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

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!

It’s Summer Vacation… I Guess

KIMG0621It is easy to get into a mode and forget what is really going on or should be going on. This year has been a year of treading water and I kept saying to myself that summer is almost here and we will start fresh next year. I need the summer to organize the house better after moving in. Aside from making the house look a little bit nicer, it will help me with our learning. All our boxes from the move were emptied and contents put somewhere in a frantic few weeks before Pesach, just to check for chometz and get the boxes out of the house, but we did not put things in a proper home. I am not used to “summer” starting a month early.  I think about every place I have lived, school has finished mid-late June, not the end of May. Summer for kids has been here for a month now, with one more month to go. I realized that I might as well be finished for the school year, take the next month to “chill” in the 95 degree heat (with lots of ice,) do at least some of the organizing and just let the boys chill out as well. So, that was it. We don’t give out certificates, though we did the first year or two, then it never seemed to work out, so I don’t think about it now. It was just, “Ok boys, school’s finished.” Just like that.  I don’t think it even phased them for they were busy camping with Grandpa and what not that they were not doing much of anything anyways.

It feels weird to let the boys hang. Especially this year when I felt that I had to try to cram things in when I could for there were lots of times that we did not do much because of all the moves, it feels strange. I feel rather relieved, which is a nice thing. I don’t feel guiltyKIMG0659 about them not doing their work. My husband was complaining that he does not think they did much this year. I am the first one to admit that is the case, and even though I have tried to tell him and explain to him multiple times throughout the year, it is hard when he is not here and seeing things for himself. And yes, even when we had a week here or there to just do school, there were multiple occasions when I had a hard time motivating myself and just did not feel like doing anything because of all that was going on in our lives.

I do feel optimistic though. I think this allowed time off is good for now I don’t worry about trying to teach and I have time to try to organize (which we already started last week!) I 2015-06-21am not sure how much time I have for organizing for we always seem to be doing something. But I have big plans, both for school and for the house, though not quite sure about what I am doing exactly I’m doing, but I have plans. 🙂 Yesterday the scouts had their first campout. It was really good with all but 2 boys there and several fathers coming. Mr. Little made cupcakes for the fathers (and boys) in honor of Father’s Day. Father’s got first pick at cupcakes for once. They were even able to hang a flag on their portable Ham Radio antenna!

Speaking of radios, last Friday was a Ham Fest (which did not start on Shabbos!) and so we all spent the afternoon roaming around the candy store for Hams. We even had an extra boy tag along with us. Mr. Big surprised us by actually taking his license manual on the camping trip with Grandpa and spend some time going over his manual. When he came home he announce that he wanted to upgrade his license at the Ham Fest. We looked at him and asked if he thought he was going to pass (it costs money to write the tests.) “I don’t know.” He definitely did not sound convincing. We made an agreement with him that we would pay if he thought he had a good chance of passing. He told us that we only needed to pay for one more test and if needed, he would pay for additional testings. Sounded fair enough. When we arrived at the convention center, he took off to write his test while the rest of us went through the candy store. It was a pretty cool place, even if one is not too interested – I do have my license but I am not interested like all the boys are. We even talked to the severe weather watch people and brought home some really nice posters on clouds. (Ham operators often times get certified as spotters so they can help watch for and call in weather warnings, for a big plus of being a Ham is for emergency preparedness.)

After what seemed like forever, we finally got a call on our radios from Mr. Big. He was wanted to know where to find us. Nothing about the test, but that is like him. Mr. Big #2 KIMG0650was the first to comment – even though Mr. Big was still too far away to say hi to. Did he or didn’t he, that was the question. Mr. Big #2 saw a sticker on his brother’s shirt and knew (though we could not read what it said.) As he came closer, sure enough, he had the tell tail signs of someone who passed – the small rectangle piece of paper proving all that hard work paid off! We were surprised! He did a LOT more studying without us knowing than we realized. Great job! Incidentally, that is now the reason why we have a hole in our ceiling; they wanted to put up an antenna in the attic that Mr. Big could now use…

Next week we’re off for a week trip with Grandpa. Not sure when I am organizing, but at least I don’t have to worry about school! 🙂

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. 😀

Glancing Back at Summer

20140814_185833It is so refreshing to take a walk with my 5 year old. He is still young enough that he has a sharp eye for the things us bigger people just do not see. He did not want to come for a walk with me, but I dragged him along (literally had to do it for the first few steps, after that he was fine. 🙂 ) I needed out of the house and didn’t want to go by myself. We chatted for a while, found worms and slugs (a first for him). When we finally turned back around to go home, he hit the jackpot! No, not any chairs this time for it had been garbage day. (Baruch Hashem!) It was another amazing treasure for boys.  They might call it “Gold Dust,” but without the gold.

“Mommy, can I bring home some dust!?!?!?” (As if I need anymore dust in my house!) “It stays outside and does not come into the house.” “Ok. I need a bucket.” “Does it look like I have a bucket?” as I stand arms apart. I then precede to hand him an imaginary bucket. He laughs. I tell him to use his hands and carry it home.

He gathers some dust and we start to walk back home. He is careful, like a 5 year old, with his gold mine when I felt pity on him and started to wonder if he would have any gold dust left by the time we made it 15 minutes to the house. I offered to stop at a friend’s house on the way and ask if they might have a plastic cup or something we could have. Our friend found a paper towel and our gold was safe. Now, we had to make the trek BACK to the mine to fetch more dust.

We finally started walking back and found more worms and slugs. As we passed a worm, I bent down and gathered it up with a leaf to take it off the rough sidewalk and put it on the grass. He then told me to stop and he took out his dust and needed to put some beside the slug. I told him not to put it on the slug for that would not be nice, and he knew that, he just wanted to be nice and put it next to the slug. We then preceded to find more slugs so he could be nice to them as well. Not sure how that was being nice, but he felt it was the right thing to do. Cannot argue with a 5 year old!

It has been an interesting summer. I am still trying to figure out how it went. There is always 20140814_144503stuff we do not do during the year and I have been trying to make it up in the summer times. I think last year was the most successful year. I decided to work on that and have an even better summer with regards to things that needed to be done. I listed all the things we were going to work on this summer and made a schedule. It seemed like for a week or so things were going per my schedule, however, I did not like it. Something was missing. It finally dawned on me – I was not able to do my summer cleaning! For me, it was still like school. So, I decided to just keep the parsha, chitas,mishnayos, along with the new Gemara learning the boys are doing with their father (Makkos,) and one special project, everything else was ditched. I spent several days not doing much and feeling guilty about it (but not giving in to my guilt!) and by the end of the week I had a much nicer kitchen. I seemed to just have more time.

As some of you know by now, where we live we can recycle items by putting them out by the road. Last week my oldest came home:

“Mom, I need to get the wagon, I found a huge fish tank – with a stand, heater, light, filter, food and everything! Except the fish.” “We already have a fish tank.” (Not in use, but we have a nice 10 gallon tank.) “But Mom, this is a really HUGE one!” 😐 I try to explain to him that I am trying to get RID of things, not acquire more stuff. He was persistent.

“But someone let me put it on their lawn until I came back with the wagon!” Now he is making me feel guilty for he now has to fulfill a promise he made to someone.

I finally told him that he had to get rid of that amount of volume of stuff and he had to find a place for it. I even helped. I had him get rid of a broken 2 drawer cupboard for starters from the living room and he put the tank there. It is a 55 gallon tank. I made them check the seals of the tank in the tub before they were allowed to fill it up. In the end, the tank was filled in the living room and the filter turned on. After a few days the oldest took his hard earned money and bought 20lbs of rocks, a decoration, a backdrop and of course, two fish. The next morning we woke up to a nice surprise – a baby fish! We all learned something new – I thought all fish laid eggs, but there are also live bearers. So, off to the pet store we went to get a net to separate the little ones from the big ones, and we also got 4 more fish. It turns out we caught 7 babies in total, with 4 still alive. (Now is is an awesome time for the benefits of homeschooling! Love how we can learn, and in the middle of the day as well!)

I had been thinking that the summer was just not as nice as I was hoping, but if I look back and remember all the neat stuff that happened, and most were not planned, I realize that it did not turn out all that bad. Yes, there were things that I did not care for, but if things were to be different, all the nice things would have to change as well, and I am not willing to give up any of those. It is nice and comforting to sit and look at the fish. I enjoy peeking at the little babies every day.

In the meantime, I have done a little bit of cleaning in the basement and decluttering. I have a little bit more that I would like to do before school starts. I have decided on books for the boys and just have to put it into a schedule now, and before I get too worried, my not-even-14-year-old is starting college in just 4 more days! AHHHH! I’m fine, really, and I am so glad I am finished my schooling. I think it is time to look at the fish. 🙂

Wishing everyone the best in their new school 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.

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!

My Quiet, Lazy Week

20140618_144608Summer is about here and it feels good! My oldest is having his turn for a vacation with Grandpa right now and it is awfully quiet around here. This was supposed to be the last week of school, but since one boy would still officially have school next week, I decided it was a good time to take the week off. We will finish up school next week. (Ah, the joys of homeschooling and having the flexibility of just taking off!) I have to admit, this week I have been quiet lazy. As in not really doing much lazy. I took the time to clean and organize the house just a little bit. I am getting caught up in the kitchen, I have taken several bags and boxes out to the van to give away, one boy did a very good start in cleaning the garage (it is part of one of his merit badges for Scouts,) and we spent most of the day today cleaning the boys’ room.

Actually, the boys did all the work! I give them full credit and they deserve it. They sure surprised me today. As part of my book removal this week, I bumped into a book that I bought at the library book sale several years ago called, ‘What to Do When Your Mom or Dad Says “Clean Your Room!” ‘ It is a good book for kids and tells them exactly what to do when and how to organize any bedroom no matter how messy it is. The first thing the boys said when I opened the book to read to them is, “Boy, that room [in the book] is messier than ours!” Which was a good thing for then they did not feel so bad and I think it gave them chizuk (encouragement.) They spent at least 4 hours – two in the morning and two after lunch – cleaning their room all by themselves. I think they enjoyed going back to the book to read it and figure out what to do next; after all, it was not Mommy telling them. 😉 It is not perfect, and we forgot to mop the floor, but it sure is acceptable and it looks “nice.” Even the beautiful boy who has trouble cleaning did an amazing job! He was the one who cleaned the garage as well the other day. I did not have to say much, he just went and did it. Obviously it needs more than the hour or so of work he spent on it, but it sure is a wonderful start. I wonder if it is the lack of his older brother around that is helping him this week or perhaps, just perhaps, he might be growing up. Maybe a little bit? Maybe? I won’t hold my breath too much at the moment, but it is good to dream. 😉 The trick is, can they keep their room clean tomorrow?

Mr. Big comes home on Friday, Bli Nedre, and I am sure looking forward to his return. Aside from realizing how much of a help he really is to me, I miss talking to him. I have spent the week sending boys outside and taking the quiet to just let my mind go and think. I have been thinking about decluttering/organizing (though not getting too far, but started,) thinking about how the school year has gone this year and how I want to change things for the next year and trying to think about the summer (well, got started but that is about it.) I do want to do some work over the summer, I find that some sort of schedule works well for us. We have not been doing Rambam for a little while for they are staying where their father is and he has been busy with other learning at the moment. Gum Ze L’Tova; this too is for the best – I have replaced that with Dik Duk (Lashon HaTorah series,) something that I have tried to do for a couple of years but was never able to figure out how to fit it into the schedule.

I have some thoughts on how to improve for next year. I know that I have been trying to do too much with my oldest for Ambleside Online. It is just that everything looked so good that I tried to cram it all in. Unfortunately, it did not work out. So, I will have to thin out the workload for next year just a little bit. That is not too bad for that is the idea anyways; they put a lot into each year  to give the parents a nice selection to choose from.

For the summer, I was thinking of finding something for each one of the boys to do that is a little different than what we usually do. For one boy, he would like to write books (but hates to write,) so I have been thinking of The Creative Writer. I am wondering if I can have him spend the summer writing a book and then at the end of the summer we can print it off on Lulu.com. That should definitely make himself proud of himself.

It is almost 10:30 pm but my little one is still up and about and just cannot sleep. Even so, it is still awfully quiet around here. Did I mention the I cannot wait for my oldest to come back home? Just 2 more days! This is the third year now that Grandpa has taken one boy with him on a vacation. It does not seem to matter which boy is gone, the house is quiet without him. It is even more quiet this time for said boy is very talkative with his Mommy and Daddy (Baruch Hashem!!!!) and that is missing along with the bickering with his younger brothers. I am treasuring the quiet but am looking forward to his return.

I had some nice long walks with my DH this week, and that really helped make the week nice and serene. Hainge time to talk alone is something we like to do, but the past many months we have not had that pleasure and it sure has made a big impact over the last week. We have been able to talk about the boys and other needed stuff. It just puts a productive end to the day.

I’m off to bed now. Have a good night!

Summer Has Started!

20130728_144349After the third and final birthday party for a very lucky 4 year old, the last couple of days I actually felt it was a summer day for me – I actually got to sit down without having to rush and do some prep for the school year. (The watermelon was carved into the shape of a jeep, along with windshield wiper blades and side mirrors! A brother loved the birthday boy!) The best part of the school year is having all those books come pouring into the mailbox. Most of our books are purchased from Amazon.com and most of them are used so they come from varioius sellers. We have had several shipments arrive at our house over the past week and still have a few more to go.

I am very excited about one of the books that came; How To Read a Book  by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren. Yes, I know it sounds like a funny name, but it is very accurate. I have decided to start the pre-reading of new school books by reading that book first. I have read the first 5 chapters so far. It is a very good book which describes how to effectively and systematically skim through a book to learn the main points, as well as how to read it when you decide to actually read it so that you get the most out of the book. I figured this would be a great start so that I could pre-read all the books that come in over the next week or so for I need. I will not have time once school starts to read, or more appropriately perhaps, I will not want to read anything else once school starts except what I will be reading to boys during school time. I highly recommend this book.

It has been gorgeous outside so I threw the boys outside as much as possible. That gave me some nice quiet time to sit, do nothing, and then feel like I needed to and wanted to do something, so I read the book on how to read a book. 🙂 I even took some time to sit outside and enjoy. I had the branch of one of our flowering trees just a few inches from where I was sitting and it was very peaceful to watch the bees buzzing and getting the pollen all over their bodies.
Our summer schedule has not really gone on as I thought it would. I am not too worried about it for hey, it’s summer time! I am a bit more carefree about what is done or not done. I really would like to get more of certain things done that are not being done, but I will not sweat it. Rambam twice a day, along with20130724_090125 mishnayos. Afterall, Torah learning is for every day and it is good to get into the swing of things with some things so when we start school, it is just adding the rest, not doing it all at once – rather less overwhelming for me anyways that way.  I also get to see how it is and how I can/need to incorporate time for the newly 4 year old and his all important school work. 🙂 It might be better than I imagined for most days for since all 3 older boys are in the kitchen listening to and following along with the videos for Rambam, and each video is around 40-45 minutes long, I found myself sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor, along with washing some dishes and cleaning of the kitchen. Mr. 4 year old was off playing by himself for one entire Rambam (yeah!) I cannot expect him to do that three times a day, but once a day would be nice and very helpful.
One boy is finally learning what it means to be busy. We have him busy. We are trying very hard to get him ready to take the SAT’s – and no, he is NOT that old yet that he is taking it for university, he is taking it while enrolled in grade 7 so as to see how well he does and perhaps help him get some scholarships for education camps, etc. He has his Rambam and mishnayos, 2 sets of math, SAT math book as well as SAT vocabulary words to work on, and not to mention his laining and the reading of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.
A 4 year has been begging me to let him make his ‘experiment.” What he wants to do is use salt, water, sugar and flour and let it sit. I guess that is one way to learn. I instructed his oldest brother to make sure he makes a VERY SMALL concoction, and to oversee everything and make sure there is no mess. Good thing we used only food items – he wanted to test it before he let it sit! The little things that make them happy. 🙂
As I am listening to DH playing the organ for me, he really is saying it’s bedtime and I need to go. ‘Night!

We’re All Back!

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Firstly, I just want to start off by mentioning a correction to the previous post. Room613.net is also geared towards teenagers, it was just my impression that it was not (not sure how I came to that impression.) That said, we are still continuing on with our Judaics for the coming year that we have mapped out. Secondly, when you start tea time, expect to continue the tradition. 🙂 Cucumbers, watermelon and small bite sized pieces of brownies are all good, along with tea (or hot lemon water in our case.) 🙂 We have not been able to do it the last two weeks, but today boys were complaining, “We did not have tea time today!”

The last two weeks have been almost entirely away from home. We went to the same cabin on the 350+ acres that we went to last year. Other than the 90+ degree weather with no A/C, it was pretty good, but I do not think we will be going there next year20130719_142349. (And the best thing to do on a really hot Tisha B’Av with no A/C is to drive in the car that has AC all the way back home for an hour to drop off camp stuff!) If nothing else, I found out today, after I had to take my van into the shop to get fixed, that the porcupines that live by the cabin not only eat away at the balcony and the support beams underneath it, they like to eat away at wires under cars… The mechanic asked if I keep my car in the garage, no, outside. In the back? No, in the front. Apparently, rodents like to chew on wires under vehicles, but not usually when the vehicle is kept outside, in the front, on the driveway. I asked about porcupines; we not only heard them on the porch, but actually saw one underneath eating away at the support beams. Yes, porcupines + vehicles in fields = lots of damage and money to fix the damage. He could not give me even a rough estimate when he called for he was not finished taking everything apart to see the entire damage. He will be putting some cover over my wires to help prevent this from happening again. Since we only have one vehicle, I am carless for a while. The bonus to all of this is that we get to walk to the store or any other place we need to go and that means good exercise for all of us! There is a silver lining in everything. 😉

The first Shabbos at the cabin was rather quiet – just one little boy to entertain. Sunday morning we all got up to drive 4 hours to fetch the really missed 20130718_114244brothers from camp. It was good to have everyone back home. I really missed them. I think the lone brother missed them the most. It is not easy to want to play with someone and only Mommy is around and Mommy sometimes cannot play. Boy, it sure is good to have brothers!

Aside from that, the train, Corning Museum of Glass, blueberry picking and horseback riding were some of the main activities with horseback riding coming in tops for everyone (and blueberry picking a close second)! The youngest was too small to ride a regular horse so he got to have a pony ride around the farm. He then was lucky enough to be able to brush down and wash the pony. Both the pony and the little boy really enjoyed it. Oh, and I cannot forget about the birthday party #2 – afterall, it is not everyday that Grandpa comes down to visit! He was one lucky boy – a visit with Saba one day, and Grandpa the next, two birthday parties (and presents to match from each grandfather), and not to mention that this weekend there will, IY”H, be a THIRD party (for the same boy) for he was insistent that his friend comes over for a party, and since neither of the previous parties were at home, I promised him we will have one with his friend. Baruch Hashem my boys are very happy with simple things – a simple cake and a card and a small present is all that is needed to make someone happy, oh, and the occasional friend.

The Corning Museum of Glass was very interesting to go see. We have not been there before. The first section with glass art was not my cup of tea, but I really enjoyed going into the history section. They had the history of glass making, from the early times until the present, with all sorts of interesting facts and artifacts. We even got to see some glass making demonstrations such as the hot glass show and the flameworking.

Well, we got to pick up our sefarim yesterday! 3 sets of Rambam’s Mishneh Torah (English and Hebrew.) I spent several hours on Monday trying to clean out a small book case that we had, figuring it had 3 shelves and each set would fit on 2. I would just need to get one more book20130717_161519 case. I was almost correct. Yes, each set fits on 2 shelves, however, the bottom shelf is too short to put any books on. Never fear, I have ideas! In the meantime, the living room is a mess. Boys have taken all the books out of the boxes and have been labeling all of their 93 books. Wow. I did not realize how many books we really were getting until just now. I was just of thinking it as 31*3 and those in themselves are not that big, but to do the actual math problem, wow, multiplication is powerful! We were good and even started our learning today! One video from Rabbi Gordon from Chabad.org was listened too.

I cannot forget that we finally brought the organ inside! It was not as hard as I thought it would be. We used our Radio wagon, put some plywood on top, and used two 2×4’s and slid them under the organ with the other end of the boards on the wagon to make a ramp. We then pushed the organ up the ramp. We all held on while one boy very, VERY carefully and slowly pulled the wagon all away around from the garage to the front door. The tricky part came when we had to transfer the organ from the wagon up the 2 steps into the house. With some creative thinking and cooperation, we got it into the house. Since it is mine, only I was allowed to clean it all up. Boys wanted to help but I refused. I told them to vacuum the carpet. 😉 Everyone anxiously awaited the moment when they could touch and then play the new instrument. I have not played the organ in almost 17 years – it is amazing how even though I play the piano a little here and there, my organ playing is terrible! It was hard reading all those staves again! I had to go way, way back to the really early days and the very easy music to get back in the swing of reading everything again. “Mommy, how can your feet play all the right notes and you are not even looking?” I smiled and proudly told my son, “I started on the organ!” That was one thing I was pleasantly surprised about; my feet still knew where to go after all these years. They were even more surprised to find out that their Dad used to play the organ as well.

I have also spent the last two days finding the books I need for my oldest. With Ambleside Online, almost everything is non-consumable, so since I have books from my oldest, the younger children have their books as well. Finally, I put all the books in the Amazon shopping card, as well as two printer inks, and 20130723_160843pressed the order button. Among the books ordered were organ books (it is not easy to find beginning organ books now!). All four boys are so excited and want me to give them organ lessons. I told them I do not have time to teach them both the piano AND the organ. 4 for the organ it is. Though they are not happy that I am not teaching them yet. I appeased them when they saw I was ordering music books first. Unfortunately, unlike the electronic piano that I have, you cannot put headphones into the organ! At least there is the volume control, it helps. A little. 😉

Anyways, I am saying sweet dreams to everyone and I am off to bed to dream about the fact that I am now officially also an organ teacher. 🙂