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. ūüôā 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!

We Live and We Learn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping Our Children

I am sitting here remembering that last night I thought of a good idea to write about but did not have the time.¬† Tonight, I have the time but do not have the idea.¬† My sister suggested talking about how my 3 year old vacuumed the area rug in our living room for 30 minutes (which normally does not get more than a minute or so of TLC time,) and how we should take those mundane tasks that we do and use those times wisely to clean ourselves spiritually and emotionally.¬† I guess that idea will also work with the kitchen and dining room floor that he insisted he mop after an older brother did his share.¬† There was so much opportunity to sit down and cleanse my soul while I waited for the inch of water on the floor to dry.¬† If we would to look around and snag a little time here and there to re-Jew-venate, we would be so much further ahead.¬† Alas, unfortunately I was busy trying to get all the BBB’s (beautiful bouncing boys) into bed!

The only thing I remember about the wonderful idea last night is that it was all about Emuna (faith/belief).¬† Over the past several weeks it seems to be a recurring theme, at least in my mind, and I know it has not been any coincidence! It is like when you get a new car, all of a sudden everyone has the exact same car, though they were always on the road, it is just that your eyes were closed to seeing them.¬† Only when we get that car do our eyes open.¬† Too often we (or should I say, I?) go through the day and do not think.¬† Life gets busy – teaching, coordinating children with schoolwork on computers, supper, nap time, house cleaning, etc. and before you know it, the day is done.¬† What happened to it?¬† Life can get meaningless and one¬† can start to wonder “why”?¬† When my children grow up and move out of the house, it will be harder to help them with these obstacles.¬† We all want our children to not only remain faithful to the Torah and its teachings, but to WANT to remain faithful.¬† I know that I want to remain, but will my children?¬† Now is the time to ingrain within them the answers before the questions arise.¬† The million dollar question – How?¬† How can I instill in my children a connection with Hashem that is strong enough to remain?

I am not sure I have all the answers, but I lately I have sure gotten a lot closer.¬† I have been trying to open up my children’s eyes by asking them what they are thankful for.¬† I enjoy listening to their answers.¬† Unfortunately I often forget, or should I say the day goes by and I remember too late to ask, but when I do it is nice to just listen.¬† This is one time I always smile and say, “Ok!” and never try to change or “correct” an answer.¬† After all, there is no right or wrong answer, and how can it be their answer if I butt in?¬† A few times I have asked, “Did you mean this, or that?” just to clarify in my mind, but never to change their answer. Every time they have to think, it helps create a slightly stronger bond with their Creator.

Our community was given the honor of having Rabbi Lazer Brody come and speak last week.¬† Rabbi Brody translated Rabbi Arush’s book, “Garden of Emuna”, among many other of Rabbi Arush’s works.¬† There was one thing he said that struck me.¬† Happiness.¬† Judaism IS happiness.¬† If you are not happy then something is wrong.¬† Judaism is not wrong, Hashem is not wrong, there is something with you that needs to be fixed.¬† Of course!¬† It was like a light bulb turned on in my head.¬† How many times have we heard of people who have gone astray because of all the arguing about minhagim (customs) or the strictness (with lack of happiness and love) in doing mitzvos?¬† Someone who grows up (or just sees) fighting about who is right and who is wrong, or feeling that we do the mitzvos because we have to and we better-do-it-right-or-else attitude, why should they remain?¬† There is a mitzvah in the Torah to be happy.¬† If we are happy to do a mitzvah or happy that we have Hashem, then we want to continue.¬† Yes, this is something that I knew, but it never dawned on me that this was the answer or was at least a huge part of the answer I was looking for for my children.¬† The next step is knowing how to be happy.¬† That answer is Emuna.¬† If we have emuna in Hashem in all that He does, we will be happy.¬† If not, we just need to have more emuna. (Now is the time for me to say that to help with emuna read, “The Garden of Emuna”!)

I need to ingrain into my children that Judaism is suppose to be happy and if one is not happy, they need to become happy, it is not Judaism that needs to be changed, chas v’shalom.¬† Also, I need to give them the tools needed to create emuna so that when tough times do happen, and yes they occasionally will, they will know with their heart that it is them that needs to change and they will have the knowledge and ability how to make that happen.

We can try the best we can and we should, but like the concept we are trying to teach our children, we have to practice what we preach.¬† We have to have emuna and daven ourselves that Hashem will help us all out in succeeding in this area.¬† We have to work on ourselves.¬† Not only will our children learn for it’s “Monkey See Monkey Do,” there is an added bonus that we ourselves will be more happy as well and what child does not want a happy parent!

With that said, tonight I am thankful that my rug is clean, my kitchen floor is now clean (and dry!) and the boys like coming to stores with me still. ūüôā What are you thankful for?