Tuesday, April 19, 2016

What I'd love to do right now

Just look at these two kitties snoozing on the front door mat - seeing them this morning filled me with envy. I really could use me a nice nap, after/in between all the cleaning, organizing, laundry, throwing out the garbage, last-minute scrubbing, etc... like every year, can't wait for Pesach to come so it will all be over!

Monday, April 11, 2016

A tiny dream home

At this frantic period, just about a week and a half before Pesach, I find myself fervently wishing for a beautiful tiny house, just like this one in the video - a place that would be neat, compact, efficient and fully utilized, with as few possessions as possible and all the peace and freedom I could possibly want.

Honestly, if you were to offer us this cabin tomorrow, I'd gladly move in. Wouldn't you? It just looks so beautiful and homey. And it's solar-powered!

In the meantime, I'm making a few steps in the right direction, such as pack away most of the children's toys and give up what isn't missed; thin out my closet and bookshelves, and try to put our storage shed in order.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The ordinary

I get up in the morning and change a diaper. Get breakfast to a chorus of, "what's taking so long? I'm hungry." I put tiny socks on tiny feet, unlock the coop and feed the chickens, start a load of laundry. I wash the dishes, dig into a reading exercise with the little ones, hang out the laundry and collect some eggs. I fix lunch and do some yard work, sew on a few missing buttons, think about what to make for dinner, bathe the baby, stop a huge sibling squabble, wash some more dishes, mop the floor, shoo a cat from under the kitchen table. I throw something simple on the stove and watch a magnificent sunset while it's cooking. I let myself exhale, tired after another full and busy day and more than ready to see the little people off to bed. 

I don't run a home business. I'm not on any committees or local councils, I don't do any regular volunteering. My home is far from spotless and I don't do any fancy cooking and baking. I love to crochet, draw and make candles, but do it all very sporadically and, in general, keep things simple. I'm lucky if I can snatch an hour to write after the kids are asleep. I don't own a car, so our outings (beyond walking distance) are rare and family-oriented. I'm notoriously bad about returning emails and phone calls. 

I don't have time, energy or inclination for the complicated. The simple and straightforward more than keeps my hands full. 

What about the natural human desire to stand out, to do something special? When we are young, we all think we'll do just that. Because we are unique, and nobody quite like us has ever existed before in the entire history of the universe. So am I doing something special? The prosaic answer is, not really. I cook, clean, wash clothes, wipe bottoms and spend a lot of time saying, "don't do that" and "give that back to your sister".

It's not the things that make it all special, but the people; and they are special because G-d had given them to me, and not to anybody else. It's not the swept floor and the clean sheets, but the wondrous eyes of the child watching a column of ants, it's conversation over dinner, discussion of an interesting story. It's a walk among yellow spring blossoms, the retelling of a dream, it's looking at a bird soaring in the sky. It's all the moments in between, and the giving of oneself, in the little things - in the everyday things, which ultimately add up to something beautiful, something that means more than we could have imagined, because it's life itself. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Spring snapshots

Some old containers re-purposed as nesting boxes - works really well! These eggs are plastic, by the way - to encourage laying/brooding in the right places.

Our very handsome Black Brahma roo.

The first broody of the season. Doesn't she look like she might peck the camera any moment?

A patch of mint, looking very fresh after the spring rains.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The things you will never regret

In our previous home, we had a separate room for a home office. Such privacy is very convenient, but it is also the pitfall of the computer junkie (which, I admit, I am). I could tuck children into naps or, at a period of time when I didn't have any children young enough to need naps, I could let them watch a movie - while I got into the office to check my emails, etc.

The problem is, the "etc" only too easily turns into watching silly YouTube videos, participating in draining online discussions, making frivolous Google searches ("why does the top point of my left ear sometimes itch?"), and keeping up with the social media. The power of the click is just too alluring. 

Of course, there are also the good things - reading excellent helpful articles, writing letters to friends, taking care of personal projects, working on my books. However, the good things are even more dangerous, in the way of justifying an extravagant amount of time spent on them. If you watch a video of a cat playing the piano, you'll feel guilty for wasting your time after five minutes. But knitting how-to videos are okay, right?

Unfortunately, I became feeling entitled to that office time, alone behind closed doors. It was my time; I needed it. So when naps were broken, or squabbles interrupted movie time, I became unreasonably frustrated. I don't have an exact estimate of how many hours were spent on lawful pursuits, and how many on mindless web browsing, but there is no doubt a large chunk of my time could have been better employed.

In this house, I have one computer in the living room for everybody's use, faulty internet connection and a little one that really isn't a very good sleeper. And I'm happier than ever; this change has been the best thing that could have happened to me. It taught me to prioritize; on a good day, I might have half an hour or so after lunch for answering emails, browsing ads, etc, and if I'm not too tired there's an hour or so at night when I can write, read, research information or watch a movie in peace and quiet.

The thing is, when I look back on times enjoyably spent with my children - whether reading together, or taking nature walks, doing crafts, playing games, even just watching a movie together - I can't think of one hour I would rather have spent doing something else. Even if a baby is colicky or teething, it means a night of precious snuggling with someone who needs me, just then, more than anything. I might be very tired, but I have no regrets.

But when I remember my "me" time, my feelings are not so unequivocal. There are many pages I wish unread or unwritten, many videos unwatched, many games unplayed, many conversations unspoken. Not because these things were bad in themselves, but because they took away from the truly important things I should have been doing.

You will probably never regret spending time with your children. The same cannot be said of other things, be it personal projects, volunteering, hobbies or social commitments. I keep that in mind every day, and it makes all the difference.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Pesach cleaning, schedules and resentment

Purim is nearly here - which, at least in our household, means we're already busy cleaning for Pesach. Some people actually relish the chance to scrub out every little long forgotten nook and cranny, but I'll admit this isn't my favorite season. Our day to day life, while simple, is full - and when extra cleaning creeps into my schedule, it feels like a thief trying to rob me - of peace, tranquillity, adequate rest, time with my children and the very limited time I have for hobbies and personal projects. All gives way to cleaning the top of the kitchen cabinets, because maybe some long-lost crumb had found its way there somehow.

I realize all these spots - the tops of kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets, pantry shelves etc - do need to be cleaned some time, and without Pesach looming on the horizon I would have little incentive to do so. Still, I can't love the feverish business of these spring weeks - especially as the lovely weather is so inviting to be out.

My husband usually contrives something to make things easier for me. For example last year we needed to replace our stovetop,  which was done just a few days before Pesach so that I could simply throw the old one away without bothering to clean it. Another year, we had a new refrigerator delivered shortly before the holiday. But of course we don't replace our kitchen appliances every year.

I always find it ironic that window-cleaning, the traditional Israeli pre-Pesach sport, should take place at such a particularly unlucky season - full of sand storms and dusty rains. Rationally I would say there is no point in cleaning the windows on the outside till the summer. But of course everybody still does it, including me.

This year I have a detailed schedule which will, hopefully, get me through the next six weeks with my sanity intact. Every day I get up knowing what I need to do, and when I'm done I hang up my mop and dust rag. I don't try to outrace myself, knowing that no matter how hard I drive at those kitchen cabinets, there will still be plenty to do the next day.

Moving at a turtle's pace, slow and steady 

Monday, March 7, 2016

The Private Life of Chickens

Once in a while I come upon a documentary that is as deliciously comforting as a cup of hot cocoa when you're feeling a little under the weather. The Private Life of Chickens was just that for me: a dose of comfort and relaxation to take late in the evening, when the chores are done and I'm tired and craving something cozy and domestic like only a British documentary can be.

This documentary takes us to the beautiful English countryside (something I would dearly love to re-create in Israel), to the farm of a sweet lady named Jane, who rescues ex-battery hens, cares for them, and passes them into the hands of small backyard flock owners. She is really one of a kind - I wish I had a neighbor like her.

So, if you're a chicken lover and would like to learn some fascinating facts about your favorite bird, kick back, relax and enjoy an hour of fun and relaxation with The Private Life of Chickens.

As for me, I'm moving on to watch The Private Life of Cows.