Chaya’s First Time At Synagogue

It feels like absolutely ages since I’ve been to Synagogue, and I guess it has been a while. Since Chaya was born really, which is which is 7 ½ months now. Before that I went for the high holidays and Sukkot, but wasn’t so regular in the last few months of pregnancy (for obvious, tired reasons!!)

At first it was just regular baby stuff keeping me, and then it was COVID. But with the restrictions easing, and the kids also allowed back at shule this week (for Shavuot and the Shabbat before it was just the minyan), I thought I would also go with CC.

Because it’s been so long since I’d been I was reminded of my very first time at this synagogue, just shy of 3 years ago. There is something so… holy and electric there. I feel the buzz. Our synagogue isn’t big or fancy or anything like that. But it’s beautiful, and welcoming, and it’s home. That’s really how I felt the first time we went there, like I was coming home. The “Amen”s just rolled off my tongue without much thought and with no prior knowledge on what or when to say things, as did the sitting and standing. And this was part of how I knew we were meant to convert.

I think there is something wonderful and holy about the sound of a baby babbling in a synagogue. Chaya crawled around much more than at home (carpets!), and fell asleep in the ergo towards the end so I was at least able to do the musaf Amidah. I loved to see her looking around, and taking in all the Hebrew, and the prayers, and the Torah. It gave me so much nachas to be with her, and to be there again.

As we walked home after shule this afternoon I said to Saadya how much I love going. And even though some Saturdays I would probably have to drag myself out of bed to get ready to go, it is always worth it.

Dear Chaya // Six Months

Dear Chaya,

You are six months old, and so lovely! You’ve been moving around lots this month. What started is scooting along on your back has morphed into dragging yourself on your tummy over to new places, and new things. You can see toys ahead of you and you move to get them.

You love to play “Peek a boo” – where you take a scarf or a blanket and you pull it over your head (all by yourself) and then quickly pull it off again and give a huge smile! You like it when I add my commentary of “Where’s CC?!” and then “There she is!”

You’ve been experimenting lots with food this month, and gone from tasting little bits here and there to chowing down on at least 1 full packet of food every day! You also love to chew on random pieces of food like cucumber and tomato slices, and sample some of our dinner or lunch. We have arguments most days about WHO gets to feed you. Lior, Eli and Ahava all want to take turns (though after a little while it falls back to Dad or I!). You also go totally crazy if you haven’t had solids yet that day and then I eat something while holding you!

This month the big kids have all been home because of COVID-`19. I think you’ve quite enjoyed having them all so close all the time, and they’ve all gotten really good at carrying you around and entertaining you!

We had Pesach (Passover) this month which was really lovely. I had hoped this would be your first time going to synagogue (we can carry things on a Yom Tov, so I would be able to carry you there, which we can’t usually do on Shabbat), but because of COVID… well, you know the drill by now!

Even without attending synagogue our Pesach was still beautiful, and we enjoyed teaching you the ropes!

You sat up this month! The 16th of April 2020 was the first day you sat up for any length of time. In the week after that you’ve gone full steam ahead and I can just sit you down places and let you play! You also have really strong legs that really love to stand up all the time!

We had a yummy gluten free and vegan lemon & poppyseed cake for your half birthday! You like to reach for people, and give beautiful cuddles.

Just before Pesach, when you started sitting up and standing, and moving around a whole heap more your jaws got really tight and couldn’t breastfeed with the supply line at all! It was super stressful, but I trusted my gut and gave you the bottle instead, thinking your tightness was from working these muscles hard learning new skills. By the time we went back to the chiro it was all back to normal and she agreed with my assumptions about why it had happened.

CC, I love you so much. You are such an easy going, and joyful companion to my days. Even the hard days are easier with you. I love you.

Love, Imma

Turning over the kitchen – Pesach 2020

What a sh*t show. Not sure why this year it has been such an intense process. I can’t even remember what last year was like – maybe we skipped some things accidentally?! Used more disposable things maybe… I don’t know, but this year has just been manic.

The purpose of this blog post is to work out exactly what has gone wrong, so that I can make a plan of what I would do differently next year. Already I have started on a spreadsheet to make note of what we use over Pesach and what we need to buy fresh every year. It’s doing my head in going to the store every day, sometimes twice a day, to get another thing I’ve forgotten, and thinking that’s it, no more, only to discover something else I have forgotten!

2020 Timeline:

3 weeks until Pesach (1 week after Purim): Start Pesach cleaning bedrooms, bathroom, and any area I think will need extra time. P.S Kids are now home from school as we start “social distancing” due to coronavirus. Buy a heap of things we need for Pesach like nice dinner service, etc. Do a “chametz audit” – and put pantry into boxes – eat now, can be stored over Pesach, and legit kosher for Pesach. Buy Pesach food. Clean and kasher open pantry area – remove anything not kosher for Pesach and put into the boxes.

2 weeks until Pesach: Continue with cleaning I procrastinated last week. Put kids to work seeing as they’re home they should contribute to Pesach cleaning… Also, buy any additional things I need for Pesach that I forgot last week (spatulas, mixing bowl, grater etc.). Buy more Pesach food. Mess up boxes of food on the ground. Sort them again. Clean lounge, and other communal areas for Pesach, except for dining room and kitchen.

1 week until Pesach: Tovel everything. Buy more things I realise I forgot. Fail miserably at corona-schooling children, entertaining kindy girl, and feeding and pumping milk for baby. Put off Pesach cleaning and make some phonebooks and family home movies. More Pesach cleaning. Clean out pantry and make kosher for Pesach.

6 days until Pesach – Get carried away moving furniture whilst Pesach cleaning dining room and end up re-arrange entire dining room and kitchen. Only just make Shabbat in time.

4 and 5 days till Pesach – was meant to finish all the Chametz the day before, but holding on for one more day, one more day, one more day… Actually finish all the chametz on Sunday. Totally procrastinate doing anything productive on Sunday…

3 days till Pesach – Monday. Do complete turn over of kitchen. But in small chunks making it as confusing and time consuming as possible. Tovel more things, this time at the beach because the Mikvah is now closed thanks to coronavirus. Have various boxes and washing baskets all over the house with random assortments of things that need to be either stored until after Pesach, kashered for Pesach, or put away for Pesach because they’ve just been toveled.

2 days till Pesach – Tuesday. Finally start Pesach cooking. Take bins out. All Chametz therefore REALLY needs to be gone. In the evening do the search for Chametz.

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One of the ways in which I think this has been so stressful is that our kitchen is tiny and finding somewhere to put all the year round items is really hard. This year I tried to pack everything into just a few cupboards as best I could, but I still had plenty to that needed to be stored in boxes. I’m not sure if there’s any way around this – even if I had a bigger kitchen, it would probably still be full. Maybe I just need to be realistic about needing to pack things into boxes.

Next year I think it would be ideal to pack everyone a lunchbox for lunch and also dinner, and send them off with Luke for the day to play outside (please G-D can we be allowed to play outside in a year’s time…), and do a full turn over with no small people around to distract me or need feeding. Doing it in small batches, and trying to feed/nuture/mind other people is super stressful.

Next year – Yes to Luke being on holidays the week before Pesach, no to letting him go into the office to write and play VR every day. I was very out of touch with reality to let this happen.

Next year I really, really, REALLY need to have everything bought and toveled or kashered well in advance of Pesach. Like two weeks out at least. I am writing up a spreadsheet to help me with this. I will write down supplies I feel I am missing over Pesach.

Next year, try not to have chametz that need to be sold. It is a total pain in the bum. Some things we can’t help this year – like CC’s formula, and the alcohol Luke got for his birthday a few weeks ago. But moving forward, try not to have extra things like SR flour, and various sauces.

Next year – work out a creative storage solution for the KLP cooking equipment rather than putting it on the bench.

Dear Chaya // Five Months

Dear Chaya,

It seems like a miracle to me that you are five months old. You are really changing and growing up so much, and it’s the most lovely thing.

We started off the month with a bit of difficulty – I’d managed to boost my supply, so you were getting more breastmilk but you were then showing signs of food intolerance – lots of gas and being uncomfortable. More than is normal for a baby. So I got a bit stricter again, and limited other potential allergens. We also stopped using the donated breastmilk which is just dairy and soy free. We will trial it again next month over Pesach (your formula isn’t kosher for Pesach!).

The biggest thing that happened this month was that you got your tongue tie cut! Before now your mouth was so small and your muscles so tight no-one could see a tongue tie. Now that the chiro has done her job we can see it easily. So we got it cut. It wasn’t anywhere near as traumatic or worrisome as people made it out to be! You were a real champ! Just a few days later I could already feel you suck better!

Unfortunately on the Sunday after the cut on Friday (Abba’s birthday!) you got a cold that lasted for 10 days, and we went backwards a bit in that time. You got really tight and didn’t like me doing the exercises in your mouth all the time. I went to the doctor a few times, because you had a fever on and off, a bad cough that was obviously hurting you, and you were a bit wheezy with lots of phlegm. Things are mental at the moment because of the Coronavirus, and I admit I was a bit worried. She said over and over it was just a cold. But man, it stuck around GOOD. So frustrating. Everyone from the LC, to the chiro admitted that the timing was incredibly unlucky for us.

We’ve been through SO SO much in the four months leading up to this, and just when when we should be on the up and up, this happens. But Chaya, I will NOT let the common cold defeat me!! I WILL breastfeed you properly, even if at this stage it will probably be nearly 1 before that happens!

Anyway, you got over it eventually, but were really anti having people poking around in your mouth, and that made it hard to do your exercises. More set backs! But again, we persevered, and now we seem to be on the right track again.

Four, nearly five month old you is really interested in food, even though you can’t sit up yet. You often grab my hands and bring them to your mouth when I’m holding food! It’s adorable, and I don’t recall any of the other kids wanting food as much as you! Perhaps it’s just part of being the youngest and seeing so many people around you eat all the time! So far you’ve had a bit of chicken bone broth (homemade), and some pieces of cooked sweet potato, BLW style.

You smile a LOT. I was reminded of it particularly when you were sick and you just didn’t smile much at all. Actually, you were whiny and cried a lot and I found myself teary some days that I missed you and your happy smile! It isn’t just any smile, it’s a BIG smile!

Lior has enjoyed carrying you around in the ergo this month! And all your siblings have enjoyed cuddling you, carrying you, and looking after you. I think you really love them too, because you give them big smiles and turn your head when you hear them! Speaking of turning your head, you’ve been super distracted when breastfeeding lately! Any sound and you turn around to have a peek!

I love you my little CC. You’re a total delight, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that I fall in love with you regularly. I am so beyond glad that you are part of our family!

What Am I Doing Here?

The other night I sat in my car at the traffic lights. It was drizzly with rain – my favourite weather – and I appreciated the way the lights looked through my rainy windshield. I was nearly at my daughter’s kindy, ready for a committee meeting, and I looked out into the distance. I recognised the landscape – the local forest, and another main road in the distance, and then BAM, I was overcome with a feeling of not belonging.

This feeling took me by surprise, and I didn’t like it much.

I was on my way to my daughter’s kindy – a place she and I both love. We love where it is, we love the teachers, we love their philosophy of learning, and it’s nice and close to our house. A house that I (mostly) enjoy living in (though a few extra bedrooms wouldn’t go astray…), in a suburb I like. My boys go to a local school that they love, and that we also think is great.

We’ve lived here for 2 ½ years now, and for the most part this feels like “home”. I like it here. I like my city. I am happy to plan my life to be here for the foreseeable future, and I don’t have much or possibly any desire to go back to where we used to live. I miss the my friends there, and family, and the beach, but I’m not sure we can go back.

So I feel quite at home and happy here. So this feeling of not belonging really caught me by surprise. Where did it come from, and what does it mean? Where DO I belong?

I worry a bit that where I belong is over the seas, and I can’t bear the thought of being apart from my parents.

Grateful

My Chaya, my life. I feel grateful that Hashem believed I was capable enough to be trusted with her. All of her. I’m grateful that every day she makes improvements in the way she feeds. I’m grateful that she was born in 2019 – in a time when people understand so much about babies.

I’m grateful that we’ve made it this far. Through failure to thrive, scary times, blood tests, bottle feeding, allergies, formula, supplementing, breast refusal, tube feeding, burning out way too many breast pumps, low muscle tone, mouth problems, overbites, pallet problems, and tongue ties.

I’m grateful it’s Hashem who’s carried me through it while I’ve carried my baby girl through it. I’m grateful for where we are now. Even if we’re still miles off “normal”, we’re still a lot closer then we have been in her life. I’m grateful for her and for the love and joy she brings to our family. I’m grateful for my own mama. For the best husband in the world.

I’m grateful for the challenge and the chance to see myself go further than I thought possible. I’ve definitely given up multiple times, only to pick up and keep going.

I’d never ask to do this again. I don’t think I’d like to repeat the last 4 months, nor would I wish or expect anyone else to ever do it. But I know many people would. I’ve reached the bottom. I’ve cracked open on the floor. I’ve questioned… everything.

But mothers do what mothers do. Im not a hero, just a mama.

Funny Milestones

My youngest daughter had her tongue tie snipped on Friday. It was a cause of anxiety leading up to it (mostly because of other people’s question to be honest), and a whole lot of nothing on the day. Being a mum is funny like that.

I wish I’d documented all of Chaya’s feeding and health journey properly (I have a lot of notes, but not many written out thoughts like this). Having a tongue tie is just the last (please G-D) thing in a long line of things that have tried to stop her from breastfeeding properly and growing as she should.

It has in many ways been like being in a newborn bubble for the last 18 weeks instead of the first 4. My life is almost completely concentrated on feeding Chaya.

Breast

Bottle

Pumping

Breastmilk

Formula

SNS tube feeding.

And we haven’t stopped any of those things. I do all these things many times a day. Most days by the time I finish feeding her it’s time to pump, then after we quickly duck out to pick up other kids, cook some food for me or the other family members we start again. Wash, rinse, repeat (don’t even get me started on washing bottles – ugh).

On Thursday night we had soup with a chicken bone broth base, and Luke remembered that I’d said I wanted bone broth to be her first food. So he asked if she could have some whilst sitting up in her bumbo. He fed her had a few teaspoons. Here I was amazed that at 4 months old she was “starting” the weaning process by introducing solids when she hasn’t even got the hang of breastfeeding yet!

I say “starting weaning” fairly loosely, because I don’t expect to actually start her on solids for another month or two, but it was somehow symbolic. And we all know food before one is just for fun.

But still, what a funny milestone. What a mixed up world my little CC lives in!

True Self

At my last chiro session we did a series of positions and meditations on our true self, and opening our heart to our true selves.

This is a concept that isn’t foreign to Judaism. In Judaism we call it Teshuva, and while there’s a time of year (Elul) when it’s most potent and critical, it’s good to do teshuva all year round!

Since that session last week I’ve been letting the idea pop into my mind. When it does I take some big, heart opening breathes, and ask Hashem to do the work in me, and show me the work that I need to do, to be my true self.

My true self is closest to Hashem. It’s a peaceful me.

Dear Chaya // 4 Months

Dear Chaya,

Here we are, four months old. I love you so much. SO SO SO much. Your smile is absolutely amazing, and it makes my heart flutter.

This month your brothers and sister went back to school and kindy so three days a week it’s just us for a few hours. It’s nice to spend this time with you, even if it does go super quickly!

You started Chiro this month, and it has dramatically improved your situation. The Chiro has been working on your low muscle tone, overbite, and overall mouth shape, as well as a lot of the tension and knots around your jaw. You were only able to open your mouth 60% of the way, but now that you’ve been doing Chiro twice a week for 3 weeks you’re doing so much better. We are graduated from continually releasing knots, to strengthening the muscles that weren’t able to move properly before, hooray! We went back to see the lactation consultant and she is over the moon with how you’ve progressed!

The Lactation consultant did mention that now she can see your tongue tie clearly (before it wasn’t visible due to all the knotting and muscle tension in your abnormally small mouth), and next month we will have to get it revised…

We saw an improvement in your ability to drink from the SNS, but then as your tongue tie protruded things went a bit backwards. You’re mostly getting milk from the bottle, but I manage to give you about ⅓ of your intake as breastmilk. It’s pretty good all things considered. Please G-D, when your tongue tie is revised, and we go through the re-hab for that we won’t have anything stopping us from succeeding in normal breastfeeding! This makes me think that I really need to make sure I am in the best health I can be (sleep, food etc…) for your recovery so I have the determination I need to help you through this and really make it worthwhile.

You love to chomp, chomp, chomp down on anything you can get your hands on. Fingers, chew toys, dummies… anything you can chew on, you do! It’s a great therapy for you to do, so we encourage it! You should see (I have photos, lol) the fat and muscle in your cheeks now that you’ve been working on your muscle tone so much!

On the 9th of February you did your first laugh! You were 3 ½ months old. You haven’t done many since, but it was definitely there – that whole weekend in fact you laughed many times. Maybe things aren’t so funny this last week!? Or maybe you’ve just moved onto your new skill – rolling over! You did this on the 21st of Feb – just a few days shy of 4 months old. We can’t stop you now – it’s definitely your favourite thing to do.

You still sleep wonderfully at night. You get a good solid 8 hours. You don’t even stir. I wish I could say that same for myself, but the medication I am on to increase my milk supplies keeps me up till all hours of the early morning! Your day sleeping has regressed a little, unless you’re in the ergo, then you sleep wonderfully, for hours and hours. It’s still so incredibly hot and humid though that it’s not always practical. I have to admit, we use the air conditioner daily – I just can’t cope with the heat under normal circumstances let alone with a baby on my chest! So we use it, and we both enjoy the snuggles!

Chaya, you are still the most happy and joyful baby ever. You love to give strangers smiles, and everyone is so grateful. Ahava loves to show you off at Kindy, and the boys love to carry you around the school when we pick them up. Actually, all three big kids have really taken to you in an extra special way this month. I suppose it’s because you’re starting to interact with them more – pulling at their hair and faces! You did make Eli cry the other day though when you scratched at his face! I told him you didn’t mean to hurt him, but he said you did it over and over and over again, and so he thinks you did! Oh dear.

I want to make a special note of how happy you wake up in the mornings, and what a blessing this is. I was scared about bottle feeding a baby, because I didn’t want to wake up to an inconsolable crying baby who wanted to be fed IMMEDIATELY, but you aren’t like that! You are just so happy when you wake up, and you are happy to wait for half an hour or more for your bottle or SNS feed. Thank you!

If I could sum up your fourth month, I would say that we made a LOT of improvements. We hit a lot of milestones, including reaching the 15th percentile for weight, and we made a lot of progress health and feeding wise. You and I are a great team. I told you over and over during the pregnancy, and even during the birth, and here we are still being a great team and working together to get stuff done.

I love you my CC. I am so grateful for you, and for your place in this family. I am so grateful for the love and joy you bring to each of us. Though she be little, she be fierce (in a good way!).

Love you to the moon and back Chaya, my life.

Love Mama.