Olam Shel Emet – Book Review

20141230_154137I hope that everyone is doing well. We are here, taking a little needed break with Grandpa and a cousin. Well, the cousin just went home but Grandpa is here for another day. Yesterday we went to the Children’s Aquarium and the boys got to touch some water animals. I am just finishing up 2 hours of quiet time with no one else in the house. It was not really enough time to do everything that needed to be done, and I hope that somehow I get an extra hour and a half somehow in the next 24 hours. I have found myself being really busy but not really accomplishing much – I just need to get a schedule going and I am needing the time to do it.

In the meantime, with the few remaining minutes left, I had the wonderful opportunity to review another book and am posting my review below.image4 The author kindly allowed me to take her pictures and post them here.  Tzivia Macleod has started a new series – Olam Shel Emet (The world of truth); it is the start of a science book series all within the scope of the Torah.

One of the most difficult subjects to find resources that are Jewish friendly is biology; largely animals and their lives. Either one finds resources that go out of their way to exclude Hashem totally, or they are Christian based and therefore include thoughts and ideas that are not Jewish. There is a new series that came out that uses Torah to talk about various kinds of animals – “Olam Shel Emet” by Jennifer Tzivia Macleod.

The first book in the series is called, “Spineless Wonders, 10 incredible animals without bones.” For now, it is available only by e-book. In it is found some basic, and not so basic facts about 10 various animals. The Hebrew word(s) for each animal is included as well. Mrs. Macleod has taken the opportunity to tie science in with the Torah. She includes various quotes from Jewish sources to teach us more about various animals or to help us learn from them.

I was really excited to be able to read such a book. As I grow and learn myself, I keep trying to find books that my boys can learn from that have a Torah perspective to help guide them along the path I think they should go. I have found story books that have Torah values as well as Jewish learning books, but to find a science book that combines Torah is more than just limited. This series is intended to help fill that gap.

image20Our family likes books. I have a Kindle, and have used it in my homeschooling in the past, mainly as a backup, but we have not used it in a long time. I buy printed books or print them out (I do that for out of copyright books that we use.)  So, the main downfall was that the book is only available as an e-book at the moment. (Note: The author has told me she is looking into printed books.) On the other hand, it is so much cheaper to purchase an e-book, which is great for the wallet!

One of the nice and important parts are the pictures. Children (and we are all children,) love pictures. I have found they are more likely to stay on the page and read if there are pictures. There are many beautiful pictures throughout.

In this book, you get a very nice look at 10 different invertebrates such as corals, squid, crabs, earthworms and germs. For each of the animalsimage23 you learn about things such as how they live, their habitat, some Latin words, how they are born, life spans, as well as fun facts such as how many different species there are. You cannot write a book report on an individual animal based solely on this book, however you learn more than just the average basic information. I certainly learned quite a bit and found it to be a very interesting book to read. The book can be enjoyed by all ages, however, it speaks the most to children around the ages of 6-11.

The wonderful bonus to this book is how Torah is intertwined. Torah thoughts and quotes from the Torah, Tehillim (Psalms) and even the Gemara are included to teach us a little bit more how to act as well as to remind us Who created everything and how everything really does tie back to Hashem.

Around The World In 80 Minus 75 Days

My sister, mother and I on our trip down.
My sister, mother and I on our trip down.

I am writing this on the plane back from a three day trip to the Holy Land. I would normally not feel like a post like one should be published for a homeschool blog, however, I think it is just as relevant as a homeschool post as it is a therapeutic one. I am hoping that by posting this, there will be those who read this and get some relief that even when life dishes out challenges, that those are just part of living and it is okay when your homeschooling world does not seem to be happening very well, or even at all.

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After at least 19 hours we made it!

Two months ago we started our journey across the continent to a new place and a new home. Spending the first 4 weeks in a hotel was definitely a challenge, not only for homeschooling, but in general. Baruch Hashem we found an apartment and that really did help. It really means something to be living in your own place and to arrive in our new city Erev Sukkos, the holiday where we come out of our comfortable homes and spend it outside in temporary dwellings, really did mean something this year. Since our belongings are still in storage, in a different state (and not the one where we came from even!) we had to purchase many new things – most of which we already have but have no access to at the moment. To me, that was the hardest part. However, we managed and made it all work. There are bedrooms with beds for everyone, a nice kitchen, our school work, a second vehicle that we are now needing and even a few extras (just a few, not many!) It took about 2 weeks in the apartment to start to feel like things were settling down. I was getting overwhelmed with all the extra things that needed to be done because of the move and not being able to get into a schedule with our learning. Things were looking up and I had big plans.

Hashem has His plans as well, and no matter how it looks, if we look really hard we see that everything is for the good. The day before we were to go to family for Thanksgiving, something which we try to do every year, my sister sent me a text saying that Saba (grandfather) passed away.

Me, my mother, sister, brother and cousins in Tel Aviv
Me, my mother, sister, brother and cousins in Tel Aviv

It was not a surprise, he had been sick for a while, and 5 weeks before when my father went to visit him, he decided that he was going to stay down there until the end. There had been a few close calls over the last few weeks and so it had been more of playing the waiting game. My father had talked to me before a few times to try to get me to come to the levaya (funeral), whenever that would happen, but I kept telling him that unfortunately I don’t think I would be able to come. We are in a new place, it has been just a few weeks, and we do not really know anyone yet, and I cannot leave my boys by themselves. Their father now works an hour from home and cannot just take time off for he has not been able to work long enough to do it. My father kept insisting though, and even though I wanted to say yes, I could not see myself doing it. The big stumbling block was that my grandfather wanted to be buried next to my grandmother in Israel – hard to take an afternoon flight one day and come back the next afternoon (which was something we could have finagled).

But, as I said, if we look hard, Hashem’s plans are always good. Just after his 94th birthday, Hashem could not wait for him any longer and took him back. I remember talking to him for his 90th birthday. He never dreamed he would live until 90. It was almost unheard of in his time.

Fruits are huge in Israel - hard to tell but these were at least 1.5 times larger than we get in the US.
Fruits are huge in Israel – hard to tell but these were at least 1.5 times larger than we get in the US.

There were so many good things about his last 5 weeks. My father was able to go visit him. Saba was still living at home, though he did have care by this time. My father was able to be with him the remainder of his life so he was not alone. There was no family close by. And, almost as important was the fact that they were able to control the pain so he was comfortable. We could not have asked for anything more.

As soon as I got the message from my sister, I sent a message to my husband. When he got back to his desk he asked if I wanted to go (to the levaya). It took me a few seconds for of course I wanted to go, but we begrudgingly agreed before that unfortunately it was not going to be possible. As I sat there I realized that he was asking a very serious question – of all the days that could be chosen, to leave the day before Thanksgiving was one of the only days that I would be able to go (the week at the end of December would be the other time.) He was planning on taking Wednesday off anyways (he actually worked enough to have one day off,) and his boss let him take Monday and make up the hours. I felt guilty about wanting to go and leaving the rest of the family “fend for themselves” and almost declined the offer since the news had not really set in with me yet, but we know that to do a mitzvah for someone who has passed away is one of the greatest mitzvahs there is for not only is this the last mitzvah you can do for the deceased, you are doing it for the mitzvah and not to get anything in return. You can’t. A deceased person cannot repay you back in any way. “Yes.”

We made it. (My sister's photo, my phone died. Will post the one with me in it when she sends it to me!)
We made it. (My sister’s photo, my phone died. Will post the one with me in it when she sends it to me!)

After much quick thinking, phone calls and texts between my sister and father, we finally got it all figured out. My father had a feeling a few days before and had mother and one brother already on a plane in hopes of still being able to get there in time. Unfortunately they were a few hours too late. We found tickets for all of us to meet in Dallas and fly to Israel. The flight was fairly uneventful, faily, not totally, but it all worked out in the end, and at the anticipated time, we landed in Tel Aviv and were greeted by my aunt, uncle and cousin. We arrived on Thursday evening and the levaya was on Sunday morning. In Judaism, usually the person is buried within 24 hours, and inside Israel, by sunset on the same day. However, the Los Angeles chevra kadisha had an unfortunate incident one time and now has a policy of only sending bodies on direct flights to Israel. The next direct flight from Los Angeles arrived in Tel Aviv 2 hours before Shabbos – not enough time for a Friday levaya.

We packed as much as we could in the three days (one being Shabbos) that I had in the Holy Land. We spent time with all the cousins, visited Tel Aviv and of course Jerusalem and the Kotel. Last time I was there was 18 years ago, and for my parents, even longer – almost thirty years ago for my grandmother’s levaya. It was a trip mixed with joy and happiness and some sadness. We countered the later with the thought that Saba waited almost thirty years to see his dearly missed wife again and he was now going to fulfill that wish.

It was a mixed emotion trip for all. We all shared stories and realized that none of us really knew Saba. Yes, he talked, we all knew about some of

Going into the Jewish Quarter.
Going into the Jewish Quarter.

his life as a child, his life in the Russian army during WWII, and that he was able to speak 7 different languages. But there was much that we did not know. Over the last few years some of us were able to learn a little bit more about this amazing person and there is so much we will never know. Being with family and being able to share our various stories was so good, and so was having alone time.

As much as I know that Hashem’s plans are always good, I just hope that now that His plans are to let me get back to our learning for a bit before dishing out some more excitement.  After all, the boys (and I) do need to learn something this year! This is life, and it is something that I want my boys to understand as well. Things do not always go as planned, and sometimes often times do not go as planned, but we have to be able to adjust ourselves and know that when things go upside down, Hashem has already given us the tools to be able to get through it.

The Sefer Torah (middle one) Saba has commissioned. He watched the party via Skype, just 5 days before his passing.
The Sefer Torah (middle one) Saba has commissioned. He watched the party via Skype, just 5 days before his passing.

It was strange coming by myself, without any children nor my husband, even though I was with lots of family the entire time. I took the opportunity to soak as much up of the Holy Land as I could (thanks to the jet lag that did not let me sleep and made me exhausted by the time I had to take the trip home!) Even though I really enjoyed being there, and was so thankful to have the opportunity to do something I did not think I would be able to do, I miss my family and hopefully it won’t take me 18 years to go back, and we can all go, but for a happier occasion. My computer clock says it is 6:22 pm back home. I am hoping that means that we already flew 9 hours

My father, after 28 years he was finally able to return to visit his mother's resting place, who is now kept company by his father.
My father, after 28 years he was finally able to return to visit his mother’s resting place, who is now kept company by his father.

from London and I have only 2 hours to go.  It’s been a long flight, I had to check in my carry on that had my books for it was too heavy and it’s been a challenge to keep myself busy for the last 9 hours.

I am going to finish my supper and then I think I will try to go to sleep for the last little bit. This was not goodbye Saba, we will see each other again. Until then, keep Savta company for us.

Day Two

20141020_135123I am calling this blog Day Two for Day Two was SOOOOOOO much better than Day One. We still have not plunged into a real routine but the movers have our schedule and I have not had time to really put a good one together yet. Three weeks off of school with painting, packing, throwing out, moving, Yomim Tovim, etc. really prevent boys from wanting to go back to school. Had to get up at 5:30 am (after spending until almost 1 am trying to wash and dry clothes – kept missing the opportunity to use the hotel’s washers and dryers and brought back wet clothes for I was too tired to put more coins in and wait longer,) to get Daddy off to work. This is going to be hard to get used too. He has to be there at 7:30 in the morning and he doesn’t have a 7-9 minute commute anymore, it’s an hour. Boys got up and dressed and shipped to the eating area for our free breakfast (well, we do pay for it in the cost of the hotel, but we won’t go there, “free” sounds nicer,) and finally got them davening while I snagged the washer and dryer again, and finally got some kodesh learning printed off and got started.

My mistake was that I thought I was doing well. You see, I finally get everyone settled and doing a second set of work. Mr. #1 was in one bedroom doing one thing, one boy was playing with Legos and two boys were sitting with me ready to learn. Ah, I had it all made! And then I made the mistake. I remembered that someone else was using the washer after me and I hogged both dryers and needed to get my stuff out. Anything I did at this point would have produced the same effect. I was lazy and sent two boys to quickly grab our clothes from the dryer and come back. I neglected to define the word, or perhaps the whole sentence. One boy came back crying and sat down beside me. We waited. And waited. And waited. I had said boy sit down and I was going to start the class without the other boy, but then I got to thinking that I did not want to have to repeat the learning. I sent the boy back to find his brother and the missing clothes. And waited.

Finally! Both boys returned. Minus the clothes. 😐 Turned them around and they finally brought back the items. Phew. Not sure how long that 20141020_134924took but I think it was about 10 ish by the time we started our learning. The learning went not too bad. It happens to be my favorite lesson in the entire book (Madame How and Lady Why.) I then sent them to go and do some team reading for another lesson. Mistake number two. About half way through the reading I find out one boy went ahead and read almost all of the book for he was “waiting for his brother” (their famous phrase). Sigh. I’ll just say they were not getting along too well at that time. I ended up sitting them both on the couch and telling them to be quiet while I made lunch. That seemed to do the trick and I sent them back to read. The rest of the day was a bit better. Though Daddy is gone an awfully long time now, with the much longer treck both directions and them working him harder as well. That is hard on the boys too.

Today is going much better though. One good thing about having “free” breakfasts is that there is a time limit. Breakfast is over at 9 am during the week. This is a great insensitive to get boys out of bed on time. I might tell them that breakfast is closed passed a certain time but they can go sneak some food in between lessons. Here, the food is all put away and locked in the kitchen and not even I have the key! Did have to threaten to drag one boy out of bed (he sooooo does not like that) but they got up, dressed, ate and were back in the room ON TIME! I felt pretty good.

All in all, the boys were pretty good today. I have made a deal with one boy; I will buy him a (Jewish) song of his choice for every 7 days of good behaviour (does not have to be consecutive.) I don’t always have cash, but $0.99 on the credit card I can do. This song will belong to him to play. The catch: No tantrums, respectful speech to both of his parents, talking nice to brothers, etc. He is very motivated. He has had mainly good days, a few dips but all in all is doing so much better. He keeps talking about getting to that 7th day. 🙂

20141020_124049Boys sat well this morning when I gave them just a little bit of writing work to do and the little one was davening and learning with me while the cleaning staff cleaned our room (a HUGE bonus of being stuck in a hotel!) Unfortunately, today she forgot to mop the so little, tiny bit of kitchen flooring – there was something sticky that fell on it earlier this morning.  We got math done this afternoon, after a picnic outside in the pool area (love being able to picnic!) and now, 3/4 boys are swimming outside (gym time), leaving me to have some awkward quiet time with seemingly nothing to do (though I am sure there really is, I just can’t think of much right now.) Need to check on the other 1/4 and figure out why his reading is taking so long (I’m sure he made his way from the loby where he was reading to the business area with the computers,) and then get supper going. It is so nice to be able to do some mostly real cooking on the two burners stove (do not have an oven.) That really helps a lot. Our stomachs are happier as well.

As things are slowly falling into place, and we are slowly doing things (unless forced to do it quickly) one does when one moves (changing addresses, new tags on cars, dealing with new health insurance, etc.) we are slowly trying to get used to the new culture (though the climate is not hard to get used to) and I think things will be well. It was a nice surprise when my oldest came in with our missing USPS box full of gemaras, mishanyos and all the other school books we were missing! Being Parshas Noach, a friend told me, “Bo el haTeva. Here comes the box!” Nothing is coincidence, and it is so “of course!” We had one slightly bent gemara (for it was very, very skinny,) missing a really tiny hebrew reading book, but did acquire a strange, unknown magazine and a pair of socks. For boys. And the right size for one of them to boot.

So, yes, today is going much better. Now to get out of my hermit state and off to be a parent again and find my 4 belongings. 🙂

Good Morning, Gut Moed

IMG_20141006_083458Well, it’s the last day of Sukkos, and it sure has been quite an adventure the last couple of weeks (well, the last several weeks really,) for we have moved. Not just any move, but all the way to sunny Dallas, TX. And we didn’t just move here, we DROVE here, across the continent, all the way from just a few miles south of the Canadian border, down, down, down, southwards, just about reaching the Gulf Coast. What an adventure, what a drive! A cross country drive with the boys was something we have wanted to do for a long time, and in case I did not feel it before, I sure felt like a homeschool family on the trip. 😀 Needless to say, most boys have not done official school work in several weeks – of of the many bonuses of homeschooling. Mr. Big Boy #1 has been working on his college classes – they keep going no matter what else is going on in your life.

On Rosh Hashanah, things were feeling pretty normal except for the fact that the 20141001_200938house was upside down as we were getting ready to move (I had been trying to thin things down in the house, rooms were moved around to paint, etc. so no, it was not “normal” but as long as I was out of the house I felt things were still pretty normal. The kiddush that Shabbos was sponsored by some most wonderful friends in our honor – all whom we are missing. Then, as everyone was preparing themselves during the Aseres Yemai Teshuva (the 10 days of Repentence – the days in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), I felt like I was Pesach cleaning  (oops, sorry for mentioning *the* word now,) both physically and spiritually. The movers came, packed, and then loaded (almost) all our precious (and not so precious) belongings onto a truck and drove off. They were a crew! At least they did not pack a pail of dirty diapers like the previous movers did (after I told them not to!) but they almost took our bikes that were chained up way 20141006_150809in the backyard that were chained up to make sure they did not take them. By Yom Kippur, our house went from being turned upside down, to a House of Maze, to just plain empty. It is amazing how quickly other people can pack your things for they are not emotionally attached to them in any way.

Motzei Yom Kippur the boys were helping us out until 1 am or later (oops, did not realize what time it was and we really did need all their help,) and the Mom and Dad finally went to bed at 5:30 in the morning. The alarm was set for 7:30 am. Funny enough, we woke up before the alarm. Between packing what we needed for the next several months (or at least the minimal amount of things needed,) and finishing getting the house ready for us to 20141006_153549leave, and all boys going to shul, we finally made it out at about 5:30 pm. Happy Birthday 11th YY! Baruch Hashem for a place to eat out, bought lunch and supper and a little dessert for the birthday boy and we were off! Van packed to the hilt, 4 bikes on the back of the van, one INSIDE (1 had to be taken by the movers for there was just no room,) car top carrier filled, and so were laps, and we were off! We were missing one thing – our rocking chair on top with Granny. 😉

We left 5 hours later than we hoped to have left, but it was doable since we were driving. It was a long day. We finally made it to our destination in Columbus Ohio at about 1 am. We all crawled into bed. 6 am came too fast. Monday was our long day. Google maps said it was supposed to take 10 hours. It took 14 – and we only had one 20141006_152629big stop (1.5 hours worth)! We have spent our days looking out the windows, coloring, reading, listening to Lipa (and others) and of course listening to shiurim. Technology can be really amazing. Just 10 years ago, DH complained that he could not listen to shiurim in the car for the quality was just not good. Now, we can listen to recordings from the 1970’s for the technology has come a very long way.

Tuesday was the day we were excited about. We surprised the boys by making our Monday stop in Branson, MO. Branson has been a big tourist attraction spot for many, many years. Grandpa takes one boy each year there to have fun. When they 20141007_103503realized that is where we were going to stay, they just couldn’t stay in their seats as they pointed out the hotels they had stayed in and the other attractions they had been to. (One boy even recognized the driver of the Duck , an amphibious vehicle, as we passed by it – as well as making all the duck noises.) We decided to go see one attraction and we settled upon the Titanic. Afterall, we ARE a homeschooling family and we should make everything educational. 😉 The tickets were extremely reasonable in price and the museum was amazing! They had a lot of artifacts out for show, even some things for hands on experience (a glacier simulation, ship “deck” pieces at various angles to walk up to see what it was like as the ship was sinking, etc.) Each guest was handed a ticket with a name of a passenger and you could look at the list at the end of the museum to 20141007_175638see if you survived… or not… And yes, I was conscious when I walked into the money trap and purchased the photo of our family that was taken, as well as when I purchased other souvenirs . I figured I could spend a little bit of money – afterall, this was an amazing journey and we were all having fun! I did purchase a wonderful book of facts recommended by a worker. Apparently all new employees are given that book to learn the initial facts.

Tuesday night we arrived at our new home – the Homewood Suites Hotel. For the first 5 days the 6 of us spent the time in a 1 bedroom suite before moving in the luxurious 2 bedroom suite with 2 ensuites (yeah!) Sukkos started Wednesday night. We have made this our home and even have our little “bookshelf” all set up! (Yes, a homeschool family!) 20141013_140929Wednesday was spent trying to find our way around town and getting Texas inspection for the car, tags and the toll tag, and a PO Box,  as well as going to the store to get a ready made meal for the one meal we had to make for ourselves over Yom Tov. Baruch Hashem, the community is very nice and by the time we arrived in town, we had 5 meals set up for the Yom Tov/Shabbos! The past few days have been busy as well, though we were able to get out and take a nice walk/hike at Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve. The weather is wonderful. It was a bit warm the first days with 95+ degree weather and we made the downpour on Friday night, but it is supposed to be about 80 through Shabbos.

20141014_133730 (1)This Sukkos does feel a bit strange for we do not have our own Sukkah, and being in a hotel, we usually opt to make food that does not need to be eaten in the Sukkah.  What is special about a sukkah? It is considered an “easy” mitzvah to do for it is a “living” mitzvah – if you want to eat, eat in the sukkah, if you want to make a phone call, make it in the sukkah, etc, easy! We make the sukkah our home. Something we need anyways, just for 7 days a year we make our home in the sukkah. But what is it about the home? The home is the security of man. Even when we are out of the house, working, travelling, etc. when we have a home, we are secure. This really hit home this year and I can really relate. God willing, next year we will be in our own home and once again will have a Sukkah.

We are meeting a lot of new people, and visiting various shuls. And, I would say, the most important thing is that we met several other religious homeschooling families! My two oldest boys are the oldest, and we are the veteran homeschoolers, but it is so nice to have a nice group to20141014_115629 (1) do things with. Now, it’s erev Yom Tov again, and this time, we are making most of our own meals (with a stove top but without an oven!) and we are going for a walk before having to make one washing load and trying to figure out what we are going to eat for the next few days.

Wishing everyone a wonderful Yom Tov!

Shanah Tovah!

20140914_123107Wow, it’s that time again. I’ve barely had time to breath the last month that it is hard to internalize that in less than 24 hours it will be a new year again. Fresh starts are great. I didn’t think I really had a fresh start at the beginning of the school year this time for I did not feel ready. I did not seem to have the time to organize and clean. But Hashem has blessed us with a fresh start now – not just in the new year, but in a new place. We are moving. Across the country. All the way to Dallas! So, we have not been doing much learning, as you can imagine, and things have been quite stressful, but we are all excited about the move.

DH and I went for a house hunting trip the last two days. It was quite an adventure and we learned that in Dallas you have to water your houses. My boys looked at me funny and started laughing. 🙂 Yes, that is right, you have to make sure you water your house (the foundation really) once or twice a week depending on the season or your foundation will crack and your house will shift. We are always learning new things!

My oldest is doing his college courses still and as long as he is doing them, he is off the hook for any cleaning or repairs that are needing to be done on our house to get it ready to sell. Boy, this is not an easy task.  Painting, throwing out, painting, putting away and painting. I was woken up at 1 am last week one night and could not go back to sleep and then had only 5-6 hours of sleep most other nights, and the trip did not help much that I went back to bed at 6:40 this morning after sending DH out to work and I didn’t wake up until 10. I think I was tired. We had been doing some of our limudei kodesh until last week when things got quite hectic. Ouch. I need to remember to get back into it tomorrow morning – if nothing else, it is Erev Rosh Hashanah.

But I believe this is good for us. We will miss all our friends here and will miss the quiet atmosphere, and yes, we will miss some of the snow (only some!) but it is time to move on. We all had our last night at scouts – me as the Cub leader, DH as the Scoutmaster, Mr. Big as the Senior Patrol Leader (the scout who leads the troop,) and the other boys as active members. It was very hard to go. However, there are many positives to look forward to. We are looking forward to having other Jewish religious homeschoolers around. I hear there are at least 6 or 7 others in the area. That will be something new for us! It is a good time of year. It is the New Year. A change in location means a change in mazal (“luck”) and what better time than at the beginning of the year when the Creator is ready to plan for the next year.

It has not been an easy decision. The hour long commute (opposed to an 8 minute drive) was a big factor, and leaving a quiet place and all the 20140918_200127-SMILEwonderful people is going to be hard. It took a lot of talking, along with davening (praying), emunah (faith) and bitachon (trust) in Hashem to help guide us along the right path. We want to go along the best path for us, no matter what we personally might think. We do not know what really is best, only He knows. We have found that when we want to do something for the right reason, it will usually be easy to make the right decision. No need to worry or second guess. And when we sometimes find ourselves second guessing, we restrengthen our emunah and we are shown again that we did right. We have talked about this with our boys, but they are still little (yes, even the 13 year old college boy,) and it is hard. Though with our constant talking, hopefully in the not so distant future they will start to understand what we are able to see now.

Everyone is excited, and the movers are most likely coming next week. We are hoping to drive all the way down the country, though not stopping to see much for we are racing time between Yom Kippur and Sukkos!

I am going to sign off here, but before I do, I just want to wish everyone a Kesiva V’Chasima Tovah – may you all be written in the books of Health, Wealth, Success and Happiness. We can always want to start fresh at any time of the year, but this is the time where it is the easiest time to accomplish it and with just a little bit of determination and lots of praying may Hashem grant you all a nice fresh start and a wonderful Yom Tov!

Talk to you next year!

Life Goes On For He’s Fully 5!

20140801_182059These last several weeks have been hard to do the things that I need to do.  I wake up, do our breakfast routine and then the computer gets opened. Facebook news read with all the news from the morning hours in Israel. Muqata’s Facebook page gets scanned for those unfortunate brave souls that are no longer physically with us along with any other links. I do my morning routine with the boys and try not to look until around lunch time and then the news article reading starts again. And again in the afternoon and evening. It is like an addiction. And then it hits me. Looking at the what my friends and family are doing in Israel I see one thing in common (besides all the comments about the mamads (bomb shelters,) They are still going to museums, still going to the beach, still going out for dinner, etc. Still. Yes, there multiple sirens in the day that do interrupt things, however they do not let it stop their living. They work, they play, they learn, they live.

I might be physically away from what is happening, but emotionally and spiritually we are close, we all are. We have our soldier, our chayal, that we daven for and learn for, along with the rest of the soldiers. But just like my friends and family in Israel, we too have to keep on living. We alter our day a little bit and we think about different things now but we continue. Life does not stand still.

I was reminded about this need to remember to live life for my little one, who is not so little anymore, turned fully 5 last week (after having both his English and then his Hebrew birthday.) It is not my constant worrying that will make a difference, it is the mitzvos that we do is what is going to really make a difference. I hope that this week will be easier for me to get motiviated and do more of the many things I need to do; organizing for next school year, getting my oldest ready for college, trying to just clean, etc. In other words, I need to remember to live.

As we are closing in on the saddest day of the year, Tisha B’Av (9th of Av), which starts tonight, I have been trying to do some self introspection (a second Rosh Hashanah maybe, or perhaps for once just a really good head start to Rosh Hashanah?) Wishing everyone an easy fast and may we all instill in ourselves baseless love for everyone so we can have the final redemption.

Yes, the 3 Weeks Have Arrived

20140717_110303Just in case anyone was wondering what time of the year it was. Each month has its own mazal, its own special properties and forces which surround it, and the 3 Weeks, which started this past Tuesday (17th of Tammuz) and ends with the climatic Tisha B’Av (9th of Av) is the time where sad things happen more often. Although this year, the 3 Weeks came several weeks early with the kidnapping and murder of the 3 boys in Israel, and continues with the continued firing of missiles into Israel. My list of names to daven (pray) for has more than doubled this past week, and I am talking about people that I personally know. Last night I had to actually write down all the names so I would not forget any of them. I know that I am slowly getting older, but  I am not that old so as to say “this is life.”

Israel had its first casualty from the missile attacks this week. Dror Chanin was volutneering and delivering food, chocolate and happiness to the IDF soldiers when he was hit and killed. A beautiful boy looked at me and comment, “I thought Hashem protected you when doing a mitzvah.” A person learns from his rabbi, learns more from his chavrusah (learning partner,) but a person learns the most from his students. I did not really have an answer for him and told him so. My boys sure keep me on my toes! However, I did bring out some of their learning in Makkos where the Gemara talks about different people who were learning Torah and their time in this world was up, however, the Malach haMais (Angel of Death) was unable to take their neshama for they were learning Torah. The malach had to create a diversion so that for a split second the person was distracted from learning and the malach could do its job.

I have a friend in Israel who was woken up at 2 am last night from a siren. Despite everything, her posting this morning helped put things into perspective:

Good morning world! It was a quiet night after the 2:15 am siren. In Israel we are celebrating – not death and destruction, but the reality that God is protecting us day and night with miraculous technology created here in Israel, as well as a stellar military. My heart is split, I cry for the victims of war in Gaza, yet I am high on the knowledge that God is showing his presence in our life as he has during every hardship… Remember wherever you are, God loves you too!! “

When I read that, it put a smile on my face. She is correct. We do not know why things happen, but everything He does is good. Even when things are tough, He is kind. Despite all the missiles that have come into Israel (I am not sure the exact number, but I believe it is nearing 2000), Baruch Hashem we have only had one casualty. Though even one casualty is one too many. We learn that every single person is special and life is to be valued.

We Jews seem to do best when under pressure. Despite everything going on, there has been a lot of unity among all Jews. I read somewhere in the past few days (sorry, I forget where,) if sinas chinum (baseless hatred) destroyed the Bais Hamikdash, then imagine what baseless love can do.

It is hard to know how one can help. Sometimes (often times?) one can feel small and insignificant, but there is something that can be done. Baseless love. I have been encouraging my boys (as well as myself,) to open their eyes and see others more. Do you see anyone who needs any helping hands, are you talking to your brother in a nicer way, and let us go say some tehillim. It is hard for them for they are still young (will I ever stop thinking of them as young?) and are still at the point in life where they think only about themselves, but I am hoping that each time they do do something it is making a difference.

Last night I asked my almost-5-year-old to bring me an orange. I got small ones, they are only about 2 inches in diameter. He came into the room and had even peeled it for me, and as he was finishing peeling he asked, “It’s a big orange Mom, can I share it with you?” I turned to look at him and the small peeled orange and for no other reason than the fact that at that moment I was able to feel for someone else and know that at that moment, to share my orange (that all of a sudden seemed so big) with him meant so much to him that I said, “Of course!”

May we all have baseless love for one another and thus merit the final redemption.

We Live and We Learn

20140624_194117This has definitely been a mixed feelings kind of week. I have had an extremely quiet online presence when it has come to the kidnapping and murder of the 3 Israeli boys. Everyone handles things in their own way. I davened for them, I cried for them, and no, I did not think it would have ended up the way it did. I told my boys about them, but we did not dwell on it. I have mixed feelings about dwelling on very sad events with boys. Even though my oldest is 13, they are all still my babies. I guess they always will be. I do not want to scare them, but yet they do need to know about the world around them. They will, G-d willing, have many years ahead of them where they have the opportunity to learn about all the sad things in life, but right now, let them be fairly happy with few cares. They will grow up very soon. Every morning we dedicated our morning parsha learning to the safe and quick return of the 3 boys. We talked about all Jews – no matter the backgrounds – and how these three boys have created a tremendous amount of achdus (unity) just by being Jews. They have brought Jews of various backgrounds from all around the world together. And then came the time when I had to tell them the sad news.

This week’s parsha is Balak and on Sunday I read a wonderful article on the parsha that talked about anti-semitism by Rabbi Stephen Baars. It is hard to explain why this happened. We do not know why. These boys did not do anything, they were not even soldiers. They were just boys coming home from yeshiva for Shabbos. I asked my boys why they thought these boys were targeted. It took a bit but it was my oldest who finally said, “They were Jews?” Bingo. My boys can be ones who do not say much. That is not usual, but in times like this, they just sit there. I talked a lot, not sure what I really talked about but I did relate some of what we talked about before regarding achdus and then what I learned from the article on anti-semitism. I know they were paying attention. I did ask questions directed to individual boys to keep their interest. I just knew I was trying to get to a point, have one of those heart-to-heart conversations that went one direction because they did not talk. No, I was not going above their maturity level. They just do not talk much when it comes to sad situations. The only thing I really remember is that the very last thing I wanted to say was too hard to say. I just was unable to voice it with the tears forming in my eyes. All I wanted to say was that these 3 boys have a very special place beside Hashem and that we need to remember what they taught us. They taught us to love each other.

Life goes on. We will remember these boys for a very long time and hopefully we will remember what they have taught us. Baruch Hashem this finally has a closure. The boys have been found, and all of us can now mourn in our own way and move on.

School is officially over for the year, although we did not do anything to celebrate except not do any school work. It is a time to clean and try to organize since it is hard to do all that when we are learning. I went around with a paint can yesterday to touch up places that needed it. I did not do everything but it did make the house look a bit nicer and cleaner. And then there was the placement exam my 13 year-old-little-boy-who-is-many-inches-taller-than-me took to place into college classes! Yikes. Did I mention that they will grow up fast? Yes, I think he has already grown up so much this year. So, it is official, I have one boy who is registered in English 101 and Spanish 101! 8-| Wow. Both of these classes are online, which is a requirement for us right now. He might be able to place into college courses but he is definitely not ready to take in-person classes. I won’t let him and that is not just because his mother is not wanting to let him go. He really is not ready for what that entails. Now, I spend the summer prepping him for what it really means to take a class.  Really, I am not worried about him, he’ll get it, deep inside I honestly know he will be fine. I am his mother. I am worried. But I know he will do fine.

I do not like to give my boys standardized tests mainly because I do not necessarily teach things at the same time as they do20140624_195927 in schools. However, the state regulations here require testing to be done in certain years and it is good to have the boys get used to tests so they are not too much at a disadvantage when it needs to be done, so we try to do them every year. We have done the CAT test, but for one of my boys, I have found the PASS test to be the best one.  The PASS test tests reading and comprehension, language and math. The test’s idea is to get each child to a certain point at the end of 8th grade. It is also not timed which is good for some children. There are many children who know the answers but are slower at getting all the information out. Each child goes up in all the grades at different rates, sometimes slowly and sometimes jumping leaps and bounds, but by 8th grade they are hopefully all around the same area. My late blooming boy surprised me a lot for he did amazing on his test. There was so much improvement over the last test. There are still areas to improve on but I am very confident that he will catch up really easily now.

In scouts, my Cub Scout boy crossed over into Boy Scouts while my oldest became the Senior Patrol Leader of the Troop! (In other words, the leader of the Troop!)  Two boys were counselors at the evening Cub Scout camp last week. The theme was “Knights of the Round Table.” The boys loved that theme! Only one boy is going to camp this summer, and that is the Almost-5-year-old. Unfortunately, we do not have money for the others this year, G-d willing, next year. In the meantime, there is always more schoolwork to do, it is never ending. Math and special project for the secular, and Rambam, Mishnat Yomit, Parsha and Dik Duk for the Judaics.  Two boys have decided their special project is to write poems/short stories over the summer and I hope to be able to print it out into books for them. The other boy is going to hone up on his essay writing for school and write a nice essay on the history of radios. Oh, and don’t forget they will be doing several merit badges for scouts as well but that does not necessarily have to be worked on every day. Enough to keep them busy, but still have a little bit of play time.

I think I will go down and get some popsicle sticks for the boys. I bought a watermelon and I think we will cut up pieces and stick them on the sticks to freeze for tomorrow. Yummy nutritious snack! Wishing those in the United States a Happy 4th of July!

T.H.E Conference Plug and My Boy Who Fits in The Box

2014conferencelogoThe weather is finally a nice spring weather. I have been enjoying my bike rides outside. The 6th Annual Torah Home Education Conference is almost upon us. For those who have not attended, it is such an amazing experience! Aside from the wonderful lectures and chizuk (inspiration) from the various speakers, I there are no words to describe finally meeting various people we meet through the internet. If you have not yet signed up, please do so now! (And below also find my little blurb on The Box.)

The 6th Annual Torah Home Education Conference will take place, G-d willing, on Sunday, May 25 2014. The conference opens with check-in at 8:15 AM with complimentary morning refreshments and concludes at 6:00 PM.

 A kosher catered lunch will be served. The cost is $15 per meal and can be purchased along with your registration. .

Vendors will be on hand to display and sell the materials they’ve created to enhance your Torah homeschooling experience. It will be possible to visit these vendors from the lunch period through the end of the day.

Our confirmed speakers are Avivah Werner, Nechama Cox, Leah Fine, Dena Schweitzer, Chai Gross, and many, many others.  We will have sessions on Hebrew for the Homeschooling Parent , High School/College/Yeshiva/Seminary preparation, Home with a Pre-schooler?, Homeschooling your Child with Special Needs, Schedules and your Homeschool, a Teen Panel and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly:  What Happens When It Doesn’t Go as Planned!?, as well as talks by homeschooling fathers and communal rabbis.

Sign up today here – http://www.eventbee.com/v/2014theconference

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The Box 2bWe know how different each child is, even children from the same family. I have recently talked about putting (or not putting) children in Boxes, especially for their schooling, but what do you do with a child who actually does fit in The Box? You let him sleep in it of course! He told me he had a really good sleep. 😀

A Freilichen Purim!

20140311_163628Finally, I get a few spare moments to breathe. The last while I have felt like I have been going in circles, but it has usually been good. Somehow I have not been able to get much done other than teach and today I seem to have some time, but with it being a fast day, I am not doing much for I know if I do then it will come back to bite me.

A few weeks ago one little (or big?) boy of 4 decided he was going to be a big boy, and while I was busy teaching his older brothers he went around the house and did chores such as emptying the dishwasher and putting most things away, all by himself and ripping toilet paper for Shabbos (and they were all in even square strips!) When asked why he thought of those ideas, he responded that he did not want his brothers to have to do the work. <3 <3 <3

The weather has been absolutely crazy this winter. It was not so much the snow that came, but the COLD that came along with it. Yeah, yeah, I have friends and family who will remind me that I grew up in the cold and I should be used to it. I’m a wimp, and I’m tired of the cold temperatures hovering around 0 F and below (-17 C and below). I do not mind it staying around the freezing mark; I like the change in weather, the snow, the crisp air, etc. and then the warming up and seeing the new buds. It is also hard to send the boys outside to stretch their legs. Many times we had to tell our oldest not to walk to shul in the mornings for it was just too cold, or icy, or windy. Things were just starting to look a bit warmer this week and it was gorgeous for the chassanah that we attended on Monday, but that was just a little Purim joke. And to mention that many of those people have moved out of the cold climate themselves.

On Tuesday afternoon we played some hookie with the weather rising to about 57 F! Actually, it was not hookie, it was a much needed stretch of the legs for everyone, you see, I feel very proud of myself for when I told my oldest that we were going to play hookie, he looked at me and said, “Huh? What’s20140312_121042 that?” Ditching school and taking advantage of the amazing weather to finally get a chance to stretch legs and soak in some sunshine and fresh air for more than 2 minutes really is part of schooling, and he understands that as such. 😀 Most of the snow was gone and one boy even wore shorts. Then came the rest of the Purim joke – Late Tuesday night/ early Wednesday morning it started to come. It came and it came and it came. Boy, did it come. Within 24 hours we had about 16 inches of white stuff all over the ground. My oldest used the snow blower at least twice on the driveway, the last time being around 5pm. DH and I went out for a Sheva Brachos and came back at around 9 pm and it was a miracle we made it not only home without getting stuck, but into our driveway! The snow was higher than the bottom of our van! And that was just 4 hours worth of it.

Schooling itself has just been okay. I put our schedule up on our living room wall for all to see. It is a good schedule, I just find myself missing out on things every week. I think the problem is more me than the boys. I have to really have my mindset to be ready by 8 am. We are not scheduled to daven until 8:30 am but I have noticed that my mind is just not ready. Something for me to work on. It is nice to have some quiet/me time before we start and I am up and physically ready, just mentally I am not. Perhaps if I take the time the boys are getting themselves ready (7:45-8:30), i.e. cleaning one bathroom, sweeping the floor, or other small task, I will feel a bit accomplished right at the beginning and that will help motivate me. I did notice that this morning when we got up at 5:45 am to eat a bit before the fast and I took about half an hour to wipe the kitchen counters and table and straighten the living room. I did have the drive to continue on, and would have if it were not a fast day. So, that will be my next task.

20140311_163641We did go out on Tuesday night to get some more firewood in anticipation of the cold weather the next day. We did order a cord of firewood in late December, but with the extreme temperatures (my husband told me this morning that this has been the coldest winter since 1912!) we had only 4 logs left. We had a nice fire for a few hours yesterday.  I would have started one more fire today, but there was not enough to make it worthwhile.

In the meantime, I need to make supper now – have to feed some bellies! Wishing everyone a Freilichen Purim!

p.s. Just an update on our new bookshelves – it really has helped out a lot. Some days it gets messy, but it is really easy for boys to pick up the books and they are so enjoying all the beanbags we have in there as well!