Shanah Tovah U’Metuka!

Wow. As I came to log in I had to think for a moment what my login information was. I guess that means it has been too long. The last 9 months have definitely been a change, in many ways, and I am not going to go into detail about it, at least not now. I will say that as the school year ended, I was starting to feel up and up about things and looking forward to my summer. However, as what happens many times in our lives, Hashem steps in to remind us that He is really the one in charge and it has definitely been a crazy, challenging 3 months, on a very different level.

The summer was so crazy that I did not have enough time (only had 3 hours out of the ENTIRE summer – yes, for real…) to work on schedules. Even with only 2 boys to work with, I still need some time. As the weeks of school are rolling along, I finally have a schedule that might work. Time will tell. 🙂

As I dropped off one boy for a Spanish class and one boy for a Chemistry class, I was sitting in the car and realized that I had one hour to myself – no one was there with me! Wow. Should I close my eyes and rest, listen to a shiur? I decided that I was going to have the most satisfaction by typing up a Dvar Torah about a Rosh Hashanah shiur that I heard by Rabbi Mendel Kessin – all typed up on my phone (talk about being desperate!) I have decided to include it here. Feel free to read in between cooking and cleaning or even print it off to read over the chag (holiday.)

Hoping everyone is written in the Books of Life, Success, Happiness, and Health. Shanah Tovah!


Why do we blow the shofar?
(Based on a shiur given by Rabbi Mendel Kessin)

Rabbi Kessin is great at asking questions. Baruch Hashem he is also great at answering them!  He poses several questions with regards to Rosh Hashana.

Why do we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashana? Why do we have a festive meal on the Day of Judgement? How can we dare to be happy and eat? If we can be happy and eat a festive meal, shouldn’t we also say Hallel like we do on Rosh Chodesh and Yom Tov?

Many people will tell you we blow the shofar to confuse the Satan.  If we think for a minute, we know that is not true, for the Satan is very intelligent. He is not dumb. We have been blowing the shofar for thousands of years, after the first few years, you would think that the Satan would have gotten it and not be confused anymore.

No, that is not it. We blow the shofar to remind Hashem of Akeidas Yitzchok – when Hashem told Abraham to go and bring Yitzchok up as a sacrifice.

Why? What does Akeidas Yitzchok have to do with Rosh Hashana?

Hashem told Avraham to take his son and offer him up as a sacrifice – not make him the sacrifice.  However, He purposefully just said that Abraham should bring his son, Yitzchok, up as a sacrifice and left off the end “and bring him back down .”   Hashem wanted Avraham to misinterpret what He said.

Why?When Avraham heard this statement, it brought seven harsh ideas into his mind. Some that I remember are:
– Yitzchok is perfect, he did nothing wrong that needed the punishment of death
– Yitzchok is a person, he cannot kill another person, he did nothing wrong to deserve this
– Yitzchok is a Jew, how can I kill a Jew?
– He is my son, how can I kill my son?
– I am chesed, kindness, how can I be mean and kill someone not deserving of death

Avraham was able to accept 6/7 thoughts (the five listed above and the last I do not remember,) however, it was the 7th one that he had problems with: Hashem promised me a nation will come from Yitzchok, if he is dead, he cannot have children and no nation will come!

To Avraham, Hashem seemed to be acting irrational- when you die, you cannot have children.  This does not make sense. However, Avraham had faith in Hashem and said, “This LOOKS irrational, it looks like it cannot happen, however, whatever Hashem does is good and correct and I must be missing something.” And as we know, Avraham does listen and brings his son up to Har Hamoriah to be sacrificed.

It was never Hashem’s intention to actually have Yitzchok killed, and Hashem stops Avraham at the last minute. Avraham passed the test of thinking he was told to do an irrational thing by putting his trust and faith in the Almighty. Instead, Hashem provides a ram to be sacrificed.

On Rosh Hashana Hashem looks at everything in the world and sees how it is going. Are things going well? Does something need to be changed? Do employees need to be moved around or let go?

It is not so much the sins we have done, but where we are going spiritually.  Are we trying to come closer to Hashem? Yes, our sins do play a role and left to the Satan to be the prosecutor, things would not go well.

It is at this moment that we blow the shofar. We use the horn of a ram (usually) to remind Hashem of the irrational thing that Avraham did in trusting Hashem in face of what looked irrational, and we are asking Him to use midda-keneged-midda, measure for measure, and be irrational with us. When Hashem hears the shofar, He acts irrational and throws out the prosecutor, the Satan, and takes us into His private chambers. He looks at us and says we need to fix some things and because of that we need a few punishments, but this is good for these punishments will fix us and ensure we continue to exist, as a people, and ultimately when our tikkun is done, when we fixed what needs to be fixed, Mashiach will come.

This is why we eat a festive meal on Rosh Hashana. We know that when we blow the shofar, the Jewish nation will continue to exist and not be wiped out. If we are happy, shouldn’t we say Hallel?  No, we are not fully happy. There is still awe when we walk into a courtroom, and still a bit of reservation so we cannot say Hallel.

I hope this brings you all a little bit more meaning into this awesome day!

The Real Life of Homeschooling

Our weekly trip to Starbucks while waiting for his brother in writing class. One of the perks to Homeschooling. 😀

Sometimes when one writes about personal thoughts and feelings and then presses the “submit” button, they wonder if perhaps the information they just posted was TMI (Too Much Information.) All sorts of thoughts go through the mind, “if I take it down now, no one would have read it yet, right?” and “I just blew it, oh well, I guess many people will think less of me now.” I felt this way when I pressed the wonderful “Publish” button on my last post.

You see, the goal of my writings are to help other people. Right now, I am focusing on homeschooling since it is a big part of our lives. With almost a dozen years now (wow!) under our belt, I feel that I do have a little bit of information to hand over. Whether one is actively homeschooling and looking for advice, information, or just seeing that one is not alone, to those who are investigating to see if homeschooling is right for them or not, it is good to be able to get “real” information.

I am not talking about what the regulations are in the area one is homeschooling, what curricula there is out there or even how to write a schedule. I am talking about the REAL information. What really can one expect when they homeschool? I don’t know about what others think, but for us, the stereotypical homeschool family has children who are obedient, do all their lessons, who listen to their elders (i.e. Mother or Father), who understand time and who are almost always never late, and are ahead of grade level.  Oh, and they don’t fight, and they get along with their siblings.

Cough

And yes, I have learned that stereotypes are not always accurate. Have I internalized that, that is the question.

In my writings, amidst the wonderful things that I do believe we have done and learned, there is something called the Real Life of Homeschooling that I try to show sometimes, and that is… we are humans, not robots; we are all unique and different, our personalities are across the entire spectrum and we (the parents) have all lived a different life and have different priorities and experiences, and we are all given different obstacles we have to overcome.

This means that like everything else we do in life, and just like everyone else in the world, we all have our ups and downs. We all have different ways of teaching, different preferences, different kinds of children. No two homeschooling families are the same, and most importantly, no matter how picture perfect a homeschool family is, there are always challenges and things that just do not go like we want. And, a little secret, I would not want to be that picture perfect family for that would be boring. I like my boys for who they are, for all that they bring into our family, and for all the different ways they challenge me and mold me and make me a better person. So, to be fair to my readers, yes, I am biased, I do like homeschooling, and so when honestly asked for advice, I may tend to lean towards others homeschooling, however, I also have to relate some of our hardships. I have to open myself up and show my wounds.

My last post was hard. Homeschooling is not always easy, but then again, nothing is. This year, after 11 years of homeschooling, we sent a boy to school. It was a very difficult decision for me to make. I thought I failed. Then, just a few months later, we were faced with another hard obstacle – we sent a second boy to school (though he is in town, Baruch Hashem!) Can you say that I thought I failed even more? Not just one, but two gone, within a few months of each other. I am now left with only half. I thought I doubly failed.  When I wrote about all the inside feelings that no one ever sees (except my wonderful husband who has been there for me – thank you so much!) how were my readers going take it?  What reactions will I receive? I honestly had no clue. I have to say that I was very happily surprised at the responses I received.

Homeschooling is definitely outside the box, and so much so that most homeschooling families find that they are usually pretty much alone, especially in the religious Jewish setting, though I read today that the number of homeschooling children in the United States doubled from an estimated 850,000 to 1.8 million in just three years (as of 2016 I believe.) We do not have a lot of the “in-person” emotional support that other families have, so we have to fill the needs and gaps online. What I learned was that I was not alone. I learned that there are others who understand my feelings. Other have gone through or going through what I am going through. I learned that I did not fail. Failing would be to see a need is not being met and not doing anything about it. Succeeding is seeing something is not going well and doing everything in your power to change things so things are better, even if it is hard to do.

Being a good parent or teacher is knowing your limitations and finding others who can take over when needed. If I do not know anything about biology or math, even as a homeschool parent, I have no issues looking for someone who does know and can help out. Why is it that I don’t have an issue taking a boy to Algebra class outside of home, even when I can teach it (and have taught it) to my boys with no issues, why is it that I have no problems hiring a Gemara Rebbe for my boys for I know that I know nothing about Gemara, but when it comes to understanding that a child has learned all he/she can learn from me and needs to learn the rest outside, I suddenly have an issue? I cannot do it all, and am not supposed to do it all (that is why two people get married, so they can work together to accomplish so much more, but that is for my other passion!) I guess it is a matter of humbling myself and seeing myself for who I really am, and that is not bad. I think we often feel that if we humbled ourselves we would see all the things not good about us, all the places where we failed, etc. Yeah, they are there, but there are a whole lot of good things in us as well. Unless we humble ourselves, we cannot see those amazing things for the light of arrogance covers it all up. Where am I doing good? What amazing things have I done? We can only see who we really are when we can shed our outer clothing.

My boys are all doing well, where ever they are, at home or school, Baruch Hashem. I am still trying to adjust emotionally and just in general. I am still trying to reorganize my day to make it more efficient for I suddenly found that I have time to do things like think (yes, I can think now!), clean, do laundry, organize, uh, and yes, even take cat naps without worrying about not getting school done (!) however, I just don’t know how to even internalize this fact so it is not really getting done (except for the cat naps, I have NO problems adding them in, not sure why. 😉 ) What does it mean to have time to clean the house and do other tasks other than teach? Believe it or not, it is really hard to figure that one out, and I really do want to do them, it is just that it has been many years since I have been able to effectively do these things regularly that it hard to understand that I have some time now for at least some of them regularly. I find myself sitting down, not sure what to do with myself or walking around like a zombie, even though I know there are tasks for me to do. My lovely husband can’t figure out why I can’t figure it out either. 🙂

I took a chance and showed my pain. This is part of the Real Life of Homeschooling. This is part of what my writings are all about. The good, the bad and the ugly, it is all there. But really, it is all good, it is all meant to be. My goals are shifting and that is fine. Life is a constant change.

To those of you who opened your wounds to help me with mine, my deepest gratitude. Thank you. I hope that some of my writings will help others as well. On and upwards to a new set of days that are as quiet as a house can get with a beautiful Mr. 7 year old! Never old, always changing. Wishing you all your own successes!

Shanah Tovah U’Mesuka!

kimg1763As the Jewish year is coming to an end, a new school year has already begun. A few weeks ago my Facebook was inundated with wonderful photos of many friends’ Back to School/Homeschool pictures. It was nice to see. I hope that everyone had a wonderful summer and is enjoying the new learning year.

Our summer was not too bad. It was not overly hot like it was last year (we rarely got above 100 degrees this summer, but stayed in the upper 90’s.) It was more humid though, guess it was not hot enough to burn the humidity out of the air. The boys did get to swim many times and kept a bit cool that way. 🙂

The summer is usually the time I get to recharge. When the boys were younger, I used to be able to send them to camp for a week and leave me with just one little one, or, the last

Hiking up Wheeler Peak with their Dad.
Hiking up Wheeler Peak with their Dad.

year or so they went, I had a week to myself during the day. It was really nice. I got to do most of the preparations for the coming year, as well as take the time to do what I wanted, when I wanted it, whether it was doing nothing, going for a walk, or cleaning out a room or just some drawers. We don’t have that luxury anymore to send them to camp, but I would still take a few weeks to do nothing. Just a time to recharge. I don’t mind having them home, they are big enough they usually entertain themselves and I am just here to referee 🙂

That was the plan for this summer as well. It was a wonderful plan! I had a few things I wanted to learn with them this summer, as usual, but

Wheeler Peak. Snow!
Wheeler Peak. Snow!

for the most part, much of the day would be doing not much and letting me focus on re-organizing the house. When we moved in 1.5 years ago, our boxes came from storage basically on Purim. My husband wanted all the boxes out of the house and things “somewhere” before Pesach. I always wanted to move into a house for Pesach, thought it would be wonderful! I spent the entire month emptying boxes. Not quite the move that I was thinking of, but I guess it was not too bad. 😉  I cannot be upset for Erev Pesach, my husband decided to empty just one more box (almost all the boxes were empty, just had a couple more to go,) and found a loaf of bread that the packers said they could not pack, that had been in storage for 7 months. I looked, no mold, and it LOOKED edible. Then I remembered why I don’t normally buy store bread – if there is no mold on it in about 5 days, I don’t want to eat it! What all this meant was that things were placed somewhere, but not really in the homes I wanted. So, the plan was to slowly take the summer, since there was nothing much else to do, and re-organize and minimize (yes, still trying to do that.) Well, you know the saying, “Man plans, G-d laughs.” Yup, that really is a true saying! Though I am trying to reframe my mind and prefer to think that “Man plans, G-d challenges.”

Baruch Hashem nothing bad happened. We all stayed healthy and safe. For that I am very grateful. It’s just that things did not go as planned. It was very frustrating. A week before Labor Day, where many schools wait to start, I broke down. I told my husband it was a

We did get a little school done in the summer. Private tutor for Gemara with Rabbi Resnick.
We did get a little school done in the summer. Private tutor for Gemara with Rabbi Resnick.

week before school, I had not had my break, which was something we had talked about for a few weeks already for I saw I was probably not going to get it with everything that was going on, I had no time to even THINK about school and I *NEEDED* at least one week, but really, really, really, wanted two, but I could make one week work. He tried so hard, but it never happened. “You homeschool, you don’t need to start when everyone is starting, take the next two weeks off!” “I can’t! I am already not teaching the week of Labor Day, I can’t wait any longer. The boys NEED it. They need the schooling.” Yes, technically they could wait, but they were getting antsy with the lack of a school schedule.

A few of you are on my friends list on Facebook and might vaguely recall a posting I made stating that my summer vacation just started at something like 4:32pm the Wednesday or Thursday before Labor Day.  I was so excited! For one day, I did nothing. Nothing. Boy did it feel good.  I was almost guilty. Almost. Not quite. 🙂 But, by the end of the (next) day I was bored and ready to do stuff. Beautiful. Just what I wanted to happen for that meant I would be ready to do what I wanted. Day Two: Back to the old grind. Unfortunately that was all, I did not get the next day. My husband was home on Labor Day and gave me the entire day. I spent the entire day working on school. I got a huge way over. All I can say is Baruch Hashem we are doing Ambleside Online. I think I only had to get 3 books for boys this year for we had all the rest since there is very little consumable stuff we use. And, Baruch Hashem for Amazon Prime. Despite all that help, it still took about 20 hours over that week and the next to get everything all set up. I basically woke boys up the second week in September and handed them their work. I did not even tell them school had started, just “here is your work for today” and off they went. I felt bad for they were not prepared, and neither was I. That first week I kept getting frustrated boys asking “what do I do now, Mom?” It was hard on all of us. But, I felt that was the best. The boys needed to start. It was a hard beginning. I did not get my break I needed, school really started with a bang and then things went flying and we had to catch them. So no, we did not have any Back to School pictures to post.

On another note, we had another huge change we had to get used to. Boy #2 is not at home with us anymore. We have sent him away to Yeshiva. It was time for a change.

Miss him!
Miss him!

Surprisingly, the boy who does not like changes was not only needing it, he was begging for it. He has learned some nice life lessons, such as not spending all his monthly spending money the first 4 days of the month. Oops. 🙂 In general, he seems happy and he has some nice friends. It has taken some time to get used to a school setting, and the homework he has to do each night, but I think he is good. It has left a huge gap here at home though. It is awfully quiet some times. Even when someone is sleeping, you still feel their presence in the house. For someone who prefers no music during school hours for it is usually noisy enough, I was asking the one boy who was up doing school this morning if it would bother him if I put on music. No more boys can leave for a while. I put my foot down on that one. Not sure how long I can keep it down though.

So, as we finally settle down into a routine, and I find out when my quiet times are, for now I have some during the day, I am hoping that throughout the year I can do a little organizing here and some there. I have accepted the fact that I did not get my vacation this year. Well, sort of. Mostly. We have completed enough weeks that the schedule has mostly

Little brother waiting with older brother for time to leave for the plane.
Little brother waiting with older brother for time to leave for the plane.

worked itself out. There are still a few wrinkles, but there always is at the beginning of the year, no matter how prepared I am. I try to look ahead and move on. You can’t hang onto the past, especially when it gets you down. This past week I have managed to get one drawer in the kitchen cleaned out and it has made a noticeable difference, at least to me. I will keep chugging away at it. G-d willing it will get done, just at a different pace than I planned. When these things happen we have to remember our goal is to align ourselves with His goal. Everything He does is for the best, even when we don’t understand.

As Rosh Hashanah approaches and we try to prepare the best we can for our judgement and hopes of a sweet and happy year, we try to do one more mitzvah, one more chesed, give one more bit of tzedakah. While we wash the dishes and the clothes yet again, make one more dish of food in honor of the Yom Tov, or even just a regular day meal, they are all important jobs we are doing. It is all special. In last week’s parsha we learned about blessing that will come or us, or, chas v’shalom, the kimg1759curses that will befall us. We are told the curses will come because we were not happy when we had plenty. Not that we were not happy when times were tough. When times were good we were not happy. My friends, we have a mitzvah to be happy, to be b’simcha! We have more laundry to wash? Baruch Hashem! We have more dishes to clean, have to sweep and mop the floor for the 5th time today? Baruch Hashem! It is not always easy, especially when it seems mundane. Believe me, it is not. Your home is a mini Bais Hamikdash. Just like you would gladly sweep the floors of the real Bais Hamikdash, when you sweep your floors or wash yet another load of laundry, you are cleaning YOUR Bais Hamikdash. When we do His mitzvahs with joy, when we are happy when there is something good that happens, that is when blessings will come to our homes. Hashem is setting out our year for us in just a few days and so it is the perfect time to try to add even one more piece of joy – a piece of thankfulness – to our portfolio. With that one more piece of joy, may Hashem bless you and your family with a Shanah Tova U’Mesuka! May we all be inscribed with all the blessings we need. <3

Where Has The Time Gone?

KIMG1645Spring is amazing here and I am trying to soak it all up before it gets too hot to do much. I have been enjoying walks in the morning before boys need to get up.

Purim came and went and now Pesach is next week! I am having such a hard time wrapping my mind around that! Yes, I have been cleaning, I’m not too worried. I cleaned two main rooms before Grandpa came to visit us before Purim. I finished my room yesterday and we are working on boys’ rooms. I have bought all our Pesach needs except the fresh fruits and vegetables and a few odds and ends (I left our Pesach broom 1441 miles north of here 1.5 years ago since we needed something to clean with after all our stuff was gone and my regular broom was broken anyways.) Not quite sure what I did last year with all the matza crumbs, but, somehow I managed, don’t feel like figure it out right now.

We are in hail season right now. We went to bed Purim night to 15 minutes of strong hail. Woke up in the morning and it looked like it snowed! Damaged our metal roof, took theKIMG1595 paint off the fence, and dented the cars. But, Baruch Hashem, it did not break through our roof or any windows (just a couple of miles away, there were such things happening!) We had more hail this past week. I have come to expect that – it does not just rain here, as I found out last year. It pours. Gista mabul! (It’s flooding – yiddish)

Life is a bit different lately. Other than just things happening, it does feel strange not to be teaching any limudei kodesh things. Yes, I sit down with my little one and do his work with him – the watching of the videos, reading the school work and writing down many of the his dictations. But still, does feel weird. The little one told me he needed to make a new haggadah. Ah, yes, we used to do those. He does have a nice one his Saba Saba (Great Grandfather) bought him shortly before he passed away, but he wants one he makes. I was rummaging through my mind to try to remember which ones I have in my 3 inch binder that would be good for him. I am thinking the circle one would be good for him. Will look it up and pull it out.

*2 days later*

KIMG1640
Tea Time! With strawberries dipped in cocoa water and then sugar. Utterly messy, but utterly delicious!

Well, I went to go look on Chinuch.org for it to link to it, but I got caught instead looking at some other amazing things they had there. And then 2 days passed by somehow. I showed Mr. Little another haggadah, and he wanted it all printed out. It is a full haggadah but has some nice comments for children in it and he liked it. I printed out all 90 ish pages and then messed up royally on the hole punching… We won’t go down that road. I still have to fix one set of holes so it goes in the binder. And no, we have not gone over any of it because of that. Sigh. Wonder if there is anything else I can do. I guess I can just punch holes all around to make it look like it is supposed to be there – there are already holes on the other side! Or, I think I might just find some cardboard and tie yarn through holes. Yes, I think we can do that. I will let him decorate the outside when he gets bored.

I am not sure how I would manage cleaning the house if the boys were in school. We have spent 3 days on two rooms upstairs. Yeah, well okay, the boys spent one day painting – you know how it goes, all you wanted to do was clean, but out comes the paint. That room has not been painted since we moved in, and it was really needing it. All 4 boys (and Mommy) were into the painting. I was going to just do 3 walls but they did all 4. That room has a KIMG1643ceiling with 3 sides (almost like a barn), and they painted two of the sides as well, just leaving the actual ceiling alone. One beautiful boy went up and beyond and made sure it was all trimmed – ceiling, walls, in between the windows. He did not stop until it was done. Mr. Quiet is good that way. And to give my heartfelt thanks, I took him out. No one knows where we went (except Daddy), and we went on our hideaway to get some ice cream! I told him not to tell anyone where we were going. The others worked, and I am proud of that, it is just that he went up and beyond. I wanted to thank him for that but don’t want the others to feel bad for they great as well. So much for trying to work on my diet. I couldn’t just let him eat by himself (the date was quiet as it was – we are both quiet people,) and no, even though I was not going to have any, I did. So, we enjoyed our ice cream, together, in silence. I think he enjoyed himself. 🙂

Other than painting, we played musical rooms, and three boys moved rooms. Three in one and one in the other. So, boys all slept in their new rooms last night – and all rooms are KIMG1648cleaned for Pesach. Now, to just deal with all the stuff that was put outside on the landing….. I wonder how much of it I can really throw out. Not sure I can get by with all of it, but I think I must try! After getting a black garbage bag full of garbage from one room (and yes, I HAVE cleaned it out several times since last Pesach!) I need to have less stuff in that particular room. Much less stuff. Meaning, I would love to have nothing really, so anything there I know is garbage! But, realistically, maybe just a desk? It has drawers so he can put things in it. I might get by with that. Worth a try.

Somehow we still managed to get some school work done. We are about done for cleaning – mainly just the landing upstairs is left. And the last big thing is the kitchen. A few odds and ends, but that is about it. I think we are doing good. The boys cleaned out our inside freezer (we have a separate fridge and freezer in our kitchen) and it is stuffed withKIMG1650 our Pesach foods for I refuse to clean the outside freezers. Too much work for me. So, Baruch Hashem, we can manage without them. We are really excited and all enjoy the Yom Tov. The boys are looking forward to making sure we have enough makkos for the seder. We usually end up missing some of our hail every year, and occasionally some wild animals go missing. And, we are looking foward to family coming over for the last days. That is always exciting. Apparently they liked us so much last year that they wanted to come this year. Woohoo! 😀 Baruch Hashem our house is plenty big for everyone! “Boys are excited about seeing their cousins” is an understatement.

I won’t keep y’all any longer. Wishing everyone a Kosher Pesach – free from both physical and spiritual chometz, with lots of joy and happiness. We should all be free from our personal slavery, and there is still time for Moshiach to come and take us to Eretz Yisroel 🙂

Melamed Academy – My Review

Strawberries in January!
Strawberries in January!

Wow, I actually am able to get another blog written up within a month! Baruch Hashem, things have started to finally settle down. it just took almost a year and a half. Who ever said moving was easy? Especially multiple times and to a totally brand new location and friends. Who ever said growing up was easy? No. One. Ever. But now, I have started to breathe. I even did nothing a few times. Nothing. Just sat on the couch or laid on the bed. In the middle of the day, thinking something was wrong, but couldn’t really figure out what I was needing to do with the boys right then, feeling guilty, but not letting it bother me. I think I am finally able to do so much more than tread water to survive. I think I am finally getting there. I even went outside to swing with Mr. Little and had a few rounds of tether ball with another!

Without further adieu, my review of what everyone has been hearing about for the last 6 months or so; questioning, hesitating, getting snippets on, etc….

Melamed Academy

We have been signed up for Melamed Academy for about 2 months now. The first month was half vacation and half trying to figure out how things worked, and this past month has been actually getting into a routine and getting things done. The following information is based on my knowledge – from experience, calling up and talking on the phone with my questions, emails and my understanding. It is all in my own words.

What is Melamed Academy?
Melamed Academy is something that the Jewish world has been lacking. There are many secular schools that have been doing this for many years, and finally, there is something for us as well.  Melamed Academy touts themselves to be an Affordable, Online Jewish Day School going from kindergarten through 12 grade and college. Basically, one can get both Judaics and Secular done online, for all grades. No more is there wondering what Judaics to teach, how to teach it, grades etc.

Melamed Academy is registered as a non-public school in NJ and all high schoolKIMG0034 graduates will receive a NJ high school diploma. There are almost a dozen Bachelors that one can take through Melamed Academy, attaining degrees from either Thomas Edison State University (accredited by Middle States Commission on Higher Education) or Charter Oak State College (accredited by The New England Association of Schools and Colleges.)

MA offers both Judaic as well as secular classes. A child can be registered in both, just Judaics, just secular, or even individual secular classes.

The 4-letter word – What is the C-O-S-T?
As of November, 2015, the cost is $2000 total. Period. For both Judaics and secular. $1000 for Judaics, $1000 for secular. Affordable tuition.

How does it all work, and how can they charge so little when a regular private Jewish school tuition usually range from ~$10,000-$25,000 per child, per year?

The answer is simple. They try to compile as much free stuff as they can from the internet. I have heard people complain about that for anyone can do that, why should we pay for it? Here is my take:

If one has time to search for all the sites, great. If one has time to find the stuff for each and every week, even more kudos to you. However, I will put it bluntly. I am lazy. Yes, I have searched online, seen many, many websites, and yes, I could possibly put together most of what I see my children doing on Melamed Academy. But, I am lazy. To work for several hours each Sunday afternoon putting together links for the week is too much for me. Normally, I try to get as much done in the summer as possible but I can’t get it all done then and therefore there are things that will be lost for I do like to have a day off.

For $1000, I don’t mind paying someone to find all those links (mostly free, but not all,) post the videos, reading materials, create homework each week, and grade them. That I can afford and to me is reasonable.

KIMG1538The thing that sold us on trying this out is that they have an option for parents to purchase kosher computers. I don’t like my boys going on the internet – it is hard to monitor them, and with 4 boys all wanting to use the computer at the same time would be difficult, to say the least. On their kosher computer everything can be blocked. We have everything blocked except school work. My boys can be quite innovative and they try all sorts of things to get around the hoops. I have had to email the school multiple times to ask them to block them from being able to log onto their Gmail accounts, among other things I would never have thought of (I guess I am not a child anymore!) They have been very kind and have put up with all my email requests with a smile.

How does it all work?

The school uses the Google Classroom platform, which is similar to Blackboard, for those of you who have seen that. The main screen has links to the school (secular/Judaics) and you click on a link to go open it up. There is listed all the school work and due dates the child needs to do. Each topic has links to material that needs to be read and/or listened to and then there is homework to be completed and handed in.

Each week new material is posted for the child to complete at their leisure. For our boys, some of the material is the same for all our boys (videos on tzaddikim and similar topics, and Parsha is the same for all except my high school boy.) However, the homework is related to the age of the child. They have a teacher/rebbe assigned to the classes and the boys can send and receive messages.

I am very happy with the secular program that we are doing and do not want to change that, however, the boys are getting older and need more than what I can provide for Judiacs. I did have a peak at a couple of the secular classes for my sister has signed up her oldest in some of them. The ones that I saw were high quality online classes geared for children at grade level. They seemed like good classes and include quizzes, tests and homework.

What is our experience?

The beginning was a bit difficult for the boys for it was something that was totally different than what they were used to. The main issue was that the material is mainly videos that are about an hour long. Some of the classes had multiple videos to watch before answering questions. At first, I was not sure how it was going to work for the videos are mainly geared towards adults. However, surprisingly, the boys have all gotten used to them and no longer complain about how long things are and they just go and do their work.

The one thing that I have noticed is that all of them enjoy doing their school work. Every single one of them. Even the one that finds school work more challenging and doesn’t really want to do school at all really enjoys going on “his” computer to do work. This one particular boy is usually one of the first ones to finish his work for the week and that shocks me to no end! This is the one I was most concerned with. I noticed that he started to turn in his school work empty, just to say it was done. I started unsubmitting his work so that he could actually do it. It turns out that he found the shiruim very daunting and was just too overwhelmed. I started sitting down with him and listening to the shiurim with him and then I could help him answer the questions. I had him read the questions before listening to the shiur so that he would know what to listen for. When he found an answer he could stop the audio and write things down. After about 3 or 4 times of this, he started telling me to go away! I was hesitant, but I let him test his wings. When I went to check his work, I found that yes, he was starting to answer the questions. He occasionally would ask for my help on something, but that would be all. He found out he really could do it and now I just spot check and help him on one assignment to help him make his work look better (grammar).

The school wants the children to succeed. They work with the child, customizing the work – is the child overwhelmed? Do they need to have shorter material to read each week? Does a child have an IEP? Too high or too low of a level? I can’t count how many emails (and a few phone calls) were made since we started talking to the school. Every email I write I get a nice patient answer. We have made multiple changes to the security of their computers as well as multiple changes to the school work of various boys. They work with me to find a good and happy medium for each child.

KIMG0008
Tu B’Shevat Seder with Room 613!

One of the big results of our boys being in this school is that I have finally found that I can breathe. It has been a long year and a half since we have started our process of moving and settling down, and even though it has been just about a year since we have made our final move, things still did not settle down until now. I have found that even though have we added multiple classes to each boys’ week in Judaics, I have time to do more – both with each of them and for myself. I am able to find time for Mr. Little and get his school work done, and I have time to breathe. Mr. Little has joined me on my handicrafts and sits down to crochet with me. I can even sit down in the middle of the day to write a few thoughts on my blog. 😀

So, what is our overall impression? For our family, this is definitely just what the doctor ordered. I feel that a huge burden has been lifted from my shoulders. No, it is not perfect – how much really are some of my boys getting out of an adult shiur when they are only in elementary and middle school? They seem to be able to answer the questions in general so I think that things are good. If we get to a question that was not found in the shiur, and perhaps really above their level at the moment (we have done this a few times especially with Mr. Little,) and since their computers won’t let them search the internet for answer (yes, we have told them we have sefarim to look in!) we would just make a note to the teacher/rebbe that we didn’t seem to find the answers to a question and go on.

This is a new kind of program for religious Jews and with new things there are things that can improve, but this is a very good start. I am sure that over the next few years they will get better and we look forward to growing with them. So for now, we are very happy.

Also, a full line of Melamed Academy-created Torah courses is in the works, and is being phased in. Look out for it next year!

Kol tuv.

A Gut Moed! Remembering Our Year

KIMG1113I hope that everyone has had wonderful Yomim Tovim so far. We are getting near the end and I don’t want to think about that for I will miss all the ruchnius feelings. I hope to gather as much as I can to tie me over until the spring, which this year, is including a leap year so that means an extra month’s wait until the next Yom Tov. We do have a few little peaks in the dark with Chanukah and Purim, which is a good thing for it would be hard otherwise.

It has been a long time since I have written up something. I thought about it before Rosh Hashanah, before Yom Kippur, and yes, before Sukkos, but, alas, it never happened. But now I have a bit of a reprieve and I can sit down while the boys are busy and not getting into too much trouble. 😉 Over the weeks I have had many things that I could write down, if I had the time, but alas, they were not meant to be written down for I can’t remember most of them.

The one thing that I do remember thinking about is our last Shabbos we spent beforeIMG_20141006_083458 starting on our journey to the new chapter of our lives. It was a bitter sweet Shabbos Yom Kippur. Motzei Yom Kippur was the Hebrew birthday of Beautiful Boy #3 and after loading our Beverly Hillbillies van all the way to the hilt (minus the rocking chair – that got thrown out in the trash – and Granny – no chair so we couldn’t take her 😉  ), we had a wonderful Good Bye lunch at the delicious Sabra’s Grill with our wonderful friends and then off we went down the road. Down, down, down south. Across the country we went, seeing the sights as we passed, watching the scenery slowly change, seeing new vegetation and observing various cultures. Three wonderful days later, I will still remember that Hashem blessed us and we got within 500 feet of our hotel before running out of gas. It was Erev Sukkos, and the English birthday of our Beautiful Boy #3.

Last year we did not have a sukkah. Last Sukkos we were in a temporary home (a hotel) – just like a sukkah. It was a very strange feeling. My Sukkos had so much more meaning to me. It has been quite a year with several temporary homes and lots of other changes, but Baruch Hashem, we finally found our home and this year we have a wonderful Sukkah. We were treated to a nice surprise when several Boy Scouts from our Troop came on Erev Yom Kippur and even though it was hot and the day before a fast, they put up our new sukkah. (Having both the Scout Master and the SPL live here helps!) So this year, we have a wonderful home with a wonderful large sukkah and as I type, we are hosting the Troop at our home and in our sukkah until tomorrow morning. This means I don’t have to make meals for 24 hours (2 breakfasts, a lunch and a supper, along with a party) and I was just handed a bowl of macaroni and cheese with a glass of cream soda.

It has been a trying year for us, but I think it was good. I am hoping for a more productive learning year for us. School schedules need to be adjusted, as they always do once I complete a week or so of learning at the beginning of the school year. In the meantime, I am trying to soak up as much as I can from this time of the year before all the Yomim Tovim are behind us and we will start up again then.

We did have a wonderful chemistry experiment that we managed to do last night. We experimented with how various ingredients work (and tasted) in chocolate chip cookies!KIMG1105 White flour vs whole wheat, butter vs oil, white sugar vs brown sugar, baking soda vs no baking soda, and even caramelized vs non (cookies were baked over 356 degrees F). Eating cookies in the sukkah and Skyping with Saba while he was at his sukkah party made for a nice evening.

Wishing everyone a wonderful Moed and hope you can soak up all the wonderful energy from the remaining days!

<3

Nachamu, Nachamu – Comfort

KIMG0964***I’m a week late in posting this – it was ready before Tisha B’Av, but I was having computer issues with inserting the pictures and then I was about to upload the pictures and come to find out it erased most of my blog. Guess it was not meant to be. Here is try 2!***

Time flies when your having fun, or just too busy to sit down and write. 😉 Between the 100 degree heat, adventures in Big Bend National Park, cooling down at the Macdonald Observatory to view the Moon, Saturn, as well as Jupiter and Venus, back to the 100 degree heat, staying cool inside, doing some cleaning and (finally) some organizing, and finding nice places to go walking in nature, I have felt constantly busy.

It has been a long time since we started our adventure to our new place with moving four times in about 4 months, unpacking an entire house in the few weeks before Pesach,KIMG0893 trying to finish up schooling, or what was called schooling for this year, and trying to figure out why things are just not settling down. It’s been about 3 months since Pesach finished, I thought we would be more than settled into a routine and start to feel “at home.” After all, when there are no boxes left in the house, it starts to “look” like it might be home, even if it does not feel like home. There really is nothing from stopping us from at least acting like we are at home. What we think should happen is often times different that what really happens. Reality was that I felt I have been treading water for the last 10 months, starting from the few weeks before we moved. I have been forgetting about appointments the last month, among other things, and we really have not been doing much schooling, so what has been going on?

No schedule. Oh, we have tried various schedules at different times over the months, and we can seem to stick with it for the most part, until the next change in our live (ie KIMG0813move) and then we go through a phase of what feels like chaos for we are not really doing school but we are busy doing needed things. Every month or two that is what has happened. After Pesach, when we finally were able to breath for a few minutes and realize that “this is it,” I tried to do schooling for a month or so to finish up the year, but I never could really get into a routine and always felt I was just treading water, never going anywhere. Yes, the boys went camping one week with Grandpa, we all went with Grandpa a few weeks later and last week I had one with the yearly-taking-of one-boy-out-with-Grandpa now. (Yes, I think Grandpa is happy we moved down here!) But still, I should be able to keep a schedule!

Then it dawned on me. What I am feeling is the lack of grounding. We are in a new place with new friends and Daddy has a new job with new hours, and there is nothing that is familiar for us (me) to hang on to when things change. Before, when our schedule would change, Daddy’s hours were fairly constant, and if his hours were crazy for a while, we had our daily school routine that was constant. There was always something to fall back on. Here, it’s been almost 10 months of all newness. However, over the last couple of weeks I think I finally figured it out.

It is summer and we can do our summer schedule, and really should do our summer schedule. Which is…basically nothing. We daven, do our chitas and are supposed to do our mishnayos and that is about it. It may not seem like a schedule, but we schedule in all2015-06-29_17-47-18 the nothingness, which when you schedule it in, it really is a schedule. It is something that we know, something that we do every summer, it is our grounding. We might be in a new city, a new house, have new friends and need to figure out Daddy’s new work schedule, but we have our familiar summer schedule. It has been such a relief and has felt like a huge load has been taken off my shoulders. I have been able to do some organizing and even gotten most of the way to organizing our new year. We have our new homeschool cabinet – the wet bar area that has been refitted with a bookcase (should not be surprising. 😉  ) I have decided on what books we will be reading this year and have purchased most of them. I have completed a first draft of the secular learning schedule (I do not feel quite comfortable with it but it is a really good start and I’ll mull it over for a few days.) I am starting to feel like I am standing on my feet on solid ground again.

Mr. Little has turned 6 and has lost his first tooth! He is so big that he planned for himself a birthday party and invited all his friends over. The only issue is that he did this all by himself without my knowledge! Baruch Hashem he did let me know on his plans the day before his birthday and so when I got phone calls from the children themselves asking if they were invited over for his birthday party, I was mentally prepared and told them that we were just having cake and they were welcome to join us in half an hour. 🙂

We just came from a very low time in the Jewish year, Tisha B’Av, the time when we 2015-06-29_17-46-47mourn our loss, not only of the Bais Hamikdash, but of the loss of our closeness to our Creator, our King, our Father. The good part is that once we are low, the only way to go is up. After all our moves and all the changes and challenges, I am finally feeling that our home is on the up as well. We have hit bottom. The elevator only goes up from here.

We just had Shabbos Nachamu, which is a special Shabbos for us personally, not just the comforting Shabbos after Tisha B’Av. (Okay, okay, DH and I got married Erev Shabbos Nachamu. 🙂  ) This year we also had dear friends surprise us and came over to spend it with us. It was so nice to visit with familiar faces. A beautiful family with a girl, and boys who were aged in between all our boys. It was a blast and also a comfort. How befitting. Nothing is coincidence. 😀 I feel refreshed and excited about our new year. I feel there are a lot of wonderful things in store for us this year. Wishing “y’all” all the best in your preparations for the coming school year!

My Week of the Year

KIMG0585Most years I get a few days after our school year is finished where most kids are out of the house, at least during the day. Yesterday started my yearly “week.” Well, almost 4 days, but that is close to 5 days, so close to a business week. Grandpa took the three older boys along with a cousin to go camping. I am left with a beautiful almost 6 year old (though if you ask him, he is actually 5, and will very quickly correct you if you try to say he is 5 and a half or something similar,) which is a good thing for I am not sure what I would do if he was gone as well! I am not sure I would do well to go cold turkey for an entire week. A day, yes, maybe even a night, but a week? I just got my husband off to work and am now sitting in the living room with a sleeping boy across from me on the couch. He was too lonely to sleep upstairs all by himself so I said he could sleep on the couch downstairs, for we were also downstairs.

I did have BIG plans for the week, but I quickly saw that I would have to change plans to make the week feel worthwhile. I was going to start by organizing the books in the house- the living room, family room, dining room and upstairs on the landing. We have a lot. 5 built in book cases and 8 that we brought into the house. A Jewish, Homeschooling family isKIMG0588 (1) the worst for books for not only do we have the requisite homeschooling books, which is the gathering-of-as-many-books-that-we-find-interesting-as-we-can-get, but it means the in-gathering-of-as-many-Judaic-books-we-can-get as well. So, I guess we are getting close to being able to open up our own library. I did start by collecting all our sefarim into the dining room, but that took me about 10 minutes for they were basically there anyways. Then I got stuck for I was not quite sure what I wanted to do from there. I have a variety of actual school books that we use – some as books and some books in 3-ring binders. We were talking about putting school books in our converted wet bar area (we had someone take out the sink and make a built in book case there for we just needed more book shelves!) It seems the best place for school books like binders for there are doors to close off any mess. I’m just not sure.

I did not have to worry about things too much though yesterday, for after gathering in all the sefarim, Mr. Little wanted a freezie which I bought the day before.  I said yes and before I could get my shoes on and get myself ready to go outside, he was done. I told him he needed to get a second one then. I did not get any complaints from him. It is definitely summer time now, and has been for about a week. The weather has been in the mid 90’s and it is staying. It is funny how you can just tell. Spring can have a day here and there that is hot but you know it is not summer yet, but when the first day or two of summer heat comes, you know. There is something different about spring heat and summer heat.

I let him choose where to go, and he decided to go towards the creek that is the next block over. He told me we were to walk until he finished half his freezie and then we were going to turn

Find the school of fish!
Find the school of fish!

around. We walked a little and we talked a little. He asked some questions and then it was time to turn around. We stopped off on the bridge crossing the creek and enjoyed looking down at it. With all the rain and storms last month, the creek really did overflow and last week we saw the bent grasses and the sticks, logs and other debris that water leaves on the banks of the creek. Yesterday it was all back to normal, the debris had all been cleared away and the grasses were standing nice and tall again. Last Sunday we took a walk along a bridge downtown and the river that is usually almost dry was still flooded.You could not see the trunks of the trees and the stop sign was covered up to the red octagon. There was damage 45-60 minutes west of us and then south through Houston, but we were just fine though. BaruchKIMG0564 Hashem. I realized that it does not just rain, or dribble here, it storms. That means that lots of water comes down at once. It is hard to go from the car to the house door without getting drenched, unless you have a rain jacket and boots. So, I decided to use our school money to get everyone rain boots and rain jackets and 2 nice umbrellas. All were extremely useful this year and everyone loved to walk through the water and rain. Even Mr. Big was caught walking to and from shul using the path that had the water draining on the side of the roads. Definitely CM style learning and I’m sticking to it.

But back to our walk. Mr. Little and I were talking about how the water was making the various lines in the sand and the water when I spotted fish! We both ran down to the KIMG0551bank and sure enough there were lots of little fish. And then we saw even smaller fish, all swimming around in a school. Mr. Little when further down where the water was a little deeper and we found bigger fish over there. We enjoyed watching them. He has a fascination for dragon flies so he had to take my phone several times to take pictures and videos of the dragon flies. With his freezie long gone, we went back home for lunch. On the way home he told me this was the first time he took someone out for a walk and he was proud of the fact and had lots of fun. And here I was thinking I was the one taking him for a walk. I was not going to argue with him and decided to let myself feel honored.

Instead of book organizing today, I think I need to do boys’ rooms organizing instead. It definitely will take the two of us all day to do it, at the minimum, but will give the most feelings of satisfaction of actually having accomplished something this week if nothing

Mr. Little is quite a photographer of dragon flies.
Mr. Little is quite a photographer of dragon flies.

else, so I think that is what we should do. Books can wait until tomorrow, or even when boys come back. School is basically done, at least I have officially thought so. We still have a book or two that we will be finishing up over the summer, but since it is an audio we are listening to, it makes it feel less like school. And my plans for the summer? Since I don’t even know myself, I just need to say I have written too much today and I’ll save it for another posting. 😉

OH! I promised last time to tell you about our project. Well, since there are multiple

Had a hard time with lighting on my phone for it was so tall!
Had a hard time with lighting on my phone for it was so tall!

Amateur Radio Operators in the house, and more in the works, we put up an antenna – it goes up about 45 feet. We finally got the coax fixed nicely (that is the wire that connects the antenna to the radio in the house,) and contact have been made. They even talked to someone from our old city in NYS! Kind of cool.  Mr. Little is making some movements now, he might be ready to get up soon. I wonder where he is going to take me today. 😀

Cheesecake, Mud, Sticks and Being Happy

KIMG0489We are almost there! Mr. Little and I have almost finished filling in our Sefiras HaOmer chart. He is very proud of himself. I think he missed one day (though I am not telling him that,) with just a couple of stickers left to put on. (I found a chart off of chinuch.org and put packing tape over it to make it stronger and put our stickers on each day.)

Over the past week I have been thinking about how nice it would be to sit down and write more on my blog. Lately, after my husband is sent off to work, I take up to an hour to do “nothing” and then exercise and shower before getting the boys out of bed. I really feel good, physically, about doing that. Mentally, it takes me the 1.5-2 hours to wipe the cobwebs away from the night, so havingKIMG0403 to get up at 5:30 am 6 or 7 days a week is really good for me (though I still do not really like doing it, it is one of those love-hate relationships.) This morning, when I was thinking how nice it would be to write a little bit to y’all, that little voice in my head turned around and said, “and so, what are you doing about that?” That little voice reminded me that thinking about something will not produce it. That, in turn, reminded me of the mann that we received in the midbar (desert); we just had to *think* about what we wanted it to taste like and it happened. Which was the reason why we had to think about the tastes we wanted on Friday before Shabbos, for for us, at that time, since our thinking created something, it was forbidden to do on Shabbos. Our thinking was our cooking and baking, both forbidden to us on Shabbos. Unfortunately, I am not on that level yet. Baruch Hashem I still have a couple more days of the omer to work on myself!

I am sitting here, trying to ponder on the last two weeks, which is another reason why I should blog more frequently again, for two weeks full of “stuff” is a long time to remember. We have been busy, and yet we have not. The “stuff” we have done you might call it KIMG0417something like “unstuff” for there was a lot of stuff not done, which was the purpose. Mr. Big was doing solely his online college classes this semester. We noticed a change in him about half way through the course. He was not as happy and outgoing as he used to be, and less energetic. Much more of an introvert. We knew the answer as to why – sitting all day on the computer and mostly by himself – but there was not much we could think of doing until his classes were finished. He was finally finished with everything last week, and I had my “plan.” I was so excited about it and talked to my husband about it for several weeks. I was pumped. And then last Monday, he was sick. Sigh. After feeling a bit depressed, I dusted myself off and continued my plan with the other boys while he slept and got better.

I came up with my plan for I am reading The Secret Garden to Mr. Little. At first he did not want me to read, but he was excited to see if Mary ever found the key and found the garden, that he let me read. Now, he tries to get me to read two chapters a night. As weKIMG0446 were reading about a sickly, lethargic, cross little girl, and how she started to transform into a real thinking, happy person, I remembered all my Charlotte Mason readings (I have not read all 6 volumes, but maybe enough to say one whole book? But, I have read the important parts and the rest is really just commentary,) and how she states that children should be outside (ideally) for 4-6 hours a day, being with nature, playing and just absorbing all the fresh air, sunshine and elements. I do try to keep that in mind, even though I don’t seem to be able to take that advice much, but I do keep trying. So, after starting to read The Secret Garden, my mind opened up.

My plan was to basically not do any school work. Mr. Big (and the rest of us, but him in particular) really needed to get back outside and playing in dirt, mud, with sticks, getting dirty, etc. We needed the sunshine to wipe all those cobwebs and dirt away to make our minds sparkle again. My biggest hurdle was knowing where to go. Being still new here, I did not know where there were any good parks nearby. I did not want the regular parks with slides and swings, I wanted a forest park. It took a few minutes of online work, but I found one that seemed like it would be near (in the suburb right next to us, so I just assumed…..) and off the rest of us went. I was relieved to find out that the GPS said it was only about 15 minutes away. It was the most amazing place for us to be. It was exactly what we were looking for and needed. There was a water fountain if needed, bathrooms, yes, a small playground set, and a few signs telling about the place. But most importantly, it had walking trails through the trees, dirt, sticks, and to our surprise, a little creek that was just perfect for boys to walk in with their shoes and pants and shirts….and get thoroughly wet. It was not raining that day, but we have had a lot of rain (15 inches in two weeks kind of rain,) and as I write, we are in the midst of another storm (it really storms here mostly, not just rain.)

So, in short, we all had fun. I did not venture into the water like they did, but I so enjoyed the sunshine, smells of nature, and just sitting there watching the boys…well…be boys. It KIMG0460was such a hit that on Tuesday, when Mr. Big did feel better, and I told the boys we were not doing school work yet again, and we were going out, there were shouts and yells and pleading about going back to the same place, which was the plan. The first day, it was mud and water, which surprised me for I thought there would be sticks as well. We did some math though and found out this math equation: Mud+Water=Shoesstuckandfallingoff. However, they did not disappoint me on day two and they found the sticks and the skipping rocks as well. Even though Mr. Big thought he was too big to play in the water and get thoroughly wet, like his brothers, he roamed, got his shoes all wet by walking in the water, and I even caught him with his hands all full of mud. Yes, deep down inside, he is still a boy, and I was so happy to see that!

Wednesday, one of the first things was, “Can we go back to the water?!?!?!?!” No, we found a different place. We didn’t have much time for it was raining on and off, and I did not want to get tired of such a fun place too quickly. As we were driving around and around and around, trying to find the entrance of the walking trail (it ended up being a biking/walking trail opposed to a nice forest park, but it went through trees and under bridges so we had fun walking,) I decided it was time to purchase rain boots and rain jackets and umbrellas.

Thursday started out with, “where are we going today, Mommy?”. It was really hot and humid and we found another park, though we had to stay on the paved trail for theKIMG0424 unpaved area, where I wanted to go, was all rained out. Only 1 boy was smart enough to bring his new rain boots, and he got to go through the little “lakes” on the grass (some were knee deep!)

My initial plan was to be somewhere for 3-4 hours, but we never stayed more than 1.5 hours, but it definitely was worth it. It did not take much, and by Sunday we saw the fruits of the (oh so hard 😉 ) labour. Mr. Big started smiling more, he looked a bit more happy than he was. Yes, just the fact that he did not have school helped, and yes, even the fact that I took him off of almost all computer time helped, but I think things moved faster with our outings. Monday morning, after he came home from shul, he told me he was helping the rabbi with the shul’s renovations and needed a tape measure and that he is going to Lowes with the rabbi to get stuff. He was in the house, talked to me, got what he wanted and was gone again in abut 45 seconds. I stood there and smiled. *THIS* is what I remembered him being like. We did not go out to forests this week, but he has spent most of his week going to Lowes with the rabbi and changing faucets and whatnot at the shul (all by himself (and he is only 14!)) He is confident, smiley, teaseable, and is interested in his amateur radio again. *happy tears*

Lesson learned: Mr. Big needs his online college classes, that is how we are getting him into university to be able to get him what he wants. We do not want him in a classroom there yet, we feel the college atmosphere is not good for him, at least not right now. But, instead of 4-5 classes at a time, we will focus on 1 class. The rest of the learning will be with me, which is what I want (and miss…) so that way he is with people most of the day.

I’m off, I need to finish getting myself ready and wake up the rest of the beautiful boys. Mr. Big is supposed to be studying for his General Class license, but he is busy playing with his radio…. need to bug him to find his book. Next time, I’ll be able to tell you all about our family project we are in the middle of!

KIMG0466Wishing everyone a wonderful Shavuos, and I’m reminded that means the giving of the cheesecake, which we already made this week (yum!) I am thinking I will wake boys up with their favorite song of the season; Stay Up All Night. And since we are just a few days away, I won’t mind them playing it many times over the next few days.

Chag Sameach!

A Freilichen Purim and a Belated Mazal Tov!

KIMG0052A Freilichen Purim everyone! I just looked and it has been well over a month since I have posted. Wow, time flies. We have been quite busy over the last 4 weeks. From (finally!) purchasing a home in our new place to celebrating a Bar Mitzvah the next week. Baruch Hashem, our Beautiful Boy #2 has now become a “Man.” 😀 We merited to have almost all our family over here that weekend. We were still in our apartment, but ate at the new house. It was so nice! 17 people. The weather was even nice. The Oldest-Sister-In-The-Family Club met before everyone started leaving. I must say, it was pretty cool to have all the Oldest Sisters there.

After that, it was teaching our boys handywork jobs. Stripping paint off of cabinets, painting walls, etc. And yes, they20150201_144137 all had a hand in actually painting the house (and really painting, not just painting pictures on the walls. :D)  It was a hard 2 weeks. We ended up getting someone to do a lot of the painting for we bit off too much. Even the hired painters are taking a while (at least 2 weeks now) to do three rooms, but it is looking nice. Last Shabbos we moved the beds into the house and finally got to “move in,” even though most of our stuff is still at the apartment.

20150201_210923Movers came on Sunday, we were so excited! But, we only got 2/3’s of our stuff. Apparently they did not have a truck big enough for our stuff – they were all stuck in snow. That is what they say. We got most of our sefarim, the guitar, paino and some of our bookcases. Among the rest of the stuff that did not come, we did not get all our bookcases, our two big exercise machines and the big organ. We were told they were going to arrive a few days later, so we spent two days working and moving things around, emptying boxes and trying to find temporary homes for things, but they never arrived. When we called, we were told they were not coming and they did not know when they would have someone available. 😐 A little frustrating and annoying, but we keep telling ourselves, and our children, we have the most important things – most of our sefarim, and our beds (though not all sefarim and not all our beds came, but we bought some of both when we moved here,) and I can start teaching again.

It had been a challenge emptying the boxes for things that are labeled “school supplies” are opened in anticipation of them being books or crayons or whatnot, and only the very top is what the box says and the rest are something else. 20150208_201053Most of my kitchen boxes are labeled, “sewing stuff.” Hmm… I don’t remember putting most of my sewing goods in my kitchen. We scrounged around and Baruch Hashem were able to find Purim costumes for boys – one boy was missing his strimel (hat) but when I picked up the box labeled “lamp shades,” I just knew it was in there before I opened the box. (And yes, there actually were two lamp shades in there.) I just needed to spend $15 on costumes for the rest of the boys and we were all set.

It is all about perspective. We have not done schoolwork in a few weeks, and I can tell we all need to get back into a routine, and we are missing some of our stuff – like screws for bed frames, bookcases, our big organ, and some of our other stuff we miss, but things really are good. It has been a good few weeks to ponder on that idea and internalize it. Baruch Hashem. We are very grateful.

KIMG0051I think I will take a quick break in between delivering the rest of the shlach manos and going to the seuda to take out Saba’s piano music which was the one thing I wanted and break in the piano at our new place. Wishing everyone a Freilichen Purim!