Shanah Tovah U’Metuka!

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning to Grow and Change

#3 multitasking for his Cooking Merit Badge.

It has been quite a busy several months. Can’t say there has been too much homeschooling wise to talk about, which is one of the reasons why I have not written for so many long months. However, that means there are lots of pictures I can post. 😀

With Rosh Hashanah, Sukkos, our latest bar mitzvah, the week later my nephew’s bar mitzvah, a few weeks later our yearly Thanksgiving trip, the boys’ camping trip to Big Bend, Chanukah… When did we have time for school? Or, as I am typing, I am thinking that perhaps I can rephrase that: That WAS our schooling, so perhaps there really is something to write about.

I do have stuff to write about, and all those amazing trips really are one of the wonderful

Happy 16th Birthday Mr. Big!

reasons why I love homeschooling for I don’t have to answer to anyone and we really can and do make our lives as much learning as we can. However, that is not the main reason for writing. We will get that those, but there are other things.

Life changes, and we have to learn to adjust to the changes. The past two years have been very challenging for us. Our move down south was definitely not what we had in mind and that is the hard part. I am slowly, very slowly, starting to realize that what I have in mind is irrelevant. I used to think that I was very flexible. If my husband wanted a break and asked me if I wanted to go out with the family for a night to a hotel, I used to be able to pack and be ready in 45 minutes for a wonderful adventure. I am learning though, that yes, I am flexible in some areas, but in others I am not. That is the challenge.

We started the school year with one less boy at home. One boy, who actually hates change, needed so badly to have a change and go off to Yeshiva. Normally I do not believe that children should go away from home for school, however,  I understand that there are exceptions. Our one child is an exception. It took me a long time to get there. I felt I was not trying hard enough, and with a little bit more work, a little bit more proper advice, I could make things work. Yes, I did get some help, and yes, the help really worked, however, it still took me many months to realize that no, I was not a terrible mother, not a terrible teacher, it is just my child is ready for something else. I am happy to report that our child is doing well. He is happy and he is learning. What more can I ask for? He still has a ways to go, but one step at a time and with G-d’s help, he will get there.

I started the year very quiet. The whole house dynamics was so different. It was a good

Saba and Mr. Little.

thing. The other boys started opening up. I now had the ability to see what else was needed in the house. Mr. Little, who is not so little, got to have more of my attention. We are doing pretty much what we did last year – I have my Charlotte Mason for the secular and Melamed Academy for the Judaics. I have to say that the Melamed Academy has come a long way from last year. The older boys have a Rebbe for Gemara and Mishnayos and they have weekly live shiurim they attend. I have added  private tutoring with Rabbi Resnick from Room613.net. The boys have learned with Rabbi Resnick for several years, many years ago, and were really excited when I asked if they would like to have him for their Gemara now. With all that set up, school didn’t seem so bad – until you start adding in all the wonderful Yomim Tovim.

It is hard to keep up with school with all the holidays! But, I cannot complain. Amidst all the spiritual highs, Mr. Boy #3 became a Man. 🙂 Motzei Yom Kippur he had his birthday. Such

Bar Mitzvah Cousins!

a lucky boy he was this year. He was told to eat all day on Yom Kippur until the last 72 minutes and then he had to fast.  We teased him about that. We waited until a few weeks later, Parshas Beraishis, before celebrating for he cousin had his bar mitzvah the next week, Parshas Noach, and we wanted my parents to be able to easily attend both simchas. It definitely was a whirlwind of several weeks. Sukkos, Boy Scout campout again in our sukkah, two bar mitzvahs and lots of wonderful time with family. My parents were excited. I made Saba (Grandpa) learn Chumash with Mr. Little every day. It gave them something wonderful to do. Saba and Mr. Little have a special bond. They love to Skype with each other regularly and read stories to each other. My parents took my boys with them to my sister’s house, leaving my DH and I two days to ourselves!  Thanks to my parents and my sister for babysitting!

I have to say, Hashem heard my prayers and saw my tears this summer. He just decided that my time alone would be better off at a different time when I did not have to worry about making a school schedule. DH took ALL boys (well, all three) to Big Bend to camp for a

Big Bend National Park

week in December. That meant… you guessed it… I was home, All. By. Myself. Just me. 🙂 It gave me that so much needed break. I spent time on the computer the first day. I did not know what to do with myself. It did get cold here that morning, the cold front come through, though Big Bend was one of two spots in the country that was warm. On Monday, I tidied up some of the rooms and started on a deep clean of the coat closet. I had small goals, I knew better. I spent all day Tuesday cleaning the coat closet. I tossed as much as I could out – I still am working on minimalizing my house. It is a slow process. It felt so good to not feel rushed that someone is coming home, and I could just leave things if I was finished for the day and go to bed! Wednesday was my spiritual day. I did make sure I did some reading every day, but Wednesday was my big day. I decided that after the cleaning was done, this was my opportunity to reconnect. With being busy with beautiful boys, it is not usually easy for me to find time, so I made sure I made time. By the time everyone

Big Bend National Park

came home on Thursday, I was ready. I was calm, happy, and felt recharged. And I did not have to leave home, which was the best!

The big thing this year is that we finally got to see what each of the other boys were needing. Mr. Big was not doing well. Our city is big, and there are many religious family here, there are several areas in town. However, the big thing is that it is still a “young” community. There are so many children here. However, the kicker is that they stop at about 13 years of age. After that, there just are not very many kids. Our oldest is now 16 and we asked someone in the know and he could only come up with 3 boys that age. Two are out of town and the other is in a different area of town. There are basically no boys here for him. That is a big problem. That along with other things that have happened created a situation that needed our immediate attention.

This is where I got stuck. We knew what we needed to do though I had a hard time accepting things. I had my head stuck in one direction and could not shift into another

His First Day of Yeshiva!

gear. Our son needed to go to Yeshiva. He did not need to go away from home, but he needed friends. The Yeshiva here has mainly out of town boys with a few in town boys from the other side of town. It was a hard few months for me as I struggled with me and who I was. I was not a failure. From 4 down to 2. It was a hard thing to swallow. I had to swallow my ego and that was not easy. Afterall, I was “That Homeschool Mom,” for the good and not so good. I had to live up to that title, didn’t I?

No.

That is not who I am. I am a mother of 4 beautiful boys and wife to an amazing husband. As a Mother, all I want is the best for my children. If teaching them at home is the best for them, or, at least, the same as sending to them to school, and I want and can teach them, then I will. If there comes a time when something is better, then, as a Mother, I will do my best to make sure they get it. Up until now, homeschooling really was the best for them.

Chanukah with all my boys 😀

Now, after 16 years, my oldest is ready to move on. Baruch Hashem, he has a had a good first week of school and is finishing the week off with a Shabbaton. I would like to think that he appreciates at least some of what I taught him and gave him over the last 16 years,( though, that just might be my ego getting to me again. 😉 ) In many ways, he has a huge advantage over other boys, and he knows it, and in other ways he will catch up really fast. DH and I are very happy with how and what we taught them in their Judaics (as well as secular). They have learned stuff that most boys do not learn and it is stuff that puts them ahead in a big way. Mr. Big is good at perception and I do believe that he understands this. We listened to part of a shiur several weeks ago that stated that he believes that boys should be learning the material that we taught and why.

As we head on over to the second half of the school year, I am finally really excited. I have one boy who insists that he wants to remain learning at home (yeah! I can think that I

Freezing maple syrup on snow!

really am doing at least a little good,) and one boy whom I can give a lot more attention with his learning that he needs over the next few years. OH! And I can’t forget to mention that Mr. Boy #3 passed his Amateur Radio test! Another Kosher Ham in the house! 😀

Things are good. It just depends on if we can train our minds to understand that. Things are slowing down in some ways, which is helpful, so that I can focus my attention on things that need me. I am optimistic that the three of us who are home are going to have lots of fun. 🙂

 

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

A Gut Moed! Remembering Our Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

<3

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!

Reflections

20130913_015121I was telling one of my boys, I forget which one, that Hashem is just so amazing. We have all year to do teshuva (repentence). When the month of Elul comes in we sound the shofar to awaken up our neshamas to do teshuva. Why? Because He knows we get busy and Life happens. Then comes Rosh Hashanah, the time that Hashem judges the entire world and decides what is in store for each of us for the coming year. But that is not all – He gives us 10 extra days! Why? Because He loves us and He created this world and knows that Life happens. On Rosh Hashanah He wrote in pencil. He is very patient and even after making His decision, He leans closer to us… and waits even longer. He yearns for us to reach up and do teshuva. When we do, on Yom Kippur our sins will be removed. So wonderful, but this is still not all! Our year is then inscribed in ink, but not just any ink, a very slow drying ink. So slow that it takes until after Sukkos to dry. Why? To give us yet another chance. Wet ink is a little bit harder to remove than pencil, but with a little bit more effort, it can be sopped up. We must be loved.

This past week has been really trying. As I mentioned, the first day of school was all but a mess. Tuesday did not fair much better. I was all ready to start the day when I remembered we had some change of plans – from going to a bris to taking a few minutes break at home before heading to a levaya (funeral). Needless to say, I did not really feel like teaching for a while afterwards. The last two days have been not too bad, though remember that I said I planned on taking the day before school to make sure I had all the books ready for the boys instead of going popcorn selling? Well, I probably should have not gone popcorn selling for I did miss several things that needed printing off!

The plus side to things is that because all the craziness of the week is now behind me, on the night before Yom Kippur I *finally* have time to recap (and drink water!) I have tried to sit down and do this before, I really have, but I would find myself sitting and trying and just getting too antsy to sit still any longer. Now, I have time. I have found that the past day or so I have been asking myself, “Am I being the best mother? Am I being the best teacher? When a beautiful boy is being who he is supposed to be and not listening, am I listening to what he is really trying to say, but can’t?”

A few weeks ago, I went for a short walk with my 4 year old. He wanted to ride bikes, but I was not wearing a skirt for biking and I just wanted to walk with him. He finally agreed as long as he could take his pen and paper for he wanted to make a map of our trip. No problem. It took me three houses before I realized that making a map meant that we would have to stop at each and every house so that he could plot our route. I really just wanted to walk. I  was 20130913_005156 (1)good though and very calmly tried to convince him that we needed to walk a certain distance before writing more down. When we reached the destination I gave him a few moments to draw his route. Did I mention, he loves to write his name and can write all the other family members’ names (or initials)? Being a lefty, he also tends to write right to left. I stood and watched him, really trying hard to not seem too ready to move on. He started writing and I looked from above. I watched as he wrote, “Mom <3 Matti” And then it was one of those moments. You know, the one that makes you feel like you were hit pretty hard. “Oh, you wrote that Mommy loves Matti?” “Yes!” “You are right, Mommy does love Matti.” (*tears in eyes*) [Just look for the biggest heart in the picture!] Somehow I was just not as anxious to walk for the exercise anymore. I don’t remember if we stopped at all on the way back home, but I enjoyed every second of it with him.

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are not just about all the not so good things we have done, it is also about being a better Me. If I look back over the years, I do see improvement, maybe not as much as I would like, but it is there. I have to be happy about that. Change is not easy, but it is doable. I am hoping the tiny successes will inspire me to keep moving along the lines that I need to go in. I am not going to worry that the first week of school is one that I do not want to repeat, and so glad I can’t. The Days of Awe are still here, even if it is just for a short time more, I still have time to set a plan for the year. If I change myself, the boys change as well for they will mirror me. Children are funny that way. I have a feeling this year is going to be a good one. I not only love what I do, I feel very blessed to be able to do it. No, I’m not the best Me, but I am confident that I will be a better mother and a better teacher. It helps that I think I now have everything printed off for school. 🙂

In the meantime, I continue to count my blessings, and I thought most of you might would either be able to relate to the following mother or find another good reason why you homeschool (or both!)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/claire-wapole/thirty-minutes-tops_b_3861853.html

Wishing you all a Gemar Chasima Tova, an easy and meaningful fast and a most amazing (homeschooling) year! Oh, and popcorn pickup is tomorrow afternoon, my garage will be full!

Getting Myself Ready – My Chizuk

Yes, I know that experiences cannot be equaled and in case I was not sure about it, after the past few weeks, there is definitely no doubt in my mind.  Over the past week and a half, our boys have spent many, many hours outside, in the water – ponds, creeks, etc. playing in the sand, feeling the seaweed, smelling the different smells, watching lobsters hide, seeing small schools of fish, as well as larger ones.  Not to mention watching out for poison ivy and poison oak as we hike through the neighboring forests and seeing, feeling and smelling all the wonderful things there.  Charlotte Mason definitely knew what she was talking about when she said the only science a child needs for the first 6 years should be nature study.

We have been doing Ambleside Online for 2 years now, and I could never really fit in nature walks like I should, even though I wanted too, and I thought I tried.  I am hoping these wonderful experiences will encourage me to try harder.  Really, it all boils down to having the right schedule.  I find that I can stick to a schedule pretty good if I have one (and I’m the one that makes it, which is good!)

We are told that to raise good and happy children, the relationship between the mother and the father must be a good and happy one as well.  One of the ways to attain this is to make the relationship between husband and wife a priority over the children, that way the children can see how a good relationship should be and how they should act, for seeing has more of an impact than telling.  Homeschooling is not only about the children, it is about us, the teachers as well and therefore we need to nurture ourselves and take care of ourselves first.

We are just a few short weeks from Rosh Hashanah and we have had the most amazing few weeks. We do not get to interact very often with homeschoolers – we do not really have that much in common with the ones we know who are local, and to interact with religious Jewish homeschoolers on top of that is even more of a bonus.  Don’t get me wrong, it is not that I have an issue being the “different” one, not at all, however, occasionally it is good to meet others who are different like you.

It was good for the children to be able to play with other religious Jewish homeschoolers, and it was good for me to be able to talk to not just one, but two mothers who have similar philosophies as we do.  It was so exciting to talk to mothers who have had at least double the amount of years of homeschooling behind them than I do for it gave me a chance to see where I could be as a homeschool parent – what kinds of ideas I could try to use, from “experts”.   I was also glad I was able to share some of our experiences and see that I could be of some help as well.  And, it was nice just to talk!

I once heard from a rabbi that all the spiritual connection and chizuk that we get from Rosh Hashanah through Sukkos is set so that it carries us through the dark times of winter, yes, we have a little bit of light from Chanukah, but there are no Yomim Tovim until Pesach, and our neshamas need the spiritual connection.  So too, I felt that Hashem has given me this boost of the visits of two wonderful mothers (and their children!) to help give me chizuk for the next while. I felt lucky to have such wonderful conversations with one of the mothers that came.  We took the children out in the afternoon and then they still did not have enough time together, so her son came over for a sleepover.  After the mother left, I felt not only spiritual happiness and chizuk, but I found it gave me chizuk in general to do some stuff around the house that I was trying to get done.  I tried to soak up all the chizuk and spiritual connection that I could so that it would carry me over until the next encounter.