Friday, May 24, 2013

Gardening for Toddlers

I was going to post about this yesterday, but my laptop decided not to play, and I spent the entire evening trying to persuade it to cooperate before giving up and going to bed. So this is (finally) my first attempt at posting from my phone!
We had a great day yesterday. We started with a talk on Judaism at a local primary school (two talks actually, to two separate classes). They were Year 6, 11 year olds, and they were engaged and well prepared. Daniel loved it - the class teachers were more than happy to play with him, and he got lots of attention from the kids. I did a mock Kiddush to show them and he got very excited when he saw the challah cover, only to find there was no challah under it. His outstretched hands and "oh, where's it gone?" noise had the kids in stitches :-D Even better for him was the applause at various times, which he joined in with gusto.
During the Q&A session at the end, one of the boys asked if they could keep Daniel, or at least look after him for a while! Another one told me I was "funny, but in a good way." Not entirely sure what bad-funny would be, but pleased nonetheless :-) I do try to put across a sense of humour in these visits; it makes it more interesting for everyone and I think they remember more if they've had fun than they would if I lectured them seriously *yawn*
After we got back from the school Daniel conked out, so we skipped the Farmers' Market for once. He'd had a really bad night and clearly needed the nap. At lunch with my mum she noticed a top tooth had cut through, which explained the sleep problems! She was hanging him upside down, to hysterical laughter, when she saw it, which was why I hadn't clocked it :-)

During lunch Daniel suddenly took an interest in my mum's soya yoghurt and proceeded to wield a spoon reasonably competently for the first time as he demolished the whole pot! He's been pretty reluctant to eat anything that requires a spoon because he doesn't like being helped with eating, so this was a big milestone. He was on a bit of a roll, as he's also suddenly become much more reliable drinking out of a mug. We only gave him a sippy cup briefly, and he couldn't get the hang of sucking it but chewed instead, which was frustrating for him and nerve-wracking for me (don't want him transferring that technique to his feeds!), so we took it away again and went back to normal cups. Up to now he's mostly expected us to hold it for him but the last day or so he's been having a go himself, with reasonable success. The only problem is when he gets overexcited and waves it around, but he'll learn!

All this spoon and drinking thing got me thinking that he might enjoy using his own watering can now, so we dropped in to the local garden centre on the way home and found a little gardening kit with a watering can, trowel, fork and book in a carry bag. Even better, it turned out to be half price - only £6.99!

It was pretty chilly by the time we got home, so jumpers and trousers were donned and we bravely ventured out into the garden. I had a reusable growbag to fill, some tomato seedlings to plant in it, and a couple of kits to use, so there was plenty of scope to try out the new tools. The perfectionist in me had to take lots of deep breaths and mutter about HE, unschooling and priorities as Daniel carefully shovelled out all the compost I was putting in, picked up seedlings by their stems so they parted company with their pots, tried to put them back in and knocked over the pots, gave up in disgust and 'posted' the seedlings over the edge of the patio, and diligently dug up the seeds I'd just planted. Let's just say it was a learning curve for both of us!

When we seemed to have exhausted the possibilities of compost for the day, I filled up his watering can and he had a wonderful time pottering around watering everything in sight!
Altogether we were outside for a couple of hours, and he still hadn't had enough. Later in the evening I found him sorting through the clean laundry using his (slightly muddy) trowel! I had to admire his initiative :-) This evening my father-in-law came for Shabbat dinner (he's visiting from abroad) and spent some time with Daniel in the garden. When handed his gardening set, Daniel's eyes lit up and he set off determinedly towards the plant pots to poke them with his fork. Not convinced those seeds are going to make it!

It's lovely to get him involved in gardening so early, though for my own sanity I may have to channel his enthusiasm into a few pots/areas reserved for him so my vegetables survive!

Monday, May 20, 2013

A busy week and Parshat Nasso

It's been a pretty busy week here, but we've thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Daniel is walking more every day and now prefers to walk holding onto someone’s hand rather than crawling (unless speed is particularly important, when crawling tends to win!). Last Thursday my mum taught him how to kiss instead of bite, so there have been lots of big fat smacking kisses ever since – very sweet! He’s also worked out how to shake his head, but I don’t think he’s realised yet that it means ‘no’,

On Saturday afternoon, on a whim, we hit the Devon County Show. It’s horrendously expensive, and next time we’ll go for the whole day and take our own food, but we still came away sun-baked and happy! I finally got some fruit bushes, which will go into the veg patch later today.

Yesterday dh took Daniel to Exmouth for a picnic on the beach with our NCT group, and nearly got frostbite on his feet as Daniel stood at the edge of the sea, laughing at the waves and investigating shells, oblivious to how cold the water was! Still, he was brought back soundly asleep, covered in sand and looking blissfully content! Will definitely have to take him more often.

I, meanwhile, was in Paignton doing a presentation on Jewish music for an interfaith youth group. I managed to cover quite a lot in the time, and the comments I got about my singing made it worthwhile :-)

Finally, on Friday evening I led the synagogue service, so here’s the latest sermon on Parshat Nasso:

When I first read this week’s portion, I was completely stumped. I had absolutely no idea what to do with it! I get a weekly sermon by email from Leo Baeck, so I looked to that for inspiration, only to find that Rabbi Josh Levy had clearly had the same problem and had to resort to the Talmud for something very worth saying, but not very connected to the portion!

So what does it say? Well, there’s a bit more census, and a description of who should carry which parts of the Tent of Meeting when the Israelites move camp. Then, and this is the bit which Progressive Jews using the Triennial cycle are reading this year, there is a long and very repetitive section detailing the offerings made by the heads of each tribe. Each gave

one silver bowl weighing 130 shekels,

 one silver sprinkling basin weighing 70 shekels,

both filled with fine flour mixed with olive oil.

One spoon weighing 10 shekels  of gold filled with incense.

One young bull, one ram and one lamb.

One young he goat.

Two oxen, five rams, five he goats and five lambs.

That’s quite a long list. But instead of simply saying “each gave...”, the list is repeated for every one of the named heads of the tribes – all twelve of them.  It’s a bar mitzvah student’s dream, just having to repeat the same section 12 times! But joking aside, why be so long-winded? Not just the description, but also the presentation of the offerings was fairly drawn out, as each tribal head made his offering on a different day.

I think this is really important. They each gave the same, and it would be so easy to see each gift as just a small part of the final total. But for each tribe, this was a substantial offering. Each of them made the effort to acquire a considerable amount of goods, and by presenting them separately, and then naming and listing them separately, we value each individual contribution. It is so easy to focus only on the end result and forget the people who made it happen. When we remember and appreciate each individual, we will value the end result so much more. 

A paint job is not just a paint job when someone has gathered sponsorship and abseiled down a building to pay for it. A service is not just a service when a group of people have given their time and effort to plan, make challah, advertise and simply show up to make up a congregation.

When we remember those details we enrich our own experience and show true (and much-needed) appreciation to those who do all those seemingly mundane tasks, without which the wonderful end results could not happen.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Sunshine, Sewing, Birthdays and Veg

Having got back onto the blogging wagon, I seem to have fallen straight back off the other side! Must get my head around doing shorter posts, and possibly also doing them from my phone so I don’t have to tackle my decrepit, ancient laptop. 

So what’s been going on in our part of the world? Daniel turned 1 a couple of weeks ago, and we had a party for him. He absolutely loves having lots of people around, so he thoroughly enjoyed himself, and there was plenty of food on a low table that the kids could all help themselves to (I refused to serve anything at his party that he couldn’t eat – wouldn’t have seemed fair). I went into full supermum mode and not only made his birthday cake (dairy free banana cake under all the icing!)… 

 … but also spent a couple of weeks beforehand making bunting to decorate the house with… 

Great project for getting to know your sewing machine! Altogether, a good time was had by all, and my uncle was delighted to come to his first party with balloons outside *grin* 

Other than that, we’ve been pretty busy. Daniel found his dad’s electric guitar in the spare room so that has been dusted off and brought downstairs and he now has free range on it. I had my very first guitar lesson, which proved very useful in troubleshooting with one of my violin pupils who is also learning guitar – he’s doing a bit of mixing of technique; I’d never have picked up on that otherwise. I also got out my old cimbala for him [Daniel] and he often has a bit of a play with it. 

The warmer weather over the last few weeks has been wonderful. Daniel is such an outdoor child and he’s loving being able to wander in and out of the house. He got a swingset for his birthday, and I’ve been spending lots of time in the garden planting vegetables, so we’re both getting beautifully brown. Speaking of vegetables, remember this? 

This was my veg patch in January. Following a final push over the Bank Holiday weekend, it now looks like this (not a single drop of weedkiller involved – it was sheer muscle and determination!): 

Peas and carrots are in, butternut squash seedlings (kindly donated by a friend) are nearly ready to go outside, tomato seedlings ditto, two sweet pepper plants are sitting happily in a reusable grow-bag, and cut-and-come-again salad has just started sprouting in its tub. I’m hoping to get some leeks, redcurrants, blackcurrants and gooseberries this weekend. Oh, and some thyme, rosemary, sage and wild garlic have been strategically placed in the now-cleared flower beds. 

I have completely fallen in love with working in the garden. This is the first time I’ve had a proper one all to myself, and it’s just so satisfying doing that hard physical graft and seeing a real result at the end of it. I have a tan already, I feel healthier from being out in the fresh air, and it’s great for Daniel to get involved or just potter around while I get on with things. Mostly he’s eating mud, slurping up water from the patio and chewing labels, but that’s the beginning of exploring the garden – by next year he’ll be helping with the gardening itself. It’s also giving a lovely shape to our day, as we go out immediately after breakfast on warm days to water the plants, which often leads to a bit of weeding, hanging out laundry, playing with the watering can, going for a walk or having a picnic lunch in the garden. Even on wet days we’re more inclined to get out of the house; it’s just more in our consciousness, I suppose, as we get used to having regular fresh air. 

In terms of crafty stuff, I’ve sewed a long-sleeved bib that is actually usable (unlike the last two attempts) and a pair of trousers for Daniel which look completely presentable. They were both upcycled – the bib from a remnant of cotton from a charity shop, an old pair of linen trousers (mine) and an old pair of waterproof trousers (mine), and the trousers from a man’s shirt from a charity shop. I love the whole idea of upcycling, so expect to see more of it on here! Having done the bib, bunting and trousers rather successfully, I have well and truly caught the sewing bug – helped along, of course, by the Great British Sewing Bee, which led me to the brilliantly inspiring blog Tilly and the Buttons. My breastfeeding occupation of choice has now changed from recorded episodes of Time Team to the archives of Tilly’s blog and a variety of sewing websites! Next on my list is a summer skirt for me, as I’ve lost so much weight since I had Daniel that none of my summer clothes (or, indeed, my winter ones) fit me any more. I’m using Tilly’s Picnic Blanket Skirt tutorial and some nice light cotton; the pieces have been cut out, so I get onto the exciting bit soon. 

In knitting, I made a stripy jumper for Daniel but didn’t pay attention while making it so it wasn’t until it was finished that I realised it is miles too big for him. After trying it on his (older) friend, said friend’s mum and I concluded it’s around the right size for a 2 year old! Still, will be useful next winter. Having done that, I’m being strict with myself and doing a big push to finish the huge grey cardigan I’m making for a friend. I’ve set myself a deadline and even my skirt is taking a back seat until this is done. I’m about three quarters of the way through the first sleeve, so not actually that much more to do. After that, I think I’ll turn my attention to knocking up some things to sell at craft fairs etc around Christmas time. 

And that, I think, is more or less it! Oh… breaking news… he’s just started walking! Apparently he did it last night while I was out at a meeting, but I’ve just seen the evidence with my own eyes. Time to move everything up another few feet out of his reach!