Our Family's Personal Experience with HFMD (Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease): What Happened & What to Expect (like the little-known loss of nails—which isn't as bad as it sounds)
At the end of 2016, when my youngest son was 2½, he came down with a low fever and also developed chicken pox-like spots on his hands, feet, and face.
While I heard the mention of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD) from the time I was young, I never encountered anyone who had it.
I never even met anyone who knew someone who'd had it.
But it wasn't difficult to assume that the little spots appearing only on his feet, hands, and face were likely HFMD.
After all, it makes sense, right?
Turning to this generation's modern medical advisor (the Internet), a quick search revealed that HFMD was indeed similar to chicken pox—a type of tiny pox that only appears on the eponymous parts (the hands, feet, and face).
And like chicken pox, HFMD lasts around 10 days and provides immunity against future exposure — although only to that particular strain of HFMD. (There are a handful of different strains.) Also like chicken pox, complications can result from HFMD—but rarely do.
Fortunately, like most cases of HFMD, our son's turned out to be a mild one. He might have had a low fever, but can't remember for sure (which means the fever wasn't serious if there was any).
Also, he didn't seem to have them inside his mouth, for which I was grateful, because that sounds really uncomfortable. (My older brother had chicken pox in the back of his throat. Ugh.)
With a bit of knowledge about essential oils and carrier oils, I applied olive oil infused with lavender oil on my son's affected areas (except for the face because that seemed too close to his mouth & eyes). I added tea tree oil to his feet too. (Two-year-olds frequently put their hands in their mouths and eyes, so the tea tree oil only went on his feet.)
The old spots cleared up pretty fast, but a round of new spots appeared each time.
However, it was reassuring to see that the oils helped clear up the current spots and he displayed no signs of discomfort or itching.
When it looked like he was no longer contagious, I took him to the doctor just to confirm the diagnosis and to ask when he could return to preschool.
Fortunately, the doctor was American, which meant it was easier for both of us to use the English terms for everything. I'm usually fine dealing with doctors & hospital staff in Hebrew, but saying HFMD in Hebrew felt too weird: machalat hapeh vahagapayim. Furthermore, the word "gapayim" is not commonly used. It means "limbs," but is far less common than the word generally used.
So I even though I'd double-checked it online, I didn't feel 100% sure it was the right term.
Anyway, to double-check, I asked the doctor if this was indeed HFMD, and after a thoughtful pause, he said, "It sure looks like it."
As the doctor examined my son's foot, I asked the doctor when my son could safely return to preschool.
The doctor appeared to examine the spots on my son's foot for a long time, but it looked like he was using the examination as a cover to scan his memory.
As stated before, HFMD is really not so common, even though it's common reference gives it a certain familiarity.
So I didn't blame the doctor for needing to think about it, though I'd have respected him more had he the guts to just admit he needs to look it up for a minute.
To help him along, I said, "Is it like chicken pox, where the spots need to dry up first, and then it's no longer contagious?"
There was another pause, then he said, "Yeah."
I didn't believe he actually remembered; it just made sense.
Then I mentioned that I applied olive oil to the affected areas. (Didn't bother mentioning the essential oils mixed in; most doctors aren't open-minded beyond pharmaceuticals and the mention of olive oil was as far as I wanted to go without knowing his position on non-synthetic remedies.)
Sure enough, the doctor smirked and said, "Nah, I don't think olive oil does much for this."
I didn't bother telling him that it did—or more likely, that the essential oils of lavender & tea tree mixed into the olive oil obviously helped.
If he couldn't hear about olive oil without smirking, I sure wasn't going to mention lavender or tea tree.
Anyway, in another couple of days, all the spots dried over and he went back to preschool.
I never knew how he caught it in the first place, but ever since he first entered the world, he was always catching colds & coughs and coming down with fevers.
We tried giving him herbal immunity boosters (including pricey high-quality ones), plus vitamins, but never saw much difference (except more recently, at age 5, with Sambucol, a medicinal syrup made from elderberries).
Anyway, the spots dried up and we thought that was the end of it.
But it wasn't.
HFMD produces a common, yet not well-known side effect.
The Fingernail Fiasco
One day, I noticed that his fingernails looked whitish and peeling.
Unable to think of anything except a vitamin deficiency or a fungal infection, I used Q-tips to "paint" his fingernails with anti-fungal tea tree oil & racked my brain to figure out what vitamins he lacked as I kept him from putting his fingers in his mouth until the oil dried. (Tea tree oil is toxic to ingest.)
The next couple of days showed a worsening situation.
The entire nail started to detach from the nail bed—on every single nail.
My stomach clenched with anxiety & self-recrimination. Was I a neglectful mother? Did my child receive such poor care that it caused his fingernails to fall off?
Nothing made sense because this child ate healthier than any of my other kids. Heck, he ate healthier than I did.
Every day, he ingested avocado spread on whole spelt bread. He feasted on salmon, tomatoes, cucumbers, red bell peppers, apples, bananas, tangerines, and much more.
Eggs & chicken & whole-grain noodles.
And the tea tree oil should have taken care of a fungal issue.
But despite the tea tree oil on the nails & a supplement of vitamin drops, the nails continued to detach.
Finally, by happy incident, I discovered a couple of websites that explained this exact process—a common yet little-known post-HFMD effect.
Yes, HFMD causes the fingernails to fall off—and the toenails too.
It doesn't always happen following HFMD, but it's pretty common.
Fortunately, it doesn't seem to hurt the children.
Even my son, who tends to be sensitive to all sorts of discomforts, didn't seem bothered by it.
An exposed nail bed looks grotesque, but my son showed no signs of discomfort or pain.
After most of his fingernails peeled off, his toenails started peeling off.
At one point, I clipped one fingernail that looked like it might painfully snag on something. Likewise, two partially detached toenails that caused discomfort when squeezed into a sock & a shoe.
Then all the nails grew back and that was that.
A Summary of What to Expect with HFMD
With the hope that neither you nor your child ever go through a bout of HFMD, here is a summary to help know what to expect if it does happen to you or someone you know:
Fevers are common, but not necessarily high fevers.
It starts with the fingernails, followed by the toenails. All in all, the nail-detaching process takes several weeks.
Okay, that sums up our experience with HFMD.
No one else in the family caught it, by the way.
We didn't even take all the precautions of washing & sterilizing things; my son didn't infect anyone else.
I hope neither you nor anyone you know comes down with HFMD.
But if it does happen, I hope the above helps.
I'm grateful to announce the publication of a new book:
The Wisdom of King Solomon—An in-depth look into the historic Biblical event that revealed Shlomo Hamelech's insight & understanding.
*Linguistic note: Shlomo (shloh-moh) is the original Hebrew of the Anglicized "Solomon." And Hamelech (hah-meh-lech) means "the king" in Hebrew. Shlomo Hamelech is how religious Jews across the world refer to "King Solomon."
The ebook is up now at Amazon & available for free download from Monday, December 14 – Friday, December 18, 2020.
It's a Chanukah present from me to you.
Also, the Torah portion read this upcoming Shabbat (Jewish Sabbath) in synagogues across the world deals with the famous future-telling dream of Pharaoh and its interpretation by Yosef (Josef of the-coat-of-many-colors fame).
This prophetic interpretation led to a stunning rise for Yosef, who then used his wisdom to save Egypt from starvation—which ended up saving much of the world of that time and earning a generous stream of income for Egypt, who became the world's provider for those 7 years.
Along with a weekly reading of the Torah (called a parsha in Hebrew), a reading from Prophets or Writings (called a haftarah) follows the reading of the parsha.
So after the reading in the synagogue of this week's parsha (with Pharaoh's dream & Yosef's wisdom), the accompanying haftarah consists of Kings I:3:15-28—the court case brought before King Shlomo by 2 women, each one claiming to be the birth mother of one surviving baby. (The other died when his mother rolled over on him in her sleep.)
King Shlomo showcased his legendary wisdom by pretending to decide to slice the baby in two, and thus allowing each mother to take a half.
With the birth mother unable to bear this ghoulish end for her child, she speaks up and relinquishes custody of her child to the other woman.
At that point, King Shlomo declares her as the rightful mother and the entire Nation of Israel rejoices.
But I always wondered...how on earth does that show wisdom?
It always seemed to me that it showed which one was a psychopath—and a particularly stupid psychopath. (After all, the lying woman calls out, "Neither to you nor to me be shall he be—cut!")
No normal person does that. Even a perfect stranger would object to such a brutal "solution."
You don't need to be the child's biological mother to protest against such an atrocity or to relinquish your custodianship of the threatened baby—whether it's your baby or not.
So I followed my curiosity and researched as many commentaries as I could find, and not only discovered the answer to this issue, but much more.
For example, the women are never named in the text—only described by occupation.
Who are they really? What are they really doing?
Traditional rabbinical sources offer 4 descriptions of the two women (including the first one mentioned outright in the text)—and the 4th one is pretty bizarre.
Also, did you ever wonder which woman was the child's birth mother—the accuser or the accused?
I never did! I never wondered which was which until research led me to a discussion about it in the classic rabbinical sources.
Furthermore, the way King Shlomo handled this historic event provides us with many lessons—one of which was instituted way back then and continues until today as part of the official procedure in any rabbinical Jewish court.
Even with all the sources, it's a pretty short book because the entire episode only consists of 13 verses.
But I put mostly everything I could possibly find into this little book.
I hope you'll find the information, background, details, interpretations, and revelations as fascinating as I found them.
And I hope it answers any questions or issues that pricked at you too.
Because most of the sources exist only in Hebrew or Aramaic, this book features information you probably won't find in English anywhere else.
If you wish to read the original text online in English translation by expert rabbinical scholars, you can see it here:
The Complete Jewish Bible: Melachim/Kings I, Chapter 3
So again, the link to the free download is here:
Remember, it's only free temporarily. After that, it's going up to a still affordable (but no longer free) $2.99.
The paperback is newly available here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08QFG2ZH1, sold at the introductory low price of $6.99.
We just kicked off the new Jewish year of 5781 on Rosh Hashanah this week, so here are a couple of downloadable free graphics to get you inspired & motivated for the new year!
There's meaning in everything, but we often struggle to understand the message.
One major help in understanding God's messages is Perek Shirah — Chapter of Song, which features prominently in Finding My Father's Song.
(Here's a downloadable PDF of the entire song: Perek Shirah in English.)
Perek Shirah is an ancient collection of over eighty verses put together by King David, whose most famous book is the Book of Psalms.
But after King David finished writing the Book of Psalms, Perek Shirah came to him as a type of even higher revelation.
Each part of Creation has its own song, and this is what was revealed to King David.
Perek Shirah was first mentioned in written Jewish texts around two thousand years ago (although knowledge of Perek Shirah could exist long before its textual mention, especially since much of Jewish scholarship was passed down orally, in addition to the wealth of written scholarship lost or destroyed throughout the ages).
The most respected Jewish sages throughout history praised the power of Perek Shirah to save a person’s soul, both in this world and in the Afterlife.
Perek Shirah isn't widely known outside the ultra-Orthodox community, where it is popular due to its powerful spiritual attributes.
Yet several stories exist of how Perek Shirah helped people understand the message hidden in a distressing event.
For example, Sara Yoheved Rigler writes about how the Song of the Rat helped her & her husband understand what the giant rat in their home needed to tell them:
My Rat's Tale
Another couple realized that the invasion of scorpions into their new apartment hinted at their unintentional callousness in leaving a homeless man with whom they'd been sharing their meals. Upon contacting him to inform him of their new location (accompanied by a sincere offer to continue hosting him for meals), the scorpion infestation disappeared.
(The Song of the Scorpion within Perek Shirah is Psalm 145:9: "God is good to all and His Compassion is upon all His creatures." Thus, the couple realized their unintentional abandonment of the homeless man lacked compassion.)
It's not always clear to exactly what creature Perek Shirah refers. For example, the smameet mentioned toward the end of Perek Shirah could either be a small lizard or a spider. (And therefore, you can feel free to apply the message of the smameet to both the spiders you encounter, and the cute little gecko lizards.)
Furthermore, the meaning of the song isn't always as apparent as it was in the above instances.
But it's still worth taking a look to see whether the song of a particular creature or phenomenon holds a special message for you.
Of course, sometimes the reason for the event is something else entirely, something far less obvious & far more esoteric.
Judaism very much embraces paradox and isn't about a "bibbity-bobbity-boo!" approach to tackling life's challenges.
But it's still worth seeking out the message.
You never know what you'll find.
Free Inspirational Posters for Free Download: A Millennia-Old Short Jewish Prayer to Start Your Morning in the Best Way Possible
At the end of this post, you'll find graphics to download for free.
(If you use them online, I'd be grateful for attribution & a link back to this site, but since I'm offering these for free, so you don't have to link or attribute.)
You can also print them out as posters.
Upon waking up in the morning, a Jew is supposed to thank God for returning one's soul to the body.
There is an idea in Judaism that sleep is 1/60th of death.
The human soul comprises different aspects & levels (which is why Judaism has several different names for the soul — to describe its different aspects & levels).
When one goes to sleep at night, part of the soul rises to another plane and tells of its deeds that day. (Yes, part of this process can be expressed in a metaphorical dream.) It is judged and usually given yet another chance for a better tomorrow.
The soul then descends back into the body and then at some point, the person wakes up.
So for millennia, Jews have said the following short prayer immediately upon waking:
Thankful am I before You, Living & Enduring King, that you returned within me my soul with mercy — Great is Your Faithfulness!
Modeh (or Modah for a female) ani lifanecha Melech Chai v'Kayam sheh hechazarta bi nishmati b'chemlah — rabbah emunatecha!
In Hebrew, the guttural throat-clearing sound is often represented by "ch." There is no native "ch" (like the English "ch" of "cheese") in Hebrew, so whenever you see a Hebrew word written with "ch," please know that it represents the guttural throat-clearing sound.
For the images, there are 3 options:
Of course, you can also feel free to download all three graphics.
Hover your mouse-arrow over your chosen image, then press right-click on your mouse, then choose the option that best suits you.
I love pie.
But many times, piecrust — even of the pies sold in cafes and restaurants — resembles a tasteless cardboard wafer.
Yet a good pie just isn't the same without a really good piecrust.
Over the years, I've experimented with different tips for handmade piecrust.
Here's my disclaimer: I think the best way to make any piecrust is to just dump the ingredients into your food processor, then keep pressing "Pulse" until your pie dough achieves that mealy bunch-of-peas look.
The "pulsed" piecrust turns out well with very little effort on your part.
But my food processor broke down a couple of years ago and we never managed to invest in a new one. So for us, it's either handmade piecrust or nothing.
And it seems like now, for people in quarantine who are looking for something practical and rewarding to do with ingredients they (hopefully) have on hand, improving piecrust-making skills might be a gratifying activity.
Note: The following does not include an actual recipe, just tips for how to use the recipe of your choice. Why? Because I've never found a piecrust recipe that works consistently every time. I find that I always need to adjust the amounts, depending on the level of humidity in the kitchen, type of flour used, etc.
Tips for Piecrust Techniques
Interestingly, the process of rubbing the fat and dough between your fingers lends a good effect to the dough (can't remember the exact chemistry of it all, but it's definitely a helpful process).
It's hard to explain the folding in words, but after you roll out your dough into a circle or square shape (uneven is fine), you start folding like how an envelope is created:
Some like to keep it in a ball for the refrigeration time, then roll it out and place it in the pan.
I found that shaping it in the pan before refrigerating is both easier & more efficient.
Tips for Ingredients
I made a mistake with this vodka tip.
The first time, I used half vodka and half water.
But the second time, I thought to try all vodka, no water.
So I sprinkled in 2 tablespoons of vodka instead of 2 tablespoons of water, but the dough didn't come together.
So I added a third tablespoon, and it still didn't come together.
Finally, I realized that I needed regular liquid instead of alcohol, so I added a tablespoon of ice water. Then the dough was almost too wet, but still workable.
I also regretted my focus on vodka because with 3 tablespoons in only a little more than a cup of flour, the piecrust would probably not taste good.
Anyway, I needed to bake the piecrust before filling it, which called for baking it at a very high heat for 8-10 minutes.
When the piecrust was almost ready, something forced my oven door open with the sound of WHOOSH! and I saw a glow of blue-yellow fire flash out for a split second, then disappear.
I quickly turned off the oven and closed the oven door, racking my brains to figure out what just happened and how I was supposed to make challah if my oven was emitting fire?
Was old baking paper stuck in there? Or oil?
Finally, I realized that the vodka probably emitted alcohol fumes, which probably caught on fire, forcing open the oven and shooting out that burst of fire (which, with the predominant blue color, is what flaming alcohol looks like).
I was also grateful to God for taking care of the vodka-taste by burning the alcohol out of the pie without burning the pie or anything else.
That just goes to show how important it is to say the time-honored phrase l'khvod Shabbat (for the honor of the Sabbath) when cooking & baking for Shabbat — God really helps you make the food turn out well for that holy day!
(The oven continues to work fine, by the way.)
And the piecrust had no alcohol taste.
You can use whatever piecrust recipe you have on hand, and apply the above tips for a piecrust worth eating.
Wishing you bracha v'hatzlacha (blessing & success)!
Doing Laundry with Vinegar, Baking Soda, Citric Acid, and Salt instead of Regular Laundry Detergents & Fabric Softeners: Different Methods & Their Results
With all the information about the unhealthy aspects (hormone disruption, respiratory issues, allergies, etc.) of standard laundry detergents & fabric softeners, I decided to start using more natural ingredients for washing clothes, towels, and bed linens.
I've never seen borax (a highly recommended natural cleaner) or ammonia here in Israel (which either means they aren't available in the areas I've visited or else they're sold under a completely different name in Hebrew), so I use the following products instead (the ch in Hebrew-English transliteration represents a guttural sound not found in English):
The above are found in every grocery store in Israel.
Note: If you're totally new to any of this (as I once was), please be careful to not use anything but the clear vinegar because the coloring in other vinegars can stain your clothes (although I've successfully used the synthetic colored vinegar with dark laundry. But I wouldn't try it with white or pastel laundry.)
BTW: I never saw citric acid in America (except for in ingredients lists), so I was surprised to see it in the spice section of every Israeli grocery store, and initially wondered what it was for. Israelis use it to get rid of the hard water build-up in kettles and urns. There is also an Iraqi soup that calls for lots of lemons, but people use citric acid instead.
Yeah, the water in Israel is what's called "hard" water (I never knew there were different kinds of water like this—i.e., hard vs. soft—until I came to Israel), which basically means that white or gray limescale deposits build up pretty fast in your kettle, urn, faucets, sinks, and washing machine.
(White vinegar & powdered citric acid each help get rid of those deposits.)
Note: All the following applies to a side-loading washing machine using hard water, and then putting the wet laundry through a dryer.
(An added benefit of using the above products is that, when they clean your clothes, they also clean out the hard-water limescale from your washing machine and plumbing.)
Dark & Colored Laundry
What I use:
What I used:
Note: My brief research showed that citric acid might fade colors, so I only use it with white laundry.
A One-Time Experiment Using Salt Only
What I used:
Only once did I use coarse sea salt alone: to clean a load of very dirty cleaning rags.
So based on this, I would not generally use salt on its own as a laundry detergent.
What I Continue to Use
Here are my conclusions:
Reminder: All this laundry was done using a side-loading machine & hard water, not the soft water more common in the USA. That could make a difference in the results.
I hope you found this helpful.
After an unexpectedly long hiatus, I've decided to get back to blogging on this website.
Thank God, I've been blessed with a full family life & ongoing writing projects.
So I never intended to put off posting here for so long. It was one of those things for which I always meant to make the time, but just didn't.
Sometimes, I thought of ideas for a post that didn't seem to fit here. Other times, I just didn't push myself to flesh out the suitable idea simmering in my mind for months.
Still, I'm not yet sure how often a post will appear here. But my intention is to post at least more than I have until now (as opposed to letting over a year go by with no sign of life)!
For those who kept checking in throughout the down-time, you have my appreciation and gratitude.
And for those checking out this blog out for the first time—welcome & thank you!
Right now, I'm working on creating real blog posts (and not just announcements of a new book launch).
In the meantime, please enjoy the motivational poster below, which you can download & use for free, no attribution necessary.
(To download: Hold your mouse over the image, then right-click your mouse. From the menu box that appears, click "Save" or "Save as," then follow your preference to save it to your device.)
(The background image is courtesy of photographer Mohamed Hassan.)
I'm glad and grateful to announce the publication of Finding My Father's Song: A Novella of Loss, Loneliness, Love, and Hope in paperback.
Right now, it's available on Amazon, but there is an automatic process that should put it up for sale on Book Depository in a few weeks.
To download free sample chapters of the book:
Free download of First 3 Chapters PDF
Free download of First 3 Chapters MOBI (Kindle)
Free download of First 3 Chapters EPUB
To buy the paperback on Amazon, please click image:
And seeing as we've just passed Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, I'd like to wish everyone a sweet, wonderful year for 5779!
In a previous post (How Limits & Boundaries Produce Real Creativity), we discussed how limitations and boundaries enhance creativity and genius, rather than dull them.
In fact, in yet another post, we saw the way a brilliant marketer used his unusual and complex name to his advantage, showcasing what a good marketer he really is.
Had he just decided that since he can change his name to any other name, that he should find a more conventional and pronounceable name (or just break the boundary on names and choose something simply to be different or offensive), he wouldn't have been able to come up with as nearly an effective and appealing ad.
Working within the limitation enhanced his creativity and cleverness.
The Best Art
Likewise, the best art works within structure.
Let's look at the field of writing.
Publishers of mysteries often say things like, "I would love to see a really good locked-room mystery!"
(A locked-room mystery is when a body is found in a locked room with no window and therefore, no apparent exit for the perpetrator.)
This is one of the hardest mysteries to write. Therefore, anyone who can write it well shows greater genius than one who writes a, say, a whodunit that takes place in an open park in a crime-ridden neighborhood at night.
In the field of music, the works considered genius are those of classical composers, such as Bach and Mozart, who composed their works according to certain rhythms and structures.
In the world of religious Judaism, a popular form of art includes Hebrew verses or even entire books incorporated into a painting on that theme.
Why do we admire art which incorporates verses of Psalms into a thematic painting?
Because doing so demands such skill and innovation.
The Innovative Beauty of Prohibitions
Millennia of Jewish scholarship has emphasized the importance of limitations, from limiting our speech to expressing gratitude for the limits God set on the oceans at the seashores.
Yet the idea of being limited often leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the modern millennial; limits are often seen as confining, strangling, suffocating, strait-jacketing, and so on.
Yet our Sages tell us that limiting our speech can merit us a light so great that even the greatest angels cannot perceive it. And without limits on our oceans, our world would be flooded and mostly uninhabitable.
"Restraint" seems like a quaint idea or else something necessary in only very extreme situations. Yet it is also arguably the best translation of the word gevurah, a highly prized quality in Judaism (often translated as "strength" or "might"). Gevurah is also one of the Kabbalistic Sefiras.
While some see Judaism as a list of prohibitions, many religious Jews discovered enhanced spiritual growth by asking themselves, "How can I do this within the parameters of Jewish Law?" Or, "What can I do instead?"
Finally, it's possible to expand this idea of limitations from art to expression of the human soul by examining the following idea:
Who is the greater person?
It is limitation which allow our soul's potential to truly shine.