When little ones are sick: a re-post

I thought it would be nice to re-post this little throwback to four years ago.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

This week we’ve been struggling with a bout of flu that got all of the children in turn. As much as it pains me to see a little one sick, I consider this also an opportunity to slow down – which is especially important if I’m not at my best either – rest, unwind and do some quiet, enjoyable things there often isn’t enough time for:

Reading – listening to an interesting new story, or re-visiting an old friend of a book, is a soothing and relaxing activity that is perfectly suited for a day spent mostly in bed or on the couch. Older children can read quietly to themselves.

Crafts – drawing, stitching, beading and working with play-dough all stimulate the mind and creative senses without requiring too much physical exertion. Dress-up or building forts and hideouts with chairs and blankets are also fun.

Board games – pull out old favorites like Monopoly or Scrabble, or try something new. Forbidden Island is currently all the rage here.

Outdoor time – if the weather is nice, I see no reason to necessarily stay indoors. On the contrary, warm sunshine provides a cheering effect and may even help with nasal congestion. I do discourage sick children from “playing hard” – running, riding bikes, climbing trees, etc.

Outdoors we may also pick herbs to make medicinal tea and talk about their various healing properties, as well as of the importance of staying hydrated in general.

Movies – I like to restrict screen time, and especially so for sick children, because I find that prolonged staring into a screen is fatiguing, but a short cartoon or an educational video can be nice.

On days when the children don’t feel well, I usually dispense with school, but the girls may still choose to do some fun educational activities such as writing in their story notebooks.

The most important thing is to remember that this, too, shall pass. Slow down, allow everybody the time to rest and heal, and try not to mind the mess too much. There is always tomorrow for catching up with housework, gardening and lessons.

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The little yarn shop

Photo by Surene Palvie on Pexels.com

It was a tiny store tucked into the crook of a little side street, with no showy banner or attractive display windows. But if you knew where to go, you’d see bins upon bins of discounted yarn overflowing to the sidewalk, and ladies rummaging in them enthusiastically. On the shelves inside, you would find every yarn you could ever want, from affordable acrylic to luxury cashmere blends.

I had not been there since the coronavirus breakout and ensuing restrictions in March, and I’m not even sure the store is still there. It was not an essential business, so it wouldn’t get permission to operate during lockdowns. It was tiny, with barely any room between the display shelves and the counter, so it wouldn’t allow for social distancing. It was not big or modern enough to have financial reserves or switch to online orders.

I’ve completed many crochet projects since the start of the COVID-19 era, with yarn arriving in convenient, hazard-free packages from eBay or Ice Yarns. But I miss the little warm hub where the proprietor would always be ready to chat about anything related to knitting, crochet, and macrame; where other visitors would sometimes chime in with spontaneous opinions about whatever you were buying; where I would see displays of beautiful fiber art from local artisans.

I have most of the things I need within walking distance, and haven’t been to town in months. And I fear that next time I peek into that little side street, I will see the yarn shop locked up or replaced by another business – perhaps a place selling cheap plastic homeware or cell phones or toiletries – something that would get more of a leeway than a yarn shop to remain open.

I realize that the COVID restrictions are necessary to keep the infection levels down, but I feel that social distancing regulations are killing us as a society. They are knocking down the weak and vulnerable, the poor and the lonely. They prioritize large, soulless convenience stores over small businesses run by real people. They isolate us and deprive us of everything that is so essentially human, like hanging out with friends and spontaneous hugs. That’s a tragedy, and I don’t know how to avert it or whether we can ever turn the wheels back.

Living through another lockdown

I’m failing to keep up with what’s going on in the rest of the world, but Israel is going through another lockdown, and I feel like I’m nearing the end of my rope. I’m not alone, either.

Things are mostly closed, except for food and pharma. Places are shut up and businesses are going bust. COVID statistics are frightening. Hospitals are nearing maximum capacity and we’re all going to suffer from further overload.

There’s something profoundly unsettling about having to keep away from people – to meet a friend and then be restricted to talking awkwardly from a distance through a mask, without being able to give a hug.

No library. No swimming pool. But thankfully, the heat is letting up enough for us to plan some hiking and spending time in the open air during this week of Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles).

I have some friends who have taken this whole crappy period as an incentive to do lots of house remakes and upgrades. Me? I feel like I have weights on my arms and legs. I just slug through work, food prep, basic cleaning, and some reading and crochet to keep sane.

I keep counting my blessings. We’re all in good health. I

live in a large house with a yard, trees, chickens, etc. We have a large supply of books and craft supplies. There are plenty of educational and entertaining stuff on the Web. I work from home and have a flexible schedule.

How many people have it way, WAY harder?!

Still, I find it hard to shake off this heavy, heavy oppressive feeling. And I’m sending this post out there as a big virtual hug for all the people who feel the same.

Stay safe, guys. And stay sane. Hug your kids. Do that puzzle. Bake those cookies. Put on some music. Do whatever makes you feel good that isn’t totally unreasonable. Be kind to yourself. You’ve got this.

Delicious homemade granola

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Cooked oatmeal is a great, healthy morning food, but sometimes you’re looking for something quicker, or just aren’t in the mood for hot breakfast. In this case, homemade granola might just be the thing for you. 

Most commercial granola brands are ridiculously expensive and loaded with sugar, but it’s easy to make your own, and once you try it, you’ll never look back.

Basically, you will mainly need 2-3 cups whole oats, and you can add various goodies such as:

– Sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds

– Raisins, dried cranberries, dried apricot chunks

– Coconut or almond slivers

Mix everything and add cinnamon, a couple of teaspoonfuls of coconut oil, and your favorite natural sweetener such as honey, date sugar, or maple syrup.

Spread over a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes at medium heat, or just until it gets a beautiful golden hue.

Take out of the oven and set out to cool and dry. Keep in a sealed jar.

Enjoy for breakfast or as an any-time-of-the-day treat!

My 5 favorite herbs and how I use them

Herbs are some of the easiest things to grow, hands down. Proof is, even I am capable of keeping them alive and thriving. Many of them will spread like weeds if you let them, popping up every spring without any effort on your part. Herbs are usually pretty tolerant when it comes to soil type and sun and shade balance.

Here are my top five favorite herbs, which I use for tea, seasoning, remedies, or all of the above.

1. Mint

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With its refreshing, invigorating smell, mint makes delicious tea that is great either hot or cold. Mint is great for colds and digestive complaints.

2. SageDSC_0711

We had a glorious sage bush at our old home, but here, my poor little sage plant took some assaults from the chickens, who insisted on digging around it and trampling it for some reason (they don’t eat it, though – it’s a bonus point for chicken keepers. Sharp-smelling herbs are about the only thing chickens find unappetizing).

Anyway, my sage plant seems to be in recovery now, and is flowering. Which makes me really happy, because sage tea is a powerful decongestant and great for sore throats.

3. Rosemary

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My rosemary is still young, but its mother plant is a big arborescent bush.

Rosemary has some potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities, and I just love it in cooking. It’s divine with oven-baked fish and roast potatoes.

4. Oregano (thanks to the readers who pointed out the correct name of this herb! It’s sometimes easy to get confused when the guy at the plant nursery assures you he’s selling you something which it is, in fact, not 😁)

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This is another herb I appreciate primarily for its culinary uses. It’s great either chopped fresh or dried and crushed – thoroughly air-dried herbs will keep almost indefinitely, retaining most of their properties.

I love it in bread, chicken roast, soup, and much more.

5. Lemongrass

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I adore the way this plant looks – like a giant spiky tuft of grass. It makes delicious tea, which I love to drink while breastfeeding as, unlike mint and sage, it doesn’t negatively affect milk supply.

If you’re planning a garden, herbs are one of the best places to start. I would say that at the very least, climate permitting, you should have the trio of mint, sage, and rosemary. They are perennial, hardy, easy to grow, smell delicious, and repel insects – what’s not to love?

Just keep crafting

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Latest creation, just completed yesterday: a pineapple crochet top made with the help of a diagram found on Pinterest. I made it with the last batch of yarn I got in town before the pandemic hit hard (I do have more yarn in my stash, don’t worry). I haven’t saved the label but any thread yarn will work for these kinds of high-definition patterns.

Around here, the government is trying to get back to business as usual too quickly, IMHO. I think there has been a lot of pressure originated in the false sense of security due to the relatively low number of deaths in Israel (200 total, or thereabouts). Preschools and first to third grades are going to reopen part-time starting Sunday and I can’t think of a more reckless and pointless move with which to restart the economy.

Fact: young kids can’t really be trusted in matters of hygiene and social distancing.

Another fact: Because of lack of teachers (due to smaller classes and older and at-risk teachers still staying home), children won’t be in school enough hours per week to allow working parents to return to their jobs.

Conclusion: this arrangement is just enough to promote the spread of the virus but not to be of any practical help for the economy.

There is a lot of talk about how children “need” to be in a school setting, how it’s a matter of “mental health” to get them back into classrooms even part-time. This is simply the result of a rigid mindset that knows no different and doesn’t wish to think outside the box. Countless families around the globe homeschool. Their children do just fine academically and socially. I think our Ministry of Education should have considered that fact before pushing for such huge risks.

Yes, our children will be staying home anyway, but this means that we, too, are going to be at a higher risk of infection as everyone will be cross-contaminated through schools.

School at home is pointless

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Starting from today, the Israeli ministry of education has come up with a model of long-distance lessons that will start in the morning and last into the afternoon, with obligatory participation for each student from kindergarten and up. There is also supposed to be homework, after-school activities, and parent meetings via Zoom.

Predictably, many parents revolted against such a rigid plan, pointing out that 1. In most families except the more privileged ones, the ratio of children per computer/tablet isn’t 1:1 but more like 1:3; 2. The parents themselves often need the computer for work; 3. The heavy one-on-one tutoring the program assumes will take place is impossible with several children of different ages involved; and 4. Perhaps the most obvious one – it’s not realistic or even desirable to get children to sit in front of screens for 5-6 hours a day and actually retain anything they learn.

To me, the major flaw in this plan is pretty obvious: the ministry of education is essentially attempting to recreate school at home, with a set schedule, plenty of busywork, and a strict division between classes. There’s no doubt at all this is going to fail, and fast.

For someone who had homeschooled for a long time (our older girls are currently enrolled in a small private school that does not, thank goodness, insist on turning our living room into a fully equipped classroom), it was easy enough to fall back on our old homeschooling/unschooling tactics. I can tell you that we never have, and probably never will, start or end lessons at the same time of the day. I am sure countless parents all over the country are now making the same discovery as well.

Furthermore, as my two eldest are close in age, the only subject I have ever taught separately was math, and that with considerable overlaps. Everything else – reading comprehension, writing, science, English, etc, was taught together, but with slightly different expectations. In millions of homes, siblings with 1-2 years of difference are required to stay separate for lessons they could both learn with equal profit.

Third, and this is the key point here, our ministry of education and all the experts that advise it are focused on filling the children’s time – free time is seen as the enemy. It is not – it is an opportunity.

I can assure you that throughout elementary school at least, all the essentials can be safely covered in two hours daily, possibly split between morning and afternoon, and the rest of the time can be divided between free creative play and studying subjects that the children themselves are interested in (self-induced learning that requires very little effort on the parent’s part).

Take screens away (with the exception of some educational YouTube channels) and give children books, craft materials, dress-up play, and a patch of dirt to dig in, and you can accomplish great things.

Yes, I hear you. “Easy for you to say. You live in a house with a large yard and chickens. But most of Israel is urbanized. People are languishing, quarantined in tiny apartments.”

I get it. I do. But sticking children for 5-6 hours a day in front of Zoom still won’t work.

What the ministry of education should try, in my opinion, is a lot more hands-off approach. Give children flexible assignments they can complete at their leisure, and condense what can be condensed into programs siblings of various ages can do together. Then provide suggestions for elective classes/activities for children to do if they so choose – and put more trust in their creativity, flexibility and resilience.

This is an opportunity for all to try a whole new approach, one that may well serve us even after the pandemic is over. It would be a pity to miss it.

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