record, this is a child who never ever cries unless something is very wrong. Judging from his reaction and the look on his face, I knew immediately that our next stop was most probably going to be what we are beginning to think of as our second home - the emergency department of Children's Hospital. It just so happened that as he was exiting the tunnel, his foot somehow managed to find and wedge itself in the only exposed space in the entire moonbounce, a gap five and a half inches wide between the main structure and the landing mat. As his body continued forward his leg stayed put and twisted. I found myself on the phone with my husband who was five exhibits over begging him to drop - I mean grab everything and high tail it to the moonbounce room. As my husband sat there examining my son's foot and making the determination that it would be a while until the two of them would see the cozy interior of home that evening, the staff of the museum came over with an incident report form for us to fill out and a wheel chair to bring our now immobile child to the van.

      Before leaving the lobby I made a quick head count to make sure we were all together.... Well to make a short story a bit shorter, I kept coming up with one child more then I thought we should have. This wasn't so bad, only that I honestly thought we had one child less then that in our family. When do I need to start worrying that I am loosing it? After counting the children for the fifth time I began to think, well, maybe I really do have that many kids! When did that happen?? ...But I could have sworn we had one less than I had counted.... So I counted again, and again I came up with one extra child! I was dumbfounded. How on earth?!?! Seriously, I could have sworn we were not up to that number just yet.

      While I was re-counting and trying to de-clultter my infamous mommy brain, my husband was talking with the nervous staff about what had happened. I counted one more time and my eyes landed on the sleeping child in the stroller who was covered with coats. I checked to make sure he or she was still breathing under the mountain of goose feathers and it was then that I discovered that it was nothing more than a pile of coats. At this point my patience were beginning to run thin. I had counted the children a dozen times by then and had asked them to put on their coats at least half of that, but the only thing that they seemed interested in was how fast the wheel chair could  take a corner without tipping and spilling its' occupant flat out on the floor.

      Miracle of miracles, we made it to the car without any additional tears (or broken bones for that matter). On the way home my husband called the ER to find out which attendings were on for that shift. (Not that it would make a difference either way, being that my husband pretty much knows ALL of them on a first name basis, thanks to our "ever so passively calm and quiet" dear children).

      After settling the rest of the family at home, my husband and our now immobile former Mexican jumping bean headed to what I am absolutely now convinced to be our home away from home - aka Children's Hospital.
      After the standard routine examinations and x-rays he was given the diagnosis (of which my husband had already bet our life savings on what it would be well before we had even left the museum) of a fractured tibia (thank G-d for little things), which would need to be set and casted. Under normal circumstances this would render him pretty much immobile for the next eight weeks. However, once he figured out that he could drop his wheel chair and crutches and still ride his scooter, skate board, bicycle and play hockey without too much pain, he considered himself a free man. Six weeks, three shredded casts and a rather relieved chief of orthopedic surgery later, he was given the "all clear" to resume his "normal" daily activities.

      "What??!" I said, when the two of them came home. "They sent you home without a rocker boot?? Do they know how active this child is???! He is going to break it again before tomorrow morning! He hasn't used those muscles in 8 weeks and they think that this is a typical child who will just ease those muscles back into use slowly and gently! Well they will be seeing him again!"

      Sure enough, 4 hours after my husband and son returned from the hospital, they were on their way back once again with a freshly re-injured leg. This time, however, they had the sense to send him home with a rocker boot. After another six weeks and a rocker boot that was shredded and worn down to the metal base plate we had a healed and happy young man who was ready to do it all over again....    

- Matana  

Before our son realized that he could get around just fine without his wheel chair and crutches.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Small Miracles: A New Van

      When we upgraded from our typical seven seater mini van to our 8 seater Chevy Astro, I had to get acquainted with the slightly larger size before I felt comfortable driving it around town. So it is no wonder that I am waiting for a few lessons from my husband before I get behind the wheel of our new 12 seater van. The first time I got behind the wheel of our 8 seater, I was not accustomed to the slightly larger width of the van and hit the corner when I made a left turn. By the end of my first two week of driving I probably hit a few more corners and knocked in our side view mirror a few times, but needless to say I got the hang of the new inches and thank G-d enjoyed a few uneventful years of driving around with the kids to various outings.

      We know that with every new child comes new blessings. About a month and a half ago we decided it was time to upgrade to a 12 seater van, and what better time to do that then two days before our month long trip to Canada? Since our new van was not ready yet they gave us a courtesy van to use in the interim. When we returned and it was time for us to take possession of our new van, my husband went down to the dealership to finalize the last of the paper work. As he was sitting in the office talking with the owner, the owner mentioned to my husband how good our timing was to trade in our old van.

      "You see," he said. "A day and a half after you had given up possession of your Chevy Astro, I brought it around to park it at a lot across the street. I swung around to park, hit the brake to stop but the darn thing just kept on moving.... straight for the street. Thankfully I had enough room to veer off to the side without hitting anyone or anything. I have not been that shaken in a long time."

He looked at my husband in the eyes and said, "G-d is really looking out for you."

      Thank G-d we had an uneventful trip to and from Canada, and needless to say our old van is undergoing a full brake line rebuild... But I must say, it was G-d's timing, not ours. You see, had it not been for, please G-d a new little one, we would have no reason to trade in our van, and would still be driving the old one....

- Matana

                                                                                                              photos by Mendel B.


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Erev Shabbos: Keeping it Real.

(Cont. from previous article "Speed Dial Malfunction.")

Needless to say I did finally get through to Chani.

"So what are your plans for today," she asked. "Survival? Like every other day?"

"Um, no." I answered. "I am determined to get this house ready for Shabbos."

"Well, nothing stands in the way of determination."

"Oh, you want a bet, there are a bunch of them running around the house right now. Hang on a second... my four year old just marched into the kitchen announcing that she neeeeeds ice, went over to the freezer and helped herself. I had better save the freezer."

"You have an ice machine?"

"My G-d can you imagine an ice machine in this house? You would need boots and snow pants year round in here. We disconnected it really quickly when we moved in. Actually, when the boys were little, you used to slip and slide your way into the kitchen... and it wasn't always so graceful."

      We chatted for a bit more until a few adorable, yet loud alarm clocks or tornadoes (not sure what to call them...) came marching through the house. I did manage to get the house (ok, the downstairs and the bathrooms) looking beautiful and ready for Shabbos, all of three hours early!... So I am not exactly sure what or when this happened but before I knew it, it was 25 min before candle lighting, I had not showered yet, I still had to bathe the little ones, the house was an absolute tip with no evidence of it having once looked fit for royal guests, there was an accident in the bathroom, my toddler tripped over Samson's water bowl, so once again our kitchen became an indoor slip and slide, my boys decided that one shower wasn't enough and came running through the house dripping wet from apparently a really good water fight... I thought I heard the hose go on.... and yes, they were playing in the dirt, or shall we now call it mud? Oh well, so much for my Eishes Chayil blue-ribbon-the-house-is-sparkling-and-the-kids-are-glowing award.

                                                                         photo by Mendel
- Matana