A Thank You

KIMG1010Someone posted a link to a blog on Facebook. The title sounded intriguing, “How to be a rockstar homeschool spouse.” Who doesn’t want to be a rockstar homeschool spouse? Kara, the author, posted all about how, despite her wackiness and despite her being the primary teacher to their chidlren, she has acknowledged all the amazing hidden help she has received from her husband. She has challenged others to write a thank you to that special someone. So, here is mine:

To My Wonderful Husband,

You have entrusted me with your precious jewels. That is an amazing (and when I think about it, scary) thought! Even though we do not always see eye to eye, you still trust me.

There have been times when we have taken turns wondering if we are doing the right thing, yet, you still trust me.

I know that often times you do not feel like you contribute, but you should know that you are the staple of our lives. We know that you work hard to support us. You are always there for us.

Your precious jewels are precious to you and you make sure they get all that they need – from starting mishnayos at shul for them, to starting a new Boy Scout troop and being the Scoutmaster when no one else would take the position. You are the counselor for merit badges and you build antennas for radios with them. You take them biking (when it is not too hot!), and love to take all of us hiking in the woods.

You are also there for me. You listen to my frustrations, as well as all my excitement in planning our year. You smile when I am excited about getting a book, and you are there when the day was tough and I need you to take over when you come home.

You put up with us when the house is a mess, and are there celebrating with us with accomplishments.

It may not feel to you that you do much, but without you we couldn’t do it. You are our life support. All the little (and big) behind the scene things you do are what keep us all here.

Thank you and Happy Birthday to the best Daddy out there for our precious jewels!

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. 😀

Cheesecake, Mud, Sticks and Being Happy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chag Sameach!

Almost Normal

KIMG0336Phew. I think that after 7 months things are almost normal. Almost. It has been a long wait to get to where we are now. 3 moves – hotel for a month, apartment (though nice and cannot complain about the layout, just could not breath, let alone walk inside before people below complained and no place to send boys out to play,) and now our new house.

My goal: Empty out boxes and put things in a real home as I unpacked so I would have a nice, organized house.
Reality: It was a race to unpack all boxes before Pesach to get rid of all the boxes and check for chometz. Most things have a “place” but not necessarily the place I want or one that is a good one.

We thought we had it all checked for chometz when, a couple of hours before Pesach, my husband and son emptied one last box and guess what? Half a loaf of bread was packed away from 7 months ago! Yum! Not. The movers were not supposed to pack perishables – they made sure I understood that. For 7 month old bread, there was not very much penicillin on it, it was just hard Melba toast like pieces. (Maybe it really was not a perishable after all?)  I 2015-04-15should have known better than to buy bread. In any case, I am back into making our own bread again. And we are back to almost a full school schedule again. I have been trying for a week now to finish this post, so I’m not quite in a nice schedule for myself, but I am trying. One of the things I am working is getting outside more myself. We have a swing set at our new house and I enjoy sitting on a swing, looking at the backyard. I never really did that in our other place and I missed out on a lot of nice flowers, etc. So now, I have made more of an effort to enjoy the outside and I have found a new favorite tree. 🙂

What is interesting is how the boys have changed over the last several months and how I feel I am almost starting over from scratch with how we are learning. I am not quite sure what is different or why, and maybe perhaps it is just the fact that we have not done regular learning for such a long time and it might just be the new environment. But, whatever the case is, it sure is good to get back into a schedule. Two weeks ago I was ready, except for the fact that I did not have a schedule, and voila! I pulled out of a pile an old schedule I made for one boy at the beginning of the school year. I am not following the times, but it was nice to see what we were supposed to be learning this year. Unfortunately (or maybe really fortunately for me), being 3/4 of the way through the year, we were still on the same books we started the year off with which made it easy to continue on. We have finished some of the books over the months and now the goal is to finish the rest of what we are doing over the next week. I have put together a 1 month schedule for next month of a few of the books I really want the boys to read through this year.

I have decided to choose 6 books (including math), with 2 of them being done each day and doing 4 of them twice per week. I think we can get most of it done. The trick is working in Mr. Little. He has all of a sudden decided he KIMG0328*NEEDS* to learn. I told the boys there would be no computer for math for the week. They did not like that. I like it though. I am not minding printing things off, at least right now. It is a nice change of pace. In any case, I think the boys are doing more while not being on the computer. The boys have done math online with Khan Academy for a few years now and they now have early math online so Mr. Little has been going through that. This week I have decided to take a break from the computer and went to Dad’s Worksheets Online and http://www.mathworksheets4kids.com (because they both have answer keys!) and printed off various sheets there, some new stuff, though mostly review. Mr. Little insisted I print off stuff for him. So, I found a nice worksheet for him. He was so excited he made me print off 3 more pages. Daddy got to correct his worksheets before supper. 🙂

Results:

Day 1: One beautiful boy is trying to find his independence right now, and even though he tantrumed the first time he had to do the worksheets, I made him sit beside me and we did them together. It took us a while, but we got them done.

Day 2: came, and even though he still did not like the paper sheets, after a while, he actually asked for my help and sat beside me to do them. Half way through the page he was confident enough in himself and so I let him finish the rest on his own while I pulled his brother over and helped him with the same work. Said boy was excited when he got the right answer to a question his brother needed to go over (which is a VERY good thing for said boy.) It was then a race to see who could finish the pages first.

Day 3: They still did not like the fact I had paper sheets, but they sat down (or laid down, whichever they preferred)KIMG0332 on the couch and raced. I found out that I really like working on math with each boy. I have not told them yet, but I think that next week we still might do paper sheets. I enjoy stumbling upon new ways for me to do math. I am a math person, but give me a question to do fast, I falter. Tell me I have 5 minutes, I relax and can do the question quickly. I am learning new multiplication techniques (stumbling on new techniques really,) and enjoy teaching them over. Said boy who does not like math has picked them up really fast. I think we are both realizing how non-overwhelming it can really be and it is almost fun. I try really hard to sit still while he thinks – half out loud and half quietly, letting him take his time. It is hard when he comes up with numbers in the middle, which to me seem wrong, but in the end he gets the right answers. He is just not verbalizing all his thoughts. He has figured out how to do some math problems his own way and I have to remember to sit still and let him be. It is a correct way, just not the way I would do it.

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Where’s Waldo? Oops, I mean find three boys. 🙂

We took some time off yesterday (Sunday) and went to a nice park that we went to in the Fall. We sat on an old fallen down tree and had a little picnic. The boys enjoyed the woods and the nice honey smells and then afterwards they all went on a 10 mile bike ride with the Scouts as part of the cycling merit badge. It is an optional activity but all the boys in the Troop want to do it. Our new life consists of many different and new things, along with new friends and new places. It takes a while to get used to all the new things, but things are slowly becoming familiar. The nice thing about time passing and things moving on is that there are ample opportunities to have a fresh start. This year has definitely been a challenge for everyone in all aspects, but the school year is almost finished and summer will be upon us very soon. That gives me a little time to get myself into a nice routine and make one for the next school year (and maybe write more often!)

Wishing everyone a beautiful week!

Our Freedom is Almost Here! Yeah!

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Kitchen before – with chocolate paint on everything

I don’t feel like waking boys up this morning. Yes, they have been sleeping past wake up time for many weeks now, but 8 am is still the official wake up time for most of the boys. I think the whole move has been wearing on all of us, though earlier this week, when things were getting frustrating, I realized I was getting just a taste (albeit a very tiny taste) of what our ancestors were go through in Mitzrayim (Egypt.) I am so needing my “freedom” and I am more than ready to start doing what I want to do, namely, have a schedule with the boys and get back to our schooling.

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New brighter colors makes it look happy and bright and large!

Over the past month, I have been unpacking boxes, putting away, unpacking more boxes, putting more away, thinking the house was looking neater only to have to dismantle everything so that we can put in better storage containers and shelving and turning around and finding things worse. But, Baruch Hashem, I think we are about there. I didn’t have time to organize like I wanted as I was putting away, Pesach was coming and we needed to empty as many boxes as we could. I think we are down to about 2 boxes that have not been looked through at all, 2 that are “storage” for now, and 2 boxes of papers that are almost all trash but need to be gone through to pull out the few that are needed.

The painting we wanted done for now is finished, as well as the fixes and tiny remodeling that we ended up having to do. The kitchen fridge and freezer just need a quick wipe through again and one bedroom upstairs needs to be finished. After about 100 loads of laundry (well, just kidding, but I’m sure I did at least 15 so far this week with 1-2 small loads from the last day or so of clothes) I am about there. I don’t normally have this many loads the week before Pesach, just somehow it worked out that way this year.

KIMG0173I have not been able to learn about the Yom Tov with my boys very much this year. Occasionally it happens when life happens and I am unable to teach like I want, so I try to just add in little tidbits here and there while cleaning or eating or yelling from frustration as the lack of a schedule is really getting to all of us. It is a good time to put on the Pesach CD and say yes to Mr. Little when he asks for it again, and again, and again. Chabad.org has a 45 minute video of the story of Pesach and we watched that over the course of 2 lunches. So, they really are learning, just maybe not quite like I want them to, however, I find for myself that sometimes throwing out little tidbits and short D’var Torahs can be just as effective as sitting down and learning. The older boys know more than the basics right now and I think the cleaning and the tidbits are what they need. It is Mr. Little that needs a little bit more, so when we pulled out the Pesach box and he found his haggadah we made a few years ago, IKIMG0095 made sure to sit down with him and we went through it again, together. He loves singing, so I sing along with him during the day and while he is getting ready for bed. So, perhaps things are not so bad. He came and told me last night that he was just too excited. I told him that Pesach was almost here and that is probably why. No, that was not all, he was just too excited and he was not sure why. I can’t complain!

Unfortunately, not all the boys feel quite the same way, but that is one good thing about homeschooling. The boys are home with me and that gives me ample opportunities to talk to them and try to help them. It is not regulated to just after school or right before bed. We have done many errands to Home Depot and I can probably drive there with my eyes closed by now, but that just gives me time to take a boy or two and get them out and about. (And who every came up with the idea of making RED paint rags?!?!?! Do not buy them for one might want to save money and be a little bit environmentally friendly and reuse the rags. Said rags might end up in a white wash accidentally (more than once) and turn WHITES into PINKS. Which is okay if you have girls, but my boys do not appreciate pink underwear, socks and Shabbos shirts…. Just saying….and bleach does not take it out….The red dye gets on everything once they are just a little bit wet – walls, floors, everything, so you can’t use them for cleaning really anyways.)

Cleaning for chometz in the bedroom.
Cleaning for chometz in the bedroom.

Earlier this week I took three with me to store with red paint cloths (I did NOT buy more but found more pink socks and underwear this morning, thought I actually washed all the red cloths already, guess not, maybe I need to just throw them out?) and while we were waiting for our order to be filled (we placed the order online and I went in to pick it up,) all three of them bought themselves tools. It has been very nice for I have had boys put the Ikea furniture together and they just took out their toolboxes and went to work. Another boy was excited for he had a screwdriver set and has been busy taking apart everything he can get his hands on, provided I do not see and grab it away. But it is all good.

I guess it is time for the last hurrah and I need to get some beautiful boys up so they can finish my van and the garage. We are almost there, I think all of us are really excited about it, for after this our moving is basically completed. It just took about 7 months, but I will take 7 months over 210 years. Hoping to have only one more move left, when Moshiach comes, and even if he comes now, I will gladly pick up and move again. But, until then, we are hoping this is it.

Wishing everyone a Chag Kasher V’Sameach, and freedom from your own slavery.
Kol tuv,
Rivkah

A Freilichen Purim and a Belated Mazal Tov!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still Here!

20150106161823It has been a while, but I am still swimming over here and very thankful. Nothing is wrong here, Baruch Hashem, just really busy and preoccupied with life. It has been a mentally strenuous several weeks, and I think we are almost there with the first step. 3 weeks ago we found a house! Woohoo! That is such good news for that means I can let boys go outside and do things, and they can do things inside, such as jumping jacks, or somersaults, etc. It has been a little difficult for we are on the second floor of the complex. We hear how it sounds when people walk – the neighbours upstairs are really good, but even when they just walk, the sound is magnified so much, it sounds like they stomp at every step. I can just imagine how it sounds for the neighbours downstairs when there are 6 of us just walking. Never mind if a beautiful boy accidentally gets off the couch a little to fast and the steps are a bit harder than usual, or, chas v’shalom, something drops!

There is no place here for children to play outside – except on the computers or at the TV down at the office, which is20150119_114142 just too tempting. So, my boys are inside most of the time. 🙁 Don’t get me wrong – I am SO thankful that we have this place. It really is nice and laid out beautifully. The kitchen is huge and I could not have asked for a better kitchen, even in a house! It is just that I am looking forward to letting boys be a little bit more like boys again. They really need it (and so do I.) It has been a roller coaster of a ride trying to get this house and our realtor says we can now write a book on the process so we can help others. Hmm… my next book? 🙂 Though, in less than 2 short days we are hoping to sign and be almost there, with just the painting left to do before we officially move in.

It has been almost 4 months since we have moved here and I feel it has taken way to long to settle down into a 20150120_102249routine. Though, looking back, I think my goals were unreasonable. They say that after having a baby, give it a whole year to get your homeschooling back on track. Well, if just adding one more member to the family can do that, imagine what putting all your things in storage for an unidentifiable amount of time, piling everyone and everything you absolutely need to “survive” until that unidentifiable amount of time decides to end, drive across the continent, setting up shop in a brand new place with new people, new places to live, new cultures, new schedules, new everything, and then saying, “Ok, now be normal and go back to how things were before.” Sorry, you can’t do it – the “laws of physics” won’t allow for that. Now, you can hope for a nais (miracle) for the “laws of physics” to change for you, but I don’t think that is what we are supposed to do. I finally sat down a few weeks ago and was able to make a schedule of some sort with most of our learning on it. Whatever is on the schedule seems to usually happen. It is just the stuff that did not have a spot, or that I forgot to add and therefore are still not there that get missed, but we will, G-d willing, work on that. I am coming to the thought that maybe, just maybe we really are doing okay and the fact that it has been less than 4 months and I feel we actually have a fairly good routine (albeit not the best, but at least it is a routine,) that I should be fairly happy.

The boys are doing really good. We have our days, but it seems like the occurrence of those days is less frequent and20141229_171328 even when they happen, they are not as severe. The oldest has a full schedule with his college courses, and so I am not too involved with his learning now (*tears*), but I am still there helping him learn to organize when he does things. Trying to teach him to do a little of everything each day, rather than taking a whole day for one subject. One does not learn best that way. We are still working on that, but then it has only been 2 weeks since he has started, but I think we are getting there really fast. I realized during the first week of his classes that even though he does the work on his own, I really am still very involved in guidance. Every day. Multiple times a day. I am so grateful for that! He came home about a month ago and announced he was going to the Rabbi’s Gemara shiur every night before Maariv. He did not ask, he told me. Well, I can’t complain too much, he enjoys it, he is learning, he is keeping himself out of trouble, oh, and he can get there and back by himself. What more could a mother want?

I think the biggest and hardest change is the change in friends. It is hard to leave friends and then it can be harder to make new ones, especially if when making new friends you feel you have none to begin with (because you left them all behind.) Number 2 had it the hardest. He loves his friends and had a very hard time not only not having them but understanding that he can go make new ones and have double the friends. I think he is getting there. He met a new boy who moved to town just a few weeks before us who is also homeschooled. They have hit it off really well and he seems a lot happier now. Number 3 is my laid-back-go-with-the-flow kind of boy and really has settled down quickly and loves playing with their new found homeschool friend as well. Number 4 is getting there. He loves playing with his brothers (especially with the K’nex they just got!) and has always thought of them as his best friends. He is finding it a little hard when they all go out – learning, biking, etc. and he cannot go with them.  He is slowly getting bigger now and now goes to shul on Friday night and Shabbos morning with the rest of the boys, and lucked out and was able to learn on Motzei Shabbos with all the Dads and sons at shul (so he could get pizza and prizes as well.)

We are going to closing in less than 2 days, which could not have come at a better time for next Wednesday is Tu B’Shevat, which means my little Number 2, who was born the smallest and who is the tallest of the 4 right now is going to be Bar Mitzvah! Where did the time go? To celebrate,  we have lots of family coming over, and just last night the number doubled and more are coming! Wonder if I can keep the last group a secret until then? 😀

To add to the excitement, when people here found out that DH was a scoutmaster, we had many people BEG us to start a Jewish Boy Scout Troop here! So, what could we do since we have 3 boys we want in scouts who need to be in a Troop than to start one. It is official, we have adults and boys (and more joining) and are hoping to have our first meeting very shortly. We are in the middle of planning the first couple of meetings.

For me, it has been interesting getting up at 5:30 am, 7 days a week. I am definitely not a morning person, but I have found that it really gives me some “me” time. After getting DH off to work, and one boy to shul, I have a few minutes to veg out, exercise, shower and do some learning before I wake everyone else up. That was one thing that I was wanting in Rochester. I had a hard time starting our morning when we should have for I wanted to have my “me” time before the boys got up. Well, now I have it and it feels good to be accomplished so early! It helps make the rest of the day better.

Until next time, have a most wonderful week!

Olam Shel Emet – Book Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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